Part 2 out of 8
Rowland had placed himself near Miss Garland, while the feasting
went forward on the grass. She wore a so-called gypsy hat--
a little straw hat, tied down over her ears, so as to cast
her eyes into shadow, by a ribbon passing outside of it.
When the company dispersed, after lunch, he proposed to her
to take a stroll in the wood. She hesitated a moment and looked
toward Mrs. Hudson, as if for permission to leave her.
But Mrs. Hudson was listening to Mr. Striker, who sat gossiping
to her with relaxed magniloquence, his waistcoat unbuttoned
and his hat on his nose.
"You can give your cousin your society at any time," said Rowland.
"But me, perhaps, you 'll never see again."
"Why then should we wish to be friends, if nothing is to come of it?"
she asked, with homely logic. But by this time she had consented,
and they were treading the fallen pine-needles.
"Oh, one must take all one can get," said Rowland.
"If we can be friends for half an hour, it 's so much gained."
"Do you expect never to come back to Northampton again?"
" 'Never' is a good deal to say. But I go to Europe for a long stay."
"Do you prefer it so much to your own country?"
"I will not say that. But I have the misfortune to be a rather idle man,
and in Europe the burden of idleness is less heavy than here."
She was silent for a few minutes; then at last,
"In that, then, we are better than Europe," she said.
To a certain point Rowland agreed with her, but he demurred,
to make her say more.
"Would n't it be better," she asked, "to work to get reconciled to America,
than to go to Europe to get reconciled to idleness?"
"Doubtless; but you know work is hard to find."
"I come from a little place where every one has plenty,"
said Miss Garland. "We all work; every one I know works.
And really," she added presently, "I look at you with curiosity;
you are the first unoccupied man I ever saw."
"Don't look at me too hard," said Rowland, smiling. "I shall sink
into the earth. What is the name of your little place?"
"West Nazareth," said Miss Garland, with her usual sobriety.
"It is not so very little, though it 's smaller than Northampton."
"I wonder whether I could find any work at West Nazareth," Rowland said.
"You would not like it," Miss Garland declared reflectively.
"Though there are far finer woods there than this.
We have miles and miles of woods."
"I might chop down trees," said Rowland. "That is, if you allow it."
"Allow it? Why, where should we get our firewood?"
Then, noticing that he had spoken jestingly, she glanced at
him askance, though with no visible diminution of her gravity.
"Don't you know how to do anything? Have you no profession?"
Rowland shook his head. "Absolutely none."
"What do you do all day?"
"Nothing worth relating. That 's why I am going to Europe.
There, at least, if I do nothing, I shall see a great deal;
and if I 'm not a producer, I shall at any rate be an observer."
"Can't we observe everywhere?"
"Certainly; and I really think that in that way I make the most of
my opportunities. Though I confess," he continued, "that I often remember
there are things to be seen here to which I probably have n't done justice.
I should like, for instance, to see West Nazareth."
She looked round at him, open-eyed; not, apparently, that she
exactly supposed he was jesting, for the expression
of such a desire was not necessarily facetious;
but as if he must have spoken with an ulterior motive.
In fact, he had spoken from the simplest of motives.
The girl beside him pleased him unspeakably, and, suspecting that
her charm was essentially her own and not reflected from
social circumstance, he wished to give himself the satisfaction
of contrasting her with the meagre influences of her education.
Miss Garland's second movement was to take him at his word.
"Since you are free to do as you please, why don't you go there?"
"I am not free to do as I please now. I have offered your cousin
to bear him company to Europe, he has accepted with enthusiasm,
and I cannot retract."
"Are you going to Europe simply for his sake?"
Rowland hesitated a moment. "I think I may almost say so."
Miss Garland walked along in silence. "Do you mean to do a great deal
for him?" she asked at last.
"What I can. But my power of helping him is very small beside
his power of helping himself."
For a moment she was silent again. "You are very generous,"
she said, almost solemnly.
"No, I am simply very shrewd. Roderick will repay me.
It 's an investment. At first, I think," he added shortly
afterwards, "you would not have paid me that compliment.
You distrusted me."
She made no attempt to deny it. "I did n't see why you should wish to make
Roderick discontented. I thought you were rather frivolous."
"You did me injustice. I don't think I 'm that."
"It was because you are unlike other men--those, at least,
whom I have seen."
"In what way?"
"Why, as you describe yourself. You have no duties, no profession, no home.
You live for your pleasure."
"That 's all very true. And yet I maintain I 'm not frivolous."
"I hope not," said Miss Garland, simply. They had reached a point
where the wood-path forked and put forth two divergent tracks
which lost themselves in a verdurous tangle. Miss Garland seemed
to think that the difficulty of choice between them was a reason
for giving them up and turning back. Rowland thought otherwise,
and detected agreeable grounds for preference in the left-hand path.
As a compromise, they sat down on a fallen log. Looking about him,
Rowland espied a curious wild shrub, with a spotted crimson leaf;
he went and plucked a spray of it and brought it to Miss Garland.
He had never observed it before, but she immediately called it
by its name. She expressed surprise at his not knowing it;
it was extremely common. He presently brought her a specimen
of another delicate plant, with a little blue-streaked flower.
"I suppose that 's common, too," he said, "but I have never seen it--
or noticed it, at least." She answered that this one was rare,
and meditated a moment before she could remember its name.
At last she recalled it, and expressed surprise at his having found
the plant in the woods; she supposed it grew only in open marshes.
Rowland complimented her on her fund of useful information.
"It 's not especially useful," she answered; "but I like to
know the names of plants as I do those of my acquaintances.
When we walk in the woods at home--which we do so much--
it seems as unnatural not to know what to call the flowers
as it would be to see some one in the town with whom we were
not on speaking terms."
"Apropos of frivolity," Rowland said, "I 'm sure you have very little of it,
unless at West Nazareth it is considered frivolous to walk in the woods
and nod to the nodding flowers. Do kindly tell me a little about yourself."
And to compel her to begin, "I know you come of a race of theologians,"
he went on.
"No," she replied, deliberating; "they are not theologians, though they
are ministers. We don't take a very firm stand upon doctrine;
we are practical, rather. We write sermons and preach them,
but we do a great deal of hard work beside."
"And of this hard work what has your share been?"
"The hardest part: doing nothing."
"What do you call nothing?"
"I taught school a while: I must make the most of that.
But I confess I did n't like it. Otherwise, I have only done
little things at home, as they turned up."
"What kind of things?"
"Oh, every kind. If you had seen my home, you would understand."
Rowland would have liked to make her specify; but he felt a more
urgent need to respect her simplicity than he had ever felt to defer
to the complex circumstance of certain other women. "To be happy,
I imagine," he contented himself with saying, "you need to be occupied.
You need to have something to expend yourself upon."
"That is not so true as it once was; now that I am older, I am sure
I am less impatient of leisure. Certainly, these two months that I
have been with Mrs. Hudson, I have had a terrible amount of it.
And yet I have liked it! And now that I am probably to be with her
all the while that her son is away, I look forward to more with a
resignation that I don't quite know what to make of."
"It is settled, then, that you are to remain with your cousin?"
"It depends upon their writing from home that I may stay.
But that is probable. Only I must not forget," she said, rising,
"that the ground for my doing so is that she be not left alone."
"I am glad to know," said Rowland, "that I shall probably often
hear about you. I assure you I shall often think about you!"
These words were half impulsive, half deliberate.
They were the simple truth, and he had asked himself why he should
not tell her the truth. And yet they were not all of it;
her hearing the rest would depend upon the way she received this.
She received it not only, as Rowland foresaw, without a shadow
of coquetry, of any apparent thought of listening to it gracefully,
but with a slight movement of nervous deprecation,
which seemed to betray itself in the quickening of her step.
Evidently, if Rowland was to take pleasure in hearing about her,
it would have to be a highly disinterested pleasure.
She answered nothing, and Rowland too, as he walked beside her,
was silent; but as he looked along the shadow-woven wood-path, what
he was really facing was a level three years of disinterestedness.
He ushered them in by talking composed civility until he had
brought Miss Garland back to her companions.
He saw her but once again. He was obliged to be in New York a couple
of days before sailing, and it was arranged that Roderick should
overtake him at the last moment. The evening before he left Northampton
he went to say farewell to Mrs. Hudson. The ceremony was brief.
Rowland soon perceived that the poor little lady was in the melting
mood, and, as he dreaded her tears, he compressed a multitude
of solemn promises into a silent hand-shake and took his leave.
Miss Garland, she had told him, was in the back-garden with Roderick:
he might go out to them. He did so, and as he drew near he heard
Roderick's high-pitched voice ringing behind the shrubbery.
In a moment, emerging, he found Miss Garland leaning against
a tree, with her cousin before her talking with great emphasis.
He asked pardon for interrupting them, and said he wished only to bid
her good-by. She gave him her hand and he made her his bow in silence.
"Don't forget," he said to Roderick, as he turned away.
"And don't, in this company, repent of your bargain."
"I shall not let him," said Miss Garland, with something very
like gayety. "I shall see that he is punctual. He must go!
I owe you an apology for having doubted that he ought to."
And in spite of the dusk Rowland could see that she had an even
finer smile than he had supposed.
Roderick was punctual, eagerly punctual, and they went.
Rowland for several days was occupied with material cares,
and lost sight of his sentimental perplexities.
But they only slumbered, and they were sharply awakened.
The weather was fine, and the two young men always sat together
upon deck late into the evening. One night, toward the last,
they were at the stern of the great ship, watching her grind
the solid blackness of the ocean into phosphorescent foam.
They talked on these occasions of everything conceivable,
and had the air of having no secrets from each other.
But it was on Roderick's conscience that this air belied him,
and he was too frank by nature, moreover, for permanent
reticence on any point.
"I must tell you something," he said at last. "I should like you to know it,
and you will be so glad to know it. Besides, it 's only a question
of time; three months hence, probably, you would have guessed it.
I am engaged to Mary Garland."
Rowland sat staring; though the sea was calm, it seemed to him
that the ship gave a great dizzying lurch. But in a moment
he contrived to answer coherently: "Engaged to Miss Garland!
I never supposed--I never imagined"--
"That I was in love with her?" Roderick interrupted.
"Neither did I, until this last fortnight. But you came and put
me into such ridiculous good-humor that I felt an extraordinary
desire to tell some woman that I adored her. Miss Garland is
a magnificent girl; you know her too little to do her justice.
I have been quietly learning to know her, these past three months,
and have been falling in love with her without being conscious of it.
It appeared, when I spoke to her, that she had a kindness for me.
So the thing was settled. I must of course make some money
before we can marry. It 's rather droll, certainly, to engage
one's self to a girl whom one is going to leave the next day,
for years. We shall be condemned, for some time to come,
to do a terrible deal of abstract thinking about each other.
But I wanted her blessing on my career and I could not help
asking for it. Unless a man is unnaturally selfish he needs
to work for some one else than himself, and I am sure I shall
run a smoother and swifter course for knowing that that fine
creature is waiting, at Northampton, for news of my greatness.
If ever I am a dull companion and over-addicted to moping,
remember in justice to me that I am in love and that my sweetheart
is five thousand miles away."
Rowland listened to all this with a sort of feeling
that fortune had played him an elaborately-devised trick.
