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by [?]

Gasping, blue in the face, half drowned, the boy was flung spitefully–as though the sea scorned so poor a victory–high on the sandy beach, where succeeding shorter waves lapped at him and retired. The encircling life-buoy was large enough to permit his crouching within it. Pillowing his head on one side of the smooth ring, he wailed hoarsely for an interval, then slept–or swooned. The tide went down the beach, the typhoon whirled its raging center off to sea, and the tropic moon shone out, lighting up, between the beach and barrier reef, a heaving stretch of oily lagoon on which appeared and disappeared hundreds of shark-fins quickly darting, and, out on the barrier reef, perched high, yet still pounded by the ocean combers raised by the storm, a fragment of ship’s stern with a stump of mizzenmast. The elevated position of the fragment, the quickly darting dorsal fins, and the absence of company for the child on the beach spoke, too plainly, of shipwreck, useless boats, and horrible death.

Sharks must sleep like other creatures, and they nestle in hollows at the bottom and in coral caves, or under overhanging ledges of the reefs which attract them. The first swimmer may pass safely by night, seldom the second. Like she-wolves, fiendish cats, and vicious horses, they have been known to show mercy to children. For one or both reasons, this child had drifted to the beach unharmed.

Anywhere but on a bed of hot sand near the equator the sleep in wet clothing of a three-year-old boy might have been fatal; but salt water carries its own remedy for the evils of its moisture, and he wakened at daylight with strength to rise and cry out his protest of loneliness and misery. His childish mind could record facts, but not their reason or coherency. He was in a new, an unknown world. His mother had filled his old; where was she now? Why had she tied him into that thing and thrown him from her into the darkness and wet? Strange things had happened, which he dimly remembered. He had been roused from his sleep, dressed, and taken out of doors in the dark, where there were frightful crashing noises, shoutings of men, and crying of women and other children. He had cried himself, from sympathy and terror, until his mother had thrown him away. Had he been bad? Was she angry? And after that–what was the rest? He was hungry and thirsty now. Why did she not come? He would go and find her.

With the life-buoy hanging about his waist–though of cork, a heavy weight for him–he toddled along the beach to where it ended at a massive ridge of rock that came out of the wooded country inland and extended into the lagoon as an impassable point. He called the chief word in his vocabulary again and again, sobbing between calls. She was not there, or she would have come; so he went back, glancing fearfully at the dark woods of palm and undergrowth. She might be in there, but he was afraid to look. His little feet carried him a full half-mile in the other direction before the line of trees and bushes reached so close to the beach as to stop him. Here he sat down, screaming passionately and convulsively for his mother.

Crying is an expense of energy which must be replenished by food. When he could cry no longer he tugged at the straps and strings of the life-buoy. But they were wet and hard, his little fingers were weak, and he knew nothing of knots and their untying, so it was well on toward midday before he succeeded in scrambling out of the meshes, by which time he was famished, feverish with thirst, and all but sunstruck. He wandered unsteadily along the beach, falling occasionally, moaning piteously through his parched, open lips; and when he reached the obstructing ridge of rock, turned blindly into the bushes at its base, and followed it until he came to a pool of water formed by a descending spray from above. From this, on his hands and knees, he drank deeply, burying his lips as would an animal.