Part 7 out of 8
You were right; you 're always right. She 's as cold
and false and heartless as she 's beautiful, and she
has sold her heartless beauty to the highest bidder.
I hope he knows what he gets!"
"Oh, my son," cried Mrs. Hudson, plaintively, "how could you
ever care for such a dreadful creature?"
"It would take long to tell you, dear mother!"
Rowland's lately-deepened sympathy and compassion for Christina
was still throbbing in his mind, and he felt that, in loyalty to it,
he must say a word for her. "You believed in her too much at first,"
he declared, "and you believe in her too little now."
Roderick looked at him with eyes almost lurid, beneath lowering brows.
"She is an angel, then, after all?--that 's what you want to prove!"
he cried. "That 's consoling for me, who have lost her!
You 're always right, I say; but, dear friend, in mercy,
be wrong for once!"
"Oh yes, Mr. Mallet, be merciful!" said Mrs. Hudson, in a tone which,
for all its gentleness, made Rowland stare. The poor fellow's
stare covered a great deal of concentrated wonder and apprehension--
a presentiment of what a small, sweet, feeble, elderly lady
might be capable of, in the way of suddenly generated animosity.
There was no space in Mrs. Hudson's tiny maternal mind for
complications of feeling, and one emotion existed only by turning
another over flat and perching on top of it. She was evidently
not following Roderick at all in his dusky aberrations.
Sitting without, in dismay, she only saw that all was darkness
and trouble, and as Roderick's glory had now quite outstripped
her powers of imagination and urged him beyond her jurisdiction,
so that he had become a thing too precious and sacred for blame,
she found it infinitely comfortable to lay the burden of their common
affliction upon Rowland's broad shoulders. Had he not promised
to make them all rich and happy? And this was the end of it!
Rowland felt as if his trials were, in a sense, only beginning.
"Had n't you better forget all this, my dear?" Mrs. Hudson said.
"Had n't you better just quietly attend to your work?"
"Work, madame?" cried Roderick. "My work 's over. I can't work--
I have n't worked all winter. If I were fit for anything,
this sentimental collapse would have been just the thing
to cure me of my apathy and break the spell of my idleness.
But there 's a perfect vacuum here!" And he tapped his forehead.
"It 's bigger than ever; it grows bigger every hour!"
"I 'm sure you have made a beautiful likeness of your poor little mother,"
said Mrs. Hudson, coaxingly.
"I had done nothing before, and I have done nothing since!
I quarreled with an excellent man, the other day, from mere
exasperation of my nerves, and threw away five thousand dollars!"
"Threw away--five thousand dollars!" Roderick had been
wandering among formidable abstractions and allusions too dark
to penetrate. But here was a concrete fact, lucidly stated,
and poor Mrs. Hudson, for a moment, looked it in the face.
She repeated her son's words a third time with a gasping murmur,
and then, suddenly, she burst into tears. Roderick went to her,
sat down beside her, put his arm round her, fixed his eyes
coldly on the floor, and waited for her to weep herself out.
She leaned her head on his shoulder and sobbed broken-heartedly.
She said not a word, she made no attempt to scold;
but the desolation of her tears was overwhelming.
It lasted some time--too long for Rowland's courage.
He had stood silent, wishing simply to appear very respectful;
but the elation that was mentioned a while since had
utterly ebbed, and he found his situation intolerable.
He walked away--not, perhaps, on tiptoe, but with a total
absence of bravado in his tread.
The next day, while he was at home, the servant brought
him the card of a visitor. He read with surprise the name
of Mrs. Hudson, and hurried forward to meet her.
He found her in his sitting-room, leaning on the arm of
her son and looking very pale, her eyes red with weeping,
and her lips tightly compressed. Her advent puzzled him,
and it was not for some time that he began to understand
the motive of it. Roderick's countenance threw no light upon it;
but Roderick's countenance, full of light as it was,
in a way, itself, had never thrown light upon anything.
He had not been in Rowland's rooms for several weeks,
and he immediately began to look at those of his own works
that adorned them. He lost himself in silent contemplation.
Mrs. Hudson had evidently armed herself with dignity,
and, so far as she might, she meant to be impressive.
Her success may be measured by the fact that Rowland's whole
attention centred in the fear of seeing her begin to weep.
She told him that she had come to him for practical advice;
she begged to remind him that she was a stranger in the land.
Where were they to go, please? what were they to do?
Rowland glanced at Roderick, but Roderick had his back turned
and was gazing at his Adam with the intensity with which he might
have examined Michael Angelo's Moses.
"Roderick says he does n't know, he does n't care," Mrs. Hudson said;
"he leaves it entirely to you."
Many another man, in Rowland's place, would have greeted
this information with an irate and sarcastic laugh,
and told his visitors that he thanked them infinitely
for their confidence, but that, really, as things stood now,
they must settle these matters between themselves;
many another man might have so demeaned himself, even if,
like Rowland, he had been in love with Mary Garland and pressingly
conscious that her destiny was also part of the question.
But Rowland swallowed all hilarity and all sarcasm,
and let himself seriously consider Mrs. Hudson's petition.
His wits, however, were but indifferently at his command;
they were dulled by his sense of the inexpressible change in
Mrs. Hudson's attitude. Her visit was evidently intended as a formal
reminder of the responsiblities Rowland had worn so lightly.
Mrs. Hudson was doubtless too sincerely humble a person to suppose
that if he had been recreant to his vows of vigilance and tenderness,
her still, small presence would operate as a chastisement.
But by some diminutive logical process of her own she
had convinced herself that she had been weakly trustful,
and that she had suffered Rowland to think too meanly,
not only of her understanding, but of her social consequence.
A visit in her best gown would have an admonitory effect
as regards both of these attributes; it would cancel some
favors received, and show him that she was no such fool!
These were the reflections of a very shy woman, who, determining for
once in her life to hold up her head, was perhaps carrying it
a trifle extravagantly.
"You know we have very little money to spend," she said,
as Rowland remained silent. "Roderick tells me that he has
debts and nothing at all to pay them with. He says I must write
to Mr. Striker to sell my house for what it will bring, and send
me out the money. When the money comes I must give it to him.
I 'm sure I don't know; I never heard of anything so dreadful!
My house is all I have. But that is all Roderick will say.
We must be very economical."
Before this speech was finished Mrs. Hudson's voice had begun to
quaver softly, and her face, which had no capacity for the expression
of superior wisdom, to look as humbly appealing as before.
Rowland turned to Roderick and spoke like a school-master. "Come
away from those statues, and sit down here and listen to me!"
Roderick started, but obeyed with the most graceful docility.
"What do you propose to your mother to do?" Rowland asked.
"Propose?" said Roderick, absently. "Oh, I propose nothing."
The tone, the glance, the gesture with which this was said were
horribly irritating (though obviously without the slightest intention
of being so), and for an instant an imprecation rose to Rowland's lips.
But he checked it, and he was afterwards glad he had done so.
"You must do something," he said. "Choose, select, decide!"
"My dear Rowland, how you talk!" Roderick cried.
"The very point of the matter is that I can't do anything.
I will do as I 'm told, but I don't call that doing.
We must leave Rome, I suppose, though I don't see why.
We have got no money, and you have to pay money on the railroads."
Mrs. Hudson surreptitiously wrung her hands.
"Listen to him, please!" she cried. "Not leave Rome, when we
have staid here later than any Christians ever did before!
It 's this dreadful place that has made us so unhappy."
"That 's very true," said Roderick, serenely. "If I had not come to Rome,
I would n't have risen, and if I had not risen, I should n't have fallen."
"Fallen--fallen!" murmured Mrs. Hudson. "Just hear him!"
"I will do anything you say, Rowland," Roderick added.
"I will do anything you want. I have not been unkind to my mother--
have I, mother? I was unkind yesterday, without meaning it;
for after all, all that had to be said. Murder will out,
and my low spirits can't be hidden. But we talked it over and
made it up, did n't we? It seemed to me we did. Let Rowland
decide it, mother; whatever he suggests will be the right thing."
And Roderick, who had hardly removed his eyes from the statues,
got up again and went back to look at them.
Mrs. Hudson fixed her eyes upon the floor in silence.
There was not a trace in Roderick's face, or in his voice,
of the bitterness of his emotion of the day before, and not
a hint of his having the lightest weight upon his conscience.
He looked at Rowland with his frank, luminous eye as if there
had never been a difference of opinion between them; as if each
had ever been for both, unalterably, and both for each.
Rowland had received a few days before a letter from a lady
of his acquaintance, a worthy Scotswoman domiciled in a villa
upon one of the olive-covered hills near Florence. She held her
apartment in the villa upon a long lease, and she enjoyed for a sum
not worth mentioning the possession of an extraordinary number
of noble, stone-floored rooms, with ceilings vaulted and frescoed,
and barred windows commanding the loveliest view in the world.
She was a needy and thrifty spinster, who never hesitated to
declare that the lovely view was all very well, but that for her
own part she lived in the villa for cheapness, and that if she
had a clear three hundred pounds a year she would go and really
enjoy life near her sister, a baronet's lady, at Glasgow.
She was now proposing to make a visit to that exhilarating city,
and she desired to turn an honest penny by sub-letting for a few
weeks her historic Italian chambers. The terms on which she occupied
them enabled her to ask a rent almost jocosely small, and she begged
Rowland to do what she called a little genteel advertising for her.
Would he say a good word for her rooms to his numerous friends,
as they left Rome? He said a good word for them now to Mrs. Hudson,
and told her in dollars and cents how cheap a summer's lodging
she might secure. He dwelt upon the fact that she would
strike a truce with tables-d'hote and have a cook of her own,
amenable possibly to instruction in the Northampton mysteries.
He had touched a tender chord; Mrs. Hudson became almost cheerful.
Her sentiments upon the table-d'hote system and upon foreign household
habits generally were remarkable, and, if we had space for it,
would repay analysis; and the idea of reclaiming a lost soul to the
Puritanic canons of cookery quite lightened the burden of her depression.
While Rowland set forth his case Roderick was slowly walking
round the magnificent Adam, with his hands in his pockets.
Rowland waited for him to manifest an interest in their discussion,
but the statue seemed to fascinate him and he remained calmly heedless.
Rowland was a practical man; he possessed conspicuously what is called
the sense of detail. He entered into Mrs. Hudson's position minutely,
and told her exactly why it seemed good that she should remove
immediately to the Florentine villa. She received his advice
with great frigidity, looking hard at the floor and sighing,
like a person well on her guard against an insidious optimism.
But she had nothing better to propose, and Rowland received her
permission to write to his friend that he had let the rooms.
Roderick assented to this decision without either sighs or smiles.
"A Florentine villa is a good thing!" he said. "I am at your service."
"I 'm sure I hope you 'll get better there," moaned his mother,
gathering her shawl together.
