The Mountain of Fears/The Shears of Atropos
THE SHEARS OF ATROPOS
WILL you please tell me why it is, Doctor," said Leyden, "that when you and I are foregathered in this part of the ship at this hour of the evening we must immediately proceed to rake the lockers of our recollection for the morbid and anomalous?"
I told him that it was perhaps because the accent of a man's mind was largely influenced by his profession, and that as the morbid was my source of livelihood and his the rare and sui generis of Nature, our interests touched these topics.
"Ach! there is something in that," said Leyden, "but not all. It is that only in these violent upheavals do we get to see the hidden things of life, the more superficial of which are evident to a man who can translate the languages of his five senses and has perhaps a dialect or two in reserve."
He was silent for a moment, letting his steady gray eyes rest upon the streaks of phosphorescent spume churned up about us by the stiff following trade. Abeam lay the moonlit isle of Curaçao, so near that one could see the towering yuccas standing sentinels upon the ridges of the broken hills—could almost see the yellow of their blossoms, for this moon gave color as well as perspective.
"This was in Borneo, Doctor," he began abruptly. "I had been sent there on a head-hunting expedition. Odd, is it not, but appropriate! A countryman of mine who was writing a book on anthropology had sent me there to take photographs and notes and measurements and to collect specimens of skulls as I saw fit—attached or unattached, that was my lookout. You know, Doctor, that although the coast of Borneo is occupied by Malays, Bajaus, or Sea Gypsies, Bugis, Chinese and immigrants from Polynesia, very little is known of the interior, which is the exclusive domain of the great family of Dyaks, which is itself divided into several tribes. It was of the Punan and Olo-ot, who are fairly pure, that my employer wanted specious information.
"I had taken with me one white man, oddly enough a tourist, a New York lawyer named Lynch, whom I had met in Singapore—a gentleman who had inherited a little money and was taking a trip around the world. A great explorer was lost in that man, Doctor—and there are too many good lawyers already.
"As a rule, I prefer to go into a savage country with no other white man, as once or twice it has been my misfortune to have all of my work undone by the single careless or tactless act of a companion; in the present case I needed an assistant, as I had just come down from the Irawady and was running a temperature which I thought possible the hills of Borneo might develop into a sharp attack of fever.
"I will not attempt to describe our adventures, nor what we found inside the island, for all of that you can read in my patron's book. Eventually we struck the head of a river which, according to my reckoning, would take us down to a little trading port called Bangan, and I had learned from a few friendly natives that there was a missionary station not far below us. I had not known that there were any missionaries in that section; but then, they are universal perennials which one is apt to encounter anywhere.
"We slipped down this rapid stream, and late upon the third day, as we turned into a long reach of the river, saw a clearing at the other end. I was heartily glad, for my fever, which had developed, as I feared, did not yield to medication as it should, and, to tell the truth, Doctor, I did not really believe that I would reach sea-water alive. Lynch was in perfect condition—hard, seasoned, alert—but then, you see, he was not chock full of Irawady microbes when we started, and the country through which we had passed was not unhealthy.
"He had been of the greatest value to me; three times I owed my life to him that trip. Often he made me laugh by the ease with which he adapted his ultra-modernism to his primitive surroundings, for he was not a man who was used to roughing it. He treated our half-wild Dyaks as if they were the bellboys of his club; appeared to have not the slightest notion in the world that they could so far forget their manners as to become insubordinate; would sometimes relax and joke with them a bit. He would turn his back upon the most dangerous, sleep with both eyes apparently shut, seemed contemptuous of danger or treachery; yet the twice that it did occur he had anticipated it. Between us we were an efficient combination, for I am governed by instinct, Doctor; Lynch acted only from coldly wrought logic.
"To continue: We arrived at this clearing and were surprised to find near the edge of the bank a new stockade; the gum was still oozing from the stakes. To the right were some long, low buildings, of which I did not like the look. These also were very new—in fact, still in process of construction—and as I examined them through my glass I discovered some bungling contrivances hanging from a projecting rafter.
"'Neck-yokes,' said I to Lynch. 'We have stumbled on a slaver!'
" 'Here comes a white man,' he replied. There were a few natives watching us from the top of the bank, and through these there came a man of huge stature, with a rough, red beard and dressed in a suit of embroidered silk pajamas. The people wilted away from him as he approached, then fell in behind, walking with the curious drop-kneed gait of bush-folk the world over when ill at ease. This giant strode to the edge of the bank and stood glaring down without a word.
