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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 109 pages of information about Mae Madden.

“You’re a strange child, indeed,” replied Eric, the puzzled.  “Your words are like lightning.  I had just got melted down and ready to reply to your reminiscences by lots of others, and here you are all jolly and matter-of-fact again.  I was growing so dreadfully unselfish that I should have insisted on staying home with you this evening to cheer you up a bit.”

“And give up the mocoletti!  Why, Eric!  I shouldn’t have known how to take such an offer.  No, no, trot off and array yourself, and you may come back and say good-bye.”

“I must say good-bye now, dear, for I dine at the Costanzi with the girls and their aunt.”

“Now, just now, Eric?”

“Why yes, Mae.  You are getting blue again, aren’t you?  Getting ready for Ash Wednesday to-morrow?”

“Oh, no, no, dear.  Kiss me, Eric, again.  You’re a good, dear boy.  No; I didn’t cry that drop at all.  Good-bye; and to-morrow is Ash Wednesday.  But we don’t sorrow or fast in Paradise, I suppose.”

CHAPTER XI.

The Corso was all ablaze.  The whole world was there.  Under a balcony stood a party of peasants.  Of this group, two were somewhat aside.  One of these was tall, dark, a fair type of Southern Italian; the other small, agile and graceful, dressed in a fresh contadina costume, with her brown hair braided down her shoulders.  She seemed excited, and as the crowd pressed nearer she would draw back half-fearfully.  “Lisetta,” she whispered, “I am spoiling your good time.  Talk to your friends; never mind me.  I will follow by your side, and soon I shall catch the spirit of it all, too.”  Saying this, she stepped from under the balcony, held out her feeble little taper and joined in the cries around her, pausing to blow at any lowered bit of wax that came in her way.  It was maddening sport; her light was extinguished again and again, but she would plead to have it relit, and there was sure to be some tender-hearted, kindly knight at hand to help her.

She ran on quickly, fearlessly, gliding and creeping and sliding through the crowd, her hair flying, her eyes dancing.  Even in the dense throng many turned to look at her, and one tall man started suddenly from the shadow of a side street, where he had been standing motionless, and threw himself before the girl.  He put out his arm, grasped her tightly, and drew her a few feet into the shadow.  “Signorina!” he said.  “Hush, hush,” she whispered then in colder tones.  “Let me go, Signor; you are mistaken.  You, do not know me.”  He smiled quietly, holding her hands clasped in his.  “I do not know you, Signorina?  You do not know me.  Your face is the picture always before my eyes.”

“Yes, yes, forgive me,” she fluttered, “I was startled, and indeed I am no Signorina now, but one of your own country peasants.  I am with Lisetta.  Why, where is Lisetta?”

Where, indeed, was she?  There were hundreds of contadine in the great crowd surging by, but no Lisetta.  The little peasant wrung her hands quite free from the man’s grasp.  “I must go home,” she said.  “I don’t want any more Carnival.”

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