And at last the curtain rose.
It was just as Desdemona assures her father of her love for Othello, that Mae became conscious of a riveted gaze—of a presence. Lifting her eyes, and widening them, she looked over to the opposite side of the house, and there, of course, was the Piedmontese officer again, handsomer, more brilliant than ever, with a grateful, soft look of recognition in his eyes.
Mae was out of harmony with all her friends. She was proud and lonely. The man’s pleased, softened look touched her heart strangely. There was almost a choke in her throat, there were almost tears in her eyes, and there was a free, glad, welcoming smile on her lips.
Norman Mann saw it and followed it, and caught the officer receiving it, and thought “She’s a wild coquette.”
And Mae knew what he saw and what he thought.
Then a strange spirit entered the girl. Here was a man who vexed her, who piqued her, and who was rude, for Mae secretly thought it was rude to neglect Mrs. Jerrold, as the boys did that evening, and yet who was vexed and piqued in his turn, if she did what he didn’t like and looked at another man.
And then here was the other man. Mae looked down at him.
Bless us! who is to blame a young woman for forgetting everything but the “other man” when he is a godlike Piedmontese officer, with strong soft cheek and throat, and Italian eyes, and yellow moustaches, and spurs and buttons that click and shine in a maddening sort of way?
Of course, in reality, everybody is to blame her, we among the very virtuous first. In this particular case, however, we have facts, not morals, to deal with. Mae did see Norman Mann talking delightedly to a pretty girl, and she did see the officer gazing at her rapturously, and she quite forgot Othello, and gave back look for look, only more shy and less intense perhaps, and knew that Norman Mann was very angry and she and the officer very happy. What matter though the one should hate her, and the other love her, and she—
But, bother all things but the delirious present moment. Never fear consequences. There were bright lights, and brilliant people, the hum of many voices, the flash of many eyes, and a half secret between her, this little creature up in the box, and the very handsomest man of them all.
So while Othello fell about the stage, and ground out tremendous curses, Mae half shivered and glanced tremblingly toward Bero, and Bero gazed back protectingly and grandly. Once, when Desdemona cried out thrillingly, “Othello, il mio marito,” Mae looked at Norman involuntarily and caught a half flash of his eye, but he turned back quickly to his companion and Mae’s glance wandered on to Bero and rested there as the wild voice cried out again, “il mio marito, il mio marito.”
So the evening slid on. Mae smiled and smiled and opened and half closed her eyes, and Norman invited Miss Rae to go to church with him, and to drive with him, and to walk with him, and to go to the galleries with him, “until, Susie Hopkins, if you will believe it, I fairly thought he would drop on his knees and ask me to go through life with him, right then and there.” So Miss Rae confided to Susie Hopkins after the victorious night, in the silence of a fourth-story Costanzi bedroom.