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Under the Andes Rex Stout

A Modern Marana

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His companion had not moved, except to turn her head; but after the first swift shadow of surprise her face brightened with a smile of welcome, for all the world as though this were a morning call in her boudoir.

"Senor and Senora Ramal, I believe?" said I with a smile, crossing to them with an exaggerated bow.

I could see Harry cocking his ear to catch the tone of my first words, and when he heard their friendliness a grin overspread his face. He took his hand from Le Mire's shoulder and held it out to me.

"How did you come here? How did you find us?"

"You forgot to provide Le Mire with a veil," said I by way of answer.

Harry looked at me, then at his companion. "Of course," he agreed--"of course. By Jove! that was stupid of us."

Whereupon Le Mire laughed with such frank enjoyment of the boy's simplicity that I couldn't help but join her.

"And now," said Harry, "I suppose you want to know--"

"I want to know nothing--at present," I interrupted. "It's nearly six o'clock, and since ten last night I've been on top of the most perfectly imbecile donkey ever devised by nature. I want breakfast."

Velvet lids were upraised from Le Mire's eyes. "Here?" she queried.

I pointed to the place--extreme charity might give it the title of inn--where smoke was rising from a tin chimney.

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Soon we were seated inside with a pot of steaming black coffee before us. Harry was bubbling over with gaiety and good will, evidently occasioned by my unexpected friendliness, while Le Mire sat for the most part silent. It was easy to see that she was more than a little disturbed by my arrival, which surprised me.

I gazed at her with real wonder and increasing admiration. It was six in the morning; she had had no sleep, and had just finished a most fatiguing journey of some eight hours; but I had never seen her so beautiful.

Our host approached, and I turned to him:

"What have you?"

There was pity in his glance.

"Aigs," said he, with an air of finality.

"Ah!" said Le Mire. "I want them--let's see--au beurre noire, if you please."

The man looked at her and uttered the single word: "Fried."

"Fried?" said she doubtfully.

"Only fried," was the inexorable answer. "How many?"

Le Mire turned to me, and I explained. Then she turned again to the surly host with a smile that must have caused him to regret his gruffness.

"Well, then, fr-r-ied!" said she, rolling the "r" deliciously. "And you may bring me five, if you please."

It appeared that I was not the only hungry one. We ate leisurely and smoked more leisurely still, and started on our return journey a little before eight o'clock.

It was late in the afternoon when we arrived at the Antlers. The trip was accomplished without accident, but Le Mire was thoroughly exhausted and Harry was anything but fresh. That is the worst of mountain climbing: the exaltation at the summit hardly pays you for the reaction at the foot. We entered the broad portico with frank sighs of relief.

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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