Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 17

Miss Lander makes a bust--The twang of his native place--Wholly unlike
anybody else--Wise, humorous Sarah Clarke--Back to the Gods and the
Fleas--Horace Mann's statue--Miss Bremer and the Tarpeian Rock--"I was
in a state of some little tremor"--Mrs. Jameson and Ruskin--Most
thorough-going of the classic tragedies--A well-grown calf--An
adventure in Monte Testaccio--A vision of death--A fantastic and
saturnine genius--A pitch-black place--Illuminations and
fireworks--The Faun-Enjoying Rome--First impressions--Lalla's curses.


While my father was conscientiously making acquaintance with the
achievements of old-time art, modern artists were trying to practise
their skill on him; he had already sat to Cephas Giovanni Thompson,
and he was now asked to contribute his head to the studio of a certain
Miss Lander, late of Salem, Massachusetts, now settled, as she
intended, permanently in Rome. "When I dream of home," she told him,
"it is merely of paying a short visit and coming back here before my
trunk is unpacked." Miss Lander was not a painter, but a sculptor,
and, in spite of what my father had said against the nude in
sculpture, I think he liked clay and marble as a vehicle of art better
than paint and canvas. At all events, he consented to give her
sittings. He was interested in the independence of her mode of life,
and they got on very comfortably together; the results of his
observation of her appear in the references to Hilda's and Miriam's
unhampered ways of life in The Marble Faun. She had, as I recall her,
a narrow, sallow face, sharp eyes, and a long chin. She might have
been thirty years old. Unlike Miss Harriet Hosmer, who lived not far
away, Miss Lander had no attractiveness for us children. I have reason
to think, too, that my father's final opinion of her was not so
favorable as his first one. Except photographs, no really good
likeness of my father was ever taken; the portrait painted in
Washington, in 1862, by Leutze, was the least successful of them all.
The best, in my opinion, was an exquisitely wrought miniature of him
at the age of thirty, which I kept for a long time, till it was stolen
by a friend in London in 1880.

Paul Akers, a Maine Yankee, with the twang of his native place still
strong in him after ten years in Rome, was another sculptor of our
acquaintance; he was very voluble, and escorted us about Rome, and
entertained us at his own studio, where he was modelling his best
group, "The Drowned Fisher-boy," as he called it. The figure is
supposed to be lying at the bottom of the sea, face upward, with a
fragment of rock supporting on its sharp ridge the small of the
back--a most painful and uncomfortable attitude, suggesting that even
in death there could be no rest for the poor youth. Mr. Akers was
rather sharply critical of his more famous brother-artists, such as
Greenough and Gibson, and was accused by them, apparently not wholly
without justification, of yielding too much to the influence of other
geniuses in the designing of his groups. But he was a sensible and
obliging little personage, and introduced us to the studios of several
of his fellow-artists in Rome, some of which were more interesting
than his own.

Bright little Miss Harriet Hosmer, with her hands in her
jacket-pockets, and her short hair curling up round her velvet cap,
struts cheerfully forth out of the obscurity of the past in my memory;
her studio, I think, adjoined that of Gibson, of whom I remember
nothing whatever. Her most notable production at that time was a Puck
sitting on a toadstool, with a conical shell of the limpet species by
way of a cap; he somehow resembled his animated and clever creator.
Miss Hosmer's face, expressions, gestures, dress, and her
manifestations in general were perfectly in keeping with one another;
there never was a more succinct and distinct individuality; she was
wholly unlike anybody else, without being in the least unnatural or
affected. Her social manner was of a persistent jollity; but no doubt
she had her grave moments or hours, a good and strong brain, and a
susceptibility to tragic conceptions, as is shown by the noble figure
of her Zenobia. This figure I saw in clay in her studio during our
second season in Rome. Miss Hosmer's talk was quick, witty, and
pointed; her big eyes redeemed her round, small-featured face from
triviality; her warm heart glowed through all she said and did. Her
studio was a contrast to the classicality of Gibson's, whose
influence, though she had studied under him during her six years'
residence in Rome, had affected her technique only, not her
conceptions or aims in art. We all liked her much. She was made known
to us, I believe, through the medium of grave, wise, humorous Sarah
Clarke, the sister of the James Freeman Clarke who married my mother
to my father, and who, twenty-two years later, read over my father the
burial service. Sarah Clarke was often abroad; she was herself an
admirable artist in water-color, and was always a dear friend of my
mother's. After we had returned to Concord, in 1860, Miss Hosmer wrote
to us, and one of her letters has been preserved; I quote it, because
it is like her:

