set like a vice, his eyes were blazing; in fact, Hugh Drummond was seeing red.
He paused when he reached the top, crouching in the darkness. Close to him he could feel someone else, and holding his breath, he listened. Then he heard the man move—only the very faintest sound—but it was enough. Without a second's thought he sprang, and his hands closed on human flesh. He laughed gently; then he fought in silence.
His opponent was strong above the average, but after a minute he was like a child in Hugh's grasp. He choked once or twice and muttered something; then Hugh slipped his right hand gently on to the man's throat. His fingers moved slowly round, his thumb adjusted itself lovingly, and the man felt his head being forced back irresistibly. He gave one strangled cry, and then the pressure relaxed.…
"One half-inch more, my gentle humorist," Hugh whispered in his ear, "and your neck would have been broken. As it is, it will be very stiff for some days. Another time—don't laugh. It's dangerous."
Then, like a ghost, he vanished along the passage in the direction of his own room.
"I wonder who the bird was," he murmured thoughtfully to himself. "Somehow I don't think he'll laugh quite so much in future—damn him."
At eight o'clock the next morning a burly-looking ruffian brought in some hot water and a cup of tea. Hugh watched him through half-closed eyes, and eliminated him from the competition. His bullet head