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Chapter 5 Christina

  • The brilliant Roman winter came round again, and Rowland enjoyed it, in _ertain way, more deeply than before. He grew at last to feel that sense o_qual possession, of intellectual nearness, which it belongs to the peculia_agic of the ancient city to infuse into minds of a cast that she never woul_ave produced. He became passionately, unreasoningly fond of all Roman sight_nd sensations, and to breathe the Roman atmosphere began to seem a needfu_ondition of being. He could not have defined and explained the nature of hi_reat love, nor have made up the sum of it by the addition of his calculabl_leasures. It was a large, vague, idle, half-profitless emotion, of whic_erhaps the most pertinent thing that may be said is that it enforced a sor_f oppressive reconciliation to the present, the actual, the sensuous—to lif_n the terms that there offered themselves. It was perhaps for this ver_eason that, in spite of the charm which Rome flings over one's mood, ther_an through Rowland's meditations an undertone of melancholy, natural enoug_n a mind which finds its horizon insidiously limited to the finite, even i_ery picturesque forms. Whether it is one that tacitly concedes to the Roma_hurch the monopoly of a guarantee of immortality, so that if one i_ndisposed to bargain with her for the precious gift, one must do without i_ltogether; or whether in an atmosphere so heavily weighted with echoes an_emories one grows to believe that there is nothing in one's consciousnes_hat is not foredoomed to moulder and crumble and become dust for the feet, and possible malaria for the lungs, of future generations—the fact at leas_emains that one parts half-willingly with one's hopes in Rome, and misse_hem only under some very exceptional stress of circumstance. For this reaso_ne may perhaps say that there is no other place in which one's daily tempe_as such a mellow serenity, and none, at the same time, in which acute attack_f depression are more intolerable. Rowland found, in fact, a perfect respons_o his prevision that to live in Rome was an education to one's senses an_ne's imagination, but he sometimes wondered whether this was not _uestionable gain in case of one's not being prepared to live wholly by one'_magination and one's senses. The tranquil profundity of his dail_atisfaction seemed sometimes to turn, by a mysterious inward impulse, an_ace itself with questioning, admonishing, threatening eyes. "But afterwards… ?" it seemed to ask, with a long reverberation; and he could give no answe_ut a shy affirmation that there was no such thing as afterwards, and a hope, divided against itself, that his actual way of life would last forever. H_ften felt heavy-hearted; he was sombre without knowing why; there were n_isible clouds in his heaven, but there were cloud-shadows on his mood.
  • Shadows projected, they often were, without his knowing it, by an undu_pprehension that things after all might not go so ideally well with Roderick.
  • When he understood his anxiety it vexed him, and he rebuked himself for takin_hings unmanfully hard. If Roderick chose to follow a crooked path, it was n_ault of his; he had given him, he would continue to give him, all that he ha_ffered him—friendship, sympathy, advice. He had not undertaken to provide hi_ith unflagging strength of purpose, nor to stand bondsman for unqualifie_uccess.
  • If Rowland felt his roots striking and spreading in the Roman soil, Roderic_lso surrendered himself with renewed abandon to the local influence. Mor_han once he declared to his companion that he meant to live and die withi_he shadow of Saint Peter's, and that he cared little if he never again dre_reath in American air. "For a man of my temperament, Rome is the onl_ossible place," he said; "it 's better to recognize the fact early than late.
  • So I shall never go home unless I am absolutely forced."
  • "What is your idea of 'force'?" asked Rowland, smiling. "It seems to me yo_ave an excellent reason for going home some day or other."
  • "Ah, you mean my engagement?" Roderick answered with unaverted eyes. "Yes, _m distinctly engaged, in Northampton, and impatiently waited for!" And h_ave a little sympathetic sigh. "To reconcile Northampton and Rome is rather _roblem. Mary had better come out here. Even at the worst I have no intentio_f giving up Rome within six or eight years, and an engagement of tha_uration would be rather absurd."
  • "Miss Garland could hardly leave your mother," Rowland observed.
  • "Oh, of course my mother should come. I think I will suggest it in my nex_etter. It will take her a year or two to make up her mind to it, but if sh_onsents it will brighten her up. It 's too small a life, over there, even fo_ timid old lady. It is hard to imagine," he added, "any change in Mary bein_ change for the better; but I should like her to take a look at the world an_ave her notions stretched a little. One is never so good, I suppose, but tha_ne can improve a little."
  • "If you wish your mother and Miss Garland to come," Rowland suggested, "yo_ad better go home and bring them."
  • "Oh, I can't think of leaving Europe, for many a day," Roderick answered. "A_resent it would quite break the charm. I am just beginning to profit, to ge_sed to things and take them naturally. I am sure the sight of Northampto_ain Street would permanently upset me."
  • It was reassuring to hear that Roderick, in his own view, was but "jus_eginning" to spread his wings, and Rowland, if he had had any forebodings, might have suffered them to be modified by this declaration. This was th_irst time since their meeting at Geneva that Roderick had mentioned Mis_arland's name, but the ice being broken, he indulged for some time afterwar_n frequent allusions to his betrothed, which always had an accent o_crupulous, of almost studied, consideration. An uninitiated observer, hearin_im, would have imagined her to be a person of a certain age—possibly a_ffectionate maiden aunt—who had once done him a kindness which he highl_ppreciated: perhaps presented him with a check for a thousand dollars.
  • Rowland noted the difference between his present frankness and his reticenc_uring the first six months of his engagement, and sometimes wondered whethe_t was not rather an anomaly that he should expatiate more largely as th_appy event receded. He had wondered over the whole matter, first and last, i_ great many different ways, and looked at it in all possible lights. Ther_as something terribly hard to explain in the fact of his having fallen i_ove with his cousin. She was not, as Rowland conceived her, the sort of gir_e would have been likely to fancy, and the operation of sentiment, in al_ases so mysterious, was particularly so in this one. Just why it was tha_oderick should not logically have fancied Miss Garland, his companion woul_ave been at loss to say, but I think the conviction had its roots in a_nformulated comparison between himself and the accepted suitor. Roderick an_e were as different as two men could be, and yet Roderick had taken it int_is head to fall in love with a woman for whom he himself had been keeping i_eserve, for years, a profoundly characteristic passion. That if he chose t_onceive a great notion of the merits of Roderick's mistress, the irregularit_ere was hardly Roderick's, was a view of the case to which poor Rowland di_canty justice. There were women, he said to himself, whom it was every one'_usiness to fall in love with a little—women beautiful, brilliant, artful, easily fascinating. Miss Light, for instance, was one of these; every man wh_poke to her did so, if not in the language, at least with something of th_gitation, the divine tremor, of a lover. There were other women—they migh_ave great beauty, they might have small; perhaps they were generally to b_lassified as plain—whose triumphs in this line were rare, but immutabl_ermanent. Such a one preeminently, was Mary Garland. Upon the doctrine o_robabilities, it was unlikely that she had had an equal charm for each o_hem, and was it not possible, therefore, that the charm for Roderick had bee_imply the charm imagined, unquestioningly accepted: the general charm o_outh, sympathy, kindness—of the present feminine, in short—enhanced indeed b_everal fine facial traits? The charm in this case for Rowland was—th_harm!—the mysterious, individual, essential woman. There was an element i_he charm, as his companion saw it, which Rowland was obliged to recognize, but which he forbore to ponder; the rather important attraction, namely, o_eciprocity. As to Miss Garland being in love with Roderick and becomin_harming thereby, this was a point with which his imagination ventured to tak_o liberties; partly because it would have been indelicate, and partly becaus_t would have been vain. He contented himself with feeling that the young gir_as still as vivid an image in his memory as she had been five days after h_eft her, and with drifting nearer and nearer to the impression that at jus_hat crisis any other girl would have answered Roderick's sentimental needs a_ell. Any other girl indeed would do so still! Roderick had confessed as muc_o him at Geneva, in saying that he had been taking at Baden the measure o_is susceptibility to female beauty.
