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Chapter 5

CHAPTER V. Christina

The brilliant Roman winter came round again, and Rowland enjoyed it,
in a certain way, more deeply than before. He grew at last to feel that
sense of equal possession, of intellectual nearness, which it belongs
to the peculiar magic of the ancient city to infuse into minds of a
cast that she never would have produced. He became passionately,
unreasoningly fond of all Roman sights and sensations, and to breathe
the Roman atmosphere began to seem a needful condition of being. He
could not have defined and explained the nature of his great love, nor
have made up the sum of it by the addition of his calculable pleasures.
It was a large, vague, idle, half-profitless emotion, of which perhaps
the most pertinent thing that may be said is that it enforced a sort of
oppressive reconciliation to the present, the actual, the sensuous--to
life on the terms that there offered themselves. It was perhaps for this
very reason that, in spite of the charm which Rome flings over
one's mood, there ran through Rowland's meditations an undertone of
melancholy, natural enough in a mind which finds its horizon insidiously
limited to the finite, even in very picturesque forms. Whether it is one
that tacitly concedes to the Roman Church the monopoly of a guarantee
of immortality, so that if one is indisposed to bargain with her for
the precious gift, one must do without it altogether; or whether in an
atmosphere so heavily weighted with echoes and memories one grows
to believe that there is nothing in one's consciousness that is not
foredoomed to moulder and crumble and become dust for the feet, and
possible malaria for the lungs, of future generations--the fact at least
remains that one parts half-willingly with one's hopes in Rome, and
misses them only under some very exceptional stress of circumstance. For
this reason one may perhaps say that there is no other place in which
one's daily temper has such a mellow serenity, and none, at the same
time, in which acute attacks of depression are more intolerable. Rowland
found, in fact, a perfect response to his prevision that to live in Rome
was an education to one's senses and one's imagination, but he sometimes
wondered whether this was not a questionable gain in case of one's not
being prepared to live wholly by one's imagination and one's senses. The
tranquil profundity of his daily satisfaction seemed sometimes to
turn, by a mysterious inward impulse, and face itself with questioning,
admonishing, threatening eyes. "But afterwards...?" it seemed to
ask, with a long reverberation; and he could give no answer but a shy
affirmation that there was no such thing as afterwards, and a hope,
divided against itself, that his actual way of life would last forever.
He often felt heavy-hearted; he was sombre without knowing why; there
were no visible clouds in his heaven, but there were cloud-shadows on
his mood. Shadows projected, they often were, without his knowing it, by
an undue apprehension that things after all might not go so ideally
well with Roderick. When he understood his anxiety it vexed him, and he
rebuked himself for taking things unmanfully hard. If Roderick chose
to follow a crooked path, it was no fault of his; he had given him, he
would continue to give him, all that he had offered him--friendship,
sympathy, advice. He had not undertaken to provide him with unflagging
strength of purpose, nor to stand bondsman for unqualified success.

If Rowland felt his roots striking and spreading in the Roman soil,
Roderick also surrendered himself with renewed abandon to the local
influence. More than once he declared to his companion that he meant
to live and die within the shadow of Saint Peter's, and that he cared
little if he never again drew breath in American air. "For a man of my
temperament, Rome is the only possible place," he said; "it 's better to
recognize the fact early than late. So I shall never go home unless I am
absolutely forced."

"What is your idea of 'force'?" asked Rowland, smiling. "It seems to me
you have an excellent reason for going home some day or other."

"Ah, you mean my engagement?" Roderick answered with unaverted eyes.
"Yes, I am distinctly engaged, in Northampton, and impatiently waited
for!" And he gave a little sympathetic sigh. "To reconcile Northampton
and Rome is rather a problem. Mary had better come out here. Even at the
worst I have no intention of giving up Rome within six or eight years,
and an engagement of that duration would be rather absurd."

"Miss Garland could hardly leave your mother," Rowland observed.

"Oh, of course my mother should come. I think I will suggest it in my
next letter. It will take her a year or two to make up her mind to it,
but if she consents it will brighten her up. It 's too small a life,
over there, even for a timid old lady. It is hard to imagine," he added,
"any change in Mary being a change for the better; but I should like her
to take a look at the world and have her notions stretched a little. One
is never so good, I suppose, but that one can improve a little."

"If you wish your mother and Miss Garland to come," Rowland suggested,
"you had better go home and bring them."

"Oh, I can't think of leaving Europe, for many a day," Roderick
answered. "At present it would quite break the charm. I am just
beginning to profit, to get used to things and take them naturally. I am
sure the sight of Northampton Main Street would permanently upset me."

It was reassuring to hear that Roderick, in his own view, was but
"just beginning" to spread his wings, and Rowland, if he had had
any forebodings, might have suffered them to be modified by this
declaration. This was the first time since their meeting at Geneva that
Roderick had mentioned Miss Garland's name, but the ice being broken, he
indulged for some time afterward in frequent allusions to his
betrothed, which always had an accent of scrupulous, of almost studied,
consideration. An uninitiated observer, hearing him, would have imagined
her to be a person of a certain age--possibly an affectionate maiden
aunt--who had once done him a kindness which he highly appreciated:
perhaps presented him with a check for a thousand dollars. Rowland noted
the difference between his present frankness and his reticence during
the first six months of his engagement, and sometimes wondered whether
it was not rather an anomaly that he should expatiate more largely as
the happy event receded. He had wondered over the whole matter, first
and last, in a great many different ways, and looked at it in all
possible lights. There was something terribly hard to explain in the
fact of his having fallen in love with his cousin. She was not, as
Rowland conceived her, the sort of girl he would have been likely to
fancy, and the operation of sentiment, in all cases so mysterious, was
particularly so in this one. Just why it was that Roderick should not
logically have fancied Miss Garland, his companion would have been at
loss to say, but I think the conviction had its roots in an unformulated
comparison between himself and the accepted suitor. Roderick and he were
as different as two men could be, and yet Roderick had taken it into his
head to fall in love with a woman for whom he himself had been keeping
in reserve, for years, a profoundly characteristic passion. That if he
chose to conceive a great notion of the merits of Roderick's mistress,
the irregularity here was hardly Roderick's, was a view of the case
to which poor Rowland did scanty justice. There were women, he said
to himself, whom it was every one's business to fall in love with a
little--women beautiful, brilliant, artful, easily fascinating. Miss
Light, for instance, was one of these; every man who spoke to her did
so, if not in the language, at least with something of the agitation,
the divine tremor, of a lover. There were other women--they might have
great beauty, they might have small; perhaps they were generally to
be classified as plain--whose triumphs in this line were rare, but
immutably permanent. Such a one preeminently, was Mary Garland. Upon
the doctrine of probabilities, it was unlikely that she had had an equal
charm for each of them, and was it not possible, therefore, that the
charm for Roderick had been simply the charm imagined, unquestioningly
accepted: the general charm of youth, sympathy, kindness--of the present
feminine, in short--enhanced indeed by several fine facial traits?
The charm in this case for Rowland was--the charm!--the mysterious,
individual, essential woman. There was an element in the charm, as his
companion saw it, which Rowland was obliged to recognize, but which
he forbore to ponder; the rather important attraction, namely, of
reciprocity. As to Miss Garland being in love with Roderick and becoming
charming thereby, this was a point with which his imagination ventured
to take no liberties; partly because it would have been indelicate,
and partly because it would have been vain. He contented himself with
feeling that the young girl was still as vivid an image in his memory as
she had been five days after he left her, and with drifting nearer and
nearer to the impression that at just that crisis any other girl would
have answered Roderick's sentimental needs as well. Any other girl
indeed would do so still! Roderick had confessed as much to him at
Geneva, in saying that he had been taking at Baden the measure of his
susceptibility to female beauty.

