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

A THICK FOG.

That little piece of paper which was given me that day, I have it still, put by amongst my greatest treasures. There was not much written on it, only two lines of a hymn:

’On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.’

I walked slowly up to the house thinking. My grandfather was out with Jem Millar, so I did not show him the paper then, but I read the lines many times over as I was playing with little Timpey, and I wondered very much what they meant.

In the evening, my grandfather and Jem Millar generally sat together over the fire in the little watchroom upstairs, and I used to take little Timpey up there, until it was time for her to go to bed. She liked climbing up the stone steps in the lighthouse tower. She used to call out, ‘Up! up! up!’ as she went along, until she reached the top step, and then she would run into the watchroom with a merry laugh.

As we went in this evening, my grandfather and Jem were talking together of the visit of the two gentlemen ’I can’t think what the old man meant about the rock,’ my grandfather was saying. ’I couldn’t make head or tail of it, Jem; could you, my lad?’

‘Look there, grandfather,’ I said, as I handed him the little piece of paper, and told him how I had got it.

‘Well, to be sure!’ said my grandfather ‘So he gave you this, did he?’ and he read aloud:

’On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.’

’Well now, Jem, what does he mean? He kept on saying to me, “You’re on the sand, my friend; you’re on the sand, and it won’t stand the storm!” What do you make of it, Jem? did you hear him, my lad?’

‘Yes,’ said Jem thoughtfully; ’and it has set me thinking, Sandy; I know what he meant well enough.’

‘And pray what may that be?’

’He meant we can’t get to heaven except we come to Christ; we can’t get no other way. That’s just what it means, Sandy!’

‘Do you mean to tell me,’ said my grandfather, ’that I shan’t get to heaven if I do my best?’

’No, it won’t do, Sandy; there’s only one way to heaven; I know that well enough.’

‘Dear me, Jem!’ said my grandfather, ’I never heard you talk like that before.’

‘No,’ said Jem, ’I’ve forgot all about it since I came to the island. I had a good mother years ago; I ought to have done better than I have done.’

He said no more, but he was very silent all the evening. Grandfather read his newspaper aloud, and talked on all manner of subjects, but Jem Millar’s thoughts seemed far away.

The next day was his day for going on shore. My grandfather and Jem took it in turns, the last Friday in every month; it was the only time they were allowed to leave the island. When it was my grandfather’s turn, I generally went with him, and much enjoyed getting a little change. But whichever of them went, it was a great day with us on the island, for they bought any little things that we might be needing for our houses or gardens, and did any business that had to be done on shore.

We all went down to the pier to see Jem Millar start; and as I was helping him to get on board some empty sacks and some other things he had to take with him, he said to me, in an undertone,

’Alick, my lad, keep that bit of paper; it’s all true what that old gentleman said. I’ve been thinking of it ever since; and, Alick,’ he whispered, ‘I believe I am on the Rock now.’

He said no more, but arranged his oars, and in a minute more he was off. But as he rowed away, I heard, him singing softly to himself:

’On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.’

We watched the boat out of sight, and then went home, wishing that it was evening and that Jem was back again with all the things that we had asked him to get for us.

That was a very gloomy afternoon. A thick fog came over the sea and gradually closed us in, so that we could hardly see a step before us on the beach.

Little Timpey began to cough, so I took her indoors, and amused her there with a picture-book. It grew so dark that my grandfather lighted the lighthouse lamps soon after dinner. There was a dull, yellow light over everything.

I never remember a more gloomy afternoon; and as evening came on, the fog grew denser, till at length we could see nothing outside the windows.

It was no use looking out for Jem’s return, for we could not see the sea, much less any boat upon it. So we stayed indoors, and my grandfather sat by the fire smoking his pipe.

‘I thought Jem would have been here before now,’ he said at length, as I was putting out the cups and saucers for tea.

‘Oh, he’ll come before we’ve finished tea, I think, grandfather,’ I answered. ‘I wonder what sort of a spade he’ll have got for us.’

When tea was over, the door opened suddenly, and we looked up, expecting to see Jem enter with our purchases. But it was not Jem; it was his wife.

‘Sandy,’ she said, ‘what time do you make it? My clock’s stopped!’

‘Twenty minutes past six,’ said my grandfather, looking at his watch.

‘Past six!’ she repeated. ‘Why, Jem’s very late!’

‘Yes,’ said my grandfather; ’I’ll go down to the pier, and have a look out.’

But he came back soon, saying it was impossible to see anything; the fog was so thick, he was almost afraid of walking over the pier. ’But he’s bound to be in at seven, he said (for that was the hour the lighthousemen were required to be on the island again), ’so he’ll soon be up now.’

The clock moved on, and still Jem Millar did not come. I saw Mrs. Millar running to her door every now and then with her baby in her arms, to look down the garden path. But no one came.

At last the clock struck seven.

‘I never knew him do such a thing before!’ said my grandfather, as he rose to go down to the pier once more.