Yet, contemplating the vigil that lay before me in silence and darkness, I cannot pretend that my frame of mind was buoyant. I could not smoke; I must make no sound.
As pre-arranged, I cautiously removed my boots, and as cautiously tiptoed across the carpet and seated myself in an arm-chair. I determined there to await the arrival of Mr. Jonathan Martin’s friend, which I knew could not now be long delayed.
The clocks were striking eleven when he arrived, and in the perfect stillness of that upper corridor. I heard the bustle which heralded his approach, heard the rap upon the door opposite, followed by a muffled “Come in” from Weymouth. Then, as the door was opened, I heard the sound of a wheezy cough.
A strange cracked voice (which, nevertheless, I recognized for Smith’s) cried, “Hullo, Martin!—cough no better?”
Upon that the door was closed again, and as the retreating footsteps of the servant died away, complete silence—that peculiar silence which comes with fog—descended once more upon the upper part of the New Louvre Hotel.
That first hour of watching, waiting, and listening in the lonely quietude passed drearily; and with the passage of every quarter— signalized by London’s muffled clocks—my mood became increasingly morbid. I peopled the silent rooms opening out of that wherein I sat, with stealthy, murderous figures; my imagination painted hideous yellow faces upon the draperies, twitching yellow hands protruding from this crevice and that. A score of times I started nervously, thinking I heard the pad of bare feet upon the floor behind me, the suppressed breathing of some deathly approach.
Since nothing occurred to justify these tremors, this apprehensive mood passed; I realized that I was growing cramped and stiff, that unconsciously I had been sitting with my muscles nervously tensed. The window was open a foot or so at the top and the blind was drawn; but so accustomed were my eyes now to peering through the darkness, that I could plainly discern the yellow oblong of the window, and though very vaguely, some of the appointments of the room—the Chesterfield against one wall, the lamp-shade above my head, the table with the Tulun-Nur box upon it.
There was fog in the room, and it was growing damply chill, for we had extinguished the electric heater some hours before. Very few sounds penetrated from outside. Twice or perhaps thrice people passed along the corridor, going to their rooms; but, as I knew, the greater number of the rooms along that corridor were unoccupied.
From the Embankment far below me, and from the river, faint noises came at long intervals it is true; the muffled hooting of motors, and yet fainter ringing of bells. Fog signals boomed distantly, and train whistles shrieked, remote and unreal. I determined to enter my bedroom, and, risking any sound which I might make, to lie down upon the bed.