“Silence!” commanded Esteban.
“Sell her, or—”
Without waiting to hear her threat Esteban tossed his arms above his head and fled from the room. Flinging himself into the saddle, he spurred down the hill and through the town to the Casino de Espanol, where he spent the night at cards with the Spanish officials. But he did not sell Evangelina.
In the days that followed many similar scenes occurred, and as Esteban’s home life grew more unhappy his dissipations increased. He drank and gambled heavily; he brought his friends to the quinta with him, and strove to forget domestic unpleasantness in boisterous revelry.
His wife, however, found opportunities enough to weary and exasperate him with reproaches regarding the slave girl.
The twins were seven years old when Dona Isabel’s schemes bore their first bitter fruit, and the occasion was a particularly uproarious night when Don Esteban entertained a crowd of his Castilian friends. Little Rosa was awakened at a late hour by the laughter and shouts of her father’s guests. She was afraid, for there was something strange about the voices, some quality to them which was foreign to the child’s experience. Creeping into her brother’s room, she awoke him, and together they listened.
Don Mario de Castano was singing a song, the words of which were lost, but which brought a yell of approval from his companions. The twins distinguished the voice of Don Pablo Peza, too—Don Pablo, whose magnificent black beard had so often excited their admiration. Yes, and there was Col. Mendoza y Linares, doubtless in his splendid uniform. These gentlemen were well and favorably known to the boy and girl, yet Rosa began to whimper, and when Esteban tried to reassure her his own voice was thin and reedy from fright.
In the midst of their agitation they heard some one weeping; there came a rush of feet down the hallway, and the next instant Evangelina flung herself into the room. A summer moon flooded the chamber with radiance and enabled her to see the two small white figures sitting up in the middle of the bed.
Evangelina fell upon her knees before them. “Little master! Little mistress!” she sobbed. “You will save me, won’t you? We love each other, eh? See then, what a crime this is! Say that you will save me!” She was beside herself, and her voice was hoarse and cracked from grief. She wrung her hands, she rocked herself from side to side, she kissed the twins’ nightgowns, tugging at them convulsively.
The children were frightened, but they managed to quaver: “What has happened? Who has harmed you?”
“Don Pablo Peza,” wept the negress. “Your father has sold me to him—lost me at cards. Oh, I shall die! Sebastian won’t believe it. He is praying. And Asensio—O God! But what can they do to help me? You alone can save me. You won’t let Don Pablo take me away? It would kill me.”