Roderick laid one hand on her arm and with the other pointed
to Rowland's statues. "Better or worse, remember this:
I did those things!" he said.
Mrs. Hudson gazed at them vaguely, and Rowland said, "Remember it yourself!"
"They are horribly good!" said Roderick.
Rowland solemnly shrugged his shoulders; it seemed to him
that he had nothing more to say. But as the others were going,
a last light pulsation of the sense of undischarged duty led
him to address to Roderick a few words of parting advice.
"You 'll find the Villa Pandolfini very delightful, very comfortable,"
he said. "You ought to be very contented there. Whether you work
or whether you loaf, it 's a place for an artist to be happy in.
I hope you will work."
"I hope I may!" said Roderick with a magnificent smile.
"When we meet again, have something to show me."
"When we meet again? Where the deuce are you going?" Roderick demanded.
"Oh, I hardly know; over the Alps."
"Over the Alps! You 're going to leave me?" Roderick cried.
Rowland had most distinctly meant to leave him, but his resolution
immediately wavered. He glanced at Mrs. Hudson and saw that
her eyebrows were lifted and her lips parted in soft irony.
She seemed to accuse him of a craven shirking of trouble, to demand of him
to repair his cruel havoc in her life by a solemn renewal of zeal.
But Roderick's expectations were the oddest! Such as they were,
Rowland asked himself why he should n't make a bargain with them.
"You desire me to go with you?" he asked.
"If you don't go, I won't--that 's all! How in the world shall
I get through the summer without you?"
"How will you get through it with me? That 's the question."
"I don't pretend to say; the future is a dead blank.
But without you it 's not a blank--it 's certain damnation!"
"Mercy, mercy!" murmured Mrs. Hudson.
Rowland made an effort to stand firm, and for a moment succeeded.
"If I go with you, will you try to work?"
Roderick, up to this moment, had been looking as unperturbed as if
the deep agitation of the day before were a thing of the remote past.
But at these words his face changed formidably; he flushed
and scowled, and all his passion returned. "Try to work!" he cried.
"Try--try! work--work! In God's name don't talk that way,
or you 'll drive me mad! Do you suppose I 'm trying not to work?
Do you suppose I stand rotting here for the fun of it?
Don't you suppose I would try to work for myself before I
tried for you?"
"Mr. Mallet," cried Mrs. Hudson, piteously, "will you leave me
alone with this?"
Rowland turned to her and informed her, gently, that he would go
with her to Florence. After he had so pledged himself he thought not
at all of the pain of his position as mediator between the mother's
resentful grief and the son's incurable weakness; he drank deep,
only, of the satisfaction of not separating from Mary Garland.
If the future was a blank to Roderick, it was hardly less so to himself.
He had at moments a lively foreboding of impending calamity.
He paid it no especial deference, but it made him feel indisposed
to take the future into his account. When, on his going to take leave
of Madame Grandoni, this lady asked at what time he would come back
to Rome, he answered that he was coming back either never or forever.
When she asked him what he meant, he said he really could
n't tell her, and parted from her with much genuine emotion;
the more so, doubtless, that she blessed him in a quite loving,
maternal fashion, and told him she honestly believed him to be
the best fellow in the world.
The Villa Pandolfini stood directly upon a small grass-grown piazza,
on the top of a hill which sloped straight from one of the gates of Florence.
It offered to the outer world a long, rather low fa;alcade, colored a dull,
dark yellow, and pierced with windows of various sizes, no one of which,
save those on the ground floor, was on the same level with any other.
Within, it had a great, cool, gray cortile, with high, light arches
around it, heavily-corniced doors, of majestic altitude, opening out of it,
and a beautiful mediaeval well on one side of it. Mrs. Hudson's rooms
opened into a small garden supported on immense substructions, which were
planted on the farther side of the hill, as it sloped steeply away.
This garden was a charming place. Its south wall was curtained with a dense
orange vine, a dozen fig-trees offered you their large-leaved shade,
and over the low parapet the soft, grave Tuscan landscape kept you company.
The rooms themselves were as high as chapels and as cool as royal sepulchres.
Silence, peace, and security seemed to abide in the ancient house and
make it an ideal refuge for aching hearts. Mrs. Hudson had a stunted,
brown-faced Maddalena, who wore a crimson handkerchief passed over
her coarse, black locks and tied under her sharp, pertinacious chin,
and a smile which was as brilliant as a prolonged flash of lightning.
She smiled at everything in life, especially the things she did n't
like and which kept her talent for mendacity in healthy exercise.
A glance, a word, a motion was sufficient to make her show her teeth
at you like a cheerful she-wolf. This inexpugnable smile constituted
her whole vocabulary in her dealings with her melancholy mistress,
to whom she had been bequeathed by the late occupant of the apartment,
and who, to Rowland's satisfaction, promised to be diverted from her
maternal sorrows by the still deeper perplexities of Maddalena's theory
of roasting, sweeping, and bed-making.
Rowland took rooms at a villa a trifle nearer Florence,
whence in the summer mornings he had five minutes'
walk in the sharp, black, shadow-strip projected by winding,
flower-topped walls, to join his friends. The life at
the Villa Pandolfini, when it had fairly defined itself,
was tranquil and monotonous, but it might have borrowed from
exquisite circumstance an absorbing charm. If a sensible shadow
rested upon it, this was because it had an inherent vice;
it was feigning a repose which it very scantily felt.
Roderick had lost no time in giving the full measure of his
uncompromising chagrin, and as he was the central figure
of the little group, as he held its heart-strings all in his
own hand, it reflected faithfully the eclipse of his own genius.
No one had ventured upon the cheerful commonplace of saying that
the change of air and of scene would restore his spirits; this would
have had, under the circumstances, altogether too silly a sound.
The change in question had done nothing of the sort, and his
companions had, at least, the comfort of their perspicacity.
An essential spring had dried up within him, and there
was no visible spiritual law for making it flow again.
He was rarely violent, he expressed little of the irritation
and ennui that he must have constantly felt; it was as if
he believed that a spiritual miracle for his redemption was
just barely possible, and was therefore worth waiting for.
The most that one could do, however, was to wait grimly
and doggedly, suppressing an imprecation as, from time to time,
one looked at one's watch. An attitude of positive urbanity
toward life was not to be expected; it was doing one's
duty to hold one's tongue and keep one's hands off one's
own windpipe, and other people's. Roderick had long silences,
fits of profound lethargy, almost of stupefaction.
He used to sit in the garden by the hour, with his head
thrown back, his legs outstretched, his hands in his pockets,
and his eyes fastened upon the blinding summer sky. He would
gather a dozen books about him, tumble them out on the ground,
take one into his lap, and leave it with the pages unturned.
These moods would alternate with hours of extreme restlessness,
during which he mysteriously absented himself.
He bore the heat of the Italian summer like a salamander,
and used to start off at high noon for long walks over the hills.
He often went down into Florence, rambled through her close,
dim streets, and lounged away mornings in the churches and galleries.
On many of these occasions Rowland bore him company,
for they were the times when he was most like his former self.
Before Michael Angelo's statues and the pictures of
the early Tuscans, he quite forgot his own infelicities,
and picked up the thread of his old aesthetic loquacity.
He had a particular fondness for Andrea del Sarto, and affirmed
that if he had been a painter he would have taken the author
of the Madonna del Sacco for his model. He found in Florence
some of his Roman friends, and went down on certain evenings
to meet them. More than once he asked Mary Garland to go with
him into town, and showed her the things he most cared for.
He had some modeling clay brought up to the villa and deposited
in a room suitable for his work; but when this had been done
he turned the key in the door and the clay never was touched.
His eye was heavy and his hand cold, and his mother put up
a secret prayer that he might be induced to see a doctor.
But on a certain occasion, when her prayer became articulate,
he had a great outburst of anger and begged her to know,
once for all, that his health was better than it had ever been.
On the whole, and most of the time, he was a sad spectacle;
he looked so hopelessly idle. If he was not querulous and bitter,
it was because he had taken an extraordinary vow not to be;
a vow heroic, for him, a vow which those who knew him well had
the tenderness to appreciate. Talking with him was like skating
on thin ice, and his companions had a constant mental vision
of spots designated "dangerous."
This was a difficult time for Rowland; he said to himself that he would
endure it to the end, but that it must be his last adventure of the kind.
Mrs. Hudson divided her time between looking askance at her son,
with her hands tightly clasped about her pocket-handkerchief,
as if she were wringing it dry of the last hour's tears, and turning
her eyes much more directly upon Rowland, in the mutest, the feeblest,
the most intolerable reproachfulness. She never phrased her accusations,
but he felt that in the unillumined void of the poor lady's mind they
loomed up like vaguely-outlined monsters. Her demeanor caused him
the acutest suffering, and if, at the outset of his enterprise, he had seen,
how dimly soever, one of those plaintive eye-beams in the opposite scale,
the brilliancy of Roderick's promises would have counted for little.
They made their way to the softest spot in his conscience and kept it
chronically aching. If Mrs. Hudson had been loquacious and vulgar,
he would have borne even a less valid persecution with greater fortitude.
But somehow, neat and noiseless and dismally lady-like, as she
sat there, keeping her grievance green with her soft-dropping tears,
her displeasure conveyed an overwhelming imputation of brutality.
He felt like a reckless trustee who has speculated with the widow's mite,
and is haunted with the reflection of ruin that he sees in her tearful eyes.
He did everything conceivable to be polite to Mrs. Hudson, and to treat
her with distinguished deference. Perhaps his exasperated nerves made
him overshoot the mark, and rendered his civilities a trifle peremptory.
She seemed capable of believing that he was trying to make a fool of her;
she would have thought him cruelly recreant if he had suddenly departed
in desperation, and yet she gave him no visible credit for his constancy.
Women are said by some authorities to be cruel; I don't know how true this is,
but it may at least be pertinent to remark that Mrs. Hudson was very much
of a woman. It often seemed to Rowland that he had too decidedly forfeited
his freedom, and that there was something positively grotesque in a man
of his age and circumstances living in such a moral bondage.
But Mary Garland had helped him before, and she helped him now--
helped him not less than he had assured himself she would
when he found himself drifting to Florence. Yet her help
was rendered in the same unconscious, unacknowledged fashion
as before; there was no explicit change in their relations.
After that distressing scene in Rome which had immediately
preceded their departure, it was of course impossible that there
should not be on Miss Garland's part some frankness of allusion
to Roderick's sad condition. She had been present, the reader
will remember, during only half of his unsparing confession,
and Rowland had not seen her confronted with any absolute
proof of Roderick's passion for Christina Light.
But he knew that she knew far too much for her happiness;
Roderick had told him, shortly after their settlement at
the Villa Pandolfini, that he had had a "tremendous talk"
with his cousin. Rowland asked no questions about it;
he preferred not to know what had passed between them.
