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The Enchanted Kiss
by [?]

Presently Tansey heard a turmoil in the tent; a wailing, broken- hearted pleading in the harmonious Spanish tongue, and then two figures tumbled out into the light of the lanterns. One was the old woman; the other was a man clothed with a sumptuous and flashing splendour. The woman seemed to clutch and beseech from him something against his will. The man broke from her and struck her brutally back into the tent, where she lay, whimpering and invisible. Observing Tansey, he walked rapidly to the table where he sat. Tansey recognized him to be Ramon Torres, a Mexican, the proprietor of the stand he was patronizing.

Torres was a handsome, nearly full-blooded descendant of the Spanish, seemingly about thirty years of age, and of a haughty, but extremely courteous demeanour. To-night he was dressed with signal magnificence. His costume was that of a triumphant /matador/, made of purple velvet almost hidden by jeweled embroidery. Diamonds of enormous size flashed upon his garb and his hands. He reached for a chair, and, seating himself at the opposite side of the table, began to roll a finical cigarette.

“Ah, Meester Tanse,” he said, with a sultry fire in his silky, black eyes, “I give myself pleasure to see you this evening. Meester Tansee, you have many times come to eat at my table. I theenk you a safe man– a verree good friend. How much would it please you to leeve forever?”

“Not come back any more?” inquired Tansey.

“No; not leave–/leeve/; the not-to-die.”

“I would call that,” said Tansey, “a snap.”

Torres leaned his elbows upon the table, swallowed a mouthful of smoke, and spake–each word being projected in a little puff of gray.

“How old do you theenk I am, Meester Tansee?”

“Oh, twenty-eight or thirty.”

“Thees day,” said the Mexican, “ees my birthday. I am four hundred and three years of old to-day.”

“Another proof,” said Tansey, airily, “of the healthfulness of our climate.”

“Eet is not the air. I am to relate to you a secret of verree fine value. Listen me, Meester Tansee. At the age of twenty-three I arrive in Mexico from Spain. When? In the year fifteen hundred nineteen, with the /soldados/ of Hernando Cortez. I come to thees country seventeen fifteen. I saw your Alamo reduced. It was like yesterday to me. Three hundred ninety-six year ago I learn the secret always to leeve. Look at these clothes I war–at these /diamantes/. Do you theenk I buy them with the money I make with selling the /chili-con-carne/, Meester Tansee?”

“I should think not,” said Tansey, promptly. Torres laughed loudly.

“/Valgame Dios/! but I do. But it not the kind you eating now. I make a deeferent kind, the eating of which makes men to always leeve. What do you think! One thousand people I supply–/diez pesos/ each one pays me the month. You see! ten thousand /pesos/ everee month! /Que diable/! how not I wear the fine /ropa/! You see that old woman try to hold me back a little while ago? That ees my wife. When I marry her she is young–seventeen year–/bonita/. Like the rest she ees become old and–what you say!–tough? I am the same–young all the time. To-night I resolve to dress myself and find another wife befitting my age. This old woman try to scr-r-ratch my face. Ha! ha! Meester Tansee –same way they do /entre los Americanos/.”

“And this health-food you spoke of?” said Tansey.

“Hear me,” said Torres, leaning over the table until he lay flat upon it; “eet is the /chili-con-carne/ made not from the beef or the chicken, but from the flesh of the /senorita/–young and tender. That ees the secret. Everee month you must eat of it, having care to do so before the moon is full, and you will not die any times. See how I trust you, friend Tansee! To-night I have bought one young ladee– verree pretty–so /fina, gorda, blandita/! To-morrow the /chili/ will be ready. /Ahora si/! One thousand dollars I pay for thees young ladee. From an /Americano/ I have bought–a verree tip-top man–/el Capitan Peek/–/que es, Senor/?”