'The long day's work is over. You must rejoice, for your part has been th_ardest, I think. Some day you will tell me about it?'
The man's face was honest and kindly, rather like that of the enginee_audian, whom two years before I had met in Germany. But his eyes fascinate_e, for they were the eyes of the dreamer and fanatic, who would not desis_rom his quest while life lasted. I thought that Ivery had chosen well in hi_olleague.
'My task is not done yet,' I said. 'I came here to see Chelius.'
'He will be back tomorrow evening.'
'Too late. I must see him at once. He has gone to Italy, and I must overtak_im.'
'You know your duty best,' he said gravely.
'But you must help me. I must catch him at Santa Chiara, for it is a busines_f life and death. Is there a car to be had?'
'There is mine. But there is no chauffeur. Chelius took him.'
'I can drive myself and I know the road. But I have no pass to cross th_rontier.'
'That is easily supplied,' he said, smiling.
In one bookcase there was a shelf of dummy books. He unlocked this an_evealed a small cupboard, whence he took a tin dispatch-box. From some paper_e selected one, which seemed to be already signed.
'Name?' he asked.
'Call me Hans Gruber of Brieg,' I said. 'I travel to pick up my master, who i_n the timber trade.'
'And your return?'
'I will come back by my old road,' I said mysteriously; and if he knew what _eant it was more than I did myself.
He completed the paper and handed it to me. 'This will take you through th_rontier posts. And now for the car. The servants will be in bed, for the_ave been preparing for a long journey, but I will myself show it you. Ther_s enough petrol on board to take you to Rome.'
He led me through the hall, unlocked the front door, and we crossed the snow_awn to the garage. The place was empty but for a great car, which bore th_arks of having come from the muddy lowlands. To my joy I saw that it was _aimler, a type with which I was familiar. I lit the lamps, started th_ngine, and ran it out on to the road.
'You will want an overcoat,' he said.
'I never wear them.'
'I have some chocolate. I will breakfast at Santa Chiara.'
'Well, God go with you!'
A minute later I was tearing along the lake-side towards St Anton village.
* * * * *
I stopped at the cottage on the hill. Peter was not yet in bed. I found hi_itting by the fire, trying to read, but I saw by his face that he had bee_aiting anxiously on my coming.
'We're in the soup, old man,' I said as I shut the door. In a dozen sentence_ told him of the night's doings, of Ivery's plan and my desperate errand.
'You wanted a share,' I cried. 'Well, everything depends on you now. I'm of_fter Ivery, and God knows what will happen. Meantime, you have got to get o_o Blenkiron, and tell him what I've told you. He must get the news through t_.H.Q. somehow. He must trap the Wild Birds before they go. I don't know how, but he must. Tell him it's all up to him and you, for I'm out of it. I mus_ave Mary, and if God's willing I'll settle with Ivery. But the big job is fo_lenkiron—and you. Somehow he has made a bad break, and the enemy has go_head of him. He must sweat blood to make up. My God, Peter, it's th_olemnest moment of our lives. I don't see any light, but we mustn't miss an_hances. I'm leaving it all to you.'
I spoke like a man in a fever, for after what I had been through I wasn'_uite sane. My coolness in the Pink Chalet had given place to a craz_estlessness. I can see Peter yet, standing in the ring of lamplight, supporting himself by a chair back, wrinkling his brows and, as he always di_n moments of excitement, scratching gently the tip of his left ear. His fac_as happy.
'Never fear, Dick,' he said. 'It will all come right. Ons sal 'n plan maak.'
And then, still possessed with a demon of disquiet, I was on the road again, heading for the pass that led to Italy.
The mist had gone from the sky, and the stars were shining brightly. The moon, now at the end of its first quarter, was setting in a gap of the mountains, a_ climbed the low col from the St Anton valley to the greater Staubthal. Ther_as frost and the hard snow crackled under my wheels, but there was also tha_eel in the air which preludes storm. I wondered if I should run into snow i_he high hills. The whole land was deep in peace. There was not a light in th_amlets I passed through, not a soul on the highway.
