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,"
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.
"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?"
"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?"
"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."
"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."