« ZurückWeiter »
Joe was a youth of about eighteen, strong and broad-shouldered, with an honest, brown face. He pulled with the ease and power of one who had been accustomed to handle an oar ever since his hands were big enough to grasp one. Though the rowing was not such as would have delighted the eyes of a scientific freshwater oarsman, yet the two stout pair of arms carried the boat rapidly through the sparkling water.
It was a beautiful summer evening; the sun, now near its setting, shivered its golden lances on the myriad ripples which danced to the soft west wind; the rocky heath-clad headland, tumbled into vast splintered masses and deep chasms by the earthquakes of forgotten days, seemed to sleep on the calm broad bosom of the sea.
“What's little missie's name ?" asked Peter, by way of beginning a conversation with his charge.
“ May,” was the reply.
“Your name's Peter, isn't it?" said May, after a pause; “the gentleman who put mo on board called you so."
“Yes, my name is Peter."
“One of the apostles was called Peter, I suppose you are called after him."
“What's a 'postle?" inquired Joe of Peter, whom he looked upon as the highest authority on all subjects.
“Well, Jɔe, there was twelve of 'em,” said Peter, whose own ideas on the point did not seem very clear ; "its all about 'em in the Bible: I should ha' thought you'd learnt that at the Sunday-school.”
“I daresay I should ha' done, only I never went.”
“ They used to teach people about Christ,” said May. “You're a fisherman, aren't you ?" she added presently.
Peter nodded assent.
"Fisherman, was he ?” said Joe, with renewed interest ; "you don't happen to know where he used to fish ?”
“I think it was in the sea of Galilee.”
I never sailed in them parts. Most likely its somewhere to the nor'ard of the German Ocean."
Sea of Galowee—will it be the Mull o' Galloway, she means ?”
Peter shook his head dubiously, but declined to commit himself to an opinion. He was not indisposed for conversation, however, and talked very affably to the little maiden. He showed her the shoals of crimson jelly-fish in the clear water, propelling themselves by contracting their fringed edges; he pointed out apoplectic-looking "seaparrots," sitting decorously in long rows on the rocky ledges, and the great black cormorants, flying as if their bodies had some work to keep up with their heads.
Now they have come near the end of the point, and the smooth ground-swell makes the boat rise and fall gently; but the change alarms May, and she creeps closer to Peter, clutching in her hands his blue jersey, and says, “It isn't going to tumble over, is it ?”
"No," said Peter, smiling; “is the little lady afeard ?” “I'm not afraid when I take hold of you,” said May.
“What's that little black thing on the water?" inquired May after a pause, pointing to something near at hand.
Peter looked round, "Joe, Joe,” he said, " there's some'at wrong;" at the same time plunging the blade of his oar into the water for the purpose of checking the boat.
But it was too late! Even before the words were out of his mouth the boat stopped with a violent jerk, something crashed in at the bows, and the water bubbled rapidly through the opening made. For a second or two the men paused, horror-stricken; then Peter seized May with one arm, and leaped into the water, where he stood breast-deep on a platform of rock. Joe followed immediately, and the boat disappeared in about three minutes.
They had struck on a projecting point of Martin's Reef, which, according to their calculation, ought to have had between three and four feet of water over it. Peter and Joe gazed at each other in astonishment and dismay. May, bewildered and frightened, clung to Peter; though, being still above water, she did not thoroughly understand the extent of the danger. Peter and Joe, on the contrary, knew how small was their chance of being saved. They were a mile and a half from Lower Fishpool, and about the same distance from their place of destination. The nearest point of land was the end of the head, which terminated abruptly in precipitous rocks, almost inaccessible. The tide was rising rapidly, and the sun would very soon set. Where they stood the water was already over four feet deep, and they were, as far as they knew, on the highest point where a footing could be obtained.
"Joe,” said Peter, “what is it? we can't have both lost our senses."
“There was seven feet at the pier-end,” said Joe; “ I'd take my oath it was a seven.”
“It was a seven,” said Peter. “Joe,” he added, " there's some'at wrong with that tide-guage, that's it.”
This surmise of Peter's was correct; the wooden scale of feet, which fitted into a sort of niche at the end of the pier, had been suffered to become loose and insecure; and on this very afternoon the mischievous children we saw playing there, having succeeded in dislodging it, had let it drop into the mud three or four feet below its proper place. Under ordinary circumstances neither Peter nor Joe would have been misled by this false guide, but they had only just returned to Lower Fishpool from an inland town, and, having no accurate notion as to the state of the tide, relied implicitly upon the scale. It was only because not the faintest suspicion of its incorrectness had occurred to them that they failed to observe the indications of the height of the water which other objects gave, and which they must else have noticed.
“ There's but little time for talking," continued Peter, “what's to be done?”
“There's nothing but swimming for it," was the reply.
Peter said nothing, but jerked his thumb significantly in the direction of May, whom he held on his left arm.