If their interview had been purely painful, he wished to ignore
it for Miss Garland's sake; and if it had sown the seeds
of reconciliation, he wished to close his eyes to it for his own--
for the sake of that unshaped idea, forever dismissed and yet
forever present, which hovered in the background of his consciousness,
with a hanging head, as it were, and yet an unshamed glance,
and whose lightest motions were an effectual bribe to patience.
Was the engagement broken? Rowland wondered, yet without asking.
But it hardly mattered, for if, as was more than probable,
Miss Garland had peremptorily released her cousin,
her own heart had by no means recovered its liberty.
It was very certain to Rowland's mind that if she had given him
up she had by no means ceased to care for him passionately,
and that, to exhaust her charity for his weaknesses,
Roderick would have, as the phrase is, a long row to hoe.
She spoke of Roderick as she might have done of a person
suffering from a serious malady which demanded much tenderness;
but if Rowland had found it possible to accuse her of dishonesty
he would have said now that she believed appreciably less than
she pretended to in her victim's being an involuntary patient.
There are women whose love is care-taking and patronizing,
and who rather prefer a weak man because he gives them
a comfortable sense of strength. It did not in the least
please Rowland to believe that Mary Garland was one of these;
for he held that such women were only males in petticoats,
and he was convinced that Miss Garland's heart was constructed
after the most perfect feminine model. That she was a very different
woman from Christina Light did not at all prove that she was less
a woman, and if the Princess Casamassima had gone up into a high
place to publish her disrelish of a man who lacked the virile will,
it was very certain that Mary Garland was not a person to put up,
at any point, with what might be called the princess's leavings.
It was Christina's constant practice to remind you of the complexity
of her character, of the subtlety of her mind, of her troublous
faculty of seeing everything in a dozen different lights.
Mary Garland had never pretended not to be simple; but Rowland had a
theory that she had really a more multitudinous sense of human things,
a more delicate imagination, and a finer instinct of character.
She did you the honors of her mind with a grace far less regal,
but was not that faculty of quite as remarkable an adjustment?
If in poor Christina's strangely commingled nature there was
circle within circle, and depth beneath depth, it was to be
believed that Mary Garland, though she did not amuse herself
with dropping stones into her soul, and waiting to hear them fall,
laid quite as many sources of spiritual life under contribution.
She had believed Roderick was a fine fellow when she bade him
farewell beneath the Northampton elms, and this belief, to her young,
strenuous, concentrated imagination, had meant many things.
If it was to grow cold, it would be because disenchantment
had become total and won the battle at each successive point.
Miss Garland had even in her face and carriage something
of the preoccupied and wearied look of a person who is watching
at a sick-bed; Roderick's broken fortunes, his dead ambitions,
were a cruel burden to the heart of a girl who had believed
that he possessed "genius," and supposed that genius was to one's
spiritual economy what full pockets were to one's domestic.
And yet, with her, Rowland never felt, as with Mrs. Hudson,
that undercurrent of reproach and bitterness toward himself,
that impertinent implication that he had defrauded her of happiness.
Was this justice, in Miss Garland, or was it mercy?
The answer would have been difficult, for she had almost let
Rowland feel before leaving Rome that she liked him well enough
to forgive him an injury. It was partly, Rowland fancied,
that there were occasional lapses, deep and sweet, in her sense
of injury. When, on arriving at Florence, she saw the place Rowland
had brought them to in their trouble, she had given him a look
and said a few words to him that had seemed not only a remission
of guilt but a positive reward. This happened in the court
of the villa--the large gray quadrangle, overstretched, from edge
to edge of the red-tiled roof, by the soft Italian sky.
Mary had felt on the spot the sovereign charm of the place;
it was reflected in her deeply intelligent glance, and Rowland
immediately accused himself of not having done the villa justice.
Miss Garland took a mighty fancy to Florence, and used to look
down wistfully at the towered city from the windows and garden.
Roderick having now no pretext for not being her cicerone,
Rowland was no longer at liberty, as he had been in Rome,
to propose frequent excursions to her. Roderick's own
invitations, however, were not frequent, and Rowland more than
once ventured to introduce her to a gallery or a church.
These expeditions were not so blissful, to his sense,
as the rambles they had taken together in Rome, for his
companion only half surrendered herself to her enjoyment,
and seemed to have but a divided attention at her command.
Often, when she had begun with looking intently at a picture,
her silence, after an interval, made him turn and glance at her.
He usually found that if she was looking at the picture still,
she was not seeing it. Her eyes were fixed, but her thoughts
were wandering, and an image more vivid than any that Raphael
or Titian had drawn had superposed itself upon the canvas.
She asked fewer questions than before, and seemed to have lost
heart for consulting guide-books and encyclopaedias. From time
to time, however, she uttered a deep, full murmur of gratification.
Florence in midsummer was perfectly void of travelers, and the dense
little city gave forth its aesthetic aroma with a larger frankness,
as the nightingale sings when the listeners have departed.
The churches were deliciously cool, but the gray streets
were stifling, and the great, dove-tailed polygons of pavement
as hot to the tread as molten lava. Rowland, who suffered from
intense heat, would have found all this uncomfortable in solitude;
but Florence had never charmed him so completely as during
these midsummer strolls with his preoccupied companion.
One evening they had arranged to go on the morrow to the Academy.
Miss Garland kept her appointment, but as soon as she appeared,
Rowland saw that something painful had befallen her.
She was doing her best to look at her ease, but her face bore
the marks of tears. Rowland told her that he was afraid she was ill,
and that if she preferred to give up the visit to Florence
he would submit with what grace he might. She hesitated
a moment, and then said she preferred to adhere to their plan.
"I am not well," she presently added, "but it 's a moral malady,
and in such cases I consider your company beneficial."
"But if I am to be your doctor," said Rowland, "you must tell
me how your illness began."
"I can tell you very little. It began with Mrs. Hudson
being unjust to me, for the first time in her life.
And now I am already better!"
I mention this incident because it confirmed an impression
of Rowland's from which he had derived a certain consolation.
He knew that Mrs. Hudson considered her son's ill-regulated passion
for Christina Light a very regrettable affair, but he suspected
that her manifest compassion had been all for Roderick, and not
in the least for Mary Garland. She was fond of the young girl,
but she had valued her primarily, during the last two years,
as a kind of assistant priestess at Roderick's shrine.
Roderick had honored her by asking her to become his wife,
but that poor Mary had any rights in consequence Mrs. Hudson was
quite incapable of perceiving. Her sentiment on the subject was
of course not very vigorously formulated, but she was unprepared
to admit that Miss Garland had any ground for complaint.
Roderick was very unhappy; that was enough, and Mary's duty was
to join her patience and her prayers to those of his doting mother.
Roderick might fall in love with whom he pleased; no doubt that women
trained in the mysterious Roman arts were only too proud and too
happy to make it easy for him; and it was very presuming in poor,
plain Mary to feel any personal resentment. Mrs. Hudson's
philosophy was of too narrow a scope to suggest that a mother may
forgive where a mistress cannot, and she thought herself greatly
aggrieved that Miss Garland was not so disinterested as herself.
She was ready to drop dead in Roderick's service, and she was
quite capable of seeing her companion falter and grow faint,
without a tremor of compassion. Mary, apparently, had given
some intimation of her belief that if constancy is the flower
of devotion, reciprocity is the guarantee of constancy,
and Mrs. Hudson had rebuked her failing faith and called it cruelty.
That Miss Garland had found it hard to reason with Mrs. Hudson,
that she suffered deeply from the elder lady's softly bitter imputations,
and that, in short, he had companionship in misfortune--
all this made Rowland find a certain luxury in his discomfort.
The party at Villa Pandolfini used to sit in the garden
in the evenings, which Rowland almost always spent with them.
Their entertainment was in the heavily perfumed air, in the dim,
far starlight, in the crenelated tower of a neighboring villa,
which loomed vaguely above them in the warm darkness,
and in such conversation as depressing reflections allowed.
Roderick, clad always in white, roamed about like a restless ghost,
silent for the most part, but making from time to time a
brief observation, characterized by the most fantastic cynicism.
Roderick's contributions to the conversation were indeed
always so fantastic that, though half the time they wearied
him unspeakably, Rowland made an effort to treat them humorously.
With Rowland alone Roderick talked a great deal more; often about
things related to his own work, or about artistic and aesthetic
matters in general. He talked as well as ever, or even better;
but his talk always ended in a torrent of groans and curses.
When this current set in, Rowland straightway turned his back
or stopped his ears, and Roderick now witnessed these movements
with perfect indifference. When the latter was absent
from the star-lit circle in the garden, as often happened,
Rowland knew nothing of his whereabouts; he supposed him
to be in Florence, but he never learned what he did there.
All this was not enlivening, but with an even, muffled tread the days
followed each other, and brought the month of August to a close.
One particular evening at this time was most enchanting;
there was a perfect moon, looking so extraordinarily large
that it made everything its light fell upon seem small;
the heat was tempered by a soft west wind, and the wind
was laden with the odors of the early harvest. The hills,
the vale of the Arno, the shrunken river, the domes of Florence,
were vaguely effaced by the dense moonshine; they looked
as if they were melting out of sight like an exorcised vision.
Rowland had found the two ladies alone at the villa, and he had sat
with them for an hour. He felt absolutely hushed by the solemn
splendor of the scene, but he had risked the remark that,
whatever life might yet have in store for either of them,
this was a night that they would never forget.
"It 's a night to remember on one's death-bed!" Miss Garland exclaimed.
"Oh, Mary, how can you!" murmured Mrs. Hudson, to whom this savored
of profanity, and to whose shrinking sense, indeed, the accumulated
loveliness of the night seemed to have something shameless and defiant.
They were silent after this, for some time, but at last Rowland
addressed certain idle words to Miss Garland. She made no reply,
and he turned to look at her. She was sitting motionless,
with her head pressed to Mrs. Hudson's shoulder, and the latter lady
was gazing at him through the silvered dusk with a look which gave
a sort of spectral solemnity to the sad, weak meaning of her eyes.
She had the air, for the moment, of a little old malevolent fairy.
Miss Garland, Rowland perceived in an instant, was not
absolutely motionless; a tremor passed through her figure.
She was weeping, or on the point of weeping, and she could not trust
herself to speak. Rowland left his place and wandered to another
part of the garden, wondering at the motive of her sudden tears.
Of women's sobs in general he had a sovereign dread, but these,
somehow, gave him a certain pleasure. When he returned to his
place Miss Garland had raised her head and banished her tears.
She came away from Mrs. Hudson, and they stood for a short time
leaning against the parapet.
"It seems to you very strange, I suppose," said Rowland,
"that there should be any trouble in such a world as this."
"I used to think," she answered, "that if any trouble came
to me I would bear it like a stoic. But that was at home,
where things don't speak to us of enjoyment as they do here.
