“Where did the child pick up all that?” queried Albert.
“‘All that’ is in the air just now,” answered Norman. “It is a natural reaction of a strong physical nature against the utilitarian views of the day. Miss Mae is a type of—”
“O, nonsense, what prigs you are,” interrupted Eric, “Mae is jolly. Do stop your reasoning about her. If you are bound to be a potato yourself to help save the masses from starvation, don’t grumble because she grew a flower. Come, let us go to lunch too.”
Conversation was not always of this sort. One evening, not long after, there was a moon, and Edith and Albert were missing. Eric was following a blue-eyed girl along the deck, and Mae and Norman wandered off by themselves up to this same hurricane deck again. The moonlight was wonderful. It touched little groups here and there and fell full on the face of a woman in the steerage, who sat with her arms crossed on her knee and her face set eastward. She was singing, and her voice rose clearly above the puff of the engine and the jabber below. There was a chorus to the song, in which rough men and tired looking women joined. The song was about home, and once in a while the girl unclasped her arms and passed her hands over her eyes. Mae and Norman Mann looked at her silently. “I suppose we don’t know when we make pictures,” said Mae. “Don’t we?” asked Norman pointedly. Mae looked very reprovingly out from her white wraps at him, but he smiled back composedly and admiringly, and drew her hand a trifle closer in his arm. And saucy Mae began to feel in that sort of purring mood women come to when they drop the bristling, ready-for-fight air with which they start on an acquaintance. Perhaps, if the steamer had been a sailing-vessel, there would have been no story to tell about Mae Madden, for a long line of evenings, and girls singing songs, and hurricane decks by moonlight, are dangerous things. But the vessel was a fast steamer, and was swiftly nearing land again.
Rome, February, 18—.
My dear mamma:—Yes, it is Rome, mamma, and everybody is impressed. The boys talk of emperors all the time; Edith is wild over Madonnas and saints, and Mrs. Jerrold runs from Paul’s house to Paul’s walks and Paul’s drives and Paul’s stand at the prisoner’s bar, and reads the Acts through five times a day, in the most religious and Romanistic spirit. No one could make more fuss over a patron saint, I am sure.