Mallet had made his arrangements to sail for Europe on the first of September, and having in the interval a fortnight to spare, he determined to spend i_ith his cousin Cecilia, the widow of a nephew of his father. He was urged b_he reflection that an affectionate farewell might help to exonerate him fro_he charge of neglect frequently preferred by this lady. It was not that th_oung man disliked her; on the contrary, he regarded her with a tende_dmiration, and he had not forgotten how, when his cousin had brought her hom_n her marriage, he had seemed to feel the upward sweep of the empty boug_rom which the golden fruit had been plucked, and had then and there accepte_he prospect of bachelorhood. The truth was, that, as it will be part of th_ntertainment of this narrative to exhibit, Rowland Mallet had a_ncomfortably sensitive conscience, and that, in spite of the seeming paradox, his visits to Cecilia were rare because she and her misfortunes were ofte_ppermost in it. Her misfortunes were three in number: first, she had lost he_usband; second, she had lost her money (or the greater part of it); an_hird, she lived at Northampton, Massachusetts. Mallet's compassion was reall_asted, because Cecilia was a very clever woman, and a most skillful counter- plotter to adversity. She had made herself a charming home, her economies wer_ot obtrusive, and there was always a cheerful flutter in the folds of he_rape. It was the consciousness of all this that puzzled Mallet whenever h_elt tempted to put in his oar. He had money and he had time, but he neve_ould decide just how to place these gifts gracefully at Cecilia's service. H_o longer felt like marrying her: in these eight years that fancy had died _atural death. And yet her extreme cleverness seemed somehow to make charit_ifficult and patronage impossible. He would rather chop off his hand tha_ffer her a check, a piece of useful furniture, or a black silk dress; and ye_here was some sadness in seeing such a bright, proud woman living in such _mall, dull way. Cecilia had, moreover, a turn for sarcasm, and her smile, which was her pretty feature, was never so pretty as when her sprightly phras_ad a lurking scratch in it. Rowland remembered that, for him, she was al_miles, and suspected, awkwardly, that he ministered not a little to her sens_f the irony of things. And in truth, with his means, his leisure, and hi_pportunities, what had he done? He had an unaffected suspicion of hi_selessness. Cecilia, meanwhile, cut out her own dresses, and was personall_iving her little girl the education of a princess.
This time, however, he presented himself bravely enough; for in the way o_ctivity it was something definite, at least, to be going to Europe and to b_eaning to spend the winter in Rome. Cecilia met him in the early dusk at th_ate of her little garden, amid a studied combination of floral perfumes. _osy widow of twenty-eight, half cousin, half hostess, doing the honors of a_dorous cottage on a midsummer evening, was a phenomenon to which the youn_an's imagination was able to do ample justice. Cecilia was always gracious, but this evening she was almost joyous. She was in a happy mood, and Malle_magined there was a private reason for it—a reason quite distinct from he_leasure in receiving her honored kinsman. The next day he flattered himsel_e was on the way to discover it.
For the present, after tea, as they sat on the rose-framed porch, whil_owland held his younger cousin between his knees, and she, enjoying he_ituation, listened timorously for the stroke of bedtime, Cecilia insisted o_alking more about her visitor than about herself.
"What is it you mean to do in Europe?" she asked, lightly, giving a turn t_he frill of her sleeve—just such a turn as seemed to Mallet to bring out al_he latent difficulties of the question.
"Why, very much what I do here," he answered. "No great harm."
"Is it true," Cecilia asked, "that here you do no great harm? Is not a ma_ike you doing harm when he is not doing positive good?"
"Your compliment is ambiguous," said Rowland.
"No," answered the widow, "you know what I think of you. You have a particula_ptitude for beneficence. You have it in the first place in your character.
You are a benevolent person. Ask Bessie if you don't hold her more gently an_omfortably than any of her other admirers."
"He holds me more comfortably than Mr. Hudson," Bessie declared, roundly.
Rowland, not knowing Mr. Hudson, could but half appreciate the eulogy, an_ecilia went on to develop her idea. "Your circumstances, in the second place, suggest the idea of social usefulness. You are intelligent, you are well- informed, and your charity, if one may call it charity, would b_iscriminating. You are rich and unoccupied, so that it might be abundant.
Therefore, I say, you are a person to do something on a large scale. Besti_ourself, dear Rowland, or we may be taught to think that virtue herself i_etting a bad example."
"Heaven forbid," cried Rowland, "that I should set the examples of virtue! _m quite willing to follow them, however, and if I don't do something on th_rand scale, it is that my genius is altogether imitative, and that I have no_ecently encountered any very striking models of grandeur. Pray, what shall _o? Found an orphan asylum, or build a dormitory for Harvard College? I am no_ich enough to do either in an ideally handsome way, and I confess that, ye_while, I feel too young to strike my grand coup. I am holding myself read_or inspiration. I am waiting till something takes my fancy irresistibly. I_nspiration comes at forty, it will be a hundred pities to have tied up m_oney-bag at thirty."
"Well, I give you till forty," said Cecilia. "It 's only a word to the wise, _otification that you are expected not to run your course without having don_omething handsome for your fellow-men."
Nine o'clock sounded, and Bessie, with each stroke, courted a closer embrace.
But a single winged word from her mother overleaped her successiv_ntrenchments. She turned and kissed her cousin, and deposited a_rrepressible tear on his moustache. Then she went and said her prayers to he_other: it was evident she was being admirably brought up. Rowland, with th_ermission of his hostess, lighted a cigar and puffed it awhile in silence.
Cecilia's interest in his career seemed very agreeable. That Mallet wa_ithout vanity I by no means intend to affirm; but there had been times when, seeing him accept, hardly less deferentially, advice even more peremptory tha_he widow's, you might have asked yourself what had become of his vanity. Now, in the sweet-smelling starlight, he felt gently wooed to egotism. There was _roject connected with his going abroad which it was on his tongue's end t_ommunicate. It had no relation to hospitals or dormitories, and yet it woul_ave sounded very generous. But it was not because it would have sounde_enerous that poor Mallet at last puffed it away in the fumes of his cigar.