"MY DEAR MRS. HAWTHORNE,--It is not unlikely that you may be somewhat
surprised to hear from me; but after you have received the four dozen
letters which, sooner or later, I intend writing you, you will cease
to be so. I begin at the present moment with the first of the
forty-eight, partly for business and partly for pleasure. Reversing,
then, the order of things which some unknown but well-regulated-minded
individual considered to be correct, I will go in for pleasure first,
under which head I seek information respecting the health and
well-being of all members of your family. It seems cruel that you
should go off to the glorious Republic when there are other places in
Rome besides the Piazza Poli. Now that you are safely out of it, I
must try to persuade you that it was the most unhealthy place in the
whole city, not only because I really believe it to be so, but that
malaria may not be mingled and cherished with every remembrance of
this delicious, artistic, fleay, malarious paradise. But I suppose
little short of a miracle would transport you here again, not only
because Una is probably becoming the size of Daniel Lambert, in her
native air, but because Julian is probably weaving a future
President's chair out of the rattans he is getting at school. However
that may be, the result is the same, I fear, as to your getting back
to the Gods and the Fleas; and I must look forward to a meeting in
America. Well, as that carries me over the ocean, in my mind's eye,
Mrs. Hawthorne, the business clause of my epistle is suggested--and
it is this: I have just had a letter from my best of friends, Mr.
Crow, of St. Louis [she had studied anatomy in St. Louis before coming
to Rome], who has been passing the summer in New York and Boston, and
he writes: 'They are talking in Boston of a monument to the memory of
Mr. Horace Mann, and I have said to one of the active men engaged in
it that if you could have the commission I would subscribe handsomely
towards it.' Now, it occurred to me that perhaps you or yours might
have an opportunity of saying a good word for me, in which case I
would have you know how pleased and grateful I should be. You may not
have the occasion offered you, but if it chances, I commend myself to
you distintamente, and trust to your good-nature not to consider me
pushing for having suggested it. I send this through our well-beloved
Sarah Clarke, and hope it will arrive before 1861. When you have
nothing better to do, pray give me a line, always in care of Pakenham
& Hooker. Good-bye, dear Mrs. Hawthorne--my best love to Mr.
Hawthorne and the chicks--and the best wish I can make is that you are
all as fat as yours always affectionately,


All the influence which my father and mother possessed was given to
Miss Hosmer's cause, but some other person got the commission. I
remember, too, that my mother, at Mrs. Mann's request, was at great
pains to make drawings for the face of the statue which now confronts
from the slopes of Beacon Hill the culture and intelligence of Boston,
which Horace Mann did so much to promote. But he was not a subject
which accommodated itself readily to the requirements of plastic art.
There is a glimpse of Miss Hosmer in one of my father's diaries, which
I will reproduce, for the sake of indicating his amused and benevolent
attitude towards her. "She had on," says he, "a neat little jacket, a
man's shirt-bosom, and a cravat with a brooch in it; her hair is cut
short, and curls jauntily round her bright and smart little
physiognomy; and, sitting opposite me at table, I never should have
imagined that she terminated in a petticoat any more than in a fish's
tail. However, I do not mean to speak disrespectfully of Miss Hosmer,
of whom I think very favorably; but, it seems to me, her reform of the
female dress begins with its least objectionable part, and is no real

