Roderick Hudson, by Henry James

Chapter 2

Roderick

Early on the morrow Rowland received a visit from his new friend. Roderick was in a state of extreme exhilaration, tempered, however, by a certain amount of righteous wrath. He had had a domestic struggle, but he had remained master of the situation. He had shaken the dust of Mr. Striker’s office from his feet.

“I had it out last night with my mother,” he said. “I dreaded the scene, for she takes things terribly hard. She does n’t scold nor storm, and she does n’t argue nor insist. She sits with her eyes full of tears that never fall, and looks at me, when I displease her, as if I were a perfect monster of depravity. And the trouble is that I was born to displease her. She does n’t trust me; she never has and she never will. I don’t know what I have done to set her against me, but ever since I can remember I have been looked at with tears. The trouble is,” he went on, giving a twist to his moustache, “I’ve been too absurdly docile. I’ve been sprawling all my days by the maternal fireside, and my dear mother has grown used to bullying me. I’ve made myself cheap! If I ’m not in my bed by eleven o’clock, the girl is sent out to explore with a lantern. When I think of it, I fairly despise my amiability. It’s rather a hard fate, to live like a saint and to pass for a sinner! I should like for six months to lead Mrs. Hudson the life some fellows lead their mothers!”

“Allow me to believe,” said Rowland, “that you would like nothing of the sort. If you have been a good boy, don’t spoil it by pretending you don’t like it. You have been very happy, I suspect, in spite of your virtues, and there are worse fates in the world than being loved too well. I have not had the pleasure of seeing your mother, but I would lay you a wager that that is the trouble. She is passionately fond of you, and her hopes, like all intense hopes, keep trembling into fears.” Rowland, as he spoke, had an instinctive vision of how such a beautiful young fellow must be loved by his female relatives.

Roderick frowned, and with an impatient gesture, “I do her justice,” he cried. “May she never do me less!” Then after a moment’s hesitation, “I’ll tell you the perfect truth,” he went on. “I have to fill a double place. I have to be my brother as well as myself. It’s a good deal to ask of a man, especially when he has so little talent as I for being what he is not. When we were both young together I was the curled darling. I had the silver mug and the biggest piece of pudding, and I stayed indoors to be kissed by the ladies while he made mud-pies in the garden and was never missed, of course. Really, he was worth fifty of me! When he was brought home from Vicksburg with a piece of shell in his skull, my poor mother began to think she had n’t loved him enough. I remember, as she hung round my neck sobbing, before his coffin, she told me that I must be to her everything that he would have been. I swore in tears and in perfect good faith that I would, but naturally I have not kept my promise. I have been utterly different. I have been idle, restless, egotistical, discontented. I have done no harm, I believe, but I have done no good. My brother, if he had lived, would have made fifty thousand dollars and put gas and water into the house. My mother, brooding night and day on her bereavement, has come to fix her ideal in offices of that sort. Judged by that standard I ’m nowhere!”

Rowland was at loss how to receive this account of his friend’s domestic circumstances; it was plaintive, and yet the manner seemed to him over-trenchant. “You must lose no time in making a masterpiece,” he answered; “then with the proceeds you can give her gas from golden burners.”

“So I have told her; but she only half believes either in masterpiece or in proceeds. She can see no good in my making statues; they seem to her a snare of the enemy. She would fain see me all my life tethered to the law, like a browsing goat to a stake. In that way I’m in sight. ‘It’s a more regular occupation!’ that’s all I can get out of her. A more regular damnation! Is it a fact that artists, in general, are such wicked men? I never had the pleasure of knowing one, so I could n’t confute her with an example. She had the advantage of me, because she formerly knew a portrait-painter at Richmond, who did her miniature in black lace mittens (you may see it on the parlor table), who used to drink raw brandy and beat his wife. I promised her that, whatever I might do to my wife, I would never beat my mother, and that as for brandy, raw or diluted, I detested it. She sat silently crying for an hour, during which I expended treasures of eloquence. It’s a good thing to have to reckon up one’s intentions, and I assure you, as I pleaded my cause, I was most agreeably impressed with the elevated character of my own. I kissed her solemnly at last, and told her that I had said everything and that she must make the best of it. This morning she has dried her eyes, but I warrant you it is n’t a cheerful house. I long to be out of it!”

“I ’m extremely sorry,” said Rowland, “to have been the prime cause of so much suffering. I owe your mother some amends; will it be possible for me to see her?”

“If you’ll see her, it will smooth matters vastly; though to tell the truth she’ll need all her courage to face you, for she considers you an agent of the foul fiend. She does n’t see why you should have come here and set me by the ears: you are made to ruin ingenuous youths and desolate doting mothers. I leave it to you, personally, to answer these charges. You see, what she can’t forgive — what she’ll not really ever forgive — is your taking me off to Rome. Rome is an evil word, in my mother’s vocabulary, to be said in a whisper, as you’d say ‘damnation.’ Northampton is in the centre of the earth and Rome far away in outlying dusk, into which it can do no Christian any good to penetrate. And there was I but yesterday a doomed habitue of that repository of every virtue, Mr. Striker’s office!”

“And does Mr. Striker know of your decision?” asked Rowland.

“To a certainty! Mr. Striker, you must know, is not simply a good-natured attorney, who lets me dog’s-ear his law-books. He’s a particular friend and general adviser. He looks after my mother’s property and kindly consents to regard me as part of it. Our opinions have always been painfully divergent, but I freely forgive him his zealous attempts to unscrew my head-piece and set it on hind part before. He never understood me, and it was useless to try to make him. We speak a different language — we’re made of a different clay. I had a fit of rage yesterday when I smashed his bust, at the thought of all the bad blood he had stirred up in me; it did me good, and it’s all over now. I don’t hate him any more; I ’m rather sorry for him. See how you’ve improved me! I must have seemed to him wilfully, wickedly stupid, and I ’m sure he only tolerated me on account of his great regard for my mother. This morning I grasped the bull by the horns. I took an armful of law-books that have been gathering the dust in my room for the last year and a half, and presented myself at the office. ‘Allow me to put these back in their places,’ I said. ‘I shall never have need for them more — never more, never more, never more!’ ‘So you’ve learned everything they contain?’ asked Striker, leering over his spectacles. ‘Better late than never.’ ‘I’ve learned nothing that you can teach me,’ I cried. ‘But I shall tax your patience no longer. I ’m going to be a sculptor. I ’m going to Rome. I won’t bid you good-by just yet; I shall see you again. But I bid good-by here, with rapture, to these four detested walls — to this living tomb! I did n’t know till now how I hated it! My compliments to Mr. Spooner, and my thanks for all you have not made of me!’”

