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Malbone: An Oldport Romance Thomas Wentworth Higginson

XV. Across The Bay

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She began to grow seriously anxious, but the distance was diminishing; Harry was almost at the steps with the child, and the boy had rowed his skiff round the breakwater out of sight; a young fisherman leaned over the railing with his back to her, watching the lobster-catchers on the other side. She was almost in; it was only a slight dizziness, yet she could not see the light-house. Concentrating all her efforts, she shut her eyes and swam on, her arms still unaccountably vigorous, though the rest of her body seemed losing itself in languor. The sound in her ear had grown to a roar, as of many mill-wheels. It seemed a long distance that she thus swam with her eyes closed. Then she half opened her eyes, and the breakwater seemed all in motion, with tier above tier of eager faces looking down on her. In an instant there was a sharp splash close beside her, and she felt herself grasped and drawn downwards, with a whirl of something just above her, and then all consciousness went out as suddenly as when ether brings at last to a patient, after the roaring and the tumult in his brain, its blessed foretaste of the deliciousness of death.

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When Hope came again to consciousness, she found herself approaching her own pier in a sail-boat, with several very wet gentlemen around her, and little Jenny nestled close to her, crying as profusely as if her pretty scarlet bathing-dress were being wrung out through her eyes. Hope asked no questions, and hardly felt the impulse to inquire what had happened. The truth was, that in the temporary dizziness produced by her prolonged swim, she had found herself in the track of a steamboat that was passing the pier, unobserved by her brother. A young man, leaping from the dock, had caught her in his arms, and had dived with her below the paddle-wheels, just as they came upon her. It was a daring act, but nothing else could have saved her. When they came to the surface, they had been picked up by Aunt Jane's Robinson Crusoe, who had at last unmoored his pilot-boat and was rounding the light-house for the outer harbor.

She and the child were soon landed, and given over to the ladies. Due attention was paid to her young rescuer, whose dripping garments seemed for the moment as glorious as a blood-stained flag. He seemed a simple, frank young fellow of French or German origin, but speaking English remarkably well; he was not high-bred, by any means, but had apparently the culture of an average German of the middle class. Harry fancied that he had seen him before, and at last traced back the impression of his features to the ball for the French officers. It turned out, on inquiry, that he had a brother in the service, and on board the corvette; but he himself was a commercial agent, now in America with a view to business, though he had made several voyages as mate of a vessel, and would not object to some such berth as that. He promised to return and receive the thanks of the family, read with interest the name on Harry's card, seemed about to ask a question, but forbore, and took his leave amid the general confusion, without even giving his address. When sought next day, he was not to be found, and to the children he at once became as much a creature of romance as the sea-serpent or the Flying Dutchman.

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Malbone: An Oldport Romance
Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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