A Transplanted Boy
LORENZO came into the hall, bell in hand.
Putting down his white gloves at the feet of the goddess Flora, he began
his promenade: ding-dong past Jupiter and Juno; ding-dong past Mars and
Venus, Neptune and Diana, Minerva and Apollo, until the last pedestal on
the east was reached; here there was no goddess, only a leaping flame.
There was a corresponding tongue of fire on the last pedestal of the
west side opposite, and both of these architectural ornaments were made
of wood, painted scarlet. On the north side there towered six windows as
high as those of a church. These windows faced a flight of stone steps
that went down in a dignified sweep, eighteen feet wide, to a landing
adorned with a Muse; here, dividing into two wings, the staircase turned
to the right and the left in noble curves, and descended to the square
hall below. The massive iron-clamped portals of this lower hall were
open; they were swung back early in the morning, in order that the
horses might pass through on their way to the street; for there were
horses in the stables of the court-yard within. They did pass through,
making with the carts to which they were harnessed a thundering clatter
which would have deafened the inmates of an American dwelling. But the
old Pisan palace had been built in another fashion. This lower hall with
its heavy pavement and great doors, the gallery above with the rows of
life-sized statues, the broad sweep of the stone stairways—all these, a
space that could have swallowed many modern houses entire, were but its
entrance; and so massive were the floors that no one in the long ranges
of rooms above had any intimation of the moment when their hallway was
turned into a street. The outer portals remained swung back all day; but
the light inner doors were opened and closed on demand by old Bianca,
the portress, who lived in a dusky den under the staircase. This evening
the sunset was so brilliant that even these inner doors stood open, and
Bianca herself had come to the threshold, blinking a little as the
radiance fell upon her patient, cloistered face.
She was looking at a boy who was leaning over the parapet opposite. This
boy, with one arm round a small dog whom he had lifted to the top of the
wall by his side, was gazing at the tawny water of the Arno as it glided
past the house; for the old palace was in the Lung' Arno of Pisa, the
sunny street that follows the river like a quay, its water-side lying
open to the stream, protected by a low wall. Bianca was evidently
thinking of this boy and the summons of the clanging bell above; whether
he cared for the bell or not, he seemed to feel at last the power of her
mild gaze directed upon his back, for, swinging himself down from the
parapet, he crossed the street, and with his dog at his heels, entered
the palace. He went up the right-hand stairway, glancing as he passed at
the two stone caryatides which upheld the balustrade at the landing;
these were girls who had probably been intended for mermaids; but their
fish endings were vague compared with the vividly human expression of
their anxious young countenances—an anxiety oddly insisted upon by the
unknown house-sculptor who had chiselled them according to his fantasy
hundreds of years before. Freshly arrived Americans, not yet broken in
to the light foreign breakfast, and frozen from January to March, were
accustomed to declare that the faces of these caryatides reflected in
advance all the miseries of the pension, that is, all the hardship of
winter life in Italy which assails the surprised and undefended pilgrim
from the United States. But the boy who was coming up the stairs, though
American, was not freshly arrived; in his mind the caryatides
illustrated, more or less, a charming story which his mother had told
him—the story of the Little Mermaid; he was fond of their anxious stone
cheeks on that account.
The Casa Corti was not an ordinary pension. In the first place, it had
the distinction of occupying the whole of the Rondinelli palace, with
the great shield of the Rondinellis (showing their six heraldic swallows
sitting on their tails) over its door; in the second, it had been in the
hands of one family for four generations, and was to go down in the same
line. The establishment could accommodate seventy persons. Three-fourths
of the seventy were always English, drawn hither by the fact that Madame
Corti was of English descent. A few Americans were allowed to enter, and
an occasional foreigner was received as a favor. In the pension
phraseology the English were "we," their transatlantic cousins "the
Americans," and all the rest "foreigners." As Lorenzo's bell ceased many
doors opened, and from the various quarters into which the old
Ghibelline residence had for its present purposes been divided—from
high rooms overlooking the river and adorned with frescos to low-browed
cells in the attic under the eaves; from apartments that looked upon
small inner courts like yellow wells, wells that resounded with the
jingle of dish-washing from morning till night; from short staircases
descending at unexpected points, and from others equally unlocked for
which mounted from secret chambers in the half-story (chambers whose
exact situation always remained a mystery to the rest of the
house)—from all of these, and from two far-off little dwellings perched
like tents on the roof, came the guests of the pension on their way to
the dining-room and dinner. For they were all guests: the word patron or
boarder was unknown. In the same way the head of the establishment was
not by any means the boarding-house-keeper or the landlady: she was the
proprietress. She had inherited her pension as other people inherit an
estate, and she managed it in much the same autocratic fashion.
When all her guests were seated, this proprietress herself rustled in, a
little late. Her attire was elaborate: a velvet gown made with a train,
an amber star in the hair, and a chain of large amber beads wound three
times round the throat, and falling in a long loop to the belt. She
entered with a gliding step, pressing her dimpled hands together as she
advanced, and giving a series of little bends from the waist upward,
which were intended as general salutation to the company; her smile
meanwhile gradually extended itself, until, as her chair was drawn out
with a flourish by Lorenzo, it became broad enough to display her teeth
as she sank gracefully into her place at the head of her table, and,
with a final bow to the right and the left, unfolded her napkin. Her
duty as regarded civility being now done, she broke off a morsel of
bread, and took a rapid survey of her seventy, with the mixture of sharp
personal dislike and the business views which forced her to accept them
visible as usual in her eyes behind her smile.
Her seventy appeared, as they always did, eminently respectable. There
were three English curates; there were English husbands and wives of the
travelling and the invalid varieties; there were four or five blooming
English girls with pink cheeks and very straight backs; and there were
dozens of English old maids, and of that species of relict that returns
naturally to spinsterhood after the funeral, without having acquired,
from passing through it, any of the richer tints and more ample outlines
that belong to the married state. In addition there were several
Americans, and a few "foreigners."
Lorenzo and his assistants were carrying away the soup-plates when two
more guests entered late. This was high crime. Madame's eyes, looking
smaller than ever, gleamed like two sparks as they passed. For if one
were so unfortunate as to be late for dinner at Casa Corti the custom
was to make an apologetic little bow to madame as one entered—entered
with hasty, repentant step (having passed, outside the door, the whole
miscellaneous force of the establishment gathered together with cans of
hot water to wash the forks). But these two had made no bow, and madame
had known that they would not; so she talked to her right-hand neighbor,
Captain Sholto Fraser, R.N., and carefully pretended not to see them.
The delinquents were Americans (madame would have said "Of course!"), a
pretty little woman who looked much younger than her age (which was
thirty-three), and the boy who had adorned the parapet with his
sprawling person—a mother and son. They found their empty chairs
waiting for them at the far end of the room. The boy's place was at his
mother's left hand; on her right she had one of the curates.
"Late again!" began this gentleman. "We shall have to impose a fine upon
you, Mrs. Roscoe; we shall indeed." And he made, playfully, a menacing
gesture with his large, very well kept hand.
"Ought I to come for the soup?" inquired the lady, surveying the
plateful before her with a slight curl of her lip.
"Nay; when it is cold!" remonstrated her neighbor. "Be more reasonable,
pray." He regarded her smilingly.
"Oh, reasonable women are horrid!" responded Mrs. Roscoe. "I should
never think of coming down until later," she went on, "only Maso—he
likes the soup." The boy was eating rapidly. She watched him for a
moment. "I don't see how he can!" she added.
"Perhaps Tommaso is hungry," suggested an English lady who sat opposite.
"Maso, please," corrected Mrs. Roscoe; "Tommaso is as ugly as Thomas."
"I dare say he has not nourishment enough," continued the first speaker;
"at his age that is so important. Why not order for him an extra chop at
"Thank Mrs. Goldsworthy for her interest in you, Maso," said his
Maso grew red, and hastily crammed so much bread into his mouth that
both of his cheeks were widely distended at the same time.
"I have read in the journal, Madame Roscoe, of a gerate fire in your
countree—a town entire! I hope you lose not by it?" This inquirer was a
grave little woman from Lausanne, the widow of a Swiss pastor.
Mrs. Roscoe gave a shrug. "My interests are not of that kind. Where was
the fire, may I ask?"
"But in your countree, Amereekar. Voyons: the citee of Tam-Tampico."
Mrs. Roscoe laughed as she helped herself to fish—a fish tied with
yellow ribbons, and carrying a yellow lily in his mouth. "When we were
at Mentone an old lady informed me one day of the arrival of some of my
'countrypeople.' 'Now,' she said, 'you will not be the only Americans in
the house.' At dinner they appeared. They were Chilians. I said to my
friend, 'They are not my countrypeople; they are South Americans.' She
answered, severely: 'I suppose you say that because they are
Southerners! But now that so many years have passed since that dreadful
war of yours was brought to a close, I should think it would be far
wiser to drop such animosities.'" No one laughed over this story save an
American who was within hearing.
This American, a Vermont man, had arrived at the pension several days
before, and already he had formed a close and even desperate friendship
with Mrs. Roscoe, pursuing her, accompanied by his depressed wife, to
her bedroom (she had no sitting-room), where, while trying to find a
level place on her slippery yellow sofa, he had delivered himself as
follows: "Wife—she kept saying, 'You ought to go abroad; you aren't
well, and it'll do you good; they say it's very sociable over there if
you stay at the pensions.'" (He gave this word a political
pronunciation.) "All I can say is—if this is their pension!" And he
slapped his thigh with a resounding whack, and laughed sarcastically.
The beef now came round, a long slab of mahogany color, invisibly
divided into thin slices, the whole decked with a thick dark sauce which
contained currants, citron, and raisins.
"We miss Mr. Willoughby sadly," observed Mrs. Goldsworthy, with a sigh,
as she detached a slice. "Only last night he was here."
"I cannot say I miss him," remarked Mrs. Roscoe.
"You do not? Pray tell us why?" suggested the curate, eagerly.
"Well, he's so black-letter; so early-English; so 'Merrily sungen the
monks of Ely.' In Baedeker, you know."
"He is very deep, if you mean that," said Mrs. Goldsworthy, reprovingly.
"Deep? I should call him wide; he is all over the place. If you speak of
a cat, he replies with a cataract; of a plate, with Plato; of the cream,
with cremation. I don't see how he manages to live in England at all;
there isn't standing-room there for his feet. But perhaps he soars; he
is a sort of a Cupid, you know. What will become of him if they make him
a bishop? For how can a bishop flirt? The utmost he can do is to say, 'I
will see you after service in the vestry.'"