Here it is such a mixture; one does n't know what to choose,
what to believe. Beauty stands there--beauty such as this night
and this place, and all this sad, strange summer, have been
so full of--and it penetrates to one's soul and lodges there,
and keeps saying that man was not made to suffer, but to enjoy.
This place has undermined my stoicism, but--shall I tell you?
I feel as if I were saying something sinful--I love it!"
"If it is sinful, I absolve you," said Rowland, "in so far as I have power.
We are made, I suppose, both to suffer and to enjoy. As you say,
it 's a mixture. Just now and here, it seems a peculiarly strange one.
But we must take things in turn."
His words had a singular aptness, for he had hardly uttered them
when Roderick came out from the house, evidently in his darkest mood.
He stood for a moment gazing hard at the view.
"It 's a very beautiful night, my son," said his mother, going to him timidly,
and touching his arm.
He passed his hand through his hair and let it stay there,
clasping his thick locks. "Beautiful?" he cried;
"of course it 's beautiful! Everything is beautiful;
everything is insolent, defiant, atrocious with beauty.
Nothing is ugly but me--me and my poor dead brain!"
"Oh, my dearest son," pleaded poor Mrs. Hudson, "don't you
feel any better?"
Roderick made no immediate answer; but at last he spoke in a different voice.
"I came expressly to tell you that you need n't trouble yourselves any longer
to wait for something to turn up. Nothing will turn up! It 's all over!
I said when I came here I would give it a chance. I have given it a chance.
Have n't I, eh? Have n't I, Rowland? It 's no use; the thing 's a failure!
Do with me now what you please. I recommend you to set me up there at the end
of the garden and shoot me."
"I feel strongly inclined," said Rowland gravely, "to go
and get my revolver."
"Oh, mercy on us, what language!" cried Mrs. Hudson.
"Why not?" Roderick went on. "This would be a lovely night for it,
and I should be a lucky fellow to be buried in this garden.
But bury me alive, if you prefer. Take me back to Northampton."
"Roderick, will you really come?" cried his mother.
"Oh yes, I 'll go! I might as well be there as anywhere--
reverting to idiocy and living upon alms. I can do nothing
with all this; perhaps I should really like Northampton.
If I 'm to vegetate for the rest of my days, I can do it there
better than here."
"Oh, come home, come home," Mrs. Hudson said, "and we shall all be safe
and quiet and happy. My dearest son, come home with your poor mother!"
"Let us go, then, and go quickly!"
Mrs. Hudson flung herself upon his neck for gratitude.
"We 'll go to-morrow!" she cried. "The Lord is very good to me!"
Mary Garland said nothing to this; but she looked at Rowland,
and her eyes seemed to contain a kind of alarmed appeal.
Rowland noted it with exultation, but even without it he would
have broken into an eager protest.
"Are you serious, Roderick?" he demanded.
"Serious? of course not! How can a man with a crack
in his brain be serious? how can a muddlehead reason?
But I 'm not jesting, either; I can no more make jokes
than utter oracles!"
"Are you willing to go home?"
"Willing? God forbid! I am simply amenable to force;
if my mother chooses to take me, I won't resist.
I can't! I have come to that!"
"Let me resist, then," said Rowland. "Go home as you are now?
I can't stand by and see it."
It may have been true that Roderick had lost his sense of humor, but he
scratched his head with a gesture that was almost comical in its effect.
"You are a queer fellow! I should think I would disgust you horribly. "
"Stay another year," Rowland simply said.
"You shall do something. I am responsible for your doing something."
"To whom are you responsible?"
Rowland, before replying, glanced at Miss Garland, and his glance
made her speak quickly. "Not to me!"
"I 'm responsible to myself," Rowland declared.
"My poor, dear fellow!" said Roderick.
"Oh, Mr. Mallet, are n't you satisfied?" cried Mrs. Hudson, in the tone
in which Niobe may have addressed the avenging archers, after she had seen
her eldest-born fall. "It 's out of all nature keeping him here. When we
're in a poor way, surely our own dear native land is the place for us.
Do leave us to ourselves, sir!"
This just failed of being a dismissal in form, and Rowland bowed his head
to it. Roderick was silent for some moments; then, suddenly, he covered
his face with his two hands. "Take me at least out of this terrible Italy,"
he cried, "where everything mocks and reproaches and torments and eludes me!
Take me out of this land of impossible beauty and put me in the midst
of ugliness. Set me down where nature is coarse and flat, and men and
manners are vulgar. There must be something awfully ugly in Germany.
Pack me off there!"
Rowland answered that if he wished to leave Italy the thing might
be arranged; he would think it over and submit a proposal on the morrow.
He suggested to Mrs. Hudson, in consequence, that she should spend
the autumn in Switzerland, where she would find a fine tonic climate,
plenty of fresh milk, and several pensions at three francs and a half a day.
Switzerland, of course, was not ugly, but one could not have everything.
Mrs. Hudson neither thanked him nor assented; but she wept and packed
her trunks. Rowland had a theory, after the scene which led
to these preparations, that Mary Garland was weary of waiting
for Roderick to come to his senses, that the faith which had
bravely borne his manhood company hitherto, on the tortuous march
he was leading it, had begun to believe it had gone far enough.
This theory was not vitiated by something she said to him on the day
before that on which Mrs. Hudson had arranged to leave Florence.
"Cousin Sarah, the other evening," she said, "asked you to please leave us.
I think she hardly knew what she was saying, and I hope you have
not taken offense."
"By no means; but I honestly believe that my leaving you would contribute
greatly to Mrs. Hudson's comfort. I can be your hidden providence, you know;
I can watch you at a distance, and come upon the scene at critical moments."
Miss Garland looked for a moment at the ground; and then,
with sudden earnestness, "I beg you to come with us!" she said.
It need hardly be added that after this Rowland went with them.
CHAPTER XII. The Princess Casamassima
Rowland had a very friendly memory of a little mountain inn,
accessible with moderate trouble from Lucerne, where he had once
spent a blissful ten days. He had at that time been trudging,
knapsack on back, over half Switzerland, and not being,
on his legs, a particularly light weight, it was no shame to him
to confess that he was mortally tired. The inn of which I speak
presented striking analogies with a cow-stable; but in spite
of this circumstance, it was crowded with hungry tourists.
It stood in a high, shallow valley, with flower-strewn Alpine
meadows sloping down to it from the base of certain rugged
rocks whose outlines were grotesque against the evening sky.
Rowland had seen grander places in Switzerland that pleased
him less, and whenever afterwards he wished to think of Alpine
opportunities at their best, he recalled this grassy concave
among the mountain-tops, and the August days he spent there,
resting deliciously, at his length, in the lee of a sun-warmed boulder,
with the light cool air stirring about his temples, the wafted
odors of the pines in his nostrils, the tinkle of the cattle-bells
in his ears, the vast progression of the mountain shadows
before his eyes, and a volume of Wordsworth in his pocket.
His face, on the Swiss hill-sides, had been scorched to within
a shade of the color nowadays called magenta, and his bed
was a pallet in a loft, which he shared with a German botanist
of colossal stature--every inch of him quaking at an open window.
These had been drawbacks to felicity, but Rowland hardly cared
where or how he was lodged, for he spent the livelong day under
the sky, on the crest of a slope that looked at the Jungfrau.
He remembered all this on leaving Florence with his friends,
and he reflected that, as the midseason was over,
accommodations would be more ample, and charges more modest.
He communicated with his old friend the landlord, and, while September
was yet young, his companions established themselves under his
guidance in the grassy valley.
He had crossed the Saint Gothard Pass with them, in the same carriage.
During the journey from Florence, and especially during this portion of it,
the cloud that hung over the little party had been almost dissipated,
and they had looked at each other, in the close contiguity of the train
and the posting-carriage, without either accusing or consoling glances.
It was impossible not to enjoy the magnificent scenery of the Apennines
and the Italian Alps, and there was a tacit agreement among the travelers
to abstain from sombre allusions. The effect of this delicate compact
seemed excellent; it ensured them a week's intellectual sunshine.
Roderick sat and gazed out of the window with a fascinated stare,
and with a perfect docility of attitude. He concerned himself not a
particle about the itinerary, or about any of the wayside arrangements;
he took no trouble, and he gave none. He assented to everything
that was proposed, talked very little, and led for a week a perfectly
contemplative life. His mother rarely removed her eyes from him;
and if, a while before, this would have extremely irritated him,
he now seemed perfectly unconscious of her observation and profoundly
indifferent to anything that might befall him. They spent a couple
of days on the Lake of Como, at a hotel with white porticoes smothered
in oleander and myrtle, and the terrace-steps leading down to little
boats with striped awnings. They agreed it was the earthly paradise,
and they passed the mornings strolling through the perfumed alleys
of classic villas, and the evenings floating in the moonlight in a
circle of outlined mountains, to the music of silver-trickling oars.
One day, in the afternoon, the two young men took a long stroll together.
They followed the winding footway that led toward Como, close to
the lake-side, past the gates of villas and the walls of vineyards,
through little hamlets propped on a dozen arches, and bathing
their feet and their pendant tatters in the gray-green ripple;
past frescoed walls and crumbling campaniles and grassy village piazzas,
and the mouth of soft ravines that wound upward, through belts
of swinging vine and vaporous olive and splendid chestnut, to high
ledges where white chapels gleamed amid the paler boskage, and bare
cliff-surfaces, with their sun-cracked lips, drank in the azure light.
It all was confoundingly picturesque; it was the Italy that we
know from the steel engravings in old keepsakes and annuals,
from the vignettes on music-sheets and the drop-curtains at theatres;
an Italy that we can never confess to ourselves--in spite of our
own changes and of Italy's--that we have ceased to believe in.
Rowland and Roderick turned aside from the little paved footway
that clambered and dipped and wound and doubled beside the lake,
and stretched themselves idly beneath a fig-tree, on a grassy promontory.
Rowland had never known anything so divinely soothing as the dreamy
softness of that early autumn afternoon. The iridescent mountains
shut him in; the little waves, beneath him, fretted the white pebbles
at the laziest intervals; the festooned vines above him swayed just
visibly in the all but motionless air.
Roderick lay observing it all with his arms thrown back and his
hands under his head. "This suits me," he said; "I could be
happy here and forget everything. Why not stay here forever?"
He kept his position for a long time and seemed lost in his thoughts.
Rowland spoke to him, but he made vague answers; at last
he closed his eyes. It seemed to Rowland, also, a place to stay
in forever; a place for perfect oblivion of the disagreeable.
Suddenly Roderick turned over on his face, and buried it in his arms.
There had been something passionate in his movement; but Rowland
was nevertheless surprised, when he at last jerked himself back
into a sitting posture, to perceive the trace of tears in his eyes.
Roderick turned to his friend, stretching his two hands out toward
the lake and mountains, and shaking them with an eloquent gesture,
as if his heart was too full for utterance.
