CHAPTER III. LITTLE SUNSHINE.
And now let us look at Coraltown once more. It is the first day of June of 1865. The sun is low in the West, and lights up the crests of the long lines of breakers that are everywhere curling and dashing among the topmost turrets of the coral walls. But here is something new and strange indeed for this region; along one of the ledges of rock, fitted as it were into a cradle, lies the great steamship “Golden Rule,” a vessel full two hundred and fifty feet long, and holding six or seven hundred people. Her masts are gone, and so are the tall chimneys from which the smoke of her engine used to rise like a cloud. The rocks have torn a great hole through her strong planks, and the water is washing in; while the biggest waves that roll that way lift themselves in mountainous curves, and sweep over the deck.
This fine, great vessel sailed out of New York harbor a week ago to carry all these people to Greytown, on their way to California; and here she is now at Coraltown instead of Greytown, and the poor people, nearly a hundred miles away from land, are waiting through the weary hours, while they see the ocean swallowing up their vessel, breaking it, and tearing it to pieces, and they do not know how soon they may find themselves drifting in the sea. But, although they may be a hundred miles from land, they are just as near to God as they ever were; and he is even at this moment taking most loving care of them.
On the more sheltered parts of the deck are men and women, holding on by ropes and bulwarks: they are all looking one way out over the water. What are they watching for? See, it comes now in sight,—only a black speck in the golden path of the sunlight! No, it is a boat sent out two hours ago to search for some island where the people might find refuge when the ship should go to pieces. Do you wonder that the men and women are watching eagerly? Look! it has reached the outer ledge of rock. The men spring out of it, waving their hats, and shouting “Success;” and the men on board answer with a loud hurrah, while the women cannot keep back their tears. What land have they discovered? You could hardly call it land. It is only a larger ledge of coral, built up just out of reach of the waves, its crevices filled in firmly with broken bits of rock and drifts of sand; but it seems to-day, to these shipwrecked people, more beautiful than the loveliest woods and meadows do to you and me.
It would be too long a story if I should tell you how the people were moved from the wreck to this little harbor of refuge, lowered over the vessel’s side with ropes, taken first to a raft which had been made of broken parts of the vessel, and the next day in little boats to the rocky island; but you can make a picture in your mind of the boats full of people, and the sailors rowing through the breakers, and the great sea-birds coming to meet their strange visitors,