  • His extraordinary success in modeling the bust of the beautiful Miss Light wa_ertinent evidence of this amiable quality. She sat to him, repeatedly, for _ortnight, and the work was rapidly finished. On one of the last days Roderic_sked Rowland to come and give his opinion as to what was still wanting; fo_he sittings had continued to take place in Mrs. Light's apartment, the studi_eing pronounced too damp for the fair model. When Rowland presented himself, Christina, still in her white dress, with her shoulders bare, was standin_efore a mirror, readjusting her hair, the arrangement of which, on thi_ccasion, had apparently not met the young sculptor's approval. He stoo_eside her, directing the operation with a peremptoriness of tone which seeme_o Rowland to denote a considerable advance in intimacy. As Rowland entered, Christina was losing patience. "Do it yourself, then!" she cried, and with _apid movement unloosed the great coil of her tresses and let them fall ove_er shoulders.
  • They were magnificent, and with her perfect face dividing their rippling flo_he looked like some immaculate saint of legend being led to martyrdom.
  • Rowland's eyes presumably betrayed his admiration, but her own manifested n_onsciousness of it. If Christina was a coquette, as the remarkable timelines_f this incident might have suggested, she was not a superficial one.
  • "Hudson 's a sculptor," said Rowland, with warmth. "But if I were only _ainter!"
  • "Thank Heaven you are not!" said Christina. "I am having quite enough of thi_inute inspection of my charms."
  • "My dear young man, hands off!" cried Mrs. Light, coming forward and seizin_er daughter's hair. "Christina, love, I am surprised."
  • "Is it indelicate?" Christina asked. "I beg Mr. Mallet's pardon." Mrs. Ligh_athered up the dusky locks and let them fall through her fingers, glancing a_er visitor with a significant smile. Rowland had never been in the East, bu_f he had attempted to make a sketch of an old slave-merchant, callin_ttention to the "points" of a Circassian beauty, he would have depicted suc_ smile as Mrs. Light's. "Mamma 's not really shocked," added Christina in _oment, as if she had guessed her mother's by-play. "She is only afraid tha_r. Hudson might have injured my hair, and that, per consequenza, I shoul_ell for less."
  • "You unnatural child!" cried mamma. "You deserve that I should make a frigh_f you!" And with half a dozen skillful passes she twisted the tresses into _ingle picturesque braid, placed high on the head, as a kind of coronal.
  • "What does your mother do when she wants to do you justice?" Rowland asked, observing the admirable line of the young girl's neck.
  • "I do her justice when I say she says very improper things. What is one to d_ith such a thorn in the flesh?" Mrs. Light demanded.
  • "Think of it at your leisure, Mr. Mallet," said Christina, "and when you 'v_iscovered something, let us hear. But I must tell you that I shall no_illingly believe in any remedy of yours, for you have something in you_hysiognomy that particularly provokes me to make the remarks that my mothe_o sincerely deplores. I noticed it the first time I saw you. I think it '_ecause your face is so broad. For some reason or other, broad face_xasperate me; they fill me with a kind of rabbia. Last summer, at Carlsbad, there was an Austrian count, with enormous estates and some great office a_ourt. He was very attentive—seriously so; he was really very far gone. Cel_e tenait qu' a moi! But I could n't; he was impossible! He must hav_easured, from ear to ear, at least a yard and a half. And he was blond, too, which made it worse—as blond as Stenterello; pure fleece! So I said to hi_rankly, 'Many thanks, Herr Graf; your uniform is magnificent, but your fac_s too fat.'"
  • "I am afraid that mine also," said Rowland, with a smile, "seems just now t_ave assumed an unpardonable latitude."
  • "Oh, I take it you know very well that we are looking for a husband, and tha_one but tremendous swells need apply. Surely, before these gentlemen, mamma, I may speak freely; they are disinterested. Mr. Mallet won't do, because, though he 's rich, he 's not rich enough. Mamma made that discovery the da_fter we went to see you, moved to it by the promising look of your furniture.
  • I hope she was right, eh? Unless you have millions, you know, you have n_hance."
  • "I feel like a beggar," said Rowland.
  • "Oh, some better girl than I will decide some day, after mature reflection, that on the whole you have enough. Mr. Hudson, of course, is nowhere; he ha_othing but his genius and his beaux yeux."
  • Roderick had stood looking at Christina intently while she delivered herself, softly and slowly, of this surprising nonsense. When she had finished, sh_urned and looked at him; their eyes met, and he blushed a little. "Let m_odel you, and he who can may marry you!" he said, abruptly.
  • Mrs. Light, while her daughter talked, had been adding a few touches to he_oiffure. "She is not so silly as you might suppose," she said to Rowland, with dignity. "If you will give me your arm, we will go and look at the bust."
  • "Does that represent a silly girl?" Christina demanded, when they stood befor_t.
  • Rowland transferred his glance several times from the portrait to th_riginal. "It represents a young lady," he said, "whom I should not pretend t_udge off-hand."
  • "She may be a fool, but you are not sure. Many thanks! You have seen me half _ozen times. You are either very slow or I am very deep."
  • "I am certainly slow," said Rowland. "I don't expect to make up my mind abou_ou within six months."
  • "I give you six months if you will promise then a perfectly frank opinion.
  • Mind, I shall not forget; I shall insist upon it."
  • "Well, though I am slow, I am tolerably brave," said Rowland. "We shall see."
  • Christina looked at the bust with a sigh. "I am afraid, after all," she said,
  • "that there 's very little wisdom in it save what the artist has put there.
  • Mr. Hudson looked particularly wise while he was working; he scowled an_rowled, but he never opened his mouth. It is very kind of him not to hav_epresented me gaping."
  • "If I had talked a lot of stuff to you," said Roderick, roundly, "the thin_ould not have been a tenth so good."
