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The Emancipated By George Gissing Characters: 36418

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04

He had taken leave of the Spences and Mrs. Baske, yet was not sure that he should go. He had said good-bye to Mrs. Lessingham and to Cecily herself, yet made no haste to depart. It drew on to evening, and he sat idly in his room in Casa Rolandi, looking at his traps half packed. Then of a sudden up he started. "Imbecile! Insensate! I give you fifteen minutes to be on your way to the station. Miss the next train-and sink to the level of common men!" Shirts, socks-straps, locks; adieux, tips-horses, whips! Clatter through the Piazzetta Mondragone; down at breakneck speed to the Toledo; across the Piazza del Municipio; a good-bye to the public scriveners sitting at their little tables by the San Carlo; sharp round the corner, and along by the Porto Grande with its throng of vessels. All the time he sings a tune to himself, caught up in the streets of the tuneful city; an air lilting to the refrain-

"Io ti voglio bene assaje

E tu non pienz' a me!"

Just after nightfall he alighted from the train at Pompeii. Having stowed away certain impedimenta at the station, he took his travelling-bag in his hand, broke with small ceremony through porters and hotel-touts, came forth upon the high-road, and stepped forward like one to whom the locality is familiar. In a minute or two he was overtaken by a little lad, who looked up at him and said in an insinuating voice, "Albergo del Sole, signore?"

"Prendi, bambino," was Mallard's reply, as he handed the bag to him. "Avanti!"

A divine evening, softly warm, dim-glimmering. The dusty road ran on between white trunks of plane-trees; when the station and the houses near it were left behind, no other building came in view. To the left of the road, hidden behind its long earth-rampart, lay the dead city; far beyond rose the dark shape of Vesuvius, crested with beacon-glow, a small red fire, now angry, now murky, now for a time extinguished. The long rumble of the train died away, and there followed silence absolute, scarcely broken for a few minutes by a peasant singing in the distance, the wailing song so often heard in the south of Italy. Silence that was something more than the wonted soundlessness of night; the haunting oblivion of a time long past, a melancholy brooding voiceless upon the desolate home of forgotten generations.

A walk of ten minutes, and there shone light from windows. The lad ran forward and turned in at the gate of a garden; Mallard followed, and approached some persons who were standing at an open door. He speedily made arrangements for his night's lodging, saw his room, and went to the quarter of the inn where dinner was already in progress. This was a building to itself, at one side of the garden. Through the doorway he stepped immediately into a low-roofed hall, where a number of persons sat at table. Pillars supported the ceiling in the middle, and the walls were in several places painted with heads or landscapes, the work of artists who had made their abode here; one or two cases with glass doors showed relics of Pompeii.

Elgar was one of the company. When he became aware of Mallard's arrival, he stood up with a cry of "All hail!" and pointed to a seat near him.

"I began to be afraid you wouldn't come this evening. Try the risotto; it's excellent. Ye gods! what an appetite I had when I sat down! To-day have I ascended Vesuvius. How many bottles of wine I drank between starting and returning I cannot compute; I never knew before what it was to be athirst. Why, their vino di Vesuvio is for all the world like cider; I thought at first I was being swindled-not an impossible thing in these regions. I must tell you a story about a party of Americans I encountered at Bosco Reale."

The guests numbered seven or eight; with one exception besides Elgar, they were Germans, all artists of one kind or another, fellows of genial appearance, loud in vivacious talk. The exception was a young Englishman, somewhat oddly dressed, and with a great quantity of auburn hair that rolled forward upon his distinguished brow. At a certain pension on the Mergellina he was well known. He sat opposite Elgar, and had been in conversation with him.

Mallard cared little what he ate, and ate little of any thing. Neither was he in the mood for talk; but Elgar, who had finished his solid meal, and now amused himself with grapes (in two forms), spared him the necessity of anything but an occasional monosyllable. The young man was elated, and grew more so as he proceeded with his dessert; his cheeks were deeply flushed; his eyes gleamed magnificently.

In the meantime Clifford Marsh had joined in conversation with the Germans; his use of their tongue was far from idiomatic, but by sheer determination to force a way through linguistic obstacles, he talked with a haphazard fluency which was amusing enough. No false modesty imposed a check upon his eloquence. It was to the general table that he addressed himself on the topic that had arisen; in an English dress his speech ran somewhat as follows:-

"Gentlemen, allow me to say that I have absolutely no faith in the future of which you speak! It is my opinion that democracy is the fatal enemy of art. How can you speak of ancient and mediaeval states? Neither in Greece nor in Italy was there ever what we understand by a democracy."

