Dreamings
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Dreamings Document Transcript

  • 1. DreamingsMaria Angelina wassupposed to beeavesdropping, but she wasnot eavesdropping upon hersister Lucia and Paolo Tostiwhom she had beenassigned to chaperon byreading a book to herself inthe adjoining room—no, theywere safely busy with pianoand violin, and she washeartily bored with listeningto their inanities designed tocover up their shy embraces.Voices from anotherdirection had pricked her toalertness. Therefore MariaAngelina had steathily puther book down and creptover to peek into the corner
  • 2. room of the PalazzoSantonini, a dim andbeautiful old library withfaded furnishings whosewest arch of doorway lookedinto the pretentiousreception room where thefiancés were amusingthemselves with their musicand their whisperings. Itwas quite advanced, thisallowing them to be so muchalone, but that was becausethe Contessa Santonini wasan American and, moreover,the wedding was not far off.One can be a little moreindulgent once thesettlements are signed.So only Maria Angelina andher book had been stationedin the adjoining room for
  • 3. propriety. Desiring anotherbook, she had gone to theshelves and as she camethrough the north door, thatwas already ajar, she hadcaught the conversation thatnow held held her intent."Three of them!" Papasvoice uttered explosively,and Maria knew that Papawas speaking of his threedaughters, Lucia, Juliettaand Maria Angelina—and sheknew, too, that Papa hadjust come from the lastinterview with the Tostislawyers.The Tostis had been stiff intheir demands and Papa hadbeen more complaisant thanhe should have been.
  • 4. Altogether that marriagewas costing him dear.He must have been figuringtheir newly straitenedfinances with Mamma for apencil went clattering to thefloor."And something especial,"he proclaimed bitterly, "willstill have to be done for ourJulietta!"At that our littleeavesdropper could afford tosmile, a faint little smile ofshy pride tainted only with agreat measure of self-reliance.Nothing especial would haveto be done for MariaAngelina! A decent dowry, ofcourse, as befitting adaughter of her fathers
  • 5. house, but she would needno more than that, for Mariawas eighteen, as white as alily and as slender as anaspen, with big, dark eyeslike strange pools of night inher slightly oval, childsface.Whereas poor Julietta on theother hand ! "Madre Dio!"said Papa indignantly. "Forwhat did we name herJulietta? And born inVerona! A pretty sentimentindeed. But it was of noinspiration to her—none!"Mamma did not laughalthough Papas suddenchuckle after his explosionwas one of his mostirresistible.
  • 6. "But if Fate went by names,"he continued, "then wouldMaria Angelina be for the lifeof religion." And hechuckled again.Still Mamma refused tolaugh. Her pencildid some more scratching."Its a pity," murmuredPapa, "that you did notembrace the faith, mydear, for then we mightarrange this matter. Theyused to manage these thingsin the old days.""Send Julietta into aconvent?" cried Mamma in ascandalized voice ofsudden energy.Maria could not see it butshe knew that the Countshrugged.
  • 7. "She appears built to coifSaint Catherine," hemurmured."Julietta is a dear girl," saidthe Contessa in a warmvoice."Yes, but only when oneknows her trueexcellencies.""She will do very well—if wecan just provide her withenough dowry.""Enough dowry?—Yes, thatis just the problem! It willtake all that is left for thetwo of them to push Juliettainto some husbands arms!"When the Count wasannoyed he dealt directlywith facts—a proceeding hepreferred to avoid at othermoments.
  • 8. Behind her curtains Mariadrew a troubled breath. She,too, felt the familysresponsibility for Julietta—dear Julietta, with herdumpy figure and ugly face.Julietta was nineteen,played only the lyre -- andnow that Lucia wasbetrothed it should Juliettasturn.If only it could be knownthat Julietta had a pretty doton the back of her heftyshoulders. Alas, only herhusband would know of thattreasure, and without asufficient dowry -- ?Maria stood motionlessbehind the curtains, herwinged imagination
  • 9. rushing to meet Juliettasfuture, fronting theindifference, the neglect, theridicule before whichJuliettas sensitive, shamedspirit would suffer andbleed. She could see hernow, partnerless at balls,lugged heavily about to teasand dinners, shrinkingeagerly and hopelessly backinto the refuge of thepaternal home. . . . YetJulietta had once whisperedto her that she wanted todie if she could never marry,if she could never have anarmful of bambinos!Maria Angelinas youngheart contracted with sharpanxiety. Things were in abad way with her family
  • 10. indeed. There had alwaysbeen difficulties, for Papawas extravagant and eversince brother Franciscohad been in the army, he,too, had his debts, butMamma had alwaysmanaged so wonderfully!But the war had made thingsvery difficult, and now peacehad made them moredifficult still. There had beenone awful time when it hadlooked as if the carriagesand horses would have to goand they would be reducedto sharing a barouche withsome one else in secret,proud distress—like theManzios and the Benedettoswho took their airingsalternately, each with a
  • 11. different crested door uponthe identical vehicle—butMamma had overcomethat crisis and the social riteof the daily drive upon thePincian had been sacredlypreserved. But apparentlythese settlements were toomuch, even for Mamma.Then her name upon hermothers lips brought theeavesdropper to asudden, heart-stoppingmoment of swift attention.It appeared that theContessa had a plan.Maria Angelina could go tovisit Mammas cousins inAmerica. They were rich—that is understood ofAmericans; even Mammahad once been rich when
  • 12. she was a girl, Maria dimlyremembered having heard—and her cousins would giveMaria a chance to meetpeople. . . . Men did not askfor dower settlements inAmerica. They could pleasethemselves and marry apretty, penniless face. . . .Besides, what was saved onMarias dowry would plumpout Juliettas.Thunderstruck, the Countobjected. “But NO! Maria ismy favorite Bambina! Letssend Julietta to America, notMaria," he protested, butswallowed that foolishnessat Mammas calm response,"To what good?"What good would it do,indeed? It would never do to
  • 13. risk the cost of a trip toAmerica upon Julietta. Whyhad she stuck with learningto play the lyre? If onlyJulietta had learned to playthe piano.Sulkily Papa argued that thecost in any case wasprohibitive. But Mamma hadthe figures to prove himwrong, as always. "If weinvest only a little bit ourbeautiful Maria will soonhave a husband, But Icannot do this, I will losethe child? Will I not belosing her?"After a long, stricken pauseand a sniffle she added morecheerfully:"But it will be for her owngood."
  • 14. "You would have her tomarry an American? You arenot satisfied, then, withItalians?" said Papaplayfully leaning over toruffle Mammas soft, lighthair and at his movementMaria Angelina fled swiftlyfrom those curtains back toher post, and sat very still, abook in front of her, a hazeswimming between it andher startled eyes.America. . . . A husband. . . .Travel. . . . Adventure. Theunknown . . It waswonderful. It wasunbelievable. . . . It was alsolikely to be quite desperate.It was, in fact, a hazard ofthe sharpest chance. She did
  • 15. not know the ways overthere! That knowledgebrought a chill of gravityinto the hot currents of herfluttering heart— a chill thatwas the cold breath of aterrific responsibility. Shefelt herself to be the solehope, the sole resource ofher family. She was the dieon which their throw offortune was to be cast.Dropping her book she sliddown from her chair andcrossed to a long mirror inan old carved frame where adove was struggling in afalcons talons while Cupidsdrew vain bows, and in thedimmed glass stared in abewildered, passionatesearching.
  • 16. Her image was still sochildish, so slight looking.She was white—that was thecreamy skin from Mamma—and now she wondered if itwere truly a charm.Certainly Lucia preferred herown olive tints.And her eyes were so bigand dark, like caverns in herface, and her lips were merescarlet threads. The beautiesshe had seen were Warmcolored, high-bosomed, full-lipped.Her distrust extended evento her coronet of blackbraids.Her uncertain youth had novision of the purity and prideof that braid-bound head, ofthe brilliance of the dark
  • 17. eyes against the satin skin,of the troubling glamour ofthe red little mouth. In theclear definition of thedelicate features, the arch ofthe high eyebrows, thesweep of the shadowylashes, her childish hope hadnever dreamed of more thanmere prettiness and nowshe was torturinglyquestioning even that."Practicing your smiles, mydear?" said a voice from thethreshold, Lucias voice withthe mockery of thesuccessful, and MariaAngelina turned from herdim glass with a flame ofscarlet across her pallor,and joined, with an angryheart, in the laugh which her
  • 18. sister and young Tosti hadraised against her. But MariaAngelina had a tongue."But yes,” she exclaimed.“For the better fish are yetleft uncaught in the sea." Aflash of her eyes explodedtoward the young man, andPaolo, all ardor as he wasfor Lucias olive and rose,shot a glance of tickledhumor at Marias saucyimpudence. He promisedhimself some merry passeswith this little sister-in-law.Lucia understood thosequick glances and resentedthem."Wait your turn, little one,"she scoffed. "You will beofficially in pinafores until
  • 19. our poor Julietta is wed,"and she laughed, unkindly.There were times, Maria feltfuriously, when she hatedLucia.Her championing heartresolved that Julietta shouldnot be left unwed anddefenseless to that mockery.Julietta should have herchance at life!Not a word of the great planwas breathed officially tothe girl, although themothers expectancy formail revealed that a letterhad already been sent, untilthat expectancy wasrewarded by a letter withthe American postmark.Then the drama of revelationwas exquisitely enacted.
  • 20. It appeared that the Blairsof New York, Mammas dearcousins, were insistent thatone of Mammas daughtersshould know Mammascountry and Mammasrelatives. Mamma said thatit seemed that they had adaughter about MariaAngelinas age so MariaAngelina had been selectedfor the visit. The girls wouldhave a delightful timetogether. . . . Maria wouldboard the Maria Luisa ship inJune.Vaguely Maria Angelinarecalled the Blairs as shehad seen them somesix years ago in Rome—akindly Cousin Jim who hadgiven her sweets and
  • 21. laughed bewilderingly at herand a Cousin Jane withbeautiful blonde hair andcool white gowns.Their daughter, Ruth, hadnot been with them, soMaria had no acquaintanceat all with her, but only therecollection of occasionalpostcards to keep the namein memory.She remembered once thatthere had been talk of thisCousin Ruths coming toschool for a winter in Romeand that Mamma hadbestirred herself to discoverthe correct schools, butnothing had ever come ofit because the war hadintervened with all thosehorrid submarines.
  • 22. And now she was to visitthem, in America. . . ."You are going to Americajust as I went to Italy atyour age," cried Mamma."And—who knows?—you too,may meet the love of yourlife on this trip!"If Mamma continued this bitof cute duplicity she wouldoverdo it, thought MariaAngelina nervously, her eyesdowncast for fear hermother would read theirdiscomfort and see herknowledge of the pitifulduplicity, and her cheeksflamed to a quick shamedscarlet."She will have to—to repayus the expense," flashedLucia with a shrill laugh.
  • 23. "Spending so much on avacation for Maria, when youhave just been preachingeconomy on my trousseau!""One must economize on thetrousseau when thebridegroom has costus the big fortune," Mariaheard her wicked littletongue say and she was notrepentant when Lucia turnedsallow beneath her olivehue.Briskly Mamma intervened."No more words, my littleones. There is too much tobe done."There was indeed, with thistrip to be arranged forbefore the onrush of Luciaspreparation! Oncecommitted to the great
  • 24. adventure it quickly took onthe outer aspects of reality.There were clothes to bemade and clothes to bebought, there werediscussions, decisions,debates and conjectures andconsultations. A thousandpreparations to be pushed inhaste, and at once the bigbedroom of Mammablossomed with delicatefabrics, with bright ribbonsand frilly laces, and amid theblossoming, the whir of themachine and the feet andhands of the two-lire-a-dayseamstress went like madclockwork, while, in and out,Mammas friends camehurrying, at the rumor, to
  • 25. hint of congratulation orsuggest a style, an advice.The contagion of excitementseized everyone, so thatsoon even Lucia wasinspired to lend her cleverfingers from her ownpreparations forSeptember."But your itinerary is toolong, not to be back by then!Not here for my wedding?—that would be too odd!" shecomplained with thepersistent ill-will she hadshown the expedition.Shrewd enough to divine itspurpose and practicalenough to perceive thenecessity for it, the older girlcherished her instinctiveobjection to any pleasure
  • 26. that did not include her in itsscope or that threatened toovercast her own festivities."That will depend," returnedMamma sedately, "upon thecircumstance. Our cousinsmay not easily find asuitable chaperon foryour sisters return. Andthey may have plans for herentertainment.We must leave that tothem."A little panic-stricken, MariaAngelina perceived that shewas being left to herAmerican cousins—until shecould be otherwise disposedof! So fast had preparationswhirled them on, thatparting was upon the girlbefore she divined the
  • 27. coming pain of it. Then inthe last hours her heart waswrung.She stared at the dearfamiliar rooms, the streetsand the houses with a lookof one already lost to herworld, and her eyes clung tothe figures of her family as ifto relinquish the sight ofthem would dissolve themfrom existence.They were tragic, thosefollowing, imploring eyes,but they were not wet. Mariaunderstood it was too late toweep. It was necessary togo.The magnitude of the sumsalready invested in her affairstaggered her. They were somany pledges, those sums!
  • 28. But America was sodesolately far.She could not sleep, thatlast night. She lay in the bigfour-poster where onceheavy draperies had shut inthe slumbers of dead andgone Contessas, and shewatched the square ofmoonlight travel over thepainted cherubs on theceiling. There was always alump in her throat to beswallowed, and often thetears soaked into the bigfeather pillows, but therewere no sobs to rouse thehousehold.Julietta, beside her, sleptvery comfortably.But the most terriblemoment of all was that last
  • 29. look of Mamma and that lastclasp of her hands upon thedeck of the steamer."You must tell meeverything, little one," theContessa Santonini keptsaying hurriedly. She wasconstrained and repetitiousin the grip of her emotion,as they stood together, justout of earshot of the Italianconsuls wife who waschaperoning the young girlupon her voyage."Write me all about thepeople you meet and whatthey say to you, and whatyou do. Remember that I amstill Mamma if I am acrossthe ocean and I shall bewaiting to hear. . . . Andremember that but few
  • 30. of your ideas of Americamay be true. Americans arenot all the types you haveread of or the tourists youhave met. You must expect agreat difference. . . . Ishould feel strange, myself,now in America."Marias quick sensitivenessdivined a note of secretyearning."Yes, Mamma," she saidobediently, tightening herclasp upon her mothershands."You must be on guardagainst mistakes, MariaAngelina," said the otherinsistently—as if she had notsaid that a dozen timesbefore!
  • 31. "Because American girlsmay do things it will not bewise for you to do. You willbe of interest to many menbecause you are different.Be very careful, my littleone.""Yes, Mamma," said the girlagain."As to your money—youunderstand you have all thatwe can give you; it mustlast. There should be only afew things to pay for whenyou are a guest. But send toPapa and me your accountsas I have told you.""Yes, Mamma.""You will not let theAmerican freedom turn yourhead. You will be wise—Oh,I trust you, Maria Angelina,
  • 32. know that, but rememberthat you are to be verywise!"How little wisdom MariaAngelina thought herself topossess! It was all she coulddo to lift a face to hermother that shone withconfidenceand understanding, and forall her quivering lips she stillsmiled."Oh, My Baby!" said themother suddenly in Englishand took thatface between her hands andkissed it. "You will becareful," shebegan again abruptly, andthen stopped.
  • 33. Too late for more cautions.But she seemed to realize itwas such alittle figure that stood there,such young eyes that smiledsoconfidently into hers. . . .And America was a long,long way off.The bugles were blowing forvisitors to be away. Therewas time forjust one more hurried kissand hasty clasp.An overwhelming frightseized upon the girl as themother went downthe ships ladder into thesmall boat that put out soquickly for the
  • 34. shore. Suppose she shouldfail them! After all she wasnot so wise—and not so very prettyeither. And she had noexperience—none!The sun, dancing on thebright waves, hurt MariaAngelinas eyes. Shehad to shut them, theywatered so foolishly. Andsomething in heryoung breast wanted to cryafter that boat, "Take meback—take meback to my home," butsomething else in herforbade and would havedied of shame before ituttered such weakness.
  • 35. For poor Julietta, for dearanxious Mamma, she knewherself the onlyhope. So steadily she wavedher handkerchief long aftershe had lostthe responding flutter fromthe boat.She was not crying now. Shefelt exalted. She pressedcloser to therail and stared out verysolemnly over the blue andgold bay tobeautiful Naples. . . .Suddenly her heartquickened. Vesuvius wasmoving. The far-off shoresof Italy were slipping by.Above her the
  • 36. black smoke that had beencoming faster and fasterfrom the greatfunnels streamed backwardlike long banners.Maria Angelina was on herway to America,for better or for worse.Reduce Your Pile Of Debt BeYour Own Banker * Moderneconomicterms * Bargains for BuddingMillionaires *You Can Be APower BoatCaptain * 5 Reasons to CheckYour Own Credit Report *Bargains inauto insurance * MoneySecrets * Learn How ToWrite professionally
  • 37. * Hundreds of free booksthat you can download. BuildYour Own WebSite and Make Money FromIt * Aerobics * Birds *Beaches * DeepWater * Shortcuts for Travel* Get the Jump on Warts *EssaysAbout War * allergies *World Travel * Diabetes *Fishing * family *Health Builders * The X-Files* The Gardening Angel *Working FromHome * Painting Your Home* Humor Is Funny Medicine *Inspirational Essays *Landscaping * Putting theSkinny on Pain *
  • 38. State and National Parks *Vacations in Jamaica * NFLFootball *Preparing For The WorstPuts a Lid on it * PresidentialQuotes andMORE! * Sunglasses Lasses *Free Software * NativeAmerican Art *Train Your Cat * World ofWriters *AMERICA, ANUNDISCOVERED COUNTRYWith whatever emotion JaneBlair had received thestartling demandupon her hospitality sherallied nobly to the familycall. She left herdaughter in the Adirondackswhere they were summeringand
  • 39. descended upon herhusband in his New Yorkoffice to rout him out tojoin her to meet the girl ather side."An infernal shame—thatswhat I call it!" Jim Blairgrumbled, facingthe steaming heat of theunholy customs shed. "Itsan outrage—animposition——""Oh, not all that, Jim! Lucy—thats the mother—and Iused to visit likethis when we were girls. Itwas done then," his wifereplied with an airof equable amusement. Sheadded, "I rather think I didmost of the
  • 40. visiting. I was awfly fond ofLucy.""Thats different. Now youllhave a total stranger onyour hands. . . .Are you even sure shespeaks English?""Oh, dear yes, she speaksEnglish—dont youremember her in Rome?She was the littlest one. Allthe children speak English,Lucy wrote,except Francisco who isvery Italian, which meanshe is a fascinatingspendthrift like the father, Isuppose. . . . I imagine,"said Mrs. Blair,"that Lucy has not found lifein a palace all a bed of roses,after all."
  • 41. "I remember the palace, andthe warming pans!" said Mr.Blair grimly.His ill-humor lasted until thefirst glimpse of MariaAngelinas slenderfigure, and the first glanceof Maria Angelinas trustfullyappealingeyes. "Welcome toAmerica," he exclaimed veryheartily, both hishands closing over the smallfingers. "Welcome—you areverywelcome, my dear."And though Maria Angelinanever knew it and CousinJane Blair nevertold, that outburst ofwelcome was MariaAngelinas first American
  • 42. triumph.Some nine hours afterwardsa stoutish gentleman in grayand athinnish lady in beige and afragile looking girl in whitewound theirway from the outer to theinner circle of tables nextthe dancing floorof the Vandevoort.The room was crowded withmen in light serge andwomen in gaysummer frocks; bright lightswere shining under pinkshades andsprays of pink flowers onevery table were breathing afaint perfume
  • 43. into an air alreadyimpregnated with womensscents and heavy withodors of rich food. Now andthen a saltish breeze stolethrough thedraped windows on thesound but was instantlyscattered by the vigorof the hidden, whirling fans.Behind palms an orchestraclashed out the latest Bluesand in thecleared space couples werespeeding up and down to thesyncopations, while betweentables agile waitersbalanced overloadedtrays or whisked silvercovers off scarlet lobsters orlit mysterious
  • 44. little lights below tinybubbling caldrons.Maria Angelinas soft lipswere parted with excitementand her darkeyes gazed around her withwondering awe. This,indeed, was a brandnew world. . . . It was gay—gayer than the HotelExcelsior at Rome!It was a carnival of a dinner!Ever since morning, whenthe cordiality of the new-found cousins haddissipated the first forlornhomesickness of arrival, shehad beenlooking on at scenes thatwere like a film, ceaselesslyunrolling.
  • 45. After luncheon, Cousin Jimwith impulsive hospitalityhad carried heroff to see the Big Town—anexpedition from which hiswife relievedlywithdrew—and he hadwhirled Maria Angelinaabout in motor cars,plunged her into roaringsubways, whisked her updizzying elevatorsand brought her out uponunbelievable heights, all thetimeexpounding and explainingwith that passionate,possessive pride ofthe New Yorker by adoption,which left his young guestwith the
  • 46. impression that he owned atleast half the city and waspersonallyresponsible for the otherhalf.It had been very wonderfulbut Maria had expected NewYork to bewonderful. And she was notinterested, savesuperficially, in cities.Life was the stuff herdreams were made on, andher life wasunfolding vividly to hereager eyes at this gaydinner, promising herenchanted senses theincredible richness andexcitement for whichshe had come.
  • 47. And though she sat up verysedately, like a well-behaved child in themidst of blazing carnival,her glowing face, herbreathless lips andwide, shining eyes revealedher innocent ardors andyoungexpectancies.She was very proud ofherself, in the midst of allthe prideful splendor,proud of her new, absurdlybig white hat, of her new,absurdly smallwhite shoes, and of her new,white mull frock, soft andclinging andexquisite with the patientembroidery of theneedlewoman. Its low
  • 48. cut neck left her throat bareand about her throat hungthe string ofwhite coral that her fatherhad given her in parting—white coral, witha pale, pale pink suffusing it."Like a young girls dreams,"Santonini had said. "Snowywhite—witha blush stealing over them."That was so like dear Papa!What dreams did he thinkhis daughterwas to have in this NewWorld upon her goldenquest? And yet,though Maria Angelinasmocking little wit derided,her young heart
  • 49. believed somehow in theunion of all theimpossibilities. Dreams andblushes . . . and goodfortune. . . .Strange food was set beforeher; delicious jellied coldsoups, andscarlet lobsters with giantclaws; and Maria Angelinadiscovered thatall that excitement had notdulled her appetite in theleast.The music sounded againand Cousin Jim asked her todance. Shylyshe protested that she didnot know the Americandances, and then,
  • 50. to her astonishment, heturned to his wife, and thetwo hurried outupon the floor, leaving heralone and unattended atthat conspicuoustable.This was American freedomwith a vengeance! Maria satdemurely,not daring to raise herlashes before the scrutinyshe felt must bebeating upon her from allfour sides, until her cousinsreturned,warm-faced and breathless."Youll learn all this as soonas you get to the Lodge,"Cousin Jimprophesied, in consolation.
  • 51. Maria Angelina smiledabsently, her bigeyes brilliant. Unconsciouslyshe waswondering what dancingcould mean tothese elders of hers. . . .Dancing was thestir of youth . . . the carnivalof theblood . . . the beat ofexpectancy andexcitement. . . ."Why, theres Barry Elder!"Cousin Janegave a quick cry of pleasure."Barry Elder?" Cousin Jimturned to look,and Maria Angelina lookedtoo, and saw ayoung man making his wayto their table.
  • 52. He was a tall, thin, brownyoung manwith close-cropped curlybrown hair, andvery bright, deep-set eyes.He wasdressed immaculately inwhite with a gaytie of lavender and lace."Barry? Are you in town?"Cousin Jane greeted himwith anexaggerated astonishmentas he shook her hand.Maria Angelina noted that hedid not kiss it. She had readthat thiswas not done openly inAmerica but was a mark ofespecialtenderness.
  • 53. "Why not?" he retortedpromptly. "You seem toforget, dear lady, thatI am again a wor-rking man,without whom the WorldsGreatest Dailywould lose half itscirculation. Of course Imhere.""I thought you might betaking a vacation—in YorkHarbor," she said,laughing."Oh, cat!" he derided. "Kitty,kitty, kitty.""Well, since you are here,"went on Cousin Jane, "youcan meet mylittle cousin from Italy,which is the reason why wehappen to here.