The curate was laughing in gentlemanlike gulps. He was extremely happy.
The Rev. Algernon Willoughby, of Ely, had been admired, not to say
adored, in that pension for seven long weeks.
The dinner went on through its courses, and by degrees the red wine flew
from the glasses to the faces. For as wine of the country in abundance,
without extra charge, was one of the attractions of Casa Corti, people
took rather more of it than they cared for, on the thoroughly human
principle of getting something for nothing. At length came a pudding,
violently pink in hue, and reposing on a bed of rose-leaves.
"Why, the pudding's redder than we are!" remarked Mrs. Roscoe, with
Her own cheeks, however, looked very cool in the universal flush; her
smooth complexion had no rose tints. This lack of pink was, in truth,
one of the faults of a face which had many beauties. She was small and
fair; her delicately cut features were extremely pretty—"pretty enough
to be copied as models for drawing-classes," some one had once said. Her
golden hair, which fell over her forehead in a soft, rippled wave, was
drawn up behind after the latest fashion of Paris; her eyes were blue,
and often they had a merry expression; her little mouth was almost like
that of a child, with its pretty lips and infantile, pearly teeth. In
addition, her figure was slender and graceful; her hands and feet and
ears were noticeably small. To men Violet Roscoe's attire always
appeared simple; the curate, for instance, if obliged to bear witness,
would have said that the costume of each and every other lady in the
room appeared to him more ornamented than that of his immediate
neighbor. A woman, however, could have told this misled male that the
apparently simple dress had cost more, probably, than the combined
attire of all the other ladies, save perhaps the rich velvet of Madame
After nuts and figs, and a final draining of glasses, Madame Corti gave
the signal (no one would have dared to leave the table before that
sign), and her seventy rose. Smiling, talking, and fanning themselves,
they passed across the hall to the salon, where presently tea was served
in large gold-banded coffee-cups, most of which were chipped at the
edges. The ladies took tea, and chatted with each other; they stood by
the piano, and walked up and down, before beginning the regular
occupations of the evening—namely, whist, chess, the reading of the
best authorities on art, or doing something in the way of embroidery and
wool-work, or a complicated construction with bobbins that looked like a
horse-net. There were jokes; occasionally there was a ripple of mild
laughter. Madame Corti, intrenched behind her own particular table, read
the London Times with the aid of a long-handled eye-glass. How she did
despise all these old maids, with their silver ornaments, and their
small economies, with their unmounted photographs pinned on the walls of
their bedrooms, and their talk of Benozzo, and Nicolo the Pisan! She
hated the very way they held their teacups after dinner, poised
delicately, almost gayly, with the little finger extended, as if to give
an air of festal lightness to the scene. Promptly at nine o'clock she
disappeared; an hour later her brougham was taking her to an Italian
gathering, where there would also be conversation, but conversation of a
very different nature. Teresa Corti, when she had escaped from her
pension, was one of the wittiest women in Pisa; her wit was audacious,
ample, and thoroughly Italian. There was, indeed, nothing English about
her save her knowledge of the language, and the trace of descent from
an English great-grandfather in her green eyes and crinkled yellow
Mrs. Roscoe did not remain in the drawing-room five minutes; she never
took tea, she did not play whist or chess, and she detested fancy-work.
She was followed to the stairway by her curate, who was urging her to
remain and play backgammon. "It's not such a bad game; really it's not,"
he pleaded, in his agreeable voice.
"Nothing is a bad game if one is amused," answered Mrs. Roscoe,
severely. She was seldom severe. But this evening she was tired.
"Oh, how early you've come up! I'm awful glad," said Maso, as she
entered her bedroom on the third floor. It was a large room, shabbily
furnished in yellow, the frescoed walls representing the Bay of Naples.
Maso was lying on the rug, with his dog by his side.
"Why are you in the dark?" said his mother. There was a smouldering fire
on the hearth; for though the day had been fine (it was the 15th of
March), the old palace had a way of developing unexpected shivers in the
evening. In spite of these shivers, however, this was the only room
where there was a fire. Mrs. Roscoe lighted the lamp and put on the pink
shade; then she drew the small Italian sticks together on the hearth,
threw on a dozen pine cones, and with the bellows blew the whole into a
brilliant blaze. Next she put a key into the Bay of Naples, unlocked a
wave, and drew out a small Vienna coffee-pot.
"Are we going to have coffee? Jolly!" said the boy.
"'OH, HOW EARLY YOU'VE COME UP!' SAID MASO"
His mother made the coffee; then she took from the same concealed
cupboard, which had been drilled in the solid stone of the wall, a
little glass jug shaped like a lachrymal from the catacombs, which
contained cream; sugar in a bowl; cakes, and a box of marrons glacÚs.
Maso gave a Hi! of delight as each dainty appeared, and made his dog sit
on his hind legs. "I say, mother, what were they all laughing about at
dinner? Something you said?"
"They always laugh; they appear never to have heard a joke before. That
about the bishops, now, that is as old as the hills." Leaning back in
her easy-chair before the fire, with Maso established at her feet,
enjoying his cake and coffee, she gave a long yawn. "Oh, what a stupid
Maso was well accustomed to this exclamation. But when he had his mother
to himself, and when the room was so bright and so full of fragrant
aromas, he saw no reason to echo it. "Well, I think it's just gay!" he
answered. "Mr. Tiber, beg!" Mr. Tiber begged, and received a morsel of
Mrs. Roscoe, after drinking her coffee, had taken up a new novel.
"Perhaps you had better study a little," she suggested.
Maso made a grimace. But as the coffee was gone and the cakes were
eaten, he complied—that is, he complied after he had made Mr. Tiber go
through his tricks. This took time; for Mr. Tiber, having swallowed a
good deal of cake himself, was lazy. At last, after he had been
persuaded to show to the world the excellent education he had received,
his master decided to go on with his own, and went to get his books,
which were on the shelf at the other end of the long room. It pleased
him to make this little journey on his heels, with his toes sharply
upturned in the air—a feat which required much balancing.
"That is the way you run down the heels of your shoes so," his mother
remarked, glancing at his contortions.
"It doesn't hurt them much on the carpet," replied the boy.
"Mercy! You don't go staggering through the streets in that way, do
"Only back streets."
"'MR. TIBER, BEG!'"
He was now returning in the same obstructed manner, carrying his books.
He placed them upon the table where the lamp was standing; then he
lifted Mr. Tiber to the top of the same table and made him lie down;
next, seating himself, he opened a battered school-book, a United States
History, and, after looking at the pictures for a while, he began at
last to repeat two dates to himself in a singsong whisper. Maso was
passing through the period when a boy can be very plain, even hideous,
in appearance, without any perception of the fact in the minds of his
relatives, who see in him the little toddler still, or else the future
man; other persons, however, are apt to see a creature all hands and
feet, with a big uncertain mouth and an omnipresent awkwardness. Maso,
in addition to this, was short and ill developed, with inexpressive eyes
and many large freckles. His features were not well cut; his complexion
was pale; his straight hair was of a reddish hue. None of the mother's
beauties were repeated in the child. Such as he was, however, she loved
him, and he repaid her love by a deep adoration; to him, besides being
"mother," she was the most beautiful being in the whole world, and also
the cleverest. He was intensely proud of the admiration she excited, and
was always on the watch for it; at the table, awkward, constrained,
with downcast eyes, he yet saw every glance that was directed towards
her, and enjoyed each laugh which her words created. Mrs. Roscoe's purse
was a light one; worse than that, an uncertain one; but Maso,
personally, had known nothing but indulgence and ease all his life.
While he was vaguely murmuring his dates, and rocking himself backward
and forward in time with the murmur, there came a tap at the door. It
was Miss Spring. "I have looked in to bid you good-bye," she said,
entering. "I am going to Munich to-morrow."
"Isn't that sudden?" said Mrs. Roscoe. "The torn chair is the most
comfortable. Have a marron?"
"Thank you; I seldom eat sweets. No, it is not sudden."
"Shall I make you a cup of coffee?"
"Thank you; I don't take coffee."
Mrs. Roscoe pushed a footstool across the rug.
"Thank you; I never need footstools."
"Superior to all the delights of womankind!"
Miss Spring came out of her abstraction and laughed. "Not superior; only
bilious and long-legged." Then her face grew grave again. "Do you
consider Pisa an attractive place for a permanent residence?" she
inquired, fixing her eyes upon her hostess, who, having offered all the
hospitable attentions in her power, was now leaning back again, her feet
on a hassock.
"Attractive? Heavens! no."
"Yet you stay here? I think I have seen you here, at intervals, for
something like seven years?"
"Don't count them; I hate the sound," said Mrs. Roscoe. "My wish is—my
hope is—to live in Paris. I get there once in a while, and then I
always have to give it up and come away. Italy is cheap, and Pisa is
the cheapest place in Italy."
"So that is your reason for remaining," said Miss Spring, reflectively.
"What other reason on earth could there be?"
"The equable climate."
"I hate equable climates. No, we're not here for climates. Nor for
Benozzo; nor for Nicolo the Pisan, and that everlasting old sarcophagus
that they are always talking about; nor for the Leaning Tower, either. I
perfectly hate the Leaning Tower!"
Miss Spring now undertook a joke herself. "It is for the moderns, then.
You are evidently a Shelley worshipper."
"Do I look like one?" demanded Violet Roscoe, extending her arms a
little, with the palms of the hands displayed, as if to call attention
to her entire person.
"I cannot say that you do," replied Miss Spring, after surveying her. "I
should think New York would please you as a place of residence," she
went on, after a moment. "If you do not like Italy, why do you not go
"Why don't you?" retorted Violet, taking a marron and crunching it.
"Well answered. But Newburyport is not to me what I should think New
York might be to you; Newburyport has much to learn. However, we all
have our reasons, I suppose."
"Mine are not mysterious," said Violet, continuing to crunch. "I have a
better time abroad than I do at home; that's all."
Miss Spring gazed at the fire. "I may as well acknowledge that it was
those very things that brought me here in the beginning, the things you
don't care for; Nicolo and the revival of sculpture; the early masters.
But I have not found them satisfying. I have tried to care for that
sarcophagus; but the truth is that I remain perfectly cold before it.
