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hope, and prevented me from making a movement or 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 had 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 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 gelling 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 above with the dancing whirl of snowflakes, vanished in the air before they could settle on nis faces
They answered with a deep, confused growl, jostling and crowd. ing on the edge to look down into his eyes. Meantime I stares of the convulsive heaving of his breast, at his upturned cnin, nig .weiling throat. He defied Manuel. He would leap. Renold! he was going to leap—to his own death-in his own rime. He challenged them to come down on the ledge; and the blade vi the naimed arm waved to and fro stiffly, point up, like a red-hot weapon in the light. He devoted them to pestilence, to English gallows, to the infernal powers; while all the time the commenting
murmurs passed over his head, 24 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 somber, 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 decret
E 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. 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 (ight 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 F'astro?”
“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 voice that seemed to tremble slightly with eagerness. Had he eaten and drunk enough? They had kept their promises, he said. They would keep them all. The water had been cool—and presently he, Manuel-del-Popolo, would accompany with his guitar and his voice the last moments of his victim. Bursts of laughter punctuated his banter. Ah! that Manuel, that Manuel! Some actually swore in admiration. But was Castro really at his ease? Was it not good to eat and drink? Had he quite returned to life? But, Caramba, amigos, what neglect! The caballero who has honored us must smoke. They shouted in high glee:
“Yes. Smoke, Castro. Let him smoke." I suppose he did; and Manuel expounded to him how pleasant life was in which one could eat, and drink, and smoke. His words tortured me. Castro remained mute—from disdain, from despair, perhaps. Afterwards they carried him along clear of the cornice, and I understood they formed a half-circle round him, drawing their knives. Manuel, screeching in a high falsetto, ordered the bonds of his feet to be cut. I advanced my head out as far as I dared; their voices reached me deadened ; I could only see the profound shadow of the ravine, a patch of dark, clear sky opulent with stars, and the play of the firelight on the opposite side. The shadow of a pair of monumental feet, and the lower edge of a cloak, spread amply like a skirt, stood out in it, intensely black and motionless, right in front of the cave. Now and then, elbowed in the surge round Castro, the guitar emitted a deep and hollow resonance. He was tumultuously ordered to stand up and, I imagine, he was being pricked with the points of their knives till he did get on his feet. “Jump" they roared all together and Manuel began to finger the strings, lifting up his voice between the gusts of savage hilarity, mingled with cries of death. He exhorted his followers to close on the traitor inch by inch, presenting their knives.
"He runs here and there, the blood trickling from his limbs -but in vain, this is the appointed time for the leap. ..
It was an improvisation; they stamped their feet to the slow measure; they shouted in chorus the one word “Leap!” raising a ferocious roar; and between whiles the song of voice and strings came to me from a distance, softened and lingering in a voluptuous and pitiless cadence that wrung my heart, and seemed to eat up the remnants of my strength. But what could I have done, even if I had had the strength of a giant, and a most fearless resolution? I should have been shot dead before I had crawled halfway up the ledge. A piercing shriek covered the guitar, the song, and the wild merriment.
Then everything seemed to stop-even my own painful breath ing. Again Castro shrieked like a madman:
“Señorita—your gold. Señorita! Hear me! Help!”
An awestruck sort of hum proceeded from the Spaniards. Was the señorita alive? In the cave? Or where?
“Her nod would have saved thee, Castro,” said Manuel slowly. I got up. I heard Castro stammer wildly:
“She shall fill both your hands with gold. Do you hear, hombres? I, Castro, tell you—each man—both handsHe had done it. The last hope was gone now.
And all that there remained for me to do was to leap over or give myself up, and end this horrible business.
She was a creature born to command the moon and the stars,' Manuel mused aloud in a vibrating tone, and suddenly smote the strings with emphatic violence. She could even stay his vengeance. But was it possible! No, no. It could not be—and yet.
"Thou art alive yet, Castro,” he cried. " Thou hast eaten and drunk; life is good—is it not, old man?-and the leap is high."
He thundered Silence!” to still the excited murmurs of his band. If she lived Castro should live, too—he, Manuel, said so; but he threatened him with horrible tortures, with two days of slow dying, if he dared to deceive. Let him, then, speak the truth quickly.
"Speak, viejo. Where is she?"
And at the opening, fifty yards away, I was tempted to call out, as though I had loved Castro well enough to save him from the shame and remorse of a plain betrayal. That the moment of it had come I could have no doubt. And it was I myself, perhaps, who could not face the certitude of his downfall. If my throat had not been so compressed, so dry with thirst and choked with emotion, I believe I should have cried out and brought them away from that miserable man with a rush. Since we were lost, he at least should be saved from this. I suffered from his spasmodic, agonized laugh away there, with twenty knives aimed at his breast