In spite of being weighed down by the baggage that she carried, Sarah Kingsley walked with an easy grace along the crowded quayside. Her crimson cloak billowed about her as the salty wind blew in gusts from the choppy sea, making the vessels restless at their moorings, the masts dipping up and down against the cloudy Hampshire sky. Her eyes searched the long line of jutting figureheads and bowsprits. Somewhere among them lay the ship that was to take her far from the shores of her native England to a new life in a new country.
“Carry your goods, my lady?” A ragged urchin blocked her path, his eyes anxious. She guessed he had no authority to tout his services, but his face was thin with hunger.
“I’m sailing with the Griffin,” she said, handing over her portmanteau, although she had intended to make the small economy of carrying her own luggage. The cloth bag full of provisions for the journey she retained, not wanting to overburden the boy.
He spoke to her over his shoulder as he humped the portmanteau along. “Off to the New World, are you? Don’t fancy them places myself. There’s red-skinned savages that take the ’ide off you, and plaguey colonials that ’old no truck for the King.”
A smile touched her lips. “Not where I’m going,” she said. “British North America is loyal and true, and the cities of Canada are as civilized as London.”
The boy grunted as though unconvinced, leading the way past cranes that were swinging crates, barrels, wine casks, and even poor, protesting cattle into dark holds. Wagons with loads of discharged cargo went lumbering by. Overhead the seagulls wove swirling patterns, their screeching mingling with the shouts and noise of the busy port.
She was a tall girl, and very slender. Here and there a male head turned, an interested gaze following her. The paleness of her complexion was accentuated by the curve of strongly defined brows over long-lashed, greenish eyes, and enhanced by the silky brown hair that swooped from a center parting to vanish under the inner frill of her poke bonnet, reappearing in a cluster of heavy curls at the nape of her neck. Her mouth was too large to be fashionably beautiful, the lips full and generous, and in the determined line of her chin there was the implication that she possessed a fount of dogged courage.
“There’s your ship,” the boy said, pointing.
She slowed her pace, staring at the schooner that was to be her home for the next five or six weeks, depending on weather conditions in the Atlantic. It looked sturdy enough and well prepared for whatever might lie ahead, all three masts carrying fore- and aft- and square-rigged sails. The figurehead, a flying griffin, stretched a gaping beak out beyond the bluff bows, its curling tongue a single flash of scarlet amid more somber paintwork.
Diving into her purse, she found a coin and paid the boy, who scurried off at once. After another appraising look at the ship she went to join the small crowd of emigrants waiting with children, wailing babies, and bundles of their possessions to take their turn in the stream up the gangway. At the moment they had been halted and made to stand back, precedence being given to a number of well-dressed passengers in warm furs and broadcloth, feathers and velvets, who had been arriving in coaches and carriages. Sarah, watching these people go aboard, guessed that their quarters would be luxurious in comparison with the communal cabin in the hold where she expected to lay her head.
The last of the privileged passengers was a man taller than the usual run of men, the top hat set on his straw-colored curly hair adding to his inches, his face lean with a long, straight nose. As he paused on the gangway, glancing down at the gathered emigrants, Sarah saw that his eyes were clear, cool, and remarkably blue under thick, peaked brows, his expression stern and rather grim. Then he stepped on board and vanished from her sight.
Once again the emigrants moved forward. After her papers had been checked by a sea officer in a brass-buttoned coat Sarah went up the gangway. At the top she found herself directed into a line of women and children being segregated from the men, and filed with them down the unfamiliar companionways, much hampered—as were all the female emigrants—by long skirts and the baggage that she carried.
Three decks below Sarah put her possessions down by the lower of two bunks in one of the wooden tiered racks that lined the bulkheads on both sides of the dank, dismal place. The only light came from the lanterns, each holding a single tallow candle, which hung from the low beams. In the intervening space other tiers had been erected, allowing little room for movement in between. She estimated quickly that with the number of small children sharing bunks with their mothers, a hundred or more people were to be accommodated in this crowded space, and at least as many men must be crammed into the area that was sectioned off by a large sheet of canvas, once a sail, which had been stretched across as a partition and nailed securely into place.
For a few seconds she felt quelled by the terrible conditions under which she had to travel and the absence of daylight, the lack of privacy, to say nothing of the old, stale stench that lingered from previous voyages, unbanished by much sluicing with sea water, which had left its own pungent odor. Then she asserted herself fiercely with the reminder that she was young, strong, and healthy, having only herself to look after, and—as far as she could judge from the few long journeys she had made in jolting, swaying carriages—a stomach not easily upset by motion. How much worse it was for these women all around her, some with three or four children to tend, and several with other babies on the way.