  • 54. Her boat came in thismorning and she has neverbeen away fromhome before. Mr. Elder, theSignorina Santonini.""Welcome to the city,Signoreina," said the youngman, with a quick,bright smile, stooping togaze under Marias huge,white hat. He hadodd eyes, not large, butvivid hazel, with yellowlights in them. "Howdo you like New York? Whatdo you think of America sofar? What isyour opinion of ourprohibition and theuniformity of divorce laws?Have you ever written verslibre? Are——"
  • 55. "Barry, stop bombarding thechild!" exclaimed Mrs. Blair."You are thefirst young man she has metin America. Stop making herfear thewhole race of you.""Take him away and dancewith him, Jane," said Mr.Blair. He turnedto Maria and added: "Thiswas probably prearranged,you know."If he believed that, helooked very tranquil, thestartled MariaAngelina thought, surprisedinto an upward glance. Thetwo men weresmiling very frankly at eachother. Mrs. Blair did notprotest but rose,
  • 56. remarking, "Come, Barry,since we are discovered.""Ill have your little Cousinafterwards," said BarryElder. "I want to bethe first young man shedances in America with.""You wont be the last," Mr.Blair told him with atwinkling glance atMaria Angelinas lovely littleface."One of Janes youngsters,"he added, explanatorily toher when thedancers moved away. "Shealways has a lot around—shesays theyare the companions her sonwould have had if shed hadone."
  • 57. Then, before MariaAngelinas polite butbewildered attention, hesaidmore comprehensibly,"Youll find Jane a lotyounger than Ruth . . .Barrys a clever chap—special work on one of thepapers. Was in theaviation. Did a play thatfluked last year. Too muchHarvard in it, Iexpect. But a clever chap,very clever. I Like him," headded.Maria Angelina had heard ofHarvard. Her mothers fatherhad been aHarvard man. But Maria didnot understand just why toomuch
  • 58. Harvard would make a playfluke nor what a play didwhen it fluked,for that matter -- but sheasked no questions and satvery still,pretending to look out at thedancing couples.She saw her Cousin Janewhirling past. She tried toimagine what herfather would do if hermother was dancing withyoung men at theHotel Excelsior -- and shecould not bring a picture upof thathappening. Already shewondered if she had betterleave out som ofthe things happening aroundher.
  • 59. Then the dancing pair cameback to them and the youngman satdown at their table andtalked a little bit to hercousins. But just assoon as the music started upagain he turned directly toher."Signorina, will you do methis honor?"He had a merry way withhim as if he were laughingever so little ather, and Maria Angelinasheart which had beenbeating quite fastbefore began to skip dizzily.She thanked Heaven that itwas a waltz for, while thenew steps were
  • 60. unknown, Maria knew thatshe could waltz—that was agift from Papa."With pleasure, Signor," shemurmured, rising."But you must take off yourhat, dear" Mrs. Blair toldher."My hat? Take off?""That brim is too wide, mydear. You couldnt dance.""But that would mean that Iwent bareheaded—like apeasant!" MariaAngelina faltered in mid-stride and they laughed ather discomfiture."Its much better than tryingto dance with the brim ofyour hide
  • 61. making you stumble," Mrs.Blair pronounced -- andobediently Mariassmall hands rose and withonly a slight tremble sheremoved theovershadowing whiteness soeveryone could see thecoronet of heavydark braids piled up on herhead.She did not raise her eyes,and therefore did not seeBarry Elderssudden flash ofastonishment. Shyly sheslipped within his clasp andlet him swing her out intothe circle of dancers.Maria Angelina could waltz,indeed. She was fairy-footed, in fact and
  • 62. for some moments BarryElder was so astonished thathe was contentto dance without speaking;then he bent his head closerto those darkbraids as if to catch thesmell of them.Maria jerked away from him,but his strong arms draggedher backand he grinned. "So I am thefirst handsome young manyou havemet in America?"Maria Angelina looked upthrough her lashes. "It isonly my first day,Signor!""Your first American—Ah,but on the boat! There musthave been
  • 63. young men on that boat,handsome American youngmen?""On that boat? Signor!"Maria Angelina laughedmischievously. "Onereads of such in novels—yes? But as to that boat, itwas a floatingnunnery.""Oh, come now," heprotested amusedly, "theremust have been somemen!""Some men, yes—a shipsofficer, some married ones,a grandfatheror two—but nothing youngand very definitely, nothingAmerican."
  • 64. "It must have been a greatdisappointment," said Barryas if he wereenjoying himself."It would not have matteredif there had been athousand. TheSignora Mariotti would haveseen to it that I met no one.She was avery good chaperon,Signor!""I thank her. She haspreserved the dew on therose, for me, the flushon the dawn—the wax forthe record and the—er—niche for thestatue. I never had mystatue done," said Barrygayly, "but if you
  • 65. would care for it, in terracotta, rather small and neat——"Confusedly Maria Angelinalaughed."And this is your maidenvoyage of discovery!" Hewas looking downat her as he swept her abouta corner. "Rash youngperson! Dont youknow what happened toyour kinsman, Our FirstDiscoverer?""Columbus? No, but what?""He was loaded withfetters," Barry solemnly toldher."Fetters? But what fetterscould I fear?"
  • 66. "Have you never heard," hedemanded of her upraisedeyes, "of thefetters of matrimony?""Oh, Signor!" Actually thecolor swept into her cheeksand her eyesfled from his, though shelaughed lightly. "That is agolden fetter.""Sometimes," he said, dryly,"it is only gilded."But Maria Angelina missedthe beat of his jest. "It wasnot untilColumbus returned to hisEurope that he was fettered.It was notfrom the—the natives thathe had such ill-treatment tofear."
  • 67. "Now, do you think the—thenatives"—gayly Barrymimicked herquaint inflection—"will letyou get away with that? . . .You have agreat many discoveriesbefore you, SignorinaSantonini!"Deftly he circled, smilingdown into her upturnedface.Maria Angelinas cheeksflushed from merely poppypink to poppyrose. She was dancing as ifin a dream. She waswaltzing in aconfusion of young delightand a peculiar dread of hiswords, the light
  • 68. mockery of his glances. Andthen suddenly the dancewas over, andhe was returning her to hercousins. And he was sayinggood-by."I have a table yonder—although I appear to haveforsaken it," hewas explaining. "Dontforget your first American,Signorina—Imsorry you are going to-morrow, but perhaps I shallbe seeing you inthe Adirondacks before verylong." He gave MariaAngelina a directlysmiling glance whoseboldness made her shiver inshock and step
  • 69. back a full pace before shedropped into her chair.Then he turned to Mrs. Blair."You know my uncle has alittle shackbuilt on Old Chief Mountain—not so far from you atWilderness. Ialways like to run up there——""Oh, no, you wont, Barry,"said Mrs. Blair, laughing athisexplanation. "Youll berunning where the breakingwaves dash high,on a stern and rock-boundcoast."He met the sally with ananswering bubble oflaughter, a trifle forced.
  • 70. "Im flattered you think meso constant! But youunderestimate thecharms of novelty. . . . If Ishould meet, say, a petitebrunette, doneup in cotton wool and dewywith innocence——""Youre incorrigible," vowedthe lady with a grin. "I haveno faith inyou at all!""You dont even have faithin my incorrigibility?""Ill believe it when I seeyou again. . . . Give my loveto Leila."He made a mocking grimaceat her. “To whom? Leila? Oh,I haveforgotten her.”
  • 71. Then he stooped to claspMaria Angelinas hand. "Arivederci,Signorina," he insisted."Dont you believe a thingyour cousin tellsyou about me. . . . Im apoor, misunderstood youngman in a worldof merciless women. Addios,Signorina—a riverderci."And then he was gone,bouncing on the balls of hisfeet, so gay andbrown and smiling. Suddenanguish swept down uponMariaAngelina, like the coldmistral upon the southlands.He had pressed
  • 72. her hands . . . ever so lightlybut without mistake. And hiseyes, thatshining brightness of hiseyes."Why did you rub it in aboutYork Harbor?" Cousin Jimwas speakingand Maria Angelina came outof her dream with sudden,painfulintensity. While her youngface held fast to theschooled, unstirreddetachment of the jeunefille, her senses werestraining nervously forany flicker of enlightenment."Why not rub it in?"countered Cousin Janebriskly. "Hell go there
  • 73. before long, and he might aswell know that he isntthrowing anysand in our eyes. . . . Thissulking here in town issimply to punishLeila.""Sulking? Perhaps he isntsulking. Perhaps he doesntcare to runafter her any more. He maynot be as keen about LeilaGrey as youwomen seem to think."Maria Angelinas involuntaryglance at Mrs. Blair caughtthe superiorassurance of her smile."My dear Jim! He was simplymad about her. That lastleave, before
  • 74. he went to France, he onlywent places so he couldmeet her.""Well, he may have gottenover it. Men do," arguedCousin Jimstubbornly.Cousin Jane laughed. "Mendont get over Leila Grey,Jim—not if LeilaGrey wants to keep them.""If she wanted so darn muchto keep him why didnt shetake himthen?""I didnt say she wanted tokeep him." Mrs. Blairs tonesweremysteriously, ironicallysignificant. "Leila wasntthrowing herself away
  • 75. on any young officer—withnothing but his insuranceand the shirt onhis back. It was youngBobby Martin that she wasafter——""Gad! Was she?" Cousin Jimwas patently struck by this."Why,Bobbys just a kid and she——""Theres only two yearsdifference between them—inyears. But Leilacame out very young—andshes the most thoroughlycalculating——""Oh, come now, Jane—justbecause thegirl didnt succumb to theimpecunious
  • 76. Barry and did like Bobbyspectoralendowments——! She mayreally haveliked him, you know.""Oh, come now, yourself,Jim," retortedhis wife good-humoredly."Just becauseshe has blue eyes! No, ifLeila really likedanybody I always had thenotion it wasBarry—but she wantedBobby."For a long moment CousinJim was silent.He seemed to be turning thething overwith his cigar. MariaAngelina sat still as a
  • 77. mouse, fearful to breathelest all thesebewildering revelationsshould cease. Cousin Jane,over her secondcup of coffee, had the air ofa humorous and superiororacle.Then Mr. Blair said slowly,"And Bobby couldnt seeher?"He had an air of asking ifBobby were indeed ofadamant rejectionand Mrs. Blair hesitatedimperceptibly over thesweeping negative.Equally slowly, "Oh, Bobbyliked her, of course—shemay have turned
  • 78. his head her way," shethrew out, "but I dontbelieve he ever lost itfor a moment. And after hemet Ruth that summer atPlattsburg——"The implication floatedthere, tenuous, iridescent.Even to MariaAngelinas eyes it was anarch of promise.She surmised that Ruth wastheir daughter, the Americancousin ofher own age. And theunknown Bobby was someone who liked Ruth?And he was some one whomthis Leila Grey had tried toensnare—
  • 79. although all the time Mrs.Blair suspected her of likingmore theSignor Barry Elder. Thenwhy was she pretending tobe after Bobby?Maria Angelinas precipitousintuitions endorsed thatsupposition. Ofcourse this Leila liked thatBarry Elder. Of course. . . .But she had nottaken him. He was anofficer, then—withoutfortune. Maria Angelinawas familiar enough withthat kind of story. But shehad supposedthat here, in America, wheredowries were not exigentand the young
  • 80. people were free to marrywhom they pleased. Theremust be moreto consider than romance.And now it was not evenLeilas parentswho had interfered,apparently, but Leila herself.What was it Mrs. Blair hadsaid? Thoroughlycalculating. . . .Thoroughly calculating—andblue eyes. Yes, those blueeyes must bewhat could turn a manshead. If it should be blueeyes thatAmericans—that is, to saynow, that Barry Elder—preferred——!
  • 81. And then she wonderedwhy, if this Leila with theblue eyes had nottaken Barry Elder before,Cousin Jane now regarded itas a foregoneconclusion between them?Was it because that Leilacould not get thatSignor Bobby Martin? Or wasBarry Elder simply provingto be moresuccessful now that he hadleft the army?She puzzled away at it, likea very still little cat at anindestructiblemouse, but dared say not aword. And while she worriedaway her
  • 82. surface attention wascaught by the glance ofcandid humorexchanged between Mr.Blair and his wife."Ah, Jane, Jane," he wassaying, in mock deprecation,"So, this iswhy we are spending thesummer at Wilderness, nottwo miles fromthe Martin place——?"Mrs. Blair was smiling, buther eyes were serious. "Ipreferred that tohaving Ruth going off to ahouse party at the Martins,"she said.At that Maria Angelina shookher head and ceased toattend. She
  • 83. would know soon enoughabout her Cousin Ruth andBobby Martin.But as for Barry Elder andLeila Grey——! Had hecared? Had she? . . .Unconsciously her youngheart repudiated Janesreading of the affair.As if Barry Elder would beunsuccessful with anywoman that hewanted! That wasunbelievable. No, the truthmust have been that hesimply had not wanted her—enough.Surely he could not wantLeila now or he would nothave spoken so
  • 84. impetuously of coming tothe mountains to see her—his direct glancehad been a promise, hisgaze a prophecy.Dared she believe him?Dared she trust? But he wasno deceiver, noflirt, like the lady-killers whoused to come to the Palazzoto bow overLucias hand and eye eachother with that half hostile,half knowingswagger. She had watchedthem. . . . But this wasAmerica.And Barry Elder? Surely, hetoo was—different.She was lost to the worldabout her now. Its color andmotion and hot
  • 85. counterfeit of life beatinsensibly upon her; she wasaware of it onlyas an imposition, a denial tothat something within herwhich wantedto relax into quiet anddreaming, that wanted tolive over and overagain the intoxicatingexcitement, the looks, thewords. . . .She was grateful whenCousin Jane declared adesire for an earlyreturn. Maria could hardlywait to be alone."What did I tell you?" JaneBlair stopped suddenly intheir progress to
  • 86. the door and turned to herhusband in low-tonedtriumph. "Shes withhim. Leilas with him.""Huh?" said Cousin Jimunexcitedly."Shes pretended someerrand in town—shes comein to get hold ofhim again, right now" wenton Cousin Jane hurriedly, asone who tellsthe story of the act to theunobservant. "Shes afraidto leave himalone. . . . And he nevermentioned her. I wonder——"Maria Angelinas eyes hadfollowed theirs. She saw agroup about a
  • 87. table, she saw Barry Elderswhite-clad shoulders andcurly brownhead. She saw,unregardfully, a man andwoman with him, but all hereagerness, all her strainingvision was on the young girlwith him—agirl so blonde, so beautifulthat a pang went to MariaAngelinas heart.She learned pain in a singlethrob.She heard Cousin Jimquoting oddly in undertone,"And Beauty drewhim, by a single hair," andthe words entered herconsciousnesshauntingly.
  • 88. If Leila Grey looked like that—why then—— why then hadBarry saidthat he would come to seeher!Maria Angelinas first nightin America, like that lastnight in Italy, wasof sleepless watchingthrough the dark. But nowthere were no childstears at leaving home. Therewas no anxious planning forpoorJulietta. Already Julietta andLucia and the Palazzo, evenPapa anddear, dear Mamma,appeared strangely unreal—like a vanished spell—
  • 89. and only this night was realand this strange expectantstir in her.And then she fell asleep anddreamed that Barry Elderwas advancingto her across the longdrawing-room of the PalazzoSantonini and asshe turned to receive himLucia stepped between,saying, "He is forme, instead of Paolo Tosti,"and behold! Lucias eyeswere as blue asthe sea and Lucias hair wasas golden as amber and herface was theface of the girl in therestaurant.LUNCHEON AT THE LODGE
  • 90. Wilderness Lodge, CousinJane had said, was a simplelittle place inthe mountains, not a hotelbut rather a restrictedaccess club housewhere only certain peoplecould go, and Maria Angelinahad pictured awhite stucco pension-hotelset against somebackground like thebare, bright hills of Italy.Instead, she found a greensmother of forest, an oceanof greennesswith emerald crests risinghigher and higher like giantwaves, and atthe end of the long motortrip the Lodge at lastdisclosed itself as a
  • 91. low, dark, rambling building,set in a clearing behind ablue bend ofsudden river.And built of logs! Did peopleof position live yet in logs inAmerica?demanded the girls secretastonishment as the motorwhirled acrossthe rustic bridge andstopped before the widesteps of a veranda fullof people.Springing down the steps,two at a time, came a tall,short-skirted girlin white."Dad—you came, too!" shecried. "Oh, thats bully. Youmust enter the
  • 92. tournament—Mother, didyou remember about the cupand the—youknow? What we talked of forthe booby?"She had a loud, gay voicelike a boys and as Mariawas drawn intothe commotion of greetings,she opened wide, half-intimidated eyesat the bigness andbrownness of this CousinRuth.She had expected Heavenknows what of incrediblecharm in the girlwho had detached theSignor Bobby Martin fromthe siren Leila. Her
  • 93. instant wonder wassucceeded by a sensation ofgay relief. After all,these things went by chanceand favor. . . . And if BobbyMartin couldprefer this brown young girlto that vision at therestaurant why then—then perhaps there wasalso a chance for—what wasit the youngSignor Elder had called her?A petite brunette wrapped incotton wool.These thoughts flashedthrough her as one thoughtas she followedher three cousins across thewide verandas, full ofinterested eyes,
  • 94. into the Lodge and up thestairs to their rooms, whereRuth directedthe men in placing the bigtrunk and the bags andhospitablyexplained the geography ofthe suite."My rooms on that side andDads and Mothers is justacross—andwe all have to use this onebath—stupid, isnt it, butDad is hardlyever here and theresrunning water in the rooms.Youll survive,wont you?"Hastily Maria Angelinaassured her that she would.
  • 95. Glimpsing the white-tiledsplendors of this bath shewondered howRuth would survive the tintub, set absurdly in a redplush room of thePalazzo. . . ."Now you know your wayabout," the American girlrattled on, hertone negligent, her eyescolored with a little warmerinterest as herglance swept her foreignlittle cousin. "Frightfully hot,wasnt it? Illclear out so you can pop intothe tub. Youll just have timebeforeluncheon," she assured herand was off.
  • 96. The next instant, fromclosed doors beyond, hervoice rose inunguarded exclamation."Oh, you baby doll! Mother,did you ever——"The voices sank fromhearing and Maria Angelinawas left with thefeeling that a baby doll wasnot a desirable being inAmerica. ThisCousin Ruth intimidated herand her breezy indifferenceand lack ofaffectionate interest shotthe visitor with the troubledsuspicion thather own presence wasentirely superfluous to hercousins scheme of
  • 97. things. She felt more athome with the elders.Uncertainly she crossed toher big trunk and stoodlooking down onthe bold labels. How longsince she and Mamma hadpacked it, withdear Julietta smoothing thefolds in place! And how faraway they allwere. . . . It was not the oldPalazzo now that was unreal—it was thisnew, bright world and all thestrange faces. The chintz-decked roomwith its view of alienmountains seemed suddenlyremote and lonely.
  • 98. Her hands shook a little asshe unpacked a tray ofpretty dresses andlaid them carefully acrossthe bed. . . . For someunconscious reasonshe had anticipated awarmer welcome from thisyoung cousin. . . .She winked away the tearsthat threatened to stain thebrightribbons, and stole into thesplendor of the whitebathroom, marvelingat its luxurious contrast tothe logs without.The water refreshed her.She felt more cheerful, andwhen she came
  • 99. to a choice of frocks,decidedly a new current ofinterest was stealingthrough life again.First impressions were soterribly important! Shewanted to do honorto the Blairs—to justify thehopes of Mamma. This wasnot enough ofan occasion for the whitemull. The silks look hot andcitified.Hesitantly she selected theapricot organdie with adeeper-shadedsash; it was simple for all itsglowing color, though theshort frilledsleeves struck her asperhaps too chic. It hadbeen a copy of one of
  • 100. Lucias frocks, that onebought to such advantage ofMadameRevenant. With it went agolden-strawed hat—butMaria Angelina wasuncertain about the hat. Didyou wear one at a hotel—when you livedat a hotel? Mammasadmonitions had notcovered that. She put thehat on; she took the hat off.She rather liked it on—butshe dropped iton the bed at Ruths suddenknock and felt a sense ofescape for Ruthwas hatless.And Ruth also still wore thesame short white skirt andwhite blouse,
  • 101. open at the throat, in whichshe had greeted them. . . .Was theapricot too much then of atoilette? Ruths eyes werefrankly on it; herexpression was odd.But Maria knew that Mrs.Blair had changed for sheappeared now inthe doorway, dressed in bluelinen, very smart and verytrim.Worriedly Maria Angelinasdark eyes went from one tothe other."Is this—is this what Ishould wear?" she askedtimidly. "Am I not—asyou wish?"It would have taken a hardheart to wish her otherwise.
  • 102. "Its very pretty," saidCousin Jane in quickreassurance."Too pretty, sall," saidCousin Ruth. "But it wont bewasted. . . .Bobby Martin is staying toluncheon," she flungcasually at herparents. "He has a guestwith him. You rememberJohnny Byrd."American freedom, indeed!thought Maria Angelinafollowing down theslippery stairs into the widehall below where, in aboulder fireplacethat was surmounted by astags head, a small blazewas flickering
  • 103. despite the warmth of theday.Wasteful, thought MariaAngelina reprovingly. Onecould see that theAmericans had neversuffered for fuel as theItalians had.Upon a huge, black fur rugbefore the fire two youngmen werewaiting. Demurely Mariathought of the letter shewould write homethat night—one young manthe first evening in NewYork, two youngmen the first luncheon atthe Lodge. Decidedly,America brimmedwith eligible young men!
  • 104. Meanwhile, Ruth waspresenting them to her. Thebig dark youth,heavy and lazy moving, wasthe Signor Bob Martin.The other, Johnny Byrd, wasshorter and broad ofshoulder; he hadreddish blonde hair slightlyparted and brushed straightback; he hada short nose with frecklesand blue eyes with lightlashes. When helaughed—and he seemedalways laughing—he showedsplendid teeth.Both young men staredfrankly at her—but staringwas a mans
  • 105. prerogative in Italy andMaria Angelina wasunperturbed by theiractions. At table she satserenely, her dark lashesshading the oval ofher cheeks, while the youngmens eyes—and one pair ofthem,especially—took in the black,braid-bound head and thesmall,Madonna-like face, faintlyflushed by sun and wind,above the goldenglow of the sheer frock.Then Johnny Byrd leanedacross the table towardsher."I say, Signorina," he beganabruptly, "whats the Italianfor peach?"
  • 106. and as Maria Angelinalooked up and started veryinnocently toexplain, he leaned back andburst into a shout ofamusement in whichthe others more moderatelyjoined."Dont let him get to you,"was Ruths unintelligibleadvice, and BobbyMartin turned to his friend toadmonish mockingly, "Now,Johnny,dont start anything. . . .Johnnys such a good littlestarter!""And a poor finisher," addedRuth smartly and bothyoung menlaughed again as if at a verygood joke.
  • 107. "A starter—but not abeginner, eh?" chuckledCousin Jim, and Mrs.Blair smiled at both youngmen even as she protested,"This is thenoisiest table in the room!"Yes, it was a noisy table.Maria Angelina wasastounded at the hilarityof that meal. Already sheagain began censoring thedepth of herreport to Mamma. CertainlyMamma would neverunderstand Ruthselbows on the table, hershouts of laughter—or thepellets of breadshe flipped at the twoeligible young men.
  • 108. And the words they used!Maria could only feel thatthe language ofMamma must be singularlyantiquated. There was somuch of theconversation that she didnot understand . . . so manywords that shehad never heard. What,indeed, was a simp, a boob,a nut? What awas the meaning of “a poorfish?”Maria held her peace, andlistened, confused by theastoundingvocabulary and the evenmore astounding intimacy.What things theysaid to each other in jest!
  • 109. And anything that MariaAngelina said all three ofthem acted as ifthey took it in jest. Sheevoked an appreciative pealwhen sheventured that the Lodgemust be very old becauseshe had read thatthe first settlers made theirhomes of logs."Ill take you up and showyou our ancestral hut,"declared BobMartin. "Where Granddadused to stretch the RedSkins to dry by theback door—before tanningem for raincoats.""Really?" said MariaAngelina ingenuously, thenat sight of his
  • 110. expression, "But how shall Iknow what you tell me istrue or not?"she appealed. "It all soundsso strange to me—the truthas well.""You look at me," saidJohnny Byrd leaningforward. "When I shut thiseye, this way, so, you shakeyour head at them. When Inod my chindown, like this — then youcan believe what they aresaying.""But, but you will not alwaysbe there when they aretalking,” Mariacomplained with a puzzledstare at him.
  • 111. "Oh,” Johnny grinned andnodded his chin vigorouslyup and down.“Ill be there, right besideyou, like the weather. Didntyou say youwanted me to stay a month,Bob?"An explosion of laughtershook the room. A deepblush leaped acrossMarias cheeks even whileshe laughed with them. Shewas consciousof a faint and confused half-distress beneath hermountingconfidence. They were sovery jocular. . . .Of course this was but chaff,she understood, and shebegan to
  • 112. wonder if that other, thatyoung Signor Elder, hadbeen but jokingwith her, having fun withher in the American way. . . .And yet thiswas all flattering chaff andso perhaps she could trustthe flattery ofher secret hope. Surely,surely, she would see himagain.Meanwhile she shook heryoung braids at JohnnyByrd. "But you areso sudden! I think he is aflirter, yes?" she said gaylyto Mr. Blair whosmiled back appreciativelyand a trifle protectively ofher.
