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A STROLL ON THE PINCIAN.
dignity with which this title invested their playful friend, “you know we could never see their shape, on account of his clustering curls. Nay, I remember, he once started back, as shyly as a wild deer, when Miriam made a pretence of examining them. How do you explain that?”
Oh, I certainly shall not contend against such a weight of evidence; the fact of his faunship being otherwise so probable,” answered the sculptor, still hardly retaining his gravity. “Faun or not, Donatello—or the Count di Monte Beniis a singularly wild creature, and, as I have remarked on other occasions, though very gentle, does not love to be touched. Speaking in no harsh sense, there is a great deal of animal nature in him, as if he had been born in the woods, and had run wild all his childhood, and were as yet but imperfectly domesticated. Life, even in our day, is very simple and unsophisticated in some of the shaggy nooks of the Apennines."
“ It annoys me very much," said Hilda, “ this inclination, which most people have, to explain away the wonder and the mystery out of everything. Why could not you allow me—and yourself, too-the satisfaction of thinking hira a Faun?”
“ Pray keep your belief, dear Hilda, if it makes you any happier,” said the sculptor; “ and I shall do my best to become a convert. Donatello has asked me to spend the summer with him, in his ancestral tower, where I purpose investigating the pedigree of these sylvan counts, his forefathers; and if their shadows beckon me into dreamland, I shall willingly follow. By the by, speaking of Donatello, there is a point on which I should like to be enlightened.”
“ Can I help you, then?” said Hilda, in answer to his look.
“Is there the slightest chance of his winning Miriam's affections ? ” suggested Kenyon.
“ Miriam! she, so accomplished and gifted !” exclaimed Hilda—and he, a rude, uncultivated boy! No, no, no ! ”
“ It would seem impossible,” said the sculptor. “But, on the other hand, a gifted woman flings away her affections so unaccountably, sometimes ! Miriam, of late, has been very morbid and miserable, as we both know. Young as she is, the morning light seems already to have faded out of her life; and now comes Donatello, with natural sunshine enough for himself and her, and offers her the opportunity of making her heart and life all new and cheery again. People of high intellectual endowments do not require similar ones in those they love. They are just the persons to appreciate the wholesome gush of natural feeling, the honest affection, the simple joy, the fulness of contentment with what he loves, which Miriam sees in Donatello. True; she may call him a simpleton. It is a necessity of the case; for a man loses the capacity for this kind of affection, in proportion as he cultivates and refines himself.”
“ Dear me!” said Hilda, drawing imperceptibly away from her companion. “Is this the penalty of refinement ? Pardon me; I do not believe it. It is because you are a sculptor, that you think nothing can be finely wrought, except it be cold and hard, like the marble in which your ideas take shape. I am a painter, and know that the most delicate beauty may be softened and warmed throughout.”
“I said a foolish thing, indeed,” answered the sculptor. “It surprises me, for I might have drawn a wiser knowledge out of my own experience. It is the surest test of genuine love, that it brings back our early simplicity to the worldliest of us.”
Thus talking, they loitered slowly along beside the parapet which borders the level summit of the Pincian with its irregular sweep. At intervals they looked through the lattice-work of their thoughts at the varied prospects that lay before and beneath them. . From the terrace where they now stood there is an abrupt descent towards the Piazza del Popolo; and looking down into its broad space they beheld the tall, palatial edifices, the churchdomes, and the ornamented gateway, which grew and were consolidated out of the thought of Michael Angelo. They saw, too, the red granite obelisk, oldest of things, even in Rome, which rises in the centre of the piazza, with a fourfold fountain at its base. All Roman works and ruins (whether of the empire, the far-off republic, or the still more distant kings) assume a transient, visionary, and impalpable character when we think that this indestructible monument supplied one of the recollections which Moses and the Israelites bore from Egypt into the desert. Perchance, on beholding the cloudy pillar and the fiery column, they whispered awe-stricken to one another, “In its shape it is like that old obelisk which we and our fathers have so often seen on the borders of the Nile.” And now that very obelisk, with hardly a trace of decay upon it, is the first thing that the modern traveller sees after entering the Flaminian Gate !