He was swaying slowly to and fro.
“Look!” whispered Kennedy.
His fingers twitched, his head wagged uncannily. Perspiration seemed to ooze from every pore. His breast heaved.
He gave a sudden yell—ear-piercing. Then followed a screech of hellish laughter.
The dance had ended, the dancers spellbound at the sight.
He was whirling slowly, eyes protruding now, mouth foaming, chest rising and falling like a bellows, muscles quivering.
Cries, vows, imprecations, prayers, all blended in an infernal hubbub.
With a burst of ghastly, guttural laughter, he shrieked, “I am the Devil!”
His arms waved—cutting, sawing, hacking the air.
The votaries, trembling, scarcely moved, breathed, as he danced.
Suddenly he gave a great leap into the air—then fell, motionless. They crowded around him. The fiendish look was gone—the demoniac laughter stilled.
It was over.
The tension of the orgy had been too much for us. We parted, with scarcely a word, and yet I could feel that among the rest there was a sort of unholy companionship.
Silently, Kennedy and I drove away in the darkened cab, this time with Seward and Veda Blair and Mrs. Langhorne.
For several minutes not a word was said. I was, however, much occupied in watching the two women. It was not because of anything they said or did. That was not necessary. But I felt that there was a feud, something that set them against each other.
“How would Rapport use the death thought, I wonder?” asked Craig speculatively, breaking the silence.
Blair answered quickly. “Suppose some one tried to break away, to renounce the Lodge, expose its secrets. They would treat him so as to make him harmless—perhaps insane, confused, afraid to talk, paralyzed, or even to commit suicide or be killed in an accident. They would put the death thought on him!”
Even in the prosaic jolting of the cab, away from the terrible mysteries of the Red Lodge, one could feel the spell.
The cab stopped. Seward was on his feet in a moment and handing Mrs. Langhorne out at her home. For a moment they paused on the steps for an exchange of words.
In that moment I caught flitting over the face of Veda a look of hatred, more intense, more real, more awful than any that had been induced under the mysteries of the rites at the Lodge.
It was gone in an instant, and as Seward rejoined us I felt that, with Mrs. Langhorne gone, there was less restraint. I wondered whether it was she who had inspired the fear in Veda.
Although it was more comfortable, the rest of our journey was made in silence and the Blairs dropped us at our apartment with many expressions of cordiality as we left them to proceed to their own.
“Of one thing I’m sure,” I remarked, entering the room where only a few short hours before Mrs. Blair had related her strange tale. “Whatever the cause of it, the devil dancers don’t sham.”