I heard Harry’s voice at my back:
“How about it? Want some help?”
“Not unless they find some gunpowder,” I answered. “The idiots eat death as though it were candy. We’re safe; they can never break through here.”
“Are they still coming?”
“They can’t; they’ve blocked the way with their smelly black carcasses. How is Desiree?”
“Better; she’s awake. I’ve been bathing her ankle with cold water. She has a bad sprain; how the deuce she ever managed to hobble on it even two steps is beyond me.”
“A sprain? Are you sure?”
“I think so; it’s badly swollen. Maybe only a twist; a few hours will tell.”
I heard him return to the ledge back of me; I dared not turn my head.
Thinking I heard a sound above, I looked up; but there was nothing to fear in that direction. The boulders which formed the sides of the crevice extended straight up to the roof of the cavern. We appeared, in fact, to be fortified against any attack.
With one exception—hunger. But there would be plenty of time to think of that; for the present we had our fish, which was sufficient for the three of us for a month, if we could keep it fresh that long. And the water was at our very feet.
The bodies wedged in the mouth of the crevice began to disappear, allowing the light from the urns to filter through; they were removing their dead. I could see the black forms swaying and pulling not five feet away. But I stood motionless, saving my spear and my strength for any who might try to force an entrance.
Soon the crevice was clear, and from where I stood I commanded a view of something like three-quarters of the ledge. It was one mass of black forms, packed tightly together, gazing at our retreat.
They looked particularly silly and helpless to me then, rendered powerless as they were by a little bit of rock. Brute force was all they had; and nature, being the biggest brute of all, laughed at them.
But I soon found that they were not devoid of resource. For perhaps fifteen minutes the scene remained unchanged; not one ventured to approach the crevice. Then there was a sudden movement and shifting in the mass; it split suddenly in the middle; they pressed off to either side, leaving an open lane between them leading directly toward me.
Down this lane suddenly dashed a dozen or more of the savages, with spears aloft in their brawny arms. I was taken by surprise and barely had time to cut and run for the ledge within.
As it was I did not entirely escape; the spears came whistling through the crevice, and one of them lodged in my leg just below the thigh.
I jerked it out with an oath and turned to meet the attack. I was now clear of the crevice, standing on the ledge inside, near Harry and Desiree. I called to them to go to one side, out of the range of the spears that might come through. Harry took Desiree in his arms and carried her to safety.