“Are you hurt, dear?” Quest gasped, as he drew Lenora to the bank.
She shook her head.
“Just my side. Did Craig get away?”
Quest looked gloomily across the stream.
“Craig’s in Mexico, right enough,” he answered savagely, “but I am beginning to feel that I could fetch him back out of hell!”
TONGUES OF FLAME
From the shadows of the trees on the further side of the river, Craig with strained eyes watched Quest’s struggle. He saw him reach Lenora, watched him struggle to the bank with her, waited until he had lifted her on to his horse. Then he turned slowly around and faced the one country in the world where freedom was still possible for him. He looked into a wall of darkness, penetrated only at one spot by a little blaze of light. Slowly, with his arm through the bridle of his horse, he limped towards it. As he drew nearer and discovered its source, he hesitated. The light came through the uncurtained windows of a saloon, three long, yellow shafts illuminating the stunted shrubs and sandy places. Craig kept in the shadow between them and drew a little nearer. From inside he could hear the thumping of a worn piano, the twanging of a guitar, the rattle of glasses, the uproarious shouting of men, the shrill laughter of women. The tired man and the lame horse stole reluctantly a little nearer. Craig listened once more wearily. It was home he longed for so much—and rest. The very thought of the place sickened him. Even when he reached the door, he hesitated and instead of entering stood back amongst the shadows. If only he could find any other sort of shelter!
Inside, the scene was ordinary enough. There was a long bar, against which were lounging half-a-dozen typical Mexican cowpunchers. There was a small space cleared for dancing, at the further end of which two performers were making weird but vehement music. Three girls were dancing with cowboys, not ungracefully considering the state of the floor and the frequent discords in the music. One of them—the prettiest—stopped abruptly and pushed her partner away from her.
“You have drunk too much, Jose!” she exclaimed. “You cannot dance. You tread on my feet and you lean against me. I do not like it. I will dance with you another night when you are sober. Go away, please.”
Her cavalier swayed for a moment on his feet. Then he looked down upon her with an evil glitter in his eyes. He was tall and thin, with a black moustache and yellow, unpleasant-looking teeth.
“So you will not dance any longer with Jose?” he muttered. “Very well, you shall drink with him, then. We will sit together at one of those little tables. Listen, you shall drink wine.”
“I do not want to drink wine with you. All that I wish is to be left alone,” the girl insisted curtly. “Go and play cards, if you want to. There is Pietro over there, and Diego. Perhaps you may win some money. They say that drunkards have all the luck.”