i I ^^^^^^^^^^
The Baldwin Library
7TT -E mC E5 W'ron
THE RELIGIOUS TRACT SOCIETY;
DEPOSITORIES, 56, PATERTOSTER ROW; 65, ST. PAUL'S CHURCHYARD
AND 164, PICCADILLY.
SOLD BY THE BOOKSELLERS.
R. CLAY, SONS, AND TAYLOR, PRINTERS,
BREAD STREET HILL.
THE MISSING BOAT.
ONE Saturday afternoon towards the end of
summer, several boys were playing together on
the seashore. The sun was warm, but passing
clouds every now and then tempered its
heat, darkening the surface of the sea in
spots, throwing the tall cliffs in some parts
into deep shadow, while in others they stood
out boldly and sparkled in the bright rays.
The top of these cliffs commanded an ex-
tensive view of a long line of coast, bounded
at each side by two far-projecting headlands,
which enclosed between them a very large
bay. The line was broken in many places
by smaller bays enclosed in their own head-
lands; while in the valleys behind these.
and on the sides of the opposite inland hills,
6 THE MISSING BOAT.
peeped out the roofs of houses, and here and
there the towers of churches, marking the
sites of the small towns and villages which
were scattered along the coast.
It was on the shore of one of these small
bays, near to a village called Ashcombe, that
the boys were playing. A tall cliff rose
behind them, bounding one side of the bay,
against the foot of which the waves washed
in some parts at high water; in others there
was a broad beach of mingled sand and
shingle, which was only covered during
winter storms or at very high tides. The
cliff sloped gradually down to the shore
about the centre of the bay, and then. rising
again, stretched along the other side out into
the sea, ending in a low line of rocks, which
were mostly covered by the tide, except at
quite low water. These rocks were the fre-
quent resort of visitors to the place, as many
curious specimens of shells and seaweed and
other marine productions were to be found
THE MISSING BOAT. 7
among them. Through the opening between
the cliffs a small river flowed into the sea,
and a road led from the beach up to the
village and the adjoining country. The vil-
lage itself lay behind the cliff, and was thus
shut out from view of the beach; but a good
path ran along the top of the cliff, and rough
foot tracks here and there wound down the
front of it to the shore, used by the fisher-
muen to save themselves the trouble of going
round by the road.
A net full of fish had been drawn to the
shore that afternoon, and the boys had been
active enough then, helping or hindering as
the case might be; but the fish had all been
removed, and the men, having drawn up their
boats and spread their nets to dry, had now
left the beach. The boys continued to amuse
themselves, throwing the pebbles and sand
at each other, or trying how near they could
venture to the water's edge without getting
wet, while some, taking off their shoes and
8 THE MISSING BOAT.
stockings, and turning up the legs of their
trousers, waded into the sea as far as they
While they were so engaged, a small boat
approached the shore, in which were two
men. Running her aground, they sprang on
shore and drew the boat up, but, not very far,
one saying to the other, Noneed to trouble
further, Jem; I shall be coming back in an
hour or two, for Mr. Maitland, the London
gentleman, has engaged me to go with.him
to dredge at the rocks this evening. We'll
just lay the oars in the bottom of the boat,
and go. As the tide is on the ebb, she'll be
safe enough till then."
Oh, very well," said Jem; and having
Jone as they said, the two men started up the
cliff together, and were shortly out of sight.
They had no sooner disappeared, than Ben
Sanders, one of the eldest of the boys, called
out, Now, boys, now is our time Jonas
says he isn't coming back for an hour or two,
THE MISSING BOAT. 9
and he has left his boat so near the water.
we can easily push her out and have a bit
of a row. Won't it be a lark ?" So saying, he
rushed towards the boat, followed by two or
three of his companions.
No, no, Ben," called out Charley Bateson,
" you know we've no right to touch the boat,
and Jonas would be very angry if he were
But, then, he isn't coming," said Ben. I
heard him say he wasn't, for an hour or two;
we shall have quite time to put her back all
right, and he need know nothing about it."
"If you move her, we have not strength
to pull her up again over that steep bit of
pebble," said Charley, interposing as Ben was
about to push her off.
No, indeed, Ben, we can't," said several
others; and then, shan't we catch it when
Jonas comes back."
Oh, well, never mind; we can at least
play at make-believe then," said Ben, jump-
10 THE MISSING BOAT.
ing into the boat where it lay. Here, Tom
Hill, you take one oar and I'll take the other,
and won't we have a jolly row. Ned Harris
shall be steersman, or Charley Bateson, if
he's not too much afraid of Jonas," he added,
No, I'll have nothing to do with it;
you've no right to touch the boat," said
Charley, walking off to a little distance.
Ha, ha !" laughed Ben; he's afraid of
Jonas. I do believe he takes that shadow
on the cliff for him. Never mind, lads, we'll
have our row; we are not afraid. Dick
Barlow and Bob Perrot, you must be passen-
gers; lift in little 'Johnny Craig-he can't
climb over the side. Now then, here we go-
isn't it fine, eh, boys ?"
All laughed heartily, and seemed to enjoy
the joke amazingly, making fun of Charley,
and trying to get one or two others, who still
remained outside, to join with them. You,
Will Price and Jem Davis, you aren't going
THE MISSING BOAT. 11
to be led by that cowardly Charley--he has
no spirit for anything," cried Ben.
Ben, you've no call to say that; you
know as well as all of us that Charley is no
coward," said Jem Davis; "and it's my opinion
that you'd best leave the boat, all of you,
before you get into any more mischief. For
my part, father wants me at four o'clock,
so I must be off. Dick, you know you're
Ay, ay, I'm coming," said Dick; "all
in good time."
He amused himself a little longer in the
boat, and then followed Jem, who had walked
away without waiting to see the result of his
words. Ben and his companions continued
their sport, and at length prevailed upon
Will Price to take Dick's place in the boat,
notwithstanding Charley's remonstrances.
Shortly after he had got in, Mrs. Leigh,
a lady of the neighbourhood, who was on hei
way to visit a friend, living about a mile
12 THE MISSING BOAT.
distant, to whose dwelling she frequently
preferred going by the beach instead of
climbing the cliff, passed near to them, and
noticing what they were about came up to
Why, boys, what are you doing in that
boat? you know you've no business there.
It's Jonas King's boat, isn't it?"
Yes, ma'am," replied one of the boys.
Well, now, take my advice, and come
away from it. You know you are wrong to
meddle with it, and it will make Jonas very
angry. Robert Perrot," she continued, "I am
sorry to see you are among them; you ought
to know better. Come away, my boy."
No one answered, and Mrs. Leigh, finding
she could not move them, continued her
walk; whereupon Ben, who had been mut-
tering to himself in an undertone while she
was speaking, began to talk out loud against
her: what. business was it of hers, he won-
dered; she could not see boys amusing them-
THE MISSING BOAT. 13
selves without poking and meddling-spoil-
ing sport and fault-finding-the boat was
none of hers, and what was it to her if Jonas
was angry; and more to the same effect.
Now, Ben, you know all that's not true,"
broke in Robert Perrot. Mrs. Leigh was his
Sunday school teacher; he was very fond of
her, and he had hung his head, and looked
very uneasy when she addressed him. Though
false shame had prevented his attending to
her well-meant warning, he could not quietly
hear her thus abused. You should not
speak so; you know she is the readiest of
any one to help us when we are at our
games, and always-"
There, be quiet, will you!" exclaimed
Ben. We don't want a list of your dear
Mrs. Leigh's good qualities. Sit down, can't
you? you're in the way," as Bob quickly
I'm going to get out," said Bob; I've
had enough of it;" and eluding Ben's attempt
14 THE MISSING BOAT.
to stop him, he leaped out of the boat, but
directly cried out: I say, Ben, you had
best take care; that boat has slipped down
a good bit, and she'll be afloat in no time, I
Now this was what Ben secretly desired,
and had even quietly been trying to effect, so
he was very angry at Bob's remark, and
called out loudly in abuse of him, bidding
him hold his tongue and go after good Mrs.
Leigh, to show her how well he obeyed her.
Bob only laughed; and again saying, "Take
care of yourselves, that's all," ran away, and
might soon be seen climbing the cliff.
The others, however, had heard something
of what he said, and began to look about
them, and little Johnny Craig called out, he
" did not want the boat to go out on the sea,
and would get out. Ned, help me out."
No, Ned, don't do anything of the sort,"
said Ben, who was exceedingly vexed; but
wishing to quiet the little boy, said to him,
THE MISSING BOAT. 15
in playful tones, Passengers must sit quiet
till we get to the landing place, you know,
But Johnny would not be pacified, and still
begged to be let out, till Ben, losing patience,
struck and pushed him down. He cried
loudly, and called to Charley to come and
help him out. Charley, at this appeal, ap-
proached the boat. Be off, Charley," said
Ben; "you won't play with us, and you
shan't meddle-keep him off, boys, he has
nothing to do here."
