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|Under the Andes||Rex Stout|
|Page 5 of 8||
"Ah," said Desiree in the tone of one who has made an important discovery, "I thought so. Ecuador. Monsieur, Quito is in Ecuador."
The general--or admiral, I forget which--acknowledged the correctness of her geography with a profound bow.
"But yes. I have often heard of Quito, monsieur. It is a very interesting place. I shall go to Quito."
There ensued immediately a babel. Each of our guests insisted on the honor of accompanying us inland, and the thing would most assuredly have ended in a bloody quarrel on the captain's polished deck, if I had not interposed in a firm tone:
"But, gentlemen, we are not going to Quito."
Le Mire looked at me--and such a look! Then she said in a tone of the utmost finality:
"I am going to Quito."
I shook my head, smiling at her, whereupon she became furious.
"M. Lamar," she burst forth, "I tell you I am going to Quito! In spite of your smile! Yes! Do you hear? I shall go!"
Without a word I took a coin from my pocket and held it up. I had come to know Le Mire. She frowned for a moment in an evident attempt to maintain her anger, then an irresistible smile parted her lips and she clapped her hands gaily.
"Very well," she cried, "toss, monsieur! Heads!"
The coin fell tails, and we did not go to Quito, much to the disappointment of our guests. Le Mire forgot all about it in ten minutes.
Five days later we dropped anchor at Callao.
This historic old port delighted Le Mire at once. I had told her something of its story: its successive bombardments by the liberators from Chile, the Spanish squadron, buccaneering expeditions from Europe and the Chilean invaders; not to mention earthquakes and tidal waves. We moored alongside the stone pier by the lighthouse; the old clock at its top pointed to the hour of eight in the morning.
But as soon as Le Mire found out that Lima was but a few miles away, Callao no longer held any interest for her. We took an afternoon train and arrived at the capital in time for dinner.
There it was, in picturesque old Lima, that Le Mire topped her career. On our first afternoon we betook ourselves to the fashionable paseo, for it was a band day, and all Lima was out.
In five minutes every eye in the gay and fashionable crowd was turned on Le Mire. Then, as luck would have it, I met, quite by chance, a friend of mine who had come to the University of San Marcos some years before as a professor of climatology. He introduced us, with an air of importance, to several of the groups of fashion, and finally to the president himself. That night we slept as guests under the roof of a luxurious and charming country house at Miraflores.
Le Mire took the capital by storm. Her style of beauty was peculiarly fitted for their appreciation, for pallor is considered a mark of beauty among Lima ladies. But that could scarcely account for her unparalleled triumph. I have often wondered--was it the effect of a premonition?
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