The Devil's Paw
It was at some nameless hour in the early morning when Julian's vigil came to an end,
when the handle of his door was slowly turned, and the door itself pushed open and
closed again. Julian, lying stretched upon his bed, only half prepared for the night, with a
dressing gown wrapped around him, continued to breathe heavily, his eyes half-closed,
listening intently to the fluttering of light garments, the soft, almost noiseless footfall of
light feet. He heard her shake out his dinner coat, try the pockets, heard the stealthy
opening and closing of the drawers in his wardrobe. Presently the footsteps drew near to
his bed. For a moment he was obliged to set his teeth. A little waft of peculiar,
unanalysable perfume, half-fascinating, half-repellent, came to him with a sense of
disturbing familiarity. She paused by his bedside. He felt her hand steal under the pillow,
which his head scarcely touched; search the pockets of his dressing gown, search even
the bed. He listened to her soft breathing. The consciousness of her close and intimate
presence affected him in an inexplicable manner. Presently, to his intense relief, she
glided away from his immediate neighbourhood, and the moment for which he had
waited came. He heard her retreating footsteps pass through the communicating door into
his little sitting room, where he had purposely left a light burning. He slipped softly from
the bed and followed her. She was bending over an open desk as he crossed the threshold.
He closed the door and stood with his back to it.
"Much warmer," he said, "only, you see, it isn't there."
She started violently at the sound of his voice, but she did not immediately turn around.
When she did so, her demeanour was almost a shock to him. There was no sign of
nervousness or apology in her manner. Her eyes flashed at him angrily. She wore a loose
red wrap trimmed with white fur, a dishabille unusually and provokingly attractive.
"So you were shamming sleep!" she exclaimed indignantly.
"Entirely," he admitted.
Neither spoke for a moment. Her eyes fell upon a tumbler of whisky and soda, which
stood on a round table drawn up by the side of his easy-chair.
"I have not come to bed thirsty," he assured her. "I had another one downstairs - to which
I helped myself. This one I brought up to try if I could remember sufficient of my
chemistry to determine its contents. I have been able to decide, to my great relief, that
your intention was probably to content yourself with plunging me into only temporary
"I wanted you out of the way whilst I searched your rooms," she told him coolly. "If you
were not such an obstinate, pig-headed, unkind, prejudiced person, it would not have