It had lured him out into mid-ocean and smoothed the sea and
stilled the winds and given him a singularly sympathetic comrade,
and then it had turned and delivered him a thumping blow
in mid-chest. "Yes," he said, after an attempt at the usual
formal congratulation, "you certainly ought to do better--
with Miss Garland waiting for you at Northampton."
Roderick, now that he had broken ground, was eloquent and rung
a hundred changes on the assurance that he was a very happy man.
Then at last, suddenly, his climax was a yawn, and he declared that
he must go to bed. Rowland let him go alone, and sat there late,
between sea and sky.
CHAPTER III. Rome
One warm, still day, late in the Roman autumn, our two young men were
sitting beneath one of the high-stemmed pines of the Villa Ludovisi.
They had been spending an hour in the mouldy little garden-house, where
the colossal mask of the famous Juno looks out with blank eyes from that
dusky corner which must seem to her the last possible stage of a lapse
from Olympus. Then they had wandered out into the gardens, and were
lounging away the morning under the spell of their magical picturesqueness.
Roderick declared that he would go nowhere else; that, after the Juno,
it was a profanation to look at anything but sky and trees.
There was a fresco of Guercino, to which Rowland, though he had seen
it on his former visit to Rome, went dutifully to pay his respects.
But Roderick, though he had never seen it, declared that it could n't
be worth a fig, and that he did n't care to look at ugly things.
He remained stretched on his overcoat, which he had spread on the grass,
while Rowland went off envying the intellectual comfort of genius,
which can arrive at serene conclusions without disagreeable processes.
When the latter came back, his friend was sitting with his elbows on his
knees and his head in his hands. Rowland, in the geniality of a mood
attuned to the mellow charm of a Roman villa, found a good word to say
for the Guercino; but he chiefly talked of the view from the little
belvedere on the roof of the casino, and how it looked like the prospect
from a castle turret in a fairy tale.
"Very likely," said Roderick, throwing himself back with a yawn.
"But I must let it pass. I have seen enough for the present;
I have reached the top of the hill. I have an indigestion
of impressions; I must work them off before I go in for any more.
I don't want to look at any more of other people's works, for a month--
not even at Nature's own. I want to look at Roderick Hudson's.
The result of it all is that I 'm not afraid. I can but try,
as well as the rest of them! The fellow who did that gazing goddess
yonder only made an experiment. The other day, when I was looking
at Michael Angelo's Moses, I was seized with a kind of defiance--
a reaction against all this mere passive enjoyment of grandeur.
It was a rousing great success, certainly, that rose there before me,
but somehow it was not an inscrutable mystery, and it seemed to me,
not perhaps that I should some day do as well, but that at
least I might!"
"As you say, you can but try," said Rowland. "Success is
only passionate effort."
"Well, the passion is blazing; we have been piling on fuel handsomely.
It came over me just now that it is exactly three months to a day since I
left Northampton. I can't believe it!"
"It certainly seems more."
"It seems like ten years. What an exquisite ass I was!"
"Do you feel so wise now?"
"Verily! Don't I look so? Surely I have n't the same face.
Have n't I a different eye, a different expression,
a different voice?"
"I can hardly say, because I have seen the transition.
But it 's very likely. You are, in the literal sense of the word,
more civilized. I dare say," added Rowland, "that Miss Garland
would think so."
"That 's not what she would call it; she would say I was corrupted."
Rowland asked few questions about Miss Garland, but he always
listened narrowly to his companion's voluntary observations.
"Are you very sure?" he replied.
"Why, she 's a stern moralist, and she would infer from
my appearance that I had become a cynical sybarite."
Roderick had, in fact, a Venetian watch-chain round his
neck and a magnificent Roman intaglio on the third finger
of his left hand.
"Will you think I take a liberty," asked Rowland, "if I say you
judge her superficially?"
"For heaven's sake," cried Roderick, laughing, "don't tell me
she 's not a moralist! It was for that I fell in love with her,
and with rigid virtue in her person."
"She is a moralist, but not, as you imply, a narrow one.
That 's more than a difference in degree; it 's a difference in kind.
I don't know whether I ever mentioned it, but I admire her extremely.
There is nothing narrow about her but her experience; everything else
is large. My impression of her is of a person of great capacity,
as yet wholly unmeasured and untested. Some day or other, I 'm sure,
she will judge fairly and wisely of everything."
"Stay a bit!" cried Roderick; "you 're a better Catholic than the Pope.
I shall be content if she judges fairly of me--of my merits, that is.
The rest she must not judge at all. She 's a grimly devoted little creature;
may she always remain so! Changed as I am, I adore her none the less.
What becomes of all our emotions, our impressions," he went on,
after a long pause, "all the material of thought that life pours
into us at such a rate during such a memorable three months as these?
There are twenty moments a week--a day, for that matter, some days--
that seem supreme, twenty impressions that seem ultimate,
that appear to form an intellectual era. But others come treading
on their heels and sweeping them along, and they all melt like water
into water and settle the question of precedence among themselves.
The curious thing is that the more the mind takes in, the more it has
space for, and that all one's ideas are like the Irish people at home
who live in the different corners of a room, and take boarders."
"I fancy it is our peculiar good luck that we don't see the limits
of our minds," said Rowland. "We are young, compared with what we may
one day be. That belongs to youth; it is perhaps the best part of it.
They say that old people do find themselves at last face to face
with a solid blank wall, and stand thumping against it in vain.
It resounds, it seems to have something beyond it, but it won't move!
That 's only a reason for living with open doors as long as we can!"
"Open doors?" murmured Roderick. "Yes, let us close no doors
that open upon Rome. For this, for the mind, is eternal summer!
But though my doors may stand open to-day," he presently added,
"I shall see no visitors. I want to pause and breathe; I want
to dream of a statue. I have been working hard for three months;
I have earned a right to a reverie."
Rowland, on his side, was not without provision for reflection,
and they lingered on in broken, desultory talk. Rowland felt
the need for intellectual rest, for a truce to present care
for churches, statues, and pictures, on even better grounds than
his companion, inasmuch as he had really been living Roderick's
intellectual life the past three months, as well as his own.
As he looked back on these full-flavored weeks, he drew a long
breath of satisfaction, almost of relief. Roderick, thus far,
had justified his confidence and flattered his perspicacity;
he was rapidly unfolding into an ideal brilliancy.
He was changed even more than he himself suspected;
he had stepped, without faltering, into his birthright,
and was spending money, intellectually, as lavishly
as a young heir who has just won an obstructive lawsuit.
Roderick's glance and voice were the same, doubtless,
as when they enlivened the summer dusk on Cecilia's veranda,
but in his person, generally, there was an indefinable
expression of experience rapidly and easily assimilated.
Rowland had been struck at the outset with the instinctive
quickness of his observation and his free appropriation of
whatever might serve his purpose. He had not been, for instance,
half an hour on English soil before he perceived that he was
dressed like a rustic, and he had immediately reformed his
toilet with the most unerring tact. His appetite for novelty
was insatiable, and for everything characteristically foreign,
as it presented itself, he had an extravagant greeting;
but in half an hour the novelty had faded, he had guessed
the secret, he had plucked out the heart of the mystery and
was clamoring for a keener sensation. At the end of a month,
he presented, mentally, a puzzling spectacle to his companion.
He had caught, instinctively, the key-note of the old world.
He observed and enjoyed, he criticised and rhapsodized,
but though all things interested him and many delighted him,
none surprised him; he had divined their logic and measured
their proportions, and referred them infallibly to their categories.
Witnessing the rate at which he did intellectual execution
on the general spectacle of European life, Rowland at moments
felt vaguely uneasy for the future; the boy was living
too fast, he would have said, and giving alarming pledges
to ennui in his later years. But we must live as our pulses
are timed, and Roderick's struck the hour very often.
He was, by imagination, though he never became in manner,
a natural man of the world; he had intuitively, as an artist,
what one may call the historic consciousness. He had a relish
for social subtleties and mysteries, and, in perception,
when occasion offered him an inch he never failed to take an ell.
A single glimpse of a social situation of the elder type enabled
him to construct the whole, with all its complex chiaroscuro,
and Rowland more than once assured him that he made him
believe in the metempsychosis, and that he must have lived in
European society, in the last century, as a gentleman in a cocked
hat and brocaded waistcoat. Hudson asked Rowland questions
which poor Rowland was quite unable to answer, and of which he was
equally unable to conceive where he had picked up the data.
Roderick ended by answering them himself, tolerably to
his satisfaction, and in a short time he had almost turned
the tables and become in their walks and talks the accredited
source of information. Rowland told him that when he turned
sculptor a capital novelist was spoiled, and that to match his
eye for social detail one would have to go to Honore de Balzac.
In all this Rowland took a generous pleasure; he felt an especial
kindness for his comrade's radiant youthfulness of temperament.
He was so much younger than he himself had ever been!
And surely youth and genius, hand in hand, were the most
beautiful sight in the world. Roderick added to this
the charm of his more immediately personal qualities.
The vivacity of his perceptions, the audacity of his imagination,
the picturesqueness of his phrase when he was pleased,--
and even more when he was displeased,--his abounding good-humor,
his candor, his unclouded frankness, his unfailing impulse
to share every emotion and impression with his friend;
all this made comradeship a pure felicity, and interfused
with a deeper amenity their long evening talks at cafe doors
in Italian towns.
They had gone almost immediately to Paris, and had spent
their days at the Louvre and their evenings at the theatre.
Roderick was divided in mind as to whether Titian or Mademoiselle
Delaporte was the greater artist. They had come down through
France to Genoa and Milan, had spent a fortnight in Venice
and another in Florence, and had now been a month in Rome.
Roderick had said that he meant to spend three months in simply
looking, absorbing, and reflecting, without putting pencil to paper.
He looked indefatigably, and certainly saw great things--
things greater, doubtless, at times, than the intentions of
the artist. And yet he made few false steps and wasted little
time in theories of what he ought to like and to dislike.
He judged instinctively and passionately, but never vulgarly.
At Venice, for a couple of days, he had half a fit of
melancholy over the pretended discovery that he had missed
his way, and that the only proper vestment of plastic
conceptions was the coloring of Titian and Paul Veronese.
Then one morning the two young men had themselves rowed out
to Torcello, and Roderick lay back for a couple of hours watching
a brown-breasted gondolier making superb muscular movements,
in high relief, against the sky of the Adriatic, and at the end
jerked himself up with a violence that nearly swamped the gondola,
and declared that the only thing worth living for was to make
a colossal bronze and set it aloft in the light of a public square.
In Rome his first care was for the Vatican; he went there again
and again. But the old imperial and papal city altogether
delighted him; only there he really found what he had been looking
for from the first--the complete antipodes of Northampton.
And indeed Rome is the natural home of those spirits with which we
just now claimed fellowship for Roderick--the spirits with a deep
relish for the artificial element in life and the infinite
superpositions of history. It is the immemorial city of convention.
The stagnant Roman air is charged with convention;
it colors the yellow light and deepens the chilly shadows.
And in that still recent day the most impressive convention
in all history was visible to men's eyes, in the Roman streets,
erect in a gilded coach drawn by four black horses.
Roderick's first fortnight was a high aesthetic revel.
He declared that Rome made him feel and understand more things
than he could express: he was sure that life must have there,
for all one's senses, an incomparable fineness; that more
interesting things must happen to one than anywhere else.
