And it was thus that she presently saw Nick’s face bent above the black-bearded face of his enemy; and remembered suddenly and horribly a picture she had once seen of the devil in the wilderness.
With his knees he was gripping the writhing body of his fallen foe. With his hands—it came upon her as she watched with a shock of anguished comprehension—he was deliberately and with deadly intention choking out the man’s life.
“Curse you! Die!” she heard him say and his voice sounded like the snarl of a wild beast. His upper lip was drawn back, the lower one was between his teeth, and from it the blood dripped continuously upon his hands and upon the dark throat he gripped.
“Give me that knife!” he suddenly said, with an upward jerk of the head.
A dagger was lying almost within his reach, close to her foot. She could have kicked it towards him had not her body been fast bound in that deathly inertia. But her whole soul rose up in wild revolt at the order. She tried to cry out, to implore him to have mercy, but she could not make a sound. She could only stand in frozen horror, and witness this awful thing.
She saw Nick shift his grip to one hand and reach out with the other for the weapon. He grasped it and recovered himself. A great darkness was descending upon her, but it did not come at once. It hovered before her eyes, and seemed to pass, and again she saw the horror at her feet; saw Nick, bent to destroy like an eagle above his prey, merciless, full of strength, terrible; saw the man beneath him, writhing, convulsed, tortured; saw his upturned face, and starting eyes; saw the sudden downward swoop of Nick’s right hand, the flash of the descending steel.
In her agony she burst the spell that bound her, and shrieking turned to flee from that awful sight.
But even as she moved, the darkness came suddenly back upon her, enveloping her, overwhelming her—a darkness that could be felt. For a little she fought against it frantically, impotently. Then her feet seemed to totter over the edge of a dreadful, formless silence. She knew that she fell.
WHEN STRONG MEN FAIL
“Wake up!” said Nick softly. “Wake up! Don’t be afraid.”
But Muriel turned her face from the light with a moan. Memory winged with horror was sweeping back upon her, and she wanted never to wake again.
“Wake up!” Nick said again, and this time there was insistence in his voice. “Open your eyes, Muriel. There is nothing to frighten you.”
Shuddering, she obeyed him. She was lying once more upon her couch of ferns, and he was stooping over her, looking closely into her face. His eyes were extraordinarily bright, like the eyes of an eagle, but the lids flickered so rapidly that he seemed to be looking through her rather than at her. There was a wound upon his lower lip, and at the sight she shuddered again, closing her eyes. She remembered that the last time she had looked upon that face, it had been the face of a devil.