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Chapter 39 - The Rifle Rangers by Mayne Reid

A Kiss in the Dark

It would be impossible to describe my feelings as I was flung upon the floor of our prison. This was cold, damp, and filthy; but I heeded not these grievances. Greater sorrows absorbed the less. There is no torture so racking, no pain so painful as the throbbings of a jealous heart; but how much harder to bear under circumstances like mine! She could sleep, smile, dance—dance by my prison, and with my jailer!

I felt spiteful—vengeful. I was stung to a desire for retaliation, and along with this came an eagerness to live for the opportunity of indulging in this passion.

I began to look around our prison, and see what chances it afforded for escape.

“Good heavens! if our being transferred to the cell should destroy the plans of Narcisso! How is he to reach us? The door is double-locked, and a sentry is pacing without.”

After several painful efforts I raised myself upon my feet, propping my body against the side of the prison. There was an aperture—a window about as large as a loophole for musketry. I spun myself along the wall until I stood directly under it. It was just the height of my chin. Cautioning my companions to silence, I placed my ear to the aperture and listened. A low sound came wailing from the fields without. I did not heed this. I knew it was the wolf. It rose again, louder than before. A peculiarity in the howl struck me, and I turned, calling to Raoul.

“What is it, Captain?” inquired he.

“Do you know if the prairie wolf is found here?”

“I do not know if it be the true prairie wolf, Captain. There is one something like the coyote.”

I returned to the aperture and listened.

“Again the howl of the prairie wolf—the bark! By heavens! it is Lincoln!”

Now it ceased for several minutes, and then came again, but from another direction.

“What is to be done? if I answer him, it will alarm the sentry. I will wait until he comes closer to the wall.”

I could tell that he was creeping nearer and nearer.

Finding he had not been answered, the howling ceased. I stood listening eagerly to every sound from without. My comrades, who had now become apprised of Lincoln’s proximity, had risen to their feet and were leaning against the walls.

We were about half an hour in this situation, without exchanging a word, when a light tap was heard from without, and a soft voice whispered:

“Hola, Capitan!”

I placed my ear to the aperture. The whisper was repeated. It was not Lincoln—that was clear.

It must be Narcisso.

“Quien?” I asked.

“Yo, Capitan.”

I recognised the voice that had addressed me in the morning.

It is Narcisso.

“Can you place your hands in the aperture?” said he.

“No; they are tied behind my back.”

“Can you bring them opposite, then?”

“No; I am standing on my toes, and my wrists are still far below the sill.”

“Are your comrades all similarly bound?”


“Let one get on each side of you, and raise you up on their shoulders.”

Wondering at the astuteness of the young Spaniard, I ordered Chane and Raoul to lift me as he directed.

When my wrists came opposite the window I cautioned them to hold on. Presently a soft hand touched mine, passing all over them. Then I felt the blade of a knife pressed against the thong, and in an instant it leaped from my wrists. I ordered the men to set me down, and I listened as before.

“Here is the knife. You can release your own ankles and those of your comrades. This paper will direct you further. You will find the lamp inside.”

A knife, with a folded and strangely shining note, was passed through by the speaker.

“And now, Capitan—one favour,” continued the voice, in a trembling tone.

“Ask it! ask it!”

“I would kiss your hand before we part.”

“Dear, noble boy!” cried I, thrusting my hand into the aperture.

“Boy! ah, true—you think me a boy. I am no boy, Capitan, but a woman—one who loves you with all her blighted, broken heart!”

“Oh, heavens! It is, then—dearest Guadalupe!”

“Ha! I thought as much. Now I will not. But no; what good would it be to me? No—no—no! I shall keep my word.”

This appeared to be uttered in soliloquy, and the tumult of my thoughts prevented me from noticing the strangeness of these expressions. I thought of them afterwards.

“Your hand! your hand!” I ejaculated.