“There's nothing but swimming for it,” said Joe, again. “Uncle" -here he spoke in a very low tone—“ thou'lt have to leave her; better one be lost than two."
“Nay, nay, my lad! It trusts me; I'll never do that,” said Peter in a husky whisper. “ Thee do thy best to swim to the rocks, and see if thou canst get help. Tell my old woman happen I shan't come back. Go,” he added, in a tone of authority, as Joe hesitated to leave them. Joe obeyed.
First be divested himself of the heavier articles of his dress, and then struck out boldly for the distant rocks. “I knew
you wouldn't leave me," said May. “Did he mean leave me on the water ? Oh!" and she clasped Peter's neck, the tears rolling down her cheeks.
“Don't be afeard,” said Peter, “perhaps somebody 'll come and take us off.”
There was hope in his words, but there was little, if any, in his heart. He knew that it would take Joe an hour to get to the village over the rough rocks, if he ever reached them; while little more than half that time would put them beyond the reach of all human aid.
After a time May became more composed as she got used to her strange position, and the two gazed silently into the glowing west. Richly-tinted masses of clouds above shed a crimson glow over all the silent sea and rocky headland; while nearer the sun, cloud-islands of crimson and marvellous gleaming gold floated in the delicate amber light.
May spoke in a whisper as if afraid to hear her own voice in the stillness, “I sometimes think it must be heaven there, it's so bright; you
think it is ?” Peter's arm trembled as he held her. “Would
like to go to heaven, little missie?" he said.
May looked into his face earnestly, “Oh!" she said, “I don't know, I can't tell now; I should like to go to mamma. We shall go to mamma, shan't we?” and she hid her face in the great shoulder.
“Perhaps mamma will go to you,” said Peter, unconsciously using the words of David.
Peter took his last look round. There was no boat coming ; Joe
was not to be seen. In the bay was a cutter under a cloud of white canvas, but even while he looked she was put about and stood away in a south-westerly direction. No cry could reach her: yet he would try, and, raising his right hand to his mouth, he hailed in a voice that thrilled every fibre in May's body. But it was in vain; the sound died away over the sea, only the rocks caught up the last tone of his voice, and sent back a strange mournful“ hoy,” as if half in pity and half in mockery. The water had risen so high that May now sat upon
Peter's shoulders, and clasped the grizzled head. Peter knew it would not last much longer, his body had become numb with cold, and he feared that his limbs were powerless for swimming. The rising and falling swell nearly lifted him off his feet, and the water now began to wash over his shoulders. May, shivering and gasping, clung to him more closely. His eyes were turned upon the setting sun, but they saw it not, for they were filled with the blinding tears that had never been there since the days of his childhood; they rose now not for himself, but for the little one whose trembling arms clasped his forehead.
Half the sun was hidden. The end was coming. Many thoughts rashed rapidly through Peter's mind. He knew that May would go to the heaven she spoke of. Might he go with her ? No; why should he? What part had he in such things ? He remembered hearing in a sermon that those might be saved who became as little children. If he trusted a Saviour as May had trusted him-even him-would it arail ? Then dark sinful actions of the life that was past seemed to rise like phantoms to mock his hopes; and, above all, there rose up before him a pale face, with eyes glazed with terror, and quivering lips that cried “Mercy!” and he heard again that shriek of utter despair, and saw horror-struck faces looking at him. How should there be mercy for him ?
The sun was nearly gone. One shadow held the land, and the water became dark and colourless. Once more a last dying gleam broke from the west ; a single arrowy ray shot over the waters, and lit up the two human faces with a golden glory ; and then, as the sun sank, there was one stifled cry from May, and the two were rolled beneath the surface of the dark water. The smooth, unbroken swell rose and fell over the spot as before, and the peaceful image of the evening star glimmered in the place where they had been. The soft wind stole noiselessly over the water, and no sound broke the stilloess kut the mournful wail of the sea-mew.
(To be continued.)
THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT.
“And they were troubled at his presence."-GEN. XLV. 3.
AND could it be those tearful eyes,
Those loving arms, towards them spread,
And fill them thus with doubt and dread?
Why droop the eye in sudden shame,
Why tremble at a brother's name?
Ah! memory draws aside the veil
Which on their heart hath lain so long,
Of cruel perfidy and wrong.
And then they mocked his falling tears ;
And then they heeded not his fears.
They seem to see the bond-slave's chain,
Still bears for them the pit's foul stain.
In love like this can ne'er believe,
And gives, not hoping to receive.
The loving Saviour's pardoning word,
Has he not crucified his Lord ?
He fixed the thorn, he hurled the spear ;
His guilt-stained conscience cleanse and clear ? “Depart from me,” in fear he cries,
A sinful man am I, O Lord !"
Oh sinner! take Him at his word :
Nor longer dwell on deeds of thine,
And cancelled them by love divine.
A ransom for His murderers paid,
And bids them be no more afraid ;
Sole refuge for a ruined race,
Safe in the Goshen of His grace.