“Not touched!” he shouted at us.
And making a rush he was quickly across the aerial bridge. He got into the tower through the gap and darted up the stairs, crying:
“Follow me, my lads! The beam will bear.”
Immediately five other bold and active men who had accompanied him got astride upon the beam, and with the help of their hands reached the other end one by one. When the first of them arrived in the garret whither Antony Mauprat had fled, he found him grappling with Marcasse, who, quite carried away by his triumph and forgetting that it was not a question of killing an enemy but of capturing him, set about lunging at him with his long rapier as if he had been a weasel. But the sham Trappist was a formidable enemy. He had snatched the sword from the sergeant’s hands, hurled him to the ground, and would have strangled him had not a gendarme thrown himself on him from behind. With his prodigious strength he held his own against the first three assailants; but, with the help of the other two, they succeeded in overcoming him. When he saw that he was caught he made no further resistance and let his hands be bound together. They brought him down the stairs, which were found to lead to the bottom of a dry well in the middle of the tower. Antony was in the habit of leaving and entering by means of a ladder which the farmer’s wife held for him and immediately afterwards withdrew. In a transport of delight I threw myself into my sergeant’s arms.
“A mere trifle,” he said; “enjoyed it. I found that my foot was still sure and my head cool. Ha! ha! old sergeant,” he added, looking at his leg, “old hidalgo, old mole-catcher, after this they won’t make so many jokes about your calves!”
If Anthony Mauprat had been a man of mettle he might have done me a bad turn by declaring that he had been a witness of my attempt to assassinate Edmee. As he had reasons for hiding himself before this last crime, he could have explained why he had kept out of sight, and why he had been silent about the occurrences at Gazeau Tower. I had nothing in my favour except Patience’s evidence. Would this have been sufficient to procure my acquittal? The evidence of so many others was against me, even that given by my friends, and by Edmee, who could not deny my violent temper and the possibility of such a crime.
But Antony, in words the most insolent of all the “Hamstringers,” was the most cowardly in deeds. He no sooner found himself in the hands of justice than he confessed everything, even before knowing that his brother had thrown him over.