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Mac's letter had come with the other, and dismay fell upon the
family at the thought of danger to the well-beloved Uncle Alec.
His brother decided to go at once, and Aunt Jane insisted on
accompanying him, though all agreed that nothing could be done
but wait, and leave Phebe at her post as long as she held out, since
it was too late to save her from danger now and Mac reported her
quite equal to the task.
Great was the hurry and confusion till the relief party was off.
Aunt Plenty was heartbroken that she could not go with them, but
felt that she was too infirm to be useful and, like a sensible old
soul, tried to content herself with preparing all sorts of comforts
for the invalid. Rose was less patient, and at first had wild ideas of
setting off alone and forcing her way to the spot where all her
thoughts now centered. But before she could carry out any rash
project, Aunt Myra's palpitations set in so alarmingly that they did
good service for once and kept Rose busy taking her last directions
and trying to soothe her dying bed, for each attack was declared
fatal till the patient demanded toast and tea, when hope was again
allowable and the rally began.
The news flew fast, as such tidings always do, and Aunt Plenty
was constantly employed in answering inquiries, for her knocker
kept up a steady tattoo for several days. All sorts of people came:
gentlefolk and paupers, children with anxious little faces, old
people full of sympathy, pretty girls sobbing as they went away,
and young men who relieved their feelings by swearing at all
emigrants in general and Portuguese in particular. It was touching
and comforting to see how many loved the good man who was
known only by his benefactions and now lay suffering far away,
quite unconscious how many unsuspected charities were brought
to light by this grateful solicitude as hidden flowers spring up
when warm rains fall.
If Rose had ever felt that the gift of living for others was a poor
one, she saw now how beautiful and blessed it was how rich the
returns, how wide the influence, how much more precious the
tender tie which knit so many hearts together than any breath of
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