How it befell that Roderick had failed to be in Leghorn on his mother'_rrival never clearly transpired; for he undertook to give no elaborat_xplanation of his fault. He never indulged in professions (touching persona_onduct) as to the future, or in remorse as to the past, and as he would hav_sked no praise if he had traveled night and day to embrace his mother as sh_et foot on shore, he made (in Rowland's presence, at least) no apology fo_aving left her to come in search of him. It was to be said that, thanks to a_nprecedentedly fine season, the voyage of the two ladies had bee_urprisingly rapid, and that, according to common probabilities, if Roderic_ad left Rome on the morrow (as he declared that he had intended), he woul_ave had a day or two of waiting at Leghorn. Rowland's silent inference wa_hat Christina Light had beguiled him into letting the time slip, and it wa_ccompanied with a silent inquiry whether she had done so unconsciously o_aliciously. He had told her, presumably, that his mother and his cousin wer_bout to arrive; and it was pertinent to remember hereupon that she was _oung lady of mysterious impulses. Rowland heard in due time the story of th_dventures of the two ladies from Northampton. Miss Garland's wish, a_eghorn, on finding they were left at the mercy of circumstances, had been t_elegraph to Roderick and await an answer; for she knew that their arrival wa_ trifle premature. But Mrs. Hudson's maternal heart had taken the alarm.
Roderick's sending for them was, to her imagination, a confession of illness, and his not being at Leghorn, a proof of it; an hour's delay was therefor_ruel both to herself and to him. She insisted on immediate departure; and, unskilled as they were in the mysteries of foreign (or even of domestic) travel, they had hurried in trembling eagerness to Rome. They had arrived lat_n the evening, and, knowing nothing of inns, had got into a cab and proceede_o Roderick's lodging. At the door, poor Mrs. Hudson's frightened anxiety ha_vercome her, and she had sat quaking and crying in the vehicle, too weak t_ove. Miss Garland had bravely gone in, groped her way up the dusky staircase, reached Roderick's door, and, with the assistance of such acquaintance wit_he Italian tongue as she had culled from a phrase-book during the calme_ours of the voyage, had learned from the old woman who had her cousin'_ousehold economy in charge that he was in the best of health and spirits, an_ad gone forth a few hours before with his hat on his ear, per divertirsi.
These things Rowland learned during a visit he paid the two ladies the evenin_fter their arrival. Mrs. Hudson spoke of them at great length and with an ai_f clinging confidence in Rowland which told him how faithfully time ha_erved him, in her imagination. But her fright was over, though she was stil_atching her breath a little, like a person dragged ashore out of water_ncomfortably deep. She was excessively bewildered and confused, and seeme_ore than ever to demand a tender handling from her friends. Before Mis_arland, Rowland was distinctly conscious that he trembled. He wondere_xtremely what was going on in her mind; what was her silent commentary on th_ncidents of the night before. He wondered all the more, because h_mmediately perceived that she was greatly changed since their parting, an_hat the change was by no means for the worse. She was older, easier, mor_ree, more like a young woman who went sometimes into company. She had mor_eauty as well, inasmuch as her beauty before had been the depth of he_xpression, and the sources from which this beauty was fed had in these tw_ears evidently not wasted themselves. Rowland felt almost instantly—he coul_ardly have said why: it was in her voice, in her tone, in the air—that _otal change had passed over her attitude towards himself. She trusted hi_ow, absolutely; whether or no she liked him, she believed he was solid. H_elt that during the coming weeks he would need to be solid. Mrs. Hudson wa_t one of the smaller hotels, and her sitting-room was frugally lighted by _ouple of candles. Rowland made the most of this dim illumination to try t_etect the afterglow of that frightened flash from Miss Garland's eyes th_ight before. It had been but a flash, for what provoked it had instantl_anished. Rowland had murmured a rapturous blessing on Roderick's head, as h_erceived him instantly apprehend the situation. If he had been drinking, it_ravity sobered him on the spot; in a single moment he collected his wits. Th_ext moment, with a ringing, jovial cry, he was folding the young girl in hi_rms, and the next he was beside his mother's carriage, half smothered in he_obs and caresses. Rowland had recommended a hotel close at hand, and had the_iscreetly withdrawn. Roderick was at this time doing his part superbly, an_iss Garland's brow was serene. It was serene now, twenty-four hours later; but nevertheless, her alarm had lasted an appreciable moment. What had becom_f it? It had dropped down deep into her memory, and it was lying there fo_he present in the shade. But with another week, Rowland said to himself, i_ould leap erect again; the lightest friction would strike a spark from it.
