The Indian woman had met him as she was returning home, and had told him of our danger, and he had started out before dawn, to find that there was no longer any entrance to the tunnel. Wandering in bewilderment upon the mountains, he had reached the place where I was buried at the moment of my final effort to break through the debris overhead.
Although the explanation seemed an impossible one, there was none other.
The cliff, riddled with tunnels and eaten out by its numerous subterranean streams, had fallen. The charge of dynamite exploded, as it happened, beneath that part which buttressed the entire structure, combining with the pressure of the glacier above, had thrown the mountain on its side, filling the lake with several million tons of ice and obliterating all traces of the chateau, which lay buried beneath its waters.
That was Pere Antoine’s explanation, and we realized at once that it was useless to search for Charles Duchaine. The whole aspect of the region had been changed; there was neither glacier nor cataract, and the lake, swollen to twice its size and height, slept peacefully beneath its covering of ice and snow.
When we returned to the cabin we were amazed to see a sleigh standing outside, and dogs feeding. Two men were seated at the priests table, smoking.
“Diable, monsieur, don’t you keep a stove in your house?” shouted a well-known voice to Pere Antoine. Then, as Jacqueline and I approached the entrance, the man turned and sprang toward us with outstretched hands that gripped ours and wrung them till we cried out in pain.
It was Alfred Dubois.
But I was stupefied to see the second man who rose and advanced toward me with a shrewd smile. For it was Tom Carson!
Presently I was telling my story—except for that part which more intimately concerned myself and Jacqueline, and the narrative of the murder, which I gave only as Lacroix had confessed it to me.
A look of incredulity deepened on Tom’s shrewd old face till, at the end, he burst out explosively at me:
“Hewlett, I didn’t think I was a damned fool before—I beg your pardon, miss. If any man had told me that I would have knocked him down. But I am, I am, and want you to be my manager.”
“Do you mean that I have lied to you?” I asked indignantly.
“Every word, Hewlett—every word, my son. That is why I want you back with me. First you leave my employment without offering any reason; then you take hold of my business affairs and try to pull off a deal over my head, and then you tell me a yarn about a castle falling into a lake.”
“But, M. Carson,” interposed the priest, “I myself have seen this chateau many times. And I have gone to the entrance and looked from the mountain, too, and it is no longer there.”
“Never was,” said Carson. “You fellows get so lonesome up in these wilds that you have to see things.”