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The History of Little Peter, the Ship Boy
by W.H.G. Kingston
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Fastening a rope round his waist which he secured to a ring-bolt in the deck, he struggled to the side of the ship nearest the shore. Peter could no longer distinguish him.

The captain was standing still, undecided what to do, with the third-mate and five or six seamen who had succeeded in getting aft, when old Hixon was seen making his way along the deck from amid the mass of wreck which cumbered it.

"The foot of the mainmast still hangs to the ship and the head rests on a rock," he said; "what is beyond I cannot tell, it may be water or it may be land, but the sea does not break over it; it is our only chance if we can manage to reach it."

"Well, lads, we had better follow old Hixon's advice," said the captain. "Those who wish it can go."

The mate and the other men hung back.

"Come, Peter," said Hixon, "you and I will set the example then. To my mind the ship won't hold together many minutes longer; and if we succeed, as I think we shall, they will follow if there's time. I'll go sir," he cried to the captain, and grasping Peter, he led him along, holding on to the rope. They reached the mast, when Peter, keeping close to his companion, scrambled up it. Alone he felt that he might have been unable to succeed, but supported by his old friend he made his way along the mast, which all the time was swayed up and down by the movement of the ship. He feared lest it should be hurled from its position, and the rest might be unable to escape by it.

They gained a rugged rock of some extent, but the water washed round them and the spray occasionally flew over their heads. They were still at a distance from the mainland, but for the moment safer than on board the ship. They shouted as loud as they could to induce the rest to follow them. Every instant they feared that the mast would give way. Again and again they shouted. At last they caught sight of some one moving along the mast. He reached them, and it proved to be Emery, the black steward.

"Are the rest coming?" asked Peter eagerly.

"Hope so; captain tell us to come first," was the answer; and soon afterwards Bill the cook made his way to the rock. They all shouted together to give notice of their safe passage. At length several seamen were seen creeping along the mast, one after the other, as fast as they could move.

"The ship is breaking up fast!" said one of them; "and if the skipper don't make haste he will be lost."

"Oh, I wish you had all come at once!" cried Peter. "I'll go back and hasten him."

"No, no, boy; you will lose your life if you do!" said Hixon. "It's his own fault if he delays."

"That is no reason why we should not try to get him to come," said Peter.

"You are right, boy," cried Hixon, "but if any one goes, I'll go."

Hixon was just getting on the mast, when he exclaimed that the skipper and mate were coming along it. At that moment the end of the mast began to rise. Hixon threw himself off it.

"Stand clear of the rigging," cried several voices. The mast moved more rapidly, the end lifting up in the air, then with a crash came down on the rock, against which it was at once violently dashed by a sea which broke over the wreck. One of the poor fellows who had escaped was dragged off into the seething waters.

"The captain is gone," cried several voices.

"I see a man close at hand," said Peter. "Will any one pass a rope round my waist? I am sure I could clutch him."

There were several ropes scattered about the rock. Old Hixon did not hear Peter, but two or three of the other men did. One of them fastened a rope as he requested. While they held on, Peter sprung off from the rock into the water close to where the person he saw was floating. He clutched him tightly. The next sea which came roaring up would have clashed him against the rock, and his burden must have been torn from him had not his companions, roused by the example set by the young boy, whom they had been in the habit of laughing at, rushed forward and dragged them both up together.

"It is the captain," cried one. "But I am afraid he is gone," exclaimed another.

"No! I trust he is still alive," said Peter, sitting down by the captain's side, and taking his head on his lap. "He is breathing; he will come to, I hope."

Peter rubbed the captain's chest while the steward and Bill moved his arms gently up and down. He uttered a groan; it showed that he was in pain, and had been injured against the rocks, but it was an encouraging sign. They persevered, and at length the captain spoke in a low voice, asking where he was.

"You are safe on a rock," answered Emery. "We shall know better when sun rise."

Just then a voice was heard at no great distance, shouting.

Hixon hailed in return, "Where are you?"

"On an island of some sort," was the answer. "Many more saved?"

Hixon replied that the captain and ten men had escaped.

Although the channel between the rock and the land might be deep, with the help of a man on the latter, if a rope could be passed to him, they might all cross in safety.

They waited anxiously till daylight. The wind had gone down by that time, and the sea was much calmer. A rocky island of some height rose before them, but as the sea rushed in and out in the intervening space, even a good swimmer might have hesitated to cross.

The larger portion of their gallant ship had disappeared, but the afterpart still remained entire.

Several lengths of rope were cut from the rigging of the mainmast, which had been thrown back on the rock. They were eager to get across, for they had no food and no water on the rock. Several attempts were made to heave a rope to the man on the island, but in vain, the distance was too great. At length a short piece of a spar was fastened to the end of the signal halyards. How eagerly it was watched, as it floated now in one direction, now in another; gradually it drew out the line; it was hoped that it might be drifted by some surge towards the man, who was eagerly on the watch to catch it.

"We must not despair," said Peter to Hixon, who had come to see how the captain was getting on. "If we pray that God will send the spar to shore He is certain to hear us, and He will do it if He thinks fit."

"What you say is true, I know," observed the old man; and together they knelt and prayed that a way to serve them might be found.

