CHAPTER I. Rowland
Mallet had made his arrangements to sail for Europe on the first
of September, and having in the interval a fortnight to spare, he
determined to spend it with his cousin Cecilia, the widow of a nephew of
his father. He was urged by the reflection that an affectionate farewell
might help to exonerate him from the charge of neglect frequently
preferred by this lady. It was not that the young man disliked her; on
the contrary, he regarded her with a tender admiration, and he had not
forgotten how, when his cousin had brought her home on her marriage, he
had seemed to feel the upward sweep of the empty bough from which the
golden fruit had been plucked, and had then and there accepted the
prospect of bachelorhood. The truth was, that, as it will be part of
the entertainment of this narrative to exhibit, Rowland Mallet had an
uncomfortably sensitive conscience, and that, in spite of the seeming
paradox, his visits to Cecilia were rare because she and her misfortunes
were often uppermost in it. Her misfortunes were three in number: first,
she had lost her husband; second, she had lost her money (or the
greater part of it); and third, she lived at Northampton, Massachusetts.
Mallet's compassion was really wasted, because Cecilia was a very clever
woman, and a most skillful counter-plotter to adversity. She had made
herself a charming home, her economies were not obtrusive, and there
was always a cheerful flutter in the folds of her crape. It was the
consciousness of all this that puzzled Mallet whenever he felt tempted
to put in his oar. He had money and he had time, but he never could
decide just how to place these gifts gracefully at Cecilia's service.
He no longer felt like marrying her: in these eight years that fancy had
died a natural death. And yet her extreme cleverness seemed somehow to
make charity difficult and patronage impossible. He would rather chop
off his hand than offer her a check, a piece of useful furniture, or
a black silk dress; and yet there was some sadness in seeing such a
bright, proud woman living in such a small, dull way. Cecilia had,
moreover, a turn for sarcasm, and her smile, which was her pretty
feature, was never so pretty as when her sprightly phrase had a lurking
scratch in it. Rowland remembered that, for him, she was all smiles, and
suspected, awkwardly, that he ministered not a little to her sense of
the irony of things. And in truth, with his means, his leisure, and his
opportunities, what had he done? He had an unaffected suspicion of
his uselessness. Cecilia, meanwhile, cut out her own dresses, and was
personally giving her little girl the education of a princess.
This time, however, he presented himself bravely enough; for in the way
of activity it was something definite, at least, to be going to Europe
and to be meaning to spend the winter in Rome. Cecilia met him in the
early dusk at the gate of her little garden, amid a studied combination
of floral perfumes. A rosy widow of twenty-eight, half cousin, half
hostess, doing the honors of an odorous cottage on a midsummer evening,
was a phenomenon to which the young man's imagination was able to do
ample justice. Cecilia was always gracious, but this evening she was
almost joyous. She was in a happy mood, and Mallet imagined there was
a private reason for it--a reason quite distinct from her pleasure in
receiving her honored kinsman. The next day he flattered himself he was
on the way to discover it.
For the present, after tea, as they sat on the rose-framed porch, while
Rowland held his younger cousin between his knees, and she, enjoying
her situation, listened timorously for the stroke of bedtime, Cecilia
insisted on talking more about her visitor than about herself.
"What is it you mean to do in Europe?" she asked, lightly, giving a
turn to the frill of her sleeve--just such a turn as seemed to Mallet to
bring out all the latent difficulties of the question.
"Why, very much what I do here," he answered. "No great harm."
"Is it true," Cecilia asked, "that here you do no great harm? Is not a
man like you doing harm when he is not doing positive good?"
"Your compliment is ambiguous," said Rowland.
"No," answered the widow, "you know what I think of you. You have a
particular aptitude for beneficence. You have it in the first place in
your character. You are a benevolent person. Ask Bessie if you don't
hold her more gently and comfortably than any of her other admirers."
"He holds me more comfortably than Mr. Hudson," Bessie declared,
Rowland, not knowing Mr. Hudson, could but half appreciate the eulogy,
and Cecilia went on to develop her idea. "Your circumstances, in
the second place, suggest the idea of social usefulness. You are
intelligent, you are well-informed, and your charity, if one may call it
charity, would be discriminating. You are rich and unoccupied, so that
it might be abundant. Therefore, I say, you are a person to do something
on a large scale. Bestir yourself, dear Rowland, or we may be taught to
think that virtue herself is setting a bad example."
"Heaven forbid," cried Rowland, "that I should set the examples of
virtue! I am quite willing to follow them, however, and if I don't
do something on the grand scale, it is that my genius is altogether
imitative, and that I have not recently encountered any very striking
models of grandeur. Pray, what shall I do? Found an orphan asylum, or
build a dormitory for Harvard College? I am not rich enough to do either
in an ideally handsome way, and I confess that, yet awhile, I feel
too young to strike my grand coup. I am holding myself ready for
inspiration. I am waiting till something takes my fancy irresistibly. If
inspiration comes at forty, it will be a hundred pities to have tied up
my money-bag at thirty."
"Well, I give you till forty," said Cecilia. "It 's only a word to
the wise, a notification that you are expected not to run your course
without having done something handsome for your fellow-men."
Nine o'clock sounded, and Bessie, with each stroke, courted a closer
embrace. But a single winged word from her mother overleaped her
successive intrenchments. She turned and kissed her cousin, and
deposited an irrepressible tear on his moustache. Then she went and
said her prayers to her mother: it was evident she was being admirably
brought up. Rowland, with the permission of his hostess, lighted a cigar
and puffed it awhile in silence. Cecilia's interest in his career seemed
very agreeable. That Mallet was without vanity I by no means intend to
affirm; but there had been times when, seeing him accept, hardly less
deferentially, advice even more peremptory than the widow's, you
might have asked yourself what had become of his vanity. Now, in the
sweet-smelling starlight, he felt gently wooed to egotism. There was a
project connected with his going abroad which it was on his tongue's end
to communicate. It had no relation to hospitals or dormitories, and yet
it would have sounded very generous. But it was not because it would
have sounded generous that poor Mallet at last puffed it away in
the fumes of his cigar. Useful though it might be, it expressed most
imperfectly the young man's own personal conception of usefulness. He
was extremely fond of all the arts, and he had an almost passionate
enjoyment of pictures. He had seen many, and he judged them sagaciously.
