In a few moments, this same gimlet would cause the destruction of Leiba and his domestic hearth. The two executioners would hold the victim prostrate on the ground, and Gheorghe, with heel upon his body, would slowly bore the gimlet into the bone of the living breast as he had done into the dead wood, deeper and deeper, till it reached the heart, silencing its wild beatings and pinning it to the spot.
Leiba broke into a cold sweat; the man was overcome by his own imagination, and sank softly to his knees as though life were ebbing from him under the weight of this last horror, overwhelmed by the thought that he must abandon now all hope of saving himself.
“Yes! Pinned to the spot,” he said, despairingly. “Yes! Pinned to the spot.”
He stayed a moment, staring at the light by the window. For some moments he stood aghast, as though in some other world, then he repeated with quivering eyelids:
“Yes! Pinned to the spot.”
Suddenly a strange change took place in him, a complete revulsion of feeling; he ceased to tremble, his despair disappeared, and his face, so discomposed by the prolonged crisis, assumed an air of strange serenity. He straightened himself with the decision of a strong and healthy man who makes for an easy goal.
The line between the two upper punctures of the panel was finished. Leiba went up, curious to see the working of the tool. His confidence became more pronounced. He nodded his head as though to say: “I still have time.”
The saw cut the last fiber near the hole towards which it was working, and began to saw between the lower holes.
“There are still three,” thought Leiba, and with the caution of the most experienced burglar he softly entered the inn. He searched under the bar, picked up something, and. went out again as he entered, hiding the object he had in his hand as though he feared somehow the walls might betray him, and went back on tiptoe to the door.
Something terrible had happened; the work outside had ceased— there was nothing to be heard.
“What is the matter? Has he gone? What has happened?” flashed through the mind of the man inside. He bit his lower lip at such a thought, full of bitter disappointment.
“Ha, ha!” It was an imaginary deception; the work began again, and he followed it with the keenest interest, his heart beating fast. His decisioft was taken, he was tormented by an incredible desire to see the thing finished.
“Quicker!” he thought, with impatience. “Quicker!”
Again the sound of bells ringing on the hill.
“Hurry up, old fellow, the daylight will catch us!” said a voice outside, as though impelled by the will of the man within.
The work was pushed on rapidly. Only a few more movements and all the punctures in the panel would be united.
Gently the drill carried out the four-sided piece of wood. A large and supple hand was thrust in; but before it reached the bars it sought two screams were heard, while, with great force, Leiba enclosed it with the free end of the noose, which was round a block fixed to the cellar.