He stood peering down, with an obvious lack of recognition that hinted at failing sight.
“I don’t seem to know you,” he said slowly, with a weary shake of his head; “and it’s most inopportune—the hour. I fear you must excuse me.”
“That can’t be,” P. Sybarite returned. “I’ve business with you—important. Perhaps you didn’t catch the name I gave your butler—Nemesis.”
“Nemesis?” Shaynon repeated vacantly. He staggered and descended a step before a groping hand checked him on the baluster-rail. “Nemesis! Is this an untimely joke of some sort, sir?”
His accents quavered querulously; and P. Sybarite with a flash of scorn put his unnatural condition down to drink.
“Far from it,” he retorted ruthlessly. “The cat’s out, my friend—your bag lean and flapping emptiness! What,” he demanded sternly—“what have you done with Marian Blessington?”
“Mar—Marian?” the old voice iterated. “Why, she”—the man pulled himself together with a determined effort—“she’s in her room, of course. Where should she be?”
“Is that true?” P. Sybarite demanded of the butler in a manner so peremptory that the truth slipped out before the fellow realised it.
“Miss Marian ’asn’t returned as yet from the ball,” he whispered. “’E—’e’s not quite ’imself, sir. ’E’s ’ad a bit of a shock, as one might s’y. I’d go easy on ’im, if you’ll take a word from me.”
But P. Sybarite traversed his advice without an instant’s consideration.
“Brian Shaynon,” he called, “you lie! The police have caught Red November; they’ll worm the truth out of him within twenty minutes, if I don’t get it from you now. The game’s up. Come! What have you done with the girl?”
For all answer, a low cry, like the plaint of a broken-hearted child, issued from the leaden, writhen lips of the old man.
And while he stared in wonder, Brian Shaynon seemed suddenly to lose the strength of his limbs. His legs shook beneath him as with a palsy; and then, knees buckling, he tottered and plunged headlong from top to bottom of the staircase.
“E’s gone,” the butler announced.
Kneeling beside the inert body of Brian Shaynon, where it had lodged on a broad, low landing three steps from the foot of the staircase, he turned up to P. Sybarite fishy, unemotional eyes in a pasty fat face.
The little man said nothing.
Resting a hand on the newel-post, he looked down unmoved upon the mortal wreck of him who had been his life’s bane. Brian Shaynon lay in death without majesty; a crumpled and dishevelled ruin of flesh and clothing, its very insentience suggesting to the morbid fancy of the little Irishman something foul and obscene. Brian Shaynon living had been to him a sight less intolerable....
“Dead,” the butler affirmed, releasing the pulseless leaden wrist, and rising. “I presume I’d best call ’is doctor, ’adn’t I, sir?”