The description being recognized as that of Simoun, the declaration was received as an absurdity and the robber subjected to all kinds of tortures, including the electric machine, for his impious blasphemy. But news of the disappearance of the jeweler having attracted the attention of the whole Escolta, and the sacks of powder and great quantities of cartridges having been discovered in his house, the story began to wear an appearance of truth. Mystery began to enwrap the affair, enveloping it in clouds; there were whispered conversations, coughs, suspicious looks, suggestive comments, and trite second-hand remarks. Those who were on the inside were unable to get over their astonishment, they put on long faces, turned pale, and but little was wanting for many persons to lose their minds in realizing certain things that had before passed unnoticed.
“We’ve had a narrow escape! Who would have said—”
In the afternoon Ben-Zayb, his pockets filled with revolvers and cartridges, went to see Don Custodio, whom he found hard at work over a project against American jewelers. In a hushed voice he whispered between the palms of his hands into the journalist’s ear mysterious words.
“Really?” questioned Ben-Zayb, slapping his hand on his pocket and paling visibly.
“Wherever he may be found—” The sentence was completed with an expressive pantomime. Don Custodio raised both arms to the height of his face, with the right more bent than the left, turned the palms of his hands toward the floor, closed one eye, and made two movements in advance. “Ssh! Ssh!” he hissed.
“And the diamonds?” inquired Ben-Zayb.
“If they find him—” He went through another pantomime with the fingers of his right hand, spreading them out and clenching them together like the closing of a fan, clutching out with them somewhat in the manner of the wings of a wind-mill sweeping imaginary objects toward itself with practised skill. Ben-Zayb responded with another pantomime, opening his eyes wide, arching his eyebrows and sucking in his breath eagerly as though nutritious air had just been discovered.