"Yes, senor," came her gentle answer.
"And it was you I saw in the wood one day, lying on the ground playing with a small bird?"
"And it was you that followed me so often among the trees, calling to me, yet always hiding so that I could never see you?"
"Oh, this is wonderful!" I exclaimed; whereat the old man chuckled again.
"But tell me this, my sweet girl," I continued. "You never addressed me in Spanish; what strange musical language was it you spoke to me in?"
She shot a timid glance at my face and looked troubled at the question, but made no reply.
"Senor," said the old man, "that is a question which you must excuse my child from answering. Not, sir, from want of will, for she is docile and obedient, though I say it, but there is no answer beyond what I can tell you. And this is, sir, that all creatures, whether man or bird, have the voice that God has given them; and in some the voice is musical and in others not so."
"Very well, old man," said I to myself; "there let the matter rest for the present. But if I am destined to live and not die, I shall not long remain satisfied with your too simple explanation."
"Rima," I said, "you must be fatigued; it is thoughtless of me to keep you standing here so long."
Her face brightened a little, and bending down, she replied in a low voice: "I am not fatigued, sir. Let me get you something to eat now."
She moved quickly away to the fire, and presently returned with an earthenware dish of roasted pumpkin and sweet potatoes and, kneeling at my side, fed me deftly with a small wooden spoon. I did not feel grieved at the absence of meat and the stinging condiments the Indians love, nor did I even remark that there was no salt in the vegetables, so much was I taken up with watching her beautiful delicate face while she ministered to me. The exquisite fragrance of her breath was more to me than the most delicious viands could have been; and it was a delight each time she raised the spoon to my mouth to catch a momentary glimpse of her eyes, which now looked dark as wine when we lift the glass to see the ruby gleam of light within the purple. But she never for a moment laid aside the silent, meek, constrained manner; and when I remembered her bursting out in her brilliant wrath on me, pouring forth that torrent of stinging invective in her mysterious language, I was lost in wonder and admiration at the change in her, and at her double personality. Having satisfied my wants, she moved quietly away and, raising a straw mat, disappeared behind it into her own sleeping-apartment, which was divided off by a partition from the room I was in.
The old man's sleeping-place was a wooden cot or stand on the opposite side of the room, but he was in no hurry to sleep, and after Rima had left us, put a fresh log on the blaze and lit another cigarette. Heaven knows how many he had smoked by this time. He became very talkative and called to his side his two dogs, which I had not noticed in the room before, for me to see. It amused me to hear their names — Susio and Goloso: Dirty and Greedy. They were surly-looking brutes, with rough yellow hair, and did not win my heart, but according to his account they possessed all the usual canine virtues; and he was still holding forth on the subject when I fell asleep.