“Wait!” Esteban scrambled out of bed and stood beside his dusky nurse and playmate. “Don’t cry any more. I’ll tell papa that you don’t like Don Pablo.”
Rosa followed. “Yes, come along, brother,” she cried, shrilly. “We’ll tell Don Pablo to go home and leave our Evangelina.”
“My blessed doves! But will they listen to you?” moaned the slave.
“Papa does whatever we ask,” they assured her, gravely. “If he should growl we’ll come back and hide you in the big wardrobe where nobody will ever find you.” Then hand in hand, with their long nightgowns lifted to their knees, they pattered out into the hall and down toward the living-room, whence came the shouting and the laughter.
Don Mario de Castano, who was facing the door, stopped in the midst of a ribald song to cry: “God be praised! What’s this I see?”
The others looked and then burst into merriment, for across the litter of cards and dice and empty glasses they saw a dimpled girl and boy, as like as two peas. They were just out of bed; they were peering through the smoke, and blinking like two little owls. Their evident embarrassment amused the guests hugely.
“So! You awaken the household with your songs,” some one chided Don Mario.
“Two cherubs from heaven,” another exclaimed.
And a third cried, “A toast to Esteban’s beautiful children.”
But the father lurched forward, a frown upon his face. “What is this, my dears?” he inquired, thickly. “Run back to your beds. This is no place for you.”
“We love Evangelina,” piped the twins. “You must not let Don Pablo have her—if you please.”
They nodded. “We love her. ... She plays with us every day. ... We want her to stay here. ... She belongs to us.”
Accustomed as they were to prompt compliance with their demands, they spoke imperiously; but they had never seen a frown like this upon their father’s face, and at his refusal their voices grew squeaky with excitement and uncertainty.
“Go to your rooms, my sweethearts,” Don Esteban directed, finally.
“We want Evangelina. She belongs to us,” they chorused, stubbornly.
Don Pablo shook with laughter. “So! She belongs to you, eh? And I’m to be robbed of my winnings. Very well, then, come and give me a kiss, both of you, and I’ll see what can be done.”
But the children saw that Don Pablo’s face was strangely flushed, that his eyes were wild and his magnificent beard was wet with wine; therefore they hung back.
“You won your bet fairly,” Esteban growled at him. “Pay no heed to these babies.”
“Evangelina is ours,” the little ones bravely repeated.
Then their father exploded: “The devil! Am I dreaming? Where have you learned to oppose me? Back to your beds, both of you.” Seeing them hesitate, he shouted for his wife. “Ho, there! Isabel, my love! Come put these imps to rest. Or must I teach them manners with my palm? A fine thing, truly! Are they to be allowed to roam the house at will and get a fever?”