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Title: The Master; a Novel
Author: Zangwill, Israel
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "The Master; a Novel" ***


                              THE MASTER

                                A Novel


                              I. ZANGWILL

                     “CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO” ETC.


                       [Illustration: colophon]

                          NEW YORK AND LONDON
                     HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS

                Copyright, 1895, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

                        _All rights reserved._



PROEM                                                                  1

Book I


I. SOLITUDE                                                            5


III. THE THOUGHTS OF YOUTH                                            33

IV. “MAN PROPOSES”                                                    45

V. PEGGY THE WATER-DRINKER                                            58

VI. DISILLUSIONS                                                      69

VII. THE APPRENTICE                                                   83

VIII. A WANDER-YEAR                                                   99

IX. ARTIST AND PURITAN                                               113

X. EXODUS                                                            123

Book II

I. IN LONDON                                                         132

II. GRAINGER’S                                                       145

III. THE ELDER BRANCH                                                161

IV. THE PICTURE-MAKERS                                               181

V. A SYMPOSIUM                                                       202

VI. THE OUTCAST                                                      218

VII. TOWARDS THE DEEPS                                               229

VIII. “GOLD MEDAL NIGHT”                                             245

IX. DEFEAT                                                           259

X. MATT RECEIVES SUNDRY HOSPITALITIES                                273

XI. A HOSTAGE TO FORTUNE                                             290

Book III

I. CONQUEROR OR CONQUERED?                                           308

II. “SUCCESS”                                                        325

III. “VAIN-LONGING”                                                  342

IV. FERMENT                                                          364

V. A CELEBRITY AT HOME                                               384

VI. A DEVONSHIRE IDYL                                                408

VII. THE IDYL CONCLUDES                                              438

VIII. ELEANOR WYNDWOOD                                               460

IX. RUTH HAILEY                                                      487

X. THE MASTER                                                        499


“‘THERE!’ SAID OLIVE, PUFFING OUT A THIN CLOUD”                  _Frontispiece_

“HE PLACED HIMSELF WITH HIS BACK TO THE DOOR”                   _Facing p._ 12

“‘I AM AFIRE WITH THIRST,’ SHE CRIED”                                    “  64


“‘GOOD-NIGHT,’ SHE SAID, SOFTLY”                                         “ 290

“MATT DINED WITH HERBERT AT A LITTLE TABLE”                              “ 338





Despite its long stretch of winter, in which May might wed December in
no incompatible union, ’twas a happy soil, this Acadia, a country of
good air and great spaces; two-thirds of the size of Scotland, with a
population that could be packed away in a corner of Glasgow; a land of
green forests and rosy cheeks; a land of milk and molasses; a land of
little hills and great harbors, of rich valleys and lovely lakes, of
overflowing rivers and oversurging tides that, with all their menace,
did but fertilize the meadows with red silt and alluvial mud; a land
over which France and England might well bicker when first they met
oversea; a land which, if it never reached the restless energy of the
States, never retained the Old World atmosphere that long lingered over
New England villages; save here and there in some rare Acadian
settlement that dreamed out its life in peace and prayer among its
willow-trees and in the shadows of its orchards.

At Minudie, at Clare in Annapolis County, where the goodly apples grew,
lay such fragments of old France, simple communities shutting out the
world and time, marrying their own, tilling their good dyke land, and
picking up the shad that the retreating tide left on the exposed flats;
listening to the Angelus, and baring their heads as some Church
procession passed through the drowsy streets. They had escaped the Great
Expulsion, nor had joined in the exodus of “Evangeline,” and, sprinkled
about the country, were compatriots of theirs who had drifted back when
the times grew more sedate; but for the most part it was the Saxon that
profited by the labors of the pioneer Gaul, repairing the tumble-down
farms and the dilapidated dykes, possessing himself of embanked marsh
lands, and replanting the plum-trees and the quinces his predecessor had
naturalized. For the revolt of the States against Britain sent thousands
of American loyalists flocking into this “New Scotland,” which thus
became a colony of “New England.” Scots themselves flowed in from auld
Scotland, and the German came to sink himself in the Briton, and a band
of Irish adventurers, under the swashbuckling Colonel McNutt, arrived
with a grant of a million acres that they were not destined to occupy.
The Acadian repose had fled forever. The sparse Indian hastened to make
himself scarcer, conscious there was no place for him in the new order,
and disappearing deliciously in hogsheads of rum. The virgin greenwood
rang with axes, startling the bear and the moose. Crash! Down went pine
and beech, hemlock and maple, their stumps alone left to rot and enrich
the fields. Crash!--thud! The weasel grew warier, the astonished
musquash vanished in eddying circles. Bridges began to span the rivers
where the beaver built its dams in happy unconsciousness of the tall
cylinder that was about to crown civilization. The caribou and the
silver fox pressed inland to save their skins. The snare was set in the
wild-wood, and the crack of the musket followed the ring of the axe. The
mackerel and the herring sought destruction in shoals, and the seines
brimmed over with salmon and alewives and gaspereux. The wild land that
had bloomed with golden-rod and violets was tamed with crops, and plump
sheep and fat oxen pastured where the wild strawberry vine had trailed
or the bull-frog had croaked under the alders. A sturdy, ingenious race
the fathers of the new settlement, loving work almost as much as they
feared God; turning their hand to anything, and opening it wide to the
stranger. They raised their own houses, and fashioned their own tools,
and shod their own horses, and later built their own vessels, and even
sailed them to the great markets laden with the produce of their own
fields and the timber from their own saw-mills. There were women in
this workaday paradise--shapely, gentle creatures, whose hands alone
were rough with field and house-work; women who span and sang when the
winter night-winds whistled round the settlement. The dramas of love and
grief began to play themselves out where the raccoon and the chickadee
had fleeted the golden hours in careless living. Children came to make
the rafters habitable, and Death to sanctify them with memories. The air
grew human with the smoke of hearths, the forest with legends and
histories. And as houses grew into homes and villages into townships,
Church and State arose where only Faith and Freedom had been.

The sons and heirs of the fathers did not always cling to the tradition
of piety and perseverance. The “Bluenose” grew apathetic, content with
the fatness of the day; or, if he exerted himself, it was too often to
best a neighbor. The great magnets of New York and Boston drew off or
drew back all that was iron in the race.