His extraordinary success in modeling the bust of the beautiful Miss
Light was pertinent evidence of this amiable quality. She sat to him,
repeatedly, for a fortnight, and the work was rapidly finished. On one
of the last days Roderick asked Rowland to come and give his opinion as
to what was still wanting; for the sittings had continued to take place
in Mrs. Light's apartment, the studio being pronounced too damp for
the fair model. When Rowland presented himself, Christina, still in
her white dress, with her shoulders bare, was standing before a mirror,
readjusting her hair, the arrangement of which, on this occasion, had
apparently not met the young sculptor's approval. He stood beside her,
directing the operation with a peremptoriness of tone which seemed
to Rowland to denote a considerable advance in intimacy. As Rowland
entered, Christina was losing patience. "Do it yourself, then!" she
cried, and with a rapid movement unloosed the great coil of her tresses
and let them fall over her shoulders.

They were magnificent, and with her perfect face dividing their rippling
flow she looked like some immaculate saint of legend being led to
martyrdom. Rowland's eyes presumably betrayed his admiration, but her
own manifested no consciousness of it. If Christina was a coquette, as
the remarkable timeliness of this incident might have suggested, she was
not a superficial one.

"Hudson 's a sculptor," said Rowland, with warmth. "But if I were only a
painter!"

"Thank Heaven you are not!" said Christina. "I am having quite enough of
this minute inspection of my charms."

"My dear young man, hands off!" cried Mrs. Light, coming forward and
seizing her daughter's hair. "Christina, love, I am surprised."

"Is it indelicate?" Christina asked. "I beg Mr. Mallet's pardon." Mrs.
Light gathered up the dusky locks and let them fall through her fingers,
glancing at her visitor with a significant smile. Rowland had never
been in the East, but if he had attempted to make a sketch of an old
slave-merchant, calling attention to the "points" of a Circassian
beauty, he would have depicted such a smile as Mrs. Light's. "Mamma 's
not really shocked," added Christina in a moment, as if she had guessed
her mother's by-play. "She is only afraid that Mr. Hudson might have
injured my hair, and that, per consequenza, I should sell for less."

"You unnatural child!" cried mamma. "You deserve that I should make a
fright of you!" And with half a dozen skillful passes she twisted the
tresses into a single picturesque braid, placed high on the head, as a
kind of coronal.

"What does your mother do when she wants to do you justice?" Rowland
asked, observing the admirable line of the young girl's neck.

"I do her justice when I say she says very improper things. What is one
to do with such a thorn in the flesh?" Mrs. Light demanded.

"Think of it at your leisure, Mr. Mallet," said Christina, "and when you
've discovered something, let us hear. But I must tell you that I shall
not willingly believe in any remedy of yours, for you have something in
your physiognomy that particularly provokes me to make the remarks that
my mother so sincerely deplores. I noticed it the first time I saw you.
I think it 's because your face is so broad. For some reason or other,
broad faces exasperate me; they fill me with a kind of rabbia. Last
summer, at Carlsbad, there was an Austrian count, with enormous estates
and some great office at court. He was very attentive--seriously so; he
was really very far gone. Cela ne tenait qu' a moi! But I could n't; he
was impossible! He must have measured, from ear to ear, at least a yard
and a half. And he was blond, too, which made it worse--as blond as
Stenterello; pure fleece! So I said to him frankly, 'Many thanks, Herr
Graf; your uniform is magnificent, but your face is too fat.'"

"I am afraid that mine also," said Rowland, with a smile, "seems just
now to have assumed an unpardonable latitude."

"Oh, I take it you know very well that we are looking for a husband,
and that none but tremendous swells need apply. Surely, before these
gentlemen, mamma, I may speak freely; they are disinterested. Mr. Mallet
won't do, because, though he 's rich, he 's not rich enough. Mamma made
that discovery the day after we went to see you, moved to it by the
promising look of your furniture. I hope she was right, eh? Unless you
have millions, you know, you have no chance."

"I feel like a beggar," said Rowland.

"Oh, some better girl than I will decide some day, after mature
reflection, that on the whole you have enough. Mr. Hudson, of course, is
nowhere; he has nothing but his genius and his beaux yeux."

Roderick had stood looking at Christina intently while she delivered
herself, softly and slowly, of this surprising nonsense. When she had
finished, she turned and looked at him; their eyes met, and he blushed
a little. "Let me model you, and he who can may marry you!" he said,
abruptly.

Mrs. Light, while her daughter talked, had been adding a few touches to
her coiffure. "She is not so silly as you might suppose," she said to
Rowland, with dignity. "If you will give me your arm, we will go and
look at the bust."

"Does that represent a silly girl?" Christina demanded, when they stood
before it.

Rowland transferred his glance several times from the portrait to the
original. "It represents a young lady," he said, "whom I should not
pretend to judge off-hand."

"She may be a fool, but you are not sure. Many thanks! You have seen me
half a dozen times. You are either very slow or I am very deep."

"I am certainly slow," said Rowland. "I don't expect to make up my mind
about you within six months."

"I give you six months if you will promise then a perfectly frank
opinion. Mind, I shall not forget; I shall insist upon it."

"Well, though I am slow, I am tolerably brave," said Rowland. "We shall
see."

Christina looked at the bust with a sigh. "I am afraid, after all," she
said, "that there 's very little wisdom in it save what the artist has
put there. Mr. Hudson looked particularly wise while he was working; he
scowled and growled, but he never opened his mouth. It is very kind of
him not to have represented me gaping."

