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I saw clearly that old Reisacher was appealing to himself, rather than to me; so I waited until his inclination prompted him to step out faster on our way to the wood-ranger's house, which we at last reached, as nearly wet through as it was possible to be. The wood-ranger was at home, but the horse was not; and the storm increased, and so, at last, did the father's anxiety about his only child.
*“I must go back," said he, gazing from the eminence we stood on, back towards the Rhine; “Susannah will be frightened. Pray look at the river, sir; I never saw it more furious, and never so suddenly aroused.”
“ It is a fine sight to look at, from this safe distance,” said I; “but it has few charms for the poor fellows in that boat, that is tossed about so roughly.”
“ 'Tis true, sir; I doubt if it be not in great danger," observed Johan, eying keenly the wave-buffeted little craft to which I called his attention. It was heavily laden with a large freight of firewood, so heavily that even in the smoothest weather, the gunwale would have touched the water's edge. It was in the middle of the river, endeavouring to force its way up against the stream, by the aid of a square and tattered-looking sail; but every effort of the men who managed it was baffled by the extreme violence of the waves, which we could plainly see washing clean over it from stem to stern.
“I'll just wish you good evening, sir, and hurry on to the ferry: and I hope the boat may have succeeded in passing it before I arrive; for that ledge of rock, just above the station, is hard to steer past in such a dreadful squall,” said my companion, with benevolent anxiety. But I was not disposed to part with him thus. The danger to which the unhappy boatmen were exposed, was attraction sufficient to lead me closer to the scene; and old Johan and I proceeded rapidly together on our way back, hurried silently forward by the force of mere excitement, and never losing sight of the struggling vessel, which, though it made scarcely any way, was nevertheless gaining on us, as we approached the ferry in a now nearly parallel line with the river.
Every moment that led us nearer, showed us the increasing peril of the frail craft; and I thought I could distinguish at times a despairing cry for aid, from the two men who were
* If the arangement of lessons in a school, should not allow time to read the whole of this piece, at once, it may be divided here.
imperfectly managing her, and whose gestures, as she was heavily tossed to and fro by the angry swell, spoke a plain story of terrified helplessness. — A hollow in the road made us lose sight of her, for a few minutes; and as we ascended again, in breathless impatience, we caught a new view, which confirmed our worst forebodings. The boat, either from the rudder being unshipped, or the man at the helm being washed down by a wave, had turned completely round, and was swept across to almost the other side of the river, by the strong side wind, and the violent eddy. Every wave threatened to swamp it altogether; and it was drifting fast into the ledge of rocks alluded to by Reisacher, and over which there was now a foam of breakers scarcely to be believed by any one who has not seen the Rhine in one of its angriest moods. We were now within a few hundred yards of the ferry.
The cries for help were less frequent; for there was, to all appearance, no help at hand. — Four or five peasants, men and women, stood at different points on the banks, throwing up their hands, and screaming unavailing advice or consolation to the poor boatmen; and, now and then, the dismal echo of their shouts was felt rather than heard, as I and my old companion ran along the slippery road.
In a few minutes more, the boat drifted into an eddy most particularly dreaded by the old ferryman.
“It's all over with her now; and there she goes, sure enough!” exclaimed Reisacher, as a powerful wave caught the boat under the side, and turned it keel upwards.
“They must be lost before we can reach the river," added he, catching at the railing by the roadside, overcome by agitation and exertion, while I stopped to recover my breath, and stared down into the river from the precipitate bank. The rain now swept in sheets up the stream, and almost hid every object upon it; but I fancied I distinguished, like a phantom boat in the mist, old Johan's little skiff, striving to plunge through the waves, and rocked like a cradle by the opposing influence of wind and tide.
"No, it cannot be! Yet — yes, it is, it is Susannah, strive ing to steer towards the wreck !” exclaimed I, involuntarily. The old man's eyes, dim from age, but their vision quickened by affection, were fixed, like mine, in straining scrutiny; and when his gaze was sure of its object, he cried out in a tone of bitterest anguish, —
“Oh! my child ! my Susannah!- It is she, it is the boat.
