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The Emancipated By George Gissing Characters: 33929

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

Easter was just gone by. The Spences had timed their arrival in Rome so as to be able to spend a few days with certain friends, undisturbed by bell-clanging and the rush of trippers, before at length returning to England. Their hotel was in the Babuino. Mallard, who was uncertain about his movements during the next month or two, went to quarters with which he was familiar in the Via Bocca di Leone. He brought his Paestum picture to the hotel, but declined to leave it there. Mallard was deficient in those properties of the showman which are so necessary to an artist if he would make his work widely known and sell it for substantial sums; he hated anything like private exhibition, and dreaded an offer to purchase from any one who had come in contact with him by way of friendly introduction.

"I'm not satisfied with it, now I come to look at it again. It's nothing but a rough sketch."

"But Seaborne will be here this afternoon," urged Spence. "He will be grateful if you let him see it."

"If he cares to come to my room, he shall."

Miriam made no remark on the picture, but kept looking at it as long as it was uncovered. The temples stood in the light of early morning, a wonderful, indescribable light, perfectly true and rendered with great skill.

"Is it likely to be soon sold?" she asked, when the artist had gone off with his canvas.

"As likely as not, he'll keep it by him for a year or two, till he hates it for a few faults that no one else can perceive or be taught to understand," was Mr. Spence's reply. "I wish I could somehow become possessed of it. But if I hinted such a wish, he would insist on my taking it as a present. An impracticable fellow, Mallard. He suspects I want to sell it for him; that's why he won't leave it. And if Seaborne goes to his room, ten to one he'll be received with growls of surly independence."

This Mr. Seaborne was a man of letters. Spence had made his acquaintance in Rome a year ago; they conversed casually in Piale's reading-room, and Seaborne happened to say that the one English landscape-painter who strongly interested him was a little-known man, Ross Mallard. His own work was mostly anonymous; he wrote for one of the quarterlies and one of the weekly reviews. He was a little younger than Mallard, whom in certain respects he resembled; he had much the same way of speaking, the same reticence with regard to his own doings, even a slight similarity of feature, and his life seemed to be rather a lonely one.

When the two met, they behaved precisely as Spence predicted they would-with reserve, almost with coldness. For all that, Seaborne paid a visit to the artist's room, and in a couple of hours' talk they arrived at a fair degree of mutual understanding. The next day they smoked together in an odd abode occupied by the literary man near Porto di Ripetta, and thenceforth were good friends.

The morning after that, Mallard went early to the Vatican. He ascended the Scala Regia, and knocked at the little red door over which is written, "Cappella Sistina." On entering, he observed only a gentleman and a young girl, who stood in the middle of the floor, consulting their guide-book; but when he had taken a few steps forward, he saw a lady come from the far end and seat herself to look at the ceiling through an opera-glass. It was Mrs. Baske, and he approached whilst she was still intent on the frescoes. The pausing of his footstep close to her caused her to put down the glass and regard him. Mallard noticed the sudden change from cold remoteness of countenance to pleased recognition. The brightening in her eyes was only for a moment; then she smiled in her usual half-absent way, and received him formally.

"You are not alone?" he said, taking a place by her as she resumed her seat.

"Yes, I have come alone." And, after a pause, she added, "We don't think it necessary always to keep together. That would become burdensome. I often leave them, and go to places by myself."

Her look was still turned upwards. Mallard followed its direction.

"Which of the Sibyls is your favourite?" he asked.

At once she indicated the Delphic, but without speaking.

"Mine too."

Both fixed their eyes upon the figure, and were silent.

"You have been here very often?" were Mallard's next words.

"Last year very often."

"From genuine love of it, or a sense of duty?" he asked, examining her face.

She considered before replying.

"Not only from a sense of duty, though of course I have felt that. I don't love anything of Michael Angelo's, but I am compelled to look and study. I came here this morning only to refresh my memory of one of those faces"-she pointed to the lower part of the Last Judgment-"and yet the face is dreadful to me."

