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Never, I believe, were misery and joy so curiously mingled in the human breast as when Harry and I stood--barely able to stand--gazing speechlessly at the world that had so long been hidden from us.

We had found the light, but had lost Desiree. We were alive, but so near to death that our first breath of the mountain air was like to be our last.

The details of our painful journey down the mountain, over the rocks and crags, and through rushing torrents that more than once swept us from our feet, cannot be written, for I do not know them.

The memory of the thing is but an indistinct nightmare of suffering. But the blind luck that seemed to have fallen over our shoulders as a protecting mantle at the death of Desiree stayed with us; and after endless hours of incredible toil and labor, we came to a narrow pass leading at right angles to our course.

Night was ready to fall over the bleak and barren mountain as we entered it. Darkness had long since overtaken us, when we saw at a distance a large clearing, in the middle of which lights shone from the windows of a large house whose dim and shadowy outline appeared to us surrounded by a halo of peace.

But we were nearly forced to fight for it. The proprietor of the hacienda himself answered our none too gentle knock at the door, and he had no sooner caught sight of us than he let out a yell as though he had seen the devil in person, and slammed the door violently in our faces. Indeed, we were hardly recognizable as men.

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Naked, black, bruised, and bleeding, covered with hair on our faces and parts of our bodies--mine, of recent growth, stubby and stiff--our appearance would have justified almost any suspicion.

But we hammered again on the door, and I set forth our pedigree and plight in as few words as possible. Reassured, perhaps, by my excellent Spanish--which could not, of course, be the tongue of the devil--and convinced by our pitiable condition of our inability to do him any harm, he at length reopened the door and gave us admittance.

When we had succeeded in allaying his suspicions concerning our identity--though I was careful not to alarm his superstitions by mentioning the cave of the devil, which, I thought, was probably well known to him--he lost no time in displaying his humanity.

Calling in some hombres from the rear of the hacienda, he gave them ample instructions, with medicine and food, and an hour later Harry and I were lying side by side in his own bed--a rude affair, but infinitely better than granite-- refreshed, bandaged, and as comfortable as their kindly ministrations could make us.

The old Spaniard was a direct descendant of the good Samaritan --despite the slight difference in nationality. For many weeks he nursed us and fed us and coaxed back the spark of life in our exhausted and wounded bodies.

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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