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An Afternoon Miracle
by [?]

In this sordid spot was condemned to remain for certain hours the impotent transport of the Queen of the Serpent Tribe.

The front door of the car was open. Its forward end was curtained off into a small reception-room. Here the admiring and propitiatory reporters were wont to sit and transpose the music of Senorita Alvarita’s talk into the more florid key of the press. A picture of Abraham Lincoln hung against a wall; one of a cluster of school-girls grouped upon stone steps was in another place; a third was Easter lilies in a blood-red frame. A neat carpet was under foot. A pitcher, sweating cold drops, and a glass stood on a fragile stand. In a willow rocker, reading a newspaper, sat Alvarita.

Spanish, you would say; Andalusian, or, better still, Basque; that compound, like the diamond, of darkness and fire. Hair, the shade of purple grapes viewed at midnight. Eyes, long, dusky, and disquieting with their untroubled directness of gaze. Face, haughty and bold, touched with a pretty insolence that gave it life. To hasten conviction of her charm, but glance at the stacks of handbills in the corner, green, and yellow, and white. Upon them you see an incompetent presentment of the senorita in her professional garb and pose. Irresistible, in black lace and yellow ribbons, she faces you; a blue racer is spiralled upon each bare arm; coiled twice about her waist and once about her neck, his horrid head close to hers, you perceive Kuku, the great eleven-foot Asian python.

A hand drew aside the curtain that partitioned the car, and a middle- aged, faded woman holding a knife and a half-peeled potato looked in and said:

“Alviry, are you right busy?”

“I’m reading the home paper, ma. What do you think! that pale, tow- headed Matilda Price got the most votes in the /News/ for the prettiest girl in Gallipo–/lees/.”

“Shush! She wouldn’t of done it if /you’d/ been home, Alviry. Lord knows, I hope we’ll be there before fall’s over. I’m tired gallopin’ round the world playin’ we are dagoes, and givin’ snake shows. But that ain’t what I wanted to say. That there biggest snake’s gone again. I’ve looked all over the car and can’t find him. He must have been gone an hour. I remember hearin’ somethin’ rustlin’ along the floor, but I thought it was you.”

“Oh, blame that old rascal!” exclaimed the Queen, throwing down her paper. “This is the third time he’s got away. George never /will/ fasten down the lid to his box properly. I do believe he’s /afraid/ of Kuku. Now I’ve got to go hunt him.”

“Better hurry; somebody might hurt him.”

The Queen’s teeth showed in a gleaming, contemptuous smile. “No danger. When they see Kuku outside they simply scoot away and buy bromides. There’s a crick over between here and the river. That old scamp’d swap his skin any time for a drink of running water. I guess I’ll find him there, all right.”

A few minutes later Alvarita stopped upon the forward platform, ready for her quest. Her handsome black skirt was shaped to the most recent proclamation of fashion. Her spotless shirt-waist gladdened the eye in that desert of sunshine, a swelling oasis, cool and fresh. A man’s split-straw hat sat firmly on her coiled, abundant hair. Beneath her serene, round, impudent chin a man’s four-in-hand tie was jauntily knotted about a man’s high, stiff collar. A parasol she carried, of white silk, and its fringe was lace, yellowly genuine.

I will grant Gallipolis as to her costume, but firmly to Seville or Valladolid I am held by her eyes; castanets, balconies, mantillas, serenades, ambuscades, escapades–all these their dark depths guaranteed.

“Ain’t you afraid to go out alone, Alviry?” queried the Queen-mother anxiously. “There’s so many rough people about. Mebbe you’d better–“

“I never saw anything I was afraid of yet, ma. ‘Specially people. And men in particular. Don’t you fret. I’ll trot along back as soon as I find that runaway scamp.”