It had occurred to him some time before that it would be the work of a
good citizen to go abroad and with all expedition and secrecy purchase
certain valuable specimens of the Dutch and Italian schools as to which
he had received private proposals, and then present his treasures out of
hand to an American city, not unknown to aesthetic fame, in which at
that time there prevailed a good deal of fruitless aspiration toward an
art-museum. He had seen himself in imagination, more than once, in
some mouldy old saloon of a Florentine palace, turning toward the deep
embrasure of the window some scarcely-faded Ghirlandaio or Botticelli,
while a host in reduced circumstances pointed out the lovely drawing
of a hand. But he imparted none of these visions to Cecilia, and he
suddenly swept them away with the declaration that he was of course an
idle, useless creature, and that he would probably be even more so in
Europe than at home. "The only thing is," he said, "that there I shall
seem to be doing something. I shall be better entertained, and shall be
therefore, I suppose, in a better humor with life. You may say that that
is just the humor a useless man should keep out of. He should cultivate
discontentment. I did a good many things when I was in Europe before,
but I did not spend a winter in Rome. Every one assures me that this is
a peculiar refinement of bliss; most people talk about Rome in the same
way. It is evidently only a sort of idealized form of loafing: a passive
life in Rome, thanks to the number and the quality of one's impressions,
takes on a very respectable likeness to activity. It is still
lotus-eating, only you sit down at table, and the lotuses are served up
on rococo china. It 's all very well, but I have a distinct prevision of
this--that if Roman life does n't do something substantial to make you
happier, it increases tenfold your liability to moral misery. It seems
to me a rash thing for a sensitive soul deliberately to cultivate its
sensibilities by rambling too often among the ruins of the Palatine, or
riding too often in the shadow of the aqueducts. In such recreations the
chords of feeling grow tense, and after-life, to spare your intellectual
nerves, must play upon them with a touch as dainty as the tread of
Mignon when she danced her egg-dance."
"I should have said, my dear Rowland," said Cecilia, with a laugh, "that
your nerves were tough, that your eggs were hard!"
"That being stupid, you mean, I might be happy? Upon my word I am not.
I am clever enough to want more than I 've got. I am tired of myself, my
own thoughts, my own affairs, my own eternal company. True happiness,
we are told, consists in getting out of one's self; but the point is not
only to get out--you must stay out; and to stay out you must have some
absorbing errand. Unfortunately, I 've got no errand, and nobody will
trust me with one. I want to care for something, or for some one. And I
want to care with a certain ardor; even, if you can believe it, with
a certain passion. I can't just now feel ardent and passionate about a
hospital or a dormitory. Do you know I sometimes think that I 'm a man
of genius, half finished? The genius has been left out, the faculty of
expression is wanting; but the need for expression remains, and I spend
my days groping for the latch of a closed door."
"What an immense number of words," said Cecilia after a pause, "to say
you want to fall in love! I 've no doubt you have as good a genius for
that as any one, if you would only trust it."
"Of course I 've thought of that, and I assure you I hold myself ready.
But, evidently, I 'm not inflammable. Is there in Northampton some
perfect epitome of the graces?"
"Of the graces?" said Cecilia, raising her eyebrows and suppressing too
distinct a consciousness of being herself a rosy embodiment of several.
"The household virtues are better represented. There are some excellent
girls, and there are two or three very pretty ones. I will have them
here, one by one, to tea, if you like."
"I should particularly like it; especially as I should give you a chance
to see, by the profundity of my attention, that if I am not happy, it 's
not for want of taking pains."
Cecilia was silent a moment; and then, "On the whole," she resumed, "I
don't think there are any worth asking. There are none so very pretty,
none so very pleasing."
"Are you very sure?" asked the young man, rising and throwing away his
"Upon my word," cried Cecilia, "one would suppose I wished to keep
you for myself. Of course I am sure! But as the penalty of your
insinuations, I shall invite the plainest and prosiest damsel that can
be found, and leave you alone with her."
Rowland smiled. "Even against her," he said, "I should be sorry to
conclude until I had given her my respectful attention."
This little profession of ideal chivalry (which closed the conversation)
was not quite so fanciful on Mallet's lips as it would have been on
those of many another man; as a rapid glance at his antecedents may help
to make the reader perceive. His life had been a singular mixture of the
rough and the smooth. He had sprung from a rigid Puritan stock, and had
been brought up to think much more intently of the duties of this life
than of its privileges and pleasures. His progenitors had submitted in
the matter of dogmatic theology to the relaxing influences of recent
years; but if Rowland's youthful consciousness was not chilled by the
menace of long punishment for brief transgression, he had at least been
made to feel that there ran through all things a strain of right and of
wrong, as different, after all, in their complexions, as the texture, to
the spiritual sense, of Sundays and week-days. His father was a chip of
the primal Puritan block, a man with an icy smile and a stony frown. He
had always bestowed on his son, on principle, more frowns than smiles,
and if the lad had not been turned to stone himself, it was because
nature had blessed him, inwardly, with a well of vivifying waters. Mrs.