“God help us!” breathed a young woman, fair hair showing beneath her shabby bonnet as she sat down wearily on the neighboring lower bunk, a small boy of about two years old asleep in her arms, and a solemn-faced little girl, no more than a year older, clutching at her skirts. “Our squire gave his cattle more room than this!”
“Where was that?” Sarah asked, pausing in the unfolding of a blanket she had unpacked to spread out on the bunk, no bedclothes being provided. “I’m Sarah Kingsley—from Sussex.”
The woman gave her a shyly amused glance, a little overcome at having spoken out on a wave of emotion to a complete stranger. “We’re from a village not far from here. My name is Hannah Nightingale, and these are my young ’uns, Robbie and Jenny.” She gave the little girl an affectionate poke. “Curtsy nicely now.”
Jenny bobbed obediently, flushed scarlet, and hid her face in her thin arms.
Sarah smiled, bending down to speak gently to the child, who looked so much frailer than her robust, red-cheeked brother. “This is a great adventure, isn’t it? What are you looking forward to seeing most of all when we get to our new land?”
Jenny’s face reappeared briefly amid her long pale hair as she answered without a second’s hesitation. “Dadda!” Then her arms covered her shyness again.
Sarah looked inquiringly at Hannah as she straightened up. “Her father? Has he gone ahead of you?”
Hannah nodded. “He left last autumn. We’d planned to travel together, but Jenny fell sick, so we thought it best for him to go on to Ontario as planned and get a home ready for us. If he’d stayed the harvest money would have dwindled away in another winter of near starvation, and who knows if we’d ever manage to scrape enough for the fares a second time? It were best he went, ’cos there’s been no work for anyone on the land since. The ground’s been frozen hard as a stone.”
Sarah could imagine the hardships endured alone by this young wife, whose age could be little more than her own. There would be the anxious waiting for Jenny to get strong enough to withstand the rigors of the long journey, and the frequent going without food, letting the children eat what was there, rather than touch a penny of the carefully hoarded fare money. Five pounds for a ticket was a small fortune, as Sarah herself knew only too well. She could make a guess at how Hannah had managed to eke out a living from her chapped and swollen hands, telling of long hours in a laundry tub, which were now smoothing Robbie’s yellow curls as he stirred, blinking, in her arms.
“There’s a good boy,” Hannah cooed softly to him. “Are you hungry then? Mamma will find you a piece of bread.” As she dived into a rush basket to find food for the child, Sarah opened her own bag of provisions and took out a crisply baked roll for Jenny, wanting to win the little girl’s confidence, for she was fond of children and had taken to this stalwart little trio of Hannah and her offspring.
As Jenny took the roll with a whispered word of thanks, Hannah shook her head at Sarah in kindly exasperation.
“You mustn’t give food away. I’ve heard that the rations we get are sparse enough. When Will went across his ship was becalmed for several days, and provisions had almost run out when the wind sprang up again, which was a mercy for all on board.”
“There’s no danger of being becalmed at this time of year,” Sarah said quickly. “In fact, if this wild weather continues we should be blown there in record time.”
It was a remark made seriously to reassure, but suddenly it caused them both to smile, putting a seal on their friendship, each seeing that in their new companionship they would be cheering each other with humor and a comforting word often during the voyage ahead.
“Where are you going to in British North America?” Hannah asked.
“Montreal, in Lower Canada,” Sarah answered. “I speak French, and I’m hoping to get a post in a school or as a governess there.”
“That’s where we’ll part ways,” Hannah said. “I’m traveling on to Toronto—at least, it’s called York now. Will has received a piece of land somewhere on the outskirts there.”
Sarah glanced at the gold watch pinned to her bodice, turning it toward the dim lantern light. “We’ll soon be sailing. I’m going up on deck. Coming? I’ll carry Robbie for you.”
They found the forward deck crowded. It was the section of the ship allotted to the emigrants for fresh air and exercise in the days to come, weather permitting. Most of the men were well settled with elbows on the rails, having come up from below almost immediately after taking a cursory inspection of their womenless, comfortless quarters, which they were to share with a cow and some other penned up animals. Some of the men broke away to draw their wives and children forward for a last glimpse of home. Sarah, although not able to get anywhere near the rails, held Robbie high against her, his soft curls blowing against her cheek, while at her side Hannah kept a protective hand on Jenny’s small shoulder. There was intense activity all around them. The captain was snapping orders, sending the seamen hauling on ropes or scrambling aloft.
