“I will take some men with me,” said Longorio. “Now go and let me think.”
ED AUSTIN TURNS AT BAY
Had it not been for her fears, Paloma Jones would have taken her visit to the Austin ranch as an unmixed enjoyment. To her Alaire had always been an ideally romantic figure. More than once, in her moments of melancholy, Paloma had envied Mrs. Austin’s unhappiness and yearned to bear a similar sorrow—to be crossed in love and to become known as a woman of tragedy. To have one’s life blasted, one’s happiness slain by some faithless lover, impressed the girl as interesting, thrilling. Moreover, it was a misfortune calculated to develop one’s highest spiritual nature. Surely nothing could be more sadly satisfying than to live alone with regretful memories and to have the privilege of regarding the world as a vain show. Unfortunately, however, Paloma was too healthy and too practical to remain long occupied with such thoughts. She was disgustingly optimistic and merry; misanthropy was entirely lacking in her make-up; and none of her admirers seemed the least bit inclined to faithlessness. On the contrary, the men she knew were perfect nuisances in their earnestness of purpose, and she could not manage to fall in love with any one sufficiently depraved to promise her the slightest misery. Paloma felt that she was hopelessly commonplace.
Now that she had an opportunity of becoming better acquainted with the object of her envy, she made the most of it. She soon found, however, that Alaire possessed anything but an unhappy disposition, and that to pity her was quite impossible. Mrs. Austin was shy and retiring, certainly, at first, but, once the ice was broken, she was delightfully frank, friendly, and spirited.
Paloma’s curiosity was all-consuming, and she explored every phase of her new friend’s life with interest and delight. She even discovered that imaginary world of Alaire’s, and learned something about those visionary people who bore her company.
“It must be lots of fun,” said Paloma.
“Yes. Sometimes my dream-people are very real, Why—I can actually see them. Then I realize I have been too much alone.”
“You ought to have children,” the girl declared, calmly.
“I have. Yes! Imaginary kiddies—and they are perfect dears, too.”
“Are they ever naughty?”
“Oh, indeed they are! And I have to punish them. Then I feel terribly. But they’re much nicer than flesh-and-blood children, for they have no bad traits whatever, and they’re so amazingly intelligent.”
Such exchanges of confidence drew the women into fairly close relations by the time they had arrived at Las Palmas, but the thought of what had brought them together had a sobering effect, and during their hasty supper they discussed the situation in all its serious phases.