Part 2 out of 4
always feel the safer in your company, Hilda, slender little maiden as you
are. Will you come?"
"Ah, not to-day, dearest Miriam," she replied; "I have set my heart on
giving another touch or two to this picture, and shall not stir abroad
till nearly sunset."
"Farewell, then," said her visitor. "I leave you in your dove-cote. What
a sweet, strange life you lead here; conversing with the souls of the old
masters, feeding and fondling your sister doves, and trimming the Virgin's
lamp! Hilda, do you ever pray to the Virgin while you tend her shrine?"
"Sometimes I have been moved to do so," replied the Dove, blushing, and
lowering her eyes; "she was a woman once. Do you think it would be
"Nay, that is for you to judge," said Miriam; "but when you pray next,
dear friend, remember me!"
She went down the long descent of the lower staircase, and just as she
reached the street the flock of doves again took their hurried flight from
the pavement to the topmost window. She threw her eyes upward and beheld
them hovering about Hilda's head; for, after her friend's departure, the
girl had been more impressed than before by something very sad and
troubled in her manner. She was, therefore, leaning forth from her airy
abode, and flinging down a kind, maidenly kiss, and a gesture of farewell,
in the hope that these might alight upon Miriam's heart, and comfort its
unknown sorrow a little. Kenyon the sculptor, who chanced to be passing
the head of the street, took note of that ethereal kiss, and wished that
he could have caught it in the air and got Hilda's leave to keep it.
THE SUBURBAN VILLA
Donatello, while it was still a doubtful question betwixt afternoon and
morning, set forth to keep the appointment which Miriam had carelessly
tendered him in the grounds of the Villa Borghese. The entrance to these
grounds (as all my readers know, for everybody nowadays has been in Rome)
is just outside of the Porta del Popolo. Passing beneath that not very
impressive specimen of Michael Angelo's architecture, a minute's walk will
transport the visitor from the small, uneasy, lava stones of the Roman
pavement into broad, gravelled carriage-drives, whence a little farther
stroll brings him to the soft turf of a beautiful seclusion. A seclusion,
but seldom a solitude; for priest, noble, and populace, stranger and
native, all who breathe Roman air, find free admission, and come hither to
taste the languid enjoyment of the day-dream that they call life.
But Donatello's enjoyment was of a livelier kind. He soon began to draw
long and delightful breaths among those shadowy walks. Judging by the
pleasure which the sylvan character of the scene excited in him, it might
be no merely fanciful theory to set him down as the kinsman, not far
remote, of that wild, sweet, playful, rustic creature, to whose marble
image he bore so striking a resemblance. How mirthful a discovery would
it be (and yet with a touch of pathos in it), if the breeze which sported
fondly with his clustering locks were to waft them suddenly aside, and
show a pair of leaf-shaped, furry ears! What an honest strain of wildness
would it indicate! and into what regions of rich mystery would it extend
Donatello's sympathies, to be thus linked (and by no monstrous chain) with
what we call the inferior trioes of being, whose simplicity, mingled with
his human intelligence, might partly restore what man has lost of the
The scenery amid which the youth now strayed was such as arrays itself in
the imagination when we read the beautiful old myths, and fancy a brighter
sky, a softer turf, a more picturesque arrangement of venerable trees,
than we find in the rude and untrained landscapes of the Western world.
The ilex-trees, so ancient and time-honored were they, seemed to have
lived for ages undisturbed, and to feel no dread of profanation by the axe
any more than overthrow by the thunder-stroke. It had already passed out
of their dreamy old memories that only a few years ago they were
grievously imperilled by the Gaul's last assault upon the walls of Rome.
As if confident in the long peace of their lifetime, they assumed
attitudes of indolent repose. They leaned over the green turf in
ponderous grace, throwing abroad their great branches without danger of
interfering with other trees, though other majestic trees grew near enough
for dignified society, but too distant for constraint. Never was there a
more venerable quietude than that which slept among their sheltering
boughs; never a sweeter sunshine than that now gladdening the gentle gloom
which these leafy patriarchs strove to diffuse over the swelling and
In other portions of the grounds the stone-pines lifted their dense clump
of branches upon a slender length of stem, so high that they looked like
green islands in the air, flinging down a shadow upon the turf so far off
that you hardly knew which tree had made it. Again, there were avenues
of cypress, resembling dark flames of huge funeral candles, which spread
dusk and twilight round about them instead of cheerful radiance. The more
open spots were all abloom, even so early in the season, with anemones of
wondrous size, both white and rose-colored, and violets that betrayed
themselves by their rich fragrance, even if their blue eyes failed to meet
your own. Daisies, too, were abundant, but larger than the modest little
English flower, and therefore of small account.
These wooded and flowery lawns are more beautiful than the finest of
English park scenery, more touching, more impressive, through the neglect
that leaves Nature so much to her own ways and methods. Since man seldom
interferes with her, she sets to work in her quiet way and makes herself
at home. There is enough of human care, it is true, bestowed, long ago
and still bestowed, to prevent wildness from growing into deformity; and
the result is an ideal landscape, a woodland scene that seems to have been
projected out of the poet's mind. If the ancient Faun were other than a
mere creation of old poetry, and could have reappeared anywhere, it must
have been in such a scene as this.
In the openings of the wood there are fountains plashing into marble
basins, the depths of which are shaggy with water-weeds; or they tumble
like natural cascades from rock to rock, sending their murmur afar, to
make the quiet and silence more appreciable. Scattered here and there
with careless artifice, stand old altars bearing Roman inscriptions.
Statues, gray with the long corrosion of even that soft atmosphere, half
hide and half reveal themselves, high on pedestals, or perhaps fallen and
broken on the turf. Terminal figures, columns of marble or granite
porticos, arches, are seen in the vistas of the wood-paths, either
veritable relics of antiquity, or with so exquisite a touch of artful ruin
on them that they are better than if really antique. At all events, grass
grows on the tops of the shattered pillars, and weeds and flowers root
themselves in the chinks of the massive arches and fronts of temples, and
clamber at large over their pediments, as if this were the thousandth
summer since their winged seeds alighted there.
What a strange idea--what a needless labor--to construct artificial ruins
in Rome, the native soil of ruin! But even these sportive imitations,
wrought by man in emulation of what time has done to temples and palaces,
are perhaps centuries old, and, beginning as illusions, have grown to be
venerable in sober earnest. The result of all is a scene, pensive, lovely,
dreamlike, enjoyable and sad, such as is to be found nowhere save in
these princely villa-residences in the neighborhood of Rome; a scene that
must have required generations and ages, during which growth, decay, and
man's intelligence wrought kindly together, to render it so gently wild as
we behold it now.
The final charm is bestowed by the malaria. There is a piercing,
thrilling, delicious kind of regret in the idea of so much beauty thrown
away, or only enjoyable at its half-development, in winter and early
spring, and never to be dwelt amongst, as the home scenery of any human
being. For if you come hither in summer, and stray through these glades
in the golden sunset, fever walks arm in arm with you, and death awaits
you at the end of the dim vista. Thus the scene is like Eden in its
loveliness; like Eden, too, in the fatal spell that removes it beyond the
scope of man's actual possessions. But Donatello felt nothing of this
dream-like melancholy that haunts the spot. As he passed among the sunny
shadows, his spirit seemed to acquire new elasticity. The flicker of the
sunshine, the sparkle of the fountain's gush, the dance of the leaf upon
the bough, the woodland fragrance, the green freshness, the old sylvan
peace and freedom, were all intermingled in those long breaths which he
The ancient dust, the mouldiness of Rome, the dead atmosphere in which he
had wasted so many months, the hard pavements, the smell of ruin and
decaying generations, the chill palaces, the convent bells, the heavy
incense of altars, the life that he had led in those dark, narrow streets,
among priests, soldiers, nobles, artists, and women,--all the sense of
these things rose from the young man's consciousness like a cloud which
had darkened over him without his knowing how densely.
He drank in the natural influences of the scene, and was intoxicated as by
an exhilarating wine. He ran races with himself along the gleam and
shadow of the wood-paths. He leapt up to catch the overhanging bough of
an ilex, and swinging himself by it alighted far onward, as if he had
flown thither through the air. In a sudden rapture he embraced the trunk
of a sturdy tree, and seemed to imagine it a creature worthy of affection
and capable of a tender response; he clasped it closely in his arms, as a
Faun might have clasped the warm feminine grace of the nymph, whom
antiquity supposed to dwell within that rough, encircling rind. Then, in
order to bring himself closer to the genial earth, with which his kindred
instincts linked him so strongly, he threw himself at full length on the
turf, and pressed down his lips, kissing the violets and daisies, which
kissed him back again, though shyly, in their maiden fashion.
While he lay there, it was pleasant to see how the green and blue lizards,
who had beta basking on some rock or on a fallen pillar that absorbed the
warmth of the sun, scrupled not to scramble over him with their small feet;
and how the birds alighted on the nearest twigs and sang their little
roundelays unbroken by any chirrup of alarm; they recognized him, it may
be, as something akin to themselves, or else they fancied that he was
rooted and grew there; for these wild pets of nature dreaded him no more
in his buoyant life than if a mound of soil and grass and flowers had long
since covered his dead body, converting it back to the sympathies from
which human existence had estranged it.
All of us, after a long abode in cities, have felt the blood gush more
joyously through our veins with the first breath of rural air; few could
feel it so much as Donatello, a creature of simple elements, bred in the
sweet sylvan life of Tuscany, and for months back dwelling amid the mouldy
gloom and dim splendor of old Rome. Nature has been shut out for
numberless centuries from those stony-hearted streets, to which he had
latterly grown accustomed; there is no trace of her, except for what
blades of grass spring out of the pavements of the less trodden piazzas,
or what weeds cluster and tuft themselves on the cornices of ruins.
Therefore his joy was like that of a child that had gone astray from home,
and finds him suddenly in his mother's arms again.
At last, deeming it full time for Miriam to keep her tryst, he climbed to
the tiptop of the tallest tree, and thence looked about him, swaying to
and fro in the gentle breeze, which was like the respiration of that great
leafy, living thing. Donatello saw beneath him the whole circuit of the
enchanted ground; the statues and columns pointing upward from among the
shrubbery, the fountains flashing in the sunlight, the paths winding
hither and thither, and continually finding out some nook of new and
ancient pleasantness. He saw the villa, too, with its marble front
incrusted all over with basreliefs, and statues in its many niches. It
was as beautiful as a fairy palace, and seemed an abode in which the lord
and lady of this fair domain might fitly dwell, and come forth each
morning to enjoy as sweet a life as their happiest dreams of the past
night could have depicted. All this he saw, but his first glance had
taken in too wide a sweep, and it was not till his eyes fell almost
directly beneath him, that Donatello beheld Miriam just turning into the
path that led across the roots of his very tree.
He descended among the foliage, waiting for her to come close to the trunk,
and then suddenly dropped from an impending bough, and alighted at her
side. It was as if the swaying of the branches had let a ray of sunlight
through. The same ray likewise glimmered among the gloomy meditations
that encompassed Miriam, and lit up the pale, dark beauty of her face,
while it responded pleasantly to Donatello's glance.
"I hardly know," said she, smiling, "whether you have sprouted out of the
earth, or fallen from the clouds. In either case you are welcome."
And they walked onward together.
THE FAUN AND NYMPH
Mirian's sadder mood, it might be, had at first an effect on Donatello s
spirits. It checked the joyous ebullition into which they would otherwise
have effervesced when he found himself in her society, not, as heretofore,
in the old gloom of Rome, but under that bright soft sky and in those
Arcadian woods. He was silent for a while; it being, indeed, seldom
Donatello's impulse to express himself copiously in words. His usual
modes of demonstration were by the natural language of gesture, the
instinctive movement of his agile frame, and the unconscious play of his
features, which, within a limited range of thought and emotion, would
speak volumes in a moment.
