CHAPTER IV. Experience
Rowland passed the summer in England, staying with several old friends
and two or three new ones. On his arrival, he felt it on his conscience
to write to Mrs. Hudson and inform her that her son had relieved him of
his tutelage. He felt that she considered him an incorruptible Mentor,
following Roderick like a shadow, and he wished to let her know the
truth. But he made the truth very comfortable, and gave a succinct
statement of the young man's brilliant beginnings. He owed it to
himself, he said, to remind her that he had not judged lightly, and that
Roderick's present achievements were more profitable than his inglorious
drudgery at Messrs. Striker & Spooner's. He was now taking a well-earned
holiday and proposing to see a little of the world. He would work none
the worse for this; every artist needed to knock about and look at
things for himself. They had parted company for a couple of months, for
Roderick was now a great man and beyond the need of going about with a
keeper. But they were to meet again in Rome in the autumn, and then he
should be able to send her more good news. Meanwhile, he was very happy
in what Roderick had already done--especially happy in the happiness it
must have brought to her. He ventured to ask to be kindly commended to
His letter was promptly answered--to his surprise in Miss Garland's own
hand. The same mail brought also an epistle from Cecilia. The latter was
voluminous, and we must content ourselves with giving an extract.
"Your letter was filled with an echo of that brilliant Roman world,
which made me almost ill with envy. For a week after I got it I thought
Northampton really unpardonably tame. But I am drifting back again to my
old deeps of resignation, and I rush to the window, when any one passes,
with all my old gratitude for small favors. So Roderick Hudson is
already a great man, and you turn out to be a great prophet? My
compliments to both of you; I never heard of anything working so
smoothly. And he takes it all very quietly, and does n't lose his
balance nor let it turn his head? You judged him, then, in a day better
than I had done in six months, for I really did not expect that he would
settle down into such a jog-trot of prosperity. I believed he would do
fine things, but I was sure he would intersperse them with a good many
follies, and that his beautiful statues would spring up out of the midst
of a straggling plantation of wild oats. But from what you tell me, Mr.
Striker may now go hang himself..... There is one thing, however, to say
as a friend, in the way of warning. That candid soul can keep a secret,
and he may have private designs on your equanimity which you don't begin
to suspect. What do you think of his being engaged to Miss Garland? The
two ladies had given no hint of it all winter, but a fortnight ago, when
those big photographs of his statues arrived, they first pinned them up
on the wall, and then trotted out into the town, made a dozen calls, and
announced the news. Mrs. Hudson did, at least; Miss Garland, I suppose,
sat at home writing letters. To me, I confess, the thing was a perfect
surprise. I had not a suspicion that all the while he was coming so
regularly to make himself agreeable on my veranda, he was quietly
preferring his cousin to any one else. Not, indeed, that he was ever at
particular pains to make himself agreeable! I suppose he has picked up
a few graces in Rome. But he must not acquire too many: if he is too
polite when he comes back, Miss Garland will count him as one of the
lost. She will be a very good wife for a man of genius, and such a one
as they are often shrewd enough to take. She 'll darn his stockings and
keep his accounts, and sit at home and trim the lamp and keep up
the fire while he studies the Beautiful in pretty neighbors at
dinner-parties. The two ladies are evidently very happy, and, to do them
justice, very humbly grateful to you. Mrs. Hudson never speaks of you
without tears in her eyes, and I am sure she considers you a specially
patented agent of Providence. Verily, it 's a good thing for a woman to
be in love: Miss Garland has grown almost pretty. I met her the other
night at a tea-party; she had a white rose in her hair, and sang a
sentimental ballad in a fine contralto voice."
Miss Garland's letter was so much shorter that we may give it entire:--
My dear Sir,--Mrs. Hudson, as I suppose you know, has been for some time
unable to use her eyes. She requests me, therefore, to answer your favor
of the 22d of June. She thanks you extremely for writing, and wishes me
to say that she considers herself in every way under great obligations
to you. Your account of her son's progress and the high estimation in
which he is held has made her very happy, and she earnestly prays that
all may continue well with him. He sent us, a short time ago, several
large photographs of his two statues, taken from different points of
view. We know little about such things, but they seem to us wonderfully
beautiful. We sent them to Boston to be handsomely framed, and the man,
on returning them, wrote us that he had exhibited them for a week in
his store, and that they had attracted great attention. The frames are
magnificent, and the pictures now hang in a row on the parlor wall.
Our only quarrel with them is that they make the old papering and the
engravings look dreadfully shabby. Mr. Striker stood and looked at them
the other day full five minutes, and said, at last, that if Roderick's
head was running on such things it was no wonder he could not learn to
draw up a deed. We lead here so quiet and monotonous a life that I
am afraid I can tell you nothing that will interest you. Mrs. Hudson
requests me to say that the little more or less that may happen to us is
of small account, as we live in our thoughts and our thoughts are fixed
on her dear son. She thanks Heaven he has so good a friend. Mrs. Hudson
says that this is too short a letter, but I can say nothing more.
Yours most respectfully,
It is a question whether the reader will know why, but this letter
gave Rowland extraordinary pleasure. He liked its very brevity and
meagreness, and there seemed to him an exquisite modesty in its saying
nothing from the young girl herself. He delighted in the formal address
and conclusion; they pleased him as he had been pleased by an angular
gesture in some expressive girlish figure in an early painting. The
letter renewed that impression of strong feeling combined with an almost
rigid simplicity, which Roderick's betrothed had personally given
him. And its homely stiffness seemed a vivid reflection of a life
concentrated, as the young girl had borrowed warrant from her companion
to say, in a single devoted idea. The monotonous days of the two women
seemed to Rowland's fancy to follow each other like the tick-tick of a
great time-piece, marking off the hours which separated them from the
supreme felicity of clasping the far-away son and lover to lips sealed
with the excess of joy. He hoped that Roderick, now that he had shaken
off the oppression of his own importunate faith, was not losing a
tolerant temper for the silent prayers of the two women at Northampton.
