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And "Stanley!" was the cry.
With dying hand, above his head
Charge, Chester! charge! On, Stanley! on!"
Remarkable Escape during the Great Floods in the
SIR THOMAS DICK LAUDER. THE following admirable narrative of a remarkable escape, in August, 1829, cannot fail to please such of our young readers as love adventure, while the style in which it is told is at once simple, vigorous, and exciting.
Among the poor people, who were for a long time in danger, was a man of the name of Sandy Smith, whose cottage stood upon a piece of furzy pasture, not far from one of the rivers which had overflowed its banks. A great number of the inhabitants of the cottages in the part of the country nearest to him escaped early in the night of Monday to a large barn, which stood on high ground; and others were received into a gentleman's house, where they were made as comfortable as circumstances would permit. All of
them thought that poor Sandy Smith would never be seen by them again, for his house was in a low situation, and already surrounded by water. But, on looking in the direction of his cottage, they were very glad to see a distant gleam of light, which came from a candle placed in his cottage window. They, therefore, had lights placed in the windows of the gentleman's house just mentioned, in order that the poor people in the distant cottage might know they were not forgotten, although it was impossible to get at them.
A dismal night had Sandy Smith in his cottage, in the midst of the waters. At break of day the kind people, who were looking out for him and his family, saw all the country laid under water, including many fields which had the day before been beautiful with yellow wheat, green tops of turnips, and other crops; and the surface of the flood was strewed with trees and every kind of wreck from farms, and barns, and houses. The heavy rain and the raging wind were yet continuing; the cattle were wandering about, and lowing for want of their usual food, and crowds of distressed families were crying and bewailing themselves. Afar off was seen the cottage of Sandy Smith-its roof like a speck above water;-and it was seen that the gable end had given way. With the help of a good telescope, the family were perceived to have got out of the cottage, and to be all huddled together on a small spot of ground not more than a few feet square, and forty or fifty yards distant from their ruined dwelling. Sandy himself was seen, sometimes standing up and sometimes sitting on a small cask; he seemed to be watching the large trees that swept past him and his wife and children, and which threatened to sweep them away. His wife was sitting on a bit of a log, covered with a blanket, having one child on her knee, and two leaning by her side. On the ground stood a bottle and glass, from which those who saw them hoped they had derived some little comfort in the midst of the cold rain and wind. Close to them were about a score of sheep, a small horse, and three cows, all glad, like them. selves, to stand on that little spot of dry land.
The greatest fear which those who saw these poor people from distant houses had, was that the waters would gain upon them before any boat could be procured to go and bring them away. A lady in the neighbourhood, had, however, ordered her horses to be put to a boat, to drag it down to a convenient spot for being launched, and three bold men got into it, determined to save the lives of the poor people if possible. Before they reached Sandy Smith and his family, they thought it their duty to rescue another poor family, whose situation was still more dangerous, as they were in a house of which hardly anything was visible but the thatch. When they reached that house, the poor people within were obliged to duck down into the water before they could be dragged out of the windows.
But to reach the house, and then to get on to where Sandy Smith and his family were waiting, was a task of no small labour
and difficulty: for as the boat seemed to be going on fairly and well, it was more than once carried away by the currents that were to be crossed, and carried away with such violence, that those on shore thought the people in the boat would be lost. The activity of the men in the boat was their only safety; and one of them, whose name was Donald Munro, but who, on account of his dress, was that day called Straw Hat and Yellow Waistcoat, gained much honour for his wonderful exertions. Sometimes he was at the head of the boat, and sometimes at the stern, not unfrequently in the water up to the neck, and then again rowing with all his strength. Before they reached the spot where Sandy Smith and his family were standing in a cluster on their little spot of land, there were five raging currents to be passed. The moment the boat came to one of these, it was whirled away far down the stream; and when one current was passed, the men had to pull the boat up again all the way before they ventured to cross another. The last current which they had to cross was the worst; but Smith was so delighted to see the boat approaching, that he ran into the water to meet it, and helped to drag it towards the spot whereon his wife and children were yet remaining. They were all then safely placed in the boat, and carried back, with many difficulties, across all the currents to the shore.
It appeared that these poor people had been driven out of their house at about eight o'clock on the Monday evening, and had fled to the only dry place they could reach. They had but just time to throw blankets over them, and Smith himself, had fortunately, presence of mind enough to take with him a small bag of meal. His cows, and his pony, and his sheep, being let out, wandered to the same spot. As the water gained upon the little space of ground they had, the poor beasts, feeling chilled with the cold, pressed inwards also upon the family. Smith caught a log which was floating past, and it made a seat for his companions; an old chest served the same purpose: and a little meal and a little whiskey was all their nourishment. There they had remained all that dismal night-all dark around them; the noise of the waters roaring in their ears—great trees going crashing past them every minute, as if they would sweep them all into eternity; and all the time the wind and rain beating upon them so fiercely that it seemed as if it would be impossible for them to live long under it. Nothing was to be seen but the far-off candles, placed in the house which has already been mentioned; and the light of which, as had been intended, was still some comfort to them in their desolate situation. When the light of morning broke upon them, Sandy Smith saw the little hamlet of Stripeside, where he had lived, a heap of ruins, besides all the neighbouring hamlets; and, far above them, the bridge broken by the violence of the stream. He had the attention to hide these sorrowful sights from his wife, by wrapping her head more closely from the cold, until the waters began to fall a little, in consequence of the giving way of some embankments: and then he told her to look round about her, for
that now there was some hope. The Scotch peasantry are a religious people, and Sandy, who thought, when he saw the light of the candles shining across the broad and roaring water in the night, that the Providence to whom he addressed his prayers had not forgotten him and his little family, observed, after all the danger was over, that he should be grateful to God all the rest of his days.