Rowland thought he had schooled himself to face the issue of Mary Garland'_dvent, casting it even in a tragical phase; but in her personal presence—i_hich he found a poignant mixture of the familiar and the strange—he seemed t_ace it and all that it might bring with it for the first time. In vulga_arlance, he stood uneasy in his shoes. He felt like walking on tiptoe, not t_rouse the sleeping shadows. He felt, indeed, almost like saying that the_ight have their own way later, if they would only allow to these first fe_ays the clear light of ardent contemplation. For Rowland at last was ardent, and all the bells within his soul were ringing bravely in jubilee. Roderick, he learned, had been the whole day with his mother, and had evidentl_esponded to her purest trust. He appeared to her appealing eyes stil_nspotted by the world. That is what it is, thought Rowland, to be "gifted,"
to escape not only the superficial, but the intrinsic penalties of misconduct.
The two ladies had spent the day within doors, resting from the fatigues o_ravel. Miss Garland, Rowland suspected, was not so fatigued as she suffere_t to be assumed. She had remained with Mrs. Hudson, to attend to her persona_ants, which the latter seemed to think, now that she was in a foreign land, with a southern climate and a Catholic religion, would forthwith become ver_omplex and formidable, though as yet they had simply resolved themselves int_ desire for a great deal of tea and for a certain extremely familiar ol_lack and white shawl across her feet, as she lay on the sofa. But the sens_f novelty was evidently strong upon Miss Garland, and the light o_xpectation was in her eye. She was restless and excited; she moved about th_oom and went often to the window; she was observing keenly; she watched th_talian servants intently, as they came and went; she had already had a lon_olloquy with the French chambermaid, who had expounded her views on the Roma_uestion; she noted the small differences in the furniture, in the food, i_he sounds that came in from the street. Rowland felt, in all this, that he_ntelligence, here, would have a great unfolding. He wished immensely he migh_ave a share in it; he wished he might show her Rome. That, of course, woul_e Roderick's office. But he promised himself at least to take advantage o_ff-hours.
"It behooves you to appreciate your good fortune," he said to her. "To b_oung and elastic, and yet old enough and wise enough to discriminate an_eflect, and to come to Italy for the first time—that is one of the greates_leasures that life offers us. It is but right to remind you of it, so tha_ou make the most of opportunity and do not accuse yourself, later, of havin_asted the precious season."
Miss Garland looked at him, smiling intently, and went to the window again. "_xpect to enjoy it," she said. "Don't be afraid; I am not wasteful."
"I am afraid we are not qualified, you know," said Mrs. Hudson. "We are tol_hat you must know so much, that you must have read so many books. Our tast_as not been cultivated. When I was a young lady at school, I remember I had _edal, with a pink ribbon, for 'proficiency in Ancient History'—the seve_ings, or is it the seven hills? and Quintus Curtius and Julius Caesar and—an_hat period, you know. I believe I have my medal somewhere in a drawer, now, but I have forgotten all about the kings. But after Roderick came to Italy w_ried to learn something about it. Last winter Mary used to read 'Corinne' t_e in the evenings, and in the mornings she used to read another book, t_erself. What was it, Mary, that book that was so long, you know,—in fiftee_olumes?"
"It was Sismondi's Italian Republics," said Mary, simply.
Rowland could not help laughing; whereupon Mary blushed. "Did you finish it?"
"Yes, and began another—a shorter one—Roscoe's Leo the Tenth."
"Did you find them interesting?"
"Do you like history?"
"Some of it."
"That 's a woman's answer! And do you like art?"
She paused a moment. "I have never seen it!"
"You have great advantages, now, my dear, with Roderick and Mr. Mallet," sai_rs. Hudson. "I am sure no young lady ever had such advantages. You com_traight to the highest authorities. Roderick, I suppose, will show you th_ractice of art, and Mr. Mallet, perhaps, if he will be so good, will show yo_he theory. As an artist's wife, you ought to know something about it."
"One learns a good deal about it, here, by simply living," said Rowland; "b_oing and coming about one's daily avocations."
"Dear, dear, how wonderful that we should be here in the midst of it!"
murmured Mrs. Hudson. "To think of art being out there in the streets! We di_'t see much of it last evening, as we drove from the depot. But the street_ere so dark and we were so frightened! But we are very easy now; are n't we, Mary?"
"I am very happy," said Mary, gravely, and wandered back to the window again.
Roderick came in at this moment and kissed his mother, and then went over an_oined Miss Garland. Rowland sat with Mrs. Hudson, who evidently had a wor_hich she deemed of some value for his private ear. She followed Roderick wit_ntensely earnest eyes.
"I wish to tell you, sir," she said, "how very grateful—how very thankful—wha_ happy mother I am! I feel as if I owed it all to you, sir. To find my poo_oy so handsome, so prosperous, so elegant, so famous—and ever to have doubte_f you! What must you think of me? You 're our guardian angel, sir. I ofte_ay so to Mary."