  • "Is it good, after all? Mr. Mallet is a famous connoisseur; has he not com_ere to pronounce?"
  • The bust was in fact a very happy performance, and Roderick had risen to th_evel of his subject. It was thoroughly a portrait, and not a vague fantas_xecuted on a graceful theme, as the busts of pretty women, in moder_culpture, are apt to be. The resemblance was deep and vivid; there wa_xtreme fidelity of detail and yet a noble simplicity. One could say of th_ead that, without idealization, it was a representation of ideal beauty.
  • Rowland, however, as we know, was not fond of exploding into superlatives, and, after examining the piece, contented himself with suggesting two or thre_lterations of detail.
  • "Nay, how can you be so cruel?" demanded Mrs. Light, with sof_eproachfulness. "It is surely a wonderful thing!"
  • "Rowland knows it 's a wonderful thing," said Roderick, smiling. "I can tel_hat by his face. The other day I finished something he thought bad, and h_ooked very differently from this."
  • "How did Mr. Mallet look?" asked Christina.
  • "My dear Rowland," said Roderick, "I am speaking of my seated woman. Yo_ooked as if you had on a pair of tight boots."
  • "Ah, my child, you 'll not understand that!" cried Mrs. Light. "You never ye_ad a pair that were small enough."
  • "It 's a pity, Mr. Hudson," said Christina, gravely, "that you could not hav_ntroduced my feet into the bust. But we can hang a pair of slippers round th_eck!"
  • "I nevertheless like your statues, Roderick," Rowland rejoined, "better tha_our jokes. This is admirable. Miss Light, you may be proud!"
  • "Thank you, Mr. Mallet, for the permission," rejoined the young girl.
  • "I am dying to see it in the marble, with a red velvet screen behind it," sai_rs. Light.
  • "Placed there under the Sassoferrato!" Christina went on. "I hope you kee_ell in mind, Mr. Hudson, that you have not a grain of property in your work, and that if mamma chooses, she may have it photographed and the copies sold i_he Piazza di Spagna, at five francs apiece, without your having a sou of th_rofits."
  • "Amen!" said Roderick. "It was so nominated in the bond. My profits are here!"
  • and he tapped his forehead.
  • "It would be prettier if you said here!" And Christina touched her heart.
  • "My precious child, how you do run on!" murmured Mrs. Light.
  • "It is Mr. Mallet," the young girl answered. "I can't talk a word of sense s_ong as he is in the room. I don't say that to make you go," she added, "I sa_t simply to justify myself."
  • Rowland bowed in silence. Roderick declared that he must get at work an_equested Christina to take her usual position, and Mrs. Light proposed to he_isitor that they should adjourn to her boudoir. This was a small room, hardl_ore spacious than an alcove, opening out of the drawing-room and having n_ther issue. Here, as they entered, on a divan near the door, Rowlan_erceived the Cavaliere Giacosa, with his arms folded, his head dropped upo_is breast, and his eyes closed.
  • "Sleeping at his post!" said Rowland with a kindly laugh.
  • "That 's a punishable offense," rejoined Mrs. Light, sharply. She was on th_oint of calling him, in the same tone, when he suddenly opened his eyes, stared a moment, and then rose with a smile and a bow.
  • "Excuse me, dear lady," he said, "I was overcome by the—the great heat."
  • "Nonsense, Cavaliere!" cried the lady, "you know we are perishing here wit_he cold! You had better go and cool yourself in one of the other rooms."
  • "I obey, dear lady," said the Cavaliere; and with another smile and bow t_owland he departed, walking very discreetly on his toes. Rowland out-staye_im but a short time, for he was not fond of Mrs. Light, and he found nothin_ery inspiring in her frank intimation that if he chose, he might become _avorite. He was disgusted with himself for pleasing her; he confounded hi_atal urbanity. In the court-yard of the palace he overtook the Cavaliere, wh_ad stopped at the porter's lodge to say a word to his little girl. She was _oung lady of very tender years and she wore a very dirty pinafore. He ha_aken her up in his arms and was singing an infantine rhyme to her, and sh_as staring at him with big, soft Roman eyes. On seeing Rowland he put he_own with a kiss, and stepped forward with a conscious grin, an unresentfu_dmission that he was sensitive both to chubbiness and ridicule. Rowland bega_o pity him again; he had taken his dismissal from the drawing-room so meekly.
  • "You don't keep your promise," said Rowland, "to come and see me. Don't forge_t. I want you to tell me about Rome thirty years ago."
  • "Thirty years ago? Ah, dear sir, Rome is Rome still; a place where strang_hings happen! But happy things too, since I have your renewed permission t_all. You do me too much honor. Is it in the morning or in the evening that _hould least intrude?"
  • "Take your own time, Cavaliere; only come, sometime. I depend upon you," sai_owland.
  • The Cavaliere thanked him with an humble obeisance. To the Cavaliere, too, h_elt that he was, in Roman phrase, sympathetic, but the idea of pleasing thi_xtremely reduced gentleman was not disagreeable to him.
  • Miss Light's bust stood for a while on exhibition in Roderick's studio, an_alf the foreign colony came to see it. With the completion of his work, however, Roderick's visits at the Palazzo F—— by no means came to an end. H_pent half his time in Mrs. Light's drawing-room, and began to be talked abou_s "attentive" to Christina. The success of the bust restored his equanimity, and in the garrulity of his good-humor he suffered Rowland to see that she wa_ust now the object uppermost in his thoughts. Rowland, when they talked o_er, was rather listener than speaker; partly because Roderick's own tone wa_o resonant and exultant, and partly because, when his companion laughed a_im for having called her unsafe, he was too perplexed to defend himself. Th_mpression remained that she was unsafe; that she was a complex, willful, passionate creature, who might easily engulf a too confiding spirit in th_ddies of her capricious temper. And yet he strongly felt her charm; th_ddies had a strange fascination! Roderick, in the glow of that renewe_dmiration provoked by the fixed attention of portrayal, was never weary o_escanting on the extraordinary perfection of her beauty.
  • "I had no idea of it," he said, "till I began to look at her with an eye t_eproducing line for line and curve for curve. Her face is the most exquisit_iece of modeling that ever came from creative hands. Not a line withou_eaning, not a hair's breadth that is not admirably finished. And then he_outh! It 's as if a pair of lips had been shaped to utter pure truth withou_oing it dishonor!" Later, after he had been working for a week, he declare_f Miss Light were inordinately plain, she would still be the most fascinatin_f women. "I 've quite forgotten her beauty," he said, "or rather I hav_eased to perceive it as something distinct and defined, something independen_f the rest of her. She is all one, and all consummately interesting!"
  • "What does she do—what does she say, that is so remarkable?" Rowland ha_sked.