“I ’m glad to know you are to see Mr. Striker again,” Rowland answered, correcting a primary inclination to smile. “You certainly owe him a respectful farewell, even if he has not understood you. I confess you rather puzzle me. There is another person,” he presently added, “whose opinion as to your new career I should like to know. What does Miss Garland think?”

Hudson looked at him keenly, with a slight blush. Then, with a conscious smile, “What makes you suppose she thinks anything?” he asked.

“Because, though I saw her but for a moment yesterday, she struck me as a very intelligent person, and I am sure she has opinions.”

The smile on Roderick’s mobile face passed rapidly into a frown. “Oh, she thinks what I think!” he answered.

Before the two young men separated Rowland attempted to give as harmonious a shape as possible to his companion’s scheme. “I have launched you, as I may say,” he said, “and I feel as if I ought to see you into port. I am older than you and know the world better, and it seems well that we should voyage a while together. It’s on my conscience that I ought to take you to Rome, walk you through the Vatican, and then lock you up with a heap of clay. I sail on the fifth of September; can you make your preparations to start with me?”

Roderick assented to all this with an air of candid confidence in his friend’s wisdom that outshone the virtue of pledges. “I have no preparations to make,” he said with a smile, raising his arms and letting them fall, as if to indicate his unencumbered condition. “What I am to take with me I carry here!” and he tapped his forehead.

“Happy man!” murmured Rowland with a sigh, thinking of the light stowage, in his own organism, in the region indicated by Roderick, and of the heavy one in deposit at his banker’s, of bags and boxes.

When his companion had left him he went in search of Cecilia. She was sitting at work at a shady window, and welcomed him to a low chintz-covered chair. He sat some time, thoughtfully snipping tape with her scissors; he expected criticism and he was preparing a rejoinder. At last he told her of Roderick’s decision and of his own influence in it. Cecilia, besides an extreme surprise, exhibited a certain fine displeasure at his not having asked her advice.

“What would you have said, if I had?” he demanded.

“I would have said in the first place, ‘Oh for pity’s sake don’t carry off the person in all Northampton who amuses me most!’ I would have said in the second place, ‘Nonsense! the boy is doing very well. Let well alone!’”

“That in the first five minutes. What would you have said later?”

“That for a man who is generally averse to meddling, you were suddenly rather officious.”

Rowland’s countenance fell. He frowned in silence. Cecilia looked at him askance; gradually the spark of irritation faded from her eye.

“Excuse my sharpness,” she resumed at last. “But I am literally in despair at losing Roderick Hudson. His visits in the evening, for the past year, have kept me alive. They have given a silver tip to leaden days. I don’t say he is of a more useful metal than other people, but he is of a different one. Of course, however, that I shall miss him sadly is not a reason for his not going to seek his fortune. Men must work and women must weep!”

“Decidedly not!” said Rowland, with a good deal of emphasis. He had suspected from the first hour of his stay that Cecilia had treated herself to a private social luxury; he had then discovered that she found it in Hudson’s lounging visits and boyish chatter, and he had felt himself wondering at last whether, judiciously viewed, her gain in the matter was not the young man’s loss. It was evident that Cecilia was not judicious, and that her good sense, habitually rigid under the demands of domestic economy, indulged itself with a certain agreeable laxity on this particular point. She liked her young friend just as he was; she humored him, flattered him, laughed at him, caressed him — did everything but advise him. It was a flirtation without the benefits of a flirtation. She was too old to let him fall in love with her, which might have done him good; and her inclination was to keep him young, so that the nonsense he talked might never transgress a certain line. It was quite conceivable that poor Cecilia should relish a pastime; but if one had philanthropically embraced the idea that something considerable might be made of Roderick, it was impossible not to see that her friendship was not what might be called tonic. So Rowland reflected, in the glow of his new-born sympathy. There was a later time when he would have been grateful if Hudson’s susceptibility to the relaxing influence of lovely women might have been limited to such inexpensive tribute as he rendered the excellent Cecilia.

“I only desire to remind you,” she pursued, “that you are likely to have your hands full.”

“I’ve thought of that, and I rather like the idea; liking, as I do, the man. I told you the other day, you know, that I longed to have something on my hands. When it first occurred to me that I might start our young friend on the path of glory, I felt as if I had an unimpeachable inspiration. Then I remembered there were dangers and difficulties, and asked myself whether I had a right to step in between him and his obscurity. My sense of his really having the divine flame answered the question. He is made to do the things that humanity is the happier for! I can’t do such things myself, but when I see a young man of genius standing helpless and hopeless for want of capital, I feel — and it’s no affectation of humility, I assure you — as if it would give at least a reflected usefulness to my own life to offer him his opportunity.”

“In the name of humanity, I suppose, I ought to thank you. But I want, first of all, to be happy myself. You guarantee us at any rate, I hope, the masterpieces.”

“A masterpiece a year,” said Rowland smiling, “for the next quarter of a century.”

“It seems to me that we have a right to ask more: to demand that you guarantee us not only the development of the artist, but the security of the man.”

Rowland became grave again. “His security?”

“His moral, his sentimental security. Here, you see, it’s perfect. We are all under a tacit compact to preserve it. Perhaps you believe in the necessary turbulence of genius, and you intend to enjoin upon your protege the importance of cultivating his passions.”

“On the contrary, I believe that a man of genius owes as much deference to his passions as any other man, but not a particle more, and I confess I have a strong conviction that the artist is better for leading a quiet life. That is what I shall preach to my protege, as you call him, by example as well as by precept. You evidently believe,” he added in a moment, “that he will lead me a dance.”

“Nay, I prophesy nothing. I only think that circumstances, with our young man, have a great influence; as is proved by the fact that although he has been fuming and fretting here for the last five years, he has nevertheless managed to make the best of it, and found it easy, on the whole, to vegetate. Transplanted to Rome, I fancy he’ll put forth a denser leafage. I should like vastly to see the change. You must write me about it, from stage to stage. I hope with all my heart that the fruit will be proportionate to the foliage. Don’t think me a bird of ill omen; only remember that you will be held to a strict account.”

“A man should make the most of himself, and be helped if he needs help,” Rowland answered, after a long pause. “Of course when a body begins to expand, there comes in the possibility of bursting; but I nevertheless approve of a certain tension of one’s being. It’s what a man is meant for. And then I believe in the essential salubrity of genius — true genius.”

