He rose smiling, though his eyes were dangerously brilliant.
“Just when,” said he lazily, “did you steal the paper I found in the candlestick? It’s gone—”
He had struck fire from the stone man at last. A hopeless, hunted look flamed up in Kronberg’s eyes and died away.
“Ah!” guessed Carl keenly, “so you’re in some muddle there, too, eh?” Kronberg stared sullenly at the dusty floor.
“A silence strike?” inquired Carl. “Well we’ll see how you feel about that in the morning. As for the skylight, Kronberg, if you feel like skating down an icy roof to hell, try it.”
Whistling softly, Carl backed to the door and disappeared. An instant later came the click of a key in the lock. He had taken the lamp with him.
Groping desperately about, Kronberg searched for some covering to protect him from the icy cold. His search was unsuccessful. When the skylight grayed at dawn, he was pacing the floor, white and shaking with the chill.
The key clicked in the lock. Kronberg, huddled in a corner, stirred and cunningly hid the flimsy coverings of chintz he had unearthed from an ancient trunk. For three days he had not spoken, three days of bitter, biting cold, three days of creaking, lonely quiet, of mournful wind and shifting lights above the glass overhead, of infernal visitations from one he had grown to fear more than death itself. With heavy chills racking his numb body, with flashes of fever and clamping pains in his head, his endurance was now nearing an end.
Bearing a tray of food, Carl entered and closed the door.
“I’m still waiting, Kronberg,” he reminded coolly, “for the answers to those questions.”
For answer Kronberg merely pushed aside the tray of food with a shudder. There was a dreadful nausea to-day in the pit of his stomach.
“So?” said Carl. “Well,” he regretted, “there are always the finger stretchers. They’re crude, Kronberg, and homemade, but in time they’ll do the work.”
Kronberg’s face grew colorless as death itself as his mind leaped to the torture of the day before. A clamp for every finger tip, a metal bar between—the hell-conceived device invented by his jailer forced the fingers wide apart and held them there as in vise until a stiffness bound the aching cords, then a pain which crept snakelike to the elbow—and the shoulder. Then when the tortured nerves fell wildly to telegraphing spasmodic jerkings of distress from head to toe, the shrugging devil with the flute would talk vividly of roaring wood fires and the comforts awaiting the penitent below. Yesterday Kronberg had fainted. To-day—
Carl presently took the singular metal contrivance from his pocket, deftly clamped the fingers of his victim and sat down to wait, rummaging for his flute.