"Factisch! Der Herr hat Recht!" cried some one, and several other voices strove to make themselves heard; but the orator raised his note and overbore interruption.

"You must excuse me, gentlemen, if I say that-however it may be from other points of view-from the standpoint of art, democracy is simply the triumph of ignorance and brutality." ("Gewisz!"-"Nimmermehr!"-"Vortrefflich!") "I don't care to draw distinctions between forms of the thing. Socialism, communism, collectivism, parliamentarism,-all these have one and the same end: to put men on an equality; and in proportion as that end is approached, so will art in every shape languish. Art, gentlemen, is nourished upon inequalities and injustices!" ("Ach!"-"Wie kann man so etwas sagen!"-"Hoch! verissime!") "I am not representing this as either good or bad. It may be well that justice should be established, even though art perish. I simply state a fact!" ("Doch!"-"Erlauben Sie!") "Supremacy of the vulgar interest means supremacy of ignoble judgment in all matters of mind. See what plutocracy already makes of art!"

Here one of the Germans insisted on a hearing; a fine fellow, with Samsonic locks and a ringing voice.

"Sir! sir! who talks of a genuine democracy with mankind in its present state? Before it comes about, the multitude will be instructed, exalted, emancipated, humanized!"

"Sir!" shouted Marsh, "who talks of the Millennium? I speak of things possible within a few hundred years. The multitude will never be humanized. Civilization is attainable only by the few; nature so ordains it."

"Pardon me for saying that is a lie! I use the word controversially."

"It is a manifest truth!" cried the other. "Who ever doubted it but a Dummkopf? I use the word with reference to this argument only."

So it went on for a long time. Mallard and Elgar knew no German, so could derive neither pleasure nor profit from the high debate.

"Are you as glum here as in London?" Reuben asked of his companion, in a bantering voice. "I should have pictured you grandly jovial, wreathed perhaps with ruddy vine-leaves, the light of inspiration in your eye, and in your hand a mantling goblet! Drink, man, drink! you need a stimulant, an exhilarant, an anti-phlegmatic, a counter-irritant against English spleen. You are still on the other side of the Alps, of the Channel; the fogs yet cling about you. Clear your brow, O painter of Ossianic wildernesses! Taste the foam of life! We are in the land of Horace, and nunc est bibendum!-Seriously, do you never relax?"

"Oh yes. You should see me over the fifth tumbler of whiskey at Stornoway."

"Bah! you might as well say the fifth draught of fish-oil North Cape. How innocent this wine is! A gallon of it would give one no more than a pleasant glow, the faculty of genial speech. Take a glass with me to the health of your enchanting ward."

"Please to command your tongue," growled Mallard, with a look that was not to be mistaken.

"I beg your pardon. It shall be to the health of that superb girl we saw in the Mercato. But, as far as I can judge yet, the Neapolitan type doesn't appeal to me very strongly. It is finely animal, and of course that has its value; but I prefer the suggestion of a soul, don't you? I remember a model old Langton had in Rome, a girl fresh from the mountains; by Juno! a glorious creature! I dare say you have seen her portrait in his studio; he likes to show it. But it does her nothing like justice; she might have sat for the genius of the Republic. Utterly untaught, and intensely stupid; but there were marvellous things to be read in her face. Ah, but give me the girls of Venice! You know them, how they walk about the piazza; their tall, lithe forms, the counterpart of the gondolier; their splendid black hair, elaborately braided and pierced with large ornaments; their noble, aristocratic, grave features; their long shawls! What natural dignity! What eloquent eyes! I like to imagine them profoundly intellectual, which they are unhappily not."

Marsh had withdrawn from colloquy with the Germans, and kept glancing across the table at his compatriots, obviously wishing that he might join them. Mallard, upon whom Elgar's excited talk jarred more and more, noticed the stranger's looks, and at length leaned forward to speak to him.

"As usual, we are in a minority among the sun-worshippers."

"Sun-worshippers! Good!" laughed the other. "Yes, I have never met more than one or two chance Englishmen at the 'Sole.'"

"But you are at your case with our friends there.-I think you know as little German as I do, Elgar?"

"Devilish bad at languages! To tell you the truth, I can't endure the sense of inferiority one has in beginning to smatter with foreigners. I read four or five, but avoid speaking as much as possible."

