Saved at Sea

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It was a strange day, the day that I was born. The waves were beating against the lighthouse, and the wind was roaring and raging against everything. Had not the lighthouse been built very firmly into the strong solid rock, it, and all within it, must have been swept into the deep wild sea.
It was a terrible storm. My grandfather said he had never known such a storm since he came to live on the island, more than forty years before.
Many ships went down in the storm that day, and many lives were lost. But in the very midst of it, when the wind was highest, and the waves were strongest, and when the foam and the spray had completely covered the lighthouse windows, I, Alick Fergusson, was born.
I was born on a strange day, and I was born into a strange home. The lighthouse stood on an island, four miles distant from any land. The island was not very large; if you stood in the middle of it, you could see the sea all round you—that sea which was sometimes so blue and peaceful, and at other times was as black as ink, and roaring and thundering on the rocky shores of the little island. At one side of the island, on a steep rock overhanging the sea, stood the lighthouse. Night by night as soon as it began to grow dark the lighthouse lamps were lighted.
I can remember how I used to admire those lights as a child. I would sit for hours watching them revolve and change in colour. First, there was a white light, then a blue one, then a red one, then a green one—then a white one again. And, as the ships went by, they always kept a look-out for our friendly lights, and avoided the rocks of which they warned them.
My grandfather, old Sandy Fergusson, was one of the lighthouse men, whose duty it was always to keep these lamps in order and to light them every night. He was a clever, active old man, and did his work well and cheerfully. His great desire was to be able to hold on at his post till I should be able to take his place.
At the time when my story begins I was nearly twelve years old, and daily growing taller and stronger. My grandfather was very proud of me, and said I should soon be a young man, and then he should get me appointed in his place to look after the lighthouse.
I was very fond of my strange home, and would not have changed it for any other. Many people would have thought it dull, for we seldom saw a strange face, and the lighthouse men were only allowed to go on shore for a few hours once in every two months. But I was very happy, and thought there was no place in the world like our little island.
Close to the tower of the lighthouse was the house in which I and my grandfather lived. It was not a large house, but it was a very pleasant one. All the windows looked out over the sea, and plenty of sharp sea air came in whenever they were opened. All the furniture in the house belonged to the lighthouse, and had been there long before my grandfather came to live there. Our cups and saucers and plates had the name of the lighthouse on them in large gilt letters, and a little picture of the lighthouse with the waves dashing round it. I used to think them very pretty when I was a boy.
We had not many neighbors. There was only one other house on the island, and it was built on the other side of the lighthouse tower. The house belonged to Mr. Millar, who shared the care of the lighthouse with my grandfather. Just outside the two houses was a court, with a pump in the middle, from which we got our water. There was a high wall all round this court, to make a little shelter for us from the stormy wind.
Beyond this court were two gardens, divided by an iron railing. The Millars’ garden was very untidy and forlorn, and filled with nettles, and thistles, and groundsel, and all kinds of weeds, for Mr. Millar did not care for gardening, and Mrs. Millar had six little children, and had no time to look after it.
But our garden was the admiration of every one who visited the island. My grandfather and I were at work in it every fine day, and took a pride in keeping it as neat as possible. Although it was so near the sea, our garden produced most beautiful vegetables and fruit, and the borders were filled with flowers, cabbage-roses, and pansies, and wall-flowers, and many other hardy plants which were not afraid of the sea air.
Outside the garden was a good-sized field—full of small hillocks, over which the wild rabbits and hares, with which the island abounded, were continually scampering. In this field were kept a cow and two goats, to supply the two families with milk and butter. Beyond it was the rocky shore, and a little pier built out into the sea.
On this pier I used to stand every Monday morning to watch for the steamer which called at the island once a week. It was a great event to us when the steamer came. My grandfather and I, and Mr. and Mrs. Millar and the children, all came down to the shore to welcome it. This steamer brought our provisions for the week, from a town some miles off, and often brought a letter for Mr. Millar, or a newspaper for my grandfather.
My grandfather did not get many letters, for there were not many people that he knew. He had lived on that lonely island the greater part of his life, and had been quite shut out from the world. All his relations were dead now, except my father, and what had become of him we did not know. I had never seen him, for he went away some time before I was born.
My father was a sailor, a fine, tall, strong young fellow, my grandfather used to say. He had brought my mother to the island, and left her in my grandfather’s care while he went on a voyage to Australia. He went from the island in that same little steamer which called every Monday morning. My grandfather stood on the end of the pier as the steamer went out of sight, and my mother waved her handkerchief to him as long as any smoke was seen on the horizon. Grandfather has often told me how young and pretty she looked that summer morning. My father had promised to write soon, but no letter ever came. Mother went down to the pier every Monday morning for three long years, to see if it had brought her any word from her sailor husband.
But after a time her step became slower and her face paler, and at last she was too weak to go down the rocks to the pier, when the steamer arrived on Monday morning. And soon after this I was left motherless.
From that day, the day on which my mother died, my grandfather became both father and mother to me. There was nothing he would not have done for me, and wherever he went and whatever he did, I was always by his side.
As I grew older, he taught me to read and write, for there was of course no school which I could attend. I also learnt to help him to trim the lamps, and to work in the garden. Our life went on very evenly from day to day, until I was about twelve years old. I used to wish sometimes that something new would happen to make a little change on the island. And at last a change came.

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