The captain, who had returned to consciousness, looked at them with astonishment, but said nothing. In a short time a shout came from the men who held the line on the inner side of the rock that the spar had reached the shore, and that Tom had hold of it. A stronger rope was soon hauled across, and then one which could bear the weight of two or three people at a time, if necessary. That was secured between the rock and the mainland. First one man made his way along it, then another and another, and all were going, with the exception of Emery and Bill, who, with Peter and old Hixon, stayed by the captain. The latter, seeing this, cried out, "Shame, lads; would you desert the captain when he is unable to help himself?" The men, however, did not heed him: they were eager to get hold of a cask of provisions which, with another of water, Tom told them had been thrown up on the island. The news made even Emery and Bill inclined to go.

"Go, if you wish it," said the captain; "only come back and bring me some water, for I am fearfully thirsty."

This made the men no longer hesitate. Peter sat still.

"Are you not going?" asked the captain.

"I could not leave you, sir, while you are suffering," said Peter.

"But you want food and water as much as they do," said the captain.

"They will bring it to me, sir," answered Peter.

Notwithstanding what the captain said, neither Peter nor old Hixon would leave him. The latter was busily hauling pieces of planking and rope. Having collected enough for his purpose, he set to work to manufacture a cradle sufficiently large to contain the captain. Having arranged his plan he shouted to the other men to come and assist him. Two only, however, responded, Bill and the black; the remainder were wandering along the shore, looking out for whatever might be washed up. The black set the example. Bill followed him back to the rock, but they brought only a small piece of salted tongue and some biscuits, almost soaked through, but no water. The captain could only taste a very little, but there was enough to satisfy Hixon's and Peter's appetites. In vain the poor captain cried out for water—nothing had been found to carry it in.

"The more reason we should make haste with the cradle," observed Hixon.

It was at length placed on the rope, with a line attached, which Bill carried across. Peter volunteered to go in it, and safely passed over. It was then hauled back, and the captain was drawn across. Hixon and the black followed. By this time the rest of the men had disappeared. The captain was soon sufficiently revived by the water which had been obtained to look about him. He told his companions that he believed they were on one of the many wild rocky islets which exist in that part of the ocean, and that they must carefully husband the water, as possibly no spring might be found.

As the captain wished to ascertain whether his surmises were correct, Peter volunteered to climb to the summit of the height above them. It was fatiguing and very dangerous work, but he succeeded at length. On looking around him, he found that they were nearly at one end of a rocky island, which extended for three or four miles to the eastward. Not a tree, or scarcely a shrub, was to be seen. In every direction all was desolation and barrenness. He returned, not without difficulty.

"I thought I was right," said the captain. "You must do your best, my men, to collect all you can from the wreck; we shall need it; and, Gray, I have a word to say to you. You saved my life, I am told; if we ever get away from this, I will prove your friend."

"I only did my duty, sir," said Peter. "I thought I could save you, and God helped me."

"You seem to have great trust in God."

"Yes, sir," said Peter. "He is a very present help in time of trouble, and we all have reason to trust Him."

"I have never done so before," whispered the captain; "but I will try in future."

In the meantime the other three men were collecting fragments of sails and spars, pieces of rope, and several things which formed part of the cargo, a bale of cloth and another of clothing—the latter was especially acceptable to all the party, who, with the exception of Hixon and Peter, had little on when they left the ship; but of still greater value was a cask of biscuits, another of herrings, and a few pieces of pork. What the rest of the crew might have discovered they could not tell.

As the captain could not move, a hut was built of the pieces of sail and spars, and a bed having been made up beneath it with some dry grass and a piece of canvas for the captain to lie on, he and his companions prepared to pass the first night of their sojourn on the desolate rock.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

LIFE ON THE ROCK.

When morning broke the gale had entirely ceased, but no part of the ship hung together, and all hope of obtaining any provisions from her, except such as might be washed up on the shore, was lost. The captain's condition also caused his companions much anxiety; he was suffering greatly, and appeared to be weaker than on the previous day. They had breakfasted on a small portion of biscuit and tongue, but their scanty supply of water was almost exhausted at their first meal. Peter gave the captain the larger part of his share, and having drunk a little himself, entreated that the remainder might be reserved for him, as he complained greatly of thirst.

None of the rest of the crew had returned. Peter offered to stay by the captain if the three other men would go in search of them, and ascertain whether any water was to be found.

"If we are to live we must do so," said Hixon; "come along, mates; I know Peter will look after the captain," and they set off.

After Peter had moistened the captain's lips, and made his bed as comfortable as he could, he said, "Shall I read to you, sir?"

"What have you got to read? How can you have any books here?" asked the captain.

Peter drew his Bible out of the canvas slung round his neck, and showed it to the captain. The cover, of course, was drenched with sea-water, but the inside was quite dry.

"Yes, you may," was the answer; "when a man is sick as I am it is a good book to listen to, and I am fit for nothing else."

Peter made no reply, but began to read. He came to the account of Lazarus and the rich man.

"What does Abraham's bosom mean?" asked the captain.

"Heaven, sir," answered Peter; "it must be a glorious place, for Christ has gone before to prepare it for those who love Him."

"I hope when I die I shall go there," murmured the captain, more to himself than Peter; "I have not been a bad man, or done much harm to any one, and have tried to do my duty, and have never got drunk at sea; and I hope I have done some good in my time, so I should think God would let me into heaven."

Peter prayed that he might give a right answer. "God says, sir, in His book, that 'there is none that doeth good, no, not one,' and that 'He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' The rich man we have been reading about does not seem to have done much harm, and very likely he thought himself pretty good, and yet he went to hell."

"Then how is a man ever to get to heaven?" asked the captain, somewhat petulantly.

