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Mare Marto
by [?]

“No, I am not all that,” Miss Barton said, thoughtfully, her face bending, as if some rich, half-open rose were pondering.

He says that I am a fragment, a bit of detritus that has been washed around the world–“

“And finally lodged and crystallized in Italy.”

This mystified her again, as if she were compelled to use a medium of expression that was unfamiliar.

“Papa was consul-general, you know, first at Madrid, then in the East, and lastly merely a consul at Milan.” She fell back in relief upon a statement of fact.

“Yes, I know.”

“And mamma–she was from the South but he married her in Paris. They called me the polyglot bebe at the convent.” She confided this as lazily interesting, like the clouds, or the locusts, or the faint chatter of the Adriatic waves around the breakwater of the Lido.

“Nevertheless you are Venice, you are Italy, you are Pagan”–the young man iterated almost solemnly, as if a Puritan ancestry demanded this reproach. Then he rolled his body half over and straightened himself to look at her rigidly. “How did you come about? How could Council Bluffs make it?” His voice showed amusement at its own intensity. She shook her head.

“I don’t know,” she said, softly.

“It doesn’t seem real. They tell me so, just as they say that the marble over there comes from that blue mountain. But why bother about it? I am here—-“

They drifted on in personal chat until the sunlight came in parallel lines between the leaves.

“Where is Caspar?” he said at last, reluctantly. “It’s too late to get back to the Britannia for dinner.” He jumped up as if conscious of a fault.

“Oh, we’ll dine here. Caspar has found some one at the stablimento and has gone off. Ask Bastian–there must be some place where we can get enough to eat.”

Lawrence hesitated as if not quite sure of the outcome of such unpremeditation. But Miss Barton questioned the gondolier. “The Buon Pesche–that will be lovely; Bastian will paddle over and order the supper. We can walk around.”

So Lawrence, as if yielding against his judgment, knelt down and picked up her wrap. “Bastian will take care of the rest,” she said, gleefully, walking on ahead through the long grass of the abandoned fort. “Be a bit of detritus, too, and enjoy the few half-hours,” she added, coaxingly, over her shoulder.

When they were seated at the table under the laurel-trees before the Buon Pesche, Lawrence threw himself into the situation, with all the robustness of a moral resolve to do the delightful and sinful thing. Just why it should be sinful to dine there out-doors in an evening light of luminous gold, with the scent of locusts eddying about, and the mirage-like show of Venice sleeping softly over beyond–was not quite clear. Perhaps because his companion seemed so careless and unfamiliar with the monitions of strenuous living; perhaps because her face was brilliant and naive–some spontaneous thing of nature, unmarked by any lines of consciousness.

Under a neighboring tree a couple were already eating, or quarrelling in staccato phrases. Lawrence thought that the man was an artist.

Miss Barton smiled at his seriousness, crossing her hands placidly on the table and leaning forward. To her companion she gleamed, as if a wood- thing, a hamadryad, had slipped out from the laurel-tree and come to dine with him in the dusk.

The woman of the inn brought a flask of thin yellow wine and placed it between them. Lawrence mutely decanted it into the glasses.

“Well?” she said, questioningly.

Her companion turned his head away to the solemn, imperial mountains, that were preparing with purple and gold for a night’s oblivion.

“You are thinking of Nassau Street, New York, of the rooms divided by glass partitions, and typewriters and the bundles of documents–bah! Chained!” She sipped scornfully a drop or two from the glass.

The man flushed.

“No, not that exactly. I am thinking of the police courts, of the squalor, of taking a deposition in a cell with the filthy breathing all about. The daily jostle.” He threw his head back.