Useful though it might be, it expressed most imperfectly the young man's ow_ersonal conception of usefulness. He was extremely fond of all the arts, an_e had an almost passionate enjoyment of pictures. He had seen many, and h_udged them sagaciously. It had occurred to him some time before that it woul_e the work of a good citizen to go abroad and with all expedition and secrec_urchase certain valuable specimens of the Dutch and Italian schools as t_hich he had received private proposals, and then present his treasures out o_and to an American city, not unknown to aesthetic fame, in which at that tim_here prevailed a good deal of fruitless aspiration toward an art-museum. H_ad seen himself in imagination, more than once, in some mouldy old saloon o_ Florentine palace, turning toward the deep embrasure of the window som_carcely-faded Ghirlandaio or Botticelli, while a host in reduce_ircumstances pointed out the lovely drawing of a hand. But he imparted non_f these visions to Cecilia, and he suddenly swept them away with th_eclaration that he was of course an idle, useless creature, and that he woul_robably be even more so in Europe than at home. "The only thing is," he said,
"that there I shall seem to be doing something. I shall be better entertained, and shall be therefore, I suppose, in a better humor with life. You may sa_hat that is just the humor a useless man should keep out of. He shoul_ultivate discontentment. I did a good many things when I was in Europ_efore, but I did not spend a winter in Rome. Every one assures me that thi_s a peculiar refinement of bliss; most people talk about Rome in the sam_ay. It is evidently only a sort of idealized form of loafing: a passive lif_n Rome, thanks to the number and the quality of one's impressions, takes on _ery respectable likeness to activity. It is still lotus-eating, only you si_own at table, and the lotuses are served up on rococo china. It 's all ver_ell, but I have a distinct prevision of this—that if Roman life does n't d_omething substantial to make you happier, it increases tenfold your liabilit_o moral misery. It seems to me a rash thing for a sensitive soul deliberatel_o cultivate its sensibilities by rambling too often among the ruins of th_alatine, or riding too often in the shadow of the aqueducts. In suc_ecreations the chords of feeling grow tense, and after-life, to spare you_ntellectual nerves, must play upon them with a touch as dainty as the trea_f Mignon when she danced her egg-dance."
"I should have said, my dear Rowland," said Cecilia, with a laugh, "that you_erves were tough, that your eggs were hard!"
"That being stupid, you mean, I might be happy? Upon my word I am not. I a_lever enough to want more than I 've got. I am tired of myself, my ow_houghts, my own affairs, my own eternal company. True happiness, we are told, consists in getting out of one's self; but the point is not only to ge_ut—you must stay out; and to stay out you must have some absorbing errand.
Unfortunately, I 've got no errand, and nobody will trust me with one. I wan_o care for something, or for some one. And I want to care with a certai_rdor; even, if you can believe it, with a certain passion. I can't just no_eel ardent and passionate about a hospital or a dormitory. Do you know _ometimes think that I 'm a man of genius, half finished? The genius has bee_eft out, the faculty of expression is wanting; but the need for expressio_emains, and I spend my days groping for the latch of a closed door."
"What an immense number of words," said Cecilia after a pause, "to say yo_ant to fall in love! I 've no doubt you have as good a genius for that as an_ne, if you would only trust it."
"Of course I 've thought of that, and I assure you I hold myself ready. But, evidently, I 'm not inflammable. Is there in Northampton some perfect epitom_f the graces?"
"Of the graces?" said Cecilia, raising her eyebrows and suppressing to_istinct a consciousness of being herself a rosy embodiment of several. "Th_ousehold virtues are better represented. There are some excellent girls, an_here are two or three very pretty ones. I will have them here, one by one, t_ea, if you like."
"I should particularly like it; especially as I should give you a chance t_ee, by the profundity of my attention, that if I am not happy, it 's not fo_ant of taking pains."
Cecilia was silent a moment; and then, "On the whole," she resumed, "I don'_hink there are any worth asking. There are none so very pretty, none so ver_leasing."
"Are you very sure?" asked the young man, rising and throwing away his cigar- end.
"Upon my word," cried Cecilia, "one would suppose I wished to keep you fo_yself. Of course I am sure! But as the penalty of your insinuations, I shal_nvite the plainest and prosiest damsel that can be found, and leave you alon_ith her."
Rowland smiled. "Even against her," he said, "I should be sorry to conclud_ntil I had given her my respectful attention."
This little profession of ideal chivalry (which closed the conversation) wa_ot quite so fanciful on Mallet's lips as it would have been on those of man_nother man; as a rapid glance at his antecedents may help to make the reade_erceive. His life had been a singular mixture of the rough and the smooth. H_ad sprung from a rigid Puritan stock, and had been brought up to think muc_ore intently of the duties of this life than of its privileges and pleasures.
His progenitors had submitted in the matter of dogmatic theology to th_elaxing influences of recent years; but if Rowland's youthful consciousnes_as not chilled by the menace of long punishment for brief transgression, h_ad at least been made to feel that there ran through all things a strain o_ight and of wrong, as different, after all, in their complexions, as th_exture, to the spiritual sense, of Sundays and week-days. His father was _hip of the primal Puritan block, a man with an icy smile and a stony frown.
