One warm, still day, late in the Roman autumn, our two young men were sitting beneath one of the high-stemmed pines of the Villa Ludovisi. They had been spending an hour in the mouldy little garden-house, where the colossal mask of the famous Juno looks out with blank eyes from that dusky corner which must seem to her the last possible stage of a lapse from Olympus. Then they had wandered out into the gardens, and were lounging away the morning under the spell of their magical picturesqueness. Roderick declared that he would go nowhere else; that, after the Juno, it was a profanation to look at anything but sky and trees. There was a fresco of Guercino, to which Rowland, though he had seen it on his former visit to Rome, went dutifully to pay his respects. But Roderick, though he had never seen it, declared that it could n’t be worth a fig, and that he did n’t care to look at ugly things. He remained stretched on his overcoat, which he had spread on the grass, while Rowland went off envying the intellectual comfort of genius, which can arrive at serene conclusions without disagreeable processes. When the latter came back, his friend was sitting with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. Rowland, in the geniality of a mood attuned to the mellow charm of a Roman villa, found a good word to say for the Guercino; but he chiefly talked of the view from the little belvedere on the roof of the casino, and how it looked like the prospect from a castle turret in a fairy tale.
“Very likely,” said Roderick, throwing himself back with a yawn. “But I must let it pass. I have seen enough for the present; I have reached the top of the hill. I have an indigestion of impressions; I must work them off before I go in for any more. I don’t want to look at any more of other people’s works, for a month — not even at Nature’s own. I want to look at Roderick Hudson’s. The result of it all is that I ’m not afraid. I can but try, as well as the rest of them! The fellow who did that gazing goddess yonder only made an experiment. The other day, when I was looking at Michael Angelo’s Moses, I was seized with a kind of defiance — a reaction against all this mere passive enjoyment of grandeur. It was a rousing great success, certainly, that rose there before me, but somehow it was not an inscrutable mystery, and it seemed to me, not perhaps that I should some day do as well, but that at least I might!”
“As you say, you can but try,” said Rowland. “Success is only passionate effort.”
“Well, the passion is blazing; we have been piling on fuel handsomely. It came over me just now that it is exactly three months to a day since I left Northampton. I can’t believe it!”
“It certainly seems more.”
“It seems like ten years. What an exquisite ass I was!”
“Do you feel so wise now?”
“Verily! Don’t I look so? Surely I have n’t the same face. Have n’t I a different eye, a different expression, a different voice?”
“I can hardly say, because I have seen the transition. But it’s very likely. You are, in the literal sense of the word, more civilized. I dare say,” added Rowland, “that Miss Garland would think so.”
“That’s not what she would call it; she would say I was corrupted.”
Rowland asked few questions about Miss Garland, but he always listened narrowly to his companion’s voluntary observations.
“Are you very sure?” he replied.
“Why, she’s a stern moralist, and she would infer from my appearance that I had become a cynical sybarite.” Roderick had, in fact, a Venetian watch-chain round his neck and a magnificent Roman intaglio on the third finger of his left hand.
“Will you think I take a liberty,” asked Rowland, “if I say you judge her superficially?”
“For heaven’s sake,” cried Roderick, laughing, “don’t tell me she’s not a moralist! It was for that I fell in love with her, and with rigid virtue in her person.”
“She is a moralist, but not, as you imply, a narrow one. That’s more than a difference in degree; it’s a difference in kind. I don’t know whether I ever mentioned it, but I admire her extremely. There is nothing narrow about her but her experience; everything else is large. My impression of her is of a person of great capacity, as yet wholly unmeasured and untested. Some day or other, I ’m sure, she will judge fairly and wisely of everything.”
“Stay a bit!” cried Roderick; “you’re a better Catholic than the Pope. I shall be content if she judges fairly of me — of my merits, that is. The rest she must not judge at all. She’s a grimly devoted little creature; may she always remain so! Changed as I am, I adore her none the less. What becomes of all our emotions, our impressions,” he went on, after a long pause, “all the material of thought that life pours into us at such a rate during such a memorable three months as these? There are twenty moments a week — a day, for that matter, some days — that seem supreme, twenty impressions that seem ultimate, that appear to form an intellectual era. But others come treading on their heels and sweeping them along, and they all melt like water into water and settle the question of precedence among themselves. The curious thing is that the more the mind takes in, the more it has space for, and that all one’s ideas are like the Irish people at home who live in the different corners of a room, and take boarders.”
“I fancy it is our peculiar good luck that we don’t see the limits of our minds,” said Rowland. “We are young, compared with what we may one day be. That belongs to youth; it is perhaps the best part of it. They say that old people do find themselves at last face to face with a solid blank wall, and stand thumping against it in vain. It resounds, it seems to have something beyond it, but it won’t move! That’s only a reason for living with open doors as long as we can!”
“Open doors?” murmured Roderick. “Yes, let us close no doors that open upon Rome. For this, for the mind, is eternal summer! But though my doors may stand open today,” he presently added, “I shall see no visitors. I want to pause and breathe; I want to dream of a statue. I have been working hard for three months; I have earned a right to a reverie.”
Rowland, on his side, was not without provision for reflection, and they lingered on in broken, desultory talk. Rowland felt the need for intellectual rest, for a truce to present care for churches, statues, and pictures, on even better grounds than his companion, inasmuch as he had really been living Roderick’s intellectual life the past three months, as well as his own. As he looked back on these full-flavored weeks, he drew a long breath of satisfaction, almost of relief. Roderick, thus far, had justified his confidence and flattered his perspicacity; he was rapidly unfolding into an ideal brilliancy. He was changed even more than he himself suspected; he had stepped, without faltering, into his birthright, and was spending money, intellectually, as lavishly as a young heir who has just won an obstructive lawsuit. Roderick’s glance and voice were the same, doubtless, as when they enlivened the summer dusk on Cecilia’s veranda, but in his person, generally, there was an indefinable expression of experience rapidly and easily assimilated. Rowland had been struck at the outset with the instinctive quickness of his observation and his free appropriation of whatever might serve his purpose. He had not been, for instance, half an hour on English soil before he perceived that he was dressed like a rustic, and he had immediately reformed his toilet with the most unerring tact. His appetite for novelty was insatiable, and for everything characteristically foreign, as it presented itself, he had an extravagant greeting; but in half an hour the novelty had faded, he had guessed the secret, he had plucked out the heart of the mystery and was clamoring for a keener sensation. At the end of a month, he presented, mentally, a puzzling spectacle to his companion. He had caught, instinctively, the key-note of the old world. He observed and enjoyed, he criticised and rhapsodized, but though all things interested him and many delighted him, none surprised him; he had divined their logic and measured their proportions, and referred them infallibly to their categories. Witnessing the rate at which he did intellectual execution on the general spectacle of European life, Rowland at moments felt vaguely uneasy for the future; the boy was living too fast, he would have said, and giving alarming pledges to ennui in his later years. But we must live as our pulses are timed, and Roderick’s struck the hour very often. He was, by imagination, though he never became in manner, a natural man of the world; he had intuitively, as an artist, what one may call the historic consciousness. He had a relish for social subtleties and mysteries, and, in perception, when occasion offered him an inch he never failed to take an ell. A single glimpse of a social situation of the elder type enabled him to construct the whole, with all its complex chiaroscuro, and Rowland more than once assured him that he made him believe in the metempsychosis, and that he must have lived in European society, in the last century, as a gentleman in a cocked hat and brocaded waistcoat. Hudson asked Rowland questions which poor Rowland was quite unable to answer, and of which he was equally unable to conceive where he had picked up the data. Roderick ended by answering them himself, tolerably to his satisfaction, and in a short time he had almost turned the tables and become in their walks and talks the accredited source of information. Rowland told him that when he turned sculptor a capital novelist was spoiled, and that to match his eye for social detail one would have to go to Honore de Balzac. In all this Rowland took a generous pleasure; he felt an especial kindness for his comrade’s radiant youthfulness of temperament. He was so much younger than he himself had ever been! And surely youth and genius, hand in hand, were the most beautiful sight in the world. Roderick added to this the charm of his more immediately personal qualities. The vivacity of his perceptions, the audacity of his imagination, the picturesqueness of his phrase when he was pleased — and even more when he was displeased — his abounding good-humor, his candor, his unclouded frankness, his unfailing impulse to share every emotion and impression with his friend; all this made comradeship a pure felicity, and interfused with a deeper amenity their long evening talks at cafe doors in Italian towns.