"Pity me, sir; pity me!" he presently cried. "Look at this lovely world,
and think what it must be to be dead to it!"
"Dead?" said Rowland.
"Dead, dead; dead and buried! Buried in an open grave,
where you lie staring up at the sailing clouds, smelling the
waving flowers, and hearing all nature live and grow above you!
That 's the way I feel!"
"I am glad to hear it," said Rowland. "Death of that sort
is very near to resurrection."
"It 's too horrible," Roderick went on; "it has all come over me
here tremendously! If I were not ashamed, I could shed a bushel of tears.
For one hour of what I have been, I would give up anything I may be!"
"Never mind what you have been; be something better!"
"I shall never be anything again: it 's no use talking!
But I don't know what secret spring has been touched
since I have lain here. Something in my heart seemed
suddenly to open and let in a flood of beauty and desire.
I know what I have lost, and I think it horrible!
Mind you, I know it, I feel it! Remember that hereafter.
Don't say that he was stupefied and senseless;
that his perception was dulled and his aspiration dead.
Say that he trembled in every nerve with a sense of the beauty
and sweetness of life; that he rebelled and protested
and shrieked; that he was buried alive, with his eyes open,
and his heart beating to madness; that he clung to every
blade of grass and every way-side thorn as he passed;
that it was the most horrible spectacle you ever witnessed;
that it was an outrage, a murder, a massacre!"
"Good heavens, man, are you insane?" Rowland cried.
"I never have been saner. I don't want to be bad company, and in this
beautiful spot, at this delightful hour, it seems an outrage to break
the charm. But I am bidding farewell to Italy, to beauty, to honor,
to life! I only want to assure you that I know what I lose.
I know it in every pulse of my heart! Here, where these things
are all loveliest, I take leave of them. Farewell, farewell!"
During their passage of the Saint Gothard, Roderick absented
himself much of the time from the carriage, and rambled far
in advance, along the huge zigzags of the road. He displayed
an extraordinary activity; his light weight and slender figure
made him an excellent pedestrian, and his friends frequently saw
him skirting the edge of plunging chasms, loosening the stones
on long, steep slopes, or lifting himself against the sky,
from the top of rocky pinnacles. Mary Garland walked a great deal,
but she remained near the carriage to be with Mrs. Hudson.
Rowland remained near it to be with Miss Garland.
He trudged by her side up that magnificent ascent from Italy,
and found himself regretting that the Alps were so low, and that
their trudging was not to last a week. She was exhilarated;
she liked to walk; in the way of mountains, until within the last
few weeks, she had seen nothing greater than Mount Holyoke,
and she found that the Alps amply justified their reputation.
Rowland knew that she loved nature, but he was struck afresh
with the vivacity of her observation of it, and with her
knowledge of plants and stones. At that season the wild flowers
had mostly departed, but a few of them lingered, and Miss
Garland never failed to espy them in their outlying corners.
They interested her greatly; she was charmed when they
were old friends, and charmed even more when they were new.
She displayed a very light foot in going in quest of them,
and had soon covered the front seat of the carriage with a tangle
of strange vegetation. Rowland of course was alert in her service,
and he gathered for her several botanical specimens which at
first seemed inaccessible. One of these, indeed, had at
first appeared easier of capture than his attempt attested,
and he had paused a moment at the base of the little peak
on which it grew, measuring the risk of farther pursuit.
Suddenly, as he stood there, he remembered Roderick's defiance
of danger and of Miss Light, at the Coliseum, and he was seized
with a strong desire to test the courage of his companion.
She had just scrambled up a grassy slope near him, and had seen
that the flower was out of reach. As he prepared to approach it,
she called to him eagerly to stop; the thing was impossible!
Poor Rowland, whose passion had been terribly starved,
enjoyed immensely the thought of having her care, for three minutes,
what became of him. He was the least brutal of men, but for
a moment he was perfectly indifferent to her suffering.
"I can get the flower," he called to her. "Will you trust me?"
"I don't want it; I would rather not have it!" she cried.
"Will you trust me?" he repeated, looking at her.
She looked at him and then at the flower; he wondered
whether she would shriek and swoon, as Miss Light had done.
"I wish it were something better!" she said simply; and then
stood watching him, while he began to clamber. Rowland was
not shaped for an acrobat, and his enterprise was difficult;
but he kept his wits about him, made the most of narrow
foot-holds and coigns of vantage, and at last secured his prize.
He managed to stick it into his buttonhole and then he contrived
to descend. There was more than one chance for an ugly fall,
but he evaded them all. It was doubtless not gracefully done,
but it was done, and that was all he had proposed to himself.
He was red in the face when he offered Miss Garland the flower,
and she was visibly pale. She had watched him without moving.
All this had passed without the knowledge of Mrs. Hudson,
who was dozing beneath the hood of the carriage. Mary Garland's
eyes did not perhaps display that ardent admiration which was
formerly conferred by the queen of beauty at a tournament;
but they expressed something in which Rowland found his reward.
"Why did you do that?" she asked, gravely.
He hesitated. He felt that it was physically possible to say,
"Because I love you!" but that it was not morally possible.
He lowered his pitch and answered, simply, "Because I wanted
to do something for you."
"Suppose you had fallen," said Miss Garland.
"I believed I would not fall. And you believed it, I think."
"I believed nothing. I simply trusted you, as you asked me."
"Quod erat demonstrandum!" cried Rowland. "I think you know Latin."
When our four friends were established in what I have called their
grassy valley, there was a good deal of scrambling over slopes both
grassy and stony, a good deal of flower-plucking on narrow ledges,
a great many long walks, and, thanks to the lucid mountain air,
not a little exhilaration. Mrs. Hudson was obliged to intermit
her suspicions of the deleterious atmosphere of the old world,
and to acknowledge the edifying purity of the breezes of Engelthal.
She was certainly more placid than she had been in Italy;
having always lived in the country, she had missed in Rome
and Florence that social solitude mitigated by bushes and
rocks which is so dear to the true New England temperament.
The little unpainted inn at Engelthal, with its plank partitions,
its milk-pans standing in the sun, its "help," in the form of angular
young women of the country-side, reminded her of places of summer
sojourn in her native land; and the beautiful historic chambers
of the Villa Pandolfini passed from her memory without a regret,
and without having in the least modified her ideal of domiciliary grace.
Roderick had changed his sky, but he had not changed his mind;
his humor was still that of which he had given Rowland a glimpse
in that tragic explosion on the Lake of Como. He kept his despair
to himself, and he went doggedly about the ordinary business of life;
but it was easy to see that his spirit was mortally heavy,
and that he lived and moved and talked simply from the force of habit.
In that sad half-hour among the Italian olives there had been
such a fierce sincerity in his tone, that Rowland began to abdicate
the critical attitude. He began to feel that it was essentially
vain to appeal to the poor fellow's will; there was no will left;
its place was an impotent void. This view of the case indeed
was occasionally contravened by certain indications on Roderick's
part of the power of resistance to disagreeable obligations:
one might still have said, if one had been disposed to be
didactic at any hazard, that there was a method in his madness,
that his moral energy had its sleeping and its waking hours,
and that, in a cause that pleased it, it was capable of rising
with the dawn. But on the other hand, pleasure, in this case,
was quite at one with effort; evidently the greatest bliss
in life, for Roderick, would have been to have a plastic idea.
And then, it was impossible not to feel tenderly to a despair
which had so ceased to be aggressive--not to forgive a great deal
of apathy to a temper which had so unlearned its irritability.
Roderick said frankly that Switzerland made him less miserable
than Italy, and the Alps seemed less to mock at his enforced leisure
than the Apennines. He indulged in long rambles, generally alone,
and was very fond of climbing into dizzy places, where no sound could
overtake him, and there, flinging himself on the never-trodden moss,
of pulling his hat over his eyes and lounging away the hours in
perfect immobility. Rowland sometimes walked with him; though Roderick
never invited him, he seemed duly grateful for his society.
Rowland now made it a rule to treat him like a perfectly sane man,
to assume that all things were well with him, and never to allude
to the prosperity he had forfeited or to the work he was not doing.
He would have still said, had you questioned him, that Roderick's
condition was a mood--certainly a puzzling one. It might last yet
for many a weary hour; but it was a long lane that had no turning.
Roderick's blues would not last forever. Rowland's interest in Miss
Garland's relations with her cousin was still profoundly attentive,
and perplexed as he was on all sides, he found nothing transparent here.
After their arrival at Engelthal, Roderick appeared to seek the young
girl's society more than he had done hitherto, and this revival of
ardor could not fail to set his friend a-wondering. They sat together
and strolled together, and Miss Garland often read aloud to him.
One day, on their coming to dinner, after he had been lying half
the morning at her feet, in the shadow of a rock, Rowland asked
him what she had been reading.
"I don't know," Roderick said, "I don't heed the sense."
Miss Garland heard this, and Rowland looked at her.
She looked at Roderick sharply and with a little blush.
"I listen to Mary," Roderick continued, "for the sake of her voice.
It 's distractingly sweet!" At this Miss Garland's blush deepened,
and she looked away.
Rowland, in Florence, as we know, had suffered his imagination
to wander in the direction of certain conjectures which
the reader may deem unflattering to Miss Garland's constancy.
He had asked himself whether her faith in Roderick had
not faltered, and that demand of hers which had brought
about his own departure for Switzerland had seemed almost
equivalent to a confession that she needed his help to believe.
Rowland was essentially a modest man, and he did not risk
the supposition that Miss Garland had contrasted him
with Roderick to his own advantage; but he had a certain
consciousness of duty resolutely done which allowed itself
to fancy, at moments, that it might be not illogically
rewarded by the bestowal of such stray grains of enthusiasm
as had crumbled away from her estimate of his companion.
If some day she had declared, in a sudden burst of passion,
that she was outwearied and sickened, and that she gave up
her recreant lover, Rowland's expectation would have gone
half-way to meet her. And certainly if her passion had taken
this course no generous critic would utterly condemn her.
She had been neglected, ignored, forsaken, treated with
a contempt which no girl of a fine temper could endure.
There were girls, indeed, whose fineness, like that of Burd Helen
in the ballad, lay in clinging to the man of their love through
thick and thin, and in bowing their head to all hard usage.
This attitude had often an exquisite beauty of its own,
but Rowland deemed that he had solid reason to believe it
never could be Mary Garland's. She was not a passive creature;
she was not soft and meek and grateful for chance bounties.
With all her reserve of manner she was proud and eager;
she asked much and she wanted what she asked; she believed
in fine things and she never could long persuade herself that
fine things missed were as beautiful as fine things achieved.
Once Rowland passed an angry day. He had dreamed--it was the most
insubstantial of dreams--that she had given him the right to
believe that she looked to him to transmute her discontent.
