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datatime: 2022-12-08 08:19:04 Author:xtjwBEXf

We crept silently to the corner, avoiding the circle of light as far as possible, and, crouching side by side on the rock, looked out together on a scene none the less striking because we had seen it twice before.

How my heart leaped then Harry uttered a hoarse cry of exultation. The next instant we were dashing headlong down the steps, avoiding a fall by I know not what miracle. And there before us was the entrance to the tunnel.

"It came from the left," said Harry; but I disagreed with him and was so sure of myself that we started off to the right. The echoes of the bell were still floating from wall to wall as we went rapidly forward. I do not know what we expected to find, and the Lord knows what we intended to do after we found it.

We rushed forward side by side, guessing at our way, seeking the entrance to the tunnel that led to the foot of the column. A prayer was on my lips that we might not be too late; Harry's lips were compressed together tightly as a vise. Death we did not fear, even for Desiree; but we remembered the horror of our own experience on the top of that column, and shuddered as we ran.

"They have fired the column-you remember. Follow me; keep your spear ready; not a sound, if you love her."

"It came from the left," said Harry; but I disagreed with him and was so sure of myself that we started off to the right. The echoes of the bell were still floating from wall to wall as we went rapidly forward. I do not know what we expected to find, and the Lord knows what we intended to do after we found it.

As I have said, we had entered the great cavern at a point almost directly opposite the alcove, and therefore at a distance from the entrance we sought. It was necessary to half encircle the cavern, and the passages were so often crossed by other passages that many times we had to guess at the proper road.

As before, the stone seats which surrounded the amphitheater on every side were filled with the Incas, crouching motionless and silent. The flames in the massive urns mounted in steady tongues, casting their blinding glare in every direction.

We had no sooner turned than we saw that which caused us to glance quickly at each other and hasten our step, while I smothered the ejaculation that rose to my lips. The corridor in which we now found ourselves stretched straight ahead for a distance, then turned to one side; and the corner thus formed was flooded with a brilliant blaze of light

"Follow me," I whispered; and he must have read the force of my knowledge in my eyes, for he obeyed without a word. Back down the passage we ran, halting at its end. Harry opened his lips to speak, but I took the words from his mouth; seconds were precious.

Neither Harry nor I spoke; our eyes were concentrated on the scene before us, trying to comprehend its meaning.

THE BEGINNING OF THE END.

As I have said, we had entered the great cavern at a point almost directly opposite the alcove, and therefore at a distance from the entrance we sought. It was necessary to half encircle the cavern, and the passages were so often crossed by other passages that many times we had to guess at the proper road.

"It came from the left," said Harry; but I disagreed with him and was so sure of myself that we started off to the right. The echoes of the bell were still floating from wall to wall as we went rapidly forward. I do not know what we expected to find, and the Lord knows what we intended to do after we found it.

Neither Harry nor I spoke; our eyes were concentrated on the scene before us, trying to comprehend its meaning.

There we stood, motionless and scarcely breathing, while group after group of the savages passed in the corridor ahead. Their number swelled to a continuous stream, which in turn gradually became thinner and thinner until only a few stragglers were seen trotting behind. Finally they, too, ceased to appear; the corridor was deserted.

We had no sooner turned than we saw that which caused us to glance quickly at each other and hasten our step, while I smothered the ejaculation that rose to my lips. The corridor in which we now found ourselves stretched straight ahead for a distance, then turned to one side; and the corner thus formed was flooded with a brilliant blaze of light

There we stood, motionless and scarcely breathing, while group after group of the savages passed in the corridor ahead. Their number swelled to a continuous stream, which in turn gradually became thinner and thinner until only a few stragglers were seen trotting behind. Finally they, too, ceased to appear; the corridor was deserted.

I do not know what led us; whether a remorseful Providence, who suddenly decided that we had been played with long enough, or the mere animal instinct of direction, or blind luck. But so fast did we go that it seemed to me we had left the great cavern scarcely a minute behind us when I suddenly saw the steps of a steep stairway leading down from an opening on our right.

I saw that he understood, and saw too, by the expression that shot into his face, that it would go ill with any Incas who tried to stop us then.

It was the same sound we had heard twice before; a sound as of a great, deep-toned bell ringing sonorously throughout the passages and caverns with a roar that was deafening. And it seemed to be close-quite close.

Her white body, uncovered, was outlined sharply against the black background of the cavern above.

We crept silently to the corner, avoiding the circle of light as far as possible, and, crouching side by side on the rock, looked out together on a scene none the less striking because we had seen it twice before.

And on the instant I turned to Harry.

I do not know what led us; whether a remorseful Providence, who suddenly decided that we had been played with long enough, or the mere animal instinct of direction, or blind luck. But so fast did we go that it seemed to me we had left the great cavern scarcely a minute behind us when I suddenly saw the steps of a steep stairway leading down from an opening on our right.

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