"'Good evening,' observed Lynch, and shoved the canoe to the bank.
"'Where are ye from?' said the fellow, with a rough Caledonian accent, and staring down with his red beard thrust out and his small, pale eyes watching us suspiciously. His sleeves were rolled up to the elbow and his huge forearms, covered with shaggy hair, were folded across his bulging chest.
" 'From the other side of the island,' said Lynch. He stepped out on the bank as if he had been invited and proceeded to moor the canoe.
" 'What's this ye 're doin'?' growled the red-bearded giant above him. His great arms had dropped to his side and one could see how the thick muscles held them with bent elbows.
" 'Hitching the boat, ' replied Lynch, indifferently. He did so, and walked to the top of the bank.
" 'Whose house is that?' he asked.
" 'The hoos is mine,' growled the man, 'and 't is no tavern I'm keepin'—d'ye see!'
"'Oh, I quite understand that,' said Lynch, pleasantly. 'Of course, you wish us to be your guests.' He turned to me. 'Doctor,' he said, 'this gentleman wishes us to stop the night with him.' He turned to the other. 'Very decent of you, I'm sure, especially as my friend has a touch of the fever and ought to rest up a bit. ' He proceeded to direct the unloading of the canoes, even calling some of the red man's retainers to assist.
"The face of the fellow was purple, but it seemed as if Lynch's assurance had robbed him of speech. He stood glowering like a great Guernsey bull, while Lynch went back and forth about him as if he had been an obstructing tree.
"'You see, we are naturalists,' Lynch began, talking as he worked. 'Some of these boxes contain trade-stuffs, but most of them are full of heads—skulls, you know, very interesting—I will show you some if you like. I suppose your people are honest? I fancy this stuff will be safe right here where it is. Hi!'—he relapsed into the dialect, and before I knew what was going on two of the boys had me up the bank.
"'Permit me to introduce Dr. Leyden; I am Mr. Lynch,' said this extraordinary lieutenant of mine; 'and now, sir, if you will lead the way——'
" 'Ye're takin' a deal for granted,' began the man in a surly voice.
" 'I'm taking it for granted that you are the missionary,' said Lynch, calmly. 'If you are not, it really makes no difference. No white man could help being glad to accommodate two other white men in a place like this, and, although you do not keep a tavern, perhaps we can render you some service in return for your hospitality. We have more firearms than we will need——'
"'Ye're verra kind,' growled the man, but I saw his pale, swinish eye lighten a bit, and guessed that Lynch, with his usual tact, had touched him. 'Of course, I'll gie ye a lodgin' for the night, though I've little to offer strangers.' He walked sullenly ahead, Lynch following him, and I noticed that, although my companion was a tall, well-built man, the other topped him by half a head and the breadth of a hand across the shoulders. I do not think that I have ever seen a more powerful brute—all bone and muscle, and something in the shiftiness of his pale, cunning eye told me that he was not without a corresponding share of guile.
"As we drew near to the stockade I saw that it was quite new, and then Lynch reached behind him and pinched my foot as I lay on the stretcher, and, would you believe it, Doctor, on every sharpened stake that formed the front of the stockade there was a human head! They had been there varying lengths of time, I judged, but the—eh—evidences of the recency of some were quite apparent.
"'I see that you go in for heads a bit yourself, Mr. Cullen,' said Lynch, in his pleasant voice, but hardly was the name between his lips when this hairy giant of ours wheeled on him like a boar. You know the stiff , muscle-bound motion, Doctor: the swift sling of the rigid body all on one axis, the great, brutish head swung on its thick neck, the mean little eyes slanting up evilly. That is what this hairy brute was, a boar, with all of the cunning and surly moroseness of this animal. There was something horribly brutish in the swing of his shock head between the hulking shoulders as he turned on Lynch, and some thing horribly sinister in the yellow glint of his teeth between the bristling, red mustache, which seemed to roll upwards like that which one sees on the headpieces of ancient Japanese armor. If he had turned to me like that I would have presented him with the muzzle of my pistol—Ach!—and very possibly the bullet as well, for the secret of long life in my profession is to take no chances. I could not see, however, that Lynch moved a muscle, except to smile.
"'Where got ye that name?' snarled the man. His beard was thrust almost into Lynch 's face, and I could see the twitching of his thick fingers.