"God says, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.' He wants us to take Him at His word. He tells us that our own good deeds are as filthy rags, and that we must trust to the sacrifice of Christ, to His blood shed for us; and thus we shall be clothed with His righteousness, with His pure and spotless robe; and so God will not look upon our iniquities, because He has accepted Christ's punishment instead of what we deserved, and we shall therefore not be punished."

Thus Peter continued to place the loving Gospel before his captain. The latter listened, often asking some more questions. At last he put his hands before his eyes, and murmured, "It's wonderful that a mere boy should know all this, and be able to explain it so clearly. It's true; yes, I am sure of that."

"Let us pray, sir, that God's Holy Spirit will bring it home to your heart," said Peter, as if the remark had been made to him. "God has said we shall not ask in vain."

The captain's eye brightened; a new hope, new thoughts and feelings, rose in his bosom.

Peter again turned to his book. He read many portions, the captain appearing in no way wearied.

He was so employed when a shout reached their ears, and Peter, going out of the tent, saw old Hixon making his way down the rocks. He brought his sou'-wester full of water.

"Praised be God, we have found a spring two miles off. There was nothing else to bring it in but this," he said, offering the water to the captain and Peter. "The rest of the men collected near it, but when I told them that they ought to come and help to carry you up the hill, captain, they said they were free now, and didn't acknowledge any man's authority."

"I should have thought, Hixon, from what I know of you, that you would have been among them," observed the captain.

"So I should, sir, a few weeks ago, but Peter there, out of his Bible, showed me what a sinner I was, and how I must love Jesus Christ and obey Him, and I know He would not have left any man to perish, and so, sir, as long as you live—and I hope we shall escape from this rock—I will not leave you."

"Thank you, Hixon," said the captain; "I am sure you speak the truth. But what has become of Emery and Bill?"

"They said they would stop and have some food, and then come back and try and get you up to the spring, which is a warmer and pleasanter place than this."

In a short time the other men appeared, but the captain felt so much pain when they attempted to move him, that he begged them to let him remain where he was.

"I am afraid, sir, they will soon have eaten up all their provisions, and then they will be coming down to get what we have collected," observed Bill. "Perhaps, if you are among them, you might persuade them to put themselves on an allowance."

The captain sent a message by Hixon, but the men only laughed at him, and replied that a ship was sure soon to appear, and take them off, though they took no pains to make their situation known. The captain, however, told Hixon and the rest to form a flag-staff out of the spars which had been cast ashore, and to erect it on the highest point with a piece of the cloth which they had found, as a flag. They did so.

Day after day passed by, and though one or the other was constantly on the look-out, no distant sail met their anxious gaze.

Peter was thankful that the captain appeared to be slowly recovering his strength, though still unable to move. By husbanding their provisions, the little party on the shore hoped to support existence for some weeks to come.

When Hixon arrived one day with their usual supply of water, he brought word that the rest of the crew had deserted the spring and were nowhere to be seen. He thought probably that they had gone down to the shore to try and catch fish, or collect mussels, or anything that might have been thrown up. He and his companions were searching about for the same object, that they might eke out the diminishing store of their more nutritive food, and give the captain a larger supply. Peter, when not thus employed, read to the captain, as also to the other men, and Bill and the black were well pleased to listen, as were the captain and Hixon. Indeed, the light of God's blessed truth shone on the small shipwrecked party, and shed on them its warmth and healing influence. It never occurred to young Peter to pride himself that the light shone from the lamp he carried within him.

The weather had again changed, and instead of a balmy breeze and sunshine, a fierce gale was blowing, and heavy showers came down upon their heads.

They were sitting beneath the shelter of their tent, while Peter was reading to them, when voices were heard, and several of the crew appeared. They looked wretched, and nearly starved.

"Hilloa!" cried one of them, seeing the cask of provisions near the entrance of the hut. "What, have you still got food? We thought that you must be as badly off as we are."

The rest came up, and though the captain, with his friends, expostulated, and promised to give the men a small portion, they took possession of more than half of the remaining provisions. With the supply of food they had thus obtained, they returned to their former camp near the spring. The captain was deeply grieved.

"It would have killed me with rage a short time ago, but I feel more sorry for them now; and I am afraid the food will only prolong their lives a day or two, while the want of it may shorten ours."

As was to be expected, in a couple of days they returned for more. Bill proposed fighting as he saw them coming, rather than give it up.

"It would only make matters worse," observed the captain, "as they would be sure to overpower us. We must trust that God will find some way for our escape."

The captain told Bill to give to each of them the same rations which they allowed for themselves, though it was not more than just sufficient to support life. Each day they came for their allowance, but still did not offer to assist in removing the captain. Hixon and the rest were very indignant.

The captain, however, quieted them, and insisted upon the provisions being equally shared amongst all the survivors from the shipwrecked crew.

At length, although their allowance had been still further reduced, no biscuits nor meat remained. A few herrings and some cabbages which had been washed up, and were wellnigh rotten, were the only articles of food they still had. Bill, however, came back with some birds' eggs and he thought that soon more might be obtained should the weather clear, and the birds visit the island in greater numbers.

