Dave himself was pitched headlong. He sank below the water, but had no fear for himself, for he was wholly at home in the water.
Yet, as he found the water closing over him, Dave Darrin felt a great thrill of terror for others run through him.
“My boat crew is the poorest in the class in swimming!” he gasped, with a throb of agony. “Not more than half of them know how to take care of themselves! And I, as captain, am responsible for their safety!”
IN THE LINE OF DUTY
As his head shot above the water a Dave barely paused to expel the water from his mouth.
“Boat’s crew close together, to stand by the poor swimmers!” he yelled hoarsely.
The water being barely ruffled, Darrin was able to count eight heads besides his own.
That meant that five men had still failed to come up.
Midshipman Driscoll, an instant later, shot up beside Dave.
“Help!” sputtered Driscoll.
“Float on my arm, sir,” ordered Dave, swimming with lusty strokes until he had thrust his left arm under Driscoll’s chest.
Then the young crew captain shouted:
“Who can get here first to support Mr. Driscoll.”
“Here!” called another midshipman, overtaking the pair with lusty strokes.
“Keep Mr. Driscoll up,” called Dave, as he swam away. “I’ve got to count heads fast.”
Another midshipman came above water, and Dan Dalzell was at him, like a flash, supporting the new arrival, who was one of the poor swimmers.
That left three men to be accounted for.
Further down the stream still another head appeared. Only for a moment or two, this midshipman succeeded in keeping his head above water.
“I’ll get that man,” cried Farley, as he and another midshipman started with powerful strokes after the man who was going down for the second time.
“There’s a seat floating!” shouted Dalzell.
Darrin plunged forward for it, until he saw one of his crew nearing it ahead of him.
“Hold that as a life-buoy!” called Dave.
Hardly had he given this order when another midshipman made himself heard, as he trod water.
The board was pushed toward him, while Dave made a rapid count.
“All up but Mr. Page;” muttered Dave, but even that thought made him sick at heart.
Only a few moments had passed, but that was time enough for any man to come to the surface if his buoyancy remained.
Darrin had paid no heed to Mr. Salisbury or the latter’s engineer, for he had seen them jumping for their life-preservers.
In the meantime the other boats of the sailing fleet were making for the scene of the disaster. Yet, with the light breeze, that was no easy thing to do. It would take some time yet to bring the nearest of the sailing fleet to the scene.