An Ancient Town
“I feel sorrier even than I expected,” said Irma, as their train drew out of the station at Rome. “No other city can be half as interesting.”
“Just wait, my dear,” replied Uncle Jim; “wherever you go in Italy you will find more churches and pictures than you can properly grasp. You are a pretty good sightseer, but in another month you will have had enough.”
“It isn’t antiquities and pictures that I mind leaving,” responded Irma smiling; “but I was only beginning to realize how many pleasant people there are in Rome.”
“You and your aunt were certainly getting rather frivolous; teas and calls and that kind of thing are a great waste of time in a city full of churches. Remember, to improve your mind is your chief object in coming abroad.” Uncle Jim had assumed a mock-serious manner.
“To improve her health,” interposed Aunt Caroline; “and I have written her mother that she has gained six pounds and has recovered her red cheeks.”
“So you attribute this improvement to teas, and not to churches!”
“Our little bit of social life the past week or two has been good for us both. Americans away from home often seem unexpectedly interesting, and we have enjoyed hearing little things about the Roman winter that we might not have heard if I had not met so many New York and Philadelphia acquaintances. Then we have seen some of our artist friends at work in their studios, and this has been entertaining.”
“Don’t forget the shops, Aunt Caroline. Even if I haven’t had much money to spend I have enjoyed shopping, and I think I have done very well with Roman souvenirs. Sometimes I have wished I could spend just a little more, and yet I have done very well.”
If Irma had been looking at Marion, she might have seen that he was observing her more closely than the pages of the book that earlier had seemed to absorb him.
As they journeyed, Uncle Jim reminded Irma that they were travelling toward the sources of the Tiber, and at one station he told her that here she might go off to Perugia, the home of Perugino and Raphael.
“Orvieto,” he added, “is a town set on a small mountain by itself, and I hope you will like the funicular.”
“By funicular!” cried Marion, in a tone of disgust; “that’s the kind of thing I particularly hate.”
“You might go around by carriage. There is a winding road, as I remember, but it takes much longer.”
When they arrived at Orvieto, Marion, however, entered the strange little train that was to be pulled up the steep ascent by underneath cable.
“Look back at the view,” urged Aunt Caroline, when they were almost at the top. Turning her head Irma beheld a beautiful sight, the broad valley lying far beneath and the distant hills. Then glancing toward Marion she saw that he was leaning upon the seat in front and steadying himself as if to brace himself against disaster.
“Sit up straight,” called Uncle Jim, mischievously. “You cannot possibly fall out, and if the car slips we shall all perish together.”
Then Irma noticed that Marion bit his lip, as if angry, and made no effort to look at the view.
A short drive from the end of the funicular brought them to an old-fashioned hotel.
“A little rest, a little déjeuner, and then the cathedral!” exclaimed Aunt Caroline. “I can hardly wait to see it. That is the only thing that brings people to this queer little town.”
“It is surely a queer little hotel, and we are the only Americans here,”thought Irma, observing the guests at the other tables, a stout, long-frocked priest, a uniformed officer, and two or three swarthy Italians, apparently prosperous business men.
Soon after déjeuner they set out, and a turn or two brought them to the piazza of the Duomo, or cathedral.
For a moment all stood silent, as the sun shining full on the façade showed them an enormous picture.
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