The delicate fretwork of the walls
was blurred in twilight when I waked from heavy, irresistible
I felt dull, but could trace no other
bad effect from the drug. Indeed, I fancied that
I was stronger; and very slowly, with occasional rests,
I got upon my feet and began to crawl about the room.
There was very little furniture, but
what there was, was good, and of a graceful Moorish
design which suited the wall decoration, and the horseshoe
shape of the window. This had an elaborate lattice
of wood, which let in plenty of air, as there was
no glass; but outside were six stout bars of iron,
and the lattice was securely fastened. I stared
through the pattern of wood into a very small but charming
patio, paved with brick and tiles, and having
in the centre a fountain, with a shallow basin.
Feathery plumes of water played over a few low palms
in great blue and white pots of Triana ware, but as
I looked the plumes shrank almost to nothing, then
ceased to wave. The fountain was asleep for the
Supporting myself with a hand on the
wall, I got to the room of the marble bath. There,
the window was but a foot square, and was set high
in the wall. On a low, carved bench, lay the
clothing I had worn on the night of my visit to the
gypsy’s cave. I sat down, and explored the
pockets. What money I had had six
or seven hundred pesetas, so far as I could remember was
gone; so was my gold watch, and the revolver I had
so gaily carried as a sure means of self-protection.
“Gypsy perquisites,” I
said to myself, but the sight of the clothes brought
back the past so vividly that I could see myself bidding
good-bye to Dick at the railway station. Loyal,
resourceful old Dick! Why had he not found his
friend in all this time, while my hands were growing
white and thin?
Surely there must have been some hue
or cry, when I did not appear either at the villa
or the hotel? A man cannot vanish off the face
of the earth, I told myself, and leave no trace.
I longed for the man with the capucha to come
back, so that I could ask him more questions, even
though I could put no faith in his answers; but he
did not appear again that night. I slept after
a time, a sleep of exhaustion; and when I waked in
broad daylight, I found a glass of milk on a small
Moorish stand by the bed.
I could not bear to drink it, lest
the same drug should make me sleep as before.
But how regain strength without food? And evidently
I was to have this or none.
For a time I waited, hoping that my
“good friend” would come, and that, if
I told him I disliked milk, he would give me something
else, not so easy to mix with a drug. At last,
however, I grew faint. Perhaps, I thought, the
milk was innocent this time. I drank, and the
same heaviness overcame me. So, through most
of the day I slept, and raged against myself when I
Again, a full glass stood by the bedside,
but I would not drink. Many hours of dozing had
left me wakeful; and my eyes were wide open when, an
hour or two after dawn, the door in the outer room
was softly unlocked.
He had not forgotten his capucha,
though he must have expected to find me asleep.
In his hand was a glass of milk, but when he had seen
that I lay awake, he saw also that the other glass
had not been touched.
I was neither hungry no thirsty, I
said in excuse. And I could not rest because
I was not comfortable. It had got upon my nerves,
I explained, to feel my hair long on my neck and my
face unshaven. Would my host get in a barber?
The man reflected for a moment, and
then said that he would do his best as a barber.
At present, and until his vow had been accomplished,
he did not go out, except after nightfall, and therefore
could not ask anyone to come to the house.
The instant he had turned his back,
I slipped off the bed, so that I might be ready to
stagger as well as I could from my alcove, and pounce
upon him when he had the door open; for I believed
that I was strong enough now to have some chance.
But his hearing must have been keen, for he turned,
and told me not to exert myself. What I
was only getting up so as to be ready when he came
back with shears and razor? I need not trouble.
He would do all while I was in bed; and he would wait
until he had seen me return there.
He was master of the situation, and
knew it. I was obliged to give him his way; and
afterwards he was so quick in getting to the door that,
in my weak state, I could not have reached him in
When he came back, however, I was
ready. Waiting just inside the door, as it was
cautiously opened I threw myself upon him. But
I had overestimated my strength, and underestimated
his. Quick and lithe as a leopard, the old man
wound himself round me, and for a moment we struggled
together for the mastery, I thinking of the razor
he had promised to bring, and hoping to get it.
If I could do that, I should be able to keep him at
bay, without any violence, save threats.
Once, I had almost got him down, or
he let me fancy it; but with a sudden twist he caused
me to lose my balance, which was none too steady.
I slipped on the tiled floor, and had half saved myself
when a quick push sent me staggering back. Instantly
the capucha was on the other side of the door,
a bolt slid into place, and the key turned in the lock.
Rage gave me a brief spurt of strength.
I caught up the carved wooden bench in the bathroom,
and dashed it furiously again and again against a
panel of the door. But the strong wood did not
even crack under my blows.
As hour after hour passed, and I was
left alone, from time to time I renewed my efforts,
with no result except that eventually I broke the
bench. Then I tore at the lattice of the window,
thrusting my fingers through, and trying vainly to
pull the woodwork to pieces. Though the iron
bars on the outside would prevent my escaping into
the patio, I thought, if the lattice were broken,
shouts might be heard more easily.