"If I had talked a lot of stuff to you," said Roderick, roundly, "the
thing would not have been a tenth so good."

"Is it good, after all? Mr. Mallet is a famous connoisseur; has he not
come here to pronounce?"

The bust was in fact a very happy performance, and Roderick had risen to
the level of his subject. It was thoroughly a portrait, and not a vague
fantasy executed on a graceful theme, as the busts of pretty women, in
modern sculpture, are apt to be. The resemblance was deep and vivid;
there was extreme fidelity of detail and yet a noble simplicity.
One could say of the head that, without idealization, it was a
representation of ideal beauty. Rowland, however, as we know, was not
fond of exploding into superlatives, and, after examining the piece,
contented himself with suggesting two or three alterations of detail.

"Nay, how can you be so cruel?" demanded Mrs. Light, with soft
reproachfulness. "It is surely a wonderful thing!"

"Rowland knows it 's a wonderful thing," said Roderick, smiling. "I can
tell that by his face. The other day I finished something he thought
bad, and he looked very differently from this."

"How did Mr. Mallet look?" asked Christina.

"My dear Rowland," said Roderick, "I am speaking of my seated woman. You
looked as if you had on a pair of tight boots."

"Ah, my child, you 'll not understand that!" cried Mrs. Light. "You
never yet had a pair that were small enough."

"It 's a pity, Mr. Hudson," said Christina, gravely, "that you could
not have introduced my feet into the bust. But we can hang a pair of
slippers round the neck!"

"I nevertheless like your statues, Roderick," Rowland rejoined, "better
than your jokes. This is admirable. Miss Light, you may be proud!"

"Thank you, Mr. Mallet, for the permission," rejoined the young girl.

"I am dying to see it in the marble, with a red velvet screen behind
it," said Mrs. Light.

"Placed there under the Sassoferrato!" Christina went on. "I hope you
keep well in mind, Mr. Hudson, that you have not a grain of property in
your work, and that if mamma chooses, she may have it photographed and
the copies sold in the Piazza di Spagna, at five francs apiece, without
your having a sou of the profits."

"Amen!" said Roderick. "It was so nominated in the bond. My profits are
here!" and he tapped his forehead.

"It would be prettier if you said here!" And Christina touched her
heart.

"My precious child, how you do run on!" murmured Mrs. Light.

"It is Mr. Mallet," the young girl answered. "I can't talk a word of
sense so long as he is in the room. I don't say that to make you go,"
she added, "I say it simply to justify myself."

Rowland bowed in silence. Roderick declared that he must get at work and
requested Christina to take her usual position, and Mrs. Light proposed
to her visitor that they should adjourn to her boudoir. This was a
small room, hardly more spacious than an alcove, opening out of the
drawing-room and having no other issue. Here, as they entered, on a
divan near the door, Rowland perceived the Cavaliere Giacosa, with his
arms folded, his head dropped upon his breast, and his eyes closed.

"Sleeping at his post!" said Rowland with a kindly laugh.

"That 's a punishable offense," rejoined Mrs. Light, sharply. She was on
the point of calling him, in the same tone, when he suddenly opened his
eyes, stared a moment, and then rose with a smile and a bow.

"Excuse me, dear lady," he said, "I was overcome by the--the great
heat."

"Nonsense, Cavaliere!" cried the lady, "you know we are perishing here
with the cold! You had better go and cool yourself in one of the other
rooms."

"I obey, dear lady," said the Cavaliere; and with another smile and bow
to Rowland he departed, walking very discreetly on his toes. Rowland
out-stayed him but a short time, for he was not fond of Mrs. Light,
and he found nothing very inspiring in her frank intimation that if he
chose, he might become a favorite. He was disgusted with himself for
pleasing her; he confounded his fatal urbanity. In the court-yard of the
palace he overtook the Cavaliere, who had stopped at the porter's lodge
to say a word to his little girl. She was a young lady of very tender
years and she wore a very dirty pinafore. He had taken her up in his
arms and was singing an infantine rhyme to her, and she was staring at
him with big, soft Roman eyes. On seeing Rowland he put her down with
a kiss, and stepped forward with a conscious grin, an unresentful
admission that he was sensitive both to chubbiness and ridicule.
Rowland began to pity him again; he had taken his dismissal from the
drawing-room so meekly.

"You don't keep your promise," said Rowland, "to come and see me. Don't
forget it. I want you to tell me about Rome thirty years ago."

"Thirty years ago? Ah, dear sir, Rome is Rome still; a place where
strange things happen! But happy things too, since I have your renewed
permission to call. You do me too much honor. Is it in the morning or in
the evening that I should least intrude?"

"Take your own time, Cavaliere; only come, sometime. I depend upon you,"
said Rowland.

The Cavaliere thanked him with an humble obeisance. To the Cavaliere,
too, he felt that he was, in Roman phrase, sympathetic, but the idea of
pleasing this extremely reduced gentleman was not disagreeable to him.

Miss Light's bust stood for a while on exhibition in Roderick's studio,
and half the foreign colony came to see it. With the completion of his
work, however, Roderick's visits at the Palazzo F---- by no means came
to an end. He spent half his time in Mrs. Light's drawing-room, and
began to be talked about as "attentive" to Christina. The success of the
bust restored his equanimity, and in the garrulity of his good-humor he
suffered Rowland to see that she was just now the object uppermost in
his thoughts. Rowland, when they talked of her, was rather listener
than speaker; partly because Roderick's own tone was so resonant and
exultant, and partly because, when his companion laughed at him for
having called her unsafe, he was too perplexed to defend himself.
The impression remained that she was unsafe; that she was a complex,
willful, passionate creature, who might easily engulf a too confiding
spirit in the eddies of her capricious temper. And yet he strongly felt
her charm; the eddies had a strange fascination! Roderick, in the glow
of that renewed admiration provoked by the fixed attention of portrayal,
was never weary of descanting on the extraordinary perfection of her
beauty.

"I had no idea of it," he said, "till I began to look at her with an eye
to reproducing line for line and curve for curve. Her face is the most
exquisite piece of modeling that ever came from creative hands. Not
a line without meaning, not a hair's breadth that is not admirably
finished. And then her mouth! It 's as if a pair of lips had been shaped
to utter pure truth without doing it dishonor!" Later, after he had been
working for a week, he declared if Miss Light were inordinately plain,
she would still be the most fascinating of women. "I 've quite forgotten
her beauty," he said, "or rather I have ceased to perceive it as
something distinct and defined, something independent of the rest of
her. She is all one, and all consummately interesting!"

"What does she do--what does she say, that is so remarkable?" Rowland
had asked.

