i00bost.

Favorite authors in prose and poetry online

. (page 30 of 66)
Online Libraryi00bostFavorite authors in prose and poetry → online text (page 30 of 66)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


herself be overtaken.

" Good morning, Miss Purtett." (Dogged air.)

" Good morning, Mr. Tarbox." (Taken-by-surprise air.)

" I 've been admiring your skating," says Bill, trying to
be cool.

" Have you ? " rejoins Belle, very cool and distant

" Have you been long on the ice ? " he inquired, hypo-
critically.

" I came on two hours ago with Mr. Ringdove and the
girls," returned she, with a twinkle which said, " Take that,
sir, for pretending you did not see me."

" You 've seen Mr. Wade skate, then," Bill said, ignoring
Ringdove.

" Yes ; is n't it splendid ? " Belle replied, kindling.

" Tip-top ! "

" But then he does everything better than anybody."

" So he does ! " Bill said, true to his friend, and yet
beginning to be jealous of this enthusiasm. It was not the
first time he had been jealous of Wade ; but he had quelled
his fears, like a good fellow.

Belle perceived Bill's jealousy, aud could have cried for
joy. She had known as little of her once lover's heart as



122 THEODORE WINTHROP.

he of hers. She only knew that he stopped coming to see
her when he fell, and had not renewed his visits now that
he was risen again. If she had not been charmingly ruddy
with the brisk air and exercise, she would have betrayed
her pleasure at Bill's jealousy with a fine blush.

The sense of recovered power made her wish to use it
again. She must tease him a little. So she continued, as
they skated on in good rhythm,

" Mother and I would n't know what to do without Mr.
"Wade. We like him so much," said ardently.

What Bill feared was true, then, he thought. Wade,
noble fellow, worthy to win any woman's heart, had fasci-
nated his landlady's daughter.

" I don't wonder you like him," said he. " He deserves
it."

Belle was touched by her old lover's forlorn tone.

" He does indeed," she said. " He has helped and
taught us all so much. He has taken such good care of
Perry. And then" here she gave her companion a
little look and a little smile " he speak's so kindly of you,
Mr. Tarbox."

Smile, look, and words electrified Bill. He gave such a
spring on his skates that he shot far ahead of the lady. He
brought himself back with a sharp turn.

" He has done kinder than he can speak," says Bill.
" He has made a man of me again, Miss Belle."

" I know it. It makes me very happy to hear you able
to say so of yourself." She spoke gravely.

" Very happy " about anything that concerned him ?
Bill had to work off his over-joy at this by an exuberant
flourish. He whisked about Belle, outer edge backward.
She stopped to admire. He finished by describing on the
virgin ice, before her, the letters B. P., in his neatest style
of podography, easy letters to make, luckily.

Beautiful ! " exclaimed Belle. " What are those let-
ters ? Oh ! B. P. ! What do they stand for ? "



LOVE AMD SKATES. 12 J

"Guess!"

"I'm so dull,'' said she, looking bright as a diamond.
Let me think ! B. P. ? British Poets, perhaps."

" Try nearer home ! "

" What are you likely to be thinking of that begins with
B. P. ? O, I know ! Boiler Plates ! "

She looked at him, innocent as a lamb. Bill looked
at her, delighted with her little coquetry. A woman
without coquetry is insipid as a rose without scent, as
Champagne without bubbles, or as corned beef without
mustard.

" It 's something I 'm thinking of most of the time," says
he; "but I hope it's softer than Boiler Plates. B. P
stands for ^liss Isabella Purtett."

" Oh ! " says Belle, and she skated on in silence.

" You came down with Alonzo Ringdove ? " BiH
asked, suddenly, aware of another pang after a moment
of peace.

" He came with me and his sisters," she replied.

Yes ; poor Ringdove had dressed himself in his shiniest
black, put on his brightest patent-leather boots, with his
new swan-necked skates newly strapped over them, and
wore his new dove-colored overcoat with the long skirts, on
purpose to be lovely hi the eyes of Belle on this occasion.
Alas, in vain !