“Very good,” said Cecilia, with an air of resignation which made Rowland, for the moment, seem to himself culpably eager. “We’ll drink then today at dinner to the health of our friend.”

* * *

Having it much at heart to convince Mrs. Hudson of the purity of his intentions, Rowland waited upon her that evening. He was ushered into a large parlor, which, by the light of a couple of candles, he perceived to be very meagrely furnished and very tenderly and sparingly used. The windows were open to the air of the summer night, and a circle of three persons was temporarily awed into silence by his appearance. One of these was Mrs. Hudson, who was sitting at one of the windows, empty-handed save for the pocket-handkerchief in her lap, which was held with an air of familiarity with its sadder uses. Near her, on the sofa, half sitting, half lounging, in the attitude of a visitor outstaying ceremony, with one long leg flung over the other and a large foot in a clumsy boot swinging to and fro continually, was a lean, sandy-haired gentleman whom Rowland recognized as the original of the portrait of Mr. Barnaby Striker. At the table, near the candles, busy with a substantial piece of needle-work, sat the young girl of whom he had had a moment’s quickened glimpse in Roderick’s studio, and whom he had learned to be Miss Garland, his companion’s kinswoman. This young lady’s limpid, penetrating gaze was the most effective greeting he received. Mrs. Hudson rose with a soft, vague sound of distress, and stood looking at him shrinkingly and waveringly, as if she were sorely tempted to retreat through the open window. Mr. Striker swung his long leg a trifle defiantly. No one, evidently, was used to offering hollow welcomes or telling polite fibs. Rowland introduced himself; he had come, he might say, upon business.

“Yes,” said Mrs. Hudson tremulously; “I know — my son has told me. I suppose it is better I should see you. Perhaps you will take a seat.”

With this invitation Rowland prepared to comply, and, turning, grasped the first chair that offered itself.

“Not that one,” said a full, grave voice; whereupon he perceived that a quantity of sewing-silk had been suspended and entangled over the back, preparatory to being wound on reels. He felt the least bit irritated at the curtness of the warning, coming as it did from a young woman whose countenance he had mentally pronounced interesting, and with regard to whom he was conscious of the germ of the inevitable desire to produce a responsive interest. And then he thought it would break the ice to say something playfully urbane.

“Oh, you should let me take the chair,” he answered, “and have the pleasure of holding the skeins myself!”

For all reply to this sally he received a stare of undisguised amazement from Miss Garland, who then looked across at Mrs. Hudson with a glance which plainly said: “You see he’s quite the insidious personage we feared.” The elder lady, however, sat with her eyes fixed on the ground and her two hands tightly clasped. But touching her Rowland felt much more compassion than resentment; her attitude was not coldness, it was a kind of dread, almost a terror. She was a small, eager woman, with a pale, troubled face, which added to her apparent age. After looking at her for some minutes Rowland saw that she was still young, and that she must have been a very girlish bride. She had been a pretty one, too, though she probably had looked terribly frightened at the altar. She was very delicately made, and Roderick had come honestly by his physical slimness and elegance. She wore no cap, and her flaxen hair, which was of extraordinary fineness, was smoothed and confined with Puritanic precision. She was excessively shy, and evidently very humble-minded; it was singular to see a woman to whom the experience of life had conveyed so little reassurance as to her own resources or the chances of things turning out well. Rowland began immediately to like her, and to feel impatient to persuade her that there was no harm in him, and that, twenty to one, her son would make her a well-pleased woman yet. He foresaw that she would be easy to persuade, and that a benevolent conversational tone would probably make her pass, fluttering, from distrust into an oppressive extreme of confidence. But he had an indefinable sense that the person who was testing that strong young eyesight of hers in the dim candle-light was less readily beguiled from her mysterious feminine preconceptions. Miss Garland, according to Cecilia’s judgment, as Rowland remembered, had not a countenance to inspire a sculptor; but it seemed to Rowland that her countenance might fairly inspire a man who was far from being a sculptor. She was not pretty, as the eye of habit judges prettiness, but when you made the observation you somehow failed to set it down against her, for you had already passed from measuring contours to tracing meanings. In Mary Garland’s face there were many possible ones, and they gave you the more to think about that it was not — like Roderick Hudson’s, for instance — a quick and mobile face, over which expression flickered like a candle in a wind. They followed each other slowly, distinctly, gravely, sincerely, and you might almost have fancied that, as they came and went, they gave her a sort of pain. She was tall and slender, and had an air of maidenly strength and decision. She had a broad forehead and dark eyebrows, a trifle thicker than those of classic beauties; her gray eye was clear but not brilliant, and her features were perfectly irregular. Her mouth was large, fortunately for the principal grace of her physiognomy was her smile, which displayed itself with magnificent amplitude. Rowland, indeed, had not yet seen her smile, but something assured him that her rigid gravity had a radiant counterpart. She wore a scanty white dress, and had a nameless rustic air which would have led one to speak of her less as a young lady than as a young woman. She was evidently a girl of a great personal force, but she lacked pliancy. She was hemming a kitchen towel with the aid of a large steel thimble. She bent her serious eyes at last on her work again, and let Rowland explain himself.

“I have become suddenly so very intimate with your son,” he said at last, addressing himself to Mrs. Hudson, “that it seems just I should make your acquaintance.”

“Very just,” murmured the poor lady, and after a moment’s hesitation was on the point of adding something more; but Mr. Striker here interposed, after a prefatory clearance of the throat.

“I should like to take the liberty,” he said, “of addressing you a simple question. For how long a period of time have you been acquainted with our young friend?” He continued to kick the air, but his head was thrown back and his eyes fixed on the opposite wall, as if in aversion to the spectacle of Rowland’s inevitable confusion.

“A very short time, I confess. Hardly three days.”

“And yet you call yourself intimate, eh? I have been seeing Mr. Roderick daily these three years, and yet it was only this morning that I felt as if I had at last the right to say that I knew him. We had a few moments’ conversation in my office which supplied the missing links in the evidence. So that now I do venture to say I ’m acquainted with Mr. Roderick! But wait three years, sir, like me!” and Mr. Striker laughed, with a closed mouth and a noiseless shake of all his long person.

Mrs. Hudson smiled confusedly, at hazard; Miss Garland kept her eyes on her stitches. But it seemed to Rowland that the latter colored a little. “Oh, in three years, of course,” he said, “we shall know each other better. Before many years are over, madam,” he pursued, “I expect the world to know him. I expect him to be a great man!”

