“I have never known you to damn a friend or a client with such faint praise,” said Alaire.
“Oh, I don’t mean it that way. I’m almost like one of Dave’s kin, and I’ve been keenly interested in watching his traits develop. I’m interested in heredity. I’ve watched it in Ed’s case, for instance. If you know the parents it’s easy to read their children.” Again he lapsed into silence, nodding to himself. “Yes, Nature mixes her prescriptions like any druggist. I’m glad you and Ed—have no babies.”
Alaire mumured something unintelligible.
“And yet,” the lawyer continued, “many people are cursed with an inheritance as bad, or worse, than Ed’s.”
“What has that to do with Mr. Law?”
“Dave? Oh, nothing in particular. I was just—moralizing. It’s a privilege of age, my dear.”
A JOURNEY, AND A DARK MAN
Alaire’s preparations for the journey to La Feria were made with little delay. Owing to the condition of affairs across the border, Ellsworth had thought it well to provide her with letters from the most influential Mexicans in the neighborhood; what is more, in order to pave her way toward a settlement of her claim he succeeded in getting a telegram through to Mexico City—no mean achievement, with most of the wires in Rebel hands and the remainder burdened with military business. But Ellsworth’s influence was not bounded by the Rio Grande.
It was his advice that Alaire present her side of the case to the local military authorities before making formal representation to Washington, though in neither case was he sanguine of the outcome.
The United States, indeed, had abetted the Rebel cause from the start. Its embargo on arms had been little more than a pretense of neutrality, which had fooled the Federals not at all, and it was an open secret that financial assistance to the uprising was rendered from some mysterious Northern source. The very presence of American troops along the border was construed by Mexicans as a threat against President Potosi, and an encouragement to revolt, while the talk of intervention, invasion, and war had intensified the natural antagonism existing between the two peoples. So it was that Ellsworth, while he did his best to see to it that his client should make the journey in safety and receive courteous treatment, doubted the wisdom of the undertaking and hoped for no practical result.
Alaire took Dolores with her, and for male escort she selected, after some deliberation, Jose Sanchez, her horse-breaker. Jose was not an ideal choice, but since Benito could not well be spared, no better man was available. Sanchez had some force and initiative, at least, and Alaire had no reason to doubt his loyalty.