Part 5 out of 8
When I think of a little talk we had about the 'salubrity of genius,'
I feel my ears tingle. If this is salubrity, give me raging disease!
I 'm pestered to death; I go about with a chronic heartache;
there are moments when I could shed salt tears. There 's
a pretty portrait of the most placid of men! I wish I could
make you understand; or rather, I wish you could make me!
I don't understand a jot; it 's a hideous, mocking mystery;
I give it up! I don't in the least give it up, you know;
I 'm incapable of giving it up. I sit holding my head by the hour,
racking my brain, wondering what under heaven is to be done.
You told me at Northampton that I took the thing too easily;
you would tell me now, perhaps, that I take it too hard.
I do, altogether; but it can't be helped. Without flattering myself,
I may say I 'm sympathetic. Many another man before this
would have cast his perplexities to the winds and declared
that Mr. Hudson must lie on his bed as he had made it.
Some men, perhaps, would even say that I am making a mighty
ado about nothing; that I have only to give him rope,
and he will tire himself out. But he tugs at his rope
altogether too hard for me to hold it comfortably.
I certainly never pretended the thing was anything else than
an experiment; I promised nothing, I answered for nothing;
I only said the case was hopeful, and that it would be a shame
to neglect it. I have done my best, and if the machine is
running down I have a right to stand aside and let it scuttle.
Amen, amen! No, I can write that, but I can't feel it.
I can't be just; I can only be generous. I love the poor
fellow and I can't give him up. As for understanding him,
that 's another matter; nowadays I don't believe even you would.
One's wits are sadly pestered over here, I assure you,
and I 'm in the way of seeing more than one puzzling specimen
of human nature. Roderick and Miss Light, between them!....
Have n't I already told you about Miss Light? Last winter
everything was perfection. Roderick struck out bravely,
did really great things, and proved himself, as I supposed,
thoroughly solid. He was strong, he was first-rate;
I felt perfectly secure and sang private paeans of joy.
We had passed at a bound into the open sea, and left danger behind.
But in the summer I began to be puzzled, though I succeeded
in not being alarmed. When we came back to Rome, however, I saw
that the tide had turned and that we were close upon the rocks.
It is, in fact, another case of Ulysses alongside of the Sirens;
only Roderick refuses to be tied to the mast. He is the most
extraordinary being, the strangest mixture of qualities.
I don't understand so much force going with so much weakness--
such a brilliant gift being subject to such lapses.
The poor fellow is incomplete, and it is really not his
own fault; Nature has given him the faculty out of hand
and bidden him be hanged with it. I never knew a man harder
to advise or assist, if he is not in the mood for listening.
I suppose there is some key or other to his character,
but I try in vain to find it; and yet I can't believe
that Providence is so cruel as to have turned the lock and
thrown the key away. He perplexes me, as I say, to death,
and though he tires out my patience, he still fascinates me.
Sometimes I think he has n't a grain of conscience,
and sometimes I think that, in a way, he has an excess.
He takes things at once too easily and too hard; he is both
too lax and too tense, too reckless and too ambitious,
too cold and too passionate. He has developed faster even
than you prophesied, and for good and evil alike he takes
up a formidable space. There 's too much of him for me,
at any rate. Yes, he is hard; there is no mistake about that.
He 's inflexible, he 's brittle; and though he has plenty
of spirit, plenty of soul, he has n't what I call a heart.
He has something that Miss Garland took for one, and I 'm pretty
sure she 's a judge. But she judged on scanty evidence.
He has something that Christina Light, here, makes believe
at times that she takes for one, but she is no judge at all!
I think it is established that, in the long run, egotism makes
a failure in conduct: is it also true that it makes a failure
in the arts?.... Roderick's standard is immensely high;
I must do him that justice. He will do nothing beneath it,
and while he is waiting for inspiration, his imagination,
his nerves, his senses must have something to amuse them.
This is a highly philosophical way of saying that he has taken
to dissipation, and that he has just been spending a month
at Naples--a city where 'pleasure' is actively cultivated--
in very bad company. Are they all like that, all the men of genius?
There are a great many artists here who hammer away at their trade
with exemplary industry; in fact I am surprised at their success
in reducing the matter to a steady, daily grind: but I really
don't think that one of them has his exquisite quality of talent.
It is in the matter of quantity that he has broken down.
The bottle won't pour; he turns it upside down; it 's no use!
Sometimes he declares it 's empty--that he has done all he was made
to do. This I consider great nonsense; but I would nevertheless
take him on his own terms if it was only I that was concerned.
But I keep thinking of those two praying, trusting neighbors
of yours, and I feel wretchedly like a swindler. If his working
mood came but once in five years I would willingly wait for it
and maintain him in leisure, if need be, in the intervals;
but that would be a sorry account to present to them.
Five years of this sort of thing, moreover, would effectually
settle the question. I wish he were less of a genius and more
of a charlatan! He 's too confoundedly all of one piece;
he won't throw overboard a grain of the cargo to save the rest.
Fancy him thus with all his brilliant personal charm,
his handsome head, his careless step, his look as of a nervous
nineteenth-century Apollo, and you will understand that there
is mighty little comfort in seeing him in a bad way.
He was tolerably foolish last summer at Baden Baden,
but he got on his feet, and for a while he was steady.
Then he began to waver again, and at last toppled over.
Now, literally, he 's lying prone. He came into my room
last night, miserably tipsy. I assure you, it did n't
amuse me..... About Miss Light it 's a long story. She is one of
the great beauties of all time, and worth coming barefoot to Rome,
like the pilgrims of old, to see. Her complexion, her glance, her step,
her dusky tresses, may have been seen before in a goddess, but never
in a woman. And you may take this for truth, because I 'm not in love
with her. On the contrary! Her education has been simply infernal.
She is corrupt, perverse, as proud as the queen of Sheba, and an
appalling coquette; but she is generous, and with patience and skill you
may enlist her imagination in a good cause as well as in a bad one.
The other day I tried to manipulate it a little. Chance offered me
an interview to which it was possible to give a serious turn, and I boldly
broke ground and begged her to suffer my poor friend to go in peace.
After a good deal of finessing she consented, and the next day, with a
single word, packed him off to Naples to drown his sorrow in debauchery.
I have come to the conclusion that she is more dangerous in her virtuous
moods than in her vicious ones, and that she probably has a way
of turning her back which is the most provoking thing in the world.
She 's an actress, she could n't forego doing the thing dramatically,
and it was the dramatic touch that made it fatal. I wished her,
of course, to let him down easily; but she desired to have the curtain
drop on an attitude, and her attitudes deprive
inflammable young artists of their reason..... Roderick made an
admirable bust of her at the beginning of the winter, and a dozen women
came rushing to him to be done, mutatis mutandis, in the same style.
They were all great ladies and ready to take him by the hand,
but he told them all their faces did n't interest him, and sent them
away vowing his destruction."
At this point of his long effusion, Rowland had paused and put
by his letter. He kept it three days and then read it over.
He was disposed at first to destroy it, but he decided
finally to keep it, in the hope that it might strike a spark
of useful suggestion from the flint of Cecilia's good sense.
We know he had a talent for taking advice. And then it
might be, he reflected, that his cousin's answer would throw
some light on Mary Garland's present vision of things.
In his altered mood he added these few lines:--
"I unburdened myself the other day of this monstrous load
of perplexity; I think it did me good, and I let it stand.
I was in a melancholy muddle, and I was trying to work myself free.
You know I like discussion, in a quiet way, and there
is no one with whom I can have it as quietly as with you,
most sagacious of cousins! There is an excellent old lady
with whom I often chat, and who talks very much to the point.
But Madame Grandoni has disliked Roderick from the first,
and if I were to take her advice I would wash my hands of him.
You will laugh at me for my long face, but you would do
that in any circumstances. I am half ashamed of my letter,
for I have a faith in my friend that is deeper than my doubts.
He was here last evening, talking about the Naples Museum,
the Aristides, the bronzes, the Pompeian frescoes,
with such a beautiful intelligence that doubt of the ultimate
future seemed blasphemy. I walked back to his lodging
with him, and he was as mild as midsummer moonlight.
He has the ineffable something that charms and convinces;
my last word about him shall not be a harsh one."
Shortly after sending his letter, going one day into
his friend's studio, he found Roderick suffering from
the grave infliction of a visit from Mr. Leavenworth.
Roderick submitted with extreme ill grace to being bored,
and he was now evidently in a state of high exasperation.
He had lately begun a representation of a lazzarone lounging
in the sun; an image of serene, irresponsible, sensuous life.
The real lazzarone, he had admitted, was a vile fellow;
but the ideal lazzarone--and his own had been subtly idealized--
was a precursor of the millennium.
Mr. Leavenworth had apparently just transferred his unhurrying
gaze to the figure.
"Something in the style of the Dying Gladiator?" he sympathetically observed.
"Oh no," said Roderick seriously, "he 's not dying, he 's only drunk!"
"Ah, but intoxication, you know," Mr. Leavenworth rejoined,
"is not a proper subject for sculpture. Sculpture should not
deal with transitory attitudes."
"Lying dead drunk is not a transitory attitude! Nothing is more permanent,
more sculpturesque, more monumental!"
"An entertaining paradox," said Mr. Leavenworth, "if we had time
to exercise our wits upon it. I remember at Florence an intoxicated
figure by Michael Angelo which seemed to me a deplorable aberration
of a great mind. I myself touch liquor in no shape whatever.
I have traveled through Europe on cold water. The most varied and
attractive lists of wines are offered me, but I brush them aside.
No cork has ever been drawn at my command!"
"The movement of drawing a cork calls into play a very pretty set of muscles,"
said Roderick. "I think I will make a figure in that position."
"A Bacchus, realistically treated! My dear young friend, never trifle with
your lofty mission. Spotless marble should represent virtue, not vice!"
And Mr. Leavenworth placidly waved his hand, as if to exorcise the spirit
of levity, while his glance journeyed with leisurely benignity
to another object--a marble replica of the bust of Miss Light.
"An ideal head, I presume," he went on; "a fanciful representation
of one of the pagan goddesses--a Diana, a Flora, a naiad or dryad?
