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"Who would venture out in such a sea as this ?"
“I will,” said David, not boastfully, but very quietly and firmly; "they may be praying now on board that ship for help; and who knows but that the dear Lord above means us to be His instruments in answering their prayer?"
"I have got a wife and family, David," said one of the group.
"So have I, Matthew Penrose," answered Peyton, somewhat warmly; "and just because I have a wife and two blessed children, I feel for those who are on board that poor doomed vessel. If none of you will go with me,” he added, making a stride forwards, "I'll go by myself!"
"That shall never be," said one after another, inspired by his energy; "if you go we will go, and may the good God who rules the winds and the waves have mercy upon us!"
The boat was soon manned, but in those days a life-boat was a very crazy concern. It was hardly safer than any other boat, and it was with the utmost difficulty that she was launched, and when launched kept afloat amid the surging waves. Every moment a green grave opened to swallow them up, and it needed all David Peyton's enthusiasm and encouragement to keep the rowers to their work. They were close to the vessel at last, and by the light of the moon, suddenly breaking through a rugged cloud, they saw that she was breaking up. All who could escape had already made the attempt in the two boats she carried; but there were several on board who, seeing a feeble chance of rescue in the boat that was now tossing by the side, leaped in at the risk of their own lives and those of the boatmen. It was in vain that the captain attempted to keep order; it was in vain that David shouted through the storm that if they would be calm, by the blessing of God they might all be saved. In suicidal confusion they jumped into the boat at the risk of upsetting it.
One young man was left behind, and in the feeble light he was seen calmly looking down upon the terrified company of human beings below.
"Make way!" cried the master of the boat, hoarsely, "or we shall be sucked in as the vessel goes down!"
"No!” cried David, in a voice of thunder; "hold on! Don't you see there is another to be saved?"
"What if there is !" said the old sailor, gruffly; "we shall be lost ourselves if we stay another second."
"What if we are!" said David, with a noble forgetfulness of danger; "we might have been lost half an hour ago but for Him who layeth the beams of His chamber in the waters, and walketh upon the wings of the wind: hold on, I say! Come, sir," he said encouragingly to the young man on board, who was watching their proceedings with more curiosity than alarm, "there's room for you; leap! and I'll catch you."
Go your ways, brave fellow !" was the reply; "and may God bring you safe to land."
"If you do not come down," shouted David, "and that at once, we shall all be drowned !"
There was a leap, a splash that was heard even in the boiling sea, a cry that was heard above the roar of wind and waters, and Peyton and the man whom he was desirous of saving were overboard! The boatmen lingered for a little while in the neighbourhood of the sinking vessel, in the hope of saving their gallant comrade; but soon they gave up the matter as hopeless, and made what way they could to shore. Hannah was there to be the first to welcome her brave husband.
I cannot dwell upon the grief and distraction she experienced when she learnt his fate. Her husband's companions regarded her with a pity and sympathy too great for words. One aged sailor, whose white locks were wet with sea-foam, and who had known her from a child, caught hold of her hand when she was sinking on the beach and said, “Come, Hannah, my girl, let me take you home; think of the children, think of what David would have you do now, think of what the good Lord would have you do." With a great sob, but otherwise submissively as a child, she took the
veteran seaman's arm, and went home to gaze upon her two fatherless children and to feel the desolation of widowhood. Then followed many weary weeks of dark, joyless light, in which it was hard for Hannah to submit to the will of her heavenly Father. Then there came a lull in the tempest of her sorrow, and if she could not say it in words, she felt in her heart one of the noblest utterances which faith in God ever inspired, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." She set herself bravely to the performance of her household duties and to the care of her children, and in some of the many ways known to those who live by the seashore, contrived to get a simple livelihood.
Of an evening it was her habit, with her two children, to sit on the beach, pensively musing on the loss of her gallant and tender husband. Several months had elapsed since the night he went out into the hissing storm when she was thus occupied, when she was aroused from her reverie by the approach of a young gentleman, who kindly said, "Do I speak to Mrs. Peyton ?" Hannah answered in the affirmative.
