Venetian Nights

‘VENEZIA!’ somebody was shouting; and I was startled from a sound sleep, and porters were scrambling for our bags, and we were stumbling after them, up a long platform, between a crowd of men in hotel caps yelling, ‘Danieli!’ ‘Britannia!’ and I hardly know what, out into a fog as impenetrableas night, or London. The muffled, ghostly cries of ‘Gundola! Gundola!' from invisible gondoliers on invisible waters, would have sent me back into the station, even had there been a chance to find so modest a hotel as the Casa Kirsch open at three o’clock in the morning; and my first impressions of Venice were gathered in the freezing, foggy station restaurant where J. and I drank our coffee and shivered, and the hours stretched themselves into centuries, before a touch of yellow in the fog suggested a sun shining in some remote world, and we crawled under the cover of one of the dim black boats that emerged vaguely, a shadow from the shadows.

I had looked forward to my first gondola ride for that ‘little first Venetian thrill" that Venice owes to the stranger; but if I thrilled it was with cold and damp and fog as the gondola pushed through the yellow gloom in the sort of silence you can feel, and tall houses towered suddenly and horribly above us, and strange yells broke the stillness, before and behind, when another black boat with its black figure at the stern, came out of the gloom, scraped and bumped our side, and was swallowed up again.

And after we were on the landing of the Casa Kirsch, and in our rooms, and the fog lifted, and the sun shone, and we looked out of the window with all Venice in our faces, and J. took me to see the town, my impressions were foggy with sleep. For, from Pompeii, where there had been work, to Venice where there was to be more, we had hurried by one of those day-and-night flights to which J. has never been able to accustom me, the hurried, crowded pauses at Naples and Florence turning the journey into a beautiful nightmare of which all I was now seeing became but a part, — the Riva, canals, sails, Bersaglieri, the Ducal Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, St. Mark’s, the Piazza, gondolas, women in black, white sunlight, pigeons, tourists, the Campanile, following one upon another with the inconsequence of sleep. And then we were on the Rialto and J. was saying, ’Of course you know that?’ and I was answering, ‘Of course, the Bridge of Sighs!’ and a quarter of a century has not blunted the edge of his disgust or my remorse. But my disgrace drove me back to the Casa Kirsch, to sleep for fifteen blessed hours before looking at one other beautiful thing or troubling my head about what we were to do with our days and our nights in Venice.

What we were to do with our days settled itself the next morning as soon as I woke. For I saw Venice, from my window, rising out of the sea with the dawn, everything she ought to have been the morning before, and I had no desire to move from a room that looked down upon the Riva, and across to San Giorgio, and beyond the island-andsail-strewn Lagoon to the low line of the Lido, and above to the vastness of the Venetian sky.

Nor was there trouble in providing for our nights. Before I left home a romantic friend had pictured me in Venice, wrapped in black lace, forever floating in a gondola under the moon. But my Roman winter had taught me how much more likely the gaslight of some little trattoria or caffè was to shine upon me in my shabby tweeds. The only question was, which of the many little trattorie and caffè in Venice we should choose; and this was decided by Inglehart, whom we ran across that morning in the Piazza, and who told us that he slept in the Casa Kirsch, dined at the Antica Panada, and drank coffee at the Orientale, which was as much as to say that we might, too, if we liked. And we did like.

We began that night to dine at the Panada and drink coffee at the Orientale, and we kept on dining at the Panada and drinking coffee at the Orientale every night we were in Venice; except when it was a festa and we followed Inglehart to the Calcino, where various Royal Academicians sustained the respectability that Ruskin gave it by his patronage and Symonds tried to live up to; or when there was music in the Piazza, and Inglehart carried us to the Quadri or Florian’s; or when it stormed, as it can in March, and all day, from my window, I looked down upon the dripping Riva, and the windwaved Lagoon, and lines of fishingboats moored to the banks, and no living creatures except the gulls and the little white woolly dogs on the boats covered with sails under which the sailors huddled, and gondoliers in yellow oilskins, and the Bersaglieri in hoods; and at night we went with Inglehart no farther than the kitchen of the Casa Kirsch, for he hated, as we did, the table d’hôte from which, there as everywhere, German tourists were talking away every other nationality.

