Grace Darling - Heroine of the Farne Islands
by Eva Hope
1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

E-text prepared by Al Haines


Heroine of the Farne Islands



[Frontispiece: Grace H. Darling]

London and Felling-on-Tyne The Walter Scott Publishing Co., Ltd. New York: 3 East 14th Street 1875










I. Woman's Work II. Ancient Northumbria III. The Childhood of a Heroine IV. Lighthouse Homes V. Lighthouse Guests VI. Christmas at the Longstone Lighthouse VII. A Wedding in the Family VIII. "Prevention Better than Cure" IX. August Pic-Nic's Pleasures X. The Perils of the Ocean XI. The Wreck of the "Forfarshire" XII. Grace to the Rescue XIII. After the Event XIV. A Visit to the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle XV. The Darling Family at Home XVI. An Early Death XVII. "Being Dead, yet Speaketh" XVIII. Conclusion





"The rights of woman, what are they? The right to labour and to pray; The right to succour in distress; The right, when others curse; to bless; The right to lead the soul to God, Along the path the Saviour trod."

What is woman's work? This is one of the vexed questions of to-day, and it is one which, doubtless, sometimes troubled the unwilling brains of our forefathers, though to a less extent. They settled it more rapidly and satisfactorily than we are able to do, for, "in the long ago," women were less ambitious than they are now. In our times, they have so forced themselves to the front, that a number of questions have necessarily to be considered; and what woman ought to do, what she can do, and what she must do, are subjects which afford interesting and useful topics of conversation in all circles. As might have been expected, the opinions of even wise men vary with regard to this matter. "A woman is good as a house-wife, and a mother," say some. "But as there are not homes enough for them all, something else must be thought of," say others. "A woman has neither strength enough, nor brains enough, for most occupations," say her detractors. "A woman is capable of doing almost anything a man can do, especially those things which are the most honourable and remunerative," say the most enthusiastic advocates of woman's rights. There are some, indeed, who would gladly aid her to mount the very highest pinnacles of fame and social distinction. There are others who are jealous if she succeed in getting her foot, even upon the lowest step of the ladder, and who would be glad, like the Friend of Mrs. Stowe, to give the intruder a push, with the words, "Thou art not wanted here."

In the midst of this clamour of inharmonious voices, it is a little amusing to see how quietly and effectively some women settle the matter for themselves. If, indeed, they are among the best of their sex, they are surely qualified to judge, not only of their own ability, but also as to that which is proper. And they have no difficulty in finding this reply to the puzzling question—A WOMAN'S WORK IS THAT WHICH SHE SEES NEEDS DOING. It is her duty to put her hand to any occupation that is waiting for workers. If a fire is raging, and she have strength to bring a bucket of water, and throw over it, is she guilty of an unwomanly action if she obey the impulse of her heart, and work diligently by the side of men whose work it is? If she see "another woman's bairnie" in trouble, is she not right to rush into the streets and snatch him from the danger which threatens him, as the horses come tearing by, and the huge and laden vehicles shake the houses? And is she less a woman, if, seeing these children grown up to manhood, she beholds them exposed to greater dangers than their childhood ever knew, and hastens to their rescue with brave and inspiring words?

To draw the line which separates the right and wrong of other people's actions, is always a difficult, if not an impossible thing, and yet it is what almost everybody attempts. It is right, say some, for a woman to instruct her own family in Biblical knowledge, and she may even invite the children of her neighbour to be present while she does so. But if the little social gathering should become a congregation, so that, instead of meeting in the lady's own room, it should be necessary to borrow a mission-hall or a chapel, then even her friends shake their heads, and bring the blush to her face by suggesting that she is doing an unwomanly thing. It is right and proper that she should know so much of medicine as to be able successfully to doctor her own children. Nor is she all that she ought to be unless she can tell, in an emergency, what is best for her husband, and many of the poor who may seek her advice. But if the joy of healing prove a fascination and a snare to her, and in order that she may not be a burden to father or brother, or to enable her to provide for orphan children left to her care, she endeavours to enter the medical profession, and receive money for her services, what a terrible hue-and-cry is raised against her.

The Lord Jesus Christ once uttered a very high eulogium upon a woman, against whom words of bitter blame and indignation were spoken. There was a supper at the house of Simon, the Leper, and to him was given the honour of entertaining a Guest who was not only royal, but divine. There were also present three members of a family who owed the Saviour life-long thanks for benefits received. One of them, a woman, whose name was Mary, felt so burdened that she could not let so good an opportunity pass without in some way expressing her emotions. She therefore brought a very expensive gift, an alabaster box of precious ointment, and, breaking the box, she poured the ointment on the head and feet of Jesus, thus performing a graceful act of womanly ministration. It was uncommon in some respects, and this of itself was sufficient to draw down upon her the scathing rebuke of the unsympathetic on-lookers. "Why was this waste of the ointment made? It might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her." But He, who is always woman's best friend, took Mary's part against her accusers. "Let her alone; why trouble ye her? She hath wrought a good work on Me, for ye have the poor with you always; and whensoever ye will, ye may do them good, but Me ye have not always. SHE HATH DONE WHAT SHE COULD."

In these words, we think we have an answer to the question, What is woman's work? Is it not this?—SHE MAY DO WHAT SHE CAN. She is not, of course, to go abroad seeking work, while work is ready to her hand. She is not to neglect homely duties, for those which call her away from friends and kindred who need her. She is not to stretch out her hands beseechingly for higher service, if they are already full of lowly tasks not yet accomplished. But if she have leisure, strength, and ability—if there are no God-given ties that ought to hinder her—if she sees fields white ready to harvest, and knows that the labourers are all too few—then, in Christ's name, let her do with her might whatsoever her hands find to do.

It is surely this which the voice of GRACE DARLING, the heroine whom the hearts of men and women alike agree to love and revere, is saying to us still, and has said ever since her brave deeds thrilled the world. She gave her thoughts and powers, with conscientious diligence and perseverance, to the common-place duties of her lot, but she was none the less ready, when the occasion came, to go forth over the stormy waters to do a most uncommon deed of daring. Usually, she was happy and content in being a blessing to her own family; but she was not afraid to forget herself, nor unable to rise above the natural timidity of her sex, when the noblest and strongest passions of her heart were aroused on behalf of men, women, and children, who were in danger of a watery grave.

There are other great women, her sisters, of each of whom it may also be said, "She hath done what she could." Most of these have been helped by circumstances to do their brave deeds so silently that the world does not even hear their names. But to a few it happens that duty calls them to their work in the face of the crowd, and this may be providentially ordered that those who look on may be thus taught the hopeful and inspiring lessons of a good woman's life.

Illustrations of women whose work has been heroic, are not wanting.

It is not very long ago since the world rang with the name of FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE. She was an educated and accomplished young lady, the daughter of a wealthy man, who might have been content to live the quiet life of luxury to which she was born. But God had given to her a tender heart, which would not permit her to look on suffering without longing to alleviate it; and when she was twenty-one years old, she began to take an interest in the condition of hospitals. After a time she went into the Protestant Deaconesses Institution at Kaiserswerth, that she might be trained as a nurse. At the end of ten years of preparation, she entered upon her life-work. War was declared with Russia; and when the battle of the Alma had been fought, the wounded crowded the hospitals. But the condition of these places was so terrible, the men died of disease so rapidly, that the death-rate was greater than if they had fallen in fight. In this appalling crisis, Miss Nightingale offered her services. These were thankfully accepted; and a week afterward, the lady and her nurses left England for Scutari. What she did there has since become matter for history. On one occasion, she was on her feet for twenty hours at a stretch, until all the poor fellows who had been brought in were comfortably accommodated. None can tell how many lives she was the means of saving.

"Neglected, dying in despair, They lay till woman came To soothe them with her gentle care, And feed life's flickering flame.

"When wounded sore on fever's rack, Or cast away as slain, she called their fluttering spirits back, And gave them strength again.

"'Twas grief to miss the passing face That suffering could dispel; But joy to turn and kiss the place On which her shadow fell."

Nor was her work confined to nursing only. Her example has done very much; and her literary productions have given light and teaching to those who wished to follow it. Who does not know the good that her "Notes on Hospitals" has done? And her little book, "Notes on Nursing," is invaluable to all who are called upon to spend an hour in the sick room. Florence Nightingale has answered the question, What is woman's work? by doing what she could.

