Wild Beasts

[Another Charles Williams excerpt - for which I certainly do not apologise.  I have been re-reading "Place of the Lion" after many years, and have found it more enriching than I remembered.  It certainly is worth seeking out a copy]

In that movement they were upon him.  Quicker than he to recover, swifter than he to realize his escape, drawing more easily on the Powers they knew, they came at him while he still drew the first deep breath of release.  The woman slid in one involved movement from the chair in which she had sat half-coiled, and from where she lay on the floor at his feet her arms went up, her hands clutching at his legs, and twisted themselves round his waist.  At the same time the man sprang forward and upward, hands seizing Anthony's shoulders, head thrust forward as if in design upon his throat.  Anthony was aware of their attack just before it caught him, hardly in time, yet just in time, to throw himself forward to meet it.  His rising forearm struck the man's jaw with sufficient force to divert the head whose mouth champed viciously at him, but the woman's fast hold on his body prevented him from shaking himself free of the fingers that drove into his shoulders like claws.  He heaved mightily forward, and drove upward again with his forearm, but their bodies were too close for him to get any force into the blow.  His foot struck, stumbled, and as he freed and lifted it, trod on a rounded shape that writhed beneath it.  All round him in the room were noises of hissing and snarling, and as he staggered aside in the effort to regain his footing the hot breath of one adversary panted into his face, so that it seemed to him as if he struggled in the bottom of some loathly pit where foul creatures fought for their prey.  And he was their prey, unless...

He felt himself falling, and cried out; the tightening pressure round his body choked the cry in mid-utterance, and something slid yet higher round his chest.  In a tumultuous conflict he crashed to the ground, but sideways, so that as he lay he was able to twist himself face downwards and save his throat.  He felt his collar wrenched off and nails tearing at his neck; a twisting weight writhed over him from his shoulders downwards.  For a second he lay defeated, then all his spirit within him cried out "No," and thrust itself in that single syllable from his mouth.  His arms at least had been freed in his fall; he pressed his hands against the floor and with a terrific effort half raised himself.  The man creature, at this abandoning its tearing at his neck, came at him again from one side.  Anthony put all the energy he had left into one tremendous outward sweep of his arm, rather as if he flung a great wing sideways.  He felt his enemy give before it and heard the crash that marked the collapse of an unstable balance.  His own balance was barely maintained, but his hand in its swift return touched the hair of the woman's head, and caught it and fiercely pulled and wrenched till the clasping arms released their hold and for a moment his body was free.  In that moment he came to his feet, and lightly as some wheeling bird turned and poised for any new attack.  But his enemies lay still, their shining eyes fixed upon him, their hands scrabbling on the floor.  The hissing and snarling which all this while had been in his ears ceased gradually; he became aware, as he stepped watchfully backward, of the sedate room in which that horrible struggle had gone on.  He took another cautious step away, and bumped into the chair on which he had been sitting, and the jerk restored him to his ordinary self.  He looked, and saw Miss Wilmot sitting, half-coiled up, on a rug, and Mr.  Foster, her visitor, on one knee near to her, as if he were about to pick up a book that lay not far off.  With alert eyes on them Anthony suddenly swooped and lifted it.  He remembered what it was without looking.

"I was wrong," he said aloud, and smiling, "it's perfectly up-to-date. So sorry to be a nuisance, but I still stick to my own hypothesis.  You might think it over.  Goodnight, Miss Wilmot, I'll see myself out.  Goodnight, Foster, give my love to the lion."

Charles Williams
The Place of the Lion (1931)
Chapter Seven : Investigations Into A Religion

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