She found that he was smiling, and abruptly she added the question:

"Do you love that picture?"

"Why, no; but I often delight in it. I wouldn't have it always before me (for that matter, no more would I have the things that I love). A great work of art may be painful at all times, and sometimes unendurable."

"I have learnt to understand that," she said, with something of humility, which came upon Mallard as new and agreeable. "But-it is not long since that scene represented a reality to me. I think I shall never see it as you do."

Mallard wished to look at her, but did not.

"I have sometimes been repelled by a feeling of the same kind," he answered. "Not that I myself ever thought of it as a reality, but I have felt angry and miserable in remembering that a great part of the world does. You see the pretty girl there, with her father. I noticed her awed face as I passed, and heard a word or two of the man's, which told me that from them there was no question of art. Poor child! I should have liked to pat her hand, and tell her to be good and have no fear."

"Did Michael Angelo believe it?" Miriam asked diffidently, when she had glanced with anxious eyes at the pair of whom he spoke.

"I suppose so. And yet I am far from sure. What about Dante? Haven't you sometimes stumbled over his grave assurances that this and that did really befall him? Putting aside the feeble notion that he was a deluded visionary, how does one reconcile the artist's management of his poem with the Christian's stem faith? In any case, he was more poet than Christian when he wrote. Milton makes no such claims; he merely prays for the enlightenment of his imagination."

Miriam turned from the great fresco, and again gazed at the Sibyls and Prophets.

"Do the Stanze interest you?" was Mallard's next question.

"Very little, I am sorry to say. They soon weary me."

"And the Loggia?"

"I never paid much attention to it."

"That surprises me. Those little pictures are my favourites of all Raphael's work. For those and the Psyche, I would give everything else."

Miriam looked at him inquiringly.

"Are you again thinking of the subjects?" he asked.

"Yes. I can't help it. I have avoided them, because I knew how impossible it was for me to judge them only as art."

"Then you have the same difficulty with nearly all Italian pictures?"

She hesitated; but, without turning her eyes to him, said at length:

"I can't easily explain to you the distinction there is for me between the Old Testament and the New. I was taught almost exclusively out of the Old-at least, it seems so to me. I have had to study the New for myself, and it helps rather than hinders my enjoyment of pictures taken from it. The religion of my childhood was one of bitterness and violence and arbitrary judgment and hatred."

"Ah, but there is quite another side to the Old Testament-those parts of it, at all events, that are illustrated up in the Loggia. Will you come up there with me?"

She rose without speaking. They left the chapel, and ascended the stairs.

"You are not under the impression," he said, with a smile, as they walked side by side, "that the Old Testament is responsible for those horrors we have just been speaking of?"

"They are in that spirit. My reading of the New omits everything of the kind."

"So does mine. But we have no justification."

"We can select what is useful to us, and reject what does harm."

"Yes; but then-"

He did not finish the sentence, and they went into the pictured Loggia. Here, choosing out his favourites, Mallard endeavoured to explain all his joy in them. He showed her how it was Hebrew history made into a series of exquisite and touching legends; he dwelt on the sweet, idyllic treatment, the lovely landscape, the tender idealism throughout, the perfect adaptedness of gem-like colouring.

Miriam endeavoured to see with his eyes, but did not pretend to be wholly successful. The very names were discordant to her ear.

"I will buy some photographs of them to take away," she said.

"Don't do that; they are useless. Colour and design are here inseparable."

They stayed not more than half an hour; then left the Vatican together, and walked to the front of St. Peter's in silence. Mallard looked at his watch.

"You are going back to the hotel?"

"I suppose so."

"Shall I call one of those carriages?-I am going to have a walk on to the Janiculum."

She glanced at the sky.

"There will be a fine view to-day."

"You wouldn't care to come so far?"

"Yes, I should enjoy the walk."

"To walk? It would tire you too much."

"Oh no!" replied Miriam, looking away and smiling. "You mustn't think I am what I was that winter at Naples. I can walk a good many miles, and only feel better for it."

