“Well, we were busy, and we’ve already seen the Cave of the Sun.”
“Still it was an error, and I think you will pay for it. There have been unusual preparations under way for many hours. The king has been in my apartment, and messengers and guards have been arriving constantly, each with his little bundle of quipos, as you call them.”
“Did you see the quipos?”
“Did any of them contain a red cord, suspended alone, with a single knot at either end?”
“Yes, all of them,” said Desiree without an instant’s hesitation.
“That means Harry and me,” I observed. “But the message! Can you remember any of them?”
She tried, but without success. Which will not surprise any one who has ever seen the collection at the museum at Lima.
Then Harry broke in:
“Something else has happened, Desiree. No bunch of cords tied in silly knots ever made you look as you did just now. What was it?”
“I say yes! And I want to know! And if it’s what I think it is we’re going to clear out of here now!”
“As though we could!”
“We can! We have enough provisions to last for weeks. And see here,” he ran to the corner where he had hidden the golden clubs and returned with them in his hands, “with these we could make our way through them all. Tell me!”
There was a strange smile on Desiree’s lips.
“And so you would fight for me, Harry?” she said half-wistfully, half—I know not what. Then she continued in a tone low but quite distinct: “Well, it is too late. I am the king’s.”
She lied—I saw it in her eyes. Perhaps she meant to save Harry from his folly, to quiet him by the knowledge that he need not fight for what was no longer his own; but she was mistaken in her man.
Harry did not stop to read her eyes—he heard her words. He took two slow steps backward, then stood quite still, while his face grew deadly white and his eyes were fastened on hers with a look that made me turn my own away. His soul looked out from them—how he loved the woman—and I could not bear it!
Nor, after a moment, could Desiree. She took a step forward, extending her arms to him and cried out:
“Harry! No! It was a lie, Harry! Don’t—don’t!”
And they gazed at each other, and I at Desiree, and thus we were unaware that a fourth person had entered the room, until he had crossed its full length and stood before me. It was the Inca king.
I took no time for thought, but jumped straight for Harry and threw my arms round him, dragging him back half-way across the room. Taken completely by surprise, he did not struggle. I noticed that he still held in his hands the bars of gold he had shown to Desiree.
The king regarded us for a second with a scowl, then turned to her.
She stood erect, with flashing eyes. The king approached; she held out her hand to him with an indescribable gesture of dignity.