She tried desperately to regain her balance, but the pressure round her throat, tightening, bade fair to suffocate her; and reeling, while her hands tore ineffectually at the folds of the veil, she was drawn back and back, and tripped, falling half on, half off the table.
Already her vision was darkening, her lungs were labouring painfully, her head throbbed with the revolt of strangulated arteries as if sledge hammers were seeking to smash through her skull.
Through closing shadows she saw that savage mask which hovered over her, moping and mowing, as Victor twisted and drew ever more tight the murderous bindings round her throat.
A groping hand encountered something on the table, a lump of metal, cold and heavy. She seized and dashed it brutally into that hateful face, saw his head jerk back and heard him grunt with pain, and struck again, blindly, with all her might.
Instantly the pressure upon her throat was eased. She heard a groan, a fall ...
GREEK VS. GREEK
She found herself standing, partly resting upon the table. Great, tearing sobs racked her slight young body—but at least she was breathing, there was no more constriction of her windpipe; Her head still ached, however, her neck felt stiff and sore, and she remained somewhat giddy and confused.
She eyed rather wildly her hands. One held torn and ragged folds of the veil ripped from her throat, the other the weapon with which she had cheated death: a bronze paperweight, probably a miniature copy of a Barye, an elephant trumpeting. The up-flung trunk was darkly stained and sticky....
With a shudder she dropped the bronze, and looked down. Victor lay at her feet, supine, grotesquely asprawl. His face was bruised and livid; the cheek laid open by the bronze was smeared with scarlet, accentuating the leaden colour of his skin. His mouth was ajar; his eyes, half closed, hideously revealed slender slits of white. More blood discoloured his right temple, welling from under the matted, coarse black hair.
He was terribly motionless. If he breathed, Sofia could detect no sign of it.
In panic she knelt beside the body, threw back Victor’s dinner-coat, and laid an ear above his heart.
At first, in her mad anxiety, she could hear nothing. But presently a beating registered, slow and harsh but steady-paced.
With a sob of relief she sat back on her heels, and after a little while got unsteadily to her feet.
The house door closed with a dull bang, and from the entrance hallway came a sound of voices. She stood petrified in dread till the voices fell and she heard stairs creak under an ascending tread.
Thus reminded that Lanyard’s return might occur at any moment, she made all haste to patch up the disarray of veil and coiffure. Fortunately her costume, protected by the cloak of heavy and sturdy stuff, was quite undamaged.