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Harper's Young People, September 7, 1880   By:

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[Illustration: HARPER'S




Tuesday, September 7, 1880. Copyright, 1880, by HARPER & BROTHERS. $1.50 per Year, in Advance.





His real name is Wallace, but his mates always called him "Wally," and although he is now a big broad shouldered young mariner, he is still pointed out as the "wreck boy." One summer not long ago Wally sailed with me for a week out upon the blue waters across the bar after blue fish, or among the winding tide water creeks for sheep's head, and it was then, by means of many questions, that I heard the following story.

Wally's father was a light house keeper. The great brick tower stood aloft among the sand hills, making the little house which nestled at its base look dwarfish and cramped.

Wally was about twelve years old, and seldom had the good fortune to find a playmate. Two miles down the beach, at Three Pine Point, stood a handsome cottage that was occupied by Mr. Burton, a city gentleman and a great ship owner, during the summer, and sometimes his daughter Elsie, a bright eyed little girl, would come riding along the sands from the cottage behind a small donkey, and ask Wally to show her his "museum."

It was a matter of great pride with the boy to exhibit the many curious shells, bits of sea weed, sharks' teeth, fish bones, and the full rigged ships he had whittled out and completed on winter nights, and Elsie was an earnest listener to all his explanations, showing him in return the pictures she had made in her sketch book.

Not far from the light house stood a life saving station a strong two story building, shingled upon its sides to make it warmer. Here, through the winter months, lived a crew of brave fishermen, who were always ready to launch the life boat, and go out through the stormy waters to help shipwrecked sailors.

Wally was a favorite here, and spent much of his time listening to the tales they told of ocean dangers and escapes; but he liked best of all to trudge along the sands with the guard on dark nights, lantern in hand, watching for ships in distress. The captain of the crew, who was an old seaman, taught him the use of the compass and quadrant, and other matters of navigation, while the rest showed him how to pull an oar, steer, and swim, until he could manage a boat as well as any of them.

Just before sunset each day Wally's father climbed the iron steps of the light tower, and started the lamp, which slowly revolved within the great crystal lens, flashing out four times each minute its beam of warning across the stormy waters. Every few hours it was the watcher's duty to pump oil into a holder above the light, from which it flowed in a steady stream to the round wicks below. If this was neglected, the lamp would cease to burn.

Wally, who was an ingenious boy, had placed a small bit of mirror in his little bedroom in the attic so that as he lay in bed he could see the reflection of the flash across the waters. One wild October evening he had watched it until he fell asleep, and in the night was awakened by the roaring gusts of the gale which swept over the lonely sands, and he missed the faithful flash upon his mirror. The light had gone out!

Many ships out upon the sea were sailing to and fro, and there was no light to guide them or warn them of dangerous shoals. Nearer and nearer some of them were drifting to their fate, and still the beacon gave no warning of danger.

The light keeper, hours before, had gone out upon the narrow gallery about the top of the tower to look at the storm, just as a large wild fowl, bewildered by the glare, had flown with great speed toward it, and striking the keeper's head, had laid him senseless upon the iron grating.

I have seen fractures in the lenses, or glass reflectors, of light houses as large as your two fists, such as it would require a heavy sledge hammer to break by human force, caused by the fierce flight of wild fowl; and a netting of iron wire is usually spread upon three sides of the lens as a protection to the light... Continue reading book >>

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