He was left to vain conjectures, however, as to Roderick's actual moods
and occupations. He knew he was no letter-writer, and that, in the young
sculptor's own phrase, he had at any time rather build a monument than
write a note. But when a month had passed without news of him, he began
to be half anxious and half angry, and wrote him three lines, in the
care of a Continental banker, begging him at least to give some sign of
whether he was alive or dead. A week afterwards came an answer--brief,
and dated Baden-Baden. "I know I have been a great brute," Roderick
wrote, "not to have sent you a word before; but really I don't know what
has got into me. I have lately learned terribly well how to be idle. I
am afraid to think how long it is since I wrote to my mother or to Mary.
Heaven help them--poor, patient, trustful creatures! I don't know how to
tell you what I am doing. It seems all amusing enough while I do it, but
it would make a poor show in a narrative intended for your formidable
eyes. I found Baxter in Switzerland, or rather he found me, and he
grabbed me by the arm and brought me here. I was walking twenty miles a
day in the Alps, drinking milk in lonely chalets, sleeping as you sleep,
and thinking it was all very good fun; but Baxter told me it would never
do, that the Alps were 'd----d rot,' that Baden-Baden was the place, and
that if I knew what was good for me I would come along with him. It is a
wonderful place, certainly, though, thank the Lord, Baxter departed last
week, blaspheming horribly at trente et quarante. But you know all about
it and what one does--what one is liable to do. I have succumbed, in a
measure, to the liabilities, and I wish I had some one here to give me a
thundering good blowing up. Not you, dear friend; you would draw it too
mild; you have too much of the milk of human kindness. I have fits of
horrible homesickness for my studio, and I shall be devoutly grateful
when the summer is over and I can go back and swing a chisel. I feel as
if nothing but the chisel would satisfy me; as if I could rush in a rage
at a block of unshaped marble. There are a lot of the Roman people here,
English and American; I live in the midst of them and talk nonsense from
morning till night. There is also some one else; and to her I don't talk
sense, nor, thank heaven, mean what I say. I confess, I need a month's
work to recover my self-respect."
These lines brought Rowland no small perturbation; the more, that what
they seemed to point to surprised him. During the nine months of their
companionship Roderick had shown so little taste for dissipation that
Rowland had come to think of it as a canceled danger, and it greatly
perplexed him to learn that his friend had apparently proved so pliant
to opportunity. But Roderick's allusions were ambiguous, and it was
possible they might simply mean that he was out of patience with a
frivolous way of life and fretting wholesomely over his absent work.
It was a very good thing, certainly, that idleness should prove, on
experiment, to sit heavily on his conscience. Nevertheless, the letter
needed, to Rowland's mind, a key: the key arrived a week later. "In
common charity," Roderick wrote, "lend me a hundred pounds! I have
gambled away my last franc--I have made a mountain of debts. Send me the
money first; lecture me afterwards!" Rowland sent the money by return of
mail; then he proceeded, not to lecture, but to think. He hung his head;
he was acutely disappointed. He had no right to be, he assured himself;
but so it was. Roderick was young, impulsive, unpracticed in stoicism;
it was a hundred to one that he was to pay the usual vulgar tribute
to folly. But his friend had regarded it as securely gained to his own
belief in virtue that he was not as other foolish youths are, and that
he would have been capable of looking at folly in the face and passing
on his way. Rowland for a while felt a sore sense of wrath. What right
had a man who was engaged to that fine girl in Northampton to behave
as if his consciousness were a common blank, to be overlaid with coarse
sensations? Yes, distinctly, he was disappointed. He had accompanied his
missive with an urgent recommendation to leave Baden-Baden immediately,
and an offer to meet Roderick at any point he would name. The answer
came promptly; it ran as follows: "Send me another fifty pounds! I have
been back to the tables. I will leave as soon as the money comes, and
meet you at Geneva. There I will tell you everything."
There is an ancient terrace at Geneva, planted with trees and studded
with benches, overlooked by gravely aristocratic old dwellings and
overlooking the distant Alps. A great many generations have made it a
lounging-place, a great many friends and lovers strolled there, a great
many confidential talks and momentous interviews gone forward. Here, one
morning, sitting on one of the battered green benches, Roderick, as he
had promised, told his friend everything. He had arrived late the
night before; he looked tired, and yet flushed and excited. He made no
professions of penitence, but he practiced an unmitigated frankness,
and his self-reprobation might be taken for granted. He implied in every
phrase that he had done with it all, and that he was counting the hours
till he could get back to work. We shall not rehearse his confession in
detail; its main outline will be sufficient. He had fallen in with some
very idle people, and had discovered that a little example and a little
practice were capable of producing on his own part a considerable relish
for their diversions. What could he do? He never read, and he had no
studio; in one way or another he had to pass the time. He passed it in
dangling about several very pretty women in wonderful Paris toilets,
and reflected that it was always something gained for a sculptor to sit
under a tree, looking at his leisure into a charming face and saying
things that made it smile and play its muscles and part its lips and
show its teeth. Attached to these ladies were certain gentlemen who
walked about in clouds of perfume, rose at midday, and supped at
midnight. Roderick had found himself in the mood for thinking them very
amusing fellows. He was surprised at his own taste, but he let it take
its course. It led him to the discovery that to live with ladies who
expect you to present them with expensive bouquets, to ride with them in
the Black Forest on well-looking horses, to come into their opera-boxes
on nights when Patti sang and prices were consequent, to propose little
light suppers at the Conversation House after the opera or drives by
moonlight to the Castle, to be always arrayed and anointed, trinketed
and gloved,--that to move in such society, we say, though it might be a
privilege, was a privilege with a penalty attached. But the tables made
such things easy; half the Baden world lived by the tables. Roderick
tried them and found that at first they smoothed his path delightfully.
This simplification of matters, however, was only momentary, for he soon
perceived that to seem to have money, and to have it in fact, exposed
a good-looking young man to peculiar liabilities. At this point of his
friend's narrative, Rowland was reminded of Madame de Cruchecassee in
The Newcomes, and though he had listened in tranquil silence to the rest
of it, he found it hard not to say that all this had been, under
the circumstances, a very bad business. Roderick admitted it with
bitterness, and then told how much--measured simply financially--it had
cost him. His luck had changed; the tables had ceased to back him, and
he had found himself up to his knees in debt. Every penny had gone
of the solid sum which had seemed a large equivalent of those shining
statues in Rome. He had been an ass, but it was not irreparable; he
could make another statue in a couple of months.
