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The Marble Faun Volume 1 (Chapter 3)
Miriam's model has so important a connection with our story, that it is
essential to describe the singular mode of his first appearance, and
how he subsequently became a self-appointed follower of the young female
artist. In the first place, however, we must devote a page or two to
c ertain peculiarities in the position of Miriam herself.
There was an ambiguity about this young lady, which, though it did not
necessarily imply anything wrong, would have operated unfavorably as
regarded her reception in society, anywhere but in Rome. The truth was,
that nobody knew anything about Miriam, either for good or evil. She had
made her appearance without introduction, had taken a studio, put her
card upon the door, and showed very considerable talent as a painter in
oils. Her fellow professors of the brush, it is true, showered abundant
criticisms upon her pictures, allowing them to be well enough for the
idle half-efforts of an amateur, but lacking both the trained skill and
the practice that distinguish the works of a true artist.
Nevertheless, be their faults what they might, Miriam's pictures met
with good acceptance among the patrons of modern art. Whatever technical
merit they lacked, its absence was more than supplied by a warmth
and passionateness, which she had the faculty of putting into her
productions, and which all the world could feel. Her nature had a great
deal of color, and, in accordance with it, so likewise had her pictures.
Miriam had great apparent freedom of intercourse; her manners were so
far from evincing shyness, that it seemed easy to become acquainted with
her, and not difficult to develop a casual acquaintance into intimacy.
Such, at least, was the impression which she made, upon brief contact,
but not such the ultimate conclusion of those who really sought to know
her. So airy, free, and affable was Miriam's deportment towards all who
came within her sphere, that possibly they might never be conscious of
the fact, but so it was, that they did not get on, and were seldom any
further advanced into her good graces to-day than yesterday. By some
subtile quality, she kept people at a distance, without so much as
letting them know that they were excluded from her inner circle. She
resembled one of those images of light, which conjurers evoke and cause
to shine before us, in apparent tangibility, only an arm's length beyond
our grasp: we make a step in advance, expecting to seize the illusion,
but find it still precisely so far out of our reach. Finally, society
began to recognize the impossibility of getting nearer to Miriam, and