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realize itself, and he should see his enthusiastic companion
of the other day sailing gracefully along to certain death.

Nothing living, however, was in sight, except here and
there a crow, skipping about in the floating ice.

The lover was greatly relieved. He could now forewarn
the lady against the peril he had imagined. The train in a
moment dropped him at Dunderbunk. He hurried to the
Foundry and wrote a note to Mrs. Darner.

" Mr. Wade presents his compliments to Mrs. Darner, and
has the honor to inform her that Mr. Skerrett has nomi-
nated him carver to the ladies to-day in their host's place.

" Mr. Wade hopes that Miss Darner will excuse him from
his engagement to skate with her tin's afternoon. The ice is
dangerous, and Miss Darner should on no account venture
upon it."


Perry Purtett was the bearer of this billet. He swag-
gered into Peter Skerrett's hall, and dreadfully alarmed the
fresh-imported Englishman who answered the bell, by order-
ing him in a severe tone,

" Hurry up, now, White Cravat, with that answer ! I 'm
wanted down at the Works. Steam don't bile when I'm
off; and the fly-wheel will never buzz another turn, unless
I 'm there to motion it to move on."

Mrs. Darner's gracious reply informed Wade "that she
should be charmed to see him at dinner, etc., and would not
fail to transmit his kind warning to Miss Darner, when she
returned from her drive to make calls."

But when Miss Darner returned in the afternoon, her
mother was taking a gentle nap over the violet, indigo, blue,
green, yellow, orange, red stripes of a gorgeous Afghan she
was knitting. The daughter heard nothing of the billet.
The house was lonely without Fanny Skerrett. Mr. Wade
did not come at the appointed hour. Mary was not willing
to say to herself how much she regretted his absence.

Had he forgotten the appointment ?

No, that was a thought not to be tolerated.

" A gentleman does not forget," she thought, and she haa
a thorough confidence, besides, that this gentleman was very
willing to remember.

She read a little, fitfully, sang fitfully, moved about the
house uneasily ; and at last, when it grew late, and she was
bored and Wade did not arrive, she pronounced to herself
that he had been detained in town.

This point settled, she took her skates, put on her pretty
Amazonian hat with its alert feather, and went down to
waste her beauty and grace on the ice, unattended and




IT was a busy afternoon at the Dunderbunk Foundry.

The Superintendent had come back with his pocket fid]
rf orders. Everybody, from the Czar of Russia to the
Piesident of the Guano Republic, was in the market for
machinery. Crisis was gone by. Prosperity was come.
The world was all ready to move, and only waited for a
fresh supply of wheels, cranks, side-levers, walking-beams,
and other such muscular creatures of iron, to push and tug
and swing and revolve and set Progress a-going.

Dunderfcunk was to have its full share in supplying the
demand. It was well understood by this time that the iron
Wade made was as stanch as the man who made it. Dun-
derbunk, therefore, Head and Hands, must despatch.

So it was a busy afternoon at the industrious Foundry.
The men bestirred themselves. The furnaces rumbled.
The engine thumped. The drums in the finishing-shop
hummed merrily their lively song of labor. The four trip-
hammers two bull-headed, two calf-headed champed,
like carnivorous maws, upon red bars of iron, and over
their banquet they roared the big-toned music of the trip-
hammer chorus.

"Now then! hit hard!
Strike while Iron 's hot. Life 's short Art 's long."

By this massive refrain, ringing in at intervals above the
ceaseless buzz, murmur, and clang throughout the buildings,
every man's work was mightily nerved and inspired. Every-
body liked to hear the sturdy song of these grim vocalists ;
and whenever they struck in, each solo or duo or quatuor
of men, playing Anvil Chorus, quickened time, and all the
action and rumor of the busy opera went on more cheerilj
and lustily. So work kept astir like play.


An hour before sunset, Bill Tarbox stepped into Wade's
office. Even oily and begrimed, Bill could be recognized as
a favored lover. He looked more a man than ever before.

" I forgot to mention," says the foreman, " that Cap'n
Ambuster was in, this morning, to see you. He says, that,
if the river 's clear enough for him to get away from our
dock, he '11 go down to the City to-morrow, and offers to
take freight cheap. We might put that new walking-beam,
we 've just rough-finished for the ' Union,' aboard of him."

" Yes, if he is sure to go to-morrow. It will not do to
delay. The owners complained to me yesterday that the
4 Union ' was in a bad way for want of its new machinery.
Tell your brother-in-law to come here, Bill."

