There was a long silence; then Harry’s voice came calmly:
“I can stay in the game. You call yourself a philosopher. I won’t quarrel about it, but the world would call you a quitter. Whichever it is, it’s not for me. I stay in the game. I’m going to find Desiree if I can, and, by the Lord, some day I’m going to cock my feet up on the fender at the Midlothian and make ’em open their mouths and call me a liar!”
“A worthy ambition.”
“My own. And, Paul, you can’t—you’re not a quitter.”
“Personally, yes. If I were here alone, Hal”—I picked up one of the spears and passed my palm over its sharp point—“I would quit cold. But not—not with you. I can’t share your enthusiasm, but I’ll go fifty-fifty on the rest of it, including the fender— when we see it.”
“That’s the talk, old man. I knew you would.”
“But understand me. I expect nothing. It’s all rot. If by any wild chance we should pull out in the end I’ll admit you were right. But I eat under compulsion, and I fight for you. You’re the leader unless you ask my advice.”
“And I begin right now,” said Harry with a grin. “First, to get Desiree. What about it?”
We discussed plans all the way from the impossible to the miraculous and arrived nowhere. One thing only we decided—that before we tried to find our way back to the great cavern and the royal apartments we would lay in a supply of food and cache it among the boulders and ledges where we then were. For if ever a place were designed for a successful defense by two men against thousands it was that one. And we had the spears.
Still no one had appeared in the cavern, and we decided to wait no longer. We carried the raft back to the ledge. It was fairly light, being made of hide stretched tightly across stringers of bone, but was exceedingly clumsy. Once Harry fell, and the thing nearly toppled over into the lake with him on top of it; but I caught his arm just in time.
Another trip for the oars and spears, and everything was ready. We launched the raft awkwardly, nearly shipping it beneath; but finally got it afloat with ourselves aboard. We had fastened the loose ends of the spear-thongs about our waists.
I think that raft was the craziest thing that ever touched water. It was a most excellent diver, but was in profound ignorance of the first principle of the art of floating.
After a quarter of an hour of experimentation we found that by standing exactly in a certain position, one on each side and paddling with one hand, it was possible to keep fairly level. If either of us shifted his foot a fraction of an inch the thing ducked like a stone.
We finally got out a hundred feet or so and ceased paddling. Then, exchanging our oars for the spears, we waited.
The surface of the lake was perfectly still, save for a barely perceptible ripple, caused no doubt by the undercurrent which was fed by the stream at the opposite side. The urns were so far away that the light was very dim; no better than half darkness. The silence was broken by the sound of the rushing stream.