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The smile never left his face. He was
pleased, she was affording him a new sensation. I knew that if I made any attempt to go to her aid it might cause her to lose her balance, but while her back was turned I tiptoed up noiselessly to the very edge where the girder went into the earth. I now know what eternity means. Slowly, but with no uncertain step, she reached the end, then, with a perceptible tremble, she changed the position of both feet until they rested transversely to the beam, the most difficult way to stand and retain one's balance. At last she faced us again and for one moment she raised her eyes and gazed into mine with oh, such a pathetic look, a look as of one who was shaking hands with death and knew not whether her hand was to be released or not. There I stood with arms outstretched and a smile, the sort of smile a man might wear for a little while in the torture-chamber. However, now that she had made the turn and was slowly returning, I felt a creeping sensation of hope, but when hope is greatest, suspense is hardest to bear.
By leaning forward I could almost touch her hands. I did not dare put my weight on the girder, it seemed so rotten. Suddenly my heart sank. I heard the increasing rumble of an approaching train. I knew that any object coming toward her, going beneath, and passing away she would intuitively follow, though ever so slightly, with her eyes, which would mean death.
When she, too, heard and realised, she stopped, and a gray pallor overspread her face. Absolutely motionless she stood for one short moment, then with her presence of mind and her confidence gone, she gave one quick glance at the train as it thundered beneath her, and whirling, fell — into my extended arms. Her weight brought me with a crash to the ground, and there she dangled over the edge, dependent upon the failing strength of a pair of human arms. I caught her closer to me so I could encircle her waist with one arm, released my left and threw it over the girder, also resting my left shoulder along its edge. Then for the first time I seemed to recollect and hoarsely cried: “Aren't you going to help? For God's sake, man, be quick!” No an
I thought my right arm would go by the roots. Just then I heard a cracking sound beneath my left shoulder, the girder was breaking off close to the edge. I saw its outer end slowly pointing downward. Again I called, “In the name of God, help us.” Only silence. I could not turn my head to see, but I knew now he had gone, for no man made in the image of God could have stood there and made no effort. Slowly Mrs. B's head turned for the first time, and face to face with one another and death, we looked our love into one another's eyes. The only words were spoken by
“Have courage, you sha'n't go alone, I am coming too."
With a final snapping the beam parted. I watched its fall till it crashed on the tracks below. Then I felt myself slipping farther and farther over the edge. Suddenly I was grasped by the ankles and with a mighty jerk I was pulled back. The next moment — B. was by my side; together we raised Mrs. B., who had fainted, and he placed her in a safe position behind me, giving me a hand; I rose, and there we His eyes
stood looking at one another. were dancing with delight and amusement.
“Ye gods!” he cried. “I have had a sensation. I never watched anything so interesting in my life. You know, I could not help smiling at you; you were indeed prostrating yourself before Death in a very humble way. To have gone into his presence
on your belly, must surely have pleased his vanity.”
Had he meant, even for a moment, to let us die? I wondered then and I wonder now. Had God and the Devil had a battle for the possession of this man and had God won? I wondered then and I wonder now.
That evening I dined alone at the club. I was in no mood to listen to twaddle nor to
talk it. About nine I wandered down to
B.'s cottage to inquire how my lady fared.
In the year's necklace of nights, this one