I cried out in horror, but leaned forward, fascinated by the dreadful spectacle. I saw the bodies glide down the straight jet of water, as a boy might slide down a column of steel, and plunge into the black cauldron beneath, around whose edge stood the mocking and fantastic figures of ice. The seething lake tossed them high into the air, and the second cataract caught them and flung them back toward the Old Angel.
Their waters played with them and spun them round, caught them, and let them go, and roared and foamed about them as they bobbed and danced their devil’s jig, waist-high, in one another’s arms.
At last they slid down into the depths of the dark lake, to lie forever there in that embrace. And still the cataracts played on, sounding their loud, triumphant, never-ending tune.
I was running down the tunnel again. I was running to Jacqueline, but something diverted me. It was the face of Lacroix, peering at me from among the crevices of the rocks with the same evil smile. I knew from the look on it that he had seen all and had been infinitely pleased thereby.
I caught at him; I wanted to get my hands on him and strangle him, too, and fling him down, and stamp his features out of human semblance. But he eluded me and darted back into the cliff.
I followed him hard. This time I did not mean to let him go.
Lacroix was running toward the gold-mine. He made no effort to dodge into any of the unknown recesses of the caves, but ran at full speed across the open space and plunged into the tunnel leading to the shore by the chateau.
I caught him near the entrance and held him fast.
He struggled in my grasp and screamed.
“Go back! For the love of God, go back, monsieur!” he shrieked. “Let me go! Let me go!”
He fought so desperately that he slipped out of my hands and darted into the mine again, taking the tunnel which led toward the Old Angel, and thence wound back toward the chateau.
I caught him again before the cave where Jacqueline lay. I wound my arms around him. A dreadful suspicion was creeping into my mind.
He made no attempt to fight me, but only to escape, and his face was hideously stamped with fear.
“Let me go!” he howled. “Ah, you will repent it! Monsieur, let me go! I will give you a half-share in the gold. What do you want with me?”
What did I want? I did not know. It must have been the same instinct that leads one to stamp upon a noxious insect. I think it was his joy in the hideous spectacle beneath the cataract that had made me long to kill him.
But now a dreadful fear was dawning on me.
“Jacqueline!” I screamed.
“I have not seen her,” he replied. “Now let me go! Ah, mon Dieu, will you never let me go? It is too late!”
Suddenly he grew calm.