Previous Index Next


48   My Brother Theodore Roosevelt

effect. As those who know it well need hardly be told, it lacks both arms and both legs, and to the little girl who was summarily placed by her mother in the only chair in the small room, it seemed a very strange creation. But, with the hope of arousing artistic instinct, my lovely mother said: "Now, darling, this is one of the greatest works of art in the world, and I am going to leave you here alone for five minutes, because I want you to sit very quietly and look at it, and perhaps when I come back in the five minutes you will be able to realize how beautiful it is." And then I saw my mother's slender figure vanish into another room. Having been always accustomed to obey my parents, I virtuously and steadily kept my eyes upon the legless, armless Torso, wondering how any one could think it a beautiful work of art; and when my mother, true to her words, returning in five minutes with an expectant look on her face, said, "Now, darling, what do you think of the great `Torso'?" I replied sadly, "Well, mamma, it seems to me a little `chumpy' ! " How often later in life I have heard my mother laugh immoderately as she described her effort to instil her own love of those wonderful shoulders and that massive back into her recalcitrant small daughter; and when, years after, I myself, imbued as she was with a passion for Italy and Italian art, used to wander through those same galleries, I could never go into that little room without the memory of the small girl of long ago, and her effort to think Michael Angelo's "Torso" anything but "chumpy "

Christmas in Rome was made for us as much like our wonderful Christmases at home as was possible in a foreign hotel. It had always been our custom to go to our parents' room at the pleasant hour of 6 A. M., and generally my mother had induced my long-suffering father to be dressed in some special and marvellous manner at that early hour when we "undid" the bulging, mysterious-looking stockings, and none of these exciting rites were omitted because of our distance from our native land. I think, for that reason, at the end of the beautiful Christmas Day, 1869, the special joy in the hearts of the three

Green Fields and Foreign Faring   49

little American children was that they had actually forgotten

that they were in Rome at all ! On January 2, "Teedie" him

self writes to his beloved Aunt Annie (Mrs. Gracie) on a piece

of note-paper which characteristically has at the top a bird on

a bough-that paper being his choice for the writing-desks which

had been given to the three children on his birthday: "Will you

send the enclosed to Eidith Carow. In it I described our ascent

of Vesuvius, and so I will describe Pompeii to you." In a rather

cramped hand he enters then into an accurate description of

everything connected with Pompeii, gloating with scientific

delight over the seventeen skeletons found in the Street of the

Tombs, but falling for one moment into a lighter vein, he tells

of two little Italian boys whom my father had engaged to come

and sing for us the same evening at Sorrento, and whose faces

were so dirty that my father and his friend Mr. Stevens washed them with "Kissengin Water." That extravagance seems to have been specially entertaining to the mind of the young letterwriter.

During the year abroad there were lovely times when we were not obliged to think of sculpture or painting-weeks in the great Swiss mountains when, in spite of frequent attacks of his old enemy, my father writes that "Teedie" walked many miles and showed the pluck and perseverance which were so strikingly part of his character. In another letter he is described, while suffering from a peculiarly severe attack of asthma, as being propped up all night in a big chair in the sitting-room, while his devoted mother told him stories of "when she was a little girl" at the old plantation at Roswell; and yet within two days of that very time he is following my father and brother on one of the longest walks they took in the mountains. All through the letters of that period one realizes the developing character of the suffering little boy. My mother writes in a letter to her sister: "Teedie and Ellie have walked to-day thirteen miles, and are very proud of their performance. Indeed Teedie has been further several times."

And so the year of exile had its joyous memories, but in spite

Previous Index Next