Rowland passed the summer in England, staying with several old friends and tw_r three new ones. On his arrival, he felt it on his conscience to write t_rs. Hudson and inform her that her son had relieved him of his tutelage. H_elt that she considered him an incorruptible Mentor, following Roderick lik_ shadow, and he wished to let her know the truth. But he made the truth ver_omfortable, and gave a succinct statement of the young man's brillian_eginnings. He owed it to himself, he said, to remind her that he had no_udged lightly, and that Roderick's present achievements were more profitabl_han his inglorious drudgery at Messrs. Striker & Spooner's. He was now takin_ well-earned holiday and proposing to see a little of the world. He woul_ork none the worse for this; every artist needed to knock about and look a_hings for himself. They had parted company for a couple of months, fo_oderick was now a great man and beyond the need of going about with a keeper.
But they were to meet again in Rome in the autumn, and then he should be abl_o send her more good news. Meanwhile, he was very happy in what Roderick ha_lready done—especially happy in the happiness it must have brought to her. H_entured to ask to be kindly commended to Miss Garland.
His letter was promptly answered—to his surprise in Miss Garland's own hand.
The same mail brought also an epistle from Cecilia. The latter was voluminous, and we must content ourselves with giving an extract.
"Your letter was filled with an echo of that brilliant Roman world, which mad_e almost ill with envy. For a week after I got it I thought Northampto_eally unpardonably tame. But I am drifting back again to my old deeps o_esignation, and I rush to the window, when any one passes, with all my ol_ratitude for small favors. So Roderick Hudson is already a great man, and yo_urn out to be a great prophet? My compliments to both of you; I never hear_f anything working so smoothly. And he takes it all very quietly, and doe_'t lose his balance nor let it turn his head? You judged him, then, in a da_etter than I had done in six months, for I really did not expect that h_ould settle down into such a jog-trot of prosperity. I believed he would d_ine things, but I was sure he would intersperse them with a good man_ollies, and that his beautiful statues would spring up out of the midst of _traggling plantation of wild oats. But from what you tell me, Mr. Striker ma_ow go hang himself… .. There is one thing, however, to say as a friend, i_he way of warning. That candid soul can keep a secret, and he may hav_rivate designs on your equanimity which you don't begin to suspect. What d_ou think of his being engaged to Miss Garland? The two ladies had given n_int of it all winter, but a fortnight ago, when those big photographs of hi_tatues arrived, they first pinned them up on the wall, and then trotted ou_nto the town, made a dozen calls, and announced the news. Mrs. Hudson did, a_east; Miss Garland, I suppose, sat at home writing letters. To me, I confess, the thing was a perfect surprise. I had not a suspicion that all the while h_as coming so regularly to make himself agreeable on my veranda, he wa_uietly preferring his cousin to any one else. Not, indeed, that he was eve_t particular pains to make himself agreeable! I suppose he has picked up _ew graces in Rome. But he must not acquire too many: if he is too polite whe_e comes back, Miss Garland will count him as one of the lost. She will be _ery good wife for a man of genius, and such a one as they are often shrew_nough to take. She 'll darn his stockings and keep his accounts, and sit a_ome and trim the lamp and keep up the fire while he studies the Beautiful i_retty neighbors at dinner-parties. The two ladies are evidently very happy, and, to do them justice, very humbly grateful to you. Mrs. Hudson never speak_f you without tears in her eyes, and I am sure she considers you a speciall_atented agent of Providence. Verily, it 's a good thing for a woman to be i_ove: Miss Garland has grown almost pretty. I met her the other night at _ea-party; she had a white rose in her hair, and sang a sentimental ballad i_ fine contralto voice."
Miss Garland's letter was so much shorter that we may give it entire:—
My dear Sir,—Mrs. Hudson, as I suppose you know, has been for some time unabl_o use her eyes. She requests me, therefore, to answer your favor of the 22_f June. She thanks you extremely for writing, and wishes me to say that sh_onsiders herself in every way under great obligations to you. Your account o_er son's progress and the high estimation in which he is held has made he_ery happy, and she earnestly prays that all may continue well with him. H_ent us, a short time ago, several large photographs of his two statues, take_rom different points of view. We know little about such things, but they see_o us wonderfully beautiful. We sent them to Boston to be handsomely framed, and the man, on returning them, wrote us that he had exhibited them for a wee_n his store, and that they had attracted great attention. The frames ar_agnificent, and the pictures now hang in a row on the parlor wall. Our onl_uarrel with them is that they make the old papering and the engravings loo_readfully shabby. Mr. Striker stood and looked at them the other day ful_ive minutes, and said, at last, that if Roderick's head was running on suc_hings it was no wonder he could not learn to draw up a deed. We lead here s_uiet and monotonous a life that I am afraid I can tell you nothing that wil_nterest you. Mrs. Hudson requests me to say that the little more or less tha_ay happen to us is of small account, as we live in our thoughts and ou_houghts are fixed on her dear son. She thanks Heaven he has so good a friend.
Mrs. Hudson says that this is too short a letter, but I can say nothing more.
Yours most respectfully,
It is a question whether the reader will know why, but this letter gav_owland extraordinary pleasure. He liked its very brevity and meagreness, an_here seemed to him an exquisite modesty in its saying nothing from the youn_irl herself. He delighted in the formal address and conclusion; they please_im as he had been pleased by an angular gesture in some expressive girlis_igure in an early painting. The letter renewed that impression of stron_eeling combined with an almost rigid simplicity, which Roderick's betrothe_ad personally given him. And its homely stiffness seemed a vivid reflectio_f a life concentrated, as the young girl had borrowed warrant from he_ompanion to say, in a single devoted idea. The monotonous days of the tw_omen seemed to Rowland's fancy to follow each other like the tick-tick of _reat time-piece, marking off the hours which separated them from the suprem_elicity of clasping the far-away son and lover to lips sealed with the exces_f joy. He hoped that Roderick, now that he had shaken off the oppression o_is own importunate faith, was not losing a tolerant temper for the silen_rayers of the two women at Northampton.
He was left to vain conjectures, however, as to Roderick's actual moods an_ccupations. He knew he was no letter-writer, and that, in the youn_culptor's own phrase, he had at any time rather build a monument than write _ote. But when a month had passed without news of him, he began to be hal_nxious and half angry, and wrote him three lines, in the care of _ontinental banker, begging him at least to give some sign of whether he wa_live or dead. A week afterwards came an answer—brief, and dated Baden-Baden.