One evening we visited Miss Bremer, the novelist, of Sweden, who was
then near the end of her foreign travels, which had begun with her
visit to America in 1849. She had met my father in Lenox, and had
written of him in the book of her travels. She was a small woman, with
a big heart and broad mind, packed full of sense, sentiment, and
philanthropy. She had an immense nose, designed, evidently, for some
much larger person; her conversation in English, though probably
correct, was so oddly accented that it was difficult to follow her.
She was a very lovable little creature, then nearing her sixtieth
year. Most of her voluminous literary work was done. Her house in Rome
was near the Capitol and the Tarpeian Rock; and after we had
forgathered with her there for a while, she accompanied us forth--the
moon being up--to see the famous precipice. It was to this incident
that we owe the scene in The Marble Faun, the most visibly tragic in
my father's writings. "The court-yard," he writes in his notes, "is
bordered by a parapet, leaning over which we saw a sheer precipice of
the Tarpeian Rock, about the height of a four-story house; not that
the precipice was a bare face of rock, but it appeared to be cased in
some sort of cement, or ancient stone-work, through which the primeval
rock, here and there, looked grimly and doubtfully. Bright as the
Roman moonlight was, it would not show the front of the wall, or rock,
so well as I should have liked to see it, but left it pretty much in
the same degree of dubiety and half-knowledge in which the
antiquarians leave most of the Roman ruins. Perhaps this precipice may
have been the Traitor's Leap; perhaps it was the one on which Miss
Bremer's garden verges; perhaps neither of the two. At any rate, it
was a good idea of the stern old Romans to fling political criminals
down from the very height of the Capitoline Hill on which stood the
temples and public edifices, symbols of the institutions which they
sought to violate." But there was no tragic suggestion in our little
party, conducted about by the prattling, simple, affectionate little
woman, so homely, tender, and charitable. "At parting," wrote my
father, "she kissed my wife most affectionately on each cheek,
'because,' she said, 'you look so sweetly'; and then she turned
towards myself. I was in a state of some little tremor, not knowing
what might be about to befall me, but she merely pressed my hand, and
we parted, probably never to meet again. God bless her good heart, and
every inch of her little body, not forgetting her red nose, big as it
is in proportion to the rest of her! She is a most amiable little
woman, worthy to be the maiden aunt of the whole human race!"

Venerable Mrs. Jameson, author of a little library of writings on
Italian art, was likewise of our company occasionally; and she evinced
a marked liking for my father, which was remarkable, inasmuch as he
was able to keep no sort of pace with her in her didactic homilies,
which were delivered with a tranquil, ex-cathedra manner, befitting
one who was the authority on her subject; one would no more have
thought of questioning her verdicts than those of Ruskin; but I should
have liked to see the latter and her together, with a difference
between them. Her legs were less active than her mind, and most of
our expeditions with her were made in carriages, from which she
dispensed her wisdom placidly as we went along, laying the dust of our
ignorance with the droppings of her erudition, like a watering-cart.
However, she so far condescended from her altitudes as to speak very
cordially of my father's books, for which he expressed proper
acknowledgment; and she had a motherly way of holding his hand in hers
when he took leave of her, and looking maternally in his face, which
made him somewhat uneasy. "Were we to meet often," he remarked,

"I should be a little afraid of her embracing me outright--a thing to
be grateful for, but by no means to be glad of!" We drove one day to
some excavations which had just been opened near the tomb of Cecilia
Metella, outside the walls of Rome. Both Christian and Roman graves
had been found, and they had been so recently discovered that, as my
father observed, there could have been very little intervention of
persons (though much of time) between the departure of the friends of
the dead and our own visit. The large, excavated chambers were filled
with sarcophagi, beautifully sculptured, and their walls were
ornamented with free-hand decoration done in wet plaster, a marvellous
testimony to the rapid skill of the artists. The sarcophagi were
filled with the bones and the dust of the ancient people who had once,
in the imperial prime of Rome, walked about her streets, prayed to her
gods, and feasted at her banquets. My father remarked on the fact that
many of the sarcophagi were sculptured with figures that seemed
anything but mournful in their demeanor; but Mrs. Jameson said that
there was almost always, in the subject chosen, some allusion to
death, instancing the story of Meleager, an Argonaut, who, I think,
slew the Calydonian boar, and afterwards his two uncles, who had tried
to get the boar's hide away from Meleager's beloved Atalanta;
whereupon the young hero was brought to death by his mother, who in
turn killed herself. It is one of the most thoroughgoing of the
classic tragedies, and was a favorite theme for the sculptors of
sarcophagi. Certainly, in the sarcophagi of the Vatican the
bas-reliefs are often scenes of battle, the rush of men and horses,
and the ground strewn with dead; and in others, a dying person seems
to be represented, with his friends weeping along the sides of the
sarcophagus; but often, too, the allusion to death, if it exists at
all, is very remote. The old Romans, like ourselves, had individual
ways of regarding the great change; according to their mood and faith,
they were hopeful or despairing. But death is death, think of it how
we will.

