Spike rose and stood, his hands tight-clenched, and though he tried to frown, he couldn’t hide the pitiful twitching of his lips nor the quaver in his voice.
“I guess you mean you’re goin’ t’ give me th’ throw-down?”
“Well,” answered the Spider, scowling at the sponge in his hand, “there’s jest two or three things as I ain’t got no use for, an’ one of ’em’s—murder!”
Hereupon Spike shrank away, and the Old Un, reaching out stealthily, opened the door of the limousine while the Spider fell to work again, splashing more than ever. Thus as Spike crept away with head a-droop, the Old Un, all unnoticed, stole after him, his old eyes very bright and birdlike, and, as he followed, keeping in the shade of hedge and tree as much as possible, he whispered a word to himself over and over again:
But Spike went on with dragging feet, ignorant that any one followed, lost in a sudden sense of shame such as he had never known before—a shame that was an agony: for though his bodily eyes were blinded with bitter tears, the eyes of his mind were opened wide at last, and he saw himself foul and dirty, even as the Spider had said. So on stumbling feet Spike reached a shady, grassy corner remote from all chance of observation and, throwing himself down there, he lay with his face hidden, wetting the grass with the tears of his abasement.
When at last he raised his head, he beheld a little old man leaning patiently against a tree near by and watching him with a pair of baleful eyes.
“Hello!” said Spike wearily. “Who are you?”
“I’m Fate, I am!” nodded the Old Un. “Persooin’ Fate, that’s me.”
“What yer here for, anyway?” enquired the lad, humble in his abasement.
“I’m here to persoo!”
“Say, now, what’s your game; what yer want?”
“I want you, me lad.”
“Well, say—beat it, please—I want t’ be alone.”
“Not much, me lad. I’m Fate, I am, an’ when Fate comes up agin murder, Fate ain’t t’ be shook off.”
“Murder!” gasped Spike. “Oh, my God! I—I ain’t—”
The lad sprang to his feet and was running on the instant, but turning to glance back, tripped over some obstacle and fell. Swaying he rose and stumbled on, but slower now by reason of the pain in his wounded arm. Thus, when at last he came out upon the road, the Old Un was still close behind him.
IN WHICH GEOFFREY RAVENSLEE OBTAINS HIS OBJECT
Mrs. Trapes glanced sadly around her cosy housekeeper’s room and sighed regretfully; she was alone, and upon the table ready to hand lay her neat bonnet, her umbrella, and a pair of white cotton gloves, beholding which articles her lips set more resolutely, her bony arms folded themselves more tightly, and she nodded in grim determination.
“The labourer is worthy of his hire!” she sighed, apparently addressing the bonnet, “but, if so be the labourer ain’t worthy, why then, the sooner he quits—”