The kitchen was a huge room, with high ceiling, and brass and copper pots and pans on the whitewashed walls, and a dim light about the cookingstove, and mysterious shadowy corners. The padrona laid the cloth for us in an alcove opposite the great fireplace, while she and her family sat at a table against the wall to the right, and the old cook ate at a bare table in the middle, and the maid-servant sat on a stool by the fire with her plate in her lap, and the man-servant stood in the corner with his plate on the dresser. Having thus expressed their respect for class distinctions, they helped equally in cooking and serving, talked together the whole time, quarreled, called each other names, and laughed at the old man’s stories, told in the Venetian, which I only wish I had understood then as well as I did a few weeks later, when it was too late; for, with the coming of spring, there were no storms to keep us from the Panada.

Just where the Panada was, I would not attempt to say; not from any desire to keep it secret , which would be foolish, for Baedeker long since found it out; but simply because I could not very well show the way to a place I never could find for myself. I knew it was somewhere round the corner from the Piazza, but I never rounded that corner alone without becoming involved in a labyrinth of little calli. Nor would I attempt to say why the artists chose it and why, because they did, we should, for it was the dirtiest, noisiest, and most crowded trattoria in Venice.

No matter whether we got there early or late, it was full; and always we began our dinner by wiping our glasses, plates, forks, spoons, and knives on our napkins, making such a habit of it that I remember afterwards at a dinner-party in London catching myself with my glass in my hand and stopping only just in time; while Inglehart, on another occasion, got as far as the silver before he was held up by the severe eye of his hostess. Probably it was because nobody could hear what anybody said that everybody talked together. I cannot recall a moment when stray musicians were not strumming on guitars and mandolins, and the oyster-man was not shrieking,

‘Ostriche! Ostriche fresche !’ though nobody paid the least attention to him or ever bought one of his oysters. And above the uproar was the continuous cry, ’Ecco me! Vengo subito! Mezzo Verona! Due Calamai! Vengo subito! Ecco me!’ of the waiters who, though they never ceased to announce their coming, were so slow to come that many diners brought a course or two in their pockets.

The little Venetian at the next table was sure to produce a bunch of radishes while he waited for his soup. On market-days, when there was more of a crowd than ever, few of the baked potatoes had seen the inside of the Panada’s oven; often the shops that fill the Venetian calli with the perpetual smell of frying, and where the brasses and blue-and-white used to shine, were patronized on the way. If dinner has to be collected in the streets, no town, even in Italy, offers such facilities as Venice. Vance, the painter, who sometimes honored us at our table with his company, after he had taken off his coat and put on his hat, seldom troubled the establishment to provide him with more than a glass, a plate, a knife, and a fork for the price of a quinto of Verona. His first, and as it turned out, his last, substantial order, was the event of the season. The padrone discussed it with him and a message was sent to the cook that the dish was di histecca. When it came it was not cooked enough to suit Vance. A second was cooked too much. The third was done to a turn. In the bill, however, were the three; and voices were lowered, mandolins and guitars were stilled, the oyster-man forgot his shriek, during the five awful minutes when Vance and the padrone had it out. After that Vance made another trattoria the richer by his daily quinto.

J. and I had our five minutes with the padrone later on, once when Rossi, our waiter, was so slow that our patience gave out and we shook the dust of the Panada from our feet. But we could not shake off Rossi. He had arrived with our dinner just as we were vanishing from the door, and was made to pay for it. After that his leisure was spent in trying to make us pay him back, and he would appear at our front door, or waylay us on the Riva, or follow us into the Orientale, or run us down on the Piazza; demanding the money as a right, begging for it as a charity, reducing it by a centesimo every time, until we had only to wait long enough for the debt to be wiped out. But this was at the end of our stay in Venice, and months of dining at the Panada had passed before then.

I should be as puzzled to explain the attraction of the Caffè Orientale on the Riva, unless it were the opportunity it offered for economy. At the Quadri and Florian’s in the Piazza, coffee was twenty centesimi and the waiter expected five more, but at the Orientale it was eighteen and the waiter was satisfied with the change from twenty, which meant the saving every night of almost half a cent. The Orientale, for us, was as quiet and deserted as the Panada was crowded and noisy. Outside, tables looked on the Lagoon and the facade of San Giorgio, white in the night; and in a big, new, gilded room sailors and sergeants played checkers, and more serious Venetians worked out dismal problems in chess. But we sat in the shabby, stuffy, old, low-ceilinged room, to which nobody ever penetrated except the elderly Englishman and his son, who read the Standard in the opposite corner, — after our race with them to the caffè, the winners getting the one English paper first, — and the caramei man with his brass tray of candied fruit, impaled on thin sticks, like little birds on a skewer.

