Page images
[ocr errors]

us. The necessary directions were at once given, and I fancy I can still hear the tramping of feet, the lashing of ropes, and the running out of our trusty chain, as we dropped anchor in the Downs, on that memorable night."

[ocr errors]

By why," said my brother Tom, who with ourselves had been attentively listening to his cousin's statement," why should you call it a memorable night: I see nothing very remarkable in the circumstance of your having merely mistaken one light-house for another?"

"Perhaps not;❞ resumed my cousin, "but for my own part, I can never feel too thankful that I went below to verify my calculations, or it is more than probable I should have run over to the coast near Boulogne, and at all events have lost my ship, if God had spared my own life, and the lives of our crew, and passengers, which, after the melancholy tales of shipwreck connected with that place, could scarcely have been expected. It must be in your recollection, that a very short time since a fine East Indiaman went ashore there, when all but a few hands perished, and the public prints are at this moment filled with details of the lamentable loss of the Conqueror, from which vessel but one person out of eighty, men, women and children escaped a watery grave."

"How very, very sad!" said little Caroline, with a sigh: "I never hear the wind blow, but I think of shipwrecks, since uncle told us of his dismal adventures in the West Indies, when he used to go to sea. Will you tell us that story again, dear uncle, for William was at school when we heard it the other day?"

"To be sure I will, my darling," said uncle Robert, with a fine, frank smile, such as an old sailor only can put on, when he wants to please the young folks-"to be sure I will; and fifty times over if you wish it ;" and with this kind prelude he introduced the narrative that follows.

"When I was in command of a French prize, off Martinique, it came on all at once to blow great guns,"

"Great guns!" said Caroline, enquiringly, and with a smile upon her face that well expressed her astonishment.

"Great guns;" repeated her uncle, explaining what he meant. "It came on to blow," said he, " suddenly, and with great violence, as it often does in tropical regions, so that we were taken

unawares, and before we could make any preparations to withstand it, a series of heavy squalls followed each other with frightful rapidity. To heighten the alarm and confusion, the sky became black above us, and the lightning played round our heads almost incessantly. Hands were sent aloft to cut away our topsail sheets, and prepare for the worst, when a sudden lurch brought the vessel upon her beam-ends,”

"Her what?" said little Harry, who, as soon as he heard his uncle's voice, had taken up his position beside him.

"The ends of her beams, or as you would call them, her rafters,”—replied the uncle, not in the least disconcerted by the interruption, "If this house were laid upon its side, the ends of the rafters which support the floors would rest upon the ground, and you might then say the house was on its beam-ends."

"I should be very sorry if it were," said Caroline.

“Very likely,” replied uncle Robert; "but I have often seen a ship in such a position. Well-our vessel was lying over on her side, when one of the men called out that her keel was out of water, and that she could not right again, or resume her proper position. We were, therefore, compelled to cling on by her topsides, rocking and rolling with every sea that struck us. There were ten of us in this uncomfortable plight, surrounded by horrors which I trust I shall never see again; and commingling with the bursting thunder, and the hissing and roaring of the winds and waters, might be heard at intervals the most incongruous ejaculations and prayers ever uttered by creatures calling themselves rational. It is in times like these, my dears, that we feel the value of Christianity, and the full force of its consolations, in knowing that we have a God nigh at hand, and not afar off; and that effectual fervent prayer availeth much. While we were thus hanging by the wreck, we could see, notwithstanding the darkness which prevailed throughout the hurricane, a large company of sharks rioting beneath us, in high glee at the thought of our tumbling one by one into their mouths. As the vessel lay floundering in the water, it was with a good deal of satisfaction that we found her yielding to the waves, and rising and falling with them, so that the sea made no breach over us; or we must inevitably have been washed away, and drowned or devoured, long before the actual period of our melancholy sojourn on

the wreck had expired. As it was, a gracious Providence enabled us to hold on for nearly ten hours; when we were every one of us taken off by an English sloop, and carried into St. Pierre.

"God was very good to you," said Caroline, "to save your life, and bring you home again; for I don't know what we should have done without our dear uncle and cousins. I wonder whether Timothy was ever ship-wrecked?"

"No, Carry, no," said her cousin, with an arch smile; "it was quite bad enough to be so near it as I was, in coming up Channel, on my last voyage, as I have just told you."

"I should think so," said Charles; “and all through mistaking one light for another. But how is it that the people who put up the lights make them so much alike. I should think it very easy to have them of different kinds or colors ?"

"And they do so," replied my cousin ; "the light which I was looking out for, was a fixed light; and that which misled me, a revolving one; or one that turned round upon its axis,-increasing, decreasing, disappearing, and reappearing, at fixed intervals; but our watch was too much overjoyed to catch a glimpse of any light at all, that he paid no attention to its peculiar character or aspects."

"He was like a great many others," said my uncle, gravely, "who navigate the dark and trackless ocean of life. Thousands, and tens of thousands, have made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience, because they were unable or unwilling to distintinguish the fixed from the revolving, the flashing from the steady, the decreasing from the unvarying, the colored from the plain, the double from the single light!"

"What! are there all these different kinds, uncle?" rejoined Charles; "but I ought to have asked that question before I found fault."

"Yes, my boy; there are all these and many other kinds,” replied uncle Robert; “and perhaps we may gain a few hints, by looking at each in detail. Let us speak first of

"The fixed light. It would surely be best if every light were of this kind, but for the difficulty of identifying and distinguishing one from another. An object which admits of no change, either in character or position, is certainly the surest guiding

point at sea. I have found it to be so, no less, upon the sea of life. We want something that we can trust; and I shall always feel grateful that God has given us a light of this character, in the word of his truth.

'That steady, and pure, and unquenchable light,

[ocr errors]

Which in days that are darkest will burn the most bright." There can be no doubt, my dears, that we are justified in thus speaking of the Bible; for it is not only called a light and a lamp, but is actually represented under the figure of a beacon, by the apostle, when he speaks of the word of life being held forth;' in allusion, probably, to such gigantic figures as that of the famous Colossus of Rhodes-stretching out the hand of guidance, or of warning, to the otherwise benighted voyager. Like its great author, the scripture light knows of no variableness, or shadow of turning; it is a fixed light; we never see it in a dark or doubtful phase, whatever our own circumstances or position may be. In its light we see clearly; there is no fitful, flickering, varying, evanescent lustre about it; but it shows us our station and our duties,-our track, our work, and our haven, in the pure, full, broad radiance of unclouded day. Christians, too, are described as 'lights of the world;' and the closer they keep to the Bible, the more steadily will they shine. True, their light is a borrowed one; but it often assumes a burning and resplendent character when the reflector is undimmed by prejudice, or passion, or party. You have seen the first rays of the sun break out upon some commanding feature in the landscape, till it flames out boldly and conspicuously from amongst the surrounding objects; just so is the Christian exhorted to arise and shine;' not because he has any inherent light, but because the 'glory of the Lord has arisen upon him.'

"2. The revolving light. I have often thought that worldly wisdom and philosophy may be well likened to this light. The wisdom of our grand-fathers almost sets in darkness amongst our own generation. How brilliant was this or that discovery thought when it first burst forth to startle us out of our antiquated prejudices, only a century ago! but it has been revolving ever since. Now it is moving slowly, solemnly, but steadily, towards its greatest obscuration, to be forgotten, till some daring spirit shall reproduce it; and, with another name, and by other

« PreviousContinue »