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Under the Andes Rex Stout

The Rescue

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It was a task for half a dozen men, but we dared not remain on the ledge to skin him and cut him up. After an hour of exertion and toil that left us completely exhausted, we managed to get him behind a large boulder to the left of the ledge, but it was impossible to carry him to the place we had selected, which could be reached only by passing through a narrow crevice.

The only knives we had were the points of the spears, but they served after a fashion, and in another hour we had him skinned and pretty well separated. He was meaty and sweet. We discovered that with the first opportunity, for we were hungry as wolves. Nor did we waste much time bewailing our lack of a fire, for we had lived so long on dried stuff that the opposite extreme was rather pleasant than otherwise.

We tore him into strips as neatly as possible, stowing them away beneath a ledge, a spot kept cool by the water but a foot below.

"That'll be good for a month," said Harry. "And there's more where that came from. And now--"

I understood, and I answered simply: "I'm ready."

We had but few preparations to make. The solidest parts of the fish which we had laid aside we now strapped together with one of the extra spear-thongs and slung them on our backs. We secreted the oars and raft and the extra spear as snugly as possible.

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Then, having filled ourselves with raw fish and a last hearty drink from the lake, we each took a spear and started on a search wilder than any ever undertaken by Amadis of Gaul or Don Quixote himself. Even the Bachelor of Salamanca, in his saddest plight, did not present so outrageous an appearance to the eye as we. We wore more clothing than the Incas, which is the most that can be said for us.

We were unable to even guess at the direction we should take; but that was settled for us when we found that there were but two exits from the cavern. One led through the boulders and crevices to a passage full of twists and turns and strewn with rocks, almost impassable; the other was that through which the Incas had entered. We chose the latter.

Fifty feet from the cavern we found ourselves in darkness. I stopped short.

"Harry, this is impossible. We cannot mark our way."

"But what can we do?"

"Carry one of those urns."

"Likely! They'd spot us before we even got started."

"Well--let them."

"No. You're in for the finish. I know that. I want to find Desiree. And we'll find her. After that, if nothing else is left, I'll be with you."

"But I don't want a thousand of those brutes falling on us in the dark. If they would end it I wouldn't care."

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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