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Under the Andes Rex Stout


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Over this framework we stretched the large piece of hide so that the ends met on top, near the middle. The bottom was thus absolutely watertight. We folded the corners in and caught them up with strips over the top. Then, with longer strips, we fastened up the sides, passing the strips back and forth across the top, from side to side, having first similarly secured the two ends. As a final precaution, we passed broader strips around both top and bottom, lashing them together in the center of the top. And there was our raft, twelve feet square, over a foot deep, water-tight as a town drunkard, and weighing not more than a hundred pounds. It has taken me two minutes to tell it; it took us two weeks to do it.

But we discovered immediately that the four beams on the sides and ends were not enough, for Desiree's weight alone caused the skin to sag clear through in the center, though we had stretched it as tightly as possible. We were forced to unlash all the strips running from side to side and insert supports, made of smaller bones, across the middle each way. These we reinforced on their ends with the thickest hide we could find, that they might not puncture the bottom. After that it was fairly firm; though its sea-worthiness was not improved, it was much easier to navigate than it would have been before.

For oars we took the lower ends of the backbones of the two smaller fish and covered them with hide. They were about five feet long and quite heavy; but we intended to use them more for the purpose of steering than for propulsion. The current of the stream would attend to that for us.

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Near the center of the raft we arranged a pile of the skins of the water-pigs for Desiree; a seat by no means uncomfortable. The strips which ran back and forth across the top afforded a hold as security against the tossing of the craft; but for her feet we arranged two other strips to pass over her ankles what time she rested. This was an extreme precaution, for we did not expect the journey to be a long one.

Finally we loaded on our provisions--about thirty pounds of the meat of the fish and water-pigs, wrapping it securely in two or three of the skins and strapping them firmly to the top.

"And now," said I, testing the strips on the corners for the last time, "all we need is a name for her and a bottle of wine."

"And a homeward-bound pennant," put in Harry.

"The name is easy enough," said Desiree. "I hereby christen her Clarte du Soleil."

"Which means?" asked Harry, whose French came only in spots.

"Sunshine," I told him. "Presumably after the glorious King of the Incas, who calls himself the Child of the Sun. But it's a good name. May Heaven grant that it takes us there!"

"I think we ought to take more grub," said Harry--an observation which he had made not less than fifty times in the preceding fifty minutes. He received no support and grumbled to himself something about the horrible waste of leaving so much behind.

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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