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"Though I make my bed in Hell...."
It was dark in the Pit. The air was heavy with poisonous vapors; the walls were foul with the slime of uncounted generations; under foot was the horror of the ages; yet still the man slept, for he was used to the place, and his brain sodden with the fumes of it. But by and by, as he slept, a sound crept into his ears, a weary, crying voice that went on and on and would not still; till the man stirred uneasily in his sleep, and awoke with the sound in his ears.
"Who is this," he said, "that breaks my slumber?"
He hearkened, and the voice went crying on:
"Oh! the blackness and the horror! oh! the dreadful, dreadful place! will none help me out?"
"What ails you at the place?" asked the man. "One sleeps well enough, if folk would but be quiet."
And the voice went clamoring on; the piteousness of it might have stirred the dead things under foot.
"Oh! for one breath of God's pure air! for one glimpse of God's good sunshine! Oh! the horror of it, to die in the foul dark! will none help me out?"
Then the man looked, for his eyes were used to the mirk of the Pit, and saw beside him the face of a youth, glimmering white as the dead moon at midday, and shining with tears and sweat of agony; and the lad was tearing at the walls, trying to make a way out; but his hands slipped on the slimy stones, and he fell back moaning and crying.
"Here is a great ado!" said the man. "But if it goes so ill with you, I will find a way out, if way there be."
He rose from the wallow where he lay, and with his strong hands felt along the walls, and found a crack between two great stones, and set his strength to rend them apart; but they clung together like the lips of Death. Long he struggled, yet could not stir them; and ever the doleful voice beat like a bell in his ears, till it seemed to him that he must give his life, so but that lad might go free.
Suddenly he felt a touch upon him, and in that same moment the stones moving under his hand: and looking, he was ware through the glimmering dark of another hand laid on the stone, and of one toiling beside him, striving even as he strove. Then the man set all the strength that was in him, and the great stones crumbled apart, and through the opening the fresh wind blew and the sun shone.
Then those two, the man and he who had toiled beside him, lifted the youth between them and brought him out into the open day; and the lad cried out once more, sobbing now for pure joy, and kissed their hands that had brought him out, and went singing on his way.
But the man stayed, and looked on that one who had toiled beside him. "Oh!" he said, "it was you!"
"Who else?" said the other.
"But how came you there?" asked the man.
And the other answered, "I went in with you!"
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