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|Under the Andes||Rex Stout|
The Dance Of The Sun
|Page 5 of 8||
Forward--forward--forward! It was a mania.
Then Harry was stricken with fever and became delirious. And I think it was that seeming misfortune that saved us, for it gave me a spring for action and endowed me with new life. As luck would have it, a stream of water was near, and I half carried and half dragged him to its edge.
I made a bed for him with my own clothing on the hard rock, and bathed him and made him drink, while all the time a string of delirious drivel poured forth from his hot, dry lips.
That lasted many hours, until finally he fell into a deep, calm sleep. But his body was without fuel, and I was convinced he would never awaken; yet I feared to touch him. Those were weary hours, squatting by his side with his hand gripped in my own, with the ever-increasing pangs of hunger and weariness turning my own body into a roaring furnace of pain.
Suddenly I felt a movement of his hand; and then came his voice, weak but perfectly distinct:
"Well, Paul, this is the end."
"Not yet, Harry boy; not yet."
I tried to put cheer and courage into my own voice, but with poor success.
"I--think--so. I say, Paul--I've just seen Desiree."
"All right, Hal."
"Oh, you don't need to talk like that; I'm not delirious now. I guess it must have been a dream. Do you remember that morning on the mountain--in Colorado--when you came on us suddenly at sunrise? Well, I saw her there--only you were with her instead of me. So, of course, she must be dead."
His logic was beyond me, but I pressed his hand to let him know that I understood.
"And now, old man, you might as well leave me. This is the end. You've been a good sport. We made a fight, didn't we? If only Desiree--but there! To Hades with women, I say!"
"Not that--don't be a poor loser, Hal. And you're not gone yet. When a man has enough fight in him to beat out an attack of fever he's very much alive."
But he would not have it so. I let him talk, and he rambled on, with scarcely an idea of what he was saying. The old days possessed his mind, and, to tell the truth, the sentiment found a welcome in my own bosom. I said to myself, "This is death."
And then, lifting my head to look down the dark passage that led away before us, I sprang to my feet with a shout and stood transfixed with astonishment. And the next instant there came a cry of wonder from Harry:
"A light! By all the gods, a light!"
So it was. The passage lay straight for perhaps three hundred yards. There it turned abruptly; and the corner thus formed was one blaze of flickering but brilliant light which flowed in from the hidden corridor.
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