“M-maybe yer think I ain’t in e-e-earnest?” he persisted, doggedly. “M-maybe yer imagine I d-did n’t m-m-mean what I s-said when I asked yer ter m-marry me?”
She glanced up quickly into his serious eyes, half shrinking away as if she suddenly comprehended the dumb, patient strength of the man, his rugged, changeless resolution. There was a bit of falter in the quick response, yet this was lost to him.
“No, senor, I no make fun. I no dat kind. I do de right, dat all; I do de right for both of us. I no vant to do de wrong. You comprende, senor? Maybe you soon grow ver’ tire Mercedes, she marry you?”
The infatuated miner shook his head emphatically, and flung out one hand toward her.
“No! Oh, you tink so now; you tink so ver’ mooch now, but eet better ve vait an’ see. I know de men an’ de vay dey forget after vile. Maybe I not such good voman like you tink me; maybe I cross, scold, get qvick mad; maybe I no like live widout de stage, de lights, de dance, an’ de fun, hey? Vat you do den? You be ver’ sorry you marry. I no like dat, no, no. I want de man to lofe me always—nevah to vish he not marry me. You not know me yet; I not know you. Maybe ve vait, ve know.”
He caught her gesticulating hands, prisoning them strongly within both his own, but she shook forward her loosened hair until it fell partially across her face, hiding it thus from his eager eyes bent in passion upon her.
“B-but tell me y-you love me! T-tell me th-th-that, an’ I ’ll let the o-other go!”
“You vould make me to say de untrue, senor?”
“Of course not. I w-want ter kn-kn-know. Only if you d-do n’t, I ’m a-goin’ t-ter git out o’ yere.”
She remained silent, motionless, her telltale face shadowed, only the quick rise and fall of the bosom evidencing emotion. The man looked at her helplessly, his mouth setting firm, his eyes becoming filled with sudden doubt.
“W-well, Mercedes,” he stuttered, unable to restrain himself, “wh-what is it?”
She lifted her lowered head ever so slightly, so that he saw her profile, the flush on the cheek turned toward him.
“Maybe eet better you stay, senor. Anyhow, I no vant you go just now.”
For once he proved the more swift of the two, clasping her instantly within his arms, drawing her slender form close against him with a strength he failed to realize in that sudden excess of passion. Holding her thus in helpless subjection he flung aside the obstructing veil of hair, and covered the flushed cheeks with kisses. The next moment, breathless, but not with indignation, the girl had pushed his burning face aside, although she still lay quivering within the remorseless clasp of his arms.
“I no said all dat, senor; I no said all dat. You so ver’ strong, you hurt Mercedes. Please, senor—eet vas not dat I meant eet should be dis vay—no, no. I no said I lofe you; I just say stay till maybe I know vich—please, senor.”