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An Old Meerschaum by David Christie Murray

For a few minutes we follow Barndale


'I

shall not come back by the late train now, Jimmy,' Barndale said, as he placed a small portmanteau in the dingy. 'You had better come down with me to the "Swan" and scull up again.'

'No,' said Leland, unconscious of the impending fate, 'I'll walk down for the boat tomorrow. If I get down there to-night I shall stay, and I want to write some letters. Goodbye, old fellow. Send us a line in the morning.'

'All right,' said Barndale. 'Good-bye.'

The sculls dipped, and he shot into the darkness. For a few minutes we follow Barndale. He pulled down stream rapidly, for the train by which he intended to reach town was already nearly due. There was nobody at the landing place. He fastened the boat, and seizing his small portmanteau, dashed at full speed into the road, ran all the way to the station, and threw himself into the train panting, and just in time. At the bottom of the station steps he had spilt a countryman, to whom he threw out a hurried apology. The countryman was Mr. Hodges.

The Greek listened until the measured beat of Barndale's sculls had lost itself in silence. Then he crept forward from the bushes, stepped lightly to the margin of the stream, laid both hands on a sturdy branch which drooped above the house-boat, and swung himself light as a feather to the after deck The door of the rear room, which served the inmates as a kitchen,

was unsecured and open. He passed through, pistol in hand, and trod the matted floor stealthily, drawn and guided by the tiny beam of light which issued from the interstice between it and the doorway. With the motion of the boat the door beat idly and noiselessly to and fro, so that the beam was cut off at regular intervals, and at regular intervals again shone forth, keeping time with the Greek's noiseless footsteps, and his beating heart and his bated breath, and altogether taking to itself that importance and force which trifles always have in moments of intense passion or suffering. Even yet he would not let the madman within him loose. Even yet he would hold him back until he saw the object of his hate and rage, and then----

The door swung to and fro gently, and the Greek approached it with his hand, when suddenly the unconscious Leland from within banged it to noisily and fixed the hasp. Then with one resolute action Demetri threw it back and stepped into the doorway, pistol in hand. Leland rose and turned. He saw the Greek, and read murder in his face, and dashed himself upon him. But the murderous hand was quick and true. One shot rang out, and Leland, with outcast arms, fell backwards. The Greek, with a hand on the table, looked down upon him. Not a struggle or a groan stirred the prone figure. Demetri threw the revolver through the open window, and heard the splash with which it fell into the water. He drew the stiletto from his bosom, and threw that after it. Then closing the door lightly, and stepping still on tiptoe as though he feared to wake that prone figure from its awful sleep, he swung himself on shore again.

'Our rustic friend,' he said to himself as he stood and looked upon the boat, bulking black against the dull gleam of the river, like some uncouth animal standing at the bank and peering landward with fiery eyes, our rustic friend may not forget his prophecy.'


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