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   Chapter 20 “ No.20

The Mystery of The Barranca By Herman Whitaker Characters: 4039

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


What!" In the language of the good old romances, Seyd roared the word.

In the main, Paulo was not a bad old chap. To further the interests of a Garcia he would cheerfully have surrendered his old bones to be boiled in oil, and in his joy at the event he allowed his natural garrulity to dominate his prejudice against the gringo.

"Si, se?or, they were married at the hacienda by the priest of Chilpancin. On account of the death of Don Sebastien's mother Don Luis and the se?ora only were present, and immediately afterward the young couple went home alone to El Quiss. A sensible practice, say I! When young hot blood mixes it should be left to cool and settle. Over there at El Quiss the fur will be flying before the end of a week, and put me down as a liar if Francesca do not keep him busy. She has run too long single not to kick at double harness. But she'll settle to it, and like the fine wench she is, there is to be no European travel or such kickshaws as now are common with our rich young folk. No, in the good old Mexican fashion she goes from the church straight to her man's home, there to stay till the first babe makes us all completely happy."

Over and above his real joy in the event the old fellow was undoubtedly aware of its effect on Seyd. While speaking, his small red eyes searched his victim's face for the pain beneath its confusion. But even under the spur of race hatred his imagination could not divine a tithe of the torture he was inflicting. Like all lovers, Seyd had dreamed long moving pictures of himself and Francesca as husband and wife, and now, with the speed of light, the reels spun backward, exhibiting her with another in the thousand and one intimacies of married life. Through all, his stiff Anglo-Saxon reserve persisted, and, finding egress at his heels, the pain that he tried to hide brought the situation to a ludicrous close. Springing from the unconscious pressure of his spurs, his horse, a mettled little beast, collided with Paulo and knocked him flat on

his back.

More hurt in his pride than body, the old fellow scrambled up and stood shaking his fist and cursing. But Seyd rode on without attempt to check the animal, whose top speed ran slower than his own hot thought. Indeed, when, from sheer fatigue, it slowed he laid on with quirt and spur, and kept on at a gallop till violent exercise had withdrawn the blood from his swelling brain.

In place of pulsing waves of confused pain came the tortures of clear thought. In turn he was ruled by anger, despair, unbelief. The thought of Francesca as he had seen her on the train, quiet, lovely, sympathetic, inspired the last. It was not possible! Then up would rise the blank ink scores round the divorce notice to provide the motive and plunge him back into deep despair. Lastly came anger, blind and unreasoning, in furious gusts.

Occasionally through his welter of feeling there flashed a glimmer of reason. "She's married now! She's married! That ends it-for you!" But instead of despair the thought produced furious reactions. "I don't care! She's mine! I'll have her-I have to take her by force!" It rose again and again, his cry on the trail of the other day.

By instinct rather than conscious thought he had turned his horse into a path which presently curved at a sharp angle into one that led from San Nicolas up to the rim of the Barranca where at this season ran the only passable trail. At the forks he came on the fresh tracks of shod horses that led up the zigzag staircases.

Overlapping each other on the narrow trail, they might have been made by two or a half dozen, and not until he saw two sets clearly imprinted side by side crossing a small plateau did he think of the riders. If proof were required it was presently furnished by the little handkerchief that hung, fluttering in the rain and wind, on a "crucifixion thorn."

As, reining in, he examined the corner initial a whiff of violets rose in his nostrils. Under the sudden crush of his hand it shed a rain of tears.

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