Mary: A Fiction

by Mary Wollstonecraft

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Chapter XXI

Mary rose early, refreshed by the seasonable rest, and went to visit the poor woman, whom she found quite recovered: and, on enquiry, heard that she had lately buried her husband, a common sailor; and that her only surviving child had been washed over-board the day before. Full of her own danger, she scarcely thought of her child till that was over; and then she gave way to boisterous emotions.

Mary endeavoured to calm her at first, by sympathizing with her; and she tried to point out the only solid source of comfort but in doing this she encountered many difficulties; she found her grossly ignorant, yet she did not despair: and as the poor creature could not receive comfort from the operations of her own mind, she laboured to beguile the hours, which grief made heavy, by adapting her conversation to her capacity.

There are many minds that only receive impressions through the medium of the senses: to them did Mary address herself; she made her some presents, and promised to assist her when they should arrive in England. This employment roused her out of her late stupor, and again set the faculties of her soul in motion; made the understanding contend with the imagination, and the heart throbbed not so irregularly during the contention. How short-lived was the calm! when the English coast was descried, her sorrows returned with redoubled vigor.--She was to visit and comfort the mother of her lost friend--And where then should she take up her residence? These thoughts suspended the exertions of her understanding; abstracted reflections gave way to alarming apprehensions; and tenderness undermined fortitude.


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