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Under the Andes Rex Stout

A Royal Visitor

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Some forty-eight hours passed; in that perpetual blackness there was no such thing as day. We saw no one save Desiree and the serving men. Once a messenger appeared carrying a bundle of quipos; I was able to decipher their meaning sufficiently to understand that we were invited to some religious ceremony in the great cavern. But I thought it injudicious to allow a meeting between Harry and the king, and returned a polite refusal.

It may be of interest to some to know the method, which was extremely simple, as in ordinary communications the quipos are easy to read. I removed two knots from the white cord--the sign of affirmative--and placed two additional ones on the black cord--the sign of negative. Then on the yellow cord--the sign of the Child of the Sun and submission to him--I tied two more knots to show that our refusal meant no lack of respect to their deity.

Which, by the way, was not a little curious.

Here were the descendants of the subjects of Manco-Capac, himself a son of the orb of day, still holding to their worship of the sun, though they had not seen its light for four centuries. Deserted by their god, they did not abandon him; an example from which the followers of another and more "civilized" religion might learn something of the potency of faith.

But to the story.

As I say, I was anxious to avoid a meeting between Harry and the king, and subsequent events proved my wisdom. Harry was acting in a manner quite amazing; it was impossible for me to mention the king even in jest without him flying into a violent temper.

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As I look back now I am not surprised; for our harrowing experiences and the hopelessness of our situation and the wilfulness of Desiree were enough, Heaven knows, to jerk his nerves; but at the time I regarded his actions as those of a thoughtless fool, and told him so, thinking to divert his anger to myself. He took no notice of me.

We were left entirely to ourselves. At regular intervals our food was brought to us, and within a week we had accumulated a large supply of the dried fish against necessity, besides my collection of six golden platters, of which more later.

Once in about twenty-four hours two Incas, who appeared to be our personal attendants--for we were actually able to recognize them after half a dozen visits--arrived to perform the offices of chambermaid and valet. The floor of the apartment was scrubbed, the urns refilled with oil, and the skin cover of the granite couch was changed. It seemed that another belief--in cleanliness--had refused to be dislodged from the Inca breast.

When I managed, by dint of violent and expressive gestures, to convey to our valet the idea that we desired a bath, he led us down the corridor some two hundred feet to a stream of cool running water. We took advantage of the opportunity to scrub our clothing, which was sadly in need of the operation.

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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