In an instant the scene had changed from one of comedy to one of possible tragedy should the infuriated beast reach his victim. But Mr. Wilder was equal to the occasion. Throwing his rifle to his shoulder, he fired. True was his aim and the buck threw up his head, staggered and then toppled over.
The human body has something of this tremor when the instant arrives in which the mysterious fingers of Death are about to pluck the soul. M. Madeleine remained for some time motionless beside that bed, gazing in turn upon the sick woman and the crucifix, as he had done two months before, on the day when he had come for the first time to see her in that asylum.
The instant he stepped outside the shadow line of the forest trees, the blinding rays of the sun beat down on him so savagely that for a few minutes he felt sick and his head swam. He trod quickly across the sands. The orange-coloured parts were nearly hot enough to roast food, he judged, but the violet parts were like fire itself.
Another gentle rap at that instant seemed to help her to find herself, and she was hastening to open it, when the eldest one said, "It is our father, come to thank you for admitting angels in disguise; for, though not angels in form, we hope to prove such by our administration to your needs." And they laid upon her only table the purses of gold.
The time he had spent with her had been very brief, but full of life, interest, and character. She was like some piquant child, bold, beautiful, uncertain, caressing in her manner one instant, and distant at another.
There seemed but a single alternative to instant death, and this he took at almost the instant the great reptile towered directly above him.
For an instant the newcomers stared stupidly through the smoke at the bodies on the floor breathing stertorously, at the young man with the lust of battle still in his face, at the girl shrinking against the wall. It was the young man in the serge suit who was the first to move. "Who are you?" he demanded. "These are burglars," said the owner of the car.
She went up at the instant when Rattler jumped sidewise from her. She got partly into the saddle, clung there for a few harrowing seconds, and then went over his head and plump into a snowdrift beside the stable. "Good God!" groaned Ward and went white and weak as he watched. "Good gracious!" grumbled Billy Louise, righting herself and digging snow out of her collar and sleeves.
The suddenness of the attack, instead of stunning me, strung every nerve to its highest tension. My body acted from instinct, before my brain had time to realize the terrors of my position. In an instant I wound two muscular arms around the creature, and squeezed it, with all the strength of despair, against my chest.
"What is wrong about it?" She seemed to think over the possibilities for an instant, and then she shook her head. "I don't think I could make you understand," she answered. She said it very gently, but it was cruel, and he turned white under the pain, suffering all the more that she was so entirely without malice. She turned to her son. "I'm going, Pete.