A great weight, as large as the Piedmontese, fell from Norman’s heart then, and he scattered money among the children recklessly and ordered up the donkey; and smiled on the amazed Lisetta all in the same breath, and went back to help Mae into the wagon with the lightest kind of a heart. It was a strange ride they took back to Castellamare. I think they both wished the world could stand still once more. When they had arrived at the station they found the next train to Naples was not due for two hours. Norman left Mae in the waiting-room for a time. Through the window she watched Gaetano and the donkey start homeward, with a great sigh of relief. She had time while she was sitting to think, but her head was in too great a whirl. She could only feel sorry and ashamed and meek and happy, all mixed together. The sensation was odd.
“I have telegraphed Eric that we would start home by the next train, that you had only been off for a frolic. I hope we can buy a waterproof or shawl and a hat in Naples for you?”
“Yes,” said Mae, meekly, “I have my waterproof here. I think I will put it on now, please,” and she began nervously to untie the shawl strap. Norman put her fingers gently aside, and unbuckled it for her. He handed her the long deep-blue cloak, which she put tightly about her, drawing the hood over her head. “You look like a nun,” said Norman, smiling. “I wish I were one,” replied Mae, with a choke in her throat. She was growing very penitential and softened.
“What shall we do now?” asked Mr. Mann. “We have a long time to wait. If you feel like walking, we can find a pleasanter spot than this.”
“Go anywhere you please,” replied Mae meekly. “What is the matter with you?”—for Norman had a very amused expression in his brown eyes.
“I hardly recognize you. Not a trace of fight so far, and it must be two hours since we met.”
“Don’t,” said Mae, with her eyes down, so of course he didn’t, but the two just marched quietly along back on the Sorrento road towards some high rocks. They sat down behind these, with their faces towards the sea, and were as thoroughly hidden from view, as if they had been quite alone in the world.
“I suppose they were frightened,” asked Mae, “at home—at Rome, I mean.” “Dreadfully,” replied Norman, trying to be sober, but with the glad ring in his voice still. “Edith was for dragging the Tiber; she was sure you and the seven-branched candlestick lay side by side. Mrs. Jerrold searched your trunks and read all your private papers, I am morally certain.” Then Norman stopped abruptly, and Mae drew the long stiletto from her hair nervously and played with it before she said, “And the boys?” “Albert was very, very sad, but reasonably sure you would be found. We all feared the Italian, but Albert worked carefully, and soon discovered that the officer was said to be engaged to a young girl with whom he had been seen the day after you left, and that gave him courage,”—then Norman stopped again abruptly. “And Eric?” “Eric sat down with his face in his hands and cried, Miss Mae, and said, ’I’ve lost my sister, the very dearest little sister in the world.’”