Still keeping her hand on the tiller, Madge strained her eyes to watch his every movement. “Try to make it, Tom,” she shouted encouragingly. “You’ve only a little farther to swim. Come on; I’ll help you into the boat.”
“I’m afraid I can’t, Madge,” he called faintly. “I’ve hurt my shoulder. I can’t swim.”
The girl at the tiller bent forward to catch the sound of her friend’s voice. Then she answered with the bravery of despair: “You must keep on floating. You are not going to drown. I am coming after you.”
At the same instant Madge divested herself of her coat, shoes and the skirt of her suit and poised herself for a dive into the angry water. “Keep the head of the boat to the wind,” was her curt command to the stranger, “I am going after Mr. Curtis.”
“You’re crazy!” shouted the stranger, leaping to his feet. “You can never save the man in such a sea as this. You’ll both be drowned!”
His tardy expostulation fell upon unheeding ears. Madge was in the water and swimming toward Tom. Expert swimmer that she was, she knew that she was risking her own life. The tide was against her, and even though she did reach Tom before he sank again, it would be hard work to support him and swim back to the boat in such a heavy sea.
The sky was now dark, the waves had grown larger, and a pelting rain had begun to beat down in Madge’s face. Tom had risen to the surface of the water again, and was feebly trying to swim toward her. He had shuddered with despair when he first caught sight of her in the water. But his faint, “Go back! Go back!” had not reached her ears. Nor would she have heeded him had she heard.
His intrepid little rescuer was swimming easily along, with firm, even strokes. Little water-sprite that she was, she would have enjoyed the breakers dashing over her head and the tingle of the fine salt spray in her face if she had not realized the danger that lay ahead.
“Keep floating until I can get to you!” she called out to Tom. She did not speak again, for she did not mean to waste her breath.
Tom was making an heroic effort to keep himself afloat. But he was growing weaker and weaker, and the last vestige of his strength was giving way. As Madge reached him, he managed to reach out and clutch her arm, hanging to it with a force that threatened to pull them both under. He was making that instinctive struggle for life usually put forth by the drowning. Madge experienced a brief flash of terror. “Don’t struggle, Tom,” she implored.
Even in his semi-conscious state Tom must have heard his companion’s words. He ceased to fight, his body grew limp, and, clasping one of his hands in her own strong, brown fingers, Madge swam toward the spot where she had left the sailboat. Never once did she relax her hold on the burden at her side. Now and then she glanced up at their boat. Each time she caught a glimpse of it it seemed to be farther