Tarbox looked sheepishly pleased, and summoned Perry

" Run down, Perry," said Wade, " to the ' Ambuster,' and
ask Captain Isaac to step up here a moment. Tell him I
have some freight to send by him."

Perry moved through the Foundry with his usual jaunty
step, left his dignity at the door, and ran off to the dock.

The weather had grown fitful. Heavy clouds whirled
over, trailing snow-flurries. Rarely the sun found a cleft in
the black canopy to shoot a ray through and remind the
world that he was still in his place and ready to shine when
he was wanted.

Master Perry had a furlong to go before he reached the
dock. He crossed the stream, kept unfrozen by the warm
influences of the Foundry. He ran through a little dell
hedged on each side by dull green cedars. It was severely
cold now, and our young friend condescended to prance and
jump over the ice-skimmed puddles to keep his blood in

The little rusty, pudgy steamboat lay at the down-stream
side of the Foundry Wharf. Her name was so long and
her paddle-box so short, that the painter, beginning with


ambitious large letters, had been compelled to abbreviate
the last syllable. Her title read thus :


Certainly a formidable inscription for a steamboat !

When she hove in sight, Perry halted, resumed his
stately demeanor, and embarked as if he were a Doge
entering a Bucentaur to wed a Sea.

There was nobody on deck to witness the arrival and
salute the magnijico.

Perry looked in at the CapVs office. He beheld a three-
legged stool, a hacked desk, an inky steel-pen, an inkless
inkstand ; but no Cap'n Ambuster.

Perry inspected the Cap'n's state-room. There was a
cracked looking-glass, into which he looked ; a hair-brush
suspended by the glass, which he used ; a lair of blankets in
a berth, which he had no present use for ; and a smell of
musty boots, which nobody with a nose could help smelling.
Still no Captain Ambuster, nor any of his crew.

Search in the unsavory kitchen revealed no cook, coiled
up in a corner, suffering nightmares for the last greasy
dinner he had brewed hi his frying-pan. There were no
deck hands bundled into their bunks. Perry rapped on the
chain-box and inquired if anybody was within, and nobody
answering, he had to ventriloquize a negative.

The engine-room, too, was vacant, and quite as unsavory
as the other dens on board. Perry patronized the engine
by a pull or two at the valves, and continued his tour of

The Ambuster's skiff, lying on her forward deck, seemed
to entertain him vastly.

" Jolly ! " says Perry. And so it was a jolly boat in the
literal, not the technical sense.

" The three wise men of Gotham went to sea in a bowl ;
and here 's the identical craft," says Perry.


He gave the chubby little machine a push with his foot
It rolled and wallowed about grotesquely. When it was
still again, it looked so comic, lying contentedly on its fat
side like a pudgy baby, that Perry had a roar of laughter,
which, like other laughter to one's self, did not sound very
merry, particularly as the north-wind was howling omi-
nously, and the broken ice, on its downward way, was
whispering and moaning and talking on in a most mysteri-
ous and inarticulate manner.

" Those sheets of ice would crunch up this skiff, as pigs
do a punkin," thinks Perry.

And with this ^thought in his head he looked out on the
river, and fancied the foolish little vessel cast loose and
buffeting helplessly about in the ice.

He had been so busy until now, in prying about the
steamboat and making up his mind that Captain and men
had all gone off for a comfortable supper on shore, that his
eyes had not wandered toward the stream.

Now his glance began to follow the course of the icy cur-
rent. He wondered where all this supply of cakes came
from, and how many of them would escape the stems of
ferry-boats below and get safe to sea.

All at once, as he looked lazily along the lazy files of ice,
his eyes caught a black object drifting on a fragment in a
wide way of open water opposite Skerrett's Point, a mile

Perry's heart stopped beating. He uttered a little gasp-
ing cry. He sprang ashore, not at all like a Doge quitting
a Bucentaur. He tore back to the Foundry, dashing
through the puddles, and, never stopping to pick up his cap,
burst in upon Wade and Bill Tarbox in the office.

The boy was splashed from head to foot with red mud.
His light hair, blown wildly about, made his ashy face seem
paler. He stood panting.

His dumb terror brought back to Wade's mind all the bad
omens of the morning.


* Speak 1 " said he, seizing Peny fiercely by the shoulder.