She was one example, and ELIZABETH FRY was another. Passing her childhood in the quiet home of her father, she was yet, as a child, laying the foundation of her future excellent career. When only eighteen years of age, she gained her father's consent to her establishing in his house a school, to which about eighty poor children came, and where they were taught good lessons, which were the seeds of useful fruit in after years. At twenty years of age, she married Joseph Fry, Esq., of Upton, Essex. He was then engaged in business in London. She had eight children, and must have had her hands almost full of domestic cares and duties. But she had eyes for the troubles and needs of the inhabitants who lived and loved, sinned and suffered outside of the sheltered resting-places in her own home, and she became aware of the pitiable condition of the female prisoners in Newgate, and resolved to visit them. It was considered to be a very dangerous experiment; but her woman's heart was strong, for she had faith in God, and in the power of human love; and otherwise unprotected, she went alone into that part of the prison, where a hundred and fifty of the worst of her own sex were confined. The women were surprised into attention and respect by her dignity and gentleness of manner. She read to them some portion of "the old old story," and spoke to them with such earnest love, that their hearts were melted within them. Many of them heard, for the first time, of the divine compassion of Him who came to seek and to save that which was lost; and as they listened, tears stole into eyes that were strangely unused to shed them; and from some of the poor wanderers a cry went up to the merciful Father, and was the first prayer in the sinful, sorrowful life. In 1816, she became a systematic visitor of the prison. About that time, the "Society for the Improvement of Prison Discipline" was instituted, and she worked in connection with it. She established a school inside of the prison walls—found work for the idle hands of the women, and succeeded in forming a Committee of Ladies who were willing to help in the reformation of the female prisoners. It soon became evident that the labour was not in vain. A marked difference in the habits of the women was apparent. Instead of the riot and filth which were the accompaniments of idleness, order, neatness, and decency, were maintained. Nor did she rest when Newgate had shown some improvement. Her thoughts were turned to the condition of the poor wretches who had been sentenced to transportation. The foreign prisons were in even a worse condition than our own, and she took several Continental journeys in order to gain knowledge, and enlist the sympathy and help of Christian people of all nations for the prisoners.

But although this work was that with regard to which she was most deeply solicitous, it was not the only one which occupied her thoughts. The Abolition of Slavery was a task which was laid upon her heart, and she rendered the cause good service. She spent much time and money also in the distribution of Bibles and religious tracts. She provided the ships of the Royal Navy, and those of the Coast Guard, with religious and instructive literature, having obtained permission from Government to do so. And she did not limit her good deeds to such things as these, which necessarily were well known. She worked silently, too; and many an act of mercy gladly rendered to the poor and destitute, the sick and helpless, had no witness but the God who seeth in secret, and rewardeth openly.

This good friend added to her other engagements that of the preacher; and never, perhaps, has a woman's voice spoken more effectively than did the voice of this worthy woman, who preached the gospel both by lips and life, not only in her own, but also in Continental cities. It was, indeed, a great loss to this world, where noble men and women are so much wanted, when Elizabeth Fry died. But He who watches all life and action, has said, "He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much," and He calls the steadfast servant to higher service.

In the year 1845, she died at Ramsgate, in the sixty-fifth year of her age. A nation mourned for her, and as the most fitting testimony to the esteem in which she was held, a building was erected, which was called the "Elizabeth Fry Refuge," and which was to supply home and relief to discharged female prisoners. Was Elizabeth Fry an unwomanly woman? Certainly not. But she did exceptional work, because she saw that it needed doing; and God blessed and prospered her in it. Of her also it may surely be said, "She hath done what she could."

Even in our own day, there are multitudes of good women who are slipping a little out of the beaten track. Are not the names of Miss Faithful, Miss Leigh, Miss Macpherson, Miss Marsh, and Miss Rye, "familiar in our mouths as household words." Are there not speakers and preachers, scientific women and teachers, who have been thoroughly successful in the work they have undertaken, though it has not been that which has usually fallen to the lot of women?

At the time of writing these words, the largest congregation in London is mourning the loss of a woman who, Sunday by Sunday, gathered together eight hundred members of a Young Woman's Bible Class, to listen while she spoke to them of things pertaining to their present and eternal welfare. And who is there but would earnestly wish such women God-speed? Their work may be a little different from some of that of their sisters, but it is good work all the same. And as such it ought to be done. Why should not the labourers be allowed to proceed with their tasks without opposition and hindrance from those who look on? It cannot be denied that much of this work never would be performed if the women did not do it. Are they not right to step into vacant places, and stretch out their hands to help, when help is needed? Whether they are right or not, they certainly do not escape censure. People are ready enough to applaud a really heroic action, but if the deed be as good in itself, yet have no romance about it, the tongues of the critics are apt to say sharp things. Many women, simply because they are not courageous enough to brave the adverse opinions of those by whom they are surrounded, lose golden opportunities of distinguishing themselves. They are afraid to be singular. But this fear is no honour to the sex. A woman should be so far free and independent as to do that which she feels to be right, no matter though the right seem to call her to heights which she had not occupied before. And if, in her ordinary avocations, she be allowed liberty of thought and action, there is the greater probability that, when the occasion comes which demands from her strength of nerve and firm endurance, she will not be found wanting. It does not matter very much whether or not other people are satisfied with a woman's deeds, though she cannot help wishing to please those whom she loves. But what does matter is, that she should gain the high praise of Him who sees not as man sees, and who will say even to those who imagine themselves to be in some sense failures, "She hath done what she could."

To study the life of any good woman, is to know that she is not necessarily unable to do many things well. It used to be thought that it was a pity to educate a woman; for, if she understood two or three languages, it was not likely that she would also know how to darn stockings. And nothing can make men willing to pardon a woman's domestic deficiencies. Have not poets sung of them as nurses, wives, mothers, and cooks! But no poet cares to write of them as physicians, reasoners, lecturers, or preachers. Lyttelton has written—

"Seek to be good, but aim not to be great: A woman's noblest station is retreat; Her fairest virtues fly from public sight, Domestic worth, that shuns too strong a light."

Montgomery has said—

"Here woman reigns: the mother, daughter, wife, Strew with fresh flowers the narrow way of life. To the clear heaven of her delightful eye An angel-guard of loves and graces lie; Around her knees domestic duties meet, And fireside pleasures gambol at her feet. Where shall this land, this spot on earth be found? Art thou a man?—a patriot! Look around; Oh, thou shall find, howe'er thy footsteps roam, This land thy country, and this spot thy home."

Shakespeare, too, has described her mission—

"I am ashamed that women are so simple, To offer war where they should kneel for peace, Or seek for rule, supremacy, and sway, When they are bound to serve, love, and obey; Why are our bodies soft, and weak, and smooth, Unapt to toil and trouble in the world; But that our soft conditions, and our hearts, Should well agree with our external parts?"

It should be borne in mind, however, that a really clever and sensible woman is able to do many things excellently. Was Mrs. Fry less a good wife and able mother, because she visited prisons, and saved many of her sex from desolation and death? She had eight children, and no one doubts that each one had every care that a devoted mother could bestow upon him. Was Grace Darling less loving and obedient as a daughter, because she was so bold as not to be afraid to face death? Certainly not. And the women of to-day will not fill their humble positions less satisfactorily if they thankfully take every opportunity of training themselves, both physically and mentally, for whatever good work may come in their way. Does not the name of Grace Darling suggest to many parents, a contrast between her life and that of their own daughters? And would not many a man be glad to know that the woman who is to sit by his side, and help or hinder him through life, had similar qualifications for her position? In a word, can Grace Darling's be trained? Is there any way of making "the girl of the period" into a vigorously healthy, sensible, devoted, self-forgetful woman? Is it impossible, out of the material which is to be found in any of our schools and seminaries, to form characters of sterling worth and practical usefulness?

The study of the life of the heroine of the Farne Isles will provide the answer to this question. It will be seen, at all events, that such women are not the produce of ballrooms, where the air is poisoned by gases, and where women spend nights in scenes of excitement and gaiety. Contrasts cannot be more striking than this between late hours, crowded rooms, paints, scents, and flirtation, and the free fresh air, better than all the champagne in the world, which circulated over and through the Farne Isles. If the girls of the future are to be free from sickly sentimentalism—if they are to have warm and tender hearts, that are ever ready to respond to that which is noble, and sympathise with that which is sorrowful—then they should get at least a good part of their education out of doors, among the mountains and rocks, and by the ever-changing sea. There was nothing artificial about the life of Grace Darling. It was free, natural, and real. And if the women of the next generation are to be strong and healthy in mind and body, they should be taught to despise, rather than to covet, the dissipations, the shams and frivolities, the dress and fashion, of modern society. Another thing is morally certain, and it is, that Grace Darling had not read many novels. The effect of doing this is to make girls dream, rather than do. Their imagination takes flight into lofty regions, and they fancy themselves doing a vast number of heroic actions, but it is not such girls who would be found ready to act promptly in the emergency. Less of that which is superficial, and more of that which is natural and true, is wanted in these days to make noble women.

