As he spoke Thomas Jefferson removed the noose from beneath his arms and placed it under the arms of the frightened boy.
“You get hold,” he explained.
“I’m afraid I can’t help very much,” said George. “I’ve hurt my leg.”
The Indian made a hasty examination and then shaking his head said, “Not much hurt. You can climb all right.”
“When shall we start?” demanded George.
“As soon as you’re ready.”
“I’m more ready now than I shall be later, I suspect,” said George ruefully. “It’s the only thing to be done, and, if it is, why, the sooner I begin it the better.”
Carefully George turned and lying against the ground looked up at the border of the cliff. “Is the rope strong enough to hold us both?” he asked, turning again to the Indian.
“Plenty strong,” replied Thomas Jefferson. “I shall not take hold. You’ll have it all.”
“How then will you get up there?” demanded George, aghast at the suggestion.
“I shall climb. It’s not new work for me. I shall be close behind you so that if you fall I may help.”
“If I fall or the lariat breaks,” declared George, “there will be no stopping me. Both of us will go straight to the bottom of the gulch.”
“Look up all the time,” suggested the Indian. “Don’t once look behind you. You need not fear for me for I have no fear for myself. Besides Kitoni is very strong. He has taken a purchase around a tree and the rope cannot slip. You are perfectly safe.”
“Shall I try to climb by using the rope or shall I dig in my fingers and toes and try that way?”
“Don’t pull on the rope too much,” answered the Navajo. “There will be places where you may have to do that. It will be safe to do so for Kitoni will take in all slack, but it will be better if you try to climb.”
“Here goes then,” said George in a low voice as he turned and began the perilous ascent.
John was an expert swimmer but his skill was not of much avail when he plunged headlong into the rushing waters of the Colorado. The boat was moving swiftly when he met with his accident and it was impossible for the Go Ahead Boy to retrace his course and swim directly toward the shore.
The horror of Fred and Pete when they saw the long legs of John just disappearing beneath the surface of the river may well be imagined. It was impossible for them to check the speed of the boat and equally impossible to change its course. Almost as helpless as if it had been a chip it was carried forward by the swift current.
“He’s going faster than we are,” said Fred in a low voice as he discovered the head of his friend several yards in advance of the skiff.
“Then he must be swimming,” said Pete. “Is he a good swimmer?”
“I never saw a better,” replied Fred, not once turning away his eyes from the sight of John. “He has the Australian crawl and all the fancy strokes.”