“‘They follow you!’ I screamed. ’Passive, relentless, and deadly, they follow in your wake and will not be denied. The strong, the helpless, the coarse and the beautiful—all you have killed and mutilated in your wanton devilry—they are on your heels like a pack of spectre-hounds, and sooner or later they will have you in their cold arms and hale you down to the secret places of terror. Look at Beston, who leads, with a fearful smile on his mouth! Look at that pale girl you tortured, whose hair writhes and lengthens—a swarm of snakes nosing the hull for some open port-hole to enter by! Dog and devil, you are betrayed by your own hideous cruelty!’
“He rose and struck at me blindly; staggered, and found his filthy voice in a shriek of rage.
“’Jorinder! make hell of the galley-fire! Heat some irons red and fetch out a bucket of pitch. We’ll learn this dandy galloot his manners!’
“Wrought to the snapping-point of desperation, I sprang at and closed with him; and we went down on the floor together with a heavy crash. I was weaponless, but I would choke and strangle him with my hands. I had him under, my fingers crookt in his throat. His eyeballs slipped forward, like banana ends squeezed from their skins; he could not speak or cry, but he put up one feeble hand and flapped it aimlessly. At that, in the midst of my fury, I glanced above me, and saw a press of dim faces crowding a dusk hatch; and from them a shadowy arm came through, pointing a weapon; and all my soul reeled sick, and I only longed to be left time to destroy the venomous horror beneath me before I passed.
“It was not to be. Something, a physical sensation like the jerk of a hiccup, shook my frame; and immediately the waters of being seemed to burst their dam and flow out peaceably into a valley of rest.”
William Tyrwhitt paused, and “Well?” said I.
“You see me here,” he said. “I woke this morning, and found myself lying on the floor of that shattered and battered closet, and a starved demon of a cat licking up something from the boards. When I drove her away, there was a patch there like ancient dried blood.”
“And how about your head?”
“My head? Why, the bullet seemed stuck in it between the temples; and there I am afraid it is still.”
“Just so. Now, William Tyrwhitt, you must take a Turkish, bath and some cooling salts, and then come and tell me all about it again.”
“Ah! you don’t believe me, I see. I never supposed you would. Good-night!”
But, when he was gone, I sat ruminating.
“That Captain Iron,” I thought, “walked over the great rent in the floor without falling through. Well, well!”