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travels had first carried him to
. There he spent some weeks in collecting
letters and recommendations for his tour, in purchasing his travelling-carriage
and its numerous appurtenances, and in driving in it from cathedral town to
storied castle, omitting nothing, from Abbotsford to
, which deserved the attention of a
cultivated mind. From
he crossed to
, moving slowly southward to the
; and there, taking ship for the
, he plunged into pure romance, and the
tourist became a Giaour.

was the East which had made him into a new Lewis Raycie; the East, so squalid
and splendid, so pestilent and so poetic, so full of knavery and romance and
fleas and nightingales, and so different, alike in its glories and its dirt,
from what his studious youth had dreamed. After
and the bazaars, after
, the Acropolis, Mytilene and Sunium, what
could be left in his mind of
Canal Street
and the lawn above the Sound? Even the
mosquitoes, which seemed at first the only connecting link, were different,
because he fought with them in scenes so different; and a young gentleman who
had journeyed across the desert in Arabian dress, slept under goats’-hair
tents, been attacked by robbers in the Peloponnesus and despoiled by his own
escort at Baalbek, and by customs’ officials everywhere, could not but look
with a smile on the terrors that walk New York and the Hudson River. Encased in
security and monotony, that other Lewis Raycie, when his little figure bobbed
up to the surface, seemed like a new-born babe preserved in alcohol. Even Mr.
Raycie senior’s thunders were now no more than the far-off murmur of summer
lightning on a perfect evening. Had Mr. Raycie ever really frightened Lewis?
Why, now he was not even frightened by
Mont Blanc

was still gazing with a sense of easy equality at its awful pinnacles when
another travelling-carriage paused near his own, and a young man, eagerly
jumping from it, and also followed by a servant with a cloak, began to mount
the slope. Lewis at once recognized the carriage, and the light springing
figure of the young man, his blue coat and swelling stock, and the scar
slightly distorting his handsome and eloquent mouth. It was the Englishman who
had arrived at the Montanvert inn the night before with a valet, a guide, and
such a cargo of books, maps and sketching materials as threatened to overshadow
even Lewis’s outfit.

at first, had not been greatly drawn to the newcomer, who, seated aloof in the
dining-room, seemed not to see his fellow-traveller. The truth was that Lewis
was dying for a little conversation. His astonishing experiences were so
tightly packed in him (with no outlet save the meagre trickle of his nightly
diary) that he felt they would soon melt into the vague blur of other people’s
travels unless he could give them fresh reality by talking them over. And the
stranger with the deep-blue eyes that matched his coat, the scarred cheek and
eloquent lip, seemed to Lewis a worthy listener. The Englishman appeared to
think otherwise. He preserved an air of moody abstraction, which Lewis’s vanity
imagined him to have put on as the gods becloud themselves for their secret
errands; and the curtness of his goodnight was (Lewis flattered himself)
surpassed only by the young New Yorker’s.

today all was different. The stranger advanced affably, raised his hat from his
tossed statue-like hair, and enquired with a smile: “Are you by any chance
interested in the forms of cirrous clouds?”

voice was as sweet as his smile, and the two were reinforced by a glance so
winning that it made the odd question seem not only pertinent but natural.
Lewis, though surprised, was not disconcerted. He merely coloured with the
unwonted sense of his ignorance, and replied ingenuously: “I believe, sir, I am
interested in everything.”

noble answer!” cried the other, and held out his hand.

I must add,” Lewis continued with courageous honesty, “that I have never as yet
to occupy myself particularly with the
form of cirrous clouds.”

companion looked at him merrily. “That,” he said, “is no reason why you
shouldn’t begin to do so now!” To which Lewis as merrily agreed. “For in order
to be interested in things,” the other continued more gravely, “it is only
necessary to see them; and I believe I am not wrong in saying that you are one
of the privileged beings to whom the seeing eye has been given.”

his agreement, and his interlocutor continued:
“You are one of those who have been on the road to

“On the road?
I’ve been to the place itself!” the wanderer
exclaimed, bursting with the particulars of his travels; and then blushed more
deeply at the perception that the other’s use of the name had of course been

young Englishman’s face lit up. “You’ve been to
—literally been there yourself? But that may
be almost as interesting, in its quite different way, as the formation of
clouds or lichens. For the present,” he continued with a gesture toward the
mountain, “I must devote myself to the extremely inadequate rendering of some
of those delicate aiguilles; a bit of drudgery not likely to interest you in
the face of so sublime a scene. But perhaps this evening—if, as I think, we are
staying in the same inn—you will give me a few minutes of your society, and
tell me something of your travels. My father,” he added with his engaging
smile, “has had packed with my paint-brushes a few bottles of
a wholly
; and if you will favour me with your
company at dinner…”

signed to his servant to undo the sketching materials, spread his cloak on the
rock, and was already lost in his task as Lewis descended to the carriage.

proved as trustworthy as his host had
promised. Perhaps it was its exceptional quality which threw such a golden
lustre over the dinner; unless it were rather the conversation of the blue-eyed
Englishman which made Lewis Raycie, always a small drinker, feel that in his
company every drop was nectar.