And the Campo Santo frescos seem to me out of drawing. As to the Shelley
memories, do you know what I thought of the other day? Suppose that
Shelley and Byron were residing here at this moment— Shelley with that
queerness about his first wife hanging over him, and Byron living as we
know he lived in the Toscanelli palace—do you think that these ladies
in the pension who now sketch the Toscanelli and sketch Shelley's
windows, who go to Lerici and rave over Casa Magni, who make pilgrimages
to the very spot on the beach where Byron and Trelawny built the funeral
pyre—do you think that a single one of them would call, if it were
to-day, upon Mary Shelley? Or like to have Shelley and Byron dropping in
here for afternoon tea, with the chance of meeting the curates?"
"If they met them, they couldn't out-talk them," answered Violet,
laughing. "Curates always want to explain something they said the day
before. As to the calling and the tea, what would you do?"
"I should be consistent," responded Miss Spring, with dignity. "I should
call. And I should be happy to see them here in return."
"Well, you'd be safe," said Violet. "Shelley, Byron, Trelawny, all
together, would never dare to flirt with Roberta Spring!" She could say
this without malice, for her visitor was undeniably a handsome woman.
Miss Spring, meanwhile, had risen; going to the table, she put on her
glasses and bent over Maso's book. "History?"
"Yes, 'm. I haven't got very far yet," Maso answered.
"Reader. Copy-book. Geography. Spelling-book. Arithmetic," said Miss
Spring, turning the books over one by one. "The Arithmetic appears to be
"Disuse," said Mrs. Roscoe, from her easy-chair. "As I am Maso's
teacher, and as I hate arithmetic, we have never gone very far. I don't
know what we shall do when we get to fractions!"
"And what is your dog doing on the table, may I ask?" inquired the
visitor, surveying Mr. Tiber coldly.
"Oh, he helps lots. I couldn't study at all without him," explained
Maso, with eagerness.
"Indeed?" said Miss Spring, turning the gaze of her glasses from the dog
to his master. "How's that?"
Maso was always rather afraid of the tall Roberta; he curled the pages
of his History with stubby fingers and made no reply.
"If you won't tell, Maso, I shall," said his mother; "I shall do it to
make you ashamed of your baby ways. He divides each lesson, Miss Spring,
into four parts, if you please; then, as each part is learned (or
supposed to be learned), Mr. Tiber has to sit on his hind legs and wave
a paw. Then, when all four parts are done, Mr. Tiber has to lie on the
book. Book after book is added to the pile, and finally Mr. Tiber is on
top of a monument. But he is so used to it that he does not mind it
much. After the last lesson is learned, then Mr. Tiber, as a
celebration, has to go through all the tricks. And there are
"Well!" said Miss Spring. She never could comprehend what she called
"all this dog business" of the Roscoes. And their dog language (they had
one) routed her completely. "Twenty-two!"
"An' gherry kinnin, idn't they?" Maso was whispering to his pet.
"Why did you name him Mr. Tiber?" pursued the visitor, in her grave
"We didn't; he was already named," explained Mrs. Roscoe. "We bought him
of an old lady in Rome, who had three; she had named them after Italian
rivers: Mr. Arno, Mr. Tiber, and Miss Dora Riparia."
"Miss Dora Riparia—well!" said Miss Spring. Then she turned to subjects
more within her comprehension. "It is a pity I am going away, Maso, for
I could have taught you arithmetic; I like to teach arithmetic."
Maso made no answer save an imbecile grin. His mother gesticulated at
him behind Miss Spring's back. Then he muttered, "Thank you, 'm," hoping
fervently that the Munich plan was secure.
"I shall get a tutor for Maso before long," remarked Mrs. Roscoe, as
Miss Spring came back to the fire. "Later, my idea is to have him go to
Miss Spring looked as though she were uttering, mentally, another
"well!" The lack of agreement in the various statements of her pretty
little countrywoman always puzzled her; she could understand crime
better than inconsistency.
"Shall you stay long in Munich?" Violet inquired.
"That depends." Miss Spring had not seated herself. "Would you mind
coming to my room for a few minutes?" she added.
"There's no fire; I shall freeze to death!" thought Violet. "If you
like," she answered aloud. And together they ascended to the upper
story, where, at the top of two unexpected steps, was Miss Spring's
door. This door was adorned with a large solidly fastened brass
door-plate, bearing, in old-fashioned script, the name "Archibald
Starr." No one in the house, not even Madame Corti herself, had any idea
who Archibald Starr had been in the flesh. At present he was nothing but
a door-plate. His apartment within had been divided by partitions, so
that his sitting-room was now a rain-water tank. Roberta Spring occupied
his vestibule. The vestibule was small and bare; in the daytime it was
lighted by two little windows, so high in the wall that they were opened
and closed by means of long cords. A trunk, locked and strapped, stood
in the centre of the floor; an open travelling-bag, placed on a chair,
gaped for the toilet articles, which were ranged on the table together,
so that nothing should be forgotten at the early morning start—a cheap
hair-brush and stout comb, an unadorned wooden box containing hair-pins
and a scissors, a particularly hideous travelling pin-cushion. Violet
Roscoe gazed at these articles, fascinated by their ugliness; she
herself possessed a long row of vials and brushes, boxes and mirrors, of
silver, crystal, and ivory, and believed that she could not live without
"I thought I would not go into the subject before Maso," began Miss
Spring, as she closed her door. "Such explanations sometimes unsettle a
boy; his may not be a mind to which inquiry is necessary. My visit to
Munich has an object. I am going to study music."
"Music?" repeated Mrs. Roscoe, surprised. "I didn't know you cared for
"But it remains to be seen whether I care, doesn't it? One cannot tell
until one has tried. This is the case: I am now thirty-seven years of
age. I have given a good deal of attention to astronomy and to
mathematics; I am an evolutionist, a realist, a member of the Society
for Psychical Research; Herbert Spencer's works always travel with me.
These studies have been extremely interesting. And yet I find that I am
not fully satisfied, Mrs. Roscoe. And it has been a disappointment. I am
determined, therefore, to try some of those intellectual influences
which do not appeal solely to reason. They appear to give pleasure to
large numbers of mankind, so there must be something in them. What that
is I resolved to find out. I began with sculpture. Then painting. But
they have given me no pleasure whatever. Music is third on the list. So
now I am going to try that."
Mrs. Roscoe gave a spring, and seated herself on the bed with her feet
under her, Turkish fashion; the floor was really too cold. "No use
trying music unless you like it," she said.
"I have never disliked it. My attitude will be that of an impartial
investigator," explained Miss Spring. "I have, of course, no expectation
of becoming a performer; but I shall study the theory of harmony, the
science of musical composition, its structure—"
"Structure! Stuff! You've got to feel it," said Violet.
"Very well. I am perfectly willing to feel; that is, in fact, what I
wish—let them make me feel. If it is an affair of the emotions, let
them rouse my emotions," answered Roberta.
"If you would swallow a marron occasionally, and drink a cup of good
coffee with cream; if you would have some ivory brushes and crystal
scent-bottles, instead of those hideous objects," said Violet, glancing
towards the table; "if you would get some pretty dresses once in a
while—I think satisfaction would be nearer."
Miss Spring looked up quickly. "You think I have been too ascetic? Is
that what you mean?"
"Oh, I never mean anything," answered Violet, hugging herself to keep
down a shiver.
"In spite of your disclaimer, I catch your idea," replied her hostess.
"But if I should carry it out, Mrs. Roscoe, carry it out to its full
extent, it would take me, you know, very far—into complex
Her voice took on no animation as she said this; it remained calm, as it
always was. She was a tall woman with regular features, a clear white
complexion, and striking gray eyes with long dark lashes; her abundant
dark hair was drawn straight back from her face, and she carried her
head remarkably well. She was what is called "fine-looking," but from
head to foot, though probably she did not know it, her appearance was
Violet had given way to irresistible laughter over the "complex
dissipations." Miss Spring came out of what appeared to be a mental
census of the various debaucheries that would be required, and laughed a
little herself. She was not without a sense of humor. "To you it seems
funny, no doubt," she said, "for I have never been at all gay. Yet I
think I could manage it."
Violet, still laughing, climbed down from the bed; she was too cold to
"I knew I should get a new idea out of you, Mrs. Roscoe. I always do,"
said Roberta, frankly. "And this time it is an important one; it is a
side-light which I had not thought of myself at all. I shall go to
Munich to-morrow. But I will add this: if music is not a success,
perhaps I may some time try your plan."
"Plan? Horrible! I haven't any," said Violet, escaping towards the door.
"It is an unconscious one; it is, possibly, instinctive truth," said
Miss Spring, as she shook hands with her departing guest. "And
instinctive truth is the most valuable."
Violet ran back to her own warm quarters. "You don't mean to say, Maso,
that you've stopped studying already?" she said, as she entered and
seated herself before her fire again, with a sigh of content. "Nice
lessons you'll have for me to-morrow."
"They're all O.K.," responded the boy. He had his paint-box before him,
and was painting the Indians in his History.
"Well, go to bed, then."
At half-past ten, happening to turn her head while she cut open the
pages of her novel, she saw that he was still there. "Maso, do you hear
me? Go to bed."
"Yes, 'm." He painted faster, making hideous grimaces with his protruded
lips, which unconsciously followed the strokes of his brush up and down.
The picture finished at last, he rose. "Mr. Tiber, pim."
Mr. Tiber left the sofa, where he had been sleeping since the
termination of the lessons, and hopped to the floor. Here he indulged in
a stretch; first, hind legs; then fore legs; then a hunch of his back
and a deep yawn. He was a very small black-and-tan terrier, with a
pretty little head and face. Maso's voice now gave a second summons from
his bedroom, which was next to his mother's, with a door between. "Are
you coming, Mr. Tiber? Very well!" Mr. Tiber, hearing this, ran as
fast as he could scamper into his master's chamber. Here he had his own
bed, composed of a flat basket containing what Maso called "a really
mattress," and a pillow with a pillow-case, a blanket, and red coverlid,
each article bearing an embroidered T in the corner, surmounted by a
coronet; for Mr. Tiber was supposed to be a nobleman. The nobleman went
to bed, and was tucked in with his head on the pillow. This was Maso's
rule; but very soon the head assumed its normal position, curled round
on the little black tail.
At eleven, Mrs. Roscoe finished her novel and threw it down. "Women who
write don't know much about love-affairs," was her reflection. "And
those of us who have love-affairs don't write!" She rose. "Maso, you
here still? I thought you went to bed an hour ago!"
"Well, I did begin. I put my shoes outside." He extended his shoeless
feet in proof. "Then I just came back for a minute."
