CHAPTER VII. Saint Cecilia's
Rowland went often to the Coliseum; he never wearied of it. One morning, about a month after his return from Frascati, as he was strolling across the vast arena, he observed a young woman seated on one of the fragments of stone which are ranged along the line of the ancient parapet. It seemed to him that he had seen her before, but he was unable to localize her face. Passing her again, he perceived that one of the little red-legged French soldiers at that time on guard there had approached her and was gallantly making himself agreeable. She smiled brilliantly, and Rowland recognized the smile (it had always pleased him) of a certain comely Assunta, who sometimes opened the door for Mrs. Light's visitors. He wondered what she was doing alone in the Coliseum, and conjectured that Assunta had admirers as well as her young mistress, but that, being without the same domiciliary conveniencies, she was using this massive heritage of her Latin ancestors as a boudoir. In other words, she had an appointment with her lover, who had better, from present appearances, be punctual. It was a long time since Rowland had ascended to the ruinous upper tiers of the great circus, and, as the day was radiant and the distant views promised to be particularly clear, he determined to give himself the pleasure. The custodian unlocked the great wooden wicket, and he climbed through the winding shafts, where the eager Roman crowds had billowed and trampled, not pausing till he reached the highest accessible point of the ruin. The views were as fine as he had supposed; the lights on the Sabine Mountains had never been more lovely. He gazed to his satisfaction and retraced his steps. In a moment he paused again on an abutment somewhat lower, from which the glance dropped dizzily into the interior. There are chance anfractuosities of ruin in the upper portions of the Coliseum which offer a very fair imitation of the rugged face of an Alpine cliff. In those days a multitude of delicate flowers and sprays of wild herbage had found a friendly soil in the hoary crevices, and they bloomed and nodded amid the antique masonry as freely as they would have done in the virgin rock. Rowland was turning away, when he heard a sound of voices rising up from below. He had but to step slightly forward to find himself overlooking two persons who had seated themselves on a narrow ledge, in a sunny corner. They had apparently had an eye to extreme privacy, but they had not observed that their position was commanded by Rowland's stand-point. One of these airy adventurers was a lady, thickly veiled, so that, even if he had not been standing directly above her, Rowland could not have seen her face. The other was a young man, whose face was also invisible, but who, as Rowland stood there, gave a toss of his clustering locks which was equivalent to the signature-Roderick Hudson. A moment's reflection, hereupon, satisfied him of the identity of the lady. He had been unjust to poor Assunta, sitting patient in the gloomy arena; she had not come on her own errand. Rowland's discoveries made him hesitate. Should he retire as noiselessly as possible, or should he call out a friendly good morning? While he was debating the question, he found himself distinctly hearing his friends' words. They were of such a nature as to make him unwilling to retreat, and yet to make it awkward to be discovered in a position where it would be apparent that he had heard them.
"If what you say is true," said Christina, with her usual soft deliberateness-it made her words rise with peculiar distinctness to Rowland's ear-"you are simply weak. I am sorry! I hoped-I really believed-you were not."
"No, I am not weak," answered Roderick, with vehemence; "I maintain that I am not weak! I am incomplete, perhaps; but I can't help that. Weakness is a man's own fault!"
"Incomplete, then!" said Christina, with a laugh. "It 's the same thing, so long as it keeps you from splendid achievement. Is it written, then, that I shall really never know what I have so often dreamed of?"
"What have you dreamed of?"
"A man whom I can perfectly respect!" cried the young girl, with a sudden flame. "A man, at least, whom I can unrestrictedly admire. I meet one, as I have met more than one before, whom I fondly believe to be cast in a larger mould than most of the vile human breed, to be large in character, great in talent, strong in will! In such a man as that, I say, one's weary imagination at last may rest; or it may wander if it will, yet never need to wander far from the deeps where one's heart is anchored. When I first knew you, I gave no sign, but you had struck me. I observed you, as women observe, and I fancied you had the sacred fire."
"Before heaven, I believe I have!" cried Roderick.
"Ah, but so little! It flickers and trembles and sputters; it goes out, you tell me, for whole weeks together. From your own account, it 's ten to one that in the long run you 're a failure."
"I say those things sometimes myself, but when I hear you say them they make me feel as if I could work twenty years at a sitting, on purpose to refute you!"
"Ah, the man who is strong with what I call strength," Christina replied, "would neither rise nor fall by anything I could say! I am a poor, weak woman; I have no strength myself, and I can give no strength. I am a miserable medley of vanity and folly. I am silly, I am ignorant, I am affected, I am false. I am the fruit of a horrible education, sown on a worthless soil. I am all that, and yet I believe I have one merit! I should know a great character when I saw it, and I should delight in it with a generosity which would do something toward the remission of my sins. For a man who should really give me a certain feeling-which I have never had, but which I should know when it came-I would send Prince Casamassima and his millions to perdition. I don't know what you think of me for saying all this; I suppose we have not climbed up here under the skies to play propriety. Why have you been at such pains to assure me, after all, that you are a little man and not a great one, a weak one and not a strong? I innocently imagined that your eyes declared you were strong. But your voice condemns you; I always wondered at it; it 's not the voice of a conqueror!"
"Give me something to conquer," cried Roderick, "and when I say that I thank you from my soul, my voice, whatever you think of it, shall speak the truth!"
Christina for a moment said nothing. Rowland was too interested to think of moving. "You pretend to such devotion," she went on, "and yet I am sure you have never really chosen between me and that person in America."
"Do me the favor not to speak of her," said Roderick, imploringly.
"Why not? I say no ill of her, and I think all kinds of good. I am certain she is a far better girl than I, and far more likely to make you happy."
"This is happiness, this present, palpable moment," said Roderick; "though you have such a genius for saying the things that torture me!"
"It 's greater happiness than you deserve, then! You have never chosen, I say; you have been afraid to choose. You have never really faced the fact that you are false, that you have broken your faith. You have never looked at it and seen that it was hideous, and yet said, 'No matter, I 'll brave the penalty, I 'll bear the shame!' You have closed your eyes; you have tried to stifle remembrance, to persuade yourself that you were not behaving as badly as you seemed to be, and there would be some way, after all, of compassing bliss and yet escaping trouble. You have faltered and drifted, you have gone on from accident to accident, and I am sure that at this present moment you can't tell what it is you really desire!"
Roderick was sitting with his knees drawn up and bent, and his hands clapsed around his legs. He bent his head and rested his forehead on his knees.
Christina went on with a sort of infernal calmness: "I believe that, really, you don't greatly care for your friend in America any more than you do for me. You are one of the men who care only for themselves and for what they can make of themselves. That 's very well when they can make something great, and I could interest myself in a man of extraordinary power who should wish to turn all his passions to account. But if the power should turn out to be, after all, rather ordinary? Fancy feeling one's self ground in the mill of a third-rate talent! If you have doubts about yourself, I can't reassure you; I have too many doubts myself, about everything in this weary world. You have gone up like a rocket, in your profession, they tell me; are you going to come down like the stick? I don't pretend to know; I repeat frankly what I have said before-that all modern sculpture seems to me weak, and that the only things I care for are some of the most battered of the antiques of the Vatican. No, no, I can't reassure you; and when you tell me-with a confidence in my discretion of which, certainly, I am duly sensible-that at times you feel terribly small, why, I can only answer, 'Ah, then, my poor friend, I am afraid you are small.' The language I should like to hear, from a certain person, would be the language of absolute decision."
Roderick raised his head, but he said nothing; he seemed to be exchanging a long glance with his companion. The result of it was to make him fling himself back with an inarticulate murmur. Rowland, admonished by the silence, was on the point of turning away, but he was arrested by a gesture of the young girl. She pointed for a moment into the blue air. Roderick followed the direction of her gesture.
"Is that little flower we see outlined against that dark niche," she asked, "as intensely blue as it looks through my veil?" She spoke apparently with the amiable design of directing the conversation into a less painful channel.
Rowland, from where he stood, could see the flower she meant-a delicate plant of radiant hue, which sprouted from the top of an immense fragment of wall some twenty feet from Christina's place.
Roderick turned his head and looked at it without answering. At last, glancing round, "Put up your veil!" he said. Christina complied. "Does it look as blue now?" he asked.
"Ah, what a lovely color!" she murmured, leaning her head on one side.
"Would you like to have it?"
She stared a moment and then broke into a light laugh.
"Would you like to have it?" he repeated in a ringing voice.
"Don't look as if you would eat me up," she answered. "It 's harmless if I say yes!"
Roderick rose to his feet and stood looking at the little flower. It was separated from the ledge on which he stood by a rugged surface of vertical wall, which dropped straight into the dusky vaults behind the arena. Suddenly he took off his hat and flung it behind him. Christina then sprang to her feet.
"I will bring it you," he said.
She seized his arm. "Are you crazy? Do you mean to kill yourself?"
"I shall not kill myself. Sit down!"
"Excuse me. Not till you do!" And she grasped his arm with both hands.
Roderick shook her off and pointed with a violent gesture to her former place. "Go there!" he cried fiercely.
"You can never, never!" she murmured beseechingly, clasping her hands. "I implore you!"
Roderick turned and looked at her, and then in a voice which Rowland had never heard him use, a voice almost thunderous, a voice which awakened the echoes of the mighty ruin, he repeated, "Sit down!" She hesitated a moment and then she dropped on the ground and buried her face in her hands.
Rowland had seen all this, and he saw more. He saw Roderick clasp in his left arm the jagged corner of the vertical partition along which he proposed to pursue his crazy journey, stretch out his leg, and feel for a resting-place for his foot. Rowland had measured with a glance the possibility of his sustaining himself, and pronounced it absolutely nil. The wall was garnished with a series of narrow projections, the remains apparently of a brick cornice supporting the arch of a vault which had long since collapsed. It was by lodging his toes on these loose brackets and grasping with his hands at certain mouldering protuberances on a level with his head, that Roderick intended to proceed. The relics of the cornice were utterly worthless as a support. Rowland had observed this, and yet, for a moment, he had hesitated. If the thing were possible, he felt a sudden admiring glee at the thought of Roderick's doing it. It would be finely done, it would be gallant, it would have a sort of masculine eloquence as an answer to Christina's sinister persiflage. But it was not possible! Rowland left his place with a bound, and scrambled down some neighboring steps, and the next moment a stronger pair of hands than Christina's were laid upon Roderick's shoulder.
He turned, staring, pale and angry. Christina rose, pale and staring, too, but beautiful in her wonder and alarm. "My dear Roderick," said Rowland, "I am only preventing you from doing a very foolish thing. That 's an exploit for spiders, not for young sculptors of promise."
Roderick wiped his forehead, looked back at the wall, and then closed his eyes, as if with a spasm, of retarded dizziness. "I won't resist you," he said. "But I have made you obey," he added, turning to Christina. "Am I weak now?"
She had recovered her composure; she looked straight past him and addressed Rowland: "Be so good as to show me the way out of this horrible place!"
He helped her back into the corridor; Roderick followed after a short interval. Of course, as they were descending the steps, came questions for Rowland to answer, and more or less surprise. Where had he come from? how happened he to have appeared at just that moment? Rowland answered that he had been rambling overhead, and that, looking out of an aperture, he had seen a gentleman preparing to undertake a preposterous gymnastic feat, and a lady swooning away in consequence. Interference seemed justifiable, and he had made it as prompt as possible. Roderick was far from hanging his head, like a man who has been caught in the perpetration of an extravagant folly; but if he held it more erect than usual Rowland believed that this was much less because he had made a show of personal daring than because he had triumphantly proved to Christina that, like a certain person she had dreamed of, he too could speak the language of decision. Christina descended to the arena in silence, apparently occupied with her own thoughts. She betrayed no sense of the privacy of her interview with Roderick needing an explanation. Rowland had seen stranger things in New York! The only evidence of her recent agitation was that, on being joined by her maid, she declared that she was unable to walk home; she must have a carriage. A fiacre was found resting in the shadow of the Arch of Constantine, and Rowland suspected that after she had got into it she disburdened herself, under her veil, of a few natural tears.
Rowland had played eavesdropper to so good a purpose that he might justly have omitted the ceremony of denouncing himself to Roderick. He preferred, however, to let him know that he had overheard a portion of his talk with Christina.
"Of course it seems to you," Roderick said, "a proof that I am utterly infatuated."
"Miss Light seemed to me to know very well how far she could go," Rowland answered. "She was twisting you round her finger. I don't think she exactly meant to defy you; but your crazy pursuit of that flower was a proof that she could go all lengths in the way of making a fool of you."
"Yes," said Roderick, meditatively; "she is making a fool of me."
"And what do you expect to come of it?"
"Nothing good!" And Roderick put his hands into his pockets and looked as if he had announced the most colorless fact in the world.
"And in the light of your late interview, what do you make of your young lady?"
"If I could tell you that, it would be plain sailing. But she 'll not tell me again I am weak!"
"Are you very sure you are not weak?"
"I may be, but she shall never know it."
Rowland said no more until they reached the Corso, when he asked his companion whether he was going to his studio.
Roderick started out of a reverie and passed his hands over his eyes. "Oh no, I can't settle down to work after such a scene as that. I was not afraid of breaking my neck then, but I feel all in a tremor now. I will go-I will go and sit in the sun on the Pincio!"
"Promise me this, first," said Rowland, very solemnly: "that the next time you meet Miss Light, it shall be on the earth and not in the air."