Her tone amused him, for it became something like that of a child in self-defence when accused of some childlike incapacity.

"Then let us go, by all means."

They turned into the Borgo San Spirito, and then went by the quiet Longara. Mallard soon found that it was necessary to moderate his swinging stride. He was not in the habit of walking with ladies, and he felt ashamed of himself when a glance told him that his companion was put to overmuch exertion. The glance led him to observe Miriam's gait; its grace and refinement gave him a sudden sensation of keen pleasure. He thought, without wishing to do so, of Cecily; her matchless, maidenly charm in movement was something of quite another kind. Mrs. Baske trod the common earth, yet with, it seemed to him, a dignity that distinguished her from ordinary women.

There had been silence for a long time. They were alike in the custom of forgetting what had last been said, or how long since.

"Do you care for sculpture?" Mallard asked, led to the inquiry by his thoughts of form and motion.

"Yes; but not so much as for painting."

He noticed a reluctance in her voice, and for a moment was quite unconscious of the reason for it. But reflection quickly explained her slight embarrassment.

"Edward makes it one of his chief studies," she added at once, looking straight before her. "He has told me what to read about it."

Mallard let the subject fall. But presently they passed a yoke of oxen drawing a cart, and, as he paused to look at them, he said:

"Don't you like to watch those animals? I can never be near them without stopping. Look at their grand heads, their horns, their majestic movement! They always remind me of the antique-of splendid power fixed in marble, These are the kind of oxen that Homer saw, and Virgil."

Miriam gazed, but said nothing.

"Does your silence mean that you can't sympathize with me?"

"No. It means that you have given me a new way of looking at a thing; and I have to think."

She paused; then, with a curious inflection of her voice, as though she were not quite certain of the tone she wished to strike, whether playful or sarcastic:

"You wouldn't prefer me to make an exclamation?"

He laughed.

"Decidedly not. If you were accustomed to do so, I should not be expressing my serious thoughts."

The pleasant mood continued with him, and, a smile still on his face, he asked presently:

"Do you remember telling me that you thought I was wasting my life on futilities?"

Miriam flushed, and for an instant he thought he had offended her. But her reply corrected this impression.

"You admitted, I think, that there was much to be said for my view."

"Did I? Well, so there is. But the same conviction may be reached by very different paths. If we agreed in that one result, I fancy it was the sole and singular point of concord."

Miriam inquired diffidently:

"Do you still think of most things just as you did then?"

"Of most things, yes."

"You have found no firmer hope in which to work?"

"Hope? I am not sure that I understand you."

He looked her in the face, and she said hurriedly:

"Are you still as far as ever from satisfying yourself? Does your work bring you nothing but a comparative satisfaction?"

"I am conscious of having progressed an inch or two on the way of infinity," Mallard replied. "That brings me no nearer to an end."

"But you have a purpose; you follow it steadily. It is much to be able to say that."

"Do you mean it for consolation?"

"Not in any sense that you need resent," Miriam gave answer, a little coldly.

"I felt no resentment. But I should like to know what sanction of a life's effort you look for, now? We talked once, perhaps you remember, of one kind of work being 'higher' than another. How do you think now on that subject?"

She made delay before saying:

"It is long since I thought of it at all. I have been too busy learning the simplest things to trouble about the most difficult."

"To learn, then, has been your object all this time. Let me question you in turn. Do you find it all-sufficient?"

"No; because I have begun too late. I am doing now what I ought to have done when I was a girl, and I have always the feeling of being behindhand."

"But the object, in itself, quite apart from your progress? Is it enough to study a variety of things, and feel that you make some progress towards a possible ideal of education? Does this suffice to your life?"

She answered confusedly:

"I can't know yet; I can't see before me clearly enough."

Mallard was on the point of pressing the question, but he refrained, and shaped his thought in a different way.

"Do you think of remaining in England?"

"Probably I shall."

"You will return to your home in Lancashire?"

"I haven't yet determined," she replied formally.

