Such a woman can not fail to attract attention, as long as she is herself unconscious. The world grows blase so speedily that it enjoys all the more thoroughly the sight of freshness, verve, life,—that is, the male portion of the world. Women’s great desire, as a rule, is to appear entirely at ease, city-bred, high-bred, used to all things, surprised by none.
So there were a great many glasses turned toward Mae that evening. Very probably the young women in the next box accepted a share of these glances as their own, and, in a crowd where the French and Italian elements predominate, or largely enter, they could not have been far wrong. Every girl or woman who pretends to any possible charm is quite sure of her share of admiration from these susceptible beings. The young ladies of the next box had that indescribable New York air, which extends from the carefully brushed eyebrows quite to the curves of the wrist and hand. Praise Parisian modes all you will, but for genuine style, a New York girl, softened a trifle by commonsense or good taste, leads the world—certainly if she is abroad. For there she soon finds it impossible to go to the extremes that American air seems to rush her into. Three months, or perhaps, if she is observant, three days in Paris, teach her that the very biggest buttons, or the very largest paniers, or the very flaringest hats are not for her, or any lady, and by stepping back to size number two, she does not detract from her style, while she does add to her lady-likeness.
These two girls, it may be surmised, were no other than Miss Hopkins and Miss Rae, whom chance or fate or bungling Eric Madden, who bought the tickets, had seated side by side with the Maddens and Jerrolds. It was bothersome, when Norman and Eric had played truant at any rate, but there was no help for it; so after a little Eric introduced them all round, and the two parties apparently merged into one, or broke up into four, for tete-a-tetes soon began. It was a little hard that three girls should have each a devoted servant, and that only one, and that one, Mae, should be obliged to receive her care from the chaperon; but so it was.
Nevertheless, Mae bore herself proudly. She was seated next Miss Rae, separated only by the nominal barrier of a little railing, while just beyond sat Norman, his chair turned toward the two girls. The stranger insisted on drawing Mae into the conversation, partly for curiosity’s sake, to watch her odd face and manners, partly from that genuine generosity that comes to the most selfish of women, when she is satisfied with her position. It is pleasant to pity, to be generous; and Miss Rae, having the man, could afford to share him now and then, when it pleased her, with the lonely girl by her side. But Miss Rae’s tactics did not work. Mae replied pleasantly when addressed, but returned speedily and eagerly to Mrs. Jerrold or a survey of the house, with the frank happiness of a child. She was all the more fascinating to the admiring eyes that watched her, because she sat alone, electrified by the inspiration and magnetism from within, and did not need the stimulus of another voice close by her side, breathing compliments and flattery, to brighten her eyes and call the blushes to her cheeks. Norman Mann saw the eyes fixed on her, and they vexed him. At the same time, he liked her the better on that very account.