His mother looked over his shoulder. "That same old fairy-book! Who
would suppose you were twelve years old?"
"Thirteen," said Maso, coloring.
"So you are. But only two weeks ago. Never mind; you'll be a tall man
yet—a great big thing striding about, whom I shall not care half so
much for as I do for my little boy." She kissed him. "All your father's
family are tall, and you look just like them."
Maso nestled closer as she stood beside him. "How did father look? I
don't remember him much."
"Much? You don't remember him at all; he died when you were six months
old—a little teenty baby."
"I say, mother, how long have we been over here?"
"I came abroad when you were not quite two."
"Aren't we ever going back?"
"If you could once see Coesville!" was Mrs. Roscoe's emphatic reply.
"HIST, Maso! Take this in to your lady mother," said Giulio. "I made it
myself, so it's good." Giulio, one of the dining-room waiters at Casa
Corti, was devoted to the Roscoes. Though he was master of a mysterious
French polyglot, he used at present his own tongue, for Maso spoke
Italian as readily as he did, and in much the same fashion.
Maso took the cup, and Giulio disappeared. As the boy was carrying the
broth carefully towards his mother's door, Madame Corti passed him. She
"Ah, Master Roscoe, I am relieved to learn that your mother is better.
Will you tell her, with my compliments, that I advise her to go at once
to the Bagni to make her recovery. She ought to go to-morrow. That is
the air required for convalescence."
Maso repeated this to his mother. "'That is the air required for
convalescence,' she said."
"And 'this is the room required for spring tourists,' she meant. Did she
name a day—the angel?"
"Well, she did say to-morrow," Maso admitted.
"Old cat! She is dying to turn me out; she is so dreadfully afraid that
the word fever will hurt her house. All the servants are sworn to call
"See here, mother, Giulio sent you this."
"I don't want any of their messes."
"But he made it himself, so it's good." He knelt down beside her sofa,
holding up the cup coaxingly.
"Beef-tea," said Mrs. Roscoe, drawing down her upper lip. But she took a
little to please him.
"Just a little more."
She took more.
"A little teenty more."
"You scamp! You think it's great fun to give directions, don't you?"
Maso, who had put the emptied cup back on the table, gave a leap of glee
because she had taken so much.
"Don't walk on your hands," said his mother, in alarm, "It makes me too
It was the 12th of April, and she had been ill two weeks. An attack of
bronchitis had prostrated her suddenly, and the bronchitis had been
followed by an intermittent fever, which left her weak.
"I say, mother, let's go," said Maso. "It's so nice at the Bagni—all
trees and everything. Miss Anderson'll come and pack."
Miss Anderson was one of Dr. Prior's nurses. She had taken charge of
Mrs. Roscoe during the worst days of her illness.
"If we do go to the Bagni we cannot stay at the hotel," said Mrs.
Roscoe, gloomily. "This year we shall have to find some cheaper place. I
have been counting upon money from home that hasn't come."
"But it will come," said Maso, with confidence.
"Have you much acquaintance with Reuben John?"
The tone of voice, bitterly sarcastic, in which his mother had from his
earliest remembrance pronounced this name, had made the syllables
eminently disagreeable to Maso. He had no very clear idea as to the
identity of Reuben John, save that he was some sort of a dreadful
relative in America.
"Well, the Bagni's nice," he answered, "no matter where we stay. And I
know Miss Anderson'll come and pack."
"You mustn't say a word to her about it. I have got to write a note, as
it is, and ask her to wait for her money until winter. Dr. Prior, too."
"Well, they'll do it; they'll do it in a minute, and be glad to," said
Maso, still confident.
"I am sure I don't know why," commented his mother, turning her head
upon the pillow fretfully.
"Why, mother, they'll do it because it's you. They think everything of
you; everybody does," said the boy, adoringly.
Violet Roscoe laughed. It took but little to cheer her. "If you don't
brush your hair more carefully they won't think much of you," she
answered, setting his collar straight.
There was a knock at the door. "Letters," said Maso, returning. He
brought her a large envelope, adorned with Italian superlatives of honor
and closed with a red seal. "Always so civil," murmured Mrs. Roscoe,
examining the decorated address with a pleased smile. Her letters came
to a Pisan bank; the bankers re-enclosed them in this elaborate way, and
sent them to her by their own gilt-buttoned messenger. There was only
one letter to-day. She opened it, read the first page, turned the leaf,
and then in her weakness she began to sob. Maso in great distress knelt
beside her; he put his arm round her neck, and laid his cheek to hers;
he did everything he could think of to comfort her. Mr. Tiber, who had
been lying at her feet, walked up her back and gave an affectionate lick
to her hair. "Mercy! the dog, too," she said, drying her eyes. "Of
course it was Reuben John," she explained, shaking up her pillow.
Maso picked up the fallen letter.
"Don't read it; burn it—horrid thing!" his mother commanded.
He obeyed, striking a match and lighting the edge of the page.
"Not only no money, but in its place a long, hateful, busybodying
sermon," continued Mrs. Roscoe, indignantly.
Maso came back from the hearth, and took up the envelope. "Mrs. Thomas
R. Coe," he read aloud. "Is our name really Coe, mother?"
"You know it is perfectly well."
"Everybody says Roscoe."
"I didn't get it up; all I did was to call myself Mrs. Ross Coe, which
is my name, isn't it? I hate Thomas. Then these English got hold of it
and made it Ross-Coe and Roscoe. I grew tired of correcting them long
"Then in America I should be Thom-as Ross Coe—Thom-as R. Coe," pursued
the boy, still scanning the envelope, and pronouncing the syllables
slowly. He was more familiar with Italian names than with American.
"No such luck. Tommy Coe you'd be now. And as you grew older, Tom
Coe—like your father before you."
They went to the Bagni—that is, to the baths of Lucca. The journey,
short as it was, tired Mrs. Roscoe greatly. They took up their abode in
two small rooms in an Italian house which had an unswept stairway and a
constantly open door. These quarters did not depress Violet; she had no
strongly marked domestic tastes; she was indifferent as to her lodging,
provided her clothes were delicately fresh and pretty. But her inability
to go out to dinner took away her courage. She had intended to dine at
the hotel where they had stayed in former years; for two or three hours
each day she could then be herself. But after one or two attempts she
was obliged to give up the plan; she had not the strength to take the
daily walk. It ended in food being sent in from a neighboring cook-shop,
or trattoria, and served upon her bedroom table. Maso, disturbed by
her illness, but by nothing else—for they had often followed a nomadic
life for a while when funds were low—scoured the town. He bought cakes
and fruit to tempt her appetite; he made coffee. He had no conception
that these things were not proper food for a convalescent; his mother
had always lived upon coffee and sweets.
On the first day of May, when they had been following this course for
two weeks, they had a visitor. Dr. Prior, who had been called to the
Bagni for a day, came to have a look at his former patient. He stayed
fifteen minutes. When he took leave he asked Maso to show him the way to
a certain house. This, however, was but a pretext, for when they reached
the street he stopped.
"I dare say ye have friends here?"
"Well," answered Maso, "mother generally knows a good many of the people
in the hotel when we are staying there. But this year we ain't."
"Hum! And where are your relatives?"
"I don't know as we've got any. Yes, there's one," pursued Maso,
remembering Reuben John. "But he's in America."
The Scotch physician, who was by no means an amiable man, was bluntly
honest. "How old are you?" he inquired.
"I'm going on fourteen."
"Never should have supposed ye to be more than eleven. As there appears
to be no one else, I must speak to you. Your mother must not stay in
this house a day longer; she must have a better place—better air and
Maso's heart gave a great throb. "Is she—is she very ill?"
"Not yet. But she is in a bad way; she coughs. She ought to leave Italy,
for a while; stay out of it for at least four months. If she doesn't
care to go far, Aix-les-Bains would do. Speak to her about it. I fancy
ye can arrange it—hey? American boys have their own way, I hear." This
was meant as a joke; but as the grim face did not smile, the jocular
intention failed to make itself apparent. The speaker nodded, and went
down the street. The idea that Mrs. Roscoe might not have money enough
to indulge herself with a journey to Aix-les-Bains, or to anywhere else,
would never have occurred to him. He had seen her in Pisa off and on for
years, one of the prettiest women there, and perhaps the most perfectly
equipped as regarded what he called "furbelows"; that, with all her
costly finery, she chose to stay in a high-up room at Casa Corti instead
of having an apartment of her own, with the proper servants, was only
another of those American eccentricities to which, after a long
professional life in Italy, he was now well accustomed.
Maso went back to his mother's room with his heart in his mouth. When he
came in she was asleep; her face looked wan. The boy, cold all over with
the new fear, sat down quietly by the window with Mr. Tiber on his lap,
and fell into anxious thought. After a while his mother woke. The greasy
dinner, packed in greasy tins, came and went. When the room was quiet
again he began, tremulously, "How much money have we got, mother?"
"Mayn't I see how much it is?"
"No; don't bother."
She had eaten nothing.
"Mother, won't you please take that money, even if it's little, and go
straight off north somewhere? To Aix-les-Bains."
"What are you talking about? Aix-les-Bains? What do you know of
"Well, I've heard about it. Say, mother, do go. And Mr. Tiber and me'll
stay here. We'll have lots of fun," added the boy, bravely.
"Is that all you care about me?" demanded his mother. Then seeing his
face change, "Come here, you silly child," she said. She made him sit
down on the rug beside her sofa. "We must sink or swim together, Maso
(dear me! we're not much in the swim now); we can't go anywhere, either
of us; we can only just manage to live as we're living now. And there
won't be any more money until November." She stroked his hair
caressingly. His new fear made him notice how thin her wrist had grown.
"YOU will mail these three letters immediately," said Mr. Waterhouse, in
Italian, to the hotel porter.
"Si, signore," answered the man, with the national sunny smile, although
Waterhouse's final gratuity had been but a franc.
"Now, Tommaso, I must be off; long drive. Sorry it has happened so.
Crazy idea her coming at all, as she has enjoyed bad health for years,
poor old thing! She may be dead at this moment, and probably, in fact,
she is dead; but I shall have to go, all the same, in spite of the great
expense; she ought to have thought of that. I have explained everything
to your mother in that letter; the money is at her own bank in Pisa, and
I have sent her the receipt. You have fifty francs with you?"
"Fifty francs—that is ten dollars. More than enough, much more; be
careful of it, Tommaso. You will hear from your mother in two days, or
sooner, if she telegraphs; in the meanwhile you will stay quietly where
Mr. Waterhouse shook hands with his pupil, and, stepping into the
waiting carriage, was driven away.