"Say? Sometimes nothing--sometimes everything. She is never the same.
Sometimes she walks in and takes her place without a word, without a
smile, gravely, stiffly, as if it were an awful bore. She hardly looks
at me, and she walks away without even glancing at my work. On other
days she laughs and chatters and asks endless questions, and pours out
the most irresistible nonsense. She is a creature of moods; you can't
count upon her; she keeps observation on the stretch. And then, bless
you, she has seen such a lot! Her talk is full of the oddest allusions!"

"It is altogether a very singular type of young lady," said Rowland,
after the visit which I have related at length. "It may be a charm, but
it is certainly not the orthodox charm of marriageable maidenhood, the
charm of shrinking innocence and soft docility. Our American girls
are accused of being more knowing than any others, and Miss Light is
nominally an American. But it has taken twenty years of Europe to make
her what she is. The first time we saw her, I remember you called her a
product of the old world, and certainly you were not far wrong."

"Ah, she has an atmosphere," said Roderick, in the tone of high
appreciation.

"Young unmarried women," Rowland answered, "should be careful not to
have too much!"

"Ah, you don't forgive her," cried his companion, "for hitting you so
hard! A man ought to be flattered at such a girl as that taking so much
notice of him."

"A man is never flattered at a woman's not liking him."

"Are you sure she does n't like you? That 's to the credit of your
humility. A fellow of more vanity might, on the evidence, persuade
himself that he was in favor."

"He would have also," said Rowland, laughing, "to be a fellow of
remarkable ingenuity!" He asked himself privately how the deuce Roderick
reconciled it to his conscience to think so much more of the girl he
was not engaged to than of the girl he was. But it amounted almost to
arrogance, you may say, in poor Rowland to pretend to know how often
Roderick thought of Miss Garland. He wondered gloomily, at any rate,
whether for men of his companion's large, easy power, there was not
a larger moral law than for narrow mediocrities like himself, who,
yielding Nature a meagre interest on her investment (such as it was),
had no reason to expect from her this affectionate laxity as to their
accounts. Was it not a part of the eternal fitness of things that
Roderick, while rhapsodizing about Miss Light, should have it at his
command to look at you with eyes of the most guileless and unclouded
blue, and to shake off your musty imputations by a toss of his
picturesque brown locks? Or had he, in fact, no conscience to speak of?
Happy fellow, either way!

Our friend Gloriani came, among others, to congratulate Roderick on
his model and what he had made of her. "Devilish pretty, through and
through!" he said as he looked at the bust. "Capital handling of the
neck and throat; lovely work on the nose. You 're a detestably lucky
fellow, my boy! But you ought not to have squandered such material on a
simple bust; you should have made a great imaginative figure. If I could
only have got hold of her, I would have put her into a statue in spite
of herself. What a pity she is not a ragged Trasteverine, whom we might
have for a franc an hour! I have been carrying about in my head for
years a delicious design for a fantastic figure, but it has always
stayed there for want of a tolerable model. I have seen intimations of
the type, but Miss Light is the perfection of it. As soon as I saw her I
said to myself, 'By Jove, there 's my statue in the flesh!'"

"What is your subject?" asked Roderick.

"Don't take it ill," said Gloriani. "You know I 'm the very deuce for
observation. She would make a magnificent Herodias!"

If Roderick had taken it ill (which was unlikely, for we know he thought
Gloriani an ass, and expected little of his wisdom), he might have been
soothed by the candid incense of Sam Singleton, who came and sat for an
hour in a sort of mental prostration before both bust and artist.
But Roderick's attitude before his patient little devotee was one
of undisguised though friendly amusement; and, indeed, judged from a
strictly plastic point of view, the poor fellow's diminutive stature,
his enormous mouth, his pimples and his yellow hair were sufficiently
ridiculous. "Nay, don't envy our friend," Rowland said to Singleton
afterwards, on his expressing, with a little groan of depreciation of
his own paltry performances, his sense of the brilliancy of Roderick's
talent. "You sail nearer the shore, but you sail in smoother waters. Be
contented with what you are and paint me another picture."

"Oh, I don't envy Hudson anything he possesses," Singleton said,
"because to take anything away would spoil his beautiful completeness.
'Complete,' that 's what he is; while we little clevernesses are like
half-ripened plums, only good eating on the side that has had a glimpse
of the sun. Nature has made him so, and fortune confesses to it! He is
the handsomest fellow in Rome, he has the most genius, and, as a matter
of course, the most beautiful girl in the world comes and offers to be
his model. If that is not completeness, where shall we find it?"

One morning, going into Roderick's studio, Rowland found the young
sculptor entertaining Miss Blanchard--if this is not too flattering a
description of his gracefully passive tolerance of her presence. He had
never liked her and never climbed into her sky-studio to observe her
wonderful manipulation of petals. He had once quoted Tennyson against
her:--

"And is there any moral shut
Within the bosom of the rose?"

"In all Miss Blanchard's roses you may be sure there is a moral," he had
said. "You can see it sticking out its head, and, if you go to smell the
flower, it scratches your nose." But on this occasion she had come
with a propitiatory gift--introducing her friend Mr. Leavenworth. Mr.
Leavenworth was a tall, expansive, bland gentleman, with a carefully
brushed whisker and a spacious, fair, well-favored face, which seemed,
somehow, to have more room in it than was occupied by a smile of
superior benevolence, so that (with his smooth, white forehead) it bore
a certain resemblance to a large parlor with a very florid carpet, but
no pictures on the walls. He held his head high, talked sonorously, and
told Roderick, within five minutes, that he was a widower, traveling
to distract his mind, and that he had lately retired from the
proprietorship of large mines of borax in Pennsylvania. Roderick
supposed at first that, in his character of depressed widower, he had
come to order a tombstone; but observing then the extreme blandness
of his address to Miss Blanchard, he credited him with a judicious
prevision that by the time the tombstone was completed, a monument
of his inconsolability might have become an anachronism. But Mr.
Leavenworth was disposed to order something.

"You will find me eager to patronize our indigenous talent," he said. "I
am putting up a little shanty in my native town, and I propose to make
a rather nice thing of it. It has been the will of Heaven to plunge me
into mourning; but art has consolations! In a tasteful home, surrounded
by the memorials of my wanderings, I hope to take more cheerful views.
I ordered in Paris the complete appurtenances of a dining-room. Do you
think you could do something for my library? It is to be filled
with well-selected authors, and I think a pure white image in this
style,"--pointing to one of Roderick's statues,--"standing out against
the morocco and gilt, would have a noble effect. The subject I have
already fixed upon. I desire an allegorical representation of Culture.
Do you think, now," asked Mr. Leavenworth, encouragingly, "you could
rise to the conception?"

