Read CHAPTER II of Saved at Sea A Lighthouse Story, free online book, by Mrs O. F. Walton, on ReadCentral.com.

THE FLARE AT SEA.

My grandfather and I were sitting at tea one dark November evening. We had been digging in the garden the whole morning, but in the afternoon it had become so wet and stormy that we had remained indoors.

We were sitting quietly at our tea, planning what we would do the next day, when the door suddenly opened and Mr. Millar put his head in.

‘Sandy, quick!’ he said. ‘Look here!’ My grandfather and I ran to the door, and looked out over the sea. There, about three miles to the north of us, we saw a bright flare of light. It blazed up for a moment or two, lighting up the wild and stormy sky, and then it went out, and all was darkness again.

‘What is it, grandfather?’ I asked. But he did not answer me.

‘There’s no time to lose, Jem,’ he said; “out with the boat, my man!”

‘It’s an awful sea,’ said Millar, looking at the waves beating fiercely against the rocks.

‘Never mind, Jem,’ said my grandfather; ‘we must do our best.’ So the two men went down to the shore, and I followed them.

‘What is it, grandfather?’ I asked again.

‘There’s something wrong out there,’ said he, pointing to the place where we had seen the light. ’That’s the flare they always make when they’re in danger and want help at once.’

‘Are you going to them, grandfather?’ I said.

‘Yes, if we can get the boat out,’ he said. ‘Now, Jem, are you ready?’

‘Let me go with you, grandfather,’ I said; ‘I might be able to help.’

‘All right, my lad,’ he said; ‘we’ll try if we can get her off.’

I can see that scene with my mind’s eye as though it were but yesterday. My grandfather and Mr. Millar straining every nerve to row the boat from land, whilst I clung on to one of the seats, and tried in vain to steer her. I can see poor Mrs. Millar standing on the pier, with her shawl over her head, watching us, and two of her little girls clinging to her dress. I can see the waves, which seemed to be rising higher every moment, and ready to beat our little boat to pieces. And I can see my grandfather’s disappointed face, as, after many a fruitless attempt, he was obliged to give it up.

‘It’s no use, I’m afraid, Jem,’ he said at last; ’we haven’t hands enough to manage her.’

So we got to shore as best we could, and paced up and down the little pier. We could see nothing more. It was a very dark night, and all was perfect blackness over the sea.

The lighthouse lamps were burning brightly; they had been lighted more than two hours before. It was Millar’s turn to watch, so he went up to the tower, and my grandfather and I remained on the pier.

‘Can nothing be done, grandfather?’

’I’m afraid not, my lad. We can’t make any way against such a sea as this; if it goes down a bit, we’ll have another try at it.’

But the sea did not go down. We walked up and down the pier almost in silence.

Presently a rocket shot up into the sky, evidently from the same place where we had seen the flare.

’There she is again, Alick! Poor things! I wonder how many of them there is.’

‘Can we do nothing at all?’ I asked again.

‘No, my lad,’ he said; ’the sea’s too much for us. It’s a terrible night. It puts me in mind of the day you were born.’

So the night wore away. We never thought of going to bed, but walked up and down the pier, with our eyes fixed on the place where we had seen the lights. Every now and then, for some hours, rockets were sent up; and then they ceased, and we saw nothing.

‘They’ve got no more with them,’ said my grandfather. ’Poor things! it’s a terrible bad job.’

‘What’s wrong with them, grandfather?’ I asked. ’Are there rocks over there?’

’Yes, there’s the Ainslie Crag just there; it’s a nasty place that a very nasty place. Many a fine ship has been lost there!’

At last the day began to dawn; a faint grey light spread over the sea. We could distinguish now the masts of a ship in the far distance. ’There she is, poor thing!’ said my grandfather, pointing in the direction of the ship. ‘She’s close on Ainslie Crag I thought so!’

‘The wind’s gone down a bit now, hasn’t it?’ I asked.

‘Yes, and the sea’s a bit stiller just now,’ he said. ’Give Jem a call, Alick.’

Jem Millar hastened down to the pier with his arms full of rope.

‘All right, Jem, my lad,’ said my grandfather. ’Let’s be off; I think we may manage it now.’

So we jumped into the boat, and put off from the pier. It was a fearful struggle with the wind and waves, and for a long time we seemed to make no way against them. Both the men were much exhausted, and Jem Millar seemed ready to give in.

‘Cheer up, Jem, my lad,’ said my grandfather; ’think of all the poor fellows out there. Let’s have one more try!’

So they made a mighty effort, and the pier was left a little way behind. Slowly, very slowly, we made that distance greater; slowly, very slowly, Mrs. Millar, who was standing on the shore, faded from our sight, and the masts of the ship in distress seemed to grow a little more near. Yet the waves were still fearfully strong, and appeared ready, every moment, to swallow up our little boat. Would my grandfather and Millar ever be able to hold on till they reached the ship, which was still more than two miles away?

‘What’s that?’ I cried, as I caught sight of a dark object, rising and falling with the waves.

‘It’s a boat, surely!’ said my grandfather ’Look, Jem!