He had always bestowed on his son, on principle, more frowns than smiles, an_f the lad had not been turned to stone himself, it was because nature ha_lessed him, inwardly, with a well of vivifying waters. Mrs. Mallet had been _iss Rowland, the daughter of a retired sea-captain, once famous on the ship_hat sailed from Salem and Newburyport. He had brought to port many a carg_hich crowned the edifice of fortunes already almost colossal, but he had als_one a little sagacious trading on his own account, and he was able to retire, prematurely for so sea-worthy a maritime organism, upon a pension of his ow_roviding. He was to be seen for a year on the Salem wharves, smoking the bes_obacco and eying the seaward horizon with an inveteracy which superficia_inds interpreted as a sign of repentance. At last, one evening, h_isappeared beneath it, as he had often done before; this time, however, no_s a commissioned navigator, but simply as an amateur of an observing tur_ikely to prove oppressive to the officer in command of the vessel. Fiv_onths later his place at home knew him again, and made the acquaintance als_f a handsome, blonde young woman, of redundant contours, speaking a foreig_ongue. The foreign tongue proved, after much conflicting research, to be th_diom of Amsterdam, and the young woman, which was stranger still, to b_aptain Rowland's wife. Why he had gone forth so suddenly across the seas t_arry her, what had happened between them before, and whether—though it was o_uestionable propriety for a good citizen to espouse a young person o_ysterious origin, who did her hair in fantastically elaborate plaits, and i_hose appearance "figure" enjoyed such striking predominance—he would not hav_ad a heavy weight on his conscience if he had remained an irresponsibl_achelor; these questions and many others, bearing with varying degrees o_mmediacy on the subject, were much propounded but scantily answered, and thi_istory need not be charged with resolving them. Mrs. Rowland, for so handsom_ woman, proved a tranquil neighbor and an excellent housewife. Her extremel_resh complexion, however, was always suffused with an air of apatheti_omesickness, and she played her part in American society chiefly by havin_he little squares of brick pavement in front of her dwelling scoured an_olished as nearly as possible into the likeness of Dutch tiles. Rowlan_allet remembered having seen her, as a child—an immensely stout, white-face_ady, wearing a high cap of very stiff tulle, speaking English with _ormidable accent, and suffering from dropsy. Captain Rowland was a littl_ronzed and wizened man, with eccentric opinions. He advocated the creation o_ public promenade along the sea, with arbors and little green tables for th_onsumption of beer, and a platform, surrounded by Chinese lanterns, fo_ancing. He especially desired the town library to be opened on Sundays, though, as he never entered it on week-days, it was easy to turn th_roposition into ridicule. If, therefore, Mrs. Mallet was a woman of a_xquisite moral tone, it was not that she had inherited her temper from a_ncestry with a turn for casuistry. Jonas Mallet, at the time of his marriage, was conducting with silent shrewdness a small, unpromising business. Both hi_hrewdness and his silence increased with his years, and at the close of hi_ife he was an extremely well-dressed, well-brushed gentleman, with a frigi_ray eye, who said little to anybody, but of whom everybody said that he had _ery handsome fortune. He was not a sentimental father, and the roughness _ust now spoke of in Rowland's life dated from his early boyhood. Mr. Mallet, whenever he looked at his son, felt extreme compunction at having made _ortune. He remembered that the fruit had not dropped ripe from the tree int_is own mouth, and determined it should be no fault of his if the boy wa_orrupted by luxury. Rowland, therefore, except for a good deal of expensiv_nstruction in foreign tongues and abstruse sciences, received the educatio_f a poor man's son. His fare was plain, his temper familiar with th_iscipline of patched trousers, and his habits marked by an exaggerate_implicity which it really cost a good deal of money to preserve unbroken. H_as kept in the country for months together, in the midst of servants who ha_trict injunctions to see that he suffered no serious harm, but were a_trictly forbidden to wait upon him. As no school could be found conducted o_rinciples sufficiently rigorous, he was attended at home by a master who se_ high price on the understanding that he was to illustrate the beauty o_bstinence not only by precept but by example. Rowland passed for a child o_rdinary parts, and certainly, during his younger years, was an excellen_mitation of a boy who had inherited nothing whatever that was to make lif_asy. He was passive, pliable, frank, extremely slow at his books, an_nordinately fond of trout-fishing. His hair, a memento of his Dutch ancestry, was of the fairest shade of yellow, his complexion absurdly rosy, and hi_easurement around the waist, when he was about ten years old, quit_larmingly large. This, however, was but an episode in his growth; he becam_fterwards a fresh-colored, yellow-bearded man, but he was never accused o_nything worse than a tendency to corpulence. He emerged from childhood _imple, wholesome, round-eyed lad, with no suspicion that a less roundabou_ourse might have been taken to make him happy, but with a vague sense tha_is young experience was not a fair sample of human freedom, and that he wa_o make a great many discoveries. When he was about fifteen, he achieved _omentous one. He ascertained that his mother was a saint. She had always bee_ very distinct presence in his life, but so ineffably gentle a one that hi_ense was fully opened to it only by the danger of losing her. She had a_llness which for many months was liable at any moment to terminate fatally, and during her long-arrested convalescence she removed the mask which she ha_orn for years by her husband's order. Rowland spent his days at her side an_elt before long as if he had made a new friend. All his impressions at thi_eriod were commented and interpreted at leisure in the future, and it wa_nly then that he understood that his mother had been for fifteen years _erfectly unhappy woman. Her marriage had been an immitigable error which sh_ad spent her life in trying to look straight in the face. She found nothin_o oppose to her husband's will of steel but the appearance of absolut_ompliance; her spirit sank, and she lived for a while in a sort of helples_oral torpor. But at last, as her child emerged from babyhood, she began t_eel a certain charm in patience, to discover the uses of ingenuity, and t_earn that, somehow or other, one can always arrange one's life. Sh_ultivated from this time forward a little private plot of sentiment, and i_as of this secluded precinct that, before her death, she gave her son th_ey. Rowland's allowance at college was barely sufficient to maintain hi_ecently, and as soon as he graduated, he was taken into his father'_ounting-house, to do small drudgery on a proportionate salary. For thre_ears he earned his living as regularly as the obscure functionary in fustia_ho swept the office. Mr. Mallet was consistent, but the perfection of hi_onsistency was known only on his death. He left but a third of his propert_o his son, and devoted the remainder to various public institutions and loca_harities. Rowland's third was an easy competence, and he never felt _oment's jealousy of his fellow-pensioners; but when one of the establishment_hich had figured most advantageously in his father's will bethought itself t_ffirm the existence of a later instrument, in which it had been still mor_andsomely treated, the young man felt a sudden passionate need to repel th_laim by process of law. There was a lively tussle, but he gained his case; immediately after which he made, in another quarter, a donation of th_ontested sum. He cared nothing for the money, but he had felt an angry desir_o protest against a destiny which seemed determined to be exclusivel_alutary. It seemed to him that he would bear a little spoiling. And yet h_reated himself to a very modest quantity, and submitted without reserve t_he great national discipline which began in 1861\. When the Civil War brok_ut he immediately obtained a commission, and did his duty for three lon_ears as a citizen soldier. His duty was obscure, but he never lost a certai_rivate satisfaction in remembering that on two or three occasions it had bee_erformed with something of an ideal precision. He had disentangled himsel_rom business, and after the war he felt a profound disinclination to tie th_not again. He had no desire to make money, he had money enough; and althoug_e knew, and was frequently reminded, that a young man is the better for _ixed occupation, he could discover no moral advantage in driving a lucrativ_rade. Yet few young men of means and leisure ever made less of a parade o_dleness, and indeed idleness in any degree could hardly be laid at the doo_f a young man who took life in the serious, attentive, reasoning fashion o_ur friend. It often seemed to Mallet that he wholly lacked the prim_equisite of a graceful flaneur—the simple, sensuous, confident relish o_leasure. He had frequent fits of extreme melancholy, in which he declare_hat he was neither fish nor flesh nor good red herring. He was neither a_rresponsibly contemplative nature nor a sturdily practical one, and he wa_orever looking in vain for the uses of the things that please and the char_f the things that sustain. He was an awkward mixture of strong moral impuls_nd restless aesthetic curiosity, and yet he would have made a mos_neffective reformer and a very indifferent artist. It seemed to him that th_low of happiness must be found either in action, of some immensely soli_ind, on behalf of an idea, or in producing a masterpiece in one of the arts.
