"I was just thinking," she said slowly, "what different things Rome
stands for to each generation of travelers. To our grandmothers, Roman fever; to our mothers, sentimental dangers - how we used to be guarded! - to our daughters, no more dangers than the middle of Main Street
. They don't know it - but how much they're missing!"
The long golden light was beginning to pale, and Mrs. Ansley lifted her knitting a little closer to her eyes. "Yes, how we were guarded."
"I always used to think," Mrs. Slade continued, "that our mothers had a much more difficult job than our grandmothers. When Roman fever stalked the streets it must have been comparatively easy to gather in the girls at the danger hour; but when you and I were young, with such beauty calling us, and the spice of disobedience thrown in, and no worse risk than catching cold during the cool hour after sunset, the mothers used to be put to it to keep us in - didn't they!"
She turned again toward Mrs. Ansley, but the latter had reached a delicate point in her knitting. "One, two, three - slip two; yes, they must have been," she assented, without looking up.
Mrs. Slade's eyes rested on her with a deepened attention. "She can knit - in the face of trouble! How like her. . . ."
Mrs. Slade leaned back, brooding, her eyes ranging from the ruins which faced her to the long green hollow of the Forum, the fading glow of the church fronts beyond it, and the outlying immensity of the Colosseum. Suddenly she thought: "It's all very well to say that our girls have done away with sentiment and moonlight. But if Babs Ansley isn't out to catch that young aviator - the one who's a marchese - then I don't know anything. And Jenny has no chance beside her. I know that too. I wonder if that's why Grace Ansley likes the two girls to go everywhere together! My poor Jenny as a foil!" Mrs. Slade gave a hardly audible laugh, and at the sound Mrs. Ansley dropped her knitting.
"I - oh, nothing. I was only thinking how your Babs carries everything before her. That Campolieri boy is one of the best matches in Rome. Don't look so innocent, my dear - you know he is. And I was wondering, ever so respectfully, you understand ... wondering how two such exemplary characters as you and Horace had managed to produce anything quite so dynamic." Mrs. Slade laughed again, with a touch of asperity.
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