"'WE MUST SINK OR SWIM TOGETHER, MASO'"
Benjamin F. Waterhouse, as he signed himself (of course the full name
was Benjamin Franklin), was an American who had lived in Europe for
nearly half a century, always expecting to go home "next summer." He was
very tall, with a face that resembled a damaged portrait of Emerson, and
he had been engaged for many years in writing a great work, a Life of
Christopher Columbus, which was to supersede all other Lives. As his
purse was a light one, he occasionally took pupils, and it was in this
way that he had taken Maso, or, as he called him (giving him all the
syllables of the Italian Thomas), Tommaso. Only three weeks, however, of
his tutorship had passed when he had received a letter announcing that
his sister, his only remaining relative, despairing of his return, was
coming abroad to see him, in spite of her age and infirmities; she was
the "poor old thing" of her dry brother's description, and the voyage
apparently had been too great an exertion, for she was lying dangerously
ill at Liverpool, and the physician in attendance had telegraphed to
Waterhouse to come immediately.
The history of the tutorship was as follows: Money had come from
America, after all. Mrs. Roscoe (as everybody called her) had been
trying for some time, so she told Maso, "to circumvent Reuben John," and
sell a piece of land which she owned in Indiana. Now, unexpectedly, a
purchaser had turned up. While she was relating this it seemed to her
that her little boy changed into a young man before her eyes. "You've
just got to take that money, mother, and go straight up to
Aix-les-Bains," said Maso, planting himself before her. "I sha'n't go a
single step; I ain't sick, and you are; it's cheaper for me to stay
here. There isn't money enough to take us both, for I want you to stay
up there ever so long—four whole months."
This was the first of many discussions, or rather of astonished
exclamations from the mother, met by a stubborn and at last a silent
obstinacy on the part of the boy. For of late he had scarcely slept, he
had been so anxious; he had discovered that the people in the house,
with the usual Italian dread of a cough, believed that "the beautiful
little American," as they called his mother, was doomed. Mother and son
had never been separated; the mother shed tears over the idea of a
separation now; and then a few more because Maso did not "care." "It
doesn't seem to be anything to you," she declared, reproachfully.
But Maso, grim-faced and wretched, held firm.
In this dead-lock, Mrs. Roscoe at last had the inspiration of asking
Benjamin Waterhouse, who was spending the summer at the Bagni, and whom
she knew to be a frugal man, to take charge of Maso during her absence.
Maso, who under other circumstances would have fought the idea of a
tutor with all his strength, now yielded without a word. And then the
mother, unwillingly and in a flood of tears, departed. She went by slow
stages to Aix-les-Bains; even her first letter, however, much more the
later ones, exhaled from each line her pleasure in the cooler air and in
her returning health. She sent to Maso, after a while, a colored
photograph of herself, taken on the shore of Lake Bourget, and the
picture was to the lonely boy the most precious thing he had ever
possessed; for it showed that the alarming languor had gone; she was no
longer thin and wan. He carried the photograph with him, and when he was
alone he took it out. For he was suffering from the deepest pangs of
homesickness. He was homesick for his mother, for his mother's room (the
only home he had ever known), with all its attractions and indulgences;
he could always play his games there; she was never tired of them nor of
the noise and disorder which they might occasion; she was never tired
of Mr. Tiber; she was never tired of Indians and war-whoops, nor of
tents made of her shawls. She always petted him and made much of him;
she was so little serious herself that she had unconsciously kept him
childlike; in many things they had been like two children together. In
the life they led he had but small opportunity to make friendships with
other lads. He had played with the American boys of his age whom he had
met here and there, but they were always travellers; they never stayed
long. His only comrade had been a lad in Pisa named Luigi. But even
Luigi could not play games half as well as his mother could, nor live in
the tent half as satisfactorily. He said nothing of his homesickness to
his tutor; Waterhouse thought him a dull, hangdog sort of boy, and also
a boy incredibly, monstrously ignorant. "What can that feather-brained
little woman have been about not to have sent him to school long ago!"
was his thought.
But now Maso was left alone, not only schoolless but tutorless. When the
carriage bearing the biographer of Columbus had disappeared down the
road leading to Lucca, the boy went back to the porter, who, wearing his
stiff official cap adorned with the name of the hotel, stood airing his
corpulent person in the doorway. "Say, Gregorio, I'll take those letters
to the post-office if you like; I'm going right by there."
Gregorio liked Maso; all Italian servants liked the boy and his clever
dog. In addition, the sunshine was hot, and Gregorio was not fond of
pedestrian exercise; so he gave the letters to Maso willingly enough.
Maso went briskly to the post-office. Here he put two of the letters
into the box, but the third, which bore his mother's address, remained
hidden under his jacket. Returning to the hotel, he went up to his room,
placed this letter in his trunk, and locked the trunk carefully; then,
accompanied by Mr. Tiber, he went off for a walk. The change had been so
sudden that he had hardly had time to think; the telegram to Mr.
Waterhouse had come only the day before, and until its arrival he had
supposed that his life was definitely arranged for several months. Now,
suddenly, everything was upheaved. After walking a mile, he sat down in
a shady place and took off his hat. His thoughts ran something as
follows: "'T any rate, mother sha'n't know; that's settled; I ain't
going to let her come back here and get sick again; no, sir! She's
getting all well up there, and she's got to stay four whole months.
There's no way she can hear that old Longlegs" (this was his name for
the historical Benjamin) "has gone, now that I've hooked his letter. The
people she knows here at the Bagni never write; besides, they don't know
where she's staying, and I won't let 'em know. If they see me here alone
they'll suppose Longlegs has arranged it. I've got to tell lies some;
I've got to pretend, when I write to her, that Longlegs has sprained his
wrist or his leg or something, and that's why he can't write himself.
I've got to be awful careful about what I put in my letters, so that
they'll sound all right; but I guess I can do it bully. And I'll spend
mighty little (only I'm going to have ices); I'll quit the hotel, and go
back to that house where we stayed before the money came. I've got fifty
francs—that's lots; when that's gone, I'll go down to Pisa and get some
more; they know me at the bank; I've been there with mother; they'll
give me some. But I won't take much. Then, as old Longlegs hasn't got
to be paid, there'll be stacks left when mother comes back, and she'll
be so surprised! That'll be jolly fun—just elegant fun! Mr. Tiber, pim
Mr. Tiber was pursuing investigations by the side of a small
watercourse; nothing was visible of him but the tip of a tail.
Mr. Tiber came with a rush. Maso took him up, and confided to him, in
the dog language, all his profound plan. Mr. Tiber approved of it
The fifty francs carried the two through a good many days. Mr. Tiber,
indeed, knew no change, for he had his coroneted bed, and the same fare
was provided for him daily—a small piece of meat, plenty of hot
macaroni, followed by a bit of cake and several lumps of sugar. When
there were but eight francs left Maso went to Pisa. Mr. Waterhouse, who
was very careful about money affairs, had paid all his pupil's bills up
to the date of his own departure, and had then sent the remainder of the
money which Mrs. Roscoe had left with him for the summer to her bankers
at Pisa. Maso, as a precaution, carried with him the unmailed letter
which contained the receipt for this sum. But he hoped that he should
not be obliged to open the letter; he thought that they would give him a
little money without that, as they knew him well. When he reached Pisa
he found that the bank had closed its doors. It had failed.
Apparently it was a bad failure. Nobody (he inquired here and there)
gave him a hopeful word. At the English bookseller's an assistant whom
he knew said: "Even if something is recovered after a while, I am sure
that nothing will be paid out for a long time yet. They have always
been shaky; in my opinion, they are rascals." The bank, in truth, had
never been a solid establishment; during its brief existence its
standing had been dubious. But Violet Roscoe had her own ideas about
banks, and one of the first was that she should be treated "with
civility"; she was immensely indignant if her personality was not
immediately recognized. Generally it was; she was such a charmingly
pretty woman that bankers' clerks all over Europe remembered that
personality without trouble, and handed out her letters eagerly through
the windows of their caged retreats, stretching their heads through as
far as possible to anticipate her slightest wish. But once, at one of
the old banks in Pisa, she had presented a check on Paris, and had been
asked to bring some one to identify her.
"Such a thing has never happened to me before!" she said, throwing back
her head proudly.
This was true. But, again, it was her appearance, her beauty, and
personal elegance which had helped her; risks had been assumed now and
then simply from these. "She goes it on her face, doesn't she?" had been
the private comment of one clerk to another in a bank at Rome. Upon this
occasion at Pisa Violet had swept out of the place before the older
official had time to find out what the new man was doing at the outer
counter. Soon after this Mrs. Roscoe had selected this smaller
establishment as "much nicer." "The office is so handsome, and they have
such nice chairs, and all the illustrated papers. And then they are
polite; they know their business, which is to be civil; there they see
what I am!" They did see, indeed.
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN WATERHOUSE
Maso went back to the Bagni. In the bewilderment of his thoughts
there was but one clear idea: "'T any rate, mother sha'n't know; she's
got to stay away four whole months; the doctor said so."
AFTER a day of thought, Maso decided that he would leave the Bagni and
go down to Pisa, and stay at Casa Corti. Madame Corti would not be there
(she spent her summers at Sorrento), and officially the pension was
closed; but Giulio would let him remain, knowing that his mother would
pay for it when she returned; he had even a vision of the very room at
the top of the house where Giulio would probably put him—a
brick-floored cell next to the linen-room, adorned with an ancient
shrine, and pervaded by the odor of freshly ironed towels. It would be
no end of a lark to spend the summer in Pisa. Luigi would be there; and
the puppet-shows. And perhaps Giulio would take him up on Sundays to the
house on the hill-side where his wife and children lived; he had taken
him once, and Maso had always longed to go again. But when he reached
Pisa with his dog and his trunk he found the Palazzo Rondinelli wearing
the aspect of a deserted fortress; the immense outer doors were swung to
and locked; there was no sign of life anywhere. It had not been closed
for twenty years. It was the unexpected which had happened. Maso went
round to the stone lane behind the palace to see Luigi. It was then that
he learned that his friend had gone to live in Leghorn; he learned,
also, that the Casa Corti servants, having an opportunity to earn full
wages at Abetone for two months, had been permitted by Madame Corti to
accept this rare good-fortune; the house, therefore, had been closed.
