Her eyes dilated with sudden astonishment and terror. She had caught sight of me, emerging from the black shadow just behind her victim. Kirby also perceived the quick change in the face fronting him, read its expression of fright, and sought to twist his head so as to learn the truth. Yet before he could accomplish this, or his lips could give utterance to a sound, my hands closed on his throat, crushing him down to the sill, and throttling him into silence between the vise of my fingers.
TO SAVE A “NIGGER”
It proved to be a short, sharp struggle, from the first the advantage altogether with me. Kirby, jerked from off his feet from behind, his head forced down against the wooden sill, with throat gripped remorselessly in my clutch, could give utterance to no outcry, nor effectively exert his strength to break free. I throttled the very breath out of him, knowing that I must conquer then and there, silently, and with no thought of mercy. I was battling for her life, and my own. This was no time for compassion, nor had I the slightest wish to spare the man. With all the oldtime dislike in my heart, all the hatred aroused by what I had overheard, I closed down on his throat, rejoicing to see the purple of his flesh turn into a sickening black, as he fought desperately for breath, and as he lost consciousness, and ceased from struggle. I was conscious of a pang in my wounded shoulder, yet it seemed to rob me of no strength, but only added to my ferocity. The fellow rested limp in my hands. I believed I had killed him, and the belief was a joy, as I tossed the helpless body aside on the floor, and stepped through the open window into the room. Dead! he was better off dead.
I stood above him, staring down into the upturned face. It was breathless, mottled, hideously ugly, to all appearances the face of a dead man, but it brought to me no sense of remorse. The cur—“the unspeakable cur.” In my heart I hoped he was dead, and in a sudden feeling of utter contempt, I struck the inert body with my foot. Then, as my eyes lifted, they encountered those of the girl. She had drawn back to the table, startled out of all reserve by this sudden apparition, unable to comprehend. Doubt, questioning, fright found expression in her face. The pistol yet remained clasped in her hand, while she stared at me as though a ghost confronted her.
“Who—who are you?” she managed to gasp, in a voice which barely reached my ears. “My God! who—who sent you here?”
“It must have been God,” I answered, realizing instantly that I needed to make all clear in a word. “I came only to help you, and was just in time—no doubt God sent me.”
“To help me? You came here to help me? But how could that be? I—I never saw you before—who are you?”
I stood straight before her, my eyes meeting her own frankly. I had forgotten the dead body at my feet, the incidents of struggle, the pain of my own wound, comprehending only the supreme importance of compelling her to grasp the truth.