"I knew him well," said the stranger, with emotion; "he was one of the bravest and best young men I ever knew. I have reason to think gratefully of him; he saved my life!" Hannah's heart was too full to speak. "Don't be alarmed, Mrs. Peyton; God is very merciful. We were both saved!" With a cry of joy Hannah saw her husband coming forward to her; and she received him as one who had been given back to her from the grave. It seemed that when they fell into the raging sea a wave had carried them into a tangle of rigging and broken spars, which hung over the side of the vessel. With great difficulty they had succeeded in clambering up on to the deck of the ship. The night was so dark that they were not seen, and the fury of the storm was such that their shouts could not be heard by their comrades. As the morning dawned the storm somewhat abated, and they were taken off by a passing vessel, without being able to communicate with the shore. And now, after a voyage of
many months, they returned as though risen from the dead. Well might David Peyton and Hannah--a widow no longer -take as their favourite text, "Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness."
Old Janet; or, The Birds and the Bairns.
ANET MACRO, or old Janet, as we were used to call her, was quite an institution in our village; she was known by all, and was as generally respected
as she was known. She was not a native, but "belonged" to some place far away north, the name of which I have forgotten. She lived just on the outskirts of the village; and her home was a very little cottage, pleasantly situated a few yards from the road in a small patch of garden, abounding with pleasant-looking and sweet-smelling flowers in the summer time; and in a sheltered corner of which you might always see some beehives.
At the time I knew her, Janet was old and very poor. She had come into that neighbourhood many years before in the service of a wealthy family which resided some time a short distance from the village. At length the establishment was broken up and the family went to live on the Continent, and Janet determined to take up her abode in the village, instead of returning to her far away Scotch home, from which she had been separated for many long years. She was not altogether destitute; for the family with which she had so long lived allowed her a small annuity, which, though valuable as a help, was quite insufficient to maintain her. Being an industrious and thoroughly trustworthy woman, her services were much in request among those who needed occasional help. But, after a while, the infirmities of advanced age rendered her unfit for work. She had then nothing to depend upon beyond her small annuity and a few shillings a year which her bees earned for her.
Janet was sometimes sorely straitened as to ways and means; but with true Scotch frugality she managed to make both ends meet; and, with that commendable spirit of independence which not unfrequently distinguishes the very poor, she would often express her gratitude that she was able to keep the old house over her head.
Though so poor that she sometimes scarcely knew where the next meal would come from, she was always cheerful and contented-her motto being, "The Lord will provide." And verily the Lord did provide, raising up for old Janet quite unexpected friends, whose occasional though somewhat uncertain contributions to her little store alone kept her from actual want. Now and then-according to her simple Scotch notions-she would fare quite sumptuously for a day or two, and then, perhaps, there would be for awhile scarcely any oil in the cruse, scarcely any meal in the barrel; but still, owing to what seemed to her a very wonderful system of replenishment, there was always some oil in the cruse, some meal in the barrel. In a tone of triumphant satisfaction, the old woman would often declare that her Lord had never suffered her to want yet, and that she believed He never would. To old Janet herself, it ever seemed the most natural and befitting thing in the world that she should be thus always content," pleased with all the Lord provides," and confident that the Lord would provide for her in His own way and at His own time. This, which seemed so natural to her, appeared wonderful to others; and sometimes her friends would speak to her about her cheerfulness and contentment, and ask her how it was that, though she felt perhaps the pinch of want to-day, she never seemed perplexed about to-morrow. She nearly always gave the same quaint old-fashioned reply to such queries. "Well, well," she would say, in her broadest Scotch, "I do not trouble myself very much about the morrow. I am quite sure that if God takes care of the birds, He will not forget to take care of His bairns."
Yes, this was the secret of old Janet's contented confi