"I know I have been a great brute," Roderick wrote, "not to have sent you _ord before; but really I don't know what has got into me. I have latel_earned terribly well how to be idle. I am afraid to think how long it i_ince I wrote to my mother or to Mary. Heaven help them—poor, patient, trustful creatures! I don't know how to tell you what I am doing. It seems al_musing enough while I do it, but it would make a poor show in a narrativ_ntended for your formidable eyes. I found Baxter in Switzerland, or rather h_ound me, and he grabbed me by the arm and brought me here. I was walkin_wenty miles a day in the Alps, drinking milk in lonely chalets, sleeping a_ou sleep, and thinking it was all very good fun; but Baxter told me it woul_ever do, that the Alps were 'd——d rot,' that Baden-Baden was the place, an_hat if I knew what was good for me I would come along with him. It is _onderful place, certainly, though, thank the Lord, Baxter departed last week, blaspheming horribly at trente et quarante. But you know all about it and wha_ne does—what one is liable to do. I have succumbed, in a measure, to th_iabilities, and I wish I had some one here to give me a thundering goo_lowing up. Not you, dear friend; you would draw it too mild; you have to_uch of the milk of human kindness. I have fits of horrible homesickness fo_y studio, and I shall be devoutly grateful when the summer is over and I ca_o back and swing a chisel. I feel as if nothing but the chisel would satisf_e; as if I could rush in a rage at a block of unshaped marble. There are _ot of the Roman people here, English and American; I live in the midst o_hem and talk nonsense from morning till night. There is also some one else; and to her I don't talk sense, nor, thank heaven, mean what I say. I confess, I need a month's work to recover my self-respect."
These lines brought Rowland no small perturbation; the more, that what the_eemed to point to surprised him. During the nine months of thei_ompanionship Roderick had shown so little taste for dissipation that Rowlan_ad come to think of it as a canceled danger, and it greatly perplexed him t_earn that his friend had apparently proved so pliant to opportunity. Bu_oderick's allusions were ambiguous, and it was possible they might simpl_ean that he was out of patience with a frivolous way of life and frettin_holesomely over his absent work. It was a very good thing, certainly, tha_dleness should prove, on experiment, to sit heavily on his conscience.
Nevertheless, the letter needed, to Rowland's mind, a key: the key arrived _eek later. "In common charity," Roderick wrote, "lend me a hundred pounds! _ave gambled away my last franc—I have made a mountain of debts. Send me th_oney first; lecture me afterwards!" Rowland sent the money by return of mail; then he proceeded, not to lecture, but to think. He hung his head; he wa_cutely disappointed. He had no right to be, he assured himself; but so i_as. Roderick was young, impulsive, unpracticed in stoicism; it was a hundre_o one that he was to pay the usual vulgar tribute to folly. But his frien_ad regarded it as securely gained to his own belief in virtue that he was no_s other foolish youths are, and that he would have been capable of looking a_olly in the face and passing on his way. Rowland for a while felt a sor_ense of wrath. What right had a man who was engaged to that fine girl i_orthampton to behave as if his consciousness were a common blank, to b_verlaid with coarse sensations? Yes, distinctly, he was disappointed. He ha_ccompanied his missive with an urgent recommendation to leave Baden-Bade_mmediately, and an offer to meet Roderick at any point he would name. Th_nswer came promptly; it ran as follows: "Send me another fifty pounds! I hav_een back to the tables. I will leave as soon as the money comes, and meet yo_t Geneva. There I will tell you everything."
There is an ancient terrace at Geneva, planted with trees and studded wit_enches, overlooked by gravely aristocratic old dwellings and overlooking th_istant Alps. A great many generations have made it a lounging-place, a grea_any friends and lovers strolled there, a great many confidential talks an_omentous interviews gone forward. Here, one morning, sitting on one of th_attered green benches, Roderick, as he had promised, told his frien_verything. He had arrived late the night before; he looked tired, and ye_lushed and excited. He made no professions of penitence, but he practiced a_nmitigated frankness, and his self-reprobation might be taken for granted. H_mplied in every phrase that he had done with it all, and that he was countin_he hours till he could get back to work. We shall not rehearse his confessio_n detail; its main outline will be sufficient. He had fallen in with som_ery idle people, and had discovered that a little example and a littl_ractice were capable of producing on his own part a considerable relish fo_heir diversions. What could he do? He never read, and he had no studio; i_ne way or another he had to pass the time. He passed it in dangling abou_everal very pretty women in wonderful Paris toilets, and reflected that i_as always something gained for a sculptor to sit under a tree, looking at hi_eisure into a charming face and saying things that made it smile and play it_uscles and part its lips and show its teeth. Attached to these ladies wer_ertain gentlemen who walked about in clouds of perfume, rose at midday, an_upped at midnight. Roderick had found himself in the mood for thinking the_ery amusing fellows. He was surprised at his own taste, but he let it tak_ts course. It led him to the discovery that to live with ladies who expec_ou to present them with expensive bouquets, to ride with them in the Blac_orest on well-looking horses, to come into their opera-boxes on nights whe_atti sang and prices were consequent, to propose little light suppers at th_onversation House after the opera or drives by moonlight to the Castle, to b_lways arrayed and anointed, trinketed and gloved,—that to move in suc_ociety, we say, though it might be a privilege, was a privilege with _enalty attached. But the tables made such things easy; half the Baden worl_ived by the tables. Roderick tried them and found that at first they smoothe_is path delightfully. This simplification of matters, however, was onl_omentary, for he soon perceived that to seem to have money, and to have it i_act, exposed a good-looking young man to peculiar liabilities. At this poin_f his friend's narrative, Rowland was reminded of Madame de Cruchecassee i_he Newcomes, and though he had listened in tranquil silence to the rest o_t, he found it hard not to say that all this had been, under th_ircumstances, a very bad business. Roderick admitted it with bitterness, an_hen told how much—measured simply financially—it had cost him. His luck ha_hanged; the tables had ceased to back him, and he had found himself up to hi_nees in debt. Every penny had gone of the solid sum which had seemed a larg_quivalent of those shining statues in Rome. He had been an ass, but it wa_ot irreparable; he could make another statue in a couple of months.
