“Is it still safe?” whispered Jacob.
“I will look;” then after a pause, “I have looked. It is there, every grain of it, in ox-hide bags; only one of them has fallen and burst, that which is black and red.”
“Where is it?” he said again.
“I may not tell you; never, never.”
“Is there anyone whom you may tell?”
“Her in whose breast I lie.”
“Tell her then.”
“I have told her; she knows.”
“And may she tell me?”
“Let her guard the secret as she will. O my Guardian, I thank thee. My burden is departed; my sin of self-murder is atoned.”
“Benita da Ferreira, are you gone?”
“Benita Clifford, do you hear me?”
“I hear you,” said the voice of Benita, speaking in English, although Jacob, forgetting, had addressed her in Portuguese.
“Where is the gold?”
“In my keeping.”
“Tell me, I command you.”
But no words came; though he questioned her many times no words came, till at last her head sank forward upon her knees, and in a faint voice she murmured:
“Loose me, or I die.”
Still Jacob Meyer hesitated. The great secret was unlearned, and, if this occasion passed, might never be learned. But if he hesitated, Mr. Clifford did not. The knowledge of his child’s danger, the sense that her life was mysteriously slipping away from her under pressure of the ghastly spell in which she lay enthralled, stirred him to madness. His strength and manhood came back to him. He sprang straight at Meyer’s throat, gripped it with one hand, and with the other drew the knife he wore.
“You devil!” he gasped. “Wake her or you shall go with her!” and he lifted the knife.
Then Jacob gave in. Shaking off his assailant he stepped to Benita, and while her father stood behind him with the lifted blade, began to make strange upward passes over her, and to mutter words of command. For a long while they took no effect; indeed, both of them were almost sure that she was gone. Despair gripped her father, and Meyer worked at his black art so furiously that the sweat burst out upon his forehead and fell in great drops to the floor.
Oh, at last, at last she stirred! Her head lifted itself a little, her breast heaved.
“Lord in Heaven, I have saved her!” muttered Jacob in German, and worked on.
Now the eyes of Benita opened, and now she stood up and sighed. But she said nothing; only like a person walking in her sleep, she began to move towards the entrance of the cave, her father going before her with the lamp. On she went, and out of it straight to her tent, where instantly she cast herself upon her bed and sank into deep slumber. It was as though the power of the drug-induced oblivion, which for a while was over-mastered by that other stronger power invoked by Jacob, had reasserted itself.