Rowland wore, in response to this speech, a rather haggard brow. He could onl_urmur that he was glad she found Roderick looking well. He had of cours_romptly asked himself whether the best discretion dictated that he shoul_ive her a word of warning—just turn the handle of the door through which, later, disappointment might enter. He had determined to say nothing, bu_imply to wait in silence for Roderick to find effective inspiration in thos_onfidently expectant eyes. It was to be supposed that he was seeking for i_ow; he remained sometime at the window with his cousin. But at last he turne_way and came over to the fireside with a contraction of the eyebrows whic_eemed to intimate that Miss Garland's influence was for the moment, at least, not soothing. She presently followed him, and for an instant Rowland observe_er watching him as if she thought him strange. "Strange enough," though_owland, "he may seem to her, if he will!" Roderick directed his glance to hi_riend with a certain peremptory air, which—roughly interpreted—was equivalen_o a request to share the intellectual expense of entertaining the ladies.
"Good heavens!" Rowland cried within himself; "is he already tired of them?"
"To-morrow, of course, we must begin to put you through the mill," Roderic_aid to his mother. "And be it hereby known to Mallet that we count upon hi_o turn the wheel."
"I will do as you please, my son," said Mrs. Hudson. "So long as I have yo_ith me I don't care where I go. We must not take up too much of Mr. Mallet'_ime."
"His time is inexhaustible; he has nothing under the sun to do. Have you, Rowland? If you had seen the big hole I have been making in it! Where will yo_o first? You have your choice—from the Scala Santa to the Cloaca Maxima."
"Let us take things in order," said Rowland. "We will go first to Sain_eter's. Miss Garland, I hope you are impatient to see Saint Peter's."
"I would like to go first to Roderick's studio," said Miss Garland.
"It 's a very nasty place," said Roderick. "At your pleasure!"
"Yes, we must see your beautiful things before we can look contentedly a_nything else," said Mrs. Hudson.
"I have no beautiful things," said Roderick. "You may see what there is! Wha_akes you look so odd?"
This inquiry was abruptly addressed to his mother, who, in response, glance_ppealingly at Mary and raised a startled hand to her smooth hair.
"No, it 's your face," said Roderick. "What has happened to it these tw_ears? It has changed its expression."
"Your mother has prayed a great deal," said Miss Garland, simply.
"I did n't suppose, of course, it was from doing anything bad! It makes you _ery good face—very interesting, very solemn. It has very fine lines in it; something might be done with it." And Rowland held one of the candles near th_oor lady's head.
She was covered with confusion. "My son, my son," she said with dignity, "_on't understand you."
In a flash all his old alacrity had come to him. "I suppose a man may admir_is own mother!" he cried. "If you please, madame, you 'll sit to me for tha_ead. I see it, I see it! I will make something that a queen can't get don_or her."
Rowland respectfully urged her to assent; he saw Roderick was in the vein an_ould probably do something eminently original. She gave her promise, at last, after many soft, inarticulate protests and a frightened petition that sh_ight be allowed to keep her knitting.
Rowland returned the next day, with plenty of zeal for the part Roderick ha_ssigned to him. It had been arranged that they should go to Saint Peter's.
Roderick was in high good-humor, and, in the carriage, was watching his mothe_ith a fine mixture of filial and professional tenderness. Mrs. Hudson looke_p mistrustfully at the tall, shabby houses, and grasped the side of th_arouche in her hand, as if she were in a sail-boat, in dangerous waters.
Rowland sat opposite to Miss Garland. She was totally oblivious of he_ompanions; from the moment the carriage left the hotel, she sat gazing, wide- eyed and absorbed, at the objects about them. If Rowland had felt disposed h_ight have made a joke of her intense seriousness. From time to time he tol_er the name of a place or a building, and she nodded, without looking at him.
When they emerged into the great square between Bernini's colonnades, she lai_er hand on Mrs. Hudson's arm and sank back in the carriage, staring up at th_ast yellow facade of the church. Inside the church, Roderick gave his arm t_is mother, and Rowland constituted himself the especial guide of Mis_arland. He walked with her slowly everywhere, and made the entire circuit, telling her all he knew of the history of the building. This was a great deal, but she listened attentively, keeping her eyes fixed on the dome. To Rowlan_imself it had never seemed so radiantly sublime as at these moments; he fel_lmost as if he had contrived it himself and had a right to be proud of it. H_eft Miss Garland a while on the steps of the choir, where she had seate_erself to rest, and went to join their companions. Mrs. Hudson was watching _reat circle of tattered contadini, who were kneeling before the image o_aint Peter. The fashion of their tatters fascinated her; she stood gazing a_hem in a sort of terrified pity, and could not be induced to look at anythin_lse. Rowland went back to Miss Garland and sat down beside her.
"Well, what do you think of Europe?" he asked, smiling.
"I think it 's horrible!" she said abruptly.
"I feel so strangely—I could almost cry."
"How is it that you feel?"
"So sorry for the poor past, that seems to have died here, in my heart, in a_our!"
"But, surely, you 're pleased—you 're interested."
"I am overwhelmed. Here in a single hour, everything is changed. It is as if _all in my mind had been knocked down at a stroke. Before me lies an immens_ew world, and it makes the old one, the poor little narrow, familiar one _ave always known, seem pitiful."
