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|Under the Andes||Rex Stout|
|Page 3 of 9||
Suddenly there was a loud splash in the stream, which was quite close to us.
"By gad!" exclaimed Harry, springing to his feet. "Did you hear that? It sounded like--remember the fish we pulled in from the Inca's raft?"
"Which has nothing to do with this," I answered. "It's nothing but the water-pigs. I've heard 'em a thousand times in the last few days. And the Lord knows we have enough of them."
But Harry protested that the splash was much too loud to have been caused by any water-pig and waded into the stream to investigate. I rose to my feet and followed him leisurely, for no reason in particular, but was suddenly startled by an excited cry from his lips:
"Paul--the spear! Quick! It's a whale!"
I ran as swiftly as I could to the shore and returned with our spears, but when I reached Harry he greeted me with an oath of disappointment and the information that the "whale" had disappeared. He was greatly excited.
"I tell you he was twenty feet long! A big black devil, with a head like a cow."
"You're sure it wasn't like a pig?" I asked skeptically.
Harry looked at me.
"I have drunk nothing but water for a month," he said dryly. "It was a fish, and some fish."
"Well, there's probably more like him," I observed. "But they can wait. Come on and get some sleep, and then--we'll see."
Some hours afterward, having filled ourselves with sleep and food (I had decided, after mature deliberation, not to change my hotel), we started out, armed with our spears. Desiree accompanied us. Harry told her bluntly that she would be in the way, but she refused to stay behind.
We turned upstream, thinking our chances better in that direction than toward the swifter current, and were surprised to find that the cavern was much larger than any we had before seen. In something over a mile we had not yet reached the farther wall, for we walked at a brisk pace for a quarter of an hour or more.
At this point the stream was considerably wider than it was below, and there was very little current. Desiree stood on the bank while Harry and I waded out above our waists.
There was a long and weary wait before anything occurred. The water was cold, and my limbs became stiff and numb; I called to Harry that it was useless to wait longer, and was turning toward the shore when there was a sudden commotion in the water not far from where he stood.
I turned and saw Harry plunge forward with his spear.
"I've got him!" he yelled. "Come on!"
I went. But I soon saw that Harry didn't have him. He had Harry. They were all of ten yards away from me, and by the time I reached the spot there was nothing to be seen but flying water thrashed into foam and fury.
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