THE TALE OF THE LOST LAND
CHAPTER 6: THE ECLIPSE
In the stillness and the darkness, realization soon began to
supplement knowledge. The mere knowledge of a fact is pale; but
when you come to realize your fact, it takes on color. It is
all the difference between hearing of a man being stabbed to
the heart, and seeing it done. In the stillness and the darkness,
the knowledge that I was in deadly danger took to itself deeper
and deeper meaning all the time; a something which was realization
crept inch by inch through my veins and turned me cold.
But it is a blessed provision of nature that at times like these,
as soon as a man's mercury has got down to a certain point there
comes a revulsion, and he rallies. Hope springs up, and cheerfulness
along with it, and then he is in good shape to do something for
himself, if anything can be done. When my rally came, it came with
a bound. I said to myself that my eclipse would be sure to save me,
and make me the greatest man in the kingdom besides; and straightway
my mercury went up to the top of the tube, and my solicitudes
all vanished. I was as happy a man as there was in the world.
I was even impatient for to-morrow to come, I so wanted to gather
in that great triumph and be the center of all the nation's wonder
and reverence. Besides, in a business way it would be the making
of me; I knew that.
Meantime there was one thing which had got pushed into the background
of my mind. That was the half-conviction that when the nature
of my proposed calamity should be reported to those superstitious
people, it would have such an effect that they would want to
compromise. So, by and by when I heard footsteps coming, that
thought was recalled to me, and I said to myself, "As sure as
anything, it's the compromise. Well, if it is good, all right,
I will accept; but if it isn't, I mean to stand my ground and play
my hand for all it is worth."
The door opened, and some men-at-arms appeared. The leader said:
"The stake is ready. Come!"