“Birdie!” Robbie announced with satisfaction, pointing a finger skyward at the seagulls wheeling overhead. “Lots of birdies!”
“Dear God! We’re moving,” Hannah said in a choked voice as slowly the church spire and the rooftops began to slide gently away. The emigrants were strangely silent. Not a voice spoke, although one woman had broken into noisy sobs, and many waved handkerchiefs to those on shore. Hannah’s head drooped, and she clutched Jenny tighter to her. Nearly all the women and many of the men had tears running down their faces. Overhead the great sails cracked and billowed, accompanied by the groaning of ropes taking the strain, and the noisy creaking of timbers. The break with the homeland had been made. Not one person on that deck expected ever to see it again.
Sarah stood dry-eyed, yet anguish tore at her. She was leaving behind the graves of two beloved parents, and all that had happened in the first twenty years of her life. The rectory in the village that had been her home. The local folk, who had been her widowed father’s parishioners and her friends. And Giles. Giles, the youngest son of the new lord of the Manor, who had inherited the estate from an old uncle. The day they had met came back vividly to her.
There had been a garden party on the lawns of the great house for the local gentry and any other persons of consequence to meet the new lord and his family. Sarah had dressed with care for the occasion. It was the first new gown she had had for a long time, made of sprigged muslin, diaphanous, full and floating, with cherry ribbons tied high under her full young breasts. A bow in the same hue caught her smooth hair into a high bunch of curls.
On arrival at the Manor house she had turned from being welcomed by the host and his lady on the lawn, and seen Giles standing under the yew tree, staring at her so hard that she slowed her pace, color rushing into her face.
He had come swaggering toward her, eyes glinting merrily, that tall, thin youth with the tossing hair and the weak, beautiful mouth. “Miss Sarah Kingsley, I have been informed.” His bow almost swept the grass at her feet. Everything he did was dramatic and extravagant and larger than life. She stood there with the sun in her hair, dazzled by the sight of him.
It was the start of a whirlwind romance that had lasted all summer, causing distress to her father, too gentle a man to express his uneasiness strongly, or exert his authority and put an end to it. And she, deliriously happy, had been oblivious to everything except Giles, her love blinding her to his many faults, his selfishness, his tendency to take the easy way out of anything, and the cruel streak in his nature. Then her father died quietly in his sleep. In an agony of grief she had looked to Giles to be the first to comfort her. But he had failed to come.
In the end it was his sister who broke the news. Giles had gone away. Business in London. Urgent matters to settle. He hoped Sarah understood. Sarah had understood only too well. Giles had been afraid that he would be expected to offer marriage in view of her being left completely alone in the world. In a kind of daze she had heard herself thanking the girl for calling. Then she had closed the door, and gone quietly back to carry on with the funeral arrangements. Only later had she given way to tears, but that had been in private, and none had seen the frantic torment of her distress.
She was not given long to sell up the few belongings that had made a home out of the furnished rectory, for the new rector was impatient to move in. Sheep without a shepherd were quick to go astray, and he had no wish to find a diminished congregation.
She took lodgings with a kindly neighbor while she considered what her future should be. Already the position of governess had been offered to her, but it was in the district, and there must be no hankering after all that was over and finished. The break must be clean and swift. Her father would have advised that. She would go far away. To—to British North America!
Now she was on her way. A heavy rain was starting to fall, scattering the emigrants from the rails. Hannah took Robbie from her and went below, but still Sarah stood there, heedless of the drops that came slashing down to dance in small fountains on the deck about her feet. The wind was whining in the sails and rigging as the schooner leaned to the wind, spray flying up from rough water as the bows sliced a way through. Already the shore was misted in the blanket of rain, slipping quickly away in the wake of the vessel.
A seaman touched her on the arm. “You best go below, Miss. Wet clothes ain’t easy to dry aboard, and there’s worse weather to come.”
She obeyed, turning without a backward glance to go down the companionway. She had seen the last of England. Giles had gone from her. And yet her spirit was not broken. She lifted her chin and her petticoat hems as she descended the narrow steps.