  • 113. But Bobby Martin drawled,"Oh, no, hes not. Hes toocareful," andthere was another explosionof laughter that rocked theroom.After luncheon they wentback into the hall where thethree mensneaked out into a side roomwhere cigars and tailoredcigaretteswere sold, and began fillingtheir silver cases. Mrs. Blairstepped outon the verandas and joined agroup there. Ruth remainedby thefireplace, and MariaAngelina waited by her,uncertain where she was
  • 114. to go. "Your friends are verynice," she began with acertaindiffidence, as her cousinseemed to have nothing tosay. "That JohnnyByrd—he is very funny——""Oh, Johnnys funny?" Ruthasked in an odd voice. Sheadded, “No,hes a regular spoiled baby—hes had everything his way.Only an oldguardian to boss him.""You mean he is anorphan?""Completely."Maria Angelina did notsmile. "But that is very sad,"she said soberly."No life at home——"
  • 115. "Dont get it into your headthat Johnny Byrd wants anyhome life,"said her cousin dryly, andwith a hard hint of warningin her negligentvoice. "Hes been dodginghome life ever since he worelongtrousers.""He must then," MariaAngelina deduced, verysimply, "be rich.""Rich?” Ruth turned herhead to one side as if shehad neverassociated that word withJohnny. “Well, he is one ofthe Long IslandByrds, you know."
  • 116. It sounded to Maria like aflock of ducks, but sheperceived that it wasgiven for affirmation thatJohnny was rich. Shefollowed Ruths glanceto where the backs of theyoung mens heads werevisible, bendingover some coins they wereapparently matching. . . .Johnny Byrdshead was flaming in thesunshine. . . ."Johnnys a tough old birdfrom a hard-boiled egg,"Ruth said with asmile of inner amusement.But whatever cryptic signalshe flashed slipped unseenfrom Maria
  • 117. Angelinas vision. JohnnyByrd was nice, but it was agay, cheery,everyday sort of niceness,she thought, with none ofthe quicksilvercharm of the young man atthe dinner dance. . . . Andshe wasunimpressed by Johnnysmoney; She took it forgranted that themillionaires in America wereas common as schools offish in the sea.Maria merely felt cheerfullythat Fate was gallopingalong hermothers expected course.Subconsciously, perhaps,she recorded a
  • 118. possible second string to herbow. With tact, she thought,she turnedthe talk to Ruths youngman."And the Signor Bob Martin—I suppose he, too, is amillionaire," shesmiled, and was astonishedat Ruths derisive laugh."Not unless he murders hisfather," said that barbaricyoung woman.“Murders his father?”Ruth was relenting towardsher cousins ignorance, "Oh,Bob hasntanything of his own, youknow. . . . But his fatherstaking him intobusiness this fall."
  • 119. Maria Angelina wasbewildered. Distinctly shehad understood, fromthe Leila Grey conversation,that Bobby Martin was avery eligibleyoung man and yet here washer cousin flouting anyfinancialcongratulation. Hesitantlyshe asked, "Is his father—ina goodbusiness?" she offered, andwon from Ruth moremerriment asinexplicable as her speech."Hes in Steel," shemurmured, which was noenlightenment to Maria.She ventured to morefamiliar ground. "He seemsto be very
  • 120. handsome."To her astonishment Ruthsnorted. . . . But then Luciaalways bridledconsciously when onepraised how handsomePaolo Tosti looked."Dont let him hear you sayso," Ruth scoffed. "Hes toofat. He needsa lot more tennis."And then to Marias horrorshe raised her voice andconfided thisconviction to theapproaching young men."Youre getting fat, Bob. Ijust got your profile—andyou need a lot of tennis forthat tummy!"
  • 121. And young Martin laughed—the indolent, submissivelaughter withwhich he appeared to acceptall things at the hands ofthis audacious,brown-cheeked, gray-eyedyoung girl.She must be very sure ofhim, thought the littleItalian sagely. Then,not so sagely, she wonderedif Ruth was exhibiting herpower to warnoff all newcomers. . . . Wasthat why she refused toadmit his wealthor his good looks—shewanted to invite nocompetition?
  • 122. Maria Angelina believed shesaw the light. She wouldreassure Ruth,she thought eagerly. Shewas a young person ofhonor. Never wouldshe attempt to divert aglance from her cousinsadmirer.Meanwhile a debate wascarried on between golf andtennis, and wascarried in favor of golf byCousin Jim. There wasunintelligible talk ofhazards and bunkers andhandicaps for thetournament, of recordsand of bogey, and then asJohnny turned to her with acasual, "Like
  • 123. the game?" a shadow ofmisgiving crept into herconfidence.She knew she could not playgolf. Nor could she playtennis. Nor couldshe follow the golfers—asJohnny Byrd suggested—forCousin Janedeclared her frock andslippers too delicate. Shedecided that shemust get into somethingmore appropriate. And inMaria Angelina theworried suspicion woke thatshe had nothing moreappropriate.A few minutes later CousinJane confirmed thatsuspicion as she
  • 124. paused by the trunk theyoung girl was hastilyunpacking."Ill send to town for someplain little things for you toplay in," shesaid cheerfully. "You musthave some low-heeled whiteshoes andshort white skirts and abatting hat. They wontcome to much," sheadded as if carelessly, goingdown to her bridge game onthe veranda.But Maria Angelinas smallhands clenched tightly ather sides in apanic out of all proportion tothe idea. More expenses?she was in
  • 125. shock, thinking quiveringly.More investment!She dropped beside hertrunk of pretty things in apassion offrightened tears.But the night swung herback to triumph again.For although she could notgolf, and her hands couldnot wield atennis racket, MariaAngelina could play thepiano and she could singlike the angels she had beennamed for. And the youngpeople at theLodge had a way ofgathering in the dark uponthe wide steps and
  • 126. strumming chords on abattered guitar and warblingstrange strainsabout intimate emotions.And as Maria Angelinasvoice rose to blendin with the other youngpeople her gift wasdiscovered."Gosh, the little Wops aGalli-Curci," was John Byrdsaside to Bob.So presently with JohnnyByrds guitar in her handsMaria Angelinawas singing the songs ofItaly, sometimes in English,when she knewthe words, that all mightjoin in the choruses, butmore often in theirown Italian.
  • 127. A crescent moon edged overthe shadowy dark of themountainsbefore her . . . the samemoon whose silver thread oflight slippeddown those far Apenninehills of home and touchedthe dome of oldSaint Peters. She felt faraway from home and lonely .. . anddeliciously sad and subtlyexpectant. . . ."O Sole mio——"As she sang, with her eyeson the far hills, her earscaught the whir ofwheels on the road below,and all her nerves tightenedlike wires and
  • 128. she hummed with thecharged currents.Out of the dark she conjureda tall young figureadvancing . . . afigure topped by short-cutcurly brown hair . . . a figurewith eyes ofincredible brightness. . . .If he would only come nowand find her like this,singing. . . .It was so exquisite a hopethat her heart pleaded for it.But the wheels spun on pastthem."O Sole mio——"And it was only Johnny Byrd,staring steadily through thedusk, whodiscerned that there weresilver tears in her dark eyes.
  • 129. She told herself that shewas foolish to hope for Barryto arrive sosoon. Of course he could notfollow her at once. He couldnot leaveNew York. He had work tobe done. She must not beginto hope untiltomorrow, at least.But though she talked toherself so wisely, she hopedwith everybreath she drew that hewould show up. She wasaccustomed toItalian precipitancy—andnothing in Barry Eldersuggested delay. If hecame, he would come whilehis memory of her wasfresh.
  • 130. It would be either here orYork Harbor. Either herselfor that girl withthe blue eyes. If he reallywanted to see Maria at all, ifhe had anymemory of their dance, anyinterest in the novelty ofher, then hewould come soon. And so itwas that Maria Angelinasdays ranthrough a fever of anxiousexpectancy.At first it ran high. The honkof a car horn, thereverberation ofwheels upon the bridge, theslam of a door and the flurryof steps inthe hall set up that instant,tumultuous commotion.
  • 131. At any moment, she felt,Barry Elder might arrive.Every morning herpulse confessed that hemight come that day; everynight her courageinsisted that the nextmorning would bring him.And as the days passed intoweeks her expectancyincreased. It grewacute. It grew painful. Thefeeling, as each day arrived,that he mightbe there gave her a tightpinch of suspense, ahammering racket ofpulse-beats—succeeded byan empty, sickening, sliding-down-tonothingnesssensation when she realizedthat he was not there, when
  • 132. her despair proclaimed thathe would never be there—and then,stoutly, she told herself thatYES, he would come the nexttime.They were days of dreamsfor her—dreams and blushesas shedanced through therestaurant, of color, lightand music, and dreamedof that tall, slim figure . . .dreams of the dance, of thegay, halfteasingvoice, the bright eyes, thedirect smile. . . . Every wordhehad uttered becameprecious, infinitelysignificant.
  • 133. "A rivederci, Signorina. . . .Dont forget me."She had not forgotten him.Like the wax on the recordthat he hadnamed she had guarded hisimage. Through all theswiftly developingexperiences of those strangedays she retained that firstimpression ofhim in her heart.She would think that shesaw him in every group. Sheblushed as shepictured him in everyexcursion. Above JohnnyByrds light, straighthair she saw Barrys close-cropped brown curls. . . .She held long
  • 134. conversations with him inher imagination. In him sheconfided herimpressions. She read himItalian love poems anddelighted in heranticipations of the silvertinkles of his laughter.But still, he did not come.And sharply her heartwobbled from hope todespair. In sharpbitterness she told herselfthat he would never come.She did not believe herself.Beneath a set little pretenseofindifference she listenedintently for the sound of newarrivals; herheart turned over at a everyapproaching car.
  • 135. But she did not admit it evento herself any longer. Shescolded herheart and said that she wasthrough with hope. She saidthat she didnot care whether Barrycame or not. She said shedid not even wanthim to come after all thistime, for he must be withthat goldenblonde, Leila Grey, ofcourse.Well all right then, she waswith Johnny Byrd and shereally did enjoyhis presence. She was withhim every day, for with thatamazing
  • 136. American freedom, BobbyMartin came down to seeRuth every dayand the four young peoplewere always involved insome game withother couples from theLodge, hurrying off on somedrive, someexpedition.But it was not accident nor alazy concurrence withpropinquity thatkept Johnny Byrd at MariaAngelinas side.Openly he announcedhimself as tied hand andfoot in love with her.He admitted to one and allthat his admiration for herwas as vivid as
  • 137. his red roadster. It was asunabashed and clamant ashis motor horn.His eyes rolled upward toheaven as he reveled in herresponses. Hemonopolized her. In his ownwords, “He lapped her up.”With amazing simplicityMaria Angelina accepted thismiracle. It wasonly a second-rate miracleto her, for it was not thedesire of herheart, and she was uneasyabout it. She did not want tobe involvedwith Johnny Byrd if BarryElder should arrive. . . . Ofcourse, if she
  • 138. had never met BarryElder. . . . then Johnny Byrdwas a very nice,merry boy. And he was rich .. . independent. . . . If onehas nevertasted Asti Spumante, thenone can easily be pleasedwith Chianti.Thus her secret dream wasthe young girls protectionagainst overeagernessand her blushes were likeprizes in some exotic game.To her young hostess thisindifference came as anenormous relief."Shes all right," Ruthreported to her mother,upon an afternoon that
  • 139. Maria Angelina had takenherself downstairs to thepiano and to aprospective call from JohnnyByrd while Ruth herself, inriding togs,awaited Bob Martin and hishorses. "She isnt jumpingdown Johnnysthroat at all," the girl wenton."I was afraid, you know,that first day, when sheasked such nuttyquestions about him. . . . Butshe seems to take it all forgranted now.That ought to hold Johnnyfor a while—long enough sohe wont get
  • 140. tired and throw her down forsomebody else before heleaves.""You think, then, there isnta chance of——?"Mrs. Blair left the hypothesisin midair, convicted of beingan ancientmatchmaker in sentiment bythe frank amusement of heryoungdaughters look."No, my dear, there isnt achance of," Ruth socompetently informedher that Mrs. Blair, in revolt,was moved to murmur,"After all, Ruth,people do fall in love and getmarried in this world."
  • 141. "Oh, yes?" Patiently Ruthgave this thought herconsideration and infair-mindedness turned herscrutiny upon past days toevoke somesign that should contradicther own conclusions. “Nah."Oh, Marias got something—and its something differentfrom the restof us—but it would takemore than that to doanything for JohnnyByrd.""You dont suppose shesbeginning to think——?"hazarded Mrs. Blair.Better than her daughter,she envisaged thecircumstances which
  • 142. might have led, in herCousin Lucys mind, to thisyoung girls visit.Lucy, herself, had beentaken abroad in those earlydays by acompetent aunt. Now Lucy,in the turn of the tide, wassending herdaughter to America.Jane Blair would have lovedto play fairy godmothermatchmaker, justto make a benevolentgesture, of course, and toscatter largess. . . .But she was not going tohave it said that she was afortune hunter.She was not going to alarmJohnny Byrd and implicateBob Martin and
  • 143. disturb the delicate balancebetween him and Ruth.Lucys daughtermust take her chances. Afterall, this wasnt Europe."Well, Ive said enough toher," Ruth stated briskly, inanswer to hermothers supposition. "Idont know how much shebelieves. . . . Youknow Ri-Ri is seething withOld World sentiment and shemay be sucha little nut as to think—butshe doesnt act as if shereally cared aboutJohnny at all. It isnt just apose either. . . . Do youimagine," said
  • 144. Ruth, suddenly lapsing intoa little Old World sentimentherself, "thatshes gone on someone inItaly and they sent her overhere to forgethim? That might account——""Lucys letter didnt soundlike it. She was veryemphatic about MariaAngelinas knowing nothingof the world or young men.“I rather gathered," Mrs.Blair made out, "that thefamily had a plaindaughter to marry off andwanted to lay the pretty oneout in ambushfor a while—they take careof those things, you know."
  • 145. "And I suppose if shecopped a millionaire in thislittle ambush theywouldnt howl bloodymurder," said the girl, withadmirable intuition."Oh, well——" She yawnedand looked out of thewindow. "Shesprobably having the time ofher life. . . . Im grateful sheturned outto be such a little peach. . . .When she goes back andmarries somefat spaghetti it will give hersomething to moon about torememberhow she and Johnny Byrdused to sit out and strumguitars to the
  • 146. stars—— Oh. There he isnow.""Bob?" said Mrs. Blairabsently, her mind occupiedby her youngdaughters largesophistication."No, Johnny," said Ruth.She leaned half out thewindow as the red roadstershot thunderouslyacross the rustic bridge andbrought up sharply on thedrivewaybelow. With a shoutedgreeting she brought thedrivers red-blondehead to attention."Hullo—wheres the Bob?"Johnny grinned. "Trying toride one horse and leadanother. Sweet
  • 147. mount hes bringing you,Ruth. Didnt like the way Ipassed him. Betyou he throws you.""Bet you he doesnt.""You lose. . . . Wheres thelittle Wop?""Do you mean LaMariaAngelina aLa Santonini?""Oh yes. Gosh yes. Would,you scoot across to her roomand tellLaMaria Angelina aLaSantonini that she has aperfectly good datewith me?""She powdered her nose andwent down stairs an hourago," Ruthsang down, just as a smallfigure emerged from themusic room upon
  • 148. the veranda and approachedthe rail."The little Wop is here,Signor," Maria Angelina saidlightly as shetrooped down the woodenstairs.Completely unabashedJohnny Byrd beamed at her.It was a perfectlygood sensation, each time,to see her. One grew tosuspect, betweentimes, that anything soenchanting didnt reallyexist—and then,suddenly, there she was,like a conjurers trick, everylovely youngline of her.
  • 149. Johnny knew girls. He knewthem, he would haveinformed you,backwards and forwards.And he liked girls—devilishcunning games,with the same old trumps uptheir sleeves—when theywore em—butthis girl was just puzzlinglydifferent enough to evoke acuriouslyhaunting wonder.Was it the difference inenvironment? Or in herself?He couldnt quitemake Maria out. He wasgroping for some clew, somefamiliar signthat would resolve all theunfamiliarities to oldacquaintance.
  • 150. Meanwhile he continued tosmile cheerily at the youngperson he hadso rudely designated as alittle Wop and gestured tothe seat besidehim. “Come on. Lets go. Hopin," he admonished. "Let usbe offbefore that horse comes andsteps on me."But Maria Angelina shookher dark head. "I have toldyou, no, Signor,I could not go. In mycountry one does not ride offalone with youngmen.""But you are in my countrynow. And in my country onejolly well
  • 151. does ride off alone withyoung men.""In your country—I am here,but yet just for a time, yes."MariaAngelina stood by her rail,like the boy upon theburning deck."But your aunt—cousin, Imean—would let you," heargued. "Ill shoutup now and see——"Unrelentingly, "It is not mycousin that would object,Signor, but mymother," she informed him."Holy Saint Cecilia! Shes nothere. She cant see you. Shedoesntknow what you are doing.Oh, youre worse thanboarding school.
  • 152. Come on, Maria Angelina—Ill promise not to kiss you."Johnny thought that wasone of his best lines. Italways had a greatdeal of effect on her — oneway or another. The thoughtstartledMaria Angelina so much thatshe blushed. Her eyesopened wide as ifhe had set off a rocket in herface—and something verybright andlight, like the impishreflections of that rocket,danced for a momentin her look."I will write that promise tomy mother and see if itpersuades her,"she informed him cooly.
  • 153. "Oh, all right, all right."With the sigh of thedefeated Johnny Byrdswitched off the gas andclimbed out of his car as itburped and died."Just for that, the promise isoff," he announced. "Do youthink yourmother would mind lettingyou sit in the same roomwith me andteach me that song youpromised?""She would mind very muchin Italy." Over her shoulderMaria cast alaughing look at him as shestepped back into the musicroom."There, I would never bealone like this."
  • 154. Incredulously Johnny staredpast her into the musicroom. Throughthe windows upon the otherside came the voices ofbridge playersupon the veranda without.Through those samewindows were visiblethe bridge players heads.Other windows opened uponthe veranda inthe front of the Lodge fromwhich they had just come.An arch ofdoorway gave upon the widehall where a guest wasshuffling themail. "Alone!" Johnny asked,his chin dropping.
  • 155. "When my sister Lucia andher fiancé, Paolo Tosti, aretogether, it isonly because "I am in thenext room with a book. Andthat is onlybecause my Mamma she isan American.""You mean—you mean yoursister and that—that toastedone shesengaged to have neverreally seen each other——?""Oh, they have seen eachother with their ——" Johnnycollapsedheavily in deep thought."The poor fish."But Johnny glanced withincreasing curiosity at theyoung girl by his
  • 156. side. . . . After all, this jeunefille thing might be true. . . ."Well, Imglad your mother wasAmerican," he declared,beginning to strumupon the piano and invitingher to a seat beside him.But Maria Angelina remainedfar away on the bench,looking throughher music."Then I am only half aWop?" she asked. “And, shatis this thing then—a Wop?"Johnny Byrd, strikingrandom chords, looked up ather."What is it?" he repeated."Ill say that depends. . . .Sometimes its
  • 157. dark and greasy and throwsbombs. . . . Sometimes itsbad and gladand sings Carmen. . . . Andsometimes its—its——"Deliberately he stared at thesmall braid-bound head, theshadowydark of the eyes, the scarletcurve of the small mouth."Sometimesits just the prettiest,youngest——""I am not so young," MariaAngelina indignantlydeclared."Lordy, youre just a babe inarms.""I am not." Her defiancewas furious. It had a twingeof terror—terror
  • 158. lest they treat hereverlastingly as child. "I ameighteen. I am onlyone year and three monthsyounger than Ruth.""Shes a kid too," Johnnygrinned."The Signor Bob Martin doesnot think so!""The Signor Bob Martin isnuts on that particular kid.And hes just ayoung kid himself.""And do you think that youare——?""Sure. Were all kidstogether. Why not? I like it,"declared youngJohny Byrd.But Maria Angelina was notappeased. She had halfglimpsed that
  • 159. indefinite irresponsibility ofthese strangers whichtreated youth as atoy, an experiment. . . ."And is the Signorina LeilaGrey," said she suddenly, "isshe, also, a,a, uh kid?"Roundly Johnny opened hiseyes. His face presented acuriousstolidity of look, as if aprotection against someunforeseen attack. Atthe same time it wasstreaked with humor."Now where," said he, "didyou get that silly idea?""Is it silly that she is also akid?"
  • 160. "The Signorina Leila Grey?No," conceded Johnny, "theSignorina LeilaGrey was born with herwisdom teeth already cut. . .. And, at thatshe hasnt found so much tochew on," he murmuredcheerily.The girls eyes were brightwith divinations. "You meanthat she didnot—did not find your friendBob something to chewupon?"Johnnys laugh was aguffaw. It rang startlingly inthat quiet room."Youre there, Ri-Ri—absolutely there," he vowed."But where are you
  • 161. exactly, I wonder——" Hebroke off. His look held bothsurmise and ashrewd suspicion."She is very beautiful.""Shes a wonder," headmitted heartily. "Yes—andIll say Bob nearlyfell for her. Its a wonder thashe could not gather him in.He justdodged in the nick of time—and now hes busyforgetting that he everknew her.""Perhaps," slowly puzzledout Maria Angelina,"perhaps the reasonwas because her attentionwas just a little—wandering."
  • 162. Johnny yawned. "That oftenhappens to her." He struck afew chords."Wheres that little song ofyours—the one you weregoing to teachme? I could do somethingwith that at the next showat the club.""If you will just move overand let me sit down, Signor——""Move over? Im notcrabbing the bench.""But I wish the place in thecenter.""What are you fraid of, Ri-Ri?" Obligingly Johnnymoved over. "Why,you have me tied hand andfoot. Im afraid to move amuscle for fear
  • 163. youll tell me it isnt done—inItaly."But Ri-Ri gave this parryonly an absent smile. "InNew York," she toldhim, "that Leila Grey was atthe restaurant with a youngman—withthe Signor Barry Elder.""Huh? Youve met BarryElder?""Are you,"—she was proudof the splendid indifferenceof her voice,—"are you a friend of his?"Uninterestedly, "Oh, I knowBarry, all right" Johnny toldher. "Thats abright boy—Barry. Awfulhigh-brow, though. Wrote aplay or
  • 164. something. Not a bed scenein it. Oh, well," said Johnnyhastily, with aglance at the girls youngface, "I say, how does thisgo? Ta tump titum ti tump tump—what dothose words of yoursmean?""Perhaps this Barry Elder,"said Ri-Ri with averted eyes,her handsfluttering the pages,"perhaps he is the one thatLeila Greys attentionwas upon. Did you not hearthat?""Who? Barry?""Has he not," said the girldesperately, "becomerecently more
  • 165. desirable to her—more rich,perhaps——""That play didnt make himanything, thats for sure,"the young manmeditated. "But seems tome I did hear—somethingabout an uncleshuffling off and leaving hima few thous. . . . Maybe heleft enoughfor Barry to buy Leila asupper.""Here are the Englishwords." Maria Angelinaspread the music openbefore them. "Mrs. Blair wasjoking with him," shereverted, "becausehe was not going to thatYork Harbor this summerwhere this Leila
  • 166. Grey was. But perhaps hehas gone, after all?""Search me," said Johnnynegligently. "Im not mybrothers keeper.""But yes, you would know ifhe is coming with her to thedance at theMartins—that dance nextweek——?""What? Oh no. He isntcoming to the house party,hes not invited.He and Bob arent anythingchummy at all. Barry trainsin an oldercrowd. . . . Seems to me,"said Johnny, turning to lookat her out ofbright blue eyes, "Ill say,arent youre awflyinterested in this Barry
  • 167. Elder thing. Didnt you sayyou met him in New York?""I met him—yes," said MariaAngelina, in a steady littlevoice,beginning suddenly to play."And I thought it was soromantic—abouthim and this Leila Grey. Shewas so beautiful and he hadbeen sobrave in the war. And so Iwondered——""Well, dont you wonderabout whos coming to thatdance. Thatdance is mine," said Johnnydefinitely. "I want you tolook yourdarndest—put it all overthose other flappers. Showthem your knees,
  • 168. you know, all that you got,"Johnny suggested with thesimpledirectness in such vogue."And now come on, Ri-Ri—lets get into this together.I cannot now forget youAnd you think not of me!Come on, Maria Angelina!"And Maria Angelina, her facelifted, her eyes strangelybright, sang,while Johnny Byrd staredfixedly down at her, angrily,defiantly, sangto that unseen young man—back in the shadows——"I cannot now forget youAnd you think not of me!"And then she told herselfthat she would forget Barryvery easily and
  • 169. well indeed.BETWEEN DANCESThere had been distinctproprietorship in Johnnysreference to thedance, a hint of possessiveadmonition, a shade ofanxiety to whichMaria Angelina was notinsensitive.He wanted her to “showoff.” His pride was calling,unconsciously,upon her, to justify hischoice of partner. He wantedher to be anexhibition . . . competition.It was the open market . . .appraisal. . . .No matter how charming shemight be in the motor rideswith the
  • 170. four, how pretty and piquantin the afternoon at thepiano, howmelodious in the eveningsupon the steps, the fullmeasure of hisadmiration was not excitedin the least.Sagely she surmised this.Anxiously she awaited theevent.It was her first real dance. Itwas her first truly Americanaffair.Casually, in the evenings atthe Lodge, they had dancedto thephonograph and she hadbeen initiated into new stepsand shocked at
  • 171. the intimate familiarity inthem. When Johnny did theCamel, Mariahad hurried away and didnot return for an hour. Eventhen, she washesitant and wary.The Martins wereentertaining over the week-end, and giving a danceto which the neighborhood—meaning the neighborhoodof the Martinsacquaintance—wasassembling. Again MariaAngelina felt the inrushof fear, the overwhelmingtimidity of inexperience heldat bay by pridealone . . . again she knewthe tormenting questionwhich she had
  • 172. confronted in that dim oldglass at the PalazzoSantonini on the daywhen she had heard of theadventure before her.She asked it that night of adifferent glass, the big,built-in mirror ofthe dressing-room at theMartins given over to theladies—a mirrorthat was a dissolvingkaleidoscope of color andmotion, of bright silks,bare shoulders and whitearms, of red blushingcheeks, red lips and awreath of dark, shining hair.Advancing shyly among theyoung girls, filled withdivided wonder at
  • 173. their total, self-possessionand their extremedécolletage, Ri-Ri gazedat the glass timidly,determinedly, fatefully, asone approaches anoracle, and out from theglittering surface was flungback to her aradiant image ofreassurance—a vision of aslim figure in filmiestwhite, slender arms andshoulders bare, dark hairnot braided now,but piled high upon her head—a revelation of a nape ofneck as youngand kissable as a babys andyet an addition ofbewildering years toher immaturity.