Mallet had been a Miss Rowland, the daughter of a retired sea-captain,
once famous on the ships that sailed from Salem and Newburyport. He
had brought to port many a cargo which crowned the edifice of fortunes
already almost colossal, but he had also done a little sagacious trading
on his own account, and he was able to retire, prematurely for so
sea-worthy a maritime organism, upon a pension of his own providing. He
was to be seen for a year on the Salem wharves, smoking the best tobacco
and eying the seaward horizon with an inveteracy which superficial
minds interpreted as a sign of repentance. At last, one evening, he
disappeared beneath it, as he had often done before; this time,
however, not as a commissioned navigator, but simply as an amateur of an
observing turn likely to prove oppressive to the officer in command of
the vessel. Five months later his place at home knew him again, and made
the acquaintance also of a handsome, blonde young woman, of redundant
contours, speaking a foreign tongue. The foreign tongue proved, after
much conflicting research, to be the idiom of Amsterdam, and the young
woman, which was stranger still, to be Captain Rowland's wife. Why
he had gone forth so suddenly across the seas to marry her, what had
happened between them before, and whether--though it was of questionable
propriety for a good citizen to espouse a young person of mysterious
origin, who did her hair in fantastically elaborate plaits, and in whose
appearance "figure" enjoyed such striking predominance--he would
not have had a heavy weight on his conscience if he had remained an
irresponsible bachelor; these questions and many others, bearing with
varying degrees of immediacy on the subject, were much propounded but
scantily answered, and this history need not be charged with resolving
them. Mrs. Rowland, for so handsome a woman, proved a tranquil neighbor
and an excellent housewife. Her extremely fresh complexion, however, was
always suffused with an air of apathetic homesickness, and she played
her part in American society chiefly by having the little squares of
brick pavement in front of her dwelling scoured and polished as nearly
as possible into the likeness of Dutch tiles. Rowland Mallet remembered
having seen her, as a child--an immensely stout, white-faced lady,
wearing a high cap of very stiff tulle, speaking English with a
formidable accent, and suffering from dropsy. Captain Rowland was a
little bronzed and wizened man, with eccentric opinions. He advocated
the creation of a public promenade along the sea, with arbors and little
green tables for the consumption of beer, and a platform, surrounded by
Chinese lanterns, for dancing. He especially desired the town library
to be opened on Sundays, though, as he never entered it on week-days,
it was easy to turn the proposition into ridicule. If, therefore, Mrs.
Mallet was a woman of an exquisite moral tone, it was not that she had
inherited her temper from an ancestry with a turn for casuistry.
Jonas Mallet, at the time of his marriage, was conducting with silent
shrewdness a small, unpromising business. Both his shrewdness and his
silence increased with his years, and at the close of his life he was an
extremely well-dressed, well-brushed gentleman, with a frigid gray eye,
who said little to anybody, but of whom everybody said that he had
a very handsome fortune. He was not a sentimental father, and the
roughness I just now spoke of in Rowland's life dated from his early
boyhood. Mr. Mallet, whenever he looked at his son, felt extreme
compunction at having made a fortune. He remembered that the fruit had
not dropped ripe from the tree into his own mouth, and determined it
should be no fault of his if the boy was corrupted by luxury. Rowland,
therefore, except for a good deal of expensive instruction in foreign
tongues and abstruse sciences, received the education of a poor man's
son. His fare was plain, his temper familiar with the discipline of
patched trousers, and his habits marked by an exaggerated simplicity
which it really cost a good deal of money to preserve unbroken. He was
kept in the country for months together, in the midst of servants who
had strict injunctions to see that he suffered no serious harm, but
were as strictly forbidden to wait upon him. As no school could be found
conducted on principles sufficiently rigorous, he was attended at home
by a master who set a high price on the understanding that he was to
illustrate the beauty of abstinence not only by precept but by example.
Rowland passed for a child of ordinary parts, and certainly, during his
younger years, was an excellent imitation of a boy who had inherited
nothing whatever that was to make life easy. He was passive,
pliable, frank, extremely slow at his books, and inordinately fond of
trout-fishing. His hair, a memento of his Dutch ancestry, was of
the fairest shade of yellow, his complexion absurdly rosy, and his
measurement around the waist, when he was about ten years old, quite
alarmingly large. This, however, was but an episode in his growth; he
became afterwards a fresh-colored, yellow-bearded man, but he was never
accused of anything worse than a tendency to corpulence. He emerged from
childhood a simple, wholesome, round-eyed lad, with no suspicion that a
less roundabout course might have been taken to make him happy, but with
a vague sense that his young experience was not a fair sample of human
freedom, and that he was to make a great many discoveries. When he was
about fifteen, he achieved a momentous one. He ascertained that his
mother was a saint. She had always been a very distinct presence in his
life, but so ineffably gentle a one that his sense was fully opened to
it only by the danger of losing her. She had an illness which for many
months was liable at any moment to terminate fatally, and during her
long-arrested convalescence she removed the mask which she had worn for
years by her husband's order. Rowland spent his days at her side and
felt before long as if he had made a new friend. All his impressions at
this period were commented and interpreted at leisure in the future, and
it was only then that he understood that his mother had been for fifteen
years a perfectly unhappy woman. Her marriage had been an immitigable
error which she had spent her life in trying to look straight in the
face. She found nothing to oppose to her husband's will of steel but the
appearance of absolute compliance; her spirit sank, and she lived for
a while in a sort of helpless moral torpor. But at last, as her child
emerged from babyhood, she began to feel a certain charm in patience, to
discover the uses of ingenuity, and to learn that, somehow or other, one
can always arrange one's life. She cultivated from this time forward a
little private plot of sentiment, and it was of this secluded precinct
that, before her death, she gave her son the key. Rowland's allowance at
college was barely sufficient to maintain him decently, and as soon as
he graduated, he was taken into his father's counting-house, to do small
drudgery on a proportionate salary. For three years he earned his living
as regularly as the obscure functionary in fustian who swept the office.
