Brayton lifted his right foot free of the floor to step backward. That moment he felt a strong aversion to doing so.
“I am accounted brave,” he murmured; “is bravery, then, no more ilia pride? Because there are none to witness the shame shall I reheat?”
He was steadying himself with his right hand upon the back, his foot suspended.
“Nonsense!” he said aloud; “I am not so great a coward as to fear In seem to myself afraid.”
Lie lifted the foot a little higher by slightly bending the knee, and it sharply to the floor an inch in front of the other! He could mil think how that occurred. I trial with the left foot had the same result; it was again in advance of the right. The hand upon the chair I nick was grasping it; the arm was straight, reaching somewhat backward. One might have seen that he was reluctant to lose his hold. The malignant head was still thrust forth from the inner coil as before, the neck level. It had not moved, but its eyes were now electric parks, radiating an infinity of luminous needles.
I he man had an ashy pallor. Again he took a step forward, and another, partly dragging the chair, which, when finally released, fell upon the floor with a crash. The man groaned; the snake made neither sound nor motion, but its eyes were two dazzling suns. The reptile itself was wholly concealed by them. They gave off enlarging rings of rich and vivid colors, which at their greatest expansion successively jt vanished like soap bubbles; they seemed to approach his very face, and anon were an immeasurable distance away. He heard, somewhere, the continual throbbing of a great drum, with desultory bursts of far music, inconceivably sweet, like the tones of an Aeolian harp. He knew it for the sunrise melody of Memnon’s statue, and thought he stood in the Nileside reeds, hearing, with exalted sense, that immortal anthem through the silence of the centuries.
The music ceased; rather, it became by- insensible degrees the distant roll of a retreating thunderstorm. A landscape, glittering with sun and rain, stretched before him, arched with a vivid rainbow, framing in its giant curve a hundred visible cities. In the middle distance a vast serpent, wearing a crown, reared its head out of its voluminous convolutions and looked at him with his dead mother’s eyes. Suddenly this enchanting landscape seemed to rise swiftly upward, lik the drop scene at a theater, and vanished in a blank. Something struck him a hard blow upon the face and breast.
He had fallen to the floor; the blood ran from his broken nose and his bruised lips. For a moment he was dazed and stunned, and lay with closed eyes, his face against the door. In a few moments he had recovered, and then realized that his fall, by withdrawing his eyes, had broken the spell which held him. He felt that now, by keeping his gaze averted, he would be able to retreat. But the thought of the serpent within a few feet of his head, yet unseen—perhaps in the very act of springing upon him and throwing its coils about his throat—was too horrible. He lifted his head, stared again into those baleful eyes, and was again’ in bondage.