Cousin Rosalys

Cousin Rosalys

By

Henry Harland

ISN'T it a pretty name, Rosalys? But, for me, it is so much
more ; it is a sort of romantic symbol. I look at it written
there on the page, and the sentiment of things changes ; it is as
if I were listening to distant music ; it is as if the white paper
turned softly pink, and breathed a perfume—never so faint a per-
fume of hyacinths. Rosalys, Cousin Rosalys..... London
and this sad-coloured February morning become shadowy, remote.
I think of another world, another era. Somebody has said that
" old memories and fond regrets are the day-dreams of the disap-
pointed, the illusions of the age of disillusion." Well, if they are
illusions, thank goodness they are where experience can't touch
them—on the safe side of time.

* * *

Cousin Rosalys—I call her cousin. But, as we often used to
remind ourselves, with a kind of esoteric satisfaction, we were not
"real" cousins. She was the niece of my Aunt Elizabeth, and
lived with her in Rome ; but my Aunt Elizabeth was not my
" real " aunt—only my great-aunt by marriage, the widow of my
father's uncle. It was Aunt Elizabeth herself, however, who
dubbed us cousins, when she introduced us to each other ; and at

that

36 Cousin Rosalys

that epoch, for both of us, Aunt Elizabeth's lightest words were
in the nature of decrees, she was such a terrible old lady.

I'm sure I don't know why she was terrible, I don't know how
she contrived it ; she never said anything, never did anything,
especially terrifying ; she wasn't especially wise or especially witty
—intellectually, indeed, I suspect she might have passed for a
paragon of respectable commonplaceness : but I do know that
everybody stood in awe of her. I suppose it must simply have
been her atmosphere, her odylic force ; a sort of metaphysical chill
that enveloped her, and was felt by all who approached her—
"some people are like that." Everybody stood in awe of her,
everybody deferred to her : relations, friends, even her Director,
and the cloud of priests that pervaded her establishment and gave
it its character. For, like so many other old ladies who lived in
Rome in those days, my Aunt Elizabeth was nothing if not
Catholic, if not Ecclesiastical. You would have guessed as much,
I think, from her exterior. She looked Catholic, she looked Eccle-
siastical. There was something Gothic in her anatomy, in the
architecture of her face : in her high-bridged nose, in the pointed
arch her hair made as it parted above her forehead, in her promi-
nent cheek-bones, her straight-lipped mouth and long attenuated
chin, in the angularities of her figure. No doubt the simile must
appear far-sought, but upon my word her face used to remind me
of a chapel—a chapel built of marble, fallen somewhat into decay.
I'm not sure whether she was a tall woman, or whether she only
had a false air of tallness, being excessively thin and holding her-
self rigidly erect. She always dressed in black, in hard black silk
cut to the severest patterns. Somehow, the very jewels she wore
—not merely the cross on her bosom, but the rings on her fingers,
the watch-chain round her neck, her watch itself, her old-fashioned,
gold-faced watch—seemed of a mode canonical.

She

By Henry Harland 37

She was nothing if not Catholic, if not Ecclesiastical ; but I
don't in the least mean that she was particularly devout. She
observed all requisite forms, of course: went, as occasion demanded,
to mass, to vespers, to confession ; but religious fervour was the
last thing she suggested, the last thing she affected. I never
heard her talk of Faith or Salvation, of Sin or Grace, nor indeed
of any matters spiritual. She was quite frankly a woman of the
world, and it was the Church as a worldly institution, the Church
corporal, the Papacy, Papal politics, that absorbed her interests.
The loss of the Temporal Power was the wrong that filled the
universe for her, its restoration the cause for which she lived.
That it was a forlorn cause she would never for an instant even
hypothetically admit. " Remember Avignon, remember the
Seventy Years," she used to say, with a nod that seemed to attri-
bute apodictic value to the injunction.

"Mark my words, she'll live to be Pope yet," a ribald young
man murmured behind her chair. " Oh, you tell me she is a
woman. I'll assume it for the sake of the argument—I'd do any-
thing for the sake of an argument. But remember Joan, remember
Pope Joan.! " And he mimicked his Aunt Elizabeth's inflection
and her conclusive nod.