At last, when I had been obliged to
give up hope, I pressed my face against the close
pattern of the woodwork and yelled lustily, till my
voice failed. But my own shouts were the only
sounds I heard, save distant church bells, and the
singing of subterranean waters, silent only at night
when the fountain went to sleep. It would be all
but impossible, I had to admit, for anyone outside
to judge the direction of a cry, coming through a
screened window surrounded on all sides by high house
Darkness fell; and I grew so hungry
that I would gladly have drunk the milk left since
morning. I tasted it, and found it spoiled by
the heat, for the day had been warm. In disgust
I threw it away, but when all that night had gone
and part of the next day, I regretted my fastidiousness.
Frequent draughts of water from the
room of the marble bath gave me an occasional fillip,
but a man recovering from congestion of the brain or
some such malady, following the breaking of his head,
cannot live long on water; and it was clear that my
host, disgusted with my “ingratitude,”
intended to punish me cruelly or to put an end to me
When the second night closed in, I
made up my mind that he had decided upon my death.
Perhaps, if I had been docile, when the time fixed
by his employer had expired, he might have chosen
to set me free, trusting that I believed his story.
But seeing that I did not believe it, that I would
spare no effort, no trick, which might enable me to
escape while my presence in the outside world was
still highly undesirable, the man had probably crushed
all humane feeling for his prisoner. Since no
one had sought me, living, in his house, it was unlikely
that I should be sought for there when dead.
I was at the window, as I told myself
these things, looking out into the patio, where
the palms, and the shell which was the upper basin
of the fountain, were faintly definable in starlight.
Robbed of my watch, the only way I had of calculating
time after nightfall was by the silence which came
about an hour after sunset. Then the gurgling
voice of hidden water (which sang underground in this
secluded patio as everywhere in the Albaicin,
and on the Alhambra hill) abruptly ceased, after a
distant ringing which I took to be that of the bell
in the Torre de la Vela, regulating the irrigation
of all the country round. At this same moment
the diamond plumes of the fountain invariably fell,
and disappeared, not to wave again until the morning
sun was up.
I was always sorry when the fountain
died, for it was the sole companion of my captivity,
my one dim pleasure watching its nymph-like play.
And to-night the dead silence of the patio
seemed the lull before my own death.
It must have been, I thought, somewhere
about ten o’clock when I heard a new sound in
the court, slight, elusive, but distinct. Chink chink like
metal on stone, as if a troll were mining underground.
The old man was taking time by the forelock, I said
grimly to myself, getting ready a place in some cellar
to lay me away when I should be finished. I should
last some days yet; but it took time to do these things
well. At the hotel they had told me how a year
or two ago, in destroying an old house in the Albaicin
to build a new one on the sight, workmen had come across
the skeletons of two French grenadiers neatly sealed
up in a wall of stone, where they had kept guard since
the time of the Peninsular War. Probably a night
or two had been needed for the making of their niche.
Chink chink! Yes,
the old wretch must be at work in a cellar. The
noise certainly came from underground; and it was
not as agreeable to my ears as the tinkle of the vanished
fountain. I wished the hour would come for the
water to leap up and drown that other stealthy sound.
Suddenly, as I turned a wistful gaze
on the alabaster shell dimly glimmering among the
low palms, to my astonishment it seemed to totter.
I thought that it must be a mere illusion of weary
eyes, or that the effect was created by a cloud obscuring
the starlight. But again the white shell moved
against the dark green background, this time swaying
from side to side.
Could there be an earthquake, so slight
that I did not feel the shock? Even as I asked
myself the question, the shell of the fountain was
loosened from its support, and fell into the main basin,
now almost empty. The water-lilies and their
green pads which floated sparsely there muffled the
sound of the crash, but there was a noise of breaking.
The slabs of coloured mosaic which paved the lower
basin upheaved, as if the earth beneath were bursting,
and scattered from side to side, falling over the
crushed lines. Then through a ragged black aperture
rose the head and shoulders of a man.
The metallic sound had stopped; but
from somewhere in the house there came the slamming
of a door.
The head and shoulders, motionless
now, were sharply defined against the scattered heap
of white fragments, like the bust of a man modelled
in black marble. Someone whistled softly, and
the tune was, “The Girl I Left Behind Me.”
“Dick!” I called through the close wooden
“Hurrah!” he answered;
and the black marble bust became a full length statue
of a man.
How he had found me, how he had come,
I did not know; but there he was, and the gate of
life had not closed upon me after all. Dick was
out of the jagged hole in the basin, and half across
the patio, when a door, which I had always
seen shut, burst open to let out a stream of light,
and the figure of the old man I knew so well, leaped
I was weak, and for a moment I turned
sick, the patio with its broken fountain, and
the forms of the men in a halo of yellow light, whirling
before my eyes as if there were indeed an earthquake.
Then the mist cleared, and like a rat in a cage I
watched the fight which meant life or death for more
than one of us.
There was no capucha now to
cover the grey-streaked head and venerable beard.
Once I caught a glimpse of a profile sharp as a hawk’s.
The old man had come out of the house with a Toledo
sword-stick, such as the King and his friend had used
with the brigands, and as he saw the enemy he had to
deal with, he had thrown away the bamboo stick.
The long, thin blade glittered in the same light that
showed me Dick, armed with an iron crowbar, formidable
If it had been a scene in a play,
and I in the audience, I should have applauded, for
there was something in me which cried out that it was
a fine picture. But Dick’s life and mine
were in the balance.