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Grace, her father felt how great an effort it would require to send her from them ; it therefore became the determination of Mr. Darling, that he himself should become her preceptor, and his should be the task to form her youthful mind, and lead her into wisdom's pleasant paths. Mr. Darling found the work of education a much more easy and pleasing employment than he had anticipated. Grace was endowed with a quickness and intelligence superior to her years, in addition to a love for knowledge combined with a memory the most retentive, and was also passionately fond of the many legends and traditionary ballads connected with the coast. Her happy, joyous voice might be heard singing snatches of the latter while moving about the house, engaged in those domestic employments in which she assisted her mother; or when rambling along the beach, accompanied by a large Newfoundland dog, a faithful favourite of her father's.
“ Her laughing voice made all rejoice
Who caught the bappy sound :
As it lightly touch'd the ground."
Whilst yet almost a child, Grace would accompany her father in his expeditions out to sea, hence she soon acquired a skill and address in the management of a boat, seldom surpassed by the oldest and most experienced boatman; and at an early age had learned to guide the little coble through the rocks and shallows by which the islands are intersected, a task requiring courage and intrepidity : thus she became so completely associated with her father, that he would rarely be without her presence; and as her brothers and sisters in rotation left their home, Grace became at length the only one remaining to cheer and enliven the dwelling of her parents.
It was a happy circumstance for Grace Darling that she possessed a taste and fondness for literature, which enabled her at all times to derive amusement from the perusal of books, and this prevented her ever feeling the hours passed on that lonely island, dull or devoid of interest. It is true the little library could not boast the possession of many volumes, but these, though few, were well chosen, and the book of nature was ever open to her view. Of the various kinds of the finny tribe, the weeds and shells found along the shore, and the nature and habits of the sea birds which frequented the islands, she acquired a most perfect knowledge, and they were with her a favourite study. And although confined in a great measure to the house during the long and dreary months of winter, seated by the side of her parents, and reading to them the pages of history, biography, or travels, the hours thus spent were rich in interest to the enquiring mind of Grace.
With the advancing spring, Grace was again enabled to visit her many favourites of the feathered race, to whom she had always shewn a love and kindness, strengthened by the precepts and the example received from her parents of treating every creature with humanity and tenderness; and even during the first years of childhood, she evinced the strongest traits of a benevolent and feeling heart. In corroboration of this favourable portrait of her amiable character, the following sketch, from the pen of a talented writer, who visited the island during Grace's early years, will be found highly interesting :
“ It was my good fortune, many years ago, to spend a summer day among the Fern Islands. The party, of whom I was one, took a pic nic dinner in the light-house, of which William Darling was tenant. The daughter was then about five years old, and I remember her as one of the sweetest of children I ever saw. This remembrance of beauty, though strong, might have faded, had it not been united with a feeling which led, I am persuaded, to her contempt of life when that of others was endangered. She was brought up with the strictest feelings of humanity towards inferior animals. The island on which she dwells is the peculiar resort of the tern; and, at the time I mention, it was absolutely strewed with the unfledged young of that bird ; so much as to render it difficult to step out of an imperfectly marked foot-path without treading on some of them. An eider-duck, the shyest of all wild birds, had made her nest on the ground very near the light-house; the little girl took it under her own peculiar charge, and the bird became so accustomed to her, as to allow her to approach close to her nest, without shewing the least alarm. Strangers in her company might approach within three or four yards; but, without the protection of her sweet countenance, and the shelter, if I may call it so, of her mild, clear eye, no one could approach within five times the distance before the bird flew away. Had the worthy father of Grace allowed, or, as too many parents do, encouraged his daughter in acts of wanton cruelty, no one would think that she would, in so exemplary a manner, have shewn her affection for her own kind. I have not a shadow of a doubt, that the nine persons so happily rescued owe their lives to the humane education of this interesting and truly heroic maiden.”—Correspondent of the Liverpool Albion, Dec. 1838.
“ Trust not yon smiling sky."
The current of time passes on, like the flow and ebb of the ocean. The first sixteen years of Grace Darling's existence were passed unmarked beyond the ordinary course of events. Her childhood had been spent in joyous happiness, protected by her parents' fostering
She scarcely knew by name ought of the turmoils and distracting cares which break the peace of those who move amid the world's gay throng. Grace now lingered on the verge of girlhood, and the gay and thoughtless child was fast emerging into a graceful and superior woman. Yet her laugh was as gay, and her eye as bright, as when, in the sunny days of childhood, she would scramble amidst the rocks in search of some of her favourite shells. Her parents were the centre of her affections; and so free from selfishness was her kind and generous nature, that to see that they were happy, and to know that she contributed towards establishing that happiness, was reward sufficient for every exertion made in administering to the comfort of those dear to her. Her brothers and sisters, as has before been related, were now all absent from their home; and Grace, by sending many a kind token of remembrance, strove to assure them, that although absent, they were not