“What the deuce are they waiting for?” Harry growled, after one of their visits with food and water. “Why don’t they end it?”
“Most likely because a well man can appreciate torture better than a sick one,” I answered, not having seen fit to speak of it before. “You may be sure we’ll get all that’s coming to us.”
“But what will they do?”
“Heaven knows. They are capable of anything. We’ll get the worst.”
There was a silence; then Harry said slowly, hesitating:
“Paul—do you think—Desiree—”
“I don’t think—I dare not think about her,” I interrupted. “And it is our fault; we failed her. I should have put her beyond their reach, as I promised. I have reproached myself bitterly, Hal; you need add nothing.”
“Do you think I would? Only—there is something else. About what she said to you. I knew that, you know.”
I was silent; he continued:
“I knew it long ago. Do you think I am blind? And I want to say this while I have a chance—it was uncommon good of you. To take it the way you did, I mean.”
His simplicity made me uncomfortable, and I made no answer. Indeed, the thing was beyond discussion; it was merely a bare fact which, when once stated, left nothing to be said. So I refused to humor Harry’s evident desire to thrash out the topic, and abruptly changed the subject.
We must have lain bound in that cavern little short of a week. Our wounds and bruises were completely healed, save one gash on Harry’s side where he had been hurled against the sharp edge of one of the stone seats as he had been borne to the floor. But it was not painful, and was nearly closed. And we could feel the return of strength even through the stiffness caused by the inactivity of our muscles.
We had given up wondering at the delay by the time it came to an end. When they finally came and cut our bonds and led us from the cavern we felt nothing keener than a mere curiosity as to what awaited us at the end of our journey. For myself, there was a distinct sensation of thankfulness that uncertainty was to end.
They took no chances with us, but paid us the compliment of a truly royal escort—at least, in number. There could not have been less than two hundred of them in front, behind, and on either side, as we left the cavern and proceeded along a narrow, winding passage to the left.
Once, as we started, we stretched our arms high and stood on tiptoe to relieve the stiffness of our joints; and immediately found ourselves clutched on every side by a score of hands.
“Gad! We seem to have made an impression!” Harry grinned. On the way down the passage we marched with the Prussian goose-step, and felt the blood quickening to life in our legs and arms.
We had proceeded in this manner for some ten minutes when we rounded a corner which I recognized at once by the peculiar circular formation of the walls. We were on our way to the great cavern—the cavern where we had first seen Desiree, and where later she had won the toss for our lives and then preserved them.