Part 2 out of 3
And ten minutes consecutive enjoyment is worth waiting for, old and
cynical people say.
* * * * * * *
The next morning brought back all her troubles, with variations and
complications, on account of some more misunderstood words.
"I think," said Mae, as she paused to blot the tenth page of a home
letter. "that likes and dislikes are very similar, don't you,
Edith?" Then, as Edith did not reply, she glanced up, and saw that
her friend's chair was occupied by Norman Mann. He looked up also
"I am not Edith, you see, but I am interested in your theory all
the same. Only, as I am a man, I shall require you to show up your
"Well, I find that people who affect me very intensely either way,
I always feel intuitively acquainted with. I know what they will
think and how they will act under given conditions, and I believe
we are driven into friendship or strong dislikes more by the force
of circumstances than by--"
"Elective affinities or any of that nonsense," suggested Norman
"Yes," said Mae, nodding her head, and repeating her original
statement under another form, as a sort of conclusion and proof to
the conversation. "Yes, a natural acquaintance may develop into
your best friend or your worst foe." She started on page number
eleven of her letter, dipping her pen deep into the ink-stand and
giving such a particular flourish to her right arm, as to nearly
upset the bouquet of flowers at her side. It was Bero's gift.
Norman Mann put out his hand to save it. His fingers fell in among
the soft flowers and touched something stiff. It felt like a
little roll of paper. Indignantly and surprisedly he pulled it
out. "What is this?" he cried.
Mae sprang forward, her cheeks aflame. "It is mine," she said.
"Did you put it here?" asked Norman.
"Then how do you know it is yours? Is not this a carnival bouquet.
idly tossed from the street to the balcony?"
Mae straightened to her utmost height which wasn't lofty then and
said hastily: "Mr. Mann, this is utterly absurd, and more. I am
not a child, and if I catch an idly flung bouquet that holds idle
secrets, I surely have a right to them." She laughed hurriedly.
"Come, give me my note,--some Italian babble, I dare say."
Norman looked at her for a minute with a struggle in his heart and
a flash of half scorn, Mae thought, on his face. What was he
That the child was in danger. He had no doubt in his own mind now
that the flowers and the note came from Bero and that Mae knew it.
He held the paper crushed in his hand, while he looked at her.
"I presume you will never forgive me," he said, "but I must warn
you, not as a mentor or even as a friend," noticing her annoyed
air, "but as one soul is bound to warn another soul, seeing it in
danger. Take care of yourself, and there!" And taking the crushed
note between his two hands, he deliberately tore it asunder and
threw the halves on the table before her.
"And there, and there, and there!" cried Mae, tearing the fragments
impetuously, and scattering the sudden little snow flakes before
him. Then, with a look of supreme contempt, she left the room.
Norman looked down on the white heap that lay peacefully at his
feet. "I am a fool," he thought.
"Little Mae Madden, little Mae Madden, I am so sorry for you,"
repeated that excited bit of womankind to herself in the silence of
her own room. "What won't they drive you to yet? How dreadful
they think you are? And only last night we thought things were all
coming around beautifully!"
And she looked at herself pityingly in the glass. A mirror is a
dangerous thing for a woman who has come to pity herself. She sees
the possibilities of her face too clearly. And Mae, looking into
the mirror then, realized to an extent she never had before, that
her eyes and mouth might be powerful friends to herself and foes to
Norman Mann, if she so desired. And to-day she did so desire, and
went down to the Carnival with as reckless and dangerous a spirit
as good King Pasquino could have asked.
The details of this day were very like those of the last. Norman
and Eric vibrated between the Madden and Hopkins balconies; the
crowd was great; confetti and flowers filled the air; and up above
it all, circled by her crown of misty, heavy lace-work, shone out
the beautiful, wonderful face of the strange lady. She dropped
smiles from under her long black lashes and from the corners of the
rare, sweet mouth over the heads of the idlers to Mae, who looked
up to catch them. There was a resting, almost saving influence,
Mae's excited soul believed, in the strange face; and her eyes
sought it constantly. She had been quite oblivious to the friends
about this beautiful stranger, but once, as her eyes sought the
Italian's, she saw her arise with a sudden flash of light on her
face, and hold out a white hand. A head bent over it, and as it
lifted itself slowly, Mae saw once more the well-known features of
the Signor Bero.
She looked down toward the street quickly and a sharp pain filled
She had lost her only friend in Rome, so the silly girl said to
herself. If he knew that wonderful woman, and if she flashed those
weary, great eyes for him, how could he see or think of any other?
Moreover, it was very vexatious to have him there. If she smiled
up at the girl, Bero might think she was watching him, trying to
attract his notice. So Mae appeared very careless and played she
did not see him at all, at all. Yet she could not resist looking
up now and then for one of the rare smiles. They seemed like very
far between "nows and thens" to Mae, averaging possibly a distance
of four minutes apart. But that is as one counts time by steady
clock-ticks, and not by heart-beats.
Meanwhile, what could she do with her eyes? They would wander once
in a while over to the opposite balcony, at just such moments as
when Norman Mann was picking up Miss Rae's fan and receiving her
thanks for it from under her drooped eyelids, or choosing a flower
for himself, "the very, very prettiest, Mr. Mann," before she threw
the rest to the winds and the passing gallants.
As Mae grew reckless her eyes grew bright. There were few passers-
by who were not attracted by the flash of those eyes. The sailor
lads, as they trundled past in their ship on wheels, left the
barrels of lime from which they had been pelting the pleasure-
seekers to throw whole handfuls of flowers up to the Jesu e Maria
balcony; a set of hale young Englishmen picked out their prettiest
bonbons for the same purpose; and one elderly, pompous man, who
drove unmasked and with staring opera glasses up and down the
Corso, quite showered her with bouquets, which he threw so poorly,
and with such a shaky old hand, that the street gamins caught them
all except such as he craftily flung so that they might assuredly
tumble back to the carriage again. And Mae, though she had felt
the pleased gaze of a good many eyes before, had never quite put
its meaning plainly to herself. She was apt, on such occasions, to
feel high-spirited, excited, joyous, but now she realized well that
she was being admired, and she led on for victory ardently.
She tossed back little sprays of flowers, or quiet bonbons, or now
and then mischievously let drop a sprinkling of confetti balls
through her half-closed fingers. To do this she drooped her hand
low over among the balcony trimmings, following the soft shower
with her eyes, as some straight soldier would wipe the tiny minie
balls from his face and glance up to see where they came from. If
he looked up once, he never failed to look again, and generally
darted around the nearest corner to return with his offering, in
the shape of flowers or other pretty carnival nonsense. Mae rather
satisfied her conscience, which was tolerably fast asleep for the
time being, at any rate, with the fact that she didn't smile at
these strangers--she only looked!
Her pleasure was heightened by the knowledge that she was watched.
If she glanced across quickly, Miss Rae's eyes were invariably
fixed on her and Norman Mann would be gazing in the opposite
direction in the most suspicious manner. From above her strange
friend leaned over admiringly and once, as Mae looked joyously
upwards, clapped her white hands softly together, while beyond her
a tall figure stood motionless, Mae had pretended not to see Bero
yet, but as the Italian applauded her in this gentle manner, her
eyes sought his involuntarily. He was gazing very fixedly and
rapturously down on her, without any apparent thought of the
beautiful girl by his side. After that, Mae looked up often, in a
glad, childlike way, for spite of this first lesson in wholesale
coquetry, and the new conflict of emotions within her mind, she was
enjoying herself with the utter abandon of her glad nature.
Toward the close of the afternoon, the Italian was suddenly
surrounded by a great mass of flowers, over which she waved her
hand caressingly and pointed down at Mae. "For you," the gesture
seemed to say. The veiled lady appeared to summon several of her
friends, for a number of gentlemen left the other window and its
group of girls, and began the difficult task of attempting to toss
the bouquets from their height down to Mae. This was rendered the
more difficult as the Madden balcony was covered, and the best
shots succeeded in landing their trophies on this awning, where
they were speedily captured and drawn in by the occupants of the
next flat, an ogre of an old woman and her hook-nosed daughter, who
wore an ugly green dress and was otherwise unattractive.
The entire Madden party became interested and stood looking on with
the most encouraging smiles. The very last bouquet was vainly
thrown, however, and gathered in by the ogre, when Bero suddenly
appeared, a little behind the party in the window. The flowers in
his hand were of the same specimens as those he had given Mae the
day before, although different in arrangement. He lifted the
bouquet quickly to his lips, so quickly that perhaps only Mae
understood the motion, and flung it lightly forward. Mae leaned
over the balcony, reaching out her eager hands, and caught it in
her very finger tips. The party above bowed and applauded, as she
raised the flowers triumphantly to her face.
So the second day of the Carnival was a success, till they turned
their backs on the Corso. In the carriage Mrs. Jerrold spoke
gently but firmly to Mae. "Be a little more careful, dear; don't
let your spirits carry you quite away during these mad days." Mae
smiled, but was silent.
"What a strangely beautiful girl that was in the gallery opposite,"
Edith said, a moment later. "I wonder if she is engaged to that
superb man; I fancied I had seen him before. Why, Mae, what in the
world are you blushing at?" For Mae's face was scarlet. "Why,
nothing," replied Mae, redder yet; "nothing at all. What do you
The same thought occurred to Edith and Albert. The officer was
Mae's chance acquaintance. They both looked grave, and Albert
remarked: "It is as well to be careful before getting up too
sudden an acquaintance with your Italian girl. Take care of your
"Has it come to this?" cried Mae, half jestingly, half bitterly.
"Are nor my very eyes my own? I shall feel, Albert, as if you were
trying to bind me in that chain you threatened," and Mae started:
her fingers had felt another scrap of paper among the flowers, but
she did not drop it from the carriage, as her first impulse was;
she held it tight and close in her warm right hand until she was
fairly at home and safe in her own room. Then she opened and read
in an Italian hand, "To my little Queen of the Carnival."
Could he have written that as he stood by the wonderful veiled
lady, with her white mysterious beauty, with the purple shadows
about her dark eyes, while she--and Mae looked in her glass again.
What did she see? Certainly a different picture, but a picture for
all that. Life and color and youth, a-tremble and a-quiver in
every quick movement of her face, in the sudden lifting of the
eyelids, the swift turn of the lips, the litheness and carelessness
of every motion; above and beyond all, the picture possessed that
rare quality which some artist has declared to be the highest
beauty, that picturesque charm which shines from within, that
magnetic flash and quiver which comes and goes "ere one can say it
The veiled lady's face was stranger, more mysterious, to an
artistic or an imaginative mind; but youth, and intense life, and
endless variety usually carry the day with a man's captious heart,
and so Bero called Mae
"My little Queen of the Carnival."
