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Chapter 20
"A child forsaken, waking suddenly,
Whose gaze afeard on all things round doth rove,
And seeth only that it cannot see
The meeting eyes of love."
Two hours later, Dorothea was seated in an inner room or boudoir of a
handsome apartment in the Via Sistina.
I am sorry to add that she was sobbing bitterly, with such abandonment to this
relief of an oppressed heart as a woman habitually controlled by pride on her
own account and thoughtfulness for others will sometimes allow herself when
she feels securely alone. And Mr. Casaubon was certain to remain away for
some time at the Vatican.
Yet Dorothea had no distinctly shapen grievance that she could state even to
herself; and in the midst of her confused thought and passion, the mental act that
was struggling forth into clearness was a self-accusing cry that her feeling of
desolation was the fault of her own spiritual poverty. She had married the man of
her choice, and with the advantage over most girls that she had contemplated
her marriage chiefly as the beginning of new duties: from the very first she had
thought of Mr. Casaubon as having a mind so much above her own, that he must
often be claimed by studies which she could not entirely share; moreover, after
the brief narrow experience of her girlhood she was beholding Rome, the city of
visible history, where the past of a whole hemisphere seems moving in funeral
procession with strange ancestral images and trophies gathered from afar.
But this stupendous fragmentariness heightened the dreamlike strangeness of
her bridal life. Dorothea had now been five weeks in Rome, and in the kindly
mornings when autumn and winter seemed to go hand in hand like a happy aged
couple one of whom would presently survive in chiller loneliness, she had driven
about at first with Mr. Casaubon, but of late chiefly with Tantripp and their
experienced courier. She had been led through the best galleries, had been
taken to the chief points of view, had been shown the grandest ruins and the
most glorious churches, and she had ended by oftenest choosing to drive out to
the Campagna where she could feel alone with the earth and sky, away-from the
oppressive masquerade of ages, in which her own life too seemed to become a
masque with enigmatical costumes.
To those who have looked at Rome with the quickening power of a knowledge
which breathes a growing soul into all historic shapes, and traces out the
suppressed transitions which unite all contrasts, Rome may still be the spiritual
centre and interpreter of the world. But let them conceive one more historical
contrast: the gigantic broken revelations of that Imperial and Papal city thrust
abruptly on the notions of a girl who had been brought up in English and Swiss
Puritanism, fed on meagre Protestant histories and on art chiefly of the hand-
screen sort; a girl whose ardent nature turned all her small allowance of
knowledge into principles, fusing her actions into their mould, and whose quick
emotions gave the most abstract things the quality of a pleasure or a pain; a girl