“If that’s so, I’ve no doubt Langton will escort you. He likes processions, though he prefers executions. To a religious service I doubt your bribing him.”
Upon this they had parted, each well aware that, but a few weeks ago, this small expedition would have been planned together, discussed, shared, as a matter of course. At parting he kissed her hand—he had always exquisite manners; and she wished him a pleasant day with a voice quite cheerful and unconstrained.
From the sunlit terrace she looked almost straight down upon the garden of Mrs. Hake’s villa. The two little girls were at play there. She heard their voices, shrill above the sound of the church bells. Now and again she caught a glimpse of them, at hide-and-seek between the ilexes.
She was thinking. If only fate had given her children such as these! . . . As it was, she could show a brave face. But what could the future hold?
She heard their mother calling to them. They must have obeyed and run to her, for the garden fell silent of a sudden. The bells, too, were ceasing—five or six only tinkled on.
She leaned forward over the balustrade to make sure that the children were gone. As she did so, the sound of a whimper caught her ear. She looked down, and spoke soothingly to a small dog, an Italian greyhound, a pet of Mr. Langton’s, that had run to her trembling, and was nuzzling against her skirt for shelter. She could not think what ailed the creature. Belike it had taken fright at a noise below the terrace—a rumbling noise, as of a cart mounting the hill heavily laden with stones.
The waggon, if waggon it were, must be on the roadway to the left. Again she leaned forward over the balustrade. A faint tremor ran through the stonework on which her arms rested. For a moment she fancied it some trick of her own pulse.
But the tremor was renewed. The pulsation was actually in the stonework. . . . And then, even while she drew back, wondering, the terrace under her feet heaved as though its pavement rested on a wave of the sea. She was thrown sideways, staggering; and while she staggered, saw the great flagstones of the terrace raise themselves on end, as notes of a harpsichord when the fingers withdraw their pressure.
She would have caught again at the balustrade. But it had vanished, or rather was vanishing under her gaze, toppling into the garden below. The sound of the falling stones was caught up in a long, low rumble, prolonged, swelling to a roar from the city below. Again the ground heaved, and beneath her—she had dropped on her knees, and hung, clutching the little dog, staring over a level verge where the balustrade had run—she saw Lisbon fall askew, this way and that: the roofs collapsing, like a toy structure of cards. Still the roar of it swelled on the ear; yet, strange to say, the roar seemed to have nothing to do with the collapse,