Oftenest, perhaps, he wished he were a vigorous young man of genius, without _enny. As it was, he could only buy pictures, and not paint them; and in th_ay of action, he had to content himself with making a rule to rende_crupulous moral justice to handsome examples of it in others. On the whole, he had an incorruptible modesty. With his blooming complexion and his seren_ray eye, he felt the friction of existence more than was suspected; but h_sked no allowance on grounds of temper, he assumed that fate had treated hi_nordinately well and that he had no excuse for taking an ill-natured view o_ife, and he undertook constantly to believe that all women were fair, all me_ere brave, and the world was a delightful place of sojourn, until th_ontrary had been distinctly proved.
Cecilia's blooming garden and shady porch had seemed so friendly to repose an_ cigar, that she reproached him the next morning with indifference to he_ittle parlor, not less, in its way, a monument to her ingenious taste. "An_y the way," she added as he followed her in, "if I refused last night to sho_ou a pretty girl, I can at least show you a pretty boy."
She threw open a window and pointed to a statuette which occupied the place o_onor among the ornaments of the room. Rowland looked at it a moment and the_urned to her with an exclamation of surprise. She gave him a rapid glance, perceived that her statuette was of altogether exceptional merit, and the_miled, knowingly, as if this had long been an agreeable certainty.
"Who did it? where did you get it?" Rowland demanded.
"Oh," said Cecilia, adjusting the light, "it 's a little thing of Mr.
"And who the deuce is Mr. Hudson?" asked Rowland. But he was absorbed; he los_er immediate reply. The statuette, in bronze, something less than two fee_igh, represented a naked youth drinking from a gourd. The attitude wa_erfectly simple. The lad was squarely planted on his feet, with his legs _ittle apart; his back was slightly hollowed, his head thrown back, and bot_ands raised to support the rustic cup. There was a loosened fillet of wil_lowers about his head, and his eyes, under their drooped lids, looke_traight into the cup. On the base was scratched the Greek word ;aa;gD;gi;gc;ga, Thirst. The figure might have been some beautiful youth o_ncient fable,—Hylas or Narcissus, Paris or Endymion. Its beauty was th_eauty of natural movement; nothing had been sought to be represented but th_erfection of an attitude. This had been most attentively studied, and it wa_xquisitely rendered. Rowland demanded more light, dropped his head on thi_ide and that, uttered vague exclamations. He said to himself, as he had sai_ore than once in the Louvre and the Vatican, "We ugly mortals, what beautifu_reatures we are!" Nothing, in a long time, had given him so much pleasure.
"Hudson—Hudson," he asked again; "who is Hudson?"
"A young man of this place," said Cecilia.
"A young man? How old?"
"I suppose he is three or four and twenty."
"Of this place, you say—of Northampton, Massachusetts?"
"He lives here, but he comes from Virginia."
"Is he a sculptor by profession?"
"He 's a law-student."
Rowland burst out laughing. "He has found something in Blackstone that I neve_id. He makes statues then simply for his pleasure?"
Cecilia, with a smile, gave a little toss of her head. "For mine!"
"I congratulate you," said Rowland. "I wonder whether he could be induced t_o anything for me?"
"This was a matter of friendship. I saw the figure when he had modeled it i_lay, and of course greatly admired it. He said nothing at the time, but _eek ago, on my birthday, he arrived in a buggy, with this. He had had it cas_t the foundry at Chicopee; I believe it 's a beautiful piece of bronze. H_egged me to accept."
"Upon my word," said Mallet, "he does things handsomely!" And he fell t_dmiring the statue again.
"So then," said Cecilia, "it 's very remarkable?"
"Why, my dear cousin," Rowland answered, "Mr. Hudson, of Virginia, is a_xtraordinary—" Then suddenly stopping: "Is he a great friend of yours?" h_sked.
"A great friend?" and Cecilia hesitated. "I regard him as a child!"
"Well," said Rowland, "he 's a very clever child. Tell me something about him: I should like to see him."
Cecilia was obliged to go to her daughter's music-lesson, but she assure_owland that she would arrange for him a meeting with the young sculptor. H_as a frequent visitor, and as he had not called for some days it was likel_e would come that evening. Rowland, left alone, examined the statuette at hi_eisure, and returned more than once during the day to take another look a_t. He discovered its weak points, but it wore well. It had the stamp o_enius. Rowland envied the happy youth who, in a New England village, withou_id or encouragement, without models or resources, had found it so easy t_roduce a lovely work.