Mr. Mallet was consistent, but the perfection of his consistency was
known only on his death. He left but a third of his property to his
son, and devoted the remainder to various public institutions and local
charities. Rowland's third was an easy competence, and he never felt
a moment's jealousy of his fellow-pensioners; but when one of the
establishments which had figured most advantageously in his father's
will bethought itself to affirm the existence of a later instrument, in
which it had been still more handsomely treated, the young man felt a
sudden passionate need to repel the claim by process of law. There was a
lively tussle, but he gained his case; immediately after which he made,
in another quarter, a donation of the contested sum. He cared nothing
for the money, but he had felt an angry desire to protest against a
destiny which seemed determined to be exclusively salutary. It seemed to
him that he would bear a little spoiling. And yet he treated himself
to a very modest quantity, and submitted without reserve to the great
national discipline which began in 1861. When the Civil War broke out he
immediately obtained a commission, and did his duty for three long years
as a citizen soldier. His duty was obscure, but he never lost a certain
private satisfaction in remembering that on two or three occasions
it had been performed with something of an ideal precision. He had
disentangled himself from business, and after the war he felt a profound
disinclination to tie the knot again. He had no desire to make money,
he had money enough; and although he knew, and was frequently reminded,
that a young man is the better for a fixed occupation, he could discover
no moral advantage in driving a lucrative trade. Yet few young men of
means and leisure ever made less of a parade of idleness, and indeed
idleness in any degree could hardly be laid at the door of a young
man who took life in the serious, attentive, reasoning fashion of
our friend. It often seemed to Mallet that he wholly lacked the prime
requisite of a graceful flaneur--the simple, sensuous, confident relish
of pleasure. He had frequent fits of extreme melancholy, in which he
declared that he was neither fish nor flesh nor good red herring. He was
neither an irresponsibly contemplative nature nor a sturdily practical
one, and he was forever looking in vain for the uses of the things
that please and the charm of the things that sustain. He was an awkward
mixture of strong moral impulse and restless aesthetic curiosity,
and yet he would have made a most ineffective reformer and a very
indifferent artist. It seemed to him that the glow of happiness must be
found either in action, of some immensely solid kind, on behalf of
an idea, or in producing a masterpiece in one of the arts. Oftenest,
perhaps, he wished he were a vigorous young man of genius, without a
penny. As it was, he could only buy pictures, and not paint them; and
in the way of action, he had to content himself with making a rule to
render scrupulous moral justice to handsome examples of it in others. On
the whole, he had an incorruptible modesty. With his blooming complexion
and his serene gray eye, he felt the friction of existence more than was
suspected; but he asked no allowance on grounds of temper, he assumed
that fate had treated him inordinately well and that he had no excuse
for taking an ill-natured view of life, and he undertook constantly to
believe that all women were fair, all men were brave, and the world was
a delightful place of sojourn, until the contrary had been distinctly
Cecilia's blooming garden and shady porch had seemed so friendly to
repose and a cigar, that she reproached him the next morning with
indifference to her little parlor, not less, in its way, a monument to
her ingenious taste. "And by the way," she added as he followed her in,
"if I refused last night to show you a pretty girl, I can at least show
you a pretty boy."
She threw open a window and pointed to a statuette which occupied the
place of honor among the ornaments of the room. Rowland looked at it a
moment and then turned to her with an exclamation of surprise. She
gave him a rapid glance, perceived that her statuette was of altogether
exceptional merit, and then smiled, knowingly, as if this had long been
an agreeable certainty.
"Who did it? where did you get it?" Rowland demanded.
"Oh," said Cecilia, adjusting the light, "it 's a little thing of Mr.
"And who the deuce is Mr. Hudson?" asked Rowland. But he was absorbed;
he lost her immediate reply. The statuette, in bronze, something less
than two feet high, represented a naked youth drinking from a gourd. The
attitude was perfectly simple. The lad was squarely planted on his feet,
with his legs a little apart; his back was slightly hollowed, his head
thrown back, and both hands raised to support the rustic cup. There was
a loosened fillet of wild flowers about his head, and his eyes, under
their drooped lids, looked straight into the cup. On the base was
scratched the Greek word ;aa;gD;gi;gc;ga, Thirst. The figure might have
been some beautiful youth of ancient fable,--Hylas or Narcissus, Paris
or Endymion. Its beauty was the beauty of natural movement; nothing had
been sought to be represented but the perfection of an attitude. This
had been most attentively studied, and it was exquisitely rendered.
Rowland demanded more light, dropped his head on this side and that,
uttered vague exclamations. He said to himself, as he had said more than
once in the Louvre and the Vatican, "We ugly mortals, what beautiful
creatures we are!" Nothing, in a long time, had given him so much
pleasure. "Hudson--Hudson," he asked again; "who is Hudson?"
"A young man of this place," said Cecilia.
"A young man? How old?"
"I suppose he is three or four and twenty."
"Of this place, you say--of Northampton, Massachusetts?"
"He lives here, but he comes from Virginia."
"Is he a sculptor by profession?"
"He 's a law-student."
Rowland burst out laughing. "He has found something in Blackstone that I
never did. He makes statues then simply for his pleasure?"
Cecilia, with a smile, gave a little toss of her head. "For mine!"
"I congratulate you," said Rowland. "I wonder whether he could be
induced to do anything for me?"
"This was a matter of friendship. I saw the figure when he had modeled
it in clay, and of course greatly admired it. He said nothing at the
time, but a week ago, on my birthday, he arrived in a buggy, with
this. He had had it cast at the foundry at Chicopee; I believe it 's a
beautiful piece of bronze. He begged me to accept."
"Upon my word," said Mallet, "he does things handsomely!" And he fell to
admiring the statue again.
"So then," said Cecilia, "it 's very remarkable?"
"Why, my dear cousin," Rowland answered, "Mr. Hudson, of Virginia, is
an extraordinary--" Then suddenly stopping: "Is he a great friend of
yours?" he asked.
"A great friend?" and Cecilia hesitated. "I regard him as a child!"
"Well," said Rowland, "he 's a very clever child. Tell me something
about him: I should like to see him."