Since his return from Frascati, Roderick had been working doggedly at the statue ordered by Mr. Leavenworth. To Rowland's eye he had made a very fair beginning, but he had himself insisted, from the first, that he liked neither his subject nor his patron, and that it was impossible to feel any warmth of interest in a work which was to be incorporated into the ponderous personality of Mr. Leavenworth. It was all against the grain; he wrought without love. Nevertheless after a fashion he wrought, and the figure grew beneath his hands. Miss Blanchard's friend was ordering works of art on every side, and his purveyors were in many cases persons whom Roderick declared it was infamy to be paired with. There had been grand tailors, he said, who declined to make you a coat unless you got the hat you were to wear with it from an artist of their own choosing. It seemed to him that he had an equal right to exact that his statue should not form part of the same system of ornament as the "Pearl of Perugia," a picture by an American confrere who had, in Mr. Leavenworth's opinion, a prodigious eye for color. As a customer, Mr. Leavenworth used to drop into Roderick's studio, to see how things were getting on, and give a friendly hint or so. He would seat himself squarely, plant his gold-topped cane between his legs, which he held very much apart, rest his large white hands on the head, and enunciate the principles of spiritual art, as he hoisted them one by one, as you might say, out of the depths of his moral consciousness. His benignant and imperturbable pomposity gave Roderick the sense of suffocating beneath a large fluffy bolster, and the worst of the matter was that the good gentleman's placid vanity had an integument whose toughness no sarcastic shaft could pierce. Roderick admitted that in thinking over the tribulations of struggling genius, the danger of dying of over-patronage had never occurred to him.
The deterring effect of the episode of the Coliseum was apparently of long continuance; if Roderick's nerves had been shaken his hand needed time to recover its steadiness. He cultivated composure upon principles of his own; by frequenting entertainments from which he returned at four o'clock in the morning, and lapsing into habits which might fairly be called irregular. He had hitherto made few friends among the artistic fraternity; chiefly because he had taken no trouble about it, and there was in his demeanor an elastic independence of the favor of his fellow-mortals which made social advances on his own part peculiarly necessary. Rowland had told him more than once that he ought to fraternize a trifle more with the other artists, and he had always answered that he had not the smallest objection to fraternizing: let them come! But they came on rare occasions, and Roderick was not punctilious about returning their visits. He declared there was not one of them whose works gave him the smallest desire to make acquaintance with the insides of their heads. For Gloriani he professed a superb contempt, and, having been once to look at his wares, never crossed his threshold again. The only one of the fraternity for whom by his own admission he cared a straw was little Singleton; but he expressed his regard only in a kind of sublime hilarity whenever he encountered this humble genius, and quite forgot his existence in the intervals. He had never been to see him, but Singleton edged his way, from time to time, timidly, into Roderick's studio, and agreed with characteristic modesty that brilliant fellows like the sculptor might consent to receive homage, but could hardly be expected to render it. Roderick never exactly accepted homage, and apparently did not quite observe whether poor Singleton spoke in admiration or in blame. Roderick's taste as to companions was singularly capricious. There were very good fellows, who were disposed to cultivate him, who bored him to death; and there were others, in whom even Rowland's good-nature was unable to discover a pretext for tolerance, in whom he appeared to find the highest social qualities. He used to give the most fantastic reasons for his likes and dislikes. He would declare he could n't speak a civil word to a man who brushed his hair in a certain fashion, and he would explain his unaccountable fancy for an individual of imperceptible merit by telling you that he had an ancestor who in the thirteenth century had walled up his wife alive. "I like to talk to a man whose ancestor has walled up his wife alive," he would say. "You may not see the fun of it, and think poor P-- is a very dull fellow. It 's very possible; I don't ask you to admire him. But, for reasons of my own, I like to have him about. The old fellow left her for three days with her face uncovered, and placed a long mirror opposite to her, so that she could see, as he said, if her gown was a fit!"
His relish for an odd flavor in his friends had led him to make the acquaintance of a number of people outside of Rowland's well-ordered circle, and he made no secret of their being very queer fish. He formed an intimacy, among others, with a crazy fellow who had come to Rome as an emissary of one of the Central American republics, to drive some ecclesiastical bargain with the papal government. The Pope had given him the cold shoulder, but since he had not prospered as a diplomatist, he had sought compensation as a man of the world, and his great flamboyant curricle and negro lackeys were for several weeks one of the striking ornaments of the Pincian. He spoke a queer jargon of Italian, Spanish, French, and English, humorously relieved with scraps of ecclesiastical Latin, and to those who inquired of Roderick what he found to interest him in such a fantastic jackanapes, the latter would reply, looking at his interlocutor with his lucid blue eyes, that it was worth any sacrifice to hear him talk nonsense! The two had gone together one night to a ball given by a lady of some renown in the Spanish colony, and very late, on his way home, Roderick came up to Rowland's rooms, in whose windows he had seen a light. Rowland was going to bed, but Roderick flung himself into an armchair and chattered for an hour. The friends of the Costa Rican envoy were as amusing as himself, and in very much the same line. The mistress of the house had worn a yellow satin dress, and gold heels to her slippers, and at the close of the entertainment had sent for a pair of castanets, tucked up her petticoats, and danced a fandango, while the gentlemen sat cross-legged on the floor. "It was awfully low," Roderick said; "all of a sudden I perceived it, and bolted. Nothing of that kind ever amuses me to the end: before it 's half over it bores me to death; it makes me sick. Hang it, why can't a poor fellow enjoy things in peace? My illusions are all broken-winded; they won't carry me twenty paces! I can't laugh and forget; my laugh dies away before it begins. Your friend Stendhal writes on his book-covers (I never got farther) that he has seen too early in life la beaute parfaite. I don't know how early he saw it; I saw it before I was born-in another state of being! I can't describe it positively; I can only say I don't find it anywhere now. Not at the bottom of champagne glasses; not, strange as it may seem, in that extra half-yard or so of shoulder that some women have their ball-dresses cut to expose. I don't find it at merry supper-tables, where half a dozen ugly men with pomatumed heads are rapidly growing uglier still with heat and wine; not when I come away and walk through these squalid black streets, and go out into the Forum and see a few old battered stone posts standing there like gnawed bones stuck into the earth. Everything is mean and dusky and shabby, and the men and women who make up this so-called brilliant society are the meanest and shabbiest of all. They have no real spontaneity; they are all cowards and popinjays. They have no more dignity than so many grasshoppers. Nothing is good but one!" And he jumped up and stood looking at one of his statues, which shone vaguely across the room in the dim lamplight.
"Yes, do tell us," said Rowland, "what to hold on by!"
"Those things of mine were tolerably good," he answered. "But my idea was better-and that 's what I mean!"
Rowland said nothing. He was willing to wait for Roderick to complete the circle of his metamorphoses, but he had no desire to officiate as chorus to the play. If Roderick chose to fish in troubled waters, he must land his prizes himself.
"You think I 'm an impudent humbug," the latter said at last, "coming up to moralize at this hour of the night. You think I want to throw dust into your eyes, to put you off the scent. That 's your eminently rational view of the case."
"Excuse me from taking any view at all," said Rowland.
"You have given me up, then?"
"No, I have merely suspended judgment. I am waiting."
"You have ceased then positively to believe in me?"
Rowland made an angry gesture. "Oh, cruel boy! When you have hit your mark and made people care for you, you should n't twist your weapon about at that rate in their vitals. Allow me to say I am sleepy. Good night!"
Some days afterward it happened that Rowland, on a long afternoon ramble, took his way through one of the quiet corners of the Trastevere. He was particularly fond of this part of Rome, though he could hardly have expressed the charm he found in it. As you pass away from the dusky, swarming purlieus of the Ghetto, you emerge into a region of empty, soundless, grass-grown lanes and alleys, where the shabby houses seem mouldering away in disuse, and yet your footstep brings figures of startling Roman type to the doorways. There are few monuments here, but no part of Rome seemed more historic, in the sense of being weighted with a crushing past, blighted with the melancholy of things that had had their day. When the yellow afternoon sunshine slept on the sallow, battered walls, and lengthened the shadows in the grassy courtyards of small closed churches, the place acquired a strange fascination. The church of Saint Cecilia has one of these sunny, waste-looking courts; the edifice seems abandoned to silence and the charity of chance devotion. Rowland never passed it without going in, and he was generally the only visitor. He entered it now, but found that two persons had preceded him. Both were women. One was at her prayers at one of the side altars; the other was seated against a column at the upper end of the nave. Rowland walked to the altar, and paid, in a momentary glance at the clever statue of the saint in death, in the niche beneath it, the usual tribute to the charm of polished ingenuity. As he turned away he looked at the person seated and recognized Christina Light. Seeing that she perceived him, he advanced to speak to her.
She was sitting in a listless attitude, with her hands in her lap; she seemed to be tired. She was dressed simply, as if for walking and escaping observation. When he had greeted her he glanced back at her companion, and recognized the faithful Assunta.
Christina smiled. "Are you looking for Mr. Hudson? He is not here, I am happy to say."
"But you?" he asked. "This is a strange place to find you."
"Not at all! People call me a strange girl, and I might as well have the comfort of it. I came to take a walk; that, by the way, is part of my strangeness. I can't loll all the morning on a sofa, and all the afternoon in a carriage. I get horribly restless. I must move; I must do something and see something. Mamma suggests a cup of tea. Meanwhile I put on an old dress and half a dozen veils, I take Assunta under my arm, and we start on a pedestrian tour. It 's a bore that I can't take the poodle, but he attracts attention. We trudge about everywhere; there is nothing I like so much. I hope you will congratulate me on the simplicity of my tastes."
"I congratulate you on your wisdom. To live in Rome and not to walk would, I think, be poor pleasure. But you are terribly far from home, and I am afraid you are tired."
"A little-enough to sit here a while."
"Might I offer you my company while you rest?"
"If you will promise to amuse me. I am in dismal spirits."
Rowland said he would do what he could, and brought a chair and placed it near her. He was not in love with her; he disapproved of her; he mistrusted her; and yet he felt it a kind of privilege to watch her, and he found a peculiar excitement in talking to her. The background of her nature, as he would have called it, was large and mysterious, and it emitted strange, fantastic gleams and flashes. Watching for these rather quickened one's pulses. Moreover, it was not a disadvantage to talk to a girl who made one keep guard on one's composure; it diminished one's chronic liability to utter something less than revised wisdom.
Assunta had risen from her prayers, and, as he took his place, was coming back to her mistress. But Christina motioned her away. "No, no; while you are about it, say a few dozen more!" she said. "Pray for me," she added in English. "Pray, I say nothing silly. She has been at it half an hour; I envy her capacity!"
"Have you never felt in any degree," Rowland asked, "the fascination of Catholicism?"
"Yes, I have been through that, too! There was a time when I wanted immensely to be a nun; it was not a laughing matter. It was when I was about sixteen years old. I read the Imitation and the Life of Saint Catherine. I fully believed in the miracles of the saints, and I was dying to have one of my own. The least little accident that could have been twisted into a miracle would have carried me straight into the bosom of the church. I had the real religious passion. It has passed away, and, as I sat here just now, I was wondering what had become of it!"
Rowland had already been sensible of something in this young lady's tone which he would have called a want of veracity, and this epitome of her religious experience failed to strike him as an absolute statement of fact. But the trait was not disagreeable, for she herself was evidently the foremost dupe of her inventions. She had a fictitious history in which she believed much more fondly than in her real one, and an infinite capacity for extemporized reminiscence adapted to the mood of the hour. She liked to idealize herself, to take interesting and picturesque attitudes to her own imagination; and the vivacity and spontaneity of her character gave her, really, a starting-point in experience; so that the many-colored flowers of fiction which blossomed in her talk were not so much perversions, as sympathetic exaggerations, of fact. And Rowland felt that whatever she said of herself might have been, under the imagined circumstances; impulse was there, audacity, the restless, questioning temperament. "I am afraid I am sadly prosaic," he said, "for in these many months now that I have been in Rome, I have never ceased for a moment to look at Catholicism simply from the outside. I don't see an opening as big as your finger-nail where I could creep into it!"
"What do you believe?" asked Christina, looking at him. "Are you religious?"
"I believe in God."
Christina let her beautiful eyes wander a while, and then gave a little sigh. "You are much to be envied!"
"You, I imagine, in that line have nothing to envy me."
"Yes, I have. Rest!"
"You are too young to say that."
"I am not young; I have never been young! My mother took care of that. I was a little wrinkled old woman at ten."
"I am afraid," said Rowland, in a moment, "that you are fond of painting yourself in dark colors."
She looked at him a while in silence. "Do you wish," she demanded at last, "to win my eternal gratitude? Prove to me that I am better than I suppose."
"I should have first to know what you really suppose."
She shook her head. "It would n't do. You would be horrified to learn even the things I imagine about myself, and shocked at the knowledge of evil displayed in my very mistakes."
"Well, then," said Rowland, "I will ask no questions. But, at a venture, I promise you to catch you some day in the act of doing something very good."
"Can it be, can it be," she asked, "that you too are trying to flatter me? I thought you and I had fallen, from the first, into rather a truth-speaking vein."
"Oh, I have not abandoned it!" said Rowland; and he determined, since he had the credit of homely directness, to push his advantage farther. The opportunity seemed excellent. But while he was hesitating as to just how to begin, the young girl said, bending forward and clasping her hands in her lap, "Please tell me about your religion."
"Tell you about it? I can't!" said Rowland, with a good deal of emphasis.
She flushed a little. "Is it such a mighty mystery it cannot be put into words, nor communicated to my base ears?"
"It is simply a sentiment that makes part of my life, and I can't detach myself from it sufficiently to talk about it."
"Religion, it seems to me, should be eloquent and aggressive. It should wish to make converts, to persuade and illumine, to sway all hearts!"
"One's religion takes the color of one's general disposition. I am not aggressive, and certainly I am not eloquent."
"Beware, then, of finding yourself confronted with doubt and despair! I am sure that doubt, at times, and the bitterness that comes of it, can be terribly eloquent. To tell the truth, my lonely musings, before you came in, were eloquent enough, in their way. What do you know of anything but this strange, terrible world that surrounds you? How do you know that your faith is not a mere crazy castle in the air; one of those castles that we are called fools for building when we lodge them in this life?"
"I don't know it, any more than any one knows the contrary. But one's religion is extremely ingenious in doing without knowledge."
"In such a world as this it certainly needs to be!"
Rowland smiled. "What is your particular quarrel with this world?"
