On the other hand, if it was carried far enough through the lower rapids, they might swim. And—there was the rifle laying across the pack. That, after all, was his greatest hope—if the scow made the passage of the Chute. The bulwarks of the scow would give them greater protection than the thinner walls of the launch would give to their pursuers. In his heart there raged suddenly a hatred for that Law of which he had been a part. It was running them to destruction, and he would fight. There would not be more than three men in the launch, and he would kill them, if killing became a necessity.
They were speeding like an unbridled race-horse through the boiling rapids now. The clumsy craft under their feet twisted and turned. The dripping tops of great rocks shot past a little out of their channel. And Marette, with one arm still about his neck, was facing the peril ahead with him. They could see the Dragon’s Tooth, black and grim, waiting squarely in their path. In another hundred and twenty seconds they would be upon it—or past it. There was no time for Kent to explain. He sprang to his pack, whipped a knife from his pocket, and cut the stout babiche rope that reenforced its straps. In another instant he was back at Marette’s side, fastening the babiche about her waist. The other end he gave to her, and she tied it about his wrist. She smiled as she finished the knot. It was a strange, tense little smile, but it told him that she was not afraid, that she had great faith in him, and knew what the babiche meant.
“I can swim, Jeems,” she cried. “If we strike the rock.”
She did not finish because of the sudden cry that came to his lips. He had almost forgotten the most vital of all things. There was not time to unlace his boots. With his knife he cut the laces in a single downward thrust. Swiftly he freed his own feet, and Marette’s. Even in this hour of their peril it thrilled him to see how quickly Marette responded to the thoughts that moved him. She tore at her outer garments and slipped them off as he wriggled out of his heavy shirt. A slim, white-underskirted little thing, her glorious hair flying in the wind that came through the Chute, her throat and arms bare, her eyes shining at Kent, she came again close within his arms, and her lips framed softly his name. And a moment later she turned her face up, and cried quickly,
“Kiss me, Jeems—kiss me—”
Her warm lips clung to his, and her bare arms encircled his neck with the choking grip of a child’s. He looked ahead and braced himself on his feet, and after that he buried one of his hands in the soft mass of her hair and pressed her face against his naked breast.
Ten seconds later the crash came. Squarely amidships the scow struck the Dragon’s Tooth. Kent was prepared for the shock, but his attempt to hold his feet, with Marette in his arms, was futile. The bulwark saved them from crashing against the slippery face of the rock itself. Amid the roar of water that filled his ears he was conscious of the rending of timbers. The scow bulged up with the mighty force beneath, and for a second or two it seemed as though that force was going to overturn and submerge it. Then slowly it began to slip off the nose of the rock.