How long this mental trouble lasts I cannot say. But I afterwards find myself on the Beehive side, opposite the cell in which I cannot hope for either repose or sleep. Sleep, when my brain is in a whirl of excitement? Sleep, when I am near the end of a situation that threatened to be prolonged for years and years?
What will the end be as far as I am personally concerned? What am I to expect from the attack upon Back Cup, the success of which I have been unable to assure by placing Thomas Roch beyond the possibility of doing harm? His engines are ready to be launched, and as soon as the vessels have reached the dangerous zone they will be blown to atoms.
However this may be, I am condemned to pass the remaining hours of the night in my cell. The time has come for me to go in. At daybreak I shall see what is best for me to do. Meanwhile, for aught I know I may hear the thunder of Roch’s fulgurator as it destroys the ships approaching to make a night attack.
I take a last look round. On the opposite side a light, a single light, is burning. It is the lamp in Roch’s laboratory and it casts its reflection upon the waters of the lake.
No one is about, and it occurs to me that the pirates must have taken up their lighting positions outside and that the Beehive is empty.
Then, impelled by an irresistible instinct, instead of returning to my cell, I creep along the wall, listening, spying, ready to hide if I hear voices or footsteps.
I at length reach the passage.
God in heaven! No one is on guard there—the passage is free!
Without giving myself time to reflect I dart into the dark hole, and grope my way along it. Soon I feel a fresher air—the salt, vivifying air of the sea, that I have not breathed for five months. I inspire it with avidity, with all the power of my lungs.
The outer extremity of the passage appears against the star-studded sky. There is not even a shadow in the way. Perhaps I shall be able to get outside.
I lay down, and crawl along noiselessly to the orifice and peer out.
Not a soul is in sight!
By skirting the rocks towards the east, to the side which cannot be approached from the sea on account of the reefs and which is not likely to be watched, I reach a narrow excavation about two hundred and twenty-five yards from where the point of the coast extends towards the northwest.
At last I am out of the cavern. I am not free, but it is the beginning of freedom.
On the point the forms of a few sentries stand out against the clear sky, so motionless that they might be mistaken for pieces of the rock.
On the horizon to the west the position lights of the warship show in a luminous line.
From a few gray patches discernable in the east, I calculate that it must be about five o’clock in the morning.
November 18.—It is now light enough for me to be able to complete my notes relating the details of my visit to Thomas Roch’s laboratory—the last lines my hand will trace, perhaps.