* * *

I had not been in Rome since that universe-filling wrong was
perpetrated—not since I was a child of six or seven—when, a
youth approaching twenty, I went there in the autumn of 1879 ;
and I recollected Aunt Elizabeth only vaguely, as a lady with a
face like a chapel, in whose presence—I had almost written in
whose precincts—it had required some courage to breathe. But
my mother's last words, when I left her in Paris, had been, "Now
mind you call on your Aunt Elizabeth at once. You mustn't

let

38 Cousin Rosalys

let a day pass. I am writing to her to tell her that you are
coming. She will expect you to call at once." So, on the
morrow of my arrival, I made an exceedingly careful toilet (I
remember to this day the pains I bestowed upon my tie, the
revisions to which I submitted it !), and, with an anxious heart,
presented myself at the huge brown Roman palace, a portion of
which my formidable relative inhabited : a palace with grated
windows, and a vaulted, crypt-like porte-cochère, and a tremendous
Swiss concierge, in knee-breeches and a cocked hat : the Palazzo
Zacchinelli.

The Swiss, flourishing his staff of office, marshalled me (I can't
use a less imposing word for the ceremony) slowly, solemnly,
across a courtyard, and up a great stone staircase, at the top of
which he handed me on to a functionary in black—a functionary
with an ominously austere countenance, like an usher to the
Inquisition. Poor old Archimede ! Later, when I had come to
know him well and tip him, I found he was the mildest creature,
the amiablest, the most obliging, and that tenebrious mien of his
only a congenital accident, like a lisp or a club-foot. But for the
present he dismayed me, and I surrendered myself with humility
and meekness to his guardianship. He conducted me through a
series of vast chambers—you know those enormous, ungenial
Roman rooms, their sombre tapestried walls, their formal furniture,
their cheerless, perpetual twilight—and out upon a terrace.

The terrace lay in full sunshine. There was a garden below it,
a garden with orange-trees, and rose-bushes, and camellias, with
stretches of green sward, with shrubberies, with a great fountain
plashing in the midst of it, and broken, moss-grown statues : a
Roman garden, from which a hundred sweet airs came up, in the
gentle Roman weather. The balustrade of the terrace was set at
intervals with flowering plants, in big urn-shaped vases ; I don't

remember

By Henry Harland 39

remember what the flowers were, but they were pink, and many
of their petals had fallen, and lay scattered on the grey terrace
pavement. At the far end, under an awning brave with red and
yellow stripes, two ladies were seated—a lady in black, presumably
the object of my pious pilgrimage ; and a lady in white, whom,
even from a distance, I discovered to be young and pretty. A
little round table stood between them, with a carafe of water and
some tumblers glistening crisply on it. The lady in black was
fanning herself with a black lace fan. The lady in white held a
book in her hand, from which I think she had been reading aloud.
A tiny imp of a red Pomeranian dog had started forward, and was
barking furiously.

This scene must have made a deeper impression upon my
perceptions than any that I was conscious of at the moment,
because it has always remained as fresh in my memory as you see
it now. It has always been a picture that I could turn to when I
would, and find unfaded : the garden, the blue sky, the warm
September sunshine, the long terrace, and the two ladies seated at
the end of it, looking towards me, an elderly lady in black, and a
young lady in white, with dark hair.

My aunt quieted Sandro (that was the dog's name), and giving
me her hand, said " How do you do ? " rather drily. And then,
for what seemed a terribly long time, though no doubt it was only a
few seconds, she kept me standing before her, while she scruti-
nised me through a double eye-glass, which she held by a
mother-of-pearl handle ; and I was acutely aware of the awkward
figure I must be cutting to the vision of that strange young lady.

At last, " I should never have recognised you. As a child you
were the image of your father. Now you resemble your mother,"
Aunt Elizabeth declared ; and lowering her glass, she added, " this is your cousin Rosalys."

I wondered,

40 Cousin Rosalys

I wondered, as I made my bow, why I had never heard before
that I had such a pretty cousin, with such a pretty name. She
smiled on me very kindly, and I noticed how bright her eyes
were, and how white and delicate her face. The little blue veins
showed through the skin, and there was no more than just the
palest, palest thought of colour in her cheeks. But her lips—
exquisitely curved, sensitive lips—were warm red. She smiled on
me very kindly, and I daresay my heart responded with an instant
palpitation. She was a girl, and she was pretty ; and her name
was Rosalys ; and we were cousins ; and I was eighteen. And
above us glowed the blue sky of Italy, and round us the golden
sunshine ; and there, beside the terrace, lay the beautiful old
Roman garden, the fragrant, romantic garden..... If at
eighteen one isn't susceptible and sentimental and impetuous, and
prepared to respond with an instant sweet commotion to the smiles
of one's pretty cousins (especially when they're named Rosalys), I
protest one is unworthy of one's youth. One might as well be
thirty-five, and a literary hack in London.