By and by, his own mood seemed to brighten Miriam's, and was reflected
back upon himself. He began inevitably, as it were, to dance along the
wood-path; flinging himself into attitudes of strange comic grace. Often,
too, he ran a little way in advance of his companion, and then stood to
watch her as she approached along the shadowy and sun-fleckered path.
With every step she took, he expressed his joy at her nearer and nearer
presence by what might be thought an extravagance of gesticulation, but
which doubtless was the language of the natural man, though laid aside and
forgotten by other men, now that words have been feebly substituted in the
place of signs and symbols. He gave Miriam the idea of a being not
precisely man, nor yet a child, but, in a high and beautiful sense, an
animal, a creature in a state of development less than what mankind has
attained, yet the more perfect within itself for that very deficiency.
This idea filled her mobile imagination with agreeable fantasies, which,
after smiling at them herself, she tried to cofivey to the young man.
"What are you, my friend?" she exclaimed, always keeping in mind his
singular resemblance to the Faun of the Capitol. "If you are, in good
truth, that wild and pleasant creature whose face you wear, pray make me
known to your kindred. They will be found hereabouts, if anywhere. Knock
at the rough rind of this ilex-tree, and summon forth the Dryad! Ask the
water-nymph to rise dripping from yonder fountain, and exchange a moist
pressure of the hand with me! Do not fear that I shall shrink; even if
one of your rough cousins, a hairy Satyr, should come capering on his
goat-legs out of the haunts of far antiquity, and propose to dance with me
among these lawns! And will not Bacchus,--with whom you consorted so
familiarly of old, and who loved you so well,--will he not meet us here,
and squeeze rich grapes into his cup for you and me?"
Donatello smiled; he laughed heartily, indeed, in sympathy with the mirth
that gleamed out of Miriam's deep, dark eyes. But he did not seem quite
to understand her mirthful talk, nor to be disposed to explain what kind
of creature he was, or to inquire with what divine or poetic kindred his
companion feigned to link him. He appeared only to know that Miriam was
beautiful, and that she smiled graciously upon him; that the present
moment was very sweet, and himself most happy, with the sunshine, the
sylvan scenery, and woman's kindly charm, which it enclosed within its
small circumference. It was delightful to see the trust which he reposed
in Miriam, and his pure joy in her propinquity; he asked nothing, sought
nothing, save to be near the beloved object, and brimmed over with ecstasy
at that simple boon. A creature of the happy tribes below us sometimes
shows the capacity of this enjoyment; a man, seldom or never.
"Donatello," said Miriam, looking at him thoughtfully, but amused, yet not
without a shade of sorrow, "you seem very happy; what makes you so?"
"Because I love you!" answered Donatello.
He made this momentous confession as if it were the most natural thing in
the world; and on her part,--such was the contagion of his simplicity,-
Miriam heard it without anger or disturbance, though with no responding
emotion. It was as if they had strayed across the limits of Arcadia; and
come under a civil polity where young men might avow their passion with as
little restraint as a bird pipes its note to a similar purpose.
"Why should you love me, foolish boy?" said she. "We have no points of
sympathy at all. There are not two creatures more unlike, in this wide
world, than you and I!"
"You are yourself, and I am Donatello," replied he. "Therefore I love you!
There needs no other reason."
Certainly, there was no better or more explicable reason. It might have
been imagined that Donatello's unsophisticated heart would be more readily
attracted to a feminine nature of clear simplicity like his own, than to
one already turbid with grief or wrong, as Miriam's seemed to be. Perhaps,
On the other hand, his character needed the dark element, which it found
in her. The force and energy of will, that sometimes flashed through her
eyes, may have taken him captive; or, not improbably, the varying lights
and shadows of her temper, now so mirthful, and anon so sad with
mysterious gloom, had bewitched the youth. Analyze the matter as we may,
the reason assigned by Donatello himself was as satisfactory as we are
likely to attain.
Miriam could not think seriously of the avowal that had passed. He held
out his love so freely, in his open palm, that she felt it could be
nothing but a toy, which she might play with for an instant, and give back
again. And yet Donatello's heart was so fresh a fountain, that, had
Miriam been more world-worn than she was, she might have found it
exquisite to slake her thirst with the feelings that welled up and brimmed
over from it. She was far, very far, from the dusty mediaeval epoch, when
some women have a taste for such refreshment. Even for her, however,
there was an inexpressible charm in the simplicity that prompted
Donatello's words and deeds; though, unless she caught them in precisely
the true light, they seemed but folly, the offspring of a maimed or
imperfectly developed intellect. Alternately, she almost admired, or
wholly scorned him, and knew not which estimate resulted from the deeper
appreciation. But it could not, she decided for herself, be other than an
innocent pastime, if they two--sure to be separated by their different
paths in life, to-morrow--were to gather up some of the little pleasures
that chanced to grow about their feet, like the violets and wood-anemones,
Yet an impulse of rectitude impelled Miriam to give him what she still
held to be a needless warning against an imaginary peril.
"If you were wiser, Donatello, you would think me a dangerous person,"
said she, "If you follow my footsteps, they will lead you to no good. You
ought to be afraid of me."
"I would as soon think of fearing the air we breathe," he replied.
"And well you may, for it is full of malaria," said Miriam; she went on,
hinting at an intangible confession, such as persons with overburdened
hearts often make to children or dumb animals, or to holes in the earth,
where they think their secrets may be at once revealed and buried. "Those
who come too near me are in danger of great mischiefs, I do assure you.
Take warning, therefore! It is a sad fatality that has brought you from
your home among the Apennines,--some rusty old castle, I suppose, with a
village at its foot, and an Arcadian environment of vineyards, fig-trees,
and olive orchards,--a sad mischance, I say, that has transported you to
my side. You have had a happy life hitherto, have you not, Donatello?"
"O, yes," answered the young man; and, though not of a retrospective turn,
he made the best effort he could to send his mind back into the past. "I
remember thinking it happiness to dance with the contadinas at a village
feast; to taste the new, sweet wine at vintage-time, and the old, ripened
wine, which our podere is famous for, in the cold winter evenings; and to
devour great, luscious figs, and apricots, peaches, cherries, and melons.
I was often happy in the woods, too, with hounds and horses, and very
happy in watching all sorts, of creatures and birds that haunt the leafy
solitudes. But never half so happy as now!"
"In these delightful groves?" she asked.
"Here, and with you," answered Donatello. "Just as we are now."
"What a fulness of content in him! How silly, and how delightful!" said
Miriam to herself. Then addressing him again: "But, Donatello, how long
will this happiness last?"
"How long!" he exclaimed; for it perplexed him even more to think of the
future than to remember the past. "Why should it have any end? How long!
Forever! forever! forever!"
"The child! the simpleton!" said Miriam, with sudden laughter, and
checking it as suddenly. "But is he a simpleton indeed? Here, in those
few natural words, he has expressed that deep sense, that profound
conviction of its own immortality, which genuine love never fails to bring.
He perplexes me,--yes, and bewitches me,--wild, gentle, beautiful
creature that he is! It is like playing with a young greyhound!"
Her eyes filled with tears, at the same time that a smile shone out of
them. Then first she became sensible of a delight and grief at once, in
feeling this zephyr of a new affection, with its untainted freshness, blow
over her weary, stifled heart, which had no right to be revived by it.
The very exquisiteness of the enjoyment made her know that it ought to be
a forbidden one.
"Donatello," she hastily exclaimed, "for your own sake, leave me! It is
not such a happy thing as you imagine it, to wander in these woods with me,
a girl from another land, burdened with a doom that she tells to none.
I might make you dread me,--perhaps hate me,--if I chose; and I must
choose, if I find you loving me too well!"
"I fear nothing!" said Donatello, looking into her unfathomable eyes with
perfect trust. "I love always!"
"I speak in vain," thought Miriam within herself.
"Well, then, for this one hour, let me be such as he imagines me.
To-morrow will be time enough to come back to my reality. My reality!
what is it? Is the past so indestructible? the future so immitigable?
Is the dark dream, in which I walk, of such solid, stony substance, that
there can be no escape out of its dungeon? Be it so! There is, at least,
that ethereal quality in my spirit, that it can make me as gay as
Donatello himself,--for this one hour!"
And immediately she brightened up, as if an inward flame, heretofore
stifled, were now permitted to fill her with its happy lustre, glowing
through her cheeks and dancing in her eye-beams.
Donatello, brisk and cheerful as he seemed before, showed a sensibility to
Miriam's gladdened mood by breaking into still wilder and ever-varying
activity. He frisked around her, bubbling over with joy, which clothed
itself in words that had little individual meaning, and in snatches of
song that seemed as natural as bird notes. Then they both laughed
together, and heard their own laughter returning in the echoes, and
laughed again at the response, so that the ancient and solemn grove became
full of merriment for these two blithe spirits. A bird happening to sing
cheerily, Donatello gave a peculiar call, and the little feathered
creature came fluttering about his head, as if it had known him through
"How close he stands to nature!" said Miriam, observing this pleasant
familiarity between her companion and the bird. "He shall make me as
natural as himself for this one hour."
As they strayed through that sweet wilderness, she felt more and more the
influence of his elastic temperament. Miriam was an impressible and
impulsive creature, as unlike herself, in different moods, as if a
melancholy maiden and a glad one were both bound within the girdle about
her waist, and kept in magic thraldom by the brooch that clasped it.
Naturally, it is true, she was the more inclined to melancholy, yet fully
capable of that high frolic of the spirits which richly compensates for
many gloomy hours; if her soul was apt to lurk in the darkness of a cavern,
she could sport madly in the sunshine before the cavern's mouth. Except
the freshest mirth of animal spirits, like Donatello's, there is no
merriment, no wild exhilaration, comparable to that of melancholy people
escaping from the dark region m which it is their custom to keep
So the shadowy Miriam almost outdid Donatello on his own ground. They ran
races with each other, side by side, with shouts and laughter; they pelted
one another with early flowers, and gathering them up twined them with
green leaves into garlands for both their heads. They played together
like children, or creatures of immortal youth. So much had they flung
aside the sombre habitudes of daily life, that they seemed born to be
sportive forever, and endowed with eternal mirthfulness instead of any
deeper joy. It was a glimpse far backward into Arcadian life, or, further
still, into the Golden Age, before mankind was burdened with sin and
sorrow, and before pleasure had been darkened with those shadows that
bring it into high relief, and make it happiness.
"Hark!" cried Donatello, stopping short, as he was about to bind Miriam's
fair hands with flowers, and lead her along in triumph, "there is music
somewhere in the grove!"
"It is your kinsman, Pan, most likely," said Miriam, "playing on his pipe.
Let us go seek him, and make him puff out his rough cheeks and pipe his
merriest air! Come; the strain of music will guide us onward like a gayly
colored thread of silk."
"Or like a chain of flowers," responded Donatello, drawing her along by
that which he had twined. "This way!--Come!"
THE SYLVAN DANCE
As the music came fresher on their ears, they danced to its cadence,
extemporizing new steps and attitudes. Each varying movement had a grace
which might have been worth putting into marble, for the long delight of
days to come, but vanished with the movement that gave it birth, and was
effaced from memory by another. In Miriam's motion, freely as she flung
herself into the frolic of the hour, there was still an artful beauty; in
Donatello's, there was a charm of indescribable grotesqueness hand in hand
with grace; sweet, bewitching, most provocative of laughter, and yet akin
to pathos, so deeply did it touch the heart. This was the ultimate
peculiarity, the final touch, distinguishing between the sylvan creature
and the beautiful companion at his side. Setting apart only this, Miriam
resembled a Nymph, as much as Donatello did a Faun.
