I came upon a door in the dark wing and, turning the handle noiselessly, found myself inside the chateau. And at once my ears were filled with yells and coarse laughter in men’s and women’s voices.
There was no storm-door, and the interior of the chateau—at least, the wing in which I found myself—was almost as cold as the outside. I stood still, hesitating which way to take. A fiddle was being played somewhere, and the bursts of noisy laughter sounded at intervals.
As my eyes became accustomed to my surroundings I perceived that I was standing near the foot of an uncarpeted wooden stairway. There was a dark room with an open door immediately in front of me, and another at the farther end of the passage, from beneath which a glimmer of light issued, and it was from this room that the sounds of laughter and music came.
While I was pondering upon my next movement, heavy footsteps fell on the story above me, and a man began coming down the stairs. I stole into the dark room in front of me, and had hardly ensconced myself there than he brushed past and went into the room at the end of the hallway.
And I was certain that he was Leroux.
It was evident that he had not closed the door behind him, for the sounds of the fiddle and of the revellers became much more distinct, I had left my snowshoes near the entrance to the tunnel, and my moccasins made no sound upon the floor.
I crept out of my hiding place and went toward the open door. As I had surmised, this was the place of the assemblage. I crouched there, with my pistol in my hand. On the opposite side of the room Simon Leroux was standing, a sneering smile upon his face.
The scene I saw through the crack of the door quite took my breath away.
The room was an enormous one, evidently forming the entire central portion of the chateau. It was a ballroom, or had been a ballroom, once, for it had a wide hardwood floor, somewhat worn and uneven. The walls were hung with portraits, evidently of the owner’s ancestors, for I caught a glimpse of several faces in wigs and periwigs.
The furniture was of an old type. Pushed against one wall, near where Leroux stood, was an ancient piano, and standing upon the other side an old man played upon a violin.
He must have been nearly eighty years of age. His face had fallen in over the toothless gums, leaving the prominent cheek-bones protruding like those of a skull, and his head was a heavy mat of straight grey hair. He looked like a full-blooded Indian.
Two couples were dancing on the floor. Each man had an Indian woman. One was middle-aged; the other, a comely young girl with heavy silver earrings, was laughing noisily as her companion dragged her to a standstill in front of the fiddler.
“Play faster, Pierre Caribou!” he yelled, pushing the old man backward.
It was the man with the patch!