"'On the collar of your pajamas,' said Lynch, calmly. 'Do you observe, Doctor,' he continued, turning to me, 'that some of these skulls are quite different from any we have secured? Possibly our host might be willing to exchange——' He turned to survey the exhibit with interest. 'What a Golconda it is, to be sure!' cried my New York lawyer, enthusiastically. 'You are to be complimented on your collection, Mr.—eh—eh——'
"'McAdoo,' supplied the red man, sulkily, but with a strange quaver in his voice. I glanced up at him quickly, then looked away and at the stockade, for the glimpse I had of his face told me that the burly ruffian had received a fright. He could not have been pale, even if he had been dead, but there was a look in his eyes that meant fear, yes, and meant murder, too, for a beast of that sort cannot become frightened without becoming homicidal at the same time.
"'Ye're very obsairvin',' he managed to say, in a thick voice.
Lynch turned and regarded him benevolently.
"'You are very modest, Mr. McAdoo,' he replied, genially. 'You really have a noteworthy collection here.'
" 'They were folk not wanted here,' retorted McAdoo, with what I could see was a considerable effort. And then he gathered himself together for a supreme stroke—the one heavily delivered blow of this round; and yet, do you know, Doctor, in spite of the man's overwhelming physical force and ominous aspect, there was something rather ridiculous in his manner of delivering this last menace—something of the lout of a schoolboy who defies his pedagogue, although he half believes that there may be a thrashing behind it; defies him because his nature is too churlish and too abundant in a swinish sort of courage, born of the sense of a potent vitality, to feel the fear of the result, appreciable to a creature of the same courage but a higher power of imagination.
"'Maybe ye'd like to add to this same collection,' he said, and he said it with one mental arm raised toward, in a manner of speaking.
"Lynch laughed outright. It might have been a part of his—what you Americans call bluff, but I believe that it was sheer amusement. I began to be convinced that Lynch possessed a very keen sense of a very dangerous sort of humor. He saw the thing just as I saw it; of course he would see it so, because, although I was a trifle slow in discovering it, he had put this man 'McAdoo' on the witness stand the very moment he heard him speak, and he was cross-examining him and deriving infinite amusement from the process. Moreover, McAdoo himself, while too coarse-grained to understand it, was beginning to feel it, and there grew to be in his manœuvres something of the sweating nervousness of a horse at the howl of a far-distant wolf; yet his ears were well back.
"'That's just exactly what we want to do, McAdoo, ' he answered, and it almost seemed as if he was going to pat the ruffian on the shoulder, 'but we want to take a head or so in return.' He smiled genially into the wicked face, and actually turned his back upon the man and walked in through the gate as if entering the compound of an old friend. Perhaps something told him that I had a hand on the butt of my revolver.
"Once inside the stockade Lynch pushed matters; in fact, he carried it to the verge of spoiling everything; but, you see, Doctor, if this McAdoo had possessed the wit of a cockroach, or had been a little more lacking in that hereditary feudal instinct which made him uncomfortable in spite of himself in the presence of a gentleman, he might easily have slipped away and arranged our assassination, and this was precisely what Lynch did not intend that he should do. He told me afterwards that, like Javert in 'Les Miserables,' he was born with an instinct for a criminal, but I do not credit this particularly, as I myself could deduct that this man McAdoo had more reason than mere surliness of disposition for not wishing us to stop at the mission-house. You see, it had to be a mission; it was either that or a fort; there was nothing there for which to trade.
"All of this had entered my mind, just as it had Lynch's; but, although apparently careless, Lynch was in reality a painstaking man.
"We had entered the stockade, an enclosure of some size, in the middle of which stood a bungalow, which had once been pretty and which was evidently far older than the structure surrounding it. There was not a soul in sight, yet one had the feeling of furtive eyes peering from behind slanted jalousies. Lynch looked about him critically.
"'Quite like an Australian ranch-house, is it not, Doctor?' he remarked; then turned sharply to our host. 'Have you ever been in Australia, friend McAdoo?'
"One could see the man's heavy jowl drop a trifle beneath his coarse, red beard; his face looked flaccid—just for the second, and then the blood came pouring back until the veins across the side of his forehead became distended. His pale, little eyes began to dance, just as those of a hog when he is about to make a rush—you know the look.