After that introduction, however, my aunt immediately re-
claimed my attention. She proceeded to ask me all sorts of
questions, about myself, about my people, uninteresting questions,
disconcerting questions, which she posed with the air of one who
knew the answers beforehand, and was only asking as an examiner
asks, to test you. And all the while, the expression of her face, of
her deprecating, straight-lipped mouth, of her half-closed sceptical
old eyes, seemed to imply that she already had her opinion of me,
and that it wouldn t in the least be affected by anything I
could say for myself, and that it was distinctly not a flattering
opinion.

" Well, and what brings you to Rome?" That was one of
her questions. I felt like a suspicious character haled before the

local

By Henry Harland 41

local magistrate to give an account of his presence in the parish ;
putting on the best face I could, I pleaded superior orders. I had
taken my baccalauréat in the summer ; and my father desired me
to pass some months in Italy, for the purpose of " patching
up my Italian, which had suffered from the ravages of time,"
before I returned to Paris, and settled down to the study of a
profession.

" H'm," said she, manifesting no emotion at what (in my
simplicity) I deemed rather a felicitous metaphor ; and then, as it
were, she let me off with a warning. " Look out that you don't
fall into bad company. Rome is full of dangerous people—painters,
Bohemians, republicans, atheists. You must be careful. I shall
keep my eye upon you."

By-and-by, to my relief, my aunt's director arrived, Monsignor
Parlaghi, a tall, fat, cheerful, bustling man, who wore a silk
cassock edged with purple, and a purple netted sash. When he
sat down and crossed his legs, one saw a square-toed shoe with a
silver buckle, and an inch or two of purple silk stocking. He
began at once to talk with his penitent, about some matter to
which I (happily) was a stranger; and that gave me my chance
to break the ice with Rosalys.

She had risen to greet the Monsignore, and now stood by the
balustrade of the terrace, half turned towards the garden, a
slender, fragile figure, all in white. Her dark hair swept away
from her forehead in lovely, long undulations, and her white face,
beneath it, seemed almost spirit-like in its delicacy, almost
immaterial.

" I am richer than I thought. I did not know I had a Cousin
Rosalys," said I.

It looks like a sufficiently easy thing to say, doesn't it ? And
besides, hadn't I carefully composed and corrected and conned it

The Yellow Book—Vol. IX. c

beforehand,

42 Cousin Rosalys

beforehand, in the silence of my mind ? But I remember the
mighty effort of will it cost me to get it said. I suppose it is in
the design of nature that Eighteen should find it nervous work to
break the ice with pretty girls. At any rate, I remember how my
heart fluttered, and what a hollow, unfamiliar sound my voice had;
I remember that in the very middle of the enterprise my pluck
and my presence of mind suddenly deserted me, and everything
became a blank, and for one horrible moment I thought I was
going to break down utterly, and stand there staring, blushing,
speechless. But then I made a further mighty effort of will, a
desperate effort, and somehow, though they nearly choked me,
the premeditated words came out.

"Oh, we're not real cousins," said she, letting her eyes shine for
a second on my face. And she explained to me just what the
connection between us was. "But we will call ourselves cousins,"
she concluded.

The worst was over ; the worst, though Eighteen was still, no
doubt, conscious of perturbations. I don t know how long we
stood chatting together there by the balustrade, but presently I
said something about the garden, and she proposed that we should
go down into it. So she led me to the other end of the terrace,
where there was a flight of steps, and we went down into the
garden.

The merest trifles, in such weather, with a pretty new-found
Cousin Rosalys for a comrade, are delightful, when one is eighteen,
aren't they ? It was delightful to feel the yielding turf under our
feet, the cool grass curling round our ankles—for in Roman
gardens, in those old days, it wasn t the fashion to clip the grass
close, as on an English lawn. It was delightful to walk in the
shade of the orange-trees, and breathe the air sweetened by them.
The stillness, the dreamy stillness of the soft, sunny afternoon was