The uproar of the Works seemed to hush for an instant,
while the lad stammered faintly,

" There 's somebody carried off in the ice by Skerrett's
Point. It looks like a woman. And there 's nobody to



" HELP ! help ! " shouted the four trip-hammers, bursting
ji like a magnified echo of the boy's last word. " Help !
help ! " all the humming wheels and drums repeated more

Wade made for the river.

This was the moment all his manhood had been training
and saving for. For this he had kept sound and brave from
his youth up.

As he ran, he felt that the only chance of instant help
was in that queer little bowl-shaped skiff of the " Am-

He had never been conscious that he had observed it ;
but the image had lain latent in his mind, biding its time.
It might be ten, twenty precious moments before another
boat could be found. This one was on the spot to do its
duty at once.

" Somebody carried off, perhaps a woman," Wade
thought. " Not No, she would not neglect my warn-
ing ! Whoever it is, we must save her from this dreadful

He sprang on board the little steamboat. She was sway-
ing uneasily at her moorings, as the ice crowded along and
hammered against her stem. Wade stared from her deck
down the river, with all his life at his eyes.


More than a mile away, below the hemlock-crested point,
was the dark object Perry had seen, still stirring along the
edges of the floating ice. A broad avenue of leaden-green
water wrinkled by the cold wind separated the field where
this figure was moving from the shore. Dark object and its
footing of gray ice were drifting deliberately farther and
farther away.

For one instant Wade thought that the terrible dread in
his heart would paralyze him. But in that one moment,
while his blood stopped flowing and his nerves failed, Bill
Tarbox overtook him and was there by his side.

" I brought your cap," says Bill, " and our two coats."

"Wade put on his cap mechanically. This little action
calmed him.

" Bill," said he, " I 'm afraid it is a woman, a dear
friend of mine, a very dear friend."

Bill, a lover, understood the tone.

" We '11 take care of her between us," he said.

The two turned at once to the little tub of a boat.

Oars ? Yes, slung under the thwarts, a pair of
short sculls, worn and split, but with work in them still.
There they hung ready, and a rusty boat-hook, besides.

" Find the thole-pins, Bill, while I cut a plug for her bot-
tom out of this broomstick," Wade said.

This was done in a moment. "Bill threw in the coats.

" Now, together ! "

They lifted the skiff to the gangway. Wade jumped
down on the ice and received her carefully. They ran
her along, as far as they could go, and launched her in the

" Take the sculls, Bill. 1 11 work the boat-hook in the

Nothing more was said. They thrust out with their crazy
little craft into the thick of the ice-flood. Bill, amidships,
dug with his sculls in among the huddled cakes. It was


clumsy pulling. Now this oar and now that would be
thrown out He could never get a full stroke.

Wade in the bow could do better. He jammed the
blocks aside with his boat-hook. He dragged the skiff
forward. He steered through the little open ways of

Sometimes they came to a broad sheet of solid ice.
Then it was " Out with her, Bill ! " and they were both
out and sliding their bowl so quick over, that they had
not time to go through the rotten surface. This was
drowning business ; but neither could be spared to drown

In the leads of clear water, the oarsman got brave pulls,
and sent the boat on mightily. Then again in the thick
porridge of brash ice they lost headway, or were baffled and
stopped among the cakes. Slow work, slow and painful ;
and for many minutes they seemed to gain nothing upon
the steady flow of the merciless current.

A frail craft for such a voyage, this queer little half-
pumpkin ! A frail and leaky shell. She bent and cracked
from stem to stern among the nipping masses. Water
oozed in through her dry seams. Any moment a rougher
touch or a sharper edge might cut her through. But that
was a risk they had accepted. They did not take time to
think of it, nor to listen to the crunching and crackling of
the hungry ice around. They urged straight on, steadily,
eagerly, coolly, spending and saving strength.

Not one moment to lose ! The shattering of broad sheets
of ice around them was a warning of what might happen to
the frail support of their chase. One thrust of the boat-
hook sometimes cleft a cake that to the eye seemed stout
enough to bear a heavier weight than a woman's.

Not one moment to spare ! The dark figure, now drifted
far below the hemlocks of the Point, no longer stirred. It
seemed to have sunk upon the ice and to be resting there


weary and helpless, on one side a wide way of lurid water
on the other half a mile of moving desolation.

Far to go, and nc time to waste !

Give way, Bill ! Give way ! "

"Ay, ay!"

Both spoke in low tones, hardly louder than the whisper
of the ice around them.

By this time hundreds from the Foundry and the village
were swarming upon the wharf and the steamboat.

