Page:Court Royal.djvu/425

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413
WITHOUT A WATCH-DOG.

should leap out upon him with extended claws, and flaming eyes, and keen teeth to fasten in his flesh.

‘I’ll have a watch-dog. I must—I will. If it cost me thirty shillings I’ll have one to-morrow. As long as Joanna was here none was needed. This is another expense she is putting me to. Oh, I wish the cat would find her, and fly in her face and tear her wicked eyes out.’

He fetched a bottle of brandy from the cupboard, took the kettle from the fire, and mixed himself a strong glass. Then he drew his chair close to the stove and drank his brandy-and-water, listening for the cat, and cursing it, and then Joanna, and thinking he heard a step, and found it was the girl, with a cat’s face, and flaming eyes, and a chain of Roman pearls dangling round the neck, and then—somehow the pink silk dress flickered before him, but the brush of the cat hung below it and swept the floor; and then the howdah upstairs began to dance by itself, and the Sabbatical lamp to swing as a flaming pendulum, all its seven jets alight as he watched it, and wondered whether it would swing so high as to unhook itself from the ceiling and come down with a crash and go out. He poured out more brandy, but was dozing and waking intermittently, and forgot to add the water, and the loaded stick was on the table trying to lift itself on its ferule and dance, but the head was heavy, and at each effort down it came again with a bang.

So he slept, with feverish dreams, sitting in his chair, waiting for the cat to go out at the back-door, when he would lock it and retire to his bed, and then for a while forgetting why he sat up. The coals crackled and grew cold. The candle burnt down to the socket and dissolved all the wax, and the flame turned blue and danced over the molten wax.

Then—all at once Lazarus sprang up with a cry, and caught at the stick. Before him stood two figures. He could see their faces indistinctly by the flicker of the expiring candle—one a coarse face marked with scars, and a heavy lower jaw. He felt the stick wrenched from his trembling hand, and after that he saw and felt no more.

On the following morning there was a stir at the Barbican. During the night the Golden Balls had been entered, robbed, and Lazarus had been found lying dead in his kitchen with his skull broken. A loaded stick lay at his side. On the table, purring and complacent, beside an empty candlestick, sat an ownerless black cat.