Marsh took an early opportunity of alluding to the argument in which he had recently taken part. The subject was resumed. At Elgar's bidding the waiter had brought cigars, and things looked comfortable; the Germans talked with more animation than ever.

"One of the worst evils of democracy in England," said Reuben, forcibly, "is its alliance with Puritan morality."

"Oh, that is being quickly outgrown," cried Marsh. "Look at the spread of rationalism."

"You take it for granted that Puritanism doesn't survive religious dogma? Believe me, you are greatly mistaken. I am sorry to say I have a large experience in this question. The mass of the English people have no genuine religious belief, but none the less they are Puritans in morality. The same applies to the vastly greater part of those who even repudiate Christianity."

"One must take account of the national hypocrisy," remarked the younger man, with an air of superiority, shaking his head as his habit was.

"It's a complicated matter. The representative English bourgeois is a hypocrite in essence, but is perfectly serious in his judgment of the man next door; and the latter characteristic has more weight than the former in determining his life. Puritanism has aided the material progress of England; but its effect on art! But for it, we should have a school of painters corresponding in greatness to the Elizabethan dramatists. Depend upon it, the democracy will continue to be Puritan. Every picture, every book, will be tried by the same imbecile test Enforcement of Puritan morality will be one of the ways in which the mob, come to power, will revenge itself on those who still remain its superiors."

Marsh was not altogether pleased at finding his facile eloquence outdone. In comparing himself with Elgar, he was conscious of but weakly representing the tendencies which were a passionate force in this man with the singularly fine head, with such a glow of wild life about him. He abandoned the abstract argument, and struck a personal note.

"However it may be in the future, I grant you the artist has at present no scope save in one direction. For my own part, I have fallen back on landscape. Let those who will, paint Miss Wilhelmina in the nursery, with an interesting doll of her own size; or a member of Parliament rising to deliver a great speech on the liquor traffic; or Mrs. What-do-you-call-her, lecturing on woman's rights. These are the subjects our time affords."

Mallard eyed with fresh curiosity the gentleman who had "fallen back on landscape."

"What did you formerly aim at?" he inquired, with a sort of suave gruffness.

"Things which were hopelessly out of the question. I worked for a long time at a 'Death of Messalina.' That was in Rome. I had a splendid inspiration for Messalina's face. But my hand was paralyzed when I thought of the idiotic comments such a picture would occasion in England. One fellow would say I had searched through history in a prurient spirit for something sensational; another, that I read a moral lesson of terrible significance; and so on."

"A grand subject, decidedly!" exclaimed Elgar, with genuine enthusiasm, which restored Marsh to his own good opinion. "Go on with it! Bid the fools be hanged! Have you your studies here?"

"Unfortunately not. They are in Rome."

Mallard delivered himself of a blunt opinion.

"That is no subject for a picture. Use it for literature, if you like."

The inevitable discussion began, the discussion so familiar nowadays, and which would have sounded so odd to the English painters who were wont to call themselves "historical," Where is the line between subjects for the easel and subjects for the desk? What distinguishes the art of the illustrator from the art of the artist?

That was a great evening round the table at the Albergo del Sole. How gloriously the air thickened with tobacco-smoke! What removal of empty bottles and replacing them with full! The Germans were making it a set Kneipe; the Englishmen, unable to drink quite so heroically, were scarce behind in vehemence of debate. Mallard, grimly accepting the help of wine against his inner foes, at length earned Elgar's approval; he had relaxed indeed, and was no longer under the oppression of English fog. But with him such moods were of brief duration; he suddenly quitted the table, and went out into the night air.

The late moon was rising, amber-coloured on a sky of dusky azure. He walked from the garden, across the road, and towards the ruins of the Amphitheatre, which lie some distance apart from the Pompeian streets that have been unearthed; he passed beneath an arch, and stood looking down into the dark hollow so often thronged with citizens of Latin speech. Small wonder that Benvenuto's necromancer could evoke his myriads of flitting ghosts in the midnight Colosseum; here too it needed but to stand for a few minutes in the dead stillness, and the air grew alive with mysterious presences, murmurous with awful whisperings. Mallard enjoyed it for awhile, but at length turned away abruptly, feeling as if a cold hand had touched him.

