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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 black impish bird, more malignant or more sympathetic than his fellows, ventured to poise on the skiff's 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. Suddenly 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 off. The fragments toss it about, — that pretty Amazonian hat,
with its alert feather, all drooping and draggled. Her fair hair and pure forehead are uncovered for an astonished sunbeam 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. It 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
Wade laid Mary Damer 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. Ilooray!”
Pity a spy-glass cannot shoot cheers a mile and a half !
Perry Purtett instantly led a stampede of half Dunderbunk along the railroad-track to learn who it was and all about it.
All about it was that Miss Damer 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 of 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 harnsome new steamboat, and then the boat will go to cruisin'round for a harnsome new Cap'n.”
And now for the end of this story.
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 character enough to fill a tome thick as “ Webster's Unabridged,” before the happy end of the beginning of the Wade-Damer 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.
THE BLESSED DAMOZEL.
By D. G. ROSSETTI.
\HE blessed Damozel leaned out
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,
For service meetly worn;
Was yellow like ripe corn.
Her seemed she scarce had been a day
One of God's choristers;
From that still look of hers;
Had counted as ten years.
(To one, it is ten years
years, . . Yet now, and in this place, Surely she leaned o'er me - her hair
Fell all about my face
The whole year sets apace.)
It was the rampart of God's house
That she was standing on;
The which is Space begun;
She scarce could see the sun.
It lies in Heaven, across the flood
Of ether, as a bridge.
With flame and blackness ridge
Spins like a fretful midge.
She scarcely heard her sweet new friends :
Playing at holy games,
Their virginal chaste names ;
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
Within the gulf to pierce
The stars sung in their spheres.