Then they began that wonderful ride along the coast. The horrors of the day before rolled away like a mist as the donkey jogged along that miraculous drive. Lisetta and Gaetano chattered together, and Mae sat very still, with her face to the sea, drinking in all the glory, as she had longed and planned. Hope revived in her breast, pride had stood by her all the while, and here was glorious nature coming to her aid. She was going swiftly to the orange groves and the children of the sun. She should see Talila and brown babies and dancing, and at night a great, yellow moon would light up the whole scene. So on and on they went, the travelling carriages dashing by them now and then, with their three donkeys abreast, and the driver cracking his whip, and the travellers oh-ing and ah-ing.
“That is the most picturesque peasant I have yet seen,” said a gentle lady in brown to her husband, as they passed the humble little party. “Yes, she is clean, and more like the ideal than the actual peasant, and I am very glad I have seen her.”
Really, Mae was for the moment, at a quick glance, the ideal peasant. Her hands lay in her lap, her face was toward the sea, and her attitude and features were all full of that glow of existence that peasant portraits possess. She lived and moved and had her being as part of a great, warm, live picture. If the lady in brown had not passed so quickly, however, she would have seen a something in Mae’s face that spoiled her for a peasant, an earnestness in her admiration, a sharp intensity in her joy, that was very different from the languid content of a Southern Italian. Her movements were rather like those of the Northern squirrel, which climbs nimbly and frisks briskly, than like the sinuous, serpentine motions of the Southern creatures of the soil. We are, after all, born where we belong, as a rule, and the rest of us soon belong where we are born.
After a time the donkey pattered along towards a little patch of houses on the shore. They had already passed a half dozen of similar settlements. Very dirty children ran about crying, ugly, old women knitted, mongrel dogs and cats barked and yelped and rolled in the mud. Bits of orange-peel and old cabbage and other refuse food lay piled near the doors. There were, to be sure, young girls with dark eyes, plaiting straw, and the very dirt heaps had a picturesque sort of air. An artist might linger a moment to look, but never to enter. Yet it was here that Mae must enter. This was her new home. The neighbors came crowding about curiously, and she was hurried into the little hut that seemed as if it were carved roughly from some big garlic, probably by taking out the heart of it for dinner. Mae hardly comprehended the situation at first, but when she began to realize that this was a substitute for sea breeze, and that the coarse clipped patois (which sounded worse in the mass than when it fell from Lisetta’s lips alone) was in place of the flowing melody of speech she had