"'Where is Mr. Cullen—the missionary?' asked Lynch, sharply, and at this direct question the congestion of McAdoo's face faded in blotches and the glitter of his eyes changed to a gleam of cunning.
" 'He's gone away, leavin' me in charge o' the station, and now if ye'll kindly step inside'—the brute actually mustered a sort of grin which was, no doubt, intended for an expression of good-will—'I'll leave ye for a minute or two.'
" 'Thank you, ' said Lynch, calmly. 'Doctor Leyden will wait here on the veranda, but I believe that I will go with you, if you don't mind. I should like to look around a bit.'
"'There's little enough to see,' growled McAdoo, but his tone was growing wary. 'I'll ask ye to bide here for a bit.'
" 'Thanks,' said Lynch, and there was actually a sing-song tone of sarcastic ennui in his voice, 'but I've conceived such a fondness for your society that I really can't bear to have you out of my sight, friend McAdoo. We'll go together; the Doctor does not mind being left alone.'
"This to that desperado whom we both believed to be an escaped Australian convict, whose presence in the mission-house was still to be explained. Lynch was armed, of course—armed with one of the big revolvers your cowboys carry, and, in fact, he had been a plainsman for a while after leaving college, and I knew that, for all his languid air, if McAdoo laid a hand on the butt of either of the two revolvers which he carried he would be a dead man before the weapon was half-drawn, for Lynch was a master of your Western American art of lightning extermination. It did not seem to me, however, that this would help matters much, as I had seen that the man kept a swarm of Malays about him; and Malays, even when ill-treated, are apt to be faithful brutes, if the master who ill-treats them inspires their respect, as no doubt McAdoo must, or he would have been dead long before.
"McAdoo did not permit himself another exhibition of badly suppressed rage; the situation was growing too serious for such petty self-indulgence. Instead, he assumed an air of awkward good-nature, which was far more sinister.
"'Please yourself,' said he, and walked away toward the gate, with Lynch walking at his side; this time, however, I observed that my companion went out last.
"When they had disappeared I entered the silent house. My fever would not mount until late in the evening, and in the meantime, though very weak, I was able to get about. I went into the first room, which appeared to be a library and living-room. I had been in hundreds of such rooms in mission-houses the world over. The same classic pictures, the same neat rows of classic and unread books, and the same little heaps of much-read periodicals from 'home.' Then there were the local curios draped over the photographs of smug-faced relatives. Everything was in perfect order; there had been little traffic in that room since the—departure of the former occupants.
"I passed from that to a room beyond, which I saw at a glance had been the missionary's study. There was here the same hushed waiting. One of the drawers was half-opened and there was a sharp line of dust across the papers within. There was a native-made waste-basket, half-filled, and on top was an envelope with an English stamp addressed to 'Rev. R. M. Cullen.'
"A man of method, as the order of his effects proclaimed him to be, would never have left his house without putting away his personal effects, Doctor, so I decided to rummage. I knew that missionaries invariably kept journals, for the sake of subsequent writing, if nothing else. I reasoned that this diary would be in the desk, probably under lock and key, so I tried the different drawers and found one of them locked. When I had pried it open with my hunting knife I found the journal."
Leyden paused to light a fresh cigar, which I knew would go out after the first three puffs. Some of the smoke must have found its way into his trachea, for he coughed once or twice before proceeding.
"I am a hardened old campaigner, Doctor, and I have never had much sympathy with missionaries, who have usually impressed me as inspired asses, but I will confess that as I read the poor chap's journal my throat swelled until it was difficult to swallow. Perhaps it was because I was weakened by my fever; at any rate, I must confess that when I had finished it the tears were pouring down my face. It was the record of a Christian hero, Doctor, a Christian martyr as well, as I discovered on reading the record of the last four days.
"First, there had been three in the family—the missionary, his wife and a daughter, who, as I read on, I discovered to be a deaf-mute. Within the last year the wife had died, and not long after her death McAdoo had come up the river, 'prospecting,' as he said. At this time the missionary was planning to return to England.
"McAdoo had remained a month with the missionary, during which time their relations had grown 'somewhat strained.' He had then departed, as Mr. Cullen hoped, for good, but only a fortnight before our arrival, Doctor, he had returned with the news that there was a trading schooner at the mouth of the river, and that the captain had agreed to give Mr. Cullen and his daughter a passage to Batavia, whence they could take a steamer to Amsterdam. McAdoo kindly offered to assume charge of the mission until he should hear from Mr. Cullen. In the meantime, however, the missionary had decided to remain, at hearing which McAdoo 'was unable to conceal his disappointment!'
