There was utter silence now—the tread of shuffling feet was gone—no man moved—it seemed as though no man breathed—they stood as carven things, inanimate, men, women and children strained forward, their faces drawn, tense and rigid. In the very air, around them, everywhere, imprisoning them, clutching like an icy hand at the heart, something unseen, a dread, intangible presence weighed them down and lay heavy upon them. What was to come? What drear tragedy was to be enacted? What awful mockery was to fall upon this maimed and mutilated creature within whose deformed and pitiful body there too was a human soul?

From the cottage door across the lawn came two figures—a girl in simple, clinging white, her head bowed, the sun itself seeming to caress the dark brown wealth of hair upon her head, changing it to glinting strands of burnished copper; and beside her walked the Patriarch, his hand resting lightly upon her arm, a wondrous figure of a man, majestic, simple, grand, his silvered-hair bared to the sun, his face illumined.

"There he is, mister!" whispered young Holmes hoarsely. "There he is! Go on, mister, go on—see what he can do for you!"

There came a sound that was like a great, gasping intake of breath, as men and women watched. Out toward the Patriarch, alone now, the Flopper began to wriggle and writhe his way along. God in Heaven have pity! What was this sight they looked upon—this poor, distorted, mangled thing that grovelled in the earth—that figure towering there in the sunlight with venerable white beard and hair, erect, symbolic of some strange, mystic power that awed them, his head turned slightly in a curious listening attitude, the sightless eyes closed, upon the face a great calm like a solemn benediction.

Fell a stillness that was as the stillness of death; came a hush until in men's ears was the quick, fierce pound and throb of their own hearts. On, on toward the Patriarch slithered and twisted that frightful deformity that they had followed over that long, torturing mile—on, on he went, and they watched scarce drawing breath, their faces white, their very limbs held as in a palsied, fearsome spell—and then, sudden, abrupt, terrifying, there rose a shriek, wild, hysterical, prolonged, in a woman's voice, the cadence wavering from guttural to shrill and ending in a high-pitched, broken scream.

The Flopper halted and turned himself about, while his left hand swept his livid face, brushing from it the spurting drops, sweeping back the damp, tangled hair from his eyes—faced them till they saw an agony on human countenance that struck, stabbing, to their souls—faced them while his eyes traversed the long, long line of ghastly white faces before him, out of which eyes everywhere, row on row of them, straining, fixed, fascinated, seemed to burn like living fires as they held him in their focus.

He had not gone far, perhaps ten yards—no more. By the group around the wheel-chair, almost in the center of the line, stood Madison, his chin in his hand in a meditative, thoughtful attitude, the single soul who watched the scene from under lowered lids; Thornton had involuntarily edged a little forward from behind the chair until he stood now at its side in a strange, abashed way as though his own personality were over-ruled, obliterated, his face with a white sternness upon it, his eyes, like all other eyes, agleam with an unnatural fire; Mrs. Thornton had pulled herself forward in the chair, one hand clutching at her breast, the frail fingers of the other woven in a grasp so tight around the arm of the chair that the flesh was bloodless; a little way off, a group of three, the two salesmen and the metropolitan newspaper man, seemed as though stricken into stone, stripped of all assurance, all complacence, awed, tense, palpitant, as the patched, bare-legged tatterdemalion of ten from the fields, that stood beside them, was awed and tense and palpitant.

And away on either side stretched the line of white, rigid faces, the never-ending, burning eyes—but the silence with that shriek was gone now, for another woman and another, overwrought, needing but that sudden shock to unnerve them utterly, shrieked in turn—and through the line seemed to run a shudder, and it moved a little though no foot stirred, moved with a strange, sinuous, rocking, swaying movement, from the hips, backward and forward and to either side. Men raised their eyes, stole frightened, questioning glances at their neighbors—and fixed their eyes on the Flopper again—on the Flopper and that majestic figure in the center of the lawn, so calm of mien, of attitude and pose.

Once again the Flopper's eyes swept the scene. A few feet in advance of the crowd, as though drawn irresistibly forward, young Holmes hung upon his crutch. The boy's soul seemed in his face—hope, a world of it, as he gazed at the Patriarch, sickening fear as he looked at the Flopper; his lips moving without sound, his body trembling with emotional excitement. Still once again the Flopper's eyes swept the line of men and women and children, fast reaching toward a common ungovernable hysteria—and then he turned with an unbalanced, impotent, broken movement, flung out his good arm toward the Patriarch in piteous supplication, and, jerking himself forward, went on.

Slowly, very slowly at first, he resumed his way, crawling it seemed by no more than a painful inch on inch, in mortal pain, in mortal agony and struggle—then gradually his movements began to quicken, as though growing upon him were a mad, elated haste that he could not control—quicker and quicker he went, pitching and lurching wildly; from a pace that was beyond him.

A strange, low, moaning sound rose from behind him, fluttering, inarticulate, that voiceless utterance that seeks to find some vent for human emotion when human emotion sweeps with mighty surge to engulf the soul. It rose and died away and rose again—and died away—and children began to whimper with a fear and terror that they did not understand, and seeking solace in their elders' faces found added cause for fear instead.

