St. Elmo (Chapter 4, page 1 of 17)


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Chapter 4

Viewed by the aid of lanterns and the lurid, flickering light of torches, the scene of disaster presented a ghastly debris of dead and dying, of crushed cars and wounded men and women, who writhed and groaned among the shattered timbers from which they found it impossible to extricate themselves. The cries of those who recognized relatives in the mutilated corpses that were dragged out from the wreck increased the horrors of the occasion; and when Edna opened her eyes amid the flaring of torches and the piercing wails of the bereaved passengers, the first impression was, that she had died and gone to Dante's "Hell;" but the pangs that seized her when she attempted to move soon dispelled this frightful illusion, and by degrees the truth presented itself to her blunted faculties. She was held fast between timbers, one of which seemed to have fallen across her feet and crushed them, as she was unable to move them, and was conscious of a horrible sensation of numbness; one arm, too, was pinioned at her side, and something heavy and cold lay upon her throat and chest. Lifting this weight with her uninjured hand, she uttered an exclamation of horror as the white face of the little baby whose fingers she had clasped now met her astonished gaze; and she saw that the sweet coral lips were pinched and purple, the waxen lids lay rigid over the blue eyes, and the dimpled hand was stiff and icy. The confusion increased as day dawned and a large crowd collected to offer assistance, and Edna watched her approaching deliverers as they cut their way through the wreck and lifted out the wretched sufferers. Finally two men, with axes in their hands, bent down and looked into her face.

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