delightful

By Henry Harland 43

delightful ; the crumbling old statues were delightful, statues of
fauns and dryads, of Pagan gods and goddesses, Pan and Bacchus
and Diana, their noses broken for the most part, their bodies
clothed in mosses and leafy vines. And the flowers were delightful;
the cyclamens, with which—so abundant were they—the walls of
the garden fairly dripped, as with a kind of pink foam ; and the
roses, and the waxen red and white camellias. It was delightful
to stop before the great brown old fountain, and listen to its
tinkle-tinkle of cold water, and peer into its basin, all green with
weeds, and watch the antics of the gold-fishes, and the little
rainbows the sun struck from the spray. And my Cousin Rosalys's
white frock was delightful, and her voice was delightful ; and that
perturbation in my heart was exquisitely delightful—something
between a thrill and a tremor—a delicious mixture of fear and
wonderment and beatitude. I had dragged myself hither to pay a
duty-call upon my grim old dragon of a great-aunt Elizabeth ;
and here I was wandering amid the hundred delights of a romantic
Italian garden, with a lovely, white-robed, bright-eyed sylph of a
cousin Rosalys.

Don't ask me what we talked about. I have only the most
fragmentary recollection. I remember she told me that her
father and mother had died in India, when she was a child, and
that her father (Aunt Elizabeth's "ever so much younger
brother") had been in the army, and that she had lived with
Aunt Elizabeth since she was twelve. And I remember she
asked me to speak French with her, because in Rome she almost
always spoke Italian or English, and she didn't want to forget her
French ; and " You're, of course, almost a Frenchman, living in
Paris." So we spoke French together, saying ma cousine and
mon cousin, which was very intimate and pleasant ; and she spoke
it so well that I expressed some surprise. " If you don't put on at

least

44 Cousin Rosalys

least a slight accent, I shall tell you you're almost a Frenchman
too," I threatened. " Oh, I had French nurses when I was
little," she said, "and afterwards a French governess, till I
was sixteen. I'm eighteen now. How old are you ? " I had
heard that girls always liked a man to be older than themselves,
and I answered that I was nearly twenty. Well, and isn't
eighteen nearly twenty ? . . . . Anyhow, as I walked back to
my lodgings that afternoon, through the busy, twisted, sunlit
Roman streets, Cousin Rosalys filled all my heart and all my
thoughts with a white radiance.

* * *

You will conceive whether or not, during the months that
followed, I was an assiduous visitor at the Palazzo Zacchinelli.
But I couldn't spend all my time there, and in my enforced
absences I needed consolation. I imagine I treated Aunt Eliza-
beth's advice about avoiding bad company as youth is wont
to treat the counsels of crabbed age. Doubtless my most frequent
associates were those very painters and Bohemians against whom
she had particularly cautioned me—whether they were also re-
publicans and atheists, I don't think I ever knew ; I can't
remember that I inquired, and religion and politics were subjects
they seldom touched upon spontaneously. I dare say I joined the
artists' club, in the Via Margutta, the Circolo Internazionale
degl' Artisti ; I am afraid the Caffè Greco was my favourite café ;
I am afraid I even bought a wide-awake hat, and wore it on the
back of my head, and tried to look as much like a painter
and Bohemian myself as nature would permit.

Bad company ? I don't know. It seemed to me very good
company indeed. There was Jack Everett, tall and slim and
athletic, with his eager aquiline face, his dark curling hair, the

most

By Henry Harland 45

most poetic-looking creature, humorous, whimsical, melancholy,
imaginative, who used to quote Byron, and plan our best
practical jokes, and do the loveliest little cupids and roses in
water-colours. He has since married the girl he was even then
in love with, and is still living in Rome, and painting cupids and
roses. And there was d'Avignac, le vicomte, a young French-
man, who had been in the Diplomatic Service, and—superlative
distinction!—"ruined himself for a woman," and now was
striving to keep body and soul together by giving fencing lessons :
witty, kindly, pathetic d'Avignac—we have vanished altogether
from each other's ken. There was Ulysse Tavoni, the musician,
who, when somebody asked him what instrument he played,
answered cheerily, " All instruments." I can testify from personal
observation that he played the piano and the flute, the guitar,
mandoline, fiddle, and French horn, the 'cello and the zither.
And there was König, the Austrian sculptor, a tiny man with a
ferocious black moustache, whom my landlady (he having called
upon me one day when I was out), unable to remember his
transalpine name, described to perfection as " un Orlando Furioso
—ma molto piccolo." There was a dear, dreamy, languid,
sentimental Pole, blue-eyed and yellow-haired, also a sculptor,
whose name I have totally forgotten, though we were sworn to
" hearts' brotherhood." He had the most astonishing talent for
imitating the sounds of animals, the neighing of a horse, the
crowing of a cock ; and when he brayed like a donkey, all
the donkeys within earshot were deceived, and answered him.
And then there was Father Flynn, a jolly old bibulous priest from
Cork. An uncle of his had fought at Waterloo ; it was great to
hear him tell of his uncle's part in the fortunes of the day. It was
great, too (for Father Flynn was a fervid Irish patriot) to hear
him roar out the "Wearing of the Green." Between the