"The following day McAdoo came to Mr. Cullen and advised him to leave, saying that he feared there was a plot among the natives to kill him. Mr. Cullen scoffed at these fears. The day after that he had a quarrel with McAdoo and ordered him to leave the premises finally. The last words in the diary were: 'To my intense relief the man McAdoo has gone down the river, and I pray that I may never see his wicked face again!'
"So much for the efficacy of prayer! I arose quickly, shoved the diary in my pocket and made for the rear of the house. I passed through what had been the dining-room on my way—Ach!—that was where the swine had nested! Something superstition, distaste; I do not know what—had kept him away from the more intimate retreats of his victim; but the dining-room—I have seen more cleanly barracoons!
"Rustlings had preceded me as I had moved through the house; they do in Oriental houses, you know, Doctor, just as they do in the forest, wherever furtive beings hold their existence. Now, I moved too rapidly for these rustlings, and in the kitchen I flushed some frightened Dyak servants—three women and an old man.
"'Take me to your mistress,' I said to one of the women, and I said it kindly, but I do think I have never seen more fright on a woman's face. After all, Doctor, to witness the horror of some one else is far more gruesome than the thing itself, is it not?"
I thought of the look I had once seen in the eyes of a man whose shoulder had been carried away by a piece of shrapnel, as he had glanced down and seen his wound.
"Nothing is more contagious than dread," I murmured.
"So I discovered a few moments later," muttered Leyden. "The woman led me to a hut a hundred yards behind the bungalow—a well-furnished hut; I think it may have been the mission hospital—and there I found the daughter, the deaf-mute——"
Leyden's voice had dropped until it was almost inaudible. I could not see his face in the dark, but I shivered.
"Of course," he went on, in a careless sort of way, "I could talk with her, for, although my ten modern languages and some twenty dialects all are spoken with the mouth, there is one dialect which is universal—and that is spoken with the eyes. We had a little conversation in this tongue, and then I sat down beside her and patted her hands and made her actually smile. They are simple folk—those on whom the hand of God has been heavy in this regard. Perhaps they are above these mundane things—but at the time I did not look at it in this way. Instead I went back to the bungalow and waited in some impatience for the return of Lynch and McAdoo—and, will you believe it, Doctor—just at this time, when I needed myself the most, these accursed plasmodia malaria, or whatever kind of species of fission-fungi it may be, began to start their segmentation, and segregation, and proliferation in my blood vessels, and I could feel the delirium creeping up my spine to my brain, just as some poor devil of a Passamaquoddy might have felt the fifty-foot rise of the Fundy tide creeping up his spine when some coterie of tribal enemies had staked him out on the flats at low water—except that in his case it was cold and in mine it was red-hot!
"I had not long to wait, however. Back they came, McAdoo sullen but studious, and Lynch smiling and talking as if he were the honored guest. I noticed that his holster was unbuckled, however, and while he had been away I had entertained no fears for his safety—because, you see, I had heard no shot. Our co-operation was really quite admirable!
"'Lynch,' said I, and it seemed to me as if my voice came from a very great distance—the fever, Doctor, not emotion, I beg you to believe; I was never more composed mentally in my life. 'Lynch,' said I, 'will you and Mr. McAdoo kindly come into the library—there are some matters which I wish to discuss with you both.' It was growing dark then, so I clapped my hands, quite softly, but a servant flittered out of the shadow like a bat. The tension was high in that bungalow that night.
"'Bring lights,' I said in the vernacular.
" 'And food?' suggested Lynch.
" 'The food can wait,' I muttered, fighting hard against the inclination to sleep—to drowse—to be let alone, to enjoy my intoxication in peace. 'Come into the parlor!' I said, and Lynch told me afterwards that my manner was as snappish as a dog with distemper.
"'After you, friend McAdoo!' said Lynch, rhymingly, and the accursed jingle got caught up in the swirl of ideas racing through my fevered brain, so that while I talked I kept hearing over and over, 'After you, friend McAdoo—after you, friend McAdoo—after you'—b'r'rgh! What is more frightful than trying to do mental work in the face of a delirium?