"It 's a general quarrel. Nothing is true, or fixed, or permanent. We all seem to be playing with shadows more or less grotesque. It all comes over me here so dismally! The very atmosphere of this cold, deserted church seems to mock at one's longing to believe in something. Who cares for it now? who comes to it? who takes it seriously? Poor stupid Assunta there gives in her adhesion in a jargon she does n't understand, and you and I, proper, passionless tourists, come lounging in to rest from a walk. And yet the Catholic church was once the proudest institution in the world, and had quite its own way with men's souls. When such a mighty structure as that turns out to have a flaw, what faith is one to put in one's poor little views and philosophies? What is right and what is wrong? What is one really to care for? What is the proper rule of life? I am tired of trying to discover, and I suspect it 's not worth the trouble. Live as most amuses you!"
"Your perplexities are so terribly comprehensive," said Rowland, smiling, "that one hardly knows where to meet them first."
"I don't care much for anything you can say, because it 's sure to be half-hearted. You are not in the least contented, yourself."
"How do you know that?"
"Oh, I am an observer!"
"No one is absolutely contented, I suppose, but I assure you I complain of nothing."
"So much the worse for your honesty. To begin with, you are in love."
"You would not have me complain of that!"
"And it does n't go well. There are grievous obstacles. So much I know! You need n't protest; I ask no questions. You will tell no one-me least of all. Why does one never see you?"
"Why, if I came to see you," said Rowland, deliberating, "it would n't be, it could n't be, for a trivial reason-because I had not been in a month, because I was passing, because I admire you. It would be because I should have something very particular to say. I have not come, because I have been slow in making up my mind to say it."
"You are simply cruel. Something particular, in this ocean of inanities? In common charity, speak!"
"I doubt whether you will like it."
"Oh, I hope to heaven it 's not a compliment!"
"It may be called a compliment to your reasonableness. You perhaps remember that I gave you a hint of it the other day at Frascati."
"Has it been hanging fire all this time? Explode! I promise not to stop my ears."
"It relates to my friend Hudson." And Rowland paused. She was looking at him expectantly; her face gave no sign. "I am rather disturbed in mind about him. He seems to me at times to be in an unpromising way." He paused again, but Christina said nothing. "The case is simply this," he went on. "It was by my advice he renounced his career at home and embraced his present one. I made him burn his ships. I brought him to Rome, I launched him in the world, and I stand surety, in a measure, to-to his mother, for his prosperity. It is not such smooth sailing as it might be, and I am inclined to put up prayers for fair winds. If he is to succeed, he must work-quietly, devotedly. It is not news to you, I imagine, that Hudson is a great admirer of yours."
Christina remained silent; she turned away her eyes with an air, not of confusion, but of deep deliberation. Surprising frankness had, as a general thing, struck Rowland as the key-note of her character, but she had more than once given him a suggestion of an unfathomable power of calculation, and her silence now had something which it is hardly extravagant to call portentous. He had of course asked himself how far it was questionable taste to inform an unprotected girl, for the needs of a cause, that another man admired her; the thing, superficially, had an uncomfortable analogy with the shrewdness that uses a cat's paw and lets it risk being singed. But he decided that even rigid discretion is not bound to take a young lady at more than her own valuation, and Christina presently reassured him as to the limits of her susceptibility. "Mr. Hudson is in love with me!" she said.
Rowland flinched a trifle. Then-"Am I," he asked, "from this point of view of mine, to be glad or sorry?"
"I don't understand you."
"Why, is Hudson to be happy, or unhappy?"
She hesitated a moment. "You wish him to be great in his profession? And for that you consider that he must be happy in his life?"
"Decidedly. I don't say it 's a general rule, but I think it is a rule for him."
"So that if he were very happy, he would become very great?"
"He would at least do himself justice."
"And by that you mean a great deal?"
"A great deal."
Christina sank back in her chair and rested her eyes on the cracked and polished slabs of the pavement. At last, looking up, "You have not forgotten, I suppose, that you told me he was engaged?"
"By no means."
"He is still engaged, then?"
"To the best of my belief."
"And yet you desire that, as you say, he should be made happy by something I can do for him?"
"What I desire is this. That your great influence with him should be exerted for his good, that it should help him and not retard him. Understand me. You probably know that your lovers have rather a restless time of it. I can answer for two of them. You don't know your own mind very well, I imagine, and you like being admired, rather at the expense of the admirer. Since we are really being frank, I wonder whether I might not say the great word."
"You need n't; I know it. I am a horrible coquette."
"No, not a horrible one, since I am making an appeal to your generosity. I am pretty sure you cannot imagine yourself marrying my friend."
"There 's nothing I cannot imagine! That is my trouble."
Rowland's brow contracted impatiently. "I cannot imagine it, then!" he affirmed.
Christina flushed faintly; then, very gently, "I am not so bad as you think," she said.
"It is not a question of badness; it is a question of whether circumstances don't make the thing an extreme improbability."
"Worse and worse. I can be bullied, then, or bribed!"
"You are not so candid," said Rowland, "as you pretend to be. My feeling is this. Hudson, as I understand him, does not need, as an artist, the stimulus of strong emotion, of passion. He's better without it; he's emotional and passionate enough when he 's left to himself. The sooner passion is at rest, therefore, the sooner he will settle down to work, and the fewer emotions he has that are mere emotions and nothing more, the better for him. If you cared for him enough to marry him, I should have nothing to say; I would never venture to interfere. But I strongly suspect you don't, and therefore I would suggest, most respectfully, that you should let him alone."
"And if I let him alone, as you say, all will be well with him for ever more?"
"Not immediately and not absolutely, but things will be easier. He will be better able to concentrate himself."
"What is he doing now? Wherein does he dissatisfy you?"
"I can hardly say. He 's like a watch that 's running down. He is moody, desultory, idle, irregular, fantastic."
"Heavens, what a list! And it 's all poor me?"
"No, not all. But you are a part of it, and I turn to you because you are a more tangible, sensible, responsible cause than the others."
Christina raised her hand to her eyes, and bent her head thoughtfully. Rowland was puzzled to measure the effect of his venture; she rather surprised him by her gentleness. At last, without moving, "If I were to marry him," she asked, "what would have become of his fiancee?"
"I am bound to suppose that she would be extremely unhappy."
Christina said nothing more, and Rowland, to let her make her reflections, left his place and strolled away. Poor Assunta, sitting patiently on a stone bench, and unprovided, on this occasion, with military consolation, gave him a bright, frank smile, which might have been construed as an expression of regret for herself, and of sympathy for her mistress. Rowland presently seated himself again near Christina.
"What do you think," she asked, looking at him, "of your friend's infidelity?"
"I don't like it."
"Was he very much in love with her?"
"He asked her to marry him. You may judge."
"Is she rich?"
"No, she is poor."
"Is she very much in love with him?"
"I know her too little to say."
She paused again, and then resumed: "You have settled in your mind, then, that I will never seriously listen to him?"
"I think it unlikely, until the contrary is proved."
"How shall it be proved? How do you know what passes between us?"
"I can judge, of course, but from appearance; but, like you, I am an observer. Hudson has not at all the air of a prosperous suitor."
"If he is depressed, there is a reason. He has a bad conscience. One must hope so, at least. On the other hand, simply as a friend," she continued gently, "you think I can do him no good?"
The humility of her tone, combined with her beauty, as she made this remark, was inexpressibly touching, and Rowland had an uncomfortable sense of being put at a disadvantage. "There are doubtless many good things you might do, if you had proper opportunity," he said. "But you seem to be sailing with a current which leaves you little leisure for quiet benevolence. You live in the whirl and hurry of a world into which a poor artist can hardly find it to his advantage to follow you."
"In plain English, I am hopelessly frivolous. You put it very generously."
"I won't hesitate to say all my thought," said Rowland. "For better or worse, you seem to me to belong, both by character and by circumstance, to what is called the world, the great world. You are made to ornament it magnificently. You are not made to be an artist's wife."
"I see. But even from your point of view, that would depend upon the artist. Extraordinary talent might make him a member of the great world!"
Rowland smiled. "That is very true."
"If, as it is," Christina continued in a moment, "you take a low view of me-no, you need n't protest-I wonder what you would think if you knew certain things."
"What things do you mean?"
"Well, for example, how I was brought up. I have had a horrible education. There must be some good in me, since I have perceived it, since I have turned and judged my circumstances."
"My dear Miss Light!" Rowland murmured.
She gave a little, quick laugh. "You don't want to hear? you don't want to have to think about that?"
"Have I a right to? You need n't justify yourself."
She turned upon him a moment the quickened light of her beautiful eyes, then fell to musing again. "Is there not some novel or some play," she asked at last, "in which some beautiful, wicked woman who has ensnared a young man sees his father come to her and beg her to let him go?"
"Very likely," said Rowland. "I hope she consents."
"I forget. But tell me," she continued, "shall you consider-admitting your proposition-that in ceasing to flirt with Mr. Hudson, so that he may go about his business, I do something magnanimous, heroic, sublime-something with a fine name like that?"
Rowland, elated with the prospect of gaining his point, was about to reply that she would deserve the finest name in the world; but he instantly suspected that this tone would not please her, and, besides, it would not express his meaning.
"You do something I shall greatly respect," he contented himself with saying.
She made no answer, and in a moment she beckoned to her maid. "What have I to do to-day?" she asked.
Assunta meditated. "Eh, it 's a very busy day! Fortunately I have a better memory than the signorina," she said, turning to Rowland. She began to count on her fingers. "We have to go to the Pie di Marmo to see about those laces that were sent to be washed. You said also that you wished to say three sharp words to the Buonvicini about your pink dress. You want some moss-rosebuds for to-night, and you won't get them for nothing! You dine at the Austrian Embassy, and that Frenchman is to powder your hair. You 're to come home in time to receive, for the signora gives a dance. And so away, away till morning!"
"Ah, yes, the moss-roses!" Christina murmured, caressingly. "I must have a quantity-at least a hundred. Nothing but buds, eh? You must sew them in a kind of immense apron, down the front of my dress. Packed tight together, eh? It will be delightfully barbarous. And then twenty more or so for my hair. They go very well with powder; don't you think so?" And she turned to Rowland. "I am going en Pompadour."
"To the Spanish Embassy, or whatever it is."
"All down the front, signorina? Dio buono! You must give me time!" Assunta cried.
"Yes, we'll go!" And she left her place. She walked slowly to the door of the church, looking at the pavement, and Rowland could not guess whether she was thinking of her apron of moss-rosebuds or of her opportunity for moral sublimity. Before reaching the door she turned away and stood gazing at an old picture, indistinguishable with blackness, over an altar. At last they passed out into the court. Glancing at her in the open air, Rowland was startled; he imagined he saw the traces of hastily suppressed tears. They had lost time, she said, and they must hurry; she sent Assunta to look for a fiacre. She remained silent a while, scratching the ground with the point of her parasol, and then at last, looking up, she thanked Rowland for his confidence in her "reasonableness." "It 's really very comfortable to be asked, to be expected, to do something good, after all the horrid things one has been used to doing-instructed, commanded, forced to do! I 'll think over what you have said to me." In that deserted quarter fiacres are rare, and there was some delay in Assunta's procuring one. Christina talked of the church, of the picturesque old court, of that strange, decaying corner of Rome. Rowland was perplexed; he was ill at ease. At last the fiacre arrived, but she waited a moment longer. "So, decidedly," she suddenly asked, "I can only harm him?"
"You make me feel very brutal," said Rowland.
"And he is such a fine fellow that it would be really a great pity, eh?"
"I shall praise him no more," Rowland said.
She turned away quickly, but she lingered still. "Do you remember promising me, soon after we first met, that at the end of six months you would tell me definitely what you thought of me?"
"It was a foolish promise."
"You gave it. Bear it in mind. I will think of what you have said to me. Farewell." She stepped into the carriage, and it rolled away. Rowland stood for some minutes, looking after it, and then went his way with a sigh. If this expressed general mistrust, he ought, three days afterward, to have been reassured. He received by the post a note containing these words:-
"I have done it. Begin and respect me! "-C. L."
To be perfectly satisfactory, indeed, the note required a commentary. He called that evening upon Roderick, and found one in the information offered him at the door, by the old serving-woman-the startling information that the signorino had gone to Naples.
