"Then loose the dog. And run in after him."
There was a terrible silence; then a scratching was heard below: and, above, the deadly click of the pistol-hammers brought to full cock.
And then there was a heavy pattering rush, and Vulcan came charging up the stairs like a lion. He was half-muzzled; but that Alfred did not know; he stepped forward and fired at the tremendous brute somewhat unsteadily; and missed him, by an inch; the bullet glanced off the stairs and entered the wall within a yard of Rooke's head: ere Alfred could fire again, the huge brute leaped on him, and knocked him down like a child, and made a grab at his throat; Alfred, with admirable presence of mind, seized a banister, and, drawing himself up, put the pistol to Vulcan's ear, and fired the other barrel just as Rooke rushed up the stairs to secure his prisoner; the dog bounded into the air and fell over dead with shattered skull, leaving Alfred bespattered with blood and brains, and half blinded: but he struggled up, and tore the banister out in doing so, just as a heavy body fell forward at his feet: it was Rooke stumbling over Vulcan's carcass so unexpectedly thrown in his path: Alfred cleared his eyes with his hand, and as Rooke struggled up, lifted the banister high above his head, and, with his long sinewy arm and elastic body, discharged a blow frightful to look at, for youth, strength, skill, and hate all swelled, and rose, and struck together in that one furious gesture. If the wood had held, the skull must have gone. As it was, the banister broke over' the man's head (and one half went spinning up to the ceiling). The man's head cracked under the banister like a glass bottle; and Rooke lay flat and mute, within the blood running from his nose and ears. Alfred hurled the remnant of the banister down at Hayes and the others, and darted into a room (it was Julia's bedroom), and was heard to open the window, and then drag furniture to the door, and barricade it. This done, he went to load his pistol, which he thought he had slipped into his pocket after felling Rooke. He found to his dismay it was not there. The fact was, it had slipped past his pocket and fallen down.
During the fight, shriek upon shriek issued from the drawing-room. But now all was still. On the stairs lay Vulcan dead, Rooke senseless: below, Julia in a dead faint. And all in little more than a minute.
Dr. Wolf arrived with the police and two more keepers, new ones in the place of Wales and Garrett discharged; and urged them to break into the bedroom and capture the maniac: but first he was cautious enough to set two of them to watch the back of the house. "There," he said, "where that load of hay is going in: that is the way to it. Now stand you in the yard and watch."
This last mandate was readily complied with; for there was not much to be feared on the stones below from a maniac self-immured on the second story. But to break open that bedroom door was quite another thing. The stairs were like a shambles already--a chilling sight to the eyes of mercenary valour.
Rooke was but just sensible: the others hung back. But presently the pistol was found sticking in a pool of gore. This put a new face on the matter; and Dr. Wolf himself showed the qualities of a commander. He sent down word to his sentinels in the yard to he prepared for any attempt on Alfred's part, however desperate: and he sent a verbal message to a stately gentleman who was sitting anxious in lodgings over the way, after bribing high ad low, giving out money like water to secure the recapture, and so escape what he called his unnatural son's vengeance; for he knew him to be by nature bold and vindictive like himself. After these preliminaries, Doctor Wolf headed his remaining forces--to wit, two keepers, and two policemen, and thundered at the bedroom door, and summoned Alfred to surrender.
Now among the spectators who watched and listened with bated breath, was one to whom this scene had an interest of its own. Mr. Hurd, disconcerted by Alfred's sudden reappearance, and the lovers' reconciliation, had hung about the entry very miserable; for he was sincerely attached to Julia. But, while he was in this stupor, came the posse to recapture Alfred, and he heard them say so. Then the shots were fired within, then Wolf and his men got in, and Mr. Hurd, who was now at the door, got in with them to protect Julia, and see this dangerous and inconvenient character disposed of. He was looking demurely on at a safish distance, when his late triumphant rival was summoned to surrender.