" A hundred tar-barrels would n't git up my steam in time
to do any good," says Cap'n Ambuster. " If them two in
my skiff don't overhaul the man, he 's gon e."

" You 're sure it 's a man ? " says Smith Wheelwright.

" Take a squint through my glass. I 'm dreffully afeard
it 's a gal ; but suthin' 's got into my eye, so I can't see."

Suthin' had got into the old fellow's eye, suthin' saline
and acrid, namely, a tear.

" It 's a woman," says Wheelwright, and suthin' of the
same kind blinded him also.

Almost sunset now. But the air was suddenly filled with
perplexing snow-dust from a heavy squall. A white cur-
tain dropped between the anxious watchers on the wharf
and the boatmen.

The same white curtain hid the dark floating object from
its pursuers. There was nothing in sight to steer by now.

Wade steered by his last glimpse, by the current,
by the rush of the roaring wind, by instinct.

How merciful that in such a moment a man is spared the
agony of thought ! His agony goes into action, intense as

It was bitterly cold. A swash of ice-water filled the
bottom of the skiff. She was low enough down without
that. They could not stop to bail, and the miniatuie ice-
bergs they passed began to look significantly over the gun-
wale. Which would come to the point of foundering first,
the boat or the little floe it aimed for ?


Bitterly cold! The snow hardly melted upon Tarbox's
bare hands. His fingers stiffened to the oars; but there
was life in them still, and still he did his work, and never
turned to see how the steersman was doing his.

A flight of crows came sailing with the snow-squall.
They alighted all about on the hummocks, and curiously
watched the two men battling to save life. One block
impish bird, more malignant or more sympathetic tlian Jj
fellows, ventured to poise on the skiffs stern.

Bill hissed off his third passenger. The crow rose on its
toes, let the boat slide away from under him, and followed
croaking dismal good wishes.

The last sunbeams were now cutting in everywhere.
The thick* snow-flurry was like a luminous cloud. Sud-
denly it drew aside.

The industrious skiff had steered so well and made such
headway, that there, a hundred yards away, safe still, not
gone, thank God ! was the woman they sought.

A dusky mass flung together on a waning rood of ice,
Wade could see nothing more.

Weary or benumbed, or sick with pure forlornness and
despair, she had drooped down and showed no sign of life.

The great wind shook the river. Her waning rood of
ice narrowed, foot by foot, like an unthrifty man's heritage.
Inch by inch its edges wore away, until the little space that
half sustained the dark heap was no bigger than a coffin-lid.

Help, now ! now, men, if you are to save ! Thrust,
Richard Wade, with your boat-hook ! Pull, Bill, till your
oars snap ! Out with your last frenzies of vigor ! For the
little raft of ice, even that has crumbled beneath its burden,
and she sinks, sinks, with succor close at hand !

Sinks ! No, she rises and floats again.

She clasps something that holds her head just above
water. But the unmannerly ice has buffeted her hat ofH
The fragments toss it about, that pretty Amazonian hat,


witii its alert feather, all drooping and draggled. Her fair
hair and pure forehead are uncovered for an astonished sun-
beam to alight upon.

" It is my love, my life, Bill ! Give way, once more ! "

" Way enough ! Steady ! Sit where you are, Bill, and
trim boat, while I lift her out. We cannot risk capsizing."

He raised her carefully, tenderly, with his strong arms.

A bit of wood had buoyed her up for that last moment.
ft was a broken oar with a deep fresh gash in it. Wade
knew his mark, the cut of his own skate-iron. This
busy oar was still resolved to play its part in the drama.

The round little skiff just bore the third person without

Wade laid Mary Darner against the thwart. ' She would
not let go her buoy. He unclasped her stiffened hands.
This friendly touch found its way to her heart. She opened
her eyes and knew him.

" The ice shall not carry off her hat to frighten some
mother, down stream," says Bill Tarbox, catching it.

All these proceedings Cap'n Ambuster's spy-glass an
nounced to Dunderbunk.

" They 're h'istin' her up. They 've slumped her into the
skiff. They 're puttin' for shore. Hooray ! "

Pity a spy-glass cannot shoot cheers a mile and a half!

Perry Purtett instantly led a stampede of half Dunder-
bunk along the railroad-track to learn who it was and all
about it.

All about it was that Miss Darner was safe, and not
dangerously frozen, and that Wade and Tarbox had
carried her up the hill to her mother at Peter Skerrett's.