Had the old room been seedier and duller, — dull our company never was, — I still would have seen it through the glamour of youth and thought it the one place for the study of Venice and Venetian life; but nobody who sat there with us would have objected so long as Inglehart presided at our table.

Inglehart was of that large, fair, golden-haired type that suggests indolence and indifference; and as he lolled against the red velvet cushions smoking his Cavour, his eyes half-shut, smiling with casual benevolence, he looked incapable of action, and as if he did not know whether he were alone or not, and cared less. And yet, he had a record of activity behind him; he always inspired activity in others; he was rarely without a large and devoted following. He it was who drew ‘the boys’ from Munich to Florence, and from Florence to Venice, and ‘the boys’ have passed into the history of art. And he it also was who packed them off again before they learned how easy it is to be content in Venice without doing anything; though I fancied he was rather glad to indulge in that content himself. That he had not quite reached the point of idling all day, but was busy over his Venetian etchings, I knew from J., who spent many hardworking hours in his studio, while I stared from the windows of the Casa Kirsch, making believe I was gathering material; or strolled on the Riva pretending to market for my mid-day meal, although the baker was almost next door, and the man from whom I bought the little dried figs, that nowhere are so dried and shriveled up as in Venice, was seldom more than a minute away.

We were never alone with Inglehart at the Orientale. The American Consul dropped in, as he had for so many years that half his occupation would have gone if he had n’t dropped in any longer. Martin joined us because he loved to argue anybody into a temper; and, as he was an awful bore, succeeded so well with most people that he could not understand or accept his failure with Inglehart, and was forever coming back, making himself a bigger bore than ever by trying again. But Shinn was the only man I ever knew to put Inglehart into a temper, and that was by asking him deferentially one night if he did not think St. Mark’s a very fine church; the next minute, however, calming him down by inviting him out ‘in my gandler.'

Arnold found the caffè as comfortable a place to sleep in as any other. Like Sancho Panza, he had a talent for sleeping. He had made his name and fame as one of the Harvard baseball team in I-will-not-say-what year, and sleep had been his chief occupation ever since. He was supposed to be in Venice to study with Inglehart, at whose studio he arrived regularly at the same hour every morning. And as regularly he was snoring before he had been sitting in front of his easel for ten minutes. Inglehart would come round, shake him, and, before he slept again, put a touch to his study. Then Inglehart would work on until he had finished it and, unless it slid off the canvas with the quantity of bitumen he used (there was a story of the beautiful eyes in a beautiful portrait sliding down into the chin of the pretty girl who was posing), Arnold, waking up, would carry off the painting, unconscious that he had not finished it. Nobody can say how many Ingleharts are masquerading at home as Arnolds, while their owners wonder why Arnold has never since done any work a tenth as good.

The one thing that roused him was baseball, and he was in fine form on the afternoons when he and a few other enthusiasts spent an hour or so on the Lido for practice. The Englishmen did not much believe in the stories they heard of him as a baseball player. It was not easy for anybody to believe that a man who was always tumbling off to sleep on the slightest provocation could play anything decently. But I was told that one day he was wide enough awake to be irritated, and he bet a dinner he could pitch the swell British cricketer among them three balls, not any one of which he could catch. And on Easter Monday they all went over to the Lido. The Briton asked for a high ball; it skimmed along near the ground and then rose over his head as he stooped for it. He asked for a low one; it came straight for his nose and, when he dodged, it dropped and went between his legs. He asked for a medium one; it curved away out to the right, he rushed for it, it curved back again and took him in the manly bosom. The rest of the Britons and ‘ the boys,’ they say,enjoyed the dinner more than he did.

