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- Two Festivals - 6/7 -
shook its thick glass, and sought in vain to reach the flame. The tempest increased from hour to hour. It rose in mountainous waves, and broke against the rocks with a tremendous noise.
These sounds were heard in Grace's dreams; she thought she saw men and women struggling with the waves; they called her to their rescue; she held out her hand, and felt herself drawn into the gulf with them. Presently she heard a cry. She sat up in her bed; the day began to dawn; it might be four o'clock in the morning. The wind brought to her ear a cry shriller than the first. This time she was not mistaken; it was a human voice.
Her whole heart was agitated. Quickly as possible she climbed to the steps that led to the outer platform of the lighthouse. Her father was there before her. Clinging to the balustrade, he looked all around; but his eyes were unable to see through the fog and the rain; he saw nothing.
"Grace," said he, "you have good eyes; see if you can discover any thing."
The young girl took the spy glass, but the fog obscured the glasses. She calmly wiped them, and looked again.
"I perceive the top of a mast," said she.
"Where is it?"
"At the head of the long reef. O God, if the fog would only lift." And the young girl raised an earnest prayer to Heaven.
"Why, Father," she called suddenly, "I see something move. There are many of them; they are waiting for us; let us go."
"You do not think, my child," said her father; "stay here; I will go alone."
"Alone to meet those frightful waves, and no one to guide the helm? That would be to go to a certain death. I am stronger than you. Think of no such thing, Father. I shall go with you, and we will save them."
Her father looked in her face, and his eyes filled with tears.
"So be it," he said; "we will die together."
"We will live, and we will save them. Let us to the work."
She hurried on her father. In the twinkling of an eye, the boat, moored in a creek, was unfastened, and launched upon the boiling waves, when a voice cried from the shore,--
"And will you leave me behind? I have a right to run the same risks with you; I wish to take my part." The mother threw herself into the bark, which rose for a moment on the menacing crest of an enormous wave, then disappeared, swallowed up in the furrow left between two mountains of water.
In the mean while, the fog lifted, and a group of shipwrecked people were seen clinging to the sharp points of a ledge of rocks upon which beat the hull of a ship, split in two.
"They come nearer," cried one of them. "O, that terrible wave has carried them farther off."
"Let us thank God for that," said the captain; "it might have dashed them against the reef."
"They will arrive too late," said a poor mother who pressed to her heart an infant already stiff and motionless with cold.
"They are making superhuman efforts," said the captain. "Courage, brave hearts!" And he raised a white handkerchief.
The mother uttered a loud cry. She had just discovered that the child that she was trying to warm was dead.
At this moment, the bark made a desperate effort to land; but a furious wave carried it off for a third time. It whirled round and round, as if taken into one of those bottomless gulfs which the currents form around the rocks, and disappeared.
The group of shipwrecked sufferers, six men and five women, fell upon their knees at this awful moment. Suddenly they perceived the boat nearer to them than ever. It had rounded the reef, and gained a quieter sea. It was coming along the edge of the rock, which on that side sunk precipitately into the sea.
"Bless me," said the captain, "they are women."
"Angels come down from heaven to save us," cried a sailor.
Grace had already seized hold of the poor mother. She had gently taken the dead baby out of her arms, under the pretence of carrying it for her. She led her over the rough parts of the rock into the boat.
There was not a minute to lose; the tide was rising; a delay of a few moments might render a return impossible. The heroic young girl insisted only that she would remain on the reef till the skiff, which could only take half of the company, returned for the remainder.
God rewarded her faith and courage. All those who had been wrecked on the frightful reefs of Longstone were saved, and brought in safety into the small dwelling of the lighthouse.
The remains of the feast, the old wine opened in honor of Grace, helped to reanimate the poor shipwrecked sufferers who owed their lives to the young girl.
"Never was a birthday," as the good mother often said, "so full of terrible and joyful emotions; never was one more blessed."
"That is a right good story, Mother," said Harry. "Was Grace Darling a real person?"
"Yes," said his mother, "and many more beautiful stories are told of her, and all true. She was a noble creature."
"One more story, dear Mother," said the boys. "We have a good deal of time, yet."
"Many years ago," said the mother, "I was making a visit in a family where what I am going to relate to you took place. I wrote it all down, and I will now read it to you from my manuscript book."
A TRUE STORY.
One cold, stormy evening in the middle of winter, a family, consisting of four children and their parents, were gathered round a bright, blazing fire. One merry-looking little girl was sitting with a large, beautiful cat in her lap, which she was stroking, while Miss Puss was purring her satisfaction at her happy lot. An older girl was assisting her mother, who was employed at some needlework. The oldest boy was getting his lesson. The youngest was sitting on his father's knee. "How the wind roars!" said little Robert, as a tremendous blast came swelling and moaning over the fields and rushed against their dwelling, which, saving one old elm tree that bent its protecting branches over it, stood all alone, exposed to the shock of the wind against it. "Shan't we blow over, Father?" said the child. "No, dear; we have stood higher winds than this." "Now it dies away," said Helen, as, for a moment, she stopped caressing her favorite. "The storm is taking breath," said Ned; "now you can hear it a great way off; it sounds like a troop of horse galloping up--now it comes nearer and nearer. Hurrah! there it comes again! hurrah! Hear the poor old elm creak and groan, and hear the icicles rattling down. I hope none of the branches will break, but I am afraid the ice is too heavy for them." "Think of poor old Fanny to-night," said Julia, the elder girl, "in her little cottage, and the walls so thin. Mother, what will she do?" "Her house is so small that the wind seems to pass her by," said the mother, "and, when it is so cold as it is to-night, the poor soul goes to bed, and lies there till it is warmer. Many a time, I have found her in bed in the morning, and given her some breakfast, and advised her to lie there till she could get up with comfort." "It is so still now," said Robert, "that I can hear the flakes of snow on the window panes." "And so do I," said little Helen, "and the wind seems to say, Hush! hush!" "I should not think you could hear any thing while Puss is purring so loud in your ears," replied Ned. "Do put her out of the room; I would rather hear the loudest wind that ever blew than hear a cat purr, purr, purr so forever; it makes my head spin to hear it; hush, Puss! stop purring." Puss purred on all the same, for Ned's words were followed by no hostile act towards her. No one, much less Helen's pet, was ever treated inhospitably at Mr. Nelson's fireside.
Now there was a short silence in the happy group, and nothing was heard but the fitful wind without, the crackling of the fire, and the contented sound of the purring cat within. Mrs. Nelson was the first to speak. "Is it not time," said she, "for John to return from the village? I cannot help expecting a letter from James. If,"--and the color left her cheeks,--"if he was alive and well, I am sure he must have written, and we must have a letter by Captain S." "I hear John coming up the avenue now." In a moment Ned was gone to see what packages were brought from the office, and in another he was back again with a parcel in his hand. "Here, Father," said he, "here are the newspapers, and here, Mother, is a big letter from uncle John for you."
His mother opened her brother's letter. "A letter from Jemmy," said she, with a voice trembling with joy. "A letter from Jemmy," said all the children together, and in a moment each one was silent, in order to listen to its contents.
"Dear Mother: Here we are all safe and sound; but when you get this, you will, I know, thank God you have yet a son Jemmy. I have kept a sea journal which you and father can see when I get home; so I shall say nothing more about our voyage, except that I got along very well, considering I was a green hand, and that I made friends with the mates and all the sailors. O, they were so kind to me! and lucky it was for me that they did love me so well, as you'll see presently. Well, to my story. I hate to come to it, for it makes me feel so badly; but don't be frightened, Mother; here I am on shore,
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