Cold indeed was the wound in my heart, yet not so cold as the waters into which I fell. Against all expectation, I was not plunged into the icy depths to drown; for as I plummeted seaward my cloak of heaven-blue billowed out around me like a parachute, breaking my fall, so that at last I splashed lightly down upon the tops of the waves and floated there like a cork.
As it had caught the air during my fall, so the cloak continued to hold it on the surface of the water, inflating itself like life-raft or a pillow of foam. Recovering my senses and looking about me, I discovered that my lamp and my basket of apples were close at hand, also floating easily on the face of the water. I reached for them and drew them into the folds of the cloak, keenly aware somehow that these gifts might yet prove valuable. Then up and down, this way and that, I bobbed over the crests of the whitecaps, pelted all the while by rain and hail, a strong current driving me along. I knew nothing of the direction in which I was headed and was absolutely helpless to do anything about it.
Deep though the darkness was, and thick as were the mists, I was able to see a short distance round about me by the light of my little lamp. More than once I came alarming close to jagged rocks, but never was I dashed upon them, nor could I reach them in order to pull myself out of the water.
After the current had carried me along for a while I suddenly broke out of the mists and the rain and found myself floating along under the stars. The glow on the western horizon lay directly ahead. Behind me the luminous blue mountains were already sinking into the fog from which I had just emerged. It was clear that the tide was carrying me straight out to sea and on into the sunrise of Christmas morning.
Oddly enough, though the time seemed to stretch into hours, that approaching glow never appeared to grow or change in any way. It was as if the earth or the sun – one or the other – were standing still. Soon the light of the mountains died away altogether, but the hint of sunrise before me remained constant. It was just strong enough to keep me apprised of the direction in which I was moving.
Becoming aware that I was ravenously hungry, I reached for the basket and counted the apples. There were seven. I took the first one that came to hand and bit into it deeply.
Never had I tasted such an apple! It was deliciously ripe and crisp. As I ate, its sweet golden juice ran around and under my tongue and dribbled from the corners of my mouth. I ate it up completely, core, seeds, and all. When I had finished I felt indescribably satisfied and warm in spite of the cold water in which I floated. Immediately the warmth returned to the wound in my heart and I felt my spirits rise.
Suddenly a point of light, small but bright, appeared on the water ahead of me. As I watched, it grew in intensity. It was moving towards me. Soon I could see the yellow glow of lanterns shimmering on the flapping canvas of a tall sail. It was a boat! I picked up my lamp and waved it above my head.
“Here!” I cried. “I’m over here!”
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