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Here the pond was deep, and there was no chance for either the swans, or any other creature, to land at this place without taking to wing. The bank was steep, without either shelf or stair to ascend by. In fact, it rather hung over than shelved.
At this point we used to meet the swans, that were always ready to come when they saw us; and then, placing the piece of bread in the split end of a rod, and holding it out high above them, we enjoyed the spectacle of the swans stretching up their long necks, and occasionally leaping upward out of the water to snatch it, just as dogs would have done. All this, you will perceive, was rare fun for boys.
One day, I had proceeded to the pond, carrying my sloop with me as usual. It was at an early hour; and on reaching the ground, I found that none of my companions had yet arrived. I launched my sloop, however; and then walked around the shore to meet her on the opposite side.
There was scarcely a breath of wind, and the sloop sailed slowly. I was therefore in no hurry, but sauntered along at my leisure. On leaving home I had not forgotten the swans, which were my great pets. I had brought their allowance along with me; and on reaching the high bank, I halted to give it to them.
All six, who knew me well, with proud arching necks and wing slightly elevated, came gliding rapidly across the pond to meet me; and in a few sec
onds they arrived under the bank, where they moved about with upstretched beaks, and eyes eagerly scanning my movements. They knew I had called them thither to be kind to them.
Having procured a slight sapling and split it at the end, I placed a piece of bread in the notch, and proceeded to amuse myself with the maneuvers of the birds.
One piece after another was snatched away from the stick, and I had nearly emptied my pockets, when all at once the sod on which I was standing gave way under me, and I fell plump into the water.
I fell with a plunge like a large stone, and as I could not swim a stroke, I should have gone to the bottom like one; but it so happened that I came down right in the midst of the swans, who were no doubt taken as much by surprise as myself.
Now, it was not through any peculiar presence of mind on my part, but simply from the instinct of self-preservation, which is common to every living creature, that I made an effort to save myself.
This I did by throwing out my hands, and endeavoring to seize hold of something, just as drowning men will catch even at straws. But I caught something better than a straw, for I chanced to seize upon the leg of one of the biggest and strongest of the swans, and to that I held on, as if my life depended on my not letting it go.
At the first plunge my eyes and ears had been filled with water, and I was hardly sensible of what I was doing. I could hear a vast splashing and sputtering as the birds scattered away in affright, but in another second of time I had consciousness enough to perceive that I had got hold of the leg of a swan and was being rapidly towed through the water.
I had sense enough to retain my hold; and in less time than I take to tell it I was dragged more than halfway across the pond-which, after all, was but a short distance.
The swan made no attempt to swim, but, rather, fluttered along the surface, using his wings, and perhaps the leg that was still free, to propel himself forward. Terror, no doubt, had doubled his strength and his energies, else he could never have towed such a weight, big and strong though he was.
How long the affair would have lasted it is hard to say. Not very long, however. The bird might have kept above the water a good while, but I could not have held out much longer.
I was every moment being ducked under, the water at each immersion getting into my mouth and nostrils. I was fast losing consciousness and should soon have been forced to let go.
Just at this crisis, to my great joy, I felt something touch me underneath; some rough object had struck against my knees. It was the stones and gravel at
the bottom of the lake, and I perceived that I was in water of no great depth. The bird, in struggling to escape, had passed over the portion of the lake where it was deep and dangerous and was now close to the edge, where it shoaled.
I did not hesitate a moment; I was only too glad to put an end to the towing match, and therefore released my grasp from the leg of the swan. The bird, thus lightened, immediately took to wing, and, screeching like a wild fowl, rose high into the air.
For myself, I found bottom at once, and, after some staggering and a good deal of hiccoughing, I regained my feet, and then, wading out, stood once more upon terra firma.
I was so badly terrified by the incident that I never thought of looking after my sloop. Leaving her to finish her voyage as she might, I ran away as fast as my legs would carry me, and never made halt or pause till I had reached home, and stood with dripping garments in front of the fire.
GOLD LOCKS AND SILVER LOCKS.
Pupil and master together,
The wise man and the child,
Under the lamplight mild.
Pupil and master together,
"Well, little girl, did you practice On the violin to-day?
What is the air I gave you?
Have you forgotten it, pray?"
And he sings a few notes and pauses, Half frowning to see her stand Perplexed, with her white brows knitted, And her chin upon her hand.
Far off in the street of a sudden
Comes the sound of a wandering band, And the blare of brass rings faintly, Too distant to understand.
"Hark!" says the master, smiling,
"Is it D minor? Try it!
To the piano and try!"
She strikes it, the sweet sound answers Her touch so light and shy.