And yet here she was throwing herself back into Roderick's arms
at his lightest overture, and playing with his own half fearful,
half shameful hopes! Rowland declared to himself that his
position was essentially detestable, and that all the philosophy
he could bring to bear upon it would make it neither honorable
nor comfortable. He would go away and make an end of it.
He did not go away; he simply took a long walk, stayed away
from the inn all day, and on his return found Miss Garland
sitting out in the moonlight with Roderick.
Rowland, communing with himself during the restless ramble in question,
had determined that he would at least cease to observe, to heed,
or to care for what Miss Garland and Roderick might do or might
not do together. Nevertheless, some three days afterward,
the opportunity presenting itself, he deliberately broached
the subject with Roderick. He knew this was inconsistent
and faint-hearted; it was indulgence to the fingers that itched
to handle forbidden fruit. But he said to himself that it
was really more logical to be inconsistent than the reverse;
for they had formerly discussed these mysteries very candidly.
Was it not perfectly reasonable that he should wish to know
the sequel of the situation which Roderick had then delineated?
Roderick had made him promises, and it was to be expected
that he should ascertain how the promises had been kept.
Rowland could not say to himself that if the promises had been
extorted for Mary Garland's sake, his present attention to them
was equally disinterested; and so he had to admit that he was indeed
faint-hearted. He may perhaps be deemed too narrow a casuist,
but we have repeated more than once that he was solidly burdened
with a conscience.
"I imagine," he said to Roderick, "that you are not sorry, at present,
to have allowed yourself to be dissuaded from making a final rupture
with Miss Garland."
Roderick eyed him with the vague and absent look which had lately
become habitual to his face, and repeated "Dissuaded?"
"Don't you remember that, in Rome, you wished to break your engagement,
and that I urged you to respect it, though it seemed to hang by
so slender a thread? I wished you to see what would come of it?
If I am not mistaken, you are reconciled to it."
"Oh yes," said Roderick, "I remember what you said; you made it a kind
of personal favor to yourself that I should remain faithful. I consented,
but afterwards, when I thought of it, your attitude greatly amused me.
Had it ever been seen before?--a man asking another man to gratify him
by not suspending his attentions to a pretty girl!"
"It was as selfish as anything else," said Rowland.
"One man puts his selfishness into one thing, and one into another.
It would have utterly marred my comfort to see Miss Garland
in low spirits."
"But you liked her--you admired her, eh? So you intimated."
"I admire her profoundly."
"It was your originality then--to do you justice you have a great deal,
of a certain sort--to wish her happiness secured in just that fashion.
Many a man would have liked better himself to make the woman he admired happy,
and would have welcomed her low spirits as an opening for sympathy.
You were awfully queer about it."
"So be it!" said Rowland. "The question is, Are you not glad I was queer?
Are you not finding that your affection for Miss Garland has a permanent
quality which you rather underestimated?"
"I don't pretend to say. When she arrived in Rome, I found I did n't care
for her, and I honestly proposed that we should have no humbug about it.
If you, on the contrary, thought there was something to be gained
by having a little humbug, I was willing to try it! I don't see that
the situation is really changed. Mary Garland is all that she ever was--
more than all. But I don't care for her! I don't care for anything,
and I don't find myself inspired to make an exception in her favor.
The only difference is that I don't care now, whether I care for her or not.
Of course, marrying such a useless lout as I am is out of the question
for any woman, and I should pay Miss Garland a poor compliment to assume
that she is in a hurry to celebrate our nuptials."
"Oh, you 're in love!" said Rowland, not very logically.
It must be confessed, at any cost, that this assertion was made
for the sole purpose of hearing Roderick deny it.
But it quite failed of its aim. Roderick gave a liberal shrug
of his shoulders and an irresponsible toss of his head.
"Call it what you please! I am past caring for names."
Rowland had not only been illogical, he had also been slightly disingenuous.
He did not believe that his companion was in love; he had argued the false
to learn the true. The true was that Roderick was again, in some degree,
under a charm, and that he found a healing virtue in Mary's presence,
indisposed though he was to admit it. He had said, shortly before,
that her voice was sweet to his ear; and this was a promising beginning.
If her voice was sweet it was probable that her glance was not amiss,
that her touch had a quiet magic, and that her whole personal presence
had learned the art of not being irritating. So Rowland reasoned,
and invested Mary Garland with a still finer loveliness.
It was true that she herself helped him little to definite conclusions,
and that he remained in puzzled doubt as to whether these happy
touches were still a matter of the heart, or had become simply
a matter of the conscience. He watched for signs that she rejoiced
in Roderick's renewed acceptance of her society; but it seemed to him
that she was on her guard against interpreting it too largely.
It was now her turn--he fancied that he sometimes gathered from
certain nameless indications of glance and tone and gesture--
it was now her turn to be indifferent, to care for other things.
Again and again Rowland asked himself what these things were that Miss
Garland might be supposed to care for, to the injury of ideal constancy;
and again, having designated them, he divided them into two portions.
One was that larger experience, in general, which had come
to her with her arrival in Europe; the vague sense, borne in upon
her imagination, that there were more things one might do with one's
life than youth and ignorance and Northampton had dreamt of;
the revision of old pledges in the light of new emotions.
The other was the experience, in especial, of Rowland's--what?
Here Rowland always paused, in perfect sincerity, to measure afresh
his possible claim to the young girl's regard. What might he call it?
It had been more than civility and yet it had been less than devotion.
It had spoken of a desire to serve, but it had said nothing of a hope
of reward. Nevertheless, Rowland's fancy hovered about the idea
that it was recompensable, and his reflections ended in a reverie
which perhaps did not define it, but at least, on each occasion,
added a little to its volume. Since Miss Garland had asked
him as a sort of favor to herself to come also to Switzerland,
he thought it possible she might let him know whether he seemed
to have effectively served her. The days passed without her doing so,
and at last Rowland walked away to an isolated eminence some five miles
from the inn and murmured to the silent rocks that she was ungrateful.
Listening nature seemed not to contradict him, so that, on the morrow,
he asked the young girl, with an infinitesimal touch of irony,
whether it struck her that his deflection from his Florentine plan
had been attended with brilliant results.
"Why, we are delighted that you are with us!" she answered.
He was anything but satisfied with this; it seemed to imply
that she had forgotten that she had solemnly asked him to come.
He reminded her of her request, and recalled the place and time.
"That evening on the terrace, late, after Mrs. Hudson had gone to bed,
and Roderick being absent."
She perfectly remembered, but the memory seemed to trouble her.
"I am afraid your kindness has been a great charge upon you," she said.
"You wanted very much to do something else."
"I wanted above all things to oblige you, and I made no sacrifice.
But if I had made an immense one, it would be more than made up to me
by any assurance that I have helped Roderick into a better mood."
She was silent a moment, and then, "Why do you ask me?" she said.
"You are able to judge quite as well as I."
Rowland blushed; he desired to justify himself in the most veracious manner.
"The truth is," he said, "that I am afraid I care only in the second place
for Roderick's holding up his head. What I care for in the first place
is your happiness."
"I don't know why that should be," she answered.
"I have certainly done nothing to make you so much my friend.
If you were to tell me you intended to leave us to-morrow,
I am afraid that I should not venture to ask you to stay.
But whether you go or stay, let us not talk of Roderick!"
"But that," said Rowland, "does n't answer my question.
Is he better?"
"No!" she said, and turned away.
He was careful not to tell her that he intended to leave them.
One day, shortly after this, as the two young men sat
at the inn-door watching the sunset, which on that evening
was very striking and lurid, Rowland made an attempt to sound
his companion's present sentiment touching Christina Light.
"I wonder where she is," he said, "and what sort of a life
she is leading her prince."
Roderick at first made no response. He was watching a figure
on the summit of some distant rocks, opposite to them.
The figure was apparently descending into the valley,
and in relief against the crimson screen of the western sky,
it looked gigantic. "Christina Light?" Roderick at last repeated,
as if arousing himself from a reverie. "Where she is?
It 's extraordinary how little I care!"
"Have you, then, completely got over it?"
To this Roderick made no direct reply; he sat brooding a while.
"She 's a humbug!" he presently exclaimed.
"Possibly!" said Rowland. "But I have known worse ones."
"She disappointed me!" Roderick continued in the same tone.
"Had she, then, really given you hopes?"
"Oh, don't recall it!" Roderick cried. "Why the devil should I think
of it? It was only three months ago, but it seems like ten years."
His friend said nothing more, and after a while he went on
of his own accord. "I believed there was a future in it all!
She pleased me--pleased me; and when an artist--such as I was--
is pleased, you know!" And he paused again. "You never saw
her as I did; you never heard her in her great moments.
But there is no use talking about that! At first she would
n't regard me seriously; she chaffed me and made light of me.
But at last I forced her to admit I was a great man.
Think of that, sir! Christina Light called me a great man.
A great man was what she was looking for, and we
agreed to find our happiness for life in each other.
To please me she promised not to marry till I gave her leave.
I was not in a marrying way myself, but it was damnation to think
of another man possessing her. To spare my sensibilities,
she promised to turn off her prince, and the idea of her doing so made
me as happy as to see a perfect statue shaping itself in the block.
You have seen how she kept her promise! When I learned it,
it was as if the statue had suddenly cracked and turned hideous.
She died for me, like that!" And he snapped his fingers.
"Was it wounded vanity, disappointed desire, betrayed confidence?
I am sure I don't know; you certainly have some name for it."
"The poor girl did the best she could," said Rowland.
"If that was her best, so much the worse for her!
I have hardly thought of her these two months, but I have
not forgiven her."
"Well, you may believe that you are avenged. I can't think
of her as happy."
"I don't pity her!" said Roderick. Then he relapsed into silence,
and the two sat watching the colossal figure as it made its way downward
along the jagged silhouette of the rocks. "Who is this mighty man,"
cried Roderick at last, "and what is he coming down upon us for?
We are small people here, and we can't undertake to keep company with giants."
"Wait till we meet him on our own level," said Rowland,
"and perhaps he will not overtop us."
"For ten minutes, at least," Roderick rejoined, "he will have
been a great man!" At this moment the figure sank beneath
the horizon line and became invisible in the uncertain light.
Suddenly Roderick said, "I would like to see her once more--
simply to look at her."
"I would not advise it," said Rowland.
"It was her beauty that did it!" Roderick went on.
"It was all her beauty; in comparison, the rest was nothing.
What befooled me was to think of it as my property!
And I had made it mine--no one else had studied it as I had,
no one else understood it. What does that stick of a Casamassima
know about it at this hour? I should like to see it just once more;
it 's the only thing in the world of which I can say so."
"I would not advise it," Rowland repeated.
"That 's right, dear Rowland," said Roderick; "don't advise!
That 's no use now."
The dusk meanwhile had thickened, and they had not perceived
a figure approaching them across the open space in front
of the house. Suddenly it stepped into the circle
of light projected from the door and windows, and they
beheld little Sam Singleton stopping to stare at them.