  • 174. To-night she was glad of herradiantly white skin, thatwas a gift fromMamma. The white coralstring, against the satinsoftness of herthroat, revealed itsopalescent blush. She wasimmaculate, exquisite,like some figurine of fancy—an image of youth as sweetandinnocently troubling as aMay night."Youre a love," said Ruthheartily, appearing at herside, verystunning herself in jadegreen, with her smooth haira miracle of
  • 175. shining perfection. "Andyoure—different," addedRuth in a slightlypuzzled voice, looking hersmall cousin over with thethoroughness ofan inventory."It must be the hair, Ri-Ri. . . . Youve lost that littleSaint Susy air.""But there is no Saint Susy,"Ri-Ri interposed gaily,lightly fingeringthe dark curves of her hair.Truly—for Johnny—she haddone her darndest! Surely hewould bepleased."If youd only let me cut thatlower—youre simplyswaddled in tulle——"
  • 176. Startled, Maria glanceddown at the hollows of heryoung bosom, atthe scantiness of her bodicesuspended only by bands ofsheerestgauze. She wondered whatMamma would say, if shecould see herso, without that drape ofnet. . . ."You have the duckiestshoulder blades," said Ruth."Oh what? Do they show?"cried Maria Angelina indismay. Shetwisted for a view and themovement drew Ruthsglance along herlithe figure.
  • 177. "We ought to have cut twoinches more off," shedeclared, and nowRi-Ris glance fled down tothe satin slippers with theircrossedribbons, to the narrow,silken ankles, to the slenderlegs above theankles. It seemed to her anutterly limitless exhibition.And Ruth wasproposing to raise the hemtwo more inches?Apprehensively sheglanced about to make surethat no scissors were inprospect."But youll do," Ruthpronounced at last, and inrelief Maria Angelina
  • 178. relinquished the center ofthe mirror, and slipped outinto the gallerythat ran around three sidesof the house.It was built like a chalet, butMaria Angelina had seen nosuch chaletas this in her childishsummers in Switzerland.Over the edge of therail she gazed into the hugehall, cleared now fordancing. Thefurniture had been pushedback beneath the gallerywhere it wasarranged in intimate littlegroups for future tête-à-têtes, except a few
  • 179. lounging chairs left on theblack bear-skins by thechimney-piece. Inone corner a screen of pineboughs and daisies shut offthe musiciansfrom the streets, and in theopposite corner an Englishman-servantwas presiding over a hugesilver punch bowl.To Maria Angelina,accustomed to Italianinteriors, the note wasbuoyantly informal. And theluxury of service in thisinformality was apiquant contrast. . . . No oneseemed to care whatanything cost. . . .
  • 180. They gave dances in a logchalet and sent to New Yorkfor the favorsand to California for thefruit. . . . Into the hugepunch-bowl theypoured wine of a value nowincredible, since the supplycould neverbe replenished because ofthis strange thing called“Prohibition.”How very different would beLucias wedding party in thePalazzoSantonini, on that marvelousold service that Pietropolished but threetimes a year, with everymorsel of refreshmentarranged andcalculated beforehand.
  • 181. What miracles of economywould be performed in thatstone-flaggedkitchen, many of them byMammas own hands!Suddenly MariaAngelina found a moment towonder afresh at thatmother . . . andwith a new vision. . . . ForMamma had sprang fromthis profusion."They have a regular placeat Newport." Ruth wasconcluding someunheard speech behind her."But they like thisbetter. . . . This is thelife," and with a just faintlydiscernible note ofproprietorship in her airshe was off down the stairs.
  • 182. "Didnt they find Newportrather chilly?" murmuredthe girl to whomshe had been talking."Wasnt Mrs. M. a Smith or aBrown-Jones orsomething——?""It was something inbutterine," said anotherguest negligently andswore, softly and intensely,at a shoulder strap. "Oh,damn thething! . . . Well—flop if youwant to. Ive got no boops tohide.""You know why girls hidetheir ears, dont you?" saidthe other voice,and the second girl flungwearily back, "Oh, so theycan have
  • 183. something new to showtheir husbands—I heard thatin my cradle!""It is rather old," its sponsoracknowledged wittily, andthe pair wentclattering on.Had America, Maria Angelinawondered, been like this inher mothersyouth? Was it from suchspeeches that her motherhad turned, inhelplessness or distaste, tothe delicate implications, thefinishedinnuendo of the Italianworld? Or had timeschanged? Were thesegirls truly different fromtheir mothers? Was it a newsociety?
  • 184. That was it, she concluded,and she, in her old-worldseclusion, wasfrom a totally different erafrom these assured ones. . . .Again, for amoment the doubt of hercapacity to cope with thesetimes assailedher, but only for a moment,for next instant she caughtJohnny Byrdsupturned glance from thefloor below and in its flashof admiration, asunstinted as a sun bath, herconfidence drewreanimation.Later, she found that samewarmth leaping at her inother mens eyes
  • 185. and in the eagerness withwhich they kept cutting in.That act of cutting inbewildered her. It filled herwith a terrifyingperspective of what wouldhappen if she were not cutin upon—if shewere left to gyrate endlesslyin the arms of some lucklessone,eternally stuck. . . .At home, at a ball, she knewthat there were fixeddances, andprograms, in whichengagements were jotteddefinitely down, and ateach dances end a girl wasreturned respectfully to herchaperon
  • 186. where the next partnercalled for her. Often she hadscanned Luciasscrawled programs for thenames there.But there was none of thatnow.Up and down the hall shesped in some mans arms,round and round,up and down, until anotherman, agile, dexterous, shotbetween thecouples and claimed her.And then up and down againuntil someother man. . . . Andsometimes they went backto rest in theintimately arranged chairsbeneath the balcony, andsometimes
  • 187. stepped out of doors tosaunter along a wideterrace.It was incrediblyindependent. It wasintoxicatingly free. It wasalsoterrifyingly responsible.And Maria Angelina, in heryoung fear of unpopularity,smiled soingenuously upon eacharrival, with a shy, backwarddeprecatoryglance at her lost partner,that she stirred somethingnew andwondering in each seasonedbreast, and each dancercame again andagain.
  • 188. But all of them, the newyoung men from town, thetennis championfrom Yale, the polo playerfrom England, the lawyerfrom Washington,the stout widower, theprofessional bachelor, allwere only movingshapes that came and wentand came again and by theirtribute madeher successful in Johnnyseyes.Indeed, so well did they dotheir work that Johnny wasmoved tobrusque expostulation."Look here, Ri-Ri, I told youthis was to be my dance!With all those
  • 189. outsiders cutting in—Freezethem, Ri-Ri. Try a long, hardlevel look onthe next one you see makingyour way. . . . Dont youwant to dancewith me, any more? Huh?Wheres that stand-in ofmine? Is it a little,old last years model?""But what am I to do——?""Fight em off. Bite em. Kicktheir shins. . . . Oh, Lord,"groanedJohnny, dexterously whirlingher about, "theres anothercoming. . . .Heres where we go. Thisway out."Speedily he piloted herthrough the throng.Masterfully he caught her
  • 190. arm and drew her out ofdoors.She was glad to be out ofthe dance. His clasp hadbeen growing toopersonal . . . too tight. . . .Perhaps she was only oddlyselfconscious. . . incapable of the serenedetachment of those otherdancers, who, yielding andintertwined, revolved inintimate harmony.There was a moon. It shonesoft and bright upon them,making aworld of enchantment. Thelong lines of the mountainsmeltedtogether like a violet cloudand above them a round topfloated, pale
  • 191. and dreamy, as the dome ofSaint Peters at twilight.From the terrace stretched agrassy path where othercouples werestrolling and Johnny Byrdguided her past them. Theywalked insilence. He kept his hand onher arm and from time totime glancedabout at her in a half-constraint that was no partof his usual air.At a curve of the path thegirl drew definitely back."Ah no——""Oh, why not? Isnt it thecustom?" He laughed overthe often-cited
  • 192. phrase but absently. Hiseyes had a warm, hurryinglook in them thatrooted her feet the morestubbornly to the ground."Decidedly not." She turneda merriment lighted face tohim. "To walkalone with a young man—between dances—beneaththe moon!"Maria Angelina shudderedand cast impish eyes atheaven."Honestly?" Johnnydemanded. "Do you mean totell me youve neverwalked between dances withyoung men?""I tell you that I have nevereven danced with a youngman until——"
  • 193. She flashed away from thatmemory. "Until I came toAmerica. I amnot yet in Italian society. Ihave never been presented.It is not yetmy time.""But—but dont the sub debshave any good times overthere? Dontyou have dances of yourown? Dont you meetfellows? Dont youknow anybody?" Johnnydemanded with increasingamazement ateach new shake of her head."Oh, come," he protested."You cant put that over me.Ill bet youve
  • 194. got a bagful of fellows crazyabout you. Dont you everslip out on anerrand, you know, and findsome one waiting round thecorner——?""You are speaking of thecustoms of my maid,perhaps," said MariaAngelina with becomingyoung haughtiness. "Formyself, I do not goupon errands. I have neverbeen upon the streetsalone."Johnny Byrd stared. With asupreme effort of credulityhe envisagedthe fact. Perhaps it wasreally so. Perhaps she wasjust as
  • 195. sequestered and guilelessand inexperienced as that. Itwasridiculous. It was amusing.It was—somehow—intriguing.With his hand upon her barearm he drew her closer."Ri-Ri—honest now—is thisthe first——?"She drew away instinctivelybefore the suppressedexcitement of him.Her heart beat fast; herhands were very cold. Sheknew elation . . .and panic . . . and dread andhope.It was for this she hadcome. Young and rich andfree! What more
  • 196. would Mamma ask? Whatgreater triumph could behers?"Id like to make a lot ofother things the first, too,"muttered Johnny.To Ri-Ri it seemedirrevocable things werebeing said. But she stillheld lightly away from him,resisting the clumsy pull ofhis arm. Hehesitated—laughed oddly."It ought to be against thelaw for any girl to look theway you do, Ri-Ri." He laughed again. "Iwonder if you know how thedeuce you dolook?""Perhaps it is the moonlight,Signor."
  • 197. "Moonlight—you look as ifyou were made of it. . . . Icould eat youup, Ri-Ri." His eyes on herred little mouth, on herwhite, beatingthroat. His voice had an odd,husky note."Dont be such a little frost,Ri-Ri. Dont you like me atall?"It was the dream comingtrue. It was the fairy prince—not the falsefigure she had set in theprinces place, but a proudrevenge uponhim. This was reality,fulfillment.She saw herself alreadymarried to Johnny, returningproudly with
  • 198. him to Italy. She saw themdriving in a victoria, openlyas man andwife—or no, Johnny wouldhave a wonderful car, allmetal and brightcolor. They would bemagnificently touring, withtheir luggagestrapped on the side, as shehad seen Americans.She saw them turning intothe sombre courtway of theold PalazzoSantonini and, so surely hadshe been attuned to theAmerican note,she could presage Johnnysblunt disparagement. Hewould be
  • 199. astonished that they wereliving upon the third floor—with the lowerapartment let. He would beamused at the servantstoiling up thestairs from the kitchens tothe dining hall. He would beentertained atthe solitary tub. He would bedisgusted, undoubtedly, atthe candles. ...But of course Mamma wouldhave everything verybeautiful. Therewould be no lack ofcandles. . . . The chandelierswould be sparklingfor that dinner. There wouldbe delicious food, delicatewines, an
  • 200. abundant gleam of shiningplate and crystal andembroidered linens.And how Lucia would stare,how dear Julietta wouldsmile! She wouldbuy Julietta the prettiestclothes, the cleveresthats. . . . She wouldgive dear Mamma gold—something that neither dearPapa norFrancisco knew about—andto dear Papa and Franciscoshe wouldgive, too, a little gold—something that dear Mammadid not knowabout.For once Papa could havesomething for his play thatwas not a roast
  • 201. from his kitchen nor clothesfrom his daughters backsnor oats fromhis horses!Probably they would bemarried at once. Johnny wasfree and rich—and impatient. She did notsuspect him of interest in along wooing orbetrothal. . . . And while shemust appear to be in favorof a returnhome, first, and a marriagefrom her home, theAmerican ceremonywould cut many knots forher—save much expense athome. . . .She saw herself proudlyexhibiting Johnny,delighting in his youth, his
  • 202. blonde Americanism, hissmartly cut clothes, hisconquerorsassurance.Meanwhile Maria Angelinawas still standing there inthe moonlight,like a little wraith of silver,smiling with absent eyes atJohnnysmuttered words,withdrawing, in childishpanic, from Johnnys closepressing ardor. She knewthat if he persisted . . . butbefore her softdetachment, her halflaughing evasiveness of hismood, he did notpersist. He seemed oddlystruggling with somewithholding
  • 203. uncertainties of his own."Oh, well, if thats all youlike me," said Johnnygrumpily.It was reprieve . . . reprieveto the irrevocable things.Her heartdanced . . . and yet a piquedresentment pinched her.He had been able to resist.She knew subtly that shecould have overcome thatirresolution. . . .But she was not going tomake things too easy forhim—her Santoninipride forbade!"We must go back," she toldhim and exulted in hismoodiness.
  • 204. And for the rest of theevening his arm pressed her,his eyes smileddown significantly upon her,and when she confrontedthe greatmirror again it was toglimpse a girl with darklyshining eyes andcheeks like scarlet poppies,a girl in white, like a bride,and with abrides high pride andassured heart.She slept, that night,composing the letter to dearMamma.CHAPTER VITWO—AND A MOUNTAINThe next morning was givento recovery from the dance.In the
  • 205. afternoon the Martins hadplanned a mountain climb. Itwas not areally bad mountain, at all,and the arrangement was tostart in thelate afternoon, have dinnerupon the top, and descendby moonlight.It was the plan of theyounger inexhaustiblesamong the group, but inspite of faint protests fromsome of the elders all theMartin housepartywas in line for the climb, andwith the addition of the Blairpartyand several other couplesfrom the Lodge, quite aprocession was
  • 206. formed upon the path by theriver.It was a lovely day—a shadetoo hot, if anything was tobe urgedagainst it. The sun struckgreat shafts of golden lightamid the richgreen of the forest,splashing the great treeboles with bold light andshade. The air was fragrantwith spruce and pine andfaint, aromaticwintergreen. A hot littlewind rocked the reflectionsin the river andblew its wimpling surfaceinto crinkled, lace-paperfantasies.
  • 207. Overhead the sky burnedblue through the white-cottonballs of cloud.Bob Martin headed theprocession, Ruth at his side,and the stoutwidower concluded it,squiring a rather heavy-footed Mrs. Martin.Midway in the line came Mrs.Blair, and beside her,abandoning theline of young people behindthe immediate leaders was asmall figurein short white skirt andmiddy, pressing closely toher Cousin Janesside.It was Maria Angelina, herdark hair braided as usualabout her head,
  • 208. her eyes a shade downcastand self-conscious,withdrawn andtightwrappedas any prudish young bud.But if virginal pride hadurged her to flee allappearance ofexpectation, an equallysharp masculine reactionwas withholdingJohnny Byrd from anyappearance of pursuit.He went from group togroup, clowning it withjokes and laughter, andonly from the corners of hiseyes perceiving that smallfigure, like achilds in its white playclothes.
  • 209. For half an hour thatseparation endured—a halfhour in which CousinJane told Maria Angelina allabout her first mountainclimb, when agirl, and the storm that haddriven herself and her sisterand herfather and the guide to sleepin the only shelter, and ofthe guidessnores that were louderthan the thunder—and MariaAngelinalaughed somehow in theright places without takingin a word, for allthe time apprehension wastightening, tightening like aviolin stringabout to snap.
  • 210. And then, when it wasdrawn so tight that it did notseem possible toendure any more, JohnnyByrd appeared at Ri-Risside, consciouseyedand boyishly embarrassed,but managing an offhandsmile."And is this the very firstmountain youve everclimbed?" hedemanded banteringly.Gladness rushed back intothe girl. She raised a facethat sparkled."The very first," sheaffirmed, very much out ofbreath. "That is, uponthe feet. In Italy we go upby diligence and there isalways a hotel at
  • 211. the top for tea.""Well have a little oldbonfire at the top fortea. . . . Dont take it sofast and youll be all right,"he advised, and, laying arestraining handupon her arm he held herback while Cousin Jane, withher casual,careless smile, passed aheadto join one of the Martinparty.It was an act of masterfulsignificance. Maria Angelinaaccepted itmeekly."Like this?" asked Johnny ofher smiling face."I love it," she told him, andlooked happily at the greenwoods about
  • 212. them, and across the river,rushing now, to where theforest wasclinging to sharply risingmountain flanks. Her eyesfollowed till theyfound the bare, shoulderingpeaks outlined against theblue and whiteof the cumulous sky.The beauty about herflooded the springs ofhappiness. It was awonderful world, a radiantworld, a world of dream anddelights. Itwas a world more real thanthe fantasy of moonlight.She felt morereal. She was herself, too,not some strange,diaphanous image
  • 213. conjured out of tulle andgauze, she was her own trueflesh-and-bloodself, living in a dream thatwas true.She looked away from themountains and smiled up atJohnny Byrdvery much as the youngprincess in the fairy talemust have smiled atthe all-conquering prince,and Johnny Byrds blue eyesgrew bluer andbrighter and his voicedropped into intimatepossessiveness.It didnt matter in the leastwhat they talked about.They wereabsurdly merry, loiteringbehind the procession.
  • 214. Suddenly it occurred toMaria Angelina that it hadbeen some timesince he had drawn her backfrom Cousin Janes casualbutcomprehending smile, sometime since they had evenheard the echoof voices ahead.Her conscience wokeguiltily."We must hurry," shedeclared, quickening herown small steps.Teasingly Johnny Byrd hungback. "Fraid cat, fraid cat—what youfraid of, Maria Angelina?"He added, "Im not going toeat you—though Id like to,"he finished
  • 215. in lower tone."But it is getting dark! Thereare clouds," said the girl,gazing up infrank surprise at thechanged sky. She had notnoticed when thesunlight fled. It was stillvisible across the river,slipping over a hillsshoulder, but from theirwoods it was withdrawn anda dark shadowwas stretching across them."Clouds—what do you carefor clouds?" scoffed Johnnygayly, and inhis rollicking tenor, "Justroll dem clouds along," sanghe.
  • 216. Politely Maria Angelinawaited until he had finishedthe song, but shewaited with an uneasy mind.She cared very much forclouds. They looked verythreatening,blowing so suddenly overthe mountain top,overcasting thebrightness of the way. Andbehind the scattered whitewere blowinggray ones, their edgesfrayed like torn clothes on aline, and after thegray ones loomed a dark,black one, rushing nearer.And suddenly the woods attheir right began to threshabout, with a
  • 217. surprised rustling, and a lowmutter, as of smotheredwarning, ranover the shoulder of themountain."Rain! As sure as the Lordmade little rain drops," saidJohnnyunconcerned. "Theres goingto be a cloudful spilled onus," he toldthe troubled girl, "but itwont last a moment. Comeinto the woodand find the dry side of atree."He caught at her hand andbrought her crashingthrough theunderbrush, pushingthrough thickets till theywere in the center of a
  • 218. great group of maples, theirheavy boughs spreadprotectingly above.A giant tree trunk protectedher upon one side; upon theotherJohnny drew close,spreading his sweateracross her shoulders.Looking upwards, MariaAngelina could not see thesky; above andabout her was softgreenness, like a fairybower. And when the raincame pouring like hail uponthe leaves scarcely a dropwon through toher.They stood very still,unmoving, unspeaking whilethe shower fell.
  • 219. There was an unrealdreamlike quality about thehappening to thegirl. Then, almostintrusively, she becamedeeply aware of hispresence there beside her—and conscious that he wasaware of hers.She shivered."Cold," said Johnny, in ajumpy voice, and put a handon hershoulders, guarded by hissweater."N-no," she whispered."Feel dry?"His hand moved upward toher bared head, lingeredthere upon theheavy braids.
  • 220. "Yes," she told him, faintlyas before."But youre shivering.""I dont like t-thunder," shetold him absurdly, as amuttering rollshook the air above them.His hand, still hovering overher hair, went down againsther cheekand pressed her to him. Shecould hear his heart beating.It soundedas loudly in his breast as herown. She had a sense ofsudden,unpremeditated emotion.She felt his lips upon theback of her neck.She tried to draw away, andsuddenly he let her go andgave a short,
  • 221. unsteady laugh."Its all right, Ri-Ri—youremy little pal, arent you?" hemurmured.Unseeingly she nodded,drawing a long, shakenbreath. Then as hestarted to draw her neareragain she moved away,putting up herarms to her hair in a gesturethat instinctively shieldedthe confusionof her face."No? . . . All right, Ri-Ri, Iwont crowd you," hemurmured. "But oh,you little Beauty Girl, youought to be in a cage withbars about. . . .You ought to wear a mask—a regular diving outfit——"
  • 222. Unexpectedly Ri-Rirecovered her self-possession. Again she fledfromthe consummation of thescene."I shall wear nothing sounbecoming," she flunglightly back. "And ithas not been raining for everso long. Unless you wish tobuild a nestin the forest, like a newfashion of oriole, SignorByrd, you had betterhurry and catch up with theothers."Johnny did not speak asthey came out of the woodsand in silencethey hurried along the pathon the rivers edge.
  • 223. The sun came out again tolight them; on the greenleaves aboutthem the wetness glitteredand dried and the ephemeralshowerseemed as unreal as thememory it evoked.With her head bent MariaAngelina pressed on in ahaste that grewinto anxiety. Not a soundcame back to them fromthose othersahead. Not a voice. Not afootstep.And presently the pathappeared dying under theirfeet.Green moss overspread it.Brambles linked arms acrossit.
  • 224. "They are not here. We areon the wrong way," criedMaria Angelinaand turned startled eyes onthe young man.Johnny Byrd refused to takealarm."They must have crossed theriver farther back—thats theanswer,"he said easily. "We wentpast the right crossing—probably just afterthe storm. You know youwere speeding like a two-year-old on thehome stretch."But Ri-Ri refused to shoulderall that blame."It might have been beforethe storm—while we werelingering so,"
  • 225. she urged distressfully. "Youknow that for so long wehad heardnothing—we ought to goback quickly—very quicklyand find thatcrossing."Johnny did not look back. Helooked across the river,which ran moredeeply here betweennarrowed banks, and thenglanced on ahead."Oh, well go ahead andcross the next chance weget," he informedher. "We can strike in fromthere to old Baldy. I knowthe way. . . .Trust your UncleLeatherstocking," he toldher genially.
  • 226. But no geniality appeasedMaria Angelinas deepeningsense offoreboding.She quickened her stepsafter him as he strode onahead, gallantlyholding back brambles forher and helping herscramble over fallenlogs, and she assented, withthe eagerness of anxiety,when heannounced a place as safefor crossing.It was at the head of a mildrush of rapids, and anoutcropping oflarge rocks made possible,though slippery, stepping-stones.
