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LITTLE SUNSHINE.

from The Stories Mother Nature Told Her Children





And now let us look at Coraltown once more. It is the first day of June

of 1865. The sun is low in the West, and lights up the crests of the

long lines of breakers that are everywhere curling and dashing among the

topmost turrets of the coral walls. But here is something new and

strange indeed for this region; along one of the ledges of rock, fitted

as it were into a cradle, lies the great steamship "Golden Rule," a

vessel full two hundred and fifty feet long, and holding six or seven

hundred people. Her masts are gone, and so are the tall chimneys from

which the smoke of her engine used to rise like a cloud. The rocks have

torn a great hole through her strong planks, and the water is washing

in; while the biggest waves that roll that way lift themselves in

mountainous curves, and sweep over the deck.



This fine, great vessel sailed out of New York harbor a week ago to

carry all these people to Greytown, on their way to California; and here

she is now at Coraltown instead of Greytown, and the poor people, nearly

a hundred miles away from land, are waiting through the weary hours,

while they see the ocean swallowing up their vessel, breaking it, and

tearing it to pieces, and they do not know how soon they may find

themselves drifting in the sea. But, although they may be a hundred

miles from land, they are just as near to God as they ever were; and he

is even at this moment taking most loving care of them.



On the more sheltered parts of the deck are men and women, holding on by

ropes and bulwarks: they are all looking one way out over the water.

What are they watching for? See, it comes now in sight,--only a black

speck in the golden path of the sunlight! No, it is a boat sent out two

hours ago to search for some island where the people might find refuge

when the ship should go to pieces. Do you wonder that the men and women

are watching eagerly? Look! it has reached the outer ledge of rock. The

men spring out of it, waving their hats, and shouting "Success;" and the

men on board answer with a loud hurrah, while the women cannot keep back

their tears. What land have they discovered? You could hardly call it

land. It is only a larger ledge of coral, built up just out of reach of

the waves, its crevices filled in firmly with broken bits of rock and

drifts of sand; but it seems to-day, to these shipwrecked people, more

beautiful than the loveliest woods and meadows do to you and me.



It would be too long a story if I should tell you how the people were

moved from the wreck to this little harbor of refuge, lowered over the

vessel's side with ropes, taken first to a raft which had been made of

broken parts of the vessel, and the next day in little boats to the

rocky island; but you can make a picture in your mind of the boats full

of people, and the sailors rowing through the breakers, and the great

sea-birds coming to meet their strange visitors, peering curiously at

them, as if they wondered what new kind of creatures were these, without

wings or beaks. And you must see in the very first boat little May

Warner, three years and a half old, with her sunny hair all wet with

spray, and her blue eyes wide open to see all the wonders about her. For

May doesn't know what danger is: even while on the wreck, she clapped

her little hands in delight to see the great curling crests of the

waves; and now she is singing her merry songs to the sea-birds, and

laughing in their funny faces, and fairly shouting with joy, as, at

landing, she rides to the shore perched high on the shoulder of sailor

Jack, while he wades knee-deep through the water.



So we have come to a second settlement of Coraltown: first the polyps;

then the men, women, and children. Do you see how the good Father

teaches all his creatures to help each other? Here the tiny polyps have

built an island for people who are so much larger and stronger than

themselves, and the seeming destruction of their upper walls was only a

better preparation for the reception of these distinguished visitors.

The birds, too, are helping them to food, for every little cave and

shelf in the rock is full of eggs. And now should you like to see how

little May Warner helps them in even a better way?



Did you ever fall asleep on the floor, and, waking, find yourself aching

and stiff because it was so hard? Then you know, in part, what hard beds

rocks make. And in a hot, sunny day, haven't you often been glad to keep

under the trees, or even to stay in the house for shade? Then you can

understand a little how hot it must have been on Roncador Island, where

there were no trees nor houses. And haven't you sometimes, when you were

very hot and tired and hungry, and had, perhaps, also been kept waiting

a long hour for somebody who didn't come,--haven't you felt a little

cross and fretful and impatient, so that nothing seemed pleasant to you,

and you seemed pleasant to nobody? Now, shouldn't you think there was

great danger that these people on the island, in the hot sun, tired,

hungry, and waiting, waiting, day and night, for some vessel to come and

take them to their homes again, and not feeling at all sure that any

such vessel would ever come,--shouldn't you think there was danger of

their becoming cross and fretful and impatient? And if one begins to

say, "Oh, how tired I am, and how hard the rocks are, and how little

dinner I have had, and how hot the sun is, and what shall we ever do

waiting here so long, and how shall we ever get home again!" don't you

see that all would begin to be discouraged? And sometimes on this island

it did happen just so: first one would be discouraged, and then another;

and as soon as you begin to feel in this way, you know at once every

thing grows even worse than it was before,--the sun feels hotter, the

rocks harder, the water tastes more disagreeably, and the crab's claws

less palatable. But in the midst of all the trouble, May would come

tripping over the rocks,--a little sunburnt girl now, with tattered

clothes and bare feet,--and she would bring a pretty pink conch-shell or

the lovely rose-colored sea-mosses, and tell her funny little story of

where she found them. The discontented people would gather around her:

she would give a sailor kiss to one, and a French kiss to another, and,

best of all, a Yankee kiss, with both arms round his neck, to her own

dear father; and then, somehow or other, the discontent and trouble

would be gone, for a little while at least,--just as a cloud sometimes

seems to melt away in the sunshine; and so May Warner earned the name of

"Little Sunshine."



If anybody had picked up driftwood enough to make a fire, and could get

an old battered kettle and some water to make a soup of shell fish,

"Little Sunshine" must be invited to dinner, for half the enjoyment

would be wanting without her.



If a great black cloud came up threatening a shower, the roughest man on

the island forgot his own discomfort, in making a tent to keep "Little

Sunshine" safe from the rain. And so, in a thousand ways, she cheered

the weary days, making everybody happier for having her there.



Do you think there are any children who would have made the people less

happy by being there? who would have complained and fretted, and been

selfish and disagreeable?



Ten days go by, so slowly that they seem more like weeks or months than

like days. The people have suffered from the rain, from heat, from want

of food. They are very weak now; some of them can hardly stand. Can you

imagine how they feel, when, in the early morning, two great gun-boats

come in sight, making straight for their island as fast as the strong

steam-engines will take them? Can you think how tenderly and carefully

they are taken on board, fed with broth and wine, and nursed back into

health and strength? And do not forget the little treasures that go in

May's pocket,--the bits of coral, the tinted sea-shells, and ruby-

colored mosses; and nested among them all, and chief in her regard, a

little five-fingered star, spiny and dry, but still showing a crimson

coat, and dots which mark the places of five eyes, and a little scarlet

water-strainer, now of no further use to the owner. Do you remember our

old friend the star-fish? Well, this is his great-great-great-great-

great-grandchild. In a week or two more, the rescued people have all

reached California, and gone their separate ways, never to meet again.

But all carry in their hearts the memory of "Little Sunshine," who

lightened their troubles, and cheered their darkest days.





Next: WHAT THE FROST GIANTS DID TO NANNIE'S RUN

Previous: CHAPTER II. CORALTOWN ON RONCADOR BANK.



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