We had left Weymouth when the flood had three hours more to run, so I had not long to wait. It turned; and I knew when it turned, because the wind against it raised a sea which bid fair to wear me out. I had to go with it more or less.
Then, indeed, the land seemed very dear to me, and I began to think of home and of those who sat there deeming that all was well with me. They would never know how I had ended. I will not say much of all that went on in my mind, save only that I am ashamed of naught that passed through it. Nor did I swim less strongly for the thoughts, but struggled on steadily.
And at last the sun set, and the wind came chill over the water, and I knew that little hope was for me. Again I turned on my back and rested, and I grew drowsy, I think.
Now the daylight faded from the sky, and overhead the stars began to come out; but as the sky darkened the sea seemed to grow brighter. Presently all around me seemed to sparkle, and I wondered listlessly that the stars were so bright in the water to one who swam among their reflections. Then the little crests of foam on the waves seemed on fire, and my arms struck sparks, as it were from the water, as the sparks fly from the anvil. Only these were palest blue, not red, and I wondered at them, thinking at first that they were fancy, or from the shine of the bright stars above.
And all of a sudden, ahead of me, moved swiftly in the sea and across my way a sheet of dazzling blue brightness, and it frightened me. Often as I had seen the sea and swum in it, I had never seen the like of this, nor had heard of it. The sheet of silver fire turned and drew toward me, and I ceased swimming, and stood, treading water, watching it. Out of its midmost fires darted long streaks of light, everywhere, lightning swift, coming and going ceaselessly.
Into the midst of that brightness rushed five bolts of flame, and scattered it. The water boiled, alive with the darting fires around me and under my feet, and my heart stood still with terror. Yet I was not harmed. And then I saw one of those great white-hot silver bolts hurl itself from sea to air in a wide arch, and fall back again into the water with a mighty splash; and all the flying water seemed to burn as it fled.
Truly it was but a school of mackerel, and the porpoises which fed on the silver fish, all made wonderful by the eerie fires of a summer sea; but I could not tell that all at once. I think that I knew what it was when the great sea pig leaped, for his shape was plain to me. The shoal went its way, and after it the harmless porpoises. But the sea was fairly alight now; all round me it shone with its soft glow, and my body was wondrous with it, and I seemed to float in naught but light.
Then I think that I wandered in my mind, what with the fright and weariness; for I had been five or six hours in the water, and it was long since I had tasted food. It came to me that I was dead at last, and that I was far in the sky, floating on bright air, with stars above me and stars below. And that seemed good to me. I rested, paddling just enough to keep myself upright and forget my troubles in wonderment.