Rowland frowned. "For heaven's sake," he said, "don't play such
dangerous games with your facility. If you have got facility, revere
it, respect it, adore it, treasure it--don't speculate on it." And he
wondered what his companion, up to his knees in debt, would have done
if there had been no good-natured Rowland Mallet to lend a helping hand.
But he did not formulate his curiosity audibly, and the contingency
seemed not to have presented itself to Roderick's imagination. The young
sculptor reverted to his late adventures again in the evening, and this
time talked of them more objectively, as the phrase is; more as if they
had been the adventures of another person. He related half a dozen droll
things that had happened to him, and, as if his responsibility had been
disengaged by all this free discussion, he laughed extravagantly at the
memory of them. Rowland sat perfectly grave, on principle. Then Roderick
began to talk of half a dozen statues that he had in his head, and
set forth his design, with his usual vividness. Suddenly, as it was
relevant, he declared that his Baden doings had not been altogether
fruitless, for that the lady who had reminded Rowland of Madame de
Cruchecassee was tremendously statuesque. Rowland at last said that it
all might pass if he felt that he was really the wiser for it. "By the
wiser," he added, "I mean the stronger in purpose, in will."
"Oh, don't talk about will!" Roderick answered, throwing back his head
and looking at the stars. This conversation also took place in the open
air, on the little island in the shooting Rhone where Jean-Jacques has
a monument. "The will, I believe, is the mystery of mysteries. Who can
answer for his will? who can say beforehand that it 's strong? There are
all kinds of indefinable currents moving to and fro between one's
will and one's inclinations. People talk as if the two things were
essentially distinct; on different sides of one's organism, like the
heart and the liver. Mine, I know, are much nearer together. It all
depends upon circumstances. I believe there is a certain group of
circumstances possible for every man, in which his will is destined to
snap like a dry twig."
"My dear boy," said Rowland, "don't talk about the will being
'destined.' The will is destiny itself. That 's the way to look at it."
"Look at it, my dear Rowland," Roderick answered, "as you find
most comfortable. One conviction I have gathered from my summer's
experience," he went on--"it 's as well to look it frankly in the
face--is that I possess an almost unlimited susceptibility to the
influence of a beautiful woman."
Rowland stared, then strolled away, softly whistling to himself. He
was unwilling to admit even to himself that this speech had really the
sinister meaning it seemed to have. In a few days the two young men made
their way back to Italy, and lingered a while in Florence before
going on to Rome. In Florence Roderick seemed to have won back his old
innocence and his preference for the pleasures of study over any others.
Rowland began to think of the Baden episode as a bad dream, or at
the worst as a mere sporadic piece of disorder, without roots in his
companion's character. They passed a fortnight looking at pictures
and exploring for out the way bits of fresco and carving, and Roderick
recovered all his earlier fervor of appreciation and comment. In Rome he
went eagerly to work again, and finished in a month two or three small
things he had left standing on his departure. He talked the most joyous
nonsense about finding himself back in his old quarters. On the first
Sunday afternoon following their return, on their going together to
Saint Peter's, he delivered himself of a lyrical greeting to the great
church and to the city in general, in a tone of voice so irrepressibly
elevated that it rang through the nave in rather a scandalous fashion,
and almost arrested a procession of canons who were marching across to
the choir. He began to model a new statue--a female figure, of which he
had said nothing to Rowland. It represented a woman, leaning lazily back
in her chair, with her head drooping as if she were listening, a vague
smile on her lips, and a pair of remarkably beautiful arms folded in her
lap. With rather less softness of contour, it would have resembled the
noble statue of Agrippina in the Capitol. Rowland looked at it and was
not sure he liked it. "Who is it? what does it mean?" he asked.
"Anything you please!" said Roderick, with a certain petulance. "I call
it A Reminiscence."
Rowland then remembered that one of the Baden ladies had been
"statuesque," and asked no more questions. This, after all, was a way of
profiting by experience. A few days later he took his first ride of
the season on the Campagna, and as, on his homeward way, he was passing
across the long shadow of a ruined tower, he perceived a small figure
at a short distance, bent over a sketch-book. As he drew near, he
recognized his friend Singleton. The honest little painter's face was
scorched to flame-color by the light of southern suns, and borrowed an
even deeper crimson from his gleeful greeting of his most appreciative
patron. He was making a careful and charming little sketch. On Rowland's
asking him how he had spent his summer, he gave an account of his
wanderings which made poor Mallet sigh with a sense of more contrasts
than one. He had not been out of Italy, but he had been delving deep
into the picturesque heart of the lovely land, and gathering a wonderful
store of subjects. He had rambled about among the unvisited villages of
the Apennines, pencil in hand and knapsack on back, sleeping on straw
and eating black bread and beans, but feasting on local color, rioting,
as it were, on chiaroscuro, and laying up a treasure of pictorial
observations. He took a devout satisfaction in his hard-earned wisdom
and his happy frugality. Rowland went the next day, by appointment,
to look at his sketches, and spent a whole morning turning them over.
Singleton talked more than he had ever done before, explained them all,
and told some quaintly humorous anecdote about the production of each.
"Dear me, how I have chattered!" he said at last. "I am afraid you had
rather have looked at the things in peace and quiet. I did n't know I
could talk so much. But somehow, I feel very happy; I feel as if I had
"That you have," said Rowland. "I doubt whether an artist ever passed a
more profitable three months. You must feel much more sure of yourself."
Singleton looked for a long time with great intentness at a knot in the
floor. "Yes," he said at last, in a fluttered tone, "I feel much more
sure of myself. I have got more facility!" And he lowered his voice as
if he were communicating a secret which it took some courage to impart.
"I hardly like to say it, for fear I should after all be mistaken. But
since it strikes you, perhaps it 's true. It 's a great happiness; I
would not exchange it for a great deal of money."
"Yes, I suppose it 's a great happiness," said Rowland. "I shall really
think of you as living here in a state of scandalous bliss. I don't
believe it 's good for an artist to be in such brutally high spirits."
Singleton stared for a moment, as if he thought Rowland was in earnest;
then suddenly fathoming the kindly jest, he walked about the room,
scratching his head and laughing intensely to himself. "And Mr. Hudson?"
he said, as Rowland was going; "I hope he is well and happy."