But most constant of our little party was Jobbins, our one Englishman, or, rather, the one Englishman we tolerated, who came in late to the Orientale — where, or if, he dined none of us could say — with the stool and canvas and paint-box he had been carrying about all day from one campo, or calle, or canale, to another, in search of a subject. The trouble with Jobbins was that he had passed too brilliantly through South Kensington to do the teaching for which he was trained, or anything but paint great pictures, the subjects for which he could never find; his mistake was to want to paint them in Venice where there is nothing to paint that has not been painted hundreds, or thousands, or millions, of times before; and his misfortune was not to find in adversity the comfort and hope which the philosopher believes to be its reward. He had become, in consequence, the weariest man who breathed. It made me tired to look at him. Later on he was given a good post as teacher somewhere in India, but he lived such a short time to enjoy it, that I was sure he was homesick for Venice and the search after the impossible, and the old days when he was so abominably hard-up that even J. and I were richer. Of the complete crash by which we all gained, — including the man who got the Whistler painted on the back of a Jobbins panel, — I still have reminders in the brass plaque and bits of embroideries and brocades which J. bought to help save the situation, at the risk of creating a new one from which somebody would have to save us.

For all his weariness, Jobbins looked ridiculously young. He insisted that this was what lost him his one chance of selling a picture. He was painting in the Frari, a subject he vainly hoped was his own, when an American family of three came and stared over his shoulder. ‘Why, it’s going to be a picture!’ the small child discovered. ‘And he such a boy, too!’ the mother marveled. ‘Then it can’t be of any value,’ the father said in the loud, cheerful voice in which American and English tourists in Venice make their most personal comments, convinced that nobody can understand, though every other person they meet is a fellow countryman.

A story used to be told of Bunney at work in the Piazza, on his endless study of St. Mark’s for Ruskin, one cold winter morning, when three English girls, wrapped in furs, passed. One stopped behind him. ‘Oh, Maud! Ethel!’ she called, ‘do come back and see what this poor shivering old wretch is doing.’

The talk in our corner of the Orientale kept us in the past until I began to fear that, just as some people grow prematurely gray, so J. and I, not a year married, had prematurely reached the time for creeping in close about the fire — or a caffè table — and telling gray tales of what we had been. It was a very different past from that which tourists were then bullied by Ruskin into believing should alone concern them in Venice. We were not tourists, we were none of us seeing sights, being far too busy doing the work we were there to do; and for us ‘the boys’ gave the date which over-shadowed every other in Venetian history. Nothing that had happened in Venice before or after counted, though ‘the boys’ were a good deal over-shadowed by Whistler, who had been there with them for a while.

It was extraordinary how the Whistler tradition had developed and strengthened in the little more than four years since he had left Venice. Not only at the Orientale, but at any caffè where two or three artists were gathered together, Whistler stories were certain, sooner or later, to be told. It was then we first heard the goldfish story, and the devil-in-t lie-glass story, and the Wolkoff-pastel story, and the farewellfeast story, and the innumerable stories pigeon-holed by ’the boys’ for future use, and so recently told by J. and myself in the greatest story of all — the story of his Life — that it is too soon for me to tell them again.

As I did not at the time know Whistler, I shared the popular idea of him as a man who might be ridiculed, abused, feared, hated, anything rather than loved. But to my astonishment, none of them could speak of him without affection. ‘Not a bad chap,’ Jobbins would forget his weariness to say, ‘not half a bad chap! ’ And one night he told one of the few Whistler stories not yet told in print. ‘He rather liked me,’ said Jobbins, ‘liked to have me about, and to help on Sundays when he showed his pastels. But that was n’t my game, you know, and I got tired of it, and one Sunday when lots of people were there and he asked me to bring out that drawing of a calle with tall houses, and away up above clothes hung out to dry, and a pair of trousers in the middle, I said, “Have you got a title for it, Whistler?” “No,” he said. “Well,”I said, “ call it an Arrangement in Trousers,” and everybody laughed. I’d have sneaked away, for he was furious. But he would n’t let me, kept his eye on me, though he did n’t say a word until they’d all gone. Then he looked at me rather with that Shakespeare fellow’s Et tu Brute look: “ Why, Jobbins, you, who are so amiable! " That was all. No, not half a bad chap.’