Peter had, with the rest, taken his turn in watching by the flag-staff. He was casting his eyes around when they fell on the sails of a vessel just rising above the horizon. He watched her eagerly—she was drawing near. He ran down the hill to give the joyful intelligence to his friends. They quickly returned with him, the captain telling them to leave him alone, as he felt quite well enough to remain by himself. Each man carried a bundle of drift-wood, some dry grass, or branches from the numerous low bushes they found in sheltered spots, to assist in lighting a beacon, should the vessel not draw near till nightfall. A tinder-box had enabled the other party to obtain a light. Bill went for it. When he told them of the ship being seen, they would not believe him.

"Get up and have a look at her," he answered.

One of them did so. On being convinced, some showed their satisfaction by leaping about and shouting, others growled out that she would not come near the land, but none thought of praying that she might be directed towards them, or showed any gratitude at the prospect of deliverance.

On came the ship, but as she neared the island the shades of evening concealed her from sight. The beacon was immediately lighted, but they had to remain all night in the uncertainty whether it had been seen.

How anxiously they waited for the return of morning, and how eagerly they cast their straining eyes in the direction she had last appeared as daylight broke on the world of waters. As the light increased, she was seen standing for the island. A shout rose from their throats, but they themselves were startled by the hollowness of the sound.

The wind had been increasing. As she drew near, it raged furiously, and a heavy surf beat everywhere on the shore. With sinking hearts, they saw the ship haul her wind, and again stand off the dangerous rock.

"We are deserted," cried several voices, and loud complaints were made of the stranger's indifference to their sufferings. They watched till she was lost to sight, and most of them declared she would not return.

"If he is a Christian man I am sure he will," said Peter, who had been sent up by the captain to ascertain how things stood. He returned with his report.

"Don't be down-hearted, sir; God, you know, will take care of us. And even if that ship sails away, He can send another," said Peter.

The flag was kept flying all day, and the beacon fire lighted again at night.

A few herrings and some almost rotten cabbages now alone remained; starvation threatened to overtake the shipwrecked mariners. Most of the crew gave way to despair. One or two had become almost delirious from hunger and talked of rushing into the sea and drowning themselves.

"If you do, mates, you will go into the presence of God Almighty with another great sin unrepented of on your heads, besides those you have already committed," said old Hixon. "Let us pray to God to help and deliver us; we have no other hope."

His words had great effect among his late shipmates; for some time they were far more orderly and quiet than they had been hitherto.

Another day passed and the gale continued blowing furiously, and the stranger did not re-appear. Again they were on the look-out. At daybreak she was not to be seen; the wind, however, had abated. As the day drew on, Peter, who was on the look-out, caught sight of a small speck in the south-east; it grew larger and larger.

"The ship; the ship!" he shouted out. The cry was taken up by those scattered about on the rock, and passed on from one to the other. They hurried away along the island in the direction she was seen. Peter waited till he was sure there could be no mistake, and then hastened down to the captain, feeling that the good news would cheer him up. Bill and the black steward were on the opposite shore collecting mussels. Hixon stood gazing at the stranger for some minutes, and then said to himself, "I had better go too, or maybe they will not tell of the captain and the rest."

As he neared the further end of the rock he found the ship hove-to and a boat approaching the shore. On reaching the little bay into which the boat had put, he found that the starving people had tumbled into her, and that she had already shoved off. He shouted loudly. The boat put back. The captain of the ship, who had himself come in the boat with provisions and water, having heard his account, expressed his indignation at the men who would have allowed their shipmates to be left behind. They replied that they were afraid it would come on to blow again, and that the ship might be driven off and they left behind.

"I would not desert them if I had to remain a week or a month more," answered the captain, ordering two of his crew to accompany him, and to bring a boat-sail with two spars.

"It's some miles from here, sir," observed Hixon.

"Never mind; if it were ten miles we will bring your sick captain with us," was the reply.

The men told Hixon that their ship was the Myrtle, bound out to New South Wales, and their captain's name was Barrow.

It was nearly dark when Captain Barrow reached the hut, and was thankfully welcomed by poor Captain Hauslar.

"I am afraid that for my sake you will expose your ship to risk," observed the latter during their conversation.

"Do not trouble yourself about that, my friend; my first-mate is an excellent seamen, and my crew obedient and trustworthy. It's too dark to go aboard to-night; we will start to-morrow, if, as I trust, you can bear the journey after a night's rest and some food."

The fire was quickly lighted, and a meal prepared such as the shipwrecked party had not partaken of for many a day.

"I will join you and your people in offering thanksgiving to God for His many mercies," said Captain Barrow. "You, I trust, acknowledge Him in all your ways?"

"I did not till lately," was the answer. And then Captain Hauslar told him that he was indebted to young Peter for being brought to the truth.

"I should like to have that boy with me, then," observed Captain Barrow. "One youngster like that can exert a wonderful influence for good among a crew. I frequently get rough characters, and it takes long before they can be brought into order. Every assistance is of value."

The journey to the boat was performed the next morning, Captain Barrow assisting in carrying his brother commander. Although the wind blew heavily, the ship was reached in safety, and she was once more put on her course.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

PETER RISES IN THE WORLD.

Captain Hauslar expressed his astonishment at the good order which prevailed on board the Myrtle.

"I have several old hands who have sailed with me for years," observed her captain; "but many of the rest were rough enough when they joined. However, by firmness and gentleness, and treating them as fellow-beings with immortal souls, they now cheerfully do their duty, and many have been brought to know Christ and serve Him."

Every morning and evening, when the weather permitted it, prayers were read; the men were allowed certain hours in the week for mending their clothes, and no work was permitted on Sundays except what was absolutely necessary; Captain Barrow, however, took care it should not be spent in idleness. Those who could not read were taught, and books were provided for those who could make use of them.