I often regret that our American artists should not boldly cast off
that extinct nomenclature."
"She is neither a naiad nor a dryad," said Roderick, "and her name
is as good as yours or mine."
"You call her"--Mr. Leavenworth blandly inquired.
"Miss Light," Rowland interposed, in charity.
"Ah, our great American beauty! Not a pagan goddess--
an American, Christian lady! Yes, I have had the pleasure
of conversing with Miss Light. Her conversational powers
are not remarkable, but her beauty is of a high order.
I observed her the other evening at a large party,
where some of the proudest members of the European aristocracy
were present--duchesses, princesses, countesses, and others
distinguished by similar titles. But for beauty, grace,
and elegance my fair countrywoman left them all nowhere.
What women can compare with a truly refined American lady?
The duchesses the other night had no attractions for my eyes;
they looked coarse and sensual! It seemed to me that the tyranny
of class distinctions must indeed be terrible when such
countenances could inspire admiration. You see more beautiful
girls in an hour on Broadway than in the whole tour of Europe.
Miss Light, now, on Broadway, would excite no particular remark."
"She has never been there!" cried Roderick, triumphantly.
"I 'm afraid she never will be there. I suppose you have heard
the news about her."
"What news?" Roderick had stood with his back turned,
fiercely poking at his lazzarone; but at Mr. Leavenworth's
last words he faced quickly about.
"It 's the news of the hour, I believe. Miss Light is admired
by the highest people here. They tacitly recognize her superiority.
She has had offers of marriage from various great lords.
I was extremely happy to learn this circumstance,
and to know that they all had been left sighing. She has
not been dazzled by their titles and their gilded coronets.
She has judged them simply as men, and found them wanting.
One of them, however, a young Neapolitan prince, I believe,
has after a long probation succeeded in making himself acceptable.
Miss Light has at last said yes, and the engagement has
just been announced. I am not generally a retailer of gossip
of this description, but the fact was alluded to an hour ago
by a lady with whom I was conversing, and here, in Europe,
these conversational trifles usurp the lion's share of
one's attention. I therefore retained the circumstance.
Yes, I regret that Miss Light should marry one of these
used-up foreigners. Americans should stand by each other.
If she wanted a brilliant match we could have fixed it for her.
If she wanted a fine fellow--a fine, sharp, enterprising modern man--
I would have undertaken to find him for her without going
out of the city of New York. And if she wanted a big fortune,
I would have found her twenty that she would have had hard work
to spend: money down--not tied up in fever-stricken lands
and worm-eaten villas! What is the name of the young man?
Prince Castaway, or some such thing!"
It was well for Mr. Leavenworth that he was a voluminous and
imperturbable talker; for the current of his eloquence floated
him past the short, sharp, startled cry with which Roderick
greeted his "conversational trifle." The young man stood
looking at him with parted lips and an excited eye.
"The position of woman," Mr. Leavenworth placidly resumed,
"is certainly a very degraded one in these countries.
I doubt whether a European princess can command the respect
which in our country is exhibited toward the obscurest females.
The civilization of a country should be measured by the
deference shown to the weaker sex. Judged by that standard,
where are they, over here?"
Though Mr. Leavenworth had not observed Roderick's emotion, it was not lost
upon Rowland, who was making certain uncomfortable reflections upon it.
He saw that it had instantly become one with the acute irritation produced
by the poor gentleman's oppressive personality, and that an explosion
of some sort was imminent. Mr. Leavenworth, with calm unconsciousness,
proceeded to fire the mine.
"And now for our Culture!" he said in the same sonorous tones,
demanding with a gesture the unveiling of the figure, which stood
somewhat apart, muffled in a great sheet.
Roderick stood looking at him for a moment with concentrated rancor,
and then strode to the statue and twitched off the cover.
Mr. Leavenworth settled himself into his chair with an air
of flattered proprietorship, and scanned the unfinished image.
"I can conscientiously express myself as gratified with the
general conception," he said. "The figure has considerable
majesty, and the countenance wears a fine, open expression.
The forehead, however, strikes me as not sufficiently intellectual.
In a statue of Culture, you know, that should be the great point.
The eye should instinctively seek the forehead. Could n't you
heighten it up a little?"
Roderick, for all answer, tossed the sheet back over the statue.
"Oblige me, sir," he said, "oblige me! Never mention that thing again."
"Never mention it? Why my dear sir"--
"Never mention it. It 's an abomination!"
"An abomination! My Culture!"
"Yours indeed!" cried Roderick. "It 's none of mine.
I disown it. "
"Disown it, if you please," said Mr. Leavenworth sternly,
"but finish it first!"
"I 'd rather smash it!" cried Roderick.
"This is folly, sir. You must keep your engagements."
"I made no engagement. A sculptor is n't a tailor. Did you ever
hear of inspiration? Mine is dead! And it 's no laughing matter.
You yourself killed it."
"I--I-- killed your inspiration?" cried Mr. Leavenworth,
with the accent of righteous wrath. "You 're a very ungrateful boy!
If ever I encouraged and cheered and sustained any one,
I 'm sure I have done so to you."
"I appreciate your good intentions, and I don't wish to be uncivil.
But your encouragement is--superfluous. I can't work for you!"
"I call this ill-humor, young man!" said Mr. Leavenworth,
as if he had found the damning word.
"Oh, I 'm in an infernal humor!" Roderick answered.
"Pray, sir, is it my infelicitous allusion to Miss Light's marriage?"
"It 's your infelicitous everything! I don't say that to offend you;
I beg your pardon if it does. I say it by way of making our
rupture complete, irretrievable!"
Rowland had stood by in silence, but he now interfered.
"Listen to me," he said, laying his hand on Roderick's arm.
"You are standing on the edge of a gulf. If you suffer
anything that has passed to interrupt your work on that figure,
you take your plunge. It 's no matter that you don't
like it; you will do the wisest thing you ever did if you
make that effort of will necessary for finishing it.
Destroy the statue then, if you like, but make the effort.
I speak the truth!"
Roderick looked at him with eyes that still inexorableness made
almost tender. "You too!" he simply said.
Rowland felt that he might as well attempt to squeeze water from
a polished crystal as hope to move him. He turned away and walked
into the adjoining room with a sense of sickening helplessness.
In a few moments he came back and found that Mr. Leavenworth
had departed--presumably in a manner somewhat portentous.
Roderick was sitting with his elbows on his knees and his head
in his hands.
Rowland made one more attempt. "You decline to think of what I urge?"
"There's one more point--that you shouldn't, for a month,
go to Mrs. Light's."
"I go there this evening."
"That too is an utter folly."
"There are such things as necessary follies."
"You are not reflecting; you are speaking in passion."
"Why then do you make me speak?"
Rowland meditated a moment. "Is it also necessary that you should lose
the best friend you have?"
Roderick looked up. "That 's for you to settle!"
His best friend clapped on his hat and strode away; in a moment
the door closed behind him. Rowland walked hard for nearly a couple
of hours. He passed up the Corso, out of the Porta del Popolo
and into the Villa Borghese, of which he made a complete circuit.
The keenness of his irritation subsided, but it left him with
an intolerable weight upon his heart. When dusk had fallen,
he found himself near the lodging of his friend Madame Grandoni.
He frequently paid her a visit during the hour which preceded dinner,
and he now ascended her unillumined staircase and rang at her
relaxed bell-rope with an especial desire for diversion.
He was told that, for the moment, she was occupied, but that if
he would come in and wait, she would presently be with him.
He had not sat musing in the firelight for ten minutes when
he heard the jingle of the door-bell and then a rustling and
murmuring in the hall. The door of the little saloon opened,
but before the visitor appeared he had recognized her voice.
Christina Light swept forward, preceded by her poodle,
and almost filling the narrow parlor with the train of her dress.
She was colored here and there by the flicking firelight.
"They told me you were here," she said simply, as she took a seat.
"And yet you came in? It is very brave," said Rowland.
"You are the brave one, when one thinks of it! Where is the padrona?"
"Occupied for the moment. But she is coming."
"I have already waited ten minutes; I expect her from moment to moment."
"Meanwhile we are alone?" And she glanced into the dusky corners
of the room.
"Unless Stenterello counts," said Rowland.
"Oh, he knows my secrets--unfortunate brute!" She sat silent awhile,
looking into the firelight. Then at last, glancing at Rowland,
"Come! say something pleasant!" she exclaimed.
"I have been very happy to hear of your engagement."
"No, I don't mean that. I have heard that so often, only since breakfast,
that it has lost all sense. I mean some of those unexpected, charming things
that you said to me a month ago at Saint Cecilia's."
"I offended you, then," said Rowland. "I was afraid I had."
"Ah, it occurred to you? Why have n't I seen you since?"
"Really, I don't know." And he began to hesitate for an explanation.
"I have called, but you have never been at home."
"You were careful to choose the wrong times. You have a way
with a poor girl! You sit down and inform her that she is
a person with whom a respectable young man cannot associate
without contamination; your friend is a very nice fellow,
you are very careful of his morals, you wish him to know
none but nice people, and you beg me therefore to desist.
You request me to take these suggestions to heart and to act
upon them as promptly as possible. They are not particularly
flattering to my vanity. Vanity, however, is a sin, and I
listen submissively, with an immense desire to be just.
If I have many faults I know it, in a general way, and I
try on the whole to do my best. 'Voyons,' I say to myself,
'it is n't particularly charming to hear one's self made
out such a low person, but it is worth thinking over;
there 's probably a good deal of truth in it, and at any rate
we must be as good a girl as we can. That 's the great point!
And then here 's a magnificent chance for humility. If there 's
doubt in the matter, let the doubt count against one's self.
That is what Saint Catherine did, and Saint Theresa, and all
the others, and they are said to have had in consequence the most
ineffable joys. Let us go in for a little ineffable joy!'
I tried it; I swallowed my rising sobs, I made you my courtesy,
I determined I would not be spiteful, nor passionate, nor vengeful,
nor anything that is supposed to be particularly feminine.
I was a better girl than you made out--better at least
than you thought; but I would let the difference go and do
magnificently right, lest I should not do right enough.
I thought of it a deal for six hours when I know I did n't
seem to be, and then at last I did it! Santo Dio!"