As he re-entered the inn-precincts, he heard voices still uproarious in the dining-room; but he had no intention of going among them again. His bedroom was one of a row which opened immediately upon the garden. He locked himself in, went to bed, but did not sleep for a long time. A wind was rising, and a branch of a tree constantly tapped against the pane. It might have been some centuries-dead inhabitant of Pompeii trying to deliver a message from the silent world.

The breakfast-party next morning lacked vivacity. Clifford Marsh was mute and dolorous of aspect; no doubt his personal embarrassments were occupying him. Yesterday's wine had become his foe, instead of an ally urging him to dare all in the cause of "art." He consumed his coffee and roll in the manner of ordinary mortals, not once flourishing his dainty hand or shaking his ambrosial hair. Elgar was very stiff from his ascent of Vesuvius, and he too found that "the foam of life" had an unpleasant after-taste, suggestive of wrecked fortunes and a dubious future. Mallard was only a little gruffer than his wonted self.

"I am going on at once to Sorrento," he said, meeting Elgar afterwards in the garden. "To-morrow I shall cross over the hills to Positano and Amalfi. Suppose you come with me?"

The other hesitated.

"You mean you are going to walk?"

"No. I have traps to carry on from the station. We should have a carriage to Sorrento, and to-morrow a donkey for the baggage."

They paced about, hands in pockets. It was a keen morning; the tramontana blew blusterously, causing the smoke of Vesuvius to lie all down its long slope, a dense white cloud, or a vast turbid torrent, breaking at the foot into foam and spray. The clearness of the air was marvellous. Distance seemed to have no power to dim the details of the landscape. The Apennines glistened with new-fallen snow.

"I hadn't thought of going any further just now," said Elgar, who seemed to have a difficulty in simply declining the invitation, as he wished to do.

"What should you do, then?"

"Spend another day here, I think,-I've only had a few hours among the ruins, you know,-and then go back to Naples."

"What to do there?" asked Mallard, bluntly.

"Give a little more time to the museum, and see more of the surroundings."

"Better come on with me. I shall be glad of your company."

It was said with decision, but scarcely with heartiness. Elgar looked about him vaguely.

"To tell you the truth," he said at last, "I don't care to incur much expense."

"The expenses of what I propose are trivial."

"My traps are at Naples, and I have kept the room there. No, I don't see my way to it, Mallard."

"All right."

The artist turned away. He walked about the road for ten minutes.- Very well; then he too would return to Naples. Why? What was altered? Even if Elgar accompanied him to Amalfi, it would only be for a few days; ther

e was no preventing the fellow's eventual return-his visits to the villa, perhaps to Mrs. Gluck's. Again imbecile and insensate What did it all matter?

He stopped short. He would sit down and write a letter to Mrs. Baske.-A pretty complication, that! What grounds for such a letter as he meditated?

The devil! Had he not a stronger will than Reuben Elgar? If he wished to carry a point with such a weakling, was he going to let himself be thwarted? Grant it was help only for a few days, no matter; Elgar should go with him.

He walked back to the garden. Good; there the fellow loitered, obviously irresolute.

"Elgar, you'd better come, after all," he said, with a grim smile. "I want to have some talk with you. Let us pay our shot, and walk on to the station."

"What kind of talk, Mallard?"

"Various. Get whatever you have to carry; I'll see to the bill."

"But how can I go on without a shirt?"

"I have shirts in abundance. A truce to your obstacles. March!"

And before very long they were side by side in the vehicle, speeding along the level road towards Castellammare and the mountains. This exertion of native energy had been beneficial to Mallard's temper; he talked almost genially. Elgar, too, had subdued his restiveness, and began to look forward with pleasure to the expedition.

"I only wish this wind would fall!" he exclaimed. "It's cold, and I hate a wind of any kind."

"Hate a wind? You're effeminate; you're a boulevardier. It would do you good to be pitched in a gale about the coast of Skye. A fellow of your temperament has no business in these relaxing latitudes. You want tonics."

"Too true, old man. I know myself at least as well as you know me."

"Then what a contemptible creature you must be! If a man knows his weakness, he is inexcusable for not overcoming it."

"A preposterous contradiction, allow me to say. A man is what he is, and will be ever the same. Have you no tincture of philosophy? You talk as though one could govern fate."

"And you, very much like the braying jackass in the field there."

Mallard had a savage satisfaction in breaking all bounds of civility. He overwhelmed his companion with abuse, revelled in insulting comparisons. Elgar laughed, and stretched himself on the cushions so as to avoid the wind as much as possible.