"A most interesting subject for a truly serious mind," remarked Miss
Blanchard.

Roderick looked at her a moment, and then--"The simplest thing I
could do," he said, "would be to make a full-length portrait of Miss
Blanchard. I could give her a scroll in her hand, and that would do for
the allegory."

Miss Blanchard colored; the compliment might be ironical; and there
was ever afterwards a reflection of her uncertainty in her opinion of
Roderick's genius. Mr. Leavenworth responded that with all deference to
Miss Blanchard's beauty, he desired something colder, more monumental,
more impersonal. "If I were to be the happy possessor of a likeness of
Miss Blanchard," he added, "I should prefer to have it in no factitious
disguise!"

Roderick consented to entertain the proposal, and while they were
discussing it, Rowland had a little talk with the fair artist. "Who is
your friend?" he asked.

"A very worthy man. The architect of his own fortune--which is
magnificent. One of nature's gentlemen!"

This was a trifle sententious, and Rowland turned to the bust of Miss
Light. Like every one else in Rome, by this time, Miss Blanchard had
an opinion on the young girl's beauty, and, in her own fashion, she
expressed it epigrammatically. "She looks half like a Madonna and half
like a ballerina," she said.

Mr. Leavenworth and Roderick came to an understanding, and the young
sculptor good-naturedly promised to do his best to rise to his patron's
conception. "His conception be hanged!" Roderick exclaimed, after he had
departed. "His conception is sitting on a globe with a pen in her ear
and a photographic album in her hand. I shall have to conceive, myself.
For the money, I ought to be able to!"

Mrs. Light, meanwhile, had fairly established herself in Roman society.
"Heaven knows how!" Madame Grandoni said to Rowland, who had mentioned
to her several evidences of the lady's prosperity. "In such a case
there is nothing like audacity. A month ago she knew no one but her
washerwoman, and now I am told that the cards of Roman princesses are to
be seen on her table. She is evidently determined to play a great
part, and she has the wit to perceive that, to make remunerative
acquaintances, you must seem yourself to be worth knowing. You must
have striking rooms and a confusing variety of dresses, and give good
dinners, and so forth. She is spending a lot of money, and you 'll see
that in two or three weeks she will take upon herself to open the season
by giving a magnificent ball. Of course it is Christina's beauty that
floats her. People go to see her because they are curious."

"And they go again because they are charmed," said Rowland. "Miss
Christina is a very remarkable young lady."

"Oh, I know it well; I had occasion to say so to myself the other day.
She came to see me, of her own free will, and for an hour she was deeply
interesting. I think she 's an actress, but she believes in her part
while she is playing it. She took it into her head the other day to
believe that she was very unhappy, and she sat there, where you are
sitting, and told me a tale of her miseries which brought tears into my
eyes. She cried, herself, profusely, and as naturally as possible. She
said she was weary of life and that she knew no one but me she could
speak frankly to. She must speak, or she would go mad. She sobbed as if
her heart would break. I assure you it 's well for you susceptible young
men that you don't see her when she sobs. She said, in so many words,
that her mother was an immoral woman. Heaven knows what she meant. She
meant, I suppose, that she makes debts that she knows she can't pay. She
said the life they led was horrible; that it was monstrous a poor girl
should be dragged about the world to be sold to the highest bidder. She
was meant for better things; she could be perfectly happy in poverty. It
was not money she wanted. I might not believe her, but she really cared
for serious things. Sometimes she thought of taking poison!"

"What did you say to that?"

"I recommended her," said Madame Grandoni, "to come and see me
instead. I would help her about as much, and I was, on the whole, less
unpleasant. Of course I could help her only by letting her talk herself
out and kissing her and patting her beautiful hands and telling her to
be patient and she would be happy yet. About once in two months I expect
her to reappear, on the same errand, and meanwhile to quite forget my
existence. I believe I melted down to the point of telling her that
I would find some good, quiet, affectionate husband for her; but she
declared, almost with fury, that she was sick unto death of husbands,
and begged I would never again mention the word. And, in fact, it was a
rash offer; for I am sure that there is not a man of the kind that might
really make a woman happy but would be afraid to marry mademoiselle.
Looked at in that way she is certainly very much to be pitied, and
indeed, altogether, though I don't think she either means all she says
or, by a great deal, says all that she means. I feel very sorry for
her."

Rowland met the two ladies, about this time, at several entertainments,
and looked at Christina with a kind of distant attendrissement. He
imagined more than once that there had been a passionate scene between
them about coming out, and wondered what arguments Mrs. Light had found
effective. But Christina's face told no tales, and she moved about,
beautiful and silent, looking absently over people's heads, barely
heeding the men who pressed about her, and suggesting somehow that the
soul of a world-wearied mortal had found its way into the blooming body
of a goddess. "Where in the world has Miss Light been before she is
twenty," observers asked, "to have left all her illusions behind?" And
the general verdict was, that though she was incomparably beautiful, she
was intolerably proud. Young ladies to whom the former distinction was
not conceded were free to reflect that she was "not at all liked."

It would have been difficult to guess, however, how they reconciled this
conviction with a variety of conflicting evidence, and, in especial,
with the spectacle of Roderick's inveterate devotion. All Rome might
behold that he, at least, "liked" Christina Light. Wherever she
appeared he was either awaiting her or immediately followed her. He was
perpetually at her side, trying, apparently, to preserve the thread of
a disconnected talk, the fate of which was, to judge by her face,
profoundly immaterial to the young lady. People in general smiled at the
radiant good faith of the handsome young sculptor, and asked each other
whether he really supposed that beauties of that quality were meant to
wed with poor artists. But although Christina's deportment, as I have
said, was one of superb inexpressiveness, Rowland had derived from
Roderick no suspicion that he suffered from snubbing, and he was
therefore surprised at an incident which befell one evening at a large
musical party. Roderick, as usual, was in the field, and, on the ladies
taking the chairs which had been arranged for them, he immediately
placed himself beside Christina. As most of the gentlemen were standing,
his position made him as conspicuous as Hamlet at Ophelia's feet, at the
play. Rowland was leaning, somewhat apart, against the chimney-piece.
There was a long, solemn pause before the music began, and in the midst
of it Christina rose, left her place, came the whole length of the
immense room, with every one looking at her, and stopped before him. She
was neither pale nor flushed; she had a soft smile.

"Will you do me a favor?" she asked.

"A thousand!"

"Not now, but at your earliest convenience. Please remind Mr. Hudson
that he is not in a New England village--that it is not the custom in
Rome to address one's conversation exclusively, night after night, to
the same poor girl, and that"....