In the Staubthal I joined the main road and swung to the left up the narrowin_ed of the valley. The road was in noble condition, and the car was runnin_inely, as I mounted through forests of snowy Pines to a land where th_ountains crept close together, and the highway coiled round the angles o_reat crags or skirted perilously some profound gorge, with only a line o_ooden posts to defend it from the void. In places the snow stood in walls o_ither side, where the road was kept open by man's labour. In other parts i_ay thin, and in the dim light one might have fancied that one was runnin_hrough open meadowlands.
Slowly my head was getting clearer, and I was able to look round my problem. _anished from my mind the situation I had left behind me. Blenkiron must cop_ith that as best he could. It lay with him to deal with the Wild Birds, m_ob was with Ivery alone. Sometime in the early morning he would reach Sant_hiara, and there he would find Mary. Beyond that my imagination coul_orecast nothing. She would be alone—I could trust his cleverness for that; h_ould try to force her to come with him, or he might persuade her with som_ying story. Well, please God, I should come in for the tail end of th_nterview, and at the thought I cursed the steep gradients I was climbing, an_onged for some magic to lift the Daimler beyond the summit and set it racin_own the slope towards Italy.
I think it was about half-past three when I saw the lights of the frontie_ost. The air seemed milder than in the valleys, and there was a soft scurr_f snow on my right cheek. A couple of sleepy Swiss sentries with their rifle_n their hands stumbled out as I drew up.
They took my pass into the hut and gave me an anxious quarter of an hour whil_hey examined it. The performance was repeated fifty yards on at the Italia_ost, where to my alarm the sentries were inclined to conversation. I playe_he part of the sulky servant, answering in monosyllables and pretending t_mmense stupidity.
'You are only just in time, friend,' said one in German. 'The weather grow_ad and soon the pass will close. Ugh, it is as cold as last winter on th_onale. You remember, Giuseppe?'
But in the end they let me move on. For a little I felt my way gingerly, fo_n the summit the road had many twists and the snow was confusing to the eyes.
Presently came a sharp drop and I let the Daimler go. It grew colder, and _hivered a little; the snow became a wet white fog around the glowing arc o_he headlights; and always the road fell, now in long curves, now in stee_hort dips, till I was aware of a glen opening towards the south. From lon_iving in the wilds I have a kind of sense for landscape without the testimon_f the eyes, and I knew where the ravine narrowed or widened though it wa_lack darkness.
In spite of my restlessness I had to go slowly, for after the first rus_ownhill I realized that, unless I was careful, I might wreck the car an_poil everything. The surface of the road on the southern slope of th_ountains was a thousand per cent worse than that on the other. I skidded an_ide-slipped, and once grazed the edge of the gorge. It was far more maddenin_han the climb up, for then it had been a straight-forward grind with th_aimler doing its utmost, whereas now I had to hold her back because of my ow_ack of skill. I reckon that time crawling down from the summit of the Stau_s some of the weariest hours I ever spent.
Quite suddenly I ran out of the ill weather into a different climate. The sk_as clear above me, and I saw that dawn was very near. The first pinewood_ere beginning, and at last came a straight slope where I could let the ca_ut. I began to recover my spirits, which had been very dashed, and to recko_he distance I had still to travel … And then, without warning, a new worl_prang up around me. Out of the blue dusk white shapes rose like ghosts, peak_nd needles and domes of ice, their bases fading mistily into shadow, but th_ops kindling till they glowed like jewels. I had never seen such a sight, an_he wonder of it for a moment drove anxiety from my heart. More, it gave me a_arnest of victory. I was in clear air once more, and surely in this diamon_ther the foul things which loved the dark must be worsted …
And then I saw, a mile ahead, the little square red-roofed building which _new to be the inn of Santa Chiara.
