The moment after they grappled, Silent shifted his right arm from its crushing grip on Dan’s body and clutched at the throat. The move was as swift as lightning, but the parry of the smaller man was still quicker. His left hand clutched Silent by the wrist, and that mighty sweep of arm was stopped in mid-air! They were in the middle of the room. They stood perfectly erect and close together, embraced. Their position had a ludicrous resemblance to the posture of dancers, but their bodies were trembling with effort. With every ounce of power in his huge frame Silent strove to complete his grip at the throat. He felt the right arm of Dan tightening around him closer, closer, closer! It was not a bulky arm, but it seemed to be made of linked steel which was shrinking into him, and promised to crush his very bones. The strength of this man seemed to increase. It was limitless. His breath came struggling under that pressure and the blood thundered and raged in his temples. If he could only get at that soft throat!
But his struggling right hand was held in a vice of iron. Now his numb arm gave way, slowly, inevitably. He ground his teeth and cursed. His curse was half a prayer. For answer there was the unearthly chuckle just below his ear. His hand was moved back, down, around! He was helpless as a child in the arms of its father—no, helpless as a sheep in the constricting coils of a python.
An impulse of frantic horror and shame and fear gave him redoubled strength for an instant. He tore himself clear and reeled back. Dan planted two smashes on Silent’s snarling mouth. A glance showed the large man the mute, strained faces around the room. The laughing devil leaped again. Then all pride slipped like water from the heart of Jim Silent, and in its place there was only icy fear, fear not of a man, but of animal power. He caught up a heavy chair and drove it with all his desperate strength at Dan.
It cracked distinctly against his head and the weight of it fairly drove him into the floor. He fell with a limp thud on the boards. Silent, reeling and blind, staggered to and fro in the centre of the room. Morgan and Lee Haines reached Dan at the same moment and kneeled beside him.
THE MUTE MESSENGER
Almost at once Haines raised a hand and spoke to the crowd: “He’s all right, boys. Badly cut across the head and stunned, but he’ll live.”
There was a deep gash on the upper part of the forehead. If the cross-bar of the chair had not broken, the skull might have been injured. The impact of the blow had stunned him, and it might be many minutes before his senses returned.