Maso, thus adrift, was still confident that the summer was going to be
"huge," a free, banditlike existence, with many enjoyments; pictures of
going swimming, and staying in as long as he liked, were in his mind;
also the privilege of having his hair shaved close to his head, of
eating melons at his pleasure, and of drinking lemonade in oceans from
the gayly adorned, jingling carts. Of course he should have to get
something to do, as his money was almost gone. Still, it would not take
much to support him, and there was going to be an exciting joy in
independence, in living in "bachelor quarters." He found his bachelor
quarters in the Street of the Lily, a narrow passage that went burrowing
along between two continuous rows of high old houses. The Lily's
pavement was slimy with immemorial filth, and, in spite of the heat, the
damp atmosphere was like that of an ill-kept refrigerator. At the top of
one of the houses he established himself, with Mr. Tiber, in a bare room
which contained not much more than a chair and a bed. Nevertheless, the
first time he came out, locked his door, and descended the stairs with
the key in his pocket he felt like a man; and he carried himself like
one, with a swagger. The room had one advantage, it contained a
trap-door to the roof, and there was a ladder tied up to the high
ceiling, its rope secured by a padlock; the boy soon contrived means
(this must have been his Yankee blood) to get the ladder down when he
chose; then at night he went up and cooled himself off on the roof,
under the stars. There were two broken statues there, for the old house
had had its day of grandeur; he made a seat, or rather a bed, at their
feet. Mr. Tiber was so unhappy down below that he invented a way to get
him up also. He spread his jacket on the floor, made Mr. Tiber lie down
upon it, and then, fastening the sleeves together with a cord, he swung
the jacket round his neck and ascended with his burden. Mr. Tiber
enjoyed the roof very much.
Having established himself, selected his trattoria, and imbibed a good
deal of lemonade as a beginning, the occupant of the bachelor quarters
visited the business streets of Pisa in search of employment. But it was
the dullest season in a place always dull, and no one wished for a new
boy. At the Anglo-American Agency the clerk, languid from the heat,
motioned him away without a word; at the Forwarding and Commission
Office no one looked at him or spoke to him; so it was everywhere. His
friend, the bookseller's assistant, had gone for the summer to the
branch establishment at Como.
Mrs. Roscoe, who detested Pisa, had established no relations there save
at the confectioner's, and at the agreeable bank where they saw what she
was. But the bank continued closed, and the confectioner objected to
boys of thirteen as helpers. In this emergency Maso wrote to Luigi,
asking if there was any hope of a place in Leghorn.
"There is sure to be a demand at the large establishments for a talented
North American," Luigi had answered, with confidence.
But Maso went up and down the streets of Leghorn in vain; the large
establishments demanded nothing.
The boys now came down in their expectations. Upon Maso's second visit
to the seaport of Tuscany it was agreed that he should take any
employment that was offered; "for of course it is but a temporary
thing," said Luigi, grandly. He remembered Maso's mother, and to him
Casa Corti, at whose heels, as it were, he had lived, was a highly
aristocratic place of abode. Luigi was assistant in a shop where
glass-ware was sold; for an hour this morning he was free to accompany
his friend in his quest, and together they edged their way along in the
narrow line of shade on one side of the hot, white streets. But it made
no difference whether Luigi went in first and offered his North American
candidate, Maso following a few minutes afterwards, or whether Maso made
his demand in person, Luigi entering later, with his best smile, to
serve as backer; no one showed any eagerness to secure the services of
the small, narrow-chested boy. "Say, Maso, couldn't you look a little
different?" suggested Luigi, anxiously, as they came out of an office,
where, as he was last, he had overheard the epithet "sullen-faced"
applied to his American friend.
The two boys spoke Italian; Luigi knew no English.
"Why, I look as I'm made. Everybody looks as they're made, don't they?"
said Maso, surprised.
"Ah, but expression is a beautiful thing—a sympathetic countenance,"
said Luigi, waving his hand. "Now you—you might smile more. Promise me
to try a smile at the next place where we go in to ask."
"Like this?" said Maso. And stopping, he slapped his leg violently, and
gave a deep, long, sardonic laugh. "I saw a man once who did it like
that," he explained.
"Well! If you should go in and ask for a place and do that—well, I
don't know what they would do to you!" said Luigi, standing still,
"I didn't want to do it; you made me," answered Maso, nettled.
"I told you to smile with an amiability—a sweetness; I didn't tell you
to slap your leg and yell out like that," Luigi remonstrated, taking off
his hat and wiping his hot forehead. "Come; here's a window with nice
looking-glasses; practice a little, and I'll stand behind and tell you
when it's right."
And Maso, standing close to the window, smiled with an amiability—a
sweetness. The reflection of his freckled face in the tilted mirror,
giving back these grins, was something unearthly. But both of the boys
were far too much in earnest to notice that.
"This one will do, I think," said Luigi, doubtfully—"at least, it's the
best. I've got to go now, but look in at the shop before you take the
train back. Are you hungry? I know a place where things are good and not
dear; I'll take you there myself."
This was Luigi's Italian hospitality; he would show Maso his own
particular trattoria. But Maso was not hungry.
At three o'clock he appeared at Luigi's shop. Luigi was dusting goblets.
"Well?" he said, inquiringly.
Maso shook his head.
"Didn't you smile?"
"Yes, I did it as I took off my hat. And every time they seemed so
"I've a new idea, Maso; behold it: the consul of your country!"
"Is there one in Leghorn?" asked Maso, vaguely.
"Of course there is; I have seen the sign many a time." And Luigi
mentioned the street and the number.
The proprietor of the shop, who was packing a case of the slender
Epiphany trumpets, now broke one by accident, and immediately scolded
Luigi in a loud voice; Maso was obliged to make a hasty departure.
The office of the representative of the United States government was
indicated by a painted shield bearing the insignia of the republic, and
a brass plate below, with the following notification: "Consolato degli
Stati-Uniti d'America." The first word of this inscription rouses
sometimes a vague thrill in the minds of homesick Americans in Italy
coming to pay a visit to their flag and the eagle. The thrill, however,
is immediately followed by a conviction that whatever the syllables may
mean (in an unintelligible land), they do not foreshadow, probably,
anything so solacing as they appear at first to indicate. Consolato—a
consoling-place; if it were indeed that, the bare room would soon be as
celebrated as is in Jerusalem the Wailing-place of the Jews. To Maso,
however, there was no double meaning. He glanced at the flag; then he
went up the stairs and knocked at the door.
As it happened, the consul himself was there alone. Maso, upon entering,
took off his hat and tried his smile, then he began: "If you please, I
am trying to get a place—something to do. I thought perhaps, sir, that
He stopped, and in his embarrassment put the toe of his shoe into a hole
in the matting, and moved it about industriously.
"Don't spoil my matting," said the consul. "You're a very young boy to
be looking for a place."
"I'm going on fourteen."
"And of what nation are you?" demanded the consul, after another
"Why, I'm American," said Maso, surprised.
"I shouldn't have taken you for one. What is your name?"
"Maso—I mean Thom-as Ross Coe," replied the boy, bringing out the
syllables with something of an Italian pronunciation.
"Tummarse Errosco? Do you call that an American name?"
"I'll write it," said Maso, blushing. He wrote it in large letters on
the edge of a newspaper that was near him.
"Thomas R. Coe," read the consul. "Coe is your name, then?"
"You want something to do, eh? What do you want, and why do you come
here for it?"
Maso told his story, or rather a tale which he had prepared on his way
to the consulate. It was a confused narrative, because he did not wish
to betray anything that could give a clew to his mother's address.
The consul asked questions. "A failure, eh? What failure?"
"It—it wasn't in Leghorn."
"And your mother will be back in September? Where is she at present?"
"She—she is north; she isn't very well, and—" But he could not think
of anything that he could safely add, so he stopped.
"We haven't any places for boys. Did you expect me to take you in here?"
"No, sir. I thought perhaps you'd recommend me."
"On general principles, I suppose, as an American, seeing that I don't
know anything else about you. And you selected the Fourth as a nice,
good, patriotic day for it?"
"I suppose you know what day it is?"
The consul looked at him, and saw that he spoke in good faith. "You an
American boy? I guess not! You may go." And dipping his pen in the ink,
he resumed his writing.
Maso, though disturbed and bewildered, held his ground. He certainly was
an American boy. What could the man mean?
The consul, whose name was Maclean, was a lawyer from Michigan; a short,
stout man of sixty, with a yellow skin, bright black eyes, and an
old-fashioned black wig with a curled edge all round. "No use waiting,
my friend," he said, without looking up; "frauds don't go down here."
"I'm American. True as you live, I am," said Maso, earnestly.
Something in his face made the consul relent a little. "Perhaps you've
got some American blood hidden in you somewhere. But it must be pretty
well thinned out not to know the Fourth of July! I suppose you've never
heard of the Declaration of Independence either?"
A gleam of light now illumined the darkness of Maso's mind. "Oh yes; I
know now; in the History." He rallied. "The Indians took a very bloody
part in it," he added, with confidence.
"Oh, they did, did they? Where were you brought up?"
"In Italy, most; a little in other places. I came abroad before I was
"I see—one of the expatriated class," said Maclean, contemptuously. He
had a great contempt for Americans who leave their own country and
reside abroad. The dialogue ended, after a little more talk, in his
saying: "Well, you get me a note from your mother (I suppose you write
to her?) telling me something more about you. Then I'll see what I can
do." For the boy's story had been a very vague one.
As Maso, heavy-hearted, turned towards the door, Maclean suddenly felt
sorry for him. He was such a little fellow, and somehow his back looked
so tired. "See here, my son," he said, "here's something for the
present. No use telling you to buy fire-crackers with it, for they
haven't got 'em here. But you might buy rockets; can't look out of the
window summer nights in this place without seeing a lonely rocket
shooting up somewhere." He held out two francs.
Maso's face grew scarlet. "I'd rather not, unless I can work for it," he
muttered. It was a new feeling to be taken for a beggar.
"You can work enough for that if you want to. There is a printed list on
that desk, and a pile of circulars; you can direct them. Show me the
first dozen, so that I can see if they'll pass."
Maso sat down at the desk. He put his hat in six different places before
he could collect his wits and get to work. When he brought the dozen
envelopes for inspection, Maclean said:
"You seem to know Eyetalian well, with all these Eyetalian names. I
can't make head or tail of 'em. But as to handwriting, it's about the
worst I ever saw."
