**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


A Matter Of Mean Elevation
by [?]

This thaw in his divinity sent Armstrong’s heart going faster. So might an Arctic explorer thrill at his first ken of green fields and liquescent waters. They were on a lower plane of earth and life and were succumbing to its peculiar, subtle influence. The austerity of the hills no longer thinned the air they breathed. About them was the breath of fruit and corn and builded homes, the comfortable smell of smoke and warm earth and the consolations man has placed between himself and the dust of his brother earth from which he sprung. While traversing those awful mountains, Mile. Giraud had seemed to be wrapped in their spirit of reverent reserve. Was this that same woman–now palpitating, warm, eager, throbbing with conscious life and charm, feminine to her finger-tips? Pondering over this, Armstrong felt certain misgivings intrude upon his thoughts. He wished he could stop there with this changing creature, descending no farther. Here was the elevation and environment to which her nature seemed to respond with its best. He feared to go down upon the man-dominated levels. Would her spirit not yield still further in that artificial zone to which they were descending?

Now from a little plateau they saw the sea flash at the edge of the green lowlands. Mile. Giraud gave a little, catching sigh.

“Oh! look, Mr. Armstrong, there is the sea! Isn’t it lovely? I’m so tired of mountains.” She heaved a pretty shoulder in a gesture of repugnance. “Those horrid Indians! Just think of what I suffered! Although I suppose I attained my ambition of becoming a stellar attraction, I wouldn’t care to repeat the engagement. It was very nice of you to bring me away. Tell me, Mr. Armstrong–honestly, now –do I look such an awful, awful fright? I haven’t looked into a mirror, you know, for months.”

Armstrong made answer according to his changed moods. Also he laid his hand upon hers as it rested upon the horn of her saddle. Luis was at the head of the pack train and could not see. She allowed it to remain there, and her eyes smiled frankly into his.

Then at sundown they dropped upon the coast level under the palms and lemons among the vivid greens and scarlets and ochres of the tierra caliente. They rode into Macuto, and saw the line of volatile bathers frolicking in the surf. The mountains were very far away.

Mlle. Giraud’s eyes were shining with a joy that could not have existed under the chaperonage of the mountain-tops. There were other spirits calling to her–nymphs of the orange groves, pixies from the chattering surf, imps, born of the music, the perfumes, colours and the insinuating presence of humanity. She laughed aloud, musically, at a sudden thought.

“Won’t there be a sensation?” she called to Armstrong. “Don’t I wish I had an engagement just now, though! What a picnic the press agent would have! ‘Held a prisoner by a band of savage Indians subdued by the spell of her wonderful voice’–wouldn’t that make great stuff? But I guess I quit the game winner, anyhow–there ought to be a couple of thousand dollars in that sack of gold dust I collected as encores, don’t you think?”

He left her at the door of the little Hotel de Buen Descansar, where she had stopped before. Two hours later he returned to the hotel. He glanced in at the open door of the little combined reception room and cafe.

Half a dozen of Macuto’s representative social and official caballeros were distributed about the room. Senor Villablanca, the wealthy rubber concessionist, reposed his fat figure on two chairs, with an emollient smile beaming upon his chocolate-coloured face. Guilbert, the French mining engineer, leered through his polished nose-glasses. Colonel Mendez, of the regular army, in gold-laced uniform and fatuous grin, was busily extracting corks from champagne bottles. Other patterns of Macutian gallantry and fashion pranced and posed. The air was hazy with cigarette smoke. Wine dripped upon the floor.

Perched upon a table in the centre of the room in an attitude of easy preeminence was Mlle. Giraud. A chic costume of white lawn and cherry ribbons supplanted her travelling garb. There was a suggestion of lace, and a frill or two, with a discreet, small implication of hand-embroidered pink hosiery. Upon her lap rested a guitar. In her face was the light of resurrection, the peace of elysium attained through fire and suffering. She was singing to a lively accompaniment a little song:

“When you see de big round moon
Comin’ up like a balloon,
Dis nigger skips fur to kiss de lips
Ob his stylish, black-faced coon.”

The singer caught sight of Armstrong.

“Hi! there, Johnny,” she called; “I’ve been expecting you for an hour. What kept you? Gee! but these smoked guys are the slowest you ever saw. They ain’t on, at all. Come along in, and I’ll make this coffee-coloured old sport with the gold epaulettes open one for you right off the ice.”

“Thank you,” said Armstrong; “not just now, I believe. I’ve several things to attend to.”

He walked out and down the street, and met Rucker coming up from the Consulate.

“Play you a game of billiards,” said Armstrong. “I want something to take the taste of the sea level out of my mouth.”