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from what you say,
suppose that I thought him less honest than he professes to be—though, when
you find a miller any thing but a scoundrel, it ought to be written on the door of the parish church. But, although I guessed that the men we found there were no better than himself, I had no idea they were those forçats. Binoche,” he continued, musing ; " that's the very man who was concerned in the robbery and murder in the Rue Blanche, when the marquis lived in the Chaussée d’Antin, and only escaped with his life by a mere accident. He was sentenced to the galleys three years ago, and got away from the bague at Toulon. And Durastel, his companion, who used to be celebrated for his vols à l'Américaine, he, too, has been’on the chain, if I mistake not. At any rate, they are two desperate fellows, and,
is necessary we should be prepared for them, as I have no doubt they think my purse is worth having. It was well I hid my pistols. Let me think what is best for us to do ?” He considered for a minute or two, and then resumed :
“I don't want to saddle you with the heaviest weight, Adrien, but I have never had any proof of your skill as a marksman, so I fear I cannot trust
you with that part of my project. Did you ever make any use of fire-arms?"
Never, except to shoot at the birds that came to pick the fruit in Pierre Bruneau's garden at Bourg la Reine.” " Ah, that won't do. Well; do
think you have courage to lie down on that bed alone?"
“I'm only afraid, if I do, that I shall fall asleep.”
“So much the better ; you will have less reason for being nervous, provided you
up when I want you, though there is not much fear of that ; the only thing necessary is to be cool and collected when
do wake. This, then is what I propose.
You shall go to bed, half undressed, keeping your boots on, for you will want them as soon as you open your eyes ; pull the clothes up and lie on the side nearest the door. This sack of flour,” he continued, giving a kick to one as he spoke, "shall lie on the bed beside you, close to the wall, with my jacket thrown over the upper part ; no one who comes into this gloomy room by candlelight will be able to distinguish it from myself: the ruffians down stairs, if they come, and I have no doubt of it, will hardly be content with money ; they have a habit, as they say, of making things safe, and in all probability will either stab or try to cut throats. They will reckon on finding us fast asleep, and the first thing they do will be to use the knife. I shall be their first victim, for they will expect to silence you easily, when the
Can you lie still, do you think, with a fellow leaning over you with a knife close to your throat ?" “ It's a ticklish position," I answered, “but I'll do my
At all events, I won't cry out till I'm hurt. But where will you be all the while ?"
“ In this corner,” replied Bobèche,“ directly opposite, behind the sacks. These instruments,” drawing out the pistols and laying them on the table, "carry true at thirty yards, and I never yet missed a five-franc piece at that distance ; judge, then, if a man's head has much chance at less than ten paces! No matter how many come,—though there cannot be more than three,-the confusion caused by the first shot will save you, the second will bring down another man, and it's hard if you and I together can't manage the third. If I could depend upon your shooting Adrien, I would take your place and let you pop at them, but you would
be as likely to hit me as any one else, and besides, I should be at a disadvantage on the bed, so, if you don't particularly object, I recommend the plan I have suggested.
“With all my heart," I exclaimed ; “let me help you with that sack.”
But Bobèche had already swung it over his broad shoulders, and treading as lightly as if he had been carrying a feather pillow and wore felt slippers, bore it across to the bed and laid it at full length, drawing up the clothes and arranging his jacket round the upper part to resemble himself.
I was, boy-like, so much amused at the idea of the trick, that I quite forgot the serious consequences that might ensue if things did not turn out as we expected.
“He is not a man of straw,” said I, laughing, and pointing at the figure.
“No,-he'll throw dust in their eyes who have any thing to do with him,” replied Bobèche, in the same light vein. “ But come, Adrien, each to our several places.”
Bobèche then withdrew behind a barricade of sacks, knelt down, so as by stooping to lower his head beneath their level, cocked his pistols, and placed them ready to his hand.
I pulled off my blouse, extinguished the light, and got into bed.
“ T'irez juste, Bobèche,” said I, as I made myself up into as small a compass as I could.
