At the first thought Darrin was inclined not to believe his senses.
“I’ll have to go up, after all, and let Dan have his chance. I’m seeing things,” Dave decided.
For, though the object floating toward him had some of the semblance of a skirt-clad figure, yet it looked all out of proportion—–perhaps twice the size of Pauline Butler.
That was a trick of the scanty light coming through the water at an angle—–this coupled with Darrin’s own fatigue of the eyes.
Closer it came, and looked a bit smaller.
“It is a girl—–a woman—–some human being!” throbbed Dave internally.
Now, though his head seeming bursting, Dave hung on more tightly than ever. The drift of the water was bringing the body slowly nearer to him. He must hold on until he could let himself strike upward, seizing that body in his progress.
At last the moment arrived. Dave felt a hard tug at the cable, but he did not at that instant realize that Dan Dalzell had just started down from the steamer.
Dave judged that the right instant had come. He let go of the loop, and was shot upward. But, as he moved, his spread arms caught hold of the floating figure.
Up to within a few feet of the surface Darrin and his burden moved easily. Then he found it necessary to kick out hard with his feet. Thus he carried the burden clear, to the open air above, though at a distance of some forty feet from the steamer.
“There they are!” Farley’s voice was heard calling, and there was a splash.
“Bully for you, old fellow! Hold her up, and I’m with you!” hailed Midshipman Farley.
In another moment Dave Darrin had been eased of his human burden, and Farley was swimming to the steamer with the senseless form of Pauline Butler.
Darrin tried to swim, and was astounded at finding himself so weak in the water. He floated, propelling himself feebly with his hands, completely exhausted.
Just at that moment nearly every eye was fixed on Farley and his motionless burden, and many pairs of hands stretched out to receive them.
Yet the gaze of one alert pair of eyes was fixed on Darrin, out there beyond.
“Now, you’d better look after Dave,” broke in the quiet, clear voice of Belle Meade. “I think he needs help.”
Wolgast went over the side in an instant, grappling with Midshipman Darrin and towing him to the side of the boat.
“All in!” cried Midshipman Gray jubilantly.
“Except Dan. Where’s he?” muttered Dave weakly, as he sat on one of the side seats.
“I’ll signal him,” muttered Wolgast, and hastened forward to the anchor cable. This he seized and shook clumsily several times. The vibrated motion must have been imparted downward, for soon Dan Dalzell’s head came above water.
“Everyone all right?” called Dan, as soon as he had gulped in a mouthful of air.