They had gone almost immediately to Paris, and had spent their days at the Louvre and their evenings at the theatre. Roderick was divided in mind as to whether Titian or Mademoiselle Delaporte was the greater artist. They had come down through France to Genoa and Milan, had spent a fortnight in Venice and another in Florence, and had now been a month in Rome. Roderick had said that he meant to spend three months in simply looking, absorbing, and reflecting, without putting pencil to paper. He looked indefatigably, and certainly saw great things — things greater, doubtless, at times, than the intentions of the artist. And yet he made few false steps and wasted little time in theories of what he ought to like and to dislike. He judged instinctively and passionately, but never vulgarly. At Venice, for a couple of days, he had half a fit of melancholy over the pretended discovery that he had missed his way, and that the only proper vestment of plastic conceptions was the coloring of Titian and Paul Veronese. Then one morning the two young men had themselves rowed out to Torcello, and Roderick lay back for a couple of hours watching a brown-breasted gondolier making superb muscular movements, in high relief, against the sky of the Adriatic, and at the end jerked himself up with a violence that nearly swamped the gondola, and declared that the only thing worth living for was to make a colossal bronze and set it aloft in the light of a public square. In Rome his first care was for the Vatican; he went there again and again. But the old imperial and papal city altogether delighted him; only there he really found what he had been looking for from the first — the complete antipodes of Northampton. And indeed Rome is the natural home of those spirits with which we just now claimed fellowship for Roderick — the spirits with a deep relish for the artificial element in life and the infinite superpositions of history. It is the immemorial city of convention. The stagnant Roman air is charged with convention; it colors the yellow light and deepens the chilly shadows. And in that still recent day the most impressive convention in all history was visible to men’s eyes, in the Roman streets, erect in a gilded coach drawn by four black horses. Roderick’s first fortnight was a high aesthetic revel. He declared that Rome made him feel and understand more things than he could express: he was sure that life must have there, for all one’s senses, an incomparable fineness; that more interesting things must happen to one than anywhere else. And he gave Rowland to understand that he meant to live freely and largely, and be as interested as occasion demanded. Rowland saw no reason to regard this as a menace of dissipation, because, in the first place, there was in all dissipation, refine it as one might, a grossness which would disqualify it for Roderick’s favor, and because, in the second, the young sculptor was a man to regard all things in the light of his art, to hand over his passions to his genius to be dealt with, and to find that he could live largely enough without exceeding the circle of wholesome curiosity. Rowland took immense satisfaction in his companion’s deep impatience to make something of all his impressions. Some of these indeed found their way into a channel which did not lead to statues, but it was none the less a safe one. He wrote frequent long letters to Miss Garland; when Rowland went with him to post them he thought wistfully of the fortune of the great loosely-written missives, which cost Roderick unconscionable sums in postage. He received punctual answers of a more frugal form, written in a clear, minute hand, on paper vexatiously thin. If Rowland was present when they came, he turned away and thought of other things — or tried to. These were the only moments when his sympathy halted, and they were brief. For the rest he let the days go by unprotestingly, and enjoyed Roderick’s serene efflorescence as he would have done a beautiful summer sunrise. Rome, for the past month, had been delicious. The annual descent of the Goths had not yet begun, and sunny leisure seemed to brood over the city.
Roderick had taken out a note-book and was roughly sketching a memento of the great Juno. Suddenly there was a noise on the gravel, and the young men, looking up, saw three persons advancing. One was a woman of middle age, with a rather grand air and a great many furbelows. She looked very hard at our friends as she passed, and glanced back over her shoulder, as if to hasten the step of a young girl who slowly followed her. She had such an expansive majesty of mien that Rowland supposed she must have some proprietary right in the villa and was not just then in a hospitable mood. Beside her walked a little elderly man, tightly buttoned in a shabby black coat, but with a flower in his lappet, and a pair of soiled light gloves. He was a grotesque-looking personage, and might have passed for a gentleman of the old school, reduced by adversity to playing cicerone to foreigners of distinction. He had a little black eye which glittered like a diamond and rolled about like a ball of quicksilver, and a white moustache, cut short and stiff, like a worn-out brush. He was smiling with extreme urbanity, and talking in a low, mellifluous voice to the lady, who evidently was not listening to him. At a considerable distance behind this couple strolled a young girl, apparently of about twenty. She was tall and slender, and dressed with extreme elegance; she led by a cord a large poodle of the most fantastic aspect. He was combed and decked like a ram for sacrifice; his trunk and haunches were of the most transparent pink, his fleecy head and shoulders as white as jeweler’s cotton, and his tail and ears ornamented with long blue ribbons. He stepped along stiffly and solemnly beside his mistress, with an air of conscious elegance. There was something at first slightly ridiculous in the sight of a young lady gravely appended to an animal of these incongruous attributes, and Roderick, with his customary frankness, greeted the spectacle with a confident smile. The young girl perceived it and turned her face full upon him, with a gaze intended apparently to enforce greater deference. It was not deference, however, her face provoked, but startled, submissive admiration; Roderick’s smile fell dead, and he sat eagerly staring. A pair of extraordinary dark blue eyes, a mass of dusky hair over a low forehead, a blooming oval of perfect purity, a flexible lip, just touched with disdain, the step and carriage of a tired princess — these were the general features of his vision. The young lady was walking slowly and letting her long dress rustle over the gravel; the young men had time to see her distinctly before she averted her face and went her way. She left a vague, sweet perfume behind her as she passed.
