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Chapter 7 Saint Cecilia's

  • Rowland went often to the Coliseum; he never wearied of it. One morning, abou_ month after his return from Frascati, as he was strolling across the vas_rena, he observed a young woman seated on one of the fragments of stone whic_re ranged along the line of the ancient parapet. It seemed to him that he ha_een her before, but he was unable to localize her face. Passing her again, h_erceived that one of the little red-legged French soldiers at that time o_uard there had approached her and was gallantly making himself agreeable. Sh_miled brilliantly, and Rowland recognized the smile (it had always please_im) of a certain comely Assunta, who sometimes opened the door for Mrs.
  • Light's visitors. He wondered what she was doing alone in the Coliseum, an_onjectured that Assunta had admirers as well as her young mistress, but that, being without the same domiciliary conveniencies, she was using this massiv_eritage of her Latin ancestors as a boudoir. In other words, she had a_ppointment with her lover, who had better, from present appearances, b_unctual. It was a long time since Rowland had ascended to the ruinous uppe_iers of the great circus, and, as the day was radiant and the distant view_romised to be particularly clear, he determined to give himself the pleasure.
  • The custodian unlocked the great wooden wicket, and he climbed through th_inding shafts, where the eager Roman crowds had billowed and trampled, no_ausing till he reached the highest accessible point of the ruin. The view_ere as fine as he had supposed; the lights on the Sabine Mountains had neve_een more lovely. He gazed to his satisfaction and retraced his steps. In _oment he paused again on an abutment somewhat lower, from which the glanc_ropped dizzily into the interior. There are chance anfractuosities of ruin i_he upper portions of the Coliseum which offer a very fair imitation of th_ugged face of an Alpine cliff. In those days a multitude of delicate flower_nd sprays of wild herbage had found a friendly soil in the hoary crevices, and they bloomed and nodded amid the antique masonry as freely as they woul_ave done in the virgin rock. Rowland was turning away, when he heard a soun_f voices rising up from below. He had but to step slightly forward to fin_imself overlooking two persons who had seated themselves on a narrow ledge, in a sunny corner. They had apparently had an eye to extreme privacy, but the_ad not observed that their position was commanded by Rowland's stand-point.
  • One of these airy adventurers was a lady, thickly veiled, so that, even if h_ad not been standing directly above her, Rowland could not have seen he_ace. The other was a young man, whose face was also invisible, but who, a_owland stood there, gave a toss of his clustering locks which was equivalen_o the signature—Roderick Hudson. A moment's reflection, hereupon, satisfie_im of the identity of the lady. He had been unjust to poor Assunta, sittin_atient in the gloomy arena; she had not come on her own errand. Rowland'_iscoveries made him hesitate. Should he retire as noiselessly as possible, o_hould he call out a friendly good morning? While he was debating th_uestion, he found himself distinctly hearing his friends' words. They were o_uch a nature as to make him unwilling to retreat, and yet to make it awkwar_o be discovered in a position where it would be apparent that he had hear_hem.
  • "If what you say is true," said Christina, with her usual sof_eliberateness—it made her words rise with peculiar distinctness to Rowland'_ar—"you are simply weak. I am sorry! I hoped—I really believed—you were not."
  • "No, I am not weak," answered Roderick, with vehemence; "I maintain that I a_ot weak! I am incomplete, perhaps; but I can't help that. Weakness is a man'_wn fault!"
  • "Incomplete, then!" said Christina, with a laugh. "It 's the same thing, s_ong as it keeps you from splendid achievement. Is it written, then, that _hall really never know what I have so often dreamed of?"
  • "What have you dreamed of?"
  • "A man whom I can perfectly respect!" cried the young girl, with a sudde_lame. "A man, at least, whom I can unrestrictedly admire. I meet one, as _ave met more than one before, whom I fondly believe to be cast in a large_ould than most of the vile human breed, to be large in character, great i_alent, strong in will! In such a man as that, I say, one's weary imaginatio_t last may rest; or it may wander if it will, yet never need to wander fa_rom the deeps where one's heart is anchored. When I first knew you, I gave n_ign, but you had struck me. I observed you, as women observe, and I fancie_ou had the sacred fire."
  • "Before heaven, I believe I have!" cried Roderick.
  • "Ah, but so little! It flickers and trembles and sputters; it goes out, yo_ell me, for whole weeks together. From your own account, it 's ten to on_hat in the long run you 're a failure."
  • "I say those things sometimes myself, but when I hear you say them they mak_e feel as if I could work twenty years at a sitting, on purpose to refut_ou!"
  • "Ah, the man who is strong with what I call strength," Christina replied,
  • "would neither rise nor fall by anything I could say! I am a poor, weak woman; I have no strength myself, and I can give no strength. I am a miserable medle_f vanity and folly. I am silly, I am ignorant, I am affected, I am false. _m the fruit of a horrible education, sown on a worthless soil. I am all that, and yet I believe I have one merit! I should know a great character when I sa_t, and I should delight in it with a generosity which would do somethin_oward the remission of my sins. For a man who should really give me a certai_eeling—which I have never had, but which I should know when it came—I woul_end Prince Casamassima and his millions to perdition. I don't know what yo_hink of me for saying all this; I suppose we have not climbed up here unde_he skies to play propriety. Why have you been at such pains to assure me, after all, that you are a little man and not a great one, a weak one and not _trong? I innocently imagined that your eyes declared you were strong. Bu_our voice condemns you; I always wondered at it; it 's not the voice of _onqueror!"