Two or three of the boys sided with Ben,
and opposed Charley in his efforts to get
hold of Johnny, who was crying and stretch-
ing out his hands to him, till at length,
Charley, finding he could accomplish nothing
from the outside, and now thoroughly roused,
leaped into the boat, and disregarding the
blows aimed at him, seized firm hold of
Johnny, and prepared to jump out with him.
But the boys held him back, and at that
16 THE MISSING BOAT.
moment Ben gave a vigorous push against
the beach with the oar which he still held in
his hand. The boat, aided by the retiring
force of a strong wave which had just broken,
was afloat directly. Ben gave a shout of
triumph, and another push, which sent her
out so far as to preclude the possibility of
Charley's leaping again on shore, which,
upon seeing what had happened, he had
instantly redoubled his efforts to do.
"Oh, Ben, Ben! do push her in again,"
No, no, my lad," said Ben; you're here
now, and here you shall stay. Pull her out
a bit, Tom; he shall have a row in spite of
Charley laid hold of the oar to prevent
this, and struggling with Tom, between them
it fell overboard into the water.
Now you've lost it," cried Ben, reaching
over the side to catch it if possible; but as it
floated away from him, he exclaimed, What-
THE MISSING BOAT. 17
ever are we to do if we lose Jonas's oar ?" and
seemed inclined to spring out after it, but
was pulled back by the others.
Stop, Ben," they called out; "the water's
deep now, and you can't swim you know;
you'll only be drowned."
Struck by this obvious truth, Ben desisted,
and for a while they watched the oar in
silence as it floated further and further away,
till at last Ned Harris exclaimed, I say,
Ben, we're getting a good way from the
beach, and as we've only one oar now, had
we not better try what we can do with it to
get us back?"
Try what you please," answered Ben,
sulkily; adding angrily, as he thought of
what Jonas's displeasure would be, It's all
that tiresome Charley-if he had but minded
his own business and let others alone, it
would have been all right."
Indeed, Ben," said Charley, "I am very
sorry; but if we can get back to the shore,
18 THE MISSING BOAT.
perhaps we can find some one who will go
after the oar. You know most about rowing
-do take this one and see what you can do."
After a little grumbling, Ben did so; but
he was very unskilled in the management of
a boat, and not understanding how to work
with one oar at the stern, his efforts at the
side resulted in nothing but turning the boat
round, and, if anything, she was further off
from the shore at the end than she was at
I'm afraid it's no use," he said, in a more
sobered tone than he had yet used. I don't
know how to manage it; the tide's ebbing
strongly, and the wind's off shore too-we
shall just be carried out to sea."
Oh, Ben, I hope not," exclaimed Charley,
to whom such a possibility had not occurred
for a moment.
I don't see how it's to be helped," said
Little Johnny at this began to cry again,
THE MISSING BOAT. 19
calling for his mother; and, clinging to Char-
ley, he said, Oh, do take me home, Charley,
do take me home."
Hush, Johnny, I can't now; but be
quiet, and we'll try and do all we can."
Look, Ben, there's the oar nearer to us
now," said Ned Harris; perhaps we could
get it again, and then we should be all
Many were the efforts they made to that
purpose, and tantalizing the disappointment,
till at last they gave up in despair, at a
greater distance from their object than ever.
The boat had now drifted beyond the head-
lands of the bay. As the coast on each
side opened to their view, and they perceived
how far from the shore they were, they be-
came really alarmed at the prospect before
them. There was not a soul to be seen on
the beach; and though they began shouting
Loudly, hoping to attract attention, they re-
mained unheard and unnoticed.
20 THE MISSING BOAT.
Again they renewed their efforts with the
oar, and again those efforts proved fruitless.
Then, in their despair, they turned upon
Ben, and began to accuse him as the cause
of their misfortune. He angrily retorted, and
hard words passed, till Charley, who had
been silently trying to comfort little Johnny,
exclaimed, "There's one of the fishing boats;
let's try and attract the attention of the men
in her." This they endeavoured to do by
shouting and screaming, and Will Price took
off his jacket and waved it on the point of
It was all in vain, however; the men were
either at too great a distance or too much
engrossed with their own affairs to heed
them, and the poor boys, at last, desisted, and
sat down in the boat wearied and dispirited.
By this time they had drifted so far that
Ashcombe was entirely out of sight from
them, and a sense of their forlorn and de-
serted condition began to force itself upon
THE MISSING BOAT. 21
them. Thoughts of their home, and a chill
fear lest they should never return thither,
crept upon them. Ned Harris and Will
Price began loudly to lament that they had
ever been persuaded to enter into the boat;
while little Johnny Craig renewed his cries
and entreaties to be taken to his mother.
Ben sat moodily silent, conscious that he
was most to blame; his companions' lamenta-
tions cut him to the heart, though they were
far too deeply sorrowful to utter the angry
reproaches against him in which they had
previously indulged. His self-reproach be-
came intolerable when he saw Charley, who
had drawn little Johnny to him, and was en-
deavouring to soothe his grief, unable himself
to restrain his tears, which were quietly roll-
ing down his cheeks as he bent over the
child. Ben knew that Charley was the only
remaining child of his widowed mother, who
depended upon him for many little services,
and the thought of the agony it would be to
22 THE MISSING BOAT.
her when she missed her boy came suddenly
over him, and he felt at once it was of her
that Charley was thinking. He sprang up,
and crossing over towards Charley, exclaimed,
as he held out his hand, Oh, Charley, I
am so very sorry! can you ever forgive me ?"
Charley looked up, and smiling through
his tears, said, Oh, yes, Ben; and for
the matter of that, we are all something to
Not you, Charley, I'm sure," said Tom
I needn't have got into the boat," said
Charley. But there, never mind now; just
let me lay down little Johnny, for he's gone
to sleep, and it's the best thing for him;
and then, Ben, don't you think we might try
again with the oar ?-and anyhow, I hope
some one will soon come to search for us,
for Jonas will miss his boat; and if we keep
a sharp look-out, we may get back again
THE MISSING BOAT. 23
Cheered by this thought, the boys roused
themselves, settled Johnny comfortably in
the bottom of the boat, and then Charley and
Ben did their best with the oar; but that
best was very little : and though all watched
eagerly on every side, they could discern no
trace of any boat in quest of them, or indeed
of any boat at all. The night now was
rapidly coming on, the light had grown dim,
clouds had risen, and a cold wind blowing
round them sent a chill over the boys; they
shivered, and their hearts sank as they faced
the prospect of a night on the sea.
Johnny woke, and began to complain of
hunger and cold.
"We're all cold and hungry, Johnny," said
Charley; but you see there's nothing for any
I've got a crust of bread in my pocket,"
said Tom Hill; let him have that."
He gave it to the little fellow, who ate it
eagerly, and asked for a "drink;"
24 THE MISSING BOAT.
"Indeed, I've got nothing to drink, Johnny,"
said Tom; "nothing but sea-water, and you
can't drink that."
"But it is so dark : aren't we going home ?"
At first no one answered, till Tom said,
" How can we, till somebody comes to help
us; for we've lost our oar, you know, so we
"But when will they come ?" said Johnny
"Indeed, I can't tell; perhaps not to-
"But shall we have to stay all night upon
the sea?" said Johnny, in a tone of alarm.
"Shan't we be drowned ?"
Very likely," said Tom, carelessly.
Tom, how can you frighten the child so ?"
said Charley, seeing Johnny's terrified looks.
Then to the little boy he said soothingly,
"We hope not, Johnny, and we won't be
afraid, even if we have to stay all night upon
the sea;" adding, in a low voice, "God can
THE MISSING BOAT. 25
take care of us on sea as well as on land; in
the darkness as well as in the light-can't
he, Johnny ?"
"Yes," said the little boy; and he came
closer to Charley.
"Lie down here by me, and I will screen
you from the wind; and perhaps you will go
to sleep and know nothing about it till to-
The child did as he was bid. Charley
made him very comfortable, and soon had
the satisfaction of seeing him drop asleep.
"I can't see the sign of a vessel any-
where," called out Tom Hill; "we seem to be
altogether out of the way of any of them."
"A very good thing, I think," said Ned
Harris, now it is so dark, else we might be
run down by one, without anybody know-
ing anything about it. Oh dear, I wish I
was safe on shore! I wonder nobody has
come out to look for us."
"I dare sav they have," said Ben. "Jonas
26 THE MISSING BOAT.
wouldn't lose his boat so easily: but consider
how dark it's getting, and what a speck we
are upon the sea."