And amid these homely emotions of yeomen, amid the crude pieties or
impieties of homespun souls, amid this sane hearty intercourse with
realities or this torpor of sluggish spirits, was born ever and anon a
gleam of fantasy, of imagination: bizarre, transfiguring, touching
things with the glamour of dream. Blind instincts--blinder still in
their loneliness--yearned towards light; beautiful emotions stirred in
dumb souls, emotions that mayhap turned to morbid passion in the silence
and solitude of the woods, where character may grow crabbed and gnarled,
as well as sound and straight. For whereas to most of these human
creatures, begirt by the glory of sea and forest, the miracles of
sunrise and sunset were only the familiar indications of a celestial
timepiece, and the starry heaven was but a leaky ceiling in their
earthly habitation, there was here and there an eye keen to note the
play of light and shade and color, the glint of wave and the sparkle of
hoar-frost and the spume of tossing seas; the gracious fairness of cloud
and bird and blossom, the magic of sunlit sails in the offing, the
witchery of white winters, and all the changing wonder of the woods; a
soul with scanty self-consciousness at best, yet haply absorbing Nature,
to give it back one day as Art.

Ah, but to see the world with other eyes than one’s fellows, yet express
the vision of one’s race, its subconscious sense of beauty, is not all a
covetable dower.

The islands of Acadia are riddled with pits, where men have burrowed for
Captain Kidd’s Treasure and found nothing but holes. The deeper they
delved the deeper holes they found. Whoso with blood and tears would dig
Art out of his soul may lavish his golden prime in pursuit of emptiness,
or, striking treasure, find only fairy gold, so that when his eye is
purged of the spell of morning, he sees his hand is full of withered



“Matt, Matt, what’s thet thar noise?”

Matt opened his eyes vaguely, shaking off his younger brother’s frantic

“It’s on’y the frost,” he murmured, closing his eyes again. “Go to
sleep, Billy.”

Since the sled accident that had crippled him for life, Billy was full
of nervous terrors, and the night had been charged with mysterious
noises. Within the lonely wooden house weather-boards and beams cracked;
without, twigs snapped and branches crashed; at times Billy heard
reports as loud as pistol-shots. One of these shots meant the bursting
of the wash-basin on the bedroom bench, Matt having forgotten to empty
its contents, which had expanded into ice.

Matt curled himself up more comfortably and almost covered his face with
the blanket, for the cold in the stoveless attic was acute. In the gray
half-light the rough beams and the quilts glistened with frozen breaths.
The little square window-panes were thickly frosted, and below the
crumbling rime was a thin layer of ice left from the day before, solid
up to the sashes, and leaving no infinitesimal dot of clear glass, for
there was nothing to thaw it except such heat as might radiate through
the bricks of the square chimney that came all the way from the cellar
through the centre of the flooring to pop its head through the shingled

“Matt!” Billy was nudging his brother in the ribs again.

“Hullo!” grumbled the boy.

“Thet thar ain’t the frost. Hark!”

“‘Tis, I tell ye. Don’t you hear the pop, pop, pop?”

“Not thet; t’other down-stairs.”

“Oh, thet’s the wind, I reckon.”

“No; it’s some ’un screamin’!”

Matt raised himself on his elbow, and listened.

“Why, you gooney, it’s on’y mother rowin’ Harriet,” he said,
reassuringly, and snuggled up again between the blankets.

The winter, though yet young, had already achieved a reputation.
Blustrous north winds had driven inland, felling the trees like
lumbermen. In the Annapolis Basin myriads of herrings, surprised by Jack
Frost before their migratory instinct awoke, had been found frozen in
the weirs, and the great salt tides overflowing the high dykes had been
congealed into a chocolate sea that, when the liquid water beneath ran
back through the sluices, lay solid on the marshes. By the shores of the
Basin of Minas sea-birds flapped ghostlike over amber ice-cakes, whose
mud-streaks under the kiss of the sun blushed like dragon’s blood.

Snow had fallen heavily, whitening the “evergreen” hemlocks, and through
the shapeless landscape half-buried oxen had toiled to clear the blurred
roads bordered by snow-drifts, till the three familiar tracks of hoofs
and sleigh-runners came in sight again. The stage to Truro ploughed its
way along, with only dead freight on its roof and a furred animal or
two, vaguely human, shivering inside. Sometimes the mail had to travel
by horse, and sometimes it altogether disappointed Billy and his
brothers and sisters of the excitement of its passage; for the stage
road ran by the small clearing, in the centre of which their house and
barn had been built--a primitive gabled house, like a Noah’s ark,
ugliness unadorned, and a cheap log barn of the “lean-to” type, with its
cracks corked with moss, and a roof of slabs.

Jack Frost might stop the mail, but he could not stop the gayeties of
the season. “Wooden frolics” and quilting-parties and candy-pullings and
infares and Baptist revival-meetings had been as frequent as ever; and
part of Matt’s enjoyment of his couch was a delicious sense of
oversleeping himself legitimately, for even his mother could hardly
expect him to build the fire at five when he had only returned from
Deacon Hailey’s “muddin’ frolic” at two. He saw himself coasting down
the white slopes in his hand-sled, watching the wavering radiance of the
northern lights that paled the moon and the stars, and wishing his
mother would not spoil the after-glow of the night’s pleasure and the
poetic silence of the woods by grumbling about his grown-up sister
Harriet, who had deserted them for an earlier escort home. He felt
himself well rewarded for his afternoon’s labor in loading marsh mud for
the top-dressing of Deacon Hailey’s fields; and a sudden remembrance of
how his mother had been rewarded for helping Mrs. Hailey to prepare the
feast made him nudge Billy in his turn.

“Cheer up, Billy. We’ve brought back a basket o’ goodies: there’s
plum-cake, doughnuts--”

“It’s gettin’ worst,” said Billy. “Hark!”

Matt mumbled impatiently and redirected his thoughts to the “muddin’
frolic.” The images of the night swept before him with almost the
vividness of actuality; he lost himself in memories as though they were
realities, and every now and then a dash of sleep streaked these waking
visions with the fantasy of dream.

“My, how the fiddle shrieks!” runs the boy’s reminiscence. “Why don’t
ole Jupe do his tunin’ to home, the pesky nigger? We’re all waitin’ for
the reel--the ‘fours’ are all made up; Ruth Hailey and me hev took the
floor. Ruth looks jest great with thet white frock an’ the pink sash,
thet’s a fact. Hooray!--‘The Devil among the Tailors!’--La, lalla,
lalla, lalla, lalla, flip-flop!” He hears the big winter top-boots
thwack the threshing-floor. Keep it up! Whoop! Faster! Ever faster! Oh,
the joy of life!