Rowland frowned. "For heaven's sake," he said, "don't play such dangerou_ames with your facility. If you have got facility, revere it, respect it, adore it, treasure it—don't speculate on it." And he wondered what hi_ompanion, up to his knees in debt, would have done if there had been no good- natured Rowland Mallet to lend a helping hand. But he did not formulate hi_uriosity audibly, and the contingency seemed not to have presented itself t_oderick's imagination. The young sculptor reverted to his late adventure_gain in the evening, and this time talked of them more objectively, as th_hrase is; more as if they had been the adventures of another person. H_elated half a dozen droll things that had happened to him, and, as if hi_esponsibility had been disengaged by all this free discussion, he laughe_xtravagantly at the memory of them. Rowland sat perfectly grave, o_rinciple. Then Roderick began to talk of half a dozen statues that he had i_is head, and set forth his design, with his usual vividness. Suddenly, as i_as relevant, he declared that his Baden doings had not been altogethe_ruitless, for that the lady who had reminded Rowland of Madame d_ruchecassee was tremendously statuesque. Rowland at last said that it al_ight pass if he felt that he was really the wiser for it. "By the wiser," h_dded, "I mean the stronger in purpose, in will."
"Oh, don't talk about will!" Roderick answered, throwing back his head an_ooking at the stars. This conversation also took place in the open air, o_he little island in the shooting Rhone where Jean-Jacques has a monument.
"The will, I believe, is the mystery of mysteries. Who can answer for hi_ill? who can say beforehand that it 's strong? There are all kinds o_ndefinable currents moving to and fro between one's will and one'_nclinations. People talk as if the two things were essentially distinct; o_ifferent sides of one's organism, like the heart and the liver. Mine, I know, are much nearer together. It all depends upon circumstances. I believe ther_s a certain group of circumstances possible for every man, in which his wil_s destined to snap like a dry twig."
"My dear boy," said Rowland, "don't talk about the will being 'destined.' Th_ill is destiny itself. That 's the way to look at it."
"Look at it, my dear Rowland," Roderick answered, "as you find mos_omfortable. One conviction I have gathered from my summer's experience," h_ent on—"it 's as well to look it frankly in the face—is that I possess a_lmost unlimited susceptibility to the influence of a beautiful woman."
Rowland stared, then strolled away, softly whistling to himself. He wa_nwilling to admit even to himself that this speech had really the siniste_eaning it seemed to have. In a few days the two young men made their way bac_o Italy, and lingered a while in Florence before going on to Rome. I_lorence Roderick seemed to have won back his old innocence and his preferenc_or the pleasures of study over any others. Rowland began to think of th_aden episode as a bad dream, or at the worst as a mere sporadic piece o_isorder, without roots in his companion's character. They passed a fortnigh_ooking at pictures and exploring for out the way bits of fresco and carving, and Roderick recovered all his earlier fervor of appreciation and comment. I_ome he went eagerly to work again, and finished in a month two or three smal_hings he had left standing on his departure. He talked the most joyou_onsense about finding himself back in his old quarters. On the first Sunda_fternoon following their return, on their going together to Saint Peter's, h_elivered himself of a lyrical greeting to the great church and to the city i_eneral, in a tone of voice so irrepressibly elevated that it rang through th_ave in rather a scandalous fashion, and almost arrested a procession o_anons who were marching across to the choir. He began to model a new statue—_emale figure, of which he had said nothing to Rowland. It represented _oman, leaning lazily back in her chair, with her head drooping as if she wer_istening, a vague smile on her lips, and a pair of remarkably beautiful arm_olded in her lap. With rather less softness of contour, it would hav_esembled the noble statue of Agrippina in the Capitol. Rowland looked at i_nd was not sure he liked it. "Who is it? what does it mean?" he asked.
"Anything you please!" said Roderick, with a certain petulance. "I call it _eminiscence."
Rowland then remembered that one of the Baden ladies had been "statuesque,"
and asked no more questions. This, after all, was a way of profiting b_xperience. A few days later he took his first ride of the season on th_ampagna, and as, on his homeward way, he was passing across the long shado_f a ruined tower, he perceived a small figure at a short distance, bent ove_ sketch-book. As he drew near, he recognized his friend Singleton. The hones_ittle painter's face was scorched to flame-color by the light of souther_uns, and borrowed an even deeper crimson from his gleeful greeting of hi_ost appreciative patron. He was making a careful and charming little sketch.
On Rowland's asking him how he had spent his summer, he gave an account of hi_anderings which made poor Mallet sigh with a sense of more contrasts tha_ne. He had not been out of Italy, but he had been delving deep into th_icturesque heart of the lovely land, and gathering a wonderful store o_ubjects. He had rambled about among the unvisited villages of the Apennines, pencil in hand and knapsack on back, sleeping on straw and eating black brea_nd beans, but feasting on local color, rioting, as it were, on chiaroscuro, and laying up a treasure of pictorial observations. He took a devou_atisfaction in his hard-earned wisdom and his happy frugality. Rowland wen_he next day, by appointment, to look at his sketches, and spent a whol_orning turning them over. Singleton talked more than he had ever done before, explained them all, and told some quaintly humorous anecdote about th_roduction of each.
"Dear me, how I have chattered!" he said at last. "I am afraid you had rathe_ave looked at the things in peace and quiet. I did n't know I could talk s_uch. But somehow, I feel very happy; I feel as if I had improved."
"That you have," said Rowland. "I doubt whether an artist ever passed a mor_rofitable three months. You must feel much more sure of yourself."
Singleton looked for a long time with great intentness at a knot in the floor.
"Yes," he said at last, in a fluttered tone, "I feel much more sure of myself.
I have got more facility!" And he lowered his voice as if he wer_ommunicating a secret which it took some courage to impart. "I hardly like t_ay it, for fear I should after all be mistaken. But since it strikes you, perhaps it 's true. It 's a great happiness; I would not exchange it for _reat deal of money."
"Yes, I suppose it 's a great happiness," said Rowland. "I shall really thin_f you as living here in a state of scandalous bliss. I don't believe it '_ood for an artist to be in such brutally high spirits."
Singleton stared for a moment, as if he thought Rowland was in earnest; the_uddenly fathoming the kindly jest, he walked about the room, scratching hi_ead and laughing intensely to himself. "And Mr. Hudson?" he said, as Rowlan_as going; "I hope he is well and happy."
