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Under the Andes Rex Stout


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It was a cool, sunny day in the latter part of October when we weighed anchor and passed through the Golden Gate. I had leased the yacht for a year, and had made alternative plans in case Le Mire should tire of the sport, which I thought extremely probable.

She and Harry were delighted with the yacht, which was not surprising, for she was as perfect a craft as I have seen. Sides white as sea-foam; everything above decks of shining brass, below mahogany, and as clean and shipshape as a Dutch kitchen. There were five rooms besides the captain's, and a reception-room, dining-room, and library. We had provisioned her well, and had a jewel of a cook.

Our first port was Santa Catalina. We dropped anchor there at about five o'clock in the afternoon of such a day as only southern California can boast of, and the dingey was lowered to take us ashore.

"What is there?" asked Le Mire, pointing to the shore as we stood leaning on the rail waiting for the crew to place the ladder.

I answered: "Tourists."

Le Mire shrugged her shoulders. "Tourists? Bah! Merci, non. Allons!"

I laughed and went forward to the captain to tell him that madame did not approve of Santa Catalina. In another minute the dingey was back on its davits, the anchor up, and we were under way. Poor captain! Within a week he became used to Le Mire's sudden whims.

At San Diego we went ashore. Le Mire took a fancy to some Indian blankets, and Harry bought them for her; but when she expressed an intention to take an Indian girl--about sixteen or seventeen years old--aboard the yacht as a "companion," I interposed a firm negative. And, after all, she nearly had her way.

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For a month it was "just one port after another." Mazatlan, San Bias, Manzanillo, San Salvador, Panama City--at each of these we touched, and visited sometimes an hour, sometimes two or three days. Le Mire was loading the yacht with all sorts of curious relics. Ugly or beautiful, useful or worthless, genuine or faked, it mattered not to her; if a thing suited her fancy she wanted it--and got it.

At Guayaquil occurred the first collision of wills. It was our second evening in port. We were dining on the deck of the yacht, with half a dozen South American generals and admirals as guests.

Toward the end of the dinner Le Mire suddenly became silent and remained for some minutes lost in thought; then, suddenly, she turned to the bundle of gold lace at her side with a question:

"Where is Guayaquil?"

He stared at her in amazement.

"It is there, senora," he said finally, pointing to the shore lined with twinkling lights.

"I know, I know," said Le Mire impatiently; "but where is it? In what country?"

The poor fellow, too surprised to be offended, stammered the name of his native land between gasps, while Harry and I had all we could do to keep from bursting into laughter.

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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