CHAPTER VIII. Provocation
About a month later, Rowland addressed to his cousin Cecilia a letter of which the following is a portion:-
... "So much for myself; yet I tell you but a tithe of my own story unless I let you know how matters stand with poor Hudson, for he gives me more to think about just now than anything else in the world. I need a good deal of courage to begin this chapter. You warned me, you know, and I made rather light of your warning. I have had all kinds of hopes and fears, but hitherto, in writing to you, I have resolutely put the hopes foremost. Now, however, my pride has forsaken me, and I should like hugely to give expression to a little comfortable despair. I should like to say, 'My dear wise woman, you were right and I was wrong; you were a shrewd observer and I was a meddlesome donkey!' When I think of a little talk we had about the 'salubrity of genius,' I feel my ears tingle. If this is salubrity, give me raging disease! I 'm pestered to death; I go about with a chronic heartache; there are moments when I could shed salt tears. There 's a pretty portrait of the most placid of men! I wish I could make you understand; or rather, I wish you could make me! I don't understand a jot; it 's a hideous, mocking mystery; I give it up! I don't in the least give it up, you know; I 'm incapable of giving it up. I sit holding my head by the hour, racking my brain, wondering what under heaven is to be done. You told me at Northampton that I took the thing too easily; you would tell me now, perhaps, that I take it too hard. I do, altogether; but it can't be helped. Without flattering myself, I may say I 'm sympathetic. Many another man before this would have cast his perplexities to the winds and declared that Mr. Hudson must lie on his bed as he had made it. Some men, perhaps, would even say that I am making a mighty ado about nothing; that I have only to give him rope, and he will tire himself out. But he tugs at his rope altogether too hard for me to hold it comfortably. I certainly never pretended the thing was anything else than an experiment; I promised nothing, I answered for nothing; I only said the case was hopeful, and that it would be a shame to neglect it. I have done my best, and if the machine is running down I have a right to stand aside and let it scuttle. Amen, amen! No, I can write that, but I can't feel it. I can't be just; I can only be generous. I love the poor fellow and I can't give him up. As for understanding him, that 's another matter; nowadays I don't believe even you would. One's wits are sadly pestered over here, I assure you, and I 'm in the way of seeing more than one puzzling specimen of human nature. Roderick and Miss Light, between them!... Have n't I already told you about Miss Light? Last winter everything was perfection. Roderick struck out bravely, did really great things, and proved himself, as I supposed, thoroughly solid. He was strong, he was first-rate; I felt perfectly secure and sang private paeans of joy. We had passed at a bound into the open sea, and left danger behind. But in the summer I began to be puzzled, though I succeeded in not being alarmed. When we came back to Rome, however, I saw that the tide had turned and that we were close upon the rocks. It is, in fact, another case of Ulysses alongside of the Sirens; only Roderick refuses to be tied to the mast. He is the most extraordinary being, the strangest mixture of qualities. I don't understand so much force going with so much weakness-such a brilliant gift being subject to such lapses. The poor fellow is incomplete, and it is really not his own fault; Nature has given him the faculty out of hand and bidden him be hanged with it. I never knew a man harder to advise or assist, if he is not in the mood for listening. I suppose there is some key or other to his character, but I try in vain to find it; and yet I can't believe that Providence is so cruel as to have turned the lock and thrown the key away. He perplexes me, as I say, to death, and though he tires out my patience, he still fascinates me. Sometimes I think he has n't a grain of conscience, and sometimes I think that, in a way, he has an excess. He takes things at once too easily and too hard; he is both too lax and too tense, too reckless and too ambitious, too cold and too passionate. He has developed faster even than you prophesied, and for good and evil alike he takes up a formidable space. There 's too much of him for me, at any rate. Yes, he is hard; there is no mistake about that. He 's inflexible, he 's brittle; and though he has plenty of spirit, plenty of soul, he has n't what I call a heart. He has something that Miss Garland took for one, and I 'm pretty sure she 's a judge. But she judged on scanty evidence. He has something that Christina Light, here, makes believe at times that she takes for one, but she is no judge at all! I think it is established that, in the long run, egotism makes a failure in conduct: is it also true that it makes a failure in the arts?... Roderick's standard is immensely high; I must do him that justice. He will do nothing beneath it, and while he is waiting for inspiration, his imagination, his nerves, his senses must have something to amuse them. This is a highly philosophical way of saying that he has taken to dissipation, and that he has just been spending a month at Naples-a city where 'pleasure' is actively cultivated-in very bad company. Are they all like that, all the men of genius? There are a great many artists here who hammer away at their trade with exemplary industry; in fact I am surprised at their success in reducing the matter to a steady, daily grind: but I really don't think that one of them has his exquisite quality of talent. It is in the matter of quantity that he has broken down. The bottle won't pour; he turns it upside down; it 's no use! Sometimes he declares it 's empty-that he has done all he was made to do. This I consider great nonsense; but I would nevertheless take him on his own terms if it was only I that was concerned. But I keep thinking of those two praying, trusting neighbors of yours, and I feel wretchedly like a swindler. If his working mood came but once in five years I would willingly wait for it and maintain him in leisure, if need be, in the intervals; but that would be a sorry account to present to them. Five years of this sort of thing, moreover, would effectually settle the question. I wish he were less of a genius and more of a charlatan! He 's too confoundedly all of one piece; he won't throw overboard a grain of the cargo to save the rest. Fancy him thus with all his brilliant personal charm, his handsome head, his careless step, his look as of a nervous nineteenth-century Apollo, and you will understand that there is mighty little comfort in seeing him in a bad way. He was tolerably foolish last summer at Baden Baden, but he got on his feet, and for a while he was steady. Then he began to waver again, and at last toppled over. Now, literally, he 's lying prone. He came into my room last night, miserably tipsy. I assure you, it did n't amuse me..... About Miss Light it 's a long story. She is one of the great beauties of all time, and worth coming barefoot to Rome, like the pilgrims of old, to see. Her complexion, her glance, her step, her dusky tresses, may have been seen before in a goddess, but never in a woman. And you may take this for truth, because I 'm not in love with her. On the contrary! Her education has been simply infernal. She is corrupt, perverse, as proud as the queen of Sheba, and an appalling coquette; but she is generous, and with patience and skill you may enlist her imagination in a good cause as well as in a bad one. The other day I tried to manipulate it a little. Chance offered me an interview to which it was possible to give a serious turn, and I boldly broke ground and begged her to suffer my poor friend to go in peace. After a good deal of finessing she consented, and the next day, with a single word, packed him off to Naples to drown his sorrow in debauchery. I have come to the conclusion that she is more dangerous in her virtuous moods than in her vicious ones, and that she probably has a way of turning her back which is the most provoking thing in the world. She 's an actress, she could n't forego doing the thing dramatically, and it was the dramatic touch that made it fatal. I wished her, of course, to let him down easily; but she desired to have the curtain drop on an attitude, and her attitudes deprive inflammable young artists of their reason..... Roderick made an admirable bust of her at the beginning of the winter, and a dozen women came rushing to him to be done, mutatis mutandis, in the same style. They were all great ladies and ready to take him by the hand, but he told them all their faces did n't interest him, and sent them away vowing his destruction."
At this point of his long effusion, Rowland had paused and put by his letter. He kept it three days and then read it over. He was disposed at first to destroy it, but he decided finally to keep it, in the hope that it might strike a spark of useful suggestion from the flint of Cecilia's good sense. We know he had a talent for taking advice. And then it might be, he reflected, that his cousin's answer would throw some light on Mary Garland's present vision of things. In his altered mood he added these few lines:-
"I unburdened myself the other day of this monstrous load of perplexity; I think it did me good, and I let it stand. I was in a melancholy muddle, and I was trying to work myself free. You know I like discussion, in a quiet way, and there is no one with whom I can have it as quietly as with you, most sagacious of cousins! There is an excellent old lady with whom I often chat, and who talks very much to the point. But Madame Grandoni has disliked Roderick from the first, and if I were to take her advice I would wash my hands of him. You will laugh at me for my long face, but you would do that in any circumstances. I am half ashamed of my letter, for I have a faith in my friend that is deeper than my doubts. He was here last evening, talking about the Naples Museum, the Aristides, the bronzes, the Pompeian frescoes, with such a beautiful intelligence that doubt of the ultimate future seemed blasphemy. I walked back to his lodging with him, and he was as mild as midsummer moonlight. He has the ineffable something that charms and convinces; my last word about him shall not be a harsh one."
Shortly after sending his letter, going one day into his friend's studio, he found Roderick suffering from the grave infliction of a visit from Mr. Leavenworth. Roderick submitted with extreme ill grace to being bored, and he was now evidently in a state of high exasperation. He had lately begun a representation of a lazzarone lounging in the sun; an image of serene, irresponsible, sensuous life. The real lazzarone, he had admitted, was a vile fellow; but the ideal lazzarone-and his own had been subtly idealized-was a precursor of the millennium.
Mr. Leavenworth had apparently just transferred his unhurrying gaze to the figure.
"Something in the style of the Dying Gladiator?" he sympathetically observed.
"Oh no," said Roderick seriously, "he 's not dying, he 's only drunk!"
"Ah, but intoxication, you know," Mr. Leavenworth rejoined, "is not a proper subject for sculpture. Sculpture should not deal with transitory attitudes."
"Lying dead drunk is not a transitory attitude! Nothing is more permanent, more sculpturesque, more monumental!"
"An entertaining paradox," said Mr. Leavenworth, "if we had time to exercise our wits upon it. I remember at Florence an intoxicated figure by Michael Angelo which seemed to me a deplorable aberration of a great mind. I myself touch liquor in no shape whatever. I have traveled through Europe on cold water. The most varied and attractive lists of wines are offered me, but I brush them aside. No cork has ever been drawn at my command!"
"The movement of drawing a cork calls into play a very pretty set of muscles," said Roderick. "I think I will make a figure in that position."
"A Bacchus, realistically treated! My dear young friend, never trifle with your lofty mission. Spotless marble should represent virtue, not vice!" And Mr. Leavenworth placidly waved his hand, as if to exorcise the spirit of levity, while his glance journeyed with leisurely benignity to another object-a marble replica of the bust of Miss Light. "An ideal head, I presume," he went on; "a fanciful representation of one of the pagan goddesses-a Diana, a Flora, a naiad or dryad? I often regret that our American artists should not boldly cast off that extinct nomenclature."
"She is neither a naiad nor a dryad," said Roderick, "and her name is as good as yours or mine."
"You call her"-Mr. Leavenworth blandly inquired.
"Miss Light," Rowland interposed, in charity.
"Ah, our great American beauty! Not a pagan goddess-an American, Christian lady! Yes, I have had the pleasure of conversing with Miss Light. Her conversational powers are not remarkable, but her beauty is of a high order. I observed her the other evening at a large party, where some of the proudest members of the European aristocracy were present-duchesses, princesses, countesses, and others distinguished by similar titles. But for beauty, grace, and elegance my fair countrywoman left them all nowhere. What women can compare with a truly refined American lady? The duchesses the other night had no attractions for my eyes; they looked coarse and sensual! It seemed to me that the tyranny of class distinctions must indeed be terrible when such countenances could inspire admiration. You see more beautiful girls in an hour on Broadway than in the whole tour of Europe. Miss Light, now, on Broadway, would excite no particular remark."
"She has never been there!" cried Roderick, triumphantly.
"I 'm afraid she never will be there. I suppose you have heard the news about her."
"What news?" Roderick had stood with his back turned, fiercely poking at his lazzarone; but at Mr. Leavenworth's last words he faced quickly about.
"It 's the news of the hour, I believe. Miss Light is admired by the highest people here. They tacitly recognize her superiority. She has had offers of marriage from various great lords. I was extremely happy to learn this circumstance, and to know that they all had been left sighing. She has not been dazzled by their titles and their gilded coronets. She has judged them simply as men, and found them wanting. One of them, however, a young Neapolitan prince, I believe, has after a long probation succeeded in making himself acceptable. Miss Light has at last said yes, and the engagement has just been announced. I am not generally a retailer of gossip of this description, but the fact was alluded to an hour ago by a lady with whom I was conversing, and here, in Europe, these conversational trifles usurp the lion's share of one's attention. I therefore retained the circumstance. Yes, I regret that Miss Light should marry one of these used-up foreigners. Americans should stand by each other. If she wanted a brilliant match we could have fixed it for her. If she wanted a fine fellow-a fine, sharp, enterprising modern man-I would have undertaken to find him for her without going out of the city of New York. And if she wanted a big fortune, I would have found her twenty that she would have had hard work to spend: money down-not tied up in fever-stricken lands and worm-eaten villas! What is the name of the young man? Prince Castaway, or some such thing!"
It was well for Mr. Leavenworth that he was a voluminous and imperturbable talker; for the current of his eloquence floated him past the short, sharp, startled cry with which Roderick greeted his "conversational trifle." The young man stood looking at him with parted lips and an excited eye.
"The position of woman," Mr. Leavenworth placidly resumed, "is certainly a very degraded one in these countries. I doubt whether a European princess can command the respect which in our country is exhibited toward the obscurest females. The civilization of a country should be measured by the deference shown to the weaker sex. Judged by that standard, where are they, over here?"
Though Mr. Leavenworth had not observed Roderick's emotion, it was not lost upon Rowland, who was making certain uncomfortable reflections upon it. He saw that it had instantly become one with the acute irritation produced by the poor gentleman's oppressive personality, and that an explosion of some sort was imminent. Mr. Leavenworth, with calm unconsciousness, proceeded to fire the mine.
"And now for our Culture!" he said in the same sonorous tones, demanding with a gesture the unveiling of the figure, which stood somewhat apart, muffled in a great sheet.
Roderick stood looking at him for a moment with concentrated rancor, and then strode to the statue and twitched off the cover. Mr. Leavenworth settled himself into his chair with an air of flattered proprietorship, and scanned the unfinished image. "I can conscientiously express myself as gratified with the general conception," he said. "The figure has considerable majesty, and the countenance wears a fine, open expression. The forehead, however, strikes me as not sufficiently intellectual. In a statue of Culture, you know, that should be the great point. The eye should instinctively seek the forehead. Could n't you heighten it up a little?"
Roderick, for all answer, tossed the sheet back over the statue. "Oblige me, sir," he said, "oblige me! Never mention that thing again."
"Never mention it? Why my dear sir"-
"Never mention it. It 's an abomination!"
"An abomination! My Culture!"
"Yours indeed!" cried Roderick. "It 's none of mine. I disown it."
"Disown it, if you please," said Mr. Leavenworth sternly, "but finish it first!"
"I 'd rather smash it!" cried Roderick.
"This is folly, sir. You must keep your engagements."
"I made no engagement. A sculptor is n't a tailor. Did you ever hear of inspiration? Mine is dead! And it 's no laughing matter. You yourself killed it."
"I-I-killed your inspiration?" cried Mr. Leavenworth, with the accent of righteous wrath. "You 're a very ungrateful boy! If ever I encouraged and cheered and sustained any one, I 'm sure I have done so to you."
"I appreciate your good intentions, and I don't wish to be uncivil. But your encouragement is-superfluous. I can't work for you!"
"I call this ill-humor, young man!" said Mr. Leavenworth, as if he had found the damning word.
"Oh, I 'm in an infernal humor!" Roderick answered.
"Pray, sir, is it my infelicitous allusion to Miss Light's marriage?"
"It 's your infelicitous everything! I don't say that to offend you; I beg your pardon if it does. I say it by way of making our rupture complete, irretrievable!"