Cecilia was obliged to go to her daughter's music-lesson, but she
assured Rowland that she would arrange for him a meeting with the young
sculptor. He was a frequent visitor, and as he had not called for some
days it was likely he would come that evening. Rowland, left alone,
examined the statuette at his leisure, and returned more than once
during the day to take another look at it. He discovered its weak
points, but it wore well. It had the stamp of genius. Rowland envied the
happy youth who, in a New England village, without aid or encouragement,
without models or resources, had found it so easy to produce a lovely
In the evening, as he was smoking his cigar on the veranda, a light,
quick step pressed the gravel of the garden path, and in a moment a
young man made his bow to Cecilia. It was rather a nod than a bow, and
indicated either that he was an old friend, or that he was scantily
versed in the usual social forms. Cecilia, who was sitting near the
steps, pointed to a neighboring chair, but the young man seated himself
abruptly on the floor at her feet, began to fan himself vigorously with
his hat, and broke out into a lively objurgation upon the hot weather.
"I 'm dripping wet!" he said, without ceremony.
"You walk too fast," said Cecilia. "You do everything too fast."
"I know it, I know it!" he cried, passing his hand through his abundant
dark hair and making it stand out in a picturesque shock. "I can't
be slow if I try. There 's something inside of me that drives me. A
Cecilia gave a light laugh, and Rowland leaned forward in his hammock.
He had placed himself in it at Bessie's request, and was playing that he
was her baby and that she was rocking him to sleep. She sat beside him,
swinging the hammock to and fro, and singing a lullaby. When he raised
himself she pushed him back and said that the baby must finish its nap.
"But I want to see the gentleman with the fiend inside of him," said
"What is a fiend?" Bessie demanded. "It 's only Mr. Hudson."
"Very well, I want to see him."
"Oh, never mind him!" said Bessie, with the brevity of contempt.
"You speak as if you did n't like him."
"I don't!" Bessie affirmed, and put Rowland to bed again.
The hammock was swung at the end of the veranda, in the thickest shade
of the vines, and this fragment of dialogue had passed unnoticed.
Rowland submitted a while longer to be cradled, and contented himself
with listening to Mr. Hudson's voice. It was a soft and not altogether
masculine organ, and was pitched on this occasion in a somewhat
plaintive and pettish key. The young man's mood seemed fretful; he
complained of the heat, of the dust, of a shoe that hurt him, of having
gone on an errand a mile to the other side of the town and found the
person he was in search of had left Northampton an hour before.
"Won't you have a cup of tea?" Cecilia asked. "Perhaps that will restore
"Aye, by keeping me awake all night!" said Hudson. "At the best, it 's
hard enough to go down to the office. With my nerves set on edge by a
sleepless night, I should perforce stay at home and be brutal to my poor
"Your mother is well, I hope."
"Oh, she 's as usual."
"And Miss Garland?"
"She 's as usual, too. Every one, everything, is as usual. Nothing ever
happens, in this benighted town."
"I beg your pardon; things do happen, sometimes," said Cecilia. "Here
is a dear cousin of mine arrived on purpose to congratulate you on your
statuette." And she called to Rowland to come and be introduced to
Mr. Hudson. The young man sprang up with alacrity, and Rowland, coming
forward to shake hands, had a good look at him in the light projected
from the parlor window. Something seemed to shine out of Hudson's face
as a warning against a "compliment" of the idle, unpondered sort.
"Your statuette seems to me very good," Rowland said gravely. "It has
given me extreme pleasure."
"And my cousin knows what is good," said Cecilia. "He 's a connoisseur."
Hudson smiled and stared. "A connoisseur?" he cried, laughing. "He 's
the first I 've ever seen! Let me see what they look like;" and he drew
Rowland nearer to the light. "Have they all such good heads as that? I
should like to model yours."
"Pray do," said Cecilia. "It will keep him a while. He is running off to
"Ah, to Europe!" Hudson exclaimed with a melancholy cadence, as they sat
down. "Happy man!"
But the note seemed to Rowland to be struck rather at random, for he
perceived no echo of it in the boyish garrulity of his later talk.
Hudson was a tall, slender young fellow, with a singularly mobile and
intelligent face. Rowland was struck at first only with its responsive
vivacity, but in a short time he perceived it was remarkably handsome.
The features were admirably chiseled and finished, and a frank smile
played over them as gracefully as a breeze among flowers. The fault of
the young man's whole structure was an excessive want of breadth. The
forehead, though it was high and rounded, was narrow; the jaw and
the shoulders were narrow; and the result was an air of insufficient
physical substance. But Mallet afterwards learned that this fair, slim
youth could draw indefinitely upon a mysterious fund of nervous
force, which outlasted and outwearied the endurance of many a sturdier
temperament. And certainly there was life enough in his eye to furnish
an immortality! It was a generous dark gray eye, in which there came
and went a sort of kindling glow, which would have made a ruder visage
striking, and which gave at times to Hudson's harmonious face an
altogether extraordinary beauty. There was to Rowland's sympathetic
sense a slightly pitiful disparity between the young sculptor's delicate
countenance and the shabby gentility of his costume. He was dressed for
a visit--a visit to a pretty woman. He was clad from head to foot in a
white linen suit, which had never been remarkable for the felicity of
its cut, and had now quite lost that crispness which garments of this
complexion can as ill spare as the back-scene of a theatre the radiance
of the footlights. He wore a vivid blue cravat, passed through a ring
altogether too splendid to be valuable; he pulled and twisted, as he
sat, a pair of yellow kid gloves; he emphasized his conversation with
great dashes and flourishes of a light, silver-tipped walking-stick,
and he kept constantly taking off and putting on one of those slouched
sombreros which are the traditional property of the Virginian or
Carolinian of romance. When this was on, he was very picturesque, in
spite of his mock elegance; and when it was off, and he sat nursing it
and turning it about and not knowing what to do with it, he could hardly
be said to be awkward. He evidently had a natural relish for brilliant
accessories, and appropriated what came to his hand. This was visible in
his talk, which abounded in the florid and sonorous. He liked words with
color in them.
