Page:Weird Tales volume 30 number 04.djvu/57

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night, but paced up and down in his study while a fierce, alarming expression hardened on his features. Nor could I sleep, for his continued pacing tore my nerves to shreds, and I spent the night alternately in my own room and at the partly open doorway of the library, where I was able to watch him in secrecy. Several times I saw him bend over a small book and study it with the intent regard of a disciple, and each time that he referred to a certain page he pounded his fist on the desk and cried to himself: "God forbid! God forbid!"

I should have realized what he meant. I should have known and been prepared, but how blind my friendship made me to the horrific implication of those repeated words!

Monday came and went in a slow drizzle of rain which only added to the somber quiet of the city, and as the evening approached and wore on I felt myself caught in the irresistible tide of fearful anticipation which warned of the sixth appearance of the Head-hunter. The streets were deserted throughout the day, and with but few exceptions the only pedestrians were police officers, who now traveled in pairs or squads. The evening papers were brutally frank in predicting that before dawn a sixth headless corpse would be discovered, and this expectation was shared by all.

Carse was at home all day and refused to answer the telephone or to allow me to answer it for him. He ate sparingly, with his same preoccupation, and, contrary to my expectations, he appeared to have lapsed into a state akin to normality, like a man who contemplates a preordained and inexorable occurrence.

At six o'clock he came to me, ghastly haggard and thin, and again asked me to leave his house, but I refused this zero-hour request. He shrugged and went back to his study. I watched him for a while and saw that he was studying that queer little book which so deeply affected him, and I again heard him utter those despairing words: "God forbid! God forbid!"

I went to bed at a little after ten and tried to sleep, but the city-wide excitement seeped into my room and kept me tossing from the thrusts of nightmares. At midnight Carse came up and stopped just outside my door, obviously listening to determine whether I was asleep. The silence was uncanny for a moment; then I heard a sharp metallic clicking and he went on to his room. After he had closed his door, I swept my sheet aside and went to my own door. Carse had locked it from the outside!

I called to him for an explanation of this conduct, but he either didn't hear me or chose to ignore my requests, for the house remained grimly silent. Returning to bed, I managed somehow to doze off.

At two o'clock I was awakened by the sound of someone's walking in the hallway. I sat bolt-upright in bed and heard the unmistakable approach of footsteps coming down the corridor from Carse's bedroom. The tread was stealthy and determined, and as it drew closer to my room I was conscious of a cold mask of sweat clinging to my face, because the footsteps did not sound like those of Jason Carse!

The feeling hit me and hit me again until T was left stunned with the horror of it. It did not sound like Carse! But if it was not Carse, who was it?

I wanted to call out his name, yet I felt, with some indefinable sense, that the treader in the hall was unaware that I was in the house, and for that reason it could not have been Carse. I was afraid to make an outcry, and I sat stricken with dread as the footsteps went past my door descending the stairs. A moment later