“I’d never set eyes on him before—perfect stranger. I wouldn’t have hesitated a minute, but the deck was crowded with a lot of his friends. One chap was his bunkie. So, really, now, it wasn’t my place to jump in after him. He could swim a bit, and I yelled to him to hold up and I’d tell the captain. Confounded captain wasn’t to be found though. Somebody said he was asleep. In the end I told the mate. By this time we were a mile away from the place where he went overboard, and I told the mate I didn’t think we could find him if we went back. But he lowered some boats and they put back fast. Afterwards I got to thinking about the matter. Of course if I had known him—if he had been one of you—it would have been different.”
“And you were the best swimmer in college, you miserable rat,” exploded Dr. Lotless.
There was a wild rush for the upper deck, and Vanderpool was not the hero of the hour. The “Flitter” had turned and was steaming back over her course. Two small boats were racing to the place where Reggy’s unknown had gone over.
“Where is Brewster?” shouted Joe Bragdon.
“I can’t find him, sir,” answered the first mate.
“He ought to know of this,” cried Mr. Valentine.
“There! By the eternal, they are picking somebody up over yonder,” exclaimed the mate. “See! that first boat has laid to and they are dragging—yes, sir, he’s saved!”
A cheer went up on board and the men in the small boats waved their caps in response. Everybody rushed to the rail as the “Flitter” drew up to the boats, and there was intense excitement on board. A gasp of amazement went up from every one.
Monty Brewster, drenched but smiling, sat in one of the boats, and leaning limply against him, his head on his chest, was the sailor who had fallen overboard. Brewster had seen the man in the water and, instead of wondering what his antecedents were, leaped to his assistance. When the boat reached him his unconscious burden was a dead weight and his own strength was almost gone. Another minute or two and both would have gone to the bottom.
As they hauled Monty over the side he shivered for an instant, grasped the first little hand that sought his so frantically, and then turned to look upon the half-dead sailor.
“Find out the boy’s name, Mr. Abertz, and see that he has the best of care. Just before he fainted out there he murmured something about his mother. He wasn’t thinking of himself even then, you see. And Bragdon”—this in a lower voice—“will you see that his wages are properly increased? Hello, Peggy! Look out, you’ll get wet to the skin if you do that.”
LE ROI S’AMUSE