“Ah,” said Luigi, still incredulous, “he sees nothing but Rome; he is fresh from over the seas.”
“No, no, watch his eyes,” replied the other.
They were assuredly fixed, with a keen searching glance, on a little form before them, and as Eric and Mae suddenly turned to the left, the stranger, half carelessly, but very quickly, crossed to another path, from which he could watch them, but be, in his turn, unobserved.
“Jealous,” laughed Luigi, shrugging his shoulders again. “Her lover, probably.”
“No,” replied Bero, “but he may be some time.” Then after a moment’s pause, “Good evening,” he said carelessly. “I am going to say my prayers at vespers. I’ve been a sorry scamp of late.”
Luigi laughed disdainfully and lightly. “You want to get rid of me? Well, be it so. I don’t want to lose my heart over a little foreigner. I have other game. However, Lillia shall not know of it. Addio, Bero.” So Luigi went off the other way, and Bero, with a flushed face, followed Mae at a distance, and kept an eye on the stranger, flattering himself that he was quite unnoticed by those sharp, keen eyes. He was mistaken, Norman Mann had seen the officers before they saw him, had watched their footsteps, and had a pretty clear idea of the whole affair.
Mae walked on happily, chatting with Eric, and with that vague, delightful feeling of something exciting in the air. She knew there was an officer behind her, because she had heard the clicking spurs, but she only guessed that he might be one of the two who had passed—the taller, perhaps,—which, of course, he was. She had, moreover, in some mysterious way, caught sight of a figure resembling Norman Mann, trying, she thought, to avoid her. Her spirits rose with the half-mystery, and she grew brighter and prettier and more magnetic to the two followers as she tossed her shoulders slightly and now and then half-turned her sunny head.
As for Eric, he was totally unconscious of any secrets. He fancied himself and his pretty, nice, little sister all alone by their very selves, and he went so far as to expatiate on the vastness of the world, and how in this crowd there was no other life that bordered or touched on theirs.
To which Mae replied: “You don’t know; you may fall in love with one of these very Italian girls, or my future husband may be walking behind me now.” When she had said this, she flushed scarlet and was very much ashamed of herself in her heart.
“We must go home now,” Eric replied, quite disdaining such sybilistic remarks. So they left the hill and went down the Steps in the rich afternoon light, and so homewards. Of course the Italian and Mr. Mann still followed them; Norman on the other side of the street, the Italian in a slyer, less conspicuous manner, by taking side streets, or the next parallel pavement, and appearing only at every corner in the distance. He appeared, however, close at hand, as Mae and Eric turned into their lodgings. His eyes met Mae’s. She blushed involuntarily as she recognized him, and at once, in that moment, there was an invisible half-acquaintance established between the two. If they should ever meet again, they would remember each other.