They clattered through the streets of Castellammare, pursued by urchins, crying, "Un sordo, signori!" Thence on by the seaside road to Vico Equense, Elgar every now and then shouting his ecstasy at the view. The hills on this side of the promontory climb, for the most part, softly and slowly upwards, everywhere thickly clad with olives and orange-trees, fig-trees and aloes. Beyond Vico comes a jutting headland; the road curves round it, clinging close on the hillside, turns inland, and all at once looks down upon the Piano di Sorrento. Instinctively, the companions rose to their feet, as though any other attitude on the first revelation of such a prospect were irreverent. It is not really a plain, but a gently rising wide and deep lap, surrounded by lofty mountains and ending at a line of sheer cliffs along the sea-front. A vast garden planted for Nature's joy; a pleasance of the gods; a haunt of the spirit of beauty set between sun-smitten crags and the enchanted shore.

"Heaven be praised that you forced me to come!" muttered Elgar, in his choking throat.

Mallard could say nothing. He had looked upon this scene before, but it affected him none the less.

They drove into the town of Tasso, and to an inn which stood upon the edge of a profound gorge, cloven towards the sea-cliffs. Sauntering in the yard whilst dinner was made ready, they read an inscription on a homely fountain:

"Sordibus abstersis, instructo marmore, priscus Fons nitet, et manat gratior unda tibi."

"Eternal gratitude to our old schoolmasters," cried Elgar, "who thrashed us through the Eton Latin grammar! What is Italy to the man who cannot share our feelings as we murmur that distich? I marvel that I was allowed to learn this heathen tongue. Had my parents known what it would mean to me, I should never have chanted my hic, haec, hoc."

He was at his best this afternoon; Mallard could scarcely identify him with the reckless, and sometimes vulgar, spendthrift who had been rushing his way to ruin in London. His talk abounded in quotation, in literary allusion, in high-spirited jest, in poetical feeling. When had he read so much? What a memory he had! In a world that consisted of but one sex, what a fine fellow he would have been!

"What do you think of my sister?" he asked, a propos of nothing, as they idled about the Capo di Sorrento and on the road to Massa.

"An absurd question."

"You mean that I cannot suppose you would tell me the truth."

"And just as little the untruth. I do not know your sister."

"We had a horrible scene that day I turned up. I behaved brutally to her, poor girl."

"I'm afraid you have often done so."

"Often. I rave at her superstition; how can she help it? But she's a good girl, and has wit enough if she might use it. Oh, if some generous, large-brained man would drag her out of that slough of despond!-What a marriage that was! Powers of darkness, what a marriage!"

Mallard was led to no question.

"I shall never understand it, never," went on Elgar, in excitement. "If you had seen that oily beast! I don't know what criterion girls have. Several of my acquaintance have made marriages that set my hair on end. Lives thrown away in accursed ignorance-that's my belief."

Mallard waited for the next words, expecting that they would torture him. There was a long pause, however, and what he awaited did not come.

"Do you hate the name Miriam, as I do?"

"Hate it, no."

"I wonder they didn't call her Keziah, and me Mephibosheth. It isn't a nice thing to detest the memory of one's parents, Mallard. It doesn't help to make one a well-balanced man. How on earth did I get my individuality? And you mustn't think that Miriam is just what she seems-I mean, there are possibilities in her; I am convinced of it."

"Did it ever occur to you that your own proceedings may have acted as a check upon those possibilities?"

"I don't know that I ever thought of it," said Elgar, ingenuously.

"You never reflected that her notion of the liberated man is yourself?"

"You are right, Mallard. I see it. What other example had she?"

They walked as far as Massa Lubrense, a little town on the steep shore; over against it the giant cliffs of Capri, every cleft and scar and jutting rock discernible through the pellucid air, every minutest ruggedness casting its clear-cut shadow. But the surpassing glory was the prospect at the Cape of Sorrento when they reached it on their walk back. Before them the entire sweep of the gulf, from Ischia to Capri; Naples in its utmost extent, an unbroken line of delicate pink, from Posillipo to Torre Annunziata. Far below their feet the little marina of Sorrento, with its row of boats drawn up on the strand; behind them noble limestone heights. The sea was foaming under the tramontana, and its foam took colour from the declining sun.

Next morning they set forth again as Mallard had proposed, their baggage packed on a donkey, a guide with them to lead the way over the mountains to the other shore. A long climb, and at the culminating point of the ridge they rested to look the last on Naples; thenceforward their faces were set to the far blue hills of Calabria.