"My dear Miss Light, my dear Miss Light!" said Rowland, pleadingly.
"Since then," the young girl went on, "I have been waiting
for the ineffable joys. They have n't yet turned up!"
"Pray listen to me!" Rowland urged.
"Nothing, nothing, nothing has come of it. I have passed the dreariest
month of my life!"
"My dear Miss Light, you are a very terrible young lady!" cried Rowland.
"What do you mean by that?"
"A good many things. We 'll talk them over. But first,
forgive me if I have offended you!"
She looked at him a moment, hesitating, and then thrust her hands
into her muff. "That means nothing. Forgiveness is between equals,
and you don't regard me as your equal."
"Really, I don't understand!"
Christina rose and moved for a moment about the room.
Then turning suddenly, "You don't believe in me!" she cried;
"not a grain! I don't know what I would not give to force
you to believe in me!"
Rowland sprang up, protesting, but before he had time to go far
one of the scanty portieres was raised, and Madame Grandoni came in,
pulling her wig straight. "But you shall believe in me yet,"
murmured Christina, as she passed toward her hostess.
Madame Grandoni turned tenderly to Christina. "I must give you
a very solemn kiss, my dear; you are the heroine of the hour.
You have really accepted him, eh?"
"So they say!"
"But you ought to know best."
"I don't know--I don't care!" She stood with her hand in Madame
Grandoni's, but looking askance at Rowland.
"That 's a pretty state of mind," said the old lady, "for a young
person who is going to become a princess."
Christina shrugged her shoulders. "Every one expects me to go into ecstacies
over that! Could anything be more vulgar? They may chuckle by themselves!
Will you let me stay to dinner?"
"If you can dine on a risotto. But I imagine you are expected
at home. "
"You are right. Prince Casamassima dines there, en famille.
But I 'm not in his family, yet!"
"Do you know you are very wicked? I have half a mind not to keep you."
Christina dropped her eyes, reflectively. "I beg you will let me stay,"
she said. "If you wish to cure me of my wickedness you must
be very patient and kind with me. It will be worth the trouble.
You must show confidence in me." And she gave another glance at Rowland.
Then suddenly, in a different tone, "I don't know what I 'm saying!"
she cried. "I am weary, I am more lonely than ever, I wish I were dead!"
The tears rose to her eyes, she struggled with them an instant,
and buried her face in her muff; but at last she burst into
uncontrollable sobs and flung her arms upon Madame Grandoni's neck.
This shrewd woman gave Rowland a significant nod, and a little shrug,
over the young girl's beautiful bowed head, and then led Christina
tenderly away into the adjoining room. Rowland, left alone, stood there
for an instant, intolerably puzzled, face to face with Miss Light's poodle,
who had set up a sharp, unearthly cry of sympathy with his mistress.
Rowland vented his confusion in dealing a rap with his stick at
the animal's unmelodious muzzle, and then rapidly left the house.
He saw Mrs. Light's carriage waiting at the door, and heard afterwards
that Christina went home to dinner.
A couple of days later he went, for a fortnight, to Florence.
He had twenty minds to leave Italy altogether; and at Florence
he could at least more freely decide upon his future movements.
He felt profoundly, incurably disgusted. Reflective benevolence
stood prudently aside, and for the time touched the source of his
irritation with no softening side-lights.
It was the middle of March, and by the middle of March in Florence
the spring is already warm and deep. He had an infinite
relish for the place and the season, but as he strolled
by the Arno and paused here and there in the great galleries,
they failed to soothe his irritation. He was sore at heart,
and as the days went by the soreness deepened rather than healed.
He felt as if he had a complaint against fortune; good-natured as
he was, his good-nature this time quite declined to let it pass.
He had tried to be wise, he had tried to be kind, he had
embarked upon an estimable enterprise; but his wisdom,
his kindness, his energy, had been thrown back in his face.
He was disappointed, and his disappointment had an angry spark in it.
The sense of wasted time, of wasted hope and faith, kept him
constant company. There were times when the beautiful things about
him only exasperated his discontent. He went to the Pitti Palace,
and Raphael's Madonna of the Chair seemed, in its soft serenity,
to mock him with the suggestion of unattainable repose.
He lingered on the bridges at sunset, and knew that the light
was enchanting and the mountains divine, but there seemed
to be something horribly invidious and unwelcome in the fact.
He felt, in a word, like a man who has been cruelly defrauded
and who wishes to have his revenge. Life owed him,
he thought, a compensation, and he would be restless and
resentful until he found it. He knew--or he seemed to know--
where he should find it; but he hardly told himself,
and thought of the thing under mental protest, as a man in want
of money may think of certain funds that he holds in trust.
In his melancholy meditations the idea of something better
than all this, something that might softly, richly interpose,
something that might reconcile him to the future, something that
might make one's tenure of life deep and zealous instead of harsh
and uneven--the idea of concrete compensation, in a word--
shaped itself sooner or later into the image of Mary Garland.
Very odd, you may say, that at this time of day Rowland should still
be brooding over a plain girl of whom he had had but the lightest
of glimpses two years before; very odd that so deep an impression
should have been made by so lightly-pressed an instrument.
We must admit the oddity and offer simply in explanation
that his sentiment apparently belonged to that species of
emotion of which, by the testimony of the poets, the very name
and essence is oddity. One night he slept but half an hour;
he found his thoughts taking a turn which excited him portentously.
He walked up and down his room half the night. It looked out
on the Arno; the noise of the river came in at the open window;
he felt like dressing and going down into the streets.
Toward morning he flung himself into a chair; though he was
wide awake he was less excited. It seemed to him that he saw
his idea from the outside, that he judged it and condemned it;
yet it stood there before him, distinct, and in a certain
way imperious. During the day he tried to banish it and forget it;
but it fascinated, haunted, at moments frightened him.
He tried to amuse himself, paid visits, resorted to several rather
violent devices for diverting his thoughts. If on the morrow
he had committed a crime, the persons whom he had seen that day
would have testified that he had talked strangely and had not
seemed like himself. He felt certainly very unlike himself;
long afterwards, in retrospect, he used to reflect that during
those days he had for a while been literally beside himself.
His idea persisted; it clung to him like a sturdy beggar.
The sense of the matter, roughly expressed, was this:
If Roderick was really going, as he himself had phrased it,
to "fizzle out," one might help him on the way--one might smooth
the descensus Averno. For forty-eight hours there swam before
Rowland's eyes a vision of Roderick, graceful and beautiful
as he passed, plunging, like a diver, from an eminence into
a misty gulf. The gulf was destruction, annihilation, death;
but if death was decreed, why should not the agony be brief?
Beyond this vision there faintly glimmered another,
as in the children's game of the "magic lantern" a picture is
superposed on the white wall before the last one has quite faded.
It represented Mary Garland standing there with eyes in which
the horror seemed slowly, slowly to expire, and hanging,
motionless hands which at last made no resistance when his own
offered to take them. When, of old, a man was burnt at the stake
it was cruel to have to be present; but if one was present it
was kind to lend a hand to pile up the fuel and make the flames
do their work quickly and the smoke muffle up the victim.
With all deference to your kindness, this was perhaps an obligation
you would especially feel if you had a reversionary interest
in something the victim was to leave behind him.
One morning, in the midst of all this, Rowland walked
heedlessly out of one of the city gates and found himself
on the road to Fiesole. It was a completely lovely day;
the March sun felt like May, as the English poet of Florence says;
the thick-blossomed shrubs and vines that hung over the walls
of villa and podere flung their odorous promise into the warm,
still air. Rowland followed the winding, climbing lanes;
lingered, as he got higher, beneath the rusty cypresses,
beside the low parapets, where you look down on the charming
city and sweep the vale of the Arno; reached the little square
before the cathedral, and rested awhile in the massive,
dusky church; then climbed higher, to the Franciscan
convent which is poised on the very apex of the mountain.
He rang at the little gateway; a shabby, senile, red-faced brother
admitted him with almost maudlin friendliness. There was
a dreary chill in the chapel and the corridors, and he passed
rapidly through them into the delightfully steep and tangled old
garden which runs wild over the forehead of the great hill.
He had been in it before, and he was very fond of it.
The garden hangs in the air, and you ramble from terrace
to terrace and wonder how it keeps from slipping down, in full
consummation of its bereaved forlornness, into the nakedly
romantic gorge beneath. It was just noon when Rowland went in,
and after roaming about awhile he flung himself in the sun
on a mossy stone bench and pulled his hat over his eyes.
The short shadows of the brown-coated cypresses above him had grown
very long, and yet he had not passed back through the convent.
One of the monks, in his faded snuff-colored robe, came wandering
out into the garden, reading his greasy little breviary.
Suddenly he came toward the bench on which Rowland had
stretched himself, and paused a moment, attentively.
Rowland was lingering there still; he was sitting
with his head in his hands and his elbows on his knees.
He seemed not to have heard the sandaled tread of the good brother,
but as the monk remained watching him, he at last looked up.
It was not the ignoble old man who had admitted him,
but a pale, gaunt personage, of a graver and more ascetic,
and yet of a benignant, aspect. Rowland's face bore the traces
of extreme trouble. The frate kept his finger in his little book,
and folded his arms picturesquely across his breast.
It can hardly be determined whether his attitude, as he bent
his sympathetic Italian eye upon Rowland, was a happy accident
or the result of an exquisite spiritual discernment.
To Rowland, at any rate, under the emotion of that moment,
it seemed blessedly opportune. He rose and approached the monk,
and laid his hand on his arm.
"My brother," he said, "did you ever see the Devil?"
The frate gazed, gravely, and crossed himself. "Heaven forbid!"
"He was here," Rowland went on, "here in this lovely garden,
as he was once in Paradise, half an hour ago. But have no fear;
I drove him out." And Rowland stooped and picked up his hat,
which had rolled away into a bed of cyclamen, in vague symbolism
of an actual physical tussle.
"You have been tempted, my brother?" asked the friar, tenderly.
"And you have resisted--and conquered!"
"I believe I have conquered."
"The blessed Saint Francis be praised! It is well done.
If you like, we will offer a mass for you."