The music broke out with a great blare and covered her voice. She made a
gesture of impatience, and Rowland offered her his arm and led her back
to her seat.

The next day he repeated her words to Roderick, who burst into joyous
laughter. "She 's a delightfully strange girl!" he cried. "She must do
everything that comes into her head!"

"Had she never asked you before not to talk to her so much?"

"On the contrary, she has often said to me, 'Mind you now, I forbid you
to leave me. Here comes that tiresome So-and-so.' She cares as little
about the custom as I do. What could be a better proof than her walking
up to you, with five hundred people looking at her? Is that the custom
for young girls in Rome?"

"Why, then, should she take such a step?"

"Because, as she sat there, it came into her head. That 's reason enough
for her. I have imagined she wishes me well, as they say here--though
she has never distinguished me in such a way as that!"

Madame Grandoni had foretold the truth; Mrs. Light, a couple of weeks
later, convoked all Roman society to a brilliant ball. Rowland went
late, and found the staircase so encumbered with flower-pots and
servants that he was a long time making his way into the presence of the
hostess. At last he approached her, as she stood making courtesies at
the door, with her daughter by her side. Some of Mrs. Light's courtesies
were very low, for she had the happiness of receiving a number of the
social potentates of the Roman world. She was rosy with triumph, to say
nothing of a less metaphysical cause, and was evidently vastly contented
with herself, with her company, and with the general promise of destiny.
Her daughter was less overtly jubilant, and distributed her greetings
with impartial frigidity. She had never been so beautiful. Dressed
simply in vaporous white, relieved with half a dozen white roses, the
perfection of her features and of her person and the mysterious depth of
her expression seemed to glow with the white light of a splendid pearl.
She recognized no one individually, and made her courtesy slowly,
gravely, with her eyes on the ground. Rowland fancied that, as he stood
before her, her obeisance was slightly exaggerated, as with an intention
of irony; but he smiled philosophically to himself, and reflected, as
he passed into the room, that, if she disliked him, he had nothing
to reproach himself with. He walked about, had a few words with Miss
Blanchard, who, with a fillet of cameos in her hair, was leaning on the
arm of Mr. Leavenworth, and at last came upon the Cavaliere Giacosa,
modestly stationed in a corner. The little gentleman's coat-lappet was
decorated with an enormous bouquet and his neck encased in a voluminous
white handkerchief of the fashion of thirty years ago. His arms were
folded, and he was surveying the scene with contracted eyelids, through
which you saw the glitter of his intensely dark, vivacious pupil.
He immediately embarked on an elaborate apology for not having yet
manifested, as he felt it, his sense of the honor Rowland had done him.

"I am always on service with these ladies, you see," he explained, "and
that is a duty to which one would not willingly be faithless for an
instant."

"Evidently," said Rowland, "you are a very devoted friend. Mrs. Light,
in her situation, is very happy in having you."

"We are old friends," said the Cavaliere, gravely. "Old friends. I knew
the signora many years ago, when she was the prettiest woman in Rome--or
rather in Ancona, which is even better. The beautiful Christina, now, is
perhaps the most beautiful young girl in Europe!"

"Very likely," said Rowland.

"Very well, sir, I taught her to read; I guided her little hands to
touch the piano keys." And at these faded memories, the Cavaliere's eyes
glittered more brightly. Rowland half expected him to proceed, with a
little flash of long-repressed passion, "And now--and now, sir, they
treat me as you observed the other day!" But the Cavaliere only looked
out at him keenly from among his wrinkles, and seemed to say, with all
the vividness of the Italian glance, "Oh, I say nothing more. I am not
so shallow as to complain!"

Evidently the Cavaliere was not shallow, and Rowland repeated
respectfully, "You are a devoted friend."

"That 's very true. I am a devoted friend. A man may do himself justice,
after twenty years!"

Rowland, after a pause, made some remark about the beauty of the ball.
It was very brilliant.

"Stupendous!" said the Cavaliere, solemnly. "It is a great day. We have
four Roman princes, to say nothing of others." And he counted them over
on his fingers and held up his hand triumphantly. "And there she stands,
the girl to whom I--I, Giuseppe Giacosa--taught her alphabet and her
piano-scales; there she stands in her incomparable beauty, and Roman
princes come and bow to her. Here, in his corner, her old master permits
himself to be proud."

"It is very friendly of him," said Rowland, smiling.

The Cavaliere contracted his lids a little more and gave another keen
glance. "It is very natural, signore. The Christina is a good girl; she
remembers my little services. But here comes," he added in a moment,
"the young Prince of the Fine Arts. I am sure he has bowed lowest of
all."

Rowland looked round and saw Roderick moving slowly across the room and
casting about him his usual luminous, unshrinking looks. He presently
joined them, nodded familiarly to the Cavaliere, and immediately
demanded of Rowland, "Have you seen her?"

"I have seen Miss Light," said Rowland. "She 's magnificent."

"I 'm half crazy!" cried Roderick; so loud that several persons turned
round.

Rowland saw that he was flushed, and laid his hand on his arm. Roderick
was trembling. "If you will go away," Rowland said instantly, "I will go
with you."

"Go away?" cried Roderick, almost angrily. "I intend to dance with her!"

The Cavaliere had been watching him attentively; he gently laid his hand
on his other arm. "Softly, softly, dear young man," he said. "Let me
speak to you as a friend."

"Oh, speak even as an enemy and I shall not mind it," Roderick answered,
frowning.

"Be very reasonable, then, and go away."

"Why the deuce should I go away?"

"Because you are in love," said the Cavaliere.

"I might as well be in love here as in the streets."

"Carry your love as far as possible from Christina. She will not listen
to you--she can't."

"She 'can't'?" demanded Roderick. "She is not a person of whom you may
say that. She can if she will; she does as she chooses."

"Up to a certain point. It would take too long to explain; I only beg
you to believe that if you continue to love Miss Light you will be
very unhappy. Have you a princely title? have you a princely fortune?
Otherwise you can never have her."

And the Cavaliere folded his arms again, like a man who has done his
duty. Roderick wiped his forehead and looked askance at Rowland; he
seemed to be guessing his thoughts and they made him blush a little. But
he smiled blandly, and addressing the Cavaliere, "I 'm much obliged to
you for the information," he said. "Now that I have obtained it, let
me tell you that I am no more in love with Miss Light than you are. Mr.
Mallet knows that. I admire her--yes, profoundly. But that 's no one's
business but my own, and though I have, as you say, neither a princely
title nor a princely fortune, I mean to suffer neither those advantages
nor those who possess them to diminish my right."

