“I slipped my thumb on the press-button of the sword-stick and watched him. From time to time he made a dash at me with his knife, and when I prodded him back, he snatched at the stick. Again and again he nearly caught it, but I was just a little too quick for him, and he fell back, gasping and cursing, on the wagon-shafts. And then the end came with inevitable suddenness. He rushed out on me with upraised knife. I stopped him with a vigorous poke in the chest; but before I could whisk away the stick he had clutched it with a howl of joy. I gave a final drive, pressed the button and sprang back, leaving the scabbard-end in his hand. Before he had realized what had happened, he darted out, brandishing the knife, and came fairly on the point of the sword-blade. At the same moment I must have lunged, though I was not aware of it, for when he staggered back the handle was against his breast.
“It was over, and I had hardly realized that the final stage had begun. In an instant, as it seemed, that yelping, murderous wretch had subsided into a huddled, inert heap. It was a quick and merciful dispatch. By the time I had cleaned the blade and replaced it in its scabbard, the last twitchings had ceased. As I stood and looked down at him, I felt something of the chill of an anticlimax. It had all gone off so easily.
“Now that it was finished, my thoughts went back to the final purpose of my quest. Was this man, by any chance, the wretch whom I was seeking? It did not seem likely, and yet the possibility must be considered. The first question was as to his hair. Stooping down, with my pocket scissors I cut off a good-sized lock and secured it in an envelope for future examination. Then, taking out my pocket-book, I pressed his fingers on some of the blank leaves. The natural surface of his hands offered a passable substitute for ink and the finger-prints could be further developed at home.
“Then arose a more difficult question. I naturally wished to add him to my collection; but the thing seemed impossible. I certainly could not take him away with me. But if I left him exposed, he would undoubtedly be found and buried and thus an excellent specimen would be lost to science. There was only one thing to be done. The middle of the chalk-pit was occupied by a large area covered with nettles and other large weeds. Probably no human being trod on that space from one year’s end to another, for the stinging-nettles, four or five feet high, were enough to keep off stray children. Even now the spring vegetation was coming up apace. If I placed the body inconspicuously in the middle of the weedy area it would soon be overgrown and hidden. Then the natural agencies would do the rougher part of my work. Necrophagous insects and other vermin would come to the aid of air, moisture and bacteria, and I could return in the autumn and gather up the bones all ready for the museum.