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Under the Andes Rex Stout


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Ah, if Le Mire had only seen the future! And yet--I often wonder--would she have turned her back? For the woman craved novelty and adventure, and the gameness of centuries was in her blood--well, she had her experience, which was shared only in part by Harry and myself.

Those snow-capped peaks! Little did we guess what they held for us. We were laughing, I remember, as we left behind us the edge of civilization represented by Cerro de Pasco.

We found it impossible to procure a complete outfit in the mining town, and were forced to despatch a messenger to Lima. He returned in two days with mules, saddles, saddle-bags, boots, leather leggings, knickerbockers, woolen ponchos, and scores of other articles which he assured us were absolutely necessary for any degree of comfort. By the time we were ready to start we had a good-sized pack-train on our hands.

The proprietor of the hotel found us an arriero, whom he declared to be the most competent and trustworthy guide in all the Andes--a long, loose-jointed fellow with an air of complete indifference habitually resting on his yellow, rather sinister-looking face. Le Mire did not like him, but I certainly preferred the hotel proprietor's experience and knowledge to her volatile fancy, and engaged the arriero on the spot.

Our outfit was complete, and everything in readiness, when Harry suddenly announced that he had decided not to go, nor to allow Le Mire to do so.

"I don't like it," he said in troubled tones. "I tell you, Paul, I don't like it. I've been talking to some of the miners and arrieros, and the thing is foolhardy and dangerous."

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Then, seeing the expression on my face, he continued hastily: "Oh, not for myself. You know me; I'll do anything that any one else will do, and more, if I can. But Desiree! I tell you, if anything happened to her I--well--"

I cut him short:

"My dear boy, the idea is Desiree's own. And to talk of danger where she is concerned! She would laugh at you."

"She has," Harry confessed with a doubtful smile.

I clapped him roughly on the shoulder.

"Come, brace up! Our caravan awaits us--and see, the fairy, too. Are you ready, Desiree?"

She came toward us from the inner rooms of the hotel, smiling, radiant. I shall never forget the picture she presented. She wore white knickerbockers, a white jacket, tan-leather boots and leggings and a khaki hat.

Her golden hair, massed closely about her ears and upon her forehead, shimmered in the bright sun dazzlingly; her eyes sparkled; her little white teeth gleamed in a happy, joyous smile.

We lifted her to the back of her mule, then mounted our own. Suddenly a recollection shot through my brain with remarkable clearness, and I turned to Le Mire:

"Desiree, do you know the first time I ever saw you? It was in an electric brougham at the Gare du Nord. This is somewhat different, my lady."

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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