Yes," said Charley; "no chance of any
one seeing us till morning now; there's
nothing for it but to pass the night as best we
can. When daylight comes we may get help."
The boys did not seem much to like the
notion of this, but it was very evidently the
only prospect before them.
Oh, well," said Will Price, I shall try and
go to sleep as Johnnyhas done; it'll be the best
way;" and he curled himself up as comfort-
ably as he could in the bottom of the boat.
Tom and Ned for some time kept up a
flow of talk about one thing and another, at
times appealing to Charley or Ben, till at last
they gradually ceased, and seemed to have
dropped into slumber.
The other two remained for a long time
silent without. moving. The stars began to
show themselves overhead, and at last tb
THE MISSING BOAT. 27
moon rose, casting a long line of silvery light
upon the water. A long low bank of clouds
lay heavily in the north-eastern horizon, and
at times a chilly wind blew over the boat,
making the boys draw their jackets closer
round them. Both seemed full of thought.
At length Ben rose from his seat, stepped
quietly over the sleeping forms of his com-
panions, and carefully avoiding any disturb-
ance of little Johnny, placed himself near to
"Charley," he said, "I don't much like
the look of those clouds ; I hope the weather
is not going to change."
I hope not," said Charley; but I've been
looking at them too. Do you think it will ?"
"I can't tell," replied Ben, but father
said, when he went out this morning, he
thought there would be wind before night;
but I hope not."
"Indeed, so do I," said Charley, "for oh,
Ben, whatever should we do ?"
28 THE MISSING BOAT.
"We could do nothing," said Ben, in a
low voice; adding, after a moment's pause,
as he glanced round at the others, "it's
all my doing too."
Charley could not in truth gainsay this, so
he said nothing, only he stole his hand softly
into Ben's, as it lay on his knee. Ben looked
up, then down again, and said quickly,
"Aren't you frightened, Charley ?"
"No-yes, a little; that is, I was when I
first noticed the clouds and the wind, and
thought how helpless we were; but then I
thought of something else, and I wasn't so
frightened after that."
That God would take care of us, I sup-
pose, as you told Johnny?"
"Yes," whispered Charley; then growing
bolder, "Isn't that a good thought, Ben?"
All very well for you," said Ben ; "you're
always a good boy, and never do the wrong
things I do. There now, I know what you
are going to say; but it's no use to contra-
THE MISSING BOAT. 29
diet," seeing Charley about to speak. "You
are far better than I am. Why, I scarcely
ever go to school now, and I often use bad
words, and I'm constantly getting into
scrapes of all sorts, and sometimes, lately,
I've not stuck to the truth, and-and-I don't
know how it was, I don't generally care much
about it; but somehow, just now, when they
were quiet, and I saw the clouds, and heard
the wind moaning so, it all came over me at
once, how bad I was-and suppose there
should come a storm-and I felt I'm not fit
to die, and I was so frightened. Charley,
what shall I do ?"
He said all this fast, in a low voice, which
faltered at the end.
Ben," said Charley, earnestly, I've been
feeling nearly the same, for I'm not as good
as you say, Ben-indeed I'm not. But why
don't you pray to God, and tell him all, and
ask him to forgive you? You know the
Bible says: If we confess our sins, He is
30 THE MISSING BOAT.
faithful and just to forgive us our sins;' you
know that, Ben ?"
"Yes, I know; I've so often heard Mr.
Wilson say that in church; but I have so
often done wrong, when I knew well it was
wrong, that perhaps God will not hear me
Oh, yes, indeed he will, Ben; he knows
all about the wrong you've done, you know."
"As if that was any comfort; it is just
what I can't bear to think of."
Oh, Ben, I think it is such a comfort to
think that He knows all about our faults
already, before we come to him; we can't
really hide anything, you know, and I like
to think God knows all the worst and all
the best of me too."
"Well, bnt," said Ben, after a moment's
thought, ".] ,eel at such a distance from
him, Charley, as if I couldn't speak; I don't
"You just try, Ben, and you'll find you'll
THE MISSING BOAT. 31
be helped; you don't know how good He is.
Don't you remember what the Bible says
about our being 'made near by the blood of
Christ.' Think of him, Ben, how he loved
us, to die for us. And ask him to help you,
and then you will feel quite near. I'm sure
I was frightened just now, until I thought of
Jesus Christ, and asked him to take care of
me; and now, though I am a little afraid
still, I'm not frightened any longer."
His voice sunk very low. Ben looked up
at him-he was looking far away over the
black sea, up towards where the moon was
nearly lost behind the dark clouds, which
were spreading over the sky; he was pale
and serious, and his eyes seemed glistening
with tears; but for all that, there was a
bright, trustful look on his face, which made
Ben feel that he hadn't been speaking words
of course, but that they were a real help to
him just then. The words, "how He loved
us, to die for us," came back to him with
32 THE MISSING BOAT.
their soft earnest sound; they seemed to go
down into his very heart: made near by his
blood." Ben felt he was not so distant, and
with a great gush of tears he buried his face
in his hands, and called silently in his heart
to God his Father for pardon and help.
So they remained a long time. The thought
how bad he was came over Ben again with
more force than ever, but it did not frighten
him so much: as wrong things he had done
came back to him, he tried to put them all
into his prayer, and then they were not such
a weight upon him.
Poor Ben! it seemed as if all his life came
back to him then. He scarcely remembered
his mother: she had died when he was very
young, and a little baby-sister at the same
time. They were like shadows in Ben's
memory, and visited him very seldom, but
they came back to him now; and he recol-
lected, too, his father's grief, at which he had
looked wonderingly, when they were carried
TIE MISSING BOAT. 33
away to be laid in the green churchyard;
and how afterwards he had been his father's
one great care, and when he came home from
his daily work, in a quarry about a mile from
Ashcombe, how he would take his little boy,
in the summer, out upon the beach, and in
winter on his knee by the fire, and seem
to have no other thought than how most to
promote his happiness. Will Sanders was
no great scholar himself; he could read with
difficulty even very simple words, but this
only made him more anxious that Ben should
do better; so, as soon as he was old enough,
he sent him regularly to school. And Ben
could read very well, and was by no means a
dunce, only he was very thoughtless and fond
of play, and from being necessarily left so
much to himself, rather inclined to be head-
strong and self-willed. Lately he had taken up
with some bad companions, and had suffered
himself to be led by them into more serious
offences than he would have committed alnp-&
34 THE MISSING BOAT.
This was no excuse for Ben: he knew
better, and had, moreover, often been talked
to by his father, who was greatly grieved at
the things he heard of his son; and while he
listened to him Ben would feel sorry, and
promised to do better, for he really loved his
father, and perhaps for a few days he would
keep his word, and make his father's heart
glad with his improvement, and with the
hope that he would be steady now. But soon
he would begin to be careless in little things,
and think it was very troublesome to be so
particular, and then in a few weeks' time he
would be as bad as before, and neglect school
whenever he could manage to slip away,
until he found himself at length still further
from the right path than at first, and fell into
disgrace and punishment.
This downhill course had gone on more
rapidly for the last six months, during which
Ben had been much oftener absent from
school than present there, and had got into
THE MISSING BOAT. 35
more bad ways than he was quite aware of;
for though conscience often disturbed him,
and when he saw his father's sad face he
would feel some concern, he tried to smother
down such feelings, and would not suffer
himself to think upon his conduct, which
would have been his first step to amend-
Now, however, out on the open sea, under
that wild-looking night sky, something spoke
in the boy's heart, with a voice that would
not be silenced. He saw himself as he was:
disobedient, ungrateful, careless of his oppor-
tunities, wasting his advantages, grieving his
father, wandering from his God; and this very
last piece of wilfulness had imperilled not
only his own life, but that of his companions
also. He felt crushed, overwhelmed, with
the consciousness of his sin and folly; and
then looking up and seeing Charley, whom
he had called a coward, and whom he had
forced into the danger, but who had never
36 THE MISSING BO .T.
opened his lips to reproach him, sitting there
so quietly, with the child resting upon him, he
had instinctively asked himself who was the
coward now; and with an impulse he could
not resist, he had come over to him. He had
not intended to speak as he had done, but
something drew him on till now he sat there,
humbled and penitent, more really sorry than
he had ever felt before, but at the same time
his heart felt lighter; and down, very deep
down indeed, he whispered a resolve, that if
he were spared now, he would be different in
Charley, meanwhile, sat silent by his side,
looking at him now and then, but not speak-
ing. Charley felt very sad; .he had been
thinking of his mother, and how terrible her
anxiety would be. He knew she must have
missed him long ere this, and wondered if
she knew what had become of him-and, oh !
suppose he should never return to her! He
had cried very bitterly to himself over these
THE MISSING BOAT. 37
thoughts, till at length he remembered what
would have been his mother's advice, and
tried to cast all his care upon God, com-
mitting himself and his mother into his
hands; and then, as he told Ben, he did not
feel frightened any longer, though he could
not help feeling very sad.
