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A few, both of men and horses, had succeeded in swimming to the shore, but some were devoured by the sharks on the way, and out of the whole number in the ship, only 192 were saved. But those who were lost, both sailors and soldiers, have left behind them a memory of calm, self-denying courage as heroic as ever was shown on battle-field.
E have had a glimpse of the horrors on board they can be endured and conquered. Let us now look at the shore, and at the spirit that has prompted even women to become their rescuers.
Here, then, is a portion of a “Night Scene by the
* The roar of winds and waves
sound of fearful commotion,
“ One with limbs nerve-bound,
A student meet, yet all the while
A dangerous state, I trow." That crippled lady was Anna Gurney, one of a gifted family, surpassing them perhaps in mental powers and attainments, certainly not inferior to any in Christian benevolence, and (which is the strangest thing of all) absolutely more than a match for the soundest and healthiest among them in personal activity, though unable through her whole life to stand or move without mechanical aid. Her intellect was of the highest order. After learning all the more accessible languages, she betook herself to the ancient Teutonic branches, and in 1819 translated the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. As invalid and as scholar, she would, as the verses above quoted observe, have seemed in especial danger of dwelling on nothing beyond her own constant and severe sufferings, and the studies that beguiled her attention from them.
Yet she was full of the warmest, brightest sympathy. Her conversation was not only delightful from her brilliant powers, but from her ready perception of the wants and wishes of others. Not only was her wheeled chair propelled in a moment to her book-shelves when she wanted a volume to illustrate her thought, but the moment she caught a friend's eye in search of any article at a little distance, her chair was turned in that direction, and the object was presented with infinite grace. She made young people exceedingly fond of her, and delighted to assist them in their studies. She would help boys to prepare their Greek and Latin tasks with infinite zest, and would enliven a lesson with comical and original allusions. Other children of a lower rank were also taught by her, and from her home at North-Repps Cottage, she won, by her kindness and helpfulness, the strongest influence over the fisherfolk upon the coast, who looked upon her as a superior being.
At her own expense she procured a life-boat and apparatus for rescuing the shipwrecked, and to secure the right use of these, she would be wheeled down to the shore in her chair to give orders and superintend their execution. Surely there can be no more noble picture than this infirm woman, constantly in pain, whose right it would have seemed to be shielded from a rough blast or the very
knowledge of suffering, coming forth in the dead of night, amid the howling storm, beating spray, and drenching rain, to direct and inspirit its rugged, seafaring men, and send them on erránds of life or death. Which was most marvellous, it is hard to say, the force of will that actuated her, or the force of understanding that gave value to such presence and commands.
Truly may Miss Baillie say: “But no, my words her words may not express, Their generous import your own hearts must guess.”
And when half-drowned sailors were brought ashore, she remained to give care and directions for their treatment, or took them to her own home, where they were so welcomed, that it was a saying on the coast that it was worth while to be wrecked to be received by Miss Gurney. “The lady returns to her home again, With the sound of blessings in her ear, From young and old, her heart to cheer ; Sweet thoughts within her secret soul to cherish, The blessings of those who were ready to perish;
And there lays her down on her peaceful pillow,
When, at the age of sixty-one, she laid her down on her last pillow, she was carried to her rest, in the seaside church of Overstrand, by old fishermen, — rugged, loving men who knew and valued her, and when they had lowered the coffin down the stone steps of the open vault, they formed a knot at the foot and wept bitterly. More than a thousand persons from the coast had gathered to show their respect and gratitude ; most were in mourning, many in tears.
“I never," said one who was present. saw so many men weeping, at one time it seemed a general wail.” The service was read by the clergyman of the parish (who could not but feel that he had lost his most precious earthly helper) simply and calmly; with cheerful brightness, which showed that his faith had realized her gain, he gave thanks for her.
The cripple gave what she had, — her vigorous mind, her means, and her spirit. Let us turn to one who had neither silver nor gold, nothing but her resolute heart and brave skilful hands. Grace Darling, the daughter of the keeper of one of the lighthouses upon the Fern Islands, a perilous cluster of rocks off St. Abb's Head, was wakened towards the morning of the 6th of September, 1838, by shrieks of distress; and when dawn came, perceived the remains of a wreck upon Longstone Island, the outermost of the group.
Grace awoke her father and urged him to launch his boat and go to the rescue of any one who might still be alive in the stranded vessel, but the tide was rising, wind and sea were wild, and the old man hung back.
Grace, however, was sure that she discerned a movement on the wreck, as though living beings were still there, and seizing an