  • "Give me something to conquer," cried Roderick, "and when I say that I than_ou from my soul, my voice, whatever you think of it, shall speak the truth!"
  • Christina for a moment said nothing. Rowland was too interested to think o_oving. "You pretend to such devotion," she went on, "and yet I am sure yo_ave never really chosen between me and that person in America."
  • "Do me the favor not to speak of her," said Roderick, imploringly.
  • "Why not? I say no ill of her, and I think all kinds of good. I am certain sh_s a far better girl than I, and far more likely to make you happy."
  • "This is happiness, this present, palpable moment," said Roderick; "though yo_ave such a genius for saying the things that torture me!"
  • "It 's greater happiness than you deserve, then! You have never chosen, I say; you have been afraid to choose. You have never really faced the fact that yo_re false, that you have broken your faith. You have never looked at it an_een that it was hideous, and yet said, 'No matter, I 'll brave the penalty, I
  • 'll bear the shame!' You have closed your eyes; you have tried to stifl_emembrance, to persuade yourself that you were not behaving as badly as yo_eemed to be, and there would be some way, after all, of compassing bliss an_et escaping trouble. You have faltered and drifted, you have gone on fro_ccident to accident, and I am sure that at this present moment you can't tel_hat it is you really desire!"
  • Roderick was sitting with his knees drawn up and bent, and his hands clapse_round his legs. He bent his head and rested his forehead on his knees.
  • Christina went on with a sort of infernal calmness: "I believe that, really, you don't greatly care for your friend in America any more than you do for me.
  • You are one of the men who care only for themselves and for what they can mak_f themselves. That 's very well when they can make something great, and _ould interest myself in a man of extraordinary power who should wish to tur_ll his passions to account. But if the power should turn out to be, afte_ll, rather ordinary? Fancy feeling one's self ground in the mill of a third- rate talent! If you have doubts about yourself, I can't reassure you; I hav_oo many doubts myself, about everything in this weary world. You have gone u_ike a rocket, in your profession, they tell me; are you going to come dow_ike the stick? I don't pretend to know; I repeat frankly what I have sai_efore—that all modern sculpture seems to me weak, and that the only things _are for are some of the most battered of the antiques of the Vatican. No, no, I can't reassure you; and when you tell me—with a confidence in my discretio_f which, certainly, I am duly sensible—that at times you feel terribly small, why, I can only answer, 'Ah, then, my poor friend, I am afraid you are small.'
  • The language I should like to hear, from a certain person, would be th_anguage of absolute decision."
  • Roderick raised his head, but he said nothing; he seemed to be exchanging _ong glance with his companion. The result of it was to make him fling himsel_ack with an inarticulate murmur. Rowland, admonished by the silence, was o_he point of turning away, but he was arrested by a gesture of the young girl.
  • She pointed for a moment into the blue air. Roderick followed the direction o_er gesture.
  • "Is that little flower we see outlined against that dark niche," she asked,
  • "as intensely blue as it looks through my veil?" She spoke apparently with th_miable design of directing the conversation into a less painful channel.
  • Rowland, from where he stood, could see the flower she meant—a delicate plan_f radiant hue, which sprouted from the top of an immense fragment of wal_ome twenty feet from Christina's place.
  • Roderick turned his head and looked at it without answering. At last, glancin_ound, "Put up your veil!" he said. Christina complied. "Does it look as blu_ow?" he asked.
  • "Ah, what a lovely color!" she murmured, leaning her head on one side.
  • "Would you like to have it?"
  • She stared a moment and then broke into a light laugh.
  • "Would you like to have it?" he repeated in a ringing voice.
  • "Don't look as if you would eat me up," she answered. "It 's harmless if I sa_es!"
  • Roderick rose to his feet and stood looking at the little flower. It wa_eparated from the ledge on which he stood by a rugged surface of vertica_all, which dropped straight into the dusky vaults behind the arena. Suddenl_e took off his hat and flung it behind him. Christina then sprang to he_eet.
  • "I will bring it you," he said.
  • She seized his arm. "Are you crazy? Do you mean to kill yourself?"
  • "I shall not kill myself. Sit down!"
  • "Excuse me. Not till you do!" And she grasped his arm with both hands.
  • Roderick shook her off and pointed with a violent gesture to her former place.
  • "Go there!" he cried fiercely.
  • "You can never, never!" she murmured beseechingly, clasping her hands. "_mplore you!"
  • Roderick turned and looked at her, and then in a voice which Rowland had neve_eard him use, a voice almost thunderous, a voice which awakened the echoes o_he mighty ruin, he repeated, "Sit down!" She hesitated a moment and then sh_ropped on the ground and buried her face in her hands.
  • Rowland had seen all this, and he saw more. He saw Roderick clasp in his lef_rm the jagged corner of the vertical partition along which he proposed t_ursue his crazy journey, stretch out his leg, and feel for a resting-plac_or his foot. Rowland had measured with a glance the possibility of hi_ustaining himself, and pronounced it absolutely nil. The wall was garnishe_ith a series of narrow projections, the remains apparently of a brick cornic_upporting the arch of a vault which had long since collapsed. It was b_odging his toes on these loose brackets and grasping with his hands a_ertain mouldering protuberances on a level with his head, that Roderic_ntended to proceed. The relics of the cornice were utterly worthless as _upport. Rowland had observed this, and yet, for a moment, he had hesitated.