  • 227. But Ri-Ris heelless shoeswere rubber soled, and shewas bothfearless and alert. Andthough the last leap was toolong for her, forshe landed in the shallowswith splashing ankles, shehad scarcely adown glance for them. Herworried eyes were searchingthe greenuplands before them.Secretly she was troubled atJohnnys instant choice ofway. Her owninstinct was to go backalong the river and thenstrike in towards oldBaldy, but men, she knewfrom Papa, did not likeobjections to their
  • 228. wisdom, so she remindedherself that she was astranger and ignorantof this country and thatJohnny Byrd knew hismountains.He told her, as they wentalong, how well he knewthem.Steadily their path climbed."Should we not wind back alittle?" she ventured once."Oh, were on another path—well dip back and meet theother path alittle higher up," the youngman told her.But still the path did not dipback. It reached straight up.But Johnny
  • 229. would not abandon it. Heseemed to feel itinextricably united with hisown rightness of decision,and since he was inevitablyright, soinevitably the path mustdisclose its desiredcharacter.But once or twice he pausedand looked out over theway. Then,hopefully, Ri-Ri hung uponhis expression, longing forreconsideration.But he never faltered,always on her approach hecharged aheadagain.No holding back ofbrambles, now. No helpingover logs. Johnny was
  • 230. the pathfinder, oblivious,intent, and Ri-Ri, the pioneerwoman,enduring as best she might.Up he drove, straight up themountain side, and after himscrambledthe girl, her fears voicelessin her throat, her heartpounding withexertion and anxiety like aships engine in her side.Time seemed interminable.There was no sun now. Thegray andwhite clouds were spreadthinly over the sky and onlya diffusedbrightness gave thesuggestion of the west.
  • 231. When the path woundthrough woods it seemedalready night. Onbarren slopes the day wasclear again.Hours passed. Endless hoursto the tired-footed girl. Theyhad left thelast woods behind them nowand reached a clearing ofbrackenamong the granite, and hereJohnny Byrd stopped, andstared outwith an unconcealedbewilderment that turnedher hopes to lead.With him, she stared out atthe great gray peaks closingin about
  • 232. them without recognizing afriend among them. Dim andunfamiliarthey loomed, shrouded inclouds, like chilly giants ingray mufflersagainst the damp.It was not old Baldy. Itcould not be old Baldy. Onelooked up at oldBaldy from the Lodge andshe had heard that from oldBaldy onelooked down upon the Lodgeand the river and theopening valley.She had been told that fromold Baldy the Martin chaletresembled acuckoo clock. . . .No cuckoo clocks in thosevague sweeps below.
  • 233. "Can we not go down a littlebit?" said Maria Angelinagently. "Fartherdown again we might findthe right path. . . . Up here—I think we areon the wrong mountain."Turning, Johnny lookedabout. Ahead of him wereoverhanging slabsof rock.Irresolution vanished."Thats the top now," hedeclared. "We are justcoming up the wrong side,thats all. Ill say its wrong—but here weare. Ill bet the others are upthere now—lapping up thatfood. Comeon, Ri-Ri, we havent farnow to go."
  • 234. In a gust of optimism heheld out his hand and MariaAngelinaclutched it with a wearinesscourage could not conceal.It seemed to her that herbreath was gone utterly,that her feet wereleaden weights and hermuscles limply effortless.But after him sheplunged, panting andscrambling up the rocks, andthen, verysuddenly, they foundthemselves to be on only aplateau and the realmountain head reared highand aloof above.Under his breath—and notparticularly under it, either—Johnny Byrd
  • 235. uttered a distinctblasphemy.And in her heart MariaAngelina awfully secondedit.Then with decidedlyassumed nonchalance,"Gosh! All that way tosupper!" said the youngman. "Well, come on, then—we got to makea dent in this.""Oh, are you sure—are yousure that this is the rightmountain?"Maria Angelina begged ofhim."Dont I know Baldy?" heretorted. "Were just onanother side of it
  • 236. from the others, I told you.Come on, Ri-Ri—well soonsmell thecoffee boiling."She wished he had notmentioned coffee. It put aname to thatgnawing, indefinite feelingshe had been too intent toown.Coffee . . . Fragrant andsteaming, with bread andbutter . . .sandwiches filled withminced ham, with creamcheese, with olivepaste—sandwiches filledwith anything at all! Coldchicken . . .salad . . . fruit. Food in anyform! Food!!
  • 237. She felt empty. Utterlyempty and disconsolate.And she was tired. She hadnever known such tiredness—her feetached, her legs ached, herback ached, her arms ached.She couldhave dropped with theachingness of her. Eacheffort was apunishment.Yet she went on with afeverish haste. She wasdriven by acompulsion to which fatiguewas nothing.It had become terrible not tobe reunited with the others.She thought
  • 238. of the hours, the long hours,that she and Johnny Byrdhad beenalone and she flinched,shivering under thewhiplash of fear.What were they saying ofher, those others? Whatwere they thinking?She knew howunwarrantable, howinexcusable a thing she haddone.It had begun with deliberateloitering. For that—for alittle of that—she had the sanction of thenew American freedom, thepermission ofCousin Janes casual,understanding smile.
  • 239. "Its all right," that smilehad seemed to say to her,"its all right aslong as its Johnny Byrd—butbe careful, Ri-Ri."And she had loiteredshamefully, she had plungedinto the woods withJohnny in that thunderstorm, she had let him takeher on the wrongpath.And now it was growingdark and they were far fromthe others—andshe was not sure, even, thatthey were upon the rightway.But they must be. Theycould not be so hideously, sofinally wrong.
  • 240. Panic routed her exhaustionand she toiled furiously on."Youre a pretty good scout—for a little Wop," saidJohnny Byrd with asudden grin and a momentsbrightness was lightedwithin her.She did not speak—she couldonly breathe hard and smile.Nearer and nearer theygained the top, roughclimbing but notdangerous. The top was notfar now. Johnny shouted andlistened,then shouted again.Once they thought theyheard voices but it was onlythe echoes oftheir own, borne hollowlyback.
  • 241. "The wind is the other way,"said Johnny, and on theywent, chargingup a steep, gravelly slopeover more rocks and into ascrub group offirs. . . .Surely this was as near thetop as one could go! Nothingabove butbarren, tilted rock. Nothingbeyond but more bouldersand stuntedtrees. The place lay barebefore their eyes.Round and round they went,calling, holding their breathto listen.Then, with a commonimpulse, they turned andstared at each other.
  • 242. That moment told MariaAngelina what panic was.CHAPTER VIIJOHNNY BECOMESINEVITABLEShe did not speak. She wasafraid she was going toburst into tears.Her knees were tremblingand she sat down with theeffect of collapseand looked mutely up atJohnny."Judas," said Johnnybitterly.He stared around once more,evading her eyes now, andthen hemoved over and sat downbeside her, drawing out hiscigarettes.
  • 243. Slowly he took one, tappedits end upon a rock, andlighted it. Then,the case still open, helooked inquiringly at her."Smoke, Ri-Ri?" hequestioned. "Ought to—never too late to learn."She shook her head, smilingfaintly. She knew his ownperturbationmust be immense. She didnot want to add to it; shewanted to bebrave and conceal her ownagony.He put the cigarettes awayand from an inner pocketdrew out a cakeof chocolate."Supper," he announced.
  • 244. She broke the cake in twoeven halves, giving him backone. He tookbut half of that. With thecigarette between his lips hefelt better.Slowly he relaxed."Ill have to teach you howto smoke," he said, blowingrings. "Whenwere rested well get somewood and build a fire. Theothers will seethat and signal back andwell make connections."At that she stared, round-eyed. "Wait for a fire?"Incredulously shestraightened. Her voice grewbreathless. "Oh, no, we mustgo—we
  • 245. must go," she said with ahint of wildness in herurgency.Deliberately Johnny leanedback. "Go? Go where?""Go down. Go to where theothers are. We must findthem.""Nothing doing." Johnnyrubbed a stout leg. "YourUncle Dudley is allin. So are you.""But I can go, I am able togo on," she insisted. "And Iwould rather—Oh, if you please, I would somuch rather go on at once.We cannotwait like this.""Ill say we can wait likethis. Watch me.""But we cannot stay——"
  • 246. "Well, we cannot go," saidJohnny mimicking. "Wedget nowhere if wedid try. Wed just go roundand round. Our best bet is tostay on thispeak and signal. Believe me,Im not going to stir for onelong while."Again the fear of tearschoked back the words thatrushed upon her.She told herself that shemust not be weak andfrantic and make ascene. . . . Men abhorredscenes. And it would nothelp. It would onlyanger him. He was tirednow. He was not thinking ofher. He had notrealized the situation.
  • 247. Presently he wouldrealize. . . . And, anyway, hewas there with her,he would take care of her,protect her from the tonguesof gossip.Slowly Johnny smoked twocigarettes, then he rose andgatheredsticks for a fire. It burnedbriskly, its swift flamethrowing a glowingcircle about them andextinguishing the rest of theworld.There had been no sunset. Abank of clouds hadswallowed the lastvestige of ruddy light. Themountain peaks darkened. Itwas growingnight.
  • 248. "Well wait for moonlight,"said Johnny Byrd.But at that Maria Angelinaseyes came away from thosemountainswhich she was unremittinglywatching for an answeringfire and fixedthemselves upon his face instartled horror."Moonlight!" she gasped."But no—no! We must notwait any more. Itis too late now. We must getdown as soon as we can.""Why, you little baby!"Johnny Byrd moved nearerto her. "What youfraid of, Ri-Ri? We canthelp how late it is, can we?"
  • 249. He put an arm about her anddrew her gently close, andbecause shewas so tired and frightenedand upset Maria Angelinacould no longerresist the tears that cameblinding her eyes."You little baby!" saidJohnny again softly, andsuddenly she felt hiskiss upon her cheek."Poor little Ri-Ri! Poor tiredlittle girl!""Oh, you must not. Signor,you must not.""Signor," he saidreproachfully."J-Johnny," she choked."Thats better. . . . All right,Ill be good, Ri-Ri. Just sitstill. And Ill be
  • 250. good."But firmly he kept his armabout her and soon hertense little figurerelaxed in that strong clasp.She was not frightened, aslast night atthe dance, she felt utterlyforlorn and comforted by hisstrength.They sat very still,unspeaking in that silentembrace, and about themit grew colder and darkerwhile the sky seemed togrow thinner andgrayer and clear. And at lastagainst the pallor of the sky,mountainafter mountain lifted itselfout of the shadowy cloudmass, and peak
  • 251. after peak defined itself,stretching on and on like anarmy of giants.Then the ridges grewblacker again, and back ofone edge a sharpflare of light flamed, and ablood red disc of a mooncame pushingfuriously up into the sky,flinging down atransforming radiance.In the valley the silverybirches gleamed like woodnymphs againstthe ebony firs.Beauty had touched theworld again. A long breathcame flutteringfrom the girls lips; she feltstrangely solaced andcomforted. After all,
  • 252. it was Johnny with her . . .the fairy prince. Her dreamswere comingtrue . . . even under theshadow of this tragedy.Again she felt his lips uponher cheek and now he wastrying to turnher head towards him.Mutely she resisted, drawingaway, but hisforce increased. She closedher eyes; she felt his kissupon her hair,her cheek, the corner of herunstirring mouth.And she thought that it washis right—if she turned fromhim shewould seem strangelyrefusing. An American, sheknew, kissed his
  • 253. fiancée freely.But it was a tremendousfreedom. . . .It would have been—knightlier, she thoughtquiveringly, if he had notdone that, if he had revealeda more respectful homage.But these were Americanways . . . and he was a manand he lovedher and he wanted to feelthat she belonged to himutterly. It wascomfort for her troubledspirit.But when she felt his handtrying to turn up her chin, sothat heryoung lips might meet his,she slipped decidedly away.
  • 254. "No? All right." Johnny gavea short, uncertain laugh. "Allright, littlegirl, Ill be good."She had risen to her feet andhe rose now and his voicechanged to aheartier note."Ready for the going? Wellhave to make a start, Isuppose. I dontsee any rescue expeditionsstarting this way. . . . Lordy,Im a starvedman! I could eat the side ofa house.""I could eat the other side,"said Maria Angelina smilingshakily.Johnny put out the fire,ground out its embersbeneath his heels, and
  • 255. started down upon the trailthat they had come. Closelyafter himcame the girl. The moonlightflooded the mountain sidewith vague,uncertain light and thedescent was a difficult anddangerous matter.They tripped over rocks;they stumbled throughunderbrush. Themoon was their only clue todirection and the moonseemed to beslipping past the peaks at aconfusing speed."Were going downanyway," said Johnny Byrdgrimly.
  • 256. Sharply they were stopped.The ledge on which theyfoundthemselves ended abruptly,like a bluff, and peering overits edge theylooked down into the darktops of tall fir trees.No more descent there.In disgusted rage Johnnystrode up and down thelength of that ledgebut it was a clear shelf, withno way out from it exceptthe way thatthey had come. There wasno approach from below."And some fools go in formountaineering!" saidJohnny Byrd bitterly.
  • 257. It was the last gust ofhumor in him. He wasfurious—and he grewmore furious unrestrainedly.He exploded in mutteredoaths andexclamations.In her troubled little heartMaria Angelina felt for him.She knew thathe was tired and hungry,and men, when they werehungry, were veryunhappy. But she was tiredand hungry, too—and herreputation, thereputation that was her veryexistence, was in jeopardy.Up they scrambled, from theledge again, and once backupon the
  • 258. mountain side, they circledfarther back around themountain beforestarting down again.Blindly Maria Angelinafollowed Johnnys lead. Shetripped over roots;she caught upon brambles.With her last shreds ofvanity she wasgrateful that he could notsee her streaming hair andscratched anddirty face.It had grown darker anddarker and the moon hadvanished utterlybehind the clouds. The airwas damp and cold. A windwas rising.
  • 259. Suddenly their feet struckinto the faint line of a path.Eagerly theyfollowed. It wound on backacross the mountain sideand rounded awooded spur."It will lead somewhere,anyway," declared Johnny,hope returninggood nature to his tone."But it is not the right way,"Maria Angelina combated indistress."See, we are not going downany more. Oh, let us keep ongoingdown until we find that riverbelow, and then we canreturn to theLodge——"
  • 260. "You come on," said Johnnyfirmly, striding on ahead,and unhappilyshe followed, her anxietywarring with her weariness.What time could it be? Shefelt as if it were the middleof the night.The picnickers must all behome by now, looking forher, organizingsearching partiesperhaps. . . . What must theythink? What mustthey not think?She saw her Cousin Janesdistress. . . . Ruths disgust.Would theyimagine that she hadeloped?
  • 261. She knew but little ofAmerican conventions andthat little told herthat the ceremonies wereeasy of accomplishment.Young people werealways eloping. . . . Theconsent of guardians wasnot necessary. . . .How terrible, if theyimagined her gone on aromantic elopement, tohave her return, mudplastered, after a night witha young man uponthe mountain!A night upon the mountainwith a young man . . . ayoung man inlove with her.Scandal. . . . Unbelievableshame.
  • 262. She felt as if they were inthe grip of a nightmare.They must hurry, hurry.Somehow they must gainupon that night,they must return to theLodge before it was too late.A cold sprinkle of rain fell,plastering her middyshiveringly to her, butthe rain soon stopped andthe path grew clearer andmore and moredefined as they stumbledalong it to its end.It was not a house theyfound. It was not really acabin. It was justthree walls of logs builtagainst the rocky face of themountain.
  • 263. But it was a hut, a shelter,with a door that swung openon leatherhinges at Johnnys tug.He called, then peeredwithin. Finally he struck amatch and staredabout and Maria Angelinacame to look, too. The placewas so tinythat a bed of boughs andblankets on the floorcovered most of thespace, save for a few boxes.Outside the doors were theashes of oldfires."Well, its something," saidJohnny in glum resignation."Hasnt thefool that built it any food?"
  • 264. Vigorously he poked aboutthe tiny place, then emergedto report indisgust, "Not a darn thing. . .. Oh, well, its a shelter,anyway."The incredible idea piercedMaria Angelina that he wasgoing to pausethere for rest."Oh, we must go on," sheinsisted."Go on?" He turned to starein indignation at the girl whohad gaspedthat at him. "Go on? In thisdark? When its going torain? Why, yourenearly all in, now.""Indeed—indeed, I am notall in," she protested. "It isnot necessary
  • 265. for me to rest—notnecessary at all. I am quitestrong. I want only togo on—to go to the Lodge——""Well never make the Lodgeto-night. Well have to camphere thebest way we can."It seemed to her that shecould hardly have heardhim. It was soincredible a thought—sooverwhelming——A queer gulping sound camefrom her throat. Her wordsfell withouther volition, like spentbreaths."But that is wrong. Wecannot stay. We cannot staylike that——"
  • 266. "Why cant we stay?""It—it is impossible! Thescandal——"Angrily he wheeled about."Scandal?" he said sharply."What the hellscandal is there?"His indignation at the wordscould not dispel her terror.But it wassomething to have him sohot her champion."You know, they will all talk——""Let em talk," he saidcurtly. "We cant help it."She put a hand to her throatas if to still that throbbingpulse therethat impeded speech.
  • 267. "I know we cannot help it.But we cannot—not givethem so much totalk of. We can be trying toreturn——""Dont be a goose, Ri-Ri!" hebroke in sharply.He was a man. He did notunderstand the full agony. . .. DesperatelyMaria Angelina wondered asto her reception. She had noparallel inItalian society. The thingcould not happen in Italiansociety. A girl, awell born girl, rambling thewoods all night with herfiancé!She wondered if theannouncement of theirengagement instantly
  • 268. upon their return wouldappease the world. Ofcourse, there wouldalways be the story. As longas she lived there would bethe story. Butas Johnnys wife,triumphant, assured, shecould afford to ignore it.At her stillness Johnny hadlooked about, andsomething infinitelydrooping and forlorn in thevague outlines of her smallfigure made itssoftening appeal.His voice changed. "Dontyou worry, little girl," hetold her soothingly,"Ill take care of you."Her heart leaped.
  • 269. "Ah, yes," she said faintly,"but what can we do? Had itbetter be atonce——?""At once——?""The marriage," she chokedout."Marriage?" Even in thedimness she saw that heraised his head, hischin stiffening, his wholeoutline hardening."What are you talkingabout?" he said veryroughly."About—about ourmarriage," she repeatedtrembling, and then, atsomething in his hardnessand his grimness, "Why,what did you
  • 270. mean——? Must it not besoon?"A dreadful, deliberatesilence engulfed her words.Coldly Johnnys slow voicebroke it."Who said anything aboutmarriage?" defiantly hedemanded. "I neverasked you to marry me."CHAPTER VIIIJOHNNY BECOMES EXPLICIT"I never asked you to marryme," he repeated verystiffly.The crash of all her worldssounded in Maria Angelinasears. Anaghast bewildermentflooded her soul.
  • 271. Pitiably she stammered,"Why it—it was understood,was it not? Youcared—you—you——"She could not put into wordsthe memories that beset herstrickenconsciousness. But thecheeks that had felt his kissflamed with asudden burning scarlet."What was understood?"said Johnny Byrd. "That Iwas going tomarry you—because I kissedyou?" And with that dreadfulhostilegrimness he insisted, "Youknew darned well I wasntproposing toyou."
  • 272. What did he mean? Had notevery action of his been anaffirmation oftheir relation? Did he believeshe was one to whom menacted lightly?Had he never meant topropose to her, never meantto marry?Last night at the dance—thisafternoon in the woods—what had hemeant by all his admirationand his boldness?And that evening on themountain, when, with hisarm around her, hehad murmured that hewould take care of her. . . .Had he meant
  • 273. nothing by it, nothing,except the casual insolentintimacy which aman would grant aballerina?Or was he now turning fromher in dreadfulabandonment becauseafter this scandal she wouldbe too conspicuous to makeit agreeableto carry out the intentions—perhaps only the vaguelyrealizedintentions—of the past?But why then, why had hekissed her on the mountain?Utter terror beset her. Hervoice shook so that thewords droppedalmost incoherently from thequivering lips.
  • 274. "But if not—if not—Oh, youmust know that now—now itisimperative!"Shameful beseeching—shameful that she shouldhave to beseech.Where was his manhood, hischivalry—where hiscompassion?"Imperative nuts! You dontmean to say youre trying tomake memarry you because we gotlost in the woods?"Desperately the girlstruggled for dignity."It is the least you could do,Signor. Even if—if you hadnot cared——"Her voice broke again.
  • 275. "You little nut." Johnnystones had altered. Moremildly he went on, "Idont quite get you, Ri-Ri,and I dont think you getme. It isnt up tome to do any marrying, ifthats honestly whatsworrying you. AndIm not going to bestampeded, if thats whatyoure trying to do. . . .Our reputations will have tostand it."And this, Maria Angelinadespairingly recalled, wasthe man who hadkissed her, had watched themoon rise with his armabout her,
  • 276. promising her his protection.. . . Wildly she wished thatshe had diedbefore she had come to this—a thing lightly regardedand repudiated.It was horrible to plead tohim but the panic of herplight drove heron."Reputations!" she saidchokingly. "Yours can standit, perhaps—butwhat of me? You cannot beserious, you cannot! Why, itis my name,my life, my everything! . . .You made me come thisway. Always Iwanted you to go anotherway, but no, you were sure,you told me to
  • 277. trust to you. And then youpretended to care for me—do you think Iwould have tolerated yourarm about me for oneinstant if I had notbelieved it was forever? Oh,if my father were here youwould talkdifferently! Have you nohonor? None? . . . Every oneknew there wasan—an affair of the heartgrowing between us, andthen for us two todisappear—this night alone——"Her voice kept breaking off.She could not control it orthe tears that
  • 278. ran down her face in thedarkness. She was achoking, crying wildthing.Desperately she forced onelast insistence, "Oh, youmust, you must!""Must nothing," Byrdanswered her savagely."What kind of scheme isthis, anyhow? Ive had a fewthings tried before but thisbeats theDutch. I dont know howmuch of this talk you meanbut Ill tell youright now, young lady,nobody can tie me up for lifewith any suchstuff. Father! Honor!Scandal! Believe me, littleone, youve got the
  • 279. wrong number.""You mean—you darerefuse?""You bet I dare refuse.Theres no sense to all this.Nobodys going tothink the worse of youbecause you got lost withme—and if youretrying to put anything over,you might as well stopnow."Maria Angelina stopped. Itseemed to her that sheshould die ofshame.Dazedly she stood andlooked at him through thedarkness out ofwhich a few drops of rainwere again falling.
  • 280. "You just forget it and get abit of rest," Johnny Byrdadvisedbrusquely. "Hurry in out ofthe wet. That things goingto leak again,"and he nodded jerkily up atthe sky.He tugged open the door,and stricken as a woundedcreaturecrawling to shelter MariaAngelina bent her head andstumbled acrossthe threshold."In you go," he said with amore cheerful air. "Wrapyourself up aswarm as you can and Illfollow——"
  • 281. She was within the doorwaywhen these words came.She turned andsaw that he was stooping toenter."I shall do quite well,Signor," she found her voicequickly to say. "Youneed not come in.""Need not——?" He appearedcaught with freshamazement. "Judas,where do you think Imgoing to stay? Out in therain?""Certainly not in here,Signor."Desperation lent MariaAngelina sudden fire. "Youmust be mad,Signor!" she told himfiercely.
  • 282. "And you madder. You dontthink Im going to stay"—hejerked hishead backward—"out in thewet?""But naturally. You are aman. It is your place.""My place—you little Wop! Aman! Id be a dead one." Thewords of ahumorous lecturer smote hismemory and with harshmerriment hequoted, "Good-night, MissMiddleton, said I, as Ibuttoned hercarefully into her tent andwent out to sleep upon acactus. . . . Noneof that stuff for mine," andwithout more ado JohnnyByrd lowered his
  • 283. head to pass under thedoorway.There was a gasp from theinterior."Ri-Ri, listen to me!" hedemanded upon thethreshold. "Youre raving—loco—nuts! Theres noharm in my huddling underthe same roofwith you—its a damnnecessity. Im not going tohold hands and Imnot going to kiss you. Ifyouve got any drawnswords you can laytheir blades between us. Youturn your face to the walland forget allabout it and Ill do thesame.""Signor, stay without!"
