“Sleep? You expect me to sleep?”
“Please,” he begged. “Beauty is like a delicate flower, and sleep is the dew that freshens it. Believe me, you can rest in all security, for no one can come or go without my consent. You are cruel to postpone my delight; nevertheless, I yield to your feelings. But, star of my life, I shall dream of you, and of that little priest who waits with the key of Paradise in his hands.”
He bowed over Alaire’s cold fingers, then stood erect until she and Dolores had gone.
THE PRIEST FROM MONCLOVA
That was a night of terror for the women. Although Longorio’s discipline was in some ways strict, in others it was extremely lax. From some quarter his men had secured a supply of mescal, and, forgetful of Felipe’s unhappy fate, they rendered the hours hideous. There were singing and quarreling, and a shot or two sounded from the direction of the outbuildings. Morning found both Alaire and Dolores sadly overwrought. But they felt some relief upon learning that the general had been unexpectedly summoned from his bed at daylight, and had ridden to the telegraph office.
Profiting by his absence, Alaire ventured from her room, racking her brain to devise some means of escape. But soldiers were everywhere; they lolled around the servants’ quarters; they dozed in the shade of the ranch buildings, recovering from the night’s debauch; and an armed sentinel who paced the hacienda road gave evidence that, despite their apparent carelessness, they had by no means relaxed their vigilance. A round of the premises convinced Alaire that the place was effectually guarded, and showed her the futility of trying to slip away. She realized, too, that even if she managed to do so, her plight would be little better. For how could she hope to cover the hundred miles between La Feria and the Rio Grande when every peon was an enemy?
She was standing in one of the open, sashless windows when her former protector, the old lieutenant, bade her good morning and paused to smoke a cigarette.
“Well, it was a great night, wasn’t it?” he began. “And we have great news this morning. We are going to fight you gringos.”
“I hope not.”
“Yes; it will probably go hard with you. Tell me, this city of Washington is a fine city, and very rich, is it not?”
“It’s full of loot, eh? Especially the President’s palace? That is good. One can never believe all one hears.”
“Why do you ask?” Alaire was curious.
“I was thinking it would pay us to go there. If your soldiers march upon Mexico City, it would be a brilliant piece of strategy for General Longorio to invade the United States, would it not? It would be funny to capture Washington and hold your President for ransom, eh?”
“Very funny,” Alaire agreed, dryly. “How would you go about it?”