Pieces People Ask For/The Coming Wave
THE COMING WAVE.
Dipper Bay was a little inlet, almost land-locked, in which the water was deep enough to float his sloop at this time of tide, and its high rocky shores would afford him a perfect protection from the fury of any squall, or even hurricane. But Leopold felt that his chances of reaching this secure haven were but small, for the breeze was very light.
The sloop "Rosabel" was but a short distance from the shore when the wind entirely subsided, and the long rollers were as smooth as glass. The lightning glared with fearful intensity, and the thunder boomed like the convulsions of an earthquake. By this time Rosabel [for whom the sloop had been named], who had before enjoyed the sublimity of the coming storm, now began to realize its terrors, and to watch the handsome boatman with the deepest anxiety. The sails flapped idly in the motionless air, and Dipper Bay was still half a mile distant.
"Don't be alarmed, Miss Hamilton," said Leopold. "If the squall will keep off only a few moments, we shall be in a safe place."
The skipper evidently "meant business;" and, shipping the long oars, he worked with a zeal which seemed to promise happy results, and Rosabel began to feel a little re-assured. But the sloop was too large, and too broad on the beam, to be easily rowed, and her progress was necessarily very slow.
"Can't I help you, Leopold?" asked the maiden, when she saw what a tremendous effort the boatman was making.
"You may take the tiller, and steer for Dip Point, if you please," replied Leopold, knowing that his beautiful passenger would be better satisfied if she could feel that she was doing something.
Leopold plied his oars with all the vigor of a manly frame, intent upon reaching the little bay, where the high rocks would shelter his craft from the fury of the storm. Then a breeze of wind came, and he resumed his place at the tiller. He had almost reached the haven when he saw coming down over the waters a most terrific squall. Before he could haul down his mainsail, the tempest struck the "Rosabel." He placed his fair charge in the bottom of the boat, which the savage wind was driving towards the dangerous rocks. Before he could do any thing to secure the sail, the mainsheet parted at the boom. He cast off the halliards, but the sail was jammed and would not come down.
The "Rosabel" was almost upon the rocks. Seizing an oar, Leopold, satisfied that he could do nothing to save the boat, worked her away from the rocks, so that she would strike upon the narrow beach he had just left. The fierce squall was hurling her with mad speed upon the shore. By the most tremendous exertion, and at the imminent peril of his life, he succeeded in guiding her to the beach, upon which she struck with prodigious force, crushing in her keel and timbers beneath the shock. Without a word of explanation, he grasped the fair Rosabel in his arms, and leaped into the angry surges, which were driven high upon the rocks above him. The tide had risen so that there was hardly room under the cliff for him to stand; but he bore her to this only partial refuge from the fury of the storm.
The tempest increased in violence, and the huge billows rolled in with impetuous fury upon him. Grasping his fair burden in his arms, with Rosabel clinging to him in mortal terror, he paused a moment to look at the angry sea. There was a narrow shelf of rock near him, against which the waves beat with terrible violence. If he could only get beyond this shelf, which projected out from the cliffs, he could easily reach the Hole in the Wall, where Harvey Barth had saved himself in just such a storm. He had born Rosabel some distance along the beach, both drenched by the lashing spray, and his strength was nearly exhausted. The projecting shelf was before him, forbidding for the moment his further progress.
Placing his left foot on a rock, his fair but heavy burden on his knee, clasping her waist with his left hand, while his right was fastened for support in a crevice of the cliff, he paused for an instant to recover his breath and watch for a favorable chance to escape from his perilous position. Rosabel, in her terror, had thrown her arms around his neck, clinging to him with all her might. When he paused, she felt, reposing on his powerful muscles, that she was safe—she confessed it afterwards; though, in that terrible sea and near those cruel rocks, the strength of the strongest man was but weakness. Leopold waited. If the sea would only recede for an instant, it would give him the opportunity to reach the broader beach beyond the shelf, over which he could pass to the Hole in the Wall. It was a moment of hope, mingled with a mighty fear.
A huge billow, larger than any he had yet seen, was rolling in upon him, crested and reeking with foam, and might dash him and his feeble charge, mangled and torn, upon the jagged rocks. Still panting from the violence of his exertion, he braced his nerves and his stout frame to meet the terrible shock.
With every muscle strained to the utmost tension, he waited the coming wave. In this attitude, with the helpless maiden clinging to him for life, with the wreck of his fine yacht near, he was a noble subject for an inspired artist.
The coming wave buried him and the fair maiden in its cold embrace. It broke, and shattered itself in torrents of milky foam upon the hard rocks. But the larger and higher the wave, the farther it recedes. Leopold stood firm, though he was shaken in every fibre of his frame by the shock. The retiring water—retiring only for an instant, to come again with even greater fury—gave him his opportunity, and he improved it. Swooping, like a strong eagle, beneath the narrow shelf of rock, he gained the broader sands beyond the reach of the mad billows. It blew a hurricane for some time. The stranded yacht was ground into little pieces by the sharp rocks, but her skipper and his fair passenger were safe. Oliver Optic.