"He is very well," said Rowland. "He is back at work again."
"Ah, there 's a man," cried Singleton, "who has taken his start once
for all, and does n't need to stop and ask himself in fear and trembling
every month or two whether he is advancing or not. When he stops, it 's
to rest! And where did he spend his summer?"
"The greater part of it at Baden-Baden."
"Ah, that 's in the Black Forest," cried Singleton, with profound
simplicity. "They say you can make capital studies of trees there."
"No doubt," said Rowland, with a smile, laying an almost paternal
hand on the little painter's yellow head. "Unfortunately trees are not
Roderick's line. Nevertheless, he tells me that at Baden he made some
studies. Come when you can, by the way," he added after a moment,
"to his studio, and tell me what you think of something he has lately
begun." Singleton declared that he would come delightedly, and Rowland
left him to his work.
He met a number of his last winter's friends again, and called upon
Madame Grandoni, upon Miss Blanchard, and upon Gloriani, shortly after
their return. The ladies gave an excellent account of themselves.
Madame Grandoni had been taking sea-baths at Rimini, and Miss Blanchard
painting wild flowers in the Tyrol. Her complexion was somewhat browned,
which was very becoming, and her flowers were uncommonly pretty.
Gloriani had been in Paris and had come away in high good-humor, finding
no one there, in the artist-world, cleverer than himself. He came in a
few days to Roderick's studio, one afternoon when Rowland was present.
He examined the new statue with great deference, said it was very
promising, and abstained, considerately, from irritating prophecies. But
Rowland fancied he observed certain signs of inward jubilation on the
clever sculptor's part, and walked away with him to learn his private
"Certainly; I liked it as well as I said," Gloriani declared in answer
to Rowland's anxious query; "or rather I liked it a great deal better. I
did n't say how much, for fear of making your friend angry. But one can
leave him alone now, for he 's coming round. I told you he could n't
keep up the transcendental style, and he has already broken down. Don't
you see it yourself, man?"
"I don't particularly like this new statue," said Rowland.
"That 's because you 're a purist. It 's deuced clever, it 's deuced
knowing, it 's deuced pretty, but it is n't the topping high art of
three months ago. He has taken his turn sooner than I supposed. What has
happened to him? Has he been disappointed in love? But that 's none of
my business. I congratulate him on having become a practical man."
Roderick, however, was less to be congratulated than Gloriani had taken
it into his head to believe. He was discontented with his work, he
applied himself to it by fits and starts, he declared that he did n't
know what was coming over him; he was turning into a man of moods. "Is
this of necessity what a fellow must come to"--he asked of Rowland, with
a sort of peremptory flash in his eye, which seemed to imply that his
companion had undertaken to insure him against perplexities and was not
fulfilling his contract--"this damnable uncertainty when he goes to bed
at night as to whether he is going to wake up in a working humor or in a
swearing humor? Have we only a season, over before we know it, in which
we can call our faculties our own? Six months ago I could stand up to my
work like a man, day after day, and never dream of asking myself whether
I felt like it. But now, some mornings, it 's the very devil to get
going. My statue looks so bad when I come into the studio that I have
twenty minds to smash it on the spot, and I lose three or four hours in
sitting there, moping and getting used to it."
Rowland said that he supposed that this sort of thing was the lot of
every artist and that the only remedy was plenty of courage and faith.
And he reminded him of Gloriani's having forewarned him against these
sterile moods the year before.
"Gloriani 's an ass!" said Roderick, almost fiercely. He hired a horse
and began to ride with Rowland on the Campagna. This delicious amusement
restored him in a measure to cheerfulness, but seemed to Rowland on the
whole not to stimulate his industry. Their rides were always very
long, and Roderick insisted on making them longer by dismounting in
picturesque spots and stretching himself in the sun among a heap of
overtangled stones. He let the scorching Roman luminary beat down upon
him with an equanimity which Rowland found it hard to emulate. But in
this situation Roderick talked so much amusing nonsense that, for the
sake of his company, Rowland consented to be uncomfortable, and often
forgot that, though in these diversions the days passed quickly, they
brought forth neither high art nor low. And yet it was perhaps by their
help, after all, that Roderick secured several mornings of ardent work
on his new figure, and brought it to rapid completion. One afternoon,
when it was finished, Rowland went to look at it, and Roderick asked him
for his opinion.
"What do you think yourself?" Rowland demanded, not from pusillanimity,
but from real uncertainty.
"I think it is curiously bad," Roderick answered. "It was bad from the
first; it has fundamental vices. I have shuffled them in a measure out
of sight, but I have not corrected them. I can't--I can't--I can't!" he
cried passionately. "They stare me in the face--they are all I see!"
Rowland offered several criticisms of detail, and suggested certain
practicable changes. But Roderick differed with him on each of these
points; the thing had faults enough, but they were not those faults.
Rowland, unruffled, concluded by saying that whatever its faults might
be, he had an idea people in general would like it.
"I wish to heaven some person in particular would buy it, and take it
off my hands and out of my sight!" Roderick cried. "What am I to do
now?" he went on. "I have n't an idea. I think of subjects, but they
remain mere lifeless names. They are mere words--they are not images.
What am I to do?"
Rowland was a trifle annoyed. "Be a man," he was on the point of saying,
"and don't, for heaven's sake, talk in that confoundedly querulous
voice." But before he had uttered the words, there rang through the
studio a loud, peremptory ring at the outer door.
Roderick broke into a laugh. "Talk of the devil," he said, "and you see
his horns! If that 's not a customer, it ought to be."
The door of the studio was promptly flung open, and a lady advanced to
the threshold--an imposing, voluminous person, who quite filled up the
doorway. Rowland immediately felt that he had seen her before, but he
recognized her only when she moved forward and disclosed an attendant in
the person of a little bright-eyed, elderly gentleman, with a bristling
white moustache. Then he remembered that just a year before he and his
companion had seen in the Ludovisi gardens a wonderfully beautiful girl,
strolling in the train of this conspicuous couple. He looked for her
now, and in a moment she appeared, following her companions with the
same nonchalant step as before, and leading her great snow-white poodle,
decorated with motley ribbons. The elder lady offered the two young
men a sufficiently gracious salute; the little old gentleman bowed and
smiled with extreme alertness. The young girl, without casting a glance
either at Roderick or at Rowland, looked about for a chair, and, on
perceiving one, sank into it listlessly, pulled her poodle towards her,
and began to rearrange his top-knot. Rowland saw that, even with her
eyes dropped, her beauty was still dazzling.
