The Honor of the Name HTML version

Chapter 35
The ledge of rock upon which Baron d'Escorval and Corporal Bavois rested in their
descent from the tower was very narrow.
In the widest place it did not measure more than a yard and a half, and its surface was
uneven, cut by innumerable fissures and crevices, and sloped suddenly at the edge. To
stand there in the daytime, with the wall of the tower behind one, and the precipice at
one's feet, would have been considered very imprudent.
Of course, the task of lowering a man from this ledge, at dead of night, was perilous in
the extreme.
Before allowing the baron to descend, honest Bavois took every possible precaution to
save himself from being dragged over the verge of the precipice by the weight he would
be obliged to sustain.
He placed his crowbar firmly in a crevice of the rock, then bracing his feet against the
bar, he seated himself firmly, throwing his shoulders well back, and it was only when he
was sure of his position that he said to the baron:
"I am here and firmly fixed, comrade; now let yourself down."
The sudden parting of the rope hurled the brave corporal rudely against the tower wall,
then he was thrown forward by the rebound.
His unalterable sang-froid was all that saved him.
For more than a minute he hung suspended over the abyss into which the baron had just
fallen, and his hands clutched at the empty air.
A hasty movement, and he would have fallen.
But he possessed a marvellous power of will, which prevented him from attempting any
violent effort. Prudently, but with determined energy, he screwed his feet and his knees
into the crevices of the rock, feeling with his hands for some point of support, and
gradually sinking to one side, he finally succeeded in dragging himself from the verge of
the precipice.
It was time, for a cramp seized him with such violence that he was obliged to sit down
and rest for a moment.
That the baron had been killed by his fall, Bavois did not doubt for an instant. But this
catastrophe did not produce much effect upon the old soldier, who had seen so many
comrades fall by his side on the field of battle.