There were flitting moments, indeed, when she played the sylvan character
as perfectly as he. Catching glimpses of her, then, you would have
fancied that an oak had sundered its rough bark to let her dance freely
forth, endowed with the same spirit in her human form as that which
rustles in the leaves; or that she had emerged through the pebbly bottom
of a fountain, a water-nymph, to play and sparkle in the sunshine,
flinging a quivering light around her, and suddenly disappearing in a
shower of rainbow drops.
As the fountain sometimes subsides into its basin, so in Miriam there were
symptoms that the frolic of her spirits would at last tire itself out.
"Ah! Donatello," cried she, laughing, as she stopped to take a breath;
"you have an unfair advantage over me! I am no true creature of the woods;
while you are a real Faun, I do believe. When your curls shook just now,
methought I had a peep at the pointed ears."
Donatello snapped his fingers above his head, as fauns and satyrs taught
us first to do, and seemed to radiate jollity out of his whole nimble
person. Nevertheless, there was a kind of dim apprehension in his face,
as if he dreaded that a moment's pause might break the spell, and snatch
away the sportive companion whom he had waited for through so many dreary
"Dance! dance!" cried he joyously. "If we take breath, we shall be as
we were yesterday. There, now, is the music, just beyond this clump of
trees. Dance, Miriam, dance!"
They had now reached an open, grassy glade (of which there are many in
that artfully constructed wilderness), set round with stone seats, on
which the aged moss had kindly essayed to spread itself instead of
cushions. On one of the stone benches sat the musicians, whose strains
had enticed our wild couple thitherward. They proved to be a vagrant band,
such as Rome, and all Italy, abounds with; comprising a harp, a flute,
and a violin, which, though greatly the worse for wear, theperformers had
skill enough to provoke and modulate into tolerable harmony. It chanced
to be a feast-day; and, instead of playing in the sun-scorched piazzas of
the city, or beneath the windows of some unresponsive palace, they had
bethought themselves to try the echoes of these woods; for, on the festas
of the Church, Rome scatters its merrymakers all abroad, ripe for the
dance or any other pastime.
As Miriam and Donatello emerged from among the trees, the musicians
scraped, tinkled, or blew, each according to his various kind of
instrument, more inspiringly than ever. A darkchecked little girl, with
bright black eyes, stood by, shaking a tambourine set round with tinkling
bells, and thumping it on its parchment head. Without interrupting his
brisk, though measured movement, Donatello snatched away this unmelodious
contrivance, and, flourishing it above his head, produced music of
indescribable potency, still dancing with frisky step, and striking the
tambourine, and ringing its little bells, all in one jovial act.
It might be that there was magic in the sound, or contagion, at least, in
the spirit which had got possession of Miriam and himself, for very soon a
number of festal people were drawn to the spot, and struck into the dance,
singly or in pairs, as if they were all gone mad with jollity. Among them
were some of the plebeian damsels whom we meet bareheaded in the Roman
streets, with silver stilettos thrust through their glossy hair; the
contadinas, too, from the Campagna and the villages, with their rich and
picturesque costumes of scarlet and all bright hues, such as fairer
maidens might not venture to put on. Then came the modern Roman from
Trastevere, perchance, with his old cloak drawn about him like a toga,
which anon, as his active motion heated him, he flung aside. Three French
soldiers capered freely into the throng, in wide scarlet trousers, their
short swords dangling at their sides; and three German artists in gray
flaccid hats and flaunting beards; and one of the Pope's Swiss guardsmen
in the strange motley garb which Michael Angelo contrived for them. Two
young English tourists (one of them a lord) took contadine partners and
dashed in, as did also a shaggy man in goat-skin breeches, who looked like
rustic Pan in person, and footed it as merrily as he. Besides the above
there was a herdsman or two from the Campagna, and a few peasants in
sky-blue jackets, and small-clothes tied with ribbons at the knees;
haggard and sallow were these last, poor serfs, having little to eat and
nothing but the malaria to breathe; but still they plucked up a momentary
spirit and joined hands in Donatello's dance.
Here, as it seemed, had the Golden Age come back again within the
Precincts of this sunny glade, thawing mankind out of their cold
formalities, releasing them from irksome restraint, mingling them together
in such childlike gayety that new flowers (of which the old bosom of the
earth is full) sprang up beneath their footsteps. The sole exception to
the geniality of the moment, as we have understood, was seen in a
countryman of our own, who sneered at the spectacle, and declined to
compromise his dignity by making part of it.
The harper thrummed with rapid fingers; the violin player flashed his bow
back and forth across the strings; the flautist poured his breath in quick
puffs of jollity, while Donatello shook the tambourine above his head, and
led the merry throng with unweariable steps. As they followed one another
in a wild ring of mirth, it seemed the realization of one of those
bas-reliefs where a dance of nymphs, satyrs, or bacchanals is twined
around the circle of an antique vase; or it was like the sculptured scene
on the front and sides of a sarcophagus, where, as often as any other
device, a festive procession mocks the ashes and white bones that are
treasured up within. You might take it for a marriage pageant; but after
a while, if you look at these merry-makers, following them from end to end
of the marble coffin, you doubt whether their gay movement is leading them
to a happy close. A youth has suddenly fallen in the dance; a chariot is
overturned and broken, flinging the charioteer headlong to the ground; a
maiden seems to have grown faint or weary, and is drooping on the bosom of
a friend. Always some tragic incident is shadowed forth or thrust
sidelong into the spectacle; and when once it has caught your eye you can
look no more at the festal portions of the scene, except with reference to
this one slightly suggested doom and sorrow.
As in its mirth, so in the darker characteristic here alluded to, there
was an analogy between the sculptured scene on the sarcophagus and the
wild dance which we have been describing. In the midst of its madness and
riot Miriam found herself suddenly confronted by a strange figure that
shook its fantastic garments in the air, and pranced before her on its
tiptoes, almost vying with the agility of Donatello himself. It was the
A moment afterwards Donatello was aware that she had retired from the
dance. He hastened towards her, and flung himself on the grass beside the
stone bench on which Miriam was sitting. But a strange distance and
unapproachableness had all at once enveloped her; and though he saw her
within reach of his arm, yet the light of her eyes seemed as far off as
that of a star, nor was there any warmth in the melancholy smile with
which she regarded him.
"Come back!" cried he. "Why should this happy hour end so soon?"
"It must end here, Donatello," said she, in answer to his words and
outstretched hand; "and such hours, I believe, do not often repeat
themselves in a lifetime. Let me go, my friend; let me vanish from you
quietly among the shadows of these trees. See, the companions of our
pastime are vanishing already!"
Whether it was that the harp-strings were broken, the violin out of tune,
or the flautist out of breath, so it chanced that the music had ceased,
and the dancers come abruptly to a pause. All that motley throng of
rioters was dissolved as suddenly as it had been drawn together. In
Miriam's remembrance the scene had a character of fantasy. It was as if a
company of satyrs, fauns, and nymphs, with Pan in the midst of them, had
been disporting themselves in these venerable woods only a moment ago; and
now in another moment, because some profane eye had looked at them too
closely, or some intruder had cast a shadow on their mirth, the sylvan
pageant had utterly disappeared. If a few of the merry-makers lingered
among the trees, they had hidden their racy peculiarities under the garb
and aspect of ordinary people, and sheltered themselves in the weary
commonplace of daily life. Just an instant before it was Arcadia and the
Golden Age. The spell being broken, it was now only that old tract of
pleasure ground, close by the people's gat:e of Rome,--a tract where the
crimes and calamities of ages, the many battles, blood recklessly poured
out, and deaths of myriads, have corrupted all the soil, creating an
influence that makes the air deadly to human lungs.
"You must leave me," said Miriam to Donatello more imperatively than
before; "have I not said it? Go; and look not behind you."
"Miriam," whispered Donatello, grasping her hand forcibly, "who is it that
stands in the shadow yonder, beckoning you to follow him?"
"Hush; leave me!" repeated Miriam. "Your hour is past; his hour has
Donatello still gazed in the direction which he had indicated, and the
expression of his face was fearfully changed, being so disordered, perhaps
with terror,--at all events with anger and invincible repugnance,--that
Miriam hardly knew him. His lips were drawn apart so as to disclose his
set teeth, thus giving him a look of animal rage, which we seldom see
except in persons of the simplest and rudest natures. A shudder seemed to
pass through his very bones.
"I hate him!" muttered he.
"Be satisfied; I hate him too!" said Miriam.
She had no thought of making this avowal, but was irresistibly drawn to it
by the sympathy of the dark emotion in her own breast with that so
strongly expressed by Donatello. Two drops of water or of blood do not
more naturally flow into each other than did her hatred into his.
"Shall I clutch him by the throat?" whispered Donatello, with a savage
scowl. "Bid me do so, and we are rid of him forever."
"In Heaven's name, no violence!" exclaimed Miriam, affrighted out of the
scornful control which she had hitherto held over her companion, by the
fierceness that he so suddenly developed. "O, have pity on me, Donatello,
if for nothing else, yet because in the midst of my wretchedness I let
myself be your playmate for this one wild hour! Follow me no farther.
Henceforth leave me to my doom. Dear friend,--kind, simple, loving
friend,--make me not more wretched by the remembrance of having thrown
fierce hates or loves into the wellspring of your happy life!"
"Not follow you!" repeated Donatello, soothed from anger into sorrow,
less by the purport of what she said, than by the melancholy sweetness of
her voice,--"not follow you! What other path have I?"
"We will talk of it once again," said Miriam still soothingly;
"soon--to-morrow when you will; only leave me now."
In the Borghese Grove, so recently uproarious with merriment and music,
there remained only Miriam and her strange follower.
A solitude had suddenly spread itself around them. It perhaps symbolized
a peculiar character in the relation of these two, insulating them, and
building up an insuperable barrier between their life-streams and other
currents, which might seem to flow in close vicinity. For it is one of
the chief earthly incommodities of some species of misfortune, or of a
great crime, that it makes the actor in the one, or the sufferer of the
other, an alien in the world, by interposing a wholly unsympathetic medium
betwixt himself and those whom he yearns to meet.
Owing, it may be, to this moral estrangement,--this chill remoteness of
their position,--there have come to us but a few vague whisperings of what
passed in Miriam's interview that afternoon with the sinister personage
who had dogged her footsteps ever since the visit to the catacomb. In
weaving these mystic utterances into a continuous scene, we undertake a
task resembling in its perplexity that of gathering up and piecing
together the fragments ora letter which has been torn and scattered to the
winds. Many words of deep significance, many entire sentences, and those
possibly the most important ones, have flown too far on the winged breeze
to be recovered. If we insert our own conjectural amendments, we perhaps
give a purport utterly at variance with the true one. Yet unless we
attempt something in this way, there must remain an unsightly gap, and a
lack of continuousness and dependence in our narrative; so that it would
arrive at certain inevitable catastrophes without due warning of their
Of so much we are sure, that there seemed to be a sadly mysterious
fascination in the influence of this ill-omened person over Miriam; it was
such as beasts and reptiles of subtle and evil nature sometimes exercise
upon their victims. Marvellous it was to see the hopelessness with which
being naturally of so courageous a spirit she resigned herself to the
thraldom in which he held her. That iron chain, of which some of the
massive links were round her feminine waist, and the others in his
ruthless hand,--or which, perhaps, bound the pair together by a bond
equally torturing to each,--must have been forged in some such unhallowed
furnace as is only kindled by evil passions, and fed by evil deeds.
Yet, let us trust, there may have been no crime in Miriam, but only one of
those fatalities which are among the most insoluble riddles propounded to
mortal comprehension; the fatal decree by which every crime is made to be
the agony of many innocent persons, as well as of the single guilty one.
It was, at any rate, but a feeble and despairing kind of remonstrance
which she had now the energy to oppose against his persecution.
