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|The Poison Belt||Arthur Conan Doyle|
A Diary Of The Dying
|Page 7 of 8||
"I expect we've all left some loose ends stickin' out," said Lord John. "What are yours, young fellah?"
"I was working at a book of verses," I answered.
"Well, the world has escaped that, anyhow," said Lord John. "There's always compensation somewhere if you grope around."
"What about you?" I asked.
"Well, it just so happens that I was tidied up and ready. I'd promised Merivale to go to Tibet for a snow leopard in the spring. But it's hard on you, Mrs. Challenger, when you have just built up this pretty home."
"Where George is, there is my home. But, oh, what would I not give for one last walk together in the fresh morning air upon those beautiful downs!"
Our hearts re-echoed her words. The sun had burst through the gauzy mists which veiled it, and the whole broad Weald was washed in golden light. Sitting in our dark and poisonous atmosphere that glorious, clean, wind-swept countryside seemed a very dream of beauty. Mrs. Challenger held her hand stretched out to it in her longing. We drew up chairs and sat in a semicircle in the window. The atmosphere was already very close. It seemed to me that the shadows of death were drawing in upon us--the last of our race. It was like an invisible curtain closing down upon every side.
"That cylinder is not lastin' too well," said Lord John with a long gasp for breath.
"The amount contained is variable," said Challenger, "depending upon the pressure and care with which it has been bottled. I am inclined to agree with you, Roxton, that this one is defective."
"So we are to be cheated out of the last hour of our lives," Summerlee remarked bitterly. "An excellent final illustration of the sordid age in which we have lived. Well, Challenger, now is your time if you wish to study the subjective phenomena of physical dissolution."
"Sit on the stool at my knee and give me your hand," said Challenger to his wife. "I think, my friends, that a further delay in this insufferable atmosphere is hardly advisable. You would not desire it, dear, would you?"
His wife gave a little groan and sank her face against his leg.
"I've seen the folk bathin' in the Serpentine in winter," said Lord John. "When the rest are in, you see one or two shiverin' on the bank, envyin' the others that have taken the plunge. It's the last that have the worst of it. I'm all for a header and have done with it."
"You would open the window and face the ether?"
"Better be poisoned than stifled."
Summerlee nodded his reluctant acquiescence and held out his thin hand to Challenger.
"We've had our quarrels in our time, but that's all over," said he. "We were good friends and had a respect for each other under the surface. Good-by!"
"Good-by, young fellah!" said Lord John. "The window's plastered up. You can't open it."
Challenger stooped and raised his wife, pressing her to his breast, while she threw her arms round his neck.
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|The Poison Belt
Arthur Conan Doyle
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