The dialogue seemed to be at an end. Unobservant of each other, they reached the Via Crucis, which leads up to S. Pietro in Montorio. Arrived at the terrace, they stood to look down on Rome.

"After all, you are tired," said Mallard, when he had glanced at her.

"Indeed I am not."

"But you are hungry. We have been forgetting that it is luncheon-time."

"I pay little attention to such hours. One can always get something to eat."

"It's all very well for people like myself to talk in that way," said Mallard, with a smile, "but women have orderly habits of life."

"For which you a little despise them?" she returned, with grave face fixed on the landscape.

"Certainly not. It's only that I regard their life as wholly different from my own. Since I was a boy, I have known nothing of domestic regularity."

"You sometimes visit your relatives?"

"Yes. But their life cannot be mine. It is domestic in such a degree that it only serves to remind me how far apart I am."

"Do you hold that an artist cannot live like other people, in the habits of home?"

"I think such habits are a danger to him. He may find a home, if fate is exceptionally kind."

Pointing northwards to a ridged hill on the horizon, he asked in another voice if she knew its name.

"You mean Mount Soracte?"

"Yes. You don't know Latin, or it would make you quote Horace."

She shook her head, looked down, and spoke more humbly than he had ever yet heard her.

"But I know it in an English translation."

"Well, that's more than most women do."

He said it in a grudging way. The remark itself was scarcely civil, but he seemed all at once to have a pleasure in speaking roughly, in reminding her of her shortcomings. Miriam turned her eyes in another quarter, and presently pointed to the far blue hills just seen between the Alban and the Sabine ranges.

"Through there is the country of the Volsci," she said, in a subdued voice. "Some Roman must have stood here and looked towards it, in days when Rome was struggling for supremacy with them. Think of all that happened between that day and the time when Horace saw the snow on Soracte; and then, of all that has happened since."

He watched her face, and nodded several times. They pursued the subject, and reminded each other of what the scene suggested, point by point. Mallard felt surprise, though he showed none. Cecily, standing here, would have spoken with more enthusiasm, but it was doubtful whether she would have displaye

d Miriam's accuracy of knowledge.

"Well, let us go," he said at length. "You don't insist on walking home?"

"There is no need to, I think. I could quite well, if I wished."

"I am going to run through a few of the galleries for a morning or two. I wonder whether you would care to come with me to-morrow?"

"I will come with pleasure."

"That is how people speak when they don't like to refuse a troublesome invitation."

"Then what am I to say? I spoke the truth, in quite simple words."

"I suppose it was your tone; you seemed too polite."

"But what is your objection to politeness?" Miriam asked naively.

"Oh, I have none, when it is sincere. But as soon as I had asked you, I felt afraid that I was troublesome."

"If I had felt that, I should have expressed it unmistakably," she replied, in a voice which reminded him of the road from Baiae to Naples.

"Thank you; that is what I should wish."

Having found a carriage for her, and made an appointment for the morning, he watched her drive away.

A few hours later, he encountered Spence in the Piazza Colonna, and they went together into a caffe. Spence had the news that Mrs. Lessingham and her niece would arrive on the third day from now. Their stay would be of a fortnight at longest.

"I met Mrs. Baske at the Vatican this morning," said Mallard presently, as he knocked the ash off his cigar. "We had some talk."

"On Vatican subjects?"

"Yes. I find her views of art somewhat changed. But sculpture still alarms her."

"Still? Do you suppose she will ever overcome that feeling? Are you wholly free from it yourself? Imagine yourself invited to conduct a party of ladies through the marbles, and to direct their attention to the merits that strike you."

"No doubt I should invent an excuse. But it would be weakness."

"A weakness inseparable from our civilization. The nude in art is an anachronism."

"Pooh! That is encouraging the vulgar prejudice."