Now he is swinging Ruth in his arms. Oh, the merry-go-round! The long
rows of candles pinned by forks to the barn walls are guttering in the
wind of the movement; the horses tied to their mangers neigh in
excitement; from between their stanchions the mild-eyed cows gaze at the
dancers, perking their naïve noses and tranquilly chewing the cud. A
bat, thawed out of his winter nap by the heat of the temporary stove,
flutters drowsily about the candles; and the odors of the stable and of
the packed hay mingle with the scents of the ball-room. Matt’s
exhaustive eye, though never long off pretty Ruth’s face, takes in even
the grains of wheat that gild many a tousled head of swain or lass as
the shaking of the beams dislodges the unthreshed kernels in the mow
under the eaves, and, keener even than the eye of his collie, Sprat,
notes the mice that dart from their holes to seize the fallen drops of
tallow. But perhaps Sprat is only lazy, for he will not vacate his
uncomfortable snuggery under the stove, though he has to shift his
carcass incessantly to escape the jets of tobacco-juice constantly
squirted in his direction. It serves him right, thinks his young master,
for persisting in coming, though, for the matter of that, the creature,
having superintended the mud-hauling, has more right to be present than
Bully Preep. “Wonder why sister Harriet lets him dance with her so
of’n!” the panorama of his thought proceeds. “What kin she see in the
skunk, fur lan’ sakes? I told her ’bout the way he bully-ragged me when
he was boss o’ the school and I was a teeny shaver. But she don’t seem
to care a snap. Girls are queer critters, thet’s a fact. He used to put
a chip on my shoulder, an’ egg the fellers on to flick it off. But,
gosh! didn’t I hit him a lick when he pulled little Ruth’s hair? He’d a
black eye, thet’s a fact, though he giv’ me two, an’ mother an’ teacher
’ud a giv’ me one more apiece, but there warn’t no more left. I took it
out in picters though, I guess. My! didn’t ole McTavit’s face jest look
reedic’lous when he discovered Bully Preep in the fly-leaf of every
readin’-book. Thet’s jest how mother is glarin’ at Harriet this moment.
Pop! pop! pop! What a lot o’ ginger-beer an’ spruce-beer Deacon Hailey
is openin’! Pop! pop! pop! He don’t seem to notice them thar black
bottles o’ rum. He’s ’tarnal cute, is ole Hey. Seems like he’s talkin’
to mother. Wonder how she kin understand him. He allus talks as if his
mouth was full o’ words--but it’s on’y tobacco, I reckon. Pop! pop! pop!
Thet’s what I allus hear him say, windin’ up with a ‘Hey’--an’ it does
rile me some to refuse pumpkin-pie, not knowin’ he’s invitin’ me to
anythin’ but hay. I ’spect mother’s heerd him talk considerable, just es
I’ve heerd the jays an’ the woodpeckers; though she kin’t tell one from
t’other, I vow, through bein’ raised at Halifax. Thunderation! thet’s
never her dancin’ with ole Hey! My stars, what’ll her elders say? Well,
I wow! She is backslidin’. Ah, she recollecks! She pulls up, her face is
like a beet. Ole Hey is argufyin’, but she hangs back in her traces. I
reckon she kinder thinks she’s kicked over the dashboard this time. Ah,
he’s gone and taken Harriet for a pardner instead; he’ll like sister
better, I guess. By gum! He’s kickin’ up his heels like a colt when it
fust feels the crupper. I do declare Marm Hailey is lookin’ pesky ugly
’bout it. She’s a mighty handsome critter, anyways. Pity she kin’t wear
her hat with the black feather indoors--she does look jest spliffin’
when she drives her horses through the snow. Whoop! Keep it up! Sling it
out, ole Jupe! More rosin. Yankee doodle, keep it up, Yankee doodle
dandy! Go it, you cripples; I’ll hold your crutches! Why, there’s Billy
dancin’ with the crutch I made him!” he tells himself as his vision
merges in dream. “Pop! pop! pop! How his crutch thumps the floor! Poor
Billy! Fancy hevin’ to hop through life on thet thar crutch, like a
robin on one leg! Or shall I hev to make him a longer one when he’s
growed up? Mebbe he won’t grow up--mebbe he’ll allus be the identical
same size; and when he’s an ole man he’ll be the right size again, an’
the crutch’ll on’y be a sorter stick. I wish I hed a stick to make this
durned cow keep quiet--I kin’t milk her! So! so! Daisy! Ole Jupe’s music
ain’t for four-legged critters to dance to! My! what’s thet nonsense
’bout a cow? Why, I’m dreamin’. Whoa, there! Give her a tickler in the
ribs, Billy. Hullo! look out! here’s father come back from sea! Quick,
Billy, chuck your crutch in the hay-mow. Kin’t you stand straighter nor
that? Unkink your leg, or father’ll never take you out to be a pirate.
Fancy a pirate on a crutch! It was my fault, father, for fixin’ up thet
thar fandango, but mother’s lambasted me a’ready, an’ she wanted to
shoot herself. But it don’t matter to you, father--you’re allus away
a’most, an’ Billy’s crutch kin’t get into your eye like it does into
mother’s. She was afeared to write to you ’bout it. Thet’s on’y Billy in
a fit--you see, Daisy kicked him, and they couldn’t fix his leg back
proper; it don’t fit, so he hes fits now an’ then. He’ll never be a
pirate now. Drive the crutch deeper into the ice, Charley; steady there
with the long pole. The iron pin goes into the crutch, Billy; don’t get
off the ashes, you’ll slide under the sled. Now, then, is the rope
right? Jump on the sled, you girls and fellers! Round with the pole!
Whoop! Hooray! Ain’t she scootin’ jest! Let her rip! Pop! Snap!
Geewiglets! The rope’s give! Don’t jump off, Billy, I tell you; you’ll
kill yourself! Stick in your toes an’ don’t yowl; we’ll slacken at the
dykes. Look at Ruth--_she_ don’t scream. Thunderation! We’re goin’ over
into the river! Hold tight, you uns! Bang! Smash! We’re on the
ice-cakes! Is thet you thet’s screamin’, Billy? You ain’t hurt, I tell
you--don’t yowl--you gooney--don’t--”

But it was not Billy’s voice that he heard screaming when the films of
sleep really cleared away. The little cripple was nestling close up to
him with the same panic-stricken air as when they rode that flying sled
together. This time it was impossible to mistake their mother’s voice
for the wind--it rose clearly in hysterical vituperation.

“An’ you orter be ’shamed o’ yourself, I do declare, goin’ home all
alone in a sleigh with a young man--in the dead o’ night, too!”

“There were more nor ourn on the road; and since Abner Preep was perlite

“Yes, an’ you didn’t think o’ _me_ on the road oncet, I bet! If young
Preep wanted to do the perlite, he’d’ a’ took me in his father’s sleigh,
not a wholesome young gal.”

“But I was tar’d out with dancin’ e’en a’most, and you on’y--”

“Don’t you talk about _my_ dancin’, you blabbin’ young slummix! Jest
keep your eye on your Preeps with their bow-legs an’ their pigeon-toes.”

“His legs is es straight es yourn, anyhow.”

“P’raps you’ll say thet I’ve got Injun blood next. Look at his round
shoulders and his lanky hair--he’s a Micmac, thet’s what he is. He on’y
wants a few baskets and butter-tubs to make him look nateral. Ugh! I kin
smell spruce every time I think on him.”

“It’s you that hev hed too much spruce-beer, _hey_?”

