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Under the Andes Rex Stout

The Escape

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Something had to happen, and I suppose it was as well that the Incas should start it. For we had met with a misfortune that made us see the beginning of the end. Our fish was no longer fit to eat, and we had been forced to throw the remainder of it in the lake.

Then we held a council of war. The words we uttered, standing together at the mouth of the crevice, come to me now as in a dream; if my memory of them were not so vivid I should doubt their reality. We discussed death with a calmness that spoke eloquently of our experience.

Desiree's position may be given in a word--she was ready for the end, and invited it.

I was but little behind her, but advised waiting for one more watch--a sop to Harry. And there was one other circumstance that moved me to delay--the hope for a sight of the Inca king and a chance at him.

Desiree had refused to tell us her experiences between the time of our dive from the column and our rescue of her; but she had said enough to cause me to guess at its nature. There was a suppressed but ever present horror in her eyes that made me long to stand once more before the Child of the Sun; then to go, but not alone.

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Harry advised retreat. I have mentioned that when he and I had started on our search for Desiree we had found two exits from the cavern--the one which we had taken and another which led through the maze of boulders and chasms back of us to a passage full of twists and turns and choked with massive rocks, almost impassable.

Through this he advised making our way to whatever might await us beyond.

The question was still undecided when our argument was brought to a halt and the decision was taken away from us. Through the crevice I saw a band of Incas emerge from the passage opposite and advance to the water's edge. At their head was the Inca king.

Soon the landing was completely covered with them--probably three hundred or more--and others could be seen in the mouth of the passage. Each one carried a spear; their heads of copper, upraised in a veritable forest, shone dully in the light of the urns on the wall above.

Harry and Desiree stood close behind me, looking through at the fantastic sight. I turned to him:

"This time they mean business."

He nodded.

"But what can they do? Except get knocked on the head, and I'm sick of it. If we had only left an hour ago!"

"For my part," I retorted, "I'm glad we didn't. Desiree, I'm going to put you in my debt, if fortune will only show me one last kindness and let me get within reach of him."

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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