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Under the Andes Rex Stout

The Eyes In The Dark

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"Then--perhaps now--"

"Yes," I interposed. "Let's get out of here. It's horrible. And yet how can we go? I can hardly stand."

But Harry was now the one who argued for delay, saying that our retreat was the safest place we could find, and that we should wait at least until I had had time to recover from the strain of the last half-hour. Realizing that in my weakened condition I would be a hindrance to them rather than a help, I consented. Besides, if the thing reappeared I could avoid it as Harry and Desiree had done.

"What is it?" Harry asked presently.

We were sitting side by side, well up against the wall. It was an abrupt question, with no apparent pertinence, but I understood.

"Heaven knows!" I answered shortly. I was none too pleased with myself.

"But it must be something. Is it an animal?"

"Do you remember," I asked by way of answer, "a treatise of Aristotle concerning which we had a discussion one day? Its subject was the hypnotic power possessed by the eyes of certain reptiles. I laughed the idea to scorn; you maintained that it was possible. Well, I agree with you; and I'd like to have about a dozen of our modern skeptical scientists in this cave with me for about five minutes."

"But what is it? A reptile!" Harry exclaimed. "The thing is as big as a house!"

"Well, and why not? I should guess that it is about thirty feet in height and forty or fifty in length. There have been species, now extinct, several times as large."

"Then you think it is just--just an animal?" put in Desiree.

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"What did you think it was?" I nearly smiled. "An infernal machine?"

"I don't know. Only I have never before known what it was to fear."

A discussion which led us nowhere, but at least gave us the sound of one another's voices.

We passed many hours in that manner. Utterly blank and wearisome, and all but hopeless. I have often wondered at the strange tenacity with which we clung to life in conditions that made of it a burden almost insupportable; and with what chance of relief?

The instinct of self-preservation, it is called by the learned, but it needs a stronger name. It is more than an instinct. It is the very essence of life itself.

But soon we were impelled to action by something besides the desire to escape from the cavern: the pangs of hunger. It had been many hours since we had eaten; I think we had fasted not less than three or four days.

Desiree began to complain of a dizziness in her temples, and to weaken with every hour that passed. My own strength did not increase, and I saw that it would not unless I could obtain nourishment. Harry did not complain, but only because he would not.

"It is useless to wait longer," I declared finally. "I grow weaker instead of stronger."

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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