  • "Say? Sometimes nothing—sometimes everything. She is never the same. Sometime_he walks in and takes her place without a word, without a smile, gravely, stiffly, as if it were an awful bore. She hardly looks at me, and she walk_way without even glancing at my work. On other days she laughs and chatter_nd asks endless questions, and pours out the most irresistible nonsense. Sh_s a creature of moods; you can't count upon her; she keeps observation on th_tretch. And then, bless you, she has seen such a lot! Her talk is full of th_ddest allusions!"
  • "It is altogether a very singular type of young lady," said Rowland, after th_isit which I have related at length. "It may be a charm, but it is certainl_ot the orthodox charm of marriageable maidenhood, the charm of shrinkin_nnocence and soft docility. Our American girls are accused of being mor_nowing than any others, and Miss Light is nominally an American. But it ha_aken twenty years of Europe to make her what she is. The first time we sa_er, I remember you called her a product of the old world, and certainly yo_ere not far wrong."
  • "Ah, she has an atmosphere," said Roderick, in the tone of high appreciation.
  • "Young unmarried women," Rowland answered, "should be careful not to have to_uch!"
  • "Ah, you don't forgive her," cried his companion, "for hitting you so hard! _an ought to be flattered at such a girl as that taking so much notice o_im."
  • "A man is never flattered at a woman's not liking him."
  • "Are you sure she does n't like you? That 's to the credit of your humility. _ellow of more vanity might, on the evidence, persuade himself that he was i_avor."
  • "He would have also," said Rowland, laughing, "to be a fellow of remarkabl_ngenuity!" He asked himself privately how the deuce Roderick reconciled it t_is conscience to think so much more of the girl he was not engaged to than o_he girl he was. But it amounted almost to arrogance, you may say, in poo_owland to pretend to know how often Roderick thought of Miss Garland. H_ondered gloomily, at any rate, whether for men of his companion's large, eas_ower, there was not a larger moral law than for narrow mediocrities lik_imself, who, yielding Nature a meagre interest on her investment (such as i_as), had no reason to expect from her this affectionate laxity as to thei_ccounts. Was it not a part of the eternal fitness of things that Roderick, while rhapsodizing about Miss Light, should have it at his command to look a_ou with eyes of the most guileless and unclouded blue, and to shake off you_usty imputations by a toss of his picturesque brown locks? Or had he, i_act, no conscience to speak of? Happy fellow, either way!
  • Our friend Gloriani came, among others, to congratulate Roderick on his mode_nd what he had made of her. "Devilish pretty, through and through!" he sai_s he looked at the bust. "Capital handling of the neck and throat; lovel_ork on the nose. You 're a detestably lucky fellow, my boy! But you ought no_o have squandered such material on a simple bust; you should have made _reat imaginative figure. If I could only have got hold of her, I would hav_ut her into a statue in spite of herself. What a pity she is not a ragge_rasteverine, whom we might have for a franc an hour! I have been carryin_bout in my head for years a delicious design for a fantastic figure, but i_as always stayed there for want of a tolerable model. I have seen intimation_f the type, but Miss Light is the perfection of it. As soon as I saw her _aid to myself, 'By Jove, there 's my statue in the flesh!'"
  • "What is your subject?" asked Roderick.
  • "Don't take it ill," said Gloriani. "You know I 'm the very deuce fo_bservation. She would make a magnificent Herodias!"
  • If Roderick had taken it ill (which was unlikely, for we know he though_loriani an ass, and expected little of his wisdom), he might have bee_oothed by the candid incense of Sam Singleton, who came and sat for an hou_n a sort of mental prostration before both bust and artist. But Roderick'_ttitude before his patient little devotee was one of undisguised thoug_riendly amusement; and, indeed, judged from a strictly plastic point of view, the poor fellow's diminutive stature, his enormous mouth, his pimples and hi_ellow hair were sufficiently ridiculous. "Nay, don't envy our friend,"
  • Rowland said to Singleton afterwards, on his expressing, with a little groa_f depreciation of his own paltry performances, his sense of the brilliancy o_oderick's talent. "You sail nearer the shore, but you sail in smoothe_aters. Be contented with what you are and paint me another picture."
  • "Oh, I don't envy Hudson anything he possesses," Singleton said, "because t_ake anything away would spoil his beautiful completeness. 'Complete,' that '_hat he is; while we little clevernesses are like half-ripened plums, onl_ood eating on the side that has had a glimpse of the sun. Nature has made hi_o, and fortune confesses to it! He is the handsomest fellow in Rome, he ha_he most genius, and, as a matter of course, the most beautiful girl in th_orld comes and offers to be his model. If that is not completeness, wher_hall we find it?"
  • One morning, going into Roderick's studio, Rowland found the young sculpto_ntertaining Miss Blanchard—if this is not too flattering a description of hi_racefully passive tolerance of her presence. He had never liked her and neve_limbed into her sky-studio to observe her wonderful manipulation of petals.
  • He had once quoted Tennyson against her:—
  • "And is there any moral shut Within the bosom of the rose?"
  • "In all Miss Blanchard's roses you may be sure there is a moral," he had said.
  • "You can see it sticking out its head, and, if you go to smell the flower, i_cratches your nose." But on this occasion she had come with a propitiator_ift—introducing her friend Mr. Leavenworth. Mr. Leavenworth was a tall, expansive, bland gentleman, with a carefully brushed whisker and a spacious, fair, well-favored face, which seemed, somehow, to have more room in it tha_as occupied by a smile of superior benevolence, so that (with his smooth, white forehead) it bore a certain resemblance to a large parlor with a ver_lorid carpet, but no pictures on the walls. He held his head high, talke_onorously, and told Roderick, within five minutes, that he was a widower, traveling to distract his mind, and that he had lately retired from th_roprietorship of large mines of borax in Pennsylvania. Roderick supposed a_irst that, in his character of depressed widower, he had come to order _ombstone; but observing then the extreme blandness of his address to Mis_lanchard, he credited him with a judicious prevision that by the time th_ombstone was completed, a monument of his inconsolability might have becom_n anachronism. But Mr. Leavenworth was disposed to order something.
  • "You will find me eager to patronize our indigenous talent," he said. "I a_utting up a little shanty in my native town, and I propose to make a rathe_ice thing of it. It has been the will of Heaven to plunge me into mourning; but art has consolations! In a tasteful home, surrounded by the memorials o_y wanderings, I hope to take more cheerful views. I ordered in Paris th_omplete appurtenances of a dining-room. Do you think you could do somethin_or my library? It is to be filled with well-selected authors, and I think _ure white image in this style,"—pointing to one of Roderick'_tatues,—"standing out against the morocco and gilt, would have a nobl_ffect. The subject I have already fixed upon. I desire an allegorica_epresentation of Culture. Do you think, now," asked Mr. Leavenworth, encouragingly, "you could rise to the conception?"
  • "A most interesting subject for a truly serious mind," remarked Mis_lanchard.
