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[164] every point of the situation. I saw at once where I was, and how I got there: that the tide had turned while I was swimming, and with a much briefer interval of slack-water than I had been led to suppose,--that I had been swept a good way down stream, and was far beyond all possibility of regaining the point I had left.

Could I, however, retain my strength to swim one or two hundred yards farther, of which I had no doubt,--and if the water did not ebb too rapidly, of which I had more fear,--then I was quite safe. Every stroke took me more and more out of the power of the current, and there might even be an eddy to aid me. I could not afford to be carried down much farther, for there the channel made a sweep toward the wrong side of the river; but there was now no reason why I should not reach land. I could dismiss all fear, indeed, except that of being fired upon by our own sentinels, many of whom were then new recruits, and with the usual disposition to shoot first and investigate afterwards.

I found myself swimming in shallow and shallower water, and the flats seemed almost bare when I neared the shore, where the great gnarled branches of the live oaks hung far over the muddy bank. Floating on my back for noiselessness, I paddled rapidly in with my hands, expecting momentarily to hear the challenge of the picket, and the ominous click so likely to follow. I knew that some one should be pacing to and fro, along that beat, but could not tell at what point he might be at that precise moment. Besides, there was a faint possibility that some chatty corporal might have carried the news of my bath thus far along the line, and they might be partially prepared for this unexpected visitor. Suddenly, like another flash, came the quick, quaint challenge,--

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