And he gave Rowland to understand that he meant to live freely
and largely, and be as interested as occasion demanded.
Rowland saw no reason to regard this as a menace of dissipation,
because, in the first place, there was in all dissipation,
refine it as one might, a grossness which would disqualify
it for Roderick's favor, and because, in the second,
the young sculptor was a man to regard all things in the light
of his art, to hand over his passions to his genius to be
dealt with, and to find that he could live largely enough
without exceeding the circle of wholesome curiosity.
Rowland took immense satisfaction in his companion's deep
impatience to make something of all his impressions.
Some of these indeed found their way into a channel which did
not lead to statues, but it was none the less a safe one.
He wrote frequent long letters to Miss Garland;
when Rowland went with him to post them he thought wistfully
of the fortune of the great loosely-written missives,
which cost Roderick unconscionable sums in postage.
He received punctual answers of a more frugal form,
written in a clear, minute hand, on paper vexatiously thin.
If Rowland was present when they came, he turned away and
thought of other things--or tried to. These were the only
moments when his sympathy halted, and they were brief.
For the rest he let the days go by unprotestingly, and enjoyed
Roderick's serene efflorescence as he would have done a beautiful
summer sunrise. Rome, for the past month, had been delicious.
The annual descent of the Goths had not yet begun, and sunny
leisure seemed to brood over the city.
Roderick had taken out a note-book and was roughly sketching a memento
of the great Juno. Suddenly there was a noise on the gravel,
and the young men, looking up, saw three persons advancing.
One was a woman of middle age, with a rather grand air
and a great many furbelows. She looked very hard at our
friends as she passed, and glanced back over her shoulder,
as if to hasten the step of a young girl who slowly followed her.
She had such an expansive majesty of mien that Rowland supposed
she must have some proprietary right in the villa and was not
just then in a hospitable mood. Beside her walked a little
elderly man, tightly buttoned in a shabby black coat, but with
a flower in his lappet, and a pair of soiled light gloves.
He was a grotesque-looking personage, and might have passed
for a gentleman of the old school, reduced by adversity to playing
cicerone to foreigners of distinction. He had a little black
eye which glittered like a diamond and rolled about like a ball
of quicksilver, and a white moustache, cut short and stiff,
like a worn-out brush. He was smiling with extreme urbanity,
and talking in a low, mellifluous voice to the lady, who evidently
was not listening to him. At a considerable distance behind
this couple strolled a young girl, apparently of about twenty.
She was tall and slender, and dressed with extreme elegance;
she led by a cord a large poodle of the most fantastic aspect.
He was combed and decked like a ram for sacrifice;
his trunk and haunches were of the most transparent pink,
his fleecy head and shoulders as white as jeweler's cotton,
and his tail and ears ornamented with long blue ribbons.
He stepped along stiffly and solemnly beside his mistress,
with an air of conscious elegance. There was something at first
slightly ridiculous in the sight of a young lady gravely appended
to an animal of these incongruous attributes, and Roderick, with his
customary frankness, greeted the spectacle with a confident smile.
The young girl perceived it and turned her face full upon him,
with a gaze intended apparently to enforce greater deference.
It was not deference, however, her face provoked, but startled,
submissive admiration; Roderick's smile fell dead, and he sat
eagerly staring. A pair of extraordinary dark blue eyes, a mass
of dusky hair over a low forehead, a blooming oval of perfect purity,
a flexible lip, just touched with disdain, the step and carriage
of a tired princess--these were the general features of his vision.
The young lady was walking slowly and letting her long dress
rustle over the gravel; the young men had time to see her
distinctly before she averted her face and went her way.
She left a vague, sweet perfume behind her as she passed.
"Immortal powers!" cried Roderick, "what a vision! In the name
of transcendent perfection, who is she?" He sprang up and stood
looking after her until she rounded a turn in the avenue.
"What a movement, what a manner, what a poise of the head!
I wonder if she would sit to me."
"You had better go and ask her," said Rowland, laughing.
"She is certainly most beautiful."
"Beautiful? She 's beauty itself--she 's a revelation.
I don't believe she is living--she 's a phantasm,
a vapor, an illusion!"
"The poodle," said Rowland, "is certainly alive."
"Nay, he too may be a grotesque phantom, like the black dog in Faust."
"I hope at least that the young lady has nothing in common
with Mephistopheles. She looked dangerous."
"If beauty is immoral, as people think at Northampton,"
said Roderick, "she is the incarnation of evil. The mamma and
the queer old gentleman, moreover, are a pledge of her reality.
Who are they all?"
"The Prince and Princess Ludovisi and the principessina," suggested Rowland.
"There are no such people," said Roderick. "Besides, the little
old man is not the papa." Rowland smiled, wondering how he had
ascertained these facts, and the young sculptor went on.
"The old man is a Roman, a hanger-on of the mamma,
a useful personage who now and then gets asked to dinner.
The ladies are foreigners, from some Northern country;
I won't say which."
"Perhaps from the State of Maine," said Rowland.
"No, she 's not an American, I 'll lay a wager on that.
She 's a daughter of this elder world. We shall see her again,
I pray my stars; but if we don't, I shall have done something I
never expected to--I shall have had a glimpse of ideal beauty."
He sat down again and went on with his sketch of the Juno, scrawled away
for ten minutes, and then handed the result in silence to Rowland.
Rowland uttered an exclamation of surprise and applause.
The drawing represented the Juno as to the position of the head,
the brow, and the broad fillet across the hair; but the eyes,
the mouth, the physiognomy were a vivid portrait of the young girl
with the poodle. "I have been wanting a subject," said Roderick:
"there 's one made to my hand! And now for work!"
They saw no more of the young girl, though Roderick looked hopefully,
for some days, into the carriages on the Pincian. She had evidently been
but passing through Rome; Naples or Florence now happily possessed her,
and she was guiding her fleecy companion through the Villa Reale
or the Boboli Gardens with the same superb defiance of irony.
Roderick went to work and spent a month shut up in his studio;
he had an idea, and he was not to rest till he had embodied it.
He had established himself in the basement of a huge, dusky,
dilapidated old house, in that long, tortuous, and preeminently Roman
street which leads from the Corso to the Bridge of St. Angelo.
The black archway which admitted you might have served as the portal
of the Augean stables, but you emerged presently upon a mouldy
little court, of which the fourth side was formed by a narrow terrace,
overhanging the Tiber. Here, along the parapet, were stationed half
a dozen shapeless fragments of sculpture, with a couple of meagre
orange-trees in terra-cotta tubs, and an oleander that never flowered.
The unclean, historic river swept beneath; behind were dusky, reeking walls,
spotted here and there with hanging rags and flower-pots in windows;
opposite, at a distance, were the bare brown banks of the stream,
the huge rotunda of St. Angelo, tipped with its seraphic statue,
the dome of St. Peter's, and the broad-topped pines of the Villa Doria.
The place was crumbling and shabby and melancholy, but the river
was delightful, the rent was a trifle, and everything was picturesque.
Roderick was in the best humor with his quarters from the first,
and was certain that the working mood there would be intenser in an hour
than in twenty years of Northampton. His studio was a huge, empty room
with a vaulted ceiling, covered with vague, dark traces of an old fresco,
which Rowland, when he spent an hour with his friend, used to stare at vainly
for some surviving coherence of floating draperies and clasping arms.
Roderick had lodged himself economically in the same quarter.
He occupied a fifth floor on the Ripetta, but he was only at home to sleep,
for when he was not at work he was either lounging in Rowland's more
luxurious rooms or strolling through streets and churches and gardens.
Rowland had found a convenient corner in a stately old palace
not far from the Fountain of Trevi, and made himself a home
to which books and pictures and prints and odds and ends
of curious furniture gave an air of leisurely permanence.
He had the tastes of a collector; he spent half his afternoons
ransacking the dusty magazines of the curiosity-mongers,
and often made his way, in quest of a prize, into the heart
of impecunious Roman households, which had been prevailed upon
to listen--with closed doors and an impenetrably wary smile--
to proposals for an hereditary "antique." In the evening,
often, under the lamp, amid dropped curtains and the scattered
gleam of firelight upon polished carvings and mellow paintings,
the two friends sat with their heads together, criticising intaglios
and etchings, water-color drawings and illuminated missals.
Roderick's quick appreciation of every form of artistic
beauty reminded his companion of the flexible temperament
of those Italian artists of the sixteenth century who were
indifferently painters and sculptors, sonneteers and engravers.
At times when he saw how the young sculptor's day passed
in a single sustained pulsation, while his own was broken
into a dozen conscious devices for disposing of the hours,
and intermingled with sighs, half suppressed, some of them,
for conscience' sake, over what he failed of in action and missed
in possession--he felt a pang of something akin to envy.
But Rowland had two substantial aids for giving patience
the air of contentment: he was an inquisitive reader and a
passionate rider. He plunged into bulky German octavos on
Italian history, and he spent long afternoons in the saddle,
ranging over the grassy desolation of the Campagna.
As the season went on and the social groups began to
constitute themselves, he found that he knew a great many
people and that he had easy opportunity for knowing others.
He enjoyed a quiet corner of a drawing-room beside an agreeable woman,
and although the machinery of what calls itself society seemed
to him to have many superfluous wheels, he accepted invitations
and made visits punctiliously, from the conviction that the only
way not to be overcome by the ridiculous side of most of
such observances is to take them with exaggerated gravity.
He introduced Roderick right and left, and suffered him to make
his way himself--an enterprise for which Roderick very soon
displayed an all-sufficient capacity. Wherever he went he made,
not exactly what is called a favorable impression, but what,
from a practical point of view, is better--a puzzling one.
He took to evening parties as a duck to water, and before the winter
was half over was the most freely and frequently discussed young
man in the heterogeneous foreign colony. Rowland's theory
of his own duty was to let him run his course and play his cards,
only holding himself ready to point out shoals and pitfalls,
and administer a friendly propulsion through tight places.
Roderick's manners on the precincts of the Pincian were
quite the same as his manners on Cecilia's veranda:
that is, they were no manners at all. But it remained
as true as before that it would have been impossible,
on the whole, to violate ceremony with less of lasting offense.
He interrupted, he contradicted, he spoke to people
he had never seen, and left his social creditors without
the smallest conversational interest on their loans;
he lounged and yawned, he talked loud when he should have
talked low, and low when he should have talked loud.
Many people, in consequence, thought him insufferably conceited,
and declared that he ought to wait till he had something to show
for his powers, before he assumed the airs of a spoiled celebrity.
But to Rowland and to most friendly observers this judgment
was quite beside the mark, and the young man's undiluted
naturalness was its own justification. He was impulsive,
spontaneous, sincere; there were so many people at dinner-tables
and in studios who were not, that it seemed worth while to
allow this rare specimen all possible freedom of action.
If Roderick took the words out of your mouth when you were
just prepared to deliver them with the most effective accent,
he did it with a perfect good conscience and with no pretension
of a better right to being heard, but simply because he was full
to overflowing of his own momentary thought and it sprang from
his lips without asking leave. There were persons who waited
on your periods much more deferentially, who were a hundred
times more capable than Roderick of a reflective impertinence.