  • If the thing were possible, he felt a sudden admiring glee at the thought o_oderick's doing it. It would be finely done, it would be gallant, it woul_ave a sort of masculine eloquence as an answer to Christina's siniste_ersiflage. But it was not possible! Rowland left his place with a bound, an_crambled down some neighboring steps, and the next moment a stronger pair o_ands than Christina's were laid upon Roderick's shoulder.
  • He turned, staring, pale and angry. Christina rose, pale and staring, too, bu_eautiful in her wonder and alarm. "My dear Roderick," said Rowland, "I a_nly preventing you from doing a very foolish thing. That 's an exploit fo_piders, not for young sculptors of promise."
  • Roderick wiped his forehead, looked back at the wall, and then closed hi_yes, as if with a spasm, of retarded dizziness. "I won't resist you," h_aid. "But I have made you obey," he added, turning to Christina. "Am I wea_ow?"
  • She had recovered her composure; she looked straight past him and addresse_owland: "Be so good as to show me the way out of this horrible place!"
  • He helped her back into the corridor; Roderick followed after a shor_nterval. Of course, as they were descending the steps, came questions fo_owland to answer, and more or less surprise. Where had he come from? ho_appened he to have appeared at just that moment? Rowland answered that he ha_een rambling overhead, and that, looking out of an aperture, he had seen _entleman preparing to undertake a preposterous gymnastic feat, and a lad_wooning away in consequence. Interference seemed justifiable, and he had mad_t as prompt as possible. Roderick was far from hanging his head, like a ma_ho has been caught in the perpetration of an extravagant folly; but if h_eld it more erect than usual Rowland believed that this was much less becaus_e had made a show of personal daring than because he had triumphantly prove_o Christina that, like a certain person she had dreamed of, he too coul_peak the language of decision. Christina descended to the arena in silence, apparently occupied with her own thoughts. She betrayed no sense of th_rivacy of her interview with Roderick needing an explanation. Rowland ha_een stranger things in New York! The only evidence of her recent agitatio_as that, on being joined by her maid, she declared that she was unable t_alk home; she must have a carriage. A fiacre was found resting in the shado_f the Arch of Constantine, and Rowland suspected that after she had got int_t she disburdened herself, under her veil, of a few natural tears.
  • Rowland had played eavesdropper to so good a purpose that he might justly hav_mitted the ceremony of denouncing himself to Roderick. He preferred, however, to let him know that he had overheard a portion of his talk with Christina.
  • "Of course it seems to you," Roderick said, "a proof that I am utterl_nfatuated."
  • "Miss Light seemed to me to know very well how far she could go," Rowlan_nswered. "She was twisting you round her finger. I don't think she exactl_eant to defy you; but your crazy pursuit of that flower was a proof that sh_ould go all lengths in the way of making a fool of you."
  • "Yes," said Roderick, meditatively; "she is making a fool of me."
  • "And what do you expect to come of it?"
  • "Nothing good!" And Roderick put his hands into his pockets and looked as i_e had announced the most colorless fact in the world.
  • "And in the light of your late interview, what do you make of your youn_ady?"
  • "If I could tell you that, it would be plain sailing. But she 'll not tell m_gain I am weak!"
  • "Are you very sure you are not weak?"
  • "I may be, but she shall never know it."
  • Rowland said no more until they reached the Corso, when he asked his companio_hether he was going to his studio.
  • Roderick started out of a reverie and passed his hands over his eyes. "Oh no, I can't settle down to work after such a scene as that. I was not afraid o_reaking my neck then, but I feel all in a tremor now. I will go—I will go an_it in the sun on the Pincio!"
  • "Promise me this, first," said Rowland, very solemnly: "that the next time yo_eet Miss Light, it shall be on the earth and not in the air."
  • Since his return from Frascati, Roderick had been working doggedly at th_tatue ordered by Mr. Leavenworth. To Rowland's eye he had made a very fai_eginning, but he had himself insisted, from the first, that he liked neithe_is subject nor his patron, and that it was impossible to feel any warmth o_nterest in a work which was to be incorporated into the ponderous personalit_f Mr. Leavenworth. It was all against the grain; he wrought without love.
  • Nevertheless after a fashion he wrought, and the figure grew beneath hi_ands. Miss Blanchard's friend was ordering works of art on every side, an_is purveyors were in many cases persons whom Roderick declared it was infam_o be paired with. There had been grand tailors, he said, who declined to mak_ou a coat unless you got the hat you were to wear with it from an artist o_heir own choosing. It seemed to him that he had an equal right to exact tha_is statue should not form part of the same system of ornament as the "Pear_f Perugia," a picture by an American confrere who had, in Mr. Leavenworth'_pinion, a prodigious eye for color. As a customer, Mr. Leavenworth used t_rop into Roderick's studio, to see how things were getting on, and give _riendly hint or so. He would seat himself squarely, plant his gold-toppe_ane between his legs, which he held very much apart, rest his large whit_ands on the head, and enunciate the principles of spiritual art, as h_oisted them one by one, as you might say, out of the depths of his mora_onsciousness. His benignant and imperturbable pomposity gave Roderick th_ense of suffocating beneath a large fluffy bolster, and the worst of th_atter was that the good gentleman's placid vanity had an integument whos_oughness no sarcastic shaft could pierce. Roderick admitted that in thinkin_ver the tribulations of struggling genius, the danger of dying of over- patronage had never occurred to him.
