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|Under the Andes||Rex Stout|
The Midst Of The Enemy
|Page 1 of 9||
Harry and I stood gazing at each other blankly in the semidarkness of the cavern.
"But it isn't possible," I objected finally to my own thoughts. "She would have cried out and we would have heard her. The spear may have been there before."
Then I raised my voice, calling her name many times at the top of my lungs. There was no answer.
"They've got her," said Harry, "and that's all there is to it. The cursed brutes crept up on her in the dark--much chance she had of crying out when they got their hands on her. I know it. Why did we leave her?"
"Where did you find the spear?" I asked.
Harry pointed toward the wall, away from the stream.
"On the ground?"
"Is there an exit from the cavern on that side?"
"I don't know."
"Well, that's our only chance. Come on!"
We found the exit, and another, and a third. Which to take? They were very similar to one another, except that the one in the middle sloped upward at a gentle incline, while the others were level.
"One is as good as another," I observed, and entered the one on the left.
Once started, we advanced with a rush. The passage was straight and narrow, clear of obstruction, and we kept at a steady run.
"They may have an hour's start of us," came Harry's voice at my side.
"Or five minutes," I returned. "We have no way of knowing. But I'm afraid we're on the wrong trail."
Still as I had said, one chance was as good as another, and we did not slacken our pace. The passage went straight forward, without a bend. The roof was low, just allowing us to pass without stooping, and the walls were rough and rugged.
It was not long before we found that we had taken the wrong chance, having covered, I think, some two or three miles when a wall loomed up directly in our path.
"At last, a turn!" panted Harry.
But it was not a turn. It was the end of the passage. We had been following a blind alley.
Harry let out a string of oaths, and I seconded him. Twenty minutes wasted, and another twenty to return!
There was nothing else for it. We shouldered our spears and started to retrace our steps.
"No use running now," I declared. "We can't keep it up forever, and we may as well save our strength. We'll never catch up with 'em, but we may find 'em."
Harry, striding ahead two or three paces in front, did not answer.
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