“If monsieur is ready,” he suggested, “perhaps we had better go.”
I rose to my feet reluctantly.
“As you will, Louis,” I said.
But the time for our departure had not yet come!
During the whole of the time people had been coming and going from the restaurant, not, perhaps, in a continual stream, but still at fairly regular intervals. It seemed to me, who had watched them all with interest, that scarcely a person had entered who was not worthy of observation. I saw faces, it is true, which I had seen before at the fashionable haunts of Paris, upon the polo ground, at Longchamps, or in the Bois, yet somehow it seemed to me that they came to this place as different beings. There was a tense look in their faces, a look almost of apprehension, as they entered and passed out,—as of people who have found their way a little further into life than their associates. Louis was right. There was something different about the place, something at which I could only dimly guess, which at that time I did not understand. Only I realized that I watched always with a little thrill of interest whenever the hurrying forward of Monsieur Carvin indicated the arrival of a new visitor.
We had already risen to go, and the vestiaire was on his way towards us, bearing my hat and coat, when Monsieur Carvin, who had hurried out a moment before, reappeared, ushering in a new arrival. The events that followed have always seemed a little confused to me. My first thought was that this was indeed a nightmare into which I had wandered. The slight unreality which had hung like a cloud over the whole of the evening, the strangeness of my being there with such a companion, the curious atmosphere of the place, which so far had completely puzzled me,—these things may all have served to heighten the illusion. Yet it seemed to me then that, dreaming or waking, this thing with which I was confronted was the last impossibility. I suppose that I must have stared at him like some wild creature, for the conversation around us suddenly stopped. Standing upon the threshold, looking around him with the happy air of an habitue, I saw this man to whom I owed my presence in Paris, this man concerning whom I had sworn that if ever I should meet him face to face my hand should be upon his throat. I remember nothing of my progress, but I know that I stood before him before he was conscious even of my presence. I addressed him by name. I believe that even my voice was not upraised.
“Tapilow!” I said.
He turned sharply towards me. I saw him suddenly stiffen, and I saw his right hand dart as though by instinct to his trousers pocket. But I was too quick for him. The blood was surging into my ears. Nothing in the whole room was visible to me but that pale, handsome face with the thin lips and dark, full eyes. I saw those eyes contract as though my hand upon his throat were indeed the touch of Death. I shook him until his collar broke away and his shirt-front flew open, shook him until from his limp body there seemed no longer any shadow of resistance. Then I flung him a little away from me, watching all the time, though, to see that his hand did not move towards that pocket.