I think I tried to rise to my own feet. I heard Harry’s voice crying in a frenzy: “Quick—here they come! Desiree, where is it?”
There was a ringing cry of despair from Desiree, a swinging oath from Harry, and the next instant I found myself pinned to the floor by the weight of a score of bodies.
Into the whirlpool.
I hardly know what happened after that. I was barely conscious that there was movement round me, and that my wrists and ankles were being tightly bound. Harry told me afterward that he made one last desperate stand, and was halted by a cry from Desiree, imploring him to employ the club in the intended office of the dagger.
He wheeled about and raised it to strike; then his arm dropped, unable to obey for the brutal horror of it. In another instant he and Desiree, too, had been overpowered and carried to the floor by the savage rush.
This he told me as we lay side by side in a dark cavern, whither we had been carried by the victorious Incas. I had expected instant death; the fact that our lives had been spared could have but one meaning, I thought: to the revenge of death was to be added the vindictiveness of torture.
We knew nothing of Desiree’s fate. Harry had not seen her since he had been crushed to the floor by that last assault. And instead of fearing for her life, we were convinced that a still more horrible doom was to be hers, and hoped only that she would find the means to avoid it by the only possible course.
I have said that we again found ourselves in darkness, but it was much less profound than it had been before. We could distinctly see the four walls of the cavern in which we lay; it was about twelve feet by twenty, and the ceiling was very low. The ground was damp and cold, and we had neither ponchos nor jackets to protect us.
A description of our state of mind as we lay exhausted, wounded, and bound so tightly that any movement was impossible, would seem to betray a weakness. Perhaps it was so; but we prayed for the end—Harry with curses and oaths, myself in silence. There is a time when misery becomes so acute that a man wants only deliverance and gives no thought to the means.
That was reaction, and gradually it lessened. And when, after we had lain unconscious for many hours (we can hardly be said to have slept) they came to bathe our wounds and bruises and bring us food and drink, the water was actually grateful to our hot, suffering flesh, and we ate almost with relish. But before they left they again bound our wrists firmly behind us, and tightened the cords on our ankles.
If they meditated punishment they certainly seemed to be in no hurry about it. The hours passed endlessly by. We were cared for as tenderly as though we had been wounded comrades instead of vanquished foes, and though we were allowed to remain on the damp, hard rock of the cavern, we gradually recovered from the effects of that gruesome struggle in the doorway, and our suffering bodies began to feel comparative comfort.