  • The deterring effect of the episode of the Coliseum was apparently of lon_ontinuance; if Roderick's nerves had been shaken his hand needed time t_ecover its steadiness. He cultivated composure upon principles of his own; b_requenting entertainments from which he returned at four o'clock in th_orning, and lapsing into habits which might fairly be called irregular. H_ad hitherto made few friends among the artistic fraternity; chiefly becaus_e had taken no trouble about it, and there was in his demeanor an elasti_ndependence of the favor of his fellow-mortals which made social advances o_is own part peculiarly necessary. Rowland had told him more than once that h_ught to fraternize a trifle more with the other artists, and he had alway_nswered that he had not the smallest objection to fraternizing: let the_ome! But they came on rare occasions, and Roderick was not punctilious abou_eturning their visits. He declared there was not one of them whose works gav_im the smallest desire to make acquaintance with the insides of their heads.
  • For Gloriani he professed a superb contempt, and, having been once to look a_is wares, never crossed his threshold again. The only one of the fraternit_or whom by his own admission he cared a straw was little Singleton; but h_xpressed his regard only in a kind of sublime hilarity whenever h_ncountered this humble genius, and quite forgot his existence in th_ntervals. He had never been to see him, but Singleton edged his way, fro_ime to time, timidly, into Roderick's studio, and agreed with characteristi_odesty that brilliant fellows like the sculptor might consent to receiv_omage, but could hardly be expected to render it. Roderick never exactl_ccepted homage, and apparently did not quite observe whether poor Singleto_poke in admiration or in blame. Roderick's taste as to companions wa_ingularly capricious. There were very good fellows, who were disposed t_ultivate him, who bored him to death; and there were others, in whom eve_owland's good-nature was unable to discover a pretext for tolerance, in who_e appeared to find the highest social qualities. He used to give the mos_antastic reasons for his likes and dislikes. He would declare he could n'_peak a civil word to a man who brushed his hair in a certain fashion, and h_ould explain his unaccountable fancy for an individual of imperceptible meri_y telling you that he had an ancestor who in the thirteenth century ha_alled up his wife alive. "I like to talk to a man whose ancestor has walle_p his wife alive," he would say. "You may not see the fun of it, and thin_oor P—— is a very dull fellow. It 's very possible; I don't ask you to admir_im. But, for reasons of my own, I like to have him about. The old fellow lef_er for three days with her face uncovered, and placed a long mirror opposit_o her, so that she could see, as he said, if her gown was a fit!"
  • His relish for an odd flavor in his friends had led him to make th_cquaintance of a number of people outside of Rowland's well-ordered circle, and he made no secret of their being very queer fish. He formed an intimacy, among others, with a crazy fellow who had come to Rome as an emissary of on_f the Central American republics, to drive some ecclesiastical bargain wit_he papal government. The Pope had given him the cold shoulder, but since h_ad not prospered as a diplomatist, he had sought compensation as a man of th_orld, and his great flamboyant curricle and negro lackeys were for severa_eeks one of the striking ornaments of the Pincian. He spoke a queer jargon o_talian, Spanish, French, and English, humorously relieved with scraps o_cclesiastical Latin, and to those who inquired of Roderick what he found t_nterest him in such a fantastic jackanapes, the latter would reply, lookin_t his interlocutor with his lucid blue eyes, that it was worth any sacrific_o hear him talk nonsense! The two had gone together one night to a ball give_y a lady of some renown in the Spanish colony, and very late, on his wa_ome, Roderick came up to Rowland's rooms, in whose windows he had seen _ight. Rowland was going to bed, but Roderick flung himself into an armchai_nd chattered for an hour. The friends of the Costa Rican envoy were a_musing as himself, and in very much the same line. The mistress of the hous_ad worn a yellow satin dress, and gold heels to her slippers, and at th_lose of the entertainment had sent for a pair of castanets, tucked up he_etticoats, and danced a fandango, while the gentlemen sat cross-legged on th_loor. "It was awfully low," Roderick said; "all of a sudden I perceived it, and bolted. Nothing of that kind ever amuses me to the end: before it 's hal_ver it bores me to death; it makes me sick. Hang it, why can't a poor fello_njoy things in peace? My illusions are all broken-winded; they won't carry m_wenty paces! I can't laugh and forget; my laugh dies away before it begins.
  • Your friend Stendhal writes on his book-covers (I never got farther) that h_as seen too early in life la beaute parfaite. I don't know how early he sa_t; I saw it before I was born—in another state of being! I can't describe i_ositively; I can only say I don't find it anywhere now. Not at the bottom o_hampagne glasses; not, strange as it may seem, in that extra half-yard or s_f shoulder that some women have their ball-dresses cut to expose. I don'_ind it at merry supper-tables, where half a dozen ugly men with pomatume_eads are rapidly growing uglier still with heat and wine; not when I com_way and walk through these squalid black streets, and go out into the Foru_nd see a few old battered stone posts standing there like gnawed bones stuc_nto the earth. Everything is mean and dusky and shabby, and the men and wome_ho make up this so-called brilliant society are the meanest and shabbiest o_ll. They have no real spontaneity; they are all cowards and popinjays. The_ave no more dignity than so many grasshoppers. Nothing is good but one!" An_e jumped up and stood looking at one of his statues, which shone vaguel_cross the room in the dim lamplight.
  • "Yes, do tell us," said Rowland, "what to hold on by!"
  • "Those things of mine were tolerably good," he answered. "But my idea wa_etter—and that 's what I mean!"
  • Rowland said nothing. He was willing to wait for Roderick to complete th_ircle of his metamorphoses, but he had no desire to officiate as chorus t_he play. If Roderick chose to fish in troubled waters, he must land hi_rizes himself.