Mrs. Hudson looked at first as if this could be but an insidious device for increasing her distress by the assistance of irony. Then reassured, little by little, by Rowland’s benevolent visage, she gave him an appealing glance and a timorous “Really?”

But before Rowland could respond, Mr. Striker again intervened. “Do I fully apprehend your expression?” he asked. “Our young friend is to become a great man?”

“A great artist, I hope,” said Rowland.

“This is a new and interesting view,” said Mr. Striker, with an assumption of judicial calmness. “We have had hopes for Mr. Roderick, but I confess, if I have rightly understood them, they stopped short of greatness. We should n’t have taken the responsibility of claiming it for him. What do you say, ladies? We all feel about him here — his mother, Miss Garland, and myself — as if his merits were rather in the line of the”— and Mr. Striker waved his hand with a series of fantastic flourishes in the air —“of the light ornamental!” Mr. Striker bore his recalcitrant pupil a grudge, but he was evidently trying both to be fair and to respect the susceptibilities of his companions. But he was unversed in the mysterious processes of feminine emotion. Ten minutes before, there had been a general harmony of sombre views; but on hearing Roderick’s limitations thus distinctly formulated to a stranger, the two ladies mutely protested. Mrs. Hudson uttered a short, faint sigh, and Miss Garland raised her eyes toward their advocate and visited him with a short, cold glance.

“I ’m afraid, Mrs. Hudson,” Rowland pursued, evading the discussion of Roderick’s possible greatness, “that you don’t at all thank me for stirring up your son’s ambition on a line which leads him so far from home. I suspect I have made you my enemy.”

Mrs. Hudson covered her mouth with her finger-tips and looked painfully perplexed between the desire to confess the truth and the fear of being impolite. “My cousin is no one’s enemy,” Miss Garland hereupon declared, gently, but with that same fine deliberateness with which she had made Rowland relax his grasp of the chair.

“Does she leave that to you?” Rowland ventured to ask, with a smile.

“We are inspired with none but Christian sentiments,” said Mr. Striker; “Miss Garland perhaps most of all. Miss Garland,” and Mr. Striker waved his hand again as if to perform an introduction which had been regrettably omitted, “is the daughter of a minister, the granddaughter of a minister, the sister of a minister.” Rowland bowed deferentially, and the young girl went on with her sewing, with nothing, apparently, either of embarrassment or elation at the promulgation of these facts. Mr. Striker continued: “Mrs. Hudson, I see, is too deeply agitated to converse with you freely. She will allow me to address you a few questions. Would you kindly inform her, as exactly as possible, just what you propose to do with her son?”

The poor lady fixed her eyes appealingly on Rowland’s face and seemed to say that Mr. Striker had spoken her desire, though she herself would have expressed it less defiantly. But Rowland saw in Mr. Striker’s many-wrinkled light blue eye, shrewd at once and good-natured, that he had no intention of defiance, and that he was simply pompous and conceited and sarcastically compassionate of any view of things in which Roderick Hudson was regarded in a serious light.

“Do, my dear madam?” demanded Rowland. “I don’t propose to do anything. He must do for himself. I simply offer him the chance. He’s to study, to work — hard, I hope.”

“Not too hard, please,” murmured Mrs. Hudson, pleadingly, wheeling about from recent visions of dangerous leisure. “He’s not very strong, and I ’m afraid the climate of Europe is very relaxing.”

“Ah, study?” repeated Mr. Striker. “To what line of study is he to direct his attention?” Then suddenly, with an impulse of disinterested curiosity on his own account, “How do you study sculpture, anyhow?”

“By looking at models and imitating them.”

“At models, eh? To what kind of models do you refer?”

“To the antique, in the first place.”

“Ah, the antique,” repeated Mr. Striker, with a jocose intonation. “Do you hear, madam? Roderick is going off to Europe to learn to imitate the antique.”

“I suppose it’s all right,” said Mrs. Hudson, twisting herself in a sort of delicate anguish.

“An antique, as I understand it,” the lawyer continued, “is an image of a pagan deity, with considerable dirt sticking to it, and no arms, no nose, and no clothing. A precious model, certainly!”

“That’s a very good description of many,” said Rowland, with a laugh.

“Mercy! Truly?” asked Mrs. Hudson, borrowing courage from his urbanity.

“But a sculptor’s studies, you intimate, are not confined to the antique,” Mr. Striker resumed. “After he has been looking three or four years at the objects I describe”—

“He studies the living model,” said Rowland.

“Does it take three or four years?” asked Mrs. Hudson, imploringly.

“That depends upon the artist’s aptitude. After twenty years a real artist is still studying.”

“Oh, my poor boy!” moaned Mrs. Hudson, finding the prospect, under every light, still terrible.

“Now this study of the living model,” Mr. Striker pursued. “Inform Mrs. Hudson about that.”

“Oh dear, no!” cried Mrs. Hudson, shrinkingly.

“That too,” said Rowland, “is one of the reasons for studying in Rome. It’s a handsome race, you know, and you find very well-made people.”

“I suppose they’re no better made than a good tough Yankee,” objected Mr. Striker, transposing his interminable legs. “The same God made us.”

“Surely,” sighed Mrs. Hudson, but with a questioning glance at her visitor which showed that she had already begun to concede much weight to his opinion. Rowland hastened to express his assent to Mr. Striker’s proposition.

Miss Garland looked up, and, after a moment’s hesitation: “Are the Roman women very beautiful?” she asked.

Rowland too, in answering, hesitated; he was looking straight at the young girl. “On the whole, I prefer ours,” he said.

She had dropped her work in her lap; her hands were crossed upon it, her head thrown a little back. She had evidently expected a more impersonal answer, and she was dissatisfied. For an instant she seemed inclined to make a rejoinder, but she slowly picked up her work in silence and drew her stitches again.

Rowland had for the second time the feeling that she judged him to be a person of a disagreeably sophisticated tone. He noticed too that the kitchen towel she was hemming was terribly coarse. And yet his answer had a resonant inward echo, and he repeated to himself, “Yes, on the whole, I prefer ours.”

“Well, these models,” began Mr. Striker. “You put them into an attitude, I suppose.”

“An attitude, exactly.”

“And then you sit down and look at them.”

“You must not sit too long. You must go at your clay and try to build up something that looks like them.”

“Well, there you are with your model in an attitude on one side, yourself, in an attitude too, I suppose, on the other, and your pile of clay in the middle, building up, as you say. So you pass the morning. After that I hope you go out and take a walk, and rest from your exertions.”

