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The Man Of Destiny

From: Heart Of The Sunset

"Now, then, I'll explain," said Alaire, turning to the men.
"Longorio declares he won't have me except as his wife, and I
think he means it. He is amazingly egotistical. He has tremendous
ambitions. He thinks this war is his great opportunity, and he
means to be President--he's sure of it. He loves me, but he loves
himself better, I'm sure. Now, don't you see? He'll have to choose
one or the other."

Father O'Malley did not appear to appreciate the full force of
this reasoning. "My dear," he said, gravely, "he can make you a
widow again. In such times as these men are savages."

"Oh, but that's not all." Alaire turned to her newly made husband.
"They let you in, and they'll let you out again--if you go
quickly, before it's known what we've done."

Dave stared at her in bewilderment. "I? I go, and--leave you?" He
seemed doubtful of her sanity.

"Yes." When he laughed shortly, Alaire cried: "Dave, you must!
Don't you see what I'm driving at? If he can't marry me, if he
finds you're gone and he can't lay hands on you, what can he do
but let me go? Dave dear, for my sake, for the sake of us both--"

"You're excited," he told her, and drew her to himself gently.

"Please! PLEASE!" she implored.

"You don't know that man," said Father O'Malley, with conviction.

But Alaire insisted, half hysterically now: "I do; that's just it,
I DO know him. He is planning the greatest things for himself, his
head is in the clouds, and he daren't do the things he used to do.
That's why I called in those women as witnesses. He can't put THEM
out of the way. With Dave gone I'll be safe. He can't ignore our
marriage. But otherwise--There's no telling what he may do. Why,
he'll kill you, Dave, as he killed Ed." She upturned a face
eloquent with pleading. "Won't you do this for me?"

"No!" Law declared, firmly. "You wouldn't ask it if you were in
your senses. Get me a gun and I'll shoot my way out. We'll go
until they stop us. But don't ask me to leave you."

She searched his face eagerly, piteously, then with a quivering
sigh relaxed her tension. "Then we've only made matters worse.
You've spoiled our only chance."

Father O'Malley, who had been lost in thought, spoke up again:
"Perhaps you will let me try my wits. But first, do I understand
that it was he who effected the death of--Mr. Austin?"

Dave recounted as coherently as he could the circumstances of Ed's
death, and told how he had learned, through Jose, of Longorio's
intentions. As the priest listened a spot of color grew in his
cheeks, his eyes glowed with indignation. He was about to make
known what was in his mind when Alaire raised her hand and in a
strained whisper exclaimed:

"'Sh-h! Listen!"

The heavy door of the hacienda creaked, a quick tread sounded on
the tiles, the door to the living-room was flung open, and
Longorio entered. He was hot and dusty from his ride, but with a
lover's impetuosity he had made straight for this lighted room.

For the briefest instant he balanced himself just inside the
portal, and the smile remained fixed upon his lips. Then his eyes
became ringed with white and he made a swift, catlike movement of
retreat. Plainly this was the supremest surprise of his lifetime,
and he seemed to doubt his senses. But he recovered quickly.
Thrusting his head forward, he demanded:

"What is this? You--and you?" He stared from Dave to the priest,
then back again.

They all spoke at once, but he heard only Alaire's words:

"He came to find me."

Pancho appeared in the doorway behind Longorio, saying, "I heard
you ride up, sir, so I ran to tell you about this fellow."

But the general cut him short. "Call your men, quick," he cried in
a voice that sent the soldier leaping back into the night.

Alaire was clinging to Dave, merely clutching him the tighter when
he tried to unclasp her hold. Her movement into the shelter of his
rival's arms infuriated Longorio, who uttered an exclamation and
fumbled uncertainly with his holster. But his fingers were clumsy.
He could not take his eyes from the pair, and he seemed upon the
point of rushing forward to tear them apart.

"Don't touch her! Don't--" he began, cursing in a high-pitched
voice. "God! What a reckoning!" Then he stamped his feet, he wrung
his hands, he called shrilly at the top of his voice: "Lieutenant!
Ho, Pancho! You fellows! Quickly!" Under the stress of his
excitement the feminine side of his character betrayed itself.