  • "You think I 'm an impudent humbug," the latter said at last, "coming up t_oralize at this hour of the night. You think I want to throw dust into you_yes, to put you off the scent. That 's your eminently rational view of th_ase."
  • "Excuse me from taking any view at all," said Rowland.
  • "You have given me up, then?"
  • "No, I have merely suspended judgment. I am waiting."
  • "You have ceased then positively to believe in me?"
  • Rowland made an angry gesture. "Oh, cruel boy! When you have hit your mark an_ade people care for you, you should n't twist your weapon about at that rat_n their vitals. Allow me to say I am sleepy. Good night!"
  • Some days afterward it happened that Rowland, on a long afternoon ramble, too_is way through one of the quiet corners of the Trastevere. He wa_articularly fond of this part of Rome, though he could hardly have expresse_he charm he found in it. As you pass away from the dusky, swarming purlieu_f the Ghetto, you emerge into a region of empty, soundless, grass-grown lane_nd alleys, where the shabby houses seem mouldering away in disuse, and ye_our footstep brings figures of startling Roman type to the doorways. Ther_re few monuments here, but no part of Rome seemed more historic, in the sens_f being weighted with a crushing past, blighted with the melancholy of thing_hat had had their day. When the yellow afternoon sunshine slept on th_allow, battered walls, and lengthened the shadows in the grassy courtyards o_mall closed churches, the place acquired a strange fascination. The church o_aint Cecilia has one of these sunny, waste-looking courts; the edifice seem_bandoned to silence and the charity of chance devotion. Rowland never passe_t without going in, and he was generally the only visitor. He entered it now, but found that two persons had preceded him. Both were women. One was at he_rayers at one of the side altars; the other was seated against a column a_he upper end of the nave. Rowland walked to the altar, and paid, in _omentary glance at the clever statue of the saint in death, in the nich_eneath it, the usual tribute to the charm of polished ingenuity. As he turne_way he looked at the person seated and recognized Christina Light. Seein_hat she perceived him, he advanced to speak to her.
  • She was sitting in a listless attitude, with her hands in her lap; she seeme_o be tired. She was dressed simply, as if for walking and escapin_bservation. When he had greeted her he glanced back at her companion, an_ecognized the faithful Assunta.
  • Christina smiled. "Are you looking for Mr. Hudson? He is not here, I am happ_o say."
  • "But you?" he asked. "This is a strange place to find you."
  • "Not at all! People call me a strange girl, and I might as well have th_omfort of it. I came to take a walk; that, by the way, is part of m_trangeness. I can't loll all the morning on a sofa, and all the afternoon i_ carriage. I get horribly restless. I must move; I must do something and se_omething. Mamma suggests a cup of tea. Meanwhile I put on an old dress an_alf a dozen veils, I take Assunta under my arm, and we start on a pedestria_our. It 's a bore that I can't take the poodle, but he attracts attention. W_rudge about everywhere; there is nothing I like so much. I hope you wil_ongratulate me on the simplicity of my tastes."
  • "I congratulate you on your wisdom. To live in Rome and not to walk would, _hink, be poor pleasure. But you are terribly far from home, and I am afrai_ou are tired."
  • "A little—enough to sit here a while."
  • "Might I offer you my company while you rest?"
  • "If you will promise to amuse me. I am in dismal spirits."
  • Rowland said he would do what he could, and brought a chair and placed it nea_er. He was not in love with her; he disapproved of her; he mistrusted her; and yet he felt it a kind of privilege to watch her, and he found a peculia_xcitement in talking to her. The background of her nature, as he would hav_alled it, was large and mysterious, and it emitted strange, fantastic gleam_nd flashes. Watching for these rather quickened one's pulses. Moreover, i_as not a disadvantage to talk to a girl who made one keep guard on one'_omposure; it diminished one's chronic liability to utter something less tha_evised wisdom.
  • Assunta had risen from her prayers, and, as he took his place, was coming bac_o her mistress. But Christina motioned her away. "No, no; while you are abou_t, say a few dozen more!" she said. "Pray for me," she added in English.
  • "Pray, I say nothing silly. She has been at it half an hour; I envy he_apacity!"
  • "Have you never felt in any degree," Rowland asked, "the fascination o_atholicism?"
  • "Yes, I have been through that, too! There was a time when I wanted immensel_o be a nun; it was not a laughing matter. It was when I was about sixtee_ears old. I read the Imitation and the Life of Saint Catherine. I full_elieved in the miracles of the saints, and I was dying to have one of my own.
  • The least little accident that could have been twisted into a miracle woul_ave carried me straight into the bosom of the church. I had the rea_eligious passion. It has passed away, and, as I sat here just now, I wa_ondering what had become of it!"
  • Rowland had already been sensible of something in this young lady's tone whic_e would have called a want of veracity, and this epitome of her religiou_xperience failed to strike him as an absolute statement of fact. But th_rait was not disagreeable, for she herself was evidently the foremost dupe o_er inventions. She had a fictitious history in which she believed much mor_ondly than in her real one, and an infinite capacity for extemporize_eminiscence adapted to the mood of the hour. She liked to idealize herself, to take interesting and picturesque attitudes to her own imagination; and th_ivacity and spontaneity of her character gave her, really, a starting-poin_n experience; so that the many-colored flowers of fiction which blossomed i_er talk were not so much perversions, as sympathetic exaggerations, of fact.
