The Iron Heel eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 261 pages of information about The Iron Heel.
to me, I recognized him as Joseph Hurd.  Of all the terrible things I have witnessed, never have I been so unnerved as by this frantic creature’s pleading for life.  He was mad for life.  It was pitiable.  He refused to let go of me, despite the hands of a dozen comrades.  And when at last he was dragged shrieking away, I sank down fainting upon the floor.  It is far easier to see brave men die than to hear a coward beg for life.*

* The Benton Harbor refuge was a catacomb, the entrance of which was cunningly contrived by way of a well.  It has been maintained in a fair state of preservation, and the curious visitor may to-day tread its labyrinths to the assembly hall, where, without doubt, occurred the scene described by Avis Everhard.  Farther on are the cells where the prisoners were confined, and the death chamber where the executions took place.  Beyond is the cemetery—­long, winding galleries hewn out of the solid rock, with recesses on either hand, wherein, tier above tier, lie the revolutionists just as they were laid away by their comrades long years agone.

CHAPTER XX

A LOST OLIGARCH

But in remembering the old life I have run ahead of my story into the new life.  The wholesale jail delivery did not occur until well along into 1915.  Complicated as it was, it was carried through without a hitch, and as a very creditable achievement it cheered us on in our work.  From Cuba to California, out of scores of jails, military prisons, and fortresses, in a single night, we delivered fifty-one of our fifty-two Congressmen, and in addition over three hundred other leaders.  There was not a single instance of miscarriage.  Not only did they escape, but every one of them won to the refuges as planned.  The one comrade Congressman we did not get was Arthur Simpson, and he had already died in Cabanas after cruel tortures.

The eighteen months that followed was perhaps the happiest of my life with Ernest.  During that time we were never apart.  Later, when we went back into the world, we were separated much.  Not more impatiently do I await the flame of to-morrow’s revolt than did I that night await the coming of Ernest.  I had not seen him for so long, and the thought of a possible hitch or error in our plans that would keep him still in his island prison almost drove me mad.  The hours passed like ages.  I was all alone.  Biedenbach, and three young men who had been living in the refuge, were out and over the mountain, heavily armed and prepared for anything.  The refuges all over the land were quite empty, I imagine, of comrades that night.

Just as the sky paled with the first warning of dawn, I heard the signal from above and gave the answer.  In the darkness I almost embraced Biedenbach, who came down first; but the next moment I was in Ernest’s arms.  And in that moment, so complete had been my transformation, I discovered it was only by an effort of will that I could be the old Avis Everhard, with the old mannerisms and smiles, phrases and intonations of voice.  It was by strong effort only that I was able to maintain my old identity; I could not allow myself to forget for an instant, so automatically imperative had become the new personality I had created.

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The Iron Heel from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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