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The Daisy Chain or Aspirations

Chapter II.14
'Twas a long doubt; we never heard
Exactly how the ship went down.--ARCHER GURNEY.
The tidings came at last, came when the heart-sickness of hope deferred had
faded into the worse heart-sickness of fear deferred, and when spirits had
been fain to rebel, and declare that they would be almost glad to part with
the hope that but kept alive despair.
The Christmas holidays had come to an end, and the home party were again
alone, when early in the forenoon, there was a tap at the drawing-room door,
and Dr. Spencer called, "Ethel, can you come and speak to me?"
Margaret started as if those gentle tones had been a thunderclap. "Go! go,
Ethel," she said, "don't keep me waiting."
Dr. Spencer stood in the hall with a newspaper in his hand. Ethel said, "Is it?"
and he made a sorrowful gesture. "Both?" she asked.
"Both," he repeated. "The ship burned--the boat lost."
"Ethel, come!" hoarsely called Margaret.
"Take it," said Dr. Spencer, putting the paper into her hand; "I will wait."
She obeyed. She could not speak, but kneeling down by her sister, they read
the paragraph together; Ethel, with one eye on the words, the other on
No doubt was left. Captain Gordon had returned, and this was his official
report. The names of the missing stood below, and the list began thus:--
Lieutenant A. H. Ernescliffe. Mr. Charles Owen, Mate. Mr.
Harry May, Midshipman.
The Alcestis had taken fire on the 12th of April of the former year. There had
been much admirable conduct, and the intrepid coolness of Mr. Ernescliffe
was especially recorded. The boats had been put off without loss, but they
were scantily provisioned, and the nearest land was far distant. For five days
the boats kept together, then followed a night of storms, and, when morning
dawned, the second cutter, under command of Mr. Ernescliffe, had
disappeared. There could be no doubt that she had sunk, and the captain
could only record his regrets for the loss the service had experienced in the
three brave young officers and their gallant seamen. After infinite toil and
suffering, the captain, with the other boats' crews, had reached Tahiti,
whence they had made their way home.