  • And Rowland felt that whatever she said of herself might have been, under th_magined circumstances; impulse was there, audacity, the restless, questionin_emperament. "I am afraid I am sadly prosaic," he said, "for in these man_onths now that I have been in Rome, I have never ceased for a moment to loo_t Catholicism simply from the outside. I don't see an opening as big as you_inger-nail where I could creep into it!"
  • "What do you believe?" asked Christina, looking at him. "Are you religious?"
  • "I believe in God."
  • Christina let her beautiful eyes wander a while, and then gave a little sigh.
  • "You are much to be envied!"
  • "You, I imagine, in that line have nothing to envy me."
  • "Yes, I have. Rest!"
  • "You are too young to say that."
  • "I am not young; I have never been young! My mother took care of that. I was _ittle wrinkled old woman at ten."
  • "I am afraid," said Rowland, in a moment, "that you are fond of paintin_ourself in dark colors."
  • She looked at him a while in silence. "Do you wish," she demanded at last, "t_in my eternal gratitude? Prove to me that I am better than I suppose."
  • "I should have first to know what you really suppose."
  • She shook her head. "It would n't do. You would be horrified to learn even th_hings I imagine about myself, and shocked at the knowledge of evil displaye_n my very mistakes."
  • "Well, then," said Rowland, "I will ask no questions. But, at a venture, _romise you to catch you some day in the act of doing something very good."
  • "Can it be, can it be," she asked, "that you too are trying to flatter me? _hought you and I had fallen, from the first, into rather a truth-speakin_ein."
  • "Oh, I have not abandoned it!" said Rowland; and he determined, since he ha_he credit of homely directness, to push his advantage farther. Th_pportunity seemed excellent. But while he was hesitating as to just how t_egin, the young girl said, bending forward and clasping her hands in her lap,
  • "Please tell me about your religion."
  • "Tell you about it? I can't!" said Rowland, with a good deal of emphasis.
  • She flushed a little. "Is it such a mighty mystery it cannot be put int_ords, nor communicated to my base ears?"
  • "It is simply a sentiment that makes part of my life, and I can't detac_yself from it sufficiently to talk about it."
  • "Religion, it seems to me, should be eloquent and aggressive. It should wis_o make converts, to persuade and illumine, to sway all hearts!"
  • "One's religion takes the color of one's general disposition. I am no_ggressive, and certainly I am not eloquent."
  • "Beware, then, of finding yourself confronted with doubt and despair! I a_ure that doubt, at times, and the bitterness that comes of it, can b_erribly eloquent. To tell the truth, my lonely musings, before you came in, were eloquent enough, in their way. What do you know of anything but thi_trange, terrible world that surrounds you? How do you know that your faith i_ot a mere crazy castle in the air; one of those castles that we are calle_ools for building when we lodge them in this life?"
  • "I don't know it, any more than any one knows the contrary. But one's religio_s extremely ingenious in doing without knowledge."
  • "In such a world as this it certainly needs to be!"
  • Rowland smiled. "What is your particular quarrel with this world?"
  • "It 's a general quarrel. Nothing is true, or fixed, or permanent. We all see_o be playing with shadows more or less grotesque. It all comes over me her_o dismally! The very atmosphere of this cold, deserted church seems to moc_t one's longing to believe in something. Who cares for it now? who comes t_t? who takes it seriously? Poor stupid Assunta there gives in her adhesion i_ jargon she does n't understand, and you and I, proper, passionless tourists, come lounging in to rest from a walk. And yet the Catholic church was once th_roudest institution in the world, and had quite its own way with men's souls.
  • When such a mighty structure as that turns out to have a flaw, what faith i_ne to put in one's poor little views and philosophies? What is right and wha_s wrong? What is one really to care for? What is the proper rule of life? _m tired of trying to discover, and I suspect it 's not worth the trouble.
  • Live as most amuses you!"
  • "Your perplexities are so terribly comprehensive," said Rowland, smiling,
  • "that one hardly knows where to meet them first."
  • "I don't care much for anything you can say, because it 's sure to be half- hearted. You are not in the least contented, yourself."
  • "How do you know that?"
  • "Oh, I am an observer!"
  • "No one is absolutely contented, I suppose, but I assure you I complain o_othing."
  • "So much the worse for your honesty. To begin with, you are in love."
  • "You would not have me complain of that!"
  • "And it does n't go well. There are grievous obstacles. So much I know! Yo_eed n't protest; I ask no questions. You will tell no one—me least of all.
  • Why does one never see you?"
  • "Why, if I came to see you," said Rowland, deliberating, "it would n't be, i_ould n't be, for a trivial reason—because I had not been in a month, becaus_ was passing, because I admire you. It would be because I should hav_omething very particular to say. I have not come, because I have been slow i_aking up my mind to say it."
  • "You are simply cruel. Something particular, in this ocean of inanities? I_ommon charity, speak!"
  • "I doubt whether you will like it."
  • "Oh, I hope to heaven it 's not a compliment!"
  • "It may be called a compliment to your reasonableness. You perhaps remembe_hat I gave you a hint of it the other day at Frascati."
  • "Has it been hanging fire all this time? Explode! I promise not to stop m_ars."
  • "It relates to my friend Hudson." And Rowland paused. She was looking at hi_xpectantly; her face gave no sign. "I am rather disturbed in mind about him.
  • He seems to me at times to be in an unpromising way." He paused again, bu_hristina said nothing. "The case is simply this," he went on. "It was by m_dvice he renounced his career at home and embraced his present one. I mad_im burn his ships. I brought him to Rome, I launched him in the world, and _tand surety, in a measure, to—to his mother, for his prosperity. It is no_uch smooth sailing as it might be, and I am inclined to put up prayers fo_air winds. If he is to succeed, he must work—quietly, devotedly. It is no_ews to you, I imagine, that Hudson is a great admirer of yours."
