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|Under the Andes||Rex Stout|
|Page 1 of 9||
As we ran swiftly, following the edge of the stream, the cries continued, filling the cavern with racing echoes. They could not quicken our step; we were already straining every muscle as we bounded over the rock. Luckily, the way was clear, for in the darkness we could see but a few feet ahead. Desiree's voice was sufficient guide for us.
Finally we reached her. I don't know what I expected to see, but certainly not that which met our eyes.
"Your spear!" cried Harry, dashing off to the right, away from the stream.
My spear was ready. I followed.
Desiree was standing exactly in the spot where we had left her, screaming at the top of her voice.
Around her, on every side, was a struggling, pushing mass of the animals we had frightened away from the carcass of the reptile. There were hundreds of them packed tightly together, crowding toward her, some leaping on the backs of others, some trampled to the ground beneath the feet of their fellows. They did not appear to be actually attacking her, but we could not see distinctly.
This we saw in a flash and an instant later had dashed forward into the mass with whirling spears. It was a farce, rather than a fight.
We brought our spears down on the swarm of heads and backs without even troubling to take aim. They pressed against our legs; we waded through as though it were a current of water. Those we hit either fell or ran; they waited for no second blow.
Desiree had ceased her cries.
"They won't hurt you!" Harry had shouted. "Where's your spear?"
"Gone. They came on me before I had time to get it."
"Then kick 'em, push 'em--anything. They're nothing but pigs."
They had the senseless stubbornness of pigs, at least. They seemed absolutely unable to realize that their presence was not desired till they actually felt the spear--utterly devoid even of instinct.
"So this is what you captured for us at the risk of your life!" I shouted to Harry in disgust. "They haven't even sense enough to squeal."
We finally reached Desiree's side and cleared a space round her. But it took us another fifteen minutes of pushing and thrusting and indiscriminate massacre before we routed the brutes. When they did decide to go they lost no time, but scampered away toward the water with a sliding, tumbling rush.
"Gad!" exclaimed Harry, resting on his spear. "And here's a pretty job. Look at that! I wish they'd carry off the dead ones."
"Ugh! The nasty brutes! I was never so frightened in my life," said Desiree.
"You frightened us, all right," Harry retorted. "Utterly fungoed. I never ran so fast in my life. And all you had to do was shake your spear at 'em and say boo! I thought it was the roommate of our friend with the eyes."
"Have I been eating those things?" Desiree demanded.
"Yes, and that isn't all. You'll continue to eat 'em as long as I'm the cook. Come on, Paul; it's a day's work."
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