"I am not a Catholic," said Rowland.
The frate smiled with dignity. "That is a reason the more."
"But it 's for you, then, to choose. Shake hands with me,"
Rowland added; "that will do as well; and suffer me, as I go out,
to stop a moment in your chapel."
They shook hands and separated. The frate crossed himself,
opened his book, and wandered away, in relief against the western sky.
Rowland passed back into the convent, and paused long enough
in the chapel to look for the alms-box. He had had what is vulgarly
termed a great scare; he believed, very poignantly for the time,
in the Devil, and he felt an irresistible need to subscribe to any
institution which engaged to keep him at a distance.
The next day he returned to Rome, and the day afterwards
he went in search of Roderick. He found him on the Pincian
with his back turned to the crowd, looking at the sunset.
"I went to Florence," Rowland said, "and I thought of going farther;
but I came back on purpose to give you another piece of advice.
Once more, you refuse to leave Rome?"
"Never!" said Roderick.
"The only chance that I see, then, of your reviving your sense of
responsibility to--to those various sacred things you have forgotten,
is in sending for your mother to join you here."
Roderick stared. "For my mother?"
"For your mother--and for Miss Garland."
Roderick still stared; and then, slowly and faintly, his face flushed.
"For Mary Garland--for my mother?" he repeated. "Send for them?"
"Tell me this; I have often wondered, but till now I have forborne to ask.
You are still engaged to Miss Garland?"
Roderick frowned darkly, but assented.
"It would give you pleasure, then, to see her?"
Roderick turned away and for some moments answered nothing.
"Pleasure!" he said at last, huskily. "Call it pain."
"I regard you as a sick man," Rowland continued.
"In such a case Miss Garland would say that her place was
at your side."
Roderick looked at him some time askance, mistrustfully.
"Is this a deep-laid snare?" he asked slowly.
Rowland had come back with all his patience rekindled, but these words
gave it an almost fatal chill. "Heaven forgive you!" he cried bitterly.
"My idea has been simply this. Try, in decency, to understand it.
I have tried to befriend you, to help you, to inspire you with confidence,
and I have failed. I took you from the hands of your mother and
your betrothed, and it seemed to me my duty to restore you to their hands.
That 's all I have to say."
He was going, but Roderick forcibly detained him.
It would have been but a rough way of expressing it to say
that one could never know how Roderick would take a thing.
It had happened more than once that when hit hard, deservedly,
he had received the blow with touching gentleness.
On the other hand, he had often resented the softest taps.
The secondary effect of Rowland's present admonition
seemed reassuring. "I beg you to wait," he said,
"to forgive that shabby speech, and to let me reflect."
And he walked up and down awhile, reflecting. At last he stopped,
with a look in his face that Rowland had not seen all winter.
It was a strikingly beautiful look.
"How strange it is," he said, "that the simplest devices are
the last that occur to one!" And he broke into a light laugh.
"To see Mary Garland is just what I want. And my mother--
my mother can't hurt me now."
"You will write, then?"
"I will telegraph. They must come, at whatever cost.
Striker can arrange it all for them."
In a couple of days he told Rowland that he had received a telegraphic
answer to his message, informing him that the two ladies were to sail
immediately for Leghorn, in one of the small steamers which ply between
that port and New York. They would arrive, therefore, in less than a month.
Rowland passed this month of expectation in no very serene frame of mind.
His suggestion had had its source in the deepest places of his
agitated conscience; but there was something intolerable in the thought
of the suffering to which the event was probably subjecting those
undefended women. They had scraped together their scanty funds
and embarked, at twenty-four hours' notice, upon the dreadful sea,
to journey tremulously to shores darkened by the shadow of deeper alarms.
He could only promise himself to be their devoted friend and servant.
Preoccupied as he was, he was able to observe that expectation,
with Roderick, took a form which seemed singular even among his
characteristic singularities. If redemption--Roderick seemed
to reason--was to arrive with his mother and his affianced bride,
these last moments of error should be doubly erratic. He did nothing;
but inaction, with him, took on an unwonted air of gentle gayety.
He laughed and whistled and went often to Mrs. Light's; though Rowland
knew not in what fashion present circumstances had modified his relations
with Christina. The month ebbed away and Rowland daily expected
to hear from Roderick that he had gone to Leghorn to meet the ship.
He heard nothing, and late one evening, not having seen his friend
in three or four days, he stopped at Roderick's lodging to assure
himself that he had gone at last. A cab was standing in the street,
but as it was a couple of doors off he hardly heeded it.
The hall at the foot of the staircase was dark, like most Roman halls,
and he paused in the street-doorway on hearing the advancing footstep
of a person with whom he wished to avoid coming into collision.
While he did so he heard another footstep behind him, and turning
round found that Roderick in person had just overtaken him.
At the same moment a woman's figure advanced from within, into the light
of the street-lamp, and a face, half-startled, glanced at him out
of the darkness. He gave a cry--it was the face of Mary Garland.
Her glance flew past him to Roderick, and in a second a startled
exclamation broke from her own lips. It made Rowland turn again.
Roderick stood there, pale, apparently trying to speak, but saying nothing.
His lips were parted and he was wavering slightly with a strange movement--
the movement of a man who has drunk too much. Then Rowland's eyes
met Miss Garland's again, and her own, which had rested a moment
on Roderick's, were formidable!
CHAPTER IX. Mary Garland
How it befell that Roderick had failed to be in Leghorn
on his mother's arrival never clearly transpired;
for he undertook to give no elaborate explanation of his fault.
He never indulged in professions (touching personal conduct)
as to the future, or in remorse as to the past, and as he would
have asked no praise if he had traveled night and day to embrace
his mother as she set foot on shore, he made (in Rowland's presence,
at least) no apology for having left her to come in search of him.
It was to be said that, thanks to an unprecedentedly fine season,
the voyage of the two ladies had been surprisingly rapid,
and that, according to common probabilities, if Roderick had
left Rome on the morrow (as he declared that he had intended),
he would have had a day or two of waiting at Leghorn.
Rowland's silent inference was that Christina Light had beguiled him
into letting the time slip, and it was accompanied with a silent
inquiry whether she had done so unconsciously or maliciously.
He had told her, presumably, that his mother and his cousin
were about to arrive; and it was pertinent to remember
hereupon that she was a young lady of mysterious impulses.
Rowland heard in due time the story of the adventures of the two
ladies from Northampton. Miss Garland's wish, at Leghorn,
on finding they were left at the mercy of circumstances,
had been to telegraph to Roderick and await an answer;
for she knew that their arrival was a trifle premature.
But Mrs. Hudson's maternal heart had taken the alarm.
Roderick's sending for them was, to her imagination, a confession
of illness, and his not being at Leghorn, a proof of it;
an hour's delay was therefore cruel both to herself and to him.
She insisted on immediate departure; and, unskilled as they
were in the mysteries of foreign (or even of domestic)
travel, they had hurried in trembling eagerness to Rome.
They had arrived late in the evening, and, knowing nothing of inns,
had got into a cab and proceeded to Roderick's lodging.
At the door, poor Mrs. Hudson's frightened anxiety had overcome her,
and she had sat quaking and crying in the vehicle, too weak to move.
Miss Garland had bravely gone in, groped her way up the dusky
staircase, reached Roderick's door, and, with the assistance
of such acquaintance with the Italian tongue as she had culled
from a phrase-book during the calmer hours of the voyage,
had learned from the old woman who had her cousin's household
economy in charge that he was in the best of health and spirits,
and had gone forth a few hours before with his hat on
his ear, per divertirsi.
These things Rowland learned during a visit he paid the two ladies
the evening after their arrival. Mrs. Hudson spoke of them at great
length and with an air of clinging confidence in Rowland which told
him how faithfully time had served him, in her imagination.
But her fright was over, though she was still catching her breath
a little, like a person dragged ashore out of waters uncomfortably deep.
She was excessively bewildered and confused, and seemed
more than ever to demand a tender handling from her friends.
Before Miss Garland, Rowland was distinctly conscious that he trembled.
He wondered extremely what was going on in her mind; what was
her silent commentary on the incidents of the night before.
He wondered all the more, because he immediately perceived that she
was greatly changed since their parting, and that the change
was by no means for the worse. She was older, easier, more free,
more like a young woman who went sometimes into company.
She had more beauty as well, inasmuch as her beauty before had been
the depth of her expression, and the sources from which this beauty
was fed had in these two years evidently not wasted themselves.
Rowland felt almost instantly--he could hardly have said why:
it was in her voice, in her tone, in the air--that a total change
had passed over her attitude towards himself. She trusted him now,
absolutely; whether or no she liked him, she believed he was solid.
He felt that during the coming weeks he would need to be solid.
Mrs. Hudson was at one of the smaller hotels, and her sitting-room
was frugally lighted by a couple of candles. Rowland made
the most of this dim illumination to try to detect the afterglow
of that frightened flash from Miss Garland's eyes the night before.
It had been but a flash, for what provoked it had instantly vanished.
Rowland had murmured a rapturous blessing on Roderick's head,
as he perceived him instantly apprehend the situation.
If he had been drinking, its gravity sobered him on the spot;
in a single moment he collected his wits. The next moment,
with a ringing, jovial cry, he was folding the young girl
in his arms, and the next he was beside his mother's carriage,
half smothered in her sobs and caresses. Rowland had recommended
a hotel close at hand, and had then discreetly withdrawn.
Roderick was at this time doing his part superbly, and Miss Garland's
brow was serene. It was serene now, twenty-four hours later;
but nevertheless, her alarm had lasted an appreciable moment.
What had become of it? It had dropped down deep into her memory,
and it was lying there for the present in the shade. But with
another week, Rowland said to himself, it would leap erect again;
the lightest friction would strike a spark from it. Rowland thought
he had schooled himself to face the issue of Mary Garland's advent,
casting it even in a tragical phase; but in her personal presence--
in which he found a poignant mixture of the familiar and the strange--
he seemed to face it and all that it might bring with it for
the first time. In vulgar parlance, he stood uneasy in his shoes.
He felt like walking on tiptoe, not to arouse the sleeping shadows.