“Unquestionably. But to a sculptor who loves his work there is no time lost. Everything he looks at teaches or suggests something.”

“That’s a tempting doctrine to young men with a taste for sitting by the hour with the page unturned, watching the flies buzz, or the frost melt on the window-pane. Our young friend, in this way, must have laid up stores of information which I never suspected!”

“Very likely,” said Rowland, with an unresentful smile, “he will prove some day the completer artist for some of those lazy reveries.”

This theory was apparently very grateful to Mrs. Hudson, who had never had the case put for her son with such ingenious hopefulness, and found herself disrelishing the singular situation of seeming to side against her own flesh and blood with a lawyer whose conversational tone betrayed the habit of cross-questioning.

“My son, then,” she ventured to ask, “my son has great — what you would call great powers?”

“To my sense, very great powers.”

Poor Mrs. Hudson actually smiled, broadly, gleefully, and glanced at Miss Garland, as if to invite her to do likewise. But the young girl’s face remained serious, like the eastern sky when the opposite sunset is too feeble to make it glow. “Do you really know?” she asked, looking at Rowland.

“One cannot know in such a matter save after proof, and proof takes time. But one can believe.”

“And you believe?”

“I believe.”

But even then Miss Garland vouchsafed no smile. Her face became graver than ever.

“Well, well,” said Mrs. Hudson, “we must hope that it is all for the best.”

Mr. Striker eyed his old friend for a moment with a look of some displeasure; he saw that this was but a cunning feminine imitation of resignation, and that, through some untraceable process of transition, she was now taking more comfort in the opinions of this insinuating stranger than in his own tough dogmas. He rose to his feet, without pulling down his waistcoat, but with a wrinkled grin at the inconsistency of women. “Well, sir, Mr. Roderick’s powers are nothing to me,” he said, “nor no use he makes of them. Good or bad, he’s no son of mine. But, in a friendly way, I ’m glad to hear so fine an account of him. I ’m glad, madam, you’re so satisfied with the prospect. Affection, sir, you see, must have its guarantees!” He paused a moment, stroking his beard, with his head inclined and one eye half-closed, looking at Rowland. The look was grotesque, but it was significant, and it puzzled Rowland more than it amused him. “I suppose you’re a very brilliant young man,” he went on, “very enlightened, very cultivated, quite up to the mark in the fine arts and all that sort of thing. I ’m a plain, practical old boy, content to follow an honorable profession in a free country. I did n’t go off to the Old World to learn my business; no one took me by the hand; I had to grease my wheels myself, and, such as I am, I ’m a self-made man, every inch of me! Well, if our young friend is booked for fame and fortune, I don’t suppose his going to Rome will stop him. But, mind you, it won’t help him such a long way, either. If you have undertaken to put him through, there’s a thing or two you’d better remember. The crop we gather depends upon the seed we sow. He may be the biggest genius of the age: his potatoes won’t come up without his hoeing them. If he takes things so almighty easy as — well, as one or two young fellows of genius I’ve had under my eye — his produce will never gain the prize. Take the word for it of a man who has made his way inch by inch, and does n’t believe that we’ll wake up to find our work done because we’ve lain all night a-dreaming of it; anything worth doing is devilish hard to do! If your young protajay finds things easy and has a good time and says he likes the life, it’s a sign that — as I may say — you had better step round to the office and look at the books. That’s all I desire to remark. No offense intended. I hope you’ll have a first-rate time.”

Rowland could honestly reply that this seemed pregnant sense, and he offered Mr. Striker a friendly hand-shake as the latter withdrew. But Mr. Striker’s rather grim view of matters cast a momentary shadow on his companions, and Mrs. Hudson seemed to feel that it necessitated between them some little friendly agreement not to be overawed.

Rowland sat for some time longer, partly because he wished to please the two women and partly because he was strangely pleased himself. There was something touching in their unworldly fears and diffident hopes, something almost terrible in the way poor little Mrs. Hudson seemed to flutter and quiver with intense maternal passion. She put forth one timid conversational venture after another, and asked Rowland a number of questions about himself, his age, his family, his occupations, his tastes, his religious opinions. Rowland had an odd feeling at last that she had begun to consider him very exemplary, and that she might make, later, some perturbing discovery. He tried, therefore, to invent something that would prepare her to find him fallible. But he could think of nothing. It only seemed to him that Miss Garland secretly mistrusted him, and that he must leave her to render him the service, after he had gone, of making him the object of a little firm derogation. Mrs. Hudson talked with low-voiced eagerness about her son.

“He’s very lovable, sir, I assure you. When you come to know him you’ll find him very lovable. He’s a little spoiled, of course; he has always done with me as he pleased; but he’s a good boy, I ’m sure he’s a good boy. And every one thinks him very attractive: I ’m sure he’d be noticed, anywhere. Don’t you think he’s very handsome, sir? He features his poor father. I had another — perhaps you’ve been told. He was killed.” And the poor little lady bravely smiled, for fear of doing worse. “He was a very fine boy, but very different from Roderick. Roderick is a little strange; he has never been an easy boy. Sometimes I feel like the goose — was n’t it a goose, dear?” and startled by the audacity of her comparison she appealed to Miss Garland —“the goose, or the hen, who hatched a swan’s egg. I have never been able to give him what he needs. I have always thought that in more — in more brilliant circumstances he might find his place and be happy. But at the same time I was afraid of the world for him; it was so large and dangerous and dreadful. No doubt I know very little about it. I never suspected, I confess, that it contained persons of such liberality as yours.”

Rowland replied that, evidently, she had done the world but scanty justice. “No,” objected Miss Garland, after a pause, “it is like something in a fairy tale.”

“What, pray?”

“Your coming here all unknown, so rich and so polite, and carrying off my cousin in a golden cloud.”

If this was badinage Miss Garland had the best of it, for Rowland almost fell a-musing silently over the question whether there was a possibility of irony in that transparent gaze. Before he withdrew, Mrs. Hudson made him tell her again that Roderick’s powers were extraordinary. He had inspired her with a clinging, caressing faith in his wisdom. “He will really do great things,” she asked, “the very greatest?”

“I see no reason in his talent itself why he should not.”

“Well, we’ll think of that as we sit here alone,” she rejoined. “Mary and I will sit here and talk about it. So I give him up,” she went on, as he was going. “I ’m sure you’ll be the best of friends to him, but if you should ever forget him, or grow tired of him, or lose your interest in him, and he should come to any harm or any trouble, please, sir, remember”— And she paused, with a tremulous voice.