"Every ship that sails on the ocean might be like mine," observed Captain Barrow.

"Yes," was Captain Hauslar's answer, "if every master was a Christian. Missionaries may benefit the men partially, but until the masters and officers set them a good example I fear that they will remain much as they are."

Captain Barrow spoke frequently to Peter and old Hixon, and when the ship reached Sydney he invited them to remain on board and return with him. Both Bill and Emery also gladly entered among her crew, while Captain Hauslar took a passage back in her to England.

After this Peter made several voyages in the Myrtle; Captain Barrow gave him instruction in navigation, for which he showed so much aptitude, that after one or two voyages he was appointed third-mate, and on the next he was raised a step higher.

He had not got over his idea that his father was still alive, but where to seek for him was the question. He earnestly prayed that he might be led to find his father if he were yet alive, and he told Captain Barrow what he was so anxious about.

"There are few coasts from which a man cannot escape, except perhaps from some of the rocks in the Indian seas, or from the islands in the Pacific, which are rarely visited," observed Captain Barrow. "I would help you if I could, though I should be sorry to part from you. I would advise you, if you still hold to your idea, to get a berth on board a ship making a roving voyage among the islands in those seas, and you might make inquiries at every place you touch at. You can but do your best, and if it is God's will you should find him, He, depend on it, will lead you."

However, Peter made another voyage with Captain Barrow. His first-mate having got the command of a ship, Peter obtained his berth. His Bible had ever been his constant companion, and he had not failed to make good use of it.

The Myrtle had just returned home. She required extensive repairs, and as many months would pass before she would be ready for sea, Captain Barrow told Peter that he could obtain for him the command of a vessel bound out to the Mediterranean. He was about to accept the offer when he heard that a ship, the Edgar, was to sail to the Pacific, with the master of which Captain Barrow was acquainted. The master, Captain Sandford, having no first-mate, gladly agreed, when he heard Peter Gray's character, to give him the berth.

"I am thankful to have my first-officer a Christian," he said; "for I have too often been defeated in my attempts to bring my crew to the truth by the indifference or hostility of my mates. Three of my men have sailed with me for years, and I can trust them; but the rest are of the ordinary stamp, though I have hopes that by our example and exhortations they may be brought in the way they should go. Ah, Mr Gray, Christians enjoy a happiness and freedom from anxiety which no others possess. I leave my family, knowing that, as His dear children, they are under God's protection, and they, while I am tossing about on the ocean, are supported by the same faith, being sure that if I am called hence we shall meet again in heaven. When I part from my beloved wife and daughter I can always remind them of that, and the truth cheers all our hearts."

The Edgar had a fine run down Channel, and there was so much to do in getting things in order, that there was little time for conversation.

The second-mate, Tom Berge, had never sailed with Captain Sandford before. He was a bold, hardy seaman of the rough-and-ready school, and seemed much astonished at the customs of his new captain.

"Our skipper is a good sort of man," he observed to Peter one day, "but I don't like so much praying and preaching. I cannot help fancying something is going to happen."

"We want a great many things, and it seems reasonable to me that we should pray for them to God, who gives us everything."

"But you don't mean to say that He hears such prayers as rough chaps like me and others aboard here could say?"

"I am sure He hears the prayers of the youngest as well as the oldest of sailors as well as of landsmen," said Peter. "Jesus Christ says He came 'not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance;' and also God says, 'The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin;' so of course He will listen to the roughest sinner who turns to Him."

"Would He hear my prayers now?" asked the second-mate.

"If you turn from your sins and seek Him, certainly," answered Peter; "for He has said, 'Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you,' and that was said to all."

At length Berge not only consented to let Peter read the Bible to him, but gladly accepted a copy of which the captain made him a present, and, becoming a diligent reader himself, before the Edgar rounded Cape Horn, could say, "I rejoice in the blood of my risen Saviour."

There is no part of the ocean in which storms are more frequent or more terrible than off Cape Horn. Just as the Edgar sighted the Cape, she encountered a heavy gale, the seas rising in mountain billows around her.

There was on board a young lad in whom Berge had from the first taken great interest, and who had lately been brought to know Christ. As the gale was seen approaching, the order was given to close reef the topsails, and the lad, with others, flew aloft. He was on the lee yard-arm. The wind struck the ship with unexpected fury. As she heeled over, he lost his hold and fell into the foaming waters. He was a good swimmer, and struck out boldly.

"He must be saved!" cried Berge. "Who will go with me?" and, running to the falls, prepared to lower a boat.

Captain Sandford, though seeing the danger, was unwilling to stop him. While the rest hung back, the four Christian men who have been spoken of sprang to the assistance of the mate, and the ship being brought to the wind, the boat was lowered. Now she rose to the top of a foaming billow, and now she was lost to sight. Boldly she made her way towards where the youth was struggling in the waves. Just then a dark squall with tremendous force struck the ship, and a heavy sea washed over her. She escaped damage; but when the squall cleared away, the boat was nowhere to be seen! In vain those on board waited her return.

"They have been summoned hence," said the captain; "God's will be done, they were all prepared to meet Him. For that let us be thankful."

For several days the ship heeled to and fro, till the wind, coming fair, she once more stood on her course, and entered the bright waters of the Pacific.

Peter observed that the captain felt greatly the loss of the brave mate and his companions. His health had been for some time failing.

