And down sank Miss Mae on her knees, with her lips curved, and her hands stretched out imploringly, half-mockingly. No need of words to say: “Save my brother, behold him. Ah, you cannot do it, your power is boast. Yet, save him, pray.”
“A little more yellow in my hair, some pearls and a pink gown, and you might have the sister to study in a living model, Edith,” laughed Mae, arising.
Edith and Albert were both struck by Mae’s dramatic force, and they talked of her as they drove to the Vatican. “I wish I understood her better,” said Edith. “I cannot feel as if travel were doing her good. She is changing so; she was always odd, but then she was always happy. Now she has her moods, and there is a look in her eye I am afraid of. It is almost savage. You would think the beauty in Rome would delight her nature, for she craves beauty and poetry in everything. I don’t believe the theatre is good for her. Albert, suppose we give up our tickets for Thursday night.”
“But you want particularly to see that play, Edith.”
“I can easily give it up for Mae’s sake. It would be cruel to go without her, and I think excitement is bad for her.”
“You are very generous, Edith, and right, too, I dare say. I wish my little sister could see pleasure and duty through your steadier, clearer eyes.”
Then the steady, clear eyes dropped suddenly, and the two forgot all about Mae, and rolled contentedly off, behind the limping Italian horse. And the red-cheeked vetturino with the flower in his button-hole, whistled a love-song, and thought of his Piametta, I suppose.
Meantime, Mae, left to herself, grew penitent and reckless by turns, blushed alternately with shame and with quick pulse-beats, as she remembered Norman Mann’s face, or the officer’s smile. She wondered where he lived, and whether she would see him soon again. Poor child! She was really innocent, and only dimly surmised how he would haunt her hereafter. Would he look well in citizen’s clothes? How would Norman Mann seem in his uniform? She wished she had a jacket cut like his. And so on in an indolent way. But penitence was getting the better of her, and after vainly trying to read or write, she settled herself down for a cry. To think that she, Mae Madden, could have acted so absurdly. She never would forgive herself, never. Then she cried some more, a good deal more.