"If you are not in love, my dear young man," said the Cavaliere, with
his hand on his heart and an apologetic smile, "so much the better. But
let me entreat you, as an affectionate friend, to keep a watch on your
emotions. You are young, you are handsome, you have a brilliant genius
and a generous heart, but--I may say it almost with authority--Christina
is not for you!"

Whether Roderick was in love or not, he was nettled by what apparently
seemed to him an obtrusive negation of an inspiring possibility. "You
speak as if she had made her choice!" he cried. "Without pretending to
confidential information on the subject, I am sure she has not."

"No, but she must make it soon," said the Cavaliere. And raising his
forefinger, he laid it against his under lip. "She must choose a name
and a fortune--and she will!"

"She will do exactly as her inclination prompts! She will marry the man
who pleases her, if he has n't a dollar! I know her better than you."

The Cavaliere turned a little paler than usual, and smiled more
urbanely. "No, no, my dear young man, you do not know her better than
I. You have not watched her, day by day, for twenty years. I too have
admired her. She is a good girl; she has never said an unkind word
to me; the blessed Virgin be thanked! But she must have a brilliant
destiny; it has been marked out for her, and she will submit. You had
better believe me; it may save you much suffering."

"We shall see!" said Roderick, with an excited laugh.

"Certainly we shall see. But I retire from the discussion," the
Cavaliere added. "I have no wish to provoke you to attempt to prove to
me that I am wrong. You are already excited."

"No more than is natural to a man who in an hour or so is to dance the
cotillon with Miss Light."

"The cotillon? has she promised?"

Roderick patted the air with a grand confidence. "You 'll see!" His
gesture might almost have been taken to mean that the state of his
relations with Miss Light was such that they quite dispensed with vain
formalities.

The Cavaliere gave an exaggerated shrug. "You make a great many
mourners!"

"He has made one already!" Rowland murmured to himself. This was
evidently not the first time that reference had been made between
Roderick and the Cavaliere to the young man's possible passion, and
Roderick had failed to consider it the simplest and most natural course
to say in three words to the vigilant little gentleman that there was
no cause for alarm--his affections were preoccupied. Rowland hoped,
silently, with some dryness, that his motives were of a finer kind
than they seemed to be. He turned away; it was irritating to look at
Roderick's radiant, unscrupulous eagerness. The tide was setting toward
the supper-room and he drifted with it to the door. The crowd at this
point was dense, and he was obliged to wait for some minutes before he
could advance. At last he felt his neighbors dividing behind him, and
turning he saw Christina pressing her way forward alone. She was looking
at no one, and, save for the fact of her being alone, you would not have
supposed she was in her mother's house. As she recognized Rowland she
beckoned to him, took his arm, and motioned him to lead her into the
supper-room. She said nothing until he had forced a passage and they
stood somewhat isolated.

"Take me into the most out-of-the-way corner you can find," she then
said, "and then go and get me a piece of bread."

"Nothing more? There seems to be everything conceivable."

"A simple roll. Nothing more, on your peril. Only bring something for
yourself."

It seemed to Rowland that the embrasure of a window (embrasures in Roman
palaces are deep) was a retreat sufficiently obscure for Miss Light to
execute whatever design she might have contrived against his equanimity.
A roll, after he had found her a seat, was easily procured. As he
presented it, he remarked that, frankly speaking, he was at loss to
understand why she should have selected for the honor of a tete-a-tete
an individual for whom she had so little taste.

"Ah yes, I dislike you," said Christina. "To tell the truth, I had
forgotten it. There are so many people here whom I dislike more, that
when I espied you just now, you seemed like an intimate friend. But I
have not come into this corner to talk nonsense," she went on. "You must
not think I always do, eh?"

"I have never heard you do anything else," said Rowland, deliberately,
having decided that he owed her no compliments.

"Very good. I like your frankness. It 's quite true. You see, I am a
strange girl. To begin with, I am frightfully egotistical. Don't flatter
yourself you have said anything very clever if you ever take it into
your head to tell me so. I know it much better than you. So it is, I
can't help it. I am tired to death of myself; I would give all I possess
to get out of myself; but somehow, at the end, I find myself so vastly
more interesting than nine tenths of the people I meet. If a person
wished to do me a favor I would say to him, 'I beg you, with tears in my
eyes, to interest me. Be strong, be positive, be imperious, if you
will; only be something,--something that, in looking at, I can forget my
detestable self!' Perhaps that is nonsense too. If it is, I can't help
it. I can only apologize for the nonsense I know to be such and that I
talk--oh, for more reasons than I can tell you! I wonder whether, if I
were to try, you would understand me."

"I am afraid I should never understand," said Rowland, "why a person
should willingly talk nonsense."

"That proves how little you know about women. But I like your frankness.
When I told you the other day that you displeased me, I had an idea
you were more formal,--how do you say it?--more guinde. I am very
capricious. To-night I like you better."

"Oh, I am not guinde," said Rowland, gravely.

"I beg your pardon, then, for thinking so. Now I have an idea that you
would make a useful friend--an intimate friend--a friend to whom one
could tell everything. For such a friend, what would n't I give!"

Rowland looked at her in some perplexity. Was this touching sincerity,
or unfathomable coquetry? Her beautiful eyes looked divinely candid; but
then, if candor was beautiful, beauty was apt to be subtle. "I hesitate
to recommend myself out and out for the office," he said, "but I believe
that if you were to depend upon me for anything that a friend may do, I
should not be found wanting."

"Very good. One of the first things one asks of a friend is to judge
one not by isolated acts, but by one's whole conduct. I care for your
opinion--I don't know why."

"Nor do I, I confess," said Rowland with a laugh.

"What do you think of this affair?" she continued, without heeding his
laugh.

"Of your ball? Why, it 's a very grand affair."

"It 's horrible--that 's what it is! It 's a mere rabble! There are
people here whom I never saw before, people who were never asked. Mamma
went about inviting every one, asking other people to invite any one
they knew, doing anything to have a crowd. I hope she is satisfied! It
is not my doing. I feel weary, I feel angry, I feel like crying. I have
twenty minds to escape into my room and lock the door and let mamma go
through with it as she can. By the way," she added in a moment, without
a visible reason for the transition, "can you tell me something to
read?"

Rowland stared, at the disconnectedness of the question.

"Can you recommend me some books?" she repeated. "I know you are a great
reader. I have no one else to ask. We can buy no books. We can make
debts for jewelry and bonnets and five-button gloves, but we can't spend
a sou for ideas. And yet, though you may not believe it, I like ideas
quite as well."

