O’Reilly was not in the least deceived; it was plain to him that the hotel man was in close touch with the Spanish authorities, and he began to feel the need of some better excuse, some valid business reason, for being here, such as would allay suspicion once for all. But he could think of nothing better than his rheumatism, and to that he determined to cling.
THE MAN WHO WOULD KNOW LIFE
Later that day O’Reilly set out to reconnoiter the city of Neuvitas. He was followed, of course—he had expected as much, and the circumstances amused rather than alarmed him. But when he returned to his hotel and found that his room had been visited during his absence he felt a hint of uneasiness. Evidently, as Doctor Alvarado had forecast, the authorities were interested in him; and he had further evidence of the fact when he learned that the room next him was occupied by the very man who had shadowed him on the street. Inasmuch as the intervening wall was no more than a thin partition, through which his very breathing could be heard, while his every movement could doubtless be spied upon, O’Reilly saw the need of caution, and he began to cast about for a place to hide that Colt’s revolver, the presence of which was assuming the proportions of a menace. Now that his belongings had been examined three times that day, the next step would probably be another search of his person. Unless in the mean time he could definitely establish his innocence of purpose, which was unlikely, it behooved him to rid himself of the weapon without delay. This, however, was a problem. He could not bring himself to throw the thing away, and his bare bedroom offered no place of concealment. Late that evening he called Mr. Carbajal and asked him if it were possible to take a bath.
Mr. Carbajal assured him that it was. El Gran Hotel Europea was first class in every respect; no expense had been spared in its equipment. Senor O’Rail-ye had indeed done well in patronizing it, for it boasted the best cuarto de bano in the whole city—a room, moreover, which was devoted exclusively to the purposes of bathing. And it was a large room—large enough to accommodate a dozen guests at once. To be sure, it would require, say, half an hour to make it ready, for it was stored with hay for the horses which drew the ’bus to and from the depot, but if the senor would have patience it could soon be restored to its original purpose. Mr. Carbajal himself would see that there was a river of hot water.
O’Reilly thanked him. An hour later he paraded, bare-foot, down the hall, wrapped in a blanket. He had purposely left his clothes behind him, and the door of his room unlocked, but under his naked left arm he carried the revolver.
He was a long time in his bath. When he returned to his chamber he found his garments very nearly as he had left them. He smiled as he crept into bed and tucked the netting under his thin mattress. They could search him now, whenever they pleased, for the revolver and its box of precious cartridges reposed on a duty beam over the bathroom, where no one would ever think of looking.