n I heard again that sound of dashing footsteps. I don't know why I did it, but as a matter of fact I dived down into the mews, or whatever it was, and stood as much in the shadow as possible. A man went by with a rush a few paces from where I was standing, and I felt uncommonly pleased that I was in hiding. I couldn't make out much feature, but I saw his eyes gleaming and his teeth showing, and he had an ugly-looking knife in one hand, and I thought things would be very unpleasant for gentleman number one if the second robber or what you like, caught him up. I can tell you, Phillipps, a fox-hunt is exciting enough, when the horn blows clear on a winter morning, and the hounds give tongue, and the red-coats charge away, but it's nothing to a man-hunt, and that's what I had a slight glimpse of tonight. There was murder in the fellow's eyes as he went by, and I don't think there was much more than fifty seconds between the two. I only hope it was enough.'
Dyson leant back in his arm-chair, relit his pipe
Arthur Machen (1863 – 1947) was a leading Welsh author best known for his influential supernatural, fantasy, and horror fiction.
The Three Impostors is a convoluted tale about three individuals who we meet in the opening paragraphs who are searching for a "young man with spectacles" who has inadvertently stolen something of great importance to a secret society of which they are members.
The story then goes back in time before the opening scene where the three impostors assume various personas and roles, weaving stories about their prey in an effort to attract attention to him and gain the aid of unsuspecting people.
Two of the stories Novel of the Black Seal and The Novel of the White Powder have been anthologized many times apart from The Three Imposters and may be read alone in their offerings by ManyBooks.Net. These two stories are considered by many to be Machen's best and had a profound impact on many authors including H. P. Lovecraft.
Machen's horror is many times subtle especially when compared to today's graphic splatterpunk that passes for contemporary horror. To truly experience the full impact of the end of the novel's horrific ending, the reader is encouraged to return to the beginning of the book and reread the opening scene.
C. Alan Loewen