Alaire felt her newly made husband gather himself for a spring; he
was muttering to her to release him; he was trying to push her
aside, but she held fast with the strength of desperation.

"You can't harm us," she declared, flinging her words defiantly at
the Mexican. "You dare not. You are too late. Father O'Malley has
just married us."

Longorio uttered a peculiar, wordless cry of dismay; his mouth
fell open; his arms dropped; he went limp all over, paralyzed
momentarily by surprise and horror; his eyes protruded; he swayed
as if his sight had blurred.

"I said I'd never marry you," she rushed on, vibrantly. "This is
the man I love--the only man. Yes, and I've learned the truth
about you. I know who killed Mr. Austin."

Longorio did a very unexpected thing then; slowly, unconsciously,
as if the movement were the result of a half-forgotten training,
he crossed himself.

But now from the hall at his back came the pounding of boot-heels,
and a half dozen panting troopers tumbled through the door. He
waved them back and out into the hall again.

Father O'Malley, who had been trying to make himself heard,
stepped in front of the general and said, solemnly: "Take care
what you do, Longorio. I have married these people, and you can't
undo what I have done. We are American citizens. The laws of
civilization protect us."

The Mexican fought for his voice, then stammered: "You are my
priest; I brought you here. I offered to marry her. Now--you force
me to damn my soul." Turning his eyes wildly upon Alaire, he
shouted: "Too late, eh? You say I am too late! It seems that I am
barely in time."

Dave added his words to the others: "You are ten to one, but you
can't have her," he cried, defiantly. "Jose Sanchez confessed to
the murder of Mr. Austin, and told how you had got Mrs. Austin to
come here. The whole thing is known in Washington and Mexico City
by this time. The newspapers have it; everybody knows you are
keeping her as your prisoner, and that I have come for her. If she
is harmed, all Mexico, all the world, will know that you are worse
than a murderer."

Longorio reached behind his back and slammed the door in the faces
of his listening men.

"What is this? What did Jose confess?" he inquired, sharply.

"He swears you hired him."

"Bah! The word of a pelador."

In spite of the man's contemptuous tone Dave saw the expression in
his face and made a quick decision. "There's a limit to what you
dare to do, Longorio. I'm unarmed; I make no resistance, so there
is no excuse for violence. I surrender to you, and claim
protection for myself and my wife."

But Longorio was not to be tricked. "Good!" he cried,
triumphantly. "I have been looking forward to something like this,
and I shall give myself a great pleasure." He laid a hand upon the
doorknob, but before he could turn it the Catholic priest had him
by the arm, and with a strength surprising in one of his stature
wrenched him away. Father O'Malley's face was white and terrible;
his voice was deep, menacing; the hand he raised above Longorio
seemed to brandish a weapon.

"Stop!" he thundered. "Are you a madman? Destruction hangs over
you; destruction of body and soul. You dare not separate those
whom God hath joined."

"God! God!" the other shrilled. "I don't believe in Him. I am a
god; I know of no other."

"Blasphemer!" roared the little man. "Listen, then. So surely as
you harm these people, so surely do you kill your earthly
prospects. You, the first man of Mexico, the Dictator indeed!
Think what you are doing before it is too late. Is your dream of
greatness only a dream? Will you sacrifice yourself and all your
aspirations in the heat of this unholy and impossible passion?
Tonight, now, you must choose whether you will be famous or
infamous, glorious or shameful, honored or dishonored! Restrain
your hatred and conquer your lust, or forego for ever your dreams
of empire and pass into oblivion."

"You are a meddler," Longorio stormed. "You make a loud noise, but
I shall rid Mexico of your kind. We shall have no more of you

Father O'Malley shook the speaker as a parent shakes an unruly
child. "See! You have completely lost your head. But I want you to
listen to what I am saying. Whether you are more good than evil,
God must judge, but the people of Mexico are good people, and they
will not be ruled by a man who is wholly bad. You have the power
to remove this man and this woman, yes, and this priest who dares
to point out the pit at your feet; but if you do you will never
command another Mexican army. There is no war. We are not your
enemies. The world knows we are here, and it holds you accountable
for our safety. To-morrow you will have to face the reckoning."