He felt, indeed, almost like saying that they might have their
own way later, if they would only allow to these first few days
the clear light of ardent contemplation. For Rowland at last
was ardent, and all the bells within his soul were ringing
bravely in jubilee. Roderick, he learned, had been the whole day
with his mother, and had evidently responded to her purest trust.
He appeared to her appealing eyes still unspotted by the world.
That is what it is, thought Rowland, to be "gifted," to escape not
only the superficial, but the intrinsic penalties of misconduct.
The two ladies had spent the day within doors, resting from the fatigues
of travel. Miss Garland, Rowland suspected, was not so fatigued
as she suffered it to be assumed. She had remained with Mrs. Hudson,
to attend to her personal wants, which the latter seemed to think,
now that she was in a foreign land, with a southern climate and a
Catholic religion, would forthwith become very complex and formidable,
though as yet they had simply resolved themselves into a desire
for a great deal of tea and for a certain extremely familiar old
black and white shawl across her feet, as she lay on the sofa.
But the sense of novelty was evidently strong upon Miss Garland,
and the light of expectation was in her eye. She was restless
and excited; she moved about the room and went often to the window;
she was observing keenly; she watched the Italian servants intently,
as they came and went; she had already had a long colloquy with the
French chambermaid, who had expounded her views on the Roman question;
she noted the small differences in the furniture, in the food,
in the sounds that came in from the street. Rowland felt, in all this,
that her intelligence, here, would have a great unfolding.
He wished immensely he might have a share in it; he wished he might
show her Rome. That, of course, would be Roderick's office.
But he promised himself at least to take advantage of off-hours.
"It behooves you to appreciate your good fortune," he said to her.
"To be young and elastic, and yet old enough and wise enough to
discriminate and reflect, and to come to Italy for the first time--
that is one of the greatest pleasures that life offers us.
It is but right to remind you of it, so that you make the most
of opportunity and do not accuse yourself, later, of having wasted
the precious season."
Miss Garland looked at him, smiling intently, and went to the window again.
"I expect to enjoy it," she said. "Don't be afraid; I am not wasteful."
"I am afraid we are not qualified, you know," said Mrs. Hudson.
"We are told that you must know so much, that you must have
read so many books. Our taste has not been cultivated.
When I was a young lady at school, I remember I had a medal,
with a pink ribbon, for 'proficiency in Ancient History'--
the seven kings, or is it the seven hills? and Quintus
Curtius and Julius Caesar and--and that period, you know.
I believe I have my medal somewhere in a drawer, now, but I
have forgotten all about the kings. But after Roderick
came to Italy we tried to learn something about it.
Last winter Mary used to read "Corinne" to me in the evenings,
and in the mornings she used to read another book, to herself.
What was it, Mary, that book that was so long, you know,--
in fifteen volumes?"
"It was Sismondi's Italian Republics," said Mary, simply.
Rowland could not help laughing; whereupon Mary blushed.
"Did you finish it?" he asked.
"Yes, and began another--a shorter one--Roscoe's Leo the Tenth."
"Did you find them interesting?"
"Do you like history?"
"Some of it."
"That 's a woman's answer! And do you like art?"
She paused a moment. "I have never seen it!"
"You have great advantages, now, my dear, with Roderick and Mr. Mallet,"
said Mrs. Hudson. "I am sure no young lady ever had such advantages.
You come straight to the highest authorities. Roderick, I suppose,
will show you the practice of art, and Mr. Mallet, perhaps, if he will
be so good, will show you the theory. As an artist's wife, you ought
to know something about it."
"One learns a good deal about it, here, by simply living," said Rowland;
"by going and coming about one's daily avocations."
"Dear, dear, how wonderful that we should be here in the midst of it!"
murmured Mrs. Hudson. "To think of art being out there in the streets!
We did n't see much of it last evening, as we drove from the depot.
But the streets were so dark and we were so frightened!
But we are very easy now; are n't we, Mary?"
"I am very happy," said Mary, gravely, and wandered back to the window again.
Roderick came in at this moment and kissed his mother, and then went
over and joined Miss Garland. Rowland sat with Mrs. Hudson, who evidently
had a word which she deemed of some value for his private ear.
She followed Roderick with intensely earnest eyes.
"I wish to tell you, sir," she said, "how very grateful--how very thankful--
what a happy mother I am! I feel as if I owed it all to you, sir.
To find my poor boy so handsome, so prosperous, so elegant, so famous--
and ever to have doubted of you! What must you think of me?
You 're our guardian angel, sir. I often say so to Mary."
Rowland wore, in response to this speech, a rather haggard brow.
He could only murmur that he was glad she found Roderick looking well.
He had of course promptly asked himself whether the best discretion
dictated that he should give her a word of warning--just turn the handle
of the door through which, later, disappointment might enter.
He had determined to say nothing, but simply to wait in silence for Roderick
to find effective inspiration in those confidently expectant eyes.
It was to be supposed that he was seeking for it now; he remained
sometime at the window with his cousin. But at last he turned away
and came over to the fireside with a contraction of the eyebrows which
seemed to intimate that Miss Garland's influence was for the moment,
at least, not soothing. She presently followed him, and for an instant
Rowland observed her watching him as if she thought him strange.
"Strange enough," thought Rowland, "he may seem to her, if he will!"
Roderick directed his glance to his friend with a certain peremptory
air, which--roughly interpreted--was equivalent to a request to share
the intellectual expense of entertaining the ladies. "Good heavens!"
Rowland cried within himself; "is he already tired of them?"
"To-morrow, of course, we must begin to put you through the mill,"
Roderick said to his mother. "And be it hereby known to Mallet
that we count upon him to turn the wheel."
"I will do as you please, my son," said Mrs. Hudson.
"So long as I have you with me I don't care where I go.
We must not take up too much of Mr. Mallet's time."
"His time is inexhaustible; he has nothing under the sun to do.
Have you, Rowland? If you had seen the big hole I have been making in it!
Where will you go first? You have your choice--from the Scala Santa
to the Cloaca Maxima."
"Let us take things in order," said Rowland. "We will go first to Saint
Peter's. Miss Garland, I hope you are impatient to see Saint Peter's."
"I would like to go first to Roderick's studio," said Miss Garland.
"It 's a very nasty place," said Roderick. "At your pleasure!"
"Yes, we must see your beautiful things before we can look contentedly
at anything else," said Mrs. Hudson.
"I have no beautiful things," said Roderick. "You may see what there is!
What makes you look so odd?"
This inquiry was abruptly addressed to his mother, who, in response,
glanced appealingly at Mary and raised a startled hand to her smooth hair.
"No, it 's your face," said Roderick. "What has happened to it
these two years? It has changed its expression."
"Your mother has prayed a great deal," said Miss Garland, simply.
"I did n't suppose, of course, it was from doing anything bad!
It makes you a very good face--very interesting, very solemn.
It has very fine lines in it; something might be done with it."
And Rowland held one of the candles near the poor lady's head.
She was covered with confusion. "My son, my son," she said with dignity,
"I don't understand you."
In a flash all his old alacrity had come to him.
"I suppose a man may admire his own mother!" he cried.
"If you please, madame, you 'll sit to me for that head.
I see it, I see it! I will make something that a queen can't
get done for her."
Rowland respectfully urged her to assent; he saw Roderick was in the vein
and would probably do something eminently original. She gave her promise,
at last, after many soft, inarticulate protests and a frightened petition
that she might be allowed to keep her knitting.
Rowland returned the next day, with plenty of zeal for the part
Roderick had assigned to him. It had been arranged that they
should go to Saint Peter's. Roderick was in high good-humor, and,
in the carriage, was watching his mother with a fine mixture of filial
and professional tenderness. Mrs. Hudson looked up mistrustfully
at the tall, shabby houses, and grasped the side of the barouche
in her hand, as if she were in a sail-boat, in dangerous waters.
Rowland sat opposite to Miss Garland. She was totally oblivious
of her companions; from the moment the carriage left the hotel,
she sat gazing, wide-eyed and absorbed, at the objects about them.
If Rowland had felt disposed he might have made a joke of her
intense seriousness. From time to time he told her the name
of a place or a building, and she nodded, without looking at him.
When they emerged into the great square between Bernini's colonnades,
she laid her hand on Mrs. Hudson's arm and sank back in the carriage,
staring up at the vast yellow fa;alcade of the church.
Inside the church, Roderick gave his arm to his mother,
and Rowland constituted himself the especial guide of Miss Garland.
He walked with her slowly everywhere, and made the entire circuit,
telling her all he knew of the history of the building.
This was a great deal, but she listened attentively, keeping her
eyes fixed on the dome. To Rowland himself it had never seemed
so radiantly sublime as at these moments; he felt almost as if
he had contrived it himself and had a right to be proud of it.
He left Miss Garland a while on the steps of the choir, where she
had seated herself to rest, and went to join their companions.
Mrs. Hudson was watching a great circle of tattered contadini,
who were kneeling before the image of Saint Peter. The fashion
of their tatters fascinated her; she stood gazing at them in a sort
of terrified pity, and could not be induced to look at anything else.
Rowland went back to Miss Garland and sat down beside her.
"Well, what do you think of Europe?" he asked, smiling.
"I think it 's horrible!" she said abruptly.
"I feel so strangely--I could almost cry."
"How is it that you feel?"
"So sorry for the poor past, that seems to have died here, in my heart,
in an hour!"
"But, surely, you 're pleased--you 're interested."
"I am overwhelmed. Here in a single hour, everything is changed.
It is as if a wall in my mind had been knocked down at a stroke.
Before me lies an immense new world, and it makes the old one,
the poor little narrow, familiar one I have always known, seem pitiful."
"But you did n't come to Rome to keep your eyes fastened on
that narrow little world. Forget it, turn your back on it,
and enjoy all this."
"I want to enjoy it; but as I sat here just now, looking up
at that golden mist in the dome, I seemed to see in it
the vague shapes of certain people and things at home.
To enjoy, as you say, as these things demand of one to enjoy them,
is to break with one's past. And breaking is a pain!"
"Don't mind the pain, and it will cease to trouble you.
Enjoy, enjoy; it is your duty. Yours especially!"
"Why mine especially?"