Missing the heroes in chief, Dunderbunk made a hero ot
Cap'n Ambuster's skiff. It was transported back on the
shoulders of the crowd in triumphal procession. Perry
Purtett carried round the hat for a contribution to new
paint it, new rib it, new gunwale it, give it new sculls and a


new boat-hook, indeed to make a new vessel of the brave
little bowl.

I 'm afeard," says Cap'n Ambuster, " that, when I git a
harnsome new skiff, I shall want a harasome new steam-
boat, and then the boat will go to cruisin' round for a
harnsome new Cap'n."

And now for the end of this story.

Healthy love-stories always end in happy marriages.

So ends this story, begun as to its love portion by the
little romance of a tumble, and continued by the bigger
romance of a rescue.

Of course there were incidents enough to fill a volume,
obstacles enough to fill a volume, and development of char-
acter enough to fill a tome thick as " Webster's Unabridged,"
before the happy end of the beginning of the Wade-Darner
joint history.

But we can safely take for granted that, the lover being
true and manly, and the lady true and womanly, and both
possessed of the high moral qualities necessary to artistic
skating, they will go on understanding each other better,
until they are as one as two can be.

Masculine reader, attend to the moral of this tale :

Skate well, be a hero, bravely deserve the fair, prove
your deserts by your deeds, find your " perfect woman nobly
planned to warm, to comfort, and command," catch her
when found, and you are Blest.

Reader of the gentler sex, likewise attend:

All the essential blessings of life accompany a true heart
and a good complexion. Skate vigorously ; then your heart
will beat true, your cheeks will bloom, your appointed lover
will see your beautiful soul shining through your beautiful
face, he will tell you so, and after sufficient circumlocution
he will Pop, you will accept, and your lives will glide
sweetly as skating on virgin ice to silver music.



FTHHE blessed Damozel leaned out
I From the gold bar of Heaven ;

Her eyes knew more of rest and shade
Than waters stilled at even ;

She had three lilies in her hand,
And the stars in her hair were seven.

Her robe, ungirt from clasp to hem.

No wrought flowers did adorn,
But a white rose of Mary's gift,

For service meetly worn ;
And her hair lying down her back

Was yellow like ripe corn.

Her seemed she scarce had been ft day

One of God's choristers ;
The wonder was not yet quite gone

From that still look of hers ;
Albeit, to them she left, her day

Had counted as ten years.

(To one, it is ten years of years,

Yet now, and in this place,

Surely she leaned o'er me her hair
Fell all about my face

Nothing: the autumn fall of leaves.
The whole year sets apace.)


It was the rampart of God's house

That she was standing on ;
By God built over the sheer depth

The which is Space begun ;
So high, that looking downward thence

She scarce could see the sun.

It lies in Heaven, across the flood

Of ether, as a bridge.
Beneath, the tides of day and night

With flame and blackness ridge
The void, as low as where this earth

Spins like a fretful midge.

She scarcely heard her sweet new friends :

Playing at holy games,
Softly they spake among themselves

Their virginal chaste names ;
And the souls, mounting up to God,

Went by her like thin flames.

And still she bowed above the vast

Waste sea of worlds that swarm ;
Until her bosom must have made

The bar she leaned on warm,
And the lilies lay as if asleep

Along her bended arm.

From the fixed place of Heaven, she saw

Time like a pulse shake fierce
Through all the worlds. Her gaze still strove

Within the gulf to pierce
Its path ; and now she spoke, as when

The stars sung in their spheres.


The sun was gone now. The curled ir oon

Was like a little feather
Fluttering far down the gulf. And now

She spoke through the still weather.
Her voice was like the voice the stars

Had when they sung together.

" I wish that he were come to me,

For he will come," she said.
" Have I not prayed in Heaven ? on earth,

Lord, Lord, has he not prayed ?
Are not two prayers a perfect strength?

And shall I feel afraid ?

" When round his head the aureole clings,

And he is clothed in white,
I '11 take his hand and go with him

To the deep wells of light,
And we will step down as to a stream,

And bathe there in God's sight.

" We two will stand beside that shrine,

Occult, withheld, untrod,
Whose lamps are stirred continually

With prayers sent up to God ;
And see our old prayers, granted, melt

Each like a little cloud.

" We two will lie i' the shadow of

That living mystic tree,
Within whose secret growth the Dove

Is sometimes felt to be,
While every leaf that His plumes touch

Saith His Name audibly.

Online Libraryi00bostFavorite authors in prose and poetry → online text (page 32 of 66)