Read THE SEARING OF A SOUL : CHAPTER V of Snake and Sword A Novel, free online book, by Percival Christopher Wren, on ReadCentral.com.

THE SNAKE’S “MYRMIDON”.

For a couple of years and more, in the lower School at Wellingborough, Damocles de Warrenne, like certain States, was happy in that he had no history. In games rather above the average, and in lessons rather below it, he was very popular among his fellow “squeakers” for his good temper, modesty, generous disposition, and prowess at football and cricket.

Then, later, dawned the day when from this comfortable high estate a common adder, preserved in spirits of wine, was the cause of his downfall and Bully Harberth the means of his reinstatement....

One afternoon Mr. Steynker, the Science Master, for some reason and without preliminary mention of his intent, produced a bottled specimen of a snake. He entered the room with the thing under his arm and partly concealed by the sleeve of his gown. Watching him as he approached the master’s desk and spoke with Mr. Colfe, the form-master, Dam noted that he had what appeared to be a long oblong glass box of which the side turned towards him was white and opaque.

When Mr. Steynker stepped on to the dais, as Mr. Colfe took up his books and departed, he placed the thing on the desk with the other side to the class....

And there before Dam’s starting, staring eyes, fastened to the white back of the tall glass box, and immersed in colourless liquid was the Terror.

He rose, gibbering, to his feet, pale as the dead, and pointed, mopping and mowing like an idiot.

How should a glass box restrain the Fiend that had made his life a Hell upon earth? What did Steynker and Colfe and these others all gaping at him open-mouthed know of the Devil with whom he had wrestled deep beneath the Pit itself for ten thousand centuries of horror centuries whose every moment was an aeon?

What could these innocent men and boys know of the living Damnation that made him pray to die provided only that he could be really dead and finished, beyond all consciousness and fear. The fools!... to think that it was a harmless, concrete thing. It would emerge in a moment like the Fisherman’s Geni from the Brass Bottle and grow as big as the world. He felt he was going mad again.

“Help!” he suddenly shrieked. “It is under my foot. It is moving ... moving ... moving out.” He sprang to his astounded friend, Delorme, and screamed to him for help and then realizing that there was no help, that neither man nor God could save him, he fled from the room screaming like a wounded horse.

Rushing madly down the corridor, falling head-long down the stone stairs, bolting blindly across the entrance-hall, he fled until (unaware of his portly presence up to the moment when he rebounded from him as a cricket-ball from a net) he violently encountered the Head.

Scrambling beneath his gown the demented boy flung his arms around the massy pillar of the Doctor’s leg, and prayed aloud to him for help, between heart-rending screams.

Now it is undeniable that no elderly gentleman, of whatsoever position or condition, loves to be butted violently upon a generous lunch as he makes his placid way to his arm-chair, cigar, book, and ultimate pleasant doze. If he be pompous by profession, precise by practice, dignified as a duty, a monument of most stately correctness and, to small boys and common men, a great and distant, if tiny, God he may be expected to resent it.

The Doctor did. Almost before he knew what he was doing, he struck the sobbing, gasping child twice, and then endeavoured to remove him by the ungentle application of the untrammelled foot, from the leg to which, limpet-like, he clung.

To Dam the blows were welcome, soothing, reassuring. Let a hundred Heads flog him with two hundred birch-rods, so they could keep him from the Snake. What are mere blows?

Realizing quickly that something very unusual was in the air, the worthy Doctor repented him of his haste and, with what dignity he might, inquired between a bleat and a bellow:

“What is the matter, my boy? Hush! Hush!”

“The Snake! The Snake!” shrieked Dam. “Save me! Save me! It is under my foot! It is moving ... moving ... moving out,” and clung the tighter.

The good Doctor also moved with alacrity but saw no snake. He was exceedingly perturbed, between a hypothetical snake and an all too actual lunatic boy.

Fortunately, “Stout” (so called because he was Porter), passing the big doors without, was attracted by the screams.

Entering, he hastened to the side of the agitated Head, and, with some difficulty, untied from that gentleman’s leg, a small boy but not until the small boy had fainted....

When Dam regained consciousness he had a fit, recovered, and found himself in the Head’s study, and the object of the interested regard of the Head, Messrs. Colfe and Steynker, the school medico, and the porter.

