“I imagine all that is rather beyond your apperceptions,” he remarked, “and that you are ready for your bed. Here is a short document I would have you take to your room for perusal. Good-night.”
He tendered me a small, folded paper which I thrust into the breast pocket of my shirt along with the note handed me earlier in the evening by the girl. Thus dismissed I was only too delighted to repair to my bedroom.
There I first carefully drew together the curtains; then examined the first of the papers I drew from my pocket. It proved to be the one from the girl, and read as follows:
I am here against my will. I am not this man’s daughter. For God’s sake if you can help me, do so. But be careful for he is a dangerous man. My room is the last one on the left wing of the court. I am constantly guarded. I do not know what you can do. The case is hopeless. I cannot write more. I am watched.
I unfolded the paper Hooper himself had given me. It was similar in appearance to the other, and read:
I am held a prisoner.
This man Hooper is not my father but he is
vindictive and cruel and dangerous. Beware for yourself. I live in
the last room in the left wing. I am watched, so cannot write more.
The handwriting of the two documents was the same. I stared at one paper and then at the other, and for a half hour I thought all the thoughts appropriate to the occasion. They led me nowhere, and would not interest you.
After a time I went to bed, but not to sleep. I placed my gun under my pillow, locked and bolted the door, and arranged a string cunningly across the open window so that an intruder—unless he had extraordinary luck—could not have failed to kick up a devil of a clatter. I was young, bold, without nerves; so that I think I can truthfully say I was not in the least frightened. But I cannot deny I was nervous—or rather the whole situation was on my nerves. I lay on my back staring straight at the ceiling. I caught myself gripping the sheets and listening. Only there was nothing to listen to. The night was absolutely still. There were no frogs, no owls, no crickets even. The firm old adobe walls gave off no creak nor snap of timbers. The world was muffled—I almost said smothered. The psychological effect was that of blank darkness, the black darkness of far underground, although the moon was sailing the heavens.
How long that lasted I could not tell you. But at last the silence was broken by the cheerful chirp of a frog. Never was sound more grateful to the ear! I lay drinking it in as thirstily as water after a day on the desert. It seemed that the world breathed again, was coming alive after syncope. And then beneath that loud and cheerful singing I became aware of duller half-heard movements; and a moment or so later yellow lights began to flicker through the transom high at the blank wall of the room, and to reflect in wavering patches on the ceiling. Evidently somebody was afoot outside with a lantern.