“You would kiss my hand? Do so!” The little hand was thrust through, and I could see it in the dim light, flashing with brilliants. I caught it in mine, covering it with kisses. It seemed to yield to the fervid pressure of my lips.

“Oh!” I exclaimed, in the transport of my feelings, “let us not part; let us fly together! I was wronging you, loveliest, dearest Guadalupe—!”

A slight exclamation, as if from some painful emotion, and the hand was plucked away, leaving one of the diamonds in my fingers. The next moment the voice whispered, with a strange sadness of tone, as I thought:

“Adieu, Capitan! adieu! In this world of life we never know who best loves us!”

I was puzzled, bewildered. I called out, but there was no answer. I listened until the patience of my comrades was well-nigh exhausted, but still there was no voice from without; and with a strange feeling of uneasiness and wonderment I commenced cutting the thongs from my ankles.

Having set Raoul at liberty, I handed him the knife, and proceeded to open the note. Inside I found a cocuyo; and, using it as I had been already instructed, I read:

“The walls are adobe. You have a knife. The side with the loop-hole fronts outward. There is a field of magueys, and beyond this you will find the forest. You may then trust to yourselves. I can help you no farther. Carissimo caballero, adios!”

I had no time to reflect upon the peculiarities of the note, though the boldness of the style struck me as corresponding with the other. I flung down the firefly, crushing the paper into my bosom; and, seizing the knife, was about to attack the adobe wall, when voices reached me from without. I sprang forward, and placed my ear to listen. It was an altercation—a woman—a man! “By heaven! it is Lincoln’s voice!”

“Yer cussed whelp! ye’d see the cap’n hung, would yer?—a man that’s good vally for the full of a pararer of green-gutted greasers; but I ain’t a-gwine to let you look at his hangin’. If yer don’t show me which of these hyur pigeon-holes is his’n, an’ help me to get him outer it, I’ll skin yer like a mink!”

“I tell you, Mister Lincoln,” replied a voice which I recognised as the one whose owner had just left me, “I have this minute given the captain the means of escape, through that loophole.”


“This one,” answered the female voice.

“Wal, that’s easy to circumstantiate. Kum along hyur! I ain’t a-gwine to let yer go till it’s all fixed. De ye hear?”

I heard the heavy foot of the hunter as he approached, and presently his voice calling through the loophole in a guarded whisper:


“Hush, Bob! it’s all right,” I replied, speaking in a low tone, for the sentries were moving suspiciously around the door.

“Good!” ejaculated he. “Yer kin go now,” he added to the other, whose attention I endeavoured to attract, but dared not call to loud enough, lest the guards should hear me. “Dash my buttons! I don’t want yer to go—yer a good ’un arter all. Why can’t yer kum along? The cap’n ’ll make it all straight agin about the desartion.”

“Mr Lincoln, I cannot go with you. Please suffer me to depart!”

“Wal! yer own likes! but if I can do yer a good turn, you can depend on Bob Linkin—mind that.”

“Thank you! thank you!”

And before I could interfere to prevent it, she was gone. I could hear the voice, sad and sweet in the distance, calling back, “Adios!”

I had no time for reflection, else the mystery that surrounded me would have occupied my thoughts for hours. It was time to act. Again I heard Lincoln’s voice at the loophole.

“What is it?” I inquired.

“How are yer ter get out, Cap’n?”

“We are cutting a hole through the wall.”

“If yer can give me the spot, I’ll meet yer half-ways.”

I measured the distance from the loophole, and handed the string to Lincoln. We heard no more from the hunter until the moonlight glanced through the wall upon the blade of his knife. Then he uttered a short ejaculation, such as may be heard from the “mountain men” at peculiar crises; and after that we could hear him exclaiming:

“Look out, Rowl! Hang it, man! ye’re a-cuttin’ my claws!”

In a few minutes the hole was large enough to pass our bodies; and one by one we crawled out, and were once more at liberty.

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