It was agreed (while the boy fought for his sanity, bit his hand for the reassuring pleasure of physical pain, and prayed for help to the God in whom he had no reason to believe) that the case was “very unusual, very curious, v-e-r-y interesting indeed”. Being healthier and stronger than at the time of previous attacks, Dam more or less recovered before night and was not sent home. But he had fallen from his place, and in the little republics of the dormitory and class-room, he was a thing to shun, an outcast, a disgrace to the noble race of Boy.

Not a mere liar, a common thief, a paltry murderer or vulgar parricide but a COWARD, a blubberer, a baby. Even Delorme, more in sorrow than in anger, shunned his erstwhile bosom-pal, and went about as one betrayed.

The name of “Funky Warren” was considered appropriate, and even the Haddock, his own flesh and blood, and most junior of “squeakers,” dared to apply it!....

The infamy of the Coward spread abroad, was talked of in other Houses, and fellows made special excursions to see the cry-baby, who funked a dead snake, a blooming bottled, potted, dead snake, and who had blubbed aloud in his terror.

And Bully Harberth of the Fifth, learning of these matters, revolved in his breast the thought that he who fears dead serpents must, even more, fear living bullies, put Dam upon his list as a safe and pliant client, and thereby (strange instrument of grace!) gave him the chance to rehabilitate himself, clear the cloud of infamy from about his head, and live a bearable life for the rest of his school career....

One wet Wednesday afternoon, as Dam, a wretched, forlorn Ishmael, sat alone in a noisy crowd, reading a “penny horrible” (admirable, stimulating books crammed with brave deeds and noble sentiments if not with faultless English) the Haddock entered the form-room, followed by Bully Harberth.

“That’s him, Harberth, by the window, reading a penny blood,” said the Haddock, and went and stood afar off to see the fun.

Harberth, a big clumsy boy, a little inclined to fat, with small eyes, heavy low forehead, thick lips, and amorphous nose, lurched over to where Dam endeavoured to read himself into a better and brighter world inhabited by Deadwood Dick, Texas Joe, and Red Indians of no manners and nasty customs.

“I want you, Funky Warren. I’m going to torture you,” he announced with a truculent scowl and a suggestive licking of blubber lips.

Dam surveyed him coolly.

Of thick build, the bully was of thicker wit and certainly of no proven courage. Four years older than Dam and quite four inches taller, he had never dreamed of molesting him before. Innumerable as were the stories of his brutalities to the smallest “squeakers” and of his cruel practical jokes on new boys, there were no stories of his fighting, such as there were about Ormond Delorme, of Dam’s form, whose habit it was to implore bigger boys of their courtesy to fight him, and to trail his coat where there were “chaws” about.

“I’m going to torture you, Funky. Every day you must come to me and beg me to do it. If you don’t come and pray for it I’ll come to you and you’ll get it double and treble. If you sneak you’ll get it quadru er quadrupedal and also be known as Sneaky as well as Funky. See?” he continued.

“How will you torture me, Harberth, please?” asked Dam meekly, as he measured the other with his eye, noted his puffiness, short reach, and inward tendency of knee.

“Oh! lots of ways,” was the reply. “Dry shaves, tweaks, scalpers, twisters, choko, tappers, digs, benders, shinners, windos, all sorts.”

“I don’t even know what they are,” moaned Dam.

“Poor Kid!” sympathized the bully, “you soon will, though. Dry shaves are beautiful. You die dotty in about five minutes if I don’t see fit to stop. Twisters break your wrists and you yell the roof off or would do if I didn’t gag you first with a cake of soap and a towel. Tappers are very amusing, too, for me that is not for you. They are done on the side of your knee with a cricket stump. Wonderful how kids howl when you understand knee-treatment. Choko is good too. Makes you black in the face and your eyes goggle out awful funny. Done with a silk handkerchief and a stick. Windos and benders go together and really want two fellows to do it properly. I hit you in the wind and you double up, and the other fellow un-doubles you from behind with a cane so that I can double you up again. Laugh! I nearly died over young Berners. Shinners, scalpers, and tweaks are good too jolly good!... but of course all this comes after lamming and tunding.... Come along with me....”

“Nit,” was Dam’s firm but gentle reply, and a little pulse began to beat beneath his cheek bone.

“Oh! Ho!” smiled Master Harberth, “then I’ll begin here, and when you’re broke and blubbing you’ll come with me and get just double for a start.”

