But, as luck would have it, Rateau did not make a single false move. It was amazing with what dexterity he kept Kennard down, even while he contrived to pinion him with cords. An old sailor, probably, he seemed so dexterous with knots.
My God! the humiliation of it all. And Esther a helpless prisoner, inside that house not five paces away! Kennard’s heavy, wearied eyes could perceive the light in her window, five stories above where he lay, in the gutter, a helpless log. Even now he gave a last desperate shriek:
But in a second the abominable brigand’s hand came down heavily upon his mouth, whilst a raucous voice spluttered rather than said, right through an awful fit of coughing:
“Another sound, and I’ll gag as well as bind you, you young fool!”
After which, Kennard remained quite still.
Esther, up in her little attic, knew nothing of what her English lover was even then suffering for her sake. She herself had passed, during the night, through every stage of horror and of fear. Soon after midnight that execrable brigand Rateau had poked his ugly, cadaverous face in at the door and peremptorily called for Lucienne. The woman, more dead than alive now with terror, had answered with mechanical obedience.
“I and my friends are thirsty,” the man had commanded. “Go and fetch us a litre of eau-de-vie.”
Poor Lucienne stammered a pitiable: “Where shall I go?”
“To the house at the sign of ‘Le fort Samson,’ in the Rue de Seine,” replied Rateau curtly. “They’ll serve you well if you mention my name.”
Of course Lucienne protested. She was a decent woman, who had never been inside a cabaret in her life.
“Then it’s time you began,” was Rateau’s dry comment, which was greeted with much laughter from his abominable companions.
Lucienne was forced to go. It would, of course, have been futile and madness to resist. This had occurred three hours since. The Rue de Seine was not far, but the poor woman had not returned. Esther was left with this additional horror weighing upon her soul. What had happened to her unfortunate servant? Visions of outrage and murder floated before the poor girl’s tortured brain. At best, Lucienne was being kept out of the way in order to make her—Esther—feel more lonely and desperate! She remained at the window after that, watching that light in the house opposite and fingering her prayer-book, the only solace which she had. Her attic was so high up and the street so narrow, that she could not see what went on in the street below. At one time she heard a great to-do outside her door. It seemed as if some of the bloodhounds who were set to watch her had gone, or that others came. She really hardly cared which it was. Then she heard a great commotion coming from the street immediately beneath her: men shouting and laughing, and that awful creature’s rasping cough.