"I trust we are at liberty to enter," said the elder lady, with majesty.
"We were told that Mr. Hudson had no fixed day, and that we might come
at any time. Let us not disturb you."
Roderick, as one of the lesser lights of the Roman art-world, had not
hitherto been subject to incursions from inquisitive tourists, and,
having no regular reception day, was not versed in the usual formulas of
welcome. He said nothing, and Rowland, looking at him, saw that he was
looking amazedly at the young girl and was apparently unconscious of
everything else. "By Jove!" he cried precipitately, "it 's that goddess
of the Villa Ludovisi!" Rowland in some confusion, did the honors as he
could, but the little old gentleman begged him with the most obsequious
of smiles to give himself no trouble. "I have been in many a studio!" he
said, with his finger on his nose and a strong Italian accent.
"We are going about everywhere," said his companion. "I am passionately
fond of art!"
Rowland smiled sympathetically, and let them turn to Roderick's statue.
He glanced again at the young sculptor, to invite him to bestir himself,
but Roderick was still gazing wide-eyed at the beautiful young mistress
of the poodle, who by this time had looked up and was gazing straight at
him. There was nothing bold in her look; it expressed a kind of languid,
imperturbable indifference. Her beauty was extraordinary; it grew and
grew as the young man observed her. In such a face the maidenly custom
of averted eyes and ready blushes would have seemed an anomaly; nature
had produced it for man's delight and meant that it should surrender
itself freely and coldly to admiration. It was not immediately apparent,
however, that the young lady found an answering entertainment in the
physiognomy of her host; she turned her head after a moment and looked
idly round the room, and at last let her eyes rest on the statue of the
woman seated. It being left to Rowland to stimulate conversation, he
began by complimenting her on the beauty of her dog.
"Yes, he 's very handsome," she murmured. "He 's a Florentine. The dogs
in Florence are handsomer than the people." And on Rowland's caressing
him: "His name is Stenterello," she added. "Stenterello, give your hand
to the gentleman." This order was given in Italian. "Say buon giorno a
Stenterello thrust out his paw and gave four short, shrill barks; upon
which the elder lady turned round and raised her forefinger.
"My dear, my dear, remember where you are! Excuse my foolish child," she
added, turning to Roderick with an agreeable smile. "She can think of
nothing but her poodle."
"I am teaching him to talk for me," the young girl went on, without
heeding her mother; "to say little things in society. It will save me
a great deal of trouble. Stenterello, love, give a pretty smile and say
tanti complimenti!" The poodle wagged his white pate--it looked like
one of those little pads in swan's-down, for applying powder to the
face--and repeated the barking process.
"He is a wonderful beast," said Rowland.
"He is not a beast," said the young girl. "A beast is something black
and dirty--something you can't touch."
"He is a very valuable dog," the elder lady explained. "He was presented
to my daughter by a Florentine nobleman."
"It is not for that I care about him. It is for himself. He is better
than the prince."
"My dear, my dear!" repeated the mother in deprecating accents, but with
a significant glance at Rowland which seemed to bespeak his attention to
the glory of possessing a daughter who could deal in that fashion with
Rowland remembered that when their unknown visitors had passed before
them, a year previous, in the Villa Ludovisi, Roderick and he had
exchanged conjectures as to their nationality and social quality.
Roderick had declared that they were old-world people; but Rowland
now needed no telling to feel that he might claim the elder lady as a
fellow-countrywoman. She was a person of what is called a great deal
of presence, with the faded traces, artfully revived here and there, of
once brilliant beauty. Her daughter had come lawfully by her loveliness,
but Rowland mentally made the distinction that the mother was silly and
that the daughter was not. The mother had a very silly mouth--a mouth,
Rowland suspected, capable of expressing an inordinate degree of
unreason. The young girl, in spite of her childish satisfaction in her
poodle, was not a person of feeble understanding. Rowland received an
impression that, for reasons of her own, she was playing a part. What
was the part and what were her reasons? She was interesting; Rowland
wondered what were her domestic secrets. If her mother was a daughter
of the great Republic, it was to be supposed that the young girl was a
flower of the American soil; but her beauty had a robustness and tone
uncommon in the somewhat facile loveliness of our western maidenhood.
She spoke with a vague foreign accent, as if she had spent her life in
strange countries. The little Italian apparently divined Rowland's mute
imaginings, for he presently stepped forward, with a bow like a master
of ceremonies. "I have not done my duty," he said, "in not announcing
these ladies. Mrs. Light, Miss Light!"
Rowland was not materially the wiser for this information, but Roderick
was aroused by it to the exercise of some slight hospitality. He altered
the light, pulled forward two or three figures, and made an apology
for not having more to show. "I don't pretend to have anything of an
exhibition--I am only a novice."
"Indeed?--a novice! For a novice this is very well," Mrs. Light
declared. "Cavaliere, we have seen nothing better than this."
The Cavaliere smiled rapturously. "It is stupendous!" he murmured. "And
we have been to all the studios."
"Not to all--heaven forbid!" cried Mrs. Light. "But to a number that I
have had pointed out by artistic friends. I delight in studios: they are
the temples of the beautiful here below. And if you are a novice, Mr.
Hudson," she went on, "you have already great admirers. Half a dozen
people have told us that yours were among the things to see." This
gracious speech went unanswered; Roderick had already wandered across to
the other side of the studio and was revolving about Miss Light. "Ah, he
's gone to look at my beautiful daughter; he is not the first that
has had his head turned," Mrs. Light resumed, lowering her voice to
a confidential undertone; a favor which, considering the shortness of
their acquaintance, Rowland was bound to appreciate. "The artists are
all crazy about her. When she goes into a studio she is fatal to the
pictures. And when she goes into a ball-room what do the other women
say? Eh, Cavaliere?"
"She is very beautiful," Rowland said, gravely.