  • 284. "Got a dagger in yourgarter? . . . Ri-Ri, listen tome. Youreabsolutely wrong in thehead. Be sensible. Have aheart. Im going toget some rest.""It does not matter whatyou say or what you intend.You do not needto reassure me that you willnot kiss me, Signor. Thatwill not happenagain." Maria Angelinasvoice was like ice. "But youare not comingwithin this place."Tensely she confronted him.He loomed before her as awolfish brute,
  • 285. seeking his comfort at thislast cost of her pride. . . .But no man, shethought tragically, shouldever say that he had spentthe night withinthe same four walls.She sprang forward, herhands outstretched, thenshrank back.She could not touch him. Notonly the perception of theludicrous follyof matching her strengthagainst his withheld her, butsome flamingfury against putting a handupon a man who had sorepudiated her.Her brain grew alert.Suddenly very intent andcollected she stepped
  • 286. aside and Johnny Byrd camein.Close to the wall shepressed, edging nearer andnearer the door, andas he stumbled and fumbledwith the blankets she gave aquick springand flashed out.Like mad she ran across theclearing, through a thicket,and out againand away.On the instant he was afterher; she heard his stepscrashing behindher but she had the start ofher swiftness and the speedof herdesperation. Bramblesmeant nothing to her, northe thickets nor
  • 287. branches. She flew on andon, lost in the darkness, hisshoutsgrowing fainter and fainterin her ears.At last, in a shrub, shestopped to listen. She couldhear nothing.Then came a call—very faint.It came from the wrongdirection. Shehad turned and doubled likea hare and Johnny waspursuing, if hestill pursued, a mistakenway.She was safe . . . and shestood still for a few minutesto quiet herpounding heart and catchher gasping breath, and thenshe stole out,
  • 288. cautiously, anxiouslyhurrying, to make her ownway down.She had no idea of time or ofdistance. Vaguely she feltthat it wasthe middle of the night butthat if she were quick, veryquick, shemight reach the Lodgebefore it was toodisastrously late. She mightmeet a searching party outfor them—there would besearchingparties if people were trulyworried at their absence.Of course if they thought itan elopement, they mightnot take that
  • 289. trouble. They might bemerely waiting andconjecturing.If only Cousin Jim had notreturned to New York! Hewas so kind andconcerned that he would besearching. There would be achance of hisunderstanding. But CousinJane—what would shebelieve?Cousin Jane had seenJohnny draw hersignificantly back.At her folly of the afternoonshe looked back with horror.How boldshe had been in that newAmerican freedom! Mammahad warned her
  • 290. —dear Mamma so far away,so innocent of this terribledisgrace. . . .Wildly she plunged onthrough the dark, hopingalways for a path butfinding nothing but roughwilderness. She knew nolandmarks toguide her, but down shewent determinedly, down,down continually.An hour had passed.Perhaps two hours. The skyhad grown blackerand blacker. There wereoccasional gusts of rain. Thewind that hadbeen threshing the tree topsblew with increasing fury.
  • 291. Jagged tridents of lightningflashed before her eyes.Thunder followedalmost instantly, greatcrashing peals that seemedto be rending theheavens.Maria Angelina felt as if thesplinters must fall upon her.It was likethe voice of judgment.On she went, down, down,through a darkness that waschaos lit bylightning. Rain came, in atorrent of water, heavy aslead, drenchingher to the skin. Her hair hadstreamed loose and wasplastered about
  • 292. her face, her throat, herarms. A strand like a wetrope wound abouther wrist and delayed her.Often she slipped and fell.Still down. But if she shouldfind the Lodge, what then?What wouldthey think of her, wet, torn,disheveled, an outcast of thenight?She sobbed aloud as shewent. She, who had come toAmerica soproudly, so confidently ofglad fortune, who hadthought the world afairy tale and believed thatshe had found its prince—what place on
  • 293. earth would there be for herafter this, disgraced andashamed?They would ship her back toMamma at once. And thescandal wouldtravel with her, whisperedby tourists, blazoned bynewspapers.And her family had socounted upon her! They hadlooked for suchgreat things!Now she had utterlyblackened their name,tarnished them all foreverwith her disrepute. PoorJuliettas hopes would beruined. . . . No onewould want a Santonini. . . .Lucia would be furious. TheTostis might
  • 294. even repudiate her—certainly they would inflicttheir condescension.She could only disappear,hide in some nursingsisterhood.So ran her wild thoughts asshe scrambled down theseendlessmountain sides. All the blackfears that she had fought offearlier inthe evening by her belief inJohnnys devotion wereupon her now likea pack of wolves. Shewished that she could die atonce and be out ofit, yet when she heard thesudden wash of water,almost under her
  • 295. feet, she jumped aside andscreamed.A river! In the night itlooked wider than that onethey had followedthat afternoon but it mightonly be another part of it.Very wearily she made herway along the bank, somortally tired thatit seemed as if every stepmust be her last. There wasno underbrushto struggle with now, for shehad come to a grove of pinesand theirfallen needles made a carpetfor her lagging feet.The rain was nearly over,but she was too wet and toocold to takecomfort in that.
  • 296. More and more laggingly shewent and at last, when ahidden roottripped her, she made noeffort to rise, but layprostrate, her cheekupon her outflung arm, andyielded to the dark, drowsyoblivion thatstole numbingly over her.She would be glad, shethought, never to wake.CHAPTER IXMRS. BLAIR REGRETSIt had taken a long time forconcern to spread amongthe picnickers.The sudden shower had sentthem all scurrying forshelter, and when
  • 297. the climb was resumed, theycrossed the river on thosewide, flatstepping-stones that JohnnyByrd had missed, and re-formed in selfabsorbedlittle twos and threes thatfailed to take note of theabsenceof the laggards.When Ruth remembered tocall back, "Wheres Ri-Ri?"to her mother,Mrs. Blair only glanced overher shoulder and answered,"Shescoming," with no thought ofanxiety.It did occur to her, however,somewhat later, that the girlwas loitering
  • 298. a little too significantly withyoung Byrd, and she made apoint ofsuggesting to Ruth, whenshe passed her in a shorttime, that shewait for her cousin who wasprobably finding the climbtoo strenuous."Who? Me?" said Ruthamazedly. "Gee, what doyou want me to do—fan her? Let Johnny do it,"and cheerfully she went onphotographinga group upon a fallen log,and Mrs. Blair went on withthe lawyer fromWashington who was a rapidwalker.
  • 299. And Ruth, with the casualthought that neither Ri-Rinor Johnny Byrdwould relish suchattendance, promptly let thethought of themdissolve from her memory.She was immersed in herown particular world thatafternoon.Life was at a crisis for her.Robert Martin had beendrifting faster andfaster with the current of hisadmiration for her, and nowseemed tohave been brought up onvery definite solid ground.He felt he knewwhere he was. And hewanted to know where Ruthwas.
  • 300. And Ruth found herself inthat special quandaryreserved forindependent American girlswho want to have their cakeand eat it,too.She wanted Bob Martin, andshe wanted to begratifyingly sure thatBob Martin wanted her—andthen she wanted affairs tostand still atthat pleasant pass, whileshe played about and invitedadventure.Life was so desirable as itwas . . . especially with BobMartin in thescene. But if he wereunsatisfied he wouldntremain there as part of
  • 301. the adjacent landscape.Bob was no pursuingLochinvar.It was very delicate. Shecouldnt explain all herhesitationsatisfactorily to herself, soshe had made rather a poorjob of it whenshe tried to explain to Bob.Part of it was youngunreadiness for thedecisions andresponsibilitiesof life, part of it wasreprehensible aversionabout shutting the door toother adventures, and partof it was her native energy,as yet
  • 302. unemployed, aware of alarger world and anxious toplay someundivined part in itsdestinies.She had always been furiousthat the war had come toosoon for her.She would have loved tohave gone over there, andknown the mudand doughnuts anddoughboys . . . and theexcitement and theofficers. . . .But Bob wasnt going todangle much longer. Hehadnt a doubt butthat everything was all rightand he was in haste to tastetheassurance.
  • 303. And Ruth wasnt going tolose him.These hesitations of herswould convey nothing to hisyouthfulmasculinity but that shedidnt care enough. And hiswas not the agethat appreciates thetemporizing half loaf.So that trip up the mountainmeant for them muchyouthfuldiscussion, much searchingof wills and hearts andmotives, athreatening gloom upon hispart, and a strugglingdefensiveness uponhers.
  • 304. Small wonder that MariaAngelina and her companionwere notremembered!It was not until she was atthe very top of old Baldy,and again a partof the general group thatRuth had the thought to lookabout her andrecognize her cousinsabsence."They are taking their time,"she remarked to Bob."Glad theyre enjoying it,"he gave back with adisgruntled air thatRuth determinedly ignored."I guess Ri-Ris no good at aclimb," she said. "This littleold mountainmust have got her."
  • 305. "Oh, Johnnys strong rightarm will do the work," hereturnedindifferently."But they ought to be herenow. You dont suppose theymissed theway?" Mrs. Blair,overhearing, suggested, andturned to look down thesteep path that they hadcome.Bob scouted the idea of sucha mishap."Johnny knows his wayabout. Theyll be along whenthey feel like it,"he predicted easily, and Mrs.Blair turned to thearrangement of
  • 306. supper with a slight anxietywhich she dissembledbeneath casualcheerfulness.In her heart she was vexed.Dreadfully noticeable, shethought, thatpersistent lagging of theirs.She might have expected itof JohnnyByrd—he had a way ofmaking new girlsconspicuous—but she hadlooked for better things fromMaria Angelina.It was too bad. It showedthat as soon as you gavethose cloisteredgirls an inch they took an ell.Outwardly she spoke withpraise of her charge. JuliaMartin, a
  • 307. youthful aunt of Bobs, wascurious about the girl."Shes the loveliestcreature," she declared withfacile enthusiasm, asshe and Mrs. Blair delvedinto a hamper that theMartins chauffeurand butler had shoulderedup before the picnickers."And so naïvely young—Idont see how her motherdared let hercome so far away.""Oh—her mother wanted herto see America," Mrs. Blairgave back."She must be having awonderful time," pursuedthe young lady. "She
  • 308. was simply a picture at thedance. . . . Think of giving amountainclimb the night after thedance," she added in a lowervoice. "Bob andhis mother are perfectlymad. I think they want tokill their guests off—perhaps theres method intheir madness. . . . I neversaw anythingquite like her," she resumedupon Maria Angelina. "Ifancy JohnnyByrd hasnt either!""Wasnt she pretty?" agreedMrs. Blair with pleasantness,laying outthe spoons. "Yes, its veryinteresting for her to havethis," she went
  • 309. on, "before she really knowsRoman society. . . . She willcome out assoon as she returns fromAmerica, I suppose. Theeldest sister isbeing married this fall, andthe next sister and MariaAngelina areabout of an age.""Little hard on the sisterunless she is a raving,tearing beauty," saidthe intuitive Miss Martinwith a laugh. "Perhaps theyare sendingMaria Angelina away to keepher in abeyance!""Perhaps," Mrs. Blairassented. "At any rate, withthis preliminary
  • 310. experience, I fancy thatlittle Ri-Ri will make quite asensation overthere."It was as if she said plainlyto the curious young auntthat thispilgrimage was only aprelude in Maria Angelinascareer, and shecertainly did not take itspossibilities for any seriousfinalities.But the youthful aunt wasnot intimidated."Shell make a sensationover here if she carries offthe Byrdmillions," she threw outsmartly.
  • 311. Mrs. Blair smiled with aneffect of remote amusement.Inwardly sheknew sharp annoyance. Shewished she could smack thatloiteringchild. . . . Very certainly shewould betray no degradinginterest in herfortunes. The Martins werenot to think that she wasintent on placingany one!"Johnny Byrds a child," saidshe indifferently."Hes been of age twoyears," said the youthfulaunt, "and hes out ofcollege now and very mucha catch—all his vacationsused to be
  • 312. hairbreadth escapes. Ofcourse he courts danger,"she threw in with alittle laugh and a sidelonglook.But Mrs. Blair was notlaughing. She was blamingherself for thenegligence which had madethis situation possible,although—extenuation made haste toadd within her—no one couldhumanly beexpected to be going up anddown a trail all afternoon togather in thestragglers. And she had toldRuth to wait."Shes probably just tiredout," said the stout widowerwith strong
  • 313. accents of sympathy. "Climbtoo much for her, and verysensiblytheyve turned back.""If I could only be sure. If Icould only be sure shewasnt hurt—orlost," said Mrs. Blairdoubtfully."Lost!" Bob Martin derided."Lost—on a straight trail.Not unless theyjolly wanted to!""Dont spoil the party,mother," was Ruths edgedadvice. "Ri-Ri hasntbroken any legs or necks.And she wasnt alone to getlost. She justgave up and Johnny Byrdtook her home. I know herfoot was
  • 314. blistered at the dance lastnight and thats probablythe matter."It was the explanation theydecided to adopt.Mrs. Blair, recalling that thiswas not her expedition,made a doubleduty of appearing sensiblyat ease, although thenervous haste withwhich a sudden noise wouldbring her to alertness, facingthe path,revealed some inner tension.The young people wereinclined to be hilarious overthe affair,inventing fresh reasons forthe absent ones, reasonsthat ranged fromelopement to wood pussies.
  • 315. "There was one around lastnight," the tennis championinsisted.But the hilarity was only aflash in the pan. After itsflare the partydragged. Curiositypreoccupied some;uneasiness communicateditselfto others. And the frankabstraction of Ruth and Bobhad a depressingeffect upon the atmosphere.And the runaways weremissed. Johnny Byrd had aninfectious way ofmaking a party go and MariaAngelinas sweet sopranohad become so
  • 316. much a part of everygathering that its absencenow made song adejection.Other things of MariaAngelina than her sopranowere missed, also.Julia Martin found thepopular bachelor decidedlyabsent-minded. Thecrack young polo playerthought the scenerydisappointing. Decidedly,it was a dull party.And the weather wasthreatening.So after supper had beendisposed of and there hadbeen a bonfireand an effort at singingabout it, a dispirited silencespread until a
  • 317. decent interval was felt tohave elapsed and allowedthe suggestion ofreturn.Once it was suggestedeverybody seemed ready forthe start, evenwithout the moon, for thepath was fairly clear and themen hadpocket flashlights, so downin the dark they started,proceedingcautiously and gingerly, andaccumulating mentalreservations aboutmountains and mountainclimbing until the moonsuddenly overtookthem and sent a silveringwash of light into the valleyat their feet.
  • 318. They had gained the mainpath before the moondeserted them, andthe first of the gustyshowers sent them hurryingalong in shiveringimpatience for the open firesof homes."Well find that pair of shortsports toasting their toesand giving usthe laugh," predicted Bob,tramping along, a hand onRuths arm now.Ruth was wearing his hugecollege sweater over her silkone and feltindefinably less adventurousand independent than on herupward
  • 319. trip. Bob seemed verystable, very desirable, asshe stumbled wearilyon. She wasnt quite surewhat she had wanted to gaintime for, thatafternoon. Already thebarriers of custom andcommon-sense wereraising their solid heads.And Bob was romance, too.It was silly to be unready forsurrender.She realized that if she losthim. . . .At the Lodge she gave himback a quick look that sethim astir."Hold on," he called as shebroke from him to follow hermother.
  • 320. The cars from the Martinhouse party had been left atthe Lodge inreadiness and withperfunctory warmth offarewells the tiredmountaineers werehastening either to theLodge or the motors."Heres Johnnys car," hesung out. "Hes probablyinside——" and Bobswung hastily after Ruth andher mother.He was up the steps besidethem and opened the doorinto the widehall where a group waslingering about the openfire.
  • 321. A glance told them JohnnyByrd was not of thecompany. Bob andRuth went to the door of themusic room. It wasdeserted. Mrs. Blairwent swiftly to the clerksdesk at the side entrance.She came back, lookingupset. Maria Angelina hadnot returned, tothe clerks knowledge. Noone had telephoned anynews."Ill go up and make sure,"offered Ruth, and sped upthe stairs onlyto return in a few minuteswith a face of dawningexcitement.
  • 322. "They must be lost!" sheannounced in a voice thatdrew instantattention."Did you look to see if herthings were there?" said hermother in anagitated undertone.Bob Martin met her glancewith swift intelligence."Johnnys car is out there,"he told them. "It isnt that—they aresimply lost, as Ruth says.Wait—I must tell thembefore they getaway," and he hurried outinto the increasingdownpour.Mrs. Blair turned on herdaughter a face of palemisgiving.
  • 323. "I knew it," she saiddirefully. "I felt it all along. .. . Shes lost.""Well, shell be found," saidRuth lightly, with anindisputable lift ofexcitement. "The bearswont eat them."Mrs. Blairs eyes shifteduneasily to meet theadvancing circle fromthe fire."There are worse bites thanbears," she found time tothrow out,before she had to voice thebest possible version ofMaria Angelinasdisappearance.Instantly a babble of facilecomfort rose.
  • 324. They would be here anymoment now.Some one had picked themup—they were safe andsound, thisinstant.There wasnt a thing thatcould happen—it wasnt asthough thesewere wilds.Just telephone about—shemustnt worry. As soon as itwas light someone would go out and trackthem.Why, Judge Carneys boyshad been lost all night andbreakfasted onblueberries. It wasntuncommon.
  • 325. And nothing could happen toher—with Johnny Byrdalong.Oh, Johnny would take careof her—by morningeverything would beall right.But how in the world had ithappened? That was such aneasy trail!And that was the questionthat stared, Argus-eyed, atJane Blair. Itwas the question, she knew,that they were all askingthemselves—and the others—in covertcuriosity.What had happened? Andhow had it happened?CHAPTER XFANTASY
  • 326. She awoke to fright—somegreat hairy beast of theforest was nosingher.Then a light flashed in hereyes, and as she closedthem, drifting offto exhaustion again, she halfsaw a figure stoopingtowards her. Thenshe felt herself beingcarried, while a barkingseemed to be all abouther.The next thing she knewwas light forcing itsbrightness through herclosed lids and a greatwarmth beating upon her.She dragged her eyes openagain. She was lying on ablack bear skin
  • 327. rug before a roaring fire,and some one was kneelingbeside her,tucking cushions beneathher head. She had a glimpseof a khakisleeve and a lean brownwrist.The warmth was delicious.She wanted to put her headback againstthose pillows and sleepforever but memory wasrousing, too.Sleepily, she mumbled,"What time is it?"The khaki shirt sleeve hadwithdrawn from view andthe answeringvoice came from a corner ofthe room."Its about two."
  • 328. Two oclock! The night gone—gone past redemption."Oh, Madre mia!" whisperedMaria Angelina.She struggled up on oneelbow, her little face,scratched and stained,staring wildly out from thedark thicket of hair. "Butwhere am I?Where is this place? Is itnear the Lodge—nearWilderness Lodge?""Were miles fromWilderness," said the voiceout of the shadows."This is Old Chief Mountain—on the Little Pine River."Old Chief Mountain! VaguelyMaria Angelina recalled thatstony peak,
  • 329. far behind Old Baldy. . . .They had climbed the wrongmountain,indeed. . . . And she hadplunged farther away, in herheadlong flight.She stared about her. Shesaw a huge fireplace wherethe flameswere dancing. Above it, on awide mantel, was a disarrayof books,cigar-boxes, pipes andpapers, the papers weightedoddly with a jarof obviously pickled frogs.Upon the log walls severalfishing rods were stretchedon nails and agun, a corn-popper, a roughcoat and cap and a fishingnet were all
  • 330. hung on neighboring hooks.It was the cabin of somewoodsman, and she seemedalone in it withthe woodsman and his dog,a tawny collie—the wildanimal of herawakening. Quietly alert, helay now beside her, hisgrave, bright eyesupon her face.The woodsman she couldnot see."Now see if you can drink allof this." The khaki sleevehad appearedfrom the shadows and washolding a steaming cup toher lips.It was a huge cup made ofgranite ware. ObedientlyMaria Angelina
  • 331. drank. The contents werescalding hot and while herthroat seemedblistered the warmthpenetrated her veins inquick reaction."Lucky I didnt empty mycoffeepot," said the voicecheerfully. "Thereit was—waiting to be heated.Memorandum—never wash acoffeepot."The voice seemed coming toher out of a dream.Thrusting back thetangled hair from her eyesMaria Angelina lifted themincredulously tothe woodsmans face.Was it true? . . . Those clear,sharp-cut features, thosebright, keen
  • 332. eyes with the gay smile! . . .Was it true—-or was shedreaming?Instinctively she droppedher hand and let her hairlike a black curtainshield her face. The bloodseemed to stand still in herveins waitingthat dreadful instant ofrecognition.Confusedly, with somefrantic thought of flight, "Imust go—Oh, Imust go——"She sat up, still hiding, likeGodiva, in her hair."You lie down and rest,"said the authoritative voice."If theres any
  • 333. going to be done Ill do it. Isthere some other Babe inthe Woods tobe found?""Oh, no—no, but I must go——""You get a good rest. Youcan tell me all about it andwho you arewhen youre dry and warm."She yielded to thecompulsion in his voice andto her own weakness,and lay very still and inert,her cheek upon her outflungarm, her eyeswatching the red dance offlames through the blackstrands of herhair. It was the final irony,she felt, of that dreadfulnight. To meet
  • 334. Barry Elder again—like this—after all her dreams——It was too terrible to betrue.And he did not know her. Hehad come to that place ofhis, in theAdirondacks, of which hehad spoken, and had nevergiven her athought. He had never cometo see her. . . .A great wave ofmortification surged overMaria Angelina, bearing amedley of images, ofthoughts, of old hopes—likethe wash from somesinking ship. What a fool ofhope she had been! Howvain and silly
  • 335. and credulous! . . . She haddreamed of this man, sungto the thoughtof him—quickened to absurdexpectancy at every stir ofthewheels. . . . And then shehad pictured him at theseashore, beneaththe spell of that gold-hairedsiren—and here he was,quite near andfree—utterlyunremembering!She had suffered manypangs of mortification thisnight but now herpoor, shamed spirit bledafresh.But perhaps he had justcome. And certainly hewould remember to
  • 336. come and see his friends,the Blairs, and possibly hewould rememberthat foreign cousin of theirsthat he had danced with—just rememberher with pleasantfriendliness. She would giveherself so much ofbalm.And who indeed was she forBarry Elder to remember?Just a veryyoung, very silly goose of agirl, a little foreigner . . .some one tonickname and petcarelessly . . . a girl who hadbeen good enough forJohnny Byrd to make love tobut not good enough for himto
  • 337. marry. . . .A girl who had thrown hername recklessly to thewinds and who, tomorrow,would be a byword. . . .These thoughts ached in herwith her bruised flesh.Meanwhile Barry Elder hadbeen making quick tripsabout the roomand now he threw down anarmful of garments besideher and kneltat her feet, tugging at hersopping shoes."Let me get these off—there,thats better. Now the otherone. . . .Lordy, child, those footies. . .. Now youd better get intothese dry
  • 338. things as quick as you can.Not a perfect fit, but thebest I can do. Illtake a turn in the woods andbe back in ten minutes. Soyou hurryup."He closed the door upon thewords that Maria Angelinawas beginningto frame and left her lookinghelplessly at a pair ofcorduroyknickerbockers, a blueflannel shirt, a strangeundergarment, plaidgolf stockings and a pair offringed moccasins.They were in an untouchedheap when her hostreturned, letting in a
  • 339. cold rush of the night withhim."Whats this?" he flung outin mock severity. "See here,young lady,you must get into thoseclothes whether theyhappen to be the styleor not! Little girls who getwet cant go to sleep in theirclothes. NowIll give you just ten minutesmore and then if you are nota good girl——"To her own dismay and tohis Maria Angelina burst intotears."Oh, come now," said Barryhelplessly. "You poor littledud——"
  • 340. The sudden gentleness ofhis voice undid the last ofthe girls control.She sobbed harder andharder as he sat downbeside her and beganto pat her shakingshoulders."You shant do anything youdont want to," hecomforted. "Youretired out, I know. But youdbe so much more comfy inthese dry togs——""Oh, please, Signor, notthose things. Do not makeme. I will get dry——""You dont have to if youdont want to," he told hergently, looking
  • 341. down in a puzzled way ather distress. Her face wasburied in a crookof her arm; her black hairstreamed tempestuouslyover her heavingshoulders. "Come closer tothe fire, then, and dry out."He threw more wood uponthe flames and piled onbrush that shed aswift, crackling heat."Give that a chance at thosewet clothes of yours," headvised."Meanwhile wed betterwring this out," and withbusinesslikedespatch he begangathering that drippingblack hair into the folds of
  • 342. a Turkish towel. Verystrenuously he wrung it."Thats what I do for my kidsister when shes been inswimming," hementioned. "Shes at theseashore now—no gettingher away from thewater. Shes a bigger girlthan you are. . . . Now whenyou feel bettersuppose you tell me allabout it. Did you say youcame fromWilderness Lodge?""Yes," said Maria Angelinahalf whisperingly.Had he no memory of her atall? Or was she so differentin that wet,
  • 343. muddied blouse, hairstreaming, and facescratched—she looked downat her grimy little hands andwondered dumbly what herface mightlook like.And then she saw that BarryElder, having finished withher hair, waspreparing to wash her face,for he brought a granitebasin of hotwater and began wettingand soaping the end of avoluminous towelwith which he advancedupon her."I can well wash myself,"she cried with promptness,and most
  • 344. thoroughly she washed andscrubbed, and then hung herhead as hetook away the things.She felt as if a screeningmask had fallen and her onlythought nowwas to make an escapebefore discovery should addone morehumiliation to this night ofshames."You are very good," shesaid shyly. "I cannot tell youhow I thankyou. And I feel so muchbetter that if you will pleaselet me go——""Go? To Wilderness Lodge?Its miles and miles, child—and its pouring
  • 345. cats and dogs again. Dontyou hear the drumsticks onthe roof?"She hesitated. "Then—haveyou a telephone?""No, thank the Lord!" Theremembered laughterflashed in BarryElders tones. "I came hereto get away from the devil ofinventionand all his works. There isnta telephone nearer thanPeters place—four miles away. Ill go overfor you as soon as its light,for I expectyour mothers worrying herhead off about you. How didyou everhappen to get lost overhere?"
