“Well, tell us about it,” said Norman, coolly, but a wave of color rushed over his face.
“O, palaver and stuff. Somebody’s dreadfully ill—dying, I believe, and that somebody is wife, or mother, or son to this brute you challenged. He’s got to go, the coward. If you are ever in his vicinity again, and send him your card, he will understand it and meet you at such place and with such weapons as you prefer. Bah—too thin!” and Eric concluded with this emphatic statement.
Mae leaned her head against her two clasped hands which rested on the mantel-piece. How strangely everything looked; even the dim fire had a sort of aureole about it, as her eyes rested there again; but when one looks through tears, all things are haloed mistily. Norman turned and looked at Mae, as Eric walked impatiently about. She did not move or speak. He walked to her side, and stood looking down at her. The faint mist in her left eye was forming into a bright, clear globe as large as any April raindrop. Mae knew this, and knew it would fall, unless she put up her hand and brushed it away, and that would be worse. The color rose to her cheeks as she waited the dreadful moment. She was perfectly still, her hands clasped before her, her head bent, as the crystal drop gathered all the mist and halo in its full, round embrace, and pattered down upon the third finger of her left hand—her wedding-ring finger—and lay there, clear and sparkling as a diamond!
Norman Mann stooped and laid his hand over it. “You are glad, then!” “I should be sorry to have you die,” said Mae, but her dimples and blushes and drooping eye-lids said, oh, a great deal more. “Good night,” she fluttered, and ran off.
Mae dreamed happy dreams that night, and awoke with a smile on her lips. She dressed with the greatest care, put a touch of the color Norman liked at her throat, and fastened a charm he had given her to her bracelet. Still, she loitered on her way to the breakfast-room, and when she seated herself at the table, a sudden embarrassment made her keep her eyes on her plate, or talk to Eric, or Edith, or any one but Norman. Yet she was perfectly conscious of his every word and motion. She knew he only took two cups of coffee instead of three, and that he helped her to mandarins—a fruit of which she was very fond—five times, so that she had a plate heaping with golden untouched balls before her. After breakfast, she felt a great desire to run away, so she asked Eric to take her to the Capitol, and leave her there for a time. “I want to see something solid this morning, that has lasted a long while, and the marbles will do me good.”
Yes, Eric would take her at once. Would she go and get her hat? She went for it, and scolded herself all the time for running away when she wanted to stay home. Yet, after all, who dares put out one’s hand to grasp the moon when at last it approaches? No woman, at any rate.