She will perish. Oh! save her! save her! great God!” And, with incredible speed, he darted away from our resting-place. I soon overtook him, and supported him on my arm, as he tottered, panting and exhausted, to the tree against which his little skiff had been erewhile coiled. We now saw it within fifty yards of us, on the boiling surf, and the heroic child, — her young heart buoyant with pity's life-blood, - working her helm-like oar with all her strength, and looking pale and stern at the rain and the waves, which drenched her through and through, — at the furious wind, which had loosened her long hair, and sent it streaming around her, - and at the broad lightning, which gave, at intervals, a supernatural hue to her whole person. She was, in a minute or two more, in the power of the formidable current, in which the halfdrowned men now clung to their boat; and she was in nearly as much danger as they were. It was a moment of actual distraction for her father, and of indescribable awe to me. I never shall forget the sensation of that fearful interval of suspense.
The gray-headed old man now gasped convulsively; and, wildly stretching forth his arms, he flung himself on the earth, as if to shut out the scene of almost inevitable death. The despairing men were, with hoarse, faint voices, hailing and cheering on the intrepid girl, and giving what snatches of instruction they could utter, as to the means of approaching them. But, alas! the utmost strength of a child, fortified, as it must have been, by a powerful feeling of religious confidence and a noble courage, was insufficient for so severe a struggle; and I had the deep anguish of seeing the wreck, and the forlorn brothers who hung upon it with a fierce yet enfeebled grasp, sweep by, within a dozen yards of the ferryboat.
At this moment old Reisacher started up, and he would have plunged into the merciless river, had I not forcibly held him back; but, screaming louder than the storm, his voice now reached Susannah; and it seemed at once to paralyze all her power and skill. She cast her looks by turns on the wretched objects she would have saved, and on the halfmaddened parent who seemed rushing in a frantic effort to assist her.
At this crisis, Martin * Buckholz, one of the brothers, perreiving that their combined hope of safety depended entirely
* Pronounced, Bookholts.
on the possibility of his gaining the ferry-boat, - for his companion could not swim, — resolved to trust himself, inexpert, exhausted, and encumbered as he was, to the chances of the torrent. He slipped down into the water, struck out his newnerved arms, to buffet every wave; and rolling and plunging with the fierce energy of despair, he, little by little, approached the skiff. Susannah regained her presence of mind; and she laboured at her oar with renewed strength and redoubled efforts. She soon met the bold swimmer : he grasped the prow,- heaved himself up the side, — caught the oar from his preserver's hands, – and though now a considerable distance from the heavy-rolling wreck, he came up with it just as his brother was fainting from exhaustion and terror, and lifted him safely into the skiff.
And how to describe old Reisacher's delight, quick following his despair, as he saw the ferry-boat bounding triumphantly across the waves, with its miraculously-rescued freight !— the tears, the blessings, the thanksgivings, – the love, the pride, the gratitude, — all fell down in plenteous showers upon the head of his child, or rose up to Heaven in fervent but silent thought.
Susannah, — calm, modest, and apparently unconscious in the midst of all our united praise and admiration, — was destined to the conviction that she had done a virtuous and heroic action without knowing, at the time, its uncommon merit.
The Grand Duke of Baden, on hearing the circumstance, was pleased to bestow a gratuity of two hundred florins on our little heroine, together with a medal, as a special mark of distinction, bearing the inscription, “ She trusted in God.” She was, when I last saw her, a year after the adventure, receiving the full benefit of an excellent education ; for some voluntary subscriptions procured her many additional advantages; and she walked at the head of her village schoolfellows, in their daily promenades, with a step as composed, and a look as unassuming, as before the event which has given her name its local immortality.
Since the year 1831, my friend Reisacher has lost his old sister, and given up the ferry. But the gratitude of Martin and George Buckholz does not allow him to want the comforts of a house in his old age; and I should not be at all surprised to hear at any day, — for Susannah is now seventeen, - that the gratitude of Martin, who is still unmarried, was about to give a still more permanent expression of his attachment to the younger remaining member of the female branch of the Reisacher family.,
(An example of pathos, requiring the “ subdued” force of “pure tone,"
“ semitonic” “ slides,” and “minor” cadences, throughout. The 6 movement” is “slow," — thė “stress," prolonged and gentle “median.”]
My life is like the summer rose
That opens to the morning sky,
Is scattered on the ground — to die !
My life is like the autumn leaf
That trembles in the moon's pale ray;
Restless, — and soon to pass away!
My life is like the prints which feet
Have left on Tampa's desert strand : .
All trace will vanish from the sand;