stanzas

46 Cousin Rosalys

stanzas he would brandish his blackthorn stick at Everett, and call
him a "murthering English tyrant," to our huge delectation.

There were others and others and others ; but these six
are those who come back first to my memory. They seemed to
me very good company indeed ; very merry, and genial, and
amusing ; and the life we led together seemed a very pleasant
life. Oh, our pleasures were of the simplest nature, the traditional
pleasures of Bohemia ; smoking and drinking and talking, ramb-
ling arm-in-arm through the streets, lounging in studios, going to
the play or perhaps the circus, or making excursions into the
country. Only, the capital of our Bohemia was Rome. The
streets through which we rambled were Roman streets, with their
inexhaustible picturesqueness, their unending vicissitudes : with
their pink and yellow houses, their shrines, their fountains, their
gardens, their motley wayfarers— monks and soldiers ; shaggy
pifferari, and contadine in their gaudy costumes, and models
masquerading as contadine ; penitents, beggars, water-carriers,
hawkers ; priests in their vestments, bearing the Host, attended
by acolytes, with burning tapers, who rang little bells, whilst
men uncovered and women crossed themselves ; and everywhere,
everywhere, English tourists, with their noses in Bædeker. It
was Rome with its bright sun, and its deep shadows ; with its
Ghetto, its Tiber, its Castle Sant' Angelo ; with its churches, and
palaces, and ruins ; with its Villa Borghese and its Pincian Hill ;
with its waving green Campagna at its gates. We smoked and
talked and drank—Chianti, of course, and sunny Orvieto, and
fabled Est-Est-Est, all in those delightful pear-shaped, wicker-
covered flasks, which of themselves, I fancy, would confer a
flavour upon indifferent wine. We made excursions to Tivoli
and Frascati, to Monte Cavo and Nemi, to Acqua Acetosa. We
patronised Pulcinella, and the marionettes, and (better still) the

imitation

By Henry Harland 47

imitation marionettes. We blew horns on the night of Epiphany,
we danced at masked balls, we put on dominoes and romped in the
Corso during carnival, throwing flowers and confetti, and strug-
gling to extinguish other people's moccoli. And on rainy days
(with an effort I can remember that there were some rainy days),
Everett and I would sit with d'Avignac in his fencing gallery, and
talk and smoke, and smoke and talk and talk. D'Avignac was
six-and-twenty, Everett was twenty-two, and I was "nearly
twenty." D'Avignac would tell us of his past, of his adventures
in Spain and Japan and South America, and of the lady for
the love of whom he had come to grief. Everett and I would
sigh profoundly, and shake our heads, and exchange sympathetic
glances, and assure him that we knew what love was—we were
victims of unfortunate attachments ourselves. To each other we
had confided everything, Everett and I. He had told me all
about his unrequited passion for Maud Eaton, and I had
rhapsodised to him by the hour about Cousin Rosalys. "But
you, old chap, you're to be envied," he would cry. " Here you
are in the same town with her, by Jove ! You can see her,
you can plead your cause. Think of that. I wish I had half
your luck. Maud is far away in England, buried in a country-
house down in Lancashire. She might as well be on another
planet, for all the good I get of her. But you—why, you
can see your Cousin Rosalys this very hour if you like! Oh,
heavens, what wouldn't I give for half your luck ! " The wheel
of Time, the wheel of Time ! Everett and Maud are married, but
Cousin Rosalys and I.... Heigh-ho ! I wonder whether, in
our thoughts of ancient days, it is more what we remember or
what we forget that makes them sweet ? Anyhow, for the
moment, we forget the dismal things that have happened since.