Mae's good times were greatly dimmed after this by the thought that
she was watched. The bouquets which came daily from Bero troubled
her also not a little. They were invariably formed of the same
flowers, and might easily attract Edith's attention and possible
suspicion. So she stayed home from the Corso one day not long
after, when she was in a particularly Corso-Carnival mood. She
wandered helplessly about, restless and full of desire to be down
at the balcony with the rest. And such a strange thing is the
human heart, that it was Norman Mann's face she saw before her
constantly, and she found Miss Rae's little twinkling sort of eyes
far more haunting than those of her veiled friend.
The rich life in Mae's blood was surging in her veins and must be
let off in some way. If she had had her music and a piano she
might have thrown her soul into some great flood-waves of harmony.
The Farnesina frescoes of Cupid and Psyche over across the Tiber
would have helped her, but here she was alone, and so she did what
so many "fervent souls" do--scribbled her heart out in a colorful,
barbarous rhyme. Mae had ordinarily too good sense for this, too
deep a reverence for that world of poetry, at the threshold of
which one should bow the knee, and loose the shoe from his foot,
and tread softly. She didn't care for this to-day. She plunged
boldly in, wrote her verse, copied it, sent it to a Roman English
paper, and heard from it again two days later, in the following
The entire party were breakfasting together, when Albert suddenly
looked up from his paper and laughed. "Look here," he cried.
"Here is another of those dreadful imitators of the Pre-Raphaelite
school. Hear this from a so-called poem in the morning's journal:
'The gorgeous brown reds
Of the full-throated creatures of song.'"
"I don't see anything bad in that," said Eric, helping himself to
another muffin. "What is the matter with you?"
"Matter enough," returned Albert. "Because their masters,
sometimes, daub on colors with their full palettes and strong
brushes, this feeble herd tag after them and flounder around in
color and passion in a way that is sickening."
"Go on," shouted Eric, "he is our own brother, Mae, after all, you
see. Fancy my Lord Utilitarian turning to break a lance in defence
of beauty. Edith, you and the picture-galleries are to blame for
Mae had been paying great attention to her rolls and coffee, and
very little apparently to the conversation, but she spoke eagerly
now. "Their masters do not daub. They do hold palettes full of
the strongest, richest colors, and dare lay them, in vivid flecks,
on their canvas. They do not care if they may offend some modern
cultivated eyes, used only to the invisible blues and shadowy
greens and that host of cold, lifeless, toneless grays, of refined
conventional art. They know well enough that their satisfying reds
and browns and golds of rich, free nature will go to the beating
hearts of some of us."
Mae had a way of dashing into conversation abruptly, and the Madden
family had been brought up on argument and table-talk. So the rest
of the party ate their breakfast placidly enough. "Mae's right,"
said Eric, a trifle grandly, "only, to change the figure of speech
for one better fitted for the occasion, they may satiate, though
they never starve you. But they are wonderfully fine, sometimes.
O, bother, I never can quote, but there is something about 'I will
go back to the great sweet mother."'
"Or this," suggested Mae,
"'And to me thou art matchless and fair
As the tawny sweet twilight, with blended
Sunlight and red stars in her hair.'"
"I love my masters," continued this young enthusiast, "because they
fling all rules aside, and cry out as they choose. It is their
very heart's blood and the lusty wine of life that they give you,
not just a scrap of 'rosemary for remembrance' and a soothing herb-
tea made from the flowers of fancy they have culled from those much
travestied, abominable fields of thought."
"And this from a lover of Wordsworth, who holds the 'Daffodils' and
'Lucy' as her chief jewels, and quotes the 'Immortality'
perpetually!" cried Eric. "If any body ever wandered up and down
those same fields of thought, by more intricate, labyrinthine
passages and byways, I'd like to know of him. Talk about soothing
herbs, bless me, it's hot catnip-tea, good and strong, that he
serves up in half of his strings about--"
"O, Eric, hush," cried Mae, "I am afraid for you with such words on
your lips. Think of Ananias."
"Before you children go wandering off on one of your poet fights,"
broke in Albert, "let me take you to task, Mae, for stealing; that
lusty wine you talked of just now is in the poem (?) I hold in my
"Do read it to us," said Edith, "and let us judge for ourselves."
So Albert began:
ALL ON A SUMMER'S DAY.
"Far away the mountains rise, purpling and joyous,
Through the half mist of the warm pulsing day, while nigh
At hand gay birds hang swinging and floating
And waving betwixt earth and sky,
Ringing out from ripe throats
A sensuous trickling of notes,
That fall through the trees,
Till caught by the soft-rocking breeze
They are borne to the ears of the maiden.
Her eyes wander after the sound,
And glimpses she catches along
Through green broad-leaved shadows,
Through sunbeams gold-strong,
Of the gorgeous brown reds of the full-throated creatures of song.
One hand on her brown bosom rests,
Rising and falling with every heart-beat
Of the delicate, slow-swelling breasts.
A lily, proud, all color of amber and wine,
Waves peerless there, by right divine
Queen o'er the moment and place.
As the wind bends her coaxingly,
Brushes softly the maiden's white hand--
That falls with an idle grace,
Listlessly closed at her side--
With a rippling touch, such as the tide,
Rising, leaves on a summer day,
On the quiet shore of some peaceful bay.
There she stands in the heavily-bladed grass,
Under the trumpet-vine,
Drinking long, deep, intoxicate draughts
Of Nature's lusty, live wine.
There he sees her as he approaches;
Then pauses, as full on his ear
There swells, on a sudden, loud and clear,
A wonderful burst of song.
A mad delicious glory; a rainbow rhythm of life,
Strong and young and free, a burst of the senses all astrife,
Each one fighting to be first,
While above, beyond them all,
Loud a woman's heart makes call."
"Now, fire ahead," said Eric, "get your stones ready. Mrs.
Jerrold, pray begin; let us put down this young parrot with her
'lusty, live wine.'"
"Her?" exclaimed Edith. "Him, you mean."
"Not a bit of it; a woman wrote that, didn't she?"
Eric was very confident. Norman agreed with him, and he glanced at
Mae to discover her opinion. There was a look of secret amusement
in her face, and a dim suspicion entered his mind, which decided
him to watch her closely.
"Well," said Mrs. Jerrold, "I will be lenient. You children may
throw all the stones. It is not poetry to my taste. There's no
metre to it, and I should certainly be sorry to think a woman wrote
"Why?" asked Mae, quickly, almost commandingly. Norman glanced at
her. There was a tiny rosebud on each cheek.
"Because," replied Mrs. Jerrold, "it is too--too what, Edith?"
"Physical, perhaps," suggested Edith.
"It is a satyr-like sort of writing," suggested Norman.
"I should advise this person," said Edith--
"To keep still?" interrupted Eric.
"No, to go to work; that is what he or she needs."
"That is odd advice," said Mae; "suppose she--or he--is young,
doesn't know what to do, is a traveler, like ourselves, for
"There are plenty of benevolent schemes in Rome, I am sure," said
Edith, a trifle sanctimoniously.
"And there's study," said Albert, "art or history. Think what a
chance for studying them one has here. Yes, Edith is right--work
or study, and a general shutting up of the fancy is what this mind
"I disagree with you entirely," said Norman with energy. "She
needs play, relaxation, freedom." Then he was sorry he had said
it; Mae's eyes sparkled so.
"She needs," said Eric, pushing back his chair, "to be married.
She is in love. That's what's the matter. Read those two last
'While above, beyond them all,
Loud a woman's heart makes call.'
"Don't you see?"
"O, wise young man," laughed Edith. But Mae arose. The scarlet
buds in her cheeks flamed into full-blown roses. "There speaks the
man," she cried passionately, "and pray doesn't a woman's heart
ever call for anything but love--aren't life and liberty more than
all the love in the world? Oh!" and she stopped abruptly.
"Well, we have wasted more time than is worth while over this
young, wild gosling," laughed Albert. "Let us hope she will take
Mae shook her head involuntarily. There was a smile on Norman
"Here's health and happiness to the poor child at any rate," he
"He pities me," thought Mae, "and I hate him." But then she didn't
Mae wandered off to the kitchen, as usual, that day, for another of
Lisetta's stories. The Italian, with her glibness of tongue and
ready fund of anecdote, was transformed in her imaginative mind
into a veritable improvisatore. Talila was not by any means the
only heroine of the little tales. Mae had made the acquaintance of
many youths and maidens, and to-day Lisetta, after thinking over
her list of important personages, chose the Madre Ilkana as the
heroine of the occasion. Mae had already heard one or two amusing
incidents connected with this old mother. "I am sure she has a
cousin in America," she asserted to-day, before Lisetta began, "for
I know her well. She knits all the time, and is as bony as a ledge
of rocks, and her eyes are as sharp as her knitting-needles, and
her words are the sharpest of all. Her name is Miss Mary Ann
Rogers. Is she like the Madre Ilkana?"
Lisetta shook her head. "No, no, Signorina, La Madre is as plump
and round as a loaf of bread, and as soft as the butter on it. She
has five double chins that she shakes all the while, but then she
has stiff bristles, like a man's, growing on them, and her
knitting-needles and her words are all sharp as la Signora Maria
Anne R-o-o-g-eers, I doubt not. But her eyes! Why, Signorina, she
has the evil eye!" This Lisetta said in a whisper, while Giovanni
shrugged his shoulders bravely, and little Roberto cuddled closer
"Yes," continued Lisetta, "and so no one knows exactly about her
eyes, not daring to look directly into them, but as nearly as I can
make out they are black, and have a soft veil over them, so that
you would think at first they were just about to cry, when
suddenly, fires creep up and burn out the drops, and leave her hot
and angry and scorching.
"She must be terrible," cried Mae, with a sudden shrinking.
"She IS terrible," replied Lisetta, "but then she is very clever.
You will see if she is not clever when you hear the story I shall
now tell you," and Lisetta laughed, and showed her own one double
chin, with its two little round dimples. Then she smoothed down
her peasant apron, bade Giovanni leave off pinching Roberto, and
"The government hates the banditti," began Lisetta, wisely, "and
indeed it should," and she looked gravely at Giovanni, "for they
are very wild men, who live reckless bad lives, and steal, and are
quite dreadful. But we poor, we do not hate them as the government
does, because they are good to us, and do not war with us, and
sometimes those we love join them--a brother or a cousin, perhaps"--
and Lisetta's black eyes filled, and her lip quivered. "As for
the Madre, she loved them all, and said they were all relations.
"At this time of which I speak, the soldiers were chasing and
hunting the banditti very hard, and they had been compelled to hide
for their lives up among the mountains. There they would have
died, had it not been for the peasants, who supplied them with
food. Small parties of the bandits would come out for it. There
were two very powerful men of the banditti, who were skirmishing
about in this way, not far from the Madre Ilkana's, when they saw
two soldiers, in advance of their company, approaching them. The
banditti were not afraid for themselves, but they wanted to get
back to their friends with the bread and meat, so instead of
fighting, they fled to the Madre. She took them in, and bade them
be sure they were safe with her. But the soldiers had caught sight
of them, and they stopped at every house and enquired and searched
for them; and so, soon they came to the Madre Ilkana's. They
charged her in the name of the government to give up the banditti
in her house. The Madre kept on with her knitting, and told them
there were only her two sons in the house, and mothers never gave
up their sons to any one.