"No; it is merely stating a vulgar fact. These collections of nude figures in marble have only an historical interest. They are kept out of the way, in places which no one is obliged to visit. Modern work of that kind is tolerated, nothing more. What on earth is the good of an artistic production of which people in general are afraid to speak freely? You take your stand before the Venus of the Capitol; you bid the attendant make it revolve slowly, and you begin a lecture to your wife, your sister, or your young cousin, on the glories of the masterpiece. You point out in detail how admirably Praxiteles has exhibited every beauty of the female frame. Other ladies are standing by you smile blandly, and include them in your audience."

Mallard interrupted with a laugh.

"Well, why not?" continued the other. "This isn't the gabinetto at Naples, surely?"

"But you are well aware that, practically, it comes to the same thing. How often is one half pained, half amused, at the behaviour of women in the Tribune at Florence! They are in a false position; it is absurd to ridicule them for what your own sensations justify. For my own part, I always leave my wife and Mrs. Baske to go about these galleries without my company. If I can't be honestly at my ease, I won't make pretence of being so."

"All this is true enough, but the prejudice is absurd. We ought to despise it and struggle against it."

"Despise it, many of us do, theoretically. But to make practical demonstrations against it, is to oppose, as I said, all the civilization of our world. Perhaps there will come a time once more when sculpture will be justified; at present the art doesn't and can't exist. Its relics belong to museums-in the English sense of the word."

"You only mean by this," said Mallard, "that art isn't for the multitude. We know that well enough."

"But there's a special difficulty about this point. We come across it in literature as well. How is it that certain pages in literature, which all intellectual people agree in pro flouncing just as pure as they are great, could never be read aloud, say, in a family circle, without occasioning pain and dismay? No need to give illustrations; they occur to you in abundance. We skip them, or we read mutteringly, or we say frankly that this is not adapted for reading aloud. Yet no man would frown if he found his daughter bent over the book. There's something radically wrong here."

"This is the old question of our English Puritanism. In France, here in Italy, there is far less of such feeling."

"Far less; but why must there be any at all? And Puritanism isn't a sufficient explanation. The English Puritans of the really Puritan time had freedom of conversation which would horrify us of to-day. We become more and more prudish as what we call civilization advances. It is a hateful fact that, from the domestic point of view, there exists no difference between some of the noblest things in art and poetry, and the obscenities which are prosecuted; the one is as impossible of frank discussion as the other."

"The domestic point of view is contemptible. It means the bourgeois point of view, the Philistine point of view."

"Then I myself, if I had children, should be both bourgeois and Philistine. And so, I have a strong suspicion, would you too."

"Very well," replied Mallard, with some annoyance, "then it is one more reason why an artist should have nothing to do with domesticities. But look here, you are wrong as regards me. If ever I marry, amico mio, my wife shall learn to make more than a theoretical distinction between what is art and what is grossness. If ever I have children, they shall from the first he taught a natural morality, and not the conventional. If I can afford good casts of noble statues, they shall stand freely about my house. When I read aloud, by the fire side, there shall be no skipping or muttering or frank omissions; no, by Apollo! If a daughter of mine cannot describe to me the points of difference between the Venus of the Capitol and that of the Medici, she shall be bidden to use her eyes and her brains better. I'll have no contemptible prudery in my house!"

"Bravissimo!" cried Spenee, laughing. "I see that my cousin Miriam is not the only person who has progressed during these years. Do you remember a certain conversation of ours at Posillipo about the education of a certain young lady?"

"Yes, I do. But that was a different matter. The question was not of Greek statues and classical books, but of modern pruriencies and shallowness and irresponsibility."

"You exaggerated then, and you do so now," said Spence; "at present with less excuse."

Mallard kept silence for a space; then said:

"Let us speak of what we have been avoiding. How has that marriage turned out?"

"I have told you all I know. There's no reason to suppose that things are anything but well."

"I don't like her coming abroad alone; I have no faith in that plea of work. I suspect things are not well."

"A cynic-which I am not-would suggest that a wish had something to do with the thought."

"He would be cynically wrong," replied Mallard, with calmness.

