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0105_001E Under the Andes Rex Stout

An Inca Spear

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That brings our friends up from the underworld;

Sad as the last which reddens over one

That sinks with all we love below the verge;

So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more."

Her voice, subdued and low, breathed a sweetness that seemed almost to be of another world. My ear quivered with the vibrations, and long after she was silent the last mellow note floated through my brain.

Suddenly I became conscious of another sound, scarcely less musical. It, too, was low; so low and faint that at first I thought my ear deceived me, or that some distant echo was returning Desiree's song down the dark tunnel.

Gradually, very gradually, it became louder and clearer, until at length I recognized it. It was the rush of water, unbroken, still low and at a great distance. I turned to remark on it to Harry, but Desiree took the words from my mouth.

"I seem to hear something--like the surf," she said. "That isn't possible, is it?"

I could have smiled but for the deep note of hope in her voice.

"Hardly," I answered. "I have heard it for several minutes. It is probably some shallows. We must look sharp."

Another fifteen minutes, and I began to notice that the speed of the current was increasing. The sound of the rushing water, too, was quite distinct. Still the raft moved more and more swiftly, till I began to feel alarmed. I turned to Harry:

"That begins to sound like rapids. See that the spears are fastened securely, and stand ready with your oar. Sit tight, Desiree."

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One thing was certain: there was nothing to do but go ahead. On both sides the walls of the tunnel rose straight up from the surface of the water; there was nowhere room for a landing-place --not even a foot for a purchase to stay our flight. To go back was impossible; at the rate the current was now carrying us we could not have held the raft even for a moment without oars.

Soon we were gliding forward so swiftly that the raft trembled under us; from the darkness ahead came the sound of the rapids, now increased to a roar that filled the tunnel and deafened us. I heard Harry shouting something, but could not make out the words; we were shooting forward with the speed of an express train and the air about us was full of flying water.

The roar of the rapids became louder and louder. I turned for an instant, shouting at the top of my voice: "Flat on your faces, and hold on for dear life!" Then I dropped down with my oar under me, passing my feet under two of the straps and clinging to two others with my hands.

Another few seconds passed that seemed an hour. The raft was swaying and lurching with the mad force of the current. I called out again to Harry and Desiree, but my words were completely drowned by the deafening, stunning roar of the water. All was darkness and confusion. I kept asking myself: "Why doesn't it come?" It seemed an age since I had thrown myself on my face.

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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