“Yes, events hurry us,” muttered Coronado. “Well, get your cursed train ready. I will induce her to take it. I must unsay now all that I said in favor of the isthmus.”
“Do be judicious,” implored Garcia. “With judgment, with judgment. Lost on the plains. Stolen by Apaches. No killing. No scandals. O my God, how I hate scandals and uproars! I am an old man, Carlos. With judgment, with judgment.”
“I comprehend,” responded Coronado, adding a long string of Spanish curses, most of them meant for his uncle.
That very day Coronado made a second call on Clara and her Aunt Maria, to retract, contradict, and disprove all that he had said in favor of the isthmus and against the overland route.
Although his visit was timed early in the evening, he found Lieutenant Thurstane already with the ladies. Instead of scowling at him, or crouching in conscious guilt before him, he made a cordial rush for his hand, smiled sweetly in his face, and offered him incense of gratitude.
“My dear Lieutenant, you are perfectly right,” he said, in his fluent English. “The journey by the isthmus is not to be thought of. I have just seen a friend who has made it. Poisonous serpents in myriads. The most deadly climate in the world. Nearly everybody had the vomito; one-fifth died of it. You eat a little fruit; down you go on your back—dead in four hours. Then there are constant fights between the emigrants and the sullen, ferocious Indians of the isthmus. My poor friend never slept with his revolver out of his hand. I said to him, ’My dear fellow, it is cruel to rejoice in your misfortunes, but I am heartily glad that I have heard of them. You have saved the life of the most remarkable woman that I ever knew, and of a cousin of mine who is the star of her sex.’”
Here Coronado made one bow to Mrs. Stanley and another to Clara, at the same time kissing his sallow hand enthusiastically to all creation. Aunt Maria tried to look stern at the compliment, but eventually thawed into a smile over it. Clara acknowledged it with a little wave of the hand, as if, coming from Coronado, it meant nothing more than good-morning, which indeed was just about his measure of it.
“Moreover,” continued the Mexican, “overland route? Why, it is overland route both ways. If you go by the isthmus, you must traverse all Texas and Louisiana, at the very least. You might as well go at once to San Diego. In short, the route by the isthmus is not to be thought of.”
“And what of the overland route?” asked Mrs. Stanley.
“The overland route is the other,” laughed Coronado.
“Yes, I know. We must take it, I suppose. But what is the last news about it? You spoke this morning of Indians, I believe. Not that I suppose they are very formidable.”