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Under the Andes Rex Stout

An Inca Spear

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Suddenly the raft leaped up under me and away. It seemed as though some giant hand had grasped it from beneath and jerked it down with tremendous force. The air was filled with water, lashing my face and body furiously. The raft whirled about like a cork. I gripped the straps with all the strength that was in me. Down, down we went into the darkness; my breath was gone and my brain whirled dizzily.

There was a sudden sharp lurch, a jerk upward, and I felt the surface of the water close over me. Blinded and dazed, I clung to my hold desperately, struggling with the instinct to free myself. For several seconds the roar of the cataract sounded in my ears with a furious faintness, as though it were at a great distance; then I felt the air again and a sudden cessation of motion.

I opened my eyes, choking and sputtering. For a time I could see nothing; then I made out Desiree's form, and Harry's, stretched behind me on the raft. At the same instant Harry's voice came:

"Paul! Ah, Desiree!"

In another moment we were at her side. Her hands held to the straps on each side with a grip as of death; we had to pry off each of her fingers separately to loosen them. Then we bent her over Harry's knee and worked her arms up and down, and soon her chest heaved convulsively and her lungs freed themselves of the water they had taken. Presently she turned about; her eyes opened and she pressed her hands to her head.

"Don't say 'Where am I?'" said Harry, "because we don't know. How do you feel?"

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"I don't know," she answered, still gasping for breath. "What was it? What did we do?"

I left them then, turning to survey the extent of our damage. There was absolutely none; we were as intact as when we started. The provisions and spears remained under their straps; my oar lay where I had fallen on it. The raft appeared to be floating easily as before, without a scratch.

The water about us was churned into foam, though we had already been carried so far from the cataract that it was lost behind us in the darkness; only its roar reached our ears. To this day I haven't the faintest idea of its height; it may have been ten feet or two hundred. Harry says a thousand.

We were moving slowly along on the surface of what appeared to be a lake, still carried forward by the force of the falls behind us. For my part, I found its roar bewildering and confusing, and I picked up my oar and commenced to paddle away from it; at least, so I judged.

Harry's voice came from behind:

"In the name of goodness, where did you get that oar?"

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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