  • 346. Helplessly Maria Angelinasought for words. Silencewas ungratefulbut there seemed nothingshe could say."It was on a picnic—pleasedo not ask me," shewhispered foolishly.In humorous perplexity theyoung man stood lookingdown upon thesmall figure that chance haddeposited so unexpectedlyupon hishearth, a most forlorn anddrooping small figure, withdowncast andaverted head, then with thatsudden smile that made hisyoung face
  • 347. so brightly persuasive hedropped beside her andreached towardsher."Here, little kiddie, youcome and sit with me while Iwarm those feetof yours——"Swiftly she withdrew fromhis kindly reaching hands."Signor, it is not fitting thatyou should hold me, thatyou shouldwarm my feet," she gasped."I am not a child, Signor!"Signor . . . The word wakedsome echo in his mind. . . .The child hadused it before—but whatconnection was groping——?He repeated the word aloud.
  • 348. "You do not recall?" saidMaria Angelina chokingly."Though indeed,there is no reason why youshould. It was but for amoment——"She glanced up to seerecognition leap amazedlyinto his face."The little Signorina! TheBlairs little Signorina!""Maria Angelina Santonini,"she told him soberly. "Yes,that is I.""Why of course Iremember," he insisted. "Alittle girl in a white dress.A big hat which you took off.Your first night in America.We had awonderful dance together——"
  • 349. "And you said you wouldcome to the mountains," shetold himchildishly.He stared a moment. "Why,so I did. . . . And here I am.And hereyou are. To think I did notknow you—Ive beenwondering whom youmade me want to think of!But I took you for ayoungster, you know,a regular ten-year-oldrunaway. Why, with yourhair down like that—— Of course, it was absurdof me."He paused with a smile forthe absurdity of it.
  • 350. Gallantly she tried to givehim back that smile butthere wassomething so wan andpiteous in the curve of hersoft lips, somethingso hurt and sick in theshadows of her dark eyes,that Barry Elder feltoddly silenced.And then he tried to coverthat silence with kindchatter as he movedabout his room once more inhospitable preparation."It was Sandy, here, whoreally found you," he toldher. "He whined atthe door till I let him out andthen he came back, barking,for me, so
  • 351. I had to go. I was reallylooking for a mink. Sandysalways excitedabout minks."Maria Angelina put a hand tothe dogs head and strokedit."I was so tired," she said. "Ithink I was asleep.""I rather think you were,"said Barry in an odd tone. Heglanced ather white cheek with itsscarlet scratch of a branch."And I ratherthink you ought to be asleepnow but first you must eatthis and drinksome more coffee."Maria Angelina needed nourging. Like a starveling shefell upon that
  • 352. plate of crisp bacon anddelicately fried eggs andcleaned it to the lastmorsel."I had but two bites ofsweet chocolate for mydinner," sheapologized."So you were lost beforedinner—no wonder you weredone in."Barry filled a very worn-looking little brown pipewith care. "Wherewere you going, anyway, foryour picnic?""It was to Old Baldy.""Old Baldy, eh? Let me see—what trail did you take?""On the river path. Then—then we got separated——"
  • 353. "I see. But its a fairly cleartrail. Did you try another?""We—we crossed the riverthe wrong time, I think, andso got on thewrong mountain. We——"Maria Angelinas voice diedaway in sudden sickperception of thatbetraying pronoun.Quite slowly, withoutlooking at her, Barrycompleted the lighting ofthat pipe to his satisfactionand drew a few appreciativepuffs. Thenhe turned to inquirecasually, "And who is we?"He saw only the top of thegirls tousled head and thetense grip ofher clasped hands in her lap.
  • 354. "If you would not ask,Signor!" she saidwhisperingly."A dark secret!" He tried tolaugh over that but his keeneyes restedon her with a troubledwonder."And then you got lost—evenfrom your companion?" hepromptedquietly."Yes, I—I came away alonefor he—he refused to go on,"falteredMaria Angelina painfully,"and then I seemed to go onforever—and Icould do no more. But now Iam quite well again," sheinsisted with a
  • 355. ghost of a brave smile. "Ifonly—if only my Cousin Janecould knowthat Im trying to get back,"she finished in a tone thatshook in spiteof her."You werent trying to getlost, were you?" questionedBarry lightly,groping for a cue. There wasno mistaking the flash ofMariaAngelinas repudiation andthe candor of her suddenlyupraised youngface."Oh, no, Signor, no, no! Itwas only that I was socareless—that Ibelieved he knew the way."
  • 356. "And was he trying to getlost?""Oh, no, Signor, no, it wasall a mistake.""This is a very easy neck ofthe woods to get lost in,"Barry told herreassuringly. "Old residentshere often miss their way—especially in astorm. Mrs. Blair will worry,of course, but she is verysensible andshe knows you will come tolight with the daylight. Justas soon as itis clear enough for me tofind my way Ill strike overto Peters placeand phone her that you aresafe and sound, and Ill geta horse for
  • 357. you to ride out on—youwont care for any morewalking and themotor can only come as faras the road.""But you must not tell themyou have found me," saidMaria Angelina,overwhelmed with tragedyagain. She seemed fated,she thought indreadful humor, to spendthe night with young men!And to have beenlost by one and found byanother!"It will be so much worse,"she said pleadingly. "Couldyou not justshow me the way and let mego——?"
  • 358. "So much worse?" His facewas very grave and gentle."So muchworse? I dont think Iunderstand.""So very much worse. Tohave been found like this—Oh, promise meto say nothing about it. Iknow that I can trust you.""I think you had better tellme all about it, Signorina."He saw that dark misery,like a film, swim blindinglyover her wideeyes."I cannot."He considered a momentbefore he spoke again."If you really do not wantany one to know that Ifound you I am
  • 359. willing to hold my tongue.But dont you see what a lotof ridiculousdeception that wouldinvolve? You would have tomake up all sorts oflittle things. And then, afterall, youd be sure to saysomething—onealways does—and let it allout——"Maria Angelina looked athim pathetically and asudden impulsestabbed him to say hastily,"Ill fall in with any plan youwant to make.Only wait to decide until youfeel rested. Then perhaps wecan decide
  • 360. together. . . . And now, ifyou are really getting dry——""Truly, I am, Signor Elder. Iam indeed dry and hot.""Then youd better make upyour mind to curl up on thatcot overthere and sleep.""I couldnt sleep."There was truth beneathMaria Angelinas quickdisclaimer. Exhaustedas she was, her mind wasvividly awake, now, excitedwith thestrangeness of her presencethere.Her mortification at hisfinding her was gone. Hewas so rarely kind,
  • 361. so pleasantly matter of fact.He was as gayly undisturbedas if theheavens rained starvingyoung girls upon him everynight! Andsomehow she had known hewas like this . . . but he waslike no oneelse that she had known. . . .Her mind groped for acomparison. For an instantshe vainly tried topicture Paolo Tosti doing thehonors to such a guest—butthat picturewas unpaintable.This Barry Elder was chivalryitself; he was kindness andcomfort—
  • 362. and he was a strange,stirring excitement thatflung a glamour overthe disaster of the hour.It was like a little hushbefore the final storm, a dimdream before thenightmare enfolded heragain.Her eyes followed him as heturned out the kerosenelamp, which wassputtering, and flung freshlogs upon the hearty fire.Overhead therain droned, likemonotonous fingers upon akeyboard, and beside herSandy slept noisily, withsudden whimpers.
  • 363. Barrys eyes, meeting thewistful dark ones, smiledresponsively, andMaria Angelina felt a queertightening within her, as ifsome one hadtied a band about her heart."You dont have such fires inItaly," he observed,dropping down uponthe rug across from her, andrefilling that battered pipe ofhis. "I wellremember when I ordered afire and the cameraria camein with abunch of twigs."Madly Maria Angelina fellupon the revelation."You have been in Italy!""Oh, more than once! But allbefore the war."
  • 364. "And you have been inRome? Oh, to think of that!But where did youstay? Whom did you knowthere, Signor?"Barry grinned. "Headwaiters!""You knew no Romans,then? Oh, but that was apity.""I can well believe it,Signorina!""Oh, Rome can be very gay—though I am not out insociety myself,and know so little. . . . Whatdid you do, then? I supposeyou went tothe Forum and the Vaticanand the Via Appia like all thetourists and
  • 365. drove out to the Coliseum bymoonlight?"Delightedly she laughed asBarry Elder confirmed heraccount of hisactivities."Me, I have never seen theColiseum by moonlight," shereportedplaintively, adding witheager wistfulness, "And didyou buy violets onthe Spanish Stairs? Andthrow a penny into the Trevifountain toensure your return? And doyou remember the streetthat turns offleft, the Via Poli? From thereyou come quick to my house,thePalazzo Santonini——"
  • 366. "And do you really live in apalace?" It was Barrys turnto question."A really truly palace? And isyour father a really trulyprince?""Nothing so great! He is acount—but he is of a very oldfamily, theSantonini," Maria Angelinahastily explained withbecoming pride."And is your mother of avery old——""My mother is American—the cousin of Mrs. Blair. ButMamma hasnever been back in America—she is too devoted to us, isMamma, and
  • 367. she has so much to lookafter for Papa. Papa ischarming but he doesnot manage.""That makes complications,"said Barry gravely."And Francisco, my brother,is just like him. He is alwaysrunning bills,now that he is in the army.And he was so brave in thewar thatMamma cannot bear to becross. He will have to marryan heiress,that boy," she sighed andBarry Elders eyes lighted inamusement."How many of you arethere?" he wantedinterestedly to know, and
  • 368. vivaciously Maria Angelinainformed him of her sisters,her life, herlessons, the rare excursions,the pension at the seashore,theengagement of her sisterLucia and Paolo Tosti.And absorbedly Barry Elderlistened, his eyes on herchanging face.When she paused he flung insome question or someanecdote of hisown times in Italy andSandy was often roused byunseasonablelaughter, and thudded histail in sleepy friendlinessbefore dozing offto his dreams again.
  • 369. Then like a flash, as swiftlyas it had come, the excitedglow ofrecollection was anextinguished flame, leavingher shivering before anearer memory.For Barry Elder asked onequestion too many. Hebrought the presentdown upon them."And how do you likeAmerica?" he asked. "Has itbeen good fun foryou up here?"Only the blind could havemissed the change thatcame over the girlsface, blotting out itslaughter and etching inqueer, startled fear.
  • 370. "It has been—very gay," shestammered.Despairingly she askedherself why she still tried tohide her storyfrom him since in themorning it must all comeout. He would know allabout her then. And whatmust he be thinking alreadyof herstammered evasions?Oh, if only on thatyesterday, which seemed athousand yesterdaysaway, she had stayed closelyby her Cousin Jane! If shehad not lether folly wreck all her life!Bitterly ironic to know thatall the time Barry Elder washere, at hand.
  • 371. If only she had known! Hadhe just come?She wondered and asked thequestion.And at that Barrys facechanged as if he hadremembered somethinghe would have been as gladto forget."Oh—Ive been here a fewdays," he gave backvaguely.She glanced about theshadowy room. "So alone?"A wry smile touched hismouth. "I came for alone-ness. I had a playto write—I wanted to worksome things out for myself,"and
  • 372. indefinably but certainlyMaria Angelina caught theimpression that allthe things he wanted towork out for himself in thissolitude were notconnected with his play.His linked hands had slippedover his knees and helooked ahead ofhim very steadily into thefire, and Maria Angelina hada feeling thathe looked that way into thefire many evenings, sooddly, grimlyintent, with oblivious eyesand faintly ironic lips.He was quiet so long,without moving, that shefelt as if he had
  • 373. forgotten her. He did notlook happy. . . . Somethingdark hadtouched him. . . ."Is it something you wantthat you cannot get,Signor?" she askedhim in a grave little voice.He turned his eyes to her,and she saw there wassmoldering firebeneath their surfacebrightness."No, Signorina, it issomething that I want andthat I can get.""There is no difficultythere," she murmured."No?" His tone heldmockery. "The difficulty is inme. . . . I dont wantto want it."
  • 374. His eyes continued to reston her in ironic smiling."Signorina, what would youdo if you wanted a cake, oh,such abeautiful cake, all whiteicing and lovely sugaroutside . . . and within—well, something that wasvery, very bad for thedigestion? Only thefirst bite would be good, yousee. But such a first bite!And youwanted it—because the icingwas so marvelous and thesugar sosweet. . . . And if you hadwanted that cake a longtime, oh, before
  • 375. you knew what a cheatingthing it was within, and ifyou had beendenied it and suddenly foundit was within your reach——?"He broke off with a laugh.Slowly she asked, "Andwould you have to eat thecake if you took thefirst bite?"His voice was harsh. "To thelast crumb.""Then I would not bite.""But the frosting, Signorina,the pretty pink and whitefrosting!"So bitter was his laugh thatthe girl grew older inunderstanding. She
  • 376. thought of the girl she hadseen by his side in therestaurant, the girlwhose eyes had been asblue as the sea and her hairyellow as amber. . . the girl who had angledfor Bob Martins money.She remembered that BarryElder had of late inheritedsome money.Impulsively she leanedtowards him, her eyes darkand pitiful in herwhite face."Do not touch it," shewhispered. "Do not. I do notwant you to beunhappy——"Utterly she understood. Hisabsurd metaphor was noprotection
  • 377. against her. Sheremembered all CousinJanes implications, all thebald revelations of JohnnyByrd.Somehow he had come toknow that the heart of LeilaGrey was acheating thing, yet for thesake of the beauty whichhad so teasedhim, for the glamorousloveliness of those blue eyesand rosy tints, hewas almost ready to lethimself be borne on by hisinclinations. . . .Barry Elder looked startledat that earnest little whisperand his eyes
  • 378. met hers unguarded a fullminute, then a whimsicalsmile touched hislips to softness."Im afraid you have atender heart, Maria AngelinaSantonini," hesaid. "You want all the worldto have nice wholesomecake, beautifullyfrosted—dont you?"Her gravity refused hisbanter. "Not all the world.Only those forwhom realities matter. Onlythose—those like you, Signor—who couldfeel pain anddisillusionment.""In Gods green earth, whatdo you know ofdisillusionment, child?"
  • 379. "I am no child, Signor.""I dont believe that youare." He looked at her withnew seriousness."And I am horribly afraid,"he continued, "that you havean inklinginto my absurd symbols ofspeech."That brought her eyes backto his and there wassomethingindefinably touching in theirsoft, deprecating shyness. . .. Barrysgaze lingered unconsciously.He began to wonder abouther.He had wondered about herthat night at the restaurant,he
  • 380. remembered—wondered andforgotten. He had beenunhappy thatnight, with the peculiarunhappiness of a naturallydecisive manwretchedly in two minds,and she had given him a halfhour offorgetfulness.Afterwards he hadconcluded that hisimpressions had played himfalse, that no daughter of to-day could possibly be astouchinglyyoung, as innocentlyenchanting.But she was quite real, itseemed. And she sat thereupon his hearth
  • 381. rug with her eyes like poolsof night. . . . What in theworld hadhappened to her in thisAmerica to which she hadcome in such gayconfidence? What was shetrying to hide?What in all the sorry, stupidworld had put that shadowinto her look,that hurt droop to her lips?He could not conceive thatreal tragedy could so muchas brush herwith the tips of its wings,but some trouble was there,some difficulty.His pipe was out but hedrew on it absently. MariaAngelina snuggled
  • 382. closer and closer into herpile of cushions and went tosleep.After she was asleep he roseand stood looking down ather, and hefound his heart queerlytouched by that scratchedcheek and thechildish way she tucked herhand under the other cheekas she slept.Also he was fascinated bythe length of her blacklashes.Very carefully he coveredher with blankets.Then he yawned, looked athis watch, smiled to himselfand with a
  • 383. blanket of his own hestretched himself upon thefur rug at her feet.CHAPTER XIMORNING LIGHTMaria Angelina had nodifficulty at all inrecollecting where she waswhen she came to herselfnext morning, for herdreams had beengrowing sharper andsharper with reality. Inthose dreams she wasforever climbing downmountain sides, tripping,stumbling, down,down, forever down, until atlast there surged throughher the
  • 384. warmth of that cabin fireand the memory of BarryElders care.She opened her eyes. Thewarmth of the dream firewas a blaze ofsunlight that fell across it.The fire itself a charredmass of embersupon a mound of gray ashes.Upon the hearth stood thedisreputableremnants of her soddenshoes.For a few moments she laystill, her consciousnessinvaded with itsrush of memories. She feltvery direfully stiff when shethought aboutit, but after the first momentshe did not think about it.
  • 385. She sat up and lookedeagerly about.There were no shadowsnow; the sunlight wasstreaming in throughthe cabins three windowsand through the door thatstood open intoa world of forest green. Sheheard birds singing and thesound ofrunning water. Barry Elderwas nowhere to be seen.The cabin was one room, anamazing room, itsunconcealedsimplicities blazoningthemselves cheerfully in thelight. There wererustic tables andcomfortable chairs; therewas a couch untouched,
  • 386. apparently, save that it hadbeen denuded of thecushions that laynow about her. There was asmall black stove and panson it anddishes on a stand. There wasa chest of drawers and alongthe wallswere low open shelves ofbooks, the shelves toppedwith a miscellanyof pipes and pictures andplaying cards.Between two windows stooda large table buried in booksand paperswith a typewriter poking itshead above the confusion.So he really was writing aplay—another play. Shehoped,
  • 387. remembering Cousin Jimsremark, that he would notput too muchHarvard in.She got to her feet—withwincing reluctance for everymuscle in hersmall person made itslameness felt, and shelimped when she beganto walk. The rejected pile ofclothing had disappearedfrom her side,but the fringed moccasinswere left, and very humblyshe drew themon. Her stockings were notthose in which a Santoninidesires to bediscovered!
  • 388. Uncertainly she movedtowards the door, her stifflydried white skirtrattling at each move. It wasa battleground of a skirtwhere blackmud and green grass stainsstruggled for preëminence,and her poormiddy blouse, she thought,was in little better plight.She had a sudden, halfhysterical thought of Luciasface, if Luciacould see her now, and aqueer little gulp of laughtercaught in thelump in her throat!"Morning, Signorina! Amerry morning to you."
  • 389. Up the grassy bank beforethe cabin Barry Elder cameswingingtowards her, a lithe figure inbrown knickers and whiteshirt rollingloosely open at the throat.His face was flushed and hisbrown, closecroppedcurls were wet as if he hadbeen ducking them into thecoldriver water.He waved one hand gayly;the other was carrying a pailof water."You look so clean!" gaveback Maria Angelinaimpetuously, herlaughter rising to meet his,but her sensitive bloodcoloring her face
  • 390. before his gaze."Theres the entire river towash in. I thought youd likeit better outof doors so Ive built you adressing room. . . .Meanwhile thecommissary will be working.Dont be too long, forbreakfast will beready," he told her, passingby her into the house, with agesture ofdirection as if it were themost matter of fact thing inthe world foryoung men to cookbreakfast and for youngladies to wash in rivers.So Maria Angelina followedhis directions and wentdown into the
  • 391. grove of young birches thathe called her dressing-room.Here greenness was allabout her, and through thedelicate,interlacing boughs beforeher even the river was shutout, except oneeddying stream of it thatswerved in beneath her feet.There waslovely freshness in themorning air, a lovelybrightness in the skyabove her. It was adressing-room for a nymphof the woods, for adryad, for Diana herself.Gratefully she stooped tothe cold water at her feet.There on the
  • 392. bank, upon a spread towel,she discovered soap andfresh towels, acomb and a pair of militarybrushes, still wet fromrecent washing. Hewas very sweet andthoughtful, that Barry Elder.Valiantly she attacked thattangled hair of hers,reducing it to the oldsubmissive braids which shecoroneted about her head,fasteningthem with twigs as best shecould, and then she washeddeliciously inthat cold, running stream. Itmust be wonderful, she felt,to be a man
  • 393. and to live like this. Onecould forget the world insuch a place. . . .Sandy dashed upon her,scattering the gatheringdarkness of herthoughts, and she yielded tothe young impulse to splashand rompwith him before returningwith him to the cabin.She felt shy aboutreëntering that house . . .and Barry Elderspresence.A rich aroma of coffeegreeted her upon thethreshold. So did herhosts voice in mockseverity.
  • 394. "I sent Sandy to bring you in—and I was just comingafter the two ofyou. . . . Will you sit here? Idid have a dressy thought ofsetting up atable out of doors but this ishandier—nearer the stove,you know.Youve no idea of theconvenience of it.""But you are getting me somany meals," protestedMaria Angelina,confronted by a small tablewhich he had spread for twobefore thefireplace. Within the hearthhe had kindled a small andcheerful blaze."Ill agree to keep it up aslong as you eat them."
  • 395. Swiftly Barry turned thebrowning ham from the ironspider into asmall platter and depositedit upon the table with aflourish. Then heplaced the granite coffeepotat her right hand."I made it with an egg," hesaid proudly. "Will you pour,Signorina,while I cut this? Thatsgenuine canned cream—none of yourexecrable Continental hotmilk for me! And I like mycream first withthree lumps of sugar,please."He smiled blithely upon heras with a deep and deliciousconstraint
  • 396. her small hands moved,housewifely, among hiscups."These arent French rolls,"he murmured, "but Ipromise you thatthey are cold enough for atrue Italian breakfast, andthere is honeyand there is jam—and here,Signorina, is ham, milk-fed,smokecured,and browned to make thebest chef of Sherrys palewith envyand despair. . . . I thankyou," and he accepted thecup of coffee fromher hand with another directsmile that deepened theconfusion of thegirls spirit.
  • 397. A dream had succeeded thenightmare, a fairy tale of adream. It wasunreal . . . it was a bubblethat would break . . . but itwas a spell, anenchantment.She forgot that she wastired and bruised; she forgother stainedclothes; she forgot heroutrageous past and herterrifying future.Oblivious and bewitched,she smiled across the tableinto BarryElders eyes and poured hiscoffee and ate his bread andjam. Theamazing youth in her forgotfor those moments all that ithad suffered
  • 398. and all that it must meet.She was floating, floating inthe web of thisbeautiful unreality.And Barry Elder himselfappeared a very differentperson from thatbitter young man who hadstared desperately into thefire and talkedabout cake anddisillusionment. In spite ofhis lack of sleep there wasnothing in the least haggardabout his young face; helookedremarkably alert andinterested in life, and hiseyes were very gentleand his smile very sweet.
  • 399. Perhaps there wassomething of a dream to himin the presence of afairylike young creature whohad blown in with the stormand sleptupon his sheltering hearth.Perhaps there was anenchantment to himin the exquisite young faceacross the table, the shy,soft eyes, thedelicate pale contours.Into their absorption came ashattering knock upon thedoor. Instantlythe nightmare was uponMaria Angelina. She wastense, her eyeswide, her lips parted. And asthe knock was repeated, onehand,
  • 400. wide-fingered in fright, wasraised as if to ward off somepalpableblow."Oh, let me hide," shebreathed across the tableinto Barry Eldersears.Fortunately the latch was onthe door."Whos there?" said BarryElder raising his voice tocover herreiterated whisper. Innegation he gestured her tosilence."Hello, hello there, I say!"It was the voice of JohnnyByrd and Maria Angelina halfrose from her
  • 401. chair and clutched BarryElders arm as he movedtowards thesummons."Do not let him in," shegasped. "That is the man—last night——"The dogs barking wasdrowning her words. Johnnycalled again."Anybody in? Here you wakeup—anybody here?"Barry Elder had stood still ather words. His expressionchanged. Heturned and pointed to ablanket from the floor flungover a chair.She slipped behind it.Calling to his dog to behaveand keep still, Barry steppedover to the
  • 402. door and opened it."Oh, Barry Elder! Gee, Ithought this was your placebut I didnt knowyou were here," Johnny Byrddeclared in relief. "I saw thesmoke andknew there was somebodyabout. . . . Gee, have you gotany food?"Slowly Barry surveyed him.Johnny Byrd was notpunctiliously turned out; hewas streaked andmuddied; his blue eyes wererimmed with red as if hisnights rest hadnot been wholly soothing; hehad no cap and his hair hadclearly beencombed back by fingers intoits restless roach.
