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Under the Andes Rex Stout

We Are Two

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It is a wonder to me now that I was able even to stand, after my experience on the spiral stairway in the column. The soles of my feet and the palms of my hands were baked black as the Incas themselves. Blisters covered my body from head to foot, swelling, indescribably painful.

Every step I took made me clench my teeth to keep from sinking in a faint to the ground; I expected always that the next would be my last--but somehow I struggled onward. It was the thought of Desiree, I think, that held me up, and Harry.

Suddenly a shout came from Harry that the Incas had abandoned the pursuit. It struck me almost as a matter of indifference; nor was I affected when almost immediately afterward he called that he had been mistaken and that they had rushed forward with renewed fury and in greater numbers.

"It is only a matter of time now," I said to Desiree, and she nodded.

Still we went forward. The land had carried us straight away from the cavern, without a turn. Its walls were the roughest I had seen, and often a boulder which lay across our path presented a serrated face that looked as though it had but just been broken from the wall above. Still the stone was comparatively soft--time had not yet worked its leveling finger on the surfaces that surrounded us.

We were standing on one of these boulders when Harry came running toward us.

"They're stopped," he cried gleefully, "at least for a little. A piece of rock as big as a house gently slid from above onto their precious heads. It may have blocked them off completely."

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We hurried forward then; Harry helped Desiree, while I painfully brought up the rear. At every few steps they were forced to halt and wait for me, though I did my utmost to keep us with them. Harry had taken my spear that I might have both hands to help me over the rocks.

Climbing, sliding, jumping, we left the Incas behind; no sound came from the rear. I began to think that they had really been completely shut off, and several times opened my mouth to call to Harry to ask him if it would not be safe to halt; for every movement I made was torture. But each time I choked back the cry; he thought it was necessary to go on and I followed.

This lasted I know not how long; I was staggering and reeling forward like a drunken man, so little aware of what I was doing that when Harry and Desiree finally stopped at the beginning of a level, unbroken stretch in the lane, I stumbled directly against them before I knew they had halted.

"Go on!" I gasped, struggling to my feet in a mania.

Harry stooped over to assist me and set me with my back resting against the wall. Desiree supported herself near by, scarcely able to stand.

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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