I raised her in my arms and laid her on the bed, telling her to close her eyes and sleep. She was asleep almost immediately after her head rested Upon the pillow. She breathed as softly as an infant.
I watched her for a while until I heard a distant clock strike three. This recalled me to the dangers of our situation. I struck a match and lit the gas in the bedroom. But the yellow glare was so ghastly and intolerable that I turned it down.
And then I set about the task before me.
COVERING THE TRACKS
I thought quickly, and my consciousness seemed to embrace all the details of the situation with a keenness foreign to my nature.
Once, I believe, I had been able to play an active part among the men who were my associates in that adventurous life that lay so far behind me. But eight years of clerkship had reduced me to the condition of one who waits on the command of others. Now my irresolution vanished for the time, and I was my old self once more.
The first task was the disposal of the body in such a way that suspicion would not attach itself to me after I had vacated the rooms next morning.
There was a fire-escape running up to the floor of that room on the outside of the house, though there was no egress to it. It had been put up by the landlord to satisfy the requirements of some new law; but had never been meant for use, and it was constructed of the flimsiest and cheapest ironwork. I saw that it would be possible by standing on a chair to swing myself up to the hole in the wall and reach down to the iron stairs up which, I assumed, the dead man had crept after I had given him the hint of Jacqueline’s abode by emerging from the front door.
I raised the dead man in my arms, looking apprehensively toward the bed. I was afraid Jacqueline would awaken, but she slept in heavy peace, undisturbed by the harsh creaking of the sagging floor beneath its double burden. I put the fur cap on the grotesque, nodding dead head, and, pushing a chair toward the wall with my foot, mounted it and managed with a great effort to squeeze through the hole, pulling up the body with me as I did so.
Then I felt with my foot for the little platform at the top of the iron stairs outside, found it, and dropped. Afterward I dragged the dreadful burden down from the hole.
I had not known that I was strong before, and I do not understand now how I managed to accomplish my wretched task.
I carried the dead man all the way down the fire-escape, clinging and straining against the rotting, rusting bars, which bent and cracked beneath my weight and seemed about to break and drag down the entire structure from the wall.
I hardly paused at the platforms outside the successive stories. The weather was growing very cold, a storm was coming up, and the wind soughed and whined dismally around the eaves.