“Remember, my dear madam?”

“That he is all I have — that he is everything — and that it would be very terrible.”

“In so far as I can help him, he shall succeed,” was all Rowland could say. He turned to Miss Garland, to bid her good night, and she rose and put out her hand. She was very straightforward, but he could see that if she was too modest to be bold, she was much too simple to be shy. “Have you no charge to lay upon me?” he asked — to ask her something.

She looked at him a moment and then, although she was not shy, she blushed. “Make him do his best,” she said.

Rowland noted the soft intensity with which the words were uttered. “Do you take a great interest in him?” he demanded.

“Certainly.”

“Then, if he will not do his best for you, he will not do it for me.” She turned away with another blush, and Rowland took his leave.

He walked homeward, thinking of many things. The great Northampton elms interarched far above in the darkness, but the moon had risen and through scattered apertures was hanging the dusky vault with silver lamps. There seemed to Rowland something intensely serious in the scene in which he had just taken part. He had laughed and talked and braved it out in self-defense; but when he reflected that he was really meddling with the simple stillness of this little New England home, and that he had ventured to disturb so much living security in the interest of a far-away, fantastic hypothesis, he paused, amazed at his temerity. It was true, as Cecilia had said, that for an unofficious man it was a singular position. There stirred in his mind an odd feeling of annoyance with Roderick for having thus peremptorily enlisted his sympathies. As he looked up and down the long vista, and saw the clear white houses glancing here and there in the broken moonshine, he could almost have believed that the happiest lot for any man was to make the most of life in some such tranquil spot as that. Here were kindness, comfort, safety, the warning voice of duty, the perfect hush of temptation. And as Rowland looked along the arch of silvered shadow and out into the lucid air of the American night, which seemed so doubly vast, somehow, and strange and nocturnal, he felt like declaring that here was beauty too — beauty sufficient for an artist not to starve upon it. As he stood, lost in the darkness, he presently heard a rapid tread on the other side of the road, accompanied by a loud, jubilant whistle, and in a moment a figure emerged into an open gap of moonshine. He had no difficulty in recognizing Hudson, who was presumably returning from a visit to Cecilia. Roderick stopped suddenly and stared up at the moon, with his face vividly illumined. He broke out into a snatch of song:—

“The splendor falls on castle walls And snowy summits old in story!”

And with a great, musical roll of his voice he went swinging off into the darkness again, as if his thoughts had lent him wings. He was dreaming of the inspiration of foreign lands — of castled crags and historic landscapes. What a pity, after all, thought Rowland, as he went his own way, that he should n’t have a taste of it!

It had been a very just remark of Cecilia’s that Roderick would change with a change in his circumstances. Rowland had telegraphed to New York for another berth on his steamer, and from the hour the answer came Hudson’s spirits rose to incalculable heights. He was radiant with good-humor, and his kindly jollity seemed the pledge of a brilliant future. He had forgiven his old enemies and forgotten his old grievances, and seemed every way reconciled to a world in which he was going to count as an active force. He was inexhaustibly loquacious and fantastic, and as Cecilia said, he had suddenly become so good that it was only to be feared he was going to start not for Europe but for heaven. He took long walks with Rowland, who felt more and more the fascination of what he would have called his giftedness. Rowland returned several times to Mrs. Hudson’s, and found the two ladies doing their best to be happy in their companion’s happiness. Miss Garland, he thought, was succeeding better than her demeanor on his first visit had promised. He tried to have some especial talk with her, but her extreme reserve forced him to content himself with such response to his rather urgent overtures as might be extracted from a keenly attentive smile. It must be confessed, however, that if the response was vague, the satisfaction was great, and that Rowland, after his second visit, kept seeing a lurking reflection of this smile in the most unexpected places. It seemed strange that she should please him so well at so slender a cost, but please him she did, prodigiously, and his pleasure had a quality altogether new to him. It made him restless, and a trifle melancholy; he walked about absently, wondering and wishing. He wondered, among other things, why fate should have condemned him to make the acquaintance of a girl whom he would make a sacrifice to know better, just as he was leaving the country for years. It seemed to him that he was turning his back on a chance of happiness — happiness of a sort of which the slenderest germ should be cultivated. He asked himself whether, feeling as he did, if he had only himself to please, he would give up his journey and — wait. He had Roderick to please now, for whom disappointment would be cruel; but he said to himself that certainly, if there were no Roderick in the case, the ship should sail without him. He asked Hudson several questions about his cousin, but Roderick, confidential on most points, seemed to have reasons of his own for being reticent on this one. His measured answers quickened Rowland’s curiosity, for Miss Garland, with her own irritating half-suggestions, had only to be a subject of guarded allusion in others to become intolerably interesting. He learned from Roderick that she was the daughter of a country minister, a far-away cousin of his mother, settled in another part of the State; that she was one of a half-a-dozen daughters, that the family was very poor, and that she had come a couple of months before to pay his mother a long visit. “It is to be a very long one now,” he said, “for it is settled that she is to remain while I am away.”

The fermentation of contentment in Roderick’s soul reached its climax a few days before the young men were to make their farewells. He had been sitting with his friends on Cecilia’s veranda, but for half an hour past he had said nothing. Lounging back against a vine-wreathed column and gazing idly at the stars, he kept caroling softly to himself with that indifference to ceremony for which he always found allowance, and which in him had a sort of pleading grace. At last, springing up: “I want to strike out, hard!” he exclaimed. “I want to do something violent, to let off steam!”

“I’ll tell you what to do, this lovely weather,” said Cecilia. “Give a picnic. It can be as violent as you please, and it will have the merit of leading off our emotion into a safe channel, as well as yours.”

