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Under the Andes Rex Stout

A Fishing Party

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I suggested that it might be best to wait another hour or two.

"And why? Now is as good a time as any. If we intend to find Desiree--"

"In the name of Heaven, how can we?" I interrupted.

"You don't mean to say you don't intend to try?" he exclaimed.

"Hal, I don't know. In the first place, it's impossible. And where could we take her and what could we do--in short, what's the use? Why the deuce should we prolong the thing any further?

"In the world I refused to struggle because nothing tempted me; in this infernal hole I have fought when there was nothing to fight for. If civilization held no prize worth an effort, why should I exert myself to preserve the life of a rat? Faugh! It's sickening! I wondered why I wanted those spears. Now I know. I have an idea I'm going to be coward enough to use one--or enough of a philosopher."

"Paul, that isn't like you."

"On the contrary, it is consistent with my whole life. I have never been overly keen about it. To end it in a hole like this-- well, that isn't exactly what I expected; but it is all one--after. Understand me, Hal; I don't want to desert you; haven't I stuck? And I would still if there were the slightest possible chance. Where can we go? What can we do?"

There was a long silence; then Harry's voice came calmly:

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"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.

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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