"You follow me too closely," she said, in low, faltering accents; "you
allow me too scanty room to draw my breath. Do you know what will be the
end of this?" "I know well what must be the end," he replied.
"Tell me, then," said Miriam, "that I may compare your foreboding with my
own. Mine is a very dark one."
"There can be but one result, and that soon," answered the model. "You
must throw off your present mask and assume another. You must vanish out
of the scene: quit Rome with me, and leave no trace whereby to follow you.
It is in my power, as you well know, to compel your acquiescence in my
bidding. You are aware of the penalty of a refusal."
"Not that penalty with which you would terrify me," said Miriam; "another
there may be, but not so grievous." "What is that other?" he inquired.
"Death! simply death!" she answered. "Death," said her persecutor, "is
not so simple and opportune a thing as you imagine. You are strong and
warm with life. Sensitive and irritable as your spirit is, these many
months of trouble, this latter thraldom in which I hold you, have scarcely
made your cheek paler than I saw it in your girlhood. Miriam,--for I
forbear to speak another name, at which these leaves would shiver above
our heads,--Miriam, you cannot die!"
"Might not a dagger find my heart?" said she, for the first time meeting
his eyes. "Would not poison make an end of me? Will not the Tiber drown
"It might," he answered; "for I allow that you are mortal. But, Miriam,
believe me, it is not your fate to die while there remains so much to be
sinned and suffered in the world. We have a destiny which we must needs
fulfil together. I, too, have struggled to escape it. I was as anxious
as yourself to break the tie between us,--to bury the past in a fathomless
grave,--to make it impossible that we should ever meet, until you confront
me at the bar of Judgment! You little can imagine what steps I took to
render all this secure; and what was the result? Our strange interview in
the bowels of the earth convinced me of the futility of my design."
"Ah, fatal chance!" cried Miriam, covering her face with her hands.
"Yes, your heart trembled with horror when you recognized me," rejoined he;
"but you did not guess that there was an equal horror in my own!"
"Why would not the weight of earth above our heads have crumbled down upon
us both, forcing us apart, but burying us equally?" cried Miriam, in a
burst of vehement passion. "O, that we could have wandered in those
dismal passages till we both perished, taking opposite paths in the
darkness, so that when we lay down to die, our last.breaths might not
"It were vain to wish it," said the model. "In all that labyrinth of
midnight paths, we should have found one another out to live or die
together. Our fates cross and are entangled. The threads are twisted
into a strong cord, which is dragging us to an evil doom. Could the knots
be severed, we might escape. But neither can your slender fingers untie
these knots, nor my masculine force break them. We must submit!"
"Pray for rescue, as I have," exclaimed Miriam. "Pray for deliverance
from me, since I am your evil genius, as you mine. Dark as your life has
been, I have known you to pray in times past!"
At these words of Miriam, a tremor and horror appeared to seize upon her
persecutor, insomuch that he shook and grew ashy pale before her eyes. In
this man's memory there was something that made it awful for him to think
of prayer; nor would any torture be more intolerable than to be reminded
of such divine comfort and succor as await pious souls merely for the
asking; This torment was perhaps the token of a native temperament deeply
susceptible of religious impressions, but which had been wronged, violated,
and debased, until, at length, it was capable only of terror from the
sources that were intended for our purest and loftiest consolation. He
looked so fearfully at her, and with such intense pain struggling in his
eyes, that Miriam felt pity.
And now, all at once, it struck her that he might be mad. It was an idea
that had never before seriously occurred to her mind, although, as soon as
suggested, it fitted marvellously into many circumstances that lay within
her knowledge. But, alas! such was her evil fortune, that, whether mad
or no, his power over her remained the same, and was likely to be used
only the more tyrannously, if exercised by a lunatic.
I would not give you pain," she said, soothingly; "your faith allows you
the consolations of penance and absolution. Try what help there may be in
these, and leave me to myself."
"Do not think it, Miriam," said he; "we are bound together, and can never
part again." "Why should it seem so impossible?" she rejoined. "Think
how I had escaped from all the past! I had made for myself a new sphere,
and found new friends, new occupations, new hopes and enjoyments. My
heart, methinks, was almost as unburdened as if there had been no
miserable life behind me. The human spirit does not perish of a single
wound, nor exhaust itself in a single trial of life. Let us but keep
asunder, and all may go well for both." "We fancied ourselves forever
sundered," he replied. "Yet we met once, in the bowels of the earth; and,
were we to part now, our fates would fling us together again in a desert,
on a mountain-top, or in whatever spot seemed safest. You speak in vain,
"You mistake your own will for an iron necessity," said Miriam; "otherwise,
you might have suffered me to glide past you like a ghost, when we met
among those ghosts of ancient days. Even now you might bid me pass as
"Never!" said he, with unmitigable will; "your reappearance has destroyed
the work of years. You know the power that I have over you. Obey my
bidding; or, within a short time, it shall be exercised: nor will I cease
to haunt you till the moment comes."
"Then," said Miriam more calmly," I foresee the end, and have already
warned you of it. It will be death!"
"Your own death, Miriam,--or mine?" he asked, looking fixedly at her.
"Do you imagine me a murderess?" said she, shuddering; "you, at least,
have no right to think me so!"
"Yet," rejoined he, with a glance of dark meaning, "men have said that
this white hand had once a crimson stain." He took her hand as he spoke,
and held it in his own, in spite of the repugnance, amounting to nothing
short of agony, with which she struggled to regain it. Holding it up to
the fading light (for there was already dimness among the trees), he
appeared to examine it closely, as if to discover the imaginary
blood-stain with which he taunted her. He smiled as he let it go. "It
looks very white," said he; "but I have known hands as white, which all
the water in the ocean would not have washed clean."
"It had no stain," retorted Miriam bitterly, "until you grasped it in your
The wind has blown away whatever else they may have spoken.
They went together towards the town, and, on their way, continued to make
reference, no doubt, to some strange and dreadful history of their former
life, belonging equally to this dark man and to the fair and youthful
woman whom he persecuted. In their words, or in the breath that uttered
them, there seemed to be an odor of guilt, and a scent of blood. Yet, how
can we imagine that a stain of ensanguined crime should attach to Miriam!
Or how, on the other hand, should spotless innocence be subjected to a
thraldom like that which she endured from the spectre, whom she herself
had evoked out of the darkness! Be this as it might, Miriam, we have
reason to believe, still continued to beseech him, humbly, passionately,
wildly, only to go his way, and leave her free to follow her own sad path.
Thus they strayed onward through the green wilderness of the Borghese
grounds, and soon came near the city wall, where, had Miriam raised her
eyes, she might have seen Hilda and the sculptor leaning on the parapet.
But she walked in a mist of trouble, and could distinguish little beyond
its limits. As they came within public observation, her persecutor fell
behind, throwing off the imperious manner which he had assumed during
their solitary interview. The Porta del Popolo swarmed with life. The
merry-makers, who had spent the feast-day outside the walls, were now
thronging in; a party of horsemen were entering beneath the arch; a
travelling carriage had been drawn up just within the verge, and was
passing through the villainous ordeal of the papal custom-house. In the
broad piazza, too, there was a motley crowd.
But the stream of Miriam's trouble kept its way through this flood of
human life, and neither mingled with it nor was turned aside. With a sad
kind of feminine ingenuity, she found a way to kneel before her tyrant
undetected, though in full sight of all the people, still beseeching him
for freedom, and in vain.
A STROLL ON THE PINCIAN
Hilda, after giving the last touches to the picture of Beatrice Cenci, had
flown down from her dove-cote, late in the afternoon, and gone to the
Pincian Hill, in the hope of hearing a strain or two of exhilarating music.
There, as it happened, she met the sculptor, for, to say the truth,
Kenyon had well noted the fair artist's ordinary way of life, and was
accustomed to shape his own movements so as to bring him often within her
The Pincian Hill is the favorite promenade of the Roman aristocracy. At
the present day, however, like most other Roman possessions, it belongs
less to the native inhabitants than to the barbarians from Gaul, Great
Britain, anti beyond the sea, who have established a peaceful usurpation
over whatever is enjoyable or memorable in the Eternal City. These
foreign guests are indeed ungrateful, if they do not breathe a prayer for
Pope Clement, or whatever Holy Father it may have been, who levelled the
summit of the mount so skilfully, and bounded it with the parapet of the
city wall; who laid out those broad walks and drives, and overhung them
with the deepening shade of many kinds of tree; who scattered the flowers,
of all seasons and of every clime, abundantly over those green, central
lawns; who scooped out hollows in fit places, and, setting great basins of
marble in them, caused ever-gushing fountains to fill them to the brim;
who reared up the immemorial obelisk out of the soil that had long hidden
it; who placed pedestals along the borders of the avenues, and crowned
them with busts of that multitude of worthies--statesmen, heroes, artists,
men of letters and of song--whom the whole world claims as its chief
ornaments, though Italy produced them all. In a word, the Pincian garden
is one of the things that reconcile the stranger (since he fully
appreciates the enjoyment, and feels nothing of the cost) to the rule of
an irresponsible dynasty of Holy Fathers, who seem to have aimed at making
life as agreeable an affair as it can well be.
In this pleasant spot, the red-trousered French soldiers are always to be
seen; bearded and grizzled veterans, perhaps with medals of Algiers or the
Crimea on their breasts. To them is assigned the peaceful duty of seeing
that children do not trample on the flower beds, nor any youthful lover
rifle them of their fragrant blossoms to stick in the beloved one's hair.
Here sits (drooping upon some marble bench, in the treacherous sunshine)
the consumptive girl, whose friends have brought her, for cure, to a
climate that instils poison into its very purest breath. Here, all day,
come nursery-maids, burdened with rosy English babies, or guiding the
footsteps of little travellers from the far Western world. Here, in the
sunny afternoons, roll and rumble all kinds of equipages, from the
cardinal's old-fashioned and gorgeous purple carriage to the gay barouche
of modern date. Here horsemen gallop on thoroughbred steeds. Here, in
short, all the transitory population of Rome, the world's great
watering-place, rides, drives, or promenades! Here are beautiful sunsets;
and here, whichever way you turn your eyes, are scenes as well worth
gazing at, both in themselves and for their historic interest, as any that
the sun ever rose and set upon. Here, too, on certain afternoons of the
week, a French military band flings out rich music over the poor old city,
floating her with strains as loud as those of her own echoless triumphs.
Hilda and the sculptor (by the contrivance of the latter, who loved best
to be alone with his young countrywoman) had wandered beyond the throng of
promenaders, whom they left in a dense cluster around the music. They
strayed, indeed, to the farthest point of the Pincian Hill, and leaned
over the parapet, looking down upon the Muro Torto, a massive fragment of
the oldest Roman wall, which juts over, as if ready to tumble down by its
own weight, yet seems still the most indestructible piece of work that
men's hands ever piled together. In the blue distance rose Soracte, and
other heights, which have gleamed afar, to our imaginations, but look
scarcely real to our bodily eyes, because, being dreamed about so much,
they have taken the aerial tints which belong only to a dream. These,
nevertheless, are the solid framework of hills that shut in Rome, and its
wide surrounding Campagna,--no land of dreams, but the broadest page of
history, crowded so full with memorable events that one obliterates
another; as if Time had crossed and recrossed his own records till they
But, not to meddle with history,--with which our narrative is no otherwise
concerned, than that the very dust of Rome is historic, and inevitably
settles on our page and mingles with our ink,--we will return to our two
friends, who were still leaning over the wall. Beneath them lay the broad
sweep of the Borghese grounds, covered with trees, amid which appeared the
white gleam of pillars and statues, and the flash of an upspringing
fountain, all to be overshadowed at a later period of the year by the
thicker growth of foliage.
