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  Under the Andes Rex Stout

A Fishing Party

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Water, when whirling rapidly, has a keen distaste for any foreign object; but when once the surface breaks, that very repulsion seems to multiply the indescribable fury with which it endeavors to bury the object beneath its center.

Once in the whirlpool, I was carried in a swift circle round its surface for what seemed an age, and I think could not have been less than eight or ten seconds in reality. Then suddenly I was turned completely over, my limbs seemed to be torn from my body, there was a deafening roar in my ears, and a crushing weight pressed against me from every side.

Any effort of any kind was worse than useless, as well as impossible; indeed, I could hardly have been said to be conscious, except for the fact that I retained sufficient volition to avoid breathing or swallowing the water.

The pressure against my body was terrific; I wondered vaguely why life had not departed, since--as I supposed--there was not a whole bone left in my body. My head was bursting with dizziness and pain; my breast was a furnace of torture.

Suddenly the pressure lessened and the whirling movement gradually ceased, but still the current carried me on. I struck out wildly with both arms--in an effort, I suppose, to grasp the proverbial straw.

I found no straw, but something better--space. Instinct led the fight to reach it with my head to get air, but the swiftness of the current carried me again beneath the surface. My arms seemed powerless; I was unable to direct them.

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I hardly know what happened after that. A feeling of most intense suffocation in my chest; a relaxation of all my muscles; a sensation of light in my smarting eyes; a gentle pressure from the water beneath, like the rising gait of a saddle-horse; and suddenly, without knowing why or when or how, I found myself lying on hard ground, gasping, choking, sputtering, not far from death, but nearer to life than I had thought ever to be again.

I lay for several minutes unable to move; then my brain awoke and called for life. I twisted over on my face, and moved my arms out and in with the motion of a swimmer; the most exquisite pains shot through my chest and abdomen. My head weighed tons.

Water ran from my nose and mouth in gurgling streams. The roaring, scarcely abated, pounded in my ears. I was telling myself over and over with a most intense earnestness: "But if I were really dead I shouldn't be able to move." It appears that the first sense to leave a drowning man, and the last to return, is the sense of humor.

In another ten minutes, having rid my lungs of the water that had filled them, I felt no pain and but little fatigue. My head was dizzy, and there was still a feeling of oppression on my chest; but otherwise I was little the worse for wear. I twisted carefully over on my side and took note of my surroundings.

I lay on a narrow ledge of rock at the entrance to a huge cavern. Not two feet below rushed the stream which had carried me; it came down through an opening in the wall at a sharp angle with tremendous velocity, and must have hurled me like a cork from its foaming surface. Below, it emptied into a lake which nearly filled the cavern, some hundreds of yards in diameter. Rough boulders and narrow ledges surrounded it on every side.

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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