"I am not clear as to just what McAdoo said; it was Lynch who made the opening move, and this time he did not say, 'After you, friend McAdoo!' He drew his revolver and waved McAdoo to a large lounging chair. I shall never forget that chair; it was a home made, or rather a native-made chair like those one sees to-day, with a back the angle of which is regulated by a rod behind, which is dropped into notches you know the kind. At the top there was a little pillow for the head to rest against—a little 'baby-blue' pillow—and it was hollowed in the middle where poor Cullen's head had. rested, and worn until the fabric held in a streaky sort of way that showed the white beneath. It was probably made in England by some girl parishioner, and there was something in its homeliness that made me feel as the diary had.
"It was crushed beneath McAdoo's great shoulders as he sank into it—and he did sink, Doctor, as if he had been hamstrung. In the middle of the room there was a little bamboo table, on which the servant was about to set the lamp, but Lynch motioned to place it on a shelf behind him. He himself sat at the table, facing McAdoo, his back straight, as the back of a thoroughbred should be, and the revolver lying in his hand near the middle of the table.
"I walked up to him, staggering a little, and threw down the diary.
"'What is this?' asked Lynch.
" 'After you, friend—the diary of the Rev. E. M. Cullen! What do you think it is—a skull?' I snapped. He raised his eyebrows.
"'There is a divan at the end of the room, Doctor,' he said, without taking his eyes from McAdoo. 'Lie there, if you please, during our proceedings.' There was a cold, official note in his voice which seemed to recall the shuffle of heavy feet, whispers, whimpers, somnolence on one side of the room and nerves stretched like the strings of a violin on the other. Dulled as I was, I could see that it brought back something to McAdoo, for it was at these very first words that he began to slump—doubly armed from the start as he had been, surrounded by his servants and in the house which he had claimed as his own.
"Then Lynch began to read—intently and with no apparent thought of the man opposite him. I had sunk in a heap on the divan, deliciously relaxed—leaving it all to Lynch, and humming, 'After you, friend McAdoo,' to myself, as I thought, until Lynch remarked, coldly: 'Doctor, kindly refrain from interrupting the reading of the testimony.' Then I subsided, very much embarrassed.
"Ach! how I see it now, Doctor, just as I saw it then; as if I was standing apart—a fourth person regarding the other three: Lynch with the light behind him, his face in the shadow, carefully reading the journal and apparently oblivious to the fully armed giant who appeared to have shrunk on sinking into the chair of his late victim; apparently oblivious to me also as I lay muttering on the divan at the other end of the room, and rousing myself at longer intervals, as the conflagration within my veins gained headway. The servant in placing the lamp upon the shelf had moved a little clock, which had run down, and the jar had set it ticking, and this and the sharp rustle as Lynch turned the leaves were the only noises in that room—unless my mutterings were audible, which may have been.
"Such a fever as mine is like a fire, Doctor; it leaps upward, then sinks, flickers, smoulders for a while, and then bursts out to rage with fresh fury. It was in one of these lapses, one of these returns almost to the normal, that Lynch finished his perusal.
"I opened my eyes as he laid down the journal with a smart slap. Lynch had turned half-way in his chair, and the yellow light threw out in sharp profile his straight brow, short aquiline nose and firm legal mouth and chin. There is a forensic type, just as there is any other type, and this was Lynch's, except that there was to him an element of the terse and martial rather than the parliamentary. His revolver was lying in the center of the table, and his sinewy hands were in front of him, just beneath his chin, the finger-tips touching, the elbows on the arms of his chair.
"McAdoo was in the same position—the position of the rabbit confronted by the stoat; shoulders hunched, head sunk, muscle-heavy arms hanging limp outside the arms of the chair, utterly relaxed, yet held half-bent by the tonic contraction of the biceps, and so utter was this relaxation that the hands seemed swollen, the veins on the dorsum stretched to bursting. His bloodshot eyes were fastened on the revolver in front of him, which was nickeled and threw the limpid lamp-light from its separate planes in steady tongues of flame. Perhaps it was this that held him—the hypnosis, the somnambulizing of the optic nerve.
"'Where is the daughter of Robert Cullen?' asked Lynch, crisply. McAdoo started; his great head was raised with a jerk of such suddenness that one could almost hear the creak of the cervical vertebræ. And his voice! Ah! it was ridiculous. You have heard the whistle of this steamer, Doctor, when on entering a port the cord is pulled while the whistle is still filled with the water of condensation? It was such a noise.
