"We hope so," responded the crowd respectfully, though undoubtedly Mrs. Taylor was alone in her belief: her business manager, F. M. Russell, a lily-livered little man, betook himself to the nearest bar, where he hid out till it was all over.
At 3:50 the rivermen pulled away from Grass Island, towing the barrel. It was Holleran's job to select a current that would carry the barrel over in the center, where lay Annie's only chance. After careful scrutiny Holleran selected a current. Truesdale was preparing to cut the towline when he heard a faint rapping and a muffled voice.
"The barrel is leaking."
"How much water is there in it?" asked Fred.
"About a pailful."
"Well, that won't hurt you," Fred assured her. "You'll be over the falls and rescued in a few minutes. We're going to cast you off now. Goodby."
"Goodby," from the barrel.
Truesdale cut the rope at 4:05. The crowd yelled, "She's off!" and cheered wildly as the barrel danced and bounced in the foaming rapids. Picking up speed, it raced toward the thundering falls, reaching the brink in 17 minutes. There, on the very edge of the cataract, it caught on a sunken rock. For a fraction of a second it stood straight up, as if surveying the fearful drop before it. Then over it went and disappeared.
In less than a minute spectators let out a shout. Bobbing out from under the falls, the barrel caught in the Maid of the Mist eddy and drifted toward a huge rock about 500 feet downriver. When it was close enough, Engineer John Ross hooked it to safety. No sound came from within as he prepared to pry off the lid, and a hush fell over the spectators. The prospect of a corpse being lifted from the barrel was more than they had actually bargained for. It was with an effort that Ross got the lid open. A white hand slowly emerged and waved feebly.
"My God! She's alive!" he shouted. The crowd yelled with unrestrained joy; river boats blew their whistles. F. M. Russell emerged from the bar.