A Fellowe and his Wife

I

FROM THE COUNTESS ILSE VON JAROMAR-ILSENSTEIN

TO HER HUSBAND, COUNT ODO VON JAROMAR.

 

Palazzo Malaspina, Via Gregoriana, Rome,
Thursday, 27 October

Amico mio:

You see how Italian I am already! You will note at a glance that I am no longer at the Hotel d'Italia. A most fortunate thing has happened. You will remember how pleased I was when our good neighbor, Count Paul Waldeck, promised me an introduction to Friedrich Herwegh, the sculptor. Well, I had not presented the letter, but when dining two nights ago with our friends Ulrich Heideloff and his wife, I met Herwegh. He is a splendid fellow. One is nearly always disappointed in expectations of famous people, but our great sculptor is an exception. True, he is younger, in aspect at any rate, than I had anticipated; but as for that, well -- so much the better. The Heideloffs quite embarrassed me by all the kind things they said, but I was well aware that Herwegh was nothing more than courteously interested, till Lotta led him to the corner of the salon where my little ivory Diver stands, in what I told my amiable hosts is the most charming and flattering isolation. You know the one I mean? Not the Diver I sent to Berlin, but that which I made last summer at Thiessow, from Caspar Mohl, the son of the old boatman who used to take us about so much. It is the one which stoops forward, looking intently into imaginary depths. Herwegh gave a rapid glance, first at it, then at me. But he kept silent so long that my heart sank. Ah, my dear Odo, it throbbed quickly enough when he turned to me, and said: "You did this?" and added, "So: you are a sculptor indeed. That Diver is not flawless, but there is nothing amateurish about it. You must work, work, work; study, study, study. Do you know that there is not a woman --- well, never mind. And now, Countess, when .will you come and have a talk with me? Will you come to my studio to-morrow ?"

Of course I gladly agreed. On the morrow I went to his workroom in the Vicolo da Tolentino, close to the Piazza del Tritone, which you will remember. By the way, I am so glad you visited Rome after you left the university, for I need not bore you with descriptions and raptures and reflections; and yet when I do wish you to have some definite idea, it is de-lightful to know that, from a hint or two, you can realize what is before me as I write. And again, as I am much more interesting to you than Herwegh's sculpture --- if I thought you would smile at this I should never forgive you! --- I won't say anything about it at present. Only, I was glad to be there --- to be with that great artist --- to see his newly begun and partly finished works, with the rigorous, animating master-touch manifest everywhere. He invited me to be quite frank with him. You, who complain that I am so uncommunicative, would be surprised to hear me. I told him all --- well, all that was needful. And, what do you think? --- oh, I am so glad! He knew just the place for me to go to. He has friends, Gustav and Lilien Röhrich, who own the whole of the third étage of the Palazzo Malaspina. They are wealthy people, and are much away from Rome; but he assured me there would be no difficulty in my having a small suite of rooms there. The Röhrichs had offered this suite to him, but he preferred to be nearer his studio. He would, he said, go round to the Palazzo Malaspina and see them at once on my behalf. Before I clearly understood, he was gone! I confess I was much perturbed till he returned. I did not know what to think. Moreover, I did not for a moment believe he would be successful in his quest; but the moment I saw his face I guessed my good fortune; and, indeed, I had not long to wait, for with him came Frau Röhrich, a pleasant and comely woman. Well, to be brief, I went back with her, saw the rooms, came to an arrangement, and thanked my guardian gods! The rooms are small, but their situation is all one could wish. Palazzo Malaspina is an old palace nearly at the Pincian end of the Via Sistina; and it has two entrances, one in that street, and one in the Via Gregoriana. My rooms are gained by the latter, though the main entrance is in the Sistina. It is just the place for a romance ; the daring lover can come in one way and go by another! Ah, but I am looked after by these good Röhrichs, so set your mind at rest. You must remember that saying in your favorite Balzac: "What saves the virtue of many a woman is that protecting god ---the impossible." What a cynic! But you men are all alike. Well, I am to have three charming little rooms, ---a bedroom, a reception-room, and a small room which is to serve as my studio,---with attendance, for 250 lire a month: a small sum when one considers the advantages, the position, and so forth. They all face northwesterly, so you may imagine my view! I look right over Rome, and out upon the Ostian Campagna. To the right lies the Papal part of the city, and I can just catch the fringe of the gardens of the Pincio. I know you don’t think much of King Umberto’s Prime Minister, so you will be glad to hear that I look down upon him --- literally, for I overlook his house in the Via Gregoriana. But. To make good news beter, Frau Röhrich told me I could get in at once. It is so good of them and Friedrich Herwegh. I can see that the 250 lire is only a nominal charge, as they knew I could not come save as a paying tenant; and they really wish to gain by letting the rooms they should have charged 700 lire. Herwegh told me that his English friends, the Arnolds, pay 1000 lire for an indifferent apartment in t his expensive Via Georgiana.

