“Silly boy; you’re afraid to death that I shall choose Miss Hopkins. Well, if they are not over stupid and flirtatious—”
“Stupid! Oh, no,”—Eric scouted that idea—“and flirtatious, perhaps. Miss Hopkins rolls her eyes a good deal, but then she has a frankness, a winning way.”
“Well,” laughed Norman, “you’re such a transparent, susceptible infant-in-arms that I’ll go with you.”
“As shepherd,” suggested Eric, “as long as Mae won’t have you. But come, we must go down and call on these people. It won’t do at all for you to appear suddenly this evening, and say, ’I’ll relieve my friend here of one of you.’”
“Oh, what a bore. Is that necessary? Won’t a card or a box of Stillman’s bon-bons do them? Well, if it must be, come along, then.”
It was evening, and the brilliantly lighted theatre was crowded to overflowing. Of course there were English who scowled at the Americans, and Americans who smiled on every one and ate candy while Othello writhed in jealous rage, and a scattering of Germans with spectacles and a row of double-barrelled field glasses glued over them, and Frenchmen with impudent eyes and elegant gloves, and a general filling in of Italians, with the glitter here and there of nobility, and still oftener of bright uniforms. Finally there was a modicum of true gentry, and these not of any particular nation or class. It is pleasant to name our party immediately after referring to these goodly folks. They had a fine box, and although their ranks were thinned by the loss of two cavaliers, nobody seemed to care. Albert and Edith were perfectly happy side by side, and Mrs. Jerrold was well contented to observe her daughter’s smile as Albert spoke to her, and the look of manly protection in his eyes, as his gaze met Edith’s.
As for Mae, she had that delicious feminine pride which is as good a stimulant as success to women—in emergencies. And to-night was an emergency to this small, excitable, young thing. Her eyes were very dark from the expansion of the pupil. They possessed a rare charm, caught from a trick the eyelids had of drooping slowly and then suddenly and unexpectedly lifting to reveal the wide, bright depths, that half-concealed, half-revealed power, which is so tantalizing. Mae was dressed in this same spirit to-night, and she was dimly conscious of it. The masses of tulle that floated from her opera hat to her chin and down on her shoulders, revealed only here and there a glimpse of rich brown hair, or of white throat. Her cheeks were scarlet, her lips a-quiver with excitement and pleasure. She formed a pretty contrast to Edith, who sat by her side. Miss Jerrold leaned back in her chair quietly, composedly. She fanned herself in long sweeps, looked pleased, contented, but in no wise displaced or surprised—thoroughly well-bred and at home. She might have had a private rehearsal of Othello in her own dramatic hall the evening before, from her air and mien. Mae, on the contrary, was alert, on the qui vive, as interested as a child in each newcomer, and, after the curtain rose, in every tableau.