Lewis joined his host it had been with the secret hope of at last being able to
talk; but when the evening was over (and they kept it up to the small hours) he
perceived that he had chiefly listened. Yet there had been no sense of
suppression, of thwarted volubility; he had been given all the openings he
wanted. Only, whenever he produced a little fact it was instantly overflowed by
the other’s imagination till it burned like a dull pebble tossed into a rushing
stream. For whatever Lewis said was seen by his companion from a new angle, and
suggested a new train of thought; each commonplace item of experience became a
many-faceted crystal flashing with unexpected fires. The young Englishman’s
mind moved in a world of associations and references far more richly peopled
than Lewis’s; but his eager communicativeness, his directness of speech and
manner, instantly opened its gates to the simpler youth. It was certainly not
the Madeira which sped the hours and flooded them with magic; but the magic
gave the Madeira—excellent, and reputed of its kind, as Lewis afterward learned—a
taste no other vintage was to have for him.

but we must meet again in
—there are many things there that I could
perhaps help you to see,” the young Englishman declared as they swore eternal
friendship on the stairs of the sleeping inn.




was in a tiny Venetian church, no more than a
chapel, that
Lewis Raycie’s eyes had been unsealed—in
a dull-looking little church
not even mentioned in the guide-books. But for his chance encounter with the
young Englishman in the shadow of Mont Blanc, Lewis would never have heard of
the place; but then what else that was worth knowing would he ever have heard
of, he wondered?

had stood a long time looking at the frescoes, put off at first—he could admit
it now—by a certain stiffness in the attitudes of the people, by the childish
elaboration of their dress (so different from the noble draperies which Sir
Joshua’s Discourses on Art had taught him to admire in the great painters), and
by the innocent inexpressive look in their young faces—for even the gray-beards
seemed young. And then suddenly his gaze had lit on one of these faces in
particular: that of a girl with round cheeks, high cheek-bones and widely set
eyes under an intricate head-dress of pearl-woven braids. Why, it was Treeshy—Treeshy
Kent to the life! And so far from being thought “plain,” the young lady was no
other than the peerless princess about whom the tale revolved. And what a
fairy-land she lived in—full of lithe youths and round-faced pouting maidens,
rosy old men and burnished blackamoors, pretty birds and cats and nibbling
rabbits—and all involved and enclosed in golden balustrades, in colonnades of
pink and blue, laurel-garlands festooned from ivory balconies, and domes and
minarets against summer seas! Lewis’s imagination lost itself in the scene; he
forgot to regret the noble draperies, the exalted sentiments, the fuliginous
backgrounds, of the artists he had come to Italy to admire—forgot Sassoferrato,
Guido Reni, Carlo Dolce, Lo Spagnoletto, the Carracci, and even the
Transfiguration of Raphael, though he knew it to be the greatest picture in the

that he had seen almost everything else that Italian art had to offer; had been
to Florence, Naples,
; to Bologna to study the
Eclectic School, to Parma to examine the Correggios and the Giulio Romanos. But
that first vision had laid a magic seed between his lips; the seed that makes
you hear what the birds say and the grasses whisper. Even if his English friend
had not continued at his side, pointing out, explaining, inspiring. Lewis
Raycie flattered himself that the round face of the little Saint Ursula would
have led him safely and confidently past all her rivals. She had become his
touchstone, his star: how insipid seemed to him all the sheep-faced Virgins
draped in red and blue paint after he had looked into her wondering girlish
eyes and traced the elaborate pattern of her brocades! He could remember now,
quite distinctly, the day when he had given up even Beatrice Cenci…and as for
that fat naked Magdalen of Carlo Dolce’s, lolling over the book she was not
reading, and ogling the spectator in the good old way…faugh! Saint Ursula did
not need to rescue him from

eyes had been opened to a new world of art. And this world it was his mission
to reveal to others—he, the insignificant and ignorant Lewis Raycie, as “but
for the grace of God,” and that chance encounter on Mont Blanc, he might have
gone on being to the end! He shuddered to think of the army of Neapolitan
beggar-boys, bituminous monks, whirling prophets, languishing Madonnas and
pink-rumped amorini who might have been travelling home with him in the hold of
the fast new steam-packet.

excitement had something of the apostle’s ecstasy. He was not only, in a few
hours, to embrace Treeshy, and be reunited to his honoured parents; he was also
to go forth and preach the new gospel to them that sat in the darkness of
Salvator Rosa and Lo Spagnoletto…

first thing that struck Lewis was the smallness of the house on the Sound, and
the largeness of Mr. Raycie.

had expected to receive the opposite impression. In his recollection the
varnished Tuscan villa had retained something of its impressiveness, even when
compared to its supposed originals. Perhaps the very contrast between their draughty
distances and naked floors, and the expensive carpets and bright fires of High
Point, magnified his memory of the latter—there were moments when the thought
of its groaning board certainly added to the effect. But the image of Mr.
Raycie had meanwhile dwindled. Everything about him, as his son looked back,
seemed narrow, juvenile,
childish. His bluster
about Edgar Poe, for instance—true poet still to Lewis, though he had since
heard richer notes; his fussy tyranny of his womenkind; his unconscious but
total ignorance of most of the things, books, people, ideas, that now filled
his son’s mind; above all, the arrogance and incompetence of his artistic
judgments. Beyond a narrow range of reading—mostly, Lewis suspected, culled in
drowsy after-dinner snatches from Knight’s “Half-hours with the Best
Authors”—Mr. Raycie made no pretence to book-learning; left
, as he handsomely said, “to the
professors.” But on matters of art he was dogmatic and explicit, prepared to
justify his opinions by the citing of eminent authorities and of market-prices,
and quite clear, as his farewell talk with his son had shown, as to which Old
Masters should be privileged to figure in the Raycie collection.

BOOK: Edith Wharton - Novel 15
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