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Under the Andes Rex Stout

A Royal Visitor

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"Nature herself. She plays queer tricks in the Andes. She might turn the mountain upside down, in which case we would find ourselves on top. Seriously, the formation here is such that almost anything is possible. Upheavals of vast masses of rock are of ordinary occurrence. A passage might be opened in that way to one of the lower peaks.

"We are surrounded by layers of limestone, granite, and quartzite, which are of marked difference both in the quality of hardness and in their ability to withstand the attacks of time. When one finds itself unable to support the other, something happens."

"But it might not happen for a hundred years."

"Or never," I agreed.

Again silence. Harry stood gazing at one of the flaming urns, buried in thought--easy to guess of what nature. I did not think fit to disturb him, till presently he spoke again.

"What do you suppose that ugly devil will do about--what he saw in here?"

I smiled. "Nothing."

"But if he should? We are helpless."

"Trust Desiree. It's true that she can't even talk to him, but she'll manage him somehow. You saw what happened just now."

"But the creature is no better than a dumb brute. He is capable of anything. I tell you, we ought to get her away from here."

"To starve?"

"And we're none too safe ourselves. As for starving, we could carry enough of their darned fish to last a year. And one thing is sure: we won't get back to New York lying round here waiting for something to turn up--even a mountain."

"What do you want to do?"

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"Clear out. Get Desiree away from that ugly brute. If we only had our knives!"

"Where would we go?"

In that question was the whole matter. To escape with Desiree was possible--but then what? We knew by experience what it meant to wander hopelessly about in the darkness of those desolate caverns, without food, and depending on Providence for water. Neither of us cared to repeat that trial, especially with the added difficulty of a woman to care for. But what to do?

We decided to wait for the future, and in the mean time lay in a supply of provisions, and, if possible, devise some sort of weapons.

It is worth remarking here that the Incas, so far as we had seen, used no weapons whatever. This was most probably the result of their total isolation and consequent freedom from foreign hostility.

In the matter of food we were soon to receive an agreeable surprise. It was about an hour after Desiree had left us that the royal steward--I give him the title on my own responsibility-- arrived, with pots and pans on a huge tray.

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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