"Why shouldn't she come abroad alone? There's nothing alarming in the fact that they no longer need to see each other every hour. And one takes for granted that they, at all events, are not bourgeois; their life won't be arranged exactly like that of Mr. and Mrs. Jones the greengrocers."

"No," said the other, musingly.

"In what direction do you imagine that Cecily will progress? Possibly she has become acquainted with disillusion."


"Well, take it for certain. Isn't that an inevitable step in her education? Things may still be well enough, philosophically speaking. She has her life to live-we know it will be to the end a modern life. Servetur ad imum-and so on; that's what one would wish, I suppose? We have no longer to take thought for her."

"But we are allowed to wish the best."

"What is the best?" said Spenee, sustaining his tone of impartial speculation. "Are you quite sure that Mr. and Mrs. Jones are not too much in your mind?"

"Whatever modern happiness may mean, I am inclined to think that modern unhappiness is not unlike that of old-fashioned people."

"My dear fellow, you are a halter between two opinions. You can't make up your mind in which direction to look. You are a sort of Janus, with anxiety on both faces."

"There's a good deal of truth in that," admitted the artist, with a growl.

"Get on with your painting, and whatever else of practical you have in mind. Leave philosophy to men of large leisure and placid pulses, like myself. Accept the inevitable."

"I do so."

"But not with modern detachment," said Spence, smiling.

"Be hanged with your modernity! I believe myself distinctly the more modern of the two."

"Not with regard to women. When you marry, you will be a rigid autocrat, and make no pretence about it. You don't think of women as independent beings, who must save or lose themselves on their own responsibility. You are not willing to trust them alone."

"Well, perhaps you are right."

"Of course I am. Come and dine at the hotel. I think Seaborne will be there."

"No, thank you."

Mallard had waited but a few minutes in the court of the Palazzo Borghese next morning, when Miriam joined him. There was some constraint on both sides. Miriam looked as if she did not wish yesterday's conversation to be revived in their manner of meeting. Her "Good-morning, Mr. Mallard," had as little reference as possible to the fact of this being an appointment. The artist was in quite another mood than that of yesterday; his smile was formal, and he seemed indisposed for conversation.

"I have the permesso," he said, leading at once to the door of the gallery.

They sauntered about the first room, exchanging a few idle remarks. In the second, a woman past the prime of life was copying a large picture. They looked at her work from a distance, and Miriam asked if it was well done.

"What do you think yourself?" asked Mallard.

"It seems to me skilful and accurate, but I know that perhaps it is neither one nor the other."

He pointed out several faults, which she at once recognized.

"I wonder I could not see them at first That confirms me in distrust of myself. I am as likely as not to admire a thing that is utterly worthless."

"As likely as not-no; at least, I think not. But of course your eye is untrained, and you have no real knowledge to go upon. You can judge an original picture sentimentally, and your sentiment will not be wholly misleading. You can't judge a copy technically, but I think you have more than average observation. How would you like to spend your life like this copyist?"

"I would give my left hand to have her skill in my right."

"You would?"

"I should be able to do something-something definite and tolerably good."

"Why, so you can already; one thing in particular."

"What is that?"

"Learn your own deficiencies; a thing that most people neither will nor can. Look at this Francia, and tell me your thoughts about it."

She examined the picture for a minute or two. Then, without moving her eyes, she murmured:

"I can say nothing that is worth saying."

"Never mind. Say what you think, or what you feel."

"Why should you wish me to talk commonplace?"

"That is precisely what I don't wish you to talk. You know what is commonplace, and therefore you can avoid it. Never mind his school or his date. What did the man want to express here, and how far do you think he has succeeded? That's the main thing; I wish a few critics would understand it."

Miriam obeyed him, and said what she had to say diffidently, but in clear terms. Mallard was silent when she ceased, and she looked up at him. He rewarded her with a smile, and one or two nods-as his manner was.

"I have not made myself ridiculous?"

"I think not."

They had walked on a little, when Mallard said to her unexpectedly:

"Please to bear in mind that I make no claim to infallibility. I am a painter of landscape; out of my own sphere, I become an amateur. You are not bound to accept my judgment."

