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Under the Andes Rex Stout

The Fight In The Dark

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It was not easy to rise at all, and still harder to make any progress, for our ankles were bound together most effectively; but we managed somehow to drag ourselves along. I was in front; suddenly I felt Harry pull at my coat, and turned.

"Just the thing, Paul. Sharp as a knife. Look!"

I groped for his hand in the darkness and took from it the object he held out to me--a small flat stone with a sharp-saw edge.

"All right; let me work on you first."

I bent down to the thongs which bound his ankles. I was convinced that they were not of leather, but they were tough as the thickest hide. Twice my overeagerness caused the tool to slip and tear the skin from my hand; then I went about it more carefully with a muttered oath. Another quarter of an hour and Harry was free.

"Gad, that feels good!" he exclaimed, rising to his feet. "Here, Paul; where's the stone?"

I handed it to him and he knelt down and began sawing away at my feet.

What followed happened so quickly that we were hardly aware that it had begun when it was already finished.

A quick, pattering rush of many feet warned us, but not in time. Hurtling, leaping bodies came at us headlong through the air and crushed us to the ground, buried beneath them, gasping for breath; there must have been scores of them. Resistance was impossible; we were overwhelmed.

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I heard Harry give a despairing cry, and the scuffle followed; I myself was utterly helpless, for the thongs which bound my ankles had not been cut through. Not a sound came from our assailants save their heavy, labored breathing.

I remember that, even while they were sitting on my head and chest and body, I noted their silence with a sort of impersonal curiosity and wondered if they were, after all, human. Nor were they unnecessarily violent; they merely subdued us, rebound our wrists and ankles more tightly than before, and departed.

But--faugh! The unspeakable odor of their hairy bodies is in my nostrils yet.

"Are you hurt, Paul?"

"Not a bit, Harry lad. How do you like the perfume?"

"To the deuce with your perfume! But we're done for. What's the use? They've lived in this infernal hole so long they can see in the dark better than we can in the light."

Of course he was right, and I was a fool not to have thought of it before and practised caution. The knowledge was decidedly unpleasant. No doubt our every movement was being watched by a hundred pairs of eyes, while we lay helpless in the darkness, bound even more tightly than before.

"Look here," said Harry suddenly, "why can't we see their eyes? Why don't they shine."

"My dear boy," said I, "in this darkness you couldn't see the Kohinoor diamond if it were hanging on your nose, drawing-room travelers to the contrary notwithstanding. We have one advantage-- they can't understand what we say, but they even up for it by not saying anything."

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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