“M’seur, it makes no difference what I believe now. I have but one other thing to tell you here—and one thing to give to you,” replied Jean. “Those who have tried to kill you are the three brothers. Meleese is their sister. Ours is a strange country, M’seur, governed since the beginning of our time by laws which we have made ourselves. To those who are waiting above no torture is too great for you. They have condemned you to death. This morning, exactly as the minute hand of your watch counts off the hour of six, you will be shot to death through one of these holes in the dungeon walls. And this—this note from Meleese—is the last thing I have to give you.”
He dropped a folded bit of paper on the table. Mechanically Howland reached for it. Stunned and speechless, cold with the horror of his death sentence, he smoothed out the note. There were only a few words, apparently written in great haste.
“I have been praying for you all night.
If God fails to answer my prayers I will still do
as I have promised—and follow you.”
He heard a movement and lifted his eyes. Jean was gone. The door was swinging slowly inward. He heard the wooden bolt slip into place, and after that there was not even the sound of a moccasined foot stealing through the outer darkness.
For many minutes Howland stood waiting as if life had left him. His eyes were on the door, but unseeing. He made no sound, no movement again toward the aperture in the wall. Fate had dealt him the final blow, and when at last he roused himself from its first terrible effect there remained no glimmering of hope in his breast, no thought of the battle he had been making for freedom a short time before. The note fluttered from his fingers and he drew his watch from his pocket and placed it on the table. It was a quarter after five. There still remained forty-five minutes.
Three-quarters of an hour and then—death. There was no doubt in his mind this time. Ever in the coyote, with eternity staring him in the face, he had hoped and fought for life. But here there was no hope, there was to be no fighting. Through one of the black holes in the wall he was to be shot down, with no chance to defend himself, to prove himself innocent. And Meleese—did she, too, believe him guilty of that crime?
He groaned aloud, and picked up the note again. Softly he repeated her last words to him: “If God fails to answer my prayers I will still do as I have promised, and follow you.” Those words seemed to cry aloud his doom. Even Meleese had given up hope. And yet, was there not a deeper significance in her words? He started as if some one had struck him, his eyes agleam.
“’I will follow you.’”