So they continued a long time. Ben had
ceased sobbing, but was still sitting with his
face buried in his hands, apparently not
noticing outward objects. Charley watched
it get darker and darker, as the moon became
wholly obscured by the black clouds; the.
wind howled dismally, and he felt a few
warning drops of rain. The boat began to
toss about on the rising waves, and at last
one of them struck her on the side, and the
spray dashed over the boys.
Then Ben looked up, and met Charley's
eye. No need of words; they understood
each other's thoughts. Ben rose, and put out
his hand: "Charley, whatever happens,
38 THE MISSING BOAT.
thank you for what you said to me just now;
and, Charlay, say you forgive me for bring-
ing you into this."
Oh, yes, yes, Ben; indeed I do!" said
Charley, eagerly grasping his hand. He was
going to say something more, but Ben was at
that moment nearly thrown down upon him,
by a sudden lurch of the boat, and the water
again broke over them, this time with more
force than before, completely wetting the
sleeping boys. Ben recovered himself just
as the others, roused from their slumbers,
were looking wildly around.
We're in for a rough night of it, I'm afraid,"
he said; "but we must do the best we can.
It may be only a passing squall."
It was not long, however, before they were
"Bale it out," cried Charley. Ned, Tom,
bale it out with your caps, or we shall be
swamped to a certainty."
He set the example himself, and they all
THE MISSING BOAT. 39
worked vigorously; they saw it was their
only chance. Even little Johnny, who,
waking up, grew frightened, and was begin-
ning to cry, was pacified by Charley, and set
to work to help. To add to their discomfort,
it soon began to rain heavily.
About an hour-it seemed a whole night to
the boys-had passed, when the squall began
a little to abate its violence; and the moon,
suddenly breaking out, threw a faint light
over the sea.
"Look, look !" cried Tom Hill, "there's a
ship, and she seems to be bearing down
All looked in the direction to which he
pointed, and saw a large vessel apparently
approaching them, though they could but
dimly make her out.
"Shout, boys !" cried Ned Harris ; "per-
haps they may see, and take us on board."
They all did so, raising their voices to the
utmost, but the vessel passed on unheeding;
40 THE MISSING BOAT.
they had neither been heard nor seen, and
the moonbeam was quickly obscured.
They were bitterly disappointed. "Shame
on them !" exclaimed Will Price; they must
have seen us, I'm sure."
"Don't say that, Will," said Charley; "they
never would have left us if they had."
"But how could they help it?" returned
WTill. We were so near, and the moon-"
His voice was silenced by the dash of a
wave, which knocked him over, as he stood
eagerly looking after the retreating vessel
Ned Harris caught him as he fell, and saved
him from going overboard.
No more was said, and the boys continued
to work on, silently baling out the water.
With all their efforts, they could at times
only just keep themselves afloat, and they
began to grow very weary.
So passed the night, which seemed long
indeed to them. Morning began to break,
and as the light gradually increased, and the
A =GH H SA ? ;
THE MISSING BOAT. 43
boys looked around them, they could seh
nothing but sea and sky. The wind was
lessening; but still their utmost vigilance
was needed, for the waves ran very high, and
often broke over their frail vessel. Poor
lads they were wet and tired, and cold and
hungry; and as the clouds broke, and the
mists dispersed, and they could catch a
glimpse of the shore, they tried in vain to
recognize any point of land they knew. They
had drifted far beyond their knowledge. The
wind, too, was off shore, and as the time wore
on they found themselves perceptibly carried
farther from the land.
"There's no chance for us," said Ned,
"except some vessel may pass, and we can
make them see us."
"Yes, we must keep a good look-out," said
This they did, but in vain. They could
see the white sails of a vessel here and there
sparkling in the sun, but much too far off to
44 THE MISSING BOAT
allow of their attracting the attention of those
There was a long silence-they were too
dispirited to talk. At last little Johnny said :
" It's Sunday, and they'll all be just going to
Sunday school at Ashcombe. I wonder if
they're thinking of us." The boys started.
Johnny seemed to have spoken out what was
in the thoughts of all. Charley was about
to answer, but suddenly turned away his
head, and leaned over the side of the boat.
For a few moments, none spoke. At last
Tom said, "Yes, Johnny, I have no doubt
they're thinking of us, and wondering where
I dare say they're singing now," continued
the little boy. "I wonder what hymn it is ?
Why can't we sing too, Tom, and then it will
seem as if we were at home; shan't we,
Tom did not answer. Charley turned
round: "Yes, Johnny, we can sing if you
THE MISSING BOAT. 45
like. I have my little hymn-book in my
The book was produced, and a hymn
chosen, and the voices of the boys were soon
all raised in a well-known tune, from their
solitary little boat, a mere speck upon the
wide sea. One hymn led to another; and
they sang several times. After their last
hymn, which, at Johnny's earnest request (he
said it was "grandfather's favourite "), had
been "Rock of Ages," they sank into silence,
and seemed lost in thought: what those
thoughts were, it might not be difficult to
guess. Johnny's head gradually sank heavily
upon his bosom, and Will Price laid the
sleeping child in the bottom of the boat, in
the most easy position he could find, saying,
"Poor little fellow, he's very good !"
Yes, indeed," said Ben, thoughtfully; and
then colouring crimson, he looked round, and
said out loud, Boys, I've been wanting to
tell you all. I know it's all my fault we're
46 THE MISSING BOAT.
in this danger, and I don't know if we shall
ever get to land again. I should like to
know you all forgive me, if you can, for-"
His voice faltered-he held out his hand to
Tom, who was nearest him-" Will you shake
The boys could scarcely conceal their sur-
prise, but all shook hands with him in turn.
Charley was last, and it was a warm grasp
he gave, while he looked at him with the
tears full in his eyes, but said nothing. Ben
returned the grasp, and then stood for some
moments with his back to the rest, looking
far away over the sea.
The silence was first broken by Will Price,
who said, "I dare say M\r. Wilson and they
all will think of us in church this morn-
That they will, I'm sure,'" said Charley.
And perhaps then we may get safe home
after all," added Will.
Ben heard, and seemed to catch his thought.
THE MISSING BOAT. 47
Looking round quickly, he said, Then, if
they're all doing that for us, why should we
not do it for ourselves ? Charley, I dare say
you can remember some prayers, and ask God
to help us in our great trouble and danger."
He spoke reverently, and the others knelt
at once, as well as himself, taking care not to
disturb the sleeping Johnny. Charley re-
peated several verses from the Psalms which
seemed suitable to their case, offered a simple
prayer, and all joined in the Lord's Prayer.
"We can do nothing more now, but wait
quietly, and keep our eyes about us," said
Ben; and he seated himself at the stern of
the boat again.
The others seemed to agree, and sat down
as they fancied. Charley employed himself
with his hymn-book, till at length fatigue
and anxiety overcame him, and he dropped
asleep, leaning against Will, who was in
much the same case. Tom and Ned whis-
pered together for some time in a low voice,
48 1HE: MISSING BOAT.
till at length they, too, followed the example
set them, and fell into a sound slumber.
The little boat floated solitary on the water:
the sun was shining strongly, and beating
down upon them. Ben looked round upon
his sleeping companions, then at the distant
land and the far-stretching sea; a feeling of
terrible loneliness and a sickening fear as to
what would be their fate came over him; he
clasped his hands together in an agony of
distress. Soon, however, better thoughts
came again, and he was able to take comfort
in committing himself and them to the care
of their all-merciful Father in heaven. He
was spent with all he had gone through-
bodily fatigue and mental suffering, aggra-
vated by the want of food and rest. As he
grew calmer, he could scarcely keep himself
awake. He roused himself many times,
thinking it but his duty to keep watch for
the others. At length, however, fairly worn
out, he unconsciously yielded to his over-
THE MISSING BOAT. 49
powering drowsiness, and, like the rest, fell
The little frail boat and its helpless occu-
pants continued to toss about on the waves
rising and falling with their every swell.
The wind played with their hair and their
garments, and whistled soft music round
them, while the summer sun shone in its
brightness full upon them. Well for them
that they were not alone, but that an ever-
wakeful Eye was over them, and an ever-
attentive Ear was open to their prayers.
And what, all this time, was the state of
things at Ashcombe ?
In the course of the evening Jonas King
came down to the shore, to get things in
readiness for his row to the rocks with Mr.
Maitland, who had engaged to meet him on
the beach. Much to his surprise, he could
not find his boat, nor any traces of her. At
first, he thought some of his comrades must
50 THE MISSING BOAT.
have borrowed it without leave, and he was
inclined to be very angry with the offenders.