The advance of vegetation, in this softer climate, is less abrupt than the
inhabitant of the cold North is accustomed to observe. Beginning earlier,
--even in February,--Spring is not compelled to burst into Summer with
such headlong haste; there is time to dwell upon each opening beauty, and
to enjoy the budding leaf, the tender green, the sweet youth and freshness
of the year; it gives us its. maiden charm, before, settling into the
married Summer, which, again, does not so soon sober itself into matronly
Autumn. In our own country, the virgin Spring hastens to its bridal too
abruptly. But here, after a month or two of kindly growth, the leaves of
the young trees, which cover that portion of the Borghese grounds nearest
the city wall, were still in their tender halfdevelopment.
In the remoter depths, among the old groves of ilex-trees, Hilda and
Kenyon heard the faint sound of music, laughter, and mingling voices. It
was probably the uproar--spreading even so far as the walls of Rome, and
growing faded and melancholy in its passage--of that wild sylvan merriment,
which we have already attempted to describe. By and by it
ceased--although the two listeners still tried to distinguish it between
the bursts of nearer music from the military band. But there was no
renewal of that distant mirth. Soon afterwards they saw a solitary figure
advancing along one of the paths that lead from the obscurer part of the
ground towards the gateway.
"Look! is it not Donatello?" said Hilda.
"He it is, beyond a doubt," replied the sculptor. "But how gravely he
walks, and with what long looks behind him! He seems either very weary,
or very sad. I should not hesitate to call it sadness, if Donatello were
a creature capable of the sin and folly of low spirits. In all these
hundred paces, while we have been watching him, he has not made one of
those little caprioles in the air which are characteristic of his natural
gait. I begin to doubt whether he is a veritable Faun."
"Then," said Hilda, with perfect simplicity, "you have thought him--and do
think him--one of that strange, wild, happy race of creatures, that used
to laugh and sport in the woods, in the old, old times? So do I, indeed!
But I never quite believed, till now, that fauns existed anywhere but in
The sculptor at first merely smiled. Then, as the idea took further
possession of his mind, he laughed outright, and wished from the bottom of
his heart (being in love with Hilda, though he had never told her so) that
he could have rewarded or punished her for its pretty absurdity with a
"O Hilda, what a treasure of sweet faith and pure imagination you hide
under that little straw hat!" cried he, at length. "A Faun! a Faun!
Great Pan is not dead, then, after all! The whole tribe of mythical
creatures yet live in the moonlit seclusion of a young girl's fancy, and
find it a lovelier abode and play-place, I doubt not, than their Arcadian
haunts of yore. What bliss, if a man of marble, like myself, could stray
"Why do you laugh so?" asked Hilda, reddening; for she was a little
disturbed at Kenyon's ridicule, however kindly expressed. "What can I
have said, that you think so very foolish?"
"Well, not foolish, then," rejoined the sculptor, "but wiser, it may be,
than I can fathom. Really, however, the idea does strike one as
delightfully fresh, when we consider Donatello's position and external
environment. Why, my dear Hilda, he is a Tuscan born, of an old noble
race in that part of Italy; and he has a moss-grown tower among the
Apennines, where he and his forefathers have dwelt, under their own vines
and fig-trees, from an unknown antiquity. His boyish passion for Miriam
has introduced him familiarly to our little circle; and our republican and
artistic simplicity of intercourse has included this young Italian, on the
same terms as one of ourselves. But, if we paid due respect to rank and
title, we should bend reverentially to Donatello, and salute him as his
Excellency the Count di Monte Beni."
"That is a droll idea, much droller than his being a Faun!" said Hilda,
laughing in her turn. "This does not quite satisfy me, however,
especially as you yourself recognized and acknowledged his wonderful
resemblance to the statue."
"Except as regards the pointed ears," said Kenyon; adding, aside, "and one
other little peculiarity, generally observable in the statues of fauns."
"As for his Excellency the Count di Monte Beni's ears," replied Hilda,
smiling again at the dignity with which this title invested their playful
friend, "you know we could never see their shape, on account of his
clustering curls. Nay, I remember, he once started back, as shyly as a
wild deer, when Miriam made a pretence of examining them. How do you
"O, I certainly shall not contend against such a weight of evidence, the
fact of his faunship being otherwise so probable," answered the sculptor,
still hardly retaining his gravity. "Faun or not, Donatello or the Count
di Monte Beni--is a singularly wild creature, and, as I have remarked on
other occasions, though very gentle, does not love to be touched.
Speaking in no harsh sense, there is a great deal of animal nature in him,
as if he had been born in the woods, and had run wild all his childhood,
and were as yet but imperfectly domesticated. Life, even in our day, is
very simple and unsophisticated in some of the shaggy nooks of the
"It annoys me very much," said Hilda, "this inclination, which most people
have, to explain away the wonder and the mystery out of everything. Why
could not you allow me--and yourself, too--the satisfaction of thinking
him a Faun?"
"Pray keep your belief, dear Hilda, if it makes you any happier," said the
sculptor; "and I shall do my best to become a convert. Donatello has
asked me to spend the summer with him, in his ancestral tower, where I
purpose investigating the pedigree of these sylvan counts, his forefathers;
and if their shadows beckon me into dreamland, I shall willingly follow.
By the bye, speaking of Donatello, there is a point on which I should like
to be enlightened."
"Can I help you, then?" said Hilda, in answer to his look.
"Is there the slightest chance of his winning Miriam's affections?"
"Miriam! she, so accomplished and gifted!" exclaimed Hilda; "and he, a
rude, uncultivated boy! No, no, no!"
"It would seem impossible," said the sculptor. "But, on the other hand, a
gifted woman flings away her affections so unaccountably, sometimes!
Miriam of late has been very morbid and miserable, as we both know. Young
as she is, the morning light seems already to have faded out of her life;
and now comes Donatello, with natural sunshine enough for himself and her,
and offers her the opportunity of making her heart and life all new and
cheery again. People of high intellectual endowments do not require
similar ones in those they love. They are just the persons to appreciate
the wholesome gush of natural feeling, the honest affection, the simple
joy, the fulness of contentment with what he loves, which Miriam sees in
Donatello. True; she may call him a simpleton. It is a necessity of the
case; for a man loses the capacity for this kind of affection, in
proportion as he cultivates and refines himself."
"Dear me!" said Hilda, drawing imperceptibly away from her companion.
"Is this the penalty of refinement? Pardon me; I do not believe it. It
is because you are a sculptor, that you think nothing can be finely
wrought except it be cold and hard, like the marble in which your ideas
take shape. I am a painter, and know that the most delicate beauty may be
softened and warmed throughout."
"I said a foolish thing, indeed," answered the sculptor. "It surprises me,
for I might have drawn a wiser knowledge out of my own experience. It is
the surest test of genuine love, that it brings back our early simplicity
to the worldliest of us."
Thus talking, they loitered slowly along beside the parapet which borders
the level summit of the Pincian with its irregular sweep. At intervals
they looked through the lattice-work of their thoughts at the varied
prospects that lay before and beneath them.
From the terrace where they now stood there is an abrupt descent towards
the Piazza del Popolo; and looking down into its broad space they beheld
the tall palatial edifices, the church domes, and the ornamented gateway,
which grew and were consolidated out of the thought of Michael Angelo.
They saw, too, the red granite obelisk, oldest of things, even in Rome,
which rises in the centre of the piazza, with a fourfold fountain at its
base. All Roman works and ruins (whether of the empire, the far-off
republic, or the still more distant kings) assume a transient, visionary,
and impalpable character when we think that this indestructible monument
supplied one of the recollections which Moses and the Israelites bore from
Egypt into the desert. Perchance, on beholding the cloudy pillar and the
fiery column, they whispered awestricken to one another, "In its shape it
is like that old obelisk which we and our fathers have so often seen on
the borders of the Nile." And now that very obelisk, with hardly a trace
of decay upon it, is the first thing that the modern traveller sees after
entering the Flaminian Gate!
Lifting their eyes, Hilda and her companion gazed westward, and saw beyond
the invisible Tiber the Castle of St. Angelo; that immense tomb of a pagan
emperor, with the archangel at its summit.
Still farther off appeared a mighty pile of buildings, surmounted by the
vast dome, which all of us have shaped and swelled outward, like a huge
bubble, to the utmost Scope of our imaginations, long before we see it
floating over the worship of the city. It may be most worthily seen from
precisely the point where our two friends were now standing. At any
nearer view the grandeur of St. Peter's hides itself behind the immensity
of its separate parts,--so that we see only the front, only the sides,
only the pillared length and loftiness of the portico, and not the mighty
whole. But at this distance the entire outline of the world's cathedral,
as well as that of the palace of the world's chief priest, is taken in at
once. In such remoteness, moreover, the imagination is not debarred from
lending its assistance, even while we have the reality before our eyes,
and helping the weakness of human sense to do justice to so grand an
object. It requires both faith and fancy to enable us to feel, what is
nevertheless so true, that yonder, in front of the purple outline of hills,
is the grandest edifice ever built by man, painted against God's
After contemplating a little while a scene which their long residence in
Rome had made familiar to them, Kenyon and Hilda again let their glances
fall into the piazza at their feet. They there beheld Miriam, who had
just entered the Porta del Popolo, and was standing by the obelisk and
fountain. With a gesture that impressed Kenyon as at once suppliant and
imperious, she seemed to intimate to a figure which had attended her thus
far, that it was now her desire to be left alone. The pertinacious model,
however, remained immovable.
And the sculptor here noted a circumstance, which, according to the
interpretation he might put upon it, was either too trivial to be
mentioned, or else so mysteriously significant that he found it difficult
to believe his eyes. Miriam knelt down on the steps of the fountain; so
far there could be no question of the fact. To other observers, if any
there were, she probably appeared to take this attitude merely for the
convenience of dipping her fingers into the gush of water from the mouth
of one of the stone lions. But as she clasped her hands together after
thus bathing them, and glanced upward at the model, an idea took strong
possession of Kenyon's mind that Miriam was kneeling to this dark follower
there in the world's face!
"Do you see it?" he said to Hilda.
"See what?" asked she, surprised at the emotion of his tone. "I see
Miriam, who has just bathed her hands in that delightfully cool water. I
often dip my fingers into a Roman fountain, and think of the brook that
used to be one of my playmates in my New England village."
"I fancied I saw something else," said Kenyon; "but it was doubtless a
But, allowing that he had caught a true glimpse into the hidden
significance of Miriam's gesture, what a terrible thraldom did it suggest!
Free as she seemed to be,--beggar as he looked,--the nameless vagrant
must then be dragging the beautiful Miriam through the streets of Rome,
fettered and shackled more cruelly than any captive queen of yore
following in an emperor's triumph. And was it conceivable that she would
have been thus enthralled unless some great error--how great Kenyon dared
not think--or some fatal weakness had given this dark adversary a vantage
"Hilda," said he abruptly, "who and what is Miriam? Pardon me; but are
you sure of her?"
"Sure of her!" repeated Hilda, with an angry blush, for her friend's sake.
"I am sure that she is kind, good, and generous; a true and faithful
friend, whom I love dearly, and who loves me as well! What more than this
need I be sure of?"
"And your delicate instincts say all this in her favor?--nothing against
her?" continued the sculptor, without heeding the irritation of Hilda's
tone. "These are my own impressions, too. But she is such a mystery! We
do not even know whether she is a countrywoman of ours, or an Englishwoman,
or a German. There is Anglo-Saxon blood in her veins, one would say, and
a right English accent on her tongue, but much that is not English
breeding, nor American. Nowhere else but in Rome, and as an artist, could
she hold a place in society without giving some clew to her past life."
"I love her dearly," said Hilda, still with displeasure in her tone, "and
trust her most entirely."
