We saw no water nor promise of any; nothing save the long stretch of dim vista ahead and the grim, black walls on either side. That, I think, for hours; it seemed to me then for years.
I dragged one leg after the other with infinite effort and pain; Harry was ahead, and sometimes, glancing back over his shoulder to find me at some distance behind, he would turn over and lie on his back till I approached. Then again to his knees and again forward. Neither of us spoke.
Suddenly, at a great distance down the passage, much further than I had been able to see before, I saw what appeared to be a white wall extending directly across our path.
I called to Harry and pointed it out to him. He nodded vaguely, as though in wonder that I should have troubled him about so slight an object of interest, and crawled on.
But the white wall became whiter still, and soon I saw that it was not a wall. A wild hope surged through me; I felt the blood mount dizzily to my head, and I stilled the clamor that beat at my temples by an extreme effort of the will. “It can’t be,” I said to myself aloud, over and over; “it can’t be, it can’t be.”
Harry turned, and his face was as white as when he had knelt by the body of Desiree, and his eye was wild.
“You fool,” he roared, “it is!”
We went faster then. Another hundred yards, and the thing was certain; there it was before us. We scrambled to our feet and tried to run; I reeled and fell, then picked myself up again and followed Harry, who had not even halted as I had fallen. The mouth of the passage was now but a few feet away; I reached Harry’s side, blinking and stunned with amazement and the incredible wonder of it.
I tried to shout, to cry aloud to the heavens, but a great lump in my throat choked me and my head was singing dizzily.
Harry, at my side, was crying like a child, with great tears streaming down his face, as together we staggered forth from the mouth of the passage into the bright and dazzling sunshine of the Andes.
Never, I believe, were misery and joy so curiously mingled in the human breast as when Harry and I stood—barely able to stand—gazing speechlessly at the world that had so long been hidden from us.
We had found the light, but had lost Desiree. We were alive, but so near to death that our first breath of the mountain air was like to be our last.
The details of our painful journey down the mountain, over the rocks and crags, and through rushing torrents that more than once swept us from our feet, cannot be written, for I do not know them.
The memory of the thing is but an indistinct nightmare of suffering. But the blind luck that seemed to have fallen over our shoulders as a protecting mantle at the death of Desiree stayed with us; and after endless hours of incredible toil and labor, we came to a narrow pass leading at right angles to our course.