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Under the Andes Rex Stout

A Victory And A Conversation

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"You have said that nothing is worth a serious word to you; and you are right. You are too cynical; things are bitter in your mouth, and doubly so when they leave it. Just now you are amusing yourself by pretending to care for me. Perhaps you do not know it, but you are. Search your heart, my friend, and tell me--do you want my love?"

Well, there was no need to search my heart, she had laid it open. I hated myself then; and I turned away, unable to meet her eyes, as I said:

"Bon Dieu!" she cried. "That is an ugly speech, monsieur!" And she laughed aloud.

"But we must not awaken Harry," she continued with sudden softness. "What a boy he is--and what a man! Ah, he knows what it is to love!"

That topic suited me little better, but I followed her. We talked of Harry, Le Mire with an amount of enthusiasm that surprised me. Suddenly she stopped abruptly and announced that she was hungry.

I found Harry's pantry after a few minutes' search and took some of its contents to Desiree. Then I returned to the edge of the water and ate my portion alone. That meal was one scarcely calculated for the pleasures of companionship or conviviality.

It was several hours after that before Harry awoke, the greater part of which Desiree and I were silent.

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I would have given something to have known her thoughts; my own were not very pleasant. It is always a disagreeable thing to discover that some one else knows you better than you know yourself. And Desiree had cut deep. At the time I thought her unjust; time alone could have told which of us was right. If she were here with me now--but she is not.

Finally Harry awoke. He was delighted to find Desiree awake and comparatively well, and demonstrated the fact with a degree of effusion that prompted me to leave them alone together. But I did not go far; a hundred paces made me sit down to rest before returning, so weak was I from wounds and fasting.

Harry's spirits were high, for no apparent reason other than that we were still alive, for that was the best that could be said for us. So I told him; he retorted with a hearty clap on the back that sent me sprawling to the ground.

"What the deuce!" he exclaimed, stooping to help me up. "Are you as weak as that? Gad, I'm sorry!"

"That is the second fall he has had," said Desiree, with a meaning smile.

Indeed, she was having her revenge!

But my strength was not long in returning. Over a long stretch our diet would hardly have been conducive to health, but it was exactly what I needed to put blood and strength in me. And Harry and Desiree, too, for that matter.

Again I had to withstand Harry's eager demands for action. He began within two hours to insist on exploring the cave, and would hardly take a refusal.

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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