" Mr. Ringdove is a great friend of yours, is n't he ? "

" If you ever came 'to see me now, you would know who
my friends are, Mr. Tarbox."

" Would you be my friend again, if I came, Miss
Belle ? "

"Again? I have always been so, always, Bill."

" Well, then, something more than my friend, now that
I am trying to be worthy of more, Belle ? "

" What more can I be ? " she said, softly.

M wife."



124 THEODORE WINTHROP.

She curved to the right. He followed. To the left. He
was not to be shaken off.

" Will you promise me not to say waives instead of valves,
Bill ? " she said, looking pretty and saucy as could be. " I
know, to say W for V is fashionable in the iron business ;
but I don't like it."

" What a thing a woman is to dodge ? " says Bill. " Sup-
pose I told you that men brought up inside of boilers,
hammering on the inside against twenty hammering like
Wulcans on the outside, get their ears so dumfounded that
they can't tell whether they are saying valves or waives,
wice or virtue, suppose I told you that, what would
you say, Belle ? "

" Perhaps I 'd say that you pronounce virtue so well, and
act it so sincerely, that I can't make any objection to your
other words. If you 'd asked me to be your vife, Bill, I
might have said I did n't understand ; but wife I do under-
stand, and I say "

She nodded, and tried to skate off. Bill stuck close to
her side.

"Is this true, Belle?" he said, almost doubtfully.

"True as truth!"

She put out her hand. He took it, and they skated on
together, hearts beating to the rhythm of their move-
ments. The uproar and merriment of the village came only
faintly to them. It seemed as if all Nature was hushed to
listen to their plighted troth, their words of love renewed,
more earnest for long suppression. The beautiful ice spread
before them, like their life to come, a pathway untouched
by any sorrowful or weary footstep. The blue sky was
cloudless. The keen air stirred the pulses like the vapor
of frozen wine. The benignant mountains westward kindly
surveyed the happy pair, and the sun seemed created to
warm and cheer them.

And you forgive me, Belle ? " said the lover. " I feel



LOVE AND SKATES. 125

as if I had only gone bad to make me know bow much
better going right is."

" I always knew you would find it out. I never stopped
hoping and praying for it."

" That must have been what brough't Mr. Wade here."

" Oh, I did hate him so, Bill, when I heard of something
that happened between you and him! I thought him a
brute and a tyrant. I never could get over it, until he told
mother that you were the best machinist he ever knew, and
would some time grow to be a great inventor."

" I 'm glad you hated him. I suffered rattlesnakes and
collapsed flues for fear you M go and love him."

" My affections were engaged," she said with simple
seriousness.*

" Oh, if I 'd only thought so long ago ! How lovely you
are ! " exclaims Bill, in an ecstasy. " And how refined I
And how good ! God bless you ! "

He made up such a wishful mouth, so wishful for one
of the pleasurable duties of mouths, that Belle blushed,
laughed, and looked down, and as she did so saw that one
of her straps was trailing.

" Please fix it, Bill," she said, stopping and kneeling.

Bill also knelt, and his wishful mouth immediately took
its chance.

A manly smack and sweet little feminine chirp sounded
as their lips met.

Boom ! twanging gay as the first tap of a marriage-bell,
a loud crack in the ice rang musically for leagues up and
down the river. " Bravo ! " it seemed to say. " Well done,
Bill Tarbox ! Try again ! " Which the happy fellow did,
and the happy maiden permitted.

" Now," said Bill, " let us go and hug Mr. Wade ! "

" What ! Both of us ? " Belle protested. " Mr. Tarbox,
I am ashamed of you ! "



126 THEODORE WINTHROP.

CHAPTER VII.

WADE DOWN.

THE hugging of Wade by the happy pair had to be done
metaphorically, since it was done in the sight of all Dunder-
bunk.