Nearer to that saintly figure who stood so calm, so quiet, the massive white-locked head still turned a little in that curious listening attitude, beside whom, close drawn now, was that white-clad girlish form, whose eyes were lowered, whose sweet face seemed to hold a heaven of pity and infinite compassion, upon whose lips there was a smile of divine tenderness, drew that piteous mockery of the image of a man, whose every movement appeared one of agony beyond human power to endure—and the agony found echo in the watchers' souls, and a low, muffled groan as of men in pain and hurt, ran tremulously along the line.

Still nearer to the Patriarch drew the Flopper. More heart-rending was his every movement, for with his quickened pace he sought to move without the aid of the only member that was as other men's, his left hand and arm that, in pleading, yearning supplication, was stretched out before him to the Patriarch.

The extreme ends of the long line of watchers curled a little inward, almost imperceptibly, a half step taken without volition. The crippled boy, swaying upon his crutch, his lips parted, trembling in every limb, edged forward hesitantly, fearfully, now a foot, now another, now the bare space of a single inch. And now down the entire length of the line from end to end that wavering, rocking movement in swaying, pregnant unison grew stronger—men knew not what they did—it seemed the very air they breathed must smother them—and, in that dull, weird, lingering note, rose again the sound of moaning that seemed to beat in consonance with the distant mournful rhythm of the endless beat of surf on shore.

Women clutched at their breasts now; men's knuckles went white beneath the tight-drawn skin; the children drew behind their mothers' skirts and, terror-stricken, cried aloud. Surcharged, on the edge, the bare and ragged edge of frenzy now was every man and woman in the crowd. It was a sight, a spectacle that racked them in every fibre of their beings, that stirred them to pity, to hope, to fear, until the awful misery of this blighted and crawling thing was their own in its every twitch of agony—that struck them with a terror, the greater because it was indefinable, a prescience, a reaching out beyond human realm, the invoking of a supernal power—the thought of which very power, once loosed, chilled them with panic-dread.

Yet still they watched—it was beyond their power to turn their eyes—enthralled, a moaning, swaying, rocking mob, they watched. Madness was creeping upon them rampant. Like a mighty tide, the ocean weight behind it, hurling itself against flood-gates that could never stand, it mounted higher and higher; and already, as the water first seeps between the gates, grim forecast of what was to come, it showed itself now in that long, sobbing, convulsive inhalation, in that strange, sinuous, restless movement.

On went the Flopper. There was still a yard to go—two feet—one. Stopped in a sudden deathless hush was all sound. The Flopper flung himself forward upon his face at the Patriarch's feet. Stopped was all movement, haggard and tense every face, strained every eye. For a moment that seemed to span eternity, in a huddled heap, that crippled, twisted thing lay there before them motionless, without sign of life—the venerable face above it, still intent, still listening, turned slowly downwards. Then there was a movement, a movement that blanched the watching faces to a more pallid white—that dangling, wobbling leg drew inward slowly, very slowly, and hip and knee, as though guided by some mighty power, immutable, supreme, came deliberately into normal form.

A shriek, a cry, a wail, a sob, a prayer—it came now unrestrained—hysteria was loosed in a mad ungovernable orgasm—men clutched at each other and cowered, hiding their faces with their hands—women dropped to their knees and, sobbing, screaming, prayed. Loud it rose, the turmoil of human souls aghast and quailing before a manifestation that seemed to fling them face to face, uncovered, naked, before the awful power and majesty and might of Heaven itself.

They looked again—fearfully. The twisted thing was standing now, standing but still deformed—with crooked neck, with curved, bent, palsied arm. And nearer had drawn little Holmes, his head thrust forward, shaking as with the ague as he gazed on the group before him, oblivious to all else around him.

A twinge of frightful torture swept the Flopper's face—and with that same slow, awful deliberation the misshapen arm straightened out. Men cried aloud again and again—a woman fainted, another here, another there—children wailed and ran, some shrieking, some whimpering, for the woods.

Again the spasm crossed the Flopper's face, a shuddering, muscular contortion—and from the shoulder rose his head.

Inward drew the ends of the line of paroxysm-stricken people—not far, not near to that hallowed group for something held them back; but inward gradually until the line, no longer straight, was half a circle, crescent shaped. Louder came that harrowing medley of sounds, its component parts voicing the uttermost depths of the soul of each separate individual man and woman there—some moaned in terror; some prayed, mumbling, still upon their knees; some laughed hoarsely, wildly, their senses for the moment gone; and some were dumb; and some shrieked their prayers in frenzy. Louder it grew—the end had come—that deformed thing stood erect, a perfect man—he turned his face toward them—he stretched out his arms—and they answered him with their wails, their sobs, their moans, their cries—they answered him in their terror, in their shaken senses, clutching at each other again—answered him from their knees, their voices hoarse—answered him with trembling lips and tongues that would not move.

And then suddenly, as though riven where they stood and kneeled and crouched, all movement ceased—and every heart stood still as ringing clear above all else, shocking all else to stunned, petrified silence, there came a cry—a cry in a young voice. It rang again and again, trembling with glad, new life, vibrant, a cry that seemed to thrill with chords of happiness and ecstasy immeasurable. Again it came, again, exultant, pulsing with a mighty joy—young Holmes had flung his crutch from him, and, with outstretched arms, was running toward the Patriarch across the lawn.

For an instant more that stunned, awed silence held. All eyes were riveted and fixed upon the scene—none looked at Madison—if any had they would have seen that his face had gone an ivory white.

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