Longorio listened. It was plain that he recognized the truth of
O'Malley's words, but he was convulsed with rage.

"Good!" he cried. "I see my dreams dissolve, but I am not the
first great man to trade an empire for a woman. Antony, the Roman
general, laid his honor in a woman's arms. I had a shining
destiny, but Mexico will be the sufferer by my betrayal. Instead
of Longorio the Deliverer, I shall be known as Longorio the Lover,
the man who gave all--"

O'Malley interrupted forcefully. "Enough of this! Come with me. I
have something more to say to you." He flung open the door into
the hall and, taking the general by the arm, fairly dragged him
from the room and into the one opposite. The lieutenant and his
men looked on in amazement, shuffling their feet and shifting
their rifle butts noisily upon the floor.

Alaire turned an anxious face to Dave, saying: "He is wonderful.
Longorio is almost--afraid of him."

"Yes; he may bring him to his senses. If he doesn't--" Dave cast
his eyes desperately over the room, conscious all the time that he
was being watched with suspicion by the men outside. He stirred
restlessly and moistened his lips. "Longorio would be crazy to
injure you."

Ten minutes passed; fifteen. Alaire leaned, motionless, against
the table; Dave paced about, followed by the eyes of the soldiers.
One of the latter struck a match, and in the silence it sounded
like a gunshot. Dave started, at which the soldiers laughed. They
began to talk in murmurs. The odor of cigarette smoke drifted in
to the man and the woman.

Finally the door through which Father O'Malley and Longorio had
passed opened, and the priest emerged. He was alone. His face was
flushed and damp; his eyes were glowing. He forced the Mexicans
out of his way and, entering the living-room, closed the door
behind him.

"Well?" his two friends questioned, anxiously.

"I've done all I can. The rest is out of our hands." The little
man sat down heavily and mopped his forehead.

"What does he say?"

"He told me to come here and wait. I never saw a man so torn, so

"Then he is wavering. Oh-h!" Alaire clasped her hands in
thanksgiving, but the Father cautioned her:

"Don't be too sanguine. He is not afraid of consequences. He
appears to have no conscience. He is without mercy and seems lost
to shame. I have never met a man quite like him. Do you know what
he feels at this moment? Chagrin. Yes, mortification raised to the
highest pitch, and a sort of stupefaction that you should prefer
another man to him. He can't understand your lack of taste."
Father O'Malley smiled faintly.

"Conceited idiot," Dave growled.

"His humiliation kills him. When I saw that it was useless to
appeal to him on moral grounds, and that threats were unavailing,
I took another course. Something gave me insight into his mind,
and the power to talk as I have never talked before. All in a
flash I saw the man's soul laid bare before me, and--I think I
played upon it with some cunning. I don't remember all I said, for
I was inspired, but I appealed to his vanity and to his conceit,
and as I went along I impressed upon him, over and over, the fact
that the world knows we are here and that it trusts him. He
aspires to the Presidency; he believes he is destined to be
Mexico's Dictator; so I painted a picture that surpassed his own
imaginings. He would have been suspicious of mere flattery, so I
went far beyond that and inflamed him with such extravagant
visions as only a child or an unblushing egotist like him could
accept. I swelled his vanity; I inflated his conceit. For a
moment, at least, I lifted him out of himself and raised him to
the heights."

From beyond the closed door came Longorio's voice, issuing some
command to his men. A moment passed; then he appeared before the
three Americans. He seemed taller, thinner, more erect and
hawklike than ever. His head was held more proudly and his chest
was fuller. A set, disdainful smile was graven upon his face.

