Well, imagine that thrill multiplied a thousandfold and you will understand the sensation that overpowered me as I beheld, in the midst of that dazzling blaze of light, the matchless Dance of the Sun.
For I recognized it at once. I had never seen it, but it had been minutely described to me—described by a beautiful and famous woman as I sat on the deck of a yacht steaming into the harbor of Callao.
She had promised me then that she would dance it for me some day—
I looked at Harry, who had remained standing beside me, gazing as I had gazed. His eyes were opened wide, staring at the swaying figure on the column in the most profound astonishment.
He took his hand from my shoulder and stood erect, alone; and I saw the light of recognition and hope and deepest joy slowly fill his eyes and spread over his face. Then I realized the danger, and I endeavored once more to put my arm round his shoulder; but he shook me off with hot impatience. He leaped forward with the quickness of lightning, eluding my frantic grasp, and dashed straight into the circle of blazing light!
I followed, but too late. At the edge of the lake he stopped, and, stretching forth his arms toward the dancer on the column, he cried out in a voice that made the cavern ring:
“Desiree! Desiree! Desiree!”
Before the court.
I expected I know not what result from Harry’s hysterical rashness: confusion, pandemonium, instant death; but none of these followed.
I had reached his side and stood by him at the edge of the lake, where he had halted. Desiree Le Mire stopped short in the midst of the mad sweep of the Dance of the Sun.
For ten silent, tense seconds she looked down at us from the top of the lofty column, bending dangerously near its edge. Her form straightened and was stretched to its fullest height; her white, superb body was distinctly outlined against the black background of the upper cavern. Then she stepped backward slowly, without taking her eyes from us.
Suddenly as we gazed she appeared to sink within the column itself and in another instant disappeared from view.
We stood motionless, petrified; how long I know not. Then I turned and faced our own danger. It was time.
The Incas—for I was satisfied of the identity of the creatures—had left their seats of granite and advanced to the edge of the lake. Not a sound was heard—no command from voice or trumpet or reed; they moved as with one impulse and one brain.
We were utterly helpless, for they numbered thousands. And weak and starving as we were, a single pair of them would have been more than a match for us.
I looked at Harry; the reaction from his moment of superficial energy was already upon him. His body swayed slightly from side to side, and he would have fallen if I had not supported him with my arm. There we stood, waiting.