I think it was on a previous occasion that I went with my father,
afoot, along this same mighty Appian Way, beside which rise so many
rounded structures, vast as fortresses, containing the remains of the
dead of long ago, and culminating in the huge mass of the Cecilia
Metella tomb, with the mediseval battlements on its summit. And it was
on that walk that we met the calf of The Marble Faun: "A well-grown
calf," my father says in his notes, "who seemed frolicsome, shy, and
sociable all at the same time; for he capered and leaped to one side,
and shook his head, as I passed him, but soon came galloping behind
me, and again started aside when I looked round." How little I
suspected then (or the bull-calf either, for that matter) that he was
to frolic his way into literature, and go gambolling down the ages to
distract the anxious soul of the lover of Hilda! Another walk of ours
was to the huge, green mound of the Monte Testaccio; it was, at that
period, pierced by numerous cavities, in the dark coolness of which
stores of native wines were kept; and they were sold to customers at
the rude wooden tables in front of the excavations, in flasks shaped
like large drops of water, protected with plaited straw. When,
nowadays, in New York or other cities here, I go to an Italian
restaurant, I always call for one of these flasks, and think, as I
drink its contents, of that afternoon with my father. It was the first
time I had been permitted to taste a fermented liquor. I liked it very
much, and got two glasses of it; and when we rose to depart I was
greatly perplexed, and my father was vastly tickled, to discover a
lack of coherence between my legs and my intentions. It speedily
passed off, for the wines are of the lightest and airiest description;
but when, a little later on in life, I came to read that Horatian
verse describing how, turning from barbaric splendors such as the
Persians affect, he binds his brows with simple myrtle, and sips,
beneath the shadow of his garden bower, the pure vintage of the native
grape, I better appreciated the poetry of the theme from having
enjoyed that Testaccionesque experience.

It was in Rome, too, that I first came in contact with death. It
aroused my liveliest curiosity, but, as I remember, no alarm; partly,
I suspect, because I was unable to believe that there was anything
real in the spectacle. The scene has been woven into the texture of
the Italian romance; it is there described almost as it actually
presented itself to the author's observation. A dead monk of the
Capuchin order lay on a bier in the nave of their church, and while we
looked at him a stream of blood flowed from his nostrils. We went down
afterwards, I recollect, into the vaults, and saw the fine, Oriental
loam in which the body was to lie; and it seems to me there were
arches and other architectural features composed of skulls and bones
of long-dead brothers of the order. He must have been a fantastic and
saturnine genius who first suggested this idea.

Another subterranean expedition of ours was to the Catacombs, the
midnight passages of which seemed to be made of bones, and niches
containing the dust of unknown mortality, which were duskily revealed
in the glimmer of our moccoli as we passed along in single file.
Sometimes we came to chambers, one of which had in it a bier covered
with glass, in which was a body which still preserved some semblance
of the human form. There were occasional openings in the vaulted roof
of the corridors, but for the most part the darkness was Egyptian, and
for a few moments a thrill of anxiety was caused by the disappearance
either of my sister Una or of Ada Shepard; I forget which. They were
soon found, but the guide read us a homily upon the awful peril of
lifelong entombment which encompassed us. But the air was dry and
cool, and the whole adventure, from my point of view, enjoyable.

