Once back across the river, however, she discovered that there were obstacles to a prompt adjustment of her claim. The red tape of her own government was as nothing to that of Mexico. There were a thousand formalities, a myriad of maddening details to be observed, and they called for the services of an advocate, a notary, a jefe politico, a jefe de armas—officials without end. All of these worthies were patient and polite, but they displayed a malarial indifference to delay, and responsibility seemed to rest nowhere. During the day Alaire became bewildered, almost lost in the mazes of official procedure, and was half minded to telegraph for Judge Ellsworth. But that again meant delay, and she was beginning to long for home.
Longorio by no means shared her disappointment. On the contrary, he assured her they were making splendid progress, and he was delighted with her grasp of detail and her knowledge of business essentials. At his word all Nuevo Pueblo bowed and scraped to her, she was treated with impressive formality, and even the military guards at the various headquarters presented arms when she passed. The general’s official business waited upon Alaire’s convenience, and to spare her the necessity of the short ride back to American soil he arranged for her an elaborate luncheon in his quarters.
As on the day before, he assumed the privileges of a close friend, and treated his guest as a sort of fellow-conspirator working hand in hand with him for some holy cause.
DAVE LAW BECOMES JEALOUS
“You can never know what these two days have been for me,” the general said as he and Alaire lingered over their meal. “They will afford me something to think about all my life! It is a delicious comfort to know that you trust me, that you do not dislike me. And you do not dislike me, eh?”
“Why, of course not. I have a great deal for which to thank you.”
General Longorio fingered his wineglass and stared into it. “I am not like other men. Would to God I were, for then I could close my eyes and—forget. You have your great tragedy—it is old to you; but mine, dear lady, is just beginning. I can look forward to nothing except unhappiness.” He sighed deeply.
“I’m sorry you are unhappy,” Alaire parried. “Surely you have every pleasant prospect.”
“It would seem so. I am young, rich, a hero, I serve my country in glorious fashion, but what is all that if there is no pretty one to care? Even the meanest peon has his woman, his heart’s treasure. I would give all I have, I would forego my hope of heaven and doom myself to eternal tortures, for one smile from a pair of sweet lips, one look of love. I am a man of iron—yes, an invincible soldier—and yet I have a heart, and a woman could rule me.”
“You say you have a heart.” Alaire studied her vis-avis curiously as he met her eyes with his mournful gaze. “How is it that I hear such strange stories about you, general?”