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neither he nor Margarita had any hope of his ever rising from the wretched pallet, to which fever, and ill-tended wounds, had so long confined him. As to eventual escape he had never given it a thought. Month succeeded month, however, and, contrary either to his expectations or wishes, he gradually regained some portion of strength. The bandits had been little in the cavern, and had, therefore, left him, comparatively at rest, to the kind tending of Margarita, who lost no opportunity of benefiting him. When a second spring began to dawn upon his captivity, he was able to sit at the mouth of the cavern, and breathe something of life and health from the mountain air that swept by it. Margarita stood without to watch the return of the bandits, and to give warning if they appeared suddenly.
Whilst Herbert resigned himself to a foreign grave, her active mind was ever busy. Day and night she plotted and planned, without counsel, the means of
escape. She could not make Herbert a participator in her plans, because the least excitement increased his weakness, and had he believed escape possible, his mind would have dwelt upon the one idea, to the injury of his body. The bandits still trusted him, implicitly, to Margarita's care, whose skilful evasion of their questions prevented their suspecting her real designs. They came more frequently to the care than they had at first done, and Margarita listened eagerly to their conversation, in the hope of discovering their daily plans. They made her constantly useful when they were in the cave, and had it not been for Guilio, she would have been their common slave. He continued kind, both to her and Herbert, and brought them many necessaries that were most acceptable to them. But she had seldom the means of speaking apart with him, as she was always pretty narrowly watched. She made, frequently, excursions amongst the mountains on all sides of her, but dared not
wander far, lest she should lose her way back. So intricate, however, were all the approaches to the cavern, that she sought in vain for any means of escape. The mountains were trackless, and the rocks and brushwood not to be threaded.
Herbert recovered by degrees beyond her best bopes. The Captain was also restored, and one day visited the cavern, and scowled so darkly upon Herbert, that all her fears were roused. She saw him consulting about him, with the others, and from the few words of their conversation that she heard, she was persuaded that mischief was brewing. She formed a desperate resolution, and resolved, by fol. lowing the bandits, to find out their road to the cave. She was rich in fairy lore, and had read of how one woman found her way out of a labyrinth by unwinding a skein of silk, as she went along, and fixing it to the bushes; how a man had been taken into a wood to be killed by wild beasts, but had dropped white pebbles on his way thither, and by their means, returned to his home again ; but neither of these expedients were of avail to her. She thought of many others, and at last determined to try the following. She mixed a quantity of black paint, the ingredients for which she procured through Guilio, and with a brush, set out on her perilous expeditions.
With a palpitating heart, she allowed the bandits to leave the cavern, then followed them at a distance, sometimes directed by a glance of their persons, at others by the sound of their voices, and at others by the prints of their shoes. Wherever there was a doubtful turning, she made a hasty mark with her paint, upon some stone, rock, or tree, carefully concealing it as soon as made, and hurrying on. If she was astonished by the extreme intricacy of the way, she was still more so, when she saw how near the cave was to a public mountain thoroughfare beneath. She followed the bandits until they arrived
at the top of the defile down which Her. bert and his friends had seen them appear, and when she had watched them until they were out of sight, she turned again. The way, though short, was a confused labyrinth of brushwood, rocks, mountain passes, precipices, and broken paths, all of which intercepted one another, so as to be perfectly undiscoverable to any but the initiated. As Margarita returned, she skilfully enlarged her marks, and made others, and impressed upon her mind every turning as deeply as she could. When she again reached the cave, and told Herbert what she had done, she thought he would have gone mad with joy. The chance of escape had never occurred to him, and now he fell upon his knees and thanked God for it—then he kissed Margarita's hand, and overpowered her with expressions of admiration and gratitude. He declared himself well enough to set out at once, but Margarita entreated him to be calm, and to wait till after the departure