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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Margaret Fuller Ossoli

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To save expense, they started from Leghorn, May 17, 1850, in the Elizabeth, a sailing vessel, though Margaret dreaded the two months' voyage, and had premonitions of disaster. She wrote: "I have a vague expectation of some crisis,--I know not what. But it has long seemed that, in the year 1850, I should stand on a plateau in the ascent of life, when I should be allowed to pause for a while, and take more clear and commanding views than ever before. Yet my life proceeds as regularly as the fates of a Greek tragedy, and I can but accept the pages as they turn.... I shall embark, praying fervently that it may not be my lot to lose my boy at sea, either by unsolaced illness, or amid the howling waves; or, if so, that Ossoli, Angelo, and I may go together, and that the anguish may be brief."

For a few days all went well on shipboard; and then the noble Captain Hasty died of small-pox, and was buried at sea. Angelino took this dread disease, and for a time his life was despaired of, but he finally recovered, and became a great pet with the sailors. Margaret was putting the last touches to her book. Ossoli and young Sumner, brother of Charles, gave each other lessons in Italian and English, and thus the weeks went by.

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On Thursday, July 18, after two months, the Elizabeth stood off the Jersey coast, between Cape May and Barnegat. Trunks were packed, good nights were spoken, and all were happy, for they would be in New York on the morrow. At nine that night a gale arose; at midnight it was a hurricane; at four o'clock, Friday morning, the ship struck Fire Island beach. The passengers sprung from their berths. "We must die!" said Sumner to Mrs. Hasty. "Let us die calmly, then!" was the response of the widow of the captain.

At first, as the billows swept over the vessel, Angelino, wet and afraid, began to cry; but his mother held him closely in her arms and sang him to sleep. Noble courage on a sinking ship! The Italian girl who had come with them was in terror; but after Ossoli prayed with her, she became calm. For hours they waited anxiously for help from the shore. They could see the life-boat, and the people collecting the spoils which had floated thither from the ship, but no relief came. One sailor and another sprang into the waves and saved themselves. Then Sumner jumped overboard, but sank.

One of the sailors suggested that if each passenger sit on a plank, holding on by ropes, they would attempt to push him or her to land. Mrs. Hasty was the first to venture, and after being twice washed off, half-drowned, reached the shore. Then Margaret was urged, but she hesitated, unless all three could be saved. Every moment the danger increased. The crew were finally ordered "to save themselves," but four remained with the passengers. It was useless to look longer to the people on shore for help, though it was now past three o'clock,--twelve hours since the vessel struck.

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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