Eccomi! Here I am, happily situated. I cannot tell you how elated I am at the prospects of this coming winter. I am going to work so hard. You wil be proud of me yet, Odo.

By the way, this will amuse you. Some one on the staff of the Fanfulla took me for the wife of the new Russian Abassador: "Madame Olgafoff is a tall handsome worman, withthe singular fairness which is essentially Scandianavian rather than Slavonic. She is quite young, certainly well on the right side of five and twenty. The unusual dark blue of her eyes is in striking contrast to her pure skin and lustrous bronze-gold hair. Madame Olgaroff was the most noticed person at the Reception, and both King Umberto and Queen Margherita were clearly impressed by her stately beauty of face and figure and her winsome manner. The russian Ambassadress was dress" --- but, no, my poor Odo, I won’t inflict you to that point. You know that I am vain, though of course you will deny having ever told me so. Still, I do not think, till I came to the description of the dress, that I would have guessed I was meant, thought of course I knew some rediculous mistake had been made. That time I stayed with your aund in Berlin I met Madame Olgaroff, a commonplace, dowdy woman, and without a single recommendation save her high birth and immense wealth. And now in Fanfulla there is a correction to the effect that Madame Olgaroff was not yet in Rome, and that the lady who had been inadvertently described instead is that illustrissima signora la Contessa Ilse von Ilsenstein.

Thursday evening

The Röhrichs very kindly insisted on taking me for a drive to the Villa Pamphili-Doria to-day. I am astonished to find my childish recollections of Rome so little subject to change. As we crossed the Corso and drove past the column of Marcus Aurelius, and down through the narrow streets to the Tiber, I found that there was alinost nothing that was new to me! True, I had never before seen the beautiful gardens of the Pamphili-Doria ---alone worth coming to Rome to see, says Herwegh, and I agree with him ---but I had been on the Janiculum before, and well remembered the luxurious splashing of the water in the great fountains of the Acqua Paola, and that superb and unrivaled view from the terrace of the Spanish Academy across Rome to the Sabines and Albans. Do you know, I had such a strange Heimweh all at once, when at the Villa. We had alighted to walk about a little. I forget if you know the place; if you do, you will remember the narrow lago. I was strolling near it, and suddenly I came upon that small amber-yellow flower ---I don't know its name ---which grows in our north-sea islands. That day at Vilm---you know the day, dear---you gave me one, and said it should be called the Ilse-flower, because it was never the same long --- constantly lighter or darker, but never the same. It all came back to me---you, and the island-forest, and all the dear homeland.

You told me once that I had not a spark ot sentiment in me. You foolish boy!

Friday morning

I fell into a dream last night, and so did not finish, and therefore did not post my letter. I am not gone, to tell you what my dream was, for to-day there is no letter from you, as I expected. I wonder---ah, here it comes! Of course: how stupid I am! It went first to the Hotel d'Italia.

Well, I have read your letter. It is not quite like you, Odo. Why, I cannot say. It seems constrained, and so unlike that which I found awaiting me at Milan, and that at the Italia. What tiresome things letters are! they are either flowers without their wildwood fragrance, or little adders, all wriggle and sting! No, I am not going to write to you any more just now. Why do you lay so much stress upon "duty," --- "your duty," " my duty"? The word is your Shibboleth just now. And I hate Shibboleths. And that quotation from Herder! It is excellent ; but to what is it apropos? I was reading a French book in the train the other day, and there was a much more apt remark about duty there. "There is a magic in the word duty, something I know not what, which sustains magistrates, inflames warriors, and cools married people!" There, I have given you my Dupuy for your Herder. Think over it, sposo mio!

If you are good ---but not otherwise ---you shall soon hear from your

Ever affectionate and dutiful

ILSE.

return next