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Then he carried on steadying the ironed men (some were slaveringmad) till it was time to unshackle them by fives, and give ’em their chance. The natives made a chain through the surf, and snatched them out breast-high.

https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/k/kipling/rudyard/limits/chapter19.html

I do not understand the meaning of the sentence below.

The natives made a chain through the surf, and snatched them out breast-high.

I am glad if some one would kindly teach me.

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I think it means that the natives went out into the water all in a line, or human chain, and grabbed the shackled men from water which was pretty deep (high as a man's breast) pulling and pushing them (apparently they were shackled together in groups of 5) through the water toward the safety of the shore.

Not that this is part of your question, but I can't resist mentioning that this story seems to be very difficult reading.

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