It was here that misfortune met me. I had grown careless now, and looke_ather at the house than the road. At one point the hillside had slippe_own—it must have been recent, for the road was well kept—and I did not notic_he landslide till I was on it. I slewed to the right, took too wide a curve, and before I knew the car was over the far edge. I slapped on the brakes, bu_o avoid turning turtle I had to leave the road altogether. I slithered down _teep bank into a meadow, where for my sins I ran into a fallen tree trun_ith a jar that shook me out of my seat and nearly broke my arm. Before _xamined the car I knew what had happened. The front axle was bent, and th_ff front wheel badly buckled.
I had not time to curse my stupidity. I clambered back to the road and set of_unning down it at my best speed. I was mortally stiff, for Ivery's rack wa_ot good for the joints, but I realized it only as a drag on my pace, not a_n affliction in itself. My whole mind was set on the house before me and wha_ight be happening there.
There was a man at the door of the inn, who, when he caught sight of m_igure, began to move to meet me. I saw that it was Launcelot Wake, and th_ight gave me hope.
But his face frightened me. It was drawn and haggard like one who neve_leeps, and his eyes were hot coals.
'Hannay,' he cried, 'for God's sake what does it mean?'
'Where is Mary?' I gasped, and I remember I clutched at a lapel of his coat.
He pulled me to the low stone wall by the roadside.
'I don't know,' he said hoarsely. 'We got your orders to come here thi_orning. We were at Chiavagno, where Blenkiron told us to wait. But last nigh_ary disappeared … I found she had hired a carriage and come on ahead. _ollowed at once, and reached here an hour ago to find her gone … The woma_ho keeps the place is away and there are only two old servants left. The_ell me that Mary came here late, and that very early in the morning a close_ar came over the Staub with a man in it. They say he asked to see the youn_ady, and that they talked together for some time, and that then she went of_ith him in the car down the valley … I must have passed it on my way up … There's been some black devilment that I can't follow. Who was the man? Wh_as the man?'
He looked as if he wanted to throttle me.
'I can tell you that,' I said. 'It was Ivery.'
He stared for a second as if he didn't understand. Then he leaped to his fee_nd cursed like a trooper. 'You've botched it, as I knew you would. I knew n_ood would come of your infernal subtleties.' And he consigned me an_lenkiron and the British army and Ivery and everybody else to the devil.
I was past being angry. 'Sit down, man,' I said, 'and listen to me.' I tol_im of what had happened at the Pink Chalet. He heard me out with his head i_is hands. The thing was too bad for cursing.
'The Underground Railway!' he groaned. 'The thought of it drives me mad. Wh_re you so calm, Hannay? She's in the hands of the cleverest devil in th_orld, and you take it quietly. You should be a raving lunatic.'
'I would be if it were any use, but I did all my raving last night in that de_f Ivery's. We've got to pull ourselves together, Wake. First of all, I trus_ary to the other side of eternity. She went with him of her own free will. _on't know why, but she must have had a reason, and be sure it was a good one, for she's far cleverer than you or me … We've got to follow her somehow.
Ivery's bound for Germany, but his route is by the Pink Chalet, for he hope_o pick me up there. He went down the valley; therefore he is going t_witzerland by the Marjolana. That is a long circuit and will take him most o_he day. Why he chose that way I don't know, but there it is. We've got to ge_ack by the Staub.'
'How did you come?' he asked.
'That's our damnable luck. I came in a first-class six-cylinder Daimler, whic_s now lying a wreck in a meadow a mile up the road. We've got to foot it.'
'We can't do it. It would take too long. Besides, there's the frontier t_ass.'
I remembered ruefully that I might have got a return passport from th_ortuguese Jew, if I had thought of anything at the time beyond getting t_anta Chiara.
'Then we must make a circuit by the hillside and dodge the guards. It's no us_aking difficulties, Wake. We're fairly up against it, but we've got to go o_rying till we drop. Otherwise I'll take your advice and go mad.'
'And supposing you get back to St Anton, you'll find the house shut up and th_ravellers gone hours before by the Underground Railway.'
'Very likely. But, man, there's always the glimmering of a chance. It's n_ood chucking in your hand till the game's out.'
'Drop your proverbial philosophy, Mr Martin Tupper, and look up there.'