In the evening, as he was smoking his cigar on the veranda, a light, quic_tep pressed the gravel of the garden path, and in a moment a young man mad_is bow to Cecilia. It was rather a nod than a bow, and indicated either tha_e was an old friend, or that he was scantily versed in the usual socia_orms. Cecilia, who was sitting near the steps, pointed to a neighborin_hair, but the young man seated himself abruptly on the floor at her feet, began to fan himself vigorously with his hat, and broke out into a livel_bjurgation upon the hot weather. "I 'm dripping wet!" he said, withou_eremony.
"You walk too fast," said Cecilia. "You do everything too fast."
"I know it, I know it!" he cried, passing his hand through his abundant dar_air and making it stand out in a picturesque shock. "I can't be slow if _ry. There 's something inside of me that drives me. A restless fiend!"
Cecilia gave a light laugh, and Rowland leaned forward in his hammock. He ha_laced himself in it at Bessie's request, and was playing that he was her bab_nd that she was rocking him to sleep. She sat beside him, swinging th_ammock to and fro, and singing a lullaby. When he raised himself she pushe_im back and said that the baby must finish its nap. "But I want to see th_entleman with the fiend inside of him," said Rowland.
"What is a fiend?" Bessie demanded. "It 's only Mr. Hudson."
"Very well, I want to see him."
"Oh, never mind him!" said Bessie, with the brevity of contempt.
"You speak as if you did n't like him."
"I don't!" Bessie affirmed, and put Rowland to bed again.
The hammock was swung at the end of the veranda, in the thickest shade of th_ines, and this fragment of dialogue had passed unnoticed. Rowland submitted _hile longer to be cradled, and contented himself with listening to Mr.
Hudson's voice. It was a soft and not altogether masculine organ, and wa_itched on this occasion in a somewhat plaintive and pettish key. The youn_an's mood seemed fretful; he complained of the heat, of the dust, of a sho_hat hurt him, of having gone on an errand a mile to the other side of th_own and found the person he was in search of had left Northampton an hou_efore.
"Won't you have a cup of tea?" Cecilia asked. "Perhaps that will restore you_quanimity."
"Aye, by keeping me awake all night!" said Hudson. "At the best, it 's har_nough to go down to the office. With my nerves set on edge by a sleeples_ight, I should perforce stay at home and be brutal to my poor mother."
"Your mother is well, I hope."
"Oh, she 's as usual."
"And Miss Garland?"
"She 's as usual, too. Every one, everything, is as usual. Nothing eve_appens, in this benighted town."
"I beg your pardon; things do happen, sometimes," said Cecilia. "Here is _ear cousin of mine arrived on purpose to congratulate you on your statuette."
And she called to Rowland to come and be introduced to Mr. Hudson. The youn_an sprang up with alacrity, and Rowland, coming forward to shake hands, had _ood look at him in the light projected from the parlor window. Somethin_eemed to shine out of Hudson's face as a warning against a "compliment" o_he idle, unpondered sort.
"Your statuette seems to me very good," Rowland said gravely. "It has given m_xtreme pleasure."
"And my cousin knows what is good," said Cecilia. "He 's a connoisseur."
Hudson smiled and stared. "A connoisseur?" he cried, laughing. "He 's th_irst I 've ever seen! Let me see what they look like;" and he drew Rowlan_earer to the light. "Have they all such good heads as that? I should like t_odel yours."
"Pray do," said Cecilia. "It will keep him a while. He is running off t_urope."
"Ah, to Europe!" Hudson exclaimed with a melancholy cadence, as they sat down.
But the note seemed to Rowland to be struck rather at random, for he perceive_o echo of it in the boyish garrulity of his later talk. Hudson was a tall, slender young fellow, with a singularly mobile and intelligent face. Rowlan_as struck at first only with its responsive vivacity, but in a short time h_erceived it was remarkably handsome. The features were admirably chiseled an_inished, and a frank smile played over them as gracefully as a breeze amon_lowers. The fault of the young man's whole structure was an excessive want o_readth. The forehead, though it was high and rounded, was narrow; the jaw an_he shoulders were narrow; and the result was an air of insufficient physica_ubstance. But Mallet afterwards learned that this fair, slim youth could dra_ndefinitely upon a mysterious fund of nervous force, which outlasted an_utwearied the endurance of many a sturdier temperament. And certainly ther_as life enough in his eye to furnish an immortality! It was a generous dar_ray eye, in which there came and went a sort of kindling glow, which woul_ave made a ruder visage striking, and which gave at times to Hudson'_armonious face an altogether extraordinary beauty. There was to Rowland'_ympathetic sense a slightly pitiful disparity between the young sculptor'_elicate countenance and the shabby gentility of his costume. He was dresse_or a visit—a visit to a pretty woman. He was clad from head to foot in _hite linen suit, which had never been remarkable for the felicity of its cut, and had now quite lost that crispness which garments of this complexion can a_ll spare as the back-scene of a theatre the radiance of the footlights. H_ore a vivid blue cravat, passed through a ring altogether too splendid to b_aluable; he pulled and twisted, as he sat, a pair of yellow kid gloves; h_mphasized his conversation with great dashes and flourishes of a light, silver-tipped walking-stick, and he kept constantly taking off and putting o_ne of those slouched sombreros which are the traditional property of th_irginian or Carolinian of romance. When this was on, he was very picturesque, in spite of his mock elegance; and when it was off, and he sat nursing it an_urning it about and not knowing what to do with it, he could hardly be sai_o be awkward. He evidently had a natural relish for brilliant accessories, and appropriated what came to his hand. This was visible in his talk, whic_bounded in the florid and sonorous. He liked words with color in them.
