The morning of the third day dawned—the last of the three allowed Desmond for making up his mind. When the other prisoners were loosed from their fetters and marched off under guard to their usual work, he alone was left. Evidently he was to be kept in confinement with a view to quickening his resolution. Some hours passed. About midday he heard footsteps approaching the shed. The door was opened, and in the entrance Diggle appeared.
“You will excuse me,” he said with a sniff, “if I remain on the threshold of your apartment. It is, I fear, but imperfectly aired.”
He pulled a charpoy to the door, and sat down upon it, as much outside as within. Taking out his snuffbox, he tapped it, took a pinch, savored it, and added:
“You will find the apartment prepared for you in my friend Angria’s palace somewhat sweeter than this your present abode—somewhat more commodious also.”
Desmond, reclining at a distance, looked his enemy calmly and steadily in the face.
“If you have come, Mr. Diggle,” he said, “merely to repeat what you said yesterday, let me say at once that it is a waste of breath. I have not changed my mind.”
“No, not to repeat, my young friend. Crambe repetita—you know the phrase? Yesterday I appealed, in what I had to say, to your reason; either my appeal, or your reason, was at fault. Today I have another purpose. ’Tis pity to come down to a lower plane; to appeal to the more ignoble part of man; but since you have not yet cut your wisdom teeth I must e’en accommodate myself. Angria is my friend; but there are moments, look you, when the bonds of our friendship are put to a heavy strain. At those moments Angria is perhaps most himself, and I, perhaps, am most myself; which might prove to a philosopher that there is a radical antagonism between the oriental and the occidental character. Since my picture of the brighter side has failed to impress you, I propose to show you the other side—such is the sincerity of my desire for your welfare. And ’tis no empty picture—inanis imago, as Ovid might say—no, ’tis sheer reality, speaking, terrible.”
He turned and beckoned. In a moment Desmond heard the clank of chains, and by and by, at the entrance of the shed, stood a figure at sight of whom his blood ran cold. It was the bent, thin, broken figure of a Hindu, his thin bare legs weighted with heavy irons. Ears, nose, upper lip were gone; his eyes were lit with the glare of madness; the parched skin of his hollow cheeks was drawn back, disclosing a grinning mouth and yellow teeth. His arms and legs were like sticks; both hands had lost their thumbs, his feet were twisted, straggling wisps of gray hair escaped from his turban. Standing there beside Diggle, he began to mop and mow, uttering incomprehensible gibberish.