“Immortal powers!” cried Roderick, “what a vision! In the name of transcendent perfection, who is she?” He sprang up and stood looking after her until she rounded a turn in the avenue. “What a movement, what a manner, what a poise of the head! I wonder if she would sit to me.”
“You had better go and ask her,” said Rowland, laughing. “She is certainly most beautiful.”
“Beautiful? She’s beauty itself — she’s a revelation. I don’t believe she is living — she’s a phantasm, a vapor, an illusion!”
“The poodle,” said Rowland, “is certainly alive.”
“Nay, he too may be a grotesque phantom, like the black dog in Faust.”
“I hope at least that the young lady has nothing in common with Mephistopheles. She looked dangerous.”
“If beauty is immoral, as people think at Northampton,” said Roderick, “she is the incarnation of evil. The mamma and the queer old gentleman, moreover, are a pledge of her reality. Who are they all?”
“The Prince and Princess Ludovisi and the principessina,” suggested Rowland.
“There are no such people,” said Roderick. “Besides, the little old man is not the papa.” Rowland smiled, wondering how he had ascertained these facts, and the young sculptor went on. “The old man is a Roman, a hanger-on of the mamma, a useful personage who now and then gets asked to dinner. The ladies are foreigners, from some Northern country; I won’t say which.”
“Perhaps from the State of Maine,” said Rowland.
“No, she’s not an American, I’ll lay a wager on that. She’s a daughter of this elder world. We shall see her again, I pray my stars; but if we don’t, I shall have done something I never expected to — I shall have had a glimpse of ideal beauty.” He sat down again and went on with his sketch of the Juno, scrawled away for ten minutes, and then handed the result in silence to Rowland. Rowland uttered an exclamation of surprise and applause. The drawing represented the Juno as to the position of the head, the brow, and the broad fillet across the hair; but the eyes, the mouth, the physiognomy were a vivid portrait of the young girl with the poodle. “I have been wanting a subject,” said Roderick: “there’s one made to my hand! And now for work!”
They saw no more of the young girl, though Roderick looked hopefully, for some days, into the carriages on the Pincian. She had evidently been but passing through Rome; Naples or Florence now happily possessed her, and she was guiding her fleecy companion through the Villa Reale or the Boboli Gardens with the same superb defiance of irony. Roderick went to work and spent a month shut up in his studio; he had an idea, and he was not to rest till he had embodied it. He had established himself in the basement of a huge, dusky, dilapidated old house, in that long, tortuous, and preeminently Roman street which leads from the Corso to the Bridge of St. Angelo. The black archway which admitted you might have served as the portal of the Augean stables, but you emerged presently upon a mouldy little court, of which the fourth side was formed by a narrow terrace, overhanging the Tiber. Here, along the parapet, were stationed half a dozen shapeless fragments of sculpture, with a couple of meagre orange-trees in terra-cotta tubs, and an oleander that never flowered. The unclean, historic river swept beneath; behind were dusky, reeking walls, spotted here and there with hanging rags and flower-pots in windows; opposite, at a distance, were the bare brown banks of the stream, the huge rotunda of St. Angelo, tipped with its seraphic statue, the dome of St. Peter’s, and the broad-topped pines of the Villa Doria. The place was crumbling and shabby and melancholy, but the river was delightful, the rent was a trifle, and everything was picturesque. Roderick was in the best humor with his quarters from the first, and was certain that the working mood there would be intenser in an hour than in twenty years of Northampton. His studio was a huge, empty room with a vaulted ceiling, covered with vague, dark traces of an old fresco, which Rowland, when he spent an hour with his friend, used to stare at vainly for some surviving coherence of floating draperies and clasping arms. Roderick had lodged himself economically in the same quarter. He occupied a fifth floor on the Ripetta, but he was only at home to sleep, for when he was not at work he was either lounging in Rowland’s more luxurious rooms or strolling through streets and churches and gardens.
Rowland had found a convenient corner in a stately old palace not far from the Fountain of Trevi, and made himself a home to which books and pictures and prints and odds and ends of curious furniture gave an air of leisurely permanence. He had the tastes of a collector; he spent half his afternoons ransacking the dusty magazines of the curiosity-mongers, and often made his way, in quest of a prize, into the heart of impecunious Roman households, which had been prevailed upon to listen — with closed doors and an impenetrably wary smile — to proposals for an hereditary “antique.” In the evening, often, under the lamp, amid dropped curtains and the scattered gleam of firelight upon polished carvings and mellow paintings, the two friends sat with their heads together, criticising intaglios and etchings, water-color drawings and illuminated missals. Roderick’s quick appreciation of every form of artistic beauty reminded his companion of the flexible temperament of those Italian artists of the sixteenth century who were indifferently painters and sculptors, sonneteers and engravers. At times when he saw how the young sculptor’s day passed in a single sustained pulsation, while his own was broken into a dozen conscious devices for disposing of the hours, and intermingled with sighs, half suppressed, some of them, for conscience’ sake, over what he failed of in action and missed in possession — he felt a pang of something akin to envy. But Rowland had two substantial aids for giving patience the air of contentment: he was an inquisitive reader and a passionate rider. He plunged into bulky German octavos on Italian history, and he spent long afternoons in the saddle, ranging over the grassy desolation of the Campagna. As the season went on and the social groups began to constitute themselves, he found that he knew a great many people and that he had easy opportunity for knowing others. He enjoyed a quiet corner of a drawing-room beside an agreeable woman, and although the machinery of what calls itself society seemed to him to have many superfluous wheels, he accepted invitations and made visits punctiliously, from the conviction that the only way not to be overcome by the ridiculous side of most of such observances is to take them with exaggerated gravity. He introduced Roderick right and left, and suffered him to make his way himself — an enterprise for which Roderick very soon displayed an all-sufficient capacity. Wherever he went he made, not exactly what is called a favorable impression, but what, from a practical point of view, is better — a puzzling one. He took to evening parties as a duck to water, and before the winter was half over was the most freely and frequently discussed young man in the heterogeneous foreign colony. Rowland’s theory of his own duty was to let him run his course and play his cards, only holding himself ready to point out shoals and pitfalls, and administer a friendly propulsion through tight places. Roderick’s manners on the precincts of the Pincian were quite the same as his manners on Cecilia’s veranda: that is, they were no manners at all. But it remained as true as before that it would have been impossible, on the whole, to violate ceremony with less of lasting offense. He interrupted, he contradicted, he spoke to people he had never seen, and left his social creditors without the smallest conversational interest on their loans; he lounged and yawned, he talked loud when he should have talked low, and low when he should have talked loud. Many people, in consequence, thought him insufferably conceited, and declared that he ought to wait till he had something to show for his powers, before he assumed the airs of a spoiled celebrity. But to Rowland and to most friendly observers this judgment was quite beside the mark, and the young man’s undiluted naturalness was its own justification. He was impulsive, spontaneous, sincere; there were so many people at dinner-tables and in studios who were not, that it seemed worth while to allow this rare specimen all possible freedom of action. If Roderick took the words out of your mouth when you were just prepared to deliver them with the most effective accent, he did it with a perfect good conscience and with no pretension of a better right to being heard, but simply because he was full to overflowing of his own momentary thought and it sprang from his lips without asking leave. There were persons who waited on your periods much more deferentially, who were a hundred times more capable than Roderick of a reflective impertinence. Roderick received from various sources, chiefly feminine, enough finely-adjusted advice to have established him in life as an embodiment of the proprieties, and he received it, as he afterwards listened to criticisms on his statues, with unfaltering candor and good-humor. Here and there, doubtless, as he went, he took in a reef in his sail; but he was too adventurous a spirit to be successfully tamed, and he remained at most points the florid, rather strident young Virginian whose serene inflexibility had been the despair of Mr. Striker. All this was what friendly commentators (still chiefly feminine) alluded to when they spoke of his delightful freshness, and critics of harsher sensibilities (of the other sex) when they denounced his damned impertinence. His appearance enforced these impressions — his handsome face, his radiant, unaverted eyes, his childish, unmodulated voice. Afterwards, when those who loved him were in tears, there was something in all this unspotted comeliness that seemed to lend a mockery to the causes of their sorrow.
