I called a swift warning to Harry, who was some ten feet to my left, and he answered that he understood. The stones from the bank were falling thick about us now; one struck me on the shoulder, turning me half round.
The current became swifter—so swift that we were almost helpless against it and were carried around and around the column, which was but a few feet away. And always complete silence.
Nearer and nearer we were carried, till, thrusting out my arm, the tips of my fingers brushed against the side of the column. The water whirled with the rapidity of a mill-stream; ten more seconds and our brains would have been dashed against the unyielding stone. It was now but half an arm’s length away. I kept thrusting out my arm in a wild endeavor to avoid it.
Suddenly my outstretched hand found a purchase in a break in the wall, but the force of the water tore it loose and swept me away. But when I reached the same spot again I thrust out both hands, and, finding the edge, held on desperately. The next instant Harry’s body was swept against mine, doubling the strain on my fingers.
“The column!” I gasped. “Inside—through the wall—opening—I am holding—”
He understood, and the next moment he, too, had grasped the edge. Together we pulled ourselves, little by little, toward the opening; for our strength was nearly spent, and the force of the maelstrom was nigh irresistible.
It was as I had thought. The base of the column consisted merely of two massive pillars, some twelve feet in length and circular in shape. The water rushed in through each of the two openings thus left, and inside of the column was the center of the whirlpool, sucking the water from both sides. The water I had seen; I had not counted on the whirlpool.
We had pulled ourselves round till our bodies rested against the edge of the opening, clinging to either side. Inside all was blackness, but we could judge of the fury of the maelstrom by the force of the current outside. Stones hurled by the Incas were striking against the sides of the column and in the water near us.
We were being hunted from life like dogs, and a hot, unreasoning anger surged through my brain—anger at the grinning savages on the bank, at the whirling black water, at Harry, at myself.
Whichever way we looked was death, and none worth choosing.
“I can’t hold—much longer,” Harry gasped. “What’s the use—old man—Paul—come—I’m going—”
He disappeared into the black, furious whirlpool with that word. The next instant my own fingers were torn from their hold by a sudden jerk of the water, and I followed.
A fishing party.
Water, when whirling rapidly, has a keen distaste for any foreign object; but when once the surface breaks, that very repulsion seems to multiply the indescribable fury with which it endeavors to bury the object beneath its center.