Roderick received from various sources, chiefly feminine,
enough finely-adjusted advice to have established him in life
as an embodiment of the proprieties, and he received it,
as he afterwards listened to criticisms on his statues,
with unfaltering candor and good-humor. Here and there,
doubtless, as he went, he took in a reef in his sail;
but he was too adventurous a spirit to be successfully tamed,
and he remained at most points the florid, rather strident
young Virginian whose serene inflexibility had been the despair
of Mr. Striker. All this was what friendly commentators
(still chiefly feminine) alluded to when they spoke of his
delightful freshness, and critics of harsher sensibilities
(of the other sex) when they denounced his damned impertinence.
His appearance enforced these impressions--his handsome face,
his radiant, unaverted eyes, his childish, unmodulated voice.
Afterwards, when those who loved him were in tears, there was
something in all this unspotted comeliness that seemed to lend
a mockery to the causes of their sorrow.
Certainly, among the young men of genius who, for so
many ages, have gone up to Rome to test their powers,
none ever made a fairer beginning than Roderick.
He rode his two horses at once with extraordinary good fortune;
he established the happiest modus vivendi betwixt work and play.
He wrestled all day with a mountain of clay in his studio,
and chattered half the night away in Roman drawing-rooms.
It all seemed part of a kind of divine facility.
He was passionately interested, he was feeling his powers;
now that they had thoroughly kindled in the glowing aesthetic
atmosphere of Rome, the ardent young fellow should be pardoned
for believing that he never was to see the end of them.
He enjoyed immeasurably, after the chronic obstruction of home,
the downright act of production. He kept models in his studio
till they dropped with fatigue; he drew, on other days,
at the Capitol and the Vatican, till his own head swam
with his eagerness, and his limbs stiffened with the cold.
He had promptly set up a life-sized figure which he called
an "Adam," and was pushing it rapidly toward completion.
There were naturally a great many wiseheads who smiled
at his precipitancy, and cited him as one more example of
Yankee crudity, a capital recruit to the great army of those
who wish to dance before they can walk. They were right,
but Roderick was right too, for the success of his statue was not
to have been foreseen; it partook, really, of the miraculous.
He never surpassed it afterwards, and a good judge here and there
has been known to pronounce it the finest piece of sculpture
of our modern era. To Rowland it seemed to justify superbly
his highest hopes of his friend, and he said to himself
that if he had invested his happiness in fostering a genius,
he ought now to be in possession of a boundless complacency.
There was something especially confident and masterly in the
artist's negligence of all such small picturesque accessories
as might serve to label his figure to a vulgar apprehension.
If it represented the father of the human race and the primal
embodiment of human sensation, it did so in virtue
of its look of balanced physical perfection, and deeply,
eagerly sentient vitality. Rowland, in fraternal zeal, traveled up
to Carrara and selected at the quarries the most magnificent
block of marble he could find, and when it came down to Rome,
the two young men had a "celebration." They drove out to Albano,
breakfasted boisterously (in their respective measure) at the inn,
and lounged away the day in the sun on the top of Monte Cavo.
Roderick's head was full of ideas for other works,
which he described with infinite spirit and eloquence,
as vividly as if they were ranged on their pedestals before him.
He had an indefatigable fancy; things he saw in the streets,
in the country, things he heard and read, effects he saw just
missed or half-expressed in the works of others, acted upon his
mind as a kind of challenge, and he was terribly restless until,
in some form or other, he had taken up the glove and set his
lance in rest.
The Adam was put into marble, and all the world came to see it.
Of the criticisms passed upon it this history undertakes to offer no record;
over many of them the two young men had a daily laugh for a month,
and certain of the formulas of the connoisseurs, restrictive or indulgent,
furnished Roderick with a permanent supply of humorous catch-words.
But people enough spoke flattering good-sense to make Roderick feel
as if he were already half famous. The statue passed formally into
Rowland's possession, and was paid for as if an illustrious name had been
chiseled on the pedestal. Poor Roderick owed every franc of the money.
It was not for this, however, but because he was so gloriously in
the mood, that, denying himself all breathing-time, on the same day
he had given the last touch to the Adam, he began to shape the rough
contour of an Eve. This went forward with equal rapidity and success.
Roderick lost his temper, time and again, with his models, who offered
but a gross, degenerate image of his splendid ideal; but his ideal,
as he assured Rowland, became gradually such a fixed, vivid presence,
that he had only to shut his eyes to behold a creature far more to his
purpose than the poor girl who stood posturing at forty sous an hour.
The Eve was finished in a month, and the feat was extraordinary,
as well as the statue, which represented an admirably beautiful woman.
When the spring began to muffle the rugged old city with its
clambering festoons, it seemed to him that he had done a handsome
winter's work and had fairly earned a holiday. He took a liberal one,
and lounged away the lovely Roman May, doing nothing. He looked
very contented; with himself, perhaps, at times, a trifle too obviously.
But who could have said without good reason? He was "flushed
with triumph;" this classic phrase portrayed him, to Rowland's sense.
He would lose himself in long reveries, and emerge from them with a
quickened smile and a heightened color. Rowland grudged him none
of his smiles, and took an extreme satisfaction in his two statues.
He had the Adam and the Eve transported to his own apartment, and one
warm evening in May he gave a little dinner in honor of the artist.
It was small, but Rowland had meant it should be very agreeably composed.
He thought over his friends and chose four. They were all persons
with whom he lived in a certain intimacy.
One of them was an American sculptor of French extraction,
or remotely, perhaps, of Italian, for he rejoiced in the somewhat
fervid name of Gloriani. He was a man of forty, he had been
living for years in Paris and in Rome, and he now drove a very
pretty trade in sculpture of the ornamental and fantastic sort.
In his youth he had had money; but he had spent it recklessly,
much of it scandalously, and at twenty-six had found himself obliged
to make capital of his talent. This was quite inimitable, and fifteen
years of indefatigable exercise had brought it to perfection.
Rowland admitted its power, though it gave him very little pleasure;
what he relished in the man was the extraordinary vivacity
and frankness, not to call it the impudence, of his ideas.
He had a definite, practical scheme of art, and he knew at least
what he meant. In this sense he was solid and complete.
There were so many of the aesthetic fraternity who were floundering
in unknown seas, without a notion of which way their noses were turned,
that Gloriani, conscious and compact, unlimitedly intelligent
and consummately clever, dogmatic only as to his own duties,
and at once gracefully deferential and profoundly indifferent
to those of others, had for Rowland a certain intellectual
refreshment quite independent of the character of his works.
These were considered by most people to belong to a very corrupt,
and by many to a positively indecent school. Others thought them
tremendously knowing, and paid enormous prices for them; and indeed,
to be able to point to one of Gloriani's figures in a shady corner
of your library was tolerable proof that you were not a fool.
Corrupt things they certainly were; in the line of sculpture they
were quite the latest fruit of time. It was the artist's opinion
that there is no essential difference between beauty and ugliness;
that they overlap and intermingle in a quite inextricable manner;
that there is no saying where one begins and the other ends;
that hideousness grimaces at you suddenly from out of the very bosom
of loveliness, and beauty blooms before your eyes in the lap of vileness;
that it is a waste of wit to nurse metaphysical distinctions,
and a sadly meagre entertainment to caress imaginary lines;
that the thing to aim at is the expressive, and the way to reach
it is by ingenuity; that for this purpose everything may serve,
and that a consummate work is a sort of hotch-potch of the pure
and the impure, the graceful and the grotesque. Its prime duty is
to amuse, to puzzle, to fascinate, to savor of a complex imagination.
Gloriani's statues were florid and meretricious; they looked
like magnified goldsmith's work. They were extremely elegant,
but they had no charm for Rowland. He never bought one,
but Gloriani was such an honest fellow, and withal was so deluged
with orders, that this made no difference in their friendship.
The artist might have passed for a Frenchman. He was a great talker,
and a very picturesque one; he was almost bald; he had a small,
bright eye, a broken nose, and a moustache with waxed ends.
When sometimes he received you at his lodging, he introduced
you to a lady with a plain face whom he called Madame Gloriani--
which she was not.
Rowland's second guest was also an artist, but of a very different type.
His friends called him Sam Singleton; he was an American, and he had
been in Rome a couple of years. He painted small landscapes,
chiefly in water-colors: Rowland had seen one of them in a shop window,
had liked it extremely, and, ascertaining his address, had gone
to see him and found him established in a very humble studio near
the Piazza Barberini, where, apparently, fame and fortune had not
yet found him out. Rowland took a fancy to him and bought several
of his pictures; Singleton made few speeches, but was grateful.
Rowland heard afterwards that when he first came to Rome he painted
worthless daubs and gave no promise of talent. Improvement had come,
however, hand in hand with patient industry, and his talent,
though of a slender and delicate order, was now incontestable.
It was as yet but scantily recognized, and he had hard work to live.
Rowland hung his little water-colors on the parlor wall, and found that,
as he lived with them, he grew very fond of them. Singleton was
a diminutive, dwarfish personage; he looked like a precocious child.
He had a high, protuberant forehead, a transparent brown eye,
a perpetual smile, an extraordinary expression of modesty and patience.
He listened much more willingly than he talked, with a little fixed,
grateful grin; he blushed when he spoke, and always offered his ideas
in a sidelong fashion, as if the presumption were against them.
His modesty set them off, and they were eminently to the point.
He was so perfect an example of the little noiseless,
laborious artist whom chance, in the person of a moneyed patron,
has never taken by the hand, that Rowland would have liked to befriend
him by stealth. Singleton had expressed a fervent admiration
for Roderick's productions, but had not yet met the young master.
Roderick was lounging against the chimney-piece when he came in,
and Rowland presently introduced him. The little water-colorist
stood with folded hands, blushing, smiling, and looking up at him
as if Roderick were himself a statue on a pedestal. Singleton began
to murmur something about his pleasure, his admiration; the desire
to make his compliment smoothly gave him a kind of grotesque formalism.
Roderick looked down at him surprised, and suddenly burst into a laugh.
Singleton paused a moment and then, with an intenser smile, went on:
"Well, sir, your statues are beautiful, all the same!"
Rowland's two other guests were ladies, and one of them,
Miss Blanchard, belonged also to the artistic fraternity.
She was an American, she was young, she was pretty,
and she had made her way to Rome alone and unaided.
She lived alone, or with no other duenna than a bushy-browed
old serving-woman, though indeed she had a friendly
neighbor in the person of a certain Madame Grandoni,
who in various social emergencies lent her a protecting wing,
and had come with her to Rowland's dinner. Miss Blanchard had
a little money, but she was not above selling her pictures.
These represented generally a bunch of dew-sprinkled roses,
with the dew-drops very highly finished, or else a wayside shrine,
and a peasant woman, with her back turned, kneeling before it.
She did backs very well, but she was a little weak in faces.
Flowers, however, were her speciality, and though her touch
was a little old-fashioned and finical, she painted them with
remarkable skill. Her pictures were chiefly bought by the English.
Rowland had made her acquaintance early in the winter, and as she
kept a saddle horse and rode a great deal, he had asked permission
to be her cavalier. In this way they had become almost intimate.
Miss Blanchard's name was Augusta; she was slender, pale,
and elegant looking; she had a very pretty head and brilliant
auburn hair, which she braided with classical simplicity.
She talked in a sweet, soft voice, used language at times
a trifle superfine, and made literary allusions. These had
often a patriotic strain, and Rowland had more than once been
irritated by her quotations from Mrs. Sigourney in the cork-woods
of Monte Mario, and from Mr. Willis among the ruins of Veii.
