“Go away, I tell you,” said Arthur, angrily, “or we shall both repent.”
“No,” said Adam, with a convulsed voice, “I swear I won’t go away without fighting you. Do you want provoking any more? I tell you you’re a coward and a scoundrel, and I despise you.”
The colour had all rushed back to Arthur’s face; in a moment his right hand was clenched, and dealt a blow like lightning, which sent Adam staggering backward. His blood was as thoroughly up as Adam’s now, and the two men, forgetting the emotions that had gone before, fought with the instinctive fierceness of panthers in the deepening twilight darkened by the trees. The delicate-handed gentleman was a match for the workman in everything but strength, and Arthur’s skill enabled him to protract the struggle for some long moments. But between unarmed men the battle is to the strong, where the strong is no blunderer, and Arthur must sink under a well-planted blow of Adam’s as a steel rod is broken by an iron bar. The blow soon came, and Arthur fell, his head lying concealed in a tuft of fern, so that Adam could only discern his darkly clad body.
He stood still in the dim light waiting for Arthur to rise.
The blow had been given now, towards which he had been straining all the force of nerve and muscle—and what was the good of it? What had he done by fighting? Only satisfied his own passion, only wreaked his own vengeance. He had not rescued Hetty, nor changed the past—there it was, just as it had been, and he sickened at the vanity of his own rage.
But why did not Arthur rise? He was perfectly motionless, and the time seemed long to Adam. Good God! had the blow been too much for him? Adam shuddered at the thought of his own strength, as with the oncoming of this dread he knelt down by Arthur’s side and lifted his head from among the fern. There was no sign of life: the eyes and teeth were set. The horror that rushed over Adam completely mastered him, and forced upon him its own belief. He could feel nothing but that death was in Arthur’s face, and that he was helpless before it. He made not a single movement, but knelt like an image of despair gazing at an image of death.
It was only a few minutes measured by the clock—though Adam always thought it had been a long while—before he perceived a gleam of consciousness in Arthur’s face and a slight shiver through his frame. The intense joy that flooded his soul brought back some of the old affection with it.
“Do you feel any pain, sir?” he said, tenderly, loosening Arthur’s cravat.
Arthur turned his eyes on Adam with a vague stare which gave way to a slightly startled motion as if from the shock of returning memory. But he only shivered again and said nothing.
“Do you feel any hurt, sir?” Adam said again, with a trembling in his voice.