During breakfast, and afterward throughout an aimless morning stroll, O’Reilly felt watchful eyes upon him. When he returned to his hotel he found Mr. Carbajal in the cafe concocting refrescos for some military officers, who scanned the American with bold, hostile glances. O’Reilly complained to the proprietor of a toothache.
At once Mr. Carbajal was sympathetic; he was also admonitory, blaming the affliction upon that bath of the previous evening. Excessive bathing, he declared, was injurious, particularly in the winter season; it opened one’s pores, and it dried one’s skin and rendered one liable to the attacks of every disease. Heat? Perspiration? Was it wise to resort to unnatural and artificial means in order to rid oneself of a trifling annoyance? If perspiration were injurious, nature would not have provided it. In fact, it was nature’s method of keeping the body clean, and if people were unreasonably fastidious about such things a little cologne would render them even more agreeable to the senses than any number of baths. That was the purpose of cologne. This habit of bathing at fixed intervals of a week or two, regardless of conditions, might be, and probably was, responsible for all of O’Reilly’s rheumatism. Mr. Carbajal, for one, knew better than to overdo the thing. He had never suffered an ache or a pain in his life and his teeth were perfectly sound, as he demonstrated by beating vigorously upon them with his mixing-spoon.
O’Reilly was impressed by this argument, he acknowledged, but unfortunately it did not remedy the pain which was killing him. During the hottest part of the day, when he knew the town would be asleep, he reappeared in the cafe, his cheek in his hand. He declared that something had to be done, at once, and inquired the name and address of the best local dentist.
Mr. Carbajal named several, among them Dr. Tomas Alvarado, whereupon his guest hurried away, followed at a respectful distance by the secret agent.
Finding Doctor Alvarado’s office was closed, as he had anticipated, O’Reilly proceeded to the doctor’s residence. There was some delay when he rang the bell, but eventually the dentist himself appeared. O’Reilly recognized him from his resemblance to his brother. He addressed him in English.
“I come from Felipe,” he began. “He well remembers the day you whipped him to keep him from going to the Ten Years’ War.”
The languor of Doctor Alvarado’s siesta vanished. He started, his eyes widened.
“Who are you?” he muttered.
“My name is O’Reilly. I am an American, a friend, so don’t be alarmed. The man you see approaching is following me, but he thinks I have come to you with a toothache.”
“What do you want?”
“I want your help in joining the Insurrectos.”
By this time the detective had come within earshot. Making an effort at self-possession, the dentist said: “Very well. I will meet you at my office in a half-hour and see what can be done.” Then he bowed.