He had one foot on the wall and was staring at a cleft in the snow-line acros_he valley. The shoulder of a high peak dropped sharply to a kind of nick an_ose again in a long graceful curve of snow. All below the nick was still i_eep shadow, but from the configuration of the slopes I judged that _ributary glacier ran from it to the main glacier at the river head.
'That's the Colle delle Rondini,' he said, 'the Col of the Swallows. It lead_traight to the Staubthal near Grunewald. On a good day I have done it i_even hours, but it's not a pass for winter-time. It has been done of course, but not often… . Yet, if the weather held, it might go even now, and tha_ould bring us to St Anton by the evening. I wonder'—and he looked me ove_ith an appraising eye—'I wonder if you're up to it.'
My stiffness had gone and I burned to set my restlessness to physical toil.
'If you can do it, I can,' I said.
'No. There you're wrong. You're a hefty fellow, but you're no mountaineer, an_he ice of the Colle delle Rondini needs knowledge. It would be insane to ris_t with a novice, if there were any other way. But I'm damned if I see any, and I'm going to chance it. We can get a rope and axes in the inn. Are yo_ame?'
'Right you are. Seven hours, you say. We've got to do it in six.'
'You will be humbler when you get on the ice,' he said grimly. 'We'd bette_reakfast, for the Lord knows when we shall see food again.'
We left the inn at five minutes to nine, with the sky cloudless and a stif_ind from the north-west, which we felt even in the deep-cut valley. Wak_alked with a long, slow stride that tried my patience. I wanted to hustle, but he bade me keep in step. 'You take your orders from me, for I've been a_his job before. Discipline in the ranks, remember.'
We crossed the river gorge by a plank bridge, and worked our way up the righ_ank, past the moraine, to the snout of the glacier. It was bad going, for th_now concealed the boulders, and I often floundered in holes. Wake neve_elaxed his stride, but now and then he stopped to sniff the air.
I observed that the weather looked good, and he differed. 'It's too clear.
There'll be a full-blown gale on the Col and most likely snow in th_fternoon.' He pointed to a fat yellow cloud that was beginning to bulge ove_he nearest peak. After that I thought he lengthened his stride.
'Lucky I had these boots resoled and nailed at Chiavagno,' was the only othe_emark he made till we had passed the seracs of the main glacier and turned u_he lesser ice-stream from the Colle delle Rondini.
By half-past ten we were near its head, and I could see clearly the ribbon o_ure ice between black crags too steep for snow to lie on, which was the mean_f ascent to the Col. The sky had clouded over, and ugly streamers floated o_he high slopes. We tied on the rope at the foot of the bergschrund, which wa_asy to pass because of the winter's snow. Wake led, of course, and presentl_e came on to the icefall.
In my time I had done a lot of scrambling on rocks and used to promise mysel_ season in the Alps to test myself on the big peaks. If I ever go it will b_o climb the honest rock towers around Chamonix, for I won't have anything t_o with snow mountains. That day on the Colle delle Rondini fairly sickened m_f ice. I daresay I might have liked it if I had done it in a holiday mood, a_eisure and in good spirits. But to crawl up that couloir with a sick hear_nd a desperate impulse to hurry was the worst sort of nightmare. The plac_as as steep as a wall of smooth black ice that seemed hard as granite. Wak_id the step-cutting, and I admired him enormously. He did not seem to us_uch force, but every step was hewn cleanly the right size, and they wer_paced the right distance. In this job he was the true professional. I wa_hankful Blenkiron was not with us, for the thing would have given a squirre_ertigo. The chips of ice slithered between my legs and I could watch the_ill they brought up just above the bergschrund.
The ice was in shadow and it was bitterly cold. As we crawled up I had not th_xercise of using the axe to warm me, and I got very numb standing on one le_aiting for the next step. Worse still, my legs began to cramp. I was in goo_ondition, but that time under Ivery's rack had played the mischief with m_imbs. Muscles got out of place in my calves and stood in aching lumps, till _lmost squealed with the pain of it. I was mortally afraid I should slip, an_very time I moved I called out to Wake to warn him. He saw what was happenin_nd got the pick of his axe fixed in the ice before I was allowed to stir. H_poke often to cheer me up, and his voice had none of its harshness. He wa_ike some ill-tempered generals I have known, very gentle in a battle.
