“We are going but a little farther, M’seur,” he said. “I must replace the rawhide over your mouth and the thongs about your wrists. I am sorry—but I will leave your legs free.”
“Thanks,” said Howland. “But, really, it is unnecessary, Croisset. I am properly subdued to the fact that fate is determined to play out this interesting game of ball with me, and no longer knowing where I am, I promise you to do nothing more exciting than smoke my pipe if you will allow me to go along peaceably at your side.”
“You will not attempt to escape—and you will hold your tongue?” he asked.
Jean drew forth his revolver and deliberately cocked it.
“Bear in mind, M’seur, that I will kill you if you break your word. You may go ahead.”
And he pointed down the side of the mountain.
THE HOUSE OF THE RED DEATH
Half-way down the ridge a low word from Croisset stopped the engineer. Jean had toggled his team with a stout length of babeesh on the mountain top and he was looking back when Howland turned toward him. The sharp edge of that part of the mountain from which they were descending stood out in a clear-cut line against the sky, and on this edge the six dogs of the team sat squat on their haunches, silent and motionless, like strangely carved gargoyles placed there to guard the limitless plains below. Howland took his pipe from his mouth as he watched the staring interest of Croisset. From the man he looked up again at the dogs. There was something in their sphynx-like attitude, in the moveless reaching of their muzzles out into the wonderful starlit mystery of the still night that filled him with an indefinable sense of awe. Then there came to his ears the sound that had stopped Croisset—a low, moaning whine which seemed to have neither beginning nor end, but which was borne in on his senses as though it were a part of the soft movement of the air he breathed—a note of infinite sadness which held him startled and without movement, as it held Jean Croisset. And just as he thought that the thing had died away, the wailing came again, rising higher and higher, until at last there rose over him a single long howl that chilled the blood to his very marrow. It was like the wolf-howl of that first night he had looked on the wilderness, and yet unlike it; in the first it had been the cry of the savage, of hunger, of the unending desolation of life that had thrilled him. In this it was death. He stood shivering as Croisset came down to him, his thin face shining white in the starlight. There was no other sound save the excited beating of life in their own bodies when Jean spoke.
“M’seur, our dogs howl like that only when some one is dead or about to die,” he whispered. “It was Woonga who gave the cry. He has lived for eleven years and I have never known him to fail.”