"Because I am very sure that you have a mind capable of doing
the most liberal justice to everything interesting and beautiful.
You are extremely intelligent."
"You don't know," said Miss Garland, simply.
"In that matter one feels. I really think that I know better than you.
I don't want to seem patronizing, but I suspect that your mind is
susceptible of a great development. Give it the best company, trust it,
let it go!"
She looked away from him for some moments, down the gorgeous
vista of the great church. "But what you say," she said
at last, "means change!"
"Change for the better!" cried Rowland.
"How can one tell? As one stands, one knows the worst.
It seems to me very frightful to develop," she added,
with her complete smile.
"One is in for it in one way or another, and one might as well do
it with a good grace as with a bad! Since one can't escape life,
it is better to take it by the hand."
"Is this what you call life?" she asked.
"What do you mean by 'this'?"
"Saint Peter's--all this splendor, all Rome--pictures, ruins,
statues, beggars, monks."
"It is not all of it, but it is a large part of it.
All these things are impregnated with life; they are the fruits
of an old and complex civilization."
"An old and complex civilization: I am afraid I don't like that."
"Don't conclude on that point just yet. Wait till you have tested it.
While you wait, you will see an immense number of very
beautiful things--things that you are made to understand.
They won't leave you as they found you; then you can judge.
Don't tell me I know nothing about your understanding.
I have a right to assume it."
Miss Garland gazed awhile aloft in the dome. "I am not sure
I understand that," she said.
"I hope, at least, that at a cursory glance it pleases you,"
said Rowland. "You need n't be afraid to tell the truth.
What strikes some people is that it is so remarkably small."
"Oh, it's large enough; it's very wonderful. There are things
in Rome, then," she added in a moment, turning and looking at him,
"that are very, very beautiful?"
"Lots of them."
"Some of the most beautiful things in the world?"
"What are they? which things have most beauty?"
"That is according to taste. I should say the statues."
"How long will it take to see them all? to know, at least,
something about them?"
"You can see them all, as far as mere seeing goes, in a fortnight.
But to know them is a thing for one's leisure.
The more time you spend among them, the more you care for them."
After a moment's hesitation he went on: "Why should you grudge time?
It 's all in your way, since you are to be an artist's wife."
"I have thought of that," she said. "It may be that I shall always live here,
among the most beautiful things in the world!"
"Very possibly! I should like to see you ten years hence."
"I dare say I shall seem greatly altered. But I am sure of one thing."
"That for the most part I shall be quite the same.
I ask nothing better than to believe the fine things you say about
my understanding, but even if they are true, it won't matter.
I shall be what I was made, what I am now--a young woman from
the country! The fruit of a civilization not old and complex,
but new and simple."
"I am delighted to hear it: that 's an excellent foundation."
"Perhaps, if you show me anything more, you will not always think
so kindly of it. Therefore I warn you."
"I am not frightened. I should like vastly to say something to you:
Be what you are, be what you choose; but do, sometimes, as I tell you."
If Rowland was not frightened, neither, perhaps, was Miss Garland;
but she seemed at least slightly disturbed. She proposed that they
should join their companions.
Mrs. Hudson spoke under her breath; she could not be accused of the want of
reverence sometimes attributed to Protestants in the great Catholic temples.
"Mary, dear," she whispered, "suppose we had to kiss that dreadful brass toe.
If I could only have kept our door-knocker, at Northampton, as bright
as that! I think it's so heathenish; but Roderick says he thinks
it 's sublime."
Roderick had evidently grown a trifle perverse. "It 's sublimer
than anything that your religion asks you to do!" he exclaimed.
"Surely our religion sometimes gives us very difficult duties,"
said Miss Garland.
"The duty of sitting in a whitewashed meeting-house and
listening to a nasal Puritan! I admit that 's difficult.
But it 's not sublime. I am speaking of ceremonies, of forms.
It is in my line, you know, to make much of forms.
I think this is a very beautiful one. Could n't you do it?"
he demanded, looking at his cousin.
She looked back at him intently and then shook her head.
"I think not!"
"I don't know; I could n't!"
During this little discussion our four friends were standing
near the venerable image of Saint Peter, and a squalid,
savage-looking peasant, a tattered ruffian of the most orthodox
Italian aspect, had been performing his devotions before it.
He turned away, crossing himself, and Mrs. Hudson gave a little
shudder of horror.
"After that," she murmured, "I suppose he thinks he is as good as any one!
And here is another. Oh, what a beautiful person!"
A young lady had approached the sacred effigy, after having wandered
away from a group of companions. She kissed the brazen toe,
touched it with her forehead, and turned round, facing our friends.
Rowland then recognized Christina Light. He was stupefied:
had she suddenly embraced the Catholic faith? It was but a few
weeks before that she had treated him to a passionate profession
of indifference. Had she entered the church to put herself
en regle with what was expected of a Princess Casamassima?
While Rowland was mentally asking these questions she was
approaching him and his friends, on her way to the great altar.
At first she did not perceive them.
Mary Garland had been gazing at her. "You told me," she said gently,
to Rowland, "that Rome contained some of the most beautiful things
in the world. This surely is one of them!"
At this moment Christina's eye met Rowland's and before
giving him any sign of recognition she glanced rapidly at
his companions. She saw Roderick, but she gave him no bow;
she looked at Mrs. Hudson, she looked at Mary Garland.
At Mary Garland she looked fixedly, piercingly, from head to foot,
as the slow pace at which she was advancing made possible.
Then suddenly, as if she had perceived Roderick for the first time,
she gave him a charming nod, a radiant smile. In a moment
he was at her side. She stopped, and he stood talking to her;
she continued to look at Miss Garland.
"Why, Roderick knows her!" cried Mrs. Hudson, in an awe-struck whisper.
"I supposed she was some great princess."
"She is--almost!" said Rowland. "She is the most beautiful girl in Europe,
and Roderick has made her bust."
"Her bust? Dear, dear!" murmured Mrs. Hudson, vaguely shocked.
"What a strange bonnet!"
"She has very strange eyes," said Mary, and turned away.
The two ladies, with Rowland, began to descend toward the door of the church.
On their way they passed Mrs. Light, the Cavaliere, and the poodle,
and Rowland informed his companions of the relation in which these personages
stood to Roderick's young lady.
"Think of it, Mary!" said Mrs. Hudson. "What splendid people he must know!
No wonder he found Northampton dull!"
"I like the poor little old gentleman," said Mary.
"Why do you call him poor?" Rowland asked, struck with the observation.
"He seems so!" she answered simply.
As they were reaching the door they were overtaken by Roderick,
whose interview with Miss Light had perceptibly brightened his eye.
"So you are acquainted with princesses!" said his mother softly,
as they passed into the portico.
"Miss Light is not a princess!" said Roderick, curtly.
"But Mr. Mallet says so," urged Mrs. Hudson, rather disappointed.
"I meant that she was going to be!" said Rowland.
"It 's by no means certain that she is even going to be!"
"Ah," said Rowland, "I give it up!"
Roderick almost immediately demanded that his mother should sit
to him, at his studio, for her portrait, and Rowland ventured to add
another word of urgency. If Roderick's idea really held him,
it was an immense pity that his inspiration should be wasted;
inspiration, in these days, had become too precious a commodity.
It was arranged therefore that, for the present, during the mornings,
Mrs. Hudson should place herself at her son's service.
This involved but little sacrifice, for the good lady's appetite
for antiquities was diminutive and bird-like, the usual round
of galleries and churches fatigued her, and she was glad to
purchase immunity from sight-seeing by a regular afternoon drive.
It became natural in this way that, Miss Garland having her
mornings free, Rowland should propose to be the younger lady's
guide in whatever explorations she might be disposed to make.
She said she knew nothing about it, but she had a great curiosity,
and would be glad to see anything that he would show her. Rowland could
not find it in his heart to accuse Roderick of neglect of the young girl;
for it was natural that the inspirations of a capricious man of genius,
when they came, should be imperious; but of course he wondered
how Miss Garland felt, as the young man's promised wife, on being
thus expeditiously handed over to another man to be entertained.
However she felt, he was certain he would know little about it.
There had been, between them, none but indirect allusions
to her engagement, and Rowland had no desire to discuss it
more largely; for he had no quarrel with matters as they stood.
They wore the same delightful aspect through the lovely month
of May, and the ineffable charm of Rome at that period seemed
but the radiant sympathy of nature with his happy opportunity.
The weather was divine; each particular morning, as he walked from his
lodging to Mrs. Hudson's modest inn, seemed to have a blessing upon it.
The elder lady had usually gone off to the studio, and he found Miss
Garland sitting alone at the open window, turning the leaves of some
book of artistic or antiquarian reference that he had given her.
She always had a smile, she was always eager, alert, responsive.
She might be grave by nature, she might be sad by circumstance,
she might have secret doubts and pangs, but she was essentially
young and strong and fresh and able to enjoy. Her enjoyment
was not especially demonstrative, but it was curiously diligent.
Rowland felt that it was not amusement and sensation that she coveted,
but knowledge--facts that she might noiselessly lay away, piece by piece,
in the perfumed darkness of her serious mind, so that, under this
head at least, she should not be a perfectly portionless bride.
She never merely pretended to understand; she let things go, in her
modest fashion, at the moment, but she watched them on their way,
over the crest of the hill, and when her fancy seemed not likely
to be missed it went hurrying after them and ran breathless
at their side, as it were, and begged them for the secret.
Rowland took an immense satisfaction in observing that she never mistook
the second-best for the best, and that when she was in the presence
of a masterpiece, she recognized the occasion as a mighty one.
She said many things which he thought very profound--
that is, if they really had the fine intention he suspected.
This point he usually tried to ascertain; but he was obliged
to proceed cautiously, for in her mistrustful shyness it seemed
to her that cross-examination must necessarily be ironical.
She wished to know just where she was going--what she would gain or lose.
This was partly on account of a native intellectual purity, a temper
of mind that had not lived with its door ajar, as one might say,
upon the high-road of thought, for passing ideas to drop in and out
at their pleasure; but had made much of a few long visits from guests
cherished and honored--guests whose presence was a solemnity.
