“Tivoli,” said Irma, as they sat at luncheon in a pleasant garden not far from the cascades, “has disappointed me.”
“In what way?” asked Uncle Jim.
“Oh, the name sounds so bright and frivolous that you expect it to be very gay here, and it isn’t.”
“The cataracts are lively.”
“Yes, they foam and roar like the falls of Lodore, when you reach them, but Tivoli itself is a crowded little town, and the people seem solemn.
Even the Temple of the Sibyl is shabby and dirty, without looking old.”
“Irma’s turning pessimist,” cried Uncle Jim. “But the town isn’t the whole of Tivoli. Villa d’Este is charming enough, unless it has changed since my day, and then there’s the road to Hadrian’s villa!”
Marion took neither one side nor the other in the discussion. He had talked to Irma little enough since their Vatican visit a day or two before. Yet he was always polite, and she judged from the past that his sulkiness would not last long.
The drive to the Villa d’Este was short, and as she stood on the terrace looking over the tops of the pointed cypresses, Irma admitted that this view alone was worth seeing.
“Ligorio, whom Cardinal Ippolito d’Este employed to construct this villa, was certainly an artist,” said Aunt Caroline, “and I am sure it is true that there are few finer Renaissance villas in Italy.”
“If only it were not going to ruin so fast. Broken statuary and moss-grown fountains are not very cheerful. But perhaps there are some amusing stories connected with the place. What has the guide been saying to you?” said Uncle Jim.
“Oh, he has been telling me that he is one of the most remarkable guides in Europe, with government certificates and letters of recommendation from innumerable tourists. The German Emperor depended on him, so he says, on his visit two or three years ago, and, ah, yes—” The guide had brought the party to a stop as he pointed to a stone bench at the end of a path.
“Yes,” continued Aunt Caroline, “let us sit down, one by one, for this is the bench on which the Kaiser rested to get full enjoyment of the vista of the house on the terrace at the end of the long avenue of pointed cypresses. But come, he says he has even a finer view to show.”
A few minutes’ walk brought the party to a wall bounding one side of the garden, whence they had a wide outlook over a flourishing country.
“He says,” interpreted Aunt Caroline, “that where that large factory stands was Maecenas’s villa, and that Horace also had a farm not far away.”
“I could contradict him if it were worth while,” said Uncle Jim, “although it is true enough that many eminent Romans, including Augustus himself, had villas in this neighborhood. But there are few sites of which we are sure, except that of Hadrian’s villa a hundred years later.”
The guide continued to pour out information and misinformation until the party returned to the carriage, and he was even anxious to go with them to Hadrian’s villa.
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