The two champions being alike armed with quarter-staves, stepped forward into the centre of the open space, in order to have the full benefit of the moonlight; the thieves in the meantime laughing, and crying to their comrade, ``Miller!
When they arrived on the open heath, where Gurth might have had some trouble in finding his road, the thieves guided him straight forward to the top of a little eminence, whence he could see, spread beneath him in the moonlight, the palisades of the lists, the glimmering pavilions pitched at either end, with the pennons which adorned them fluttering in the moonbeams, and from which could be heard the hum of the song with which the sentinels were beguiling their night-watch.
"I am the King of Thieves, and I welcome you all to my summer palace."
"This pretty little nest where we are all picnicking," went on the courier-brigand, with the same easy yet sinister smile, "is, together with some caves underneath it, known by the name of the Paradise of Thieves. It is my principal stronghold on these hills; for (as you have doubtless noticed) the eyrie is invisible both from the road above and from the valley below.
The King of Thieves was, however, continuing his address with the same kind of dangerous politeness.
I will not conceal from you that the document ends with certain legal phrases about the unpleasant things that may happen if the money is not paid; but meanwhile, ladies and gentlemen, let me assure you that I am comfortably off here for accommodation, wine and cigars, and bid you for the present a sportsman-like welcome to the luxuries of the Paradise of Thieves."
Several thieves detached themselves from the circle, and returned a moment later.
The band of thieves applauded Clopin's words, and arranged themselves in a circle round the gibbet, with a laugh so pitiless that Gringoire perceived that he amused them too much not to have everything to fear from them.
The thieves made him mount the stool, Clopin came to him, passed the rope about his neck, and, tapping him on the shoulder,--
"Are you ready?" said Clopin Trouillefou to the three thieves, who held themselves in readiness to fall upon Gringoire.
'Will you have all that is here?' At this the thieves were frightened, and said, 'Softly, softly!
The thieves ran off as if a wolf was at their tails: and the maid, having groped about and found nothing, went away for a light.