Merton of the Movies
At the very beginning of the tale there comes a moment of puzzled hesitation.
One way of approach is set beside another for choice, and a third contrived for
better choice. Still the puzzle persists, all because the one precisely right way
might seem--shall we say intense, high keyed, clamorous? Yet if one way is the
only right way, why pause? Courage! Slightly dazed, though certain, let us be on,
into the shrill thick of it. So, then--
Out there in the great open spaces where men are men, a clash of primitive
hearts and the coming of young love into its own! Well had it been for Estelle St.
Clair if she had not wandered from the Fordyce ranch. A moment's delay in the
arrival of Buck Benson, a second of fear in that brave heart, and hers would have
been a fate worse than death.
Had she not been warned of Snake le Vasquez, the outlaw--his base threat to
win her by fair means or foul? Had not Buck Benson himself, that strong, silent
man of the open, begged her to beware of the half-breed? Perhaps she had
resented the hint of mastery in Benson's cool, quiet tones as he said, "Miss St.
Clair, ma'am, I beg you not to endanger your welfare by permitting the advances
of this viper. He bodes no good to such as you."
Perhaps--who knows?--Estelle St. Clair had even thought to trifle with the
feelings of Snake le Vasquez, then to scorn him for his presumption. Although
the beautiful New York society girl had remained unsullied in the midst of a city's
profligacy, she still liked "to play with fire," as she laughingly said, and at the
quiet words of Benson--Two-Gun Benson his comrades of the border called him--
she had drawn herself to her full height, facing him in all her blond young beauty,
and pouted adorably as she replied, "Thank you! But I can look out for myself."
Yet she had wandered on her pony farther than she meant to, and was not
without trepidation at the sudden appearance of the picturesque halfbreed, his
teeth flashing in an evil smile as he swept off his broad sombrero to her. Above
her suddenly beating heart she sought to chat gayly, while the quick eyes of the
outlaw took in the details of the smart riding costume that revealed every line of
her lithe young figure. But suddenly she chilled under his hot glance that now
spoke all too plainly.
"I must return to my friends," she faltered. "They will be anxious." But the fellow
laughed with a sinister leer. "No--ah, no, the lovely senorita will come with me,"
he replied; but there was the temper of steel in his words. For Snake le Vasquez,
on the border, where human life was lightly held, was known as the Slimy Viper.
Of all the evil men in that inferno, Snake was the foulest. Steeped in vice, he
feared neither God nor man, and respected no woman. And now, Estelle St.
Clair, drawing-room pet, pampered darling of New York society, which she ruled
with an iron hand from her father's Fifth Avenue mansion, regretted bitterly that
she had not given heed to honest Buck Benson. Her prayers, threats, entreaties,
were in vain. Despite her struggles, the blows her small fists rained upon the
scoundrel's taunting face, she was borne across the border, on over the mesa,
toward the lair of the outlaw.