He walked along towards a man who was at
a little distance, and asked if he had seen
any one go off in his boat. -
"No, that I haven't," replied the man;
" there's no one gone off just lately. I've
been here for a good half-hour, and there's
no one been down; only Hardy's just come
in with his boat over there," pointing to a
group of men some way off. Best ask him;
mayhap he'll have seen them, if any one has
gone off in her."
Jonas walked towards the men who were
standing together in a group, and apparently
talking over something of interest.
"Hardy, have you seen my boat ?" asked
Jonas. "I left her here a couple of hours
ago, and now I can't find a trace of her. Did
you meet her outside anywhere? If I knew
who'd dared to meddle with her, I'd make
them repent it, I know."
THE MISSING BOAT. 51
"I've not seen the boat, Jonas, for certain,
but Jem Dawes, here, was just saying he
thought this was your oar. We picked it up
floating near Long Point there."
"To be sure, it's mine," said Jonas, after
examining it; "how can it have got loose,
and out there? "
Various conjectures were uttered, but no
one could guess who could have taken the
boat, nor why, if any one had, the oar should
be found by itself afloat on the water. They
were so engrossed, that they did not perceive
Mr. Maitland's approach, till he said: Well,
King, where's your boat ? I thought we were
to start at six."
"That's just more than I can tell, sir," re-
plied Jonas, and proceeded to acquaint Mr.
Maitland with his perplexity.
"Strange, certainly," said that gentleman.
"Are you sure you drew her up sufficiently
high upon the beach, so that she could not
have been floated away by the waves ?"
52 THE MISSING BOAT;
She was quite out of reach of the water,
sir," said Jonas, and the tide was ebbing, as
you know. And besides, sir, that would not
account for the oar being found afloat. I laid
them both carefully in the bottom before I
left. Jem Patch was with me. I left her
just there, sir; I'll show you:" and both
walked towards the spot, where the mark
left by the boat on the shingle was still
visible. They examined it attentively, and
then looked out towards the sea, as though
they would trace the course of the missing
"Well, Mr. Maitland, you are off to your
favourite rocks this fine evening, I suppose?"
said a pleasant voice behind them. Mr.
Maitland started, and turned round to shake
hands with Mrs. Leigh, who was on her re-
turn from her friend's house.
"Such was my intention, certainly," he
said, and I had expected to be there by this
time, but Jonas King's boat has mysteriously
THE MISSING BOAT. 53
disappeared, and I am thus deprived of my
usual means of conveyance."
Mrs. Leigh's face grew grave and a little
anxious, as Mr. Maitland proceeded to recount,
in answer to her questions, how the boat had
been missed and the oar found.
"I hope," she said at length, "nothing
amiss has happened. I passed by two or
three hours ago, Jonas, and saw several boys
at play in your boat; I told them they were
wrong, and tried to persuade them to leave
it, but ineffectually as far as I could perceive."
"Indeed, ma'am-the little rascals! I'll
venture to saynow Jack Syms was one of them.
He's up to all kinds of mischief is that boy."
"No, Jonas, Jack was not there. I saw
Ben Sanders and Robert Perrot," she added,
rather reluctantly, "and one or two others I
did not recognize."
"Ben Sanders !" exclaimed Jonas; "he's
near as bad as Jack Syms. I'll pay him off,
that I will."
54 THE MISSING BOAT.
"If you can catch him, Jonas," said Mr.
"If you please, ma'am," said one of the
bystanders, "I saw little Bob Perrot up in
the village just now."
Then let some one go and look for him,
and bring him here," said Mr. Maitland;
" we'll learn as much as we can from him, at
The man started off with right good will
on tfis errand.
"Are you quite sure it is your oar, Jonas ?"
asked Mrs. Leigh.
"Oh, yes, for certain, ma'am; no doubt of
that;" and taking the oar, he showed the lady
how he knew.
Meanwhile, the men began discussing the
probabilities of the boys having launched the
boat; in which case, having evidently lost
the oar, they would be left at the mercy of
the tide, and "there's no saying where they
may have been carried," observed Hardy.
THE MISSING BOAT. 65
So they wondered and conjectured, till one
of them exclaimed: Here's Harry Mason,
and Bob Perrot with him;" and the man who
had gone in search of him returned, bringing
the boy, who was looking shy and frightened.
"Now, then, you young rascal," said Jonas,
"just come and tell us what business you
had to meddle with my boat, and what you've
done with her."
"He says she went afloat, Jonas," said
Harry Mason; "that they pushed her off."
Jonas roughly seized the boy, and shook
him, bidding him hold up his head and
"Nay, Jonas," said Mr. Maitland, "speak
gently, man, or you'll frighten it out of him.
Now then, my boy," said he to Bob, seating
himself on the side of a boat, and drawing the
boy towards him, while all the rest drew close
to hear what was said, "answer me plainly
and truly what I shall ask you. You were in
Jonas King's boat with some others, eh "
56 THE MISSING BOAT.
"Yes, sir," said Bob, shyly, and hanging
down his head; then lifting it again, he
glanced at Mrs. Leigh, and added, "But I
didn't stay, ma'am, after you told me."
Oh, you got out after Mrs. Leigh spr;ke
to you?" asked Mr. Maitland.
"Yes, sir, almost directly."
"And did you go quite away then ?"
No, sir, not at once. I saw her get afloat,
and when I was half up the cliff, I saw her
a good way out; but then I remembered I
should be wanted at home, and 1 ran on
without waiting to see more."
"And who were in the boat then ?" asked
"Ben Sanders, Tom Hill, Ned Harris, Will
Price, Charley Bateson, and little Johnny
"Charley Bateson," said Mrs. Leigh; he
was not in the boat when I spoke to you,
"No, ma'am, but he got in after."
THE MISSING BOAT. 57
"I'd never believe of Charley Bateson
that he'd meddle with my boat," said Jonas,
Are you sure he was there, Bob ?" asked
"Yes, ma'am, quite certain." Then, as
Mrs. Leigh still looked at him, he continued,
"I think he went to help little Johnny
Help him ?" said Mr. Maitland-" help
him to do what?"
"To get out. You see, sir," said Bob, re-
covering from his fright, as he found himself
encouraged to speak, "Ben was angry when
I got out, and called to the others that the
boat was getting afloat, and when Johnny
wanted to get out, he tried to keep him back,
and then Johnny called to Charley, who went
to him, and I don't know how it was, but
when I looked again the boat was afloat, and
they were all in her, and seemed to me to be
fighting about something; but that was all I
58 THE MISSING BOAT.
saw, for I ran away, and don't know any
Well," said Mr. Maitland, rising, and
putting the boy from him, "it's clear, I think,
that the boat has drifted out, and been borne
away by the tide, and those boys have no
control over her, or means of getting her in
again. I should say, men, some of you had
better put off to look for them."
"That's just what we must do, sir, if we
wish to see anything of them again," answered
one of the men; and they immediately began
an eager discussion among themselves as to
the probable direction in which the boat had
Quickly two or three boats were launched
and manned; and the men rowed off, having
agreed with each other what course each boat
should pursue, and arranging that all should
return when it grew dark, by which time,
they hoped, some one among them would
have been successful in the search. Those
THE MISSING BOAT. 59
left upon the shore wandered about, anxiously
scanning the sea in all directions, and in-
dulging in various conjectures. Meanwhile,
the intelligence soon spread in Ashcombe,
and many came down to the beach to learn
the truth of the reports they had heard, and
hear all they could. Bob Perrot found him-
self the centre of an attentive group of
listeners, and was questioned over and over
again: soon every one knew all that he could
tell, and the names of the missing boys were
quickly circulated through the village. The
news brought their mothers or other relatives
to the beach, and little knots of persons were
soon collected here and there, talking it over,
while many were the hard words lavished on
Ben Sanders, who was understood by all to
have been the author of the mischief. His
idle ways were commented on, and it really
appeared as if all Ashcombe had long
been saying "that boy would come to no
60 THE MISSING BOAT.
Mrs. Leigh was walking slowly homewards,
when she met an elderly woman, poorly but
respectably dressed, coming towards the shore.
Catching sight of Mrs. Leigh, she dropped a
curtsey, saying, "Good evening, ma'am."
Good evening, Mrs. Bateson," said that
If you please, ma'am, have you seen my
Charley? I gave him leave to go down to
the shore for an hour or two this afternoon,
till I should want him, but he's never re-
turned, and I can't make out what's become
"I saw Charley here when I passed this
afternoon," said Mrs. Leigh; then paused, and
added, as she looked anxiously at the widow,
"I'm afraid, Mrs. Bateson, you must not ex
pect him home just yet."