Again, we went down a long flight of steps somewhere near the Forum,
till we reached a pitch-black place, where we waited till a guide came
up from still lower depths, down into which we followed him--each with
a moccolo--till we felt level earth or stone beneath our feet, and
stood in what I suppose is as lightless a hole as can exist in nature.
It was wet, too, and the smell of it was deadly and dismal. This,
however, was the prison in which the old Romans used to confine
important prisoners, such as Jugurtha and the Apostle Peter; and here
they were strangled to death or left to starve. It was the Mamertine
Prison. I did not like it. I also recall the opening of an oubliette
in the castle of San Angelo, which affected me like a nightmare.
Before leaving Concord, in 1853, I had once tumbled through a rotten
board into a well, dug by the side of the road ages before, and had
barely saved myself from dropping to the bottom, sixty feet below, by
grabbing the weeds which grew on the margin of the hole. I was not
much scared at the moment; but the next day, taking my father to the
scene of the accident, he remarked that had I fallen in I never could
have got out again; upon which I conceived a horror of the well which
haunts me in my dreams even to this day. Only a tuft of grass between
me and such a fate! I was, therefore, far from comfortable beside the
oubliette, and was glad to emerge again into the Roman sunshine.

One night we climbed the Pincian Hill, and saw, far out across Rome,
the outlines of St. Peter's dome in silver light. While we were
thinking that nothing could be more beautiful, all of a sudden the
delicate silver bloomed out into a golden glory, which made everybody
say, "Oh!" Was it more beautiful or not? Theoretically, I prefer the
silver illumination; but, as a matter of fact, I must confess that I
liked the golden illumination better. We were told that the wonder was
performed by convicts, who lay along the dome and applied their
matches to the lamps at the word of command, and that, inasmuch as the
service was apt to prove fatal to the operators, these convicts were
allowed certain alleviations of their condition for doing it. I
suppose it is done by electricity now, and the convicts neither are
killed nor obtain any concessions. Such are the helps and hindrances
of civilization!

Shortly after this, on a cool and cloudy night, I was down in the
Piazza, del Popolo and saw the fireworks, the only other pyrotechnic
exhibition I had witnessed having been a private one in Rock Park,
which, I think, I have described. This Roman one was very different,
and I do not believe I have ever since seen another so fine. The whole
front of the Pincian was covered with fiery designs, and in the air
overhead wonderful fiery serpents and other devices skimmed, arched,
wriggled, shot aloft, and detonated. A boy accepts appearances as
realities; and these fireworks doubtless enlarged my conceptions of
the possibilities of nature, and substantiated the fables of the

The Faun of Praxiteles, as the world knows, attracted my father,
though he could not have visited it often; for both in his notes and
in his romance he makes the same mistake as to the pose of the figure:
"He has a pipe," he says in the former, "or some such instrument of
music in the hand which rests upon the tree, and the other, I think,
hangs carelessly by his side." Of course, the left arm, the one
referred to, is held akimbo on his left hip. That my father's eyes
were, however, already awake to the literary and moral possibilities
of the Faun is shown by his further observations, which are much the
same as those which appear in the book. "The whole person," he says,
"conveys the idea of an amiable and sensual nature, easy, mirthful,
apt for jollity, yet not incapable of being touched by pathos. The
Faun has no principle, nor could comprehend it, yet is true and honest
by virtue of his simplicity; very capable, too, of affection. He might
be refined through his feelings, so that the coarser, animal part of
his nature would be thrown into the background, though liable to
assert itself at any time. Praxiteles has only expressed the animal
part of the nature by one (or, rather, two) definite signs--the two
ears, which go up in a little peak, not likely to be discovered on
slight inspection, and, I suppose, they are covered with downy fur. A
tail is probably hidden under the garment. Only a sculptor of the
finest imagination, most delicate taste, and sweetest feeling would
have dreamed of representing a faun under this guise; and, if you
brood over it long enough, all the pleasantness of sylvan life, and
all the genial and happy characteristics of the brute creation, seem
to be mixed in him with humanity--trees, grass, flowers, cattle, deer,
and unsophisticated man." This passage shows how much my father was
wont to trust to first impressions, and even more on the moral than on
the material side. He recognized a truth in the first touch--the first
thought--which he was wary of meddling with afterwards, contenting
himself with slightly developing it now and then, and smoothing a
little the form and manner of its presentation. The finest art is
nearest to the most veritable nature--to such as have the eye to see
the latter aright. Rome, like other ancient cities which have fallen
from the positive activity of their original estate, has one great
advantage over other places which one wishes to see (like London, for
instance), that the whole business of whoever goes there, who has any
business whatever, is to see it; and when the duty-sights have been
duly done, the sight-seer then first begins to live his true life in
independence and happiness, going where he lists, staying no longer
than he pleases, and never knowing, when he sallies forth in the
morning, what, or how many, or how few things he will have
accomplished by nightfall.