Dam’s spirits rose and he felt almost happy certainly far better than he had done since the hapless encounter with the bottled adder and his fall from grace. It was a positive, joy to have an enemy he could tackle, a real flesh-and-blood foe and tormentor that came upon him in broad daylight and in mere human form.

After countless thousands of centuries of awful nightmare struggling in which he was bound hand-and-foot and doomed to failure and torture from the outset, the sport, plaything, and victim of a fearful, intangible Horror this would be sheer amusement and recreation. What could mere man do to him, much less mere boy! Why, the most awful torture-chamber of the Holy Inquisition of old was a pleasant recreation-room compared with any place where the Snake could enter.

Oh, if the Snake could only be met and fought in the open with free hands and untrammelled limbs, as Bully Harberth could!

Oh, if it could only inflict mere physical pain instead of such agonies of terror as made the idea of any bodily injury mere cutting, burning, beating, blinding a trifling nothing-at-all. Anyhow, he could imagine that Bully Harberth was the Snake or Its emissary and, since he was indirectly brought upon him by the Snake, regard him as a myrmidon and deal with him accordingly....

“How do you like this?” inquired that young gentleman as he suddenly seized the seated and unsuspecting Dam by the head, crushed him down with his superior weight and dug cruelly into the sides of his neck, below the ears, with his powerful thumb and fingers. “It is called ‘grippers’. You’ll begin to enjoy it in a minute.” ... In a few seconds the pain became acute and after a couple of minutes, excruciating.

Dam kept absolutely still and perfectly silent.

To Harberth this was disappointing and after a time he grew tired. Releasing his impassive victim he arose preparatory to introducing the next item of his programme of tortures.

“How do you like this?” inquired Dam rising also and he smote his tormentor with all his strength beneath the point of his chin. Rage, pain, rebellion, and undying hatred (of the Snake) lent such force to the skilful blow behind which was the weight and upward spring of his body that Bully Harberth went down like a nine-pin, his big head striking the sharp edge of a desk with great violence.

He lay still and white with closed eyes. “Golly,” shrilled the Haddock, “Funky Warren has murdered Bully Harberth. Hooray! Hooray!” and he capered with joy.

A small crowd quickly collected, and, it being learned from credible eye-witnesses that the smaller boy had neither stabbed the bully in the back nor clubbed him from behind, but had well and truly smitten him on the jaw with his fist, he went at one bound from despised outcast coward to belauded, admired hero.

“You’ll be hung, of course, Warren,” said Delorme.

“And a jolly good job,” replied Dam, fervently and sincerely.

As he spoke, Harberth twitched, moved his arms and legs, and opened his eyes.

Sitting up, he blinked owl-like and inquired as to what was up.

“You are down is what’s up,” replied Delorme.

“Oh he’s not dead,” squeaked the Haddock, and there was a piteous break in his voice.

“What’s up?” asked Harberth again.

“Why, Funky that is to say, Warren knocked you out, and you’ve got to give him best and ask for pax, or else fight him,” said Delorme, adding hopefully, “but of course you’ll fight him.”

Harberth arose and walked to the nearest seat.

“He hit me a ‘coward’s poke’ when I wasn’t looking,” quoth he. “It’s well known he is a coward.”

“You are a liar, Bully Harberth,” observed Delorme. “He hit you fair, and anyhow he’s not afraid of you. If you don’t fight him you become Funky Harberth vice. Funky Warren no longer Funky. So you’d better fight. See?” The Harberth bubble was evidently pricked, for the sentiment was applauded to the echo.

“I don’t fight cowards,” mumbled Harberth, holding his jaw and, at this meanness, Dam was moved to go up to Harberth and slap him right hard upon his plump, inviting cheek, a good resounding blow that made his hand tingle with pain and his heart with pleasure.

He still identified him somehow with the Snake, and had a glorious, if passing, sensation of successful revolt and some revenge.

He felt as the lashed galley-slave must have felt when, during a lower-deck mutiny, he broke from his oar and sprang at the throat of the cruel overseer, the embodiment and source of the agony, starvation, toil, brutality, and hopeless woe that had thrust him below the level of the beasts (fortunate beasts) that perish.

“Now you’ve got to fight him, of course,” said Delorme, and fled to spread the glad tidings far and wide.

“I I don’t feel well now,” mumbled Harberth. “I’ll fight him when I’m better,” and shambled away, outraged, puzzled, disgusted. What was the world coming to? The little brute! He had a punch like the kick of a horse. The little cad to dare! Well, he’d show him something if he had the face to stand up to his betters and olders and biggers in the ring....

