He believed that
in the next instant he would be in another world; he had heard the
command given, had heard the click of the Mausers as the locks
caught - and then, at that supreme moment, a human hand had been laid
upon his shoulder and a voice spoke in his ear.
You would expect that any man, snatched back to life in such a
fashion would start and tremble at the reprieve, or would break down
altogether, but this boy turned his head steadily, and followed with
his eyes the direction of the officer's sword, then nodded gravely,
and, with his shoulders squared, took up the new position,
straightened his back, and once more held himself erect.
As an exhibition of self-control this should surely rank above feats
of heroism performed in battle, where there are thousands of comrades
to give inspiration. This man was alone, in sight of the hills he
knew, with only enemies about him, with no source to draw on for
strength but that which lay within himself.
The officer of the firing squad, mortified by his blunder, hastily
whipped up his sword, the men once more levelled their rifles, the
sword rose, dropped, and the men fired. At the report the Cuban's
head snapped back almost between his shoulders, but his body fell
slowly, as though some one had pushed him gently forward from behind
and he had stumbled.