  • Roderick looked at her a moment, and then—"The simplest thing I could do," h_aid, "would be to make a full-length portrait of Miss Blanchard. I could giv_er a scroll in her hand, and that would do for the allegory."
  • Miss Blanchard colored; the compliment might be ironical; and there was eve_fterwards a reflection of her uncertainty in her opinion of Roderick'_enius. Mr. Leavenworth responded that with all deference to Miss Blanchard'_eauty, he desired something colder, more monumental, more impersonal. "If _ere to be the happy possessor of a likeness of Miss Blanchard," he added, "_hould prefer to have it in no factitious disguise!"
  • Roderick consented to entertain the proposal, and while they were discussin_t, Rowland had a little talk with the fair artist. "Who is your friend?" h_sked.
  • "A very worthy man. The architect of his own fortune—which is magnificent. On_f nature's gentlemen!"
  • This was a trifle sententious, and Rowland turned to the bust of Miss Light.
  • Like every one else in Rome, by this time, Miss Blanchard had an opinion o_he young girl's beauty, and, in her own fashion, she expressed i_pigrammatically. "She looks half like a Madonna and half like a ballerina,"
  • she said.
  • Mr. Leavenworth and Roderick came to an understanding, and the young sculpto_ood-naturedly promised to do his best to rise to his patron's conception.
  • "His conception be hanged!" Roderick exclaimed, after he had departed. "Hi_onception is sitting on a globe with a pen in her ear and a photographi_lbum in her hand. I shall have to conceive, myself. For the money, I ought t_e able to!"
  • Mrs. Light, meanwhile, had fairly established herself in Roman society.
  • "Heaven knows how!" Madame Grandoni said to Rowland, who had mentioned to he_everal evidences of the lady's prosperity. "In such a case there is nothin_ike audacity. A month ago she knew no one but her washerwoman, and now I a_old that the cards of Roman princesses are to be seen on her table. She i_vidently determined to play a great part, and she has the wit to perceiv_hat, to make remunerative acquaintances, you must seem yourself to be wort_nowing. You must have striking rooms and a confusing variety of dresses, an_ive good dinners, and so forth. She is spending a lot of money, and you 'l_ee that in two or three weeks she will take upon herself to open the seaso_y giving a magnificent ball. Of course it is Christina's beauty that float_er. People go to see her because they are curious."
  • "And they go again because they are charmed," said Rowland. "Miss Christina i_ very remarkable young lady."
  • "Oh, I know it well; I had occasion to say so to myself the other day. Sh_ame to see me, of her own free will, and for an hour she was deepl_nteresting. I think she 's an actress, but she believes in her part while sh_s playing it. She took it into her head the other day to believe that she wa_ery unhappy, and she sat there, where you are sitting, and told me a tale o_er miseries which brought tears into my eyes. She cried, herself, profusely, and as naturally as possible. She said she was weary of life and that she kne_o one but me she could speak frankly to. She must speak, or she would go mad.
  • She sobbed as if her heart would break. I assure you it 's well for yo_usceptible young men that you don't see her when she sobs. She said, in s_any words, that her mother was an immoral woman. Heaven knows what she meant.
  • She meant, I suppose, that she makes debts that she knows she can't pay. Sh_aid the life they led was horrible; that it was monstrous a poor girl shoul_e dragged about the world to be sold to the highest bidder. She was meant fo_etter things; she could be perfectly happy in poverty. It was not money sh_anted. I might not believe her, but she really cared for serious things.
  • Sometimes she thought of taking poison!"
  • "What did you say to that?"
  • "I recommended her," said Madame Grandoni, "to come and see me instead. _ould help her about as much, and I was, on the whole, less unpleasant. O_ourse I could help her only by letting her talk herself out and kissing he_nd patting her beautiful hands and telling her to be patient and she would b_appy yet. About once in two months I expect her to reappear, on the sam_rrand, and meanwhile to quite forget my existence. I believe I melted down t_he point of telling her that I would find some good, quiet, affectionat_usband for her; but she declared, almost with fury, that she was sick unt_eath of husbands, and begged I would never again mention the word. And, i_act, it was a rash offer; for I am sure that there is not a man of the kin_hat might really make a woman happy but would be afraid to marr_ademoiselle. Looked at in that way she is certainly very much to be pitied, and indeed, altogether, though I don't think she either means all she says or, by a great deal, says all that she means. I feel very sorry for her."
  • Rowland met the two ladies, about this time, at several entertainments, an_ooked at Christina with a kind of distant attendrissement. He imagined mor_han once that there had been a passionate scene between them about comin_ut, and wondered what arguments Mrs. Light had found effective. Bu_hristina's face told no tales, and she moved about, beautiful and silent, looking absently over people's heads, barely heeding the men who pressed abou_er, and suggesting somehow that the soul of a world-wearied mortal had foun_ts way into the blooming body of a goddess. "Where in the world has Mis_ight been before she is twenty," observers asked, "to have left all he_llusions behind?" And the general verdict was, that though she wa_ncomparably beautiful, she was intolerably proud. Young ladies to whom th_ormer distinction was not conceded were free to reflect that she was "not a_ll liked."
  • It would have been difficult to guess, however, how they reconciled thi_onviction with a variety of conflicting evidence, and, in especial, with th_pectacle of Roderick's inveterate devotion. All Rome might behold that he, a_east, "liked" Christina Light. Wherever she appeared he was either awaitin_er or immediately followed her. He was perpetually at her side, trying, apparently, to preserve the thread of a disconnected talk, the fate of whic_as, to judge by her face, profoundly immaterial to the young lady. People i_eneral smiled at the radiant good faith of the handsome young sculptor, an_sked each other whether he really supposed that beauties of that quality wer_eant to wed with poor artists. But although Christina's deportment, as I hav_aid, was one of superb inexpressiveness, Rowland had derived from Roderick n_uspicion that he suffered from snubbing, and he was therefore surprised at a_ncident which befell one evening at a large musical party. Roderick, a_sual, was in the field, and, on the ladies taking the chairs which had bee_rranged for them, he immediately placed himself beside Christina. As most o_he gentlemen were standing, his position made him as conspicuous as Hamlet a_phelia's feet, at the play. Rowland was leaning, somewhat apart, against th_himney-piece. There was a long, solemn pause before the music began, and i_he midst of it Christina rose, left her place, came the whole length of th_mmense room, with every one looking at her, and stopped before him. She wa_either pale nor flushed; she had a soft smile.
  • "Will you do me a favor?" she asked.
  • "A thousand!"
  • "Not now, but at your earliest convenience. Please remind Mr. Hudson that h_s not in a New England village—that it is not the custom in Rome to addres_ne's conversation exclusively, night after night, to the same poor girl, an_hat"… .
  • The music broke out with a great blare and covered her voice. She made _esture of impatience, and Rowland offered her his arm and led her back to he_eat.
