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The proud Oak rustled a kindly sigh :
Nay, climb an thou wilt,” said he ;
That do not threaten thee,
“Oh, I fear not the storm, nor the lightning-flash,
Nor flood, nor fire, nor steel ;
Than be crushed by the woodman's heel.”
And so it came that the Ivy won,
And encircled the Oak's broad breast, And it throve apace, as the years rolled on,
Finding nurture and guidance and rest.
And the woodman, passing by,
'Tis time that it should die!”
And one morning's toil felled the monarch old,
And the woodman sighed, and said :
An Oak is as good as dead !”
That this legend a moral tells :
When he yields to her witching spells '!
and a boisterous and indiscriminating wind was blowing
bridge, and below the white-sailed yachts were running out past Chatham Ness to race in the broad reach beyond; but the barges that came perpetually up from somewhere down the river, to return from upper waters laden with cement and chalk, after one or two ineffectual efforts to shoot the three bridges, with their great masts lowered, mostly gave up the attempt and anchored in mid-stream in a little flotilla, waiting till the wind should change.
But one of these, more venturesome or more fortunate than the rest, managed to drive her way under the two railways and the road, and emerged from under the feet of the onlookers sitting on the parapet, full in the teeth of the wind and with her "way” nearly spent. She was partially laden, and lay low in the water; and this, together with the turning tide, kept her a moment stationary in midstream, just clear of the bridge.
Two men bent to the windlass in her bows, and as it clanked musically round the strong rope tautened, and the mass of spars and brown sails lying along the deck reared slowly into the air. The tip of the mast came up just free of the arch of the bridge, and the spectators above began to exchange remarks on the probability of the barge getting off before the wind blew her back again.
“Wind's catching the sails now," observed one man presently, as the brown canvas bulged out; now she'll tack.''
“It'll be a squeak if she gets her way in time," said another; and similar remarks passed along the parapet.
And then some one cried out, Now she's moving!”
She was beginning to move, slowly and heavily, along the face of the bridge, while the men in her bows strained every muscle to get the mast fully up, so that she might feel the full effect of the wind. But in a second or two it became apparent that she was also being slowly blown back, attacked sideways by the furious breeze, on to the bridge.