It was Lord Glenarvan; and, almost immediately, Lady Helena and the Major came out to meet him.
Lady Helena flew toward her husband the moment he alighted; but he embraced her silently, and looked gloomy and disappointed-- indeed, even furious.
"Well, Edward?" she said; "tell me."
"Well, Helena, dear; those people have no heart!"
"They have refused?"
"Yes. They have refused me a ship! They talked of the millions that had been wasted in search for Franklin, and declared the document was obscure and unintelligible. And, then, they said it was two years now since they were cast away, and there was little chance of finding them. Besides, they would have it that the Indians, who made them prisoners, would have dragged them into the interior, and it was impossible, they said, to hunt all through Patagonia for three men--three Scotchmen; that the search would be vain and perilous, and cost more lives than it saved. In short, they assigned all the reasons that people invent who have made up their minds to refuse. The truth is, they remembered Captain Grant's projects, and that is the secret of the whole affair. So the poor fellow is lost for ever."
"My father! my poor father!" cried Mary Grant, throwing herself on her knees before Lord Glenarvan, who exclaimed in amazement:
"Your father? What? Is this Miss--"
"Yes, Edward," said Lady Helena; "this is Miss Mary Grant and her brother, the two children condemned to orphanage by the cruel Admiralty!"
"Oh! Miss Grant," said Lord Glenarvan, raising the young girl, "if I had known of your presence--"
He said no more, and there was a painful silence in the courtyard, broken only by sobs. No one spoke, but the very attitude of both servants and masters spoke their indignation at the conduct of the English Government.
At last the Major said, addressing Lord Glenarvan: "Then you have no hope whatever?"
"None," was the reply.
"Very well, then," exclaimed little Robert, "I'll go and speak to those people myself, and we'll see if they--" He did not complete his sentence, for his sister stopped him; but his clenched fists showed his intentions were the reverse of pacific.
"No, Robert," said Mary Grant, "we will thank this noble lord and lady for what they have done for us, and never cease to think of them with gratitude; and then we'll both go together."
"Mary!" said Lady Helena, in a tone of surprise.
"Go where?" asked Lord Glenarvan.
"I am going to throw myself at the Queen's feet, and we shall see if she will turn a deaf ear to the prayers of two children, who implore their father's life."
Lord Glenarvan shook his head; not that he doubted the kind heart of her Majesty, but he knew Mary would never gain access to her. Suppliants but too rarely reach the steps of a throne; it seems as if royal palaces had the same inscription on their doors that the English have on their ships: _Passengers are requested not to speak to the man at the wheel_.
Lady Glenarvan understood what was passing in her husband's mind, and she felt the young girl's attempt would be useless, and only plunge the poor children in deeper despair. Suddenly, a grand, generous purpose fired her soul, and she called out: "Mary Grant! wait, my child, and listen to what I'm going to say."
Mary had just taken her brother by the hand, and turned to go away; but she stepped back at Lady Helena's bidding.
The young wife went up to her husband, and said, with tears in her eyes, though her voice was firm, and her face beamed with animation: "Edward, when Captain Grant wrote that letter and threw it into the sea, he committed it to the care of God. God has sent it to us--to us! Undoubtedly God intends us to undertake the rescue of these poor men."
"What do you mean, Helena?"
"I mean this, that we ought to think ourselves fortunate if we can begin our married life with a good action. Well, you know, Edward, that to please me you planned a pleasure trip; but what could give us such genuine pleasure, or be so useful, as to save those unfortunate fellows, cast off by their country?"
"Helena!" exclaimed Lord Glenarvan.