“My dear boy,” said I, “in this darkness you couldn’t see the Kohinoor diamond if it were hanging on your nose, drawing-room travelers to the contrary notwithstanding. We have one advantage—they can’t understand what we say, but they even up for it by not saying anything.”
There was a short silence, then Harry’s voice:
“I wonder—do you think Desiree—” He hesitated, his voice faltering.
“I think the same as you do,” said I.
“But I don’t know—after all, there is a chance. Just a bare chance, isn’t there?”
“You know as well as I do, Harry. The chances are a million to one that Desiree—thank Heaven—has escaped all this! And isn’t that best! Would you have her here with us?”
“Lying here, bound hand and foot? She would make a dainty morsel for our friends.”
“For the Lord’s sake, Paul—”
“Well, let us forget her—for the present. Nor do we want to make a dainty morsel if we can help it. Come, brace up, Hal. It’s up to us to turn a trick.”
“I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. I guess we were both too dazed to have good sense. What have you got strapped to your belt?”
“A gun,” said Harry. “Of course I thought of that. But what good is it after that ducking? And I have only six cartridges.”
I could almost feel his silent gaze; then suddenly he cried out:
“At last!” said I sarcastically. “And so have I. A six-inch, double-edged knife, sharp as a razor and pointed like a needle. They didn’t have sense enough to search us, and we didn’t have sense enough to realize it. I can feel mine under me now against the ground.”
“But they’ll see us.”
“Not if we use a decent amount of caution. The trouble is, I can’t reach my knife with my wrists bound. There’s only one way. Lie perfectly still; let them think we’ve given it up. I’m going to try something.”
I drew up my knees, twisted over on the hard rock, and lay flat on my belly. Then I drew up my hands and let my face rest on them, like a dog with his head on his paws. And then, keeping my body perfectly still, and with as little movement of the jaws as possible, I sought the tough thongs with my teeth.
That was a tedious job and a distasteful one. For many minutes I gnawed away at those thick cords like a dog on a bone. It was considerably later that I discovered what those cords were made of; thank Heaven, I was ignorant of it at the time! All I knew was that they were, to use one of Harry’s phrases, “tough as rats.”
I did not dare pull with my wrists, for fear they would fly suddenly apart and betray me to the unseen watchers. It was necessary to cut clear through with my teeth, and more than once I was on the point of giving it up. There was a nauseating, rancid taste to the stuff, but I dared not even raise my head to expectorate.