Rowland had stood by in silence, but he now interfered. "Listen to me," he said, laying his hand on Roderick's arm. "You are standing on the edge of a gulf. If you suffer anything that has passed to interrupt your work on that figure, you take your plunge. It 's no matter that you don't like it; you will do the wisest thing you ever did if you make that effort of will necessary for finishing it. Destroy the statue then, if you like, but make the effort. I speak the truth!"
Roderick looked at him with eyes that still inexorableness made almost tender. "You too!" he simply said.
Rowland felt that he might as well attempt to squeeze water from a polished crystal as hope to move him. He turned away and walked into the adjoining room with a sense of sickening helplessness. In a few moments he came back and found that Mr. Leavenworth had departed-presumably in a manner somewhat portentous. Roderick was sitting with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands.
Rowland made one more attempt. "You decline to think of what I urge?"
"There's one more point-that you shouldn't, for a month, go to Mrs. Light's."
"I go there this evening."
"That too is an utter folly."
"There are such things as necessary follies."
"You are not reflecting; you are speaking in passion."
"Why then do you make me speak?"
Rowland meditated a moment. "Is it also necessary that you should lose the best friend you have?"
Roderick looked up. "That 's for you to settle!"
His best friend clapped on his hat and strode away; in a moment the door closed behind him. Rowland walked hard for nearly a couple of hours. He passed up the Corso, out of the Porta del Popolo and into the Villa Borghese, of which he made a complete circuit. The keenness of his irritation subsided, but it left him with an intolerable weight upon his heart. When dusk had fallen, he found himself near the lodging of his friend Madame Grandoni. He frequently paid her a visit during the hour which preceded dinner, and he now ascended her unillumined staircase and rang at her relaxed bell-rope with an especial desire for diversion. He was told that, for the moment, she was occupied, but that if he would come in and wait, she would presently be with him. He had not sat musing in the firelight for ten minutes when he heard the jingle of the door-bell and then a rustling and murmuring in the hall. The door of the little saloon opened, but before the visitor appeared he had recognized her voice. Christina Light swept forward, preceded by her poodle, and almost filling the narrow parlor with the train of her dress. She was colored here and there by the flicking firelight.
"They told me you were here," she said simply, as she took a seat.
"And yet you came in? It is very brave," said Rowland.
"You are the brave one, when one thinks of it! Where is the padrona?"
"Occupied for the moment. But she is coming."
"I have already waited ten minutes; I expect her from moment to moment."
"Meanwhile we are alone?" And she glanced into the dusky corners of the room.
"Unless Stenterello counts," said Rowland.
"Oh, he knows my secrets-unfortunate brute!" She sat silent awhile, looking into the firelight. Then at last, glancing at Rowland, "Come! say something pleasant!" she exclaimed.
"I have been very happy to hear of your engagement."
"No, I don't mean that. I have heard that so often, only since breakfast, that it has lost all sense. I mean some of those unexpected, charming things that you said to me a month ago at Saint Cecilia's."
"I offended you, then," said Rowland. "I was afraid I had."
"Ah, it occurred to you? Why have n't I seen you since?"
"Really, I don't know." And he began to hesitate for an explanation. "I have called, but you have never been at home."
"You were careful to choose the wrong times. You have a way with a poor girl! You sit down and inform her that she is a person with whom a respectable young man cannot associate without contamination; your friend is a very nice fellow, you are very careful of his morals, you wish him to know none but nice people, and you beg me therefore to desist. You request me to take these suggestions to heart and to act upon them as promptly as possible. They are not particularly flattering to my vanity. Vanity, however, is a sin, and I listen submissively, with an immense desire to be just. If I have many faults I know it, in a general way, and I try on the whole to do my best. 'Voyons,' I say to myself, 'it is n't particularly charming to hear one's self made out such a low person, but it is worth thinking over; there 's probably a good deal of truth in it, and at any rate we must be as good a girl as we can. That 's the great point! And then here 's a magnificent chance for humility. If there 's doubt in the matter, let the doubt count against one's self. That is what Saint Catherine did, and Saint Theresa, and all the others, and they are said to have had in consequence the most ineffable joys. Let us go in for a little ineffable joy!' I tried it; I swallowed my rising sobs, I made you my courtesy, I determined I would not be spiteful, nor passionate, nor vengeful, nor anything that is supposed to be particularly feminine. I was a better girl than you made out-better at least than you thought; but I would let the difference go and do magnificently right, lest I should not do right enough. I thought of it a deal for six hours when I know I did n't seem to be, and then at last I did it! Santo Dio!"
"My dear Miss Light, my dear Miss Light!" said Rowland, pleadingly.
"Since then," the young girl went on, "I have been waiting for the ineffable joys. They have n't yet turned up!"
"Pray listen to me!" Rowland urged.
"Nothing, nothing, nothing has come of it. I have passed the dreariest month of my life!"
"My dear Miss Light, you are a very terrible young lady!" cried Rowland.
"What do you mean by that?"
"A good many things. We 'll talk them over. But first, forgive me if I have offended you!"
She looked at him a moment, hesitating, and then thrust her hands into her muff. "That means nothing. Forgiveness is between equals, and you don't regard me as your equal."
"Really, I don't understand!"
Christina rose and moved for a moment about the room. Then turning suddenly, "You don't believe in me!" she cried; "not a grain! I don't know what I would not give to force you to believe in me!"
Rowland sprang up, protesting, but before he had time to go far one of the scanty portieres was raised, and Madame Grandoni came in, pulling her wig straight. "But you shall believe in me yet," murmured Christina, as she passed toward her hostess.
Madame Grandoni turned tenderly to Christina. "I must give you a very solemn kiss, my dear; you are the heroine of the hour. You have really accepted him, eh?"
"So they say!"
"But you ought to know best."
"I don't know-I don't care!" She stood with her hand in Madame Grandoni's, but looking askance at Rowland.
"That 's a pretty state of mind," said the old lady, "for a young person who is going to become a princess."
Christina shrugged her shoulders. "Every one expects me to go into ecstacies over that! Could anything be more vulgar? They may chuckle by themselves! Will you let me stay to dinner?"
"If you can dine on a risotto. But I imagine you are expected at home."
"You are right. Prince Casamassima dines there, en famille. But I 'm not in his family, yet!"
"Do you know you are very wicked? I have half a mind not to keep you."
Christina dropped her eyes, reflectively. "I beg you will let me stay," she said. "If you wish to cure me of my wickedness you must be very patient and kind with me. It will be worth the trouble. You must show confidence in me." And she gave another glance at Rowland. Then suddenly, in a different tone, "I don't know what I 'm saying!" she cried. "I am weary, I am more lonely than ever, I wish I were dead!" The tears rose to her eyes, she struggled with them an instant, and buried her face in her muff; but at last she burst into uncontrollable sobs and flung her arms upon Madame Grandoni's neck. This shrewd woman gave Rowland a significant nod, and a little shrug, over the young girl's beautiful bowed head, and then led Christina tenderly away into the adjoining room. Rowland, left alone, stood there for an instant, intolerably puzzled, face to face with Miss Light's poodle, who had set up a sharp, unearthly cry of sympathy with his mistress. Rowland vented his confusion in dealing a rap with his stick at the animal's unmelodious muzzle, and then rapidly left the house. He saw Mrs. Light's carriage waiting at the door, and heard afterwards that Christina went home to dinner.
A couple of days later he went, for a fortnight, to Florence. He had twenty minds to leave Italy altogether; and at Florence he could at least more freely decide upon his future movements. He felt profoundly, incurably disgusted. Reflective benevolence stood prudently aside, and for the time touched the source of his irritation with no softening side-lights.
It was the middle of March, and by the middle of March in Florence the spring is already warm and deep. He had an infinite relish for the place and the season, but as he strolled by the Arno and paused here and there in the great galleries, they failed to soothe his irritation. He was sore at heart, and as the days went by the soreness deepened rather than healed. He felt as if he had a complaint against fortune; good-natured as he was, his good-nature this time quite declined to let it pass. He had tried to be wise, he had tried to be kind, he had embarked upon an estimable enterprise; but his wisdom, his kindness, his energy, had been thrown back in his face. He was disappointed, and his disappointment had an angry spark in it. The sense of wasted time, of wasted hope and faith, kept him constant company. There were times when the beautiful things about him only exasperated his discontent. He went to the Pitti Palace, and Raphael's Madonna of the Chair seemed, in its soft serenity, to mock him with the suggestion of unattainable repose. He lingered on the bridges at sunset, and knew that the light was enchanting and the mountains divine, but there seemed to be something horribly invidious and unwelcome in the fact. He felt, in a word, like a man who has been cruelly defrauded and who wishes to have his revenge. Life owed him, he thought, a compensation, and he would be restless and resentful until he found it. He knew-or he seemed to know-where he should find it; but he hardly told himself, and thought of the thing under mental protest, as a man in want of money may think of certain funds that he holds in trust. In his melancholy meditations the idea of something better than all this, something that might softly, richly interpose, something that might reconcile him to the future, something that might make one's tenure of life deep and zealous instead of harsh and uneven-the idea of concrete compensation, in a word-shaped itself sooner or later into the image of Mary Garland.
Very odd, you may say, that at this time of day Rowland should still be brooding over a plain girl of whom he had had but the lightest of glimpses two years before; very odd that so deep an impression should have been made by so lightly-pressed an instrument. We must admit the oddity and offer simply in explanation that his sentiment apparently belonged to that species of emotion of which, by the testimony of the poets, the very name and essence is oddity. One night he slept but half an hour; he found his thoughts taking a turn which excited him portentously. He walked up and down his room half the night. It looked out on the Arno; the noise of the river came in at the open window; he felt like dressing and going down into the streets. Toward morning he flung himself into a chair; though he was wide awake he was less excited. It seemed to him that he saw his idea from the outside, that he judged it and condemned it; yet it stood there before him, distinct, and in a certain way imperious. During the day he tried to banish it and forget it; but it fascinated, haunted, at moments frightened him. He tried to amuse himself, paid visits, resorted to several rather violent devices for diverting his thoughts. If on the morrow he had committed a crime, the persons whom he had seen that day would have testified that he had talked strangely and had not seemed like himself. He felt certainly very unlike himself; long afterwards, in retrospect, he used to reflect that during those days he had for a while been literally beside himself. His idea persisted; it clung to him like a sturdy beggar. The sense of the matter, roughly expressed, was this: If Roderick was really going, as he himself had phrased it, to "fizzle out," one might help him on the way-one might smooth the descensus Averno. For forty-eight hours there swam before Rowland's eyes a vision of Roderick, graceful and beautiful as he passed, plunging, like a diver, from an eminence into a misty gulf. The gulf was destruction, annihilation, death; but if death was decreed, why should not the agony be brief? Beyond this vision there faintly glimmered another, as in the children's game of the "magic lantern" a picture is superposed on the white wall before the last one has quite faded. It represented Mary Garland standing there with eyes in which the horror seemed slowly, slowly to expire, and hanging, motionless hands which at last made no resistance when his own offered to take them. When, of old, a man was burnt at the stake it was cruel to have to be present; but if one was present it was kind to lend a hand to pile up the fuel and make the flames do their work quickly and the smoke muffle up the victim. With all deference to your kindness, this was perhaps an obligation you would especially feel if you had a reversionary interest in something the victim was to leave behind him.
One morning, in the midst of all this, Rowland walked heedlessly out of one of the city gates and found himself on the road to Fiesole. It was a completely lovely day; the March sun felt like May, as the English poet of Florence says; the thick-blossomed shrubs and vines that hung over the walls of villa and podere flung their odorous promise into the warm, still air. Rowland followed the winding, climbing lanes; lingered, as he got higher, beneath the rusty cypresses, beside the low parapets, where you look down on the charming city and sweep the vale of the Arno; reached the little square before the cathedral, and rested awhile in the massive, dusky church; then climbed higher, to the Franciscan convent which is poised on the very apex of the mountain. He rang at the little gateway; a shabby, senile, red-faced brother admitted him with almost maudlin friendliness. There was a dreary chill in the chapel and the corridors, and he passed rapidly through them into the delightfully steep and tangled old garden which runs wild over the forehead of the great hill. He had been in it before, and he was very fond of it. The garden hangs in the air, and you ramble from terrace to terrace and wonder how it keeps from slipping down, in full consummation of its bereaved forlornness, into the nakedly romantic gorge beneath. It was just noon when Rowland went in, and after roaming about awhile he flung himself in the sun on a mossy stone bench and pulled his hat over his eyes. The short shadows of the brown-coated cypresses above him had grown very long, and yet he had not passed back through the convent. One of the monks, in his faded snuff-colored robe, came wandering out into the garden, reading his greasy little breviary. Suddenly he came toward the bench on which Rowland had stretched himself, and paused a moment, attentively. Rowland was lingering there still; he was sitting with his head in his hands and his elbows on his knees. He seemed not to have heard the sandaled tread of the good brother, but as the monk remained watching him, he at last looked up. It was not the ignoble old man who had admitted him, but a pale, gaunt personage, of a graver and more ascetic, and yet of a benignant, aspect. Rowland's face bore the traces of extreme trouble. The frate kept his finger in his little book, and folded his arms picturesquely across his breast. It can hardly be determined whether his attitude, as he bent his sympathetic Italian eye upon Rowland, was a happy accident or the result of an exquisite spiritual discernment. To Rowland, at any rate, under the emotion of that moment, it seemed blessedly opportune. He rose and approached the monk, and laid his hand on his arm.
"My brother," he said, "did you ever see the Devil?"
The frate gazed, gravely, and crossed himself. "Heaven forbid!"
"He was here," Rowland went on, "here in this lovely garden, as he was once in Paradise, half an hour ago. But have no fear; I drove him out." And Rowland stooped and picked up his hat, which had rolled away into a bed of cyclamen, in vague symbolism of an actual physical tussle.
"You have been tempted, my brother?" asked the friar, tenderly.
"And you have resisted-and conquered!"
"I believe I have conquered."
