The bodies of those who fell were dragged away from underneath. I did not see it, but it must have been so, or soon we would have raised our own barricade for defense—a barricade of flesh. And there was none.
I began to weaken, and Harry saw it, for he gasped out: “Steady—Paul. Take it—easy. They can’t—last—forever.”
His blows were redoubled in fury as he moved closer to me, taking more than his share of the attack, so that I almost had time to breathe.
But we could not have held out much longer. My brain was whirling madly and a weight of a thousand tons seemed dragging me remorselessly, inevitably to the ground. I kept my feet through the force of some crazy instinct, for will and reason were gone.
And then, for an instant, Harry’s eyes met mine, and I read in them what neither of us could say, nor would. With the fury of despair we struck out together in one last effort.
Whether the Incas saw in that effort a renewed strength that spoke of immortality, or whether it happened just at that moment that the pressure from behind was removed, no longer forcing them to their death, I do not know. It may have been that, like some better men, they had merely had enough.
From whatever cause, the attack ceased almost with the suddenness with which it had begun; they fell back from the doorway; Harry lunged forward with raised club, and the forms melted away into the darkness of the corridor.
Harry turned and looked at me as I stood swaying from side to side in the doorway. Neither of us could speak. Together we staggered back across the room, but I had not gone more than half way when my legs bent under me and I sank to the floor. Dimly I saw Harry’s face above me, as though through a veil—then another face that came close to my own—and a voice:
“Paul! My love! They have killed him!”
Soft white arms were about my neck, and a velvet cheek was pressed against my own.
“Desiree!” I gasped. “Don’t! Harry! No, they have not killed me—”
Then Harry’s voice:
“That’s all right, old fellow. I know—I have known she loves you. This is no time to talk of that. Listen, Paul—what you were going to do for Desiree—if you can—they will be back at any moment—”
That thought kindled my brain; I raised myself onto my elbow.
“I haven’t the strength,” I said, hardly knowing how I spoke. “You must do it, Harry; you must. And quick, lad! The dagger! Desiree—the dagger!”
What followed came to me as in a dream; my eyes were dim with the exhaustion that had overcome my body. Desiree’s face disappeared from before my face—then a silence—then the sound of her voice as though from a distance:
“Harry—come! I can’t find it! I dropped it when I ran across—it must be here—on the floor—”
And then another sound came that I knew only too well—the sound of rushing, pattering feet.