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|Under the Andes||Rex Stout|
|Page 6 of 8||
Harry crossed to the middle of the apartment and stood gazing curiously about him. I turned to the door and looked down the outer passage in both directions--our guide had disappeared.
"We appear to be friends of the family," said Harry with a grin.
"Thanks to Desiree, yes."
"Thanks to the devil! What did she mean--what could she mean? Was it one of her jokes? For I can't believe that she would-- would--"
"Have sent us to death? Well--who knows? Yes, it may have been one of her jokes," I lied.
For, of course, Harry knew nothing of the cause of Desiree's desire for revenge on me, and it would have served no good purpose to tell him.
We talked for an hour or more, examining our apartment meanwhile with considerable curiosity.
The gold excited our wonder; had it come from Huanuco four hundred years ago, or had they found it here in the mountain?
I examined the little blocks of metal or gems with which the tables and seats were inlaid, but could make nothing of them. They resembled a carbon formation sometimes found in quartzite, but were many times more brilliant than anything I had ever seen, excepting precious stones.
The hides which covered the granite couch were also unknown to me; they were of an amazing thickness and incredibly soft.
We were amusing ourselves with an attempt to pry one of the bits of gold from the wall when we heard a sound behind us.
We turned and saw Desiree.
She stood in the entrance, smiling at us as though we had been caught in her boudoir examining the articles on her dressing-table. She was clothed as she had been on the throne; a rope girdle held her single garment, and her hair fell across her shoulders, reaching to her knees. Her arms and shoulders appeared marvelously white, but they may have been by way of contrast.
Harry sprang across to her with a single bound. In another moment his arms were round her; she barely submitted to the embrace, but she gave him her lips, then drew herself away and crossed to me, extending her hands in a sort of wavering doubt.
But that was no time for hostilities, and I took the hands in my own and bent over them till my lips touched the soft fingers.
"A visit from the queen!" I said with a smile. "This is an honor, your majesty."
"A doubtful one," said Desiree. "First of all, my friend, I want to congratulate you on your savoir faire. Par Bleu, that was the part of a man!"
"But you!" cried Harry. "What the deuce did you mean by pretending to play the black? I tell you, that was a shabby trick. Most unpleasant moment you gave us."
Desiree sent me a quick glance; she was plainly surprised to find Harry in ignorance of what had passed between us that evening in the camp on the mountain. Wherein she was scarcely to be blamed, for her surprise came from a deep knowledge of the ways of men.
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