I found Harry’s pantry after a few minutes’ search and took some of its contents to Desiree. Then I returned to the edge of the water and ate my portion alone. That meal was one scarcely calculated for the pleasures of companionship or conviviality.
It was several hours after that before Harry awoke, the greater part of which Desiree and I were silent.
I would have given something to have known her thoughts; my own were not very pleasant. It is always a disagreeable thing to discover that some one else knows you better than you know yourself. And Desiree had cut deep. At the time I thought her unjust; time alone could have told which of us was right. If she were here with me now—but she is not.
Finally Harry awoke. He was delighted to find Desiree awake and comparatively well, and demonstrated the fact with a degree of effusion that prompted me to leave them alone together. But I did not go far; a hundred paces made me sit down to rest before returning, so weak was I from wounds and fasting.
Harry’s spirits were high, for no apparent reason other than that we were still alive, for that was the best that could be said for us. So I told him; he retorted with a hearty clap on the back that sent me sprawling to the ground.
“What the deuce!” he exclaimed, stooping to help me up. “Are you as weak as that? Gad, I’m sorry!”
“That is the second fall he has had,” said Desiree, with a meaning smile.
Indeed, she was having her revenge!
But my strength was not long in returning. Over a long stretch our diet would hardly have been conducive to health, but it was exactly what I needed to put blood and strength in me. And Harry and Desiree, too, for that matter.
Again I had to withstand Harry’s eager demands for action. He began within two hours to insist on exploring the cave, and would hardly take a refusal.
“I won’t stir a foot until I am able to knock you down,” I declared finally and flatly. “Never again will I attempt to perform the feats of a Hercules when I am fit only for an invalid’s chair.” And he was forced to wait.
As I say, however, my strength was not long in returning, and when it started it came with a rush. My wounds were healing perfectly; only one remained open. Harry, with his usual phenomenal luck, had got nothing but the merest scratches.
Desiree improved very slowly. The strain of those four days in the cavern had been severe, and her nerves required more pleasant surroundings than a dark and damp cavern and more agreeable diet than raw meat, to adjust themselves.
Thus it was that when Harry and I found ourselves ready to start out to explore the cavern and, if possible, find an exit on the opposite side from the one where we had entered, we left Desiree behind, seated on a pile of skins, with a spear on the ground at her side.
“We’ll be back in an hour,” said Harry, stooping to kiss her; and the phrase, which might have come from the lips of a worthy Harlem husband leaving for a little sojourn with friends on the corner, brought a smile to my face.