“What are you following me for?” I cried furiously.
He wrenched himself out of my grasp and pulled a long knife from his pocket. I caught him by the wrist, and we wrestled to and fro upon the snow. He pummelled me about the face with his free hand, but though I was no match for him in strength, he could not get the knife from me. The keen steel slashed my fingers, but the thought of Jacqueline helped me.
I got his hand open, snatched the knife, and flung it far away among the stunted shrubs that clung to the cliffside. And we stood watching each other, panting.
He did not try to attack me again, but stood just out of my reach, grinning diabolically at me. His gaze shifted over my shoulder. Instinctively I swung around as the dry snow crackled behind me.
I was a second too late, for I saw nothing but the looming figure of a second ruffian and his upraised arm; then painless darkness seemed to enfold me, and I was conscious of plunging down into a fathomless abyss.
It sounded as though some titanic blacksmith were pounding on a mighty anvil to a devil’s chorus of laughter. And I was bound to the steel, and each blow awakened hideous echoes which went resounding through my brain forever.
The blows were rhythmical, and there was a perceptible interval between each one and the next; they were drawn out and intolerably slow, and seemed to have lasted through uncountable eons.
I strove to free myself. I knew that it was a dream from which I must awaken, for the fate of the whole world depended on my awakening from the bonds of sleep.
It would be so easy to sink down into a deeper slumber, where even the clanging of the anvil beneath those hammer strokes would not longer be heard; but against this was the imperative need to save—not the world now, but——
The name was as sweet as honey upon my lips. It was something worth living for. It was—Jacqueline!
The remembrance freed me. Dimly consciousness began to return. I knew the hammering was my own heart, forcing the blood heavily through the arteries of the brain.
I had gone back to my rooms and saw a body upon the floor. Jacqueline had killed somebody, and I must save her!
All through the mist-wrapped borderland of life I heard her voice crying to me, her need of me dragging me back to consciousness. I struggled up out of the pit, and I saw light.
Suddenly I realized that my eyes were wide open and that I was staring at the moon over the housetops. With consciousness came pain. My head throbbed almost unbearably, and I was stiff with cold. I raised myself weakly, and then I became aware that somebody was bending over me.