A group of officers climbed aboard, and among them was one who could be none other than Luis Longorio. As he came down the passageway Alaire identified him without the aid of his insignia, for he stood head and shoulders above his companions and bore himself with an air of authority. He was unusually tall, at least six feet three, and very slim, very lithe; he was alert, keen; he was like the blade of a rapier. The leanness of his legs was accentuated by his stiff, starched riding-breeches and close-fitting pigskin puttees, while his face, apart from all else, would have challenged prompt attention.
Longorio was a young man; his cheeks were girlishly smooth and of a clear, pale, olive tint, which sun and weather apparently were powerless to darken; his eyes were large, bold, and brilliant; his nostrils thin and sensitive, like those of a blooded horse. He seemed almost immature until he spoke, then one realized with a curious shock that he was a man indeed, and a man, moreover, with all the ardor and passion of a woman. Such was Alaire’s first hasty impression of Luis Longorio, the Tarleton of Potosi’s army.
Disdain, hauteur, impatience, were stamped upon the general’s countenance as he pushed briskly through the crowd, turning his head from side to side in search of the woman who had summoned him.
Not until she rose did he discover Alaire; then he halted; his eyes fixed themselves upon her with a stare of startled amazement.
Alaire felt herself color faintly, for the man seemed to be scanning her from head to foot, taking in every detail of her face and form, and as he did so his expression remained unaltered. For what seemed a full minute Longorio stood rooted; then the stiff-vizored cap was swept from his head; he bowed with the grace of a courtier until Alaire saw the part in his oily black hair.
“Senora! A thousand apologies for my delay,” he said. “Caramba! I did not dream—I did not understand your message.” He continued to regard her with that same queer intensity.
“You are General Longorio?” Alaire was surprised to note that her voice quavered uncertainly, and annoyed to feel her face still flushing.
“Your obedient servant.”
With a gesture Mrs. Austin directed Dolores to vacate her seat, and invited the General to take it. But Longorio checked the maid’s movement; then with a brusque command he routed out the occupants of the seat ahead, and, reversing the back, took a position facing Alaire. Another order, and the men who had accompanied him withdrew up the aisle. His luminous eyes returned once more to the woman, and there was no mistaking his admiration. He seemed enchanted by her pale beauty, her rich, red hair held him fascinated, and with Latin boldness he made his feelings crassly manifest.
“You probably know why I wished to see you,” Alaire began.