The moments flew. He thought he could hear his hammering heart. A stifled gasp, a dozen feet from him, was just audible.
He leaped for the sound. His outflung hand struck an arm and slid down it, caught at a small wrist, and fastened there. In the fraction of a second left him he realized, beyond question, that it was a woman he had assaulted.
The hand was wrenched from him. There came a zigzag flash of lightning searing his brain, a crash that filled the world for him—and he floated into unconsciousness.
Lane came back painfully to a world of darkness. His head throbbed distressingly. Querulously he wondered where he was and what had taken place.
He drew the fingers of his outstretched hand along the nap of a rug and he knew he was on the floor. Then his mind cleared and he remembered that a woman’s hand had been imprisoned in his just before his brain stopped functioning.
Who was she? What was she doing here? And what under heaven had hit him hard enough to put the lights out so instantly?
He sat up and held his throbbing head. He had been struck on the point of the chin and gone down like an axed bullock. The woman must have lashed out at him with some weapon.
In his pocket he found a match. It flared up and lit a small space in the pit of blackness. Unsteadily he got to his feet and moved toward the door. His mind was quite clear now and his senses abnormally sensitive. For instance, he was aware of a faint perfume of violet in the room, so faint that he had not noticed it before.
There grew on him a horror, an eagerness to be gone from the rooms. It was based on no reasoning, but on some obscure feeling that there had taken place something evil, something that chilled his blood.
Yet he did not go. He had come for a purpose, and it was characteristic of him that he stayed in spite of the dread that grew on him till it filled his breast. Again he groped along the wall for the light switch. A second match flared in his fingers and showed it to him. Light flooded the room.
His first sensation was of relief. This handsome apartment with its Persian rugs, its padded easy-chairs, its harmonious wall tints, had a note of repose quite alien to tragedy. It was the home of a man who had given a good deal of attention to making himself comfortable. Indefinably, it was a man’s room. The presiding genius of it was masculine and not feminine. It lacked the touches of adornment that only a woman can give to make a place homelike.