Rowland, who was but a moderate talker, sat by in silence, while Cecilia, wh_ad told him that she desired his opinion upon her friend, used a good deal o_haracteristic finesse in leading the young man to expose himself. Sh_erfectly succeeded, and Hudson rattled away for an hour with a volubility i_hich boyish unconsciousness and manly shrewdness were singularly combined. H_ave his opinion on twenty topics, he opened up an endless budget of loca_ossip, he described his repulsive routine at the office of Messrs. Strike_nd Spooner, counselors at law, and he gave with great felicity and gusto a_ccount of the annual boat-race between Harvard and Yale, which he had latel_itnessed at Worcester. He had looked at the straining oarsmen and the swayin_rowd with the eye of the sculptor. Rowland was a good deal amused and not _ittle interested. Whenever Hudson uttered some peculiarly striking piece o_outhful grandiloquence, Cecilia broke into a long, light, familiar laugh.
"What are you laughing at?" the young man then demanded. "Have I said anythin_o ridiculous?"
"Go on, go on," Cecilia replied. "You are too delicious! Show Mr. Mallet ho_r. Striker read the Declaration of Independence."
Hudson, like most men with a turn for the plastic arts, was an excellen_imic, and he represented with a great deal of humor the accent and attitud_f a pompous country lawyer sustaining the burden of this customary episode o_ur national festival. The sonorous twang, the see-saw gestures, the od_ronunciation, were vividly depicted. But Cecilia's manner, and the youn_an's quick response, ruffled a little poor Rowland's paternal conscience. H_ondered whether his cousin was not sacrificing the faculty of reverence i_er clever protege to her need for amusement. Hudson made no serious rejoinde_o Rowland's compliment on his statuette until he rose to go. Rowland wondere_hether he had forgotten it, and supposed that the oversight was a sign of th_atural self-sufficiency of genius. But Hudson stood a moment before he sai_ood night, twirled his sombrero, and hesitated for the first time. He gav_owland a clear, penetrating glance, and then, with a wonderfully frank, appealing smile: "You really meant," he asked, "what you said a while ag_bout that thing of mine? It is good—essentially good?"
"I really meant it," said Rowland, laying a kindly hand on his shoulder. "I_s very good indeed. It is, as you say, essentially good. That is the beaut_f it."
Hudson's eyes glowed and expanded; he looked at Rowland for some time i_ilence. "I have a notion you really know," he said at last. "But if yo_on't, it does n't much matter."
"My cousin asked me to-day," said Cecilia, "whether I supposed you kne_ourself how good it is."
Hudson stared, blushing a little. "Perhaps not!" he cried.
"Very likely," said Mallet. "I read in a book the other day that great talen_n action—in fact the book said genius—is a kind of somnambulism. The artis_erforms great feats, in a dream. We must not wake him up, lest he should los_is balance."
"Oh, when he 's back in bed again!" Hudson answered with a laugh. "Yes, cal_t a dream. It was a very happy one!"
"Tell me this," said Rowland. "Did you mean anything by your young Water- drinker? Does he represent an idea? Is he a symbol?"
Hudson raised his eyebrows and gently scratched his head. "Why, he 's youth, you know; he 's innocence, he 's health, he 's strength, he 's curiosity. Yes, he 's a good many things."
"And is the cup also a symbol?"
"The cup is knowledge, pleasure, experience. Anything of that kind!"
"Well, he 's guzzling in earnest," said Rowland.
Hudson gave a vigorous nod. "Aye, poor fellow, he 's thirsty!" And on this h_ried good night, and bounded down the garden path.
"Well, what do you make of him?" asked Cecilia, returning a short tim_fterwards from a visit of investigation as to the sufficiency of Bessie'_edclothes.
"I confess I like him," said Rowland. "He 's very immature,—but there 's stuf_n him."
"He 's a strange being," said Cecilia, musingly.
"Who are his people? what has been his education?" Rowland asked.
"He has had no education, beyond what he has picked up, with little trouble, for himself. His mother is a widow, of a Massachusetts country family, _ittle timid, tremulous woman, who is always on pins and needles about he_on. She had some property herself, and married a Virginian gentleman of goo_states. He turned out, I believe, a very licentious personage, and made grea_avoc in their fortune. Everything, or almost everything, melted away, including Mr. Hudson himself. This is literally true, for he drank himself t_eath. Ten years ago his wife was left a widow, with scanty means and a coupl_f growing boys. She paid her husband's debts as best she could, and came t_stablish herself here, where by the death of a charitable relative she ha_nherited an old-fashioned ruinous house. Roderick, our friend, was her prid_nd joy, but Stephen, the elder, was her comfort and support. I remember him, later; he was an ugly, sturdy, practical lad, very different from his brother, and in his way, I imagine, a very fine fellow. When the war broke out he foun_hat the New England blood ran thicker in his veins than the Virginian, an_mmediately obtained a commission. He fell in some Western battle and left hi_other inconsolable. Roderick, however, has given her plenty to think about, and she has induced him, by some mysterious art, to abide, nominally at least, in a profession that he abhors, and for which he is about as fit, I shoul_ay, as I am to drive a locomotive. He grew up a la grace de Dieu, and wa_orribly spoiled. Three or four years ago he graduated at a small college i_his neighborhood, where I am afraid he had given a good deal more attentio_o novels and billiards than to mathematics and Greek. Since then he has bee_eading law, at the rate of a page a day. If he is ever admitted to practice I
'm afraid my friendship won't avail to make me give him my business. Good, bad, or indifferent, the boy is essentially an artist—an artist to hi_ingers' ends."
"Why, then," asked Rowland, "does n't he deliberately take up the chisel?"
"For several reasons. In the first place, I don't think he more than hal_uspects his talent. The flame is smouldering, but it is never fanned by th_reath of criticism. He sees nothing, hears nothing, to help him to self- knowledge. He 's hopelessly discontented, but he does n't know where to loo_or help. Then his mother, as she one day confessed to me, has a holy horro_f a profession which consists exclusively, as she supposes, in making figure_f people without their clothes on. Sculpture, to her mind, is an insidiou_orm of immorality, and for a young man of a passionate disposition sh_onsiders the law a much safer investment. Her father was a judge, she has tw_rothers at the bar, and her elder son had made a very promising beginning i_he same line. She wishes the tradition to be perpetuated. I 'm pretty sur_he law won't make Roderick's fortune, and I 'm afraid it will, in the lon_un, spoil his temper."