  • Christina remained silent; she turned away her eyes with an air, not o_onfusion, but of deep deliberation. Surprising frankness had, as a genera_hing, struck Rowland as the key-note of her character, but she had more tha_nce given him a suggestion of an unfathomable power of calculation, and he_ilence now had something which it is hardly extravagant to call portentous.
  • He had of course asked himself how far it was questionable taste to inform a_nprotected girl, for the needs of a cause, that another man admired her; th_hing, superficially, had an uncomfortable analogy with the shrewdness tha_ses a cat's paw and lets it risk being singed. But he decided that even rigi_iscretion is not bound to take a young lady at more than her own valuation, and Christina presently reassured him as to the limits of her susceptibility.
  • "Mr. Hudson is in love with me!" she said.
  • Rowland flinched a trifle. Then—"Am I," he asked, "from this point of view o_ine, to be glad or sorry?"
  • "I don't understand you."
  • "Why, is Hudson to be happy, or unhappy?"
  • She hesitated a moment. "You wish him to be great in his profession? And fo_hat you consider that he must be happy in his life?"
  • "Decidedly. I don't say it 's a general rule, but I think it is a rule fo_im."
  • "So that if he were very happy, he would become very great?"
  • "He would at least do himself justice."
  • "And by that you mean a great deal?"
  • "A great deal."
  • Christina sank back in her chair and rested her eyes on the cracked an_olished slabs of the pavement. At last, looking up, "You have not forgotten, I suppose, that you told me he was engaged?"
  • "By no means."
  • "He is still engaged, then?"
  • "To the best of my belief."
  • "And yet you desire that, as you say, he should be made happy by something _an do for him?"
  • "What I desire is this. That your great influence with him should be exerte_or his good, that it should help him and not retard him. Understand me. Yo_robably know that your lovers have rather a restless time of it. I can answe_or two of them. You don't know your own mind very well, I imagine, and yo_ike being admired, rather at the expense of the admirer. Since we are reall_eing frank, I wonder whether I might not say the great word."
  • "You need n't; I know it. I am a horrible coquette."
  • "No, not a horrible one, since I am making an appeal to your generosity. I a_retty sure you cannot imagine yourself marrying my friend."
  • "There 's nothing I cannot imagine! That is my trouble."
  • Rowland's brow contracted impatiently. "I cannot imagine it, then!" h_ffirmed.
  • Christina flushed faintly; then, very gently, "I am not so bad as you think,"
  • she said.
  • "It is not a question of badness; it is a question of whether circumstance_on't make the thing an extreme improbability."
  • "Worse and worse. I can be bullied, then, or bribed!"
  • "You are not so candid," said Rowland, "as you pretend to be. My feeling i_his. Hudson, as I understand him, does not need, as an artist, the stimulu_f strong emotion, of passion. He's better without it; he's emotional an_assionate enough when he 's left to himself. The sooner passion is at rest, therefore, the sooner he will settle down to work, and the fewer emotions h_as that are mere emotions and nothing more, the better for him. If you care_or him enough to marry him, I should have nothing to say; I would neve_enture to interfere. But I strongly suspect you don't, and therefore I woul_uggest, most respectfully, that you should let him alone."
  • "And if I let him alone, as you say, all will be well with him for ever more?"
  • "Not immediately and not absolutely, but things will be easier. He will b_etter able to concentrate himself."
  • "What is he doing now? Wherein does he dissatisfy you?"
  • "I can hardly say. He 's like a watch that 's running down. He is moody, desultory, idle, irregular, fantastic."
  • "Heavens, what a list! And it 's all poor me?"
  • "No, not all. But you are a part of it, and I turn to you because you are _ore tangible, sensible, responsible cause than the others."
  • Christina raised her hand to her eyes, and bent her head thoughtfully. Rowlan_as puzzled to measure the effect of his venture; she rather surprised him b_er gentleness. At last, without moving, "If I were to marry him," she asked,
  • "what would have become of his fiancee?"
  • "I am bound to suppose that she would be extremely unhappy."
  • Christina said nothing more, and Rowland, to let her make her reflections, left his place and strolled away. Poor Assunta, sitting patiently on a ston_ench, and unprovided, on this occasion, with military consolation, gave him _right, frank smile, which might have been construed as an expression o_egret for herself, and of sympathy for her mistress. Rowland presently seate_imself again near Christina.
  • "What do you think," she asked, looking at him, "of your friend's infidelity?"
  • "I don't like it."
  • "Was he very much in love with her?"
  • "He asked her to marry him. You may judge."
  • "Is she rich?"
  • "No, she is poor."
  • "Is she very much in love with him?"
  • "I know her too little to say."
  • She paused again, and then resumed: "You have settled in your mind, then, tha_ will never seriously listen to him?"
  • "I think it unlikely, until the contrary is proved."
  • "How shall it be proved? How do you know what passes between us?"
  • "I can judge, of course, but from appearance; but, like you, I am an observer.
  • Hudson has not at all the air of a prosperous suitor."
  • "If he is depressed, there is a reason. He has a bad conscience. One must hop_o, at least. On the other hand, simply as a friend," she continued gently,
  • "you think I can do him no good?"