Certainly, among the young men of genius who, for so many ages, have gone up to Rome to test their powers, none ever made a fairer beginning than Roderick. He rode his two horses at once with extraordinary good fortune; he established the happiest modus vivendi betwixt work and play. He wrestled all day with a mountain of clay in his studio, and chattered half the night away in Roman drawing-rooms. It all seemed part of a kind of divine facility. He was passionately interested, he was feeling his powers; now that they had thoroughly kindled in the glowing aesthetic atmosphere of Rome, the ardent young fellow should be pardoned for believing that he never was to see the end of them. He enjoyed immeasurably, after the chronic obstruction of home, the downright act of production. He kept models in his studio till they dropped with fatigue; he drew, on other days, at the Capitol and the Vatican, till his own head swam with his eagerness, and his limbs stiffened with the cold. He had promptly set up a life-sized figure which he called an “Adam,” and was pushing it rapidly toward completion. There were naturally a great many wiseheads who smiled at his precipitancy, and cited him as one more example of Yankee crudity, a capital recruit to the great army of those who wish to dance before they can walk. They were right, but Roderick was right too, for the success of his statue was not to have been foreseen; it partook, really, of the miraculous. He never surpassed it afterwards, and a good judge here and there has been known to pronounce it the finest piece of sculpture of our modern era. To Rowland it seemed to justify superbly his highest hopes of his friend, and he said to himself that if he had invested his happiness in fostering a genius, he ought now to be in possession of a boundless complacency. There was something especially confident and masterly in the artist’s negligence of all such small picturesque accessories as might serve to label his figure to a vulgar apprehension. If it represented the father of the human race and the primal embodiment of human sensation, it did so in virtue of its look of balanced physical perfection, and deeply, eagerly sentient vitality. Rowland, in fraternal zeal, traveled up to Carrara and selected at the quarries the most magnificent block of marble he could find, and when it came down to Rome, the two young men had a “celebration.” They drove out to Albano, breakfasted boisterously (in their respective measure) at the inn, and lounged away the day in the sun on the top of Monte Cavo. Roderick’s head was full of ideas for other works, which he described with infinite spirit and eloquence, as vividly as if they were ranged on their pedestals before him. He had an indefatigable fancy; things he saw in the streets, in the country, things he heard and read, effects he saw just missed or half-expressed in the works of others, acted upon his mind as a kind of challenge, and he was terribly restless until, in some form or other, he had taken up the glove and set his lance in rest.
The Adam was put into marble, and all the world came to see it. Of the criticisms passed upon it this history undertakes to offer no record; over many of them the two young men had a daily laugh for a month, and certain of the formulas of the connoisseurs, restrictive or indulgent, furnished Roderick with a permanent supply of humorous catch-words. But people enough spoke flattering good-sense to make Roderick feel as if he were already half famous. The statue passed formally into Rowland’s possession, and was paid for as if an illustrious name had been chiseled on the pedestal. Poor Roderick owed every franc of the money. It was not for this, however, but because he was so gloriously in the mood, that, denying himself all breathing-time, on the same day he had given the last touch to the Adam, he began to shape the rough contour of an Eve. This went forward with equal rapidity and success. Roderick lost his temper, time and again, with his models, who offered but a gross, degenerate image of his splendid ideal; but his ideal, as he assured Rowland, became gradually such a fixed, vivid presence, that he had only to shut his eyes to behold a creature far more to his purpose than the poor girl who stood posturing at forty sous an hour. The Eve was finished in a month, and the feat was extraordinary, as well as the statue, which represented an admirably beautiful woman. When the spring began to muffle the rugged old city with its clambering festoons, it seemed to him that he had done a handsome winter’s work and had fairly earned a holiday. He took a liberal one, and lounged away the lovely Roman May, doing nothing. He looked very contented; with himself, perhaps, at times, a trifle too obviously. But who could have said without good reason? He was “flushed with triumph;” this classic phrase portrayed him, to Rowland’s sense. He would lose himself in long reveries, and emerge from them with a quickened smile and a heightened color. Rowland grudged him none of his smiles, and took an extreme satisfaction in his two statues. He had the Adam and the Eve transported to his own apartment, and one warm evening in May he gave a little dinner in honor of the artist. It was small, but Rowland had meant it should be very agreeably composed. He thought over his friends and chose four. They were all persons with whom he lived in a certain intimacy.