"Yonder lies Paestum," said Mallard, pointing to the dim plain beyond the Gulf of Salerno; and his companion's eyes were agleam.

Early in the afternoon they reached the coast at Positano, and thence took boat for Amalfi. Elgar was like one possessed at his first sight of the wonderful old town, nested in its mountain gorge, overlooked by wild crags; this relic saved from the waste of mediaeval glory. When they had put up at an inn less frequented and much cheaper than the "Cappuccini," he would not rest until he had used the last hour of sunlight in clambering about the little maze of streets, or rather of mountain paths and burrows beneath houses piled one upon another indistinguishably. Forced back by hunger, he still lingered upon the window-balcony, looking' up at the hoary riven tower set high above the town on what seems an inaccessible peak, or at the cathedral and its many-coloured campanile.

How could Mallard help comparing these manifestations of ardent temper with what he had witnessed in Cecily? The resemblance was at moments more than he could endure; once or twice he astonished Elgar with a reply of unprovoked savageness. The emotions of the day, even more than its bodily exercise, had so wearied him that he went early to bed. They had a double-bedded room, and Elgar continued talking for hours. Even without this, Mallard felt that he would have been unable to sleep. To add to his torments, the clock of the cathedral, which was just on the opposite side of the street, had the terrible southern habit of striking the whole hour after the chime at each quarter; by midnight the clangour was all but incessant. Elgar sank at length into oblivion, but to his companion sleep came not. Very early in the morning there sounded the loud blast of a horn, all through the town and away into remoteness. Signify what it might, the practical result seemed to be a rousing of the population to their daily life; lively voices, the tramp of feet, the clatter of vehicles began at once, and waxed with the spread of daylight.

The sun rose, but only to gleam for an hour on clouds and vapours which it had not power to disperse. The mountain summits were hidden, and down their sides crept ominously the ragged edges of mist; a thin rain began to fall, and grew heavier as the sky dulled. Having breakfasted, the two friends spent an hour in the cathedral, which was dark and chill and gloomy. Two or three old people knelt in prayer, their heads bowed against column or wall; remarking the strangers, they came 'up to them and begged.

"My spirits are disagreeably on the ebb," said Elgar. "If it's to be a Scotch day, let us do some mountaineering."

They struck up the gorge, intending to pursue the little river, but were soon lost among ascents and descents, narrow stairs, precipitous gardens, and noisy paper-mills. Probably no unassisted stranger ever made his way out of Amalfi on to the mountain slopes. They had scorned to take a guide, but did so at length in self-defence, so pestered were they by all but every person they passed; man, woman, and child beset them for soldi, either frankly begging or offering a direction and then extending their hands. The paper-mills were not romantic; the old women who came along bending under huge bales of rags were anything but picturesque. And it rained, it rained.

Wet and weary, they had no choice but to return to the inn. Elgar's animation had given place to fretfulness; Mallard, after his miserable night, cared little to converse, and would gladly have been alone. A midday meal, with liberal supply of wine, helped them somewhat, and they sat down to smoke in their bedroom. It rained harder than ever; from the window they could see the old tower on the crag smitten with white scud.

"Come now," said Mallard, forcing himself to take a livelier tone, "tell me about those projects of yours. Are you serious in your idea of writing?"

"Perfectly serious."

"And what are you going to write?"

"That I haven't quite determined. I am revolving things. I have ideas without number."

"Too many for use, then. You need to live in some such place as this for a few weeks, and clear your thoughts. 'Company, villainous company,' is the first thing to be avoided."

"No doubt you are right"

But it was half-heartedly said, and with a restless glance towards the window. Mallard, in whose heart a sick weariness conflicted with his will and his desire, went on in a dogged way.

"I want to work here for a time." Work! The syllable was like lead upon his tongue, and the thought a desolation in his mind. "Write to your sister; get her to send your belongings from Casa Rolandi, together with a ream of scribbling-paper. I shall be out of doors most of the day, and no one will disturb you here. Use the opportunity like a man. Fall to. I have a strong suspicion that it is now or never with you."

"I doubt whether I could do anything here."

"Perhaps not on a day like this; but it is happily exceptional. Remember yesterday. Were I a penman, the view from this window in sunlight would make the ink flow nobly."

Elgar was mute for a few minutes.

"I believe I need a big town. Scenes like this dispose me to idle enjoyment. I have thought of settling in Paris for the next six months."

