Now Tucker had regained the advantage which that momentary interruption of Traill’s had lost him. His man was swaying before him as a sack of sawdust swings inert to the vibrating motion of speed. His blows were falling short and fast. No great force was behind them. He had no time to give them force. But they were bewildering—the stones of hail upon the naked eyes. Morrison dropped slowly and slowly backwards, one staggering step at a time; his defenceless arms held feebly like broken straws before his face. From nose to chin, from chin to neck, and from the neck in a spreading stream across his chest, the blood—black in that light—trickled like molten glue. In his eyes, she could see that questioning glare, the stupid senseless gaze of a man drunk with exhaustion. And still the blows fell to the murmuring accompaniment of that gloating crowd—fell steadily, shortly, tappingly, like the beating of a stick upon dead meat.
“He’s got him now, by Jove! he’s got him now,” she just heard Traill muttering, and then the yellow lamplight slowly went out into the shadows; the deep, black curtain of the sky slowly descended over the whole scene; she felt a cold wind full of moisture fanning gently upon her forehead and her lips; she heard the muffled sounds going further and further away as though some great hand were spreading a black velvet cloth over it all; then Traill heard her uncomplaining moan, and felt the dead weight of her senseless body as it lurched against his own.
There are men of a certain type in this world whose judgment is exceedingly sound when their instincts are not in play, but who, in certain channels, when the senses are at riot, become puerile; the good ship, rudderless, which only rights itself when the storm has passed. They are men without the necessary leaven of introspection. Of themselves, in fact, they know nothing, learn nothing even in the remorse when the deed is done. For first of all, they are men of strength—men who can over-ride, with determination, rough-shod, the hampering results of their follies. Fate and circumstance have no power over them. They make their own destiny; cutting, if necessary, the knots they have tied, with a knife-edge of will that needs but the one clear sweep to set them free.
Of this type—a vivid example—is Traill. The lust of animalism and the determination to possess the woman he once desired, were the two channels, swept into which, he became ungovernable. All clear judgment which he displayed in the management of his work, all foresight which he possessed to a degree in the arrangement of common, mundane affairs, were in such a moment cast out of him. Brute instinct hugged him in its embrace. He lost all sense of honour, who could in other matters be most honourable of all. All sense of pity he left, to become the animal that scents its prey, and stretches limbs, strains heart to reach it. In those moments when the hunger held him, he took the cruelty of the beast into his heart, and drove all else out before it.