Ah! she could not do it. She tried once. She held out weakly her right hand toward Bero; but the left stretched itself involuntarily to Norman. Then the two met in each other’s pitiful clasp over her bent head, and with a low wailing cry she fell in a little heap on the sand.
When she opened her eyes, they were both bending over her. “Take me home,” she gasped to Norman. He glared at the officer. “Go!” he said. Bero put his hand to his sword. Mae sprang up. “No,” she said, gently, “no, my friend, for you have always been kind and friendly to me. Pray go.” Bero was touched by this. This little girl had taken only good from him, after all, sympathy and friendliness. Norman was touched also with the same thought. Then the officer smiled pleasantly. He shrugged his shoulders slightly, regretfully, and bowed and rode away. And so the clinking spurs and yellow moustaches and amorous eyes vanished from Mae’s sight.
As he rode off he was somewhat sorrowful; but he took a picture from his pocket and looked at it. “She’ll be glad to welcome me back again,” he said to himself, pleasantly, “and she belongs to my own land. This little foreigner might have pined for her own home, by and by.” Then he sighed and shook his head. “Alas! this little stranger will dance before you often, still!” and he touched his eyes; “but I will put you back in your place here, now.” This he said, looking at Lillia’s picture and with his hand on his heart.
“Take me home,” said Mae again imploringly. “Not back there,” as Norman drew her hand through his arm and started for the hut, “O no, not even for a minute.”
“Sit here then,” he replied quietly, “while I arrange it with the woman,” and he walked quickly away. Mae watched him till he entered the low doorway, in a sort of subdued, glorified happiness, that would break out over her shame and fear. She was afraid he would hate her, at least she told herself so, but in reality, everything and everybody and every place were fast fading out of this eager little mind. She and Norman were together, and she could not help being content. There was a certain joy in her weakness and shame, though they were genuine and kept her hushed and silent.
Poor Lisetta was very much frightened, but told her story to this angry stranger with true Southern palaver. She said the little lady loved Italy so, and wanted to be a peasant, and insisted she would run away quite by herself if Lisetta would not take her, and so she consented, knowing she could, through the padrona, send word to the friends.
“And the man?” asked Norman, impatiently.
“What man? O, the officer. He just rode down this morning for a morning call. I never saw him before.”