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The Secret of the Night

14. The Marshes
They ascertained the next day that there had been two explosions, almost simultaneous,
one under each staircase. The two Nihilists, when they felt themselves discovered, and
watched by Ermolai, had thrown themselves silently on him as he turned his back in
passing them, and strangled him with a piece of twine. Then they separated each to watch
one of the staircases, reasoning that Koupriane and General Trebassof would have to
decide to descend.
The datcha des Iles was nothing now but a smoking ruin. But from the fact that the living
bombs had exploded separately the destructive effect was diffused, and although there
were numerous wounded, as in the case of the attack on the Stolypine datcha, at least no
one was killed outright; that is, excepting the two Nihilists, of whom no trace could be
found save a few rags.
Rouletabille had been hurled into the garden and he was glad enough to escape so, a little
shaken, but without a scratch. The group composed of Feodor and his friends were
strangely protected by the lightness of the datcha's construction. The iron staircase,
which, so to speak, almost hung to the two floors, being barely attached at top and
bottom, raised under them and then threw them off as it broke into a thousand pieces, but
only after, by its very yielding, it had protected them from the first force of the bomb.
They had risen from the ruins without mortal wounds. Koupriane had a hand badly
burned, Athanase Georgevitch had his nose and cheeks seriously hurt, Ivan Petrovitch
lost an ear; the most seriously injured was Thaddeus Tchitchnikoff, both of whose legs
were broken. Extraordinarily enough, the first person who appeared, rising from the
midst of the wreckage, was Matrena Petrovna, still holding Feodor in her arms. She had
escaped with a few burns and the general, saved again by the luck of the soldier whom
Death does not want, was absolutely uninjured. Feodor gave shouts of joy. They strove to
quiet him, because, after all, around him some poor wretches had been badly hurt, as well
as poor Ermolai, who lay there dead. The domestics in the basement had been more
seriously wounded and burned because the main force of the explosion had gone
downwards; which had probably saved the personages above.
Rouletabille had been taken with the other victims to a neighboring datcha; but as soon as
he had shaken himself free of that terrible nightmare he escaped from the place. He really
regretted that he was not dead. These successive waves of events had swamped him; and
he accused himself alone of all this disaster. With acutest anxiety he had inquired about
the condition of each of "his victims." Feodor had not been wounded, but now he was
almost delirious, asking every other minute as the hours crept on for Natacha, who had
not reappeared. That unhappy girl Rouletabille had steadily believed innocent. Was she a
culprit? "Ah, if she had only chosen to! If she had had confidence," he cried, raising
anguished hands towards heaven, "none of all this need have happened. No one would
have attacked and no one would ever again attack the life of Trebassof. For I was not
wrong in claiming before Koupriane that the general's life was in my hand, and I had the
right to say to him, 'Life for life! Give me Matiew's and I will give you the general's.' And
 
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