"But you did n't come to Rome to keep your eyes fastened on that narrow littl_orld. Forget it, turn your back on it, and enjoy all this."
"I want to enjoy it; but as I sat here just now, looking up at that golde_ist in the dome, I seemed to see in it the vague shapes of certain people an_hings at home. To enjoy, as you say, as these things demand of one to enjo_hem, is to break with one's past. And breaking is a pain!"
"Don't mind the pain, and it will cease to trouble you. Enjoy, enjoy; it i_our duty. Yours especially!"
"Why mine especially?"
"Because I am very sure that you have a mind capable of doing the most libera_ustice to everything interesting and beautiful. You are extremel_ntelligent."
"You don't know," said Miss Garland, simply.
"In that matter one feels. I really think that I know better than you. I don'_ant to seem patronizing, but I suspect that your mind is susceptible of _reat development. Give it the best company, trust it, let it go!"
She looked away from him for some moments, down the gorgeous vista of th_reat church. "But what you say," she said at last, "means change!"
"Change for the better!" cried Rowland.
"How can one tell? As one stands, one knows the worst. It seems to me ver_rightful to develop," she added, with her complete smile.
"One is in for it in one way or another, and one might as well do it with _ood grace as with a bad! Since one can't escape life, it is better to take i_y the hand."
"Is this what you call life?" she asked.
"What do you mean by 'this'?"
"Saint Peter's—all this splendor, all Rome—pictures, ruins, statues, beggars, monks."
"It is not all of it, but it is a large part of it. All these things ar_mpregnated with life; they are the fruits of an old and comple_ivilization."
"An old and complex civilization: I am afraid I don't like that."
"Don't conclude on that point just yet. Wait till you have tested it. Whil_ou wait, you will see an immense number of very beautiful things—things tha_ou are made to understand. They won't leave you as they found you; then yo_an judge. Don't tell me I know nothing about your understanding. I have _ight to assume it."
Miss Garland gazed awhile aloft in the dome. "I am not sure I understan_hat," she said.
"I hope, at least, that at a cursory glance it pleases you," said Rowland.
"You need n't be afraid to tell the truth. What strikes some people is that i_s so remarkably small."
"Oh, it's large enough; it's very wonderful. There are things in Rome, then,"
she added in a moment, turning and looking at him, "that are very, ver_eautiful?"
"Lots of them."
"Some of the most beautiful things in the world?"
"What are they? which things have most beauty?"
"That is according to taste. I should say the statues."
"How long will it take to see them all? to know, at least, something abou_hem?"
"You can see them all, as far as mere seeing goes, in a fortnight. But to kno_hem is a thing for one's leisure. The more time you spend among them, th_ore you care for them." After a moment's hesitation he went on: "Why shoul_ou grudge time? It 's all in your way, since you are to be an artist's wife."
"I have thought of that," she said. "It may be that I shall always live here, among the most beautiful things in the world!"
"Very possibly! I should like to see you ten years hence."
"I dare say I shall seem greatly altered. But I am sure of one thing."
"That for the most part I shall be quite the same. I ask nothing better tha_o believe the fine things you say about my understanding, but even if the_re true, it won't matter. I shall be what I was made, what I am now—a youn_oman from the country! The fruit of a civilization not old and complex, bu_ew and simple."
"I am delighted to hear it: that 's an excellent foundation."
"Perhaps, if you show me anything more, you will not always think so kindly o_t. Therefore I warn you."
"I am not frightened. I should like vastly to say something to you: Be wha_ou are, be what you choose; but do, sometimes, as I tell you."
If Rowland was not frightened, neither, perhaps, was Miss Garland; but sh_eemed at least slightly disturbed. She proposed that they should join thei_ompanions.
Mrs. Hudson spoke under her breath; she could not be accused of the want o_everence sometimes attributed to Protestants in the great Catholic temples.
"Mary, dear," she whispered, "suppose we had to kiss that dreadful brass toe.
If I could only have kept our door-knocker, at Northampton, as bright as that!
I think it's so heathenish; but Roderick says he thinks it 's sublime."
Roderick had evidently grown a trifle perverse. "It 's sublimer than anythin_hat your religion asks you to do!" he exclaimed.
"Surely our religion sometimes gives us very difficult duties," said Mis_arland.
"The duty of sitting in a whitewashed meeting-house and listening to a nasa_uritan! I admit that 's difficult. But it 's not sublime. I am speaking o_eremonies, of forms. It is in my line, you know, to make much of forms. _hink this is a very beautiful one. Could n't you do it?" he demanded, lookin_t his cousin.
She looked back at him intently and then shook her head. "I think not!"
"I don't know; I could n't!"
During this little discussion our four friends were standing near th_enerable image of Saint Peter, and a squalid, savage-looking peasant, _attered ruffian of the most orthodox Italian aspect, had been performing hi_evotions before it. He turned away, crossing himself, and Mrs. Hudson gave _ittle shudder of horror.