"He is very well," said Rowland. "He is back at work again."
"Ah, there 's a man," cried Singleton, "who has taken his start once for all, and does n't need to stop and ask himself in fear and trembling every month o_wo whether he is advancing or not. When he stops, it 's to rest! And wher_id he spend his summer?"
"The greater part of it at Baden-Baden."
"Ah, that 's in the Black Forest," cried Singleton, with profound simplicity.
"They say you can make capital studies of trees there."
"No doubt," said Rowland, with a smile, laying an almost paternal hand on th_ittle painter's yellow head. "Unfortunately trees are not Roderick's line.
Nevertheless, he tells me that at Baden he made some studies. Come when yo_an, by the way," he added after a moment, "to his studio, and tell me wha_ou think of something he has lately begun." Singleton declared that he woul_ome delightedly, and Rowland left him to his work.
He met a number of his last winter's friends again, and called upon Madam_randoni, upon Miss Blanchard, and upon Gloriani, shortly after their return.
The ladies gave an excellent account of themselves. Madame Grandoni had bee_aking sea-baths at Rimini, and Miss Blanchard painting wild flowers in th_yrol. Her complexion was somewhat browned, which was very becoming, and he_lowers were uncommonly pretty. Gloriani had been in Paris and had come awa_n high good-humor, finding no one there, in the artist-world, cleverer tha_imself. He came in a few days to Roderick's studio, one afternoon whe_owland was present. He examined the new statue with great deference, said i_as very promising, and abstained, considerately, from irritating prophecies.
But Rowland fancied he observed certain signs of inward jubilation on th_lever sculptor's part, and walked away with him to learn his private opinion.
"Certainly; I liked it as well as I said," Gloriani declared in answer t_owland's anxious query; "or rather I liked it a great deal better. I did n'_ay how much, for fear of making your friend angry. But one can leave hi_lone now, for he 's coming round. I told you he could n't keep up th_ranscendental style, and he has already broken down. Don't you see i_ourself, man?"
"I don't particularly like this new statue," said Rowland.
"That 's because you 're a purist. It 's deuced clever, it 's deuced knowing, it 's deuced pretty, but it is n't the topping high art of three months ago.
He has taken his turn sooner than I supposed. What has happened to him? Has h_een disappointed in love? But that 's none of my business. I congratulate hi_n having become a practical man."
Roderick, however, was less to be congratulated than Gloriani had taken i_nto his head to believe. He was discontented with his work, he applie_imself to it by fits and starts, he declared that he did n't know what wa_oming over him; he was turning into a man of moods. "Is this of necessit_hat a fellow must come to"—he asked of Rowland, with a sort of peremptor_lash in his eye, which seemed to imply that his companion had undertaken t_nsure him against perplexities and was not fulfilling his contract—"thi_amnable uncertainty when he goes to bed at night as to whether he is going t_ake up in a working humor or in a swearing humor? Have we only a season, ove_efore we know it, in which we can call our faculties our own? Six months ag_ could stand up to my work like a man, day after day, and never dream o_sking myself whether I felt like it. But now, some mornings, it 's the ver_evil to get going. My statue looks so bad when I come into the studio that _ave twenty minds to smash it on the spot, and I lose three or four hours i_itting there, moping and getting used to it."
Rowland said that he supposed that this sort of thing was the lot of ever_rtist and that the only remedy was plenty of courage and faith. And h_eminded him of Gloriani's having forewarned him against these sterile mood_he year before.
"Gloriani 's an ass!" said Roderick, almost fiercely. He hired a horse an_egan to ride with Rowland on the Campagna. This delicious amusement restore_im in a measure to cheerfulness, but seemed to Rowland on the whole not t_timulate his industry. Their rides were always very long, and Roderic_nsisted on making them longer by dismounting in picturesque spots an_tretching himself in the sun among a heap of overtangled stones. He let th_corching Roman luminary beat down upon him with an equanimity which Rowlan_ound it hard to emulate. But in this situation Roderick talked so muc_musing nonsense that, for the sake of his company, Rowland consented to b_ncomfortable, and often forgot that, though in these diversions the day_assed quickly, they brought forth neither high art nor low. And yet it wa_erhaps by their help, after all, that Roderick secured several mornings o_rdent work on his new figure, and brought it to rapid completion. On_fternoon, when it was finished, Rowland went to look at it, and Roderic_sked him for his opinion.
"What do you think yourself?" Rowland demanded, not from pusillanimity, bu_rom real uncertainty.
"I think it is curiously bad," Roderick answered. "It was bad from the first; it has fundamental vices. I have shuffled them in a measure out of sight, bu_ have not corrected them. I can't—I can't—I can't!" he cried passionately.
"They stare me in the face—they are all I see!"
Rowland offered several criticisms of detail, and suggested certai_racticable changes. But Roderick differed with him on each of these points; the thing had faults enough, but they were not those faults. Rowland, unruffled, concluded by saying that whatever its faults might be, he had a_dea people in general would like it.
"I wish to heaven some person in particular would buy it, and take it off m_ands and out of my sight!" Roderick cried. "What am I to do now?" he went on.
"I have n't an idea. I think of subjects, but they remain mere lifeless names.
They are mere words—they are not images. What am I to do?"
Rowland was a trifle annoyed. "Be a man," he was on the point of saying, "an_on't, for heaven's sake, talk in that confoundedly querulous voice." Bu_efore he had uttered the words, there rang through the studio a loud, peremptory ring at the outer door.
Roderick broke into a laugh. "Talk of the devil," he said, "and you see hi_orns! If that 's not a customer, it ought to be."
The door of the studio was promptly flung open, and a lady advanced to th_hreshold—an imposing, voluminous person, who quite filled up the doorway.
Rowland immediately felt that he had seen her before, but he recognized he_nly when she moved forward and disclosed an attendant in the person of _ittle bright-eyed, elderly gentleman, with a bristling white moustache. The_e remembered that just a year before he and his companion had seen in th_udovisi gardens a wonderfully beautiful girl, strolling in the train of thi_onspicuous couple. He looked for her now, and in a moment she appeared, following her companions with the same nonchalant step as before, and leadin_er great snow-white poodle, decorated with motley ribbons. The elder lad_ffered the two young men a sufficiently gracious salute; the little ol_entleman bowed and smiled with extreme alertness. The young girl, withou_asting a glance either at Roderick or at Rowland, looked about for a chair, and, on perceiving one, sank into it listlessly, pulled her poodle toward_er, and began to rearrange his top-knot. Rowland saw that, even with her eye_ropped, her beauty was still dazzling.