“You sassy minx! Folks hev no right to bring eyesores into the world.
I’d rather stab you than see you livin’ with Abner Preep. It’s a squaw
he wants, thet’s a fact, not a wife!”

“I’d rather stab myself than go on livin’ with _you_.”

For a moment or two Matt listened in silent torture. The frequency of
these episodes had made him resigned, but not callous. Now Harriet’s
sobs were added to the horror of the altercation, and Matt fancied he
heard a sound of scuffling. He jumped out of bed in an agony of alarm.
He pulled on his trousers, caught up his coat, and slipped it on as he
flew barefoot down the rough wooden stairs, with his woollen braces
dangling behind him.

In the narrow icy passage at the foot of the stairs, in the bleak light
from the row of little crusted panes on either side of the door, he
found his mother and sister, their rubber-cased shoes half-buried in
snow that had drifted in under the door. Mrs. Strang was fully dressed
in her “frolickin’” costume, which at that period included a crinoline;
she wore an astrakhan sacque, reaching to the knees, and a small
poke-bonnet, plentifully beribboned, blooming with artificial flowers
within and without, and tied under the chin by broad, black, watered
bands. Round her neck was a fringed afghan, or home-knit muffler. She
was a tall, dark, voluptuously-built woman, with blazing black eyes and
handsome features of a somewhat Gallic cast, for she came of old
Huguenot stock. She stood now drawing on her mittens in terrible
silence, her bosom heaving, her nostrils quivering. Harriet was nearer
the door, flushed and panting and sobbing, a well-developed auburn
blonde of sixteen, her hair dishevelled, her bodice unhooked, a strange
contrast to the other’s primness.

“Where you goin’?” she said, tremulously, as she barred her mother’s way
with her body.

“I’m goin’ to drownd myself,” answered her mother, carefully smoothing
out her right mitten.

“Nonsense, mother,” broke in Matt. “You kin’t go out--it’s snowin’.”

He brushed past the pair and placed himself with his back to the door,
his heart beating painfully. His mother’s mad threats were familiar
enough, yet they never ceased to terrify. Some day she might really do
something desperate. Who knew?

“I’m goin’ to drownd myself,” repeated Mrs. Strang, carefully winding
the muffler round her head.

She made a step towards the door, sweeping the limp Harriet roughly
behind her.

“You kin’t get out,” Matt said, firmly. “Why, you hevn’t hed breakfast

“What do I want o’ breakfus? Your sister is breakfus ’nough for me.
Clear out o’ the way.”

“Don’t you let her go, Matt!” cried Harriet. “I’ll quit instead.”

“You!” exclaimed her mother, turning fiercely upon her, while her eyes
spat fire. “You are young and wholesome--the world is afore you. You
were not brought from a great town to be buried in a wilderness. Marry
your Preeps an’ your Micmacs, and nurse your pappooses. God has cursed
me with froward children an’ a cripple, an’ a husband that goes
gallivantin’ onchristianly about the world with never a thought for his
’mortal soul, an’ the Lord has doomed me to worship Him in the wrong
church. Mother yourselves; I throw up the position.”

“Is it my fault if father hesn’t wrote you lately?” cried Harriet. “Is
it my fault if there’s no Baptist church to Cobequid village?”

“Shut your mouth, you brazen hussy! You’ve drove your mother to her
death! Stand out o’ my way, Matthew; don’t you disobey my dyin’

“I sha’n’t,” said the boy, squaring his shoulders firmly against the
door. “Where kin you drownd yourself? The pond’s froze an’ the tide’s

He could think of no other argument for the moment, and he had an
incongruous vision of her sliding down to the river on her stomach, as
the boys often did, down the steep, reddish-brown slopes of greasy mud,
or sinking into a squash-hole like an errant horse.


“Why, there’s on’y mud-flats,” he added.

“I’ll wait on the mud-flats fur the merciful tide.” She fastened her
bonnet-strings firmly.

“The river is full of ice,” he urged.

“There will be room fur me,” she answered. Then, with a sudden
exclamation of dismay, “My God! you’ve got no shoes and socks on! You’ll
ketch your death. Go up-stairs d’reckly.”

“No,” replied Matt, becoming conscious for the first time of a cold wave
creeping up his spinal marrow. “I’ll ketch my death, then,” and he
sneezed vehemently.

“Put on your shoes an’ socks d’reckly, you wretched boy. You know what a
bother I hed with you last time.”

He shook his head, conscious of a trump card.

“D’ye hear me! Put on your shoes and socks!”

“Take off your bonnet an’ sacque,” retorted Matt, clinching his fists.

“Put on your shoes an’ socks!” repeated his mother.

“Take off your bonnet an’ sacque, an’ I’ll put on my shoes an’ socks.”

They stood glaring defiance at each other, like a pair of duellists,
their breaths rising in the frosty air like the smoke of pistols--these
two grotesque figures in the gray light of the bleak passage, the tall,
fierce brunette, in her flowery bonnet and astrakhan sacque, and the
small, shivering, sneezing boy, in his patched homespun coat, with his
trailing braces and bare feet. They heard Harriet’s teeth chatter in the

“Go back to bed, you young varmint,” said Matt, suddenly catching sight
of Billy’s white face and gray night-gown on the landing above. “You’ll
ketch your death.”

There was a scurrying sound from above, a fleeting glimpse of other
little night-gowned figures. Matt and his mother still confronted each
other warily. And then the situation was broken up by the near approach
of sleigh-bells. They stopped slowly, mingling their jangling with the
creak of runners sliding over frosty snow, then the scrunch of heavy
boots travelled across the clearing. Harriet flushed in modest alarm and
fled up-stairs. Mrs. Strang hastily retreated into the kitchen, and for
one brief moment Matt breathed freely, till, hearing the click of the
door-latch, he scented gunpowder. He dashed towards the door and pressed
the thumb-latch, but it was fastened from within.

“Harriet!” he gasped, “the gun! the gun!”

He beat at the door, his imagination seeing through it. His loaded gun
was resting on the wooden hooks fastened to the beam in the ceiling. He
heard his mother mount a chair; he tried to break open the door, but
could not. The chances of getting round by the back way flashed into his
mind, only to be dismissed as quickly. There was no time--in breathless
agony he waited the report of the gun. Crash! A strange, unexpected
sound smote his ears--he heard the thud of his mother’s body striking
the floor. She had stabbed herself, then, instead. Half mad with
excitement and terror, he backed to the end of the passage, took a
running leap, and dashed with his mightiest momentum against the frail
battened door. Off flew the catch, open flew the door with Matt in
pursuit, and it was all the boy could do to avoid tumbling over his
mother, who sat on the floor among the ruins of a chair, rubbing her
shins, her bonnet slightly disarranged, and the gun, still loaded,
demurely on its perch. What had happened was obvious; some of the little
Strang mice, taking advantage of the cat’s absence at the “muddin’
frolic,” had had a frolic on their own account, turning the chair into a
sled, and binding up its speedily-broken leg to deceive the maternal
eye. It might have supported a sitter; under Mrs. Strang’s feet it had
collapsed ere her hand could grasp the gun.