One of them was an American sculptor of French extraction, or remotely, perhaps, of Italian, for he rejoiced in the somewhat fervid name of Gloriani. He was a man of forty, he had been living for years in Paris and in Rome, and he now drove a very pretty trade in sculpture of the ornamental and fantastic sort. In his youth he had had money; but he had spent it recklessly, much of it scandalously, and at twenty-six had found himself obliged to make capital of his talent. This was quite inimitable, and fifteen years of indefatigable exercise had brought it to perfection. Rowland admitted its power, though it gave him very little pleasure; what he relished in the man was the extraordinary vivacity and frankness, not to call it the impudence, of his ideas. He had a definite, practical scheme of art, and he knew at least what he meant. In this sense he was solid and complete. There were so many of the aesthetic fraternity who were floundering in unknown seas, without a notion of which way their noses were turned, that Gloriani, conscious and compact, unlimitedly intelligent and consummately clever, dogmatic only as to his own duties, and at once gracefully deferential and profoundly indifferent to those of others, had for Rowland a certain intellectual refreshment quite independent of the character of his works. These were considered by most people to belong to a very corrupt, and by many to a positively indecent school. Others thought them tremendously knowing, and paid enormous prices for them; and indeed, to be able to point to one of Gloriani’s figures in a shady corner of your library was tolerable proof that you were not a fool. Corrupt things they certainly were; in the line of sculpture they were quite the latest fruit of time. It was the artist’s opinion that there is no essential difference between beauty and ugliness; that they overlap and intermingle in a quite inextricable manner; that there is no saying where one begins and the other ends; that hideousness grimaces at you suddenly from out of the very bosom of loveliness, and beauty blooms before your eyes in the lap of vileness; that it is a waste of wit to nurse metaphysical distinctions, and a sadly meagre entertainment to caress imaginary lines; that the thing to aim at is the expressive, and the way to reach it is by ingenuity; that for this purpose everything may serve, and that a consummate work is a sort of hotch-potch of the pure and the impure, the graceful and the grotesque. Its prime duty is to amuse, to puzzle, to fascinate, to savor of a complex imagination. Gloriani’s statues were florid and meretricious; they looked like magnified goldsmith’s work. They were extremely elegant, but they had no charm for Rowland. He never bought one, but Gloriani was such an honest fellow, and withal was so deluged with orders, that this made no difference in their friendship. The artist might have passed for a Frenchman. He was a great talker, and a very picturesque one; he was almost bald; he had a small, bright eye, a broken nose, and a moustache with waxed ends. When sometimes he received you at his lodging, he introduced you to a lady with a plain face whom he called Madame Gloriani — which she was not.
Rowland’s second guest was also an artist, but of a very different type. His friends called him Sam Singleton; he was an American, and he had been in Rome a couple of years. He painted small landscapes, chiefly in water-colors: Rowland had seen one of them in a shop window, had liked it extremely, and, ascertaining his address, had gone to see him and found him established in a very humble studio near the Piazza Barberini, where, apparently, fame and fortune had not yet found him out. Rowland took a fancy to him and bought several of his pictures; Singleton made few speeches, but was grateful. Rowland heard afterwards that when he first came to Rome he painted worthless daubs and gave no promise of talent. Improvement had come, however, hand in hand with patient industry, and his talent, though of a slender and delicate order, was now incontestable. It was as yet but scantily recognized, and he had hard work to live. Rowland hung his little water-colors on the parlor wall, and found that, as he lived with them, he grew very fond of them. Singleton was a diminutive, dwarfish personage; he looked like a precocious child. He had a high, protuberant forehead, a transparent brown eye, a perpetual smile, an extraordinary expression of modesty and patience. He listened much more willingly than he talked, with a little fixed, grateful grin; he blushed when he spoke, and always offered his ideas in a sidelong fashion, as if the presumption were against them. His modesty set them off, and they were eminently to the point. He was so perfect an example of the little noiseless, laborious artist whom chance, in the person of a moneyed patron, has never taken by the hand, that Rowland would have liked to befriend him by stealth. Singleton had expressed a fervent admiration for Roderick’s productions, but had not yet met the young master. Roderick was lounging against the chimney-piece when he came in, and Rowland presently introduced him. The little water-colorist stood with folded hands, blushing, smiling, and looking up at him as if Roderick were himself a statue on a pedestal. Singleton began to murmur something about his pleasure, his admiration; the desire to make his compliment smoothly gave him a kind of grotesque formalism. Roderick looked down at him surprised, and suddenly burst into a laugh. Singleton paused a moment and then, with an intenser smile, went on: “Well, sir, your statues are beautiful, all the same!”
Rowland’s two other guests were ladies, and one of them, Miss Blanchard, belonged also to the artistic fraternity. She was an American, she was young, she was pretty, and she had made her way to Rome alone and unaided. She lived alone, or with no other duenna than a bushy-browed old serving-woman, though indeed she had a friendly neighbor in the person of a certain Madame Grandoni, who in various social emergencies lent her a protecting wing, and had come with her to Rowland’s dinner. Miss Blanchard had a little money, but she was not above selling her pictures. These represented generally a bunch of dew-sprinkled roses, with the dew-drops very highly finished, or else a wayside shrine, and a peasant woman, with her back turned, kneeling before it. She did backs very well, but she was a little weak in faces. Flowers, however, were her speciality, and though her touch was a little old-fashioned and finical, she painted them with remarkable skill. Her pictures were chiefly bought by the English. Rowland had made her acquaintance early in the winter, and as she kept a saddle horse and rode a great deal, he had asked permission to be her cavalier. In this way they had become almost intimate. Miss Blanchard’s name was Augusta; she was slender, pale, and elegant looking; she had a very pretty head and brilliant auburn hair, which she braided with classical simplicity. She talked in a sweet, soft voice, used language at times a trifle superfine, and made literary allusions. These had often a patriotic strain, and Rowland had more than once been irritated by her quotations from Mrs. Sigourney in the cork-woods of Monte Mario, and from Mr. Willis among the ruins of Veii. Rowland was of a dozen different minds about her, and was half surprised, at times, to find himself treating it as a matter of serious moment whether he liked her or not. He admired her, and indeed there was something admirable in her combination of beauty and talent, of isolation and tranquil self-support. He used sometimes to go into the little, high-niched, ordinary room which served her as a studio, and find her working at a panel six inches square, at an open casement, profiled against the deep blue Roman sky. She received him with a meek-eyed dignity that made her seem like a painted saint on a church window, receiving the daylight in all her being. The breath of reproach passed her by with folded wings. And yet Rowland wondered why he did not like her better. If he failed, the reason was not far to seek. There was another woman whom he liked better, an image in his heart which refused to yield precedence.