He had divined a happy result when he missed Bill Tar-
box from the arena, and saw him a furlong away, hand in
hand with his reconciled sweetheart.

" I envy you, Bill," said he, " almost too much to put
proper fervor into my congratulations."

" Your time will come," the foreman rejoined.

And says Belle, " I am sure there is a lady skating some-
where, and only waiting for you to follow her."

" I don't see her," Wade replied, looking with a mock-
grave face up and down and athwart the river. " When
you 've all gone to dinner, I '11 prospect ten miles up and
down, and try to find a good matrimonial claim that 's not
taken."

" You will not come up to dinner ? " Belle asked.

" I can hardly afford to make two bites of a holiday,"
said Wade. " I Ve sent Perry up for a luncheon. Here
he comes with it. So I cede my quarter of your pie, Miss
Belle, to a better fellow."

" Oh ! " cries Perry, coming up and bowing elaborately.
" Mr. and Mrs. Tarbox, I believe. Ah, yes ! Well, I
will mention it up at Albany. I am going to take my
Guards up to call on the Governor."

Perry dashed off, followed by a score of Dunderbunk
boys, organized by him as the Purtett Guards, and taught
to salute him as Generalissimo with military honors.

So many hundreds of turkeys, done to a turn, now began
to have an effect upon the atmosphere. Few odors are
more subtile and pervading than this, and few more appetiz-



LOVE AND SKATES. 127

ing. Indeed, there is said to be an odd fellow, a strictly
American gourmand, in New York, who sits from noon to
dusk on Christmas day up in a tall steeple, merely to catch
the aroma of roast-turkey floating over the city, and
much good, it is said, it doesihhn.

Hard skating is nearly as effective to whet Lunger as his
gentleman's expedient When the spicy breezes began to
blow soft as those of Ceylon's isle over the river and every
whiff talked Turkey, the population of Dunderbunk listened
to the wooing and began to follow its several noses snubs,
beaks, blunts, sharps, piquants, dominants, fines, bulgies, and
bifids on the way to the several households which those
noses adorned or defaced. Prosperous Dunderbunk had a
Dinner, yes, a DINNER, that day, and Richard Wade was
gratefully remembered by many over-fed foundry-men and
their over-fed families.

Wade had not had half skating enough.

" I '11 time myself down to Skerrett's Point," he thought,
" and take my luncheon there among the hemlocks."

The Point was on the property of Peter Skerrett, Wade's
friend and college comrade of ten years gone. Peter had
been an absentee in Europe, and smokes from his chimneys
this morning had confirmed to Wade's eyes the rumor of his
return.

Skerrett's Point was a mile below the Foundry. Our
hero did his mile under three minutes. How many seconds
under, I will not say. I do not wish to make other fellows
unhappy.

The Point was a favorite spot of Wade's. Many a twi-
light of last summer, tired with his fagging at the Works to
make good the evil of Whiffler's rule, he had lain there on
the rocks under the hemlocks, breathing the spicy methyl
they poured into the air. After his day's hard fight, in the
dust and heat of the Foundry, with anarchy and unthrift, he
used to take the quiet restoratives of Nature, until the mur-



128 THEODORE WINTHROP.

inur and fragrance of the woods, the cool wind, and the
soothing loiter of the shining stream had purged him from
the fevers of his task.

To this old haunt he skated, and kindling a little fire, as
an old campaigner loves to* do, he sat down and lunched
heartily on Mrs. Purtett's cold leg, cannibal thought !
on the cold leg of Mrs. Purtett's yesterday's turkey. Then
lighting his weed, dear ally of the lonely, the Superin-
tendent began to think of his foreman's bliss, and to long for
some thing similar on his own plane.

" I hope the wish is lather to its fulfilment," he said.
" But I must not stop here and be spooney. Such a halcyon
day I may not have again in all my life, and I ought to make
the best of it with my New Skates."

So he dashed off, and filled the little cove above the Point
with a labyrinth of curves and flourishes.

