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The Enchanted Kiss
by [?]

For Tansey had sprung to his feet, upsetting the chair. The words of Katie reverberated in his ears: “They’re going to eat me, Sam.” This, then, was the monstrous fate to which she had been delivered by her unnatural parent. The carriage he had seen drive up from the Plaza was Captain Peek’s. Where was Katie? Perhaps already–

Before he could decide what to do a loud scream came from the tent. The old Mexican woman ran out, a flashing knife in her hand. “I have released her,” she cried. “You shall kill no more. They will hang you –/ingrato/–/encatador/!”

Torres, with a hissing exclamation, sprang at her.

“Ramoncito!” she shrieked; “once you loved me.”

The Mexican’s arm raised and descended. “You are old,” he cried; and she fell and lay motionless.

Another scream; the flaps of the tent were flung aside, and there stood Katie, white with fear, her wrists still bound with a cruel cord.

“Sam!” she cried, “save me again!”

Tansey rounded the table, and flung himself, with superb nerve, upon the Mexican. Just then a clangour began; the clocks of the city were tolling the midnight hour. Tansey clutched at Torres, and, for a moment, felt in his grasp the crunch of velvet and the cold facets of the glittering gems. The next instant, the bedecked caballero turned in his hands to a shrunken, leather-visaged, white-bearded, old, old, screaming mummy, sandalled, ragged, and four hundred and three. The Mexican woman was crawling to her feet, and laughing. She shook her brown hand in the face of the whining /viejo/.

“Go, now,” she cried, “and seek your senorita. It was I, Ramoncito, who brought you to this. Within each moon you eat of the life-giving /chili/. It was I that kept the wrong time for you. You should have eaten /yesterday/ instead of /to-morrow/. It is too late. Off with you, /hombre/! You are too old for me!”

“This,” decided Tansey, releasing his hold of the gray-beard, “is a private family matter concerning age, and no business of mine.”

With one of the table knives he hastened to saw asunder the fetters of the fair captive; and then, for the second time that night he kissed Katie Peek–tasted again the sweetness, the wonder, the thrill of it, attained once more the maximum of his incessant dreams.

The next instant an icy blade was driven deep between his shoulders; he felt his blood slowly congeal; heard the senile cackle of the perennial Spaniard; saw the Plaza rise and reel till the zenith crashed into the horizon–and knew no more.

When Tansey opened his eyes again he was sitting upon those self-same steps gazing upon the dark bulk of the sleeping convent. In the middle of his back was still the acute, chilling pain. How had he been conveyed back there again? He got stiffly to his feet and stretched his cramped limbs. Supporting himself against the stonework he revolved in his mind the extravagant adventures that had befallen him each time he had strayed from the steps that night. In reviewing them certain features strained his credulity. Had he really met Captain Peek or Katie or the unparalleled Mexican in his wanders–had he really encountered them under commonplace conditions and his over- stimulated brain had supplied the incongruities? However that might be, a sudden, elating thought caused him an intense joy. Nearly all of us have, at some point in our lives–either to excuse our own stupidity or to placate our consciences–promulgated some theory of fatalism. We have set up an intelligent Fate that works by codes and signals. Tansey had done likewise; and now he read, through the night’s incidents, the finger-prints of destiny. Each excursion that he had made had led to the one paramount finale–to Katie and that kiss, which survived and grew strong and intoxicating in his memory. Clearly, Fate was holding up to him the mirror that night, calling him to observe what awaited him at the end of whichever road he might take. He immediately turned, and hurried homeward.