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CHAPTER 3: TO THE WATER'S EDGE (continued)
And now right and left splashed falling missiles; a new source of danger or of temporary respite; to me, by a merciful Providence, it proved the latter.
Some heavy thing fell with a mighty splash right in front of me. A few more yards, and my brains had floated with the spume. As it was, the oar was dashed from under my armpits; in another moment they had found a more solid resting-place.
It was a hen-coop, and it floated bars upwards like a boat. In this calm it might float for days. I climbed upon the bars-and the whole cage rolled over on top of me.
Coming to the surface, I found to my joy that the hen-coop had righted itself; so now I climbed up again, but this time very slowly and gingerly; the balance was undisturbed, and I stretched myself cautiously along the bars on my stomach. A good idea immediately occurred to me. I had jumped as a matter of course into the flannels which one naturally wears in the tropics. To their lightness I already owed my life, but the common cricket-belt which was part of the costume was the thing to which I owe it most of all. Loosening this belt a little, as I tucked my toes tenaciously under the endmost bar, I undid and passed the two ends under one of the middle bars, fastening the clasp upon the other side. If I capsized now, well, we might go to the bottom together; otherwise the hen-coop and I should not part company in a hurry; and I thought, I felt, that she would float.
Worn out as I was, and comparatively secure for the moment, I will not say that I slept; but my eyes closed, and every fibre rested, as I rose and slid with the smooth, long swell. Whether I did indeed hear voices, curses, cries, I cannot say positively to this day. I only know that I raised my head and looked sharply all ways but the way I durst not look for fear of an upset. And, again, I thought I saw first a tiny flame, and then a tinier glow; and as my head drooped, and my eyes closed again, I say I thought I smelt tobacco; but this, of course, was my imagination supplying all the links from one.
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