News of the affair spread like wild-fire, and the incredible conduct of the extraordinary Funky Warren said to be no longer Funky became the topic of the hour.

At tea, Dam was solemnly asked if it were true that he had cast Harberth from a lofty window and brought him to death’s door, or that of the hospital; whether he had strangled him with the result that he had a permanent squint; if he had so kicked him as to break both his thigh bones; if he had offered to fight him with one hand.

Even certain more or less grave and reverend seniors of the upper school took a well-disguised interest in the matter and pretended that the affair should be allowed to go on, as it would do Harberth a lot of good if de Warrenne could lick him, and do the latter a lot of good to reinstate himself by showing that he was not really a coward in essentials. Of course they took no interest in the fight as a fight. Certainly not (but it was observed that Flaherty of the Sixth stopped the fight most angrily and peremptorily when it was over, and that no sign of anger or peremptoriness escaped him until it was over and he happened to pass behind the gymnasium, curiously enough, just as it started)....

Good advice was showered upon Dam from all sides. He was counselled to live on meat, to be a vegetarian, to rise at 4 a.m. and swim, to avoid all brain-fag, to run twenty miles a day, to rest until the fight, to get up in the night and swing heavy dumb-bells, to eat no pudding, to drink no tea, to give up sugar, avoid ices, and deny himself all “tuck” and everything else that makes life worth living.

He did none of these things but simply went on as usual, save in one respect.

For the first time since the adder episode, he was really happy. Why, he did not know, save that he was about to “get some of his own back,” to strike a blow against the cruel coward Incubus (for he persisted in identifying Harberth with the Snake and in regarding him as a materialization of the life-long Enemy), and possibly to enjoy a brief triumph over what had so long triumphed over him.

If he were at this time a little mad the wonder is that he was still on the right side of the Lunatic Asylum gates.

Mad or not, he was happy and the one thing wanting was the presence of Lucille at the fight. How he would have loved to show her that he was not really a coward given a fair chance and a tangible foe.

If only Lucille could be there dancing from one foot to the other, and squealing. (Strictly between, and not during, the rounds, of course.)

“Buck up, Dammy! Ginger for pluck! Never say croak!”

A very large and very informal committee took charge of the business of the fight, and what was alluded to as “a friendly boxing contest between Bully Harberth of the Fifth and de Warrenne late Funky ” was arranged for the following Saturday afternoon. On being asked by a delegate of the said large and informal committee as to whether he would be trained by then or whether he would prefer a more distant date, Dam replied that he would be glad to fight Harberth that very moment and thus gained the reputation of a fierce and determined fellow (though erstwhile “funky” the queer creature).

Those who had been loudest in dubbing him Funky Warrenne were quickest in finding explanations of his curious conduct and explained it well away.

It was at this time that Dam’s heart went wholly and finally out to Ormonde Delorme who roundly stated that his father, a bemedalled heroic Colonel of Gurkhas, was “in a blind perishing funk” during a thunderstorm and always sought shelter in the wine cellar when one was in progress in his vicinity.

Darn presented Delorme with his knife and a tiger’s tooth forthwith. Saturday came and Dam almost regretted its advent, for, though a child in years, he was sufficiently old, weary, and cynical in spirit to know that all life’s fruit contains dust and ashes, that the joys of anticipation exceed those of realization, and that with possession dies desire.

With the fight would end the glorious feeling of successful revolt, and if he overcame one emissary of the Snake there would be a million more to take his place.

And if Providence should be, as usual, on the side of the “big battalions,” and the older, taller, stronger, heavier boy should win? Why then he would bully the loser to his heart’s content and the limit of his ingenuity.

Good! Let him! He would fight him every day with the greatest pleasure. A chance to fight the Snake on fair terms was all he asked....

Time and place had been well chosen and there was little likelihood of interference.

Some experienced youth, probably Cokeson himself, had made arrangements as to seconds, time-keeper, judges, and referee; and, though there was no ring of ropes and stakes, a twenty-four-foot square had been marked out and inclosed by forms and benches. Seating was provided for the “officials” and seniors, and two stools for the principals. A couple of bowls of water, sponges, and towels lent a business-like air to the scene.

To his delight, Dam discovered that Delorme was to be his second a person of sound advice, useful ministrations, and very present help in time of trouble....

