"Save yourself, General!" he yelled, wildly. "Let go there. I can't hold on much longer."
But Viggo did not heed. He saw nothing but the pale, frightened face of his antagonist, who might lose his life. With a desperate effort he flung his boat-hook toward him and succeeded this time in laying hold of the leather girdle about his waist. One hundred feet below yawned the foaming, weltering abyss, from which the white smoke ascended. If Marcus lost his grip, if the branch snapped no human power could save them; they were all dead men.
By this time the people on the shore had discovered that three lives were hanging on the brink of eternity. Twenty men had waded waist-deep into the current and had flung a stout rope to the noble little fellow who was risking his own life for his friend.
"Keep your hold, my brave lad!" they cried; "hold on another minute!"
"Grab the rope!" screamed others.
Marcus clinched his teeth, and his numb arms trembled, mist gathered in his eyes--his heart stood still. But with a clutch that seemed superhuman he held on. He had but one thought-- Viggo, his chief! Viggo, his idol! Viggo, his general! He must save him or die with him. One end of the rope was hanging on the branch and was within easy reach; but he did not venture to seize it, lest the wrench caused by his motion might detach his hold on Viggo's raft.
Viggo, who just now was pulling Halvor out of the water, saw in an instant that he had by adding his weight to the raft, increased the chance of both being carried to their death. With quick resolution he plunged the beak of his own boat-hook into Marcus's raft, and shouted to Halvor to save himself. The latter, taking in the situation at a glance, laid hold of the handle of the boat-hook and together they pulled up alongside of Marcus and leaped aboard his raft, whereupon Viggo's raft drifted downward and vanished in a flash in the yellow torrent.
At that very instant Marcus's strength gave out; he relaxed his grip on the branch, which slid out of his hand, and they would inevitably have darted over the brink of the cataract if Viggo had not, with great adroitness, snatched the rope from the branch of the half-submerged tree.