He threw himself with all the strength of a raving maniac upon Lambert, who for the moment was taken unawares, and yielded to the suddenness of the onslaught. But it was indeed a conflict ’twixt town and country, the simple life against nightly dissipations, the forests and cliffs of Thanet against the enervating atmosphere of the city.
After that first onrush, Lambert, with marvelous agility and quick knowledge of a hand-to-hand fight, had shaken himself free of his opponent’s trembling grasp. It was his turn now to have the upper hand, and in a trice he had, with a vigorous clutch, gripped his opponent by the throat.
In a sense, his calmness had not forsaken him, his mind was as quiet, as clear as heretofore; it was only his muscle—his bodily energy in the face of a violent and undeserved attack—which had ceased to be under his control.
“Man! man!” he murmured, gazing steadily into the eyes of his antagonist, “ye shall swallow those words—or by Heaven I will kill you!”
The tumult which ensued drowned everything save itself ... everything, even the sound of that slow and measured tramp, tramp, tramp, which was wafted up from the street.
The women shouted, the men swore. Some ran like frightened sheep to the distant corners of the room, fearful lest they be embroiled in this unpleasant fracas ... others crowded round Segrave and Lambert, trying to pacify them, to drag the strong youth away from his weaker opponent—almost his victim now.
Some were for forcibly separating them, others for allowing them to fight their own battles and loud-voiced arguments, subsidiary quarrels, mingled with the shrill cries of terror and caused a din which grew in deafening intensity, degenerating into a wild orgy as glasses were knocked off the tables, cards strewn about, candles sent flying and spluttering upon the ground.
And still that measured tramp down the street, growing louder, more distinct, a muffled “Halt!” the sound of arms, of men moving about beneath that yawning archway and along the dark and dismal passage with its hermetically closed front door.
MY LORD PROTECTOR’S PATROL
Alone, Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse had taken no part in the confused turmoil which raged around the personalities of Segrave and Richard Lambert. From the moment that he had—with studied callousness—turned his back on his erstwhile protege he had held aloof from the crowd which had congregated around the two young men.
He saw before him the complete success of his nefarious plan, which had originated in the active brain of Editha, but had been perfected in his own—of heaping dire and lasting disgrace on the man who had become troublesome and interfering of late, who was a serious danger to his more important schemes.
After the fracas of this night Richard Lambert forsooth could never show his face within two hundred miles of London, the ugly story of his having cheated at cards and been publicly branded as a liar and a thief by a party of gentlemen would of a surety penetrate even within the fastnesses of Thanet.