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Under the Andes Rex Stout

A Royal Visitor

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I had early made an examination of the urns which furnished our light. They were of gold and perfect in form, which convinced me that they had been brought by the fugitives from Huanuco, as, indeed, the quipos also, and several other articles we found, including our golden table service.

The urns were filled with an oil which I was unable to recognize. There was no wick, but round the rim or lip of each was set a broad ring carved of stone, which made the opening at the top only about two inches in diameter. Through this the flame arose to a height of about two feet.

Of smoke there was none, or very little, a circumstance which was inexplicable, as there seemed to be no possibility of the generation of gas within so small space. But the oil itself was strange to me, and its properties may be charged to nature.

As I say, I had collected six of the golden platters, one at a time. Together they weighed about twenty pounds--for they were small and rather thin--which was near the amount required for my purpose. I explained the thing to Harry, and we set to work.

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We first procured a vessel of granite from the attendant on some pretext or other--this for melting the gold. Then we pried a slab of limestone from a corner of one of the seats; luckily for us it was very soft, having been selected by the Incas for the purpose of inserting in its face the crystal prisms. Then we procured a dozen or more of the prisms themselves, and, using them as chisels, and small blocks of granite as hammers, set to work at the block of limestone.

It was slow work, but we finally succeeded in hollowing out a groove in its surface about eighteen inches long and two inches deep. That was our mold.

Then to melt the golden platters. We took four of the urns, placing them in a group on the floor, and just at the tip of the flames placed the granite vessel, supported by four blocks of stone which we pried loose from one of the seats. In the vessel we placed the golden platters.

But we found, after several hours, that we did not have sufficient heat--or rather that the vessel was too thick to transmit it. And again we set to work with our improvised chisels and hammers, to shave off its sides and bottom. That was more difficult and required many hours for completion.

Finally, with the profane portion of our vocabularies completely exhausted and rendered meaningless by repetition, and with bruised and bleeding hands, we again arranged our furnace and sat down to wait. We had waited until the dishes from our dinner had been removed, and we were fairly certain to be alone for several hours.

Finally the gold was melted, stubbornly but surely. We took the thick hide cover from the couch and, one on each side, lifted the vessel of liquid metal and filled our mold. In an hour it was hardened into a bar the shape of a half-cylinder. We removed it and poured in the remainder of the gold.

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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