“Cheer up, old man! I shall not disappoint you this time. You have my promise.”
A two-horse carriage was at the door. Mallard looked at it from the balcony, and was direly tempted. No fear of his yielding, however, It was not his fate to scamper whither desire pointed him.
“I have already begun to work out an idea,” said Elgar, as he breakfasted merrily. “I woke in the night, and it came to me as I heard the bell striking. My mind is always active when I am travelling; ten to one I shall come back ready to begin to write. I fear there’s no decent ink purchasable in Amalfi; I mustn’t forget that. By-the-bye, is there anything I can bring you?”
They went down together, shook hands, and away drove the carriage. At the public fountain in the little piazza, where stands the image of Sant’ Andrea, a group of women were busy or idling, washing clothes and vegetables and fish, drawing water in vessels of beautiful shape, chattering incessantly—such a group as may have gathered there any morning for hundreds of years. Children darted after the vehicle with their perpetual cry of “Un sord’, signor!” and Elgar royally threw to them a handful of coppers, looking back to laugh as they scrambled.
A morning of mornings, deliciously fresh after the rain, the air exquisitely fragrant. On the mountain-tops ever so slight a mist still clinging, moment by moment fading against the blue.
“Yes, I shall be able to work here,” said Elgar within himself. “December, January, February; I can be ready with something for the spring.”
Clifford Marsh left Pompeii on the same day as his two chance acquaintances; he returned to his quarters on the Mergellina, much perturbed in mind, beset with many doubts, with divers temptations. “Shall I the spigot wield?” Must the ambitions of his glowing youth come to naught, and he descend to rank among the Philistines? For, to give him credit for a certain amount of good sense, he never gravely contemplated facing the world in the sole strength of his genius. He knew one or two who had done so before his mind’s eye was a certain little garret in Chelsea, where an acquaintance of his, a man of real and various powers, was year after year taxing his brain and heart in a bitter struggle with penury; and these glimpses of Bohemia were far from inspiring Clifford with zeal for naturalization. Elated with wine and companionship, he liked to pose as one who was sacrificing “prospects” to artistic conscientiousness; but, even though he had “fallen back” on landscape, he was very widely awake to the fact that his impressionist studies would not supply him with bread, to say nothing of butter—and Clifford must needs have both.