"After that," she murmured, "I suppose he thinks he is as good as any one! An_ere is another. Oh, what a beautiful person!"
A young lady had approached the sacred effigy, after having wandered away fro_ group of companions. She kissed the brazen toe, touched it with he_orehead, and turned round, facing our friends. Rowland then recognize_hristina Light. He was stupefied: had she suddenly embraced the Catholi_aith? It was but a few weeks before that she had treated him to a passionat_rofession of indifference. Had she entered the church to put herself en regl_ith what was expected of a Princess Casamassima? While Rowland was mentall_sking these questions she was approaching him and his friends, on her way t_he great altar. At first she did not perceive them.
Mary Garland had been gazing at her. "You told me," she said gently, t_owland, "that Rome contained some of the most beautiful things in the world.
This surely is one of them!"
At this moment Christina's eye met Rowland's and before giving him any sign o_ecognition she glanced rapidly at his companions. She saw Roderick, but sh_ave him no bow; she looked at Mrs. Hudson, she looked at Mary Garland. A_ary Garland she looked fixedly, piercingly, from head to foot, as the slo_ace at which she was advancing made possible. Then suddenly, as if she ha_erceived Roderick for the first time, she gave him a charming nod, a radian_mile. In a moment he was at her side. She stopped, and he stood talking t_er; she continued to look at Miss Garland.
"Why, Roderick knows her!" cried Mrs. Hudson, in an awe-struck whisper. "_upposed she was some great princess."
"She is—almost!" said Rowland. "She is the most beautiful girl in Europe, an_oderick has made her bust."
"She has very strange eyes," said Mary, and turned away.
The two ladies, with Rowland, began to descend toward the door of the church.
On their way they passed Mrs. Light, the Cavaliere, and the poodle, an_owland informed his companions of the relation in which these personage_tood to Roderick's young lady.
"Think of it, Mary!" said Mrs. Hudson. "What splendid people he must know! N_onder he found Northampton dull!"
"I like the poor little old gentleman," said Mary.
"Why do you call him poor?" Rowland asked, struck with the observation.
"He seems so!" she answered simply.
As they were reaching the door they were overtaken by Roderick, whos_nterview with Miss Light had perceptibly brightened his eye. "So you ar_cquainted with princesses!" said his mother softly, as they passed into th_ortico.
"Miss Light is not a princess!" said Roderick, curtly.
"But Mr. Mallet says so," urged Mrs. Hudson, rather disappointed.
"I meant that she was going to be!" said Rowland.
"It 's by no means certain that she is even going to be!" Roderick answered.
"Ah," said Rowland, "I give it up!"
Roderick almost immediately demanded that his mother should sit to him, at hi_tudio, for her portrait, and Rowland ventured to add another word of urgency.
If Roderick's idea really held him, it was an immense pity that hi_nspiration should be wasted; inspiration, in these days, had become to_recious a commodity. It was arranged therefore that, for the present, durin_he mornings, Mrs. Hudson should place herself at her son's service. Thi_nvolved but little sacrifice, for the good lady's appetite for antiquitie_as diminutive and bird-like, the usual round of galleries and churche_atigued her, and she was glad to purchase immunity from sight-seeing by _egular afternoon drive. It became natural in this way that, Miss Garlan_aving her mornings free, Rowland should propose to be the younger lady'_uide in whatever explorations she might be disposed to make. She said sh_new nothing about it, but she had a great curiosity, and would be glad to se_nything that he would show her. Rowland could not find it in his heart t_ccuse Roderick of neglect of the young girl; for it was natural that th_nspirations of a capricious man of genius, when they came, should b_mperious; but of course he wondered how Miss Garland felt, as the young man'_romised wife, on being thus expeditiously handed over to another man to b_ntertained. However she felt, he was certain he would know little about it.
There had been, between them, none but indirect allusions to her engagement, and Rowland had no desire to discuss it more largely; for he had no quarre_ith matters as they stood. They wore the same delightful aspect through th_ovely month of May, and the ineffable charm of Rome at that period seemed bu_he radiant sympathy of nature with his happy opportunity. The weather wa_ivine; each particular morning, as he walked from his lodging to Mrs.
Hudson's modest inn, seemed to have a blessing upon it. The elder lady ha_sually gone off to the studio, and he found Miss Garland sitting alone at th_pen window, turning the leaves of some book of artistic or antiquaria_eference that he had given her. She always had a smile, she was always eager, alert, responsive. She might be grave by nature, she might be sad b_ircumstance, she might have secret doubts and pangs, but she was essentiall_oung and strong and fresh and able to enjoy. Her enjoyment was not especiall_emonstrative, but it was curiously diligent. Rowland felt that it was no_musement and sensation that she coveted, but knowledge—facts that she migh_oiselessly lay away, piece by piece, in the perfumed darkness of her seriou_ind, so that, under this head at least, she should not be a perfectl_ortionless bride. She never merely pretended to understand; she let thing_o, in her modest fashion, at the moment, but she watched them on their way, over the crest of the hill, and when her fancy seemed not likely to be misse_t went hurrying after them and ran breathless at their side, as it were, an_egged them for the secret. Rowland took an immense satisfaction in observin_hat she never mistook the second-best for the best, and that when she was i_he presence of a masterpiece, she recognized the occasion as a mighty one.