On that evening to which allusion has been made, when Rowland was left alone between the starlight and the waves with the sudden knowledge that Mary Garland was to become another man’s wife, he had made, after a while, the simple resolution to forget her. And every day since, like a famous philosopher who wished to abbreviate his mourning for a faithful servant, he had said to himself in substance —“Remember to forget Mary Garland.” Sometimes it seemed as if he were succeeding; then, suddenly, when he was least expecting it, he would find her name, inaudibly, on his lips, and seem to see her eyes meeting his eyes. All this made him uncomfortable, and seemed to portend a possible discord. Discord was not to his taste; he shrank from imperious passions, and the idea of finding himself jealous of an unsuspecting friend was absolutely repulsive. More than ever, then, the path of duty was to forget Mary Garland, and he cultivated oblivion, as we may say, in the person of Miss Blanchard. Her fine temper, he said to himself, was a trifle cold and conscious, her purity prudish, perhaps, her culture pedantic. But since he was obliged to give up hopes of Mary Garland, Providence owed him a compensation, and he had fits of angry sadness in which it seemed to him that to attest his right to sentimental satisfaction he would be capable of falling in love with a woman he absolutely detested, if she were the best that came in his way. And what was the use, after all, of bothering about a possible which was only, perhaps, a dream? Even if Mary Garland had been free, what right had he to assume that he would have pleased her? The actual was good enough. Miss Blanchard had beautiful hair, and if she was a trifle old-maidish, there is nothing like matrimony for curing old-maidishness.
Madame Grandoni, who had formed with the companion of Rowland’s rides an alliance which might have been called defensive on the part of the former and attractive on that of Miss Blanchard, was an excessively ugly old lady, highly esteemed in Roman society for her homely benevolence and her shrewd and humorous good sense. She had been the widow of a German archaeologist, who had come to Rome in the early ages as an attache of the Prussian legation on the Capitoline. Her good sense had been wanting on but a single occasion, that of her second marriage. This occasion was certainly a momentous one, but these, by common consent, are not test cases. A couple of years after her first husband’s death, she had accepted the hand and the name of a Neapolitan music-master, ten years younger than herself, and with no fortune but his fiddle-bow. The marriage was most unhappy, and the Maestro Grandoni was suspected of using the fiddle-bow as an instrument of conjugal correction. He had finally run off with a prima donna assoluta, who, it was to be hoped, had given him a taste of the quality implied in her title. He was believed to be living still, but he had shrunk to a small black spot in Madame Grandoni’s life, and for ten years she had not mentioned his name. She wore a light flaxen wig, which was never very artfully adjusted, but this mattered little, as she made no secret of it. She used to say, “I was not always so ugly as this; as a young girl I had beautiful golden hair, very much the color of my wig.” She had worn from time immemorial an old blue satin dress, and a white crape shawl embroidered in colors; her appearance was ridiculous, but she had an interminable Teutonic pedigree, and her manners, in every presence, were easy and jovial, as became a lady whose ancestor had been cup-bearer to Frederick Barbarossa. Thirty years’ observation of Roman society had sharpened her wits and given her an inexhaustible store of anecdotes, but she had beneath her crumpled bodice a deep-welling fund of Teutonic sentiment, which she communicated only to the objects of her particular favor. Rowland had a great regard for her, and she repaid it by wishing him to get married. She never saw him without whispering to him that Augusta Blanchard was just the girl.
It seemed to Rowland a sort of foreshadowing of matrimony to see Miss Blanchard standing gracefully on his hearth-rug and blooming behind the central bouquet at his circular dinner-table. The dinner was very prosperous and Roderick amply filled his position as hero of the feast. He had always an air of buoyant enjoyment in his work, but on this occasion he manifested a good deal of harmless pleasure in his glory. He drank freely and talked bravely; he leaned back in his chair with his hands in his pockets, and flung open the gates of his eloquence. Singleton sat gazing and listening open-mouthed, as if Apollo in person were talking. Gloriani showed a twinkle in his eye and an evident disposition to draw Roderick out. Rowland was rather regretful, for he knew that theory was not his friend’s strong point, and that it was never fair to take his measure from his talk.
“As you have begun with Adam and Eve,” said Gloriani, “I suppose you are going straight through the Bible.” He was one of the persons who thought Roderick delightfully fresh.
“I may make a David,” said Roderick, “but I shall not try any more of the Old Testament people. I don’t like the Jews; I don’t like pendulous noses. David, the boy David, is rather an exception; you can think of him and treat him as a young Greek. Standing forth there on the plain of battle between the contending armies, rushing forward to let fly his stone, he looks like a beautiful runner at the Olympic games. After that I shall skip to the New Testament. I mean to make a Christ.”
“You’ll put nothing of the Olympic games into him, I hope,” said Gloriani.
“Oh, I shall make him very different from the Christ of tradition; more — more”— and Roderick paused a moment to think. This was the first that Rowland had heard of his Christ.
“More rationalistic, I suppose,” suggested Miss Blanchard.
“More idealistic!” cried Roderick. “The perfection of form, you know, to symbolize the perfection of spirit.”
“For a companion piece,” said Miss Blanchard, “you ought to make a Judas.”
“Never! I mean never to make anything ugly. The Greeks never made anything ugly, and I ’m a Hellenist; I ’m not a Hebraist! I have been thinking lately of making a Cain, but I should never dream of making him ugly. He should be a very handsome fellow, and he should lift up the murderous club with the beautiful movement of the fighters in the Greek friezes who are chopping at their enemies.”
“There’s no use trying to be a Greek,” said Gloriani. “If Phidias were to come back, he would recommend you to give it up. I am half Italian and half French, and, as a whole, a Yankee. What sort of a Greek should I make? I think the Judas is a capital idea for a statue. Much obliged to you, madame, for the suggestion. What an insidious little scoundrel one might make of him, sitting there nursing his money-bag and his treachery! There can be a great deal of expression in a pendulous nose, my dear sir, especially when it is cast in green bronze.”
“Very likely,” said Roderick. “But it is not the sort of expression I care for. I care only for perfect beauty. There it is, if you want to know it! That’s as good a profession of faith as another. In future, so far as my things are not positively beautiful, you may set them down as failures. For me, it’s either that or nothing. It’s against the taste of the day, I know; we have really lost the faculty to understand beauty in the large, ideal way. We stand like a race with shrunken muscles, staring helplessly at the weights our forefathers easily lifted. But I don’t hesitate to proclaim it — I mean to lift them again! I mean to go in for big things; that’s my notion of my art. I mean to do things that will be simple and vast and infinite. You’ll see if they won’t be infinite! Excuse me if I brag a little; all those Italian fellows in the Renaissance used to brag. There was a sensation once common, I am sure, in the human breast — a kind of religious awe in the presence of a marble image newly created and expressing the human type in superhuman purity. When Phidias and Praxiteles had their statues of goddesses unveiled in the temples of the AEgean, don’t you suppose there was a passionate beating of hearts, a thrill of mysterious terror? I mean to bring it back; I mean to thrill the world again! I mean to produce a Juno that will make you tremble, a Venus that will make you swoon!”
“So that when we come and see you,” said Madame Grandoni, “we must be sure and bring our smelling-bottles. And pray have a few soft sofas conveniently placed.”
“Phidias and Praxiteles,” Miss Blanchard remarked, “had the advantage of believing in their goddesses. I insist on believing, for myself, that the pagan mythology is not a fiction, and that Venus and Juno and Apollo and Mercury used to come down in a cloud into this very city of Rome where we sit talking nineteenth century English.”
