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|Under the Andes||Rex Stout|
The Fight In The Dark
|Page 1 of 6||
I returned to consciousness with a sickening sensation of nausea and unreality. Only my brain was alive; my entire body was numb and as though paralyzed. Still darkness and silence, for all my senses told me I might have been still in the spot where I had fallen.
Then I tried to move my arms, and found that my hands and feet were firmly bound. I strained at the thongs, making some slight sound; and immediately I heard a whisper but a few feet away:
"Are you awake, Paul?"
"I was still half dazed, but I recognized Harry's voice, and I answered simply: "Yes. Where are we?"
"The Lord knows! They carried us. You have been unconscious for hours."
"They carried us?"
"Yes. A thousand miles, I think, on their backs. What--what are they, Paul?"
"I don't know. Did you see them?"
"No. Too dark. They are strong as gorillas and covered with hair; I felt that much. They didn't make a sound all the time. No more than half as big as me, and yet one of them carried me as if I were a baby--and I weigh one hundred and seventy pounds."
"What are we bound with?"
"Don't know; it feels like leather; tough as rats. I've been working at it for two hours, but it won't give."
"Well, you know what that means. Dumb brutes don't tie a man up."
"But it's impossible."
"Nothing is impossible. But listen!"
There was a sound--the swift patter of feet; they were approaching. Then suddenly a form bent over me close; I could see nothing, but I felt a pressure against my body and an ill-smelling odor, indescribable, entered my nostrils. I felt a sawing movement at my wrists; the thongs pulled back and forth, and soon my hands were free. The form straightened away from me, there was a clatter on the ground near my head, and then silence.
There came an oath from Harry:
"Hang the brute! He's cut my wrist. Are your hands free, Paul?"
"Then bind this up; it's bleeding badly. What was that for?"
"I have an idea," I answered as I tore a strip from my shirt and bandaged the wound, which proved to be slight. Then I searched on the ground beside me, and found my surmise correct.
"Here you go, Hal! here's some grub. But what the deuce is it? By Jove, it's dried fish! Now, where in the name of--"
But we wasted no more time in talk, for we were half starved. The stuff was not bad; to us who had been fasting for something like thirty-six hours--for our idea of time was extremely hazy--it was a gorgeous banquet. And close by there was a basin full of water.
"Pretty decent sort of beggars, I say," came Harry's voice in the darkness. "But who are they?"
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