It all happened in the twinkling of an eye. I turned quickly at a sudden cry from Joe—my half-breed guide—in time to see him cast the handle of his broken paddle aside and leap forward for the extra paddle. Before he could reach it the canoe swerved, swung broadside to the rushing current, crashed sickeningly against the jagged rocks, and the next instant I was floundering about in the icy, swirling water. Bumping against rocks, struggling for breath, battling frantically with the torrent, I was swept down the river. Time and again my feet touched bottom, but each time, ere I could gain a foothold, I was drawn under, and each second I realized that my strength was growing less, that my lungs were bursting for air, and that in a few more moments all would be over. Down, down, I sank; above me the green water closed in and from my mouth and nostrils tiny bubbles of escaping air rose upward despite my every effort to withhold the scanty breath within my lungs. I was drowning I knew, and vaguely I wondered what had become of Joe, and how my friends would take the news of my loss here in this river of the great wilderness. Suddenly my foot touched a hard object. I threw all of my last remaining strength into a spasmodic kick and lost consciousness.
Slowly I opened my eyes and with wonder looked upon a strip of deep-blue sky against which the dark-green boughs of evergreens were sharply outlined. For a space I marveled, for so firmly convinced had I been that I was drowned I could scarce realize that I was not looking with spiritual eyes at a scene in another world. Then it dawned upon me that through some miracle I had been saved, and with a mighty effort I sat up.
I found myself upon the very brink of a little precipice—a natural dam over which the river fell in a miniature cataract, although the greater portion of the current swept to the left and poured like a mill-race through a narrow channel in the rocks. In a moment I realized how I had escaped. My final kick had driven me beyond the sweep of the current, I had been washed upon the edge of the waterfall, and my position had allowed the water to drain from my lungs. I was still terribly weak, I was choking with the water I had swallowed, my head swam, and with the utmost difficulty I half crawled, half waded to the shore and threw myself upon the moss-covered bank where rays of sunshine penetrated the foliage overhead.