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The Namesake
by [?]

“Yes, that’s where I got the notion,” Hartwell remarked, wandering back to his seat in the window. “I’ve wanted to do it for years, but I’ve never felt quite sure of myself. I was afraid of missing it. He was an uncle of mine, my father’s half-brother, and I was named for him. He was killed in one of the big battles of Sixty-four, when I was a child. I never saw him–never knew him until he had been dead for twenty years. And then, one night, I came to know him as we sometimes do living persons–intimately, in a single moment.”

He paused to knock the ashes out of his short pipe, refilled it, and puffed at it thoughtfully for a few moments with his hands on his knees. Then, settling back heavily among the cushions and looking absently out of the window, he began his story. As he proceeded further and further into the experience which he was trying to convey to us, his voice sank so low and was sometimes so charged with feeling, that I almost thought he had forgotten our presence and was remembering aloud. Even Bentley forgot his nervousness in astonishment and sat breathless under the spell of the man’s thus breathing his memories out into the dusk.

“It was just fifteen years ago this last spring that I first went home, and Bentley’s having to cut away like this brings it all back to me.

“I was born, you know, in Italy. My father was a sculptor, though I dare say you’ve not heard of him. He was one of those first fellows who went over after Story and Powers,–went to Italy for ‘Art,’ quite simply; to lift from its native bough the willing, iridescent bird. Their story is told, informingly enough, by some of those ingenuous marble things at the Metropolitan. My father came over some time before the outbreak of the Civil War, and was regarded as a renegade by his family because he did not go home to enter the army. His half-brother, the only child of my grandfather’s second marriage, enlisted at fifteen and was killed the next year. I was ten years old when the news of his death reached us. My mother died the following winter, and I was sent away to a Jesuit school, while my father, already ill himself, stayed on at Rome, chipping away at his Indian maidens and marble goddesses, still gloomily seeking the thing for which he had made himself the most unhappy of exiles.

“He died when I was fourteen, but even before that I had been put to work under an Italian sculptor. He had an almost morbid desire that I should carry on his work, under, as he often pointed out to me, conditions so much more auspicious. He left me in the charge of his one intimate friend, an American gentleman in the consulate at Rome, and his instructions were that I was to be educated there and to live there until I was twenty-one. After I was of age, I came to Paris and studied under one master after another until I was nearly thirty. Then, almost for the first time, I was confronted by a duty which was not my pleasure.

“My grandfather’s death, at an advanced age, left an invalid maiden sister of my father’s quite alone in the world. She had suffered for years from a cerebral disease, a slow decay of the faculties which rendered her almost helpless. I decided to go to America and, if possible, bring her back to Paris, where I seemed on my way toward what my poor father had wished for me.

“On my arrival at my father’s birthplace, however, I found that this was not to be thought of. To tear this timid, feeble, shrinking creature, doubly aged by years and illness, from the spot where she had been rooted for a lifetime, would have been little short of brutality. To leave her to the care of strangers seemed equally heartless. There was clearly nothing for me to do but to remain and wait for that slow and painless malady to run its course. I was there something over two years.