“Nineteenth century nonsense, my dear!” cried Madame Grandoni. “Mr. Hudson may be a new Phidias, but Venus and Juno — that’s you and I— arrived today in a very dirty cab; and were cheated by the driver, too.”
“But, my dear fellow,” objected Gloriani, “you don’t mean to say you are going to make over in cold blood those poor old exploded Apollos and Hebes.”
“It won’t matter what you call them,” said Roderick. “They shall be simply divine forms. They shall be Beauty; they shall be Wisdom; they shall be Power; they shall be Genius; they shall be Daring. That’s all the Greek divinities were.”
“That’s rather abstract, you know,” said Miss Blanchard.
“My dear fellow,” cried Gloriani, “you’re delightfully young.”
“I hope you’ll not grow any older,” said Singleton, with a flush of sympathy across his large white forehead. “You can do it if you try.”
“Then there are all the Forces and Mysteries and Elements of Nature,” Roderick went on. “I mean to do the Morning; I mean to do the Night! I mean to do the Ocean and the Mountains; the Moon and the West Wind. I mean to make a magnificent statue of America!”
“America — the Mountains — the Moon!” said Gloriani. “You’ll find it rather hard, I ’m afraid, to compress such subjects into classic forms.”
“Oh, there’s a way,” cried Roderick, “and I shall think it out. My figures shall make no contortions, but they shall mean a tremendous deal.”
“I ’m sure there are contortions enough in Michael Angelo,” said Madame Grandoni. “Perhaps you don’t approve of him.”
“Oh, Michael Angelo was not me!” said Roderick, with sublimity. There was a great laugh; but after all, Roderick had done some fine things.
Rowland had bidden one of the servants bring him a small portfolio of prints, and had taken out a photograph of Roderick’s little statue of the youth drinking. It pleased him to see his friend sitting there in radiant ardor, defending idealism against so knowing an apostle of corruption as Gloriani, and he wished to help the elder artist to be confuted. He silently handed him the photograph.
“Bless me!” cried Gloriani, “did he do this?”
“Ages ago,” said Roderick.
Gloriani looked at the photograph a long time, with evident admiration.
“It’s deucedly pretty,” he said at last. “But, my dear young friend, you can’t keep this up.”
“I shall do better,” said Roderick.
“You will do worse! You will become weak. You will have to take to violence, to contortions, to romanticism, in self-defense. This sort of thing is like a man trying to lift himself up by the seat of his trousers. He may stand on tiptoe, but he can’t do more. Here you stand on tiptoe, very gracefully, I admit; but you can’t fly; there’s no use trying.”
“My ‘America’ shall answer you!” said Roderick, shaking toward him a tall glass of champagne and drinking it down.
Singleton had taken the photograph and was poring over it with a little murmur of delight.
“Was this done in America?” he asked.
“In a square white wooden house at Northampton, Massachusetts,” Roderick answered.
“Dear old white wooden houses!” said Miss Blanchard.
“If you could do as well as this there,” said Singleton, blushing and smiling, “one might say that really you had only to lose by coming to Rome.”
“Mallet is to blame for that,” said Roderick. “But I am willing to risk the loss.”
The photograph had been passed to Madame Grandoni. “It reminds me,” she said, “of the things a young man used to do whom I knew years ago, when I first came to Rome. He was a German, a pupil of Overbeck and a votary of spiritual art. He used to wear a black velvet tunic and a very low shirt collar; he had a neck like a sickly crane, and let his hair grow down to his shoulders. His name was Herr Schafgans. He never painted anything so profane as a man taking a drink, but his figures were all of the simple and slender and angular pattern, and nothing if not innocent — like this one of yours. He would not have agreed with Gloriani any more than you. He used to come and see me very often, and in those days I thought his tunic and his long neck infallible symptoms of genius. His talk was all of gilded aureoles and beatific visions; he lived on weak wine and biscuits, and wore a lock of Saint Somebody’s hair in a little bag round his neck. If he was not a Beato Angelico, it was not his own fault. I hope with all my heart that Mr. Hudson will do the fine things he talks about, but he must bear in mind the history of dear Mr. Schafgans as a warning against high-flown pretensions. One fine day this poor young man fell in love with a Roman model, though she had never sat to him, I believe, for she was a buxom, bold-faced, high-colored creature, and he painted none but pale, sickly women. He offered to marry her, and she looked at him from head to foot, gave a shrug, and consented. But he was ashamed to set up his menage in Rome. They went to Naples, and there, a couple of years afterwards, I saw him. The poor fellow was ruined. His wife used to beat him, and he had taken to drinking. He wore a ragged black coat, and he had a blotchy, red face. Madame had turned washerwoman and used to make him go and fetch the dirty linen. His talent had gone heaven knows where! He was getting his living by painting views of Vesuvius in eruption on the little boxes they sell at Sorrento.”
“Moral: don’t fall in love with a buxom Roman model,” said Roderick. “I ’m much obliged to you for your story, but I don’t mean to fall in love with any one.”
Gloriani had possessed himself of the photograph again, and was looking at it curiously. “It’s a happy bit of youth,” he said. “But you can’t keep it up — you can’t keep it up!”
The two sculptors pursued their discussion after dinner, in the drawing-room. Rowland left them to have it out in a corner, where Roderick’s Eve stood over them in the shaded lamplight, in vague white beauty, like the guardian angel of the young idealist. Singleton was listening to Madame Grandoni, and Rowland took his place on the sofa, near Miss Blanchard. They had a good deal of familiar, desultory talk. Every now and then Madame Grandoni looked round at them. Miss Blanchard at last asked Rowland certain questions about Roderick: who he was, where he came from, whether it was true, as she had heard, that Rowland had discovered him and brought him out at his own expense. Rowland answered her questions; to the last he gave a vague affirmative. Finally, after a pause, looking at him, “You’re very generous,” Miss Blanchard said. The declaration was made with a certain richness of tone, but it brought to Rowland’s sense neither delight nor confusion. He had heard the words before; he suddenly remembered the grave sincerity with which Miss Garland had uttered them as he strolled with her in the woods the day of Roderick’s picnic. They had pleased him then; now he asked Miss Blanchard whether she would have some tea.
When the two ladies withdrew, he attended them to their carriage. Coming back to the drawing-room, he paused outside the open door; he was struck by the group formed by the three men. They were standing before Roderick’s statue of Eve, and the young sculptor had lifted up the lamp and was showing different parts of it to his companions. He was talking ardently, and the lamplight covered his head and face. Rowland stood looking on, for the group struck him with its picturesque symbolism. Roderick, bearing the lamp and glowing in its radiant circle, seemed the beautiful image of a genius which combined sincerity with power. Gloriani, with his head on one side, pulling his long moustache and looking keenly from half-closed eyes at the lighted marble, represented art with a worldly motive, skill unleavened by faith, the mere base maximum of cleverness. Poor little Singleton, on the other side, with his hands behind him, his head thrown back, and his eyes following devoutly the course of Roderick’s elucidation, might pass for an embodiment of aspiring candor, with feeble wings to rise on. In all this, Roderick’s was certainly the beau role.
