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For a long while nothing further happened, although once the ray of
moonlight was cut off, and for an instant Peter thought that he saw a
face at the window. If so, it vanished and returned no more. Now from
behind their heads came faint sounds, like those of stifled breathing,
like those of naked feet; then a slight creaking and scratching in the
wall--a mouse's tooth might have caused it--and suddenly, right in that
ray of moonlight, a cruel-looking knife and a naked arm projected
through the panelling.
The knife flickered for a second over the breast of the sleeping Castell
as though it were a living thing that chose the spot where it would
strike. One second--only one--for the next Peter had drawn himself up,
and with a sweep of the sword which lay unscabbarded at his side, had
shorn that arm off above the elbow, just where it projected from the
"What was that?" asked Castell again, as something fell upon him.
"A snake," answered Peter, "a poisonous snake. Wake up now, and look."
Castell obeyed, staring in silence at the horrible arm which still
clasped the great knife, while from beyond the panelling there came a
stifled groan, then a sound as of a heavy body stumbling away.
"Come," said Peter, "let us be going, unless we would stop here for
ever. That fellow will soon be back to seek his arm."
"Going! How?" asked Castell.
"There seems to be but one road, and that a rough one, through the
window and over the wall," answered Peter. "Ah! there they come; I
thought so." And as he spoke they heard the sound of men scrambling up
They ran to the window-place and looked out, but there seemed to be no
one below, and it was not more than twelve feet from the ground. Peter
helped Castell through it, then, holding his sound arm with both his
own, lowered him as far as he could, and let go. He dropped on to his
feet, fell to the ground, then rose again, unhurt. Peter was about to
follow him when he heard the chair tumble over again, and, looking
round, saw the trap-door open, to fall back with a crash. They had
cut the cord!
The figure of a man holding a knife appeared in the faint light,
followed by the head of another man. Now it was too late for him to get
through the window-place safely; if he attempted it he would be stabbed
in the back. So, grasping his sword with both hands, Peter leapt at that
man, aiming a great stroke at his shadowy mass. It fell upon him
somewhere, for down he went and lay quite still. By now the second man
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