“Humph! Your lie came near to costing you dear, Clausen.”
Then no more was said in the boat until the float was reached, although each occupant was busy with his thoughts. Clausen was helped, pale and shaking, to his room, and West and Joel, accompanied by several of their schoolmates, trotted away to the gymnasium, where Joel was put through an invigorating bath and a subsequent rubbing that left him none the worse for his adventure. The story had to be told over and over to each new group that came in after practice, and finally the two friends escaped to West’s room, where they discussed the affair from the view-point of participants.
“When I got back to the bluff with the other fellows you weren’t to be seen, Joel,” West was saying, “and I thought it was all up with poor old Joel March.”
“That’s just what I thought a bit later,” responded Joel, “when that fellow had me round the neck and was trying to show me the bottom of the river.”
“And then, when they brought you in, Whipple and Christie, and you were all white and—and ghastly like, you know”—Outfield West whistled long and expressively—“then I thought you were a goner.”
Joel nodded. “And Cloud?” he asked presently.
“Cloud has settled himself,” responded West. “When he thought Clausen was drowning he just cut and ran—I mean swam—to shore. The fellows are madder than hornets. As Whipple said, you can’t insist on a fellow saving another fellow from drowning, but you can insist on his not running away. They’re planning to show Cloud what they think of him, somehow. They wouldn’t talk about it while I was around. I wonder why?” Outfield stopped suddenly and frowned perplexedly. “Why, a month or six weeks ago I would have been one of the first they would have asked to help! I’m afraid it’s associating with you, Joel. You’re corrupting me! Say, didn’t I make a mess of it this afternoon? I got about ten yards off the beach and just had to give up and pull back—and pull hard. Blessed if I didn’t begin to wonder once if I’d make it! The fact is, Joel, I’m an awful dab at swimming. And I ought to be punched for letting you go out there all alone.”
“Nonsense, Out! You couldn’t help getting tired, especially if you aren’t much of a swimmer. And now you speak of it I remember you saying once that you couldn’t—” Joel stopped short and looked at West in wondering amazement. And West grew red and his eyes sought the floor, and for almost a minute there was silence in the room. Then Joel arose and stood over the other lad with shining eyes.
“Out,” he muttered huskily, “you’re a brick!”
West made no reply, but his feet shuffled nervously on the hearth.
“To think of you starting out there after me! Why, you’re the—the hero, Out; not me at all!”
“Oh, shut up!” muttered West.
“I’ll not! I’ll tell every one in school!” cried Joel. “I’ll—”