Mrs. Light, who through her long, gold-cased glass was looking a little
at everything, and at nothing as if she saw it, interrupted her random
murmurs and exclamations, and surveyed Rowland from head to foot. She
looked at him all over; apparently he had not been mentioned to her as
a feature of Roderick's establishment. It was the gaze, Rowland felt,
which the vigilant and ambitious mamma of a beautiful daughter has
always at her command for well-dressed young men of candid physiognomy.
Her inspection in this case seemed satisfactory. "Are you also an
artist?" she inquired with an almost caressing inflection. It was clear
that what she meant was something of this kind: "Be so good as to assure
me without delay that you are really the young man of substance and
amiability that you appear."
But Rowland answered simply the formal question--not the latent one.
"Dear me, no; I am only a friend of Mr. Hudson."
Mrs. Light, with a sigh, returned to the statues, and after mistaking
the Adam for a gladiator, and the Eve for a Pocahontas, declared that
she could not judge of such things unless she saw them in the marble.
Rowland hesitated a moment, and then speaking in the interest of
Roderick's renown, said that he was the happy possessor of several of
his friend's works and that she was welcome to come and see them at his
rooms. She bade the Cavaliere make a note of his address. "Ah, you 're
a patron of the arts," she said. "That 's what I should like to be if
I had a little money. I delight in beauty in every form. But all these
people ask such monstrous prices. One must be a millionaire, to think
of such things, eh? Twenty years ago my husband had my portrait painted,
here in Rome, by Papucci, who was the great man in those days. I was in
a ball dress, with all my jewels, my neck and arms, and all that. The
man got six hundred francs, and thought he was very well treated. Those
were the days when a family could live like princes in Italy for five
thousand scudi a year. The Cavaliere once upon a time was a great
dandy--don't blush, Cavaliere; any one can see that, just as any one can
see that I was once a pretty woman! Get him to tell you what he made a
figure upon. The railroads have brought in the vulgarians. That 's what
I call it now--the invasion of the vulgarians! What are poor we to do?"
Rowland had begun to murmur some remedial proposition, when he was
interrupted by the voice of Miss Light calling across the room, "Mamma!"
"My own love?"
"This gentleman wishes to model my bust. Please speak to him."
The Cavaliere gave a little chuckle. "Already?" he cried.
Rowland looked round, equally surprised at the promptitude of the
proposal. Roderick stood planted before the young girl with his arms
folded, looking at her as he would have done at the Medicean Venus. He
never paid compliments, and Rowland, though he had not heard him speak,
could imagine the startling distinctness with which he made his request.
"He saw me a year ago," the young girl went on, "and he has been
thinking of me ever since." Her tone, in speaking, was peculiar; it had
a kind of studied inexpressiveness, which was yet not the vulgar device
of a drawl.
"I must make your daughter's bust--that 's all, madame!" cried Roderick,
"I had rather you made the poodle's," said the young girl. "Is it very
tiresome? I have spent half my life sitting for my photograph, in every
conceivable attitude and with every conceivable coiffure. I think I have
"My dear child," said Mrs. Light, "it may be one's duty to pose. But as
to my daughter's sitting to you, sir--to a young sculptor whom we don't
know--it is a matter that needs reflection. It is not a favor that 's to
be had for the mere asking."
"If I don't make her from life," said Roderick, with energy, "I will
make her from memory, and if the thing 's to be done, you had better
have it done as well as possible."
"Mamma hesitates," said Miss Light, "because she does n't know whether
you mean she shall pay you for the bust. I can assure you that she will
not pay you a sou."
"My darling, you forget yourself," said Mrs. Light, with an attempt at
majestic severity. "Of course," she added, in a moment, with a change of
note, "the bust would be my own property."
"Of course!" cried Roderick, impatiently.
"Dearest mother," interposed the young girl, "how can you carry a
marble bust about the world with you? Is it not enough to drag the poor
"My dear, you 're nonsensical!" cried Mrs. Light, almost angrily.
"You can always sell it," said the young girl, with the same artful
Mrs. Light turned to Rowland, who pitied her, flushed and irritated.
"She is very wicked to-day!"
The Cavaliere grinned in silence and walked away on tiptoe, with his hat
to his lips, as if to leave the field clear for action. Rowland, on the
contrary, wished to avert the coming storm. "You had better not refuse,"
he said to Miss Light, "until you have seen Mr. Hudson's things in the
marble. Your mother is to come and look at some that I possess."
"Thank you; I have no doubt you will see us. I dare say Mr. Hudson is
very clever; but I don't care for modern sculpture. I can't look at it!"
"You shall care for my bust, I promise you!" cried Roderick, with a
"To satisfy Miss Light," said the Cavaliere, "one of the old Greeks
ought to come to life."
"It would be worth his while," said Roderick, paying, to Rowland's
knowledge, his first compliment.
"I might sit to Phidias, if he would promise to be very amusing and make
me laugh. What do you say, Stenterello? would you sit to Phidias?"
"We must talk of this some other time," said Mrs. Light. "We are in
Rome for the winter. Many thanks. Cavaliere, call the carriage." The
Cavaliere led the way out, backing like a silver-stick, and Miss Light,
following her mother, nodded, without looking at them, to each of the
"Immortal powers, what a head!" cried Roderick, when they had gone.
"There 's my fortune!"
"She is certainly very beautiful," said Rowland. "But I 'm sorry you
have undertaken her bust."
"And why, pray?"
"I suspect it will bring trouble with it."
"What kind of trouble?"
"I hardly know. They are queer people. The mamma, I suspect, is the
least bit of an adventuress. Heaven knows what the daughter is."
"She 's a goddess!" cried Roderick.
"Just so. She is all the more dangerous."
"Dangerous? What will she do to me? She does n't bite, I imagine."
"It remains to be seen. There are two kinds of women--you ought to
know it by this time--the safe and the unsafe. Miss Light, if I am not
mistaken, is one of the unsafe. A word to the wise!"
"Much obliged!" said Roderick, and he began to whistle a triumphant air,
in honor, apparently, of the advent of his beautiful model.