Now and then, talk of ‘the boys,’ reminding Inglehart of his own student days, would lead him into more personal reminiscences, when the stories were of his adventures — sometimes on Bavarian roads, singing and fiddling his way from village to village; sometimes in Bavarian convents, teaching drawing to pretty novices and kept in order by stern Reverend Mothers; sometimes in American towns painting the earliest American mural decorations— and he could have painted many more if the difficulty of deciding upon a subject and, after he did decide, getting more than one figure into the design, had not kept him from carrying out the first big twelve-thousand-dollar commission ever given to anybody in America. And he probably would have plunged us into still deeper depths of reminiscence and romance but for the descent upon Venice of the men from Munich. They were only three, McFarlane, Anthony, and Thompson, but they had not journeyed all the way from Munich to talk about ‘the boys’ and to drop sentimental tears over old love-tales. They were off on an Easter holiday and meant to make the most of it. Because Inglehart was Inglehart, they gave up the gayer caffè in the Piazza to be with him in the sleepy old Orientale. But they were not going to let it stay a sleepy old Orientale if they could help themselves. Their very first evening Inglehart ordered two glasses of milk — to steady his nerves, he said, though he politely attributed the unsteadiness to the tea he had been drinking. People drifted to our room from outside, and from the new room, to see what the noise was about, until there was not a table to be had. The old Englishman and his son put down the Standard and. laughed with us. The caramei man went away with an empty tray, I do believe the only time he was ever bought out in his life; and McFarlane treated us all to tamarindo to drink with the fruit, and he wound up his extravagance by buying a copy of the Venetian paper ‘the boys’ used to call the Bar a bo wo w.

Nor did the transformation end here. The men from Munich were so smart, that we were shocked into the consciousness of our shabbiness. Inglehart, who had been happy in an old ulster with holes in the pockets and rips in the seams, dazzled the caffè by appearing in a jaunty spring overcoat. J. exchanged his old trousers with a green stain of acid down the leg for the new pair he had hitherto worn only when he went to call on the Bronsons, or to dine with Mr. Horatio Brown, where I could not go because I was so much more hopelessly shabby. But in the Merceria I could at least supply myself with gloves and veils; while Jobbins unearthed a fresh cravat from somewhere. And we began to feel apologetic for the shabbiness and general down-at-heel ness of Venice which was boring the men from Munich to extinction— really they were so bored, they said, that all day they found themselves looking forward to the caramei man as the town’s one excitement.

I thought the illuminations on Easter Sunday evening — when the Piazza was ‘a fairyland in the night,’ and the music deafened us, and the Bengal lights blinded us — would help to give them a livelier impression; but though they came with us to Florian’s it was plain they pitied us for being so pleased. They could n’t, for the life of them, see why the place had been cracked up by Ruskin. Nothing was right. The language was not worth learning. At the Panada, after we had given our order for dinner, McFarlane would murmur languidly, ‘ Lo stesso,' which he declared the one useful word in the Italian dictionary; to it Thompson added a mysterious ‘Sensa crab,' when Rossi suggested 'Piccoli fees,' under the delusion that he was talking English. Anthony was quite content with the vocabulary the other two supplied him. The climate was as deplorable: either wet and cold, when the Italian scaldino was n’t a patch on the German stove, and a gondola became a freezing machine; or warm and enervating so that they could n’t keep awake.

They dozed in their gondola, they yawned in St. Mark’s and the Ducal Palace and all the other places Camillo, their gondolier, was inhuman enough to wake them up to look at. The beauty of Venice was exaggerated, or if they did come to a hit that made them pull their sketch-books out of their pockets, Camillo was at once bothering them to do it from just where Guardi, or Canaletto, or Rico, or Whistler, or Ruskin, or some other old boy had painted, etched, or drawn it. But it was Venetian art that got most on their nerves. They had given it a fair chance. ‘Trot, out your Tintorettos,’ they said to Camillo every morning; and he carried them off to the Palace, and the Academy, and more churches than they thought there were in the world, and at last to the Scuola di San Rocco. And there a solemn man in spectacles took them in hand. They said to him, too, ‘Trot out your Tintorettos,’ and he led them up to a big, dingy canvas, and they said, ‘Trot out your next,’ and they went the rounds of them all, and they asked, ‘ Where’s your Inglehart ? ’ and he said he had never heard of Inglehart, and they said, ‘Why, he’s here!’ and they left him hunting, and Were back in their gondola in ten minutes; and they guessed they could do with Rubens! I trembled to think of the shock to tourists, religiously studying Baedeker and Ruskin, could they have heard the men of Munich talk of art and of Venice.