“N'aies pas peur, mon enfant," returned my friend, "je l'abattrai, au moins qu'il ne soit pas
invisible.” These were the last words spoken, but even if we had been disposed for conversation the noise of the storm, which still broke over our heads, though the height of its fury perhaps had passed, would have made it difficult to keep it up across
I therefore tried to compose myself to rest, if not to sleep, for I confess, now that all was dark and nothing seemed alive but the tempest and evil-doers, some uncomfortable sensations began to creep over me. Bobèche's programme, however probable, thought I, may not be carried out to the letter, these gentlemen have not been consulted on the subject and may take a fancy to murder me first. This idea made my blood curdle, and more than once I was on the point of getting out of bed and concealing myself under it, but a nobler spirit struggled with and overcame this coward feeling, and I made up my mind not to stir hand or foot until Bobèche had given the fatal signal. I was also partly reconciled to the situation by the ridiculous idea of the assassination of a sack of flour instead of a human being, and could hardly refrain from laughter at the thought. But neither fear nor mirth, nor the elemental strife, retained their influence over me long; in the midst of my cogitations I fell asleep. For a knowledge of what followed up to the time when I was awakened by the sharp report of a pistol, I was indebted to Bobèche, who gave it in these words:“ After
gone to sleep-for in the intervals of the storm I could hear you spore, and no wonder after so long a ride— I remained an hour or more, as nearly as I could guess, listening for any noise that might give me warning of the approach of the forçats. The wind and the thunder continued at first to shake the old mill and make it groan in all its timbers, and at times the door seemed to yield to a sudden shock; but nothing followed these crashes, and gradually they began to pass away, the rage of the tempest having spent itself; the flashes of
lightning became less frequent, and then altogether ceased, the driving rain left off beating against the casement, and the rush of the mill-stream was the only sound that disturbed the silence of the night. Every thing being quiet so long I began to fancy that we had libelled our late companions and felt half ashamed at being nailed to the floor behind a flour sack instead of enjoying myself comfortably as you were in bed. “However,' said, I, 'it's better to lose one's rest than one's life, and if our suspicions are groundless no one but ourselves will be the wiser. Those gentlemen below do not look like lambs, and if we have mistaken them for wolves, after all, there's go great harm done.' Talk of the devil-you know what follows. I had scarcely made the comparison, when I heard something very like the creaking of a door. I put my ear to the floor and held my breath that no sound should escape me, and this old mill has been built so long that it echoes to every vibration. I was not deceived ; there were footsteps on the staircase, and they drew nearer and nearer till they reached the landing-place outside, and I saw a light gleam through the crevices of the door. Then there was a pause— broken at last by a whisper, and the wooden latch was gently lifted, the light being shrouded while the visitors once more paused and listened. Then they whispered again, and this time I could hear what they said.
you think they are asleep ?' asked one. «« Sound,' replied another, don't you hear them snore ?' 66. Whereabouts the bed ?' “To the right. Raise the lantern and tread softly.' “The position of the light was now shifted, and its rays
streamed across the
room, the spot where I was concealed being buried in deep shadow. A figure advanced, but I could not discern his features, as the one who guided him behind held the lantern over his head ; his
shoulders and long arms, however, enabled me to identify the marchand de bestiaux. He who followed was his comrade Durastal, the sinister smile on his lips and a deadly expression in his eye. Their hats and handkerchiefs were thrown aside and their bare cropped heads, no longer disguised beneath wigs, showed plainly enough that they had been subjected very recently to prison discipline. With stealthy steps they both entered the room, their accomplice Vidal remaining below, I suppose, to guard that entrance in case of need. •Entrez, Messieurs,' said I to myself, vous ne sortirez pas aussi lestement,' and fixing my eye on the marchand de beufs, I slowly raised my weapon.
Bending himself nearly double, his arms outstretched, and a long knife, such as charcutiers use, clutched in one hand, Binoche crept towards the bed. Once he turned his head, and in a hoarse whisper said,
Lequel ? « « Le gros,' was the quick reply.
“At the word he took the last stride, poised his body with his left hand resting on the bedstead, and raising his right arm till I caught the glitter on the blade, buried his knife deep in what he thought my prostrate body. A dull sound followed the blow, and he drew himself back to strike a second time, but the light which till then had trembled in Durastel's hand now alone shone steadily upon the assassin. I covered him carefully, drew the trigger, and as quickly almost as the report was heard, a ball struck him between the shoulders and he fell dead across the bed ; the blood which gushed from his mouth staining the sack on which he dropped his head. The consternation of Durastel was, for the moment,
upon me, and
excessive ; he turned suddenly and gazed in the direction in which I stood, and I then saw that he, too, was armed with a knife. He made a movement as if about to spring towards me, but seeing me lift my.
hand, and judging probably that it held the fellow pistol to that which had silenced his friend, he checked himself, uttered a tremendous curse, and with the quickness of thought darted through the open doorway, and threw himself rather than rushed down the staircase. How he got to the bottom, God only knows, for I had hastened to the bed, fearing after all, that the ruffian's knife might have reached you.
like brave fellow, crushed beneath the heavy weight of Binoche and struggling to rise. The rest
know." I was dreaming of the storm at the moment this catastrophe occurred, and imagined that a thunderbolt had struck the mill, which fell with a loud crash, burying me in its ruins, and in the first instance I could scarcely persuade myself that my dream was not true, so ponderous was the weight that lay upon my chest. But the truth
then strove to disembarrass myself of the dead body, and Bobèche came to my assistance.
