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


It was a boat of which I had caught sight a boat bottom upwards. A minute afterwards it swept close past us, so near that we could almost touch it.

‘They’ve lost their boat. Pull away, Jem!’

‘Oh, grandfather!’ I said, and the wind was so high, I could only make him hear by shouting, ’grandfather, do you think the boat was full?’

‘No,’ he said. ’I think they’ve tried to put her off, and she’s been swept away. Keep up, Jem!’ For Jem Millar, who was not a strong man, seemed ready to give in.

We were now considerably more than half-way between the boat and the ship. It seemed as if those on board had caught sight of us, for another rocket went up. They had evidently kept one back, as a last hope, in case any one should pass by.

As we drew nearer, we could see that it was a large ship, and we could distinguish many forms moving about on deck.

‘Poor fellows! poor fellows!’ said my grandfather. ‘Pull away, Jem!’

Nearer and nearer we came to the ship, till at length we could see her quite distinctly. She had struck on Ainslie Crag, and her stern was under water, and the waves were beating wildly on her deck. We could see men clinging to the rigging which remained, and holding on to the broken masts of the ship.

I shall never forget that sight to my dying day! My grandfather and Jem Millar saw it, and they pulled on desperately.

And now we were so near to the vessel that had it not been for the storm which was raging, we could have spoken to those on board. Again and again we tried to come alongside the shattered ship, but were swept away by the rush of the strong, resistless waves.

Several of the sailors came to the side of the ship, and threw out a rope to us. It was long before we could catch it, but at last, as we were being carried past it, I clutched it, and my grandfather immediately made it secure.

‘Now!’ he cried. ‘Steady, Jem! we shall save some of them yet!’ and he pulled the boat as near as possible to the ship.

Oh! how my heart beat that moment, as I looked at the men and women all crowding towards the place where the rope was fastened.

‘We can’t take them all,’ said my grandfather anxiously; ’we must cut the rope when we’ve got as many as the boat will carry.’

I shuddered, as I thought of those who would be left behind.

We had now come so close to the ship that the men on board would be able to watch their opportunity, and jump into the boat whenever a great wave was past, and there was a lull for a moment in the storm.

‘Look out, Jem!’ cried my grandfather. ‘Here’s the first’

A man was standing by the rope, with what appeared to be a bundle in his arms. The moment we came near, he seized his opportunity and threw it to us. My grandfather caught it.

‘It’s a child, Alick!’ he said; ‘put it down by you.’

I put the bundle at my feet, and my grandfather cried, ’Now another; quick, my lads!’

But at this moment Jem Millar seized his arm. ‘Sandy! look out!’ he almost shrieked.

My grandfather turned round. A mighty wave, bigger than any I had seen before, was coming towards us. In another moment we should have been dashed by its violence against the ship, and all have perished.

My grandfather hastily let go the rope, and we just got out of the way of the ship before the wave reached us. And then came a noise, loud as a terrible thunder-clap, as the mighty wave dashed against Ainslie Crag. I could hardly breathe, so dreadful was the moment!

‘Now back again for some more!’ cried my grandfather, when the wave had passed.

We looked round, but the ship was gone! It had disappeared like a dream when one awakes, as if it had never been. That mighty wave had broken its back, and shattered it into a thousand fragments. Nothing was to be seen of the ship or its crew but a few floating pieces of timber.

My grandfather and Millar pulled hastily to the spot, but it was some time before we could reach it, for we had been carried by the sea almost a mile away, and the storm seemed to be increasing in violence.

When at last we reached that terrible Ainslie Crag, we were too late to save a single life; we could not find one of those on board. The greater number no doubt had been carried down in the vortex made by the sinking ship, and the rest had risen and sunk again long before we reached them.

For some time we battled with the waves, unwilling to relinquish all hope of saving some of them. But we found at last that it was of no use, and we were obliged to return.

All had perished, except the child lying at my feet. I stooped down to it, and could hear that it was crying, but it was so tightly tied up in a blanket that I could not see it nor release it.

We had to strain every nerve to reach the lighthouse. It was not so hard returning as going, for the wind was in our favour, but the sea was still strong, and we were often in great danger. I kept my eyes fixed on the lighthouse lamps, and steered the boat as straight as I could. Oh! how thankful we were to see those friendly lights growing nearer. And at last the pier came in sight, and Mrs. Millar still standing there watching us.

‘Have you got none of them?’ she said, as we came up the steps.

‘Nothing but a child,’ said my grandfather sadly. ’Only one small child, that’s all. Well, we did our very best, Jem, my lad.’

Jem was following my grandfather, with the oars over his shoulder. I came last, with that little bundle in my arms.

The child had stopped crying now, and seemed to be asleep, it was so still. Mrs. Millar wanted to take it from me, and to undo the blanket, but my grandfather said ’Bide your time, Mary; bring the child into the house, my lass; it’s bitter cold out here.’

So we all went up through the field, and through our garden and the court. The blanket was tightly fastened round the child, except at the top, where room had been left for it to breathe, and I could just see a little nose and two closed eyes, as I peeped in at the opening.

The bundle was a good weight, and before I reached the house I was glad of Mrs. Millar’s help to carry it. We came into our little kitchen, and Mrs. Millar took the child on her knee and unfastened the blanket.

‘Bless her,’ she said, as her tears fell fast, ‘it’s a little girl!’

‘Ay,’ said my grandfather, ‘so it is; it’s a bonnie wee lassie!’