Page:Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates (1921).djvu/315

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The Ruby of Kishmoor

determined to defend myself to the last extremity. I am not going to give thee that which thou demandest of me, and for thy sake I advise thee to open the door and let me go free as I entered, or else harm may befall thee.”

“Fool!” cried the other, hardly giving him time to end. “Do you, then, think that I have time to chatter with you while two villains are lying in wait for me, perhaps at the very door? Blame your own self for your death!” And, gnashing his teeth with an indescribable menace, and resting his hand upon the table, he vaulted with incredible agility clean across it and upon our hero, who, entirely unprepared for such an extraordinary attack, was flung back against the wall, with an arm as strong as steel clutching his throat and a knife flashing in his very eyes with dreadful portent of instant death.

With an instinct to preserve his life, he caught his assailant by the wrist, and, bending it away from himself, set every fibre of his body in a superhuman effort to guard and protect himself. The other, though so much older and smaller, seemed to be composed entirely of fibres of steel, and, in his murderous endeavors, put forth a strength so extraordinary that for a moment our hero felt his heart melt within him with terror for his life. The spittal appeared to dry up within his mouth, and his hair to creep and rise upon his head. With a vehement cry of despair and anguish, he put forth one stupendous effort for defence, and, clapping his heel behind the other’s leg, and throwing his whole weight forward, he fairly tripped his antagonist backward as he stood. Together they fell upon the floor, locked in the most desperate embrace, and overturning a chair with a prodigious clatter in their descent—our hero upon the top and the little gentleman in black beneath him.

As they struck the floor the little man in black emitted a most piercing and terrible scream, and instantly relaxing his efforts of attack, fell to beating the floor with the back of his hands and