As I expected, the Incas came rushing through the crevice—that narrow lane where a man could barely push through without squeezing. The first got my spear full in the face—a blow rather than a thrust, for I had once or twice had difficulty in retrieving it when I had buried it deep.
As he fell I struck at the one behind. He grasped the spear with his hand, but I jerked it free and brought it down on his head, crushing him to the ground. It was mere butchery; they hadn’t a chance in the world to get at me. Another fell, and the rest retreated. The crevice was again clear, save for the bodies of the three who had fallen.
I turned to where Harry and Desiree were seated on the further edge of the ledge. Her body rested against his; her head lay on his shoulder.
As I looked at them, smiling, her eyes suddenly opened wide and she sprang to her feet and started toward me.
“Paul! You are hurt! Harry, a bandage—quick; your shirt— anything!”
I looked down at the gash on my leg, which was bleeding somewhat freely.
“It’s nothing,” I declared; “a mere tear in the skin. But your ankle! I thought it was sprained?”
She had reached my side and bent over to examine my wound; but I raised her in my arms and held her before me.
“That,” I said, “is nothing. Believe me, it isn’t even painful. I shall bandage it myself; Harry will take my place here. But your foot?”
“That, too, is nothing,” she answered with a half-smile. “I merely twisted it; it is nearly well already. See!”
She placed her weight on the injured foot, but could not suppress a faint grimace of pain.
Calling to Harry to watch the crevice, I took Desiree in my arms and carried her back to her seat.
“Now sit still,” I commanded. “Soon we’ll have dinner; in the mean time allow me to say that you are the bravest woman in the world, and the best sport. And some day we’ll drink to that—from a bottle.”
But facts have no respect for sentiment and fine speeches. The last words were taken from my very mouth by a ringing cry from Harry:
“Paul! By gad, they’re coming at us from the water!”
The ledge on which we rested was about forty feet square. Back of us was a confused mass of boulders and chasms, across which I had come when I first encircled the cavern and found Harry.
In front was the crevice, guarded by the two massive boulders. On the right the ledge met the solid wall of the cavern, and on the left was the lake itself, whose waters rippled gently at our very feet.
At sound of Harry’s warning cry I ran to the water’s edge and peered round the side of the boulder. He was right; but what I saw was not very alarming.
Two rafts had been launched from the enemy’s camp. Each raft held three Incas—more would have sunk them. Two were paddling, while the third balanced himself in the center, brandishing a spear aloft.