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Chapter 62
I slept in fits that night. Shortly before sunrise I gave uptrying to fall asleep again and lifted myself on an elbow. I spiedwith my little eye a tiger. Richard Parker was restless. He wasmoaning and growling and pacing about the lifeboat. It wasimpressive. I assessed the situation. He couldn't be hungry. Orat least not dangerously hungry. Was he thirsty? His tonguehung from his mouth, but only on occasion, and he was notpanting. And his stomach and paws were still wet. But theywere not dripping wet. There probably wasn't much water leftin the boat. Soon he would be thirsty.
I looked up at the sky. The cloud cover had vanished. Butfor a few wisps on the horizon, the sky was clear. It would beanother hot, rainless day. The sea moved in a lethargic way, asif already exhausted by the oncoming heat.
I sat against the mast and thought over our problem. Thebiscuits and the fishing gear assured us of the solid part ofour diet. It was the liquid part that was the rub. It all camedown to what was so abundant around us but marred by salt.
I could perhaps mix some sea water with his fresh water, but Ihad to procure more fresh water to start with. The cans wouldnot last long between the two of us – in fact, I was loath toshare even one with Richard Parker – and it would be foolishto rely on rainwater.
The solar stills were the only other possible source ofdrinkable water. I looked at them doubtfully. They had beenout two days now. I noticed that one of them had lost a littleair. I pulled on the rope to tend to it. I topped off its conewith air. Without any real expectation I reached underwater forthe distillate pouch that was clipped to the round buoyancychamber. My fingers took hold of a bag that was unexpectedlyfat. A shiver of thrill went through me. I controlled myself. Aslikely as not, salt water had leaked in. I unhooked the pouchand, following the instructions, lowered it and tilted the still sothat any more water from beneath the cone might flow into it.
I closed the two small taps that led to the pouch, detached itand pulled it out of the water. It was rectangular in shape andmade of thick, soft, yellow plastic, with calibration marks on oneside. I tasted the water. I tasted it again. It was salt-free.
"My sweet sea cow!" I exclaimed to the solar still. "You'veproduced, and how! What a delicious milk. Mind you, a littlerubbery, but I'm not complaining. Why, look at me drink!"I finished the bag. It had a capacity of one litre and wasnearly full. After a moment of sigh-producing, shut-eyedsatisfaction, I reattached the pouch. I checked the other stills.
Each one had an udder similarly heavy. I collected the freshmilk, over eight litres of it, in the fish b............
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