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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Lighted Way - Chapter 34. Close To Tragedy
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The Lighted Way - Chapter 34. Close To Tragedy Post by :mccflo99 Category :Long Stories Author :E. Phillips Oppenheim Date :May 2012 Read :1983

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The Lighted Way - Chapter 34. Close To Tragedy

CHAPTER XXXIV. CLOSE TO TRAGEDY

The two men stood up in the automobile. Sabatini's face had darkened. He leaned over and said something to the chauffeur. They drove on through the press of people, who gave way sullenly. A police inspector came to the side of the car.

"This way is blocked for the present, sir," he said to Sabatini. "If you want to get past, you had better take one of the turnings to the left."

"My destination is just here," Sabatini replied. "Tell me, what is the cause of this disturbance?"

"Some of our men have gone to make an arrest in the street there, sir," the inspector replied, "and we are having some trouble."

"Is it the man Isaac Lalonde whom you are after?" Sabatini asked.

"That is so, sir," the inspector admitted. "A desperate scoundrel he is, too. He's shot at and wounded all three of the policemen who entered the house, and he lies crouching before the window, threatening to shoot any one who passes up the street."

"Who is in charge here?" Sabatini inquired.

"Chief Inspector Raynham," the man replied, pointing to an officer in plain uniform who was standing a few yards away.

"Take me to him," Sabatini directed. "I may be of use in this matter."

The crowd opened to let them pass through. They were on the corner of the pavement now, and the street to their right was empty. There was a disposition on the part of the people to hug the wall and peer only round the corner, for they were within easy range of the grimy window opposite.

"Mr. Inspector," Sabatini said, "I am Count Sabatini, a nobleman of the country from which that man comes. I think, perhaps, that if you will allow me to make the effort he will listen to me. I may be able to save the loss of useful lives."

The chief inspector saluted.

"I shouldn't recommend you to go near him, sir," he declared. "They say he's an out-and-out anarchist, the leader of one of the most dangerous gangs in London. We've got the back of the house covered and he can't escape, but he's shot three of our men who tried to get at him. The chief of police is on his way down, and we are waiting for instructions from him."

Sabatini's lips parted in the faintest of smiles. One could well have imagined that he would have devised some prompter means to have secured this man if he had been in command.

"You will not forbid my making the attempt, I trust?" he said, courteously. "I do so at my own risk, of course."

The inspector hesitated. Sabatini, with a sudden swing of his powerful arm, made his way into the front rank. Arnold clutched at him.

"Don't go," he begged. "It isn't worth while. You hear, he has shot three policemen already. You can't save him--you can't help him."

Sabatini turned round with an air of gentle superiority.

"My young friend," he said, "do you not understand that Isaac will not be taken alive? There is a question I must ask him before he dies."

The inspector stepped forward--afterwards he said that it was for the purpose of stopping Sabatini. He was too late, however. The crowd thronging the end of the street, and the hundreds of people who peered from the windows, had a moment of wonderful excitement. One could almost hear the thrill which stirred from their throats. Across the empty street, straight towards the window behind which the doomed man lay, Sabatini walked, strangest of figures amidst those sordid surroundings, in his evening clothes, thin black overcoat, and glossy silk hat. Step by step he approached the door. He was about three yards from the curbstone when the window behind which Isaac was crouching was suddenly smashed, and Isaac leaned out. The crowd, listening intently, could hear the crash of falling glass upon the pavement. They had their view of Isaac, too--a wan, ghostlike figure, with haggard cheeks and staring eyes, eyes which blazed out from between the strands of black hair.

"Stand where you are," he shouted, and the people who watched saw the glitter of the setting sun upon the pistol in his hand. Sabatini looked up.

"Isaac Lalonde," he called out, "you know who I am?"

"I know who you are," they heard him growl,--"Count Sabatini, Marquis de Lossa, Chevalier de St. Jerome, Knight of the Holy Roman Empire, aristocrat, blood-sucker of the people."

Sabatini shrugged his shoulders slightly.

"As to that," he answered firmly, "one may have opinions. My hand at least is free from bloodshed. You are there with nothing but death before you. I am here to ask a question."

"Ask it, then," the man at the window muttered. "Can't you see that the time is short?"

"Is it true, this message which you sent me by that young man? Is it my daughter, the child of Cecile, whom you have kept from me all these years?"

Isaac leaned further forward out of the window. Every one in the crowd could see him now. There were a few who began to shout. Every one save Sabatini himself seemed conscious of his danger. Sabatini, heedless or unconscious of it, stood with one foot upon the curbstone, his face upturned to the man with whom he was talking.

"Ay, it is true!" Isaac shouted. "She is your daughter, child of the wife whom you hid away, ashamed of her because she came from the people and you were an aristocrat. She is your child, but you will never see her!"

Then those who watched had their fill of tragedy. They saw the puff of smoke, the sharp, discordant report, the murderous face of the man who leaned downward. They saw Sabatini throw up his hands to heaven and fall, a crumpled heap, into the gutter. Isaac, with the pistol to his own forehead, overbalanced himself in the act of pulling the trigger, and came crashing down, a corpse, on to the pavement. The crowd broke loose, but Arnold was the first to raise Sabatini. A shadow of the old smile parted his whitening lips. He opened his eyes.

"It's a rotten death, boy," he whispered hoarsely; "a cur's bullet, that. Look after her for me. I'd rather--I'd rather hear the drums beating."

Arnold gripped him by the shoulders.

"Hold on to yourself, man!" he gasped. "There's a doctor coming--he's here already. Hold on to yourself, for all our sakes! We want you--Ruth will want you!"

Sabatini smiled very faintly. He was barely conscious.

"I'd rather have heard the drums," he muttered again.

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