Otti. Night? Such may be your Rhineland nights, perhaps;
Seb. Ay, thus it used to be!
Otti. Ah, the clear morning! I can see St. Mark’s:
Otti. Oh shut the lattice, pray!
Seb. Let me lean out. I cannot scent blood here,
Otti. Best never speak of it.
Seb. Best speak again and yet again of it,
Otti. Assuredly if I repented
Seb. Repent? who should repent, or why?
Otti. No, I said the deed—
Seb. ‘The deed,’ and ‘the event’—just now it was
Otti. Here is the wine;
Seb. But am not I his cut-throat? What are you?
Otti. There, trudges on his business from the Duomo
Seb. No—the white wine—the white wine!
Otti. You brought those foreign prints. We looked at them
Seb. ’Faith, he is not alive
Otti. Do you
Seb. Hark you, Ottima,
Seb. Not tied so sure!
Otti. Love, to be wise, (one counsel pays another)
Seb. ‘A thing’—there again—‘a thing!’
Otti. Then, Venus’ body, had we come upon
Seb. Off, off; take your hands off mine!
Otti. There’s one thing must be done; you know what thing.
Seb. What would come, think you, if we let him lie
Otti. This dusty pane might serve for looking-glass.
Seb. Ottima, I would give your neck,
Seb. No, I’ll finish! Do you think
Otti. My poor lost friend!
Seb. He gave me
Otti. Well, then, I love you better now than ever,
Seb. And I drew
Otti. And when I ventured to receive you here,
Otti. Ah—my sign was, the sun
Seb. You would always laugh
Otti. Then our crowning night!
Seb. The July night?
Otti. The day of it too, Sebald!
Seb. How it came!
Otti. Buried in woods we lay, you recollect;
Seb. Slower, Ottima—
Otti. And as we lay—
Seb. Less vehemently! Love me!
Otti. Sebald, as we lay,
Seb. How did we ever rise?
Otti. I felt you,
Seb. I kiss you now, dear Ottima, now, and now!
Otti. Bind it thrice about my brow;
Seb. I crown you
[From without is heard the voice of PIPPA, singing—
Seb. God’s in His heaven! Do you hear that? Who spoke?
Otti. Oh—that little ragged girl!
Seb. Leave me!
Seb. Wipe off that paint. I hate you!
Seb. My God! and she is emptied of it now!
Otti. Speak to me—speak not of me!
Seb. —That round great full-orbed face, where not an angle
Otti. To me—not of me!—ungrateful, perjured cheat!
Seb. My God!
Otti. You hate me, then? You hate me, then?
Seb. To think
Seb. My brain is drowned now—quite drowned: all I feel
Otti. Not to me, God—to him be merciful!
First Student. Attention! my own post is beneath this window, but the pomegranate clump yonder will hide three or four of you with a little squeezing, and Schramm and his pipe must lie flat in the balcony. Four, five—who’s a defaulter? We want everybody, for Jules must not be suffered to hurt his bride when the jest’s found out.
Second Student. All here! Only our poet’s away—never having much meant to be present, moonstrike him! The airs of that fellow, that Giovacchino! He was in violent love with himself, and had a fair prospect of thriving in his suit, so unmolested was it,—when suddenly a woman falls in love with him, too; and out of pure jealousy he takes himself off to Trieste, immortal poem and all—whereto is this prophetical epitaph appended already, as Bluphocks assures me—‘Here a mammoth-poem lies, Fouled to death by butterflies.’ His own fault, the simpleton! Instead of cramp couplets, each like a knife in your entrails, he should write, says Bluphocks, both classically and intelligibly.—Aesculapius an Epic. Catalogue of the drugs: Hebe’s plaister—One strip Cools your lip. Phoebus’ emulsion—One bottle clears your throttle. Mercury’s bolus—One box Cures . . .
Third Student. Subside, my fine fellow! If the marriage was over by ten o’clock, Jules will certainly be here in a minute with his bride.
Second Student. Good!—Only, so should the poet’s muse have been universally acceptable, says Bluphocks, et canibus nostris . . . and Delia not better known to our literary dogs than the boy—Giovacchino!
First Student. To the point, now. Where’s Gottlieb, the new-comer? Oh,—listen, Gottlieb, to what has called down this piece of friendly vengeance on Jules, of which we now assemble to witness the winding-up. We are all agreed, all in a tale, observe, when Jules shall burst out on us in a fury by-and-by: I am spokesman—the verses that are to undeceive Jules bear my name of Lutwyche—but each professes himself alike insulted by this strutting stone-squarer, who came singly from Paris to Munich, and thence with a crowd of us to Venice and Possagno here, but proceeds in a day or two alone again—oh, alone, indubitably!—to Rome and Florence. He, forsooth, takes up his portion with these dissolute, brutalized, heartless bunglers!—So he was heard to call us all: now, is Schramm brutalized, I should like to know? Am I heartless?
