In this darkness through which the torch almost extinguished, faintly gleamed, Radoub, sword in hand on the threshold, repeated his question.
"I am alone. How many are you?"
Hearing nothing, he went forward. One of those jets of light occasionally given forth by a dying fire, and which might be called sobs of light, flashed from the torch and lighted up the whole hall.
Radoub caught sight of one of those little mirrors fastened to the wall, went towards it, looked at his bloodstained face and hanging ear, and said,—
"What a hideous mutilation."
Then he turned round, astounded to see the hall empty.
"There is nobody here," he exclaimed. " The effective force is zero."
He noticed the turned stone, the opening in the staircase.
"Ah! I see. The key to the fields. Come on, men, all of you! Comrades, come on! they are all gone. They have vanished, melted away, slunk away, decamped. This jug of an old tower was cracked. Here is the hole through which they escaped, the rascals! how can one expect to get the better of Pitt and Cobourg with such trickery as this! the devil himself came to their aid! There is no one here at all!"
Just then a pistol was fired, a bullet grazed his elbow and was flattened against the wall.
"But there is some one here, after all. Who was so kind as to be so polite to me?"
"I was," said a voice.
Radoub looked around and made out something in the dim light which proved to be l'Imânus.
"Ah!" he exclaimed. "I have one of them. The others have escaped, but you will not escape."
"Do you think so? " replied l'Imânus.
Radoub took a step and stopped.
"Hallo, you man on the floor, who are you?"
"I am one who is down and who laughs at those who are on their feet."
"What is that in your right hand?"
"And in your left hand?"