  • 403. Barrys eyes appreciatedeach detail. "Hello, Johnny,"he remarkedwithout affability. "How didyou happen to toddle overfor breakfast?"Johnny was not critical oftones. "Oh, never mind thedamneddetails," he said bitterly."Gawd, I could eat a rawcow. . . . Say, youhavent seen any one passhere lately, have you? Imean has any onebeen by at all?""I havent seen any one passhere at all," said Barry Elder."Sure? But have you beenlooking out? Say, what otherway is there—
  • 404. Oh, my Lord, is that coffee?Or do I only dream I smellit? I haventhad a bite since the middleof yesterday. Let me get toit."But Barry Elder did notspring to the duties of hishostship. He did noteven move aside to permitJohnny Byrd to spring to hisownassistance—which Johnnyshowed every symptom ofdoing. Hecontinued to standobstructingly in the middleof his log doorstep, onehand on the knob of the halfclosed door behind him, hiseyes fixed
  • 405. very curiously on Johnnysflushed disorder."What kind of an any oneare you looking for?" saidBarry slowly."Oh—a—well, I guess youvegot to help me out on this.You know thecountry. Theres no usestalling. Its a girl—aforeign-looking girl.""And what are you doing atsix in the morning lookingfor a foreignlookinggirl?""Its the darndest luck,"Johnny broke outexplosively. "We—we gotlost last night going to apicnic on Old Baldy—andthen we gotseparated——"
  • 406. "Just exactly How did youget separated?""How?" Johnny stared backat Barry Elder and foundsomething oddlyfixed and challenging in thatyoung mans eyes."Why how—how does anyone get separated?" hethrew backquerulously."I cant imagine—especiallywhen one is responsible fora girl.""Gosh, Barry, youre talkinglike a grandmother. Arentyou going togive me anything to eat?Whats the matter with you,anyway? Youact devilish queer——"
  • 407. Again he confronted thecoldness of Barrys gaze andhis own facechanged suddenly, withswift surmise."Say, has she been here?"he broke out. "Youve seenher, haventyou? I was sure I sawtracks. . . . Has she—has shetold youanything?"Barry leaned a little nearerthe door-frame, drawing thedoor closerbehind him. Through thecrack Sandys pointed noiseand exploringeyes were fixed inquiringlyupon the visitor and hewhined eagerly as,
  • 408. scenting disapprobation inthe air, he yearned to meetthis troublehalfway."I think you had better,"Barry told him."Better? Better what?""Better tell me—everything.""Oh, all right, all right! Ivenothing to conceal. I didntgo off mychump and behave like adarn lunatic in grand opera!"Then very quickly Johnnyveered from anger intoconfidence."Heres the whole story—and theres nothing to it.Shes crazy—crazywith her foreign notions, Itell you. At first I thoughtshe was trying to
  • 409. put something over on me,but I guess shes justgenuinely crazy. Itsthe way she was brought up.They go mad over there andbite ifyoure left alone in a roomwith a girl."Definitely Barry waited."We were up there on themountain," said Johnnymore lucidly. "Wedlost the others—no fault ofours, Barry—you needntlook like a moviecensor—and we found wedgot to make a night of it. Wewere justworn out and going incircles. And she—I give youmy word I didnt do
  • 410. one gosh-darned thing, butthat girl just naturally tookon and ravedabout wanting me to marryher and blew me up when Isaid I hadntasked her and then—then—when I tried to get shelter ina little oldshack wed stumbled on shejust up and bolted. She——"His words died away. Hiseyes dropped before theblaze that metthem.Very slowly Barryformulated his feelings."You—infernal——""Hold on there, Im not anysuch thing."
  • 411. Through the bluster ofJohnnys rally a reallyinjured innocence madeits outcry. "She had no morereason to bolt than a—agrandmother."Grandmothers appeared tobe Johnnys sole figure ofcomparison."Youre getting this deadwrong, Barry. . . . Look here,youre a mantoo. What do you think I wasdoing?""Thats a large question,"said Barry slowly. But histone was milderthough far from reassuring."But do you tell me that sheasked you tomarry her?"
  • 412. "I do. She did. Just like that—out of a clear sky.""But what was the reason——""There wasnt a reason, Igive you my word, Barry.""You hadnt been sayinganything to her—to suggestit?"Johnny Byrds face changedunhappily. His sunburnedwarmthdeepened to a brick red."Why, no—not aboutmarrying. Oh, hang it all,Barry, dont act as ifyou never kissed a prettygirl! Oh, she pretended shethought thatwas proposing to her—justas if a few friendly wordsand a half kiss
  • 413. meant anything like that. . . .Ill own I was gone on her,"Johnnyfound himself suddenlyannouncing, "but when shewas takingmarriage for granted rightoff it sounded too much likea hold-up andI flared all over.""A hold-up?""Oh, thumb screws, youknow—the same old quick-step to the altar. Ihadnt done a thing, I tellyou, but it looked as if shethought that ourbeing there was somethingshe could stage a scene onand so I
  • 414. thought—you dont knowwhat things have been triedon me before,"he broke off to protest atBarrys expression.Mutteringly he offered, "Youother fellows may think youknow a littlebit about side-stepping girlsbut when it comes to anykind of a bankroll—theyre like starvingArmenians at sight of food.Id had em tryall sorts of things. . . . But Iown, now, she was justgoing accordingto her foreign ways. Shemust have been half scaredto death. Andshe—she is pretty crazyabout me——"
  • 415. "I am not pretty crazy aboutyou, Johnny Byrd!"The door behind Barry waswrenched from his holdingand flungviolently open and MariaAngelina appeared upon thethreshold, adefiant little image of war.Deadly pale, except for thatscarlet stainacross her cheek, her eyesblazing, there wassomething so mortallyhonest in the indignantanger that possessed herthat Johnny Byrdunconsciously fell back astep, and Barry Elder stoodaside, his owngaze lit with concern andwonder.
  • 416. "I am despising you for acoward and a flirter," saidMaria Angelina ina low but exceedinglypenetrative voice, and sointense was hercommand of the situationthat neither man foundhumor, then, in themisused word."You make love to girlswhen you mean nothing byit—you get themlost in the woods and thenrefuse the marriage that anygentleman,even an indifferentgentleman, would offer! Andthen you behave likea savage. You bully and tryto force your way into theactual room of
  • 417. shelter with me!""You see!" Johnny waved hishand helplessly at her andlookedappealingly at Barry for agleam of masculine right-mindedness. "She—she wanted me to stay outin the rain, Barry.""But as it was, she stayedout in the rain and you sleptin the shelter.""She ran, Im telling you. Icouldnt chase her forever,could I? I triedto track her as soon as it gota little light and I could seewhere shedbeen sliding and slippingalong, and honestly, Ivebeen nearly bats
  • 418. with worry till I got a traceof her again back in thewoods."Barry Elder turned towardsthe girl."And thats the whole story,Signorina? Thats all there isto it?""All?" Maria Angelina echoedbewilderedly. She thoughtthere wasenough and to spare. Itseemed to her that she hadrelated thedestruction of her lifetime.She stopped. She would notcry again before JohnnyByrd. She calledon all her pride to keep herfirm before him.
  • 419. A queer change came overBarry Elders expression.The light thatseemed to be shining in theback of his eyes was brightagain. Helooked at Maria Angelina in athoughtful silence, then heturned toJohnny Byrd."I dont think you know howserious a business this is inItaly," he toldhim. "You know, therewhere a girl cannot even seea man alone——""Well, we dont need tocable it to Italy, do we?"Johnny demanded indisgust. "It isnt going tospill any beans here. But itwould look fine,
  • 420. wouldnt it, if I came back tothe Lodge yelling to marryher?""Right you are. That is it,Signorina," Barry Elderagreed verypromptly. "Thats the way itwould look in America.Being lost is anunpleasant accident.Nothing more—betweenyoung people of goodfamily. Not that youngpeople of good familiesmake a practice ofbeing lost," hesupplemented, his eyesdancing in spite of himself atMaria Angelinas deepeningamazement, "but whenanything like that
  • 421. happens—as it has beforethis in the Adirondacks—people dont startan ugly scandal. They maytalk a little of course, but itwont do youany real harm. . . . And itwouldnt be quite nice forJohnny to gorushing about offering youmarriage. The occasiondoesnt demand itin the least."Helplessly she regarded him.. . . She felt utterly astray—astray andblundering. . . ."Would Cousin Jane thinkso?" she appealed."She would," averred Barrystoutly, over the twinge ofan inner
  • 422. qualm. "And so would yourown mother, if she werehere."But there Maria Angelinawas on solid ground."You know little about that,"she told him with spirit. "If Iwere lost inItaly——"But it was so impossible,being lost in Italy, thatMaria Angelina couldonly break off and guard abewildered silence."Then I expect your motherhad better not know," wasall the counselthat Barry Elder could offer,realizing doubtfully that itwas far from a
  • 423. counsel of perfection. "Youhad better let that dependupon Mrs.Blair.""I tried to tell her all this,"Johnny broke in with anaccent of triumph.But Maria Angelina waslooking only at Barry Elder."Can you tell me that it isnothing?" she said pitifully,her eyes big andblack in her white face. "Tohave been gone all nightwith that youngman—to have been found byyou—another young man?Even if theAmericans make light of it—is it not what you call anescapade?"
  • 424. "I have to admit that its anescapade—an accidentalescapade," Barryqualified carefully. "But Idont know any way out of it—unless we allstand together," he saidslowly, "and all pretend thatyou got lostalone and found alone.Thats very simple, really,and I think perhapsit would make things easierfor you.""Now youre sayingsomething!" Johnny wasjubilant. "Absoluteintelligence—gleam ofpositive genius. . . . She waslost alone. Right
  • 425. after the thunder shower.Missed the others and Iwent to a high placeto look for them and wenever found each other. . . .Spent the nightsearching for her," Johnnythrew in carelessly, markingout a neatlittle role for himself. "Thatsthe story—eh, what?""Oh could we—could we dothat?" Maria Angelinaimplored withquivering lips."Of course we can do that.Only youve got to stick tothat story likegrim death—no making anylittle break about climbingthe mountain
  • 426. top and things like that, youknow.""You may trust me," saidMaria fervently."Leave it to your UncleDudley," Johnny reassuredhim. "But, lookhere, Barry, do you want meto die on your doorstep?" hedemanded,his hunger returning as hisagitation subsided."Oh, sit down, Johnny, andIll bring you something,"said Barry atlast. "You had better keepyour eye on the trail to see ifany one elseis coming along. Two in amorning is quite stirring," hesaid
  • 427. deliberately. "Im sure thefire is still burning—unlessyoud prefer tohave him perish ofstarvation?" he paused toinquire politely of thegirl, his twinkling eyesbringing a suddenirrepressible answer to herlips."Yes, that will be best foreverybodys feelings," herattled on, fromthe interior of the cabin,referring not to Johnnysdemise but to theconstruction of a defensivenarrative. "Each of youwandered about allnight alone. . . . Heres someham, Johnny, and cold toast.Therell be
  • 428. hot coffee in an instant. . . .Now remember you crossedthe river justafter the thunder storm andseparated to try differenttrails. And younever found each other . . .Thats simple, isnt it? Andyou, Johnny,climbed the wrong mountainand slept in a shack andcame down thismorning and returned to theLodge. You must show upthere, worriedas blazes and tearing yourhair," he instructed thedevouring Johnnywho merely nodded, tearingwolfishly at the cold toast.
  • 429. "But before you reach theLodge I will ease the anxietythere bytelephoning that I have justfound Maria Angelina," wenton Barry,using quite unconsciouslythe name by which he wasthinking of thegirl.He turned to her, "With yourpermission, I shall say that Ihave justfound you, that I have givenyou something to eat andwhile you wereresting I went to telephone.Does that make you anyhappier?"Her answering look wasradiant.
  • 430. "Now, remember—dontchange a word of this. . . .Heres yourcoffee, Johnny. When youreach the Lodge, dontforget that youhavent seen me and thatyou are still unfed——""Unfed is right," said Johnnyungratefully. "Oh, my gosh,I am stiff asa poker. What do you say,Barry, to our doping this outaround thatfire—or have you got someother little thing in there youare keepingincog as it were?"Refreshed and unabashed hegrinned at them.But Barry did not offer hisfire.
  • 431. "Youd better cut on beforeyou are discovered," headvised. "Its along way to go—likeTipperary. And Ill hurry offto Peters place. . . .You strike over thatshoulder there and down thetrail to the right andyoull find the main road.Its shorter than the river.Besides you cantuse the river trail or youwould have found me. . . .Now mind—dontchange a word of it.""Sure, Ive got it down. Well,Ill be off then!"But Johnny was not off. Hehesitated a moment, turningvery
  • 432. obviously to Maria Angelina,who stood silent upon thedoorstep, andit was Barry who tookhimself suddenly off aroundthe corner of thecabin, with a plate of scrapsfor the vociferous Sandy.Embarrassedly Johnnymuttered, "I say, Ri-Ri, Imsorry."Her expression did notchange. She said levelly,"Im sorry, too. I didnot understand.""I didnt understand,either."Both stood silent. Then hespoke in a hurried, even aflurried way in avery low tone indeed.
  • 433. "But I—I didnt mean to be aquitter. Look here, I didntrealize that itwas just the look of thingsyou were after and not my—my——""Your money, Signor?" saidRi-Ri clearly.He grew red. "Ive got somequeer experiences," hejerked out."I should think, Signor, thatyou would.""Oh, hang that Signor! Idont blame you for being afrost, Ri-Ri, for Iguess I was pretty rotten toyou—but I wasnt throwingyou down—honestly. I was just mulish,I guess, because you weretrying to
  • 434. stampede me. And I wasfighting mad over the entirebusiness andhad to take it out onsomebody. If youd justlaughed and petted afellow a little——"He broke off and looked ather hopefully.Maria Angelina gave nosigns of warmth. Her eyeswere enigmatic asblack diamonds; and hermouth was a red bud ofscorn. Her dignitywas immense for all that herbraids had come down fromtheircoronet and were hangingchildishly about hershoulders; the loose
  • 435. strands fluttering about herface.Johnny wanted to put hishands out and touch them.And he wantedto grip the small shouldersbeneath that middy blouseand shakethem out of that aloofperverseness . . . they hadbeen such soft,nestling shoulders lastnight. . . ."You know I—Im reallycrazy about you," he saidquickly. "Of courseyou know it—you had a rightto know it. I was gone onyou from themoment I first saw you. Youwere so—different. I thoughtit was just
  • 436. a crush—that I could take itor leave it, you know—butyou aredifferent. A mans just got tohave you——"He waited. He had an ideathat he had elucidatedsomething. He feltthat he had raised an issue.But Maria Angelina stoodlike the brighteternal snow, unhearing andunheeding and mostdevilishly cold."Only last night," saidJohnny, explainingfeverishly again, "you wereso funny and grand operaand all and I was mad anddisgusted and
  • 437. grouchy and I—I didntknow how much I caredmyself. Look here,forget it, will you, and beginagain?""Begin what again?""Well, dont begin, then.Lets finish. Lets getmarried. I do want you,Ri-Ri—I want you like thevery deuce. After you hadgone—Gee, itwas an awful night when Igot over my mad. Andcoming down themountain this morning—Ididnt know what I wasgoing to find! . . .So lets forget it all—and getmarried," he repeated.
  • 438. There was a pause. "Do youmean this?" said a stillvoice."Every word. Thats what Iwas planning to tell youwhen I wasrunning down the mountainthis morning. . . . And lastnight—if youdgone at me differently."He looked at her. Somethingin that young figure madehim sayquickly, "Will you, Ri-Ri?""I should like you," saidMaria Angelina in a clearimplacable littlevoice, "to say that again,Signor Byrd, if you are inearnest."
  • 439. "Oh, all right. Come on back,Barry. . . . Im asking Ri-Rito marry me—and well announce theengagement any time shesays. . . . There. .. . Now Ive got that off mychest.""Thank you," said MariaAngelina. She looked neitherat theembarrassed Johnny nor theastounded Barry. "I willthink about itand I will let you know,Signor Byrd. Now pleasego.""Well, of all the——" saidJohnny blankly.Then he looked at her. Shewas staring before her atsomething that
  • 440. she alone could see. Herlook was ratherextraordinary. It occurred toJohnny that after all she hada right to tantalize—and thiswas reallyno moment for capitulation.To-night, now, after dinner,when every one was fed andwarm andcomfy. . . .Still she might give a fellowa decent look. Hang it, hewasnt adrygoods clerk offeringhimself!"Come on, let her alonenow," cut in Barry with acertain savageenergy that woke wonder inJohnny before it had time towake
  • 441. resentment."We must be off," Barrywent on. "Come on, the firstpart of our waylies together and wed betterhurry or some searchingparty will findus. Remember, youve onlybeen here an hour," hecalled back toMaria Angelina. He did notlook at her, but added, inthat sameoffhand way, "Better go inand get some sleep and Illtelephone theLodge from Peters and havea motor and a horse sentafter you.""Ill come with the motor allright," Johnny promised.
  • 442. "Dont worry," called backBarry, and waved his handwith an air ofgayety but there was nolaughter on his face as hestarted off overthe hill with Johnny Byrd.CHAPTER XIIJOURNEYS ENDOver the hills went JohnnyByrd and down the trail andinto a grove ofpines.Up to the left went BarryElder, out of sight amongthe larches. Hewalked briskly at first, hisface clouded but set. Thenhe walkedslower, his face still cloudedbut unsettled.
  • 443. Decidedly his pace lagged.Then it stopped. He lookedback. . . . Hewent a little way back andstopped again. . . . Then hewent on goingback without stopping.His face was much clearernow.Maria Angelina had climbeda mountain and descended amountain;she had wandered andstruggled and scrambled forhours till she wasfaint with exhaustion; shehad been through theextremes of hopeand despair and shame andanger and heart-breakingindignation till
  • 444. it seemed as if her spiritmust break with her body.For recovery she had hadsome scant hours of sleepand a portion offood.And now, instead ofsuccumbing to the mortalweariness that shouldhave been upon her, insteadof closing the big eyes thatburned in herhead, she stood at the cabindoor with uplifted facelistening to thesong of a bird that she didnot know.Then she reëntered thecabin; but not to sink into achair, not to
  • 445. release her bruised feetfrom the weight of hertiredness.She cleared the table andpiled the dishes in a hugepan upon thelittle stove. Upon the stoveshe discovered water heatedin a kettleand she poured it, splashing,over the panful. She foundthree clothsof incredible blacknessdrying upon a little string ina corner by thestove, and after smiling verytenderly upon them sheabandonedthem in favor of a cleanhand towel.
  • 446. She restored the washeddishes to their obviousplaces upon theshelves and with a broomshe battled with the dustupon the floor anddrove it out the open door.Then she swept up thehearth, singing asshe swept, and tidied thearrangement of books, baitand tobaccoupon the mantel, fingeringthem with shy curiosity."Maria Angelina!" said avoice at the doorway andMaria Angelinaturned with a catch at herheart.It had taken Barry Elder along time to retrace thosesteps of his.
  • 447. Twice he had stopped indeep thought. Once he hadpulled out aleather folder from hispocket and after regardingits sheaf of papershad sat down upon a stoneand deliberately opened along, muchcreased-from-handling letter. It wasdated a week before and itwasheaded York Harbor. Itconcluded with an invitation—and a question.After reading that letterBarry remained sunk inthought for a timelonger than the reading hadtaken.
  • 448. All of his past was in thatletter—and a great deal ofhis future in thatinvitation.Then he went deeper intohis pocketbook and took outa smallphotograph. It was the oneshe had given him when hewent toFrance—when she had beenwilling to inspire but not tobless him. Fora long time, soberly, hegazed at the picture itdisclosed, at the fairpresentment of delightfulyouth.Never had he looked at thatpicture in just that way. Hehad known
  • 449. longing before it, and he hadknown bitterness quite asmisplaced andquite as disproportionate.It affected him now inneither way.It was a beautiful picture—itwas the picture of abeautiful youngwoman. He acknowledgedthe beauty with generousappreciation. Buthe felt no inclination to goon staring, moonstruck,upon it; neitherdid he feel the impulse tothrust it hurriedly out ofsight, as somethingwith power to rend.It neither troubled him norinvited—though the girl wasbeautiful
  • 450. enough, he continued toadmit. So were her pearls—and neither weregenuine, thought Barry withmore humor than a formeradorer hasany right to feel.Then he amended histhought. Something of herwas real—theinvitation in that letter—theinclination that he hadalways known shefelt. It was just because itwas a genuine impulse inher that herealized how strong was thecalculation in her that hadalways beenable to keep the errantinclination in check.
  • 451. And even when he wasgoing to war . . . She hadenvisaged herfuture so shrewdly—eitheras wife or widow, he wascertain, that shehad given the photographand not her hand.Later, Bob Martin becameunavailable. And he, himself,acquired anincome.It was not the income thattempted her, he was clearlyaware, and hedid her and himself thejustice to perceive that itwas the inclinationwhich prompted theinvitation—but theinclination could now feelitself
  • 452. supported by an approvingworldly conscience.He wondered now at thelong struggle of his senses.He wondered atthe death pangs ofinfatuation.Once more he looked at thepicture in a puzzled way asif to makesure that the thing he felt—and the thing he didnt feel—wereindubitably real, and then herose with a curious sense oflightnessand yet sobriety, and,straightening his shouldersas if a burden hadfallen from them, heretraced his steps towardsthe cabin.
  • 453. At the doorway he paused,for he heard Maria Angelinasinging. Thenhe spoke her name.The song stopped. MariaAngelina turned towardshim a face offlushed surprise. Hediscovered her quaintly witha jar of pickled frogsin her hand."Maria Angelina, what areyou doing?""But these, Signor—what arethese?""These? Oh—not for food,Maria Angelina—even in mymost desperatemoments. . . . MariaAngelina, are you going tomarry him?"
  • 454. She did not drop the frogs.Very carefully she put themback but witha shaking hand. All the rosysparkle was swept out ofher. Her eyeswere averted. She lookedsuddenly harassed,stubborn, almostfurtive.No quick denial camespringing from her."I do not know," she toldhim painfully."You do not know?"There was something in theyoung mans voice thatmade her glancerise to his."Oh, it is not that I care forhim!" said Maria Angelinaingenuously.
  • 455. "Then why think of marryinghim?""It may be—needful.""Not after this story," BarryElder, insisted."It is not that—now." Sheforced herself to meet hiscombative look."It is because of—Julietta.""Julietta! . . . Who the deuceis Julietta?""Oh, she is my sister, myolder sister. I told you abouther last night,"Maria Angelina remindedhim. "She is the one I loveso much. . . .And she is not pretty, at all—she is anything but pretty,though she is
  • 456. so good and dear—yet shewill never marry unless shehas a largedower. And there is nothingin her life if she does notmarry. Andthere is no money for a largedower, but only for a littlebit for herand a little bit for me. Sothey sent me on this visit toAmerica, forhere the men do not askdowers and what was savedon me wouldhelp Julietta—and now——"Borne headlong on her floodof revelation Maria Angelinacould notstop to watch the change inBarry Elders face. And shewas utterly
  • 457. unprepared for the immensevehemence of theexclamation which cutinto her consciousness withsuch startling effect that shestopped andgasped and swalloweduncertainly before finishingin an altered key,"And so I must marry inAmerica—for Juliettasdower——"In an odd voice Barryoffered, "You think it yourduty—because Byrdis so rich——?""I know it is my duty," shegave back, goaded todesperation, "but—but, oh, it is like that cake ofyours, Signor—of anothingness to me
  • 458. within!"Very abruptly Barry turnedfrom her; he drove his handsdeep into hispocket and strode across theroom and back. He broughtup directlyin front of her."Maria Angelina," he saidsoftly, "how old are you?""Eighteen.""How many men have youknown?""You, first, Signor, then theothers here.""But you did care for him,"he said. "You kissed him."Her eyes dropped, hercheeks flamed and he sawher lips quiver—
  • 459. those soft, sensitive lips ofhers which seemed tobreathe such tenderwarmth and perfume likethe warmth and perfume ofa flower. Butthrough the shine of tearsher eyes came back to his."No, Signor, it was he whokissed me—and it wasentirely without myconsent! I did not kiss him—never, never, never!""Is there such a difference?""But there is all thedifference——""Maria Angelina, you are sosure that for you to kiss aman yourself,to kiss him deliberately,unmistakably upon the lips,this is a final seal
  • 460. and ultimate surrender, andthat if you do not marry aman you haveso definitely kissed onpurpose that you would beno better than aworthless deceiver, anoutrageous flirt, and anabandoned trifler——"She looked at him amazedly.“Yes, that is so.”His eyes were oddlydancing. His lips werecurved in a boyish smile,infinitely merry, infinitelytender; the wind wasblowing back the curlylocks of hair from his face,giving it the look of avictorious runner,arrived at some swift goal.
  • 461. Back of him, through theopen door of the cabin, thegreen and goldof the forest shone intranslucent brightness."But yes—that is yes, true——" she stammered again,not daring totrust that blushing rush ofhappiness, that sweet andsecret dreamthat was singing in herblood."Oh, Madre Dio," hemurmured so lightly gay, yetsoftly, andadoringly, "Maria. MariaAngelina, Oh, you littledarling of the gods,Please, my dear Madre Dio,come here this very instantand kiss me,
  • 462. on purpose, on my lips –Kiss me, in love, and onpurpose, you littlesaint because, MariaAngelina, -- I am never, evergoing to let you goaway from me again."THE ENDIf you have enjoyed thisnew romance novel from theBrowzerBooksBook Club, then please shareit with all your friends. Andnext,