It is to be hoped that the consideration of this life will aid in the development of all sterling qualities, and that women will rise from its persual with a stronger determination than ever to become unselfish, useful, and devoted. Are there not lives yet to be saved? Are there no wrecks as awful as those which are caused by ships crashing among rocks, or stranding upon dangerous sands? These are days of civilisation and culture, of the multiplication of schools, and extension of churches. But no reflective observer can pass along the streets without seeing perilous places, which, though they never were marked on any wreck chart, have been the means of luring hundreds to destruction. There is work enough for all willing hands, and the women of Great Britain can do no unimportant part of it. Only let them be true to themselves, and to the higher instincts which God has planted within them. Only let them be faithful to duty, and prompt to perform any good task that lies before them, whether it be small or great, and they will be worthy to take their places by the side of the Farne Isles Heroine; and of them also the Judge will say, "They have done what they could."



"Honour be with the dead! The people kneel Under the helms of antique chivalry, And in the crimson gloom from banners thrown, And 'midst the forms in pale, proud slumber carved Of warriors on their tombs. The people kneel Where mail-clad chiefs have knelt—where jewelled crowns On the flushed brows of conquerors have been set— Where the high anthems of old victories Have made the dust give echoes. Hence, vain thoughts! Memories of power and pride, which long ago, Like dim processions of a dream, have sunk In twilight depths away. Return, my soul! The Cross recalls thee!"—Mrs. Hemans.

Every part of our little island home has its history. The land is small, but the changes among the inhabitants, and the achievements of its heroes, have redeemed it from triviality, and made it among nations great and important. The deeds Englishmen have done, the afflictions they have suffered, the victories they have won, and the results that they have brought about, conspire to make every county famous for something. In one, the ashes of martyrs have consecrated the ground. In another, the introduction of some special art or industry has been its elevation. Another was the birthplace of some great man, whom the world delighted to honour. Yet another was the scene of some great battle, where the bones of the vanquished whitened in the sun. And yet another is historic, because upon its soil the lovers of freedom have stood, firm as English oaks, and contended, not for their own rights only, but also for those of their sons and daughters. But few parts of the land have such thrilling stories to tell as that of Northumbria. Border ballads innumerable have been written, and there are old stones, dark rocks, and picturesque glens, that are ever singing their songs of the olden and far-away days, and singing them so that no pen can reproduce them. If they could but speak a language that we could understand, what crowds of eager students would gather about them, what hosts of world-weary people would rest and listen! How many romantic maidens and resolute youths would drink inspiration from them! But we know a little of what was sinned and suffered, commenced and completed there, in the North of our land, and though it is not a hundredth part of what might be told, it is yet enough to fill us with thoughts of God's care and goodness, and to stir us up to noble deeds.

No one can read and reflect on the history of any county without seeing that places are almost entirely made famous by the people who have lived upon them, and Northumberland has been enriched by some of the best blood that ever flowed through mortal veins. That part with which we have most to do is the group of islands lying off its coast, but Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands are interesting, not so much because of the wild and desolate grandeur of their rocks, as because two persons have lived and wrought there. St. Cuthbert and Grace Darling—two widely different persons indeed—the man, the dreamer and the saint, and the simple strong-hearted maiden, living at long distances from each other, but both doing the work possible to them faithfully, will arise in all minds at the mention of the place. But the Farne Isles belong to Northumbria, and its history is theirs also. It will not therefore be out of place to make some reference, not only to the rocky home in which the Darlings lived, but to the historic scenes among which they worked.

First, the ancient Britons, with the Druidical temples, lived their lives in Northumbria, making altars of rocks, and leaving their barrows, or burial-mounds, to tell the story of how they too died and passed away. Some ancient graves have been discovered, at little Barrington, near Angerton, Kirkheaton, and other places. At this time, the only teachers of the people were the Druids; and though students of our day would not care to go to school to them, some of their lessons at least would do no dishonour to these later times, for they taught their scholars to worship the only gods they knew, to be brave and courageous, and to do no evil. They offered human sacrifices, however; and if they were brave, it cannot possibly be said that they were also merciful. The women of the ancient Britons seem to have been better treated than those of many uncivilised nations. Caesar misrepresented them; but they were married; some of them officiated in the temples as priestesses, and some led the people to victories. Widowed queens ruled in place of their husbands; women were consulted about all matters requiring wisdom, insight, and forethought; and, indeed, they seem to have been placed on an equality with men.

Northumberland suffered, with other portions of the land, from the invasions of the Romans, and succumbed with the rest; and, indeed, when Agricola passed through, on his way to Scotland, they offered little opposition. He proved himself their friend; for he built them a wall, which stretched a distance of seventy-four miles, from beyond Newcastle to twelve miles west of Carlisle, to protect them from the warlike Picts and Scots.

When the Romans had left, and the Saxons taken possession, the first king of Northumbria was Ida, who, it is said, landed at Flamborough, and who first built the grand Castle of Bamborough, part of the original of which remains to this day. The first Christian king of Northumbria was Edwin. His life is a striking illustration of the assertion, "It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth," for he was but three years old when his parent died, and all his early years were passed in exile, having been kept from the throne of which he was the lawful heir. After the battle, however, fought on the banks of the Idle, in Nottinghamshire, he was placed on the throne of Northumbria, a courageous and noble king. He, having heard that there had come to the land a missionary from Rome, who taught the people the principles of religion, sent for him to come to Northumberland, that he might judge for himself. The king loved Edilburga, the daughter of Ethelbert of Kent, who was a devoted Christian; but she declined to marry him, unless he became a Christian also. He replied that he was willing to embrace the religion, if, on examination, he found it worthy of his fealty. Paulinus, therefore, accompanied the queen. But the king could not hastily decide; and it was not until he had been saved from assassination, by a faithful servant rushing in between him and the knife that was to slay him, that he was brought to a decision. Even then, however, he would not forsake the old ways, nor lightly take upon himself new vows, until he had called a council of priests and nobles, to examine the merits of Paganism and Christianity. Coifi, the high-priest, declared that he was tired of serving the gods, since they had never done him any good, and if the new religion was likely to be any more beneficial, he would be glad to know something about it. The next to speak was one of the nobles, and the Dean of Westminster, in an interesting and instructive lecture, thus beautifully gives the counsel of this layman:—"You know, O king, how, when you sit at supper in your great hall in the winter, with your commanders and ministers around you, and a good fire blazing in the midst, whilst the storms of rain and snow prevail outside, and the two doors are open at each end, sometimes it happens that a poor little sparrow flies in at one door, and immediately out at the other; but for the short space during which he is in the hall, he enjoys the light and warmth, and is safe from the wintry storms. The swift flight of the sparrow from one darkness to another darkness, but with this brief intervening space during which we see him, is like to the life of a man. What the life of man was, before he came upon this earth, and what it is to be afterwards, we know not. All that we know is, what we see of him during the time that he is here. If, then, this new doctrine can tell us something more of whence and whither man comes and goes, it is worth while to listen to it." Paulinus was then called in, to answer these men, and we are sure that he was able to say how the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ does throw light on the dark before and behind of our sojourn in the world.

Not only did King Edwin become a loyal and devoted Christian, but Coifi, the priest, at once went forth and began to demolish the idols and their temples, which formerly he had worshipped. Edwin was baptised, and so eagerly did the people embrace Christianity, that crowds of them followed the example of their king. Paulinus is said to have baptised many thousands in the river glen; and at another place, Holy Stone, he baptised three thousand more. Nor was this mere profession. The Northumbrians became mild instead of warlike; and the terrible scenes of violence and cruelty with which the country had abounded, gave place to far other and fairer experiences.

One chronicler, Fabyan, thus describes the change:—"So great peace there came upon this kingdom, that a woman might have gone from one town to another without grief or noyance." Edwin, too, seems, under the influence of Christianity, to have established drinking fountains; for we also read—"And for the refreshing of wayfarers this Edwin ordained, at clear wells, cups or dishes, of brass or iron, to be fastened to posts standing at the said well-sides; and no man was so hardy as to take away these cups, he kept so good a justice."

After the death of Edwin, there was a struggle between Christianity and Paganism, and many of the people went back to their former practices, and a time of persecution set in, which obliged Paulinas to flee into Kent for safety. After a time Oswald, the nephew of Edwin, became Bretwalda. He was a Christian, and a wise and good prince, who loved the people, and sought to bring them to the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ.

