And then my watch began hammering again, just as the alarm-clock had hammered on that awful night in my apartment when I crouched outside the door, not daring to go in. My mind was working against my will and picturing a thousand possibilities.
What was Leroux doing? He would act with his usual hammer force. All depended on Pierre.
The hours wore away, and we three lay there, two waiting and one dreaming of the old days of youth, no doubt. I tried to light the candle to see the time, but my shaking hand sent it flying across the cave, and when I searched for my matches, I found that the box was empty.
It seemed an eternity since we had come there. It is one thing to wait for dawn and quite another thing to wait where dawn will never come.
It must be day. And still Pierre did not come. As I lay there, listening for his returning footsteps, I heard Jacqueline breathe at last.
She was asleep from weariness after her long night’s watch. Somehow the thought that she had passed into the world of dreams comforted me. For a brief time the dreadful accusation of murder had been lifted from my head, and my numbed mind was free to follow my will and leave its mad career of fancy. I could act now.
Why should I not follow where Pierre had led? If Leroux had captured him within his hut, as seemed only too likely, he would never return, and we should wait in vain. And with each hour of waiting our chances to escape grew less.
I resolved to follow the exit for a little distance to see whither it led, and if I could discover the light of day.
So I took my sword and sallied out through the passage in the cliff.
AT SWORDS’ POINTS
I entered the tunnel, sword in hand, keeping both arms stretched out to feel my way. I resolved that I would always keep the left hand in contact with the wall upon that side, so that, in case the tunnel should divide, by reversing the process I could ensure my safe return.
I had only proceeded a few steps when the air grew cold and sweet. And before I had traversed two hundred yards I saw a dim light in the distance. This was no candle light, but that of day. So I had endured all those agonies of mind with the open air but a short distance away!
As I advanced I fancied that I heard the soft pattering of feet behind me.
I halted and listened intently. I crouched against the wall and waited. But I heard nothing now except the distant roaring of the cataracts. How sweet they sounded now!
I listened intently, leaning against the wall and facing backward, holding my sword ready to meet any intruder. But there was no sound from within, except the soughing which one hears in a tunnel; and satisfied at last that I had been the victim of an over-wrought imagination, I pursued my course.