"My heart trusts her at least, whatever my head may do," replied Kenyon;
"and Rome is not like one of our New England villages, where we need the
permission of each individual neighbor for every act that we do, every
word that we utter, and every friend that we make or keep. In these
particulars the papal despotism allows us freer breath than our native air;
and if we like to take generous views of our associates, we can do so, to
a reasonable extent, without ruining ourselves."
"The music has ceased," said Hilda; "I am going now."
There are three streets that, beginning close beside each other, diverge
from the Piazza del Popolo towards the heart of Rome: on the left, the Via
del Babuino; on the right, the Via della Ripetta; and between these two
that worldfamous avenue, the Corso. It appeared that Miriam and her
strange companion were passing up the first mentioned of these three, and
were soon hidden from Hilda and the sculptor.
The two latter left the Pincian by the broad and stately walk that skirts
along its brow. Beneath them, from the base of the abrupt descent, the
city spread wide away in a close contiguity of red-earthen roofs, above
which rose eminent the domes of a hundred churches, beside here and there
a tower, and the upper windows of some taller or higher situated palace,
looking down on a multitude of palatial abodes. At a distance, ascending
out of the central mass of edifices, they could see the top of the
Antonine column, and near it the circular roof of the Pantheon looking
heavenward with its ever-open eye.
Except these two objects, almost everything that they beheld was mediaeval,
though built, indeed, of the massive old stones and indestructible bricks
of imperial Rome; for the ruins of the Coliseum, the Golden House, and
innumerable temples of Roman gods, and mansions of Caesars and senators,
had supplied the material for all those gigantic hovels, and their walls
were cemented with mortar of inestimable cost, being made of precious
antique statues, burnt long ago for this petty purpose.
Rome, as it now exists, has grown up under the Popes, and seems like
nothing but a heap of broken rubbish, thrown into the great chasm between
our own days and the Empire, merely to fill it up; and, for the better
part of two thousand years, its annals of obscure policies, and wars, and
continually recurring misfortunes, seem also but broken rubbish, as
compared with its classic history.
If we consider the present city as at all connected with the famous one of
old, it is only because we find it built over its grave. A depth of
thirty feet of soil has covered up the Rome of ancient days, so that it
lies like the dead corpse of a giant, decaying for centuries, with no
survivor mighty enough even to bury it, until the dust of all those years
has gathered slowly over its recumbent form and made a casual sepulchre.
We know not how to characterize, in any accordant and compatible terms,
the Rome that lies before us; its sunless alleys, and streets of palaces;
its churches, lined with the gorgeous marbles that were originally
polished for the adornment of pagan temples; its thousands of evil smells,
mixed up with fragrance of rich incense, diffused from as many censers;
its little life, deriving feeble nutriment from what has long been dead.
Everywhere, some fragment of ruin suggesting the magnificence of a former
epoch; everywhere, moreover, a Cross,--and nastiness at the foot of it.
As the sum of all, there are recollections that kindle the soul, and a
gloom and languor that depress it beyond any depth of melancholic
sentiment that can be elsewhere known.
Yet how is it possible to say an unkind or irreverential word of Rome?
The city of ail time, and of all the world! The spot for which man's
great life and deeds have done so much, and for which decay has done
whatever glory and dominion could not do! At this moment, the evening
sunshine is flinging its golden mantle over it, making all that we thought
mean magnificent; the bells of all the churches suddenly ring out, as if
it were a peal of triumph because Rome is still imperial.
"I sometimes fancy," said Hilda, on whose susceptibility the scene always
made a strong impression, "that Rome--mere Rome--will crowd everything
else out of my heart."
"Heaven forbid!" ejaculated the sculptor. They had now reached the
grand stairs that ascend from the Piazza di Spagna to the hither brow of
the Pincian Hill. Old Beppo, the millionnaire of his ragged fraternity,
it is a wonder that no artist paints him as the cripple whom St. Peter
heals at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple,--was just mounting his donkey
to depart, laden with the rich spoil of the day's beggary.
Up the stairs, drawing his tattered cloak about his face, came the model,
at whom Beppo looked askance, jealous of an encroacher on his rightful
domain. The figure passed away, however, up the Via Sistina. In the
piazza below, near the foot of the magnificent steps, stood Miriam, with
her eyes bent on the ground, as if she were counting those little, square,
uncomfortable paving-stones, that make it a penitential pilgrimage to walk
in Rome. She kept this attitude for several minutes, and when, at last,
the importunities of a beggar disturbed her from it, she seemed bewildered
and pressed her hand upon her brow.
"She has been in some sad dream or other, poor thing!" said Kenyon
sympathizingly; "and even now she is imprisoned there in a kind of cage,
the iron bars of which are made of her own thoughts."
"I fear she is not well," said Hilda. "I am going down the stairs, and
will join Miriam."
"Farewell, then," said the sculptor. "Dear Hilda, this is a perplexed and
troubled world! It soothes me inexpressibly to think of you in your tower,
with white doves and white thoughts for your companions, so high above us
all, and With the Virgin for your household friend. You know not how far
it throws its light, that lamp which you keep burning at her shrine! I
passed beneath the tower last night, and the ray cheered me, because you
"It has for me a religious significance," replied Hilda quietly, "and yet
I am no Catholic."
They parted, and Kenyon made haste along the Via Sistina, in the hope of
overtaking the model, whose haunts and character he was anxious to
investigate, for Miriam's sake. He fancied that he saw him a long way in
advance, but before he reached the Fountain of the Triton the dusky figure
A SCULPTOR'S STUDIO
About this period, Miriam seems to have been goaded by a weary
restlessness that drove her abroad on any errand or none. She went one
morning to visit Kenyon in his studio, whither he had invited her to see a
new statue, on which he had staked many hopes, and which was now almost
completed in the clay. Next to Hilda, the person for whom Miriam felt
most affection and confidence was Kenyon; and in all the difficulties that
beset her life, it was her impulse to draw near Hilda for feminine
sympathy, and the sculptor for brotherly counsel.
Yet it was to little purpose that she approached the edge of the voiceless
gulf between herself and them. Standing on the utmost verge of that dark
chasm, she might stretch out her hand, and never clasp a hand of theirs;
she might strive to call out, "Help, friends! help!" but, as with
dreamers when they shout, her voice would perish inaudibly in the
remoteness that seemed such a little way. This perception of an infinite,
shivering solitude, amid which we cannot come close enough to human beings
to be warmed by them, and where they turn to cold, chilly shapes of mist,
is one of the most forlorn results of any accident, misfortune, crime, or
peculiarity of character, that puts an individual ajar with the world.
Very often, as in Miriam's case, there is an insatiable instinct that
demands friendship, love, and intimate communion, but is forced to pine in
empty forms; a hunger of the heart, which finds only shadows to feed upon.
Kenyon's studio was in a cross-street, or, rather, an ugly and dirty
little lane, between the Corso and the Via della Ripetta; and though chill,
narrow, gloomy, and bordered with tall and shabby structures, the lane
was not a whit more disagreeable than nine tenths of the Roman streets.
Over the door of one of the houses was a marble tablet, bearing an
inscription, to the purport that the sculpture-rooms within had formerly
been occupied by the illustrious artist Canova. In these precincts (which
Canova's genius was not quite of a character to render sacred, though it
certainly made them interesting) the young American sculptor had now
The studio of a sculptor is generally but a rough and dreary-looking place,
with a good deal the aspect, indeed, of a stone-mason's workshop. Bare
floors of brick or plank, and plastered walls,--an old chair or two, or
perhaps only a block of marble (containing, however, the possibility of
ideal grace within it) to sit down upon; some hastily scrawled sketches of
nude figures on the whitewash of the wall. These last are probably the
sculptor's earliest glimpses of ideas that may hereafter be solidified
into imperishable stone, or perhaps may remain as impalpable as a dream.
Next there are a few very roughly modelled little figures in clay or
plaster, exhibiting the second stage of the idea as it advances towards a
marble immortality; and then is seen the exquisitely designed shape of
clay, more interesting than even the final marble, as being the intimate
production of the sculptor himself, moulded throughout with his loving
hands, and nearest to his imagination and heart. In the plaster-cast,
from this clay model, the beauty of the statue strangely disappears, to
shine forth again with pure white radiance, in the precious marble of
Carrara. Works in all these stages of advancement, and some with the
final touch upon them, might be found in Kenyon's studio.
Here might be witnessed the process of actually chiselling the marble,
with which (as it is not quite satisfactory to think) a sculptor in these
days has very little to do. In Italy, there is a class of men whose
merely mechanical skill is perhaps more exquisite than was possessed by
the ancient artificers, who wrought out the designs of Praxiteles; or,
very possibly, by Praxiteles himself. Whatever of illusive representation
can be effected in marble, they are capable of achieving, if the object be
before their eyes. The sculptor has but to present these men with a
plaster-cast of his design, and a sufficient block of marble, and tell
them that the figure is imbedded in the stone, and must be freed from its
encumbering superfluities; and, in due time, without the necessity of his
touching the work with his own finger, he will see before him the statue
that is to make him renowned. His creative power has wrought it with a
In no other art, surely, does genius find such effective instruments, and
so happily relieve itself of the drudgery, of actual performance; doing
wonderfully nice things by the hands of other people, when it may be
suspected they could not always be done by the sculptor's own. And how
much of the admiration which our artists get for their buttons and
buttonholes, their shoe-ties, their neckcloths,--and these, at our present
epoch of taste, make a large share of the renown,--would be abated, if we
were generally aware that the sculptor can claim no credit for such pretty
performances, as immortalized in marble! They are not his work, but that
of some nameless machine in human shape.
Miriam stopped an instant in an antechamber, to look at a half-finished
bust, the features of which seemed to be struggling out of the stone; and,
as it were, scattering and dissolving its hard substance by the glow of
feeling and intelligence. As the skilful workman gave stroke after stroke
of the chisel with apparent carelessness, but sure effect, it was
impossible not to think that the outer marble was merely an extraneous
environment; the human countenance within its embrace must have existed
there since the limestone ledges of Carrara were first made. Another
bust was nearly completed, though still one of Kenyon's most trustworthy
assistants was at work, giving delicate touches, shaving off an impalpable
something, and leaving little heaps of marble dust to attest it.
"As these busts in the block of marble," thought Miriam, "so does our
individual fate exist in the limestone of time. We fancy that we carve it
out; but its ultimate shape is prior to all our action."
Kenyon was in the inner room, but, hearing a step in the antechamber, he
threw a veil over what he was at work upon, and came out to receive his
visitor. He was dressed in a gray blouse, with a little cap on the top of
his head; a costume which became him better than tho formal garments which
he wore whenever he passed out of his own domains. The sculptor had a
face which, when time had done a little more for it, would offer a worthy
subject for as good an artist as himself: features finely cut, as if
already marble; an ideal forehead, deeply set eyes, and a mouth much
hidden in a lightbrown beard, but apparently sensitive and delicate.
"I will not offer you my hand," said he; "it is grimy with Cleopatra's
"No; I will not touch clay; it is earthy and human," answered Miriam. "I
have come to try whether there is any calm and coolness among your marbles.
My own art is too nervous, too passionate, too full of agitation, for me
to work at it whole days together, without intervals of repose. So, what
have you to show me?"
"Pray look at everything here," said Kenyon. "I love to have painters see
my work. Their judgment is unprejudiced, and more valuable than that of
the world generally, from the light which their own art throws on mine.
More valuable, too, than that of my brother sculptors, who never judge me
fairly,--nor I them, perhaps."
To gratify him, Miriam looked round at the specimens in marble or plaster,
of which there were several in the room, comprising originals or casts of
most of the designs that Kenyon had thus far produced. He was still too
young to have accumulated a large gallery of such things. What he had to
show were chiefly the attempts and experiments, in various directions, of
a beginner in art, acting as a stern tutor to himself, and profiting more
by his failures than by any successes of which he was yet capable. Some
of them, however, had great merit; and in the pure, fine glow of the new
marble, it may be, they dazzled the judgment into awarding them higher
praise than they deserved. Miriam admired the statue of a beautiful youth,
a pearlfisher; who had got entangled in the weeds at the bottom of the
sea, and lay dead among the pearl-oysters, the rich shells, and the
seaweeds, all of like value to him now.