* * *

Yes,

48 Cousin Rosalys

Yes, I was in the same town with her, by Jove ; I could see
her. And indeed I did see her many times every week. Like
the villain in a melodrama, I led a double life. When I was not
disguised as a Bohemian, in a velvet jacket and a wide-awake,
smoking and talking and holding wassail with my boon companions,
you might have observed a young man attired in the height of the
prevailing fashion (his top-hat and varnished boots flashing fire in
the eyes of the Roman populace), going to call on his Aunt Eli-
zabeth. And his Aunt Elizabeth, pleased by such dutiful atten-
tions, rewarded him with frequent invitations to dinner. Her
other guests would be old ladies like herself, and old gentlemen,
and priests, priests, priests. So that Rosalys and I, the only
young ones present, were naturally paired together. After dinner
Rosalys would play and sing, while I hung over her piano. Oh,
how beautifully she played Chopin ! How ravishingly she sang !
Schubert's Wohin, and Röslein, Röslein,Röslein roth ; and Gounod's
Sérénade and his Barcarolle :

    " Dites la jeune belle,
    Ou voulez-vous aller ? "

And how angelically beautiful she looked ! Her delicate, pale
face, and her dark, undulating hair, and her soft red lips ; and then
her eyes—her luminous, mysterious dark eyes, in whose depths,
far, far within, you could discern her spirit shining starlike. And
her hands, white and slender and graceful, images in miniature of
herself; with what incommunicable wonder and admiration I used
to watch them as they moved above the keys. " A woman who
plays Chopin ought to have three hands—two to play with, and
one for the man who's listening to hold." That was a pleasantry
which I meditated much in secret, and a thousand times aspired
to murmur in the player's ear, but invariably, when it came to the

point

By Henry Harland 49

point of doing so, my courage failed me. " You can see her, you
can plead your cause." Bless me, I never dared even vaguely to
hint that I had any cause to plead. I imagine young love is
always terribly afraid of revealing itself to its object, terribly afraid
and terribly desirous. Whenever I was not in cousin Rosalys's
presence, my heart was consumed with longing to tell her that I
loved her, to ask her whether perhaps she might be not wholly
indifferent to me ; I made the boldest resolutions, committed to
memory the most persuasive declarations. But from the instant I
was in her presence again—mercy, what panic seized me. I
could have died sooner than speak the words that I was dying to
speak, ask the question I was dying to ask.

I called assiduously at the Palazzo Zacchinelli, and my aunt
bade me to dinner a good deal, and then one afternoon every week
she used to drive with Rosalys on the Pincian. There was one
afternoon every week when all Rome drove on the Pincian ; was
it Saturday ? At any rate, you may be very sure I did not let
such opportunities escape me for getting a bow and a smile from
my cousin. Sometimes she would leave the carriage and join me,
while Aunt Elizabeth, with Sandro in her lap, drove on, round and
round the consecrated circle ; and we would stroll together in the
winding alleys, or stand by the terrace and look off over the roofs
of the city, and watch the sunset blaze and fade behind St. Peter's.
You know that unexampled view—the roofs of Rome spread out
beneath you like the surface of a troubled sea, and the dome of
St. Peter's, an island rising in the distance, and the sunset sky
behind it. We would stand there in silence perhaps, at most say-
ing very little, while the sunset burned itself out ; and for one of
us, at least, it was a moment of ineffable, impossible enchantment.
She was so near to me, so near, the slender figure in the pretty
frock, with the dark hair, and the captivating hat, and the furs ;

with

50 Cousin Rosalys

with her soft glowing eyes, with her exquisite fragrance of girl-
hood ; she was so near to me, so alone with me, despite the crowd
about us, and I loved her so ! Oh, why couldn't I tell her ?
Why couldn't she divine it ? People said that women always
knew by intuition when men were in love with them. Why
couldn't Rosalys divine that I loved her, how I loved her, and
make me a sign, and so enable me to speak ?

Presently—and all too soon—she would return to the carriage,
and drive away with Aunt Elizabeth ; and I, in the lugubrious
twilight, would descend the great marble Spanish staircase (a
perilous path, amongst models and beggars and other things) to
the Piazza, and seek out Jack Everett at the Caffe Greco.
Thence he and I would go off to dine together somewhere, con-
doling with each other upon our ill-starred passions. After
dinner, pulling our hats over our eyes, two desperately tragic forms,
we would set ourselves upon the traces of d'Avignac and König
and Father Flynn, determined to forget our sorrows in an evening
of dissipation, saying regretfully, " These are the evil courses to
which the love of woman has reduced us—a couple of the best-
meaning fellows in Christendom, and surely born for better ends."
When we were children (hasn't Kenneth Grahame written it for
us in a golden book?) we played at conspirators and pirates.
When we were a little older, and Byron or Musset had superseded
Fenimore Cooper, some of us found there was an unique excite-
ment to be got from the game of Blighted Beings.