Delorme led him to his stool in an angle of the square of benches, bade him spread wide his arms and legs and breathe deeply “for all he was worth, with his eyes closed and his thoughts fixed on jolly things”.

Feeling himself the cynosure of neighbouring eyes and able to hear the comments of the crowd, the last part of his second’s instructions was a little difficult of strict observation. However, he continued to think of licking Harberth the “jolliest” thing he could conceive, until his mind wandered home to Lucille, and he enhanced the imaginary jollity by conceiving her present.... “Sturdy little brute,” observed a big Fifth Form boy seated with a couple of friends on the bench beside him, “but I’d lay two to one in sovs. (if I had ’em) that he doesn’t last a single round with Harberth”.

“Disgrace to Harberth if he doesn’t eat the kid alive,” responded the other.

“Got a good jaw and mouth, though,” said the third. “Going to die hard, you’ll see. Good little kid.”

“Fancy funking a bottled frog or something and fighting a chap who can give him about four years, four inches, and four stone,” observed the first speaker.

“Yes. Queer little beast. He knocked Harberth clean out, they say. Perhaps his father has had him properly taught and he can really box. Ever seen him play footer? Nippiest little devil I ever saw. Staunch too. Rum go,” commented his friend.

Dam thought of Sergeant Havlan and his son, the punching-ball, and the fighting days at Monksmead. Perhaps he could “really” box, after all. Anyhow he knew enough to hit straight and put his weight into it, to guard chin and mark, to use his feet, duck, dodge, and side step. Suppose Harberth knew as much? Well since he was far stronger, taller, and heavier, the only hope of success lay in the fact that he was connected with the Snake from whom mere blows in the open would be welcome.

Anyhow he would die or win.

The positive joy of fighting It in the glorious day and open air, instead of in the Bottomless Pit bound, stifled, mad with Fear none could realize....

Bully Harberth entered the ring accompanied by Shanner, who looked like a Sixth Form boy and was in the Shell.

Harberth wore a thick sweater and looked very strong and heavy.

“If the little kid lasts three rounds with that” observed Cokeson to Coxe Major, “he ought to be chaired.”

Dam was disposed to agree with him in his heart, but he had no fear. The feeling that his brief innings had come after the Snake had had Its will of him for a dozen years swallowed up all other feelings.

Coxe Major stepped into the ring. “I announce a friendly boxing contest between Harberth of the Fifth, nine stone seven, and Funky Warren (said to be no longer Funky) of Barton’s House, weight not worth mentioning,” he declaimed.

“Are the gloves all right,” called Cokeson (whose father owned racehorses, was a pillar of the National Sporting Club, and deeply interested in the welfare of a certain sporting newspaper).

“No fault can be found with Warren’s gloves,” said Shanner, coming over to Dam.

“There’s nothing wrong with the gloves here,” added Delorme, after visiting Harberth’s corner.

This was the less remarkable in that there were no gloves whatsoever.

Presumably the fiction of a “friendly boxing contest” was to be stoutly maintained. The crowd of delighted boys laughed.

“Then come here, both of you,” said Cokeson.

The combatants complied.

“Don’t hold and hit. Don’t butt nor trip. Don’t clinch. Don’t use knee, elbow, nor shoulder. When I call ‘Break away,’ break without hitting. If you do any of these things you will be jolly well disqualified. Fight fair and God have mercy on your souls.” To Dam it seemed that the advice was superfluous and of God’s mercy on his soul he had had experience.

Returning to their corners, the two stripped to the waist and sat ready, arrayed in shorts and gymnasium shoes.

Seen thus, they looked most unevenly matched, Harberth looking still bigger for undressing and Dam even smaller. But, as the knowing Coxe Major observed, what there was of Dam was in the right place and was muscle. Certainly he was finely made.

“Seconds out of the ring. Time!” called the time-keeper and Dam sprang to his feet and ran at Harberth who swung a mighty round-arm blow at his face as Dam ducked and smote him hard and true just below the breast-bone and fairly on the “mark “.

The bully’s grunt of anguish was drowned in howls of “Shake hands!” “They haven’t shaken hands!”

“Stop! Stop the fight,” shouted Cokeson, and as they backed from each other he inquired with anger and reproach in his voice:

“Is this a friendly boxing-contest or a vulgar fight?” adding, “Get to your corners and when Time is called, shake hands and then begin.”

