Now I had not an instant in which to think what to do, though I knew well enough what they were and whom they were after. What I did, I did, I suppose, by a kind of instinct. I tore my arm free from Dolly’s hand, pushing her behind me with my left hand, and at the same time dashed my cloak away as well as I could, to draw out my sword. The fellow was a little on my right when I was so turned about, but appeared a little confounded by my quickness, for he hesitated.
“Back to the wall, Dolly!” I shouted. “Back to the wall”; and, at the same time I began to back myself, with her still behind me, to the wall that was opposite to the steps we had just come down. My cloak was sadly in my way; but, as I reached the wall, still going backwards, I had my sword out just in time to keep off, by a flourish of it, the fellow who had recovered himself, and was coming at me again.
So for a moment, we stood; and in that moment I heard Anne screaming somewhere for help.
* * * * *
Then I saw how the two other men, at a swift sign from their leader, spread out on this side and that, so as to come at me from three directions together; and, at that saw that I must delay no longer. Before, I think, they saw what I intended, I leapt forward at the fellow in front, and lunged with all my force; and though he threw up his arms, with the dagger in one of his bands, and tried to evade a parry all at once, he was too late; my point went clean through his throat, and he fell backwards with a dreadful cry. And, at the same moment his two companions ran in on me from either side.
Now I do not even now see what else I could have done. I felt sure that one of them would have me, for I could not properly deal with them both; but I turned and stabbed quickly, with a short arm, at the face of the one on my right, missing him altogether, and, at the same time strove to strike with my left elbow the face of the other.
But, ah! Dolly was too quick for me. She must have run forward on my left to keep the fellow off, for I heard a swift dreadful sound as I shortened my right arm to stab at the other again; and I felt something fall about my feet.
I turned like a madman, screaming aloud with anger, careless of all else, or of whether or no anyone ran at me again, for I knew, in part at least what had happened; and, at the same moment the yard seemed all alive with folks running and crying out. The door at the head of the steps was open, and three or four players ran out and down; while from Little Russell Street on the right, where the coaches were, a great number ran in.
But I cared nothing for that at that instant. I had flung away my sword on to the stones and was stooping to pick up my dear love who had saved my life. There was already a great puddle of blood, and I felt it run hot over my left hand that was about her—hot, for it flowed straight from her heart that had been stabbed through by the knife that was aimed at me.