Of treading as a branch of swimming something should be known by every one. It is the only department of the art that is at all natural; and, if treading were resorted to in cases of accidental immersion, three-fourths of the resulting deaths would be prevented.
The essential condition, of course, is that the hands be kept under water. When one falls into water the legs sink and the body assumes a perpendicular position, the water splashed over the face, and, once the eyes become filled or the mouth covered, the inclination of any one unable to swim is to throw the hands up and make an effort as if to creep along on the surface. These efforts only increase the danger of the position.
On becoming submerged one should keep perfectly inactive for a brief time; the hand will soon rise above the surface, and at this moment one ought to beat downward with both hands alternately, never allowing them to splash or disturb the surface, the head being leaned back so as to keep only the face and nostrils clear. The back of the head and ears may be covered, but this does not matter.
The motions of the hands, exactly similar to those of a dogs forepaws when swimming and walking, are to be continued, the feet at the same striking down -- not hurriedly, nor with sudden jerky movement, but easily and gracefully, the ankles moving as if working treadles, so that the soles of the feet act as sustaining and, it may be, propelling surfaces. The movements of hands and feet may be altered by beating downward with both hands at once, or both feet at once, but in cases of accident the former action is to be recommended.
Swimmers, when treading at competitions or for display, either fold their arms across their chest or hold hands and arms above the surface. In artistic swimming trials, as much as possible of the body should be shown above the surface, and bobbing up and down ought to be avoided.
Treading is of much importance even to a good swimmer, as it allows him to divest himself of upper clothing, and enables him to lay hold of anything, such as a rope or line that does not quite reach the surface; it is also the most comfortable position in which one can partake of refreshment in case of a long swim, and is useful for purposes of conversation.