“Here, Adrien,” he said, “ take this," and he thrust the pistol he had discharged into my hand, - hold it by the muzzle, and strike boldly with the butt end at the head of any man you meet.
Now follow me, we must prevent the fellows from making off with our horses; the daylight is breaking, we have no time to lose.”
In spite of the noise which we made in descending, I could hear an angry discussion below. “ Sacré sang," cried a voice, that of Durastel,“on a vidé les four
En avez-vous d'autres pistolets?" “ Pas du tout,” was the reply. “ Animal !” returned the other, “ vîte, barrez la porte."
And before we could reach the bottom of the staircase a heavy bar was thrust into the staples, and although Bobèche dashed against it with all his might it firmly resisted his efforts. Again and again he tried it, but in vain.
Sacredi,” he cried, “while we are kept here the rascals will be off. Stay, I know a remedy.”
As light of foot as a deer, Bobèche turned and rushed up stairs, I instinctively followed him, but before I had gained the first landing he had descended from the upper room, dragging with him the bed-clothes, wet with the blood of Binoche. Without stopping to open the door on the first flight, Bobèche put his foot against it and it flew open ;
the contained the miller's stores, at this season limited to a few heaps of onions and potatoes and some strings of dried herbs. Bobèche strode across to the window, dashed it open with a blow of his fist, thrust his head out and looked about him, and then making fast one end of the strong coarse sheet, which he trailed after him to the upright iron stanchion that divided the casement, he desired me to knot the other to the remaining sheet.
As soon as it was ready he tried its strength beneath his feet, and then threw the loose end out of the window.
“Now follow me, Adrien,” he cried, " and mind your footing; there's very little room between the wall and the river."
He was out of the casement like a cat, and had reached the bottom, some twenty feet below, by the time my foot was on the window-sill. I thrust the pistol which he had given me into the waistband of my breeches,
and hastily slid down to where he stood. It was a delicate manoeuvre, for the ledge on which we had dropped was only a few inches wide, and to steady ourselves we had to cling to the wall
, the mill-race whirling beneath and threatening to engulf us at the first false step. There was light enough to see
the ledge, but a slow movement would have been certain destruction. The only chance we had of keeping our balance and escaping being drowned was by a rapid rush along the narrow coping towards the bank of the stream. Bobèche cleared it in three strides and stood on terra firma. I kept my footing till the last step, but treading where the angle of a stone bad been broken off, I was jerked off obliquely, missed the bank with my feet, and fell against it heavily on my hands and knees. But the hold I had was too slight, and the soil too slippery to support me, so that if Bobèche had not grasped me by the arm I should have been carried away like a dried leaf by the foaming waters. Luckily his strong hand held me fast, and j'étais quitte pour la peur.
We now hurried round to the stables by the same route which we had taken the night before, and found, to our surprise, that our horses were still there.
“Les gredins," said Bobèche; "they have taken to the boat, that they might put the waters between us. That's a sign that they must be out a
In half an hour we shall see better what to do. Meantime, let us search the place."
Père Goupi was nowhere to be seen ; but in a kind of cell of the the kitchen, with barely enough room in it for a person to lie down, on a flock bed, and covered with a single blanket, was stretched the fair form of Justine, the maritormes of the mill. She was dead asleep, and it was with some difficulty we roused her. up, Justine,” said Bobèche;
we want some breakfast." “Mon Dieu!” yawned the girl, sitting up, and rubbing her eyes ; "it's very early, Monsieur Duval.” Early or late, you must rise. Your master has
out." “Oh, ciel !" cried Justine ; “strangers! Retire, gentlemen, till I have made
in an instant. With a celerity which Aurora might have envied, but with less of freshness, perhaps, than belongs to the goddess of morn, the damsel kept her word, and followed us into the kitchen.
THE RAJAH OF SARAWAK AND LEBUAN.
By Thomas Roscoe, Esq.
Thine advent beams on us as some strange star,