One morning, when the lofty Andes had just appeared in sight, he summoned his first-mate to his bedside.

"Gray," he said, "I feel that I shall not live out the day. I should first wish to see all the crew, and then I would have a word with you."

The men came, one after the other, and the captain spoke affectionately and earnestly to each, urging them to seek the Saviour while He might be found, and recommending them to listen to the first-mate, who would explain the truth to them.

"Gray," he said, when they had left him, "I must ask you to visit my wife and daughter when you get home, and bear my last message of love to them. Take this letter and deliver it, if you can, with your own hands. Send them the property I leave on board; I know that I can trust you; with things of this world I have nothing more to do. And now read some of God's word and pray with me."

Peter remained with the captain till the last, and with sincere sorrow closed his eyes.

Next day the ship entered the harbour of Valparaiso, where the captain was attended to his grave by most of his own crew and those of several other English merchantmen in harbour.

Peter had much felt the want of Christian sympathy in his sorrow. Among those who had attended the funeral of his late captain, he observed a tall fine-looking man with grey hair. A second glance convinced him that he was his old captain, Mr Hauslar.

"What, Gray?" exclaimed the latter, when Peter spoke to him. "I remember you now. Come on board with me; my ship lies close to yours."

Peter had the satisfaction of finding that his former friend continued a faithful believer. Delightful to both was the conversation they had together.

The next day Captain Hauslar accompanied Peter to the agents, and from his recommendation they directed him to take command of the Edgar. A young Christian man, whose ship had been lost, but the crew rescued by Captain Hauslar, was appointed to serve as second-mate, and came accompanied by four South Sea Islanders, who were considered good seamen.

While the Edgar was getting in her stores Peter enjoyed the company of his friend, and with renewed spirits and hopes he sailed on his voyage.

The beautiful island of Otaheite and several others were visited. He then, according to his order, sailed northward, to call at the Sandwich Islands, thence to proceed to Japan and through the Indian Seas round the Cape of Good Hope homewards.

Calm as the Pacific is at times, fearful gales sweep across it. To one of these the Edgar was exposed for several days, and Peter had to exert all his skill and seamanship to preserve his ship. He did his best, and putting his trust in God, sought His protection. The gale had driven the ship considerably out of her course. For some days no observation could be taken; an anxious look-out was kept, for coral reefs and islands were near at hand, and with little warning the ship might be driven on one of them.

The night was unusually dark. Peter and his mates had never left the deck. Just as morning was about to break a cry was heard of "Land! on the lee bow!" The ship was put about, and scarcely had she come round when breakers were seen rising in a foaming wall astern.



CHAPTER NINE.

A STRANGE DISCOVERY.

As the day dawned an island, covered with the richest vegetation, appeared rising to a considerable height, with a calm lagoon between it and the circling reef. A tempting passage was also seen leading from the stormy ocean into the lagoon.

One of the natives coming aft said that he knew it well. It was his native island, and he offered to pilot in the ship. Should the gale increase, the danger of attempting to beat off that lee shore would be great. Peter therefore at once accepted the offer. The Edgar was headed in for the lagoon. The foaming breakers roared upon either side as she shot between them, and in another minute she was gliding calmly over the smooth water of the lagoon. Piloted by the native in a short time she brought up in a beautiful bay, where she might ride securely.

Scarcely had she dropped her anchor when several canoes paddled alongside. The native hailed one of them, and the people in her came on board. They were soon affectionately greeting him, while the rest of the crew were engaged in buying fruits and vegetables and various articles which the others had brought.

In a short time he came aft to Captain Gray. The information he gave was satisfactory. When he had left the island the people had been heathens, and he had expected to find them in the same condition. Two native catechists had, however, been for some time among them, and an English missionary had a few months before arrived, whose house was situated on the shores of another bay at a little distance; he had been sent for, and would probably, ere long, be on board. Peter, knowing the treacherous character borne by many of the South Sea Islanders, had resolved not to allow his crew to go on shore, or permit more than a few natives at a time on board; he had now, however, no fears for the safety of his ship.

Peter was in his cabin, when a message was brought him that a canoe was coming off, with a white man in her.

"He must be the missionary," he said, and hurried on deck to welcome him. The canoe came alongside, and an old man in a seaman's dress, with white hair streaming from under his hat, stepped on board. Peter, shaking him by the hand, inquired whether he was the missionary he was led to expect would pay him a visit.

"Oh, no, sir! he is a very different sort of man to me; I only wish I was him," was the answer. "He will be here soon, I doubt not. I came aboard to ask whether the ship was homeward bound, and you would let me work my passage in her; I have got some strength left in my old arms yet."

"I'll gladly give you a passage, my man," said Peter, "if you desire to return to England. Have you been long out in these parts?"

"Ay, sir, many a year—I forget how many, for I lost all count of time when I lived among the savages, but I reckon it carefully now since I have been brought to my right mind by Mr Wilson, the missionary you have heard tell of."

"I should have thought that at your age you would have been content to remain with him and lend him a helping hand," answered Peter, trying to restrain hopes and feelings rising in his breast which he feared might be disappointed. "The assistance of a Christian white man would be of great value to him."

"That maybe, sir," answered the old man, "but there are those at home I long to see again. I left them years ago, and was shipwrecked upon these islands. For some time I had no chance of escaping. Living among the savages here, I grew to live as they lived, and forgot my home and friends. Since I have learned to love God I have been longing to see my family again, but I have not been able to get back, for I have been away on the other side of the island each time a ship has touched here. If you had left a wife and a little boy at home as I have, you would wish to get back to set your eyes again on them, and hold them in your arms."