She said many things which he thought very profound—that is, if they reall_ad the fine intention he suspected. This point he usually tried to ascertain; but he was obliged to proceed cautiously, for in her mistrustful shyness i_eemed to her that cross-examination must necessarily be ironical. She wishe_o know just where she was going—what she would gain or lose. This was partl_n account of a native intellectual purity, a temper of mind that had no_ived with its door ajar, as one might say, upon the high-road of thought, fo_assing ideas to drop in and out at their pleasure; but had made much of a fe_ong visits from guests cherished and honored—guests whose presence was _olemnity. But it was even more because she was conscious of a sort of growin_elf-respect, a sense of devoting her life not to her own ends, but to thos_f another, whose life would be large and brilliant. She had been brought u_o think a great deal of "nature" and nature's innocent laws; but now Rowlan_ad spoken to her ardently of culture; her strenuous fancy had responded, an_he was pursuing culture into retreats where the need for some intellectua_ffort gave a noble severity to her purpose. She wished to be very sure, t_ake only the best, knowing it to be the best. There was something exquisit_n this labor of pious self-adornment, and Rowland helped it, though it_ruits were not for him. In spite of her lurking rigidity and angularity, i_as very evident that a nervous, impulsive sense of beauty was constantly a_lay in her soul, and that her actual experience of beautiful things moved he_n some very deep places. For all that she was not demonstrative, that he_anner was simple, and her small-talk of no very ample flow; for all that, a_he had said, she was a young woman from the country, and the country was Wes_azareth, and West Nazareth was in its way a stubborn little fact, she wa_eeling the direct influence of the great amenities of the world, and the_ere shaping her with a divinely intelligent touch. "Oh exquisite virtue o_ircumstance!" cried Rowland to himself, "that takes us by the hand and lead_s forth out of corners where, perforce, our attitudes are a trifl_ontracted, and beguiles us into testing mistrusted faculties!" When he sai_o Mary Garland that he wished he might see her ten years hence, he was payin_entally an equal compliment to circumstance and to the girl herself. Capacit_as there, it could be freely trusted; observation would have but to sow it_enerous seed. "A superior woman"—the idea had harsh associations, but h_atched it imaging itself in the vagueness of the future with a kind o_opeless confidence.
They went a great deal to Saint Peter's, for which Rowland had an exceedin_ffection, a large measure of which he succeeded in infusing into hi_ompanion. She confessed very speedily that to climb the long, low, yello_teps, beneath the huge florid facade, and then to push the ponderous leather_pron of the door, to find one's self confronted with that builded, luminou_ublimity, was a sensation of which the keenness renewed itself wit_urprising generosity. In those days the hospitality of the Vatican had no_een curtailed, and it was an easy and delightful matter to pass from th_orgeous church to the solemn company of the antique marbles. Here Rowland ha_ith his companion a great deal of talk, and found himself expoundin_esthetics a perte de vue. He discovered that she made notes of her likes an_islikes in a new-looking little memorandum book, and he wondered to wha_xtent she reported his own discourse. These were charming hours. Th_alleries had been so cold all winter that Rowland had been an exile fro_hem; but now that the sun was already scorching in the great square betwee_he colonnades, where the twin fountains flashed almost fiercely, the marbl_oolness of the long, image-bordered vistas made them a delightful refuge. Th_reat herd of tourists had almost departed, and our two friends often foun_hemselves, for half an hour at a time, in sole and tranquil possession of th_eautiful Braccio Nuovo. Here and there was an open window, where the_ingered and leaned, looking out into the warm, dead air, over the towers o_he city, at the soft-hued, historic hills, at the stately shabby gardens o_he palace, or at some sunny, empty, grass-grown court, lost in the heart o_he labyrinthine pile. They went sometimes into the chambers painted b_aphael, and of course paid their respects to the Sistine Chapel; but Mary'_vident preference was to linger among the statues. Once, when they wer_tanding before that noblest of sculptured portraits, the so-calle_emosthenes, in the Braccio Nuovo, she made the only spontaneous allusion t_er projected marriage, direct or indirect, that had yet fallen from her lips.
"I am so glad," she said, "that Roderick is a sculptor and not a painter."
The allusion resided chiefly in the extreme earnestness with which the word_ere uttered. Rowland immediately asked her the reason of her gladness.
"It 's not that painting is not fine," she said, "but that sculpture is finer.
It is more manly."
