Ere he had finished speaking, the keys were in my hands, and I had unlocked the gyves from both the captives. Sir Lionel Barton, his gag removed, unloosed a torrent of pent-up wrath.
“The hell-fiends drugged me!” he shouted. “That black villain Homopoulo doctored my tea! I woke in this damnable cell, the secret of which has been lost for generations!” He turned blazing blue eyes upon Kennedy. “How did you come to be trapped?” he demanded unreasonably. “I credited you with a modicum of brains!”
“Homopoulo came running from your room, sir, and told me you were taken suddenly ill and that a doctor must be summoned without delay.”
“Well, well, you fool!”
“Dr. Hamilton was away, sir.”
“A false call beyond doubt!” snapped Smith.
“Therefore I went for the new doctor, Dr. Magnus, in the village. He came at once and I showed him up to your room. He sent Mrs. Oram out, leaving only Homopoulo and myself there, except yourself.”
“Sandbagged!” explained the man nonchalantly. “Dr. Magnus, who is some kind of dago, is evidently one of the gang.”
“Sir Lionel!” cried Smith—“where does the passage lead to beyond that doorway?
“God knows!” was the answer, which dashed my last hope to the ground. “I have no more idea than yourself. Perhaps ...”
He ceased speaking. A sound had interrupted him, which, in those grim surroundings, lighted by the solitary lantern, translated my thoughts magically to Ancient Rome, to the Rome of Tigellinus, to the dungeons of Nero’s Circus. Echoing eerily along the secret passages it came— the roaring and snarling of the lioness and the leopards.
Nayland Smith clapped his hand to his brow and stared at me almost frenziedly, then—
“God guard her!” he whispered. “Either their plans, wherever they got them, are inaccurate, or in their panic they have mistaken the way.” ... Wild cries now were mingling with the snarling of the beasts.... “They have blundered into the old crypt!”
How we got out of the secret labyrinth of Graywater Park into the grounds and around the angle of the west wing to the ivy-grown, pointed door, where once the chapel had bee, I do not know. Light seemed to spring up about me, and half-clad servants to appear out of the void. Temporarily I was insane.
Sir Lionel Barton was behaving like a madman too, and like a madman he tore at the ancient bolts and precipitated himself into the stone-paved cloister barred with the moon-cast shadows of the Norman pillars. From behind the iron bars of the home of the leopards came now a fearsome growling and scuffling.
Smith held the light with a steady hand, whilst Kennedy forced the heavy bolts of the crypt door.
In leapt the fearless baronet among his savage pets, and in the ray of light from the electric lamp I saw that which turned my sick with horror. Prone beside a yawning gap in the floor lay Homopoulo, his throat torn indescribably and his white shirt-front smothered in blood. A black leopard, having its fore-paws upon the dead man’s breast, turned blazing eyes upon us; a second crouched beside him.