“We’ll make it,” he smiled confidently. “We’ll hit that timbered point close inshore. I don’t see where the launch can make a landing anywhere within a mile of the Chute. And once ashore we’ll make trail about five times as fast they can follow it.” Marette’s face was no longer pale, but flushed with excitement. He caught the white gleam of teeth between her parted lips. Her eyes shone gloriously, and he laughed.
“You beautiful little fighter,” he cried exultantly. “You—you—”
His words were cut short by a snap that was like the report of a pistol close to his ears. He pitched forward and crashed to the bottom of the scow, Marette’s slim body clutched in his arms as he fell. In a flash they were up, and mutely they stared where the sweep had been. The blade of it was gone. Kent was conscious of hearing a little cry from the girl at his side, and then her fingers were gripping tightly again about his thumb. No longer possessed of the power of guidance, the scow swung sideways. It swept past the wooded point. The white maelstrom of the lower rapids seized upon it. And Kent, looking ahead to the black maw of the death-trap that was waiting for them, drew Marette close in his arms and held her tight.
For a brief space after the breaking of the scow-sweep Kent did not move. He felt Marette’s arms closing tighter and tighter around his neck. He caught a flash of her upturned face, the flush of a few moments before replaced by a deathly pallor, and he knew that without explanation on his part she understood the almost hopeless situation they were in. He was glad of that. It gave him a sense of relief to know that she would not go into a panic, no matter what happened. He bowed his face to hers, so that he felt the velvety smoothness of her cheek. She turned her mouth to him, and they kissed. His embrace was crushing for a moment, fierce with his love for her, desperate with his determination to keep her from harm.
His brain was working swiftly. There was possibly one chance in ten that the scow—rudderless and without human guidance—would sweep safely between the black walls and jagged teeth of the Chute. Even if the scow made this passage, they would be in the power of the Police, unless some splendid whimsicality of Fate sent it ashore before the launch came through.