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Under the Andes Rex Stout

At The Door

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Our situation was indeed desperate. With our every movement spied upon, surrounded by four solid walls of stone, and beyond them ten thousand savage brutes waiting to tear us to pieces--what wildest fancy could indulge in hope?

Then, glancing up, my eye was arrested by the heap under the cover in the corner. There, in the person of the Inca king, lay our only advantage. But how could we use it?

Desiree's voice came in the calm tones of despair:

"We are lost."

Harry crossed to her and took her in his arms.

"I thank Heaven," he said, "that you are with us." Then he turned to me: "I believe it is for the best, Paul. There never was a chance for us; we may as well say it now. And it is better to die here, together, than--the other way."

I smiled at his philosophy, knowing its source. It came not from his own head, but from Desiree's arms. But it was truth.

We sat silent. The thing was beyond discussion; too elemental to need speech for its explanation or understanding. I believe it was not despair that kept back our words, but merely the dumb realization that where all hope is gone words are useless--worse, a mockery.

Finally I crossed the room and removed the cover from the body of the Child of the Sun. He had recovered consciousness; his little wicked eyes gleamed up at me with an expression that would have been terrifying in the intensity of its malignant hatred if he had not been utterly helpless. I turned to Harry:

"What are we going to do with him?"

"By Jove, I had forgotten!" exclaimed the lad. "Paul, perhaps if we could communicate with them--" He stopped, glancing at the closed doorway; then added: "But it's impossible."

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"I believe it is possible," I contradicted. "If the Incas were able to lower that stone at any moment you may be sure they are prepared to raise it. How, Heaven only knows; but the fact is certain. Do you think they would have condemned their precious king to starvation?"

"Then the king can save us!"

"And how?"

"Our lives for his. We'll give him nothing to eat, and if, as you say, they have some way of watching us, they'll be forced to negotiate. You can talk with the quipos, and tell them that unless they give us our freedom and let us go in safety they'll have a dead king. From the way they seem to worship him they'd come through in a minute."

"Oh, they'd promise, all right," I agreed; "but how could we hold them to it?"

"Well, a promise is a promise. And it's our only chance."

"No, Harry; to trust them would be folly. The minute we stepped through that doorway they would be on us--the whole beggarly, smelly lot of them."

"Then there is no chance--none whatever?" put in Desiree.

"None. We may as well admit the worst. And the worst is best for us now. Really, we are in luck; we die in our own way and at our own time. But there is one difficulty."

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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