Rowland, who was but a moderate talker, sat by in silence, while
Cecilia, who had told him that she desired his opinion upon her friend,
used a good deal of characteristic finesse in leading the young man to
expose himself. She perfectly succeeded, and Hudson rattled away for
an hour with a volubility in which boyish unconsciousness and manly
shrewdness were singularly combined. He gave his opinion on twenty
topics, he opened up an endless budget of local gossip, he described
his repulsive routine at the office of Messrs. Striker and Spooner,
counselors at law, and he gave with great felicity and gusto an account
of the annual boat-race between Harvard and Yale, which he had lately
witnessed at Worcester. He had looked at the straining oarsmen and the
swaying crowd with the eye of the sculptor. Rowland was a good deal
amused and not a little interested. Whenever Hudson uttered some
peculiarly striking piece of youthful grandiloquence, Cecilia broke into
a long, light, familiar laugh.
"What are you laughing at?" the young man then demanded. "Have I said
anything so ridiculous?"
"Go on, go on," Cecilia replied. "You are too delicious! Show Mr. Mallet
how Mr. Striker read the Declaration of Independence."
Hudson, like most men with a turn for the plastic arts, was an excellent
mimic, and he represented with a great deal of humor the accent and
attitude of a pompous country lawyer sustaining the burden of this
customary episode of our national festival. The sonorous twang, the
see-saw gestures, the odd pronunciation, were vividly depicted. But
Cecilia's manner, and the young man's quick response, ruffled a little
poor Rowland's paternal conscience. He wondered whether his cousin was
not sacrificing the faculty of reverence in her clever protege to
her need for amusement. Hudson made no serious rejoinder to Rowland's
compliment on his statuette until he rose to go. Rowland wondered
whether he had forgotten it, and supposed that the oversight was a sign
of the natural self-sufficiency of genius. But Hudson stood a moment
before he said good night, twirled his sombrero, and hesitated for the
first time. He gave Rowland a clear, penetrating glance, and then, with
a wonderfully frank, appealing smile: "You really meant," he
asked, "what you said a while ago about that thing of mine? It is
"I really meant it," said Rowland, laying a kindly hand on his shoulder.
"It is very good indeed. It is, as you say, essentially good. That is
the beauty of it."
Hudson's eyes glowed and expanded; he looked at Rowland for some time in
silence. "I have a notion you really know," he said at last. "But if you
don't, it does n't much matter."
"My cousin asked me to-day," said Cecilia, "whether I supposed you knew
yourself how good it is."
Hudson stared, blushing a little. "Perhaps not!" he cried.
"Very likely," said Mallet. "I read in a book the other day that
great talent in action--in fact the book said genius--is a kind of
somnambulism. The artist performs great feats, in a dream. We must not
wake him up, lest he should lose his balance."
"Oh, when he 's back in bed again!" Hudson answered with a laugh. "Yes,
call it a dream. It was a very happy one!"
"Tell me this," said Rowland. "Did you mean anything by your young
Water-drinker? Does he represent an idea? Is he a symbol?"
Hudson raised his eyebrows and gently scratched his head. "Why, he 's
youth, you know; he 's innocence, he 's health, he 's strength, he 's
curiosity. Yes, he 's a good many things."
"And is the cup also a symbol?"
"The cup is knowledge, pleasure, experience. Anything of that kind!"
"Well, he 's guzzling in earnest," said Rowland.
Hudson gave a vigorous nod. "Aye, poor fellow, he 's thirsty!" And on
this he cried good night, and bounded down the garden path.
"Well, what do you make of him?" asked Cecilia, returning a short
time afterwards from a visit of investigation as to the sufficiency of
"I confess I like him," said Rowland. "He 's very immature,--but there
's stuff in him."
"He 's a strange being," said Cecilia, musingly.
"Who are his people? what has been his education?" Rowland asked.
"He has had no education, beyond what he has picked up, with little
trouble, for himself. His mother is a widow, of a Massachusetts country
family, a little timid, tremulous woman, who is always on pins and
needles about her son. She had some property herself, and married a
Virginian gentleman of good estates. He turned out, I believe, a very
licentious personage, and made great havoc in their fortune. Everything,
or almost everything, melted away, including Mr. Hudson himself. This
is literally true, for he drank himself to death. Ten years ago his wife
was left a widow, with scanty means and a couple of growing boys.
She paid her husband's debts as best she could, and came to establish
herself here, where by the death of a charitable relative she had
inherited an old-fashioned ruinous house. Roderick, our friend, was her
pride and joy, but Stephen, the elder, was her comfort and support.
I remember him, later; he was an ugly, sturdy, practical lad, very
different from his brother, and in his way, I imagine, a very fine
fellow. When the war broke out he found that the New England blood ran
thicker in his veins than the Virginian, and immediately obtained
a commission. He fell in some Western battle and left his mother
inconsolable. Roderick, however, has given her plenty to think about,
and she has induced him, by some mysterious art, to abide, nominally at
least, in a profession that he abhors, and for which he is about as fit,
I should say, as I am to drive a locomotive. He grew up a la grace de
Dieu, and was horribly spoiled. Three or four years ago he graduated at
a small college in this neighborhood, where I am afraid he had given a
good deal more attention to novels and billiards than to mathematics and
Greek. Since then he has been reading law, at the rate of a page a day.
If he is ever admitted to practice I 'm afraid my friendship won't avail
to make me give him my business. Good, bad, or indifferent, the boy is
essentially an artist--an artist to his fingers' ends."
"Why, then," asked Rowland, "does n't he deliberately take up the
"For several reasons. In the first place, I don't think he more than
half suspects his talent. The flame is smouldering, but it is never
fanned by the breath of criticism. He sees nothing, hears nothing, to
help him to self-knowledge. He 's hopelessly discontented, but he
does n't know where to look for help. Then his mother, as she one
day confessed to me, has a holy horror of a profession which consists
exclusively, as she supposes, in making figures of people without their
clothes on. Sculpture, to her mind, is an insidious form of immorality,
and for a young man of a passionate disposition she considers the law a
much safer investment. Her father was a judge, she has two brothers at
the bar, and her elder son had made a very promising beginning in the
same line. She wishes the tradition to be perpetuated. I 'm pretty sure
the law won't make Roderick's fortune, and I 'm afraid it will, in the
long run, spoil his temper."
