I perceived now that the whole face of the wall was honeycombed with tunnels of natural formation running into the recesses of the limestone. I wondered that the whole structure, undermined thus and pressed down by the weight of millions of tons of ice above where the glacier lay, did not collapse and crumble down in ruin.
Rivulets gushed from the wall everywhere, mingling their contributory waters with those of the twin torrents. The plateau seemed to be the watershed in which the drainage of the entire territory had its origin. Within those connecting caves, if a man knew their secret, he might hide from a regiment.
Pierre followed me to the mouth of the tunnel and gripped me by both arms.
“What you do?” he asked. “You go to Pere Antoine to-night? What you do now?”
I took the pistol from my coat pocket.
“Pierre,” I answered, “I have two bullets here, and both of them are for Simon. To-night I had him in my power and spared him. Now I am going back, and I shall shoot him down like a dog, whether he is armed or defenceless.”
“You no shoot Simon,” the Indian grunted. “Le diable him frien’. You had him to-night; why you no shoot him then?”
I did not know. But I was going to find out soon.
“I am going back to kill him now,” I repeated. “Afterward I do not know what will happen. But you can go on to the hut of Pere Antoine and, if luck is with me, I shall meet you, there—perhaps with Mlle. Jacqueline.”
But I had little hope of meeting him with Jacqueline. Only I could not forbear to speak her name again.
Pierre’s face was twitching. “You no go back!” he cried. “Simon he kill you. No use to fight Simon. Him time not come yet. When him time come, he die.”
“When will it come?” I asked, looking at the man’s features, which were distorted with frenzied hate.
“I not know!” exclaimed Pierre. “I try find—cards to tell me. No Indian man in this part country remember how to tell me. In old days many could tell. Now I wait. When his time come, old Indian know. He kill Simon then himself. Nobody else kill Simon. No use you try.”
I own that, standing there and thinking upon the man’s hellish design, his unscrupulousness, his singular success, I felt the old fear of Leroux in my heart, and with it something of the same superstition of his invulnerability. But my resolution surpassed my fear, and I knew it would not fail me. How often had I resolved—and forgotten. Not again would I forget.
I shook the Indian’s hands away and plunged forward into the tunnel again. I heard him calling after me; but I think he saw that I was not to be deterred, for he made no attempt to follow me.
And so I went on and on through the darkness, and with each step toward the chateau my resolution grew.
I seemed to have been travelling for a much longer period than before. Every moment, straining my eyes, I expected to see the light of the entrance, but the road went on straight apparently, and there was nothing but the darkness.