When that bit of crystal tablet was well covered, the
podographer sighed for a new sheet to inscribe his intricate
rubricas upon. Why not write more stanzas of the poetry
of motion on the ice below the Point ? Why not ?

Braced by his lunch on the brown fibre of good Mrs.
Purtett's cold drumstick and thigh, Wade was now in fine
trim. The air was more glittering and electric than ever.
It was triumph and victory and paean in action to go flashing
along over this footing, smoother than polished marble and
sheenier than first-water gems.

Wade felt the high exhilaration of pure blood galloping
through a body alive from top to toe. The rhythm of liis
movement was like music to him.

The Point ended in a sharp promontory. Just before he
came abreast of it, Wade under mighty headway flung into
his favorite corkscrew spiral on one foot, and went whirling
dizzily along, round and round, in a straight line.

At the dizziest moment, he was suddenly aware of a figure
also turning the Point at full speed, and rushing to a col-
lision.



LOVE AND SKATES. 129

He jerked aside to avoid it. He could not look to his
footing. His skate struck a broken oar, imbedded in the
ice. He fell violently, and lay like a dead man.

His New Skates, Testimonial of Merit, seem to have
served liim a shabby trick.



CHAPTER VIII.



SEEING Wade lie there motionless, the lady

Took off her spectacles, blew her great red nose, and
stiffly drew near.

Spectacles ! Nose ! No, the latter feature of hers had
never become acquainted with the former ; and there was as
little stiffness as nasal redness about her.

A fresh start, then, and this time accuracy !

Appalled by the loud thump of the stranger's skull upon
the chief river of the State of New York, the lady it was
a young lady whom Wade had tumbled to avoid turned,
saw a human being lying motionless, and swept gracefully
toward him, like a Good Samaritan, on the outer edge. It
was not her fault, but her destiny, that she had to be grace-
ful even under these tragic circumstances.

" Dead ! " she thought. " Is he dead ? "

The appalling thump had cracked the ice, and she could
not know how well the skull was cushioned inside with
brains to resist a blow.

She shuddered as she swooped about toward this possible
corpse. It might be that he was killed, and half the fault
hers. No wonder her fine color, shining in the right parts
of an admirably drawn face, all disappeared instantly.

But she evidently was not frightened. She halted, kneeled,
looked curiously at the stranger, and then proceeded, in a
perfectly cool and self-possessed way, to pick him up.
9



130 THEODORE WINTHROP.

A solid fellow, heavy to lift in his present lumpish condi-
tion of dead- weight ! She had to tug mightily to get him up
into a sitting position. When he was raised, all the back-
bone seemed gone from his spine, and it took the whole force
of her vigorous arms to sustain him.

The effort was enough to account for the return of her
color. It came rushing back splendidly. Cheeks, forehead,
everything but nose, blushed. The hard work of lifting so
much avoirdupois, and possibly, also, the novelty of support-
ing so much handsome fellow, intensified all her hues. Her
eyes blue, or that shade even more faithful than blue
deepened ; and her pale golden hair grew several carats
not carrots brighter.

She was repaid for her active sympathy at once by discov-
ering that this big, awkward thing was not a dead, but only
a stunned body. It had an ugly bump and a bleeding cut
on its manly skull, but otherwise was quite an agreeable
object to contemplate, and plainly on its " unembarrassed
brow Nature had written k Gentleman.' "

As this young lady had never had a fair, steady stare at a
stunned hero before, she seized her advantage. She had
hitherto been distant with the other sex. She had no
brother. Not one of her male cousins had ever ventured
near enough to get those cousinly privileges that timid
cousins sigh for and plucky cousins take, if they are worth
taking.

Wade's impressive face, though for the moment blind as a
statue's, also seized its advantage and stared "at her in-
tently, with a pained and pleading look, new to those reso-
lute features.