Mallard made a movement of irritation.

"Then why did you come here at all? You say you have no money to waste."

"Oh, it isn't quite so bad with me as all that," replied Elgar, as if he slightly resented this interference with his private affairs.

Yet he had yesterday, in the flow of his good-humour, all but confessed that it was high time he looked out for an income. Mallard examined him askance. The other, aware of this scrutiny, put on a smile, and said with an air of self-conquest:

"But you are right; I have every reason to trust your advice. I'll tell you what, Mallard. To-morrow I'll drive to Salerno, take the train to Naples, pack my traps, and relieve Miriam's mind by an assurance that I'm going to work in your company; then at once come back here."

"I don't see the need of going to Naples. Write a letter. Here's paper; here's pen and ink."

Elgar was again mute. His companion, in an access of intolerable suffering, cried out vehemently:

"Can't you see into yourself far enough to know that you are paltering with necessity? Are you such a feeble creature that you must be at the mercy of every childish whim, and ruin yourself for lack of courage to do what you know you ought to do? If instability of nature had made such work of me as it has of you, I'd cut my throat just to prove that I could at least once make my hand obey my will!"

"It would be but the final proof of weakness," replied Elgar, laughing. "Or, to be more serious, what would it prove either one way or the other? If you cut your throat, it was your destiny to do so; just as it was to commit the follies that led you there. What is all this nonsense about weak men and strong men? I act as I am bound to act; I refrain as I am bound to refrain. You know it well enough."

This repeated expression of fatalism was genuine enough. It manifested a habit of his thought. One of the characteristics of our time is that it produces men who are determinists by instinct; who, anything but profound students or subtle reasoners, catch at the floating phrases of philosophy and recognize them as the index of their being, adopt them thenceforth as clarifiers of their vague self-consciousness. In certain moods Elgar could not change from one seat to another without its being brought to his mind that he had moved by necessity.

"What if that be true?" said Mallard, with unexpected coldness. "In practice we live as though our will were free. Otherwise, why discuss anything?"

"True. This very discussion is a part of the scheme of things, the necessary antecedent of something or other in your life and mine. I shall go to Naples to-morrow; I shall spend one day there; on the day after I shall be with you again. My hand upon it, Mallard. I promise!"

He did so with energy. And for the moment Mallard was the truer fatalist.

Again they left the inn, this time going seaward. Still in rain, they walked towards Minori, along the road which is cut in the mountain-side, high above the beach. They talked about the massive strongholds which stand as monuments of the time when the coast-towns were in fear of pirates. Melancholy brooded upon land and sea; the hills of Calabria, yesterday so blue and clear, had vanished like a sunny hope.

The morrow revealed them again. But again for Mallard there had passed a night of much misery. On rising, he durst not speak, so bitter was he made by Elgar's singing and whistling. Yet he would not have cared to prevent the journey to Naples, had it been in his power. He was sick of Elgar's company; he wished for solitude. When his eyes fell on the materials of his art, he turned away in disgust.

"You'll get to work as soon as I'm gone," cried Reuben, cheerfully.


He said it to avoid conversation.

"Cheer up, old man! I shall not disappoint you this time. You have my promise."


A two-horse carriage was at the door. Mallard looked at it from the balcony, and was direly tempted. No fear of his yielding, however, It was not his fate to scamper whither desire pointed him.

"I have already begun to work out an idea," said Elgar, as he breakfasted merrily. "I woke in the night, and it came to me as I heard the bell striking. My mind is always active when I am travelling; ten to one I shall come back ready to begin to write. I fear there's no decent ink purchasable in Amalfi; I mustn't forget that. By-the-bye, is there anything I can bring you?"

"Nothing, thanks."

They went down together, shook hands, and away drove the carriage. At the public fountain in the little piazza, where stands the image of Sant' Andrea, a group of women were busy or idling, washing clothes and vegetables and fish, drawing water in vessels of beautiful shape, chattering incessantly-such a group as may have gathered there any morning for hundreds of years. Children darted after the vehicle with their perpetual cry of "Un sord', signor!" and Elgar royally threw to them a handful of coppers, looking back to laugh as they scrambled.

A morning of mornings, deliciously fresh after the rain, the air exquisitely fragrant. On the mountain-tops ever so slight a mist still clinging, moment by moment fading against the blue.

"Yes, I shall be able to work here," said Elgar within himself. "December, January, February; I can be ready with something for the spring."

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