"The poor young man has perished among the prizes that he sought,"
remarked she. "But what a strange efficacy there is in death! If we
cannot all win pearls, it causes an empty shell to satisfy us just as well.
I like this statue, though it is too cold and stern in its moral lesson;
and, physically, the form has not settled itself into sufficient repose."
In another style, there was a grand, calm head of Milton, not copied from
any one bust or picture, yet more authentic than any of them, because all
known representations of the poet had been profoundly studied, and solved
in the artist's mind. The bust over the tomb in Grey Friars Church, the
original miniatures and pictures, wherever to be found, had mingled each
its special truth in this one work; wherein, likewise, by long perusal and
deep love of the Paradise Lost, the Comus, the Lycidas, and L'Allegro, the
sculptor had succeeded, even better than he knew, in spiritualizing his
marble with the poet's mighty genius. And this was a great thing to have
achieved, such a length of time after the dry bones and dust of Milton
were like those of any other dead man.
There were also several portrait-busts, comprising those of two or three
of the illustrious men of our own country, whom Kenyon, before he left
America, had asked permission to model. He had done so, because he
sincerely believed that, whether he wrought the busts in marble or bronze,
the one would corrode and the other crumble in the long lapse of time,
beneath these great men's immortality. Possibly, however, the young
artist may have underestimated the durability of his material. Other
faces there were, too, of men who (if the brevity of their remembrance,
after death, can be augured from their little value in life) should have
been represented in snow rather than marble. Posterity will be puzzled
what to do with busts like these, the concretions and petrifactions of a
vain selfestimate; but will find, no doubt, that they serve to build into
stone walls, or burn into quicklime, as well as if the marble had never
been blocked into the guise of human heads.
But it is an awful thing, indeed, this endless endurance, this almost
indestructibility, of a marble bust! Whether in our own case, or that of
other men, it bids us sadly measure the little, little time during which
our lineaments are likely to be of interest to any human being. It is
especially singular that Americans should care about perpetuating
themselves in this mode. The brief duration of our families, as a
hereditary household, renders it next to a certainty that the
great-grandchildren will not know their father's grandfather, and that
half a century hence at furthest, the hammer of the auctioneer will thump
its knock-down blow against his blockhead, sold at so much for the pound
of stone! And it ought to make us shiver, the idea of leaving our
features to be a dusty-white ghost among strangers of another generation,
who will take our nose between their thumb and fingers (as we have seen
men do by Caesar's), and infallibly break it off if they can do so without
"Yes," said Miriam, who had been revolving some such thoughts as the above,
"it is a good state of mind for mortal man, when he is content to leave
no more definite memorial than the grass, which will sprout kindly and
speedily over his grave, if we do not make the spot barren with marble.
Methinks, too, it will be a fresher and better world, when it flings off
this great burden of stony memories, which the ages have deemed it a piety
to heap upon its back."
"What you say," remarked Kenyon, "goes against my whole art. Sculpture,
and the delight which men naturally take in it, appear to me a proof that
it is good to work with all time before our view."
"Well, well," answered Miriam, "I must not quarrel with you for flinging
your heavy stones at poor Posterity; and, to say the truth, I think you
are as likely to hit the mark as anybody. These busts, now, much as I
seem to scorn them, make me feel as if you were a magician.. You turn
feverish men into cool, quiet marble. What a blessed change for them!
Would you could do as much for me!"
"O, gladly!" cried Kenyon, who had long wished to model that beautiful
and most expressive face. "When will you begin to sit?"
"Poh! that was not what I meant," said Miriam. "Come, show me something
"Do you recognize this?" asked the sculptor.
He took out of his desk a little old-fashioned ivory coffer, yellow with
age; it was richly carved with antique figures and foliage; and had Kenyon
thought fit to say that Benvenuto Cellini wrought this precious box, the
skill and elaborate fancy of the work would by no means have discredited
his word, nor the old artist's fame. At least, it was evidently a
production of Benvenuto's school and century, and might once have been the
jewel-case of some grand lady at the court of the De' Medici.
Lifting the lid, however, no blaze of diamonds was disclosed, but only,
lapped in fleecy cotton, a small, beautifully shaped hand, most delicately
sculptured in marble. Such loving care and nicest art had been lavished
here, that the palm really seemed to have a tenderness in its very
substance. Touching those lovely fingers,--had the jealous sculptor
allowed you to touch,--you could hardly believe that a virgin warmth would
not steal from them into your heart.
"Ah, this is very beautiful!" exclaimed Miriam, with a genial smile. "It
is as good in its way as Loulie's hand with its baby-dimples, which Powers
showed me at Florence, evidently valuing it as much as if he had wrought
it out of a piece of his great heart. As good as Harriet Hosmer's clasped
hands of Browning and his wife, symbolizing the individuality and heroic
union of two high, poetic lives! Nay, I do not question that it is better
than either of those, because you must have wrought it passionately, in
spite of its maiden palm and dainty fingertips."
"Then you do recognize it?" asked Kenyon.
"There is but one right hand on earth that could have supplied the model,"
answered Miriam; "so small and slender, so perfectly symmetrical, and yet
with a character of delicate energy. I have watched it a hundred times at
its work; but I did not dream that you had won Hilda so far! How have you
persuaded that shy maiden to let you take her hand in marble?"
"Never! She never knew it!" hastily replied Kenyon, anxious to vindicate
his mistress's maidenly reserve. "I stole it from her. The hand is a
reminiscence. After gazing at it so often, and even holding it once for
an instant, when Hilda was not thinking of me, I should be a bungler
indeed, if I could not now reproduce it to something like the life."
"May you win the original one day!" said Miriam kindly.
"I have little ground to hope it," answered the sculptor despondingly;
"Hilda does not dwell in our mortal atmosphere; and gentle and soft as she
appears, it will be as difficult to win her heart as to entice down a
white bird from its sunny freedom in the sky. It is strange, with all her
delicacy and fragility, the impression she makes of being utterly
sufficient to herself. No; I shall never win her. She is abundantly
capable of sympathy, and delights to receive it, but she has no need of
"I partly agree with you," said Miriam. "It is a mistaken idea, which men
generally entertain, that nature has made women especially prone to throw
their whole being into what is technically called love. We have, to say
the least, no more necessity for it than yourselves; only we have nothing
else to do with our hearts. When women have other objects in life, they
are not apt to fall in love. I can think of many women distinguished in
art, literature, and science,--and multitudes whose hearts and minds find
good employment in less ostentatious ways,--who lead high, lonely lives,
and are conscious of no sacrifice so far as your sex is concerned."
"And Hilda will be one of these!" said Kenyon sadly; "the thought makes
me shiver for myself, and and for her, too."
"Well," said Miriam, smiling, "perhaps she may sprain the delicate wrist
which you have sculptured to such perfection. In that case you may hope.
These old masters to whom she has vowed herself, and whom her slender hand
and woman's heart serve so faithfully, are your only rivals."
The sculptor sighed as he put away the treasure of Hilda's marble hand
into the ivory coffer, and thought how slight was the possibility that he
should ever feel responsive to his own the tender clasp of the original.
He dared not even kiss the image that he himself had made: it had assumed
its share of Hilda's remote and shy divinity.
"And now," said Miriam, "show me the new statue which you asked me hither
My new statue!" said Kenyon, who had positively forgotten it in the
thought of Hilda; "here it is, under this veil." "Not a nude figure, I
hope," observed Miriam. "Every young sculptor seems to think that he must
give the world some specimen of indecorous womanhood, and call it Eve,
Venus, a Nymph, or any name that may apologize for a lack of decent
clothing. I am weary, even more than I am ashamed, of seeing such things.
Nowadays people are as good as born in their clothes, and there is
practically not a nude human being in existence. An artist, therefore, as
you must candidly confess, cannot sculpture nudity with a pure heart, if
only because he is compelled to steal guilty glimpses at hired models.
The marble inevitably loses its chastity under such circumstances. An old
Greek sculptor, no doubt, found his models in the open sunshine, and among
pure and princely maidens, and thus the nude statues of antiquity are as
modest as violets, and sufficiently draped in their own beauty. But as
for Mr. Gibson's colored Venuses (stained, I believe, with tobacco juice),
and all other nudities of to-day, I really do not understand what they
have to say to this generation, and would be glad to see as many heaps of
quicklime in their stead."
"You are severe upon the professors of my art," said Kenyon, half smiling,
half seriously; "not that you are wholly wrong, either. We are bound to
accept drapery of some kind, and make the best of it. But what are we to
do? Must we adopt the costume of to-day, and carve, for example, a Venus
in a hoop-petticoat?"
"That would be a boulder, indeed!" rejoined Miriam, laughing. "But the
difficulty goes to confirm me in my belief that, except for portrait-busts,
sculpture has no longer a right to claim any place among living arts. It
has wrought itself out, and come fairly to an end. There is never a new
group nowadays; never even so much as a new attitude. Greenough (I take
my examples among men of merit) imagined nothing new; nor Crawford either,
except in the tailoring line. There are not, as you will own, more than
half a dozen positively original statues or groups in the world, and these
few are of immemorial antiquity. A person familiar with the Vatican, the
Uffizzi Gallery, the Naples Gallery, and the Louvre, will at once refer
any modern production to its antique prototype; which, moreover, had begun
to get out of fashion, even in old Roman days."
"Pray stop, Miriam," cried Kenyon, "or I shall fling away the chisel
"Fairly own to me, then, my friend," rejoined Miriam, whose disturbed mind
found a certain relief in this declamation, "that you sculptors are, of
necessity, the greatest plagiarists in the world."
"I do not own it," said Kenyon, "yet cannot utterly contradict you, as
regards the actual state of the art. But as long as the Carrara quarries
still yield pure blocks, and while my own country has marble mountains,
probably as fine in quality, I shall steadfastly believe that future
sculptors will revive this noblest of the beautiful arts, and people the
world with new shapes of delicate grace and massive grandeur. Perhaps,"
he added, smiling, "mankind will consent to wear a more manageable costume;
or, at worst, we sculptors shall get the skill to make broadcloth
transparent, and render a majestic human character visible through the
coats and trousers of the present day."
"Be it so!" said Miriam; "you are past my counsel. Show me the veiled
figure, which, I am afraid, I have criticised beforehand. To make amends,
I am in the mood to praise it now."
But, as Kenyon was about to take the cloth off the clay model, she laid
her hand on his arm.
"Tell me first what is the subject," said she, "for I have sometimes
incurred great displeasure from members of your brotherhood by being too
obtuse to puzzle out the purport of their productions. It is so difficult,
you know, to compress and define a character or story, and make it patent
at a glance, within the narrow scope attainable by sculpture! Indeed, I
fancy it is still the ordinary habit with sculptors, first to finish their
group of statuary,--in such development as the particular block of marble
will allow,--and then to choose the subject; as John of Bologna did with
his Rape of the Sabines. Have you followed that good example?"
"No; my statue is intended for Cleopatra," replied Kenyon, a little
disturbed by Miriam's raillery. "The special epoch of her history you
must make out for yourself."
He drew away the cloth that had served to keep the moisture of the clay
model from being exhaled. The sitting figure of a woman was seen. She
was draped from head to foot in a costume minutely and scrupulously
studied from that of ancient Egypt, as revealed by the strange sculpture
of that country, its coins, drawings, painted mummy-cases, and whatever
other tokens have been dug out of its pyramids, graves, and catacombs.
