Mae crept off to the kitchen that evening, to beg for another of Lisetta’s stories, and quite forgot her walk, the officer, and Norman Mann while she listened to the
STORY OF TALILA.
Talila was a young girl, destined to be a nun. She was a naughty little girl and would make wry faces at the thought, and wish she could be a man, a soldier or sailor, instead of being a woman and a nun; and as she grew older she would dance all the time, and didn’t say her prayers very much, and was so bad that the priest sent for her to see him. He told her how wicked she was, and that, too, when she was to be the bride of the church; but she said the church had many, many brides, and she would rather be the bride of Giovanni; and that she loved red-cheeked babies better than beads, and songs were nicer than prayers. Should she sing him such a pretty, gay one she knew? And the priest could hardly keep from laughing at the bright-eyed, naughty, naughty Talila. But he said: “If Giovanni does not want to marry you, will you then become the bride of the church?” And Talila laughed aloud and tossed her head. “Giovanni longs to marry me, Father,” she said, “I know that already.” But the Father sent for Giovanni and gave him money if he would say he did not want to marry Talila. At first he would not say so, but the Father showed him a purse all full of silver, which Talila’s mother had brought him, for it was she who had vowed Talila should be a nun. Then the Father said: “This is yours if you say as I wish, and if not, you shall be cursed forever, and all your children shall be cursed, because you have married the bride of the church.” Then Giovanni crossed himself and took the bag of silver, and the priest sent for Talila, and she heard her Giovanni say he didn’t want to marry her—she had better be a nun; and she threw up her brown arms and screamed aloud, and fell down as if dead. And afterwards she was very ill, and when she grew better she had forgotten everything and was only a little child, and she loves little children, and is ever with them, but she calls them all Giovanni. They play together by the bay through the long day, and at night she takes them to their mothers, and goes alone to her home. But alas! she never tells her beads, or prays a prayer, and sorry things are said of her—that God gave her up because she left Him. But the children all love her, and she loves them.
Edith and Mae had a quarrel one morning. Mae’s tongue was sharp, but although she breezed quickly, she calmed again very soon. The latter fact availed her little this time, for Edith maintained a cold displeasure that would not be melted by any bright speeches or frank apologies. “Edith,” said little Miss Mae, quite humbly for her, as she put on her hat, and drew on her gloves, “Edith, aren’t you going out with me?” “What for?” asked that young person indifferently.