Rowland was of a dozen different minds about her, and was
half surprised, at times, to find himself treating it
as a matter of serious moment whether he liked her or not.
He admired her, and indeed there was something admirable in her
combination of beauty and talent, of isolation and tranquil
self-support. He used sometimes to go into the little,
high-niched, ordinary room which served her as a studio, and find
her working at a panel six inches square, at an open casement,
profiled against the deep blue Roman sky. She received him
with a meek-eyed dignity that made her seem like a painted saint
on a church window, receiving the daylight in all her being.
The breath of reproach passed her by with folded wings.
And yet Rowland wondered why he did not like her better.
If he failed, the reason was not far to seek. There was
another woman whom he liked better, an image in his heart
which refused to yield precedence.
On that evening to which allusion has been made, when Rowland
was left alone between the starlight and the waves with the sudden
knowledge that Mary Garland was to become another man's wife,
he had made, after a while, the simple resolution to forget her.
And every day since, like a famous philosopher who wished
to abbreviate his mourning for a faithful servant, he had said
to himself in substance--"Remember to forget Mary Garland."
Sometimes it seemed as if he were succeeding; then, suddenly,
when he was least expecting it, he would find her name, inaudibly,
on his lips, and seem to see her eyes meeting his eyes. All this
made him uncomfortable, and seemed to portend a possible discord.
Discord was not to his taste; he shrank from imperious passions,
and the idea of finding himself jealous of an unsuspecting
friend was absolutely repulsive. More than ever, then, the path
of duty was to forget Mary Garland, and he cultivated oblivion,
as we may say, in the person of Miss Blanchard.
Her fine temper, he said to himself, was a trifle cold
and conscious, her purity prudish, perhaps, her culture pedantic.
But since he was obliged to give up hopes of Mary Garland,
Providence owed him a compensation, and he had fits of angry sadness
in which it seemed to him that to attest his right to sentimental
satisfaction he would be capable of falling in love with a woman
he absolutely detested, if she were the best that came in his way.
And what was the use, after all, of bothering about a possible
which was only, perhaps, a dream? Even if Mary Garland had been free,
what right had he to assume that he would have pleased her?
The actual was good enough. Miss Blanchard had beautiful hair,
and if she was a trifle old-maidish, there is nothing like matrimony
for curing old-maidishness.
Madame Grandoni, who had formed with the companion of Rowland's
rides an alliance which might have been called defensive on
the part of the former and attractive on that of Miss Blanchard,
was an excessively ugly old lady, highly esteemed in Roman society
for her homely benevolence and her shrewd and humorous good sense.
She had been the widow of a German archaeologist, who had come to Rome in
the early ages as an attache of the Prussian legation on the Capitoline.
Her good sense had been wanting on but a single occasion,
that of her second marriage. This occasion was certainly a
momentous one, but these, by common consent, are not test cases.
A couple of years after her first husband's death, she had accepted
the hand and the name of a Neapolitan music-master, ten years
younger than herself, and with no fortune but his fiddle-bow. The
marriage was most unhappy, and the Maestro Grandoni was suspected
of using the fiddle-bow as an instrument of conjugal correction.
He had finally run off with a prima donna assoluta, who, it was to
be hoped, had given him a taste of the quality implied in her title.
He was believed to be living still, but he had shrunk to a small
black spot in Madame Grandoni's life, and for ten years she had not
mentioned his name. She wore a light flaxen wig, which was never very
artfully adjusted, but this mattered little, as she made no secret of it.
She used to say, "I was not always so ugly as this; as a young
girl I had beautiful golden hair, very much the color of my wig."
She had worn from time immemorial an old blue satin dress,
and a white crape shawl embroidered in colors; her appearance
was ridiculous, but she had an interminable Teutonic pedigree,
and her manners, in every presence, were easy and jovial, as became
a lady whose ancestor had been cup-bearer to Frederick Barbarossa.
Thirty years' observation of Roman society had sharpened her wits
and given her an inexhaustible store of anecdotes, but she had beneath
her crumpled bodice a deep-welling fund of Teutonic sentiment,
which she communicated only to the objects of her particular favor.
Rowland had a great regard for her, and she repaid it by wishing
him to get married. She never saw him without whispering to him
that Augusta Blanchard was just the girl.
It seemed to Rowland a sort of foreshadowing of matrimony to see Miss
Blanchard standing gracefully on his hearth-rug and blooming behind
the central bouquet at his circular dinner-table. The dinner was very
prosperous and Roderick amply filled his position as hero of the feast.
He had always an air of buoyant enjoyment in his work, but on this
occasion he manifested a good deal of harmless pleasure in his glory.
He drank freely and talked bravely; he leaned back in his chair with
his hands in his pockets, and flung open the gates of his eloquence.
Singleton sat gazing and listening open-mouthed, as if Apollo in person
were talking. Gloriani showed a twinkle in his eye and an evident
disposition to draw Roderick out. Rowland was rather regretful,
for he knew that theory was not his friend's strong point, and that it
was never fair to take his measure from his talk.
"As you have begun with Adam and Eve," said Gloriani,
"I suppose you are going straight through the Bible."
He was one of the persons who thought Roderick delightfully fresh.
"I may make a David," said Roderick, "but I shall not try
any more of the Old Testament people. I don't like the Jews;
I don't like pendulous noses. David, the boy David, is rather
an exception; you can think of him and treat him as a young Greek.
Standing forth there on the plain of battle between the contending armies,
rushing forward to let fly his stone, he looks like a beautiful runner
at the Olympic games. After that I shall skip to the New Testament.
I mean to make a Christ."
"You 'll put nothing of the Olympic games into him, I hope," said Gloriani.
"Oh, I shall make him very different from the Christ
of tradition; more--more"--and Roderick paused a moment to think.
This was the first that Rowland had heard of his Christ.
"More rationalistic, I suppose," suggested Miss Blanchard.
"More idealistic!" cried Roderick. "The perfection of form,
you know, to symbolize the perfection of spirit."
"For a companion piece," said Miss Blanchard, "you ought to make a Judas."
"Never! I mean never to make anything ugly. The Greeks never
made anything ugly, and I 'm a Hellenist; I 'm not a Hebraist!
I have been thinking lately of making a Cain, but I should never
dream of making him ugly. He should be a very handsome fellow,
and he should lift up the murderous club with the beautiful
movement of the fighters in the Greek friezes who are chopping
at their enemies."
"There 's no use trying to be a Greek," said Gloriani.
"If Phidias were to come back, he would recommend you to give it up.
I am half Italian and half French, and, as a whole, a Yankee.
What sort of a Greek should I make? I think the Judas is a capital
idea for a statue. Much obliged to you, madame, for the suggestion.
What an insidious little scoundrel one might make of him,
sitting there nursing his money-bag and his treachery!
There can be a great deal of expression in a pendulous nose,
my dear sir, especially when it is cast in green bronze."
"Very likely," said Roderick. "But it is not the sort of expression
I care for. I care only for perfect beauty. There it is, if you
want to know it! That 's as good a profession of faith as another.
In future, so far as my things are not positively beautiful,
you may set them down as failures. For me, it 's either
that or nothing. It 's against the taste of the day, I know;
we have really lost the faculty to understand beauty in the large,
ideal way. We stand like a race with shrunken muscles,
staring helplessly at the weights our forefathers easily lifted.
But I don't hesitate to proclaim it--I mean to lift them again!
I mean to go in for big things; that 's my notion of my art.
I mean to do things that will be simple and vast and infinite.
You 'll see if they won't be infinite! Excuse me if I brag a little;
all those Italian fellows in the Renaissance used to brag.
There was a sensation once common, I am sure, in the human breast--
a kind of religious awe in the presence of a marble image newly
created and expressing the human type in superhuman purity.
When Phidias and Praxiteles had their statues of goddesses
unveiled in the temples of the ;aEgean, don't you suppose there
was a passionate beating of hearts, a thrill of mysterious terror?
I mean to bring it back; I mean to thrill the world again!
I mean to produce a Juno that will make you tremble, a Venus
that will make you swoon!"
"So that when we come and see you," said Madame Grandoni,
"we must be sure and bring our smelling-bottles. And pray
have a few soft sofas conveniently placed."
"Phidias and Praxiteles," Miss Blanchard remarked, "had the advantage
of believing in their goddesses. I insist on believing, for myself,
that the pagan mythology is not a fiction, and that Venus and Juno
and Apollo and Mercury used to come down in a cloud into this very city
of Rome where we sit talking nineteenth century English."
"Nineteenth century nonsense, my dear!" cried Madame Grandoni.
"Mr. Hudson may be a new Phidias, but Venus and Juno--
that 's you and I--arrived to-day in a very dirty cab;
and were cheated by the driver, too."
"But, my dear fellow," objected Gloriani, "you don't mean to say
you are going to make over in cold blood those poor old exploded
Apollos and Hebes."
"It won't matter what you call them," said Roderick.
"They shall be simply divine forms. They shall be Beauty;
they shall be Wisdom; they shall be Power; they shall be Genius;
they shall be Daring. That 's all the Greek divinities were."
"That 's rather abstract, you know," said Miss Blanchard.
"My dear fellow," cried Gloriani, "you 're delightfully young."
"I hope you 'll not grow any older," said Singleton,
with a flush of sympathy across his large white forehead.
"You can do it if you try."
"Then there are all the Forces and Mysteries and Elements of Nature,"
Roderick went on. "I mean to do the Morning; I mean to do the Night!
I mean to do the Ocean and the Mountains; the Moon and the West Wind.
I mean to make a magnificent statue of America!"
"America--the Mountains--the Moon!" said Gloriani.
"You 'll find it rather hard, I 'm afraid, to compress such
subjects into classic forms."
"Oh, there 's a way," cried Roderick, "and I shall think it out.
My figures shall make no contortions, but they shall mean
a tremendous deal."
"I 'm sure there are contortions enough in Michael Angelo,"
said Madame Grandoni. "Perhaps you don't approve of him."
"Oh, Michael Angelo was not me!" said Roderick, with sublimity.
There was a great laugh; but after all, Roderick had done
some fine things.
Rowland had bidden one of the servants bring him a small
portfolio of prints, and had taken out a photograph of Roderick's
little statue of the youth drinking. It pleased him to see
his friend sitting there in radiant ardor, defending idealism
against so knowing an apostle of corruption as Gloriani,
and he wished to help the elder artist to be confuted.
He silently handed him the photograph.
"Bless me!" cried Gloriani, "did he do this?"
"Ages ago," said Roderick.
Gloriani looked at the photograph a long time, with evident admiration.
"It 's deucedly pretty," he said at last. "But, my dear young friend,
you can't keep this up."
"I shall do better," said Roderick.
"You will do worse! You will become weak. You will have to take
to violence, to contortions, to romanticism, in self-defense. This
sort of thing is like a man trying to lift himself up by the seat
of his trousers. He may stand on tiptoe, but he can't do more.
Here you stand on tiptoe, very gracefully, I admit; but you can't fly;
there 's no use trying."
"My 'America' shall answer you!" said Roderick, shaking toward
him a tall glass of champagne and drinking it down.
Singleton had taken the photograph and was poring over it with a little
murmur of delight.
"Was this done in America?" he asked.
"In a square white wooden house at Northampton, Massachusetts,"
"Dear old white wooden houses!" said Miss Blanchard.