  • The next day he repeated her words to Roderick, who burst into joyou_aughter. "She 's a delightfully strange girl!" he cried. "She must d_verything that comes into her head!"
  • "Had she never asked you before not to talk to her so much?"
  • "On the contrary, she has often said to me, 'Mind you now, I forbid you t_eave me. Here comes that tiresome So-and-so.' She cares as little about th_ustom as I do. What could be a better proof than her walking up to you, wit_ive hundred people looking at her? Is that the custom for young girls i_ome?"
  • "Why, then, should she take such a step?"
  • "Because, as she sat there, it came into her head. That 's reason enough fo_er. I have imagined she wishes me well, as they say here—though she has neve_istinguished me in such a way as that!"
  • Madame Grandoni had foretold the truth; Mrs. Light, a couple of weeks later, convoked all Roman society to a brilliant ball. Rowland went late, and foun_he staircase so encumbered with flower-pots and servants that he was a lon_ime making his way into the presence of the hostess. At last he approache_er, as she stood making courtesies at the door, with her daughter by he_ide. Some of Mrs. Light's courtesies were very low, for she had the happines_f receiving a number of the social potentates of the Roman world. She wa_osy with triumph, to say nothing of a less metaphysical cause, and wa_vidently vastly contented with herself, with her company, and with th_eneral promise of destiny. Her daughter was less overtly jubilant, an_istributed her greetings with impartial frigidity. She had never been s_eautiful. Dressed simply in vaporous white, relieved with half a dozen whit_oses, the perfection of her features and of her person and the mysteriou_epth of her expression seemed to glow with the white light of a splendi_earl. She recognized no one individually, and made her courtesy slowly, gravely, with her eyes on the ground. Rowland fancied that, as he stood befor_er, her obeisance was slightly exaggerated, as with an intention of irony; but he smiled philosophically to himself, and reflected, as he passed into th_oom, that, if she disliked him, he had nothing to reproach himself with. H_alked about, had a few words with Miss Blanchard, who, with a fillet o_ameos in her hair, was leaning on the arm of Mr. Leavenworth, and at las_ame upon the Cavaliere Giacosa, modestly stationed in a corner. The littl_entleman's coat-lappet was decorated with an enormous bouquet and his nec_ncased in a voluminous white handkerchief of the fashion of thirty years ago.
  • His arms were folded, and he was surveying the scene with contracted eyelids, through which you saw the glitter of his intensely dark, vivacious pupil. H_mmediately embarked on an elaborate apology for not having yet manifested, a_e felt it, his sense of the honor Rowland had done him.
  • "I am always on service with these ladies, you see," he explained, "and tha_s a duty to which one would not willingly be faithless for an instant."
  • "Evidently," said Rowland, "you are a very devoted friend. Mrs. Light, in he_ituation, is very happy in having you."
  • "We are old friends," said the Cavaliere, gravely. "Old friends. I knew th_ignora many years ago, when she was the prettiest woman in Rome—or rather i_ncona, which is even better. The beautiful Christina, now, is perhaps th_ost beautiful young girl in Europe!"
  • "Very likely," said Rowland.
  • "Very well, sir, I taught her to read; I guided her little hands to touch th_iano keys." And at these faded memories, the Cavaliere's eyes glittered mor_rightly. Rowland half expected him to proceed, with a little flash of long- repressed passion, "And now—and now, sir, they treat me as you observed th_ther day!" But the Cavaliere only looked out at him keenly from among hi_rinkles, and seemed to say, with all the vividness of the Italian glance,
  • "Oh, I say nothing more. I am not so shallow as to complain!"
  • Evidently the Cavaliere was not shallow, and Rowland repeated respectfully,
  • "You are a devoted friend."
  • "That 's very true. I am a devoted friend. A man may do himself justice, afte_wenty years!"
  • Rowland, after a pause, made some remark about the beauty of the ball. It wa_ery brilliant.
  • "Stupendous!" said the Cavaliere, solemnly. "It is a great day. We have fou_oman princes, to say nothing of others." And he counted them over on hi_ingers and held up his hand triumphantly. "And there she stands, the girl t_hom I—I, Giuseppe Giacosa—taught her alphabet and her piano-scales; there sh_tands in her incomparable beauty, and Roman princes come and bow to her.
  • Here, in his corner, her old master permits himself to be proud."
  • "It is very friendly of him," said Rowland, smiling.
  • The Cavaliere contracted his lids a little more and gave another keen glance.
  • "It is very natural, signore. The Christina is a good girl; she remembers m_ittle services. But here comes," he added in a moment, "the young Prince o_he Fine Arts. I am sure he has bowed lowest of all."
  • Rowland looked round and saw Roderick moving slowly across the room an_asting about him his usual luminous, unshrinking looks. He presently joine_hem, nodded familiarly to the Cavaliere, and immediately demanded of Rowland,
  • "Have you seen her?"
  • "I have seen Miss Light," said Rowland. "She 's magnificent."
  • "I 'm half crazy!" cried Roderick; so loud that several persons turned round.
  • Rowland saw that he was flushed, and laid his hand on his arm. Roderick wa_rembling. "If you will go away," Rowland said instantly, "I will go wit_ou."
  • "Go away?" cried Roderick, almost angrily. "I intend to dance with her!"
  • The Cavaliere had been watching him attentively; he gently laid his hand o_is other arm. "Softly, softly, dear young man," he said. "Let me speak to yo_s a friend."
  • "Oh, speak even as an enemy and I shall not mind it," Roderick answered, frowning.
  • "Be very reasonable, then, and go away."
  • "Why the deuce should I go away?"
  • "Because you are in love," said the Cavaliere.
  • "I might as well be in love here as in the streets."
  • "Carry your love as far as possible from Christina. She will not listen t_ou—she can't."
  • "She 'can't'?" demanded Roderick. "She is not a person of whom you may sa_hat. She can if she will; she does as she chooses."
  • "Up to a certain point. It would take too long to explain; I only beg you t_elieve that if you continue to love Miss Light you will be very unhappy. Hav_ou a princely title? have you a princely fortune? Otherwise you can neve_ave her."
  • And the Cavaliere folded his arms again, like a man who has done his duty.
  • Roderick wiped his forehead and looked askance at Rowland; he seemed to b_uessing his thoughts and they made him blush a little. But he smiled blandly, and addressing the Cavaliere, "I 'm much obliged to you for the information,"
  • he said. "Now that I have obtained it, let me tell you that I am no more i_ove with Miss Light than you are. Mr. Mallet knows that. I admire her—yes, profoundly. But that 's no one's business but my own, and though I have, a_ou say, neither a princely title nor a princely fortune, I mean to suffe_either those advantages nor those who possess them to diminish my right."
  • "If you are not in love, my dear young man," said the Cavaliere, with his han_n his heart and an apologetic smile, "so much the better. But let me entrea_ou, as an affectionate friend, to keep a watch on your emotions. You ar_oung, you are handsome, you have a brilliant genius and a generous heart, but—I may say it almost with authority—Christina is not for you!"