“The pesky young varmints!” she exclaimed, full of this new grievance.
“They might hev crippled me fur life. Always a-tearin’ an’ a-rampagin’
an’ a-ruinatin’. I kin’t keep two sticks together. It’s ’nough to make a
body throw up the position.”

The sound of the butt-end of a whip battering the front-door brought her
to her feet with a bound. She began dusting herself hastily with her

“Well, what’re you gawkin’ at?” she inquired. “Kin’t you go an’ unbar
the door, ’stead o’ standin’ there like a stuck pig?”

Matt knew the symptoms of volcanic extinction; without further parley he
ran to the door and took down the beechen bar. The visitor was “ole
Hey,” who drove the mail. The deacon came in, powdered as from his own
grist-mill, and added the snow of his top-boots to the drift in the
hall. There were leather-faced mittens on his hands, ear-laps on his
cap, tied under the chin, a black muffler, hoary with frost from his
breath, round his neck and mouth, and an outer coat of buffalo-skin
swathing his body down to his ankles, so that all that was visible of
him was a little inner circle of red face with frosted eyebrows.

Mrs. Strang stood ready in the hall with a genial smile, and Matt, his
heart grown lighter, returned to the kitchen, extracted the family
foot-gear from under the stove, where it had been placed to thaw, and
putting on his own still-sodden top-boots, he set about shaving
whittlings and collecting kindlings to build the fire.

“Here we are again, hey!” cried the deacon, as heartily as his
perpetual, colossal quid would permit.

“Do tell! is it really you?” replied Mrs. Strang, with her pleasant

“Yes--dooty is dooty, I allus thinks,” he said, spitting into the
snow-drift and flicking the snow over the tobacco-juice with his whip.
“Whatever Deacon Hailey’s hand finds to do he does fust-rate--thet’s a
fact. It don’t seem so long a while since you and me were shakin’ our
heels in the Sir Roger. Nay, don’t look so peaked--there’s nuthin’ to
make such a touse about. You air a _partic’ler_ Baptist, hey? An’ I
guess you kinder allowed Deacon Hailey would be late with the mail, hey?
But he’s es spry es if he’d gone to bed with the fowls. You won’t find
the beat of _him_ among the young fellers nowadays--thet’s so. They’re a
lazy, slinky lot; and es for doin’ their dooty to their country or their

“Hev you brought me a letter?” interrupted Mrs. Strang, anxiously.

“I guess--but you’re goin’ out airly?”

“I allowed I’d walk over to the village to see if it hed come.”

“Oh, but it ain’t the one you expec’.”

“No?” she faltered.

“I guess not. Thet’s why I brought it myself. I kinder scented it was
suthin’ special, and so I reckoned I’d save you the trouble of trudgin’
to the post-office. Deacon Hailey ain’t the man to spare himself trouble
to obleege a fellow-critter. Do es you’d be done by, hey?” The deacon
never lost an opportunity of pointing the moral of a position. Perhaps
his sermonizing tendency was due to his habit of expounding the Sunday
texts at a weekly meeting, or perhaps his weekly exposition was due to
his sermonizing tendency.

“Thank you.” Mrs. Strang extended her hand for the letter. He produced
it slowly, apparently from up the sleeve of his top-most coat, a wet,
forlorn-looking epistle, addressed in a sprawling hand. Mrs. Strang
turned it about, puzzled.

“P’raps it’s from Uncle Matt,” ejaculated Matt, appearing suddenly at
the kitchen door.

“You’ve got Uncle Matt on the brain,” said Mrs. Strang. “It’s a Halifax
stamp.” She could not understand it; her own family rarely wrote to her,
and there was no hand of theirs in the address. Deacon Hailey lingered
on, apparently prepared, in his consideration for others, to listen to
the contents of his “fellow-critter’s” letter.

“Ah, sonny,” he said to Matt, “only jest turned out, and not slicked up
yet. When I was your age I hed done my day’s chores afore the day hed
begun. No wonder the Province is so ’tarnally behindhand, hey?”

“Thet’s so,” Matt murmured. Pop! pop! pop! was all that he heard, so
that ole Hey’s moral exhortations left him neither a better nor a wiser

Mrs. Strang still held the letter in her hand, apparently having become
indifferent to it. Ole Hey did not know she was waiting for him to go,
so that she might put on her spectacles and read it. She never wore her
spectacles in public, any more than she wore her nightcap. Both seemed
to her to belong to the privacies of the inner life, and glasses in
particular made an old woman of one before one’s time. If she had worn
out her eyes with needle-work and tears, that was not her neighbors’

The deacon, with no sign of impatience, elaborately unbuttoned his outer
buffalo-skin, then the overcoat beneath that, and the coat under that,
and then, pulling up the edge of his cardigan that fitted tightly over
his waistcoats, he toilsomely thrust his horny paw into his
breeches-pocket and hauled out a fig of “black-jack.” Then he slowly
produced from the other pocket a small tool-chest in the guise of a
pocket-knife, and proceeded to cut the tobacco with one of the

“Come here, sonny!” he cried.

“The deacon wants you,” said Mrs. Strang.

Matt moved forward into the passage, wondering. Ole Hey solemnly held up
the wedge of black-jack he had cut, and when Matt’s eye was well fixed
on it he dislodged the old “chaw” from his cheek with contortions of the
mouth, and blew it out with portentous gravity. Lastly, he replaced it
by the wedge of “black-jack,” mouthed and moulded the new quid
conscientiously between tongue and teeth, and passed the ball into his
right cheek.

“Thet’s the way to succeed in life, sonny. Never throw away dirty afore
you got clean, hey?”

Poor Matt, unconscious of the lesson, waited inquiringly and
deferentially, but the deacon was finished, and turned again to his

“I ’spect it ’ll be from some of the folks to home, mebbe.”

“Mebbe,” replied Mrs. Strang, longing for solitude and spectacles.

“When did you last hear from the boss?”

“He was in the South Seas, the capt’n, sellin’ beads to the savages.
He’d a done better to preach ’em the Word, I do allow.”

“Ah, you kin’t expect godliness from sailors,” said the deacon. “It’s in
the sea es the devil spreads his nets, thet’s a fact.”

“The Apostles were fishermen,” Mrs. Strang reminded him.

“Yes; but fishers ain’t sailors, Mrs. Strang. It’s in furrin parts that
the devil lurks, and the further a man goes from his family the nearer
he goes to the devil, hey?”

Mrs. Strang winced. “But he’s gittin’ our way now,” she protested,
unguardedly. “He’s comin’ South with a freight.”

“Ah, joined the blockade-runners, hey?”

