"Take care, General!" said a respectful voice close to Viggo's ear. "There is a small log jam down below, which is getting bigger every moment. When it is got afloat, it will be dangerous out here."
"What are you doing here, Sergeant?" asked the General, severely. "Did I not tell you to be the last to leave the shore?"
"You did, General," Marcus replied, meekly, "and I obeyed. But I have pushed to the front so as to be near you."
"I don't need you, Sergeant," Viggo responded, "you may go to the rear."
The booming of the cataract nearly drowned his voice and Marcus pretended not to hear it. A huge lumber mass was piling itself up among the rocks jutting out of the rapids, and a dozen men hanging like flies on the logs, sprang up and down with axes in their hands. They cut one log here and another there; shouted commands; and fell into the river amid the derisive jeers of the spectators; they scrambled out again and, dripping wet, set to work once more with a cheerful heart, to the mighty music of the cataract, whose thundering rhythm trembled and throbbed in the air.
The boys who were steering their rafts against each other in the comparatively placid basin were too absorbed in their mimic battle to heed what was going on below. Halvor and Viggo were fighting desperately with their boat-hooks, the one attacking and the other defending himself with great dexterity. They scarcely perceived, in their excitement, that the current was dragging them slowly toward the cataract; nor did they note the warning cries of the men and women on the banks.
Viggo's blood was hot, his temples throbbed, his eyes flashed. He would show this miserable clown who had dared to insult him, that the trained skill of a gentleman is worth more than the rude strength of a bully. With beautiful precision he foiled every attack; struck Halvor's boat-hook up and down, so that the water splashed about him, manoeuvring at the same time his own raft with admirable adroitness.
Cheer upon cheer rent the air, after each of his successful sallies, and his comrades, selecting their antagonists from among the enemy, now pressed forward, all eager to bear their part in the fray.