"A wife and a little boy!" exclaimed Peter, unable longer to restrain his eagerness to learn who the old man was. "Tell me their names, and where they lived."

"It was at a place, maybe, you have not been to nor heard of either, seeing it's of no great size," answered the old man; "it's called Springvale, and is not far from the little town of Oldport; and my name is Gray, sir, at your service."

"Gray!" exclaimed Peter, taking the old man's hand, and scarcely able to speak. "Come into my cabin, I wish to tell you more about your wife and son."

Peter had no longer any doubt that his long-lost father stood before him, but he was unwilling to make himself known in sight of his crew, fearing also the effect the announcement would have on the old man.

Conducting the old sailor, whose countenance wore an expression of astonishment, down into the cabin, he closed the door, and placing him respectfully on a sofa, still holding his hand, sat himself down by his side.

"You were telling me," he said, "that you have learned the truth, and you know, therefore, God's love and mercy, and that He orders all things for the best. You have been very many years from home, and must be aware that though your son when you saw him last was a little boy, he must now be a grown man; your wife, too, would be an old woman. Have you ever thought of the hardships and trials to which she would probably have been exposed, left all alone to struggle with the hard world, and still having to go through them? But suppose God in His mercy had taken her to Himself, and you knew that she had been spending all these years in happiness unspeakable, would you not have cause to rejoice?"

The old sailor gazed at the young captain, scarcely able to comprehend him clearly.

"God is very merciful; He loves me, though I am a sinner, and orders all for the best. I know that is what Mr Wilson says, and he speaks the truth, for he turned me from little better than a savage into a Christian man," answered the old sailor.

As he spoke his eyes fell on Peter's Bible, which lay on the table with the leathern case beside it.

"What are you driving at, sir?" he exclaimed in an agitated tone. "I remember that book, as if I had seen it but yesterday; it was my wife's. Do you know her? tell me, tell me."

Peter placed his arm so that the old man's head might rest on it. "My name is Gray, sir," he said. "That book was indeed your wife's, my mother's, and I am very sure that I am your son."

"You Peter, my little boy?" exclaimed the old man, gazing in his countenance. "You captain of this ship, and I have found you after these long years! God be praised! And your mother, tell me about her."

"I tried to prepare you, sir, for what I have to say," said Peter. "She has been among the blessed for many years, and her last prayer on earth was that I might find you that you might be brought to know the Saviour in whom she trusted."

"God's will be done! God's will be done!" murmured the old man, letting his head fall on his son's shoulder. "He knows what is best. In His mercy He took her; and I all the time living like a savage, but He found me—He found me; and He has sent you, and all through His love, to tell me about her. I began to fear that she might be poor and suffering, and you living a hard life, or sent maybe to the workhouse, but He orders all things for the best. Praise His name!"

The old man could say no more. His feelings overcoming him, he bent his head and wept like a child.

No one would have recognised the once "roaring Jack Gray," and for some time the wild, half-clad savage, in the now venerable-looking old Christian man, who sat at supper with the young captain and the missionary who had now arrived.

"I fear that I shall lose your assistance, friend Gray," said Mr Wilson, "though I rejoice that you have found your son."

"I have been casting the matter in my mind, sir," answered the old sailor, "and asking God to direct me, and, now she has gone whom I longed to see, and my son in His mercy has been sent to me, I am very sure that He does not want me to go away from this place. I should be a stranger in England, of no use to any one, and a burden to my son, and here you tell me that I am of help to you among the natives, and I think I am, as I can speak their language, and tell them about the love and mercy of God, who found them out as He found me out, and has sent His blessed Gospel of peace to them."

"I am very sure Captain Gray will agree with me that, although he may wish to have you with him to look after you in your old age, you are more certain to enjoy happiness here, knowing that you are of use to your fellow-creatures, than you would be in returning to the land you have so long left."

"I do not wish to bias my father," said Peter, "and I am very sure that, seeking direction from God, he will be directed aright."

"It is settled then, my son," said the old sailor, looking up, "I'll remain with Mr Wilson, and help him. I can say with old Israel, about whom he was reading to me the other day, when he saw Joseph, 'Now let me die since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive.'"

Peter agreed that his father was right in the resolution he had come to.

The first-mate, and several of the crew who had visited old Mr Gray in his hut, begged that they might be allowed to put up a more comfortable dwelling for him. Peter thankfully accepted their offer, and several of the natives, finding what they proposed doing, gave their assistance. In a short time a neat cottage was erected in the shelter of a cocoanut grove, with a verandah in front and a garden fenced in on one side. Peter had also the satisfaction of taking on shore some clothing and a number of articles which he thought might be of use to his father, as well as a store of provisions such as were likely to keep in that climate.

"Peter, you are over-generous to me," said the old man, when the gifts arrived, "I never did anything for you."

"You must consider them as God's gifts; if He had not bestowed them on me I could not have offered them to you," answered Peter.

"I see, I see," said the old man; "He orders all for the best, praise His name."

Peter paid several visits to Mr Wilson, who, with his wife, had now been nearly a year on the island. He disclaimed any part in the conversion of the old sailor, that having been brought about by the instrumentality of the two native catechists who had preceded him. By that time a large number of the inhabitants of that part of the island had burned their idols, and become nominal Christians, while a very considerable portion were communicants, and evidently endeavouring to walk in the footsteps of the Master they professed to serve.

