“You brutes!” he muttered.
Cecil lifted the mattress. There was a large flat stone, sharp-edged and coated with mud, lying underneath.
“I thought so,” he whispered. “Jove, he’s gone a long way with it, too!” he muttered, looking upward. “Another foot or so and he would have been outside. I wonder the place didn’t collapse.”
Engleton dragged himself a little way back. He remained upon the floor, but there was support for his back now against the wall.
“Well,” he said, “what is it this evening?”
“The end,” Forrest answered shortly.
Engleton did not flinch. Of the three men, although his physical condition was the worst, he seemed the most at his ease.
“The end,” he remarked. “Well, I don’t believe it. I don’t believe you have either of you the pluck to go through life with the fear of the rope round your neck every minute. But if I am indeed a condemned man. I ought to have my privileges. Give me a cigarette, one of you, for God’s sake.”
Forrest took out his gold case and threw him a couple of cigarettes. Then he struck a match and passed it over.
“Smoke, by all means,” he said. “Listen! In five minutes we are going to throw you from the seaward end of this place, down into the cove or creek, or whatever they call it. It is high tide, and the sea there is twenty feet deep. As for swimming, you evidently haven’t the strength of a cat, and there is no breathing man could swim against the current far enough to reach any place where he could climb out. But to avoid even that risk, we are going to give you a little chloroform first. It will make things easier for you, and we shall not be distressed by your shrieks.”
“An amiable programme,” Engleton muttered. “I am quite ready for it.”
“Then I don’t think we need waste words,” Forrest said slowly. “You have made up your mind, I suppose, that you do not care about life. Remember that it is not we who are your executioners. You have an easy choice.”
“If you mean,” Engleton said, “will I purchase my liberty by letting you two blackguards off free, for this and for your dirty card-sharping, I say no! I will take my chances of life to the last second. Afterwards I shall know that I am revenged. Men don’t go happily through life with the little black devil sitting on their shoulders.”
“We’ll take our risk,” Forrest said thickly. “You have chosen, then? This is your last chance.”
“Absolutely!” Engleton answered.
Forrest took out the phial from his pocket and held his handkerchief on the palm of his hand.
“Open the door, will you, Cecil,” he said, “so that we can carry him out.”
Cecil opened it, and came slowly back to where Forrest was counting the drops which fell from the bottle on to his handkerchief. Then he suddenly came to a standstill. Forrest, too, paused in his task and looked up. He gave a nervous start, and the bottle fell from his fingers.