“I leave this house,” he said wildly. “Herod, send on my baggage to Cairo. But”—turning to me—“you I challenge—you, with your big body and trained arms! But, bah! you dar’n’t fight. You are a mooning coward.”
He rushed out of the room as he spoke, and a minute later I heard the hall door slammed with vehemence.
At that moment I became possessed of a terrible passion. I seemed to be mad. I longed to avenge the insults that had been offered. I looked around the room, and all seemed astounded at the behaviour of the Egyptian, save Voltaire, who was apologizing in profuse terms for his friend. As I looked at his terrible eyes, my passion became greater, and I felt I could not govern myself if I stayed in the room. I think some one came up to me, and congratulated me on my coolness in dealing with the man who had insulted me so; but I did not listen—I could not. An overmastering impulse laid hold of me to follow the Egyptian, and I dimly remember going into the hall and out into the silent night.
I knew the probability was that I should be followed, but I did not know where to go, when I seemed to hear voices all around me uttering the words “Drearwater Pond!” With that I started running with all my might, knowing not where, yet dimly remembering that I had gone the road before. Then all memory and consciousness ceased.
DARK DREAMS AND NIGHT SHADOWS
I suppose I must have gone on blindly for some time, for when I again became conscious I stood beside a river, while tall trees waved their leafless branches overhead. Strange noises filled the air. Sometimes wailing sounds were wafted to me, which presently changed into hisses, until it seemed as if a thousand serpents were creeping all around me. The waters of the river looked black, while above me were weird, fantastic forms leaping in the stillness of the night. No words were spoken, no language was uttered, save that of wailing and hissing, and that somehow was indistinct, as if it existed in fancy and not in reality. By and by, however, I heard a voice.
“Onward!” it said, and I became unconscious.
* * * * *
Again I realized my existence in a vague shadowy way. I stood beneath the ruined walls of an Eastern temple. Huge columns arose in the air, surmounted by colossal architraves, while the ponderous stones of which the temple was built were covered with lichen. Large grey lizards crawled in and out among the crevices of the rocks, and seemed to laugh as they sported amidst what was once the expression of a great religious system, but which was now terrible in its weird desolation. By and by the great building seemed to assume its original shape and became inhabited by white-robed priests, who ministered to the people who came to worship. I watched eagerly, but they faded away, leaving nothing save the feeling that a terrible presence filled the place. I heard a noise behind; I turned and saw Kaffar, his black eyes shining, while in his hand he held a gleaming knife. He lifted it above his head as if to strike; but I had the strength of ten men, and I hurled him from me. He looked at me with a savage leer.