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Under the Andes Rex Stout


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Our last ounce of strength seemed to have been used up in our desperate struggle down the side of the mountain; for many days we lay on our backs absolutely unable to move a muscle and barely conscious of life.

But the spark revived and fluttered. The day came when we could hobble, with his assistance, to the door of the hacienda and sit for hours in the invigorating sunshine; and thenceforward our convalescence proceeded rapidly. Color came to our cheeks and light to our eyes; and one sunny afternoon it was decided that we should set out for Cerro de Pasco on the following day.

Harry proposed a postponement of our departure for two days, saying that he wished to make an excursion up the mountain. I understood him at once.

"It would be useless," I declared. "You would find nothing."

"But she was with us when we fell," he persisted, not bothering to pretend that he did not understand me. "She came--it must be near where we landed."

"That isn't it," I explained. "Have you forgotten that we have been here for over a month? You would find nothing." As he grasped my thought his face went white and he was silent. So on the following morning we departed.

Our host furnished us with food, clothing, mules, and an arriero, not to mention a sorrowful farewell and a hearty blessing. From the door of the hacienda he waved his sombrero as we disappeared around a bend in the mountain-pass; we had, perhaps, been a welcome interruption in the monotony of his lonely existence.

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We were led upward for many miles until we found ourselves again in the region of perpetual snow. There we set our faces to the south. From the arriero we tried to learn how far we then were from the cave of the devil, but to our surprise were informed that he had never heard of the thing.

We could see that the question made him more than a little suspicious of us; often, when he thought himself unobserved, I caught him eyeing us askance with something nearly approaching terror.

We journeyed southward for eleven days; on the morning of the twelfth we saw below us our goal. Six hours later we had entered the same street of Cerro de Pasco through which we had passed formerly with light hearts; and the heart which had been gayest of all we had left behind us, stilled forever, somewhere beneath the mountain of stone which she had herself chosen for her tomb.

Almost the first person we saw was none other than Felipe, the arriero. He sat on the steps of the hotel portico as we rode up on our mules. Dismounting, I caught sight of his white face and staring eyes as he rose slowly to his feet, gazing at us as though fascinated.

I opened my mouth to call to him, but before the words left my lips he had let out an ear-splitting yell of terror and bounded down the steps and past us, with arms flying in every direction, running like one possessed. Nor did he return during the few hours that we remained at the hotel.

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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