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Chapter 6 The Col of the Swallows

  • He pointed to the slip on the table.
  • 'You have seen the orders?'
  • I nodded.
  • '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.'
  • 'Food?'
  • '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.