Rowland tried at times to make her talk about herself, but in this she ha_ittle skill. She seemed to him so much older, so much more pliant to socia_ses than when he had seen her at home, that he had a desire to draw from he_ome categorical account of her occupation and thoughts. He told her hi_esire and what suggested it. "It appears, then," she said, "that, after all, one can grow at home!"
"Unquestionably, if one has a motive. Your growth, then, was unconscious? Yo_id not watch yourself and water your roots?"
She paid no heed to his question. "I am willing to grant," she said, "tha_urope is more delightful than I supposed; and I don't think that, mentally, _ad been stingy. But you must admit that America is better than you hav_upposed."
"I have not a fault to find with the country which produced you!" Rowlan_hought he might risk this, smiling.
"And yet you want me to change—to assimilate Europe, I suppose you would cal_t."
"I have felt that desire only on general principles. Shall I tell you what _eel now? America has made you thus far; let America finish you! I should lik_o ship you back without delay and see what becomes of you. That sound_nkind, and I admit there is a cold intellectual curiosity in it."
She shook her head. "The charm is broken; the thread is snapped! I prefer t_emain here."
Invariably, when he was inclined to make of something they were talking of _irect application to herself, she wholly failed to assist him; she made n_esponse. Whereupon, once, with a spark of ardent irritation, he told her sh_as very "secretive." At this she colored a little, and he said that i_efault of any larger confidence it would at least be a satisfaction to mak_er confess to that charge. But even this satisfaction she denied him, and hi_nly revenge was in making, two or three times afterward, a softly ironica_llusion to her slyness. He told her that she was what is called in French _ournoise. "Very good," she answered, almost indifferently, "and now pleas_ell me again—I have forgotten it—what you said an 'architrave' was."
It was on the occasion of her asking him a question of this kind that h_harged her, with a humorous emphasis in which, also, if she had been curiou_n the matter, she might have detected a spark of restless ardor, with havin_n insatiable avidity for facts. "You are always snatching at information," h_aid; "you will never consent to have any disinterested conversation."
She frowned a little, as she always did when he arrested their talk upo_omething personal. But this time she assented, and said that she knew she wa_ager for facts. "One must make hay while the sun shines," she added. "I mus_ay up a store of learning against dark days. Somehow, my imagination refuse_o compass the idea that I may be in Rome indefinitely."
He knew he had divined her real motives; but he felt that if he might hav_aid to her—what it seemed impossible to say—that fortune possibly had i_tore for her a bitter disappointment, she would have been capable o_nswering, immediately after the first sense of pain, "Say then that I a_aying up resources for solitude!"
But all the accusations were not his. He had been watching, once, during som_rief argument, to see whether she would take her forefinger out of he_urray, into which she had inserted it to keep a certain page. It would hav_een hard to say why this point interested him, for he had not the slightes_eal apprehension that she was dry or pedantic. The simple human truth was, the poor fellow was jealous of science. In preaching science to her, he ha_ver-estimated his powers of self-effacement. Suddenly, sinking science fo_he moment, she looked at him very frankly and began to frown. At the sam_ime she let the Murray slide down to the ground, and he was so charmed wit_his circumstance that he made no movement to pick it up.
"You are singularly inconsistent, Mr. Mallet," she said.
"That first day that we were in Saint Peter's you said things that inspire_e. You bade me plunge into all this. I was all ready; I only wanted a littl_ush; yours was a great one; here I am in mid-ocean! And now, as a reward fo_y bravery, you have repeatedly snubbed me."
"Distinctly, then," said Rowland, "I strike you as inconsistent?"
"That is the word."
"Then I have played my part very ill."
"Your part? What is your part supposed to have been?"
He hesitated a moment. "That of usefulness, pure and simple."
"I don't understand you!" she said; and picking up her Murray, she fairl_uried herself in it.
That evening he said something to her which necessarily increased he_erplexity, though it was not uttered with such an intention. "Do yo_emember," he asked, "my begging you, the other day, to do occasionally as _old you? It seemed to me you tacitly consented."
"I have never yet really presumed on your consent. But now I would like you t_o this: whenever you catch me in the act of what you call inconsistency, as_e the meaning of some architectural term. I will know what you mean; a wor_o the wise!"
One morning they spent among the ruins of the Palatine, that sunny desolatio_f crumbling, over-tangled fragments, half excavated and half identified, known as the Palace of the Caesars. Nothing in Rome is more interesting, an_o locality has such a confusion of picturesque charms. It is a vast, ramblin_arden, where you stumble at every step on the disinterred bones of the past; where damp, frescoed corridors, relics, possibly, of Nero's Golden House, serve as gigantic bowers, and where, in the springtime, you may sit on a Lati_nscription, in the shade of a flowering almond-tree, and admire th_omposition of the Campagna. The day left a deep impression on Rowland's mind, partly owing to its intrinsic sweetness, and partly because his companion, o_his occasion, let her Murray lie unopened for an hour, and asked severa_uestions irrelevant to the Consuls and the Caesars. She had begun by sayin_hat it was coming over her, after all, that Rome was a ponderously sad place.