At the end the snow began to fall, a soft powder like the overspill of a stor_aging beyond the crest. It was just after that that Wake cried out that i_ive minutes we would be at the summit. He consulted his wrist-watch. 'Joll_ood time, too. Only twenty-five minutes behind my best. It's not on_'clock.'
The next I knew I was lying flat on a pad of snow easing my cramped legs, while Wake shouted in my ear that we were in for something bad. I was aware o_ driving blizzard, but I had no thought of anything but the blessed relie_rom pain. I lay for some minutes on my back with my legs stiff in the air an_he toes turned inwards, while my muscles fell into their proper place.
It was certainly no spot to linger in. We looked down into a trough of drivin_ist, which sometimes swirled aside and showed a knuckle of black rock fa_elow. We ate some chocolate, while Wake shouted in my ear that now we ha_ess step-cutting. He did his best to cheer me, but he could not hide hi_nxiety. Our faces were frosted over like a wedding-cake and the sting of th_ind was like a whiplash on our eyelids.
The first part was easy, down a slope of firm snow where steps were no_eeded. Then came ice again, and we had to cut into it below the fresh surfac_now. This was so laborious that Wake took to the rocks on the right side o_he couloir, where there was some shelter from the main force of the blast. _ound it easier, for I knew something about rocks, but it was difficult enoug_ith every handhold and foothold glazed. Presently we were driven back agai_o the ice, and painfully cut our way through a throat of the ravine where th_ides narrowed. There the wind was terrible, for the narrows made a kind o_unnel, and we descended, plastered against the wall, and scarcely able t_reathe, while the tornado plucked at our bodies as if it would whisk us lik_isps of grass into the abyss.
After that the gorge widened and we had an easier slope, till suddenly w_ound ourselves perched on a great tongue of rock round which the snow ble_ike the froth in a whirlpool. As we stopped for breath, Wake shouted in m_ar that this was the Black Stone.
'The what?' I yelled.
'The Schwarzstein. The Swiss call the pass the Schwarzsteinthor. You can se_t from Grunewald.'
I suppose every man has a tinge of superstition in him. To hear that name i_hat ferocious place gave me a sudden access of confidence. I seemed to se_ll my doings as part of a great predestined plan. Surely it was not fo_othing that the word which had been the key of my first adventure in the lon_ussle should appear in this last phase. I felt new strength in my legs an_ore vigour in my lungs. 'A good omen,' I shouted. 'Wake, old man, we're goin_o win out.'
'The worst is still to come,' he said.
He was right. To get down that tongue of rock to the lower snows of th_ouloir was a job that fairly brought us to the end of our tether. I can fee_et the sour, bleak smell of wet rock and ice and the hard nerve pain tha_acked my forehead. The Kaffirs used to say that there were devils in the hig_erg, and this place was assuredly given over to the powers of the air who ha_o thought of human life. I seemed to be in the world which had endured fro_he eternity before man was dreamed of. There was no mercy in it, and th_lements were pitting their immortal strength against two pigmies who ha_rofaned their sanctuary. I yearned for warmth, for the glow of a fire, for _ree or blade of grass or anything which meant the sheltered homeliness o_ortality. I knew then what the Greeks meant by panic, for I was scared by th_pathy of nature. But the terror gave me a kind of comfort, too. Ivery and hi_oings seemed less formidable. Let me but get out of this cold hell and _ould meet him with a new confidence.
Wake led, for he knew the road and the road wanted knowing. Otherwise h_hould have been last on the rope, for that is the place of the better man i_ descent. I had some horrible moments following on when the rope grew taut, for I had no help from it. We zigzagged down the rock, sometimes driven to th_ce of the adjacent couloirs, sometimes on the outer ridge of the Black Stone, sometimes wriggling down little cracks and over evil boiler-plates. The sno_id not lie on it, but the rock crackled with thin ice or oozed ice water.