"The blessed Saint Francis be praised! It is well done. If you like, we will offer a mass for you."
"I am not a Catholic," said Rowland.
The frate smiled with dignity. "That is a reason the more."
"But it 's for you, then, to choose. Shake hands with me," Rowland added; "that will do as well; and suffer me, as I go out, to stop a moment in your chapel."
They shook hands and separated. The frate crossed himself, opened his book, and wandered away, in relief against the western sky. Rowland passed back into the convent, and paused long enough in the chapel to look for the alms-box. He had had what is vulgarly termed a great scare; he believed, very poignantly for the time, in the Devil, and he felt an irresistible need to subscribe to any institution which engaged to keep him at a distance.
The next day he returned to Rome, and the day afterwards he went in search of Roderick. He found him on the Pincian with his back turned to the crowd, looking at the sunset. "I went to Florence," Rowland said, "and I thought of going farther; but I came back on purpose to give you another piece of advice. Once more, you refuse to leave Rome?"
"Never!" said Roderick.
"The only chance that I see, then, of your reviving your sense of responsibility to-to those various sacred things you have forgotten, is in sending for your mother to join you here."
Roderick stared. "For my mother?"
"For your mother-and for Miss Garland."
Roderick still stared; and then, slowly and faintly, his face flushed. "For Mary Garland-for my mother?" he repeated. "Send for them?"
"Tell me this; I have often wondered, but till now I have forborne to ask. You are still engaged to Miss Garland?"
Roderick frowned darkly, but assented.
"It would give you pleasure, then, to see her?"
Roderick turned away and for some moments answered nothing. "Pleasure!" he said at last, huskily. "Call it pain."
"I regard you as a sick man," Rowland continued. "In such a case Miss Garland would say that her place was at your side."
Roderick looked at him some time askance, mistrustfully. "Is this a deep-laid snare?" he asked slowly.
Rowland had come back with all his patience rekindled, but these words gave it an almost fatal chill. "Heaven forgive you!" he cried bitterly. "My idea has been simply this. Try, in decency, to understand it. I have tried to befriend you, to help you, to inspire you with confidence, and I have failed. I took you from the hands of your mother and your betrothed, and it seemed to me my duty to restore you to their hands. That 's all I have to say."
He was going, but Roderick forcibly detained him. It would have been but a rough way of expressing it to say that one could never know how Roderick would take a thing. It had happened more than once that when hit hard, deservedly, he had received the blow with touching gentleness. On the other hand, he had often resented the softest taps. The secondary effect of Rowland's present admonition seemed reassuring. "I beg you to wait," he said, "to forgive that shabby speech, and to let me reflect." And he walked up and down awhile, reflecting. At last he stopped, with a look in his face that Rowland had not seen all winter. It was a strikingly beautiful look.
"How strange it is," he said, "that the simplest devices are the last that occur to one!" And he broke into a light laugh. "To see Mary Garland is just what I want. And my mother-my mother can't hurt me now."
"You will write, then?"
"I will telegraph. They must come, at whatever cost. Striker can arrange it all for them."
In a couple of days he told Rowland that he had received a telegraphic answer to his message, informing him that the two ladies were to sail immediately for Leghorn, in one of the small steamers which ply between that port and New York. They would arrive, therefore, in less than a month. Rowland passed this month of expectation in no very serene frame of mind. His suggestion had had its source in the deepest places of his agitated conscience; but there was something intolerable in the thought of the suffering to which the event was probably subjecting those undefended women. They had scraped together their scanty funds and embarked, at twenty-four hours' notice, upon the dreadful sea, to journey tremulously to shores darkened by the shadow of deeper alarms. He could only promise himself to be their devoted friend and servant. Preoccupied as he was, he was able to observe that expectation, with Roderick, took a form which seemed singular even among his characteristic singularities. If redemption-Roderick seemed to reason-was to arrive with his mother and his affianced bride, these last moments of error should be doubly erratic. He did nothing; but inaction, with him, took on an unwonted air of gentle gayety. He laughed and whistled and went often to Mrs. Light's; though Rowland knew not in what fashion present circumstances had modified his relations with Christina. The month ebbed away and Rowland daily expected to hear from Roderick that he had gone to Leghorn to meet the ship. He heard nothing, and late one evening, not having seen his friend in three or four days, he stopped at Roderick's lodging to assure himself that he had gone at last. A cab was standing in the street, but as it was a couple of doors off he hardly heeded it. The hall at the foot of the staircase was dark, like most Roman halls, and he paused in the street-doorway on hearing the advancing footstep of a person with whom he wished to avoid coming into collision. While he did so he heard another footstep behind him, and turning round found that Roderick in person had just overtaken him. At the same moment a woman's figure advanced from within, into the light of the street-lamp, and a face, half-startled, glanced at him out of the darkness. He gave a cry-it was the face of Mary Garland. Her glance flew past him to Roderick, and in a second a startled exclamation broke from her own lips. It made Rowland turn again. Roderick stood there, pale, apparently trying to speak, but saying nothing. His lips were parted and he was wavering slightly with a strange movement-the movement of a man who has drunk too much. Then Rowland's eyes met Miss Garland's again, and her own, which had rested a moment on Roderick's, were formidable!
CHAPTER IX. Mary Garland
How it befell that Roderick had failed to be in Leghorn on his mother's arrival never clearly transpired; for he undertook to give no elaborate explanation of his fault. He never indulged in professions (touching personal conduct) as to the future, or in remorse as to the past, and as he would have asked no praise if he had traveled night and day to embrace his mother as she set foot on shore, he made (in Rowland's presence, at least) no apology for having left her to come in search of him. It was to be said that, thanks to an unprecedentedly fine season, the voyage of the two ladies had been surprisingly rapid, and that, according to common probabilities, if Roderick had left Rome on the morrow (as he declared that he had intended), he would have had a day or two of waiting at Leghorn. Rowland's silent inference was that Christina Light had beguiled him into letting the time slip, and it was accompanied with a silent inquiry whether she had done so unconsciously or maliciously. He had told her, presumably, that his mother and his cousin were about to arrive; and it was pertinent to remember hereupon that she was a young lady of mysterious impulses. Rowland heard in due time the story of the adventures of the two ladies from Northampton. Miss Garland's wish, at Leghorn, on finding they were left at the mercy of circumstances, had been to telegraph to Roderick and await an answer; for she knew that their arrival was a trifle premature. But Mrs. Hudson's maternal heart had taken the alarm. Roderick's sending for them was, to her imagination, a confession of illness, and his not being at Leghorn, a proof of it; an hour's delay was therefore cruel both to herself and to him. She insisted on immediate departure; and, unskilled as they were in the mysteries of foreign (or even of domestic) travel, they had hurried in trembling eagerness to Rome. They had arrived late in the evening, and, knowing nothing of inns, had got into a cab and proceeded to Roderick's lodging. At the door, poor Mrs. Hudson's frightened anxiety had overcome her, and she had sat quaking and crying in the vehicle, too weak to move. Miss Garland had bravely gone in, groped her way up the dusky staircase, reached Roderick's door, and, with the assistance of such acquaintance with the Italian tongue as she had culled from a phrase-book during the calmer hours of the voyage, had learned from the old woman who had her cousin's household economy in charge that he was in the best of health and spirits, and had gone forth a few hours before with his hat on his ear, per divertirsi.
These things Rowland learned during a visit he paid the two ladies the evening after their arrival. Mrs. Hudson spoke of them at great length and with an air of clinging confidence in Rowland which told him how faithfully time had served him, in her imagination. But her fright was over, though she was still catching her breath a little, like a person dragged ashore out of waters uncomfortably deep. She was excessively bewildered and confused, and seemed more than ever to demand a tender handling from her friends. Before Miss Garland, Rowland was distinctly conscious that he trembled. He wondered extremely what was going on in her mind; what was her silent commentary on the incidents of the night before. He wondered all the more, because he immediately perceived that she was greatly changed since their parting, and that the change was by no means for the worse. She was older, easier, more free, more like a young woman who went sometimes into company. She had more beauty as well, inasmuch as her beauty before had been the depth of her expression, and the sources from which this beauty was fed had in these two years evidently not wasted themselves. Rowland felt almost instantly-he could hardly have said why: it was in her voice, in her tone, in the air-that a total change had passed over her attitude towards himself. She trusted him now, absolutely; whether or no she liked him, she believed he was solid. He felt that during the coming weeks he would need to be solid. Mrs. Hudson was at one of the smaller hotels, and her sitting-room was frugally lighted by a couple of candles. Rowland made the most of this dim illumination to try to detect the afterglow of that frightened flash from Miss Garland's eyes the night before. It had been but a flash, for what provoked it had instantly vanished. Rowland had murmured a rapturous blessing on Roderick's head, as he perceived him instantly apprehend the situation. If he had been drinking, its gravity sobered him on the spot; in a single moment he collected his wits. The next moment, with a ringing, jovial cry, he was folding the young girl in his arms, and the next he was beside his mother's carriage, half smothered in her sobs and caresses. Rowland had recommended a hotel close at hand, and had then discreetly withdrawn. Roderick was at this time doing his part superbly, and Miss Garland's brow was serene. It was serene now, twenty-four hours later; but nevertheless, her alarm had lasted an appreciable moment. What had become of it? It had dropped down deep into her memory, and it was lying there for the present in the shade. But with another week, Rowland said to himself, it would leap erect again; the lightest friction would strike a spark from it. Rowland thought he had schooled himself to face the issue of Mary Garland's advent, casting it even in a tragical phase; but in her personal presence-in which he found a poignant mixture of the familiar and the strange-he seemed to face it and all that it might bring with it for the first time. In vulgar parlance, he stood uneasy in his shoes. He felt like walking on tiptoe, not to arouse the sleeping shadows. He felt, indeed, almost like saying that they might have their own way later, if they would only allow to these first few days the clear light of ardent contemplation. For Rowland at last was ardent, and all the bells within his soul were ringing bravely in jubilee. Roderick, he learned, had been the whole day with his mother, and had evidently responded to her purest trust. He appeared to her appealing eyes still unspotted by the world. That is what it is, thought Rowland, to be "gifted," to escape not only the superficial, but the intrinsic penalties of misconduct. The two ladies had spent the day within doors, resting from the fatigues of travel. Miss Garland, Rowland suspected, was not so fatigued as she suffered it to be assumed. She had remained with Mrs. Hudson, to attend to her personal wants, which the latter seemed to think, now that she was in a foreign land, with a southern climate and a Catholic religion, would forthwith become very complex and formidable, though as yet they had simply resolved themselves into a desire for a great deal of tea and for a certain extremely familiar old black and white shawl across her feet, as she lay on the sofa. But the sense of novelty was evidently strong upon Miss Garland, and the light of expectation was in her eye. She was restless and excited; she moved about the room and went often to the window; she was observing keenly; she watched the Italian servants intently, as they came and went; she had already had a long colloquy with the French chambermaid, who had expounded her views on the Roman question; she noted the small differences in the furniture, in the food, in the sounds that came in from the street. Rowland felt, in all this, that her intelligence, here, would have a great unfolding. He wished immensely he might have a share in it; he wished he might show her Rome. That, of course, would be Roderick's office. But he promised himself at least to take advantage of off-hours.
"It behooves you to appreciate your good fortune," he said to her. "To be young and elastic, and yet old enough and wise enough to discriminate and reflect, and to come to Italy for the first time-that is one of the greatest pleasures that life offers us. It is but right to remind you of it, so that you make the most of opportunity and do not accuse yourself, later, of having wasted the precious season."
Miss Garland looked at him, smiling intently, and went to the window again. "I expect to enjoy it," she said. "Don't be afraid; I am not wasteful."
"I am afraid we are not qualified, you know," said Mrs. Hudson. "We are told that you must know so much, that you must have read so many books. Our taste has not been cultivated. When I was a young lady at school, I remember I had a medal, with a pink ribbon, for 'proficiency in Ancient History'-the seven kings, or is it the seven hills? and Quintus Curtius and Julius Caesar and-and that period, you know. I believe I have my medal somewhere in a drawer, now, but I have forgotten all about the kings. But after Roderick came to Italy we tried to learn something about it. Last winter Mary used to read 'Corinne' to me in the evenings, and in the mornings she used to read another book, to herself. What was it, Mary, that book that was so long, you know,-in fifteen volumes?"
"It was Sismondi's Italian Republics," said Mary, simply.
Rowland could not help laughing; whereupon Mary blushed. "Did you finish it?" he asked.
"Yes, and began another-a shorter one-Roscoe's Leo the Tenth."
"Did you find them interesting?"
"Do you like history?"
"Some of it."
"That 's a woman's answer! And do you like art?"
She paused a moment. "I have never seen it!"
"You have great advantages, now, my dear, with Roderick and Mr. Mallet," said Mrs. Hudson. "I am sure no young lady ever had such advantages. You come straight to the highest authorities. Roderick, I suppose, will show you the practice of art, and Mr. Mallet, perhaps, if he will be so good, will show you the theory. As an artist's wife, you ought to know something about it."
"One learns a good deal about it, here, by simply living," said Rowland; "by going and coming about one's daily avocations."
"Dear, dear, how wonderful that we should be here in the midst of it!" murmured Mrs. Hudson. "To think of art being out there in the streets! We did n't see much of it last evening, as we drove from the depot. But the streets were so dark and we were so frightened! But we are very easy now; are n't we, Mary?"
"I am very happy," said Mary, gravely, and wandered back to the window again.
Roderick came in at this moment and kissed his mother, and then went over and joined Miss Garland. Rowland sat with Mrs. Hudson, who evidently had a word which she deemed of some value for his private ear. She followed Roderick with intensely earnest eyes.
"I wish to tell you, sir," she said, "how very grateful-how very thankful-what a happy mother I am! I feel as if I owed it all to you, sir. To find my poor boy so handsome, so prosperous, so elegant, so famous-and ever to have doubted of you! What must you think of me? You 're our guardian angel, sir. I often say so to Mary."