"'Ha!' laughed one of the soldiers,' mothers must give up their
children to King Death, and it is He who wants your bad boys.'
Upon which, the Madre arose and cursed them. Curses are common
with us, Signorina, but not La Madre's curses. She talked of their
mothers to them, and of their sons, and of the Holy Virgin and
child, and she cursed them in the name of all these, if they dared
steal her children from her. They should take them over her old
dead body, she swore, though her knitting-needles and her eyes were
her only weapons, and then she turned her eyes full upon them, with
the evil spirit leering and laughing out of them, and the soldiers,
one of whom was an officer, fell on their knees and shook like
leaves, and prayed her to forgive them; saying that they were sure
her boys were good sons, and no banditti. And while they knelt
crouching there, La Madre knocked on the floor and in rushed the
banditti, armed with great knives. They caught and bound the two
soldiers, and took away their weapons, and jumped on their horses,
"La Madre took her knitting again, and sat down quietly by the side
of the bound men, until a half hour later some twelve more soldiers
cantered up. As they rode by, all the people came to their
doorways, and the soldiers stopped and asked if they had seen two
horsemen. Then La Madre gathered up her knitting and went quietly
out into the crowd. She made a low bow to the man with the biggest
feather in his cap, and she told him her story. 'I have two sons,'
she said, 'whom I love so well.' Then she told how the soldiers
mistook her sons for banditti, and tried to take them from her in
her own house. 'Though I am old, I have a good life among my
friends and neighbors here, and I fought a while in my own mind
before I said to my sons: Go, my boys, your mother will die for
you. But I did it. I bade them bind the soldiers and steal away.
Then I sat guarding the men till you came. You will find them safe
in my little house there. Now, take me to prison--kill me, but
look in my eyes first, and then, whoever lays a hand on me, take La
Madre Ilkana's curse.'
"And the people all swore that there were two snakes coiled up in
La Madre's eyes then, and they hissed, and struck out with their
fiery tongues, and the crowd fell on their knees, and the neighbors
all set up a great shout of 'La Madre Ilkana,' so that they quite
drowned the voice of the man with the big feather."
"Is that all?" asked Mae, as Lisetta paused. "What did the
"O, they hired a passing carriage to take the men whose horses were
stolen back to Castellamare, and they all cantered off, without
saying a word to La Madre, and when they had turned a corner of the
road, she began to laugh. O, how she laughed! All the people
laughed with her, and the children crowed and the dogs barked, for
the rest of that whole day.
"And a neighbor who passed La Madre's at midnight, said she was
laughing out loud then."
"Signorina." Mae was passing down the long hall when she heard the
whisper. She turned and saw Lisetta, with shining eyes and pink
cheeks, standing at her side. Her pretty plump shoulders were only
half covered, and the array of colors about her transformed her
into a sort of personified rainbow. This was Lisetta's Carnival
attire, and very proud she was of it.
"Why, Lisetta, what do you want, and what makes you so happy?"
"O, Signorina, the cousins are here,--and others,--all in mask.
They fill Maria's rooms quite full. It is very gay out there, and
they all want to see you, Signorina. I have told them how well you
speak Italian and how you love Italy, and to-night, they say, you
shall be one of us. So come." All this while Lisetta had been
leading Mae swiftly down the corridor, until as she said these last
words, she reached and pushed open the door. A great shout of
laughter greeted Mae's ear, and a pretty picture met her eyes--
gaily decked youths and maidens clapping their hands and chattering
brightly, while the padrona was just entering the opposite doorway,
bearing two flasks of native wine, and some glasses.
"'Tis genuine Orvieto," she called out, and this raised another
shout. Then she caught sight of Mae and bowed low towards her.
"Here is the little foreign lady," she cried, and a dozen pairs of
big black eyes were turned eagerly and warmly on Mae. She bowed
and smiled at them, and said in pleading tones, "O, pray do not
call me the 'little foreign lady' now. Play I am as good an
Italian as my heart could wish I were."
This speech was received with new applause, and the padrona handed
around the glasses saying: "We must drink first to the health of
our new Italian. May she never leave us."
"Yes, yes," called Lisetta, lifting high her glass. "Yes, yes,"
cried all, and Mae drank as heartily as any of them. Then she
shook her head and gazed very scornfully down on her dark, stylish
clothes. "I am not thoroughly Italian yet," she cried. "Here, and
here, and here," cried one and another, proffering bits of their
own gay costumes, and in a moment Mae had received all sorts of
tributes--a string of red beads from one, a long sash from another,
a big-balled stiletto from a third, so that she was able from the
gleanings to trim herself up into at least a grotesque and un-
American Carnival figure. Then the Italians with their soft
tongues began to flatter her.
"How lovely the Signorina would look in a contadina costume--the
home costume," said Lisetta gravely. "It is so beautiful, is it
not?" And then those two or three privileged ones, who had seen
Lisetta's home, went into ecstasies over its many charms. Lisetta,
next to the Signorina, was the heroine of the occasion. She was
from a distance, was handsome and clever, and the padrona gave
glowing accounts of her full purse, and two pretty donkeys, and
house by the sea.
They had a very gay time. Such singing, and then dancing and
frolicking, and such a feline softness in all their gaiety. None
of the German or Saxon bullying, and barking and showing of teeth;
in no wise a game of dogs, which always ends in a fight; but a
truly kittenish play, with sharp claws safely tucked out of sight
behind the very softest paws, and a rich, gentle curve of motion,
inexpressibly witching to our little northern maiden, who was fast
losing her head amid it all. Mae did not reflect that felines are
treacherous. She only drew a quick, mental picture of the parlor
on the other side of the hall, which she compared to this gay
scene. Mrs. Jerrold filling in dull row after row of her elaborate
sofa cushion, which was bought in all its gorgeousness of floss
fawn's head and bead eyes, Edith and Albert hard at work over their
note books, or reading up for the sights of to-morrow, Mr. Mann
with his open book also, all quiet and studious. Eric, alone,
might be softly whistling, or writing an invitation to Miss Hopkins
to climb up St. Peter's dome with him, or to visit the tomb of
Cecilia Metella, or the Corso, as the case might be, while here--
As Mae reached this point in her musings, the Italians were forming
for a dance, so she sprang up to join them. Two or three peasants
from the country south had wandered up with the world to Rome, for
Carnival time, then for Lent. They had brought with them their
pipes and zitterns. In the mornings they made short pilgrimages,
playing in front of the shrines about the city, or roaming out on
the campagna to some quiet church. In the evening time they
wandered up the stone stairways of the great houses, and paused on
the landings before the different homes. If all was still they
passed on, but if there was noise, laughter, sound of voices, they
laid aside their penitential manner, and struck into dance music,
flashing their velvety eyes, and striking pretty attitudes, aided
greatly by their Alpine hats and sheep-skins and scarlet-banded
Three of these peasants had appeared at the padrona's doorway, by a
sort of magic. They bowed and smiled, and commenced to play.
Every one sprang up. "Dance," cried they all, and flew for their
partners. Mae found herself in the midst of the crowd, and having
the most willing and nimble of feet, she soon toned and coaxed the
fashionable waltz on which she had started into accord with the
more elastic footsteps of her companion. There was something in
the serpentine, winding and unwinding motion, the coaxingness of
the steps, that was deliciously intoxicating to Mae. The color
came to her cheeks, the smile played around her lips, and when she
paused to breathe, she found the Italians showing their white
teeth, and clapping their brown hands in her honor, while the
tallest musician gazed at her from the dark doorway, with the rapt
reverence he gave to all things beautiful and thrilling. She was a
new song to him.
"The Signorina is the veriest Italian of us all," cried Lisetta.
"She honors our Italy," called Mae's last partner.
"Her feet are those of a chamois," said one from the north.
"Nay, she flies," replied another.
They all spoke in their earnest manner, and the praises, that fall
in fulsome flattery in English, were delicate and stimulating as
they slid in soft Italian from their full, red lips. Mae tossed
her head carelessly, but she sipped the praises and found them
"Now for the Tarantella," said the padrona, so Lisetta shook her
tambourine wildly, and the very prettiest girl of them all, and a
big, brown boy (happy fellow!) began that coquettish bit of
witchery. The pretty girl tripped around and around and wreathed
her arms over her head, and the boy knelt appealingly and sprang up
passionately again and again, until the clock struck ten, and the
party broke up. Mae shook hands with a new friend. He was a
stone-cutter, and was soon to be married, and he poured out all his
plans and hopes into her sympathetic ears, and told of his pretty
bride to be, and of her dowry. Mae, in turn, sent her love to the
happy bride, and took a charm from her watch-chain to go with it, a
tiny silver boat, and she sent it with a hope that some day they
might both sail over to America. At which the bridegroom shook his
head very decidedly, and kissed Mae's hand and bowed himself out.
Then, after she had disrobed her of her borrowed plumes, all the
others kissed her hand and bowed themselves out, and Roberto and
Giovanni awaked, and got up from the corner, and stood on their
heads and hallooed as loud as ever they pleased, and the evening
was over, and Lisetta and the padrona and the boys and Mae were
"Oh, oh, oh," cried Mae, "how perfectly perfect. Do you always
have such good times as this?"
"At home, yes," replied Lisetta, folding her hands and smiling.
"We have many a play-day on the bay of Naples." Then she roused
herself: "Good night, Signorina," she said, "keep your ears open."
Mae had barely reached her room when she appreciated Lisetta's last
words. She heard music in the street below. She raised her
window; Eric and Norman lifted the parlor window at the same
moment, "Come in here," they cried. So in she ran, took a place
between them, and they silently listened to the maskers' serenade.
The musicians sang at first the gayest of tunes, but suddenly, by
some subtile impulse, they changed to quieter minor airs, and sang
songs full of tears and passion and love and tenderness. Then they
silently turned to go. Norman Mann touched Mae on the shoulder.
He handed her a bunch of Carnival flowers. They were Bero's, but
she flung them unhesitatingly into the street, leaning far out to
watch the singers catch them and separate them in the moonlight.
They called out loud their thanks--their "Grazie, grazie," as sweet
as any lily just broken from its stem--and as they turned to go Mae
saw that each one was decked with a sprig from the bouquet, pulled
through his button-hole or the riband of his hat.
Only the tallest musician, who walked somewhat apart, carried his
flower tightly clasped in his hand, and now and again he raised it
to his lips. He probably dreamed over it that night, and played
his dream out in a gentle, wistful, minor adoration before the
Madonna at the Quattro Fontane the next morning.