Often it was only by the grace of God that I did not fall headlong, and pul_ake out of his hold to the bergschrund far below. I slipped more than once, but always by a miracle recovered myself. To make things worse, Wake wa_iring. I could feel him drag on the rope, and his movements had not th_recision they had had in the morning. He was the mountaineer, and I th_ovice. If he gave out, we should never reach the valley.
The fellow was clear grit all through. When we reached the foot of the toot_nd sat huddled up with our faces away from the wind, I saw that he was on th_dge of fainting. What that effort Must have cost him in the way of resolutio_ou may guess, but he did not fail till the worst was past. His lips wer_olourless, and he was choking with the nausea of fatigue. I found a flask o_randy in his pocket, and a mouthful revived him.
'I'm all out,' he said. 'The road's easier now, and I can direct YOU about th_est … You'd better leave me. I'll only be a drag. I'll come on when I fee_etter.'
'No, you don't, you old fool. You've got me over that infernal iceberg, an_'m going to see you home.'
I rubbed his arms and legs and made him swallow some chocolate. But when h_ot on his feet he was as doddery as an old man. Happily we had an easy cours_own a snow gradient, which we glissaded in very unorthodox style. The swif_otion freshened him up a little, and he was able to put on the brake with hi_xe to prevent us cascading into the bergschrund. We crossed it by a sno_ridge, and started out on the seracs of the Schwarzstein glacier.
I am no mountaineer—not of the snow and ice kind, anyway—but I have a bi_hare of physical strength and I wanted it all now. For those seracs were a_nvention of the devil. To traverse that labyrinth in a blinding snowstorm, with a fainting companion who was too weak to jump the narrowest crevasse, an_ho hung on the rope like lead when there was occasion to use it, was mor_han I could manage. Besides, every step that brought us nearer to the valle_ow increased my eagerness to hurry, and wandering in that maze of clotted ic_as like the nightmare when you stand on the rails with the express coming an_re too weak to climb on the platform. As soon as possible I left the glacie_or the hillside, and though that was laborious enough in all conscience, ye_t enabled me to steer a straight course. Wake never spoke a word. When _ooked at him his face was ashen under a gale which should have made hi_heeks glow, and he kept his eyes half closed. He was staggering on at th_ery limits of his endurance …
By and by we were on the moraine, and after splashing through a dozen littl_lacier streams came on a track which led up the hillside. Wake nodded feebl_hen I asked if this was right. Then to my joy I saw a gnarled pine.
I untied the rope and Wake dropped like a log on the ground. 'Leave me,' h_roaned. 'I'm fairly done. I'll come on later.' And he shut his eyes.
My watch told me that it was after five o'clock.
'Get on my back,' I said. 'I won't part from you till I've found a cottage.
You're a hero. You've brought me over those damned mountains in a blizzard, and that's what no other man in England would have done. Get up.'
He obeyed, for he was too far gone to argue. I tied his wrists together with _andkerchief below my chin, for I wanted my arms to hold up his legs. The rop_nd axes I left in a cache beneath the pine-tree. Then I started trotting dow_he track for the nearest dwelling.
My strength felt inexhaustible and the quicksilver in my bones drove m_orward. The snow was still falling, but the wind was dying down, and afte_he inferno of the pass it was like summer. The road wound over the shale o_he hillside and then into what in spring must have been upland meadows. The_t ran among trees, and far below me on the right I could hear the glacie_iver churning in its gorge' Soon little empty huts appeared, and roug_nclosed paddocks, and presently I came out on a shelf above the stream an_melt the wood-smoke of a human habitation.
I found a middle-aged peasant in the cottage, a guide by profession in summe_nd a woodcutter in winter.
'I have brought my Herr from Santa Chiara,' I said, 'over th_chwarzsteinthor. He is very weary and must sleep.'
I decanted Wake into a chair, and his head nodded on his chest. But his colou_as better.
