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“Sail on!” it says;
“sail on ye stately ships!
N the New England coast are many
little islands about a mile or so from the shore. One of these is
in a specially dangerous position. Great ledges of rocks run far out under the sea. Some of them are visible at low tide, and some even rise high and bare and lonely above the surface of the water. Others reveal their presence only by the white breakers that mark
how they fret the smooth waters, and some, more treacherous yet, lie calm and still beneath the surface till the ill-fated ship strikes heavily upon their sharp points. Many a brave vessel has gone to pieces on these rocks; and on one island, a long time ago, there was a wreck from which only one man and his wife were saved. They lived here a short time before they could get off, and gave their own name to the island. It would not be so comfortable there as on Robinson Crusoe's island, for there are no cocoa-nut trees or sugar plantations to feast upon.
There is not a tree on the island now, although it is evident that they formerly grew there. From the shore it looks very barren, but if you go there in the sweet month of June, you will find the whole island fragrant with white clover and vernal grass, the blue flags lifting up their bright flowers to the light, and the gay scarlet pimpernel opening its tiny cup to the rays of the blessed sun above. As you glide into the cove over the smooth summer sea, you will look far down into the clear water and see it wonderfully
beautiful with sea weeds of all colors growing on the hidden rocks beneath.
This dangerous coast lies directly in the great thoroughfare of commerce, and more than one ship has been wrecked on its sunken ledges. For this reason a light-house was long ago placed on the island to warn sailors of the danger, and to guide them on their way over these rough seas.
At the time my story begins, Ephraim Wright had the charge of the light-house, a warm-hearted, kindly man, but shy and silent. He loved this quiet, almost solitary work of tending the lamp, and watching that it shone brightly through the night. Yet he was not all alone, for he had a faithful wife who willingly shared his hard life and tried to give all the little comforts of home to their rude dwelling
A very happy woman she would have been in her hard-working life, if she had only had some dear little children to nestle in her arms, and run tottling after her steps; but for some wise reason this blessing was denied her.
It was on a wild, stormy afternoon in December, when night shuts down early over sea and land, that Ephraim Wright took his lantern in his hand, and prepared to climb the tower to light the blessed lamp, which many a sailor would strain his eyes far over the water to see that night. He kissed his wife and bade her go to bed early, for he should watch from the tower to see if any vessels were in danger, and to be sure that the lamp burned bright and cheery.
She sat down in the dim twilight with her knitting, and, as she heard the wild roar of the storm and felt the very ground rock beneath her, she thought first of the poor sailors, and then her heart turned to the warm, sheltered homes on the mainland. She thought of mothers rocking their babies to sleep, or tucking the little merry prattlers into their warm beds, and unconsciously began to hum a sweet lullaby; but it was broken by a deep sigh, for she thought that such loving duties would never be her own happy lot. Yet as she murmured in her heart, the thought of
Ephraim so kind and true - came over her, of him who never let a drop of rum pass his lips; who had never spoken a harsh word to her in all their toilsome life, but whose love was as warm and constant as when they went to the little district school together, or gathered huckleberries in the pastures on summer afternoons. Overcome with this feeling her knitting dropped from her hand, and her heart poured itself out to God in one gush of earnest love and gratitude.
As she thus sat she heard the well-beloved voice: “ Susan, there is a vessel among the breakers, come and see.”
She ran quickly up the tower stairs and looked forth. There was a ship drifting at the mercy of the waves, which were driving her directly on to the island.
“ Can you guard the light?” said Ephraim.
« Indeed I can,” was her only reply. He kissed her, and said, “ God bless you," as he called to the boy who assisted him, and hurried forth with ropes and lantern to give what help he might. His good boat was ready, but there was no possibility of using it.