We had gone perhaps three miles when we came to a sharp bend in the stream, to the left, almost at a right angle. Harry, at the bow, was supposed to be on the lookout, but he failed to see it until we were already caught in its whirl.
Then he gave a cry of alarm, and together we swung the raft to the left, avoiding the right bank of the curve by less than a foot. Once safely past, I sent Harry to the stern and took the bow myself, which brought down upon him a deal of keen banter from Desiree.
There the tunnel widened, and the raft began to glide easily onward, without any of its sudden dashes to right or left. I rested on my oar, gazing intently ahead; at the best I could make out the walls a hundred yards ahead, and but dimly. All was silence, save the gentle swish of the water against the sides of the raft and the patter of Harry’s oar dipping idly on one side or the other.
Suddenly Desiree’s voice came through the silence, soft and very low:
“Pendant une anne’
Le regiment na Pas r’paru.
Au Ministere de la Guerre
On le r’porta comme perdu.
“On se r’noncait
a r’trouver sa trace,
Quand un matin subitement,
On le vit r’paraitre sur la place,
L’Colonel toujours en avant.”
I waited until the last note had died away in the darkness.
“Are those your thoughts?” I asked then, half turning.
“No,” said Desiree, “but I want to kill my thoughts. As for them—”
She hesitated, and after a short pause her voice again broke into melody:
“Fresh as the first beam glittering
on a sail
That brings our friends up from the underworld;
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.”
Her voice, subdued and low, breathed a sweetness that seemed almost to be of another world. My ear quivered with the vibrations, and long after she was silent the last mellow note floated through my brain.
Suddenly I became conscious of another sound, scarcely less musical. It, too, was low; so low and faint that at first I thought my ear deceived me, or that some distant echo was returning Desiree’s song down the dark tunnel.
Gradually, very gradually, it became louder and clearer, until at length I recognized it. It was the rush of water, unbroken, still low and at a great distance. I turned to remark on it to Harry, but Desiree took the words from my mouth.
“I seem to hear something—like the surf,” she said. “That isn’t possible, is it?”
I could have smiled but for the deep note of hope in her voice.
“Hardly,” I answered. “I have heard it for several minutes. It is probably some shallows. We must look sharp.”
Another fifteen minutes, and I began to notice that the speed of the current was increasing. The sound of the rushing water, too, was quite distinct. Still the raft moved more and more swiftly, till I began to feel alarmed. I turned to Harry: