I crouched beside him, but I did not know what to say or do. I could only wait there, that he might not die alone.
“Give me a knife!” he mumbled again, clutching at me. “A knife, Hewlett! Don’t leave me to die like this! Bring Pere Antoine and my mother. I want to tell her—to tell her——”
He muttered in his delirium until his voice died away. I thought that he would never speak again. But presently he seemed to revive again to the consciousness of his surroundings.
“Are you with me, Hewlett?” he whispered.
I placed my hand in his, and he clutched at it with feverish force.
“You will have the gold, Hewlett,” he muttered, apparently ignorant that I, too, was a prisoner and in hardly better plight. “You are the last of the four. I tried to kill you, Hewlett.”
I said nothing, and he repeated querulously, between his gasps: “I tried to kill you, Hewlett. Are you going to leave me to die alone in the dark now?”
“No,” I answered. “It doesn’t matter, Lacroix.” And, really, it did not matter.
“I wanted to kill you,” his voice rambled on. “Leroux is dead. I watched him die. I thought if—you died, too, no one but I would know the secret of the gold. I tried to murder you. I blew up the tunnel!”
He paused a while, and again I thought he was dying, but once more he took up the confession.
“There was nearly a quarter of a ton of blasting powder and dynamite in the cave. You didn’t know. You went about so blindly, Hewlett. I watched you when I talked with you that night here. How long ago it must have been! When was that?”
I did not tell him it was yesterday. For it seemed immeasurably long ago to me as well.
“It was stored there,” he said. “We had brought it up from St. Boniface by sleigh—so carefully. Leroux intended to begin mining as soon as Louis returned. And when he died I meant to kill you both, so that the gold should all be mine. I told you it was here because I thought you meant to kill me, but I meant to kill you when you had made an end of Leroux. And you killed me. Damn you!” he snarled. “Why did you not let me go?”
He paused, and I heard him gasp for breath. His fingers clutched at my coat-sleeve again and hooped themselves round mine like claws of steel.
“I had a knife—once,” he resumed, relapsing into his delirium; “but I left it behind me and the police got it. Isn’t it odd, Leroux,” he rambled on, “that one always leaves something behind when one has killed a man? But the newspapers made no mention about the knife. You didn’t know he was dead, did you, Leroux, for all your cleverness, until that fool Hewlett left that paper upon the table? You knew enough to send me to jail, but you didn’t know that it was I who killed him. Help me!” He screamed horribly. “He is here, looking at me!”
“There is nobody here, Philippe,” I said, trying to soothe his agony of soul. What a poor and stained soul it was, travelling into the next world alone! “There is nobody but me, Philippe!”