Mrs. Strang bit her lip and flushed. “I don’t kear,” the deacon said,
reassuringly. “I don’t see why Nova Scotia should go solid for the
North. What’s the North done for Nova Scotia ’cept ruin us with their
protection dooties, gol durn ’em. They won’t have slaves, hey? Ain’t we
their slaves? Don’t they skin us es clean es a bear does a sheep? Ain’t
they allus on the lookout to snap up the Province? But I never talk
politics. If the North and South want to cut each other’s throats,
that’s not our consarn. Mind your own business, I allus thinks, hey? And
if your boss kin make a good spec by provisionin’ the Southerners,
you’ll be a plaguy sight better off, I vow. And so will I--for, you
know, I shall hev to call in the mortgage unless you fork out thet thar
interest purty slick. There’s no underhandedness about Deacon Hailey. He
gives you fair warnin’.”

“D’rectly the letter comes you shall have it--I’ve often told you so.”

“Mebbe thet’ll be his letter, after all--put his thumb out, I guess, and
borrowed another feller’s, hey?”

“No--he’d be nowhere near Halifax,” said Mrs. Strang, her feverish
curiosity mounting momently. “Don’t them thar sleigh-bells play a tune!
I guess your horses air gettin’ kinder restless.”

“Well--there’s nuthin’ I kin do for you to Cobequid Village?” he said,

Mrs. Strang shook her head. “Thank you, I guess not.”

“You wouldn’t kear to write an answer now--I’d be tolerable pleased to
post it for you down thar. Allus study your fellow-critters, I allus

“No, thank you.”

Deacon Hailey spat deliberately on the floor.

“Er--you got to home safe this mornin’?”

“Yes, thank you. We all come together, me and Harriet and Matt. ’Twere a
lovely walk in the moonlight, with the Aurora Borealis a-quiverin’ and
a-flushin’ on the northern horizon.”

“A-h-h,” said the deacon slowly, and rather puzzled. “A roarer! Hey?”

At this moment a sudden stampede of hoofs and a mad jangling of bells
were heard without. With a “Durn them beasts!” the deacon breathlessly
turned tail and fled in pursuit of the mail-sleigh, mounting it over the
luggage-rack. When he had turned the corner, Matt’s grinning face
emerged from behind the snow-capped stump of a juniper.

“I reckon I fetched him thet time,” he said, throwing away the remaining
snowball, as he hastened gleefully inside to partake of the contents of
the letter.

He found his mother sitting on the old settle in the kitchen, her
spectacled face gray as the sand on the floor, her head bowed on her
bosom. One limp hand held the crumpled letter. She reminded him of a
drooping foxglove. The room had a heart of fire now, the stove in the
centre glowed rosily with rock-maple brands, but somehow it struck a
colder chill to Matt’s blood than before.

“Father’s drownded,” his mother breathed.

“He’ll never know ’bout Billy now,” he thought, with a gleam of relief.

Mrs. Strang began to wring her mittened hands silently, and the letter
fluttered from between her fingers. Matt made a dart at it, and read as

     DEAR MARM,--Don’t take on but ime sorrie to tell you that the Cap
     is a gone goose we run the block kade oust slick but the 2 time we
     was took by them allfird Yanks we reckkend to bluff ’em in the fog
     but about six bells a skwad of friggets bore down on us sudden like
     ole nick the cap he sees he was hemd in on a lee shoar and he
     swears them lubberly northers shan’t have his ship not if he goes
     to Davy Jones his loker he lufs her sharp up into the wind and
     sings out lower the longbote boys and while the shot was tearin and
     crashin through the riggin he springs to the hall-yards and hauls
     down the cullers then jumps through the lazzaret into the store
     room kicks the head of a carsk of ile in clinches a bit of oakem
     dips it in the ile and touches a match to it and drops it on the
     deck into the runin ile and then runs for it hisself jumps into the
     bote safe with the cullers and we sheer off into the fog mufflin
     our oars with our caps and afore that tarnation flame bust out to
     show where we were we warnt there but we heard the everlastin fools
     poundin away at the poor old innocent _Sally Bell_ till your poor
     boss dear marm he larfs and ses he shipmets ses he look at good old
     _Sally_ she’s stickin out her yellow tongue at em and grinnin at
     the dam goonies beg pardon marm but that was his way he never
     larfed no more for wed disremembered the cumpess and drifted outer
     the fog into a skwall and the night was comin on and we drov blind
     on a reef and capsized but we all struck out for shore and allowed
     the cap was setting sale the same way as the rest on us but when we
     reached the harbor the cap he warnt at the helm and a shipmet ses
     ses he as how he would swim with that air bundle of cullers that
     was still under his arm and they tangelled round his legs and
     sorter dragged him under and kep him down like sea-weed and now
     dear marm he lays in the Gulf of Mexiker kinder rapped in a shroud
     and gone aloft I was the fust mate and a better officer I never
     wish to sine with for tho he did sware till all was blue his hart
     was like an unborn babbys and wishing you a merry Christmas and God
     keep you and the young orfuns and giv you a happy new year dear
     marm you deserve it.

ime yours to command,


     p s.--i would have writ erlier, but i couldn’t get your address
     till i worked my way to Halifax and saw the owners scuse me not
     puttin this in a black onwellop i calclated to brake it eesy.

Matt hastily took in the gist of the letter, then stood folding it
carefully, at a loss what to say to the image of grief rocking on the
settle. From the barn behind came the lowing of Daisy--half
protestation, half astonishment at the unpunctuality of her breakfast.
Matt found a momentary relief in pitying the cow. Then his mother’s
voice burst out afresh.

“My poor Davie,” she moaned. “Cut off afore you could repent, too deep
down fur me to kiss your dead lips. I hevn’t even got a likeness o’ you;
you never would be took. I shall never see your face again on airth, and
I misdoubt if I’ll meet you in heaven.”

“Of course you will--he saved his flag,” said Matt, with shining eyes.

His mother shook her head, and set the roses on her bonnet nodding gayly
to the leaping flame. “Your father was born a Sandemanian,” she sighed.

“What is thet?” said Matt.

“Don’t ask me; there air things boys mustn’t know. And you’ve seen in
the letter ’bout his profane langwidge. I never would’ve run off with
him; all my folks were agen it, and a sore time I’ve hed in the
wilderness ’way back from my beautiful city. But it was God’s finger. I
pricked the Bible fur a verse, an’ it came: ‘An’ they said unto her,
Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed it was even so. Then said
they, It is his angel.’”

She nodded and muttered, “An’ I was his angel,” and the roses trembled
in the firelight. “If you were a good boy, Matt,” she broke off, “you’d
know where thet thar varse come from.”

“Hedn’t I better tell Harriet?” he asked.