But it was even more because she was conscious of a sort of growing
self-respect, a sense of devoting her life not to her own ends,
but to those of another, whose life would be large and brilliant.
She had been brought up to think a great deal of "nature" and nature's
innocent laws; but now Rowland had spoken to her ardently of culture;
her strenuous fancy had responded, and she was pursuing culture
into retreats where the need for some intellectual effort gave
a noble severity to her purpose. She wished to be very sure,
to take only the best, knowing it to be the best. There was something
exquisite in this labor of pious self-adornment, and Rowland helped it,
though its fruits were not for him. In spite of her lurking rigidity
and angularity, it was very evident that a nervous, impulsive sense
of beauty was constantly at play in her soul, and that her actual
experience of beautiful things moved her in some very deep places.
For all that she was not demonstrative, that her manner was simple,
and her small-talk of no very ample flow; for all that, as she had said,
she was a young woman from the country, and the country was West Nazareth,
and West Nazareth was in its way a stubborn little fact, she was
feeling the direct influence of the great amenities of the world,
and they were shaping her with a divinely intelligent touch.
"Oh exquisite virtue of circumstance!" cried Rowland to himself,
"that takes us by the hand and leads us forth out of corners where,
perforce, our attitudes are a trifle contracted, and beguiles us
into testing mistrusted faculties!" When he said to Mary Garland
that he wished he might see her ten years hence, he was paying
mentally an equal compliment to circumstance and to the girl herself.
Capacity was there, it could be freely trusted; observation would
have but to sow its generous seed. "A superior woman"--
the idea had harsh associations, but he watched it imaging itself
in the vagueness of the future with a kind of hopeless confidence.
They went a great deal to Saint Peter's, for which Rowland had
an exceeding affection, a large measure of which he succeeded
in infusing into his companion. She confessed very speedily
that to climb the long, low, yellow steps, beneath the huge
florid fa;alcade, and then to push the ponderous leathern apron
of the door, to find one's self confronted with that builded,
luminous sublimity, was a sensation of which the keenness
renewed itself with surprising generosity. In those days
the hospitality of the Vatican had not been curtailed, and it
was an easy and delightful matter to pass from the gorgeous
church to the solemn company of the antique marbles.
Here Rowland had with his companion a great deal of talk,
and found himself expounding aesthetics a perte de vue.
He discovered that she made notes of her likes and dislikes in a
new-looking little memorandum book, and he wondered to what extent
she reported his own discourse. These were charming hours.
The galleries had been so cold all winter that Rowland had been
an exile from them; but now that the sun was already scorching
in the great square between the colonnades, where the twin
fountains flashed almost fiercely, the marble coolness of
the long, image-bordered vistas made them a delightful refuge.
The great herd of tourists had almost departed, and our two
friends often found themselves, for half an hour at a time,
in sole and tranquil possession of the beautiful Braccio Nuovo.
Here and there was an open window, where they lingered and leaned,
looking out into the warm, dead air, over the towers of
the city, at the soft-hued, historic hills, at the stately
shabby gardens of the palace, or at some sunny, empty,
grass-grown court, lost in the heart of the labyrinthine pile.
They went sometimes into the chambers painted by Raphael,
and of course paid their respects to the Sistine Chapel;
but Mary's evident preference was to linger among the statues.
Once, when they were standing before that noblest of sculptured
portraits, the so-called Demosthenes, in the Braccio Nuovo,
she made the only spontaneous allusion to her projected marriage,
direct or indirect, that had yet fallen from her lips.
"I am so glad," she said, "that Roderick is a sculptor and
not a painter."
The allusion resided chiefly in the extreme earnestness with which the words
were uttered. Rowland immediately asked her the reason of her gladness.
"It 's not that painting is not fine," she said, "but that sculpture
is finer. It is more manly."
Rowland tried at times to make her talk about herself, but in this she
had little skill. She seemed to him so much older, so much more pliant
to social uses than when he had seen her at home, that he had a desire
to draw from her some categorical account of her occupation and thoughts.
He told her his desire and what suggested it. "It appears, then," she said,
"that, after all, one can grow at home!"
"Unquestionably, if one has a motive. Your growth, then, was unconscious?
You did not watch yourself and water your roots?"
She paid no heed to his question. "I am willing to grant,"
she said, "that Europe is more delightful than I supposed;
and I don't think that, mentally, I had been stingy.
But you must admit that America is better than you have supposed."
"I have not a fault to find with the country which produced you!"
Rowland thought he might risk this, smiling.
"And yet you want me to change--to assimilate Europe, I suppose
you would call it."
"I have felt that desire only on general principles. Shall I tell you
what I feel now? America has made you thus far; let America finish you!
I should like to ship you back without delay and see what becomes of you.
That sounds unkind, and I admit there is a cold intellectual curiosity in it."
She shook her head. "The charm is broken; the thread is snapped!
I prefer to remain here."
Invariably, when he was inclined to make of something they were talking
of a direct application to herself, she wholly failed to assist him;
she made no response. Whereupon, once, with a spark of ardent irritation,
he told her she was very "secretive." At this she colored a little,
and he said that in default of any larger confidence it would at least
be a satisfaction to make her confess to that charge. But even this
satisfaction she denied him, and his only revenge was in making,
two or three times afterward, a softly ironical allusion to her slyness.
He told her that she was what is called in French a sournoise.
"Very good," she answered, almost indifferently, "and now please tell
me again--I have forgotten it--what you said an 'architrave' was."
It was on the occasion of her asking him a question of this kind
that he charged her, with a humorous emphasis in which, also, if she
had been curious in the matter, she might have detected a spark
of restless ardor, with having an insatiable avidity for facts.
"You are always snatching at information," he said; "you will never
consent to have any disinterested conversation."
She frowned a little, as she always did when he arrested
their talk upon something personal. But this time
she assented, and said that she knew she was eager for facts.
"One must make hay while the sun shines," she added.
"I must lay up a store of learning against dark days.
Somehow, my imagination refuses to compass the idea that I
may be in Rome indefinitely."
He knew he had divined her real motives; but he felt that if he might
have said to her--what it seemed impossible to say--that fortune
possibly had in store for her a bitter disappointment, she would have
been capable of answering, immediately after the first sense of pain,
"Say then that I am laying up resources for solitude!"
But all the accusations were not his. He had been watching, once,
during some brief argument, to see whether she would take her forefinger
out of her Murray, into which she had inserted it to keep a certain page.
It would have been hard to say why this point interested him, for he had
not the slightest real apprehension that she was dry or pedantic.
The simple human truth was, the poor fellow was jealous of science.
In preaching science to her, he had over-estimated his powers
of self-effacement. Suddenly, sinking science for the moment,
she looked at him very frankly and began to frown. At the same time
she let the Murray slide down to the ground, and he was so charmed
with this circumstance that he made no movement to pick it up.
"You are singularly inconsistent, Mr. Mallet," she said.
"That first day that we were in Saint Peter's you said
things that inspired me. You bade me plunge into all this.
I was all ready; I only wanted a little push; yours was a great one;
here I am in mid-ocean! And now, as a reward for my bravery,
you have repeatedly snubbed me."
"Distinctly, then," said Rowland, "I strike you as inconsistent?"
"That is the word."
"Then I have played my part very ill."
"Your part? What is your part supposed to have been?"
He hesitated a moment. "That of usefulness, pure and simple."
"I don't understand you!" she said; and picking up her Murray,
she fairly buried herself in it.
That evening he said something to her which necessarily increased
her perplexity, though it was not uttered with such an intention.
"Do you remember," he asked, "my begging you, the other day, to do
occasionally as I told you? It seemed to me you tacitly consented."
"I have never yet really presumed on your consent. But now I would
like you to do this: whenever you catch me in the act of what you
call inconsistency, ask me the meaning of some architectural term.
I will know what you mean; a word to the wise!"
One morning they spent among the ruins of the Palatine,
that sunny desolation of crumbling, over-tangled fragments,
half excavated and half identified, known as the Palace
of the Caesars. Nothing in Rome is more interesting,
and no locality has such a confusion of picturesque charms.
It is a vast, rambling garden, where you stumble at every
step on the disinterred bones of the past; where damp,
frescoed corridors, relics, possibly, of Nero's Golden House,
serve as gigantic bowers, and where, in the springtime,
you may sit on a Latin inscription, in the shade of a flowering
almond-tree, and admire the composition of the Campagna.
The day left a deep impression on Rowland's mind, partly owing
to its intrinsic sweetness, and partly because his companion,
on this occasion, let her Murray lie unopened for an hour,
and asked several questions irrelevant to the Consuls
and the Caesars. She had begun by saying that it was coming
over her, after all, that Rome was a ponderously sad place.
The sirocco was gently blowing, the air was heavy, she was tired,
she looked a little pale.
"Everything," she said, "seems to say that all things are vanity.
If one is doing something, I suppose one feels a certain strength within
one to contradict it. But if one is idle, surely it is depressing to live,
year after year, among the ashes of things that once were mighty.
If I were to remain here I should either become permanently 'low,'
as they say, or I would take refuge in some dogged daily work."
"I would open a school for those beautiful little beggars;
though I am sadly afraid I should never bring myself to scold them."
"I am idle," said Rowland, "and yet I have kept up a certain spirit."
"I don't call you idle," she answered with emphasis.
"It is very good of you. Do you remember our talking about
that in Northampton?"
"During that picnic? Perfectly. Has your coming abroad succeeded,
for yourself, as well as you hoped?"
"I think I may say that it has turned out as well as I expected."
"Are you happy?"
"Don't I look so?"
"So it seems to me. But"--and she hesitated a moment--"I imagine
you look happy whether you are so or not."
"I 'm like that ancient comic mask that we saw just now in yonder
excavated fresco: I am made to grin."
"Shall you come back here next winter?"
"Are you settled here forever?"
" 'Forever' is a long time. I live only from year to year."
"Shall you never marry?"
Rowland gave a laugh. " 'Forever'--'never!' You handle large ideas.
I have not taken a vow of celibacy."
"Would n't you like to marry?"
"I should like it immensely."
To this she made no rejoinder: but presently she asked,
"Why don't you write a book?"
Rowland laughed, this time more freely. "A book!
What book should I write?"