O, the dreams and poems and songs without words that drop into our
lives from the sudden flash of stranger eyes, or the accidental
touch of an unknown hand, or the tender warmth of a swift smile!
And if our eyes, our touch, our smiles may only have floated off in
like manner--as dreams and poems and melody--to give added rhythm
and harmony to other lives.
Mae drew a long sigh, one of those delightful, contented sighs,
with a smile wrapped up in it. "I am glad you are so happy," said
Norman Mann, smiling down at her. When Norman spoke like that Mae
felt only, O, so very content. She quite forgot all grudges
against him; she would have liked just at that moment to have the
world stand quite still. This was very different from the ordinary
Mae. Usually she longed that it might go faster, and would put her
pink and white ear quite close to the brown earth to hear if it
were turning as swiftly as ever it could. "I like it to hurry,
hurry, hurry," said eager, restless Mae. "I love to live quickly
and see what's coming next."
But Mae was not in that mood to-night. She leaned out of the
window all untroubled. If the sun could stand still off behind the
world--as he is now--and the moon could stand still right before
us--as she is now--and we could stay right here, we three. Why,
no, Eric has gone in and is walking up and down nervously. Thus
Mae thought, and was quiet. "What are you thinking about?" asked
Norman. She told him naturally, with her eyes on his until she
reached the words "and we." Then her eyes fell, and she paused.
"Yes," replied Norman, "I have the same feeling," and there was a
great deal more on the very tippest tip of his tongue. But Mae
turned her face from him slightly; the moon stole softly behind the
flimsiest little cloud that any one could have seen through, and he
paused, silly fellow. These slight withdrawals, that should have
urged him on, deceived him. He stopped, and then he remembered
Mae's past doings, her recklessness, her waywardness. It was not
time yet to speak what he had in his heart to say, and what
quivered on his tongue. So he only asked abruptly: "You will go
with me to-morrow night for one of your gayest frolics, will you
not? We will go down on the Corso for all the Mocoletti fun. I am
very anxious to be in another of your good times."
"O, would you like it?" said Mae; "I am so glad. I should delight
in it. It will be almost too good." She stopped abruptly again,
and gave him a quick, soft glance, just as the moon rode
triumphantly out from behind the filmy, flimsy veil, and shone full
down on her eyes and hair. It fell on a bright, round, glistening
ball, tucked in among some half curls behind her ear. "What is
that?" asked Norman.
"That"--Mae put up her hand and drew it out--"that is my stiletto.
I forgot to give it back to Lisetta. It is pretty, isn't it?"
Norman took the long needle from her hand and looked at it. "It is
not as pretty as the flowered stiletto. Why didn't you get one of
"Why, do you not know that those are not worn by free maidens?
They are one of the added glories of a matron. I like my round,
smooth ball a great deal better. It means liberty." And she
plunged the steel tremulously back into her hair.
"We had better go in now; this night air is bad for you." The moon
blazed scornfully down on Norman Mann as he said this. She had had
a wide experience, and had rarely seen such a stupid, cowardly
fellow, so she thought. Yet, after all, Norman only acted in self-
defense. Here was a girl by his side who gloried, as it seemed to
him, in her freedom, and that being so, he must get away as soon as
possible from that window, that moon, and that little girl.
"Well, Norman," cried Eric, advancing eagerly as they turned from
the window, "when do you really suppose it will come off?"
"Suppose what will come off?" inquired Mae.
"O, I forgot you were here. Well, don't tell any one else. Norman
is to fight a duel."
"To fight a duel--and be killed?" gasped Mae.
"You have but a poor opinion of my powers," laughed Norman,
"although the German looked a veteran duellist from his scars. His
face was fairly embroidered or fancy-worked with red lines. A sort
of hem in his nose, and tucks and seams all over his cheeks.
Notice my knowledge in this line, Miss Mae. You ought to be
ashamed, Eric, to have spoken of it."
"Isn't it all a joke?" asked Mae, pushing her head out of the
window again, to hide the sudden white terror in her face. "I
didn't suppose Americans fought duels when they were off
pleasuring." This sentence Mae meant to pass as a gay, light, easy
speech, to prove that Norman Mann and a duel were not such a very
dreadful combination to her feminine mind.
"NO, it is no joke, but dead earnest," replied Eric. "I am to be
his second, and you must keep it a great secret, Mae, till it is
"All over!"--a sudden vision of Norman lying white and motionless
with a deep wound across his soft, brown temple. Mae closed her
eyes. "I suppose I might as well tell you about it," said Norman,
"now that this stupid Eric has let out about the affair, although
it may never come to anything. I was dining to-night at a little
restaurant on the Felice, a quiet, homelike place, which a good
many artists, and especially women, frequent. There is a queer,
crazy little American, who thinks herself a painter, and is a
harmless lunatic, who is a regular guest at this restaurant.
Everybody smiles at her absurdities, but is ready enough to be kind
to the poor old creature. To-night, however, I was hardly seated
when in came a party of Germans, all in mask and Carnival costume.
One of them was arrayed in exact imitation of this old lady. He
had on a peaked bonnet and long, black gloves, with dangling
fingers, such as she invariably wears. These he waved around
mockingly and seating himself opposite her, he followed her every
motion. The ladies at the same table rose and went away. Then up
gets this big ruffian and sits down on the edge of the old lady's
chair. I could stand it no longer, but jumping in front of him,
showered down all the heavy talk I knew in German, Italian and
French, subsiding at last into my mother tongue, with her
appropriate epithets. Having sense enough left to know that he
could not reap the full benefit of English, I pulled out my card,
wrote my address on it, and threw it on the table, and I rather
think that was understood. There's no country that I have heard of
where men don't know what "we'll fight this out, means." Norman
was striding up and down the room now almost as restlessly as Eric
had done, but he seated himself again as Mae asked for the rest.
"The rest is very simple, Miss Mae--mere business. I turned to go
away, and one of his friends approached me to ask for the name of
my second. I gave Eric's here. He bowed and said: 'He shall hear
from me this evening, and I came home. The evening has advanced to
midnight, but not a word yet. No, it is not quite eleven, I see."
"You'll have the choice of weapons if they challenge you," said
Eric; "you'll take pistols, I suppose? Just think of my living to
really assist in a 'pistols-and-coffee-for-two' affair!"
"I daresay it will be coffee for two, served separately, and with
no thought of pistols. I don't really believe it will come to
anything. There are ways of getting out of it," said Norman,
lighting a cigarette.
"Will you refuse to fight?" asked Mae, and her heart, which had
been white with fear for Norman the second before, flashed now with
quick, red scorn. Even the Huguenot maiden would, after all, have
despised her lover if he had quietly allowed her to tie the white
handkerchief to his arm. Believe it, she loved him far, far better
as she clung to him, pressed closely to his warm, living heart,
because she realized in an agony that his honor was strong enough
to burst even the tender bonds of her dear love, and that he would
break from her round arms to rush into that ghostly, ghastly death-
embrace on the morrow, at the dreadful knell of St. Bartholomew
Suppose he had yielded. Suppose we saw him in the picture standing
quietly, unresistingly, as her soft fingers bound the white badge,
that meant protection and life, to his arm. Would not she, as well
as he, have known that it was a badge of cowardice, and that he
wore a heart as white?
And afterwards, would she have loved the living man, breathing in
air heavy with the hearts' life of his brothers and friends, as she
worshiped the dead man, whose cold body rested forever down deep in
mother earth's brown, soft bosom, but whose very life of life
swelled the great throng of heroes and martyrs who have closed
their own eyes upon life's pictures, that those pictures might
shine clearer and brighter to other eyes?
If the man had yielded, and the picture showed him thus, would we
see the Huguenot lovers adorning half the houses of the land? Most
often they are found in that particular corner of the home
belonging to some maiden--that sacred room of her own, where she
prays her prayers, and lives her most secret life. I have often
wondered at the many girls who hang that especial picture over
their fire-places. It must be a case of unconscious ideality.
They realize that love must be so subject to honor that heart-
strings would break for the sake of that honor, if need be, even
though the harmonious love-song of two hearts is hushed; and what
is the love-song of any two beings compared to a life-song of honor
for the world--those wonderful life-songs that we all know? One of
them sings itself so loudly to me now, over ages of romance and
history, that I must let my simple story wait and give way to it
for a minute.
There was a man who lived once. If God did not create him, Homer
did. The Oracle told him that the first man who put foot on the
Trojan shores would die. He knew this before he started on his
voyage for Greece. He left a wife and home behind him, whom he
dearly loved. I wonder if he used to pace the deck of the rich
barge, and listen to the men chatting around him, and smile as they
planned of returning, proud and victorious, to their homes and
All the while under his smile he knew he was to die, not in the
glory of fight, although his sword swung sharp and bright at his
side, in any thrilling fashion, to be sung of and wept of by his
All the while the heavy barge sailed on, and at last land came in
sight. I wonder if his heart was full when he saw it? Did he
remember his wife and his home? Did he feel his life strong within
him, and eager as a battle-horse, as he neared the land where wars
were to be fought, and glories won?
All the while his heart was firm. He stood the very foremost of
them all, as they drifted quite in to the green, green shore.
Around him men talked and laughed, and the sun shone. He may have
laid his hand commandingly on some youthful shoulders and pushed
back the eager boy who longed to bound first into this new world.
He may have saved him thus from death for life. We do not know.
All we do know is, that with his own brave feet he marched ahead of
them all, solemnly, smilingly, with the oracle in his heart. From
the vessel to the green, green shore--such a little step. He leaps
from the Grecian barge to the Trojan land, alive. Does he turn to
look at his comrades and off eastwards, beyond homewards, with a
great thrill before he falls dead? We do not know.
All we do know is, that WE thrill now as we see him leaping to his
death, even over this gap of ages, through these shadows of
We have left Mae flashing scorn at Norman for a long while, a much
longer while than she really needed for her flash, for Norman's
angry start, violent exclamation, and indignant glance convinced
her of her mistake before he answered her.
"I refuse to fight--I--Great--I beg your pardon, Miss Mae, but of
course I'll fight. I only hope the fellow isn't such a craven as
to let it blow over. However, I strongly suspect policy and his
friends will keep him from it. For my part, I would like to break
my lance for the poor woman. Any good blow struck for the fair
thing, helps old Mother earth a bit, I suppose."
"That's your idea of life?" queried Eric, rather gravely. "My
efforts are all to push Eric Madden on his way a bit."
"And I haven't any idea; I just live," said Mae, "like a black and
tan dog. I wish I were one. Then the only disagreeable part of
me, my conscience, would be out of the way. But what has all this
to do with the duel?" "That has something to do with it, I fancy,"
said Eric, rising and leaving the room hastily, as the bell rang.
"No, stay where you are. I'll receive him in the little salon."