"What sort of a temper is it?"
"One to be trusted, on the whole. It is quick, but it is generous. I
have known it to breathe flame and fury at ten o'clock in the evening,
and soft, sweet music early on the morrow. It 's a very entertaining
temper to observe. I, fortunately, can do so dispassionately, for I 'm
the only person in the place he has not quarreled with."
"Has he then no society? Who is Miss Garland, whom you asked about?"
"A young girl staying with his mother, a sort of far-away cousin; a good
plain girl, but not a person to delight a sculptor's eye. Roderick has
a goodly share of the old Southern arrogance; he has the aristocratic
temperament. He will have nothing to do with the small towns-people; he
says they 're 'ignoble.' He cannot endure his mother's friends--the
old ladies and the ministers and the tea-party people; they bore him to
death. So he comes and lounges here and rails at everything and every
This graceful young scoffer reappeared a couple of evenings later, and
confirmed the friendly feeling he had provoked on Rowland's part. He
was in an easier mood than before, he chattered less extravagantly, and
asked Rowland a number of rather naif questions about the condition of
the fine arts in New York and Boston. Cecilia, when he had gone, said
that this was the wholesome effect of Rowland's praise of his statuette.
Roderick was acutely sensitive, and Rowland's tranquil commendation had
stilled his restless pulses. He was ruminating the full-flavored verdict
of culture. Rowland felt an irresistible kindness for him, a mingled
sense of his personal charm and his artistic capacity. He had an
indefinable attraction--the something divine of unspotted, exuberant,
confident youth. The next day was Sunday, and Rowland proposed that they
should take a long walk and that Roderick should show him the country.
The young man assented gleefully, and in the morning, as Rowland at the
garden gate was giving his hostess Godspeed on her way to church, he
came striding along the grassy margin of the road and out-whistling the
music of the church bells. It was one of those lovely days of August
when you feel the complete exuberance of summer just warned and checked
by autumn. "Remember the day, and take care you rob no orchards," said
Cecilia, as they separated.
The young men walked away at a steady pace, over hill and dale, through
woods and fields, and at last found themselves on a grassy elevation
studded with mossy rocks and red cedars. Just beneath them, in a great
shining curve, flowed the goodly Connecticut. They flung themselves
on the grass and tossed stones into the river; they talked like old
friends. Rowland lit a cigar, and Roderick refused one with a grimace
of extravagant disgust. He thought them vile things; he did n't see how
decent people could tolerate them. Rowland was amused, and wondered what
it was that made this ill-mannered speech seem perfectly inoffensive
on Roderick's lips. He belonged to the race of mortals, to be pitied
or envied according as we view the matter, who are not held to a strict
account for their aggressions. Looking at him as he lay stretched in the
shade, Rowland vaguely likened him to some beautiful, supple, restless,
bright-eyed animal, whose motions should have no deeper warrant than the
tremulous delicacy of its structure, and be graceful even when they
were most inconvenient. Rowland watched the shadows on Mount Holyoke,
listened to the gurgle of the river, and sniffed the balsam of the
pines. A gentle breeze had begun to tickle their summits, and brought
the smell of the mown grass across from the elm-dotted river meadows. He
sat up beside his companion and looked away at the far-spreading
view. It seemed to him beautiful, and suddenly a strange feeling of
prospective regret took possession of him. Something seemed to tell
him that later, in a foreign land, he would remember it lovingly and
"It 's a wretched business," he said, "this practical quarrel of ours
with our own country, this everlasting impatience to get out of it. Is
one's only safety then in flight? This is an American day, an American
landscape, an American atmosphere. It certainly has its merits, and
some day when I am shivering with ague in classic Italy, I shall accuse
myself of having slighted them."
Roderick kindled with a sympathetic glow, and declared that America was
good enough for him, and that he had always thought it the duty of an
honest citizen to stand by his own country and help it along. He had
evidently thought nothing whatever about it, and was launching his
doctrine on the inspiration of the moment. The doctrine expanded with
the occasion, and he declared that he was above all an advocate for
American art. He did n't see why we should n't produce the greatest
works in the world. We were the biggest people, and we ought to have the
biggest conceptions. The biggest conceptions of course would bring forth
in time the biggest performances. We had only to be true to ourselves,
to pitch in and not be afraid, to fling Imitation overboard and fix our
eyes upon our National Individuality. "I declare," he cried, "there 's
a career for a man, and I 've twenty minds to decide, on the spot, to
embrace it--to be the consummate, typical, original, national American
artist! It 's inspiring!"
Rowland burst out laughing and told him that he liked his practice
better than his theory, and that a saner impulse than this had inspired
his little Water-drinker. Roderick took no offense, and three minutes
afterwards was talking volubly of some humbler theme, but half heeded
by his companion, who had returned to his cogitations. At last Rowland
delivered himself of the upshot of these. "How would you like," he
suddenly demanded, "to go to Rome?"
Hudson stared, and, with a hungry laugh which speedily consigned our
National Individuality to perdition, responded that he would like it
reasonably well. "And I should like, by the same token," he added,
"to go to Athens, to Constantinople, to Damascus, to the holy city of
Benares, where there is a golden statue of Brahma twenty feet tall."
"Nay," said Rowland soberly, "if you were to go to Rome, you should
settle down and work. Athens might help you, but for the present I
should n't recommend Benares."
"It will be time to arrange details when I pack my trunk," said Hudson.
"If you mean to turn sculptor, the sooner you pack your trunk the
"Oh, but I 'm a practical man! What is the smallest sum per annum, on
which one can keep alive the sacred fire in Rome?"
"What is the largest sum at your disposal?"
Roderick stroked his light moustache, gave it a twist, and then
announced with mock pomposity: "Three hundred dollars!"