Her manner alarmed the mother; she
turned pale. "Oh, ma'am, has anything hap-
pened to my boy "
Mrs. Leigh immediately acquainted her
THE MISSING BOAT. 61
with the particulars; she spoke very kindly,
trying to cheer her with the hope she really
felt herself, that the boat would soon be
brought in. She begged her to come down
to her house, which was nearer the shore than
her own residence, promising that she should
have a comfortable seat in the kitchen, and
saying that Mr. Maitland had engaged to
bring her the earliest intelligence that arrived
of the absentees. The poor woman thank-
fully accepted the offer, for she was far from
being strong, and the news was a great shock
to her. She went home with Mrs. Leigh, and
several anxious hours passed, but nothing
was heard of the boat, nor of those who had
gone in search of it.
At last Mr. Maitland came in, but his re-
port was far from consolatory. The boats
had returned, none of them having seen any-
thing of the Lucy King, which was the name
of Jonas's boat. He said everything he
could think of to cheer up poor Mrs. Bateson,
6T THE MISSING BOAT.
who was terribly disappointed, for she had
never anticipated the return of the boats
without the boys. Mr. Maitland said that
the men intended to start with the first dawn
of day to renew their search, and Mrs. Leigh
endeavoured to prevail upon the widow to
remain where she was until the morning,
instead of returning to her solitary dwelling.
SShe said, however, she would rather go to her
own home, which she accordingly did. Then
Mr. Maitland told Mrs. Leigh that the fisher-
men anticipated rather a rough night, and
that they had expressed great fears for the
safety of so small a boat, with her inex-
perienced crew. That lady said she was
glad he had not told Mrs. Bateson of this,
and they separated, with many an earnest
prayer that their fears might not be verified.
There were sad and anxious hearts in
Ashcombe that night. The families to which
the missing boys belonged were full of thought
for them, and it might truly be said that their
THE MISSING BOAT. 63
parents did not close their eyes at all, but as
they listened to the howling of the wind, and
heard the roaring of the sea as it broke upon
the shore, the thought of what might even
then be the fate of their children filled their
hearts with a terrible fear. The night was
passed by them mostly in tears and prayers,
and at the first dawn of morning they hurried
to the beach, where they found several of the
men starting on a fresh search: two or three
boats had already gone. The shore was
thronged with people all the day, and every
glass in the place was put in requisition, earn-
estly scanning the horizon in all directions.
The children, as they went to the Sunday
school, were full of the subject; their teachers
made reference to it; and when, during morn-
ing service, the prayers of the congregation
were requested by Mr. Wilson for those in
peril by sea, as well as for their anxious friends
at home, there was not one who, for that time
at least, was not an attentive worshipper.
64 THE MISSING BOAT.
After service, the first question of every one
was, "Any news of the boats?" while the
disappointing reply was rapidly circulated,
"No, nothing has been seen of them."
Almost every one went down to the shore,
or ascended the neighboring cliffs. Mr.
Wilson and Mr. Maitland slowly climbed
together one of the higher points, talking,
of course, of the all-absorbing topic. Round
one of the points of rock, near the top, they
came suddenly upon a man, who was gazing
fixedly seaward, but upon their approach he.
started, looked round, and touched his cap,
while he seemed anxious to shun observation.
Mr. Wilson, however, recognized him at
once. "Will Sanders," he said, "is it you?
I am glad to meet you. I went to your
cottage this morning, but I could not find
you." His tone and manner spoke his real
sympathy, and the man answered, though
with an evident effort, "Thank you, sir; I
could not stay at home."
THE MISSING BOAT. 65
"I dare say not," said Mr. Wilson; it is a
terribly trying time for you. I did not see
you in your usual place at church, Will. We
did not forget the poor boys there."
"No, sir, I'm sure you did not; but I
could not come, sir. I can't abear to hear
what they all say of him, so I just got away
by myself, sir."
"Ah, yes, they say it was his fault," said
Mr. Wilson, though kindly.
"Yes, sir, and they say such hard things
of him-worse than he deserves indeed, sir,
"I dare say they do: but Ben has not
been as steady as we could wish for some
time back, you know, Will, and that gives
them a handle to speak as they do."
"I know that, sir," said the father, with a
look of bitter grief; "none knows that better
than I; and many a time have I warned him
-ay, and punished him too; but you see, sir,
I'm obliged to leave him very much to him-
66 THE MISSING BOAT.
self, and then he gets led away, as I suppose
he was yesterday, when his spirit's up; but
I'm' sure he never meant all they lay to him
"No, Will, I don't suppose he did; and I
have reproved many for the unkind and un-
founded charges they have brought against
him; still, he was wrong from the beginning,
and must bear the chief blame of what has
happened, I'm afraid."
"Yes, sir, that's true, indeed, I fear," said
poor Will, with a very heavy sigh.
Mr. Wilson spoke some more kind words
to him, and urged him to go to the house of
God in the afternoon, saying, he was sure he
would find more comfort there than in in-
dulging his solitary grief. And then he went
with Mr. Maitland to see Widow Bateson.
They found the poor woman in her cottage :
she rose, as they entered, from her seat by a
small table, on which lay her open Bible.
She had evidently been weeping bitterly.
THE MISSING BOAT. 67
"You seek comfort from the right source,
Mary, I see," said Mr. Wilson.
"Yes, sir; there's none to be had elsewhere,
I'm sure: You've heard nothing more, sir, I
suppose ?" she added anxiously.
No, Mary, I have not; but we need not
give up hope. You know they must have
drifted a long way off, and it will take a long
time to find, and then to bring them back.
We must wait patiently yet awhile."
"Yes, sir, I try to be patient, and trust
God's will. He can take care of my boy"
"Yes, Mary, and you can have comfort
when you think of your boy's conduct in the
matter: not like poor Will Sanders, whom I
have just met on the cliff."
"Ah, sir, poor Will! he's almost heart-
broken. He came here this morning to ask
if he could do anything for me, as Charley
was away, and it was his Ben's fault, he said;
but he did not seem as if he could bear to
talk of him,-or as if he had much hope of
68 THE MISSING BOAT.
their safety. We could feel for each other,
sir, for they are both our only remaining
The poor woman's voice faltered as she
said this, and her tears started afresh.
After a little more talk with her, Mr. Wilson
left to visit the other anxious parents, though
the time he could spend with each was
but short. Again, in the afternoon service,
as in the morning, the boys were remembered,
and Mr. Wilson was gratified to observe Will
Sanders had taken his advice, and occupied
his accustomed seat, though he seemed
scarcely able to lift his head; and, at the
conclusion, when the congregation were dis-
persing, he would have shrunk away, if pos-
sible, unobserved, had not Widow Bateson
laid her hand on his arm, saying, "Will, I
should like to go to the shore; will you give
me the help of your arm, for it's almost too
much for me ?"
Willingly, though silently, he complied,
THE MISSING BOAT. 69
and they proceeded together to the beach,
where he made a seat for her of several of
the largest and flattest stones he could find,
rather apart from the general crowd, and
continued to stand by her side while they
gazed over the now calm and smiling sea,
with feelings too deep for words. The wholE
population of Ashcombe seemed to be as-
sembled on that beach. The long absence of
the fishermen had strained their anxiety to
the utmost: many a rumour that they were
in sight had been circulated only to.be proved
false; when suddenly it was said, no one
seemed to know whence the report arose, but
it spread with magical rapidity, that Slater,
the coast-guardsman from the neighboring
station, had made out, with his powerful
glass, a boat approaching with another in
Instantly the crowd pressed in a dense
throng to the spot where Slater stood, while
an almost perfect silence prevailed as they
70 THE MISSING BOAT.
waited the result of his continued observa-
tion with his glass. "It is Harry Mason's
boat," he said at length, speaking slowly, as
though weighing his words, "and I think,
but I can't quite make out-ah! yes, I see
now; yes, I am sure it is the Lucy King they
have in tow."
The news spread like wildfire; a sort of
shout broke from the crowd, but it was stifled
as it were by the sudden doubt whether all
were well, which rushed over every one.
Widow Bateson stood up,. and seized Will's
arm, ejaculating, "Thank God !" but meeting
his doubtful eye, and the words, "I hope
they be all safe," she clasped her hands to-
gether, and sank down again on her seat.
Fearful were the next few minutes to all:
several of the men sprung into boats, and
pushed off to meet the intelligence halfway,
and soon, conveyed from one of these to
another, from them to the shore, came the
welcome words, "They're all right."
THE MISSING BOAT. 71
Instantly, as by an electric shock, the spell
seemed broken, and one great cheer went up
from the shore, and then the overstrained
excitement of the people found vent in
various ways: some were laughing, some
crying, all-talking incoherently, while they
pressed close to the water's edge to welcome
the returning boats. As they neared the
shore, and the figures of the men and boys
could be distinguished, many were the eager
remarks made, such as, How pale and tired
they look!" "Poor lads! they must be very
hungry," and the like.
