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A Rejected Titian
by [?]

“John,” my wife remarked in horrified tones, “he’s coming to Rome!”

“Who is coming to Rome–the Emperor?”

“Uncle Ezra–see,” she handed me the telegram. “Shall arrive in Rome Wednesday morning; have Watkins at the Grand Hotel.”

I handed the despatch to Watkins.

“Poor uncle!” my wife remarked.

“He will get it in the neck,” I added, profanely.

“They ought to put nice old gentlemen like your uncle in bond when they reach Italy,” Watkins mused, as if bored in advance. “The antichitas get after them, like–like confidence-men in an American city, and the same old story is the result; they find, in some mysterious fashion, a wonderful Titian, a forgotten Giorgione, cheap at cinque mille lire. Then it’s all up with them. His pictures are probably decalcomanias, you know, just colored prints pasted over board. Why, we know every picture in Venice; it’s simply impossible–“

Watkins was a connoisseur; he had bought his knowledge in the dearest school of experience.

“What are you going to do, Mr. Watkins?” my wife put in. “Tell him the truth?”

“There’s nothing else to do. I used up all my ambiguous terms over that daub he bought in the Piazza di Spagna–‘reminiscential’ of half a dozen worthless things, ‘suggestive,’ etc. I can’t work them over again.” Watkins was lugubrious.

“Tell him the truth as straight as you can; it’s the best medicine.” I was Uncle Ezra’s heir; naturally, I felt for the inheritance.

“Well,” my wife was invariably cheerful, “perhaps he has found something valuable; at least, one of them may be; isn’t it possible?”

Watkins looked at my wife indulgently.

“He’s been writing me about them for a month, suggesting that, as I was about to go on to Venice, he would like to have me see them; such treasures as I should find them. I have been waiting until he should get out. It isn’t a nice job, and your uncle–“

“There are three of them, Aunt Mary writes: Cousin Maud has bought one, with the advice of Uncle Ezra and Professor Augustus Painter, and Painter himself is the last one to succumb.”

“They have all gone mad,” Watkins murmured.

“Where did Maudie get the cash?” I asked.

“She had a special gift on coming of age, and she has been looking about for an opportunity for throwing it away”–my wife had never sympathized with my cousin, Maud Vantweekle. “She had better save it for her trousseau, if she goes on much more with that young professor. Aunt Mary should look after her.”

Watkins rose to go.

“Hold on a minute,” I said. “Just listen to this delicious epistle from Uncle Ezra.”

“‘… We have hoped that you would arrive in Venice before we break up our charming home here. Mary has written you that Professor Painter has joined us at the Palazzo Palladio, complementing our needs and completing our circle. He has an excellent influence for seriousness upon Maud; his fine, manly qualities have come out. Venice, after two years of Berlin, has opened his soul in a really remarkable manner. All the beauty lying loose around here has been a revelation to him–‘”

“Maud’s beauty,” my wife interpreted.

“‘And our treasures you will enjoy so much–such dashes of color, such great slaps of light! I was the first to buy–they call it a Savoldo, but I think no third-rate man could be capable of so much–such reaching out after infinity. However, that makes little difference. I would not part with it, now that I have lived these weeks with so fine a thing. Maud won a prize in her Bonifazio, which she bought under my advice. Then Augustus secured the third one, a Bissola, and it has had the greatest influence upon him already; it has given him his education in art. He sits with it by the hour while he is at work, and its charm has gradually produced a revolution in his character. We had always found him too Germanic, and he had immured himself in that barbarous country for so long over his Semitic books that his nature was stunted on one side. His picture has opened a new world for him. Your Aunt Mary and I already see the difference in his character; he is gentler, less narrowly interested in the world. This precious bit of fine art has been worth its price many times, but I don’t think Augustus would part with it for any consideration now that he has lived with it and learned to know its power.'”