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Under the Andes Rex Stout

At The Door

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Instead, five golden vessels were pushed across the ground until they were inside, clear of the stone; I could see the black, hairy hands and arms, which were immediately withdrawn.

Then the granite curtain fell with a crash that caused me to start with its suddenness and awakened both Harry and Desiree.

Two of the vessels contained water, two oil, and the other dried fish. Harry, who had sprung to his feet excitedly, grumbled in disgust.

"At least, they might have sent us some soup. But what's their idea?"

"It means that Desiree was right," I observed. "They have some way of watching us. And, seeing that we refused to provide their beloved monarch with provender, they have sent him an allowance from the pantry."

Harry grinned.

"Will he get it?"

"Hardly," said I with emphasis. "We'll make 'em treat with us if it's only to observe their diplomacy. There'll be a message from them within twenty-four hours. You'll see."

"Anyway, we know now that they can raise that stone whenever they feel like it. But in the name of Archimedes, how?"

He advanced to the doorway and examined the block of granite curiously, but there was no clue to its weight or thickness from the inside. I explained that there were several ways by which the thing could be raised, but that the most probable one was by means of a rolling pulley, which required merely some rounded stones and a flat surface above, with ropes of hide for stays.

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It had been several hours since we had last eaten, and we decided to at once convey to the spies without our intentions concerning our prisoner. So we regaled ourselves with dried fish and water, taking care not to approach the king, who had rolled over on his side and lay facing us, looking for all the world, in the dim light, like a black dog crouched on the floor.

Harry relieved me at my post against the door, and I lay down to sleep. Desiree had seated herself beside him, and the low tones of their voices came to me as I lay on the couch (which Desiree had insisted I should occupy) in an indistinct, musical murmur. This for perhaps ten minutes; then I slept.

That became our routine. During the many weary hours that followed there was never a moment when one of us was not seated with his back against the stone across the doorway; we dared not trust our eyes. Usually Harry and Desiree watched together, and, when I relieved them, slept side by side on the couch.

Sometimes, when we were all awake, Desiree was left on guard alone; but Harry and I were never both asleep at the same time.

An estimate of the time we spent thus would be the wildest guess, for time was heavy and passed on leaden feet. But I should say we had been imprisoned for something like four days, possibly five, when the monotony came to an abrupt end.

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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