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0105_001E Maruja Bret Harte

Chapter II

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"Did you think I was coming that way--where everybody could follow me?" she laughed, softly. "No; I came through the thicket over there," indicating the direction with her flexible shoulder, "and nearly lost my slipper and my eyes--look!" She threw back the inseparable lace shawl from her blond head, and showed a spray of myrtle clinging like a broken wreath to her forehead. The young officer remained gazing at her silently.

"I like to hear you speak my name," he said, with a slight hesitation in his breath. "Say it again."

"Car-roll, Car-roll, Car-roll," she murmured gently to herself two or three times, as if enjoying her own native trilling of the r's. "It's a pretty name. It sounds like a song. Don Carroll, eh! El Capitan Don Carroll."

"But my first name is Henry," he said, faintly.

"'Enry--that's not so good. Don Enrico will do. But El Capitan Carroll is best of all. I must have it always: El Capitan Carroll!"

"Always?" He colored like a boy.

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"Why not?" He was confusedly trying to look through her brown lashes; she was parrying him with the steel of her father's glance. "Come! Well! Captain Carroll! It was not to tell me your name-- that I knew already was pretty--Car-roll!" she murmured again, caressing him with her lashes; "it was not for this that you asked me to meet you face to face in this--cold"--she made a movement of drawing her lace over her shoulders--"cold daylight. That belonged to the lights and the dance and the music of last night. It is not for this you expect me to leave my guests, to run away from Monsieur Garnier, who pays compliments, but whose name is not pretty--from Mr. Raymond, who talks OF me when he can't talk TO me. They will say, This Captain Carroll could say all that before them."

"But if they knew," said the young officer, drawing closer to her with a paling face but brightening eyes, "if they knew I had anything else to say, Miss Saltonstall--something--pardon me--did I hurt your hand?--something for HER alone--is there one of them that would have the right to object? Do not think me foolish, Miss Saltonstall--but--I beg--I implore you to tell me before I say more."

"Who would have a right?" said Maruja, withdrawing her hand but not her dangerous eyes. "Who would dare forbid you talking to me of my sister? I have told you that Amita is free--as we all are."

Captain Carroll fell back a few steps and gazed at her with a troubled face. "It is possible that you have misunderstood, Miss Saltonstall?" he faltered. "Do you still think it is Amita that I"--he stopped and added passionately, "Do you remember what I told you?--have you forgotten last night?"

"Last night was--last night!" said Maruja, slightly lifting her shoulders. "One makes love at night--one marries in daylight. In the music, in the flowers, in the moonlight, one says everything; in the morning one has breakfast--when one is not asked to have councils of war with captains and commandantes. You would speak of my sister, Captain Car-roll--go on. Dona Amita Carroll sounds very, very pretty. I shall not object." She held out both her hands to him, threw her head back, and smiled.

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