Rowland wore, in response to this speech, a rather haggard brow. He could only murmur that he was glad she found Roderick looking well. He had of course promptly asked himself whether the best discretion dictated that he should give her a word of warning-just turn the handle of the door through which, later, disappointment might enter. He had determined to say nothing, but simply to wait in silence for Roderick to find effective inspiration in those confidently expectant eyes. It was to be supposed that he was seeking for it now; he remained sometime at the window with his cousin. But at last he turned away and came over to the fireside with a contraction of the eyebrows which seemed to intimate that Miss Garland's influence was for the moment, at least, not soothing. She presently followed him, and for an instant Rowland observed her watching him as if she thought him strange. "Strange enough," thought Rowland, "he may seem to her, if he will!" Roderick directed his glance to his friend with a certain peremptory air, which-roughly interpreted-was equivalent to a request to share the intellectual expense of entertaining the ladies. "Good heavens!" Rowland cried within himself; "is he already tired of them?"
"To-morrow, of course, we must begin to put you through the mill," Roderick said to his mother. "And be it hereby known to Mallet that we count upon him to turn the wheel."
"I will do as you please, my son," said Mrs. Hudson. "So long as I have you with me I don't care where I go. We must not take up too much of Mr. Mallet's time."
"His time is inexhaustible; he has nothing under the sun to do. Have you, Rowland? If you had seen the big hole I have been making in it! Where will you go first? You have your choice-from the Scala Santa to the Cloaca Maxima."
"Let us take things in order," said Rowland. "We will go first to Saint Peter's. Miss Garland, I hope you are impatient to see Saint Peter's."
"I would like to go first to Roderick's studio," said Miss Garland.
"It 's a very nasty place," said Roderick. "At your pleasure!"
"Yes, we must see your beautiful things before we can look contentedly at anything else," said Mrs. Hudson.
"I have no beautiful things," said Roderick. "You may see what there is! What makes you look so odd?"
This inquiry was abruptly addressed to his mother, who, in response, glanced appealingly at Mary and raised a startled hand to her smooth hair.
"No, it 's your face," said Roderick. "What has happened to it these two years? It has changed its expression."
"Your mother has prayed a great deal," said Miss Garland, simply.
"I did n't suppose, of course, it was from doing anything bad! It makes you a very good face-very interesting, very solemn. It has very fine lines in it; something might be done with it." And Rowland held one of the candles near the poor lady's head.
She was covered with confusion. "My son, my son," she said with dignity, "I don't understand you."
In a flash all his old alacrity had come to him. "I suppose a man may admire his own mother!" he cried. "If you please, madame, you 'll sit to me for that head. I see it, I see it! I will make something that a queen can't get done for her."
Rowland respectfully urged her to assent; he saw Roderick was in the vein and would probably do something eminently original. She gave her promise, at last, after many soft, inarticulate protests and a frightened petition that she might be allowed to keep her knitting.
Rowland returned the next day, with plenty of zeal for the part Roderick had assigned to him. It had been arranged that they should go to Saint Peter's. Roderick was in high good-humor, and, in the carriage, was watching his mother with a fine mixture of filial and professional tenderness. Mrs. Hudson looked up mistrustfully at the tall, shabby houses, and grasped the side of the barouche in her hand, as if she were in a sail-boat, in dangerous waters. Rowland sat opposite to Miss Garland. She was totally oblivious of her companions; from the moment the carriage left the hotel, she sat gazing, wide-eyed and absorbed, at the objects about them. If Rowland had felt disposed he might have made a joke of her intense seriousness. From time to time he told her the name of a place or a building, and she nodded, without looking at him. When they emerged into the great square between Bernini's colonnades, she laid her hand on Mrs. Hudson's arm and sank back in the carriage, staring up at the vast yellow facade of the church. Inside the church, Roderick gave his arm to his mother, and Rowland constituted himself the especial guide of Miss Garland. He walked with her slowly everywhere, and made the entire circuit, telling her all he knew of the history of the building. This was a great deal, but she listened attentively, keeping her eyes fixed on the dome. To Rowland himself it had never seemed so radiantly sublime as at these moments; he felt almost as if he had contrived it himself and had a right to be proud of it. He left Miss Garland a while on the steps of the choir, where she had seated herself to rest, and went to join their companions. Mrs. Hudson was watching a great circle of tattered contadini, who were kneeling before the image of Saint Peter. The fashion of their tatters fascinated her; she stood gazing at them in a sort of terrified pity, and could not be induced to look at anything else. Rowland went back to Miss Garland and sat down beside her.
"Well, what do you think of Europe?" he asked, smiling.
"I think it 's horrible!" she said abruptly.
"I feel so strangely-I could almost cry."
"How is it that you feel?"
"So sorry for the poor past, that seems to have died here, in my heart, in an hour!"
"But, surely, you 're pleased-you 're interested."
"I am overwhelmed. Here in a single hour, everything is changed. It is as if a wall in my mind had been knocked down at a stroke. Before me lies an immense new world, and it makes the old one, the poor little narrow, familiar one I have always known, seem pitiful."
"But you did n't come to Rome to keep your eyes fastened on that narrow little world. Forget it, turn your back on it, and enjoy all this."
"I want to enjoy it; but as I sat here just now, looking up at that golden mist in the dome, I seemed to see in it the vague shapes of certain people and things at home. To enjoy, as you say, as these things demand of one to enjoy them, is to break with one's past. And breaking is a pain!"
"Don't mind the pain, and it will cease to trouble you. Enjoy, enjoy; it is your duty. Yours especially!"
"Why mine especially?"
"Because I am very sure that you have a mind capable of doing the most liberal justice to everything interesting and beautiful. You are extremely intelligent."
"You don't know," said Miss Garland, simply.
"In that matter one feels. I really think that I know better than you. I don't want to seem patronizing, but I suspect that your mind is susceptible of a great development. Give it the best company, trust it, let it go!"
She looked away from him for some moments, down the gorgeous vista of the great church. "But what you say," she said at last, "means change!"
"Change for the better!" cried Rowland.
"How can one tell? As one stands, one knows the worst. It seems to me very frightful to develop," she added, with her complete smile.
"One is in for it in one way or another, and one might as well do it with a good grace as with a bad! Since one can't escape life, it is better to take it by the hand."
"Is this what you call life?" she asked.
"What do you mean by 'this'?"
"Saint Peter's-all this splendor, all Rome-pictures, ruins, statues, beggars, monks."
"It is not all of it, but it is a large part of it. All these things are impregnated with life; they are the fruits of an old and complex civilization."
"An old and complex civilization: I am afraid I don't like that."
"Don't conclude on that point just yet. Wait till you have tested it. While you wait, you will see an immense number of very beautiful things-things that you are made to understand. They won't leave you as they found you; then you can judge. Don't tell me I know nothing about your understanding. I have a right to assume it."
Miss Garland gazed awhile aloft in the dome. "I am not sure I understand that," she said.
"I hope, at least, that at a cursory glance it pleases you," said Rowland. "You need n't be afraid to tell the truth. What strikes some people is that it is so remarkably small."
"Oh, it's large enough; it's very wonderful. There are things in Rome, then," she added in a moment, turning and looking at him, "that are very, very beautiful?"
"Lots of them."
"Some of the most beautiful things in the world?"
"What are they? which things have most beauty?"
"That is according to taste. I should say the statues."
"How long will it take to see them all? to know, at least, something about them?"
"You can see them all, as far as mere seeing goes, in a fortnight. But to know them is a thing for one's leisure. The more time you spend among them, the more you care for them." After a moment's hesitation he went on: "Why should you grudge time? It 's all in your way, since you are to be an artist's wife."
"I have thought of that," she said. "It may be that I shall always live here, among the most beautiful things in the world!"
"Very possibly! I should like to see you ten years hence."
"I dare say I shall seem greatly altered. But I am sure of one thing."
"That for the most part I shall be quite the same. I ask nothing better than to believe the fine things you say about my understanding, but even if they are true, it won't matter. I shall be what I was made, what I am now-a young woman from the country! The fruit of a civilization not old and complex, but new and simple."
"I am delighted to hear it: that 's an excellent foundation."
"Perhaps, if you show me anything more, you will not always think so kindly of it. Therefore I warn you."
"I am not frightened. I should like vastly to say something to you: Be what you are, be what you choose; but do, sometimes, as I tell you."
If Rowland was not frightened, neither, perhaps, was Miss Garland; but she seemed at least slightly disturbed. She proposed that they should join their companions.
Mrs. Hudson spoke under her breath; she could not be accused of the want of reverence sometimes attributed to Protestants in the great Catholic temples. "Mary, dear," she whispered, "suppose we had to kiss that dreadful brass toe. If I could only have kept our door-knocker, at Northampton, as bright as that! I think it's so heathenish; but Roderick says he thinks it 's sublime."
Roderick had evidently grown a trifle perverse. "It 's sublimer than anything that your religion asks you to do!" he exclaimed.
"Surely our religion sometimes gives us very difficult duties," said Miss Garland.
"The duty of sitting in a whitewashed meeting-house and listening to a nasal Puritan! I admit that 's difficult. But it 's not sublime. I am speaking of ceremonies, of forms. It is in my line, you know, to make much of forms. I think this is a very beautiful one. Could n't you do it?" he demanded, looking at his cousin.
She looked back at him intently and then shook her head. "I think not!"
"I don't know; I could n't!"
During this little discussion our four friends were standing near the venerable image of Saint Peter, and a squalid, savage-looking peasant, a tattered ruffian of the most orthodox Italian aspect, had been performing his devotions before it. He turned away, crossing himself, and Mrs. Hudson gave a little shudder of horror.
"After that," she murmured, "I suppose he thinks he is as good as any one! And here is another. Oh, what a beautiful person!"
A young lady had approached the sacred effigy, after having wandered away from a group of companions. She kissed the brazen toe, touched it with her forehead, and turned round, facing our friends. Rowland then recognized Christina Light. He was stupefied: had she suddenly embraced the Catholic faith? It was but a few weeks before that she had treated him to a passionate profession of indifference. Had she entered the church to put herself en regle with what was expected of a Princess Casamassima? While Rowland was mentally asking these questions she was approaching him and his friends, on her way to the great altar. At first she did not perceive them.
Mary Garland had been gazing at her. "You told me," she said gently, to Rowland, "that Rome contained some of the most beautiful things in the world. This surely is one of them!"
At this moment Christina's eye met Rowland's and before giving him any sign of recognition she glanced rapidly at his companions. She saw Roderick, but she gave him no bow; she looked at Mrs. Hudson, she looked at Mary Garland. At Mary Garland she looked fixedly, piercingly, from head to foot, as the slow pace at which she was advancing made possible. Then suddenly, as if she had perceived Roderick for the first time, she gave him a charming nod, a radiant smile. In a moment he was at her side. She stopped, and he stood talking to her; she continued to look at Miss Garland.
"Why, Roderick knows her!" cried Mrs. Hudson, in an awe-struck whisper. "I supposed she was some great princess."
"She is-almost!" said Rowland. "She is the most beautiful girl in Europe, and Roderick has made her bust."
"Her bust? Dear, dear!" murmured Mrs. Hudson, vaguely shocked. "What a strange bonnet!"
"She has very strange eyes," said Mary, and turned away.
The two ladies, with Rowland, began to descend toward the door of the church. On their way they passed Mrs. Light, the Cavaliere, and the poodle, and Rowland informed his companions of the relation in which these personages stood to Roderick's young lady.
"Think of it, Mary!" said Mrs. Hudson. "What splendid people he must know! No wonder he found Northampton dull!"
"I like the poor little old gentleman," said Mary.
"Why do you call him poor?" Rowland asked, struck with the observation.
"He seems so!" she answered simply.
As they were reaching the door they were overtaken by Roderick, whose interview with Miss Light had perceptibly brightened his eye. "So you are acquainted with princesses!" said his mother softly, as they passed into the portico.
"Miss Light is not a princess!" said Roderick, curtly.
"But Mr. Mallet says so," urged Mrs. Hudson, rather disappointed.
"I meant that she was going to be!" said Rowland.
"It 's by no means certain that she is even going to be!" Roderick answered.
"Ah," said Rowland, "I give it up!"