Another family, whose cottage stood at no great distance from that of Sandy Smith, passed that terrible night in the midst of still greater dangers and struggles for life. The name of these poor people was Kerr. They left their house, which was already surrounded by water, early in the night, and tried to wade across the water to the dry ground, but the farther they waded, the deeper they found the water. Kerr's niece, a girl twelve years of age, lost heart, and began to sink: and the stream was increasing, and the darkness of night was upon them. The old man, however, did not give way; but, taking his niece on his shoulder, waded back with his wife, and by great labour regained his own cottage. It was between eight and nine o'clock in the evening when they groped their way to it; and they were obliged to clamber up into the garret. There they remained, in loneliness and darkness, until about two o'clock in the morning, when the roof of the cottage, damaged by the wet, began to fail. To avoid being crushed to death, the old man forced his way through a partition into the next house. Fortunately for them all the partition was only made of wood and clay. There they remained till about eight o'clock in the morning: when the strength of the water on the outside became so great, that it bent the bolt of the lock of the housedoor inwards, until it had no more hold of the staple than about the eighth of an inch. If the door had given way, the water would have rushed in with such violence as to sweep away the back wall of the house; and Kerr rummaged the garret until he was lucky enough to find a bit of board and a few nails, with which he managed to make the door more secure. At last, the roof of this second house began to fail also; and Kerr and his wife and niece had no way of escaping but through the thatch.
Whilst the party in the cottage were undergoing all this, there were some on the shore who were very anxiously watching their fate; and among them a son of Kerr's, who had been straining his eyes towards his father's cottage all night long; unable to send help to them, and never expecting to see them alive more. Those about the young man tried to comfort him; but even whilst they were speaking to him the gable of Kerr's dwelling was seen to give way, and to fall into the raging current. But a gentleman, who was looking towards the cottage with a telescope, observed a hand thrust through the thatch of the house next to it. The hand worked busily, as if in despair of life; then a head appeared, and, at length, Kerr was seen to drag himself through the roof, and to drag up his wife and niece through the thatch after him. The three unfortunate people were then seen crawling along the roof
towards the next house, for there were three houses built in a row: Kerr went first, and behind him the woman and girl, hardly able, from the force of the wind, to keep a blanket round them. Fortunate was it for them that old Kerr possessed so much courage and sense, exactly when courage and sense were wanting, for the tottering roof they had just left fell into the water, and was swept away. Kerr now tried in vain to force a passage through the thatch into the next house, but, finding he could not do it, he attempted one of the windows with no better success. He was then seen to drop himself down from the eaves upon a small speck of ground, a little higher than the rest, close to the back wall of the houses. To that spot of ground, where there was just room for them to stand, but not to move, he managed to get his wife and niece safely down.
Among those who could see all this going on was also a nephew of old Kerr's, the brother of the little girl who was with Kerr and his wife; and he was half distracted by the sight. "Good God! friends," he exclaimed, "will you allow human beings to perish before your eyes, and do nothing to give them help? If I had but a boat, I would try to save them. Will nobody give me a horse to go in search of one ?"
It has already been mentioned that a lady in the neighbourhood lent her horses to drag a boat to the place where it was wanted; and in this boat it was that the Kerrs were taken from the dangerous spot on which they stood, before the brave men in the boat went on to Sandy Smith and his family, who, it will be remembered, had a few more yards of ground to stand upon than the Kerrs. The skill and coolness of these men, among whom was Straw Hat and Yellow Waistcoat, were witnessed by those on shore with admiration, and when they saw that they had crossed the dangerous currents, just in time to save the Kerrs, who had now only about three feet of earth left to stand upon, they gave them three hearty cheers. They were in no small degree rejoiced to see Kerr, and his poor wife, and the little girl, stowed safely into the boat; but when, directly after, they saw the brave Yellow Waistcoat wading away, and sounding the depths with a pole, until he got to one end of the building, and then beheld him lay hold of a large pig, and throw it into the boat as easily as if it had been a rabbit, they were angry to think his life should have been risked for such a saving: but he must have been a goodnatured fellow, for it seems that the pig belonged to a poor widow, and was all the property she had left.
When the frail boat, crossing again all the dangerous streams, arrived at the shore with the little party, they were received by many of their friends with so much heart and rejoicing, that even old Kerr, who was known for his firmness by the name of old Rodney, could not help shedding a few tears among the rest, exclaiming in his homely Scotch," Hoot, toot, nonsense! Wha't this o't? Toots! I canna stand this mair than you, bairns. Od! I maun just greet it out."