The uproar that followed about Jesus and the soldiers died away along the street. And when there was no further sound of it Miriam turned to go, with neither word nor look for me.
I knew one last rush of mad hunger for her. I sprang and seized her. I would horse her and ride away with her and my men into Syria away from this cursed city of folly. She struggled. I crushed her. She struck me on the face, and I continued to hold and crush her, for the blows were sweet. And there she ceased to struggle. She became cold and motionless, so that I knew there was no woman’s love that my arms girdled. For me she was dead. Slowly I let go of her. Slowly she stepped back. As if she did not see me she turned and went away across the quiet room, and without looking back passed through the hangings and was gone.
* * * * *
I, Ragnar Lodbrog, never came to read nor write. But in my days I have listened to great talk. As I see it now, I never learned great talk, such as that of the Jews, learned in their law, nor such as that of the Romans, learned in their philosophy and in the philosophy of the Greeks. Yet have I talked in simplicity and straightness, as a man may well talk who has lived life from the ships of Tostig Lodbrog and the roof of Brunanbuhr across the world to Jerusalem and back again. And straight talk and simple I gave Sulpicius Quirinius, when I went away into Syria to report to him of the various matters that had been at issue in Jerusalem.
Suspended animation is nothing new, not alone in the vegetable world and in the lower forms of animal life, but in the highly evolved, complex organism of man himself. A cataleptic trance is a cataleptic trance, no matter how induced. From time immemorial the fakir of India has been able voluntarily to induce such states in himself. It is an old trick of the fakirs to have themselves buried alive. Other men, in similar trances, have misled the physicians, who pronounced them dead and gave the orders that put them alive under the ground.
As my jacket experiences in San Quentin continued I dwelt not a little on this problem of suspended animation. I remembered having read that the far northern Siberian peasants made a practice of hibernating through the long winters just as bears and other wild animals do. Some scientist studied these peasants and found that during these periods of the “long sleep” respiration and digestion practically ceased, and that the heart was at so low tension as to defy detection by ordinary layman’s examination.
In such a trance the bodily processes are so near to absolute suspension that the air and food consumed are practically negligible. On this reasoning, partly, was based my defiance of Warden Atherton and Doctor Jackson. It was thus that I dared challenge them to give me a hundred days in the jacket. And they did not dare accept my challenge.