Roderick almost immediately demanded that his mother should sit to him, at his studio, for her portrait, and Rowland ventured to add another word of urgency. If Roderick's idea really held him, it was an immense pity that his inspiration should be wasted; inspiration, in these days, had become too precious a commodity. It was arranged therefore that, for the present, during the mornings, Mrs. Hudson should place herself at her son's service. This involved but little sacrifice, for the good lady's appetite for antiquities was diminutive and bird-like, the usual round of galleries and churches fatigued her, and she was glad to purchase immunity from sight-seeing by a regular afternoon drive. It became natural in this way that, Miss Garland having her mornings free, Rowland should propose to be the younger lady's guide in whatever explorations she might be disposed to make. She said she knew nothing about it, but she had a great curiosity, and would be glad to see anything that he would show her. Rowland could not find it in his heart to accuse Roderick of neglect of the young girl; for it was natural that the inspirations of a capricious man of genius, when they came, should be imperious; but of course he wondered how Miss Garland felt, as the young man's promised wife, on being thus expeditiously handed over to another man to be entertained. However she felt, he was certain he would know little about it. There had been, between them, none but indirect allusions to her engagement, and Rowland had no desire to discuss it more largely; for he had no quarrel with matters as they stood. They wore the same delightful aspect through the lovely month of May, and the ineffable charm of Rome at that period seemed but the radiant sympathy of nature with his happy opportunity. The weather was divine; each particular morning, as he walked from his lodging to Mrs. Hudson's modest inn, seemed to have a blessing upon it. The elder lady had usually gone off to the studio, and he found Miss Garland sitting alone at the open window, turning the leaves of some book of artistic or antiquarian reference that he had given her. She always had a smile, she was always eager, alert, responsive. She might be grave by nature, she might be sad by circumstance, she might have secret doubts and pangs, but she was essentially young and strong and fresh and able to enjoy. Her enjoyment was not especially demonstrative, but it was curiously diligent. Rowland felt that it was not amusement and sensation that she coveted, but knowledge-facts that she might noiselessly lay away, piece by piece, in the perfumed darkness of her serious mind, so that, under this head at least, she should not be a perfectly portionless bride. She never merely pretended to understand; she let things go, in her modest fashion, at the moment, but she watched them on their way, over the crest of the hill, and when her fancy seemed not likely to be missed it went hurrying after them and ran breathless at their side, as it were, and begged them for the secret. Rowland took an immense satisfaction in observing that she never mistook the second-best for the best, and that when she was in the presence of a masterpiece, she recognized the occasion as a mighty one. She said many things which he thought very profound-that is, if they really had the fine intention he suspected. This point he usually tried to ascertain; but he was obliged to proceed cautiously, for in her mistrustful shyness it seemed to her that cross-examination must necessarily be ironical. She wished to know just where she was going-what she would gain or lose. This was partly on account of a native intellectual purity, a temper of mind that had not lived with its door ajar, as one might say, upon the high-road of thought, for passing ideas to drop in and out at their pleasure; but had made much of a few long visits from guests cherished and honored-guests whose presence was a solemnity. But it was even more because she was conscious of a sort of growing self-respect, a sense of devoting her life not to her own ends, but to those of another, whose life would be large and brilliant. She had been brought up to think a great deal of "nature" and nature's innocent laws; but now Rowland had spoken to her ardently of culture; her strenuous fancy had responded, and she was pursuing culture into retreats where the need for some intellectual effort gave a noble severity to her purpose. She wished to be very sure, to take only the best, knowing it to be the best. There was something exquisite in this labor of pious self-adornment, and Rowland helped it, though its fruits were not for him. In spite of her lurking rigidity and angularity, it was very evident that a nervous, impulsive sense of beauty was constantly at play in her soul, and that her actual experience of beautiful things moved her in some very deep places. For all that she was not demonstrative, that her manner was simple, and her small-talk of no very ample flow; for all that, as she had said, she was a young woman from the country, and the country was West Nazareth, and West Nazareth was in its way a stubborn little fact, she was feeling the direct influence of the great amenities of the world, and they were shaping her with a divinely intelligent touch. "Oh exquisite virtue of circumstance!" cried Rowland to himself, "that takes us by the hand and leads us forth out of corners where, perforce, our attitudes are a trifle contracted, and beguiles us into testing mistrusted faculties!" When he said to Mary Garland that he wished he might see her ten years hence, he was paying mentally an equal compliment to circumstance and to the girl herself. Capacity was there, it could be freely trusted; observation would have but to sow its generous seed. "A superior woman"-the idea had harsh associations, but he watched it imaging itself in the vagueness of the future with a kind of hopeless confidence.
They went a great deal to Saint Peter's, for which Rowland had an exceeding affection, a large measure of which he succeeded in infusing into his companion. She confessed very speedily that to climb the long, low, yellow steps, beneath the huge florid facade, and then to push the ponderous leathern apron of the door, to find one's self confronted with that builded, luminous sublimity, was a sensation of which the keenness renewed itself with surprising generosity. In those days the hospitality of the Vatican had not been curtailed, and it was an easy and delightful matter to pass from the gorgeous church to the solemn company of the antique marbles. Here Rowland had with his companion a great deal of talk, and found himself expounding aesthetics a perte de vue. He discovered that she made notes of her likes and dislikes in a new-looking little memorandum book, and he wondered to what extent she reported his own discourse. These were charming hours. The galleries had been so cold all winter that Rowland had been an exile from them; but now that the sun was already scorching in the great square between the colonnades, where the twin fountains flashed almost fiercely, the marble coolness of the long, image-bordered vistas made them a delightful refuge. The great herd of tourists had almost departed, and our two friends often found themselves, for half an hour at a time, in sole and tranquil possession of the beautiful Braccio Nuovo. Here and there was an open window, where they lingered and leaned, looking out into the warm, dead air, over the towers of the city, at the soft-hued, historic hills, at the stately shabby gardens of the palace, or at some sunny, empty, grass-grown court, lost in the heart of the labyrinthine pile. They went sometimes into the chambers painted by Raphael, and of course paid their respects to the Sistine Chapel; but Mary's evident preference was to linger among the statues. Once, when they were standing before that noblest of sculptured portraits, the so-called Demosthenes, in the Braccio Nuovo, she made the only spontaneous allusion to her projected marriage, direct or indirect, that had yet fallen from her lips. "I am so glad," she said, "that Roderick is a sculptor and not a painter."
The allusion resided chiefly in the extreme earnestness with which the words were uttered. Rowland immediately asked her the reason of her gladness.
"It 's not that painting is not fine," she said, "but that sculpture is finer. It is more manly."
Rowland tried at times to make her talk about herself, but in this she had little skill. She seemed to him so much older, so much more pliant to social uses than when he had seen her at home, that he had a desire to draw from her some categorical account of her occupation and thoughts. He told her his desire and what suggested it. "It appears, then," she said, "that, after all, one can grow at home!"
"Unquestionably, if one has a motive. Your growth, then, was unconscious? You did not watch yourself and water your roots?"
She paid no heed to his question. "I am willing to grant," she said, "that Europe is more delightful than I supposed; and I don't think that, mentally, I had been stingy. But you must admit that America is better than you have supposed."
"I have not a fault to find with the country which produced you!" Rowland thought he might risk this, smiling.
"And yet you want me to change-to assimilate Europe, I suppose you would call it."
"I have felt that desire only on general principles. Shall I tell you what I feel now? America has made you thus far; let America finish you! I should like to ship you back without delay and see what becomes of you. That sounds unkind, and I admit there is a cold intellectual curiosity in it."
She shook her head. "The charm is broken; the thread is snapped! I prefer to remain here."
Invariably, when he was inclined to make of something they were talking of a direct application to herself, she wholly failed to assist him; she made no response. Whereupon, once, with a spark of ardent irritation, he told her she was very "secretive." At this she colored a little, and he said that in default of any larger confidence it would at least be a satisfaction to make her confess to that charge. But even this satisfaction she denied him, and his only revenge was in making, two or three times afterward, a softly ironical allusion to her slyness. He told her that she was what is called in French a sournoise. "Very good," she answered, almost indifferently, "and now please tell me again-I have forgotten it-what you said an 'architrave' was."
It was on the occasion of her asking him a question of this kind that he charged her, with a humorous emphasis in which, also, if she had been curious in the matter, she might have detected a spark of restless ardor, with having an insatiable avidity for facts. "You are always snatching at information," he said; "you will never consent to have any disinterested conversation."
She frowned a little, as she always did when he arrested their talk upon something personal. But this time she assented, and said that she knew she was eager for facts. "One must make hay while the sun shines," she added. "I must lay up a store of learning against dark days. Somehow, my imagination refuses to compass the idea that I may be in Rome indefinitely."
He knew he had divined her real motives; but he felt that if he might have said to her-what it seemed impossible to say-that fortune possibly had in store for her a bitter disappointment, she would have been capable of answering, immediately after the first sense of pain, "Say then that I am laying up resources for solitude!"
But all the accusations were not his. He had been watching, once, during some brief argument, to see whether she would take her forefinger out of her Murray, into which she had inserted it to keep a certain page. It would have been hard to say why this point interested him, for he had not the slightest real apprehension that she was dry or pedantic. The simple human truth was, the poor fellow was jealous of science. In preaching science to her, he had over-estimated his powers of self-effacement. Suddenly, sinking science for the moment, she looked at him very frankly and began to frown. At the same time she let the Murray slide down to the ground, and he was so charmed with this circumstance that he made no movement to pick it up.
"You are singularly inconsistent, Mr. Mallet," she said.
"That first day that we were in Saint Peter's you said things that inspired me. You bade me plunge into all this. I was all ready; I only wanted a little push; yours was a great one; here I am in mid-ocean! And now, as a reward for my bravery, you have repeatedly snubbed me."
"Distinctly, then," said Rowland, "I strike you as inconsistent?"
"That is the word."
"Then I have played my part very ill."
"Your part? What is your part supposed to have been?"
He hesitated a moment. "That of usefulness, pure and simple."
"I don't understand you!" she said; and picking up her Murray, she fairly buried herself in it.
That evening he said something to her which necessarily increased her perplexity, though it was not uttered with such an intention. "Do you remember," he asked, "my begging you, the other day, to do occasionally as I told you? It seemed to me you tacitly consented."
"I have never yet really presumed on your consent. But now I would like you to do this: whenever you catch me in the act of what you call inconsistency, ask me the meaning of some architectural term. I will know what you mean; a word to the wise!"
One morning they spent among the ruins of the Palatine, that sunny desolation of crumbling, over-tangled fragments, half excavated and half identified, known as the Palace of the Caesars. Nothing in Rome is more interesting, and no locality has such a confusion of picturesque charms. It is a vast, rambling garden, where you stumble at every step on the disinterred bones of the past; where damp, frescoed corridors, relics, possibly, of Nero's Golden House, serve as gigantic bowers, and where, in the springtime, you may sit on a Latin inscription, in the shade of a flowering almond-tree, and admire the composition of the Campagna. The day left a deep impression on Rowland's mind, partly owing to its intrinsic sweetness, and partly because his companion, on this occasion, let her Murray lie unopened for an hour, and asked several questions irrelevant to the Consuls and the Caesars. She had begun by saying that it was coming over her, after all, that Rome was a ponderously sad place. The sirocco was gently blowing, the air was heavy, she was tired, she looked a little pale.
"Everything," she said, "seems to say that all things are vanity. If one is doing something, I suppose one feels a certain strength within one to contradict it. But if one is idle, surely it is depressing to live, year after year, among the ashes of things that once were mighty. If I were to remain here I should either become permanently 'low,' as they say, or I would take refuge in some dogged daily work."
"I would open a school for those beautiful little beggars; though I am sadly afraid I should never bring myself to scold them."
"I am idle," said Rowland, "and yet I have kept up a certain spirit."
"I don't call you idle," she answered with emphasis.
"It is very good of you. Do you remember our talking about that in Northampton?"
"During that picnic? Perfectly. Has your coming abroad succeeded, for yourself, as well as you hoped?"
"I think I may say that it has turned out as well as I expected."
"Are you happy?"
"Don't I look so?"
"So it seems to me. But"-and she hesitated a moment-"I imagine you look happy whether you are so or not."
"I 'm like that ancient comic mask that we saw just now in yonder excavated fresco: I am made to grin."
"Shall you come back here next winter?"
"Are you settled here forever?"
"'Forever' is a long time. I live only from year to year."
"Shall you never marry?"
Rowland gave a laugh. "'Forever'-'never!' You handle large ideas. I have not taken a vow of celibacy."
"Would n't you like to marry?"
"I should like it immensely."
To this she made no rejoinder: but presently she asked, "Why don't you write a book?"
Rowland laughed, this time more freely. "A book! What book should I write?"
"A history; something about art or antiquities."
"I have neither the learning nor the talent."
She made no attempt to contradict him; she simply said she had supposed otherwise. "You ought, at any rate," she continued in a moment, "to do something for yourself."
"For myself? I should have supposed that if ever a man seemed to live for himself"-
"I don't know how it seems," she interrupted, "to careless observers. But we know-we know that you have lived-a great deal-for us."
Her voice trembled slightly, and she brought out the last words with a little jerk.
"She has had that speech on her conscience," thought Rowland; "she has been thinking she owed it to me, and it seemed to her that now was her time to make it and have done with it."
She went on in a way which confirmed these reflections, speaking with due solemnity. "You ought to be made to know very well what we all feel. Mrs. Hudson tells me that she has told you what she feels. Of course Roderick has expressed himself. I have been wanting to thank you too; I do, from my heart."
Rowland made no answer; his face at this moment resembled the tragic mask much more than the comic. But Miss Garland was not looking at him; she had taken up her Murray again.
In the afternoon she usually drove with Mrs. Hudson, but Rowland frequently saw her again in the evening. He was apt to spend half an hour in the little sitting-room at the hotel-pension on the slope of the Pincian, and Roderick, who dined regularly with his mother, was present on these occasions. Rowland saw him little at other times, and for three weeks no observations passed between them on the subject of Mrs. Hudson's advent. To Rowland's vision, as the weeks elapsed, the benefits to proceed from the presence of the two ladies remained shrouded in mystery. Roderick was peculiarly inscrutable. He was preoccupied with his work on his mother's portrait, which was taking a very happy turn; and often, when he sat silent, with his hands in his pockets, his legs outstretched, his head thrown back, and his eyes on vacancy, it was to be supposed that his fancy was hovering about the half-shaped image in his studio, exquisite even in its immaturity. He said little, but his silence did not of necessity imply disaffection, for he evidently found it a deep personal luxury to lounge away the hours in an atmosphere so charged with feminine tenderness. He was not alert, he suggested nothing in the way of excursions (Rowland was the prime mover in such as were attempted), but he conformed passively at least to the tranquil temper of the two women, and made no harsh comments nor sombre allusions. Rowland wondered whether he had, after all, done his friend injustice in denying him the sentiment of duty. He refused invitations, to Rowland's knowledge, in order to dine at the jejune little table-d'hote; wherever his spirit might be, he was present in the flesh with religious constancy. Mrs. Hudson's felicity betrayed itself in a remarkable tendency to finish her sentences and wear her best black silk gown. Her tremors had trembled away; she was like a child who discovers that the shaggy monster it has so long been afraid to touch is an inanimate terror, compounded of straw and saw-dust, and that it is even a safe audacity to tickle its nose. As to whether the love-knot of which Mary Garland had the keeping still held firm, who should pronounce? The young girl, as we know, did not wear it on her sleeve. She always sat at the table, near the candles, with a piece of needle-work. This was the attitude in which Rowland had first seen her, and he thought, now that he had seen her in several others, it was not the least becoming.