Jonas King was the first to step into the
water, and help draw up his boat; then,
handing the boys out one after the other,
with the greatest care, he lifted up little
Johnny Craig, and placed him in his father's
arms, saying, "Poor baby, take him home at
That I will," said the man; "his mother's
half-beside herself about him;" and without
72 THE MISSING BOAT.
heeding the crowd pressing round, he strode
on rapidly right through them, nor stayed
his pace till he could gladden his wife with
the sight of her child safe and sound. She
had wisely remained at home getting every-
thing in readiness to receive him, and met
her husband at the door, with an exclamation
of extreme thankfulness. With grateful hearts
they ministered to his wants, and rejoiced
together over his recovery.
The other boys were in like manner most
gladly welcomed. Who could tell the un-
utterable thankfulness of Widow Bateson, as
she clasped Charley to her heart, or his tear-
ful joy at finding himself again in her arms.
Ben grasped his father's hand without a
word, while Will Sanders, on his part, was
entirely overcome by this sudden change of
his despairing sorrow into joy. Both drew
aside and shunned observation.
The first excitement of the landing over,
the men in Harry Mason's boat were quickly
THE MISSING BOAT. 73
assailed with questions as to where they had
found them. "Oh, they had drifted further
than we should have thought possible." It
was well, indeed, we managed to get hold of
them; if they had been out another night, I
doubt if they would have returned at all."
"And how had they managed to weather
the storm?" asked Mr. Maitland, whose in-
terest from first to last had been unceasing.
Oh, they seem to have done wonderfully
well, sir, as far as we could make out," said
Harry Mason, only they were almost too
worn out to stand much questioning; and
indeed, sir, how do you think we found
them ? "
"I can't tell," said Mr. Maitland ; "almost
in despair, I should think."
"Fast asleep, sir, every one of them. I
never saw such a thing, never;" and the hardy
fisherman turned away to hide his emotion.
Jonas now began to overhaul his boat,
talking to the men around him, only a small
74 THE MISSING BOAT.
group, as the people were rapidly dispersing,
when he felt a hand laid on his arm, and
turning saw Ben Sanders. The boy looked
very pale and haggard, though his cheek
flushed as Jonas turned to him, and he spoke
With some difficulty.
"I hope you will forgive me, Mr. King,
for having meddled with your boat; it was
all my doing; the others are not to blame,
and I want you to know that. I am very
sorry, and heartily beg your pardon."
That's right, my boy; I like to hear you
speak so. You have my pardon, I'm sure,
and I hope you've had a lesson you won't
I hope not," said Ben, in a low voice.
"There, you take him home, Will, and
look to him," said Jonas, looking at him
kindly; "the boy's well-nigh worn out, that's
clear. Go along and get something to eat
and get to bed, my boy; it's the best thing
you can do."
THE MISSING BOAT. 75
Ben moved off, and Will, only stopping to
say in an earnest tone, "Thank you, Jonas,"
followed him quickly.
When they reached home, Ben sank into
a chair, feeling very exhausted. His father
brought him some food, and pressed him to
eat. Ben roused himself to do so, though
he took but little, and Will said he had
better go to bed. He moved to obey, but
pausing ere he quitted the room, he said,
"Father, I have been a sad trouble to you."
"Yes, my boy, it was a sad trouble, in-
deed; but, thank God, I have you safe back
again now," replied Will.
"But, father, I don't only mean now, but
for a long time back. Oh, I hope-I hope I
shall do better in future, father. I am so very
"Bless you, my boy," said Will, fervently.
" God bless you, Ben !"
There was a pause; then Will said, "Come
away to bed, my lad." Ben followed him,
76 THE MISSING BOAT.
too weak and weary for anything further;
but as he lay in his bed, ere sleep visited
his eyes, he thought deeply of what had
passed, prayed God to help him by the
gift of the Holy Spirit, and renewed his
hearty vow to be different for the time to
The following morning Mr. Wilson went
to visit each of the boys who had been in
the missing boat. He found them all very
much the better for the night's rest; in fact,
as Hannah Price, Will's mother, remarked,
"They've taken no harm, sir, save having
had a fright, and maybe that'll do 'em good."
"I hope it may, Hannah, teach them not
to meddle where they've no business-eh,
"I won't get into a boat again without
father or some one else, I know that," re-
plied Will, decidedly.
Upon entering Widow Bateson's cottage,
Mr. Wilson found Charley just finishing his
THE MISSING BOAT. 77
breakfast. "We're very late, sir, this morn-
ing," said his mother, dropping a curtsey;
"but he did not sleep the first part of the
night, and only dropped off towards morning,
so I would not wake him, but let him sleep
on as long as he would; and he's only just
"Better so," said Mr. Wilson; "he looks a
Charley laughed. "Oh, I shall be all
right very soon, sir, now I'm on dry land
again. It's glad I am to be back here again,
"And thankful too, Charley, I hope, to
that God who watched over you. I suppose
you felt somewhat doubtful how you would
get through it during the storm ? "
"Yes, indeed, sir, we did; it was very
hard work to keep her afloat, and I scarcely
think we should have done it anyhow, if it
had not been for Ben Sanders."
"Ben Sanders !" said Mr. Wilson, in a tone
78 THE MISSING BOAT.
of surprise. "Why, I thought it was he who
had led you all into the mischief?"
"Well, yes, sir; but he did his best to get
us out again, when once we were in."
The least he could do, I should say," re-
turned Mr. Wilson.
"There's many a one would not have done
so, sir," said Charley.
"Well, Charley, I am glad to hear you
say this of Ben. The others spoke to me of
him too. They say he asked you all to for-
give him, and was the first to propose your
joining in prayer together-was it so ?"
"Yes, sir," said Charley, looking down
"Maybe, sir," remarked the widow, "he
may be a different lad for the future."
"I think he will," said Charley, in a tone
which struck Mr. Wilson, and led him to ask
further questions, which drew from Charley,
though rather reluctantly, something of what
had passed between him and Ben. Mr.
MR. VWILSON AND BEN. P. 81.
THE MISSING BOAT. 81
Wilson did not urge him, for he respected
his reluctance, and justly considered he had
no right to press the subject. After some
more conversation, he took his leave, and
bent his steps to Will Sanders' cottage, feel-
ing a more than common interest in Ben
after what he had heard.
He knocked at the door, but not getting
an answer, he lifted the latch, and said, Is
any one here?" Hearing a quick move-
ment, he asked, "May I come in ? "
"If you please, sir," said Ben's voice; and
The boy seemed a little confused as he
returned his greeting, and added, "I did not
hear your knock, sir."
Never mind that now, Ben. I called to
ask how you were this morning, after the
last two days' adventures. You look tired;
have you been up long ?"
"Oh no, sir; father brought me some
breakfast in bed before he went to his work,
82 THE MISSING BOAT.
and I dropped asleep again, so that I'm only
Your father was in great distress about
you when I saw him on Sunday, Ben," said
"I dare say, sir," said Ben, dropping his
voice, and looking down, while he grew very
"We could none of us help feeling very
doubtful whether we should see you all
again. I suppose you had great doubts
yourself, especially when the wind began to.
blow and the sea to rise ?"
"Yes, sir;" and Ben felt a shiver come
over him as he recollected that time.
"Perhaps, though, you were too busy in
trying to keep the boat afloat to have much
time to think about it ?" said Mr. Wilson, in
a kind tone, trying to win the boy to speak
Yes, sir; when the wind really rose, and
the sea broke over us, we had not time for
THE MISSING BOAT. 83
anything then, but to bale out the water
and try to keep her straight."
"And did you see the storm coming be-
fore it broke ?" asked Mr. Wilson.
"Yes, sir; that is, Charley and I did: the
others were asleep."
"And I dare say you were frightened
Yes, sir, I was indeed."
"But now, Ben, if you could have felt
free from blame in the matter, you might
not have been so very frightened, would
"I don't know, sir; perhaps not so much;
but then I knew it was all my fault, and it
did make me so very wretched, sir. When I
thought of the others, too, I could hardly
"I can easily understand that, Ben; and
very thankful to God you ought to be that
you have not to reproach yourself now with
any harm to either of your companions."
84 THE MISSING BOAT.
"Indeed, I am thankful, sir; and I hope
I shall never forget those two days."
"I hope you will not, Ben. It has been
sent you in God's mercy, I cannot doubt, to
check you in your downward course; for
you know, Ben, you have been going down-
hill lately very fast. This is not the first
time I have warned you of it."