Mae rose and walked to the fireside, and looked down on the two
small logs of wet wood that sizzled on the fire-dogs. The faint,
red flame that flickered around them, looked sullen and revengeful,
she thought, as she watched the feeble blaze intently. It seemed
hours since Eric had left the room. What was Norman thinking?
What was the stranger saying out in the little salon? No, no, she
would not think thus. She would repeat something to quiet herself-
-poetry--what should it be? Ah, here is Eric.
It was Eric. His face was flushed. His lip curled. "Coward!
craven!" he exclaimed, "Coward, craven."
"Well, tell us about it," said Norman, coolly, but a wave of color
rushed over his face.
"O, palaver and stuff. Somebody's dreadfully ill--dying, I
believe, and that somebody is wife, or mother, or son to this brute
you challenged. He's got to go, the coward. If you are ever in
his vicinity again, and send him your card, he will understand it
and meet you at such place and with such weapons as you prefer.
Bah--too thin!" and Eric concluded with this emphatic statement.
Mae leaned her head against her two clasped hands which rested on
the mantel-piece. How strangely everything looked; even the dim
fire had a sort of aureole about it, as her eyes rested there
again; but when one looks through tears, all things are haloed
mistily. Norman turned and looked at Mae, as Eric walked
impatiently about. She did not move or speak. He walked to her
side, and stood looking down at her. The faint mist in her left
eye was forming into a bright, clear globe as large as any April
raindrop. Mae knew this, and knew it would fall, unless she put up
her hand and brushed it away, and that would be worse. The color
rose to her cheeks as she waited the dreadful moment. She was
perfectly still, her hands clasped before her, her head bent, as
the crystal drop gathered all the mist and halo in its full, round
embrace, and pattered down upon the third finger of her left hand--
her wedding-ring finger--and lay there, clear and sparkling as a
Norman Mann stooped and laid his hand over it. "You are glad,
then!" "I should be sorry to have you die," said Mae, but her
dimples and blushes and drooping eye-lids said, oh, a great deal
more. "Good night," she fluttered, and ran off.
Mae dreamed happy dreams that night, and awoke with a smile on her
lips. She dressed with the greatest care, put a touch of the color
Norman liked at her throat, and fastened a charm he had given her
to her bracelet. Still, she loitered on her way to the breakfast-
room, and when she seated herself at the table, a sudden
embarrassment made her keep her eyes on her plate, or talk to Eric,
or Edith, or any one but Norman. Yet she was perfectly conscious
of his every word and motion. She knew he only took two cups of
coffee instead of three, and that he helped her to mandarins--a
fruit of which she was very fond--five times, so that she had a
plate heaping with golden untouched balls before her. After
breakfast, she felt a great desire to run away, so she asked Eric
to take her to the Capitol, and leave her there for a time. "I
want to see something solid this morning, that has lasted a long
while, and the marbles will do me good."
Yes, Eric would take her at once. Would she go and get her hat?
She went for it, and scolded herself all the time for running away
when she wanted to stay home. Yet, after all, who dares put out
one's hand to grasp the moon when at last it approaches? No woman,
at any rate.
There was a malicious sort of teasing pleasure in running away from
Norman, mingled with a shrinking modesty; and, besides, he knew the
way to the Capitol, if he chose to follow, and knew she was to be
there alone. So, on the whole, Mae went off with a blissful heart.
As she sat down in that celebrated room, immortalized by the
Gladiator, the Faun and the Antinous, scales seemed to fall from
her eyes and a weight from her heart. Life meant something more
than the mere play she delighted in, or the labor she despised.
She took it in in this way. She realized, first of all, the
enduringness of the marbles. They had stood, they will stand, for
thousands of years. What have stood? What will stand? Idle
blocks of stone, without form or meaning, or simply three beautiful
shapes? No; three souls, thinks Mae, three real people, and she
looks at the abiding faun, freedom and joy of the Satyr, the
continual sentimental sadness of the Antinous, and the perpetual
brave death-struggle of the Gladiator. They are living on now, and
touching our hearts. Their mute lips open other eloquent mouths to
speak for them. Hawthorne and Byron tell us what the Faun's soul,
what the Gladiator's soul, look from the white marbles to us, and
the world daily repeats the story the Antinous whispers in his
bent, beautiful head, the vanitas vanitatum that our own hearts
whisper, when we drop earnest life for voluptuous pleasures.
The Faun may smile, although life is only one long play-day in
green fields and woods, because he is a Faun. The man must sigh,
when he has drained his wine-cups and laughed his heartiest laugh,
and wakes to another morning, because he is a man. The cry of
humanity echoes in our souls. We cannot stifle it; we may hush it,
and follow our idle joys, but the day comes when we bend our head
with Antinous and Solomon and the rest of them, and sigh out our
vanitas, vanitas also, in the great weary chorus.
No need, alas! for a Hawthorne, or Byron, or even a Shakspeare to
interpret what the Antinous says for us. Our own hearts do it.
Mae caught the spirit of all this, as her eyes roamed out of the
window on the Sabine hills, where woods and springs sang. She saw
the aqueducts bounding, even in their ruin, arch after arch, to the
treasure house of the waters. "They never can reach it, now,"
thinks she, "never. Suppose they cannot, is not the spirit the
same?" And now Mae is ready for the sudden light that dawns on her
soul. She springs to her feet. She is alone in the room with the
marble men; and they are quiet; even the Gladiator bites back his
last groan once more.
"The Eternal City," shouts Mae; "I know what it means at last. Oh!
Rome, Rome, I love you!" and she rests her hand on the windowsill,
and looks out on Rome. "Why, it is like a resurrection morn.
Ruins? Yes, it is all ruins, dry bones, and great dead in dust;
but there is something more. I only saw that graveyard part of it
before; now, the spirit of the great men, and great deeds, and
words, and thoughts, and prayers," cries Mae, exultantly. "Why,
they are here; not dead, like the rest, but alive, all around us.
Oh! Rome, Rome, forgive me!"
Now, this might have seemed absurd to the custode, or some other
people, if they had put their head in at the door just then. But
they didn't; and, really, it was not absurd. I cannot believe that
this small Mae Madden is the only being who has had a swift,
brilliant awakening from the first surface, depressing thoughts of
Rome--an awakening to the living spirits which float proudly over
their vacant shells that lie below the old pavements. Once you do
feel the strong, rich Roman life about you, the decay, the ruin
float off on the dust of the ages, before the glorified breath of
proud matrons and stately warriors, who step over the centuries to
walk by your side. And the centuries have improved them,--have
left their grandeur, and nobility, and bravery, and civilized them
a bit. They form into pageants for you, and fill the baths and the
palaces, but never crowd the Coliseum for the dreadful contests,
unless, maybe, for an occasional bull-fight--some great, horrid,
big bull which would be killed at market to-morrow at any rate--and
even that is as you please. It is wonderful, truly, once we
discern the spirits around us, to notice what a miraculous place
Rome is; how the intervening years of purgatorial flames have
turned old Nero himself into a fairly benevolent, soft old
gentleman, even though his estates have crumbled to such an extent
that he may put his golden palace into the head of his cane, which
he always carries now, since his chariots have gone away. Where
are they? Caligula has even made it up with his mother-in-law, and
you reflect with joy on that fact, as the two flit by your mind's
eye, hand in hand. All this nonsense is for those of us who HAVE
awakenings. The rest of "our party" may sit at Spillman's and eat
coffee-cakes and sip Lachrymae Christi, while we walk alone through
the Coliseum, with the crowd of old heathen. They stop, every one,
at the iron cross in the middle, reared over their carnage and mad
mirth, and press their lips to it now. The centuries have done
that. We only, alas! stand gazing mournfully, doubtingly. "Will
you have another coffee-cake?" says some one, and we remember that
we are at Spillman's also. And, indeed, we might be more sensible
to stay with our party always; eat cakes, drink wine, laugh at the
old world, vaunt the new, read Baedeker and the Bible, say our
orthodox Protestant prayers, with a special "Lead us not into
Romanism" codicil, and go to bed, and dream of our own golden
houses, Paris dresses, and fat letters of credit.
At any rate, Mae Madden was electrified by a great sudden sweep of
love, a surging rush of reverence for Rome, and makes no doubt in
her own mind, to this day, that the Faun laughed with her in her
joy. In this exalted frame of mind, she wandered down through the
long halls. She was passing from the room of the Caesars when she
heard Norman's voice. So he had come for her with Eric. She had
half fancied he would. She paused to listen. It was a ringing
elastic voice, in no wise lagging in speech, with a certain
measurement in its tones, as if he weighed his words and thoughts,
and gave them out generously, pound for pound, a fair measure which
our grandmother's recipes approved. Mae smiled to herself. "He
has loved Rome always. He caught the spirit of it long ago. He
will be glad to know I have found it also. I wish"--and Mae sighed
a scrap of a sigh, and looked down at the toe of her boot, with
which she drew little semi-circles before her.
Mae was truly in a very tender mood to-day. I think if Norman had
caught sight of her face at that moment, he would have sent Eric
off, and right there and then, before all the Caesars--why what is
the matter? The face contracts as if in pain. What was the cause?
She had heard Norman say, "I'm afraid I was wrong, but I never
meant anything by my attentions to the girl, Eric. It was really
on your account. I never liked Miss Rae particularly. I was
thrown much with her because you and I have been together
constantly, but she does not grow on me. I never expected you
should consider me as her necessary cavalier always. As for this
evening, I am engaged to Miss Mae, so that settles this matter, but
I wish that hereafter you would not get me into such scrapes."
Poor Mae! she leaned against Nero--or was it Caracalla?--surely
somebody very hard and cold and cruel,--and stopped breathing for a
moment. For she had heard wrong, had misunderstood Miss Rae for
Miss Mae, and supposed it was of herself that he spoke. Her heart
stood still for the minutest part of a minute. Then she turned
softly and quickly, went back to the Gladiator's room, left word
with the custode for Eric that she wasn't well, and had gone home
alone, walked off down the Capitol steps, took a cab and drove
At home she had a long, earnest talk with Lisetta, after which
Lisetta had a short, brisk talk with the padrona. "It means
money," she said, "and I can play I did it for the Signorina's
safety." Later, Mae wrote a brief, polite note to Norman Mann.
She was ill, had gone to bed, and wouldn't be able to go to the
Corso with him to-night. She tried to stifle the hot anger and
other emotions out of the words, and read and re-read them to
assure herself that they were perfectly easy, natural, and polite.
At last she tore them up and sent this instead:
MY DEAR MR. MANN:--Such a pity that we are not to have our fun,
after all. Yet, perhaps it is just as well. I should be very
speedily without my light, and the cry of "senza moccolo, senza
moccola," must be very dispiriting. Have a good time right along.
