David received the dead weight upon the bosom at which the dagger had been aimed, and the first expression of his face indicated a certain disappointment that a single blow had not been permitted to end his troubles, as well as terror at an event so appalling. He stood spellbound for a moment, supporting the awful burden, and then, overpowered with the horror of the situation, cried out,
“Take him, Mantel! take him! Help me to lay him down! Quick, I cannot stand it; quick!”
They laid the lifeless form on the bed, while the little dog, leaping up beside his dead master, threw his head back and emitted a series of prolonged and melancholy howls.
OUT OF THE JAWS OF DEATH
“Men deal with
life as children with their play,
Who first misuse, then cast their toys away.”
Bewildered by the scene through which he had just passed, Corson returned to his rooms and spent the night in a sort of stupor. What happened the next day he never knew; but on the following morning he accompanied Mantel to the cemetery where, with simple but reverent ceremony, they committed the body of the doctor to the bosom of earth.
Just as they were about to turn away, after the conclusion of the burial service, a strange thing happened. The limb of a great elm tree, which had been tied back to keep it out of the way of the workmen, was released by the old sexton and swept back over the grave.
It produced a similar impression upon the minds of both the subdued spectators. They glanced at each other, and Mantel said, “It was like the wing of an angel!”
“Yes,” added David with a sigh, “and seemed to brush away and obliterate all traces of his sorrow and his sins.”
They did not speak during their homeward journey, and when they reached their rooms David paced uneasily backward and forward until the shadows of evening had fallen. When he suddenly observed that it was dusk, he took his hat and went out into the streets. There was something so restless and unnatural about his movements as to excite the suspicion of his friend, who waited for a single moment and then hurried after him.
The night was calm and clear, the autumn stars were shining in a cloudless sky, and the tide of life which had surged through the busy streets all day was ebbing like the waters from the bays and estuaries along the shore of the ocean.
The sounds the people made in tramping over the stone pavements or hurriedly driving over the hard streets, possessed a strangely different quality from the monotonous and grinding roar of the daylight. They were sharp, clear, resonant and emphatic. A single footfall attracted the attention of a listener more than the previous shuffle of a thousand feet. David’s,—soft and subdued as it was,—resounded loudly, echoing from the buildings on either side of him as he slowly paced along.