"I trust we are at liberty to enter," said the elder lady, with majesty. "W_ere told that Mr. Hudson had no fixed day, and that we might come at an_ime. Let us not disturb you."
Roderick, as one of the lesser lights of the Roman art-world, had not hithert_een subject to incursions from inquisitive tourists, and, having no regula_eception day, was not versed in the usual formulas of welcome. He sai_othing, and Rowland, looking at him, saw that he was looking amazedly at th_oung girl and was apparently unconscious of everything else. "By Jove!" h_ried precipitately, "it 's that goddess of the Villa Ludovisi!" Rowland i_ome confusion, did the honors as he could, but the little old gentlema_egged him with the most obsequious of smiles to give himself no trouble. "_ave been in many a studio!" he said, with his finger on his nose and a stron_talian accent.
"We are going about everywhere," said his companion. "I am passionately fon_f art!"
Rowland smiled sympathetically, and let them turn to Roderick's statue. H_lanced again at the young sculptor, to invite him to bestir himself, bu_oderick was still gazing wide-eyed at the beautiful young mistress of th_oodle, who by this time had looked up and was gazing straight at him. Ther_as nothing bold in her look; it expressed a kind of languid, imperturbabl_ndifference. Her beauty was extraordinary; it grew and grew as the young ma_bserved her. In such a face the maidenly custom of averted eyes and read_lushes would have seemed an anomaly; nature had produced it for man's deligh_nd meant that it should surrender itself freely and coldly to admiration. I_as not immediately apparent, however, that the young lady found an answerin_ntertainment in the physiognomy of her host; she turned her head after _oment and looked idly round the room, and at last let her eyes rest on th_tatue of the woman seated. It being left to Rowland to stimulat_onversation, he began by complimenting her on the beauty of her dog.
"Yes, he 's very handsome," she murmured. "He 's a Florentine. The dogs i_lorence are handsomer than the people." And on Rowland's caressing him: "Hi_ame is Stenterello," she added. "Stenterello, give your hand to th_entleman." This order was given in Italian. "Say buon giorno a lei."
Stenterello thrust out his paw and gave four short, shrill barks; upon whic_he elder lady turned round and raised her forefinger.
"My dear, my dear, remember where you are! Excuse my foolish child," sh_dded, turning to Roderick with an agreeable smile. "She can think of nothin_ut her poodle."
"I am teaching him to talk for me," the young girl went on, without heedin_er mother; "to say little things in society. It will save me a great deal o_rouble. Stenterello, love, give a pretty smile and say tanti complimenti!"
The poodle wagged his white pate—it looked like one of those little pads i_wan's-down, for applying powder to the face—and repeated the barking process.
"He is a wonderful beast," said Rowland.
"He is not a beast," said the young girl. "A beast is something black an_irty—something you can't touch."
"He is a very valuable dog," the elder lady explained. "He was presented to m_aughter by a Florentine nobleman."
"It is not for that I care about him. It is for himself. He is better than th_rince."
"My dear, my dear!" repeated the mother in deprecating accents, but with _ignificant glance at Rowland which seemed to bespeak his attention to th_lory of possessing a daughter who could deal in that fashion with th_ristocracy.
Rowland remembered that when their unknown visitors had passed before them, _ear previous, in the Villa Ludovisi, Roderick and he had exchange_onjectures as to their nationality and social quality. Roderick had declare_hat they were old-world people; but Rowland now needed no telling to fee_hat he might claim the elder lady as a fellow-countrywoman. She was a perso_f what is called a great deal of presence, with the faded traces, artfull_evived here and there, of once brilliant beauty. Her daughter had com_awfully by her loveliness, but Rowland mentally made the distinction that th_other was silly and that the daughter was not. The mother had a very sill_outh—a mouth, Rowland suspected, capable of expressing an inordinate degre_f unreason. The young girl, in spite of her childish satisfaction in he_oodle, was not a person of feeble understanding. Rowland received a_mpression that, for reasons of her own, she was playing a part. What was th_art and what were her reasons? She was interesting; Rowland wondered wha_ere her domestic secrets. If her mother was a daughter of the great Republic, it was to be supposed that the young girl was a flower of the American soil; but her beauty had a robustness and tone uncommon in the somewhat facil_oveliness of our western maidenhood. She spoke with a vague foreign accent, as if she had spent her life in strange countries. The little Italia_pparently divined Rowland's mute imaginings, for he presently steppe_orward, with a bow like a master of ceremonies. "I have not done my duty," h_aid, "in not announcing these ladies. Mrs. Light, Miss Light!"
Rowland was not materially the wiser for this information, but Roderick wa_roused by it to the exercise of some slight hospitality. He altered th_ight, pulled forward two or three figures, and made an apology for not havin_ore to show. "I don't pretend to have anything of an exhibition—I am only _ovice."
"Indeed?—a novice! For a novice this is very well," Mrs. Light declared.
"Cavaliere, we have seen nothing better than this."
The Cavaliere smiled rapturously. "It is stupendous!" he murmured. "And w_ave been to all the studios."
"Not to all—heaven forbid!" cried Mrs. Light. "But to a number that I have ha_ointed out by artistic friends. I delight in studios: they are the temples o_he beautiful here below. And if you are a novice, Mr. Hudson," she went on,
"you have already great admirers. Half a dozen people have told us that your_ere among the things to see." This gracious speech went unanswered; Roderic_ad already wandered across to the other side of the studio and was revolvin_bout Miss Light. "Ah, he 's gone to look at my beautiful daughter; he is no_he first that has had his head turned," Mrs. Light resumed, lowering he_oice to a confidential undertone; a favor which, considering the shortness o_heir acquaintance, Rowland was bound to appreciate. "The artists are al_razy about her. When she goes into a studio she is fatal to the pictures. An_hen she goes into a ball-room what do the other women say? Eh, Cavaliere?"
"She is very beautiful," Rowland said, gravely.
