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RETURN OF THE LIFEBOAT.

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A long hour had passed away. Many anxious watchers were pacing the sands opposite the vicarage, where the white breakers tossed

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their heads and spread themselves into sheets of gleaming foam. The tide was falling, and the depth of water in the harbour was not now sufficient to enable them to take the life-boat in, if she ever returned. It would be necessary, therefore, to beach her here where we were waiting; for this place, though somewhat exposed, was freer from stray blocks of stone, and consequently safer, than any other part of the shore.

Another half-hour passed. The queenly moon sailed into a clear space in the heavens, and laid her silvery wand upon the troubled sea between us and her. Looking along this line of light we saw at length a dark object rise for a moment and disappear again. And the sight of that little black spot sent a thrill of delight through every heart; no one doubted that it was the life-boat returning. In a very short time she was plainly visible, for the gale brought her along with great rapidity. Soon we could see the flash of her oars in the moonlight and the gleam of her wet sides. Now and then a spasmodic “hurrah !" burst from the lips of some of the watchers as she rose gallantly on the top of a breaking sea. A man stood with a lantern indicating the best spot for beaching her. A few more strokes would bring her ashore. Suddenly Peter stood up in the stern sheets as if on the look out for something. His white hair and beard streamed out before him like the scud which blows from the crest of a wave. He made a rapid and apparently impatient movement with his hand towards the place where the lantern was, and then altered the helm so as to expose the boat's quarter to the breakers. There was a very good reason for this seemingly injudicious move. The lantern had been, in the confusion, placed over a spot where the heads of a few small piles appeared above the sand. These were hidden by the water, but Peter knew their exact position, and his quick eye had discovered that they were going straight for them. Unfortunately, an unusually large sea was coming up just at the moment that the boat deviated to avoid the piles. The big wave came tumbling along as if in eager haste to have the last blow. He tossed up his mighty head and then flung himself with a sledge-hammer force against the exposed quarter. The shock was so violent that Peter was jerked out with great force, and the life-boat was swept up nearly high and dry on the sand with no further damage than a little scratching to her paint. Half a dozen fellows rushed into the broken water, and, seizing Peter before the returning wave had time to carry him back, brought him triumphantly ashore.

It was soon found, however, that Peter had been hurt; at all events, he was severely stunned, and was unable to speak. I told the

men who were holding him up to take him into the vicarage, whither the shipwrecked mariners and the life-boat's crew also proceeded by my invitation, to seek such shelter and refreshment as the house afforded.

The wrecked vessel was the schooner “Morning Star,” a coaster, as Andrew Mallett had guessed. All hands-captain, mate, four men and a boy--were taken safely off, suffering only from cold, hunger, and weariness.

As I returned to the house a heavy anxiety clouded the joy and thankfulness with which I welcomed the crew of the “Morning Star" and their gallant preservers. Peter remained insensible, and on one side of his head the white hairs were stained with crimson. The news that the hurt seemed a serious one damped the happiness of all; and while Peter lay in bed above, the brave fellows below spoke to one another in whispers.

I stood looking at Peter's placid countenance by the fitful light of the moon, which shone into the room. We had removed the lamp because it seemed to disturb him. He appeared to be regaining conscionsness. His eyes were partially opened, and his lips moved slightly; sometimes he muttered a few broken words which seemed to have reference, now to bygone times, now to the events of the night.

I feared that he was in a dangerous state, though the bruise on his head was trifling in appearance. I did not, however, suspect that the time of his departure was so near as it proved to be. His wife and sons had been sent for, but they never saw him again in this world.

When he came to himself so far as to be able to speak collectedly, he said—making long pauses between each sentence

“We got 'em all off, sir, thank God! It was a hard job. It's the last of the kind I shall ever have to do. There seemed no way of getting alongside, the water was so broken, but I couldn't help feeling sure God would help 'em off somehow. I remembered how He gave me another chance, when I thought I had met death for good on that same bit of rock twenty years since. I think I never felt such joy in my hcart as I did when we had got them well off the schooner. I felt as if I wanted to sing and shout in thanksgiving to God all the way back. Now my last bit of work is done, and I'm sent for.” “Do

you feel weak ?” said I; “your hurt does not look a bad one."

“I'm going, sir," he replied, "I feel it; but I'm content-quite content."

“Yes, old friend," I said, “I have known you long enough to feel sure that you are content if it be God's will."

Peter then relapsed into silence. He was very quiet and calm, but his breathing was short and irregular. For a few minutes neither of

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us spoke, and he seemed to be hardly conscious of my presence. Presently he spoke again, and though I was unable to distinguish his exact words, I understood him to express a wish to see his wife and sons before he died, a wish which was not realized. Again he whispered softly to himself; and, stooping down, I detected in his broken utterances the words, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me."

After another long pause he spoke again. His words were very faint, and he seemed as though he was hardly conscious of uttering them

“Good-bye, sir," he said.

Then he breathed convulsively two or three times, and I threw aside the curtains which shaded the moonlight from the bed. The calm face and silvery hair were bathed in pure, pale light. Could this be the same dark, stern countenance I saw for the first time twenty years ago on the pier at Lower Fishpool ? The same, but how different! The deep lines, which in those earlier days communicated to the face its character of severe-almost fierce-decision, were there still, only deepened by time. But the old expression had given place to one which was equally striking and infinitely grander-one which I can only describe as indicating fearless humility. Now, however, a further change had passed over those features. The eyes were glazed and lifeless; the face white and rigid. One anxious look was sufficient to assure me of the truth the soul was gone, and here on the bed, in the solemn moonlight, lay the corpse of Black Peter.

CHAPTER VIII.--MR. SIMPSON.

On the day before the one fixed for Peter's funeral, the whole country round was thickly covered with snow. The land was hushed under its fleecy mantle; and the sea, hazy and colourless, whispered along the pebbly shore, where the snow lay peacefully.

I sat in my study, thinking over my sermon for Sunday morning, in which I proposed to draw attention to the lessons to be learnt from the events of the week. My text was the one which had always been Peter's favourite-the one which had dwelt in his memory ever since the day when first he went to church in V—'s time, and when V

- had noticed nothing but his apparent inattention : “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.” That text seems to have been to him, in Christ, a guiding star, shedding a pure and tender lustre over his quiet life. O true-hearted friend! O humble-minded and guileless follower of our blessed Master! May I be found worthy to meet thee again when the

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