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27. CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVENTH.
Terrific Heat.--Hallucinations.--The Last Drops of Water.--Nights of Despair.--An Attempt at Suicide.--The Simoom.--The Oasis.--The Lion and Lioness.
The doctor's first care, on the morrow, was to consult the barometer. He found that the mercury had scarcely undergone any perceptible depression.
"Nothing!" he murmured, "nothing!"
He got out of the car and scrutinized the weather; there was only the same heat, the same cloudless sky, the same merciless drought.
"Must we, then, give up to despair?" he exclaimed, in agony.
Joe did not open his lips. He was buried in his own thoughts, and planning the expedition he had proposed.
Kennedy got up, feeling very ill, and a prey to nervous agitation. He was suffering horribly with thirst, and his swollen tongue and lips could hardly articulate a syllable.
There still remained a few drops of water. Each of them knew this, and each was thinking of it, and felt himself drawn toward them; but neither of the three dared to take a step.
Those three men, friends and companions as they were, fixed their haggard eyes upon each other with an instinct of ferocious longing, which was most plainly revealed in the hardy Scot, whose vigorous constitution yielded the soonest to these unnatural privations.
Throughout the day he was delirious, pacing up and down, uttering hoarse cries, gnawing his clinched fists, and ready to open his veins and drink his own hot blood.
"Ah!" he cried, "land of thirst! Well might you be called the land of despair!"
At length he sank down in utter prostration, and his friends heard no other sound from him than the hissing of his breath between his parched and swollen lips.
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