Of course, if Mae had not been beside herself with conflicting
emotions, she would never have sent this note, or repeated the
good-bye in that echoing, departing sort of way. Norman Mann knit
his brow as he read it. "What is the row now?" he thought. "What
a child it is, anyway. She has had the mocoletti fun in her mind
since we left America, and now she throws it away. Well, there's
no help for it; I'm booked for Miss Rae. I'll get Eric to see if
Mae's really ill. I wonder if she's afraid of me, because she
cried last night, afraid I took that big tear for more than it was
"Mae," said Eric, entering her room an hour later, "Norman feels
dreadfully that you are not able to go to-night, and so do I. I
suppose those wretched marbles did it this morning. Couldn't you
"No," replied Mae, rising on her elbow, "but sit down a moment,
"How pretty you look," said her brother, seating himself by her
side. Mae's hair was tumbled in brown waves that looked as if they
couldn't quite make up their minds to curl, much as they wanted to;
her eyes shone strangely; and the little scarlet shawl that she had
drawn over her head and shoulders was no brighter than her flushed
cheeks. She smiled at her brother, but said hurriedly; "Tell me of
your plans for to-night. I suppose you and Mr. Mann are going with
your new friends."
"Yes, Norman will go with me and the girls, but he does it with a
bad enough grace. He's dreadfully tired of Miss Rae; and, to tell
you the truth, Mae, she is rather namby-pamby--very different from
Miss Hopkins, and then, besides, he had so set his heart on going
with you to-night."
"O, yes," said Mae, scornfully, and bit her lips.
"Why, Mae, what is the matter with you? You seem to doubt every
one and everything. You know Norman is truth itself." "Is he?"
asked Mae, indifferently.
"I've seen for a long time," continued Eric, "that you two were not
the friends you once were, but I don't understand this open
dislike. Doesn't it spoil your pleasure? You don't seem to have
the real old-fashioned good times, my little girl," and Eric pulled
his clumsy dear hand through a twist of the brown hair caressingly.
"O, Eric," cried Mae, "that is like old times again," and a tear
splattered down into the big hand. "What, crying, Mae?" "No,
dear--that is, yes. I believe I am a little bit homesick. I wish
I could go back behind my teens again. Do you remember the summer
that I was twelve--that summer up by the lake? I wish you and I
could paddle around in one of the old flat-bottomed tubs once more,
don't you, Eric? We'd go for lilies and fish for minnows--that is,
we'd fish for perch and catch the minnows--and talk about when you
should go to college and pull in the race, and I should wear a long
dress and learn all the college tunes to sing with you and your
Yale friends. Do you remember, Eric? And now, O dear me, you lost
your race, and I hate my long gowns. O--my--dear--brother--do you
like it all as well as you thought you would?"
"Why, Mae, you poor little tot, you're sentimental--for you. Yes,
I like the future as well as I always did. I never gave much for
the present, at any rate."
"But I did, Eric; I always did, till just now, and now I hate it,
and I'm afraid of the future, and I'd like to grow backwards, and
instead, in a month, I'll have another birth-day, and go into those
dreadful twenties." Then Mae was quiet a moment. "Eric, I was
sentimental," she said, after a pause. "Really, I do like the
future very much. I quite forgot how much for the moment."
"You're a strange child, indeed," replied Eric, the puzzled. "Your
words are like lightning. I had just got melted down and ready to
reply to your reminiscences by lots of others, and here you are all
jolly and matter-of-fact again. I was growing so dreadfully
unselfish that I should have insisted on staying home with you this
evening to cheer you up a bit."
"And give up the mocoletti! Why, Eric! I shouldn't have known how
to take such an offer. No, no, trot off and array yourself, and
you may come back and say good-bye."
"I must say good-bye now, dear, for I dine at the Costanzi with the
girls and their aunt."
"Now, just now, Eric?"
"Why yes, Mae. You are getting blue again, aren't you? Getting
ready for Ash Wednesday to-morrow?"
"Oh, no, no, dear. Kiss me, Eric, again. You're a good, dear boy.
No; I didn't cry that drop at all. Good-bye; and to-morrow is Ash
Wednesday. But we don't sorrow or fast in Paradise, I suppose."
The Corso was all ablaze. The whole world was there. Under a
balcony stood a party of peasants. Of this group, two were
somewhat aside. One of these was tall, dark, a fair type of
Southern Italian; the other small, agile and graceful, dressed in a
fresh contadina costume, with her brown hair braided down her
shoulders. She seemed excited, and as the crowd pressed nearer she
would draw back half-fearfully. "Lisetta," she whispered, "I am
spoiling your good time. Talk to your friends; never mind me. I
will follow by your side, and soon I shall catch the spirit of it
all, too." Saying this, she stepped from under the balcony, held
out her feeble little taper and joined in the cries around her,
pausing to blow at any lowered bit of wax that came in her way. It
was maddening sport; her light was extinguished again and again,
but she would plead to have it relit, and there was sure to be some
tender-hearted, kindly knight at hand to help her.
She ran on quickly, fearlessly, gliding and creeping and sliding
through the crowd, her hair flying, her eyes dancing. Even in the
dense throng many turned to look at her, and one tall man started
suddenly from the shadow of a side street, where he had been
standing motionless, and threw himself before the girl. He put out
his arm, grasped her tightly, and drew her a few feet into the
shadow. "Signorina!" he said. "Hush, hush," she whispered then in
colder tones. "Let me go, Signor; you are mistaken. You, do not
know me. He smiled quietly, holding her hands clasped in his. "I
do not know you, Signorina? You do not know me. Your face is the
picture always before my eyes."
"Yes, yes, forgive me," she fluttered, "I was startled, and indeed
I am no Signorina now, but one of your own country peasants. I am
with Lisetta. Why, where is Lisetta?"
Where, indeed, was she? There were hundreds of contadine in the
great crowd surging by, but no Lisetta. The little peasant wrung
her hands quite free from the man's grasp. "I must go home," she
said. "I don't want any more Carnival."
"No, no," said the officer, quietly, reassuringly. "Get cool.
Tell me how Lisetta looks and is dressed, and if we can not find
her here, I will take you up to your friend's balcony."
"O, no, not there. Anywhere else, but not there."
"Why not?" asked Bero.
"Because, because,--yes, I will tell you," said Mae, remembering
her wrongs, and suddenly moved by the sympathy and softness of the
great eyes above her,--"because they think I am home ill, and here
I am, you see," and she laughed a little hurriedly,--"besides, I go
away with Lisetta to-morrow morning,--hush, let no one hear,--to
Sorrento. You must never, never tell. How do I look? Will I make
a good peasant, when once the dear sun has browned my hands and
forehead, and I have grown Italianized?" And she lifted her face,
into which the saucy gaiety had returned, up to him temptingly.
His warm blood was kindled. "You are a little child of the sun-god
now," he exclaimed, passionately. "May I share some of your days
in heaven? I am ordered to Naples tomorrow night; shall be only
twelve hours behind you. May I come on the day after to see you in
your new home?"
"O, how delightful! But, perhaps, my lord, our little cottage by
the sea isn't grand enough for your spurs and buttons and glory.
We are simple folks you know,--peasants all,--but our hearts,
Signor, they are hospitable, and such as we have we will gladly
give you. What do you say to the bay of Naples, and oranges for
our luncheon day after tomorrow?" And Mae laughed lightly and
joyously. Her little burnt taper fell to the ground, and she
clasped her hands together. "What a happy thing life will be!"
"Will you live there and be a peasant forever?" asked Bero, leaning
forward. "There are villas by the sea, too, Signorina."
Mae didn't hear these last words. Her heart had stood still on
that "forever." Live there forever, forever, and never see her
mother or Eric, or,--or any one again! "I hadn't thought of that,"
she said, "I hadn't thought of that." She stood still with her
hands clasped, thinking. The officer at her side, looking down at
her, was thinking also. He was fighting a slight mental struggle,
a sort of combat he was quite unused to. Should he let the child
go on in this wild freak? He knew the cottage by the sea; the
peasant home would be dreadful to her. He knew that by that same
day after to-morrow, life in lower Italy, with the dirty, coarse
people about her would be a burden. Yet he hesitated. He fought
the battle in this way: Should he not stand a better chance if he
let her go? He had his leave of absence for three weeks (this was
true; "ordered to Naples," he had called it to Mae). Three weeks
away from his world, near this winsome, strange, magnetic little
being, with the bay of Naples, and moonlight, and his own glories
and her loveliness! He couldn't give up this chance. No, no. He
would surely see her in a few hours after her troubles began, and
comfort her. So he only smiled quietly down at her again, as she
stood troubled by his side, and said: "Lisetta will seek you near
your balcony if she knows where it is. Don't be troubled."
"But where is my balcony?" asked Mae.
"Come here," said Bero, leading her slightly forward. She looked
up and saw the quiet side-window, where day after day the officer
had flung her the sweet flowers when no one was looking. "I know
this place very well," he said meaningly. Mae smiled a little
cheerfully. "You have beautiful taste," she replied, "I have never
seen such exquisite bouquets before."
Bero stroked his moustaches complacently. "You honor me,
Signorina. I hope you may receive many, many more beautiful
flowers--from the same hand." He whispered these last words, and
Mae turned her head half uneasily. She looked up at the balcony.
How odd it was that there, but a few feet away, were Mrs. Jerrold,
Edith, and Albert. She fancied she could detect their voices,
though she could not see them. The Hopkins-Rae window was vacated.
"The girls" were probably down on the Corso with Eric and Norman,
and Mae drew a little nearer to Bero, and looked up half
appealingly. His eyes were fixed strangely on something or some
one across the street. Mae followed their gaze, and saw upon the
opposite balcony the beautiful veiled lady. She held in her hand a
long rod tipped with a blazing taper.
"O, she is like a vestal virgin with her light, or a queen with a
sceptre," cried Mae exultingly.
"She may be the vestal virgin, but the queen is by my side," said
Mae wished he would not talk in this way, and she tried to laugh it
off. "I have no sceptre or crown; I'm but a poor queen in my
"We'll have the coronation day after to-morrow," replied Bero, very
"Tell me about her," and Mae nodded her head toward the strange
lady. "There is little to tell," said Bero, in a quiet tone. "Her
brother is well known in Rome as an artist. He lives there with
his sister and an old duenna. She wears this mysterious veil
constantly, and some fanciful people see just as mysterious a cloud
resting about her life. I only know she is strange and beautiful,
and that her name is Lillia."