Oh, why couldn't I tell her ? Why couldn't she divine it, and
make me an encouraging sign ?

* * *

But of course, in the end, I did tell her. It was on the night
of my birthday. I had dined at the Palazzo Zacchinelli, and with

the

By Henry Harland 51

the dessert a great cake was brought in and set before me. A
number of little red candles were burning round it, and embossed
upon it in frosting was this device :

    A birthday-piece
    From Rosalys,
    Wishing birthdays more in plenty
    To her cousin " nearly twenty."

And counting the candles, I perceived they were nineteen.

Probably my joy was somewhat tempered by confusion, to think
that my little equivocation on the subject of my age had been dis-
covered. As I looked up from the cake to its giver, I met a pair
of eyes that were gleaming with mischievous raillery ; and she
shook her head at me, and murmured, " Oh, you fibber ! "

" How on earth did you find out ? " I wondered.

" Oh—a little bird," laughed she.

" I don't think it's at all respectful of you to call Aunt Elizabeth
a little bird," said I.

After dinner we went out upon the terrace. It was a warm
night, and there was a moon. A moonlit night in Italy—dark
velvet shot with silver. And the air was intoxicant with the
scent of hyacinths. We were in March ; the garden had become
a wilderness of spring flowers, narcissi and jonquils, crocusses,
anemones, tulips, and hyacinths ; hyacinths, everywhere hyacinths.
Rosalys had thrown a bit of white lace over her hair. Oh, I
assure you, in the moonlight, with the white lace over her hair,
with her pale face, and her eyes, her shining, mysterious eyes—oh,
I promise you, she was lovely.

" How beautiful the garden is, in the moonlight, isn't it ? " she
said. "The shadows, and the statues, and the fountains. And
how sweet the air is. They're the hyacinths that smell so sweet.

The

52 Cousin Rosalys

The hyacinth is your birthday flower, you know. Hyacinths
bring happiness to people born in March."

I looked into her eyes, and my heart thrilled and thrilled. And
then, somehow, somehow .... Oh, I don't remember what I
said ; only, somehow, somehow .... Ah, but I do remember
very clearly what she answered—so softly, so softly, while her
hand lay in mine. I remember it very clearly, and at the memory,
even now, years afterwards, I confess my heart thrills again.

We were joined, in a minute or two, by Monsignor Parlaghi,
and we tried to behave as if he were not unwelcome.

* * *

Adam and Eve were driven from Eden for their guilt ; but it
was Innocence that lost our Eden for Rosalys and me. In our
egregious innocence, we had determined that I should call upon
Aunt Elizabeth in the morning, and formally demand her sanction
to our engagement ! Do I need to recount the history of that
interview ? Of my aunt's incredulity, that gradually changed to
scorn and anger ? Of how I was fleered at and flouted, and
taunted with my youth, and called a fool and a coxcomb, and sent
about my business with the information that the portals of the
Palazzo Zacchinelli would remain eternally closed against me for
the future, and that my people " would be written to " ? I was
not even allowed to see my cousin to say good-bye. " And mind
you, we'll have no letter writing," cried Aunt Elizabeth. " I
shall forbid Rosalys to receive any letters from you."

Guilt (we are taught) can be annulled, and its punishment
remitted, if we do heartily repent. But innocence ? Goodness
knows how heartily I repented ; yet I never found that a penny-
weight of the punishment was remitted. At the week's end I got
a letter from my people recalling me to Paris. And I never saw

Rosalys

By Henry Harland 53

Rosalys again. And some years afterwards she married an Italian,
a nephew of Cardinal Badascalchi. And in 1887, at Viareggio,
she died. . . . .

Eh bien, voila! There is the little inachieved, the little unful-
filled romance, written for me in her name, Cousin Rosalys.
What of it ? Oh, nothing—except—except—Oh, nothing.

" All good things come to him who waits." Perhaps. But
we know how apt they are to come too late ; and—sometimes
they come too early.





MLA citation: Henry Harland. "Cousin Rosalys." The Yellow Book 9 (April 1896): 35-53. The Yellow Nineties Online. Ed. Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra. Ryerson University, 2013. Web. [Date of access]. http://1890s.ca/HTML.aspx?s=YBV9_harland_cousin.html