" 'Where is the daughter?—answer me, man!' said Lynch, sharply.
"I clapped my hands and one of the soft-footed women slithered to the door of the room. It was the same who had taken me to the deaf-mute girl. "'Bring your mistress hither,' said I. The woman vanished.
"Our speech had brought a change in McAdoo. The lusterless look had left his eyes, and even in my benumbed condition I detected a twitching of his thick fingers.
"'After you——' I began, thickly, then realized that I was talking nonsense, but Lynch also had seen the movement. His hand fell upon the revolver.
" 'If you move a muscle you are a dead man, friend McAdoo,' he said, softly. 'I fear that you are no better than a dead man as it is—but I should advise you not to bring the matter to a climax until all of the evidence is in.'
"We waited in silence; even the clock had stopped its ticking; the journal was lying on the table. Lynch, I remember, was twisting the ends of his wiry mustache with his free hand. Perhaps the tension had cleared my head; perhaps the drugs, taken, as usual, four hours before the paroxysm was due, were be ginning to act; at any rate, my mind was active—abnormally so.
"The crisis had passed with McAdoo; he was no longer held by shock, surprise, rage, the psychic force of the man in front of him, or the hypnotizing force of the shining weapon. The little bullet in the weapon was all that held him now—and I do not think that it would have held him long—in that position, for he had the pluck of a pig, and his eyes were beginning to dance again, when there was a rustle in the doorway and a white-clad figure paused on the threshold.
"I looked at her face—and the sight of it chilled the fever in my blood and whipped the mist of delirium from my brain. When I had seen her before it had been the face of a beautiful child—a frightened, wretched child—but now it was different, matured. Lynch saw it, too—just the swiftest glance, and then his keen eyes flew back to the man, who was only awaiting his opportunity. Afterwards I learned that Lynch possessed the science of the sign language practiced by these folk; he possessed also the science of developing upon his brain an instantaneous photograph taken with the eyes, and this science made the first unnecessary, for you see, Doctor, the girl was looking at her father's murderer—and who knows what beside! Ah, how true it is, as you said a little while ago, that the horror reflected from the eyes of another is far more dreadful than the thing itself!
"Lynch made a movement of dismissal with his hand—a judicial gesture which told me that it was over; the verdict rendered; sentence pronounced. But I was puzzled for the next—eh—step.
"'Take her back, ' I said to the servant.
" 'Dr. Leyden,' said Lynch, 'do you feel that you are in possession of your faculties?' My head was roaring like a cataract, my skin like ice, and my bones were smouldering coals, but my brain was clear—for the moment—too clear.
" 'Quite,' I answered—'in so far as this man is concerned.'
"'What is your opinion? What course would you advise in the matter?'
"'I would advise shooting him,' said I. 'He requires to be shot, and I do not think that we should waste much time about it. If you do not care to shoot him, I will do so myself,' I added. Personally, his death was necessary to our safety in a way, yet that did not occur to me. I was thinking of the diary, the little blue pillow and the deaf-mute girl.
" 'It makes no difference,' said Lynch, and his hand tightened on the stock of the revolver; then he suddenly paused—and I guessed why.
" 'She cannot hear, ' I said. 'She is deaf.'
"'That is so—I overlooked the fact,' softly.
"McAdoo was watching Lynch in a fascinated way—and I was watching McAdoo. When the report came he pitched forward, and I scrambled to my feet and rescued the little blue pillow."
Leyden was silent—and so was I. He did nothing, said nothing, but we both sat and watched the growing lights in the sea, the in crease in the phosphorescence as the moon set.
"It was really a very simple matter," said Leyden, lightly, "and it has always been a ource of satisfaction to me. It was all so sensible; so many fools would have wanted to give the brute a chance. Lynch had the right idea; he did not even invite any closing remarks; the only one that was really apropos was made by his Colt, and was quite unanswerable.
"Would you believe it, Doctor, the people were sufficiently Christianized to regard the whole thing as a visitation. Not a soul was in sight when we left, taking the girl with us. Lynch himself conducted her back to England and placed her in an institution.
"Yes—the trip was a success. My anthropologist thought so, I thought so, Lynch thought so, and I have not the slightest doubt that the semi-civilized Dyaks, who still slip through the shadows and peer between the jalousies of the ruined mission-house at the thing which is, perhaps, still held in that ample chair, think so as well."