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|Under the Andes||Rex Stout|
Into The Whirlpool
|Page 4 of 9||
We looked about us, and as our eyes sought the alcove in the wall opposite, we gave a simultaneous start of surprise, and from Harry's lips came a cry, half of gladness, half of wonder. For, seated on the golden throne, exactly as before, was Desiree. By her side was seated the Inca king; round them, guards and attendants.
We gazed at her in astonishment, but she did not look at us; even at that distance we could see that her eyes were lowered to the ground. Harry called her name--there was no answer. Again he called, and I caught him by the arm.
"Don't, Hal! She can't possibly do us any good, and you may do her harm. If she doesn't answer, it is because she has a reason."
He was silent, but not convinced, and would probably have argued the matter if our attention had not been arrested by a movement in the alcove.
The king rose and extended an arm, and the Incas who filled the seats surrounding the cavern fell flat on their faces.
"We don't seem to have thinned them out any," I observed. "I believe there are actually more than before. Where do they all come from?"
"The Lord knows!"
"And, by the way, it is now apparent why they waited so long to attend to us. The king naturally wanted to be present at the entertainment, and he had to take time to recover from his little fasting operation. But now, what in the name of--my word, the thing is to be done in all propriety! Look!"
The king had dropped his arm, and the Incas were again sitting as Nature had intended they should sit, instead of on their noses. And four attendants had approached the throne, bearing a frame of quipos.
"So we are to have a fair trial," Harry observed.
"With the king for judge."
"And a hundred dead rats as evidence."
"Right; they can't get even with us, anyway; there are only two of us. And as far as the other is concerned, I have an idea."
The king had left his throne and approached the outer edge of the alcove, until he stood almost directly under the oval plate of gold representing Pachacamac or the unknown god.
To this he knelt and made a succession of weird, uncouth gestures that suggested a lunatic or a traveling hypnotist. Evidently the good Pachacamac approved whatever suggestions the royal priest communicated, for he rose to his feet with a solemn grin and strutted majestically to the rear, facing the frame of quipos.
It was evident that he no longer had faith in Desiree's interpretation of the divine will of the great Pachacamac. It is a royal privilege to be able to judge your own enemies.
The hand of the Child of the Sun passed slowly up and down the frame of quipos, betraying a commendable reluctance. It touched the yellow cord and passed on; grasped the white and dropped it.
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