It was a dark and stormy night. The frightening visage of a vengeful madman was illuminated only by the occasional flashes of lightning. The storm outside raged on, as inside I engaged with a lunatic.
"Cast out from Oxford, disowned by my family for squandering what little wealth they could summon," snarled Hobbes. "Misfortune after misfortune, all due to you!"
"To me? 'Twas you who gave offense, you who insisted upon blades at dawn. You who are to blame for any misfortune that may have fallen upon you!"
Truly, the prospect of being skewered by my most notorious enemy did not fill me with joy. At Oxford, Hobbes had been a shabby, worn figure, minuscule in his second-hand clothing bought, no doubt, from some dealer in the East End. In short, the object of our schoolboy pranks and japes. After the termination of some particularly scandalous jest, he would fly into a characteristic rage, the timbre of his voice becoming almost womanly as he swore vengeance upon myself and my confederates. Still, he in turn played his share of mischief on me and my bosom chums, so while his jokes always seemed to have a more cruel and callous edge to them I considered us square. The ragged figure looming in the dusky storm-light bore little resemblance to the pompous young naïf who delighted in using a type or kind of sesquipedalian loquaciousness to mock his foes. In truth, I had found his book-learning pretentious; I know a pretty word or two, but do not feel the need to flaunt them at every interval.
O how the mighty had fallen! The once proud darling of the ministers and deans of Oxford had been reduced to a gibbering madman.
"I hope your affairs are in order, Stokington, for you are now about to die!" he croaked, his voice apparently hoarse from disuse.
Somehow, amidst the various phobic emotions coursing through my veins, I found the courage to snort at him. "The Greenwich master of poesy, resorting to such a trite threat? You enemy lies prostrate before you, and you can do no better?"
"Stifle your tongue, Stokington! I am reduced to penury, thanks to you! I am an unfortunate and deserted creature, I look around and I have no relation or friend upon earth! These amiable people amongst whom I go have never seen me and know little of me. I am full of fears, for if I fail here, I am an outcast in the world forever!"
"Much better. I should think it most unsporting of me to expire while your poetical stylings were thus mediocre."
"Silence! A rapier to your heart, Stokington, and silence to your tongue!" His whole body shuddered, as though overcome by thoughts of revenge the emotion itself now threatened to break free from the confines of his form.
By this point much of my fear had deserted me. It became clear that Hobbes had not truly taken leave of his senses, but his life was as cold as an attic facing north; and revenge, like a silent spider, was weaving its web in the shadows, in every corner of his heart. An enraged man can be deal with, and during his diatribe on his suffering I had chanced to free my right hand from beneath the counterpane.
"But I speak too much, and too little," cried Hobbes. "Listen: I hear the doddering old fool’s foot upon the stair. My time grows short. I am vengeance, I am the night, I am--"
"You are unconscious," I cried, as I seized the candlestick from the bedside table and heaved it at him. My quondam schoolmate let out a squawk as the heavy brass struck him across the ear. He stumbled back, and in that opening I flung aside the sheets that had entrapt me and sprang to my feet.
Hobbes quickly recovered from the blow, and in a glittering arc he swung his blade at me. Too close, man, too close! I seized his sword-wrist firmly and, deflecting the blow, placed a punch squarely in the devil’s nose. "No!" he cried. "My revenge!"
In the eerie light of the thunderclouds that menaced the skies above we grappled. His filthy and sweat-drenched body squirmed as I attempted to fasten him into a hold. From the lower floors of the house I could hear alarums as the servants and Professor Papagoras awoke.
Hobbes struck a mighty blow to my forehead, and dazed, I tripped backwards over some cylindrical object on the treacherous floor. Blood cascaded into my eyes. “Now, come sweet death, and take him,” panted Hobbes, his voice thick with glee, as he raised his sword.
In haste, I scrabbled for the nearest object of defence—and found that my hand had alighted on the candlestick. With one desperate swing, I brought it up—and connected. The heavy base struck Hobbes’ sword hand, and with a howl he nervelessly dropped the sword.
At once I was upon him. A mighty rain of blows emanated from my fists, as properly enraged and roused to action I took my fury out upon my enemy.
Behind me, the door flew open. Professor Papagoras stood there, looking tragically comical in nightgown and with fire-poker raised above his head. The hostler and boy both stood ready behind. "What is the meaning of this ruction?" demanded the Professor in his reedy voice.
"Alas," wailed Hobbes. "I am undone!" And giving one heroic final blow, he struggled free from my grasp and dashed to the open window. Standing dramatically with one foot upon the sill, before the storm and strife that raged without, he cursed me. "This is not over, Stokington. I shall have my revenge! The next time we meet shall be the last, and I shall bring your death!"
And with that he flung himself through the portal. I stood, panting, dimly lit by the light of the hostler’s lamp.
Gone. He was gone. For now.
The Life, Times, and Misadventures of Dennis St. Michel, Viscount of Stokington, Soldier, Gambler, Diplomat, Scoundrel, Notorious Rakehell, and Lord of Menacing House, in his Own Words.