"I shall be most happy to lend you some books," Rowland said. "I will
pick some out to-morrow and send them to you."

"No novels, please! I am tired of novels. I can imagine better stories
for myself than any I read. Some good poetry, if there is such a thing
nowadays, and some memoirs and histories and books of facts."

"You shall be served. Your taste agrees with my own."

She was silent a moment, looking at him. Then suddenly--"Tell me
something about Mr. Hudson," she demanded. "You are great friends!"

"Oh yes," said Rowland; "we are great friends."

"Tell me about him. Come, begin!"

"Where shall I begin? You know him for yourself."

"No, I don't know him; I don't find him so easy to know. Since he has
finished my bust and begun to come here disinterestedly, he has become a
great talker. He says very fine things; but does he mean all he says?"

"Few of us do that."

"You do, I imagine. You ought to know, for he tells me you discovered
him." Rowland was silent, and Christina continued, "Do you consider him
very clever?"

"Unquestionably."

"His talent is really something out of the common way?"

"So it seems to me."

"In short, he 's a man of genius?"

"Yes, call it genius."

"And you found him vegetating in a little village and took him by the
hand and set him on his feet in Rome?"

"Is that the popular legend?" asked Rowland.

"Oh, you need n't be modest. There was no great merit in it; there
would have been none at least on my part in the same circumstances.
Real geniuses are not so common, and if I had discovered one in the
wilderness, I would have brought him out into the market-place to see
how he would behave. It would be excessively amusing. You must find it
so to watch Mr. Hudson, eh? Tell me this: do you think he is going to be
a great man--become famous, have his life written, and all that?"

"I don't prophesy, but I have good hopes."

Christina was silent. She stretched out her bare arm and looked at it a
moment absently, turning it so as to see--or almost to see--the dimple
in her elbow. This was apparently a frequent gesture with her; Rowland
had already observed it. It was as coolly and naturally done as if she
had been in her room alone. "So he 's a man of genius," she suddenly
resumed. "Don't you think I ought to be extremely flattered to have a
man of genius perpetually hanging about? He is the first I ever saw,
but I should have known he was not a common mortal. There is something
strange about him. To begin with, he has no manners. You may say that it
's not for me to blame him, for I have none myself. That 's very true,
but the difference is that I can have them when I wish to (and very
charming ones too; I 'll show you some day); whereas Mr. Hudson will
never have them. And yet, somehow, one sees he 's a gentleman. He seems
to have something urging, driving, pushing him, making him restless and
defiant. You see it in his eyes. They are the finest, by the way, I ever
saw. When a person has such eyes as that you can forgive him his bad
manners. I suppose that is what they call the sacred fire."

Rowland made no answer except to ask her in a moment if she would have
another roll. She merely shook her head and went on:--

"Tell me how you found him. Where was he--how was he?"

"He was in a place called Northampton. Did you ever hear of it? He was
studying law--but not learning it."

"It appears it was something horrible, eh?"

"Something horrible?"

"This little village. No society, no pleasures, no beauty, no life."

"You have received a false impression. Northampton is not as gay as
Rome, but Roderick had some charming friends."

"Tell me about them. Who were they?"

"Well, there was my cousin, through whom I made his acquaintance: a
delightful woman."

"Young--pretty?"

"Yes, a good deal of both. And very clever."

"Did he make love to her?"

"Not in the least."

"Well, who else?"

"He lived with his mother. She is the best of women."

"Ah yes, I know all that one's mother is. But she does not count as
society. And who else?"

Rowland hesitated. He wondered whether Christina's insistence was
the result of a general interest in Roderick's antecedents or of a
particular suspicion. He looked at her; she was looking at him a little
askance, waiting for his answer. As Roderick had said nothing about his
engagement to the Cavaliere, it was probable that with this beautiful
girl he had not been more explicit. And yet the thing was announced, it
was public; that other girl was happy in it, proud of it. Rowland felt
a kind of dumb anger rising in his heart. He deliberated a moment
intently.

"What are you frowning at?" Christina asked.

"There was another person," he answered, "the most important of all: the
young girl to whom he is engaged."

Christina stared a moment, raising her eyebrows. "Ah, Mr. Hudson is
engaged?" she said, very simply. "Is she pretty?"

"She is not called a beauty," said Rowland. He meant to practice great
brevity, but in a moment he added, "I have seen beauties, however, who
pleased me less."

"Ah, she pleases you, too? Why don't they marry?"

"Roderick is waiting till he can afford to marry."

Christina slowly put out her arm again and looked at the dimple in her
elbow. "Ah, he 's engaged?" she repeated in the same tone. "He never
told me."

Rowland perceived at this moment that the people about them were
beginning to return to the dancing-room, and immediately afterwards
he saw Roderick making his way toward themselves. Roderick presented
himself before Miss Light.


"I don't claim that you have promised me the cotillon," he said, "but I
consider that you have given me hopes which warrant the confidence that
you will dance with me."

Christina looked at him a moment. "Certainly I have made no promises,"
she said. "It seemed to me that, as the daughter of the house, I should
keep myself free and let it depend on circumstances."

"I beseech you to dance with me!" said Roderick, with vehemence.

Christina rose and began to laugh. "You say that very well, but the
Italians do it better."

This assertion seemed likely to be put to the proof. Mrs. Light hastily
approached, leading, rather than led by, a tall, slim young man, of an
unmistakably Southern physiognomy. "My precious love," she cried, "what
a place to hide in! We have been looking for you for twenty minutes; I
have chosen a cavalier for you, and chosen well!"

The young man disengaged himself, made a ceremonious bow, joined his two
hands, and murmured with an ecstatic smile, "May I venture to hope, dear
signorina, for the honor of your hand?"

"Of course you may!" said Mrs. Light. "The honor is for us."

Christina hesitated but for a moment, then swept the young man a
courtesy as profound as his own bow. "You are very kind, but you are too
late. I have just accepted!"

"Ah, my own darling!" murmured--almost moaned--Mrs. Light.

Christina and Roderick exchanged a single glance--a glance brilliant on
both sides. She passed her hand into his arm; he tossed his clustering
locks and led her away.

A short time afterwards Rowland saw the young man whom she had
rejected leaning against a doorway. He was ugly, but what is called
distinguished-looking. He had a heavy black eye, a sallow complexion, a
long, thin neck; his hair was cropped en brosse. He looked very young,
yet extremely bored. He was staring at the ceiling and stroking an
imperceptible moustache. Rowland espied the Cavaliere Giacosa hard by,
and, having joined him, asked him the young man's name.

"Oh," said the Cavaliere, "he 's a pezzo grosso! A Neapolitan. Prince
Casamassima."

Henry James

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