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|Under the Andes||Rex Stout|
An Inca Spear
|Page 1 of 9||
Here I might most appropriately insert a paragraph on the vanity of human wishes and endeavor. But events, they say, speak for themselves; and still, for my own part, I prefer the philosopher to the historian. Mental digestion is a wearisome task; you are welcome to it.
To the story. As I have said, we missed the wall of the tunnel by a scant ten feet, and we kept on missing it. Once under the arch, our raft developed a most stubborn inclination to bump up against the rocky banks instead of staying properly in the middle of the current, as it should.
First to one side, then to the other, it swung, while Harry and I kept it off with our oars, often missing a collision by inches. But at least the banks were smooth and level, and as long as the stream itself remained clear of obstruction there was but little real danger.
The current was not nearly so swift as I had expected it would be. In the semidarkness it was difficult to calculate our rate of speed, but I judged that we were moving at about six or seven miles an hour.
We had gone perhaps three miles when we came to a sharp bend in the stream, to the left, almost at a right angle. Harry, at the bow, was supposed to be on the lookout, but he failed to see it until we were already caught in its whirl.
Then he gave a cry of alarm, and together we swung the raft to the left, avoiding the right bank of the curve by less than a foot. Once safely past, I sent Harry to the stern and took the bow myself, which brought down upon him a deal of keen banter from Desiree.
There the tunnel widened, and the raft began to glide easily onward, without any of its sudden dashes to right or left. I rested on my oar, gazing intently ahead; at the best I could make out the walls a hundred yards ahead, and but dimly. All was silence, save the gentle swish of the water against the sides of the raft and the patter of Harry's oar dipping idly on one side or the other.
Suddenly Desiree's voice came through the silence, soft and very low:
"Pendant une anne' toute entiere,
Le regiment na Pas r'paru.
Au Ministere de la Guerre
On le r'porta comme perdu.
"On se r'noncait a r'trouver sa trace,
Quand un matin subitement,
On le vit r'paraitre sur la place,
L'Colonel toujours en avant."
I waited until the last note had died away in the darkness.
"Are those your thoughts?" I asked then, half turning.
"No," said Desiree, "but I want to kill my thoughts. As for them--"
She hesitated, and after a short pause her voice again broke into melody:
"Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail
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