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Under the Andes Rex Stout

A Modern Marana

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An idea immediately suggested itself to me. They would, of course, return to the hotel in the morning. All I had to do was to sit down and wait for them; but that would have been dull sport. My idea was better.

I sought out the hotel's wardrobe--there is nothing the Antlers will not do for you--and clothed myself in khaki, leggings, and boots. Then I ordered a car and set out for Manitou, at the foot of the mountain.

By ten o'clock I was mounted on a donkey, headed for the top, after having been informed by a guide that "the man and the beautiful lady" had departed an hour previous.

Having made the ascent twice before, I needed no guide. So I decided; but I regretted the decision. Three times I lost the path; once I came perilously near descending on the village below--well, without hesitation. It was well after midnight when I passed the Half-way House, and I urged my donkey forward with a continual rat-a-tat-tat of well-directed kicks in the effort to make my goal.

You who have experienced the philosophical calm and superb indifference of the Pike's Peak donkey may imagine the vocabulary I used on this occasion--I dare not print it. Nor did his speed increase.

I was, in fact, a quarter of an hour late. I was still several hundred yards from the summit when the sun's first rays shot through the thin atmosphere, creating colorful riot among the clouds below, and I stopped, holding my breath in awe.

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There is no art nor poetry in that wonderful sight; it is glorious war. The sun charges forth in a vast flame of inconceivable brilliance; you can almost hear the shout of victory. He who made the universe is no artist; too often He forgets restraint, and blinds us.

I turned, almost regretting that I had come, for I had been put out of tune with my task. Then I mounted the donkey and slowly traversed the few remaining yards to the Peak.

There, seated in the dazzling sunshine on the edge of a huge boulder near the eastern precipice, were the two I sought.

Le Mire's head was turned from me as she sat gazing silently at the tumbling, gorgeous mass of clouds that seemed almost to be resting on her lap; Harry was looking at her. And such a look!

There was no rival even in nature that could conquer Le Mire; never, I believe, did woman achieve a more notable victory than hers of that morning. I watched them for several minutes before I moved or spoke; and never once did Harry's eyes leave her face.

Then I advanced a step, calling his name; and they turned and caught sight of me.

"Paul!" cried Harry, leaping to his feet; then he stopped short and stared at me half defiantly, half curiously, moving close to Le Mire and placing his hand on her shoulder like a child clinging to a toy.

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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