A good and great man, Columba, an Irishman, of royal descent, was residing, with other brethren, in the Island of Iona, and he travelled to many places, in order to teach the people the principles of Christianity. The Scotch Christians could not always agree with the Romish ones, and, indeed, they had fierce differences respecting shaving the head and keeping the Easter festival; but Columba, his associates and successors, sowed seeds which have brought forth fruit a hundredfold, for the nourishment of the spiritual life of the Northumbrian Christians ever since.

One of the missionaries from Iona, however, whose name was Carman, came, and failed to commend himself to the people. He returned, disheartened and unsuccessful. His place was most worthily filled by the good Aiden, who was then only an obscure monk, but his wise remarks on the cause of his brother's failure caused him to be chosen as the bearer of the Good Tidings. He travelled from his home, on the western coast of Scotland, to Northumberland, bringing the bread of life to many who were aware of the heart-hunger that consumed them. He is described, in the "History of Northumbria," as "a man of truly noble spirit, of deep learning, and the most devoted piety, energetic and ardent in temperament, patient in the removal of obstructions to the cause which he came to advocate; of deep humility, and earnest love." But there was a grave difficulty in the way of his disseminating the principles that he loved, for he could not speak the language. This obstacle, however, was overcome, for the king, who loved him, became his interpreter, and went with him on his missionary tours throughout the kingdom. Oswald lived in Bamborough Castle, and Aidan selected, as his residence, the Island of Lindisfarne, which was afterward called Holy Island. Oswald was slain in battle while defending his castle from the attacks of Penda, King of Mercia. Penda, the Pagan could not obtain possession of the castle, though he slew its prince; for even after his death, the people bravely defended the stronghold.

The kingdom became divided shortly after. The good Aidan died in the year 651, and was succeeded by Finan, who built a cathedral on the Island of Lindisfarne, whose walls were of oak, and whose roof was thatched.

At this time, the cause of Christianity appears to have been served by the piety and zeal of an illustrious lady, named St. Hilda, who founded abbeys, and, according to her admirers, did many miraculous works.

In the year 664, the yellow plague, which every summer had committed sad ravages among the people, raged so fearfully that it swept away Tulda, who was then Bishop of Lindisfarne, and nearly all his flock.

About this time the great St. Cuthbert, who has made the Farne Islands famous, was made Prior of Lindisfarne. He was born about the year 635, and was one of the most illustrious of the saints of the middle ages. In 651, he was watching his flock by night, as a shepherd boy, when, according to his own story, he saw, above the heights of Lauderdale, the heavens opened, and a company of angels descend and ascend, bearing with them the soul of St. Aidan, the pious Bishop of Holy Island. He resolved that he would become a monk, and he entered the monastery of Melrose. St. Boisal was the Prior, and, when he died of the plague, St. Cuthbert was chosen to take his place. He filled the office well, and was most assiduous in his attention to, and care of his flock. He visited all the villages and mountain hamlets that were in the neighbourhood, teaching the people, and endeavouring by all means in his power to win them back from Paganism to Christianity.

It was after a time of great activity, and possibly of over-work, that he left Melrose, and became Provost of the monastery at Lindisfarne. After labouring there for a time, he longed for a position of yet greater solitariness, and he therefore resigned his office. It was then that he went to the Farne Islands, which offered loneliness enough to satisfy even the austere recluse. He built himself a cell or hermitage with his own hands, using such rough materials of wood and stone as the islands afforded.

So highly was he esteemed that he was not permitted to remain in obscurity for more than eight or nine years. He was needed to work in the world still, and a deputation, consisting of Ecgfrid, King of Northumbria, and many nobles and clergy, waited upon him in his retirement and earnestly begged him to accept the Bishopric of Hexham. Although he shrank from the irksome task, he was too good a man not to yield to duty, though he did it reluctantly; but he so thirsted for solitude, that Eata, the Bishop of Lindisfarne, exchanged with him. At Easter, he was solemnly consecrated Bishop of Lindisfarne, at York, by Thodore, Archbishop of Canterbury. He did not long continue in office. His health failed, and he pined for the solitude of his beloved Farne Island; and when he had been ten years in his bishopric, he again resigned and sought the lonely rocks, which he did not leave until his death. He died on the 20th of March, 687. He wished to be buried on Farne Island, but had consented to have his remains taken to Lindisfarne, after making the monks promise that, if ever the monastery should be removed, his bones should be taken away also. His body was placed in a coffin of stone, and he was buried near the high altar of the Lindisfarne Cathedral.

Ten years later, the monks decided to enshrine the saint, and place him above, instead of under the pavement. They opened the coffin, and announced to the world that they had found the body "entire, flexible, and succulent," and for eight hundred years it was supposed to remain so.

Nearly two hundred years later, the circumstances which Cuthbert would seem to have dimly foreseen occurred. Troublous times arose in Northumbria. The nobles were at variance with each other, and two rival kings ascended the throne. The wise saying, "a house that is divided against itself cannot stand," was verified here. The wary warlike Danes, seeing this, came trooping down upon the northern district, and fierce and fearful battles were fought. The conquering Norsemen took all the booty they could, plundered, destroyed and desolated the monasteries, and murdered many of the monks. Among the religious sanctuaries that were made desolate, were those of Tynemouth, Jarrow, Monkchester (now Newcastle-on-Tyne), and Hexham. They came again and again, and at last they went to Lindisfarne. The monks there knew they were coming, and hastily prepared for flight. Remembering, even in their time of peril, the dying words of St. Cuthbert, they took his body from the shrine, put it into a coffin, and with it many of the relics of the good Aiden. Besides these, they took, in a sort of ark, "the famous illuminated and jewelled copy of the gospels, which Eadfrith had written," and a few other treasures, and went away to seek a place of safety.

Many miracles were ascribed to St. Cuthbert while living, but still greater wonders are recorded as having taken place long after his death. For seven weary years of wandering, the monks carried about his body. At the beginning of their journey, the water was supernaturally driven back, though, at the time, it was high tide, and they were able to cross on dry land. They went among the hills of Kyloe, and travelled about, through the south of Scotland, and north of England; but though they were everywhere treated with respect, no one was able to offer them a permanent place of safety. At last they decided that they would go over to Ireland, and actually embarked, when a severe storm arose and drove them back to the very spot from which they started. They found that their precious copy of the gospels had been destroyed, and mourned over its loss. But supposing the shipwreck to be an indication that they must not go to Ireland, they went to Scotland, and there, on the Galloway coast, they found their lost treasure!

It is said that the body of the saint floated down the Tweed in its stone coffin. Sir Walter Scott has referred to this legend in Marmion:—

"From sea to sea, from shore to shore, Seven years St. Cuthbert's corpse they bore. They rested them in fair Melrose; But though alive he loved it well, Not there his relics might repose, For—wondrous tale to tell! In his stone coffin forth he rides, (A ponderous bark for river-tides), Yet light as gossamer it glides, Downwards to Tillmouth's cell."

Surtees wrote on the subject of the coffin itself:—"It is finely-shaped, ten feet in length, three feet and a half in diameter, and only four inches thick, and has been proved by experiments to be capable of floating with a weight equal to the human body."

The remains of St. Cuthbert rested at length at Chesterle-Street, where Guthrun, the Christian king, built a church for the wanderers, and richly endowed it. Both Athelstane and "Edmund, the Magnificent," visited the tomb, and rendered homage to the saint. The latter brought valuable presents to the shrine, consisting of Byzantine workmanship, and two bracelets, which he took from his own arms. Edred also followed their example.

In the year 995, the Danish pirates again compelled the monks of Lindisfarne to leave their resting place, taking with them the precious relics of their saint. They sent to Ripon, where they remained for a few months, and then were making their way back when, as they said, in a certain fertile spot, the body became immovable.

Not knowing what to make of this they held a solemn fast, and, on the third day, the saint communicated his wish that they should go to Dunholme, where a permanent church should be built for him. There, accordingly, they went; first erecting a temporary booth to contain their treasure, and afterward building the first Durham Cathedral.[1]

The remains of St. Cuthbert were then enclosed in a costly shrine, and placed in the Cathedral, where they remained until the Reformation.

In 1827, the grave was opened, when, in the innermost of three coffins, his skeleton was found, wrapped in five robes of embroidered silk, some of the fragments of which may still be seen in the Cathedral library.

A cloth, which it is said he used in celebrating mass, was made into a standard, which was believed to bring victory. That gained at Flodden Field was ascribed to it. The banner is said to have been burnt by the sister of Calvin, who was the wife of the first Protestant Dean of Durham Cathedral. No one in our day can read of all the wonders ascribed to St. Cuthbert without incredulous and pitying smiles; and it is very amusing to see how one of his peculiarities has been avenged in later times.