Perhaps their disappointment in Venice was the reason of their preoccupation with Munich. Certainly ‘Now at Munich,’ was the beginning and end of the talk, as ‘when the boys were here’ had been before they came. They would not admit that anything good could exist outside of Munich. I remember Inglehart once suggesting that Paris was the best place for the student, to whom it was a help just to see what was going on round him. ‘But what does go on round the student there?’ McFarlane interrupted. ‘It’s all fads in Paris. What do they talk about in Paris to-day but values? [This, remember, was a quarter of a century ago.] That’s all they teach the student, all they think of. Look at Lesling’s picture last year. They all raved over it, said it was the clou of the Salon, medaled it, bought it for the Luxembourg, and I don’t know what all. And what was it?—Pale green sheep in the foreground, pale green mountains in the background, so pale you could shoot peas through them. That’s what you have to do now to make a success in Paris — get your values so that you can shoot peas through ’em. And what will it be tomorrow? And what help is it to the student anyway? ’

What the student saw going on round him in Munich was, as well as I could make out, chiefly balls and pageants. To this day I cannot help thinking of life in Munich as one long spectacle. Inglehart, who could talk with calmness of his painting, was stirred to animation when he recalled the parts he had played in it. He could not conceal his pride in his success as a South Sea Islander, achieved by the simple means of burnt Sienna rubbed into him so vigorously that it took months to get it out again, and a blanket which he mislaid toward morning so that his walk home at dawn, like a savage skulking in the shadows, was a triumph of realism. Pride, too, colored his account of his appearance as a socialist carpenter inciting to riot in the streets of an elaborate Old Munich, the origin of Old London and Old Paris and all the sham old towns that exhibitions have long since staled for us. But his masterpiece was his dissipated gentleman, like all masterpieces a marvel of simplicity. He hired evening clothes, he rolled in the gutter on his way to the ball, and it was done; but the art, he said, was in the rolling, and his was so masterly that at the door he was mistaken for the real thing and, if friends had not come up just in time, the door would have been shut in his face.

He was as enthusiastic over the Charles V ball, though all the artists of Munich contributed to its splendor, working out their costumes with such respect for truth and so regardless of cost, that for months and years afterwards, not a bit of old brocade or lace was to be had in the antiquity shops of Bavaria. And the students were responsible for the siege of an old castle outside the town and, in their archæological ardor, persuaded the Museum to lend the armor and arms of the correct date, and, in their appreciation of the favor, fought with so much restraint that the casualties were a couple of spears snapped.

And from the studios came the inspiration for that ball Munich talks of to this day, in which all the nations were represented. There was a Hindu temple, a Chinese pagoda, an Indian wigwam. But the crowning touch was the Esquimaux hut. Placed in a hall apart, at the foot of a great stairway, it was built of some composition in which pitch was freely used, lit by tallow candles, and hung with herrings offered for sale by nine Esquimaux dressed in wool for skins. All evening the hut was surrounded; only toward midnight could the crowd be induced to move on to some fresh attraction. In the moment’s lull one of the Esquimaux was tying up a line of herrings; he brushed a candle with his arm. In a second he was blazing. Another ran to his rescue. In another second the hut was a furnace and nine men were in flames, with pitch and wool for fuel. One of the few people still lounging about the hut, fearing a panic, gave the signal to the band, who struck up Carmen. Never again, McFarlane said, had he listened to the music of Carmen, never again could he listen to it, without seeing the burning hut, the men rushing out of it with the flames leaping high above them, tearing at the blazing wool, in their agony turning and twisting as in some wild fantastic dance, while above the music he could hear the laughter of the crowd, who thought it a joke — a new scene in the spectacle. He snatched a rug from somewhere and tried to throw it over one of the men, but the man flew past to the top of the great stairway. There he was seized and rolled over and over on the carpet until the flames were out. He got up, walked downstairs, asked for beer, drank it to the dregs, and fell dead with the glass in his hand, the first freed from his agony. Of the nine but two survived. Seven lay, with their hut, a charred heap on the ground, before the laughing crowd realized what a pageant of horror Fate had planned.

Munich stories, before the night was over, had to be washed down with Munich beer which at that time as still, I fancy, was best at Bauer’s. By some unwritten law, inscrutable as the written, though I might sit all evening the only woman at our table in the Orientale, — oftener than not the only woman in the caffè, — it was not the thing for me to go on to Bauer’s. Therefore, first, the whole company would see me home. It was a short stroll along the Riva, and so beautiful were the April nights that the men from Munich could not hold out against the enchantment of Venice in spring. I felt it a concession when McFarlane admitted the loveliness of Venice by starlight, and I knew the game of boredom was up when, in this starlight, he decided that, after all, there might be more in the Tintorettos than he thought; if only he had time to study them. But Easter holidays do not last forever, and the day soon came when the men from Munich had to go back to where all was for the best in the best of all towns, but where no doubt, on the principle that we always prefer what we have not got at the moment, they told the fellows in the Bier Kellars that only in Venice was life worth while, that Rubens was dingy, and that they guessed they could do with Tintoretto.

