Corrus and Dulnop were to be buried in that spot every day for as many days as there were pebbles in the heap; in other words, until they died. Every night they would be dug up, and every morning buried afresh. And to keep them from telling any of the villagers where they had found the pyrites, they were to be deprived of water all day long. By night their tongues would be too swollen for speech. For they had been sentenced to the No Shade torture, as well; their heads would be exposed all day long to the burning sun itself.
THE EDGE OF THE WORLD
It is significant that Billie, because of her connection with the bee, Supreme, was spared the sight that the doctor saw from Rolla’s point of view. Otherwise, the geologist’s wife might have had a different opinion of the matter. As it was—
“Corrus and Dulnop,” said she as cooly as Supreme herself might have spoken, “are not the first to suffer because they have discovered something big.”
Whereupon her husband’s wrath got beyond his grip. “Not the first! Is that all you can say?” he demanded hotly. “Why, of all the damnably cruel, cold-blooded creatures I ever heard of, those infernal bees—”
Van Emmon stopped, unable to go on without blasphemy.
The doctor had got over the horror of what he had seen. “We want to be fair, Van. Look at this matter from the bees’ view-point for awhile. What were they to do? They had to make sure, as far as possible, that their supremacy would never be threatened again. Didn’t they?”
“Oh, but—damn it all!” cried Van Emmon. “There’s a limit somewhere! Such cruelty as that—no one could conceive of it!”
“As for the bees,” flared Billie, “I don’t blame ’em! And unless I’m very much mistaken, the ruling class anywhere, here on the earth or wherever you investigate, will go the limit to hold the reins, once they get them!”
The expression on Van Emmon’s face was curious to see. There was no fear there, only a puzzled astonishment. Strange as it may seem, Billie had told him something that had never occurred to him before. And he recognized it as truth, as soon as she had said it.
“Just a minute,” remarked Smith in his ordinary voice; “just a minute. You’re forgetting that we don’t really know whether Rolla and Cunora are safe. Everything depends upon them now, you know.”
In silence the four went back into telepathic connection. Now, of course, Smith and Van Emmon were practically without agents. The prisoners could tell them nothing whatever except the tale of increasing agony as their torture went on. All that Van Emmon and Smith could do was lend the aid of their mentality to the efforts of the other two, and for a while had to be content with what Billie, through Supreme, and the doctor, through Rolla, were able to learn. However, Kinney did suggest that one of the other two men get in touch with Cunora.