SUPERFICIAL OBSERVATIONS AND CONJECTURES
It had seemed to me that in the afternoons of the old papal times, so dear to foreigners who never knew them, I used to see a series of patrician ladies driving round and round on the Pincio, reclining in their landaus and shielding their complexions from the November suns of the year 1864 with the fringed parasols of the period. In the doubt which attends all recollections of the past, after age renders us uncertain of the present, I hastened on my second Sunday at Rome in February, 1908, to enjoy this vision, if possible. I found the Pincio unexpectedly near; I found the sunshine; I found the familiar winter warmth which in Southern climates is so unlike the summer warmth in ours; but the drive which I had remembered as a long ellipse had narrowed to a little circle, where one could not have driven round faster than a slow trot without danger of vertigo. I did not find that series of apparent principessas or imaginable marchesas leaning at their lovely lengths in their landaus. I found in overwhelming majority the numbered victorias, which pass for cabs in Rome, full of decent tourists, together with a great variety of people on foot, but not much fashion and no swells that my snobbish soul could be sure of. There was, indeed, one fine moment when, at a retired point of the drive, I saw two private carriages drawn up side by side in their encounter, with two stout old ladies, whom I decided to be dowager countesses at the least, partially projected from their opposing windows and lost in a delightful exchange, as I hoped, of scandal. But the only other impressive personality was that of an elderly, obviously American gentleman, in the solitary silk hat and long frock-coat of the scene. There were other Americans, but none so formal; the English were in all degrees of informality down to tan shoes and at least one travelling-cap. The women's dress, whether they were on foot or in cabs, was not striking, though more than half of them were foreigners and could easily have afforded to outdress the Italians, especially the work people, though these were there in their best.
There was a band-stand in the space first reached by the promenaders, and there ought clearly to have been a band, but I was convinced that there was to be none by a brief colloquy between one of the cab-drivers (doubtless goaded to it by his fair freight) and the gentlest of Roman policemen, whose response was given in accents of hopeful compassion:
CABMAN: "Musica, no?" (No music?)
POLICEMAN: "Forse l' avremo oramai" (Perhaps we shall have it presently.)
We did not have it at all that Sunday, possibly because it was the day after the assassination of the King of Portugal, and the flags were at half-mast everywhere. So we went, such of us as liked, to the parapet overlooking the Piazza del Popolo, and commanding one of those prospects of Rome which are equally incomparable from every elevation. I, for my part, made the dizzying circuit of the brief drive on foot in the dark shadows of the roofing ilexes (if they are ilexes), and then strolled back and forth on the paths set thick with plinths bearing the heads of the innumerable national great - the poets, historians, artists, scientists, politicians, heroes - from the ancient Roman to the modern Italian times. I particularly looked up the poets of the last hundred years, because I had written about them in one of my many forgotten books, till I fancied a growing consciousness in them at this encounter with an admirer; they, at least, seemed to remember my book. Then I went off to the cafe overlooking them in their different alleys, and had tea next a man who was taking lemon instead of milk in his. Here I was beset with an impassioned longing to know whether he was a Russian or American, since the English always take milk in their tea, but I could not ask, and when I had suffered my question as long as I could in his presence I escaped from it, if you can call it escaping, to the more poignant question of what it would be like to come, Sunday after Sunday, to the Pincio, in the life-long voluntary exile of some Americans I knew, who meant to spend the rest of their years under the spell of Rome. I thought, upon the whole, that it would be a dull, sad fate, for somehow we seem born in a certain country in order to die in it, and I went home, to come again other Sundays to the Pincio, but not all the Sundays I promised myself.