Wink Wheeler reached the little channel first and gingerly climbed out on a brown ledge that flanked it on one side. Others joined him there to lie panting in the sunlight. Only Joe and Phil kept on and were presently swimming within a short distance of each other well outside. They were both strong rather than fast swimmers, and, although Han frowned slightly as he watched them bob in and out of sight in the long, smooth swells, the others soon turned their attention to Wink’s suggestion that they dive from the rock and race around the anchored boats and back again. Wink offered the others a ten-yard start. All save “Brownie” accepted the challenge—“Brownie” was built for comfort rather than speed—and in a moment they were lined up rather unsteadily on the edge of the boulder awaiting the word. Then three bodies launched themselves through the air and the race was on. When the others had taken the first half-dozen strokes after reappearing Wink plunged after them. “Brownie” watched until the foremost swimmer disappeared beyond the boats and then turned his gaze seaward. For a moment he could not find the two venturesome ones, but presently he spied them. They had turned and were coming back straight for the mouth of the little harbour, Phil leading and Joe a dozen yards behind. It looked like a race from the way in which both boys were keeping under and “Brownie” found it more exciting than the other contest. And then, while he watched, something happened, and he sprang to his feet and gazed seaward with wildly beating heart.
Joe had stopped swimming and was on his back with one brown arm held aloft. If he made any outcry “Brownie” failed to hear it, but apparently he had, for Phil was turning now and hurrying back with short, quick strokes. But before he had covered half the distance separating him from the other, the watcher on shore uttered an involuntary cry of alarm. Joe was no longer in sight!
“Brownie” looked despairingly toward the boys in the pool, but the nearest was still a long way from the channel. Confused thoughts of the boats were cast aside and “Brownie” threw himself from the rock, hitting the water like a barrel, and turned into the channel. As he felt the tug of the tide he experienced a revulsion of fright, for he had no stomach for the task ahead of him. “Brownie’s” swimming was usually done in safer water than that he was making for. But he tried his best to forget the depths below him and the long swim ahead, to remember only that Joe was in trouble out there and that Phil, probably by now somewhat exhausted, would never be able to bring him to shore unassisted.