“There you are mistaken,” replied the frank Eric, “we were discussing you two people, in the most homelike kind of a way.”
At this Edith blushed, Albert frowned, Mae scowled at Eric, who opened his eyes amazedly, Norman Mann looked over the deck railing and laughed, the wind blew, the sailors heave-ho-ed near by, and there was a grand tableau vivant for a few seconds.
“O, come,” cried Mae, “suppose we stop looking like a set of illustrations for a phrenological journal, expressive of the various emotions. I was only speculating on the different sights we should see in the same places. Confess, now, Albert. Won’t your eyes be forever hunting out old musty, dusty volumes? Will not books be your first pleasures in the sight-seeing line?”
“O, no, pictures,” cried Edith.
“That is as you say,” Mae demurely agreed. “Pictures and books for you two at any rate.”
“For your mother, yes, and beer-gardens for Eric, and amphitheatres and battle fields for Mr. Mann.”
“And for yourself?”
“The blue, blue bay of Naples, a grove of oranges, moonlight and a boat if it please you.”
“By the way,” suggested Albert, “about our plans; we really should begin to agitate the matter at once.”
“Yes, to do our fighting on shipboard. Let us agree to hoist the white flag the day we sight land, else we shall settle down into a regular War of the Roses and never decide,” laughed Norman.
“As there are six minds,” continued Albert, “there will have to be some giving up.”
“Why do you look at me?” enquired Mae. “I am the very most unselfish person in the world. I’ll settle down anywhere for the winter, provided only that it is not in Rome.”
“But that is the very place,” cried Edith, and Albert, and Mrs. Jerrold from her camp-chair.
“O, how dreadful! The only way to prevent it will be for us to stand firm, boys, and make it a tie.”
“But Norman is especially eager to go to Rome,” said Edith, “and that makes us four strong at once in favor of that city.”
“But is not Rome a fearful mixture of dead Caesar’s bones and dirty beggars? And mustn’t one carry hundreds of dates at one’s finger-tips to appreciate this, and that, and the other? Is it not all tremendously and overwhelmingly historical, and don’t you have to keep exerting your mind and thinking and remembering? I would rather go down to Southern Italy and look at lazzaroni lie on stone walls, in red cloaks, as they do in pictures, and not be obliged to topple off the common Italian to pile the gray stone with old memories of some great dead man. Everything is ghostly in Rome. Now, there must be some excitement in Southern Italy. There’s Vesuvius, and she isn’t dead—like Nero—but a living demon, that may erupt any night, and give you a little red grave by the sea for your share.”
“She’s not nearly through yet,” laughed Edith, as Mae paused for breath.