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We stood there, grouped about the body of the dead Grabritin, looking futilely down the river to where it made an abrupt curve to the west, a quarter of a mile below us, and was lost to sight, as though we expected to see the truant returning to us with our precious launch--the thing that meant life or death to us in this unfriendly, savage world.
I felt, rather than saw, Taylor turn his eyes slowly toward my profile, and, as mine swung to meet them, the expression upon his face recalled me to my duty and responsibility as an officer.
The utter hopelessness that was reflected in his face must have been the counterpart of what I myself felt, but in that brief instant I determined to hide my own misgivings that I might bolster up the courage of the others.
"We are lost!" was written as plainly upon Taylor's face as though his features were the printed words upon an open book. He was thinking of the launch, and of the launch alone. Was I? I tried to think that I was. But a greater grief than the loss of the launch could have engendered in me, filled my heart--a sullen, gnawing misery which I tried to deny--which I refused to admit--but which persisted in obsessing me until my heart rose and filled my throat, and I could not speak when I would have uttered words of reassurance to my companions.
And then rage came to my relief--rage against the vile traitor who had deserted three of his fellow countrymen in so frightful a position. I tried to feel an equal rage against the woman, but somehow I could not, and kept searching for excuses for her--her youth, her inexperience, her savagery.
My rising anger swept away my temporary helplessness. I smiled, and told Taylor not to look so glum.
"We will follow them," I said, "and the chances are that we shall overtake them. They will not travel as rapidly as Snider probably hopes. He will be forced to halt for fuel and for food, and the launch must follow the windings of the river; we can take short cuts while they are traversing the detour. I have my map--thank God! I always carry it upon my person--and with that and the compass we will have an advantage over them."
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