“You really mean to leave us?” she said at last sadly, in almost a beseeching tone.
“Yes, senorita,” was the reply, and evidently it came from the bottom of his heart; he was angry, and weary of her importunity.
He had hardly said it before, thrusting her hand into her bosom, she had sprung to her feet, and a stiletto whizzed past his ear, and stuck quivering in the wall close to his head. Her supple body was still in motion, her face was pale, and her eyes were flashing: then with a sudden transition she threw herself back and laughed.
“Were you frightened?” she cried. But Salve showed no sign of it. He was provoked, but cool; and not being the kind of man who would deign to engage in a conflict with a woman, he left the stiletto sticking in the wall, though at first he had thought of seizing it.
“Look here!” she said, suddenly darting over and drawing it out, and then practising with it, laughing all the while, at various spots on the walls of the room, which she hit every time to a nicety.
“You were frightened—confess that you were,” she said, teasingly, sitting down opposite to him, heated with the exercise she had gone through. She gazed into his face with her cheek resting on her hand and her elbow on the table. “You were afraid; and now you are angry. The women in your country don’t do such things!”
Salve turned to her with a look of icy rebuff. “No, senorita,” he replied, curtly, and went down into the garden.
Thereupon she seized the guitar again, and began strumming an accompaniment apparently to her thoughts. It was no longer lively music she played, but something of a menacing strain, in keeping with the look in her eyes, and she seemed in a manner to hiss the air through her teeth.
Later on in the evening she came tripping over to him with a coquettish smile, and after the custom of the country offered him a cigarette, which she had begun to smoke herself. When he rather ungallantly declined it, she exclaimed furiously, stamping her foot—
But she recovered herself in a moment, and said laughing, with at all events apparent good-nature, something which meant that she understood that this might perhaps not be a custom in his country.
Salve felt much relieved when her brother came home, and told him that the meeting he was waiting for was to take place on the following evening.
It was into a badly-lighted tavern, with two or three rooms leading out of one another, that his friend then conducted him. Men of the most various social positions, many with a military look, and in half-threadbare uniforms, filled the inner rooms; and in the outer one he had seen upon entering a number of seafaring men, who looked like Americans, and who nodded to him on the strength of his sailor’s dress. There were several women, more or less well dressed, moving about among them, and others standing with eager faces over the gambling-table in the inner room. All were drinking acachacas, and the whole place was pervaded with a cloud of tobacco-smoke, out of which there came a deafening clamour of talk.