Roderick laughed uproariously at Cecilia’s very practical remedy for his sentimental need, but a couple of days later, nevertheless, the picnic was given. It was to be a family party, but Roderick, in his magnanimous geniality, insisted on inviting Mr. Striker, a decision which Rowland mentally applauded. “And we’ll have Mrs. Striker, too,” he said, “if she’ll come, to keep my mother in countenance; and at any rate we’ll have Miss Striker — the divine Petronilla!” The young lady thus denominated formed, with Mrs. Hudson, Miss Garland, and Cecilia, the feminine half of the company. Mr. Striker presented himself, sacrificing a morning’s work, with a magnanimity greater even than Roderick’s, and foreign support was further secured in the person of Mr. Whitefoot, the young Orthodox minister. Roderick had chosen the feasting-place; he knew it well and had passed many a summer afternoon there, lying at his length on the grass and gazing at the blue undulations of the horizon. It was a meadow on the edge of a wood, with mossy rocks protruding through the grass and a little lake on the other side. It was a cloudless August day; Rowland always remembered it, and the scene, and everything that was said and done, with extraordinary distinctness. Roderick surpassed himself in friendly jollity, and at one moment, when exhilaration was at the highest, was seen in Mr. Striker’s high white hat, drinking champagne from a broken tea-cup to Mr. Striker’s health. Miss Striker had her father’s pale blue eye; she was dressed as if she were going to sit for her photograph, and remained for a long time with Roderick on a little promontory overhanging the lake. Mrs. Hudson sat all day with a little meek, apprehensive smile. She was afraid of an “accident,” though unless Miss Striker (who indeed was a little of a romp) should push Roderick into the lake, it was hard to see what accident could occur. Mrs. Hudson was as neat and crisp and uncrumpled at the end of the festival as at the beginning. Mr. Whitefoot, who but a twelvemonth later became a convert to episcopacy and was already cultivating a certain conversational sonority, devoted himself to Cecilia. He had a little book in his pocket, out of which he read to her at intervals, lying stretched at her feet, and it was a lasting joke with Cecilia, afterwards, that she would never tell what Mr. Whitefoot’s little book had been. Rowland had placed himself near Miss Garland, while the feasting went forward on the grass. She wore a so-called gypsy hat — a little straw hat, tied down over her ears, so as to cast her eyes into shadow, by a ribbon passing outside of it. When the company dispersed, after lunch, he proposed to her to take a stroll in the wood. She hesitated a moment and looked toward Mrs. Hudson, as if for permission to leave her. But Mrs. Hudson was listening to Mr. Striker, who sat gossiping to her with relaxed magniloquence, his waistcoat unbuttoned and his hat on his nose.

“You can give your cousin your society at any time,” said Rowland. “But me, perhaps, you’ll never see again.”

“Why then should we wish to be friends, if nothing is to come of it?” she asked, with homely logic. But by this time she had consented, and they were treading the fallen pine-needles.

“Oh, one must take all one can get,” said Rowland. “If we can be friends for half an hour, it’s so much gained.”

“Do you expect never to come back to Northampton again?”

“‘Never’ is a good deal to say. But I go to Europe for a long stay.”

“Do you prefer it so much to your own country?”

“I will not say that. But I have the misfortune to be a rather idle man, and in Europe the burden of idleness is less heavy than here.”

She was silent for a few minutes; then at last, “In that, then, we are better than Europe,” she said. To a certain point Rowland agreed with her, but he demurred, to make her say more.

“Would n’t it be better,” she asked, “to work to get reconciled to America, than to go to Europe to get reconciled to idleness?”

“Doubtless; but you know work is hard to find.”

“I come from a little place where every one has plenty,” said Miss Garland. “We all work; every one I know works. And really,” she added presently, “I look at you with curiosity; you are the first unoccupied man I ever saw.”

“Don’t look at me too hard,” said Rowland, smiling. “I shall sink into the earth. What is the name of your little place?”

“West Nazareth,” said Miss Garland, with her usual sobriety. “It is not so very little, though it’s smaller than Northampton.”

“I wonder whether I could find any work at West Nazareth,” Rowland said.

“You would not like it,” Miss Garland declared reflectively. “Though there are far finer woods there than this. We have miles and miles of woods.”

“I might chop down trees,” said Rowland. “That is, if you allow it.”

“Allow it? Why, where should we get our firewood?” Then, noticing that he had spoken jestingly, she glanced at him askance, though with no visible diminution of her gravity. “Don’t you know how to do anything? Have you no profession?”

Rowland shook his head. “Absolutely none.”

“What do you do all day?”

“Nothing worth relating. That’s why I am going to Europe. There, at least, if I do nothing, I shall see a great deal; and if I ’m not a producer, I shall at any rate be an observer.”

“Can’t we observe everywhere?”

“Certainly; and I really think that in that way I make the most of my opportunities. Though I confess,” he continued, “that I often remember there are things to be seen here to which I probably have n’t done justice. I should like, for instance, to see West Nazareth.”

She looked round at him, open-eyed; not, apparently, that she exactly supposed he was jesting, for the expression of such a desire was not necessarily facetious; but as if he must have spoken with an ulterior motive. In fact, he had spoken from the simplest of motives. The girl beside him pleased him unspeakably, and, suspecting that her charm was essentially her own and not reflected from social circumstance, he wished to give himself the satisfaction of contrasting her with the meagre influences of her education. Miss Garland’s second movement was to take him at his word. “Since you are free to do as you please, why don’t you go there?”

“I am not free to do as I please now. I have offered your cousin to bear him company to Europe, he has accepted with enthusiasm, and I cannot retract.”

“Are you going to Europe simply for his sake?”

Rowland hesitated a moment. “I think I may almost say so.”

Miss Garland walked along in silence. “Do you mean to do a great deal for him?” she asked at last.

“What I can. But my power of helping him is very small beside his power of helping himself.”

For a moment she was silent again. “You are very generous,” she said, almost solemnly.

“No, I am simply very shrewd. Roderick will repay me. It’s an investment. At first, I think,” he added shortly afterwards, “you would not have paid me that compliment. You distrusted me.”

She made no attempt to deny it. “I did n’t see why you should wish to make Roderick discontented. I thought you were rather frivolous.”

“You did me injustice. I don’t think I ’m that.”

“It was because you are unlike other men — those, at least, whom I have seen.”

“In what way?”

“Why, as you describe yourself. You have no duties, no profession, no home. You live for your pleasure.”

“That’s all very true. And yet I maintain I ’m not frivolous.”

“I hope not,” said Miss Garland, simply. They had reached a point where the wood-path forked and put forth two divergent tracks which lost themselves in a verdurous tangle. Miss Garland seemed to think that the difficulty of choice between them was a reason for giving them up and turning back. Rowland thought otherwise, and detected agreeable grounds for preference in the left-hand path. As a compromise, they sat down on a fallen log. Looking about him, Rowland espied a curious wild shrub, with a spotted crimson leaf; he went and plucked a spray of it and brought it to Miss Garland. He had never observed it before, but she immediately called it by its name. She expressed surprise at his not knowing it; it was extremely common. He presently brought her a specimen of another delicate plant, with a little blue-streaked flower. “I suppose that’s common, too,” he said, “but I have never seen it — or noticed it, at least.” She answered that this one was rare, and meditated a moment before she could remember its name. At last she recalled it, and expressed surprise at his having found the plant in the woods; she supposed it grew only in open marshes. Rowland complimented her on her fund of useful information.