He was an intense woman hater, and his antipathy to the gentle sex was so great, that he would not allow one of them to come near to him, and scarcely tolerated their presence in the religious services which he performed; and he actually built a chapel for them at the extreme end point of the Island of Lindisfarne, where they might worship, instead of presuming to enter his church. He does not seem to have accepted of any favours from them but one. Veria, who was Abbess of Tynemouth at the time that he was at Lindisfarne, gave him a piece of fine linen or silk, which he condescended to keep for his winding sheet. It was a little too bad of him to keep up his antipathy even after his death; but he seems to have done so, for until the Reformation no woman was permitted to approach his shrine. A cross of blue marble was let into the Cathedral floor, beyond the limits of which no female foot might pass under pain of immediate severe punishment. And yet it was a woman who drew the admiring eyes of the modern world to the Farne Islands, where the remains of his priory are still to be seen.

Bound about the story of Grace Darling no particular odour of sanctity gathers; and yet she, according to her light, served the same cause of humanity as St. Cuthbert, and performed a deed of which even he would not need to have been ashamed.

Very little indeed would be known of this most famous saint, but for one whose name must be mentioned with all honour and reverent admiration—the Venerable Bede. He twice wrote St. Cuthbert's life, first in hexameters, in his "Liber de Miraculis, Sancti Cuthberchti Episcopi," and in prose, in his "Liber de Vita et Miraculis Sancti Cudbercti Lindisfarnensis Episcopi."

It is not known with any certainty where Bede was born, but it was probably at Jarrow, in the year 673. When he was seven years old, he was sent to the monastery of St. Peter, at Wearmouth, to be educated. He was placed under the care of the Abbott Benedict and Ceolfrid. He received his religious instruction from the monk Trumberct, and his music lessons from John, chief singer in St. Peter's at Rome, who had been summoned to England by the Abbott Benedict. While he was there a great pestilence broke out, and every monk died, excepting Bede and another. The boy, through all the death and mourning of that terrible time, still chanted the service and songs of the church. From seven to twelve or thirteen, he was a diligent student. Writing of himself at this early age, he says, "It was always sweet to me to learn to teach and to write."

When nineteen years of age, he took deacon's orders; and when he was about thirty, was ordained priest by John of Beverley, then Bishop of Hexham. He lived in Jarrow monastery a quiet and retired life, and spent his whole time in the eager pursuit of knowledge. He questioned all who came to him; he collected all stray facts and incidents; he took care of, and wrought into his book all records of events that floated to him, or that he was able to save from oblivion, and he it is to whom we are indebted for almost all the information we possess of the history of our country down to the year 731. His greatest work was the "Ecclesiastical History of England," of which many versions have been issued, and which was first translated into Anglo Saxon by King Alfred the Great. One edition of the "History" was published at Strasburg, in 1500; another by Smith of Cambridge, in 1722; another by Stevenson of London, in 1838; another by Dr. Hussey at Oxford, in 1864; another in the "Monumenta Historica Britannica," and yet another by Dr. Giles, with the whole of Bede's writings.[2]

Not only was the industry of Bede most extraordinary, but his character and disposition were most lovely. It demanded no small amount of moral strength, concentration of mind, and tenacity of will and purpose, as well as ardent consecration to a good cause, thus quietly to pursue studies, and remain at work, while all around was confusion and strife, violence and slaughter. So little was the spirit of his age in him, that it has been well said of him, he was like "a light shining in a dark place." His life was holy, his temper calm and gentle, and all his works humanising and instructive.

Dean Stanley's remarks upon him, are so very beautiful and appropriate, that we may be pardoned for extracting some of them:—"Two names only from the Anglo Saxon period are still held in unquestioned and universal reverence. One is the Great Alfred, the illustrious king and lawgiver, in the south of England; the other is Bede, the venerable father of English history and English learning, in the North of England. Venerable he truly was. We need not go back to the legend which supposed that he received the title from the Roman Senate for having solved a strange riddle which they could not answer; nor to the other legend, which tells us that, on his grave-stone at Durham, you can still read the inscription in which it is said that an angel in the night filled up the blank space with Venerabilis. He is venerable for the much more solid reason, that he has won the veneration of all Englishmen—we may say of all the world—as an example of the faithful student of truth. His old oaken chair at Jarrow may be still chipped away, as it has been for many years, for healing relics. But no miracle, no wonder, is ever recorded of him in his lifetime. Nay, he was even accused before the Archbishop of York, on a charge of heresy on account of some of his views on chronology. He never was formally acknowledged as a saint. Yet in spite of this, the instinct of mankind has gradually given to him the superiority and pre-eminence over those eccentric missionaries whose wonders for the moment dazzled, but whose special work has long ago passed away. A foreign ambassador (says Fuller) visited the high sumptuous shrine of St. Cuthbert: 'If thou be a saint, pray for us;' then turning to the plain, lowly, little tomb of Bede, he said, 'Because thou art a saint, good Bede, pray for us."

"His last days were spent in the noblest of tasks—in the task which afterwards engaged the best days of Luther and the best days of Wickliffe, that of translating the Bible into his own language. 'I am unwilling,' he said, 'that my children should read what is not true, and should, after my death, in this matter, spend their labours to no profit. That is the fine sentiment of a man who really cares for truth, and really cares for his country.

"There are many other beautiful sayings during those last hours; but I fear to encroach too much on a theme which, perhaps more properly belongs to Jarrow, and which also perhaps is too solemn for this place. Still, as his boyhood was at Monkwearmouth, and as his end reminds us of what he himself must have been when he was pursuing his tasks on the banks of your own River Wear, I will give you the very last moments. There was a little boy who was copying out for him his translation of the Gospel of St. John, and who said 'Still one more sentence, dear master, remains unwritten.' He replied, 'Write quickly.' After a little while the boy said, 'Now the sentence is finished.' He answered, 'You have spoken the truth. It is finished. Raise up my head in your arms, for I should like to lie opposite that holy place where I used to pray, so that resting there I may call on God my Father;' and being placed there he said, 'Glory to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit;' and as he named the name of the Holy Spirit, he breathed out his own spirit and departed." [3]

From those early days to the time of our heroine, the story would be too long to insert here, and we must pass over centuries with only a word or two. Northumbria has taken a noble part in the struggles and victories, the sufferings and progress of our country, and she reaps, as she deserves to do, a rich reward.

When the decisive battle of Hastings had been fought, and the Norman conqueror had overcome the Saxons, the people in the North were determined not to yield. The sorrow which the patriotic northern hearts felt was increased and stirred into active resentment by the treachery of William.

We learn from the "History of Northumbria," that Edwin, Earl of Mercia, brother to the Northumbrian Earl Morcar, was promised one of the daughters of William as his bride; and, blinded by this promise, he was induced to render important services to William at this critical juncture. A little time, however, passed away, in which William and the south-western Saxons, coming to open war, and the Norman arms being victorious, William refused to give the promised bride to Earl Edwin, and accompanied the refusal with insult to the suitor. Fired with indignation, both of the young Saxon nobles departed immediately for Northumbria, and joined heart and hand with their countrymen against the foreigners.

Terrible battles were fought, in one of which the Saxons slew three thousand of the Normans at York, for which the infuriated William punished Northumbria with a horrible slaughter. "From York to Durham not an inhabited village remained; fire, slaughter, and desolation, made a vast wilderness there. . . . . From Durham right on to Hexham, from the banks of the winding Wear to those of the Tyne, Jarrow, Monkchester, with all the dwellings, homesteads, and happy places, were deluged with the people's blood; even the monasteries and religious houses shared the same fate as the common dwellings."

William Rufus was not liked better in Northumbria than his father had been, and Robert Mowbray, Earl of Northumbria, had especial reason to dislike him, on account of his appropriation of the forest lands. He was a powerful chief, possessing two hundred and eighty manors, but he did not attend the Court. This displeased William, who sent forth a decree that every baron who did not attend the festival at Whitsuntide should be outlawed. The Earl paid no attention to this; and as he was engaged with other nobles in a conspiracy to dethrone William, the monarch brought his army into Northumbria, besieged and took the fortress at Newcastle, went on to Tynemouth, and then to Bamborough Castle, to which the Earl had escaped. This castle was impregnable, but the Earl was decoyed from it, and after going again to Tynemouth, he was wounded and taken prisoner. But William coveted the Castle of Bamborough, which was still held by the wife of the Earl. He, Mowbray, was taken to an eminence in front of the castle, while the Normans demanded parley with the Countess. She, to save her husband from having his eyes put out before her face, surrendered the castle to them, and the Earl was taken to the dungeons of Windsor Castle, and kept there for thirty years.