  • Whether Roderick was in love or not, he was nettled by what apparently seeme_o him an obtrusive negation of an inspiring possibility. "You speak as if sh_ad made her choice!" he cried. "Without pretending to confidentia_nformation on the subject, I am sure she has not."
  • "No, but she must make it soon," said the Cavaliere. And raising hi_orefinger, he laid it against his under lip. "She must choose a name and _ortune—and she will!"
  • "She will do exactly as her inclination prompts! She will marry the man wh_leases her, if he has n't a dollar! I know her better than you."
  • The Cavaliere turned a little paler than usual, and smiled more urbanely. "No, no, my dear young man, you do not know her better than I. You have not watche_er, day by day, for twenty years. I too have admired her. She is a good girl; she has never said an unkind word to me; the blessed Virgin be thanked! Bu_he must have a brilliant destiny; it has been marked out for her, and sh_ill submit. You had better believe me; it may save you much suffering."
  • "We shall see!" said Roderick, with an excited laugh.
  • "Certainly we shall see. But I retire from the discussion," the Cavalier_dded. "I have no wish to provoke you to attempt to prove to me that I a_rong. You are already excited."
  • "No more than is natural to a man who in an hour or so is to dance th_otillon with Miss Light."
  • "The cotillon? has she promised?"
  • Roderick patted the air with a grand confidence. "You 'll see!" His gestur_ight almost have been taken to mean that the state of his relations with Mis_ight was such that they quite dispensed with vain formalities.
  • The Cavaliere gave an exaggerated shrug. "You make a great many mourners!"
  • "He has made one already!" Rowland murmured to himself. This was evidently no_he first time that reference had been made between Roderick and the Cavalier_o the young man's possible passion, and Roderick had failed to consider i_he simplest and most natural course to say in three words to the vigilan_ittle gentleman that there was no cause for alarm—his affections wer_reoccupied. Rowland hoped, silently, with some dryness, that his motives wer_f a finer kind than they seemed to be. He turned away; it was irritating t_ook at Roderick's radiant, unscrupulous eagerness. The tide was settin_oward the supper-room and he drifted with it to the door. The crowd at thi_oint was dense, and he was obliged to wait for some minutes before he coul_dvance. At last he felt his neighbors dividing behind him, and turning he sa_hristina pressing her way forward alone. She was looking at no one, and, sav_or the fact of her being alone, you would not have supposed she was in he_other's house. As she recognized Rowland she beckoned to him, took his arm, and motioned him to lead her into the supper-room. She said nothing until h_ad forced a passage and they stood somewhat isolated.
  • "Take me into the most out-of-the-way corner you can find," she then said,
  • "and then go and get me a piece of bread."
  • "Nothing more? There seems to be everything conceivable."
  • "A simple roll. Nothing more, on your peril. Only bring something fo_ourself."
  • It seemed to Rowland that the embrasure of a window (embrasures in Roma_alaces are deep) was a retreat sufficiently obscure for Miss Light to execut_hatever design she might have contrived against his equanimity. A roll, afte_e had found her a seat, was easily procured. As he presented it, he remarke_hat, frankly speaking, he was at loss to understand why she should hav_elected for the honor of a tete-a-tete an individual for whom she had s_ittle taste.
  • "Ah yes, I dislike you," said Christina. "To tell the truth, I had forgotte_t. There are so many people here whom I dislike more, that when I espied yo_ust now, you seemed like an intimate friend. But I have not come into thi_orner to talk nonsense," she went on. "You must not think I always do, eh?"
  • "I have never heard you do anything else," said Rowland, deliberately, havin_ecided that he owed her no compliments.
  • "Very good. I like your frankness. It 's quite true. You see, I am a strang_irl. To begin with, I am frightfully egotistical. Don't flatter yourself yo_ave said anything very clever if you ever take it into your head to tell m_o. I know it much better than you. So it is, I can't help it. I am tired t_eath of myself; I would give all I possess to get out of myself; but somehow, at the end, I find myself so vastly more interesting than nine tenths of th_eople I meet. If a person wished to do me a favor I would say to him, 'I be_ou, with tears in my eyes, to interest me. Be strong, be positive, b_mperious, if you will; only be something,—something that, in looking at, _an forget my detestable self!' Perhaps that is nonsense too. If it is, _an't help it. I can only apologize for the nonsense I know to be such an_hat I talk—oh, for more reasons than I can tell you! I wonder whether, if _ere to try, you would understand me."
  • "I am afraid I should never understand," said Rowland, "why a person shoul_illingly talk nonsense."
  • "That proves how little you know about women. But I like your frankness. Whe_ told you the other day that you displeased me, I had an idea you were mor_ormal,—how do you say it?—more guinde. I am very capricious. To-night I lik_ou better."
  • "Oh, I am not guinde," said Rowland, gravely.
  • "I beg your pardon, then, for thinking so. Now I have an idea that you woul_ake a useful friend—an intimate friend—a friend to whom one could tel_verything. For such a friend, what would n't I give!"
  • Rowland looked at her in some perplexity. Was this touching sincerity, o_nfathomable coquetry? Her beautiful eyes looked divinely candid; but then, i_andor was beautiful, beauty was apt to be subtle. "I hesitate to recommen_yself out and out for the office," he said, "but I believe that if you wer_o depend upon me for anything that a friend may do, I should not be foun_anting."
  • "Very good. One of the first things one asks of a friend is to judge one no_y isolated acts, but by one's whole conduct. I care for your opinion—I don'_now why."
  • "Nor do I, I confess," said Rowland with a laugh.
  • "What do you think of this affair?" she continued, without heeding his laugh.
  • "Of your ball? Why, it 's a very grand affair."
  • "It 's horrible—that 's what it is! It 's a mere rabble! There are people her_hom I never saw before, people who were never asked. Mamma went abou_nviting every one, asking other people to invite any one they knew, doin_nything to have a crowd. I hope she is satisfied! It is not my doing. I fee_eary, I feel angry, I feel like crying. I have twenty minds to escape into m_oom and lock the door and let mamma go through with it as she can. By th_ay," she added in a moment, without a visible reason for the transition, "ca_ou tell me something to read?"
  • Rowland stared, at the disconnectedness of the question.
  • "Can you recommend me some books?" she repeated. "I know you are a grea_eader. I have no one else to ask. We can buy no books. We can make debts fo_ewelry and bonnets and five-button gloves, but we can't spend a sou fo_deas. And yet, though you may not believe it, I like ideas quite as well."
  • "I shall be most happy to lend you some books," Rowland said. "I will pic_ome out to-morrow and send them to you."
  • "No novels, please! I am tired of novels. I can imagine better stories fo_yself than any I read. Some good poetry, if there is such a thing nowadays, and some memoirs and histories and books of facts."
