“For Mary,” I said.
“Mary, is it? Why, by the saints, so it is! Where in the name of St. Patrick has been the Irish head at me that I never thought of that before? And you were . . . Yes? Well, by the powers, ye’ve a right to be proud of him, for he was thinking pearls and diamonds of you. I was mortal jealous of Mally, I remember. ‘Mally’s a stunner,’ he used to say. ’Follow you anywhere, if you wanted it, in spite of the devil and hell.’”
The sparkling eyes were growing misty by this time but the woman in me made me say—I couldn’t help it—
“I dare say he’s had many girl friends since my time, though?”
“Narra a one. The girls used to be putting a glime on him in Dublin—they’re the queens of the world too, those Dublin girls—but never a skute of the eye was he giving to the one of them. I used to think it was work, but maybe it wasn’t . . . maybe it was. . . .”
I dare not let him finish what I saw he was going to say—I didn’t know what would happen to me if he did—so I jumped in by telling him that, if he would step into the car, I would drive him back to Rome.
He did so, and all the way he talked of Martin, his courage and resource and the hardships he had gone through, until (with backward thoughts of Alma and my husband riding away over the Campagna) my heart, which had been leaping like a lamb, began to ache and ache.
We returned by the Old Appian Way, where the birds were building their nests among the crumbling tombs, through the Porta San Paolo, and past the grave of the “young English poet” of whom I have always thought it was not so sad that he died of consumption as in the bitterness of a broken heart.
All this time I was so much at home with the young Irish doctor, who was Martin’s friend, that it was not until I was putting him down at his hotel that I remembered I did not even know his name.
It was O’Sullivan.
Every day during our visit to Rome I had reminded myself of the Reverend Mother’s invitation to call on her, and a sense of moral taint had prevented me, but now I determined to see her at least by going to Benediction at her Convent church the very next day.
It happened, however, that this was the time when the Artists’ Club of Rome were giving a Veglione (a kind of fancy-dress ball), and as Alma and my husband desired to go to it, and were still in the way of using me to keep themselves in countenance, I consented to accompany them on condition that I did not dress or dance, and that they would go with me to Benediction the following day.
“Dear sweet girl!” said Alma. “We’ll do whatever you like. Of course we will.”
I wore my soft satin without any ornaments, and my husband merely put scarlet facings on the lapels of his evening coat, but Alma was clad in a gorgeous dress of old gold, with Oriental skirts which showed her limbs in front but had a long train behind, and made her look like a great vampire bat.