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|Under the Andes||Rex Stout|
The Beginning Of The End
|Page 5 of 8||
On the instant I guessed at the reason why the Incas had ceased their pursuit so abruptly, and I turned to Harry:
"I'm afraid we've jumped from the frying-pan into the fire. If this cavern holds anything like that other--you remember--"
"If it does, we shall see," he replied.
Supporting Desiree on either side, we struck out directly across the cavern, halting every few steps to listen for a sound, either of the Incas, which we feared, or of running water, which we desired. We heard neither. All was blackness and the most complete silence.
Then I became aware, for the first time, of intolerable pains shooting up through my legs into my body. The danger past, reason returned and feeling. I could not suppress a low cry, wrung inexorably from my chest, and I halted, leaning my whole weight on Desiree's shoulder.
"What is it?" she cried, and for answer--though I strained every atom of my will and strength to prevent it--I toppled to the ground, dragging her with me.
What followed came to me as in a dream, though I was not wholly unconscious. I was aware that Harry and Desiree were bending over me; then I felt my head and shoulders being lifted from the ground, and a soft, warm arm supporting me.
A minute passed, or an hour--I did not know--and I felt hot drops of moisture fall on my cheek. I struggled to open my eyes, and saw Desiree's face quite near my own; my head was resting on her shoulder. She was weeping silently, and great tears rolled down her cheeks unrestrained.
To have seen the sun or stars shining down upon me would not have astonished me more. I gazed at her a long moment in silence; she saw that I did so, but made no effort to turn her head or avoid my gaze. Finally I found my tongue.
"Where is Harry?" I asked.
"He is gone to look for water," she replied; and, curiously enough, her voice was quite steady.
"It is useless. I am done for!"
"That isn't true," she denied, in a voice almost of anger. "You will get well. You are--injured badly--" After a short pause she added, "for me."
There was a long silence--I thought it hardly worth while to contradict her--and then I said simply, "Why are you crying, Desiree?"
She looked at me as though she had not heard; then, after another silence, her voice came, so low that it barely reached my ears:
"For this--and for what might have been, my friend."
"But you have said--"
"I know! Would you make me doubt again? Do not! Ah"--she passed her hand gently over my forehead and touched the tips of her fingers to my burning eyes--"you must have cared for me in that other world. I will not doubt it; unless you speak, and you must not. Nothing would have been too high for us. We could have opened any door--even the door to happiness."
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