Mrs. Light, who through her long, gold-cased glass was looking a little a_verything, and at nothing as if she saw it, interrupted her random murmur_nd exclamations, and surveyed Rowland from head to foot. She looked at hi_ll over; apparently he had not been mentioned to her as a feature o_oderick's establishment. It was the gaze, Rowland felt, which the vigilan_nd ambitious mamma of a beautiful daughter has always at her command fo_ell-dressed young men of candid physiognomy. Her inspection in this cas_eemed satisfactory. "Are you also an artist?" she inquired with an almos_aressing inflection. It was clear that what she meant was something of thi_ind: "Be so good as to assure me without delay that you are really the youn_an of substance and amiability that you appear."
But Rowland answered simply the formal question—not the latent one. "Dear me, no; I am only a friend of Mr. Hudson."
Mrs. Light, with a sigh, returned to the statues, and after mistaking the Ada_or a gladiator, and the Eve for a Pocahontas, declared that she could no_udge of such things unless she saw them in the marble. Rowland hesitated _oment, and then speaking in the interest of Roderick's renown, said that h_as the happy possessor of several of his friend's works and that she wa_elcome to come and see them at his rooms. She bade the Cavaliere make a not_f his address. "Ah, you 're a patron of the arts," she said. "That 's what _hould like to be if I had a little money. I delight in beauty in every form.
But all these people ask such monstrous prices. One must be a millionaire, t_hink of such things, eh? Twenty years ago my husband had my portrait painted, here in Rome, by Papucci, who was the great man in those days. I was in a bal_ress, with all my jewels, my neck and arms, and all that. The man got si_undred francs, and thought he was very well treated. Those were the days whe_ family could live like princes in Italy for five thousand scudi a year. Th_avaliere once upon a time was a great dandy—don't blush, Cavaliere; any on_an see that, just as any one can see that I was once a pretty woman! Get hi_o tell you what he made a figure upon. The railroads have brought in th_ulgarians. That 's what I call it now—the invasion of the vulgarians! Wha_re poor we to do?"
Rowland had begun to murmur some remedial proposition, when he was interrupte_y the voice of Miss Light calling across the room, "Mamma!"
"My own love?"
"This gentleman wishes to model my bust. Please speak to him."
The Cavaliere gave a little chuckle. "Already?" he cried.
Rowland looked round, equally surprised at the promptitude of the proposal.
Roderick stood planted before the young girl with his arms folded, looking a_er as he would have done at the Medicean Venus. He never paid compliments, and Rowland, though he had not heard him speak, could imagine the startlin_istinctness with which he made his request.
"He saw me a year ago," the young girl went on, "and he has been thinking o_e ever since." Her tone, in speaking, was peculiar; it had a kind of studie_nexpressiveness, which was yet not the vulgar device of a drawl.
"I must make your daughter's bust—that 's all, madame!" cried Roderick, wit_armth.
"I had rather you made the poodle's," said the young girl. "Is it ver_iresome? I have spent half my life sitting for my photograph, in ever_onceivable attitude and with every conceivable coiffure. I think I have pose_nough."
"My dear child," said Mrs. Light, "it may be one's duty to pose. But as to m_aughter's sitting to you, sir—to a young sculptor whom we don't know—it is _atter that needs reflection. It is not a favor that 's to be had for the mer_sking."
"If I don't make her from life," said Roderick, with energy, "I will make he_rom memory, and if the thing 's to be done, you had better have it done a_ell as possible."
"Mamma hesitates," said Miss Light, "because she does n't know whether yo_ean she shall pay you for the bust. I can assure you that she will not pa_ou a sou."
"My darling, you forget yourself," said Mrs. Light, with an attempt a_ajestic severity. "Of course," she added, in a moment, with a change of note,
"the bust would be my own property."
"Of course!" cried Roderick, impatiently.
"Dearest mother," interposed the young girl, "how can you carry a marble bus_bout the world with you? Is it not enough to drag the poor original?"
"My dear, you 're nonsensical!" cried Mrs. Light, almost angrily.
"You can always sell it," said the young girl, with the same artfu_rtlessness.
Mrs. Light turned to Rowland, who pitied her, flushed and irritated. "She i_ery wicked to-day!"
The Cavaliere grinned in silence and walked away on tiptoe, with his hat t_is lips, as if to leave the field clear for action. Rowland, on the contrary, wished to avert the coming storm. "You had better not refuse," he said to Mis_ight, "until you have seen Mr. Hudson's things in the marble. Your mother i_o come and look at some that I possess."
"Thank you; I have no doubt you will see us. I dare say Mr. Hudson is ver_lever; but I don't care for modern sculpture. I can't look at it!"
"You shall care for my bust, I promise you!" cried Roderick, with a laugh.
"To satisfy Miss Light," said the Cavaliere, "one of the old Greeks ought t_ome to life."
"It would be worth his while," said Roderick, paying, to Rowland's knowledge, his first compliment.
"I might sit to Phidias, if he would promise to be very amusing and make m_augh. What do you say, Stenterello? would you sit to Phidias?"
"We must talk of this some other time," said Mrs. Light. "We are in Rome fo_he winter. Many thanks. Cavaliere, call the carriage." The Cavaliere led th_ay out, backing like a silver-stick, and Miss Light, following her mother, nodded, without looking at them, to each of the young men.
"Immortal powers, what a head!" cried Roderick, when they had gone. "There '_y fortune!"
"She is certainly very beautiful," said Rowland. "But I 'm sorry you hav_ndertaken her bust."
"And why, pray?"
"I suspect it will bring trouble with it."
"What kind of trouble?"
"I hardly know. They are queer people. The mamma, I suspect, is the least bi_f an adventuress. Heaven knows what the daughter is."
"She 's a goddess!" cried Roderick.
"Just so. She is all the more dangerous."
"Dangerous? What will she do to me? She does n't bite, I imagine."
"It remains to be seen. There are two kinds of women—you ought to know it b_his time—the safe and the unsafe. Miss Light, if I am not mistaken, is one o_he unsafe. A word to the wise!"
"Much obliged!" said Roderick, and he began to whistle a triumphant air, i_onor, apparently, of the advent of his beautiful model.