During the days that followed Sarah and Hannah were among the few women able to keep about as the vessel plunged and tossed in an increasingly violent sea. The pumps were manned night and day, and the noise of the screeching timbers was so great that it seemed as if each fresh shuddering impact must split them asunder. The lanterns swung continually, spraying the fitful light up and down the racks of bunks where frightened seasick and wailing women lay clutching the sides of their bunks, sometimes to be thrown out when finally they relaxed in sleep or sheer physical exhaustion.
Sarah, well used to tending the sick of the parish, her sleeves rolled up, a large apron tied about her waist, went from bunk to bunk, holding heads, giving comfort, urging nourishment on those able to take a little food, and seeing to it that babies were put to the breast, or given milk from the cow that mooed constantly from its stall on the other side of the canvas wall, adding to the din. She left Hannah to see that all the other children were fed, and found her a reliable and competent help, never complaining, and quick to make a joke to ease tension or lift flagging courage.
A number of husbands came to view their suffering wives and other prostrate members of their families with impatience, sympathy, or ridicule, according to their natures. Sarah organized some of them into a force to control the older children, who never stopped yelling and chasing each other, exhilarated by the strangeness of their surroundings and fast turning into a pack of thieving vagabonds under the leadership of several of the wilder boys.
Others she chivvied into mopping up as well as emptying buckets and killing off the boldest of the rats, which seemed set on eating up the provisions that the emigrants had brought with them to supplement the meager rations provided daily. Sometimes the midday mutton or pork stew failed to appear at all when the seamen detailed to bring it from the galley were directed to more urgent duties, and when this happened Sarah sent some of the husbands to fetch it, although most of the women turned away with a groan when it was brought to them.
When the worst of the weather was nearly over, Hannah herself was forced to take to her bunk, but by this time some of the other women were managing to stagger about and give a helping hand. Yet there was something about Hannah’s condition that gave Sarah cause for concern, and she reported the matter to the sea officer who made a daily round of the emigrants’ quarters. He took a look at the sleeping Hannah, holding his lantern over her.
“She looks all right to me,” he commented. “A bit peaky, but that’s to be expected.”
“Yet she’s not really seasick,” Sarah said as they stepped away from the bunk again. “And she’s complained about pains in her head, which seem more than the ordinary headache that so many of the others have had. I’d like some advice. Is there a surgeon on board?”
He shook his head, his lips compressed. “Only a doctor traveling privately, and I can’t presume to ask him to come down here. I’m sure you’ll find she’ll be better tomorrow. Already the winds are becoming westerly, and it’ll be safe to go up on deck again soon. A whiff of fresh air is probably all she needs.”
Sarah hoped he would be proved correct, but an unhappy, nagging little doubt lay cold within her, and she returned to replace the damp cloth she had put on Hannah’s forehead with another.
Later that afternoon the hatches were opened for a little while, and almost everybody crowded up to fill their lungs with clean air. But Sarah stayed with Hannah, entrusting Jenny and Robbie to the care of a kindly woman, Mrs. Myers, a widow traveling alone on her way to join her son in Quebec, who took them up on deck with her.
Later that same evening Hannah’s condition deteriorated so sharply that Sarah became alarmed. Most people had settled down for the night, and she had no wish to cause any panic by rousing someone to go for help. She’d have to go herself. Quickly she tucked Hannah in securely with a blanket to ensure that no unexpected tilt of the vessel would send her tumbling out, checked her own bunk where Jenny and Robbie were curled up asleep, and then went silently up from the hold, guided by the light of gently swinging lanterns and the starry square of sky above her.
It was cold as she stepped out on deck, but automatically she inhaled the pure air. How good it was! She turned to make her way aft, knowing that the cabins were situated beneath the poop and determined to find the captain or a senior officer to whom she could appeal for help.
“What are you doin’ up ’ere?” demanded a rough voice. “Emigrants stay below from sunset to sunrise. You know that!”
It was the bo’sun who had come looming up at her. She welcomed his appearance with relief. “There’s a young woman very ill! I’ve been looking after her, but she’s suddenly become much worse. I know there’s a doctor among the passengers—I beg you to ask him to come and see her.”
“You’re off your rocker!” he answered contemptuously. “It’s not for a private passenger to be at the beck and call of the likes of you!”
“But she might die!” Sarah cried in anguish.