"Of course not," she replied simply.

"It occurred to me that I had been rather dictatorial."

"So you have, Mr. Mallard," she returned, looking at a picture.

"I am sorry. It's the failing of men who have often to be combative, and who live much in solitude. I will try to use a less offensive tone."

"I didn't mean that your tone was in the least offensive."

"A more polite tone, then-as you taught me yesterday."

"I had rather you spoke just as is natural to you."

Mallard laughed.

"Politeness is not natural to me, I admit. I am horribly uncomfortable whenever I have to pick my words out of regard to polite people. That is why I shun what is called society. What little I have seen of it has been more than enough for me."

"I have seen still less of it; but I understand your dislike."

"Before you left home, didn't you associate a great deal with people?"

"People of a certain kind," she replied coldly. "It was not society as you mean it."

"You will be glad to mix more freely with the world, when you are back in England?"

"I can't tell. By whom is that Madonna?"

Thus they went slowly on, until they came to the little hall where the fountain plays, and whence is the outlook over the Tiber. It was delightful to sit here in the shadows, made cooler and fresher by that plashing water, and to see the glorious sunlight gleam upon the river's tawny flow.

"Each time that I have been in Rome," said Mallard, "I have felt, after the first few days, a peculiar mental calm. The other cities of Italy haven't the same effect on me. Perhaps every one experiences it, more or less. There comes back to me at moments the kind of happiness which I knew as a boy-a freedom from the sense of duties and responsibilities, of work to be done, and of disagreeable things to be faced; the kind of contentment I used to have when I was reading lives of artists, or looking at prints of famous pictures, or myself trying to draw. It is possible that this mood is not such a strange one with many people as with me, when it comes, I feel grateful to the powers that rule life Since boyhood, I have never known it in the north. Out of Rome, perhaps only in fine weather on the Mediterranean. But in Rome is its perfection."

"I thought you preferred the north," said Miriam.

"Because I so often choose to work there? I can do better work when I take subjects in wild scenery and stern climates, but when my thoughts go out for pleasure, they choose Italy. I don't enjoy myself in the Hebrides or in Norway, but what powers I have are all brought out there. Here I am not disposed to work. I want to live, and I feel that life can be a satisfaction in itself without labour. I am naturally the idlest of men. Work is always pain to me. I like to dream pictures; but it's terrible to drag myself before the blank canvas."

Miriam gazed at the Tiber.

"Do these palaces," he asked, "ever make you wish you owned them? Did you ever imagine yourself walking among the marbles and the pictures with the sense of this being your home?"

"I have wondered what that must be. But I never wished it had fallen to my lot."

"No? You are not ambitious?"

"Not in that way. To own a palace such as this would make one insignificant."

"That is admirably true! I should give it away, to recover self-respect. Shakespeare or Michael Angelo might live here and make it subordinate to him; I should be nothing but the owner of the palace. You like to feel your individuality?"

"Who does not?"

"In you, I think, it is strong."

Miriam smiled a little, as if she liked the compliment. Before either spoke again, other visitors came to look at the view, and disturbed them.

"I shan't ask you to come anywhere to-morrow," said Mallard, when they had again talked for awhile of pictures. "And the next day Mrs. Elgar will be here."

She looked at him.

"That wouldn't prevent me from going to a gallery-if you thought of it."

"You will have much to talk of. And your stay in Rome won't be long after that."

Miriam made no reply.

"I wish your brother had been coming," he went on. "I should have liked to hear from him about the book he is writing."

"Shall you not be in London before long?" she asked, without show of much interest.

"I think so, but I have absolutely no plans. Probably it is raining hard in England, or even snowing. I must enjoy the sunshine a little longer. I hope your health won't suffer from the change of climate."

"I hope not," she answered mechanically.

"Perhaps you will find you can't live there?"

"What does it matter? I have no ties."

"No, you are independent; that is a great blessing."

Chatting as if of indifferent things, they left the gallery.

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