Obrázky na stránke

into the gutter, where she lay growling indistinctly.

The flying woman and the pursuing man were fleet of foot, but Joshua was younger and more nimble than they. As he gained upon them, a dim consciousness stole upon him that he knew them; and, as he approached nearer, the doubt grew into conviction. The almost breathless woman, throwing affrighted looks behind her, as if a dozen men were pursuing her instead of one, was Susan; and the evillooking man who was bent on running her down was the Lascar who served the Old Sailor, and who cooked for him, and would have poisoned him for rum and tobacco. Some other than those, the ruling cravings of his existence, influenced him now.

All the passions of love and hate, and the desire to achieve his purpose by striking terror, were expressed in every motion of every limb: they were so eloquent and earnest in the savage pursuit that they seemed to proclaim their owner's intention : as he raced after the panting girl.

He was almost upon her, and she felt his ugly lips reeking their detestable flavour of rum and tobacco upon her neck, when Joshua, coming up to him, seized him by the throat. He had been

so savagely vindictive in the pursuit, that Joshua's hand upon his throat was the first indication he received that he was being himself pursued; but, wasting no look upon his pursuer, he slipped from Joshua like an eel-his neck was redolent of grease

and with an inarticulate cry of rage and baffled lust, he sprang after Susan again, who had gained a few steps by Joshua's ineffectual interposition. But Susan, thoroughly bewildered and terrified, turned into a blind alley, and perceiving that there was no thoroughfare, and that she was trapped, fell upon the rough stones, prostrate from fear and exhaustion.

On one side of the blind alley were four or five houses, in which no signs of life were visible. They seemed stricken to death by disease. On the other side was a black dead wall, which shut out the sky. Before the Lascar could reach Susan -what the man's intention was, or what he would have done in his wild fury, he, being more beast than man, might probably not have been able to explain-Joshua had knocked the knife out of his hand, and had knocked him down with a blow, the force of which astonished Joshua himself, even in the midst of his excitement. Almost before Joshua could realise what had occurred, the cow



ardly Lascar was crouching by the side of the dead wall, as if his lair were there, and Joshua was on his knee assisting Susan to recover herself; keeping a wary look, however, upon the knife, which was lying in the road at an equal distance from him and the Lascar. The Lascar saw it too-saw it without looking at it and without seeming to see it. A surprising change had taken place in him. A minute since a volcano of delirious lust was raging in his breast, and every nerve in his body was quivering with dangerous passion; now, as if by magic, he was coiled up like a snake, with no motion of life in him but the quiet glitter of his eyes, which watched everything, but seemed to watch nothing.

• What is it all about, Susan ?' asked Joshua in wonderment, after a pause. But, before Susan could reply, a crawling motion on the part of the Lascar towards the knife caused Joshua to spring into the road. The snake had no chance with the panther. The Lascar was knocked back to his position by the dead wall, and Joshua stood over him grasping the knife. This was the most eventful transaction that had ever occurred to Joshua; and, as he stood over his antagonist palming the knife, a strange sensation of pride in his own strength tingled through his veins. There was blood upon the Lascar's face ; Joshua had struck him so fiercely as to loosen one of his teeth—so decidedly to loosen it, that the Lascar put his finger into his mouth and drew it out. He said nothing, however, but kept the tooth clasped in his hand.

You black devil !' exclaimed Joshua, gazing upon the crouching figure with a kind of loathing amazement. • What do you mean by all this ?'

The Lascar wiped the blood from his mouth with his sleeve, and shaking the hair from his eyes, threw upon Joshua a covert look of deadly malice-a look expressive of a bloody-minded craving to have Joshua helpless on the stones beneath him, that he might press the life out of his enemy. His eye spoke, but his tongue uttered no word. Raging inwardly as he was with bad passion, he had sufficient control over himself to suppress any spoken manifestation of it. But his attitude and demeanour were not less dangerous for all that.

He follows me everywhere,' said Susan, still gasping and panting for breath. 'He dogs me

" by day and by night. He waylays me in the dark, and I can hardly get away from him.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

• What for?' demanded Joshua, with his eye upon the Lascar, who was sitting cunningly quiet nursing his wounded mouth.

'I don't know,' replied Susan, with an appalled look over her shoulder, as if she were haunted by a fear that the spirit of the Lascar was there, notwithstanding that he was crouching before her in the ugly flesh. 'I am afraid to think.'

• Afraid ! in broad daylight !'

Day or night it is all the same,' moaned Susan. · Whenever he sees me, he dogs me, till I am ready to die. You don't know his poweryou don't know his power!'

• What were you doing before I saw you ?'
'I was looking for some one.'
For whom?'
For Mr. Kindred,' with a curious hesitation.

For Mr. Kindred !' exclaimed Joshua, more amazed than ever; why for him ?'

*He is ill. I will tell you about it by and by,' replied Susan nervously. 'I thought I should find him in this neighbourhood, and while I was looking for him, he'-pointing to the Lascar with a shudder—' he saw me and spoke to me, and would not leave me—wanted me to go with him and drink with him, and when I refused, he seized


[ocr errors]
« PredošláPokračovať »