Turning to the audience he continued in a lordly and injured manner: “And there is only one Referee, gentlemen, please. Keep silence or I shall stop the fight I mean the friendly boxing contest.”

As Dam sat down Delorme whispered:

“Splendid! Infighting is your tip. Duck and go for the body every time. He knows nothing of boxing I should say. Tire him and remember that if he gets you with a swing like that you’re out.”

“Seconds out of the ring. Time!” called the time-keeper and Dam walked towards Harberth with outstretched hand, met him in the middle of the ring and shook hands with great repugnance. As Harberth’s hand left Dam’s it rose swiftly to Dam’s face and knocked him down.

“Shame! Foul poke! Coward,” were some of the indignant cries that arose from the spectators.

“Silence,” roared the referee. “Will you shut up and be quiet. Perfectly legitimate if not very sporting.”

Dam sprang to his feet, absolutely unhurt, and, if possible, more determined than ever. It was only because he had been standing with feet together that he had been knocked down at all. Had he been given time to get into sparring position the blow would not have moved him. Nor was Harberth himself in an attitude to put much weight behind the blow and it was more a cuff than a punch.

Circling round his enemy, Dam sparred for an opening and watched his style and methods.

Evidently the bully expected to make short work of him, and he carried his right fist as though it were a weapon and not a part of his body.

As he advanced with his right extended, quivering, menacing, and poised for a knock-out blow, his left did not appear in the matter at all.

Suddenly he aimed his fist at Dam like a stone and with great force. Dam side-stepped and it brushed his ear; with his right he smote with all his force upon Harberth’s ribs and with his left he drove at his eye as he came up. Both blows were well and truly laid and with good sounding thuds that seemed to delight the audience.

Bully Harberth changed his tactics and advanced upon his elusive opponent with his left in the position of guard and his right drawn back to the arm-pit. Evidently he was going to hold him off with the one and smash him with the other. Not waiting for him to develop his attack, but striking the bully’s left arm down with his own left, Dam hit over it with his right and reached his nose and so curious are the workings of the human mind thought of Moses striking the rock and bringing forth water.

The sight of blood seemed to distress Harberth and, leaping in as the latter drew his hand across his mouth, Dam drove with all his strength at his mark and with such success that Harberth doubled up and fetched his breath with deep groans. Dam stood clear and waited.

Delorme called out, “You’ve a right to finish him,” and was sternly reproved by the referee.

As Harberth straightened up, Dam stepped towards him, but the bully turned and ran to his stool. As he reached it amid roars of execration the time-keeper arose and cried “Time!”

“You had him, you little ass,” said Delorme, as he squeezed a sponge of water on Dam’s head. “Why on earth didn’t you go in and finish him?”

“It didn’t seem decent when he was doubled up,” replied Dam.

“Did it seem decent his hitting you while you shook hands?” returned the other, beginning to fan his principal with a towel.

“Anyhow he’s yours if you go on like this. Keep your head and don’t worry about his. Stick to his body till you have a clear chance at the point of his jaw.”

“Seconds out of the ring. Time!” cried the time-keeper.

This round was less fortunate for the smaller boy. Harberth’s second had apparently given him some good advice, for he kept his mark covered and used his left both to guard and to hit.

Also he had learned something from Dam, and, on one occasion as the latter went at his face with a straight left, he dropped the top of his head towards him and made a fierce hooking punch at Dam’s body. Luckily it was a little high, but it winded him for a moment, and had his opponent rushed him then, Dam could have done nothing at all.

Just as “Time” was called, Harberth swung a great round-arm blow at Dam which would have knocked him head over heels had not he let his knees go just in time and ducked under it, hitting his foe once again on the mark with all his strength.

“How d’you feel?” asked Delorme as Dam went to his stool.

“Happy,” said he.

“Don’t talk piffle,” was the reply. “How do you feel? Wind all right? Groggy at all?”

“Not a bit,” said Dam. “I am enjoying it.”

And so he was. Hitherto the Snake had had him bound and helpless. As it pursued him in nightmares, his knees had turned to water, great chains had bound his arms, devilish gags had throttled him, he could not breathe, and he had not had a chance to escape nor to fight. He could not even scream for help. He could only cling to a shelf. Now he had a chance. His limbs were free, his eyes were open, he could breathe, think, act, defend himself and attack.

