Seeing that she had it to make, she paused before it an instant. Fear seemed to be feeling, and a possible sense of the absurdity of her situation made for a slightly tremulous dignity as she said: “I do love it. Love it so much it is hard to tell just how much—or why.” And then it was as if she shrank back, having uncovered too much. She looked as though she might be dreaming of the Court of the Uffizi, or Santa Maria Novella, but Katie surmised that that dreamy look was not failing to find out what Wayne was going to do with his lettuce. But one who suggested dreams of Tuscany when taking observations on the use of the salad fork—was there not hope unbounded for such a one?
Wayne was silent for the moment, as though getting the fact that the love of Italy, or perhaps its associations, was to this girl not a thing to be compressed within the thin vein of dinner talk. “Well,” he laughed understanding, “to be sure I don’t know it from the inside. I never was of it; I merely looked at it. And I thought the plumbing was abominable.”
“Wayne,” scoffed Kate, “plumbing indeed! Have you no soul?”
“Yes, I have; and bad plumbing is bad for it.”
Ann laughed quite blithely at that, and as though finding confidence in the sound of her own laugh, she boldly volunteered a stroke. “I don’t know much about plumbing,” Katie heard Ann saying. “I suppose perhaps it is bad. But do you care much about plumbing when looking at”—her pause before it might have been one of reverence—“The Madonna of the Chair?”
Katie treated herself to a particularly tender bit of lettuce and secretly hugged herself, Ann, and “Days in Florence.” The Madonna of the Chair furnished the frontispiece for that valuable work.
Ann had receded, flushed, her lip trembling a little; Wayne was looking at her thoughtfully—and a little as one might look at the Madonna of the Chair. Katie heard the trump of duty call her to another story.
Feeling that first efforts, even on life-preservers, should not be long ones, it was soon after they returned to the library that Katie threw out: “Well, Ann, if that letter must be written—”
Ann rose. “Yes, and it must.”
“But morning is the time for letter writing,” urged Wayne.
“Morning in this instance is the time for shopping,” said Kate.
She had left Ann at the foot of the stairs, murmuring something about having to see Nora. It was a half hour later that she looked in upon her.
What she saw was too much for Katie. Had the whole of creation been wrecked by her laughing, Katie must needs have laughed just then.
For Ann’s two hands gripped “Days in Florence” with fierce resolution. Ann’s head was bent over the book in a sort of stern frenzy. Ann, not even having waited to disrobe, was attacking Florence as the good old city had never been attacked before.