No, sir, I know it is not. I wouldn't see
it before, and I was only angry when you
and father talked to me; but I saw it all on
Saturday night, and I was very sorry then.".
He spoke in a tone of deep feeling.
"Very likely, Ben, when you saw the
danger you were in of being called away
from this world with your sins still unre-
pented of. I do not wonder you said- you
were frightened. And what did you do in
your distress ?"
Charley talked to me, sir; I don't know
what I should have done but for Charley.
He told me God would forgive me if I asked
THE MISSING BOAT. 85
him for Christ's sake; and I tried, but I was
so very frightened. Do you think he will
forgive me, sir, and help me to be better ? I'm
almost afraid, when I think how bad I have
been;" and he looked up to Mr. Wilson with
an anxious glance, his eyes swimming in
"I have no doubt he will forgive you, Ben,
for our Lord Jesus Christ's sake. He so loved
us as to die for us; and he has promised his
Holy Spirit to help us to be good."
"Yes, sir, that was just what Charley
said," Ben eagerly replied; "and I felt then
as if I might be forgiven and helped; but
this morning I am fearful again."
"Then try the same means as before, my
boy; think of our Lord's great love, and
"I was trying, sir, when you came in,"
said Ben, shyly, "but seemed not to know
how, and then I got confused, and my
frightened feeling returned."
86 THE MISSING BOAT.
"No need to be frightened, Ben. If you
confess your sins truly, and truly repent of
them, and ask God's forgiveness for Jesus'
sake, you may feel very sure they are for-
given, and they need not frighten you any
longer. But afraid-yes, afraid you may well
be; afraid of your own heart's weakness and
folly, ever apt to betray you into sin-afraid of
the temptations you must meet with in your
daily life-afraid of the enemy who is always
on the watch to take advantage of you, and
beguile you to your destruction-afraid of
these, Ben, it is fitting you should be; only
the fear must not frighten you, and make
you think there is no use trying, but.rather
make you watchful and prayerful-careful to
avoid even the appearance of evil-anxious
to turn aside from the first approaches to
temptation, or firm to resist it, if needs be
you must meet it."
Mlr. Wilson paused, and Ben, who had
been listening attentively, said, with a fal-
THE MISSING BOAT. 87
tering voice, "If I could only do that, sir!
I feel now as if I would rather die than go
on as I have been doing, but I cannot trust
myself-and it grieves my father so, I know.
I can't think now how I could vex him as I
have done;" and the poor boy, breaking
down entirely, leaned forward on the table,
and covering his face with his hands, sobbed
bitterly for some moments.
Mr. Wilson let his grief have its way,
and then said, as he laid his hand on his
shoulder, "Listen to me, my boy."
Ben raised himself, and tried to check his
sobs, while Mr. Wilson continued, "You say
your conduct grieves your father?"
"Oh, yes, sir, indeed it has done," he
answered with difficulty.
"But he loves you dearly still, Ben. He
was in great distress when he thought you
were lost to him; he was very glad to bring
you home again last night, I am sure."
"Yes, oh yes, he was so very kind; he
88 THE MISSING BOAT.
never said an angry word to me. That made
me feel it all the more."
I have no doubt of it; and now he would
be very glad to hear you were sorry for your
fault, and rejoiced to do all he could to help
you to do right, would he not ?"
"Yes, I'm sure he would," said Ben,
"Well, now, Ben, you can feel quite cer-
tain of all this as regards your earthly father,
and you may believe just the same of your
Father in heaven, only more certainly, more
fully, inasmuch as he is the Father of your
spirit, and can help you at all times and
seasons, for he is always with you and
knows what you want before you ask him.
He will help you, Ben, if you seek his help,
and then trust yourself to it; for rest as-
sured it is his will to make you right. You
must be full of fear when you think of your-
self, and your own weakness; but you may
be full of hope and confidence when you
THE MISSING BOAT. 89
think of him as your loving Father, able
and willing to help you always."
"Thank you, sir," said Ben. "I never
thought of all that before; only it seems as
if it was too much," he added, in a low
"Yes, Ben," said Mr. Wilson, "so it must
seem to us all, when we endeavour to realize
it; but we may live upon it nevertheless, for
it is God's truth. Shall I kneel with you
now, my boy, and ask for you the help you
"If you please, sir," said Ben; and they
knelt together. Ben could not help feeling
astonished how Mr. Wilson knew exactly all
his thoughts and feelings, and put them
into words .for him. His tears flowed
silently, and his heart went up with each
petition, and when Mr. Wilson concluded, he
felt that there had been a meaning in prayer
which it never had before.
They rose and stood in silence for a
90 THE MISSING BOAT.
minute. Mr. Wilson was just about to take
leave, when the latch of the door was lifted,
and Will Sanders entered. He started and
removed his cap respectfully, as he saw Mr.
"Good morning, Will. I called in to see
how your boy was this morning."
"Thank you heartily, sir, I am sure. I
didn t think he seemed quite well this morn-
ing, so I left him to lie in bed a bit; but
I could not help running down now, it
being dinner-time, to see how he was getting
He looked rather anxiously at Ben's tearful
face, and came up to him, adding, as he laid
his hand on his head, How are you, my
"Quite well now, I think, father, thank
you," said Ben, glancing gratefully up, though
his eyes were near overflowing again.
"They seem none of them any the worse
for their adventure," said Mr. Wilson. "I
IHE MISSING BOAT. 91
have seen them all this morning except Tom
Hill, and I have heard a good report of
"I'm very glad and thankful to hear it,
sir," said Will; "it was a mercy indeed it
ended as it did."
"You may say that, Will; but I will not
stay any longer. I shall see you in your
place at school to-morrow, I hope, Ben ?"
"Thank you, sir; if father lets me con-
tinue to go," said Ben, hesitatingly.
"Let's you continue to go," said Mr.
Wilson; "is there any doubt of that?"
"He means, sir, I suppose," said Will,
"that I was talking last week of removing
him, and putting him to work where he
would be under my own eye; but I would
rather he stayed at school till spring, if only
I could depend on his going regularly."
"Oh, I see," said Mr. Wilson. "Well then,
Will, suppose you try him a little longer; we
hope he will do better."
92 THE MISSING BOAT.
He spoke encouragingly, and Will an-
swered, He shall come to-morrow, sir."
Then good-bye, my boy," said Mr. Wilson
to Ben, shaking his hand kindly.
"Good morning, sir, and thank you," said
*Ben; and Mr. Wilson left the cottage, saying
as he passed to Will, who was holding the
door open for him, "I think it has been a
lesson to him, Will, and that you will have
more comfort in him for the future."
Will looked up, and said gratefully and
earnestly, "Thank you, sir." He continued
to look after Mr. Wilson for a few moments,
then, going back into the cottage, closed the
Ben was duly in his place at school next
morning; he was rather grave and silent,
and found he had hard work to do to
make up for lost time. As soon as lesson-
hours were over, his schoolfellows pressed
round him and the other boys who had been
in the boat, eager to hear again the story of
THE MISSING BOAT. 93
their adventures; but Ben left most of the
talking to the others, and soon got away in
company with Charley Bateson.
From this time a close friendship was
formed between Charley and Ben, which
lasted in spite of the ridicule and hard words
cast at them by Ben's former associates in
mischief, who were indignant at his desertion
of them, and tried by every iteans in their
power to win him back to his former ways.
Ben resisted them, though he had many a
hard struggle within himself to' do so effec-
He found that it was very much easier to
get out of the right way than to get back into
it; still he persevered; and by the time he
left school in the following spring, had won
for himself an excellent character for dili-
gence and steady attention. He carried the
same character with him when he entered
upon regular work, and took advantage of
the night-school, which Mr. Wilson always
94 THE MISSING BOAT.
opened during the winter months, to keep up
what he had learned, and to advance himself
still further. In this he was also assisted by
Charley, who had become a pupil-teacher in
the school, and was glad to aid his friend
in every way he could. Will Sanders often
remarked to Widow Bateson, that that ter-
rible day and night had certainly produced
untold blessing in its results, and that he
would not now have been without it for a
great deal, to which she fully assented with
In this true story, boys may see the evil
results of disobedience, and may learn, too,
how ready God is to hear us, if we pray
to him, in the time of greatest trouble and
danger. We are surrounded by perils on
shore as well as on sea, and are none of us
too young to die. Do you find it hard to
pray? Do your sins seem to have such a
hold upon you that you cannot forsake
them ? Like Ben Sanders, do you feel as if
THE MISSING BOAT. 95
God were "so distant from you" that you
cannot seek him ? Think of Jesus, who
loved the youngest, and died for the most
guilty. Ask him to give you his Holy
Spirit to help your infirmities, and create
in you a new heart. He is waiting to
save you. But remember that Now is the
accepted time; now is the day of salvation."