"Oh, no," he said in Dutch. "I was joking. We will skate, of course."
The boys gave a delighted shout and started on again with renewed vigor.
All but Jacob. He tried his best not to seem fatigued and, by not saying a word, saved his breath and energy for the great business of skating. But in vain. Before long, the stout body grew heavier and heavier--the tottering limbs weaker and weaker. Worse than all, the blood, anxious to get as far as possible from the ice, mounted to the puffy, good-natured cheeks, and made the roots of his thin yellow hair glow into a fiery red.
This kind of work is apt to summon vertigo, of whom good Hans Anderson writes--the same who hurls daring young hunters from the mountains or spins them from the sharpest heights of the glaciers or catches them as they tread the stepping-stones of the mountain torrent.
Vertigo came, unseen, to Jacob. After tormenting him awhile, with one touch sending a chill from head to foot, with the next scorching every vein with fever, she made the canal rock and tremble beneath him, the white sails bow and spin as they passed, then cast him heavily upon the ice.
"Halloo!" cried Van Mounen. "There goes Poot!"
Peter and Carl were lifting him. The face was white enough now. It seemed like a dead face--even the good-natured look was gone.
A crowd collected. Peter unbuttoned the poor boy's jacket, loosened his red tippet, and blew between the parted lips.