Wade was entirely unconscious of the great hit he had
made by his tumble : plump into the arms of this heroine !
There were fellows extant who would have suffered anj
imaginable amputation, any conceivable mauling, any fling
from the apex of anything into the lowest deeps of any-
where, for the honor he was now enjoying.



LOVE AND SKATES. 131

But all he knew was that his skull was a beehive in an
uproar, and that one lobe of his brain was struggling to
swarm off. His legs and arms felt as if they belonged to
another man, and a very limp one at that. A ton of cast-iron
seemed to be pressing his eyelids down, and a trickle of red-
hot metal flowed from his cut forehead.

" I shall have to scream," thought the lady, after an instant
of anxious waiting, " if he does not revive. I cannct leave
him to go for help."

Not a prude, you see. A prude would have had cheap
scruples about compromising herself by taking a man in
her arms. Not a vulgar person, who would have required
the stranger to be properly recommended by somebody who
came over 'in the Mayflower, before she helped him. Not a
feeble-minded damsel, who, if she had not fainted, would
have fled away, gasping and in tears. No timidity or
prudery or underbred doubts about this thorough creature.
She knew she was in her right womanly place, and she
meant to stay there.

But she began to need help, possibly a lancet, possibly a
pocket-pistol, possibly hot blankets, possibly somebody to
knead these lifeless lungs and pommel this flaccid body,
until circulation was restored.

Just as she was making up her mind to scream, Wade
stirred. He began to tingle as if a familiar of the Inquisi-
tion were slapping him all over with fine-toothed currycombs.
He became half conscious of a woman supporting him. Jo
a stammering and intoxicated voice he murmured,

" Who ran to catch me when I fell,
And kissed the place to make it well ?
My-"

He opened his eyes. It was not his mother ; for she was
long since deceased. Nor was this non-mother kissing the
place.

In fact, abashed at the blind eyes suddenly unclosing s<?



132 THEODORE WINTHROP.

near her, she was on the point of letting her burden drop.
When dead men come to life in such a position, and begin to
talk about " kissing the place," young ladies, however inde-
pendent of conventions, may well grow uneasy.

But the stranger, though alive, was evidently in a mollus-
cous, invertebrate condition. He could not sustain himself.
She still held lum up, a little more at arm's-length, and all
at once the reaction from extreme anxiety brought a gush
of tears to her eyes.

" Don't cry," says Wade, vaguely, and still only half con-
scious. " I promise never to do so again."

At this, said with a childlike earnestness, the lady smiled.

" Don't scalp me," Wade continued, in the same tone.
" Squaws never scalp."

He raised his hand to his bleeding forehead.

She laughed outright at his queer plaintive tone and the
new class he had placed her in.

Her laugh and his own movement brought Wade fully to
himself. She perceived that his look was transferring her
from the order of scalping squaws to her proper place as a
beautiful young woman of the highest civilization, not smeared,
with vermilion, but blushing celestial rosy.

" Thank you," said Wade. " I can sit up now without
assistance." And he regretted profoundly that good breed
ing obliged him to say so.

She withdrew her arms. He rested on the ice, posture
of the Dying Gladiator. She made an effort to be cool and
distant as usual ; but it would not do. Tin's weak mighty
man still interested her. It was still her business to be
strength tc him.

He made a feeble attempt to wipe away the drops of
blood from his forehead with his handkerchief.

" Let me be your surgeon ! " said she.

She produced her own folded handkerchief, M. D. were
the initials in the corner, and neatly and tenderly tur-
bancd him.



LOVE AND SKATES. Io3

Wade submitted with delight to this treatment. A tum-
ble with such trimmings was luxury indeed.

" Who would not break his head," he thought, " to have
these delicate fingers plying about him, and this pure, noble
face so close to his ? What a queenly indifferent manner
she has ! What a calm brow ! What honest eyes ! What
a firm nose ! What equable cheeks ! What a grand indig-
nant mouth ! Not a bit afraid of me ! She feels that I f on
a gentleman and will not presume."

