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Sunday; and we arranged it that the Rev. Paul Duster should preach in the mornin', the Rev. Halgernon Sydney Crackles in the arternoon, and the Rev. John Brown in the evenin'.
When the Sunday came when we was to try''em, we was all agog like.
"You mark my words, mate," says Cockles to me in the westry, there'll be some close sailin'. I'm rather inclined," he continners werry thoughtful, "to bet on the old gentl'min wot's got the runnin' this morn' as is strict orthodox, and appears to me to carry a deal of canvas."
"Ere he comes,” I says, and sure enough he were just tacking across the road under convoy of Bill Tubbs, the butterman, as was understood to have took 'im in hand.
A dreadful severe-looking man were Mr. Duster, with a himmense 'ead and face, both on 'em bald and shining, and 'is 'ead all over bumps. He certainly were awful himpressive to look at. The sermon he preached were severe orthodox, and the language quite as uncommon as you could ha' got in a 'Stablished Church-Greek and Latin, and all sorts.
"'Ere's words," I says to Cockles.
Words, and sound doctrine too, mate," says Cockles as was wery particular about doctrine.
And surelie we got enough about doctrine that mornin' for all the sermon was a up'oldin' of all as our sec' be lieves, and a-showin' 'ow all other sectises is wrong. The Latin quotations went down himmense, and I see several ladies overcome by the Greek. The sermon, in fact, caused a tremenjious sensation, and Tubbs trotted 'is
man away in high sperits, and lookin' proud and triumphant, as though the whole thing was finished and 'is man engaged.
In the arternoon we meets for to hear the second preacher, as turned out so wery poetical and 'eart breakin' that he seemed fairly like takin' the wind out of the other's sails. His woice had a beautiful shiveryshakery in it, and he wep' that copious I thought sɔmetimes we should have to bail the pulpit out and ask 'im to weep over the side (which is maybe a hexaggeration). How he shot about that blessed pulpit! first one side, then t'other, 'is eyes a-rollin' and 'is face purple, a-gurglin' and a-yellin', and a-whisperin' and a-shoutin'. He were a lean, pale man, regular poetical-looking, with long hair, and a nose a trifle red at the knob.
At half-arter six, we meets for to hear the last preacher. Ouly a few on us saw 'im before he got into the pulpit; but we quite agreed that let alone 'is name, which were ag'in 'im, he wasn't the man for our money. and I see at once as he didn't go down like with the congregation. He were only about twenty-five, and a trifle under-sized, and at first sight didn't look anything at all out o' the common; but somehow I fancied there was something in 'is eye and hangin' about 'is mouth that showed he'd got good stuff in 'im. Howsomdever, I didn't think he'd do for us, whatever he'd got stowed away. Well, he preached his sermon-a short straightaway sermon, what everybody could understand. It wasn't doctrinal, nor it were not poetical, but just practical, a-tellin' us as how everybody in the world had dooties to perform, from queen to pauper, and then agoin' on about our dooties, and how we should stick to
'em and never say die" like sort o' standin' by the ship, however the winds might roar and the sea rage.
Arter the meeting we had a little gatherin' in the westry-just a few on us to talk matters over, don't yer know-and the only question seemed to be, should we go in for doctrine and elect the doctrinal chap, or wote for the poetical.
We seemed about equally diwided on the point, nobody sayin' nothin' about the young chap what had just preached. Words got rather 'igh at last; and Tubbs (as though considered conwerted by some, were in my opinion not quite done yet) got so excited about Cockles backin' the other man, that I believe if Tubbs hadn't been small and unnateral fat, he would ha' struck Cockles.
On the Wednesday night there was to be a Church Meeting to settle about electin' one on 'em; but none of us knowed when we separated that Sunday night how wery soon our choice was to be made.
I reckon that Sunday night will never be forgotten, mister, so long as this 'ere place has got a boat on the water, or a house on the shore; the night of the great storm we call it, when the Spanish "San Pedro" went to pieces.
I 'ad a look out to sea accordin' to custom afore I turned in, and I saw a wessel in the offing, which I made out to be a London-bound ship. I didn't much like the look of things, and I said a bit of a prayer for all poor chaps afloat and in danger that night.
Well, sir, an old sailor like me always sleeps with one eye open, so when the winds began to gather strong, and the waves to tumble and roll, and dash against the jetty
there, I woke up. By-and-by the wind got higher and higher, rattlin' the winder-panes, shriekin' and 'owlin', and the sound of the risin' waves got louder and louder. All of a sudden I thought of that ship I had seen passing, and out I jumped from my bunk into my clothes, clapped on a sou'-wester, and made for the beach.
What a night it was! You see the black rock out there, sir? Well, you've never seen that covered since you've been 'ere, I know, and you might stop for years and never see it covered; but that night the great black waves were beatin' right over the top and bang across the jetty. The sky was just as black as ink, and the wind blowin' at last fit to wake the dead. By-and-by, crack, blaze, crack went the lightnin', and boom, boom, boom, followed the thunder, the awful sound pealin' above our heads, and seemin' to roll away over that dreadful sea. Almost all the men and women in the place were on the beach, and even little chil'len 'ad crept away from home, and were clingin' to their mothers' gowns.
The first flash had showed us an awful sight-a ship, part of 'er riggin' all entangled on 'er deck, driftin' straight on for the rocks. Nought on earth could help 'er-there she was-a noble, handsome craft, drivin' right ashore, drivin' fast and sure into the jaws of death! Only the hand of God itself put out from heaven could keep 'er off. The women and chil'len were weepin'-weepin' for brave men to die, for sailors' wives to be made widows, and sailors' little ones made orphans that night; and many a man's true heart, as we stood there grimly silent, was wild with sorrow at its own helplessness.
Just as another flash of lightnin' lit up the scene, she
struck with a great shiverin' shock; wild cries from the wreck were borne to the shore, and the women shuddered and fell on their knees, while from man to man went the question: Can we do nothing-nothing-to help them now?" But what could we do? We hadn't got no life-boat then, sir, or no rockets or such-like apparatus, and we knowed that none of our boats could live in a sea like that; while as to swimming off to the wreck -no wonder that even brave hearts quailed a bit, though a rope 'ad been fetched and was lying handy. All at once I heard a noise behind and turns round. A lot of lanterns had been lit, and I could see everything plainly. Clingin' together in the background was still the women and chil'len, between them and us was two of the parsons-the poetical one on 'is knees, and t'other one, 'is hat blown clean away, and 'is bumps all wisible, was 'oldin on tight to a jetty-post, and giving went to the doctrine that it was God Almighty's will the poor fellows in the wreck should perish. As I said afore, every hale man in the place seemed on the beach; and I didn't see the young preacher chap of that even、 in', as I found arterwards had gone to a farm a little way up country. But just as I was thinkin' of 'im I see 'im comin', makin' with quick, hasty strides towards the water. With a light spring he jumps down on to the beach and straight on, 'is mouth set firm and steady and all 'is face glowin' with a light which wasn't on it in the pulpit-straight on, lookin' neither to port nor starboard, but straight for'ard.
"Stand aside, women!"
Calm and cool he orders them, and to right and left they scatter.
Straight on he comes--past the poetical parson on 'is