In calling this young lady and her mamma "queer people," Rowland but
roughly expressed his sentiment. They were so marked a variation from
the monotonous troop of his fellow-country people that he felt much
curiosity as to the sources of the change, especially since he doubted
greatly whether, on the whole, it elevated the type. For a week he
saw the two ladies driving daily in a well-appointed landau, with the
Cavaliere and the poodle in the front seat. From Mrs. Light he received
a gracious salute, tempered by her native majesty; but the young girl,
looking straight before her, seemed profoundly indifferent to observers.
Her extraordinary beauty, however, had already made observers numerous
and given the habitues of the Pincian plenty to talk about. The echoes
of their commentary reached Rowland's ears; but he had little taste
for random gossip, and desired a distinctly veracious informant. He had
found one in the person of Madame Grandoni, for whom Mrs. Light and her
beautiful daughter were a pair of old friends.
"I have known the mamma for twenty years," said this judicious critic,
"and if you ask any of the people who have been living here as long
as I, you will find they remember her well. I have held the beautiful
Christina on my knee when she was a little wizened baby with a very red
face and no promise of beauty but those magnificent eyes. Ten years ago
Mrs. Light disappeared, and has not since been seen in Rome, except for
a few days last winter, when she passed through on her way to Naples.
Then it was you met the trio in the Ludovisi gardens. When I first
knew her she was the unmarried but very marriageable daughter of an old
American painter of very bad landscapes, which people used to buy from
charity and use for fire-boards. His name was Savage; it used to make
every one laugh, he was such a mild, melancholy, pitiful old gentleman.
He had married a horrible wife, an Englishwoman who had been on the
stage. It was said she used to beat poor Savage with his mahl-stick and
when the domestic finances were low to lock him up in his studio and
tell him he should n't come out until he had painted half a dozen of
his daubs. She had a good deal of showy beauty. She would then go
forth, and, her beauty helping, she would make certain people take the
pictures. It helped her at last to make an English lord run away with
her. At the time I speak of she had quite disappeared. Mrs. Light
was then a very handsome girl, though by no means so handsome as
her daughter has now become. Mr. Light was an American consul, newly
appointed at one of the Adriatic ports. He was a mild, fair-whiskered
young man, with some little property, and my impression is that he had
got into bad company at home, and that his family procured him his place
to keep him out of harm's way. He came up to Rome on a holiday, fell
in love with Miss Savage, and married her on the spot. He had not been
married three years when he was drowned in the Adriatic, no one ever
knew how. The young widow came back to Rome, to her father, and here
shortly afterwards, in the shadow of Saint Peter's, her little girl was
born. It might have been supposed that Mrs. Light would marry again,
and I know she had opportunities. But she overreached herself. She
would take nothing less than a title and a fortune, and they were not
forthcoming. She was admired and very fond of admiration; very vain,
very worldly, very silly. She remained a pretty widow, with a surprising
variety of bonnets and a dozen men always in her train. Giacosa dates
from this period. He calls himself a Roman, but I have an impression he
came up from Ancona with her. He was l'ami de la maison. He used to hold
her bouquets, clean her gloves (I was told), run her errands, get her
opera-boxes, and fight her battles with the shopkeepers. For this he
needed courage, for she was smothered in debt. She at last left Rome
to escape her creditors. Many of them must remember her still, but she
seems now to have money to satisfy them. She left her poor old father
here alone--helpless, infirm and unable to work. A subscription was
shortly afterwards taken up among the foreigners, and he was sent
back to America, where, as I afterwards heard, he died in some sort of
asylum. From time to time, for several years, I heard vaguely of Mrs.
Light as a wandering beauty at French and German watering-places. Once
came a rumor that she was going to make a grand marriage in England;
then we heard that the gentleman had thought better of it and left
her to keep afloat as she could. She was a terribly scatter-brained
creature. She pretends to be a great lady, but I consider that
old Filomena, my washer-woman, is in essentials a greater one. But
certainly, after all, she has been fortunate. She embarked at last on
a lawsuit about some property, with her husband's family, and went to
America to attend to it. She came back triumphant, with a long purse.
She reappeared in Italy, and established herself for a while in Venice.
Then she came to Florence, where she spent a couple of years and where
I saw her. Last year she passed down to Naples, which I should have said
was just the place for her, and this winter she has laid siege to Rome.
She seems very prosperous. She has taken a floor in the Palazzo F----,
she keeps her carriage, and Christina and she, between them, must have
a pretty milliner's bill. Giacosa has turned up again, looking as if he
had been kept on ice at Ancona, for her return."
"What sort of education," Rowland asked, "do you imagine the mother's
adventures to have been for the daughter?"
"A strange school! But Mrs. Light told me, in Florence, that she had
given her child the education of a princess. In other words, I suppose,
she speaks three or four languages, and has read several hundred French
novels. Christina, I suspect, is very clever. When I saw her, I was
amazed at her beauty, and, certainly, if there is any truth in faces,
she ought to have the soul of an angel. Perhaps she has. I don't judge
her; she 's an extraordinary young person. She has been told twenty
times a day by her mother, since she was five years old, that she is a
beauty of beauties, that her face is her fortune, and that, if she plays
her cards, she may marry a duke. If she has not been fatally corrupted,
she is a very superior girl. My own impression is that she is a mixture
of good and bad, of ambition and indifference. Mrs. Light, having failed
to make her own fortune in matrimony, has transferred her hopes to her
daughter, and nursed them till they have become a kind of monomania. She
has a hobby, which she rides in secret; but some day she will let you
see it. I 'm sure that if you go in some evening unannounced, you will
find her scanning the tea-leaves in her cup, or telling her daughter's
fortune with a greasy pack of cards, preserved for the purpose. She
promises her a prince--a reigning prince. But if Mrs. Light is silly,
she is shrewd, too, and, lest considerations of state should deny
her prince the luxury of a love-match, she keeps on hand a few common
mortals. At the worst she would take a duke, an English lord, or even a
young American with a proper number of millions. The poor woman must be
rather uncomfortable. She is always building castles and knocking them
down again--always casting her nets and pulling them in. If her
daughter were less of a beauty, her transparent ambition would be very
ridiculous; but there is something in the girl, as one looks at her,
that seems to make it very possible she is marked out for one of those
wonderful romantic fortunes that history now and then relates. 'Who,
after all, was the Empress of the French?' Mrs. Light is forever saying.