" There ! " said she, drawing back. " Is that comforta-
ble ? "

" Luxury ! " he ejaculated with fervor.

" I am afraid I am to blame for your terrible fall."

" No, \my own clumsiness and that oar-blade are in
fault."

" If you feel well enough to be left alone, I will skate off
and call my friends."

" Please do not leave me quite yet ! " says Wade, entirely
satisfied with the tete-a-tete.

"Ah! here comes Mr. Skerrett round the Point!" she
said, and sprang up, looking a little guilty.



CHAPTER IX.

LOVE IN THE FIRST DEGREE.

PETER SKERRETT came sailing round the purple rocks
of his Point, skating like a man who has been in the South
of Europe for two winters.

He was decidedly Anglicized in his whiskers, coat, and
shoes. Otherwise he in all respects repeated his well-known
ancestor, Skerrett of the Revolution; whose two portraits
1. A ruddy hero in regimentals, in Gilbert Stuart's early
brandy -arid-water manner ; 2. A rosy sage in senatorial, in
Stuart's later claret-and- water manner hang in his de-
scendant's dining-room.



134 THEODORE WINTHROP.

Peter's first look was a provokingly significant one at the
confused and blushing young lady. Secondly, he inspected
the Dying Gladiator on the ice.

" Have you been tilting at this gentleman, Mary ? " he
asked, in the voice of a cheerful, friendly fellow. " Why !
Hullo. Hooray ! It 's Wade, Richard Wade, Dick Wade !
Don't look, Miss Mary, while I give him the grips .of all the
secret societies we belonged to in college."

Mary, however, did look on, pleased and amused, while
Peter plumped down on the ice, shook his friend's hand,
and examined him as if he were fine crockery, spilt and
perhaps shattered.

" It 's not a case of trepanning, Dick, my boy ? " said he.

" No," said the other. " I tumbled in trying to dodge
this lady. The ice thought my face ought to be scratched,
because I had been scratching its face without mercy. My
wits were knocked out of me ; but they are tired of secession,
and pleading to be let in again."

" Keep some of them out for our sake ! We must have
you at our commonplace level. Well, Miss Mary, I suppose
this is the first time you have had the sensation of breaking
a man's head. You generally hit lower." Peter tapped
his heart.

" I 'm all right now, thanks to my surgeon," says Wade.
" Give me a lift, Peter." He pulled up and clung to his
friend.

" You 're the vine and I 'm the lamp-post," Skerrett said.
* Mary, do you know what a pocket-pistol is ? "

" I have seen such weapons concealed about the persons
of modern warriors."

" There 's one in my overcoat-pocket, with a cup at the
but and a cork at the muzzle. Skate off, now, like an angel,
and get it. Bring Fanny, too. She is restorative."

" Are you alive enough to admire that, Dick ? " he con-
tinued, as she skimmed away.



LOVE AND SKATES. 135

* It would put a soul under the ribs of Death."

" I venerate that young woman," says Peter. " You see
what a beauty she is, and just as unspoiled as this ice. Un-
spoiled beauties are rarer than rocs' eggs."

" She has a singularly true face," "Wade replied, " and that
is the main thing, the most excellent thing in man or
woman."

" Yes, truth makes that nuisance, beauty, tolerable."

" You did not do me the honor to present me."

" I saw you had gone a great way beyond that, my boy.
Have you not her initials in cambric on your brow ? Not
M. T., which would n't apply ; but M. D."

"Mary ?"

Darner."

" I like the name," says Wade, repeating it. " It sounds
simple and thorough-bred."

" Just what she is. One of the nine simple-hearted and
thorough-bred girls on this continent."

Nine ? "

" Is that too many ? Three, then. That 's one in ten
millions. The exact proportion of Poets, Painters, Orators,
Statesmen, and all other Great Artists. Well, three or
nine, Mary Darner is one of them. She never saw fear



Online Libraryi00bostFavorite authors in prose and poetry → online text (page 30 of 66)