Boys of the Fort/10
THE RESULT OF A SWIM.
To the boys, who had never visited a military quarters before, the fort proved of great interest, and they were glad, after the meal was over, to have Lieutenant Carrol take them around. This occupied some time, and when they had finished it was time for the evening parade.
This was quite an affair, and the two lads joined the ladies of the place to witness it. Everybody turned out, in uniform as clean as possible, on inspection. The drums rolled, the fifers struck up a lively air, and the three companies, headed by a major, marched around the stockade several times and then to the parade-ground in front of the gates. Here the command went through the manual of arms and through a number of fancy evolutions.
"It's splendid!" murmured Joe. "Everything moves like clockwork."
"It makes me almost wish to be a soldier," answered Darry. "But if a fellow had this day in and day out I am afraid he would grow tired of it."
"You are right, Darry," said Mrs. Fairfield. "The colonel has to think up a great number of things whereby to interest his men. They get up all sorts of contests, and concerts and theatricals, and go hunting when they can get the chance—anything to keep them from growing too dull."
"Have they had any real military duty to do lately?" asked Joe.
"Not for over a year. Then the Modoc Indians got up a sun-dance, and they had to march over to Kedahmina and stop it. Two Indians were killed and one soldier was badly wounded. Since that time the Indians have been quiet."
"But the Indians may rise again."
"Probably they will—one is never sure of them. As one old general has said, 'The only safe Indian is the dead Indian.'"
The boys were assigned to a small room next to that occupied by Captain Moore and Lieutenant Carrol. The apartment was neatly furnished with iron cots, an iron washstand, and a small wardrobe for extra clothing. Fortunately the extra clothing they had carried had not been stolen, so they were not as bad off as they would otherwise have been.
Joe was anxious to hear from his brother Will, but had to be patient. Yet he was not greatly worried, for he was almost certain that the soldiers would fail to fall in with the desperadoes, each having taken a different trail.
The day following their arrival the boys fell in with several soldiers who were going fishing up a mountain stream not far away, having obtained special leave of absence for that purpose. The soldiers, who were named Biggs, Ferry, and Lambert, were glad enough to have the boys for company.
"We'll show you some good sport," said Lambert, who proved to be something of a leader. "No better fish in these parts than those you can catch in Rocky Pass River."
The boys had no fishing-tackle, but Lieutenant Carrol fitted them out, and soon the party was on the way. The soldiers were to be gone but four hours, and so struck out at a gait that taxed Joe and Darry to the utmost to keep up with them.
"It's the air does it," explained Biggs, when Darry spoke about the speed. "After you've been out here a while you'll eat like a horse and feel like walking ten miles every morning before breakfast. I tell you, the air is wonderful."
"It certainly is bracing," answered Darry. "I noticed that as soon as we began to climb the foothills."
A walk of half an hour brought them to Rocky Pass River, and they journeyed along the bank until they came to a favorite fishing-hole.
"Here we are," said Lambert. "Now for the first fish!"
"Ten cents to whoever catches it!" cried Joe, and placed a shining dime on a nearby tree stump. At this the three soldiers laughed.
"That dime is mine," declared Ferry, who was the first to throw in.
"Perhaps," answered Biggs. "But I reckon I've got just as good a chance now."
"Here I come," put in Lambert, and threw over his friends heads. Hardly had his bait gone down than he felt a tug and whipped in a little fish not over six inches long.
"Mine!" he cried.
"It isn't worth ten cents!" cried Biggs and Ferry; nevertheless Lambert pocketed the coin, amid a general laughing.
The boys now went to a spot a little above where the soldiers were fishing, and set to work on their own lines. Just as Ferry announced a fine haul, they threw in, and soon everybody in the party was busy, bringing in several kinds of fish, big and little, including some fine trout of a variety the boys had not before seen.
Inside of an hour everybody had all the fish he wanted, and then the soldiers said they were going to take a swim. The boys were willing, and soon the whole crowd were in the water, calling out and laughing and having a good time generally.
"Don't go too far down the stream," cautioned Lambert. "The falls are below, and you might get caught in the rapids."
"All right, we'll surely remember," answered Joe.
"I'll race you across the river and back," said Darry, a little later.
"Done!" cried Joe. "To what point?"
"To that willow hanging down near the big rock."
So it was agreed, and in a minute both boys were off. They were good swimmers, and the race interested the soldiers, so that they gave up sporting around to watch the result.
At this point the stream widened out to nearly two hundred feet, so the race was not a particularly short one. The water ran quite swiftly, and they soon found they had to swim partly up stream to prevent being carried below the willow.
Darry made the mark first, and, touching the willow, started on the return. Joe was close behind, and now it became a neck-and-neck race between them.
"Go it, boys!" shouted Lambert. "Do your best!"
"I bet on Joe," said Ferry.
"I bet on Darry," added Biggs.
Hardly had the wager been made when Joe shot ahead. Slowly but surely he drew away from his cousin.
While the sport was going on nobody had noticed a large tree that was drifting rapidly down the middle of the river. Now, however, Lambert saw the danger.
"Look out!" he cried wildly. "Look out! A tree is coming down upon you!"
Joe heard the cry, and looking up the stream managed to get out of the way of the big piece of driftwood. But Darry was not so fortunate, and in a twinkling the youth was struck and carried out of sight.
This accident came so quickly that for the moment nobody knew what to do.
"Darry! Darry!" cried Joe. "Where are you?"
"He went under!" shouted Lambert. "The tree branches struck him on the head."
"He'll be drowned!" gasped Biggs. "What shall we do?"
By this time the tree had drifted past the point where the soldiers were stationed. Joe had now struck bottom with his feet, and at once went ashore.
"We must do something!" he panted. "We can't let Darry be drowned!"
"He must be caught under the branches," said Lambert. "As the tree hit him it turned partly over. Perhaps— There is his foot!"
He pointed to the tree and there, sure enough, was Darry's left foot, kicking wildly above the surface of the river. Then the boy's head came up, but only for a moment.
"Save me!" he spluttered, and immediately disappeared.
"This is awful!" groaned Joe. "Can't we throw a fishing-line over the tree and haul it ashore?"
"A good idea!" answered Lambert. "We'll take two lines."
He caught up the fishing-tackle, and lines in hand ran along the river bank until he was below the tree. The others followed, and helped him to get the lines into shape. Then a quick cast was made, but the lines fell short.
"Too bad!" came from Joe. "Quick, try once more!"
"The tree is turning over again!" shouted Biggs, and he was right. As some other branches came into view, they beheld Darry, caught in a crotch and held there as if in a vise.
Another cast was made, and then a third, but all in vain. Then the tree, with its helpless victim, moved forward more rapidly than ever, in the direction of the roaring falls, which were but a short distance off.