“Mae,” said Eric, entering her room an hour later, “Norman feels dreadfully that you are not able to go to-night, and so do I. I suppose those wretched marbles did it this morning. Couldn’t you possibly come?”
“No,” replied Mae, rising on her elbow, “but sit down a moment, Eric.”
“How pretty you look,” said her brother, seating himself by her side. Mae’s hair was tumbled in brown waves that looked as if they couldn’t quite make up their minds to curl, much as they wanted to; her eyes shone strangely; and the little scarlet shawl that she had drawn over her head and shoulders was no brighter than her flushed cheeks. She smiled at her brother, but said hurriedly; “Tell me of your plans for to-night. I suppose you and Mr. Mann are going with your new friends.”
“Yes, Norman will go with me and the girls, but he does it with a bad enough grace. He’s dreadfully tired of Miss Rae; and, to tell you the truth, Mae, she is rather namby-pamby—very different from Miss Hopkins, and then, besides, he had so set his heart on going with you to-night.”
“O, yes,” said Mae, scornfully, and bit her lips.
“Why, Mae, what is the matter with you? You seem to doubt every one and everything. You know Norman is truth itself.” “Is he?” asked Mae, indifferently.
“I’ve seen for a long time,” continued Eric, “that you two were not the friends you once were, but I don’t understand this open dislike. Doesn’t it spoil your pleasure? You don’t seem to have the real old-fashioned good times, my little girl,” and Eric pulled his clumsy dear hand through a twist of the brown hair caressingly.
“O, Eric,” cried Mae, “that is like old times again,” and a tear splattered down into the big hand. “What, crying, Mae?” “No, dear—that is, yes. I believe I am a little bit homesick. I wish I could go back behind my teens again. Do you remember the summer that I was twelve—that summer up by the lake? I wish you and I could paddle around in one of the old flat-bottomed tubs once more, don’t you, Eric? We’d go for lilies and fish for minnows—that is, we’d fish for perch and catch the minnows—and talk about when you should go to college and pull in the race, and I should wear a long dress and learn all the college tunes to sing with you and your Yale friends. Do you remember, Eric? And now, O dear me, you lost your race, and I hate my long gowns. O—my—dear—brother—do you like it all as well as you thought you would?”
“Why, Mae, you poor little tot, you’re sentimental—for you. Yes, I like the future as well as I always did. I never gave much for the present, at any rate.”
“But I did, Eric; I always did, till just now, and now I hate it, and I’m afraid of the future, and I’d like to grow backwards, and instead, in a month, I’ll have another birth-day, and go into those dreadful twenties.” Then Mae was quiet a moment. “Eric, I was sentimental,” she said, after a pause. “Really, I do like the future very much. I quite forgot how much for the moment.”