Even the stiff Egyptian head-dress was adhered to, but had been softened
into a rich feminine adornment, without losing a particle of its truth.
Difficulties that might well have seemed insurmountable had been
courageously encountered and made flexible to purposes of grace and
dignity; so that Cleopatra sat attired in a garb proper to her historic
and queenly state, as a daughter of the Ptolemies, and yet such as the
beautiful woman would have put on as best adapted to heighten the
magnificence of her charms, and kindle a tropic fire in the cold eyes of
A marvellous repose--that rare merit in statuary, except it be the lumpish
repose native to the block of stone--was diffused throughout the figure.
The spectator felt that Cleopatra had sunk down out of the fever and
turmoil of her life, and for one instant--as it were, between two pulse
throbs--had relinquished all activity, and was resting throughout every
vein and muscle. It was the repose of despair, indeed; for Octavius had
seen her, and remained insensible to her enchantments. But still there
was a great smouldering furnace deep down in the woman's heart. The
repose, no doubt, was as complete as if she were never to stir hand or
foot again; and yet, such was the creature's latent energy and fierceness,
she might spring upon you like a tigress, and stop the very breath that
you were now drawing midway in your throat.
The face was a miraculous success. The sculptor had not shunned to give
the full Nubian lips, and other characteristics of the Egyptian
physiognomy. His courage and integrity had been abundantly rewarded; for
Cleopatra's beauty shone out richer, warmer, more triumphantly beyond
comparison, than if, shrinking timidly from the truth, he had chosen the
tame Grecian type. The expression was of profound, gloomy, heavily
revolving thought; a glance into her past life and present emergencies,
while her spirit gathered itself up for some new struggle, or was getting
sternly reconciled to impending doom. In one view, there was a certain
softness and tenderness,--how breathed into the statue, among so many
strong and passionate elements, it is impossible to say. Catching another
glimpse, you beheld her as implacable as a stone and cruel as fire.
In a word, all Cleopatra--fierce, voluptuous, passionate, tender, wicked,
terrible, and full of poisonous and rapturous enchantment--was kneaded
into what, only a week or two before, had been a lump of wet clay from the
Tiber. Soon, apotheosized in an indestructible material, she would be
one of the images that men keep forever, finding a heat in them which does
not cool down, throughout the centuries?
"What a woman is this!" exclaimed Miriam, after a long pause. "Tell me,
did she ever try, even while you were creating her, to overcome you with
her fury or her love? Were you not afraid to touch her, as she grew more
and more towards hot life beneath your hand? My dear friend, it is a great
work! How have you learned to do it?"
"It is the concretion of a good deal of thought, emotion, and toil of
brain and hand," said Kenyon, not without a perception that his work was
good; "but I know not how it came about at last. I kindled a great fire
within my mind, and threw in the material,--as Aaron threw the gold of the
Israelites into the furnace,--and in the midmost heat uprose Cleopatra, as
you see her."
"What I most marvel at," said Miriam, "is the womanhood that you have so
thoroughly mixed up with all those seemingly discordant elements. Where
did you get that secret? You never found it in your gentle Hilda, yet I
recognize its truth."
"No, surely, it was not in Hilda," said Kenyon. "Her womanhood is of the
ethereal type, and incompatible with any shadow of darkness or evil."
"You are right," rejoined Miriam; "there are women of that ethereal type,
as you term it, and Hilda is one of them. She would die of her first
wrong-doing,--supposing for a moment that she could be capable of doing
wrong. Of sorrow, slender as she seems, Hilda might bear a great burden;
of sin, not a feather's weight. Methinks now, were it my doom, I could
bear either, or both at once; but my conscience is still as white as
Hilda's. Do you question it?"
"Heaven forbid, Miriam!" exclaimed the sculptor.
He was startled at the strange turn which she had so suddenly given to the
conversation. Her voice, too,--so much emotion was stifled rather than
expressed in it, sounded unnatrural.
"O, my friend," cried she, with sudden passion, "will you be my friend
indeed? I am lonely, lonely, lonely! There is a secret in my heart that
burns me,--that tortures me! Sometimes I fear to go mad of it; sometimes I
hope to die of it; but neither of the two happens. Ah, if I could but
whisper it to only one human soul! And you--you see far into womanhood;
you receive it widely into your large view. Perhaps--perhaps, but Heaven
only knows, you might understand me! O, let me speak!"
"Miriam, dear friend," replied the sculptor, "if I can help you, speak
freely, as to a brother."
"Help me? No!" said Miriam.
Kenyon's response had been perfectly frank and kind; and yet the subtlety
of Miriam's emotion detected a certain reserve and alarm in his warmly
expressed readiness to hear her story. In his secret soul, to say the
truth, the sculptor doubted whether it were well for this poor, suffering
girl to speak what she so yearned to say, or for him to listen. If there
were any active duty of friendship to be performed, then, indeed, he would
joyfully have come forward to do his best. But if it were only a pent-up
heart that sought an outlet? in that case it was by no means so certain
that a confession would do good. The more her secret struggled and fought
to be told, the more certain would it be to change all former relations
that had subsisted between herself and the friend to whom she might reveal
it. Unless he could give her all the sympathy, and just the kind of
sympathy that the occasion required, Miriam would hate him by and by, and
herself still more, if he let her speak.
This was what Kenyon said to himself; but his reluctance, after all, and
whether he were conscious of it or no, resulted from a suspicion that had
crept into his heart and lay there in a dark corner. Obscure as it was,
when Miriam looked into his eyes, she detected it at once.
"Ah, I shall hate you!" cried she, echoing the thought which he had not
spoken; she was half choked with the gush of passion that was thus turned
back upon her. "You are as cold and pitiless as your own marble."
"No; but full of sympathy, God knows!" replied he.
In truth, his suspicions, however warranted by the mystery in which Miriam
was enveloped, had vanished in the earnestness of his kindly and sorrowful
emotion. He was now ready to receive her trust.
"Keep your sympathy, then, for sorrows that admit of such solace," said
she, making a strong effort to compose herself. "As for my griefs, I know
how to manage them. It was all a mistake: you can do nothing for me,
unless you petrify me into a marble companion for your Cleopatra there;
and I am not of her sisterhood, I do. assure you. Forget this foolish
scene, my friend, and never let me see a reference to it in your eyes when
they meet mine hereafter."
"Since you desire it, all shall be forgotten," answered the sculptor,
pressing her hand as she departed; "or, if ever I can serve you, let my
readiness to do so be remembered. Meanwhile, dear Miriam, let us meet in
the same clear, friendly light as heretofore."
"You are less sincere than I thought you," said Miriam, "if you try to
make me think that there will be no change."
As he attended her through the antechamber, she pointed to the statue of
"My secret is not a pearl," said she; "yet a man might drown himself in
plunging after it."
After Kenyon had closed the door, she went wearily down the staircase, but
paused midway, as if debating with herself whether to return.
"The mischief was done," thought she; "and I might as well have had the
solace that ought to come with it. I have lost,--by staggering a little
way beyond the mark, in the blindness of my distress, I have lost, as we
shall hereafter find, the genuine friendship of this clear-minded,
honorable, true-hearted young man, and all for nothing. What if I should
go back this moment and compel him to listen?"
She ascended two or three of the stairs, but again paused, murmured to
herself, and shook her head.
"No, no, no," she thought; "and I wonder how I ever came to dream of it.
Unless I had his heart for my own,--and that is Hilda's, nor would I steal
it from her,--it should never be the treasure Place of my secret. It is
no precious pearl, as I just now told him; but my dark-red carbuncle--red
as blood--is too rich a gem to put into a stranger's casket."
She went down the stairs, and found her shadow waiting for her in the
AN AESTHETIC COMPANY
On the evening after Miriam's visit to Kenyon's studio, there was an
assemblage composed almost entirely of Anglo-Saxons, and chiefly of
American artists, with a sprinkling of their English brethren; and some
few of the tourists who still lingered in Rome, now that Holy Week was
past. Miriam, Hilda, and the sculptor were all three present, and with
them Donatello, whose life was so far turned from fits natural bent that,
like a pet spaniel, he followed his beloved mistress wherever he could
The place of meeting was in the palatial, but somewhat faded and gloomy
apartment of an eminent member of the aesthetic body. It was no more
formal an occasion than one of those weekly receptions, common among the
foreign residents of Rome, at which pleasant people--or disagreeable ones,
as the case may be--encounter one another with little ceremony.
If anywise interested in art, a man must be difficult to please who cannot
find fit companionship among a crowd of persons, whose ideas and pursuits
all tend towards the general purpose of enlarging the world's stock of
One of the chief causes that make Rome the favorite residence of
artists--their ideal home which they sigh for in advance, and are so loath
to migrate from, after once breathing its enchanted air--is, doubtless,
that they there find themselves in force, and are numerous enough to
create a congenial atmosphere. In every other clime they are isolated
strangers; in this land of art, they are free citizens.
Not that, individually, or in the mass, there appears to be any large
stock of mutual affection among the brethren of the chisel and the pencil.
On the contrary, it will impress the shrewd observer that the jealousies
and petty animosities, which the poets of our day have flung aside, still
irritate and gnaw into the hearts of this kindred class of imaginative men.
It is not difficult to suggest reasons why this should be the fact. The
public, in whose good graces lie the sculptor's or the painter's prospects
of success, is infinitely smaller than the public to which literary men
make their appeal. It is composed of a very limited body of wealthy
patrons; and these, as the artist well knows, are but blind judges in
matters that require the utmost delicacy of perception. Thus, success in
art is apt to become partly an affair of intrigue; and it is almost
inevitable that even a gifted artist should look askance at his gifted
brother's fame, and be chary of the good word that might help him to sell
still another statue or picture. You seldom hear a painter heap generous
praise on anything in his special line of art; a sculptor never has a
favorable eye for any marble but his own.
Nevertheless, in spite of all these professional grudges, artists are
conscious of a social warmth from each other's presence and contiguity.
They shiver at the remembrance of their lonely studios in the
unsympathizing cities of their native land. For the sake of such
brotherhood as they can find, more than for any good that they get from
galleries, they linger year after year in Italy, while their originality
dies out of them, or is polished away as a barbarism.
The company this evening included several men and women whom the world has
heard of, and many others, beyond all question, whom it ought to know. It
would be a pleasure to introduce them upon our humble pages, name by name,
and had we confidence enough in our own taste--to crown each
well-deserving brow according to its deserts. The opportunity is tempting,
but not easily manageable, and far too perilous, both in respect to those
individuals whom we might bring forward, and the far greater number that
must needs be left in the shade. Ink, moreover, is apt to have a
corrosive quality, and might chance to raise a blister, instead of any
more agreeable titillation, on skins so sensitive as those of artists. We
must therefore forego the delight of illuminating this chapter with
personal allusions to men whose renown glows richly on canvas, or gleams
in the white moonlight of marble.
OtherWise we might point to an artist who has studied Nature with such
tender love that she takes him to her intimacy, enabling him to reproduce
her in landscapes that seem the reality of a better earth, and yet are but
the truth of the very scenes around us, observed by the painter's insight
and interpreted for us by his skill. By his magic, the moon throws her
light far out of the picture, and the crimson of the summer night
absolutely glimmers on the beholder's face. Or we might indicate a
poetpainter, whose song has the vividness of picture, and whose canvas is
peopled with angels, fairies, and water sprites, done to the ethereal life,
because he saw them face to face in his poetic mood. Or we might bow
before an artist, who has wrought too sincerely, too religiously, with too
earnest a feeling, and too delicate a touch, for the world at once to
recognize how much toil and thought are compressed into the stately brow
of Prospero, and Miranda's maiden loveliness; or from what a depth within
this painter's heart the Angel is leading forth St. Peter.
Thus it would be easy to go on, perpetrating a score of little
epigrammatical allusions, like the above, all kindly meant, but none of