"The money question could be arranged," said Rowland. "There are ways of
"I should like to know a few! I never yet discovered one."
"One consists," said Rowland, "in having a friend with a good deal more
than he wants, and not being too proud to accept a part of it."
Roderick stared a moment and his face flushed. "Do you mean--do you
mean?".... he stammered. He was greatly excited.
Rowland got up, blushing a little, and Roderick sprang to his feet. "In
three words, if you are to be a sculptor, you ought to go to Rome and
study the antique. To go to Rome you need money. I 'm fond of fine
statues, but unfortunately I can't make them myself. I have to order
them. I order a dozen from you, to be executed at your convenience. To
help you, I pay you in advance."
Roderick pushed off his hat and wiped his forehead, still gazing at his
companion. "You believe in me!" he cried at last.
"Allow me to explain," said Rowland. "I believe in you, if you are
prepared to work and to wait, and to struggle, and to exercise a great
many virtues. And then, I 'm afraid to say it, lest I should disturb
you more than I should help you. You must decide for yourself. I simply
offer you an opportunity."
Hudson stood for some time, profoundly meditative. "You have not seen my
other things," he said suddenly. "Come and look at them."
"Yes, we 'll walk home. We 'll settle the question."
He passed his hand through Rowland's arm and they retraced their steps.
They reached the town and made their way along a broad country street,
dusky with the shade of magnificent elms. Rowland felt his companion's
arm trembling in his own. They stopped at a large white house, flanked
with melancholy hemlocks, and passed through a little front garden,
paved with moss-coated bricks and ornamented with parterres bordered
with high box hedges. The mansion had an air of antiquated dignity, but
it had seen its best days, and evidently sheltered a shrunken household.
Mrs. Hudson, Rowland was sure, might be seen in the garden of a
morning, in a white apron and a pair of old gloves, engaged in frugal
horticulture. Roderick's studio was behind, in the basement; a large,
empty room, with the paper peeling off the walls. This represented, in
the fashion of fifty years ago, a series of small fantastic landscapes
of a hideous pattern, and the young sculptor had presumably torn it away
in great scraps, in moments of aesthetic exasperation. On a board in
a corner was a heap of clay, and on the floor, against the wall,
stood some dozen medallions, busts, and figures, in various stages of
completion. To exhibit them Roderick had to place them one by one on
the end of a long packing-box, which served as a pedestal. He did so
silently, making no explanations, and looking at them himself with a
strange air of quickened curiosity. Most of the things were portraits;
and the three at which he looked longest were finished busts. One was a
colossal head of a negro, tossed back, defiant, with distended nostrils;
one was the portrait of a young man whom Rowland immediately perceived,
by the resemblance, to be his deceased brother; the last represented a
gentleman with a pointed nose, a long, shaved upper lip, and a tuft on
the end of his chin. This was a face peculiarly unadapted to sculpture;
but as a piece of modeling it was the best, and it was admirable. It
reminded Rowland in its homely veracity, its artless artfulness, of
the works of the early Italian Renaissance. On the pedestal was cut
the name--Barnaby Striker, Esq. Rowland remembered that this was the
appellation of the legal luminary from whom his companion had undertaken
to borrow a reflected ray, and although in the bust there was naught
flagrantly set down in malice, it betrayed, comically to one who could
relish the secret, that the features of the original had often been
scanned with an irritated eye. Besides these there were several rough
studies of the nude, and two or three figures of a fanciful kind. The
most noticeable (and it had singular beauty) was a small modeled design
for a sepulchral monument; that, evidently, of Stephen Hudson. The young
soldier lay sleeping eternally, with his hand on his sword, like an old
crusader in a Gothic cathedral.
Rowland made no haste to pronounce; too much depended on his judgment.
"Upon my word," cried Hudson at last, "they seem to me very good."
And in truth, as Rowland looked, he saw they were good. They were
youthful, awkward, and ignorant; the effort, often, was more apparent
than the success. But the effort was signally powerful and intelligent;
it seemed to Rowland that it needed only to let itself go to compass
great things. Here and there, too, success, when grasped, had something
masterly. Rowland turned to his companion, who stood with his hands in
his pockets and his hair very much crumpled, looking at him askance.
The light of admiration was in Rowland's eyes, and it speedily kindled a
wonderful illumination on Hudson's handsome brow. Rowland said at last,
gravely, "You have only to work!"
"I think I know what that means," Roderick answered. He turned away,
threw himself on a rickety chair, and sat for some moments with his
elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. "Work--work?" he said at
last, looking up, "ah, if I could only begin!" He glanced round the
room a moment and his eye encountered on the mantel-shelf the vivid
physiognomy of Mr. Barnaby Striker. His smile vanished, and he stared at
it with an air of concentrated enmity. "I want to begin," he cried, "and
I can't make a better beginning than this! Good-by, Mr. Striker!" He
strode across the room, seized a mallet that lay at hand, and before
Rowland could interfere, in the interest of art if not of morals, dealt
a merciless blow upon Mr. Striker's skull. The bust cracked into a
dozen pieces, which toppled with a great crash upon the floor. Rowland
relished neither the destruction of the image nor his companion's look
in working it, but as he was about to express his displeasure the door
opened and gave passage to a young girl. She came in with a rapid step
and startled face, as if she had been summoned by the noise. Seeing the
heap of shattered clay and the mallet in Roderick's hand, she gave a
cry of horror. Her voice died away when she perceived that Rowland was a
stranger, but she murmured reproachfully, "Why, Roderick, what have you
Roderick gave a joyous kick to the shapeless fragments. "I 've driven
the money-changers out of the temple!" he cried.
The traces retained shape enough to be recognized, and she gave a little
moan of pity. She seemed not to understand the young man's allegory, but
yet to feel that it pointed to some great purpose, which must be an evil
one, from being expressed in such a lawless fashion, and to perceive
that Rowland was in some way accountable for it. She looked at him with
a sharp, frank mistrust, and turned away through the open door. Rowland
looked after her with extraordinary interest.