He began by addressing his words directly to Alaire. "Senora," he
said, "I am a man of deep feeling and I scorn deceit. Therefore I
offer no apology for my recent display of emotion. If I have
seemed to press my advances with undue fervor, it is because, at
heart, I am as great a lover as I am a statesman or a soldier. But
there are other things than love. Nature constituted me a leader,
and he who climbs high must climb alone. I offered Chapultepec as
a shrine for your beauty. I offered to share Mexico with you, and
I told you that I would not be content with less than all of you.
Well I meant it. Otherwise--I would take you now." His voice
throbbed with a sudden fierce desire, and his long, lean hands
closed convulsively. "You must realize that I have the courage and
the power to defy the world, eh?" He seemed to challenge denial of
this statement, but, receiving none, he went on, fixing his
brilliant, feverish eyes once more upon Alaire. "As a man of
sentiment I am unique; I am different from any you have ever
known. I would not possess a flower without its fragrance. You did
not believe me when I told you that, but I am going to prove it.
All your life you are going to think of me as heroic. Perhaps no
patriot in history ever made a more splendid sacrifice for his
country than I make now. Some day the world will wonder how I had
the strength to put aside love and follow the path of duty."

Alaire trusted herself to ask, "Then we are free to go?"

The general's face was swept by a grimace intended for a smile. "I
have ordered your horses to be saddled."

Dave, who had with difficulty restrained his anger at the fellow's
bombast, was upon the point of speaking when Father O'Malley took
the words out of his mouth:

"Would you send this woman out of her own house into a country
like--like this? Remember the fortune in cattle you have already

Longorio broke in with a snarl: "Is it my fault that the country
is in arms? Military necessity compels me to remain here. I
consider myself magnanimous. I--" His voice cracked, and he made a
despairing, violent gesture. "Go, before I change my mind."

Dave signaled to the others, and Alaire slipped away to make
herself ready. During the uncomfortable silence which succeeded
her departure, Longorio paced the room, keeping his eyes
resolutely turned away from Law.

"Do you mean that I, too, may go?" O'Malley inquired.

"What good are you to me?" snapped the general.

"You will give us safe conduct?"

"Be still, priest!" Longorio glared at the speaker, clasping and
unclasping his fists behind his back.

With the sound of hoofs outside, Alaire and Dolores appeared, and
the Mexican straightened himself with an effort.

"Adios, senora!" he said, with a stiff bow. "We have had a
pleasant friendship and a thrilling flirtation, eh? I shall never
cease to regret that Fate interrupted at such an interesting
moment. Adios! Adios!" He bowed formally, in turn to Dave and to
the priest, then resumed his pacing, with his hands at his back
and his brow furrowed as if in a struggle with affairs of greater
moment than this.

But when he heard the outside door creak shut behind them his
indifference vanished and he halted with head turned in an effort
to catch the last sounds of their departure. His face was like
tallow now, his lips were drawn back from his teeth as if in
supreme agony. A moment and the hoofbeats had died away. Then
Longorio slipped his leash.

He uttered a cry--a hoarse, half-strangled shriek that tore his
throat. He plucked the collar from his neck as if it choked him;
he beat his breast. Seizing whatever article his eye fell upon, he
tore and crushed it; he swept the table clean of its queer Spanish
bric-a-brac, and trampled the litter under his heels. Spying a
painting of a saint upon the wall, he ran to it, ripped it from
its nail, and, raising it over his head, smashed frame and glass,
cursing all saints, all priests, and churchly people. Havoc
followed him as he raged about the place wreaking his fury upon
inanimate objects. When he had well-nigh wrecked the contents of
the room, and when his first paroxysm had spent its violence, he
hurled himself into a chair, writhing in agony. He bit his wrists,
he pounded his fists, he kicked; finally he sprawled full length
upon the floor, clawing at the cool, smooth tiles until his nails

"Christ! O Christ!" he screamed.

The sound of his blasphemies reached the little group of soldiers
who had lingered curiously outside, and they listened open-
mouthed. One by one they crossed themselves and stole away into
the darkness, muttering.

Next: A Spanish Will

Previous: The Priest From Monclova

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