“Acts, chapter eleven, verse fifteen,” muttered his mother. “It was the
finger of God. What’s thet you say ’bout Harriet? Ain’t she finished
tittivatin’ herself yet--with her father layin’ dead, too?” She got up
and walked to the foot of the stairs. “Harriet!” she shrieked.

Harriet dashed down the stairs, neat and pretty.

“You onchristian darter!” cried Mrs. Strang, revolted by her
sprightliness. “Don’t you know father’s drownded?”

Harriet fell half-fainting against the banister. Mrs. Strang caught her
and pulled her towards the kitchen.

“There, there,” she said, “don’t freeze out here, my poor child. The
Lord’s will be done.”

Harriet mutely dropped into the chair her mother drew for her before the
stove. Daisy’s bellowing became more insistent.

“An’ he never lived to take me back to Halifax, arter all!” moaned Mrs.

“Never mind, mother,” said Harriet, gently. “God will send you back some
day. You hev suffered enough.”

Mrs. Strang burst into tears for the first time. “Ah, you don’t know
what my life hes been!” she cried, in a passion of self-pity.

Harriet took her mother’s mittened hand tenderly in hers. “Yes we do,
mother--yes we do. We know how you hev slaved and struggled.”

As she spoke a panorama of the slow years was fleeting through the minds
of all three--the long blank weeks uncolored by a letter, the fight with
poverty, the outbursts of temper; all the long-drawn pathos of lonely
lives. Tears gathered in the children’s eyes--more for themselves than
for their dead father, who for the moment seemed but gone on a longer

“Harriet,” said Mrs. Strang, choking back her sobs, “bring down my poor
little orphans, and wrap them up well. We’ll say a prayer.”

Harriet gathered herself together and went weeping up the stairs. Matt
followed her with a sudden thought. He ran up to his room and returned,
carrying a square sheet of rough paper.

His mother had sunk into Harriet’s chair. He lifted up her head and
showed her the paper.

“Davie!” she shrieked, and showered passionate kisses on the
crudely-colored sketch of a sailor--a figure that had a strange touch of
vitality, a vivid suggestion of brine and breeze. She arrested herself
suddenly. “You pesky varmint!” she cried. “So this is what become o’ the
fly-leaf of the big Bible!”

Matt hung his head. “It was empty,” he murmured.

“Yes, but there’s another page thet ain’t--thet tells you to obey your
parents. This is how you waste your time ’stead o’ wood-choppin’.”

“Uncle Matt earns his livin’ at it,” he urged.

“Uncle Matt’s a villain. Don’t you go by your Uncle Matt, fur lan’s
sake.” She rolled up the drawing fiercely, and Matt placed himself
apprehensively between it and the stove.

“You said he wouldn’t be took,” he remonstrated.

Mrs. Strang sullenly placed the paper in her bosom, and the action
reminded her to remove her bonnet and sacque. Harriet, drooping and
listless, descended the stairs, carrying the two-year-old and
marshalling the other little ones--a blinking, bewildered group of
cherubs, with tousled hair and tumbled clothes. Sprat came down last,
stretching himself sleepily. He had kept the same late hours as Matt,
and, returning with him from the “muddin’ frolic,” had crept under his

The sight of the children moved Mrs. Strang to fresh weeping. She almost
tore the baby from Harriet’s arms.

“He never saw you!” she cried, hysterically, closing the wee yawning
mouth with kisses. Her eyes fell on Billy limping towards the red-hot
stove where the others were already clustered.

“An’ he never saw _you_,” she cried to him, as she adjusted the awed
infant on the settle. “Or it would hev broke his heart. Kneel down and
say a prayer for him, you mischeevious little imp.”

Billy, thus suddenly apostrophized, paled with nervous fright. His big
gray eyes grew moist, a lump rose in his throat. But he knelt down with
the rest and began bravely:

“Our Father, which art in heaven--”

“Well, what are you stoppin’ about?” jerked his mother, for the boy had
paused suddenly with a strange light in his eyes.

“I never knowed what it meant afore,” he said, simply.

His mother’s eye caught the mystic gleam from his.

“A sign! a sign!” she cried, ecstatically, as she sprang up and clasped
the little cripple passionately to her heaving bosom.



The death of his father--of whom he had seen so little--gave Matt a
haunting sense of the unsubstantiality of things. What! that strong,
wiry man, with the shrewd, weather-beaten face and the great tanned
hands and tattooed arms, was only a log swirling in the currents of
unknown waters! In vain he strove to figure him as a nebulous
spirit--the conception would not stay. Nay, the incongruity seemed to
him to touch blasphemy. His father belonged to the earth and the seas;
had no kinship with clouds. How well he remembered the day, nearly three
years ago, when they had parted forever, and, indeed, it had been
sufficiently stamped upon his memory without this final blow.

It is a day of burning August--so torrid that they have left their coats
on the beach. They are out on the sand flats, wading for salmon among
the giant saucers of salt water, the miniature lakes left by the tide,
for this is one of the rare spots in the Province where the fish may be
taken thus. What fun it is spearing them in a joyous rivalry that makes
the fishers wellnigh jab each other’s toes with their pitchforks, and
completely tear each other’s shirt-sleeves away in the friendly tussle
for a darting monster, so that the heat blisters their arms with great
white blobs that stand out against the brown of the boy’s skin and the
ornamental coloring of the man’s. Now and then in their early course,
when tiny threads of water spurt from holes in the sand, they pause to
dig up the delicate clam, with savory anticipations of chowder. Farther
and farther they wander till their backs are bowed with the spoil, the
shell-fish in a little basket, the scaly fish strung together by a small
rope passing through their gills. The boy carries the shad and the man
the heavier salmon. At last, as they are turning homeward, late in the
afternoon, Matt stands still suddenly, rapt by the poetry of the scene,
the shimmering pools, the stretch of brown sand, strewn with sea-weeds,
the background of red head-lands, crowned with scattered yellow farms
embosomed in sombre green spruces, and, brooding over all, the windless
circle of the horizon, its cold blue veiled and warmed and softened by a
palpitating, luminous, diaphanous haze of pale amethyst tinged with
rose. He knows no word for what he sees; he only feels the beauty.

“Come along, sonny,” says his father, looking back.

But the boy lingers still till the man rejoins him, puzzled.

“What’s in the wind?” he asks. “Is Farmer Wade’s barn on fire?”

“Everythin’s on faar,” says the boy, waving his pitchfork
comprehensively. His dialect differs a whit from his more-travelled
father’s. In his little God-forsaken corner of Acadia the
variously-proportioned mixture of English and American which, with local
variations of Lowland and Highland Scotch, North of Ireland brogue and
French patois, loosely constitutes a Nova-Scotian idiom, is further
tinged with the specific peculiarities that spring from illiteracy and

David Strang smiles. “Why, you are like brother Matt,” he says, in
amused astonishment. All day his son’s prattle has amused the stranger,
but this is a revelation.