In the year 1094 the little Island of Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, had built upon it a beautiful church and priory, for the Normans introduced a very superior style of architecture. Edward, one of the monks of Holy Island, was rich enough to undertake this work. It is said by an imaginative or credulous historian, that St. Cuthbert still worked miracles there. "The crowds of thirsty labourers, who had passed over to the island with materials for the new building, were, by Edward's interest with St. Cuthbert, enabled for a whole day to drink from a cup which was never once replenished by mortal hand. And multitudes were fed by this same Edward without materials."

During the reign of Henry the First a bridge was built at Durham, the ruins of Hexham were restored, a Leper Hospital was built at Newcastle, and Northumberland and Durham were generally enriched.

In Stephen's reign, David, King of Scotland, fought a battle with the English king in Northumberland; and, indeed, the history of the centuries, to the seventeenth, is full of the accounts of battles on the border with the English and Scotch, the Dukes of Northumberland being often at war with the Scottish kings. The battles were frequently on a large scale, and the bloodshed was frightful, while the ill-will begotten on both sides of the border was most bitter. King John met the Scottish king on the borders in the year 1213, and then the two professed to be reconciled, but very little good came of it.

In the year 1215, the barons of Northumberland went to Alexander II. of Scotland, and implored his protection against their own king, which so incensed John, that he marched to the borders, and burned Wark, Alnwick, Mitford Castle, and Morpeth.

In the year 1226, Henry of England, and Alexander of Scotland, entered into an agreement, by which he was to give up Northumberland, and receive a yearly rent of two hundred pounds.

In 1241, a terrible fire broke out in Newcastle, which destroyed a great part of the town. In 1282, Newcastle first sent members to Parliament.

In 1297, the Scottish people again entered England under Sir William Wallace. In 1305, the Countess Buchan was punished for having placed the crown upon the head of Robert Bruce. She was confined in an iron cage, and permitted to speak to no one but her female attendant, for four years.

In 1312, the Scots, headed by Robert Bruce, made a desperate foray into Northumbria, and in 1314, Edward II. marched into Newcastle, on his way to Berwick, with an army of ninety thousand soldiers, which was beaten at the battle of Bannockburn. In 1516, the Scots again invaded England, and famine and pestilence followed in their track. In 1327, Bruce came again and laid siege to the castles of Norham and Alnwick. A truce was concluded afterward, and in 1328, David, son of Robert Bruce, who was in his fifth year, was married to Joanna, sister of King Edward, who was in her seventh year. The marriage was celebrated with great pomp, and the Scots afterward called the princess Joan Makepeace. King David, however, again returned to England at the battle of Nevill's Cross, and was taken prisoner.

In 1362 John Wickliffe was doing his noble work as a reformer. And Percy, the Lord Marshall of England, was one of his supporters.

In 1388, the battle of Chevy Chase was fought, the two sons of the Duke of Northumberland, Sir Henry Percy Hotspur and Sir Ralph Percy, leading the English forces. The battle of Hamildon Hill was fought on the day of Holyrood in 1402. King Henry IV. having offended the Percys, the Duke of Northumberland gave up the Castle of Berwick to the Scots; to punish which the king brought one of the newly-invented cannon, with which he struck down one of its towers, and then took possession of Alnwick and other fortresses and estates.

But only to mention the names and the times of the border forays and quarrels, would be wearisome. It was a happy thing, indeed, for both England and Scotland when the two were at last united, and the strong-hearted men who had hated each other so sincerely, and committed such terrible deeds of devastation and cruelty, began gradually to forgive the past, and look upon each other as brethren. It was good, indeed, when the beautiful hills and valleys of Northumberland, instead of being deluged with blood, wore the look of calm prosperity which always attends peace. And it is a pleasant consideration for true patriots, and one which should send them to the throne of God with words of hearty thanksgiving upon their lips, that our Queen Victoria, whom both nations conspire to love and revere, passes from south to north, through sunny landscapes of bountiful corn-fields and golden orchards, when she takes her annual holiday in the Highlands of Scotland, the land which is peculiarly dear to her. No sounds of widows weeping for their slain husbands and sons—no fierce battle-cries—no terrible wailings over slaughtered families and ruined homes—startle the still air. But, instead, the children sing the national anthem, as if they knew all that it means; and wherever, on this or the other side of the Tweed, the dear familiar face, with its crown of silvering hair, is seen, the people cry, with leaping hearts and happy tears, "God save the Queen!"

It is impossible not to contrast the new with the old; but as we do so, we shall be forced to acknowledge that the new is, after all, the child of the old, born amid throes of anguish to live a free glad after-life of liberty and honour. It is because our fathers fought that we possess so many privileges. It is because they struggled and died that we have risen and prospered. And while we render them the thanks that are due to them, it behoves us sacredly to guard all rights, and diligently to carry on all good works which they commenced.

It would not be right to give even a short history of Northumberland, without making some special reference to Alnwick, and the Percy family.

Alnwick, the county-town of Northumberland, is delightfully situated on the south of the River Aln. It is about half-way between Newcastle and Berwick. It is not now an important town, having only about eight thousand inhabitants, but it has a history which few towns surpass in interest. Old customs linger long here. The curfew-bell is still tolled; and, until the year 1854, the custom of "leaping the well" was observed. This absurd, though amusing ceremony, was performed by all young freemen previous to their being admitted to the corporate privileges of the town. They used to ride on horseback, carrying swords in their hands. They went in procession through the town until they came to a field called the Handkerchief, where each one dismounted and turned a stone. The Freemen's Well is four miles from Alnwick, and is fed by a spring, but to stop the freeman from succeeding well in his plunge, dykes were made, and ropes stretched across, while the mud at the bottom was industriously stirred up. There was a race to see which young freeman should be first at the well, and the foremost was most heartily cheered. Arrived there, each freeman took off his ordinary dress and clothed himself in white, putting on a white cap ornamented with ribbons. At a sign, the oldest son of the oldest freeman sprang into the well, the others after him, and then they made their way as best they could to the opposite side of the well. Even then the work was not done, and all started again to "win the boundaries."

Tradition says that the custom of "leaping the well" was instituted by King John, who, when he was hunting near, got into a bog, and was so angry with the inhabitants of the town for not attending to it better, that he took away the charter, and only granted a new one on condition that every burgess, before he was admitted to the freedom of the town, should plunge through the bog on the anniversary of the day when he had himself been so unfortunately compelled to do so.[4]

Alnwick is a place of great antiquity. It is supposed that the Romans had a fort here, and that the Saxons built a castle on its site. Before the Conquest, the castle and barony were owned by Gilbert Tyson; and after the battle of Hastings, it came into the possession of the Norman Lords de Vescy. They remained in the family till 1297, when they were bequeathed to the Bishop of Durham by Edward I. Soon after, they were purchased by Lord Henry de Percy, from whom it descended to the present Duke of Northumberland.

Alnwick Castle is a noble seat, and stands where once was a Roman camp, to the north-west of the town. It was of great importance as a border castle; but a hundred years ago it was very considerably changed. In 1858, however, the noble owner had it repaired, and at a great cost caused it to be made as nearly as possible as it was at first. It is perhaps the finest feudal fortress in the kingdom. Five acres are enclosed by the walls, and the grounds are five miles in length. The castle is beautifully and romantically situated. The family residence is in the centre of the inner court, and its decorations are extraordinarily magnificent. The ceiling is constructed like that of King's College Chapel, Cambridge, and the paintings on the walls are copies of those in Milan Cathedral. The castle-walls are flanked by sixteen towers. The park abounds in rare scenery, and contains ruins of two abbeys. Malcolm's Cross was rebuilt by the Duchess of Northumberland to commemorate the fall of King Malcolm and his son, at the siege of Alnwick, in 1093.

The Percy family has been closely associated with the history of our land. The head of the noble house, William de Percy, who came with the Conqueror to England, obtained from the king thirty knight's fees in the north of England. Agnes, daughter of the third baron, married Josceline of Lovaine, who was descended from Charlemagne, on condition that he should adopt either the arms, or the name of Percy. There are some lines under a picture of hers, that describe his choice—

"Lord Percy's heir I was, whose lasting name By me survives, unto his lasting fame Brabant's Duke's son I wed, who for my sake Retained his arms, and Percy's name did take."

