Joel and Outfield were publicly thanked and commended by the principal, and every master had a handshake and a kind and earnest word for them. The boys learned that Clausen had taken a severe cold from his immersion in the icy water, and had gone to the infirmary. Thither they went and made inquiry. He would be up in a day or two, said Mrs. Creelman; but they could not see him, since Professor Gibbs had charged that the patient was not to be disturbed. And so, leaving word for him when he should awake, Joel and West took themselves away, relieved at not having to receive any more thanks just then.
But three days later Clausen left the infirmary fully recovered, and Joel came face to face with him on the steps of Academy Building. A number of fellows on their way to recitations stopped and watched the meeting. Clausen colored painfully, appeared to hesitate for a moment, and then went to Joel and held out his hand, which was taken and gripped warmly.
“March, it’s hard work thanking a fellow for saving your life, and—I don’t know how to do it very well. But I guess you’ll understand that—that—Oh, hang it, March! you know what I’d like to say. I’m more grateful than I could tell you—ever. We haven’t been friends, but it was my fault, I know, and if you’ll let me, I’d like to be—to know you better.”
“You’re more than welcome, Clausen, for what I did. I’m awfully glad West and I happened to be on hand. But there wasn’t anything that you or any fellow couldn’t have done just as well, or better, because I came plaguey near making a mess of it. Anyhow, it’s well through with. As for being friends, I’ll be very glad to be, Clausen. And if you don’t mind climbing stairs, and have a chance, come up and see me this evening. Will you?”
“Yes, thanks. Er—well, to-night, then.” And Clausen strode off.
After supper West and Clausen came up to Joel’s room, and the four boys sat and discussed all the topics known to school. Richard Sproule was at his best, and strove to do his share of the entertaining, succeeding quite beyond Joel’s expectations. When the conversation drew around to the subject of the upsetting on the river, Clausen seemed willing enough to tell his own experiences, but became silent when Cloud’s name was mentioned.
“I’ve changed my room, and haven’t seen Cloud since to speak to,” he said. And so Cloud’s name was omitted from discussion.
“I’m sorry,” said Clausen, “that I made such a dunce of myself when you were trying to get me out. I don’t believe I knew what I was doing. I don’t remember it at all.”
“I’m sure you didn’t,” answered Joel. “I guess a fellow just naturally wouldn’t, you know. But I was glad when you let go!”
“Yes, you must have been. The fellows all say you were terribly plucky to keep at it the way you did. When they got you it was all they could do to make you let go of me, they say.”