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The Mystery of The Barranca   By:

The Mystery of The Barranca by Herman Whitaker

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THE MYSTERY OF THE BARRANCA

BY

HERMAN WHITAKER

AUTHOR OF "THE PLANTER" AND "THE SETTLER"

NEW YORK AND LONDON HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS MCMXIII

COPYRIGHT 1913 BY HARPER & BROTHERS

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 1913

[Illustration: [See page 248 SEYD LIFTED FRANCESCA AND LEAPED]

" To Vera, my daughter and gentle collaborator, whose nimble fingers lightened the load of many labors, this book is lovingly dedicated. "

THE MYSTERY OF THE BARRANCA

CHAPTER I

"Oh Bob, just look at them!"

Leaning down from his perch on the sacked mining tools which formed the apex of their baggage, Billy Thornton punched his companion in the back to call his attention to a scene which had spread a blaze of humor over his own rich crop of freckles.

As a matter of fact, the spectacle of two men fondly embracing can always be depended on to stir the crude Anglo Saxon sense of humor. In this case it was rendered still more ridiculous by age and portliness, but two years' wandering through interior Mexico had accustomed Thornton's comrade, Robert Seyd, to the sight. After a careless glance he resumed his contemplation of the crowd that thronged the little station. Exhibiting every variety of Mexican costume, from the plain white blanket of the peons to the leather suits of the rancheros and the hacendados, or owners of estates, it was as picturesque and brilliant in color and movement as anything in a musical extravaganza. The European clothing of a young girl who presently stepped out of the ticket office emphasized the theatrical flavor by its vivid contrast. She might easily have been the captive heroine among bandits, and the thought actually occurred to Billy. While she paused to call her dog, a huge Siberian wolf hound, she was hidden from Seyd's view by the stout embracers. Therefore it was to the dog that he applied Billy's remark at first.

"Isn't she a peach?"

She seemed the finest of her race that he had ever seen, and Seyd was just about to say that she carried herself like a "perfect lady" when the dissolution of the aforesaid embrace brought the girl into view. He stopped with a small gasp that testified to his astonishment at her unusual type.

Although slender for her years about two and twenty her throat and bust were rounded in perfect development. The clear olive complexion was undoubtedly Spanish, yet her face lacked the firm line that hardens with the years. Perhaps some strain of Aztec blood from which the Spanish Mexican is never free had helped to soften her features, but this would not account for their pleasing irregularity. A bit rétrousée , the small nose with its well defined nostrils patterned after the Celtic. Had Seyd known it, the face in its entirety colors and soft contours is to be found to this day among the descendants of the sailors who escaped from the wreck of the Spanish Armada on the west coast of Ireland. Pretty and unusual as she was, her greatest charm centered in the large black eyes that shone amid her clear pallor, conveying in broad day the tantalizing mystery of a face seen for an instant through a warm gloaming. In the moment that he caught their velvet glance Seyd received an impression of vivacious intelligence altogether foreign in his experience of Mexican women.

As she was standing only a few feet away, he knew that she must have heard Billy's remark; but, counting on her probable ignorance of English, he did not hesitate to answer. "Pretty? Well, I should say pretty enough to marry. The trouble is that in this country the ugliness of the grown woman seems to be in inverse ratio to her girlish beauty. Bet you the fattest hacendado is her father. And she'll give him pounds at half his age."

"Maybe," Billy answered. "Yet I'd be almost willing to take the chance."

As the girl had turned just then to look at the approaching train neither of them caught the sudden dark flash, supreme disdain, that drew an otherwise quite tender red mouth into a scarlet line... Continue reading book >>




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