In King John's reign, the head of the family was one of the chief barons who demanded Magna Charta from him, and resisted the Pope when he made demands that would have been derogatory to the spiritual independence of the English Crown. The great grandson of this nobleman was a distinguished commander under Edward III. He acted as Marshal of England at the coronation of Richard II., and was created Earl of Northumberland, though he afterwards took up arms against Richard, and placed the crown upon the head of Henry of Lancaster. Not satisfied with his government, he joined in rebellion with Hotspur. He fell at Bramham Moor, and his titles were forfeited, but were restored in the time of his grandson, who became Lord High Constable of England. He was killed at the battle of St. Alban's. The fourth Earl was murdered by the Northumberland populace, who were enraged with him, because he levied a tax upon the people in aid of Henry VII. The funeral of this nobleman cost about 15,000 pounds of our present money. The life of Henry Algernon Percy, the sixth Earl, and his love for Anne Boleyn, are matters of history. The Earl who headed the rebellion in Elizabeth's time and who was imprisoned in Lochleven Castle, and afterwards beheaded as a traitor at York, was the seventh. The eighth Earl was not less unfortunate, for he was accused of being actively engaged in a plot, on behalf of Mary, Queen of Scots, and taken to the tower, where he died a violent death. The daughter of the eleventh Earl married the Duke of Somerset, and became the mother of Algernon, who was created Earl of Northumberland. Sir Hugh Smithson, his son-in-law, succeeded to the Earldom, and became Duke of Northumberland, and the present noble family represent the ancient Percys in the female line. The fourth Duke was princely in his benefactions. He spent 40,000 pounds in the improvement of cottages on his estate, and 40,000 pounds in building and endowing churches. In 1857, he offered a prize for the best model of a life-boat, and he afterwards supplied several stations on the coast with these invaluable adjuncts. At North Shields, he erected "The Sailor's Home," making provision for both the temporal and spiritual wants of the seamen, a class, in whom he felt great interest, having, himself, in early life, served as a midshipman on board the Tribune frigate.

The story of the years, though too often blotted and spoiled by the passions of men that have wrought cruelty, and the sins of men, which have brought tempests of sorrow, is yet the story of the goodness and mercy of God. Through all the changes that have taken place, there has been a gradual growth of commercial power, of civilisation, morality, and religion. The times have always been progressive, there has been no going back, but a continual, persistent, onward tendency, is evident. And though the progress may be slow, it is nevertheless very sure. There is a Power that has said to the evil influences that in the times of long ago desolated Northumbria, even as it has often said to the raging billows that wash its shores, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed." And that Power it is which has kept always burning brightly the lamp which Paulinas lighted in dark places in those far off ancient times. To-day, indeed, no worshippers bow at the shrines of the saints, and many things that our forefathers thought sacred are treated lightly by their posterity. But the real has taken the place of the unreal; truth reigns where fiction lived, and the substance is grasped, while the shadow is left to fade away. The people, indeed, kneel today where their fathers knelt, but many of them, at least, care less for gorgeous ceremonial than their fathers cared. And crowds have learned to consecrate themselves to the God for whom they, in the darkness, longed and cried. And he who came as the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world, has, in our day, thousands, where before were only tens. Let us thank God and take courage. "The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad." The good times have come; and yet they are only earnests of better days still that are on their way. Let the children, not only of Northumbria, but of every part of our land, sing Christian songs, and live Christian lives. And let all the people unite in the old, but ever new prayer "Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven."

[1] Surtees says that the whole population of Northumbria, from the Tees to the Coquet, lent a helping hand.

[2] The subjoined list of his works will show how marvellous was his diligence and perseverance:—

Commentaries on most of the Books of the Old and New Testaments. A Commentary on the Apocrypha. Two Books of Homilies. A Martyrology. A Cronological Treatise, which he entitled, "On the Six Ages." A Book of Autography. A Book on the Metrical Art. A Book of Hymns. A Book of Epigrams, and various other Theological and Biographical Treatises.

[3] Dean Stanley's Lecture on the "Early Christianity of Northumbria," delivered in the Victoria Hall, Sunderland, on April 6, 1875.

[4] "Tate's History of Alnwick."



"Beautiful the children's faces, Spite of all that mars and scars: To my inmost heart appealing, Calling forth love's tenderest feeling, Steeping all my soul with tears.

"We are willing, we are ready: We would learn if thou would teach: We have hearts that yearn towards duty, We have minds alive to beauty, Souls that any heights can reach.

"We shall be what you will make us. Make us wise, and make us good: Make us strong for time of trial; Teach us temperance, self-denial, Patience, kindness, fortitude.

"Look into our childish faces! See ye not our willing hearts? Only love us, only lead us: Only let us know you need us, And we all will do our parts."—Mary Howitt

There is an old, old story, which always possesses a marvellous fascination, both for the narrator and the listener. It has been told by thousands of persons every year since, in the beautiful garden of Eden, it was first told by him whom God made after his own likeness to her who was to be the mother of all the nations of the earth. Almost all the romance and poetry that have ever been written gather about this old story; and yet it is the simplest thing in all the world to tell; and may be compressed into the three words, I LOVE YOU! Unlike many of the stories told in our world, this cannot be told without affecting the lives of those by whom and to whom it is related. It is more rousing than a trumpet call, more powerful than a royal edict. It makes men tender and women brave. It gives to life zest and colour, sweetness and grandeur; and those who hear it say no more that they are desolate and lonely, but feel as if their spring-time of joy has come. Moreover, it has the power of calling forth willing responses and precious gifts; for she who hears it, frequently chooses as her answer the pathetic words of Ruth, "Whither thou goest I will go; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God."

This old new story of love was told one day in the early part of the present century by a young lighthouse-keeper, named William Darling. It was not likely that Miss Horsley, to whom it was told, should immediately give the wished-for reply, for she was a farmer's daughter, living in a comfortable home, among safe fields, where the roar of the sea could not reach her. The life of the wife of a lighthouse-keeper must need be isolated and monotonous; and if she consented to take upon herself the responsibility of such a post, she must be willing to forego many of the pleasures to which she has been accustomed, to bear long absences from the friends of her girlhood, and to be contented with the society of her husband alone.

But such a prospect never yet frightened the loving heart of a devoted woman, and Miss Horsley loved William Darling. Therefore she cared very little where her home might be, if only she could share it with him. To be his comforter and helpmeet, to cheer him when the days were dark, and to enjoy his companionship, and brighten his home, were pleasures enough to tempt her. So one bright afternoon, when William was not needed in his lighthouse-tower, but was able to walk with her about her father's meadows, or sit by her side at her father's hearth, she told him that which he longed to hear.

It is a graver thing than it sometimes appears to the young people to engage in such compacts. They have much to learn and unlearn in the years that follow their first promises. They are not unfrequently greatly mistaken in each other, and their after discoveries are not always pleasing ones; and yet their entire lives are greatly moulded, being hindered or helped to a very important extent, by the choice which they make in their youth. Happily, for the peace of the home-circle, and the well-being of the human family, the years often mellow and ripen that which is good, and mould the character into excellence. It was so in this case. When Miss Horsley became Mrs. Darling, she found that her husband was an intelligent man, fond of books, and having a thoughtful and cultivated mind. Moreover, he was a Christian, and proved, by his life and conversation, that the old truths that had been brought by Paulinus into Northumbria, had entered info his heart. The young wife, though she might have left a happy home near that wonderful old fortress at Bamborough, had chosen a good man to love her in her new home, and had no cause to be afraid of the future.

Still, it must have been a joy to them when children came to play about the lonely house, and mingle their merry laughter with the sad sighing sounds of the uncomplaining sea.

We may be sure that it did not enter into the mind of either of the young couple to suppose, that a child of theirs would ever become so celebrated that she would be talked of in all parts of the civilised world; and that all classes of people would unite to do her honour. It is well that they did not know it. There is a mystery about the future of every child that is one of its greatest safe-guards. Those to whom the care of training it for its coming life is committed, must exercise faith in God and do their best, leaving results with him. This is what the parents of Grace Darling did. And the sequel proves that though they might not have been persons of wealth and culture, they had that invaluable wisdom which enables parents rightly to train those committed to their care.

It was in the year 1816 that our heroine was born. She was called Grace Horsley Darling, the second name to perpetuate the maiden name of her mother. It is said that William Darling was particularly rejoiced when his little daughter came. Unlike many men, whose hearts are in their business, and who are so entirely occupied by it that they have neither time nor thought for their families, he had plenty of leisure, which he delighted to employ for those whom he loved. When he was not engaged in cleaning the lamps, or keeping them burning "from sunset to sunrise," which is the first duty of a lighthouse-man, he liked to have his children about him, that he might teach them all that he knew. And when little Grace was added to the number, she, unconscious though she was of it, found warm hearts and strong arms waiting her, and was received with loving welcome.