  • "You shall be served. Your taste agrees with my own."
  • She was silent a moment, looking at him. Then suddenly—"Tell me somethin_bout Mr. Hudson," she demanded. "You are great friends!"
  • "Oh yes," said Rowland; "we are great friends."
  • "Tell me about him. Come, begin!"
  • "Where shall I begin? You know him for yourself."
  • "No, I don't know him; I don't find him so easy to know. Since he has finishe_y bust and begun to come here disinterestedly, he has become a great talker.
  • He says very fine things; but does he mean all he says?"
  • "Few of us do that."
  • "You do, I imagine. You ought to know, for he tells me you discovered him."
  • Rowland was silent, and Christina continued, "Do you consider him ver_lever?"
  • "Unquestionably."
  • "His talent is really something out of the common way?"
  • "So it seems to me."
  • "In short, he 's a man of genius?"
  • "Yes, call it genius."
  • "And you found him vegetating in a little village and took him by the hand an_et him on his feet in Rome?"
  • "Is that the popular legend?" asked Rowland.
  • "Oh, you need n't be modest. There was no great merit in it; there would hav_een none at least on my part in the same circumstances. Real geniuses are no_o common, and if I had discovered one in the wilderness, I would have brough_im out into the market-place to see how he would behave. It would b_xcessively amusing. You must find it so to watch Mr. Hudson, eh? Tell m_his: do you think he is going to be a great man—become famous, have his lif_ritten, and all that?"
  • "I don't prophesy, but I have good hopes."
  • Christina was silent. She stretched out her bare arm and looked at it a momen_bsently, turning it so as to see—or almost to see—the dimple in her elbow.
  • This was apparently a frequent gesture with her; Rowland had already observe_t. It was as coolly and naturally done as if she had been in her room alone.
  • "So he 's a man of genius," she suddenly resumed. "Don't you think I ought t_e extremely flattered to have a man of genius perpetually hanging about? H_s the first I ever saw, but I should have known he was not a common mortal.
  • There is something strange about him. To begin with, he has no manners. Yo_ay say that it 's not for me to blame him, for I have none myself. That '_ery true, but the difference is that I can have them when I wish to (and ver_harming ones too; I 'll show you some day); whereas Mr. Hudson will neve_ave them. And yet, somehow, one sees he 's a gentleman. He seems to hav_omething urging, driving, pushing him, making him restless and defiant. Yo_ee it in his eyes. They are the finest, by the way, I ever saw. When a perso_as such eyes as that you can forgive him his bad manners. I suppose that i_hat they call the sacred fire."
  • Rowland made no answer except to ask her in a moment if she would have anothe_oll. She merely shook her head and went on:—
  • "Tell me how you found him. Where was he—how was he?"
  • "He was in a place called Northampton. Did you ever hear of it? He wa_tudying law—but not learning it."
  • "It appears it was something horrible, eh?"
  • "Something horrible?"
  • "This little village. No society, no pleasures, no beauty, no life."
  • "You have received a false impression. Northampton is not as gay as Rome, bu_oderick had some charming friends."
  • "Tell me about them. Who were they?"
  • "Well, there was my cousin, through whom I made his acquaintance: a delightfu_oman."
  • "Young—pretty?"
  • "Yes, a good deal of both. And very clever."
  • "Did he make love to her?"
  • "Not in the least."
  • "Well, who else?"
  • "He lived with his mother. She is the best of women."
  • "Ah yes, I know all that one's mother is. But she does not count as society.
  • And who else?"
  • Rowland hesitated. He wondered whether Christina's insistence was the resul_f a general interest in Roderick's antecedents or of a particular suspicion.
  • He looked at her; she was looking at him a little askance, waiting for hi_nswer. As Roderick had said nothing about his engagement to the Cavaliere, i_as probable that with this beautiful girl he had not been more explicit. An_et the thing was announced, it was public; that other girl was happy in it, proud of it. Rowland felt a kind of dumb anger rising in his heart. H_eliberated a moment intently.
  • "What are you frowning at?" Christina asked.
  • "There was another person," he answered, "the most important of all: the youn_irl to whom he is engaged."
  • Christina stared a moment, raising her eyebrows. "Ah, Mr. Hudson is engaged?"
  • she said, very simply. "Is she pretty?"
  • "She is not called a beauty," said Rowland. He meant to practice grea_revity, but in a moment he added, "I have seen beauties, however, who please_e less."
  • "Ah, she pleases you, too? Why don't they marry?"
  • "Roderick is waiting till he can afford to marry."
  • Christina slowly put out her arm again and looked at the dimple in her elbow.
  • "Ah, he 's engaged?" she repeated in the same tone. "He never told me."
  • Rowland perceived at this moment that the people about them were beginning t_eturn to the dancing-room, and immediately afterwards he saw Roderick makin_is way toward themselves. Roderick presented himself before Miss Light.
  • "I don't claim that you have promised me the cotillon," he said, "but _onsider that you have given me hopes which warrant the confidence that yo_ill dance with me."
  • Christina looked at him a moment. "Certainly I have made no promises," sh_aid. "It seemed to me that, as the daughter of the house, I should kee_yself free and let it depend on circumstances."
  • "I beseech you to dance with me!" said Roderick, with vehemence.
  • Christina rose and began to laugh. "You say that very well, but the Italian_o it better."
  • This assertion seemed likely to be put to the proof. Mrs. Light hastil_pproached, leading, rather than led by, a tall, slim young man, of a_nmistakably Southern physiognomy. "My precious love," she cried, "what _lace to hide in! We have been looking for you for twenty minutes; I hav_hosen a cavalier for you, and chosen well!"
  • The young man disengaged himself, made a ceremonious bow, joined his tw_ands, and murmured with an ecstatic smile, "May I venture to hope, dea_ignorina, for the honor of your hand?"
  • "Of course you may!" said Mrs. Light. "The honor is for us."
  • Christina hesitated but for a moment, then swept the young man a courtesy a_rofound as his own bow. "You are very kind, but you are too late. I have jus_ccepted!"
  • "Ah, my own darling!" murmured—almost moaned—Mrs. Light.
  • Christina and Roderick exchanged a single glance—a glance brilliant on bot_ides. She passed her hand into his arm; he tossed his clustering locks an_ed her away.
  • A short time afterwards Rowland saw the young man whom she had rejecte_eaning against a doorway. He was ugly, but what is called distinguished- looking. He had a heavy black eye, a sallow complexion, a long, thin neck; hi_air was cropped en brosse. He looked very young, yet extremely bored. He wa_taring at the ceiling and stroking an imperceptible moustache. Rowland espie_he Cavaliere Giacosa hard by, and, having joined him, asked him the youn_an's name.
  • "Oh," said the Cavaliere, "he 's a pezzo grosso! A Neapolitan. Princ_asamassima."