"If you could do as well as this there," said Singleton, blushing and smiling,
"one might say that really you had only to lose by coming to Rome."
"Mallet is to blame for that," said Roderick. "But I am willing
to risk the loss."
The photograph had been passed to Madame Grandoni.
"It reminds me," she said, "of the things a young man used
to do whom I knew years ago, when I first came to Rome.
He was a German, a pupil of Overbeck and a votary of spiritual art.
He used to wear a black velvet tunic and a very low shirt collar;
he had a neck like a sickly crane, and let his hair grow
down to his shoulders. His name was Herr Schafgans.
He never painted anything so profane as a man taking a drink,
but his figures were all of the simple and slender and angular
pattern, and nothing if not innocent--like this one of yours.
He would not have agreed with Gloriani any more than you.
He used to come and see me very often, and in those days I thought
his tunic and his long neck infallible symptoms of genius.
His talk was all of gilded aureoles and beatific visions;
he lived on weak wine and biscuits, and wore a lock
of Saint Somebody's hair in a little bag round his neck.
If he was not a Beato Angelico, it was not his own fault.
I hope with all my heart that Mr. Hudson will do the fine things
he talks about, but he must bear in mind the history of dear
Mr. Schafgans as a warning against high-flown pretensions.
One fine day this poor young man fell in love with a Roman model,
though she had never sat to him, I believe, for she was a buxom,
bold-faced, high-colored creature, and he painted none but pale,
sickly women. He offered to marry her, and she looked at him
from head to foot, gave a shrug, and consented. But he was ashamed
to set up his menage in Rome. They went to Naples, and there,
a couple of years afterwards, I saw him. The poor fellow was ruined.
His wife used to beat him, and he had taken to drinking.
He wore a ragged black coat, and he had a blotchy, red face.
Madame had turned washerwoman and used to make him go and fetch
the dirty linen. His talent had gone heaven knows where!
He was getting his living by painting views of Vesuvius
in eruption on the little boxes they sell at Sorrento."
"Moral: don't fall in love with a buxom Roman model," said Roderick.
"I 'm much obliged to you for your story, but I don't mean to fall
in love with any one."
Gloriani had possessed himself of the photograph again, and was
looking at it curiously. "It 's a happy bit of youth," he said.
"But you can't keep it up--you can't keep it up!"
The two sculptors pursued their discussion after dinner,
in the drawing-room. Rowland left them to have it out in a corner,
where Roderick's Eve stood over them in the shaded lamplight,
in vague white beauty, like the guardian angel of the
young idealist. Singleton was listening to Madame Grandoni,
and Rowland took his place on the sofa, near Miss Blanchard.
They had a good deal of familiar, desultory talk.
Every now and then Madame Grandoni looked round at them.
Miss Blanchard at last asked Rowland certain questions about Roderick:
who he was, where he came from, whether it was true,
as she had heard, that Rowland had discovered him and brought
him out at his own expense. Rowland answered her questions;
to the last he gave a vague affirmative. Finally, after a pause,
looking at him, "You 're very generous," Miss Blanchard said.
The declaration was made with a certain richness of tone,
but it brought to Rowland's sense neither delight nor confusion.
He had heard the words before; he suddenly remembered the grave
sincerity with which Miss Garland had uttered them as he
strolled with her in the woods the day of Roderick's picnic.
They had pleased him then; now he asked Miss Blanchard whether
she would have some tea.
When the two ladies withdrew, he attended them to their carriage.
Coming back to the drawing-room, he paused outside the open door;
he was struck by the group formed by the three men. They were standing
before Roderick's statue of Eve, and the young sculptor had lifted up
the lamp and was showing different parts of it to his companions.
He was talking ardently, and the lamplight covered his head and face.
Rowland stood looking on, for the group struck him with its
picturesque symbolism. Roderick, bearing the lamp and glowing
in its radiant circle, seemed the beautiful image of a genius which
combined sincerity with power. Gloriani, with his head on one side,
pulling his long moustache and looking keenly from half-closed
eyes at the lighted marble, represented art with a worldly motive,
skill unleavened by faith, the mere base maximum of cleverness.
Poor little Singleton, on the other side, with his hands behind him,
his head thrown back, and his eyes following devoutly the course of
Roderick's elucidation, might pass for an embodiment of aspiring candor,
with feeble wings to rise on. In all this, Roderick's was certainly
the beau role.
Gloriani turned to Rowland as he came up, and pointed back
with his thumb to the statue, with a smile half sardonic,
half good-natured. "A pretty thing--a devilish pretty thing,"
he said. "It 's as fresh as the foam in the milk-pail. He
can do it once, he can do it twice, he can do it at a stretch
half a dozen times. But--but"
He was returning to his former refrain, but Rowland intercepted him.
"Oh, he will keep it up," he said, smiling, "I will answer for him."
Gloriani was not encouraging, but Roderick had listened smiling.
He was floating unperturbed on the tide of his deep self-confidence. Now,
suddenly, however, he turned with a flash of irritation in his eye,
and demanded in a ringing voice, "In a word, then, you prophesy that I
am to fail?"
Gloriani answered imperturbably, patting him kindly on the shoulder.
"My dear fellow, passion burns out, inspiration runs to seed.
Some fine day every artist finds himself sitting face to face
with his lump of clay, with his empty canvas, with his sheet
of blank paper, waiting in vain for the revelation to be made,
for the Muse to descend. He must learn to do without the Muse!
When the fickle jade forgets the way to your studio, don't waste
any time in tearing your hair and meditating on suicide.
Come round and see me, and I will show you how to console yourself."
"If I break down," said Roderick, passionately, "I shall stay down.
If the Muse deserts me, she shall at least have her infidelity
on her conscience."
"You have no business," Rowland said to Gloriani, "to talk lightly
of the Muse in this company. Mr. Singleton, too, has received
pledges from her which place her constancy beyond suspicion."
And he pointed out on the wall, near by, two small landscapes
by the modest water-colorist.
The sculptor examined them with deference, and Singleton
himself began to laugh nervously; he was trembling
with hope that the great Gloriani would be pleased.
"Yes, these are fresh too," Gloriani said; "extraordinarily fresh!
How old are you?"
"Twenty-six, sir," said Singleton.
"For twenty-six they are famously fresh. They must have taken
you a long time; you work slowly."
"Yes, unfortunately, I work very slowly. One of them took me six weeks,
the other two months."
"Upon my word! The Muse pays you long visits." And Gloriani turned
and looked, from head to foot, at so unlikely an object of her favors.
Singleton smiled and began to wipe his forehead very hard.
"Oh, you!" said the sculptor; "you 'll keep it up!"
A week after his dinner-party, Rowland went into Roderick's
studio and found him sitting before an unfinished piece of work,
with a hanging head and a heavy eye. He could have fancied
that the fatal hour foretold by Gloriani had struck.
Roderick rose with a sombre yawn and flung down his tools.
"It 's no use," he said, "I give it up!"
"What is it?"
"I have struck a shallow! I have been sailing bravely, but for the last day
or two my keel has been crunching the bottom."
"A difficult place?" Rowland asked, with a sympathetic inflection,
looking vaguely at the roughly modeled figure.
"Oh, it 's not the poor clay!" Roderick answered.
"The difficult place is here!" And he struck a blow on his heart.
"I don't know what 's the matter with me. Nothing comes;
all of a sudden I hate things. My old things look ugly;
everything looks stupid."
Rowland was perplexed. He was in the situation of a man
who has been riding a blood horse at an even, elastic gallop,
and of a sudden feels him stumble and balk. As yet,
he reflected, he had seen nothing but the sunshine of genius;
he had forgotten that it has its storms. Of course it had!
And he felt a flood of comradeship rise in his heart which
would float them both safely through the worst weather.
"Why, you 're tired!" he said. "Of course you 're tired.
You have a right to be!"
"Do you think I have a right to be?" Roderick asked, looking at him.
"Unquestionably, after all you have done."
"Well, then, right or wrong, I am tired. I certainly have done
a fair winter's work. I want a change."
Rowland declared that it was certainly high time they
should be leaving Rome. They would go north and travel.
They would go to Switzerland, to Germany, to Holland, to England.
Roderick assented, his eye brightened, and Rowland talked
of a dozen things they might do. Roderick walked up and down;
he seemed to have something to say which he hesitated to bring out.
He hesitated so rarely that Rowland wondered, and at last
asked him what was on his mind. Roderick stopped before him,
frowning a little.
"I have such unbounded faith in your good-will," he said,
"that I believe nothing I can say would offend you."
"Try it," said Rowland.
"Well, then, I think my journey will do me more good if I take it alone.
I need n't say I prefer your society to that of any man living.
For the last six months it has been everything to me.
But I have a perpetual feeling that you are expecting something of me,
that you are measuring my doings by a terrifically high standard.
You are watching me; I don't want to be watched. I want to go my own way;
to work when I choose and to loaf when I choose. It is not that I
don't know what I owe you; it is not that we are not friends.
It is simply that I want a taste of absolutely unrestricted freedom.
Therefore, I say, let us separate."
Rowland shook him by the hand. "Willingly. Do as you desire,
I shall miss you, and I venture to believe you 'll pass
some lonely hours. But I have only one request to make:
that if you get into trouble of any kind whatever, you will
immediately let me know."
They began their journey, however, together, and crossed the Alps side
by side, muffled in one rug, on the top of the St. Gothard coach.
Rowland was going to England to pay some promised visits; his companion
had no plan save to ramble through Switzerland and Germany as fancy
guided him. He had money, now, that would outlast the summer;
when it was spent he would come back to Rome and make another statue.
At a little mountain village by the way, Roderick declared that he would stop;
he would scramble about a little in the high places and doze in the shade
of the pine forests. The coach was changing horses; the two young men
walked along the village street, picking their way between dunghills,
breathing the light, cool air, and listening to the plash of the fountain
and the tinkle of cattle-bells. The coach overtook them, and then Rowland,
as he prepared to mount, felt an almost overmastering reluctance.
"Say the word," he exclaimed, "and I will stop too."
Roderick frowned. "Ah, you don't trust me; you don't think I 'm able
to take care of myself. That proves that I was right in feeling
as if I were watched!"
"Watched, my dear fellow!" said Rowland. "I hope you may never have anything
worse to complain of than being watched in the spirit in which I watch you.
But I will spare you even that. Good-by!" Standing in his place, as the coach
rolled away, he looked back at his friend lingering by the roadside.
A great snow-mountain, behind Roderick, was beginning to turn pink
in the sunset. The young man waved his hat, still looking grave.
Rowland settled himself in his place, reflecting after all that this was
a salubrious beginning of independence. He was among forests and glaciers,
leaning on the pure bosom of nature. And then--and then--was it not in itself
a guarantee against folly to be engaged to Mary Garland?
CHAPTER IV. Experience
Rowland passed the summer in England, staying with several
old friends and two or three new ones. On his arrival,
he felt it on his conscience to write to Mrs. Hudson and
inform her that her son had relieved him of his tutelage.
He felt that she considered him an incorruptible Mentor,
following Roderick like a shadow, and he wished to let her know
the truth. But he made the truth very comfortable, and gave
a succinct statement of the young man's brilliant beginnings.
He owed it to himself, he said, to remind her that he had
not judged lightly, and that Roderick's present achievements
were more profitable than his inglorious drudgery at Messrs.
