The Vanished Messenger HTML version

Chapter 20
In the middle of that night Hamel sat up in bed, awakened with a sudden start by some
sound, only the faintest echo of which remained in his consciousness. His nerves were
tingling with a sense of excitement. He sat up in bed and listened. Suddenly it came again
- a long, low moan of pain, stifled at the end as though repressed by some outside agency.
He leaped from his bed, hurried on a few clothes, and stepped out on to the landing. The
cry had seemed to him to come from the further end of the long corridor - in the
direction, indeed, of the room where Mr. Dunster lay. He made his way there, walking on
tiptoe, although his feet fell noiselessly upon the thick carpet. A single light was burning
from a bracket in the wall, insufficient to illuminate the empty spaces, but enough to keep
him from stumbling. The corridor towards the south end gradually widened, terminating
in a splendid high window with stained glass, a broad seat, and a table. On the right, the
end room was Mr. Dunster's apartment, and on the left a flight of stairs led to the floor
above. Hamel stood quite still, listening. There was a light in the room, as he could see
from under the door, but there was no sound of any one moving. Hamel listened intently,
every sense strained. Then the sound of a stair creaking behind diverted his attention. He
looked quickly around. Gerald was descending. The boy's face was white, and his eyes
were filled with fear. Hamel stepped softly back from the door and met him at the foot of
the stairs.
"Did you hear that cry?" he whispered.
Gerald nodded.
"It woke me up. What do you suppose it was?" Hamel shook his head.
"Some one in pain," he replied. "I don't understand it. It came from this room."
"You know who sleeps there?" Gerald asked hoarsely.
Hamel nodded.
"A man with concussion of the brain doesn't cry out like that. Besides, did you hear the
end of it? It sounded as though some one were choking him. Hush!"
They had spoken only in bated breath, but the door of the room before which they were
standing was suddenly opened. Meekins stood there, fully dressed, his dark, heavy face
full of somber warning. He started a little as he saw the two whispering together. Gerald
addressed him almost apologetically.
"We both heard the same sound, Meekins. Is any one ill? It sounded like some one in
The man hesitated. Then from behind his shoulder came Mr. Fentolin's still, soft voice.
There was a little click, and Meekins, as though obeying an unseen gesture, stepped back.
Mr. Fentolin glided on to the threshold. He was still dressed. He propelled his chair a few
yards down the corridor and beckoned them to approach.
"I am so sorry," he said softly, "that you should have been disturbed, Mr. Hamel. We
have been a little anxious about our mysterious guest. Doctor Sarson fetched me an hour
ago. He discovered that it was necessary to perform a very slight operation, merely the
extraction of a splinter of wood. It is all over now, and I think that he will do very well."