He did not, but he left off with only three points to make. Then Warden began to score. Stroke after stroke he executed with flawless accuracy and with scarcely a pause, moving to and fro about the table without lifting his eyes from the balls. His play was swift and unswerving, his score mounted rapidly.
Dot watched him spellbound, not breathing. Hill stood near her, also closely watching, with brows slightly drawn. Suddenly something impelled her to look beyond the man at the table, and in the shadow on the farther side of the room she again saw Harley’s face, grey, withered-looking, with sunken eyes that glared forth wolfishly. He was glancing ceaselessly from Hill to Warden and from Warden to Hill, and the malice of his glance shocked her inexpressibly. She had never before seen murderous hate so stamped upon any countenance.
Instinctively she shrank from the sight, and in that moment Warden’s eyes were lifted for a second from the table. Magnetically hers flashed to meet them. It was instantaneous, inevitable as the sudden flare of lightning across a dark sky.
He stooped again to play, but in that moment something had gone out of him. The stroke he attempted was an easy one; but he missed it hopelessly.
He straightened himself up with a sharp gesture and looked at Hill. “I am sorry,” he said.
Hill said nothing whatever. Their scores were exactly even. With machine-like precision he took his turn, utterly ignoring the grumbling criticisms of his adversary’s play that were being freely expressed around the room. With the utmost steadiness he made his stroke, scoring two points. Then there fell a tremendous silence. The choice of two strokes now lay before him. One was to pocket his adversary’s ball; the other a long shot which required considerable skill. He chose the second without hesitation, hung a moment or two, made his stroke—and failed.
A howl of delight went up from the watchers, their hot partisanship of Warden amounting almost to open animosity against his opponent. In the midst of the noise Hill, perfectly calm, contemptuously indifferent, touched Warden again upon the shoulder, and spoke to him.
Warden said nothing in reply, but he went to his ball with a hint of savagery, bent, and almost without aiming sent it at terrific speed up the table. It struck first the red, then the white, pocketed the former, and whizzed therefrom into the opposite pocket.
A yell of delight went up. It was a brilliant stroke of which any player might have been proud. But Warden flung down his cue with a gesture of disgust.
“Damnation!” he said, and turned to put on his coat.
The two girls left the billiard-room, shepherded by Fletcher, almost before the tumult had subsided. It seemed to Dot that he was anxious about something and desirous to get them away. But Adela was full of excited comments and refused to be hurried, stopping outside to question Hill upon a dozen points regarding the game while he stood stiffly responding, waiting to say good-night.