The duty to see is indeed the death of real vision; the official
cicerone leads you anywhere but to the place or thing that you are in
the mood to behold or understand. But with his disappearance the fun
and the pageant begin; one's eyes are at last opened, and beauty and
significance flow in through every pore of the senses. It is in this
better phase of his Roman sojourn that I picture my father; he trudges
tranquilly and happily to and fro, with no programme and no
obligations, absorbing all things with that quiet, omnivorous glance
of his; pausing whenever he takes the fancy, and contemplating for
moments or minutes whatever strikes his fancy; often turning aside
from egregious spectacles and giving his attention to apparent
trifles, to the mere passing show; pondering on the tuft of flowers in
a cranny of the Coliseum wall, on the azure silhouette of the Alban
Mountains, on the moss collected on the pavement beneath the aperture
in the roof of the Pantheon, on the picturesque deformity of old,
begging Beppo on the steps of the Piazza, d' Espagna. I am trudging
joyously beside him, hanging on to his left hand (the other being
occupied with his hook-headed cane), asking him innumerable questions,
to which he comfortably, or abstractedly, or with humorous impatience,
replies; or I run on before him, or lag behind, busy with my endless
occupation of picking up things to me curious and valuable, and
filling with them my much-enduring pockets; in this way drinking in
Rome in my own way, also, and to my boyish advantage. He tells me
tales of old Rome, always apposite to the occasion; draws from me,
sometimes, my private views as to persons, places, and scenes, and
criticises those views in his own terse, arch, pregnant way, the force
and pertinency whereof are revealed to me only in my later meditations
upon them. It is only after one has begun to deal in this way with
Rome that its magic and spell begin to work upon one; and they are
never to be shaken off. Anxiety and pain may be mingled with them, as
was the case with my father before we said our final farewell to the
mighty city; but it is thereby only the more endeared to one. Rome is
one of the few central facts of the world, because it is so much more
than a fact. Byron is right--it is the city of the soul.

On one of the last evenings of our first season we went to the
Thompsons', and were there shown, among other things, a portfolio of
sketches. There is in The Marble Faun a chapter called "Miriam's
Studio," in which occurs a reference to a portfolio of sketches by
Miriam herself; the hint for it may have been taken from the portfolio
of Mr. Thompson, though the sketches themselves were of a very
different quality and character. The latter collection pleased me,
because I was just beginning to fill an album of my own with such
lopsided attempts to represent real objects, and yet more preposterous
imaginative sallies as my age and nature suggested. My father was
interested in them on account of the spiritual vigor which belongs to
the artist's first vision of his subject. In their case, as well as in
his own, he felt that it was impossible, as Browning put it, to
"recapture that first, fine, careless rapture." But the man of letters
has an advantage over the man of paint and canvas in the matter of
being able to preserve the original spirit in the later, finished

Towards the close of this first season in Rome the Bryants came to
town, and the old poet, old in aspect even then, called on us; but he
was not a childly man, and we youngsters stood aloof and contemplated
with awe his white, Merlin beard and tranquil but chilly eyes. Near
the end of May William Story invited us to breakfast with him; the
Bryants and Miss Hosmer and some English people were there; and I
understood nothing of what passed except the breakfast, which was
good, until, at the end of the session, my father and Story began to
talk about the superstition as to Friday, and they agreed that, of
course, it was nonsense, but that, nevertheless, it did have an
influence on both of them. It probably has an influence on everybody
who has ever heard of it. Many of us protest indignantly that we don't
believe in it, but the protest itself implies something not unlike

