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With an imprecation Slinkton put his hand to his head, tore out
some hair, and flung it to the ground. It was the end of the
smooth walk; he destroyed it in the action, and it will soon be
seen that his use for it was past.
Beckwith went on: 'Whenever you left here, I left here. Although I
understood that you found it necessary to pause in the completion
of that purpose, to avert suspicion, still I watched you close,
with the poor confiding girl. When I had the diary, and could read
it word by word, - it was only about the night before your last
visit to Scarborough, - you remember the night? you slept with a
small flat vial tied to your wrist, - I sent to Mr. Sampson, who
was kept out of view. This is Mr. Sampson's trusty servant
standing by the door. We three saved your niece among us.'
Slinkton looked at us all, took an uncertain step or two from the
place where he had stood, returned to it, and glanced about him in
a very curious way, - as one of the meaner reptiles might, looking
for a hole to hide in. I noticed at the same time, that a singular
change took place in the figure of the man, - as if it collapsed
within his clothes, and they consequently became ill-shapen and
'You shall know,' said Beckwith, 'for I hope the knowledge will be
bitter and terrible to you, why you have been pursued by one man,
and why, when the whole interest that Mr. Sampson represents would
have expended any money in hunting you down, you have been tracked
to death at a single individual's charge. I hear you have had the
name of Meltham on your lips sometimes?'
I saw, in addition to those other changes, a sudden stoppage come
upon his breathing.
'When you sent the sweet girl whom you murdered (you know with what
artfully made-out surroundings and probabilities you sent her) to
Meltham's office, before taking her abroad to originate the
transaction that doomed her to the grave, it fell to Meltham's lot
to see her and to speak with her. It did not fall to his lot to
save her, though I know he would freely give his own life to have
done it. He admired her; - I would say he loved her deeply, if I
thought it possible that you could understand the word. When she
was sacrificed, he was thoroughly assured of your guilt. Having
lost her, he had but one object left in life, and that was to
avenge her and destroy you.'
I saw the villain's nostrils rise and fall convulsively; but I saw
no moving at his mouth.
'That man Meltham,' Beckwith steadily pursued, 'was as absolutely
certain that you could never elude him in this world, if he devoted
himself to your destruction with his utmost fidelity and
earnestness, and if he divided the sacred duty with no other duty
in life, as he was certain that in achieving it he would be a poor
instrument in the hands of Providence, and would do well before
Heaven in striking you out from among living men. I am that man,
and I thank God that I have done my work!'
If Slinkton had been running for his life from swift-footed
savages, a dozen miles, he could not have shown more emphatic signs
of being oppressed at heart and labouring for breath, than he
showed now, when he looked at the pursuer who had so relentlessly
hunted him down.
'You never saw me under my right name before; you see me under my
right name now. You shall see me once again in the body, when you
are tried for your life. You shall see me once again in the
spirit, when the cord is round your neck, and the crowd are crying
When Meltham had spoken these last words, the miscreant suddenly
turned away his face, and seemed to strike his mouth with his open
hand. At the same instant, the room was filled with a new and
powerful odour, and, almost at the same instant, he broke into a
crooked run, leap, start, - I have no name for the spasm, - and
fell, with a dull weight that shook the heavy old doors and windows
in their frames.
That was the fitting end of him.
When we saw that he was dead, we drew away from the room, and
Meltham, giving me his hand, said, with a weary air,
'I have no more work on earth, my friend. But I shall see her
It was in vain that I tried to rally him. He might have saved her,
he said; he had not saved her, and he reproached himself; he had
lost her, and he was broken-hearted.
'The purpose that sustained me is over, Sampson, and there is
nothing now to hold me to life. I am not fit for life; I am weak
and spiritless; I have no hope and no object; my day is done.'
In truth, I could hardly have believed that the broken man who then
spoke to me was the man who had so strongly and so differently
impressed me when his purpose was before him. I used such
entreaties with him, as I could; but he still said, and always
said, in a patient, undemonstrative way, - nothing could avail him,
- he was broken-hearted.
He died early in the next spring. He was buried by the side of the
poor young lady for whom he had cherished those tender and unhappy
regrets; and he left all he had to her sister. She lived to be a
happy wife and mother; she married my sister's son, who succeeded
poor Meltham; she is living now, and her children ride about the
garden on my walking-stick when I go to see her.
End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of Hunted Down, by Charles Dickens