The man gave a snort of derision, as if well used to feminine hysterics at sea. “I doubt it. Deaths among emigrants are remarkably few. They’ve been reared on nothin’, and are used to nothin’—that ’old below is a palace compared to the ’ovels that most of ’em come from.” His voice took on a milder note. “I can tell by your speech and your manners that you’re a cut above the rest of ’em down there, so mebbe you don’t know how tough these folk can be. Now you go back and get some sleep yourself, and don’t addle your brains worryin’ about some creature that’ll be right as ninepence in the morning, no doubt. If she isn’t, ’ave a word with the duty officer when he comes round.”
Sarah stood her ground, arms stiff, and hands clenched. “I demand that the doctor be told that Hannah Nightingale is desperately in need of his attention!”
The bo’sun’s face hardened, and he made a threatening gesture. “I gave you your answer—now get!”
But she had no intention of giving up. Before the bo’sun realized what was happening she had dodged past him, her feet pounding along the deck as she made for the poop.
“Stop her!” yelled the bo’sun. But she evaded the deckhand who came leaping from where they had been coiling rope, skillfully avoided the reach of the seaman at the wheel, and hurled herself down the companionway. Ahead of her was a door, curled gilt letters above announcing that it was the dining saloon, and a buzz of voices suggested dinner was still in progress.
Ignoring the noise of pursuit closing hard on her heels, she seized the handle, threw open the door, and rushed in. A blaze of candlelight dazzled her. She slammed the door shut behind her and leaned against it, her chest heaving.
“What is the meaning of this intrusion?” The captain thundered the question, his heavy-jowled face outraged. He had sprung up from his chair at the head of a long table set with crystal and silver, around which sat a dozen or more passengers, the ladies in pastel silks and satins, the gentlemen somberly but elegantly clad in dark shades of burgundy, brown, and blue. Other officers present had also risen, napkins in hand.
“I must speak to the doctor!” Sarah cried, suddenly aware of the unprepossessing appearance she must present in her soiled apron, her turned-back sleeves, and the tendrils of hair that had slipped from their pins to waft about her cheeks. Then the door behind her was thrust open, flinging her forward, so that a steward caught and held her as the bo’sun came into the room, purple-faced with fury and mortification.
“My apologies, Captain,” he stuttered. “This girl gave me the slip. I’d ordered her below.”
“Take her away at once!” the captain snapped at him. “Report to me later!”
The bo’sun seized Sarah roughly, jerking her back with him toward the door, ignoring her cries of protest. Then a deep, quietly spoken voice halted him.
“Wait a moment! This young lady expressed a wish to see me, I believe.”
Sarah, locked in the bo’sun’s grip, looked over her shoulder and saw rising to his feet the tall, curly-haired man she had first seen on the gangway the day that the ship had sailed. In the candlelight his hair glinted a reddish gold as he stood there. “I’m Dr. Manning. What is the matter?”
“Please help me,” she begged on a sob. “There’s a young mother in the emigrants’ hold who’s desperately ill. I don’t know what ails her.”
He pushed back his chair. “Take me to her.”
In the dark den he had another lantern brought, which Sarah held for him as he spoke to the shivering Hannah, who answered weakly and with effort his questions about the pains in her head, back, and limbs. There was the aroma of wine on his breath, but he was sober enough, and his hands capable and unfaltering as he felt her pulse, examined the inner aspect of her arms, looked at her chest and back, and then tucked the blanket back over her. He straightened up, but kept his voice low as he spoke to Sarah in order not to wake the sleepers around, or to be overheard by those staring curiously from the shadows.
“You did right to call me.” He glanced with a kind of incredulous distaste at the faintly lit surroundings. “She must be removed from here without delay. A suitable place for a sickroom must be found.” He turned back to Hannah, leaning over to put his hand reassuringly on her shoulder. “I’m going to arrange other accommodation for you, Mrs. Nightingale.”
Hannah gulped, her eyes frightened. “I—won’t—leave the children.”
He turned his head to look questioningly at Sarah, who indicated the sleeping children in the neighboring bunk. “Are they well?” he asked quickly.
“Yes,” Sarah answered.
He gave a nod, and then spoke to Hannah again. “You shall not be separated from them. They’ll be near you. I’ll see to that.”
Hannah was carried up on a stretcher to a cot made up with clean linen and warm blankets that had been placed in a storage room. It was comfortless enough, but a portable washstand had been provided, and when morning came the small window would let in daylight. In the neighboring lamproom another cot was set up for the children, who failed to wake during the transfer.
When Hannah was settled, Sarah went in to look at the children and check that neither had stirred before returning to Dr. Manning at the patient’s bedside.