“It’s not especially useful,” she answered; “but I like to know the names of plants as I do those of my acquaintances. When we walk in the woods at home — which we do so much — it seems as unnatural not to know what to call the flowers as it would be to see some one in the town with whom we were not on speaking terms.”

“Apropos of frivolity,” Rowland said, “I ’m sure you have very little of it, unless at West Nazareth it is considered frivolous to walk in the woods and nod to the nodding flowers. Do kindly tell me a little about yourself.” And to compel her to begin, “I know you come of a race of theologians,” he went on.

“No,” she replied, deliberating; “they are not theologians, though they are ministers. We don’t take a very firm stand upon doctrine; we are practical, rather. We write sermons and preach them, but we do a great deal of hard work beside.”

“And of this hard work what has your share been?”

“The hardest part: doing nothing.”

“What do you call nothing?”

“I taught school a while: I must make the most of that. But I confess I did n’t like it. Otherwise, I have only done little things at home, as they turned up.”

“What kind of things?”

“Oh, every kind. If you had seen my home, you would understand.”

Rowland would have liked to make her specify; but he felt a more urgent need to respect her simplicity than he had ever felt to defer to the complex circumstance of certain other women. “To be happy, I imagine,” he contented himself with saying, “you need to be occupied. You need to have something to expend yourself upon.”

“That is not so true as it once was; now that I am older, I am sure I am less impatient of leisure. Certainly, these two months that I have been with Mrs. Hudson, I have had a terrible amount of it. And yet I have liked it! And now that I am probably to be with her all the while that her son is away, I look forward to more with a resignation that I don’t quite know what to make of.”

“It is settled, then, that you are to remain with your cousin?”

“It depends upon their writing from home that I may stay. But that is probable. Only I must not forget,” she said, rising, “that the ground for my doing so is that she be not left alone.”

“I am glad to know,” said Rowland, “that I shall probably often hear about you. I assure you I shall often think about you!” These words were half impulsive, half deliberate. They were the simple truth, and he had asked himself why he should not tell her the truth. And yet they were not all of it; her hearing the rest would depend upon the way she received this. She received it not only, as Rowland foresaw, without a shadow of coquetry, of any apparent thought of listening to it gracefully, but with a slight movement of nervous deprecation, which seemed to betray itself in the quickening of her step. Evidently, if Rowland was to take pleasure in hearing about her, it would have to be a highly disinterested pleasure. She answered nothing, and Rowland too, as he walked beside her, was silent; but as he looked along the shadow-woven wood-path, what he was really facing was a level three years of disinterestedness. He ushered them in by talking composed civility until he had brought Miss Garland back to her companions.

He saw her but once again. He was obliged to be in New York a couple of days before sailing, and it was arranged that Roderick should overtake him at the last moment. The evening before he left Northampton he went to say farewell to Mrs. Hudson. The ceremony was brief. Rowland soon perceived that the poor little lady was in the melting mood, and, as he dreaded her tears, he compressed a multitude of solemn promises into a silent hand-shake and took his leave. Miss Garland, she had told him, was in the back-garden with Roderick: he might go out to them. He did so, and as he drew near he heard Roderick’s high-pitched voice ringing behind the shrubbery. In a moment, emerging, he found Miss Garland leaning against a tree, with her cousin before her talking with great emphasis. He asked pardon for interrupting them, and said he wished only to bid her good-by. She gave him her hand and he made her his bow in silence. “Don’t forget,” he said to Roderick, as he turned away. “And don’t, in this company, repent of your bargain.”

“I shall not let him,” said Miss Garland, with something very like gayety. “I shall see that he is punctual. He must go! I owe you an apology for having doubted that he ought to.” And in spite of the dusk Rowland could see that she had an even finer smile than he had supposed.

Roderick was punctual, eagerly punctual, and they went. Rowland for several days was occupied with material cares, and lost sight of his sentimental perplexities. But they only slumbered, and they were sharply awakened. The weather was fine, and the two young men always sat together upon deck late into the evening. One night, toward the last, they were at the stern of the great ship, watching her grind the solid blackness of the ocean into phosphorescent foam. They talked on these occasions of everything conceivable, and had the air of having no secrets from each other. But it was on Roderick’s conscience that this air belied him, and he was too frank by nature, moreover, for permanent reticence on any point.

“I must tell you something,” he said at last. “I should like you to know it, and you will be so glad to know it. Besides, it’s only a question of time; three months hence, probably, you would have guessed it. I am engaged to Mary Garland.”

Rowland sat staring; though the sea was calm, it seemed to him that the ship gave a great dizzying lurch. But in a moment he contrived to answer coherently: “Engaged to Miss Garland! I never supposed — I never imagined”—

“That I was in love with her?” Roderick interrupted. “Neither did I, until this last fortnight. But you came and put me into such ridiculous good-humor that I felt an extraordinary desire to tell some woman that I adored her. Miss Garland is a magnificent girl; you know her too little to do her justice. I have been quietly learning to know her, these past three months, and have been falling in love with her without being conscious of it. It appeared, when I spoke to her, that she had a kindness for me. So the thing was settled. I must of course make some money before we can marry. It’s rather droll, certainly, to engage one’s self to a girl whom one is going to leave the next day, for years. We shall be condemned, for some time to come, to do a terrible deal of abstract thinking about each other. But I wanted her blessing on my career and I could not help asking for it. Unless a man is unnaturally selfish he needs to work for some one else than himself, and I am sure I shall run a smoother and swifter course for knowing that that fine creature is waiting, at Northampton, for news of my greatness. If ever I am a dull companion and over-addicted to moping, remember in justice to me that I am in love and that my sweetheart is five thousand miles away.”

Rowland listened to all this with a sort of feeling that fortune had played him an elaborately-devised trick. It had lured him out into mid-ocean and smoothed the sea and stilled the winds and given him a singularly sympathetic comrade, and then it had turned and delivered him a thumping blow in mid-chest. “Yes,” he said, after an attempt at the usual formal congratulation, “you certainly ought to do better — with Miss Garland waiting for you at Northampton.”

Roderick, now that he had broken ground, was eloquent and rung a hundred changes on the assurance that he was a very happy man. Then at last, suddenly, his climax was a yawn, and he declared that he must go to bed. Rowland let him go alone, and sat there late, between sea and sky.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/j/james/henry/roderick/chapter2.html

Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38