He dropped the revolver into a side pocket of his waterproof coat as he spoke, and, pointing me to the door in the corner, turned to that by which he had entered. And as he turned he snapped off the light of his electric lamp, while I myself, having fumbled for a box of matches, struck one and looked around me for this lantern he had mentioned. In its spluttering light I saw his big figure round the corner—then, just as I made for the lantern, the match went out and all was darkness again. As I felt for another match, I heard him pounding the stair—and suddenly there was a sort of scuffle and he cried out loudly once, and there was the sound of a fall, and then of lighter steps hurrying away, and then a heavy, rattling groan. And with my heart in my mouth and fingers trembling so that I could scarcely hold the match, I made shift to light the candle in the lantern, and went fearfully after him. There, in an angle of the stairway, he was lying, with the blood running in dark streams from a gap in his throat; while his hands, which he had instinctively put up to it, were feebly dropping away and relaxing on his broad chest. And as I put the lantern closer to him he looked up at me in a queer, puzzled fashion, and died before my very eyes.
I shrank back against the mouldy wall of that old stairway shivering as if I had been suddenly stricken with the ague. I had trembled in every limb before ever I heard the sound of the sudden scuffle, and from a variety of reasons—the relief of having Hollins’s revolver withdrawn from my nose; the knowledge that Maisie was close by; the gradual wearing-down of my nerves during a whole day of heart-sickening suspense,—but now the trembling had deepened into utter shaking: I heard my own teeth chattering, and my heart going like a pump, as I stood there, staring at the man’s face, over which a grey pallor was quickly spreading itself. And though I knew that he was as dead as ever a man can be, I called to him, and the sound of my own voice frightened me.
“Mr. Hollins!” I cried. “Mr. Hollins!”
And then I was frightened still more, for, as if in answer to my summons, but, of course, because of some muscular contraction following on death, the dead lips slightly parted, and they looked as if they were grinning at me. At that I lost what nerve I had left, and let out a cry, and turned to run back into the room where we had talked. But as I turned there were sounds at the foot of the stair, and the flash of a bull’s-eye lamp, and I heard Chisholm’s voice down in the gateway below.
“Hullo, up there!” he was demanding. “Is there anybody above?”
It seemed as if I was bursting my chest when I got an answer out to him.
“Oh, man!” I shouted, “come up! There’s me here—and there’s murder!”
I heard him exclaim in a dismayed and surprised fashion, and mutter some words to somebody that was evidently with him, and then there was heavy tramping below, and presently Chisholm’s face appeared round the corner; and as he held his bull’s-eye before him, its light fell full on Hollins, and he jumped back a step or two.