He was the giant whom they had seen descending along the rocks.
When this was made apparent Roderick was seized with a fit
of intense hilarity--it was the first time he had laughed
in three months. Singleton, who carried a knapsack and
walking-staff, received from Rowland the friendliest welcome.
He was in the serenest possible humor, and if in the way
of luggage his knapsack contained nothing but a comb and a
second shirt, he produced from it a dozen admirable sketches.
He had been trudging over half Switzerland and making everywhere
the most vivid pictorial notes. They were mostly in a box
at Interlaken, and in gratitude for Rowland's appreciation,
he presently telegraphed for his box, which, according to
the excellent Swiss method, was punctually delivered by post.
The nights were cold, and our friends, with three or four
other chance sojourners, sat in-doors over a fire of logs.
Even with Roderick sitting moodily in the outer shadow they
made a sympathetic little circle, and they turned over
Singleton's drawings, while he perched in the chimney-corner,
blushing and grinning, with his feet on the rounds of his chair.
He had been pedestrianizing for six weeks, and he was glad
to rest awhile at Engelthal. It was an economic repose,
however, for he sallied forth every morning, with his sketching
tools on his back, in search of material for new studies.
Roderick's hilarity, after the first evening, had subsided,
and he watched the little painter's serene activity with a
gravity that was almost portentous. Singleton, who was not
in the secret of his personal misfortunes, still treated him
with timid frankness as the rising star of American art.
Roderick had said to Rowland, at first, that Singleton
reminded him of some curious little insect with a remarkable
mechanical instinct in its antennae; but as the days went
by it was apparent that the modest landscapist's unflagging
industry grew to have an oppressive meaning for him.
It pointed a moral, and Roderick used to sit and con the moral
as he saw it figured in Singleton's bent back, on the hot
hill-sides, protruding from beneath his white umbrella.
One day he wandered up a long slope and overtook him as he sat
at work; Singleton related the incident afterwards to Rowland,
who, after giving him in Rome a hint of Roderick's aberrations,
had strictly kept his own counsel.
"Are you always like this?" said Roderick, in almost sepulchral accents.
"Like this?" repeated Singleton, blinking confusedly,
with an alarmed conscience.
"You remind me of a watch that never runs down.
If one listens hard one hears you always--tic-tic, tic-tic."
"Oh, I see," said Singleton, beaming ingenuously.
"I am very equable."
"You are very equable, yes. And do you find it pleasant to be equable?"
Singleton turned and grinned more brightly, while he sucked
the water from his camel's-hair brush. Then, with a quickened
sense of his indebtedness to a Providence that had endowed him
with intrinsic facilities, "Oh, delightful!" he exclaimed.
Roderick stood looking at him a moment. "Damnation!" he said
at last, solemnly, and turned his back.
One morning, shortly after this, Rowland and Roderick took a long walk.
They had walked before in a dozen different directions, but they
had not yet crossed a charming little wooded pass, which shut in
their valley on one side and descended into the vale of Engelberg.
In coming from Lucerne they had approached their inn by this path,
and, feeling that they knew it, had hitherto neglected it in favor
of untrodden ways. But at last the list of these was exhausted,
and Rowland proposed the walk to Engelberg as a novelty.
The place is half bleak and half pastoral; a huge white monastery
rises abruptly from the green floor of the valley and complicates
its picturesqueness with an element rare in Swiss scenery.
Hard by is a group of chalets and inns, with the usual appurtenances
of a prosperous Swiss resort--lean brown guides in baggy homespun,
lounging under carved wooden galleries, stacks of alpenstocks
in every doorway, sun-scorched Englishmen without shirt-collars.
Our two friends sat a while at the door of an inn, discussing a
pint of wine, and then Roderick, who was indefatigable,
announced his intention of climbing to a certain rocky pinnacle
which overhung the valley, and, according to the testimony
of one of the guides, commanded a view of the Lake of Lucerne.
To go and come back was only a matter of an hour, but Rowland,
with the prospect of his homeward trudge before him,
confessed to a preference for lounging on his bench, or at most
strolling a trifle farther and taking a look at the monastery.
Roderick went off alone, and his companion after a while bent
his steps to the monasterial church. It was remarkable, like most
of the churches of Catholic Switzerland, for a hideous style of
devotional ornament; but it had a certain cold and musty picturesqueness,
and Rowland lingered there with some tenderness for Alpine piety.
While he was near the high-altar some people came in at the west door;
but he did not notice them, and was presently engaged in deciphering
a curious old German epitaph on one of the mural tablets.
At last he turned away, wondering whether its syntax or its theology
was the more uncomfortable, and, to this infinite surprise,
found himself confronted with the Prince and Princess Casamassima.
The surprise on Christina's part, for an instant, was equal, and at first she
seemed disposed to turn away without letting it give place to a greeting.
The prince, however, saluted gravely, and then Christina, in silence,
put out her hand. Rowland immediately asked whether they were staying
at Engelberg, but Christina only looked at him without speaking.
The prince answered his questions, and related that they had been
making a month's tour in Switzerland, that at Lucerne his wife had been
somewhat obstinately indisposed, and that the physician had recommended
a week's trial of the tonic air and goat's milk of Engelberg.
The scenery, said the prince, was stupendous, but the life was terribly sad--
and they had three days more! It was a blessing, he urbanely added,
to see a good Roman face.
Christina's attitude, her solemn silence and her penetrating gaze
seemed to Rowland, at first, to savor of affectation; but he presently
perceived that she was profoundly agitated, and that she was afraid
of betraying herself. "Do let us leave this hideous edifice,"
she said; "there are things here that set one's teeth on edge."
They moved slowly to the door, and when they stood outside,
in the sunny coolness of the valley, she turned to Rowland and said,
"I am extremely glad to see you." Then she glanced about her
and observed, against the wall of the church, an old stone seat.
She looked at Prince Casamassima a moment, and he smiled
more intensely, Rowland thought, than the occasion demanded.
"I wish to sit here," she said, "and speak to Mr. Mallet--alone."
"At your pleasure, dear friend," said the prince.
The tone of each was measured, to Rowland's ear; but that of
Christina was dry, and that of her husband was splendidly urbane.
Rowland remembered that the Cavaliere Giacosa had told
him that Mrs. Light's candidate was thoroughly a prince,
and our friend wondered how he relished a peremptory accent.
Casamassima was an Italian of the undemonstrative type, but Rowland
nevertheless divined that, like other princes before him,
he had made the acquaintance of the thing called compromise.
"Shall I come back?" he asked with the same smile.
"In half an hour," said Christina.
In the clear outer light, Rowland's first impression of her was
that she was more beautiful than ever. And yet in three months she
could hardly have changed; the change was in Rowland's own vision
of her, which that last interview, on the eve of her marriage,
had made unprecedentedly tender.
"How came you here?" she asked. "Are you staying in this place?"
"I am staying at Engelthal, some ten miles away; I walked over."
"Are you alone?"
"I am with Mr. Hudson."
"Is he here with you?"
"He went half an hour ago to climb a rock for a view."
"And his mother and that young girl, where are they?"
"They also are at Engelthal."
"What do you do there?"
"What do you do here?" said Rowland, smiling.
"I count the minutes till my week is up. I hate mountains;
they depress me to death. I am sure Miss Garland likes them."
"She is very fond of them, I believe."
"You believe--don't you know? But I have given up trying to imitate
Miss Garland," said Christina.
"You surely need imitate no one."
"Don't say that," she said gravely. "So you have walked ten
miles this morning? And you are to walk back again?"
"Back again to supper."
"And Mr. Hudson too?"
"Mr. Hudson especially. He is a great walker."
"You men are happy!" Christina cried. "I believe I
should enjoy the mountains if I could do such things.
It is sitting still and having them scowl down at you!
Prince Casamassina never rides. He only goes on a mule.
He was carried up the Faulhorn on a litter."
"On a litter?" said Rowland.
"In one of those machines--a chaise a porteurs--like a woman."
Rowland received this information in silence; it was equally
unbecoming to either to relish or deprecate its irony.
"Is Mr. Hudson to join you again? Will he come here?" Christina asked.
"I shall soon begin to expect him."
"What shall you do when you leave Switzerland?" Christina continued.
"Shall you go back to Rome?"
"I rather doubt it. My plans are very uncertain."
"They depend upon Mr. Hudson, eh?"
"In a great measure."
"I want you to tell me about him. Is he still in that perverse
state of mind that afflicted you so much?"
Rowland looked at her mistrustfully, without answering.
He was indisposed, instinctively, to tell her that Roderick was unhappy;
it was possible she might offer to help him back to happiness.
She immediately perceived his hesitation.
"I see no reason why we should not be frank," she said.
"I should think we were excellently placed for that sort of thing.
You remember that formerly I cared very little what I said,
don't you? Well, I care absolutely not at all now.
I say what I please, I do what I please! How did Mr. Hudson
receive the news of my marriage?"
"Very badly," said Rowland.
"With rage and reproaches?" And as Rowland hesitated
again--"With silent contempt?"
"I can tell you but little. He spoke to me on the subject,
but I stopped him. I told him it was none of his business,
or of mine."
"That was an excellent answer!" said Christina, softly. "Yet it was a
little your business, after those sublime protestations I treated you to.
I was really very fine that morning, eh?"
"You do yourself injustice," said Rowland. "I should be at liberty
now to believe you were insincere."
"What does it matter now whether I was insincere or not?
I can't conceive of anything mattering less. I was very fine--
is n't it true?"
"You know what I think of you," said Rowland.
And for fear of being forced to betray his suspicion of
the cause of her change, he took refuge in a commonplace.
"Your mother, I hope, is well."
"My mother is in the enjoyment of superb health, and may be
seen every evening at the Casino, at the Baths of Lucca,
confiding to every new-comer that she has married her daughter
to a pearl of a prince."
Rowland was anxious for news of Mrs. Light's companion,
and the natural course was frankly to inquire about him.
"And the Cavaliere Giacosa is well?" he asked.
Christina hesitated, but she betrayed no other embarrassment.
"The Cavaliere has retired to his native city of Ancona,
upon a pension, for the rest of his natural life.
He is a very good old man!"
"I have a great regard for him," said Rowland, gravely, at the same time
that he privately wondered whether the Cavaliere's pension was paid by
Prince Casamassima for services rendered in connection with his marriage.
Had the Cavaliere received his commission? "And what do you do,"
Rowland continued, "on leaving this place?"
"We go to Italy--we go to Naples." She rose and stood silent
a moment, looking down the valley. The figure of Prince Casamassima
appeared in the distance, balancing his white umbrella.
As her eyes rested upon it, Rowland imagined that he saw
something deeper in the strange expression which had lurked
in her face while he talked to her. At first he had been dazzled
by her blooming beauty, to which the lapse of weeks had only
added splendor; then he had seen a heavier ray in the light
of her eye--a sinister intimation of sadness and bitterness.
