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|Under the Andes||Rex Stout|
|Page 3 of 8||
"Do not call me Le Mire--nor Senora Ramal."
"Well, but I must address you occasionally."
"Call me Desiree."
I looked at her with a smile.
"But I thought that that was reserved for your particular friends."
"So it is."
"Then, my dear senora, it would be impertinent of me."
"But if I request it?"
"I have said--anything in or out of reason. And, of course, I am one of the family."
"Is that the only reason?"
I began to understand her, and I answered her somewhat dryly: "My dear Desiree, there can be none other."
"Are you so--cold?"
"When I choose."
"Ah!" It was a sigh rather than an exclamation. "And yet, on the ship--do you remember? Look at me, M. Lamar. Am I not--am I so little worthy of a thought?"
Her lips were parted with tremulous feeling; her eyes glowed with a strange fire, and yet were tender. Indeed, she was "worthy of a thought"--dangerously so; I felt my pulse stir. It was necessary to assume a stoicism I was far from feeling, and I looked at her with a cynical smile and spoke in a voice as carefully deliberate as I could make it.
"Le Mire," I said, "I could love you, but I won't." And I turned and left her without another word.
Why? I haven't the slightest idea. It must have been my vanity. Some few men had conquered Le Mire; others had surrendered to her; certainly none had ever been able to resist her. There was a satisfaction in it. I walked about the lobby of the hotel till Harry returned, idiotically pleased with myself.
At the breakfast table I acquainted Harry with our plans for a cruise, and he was fully as eager about it as Le Mire had been. He wanted to weigh anchor that very afternoon. I explained that it was necessary to wait for funds from New York.
"How much?" said he. "I'm loaded."
"I've sent for a hundred thousand," said I.
"Are you going to buy her?" he demanded with astonishment.
Then we fell to a discussion of routes. Harry was for Hawaii; Le Mire for South America.
We tossed a coin.
"Heads," said Desiree, and so it fell.
I requested Le Mire to keep to the hotel as closely as possible for the days during which it was necessary for us to remain in San Francisco. She did so, but with an apparent effort.
I have never seen a creature so full of nervous energy and fire; only by severe restraint could she force herself to even a small degree of composure. Harry was with her nearly every minute, though what they found to talk about was beyond my comprehension. Neither was exactly bubbling over with ideas, and one cannot say "I love you" for twenty-four hours a day.
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