In the gallery of one of the famous Roman villas which commands a splendid view of the city, Mr. Henry Vincent, a young American, was lounging. Judging by his appearance he was a college graduate, or, to speak more definitely, a graduate of Harvard; for he had that jaunty walk and general trimness of attire which are the traditional attributes of the academical denizens of Cambridge. He swung his arms rather more than was needed to assist locomotion, and betrayed in an unobtrusive manner a consciousness of being well dressed. His face, which was not without fine possibilities, had an air of well-bred neutrality; you could see that he assumed a defensive attitude against aesthetic impressions,—that even the Sistine Madonna or the Venus of Milo would not have surprised him into anything like enthusiasm or abject approval. It was evident, too, that he was a little bit ashamed of his Baedeker, which he consulted only in a semi-surreptitious way, and plunged into the pocket of his overcoat whenever he believed himself to be observed. Such a contingency, however, seemed remote; for the silence that reigned about him was as heavy and profound as if it had been unbroken since creation’s day. The large marble halls had a grave and inhospitable air, and their severe magnificence compelled even from our apathetic traveller a shy and reluctant veneration. He tried to fix his attention upon a certain famous Guido which was attached by hinges to the wall, and which, as he had just learned from Baedeker, was a marvel of color and fine characterization; he stood for a few moments staring with a blank and helpless air, as if, for the first time in his life, he was beginning to question the finality of his own judgment. Then his eyes wandered off to the cornice of the wall, whose florid rococo upholstery won his sincere approval.
“Hang it!” he murmured impatiently, pulling a gold watch from his waistcoat pocket. “That loon Jack—he never does keep an engagement.”
At this moment, distant footsteps were heard, which, as they approached, resounded with a sepulchral distinctness on the marble pavement. Presently a young man entered breathlessly, holding his hat in one hand and a white handkerchief in the other.
“Harry,” he cried, excitedly, “I have found the goddess of the place. Come quick, before she vanishes. It is a rare chance, I tell you.”
He seized his companion’s arm and, ignoring his remonstrances, almost dragged him through the door by which he had entered.
“What sort of lunacy is it you are up to now, Jack?” the other was heard to grumble. “I’ll bet ten to one you have been making an ass of yourself.”
“I dare say I have,” retorted Jack, good-naturedly; “a man who has not the faculty of making a fool of himself occasionally is only half a man. You would be a better fellow, too, Harry, if you were not so deucedly respectable; a slight admixture of folly would give tone and color to your demure and rigid propriety. For a man so splendidly equipped by fortune, you have made a poor job of existence, Harry. When I see you bestowing your sullen patronage upon the great masterpieces of the past, I am ashamed of you—yes, by Jove, I am.”