It was the first day of Carnival. The determination to enjoy herself was so strong in Mae, that her face fairly shone with her “good time coming.” She popped her head out of the doorway, and flung a big handful of confetti right at Eric, but he dodged, and Norman Mann caught it in his face. Then, seeing a try-to-be-dignified look creeping upon Mae, he seized the golden moment, gathered up such remnants of confetti as were tangled in his hair and whiskers, and flung them back again, shouting: “Long live King Pasquino! So his reign has begun, has it?”
“Yes; King Pasquino is lord, now, for ten whole days,” and she slowly edged her right hand about, to take aim again at Norman. He saw her, and frustrated the attempt by catching it and emptying the contents out upon the floor. The little white balls rolled off to the corners and the little hand fell slowly by Mae’s side. “Why not go down to the Corso, you and I, and see the beginning of the fun?” suggested Norman.
“Come along,” cried Mae, “you, too, Eric,” and the three started off like veritable children, in a delightful, familiar, old-time way. Arrived at their loggia, they found an old woman employed in filling, with confetti, a long line of boxes, fastened to the balustrade of the balcony. Little shovels, also, were provided, for dealing out the tiny missals of war upon the heads below. There were masks in waiting, some to be tied on, while others terminated in a handle, by a skilful use of which they could be made as effective as a Spanish lady’s fan. Mae chose one of these latter.
The Corso was alive with vendors of small bouquets and bon-bons and little flying birds tied in live agony to round yellow oranges. The fruit in turn was fastened to a long pole and so thrust up to the balconies as a tempting bait. If bought, the birds and flowers were tossed together into the streets to a passing friend. As Mae was gazing rapturously over the balcony, laughing at the few stragglers hurrying to the Piazza del Popolo, admiring the bannered balconies and gay streamers, several of these little birds were thrust up to her face, some of them peeping piteously and flapping their poor wings. She put up her hands and caught the oranges, one—two—three—four. In a moment she had freed the fluttering birds and tossed the fruit back into the street. “Pay them, Eric,” she cried indignantly; “Why, what is this?” for one of the little creatures, after vainly flapping its wings, had fallen on the balcony. Mae picked it up. It half opened its eyes at her and then lay still in her hands.
“It is dead,” said Mae, quietly, going up to Norman. “Oh! Mr. Mann, I thought Carnival meant real fun, not cruelty. Isn’t there anywhere in this big world where we can get free from such dreadful things? Well!” she added, impatiently, as Norman paused.