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They reached—only just in time—the broken and collapsed carriage with its two front wheels mere twisted and splintered spokes. The moving picture boys reached it, and with strong and capable hands pulled it back from the brink of the ravine, over which it hung. In the depths below the horse lay, very still and quiet.
"Pull back!" directed Blake, but Joe needed no urging. A slight difference—inches only—meant safety or death—terrible injury at best, for the ravine was a hundred feet deep. But those few inches were on the side of safety.
So evenly was the carriage poised, that only a little strength was needed to send it either way. But Joe and Blake pulled it back on the unwrecked portion of the bridge approach.
The two men were still on the seat, but it had broken in the middle, pitching them toward the center, and they were wedged fast. Hank Duryee, the town livery driver, did not seem to be hurt, though there was an anxious look on his face, and he was very pale, which was unusual for him.
As for the other man he seemed to have fainted. His eyes were closed, but his swarthy complexion permitted little diminution in his color. There was a slight cut on his head, from which had trickled a little blood that ran down to his white collar.
"Easy, boys!" cautioned Hank, and his voice rasped out in the quiet that succeeded the staccato noise from the motor cycle. "Go easy now! A touch'll send us down," and he gazed shudderingly into the depths below.
"We've got you," Blake assured him, as he and Joe drew still farther back on the platform of the bridge what was left of the carriage. As they did so one of the rear wheels collapsed, letting the seat down with a jerk.
"Oh!" gasped Hank, and a tremor seemed to go through the insensible frame of the other.
"It's all right," Blake assured the livery stable driver. "You can't fall far."
"Not as far as down—there," and Hank pointed a trembling finger into the depths of the ravine.
"Can you get out—can you walk?" asked Joe.
"Yes. I'm more scared than hurt," Hank made answer.
"How about him?" asked Blake, motioning to the other occupant of the carriage.
"Only a little cut on the head, where he banged, up against the top irons, I guess. A little water will fetch him around. My! But that was a close shave!"
He staggered out on the broken bridge. His legs were unsteady, through weakness and fear, but not from any injury.
"How did it happen?" asked Joe.
"Horse got scared at something—I don't know what—and bolted. I didn't want to take him out—he's an old spitfire anyhow, and hasn't been driven in a week. But this feller was in a hurry," and he nodded toward the unconscious man, "and I had to bring him out with Rex—the only horse in the stable just then.
"I said I was afraid we'd have a smash-up, and we did. The line busted near Baker's place, and—well, here we are."
"Better here than—down there," observed Joe in a low voice.
"That's right," agreed Hank. "Now let's see what we can do for him. Hope he isn't much hurt, though I don't see how he could be."
"Who is he?" asked Blake, but the livery stable driver did not answer. He was bending back the bent frame of the dashboard to more easily get out the swarthy man. Joe and Blake, seeing what he was trying to do, helped him.
Soon they were able to lift out the stranger, but there was no need of carrying him, for he suddenly opened his eyes, straightened up and stood on his feet, retaining a supporting hand on Hank's shoulder.
"Where—where are we?" he asked, in a dazed way. "Did we fall?"
He spoke with an accent that at once told Blake and Joe his nationality—Spanish, either from Mexico or South America.
"We're all right," put in Hank. "These young fellows saved us from going over into the gulch. It was a narrow squeak, though."
"Ah!" The man uttered the exclamation, with a long sigh of satisfaction and relief. Then he put his hand to his forehead, and brought it away with a little blood on it.
"It is nothing. It is a mere scratch and does not distress me in the least," he went on, speaking very correct English, in his curiously accented voice. He appeared to hesitate a little to pick out the words and expressions he wanted, and, often, in such cases, the wrong words, though correct enough in themselves, were selected.
"I am at ease—all right, that is to say," he went on, with a rather pale smile. "And so these young men saved us—saved our lives? Is that what you mean, seņor—I should say, sir?" and he quickly corrected his slip.
"I should say they did!" exclaimed Hank with an air of satisfaction. "Old Rex took matters into his own hands, or, rather legs, and we were just about headed for kingdom come when these fellows pulled us back from the brink. As for Rex himself, I guess he's gone where he won't run away any more," and leaning over the jagged edge of the bridge the stableman looked down on the motionless form of the horse. Rex had, indeed, run his last.
"It is all so—so surprising to me," went on the stranger. "It all occurred with such unexpected suddenness. One moment we are driving along as quietly as you please, only perhaps a trifle accentuated, and then—presto! we begin to go too fast, and the leather thong breaks. Then indeed there are things doing, as you say up here."
He smiled, trying, perhaps, to show himself at his ease. He was rapidly recovering, not only from the fright, but from the effects of the blow on the head which had caused the cut, and rendered him unconscious for a moment.
"It sure was a narrow squeak," declared Hank again. "I don't want any closer call. I couldn't move to save myself, I was so dumbfounded, and the carriage would have toppled down in another, second if you boys hadn't come along and hauled it back."
"We saw you pass Mr. Baker's house," explained Blake, "and we came after you on the motor cycle. Tried to get ahead of you, but the old machine laid down on us."
"But we got here in time," added Joe.
"You did indeed! I can not thank you enough," put in the Spaniard, as Joe and Blake both classed him. "You have saved my life, and some day I hope not only to repay the favor, but to show how grateful I am in other ways. I am a stranger in this part of your fine country, but I expect to be better acquainted soon. But where is our horse?" he asked quickly, not seeming to understand what had happened. "How are we to continue our journey?" and he looked at his driver.
"We're at the end of it now, in more ways than one," Hank answered, with a smile. "You're just where you wanted to go, though not in the style I calculated on taking you."
"But I do not comprehend, sir," said the Spaniard, in rather puzzled accents. "I have engaged you to take me to a certain place. There is an accident. We go through a fence with a resounding crash—Ah! I can hear that smash yet!" and he put his hands to his ears in a somewhat dramatic manner.
"Then everything is black. Our horse disappears, and—"
"He's down there, if you want to know where he disappeared to," broke in Hank, practically.
"It is no matter—if he is gone," went on the Spaniard. "But I do not comprehend—assimilate—no, comprehend—that is it. I do not comprehend what you mean when you say we are at our journey's end."
"I'll tell you," exclaimed Hank, as he glanced at Joe and Blake in a manner that caused them to wonder. "You said you wanted to find—"
"Pardon me—my card, gentlemen!" and the stranger extended a rectangle of white on which was engraved the name Vigues Alcando.
Blake took it, and, as he did so, from the pocket whence the Spaniard had extracted the card, there fell a letter. Joe picked it up, but, to his surprise it was addressed to himself and Blake jointly, and, in the upper left hand corner was the imprint of the Film Theatrical Company.
"Why—why," began Joe. "This is for us! Look, Blake!"
"For you! That letter for you?" cried Mr. Alcando. "Are you the moving picture boys?"
"That's what they call us," answered Joe. "This is Blake Stewart, and I'm his chum, Joe Duncan."
"Is it possible—is it possible!" cried Mr. Alcando. "And you have saved my life! Why—I—I—er—I—Oh! To think of this happening so! You are—you are—!" He put his hands to his head and seemed to sway.
"Look out! He's going to fall!" warned Blake, springing forward to catch the Spaniard.
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