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ness, he seemed to be collecting all his remaining strength.
"Oh, those strange Inglez! Why should I not leap? and whom do you love best or hate more, me or the señorita? Be thou a man, also, and pray God to give thee reason to understand men for once in thy life. Ha! Enamoured woman he is a fool! But I, Cas tro. . . .”
His whispering became appallingly unintelligible, then ceased, passing into a moan. My will to restrain him abandoned me. He had brought this on us. And if he really wished to give up the struggle. . . .
“Señor,” he mumbled brokenly, “a thousand thanks. Br-r-r! Oh, the ugly water-water-water-watersalt water-salt! You saved me. Why? Let God be the Judge. I would have preferred a malignant demon for a friend. I forgive you. Adios! And Her Excellency-poor Castro. . . . Ha! Thou old scorpion, encircled by fireby fire and thirst. No. No scorpion, alas! Only a man—not like you—thereforea Mass-or two—perhaps...."
The freshness of the night penetrated through the arch, as far as the faint twilight of the day. I heard his tearful muttering creep away from my side. “Thirstthirst-thirst.” I did not stir; and an incredulity, a weariness, the sense of our common fate, mingled with an unconfessed desire the desire of seeing what would come of it—a desire that stirred my blood like a glimmer of hope, and prevented me from making a movement cr uttering a whisper. If his sufferings were so great, who was I to... Mine, too. I almost envied him. He was free.
As if an inward obscurity had parted in two I looked to the very bottom of my thoughts. And his action appeared like a sacrifice. It could liberate us two from
this cave before it was too late. He, he alone, was the prey they had trapped. They would be satisfied, probably. Nay! There could be no doubt. Directly he was dead they would depart. Ah! he wanted to leap. He must not be allowed. Now that I understood perfectly what this meant, I had to prevent him. There was no choice. I must stop him at any cost.
The awakening of my conscience sent me to my feet; but before I had stumbled halfway through the passage I heard his shout in the open air, “Behold me!”
A man outside cried excitedly, “He is out!”
An exulting tumult fell into the arch, the clash of twenty voices yelling in different keys, “He is out—the traitor! He is out!” I was too late, but I made three more hesitating steps and stood blinded. The flaming branches they were holding over the precipice showered a multitude of sparks, that fell disappearing continuously in the lurid light, shutting out the night from the mouth of the cave. And in this light Castro could be seen kneeling on the other side of the sill.
With his fingers clutching the edge of the slab, he hung outwards, his head falling back, his spine arched tensely, like a bow; and the red sparks coming from abon with the dancing whirl of snowflakes, vanished in the air before they could settle on his face.
They answered with a deep, confused growl, jostling and crowding on the edge to look down into his eyes. Meantime I stared at the convulsive heaving of his breast, at his upturned chin, his swelling throat. He defied Manuel. He would leap. Behold! he was going to leap—to his own death-in his own time. He challenged them to come down on the ledge; and the blade of the maimed arm waved to and fro stiffly, point up, like a red-hot weapon in the light. He de
voted them to pestilence, to English gallows, to the infernal powers: while all the time commenting murmurs passed over his head, as though he had extorted their sinister appreciation.
“Canalla ! dogs, thieves, prey of death, vermin of hell—I spit on you—like this!”
He had not the force, nor the saliva, and remained straining mutely upwards while they laughed at him all together, with something sombre, and as if doomed in their derision.... “He will jump! No, he will not!” “Yes! Leap, Castro! Spit, Castro!” “He will run back into the cave! Maladetta ! ” . .. Manuel's voiced cooed lovingly on the brink:
“Come to us and drink, Castro.”
I waited for his leap with doubt, with disbelief, in the helpless agitation of the weak. Gradually he seemed to relax all over.
"Drink deep; drink, and drink, and drink, Castro. Water. Clear water, cool water. Taste, Castro!”
He called on him in tones that were almost tender in their urgency, to come and drink before he died. His voice seemed to cast a spell, like an incantation, upon the tubby little figure, with something yearning in the upward turn of the listening face.
“Drink!” Manuel repeated the word several times; then, suddenly he called, “Taste, Castro, taste," and a descending brightness, as of a crystal rod hurled from above, shivered to nothing on the upturned face. The light disappearing from before the cave seemed scared away by the inhuman discord of his shriek; and I flung myself forward to lick the splash of moisture on the sill. I did not think of Castro, I had forgotten him. I raged at the deception of my thirst, exploring with my tongue the rough surface of the stone till I tasted my own blood. Only then, raising my head to gasp, and clench my fists
with a baffled and exasperated desire, I noticed how profound was the silence, in which the words, “Take away his sting,” seemed to pronounce themselves over the ravine in the impersonal austerity of the rock, and with the tone of a tremendous decree.
HE HAD surrendered to his thirst. What weakness! He had not thrown himself over, then. What folly! One splash of water on his face had been enough. He was contemptible; and lying collapsed, in a sort of tormented apathy, at the mouth of the cave, I despised and envied his good fortune. It could not save him from death, but at least he drank. I understood this when I heard his voice, a voice altogether altered—a firm, greedy voice saying, “More,” breathlessly. And then he drank again. He was drinking. He was drinking up there in the light of the fire, in a circle of mortal enemies, under Manuel's gloating eyes. Drinking! O happiness! O delight! What a miserable wretch! I clawed the stone convulsively; I think I would have rushed out for my share if I had not heard Manuel's cruel and caressing voice:
“How now? You do not want to throw yourself over, my Castro?”
“I have drunk,” he said gloomily.
I think they must have given him something to eat then. In my mind there are many blanks in the vision of that scene, a vision built upon a few words reaching me, suddenly, with great intervals of silence between, as though I had been coming to myself out of a dead faint now and then. A ferocious hum of many voices would rise sometimes impatiently, the scrambling of feet near the edge; or, in a sinister and expectant stillness, Manuel the artist would be speaking to his “beloved victim Castro” in a gentle and insinuating