The thing came closer and closer; it was but a few feet away, and still we did not move, as though rooted to the spot by some power beyond our control.
Suddenly there came a cry from Desiree’s lips—a scream of terror and wild fear. Her entire form trembled violently.
She extended her arms toward the thing, now almost upon us, and took a step forward. Her feet dragged unwilling along the ground, as though she were being drawn forward by some irresistible force.
I tried to put out my hand to pull her back, but was absolutely unable to move. Harry stood like a man of rock, immovable.
She took another step forward, with arms outstretched in front of her. A low moan of terror and piteous appeal came from between her slightly parted lips.
Suddenly the eyes disappeared. The huge form ceased to advance and stood perfectly still. Then it began to recede, so slowly that I was barely conscious of the movement.
I was gasping and choking for air; my chest seemed swelling with the poisonous breath. Still slowly the thing receded into the dimness of the cavern; the eyes were no longer to be seen—merely the huge, formless bulk. Desiree had stopped short with one foot advanced, as though hesitating and struggling with the desire to go forward.
The thing now could barely be seen at a distance; it would have been impossible if we had not known it was there. Finally it disappeared, melting away into the semi-darkness; no slightest movement was discernible. I breathed more freely and stepped forward.
As I did so Desiree threw her hands gropingly above her head and fell fainting to the ground.
Harry sprang forward in time to keep her head from striking on the rock and knelt with his arms round her shoulders. We had nothing, not even water, with which to revive her; he called her name aloud appealingly. Soon her eyes opened; she raised her hand and passed it across her brow wonderingly.
“God help me!” she murmured in a low voice, eloquent of distress and pain.
Then she pushed Harry aside and rose slowly to her feet, refusing his assistance.
“In the name of Heaven, what is it?” Harry demanded, turning to me.
“We have found the devil at last,” I answered, with an attempt to laugh, which sounded hollow in my own ears.
Desiree could tell us nothing, except that she had felt herself drawn forward by some strange power that had seemed to come from the baneful, glittering eyes. She was bewildered and stunned and unable to talk coherently. We assisted her to the wall, and she sat there with her back propped against it, breathing heavily from the exhaustion of terror.
“We must find water,” I said, and Harry nodded, hesitating.
I understood him. Danger could not have stayed him nor fear, but the horror of the thing which roamed about the cavern, dark as darkness itself and possessed of some strange power that could not be withstood, was enough to make him pause. For myself it was impossible; I was barely able to stand. So Harry went off alone in search of water and I stayed with Desiree.