Striker & Spooner's. He was now taking a well-earned
holiday and proposing to see a little of the world.
He would work none the worse for this; every artist
needed to knock about and look at things for himself.
They had parted company for a couple of months, for Roderick was
now a great man and beyond the need of going about with a keeper.
But they were to meet again in Rome in the autumn,
and then he should be able to send her more good news.
Meanwhile, he was very happy in what Roderick had already done--
especially happy in the happiness it must have brought to her.
He ventured to ask to be kindly commended to Miss Garland.
His letter was promptly answered--to his surprise in Miss Garland's
own hand. The same mail brought also an epistle from Cecilia.
The latter was voluminous, and we must content ourselves with
giving an extract.
"Your letter was filled with an echo of that brilliant
Roman world, which made me almost ill with envy. For a week
after I got it I thought Northampton really unpardonably tame.
But I am drifting back again to my old deeps of resignation,
and I rush to the window, when any one passes, with all my old
gratitude for small favors. So Roderick Hudson is already
a great man, and you turn out to be a great prophet?
My compliments to both of you; I never heard of anything
working so smoothly. And he takes it all very quietly,
and does n't lose his balance nor let it turn his head?
You judged him, then, in a day better than I had done in six months,
for I really did not expect that he would settle down into such
a jog-trot of prosperity. I believed he would do fine things,
but I was sure he would intersperse them with a good
many follies, and that his beautiful statues would spring up
out of the midst of a straggling plantation of wild oats.
But from what you tell me,
Mr. Striker may now go hang himself..... There is one thing,
however, to say as a friend, in the way of warning.
That candid soul can keep a secret, and he may have private
designs on your equanimity which you don't begin to suspect.
What do you think of his being engaged to Miss Garland?
The two ladies had given no hint of it all winter, but a fortnight ago,
when those big photographs of his statues arrived, they first
pinned them up on the wall, and then trotted out into the town,
made a dozen calls, and announced the news. Mrs. Hudson did,
at least; Miss Garland, I suppose, sat at home writing letters.
To me, I confess, the thing was a perfect surprise.
I had not a suspicion that all the while he was coming so regularly
to make himself agreeable on my veranda, he was quietly preferring
his cousin to any one else. Not, indeed, that he was ever at
particular pains to make himself agreeable! I suppose he has
picked up a few graces in Rome. But he must not acquire too many:
if he is too polite when he comes back, Miss Garland will count
him as one of the lost. She will be a very good wife for a man
of genius, and such a one as they are often shrewd enough to take.
She 'll darn his stockings and keep his accounts, and sit at home
and trim the lamp and keep up the fire while he studies the Beautiful
in pretty neighbors at dinner-parties. The two ladies are evidently
very happy, and, to do them justice, very humbly grateful to you.
Mrs. Hudson never speaks of you without tears in her eyes, and I am
sure she considers you a specially patented agent of Providence.
Verily, it 's a good thing for a woman to be in love:
Miss Garland has grown almost pretty. I met her the other night
at a tea-party; she had a white rose in her hair, and sang
a sentimental ballad in a fine contralto voice."
Miss Garland's letter was so much shorter that we may give it entire:--
My dear Sir,--Mrs. Hudson, as I suppose you know, has been
for some time unable to use her eyes. She requests me,
therefore, to answer your favor of the 22d of June.
She thanks you extremely for writing, and wishes me to say that she
considers herself in every way under great obligations to you.
Your account of her son's progress and the high estimation
in which he is held has made her very happy, and she earnestly
prays that all may continue well with him. He sent us,
a short time ago, several large photographs of his two statues,
taken from different points of view. We know little about
such things, but they seem to us wonderfully beautiful.
We sent them to Boston to be handsomely framed, and the man,
on returning them, wrote us that he had exhibited them for a week
in his store, and that they had attracted great attention.
The frames are magnificent, and the pictures now hang in a row
on the parlor wall. Our only quarrel with them is that they make
the old papering and the engravings look dreadfully shabby.
Mr. Striker stood and looked at them the other day full five minutes,
and said, at last, that if Roderick's head was running on such
things it was no wonder he could not learn to draw up a deed.
We lead here so quiet and monotonous a life that I am
afraid I can tell you nothing that will interest you.
Mrs. Hudson requests me to say that the little more or less
that may happen to us is of small account, as we live
in our thoughts and our thoughts are fixed on her dear son.
She thanks Heaven he has so good a friend. Mrs. Hudson says
that this is too short a letter, but I can say nothing more.
Yours most respectfully,
It is a question whether the reader will know why, but this
letter gave Rowland extraordinary pleasure. He liked its very
brevity and meagreness, and there seemed to him an exquisite
modesty in its saying nothing from the young girl herself.
He delighted in the formal address and conclusion;
they pleased him as he had been pleased by an angular gesture
in some expressive girlish figure in an early painting.
The letter renewed that impression of strong feeling combined
with an almost rigid simplicity, which Roderick's betrothed had
personally given him. And its homely stiffness seemed a vivid
reflection of a life concentrated, as the young girl had borrowed
warrant from her companion to say, in a single devoted idea.
The monotonous days of the two women seemed to Rowland's fancy
to follow each other like the tick-tick of a great time-piece,
marking off the hours which separated them from the supreme
felicity of clasping the far-away son and lover to lips sealed
with the excess of joy. He hoped that Roderick, now that
he had shaken off the oppression of his own importunate faith,
was not losing a tolerant temper for the silent prayers
of the two women at Northampton.
He was left to vain conjectures, however, as to Roderick's actual
moods and occupations. He knew he was no letter-writer, and that,
in the young sculptor's own phrase, he had at any time rather
build a monument than write a note. But when a month had passed
without news of him, he began to be half anxious and half angry,
and wrote him three lines, in the care of a Continental banker,
begging him at least to give some sign of whether he was alive or dead.
A week afterwards came an answer--brief, and dated Baden-Baden. "I
know I have been a great brute," Roderick wrote, "not to have sent
you a word before; but really I don't know what has got into me.
I have lately learned terribly well how to be idle. I am afraid
to think how long it is since I wrote to my mother or to Mary.
Heaven help them--poor, patient, trustful creatures!
I don't know how to tell you what I am doing. It seems all amusing
enough while I do it, but it would make a poor show in a narrative
intended for your formidable eyes. I found Baxter in Switzerland,
or rather he found me, and he grabbed me by the arm and brought me here.
I was walking twenty miles a day in the Alps, drinking milk
in lonely chalets, sleeping as you sleep, and thinking it
was all very good fun; but Baxter told me it would never do,
that the Alps were 'd----d rot,' that Baden-Baden was the place,
and that if I knew what was good for me I would come along with him.
It is a wonderful place, certainly, though, thank the Lord,
Baxter departed last week, blaspheming horribly at trente et quarante.
But you know all about it and what one does--what one is liable to do.
I have succumbed, in a measure, to the liabilities, and I wish
I had some one here to give me a thundering good blowing up.
Not you, dear friend; you would draw it too mild; you have too
much of the milk of human kindness. I have fits of horrible
homesickness for my studio, and I shall be devoutly grateful
when the summer is over and I can go back and swing a chisel.
I feel as if nothing but the chisel would satisfy me;
as if I could rush in a rage at a block of unshaped marble.
There are a lot of the Roman people here, English and American;
I live in the midst of them and talk nonsense from morning till night.
There is also some one else; and to her I don't talk sense, nor,
thank heaven, mean what I say. I confess, I need a month's work
to recover my self-respect."
These lines brought Rowland no small perturbation;
the more, that what they seemed to point to surprised him.
During the nine months of their companionship Roderick had shown
so little taste for dissipation that Rowland had come to think
of it as a canceled danger, and it greatly perplexed him to learn
that his friend had apparently proved so pliant to opportunity.
But Roderick's allusions were ambiguous, and it was possible they
might simply mean that he was out of patience with a frivolous
way of life and fretting wholesomely over his absent work.
It was a very good thing, certainly, that idleness should prove,
on experiment, to sit heavily on his conscience. Nevertheless, the letter
needed, to Rowland's mind, a key: the key arrived a week later.
"In common charity," Roderick wrote, "lend me a hundred pounds!
I have gambled away my last franc--I have made a mountain of debts.
Send me the money first; lecture me afterwards!" Rowland sent
the money by return of mail; then he proceeded, not to lecture,
but to think. He hung his head; he was acutely disappointed.
He had no right to be, he assured himself; but so it was.
Roderick was young, impulsive, unpracticed in stoicism; it was a
hundred to one that he was to pay the usual vulgar tribute to folly.
But his friend had regarded it as securely gained to his own
belief in virtue that he was not as other foolish youths are,
and that he would have been capable of looking at folly in the face
and passing on his way. Rowland for a while felt a sore sense of wrath.
What right had a man who was engaged to that fine girl in Northampton
to behave as if his consciousness were a common blank, to be overlaid
with coarse sensations? Yes, distinctly, he was disappointed.
He had accompanied his missive with an urgent recommendation to leave
Baden-Baden immediately, and an offer to meet Roderick at any point
he would name. The answer came promptly; it ran as follows:
"Send me another fifty pounds! I have been back to the tables.
I will leave as soon as the money comes, and meet you at Geneva.
There I will tell you everything."
There is an ancient terrace at Geneva, planted with trees and studded
with benches, overlooked by gravely aristocratic old dwellings
and overlooking the distant Alps. A great many generations have made
it a lounging-place, a great many friends and lovers strolled there,
a great many confidential talks and momentous interviews gone forward.
Here, one morning, sitting on one of the battered green benches,
Roderick, as he had promised, told his friend everything.
He had arrived late the night before; he looked tired, and yet flushed
and excited. He made no professions of penitence, but he practiced
an unmitigated frankness, and his self-reprobation might be taken
for granted. He implied in every phrase that he had done with it all,
and that he was counting the hours till he could get back to work.
We shall not rehearse his confession in detail; its main outline
will be sufficient. He had fallen in with some very idle people,
and had discovered that a little example and a little practice were capable
of producing on his own part a considerable relish for their diversions.
What could he do? He never read, and he had no studio; in one way
or another he had to pass the time. He passed it in dangling about
several very pretty women in wonderful Paris toilets, and reflected
that it was always something gained for a sculptor to sit under a tree,
looking at his leisure into a charming face and saying things that made
it smile and play its muscles and part its lips and show its teeth.
Attached to these ladies were certain gentlemen who walked about in clouds
of perfume, rose at midday, and supped at midnight. Roderick had
found himself in the mood for thinking them very amusing fellows.
He was surprised at his own taste, but he let it take its course.
It led him to the discovery that to live with ladies who expect you
to present them with expensive bouquets, to ride with them in the Black
Forest on well-looking horses, to come into their opera-boxes on nights
when Patti sang and prices were consequent, to propose little light
suppers at the Conversation House after the opera or drives by moonlight
to the Castle, to be always arrayed and anointed, trinketed and gloved,--
that to move in such society, we say, though it might be a privilege,
was a privilege with a penalty attached. But the tables made such
things easy; half the Baden world lived by the tables. Roderick tried
them and found that at first they smoothed his path delightfully.
This simplification of matters, however, was only momentary,
for he soon perceived that to seem to have money, and to have it
in fact, exposed a good-looking young man to peculiar liabilities.