Finally, on the 24th of May, we left our Pincian palace, and got into
and on the huge _vettura_ which was to carry us to Florence, a week's
journey. It was to be one of the most delightful and blessed of our
foreign experiences; my father often said that he had enjoyed nothing
else so much, the vetturino (who happened to be one of the honestest
and sweetest-tempered old fellows in Italy) taking upon himself the
entire management of everything, down to ordering the meals and paying
the tolls, thus leaving us wholly unembarrassed and free from
responsibility while traversing a route always historically and
generally scenically charming. But we were destined, on the threshold
of the adventure, to undergo one of those evil quarters of an hour
which often usher in a period of special sunshine; for we were forced
into a desperate conflict with our servant-girl, Lalla, and her mother
over a question of wages. The girl had done chores for us during our
residence at the Palazzo Larazani, and had seemed to be a very amiable
little personage; she was small, slim, and smiling, and, though dirty
and inefficient, was no worse, so far as we could discover, than any
other Roman servant-girl. When we had fixed on the date of our
departure, Lalla had been asked how much warning she wanted; she
replied, a fortnight; which, accordingly, was given her, with a few
days thrown in for good measure. But when the day arrived she claimed
a week's more pay, and her old mother had a bill of her own for
fetching water. According to my observation, travelling Americans
have little or no conscience; to avoid trouble they will submit to
imposition, not to mention their habit of spoiling tradesmen, waiters,
and other foreign attendants by excessive tips and payments. But my
father and mother, though apt enough to make liberal bargains, were
absolutely incorruptible and immovable when anything like barefaced
robbery was attempted upon them; and they refused to present Lalla and
her mother with a single baioccho more than was their due. Moreover,
the patrone, or proprietor, of the Palazzo had mulcted them some six
scudi for Lalla's profuse breakages of glass and crockery during our

It was early morning when we set out, and only the faithful Thompsons
were there to bid us farewell. Lalla and her tribe, however, were on
hand, and violently demanded the satisfaction of their iniquitous
claims. "No!" said my father, and "No!" said my mother, like the
judges of the Medes and Persians. Thereupon the whole House of Lalla,
but Lalla and her mother especially, gave us an example of what an
Italian can do in the way of cursing an enemy. Ancient forms of
malediction, which had been current in the days of the early Roman
kings, were mingled with every damning invention that had been devised
during the Middle Ages, and ever since then; and they were all hurled
at us in shrill, screaming tones, accompanied by fell and ominous
gestures and inarticulate yells of superheated frenzy. Nothing could
surpass the volubility of this cursing, unless it were the animosity
which prompted it; no crime that anybody, since Cain slew Abel, had or
could have committed deserved a tenth part of the calamities and evil
haps which this preposterous family called down upon our heads, who
had committed no crime at all, but quite the contrary. When, in
after-years, I heard Booth, as Richelieu, threaten "the curse of Rome"
upon his opponents, I shuddered, wondering whether he had any notion
what the threat meant. Through it all my mother's ordinarily lovely
and peaceful countenance expressed a sad but unalterable
determination; and my father kept smiling in a certain dangerous way
that he sometimes had in moments of great peril or stress, but said
nothing; while Mr. Thompson indignantly called upon the cursers to
cease and to beware, and my dear friend Eddy looked distressed to the
verge of tears. He squeezed my hand as I got into the _vettura_, and
told me not to mind--the Lalla people were wicked, and their
ill-wishes would return upon their own heads. A handful of ten-cent
pieces, or their Roman equivalent, would have stopped the whole outcry
and changed it into blessings; but I think my father would not have
yielded had the salvation of Rome and of all Italy depended upon it.
His eyes gleamed, as I have seen them do on one or two other occasions
only, as we drove away, with the screams pursuing us, and that smile
still hovered about his mouth. But we drove on; Gaetano cracked his
long whip, our four steeds picked up their feet and rattled our
vehicle over the Roman cobble-stones; we passed the Porta del Popolo,
and were stretching along, under the summer sunshine, upon the white
road that led to Florence. It was a divine morning; the turmoil and
the strife were soon forgotten, and for a week thenceforward there was
only unalloyed felicity before us. Poor, evil-invoking Lalla had
passed forever out of our sphere.

Julian Hawthorne

Sorry, no summary available yet.