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(Ponsie and Carolyn, intrepid as always, have finally reached their destination, the Mortimer Mansion, with limbs intact and hearts of steel. They are, they believe, ready to face whatever dangers await them in their attempt to purloin the purloined Needle Knockers trophy snatched by the evil Letitia Mortimer right out from under the outraged nose of Ponsie’s Aunt Harriet. Finding the enormous footprints of a hound that must be the size of an elephant to have feet that big has, it must be admitted, somewhat dampened Ponsie’s enthusiasm but he is nevertheless bravely prepared to march into the future – provided Carolyn hasn’t forgotten to bring her doggie knock-out drops. They stand now at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the front porch like Hillary standing at the foot of K1.)

“It’s a long way up, isn’t it?” I said doubtfully.

In fact, standing at the bottom of the stairs and craning my neck just to see the top left me reeling with vertigo. Head spinning, I felt like Howard Carter must have felt the first time he stood at the bottom of the Cheops pyramid and thought, “There better be a Pizza Hut on top of this or I’m outa here.”

Carolyn took the first step in stride, of course. “What’s the matter with you?”

“Wait! Don’t we need crampons and safety belts? And those shoes with spikes in them?”

“Ponsie -”

“What if I fall?”

“Ponsie,” Carolyn snapped in frustration, “it’s only a porch for gawd’s-sake, it’s not the Eiffel Tower.”

“The Eiffel Tower has an elevator in it. I’d prefer that. Come on. Fly to Paris with me. I’ll pay.” At the time that seemed like a perfectly rational suggestion. I was already reaching for my credit cards.

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