Brower opened his eyes again.
“I can beat that,” he announced.
He produced his hypodermic and proceeded to mix a gunful of the dope.
“This’ll fix him,” he observed, turning back the Mexican’s sleeve. “You can lay him outside and if anybody comes along they’ll think he’s asleep—as usual.”
This we did when the dope had worked.
It was now high time to think of our next move. For weapons we had the gun and knife taken from Cortinez and the miserable little automatic belonging to Brower. That was all. It was perfectly evident that we could not get out through the regular doorways, as, by Tim’s statement, they were all closed and guarded. On my representation it was decided to try the roof.
We therefore knotted together the cord that had bound me and two sheets from the bed, and sneaked cautiously out on the verandah, around the corner to the water barrel, and so to the vantage point of the roof.
The chill of the night was come, and the stars hung cold in the sky. It seemed that the air would snap and crackle were some little resolving element to be dropped into its suspended hush. Not a sound was to be heard except a slow drip of water from somewhere in the courtyard.
It was agreed that I, as the heaviest, should descend first. I landed easily enough and steadied the rope for Miss Emory who came next. While I was waiting I distinctly heard, from the direction of the willows, the hooting of an owl. Furthermore, it was a great horned owl, and he seemed to have a lot to say. You remember what I told you about setting your mind so that only one sort of noise will arouse it, but that one instantly? I knew perfectly well that Old Man Hooper’s mind was set to all these smaller harmless noises that most people never notice at all, waking or sleeping—frogs, crickets, owls. And therefore I was convinced that sooner or later that old man and his foolish ideas and his shotgun would come projecting right across our well-planned getaway. Which was just what happened, and almost at once. Probably that great horned owl had been hooting for some time, but we had been too busy to notice. I heard the wicket door turning on its hinges, and ventured a warning hiss to Brower and Tim Westmore, who had not yet descended. An instant later I could make out shadowy forms stealing toward the willows. Evidently those who served Old Man Hooper were accustomed to broken rest.
We kept very quiet, straining our eyes at the willows. After an interval a long stab of light pierced the dusk and the round detonation of old-fashioned black powder shook the silence. There came to us the babbling of voices released. At the same instant the newly risen moon plastered us against that whitewashed wall like insects pinned in a cork-lined case. The moonlight must have been visibly creeping down to us for some few minutes, but so absorbed had I been in the doings of the party in the willows, and so chuckleheaded were the two on the roof, that actually none of us had noticed!