Within the narrow walls of his prison there was no sound save the occasional drip of water that oozed through the damp rock. He might have been penned in a vault, and the darkness that pressed upon him seemed to crush the senses, making difficult coherent thought. There was nothing to be done but to wait, and that waiting was the worst ordeal that Fletcher Hill had ever been called upon to face.
A long time passed—how long he had no means of gauging. He stood like a sentinel, weapon in hand, staring into the awful darkness, struggling against its oppression, fighting to keep his brain alert and ready for any emergency. He thought he was prepared for anything, but that time of waiting tried his endurance to the utmost, and when at length a sound other than that irregular drip of water came through the deathly stillness he started with a violence that sent a smile of self-contempt to his lips.
It was a wholly unexpected sound—just the ordinary tones of a man’s voice speaking to him through the darkness where he had believed that there was nothing but a blank wall.
“Mr. Hill, where are you?” it said. “I have come to get you out.”
Hill’s hand tightened upon his revolver. He was not to be taken unawares a second time. He stood in absolute silence, waiting.
There was a brief pause, then again came the voice. “There’s not much point in shooting me. You’ll probably starve if you do. So watch out! I’m going to show a light.”
Hill still stood without stirring a muscle. His back was to the door. He faced the direction of the voice.
Suddenly, like the glare from an explosion, a light flashed in his eyes, blinding him after the utter dark. He flinched from it in spite of himself, but the next moment he was his own master again, erect and stern, contemptuously unafraid.
“Don’t shoot!” said Bill Warden, with a gleam of his teeth, “or maybe you’ll shoot a friend!”
He was standing empty-handed save for the torch he carried, his great figure upright against the wall, facing Hill with speculation in his eyes.
Hill lowered his revolver. “I doubt it,” he said, grimly.
“Ah! You don’t know me yet, do you?” said Warden, a faintly jeering note in his voice.