“Is there an obliging woman who would look after them?” he inquired.
“That’s what I’ve been doing,” she said, mystified.
“Not any more,” he stated. “I’ll want you to nurse Mrs. Nightingale night and day. You’re not afraid, are you?”
She met his direct look squarely. “No. I’ve nursed infectious cases before. What is it?”
“Typhus,” he answered grimly.
She put a hand quickly to her throat. “It could strike down two thirds of the people on this schooner.”
“I’ve reason to hope that it is not ship typhus, but a case of infection contracted before our patient came aboard. I’ll carry out daily medical inspections of everybody as a precaution from now on for the next fourteen days at least, and keep a special eye on the two little ones in the next room.” He smiled at her slowly. It was the first time she had seen him smile, and it made him look younger and less austere. “You must get what sleep you can, although I’m afraid a blanket on the floor here is not going to be very comfortable.”
“I don’t mind anything,” she said stoutly, “as long as Hannah pulls through.”
Hannah put up a good fight, taking spoonfuls of egg wine, chicken broth, and sips of barley water occasionally as if aware of the need to combat with every weapon at her disposal the enervating effect of the fever, as well as the rash that covered all her body but left her face untouched. She was drowsy all the time, never really aware of what the hour might be.
The children cried for her, Robbie noisily with heart-broken sobs, and Jenny silently and desperately with huge tears welling up out of her great golden-brown eyes and running in rivulets down her face. Mrs. Myers had moved her belongings in with them, so that they were never alone by night and in her charge by day, but although she gave them some sense of security with her embracing arms and vast lap, it was Sarah to whom they turned for comfort on the few occasions that she was with them on deck for a brief spell of fresh air and relaxation at Dr. Manning’s orders. This was when Mrs. Myers took a turn in the sickroom, but during the second week as Hannah reached new heights of delirium, Sarah refused to leave her at any time, and became hollow-eyed and white with exhaustion herself as she toiled endlessly in her care for the patient.
Dr. Manning visited constantly, sometimes staying for an hour or more. Sarah looked forward to these times. She had discovered that his name was Philip, but they still addressed each other very formally, in spite of the fact that they often had long conversations together, he sitting on a coil of rope, and she on a three-cornered stool by the cotside. She told him a great deal about her life at the rectory, avoiding any mention of Giles, and of what she hoped for in the new land that awaited them. He, in turn, made no secret of the fact that he had become restless in a small town practice, and was on his way to Quebec to stay with a colleague who had offered him a partnership, although as yet no decision on the matter had been made. They discovered a mutual interest in books and music, and when he expounded at great length on a particular author or a favorite composition, she listened with a quiet pleasure.
But he was not with her at the moment when she needed him most. It was during the afternoon of the fourteenth day when suddenly Hannah lifted her head from the pillow, her eyes wide and bright.
“Sarah!” she cried. “Come here! Quickly!”
Instantly Sarah saw that there was a terrible change in the patient. It was the last sharp glow of the wick before the flame faded. She sprang up from the stool and hurled herself at the cotside.
“I’m here, dear Hannah,” Sarah cried reassuringly, slipping her arm under the patient’s head. “What is it?”
“Promise me something, Sarah!” Hannah begged frantically, her thin hand lifting from the sheet.
“Anything!” Sarah said in a choked voice, clasping the patient’s hand in hers.
“Take care of Jenny and Robbie for me!” Hannah implored. “Swear that you’ll never surrender them until you can hand them over to their father! In God’s dear name, swear it to me!”
Sarah, half-blinded by tears, nodded as she held Hannah close. “I swear it!”
Hannah gave a deep sigh. Slowly Sarah lowered her back onto the pillows. The young woman looked as though she were sleeping, the serenity of features showing that peace of mind had come to her in those last moments. Abruptly Sarah swung around and tore open the door, to see Philip approaching. He took one look at her stricken face, and half-thrust her aside as he rushed into the storeroom.
She stayed where she was, leaning weakly against the bulkhead, tears streaming down her face. When she felt Philip’s hands turn her toward him, she flung herself with a cry into his arms, burying her face against him. Afterward she thought he had held the back of her head cupped in his hand, his own cheek bent to rest against the top of her head, but she could not be sure of anything. All she could remember was his gentle words to her, although they brought no comfort.
“Sarah, Sarah. You did all you could. I thought that together we might pull her through, but it was not to be.”