Already that home among the rocks held sturdy brothers and sisters, who were glad to make room for the little stranger, and who were quite prepared to teach her the first lessons that she would have to learn. These romping boys and girls, if they were less highly favoured in some respects than other children, had at least some advantages over the dwellers in towns. They had the rocks for a play-ground, and shells and sea-weed for toys. They played games with the wind, which tossed their hair about, and brought the colour to their faces. They braved the sun, not caring that he took the delicacy from their skins and bronzed them over. And as they leaped about among the rocks, and over the weeds, their loud and merry laughter, mingled with the roar of the sea, made the sweetest harmony of which the island could boast.

So, at least, thought two gentlemen who visited Longstone Rock, the home of the Darlings, on the day after the birth of Grace. They came in their little yacht to the island, having cruised about for health and recreation, and landed on the Longstone, in order to explore it and others of the Farne group. The children were having holiday, too, just then, and as they scampered about, they attracted the attention of the visitors.

"Whose children are you?"

"We are the lighthouse children; we belong to Mr. Darling. He lives in the house yonder."

"You are shouting lustily enough for twice the number. Where is your father?"

"We will fetch him."

The gentlemen looked in admiration at the rosy faces, bright eyes, and strong limbs of the children; and when the father came out, they expressed their pleasure.

"We do not often see such children, Darling. It shows that the life among the rocks suits them. How old are they?"

William Darling was not loth to tell the gentlemen anything they wanted to know of his children, for, with a father's pride, he naturally thought none were like his.

"Would you like to hear them read?" he asked.

"Yes, very much."

The children were quite willing to show off their attainments. They were not frightened. Surely rock children ought to be noted for their fearlessness; and if they are not afraid of howling tempests, such as cause their lighthouse-home to rock, they should not be timid before a couple of gentlemen, even though one should be a Marquis.

They acquitted themselves so well that they received great praise.

"They have evidently been well taught, Mr. Darling; and yet there are no schools on the island, to which you could send them. Who has been their teacher?

"I am the teacher of my own children," said the lighthouse-man, a little proudly.

"We teach them at home, I and my wife."

"You must be very good teachers, and I am glad that your scholars do you so much credit. Really, that boy of yours is a fine fellow."

Thus encouraged, it is no wonder that Darling told them what had happened in the night.

"I have a little girl a few hours old, would you like to see her?

"Yes, very much indeed, if it is not yet too early for the young lady to begin receiving visitors."

"Oh no; if you will kindly come into the house, I will bring her to you." The little bundle, so wonderfully perfect (as babies are), wrapt closely in soft warm flannel, and looking an interesting, though a very comical specimen of humanity, was then brought forward, and shown to the admiring gaze of the gentlemen, who were profuse in their praises. Men are almost always afraid to handle newly-born babies; they seem to think they are among those articles that easily break, and are labelled, "Glass, with care." But no sight is more beautiful than that of a strong rough man touching the little things with the greatest tenderness.

William Darling's pride in his newly-born daughter was very evident, and when she had been safely taken back and laid in her mother's arms, and the party went out to examine the island, and learn something of its history and natural productions, they liked their intelligent guide none the less because they had seen that he was a kind and affectionate father.

Indeed, William Darling was known as a steady, intelligent, trustworthy man. The post of the Longstone lighthouse-keeper was a very dangerous one; and only such men as had proved their integrity, powers of endurance, and fidelity to duty, were ever appointed to that position. But he had given evidence that he was a man to be relied upon, who would not shirk work, but faithfully perform it, and who might be counted upon to be always at his post, whether others were likely to know it or not. He was just such a man as we want Englishmen of to-day to be—steadfast, patient, always alike in their performance of work, always most careful, thorough, and conscientious. He had already passed a time of probation, at a less important place, and then, because he had shown himself diligent, honest, and true in it, he was raised to the higher position of master of the Longstone lighthouse.

Let all young men who aspire to high positions, and are anxious to rise above their fellows, be sure of this, that those who have the apportioning of important and lucrative places of trust, judge in the main by Christ's rule, "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much."

Subsequent events proved that Grace Darling was worthy of such a father. She was baptised at Bamborough Church, and received the name of her maternal grandmother; and soon grew to be an interesting, toddling little maiden, the joy of her father's heart. She was not the youngest of the family, for there were twin-brothers born two years after her, but it was said that Grace was the favourite always, and that her winsome ways, and tractable and affectionate spirit, endeared her greatly to her parents.

The Farne Isles would seem to have made rather a desolate home for the girlhood of a romantic maiden.

Speaking of the time when St. Cuthbert dwelt there, Raine, in his "History of Durham," says:—"Farne certainly afforded an excellent place for retirement and meditation. Here the prayer or repose of the hermit would be interrupted by the screaming of the water-fowl, or the roaring of the winds or waves—not unfrequently, perhaps, would be heard the thrilling cry of distress from a ship breaking to pieces on the iron shore of the island, but this would more entirely win the recluse from the world, by teaching him a practical lesson on the vanity of man and his operations, when compared with the mighty works of the Being who 'rides on the whirlwind, and directs the storm.'"

Another writer says of it—"Looking at the situation and aspects of the Farne Islands, of which Longstone is one, we cannot but be struck with their extreme dreariness. Not a tree nor a bush, hardly a blade of grass, is to be seen. The islands are twenty-five in number, many of them with a sheer frontage to the sea of from six to eight hundred feet. They mostly lie north and south, parallel with each other; a few of the smaller ones extend to the north of the larger, thus rendering the navigation in their neighbourhood still more dangerous. The sea rushes at the rate of six or eight miles an hour through the channel between the smaller islands; and previous to the erection of a lighthouse there, many distressing shipwrecks occurred."

Howitt, in speaking of the Longstone Island, says—"It was like the rest of these desolate isles, all of dark whinstone, cracked in every direction, and worn with the action of winds, waves, and tempests, since the world began. On the greatest part of it there was not a blade of grass, nor a grain of earth, but bare and iron-like stones, crusted round the coast, as far as high-water mark, with limpit, and still smaller shells. We ascended wrinkled hills of black stone, and descended into worn and dismal dells of the same—into some of which, where the tide got entrance, it came pouring and roaring in raging whiteness, and churning the loose fragments of the whinstone into round pebbles, and piled them up into deep crevices with sea-weeds, like great round ropes and heaps of fucus. Over our heads screamed hundreds of birds, the gull mingling his laughter most wildly."

But the wild scream of the sea-fowl, and the thunder of the surf, were such common things to the little Darlings that they took but small notice of them. Grace, indeed, having them mingled with her mother's cradle-song, would scarcely like to have missed the familiar sounds, since they had lulled her to sleep at night, and awoke her in the dawn.

When it was time for her to begin her education, her father found the task of teaching her an easy and a pleasant one; for Grace was quick and intelligent. Moreover, she had that first and highest qualification of a good scholar—the love of learning. It was no difficulty to get her to bend all her powers to the pursuit of knowledge, for she could not help doing so, the thoroughness that she had inherited from her father urging her to overcome obstacles, and to make herself perfect wherever perfection was within her reach.

She soon learned to read, and then a new world opened to her. Little it matters to the reader whether he sits on the rock where the sea-waves wash up to his feet, or reclines upon a velvet coach, with all the appurtenances of luxury round about him. He lives in other places and other times. He fights in the battles that have long ago been ended. He climbs mountains that his eyes have never seen. He sails over seas where the lights flash, and the scents of fragrant islands come sweetly over him. In fact, if he be a passionate and imaginative reader, he loses his life in that of his author, and is filled with exquisite pleasure. Such a reader was Grace Darling. She was not able to procure many books, for their library, though good, was small, but those which were in her power she "read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested." She had a retentive memory, and there is no doubt that to read as she did, was really of more advantage to her than it would have been had she subscribed to Mudie, and seen all the new novels of the day. She was fond of romance, being romantic herself; and the legends and traditions of heroic Northumberland were most dear to her heart. She read and re-read those border ballads in which all the world delights, feeling that the prowess described in them, the sufferings endured, the struggles made, and the victories won, were those of her own people. Had not Bamborough Castle, and its brave inhabitants, witnessed it all, and could she not see the noble fortress from her own bedroom window? A people with so much historic lore, with such a wonderful past, full of glorious deeds and marvellous sorrows, must needs have some of the heroic spirit in them; and as it was born in Grace Darling, and fostered by the very leisure and solitariness of her girlhood, we are not surprised that it flashed forth afterward, in a deed as courageous as, and much more noble than, many war exploits of her forefathers.

But dearly as she loved these old romances, Grace Darling was not allowed, even as a girl, to let them fill her life. If the words were not known to her, which have nerved many a girl to practical usefulness, their spirit was—

1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse