The sergeant shrugged. It was plain from his expression that he could not account for such a desire. “Another night is coming,” said he.
“Good! I shall visit the place, and if I see anything unusual I— well, I shall believe what you have told me. Meanwhile, go see your priest by all means. It will do you no harm.”
HOW COBO STOOD ON HIS HEAD
All that day, or during most of it, at least, Rosa and O’Reilly sat hand in hand, oblivious of hunger and fatigue, impatient for the coming of night, keyed to the highest tension. Now they would rejoice hysterically, assuring each other of their good fortune, again they would grow sick with the fear of disappointment. Time after time they stepped out of the hut and stared apprehensively up the slopes of La Cumbre to assure themselves that this was not all a part of some fantastic illusion; over and over, in minutest detail, Johnnie described what he had seen at the bottom of the well. He tried more than once during the afternoon to sleep, but he could not, for the moment he closed his eyes he found himself back there in that pit upon the ridge’s crest, straining at those stubborn rocks and slippery timbers. This inaction was maddening, his fatigue rendered him feverish and irritable.
Jacket, too, felt the strain, and after several fruitless attempts to sleep he rose and went out into the sunshine, where he fell to whetting his knife. He finished putting a double edge upon the blade, fitted a handle to it, and then a cord with which to suspend it round his neck. He showed it to O’Reilly, and after receiving a word of praise he crept out-doors again and tried to forget how sick he was. Black spots were dancing before Jacket’s eyes; he experienced spells of dizziness and nausea during which he dared not attempt to walk. He knew this must be the result of starvation, and yet, strangely enough, the thought of food was distasteful to him. He devoutly wished it were not necessary to climb that hill again, for he feared he would not have the strength to descend it.
Luckily for the sake of the secret, Evangelina spent most of the day searching for food, while Asensio lay babbling upon his bed, too ill to notice the peculiar actions of his companions.
It was with a strange, nightmare feeling of unreality that the trio dragged themselves upward to the ruined quinta when darkness finally came. They no longer talked, for conversation was a drain upon their powers, and the reaction from the day’s excitement had set in. O’Reilly lurched as he walked, his limbs were heavy, and his liveliest sensation was one of dread at the hard work in store for him. The forcing of that door assumed the proportions of a Herculean task.
But once he was at the bottom of the well and beheld the handiwork of Sebastian, the slave, just as he had left it, his sense of reality returned and with it a certain measure of determination. Inasmuch as he had made no visible impression upon the bulkhead by his direct attack, he changed his tactics now and undertook to loosen one of the jambs where it was wedged into the rock at top and bottom. After a desperate struggle he succeeded in loosening the entire structure so that he could pry it out far enough to squeeze his body through.