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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Knave Of Diamonds - Part 1 - Chapter 21. At The Mercy Of A Demon
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The Knave Of Diamonds - Part 1 - Chapter 21. At The Mercy Of A Demon Post by :MalcolmL Category :Long Stories Author :Ethel May Dell Date :May 2012 Read :3241

Click below to download : The Knave Of Diamonds - Part 1 - Chapter 21. At The Mercy Of A Demon (Format : PDF)

The Knave Of Diamonds - Part 1 - Chapter 21. At The Mercy Of A Demon

PART I CHAPTER XXI. AT THE MERCY OF A DEMON

Some time later Anne seated herself at her writing-table.

The idea of writing to her husband had come to her as an inspiration; not because she shirked an interview--she knew that to be inevitable--but because she realised that the first step taken thus would make the final decision easier for them both.

She did not find it hard to put her thoughts into words. Her mind was very clear upon the matter in hand. She knew exactly what she desired to say. Only upon the subject of her friendship with Nap she could not bring herself to touch. A day earlier she could have spoken of it, even in the face of his hateful suspicion, without restraint. But to-night she could not. It was as if a spell of silence had been laid upon her, a spell which she dared not attempt to break. She dared not even think of Nap just then.

It was not a very long letter that she wrote, sitting there in the silence of her room, and it did not take her long to write. But when it was finished, closed and directed, she sat on with her chin upon her hand, thinking. It seemed scarcely conceivable that he would refuse to let her go.

She could not imagine herself to be in any sense necessary to him. She had helped him with the estate in many ways, but she had done nothing that a trustworthy agent could not do, save, perhaps, in the matter of caring for the poorer tenants. They would miss her, she told herself, but no one else. It was very long since she had entertained any guests at the Manor. Sir Giles had offended almost everyone who could ever have claimed the privilege of intimacy with him. And people wondered openly that his wife still lived with him. Well, they would not wonder much longer.

And when her life was at her own disposal what would she do with it?

There were many things she might do; as secretary, as companion, as music-teacher, as cook. She knew she need not be at a loss. And again the prospect of freedom from a yoke that galled her intolerably made her heart leap.

A slight sound in the passage brought her out of her reverie. She glanced up. It was probably Dimsdale. She would give him the note to deliver to his master in the morning. She crossed to the door and opened it.

The next instant, in amazement, she drew back. On the threshold, face to face with her, stood her husband!

He did not give her time to speak, but pushed straight forward into the room as if in haste. His face was white and purple in patches. His eyes were narrowed and furtive. There was something unspeakably evil in the way they avoided hers. He carried his right hand behind him.

He began to speak at once in quick, staccato tones, with which she was utterly unfamiliar.

"So you think you are going to escape me, do you? But you won't! No, not for all the Errols in the world!"

She did not answer him. There was something so utterly unusual in this abrupt visitation that she knew not how to cope with it. But he scarcely waited for an answer. He swung the door behind him with a bang.

"Do you remember," he said, his staccato tone merging into one of rising violence, "a promise I made to you the first time I caught that scoundrel making love to you? I swore that if it happened again I'd thrash him. Well, I'm a man who keeps his promises. I've kept that one. And now it's your turn. I thought at first I'd kill you. But I fancy this will hurt you more."

His hand shot suddenly out from behind him, and there followed the whistle of a thong--the thick, leathern thong with which he kept his dogs in order.

It struck her as she stood before him, struck and curled about her shoulders with a searching, scalding agony that turned her sick, wringing from her a cry that would never have been uttered had she been prepared.

But before he could strike again she was ready to cope with his madness. On the instant she sprang, not from him, but to him, clasping his arms with both of hers.

"Giles!" she said, and her voice rang clear and commanding. "You are not yourself. You don't know what you are doing. Look at me! Do you hear? Look at me!"

That was his vulnerable point, and instinctively she knew it. He was afraid--as a wild animal is afraid--of the compulsion of her eyes. But he fought with her savagely, furiously, refusing to face her, struggling with inarticulate oaths to break away from her clinging arms.

And Anne was powerless against him, powerless as Nap had been earlier in the day, to make any impression against his frenzied strength. She was impotent as a child in that awful grip, and in a very few seconds she knew it.

He had already wrung his arm free and raised it to strike a second blow, while she shut her eyes in anguished expectation, still clinging blindly to his coat, when the door burst open with a crash and Dimsdale tore into the room.

Anne heard his coming, but she could not turn. She was waiting with every nerve stretched and quivering for the thong to fall. And when it did not, when Dimsdale, with a strength abnormal for his years, flung himself at the upraised arm and bore it downwards, she was conscious not of relief, but only of a sudden snapping of that awful tension that was like a rending asunder of her very being. She relaxed her hold and tottered back against the wall.

"He will kill you!" she heard herself saying to Dimsdale. "He will kill you!"

But Dimsdale clung like a limpet. Through the surging uproar of her reeling senses Anne heard his voice.

"Sir Giles! Sir Giles! This won't do, sir. You've got a bit beyond yourself. Come along with me, Sir Giles. You are not well. You ought to be in bed. Now, now, Sir Giles! Give it up! Come! Here's West to help you undress."

But Sir Giles fought to be free, cursing hideously, writhing this way and that with Dimsdale hanging to him; and at sight of the footman hastening to the old man's assistance he put forth a strength so terrific that he swung him completely off the ground.

"He's too much for me!" shouted Dimsdale. "My lady, go--go, for the love of heaven! Quick, West! Quick! Trip him! It's the only way! Ah!"

They went down in a fearful, struggling heap. Sir Giles underneath, but making so violent a fight that the whole room seemed to shake.

And Anne stood and looked upon the whole ghastly spectacle as one turned to stone.

So standing, propped against the wall, she saw the young under-footman come swiftly in, and had a glimpse of his horrified face as he leapt forward to join the swaying, heaving mass of figures upon the floor. His coming seemed to make a difference. Sir Giles's struggles became less gigantic, became spasmodic, convulsive, futile, finally ceased altogether. He lay like a dead man, save that his features twitched horribly as if evil spirits were at work upon him.

The whole conflict had occupied but a few minutes, but to the rigid watcher it had been an eternity of fearful tumult. Yet the hard-breathing silence that followed was almost more terrible still.

Out of it arose old Dimsdale, wiping his forehead with a shaking hand.

"He didn't hurt your ladyship?" he questioned anxiously.

But she could not take her eyes from the motionless figure upon the floor or answer him.

He drew nearer. "My lady," he said, "come away from here!"

But Anne never stirred.

He laid a very humble hand upon her arm. "Let me take you downstairs," he urged gently. "There's a friend there waiting for your ladyship--a friend as will understand."

"A--friend?" She turned her head stiffly, her eyes still striving to remain fixed upon that mighty, inert form.

"Yes, my lady. He only came a few minutes back. He is waiting in the drawing-room. It was Sir Giles he asked to see, said it was very particular. It was West here took the message to Sir Giles, and I think it was that as made him come up here so mad like. I came after him as soon as I heard. But the gentleman is still waiting, my lady. Will you see him and--explain?"

"Who is the gentleman?" Anne heard the question, but not as if she herself had uttered it. The voice that spoke seemed to come from an immense distance.

And from equally far seemed to come Dimsdale's answer, though it reached and pierced her understanding in an instant.

"It's Mr. Errol, my lady,--the crippled one. Mr. Lucas, I think his name is."

Anne turned then as sharply as though a voice had called her.

"Lucas Errol! Is he here? Ah, take me to him! Take me to him!"

And the old butler led her thankfully from the scene.

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