She hung passive in my embrace.
When I got back to my little sitting-room at the Hotel de Portugal, I experienced a certain timid hesitation in opening the door. For several seconds I stood before it, the key in the lock, afraid to enter. I wanted to rush out again, to walk the streets all night; it was raining, but I thought that anything would be preferable to the inside of my sitting-room. Then I felt that, whatever the cost, I must go in; and, twisting the key, I pushed heavily at the door, and entered, touching as I did so the electric switch. In the chair which stood before the writing-table in the middle of the room sat the figure of Lord Clarenceux.
Yes, my tormentor was indeed waiting. I had defied him, and we were about to try a fall. As for me, I may say that my heart sank, sick with an ineffable fear. The figure did not move as I went in; its back was towards me. At the other end of the room was the doorway which led to the small bedroom, little more than an alcove, and the gaze of the apparition was fixed on this doorway.
I closed the outer door behind me, and locked it, and then I stood still. In the looking-glass over the mantelpiece I saw a drawn, pale, agitated face in which all the trouble of the world seemed to reside; it was my own face. I was alone in the room with the ghost—the ghost which, jealous of my love for the woman it had loved, meant to revenge itself by my death.
A ghost, did I say? To look at it, no one would have taken it for an apparition. No wonder that till the previous evening I had never suspected it to be other than a man. It was dressed in black; it had the very aspect of life. I could follow the creases in the frock coat, the direction of the nap of the silk hat which it wore in my room. How well by this time I knew that faultless black coat and that impeccable hat! Yet it seemed that I could not examine them too closely. I pierced them with the intensity of my fascinated glance. Yes, I pierced them, for showing faintly through the coat I could discern the outline of the table which should have been hidden by the man’s figure, and through the hat I could see the handle of the French window.
As I stood motionless there, solitary under the glow of the electric light with this fearful visitor, I began to wish that it would move. I wanted to face it—to meet its gaze with my gaze, eye to eye, and will against will. The battle between us must start at once, I thought, if I was to have any chance of victory, for moment by moment I could feel my resolution, my manliness, my mere physical courage, slipping away.