In calling this young lady and her mamma "queer people," Rowland but roughl_xpressed his sentiment. They were so marked a variation from the monotonou_roop of his fellow-country people that he felt much curiosity as to th_ources of the change, especially since he doubted greatly whether, on th_hole, it elevated the type. For a week he saw the two ladies driving daily i_ well-appointed landau, with the Cavaliere and the poodle in the front seat.
From Mrs. Light he received a gracious salute, tempered by her native majesty; but the young girl, looking straight before her, seemed profoundly indifferen_o observers. Her extraordinary beauty, however, had already made observer_umerous and given the habitues of the Pincian plenty to talk about. Th_choes of their commentary reached Rowland's ears; but he had little taste fo_andom gossip, and desired a distinctly veracious informant. He had found on_n the person of Madame Grandoni, for whom Mrs. Light and her beautifu_aughter were a pair of old friends.
"I have known the mamma for twenty years," said this judicious critic, "and i_ou ask any of the people who have been living here as long as I, you wil_ind they remember her well. I have held the beautiful Christina on my kne_hen she was a little wizened baby with a very red face and no promise o_eauty but those magnificent eyes. Ten years ago Mrs. Light disappeared, an_as not since been seen in Rome, except for a few days last winter, when sh_assed through on her way to Naples. Then it was you met the trio in th_udovisi gardens. When I first knew her she was the unmarried but ver_arriageable daughter of an old American painter of very bad landscapes, whic_eople used to buy from charity and use for fire-boards. His name was Savage; it used to make every one laugh, he was such a mild, melancholy, pitiful ol_entleman. He had married a horrible wife, an Englishwoman who had been on th_tage. It was said she used to beat poor Savage with his mahl-stick and whe_he domestic finances were low to lock him up in his studio and tell him h_hould n't come out until he had painted half a dozen of his daubs. She had _ood deal of showy beauty. She would then go forth, and, her beauty helping, she would make certain people take the pictures. It helped her at last to mak_n English lord run away with her. At the time I speak of she had quit_isappeared. Mrs. Light was then a very handsome girl, though by no means s_andsome as her daughter has now become. Mr. Light was an American consul, newly appointed at one of the Adriatic ports. He was a mild, fair-whiskere_oung man, with some little property, and my impression is that he had go_nto bad company at home, and that his family procured him his place to kee_im out of harm's way. He came up to Rome on a holiday, fell in love with Mis_avage, and married her on the spot. He had not been married three years whe_e was drowned in the Adriatic, no one ever knew how. The young widow cam_ack to Rome, to her father, and here shortly afterwards, in the shadow o_aint Peter's, her little girl was born. It might have been supposed that Mrs.
Light would marry again, and I know she had opportunities. But she overreache_erself. She would take nothing less than a title and a fortune, and they wer_ot forthcoming. She was admired and very fond of admiration; very vain, ver_orldly, very silly. She remained a pretty widow, with a surprising variety o_onnets and a dozen men always in her train. Giacosa dates from this period.
He calls himself a Roman, but I have an impression he came up from Ancona wit_er. He was l'ami de la maison. He used to hold her bouquets, clean her gloves (I was told), run her errands, get her opera-boxes, and fight her battles wit_he shopkeepers. For this he needed courage, for she was smothered in debt.
She at last left Rome to escape her creditors. Many of them must remember he_till, but she seems now to have money to satisfy them. She left her poor ol_ather here alone—helpless, infirm and unable to work. A subscription wa_hortly afterwards taken up among the foreigners, and he was sent back t_merica, where, as I afterwards heard, he died in some sort of asylum. Fro_ime to time, for several years, I heard vaguely of Mrs. Light as a wanderin_eauty at French and German watering-places. Once came a rumor that she wa_oing to make a grand marriage in England; then we heard that the gentlema_ad thought better of it and left her to keep afloat as she could. She was _erribly scatter-brained creature. She pretends to be a great lady, but _onsider that old Filomena, my washer-woman, is in essentials a greater one.
But certainly, after all, she has been fortunate. She embarked at last on _awsuit about some property, with her husband's family, and went to America t_ttend to it. She came back triumphant, with a long purse. She reappeared i_taly, and established herself for a while in Venice. Then she came t_lorence, where she spent a couple of years and where I saw her. Last year sh_assed down to Naples, which I should have said was just the place for her, and this winter she has laid siege to Rome. She seems very prosperous. She ha_aken a floor in the Palazzo F——, she keeps her carriage, and Christina an_he, between them, must have a pretty milliner's bill. Giacosa has turned u_gain, looking as if he had been kept on ice at Ancona, for her return."
"What sort of education," Rowland asked, "do you imagine the mother'_dventures to have been for the daughter?"
"A strange school! But Mrs. Light told me, in Florence, that she had given he_hild the education of a princess. In other words, I suppose, she speaks thre_r four languages, and has read several hundred French novels. Christina, _uspect, is very clever. When I saw her, I was amazed at her beauty, and, certainly, if there is any truth in faces, she ought to have the soul of a_ngel. Perhaps she has. I don't judge her; she 's an extraordinary youn_erson. She has been told twenty times a day by her mother, since she was fiv_ears old, that she is a beauty of beauties, that her face is her fortune, an_hat, if she plays her cards, she may marry a duke. If she has not bee_atally corrupted, she is a very superior girl. My own impression is that sh_s a mixture of good and bad, of ambition and indifference. Mrs. Light, havin_ailed to make her own fortune in matrimony, has transferred her hopes to he_aughter, and nursed them till they have become a kind of monomania. She has _obby, which she rides in secret; but some day she will let you see it. I '_ure that if you go in some evening unannounced, you will find her scannin_he tea-leaves in her cup, or telling her daughter's fortune with a greas_ack of cards, preserved for the purpose. She promises her a prince—a reignin_rince. But if Mrs. Light is silly, she is shrewd, too, and, les_onsiderations of state should deny her prince the luxury of a love-match, sh_eeps on hand a few common mortals. At the worst she would take a duke, a_nglish lord, or even a young American with a proper number of millions. Th_oor woman must be rather uncomfortable. She is always building castles an_nocking them down again—always casting her nets and pulling them in. If he_aughter were less of a beauty, her transparent ambition would be ver_idiculous; but there is something in the girl, as one looks at her, tha_eems to make it very possible she is marked out for one of those wonderfu_omantic fortunes that history now and then relates. 'Who, after all, was th_mpress of the French?' Mrs. Light is forever saying. 'And beside Christin_he Empress is a dowdy!'"
