The Overwhelming Odds
At half-past ten that same evening, Blakeney, still clad in a workman's tattered
clothes, his feet Bare so that he could tread the streets unheard, turned into the
Rue de la Croix Blanche.
The porte-cochere of the house where Armand lodged had been left on the latch;
not a soul was in sight. Peering cautiously round, he slipped into the house. On
the ledge of the window, immediately on his left when he entered, a candle was
left burning, and beside it there was a scrap of paper with the initials S. P.
roughly traced in pencil. No one challenged him as he noiselessly glided past it,
and up the narrow stairs that led to the upper floor. Here, too, on the second
landing the door on the right had been left on the latch. He pushed it open and
As is usual even in the meanest lodgings in Paris houses, a small antechamber
gave between the front door and the main room. When Percy entered the
antechamber was unlighted, but the door into the inner room beyond was ajar.
Blakeney approached it with noiseless tread, and gently pushed it open.
That very instant he knew that the game was up; he heard the footsteps closing
up behind him, saw Armand, deathly pale, leaning against the wall in the room in
front of him, and Chauvelin and Heron standing guard over him.
The next moment the room and the antechamber were literally alive with
soldiers--twenty of them to arrest one man.
It was characteristic of that man that when hands were laid on him from every
side he threw back his head and laughed--laughed mirthfully, light-heartedly, and
the first words that escaped his lips were:
"Well, I am d--d!"
"The odds are against you, Sir Percy," said Chauvelin to him in English, whilst
Heron at the further end of the room was growling like a contented beast.
"By the Lord, sir," said Percy with perfect sang-froid, "I do believe that for the
moment they are."
"Have done, my men--have done!" he added, turning good-humouredly to the
soldiers round him. "I never fight against overwhelming odds. Twenty to one, eh?
I could lay four of you out easily enough, perhaps even six, but what then?"
But a kind of savage lust seemed to have rendered these men temporarily mad,
and they were being egged on by Heron. The mysterious Englishman, about
whom so many eerie tales were told! Well, he had supernatural powers, and
twenty to one might be nothing to him if the devil was on his side. Therefore a
blow on his forearm with the butt-end of a bayonet was useful for disabling his
right hand, and soon the left arm with a dislocated shoulder hung limp by his
side. Then he was bound with cords.
The vein of luck had given out. The gambler had staked more than usual and had
lost; but he knew how to lose, just as he had always known how to win.
"Those d--d brutes are trussing me like a fowl," he murmured with irrepressible
gaiety at the last.