“Seconds out of the ring. Time!” called the time-keeper and Delorme ceased fanning with the towel, splashed a spongeful of water in Dam’s face and backed away with his stool.

Harberth seemed determined to make an end.

He rushed at his opponent whirling his arms, breathing stertorously, and scowling savagely.

Guarding hurt Dam’s arms, he had no time to hit, and in ducking he was slow and got a blow (aimed at his chin) in the middle of his forehead. Down he went like a nine-pin, but was up as quickly, and ready for Harberth who had rushed at him in the act of rising, while the referee shouted “Stand clear”.

As he came on, Dam fell on one knee and drove at his mark again.

Harberth grunted and placed his hands on the smitten spot.

Judging time and distance well, Dam hit with all his force at the bully’s chin and he went down like a log.

Rising majestically, the time-keeper lifted up his voice and counted: “One two three four five six" and Harberth opened his eyes, sat up, “seven eight nine” and lay down again; and just as Dam was about to leap for joy and the audience to roar their approval instead of the fatal “OUT” the time-keeper called “Time”.

Had Dam struck the blow a second sooner, the fight would have been over and he would have won. As it was, Harberth had the whole interval in which to recover. Dam’s own luck! (But Miss Smellie had always said there is no such thing as Luck!) Well so much the better. Fighting the Snake was the real joy, and victory would end it. So would defeat and he must not get cock-a-hoop and careless.

Delorme filled his mouth with water and ejected it in a fine spray over Dam’s head and chest. He was very proud of this feat, but, though most refreshing, Dam could have preferred that the water had come from a sprayer.

“Seconds out of the ring, Time!” called the referee.

Harberth appeared quite recovered, but he was of a curious colour and seemed tired.

Acting on his second’s advice, Dam gave his whole attention to getting at his opponent’s body again, and overdid it. As Harberth struck at him with his left, he ducked, and as he was aiming at Harberth’s mark, he was suddenly knocked from day into night, from light into darkness, from life into death....

Years passed and Dam strove to explain that the mainspring had broken and that he had heard it click when suddenly a great black drop-curtain rolled up, while some one snapped back some slides that had covered his ears, and had completely deafened him.

Then he saw Harberth and heard the voice of the time-keeper saying: “five six seven”.

He scrambled to his knees, “eight” swayed and staggered to his feet, collapsed, rose, “nine” and was knocked down by Harberth.

The time-keeper again stood up and counted, “One two three”. But this blow actually helped him.

He lay collecting his strength and wits, breathing deeply and taking nine seconds’ rest.

On the word "nine" he sprang to his feet and as Harberth rushed in, side-stepped, and, as that youth instinctively covered his much-smitten “mark,” Dam drove at his chin and sent him staggering. As he went after him he saw that Harberth was breathing hard, trembling, and swaying on his feet. Springing in, he rained short-arm blows until Harberth fell and then he stepped well back.

Harberth sat shaking his head, looking piteous, and, in the middle of the time-keeper’s counting, he arose remarking, “I’ve had enough” and walked to his chair.

Bully Harberth was beaten and Dam felt that the Snake was farther from him than ever it had been since he could remember.

“De Warrenne wins,” said Cokeson, and then Flaherty of the Sixth stepped into the ring and stopped the fight with much show of wrath and indignation.

Dam was wildly cheered and chaired and thence-forth was as popular and as admired as he had been shunned and despised.

Nor did he have another Snake seizure by day (though countless terrible nightmares in what must be called his sleep) till some time after he had left school.

When he did, it had a most momentous influence upon his career.

She is mine! She is mine!
By her soul divine
By her heart’s pure guile
By her lips’ sweet smile
She is mine! She is mine.

Encapture? Aye
In dreams as fair
As angel whispers, low and rare,
In thoughts as pure
As childhood’s innocent allure
In hopes as bright
In deeds as white
As altar lilies, bathed in light.

She is mine! She is mine!
By seal as true
To spirit view
As holy scripture writ in dew,
By bond as fair
To vision rare
As holy scripture writ in air,
By writ as wise to spirit eyes
As holy scripture in God’s skies v
She is mine! She is mine!

Elude me? Nay,
Ere earth reclaimed
In joy unveils a Heaven regained,
Ere sea unbound,
Unfretting, rolls in mist nor sound,
Ere sun and star repentent crash
In scattered ash, across the bar
She is mine I She is mine!

A. L. WREN.