Toyner peered into the silver mist on all sides of him; the sensation of the diffused moonlight was almost dazzling, the trees looked far away, large and unreal. At length among them he saw the great log that had fallen almost horizontal with the water; upon it a solitary human figure stood erect in an attitude of frenzied defiance.
“I have come from your daughter, Markham.” Then in a moment, by way of self-explanation, he said, “Toyner.”
The man addressed only flung a clenched fist into the air. The silence of his pantomime now that there was some one to speak to was made ghastly by the harangue which he had been pouring out upon the solitude.
“Have you lost your head?” asked Toyner. “I have come from your daughter—I’m not going to arrest you, but set you down at The Mills—you can go where you will then.”
He knew now the answer to his first question. The man before him was in some stage of delirium. Toyner wondered if any one could secretly have brought him drink.
There was nothing to be done but to soothe as best he could the other’s fear and enmity, and to bring the boat close to the tree for him to get in it. Whether he was sane or mad, it was clearly necessary to take him from that place. Markham retained a sullen silence, but seemed to understand so far that he ceased all threatening gestures. His only movements were certain turnings and sudden crouchings as if he saw or felt enemies about him in the air.
“Now, get in,” said Toyner. He had secured the boat. He pulled the other by the legs, and guided him as he slipped from his low bench. “Sit down; you can’t stand, you know.”
But Markham showed himself able to keep his balance, and alert to help in pushing off the boat. There was a heavy boat-pole ready for use in shallow water, and Markham for a minute handled it adroitly, pushing off from his tree.
Toyner turned his head perforce to see that the boat was not proceeding towards some other dangerous obstacle. Then Markham, with the sudden swift cunning of madness, lifted the butt end of his pole and struck him on the head.
Toyner sank beneath the blow as an ox shivers and sinks under the well-aimed blow of the butcher.
Markham looked about him for a moment with an air of childish triumph, looked not alone at the form of the fallen man before him, but all around in the air, as if he had triumphed not over one, but over many.
No eye was there to see the look of fiendish revenge that flitted next over the nervous working of his face. Then he fell quickly to work changing garments with the limp helpless body lying in the bottom of the boat. With unnatural strength he lifted Toyner, dressed in his own coat and hat, to the horizontal log on which he had lived for so long. He took the long mesh of woollen sheeting that his daughter had brought to be a rest and support to his own body,