"What sort of a temper is it?"
"One to be trusted, on the whole. It is quick, but it is generous. I hav_nown it to breathe flame and fury at ten o'clock in the evening, and soft, sweet music early on the morrow. It 's a very entertaining temper to observe.
I, fortunately, can do so dispassionately, for I 'm the only person in th_lace he has not quarreled with."
"Has he then no society? Who is Miss Garland, whom you asked about?"
"A young girl staying with his mother, a sort of far-away cousin; a good plai_irl, but not a person to delight a sculptor's eye. Roderick has a goodl_hare of the old Southern arrogance; he has the aristocratic temperament. H_ill have nothing to do with the small towns-people; he says they 're
'ignoble.' He cannot endure his mother's friends—the old ladies and th_inisters and the tea-party people; they bore him to death. So he comes an_ounges here and rails at everything and every one."
This graceful young scoffer reappeared a couple of evenings later, an_onfirmed the friendly feeling he had provoked on Rowland's part. He was in a_asier mood than before, he chattered less extravagantly, and asked Rowland _umber of rather naif questions about the condition of the fine arts in Ne_ork and Boston. Cecilia, when he had gone, said that this was the wholesom_ffect of Rowland's praise of his statuette. Roderick was acutely sensitive, and Rowland's tranquil commendation had stilled his restless pulses. He wa_uminating the full-flavored verdict of culture. Rowland felt an irresistibl_indness for him, a mingled sense of his personal charm and his artisti_apacity. He had an indefinable attraction—the something divine of unspotted, exuberant, confident youth. The next day was Sunday, and Rowland proposed tha_hey should take a long walk and that Roderick should show him the country.
The young man assented gleefully, and in the morning, as Rowland at the garde_ate was giving his hostess Godspeed on her way to church, he came stridin_long the grassy margin of the road and out-whistling the music of the churc_ells. It was one of those lovely days of August when you feel the complet_xuberance of summer just warned and checked by autumn. "Remember the day, an_ake care you rob no orchards," said Cecilia, as they separated.
The young men walked away at a steady pace, over hill and dale, through wood_nd fields, and at last found themselves on a grassy elevation studded wit_ossy rocks and red cedars. Just beneath them, in a great shining curve, flowed the goodly Connecticut. They flung themselves on the grass and tosse_tones into the river; they talked like old friends. Rowland lit a cigar, an_oderick refused one with a grimace of extravagant disgust. He thought the_ile things; he did n't see how decent people could tolerate them. Rowland wa_mused, and wondered what it was that made this ill-mannered speech see_erfectly inoffensive on Roderick's lips. He belonged to the race of mortals, to be pitied or envied according as we view the matter, who are not held to _trict account for their aggressions. Looking at him as he lay stretched i_he shade, Rowland vaguely likened him to some beautiful, supple, restless, bright-eyed animal, whose motions should have no deeper warrant than th_remulous delicacy of its structure, and be graceful even when they were mos_nconvenient. Rowland watched the shadows on Mount Holyoke, listened to th_urgle of the river, and sniffed the balsam of the pines. A gentle breeze ha_egun to tickle their summits, and brought the smell of the mown grass acros_rom the elm-dotted river meadows. He sat up beside his companion and looke_way at the far-spreading view. It seemed to him beautiful, and suddenly _trange feeling of prospective regret took possession of him. Something seeme_o tell him that later, in a foreign land, he would remember it lovingly an_enitently.
"It 's a wretched business," he said, "this practical quarrel of ours with ou_wn country, this everlasting impatience to get out of it. Is one's onl_afety then in flight? This is an American day, an American landscape, a_merican atmosphere. It certainly has its merits, and some day when I a_hivering with ague in classic Italy, I shall accuse myself of having slighte_hem."
Roderick kindled with a sympathetic glow, and declared that America was goo_nough for him, and that he had always thought it the duty of an hones_itizen to stand by his own country and help it along. He had evidentl_hought nothing whatever about it, and was launching his doctrine on th_nspiration of the moment. The doctrine expanded with the occasion, and h_eclared that he was above all an advocate for American art. He did n't se_hy we should n't produce the greatest works in the world. We were the bigges_eople, and we ought to have the biggest conceptions. The biggest conception_f course would bring forth in time the biggest performances. We had only t_e true to ourselves, to pitch in and not be afraid, to fling Imitatio_verboard and fix our eyes upon our National Individuality. "I declare," h_ried, "there 's a career for a man, and I 've twenty minds to decide, on th_pot, to embrace it—to be the consummate, typical, original, national America_rtist! It 's inspiring!"
Rowland burst out laughing and told him that he liked his practice better tha_is theory, and that a saner impulse than this had inspired his little Water- drinker. Roderick took no offense, and three minutes afterwards was talkin_olubly of some humbler theme, but half heeded by his companion, who ha_eturned to his cogitations. At last Rowland delivered himself of the upsho_f these. "How would you like," he suddenly demanded, "to go to Rome?"
Hudson stared, and, with a hungry laugh which speedily consigned our Nationa_ndividuality to perdition, responded that he would like it reasonably well.
"And I should like, by the same token," he added, "to go to Athens, t_onstantinople, to Damascus, to the holy city of Benares, where there is _olden statue of Brahma twenty feet tall."
"Nay," said Rowland soberly, "if you were to go to Rome, you should settl_own and work. Athens might help you, but for the present I should n'_ecommend Benares."
"It will be time to arrange details when I pack my trunk," said Hudson.
"If you mean to turn sculptor, the sooner you pack your trunk the better."
"Oh, but I 'm a practical man! What is the smallest sum per annum, on whic_ne can keep alive the sacred fire in Rome?"
"What is the largest sum at your disposal?"
Roderick stroked his light moustache, gave it a twist, and then announced wit_ock pomposity: "Three hundred dollars!"
"The money question could be arranged," said Rowland. "There are ways o_aising money."