At this point of his friend's narrative, Rowland was reminded of
Madame de Cruchecassee in The Newcomes, and though he had listened
in tranquil silence to the rest of it, he found it hard not to say
that all this had been, under the circumstances, a very bad business.
Roderick admitted it with bitterness, and then told how much--
measured simply financially--it had cost him. His luck had changed;
the tables had ceased to back him, and he had found himself up
to his knees in debt. Every penny had gone of the solid sum which
had seemed a large equivalent of those shining statues in Rome.
He had been an ass, but it was not irreparable; he could make another
statue in a couple of months.
Rowland frowned. "For heaven's sake," he said, "don't play such
dangerous games with your facility. If you have got facility,
revere it, respect it, adore it, treasure it--don't speculate on it."
And he wondered what his companion, up to his knees in debt, would have done
if there had been no good-natured Rowland Mallet to lend a helping hand.
But he did not formulate his curiosity audibly, and the contingency
seemed not to have presented itself to Roderick's imagination.
The young sculptor reverted to his late adventures again in the evening,
and this time talked of them more objectively, as the phrase is;
more as if they had been the adventures of another person.
He related half a dozen droll things that had happened to him,
and, as if his responsibility had been disengaged by all this
free discussion, he laughed extravagantly at the memory of them.
Rowland sat perfectly grave, on principle. Then Roderick began
to talk of half a dozen statues that he had in his head, and set forth
his design, with his usual vividness. Suddenly, as it was relevant,
he declared that his Baden doings had not been altogether fruitless,
for that the lady who had reminded Rowland of Madame de Cruchecassee
was tremendously statuesque. Rowland at last said that it
all might pass if he felt that he was really the wiser for it.
"By the wiser," he added, "I mean the stronger in purpose, in will."
"Oh, don't talk about will!" Roderick answered, throwing back his head
and looking at the stars. This conversation also took place in the open air,
on the little island in the shooting Rhone where Jean-Jacques has
a monument. "The will, I believe, is the mystery of mysteries.
Who can answer for his will? who can say beforehand that it 's strong?
There are all kinds of indefinable currents moving to and fro between
one's will and one's inclinations. People talk as if the two things
were essentially distinct; on different sides of one's organism,
like the heart and the liver. Mine, I know, are much nearer together.
It all depends upon circumstances. I believe there is a certain group
of circumstances possible for every man, in which his will is destined
to snap like a dry twig."
"My dear boy," said Rowland, "don't talk about the will being 'destined.'
The will is destiny itself. That 's the way to look at it."
"Look at it, my dear Rowland," Roderick answered, "as you
find most comfortable. One conviction I have gathered from
my summer's experience," he went on--"it 's as well to look
it frankly in the face--is that I possess an almost unlimited
susceptibility to the influence of a beautiful woman."
Rowland stared, then strolled away, softly whistling to himself.
He was unwilling to admit even to himself that this speech
had really the sinister meaning it seemed to have.
In a few days the two young men made their way back to Italy,
and lingered a while in Florence before going on to Rome.
In Florence Roderick seemed to have won back his old innocence
and his preference for the pleasures of study over any others.
Rowland began to think of the Baden episode as a bad dream,
or at the worst as a mere sporadic piece of disorder,
without roots in his companion's character.
They passed a fortnight looking at pictures and exploring
for out the way bits of fresco and carving, and Roderick
recovered all his earlier fervor of appreciation and comment.
In Rome he went eagerly to work again, and finished in a month
two or three small things he had left standing on his departure.
He talked the most joyous nonsense about finding himself back
in his old quarters. On the first Sunday afternoon following
their return, on their going together to Saint Peter's, he delivered
himself of a lyrical greeting to the great church and to the city
in general, in a tone of voice so irrepressibly elevated
that it rang through the nave in rather a scandalous fashion,
and almost arrested a procession of canons who were marching
across to the choir. He began to model a new statue--
a female figure, of which he had said nothing to Rowland.
It represented a woman, leaning lazily back in her chair,
with her head drooping as if she were listening, a vague smile
on her lips, and a pair of remarkably beautiful arms folded
in her lap. With rather less softness of contour, it would
have resembled the noble statue of Agrippina in the Capitol.
Rowland looked at it and was not sure he liked it.
"Who is it? what does it mean?" he asked.
"Anything you please!" said Roderick, with a certain petulance.
"I call it A Reminiscence."
Rowland then remembered that one of the Baden ladies had been
"statuesque," and asked no more questions. This, after all,
was a way of profiting by experience. A few days later he took
his first ride of the season on the Campagna, and as, on his
homeward way, he was passing across the long shadow of a ruined tower,
he perceived a small figure at a short distance, bent over a
sketch-book. As he drew near, he recognized his friend Singleton.
The honest little painter's face was scorched to flame-color
by the light of southern suns, and borrowed an even deeper crimson
from his gleeful greeting of his most appreciative patron.
He was making a careful and charming little sketch.
On Rowland's asking him how he had spent his summer, he gave
an account of his wanderings which made poor Mallet sigh with a
sense of more contrasts than one. He had not been out of Italy,
but he had been delving deep into the picturesque heart of
the lovely land, and gathering a wonderful store of subjects.
He had rambled about among the unvisited villages of the Apennines,
pencil in hand and knapsack on back, sleeping on straw and eating black
bread and beans, but feasting on local color, rioting, as it were,
on chiaroscuro, and laying up a treasure of pictorial observations.
He took a devout satisfaction in his hard-earned wisdom and his
happy frugality. Rowland went the next day, by appointment,
to look at his sketches, and spent a whole morning turning them over.
Singleton talked more than he had ever done before, explained them all,
and told some quaintly humorous anecdote about the production of each.
"Dear me, how I have chattered!" he said at last. "I am afraid
you had rather have looked at the things in peace and quiet.
I did n't know I could talk so much. But somehow, I feel very happy;
I feel as if I had improved."
"That you have," said Rowland. "I doubt whether an artist
ever passed a more profitable three months. You must feel
much more sure of yourself."
Singleton looked for a long time with great intentness at a knot in
the floor. "Yes," he said at last, in a fluttered tone, "I feel much
more sure of myself. I have got more facility!" And he lowered his voice
as if he were communicating a secret which it took some courage to impart.
"I hardly like to say it, for fear I should after all be mistaken.
But since it strikes you, perhaps it 's true. It 's a great happiness;
I would not exchange it for a great deal of money."
"Yes, I suppose it 's a great happiness," said Rowland.
"I shall really think of you as living here in a state of
scandalous bliss. I don't believe it 's good for an artist
to be in such brutally high spirits."
Singleton stared for a moment, as if he thought Rowland was in earnest;
then suddenly fathoming the kindly jest, he walked about the room,
scratching his head and laughing intensely to himself. "And Mr. Hudson?"
he said, as Rowland was going; "I hope he is well and happy."
"He is very well," said Rowland. "He is back at work again."
"Ah, there 's a man," cried Singleton, "who has taken his start once for all,
and does n't need to stop and ask himself in fear and trembling every month
or two whether he is advancing or not. When he stops, it 's to rest!
And where did he spend his summer?"
"The greater part of it at Baden-Baden."
"Ah, that 's in the Black Forest," cried Singleton, with profound simplicity.
"They say you can make capital studies of trees there."
"No doubt," said Rowland, with a smile, laying an almost
paternal hand on the little painter's yellow head.
"Unfortunately trees are not Roderick's line. Nevertheless, he tells
me that at Baden he made some studies. Come when you can,
by the way," he added after a moment, "to his studio,
and tell me what you think of something he has lately begun."
Singleton declared that he would come delightedly, and Rowland
left him to his work.
He met a number of his last winter's friends again, and called upon
Madame Grandoni, upon Miss Blanchard, and upon Gloriani, shortly after
their return. The ladies gave an excellent account of themselves.
Madame Grandoni had been taking sea-baths at Rimini, and Miss Blanchard
painting wild flowers in the Tyrol. Her complexion was somewhat browned,
which was very becoming, and her flowers were uncommonly pretty.
Gloriani had been in Paris and had come away in high good-humor,
finding no one there, in the artist-world, cleverer than himself.
He came in a few days to Roderick's studio, one afternoon when Rowland
was present. He examined the new statue with great deference, said it was
very promising, and abstained, considerately, from irritating prophecies.
But Rowland fancied he observed certain signs of inward jubilation
on the clever sculptor's part, and walked away with him to learn
his private opinion.
"Certainly; I liked it as well as I said," Gloriani declared in answer
to Rowland's anxious query; "or rather I liked it a great deal better.
I did n't say how much, for fear of making your friend angry.
But one can leave him alone now, for he 's coming round. I told you he could
n't keep up the transcendental style, and he has already broken down.
Don't you see it yourself, man?"
"I don't particularly like this new statue," said Rowland.
"That 's because you 're a purist. It 's deuced clever, it 's deuced knowing,
it 's deuced pretty, but it is n't the topping high art of three months ago.
He has taken his turn sooner than I supposed. What has happened to him?
Has he been disappointed in love? But that 's none of my business.
I congratulate him on having become a practical man."
Roderick, however, was less to be congratulated than Gloriani had taken
it into his head to believe. He was discontented with his work,
he applied himself to it by fits and starts, he declared that he did
n't know what was coming over him; he was turning into a man of moods.
"Is this of necessity what a fellow must come to"--he asked of Rowland,
with a sort of peremptory flash in his eye, which seemed to imply
that his companion had undertaken to insure him against perplexities
and was not fulfilling his contract--"this damnable uncertainty
when he goes to bed at night as to whether he is going to wake up
in a working humor or in a swearing humor? Have we only a season,
over before we know it, in which we can call our faculties our own?
Six months ago I could stand up to my work like a man, day after day,
and never dream of asking myself whether I felt like it.
But now, some mornings, it 's the very devil to get going.
My statue looks so bad when I come into the studio that I have twenty
minds to smash it on the spot, and I lose three or four hours
in sitting there, moping and getting used to it."
Rowland said that he supposed that this sort of thing was the lot of
every artist and that the only remedy was plenty of courage and faith.
And he reminded him of Gloriani's having forewarned him against these
sterile moods the year before.
"Gloriani 's an ass!" said Roderick, almost fiercely.
He hired a horse and began to ride with Rowland on the Campagna.
This delicious amusement restored him in a measure to cheerfulness,
but seemed to Rowland on the whole not to stimulate his industry.
Their rides were always very long, and Roderick insisted on making
them longer by dismounting in picturesque spots and stretching
himself in the sun among a heap of overtangled stones.
He let the scorching Roman luminary beat down upon him
with an equanimity which Rowland found it hard to emulate.
But in this situation Roderick talked so much amusing nonsense that,
for the sake of his company, Rowland consented to be uncomfortable,
and often forgot that, though in these diversions the days
passed quickly, they brought forth neither high art nor low.
And yet it was perhaps by their help, after all, that Roderick
secured several mornings of ardent work on his new figure,
and brought it to rapid completion. One afternoon, when it
was finished, Rowland went to look at it, and Roderick asked
him for his opinion.
"What do you think yourself?" Rowland demanded, not from pusillanimity,
but from real uncertainty.
"I think it is curiously bad," Roderick answered.
"It was bad from the first; it has fundamental vices.
I have shuffled them in a measure out of sight, but I have not
corrected them. I can't--I can't--I can't!" he cried passionately.
"They stare me in the face--they are all I see!"