In vaguely silhouetted greeting for one fleet instant a little khaki arm lifted itself full length into the air.
Then more precipitately than any rational thing could happen, more precipitately than any rational thing could even begin to happen, could even begin to begin to happen, without shock, without noise, without pain, without terror or turmoil, or any time at all to fight or pray—a slice of living flame came scaling through the darkness—and cut Barton’s consciousness clean in two!
When Barton recovered the severed parts of his consciousness again and tried to pull them together, he found that the Present was strangely missing.
The Past and the Future, however, were perfectly plain to him. He was a young stock-broker. He remembered that quite distinctly! And just as soon as the immediate dizzy mystery had been cleared up he would, of course, be a young stock-broker again! But between this snug conviction as to the Past, this smug assurance as to the Future, his mind lay tugging and shivering like a man under a split blanket. Where in creation was the Present? Alternately he tried to yank both Past and Future across the chilly interim.
“There was—a—green and white piazza corner,” vaguely his memory reminded him. “Never again!” some latent determination leaped to mock him. And there had been—some sort of an argument—with a drollish old man—concerning all homely girls in general and one very specially homely little girl in particular. And the—very specially homely little girl in particular had turned out to be the old man’s—daughter!—“Never again!” his original impulse hastened to reassure him. And there had been a horseback ride—with the girl. Oh, yes—out of some strained sense of—of parental humor—there had been a forced horseback ride. And the weather hadbeen—hot—and black—and then suddenly very yellow. Yellow? Yellow? Dizzily the world began to whir through his senses—a prism of light, a fume of sulphur! Yellow? Yellow? What was yellow? What was anything? What was anything? Yes! That was just it! Where was anything?
Whimperingly, like a dream-dazed dog, the soul of him began to shiver with fear. Oh, ye gods! If returning consciousness would only manifest itself first by some one indisputable proof of a still undisintegrated body, some crisp, reassuring method of outlining one’s corporeal edges, some sensory roll-call, as it were of—head, hands, feet, sides! But out of oblivion, out of space abysmal, out of sensory annihilation, to come vaporing back, back, back,—headless, armless, legless, trunkless, conscious only of consciousness, uncertain yet whether the full awakening prove itself—this world or the next! As sacred of Heaven—as—of hell! As—!
Then very, very slowly, with no realization of eyelids, with no realization of lifting his eyelids, Barton began to see things. And he thought he was lying on the soft outer edges of a gigantic black pansy, staring blankly through its glowing golden center into the droll, sketchy little face of the pansy.