"Yes, I know," said Maso, ashamed. "I've never had regular lessons,
'cepting this summer, when—" He stopped; Mr. Waterhouse's name would
be, perhaps, a clew. He finished the circulars; it took an hour and a
The consul shook hands with him, the mechanical hand-shake of the public
functionary. "You get me that note, and I'll see."
Maso went back to Pisa. When he arrived at his door in the Street of the
Lily, the wife of the cobbler who lived on the ground-floor handed him a
letter which the postman had left. The sight of it made the boy's heart
light; he forgot his weariness, and, climbing the stairs quickly, he
unlocked his door and entered his room, Mr. Tiber barking a joyous
welcome. Mr. Tiber had been locked in all day; but he had had a walk in
the early morning, and his solitude had been tempered by plenty of food
on a plate, a bowl of fresh water, and a rubber ball to play with. Maso
sat down, and, with the dog on his knees, tore open his letter. It was
directed to him at Pisa, in a rough handwriting, but within there was a
second envelope, a letter from his mother, which bore the address of the
hotel at the Bagni di Lucca, where she supposed that her son was staying
with his tutor. She wrote regularly, and she sent polite messages to
Waterhouse, regretting so much that his severe sprain prevented him from
writing to her in reply. Maso, in his answers, represented himself as
the most hopelessly stupid pupil old Longlegs had ever been cursed with;
in the network of deception in which he was now involved he felt this
somehow to be a relief. He had once heard an American boy call out to
another who was slow in understanding something, "You're an old gumpy;"
so he wrote, "Longlegs yells out every day your an old gumpy," which
greatly astonished Mrs. Roscoe. The boy exerted every power he had to
make his letters appear natural. But the task was so difficult that each
missive read a good deal like a ball discharged from a cannon; there was
always a singularly abrupt statement regarding the weather, and another
about the food at the hotel; then followed two or three sentences about
Longlegs; and he was her "affecshionate son Maso. P.S.—Mr. Tiber is
very well." He sent these replies to the Bagni; here his friend, the
porter, taking off the outer envelope, which was directed to himself,
put the letter within with the others to go to the post-office; in this
way Maso's epistles bore the postmark "Bagni di Lucca." For these
services Maso had given his second-best suit of clothes, with shoes and
hat, to the porter's young son, who had aspirations.
The present letter from Mrs. Roscoe was full of joyousness and jokes.
But the great news was that she intended to make a tour in Switzerland
in August, and as she missed her little boy too much to enjoy it without
him, she had written urgently to America about money, and she hoped that
before long (she had told them to cable) she could send for him to join
her. Maso was wildly happy; to be with his mother again, and yet not to
have her return to Italy before the important four months were over,
that was perfect; he got up, opened his trunk, and refolded his best
jacket and trousers with greater care, even before he finished the
letter. For he wore now continuously his third-best suit, as the
second-best had been left at the Bagni. At last, when he knew the letter
by heart, he washed his face and hands, and, accompanied by Mr. Tiber,
tail-wagging and expectant, he went down to get supper at the
trattoria near by.
The next day he tried Pisa again, searching for employment through
street after street. His mother had written that she hoped to send for
him early in August. It was now the 5th of July, so that there were only
four or five weeks to provide for; and then there would be his fare back
to the Bagni. But his second quest was hardly more fortunate than the
first. The only person who did not wave a forefinger in perspiring
negative even before he had opened his lips was a desiccated youth, who,
sitting in his shirt-sleeves, with his feet up and a tumbler beside him,
gave something of an American air (although Maso did not know that) to a
frescoed apartment in which Singer sewing-machines were offered for
sale. This exile told him to add up a column of figures, to show what he
could do. But when he saw that the boy was doing his counting with his
fingers, he nodded him towards the door. "Better learn to play the
flute," he suggested, sarcastically.
Maso was aware that accountants are not in the habit of running a scale
with the fingers of their left hand on the edge of their desks, or of
saying aloud, "six and three are nine," "seven and five are eleven," and
"nought's nought." He had caught these methods from his mother, who
always counted in that way. He clinched his fingers into his palm as he
went down the stairs; he would never count with them again. But no one
asked him to count, or to do anything else. In the afternoon he sought
the poorer streets; here he tried shop after shop. The atmosphere was
like that of a vapor bath; he felt tired and dull. At last, late in the
day, a cheese-seller gave him a hope of employment at the end of the
week. The wages were very small; still, it was something; and refreshed
by the thought, he went home (as he called it), released Mr. Tiber,
and, as the sun was low, took him off for a walk. By hazard he turned
towards the part of the town which is best known to travellers, that
outlying quarter where the small cathedral, the circular baptistery, and
the Leaning Tower keep each other company, folded in a protecting corner
of the crenellated city wall. The Arno was flowing slowly, as if tired
and hot, under its bridges; Pisa looked deserted; the pavements were
scorching under the feet.
As the boy came up the broad paved walk that leads to the cathedral, he
saw two ladies leaving the doorway at the base of the Leaning Tower;
evidently they had been making the ascent. They went across to the
baptistery to see the pulpit of Nicolo the Pisan. "Now they're going to
make the old shed howl," he said to himself. This was the disrespectful
way in which he thought of the famous echo.
At Pisa the atmosphere clothes the cathedral with a softness which no
Northern marbles can ever hope to attain. The fašade, perfect in
proportion and beauty, rises with its columns and galleries from the
greensward, facing the sculptured baptistery; on the other side the
celebrated and fantastic tower for the bells stands, like a tree which
has been made to slant by the furious wind, looking across the plain
towards the sea.
Maso stretched himself on the grass under the fašade of the cathedral.
After a while the ladies came from the baptistery, and crossed to the
Campo Santo. In the relaxation of the dull season the portal had been
left open behind them, and the boy went over and wandered about within,
carrying Mr. Tiber under his jacket, half concealed, as dogs are not
allowed in the sacred enclosure. He looked at the frescos of Benozzo,
at the "Last Judgment" and the "Triumph of Death." He passed the
celebrated sarcophagus without knowing what it was, his attention being
more attracted by the modern monuments, the large marble figures, seated
and standing, that stared down upon him with their unmoving white eyes.
At last he sat down at the base of one of these figures to rest, for the
air here was cool compared with the atmosphere outside. The two
strangers, in their slow progress, looking at everything, guide-book in
hand, had passed him once; now on their second round they stopped near
him at the doorway, preparing for departure. "Well, there is nothing
more to see in Pisa," said one. "Thank Heaven! Pisa's done. Now we can
go on to Lerici."
"We haven't found those plates yet," objected the other.
"Why, don't you remember? They say there are old majolica plates set in
one of the campaniles here—trophies taken from the Moors ages ago. I've
stared up at every campanile, and haven't seen a sign. I wonder if that
boy would know? What a forlorn-looking creature!"
Maso, in truth, in his third-best suit, and obliged to be economical
regarding the bills of the cobbler's wife, who acted as his laundress,
did not present an attractive appearance.
The lady, turning towards him, had begun, "Sapete uno posata in
campanile—" But resenting her comment, Maso had risen and walked away.
"Evidently he isn't Italian, for he doesn't understand," said the
questioner, who was accustomed to declare that it was very easy for her
to travel abroad, as she spoke "five languages equally well." "Perhaps
he is German—with that light hair." She ran after him. "Tisch," she
called, "in thurm. Haben-sie gesehn ein?"
"I speak English," said Maso, stopping.
"You're never English, surely!"
"American? We are Americans; but I should never have taken you for
one!" Then she asked her question about the plates. Maso had never heard
of them; he told her so, and made his escape, going back to the grass
under the fašade. "Ugly old things," he thought, "both of them! I just
wish they could see mother." And forgetting his own mortification, his
heart swelled with pride as he recalled her pretty face and pretty step,
and the general perfection of her appearance. Only four weeks or so and
he should be with her! "Mr. Tiber, pim here. We're going to Switzerland.
Do you hear that? I shall take you in a basket and pretend you's lunch.
The nobil empress" (this character, in the dog language, was Mrs.
Roscoe) "says you mut promit not to bark. But you can bark now. Hi! Mr.
And Mr. Tiber hied. And then, at the word of command, performed every
trick he knew.
THE cheese-shop was blazing with the light of four flaring gas-burners;
the floor had been watered a short time before, and this made the
atmosphere reek more strongly than ever with the odors of the smoked
fish and sausages, caviare and oil, which, with the cheese, formed the
principal part of the merchandise offered for sale. There was no current
of air passing through from the open door, for the atmosphere outside
was perfectly still. Tranquilly hovering mosquitoes were everywhere, but
Maso did not mind these much; he objected more to the large black
beetles that came noiselessly out at night; he hated the way they stood
on the shelves as if staring at him, motionless save for the waving to
and fro of their long antennŠ. A boy came in to buy cheese. It was soft
cheese; Maso weighed it, and put it upon a grape leaf. "It just gets
hotter and hotter!" he remarked, indignantly. The Italian lad did not
seem to mind the heat much; he was buttery with perspiration from
morning until night, but as he had known no other atmosphere than that
of Pisa, he supposed that this was the normal summer condition of the
entire world. It was the 27th of August.
On the last day of July, when Maso's every breath was accompanied by an
anticipation of Switzerland, there had arrived a long disappointed
letter from his mother; the hoped-for money had not come, and would not
come: "Reuben John again!" The Swiss trip must be given up, and now the
question was, could Mr. Waterhouse keep him awhile longer? "Because if
he cannot, I shall return to the Bagni next week." Maso, though choked
with the disappointment, composed a letter in which he said that old
Longlegs was delighted to keep him, and was sorry he could not write
himself, but his arm continued stiff; "probly heel never be able to
write agane," he added, darkly, so as to make an end, once for all, of
that complicated subject. There was no need of her return, not the
least; he and Mr. Tiber were well, "and having loads of fun"; and,
besides, there was not a single empty room in the hotel or anywhere
else, and would not be until the 6th of September; there had never been
such a crowd at the Bagni before. He read over what he had written, and
perceiving that he had given an impression of great gayety at the
Italian watering-place, he added, "P.S. peple all cooks turists." (For
Mrs. Roscoe was accustomed to declare that she hated these inoffensive
travellers.) Then he signed his name in the usual way: "your
affecshionate son, Maso." He never could help blotting when he wrote his
name—probably because he was trying to write particularly well. Mrs.
Roscoe once said that it was always either blot "so," or "Ma" blot; this
time it was "Ma" blot.
This letter despatched, the boy's steadiness broke down. He did not go
back to the cheese-seller's shop; he lived upon the money he had earned,
and when that was gone he sold his clothes, keeping only those he wore
and his best suit, with a change of under-clothing. Next he sold his
trunk; then his school-books, though they brought but a few centimes.