Somehow, we were never the same after they left us; not, I fancy, because we missed them, but because we could hold out still less against the spring. When the sun was so warm and the air so soft, when in the little canals wisteria bloomed over high brick walls, when boat-loads of flowers came into Venice with the morning, when at noon the Riva was strewn with sleepers, — then indoors and work became an impertinence. J. and Inglehart no longer stayed in the studio. I gave up collecting material from my window and lunch from the Riva. Jobbins interrupted his search, Martin his argument, the Consul his dropping-in.

There was never a fête in the Piazza that we were not there, watching or walking with the bewildering procession of elegant young Venetians, and peasants from the mainland, and officers, and soldiers, and gondoliers with big caps set jauntily on the curls, and beautiful girls in the gay fringed shawls that have disappeared from Venice and the wooden shoes that once made an endless patter along the Riva but are heard no more, and Greeks, and Armenians, and priests, and beggars, passing up and down between the arcades and the caffè tables overflowing far into the square: St. Mark’s more unreal than ever in its splendor, with its domes and galleries and traceries against the blue of the Venetian night.

There was never a side-show on the Riva that we did not interrupt our work to go and see it; whether it was the circus in the little tent, with the live pony, the most marvelous of all sights in Venice; or the acrobats tumbling on their square of carpet; or the blindfolded, toothless old fortuneteller, whose shrill voice I can still hear mumbling ‘Una volta soltanta perNapoli!' when she was asked if Naples, this coming summer, as the last, would be ravaged by cholera. She was right, for in the town, cleaned out of picturesqueness, cholera could not again do its work in the old wholesale fashion.

There was never an excursion to the the islands that we did not join it. To visit some of the farther islands was not so easy in those days, except for tourists with a fortune to spend on the gondolas that we could not afford; and we were grateful to the occasional little steamboat that undertook to get us there, though it meant going with a crowd and a brass band, for all the world like an excursion to Coney Island. But the Lagoon was as beautiful from a steamboat as from a gondola, the sails of the fishing-boats touching it with as brilliant color, the islands lying as peacefully upon its shining waters, the bells of the many campanili coming as sweetly to our ears, the sky above as pure and radiant; and it mattered not how we reached the islands, they were as enchanting when we landed.

There was one wonderful day at Torcello, where nothing could mar the loveliness of its solitude and desolation; its old cathedral full of strange mosaics and stranger memories; the green space in front that was once a piazza, tangled with blossoms and sweet-scented in the May sunshine; the purple hills on the mainland melting into the pale sky. And there was another at Burano, with its rose-flushed houses and gardens and traditions of noise and quarrels, and girls who followed the boat on the bank and pelted us with roses, until Jobbins vowed he would go and live there — and he did, but a market-boat brought him back in a week. And there were days at Chioggia, the canals alive with fishing-boats, and the banks with fishermen mending their nets; and at Murano, busy and beautiful both with the throb of its glass furnaces and the peace of the fields where the dead sleep; and on the Lido where green meadows were sprinkled with daisies and birds were singing. More wonderful were the nights, coming home, when the gold had faded from sea and sky, the palaces and towers of Venice rose low on the horizon as in a city of dreams, the Lagoon was turned by the moon into a sheet of silver, lights like great fireflies stole over the water, ghostly gondolas glided past, — then we were the real lotus-eaters drifting to the only lotus-land where all things have rest.

The fussy little steamboat, I found, could rock ambition to sleep as well as a gondola, and life seemed to offer nothing better than an endless succession of days and nights spent on its deck, bound for wherever it might bear us. But only the Venetian has the secret of doing nothing with nothing to do it on, and if J. and I were to hope for figs with our bread, or even for bread by itself, we had to move on to the next place where work awaited us. And so the last of our nights in Venice came, before spring had ripened into summer, and the last of our mornings when porters again scrambled for our bags, and there were again yells; but this time of ‘ Partenza! ’ and ‘ Pranta !’ and the train hurried us away from the Panada and the Orientate and the Lagoon to a world where no lotus grows and life is all labor.