'You and your Herr are fools,' said the man gruffly, but not unkindly. 'H_ust sleep or he will have a fever. The Schwarzsteinthor in this devil'_eather! Is he English?'
'Yes,' I said, 'like all madmen. But he's a good Herr, and a brav_ountaineer.'
We stripped Wake of his Red Cross uniform, now a collection of sopping rags, and got him between blankets with a huge earthenware bottle of hot water a_is feet. The woodcutter's wife boiled milk, and this, with a little brand_dded, we made him drink. I was quite easy in my mind about him, for I ha_een this condition before. In the morning he would be as stiff as a poker, but recovered.
'Now I'm off for St Anton,' I said. 'I must get there tonight.'
'You are the hardy one,' the man laughed. 'I will show you the quick road t_runewald, where is the railway. With good fortune you may get the las_rain.'
I gave him fifty francs on my Herr's behalf, learned his directions for th_oad, and set off after a draught of goat's milk, munching my last slab o_hocolate. I was still strung up to a mechanical activity, and I ran ever_nch of the three miles to the Staubthal without consciousness of fatigue. _as twenty minutes too soon for the train, and, as I sat on a bench on th_latform, my energy suddenly ebbed away. That is what happens after a grea_xertion. I longed to sleep, and when the train arrived I crawled into _arriage like a man with a stroke. There seemed to be no force left in m_imbs. I realized that I was leg-weary, which is a thing you see sometime_ith horses, but not often with men.
All the journey I lay like a log in a kind of coma, and it was with difficult_hat I recognized my destination, and stumbled out of the train. But I had n_ooner emerged from the station of St Anton than I got my second wind. Muc_now had fallen since yesterday, but it had stopped now, the sky was clear, and the moon was riding. The sight of the familiar place brought back all m_nxieties. The day on the Col of the Swallows was wiped out of my memory, an_ saw only the inn at Santa Chiara, and heard Wake's hoarse voice speaking o_ary. The lights were twinkling from the village below, and on the right I sa_he clump of trees which held the Pink Chalet.
I took a short cut across the fields, avoiding the little town. I ran hard, stumbling often, for though I had got my mental energy back my legs were stil_recarious. The station clock had told me that it was nearly half-past nine.
Soon I was on the high-road, and then at the Chalet gates. I heard as in _ream what seemed to be three shrill blasts on a whistle. Then a big ca_assed me, making for St Anton. For a second I would have hailed it, but i_as past me and away. But I had a conviction that my business lay in th_ouse, for I thought Ivery was there, and Ivery was what mattered.
I marched up the drive with no sort of plan in my head, only a blind rushin_n fate. I remembered dimly that I had still three cartridges in my revolver.
The front door stood open and I entered and tiptoed down the passage to th_oom where I had found the Portuguese Jew. No one hindered me, but it was no_or lack of servants. I had the impression that there were people near me i_he darkness, and I thought I heard German softly spoken. There was someon_head of me, perhaps the speaker, for I could hear careful footsteps. It wa_ery dark, but a ray of light came from below the door of the room. The_ehind me I heard the hall door clang, and the noise of a key turned in it_ock. I had walked straight into a trap and all retreat was cut off.
My mind was beginning to work more clearly, though my purpose was still vague.
I wanted to get at Ivery and I believed that he was somewhere in front of me.
And then I thought of the door which led from the chamber where I had bee_mprisoned. If I could enter that way I would have the advantage of surprise.
I groped on the right-hand side of the passage and found a handle. It opene_pon what seemed to be a dining-room, for there was a faint smell of food.
Again I had the impression of people near, who for some unknown reason did no_olest me. At the far end I found another door, which led to a second room, which I guessed to be adjacent to the library. Beyond it again must lie th_assage from the chamber with the rack. The whole place was as quiet as _hell.
I had guessed right. I was standing in the passage where I had stood the nigh_efore. In front of me was the library, and there was the same chink of ligh_howing. Very softly I turned the handle and opened it a crack …
The first thing that caught my eye was the profile of Ivery. He was lookin_owards the writing-table, where someone was sitting.