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Page:Harris Dickson--The black wolf's breed.djvu/145

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FLORINE TO THE RESCUE

Broussard! A quiver in the musty air set me all a shudder; in every rustle I felt again the last convulsions of the dead. Dull lights gathered when I closed my eyes, and rested upon his swollen features, their white eyes following me in hate.

Coolly and logically as if it concerned someone else, the reason of it all crept into my morbid brain. I was mad; mad from hunger, thirst and terror. Yes, mad, and felt not one whit sorry of it; nay, rejoiced rather, for it meant a freedom of the spirit. So insidiously this knowledge forced itself upon me, it brought no shock, I even dimly wondered that any other condition ever existed. Verily, men are happier for a gentle frenzy. Then, indeed, are all things levelled, all barriers removed. Gone were all my pigmy troubles, vanished into nothingness. Engulfed in a common ruin lay all fragments of desire; the search for reward, the dread of punishment—all petty figments of the imagination were powerful now no more. The fall of reason crushed every human hope and dulled the edge of every human fear. What cared I now for food, for water; for honour or for shame? My mind, imperial and free from artificial restraints, plunged riotously into forbidden realms, I revelled in the exaltation of chainless thought, and drank from the deepest wells of rebellion delicious draughts of secret sin, thanking, yea thanking, this sweet madness which gave a glorious independence.

What repugnance had I now for yon piece of foul and rotting carrion! What mattered if but lately a breathing man it had strangled in my grip. By the