It was the outward mark of her sacrificed ideal.
Her eyes grew cold as she looked at her husband, and when,
after a moment, she turned them upon Rowland, they struck him
as intensely tragical. He felt a singular mixture of sympathy
and dread; he wished to give her a proof of friendship,
and yet it seemed to him that she had now turned her face
in a direction where friendship was impotent to interpose.
She half read his feelings, apparently, and she gave a beautiful,
sad smile. "I hope we may never meet again!" she said.
And as Rowland gave her a protesting look--"You have seen me
at my best. I wish to tell you solemnly, I was sincere!
I know appearances are against me," she went on quickly.
"There is a great deal I can't tell you. Perhaps you have guessed it;
I care very little. You know, at any rate, I did my best.
It would n't serve; I was beaten and broken; they were stronger
than I. Now it 's another affair!"
"It seems to me you have a large chance for happiness yet,"
said Rowland, vaguely.
"Happiness? I mean to cultivate rapture; I mean to go in for
bliss ineffable! You remember I told you that I was, in part,
the world's and the devil's. Now they have taken me all.
It was their choice; may they never repent!"
"I shall hear of you," said Rowland.
"You will hear of me. And whatever you do hear, remember this:
I was sincere!"
Prince Casamassima had approached, and Rowland looked at him
with a good deal of simple compassion as a part of that "world"
against which Christina had launched her mysterious menace.
It was obvious that he was a good fellow, and that he could not,
in the nature of things, be a positively bad husband;
but his distinguished inoffensiveness only deepened
the infelicity of Christina's situation by depriving her
defiant attitude of the sanction of relative justice.
So long as she had been free to choose, she had esteemed him:
but from the moment she was forced to marry him she had detested him.
Rowland read in the young man's elastic Italian mask a profound
consciousness of all this; and as he found there also a record
of other curious things--of pride, of temper, of bigotry,
of an immense heritage of more or less aggressive traditions--
he reflected that the matrimonial conjunction of his two
companions might be sufficiently prolific in incident.
"You are going to Naples?" Rowland said to the prince by way of conversation.
"We are going to Paris," Christina interposed, slowly and softly.
"We are going to London. We are going to Vienna.
We are going to St. Petersburg."
Prince Casamassima dropped his eyes and fretted the earth with the point
of his umbrella. While he engaged Rowland's attention Christina turned away.
When Rowland glanced at her again he saw a change pass over her face;
she was observing something that was concealed from his own eyes by the angle
of the church-wall. In a moment Roderick stepped into sight.
He stopped short, astonished; his face and figure were jaded,
his garments dusty. He looked at Christina from head to foot,
and then, slowly, his cheek flushed and his eye expanded.
Christina returned his gaze, and for some moments
there was a singular silence. "You don't look well!"
Christina said at last.
Roderick answered nothing; he only looked and looked,
as if she had been a statue. "You are no less beautiful!"
he presently cried.
She turned away with a smile, and stood a while gazing
down the valley; Roderick stared at Prince Casamassima.
Christina then put out her hand to Rowland. "Farewell," she said.
"If you are near me in future, don't try to see me!"
And then, after a pause, in a lower tone, "I was sincere!"
She addressed herself again to Roderick and asked him some commonplace
about his walk. But he said nothing; he only looked at her.
Rowland at first had expected an outbreak of reproach, but it
was evident that the danger was every moment diminishing.
He was forgetting everything but her beauty, and as she stood there
and let him feast upon it, Rowland was sure that she knew it.
"I won't say farewell to you," she said; "we shall meet again!"
And she moved gravely away. Prince Casamassima took leave
courteously of Rowland; upon Roderick he bestowed a bow
of exaggerated civility. Roderick appeared not to see it;
he was still watching Christina, as she passed over the grass.
His eyes followed her until she reached the door of her inn.
Here she stopped and looked back at him.
CHAPTER XIII. Switzerland
On the homeward walk, that evening, Roderick preserved
a silence which Rowland allowed to make him uneasy.
Early on the morrow Roderick, saying nothing of his intentions,
started off on a walk; Rowland saw him striding with light
steps along the rugged path to Engelberg. He was absent
all day and he gave no account of himself on his return.
He said he was deadly tired, and he went to bed early.
When he had left the room Miss Garland drew near to Rowland.
"I wish to ask you a question," she said. "What happened to Roderick
yesterday at Engelberg?"
"You have discovered that something happened?" Rowland answered.
"I am sure of it. Was it something painful?"
"I don't know how, at the present moment, he judges it.
He met the Princess Casamassima."
"Thank you!" said Miss Garland, simply, and turned away.
The conversation had been brief, but, like many small things,
it furnished Rowland with food for reflection.
When one is looking for symptoms one easily finds them.
This was the first time Mary Garland had asked Rowland
a question which it was in Roderick's power to answer,
the first time she had frankly betrayed Roderick's reticence.
Rowland ventured to think it marked an era.
The next morning was sultry, and the air, usually so fresh at
those altitudes, was oppressively heavy. Rowland lounged on the grass
a while, near Singleton, who was at work under his white umbrella,
within view of the house; and then in quest of coolness he wandered
away to the rocky ridge whence you looked across at the Jungfrau.
To-day, however, the white summits were invisible; their heads were muffled
in sullen clouds and the valleys beneath them curtained in dun-colored mist.
Rowland had a book in his pocket, and he took it out and opened it.
But his page remained unturned; his own thoughts were more importunate.
His interview with Christina Light had made a great impression upon him,
and he was haunted with the memory of her almost blameless bitterness,
and of all that was tragic and fatal in her latest transformation.
These things were immensely appealing, and Rowland thought with
infinite impatience of Roderick's having again encountered them.
It required little imagination to apprehend that the young sculptor's
condition had also appealed to Christina. His consummate indifference,
his supreme defiance, would make him a magnificent trophy, and Christina
had announced with sufficient distinctness that she had said good-by
to scruples. It was her fancy at present to treat the world as a
garden of pleasure, and if, hitherto, she had played with Roderick's
passion on its stem, there was little doubt that now she would pluck
it with an unfaltering hand and drain it of its acrid sweetness.
And why the deuce need Roderick have gone marching back to destruction?
Rowland's meditations, even when they began in rancor, often brought
him peace; but on this occasion they ushered in a quite peculiar quality
of unrest. He felt conscious of a sudden collapse in his moral energy;
a current that had been flowing for two years with liquid strength
seemed at last to pause and evaporate. Rowland looked away at
the stagnant vapors on the mountains; their dreariness seemed a symbol
of the dreariness which his own generosity had bequeathed him.
At last he had arrived at the uttermost limit of the deference
a sane man might pay to other people's folly; nay, rather, he had
transgressed it; he had been befooled on a gigantic scale.
He turned to his book and tried to woo back patience, but it gave him cold
comfort and he tossed it angrily away. He pulled his hat over his eyes,
and tried to wonder, dispassionately, whether atmospheric conditions
had not something to do with his ill-humor. He remained for some time
in this attitude, but was finally aroused from it by a singular
sense that, although he had heard nothing, some one had approached him.
He looked up and saw Roderick standing before him on the turf.
His mood made the spectacle unwelcome, and for a moment he felt like uttering
an uncivil speech. Roderick stood looking at him with an expression
of countenance which had of late become rare. There was an unfamiliar
spark in his eye and a certain imperious alertness in his carriage.
Confirmed habit, with Rowland, came speedily to the front.
"What is it now?" he asked himself, and invited Roderick to sit down.
Roderick had evidently something particular to say, and if he remained
silent for a time it was not because he was ashamed of it.
"I would like you to do me a favor," he said at last.
"Lend me some money."
"How much do you wish?" Rowland asked.
"Say a thousand francs."
Rowland hesitated a moment. "I don't wish to be indiscreet,
but may I ask what you propose to do with a thousand francs?"
"To go to Interlaken."
"And why are you going to Interlaken?"
Roderick replied without a shadow of wavering, "Because that woman
is to be there."
Rowland burst out laughing, but Roderick remained serenely grave.
"You have forgiven her, then?" said Rowland.
"Not a bit of it!"
"I don't understand."
"Neither do I. I only know that she is incomparably beautiful,
and that she has waked me up amazingly. Besides, she asked
me to come."
"She asked you?"
"Yesterday, in so many words."
"Ah, the jade!"
"Exactly. I am willing to take her for that."
"Why in the name of common sense did you go back to her?"
"Why did I find her standing there like a goddess who had
just stepped out of her cloud? Why did I look at her?
Before I knew where I was, the harm was done."
Rowland, who had been sitting erect, threw himself back
on the grass and lay for some time staring up at the sky.
At last, raising himself, "Are you perfectly serious?" he asked.
"Your idea is to remain at Interlaken some time?"
"Indefinitely!" said Roderick; and it seemed to his companion that the tone
in which he said this made it immensely well worth hearing.
"And your mother and cousin, meanwhile, are to remain here?
It will soon be getting very cold, you know."
"It does n't seem much like it to-day."
"Very true; but to-day is a day by itself."
"There is nothing to prevent their going back to Lucerne.
I depend upon your taking charge of them."
At this Rowland reclined upon the grass again; and again,
after reflection, he faced his friend. "How would you express,"
he asked, "the character of the profit that you expect to derive
from your excursion?"
"I see no need of expressing it. The proof of the pudding is in the eating!
The case is simply this. I desire immensely to be near Christina Light,
and it is such a huge refreshment to find myself again desiring something,
that I propose to drift with the current. As I say, she has waked me up,
and it is possible something may come of it. She makes me feel as if I
were alive again. This," and he glanced down at the inn, "I call death!"
"That I am very grateful to hear. You really feel as if you
might do something?"
"Don't ask too much. I only know that she makes my heart beat,
makes me see visions."
"You feel encouraged?"
"I feel excited."
"You are really looking better."
"I am glad to hear it. Now that I have answered your questions,
please to give me the money."
Rowland shook his head. "For that purpose, I can't!"
"It 's impossible. Your plan is rank folly. I can't help you in it."
Roderick flushed a little, and his eye expanded. "I will borrow
what money I can, then, from Mary!" This was not viciously said;
it had simply the ring of passionate resolution.
Instantly it brought Rowland to terms. He took a bunch
of keys from his pocket and tossed it upon the grass.
"The little brass one opens my dressing-case," he said.
"You will find money in it."
Roderick let the keys lie; something seemed to have struck him;
he looked askance at his friend. "You are awfully gallant!"
"You certainly are not. Your proposal is an outrage."
"Very likely. It 's a proof the more of my desire."
"If you have so much steam on, then, use it for something else.
You say you are awake again. I am delighted; only be so in
the best sense. Is n't it very plain? If you have the energy
to desire, you have also the energy to reason and to judge.
If you can care to go, you can also care to stay, and staying