Gottlieb. Why, somewhat heartless; for suppose Jules a coxcomb as much as you choose, still, for this mere coxcombry, you will have brushed off—what do folks style it?—the bloom of his life. Is it too late to alter? These love-letters, now, you call his—I can’t laugh at them.
Fourth Student. Because you never read the sham letters of our inditing which drew forth these.
Gottlieb. His discovery of the truth will be frightful.
Fourth Student. That’s the joke. But you should have joined us at the beginning: there’s no doubt he loves the girl—loves a model he might hire by the hour!
Gottlieb. See here! ‘He has been accustomed,’ he writes, ‘to have Canova’s women about him, in stone, and the world’s women beside him, in flesh; these being as much below, as those, above—his soul’s aspiration; but now he is to have the real.’ There you laugh again! I say, you wipe off the very dew of his youth.
First Student. Schramm! (Take the pipe out of his mouth, somebody). Will Jules lose the bloom of his youth?
Schramm. Nothing worth keeping is ever lost in this world: look at a blossom—it drops presently, having done its service and lasted its time; but fruits succeed, and where would be the blossom’s place could it continue? As well affirm that your eye is no longer in your body, because its earliest favourite, whatever it may have first loved to look on, is dead and done with—as that any affection is lost to the soul when its first object, whatever happened first to satisfy it, is superseded in due course. Keep but ever looking, whether with the body’s eye or the mind’s, and you will soon find something to look on! Has a man done wondering at women?—There follow men, dead and alive, to wonder at. Has he done wondering at men?—There’s God to wonder at: and the faculty of wonder may be, at the same time, old and tired enough with respect to its first object and yet young and fresh sufficiently, so far as concerns its novel one. Thus . . .
First Student. Put Schramm’s pipe into his mouth again! There, you see! Well, this Jules . . . a wretched fribble—oh, I watched his disporting at Possagno, the other day! Canova’s gallery—you know: there he marches first resolvedly past great works by the dozen without vouchsafing an eye: all at once he stops full at the Psiche-fanciulla—cannot pass that old acquaintance without a nod of encouragement—‘In your new place, beauty? Then behave yourself as well here as at Munich—I see you:’ Next he posts himself deliberately before the unfinished Pietà for half an hour without moving, till up he starts of a sudden, and thrusts his very nose into—I say, into—the group; by which gesture you are informed that precisely the sole point he had not fully mastered in Canova’s practice was a certain method of using the drill in the articulation of the knee-joint—and that, likewise, has he mastered at length! Good bye, therefore, to poor Canova—whose gallery no longer needs detain his successor Jules, the predestinated novel thinker in marble!
Fifth Student. Tell him about the women: go on to the women!
First Student. Why, on that matter he could never be supercilious enough. How should we be other (he said) than the poor devils you see, with those debasing habits we cherish? He was not to wallow in that mire, at least: he would wait, and love only at the proper time, and meanwhile put up with the Psiche-fanciulla. Now I happened to hear of a young Greek—real Greek girl at Malamocco; a true Islander, do you see, with Alciphron’s ‘hair like sea-moss’—Schramm knows!—white and quiet as an apparition, and fourteen years old at farthest,—a daughter of Natalia, so she swears—that hag Natalia, who helps us to models at three lire an hour, We selected this girl for the heroine of our jest. So, first, Jules received a scented letter—somebody had seen his Tydeus at the academy, and my picture was nothing to it—a profound admirer bade him persevere—would make himself known to him ere long—(Paolina, my little friend of the Fenice, transcribes divinely). And in due time, the mysterious correspondent gave certain hints of her peculiar charms—the pale cheeks, the black hair—whatever, in short, had struck us in our Malamocco model: we retained her name, too—Phene, which is by interpretation, sea-eagle. Now, think of Jules finding himself distinguished from the herd of us by such a creature! In his very first answer he proposed marrying his monitress; and fancy us over these letters, two, three times a day, to receive and dispatch! I concocted the main of it: relations were in the way—secrecy must be observed—in fine, would he wed her on trust, and only speak to her when they were indissolubly united? St—st—Here they come!
Sixth Student. Both of them! Heaven’s love, speak softly! speak within yourselves!
Fifth Student. Look at the bridegroom! Half his hair in storm, and half in calm,—patted down over the left temple, like a frothy cup one blows on to cool it! and the same old blouse that he murders the marble in!
Second Student. Not a rich vest like yours, Hannibal Scratchy!—rich, that your face may the better set it off.
Sixth Student. And the bride! Yes, sure enough, our Phene! Should you have known her in her clothes? How magnificently pale!
Gottlieb. She does not also take it for earnest, I hope?
First Student. Oh, Natalia’s concern, that is! We settle with Natalia.
Sixth Student. She does not speak—has evidently let out no word. The only thing is, will she equally remember the rest of her lesson, and repeat correctly all those verses which are to break the secret’ to Jules?
Gottlieb. How he gazes on her! Pity—pity!
First Student. They go in—now, silence! You three,—not nearer the window, mind, than that promegranate—just where the little girl, who a few minutes ago passed us singing, is seated!