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An Afternoon Miracle
by [?]

“He went down this side street,” said the bartender. “He was alone, and he’ll hide out till night when his gang comes over. You ought to find him in that Mexican lay-out below the depot. He’s got a girl down there–Pancha Sales.”

“How was he armed?” asked Buckley.

“Two pearl-handled sixes, and a knife.”

“Keep this for me, Billy,” said the ranger, handing over his Winchester. Quixotic, perhaps, but it was Bob Buckley’s way. Another man–and a braver one–might have raised a posse to accompany him. It was Buckley’s rule to discard all preliminary advantage.

The Mexican had left behind him a wake of closed doors and an empty street, but now people were beginning to emerge from their places of refuge with assumed unconsciousness of anything having happened. Many citizens who knew the ranger pointed out to him with alacrity the course of Garcia’s retreat.

As Buckley swung along upon the trail he felt the beginning of the suffocating constriction about his throat, the cold sweat under the brim of his hat, the old, shameful, dreaded sinking of his heart as it went down, down, down in his bosom.


The morning train of the Mexican Central had that day been three hours late, thus failing to connect with the I. & G.N. on the other side of the river. Passengers for /Los Estados Unidos/ grumblingly sought entertainment in the little swaggering mongrel town of two nations, for, until the morrow, no other train would come to rescue them. Grumblingly, because two days later would begin the great fair and races in San Antone. Consider that at that time San Antone was the hub of the wheel of Fortune, and the names of its spokes were Cattle, Wool, Faro, Running Horses, and Ozone. In those times cattlemen played at crack-loo on the sidewalks with double-eagles, and gentlemen backed their conception of the fortuitous card with stacks limited in height only by the interference of gravity. Wherefore, thither journeyed the sowers and the reapers–they who stampeded the dollars, and they who rounded them up. Especially did the caterers to the amusement of the people haste to San Antone. Two greatest shows on earth were already there, and dozens of smallest ones were on the way.

On a side track near the mean little ‘dobe depot stood a private car, left there by the Mexican train that morning and doomed by an ineffectual schedule to ignobly await, amid squalid surroundings, connection with the next day’s regular.

The car had been once a common day-coach, but those who had sat in it and gringed to the conductor’s hat-band slips would never have recognised it in its transformation. Paint and gilding and certain domestic touches had liberated it from any suspicion of public servitude. The whitest of lace curtains judiciously screened its windows. From its fore end drooped in the torrid air the flag of Mexico. From its rear projected the Stars and Stripes and a busy stovepipe, the latter reinforcing in its suggestion of culinary comforts the general suggestion of privacy and ease. The beholder’s eye, regarding its gorgeous sides, found interest to culminate in a single name in gold and blue letters extending almost its entire length–a single name, the audacious privilege of royalty and genius. Doubly, then, was this arrogant nomenclature here justified; for the name was that of “Alvarita, Queen of the Serpent Tribe.” This, her car, was back from a triumphant tour of the principal Mexican cities, and now headed for San Antonio, where, according to promissory advertisement, she would exhibit her “Marvellous Dominion and Fearless Control over Deadly and Venomous Serpents, Handling them with Ease as they Coil and Hiss to the Terror of Thousands of Tongue-tied Tremblers!”

One hundred in the shade kept the vicinity somewhat depeopled. This quarter of the town was a ragged edge; its denizens the bubbling froth of five nations; its architecture tent, /jacal/, and ‘dobe; its distractions the hurdy-gurdy and the informal contribution to the sudden stranger’s store of experience. Beyond this dishonourable fringe upon the old town’s jowl rose a dense mass of trees, surmounting and filling a little hollow. Through this bickered a small stream that perished down the sheer and disconcerting side of the great canon of the Rio Bravo del Norte.