“No? You are not ambitious?”
“Not in that way. To own a palace such as this would make one insignificant.”
“That is admirably true! I should give it away, to recover self-respect. Shakespeare or Michael Angelo might live here and make it subordinate to him; I should be nothing but the owner of the palace. You like to feel your individuality?”
“Who does not?”
“In you, I think, it is strong.”
Miriam smiled a little, as if she liked the compliment. Before either spoke again, other visitors came to look at the view, and disturbed them.
“I shan’t ask you to come anywhere to-morrow,” said Mallard, when they had again talked for awhile of pictures. “And the next day Mrs. Elgar will be here.”
She looked at him.
“That wouldn’t prevent me from going to a gallery—if you thought of it.”
“You will have much to talk of. And your stay in Rome won’t be long after that.”
Miriam made no reply.
“I wish your brother had been coming,” he went on. “I should have liked to hear from him about the book he is writing.”
“Shall you not he in London before long?” she asked, without show of much interest.
“I think so, but I have absolutely no plans. Probably it is raining hard in England, or even snowing. I must enjoy the sunshine a little longer. I hope your health won’t suffer from the change of climate.”
“I hope not,” she answered mechanically.
“Perhaps you will find you can’t live there?”
“What does it matter? I have no ties.”
“No, you are independent; that is a great blessing.”
Chatting as if of indifferent things, they left the gallery.
Rolled tightly together, and tied up with string, at the bottom of one of Miriam’s trunks lay the plans of that new chapel for which Bartles still waited. Miriam did not like to come upon them, in packing or unpacking; she had covered them with things which probably would not be moved until she was again in England.
But the thought of them could not be so satisfactorily hidden. It lay in a corner of her mind, and many were the new acquisitions heaped upon it; but in spite of herself she frequently burrowed through all those accumulations of travel, and sought the thing beneath. Sometimes the impulse was so harassing, the process so distressful, that she might have been compared to a murderer who haunts the burial-place of his victim, and cannot restrain himself from disturbing the earth.