"I should like to know a few! I never yet discovered one."
"One consists," said Rowland, "in having a friend with a good deal more tha_e wants, and not being too proud to accept a part of it."
Roderick stared a moment and his face flushed. "Do you mean—do you mean?"… .
he stammered. He was greatly excited.
Rowland got up, blushing a little, and Roderick sprang to his feet. "In thre_ords, if you are to be a sculptor, you ought to go to Rome and study th_ntique. To go to Rome you need money. I 'm fond of fine statues, bu_nfortunately I can't make them myself. I have to order them. I order a doze_rom you, to be executed at your convenience. To help you, I pay you i_dvance."
Roderick pushed off his hat and wiped his forehead, still gazing at hi_ompanion. "You believe in me!" he cried at last.
"Allow me to explain," said Rowland. "I believe in you, if you are prepared t_ork and to wait, and to struggle, and to exercise a great many virtues. An_hen, I 'm afraid to say it, lest I should disturb you more than I should hel_ou. You must decide for yourself. I simply offer you an opportunity."
Hudson stood for some time, profoundly meditative. "You have not seen my othe_hings," he said suddenly. "Come and look at them."
"Yes, we 'll walk home. We 'll settle the question."
He passed his hand through Rowland's arm and they retraced their steps. The_eached the town and made their way along a broad country street, dusky wit_he shade of magnificent elms. Rowland felt his companion's arm trembling i_is own. They stopped at a large white house, flanked with melanchol_emlocks, and passed through a little front garden, paved with moss-coate_ricks and ornamented with parterres bordered with high box hedges. Th_ansion had an air of antiquated dignity, but it had seen its best days, an_vidently sheltered a shrunken household. Mrs. Hudson, Rowland was sure, migh_e seen in the garden of a morning, in a white apron and a pair of old gloves, engaged in frugal horticulture. Roderick's studio was behind, in the basement; a large, empty room, with the paper peeling off the walls. This represented, in the fashion of fifty years ago, a series of small fantastic landscapes of _ideous pattern, and the young sculptor had presumably torn it away in grea_craps, in moments of aesthetic exasperation. On a board in a corner was _eap of clay, and on the floor, against the wall, stood some dozen medallions, busts, and figures, in various stages of completion. To exhibit them Roderic_ad to place them one by one on the end of a long packing-box, which served a_ pedestal. He did so silently, making no explanations, and looking at the_imself with a strange air of quickened curiosity. Most of the things wer_ortraits; and the three at which he looked longest were finished busts. On_as a colossal head of a negro, tossed back, defiant, with distended nostrils; one was the portrait of a young man whom Rowland immediately perceived, by th_esemblance, to be his deceased brother; the last represented a gentleman wit_ pointed nose, a long, shaved upper lip, and a tuft on the end of his chin.
This was a face peculiarly unadapted to sculpture; but as a piece of modelin_t was the best, and it was admirable. It reminded Rowland in its homel_eracity, its artless artfulness, of the works of the early Italia_enaissance. On the pedestal was cut the name—Barnaby Striker, Esq. Rowlan_emembered that this was the appellation of the legal luminary from whom hi_ompanion had undertaken to borrow a reflected ray, and although in the bus_here was naught flagrantly set down in malice, it betrayed, comically to on_ho could relish the secret, that the features of the original had often bee_canned with an irritated eye. Besides these there were several rough studie_f the nude, and two or three figures of a fanciful kind. The most noticeable (and it had singular beauty) was a small modeled design for a sepulchra_onument; that, evidently, of Stephen Hudson. The young soldier lay sleepin_ternally, with his hand on his sword, like an old crusader in a Gothi_athedral.
Rowland made no haste to pronounce; too much depended on his judgment. "Upo_y word," cried Hudson at last, "they seem to me very good."
And in truth, as Rowland looked, he saw they were good. They were youthful, awkward, and ignorant; the effort, often, was more apparent than the success.
But the effort was signally powerful and intelligent; it seemed to Rowlan_hat it needed only to let itself go to compass great things. Here and there, too, success, when grasped, had something masterly. Rowland turned to hi_ompanion, who stood with his hands in his pockets and his hair very muc_rumpled, looking at him askance. The light of admiration was in Rowland'_yes, and it speedily kindled a wonderful illumination on Hudson's handsom_row. Rowland said at last, gravely, "You have only to work!"
"I think I know what that means," Roderick answered. He turned away, thre_imself on a rickety chair, and sat for some moments with his elbows on hi_nees and his head in his hands. "Work—work?" he said at last, looking up,
"ah, if I could only begin!" He glanced round the room a moment and his ey_ncountered on the mantel-shelf the vivid physiognomy of Mr. Barnaby Striker.
His smile vanished, and he stared at it with an air of concentrated enmity. "_ant to begin," he cried, "and I can't make a better beginning than this!
Good-by, Mr. Striker!" He strode across the room, seized a mallet that lay a_and, and before Rowland could interfere, in the interest of art if not o_orals, dealt a merciless blow upon Mr. Striker's skull. The bust cracked int_ dozen pieces, which toppled with a great crash upon the floor. Rowlan_elished neither the destruction of the image nor his companion's look i_orking it, but as he was about to express his displeasure the door opened an_ave passage to a young girl. She came in with a rapid step and startled face, as if she had been summoned by the noise. Seeing the heap of shattered cla_nd the mallet in Roderick's hand, she gave a cry of horror. Her voice die_way when she perceived that Rowland was a stranger, but she murmure_eproachfully, "Why, Roderick, what have you done?"
Roderick gave a joyous kick to the shapeless fragments. "I 've driven th_oney-changers out of the temple!" he cried.
The traces retained shape enough to be recognized, and she gave a little moa_f pity. She seemed not to understand the young man's allegory, but yet t_eel that it pointed to some great purpose, which must be an evil one, fro_eing expressed in such a lawless fashion, and to perceive that Rowland was i_ome way accountable for it. She looked at him with a sharp, frank mistrust, and turned away through the open door. Rowland looked after her wit_xtraordinary interest.