Bob Dunbar called out the final instructions. "Are you ready?" he cried, and he raised his pistol and fired. The six figures flashed and splashed into the smooth water; the crowd on the beach gave a surge of interest; Bob Dunbar and his cousin leaned over the edge of their boat, peering along the surface.
"Will any of them get out as far as this, Bob?" asked Lydia.
"One or two, maybe; it's about the limit. Hello! There's Halket."
He pointed to the figure gliding smoothly a foot below the surface. Lydia gazed with fascination. "He moves like an automaton,—almost as if he were n't alive," she murmured. "Oh, look at Jack Folsom!" and she laughed as a red face popped above the surface and settled, gasping, to its chin.
"There!" cried Lydia. "There! It's Stewart! See, Bob, it's Stewart!" She leaned out over the gunwale; her cousin, on the watch for other emerging heads, paid little attention and did not see that Stewart was beginning to turn round under water with a slow, lifeless stroke. If he had seen, he would have known that something was wrong, that the boy was in a daze, and was staying down with a confused and obstinate effort of will. Lydia, not understanding, was amused. "Why, the idiot boy! He's swimming in circles! I'm going to jab him!" And she caught up an oar and poked the blade into the water. Instantly the lips on which a laugh seemed always perching were transfixed with terror; the oar slashed down below the surface in her limp grasp.
"Bob!" she cried. "He's gone down! He's gone—I don't see him—oh, quick. Bob, quick!"
"Where?" Her cousin stared at her blanched face.
"There—right there." She put her strength frantically to the oar and raised it till only the tip of the blade touched the surface.