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|Under the Andes||Rex Stout|
|Page 3 of 9||
"Another hour of this, and--I'm ready."
I told him to keep an eye on both points of attack and went across to where Desiree sat crouched on the ground. I hadn't many words.
"How is your foot?"
"Oh, it is better; well. But your leg--"
"Never mind that. Could you sleep?"
"We have only raw fish. Can you eat?"
"I'll try," she answered, with a grimace.
I went to the edge of the ledge where we had the fish stowed away near the water and took some of it both to her and Harry. We ate, but with little relish. The stuff did not seem very fresh.
I remained on guard at the mouth of the crevice while Harry went to the lake for a drink, having first helped Desiree to the water and back to her seat. Her foot gave her a great deal of pain, but instead of a sprain it appeared that there had been merely a straining of the ligaments. After bathing it in the cold water she was considerably relieved.
I remained on watch at the mouth of the crevice, from where I could also obtain a pretty fair view of the lake, and commanded Harry to rest. He demurred, but I insisted. Within two minutes he was sleeping like a log, completely exhausted.
Several hundred of the Incas remained huddled together on the ledge without, but they made no effort to attack us. I had been watching perhaps three hours when they began to melt away into the passage. Soon but a scant dozen or so remained. These squatted along the wall just under the lighted urns, evidently in the capacity of sentinels.
Soon I became drowsy--intolerably so; I was scarcely able to stand. I dozed off once or twice on my feet; and, realizing the danger, I called Harry to take my place.
Desiree also had been asleep, lying on the raft which Harry and I had concealed along with our fish. At sound of my voice she awoke and sat up, rubbing her eyes; then, as I assured her that all was quiet, she fell back again on her rude bed.
I have never understood the delay of the Incas at this juncture; possibly they took time to consult the great Pachacamac and found his advice difficult to understand. At the time I thought they had given up the attack and intended to starve us out, but they were incapable of a decision so sensible.
Many hours had passed, and we had alternated on four watches. We had plenty of rest and were really quite fit. The gash on my leg had proven a mere trifle; I was a little stiff, but there was no pain.
Desiree's foot was almost entirely well; she was able to walk with ease, and had insisted on taking a turn at watch, making such a point of it that we had humored her.
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