'And beside Christina the Empress is a dowdy!'"
"And what does Christina say?"
"She makes no scruple, as you know, of saying that her mother is a fool.
What she thinks, heaven knows. I suspect that, practically, she does not
commit herself. She is excessively proud, and thinks herself good enough
to occupy the highest station in the world; but she knows that her
mother talks nonsense, and that even a beautiful girl may look awkward
in making unsuccessful advances. So she remains superbly indifferent,
and lets her mother take the risks. If the prince is secured, so much
the better; if he is not, she need never confess to herself that even a
prince has slighted her."
"Your report is as solid," Rowland said to Madame Grandoni, thanking
her, "as if it had been prepared for the Academy of Sciences;" and he
congratulated himself on having listened to it when, a couple of days
later, Mrs. Light and her daughter, attended by the Cavaliere and the
poodle, came to his rooms to look at Roderick's statues. It was more
comfortable to know just with whom he was dealing.
Mrs. Light was prodigiously gracious, and showered down compliments not
only on the statues, but on all his possessions. "Upon my word," she
said, "you men know how to make yourselves comfortable. If one of us
poor women had half as many easy-chairs and knick-knacks, we should be
famously abused. It 's really selfish to be living all alone in such a
place as this. Cavaliere, how should you like this suite of rooms and a
fortune to fill them with pictures and statues? Christina, love, look at
that mosaic table. Mr. Mallet, I could almost beg it from you. Yes,
that Eve is certainly very fine. We need n't be ashamed of such a
great-grandmother as that. If she was really such a beautiful woman,
it accounts for the good looks of some of us. Where is Mr. What
's-his-name, the young sculptor? Why is n't he here to be complimented?"
Christina had remained but for a moment in the chair which Rowland had
placed for her, had given but a cursory glance at the statues, and
then, leaving her place, had begun to wander round the room--looking at
herself in the mirror, touching the ornaments and curiosities, glancing
at the books and prints. Rowland's sitting-room was encumbered with
bric-a-brac, and she found plenty of occupation. Rowland presently
joined her, and pointed out some of the objects he most valued.
"It 's an odd jumble," she said frankly. "Some things are very
pretty--some are very ugly. But I like ugly things, when they have a
certain look. Prettiness is terribly vulgar nowadays, and it is not
every one that knows just the sort of ugliness that has chic. But chic
is getting dreadfully common too. There 's a hint of it even in Madame
Baldi's bonnets. I like looking at people's things," she added in a
moment, turning to Rowland and resting her eyes on him. "It helps you to
find out their characters."
"Am I to suppose," asked Rowland, smiling, "that you have arrived at any
conclusions as to mine?"
"I am rather muddled; you have too many things; one seems to contradict
another. You are very artistic and yet you are very prosaic; you have
what is called a 'catholic' taste and yet you are full of obstinate
little prejudices and habits of thought, which, if I knew you, I should
find very tiresome. I don't think I like you."
"You make a great mistake," laughed Rowland; "I assure you I am very
"Yes, I am probably wrong, and if I knew you, I should find out I was
wrong, and that would irritate me and make me dislike you more. So you
see we are necessary enemies."
"No, I don't dislike you."
"Worse and worse; for you certainly will not like me."
"You are very discouraging."
"I am fond of facing the truth, though some day you will deny that.
Where is that queer friend of yours?"
"You mean Mr. Hudson. He is represented by these beautiful works."
Miss Light looked for some moments at Roderick's statues. "Yes," she
said, "they are not so silly as most of the things we have seen. They
have no chic, and yet they are beautiful."
"You describe them perfectly," said Rowland. "They are beautiful, and
yet they have no chic. That 's it!"
"If he will promise to put none into my bust, I have a mind to let him
make it. A request made in those terms deserves to be granted."
"In what terms?"
"Did n't you hear him? 'Mademoiselle, you almost satisfy my conception
of the beautiful. I must model your bust.' That almost should be
rewarded. He is like me; he likes to face the truth. I think we should
get on together."
The Cavaliere approached Rowland, to express the pleasure he had derived
from his beautiful "collection." His smile was exquisitely bland, his
accent appealing, caressing, insinuating. But he gave Rowland an odd
sense of looking at a little waxen image, adjusted to perform certain
gestures and emit certain sounds. It had once contained a soul, but the
soul had leaked out. Nevertheless, Rowland reflected, there are more
profitless things than mere sound and gesture, in a consummate Italian.
And the Cavaliere, too, had soul enough left to desire to speak a few
words on his own account, and call Rowland's attention to the fact that
he was not, after all, a hired cicerone, but an ancient Roman gentleman.
Rowland felt sorry for him; he hardly knew why. He assured him in a
friendly fashion that he must come again; that his house was always at
his service. The Cavaliere bowed down to the ground. "You do me too much
honor," he murmured. "If you will allow me--it is not impossible!"
Mrs. Light, meanwhile, had prepared to depart. "If you are not afraid to
come and see two quiet little women, we shall be most happy!" she said.
"We have no statues nor pictures--we have nothing but each other. Eh,
"I beg your pardon," said Christina.
"Oh, and the Cavaliere," added her mother.
"The poodle, please!" cried the young girl.
Rowland glanced at the Cavaliere; he was smiling more blandly than ever.
A few days later Rowland presented himself, as civility demanded, at
Mrs. Light's door. He found her living in one of the stately houses of
the Via dell' Angelo Custode, and, rather to his surprise, was told she
was at home. He passed through half a dozen rooms and was ushered
into an immense saloon, at one end of which sat the mistress of the
establishment, with a piece of embroidery. She received him very
graciously, and then, pointing mysteriously to a large screen which was
unfolded across the embrasure of one of the deep windows, "I am keeping
guard!" she said. Rowland looked interrogative; whereupon she beckoned
him forward and motioned him to look behind the screen. He obeyed, and
for some moments stood gazing. Roderick, with his back turned, stood
before an extemporized pedestal, ardently shaping a formless mass
of clay. Before him sat Christina Light, in a white dress, with her
shoulders bare, her magnificent hair twisted into a classic coil, and
her head admirably poised. Meeting Rowland's gaze, she smiled a little,
only with her deep gray eyes, without moving. She looked divinely