"I thought you stayed with the Ortegas to-night," she said. Oh, blessed conventions! "I did, for a few hours. Then I wanted to see you, and I left them and came on. At Casa Grande I found no one but Eustaquia; every one else had gone to the gardens; and she told me that you were here." Chonita's heart was beating as fast as it had beaten that morning; even her hands shook a little.
He left the room; and when he returned she sat on a window-seat, surrounded by caballeros, as calm and as pale as when he had commanded her to dance. He did not approach her, but, joined me at the upper end of the sala, where I stood with Alvarado, the Castros, Don Thomas Larkin, the United States Consul, and a half-dozen others. We were discussing Chonita's interpretation of El Son.
Her short red satin skirt, a gift of her happy lady's, was the finest ever worn by exultant nurse. About her stringy old throat was a gold chain, bright red roses were woven in her black reboso. I saw her admire Chonita's stately figure with scornful reserve of the colorless gown. We were followed in a moment by the governor, adjusting his collar and smoothing his hair.
She had kicked alarmingly when the salt was laid on her tongue, and squalled under the deluge of water which gave her her name and also wet Chonita's sleeve. The godmother longed for the ceremony to be over; but it was more protracted than usual, owing to the importance of the restless object on the pillow in her weary arms.
"Coliar!" the bull was ignominiously rolled in the dust, then meekly preceded Reinaldo back to the rodeo-ground. After the dinner under the trees most of the party returned to the platform, but Estenega, Adan, Chonita, Valencia, and myself strolled about the rancho. Adan walked at Chonita's side, more faithful than her shadow.
She suggested fangs and claws, a repressed propensity to sudden leaps. Chonita's grace was that of rhythmical music imprisoned in a woman's form of proportions so perfect that she seemed to dissolve from one figure into another, swaying, bending, gliding.
I would not have thee hate even an Estenega, although I cannot love them myself. But we will not talk of the Estenegas. Dost thou realize that our Reinaldo will be with us this night? We must all go to confession to-morrow, thy mother and myself, Eustaquia, Reinaldo, Prudencia, and thyself." Chonita's face became rigid. "I cannot go to confession," she said.
Then strange sounds came to them through the open doors of the church: ribald shouts and loud laughter, curses and noise of smashing glass, such songs as never were sung in Carmelo before; an infernal clash of sound which mingled incongruously with the solemn mass of the surf. Chonita's eyes flashed.
I remember I used to think in those days that Diego Estenega could conquer the world if he wished, although I suspected that he lacked one quality of the great rulers of men, inexorable cruelty. From the moment his horse carried him into the plaza he did not remove his eyes from Chonita's face. She lowered hers angrily after a moment.
She, too, feels a vague regret that some portion of his nature is a sealed book to her, forever beyond her ken. But her regret is nothing to his: he knows, and she does not. My meditations were interrupted suddenly. I heard a door stealthily opened. I knew before turning that the door was that of Chonita's room, the last at the end of the right wing. It opened, and she came out.