The Wreck of the Hope by S. Clarendon

A True Story.

'What a lovely day!' said Eileen, as she sat by her little brother's side, whilst John, the old boatman, rowed them across the bay. The rarest shells were only to be found at the Point, and both children were eager collectors.

'It seems always smooth water in this bay,' said Maurice—'so different from where we went last year in Cornwall. There the great, big waves seemed always dashing against the shore.'

'You wait a bit, Master Maurice!' said old John. 'You have only been here a week or two, and it has been fine weather all the time; but when a storm gets up, I will answer for it you would not know the place. There are no fiercer waves round England than those that beat against the cliffs yonder at times'—and the old man waved his hand at the cliffs just behind him.

'I should like to see a storm here,' said Maurice, as he clasped his hands round his knees and stared thoughtfully before him.

'Don't say that, sir,' answered John. 'It is a terrible thing, is a wreck on this coast; some poor vessel is sure to be dashed against the cruel cliffs in a storm, and then there are orphans and widows to mourn her loss.'

'Did you ever see a shipwreck?' asked Eileen.

'Many a one, Missy,' was the old man's quiet answer.

'But I mean, were you ever in a shipwreck?' pursued Eileen.

'I was, once,' said John, slowly.

'Oh, tell us about it, please!' begged Maurice.

'It's a long time ago now,' said the old boatman. 'I was a lad of twelve or thereabouts, on my first voyage. The vessel was the Hope, of Liverpool, and we had a cargo of Manchester goods. It was roughish weather when we started, and it kept on getting worse and worse, and by-and-bye such a storm arose as it seemed impossible for any ship to weather. Anyway, it was too much for the poor old Hope—she was driven on to the rocks off the Welsh coast and broke up like matches.'

'But the people on board! what became of them?' asked Eileen in an awe-struck tone.

'Drowned!' said old John, shortly.

'But,' said Eileen, suddenly, 'you were on that ship—you said so—and you are not drowned!'

'No, Missy, I am not,' said the old man suddenly. 'I had a most wonderful escape. It seems hard to believe that a little ignorant boy as I was should have been the only one saved out of that fine crew; but so it was.'

'Tell us about it,' said Maurice, fixing his eyes on the old man's weather-beaten face.

'When the storm was at its worst, and it was plain that the ship must founder, a kind-hearted sailor took me with him to the top of the main-mast. We had hardly got there before the ship gave a great lurch, and I believe the mast fell. Anyway, when next I knew anything, I found myself lying on the grass at the top of a low cliff, with the sea roaring below me. I had been thrown there as the mast fell.'

'Were you the only one saved?' asked Maurice.

'So they told me,' said old John. 'But come,' he said, in a different tone, and beginning to row at his utmost speed, 'we must get to the Point before high tide, or there will be no shells for you to-day.'

The mention of shells drove away the melancholy thoughts which John's story had occasioned, and the wreck of the Hope was forgotten as the children landed at the Point and began eagerly searching for new specimens.