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Under the Andes Rex Stout

A Royal Visitor

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Her meaning was clear; it was to us she spoke. The king had turned from her and was regarding us steadily with eyes so nearly closed that their meaning was impenetrable. Harry and I glanced at each other and remained standing. Then Desiree's voice again:

"Harry! If you love me!"

It was the appeal to a child; but love is young. Immediately Harry dropped to his knees, facing the king; and I followed him, wondering at myself. To this day I do not know what the compelling force was that pulled me down. Was it another instance of the power of Desiree?

For perhaps a minute we remained motionless on our knees while the king stood gazing at us, it seemed to me with an air of doubt. Then slowly, and with a gait that smacked of majesty despite his ungainly appearance and diminutive stature, he stalked across to the doorway and disappeared in the corridor without.

Harry and I looked at each other, kneeling like two heathen idols, and burst into unrestrained laughter. But with it was mixed a portion of anger, and I turned to Desiree.

"In the name of Heaven, was that necessary?"

"You do it very prettily," said she, with a smile.

"That is well, but I don't care to repeat it. Harry, for the sake of my dignity, employ a little discretion. And what do you suppose the beggar will do about it?"

"Nothing," said Desiree, shrugging her shoulders. "Only he must be pacified. I must go. I wonder if you know you are lodged in the royal apartments? His majesty's room--he has but one--is in the corridor to the left of this.

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"Mine is on the right--and he is probably stamping the place to pieces at this moment." She left the granite couch and advanced half way to the door. "Au revoir, messieurs. Till later--I shall come to see you."

The next moment she was gone.

Harry and I, left alone, had enough to think and talk about, but there was ten minutes of silence before we spoke. I sat on one of the stone seats, wondering what the result would be--if any--of the king's visit and his discovery.

Harry paced up and down the length of the apartment with lowered head. Presently he spoke abruptly:

"Paul, I want to know exactly what you think of our chances for getting out of this."

"Why--" I hesitated. "Harry, I don't know."

"But you've thought about it, and you know something about these things. What do you think?"

"Well, I think they are slim."

"What are they?"

"Nothing less than miracles. There are just two. First-- and I've spoken of this before--we might find an underground stream that would carry us to the western slope."

"That is impossible--at least, for Desiree. And the second?"

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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