But action came, though not from me, so suddenly that I scarcely knew what had happened. There was a cry from Desiree. Harry sprang to his feet. The Incas leaped forward.
I felt myself jerked violently from the ground, and a spear was thrust into my hand. Harry’s form flashed past me, shouting to me to follow. Desiree was at his heels; but I saw her halt and turn to me, and I, too, sprang forward.
Harry’s spear whirled about his head, leaving a gap in the black line that was now upon us. Through it we plunged. The Incas turned and came at us from behind; one whose hands were upon Desiree got my spear in his throat and sank to the ground.
“Cross to the left!” Harry yelled. He was fighting them off from every direction at once.
I turned, calling to Desiree to follow, and dashed across the cavern. We saw the wall just ahead, broken and rugged. Again turning I called to Harry, but could not see him for the black forms on every side, and I was starting to his rescue when I saw him plunge toward us, cutting his way through the solid mass of Incas as though they had been stalks of corn. He was not a man, but a demon possessed.
“Go on,” he shouted. “I’ll make it!”
Then I turned and ran with Desiree to the wall. We followed it a short distance before we reached one of the lanes of which Harry had spoken; at its entrance he joined us, still bidding us to leave him to cover our retreat.
Once within the narrow lane his task was easier. Boulders and projecting rocks obstructed our progress, but they were even greater obstacles to those who pursued us. Still they rushed forward, only to be hurled back by the point of Harry’s spear. Once, turning, I saw him pick one of them up bodily and toss him whirling through the air into the very faces of his comrades.
I had all I could do with Desiree and myself. Many times I scrambled up the steep face of some boulder and, after pulling her up safely after me, let her down again on the other side. Then I returned to see that Harry got over safely, and often he made it barely by inches, while flying spears struck the rock on every side.
It is a wonder to me now that I was able even to stand, after my experience on the spiral stairway in the column. The soles of my feet and the palms of my hands were baked black as the Incas themselves. Blisters covered my body from head to foot, swelling, indescribably painful.
Every step I took made me clench my teeth to keep from sinking in a faint to the ground; I expected always that the next would be my last—but somehow I struggled onward. It was the thought of Desiree, I think, that held me up, and Harry.
Suddenly a shout came from Harry that the Incas had abandoned the pursuit. It struck me almost as a matter of indifference; nor was I affected when almost immediately afterward he called that he had been mistaken and that they had rushed forward with renewed fury and in greater numbers.