The old fairy-book he kept; he read it during the hot noon-times, lying
on the floor, with Mr. Tiber by his side. The rest of the day he devoted
to those pleasures of which he had dreamed. He went swimming, and stayed
in for hours; and he made Mr. Tiber swim. He indulged himself as
regarded melons; he went to the puppet-show accompanied by Mr. Tiber; he
had had his hair cut so closely that it was hardly more than yellow
down; and he swaggered about the town in the evening smoking cigarettes.
After three weeks of this vagabond existence he went back to the
cheese-seller, offering to work for half-wages. His idea was to earn
money enough for his fare to the Bagni, and also to pay for the washing
of his few clothes, so that he might be in respectable condition to meet
his mother on the 6th of September; for on the 6th the four months would
be up, and she could safely return. This was his constant thought. Of
late he had spoken of the 6th in his letters, and she had agreed to it,
so there was no doubt of her coming. To-day, August 27th, he had been at
work for a week at the cheese-seller's, and the beetles were blacker and
more crafty than ever.
It was Saturday night, and the shop was kept open late; but at last he
was released, and went home. The cobbler's wife handed him his letter,
and he stopped to read it by the light of the strongly smelling
petroleum lamp. For he had only a short end of a candle up-stairs; and,
besides, he could not wait, he was so sure that he should find, within,
the magic words, "I shall come by the train that reaches Lucca at—" and
then a fixed date and hour written down in actual figures on the page.
The letter announced that his mother had put off her return for three
weeks: she was going to Paris. "As you are having such a wonderfully
good time at the Bagni this summer, you won't mind this short delay. If
by any chance Mr. Waterhouse cannot keep you so long, let him telegraph
me. No telegram will mean that he can." She spoke of the things she
should bring to him from Paris, and the letter closed with the sentence,
"I am so glad I have thought of this delightful idea before settling
down again in that deadly Casa Corti for the winter." (But the idea had
a human shape. Violet Roscoe's ideas were often personified; they took
the form of agreeable men.)
"Evil news? Tell me not so!" said the cobbler's wife, who had noticed
the boy's face as he read.
"Pooh! no," answered Maso, stoutly. He put the letter into his pocket
and went up to his room. As he unlocked his door, there was not the
usual joyful rush of Mr. Tiber against his legs; the silence was
undisturbed. He struck a match on the wall and lighted his candle-end.
There, in the corner, on his little red coverlid, lay Mr. Tiber asleep.
Then, as the candle burned more brightly, it could be seen that it was
not sleep. There was food on the tin plate and water in the bowl; he had
not needed anything. There was no sign of suffering in the attitude, or
on the little black face with its closed eyes (to Maso that face had
always been as clearly intelligible as a human countenance); the
appearance was as if the dog had sought his own corner and his coverlid,
and had laid himself down to die very peacefully without a pain or a
The candle-end had long burned itself out, and the boy still lay on the
floor with his arm round his pet. It seemed to him that his heart would
break. "Mr. Tiber, dear little Tiber, my own little doggie—dying here
all alone!—kinnin little chellow!" Thus he sobbed and sobbed until he
was worn out. Towards dawn came the thought of what must follow. But no;
Mr. Tiber should not be taken away and thrown into some horrible place!
If he wished to prevent it, however, he must be very quick. He had one
of the large colored handkerchiefs which Italians use instead of
baskets; as the dawn grew brighter he spread it out, laid his pet
carefully in the centre, and knotted the corners together tightly;
then, after bathing his face to conceal as much as possible the traces
of his tears, he stole down the stairs, and, passing through the town,
carrying his burden in the native fashion, he took a road which led
towards the hills.
It was a long walk. The little body which had been so light in life
weighed now like lead; but it might have been twice as heavy, he would
not have been conscious of it. He reached the place at last, the house
where Giulio's wife lived, with her five children, near one of the
hill-side villages which, as seen from Pisa, shine like white spots on
the verdure. Paola came out from her dark dwelling, and listened to his
brief explanation with wonder. To take so much trouble for a dog! But
she was a mild creature, her ample form cowlike, her eyes cowlike also,
and therefore beautiful; she accompanied him, and she kept the curious
crowding children in some kind of order while the boy, with her spade,
dug a grave in the corner of a field which she pointed out. Maso dug and
dug in the heat. He was so afraid of the peasant cupidity that he did
not dare to leave the dog wrapped in the cotton handkerchief, lest the
poor little tomb should be rifled to obtain it; he gave it, therefore,
to one of the children, and, gathering fresh leaves, he made a bed of
them at the bottom of the hole; then leaning down, he laid his pet
tenderly on the green, and covered him thickly with more foliage, the
softest he could find. When the last trace of the little black head had
disappeared he took up the spade, and with eyes freshly wet again in
spite of his efforts to prevent it, he filled up the grave as quickly as
he could, levelling the ground smoothly above it. He had made his
excavation very deep, in order that no one should meddle with the place
later: it would be too much trouble.
It was now nearly noon. He gave Paola three francs, which was half of
all he possessed. Then, with one quick glance towards the corner of the
field, he started on his long walk back to Pisa.
"DO you know where you'll end, Roberta! You'll end with us," said Mrs.
"Yes; in the Church. You've tried everything, beginning with geology and
ending with music (I can't help laughing at the last; you never had any
ear), and you have found no satisfaction. You are the very kind to come
to us; they always do."
The speaker, an American who lived in Naples, had entered the Roman
Catholic Church ten years before; in Boston she had been a Unitarian. It
was the 10th of September, and she was staying for a day in Pisa on her
way southward; she had encountered Miss Spring by chance in the piazza
of Santa Caterina at sunset, and the two had had a long talk with the
familiarity which an acquaintance in childhood carries with it, though
years of total separation may have intervened.
"There is one other alternative," answered Miss Spring; "it was
suggested by a pretty little woman who used to be here. She advised me
to try crystal scent-bottles and dissipation." This being a joke, Miss
Spring had intended to smile; but at this instant her attention was
attracted by something on the other side of the street, and her face
"Crystal scent-bottles? Dissipation? Mercy!" exclaimed Mrs. Harrowby.
"What do you mean?"
But her companion had gone; she was hurrying across the street. "It
isn't possible, Maso, that this is you!" She spoke to a ragged,
Two hours after her question Maso was in bed in the Palazzo Rondinelli.
Madame Corti never came back till October, and the pension was not
open, but servants were there. The house-keeper went through the form of
making protest: "The signora has always such great alarm about fever."
"You will refer Madame Corti to me; I will pay for her alarm," answered
Roberta, marching past her to direct the driver of the carriage, who was
assisting Maso up the stairs. "It's not infectious fever. Only
malarial." Roberta was something of a doctor herself. She superintended
in person the opening of a large, cool room on the second floor, the
making of the bed, and then the installation of Maso between linen
sheets. The servants were all fond of the boy; in addition, Madame Corti
was in Sorrento, and Miss Spring's francs were here. Her francs were
few, but she spent them for Maso as generously as though they had been
The boy, as soon as he was in bed, whispered to Giulio, "Pencil—paper."
Then when Miss Spring had left the room, he scrawled on the page, Giulio
holding a book under it, "My dog is ded," and signed his name. He told
Giulio to give this to her when she came in; then, as he heard her step,
he quickly closed his eyes.
Miss Spring read, and understood. "He was afraid I would ask. And he
could not speak of it. He remembers, poor little fellow, that I did not
care for the dog."
Maso had refused to tell her where his mother was. "She's coming, on the
22d, to the Bagni di Lucca"; this was all he would say. The next morning
at daylight she left him with the nurse (for she had sent immediately
for Dr. Prior and for one of the best nurses in Pisa), and, driving to
the Street of the Lily, she ascended the unclean stairs, with her skirts
held high and her glasses on, to the room at the top of the house. Maso
had himself gathered his few possessions together after his meeting with
her in the piazza of Santa Caterina, but he had not had the strength to
carry them down to the lower door. Miss Spring took the two parcels,
which were tied up in newspapers, and after looking about to see that
there was nothing left, she descended in the same gingerly way, and
re-entered the carriage which was waiting at the door, its wheels
grazing the opposite house. "Yes, he is ill; malarial fever. But we hope
he will recover," she said to the cobbler's wife, who inquired with
grief and affection, and a very dirty face.
To find Mrs. Roscoe's address, so that she could telegraph to her, Miss
Spring was obliged to look through Maso's parcels. She could not ask his
permission, for he recognized no one now; his mind wandered. One of the
bundles contained the best suit, still carefully saved for his mother's
arrival. The other held his few treasures: his mother's letters, with
paper and envelopes for his own replies; the old fairy-book; and Mr.
Tiber's blanket, coverlid, and little collar, wrapped in a clean
handkerchief. The latest letter gave the Paris address.
"My dear little boy! If I could only have known!" moaned Violet Roscoe,
sitting on the edge of the bed with her child in her arms. She had just
arrived; her gloves were still on. "Oh, Maso, why didn't you tell me?"
Maso's face, gaunt and brown, lay on her shoulder; his eyes were
strange, but he knew her. "You mustn't get sick again, mother," he
murmured, anxiously, the fixed idea of the summer asserting itself. Then
a wider recollection dawned. "Oh, mother," he whispered with his dry
lips, "Mr. Tiber's dead. Little Tiber!"
His fever-hot eyes could not shed tears, but his mother cried for him,
overwhelmed by the thought of his lonely sorrow. Then she tried to
comfort him: "Tiber was an old dog, Maso; he was not young when we
bought him, and we have had him many years. Dogs do not live very long,
even the oldest; he had to die some time. And he had a very happy little
life with you, always; you loved him, and gave him everything, and he
loved you. No dog could have had more."
Roberta overheard this attempt; she came to the bedside to add her item
also to the consolation. "Perhaps you will see your pet again, Maso. For
he had his vital spark as well as we have, though in a less degree. If
ours is to reappear in a future existence, I am inclined to think that
his will also. Why not?"
Maso did not understand her; his mother's voice alone reached his dulled
intelligence. But at least Roberta had done her best.
A month later Mr. Reuben J. Coe, of Coesville, New Hampshire, said to
his brother David: "That foolish wife of Tom's is coming home at last.
In spite of every effort on my part, she has made ducks and drakes of
almost all her money."
"Is that why she is coming back?"
"No; thinks it will be better for the boy. But I'm afraid it's too late