Yet Bero had seen this woman almost daily for six months. But he
only knew she was strange and beautiful, and that her name was
Mae had never spoken to the veiled stranger, yet if Bero had turned
upon her and asked, "Who is she?" she would have replied: "I do not
know her name or where she lives, but I know she struggles, and
despairs, and smiles over all. And I know her suffering comes from
sorrow--not from sin." But Mae did not say all this. She only
looked at the veiled lady. Her vestal lamp had dropped for the
moment, and she seemed to be gazing far away. A fold of her heavy
veil fell over her brow quite down to her great dark eyes. They
were unshaded, yet they too, seemed clouded for the moment. "Her
name is Lillia," said Mae, reassuringly to herself. "Her name is
Lillia. I am sure she is like her name." Bero smiled. Just then
Early the next morning, in the misty light, Lisetta and Mae, the
latter still in her contadina costume, left the house quietly. In
an hour the train for Naples was to start, but Lisetta wanted to
say her prayers in Rome on this Ash Wednesday. They wandered into
a little church, one of the many Roman churches, and knelt side by
side, Lisetta with her beads and her penance, and Mae with her
thoughts, which grew dreary enough before the peasant was ready to
go. Mae had already entrusted her money to Lisetta's keeping--some
one hundred and fifty dollars, which she had gotten the day before
from Albert to buy clothes with--and with her money she had also
resigned all care. She did not know therefore, until the train
started, that their seats were in a third-class carriage. Every
one was hurrying on board, so Mae was obliged to jump in without a
word, and accept her fate as best she could. It was no very
pleasant fate. The van was dirty, crowded, garlic-scented. Mae
was plucky, however, and knew she was to find dirt and dreadful
odors everywhere. Two months of Rome had taught her that. But it
grew very dreadful in the close travelling-carriage. There was an
old woman at her side, with a deformed hand, and two soldiers
opposite, who stared rudely at her, and made loud, unpleasant
remarks; and having no books, and nothing to entertain herself
with, she was forced to curl up in a corner, and try to sleep,
which she could not do.
Poor child! it was a hard day. Dull and dreary outside, and
within, the sickening odors and people. Back in Rome, what were
they doing? Had they found out that she had gone? And Eric, how
was he feeling? No, no, she must not think of all this. It
belonged to the past. Before her lay Sorrento, the bay of Naples,
oranges, white clouds, and the children of the sun. Mamma was
south, too--if she were only going to her. So the day dragged on,
until with the evening they reached Naples. They spent the night
with a friend of Lisetta, who rented apartments to English and
Americans. Mae was fortunate, therefore, in securing an unlet
bedroom that was comfortably furnished. She enjoyed listening to
Lisetta's stories of Rome and the Carnival; and after a quiet night
in a clean bed, awoke tolerably happy and very eager for her first
sight of the bay. They took an early train out to Castellamare,
and as they left the city, Mae wondered if Bero were just entering
it. But she soon forgot him and every one in the blue glories of
At Castellamare, Gaetano, Lisetta's husband, was awaiting them,
with a malicious little donkey, tricked out gaily enough in tags of
color and tinkling bells. It was very quaint and delightful to get
into the funny, low, rattling cart, and go jogging off, while the
feminine sight-seers fanned themselves in the windows of the
ladies' waiting-room, and grumbled, and the poor masculine
travellers bartered in poor Italian, with their certain-to-conquer
enemies, those triumphant swindlers, the drivers of the conveyances
between Sorrento and Castellamare.
Then they began that wonderful ride along the coast. The horrors
of the day before rolled away like a mist as the donkey jogged
along that miraculous drive. Lisetta and Gaetano chattered
together, and Mae sat very still, with her face to the sea,
drinking in all the glory, as she had longed and planned. Hope
revived in her breast, pride had stood by her all the while, and
here was glorious nature coming to her aid. She was going swiftly
to the orange groves and the children of the sun. She should see
Talila and brown babies and dancing, and at night a great, yellow
moon would light up the whole scene. So on and on they went, the
travelling carriages dashing by them now and then, with their three
donkeys abreast, and the driver cracking his whip, and the
travellers oh-ing and ah-ing.
"That is the most picturesque peasant I have yet seen," said a
gentle lady in brown to her husband, as they passed the humble
little party. "Yes, she is clean, and more like the ideal than the
actual peasant, and I am very glad I have seen her."
Really, Mae was for the moment, at a quick glance, the ideal
peasant. Her hands lay in her lap, her face was toward the sea,
and her attitude and features were all full of that glow of
existence that peasant portraits possess. She lived and moved and
had her being as part of a great, warm, live picture. If the lady
in brown had not passed so quickly, however, she would have seen a
something in Mae's face that spoiled her for a peasant, an
earnestness in her admiration, a sharp intensity in her joy, that
was very different from the languid content of a Southern Italian.
Her movements were rather like those of the Northern squirrel,
which climbs nimbly and frisks briskly, than like the sinuous,
serpentine motions of the Southern creatures of the soil. We are,
after all, born where we belong, as a rule, and the rest of us soon
belong where we are born.
After a time the donkey pattered along towards a little patch of
houses on the shore. They had already passed a half dozen of
similar settlements. Very dirty children ran about crying, ugly,
old women knitted, mongrel dogs and cats barked and yelped and
rolled in the mud. Bits of orange-peel and old cabbage and other
refuse food lay piled near the doors. There were, to be sure,
young girls with dark eyes, plaiting straw, and the very dirt heaps
had a picturesque sort of air. An artist might linger a moment to
look, but never to enter. Yet it was here that Mae must enter.
This was her new home. The neighbors came crowding about
curiously, and she was hurried into the little hut that seemed as
if it were carved roughly from some big garlic, probably by taking
out the heart of it for dinner. Mae hardly comprehended the
situation at first, but when she began to realize that this was a
substitute for sea breeze, and that the coarse clipped patois
(which sounded worse in the mass than when it fell from Lisetta's
lips alone) was in place of the flowing melody of speech she had
longed for, she grew sick at heart. The folly, the dreadfulness of
what she had done, swept over her like a flood, and with it came
dreadful fear. She was helpless,--an outcast. Pride would never
let her go home. She could go nowhere else. They had her money,
and here she must live and die. She sat down in a sort of stupor,
and paid no heed to the squabbling children who pulled at her gown,
or the dogs who sniffed snappingly at the stranger.
Lisetta, busy with greetings and chattings, quite forgot her for a
time, and was dismayed when she saw her sitting disconsolately by.
"Come, Signorina," she cried, "go down to the bay. Here is Talila;
she will guide you."
Mae looked up quickly at that. Talila, was she here? A few feet
from her she saw an uncouth woman, with that falling of the jaw
most imbeciles possess, and a vacancy in her eyes. She had her
hand raised and was swearing at one of the children. "Talila,"
repeated Mae, rubbing her eyes, and shivering, "but I thought
Talila would be different. You said she loved children, but this
woman swears at them."
"O, dear, we all swear at them, but we love them; you shall see how
they follow her. Talila, off with you and your babies." And the
next moment there was a general scamper of brown children headed by
this tall, vacant-looking woman. "Take the lady to the sea,"
continued Lisetta. And Mae arose, as if in a dream, and followed
The half-clad children of the sun ran before her as she had dreamed
they would; flowers sprang up along the way, but she did not stop
to pluck a single bud or turn to look at anything. She wandered on
in an awful sort of fright and came at length to the water's edge.
Here there were row-boats lying at anchor, into which the children
clambered. Mae stepped into one of them and sat down in the stern,
and looked about. All was as she had planned. Her day of heaven
was here. She tried to be brave. O, she tried very hard. She
wanted to love and enjoy the sea, and think beautiful thoughts.
She roused a little and stretched herself out to catch the sunbeams
in her eyes, as she had said she would. How warm they were. An
umbrella would be a luxury--and a book! But these belonged to the
world she had left so far behind her. The dirty children babbled a
strange tongue; the water around the boat, by the shore, was
covered with a scum, and alas! alas! the land of her desire was
farther off than ever. Then she remembered that Norman Mann had
once said: "If you ever do disappear I shall know where to look for
you. Would he think of it now? Would he come for her? If he had
only come last night, and would drive by now to Sorrento. He would
be here soon if he had. Would she call him loudly or shrink down
in the boat and hide her face in her hands till she knew he was a
long way past? The rest of them would not know where to look for
her. They did not know anything about Lisetta, and she had
promised not to tell even the padrona. (Faithless Lisetta!) But
of course Norman wouldn't come for her, after what he had said at
the Capitol. That was what finally drove her away. How unlike him
it did seem to speak of her in that way to Eric. She thought over
his words, and as she did so she seemed to see her mistake, and
grasp his meaning.
She sprang up in the boat. "It was the other girl--Miss Rae--he
was speaking of. Oh, oh, oh--and now it is too late. He will hate
As she stood there, a carriage rolled by. Some one looked out.
"O, mamma," said a young voice in English, "look at that pretty
little peasant," and a kid-gloved hand was stretched through the
open window to spatter a shower of base coin toward her. It was
terrible! The children sprang for it, and, fighting and laughing,
ran homewards with the dreadful Talila. The parti-colored
picturesque dress had been a joy to Mae. Now she longed to tear it
off and die--die! No, she was afraid to die. She would have to
live, and she didn't know how, and she laughed a bitter sort of
There was a sound of horses' feet again. The road lay almost close
to the shore just here. A low exclamation, a vault from his horse,
which was speedily cared for by a dozen boys near at hand, and
before Mae knew it, the officer was beside her once more.
O, how beautiful it was to see some one from the world, fresh, and
clean, and fair. Mae gazed at him in delight, and sprang up
warmly, holding out both her hot hands, "How is Heaven?" asked
Bero, as he raised the white fingers to his lips.
"That is not the custom with us," said Mae, withdrawing her hand.
"But what is custom in Heaven?" he laughed. "Can't we do as we
please in our Heaven, Signorina?"
"This isn't our Heaven, and I don't please. O, how could you let
me come to this dreadful place. Did you know how awful it would
"Shall I tell you why I said nothing? Let me row you away from all
this," and he began to untie the boat.
"When did you come?" asked Mae,
"I left Rome last night, reached Naples this morning, and here I am
as soon as possible, Signorina."
Mae felt herself gradually yielding to the spell of this man's soft
power. She had grown strangely quiet and passive, and she folded
her hands and looked off seawards in a not unhappy way. She seemed
to be some one else in a strange dream.
"Are you glad I came?" asked Bero, as he jumped into the boat and
sat down opposite her. Mae did not reply. She had almost lost the
power of speech. She only smiled feebly and faintly. Bero had
never seen her thus before, but he realized dimly that it was he
who had changed her, and the sense of his own power excited him the
more. He bent his proud head and flashed his beautiful eyes as he
lifted the oars to the locks, and silently pulled out toward the
As he rowed he gazed fixedly at her, and the frightened, puzzled
child could not turn her eyes from his. His look grew softer and
tenderer, his head bent towards her, the oars moved slower and
slower and at last stopped imperceptibly. Still the man gazed
passionately, claimingly, and the girl breathed harder and let her
eyes rest on his, as if he had been a wondrous, charming serpent,
and she a little, unresisting dove. Then he spoke.
His words were so low, it seemed as if his eyes had found voice;
his words were so caressing, it seemed as if they changed to kisses
as they fell. "Listen," he said, softly, and drew up his dripping
oars and let the boat drift--"Listen. This is not our Heaven, but
I know a villa by the sea. There are hills and woods about it;
flowers, fruits, and in the day, sunshine, at night, moonlight and
music; drives, and walks, and vines, and arbors. Could you find
there your Heaven--with me? May I take you to my villa?"