"And what does Christina say?"
"She makes no scruple, as you know, of saying that her mother is a fool. Wha_he thinks, heaven knows. I suspect that, practically, she does not commi_erself. She is excessively proud, and thinks herself good enough to occup_he highest station in the world; but she knows that her mother talk_onsense, and that even a beautiful girl may look awkward in makin_nsuccessful advances. So she remains superbly indifferent, and lets he_other take the risks. If the prince is secured, so much the better; if he i_ot, she need never confess to herself that even a prince has slighted her."
"Your report is as solid," Rowland said to Madame Grandoni, thanking her, "a_f it had been prepared for the Academy of Sciences;" and he congratulate_imself on having listened to it when, a couple of days later, Mrs. Light an_er daughter, attended by the Cavaliere and the poodle, came to his rooms t_ook at Roderick's statues. It was more comfortable to know just with whom h_as dealing.
Mrs. Light was prodigiously gracious, and showered down compliments not onl_n the statues, but on all his possessions. "Upon my word," she said, "you me_now how to make yourselves comfortable. If one of us poor women had half a_any easy-chairs and knick-knacks, we should be famously abused. It 's reall_elfish to be living all alone in such a place as this. Cavaliere, how shoul_ou like this suite of rooms and a fortune to fill them with pictures an_tatues? Christina, love, look at that mosaic table. Mr. Mallet, I coul_lmost beg it from you. Yes, that Eve is certainly very fine. We need n't b_shamed of such a great-grandmother as that. If she was really such _eautiful woman, it accounts for the good looks of some of us. Where is Mr.
What 's-his-name, the young sculptor? Why is n't he here to be complimented?"
Christina had remained but for a moment in the chair which Rowland had place_or her, had given but a cursory glance at the statues, and then, leaving he_lace, had begun to wander round the room—looking at herself in the mirror, touching the ornaments and curiosities, glancing at the books and prints.
Rowland's sitting-room was encumbered with bric-a-brac, and she found plent_f occupation. Rowland presently joined her, and pointed out some of th_bjects he most valued.
"It 's an odd jumble," she said frankly. "Some things are very pretty—some ar_ery ugly. But I like ugly things, when they have a certain look. Prettines_s terribly vulgar nowadays, and it is not every one that knows just the sor_f ugliness that has chic. But chic is getting dreadfully common too. There '_ hint of it even in Madame Baldi's bonnets. I like looking at people'_hings," she added in a moment, turning to Rowland and resting her eyes o_im. "It helps you to find out their characters."
"Am I to suppose," asked Rowland, smiling, "that you have arrived at an_onclusions as to mine?"
"I am rather muddled; you have too many things; one seems to contradic_nother. You are very artistic and yet you are very prosaic; you have what i_alled a 'catholic' taste and yet you are full of obstinate little prejudice_nd habits of thought, which, if I knew you, I should find very tiresome. _on't think I like you."
"You make a great mistake," laughed Rowland; "I assure you I am very amiable."
"Yes, I am probably wrong, and if I knew you, I should find out I was wrong, and that would irritate me and make me dislike you more. So you see we ar_ecessary enemies."
"No, I don't dislike you."
"Worse and worse; for you certainly will not like me."
"You are very discouraging."
"I am fond of facing the truth, though some day you will deny that. Where i_hat queer friend of yours?"
"You mean Mr. Hudson. He is represented by these beautiful works."
Miss Light looked for some moments at Roderick's statues. "Yes," she said,
"they are not so silly as most of the things we have seen. They have no chic, and yet they are beautiful."
"You describe them perfectly," said Rowland. "They are beautiful, and yet the_ave no chic. That 's it!"
"If he will promise to put none into my bust, I have a mind to let him mak_t. A request made in those terms deserves to be granted."
"In what terms?"
"Did n't you hear him? 'Mademoiselle, you almost satisfy my conception of th_eautiful. I must model your bust.' That almost should be rewarded. He is lik_e; he likes to face the truth. I think we should get on together."
The Cavaliere approached Rowland, to express the pleasure he had derived fro_is beautiful "collection." His smile was exquisitely bland, his accen_ppealing, caressing, insinuating. But he gave Rowland an odd sense of lookin_t a little waxen image, adjusted to perform certain gestures and emit certai_ounds. It had once contained a soul, but the soul had leaked out.
Nevertheless, Rowland reflected, there are more profitless things than mer_ound and gesture, in a consummate Italian. And the Cavaliere, too, had sou_nough left to desire to speak a few words on his own account, and cal_owland's attention to the fact that he was not, after all, a hired cicerone, but an ancient Roman gentleman. Rowland felt sorry for him; he hardly kne_hy. He assured him in a friendly fashion that he must come again; that hi_ouse was always at his service. The Cavaliere bowed down to the ground. "Yo_o me too much honor," he murmured. "If you will allow me—it is no_mpossible!"
Mrs. Light, meanwhile, had prepared to depart. "If you are not afraid to com_nd see two quiet little women, we shall be most happy!" she said. "We have n_tatues nor pictures—we have nothing but each other. Eh, darling?"
"I beg your pardon," said Christina.
"Oh, and the Cavaliere," added her mother.
"The poodle, please!" cried the young girl.
Rowland glanced at the Cavaliere; he was smiling more blandly than ever.
A few days later Rowland presented himself, as civility demanded, at Mrs.
Light's door. He found her living in one of the stately houses of the Vi_ell' Angelo Custode, and, rather to his surprise, was told she was at home.
He passed through half a dozen rooms and was ushered into an immense saloon, at one end of which sat the mistress of the establishment, with a piece o_mbroidery. She received him very graciously, and then, pointing mysteriousl_o a large screen which was unfolded across the embrasure of one of the dee_indows, "I am keeping guard!" she said. Rowland looked interrogative; whereupon she beckoned him forward and motioned him to look behind the screen.
He obeyed, and for some moments stood gazing. Roderick, with his back turned, stood before an extemporized pedestal, ardently shaping a formless mass o_lay. Before him sat Christina Light, in a white dress, with her shoulder_are, her magnificent hair twisted into a classic coil, and her head admirabl_oised. Meeting Rowland's gaze, she smiled a little, only with her deep gra_yes, without moving. She looked divinely beautiful.