"There is still, however, a wide field for our labours," observed Mr Wilson, "for which I trust your father will be spared many years with me."

Stormy weather, and the necessity of refitting and making certain repairs which the Edgar required, and for which the sheltered harbour afforded peculiar facilities, kept her there for upwards of a fortnight; when parting from his father, Peter proceeded on his voyage to England.

The Edgar arrived in safety in England. Peter had made a successful voyage, and found himself the possessor of more money than he had ever expected to receive.

As soon as the ship was safe in dock, and he had performed all the duties required of him, he left her in charge of the first-mate and proceeded to pay the promised visit to his late captain's widow and daughter. He found them living in a neat little cottage near London. Mrs Sandford had heard of her husband's death, and cordially welcomed Captain Gray. She was anxious to receive an account of the last days of his life, which he alone could afford.

"He died as he lived, trusting to the all-sufficient merits of Jesus Christ his Saviour," said Peter; "it is a blessed thing, Mrs Sandford, that God's promises are sure, and that those who thus die are taken to be with Him."

"Indeed it is, Captain Gray; I know that I shall meet my dear husband in His glorious presence, and my daughter enjoys the same certain hope. That confidence has taken away the sting of grief which we should otherwise have felt. It was he who led us to the truth, and constantly charged us to be prepared for what has occurred: he, indeed, seemed to be aware that he should be taken during one of his voyages, yet none the less did he trust in God that all would be well."

Mrs Sandford, after some further conversation, asked whether he intended going home or taking up his residence in London while he remained on shore, "because," she added, "as our means are limited, I purpose taking lodgers, if such offer as I should be willing to receive."

"I have no home," said Peter, and he gave her an outline of his history; "if, therefore, you can accommodate me I shall be very glad to remain here."

Soon after this, Mrs Sandford's daughter Susan entered the room. She was a pleasing, quiet, gentle girl, and appeared fully to share her mother's faith; and when Peter had talked with her for some time, he felt sure from the remarks she made that she was a true and earnest Christian. Peter had thought and read a good deal. Captain Sandford had left a well-selected library on board. His knowledge had become greatly enlarged, without in any way having his simple faith weakened. The little shepherd-boy was now the thoughtful, intelligent, and gentlemanly man, not possessed, perhaps, of the polish which mixing in the great world gives, but that far more enduring refinement which constant communion with Christ affords. Worldly people, though acknowledging the benefit of Christianity, know not its true source, and are surprised to find Christ's humble disciples so free from coarseness, and so gentle and courteous in their manners.

Susan had been taught in the same school.

Several weeks passed away. Peter came to the conclusion that he should wish to marry no other woman than Susan Sandford. Perhaps Susan had discovered this, for he was not a person who could well hide his feelings; at all events he ventured to tell her so, and she promised to become his wife. He would gladly have married before going to sea, but Mrs Sandford, who was a prudent woman, insisted on his waiting till he had returned from his next voyage.

That voyage was a long one, for the owners again sent the Edgar into the Pacific. Peter was able to pay a visit to his father, whom he found labouring with devoted zeal as a catechist among the natives, and submitting humbly to the directions he received from Mr Wilson, the missionary. The old man was delighted to hear of his son's intended marriage, and begged him if he could to bring out his wife to see him.

"The utmost desire of my heart will then be fulfilled," he exclaimed; "and, oh! how loving has God been to me by bringing me in His great mercy out of darkness into His glorious light! Every day I live I wonder more and more; and, Peter, it is my belief I shall go on wondering through all eternity, because I am sure we shall never understand the love and mercy of Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, in all its fulness."

Peter willingly promised to do as the old man wished. Had he still been the rough ignorant sailor Jack Gray once was, he might have felt an unwillingness to introduce his wife to him, even though he was his father; but now how different was the case when he was to bring her to the venerable Christian, patriarchal in appearance, and mild in manners, so gentle and loving to all around! It was a pleasure to see the natives come up and speak to him, they all evidently holding him in great respect.

Again the Edgar had a prosperous voyage, and Peter having yet further increased his means of supporting a wife, Mrs Sandford no longer hesitated to allow her daughter to marry. She had a further reason; her own health was failing, and before the Edgar was ready for sea Susan lost her mother.

When Peter proposed that his wife should accompany him, she gladly consented, and as the natives among whom his father lived had promised to collect a large quantity of cocoanut oil to ship on board the Edgar, Peter was once more able to visit the island.

He was told on his arrival that his father was ill.

The old man's eyes brightened up at the sight of his sweet-looking daughter-in-law and son. He blessed them both, and entreated that they would spend the evening at his house. He spoke cheerfully, and with great thankfulness, of the progress of the Gospel in the island. Peter hoped that he might yet be spared to spend many more years in his useful labours among the dark-skinned natives.

The following day, however, a relapse occurred, and holding his daughter with one hand, his head resting on his son's arm, and his faithful friend Mr Wilson and the two catechists standing by, the old sailor breathed his last—a heavenly smile resting on the face of the once "roaring Jack Gray."

Peter made many voyages accompanied by his loving wife, and by foresight and prudence having realised a little independence, added to what her father had left Susan, he was able to purchase the plot of ground on which his mother's cottage stood with several acres around. Here having built a neat house, he settled down, and making his Bible a light to his path and a lamp to his feet, his abode was truly as a light set on a hill, he and his family proving a blessing to all around.

THE END

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