When he ceased, his words dropped slowly into silence, and Mae
still gazed at him. She saw him come nearer to her, with his eyes
fixed on hers; she saw his hand leave the oar and move slowly
toward hers, but she was motionless, looking at the picture he had
painted her of life--the cloudless days, moonlit nights--the villa
by the sea--the glowing Piedmontese. Her eyelids trembled, her
Could she take that villa for her home? That man for her husband?
She had half thought till now in soft luxurious Italian, but 'my
home' and 'my husband' said themselves to her in her own mother
tongue. She gave a long shiver, and pulled her eyes from his. It
was like waking from a dream. "No--oh, no; take me home," she
gasped, and turned toward the shore, where, erect, with folded arms
and head bared, stood Norman Mann.
The Italian bit his lip, and said something under his breath, but
he took the oars and pulled ashore. Mae turned her eyes downward
and felt the color creep up, up into her cheeks. It seemed
eternity. The boat was Charon's, and she was drifting to her fate.
Norman Mann stood like a statue. The wind moved his hair over his
forehead, and once Mae saw him toss the unruly locks back in a
familiar way he had. She did not know why, but the tears half came
to her eyes as he did it. He stood as firm and hard and still as a
New England rock, while the Italian swayed lithely as he pulled the
oars, with the curve and motion of a sliding, slippery stream.
The boat came safely ashore. The Piedmontese helped her to land,
and the three stood silent; but Mae under all her shame felt
content to be near Norman. His voice broke the quiet, quick and
clear. "Are you married?" he asked.
"I! married! What do you--what can he mean?"
"Why is this man here, then?"
Mae stood an instant so still that the heavy breaths of the two men
were distinctly audible, the passionate boundings of Bero's pulse,
the long, deep throbs of Norman's heart. The officer stepped
toward her. Norman stood unmoved. The Italian's eye wandered
restlessly, his hand fell to his sword. Norman's arms were folded,
and his face set.
Mae looked at one, then at the other, perplexedly. Then she
understood. Like lightning, a terrible temptation flashed into her
mind. The Italian loved her, would shield, protect, honor her.
Norman must hate her, would always despise her. Should she lift
her little weak woman's hand and place it in the man's hand ready
to claim it, or stand still and be crushed by that other hand
Ah! she could not do it. She tried once. She held out weakly her
right hand toward Bero; but the left stretched itself involuntarily
to Norman. Then the two met in each other's pitiful clasp over her
bent head, and with a low wailing cry she fell in a little heap on
When she opened her eyes, they were both bending over her. "Take
me home," she gasped to Norman. He glared at the officer. "Go!"
he said. Bero put his hand to his sword. Mae sprang up. "No,"
she said, gently, "no, my friend, for you have always been kind and
friendly to me. Pray go." Bero was touched by this. This little
girl had taken only good from him, after all, sympathy and
friendliness. Norman was touched also with the same thought. Then
the officer smiled pleasantly. He shrugged his shoulders slightly,
regretfully, and bowed and rode away. And so the clinking spurs
and yellow moustaches and amorous eyes vanished from Mae's sight.
As he rode off he was somewhat sorrowful; but he took a picture
from his pocket and looked at it. "She'll be glad to welcome me
back again," he said to himself, pleasantly, "and she belongs to my
own land. This little foreigner might have pined for her own home,
by and by." Then he sighed and shook his head. "Alas! this little
stranger will dance before you often, still!" and he touched his
eyes; "but I will put you back in your place here, now." This he
said, looking at Lillia's picture and with his hand on his heart.
Take me home," said Mae again imploringly. "Not back there," as
Norman drew her hand through his arm and started for the hut, "O
no, not even for a minute."
"Sit here then," he replied quietly, "while I arrange it with the
woman," and he walked quickly away. Mae watched him till he
entered the low doorway, in a sort of subdued, glorified happiness,
that would break out over her shame and fear. She was afraid he
would hate her, at least she told herself so, but in reality,
everything and everybody and every place were fast fading out of
this eager little mind. She and Norman were together, and she
could not help being content. There was a certain joy in her
weakness and shame, though they were genuine and kept her hushed
Poor Lisetta was very much frightened, but told her story to this
angry stranger with true Southern palaver. She said the little
lady loved Italy so, and wanted to be a peasant, and insisted she
would run away quite by herself if Lisetta would not take her, and
so she consented, knowing she could, through the padrona, send word
to the friends.
"And the man?" asked Norman, impatiently.
"What man? O, the officer. He just rode down this morning for a
morning call. I never saw him before."
A great weight, as large as the Piedmontese, fell from Norman's
heart then, and he scattered money among the children recklessly
and ordered up the donkey; and smiled on the amazed Lisetta all in
the same breath, and went back to help Mae into the wagon with the
lightest kind of a heart. It was a strange ride they took back to
Castellamare. I think they both wished the world could stand still
once more. When they had arrived at the station they found the
next train to Naples was not due for two hours. Norman left Mae in
the waiting-room for a time. Through the window she watched
Gaetano and the donkey start homeward, with a great sigh of relief.
She had time while she was sitting to think, but her head was in
too great a whirl. She could only feel sorry and ashamed and meek
and happy, all mixed together. The sensation was odd.
"I have telegraphed Eric that we would start home by the next
train, that you had only been off for a frolic. I hope we can buy
a waterproof or shawl and a hat in Naples for you?"
"Yes," said Mae, meekly, "I have my waterproof here. I think I
will put it on now, please," and she began nervously to untie the
shawl strap. Norman put her fingers gently aside, and unbuckled it
for her. He handed her the long deep-blue cloak, which she put
tightly about her, drawing the hood over her head. You look like a
nun," said Norman, smiling. "I wish I were one," replied Mae, with
a choke in her throat. She was growing very penitential and
"What shall we do now?" asked Mr. Mann. "We have a long time to
wait. If you feel like walking, we can find a pleasanter spot than
"Go anywhere you please," replied Mae meekly. "What is the matter
with you?"--for Norman had a very amused expression in his brown
"I hardly recognize you. Not a trace of fight so far, and it must
be two hours since we met."
"Don't," said Mae, with her eyes down, so of course he didn't, but
the two just marched quietly along back on the Sorrento road
towards some high rocks. They sat down behind these, with their
faces towards the sea, and were as thoroughly hidden from view, as
if they had been quite alone in the world.
"I suppose they were frightened," asked Mae, "at home--at Rome, I
mean." "Dreadfully," replied Norman, trying to be sober, but with
the glad ring in his voice still. "Edith was for dragging the
Tiber; she was sure you and the seven-branched candlestick lay side
by side. Mrs. Jerrold searched your trunks and read all your
private papers, I am morally certain." Then Norman stopped
abruptly, and Mae drew the long stiletto from her hair nervously
and played with it before she said, "And the boys?" "Albert was
very, very sad, but reasonably sure you would be found. We all
feared the Italian, but Albert worked carefully, and soon
discovered that the officer was said to be engaged to a young girl
with whom he had been seen the day after you left, and that gave
him courage,"--then Norman stopped again abruptly. "And Eric?"
"Eric sat down with his face in his hands and cried, Miss Mae, and
said, 'I've lost my sister, the very dearest little sister in the
"And you came and found me," said Mae, after a pause, wiping the
tears from her eyes. "Yes, thank God," said Norman. He was sober
enough now. "Why did you do it?" asked Mae, "when I had been so
naughty, and silly, and unkind?" He came very near telling her the
reason as she looked up at him, but he did not, for she dashed on,
"O! Mr. Mann, I have been--"
"Don't confess to me, Miss Mae. Leave all of this till you get
home to your own, who have a right to your confessions and
penitence. Never mind what you have been, here you are, and as I
have only one more handkerchief and your own looks as if it had
been sea-bathing, you had better dry your eyes and be jolly for the
next two hours." This was a precarious speech, but Mae only
laughed at it, and dried her eyes quickly. "But I have one thing
to say to you," she said, "and please mayn't I?"
"You may say anything you please to me, of course," replied this
very magnanimous Norman.
"It is not about the miserable past or my doings, but it's about
the future. I've said good-bye to my dreams of life--the floating
and waving and singing and dancing life that was like iced
champagne. I'd rather have cold water, thank you, sir, for a
steady drink, morning, noon and night. I'm going to be good, to
read and study and grow restful,"--and Mae folded her hands and
looked off toward the sea. "She's a witching child," thought
Norman. Then she raised her head. "I said it lightly because I
felt it deeply," she added, as if in reply to his thought. "I am
going to grow, if I can, unselfish and sympathetic, and perhaps,
who knows, wise, and any way good."
"There is no need of giving up your champagne entirely. Give
yourself a dinner party now and then o' holidays. The world is
full of color and beauty, and poetry you love. All study is full
of it--most of all it lives in humanity."
"Well," said Mae, "aren't you glad I'm going to change so?"
"I'm glad you're going to give your soul a chance. Your body has
been putting it down hard of late."
"It's but a weakling," said Mae, with a shake of her head, "and
I've hardly heard its whimpers at all, but--O, Mr. Mann, if you
could have seen Talila--she's dreadful."
"Who is Talila? and what has she to do with your soul?"
"O, she's one of those Sorrento people," replied Mae, as if she had
lived there for years. "I have so much to tell you: it will take--
"Years, I hope, dear." The last word dropped without his noticing
it, but Mae caught it and hid it in her heart.
"What made you think of coming for me?" she asked, after a pause,
during which Norman had hummed a song as she had been writing her
name on the sand. They were quite on the shore and only a narrow
stretch of beach separated them from the bay. "You said if you
ever came away, you would go to Sorrento, and I knew you had a
friend in the kitchen who lived near Naples. So I searched for her
and the padrona, and, finding neither of them, set Giovanni a
babbling, and learned that the woman Lisetta had left that morning
for Sorrento. I told the boys I had a mere suspicion that I would
trace for them. So off I came last night, and by stopping and
enquiring at every settlement, at last discovered you."
"This is my birth-day; I am twenty years old," said Mae, "Why, what
are you doing?" For Norman had bent down to the sand also, and had
drawn a queer little figure there.
"That is you when you were one year old," he laughed, "and you
could only crow and kick your small feet, and smile now and then,
and cry the rest of the time."
"That is about all I can do yet," said Mae.
"Here comes number two," and he drew his hand across the sand and
smoothed the baby image away, leaving in its place a round, sturdy
little creature, poised dangerously on one foot. "You have walked
alone, and you have called your father's name, and you're a
wonderful child by this time."
"This is the three-year-old, white aprons and curls, please
observe. Now, you recite 'Dickery, dickery dock' and 'I want to be
an angel,' and you have cut all your wisdom teeth."