"A history; something about art or antiquities."
"I have neither the learning nor the talent."
She made no attempt to contradict him; she simply said
she had supposed otherwise. "You ought, at any rate,"
she continued in a moment, "to do something for yourself."
"For myself? I should have supposed that if ever a man seemed
to live for himself"--
"I don't know how it seems," she interrupted, "to careless observers.
But we know--we know that you have lived--a great deal--for us."
Her voice trembled slightly, and she brought out the last words
with a little jerk.
"She has had that speech on her conscience," thought Rowland;
"she has been thinking she owed it to me, and it seemed to her
that now was her time to make it and have done with it."
She went on in a way which confirmed these reflections, speaking with
due solemnity. "You ought to be made to know very well what we all feel.
Mrs. Hudson tells me that she has told you what she feels. Of course
Roderick has expressed himself. I have been wanting to thank you too;
I do, from my heart."
Rowland made no answer; his face at this moment resembled the tragic
mask much more than the comic. But Miss Garland was not looking at him;
she had taken up her Murray again.
In the afternoon she usually drove with Mrs. Hudson, but Rowland
frequently saw her again in the evening. He was apt to spend
half an hour in the little sitting-room at the hotel-pension
on the slope of the Pincian, and Roderick, who dined regularly
with his mother, was present on these occasions. Rowland saw
him little at other times, and for three weeks no observations
passed between them on the subject of Mrs. Hudson's advent.
To Rowland's vision, as the weeks elapsed, the benefits
to proceed from the presence of the two ladies remained
shrouded in mystery. Roderick was peculiarly inscrutable.
He was preoccupied with his work on his mother's portrait,
which was taking a very happy turn; and often, when he sat silent,
with his hands in his pockets, his legs outstretched, his head
thrown back, and his eyes on vacancy, it was to be supposed
that his fancy was hovering about the half-shaped image in
his studio, exquisite even in its immaturity. He said little,
but his silence did not of necessity imply disaffection,
for he evidently found it a deep personal luxury to lounge away
the hours in an atmosphere so charged with feminine tenderness.
He was not alert, he suggested nothing in the way of excursions
(Rowland was the prime mover in such as were attempted),
but he conformed passively at least to the tranquil temper of
the two women, and made no harsh comments nor sombre allusions.
Rowland wondered whether he had, after all, done his
friend injustice in denying him the sentiment of duty.
He refused invitations, to Rowland's knowledge, in order to dine
at the jejune little table-d'hote; wherever his spirit might be,
he was present in the flesh with religious constancy.
Mrs. Hudson's felicity betrayed itself in a remarkable tendency
to finish her sentences and wear her best black silk gown.
Her tremors had trembled away; she was like a child who discovers
that the shaggy monster it has so long been afraid to touch
is an inanimate terror, compounded of straw and saw-dust,
and that it is even a safe audacity to tickle its nose.
As to whether the love-knot of which Mary Garland had
the keeping still held firm, who should pronounce?
The young girl, as we know, did not wear it on her sleeve.
She always sat at the table, near the candles, with a piece
of needle-work. This was the attitude in which Rowland had
first seen her, and he thought, now that he had seen her
in several others, it was not the least becoming.
CHAPTER X. The Cavaliere
There befell at last a couple of days during which Rowland was unable
to go to the hotel. Late in the evening of the second one Roderick
came into his room. In a few moments he announced that he had finished
the bust of his mother.
"And it 's magnificent!" he declared. "It 's one of the best
things I have done."
"I believe it," said Rowland. "Never again talk to me about
your inspiration being dead."
"Why not? This may be its last kick! I feel very tired.
But it 's a masterpiece, though I do say it. They tell us
we owe so much to our parents. Well, I 've paid the filial
debt handsomely!" He walked up and down the room a few moments,
with the purpose of his visit evidently still undischarged.
"There 's one thing more I want to say," he presently resumed.
"I feel as if I ought to tell you!" He stopped before Rowland
with his head high and his brilliant glance unclouded.
"Your invention is a failure!"
"My invention?" Rowland repeated.
"Bringing out my mother and Mary."
"It 's no use! They don't help me."
Rowland had fancied that Roderick had no more surprises for him;
but he was now staring at him, wide-eyed.
"They bore me!" Roderick went on.
"Oh, oh!" cried Rowland.
"Listen, listen!" said Roderick with perfect gentleness.
"I am not complaining of them; I am simply stating a fact.
I am very sorry for them; I am greatly disappointed."
"Have you given them a fair trial?"
"Should n't you say so? It seems to me I have behaved beautifully."
"You have done very well; I have been building great hopes on it."
"I have done too well, then. After the first forty-eight hours
my own hopes collapsed. But I determined to fight it out;
to stand within the temple; to let the spirit of the Lord descend!
Do you want to know the result? Another week of it, and I shall
begin to hate them. I shall want to poison them."
"Miserable boy!" cried Rowland. "They are the loveliest of women!"
"Very likely! But they mean no more to me than a Bible text
to an atheist!"
"I utterly fail," said Rowland, in a moment, "to understand your relation
to Miss Garland."
Roderick shrugged his shoulders and let his hands drop at his sides.
"She adores me! That 's my relation." And he smiled strangely.
"Have you broken your engagement?"
"Broken it? You can't break a ray of moonshine."
"Have you absolutely no affection for her?"
Roderick placed his hand on his heart and held it there a moment.
"Dead--dead--dead!" he said at last.
"I wonder," Rowland asked presently, "if you begin
to comprehend the beauty of Miss Garland's character.
She is a person of the highest merit."
"Evidently--or I would not have cared for her!"
"Has that no charm for you now?"
"Oh, don't force a fellow to say rude things!"
"Well, I can only say that you don't know what you are giving up."
Roderick gave a quickened glance. "Do you know, so well?"
"I admire her immeasurably."
Roderick smiled, we may almost say sympathetically.
"You have not wasted time."
Rowland's thoughts were crowding upon him fast. If Roderick
was resolute, why oppose him? If Mary was to be sacrificed,
why, in that way, try to save her? There was another way;
it only needed a little presumption to make it possible.
Rowland tried, mentally, to summon presumption to his aid;
but whether it came or not, it found conscience there before it.
Conscience had only three words, but they were cogent.
"For her sake--for her sake," it dumbly murmured, and Rowland
resumed his argument. "I don't know what I would n't do,"
he said, "rather than that Miss Garland should suffer."
"There is one thing to be said," Roderick answered reflectively.
"She is very strong."
"Well, then, if she 's strong, believe that with a longer chance,
a better chance, she will still regain your affection."
"Do you know what you ask?" cried Roderick. "Make love to a girl I hate?"
"As her lover, I should hate her!"
"Listen to me!" said Rowland with vehemence.
"No, listen you to me! Do you really urge my marrying a woman who
would bore me to death? I would let her know it in very good season,
and then where would she be?"
Rowland walked the length of the room a couple of times and then
stopped suddenly. "Go your way, then! Say all this to her,
not to me!"
"To her? I am afraid of her; I want you to help me."
"My dear Roderick," said Rowland with an eloquent smile,
"I can help you no more!"
Roderick frowned, hesitated a moment, and then took his hat.
"Oh, well," he said, "I am not so afraid of her as all that!"
And he turned, as if to depart.
"Stop!" cried Rowland, as he laid his hand on the door.
Roderick paused and stood waiting, with his irritated brow.
"Come back; sit down there and listen to me. Of anything you were to say
in your present state of mind you would live most bitterly to repent.
You don't know what you really think; you don't know what you really feel.
You don't know your own mind; you don't do justice to Miss Garland.
All this is impossible here, under these circumstances. You 're blind,
you 're deaf, you 're under a spell. To break it, you must leave Rome."
"Leave Rome! Rome was never so dear to me."
"That 's not of the smallest consequence. Leave it instantly."
"And where shall I go?"
"Go to some place where you may be alone with your mother and Miss Garland."
"Alone? You will not come?"
"Oh, if you desire it, I will come."
Roderick inclining his head a little, looked at his friend askance.
"I don't understand you," he said; "I wish you liked Miss Garland
either a little less, or a little more."
Rowland felt himself coloring, but he paid no heed to Roderick's speech.
"You ask me to help you," he went on. "On these present conditions I can
do nothing. But if you will postpone all decision as to the continuance
of your engagement a couple of months longer, and meanwhile leave Rome,
leave Italy, I will do what I can to 'help you,' as you say, in the event
of your still wishing to break it."
"I must do without your help then! Your conditions are impossible.
I will leave Rome at the time I have always intended--at the end of June.
My rooms and my mother's are taken till then; all my arrangements are
made accordingly. Then, I will depart; not before."
"You are not frank," said Rowland. "Your real reason for staying
has nothing to do with your rooms."
Roderick's face betrayed neither embarrassment nor resentment.
"If I 'm not frank, it 's for the first time in my life.
Since you know so much about my real reason, let me hear it!
No, stop!" he suddenly added, "I won't trouble you.
You are right, I have a motive. On the twenty-fourth of June
Miss Light is to be married. I take an immense interest in all
that concerns her, and I wish to be present at her wedding."
"But you said the other day at Saint Peter's that it was by no means
certain her marriage would take place."
"Apparently I was wrong: the invitations, I am told, are going out."
Rowland felt that it would be utterly vain to remonstrate,
and that the only thing for him was to make the best terms possible.
"If I offer no further opposition to your waiting for Miss Light's marriage,"
he said, "will you promise, meanwhile and afterwards, for a certain period,
to defer to my judgment--to say nothing that may be a cause of suffering
to Miss Garland?"
"For a certain period? What period?" Roderick demanded.
"Ah, don't drive so close a bargain! Don't you understand that I have
taken you away from her, that I suffer in every nerve in consequence,
and that I must do what I can to restore you?"
"Do what you can, then," said Roderick gravely, putting out his hand.
"Do what you can!" His tone and his hand-shake seemed to constitute
a promise, and upon this they parted.
Roderick's bust of his mother, whether or no it was a discharge of what
he called the filial debt, was at least a most admirable production.
Rowland, at the time it was finished, met Gloriani one evening,
and this unscrupulous genius immediately began to ask questions about it.