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Under the Andes Rex Stout

The Midst Of The Enemy

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Owing to my strategy in withholding our attack until the Incas had got well within the room and to one side, we had not been seen by those constantly passing up and down in the corridor without; at least, none of them had entered. We seemed by this stroke to have assured our safety so long as we remained in the room.

But it was still necessary to remain against the wall, for the soft patter of footsteps could still be heard in the corridor.

They now came at irregular intervals, and there were not many of them. Otherwise the silence was unbroken.

"What does it all mean?" Harry whispered.

"The Incas are coming home to their women," I guessed. "Though, after seeing the women, it is little wonder if they spend most of their time away from them. He is welcome to his repose in the bosom of his family."

There passed an uneventful hour. Long before it ended the sound of footsteps had entirely ceased; but we thought it best to take no chances, and waited for the last minute our impatience would allow us. Then, uncomfortable and stiff from the long period of immobility and silence, we rose to our feet and made ready to start.

Harry was for appropriating some of the strips of dried fish we saw suspended from the ceiling, but I objected that our danger lay in any direction other than that of hunger, and we set out with only our spears.

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The corridor was deserted. One quick glance in either direction assured us of that; then we turned to the right and set out at a rapid pace, down the long passage past a succession of rooms exactly similar to the one we had just left--scores, hundreds of them.

Each one was occupied by from one to ten of the Incas lying on the couch which each contained, or stretched on hides on the floor. No one was stirring. Everywhere was silence save the patter of our own feet, which we let fall as noiselessly as possible.

"Will it never end?" whispered Harry at length, after we had traversed upward of a mile without any sign of a cross-passage or a termination.

"Forward, and silence!" I breathed for a reply.

The end--at least, of the silence--came sooner than we had expected. Hardly were the last words out of my mouth when a whirring noise sounded behind us. We glanced over our shoulders as we ran, and at the same instant an Inca spear flew by not two inches from my head and struck the ground in front.

Not a hundred feet to the rear we saw a group of Incas rushing along the passage toward us. Harry wheeled about, raising his spear, but I grasped him by the arm, crying, "Run; it's our only chance!" The next moment we were leaping forward side by side down the passage.

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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