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  Under the Andes Rex Stout

The Beginning Of The End

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Neither Harry nor I spoke; our eyes were concentrated on the scene before us, trying to comprehend its meaning.

It was something indefinable in Desiree's attitude that told me the truth--what, I cannot tell. Her profile was toward us; it could not have been her eyes or any expression of her face; but there was a tenseness about her pose, a stiffening of the muscles of her body, an air of lofty scorn and supreme triumph coming somehow from every line of her motionless figure, that flashed certainty into my brain.

And on the instant I turned to Harry.

"Follow me," I whispered; and he must have read the force of my knowledge in my eyes, for he obeyed without a word. Back down the passage we ran, halting at its end. Harry opened his lips to speak, but I took the words from his mouth; seconds were precious.

"They have fired the column--you remember. Follow me; keep your spear ready; not a sound, if you love her."

I saw that he understood, and saw too, by the expression that shot into his face, that it would go ill with any Incas who tried to stop us then.

We rushed forward side by side, guessing at our way, seeking the entrance to the tunnel that led to the foot of the column. A prayer was on my lips that we might not be too late; Harry's lips were compressed together tightly as a vise. Death we did not fear, even for Desiree; but we remembered the horror of our own experience on the top of that column, and shuddered as we ran.

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As I have said, we had entered the great cavern at a point almost directly opposite the alcove, and therefore at a distance from the entrance we sought. It was necessary to half encircle the cavern, and the passages were so often crossed by other passages that many times we had to guess at the proper road.

But not for an instant did we hesitate; we flew rather than ran. I felt within me the strength and resolve of ten men, and I knew then that there was something I must do and would do before I died, though a thousand devils stood in my way.

I do not know what led us; whether a remorseful Providence, who suddenly decided that we had been played with long enough, or the mere animal instinct of direction, or blind luck. But so fast did we go that it seemed to me we had left the great cavern scarcely a minute behind us when I suddenly saw the steps of a steep stairway leading down from an opening on our right.

How my heart leaped then! Harry uttered a hoarse cry of exultation. The next instant we were dashing headlong down the steps, avoiding a fall by I know not what miracle. And there before us was the entrance to the tunnel.

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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