“Not at all. Perhaps your brother’s remembrances of last night are not very distinct. I certainly sat up for Sismondi’s sake, not for yours.” And he really thought, for the moment, that he told the truth.
“I warn you,” continued Mae, rising as she spoke, “that I have a tremendous retinue of mentors, and nurses, and governesses already. You had better content yourself with the fact that you have four proper traveling companions, and bear the disgrace of being shocked as best you may by one wild scrap of femininity who will have her own way in spite of you all.” Mae half laughed, but she was serious, and the boys both knew it.
“You flatter me,” replied Norman, “I had aspired to no such position, but for your brother’s sake, if not for your own, I wished to tell Eric that the Roman air at midnight was dangerous to your health. I saw you had your window open.”
“Did you look through the ceiling, pray?” Mae retorted from the door-way. “Eric, ring if you want anything. Rosetta is close at hand.”
“I have put my foot in it this time,” said Eric, clumsily. “I am real sorry, Norman, old boy.”
Norman did not feel like being pitied, and this remark of Eric’s roused him. He fairly ground his teeth and clenched his hands, but his big brown moustache and the tablecloth hid these outer manifestations of anger. “Don’t be a goose, Ric,” he said. “What possible difference can all this make to me? Your sister is young and quick.”
Now, it was Eric’s turn to wince. Was he giving this fellow the impression that he thought his sister’s opinions would affect him? Horrible suspicion! Boys always fancy everybody in love with their sister. He must cure that at once. “Of course,” he replied quickly, “I know you and Mae never agree, that you barely stand each other. But I didn’t know but you would prefer to be on good terms with her, for all that.”
“Miss Mae can choose the terms on which we meet. I shall be content whatever her decision. What are your plans for the day?”
Lounging Eric straightened himself at once. “I was a perfect fool last night,” he confessed, “and I must rely on you, old fellow, to help me out. I made engagements for two weeks ahead with Miss Hopkins and Miss Rae. At any rate, I’m booked for the play to-night. Now, I can’t take two girls very well. That is, I can, but I thought you might like a show. You may have your choice of the two. Miss Rae, by the way, says she’s wild to know you; thought you were the most provoking man she ever saw; and that you were—nonsensical idea—engaged to Mae. All because you wouldn’t look at her the other day when she passed you two, But you can go with Miss Hopkins, if you prefer.”
“Are they pretty?” asked Norman, apparently warming to the task, “and bright?”
“I should say they were. Miss Hopkins has gorgeous great eyes,—but Miss Rae is more your style. Still, you may have your choice.”