The sirocco was gently blowing, the air was heavy, she was tired, she looked _ittle pale.
"Everything," she said, "seems to say that all things are vanity. If one i_oing something, I suppose one feels a certain strength within one t_ontradict it. But if one is idle, surely it is depressing to live, year afte_ear, among the ashes of things that once were mighty. If I were to remai_ere I should either become permanently 'low,' as they say, or I would tak_efuge in some dogged daily work."
"I would open a school for those beautiful little beggars; though I am sadl_fraid I should never bring myself to scold them."
"I am idle," said Rowland, "and yet I have kept up a certain spirit."
"I don't call you idle," she answered with emphasis.
"It is very good of you. Do you remember our talking about that i_orthampton?"
"During that picnic? Perfectly. Has your coming abroad succeeded, fo_ourself, as well as you hoped?"
"I think I may say that it has turned out as well as I expected."
"Are you happy?"
"Don't I look so?"
"So it seems to me. But"—and she hesitated a moment—"I imagine you look happ_hether you are so or not."
"I 'm like that ancient comic mask that we saw just now in yonder excavate_resco: I am made to grin."
"Shall you come back here next winter?"
"Are you settled here forever?"
"'Forever' is a long time. I live only from year to year."
"Shall you never marry?"
Rowland gave a laugh. "'Forever'—'never!' You handle large ideas. I have no_aken a vow of celibacy."
"Would n't you like to marry?"
"I should like it immensely."
To this she made no rejoinder: but presently she asked, "Why don't you write _ook?"
Rowland laughed, this time more freely. "A book! What book should I write?"
"A history; something about art or antiquities."
"I have neither the learning nor the talent."
She made no attempt to contradict him; she simply said she had suppose_therwise. "You ought, at any rate," she continued in a moment, "to d_omething for yourself."
"For myself? I should have supposed that if ever a man seemed to live fo_imself"—
"I don't know how it seems," she interrupted, "to careless observers. But w_now—we know that you have lived—a great deal—for us."
Her voice trembled slightly, and she brought out the last words with a littl_erk.
"She has had that speech on her conscience," thought Rowland; "she has bee_hinking she owed it to me, and it seemed to her that now was her time to mak_t and have done with it."
She went on in a way which confirmed these reflections, speaking with du_olemnity. "You ought to be made to know very well what we all feel. Mrs.
Hudson tells me that she has told you what she feels. Of course Roderick ha_xpressed himself. I have been wanting to thank you too; I do, from my heart."
Rowland made no answer; his face at this moment resembled the tragic mask muc_ore than the comic. But Miss Garland was not looking at him; she had taken u_er Murray again.
In the afternoon she usually drove with Mrs. Hudson, but Rowland frequentl_aw her again in the evening. He was apt to spend half an hour in the littl_itting-room at the hotel-pension on the slope of the Pincian, and Roderick, who dined regularly with his mother, was present on these occasions. Rowlan_aw him little at other times, and for three weeks no observations passe_etween them on the subject of Mrs. Hudson's advent. To Rowland's vision, a_he weeks elapsed, the benefits to proceed from the presence of the two ladie_emained shrouded in mystery. Roderick was peculiarly inscrutable. He wa_reoccupied with his work on his mother's portrait, which was taking a ver_appy turn; and often, when he sat silent, with his hands in his pockets, hi_egs outstretched, his head thrown back, and his eyes on vacancy, it was to b_upposed that his fancy was hovering about the half-shaped image in hi_tudio, exquisite even in its immaturity. He said little, but his silence di_ot of necessity imply disaffection, for he evidently found it a deep persona_uxury to lounge away the hours in an atmosphere so charged with feminin_enderness. He was not alert, he suggested nothing in the way of excursions (Rowland was the prime mover in such as were attempted), but he conforme_assively at least to the tranquil temper of the two women, and made no hars_omments nor sombre allusions. Rowland wondered whether he had, after all, done his friend injustice in denying him the sentiment of duty. He refuse_nvitations, to Rowland's knowledge, in order to dine at the jejune littl_able-d'hote; wherever his spirit might be, he was present in the flesh wit_eligious constancy. Mrs. Hudson's felicity betrayed itself in a remarkabl_endency to finish her sentences and wear her best black silk gown. He_remors had trembled away; she was like a child who discovers that the shagg_onster it has so long been afraid to touch is an inanimate terror, compounde_f straw and saw-dust, and that it is even a safe audacity to tickle its nose.
As to whether the love-knot of which Mary Garland had the keeping still hel_irm, who should pronounce? The young girl, as we know, did not wear it on he_leeve. She always sat at the table, near the candles, with a piece of needle- work. This was the attitude in which Rowland had first seen her, and h_hought, now that he had seen her in several others, it was not the leas_ecoming.