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Page:Harris Dickson--The black wolf's breed.djvu/139

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against my thumb under that deadly pressure. The cold sweat stood in clammy clusters upon his forehead; his head thrown back, the eyes turned toward the ceiling no longer pleaded into mine. I sickened almost at sight of the tongue swelling black, which seemed to consume all the fleeing colour from lips and face. Oh God, how he struggled! His hands closed over mine as bars of steel to tear them from his throat.

Even in our mortal strife I marked the eternal harmony of the scene. Truly death had never stage more fitting whereon to play its last stern drama of dissolution. Hemmed in by four massive walls of granite, ghastly grim and desolately gray, we wrestled in a stifling stillness, while hell stood umpire at the game. No sound of trumpet, no warlike cry, no strains of martial music were there to thrill the nerves and taunt men on to glory. We fought to the scrape and scratch of shuffling feet, the laboured gasp, the rattle in the throat, while echo hushed in silence and in fright.

He grew more quiet, his muscles stiffened and relaxed—he was no longer conscious. A few more convulsive quivers, as a serpent might writhe and jerk, then he hung, a limp dead thing, in my hands. My outstretched arms seemed made as a gibbet, feeling no fatigue, so lightly did they sustain him. Cords of brass could be no more tense than mine; his weight was as nothing. Softly I eased him down, and composed his limbs in decent order upon the stones.

Then I rose, and gazed complacently at my work.