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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 232 pages of information about The Penalty.

He no longer knew what he was looking for, and when at last his hand closed upon the stock of the automatic, he did not know what it was that he had found.

Another cloth fell.

XLIII

He came to in a narrow iron bed, weak, nauseated, and handcuffed.  He could rub his feet together, but he could not separate them.  He had been dreaming about Barbara—­horrible dreams.  His first conscious thought was that she, too, was a prisoner in the house of Blizzard, and that somehow or other he must save her.  Having tried in vain to break the bright, delicate-looking handcuffs, he tried in vain to think calmly.  Hours passed.  Nobody came.  He worked himself gradually into a fever of impotent rage.  Civilization slipped away from him.  He was ready, if necessary, to fight with his teeth, to gouge eyes, to inflict any barbarous atrocity upon his enemy.

Gradually, for the air in the room was fresh, the feeling of sickness passed away, and was succeeded by weakness and lassitude.  As a matter of fact, being a strong man, in splendid health, he was faint from hunger.  But he did not know this.

An elderly woman came softly into the room.  She wore a blue dress, a white apron, a white kerchief, white cuffs, a white cap.  Her face was disfigured by a great brown protruding mole from which a tuft of hair sprouted; she had an expression of methodical kindness, but small shifting eyes in which was no honesty.

She carried a cup that smoked.  She put the cup on a table, lifted Wilmot to a sitting position, as if he had been a child, and asked him if he was hungry.

For a moment he did not answer; he was getting used to the discovery that he had been undressed and was wearing a linen night-gown.  Then he nodded toward the smoking cup.

“How do I know it isn’t poisoned?”

“Come—­come,” said the woman, “you’d have gone out under the chloroform if that had been the intention.  Better keep your strength up.”

After a few spoonfuls of the soup, Wilmot suggested that he should prefer something solid.

The woman shook her head.

“If I’m to be kept alive,” he said petulantly, “why not comfortably?”

“Nothing solid.  That’s the doctor’s orders.”

“Blizzard’s?”

“No.  The doctor.”

“What doctor?”

“Why, Dr. Ferris.”

“Where is he?  I want to speak to him.”

“He isn’t here.  He’s coming when everything’s ready.”

“Everything ready?” A nameless fear began to gnaw at Wilmot’s vitals.  And at that moment the door swung open, and he saw, beyond the bulking head and shoulders of the legless man, a narrow iron table, white and shining, in a room all glass and white paint.

On the entrance of Blizzard, the woman took up the remains of the soup, and passed noiselessly out of the room.

Blizzard climbed to the foot of Wilmot’s bed, and sat looking at him.  In his eyes there was a glitter of suppressed excitement.  “When our last talk was interrupted,” he said, “I had just told you that Miss Ferris is a prisoner in this house.  You don’t like the idea?”

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