  • The humility of her tone, combined with her beauty, as she made this remark, was inexpressibly touching, and Rowland had an uncomfortable sense of bein_ut at a disadvantage. "There are doubtless many good things you might do, i_ou had proper opportunity," he said. "But you seem to be sailing with _urrent which leaves you little leisure for quiet benevolence. You live in th_hirl and hurry of a world into which a poor artist can hardly find it to hi_dvantage to follow you."
  • "In plain English, I am hopelessly frivolous. You put it very generously."
  • "I won't hesitate to say all my thought," said Rowland. "For better or worse, you seem to me to belong, both by character and by circumstance, to what i_alled the world, the great world. You are made to ornament it magnificently.
  • You are not made to be an artist's wife."
  • "I see. But even from your point of view, that would depend upon the artist.
  • Extraordinary talent might make him a member of the great world!"
  • Rowland smiled. "That is very true."
  • "If, as it is," Christina continued in a moment, "you take a low view o_e—no, you need n't protest—I wonder what you would think if you knew certai_hings."
  • "What things do you mean?"
  • "Well, for example, how I was brought up. I have had a horrible education.
  • There must be some good in me, since I have perceived it, since I have turne_nd judged my circumstances."
  • "My dear Miss Light!" Rowland murmured.
  • She gave a little, quick laugh. "You don't want to hear? you don't want t_ave to think about that?"
  • "Have I a right to? You need n't justify yourself."
  • She turned upon him a moment the quickened light of her beautiful eyes, the_ell to musing again. "Is there not some novel or some play," she asked a_ast, "in which some beautiful, wicked woman who has ensnared a young man see_is father come to her and beg her to let him go?"
  • "Very likely," said Rowland. "I hope she consents."
  • "I forget. But tell me," she continued, "shall you consider—admitting you_roposition—that in ceasing to flirt with Mr. Hudson, so that he may go abou_is business, I do something magnanimous, heroic, sublime—something with _ine name like that?"
  • Rowland, elated with the prospect of gaining his point, was about to repl_hat she would deserve the finest name in the world; but he instantl_uspected that this tone would not please her, and, besides, it would no_xpress his meaning.
  • "You do something I shall greatly respect," he contented himself with saying.
  • She made no answer, and in a moment she beckoned to her maid. "What have I t_o to-day?" she asked.
  • Assunta meditated. "Eh, it 's a very busy day! Fortunately I have a bette_emory than the signorina," she said, turning to Rowland. She began to coun_n her fingers. "We have to go to the Pie di Marmo to see about those lace_hat were sent to be washed. You said also that you wished to say three shar_ords to the Buonvicini about your pink dress. You want some moss-rosebuds fo_o-night, and you won't get them for nothing! You dine at the Austria_mbassy, and that Frenchman is to powder your hair. You 're to come home i_ime to receive, for the signora gives a dance. And so away, away til_orning!"
  • "Ah, yes, the moss-roses!" Christina murmured, caressingly. "I must have _uantity—at least a hundred. Nothing but buds, eh? You must sew them in a kin_f immense apron, down the front of my dress. Packed tight together, eh? I_ill be delightfully barbarous. And then twenty more or so for my hair. The_o very well with powder; don't you think so?" And she turned to Rowland. "_m going en Pompadour."
  • "Going where?"
  • "To the Spanish Embassy, or whatever it is."
  • "All down the front, signorina? Dio buono! You must give me time!" Assunt_ried.
  • "Yes, we'll go!" And she left her place. She walked slowly to the door of th_hurch, looking at the pavement, and Rowland could not guess whether she wa_hinking of her apron of moss-rosebuds or of her opportunity for mora_ublimity. Before reaching the door she turned away and stood gazing at an ol_icture, indistinguishable with blackness, over an altar. At last they passe_ut into the court. Glancing at her in the open air, Rowland was startled; h_magined he saw the traces of hastily suppressed tears. They had lost time, she said, and they must hurry; she sent Assunta to look for a fiacre. Sh_emained silent a while, scratching the ground with the point of her parasol, and then at last, looking up, she thanked Rowland for his confidence in her
  • "reasonableness." "It 's really very comfortable to be asked, to be expected, to do something good, after all the horrid things one has been used t_oing—instructed, commanded, forced to do! I 'll think over what you have sai_o me." In that deserted quarter fiacres are rare, and there was some delay i_ssunta's procuring one. Christina talked of the church, of the picturesqu_ld court, of that strange, decaying corner of Rome. Rowland was perplexed; h_as ill at ease. At last the fiacre arrived, but she waited a moment longer.
  • "So, decidedly," she suddenly asked, "I can only harm him?"
  • "You make me feel very brutal," said Rowland.
  • "And he is such a fine fellow that it would be really a great pity, eh?"
  • "I shall praise him no more," Rowland said.
  • She turned away quickly, but she lingered still. "Do you remember promisin_e, soon after we first met, that at the end of six months you would tell m_efinitely what you thought of me?"
  • "It was a foolish promise."
  • "You gave it. Bear it in mind. I will think of what you have said to me.
  • Farewell." She stepped into the carriage, and it rolled away. Rowland stoo_or some minutes, looking after it, and then went his way with a sigh. If thi_xpressed general mistrust, he ought, three days afterward, to have bee_eassured. He received by the post a note containing these words:—
  • "I have done it. Begin and respect me!
  • "—C. L."
  • To be perfectly satisfactory, indeed, the note required a commentary. H_alled that evening upon Roderick, and found one in the information offere_im at the door, by the old serving-woman—the startling information that th_ignorino had gone to Naples.