“How?” I answered, startled.
“All finish,” said Pierre inexorably, and, as I watched him, a superstitious fear crept over me. He, who had cringed, even when he gave the command, now cringed no longer, and there was a look on his old face that I had only seen on one man’s before—on my father’s, the night he died.
“Pierre, where is Leroux?” I whispered.
“No matter,” he answered. “All finish now.”
“Shall I surrender to him or shall I fight?”
“No matter,” he said once again. “M’sieur, suppose you go back to ma’m’selle, and soon Simon come. His diable lead him to you. His diable tell you what to say. All finish now!”
He walked past me noiselessly, a tenuous shadow, and his bearing was as proud as that of his race had been in the long ago, when they were lords where their white masters ruled. He entered the passage at the back of the mine, through which I had come when I encountered Lacroix the first time with his gold.
And as he passed I thought I saw Lacroix’s face peering out at me through the shadows of the caves. I started toward him. Then I saw only the face of the cliff. My mind was playing me tricks; I thought it had created that apparition out of my thoughts.
I went back to Jacqueline and took my seat upon the earth-bag barricade. I had my revolver in my hand, but it was not loaded. I threw the cartridges upon the floor.
It seemed only a few minutes before a voice hailed me from the tunnel.
“M. Hewlett! Are you prepared to speak with M. Leroux?”
It was Raoul’s voice, and I answered yes.
A moment later Leroux came from the tunnel toward me. I got down from the barricade and met him at the stream. He stood upon one side and I at the other, and the stream gurgled and played between us.
“Paul Hewlett,” said Leroux, “you have made a good fight. By God, you have fought well! But you are done for. I offer you terms.”
“What terms?” I asked.
“The same as before.”
“You planned to murder me,” I answered, but with no bitterness.
“Yes, that is true,” answered Leroux. “But circumstances were different then from what they are tonight. I am no murderer. I am a man of business. And, within business limits, I keep my word. If I proposed to break it, it was because I had no other way. Besides, you had me in your power. Now you are in mine.
“I thought then that you were in Carson’s pay. That if I let you go you would betray—certain things you might have discovered. But you came here because you were infatuated with Mme. d’Epernay. Well, I can afford to let you go; for, though my instincts cry out loudly for your death, I am a business man, and I can suppress them when it has to be done. In brief, M. Hewlett, you can go when you choose.”
“M. Leroux,” I answered, “I will say something to you for your own sake, and Mme. d’Epernay’s, that I would not deign to say to any other man. She is as pure as the best woman in the land. I found her wandering in the street. I saved her from the assault of your hired ruffians. I tried to procure a room for her at the Merrimac, and when they refused her, I gave up my own apartment to her and went away.”