Gloriani turned to Rowland as he came up, and pointed back with his thumb to the statue, with a smile half sardonic, half good-natured. “A pretty thing — a devilish pretty thing,” he said. “It’s as fresh as the foam in the milk-pail. He can do it once, he can do it twice, he can do it at a stretch half a dozen times. But — but —”
He was returning to his former refrain, but Rowland intercepted him. “Oh, he will keep it up,” he said, smiling, “I will answer for him.”
Gloriani was not encouraging, but Roderick had listened smiling. He was floating unperturbed on the tide of his deep self-confidence. Now, suddenly, however, he turned with a flash of irritation in his eye, and demanded in a ringing voice, “In a word, then, you prophesy that I am to fail?”
Gloriani answered imperturbably, patting him kindly on the shoulder. “My dear fellow, passion burns out, inspiration runs to seed. Some fine day every artist finds himself sitting face to face with his lump of clay, with his empty canvas, with his sheet of blank paper, waiting in vain for the revelation to be made, for the Muse to descend. He must learn to do without the Muse! When the fickle jade forgets the way to your studio, don’t waste any time in tearing your hair and meditating on suicide. Come round and see me, and I will show you how to console yourself.”
“If I break down,” said Roderick, passionately, “I shall stay down. If the Muse deserts me, she shall at least have her infidelity on her conscience.”
“You have no business,” Rowland said to Gloriani, “to talk lightly of the Muse in this company. Mr. Singleton, too, has received pledges from her which place her constancy beyond suspicion.” And he pointed out on the wall, near by, two small landscapes by the modest water-colorist.
The sculptor examined them with deference, and Singleton himself began to laugh nervously; he was trembling with hope that the great Gloriani would be pleased. “Yes, these are fresh too,” Gloriani said; “extraordinarily fresh! How old are you?”
“Twenty-six, sir,” said Singleton.
“For twenty-six they are famously fresh. They must have taken you a long time; you work slowly.”
“Yes, unfortunately, I work very slowly. One of them took me six weeks, the other two months.”
“Upon my word! The Muse pays you long visits.” And Gloriani turned and looked, from head to foot, at so unlikely an object of her favors. Singleton smiled and began to wipe his forehead very hard. “Oh, you!” said the sculptor; “you’ll keep it up!”
A week after his dinner-party, Rowland went into Roderick’s studio and found him sitting before an unfinished piece of work, with a hanging head and a heavy eye. He could have fancied that the fatal hour foretold by Gloriani had struck. Roderick rose with a sombre yawn and flung down his tools. “It’s no use,” he said, “I give it up!”
“What is it?”
“I have struck a shallow! I have been sailing bravely, but for the last day or two my keel has been crunching the bottom.”
“A difficult place?” Rowland asked, with a sympathetic inflection, looking vaguely at the roughly modeled figure.
“Oh, it’s not the poor clay!” Roderick answered. “The difficult place is here!” And he struck a blow on his heart. “I don’t know what’s the matter with me. Nothing comes; all of a sudden I hate things. My old things look ugly; everything looks stupid.”
Rowland was perplexed. He was in the situation of a man who has been riding a blood horse at an even, elastic gallop, and of a sudden feels him stumble and balk. As yet, he reflected, he had seen nothing but the sunshine of genius; he had forgotten that it has its storms. Of course it had! And he felt a flood of comradeship rise in his heart which would float them both safely through the worst weather. “Why, you’re tired!” he said. “Of course you’re tired. You have a right to be!”
“Do you think I have a right to be?” Roderick asked, looking at him.
“Unquestionably, after all you have done.”
“Well, then, right or wrong, I am tired. I certainly have done a fair winter’s work. I want a change.”
Rowland declared that it was certainly high time they should be leaving Rome. They would go north and travel. They would go to Switzerland, to Germany, to Holland, to England. Roderick assented, his eye brightened, and Rowland talked of a dozen things they might do. Roderick walked up and down; he seemed to have something to say which he hesitated to bring out. He hesitated so rarely that Rowland wondered, and at last asked him what was on his mind. Roderick stopped before him, frowning a little.
“I have such unbounded faith in your good-will,” he said, “that I believe nothing I can say would offend you.”
“Try it,” said Rowland.
“Well, then, I think my journey will do me more good if I take it alone. I need n’t say I prefer your society to that of any man living. For the last six months it has been everything to me. But I have a perpetual feeling that you are expecting something of me, that you are measuring my doings by a terrifically high standard. You are watching me; I don’t want to be watched. I want to go my own way; to work when I choose and to loaf when I choose. It is not that I don’t know what I owe you; it is not that we are not friends. It is simply that I want a taste of absolutely unrestricted freedom. Therefore, I say, let us separate.”
Rowland shook him by the hand. “Willingly. Do as you desire, I shall miss you, and I venture to believe you’ll pass some lonely hours. But I have only one request to make: that if you get into trouble of any kind whatever, you will immediately let me know.”
They began their journey, however, together, and crossed the Alps side by side, muffled in one rug, on the top of the St. Gothard coach. Rowland was going to England to pay some promised visits; his companion had no plan save to ramble through Switzerland and Germany as fancy guided him. He had money, now, that would outlast the summer; when it was spent he would come back to Rome and make another statue. At a little mountain village by the way, Roderick declared that he would stop; he would scramble about a little in the high places and doze in the shade of the pine forests. The coach was changing horses; the two young men walked along the village street, picking their way between dunghills, breathing the light, cool air, and listening to the plash of the fountain and the tinkle of cattle-bells. The coach overtook them, and then Rowland, as he prepared to mount, felt an almost overmastering reluctance.
“Say the word,” he exclaimed, “and I will stop too.”
Roderick frowned. “Ah, you don’t trust me; you don’t think I ’m able to take care of myself. That proves that I was right in feeling as if I were watched!”
“Watched, my dear fellow!” said Rowland. “I hope you may never have anything worse to complain of than being watched in the spirit in which I watch you. But I will spare you even that. Good-by!” Standing in his place, as the coach rolled away, he looked back at his friend lingering by the roadside. A great snow-mountain, behind Roderick, was beginning to turn pink in the sunset. The young man waved his hat, still looking grave. Rowland settled himself in his place, reflecting after all that this was a salubrious beginning of independence. He was among forests and glaciers, leaning on the pure bosom of nature. And then — and then — was it not in itself a guarantee against folly to be engaged to Mary Garland?
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:56