THE COLOSSEUM AND THE FORUM
On the earlier day which I began speaking of I found that I was insensibly attaching myself to an English-hearing party of the personally conducted, in the dearth of my own recollections of the local history, but I quickly detached myself for shame and went back and meekly hired the help of a guide who had already offered his services in English, and whom I had haughtily spurned in his own tongue. His English, though queer, was voluminous; but I am not going to drag the reader at our heels laden with lore which can be applied only on the spot or in the presence of postal-card views of the Colosseum. It is enough that before my guide released us we knew where was the box of Caesar, whom those about to die saluted, and where the box of the Vestals whose fatal thumbs gave the signal of life or death for the unsuccessful performer; where the wild beasts were kept, and where the Christians; where were the green-rooms of the gladiators, who waited chatting for their turn to go on and kill one another. One must make light of such things or sink under them; and if I am trying to be a little gay, it is for the readers' sake, whom I would not have perish of their realization. Our guide spared us nothing, such was his conscience or his science, and I wish I could remember his name, for I could commend him as most intelligent, even, when least intelligible. However, the traveller will know him by the winning smile of his rosy-faced little son, who follows him round and is doubtless bringing himself up as the guide of coming generations of tourists. There had been a full pour of forenoon sunshine on the white dust of the street before our hotel, but the cold of the early morning, though it had not been too much for the birds that sang in the garden back of us, had left a skim of ice in damp spots, and now, in the late gray of the afternoon, the ice was visible and palpable underfoot in the Colosseum, where crowds of people wandered severally or collectively about in the half-frozen mud. They were, indeed, all over the place, up and down, in every variety of costume and aspect, but none were so picturesque as a little group of monks who had climbed to a higher tier of the arches and stood looking down into the depths where we looked up at them, denned against the sky in their black robes, which opened to show their under robes of white. They were picturesque, but they were not so monumental as an old, unmistakable American in high-hat, with long, drooping side-whiskers, not above a purple suspicion of dye, who sat on a broken column and vainly endeavored to collect his family for departure. Whenever he had gathered two or three about him they strayed off as the others came up, and we left him sardonically patient of their adhesions and defections, which seemed destined to continue indefinitely, while we struggled out through the postal-card boys and mosaic-pin men to our carriage. Then we drove away through the quarter of somewhat jerry-built apartment-houses which neighbor the Colosseum, and on into the salmon sunset which, after the gray of the afternoon, we found waiting us at our hotel, with the statues on the balustrated wall of the villa garden behind it effectively posed in the tender light, together with the eidolons of those picturesque monks and that monumental American.
We could safely have stayed longer, for the evening damp no longer brings danger of Roman fever, which people used to take in the Colosseum, unless I am thinking of the signal case of Daisy Miller. She, indeed, I believe, got it there by moonlight; but now people visit the place by moonlight in safety; and there are even certain nights of the season advertised when you may see it by the varicolored lights of the fireworks set off in it. My impression of it was quite vivid enough without that, and the vision of the Colosseum remained, and still remains, the immense skeleton of the stupendous form stripped of all integumental charm and broken down half one side of its vast oval, so that wellnigh a quarter of the structural bones are gone.