“N-not till yer k-kiss me yourself,” and Brown, intensely conscious of triumph, held back the mass of black hair, his eager eyes devouring the fair face pressing his shoulder. “O-one kiss w-with ther l-l-lips, an’ I ’ll let yer g-go.”
“No, no, senor.”
“Th-then I h-hold yer here till some one comes.”
“Eet vas not lofe; eet vas just to get avay.”
“I-I-I take ch-chances on that, l-little girl.”
Their lips met and clung; all unconsciously the free arm of the girl stole upward, clasping the man’s broad shoulder. For that one instant she forgot all excepting the new joy of that embrace, the crowning faith that this man loved her as no other ever had—truly, nobly, and forever. Her face was aglow as she drew reluctantly back from him, her eyes upon his, her cheeks flushed, her lips trembling. Yet with the parting came as swiftly back the resolution which made her strong.
“Eh, senor; eet shame me, but you promise—please, senor!”
Like a flash, in some mysterious manner, she had slipped free, evaded his effort to grasp her dress, and, with quick, whirling motion, was already half-way across the open space, daring to mock him even while flinging back her long hair, the sunlight full upon her. Never could she appear more delicately attractive, more coquettishly charming.
“Ah, see—you tink me de prisoner. Eet vas not all de strength, senor, not all. You no can catch me again till I lofe you; not de once till I lofe you, senor.”
He started toward her blindly, taunted by these unexpected words of renunciation. But she danced away, ever managing to keep well beyond reach, until she disappeared within the narrow path leading to the cabin. He could see her through the vista of branches, pausing to look back and watch if he followed.
“B-but you do,” he called out, “I-I know you d-do. Won’t yer just s-s-say it for me onct?”
“Say dat I marry you?”
“Y-yes, for it means ther same. Anyhow, s-say yer love me.”
She laughed, shaking her head so hard the black hair became a whirling cloud about her.
“No, no! eet not de same, senor. Maybe I lofe you, maybe not yet. Dat ees vat you must fin’ out. But marry? Dat no show I lofe you. Oh, de men! to tink eet vas de only vay to prove lofe to marry. No, no! maybe I show you some day eef I lofe you; si, some day I show you ven I know true. But dat not mean I marry you. Dat mean more as dat—you see. Adios, senor.”
And he stood alone, staring at the blank door, strangely happy, although not content.