“Like your wicked brother Matt?” queries the boy in amaze. David’s smile
gleams droller.

“Avast there, you mustn’t hearken to the mother. She knows naught o’
Matt ’cept what I told her. She is Halifax bred, and we lived ’way up
country. I ran away to sea, and left him anchored on dad’s farm. When I
made port again dad was gone to glory, and Matt to England with a
petticoat in tow.”

“But mother said he sold the farm, an’ your share, too.”

“And if he didn’t it’s a pity. He had improved the land, hadn’t he? and
I might have been sarved up at fish dinners for all he knew. I don’t
hold with this Frenchy law that says all the bairns must share and share
alike. The good old Scotch fashion is good ’nough for me--Matt’s the
heir, and God bless him.”

“Then why didn’t you marry a Scotchwoman?” asked Matt, with childish

“‘Twas your mother’s fault,” answers David, with a half-whimsical,
half-pathetic expression.

“And why didn’t you take her to sea with you?”

“Nay, nay; the mother has no stomach for it, nor I either. And then
there was Harriet--a little body in long clothes. And the land was
pretty nigh cleared,” he adds, with a suspicion of apology in his
accent, “and we couldn’t grow ’nough to pay the mortgage if I hadn’t
shipped again.”

“And why am I like uncle?”

“Oh, he used to be allus lookin’ at the sky--not to find out whether to
git the hay in, mind you, but to make little picturs on the sly in the
hay-mow on Sundays, and at last he sold the farm and went to London to
make ’em.”

Matt’s heart begins to throb--a strange new sense of kinship stirs
within him.

“Hev you got any of them thar picturs?” he inquires, eagerly.

“Not one,” says David, shaking his head contemptuously. “His clouds were
all right, because clouds may be anything; but when he came to cows,
their own dams wouldn’t know ’em; and as for his ships--why, he used to
hoist every inch o’ canvas in a hur’cane. I wouldn’t trust him to tattoo
a galley-boy. But he had a power of industry, dear old Matt; and I guess
he’s larnt better now, for when I writ to him tellin’ him I was alive
and goin’ to get spliced, he writ back he was settled in London in the
pictur line, and makin’ money at it, and good-luck to him.”

Matt’s heart swells. That one can actually make money by making pictures
is a new idea. He has never imagined that money can be made so easily.
Why, he might help to pay off the mortgage! He does not see the need of
going to London to make them--he can make them quite well here in his
odd moments, and one day he will send them all to this wonderful kinsman
of his and ask him to sell them. Five hundred at sixpence each--why, it
sounds like one of those faëry calculations with which McTavit sometimes
dazzles the school-room. He wonders vaguely whether pictures are equally
vendible at that other mighty city whence his mother came, and, if so,
whether he may not perhaps help her to accomplish the dream of her
married life--the dream of going back there.

“An’ uncle’s got the same name as me!” he cries, in ecstasy.

“I should put it t’other way, sonny,” says his father, dryly; “though
when I give it you in his honor I didn’t calc’late it ’ud make you take
arter him. But don’t you git it into your figurehead that you’re goin’
to London--you’ve jest got to stay right here and look arter the farm
for mother. See? The picturs that God’s made are good ’nough for
me--that’s so.”

“Oh yes, dad, I shall allus stay on here,” answers Matt, readily. “It’s
Billy who allus wants to be a pirate. Silly Billy! He says--”

His father silences him with a sudden “Damn!”

“What’s the matter?” he asks, startled.

“I guess you’re the silly Billy, standin’ jabberin’ when the tide’s
a-rushin’ in. We’ll have to run for it.”

Matt gives a hasty glance to the left, then takes to his heels straight
across the sands in pace with his father. The famous “bore” of the Bay
of Fundy, in a northerly inlet of which they have been fishing, is
racing towards them from the left, and to get to shore they must shoot
straight across the galloping current. They are at the head of the bay,
where the tide reaches a maximum speed of ten miles an hour, and the
sailor, so rarely at home, has forgotten its idiosyncrasy.

“You might ha’ kep’ your weather-eye open,” he growls. “I wonder you’ve
never been drownded afore.”

“We shall never do it, father,” pants Matt, taking no notice of the
reproach, for the waves are already lapping the rim of the little sand
island (cut out by fresh-water rivulets) on which they find themselves,
and the pools in which they had waded are filling up rapidly.

“Throw ’em away,” jerks the father; and Matt, with a sigh of regret,
unstrings his piscine treasures, and, economically putting the string
into his pocket, speeds on with renewed strength. But the sun flares
mercilessly through the fulgent haze; and when they reach the end of
their island they step into three feet of water, with the safe shore a
quarter of a mile off. David Strang, a human revolver in oaths, goes off
in a favorite sequence of shots, but hangs fire in the middle, as if

“Strikes me the mother ’ll quote Scripture,” he says, grimly, instead.

“I suppose you can’t swim, sonny?” he adds.

“Not so fur nor thet,” says Matt, meekly.

David grunts in triumphant anger, and, shifting his pitchfork to his
left hand, he grasps Matt with his right, and lifts him back on to the
burning sand, already soddened by a thin frothy wash.

“Now then, han’ us your fork,” he says, crossly. He knocks out the iron
prongs of both the pitchforks, ties the wooden handles securely together
by the string from Matt’s discarded fish, and fixes the apparatus across
the boy’s breast and under his arms. To finish the job easily he has to
climb back on the sand island; for, though he stands in a little eddy,
it is impossible to keep his feet against the fierce swirl of the
waters; and even on the island, where there are as yet only a few inches
of sea, the less sturdy Matt is almost swept away to the right by the
mad cavalry charge of the tide on his left flank.

“Now then,” cries David, “it’s about time we were home to supper. I’ll
swim ye for your flapjacks.”

“But, father,” says Matt, “you’re not going to carry the fish on your

“They won’t carry me on theirs,” David laughs, regaining his good-humor
as the critical moment arrives. “What would the mother think if we came
home without a prize in tow! Avast there! I’ll larn you how I’ll get out
of carryin’ ’em on my back.”

And with a chuckle he launches himself into the eddy, and shoots forward
with a vigorous side-stroke. “This side up with care,” he cries
cheerily. “Jump, sonny, straight for’ards.” And in a moment the man and
the boy are swimming hard for the strip of shore directly opposite the
sand island, the spot where they had left their coats hours before; but
neither has the slightest expectation of reaching it, for the tide is
sweeping them with fearful velocity to the right of it, so that their
course is diagonal; and if they make land at all, it will be very far
from their original starting-point. David keeps the boy to port, and
adjusts his stroke to his. After a while, feeling himself well buoyed up
by the handles, Matt breathes more easily, and gradually becomes quite
happy, for the water is calm on the surface, and of the warmth and color
of tepid _café au lait_, quite a refreshing coolness after the tropical
air, and he watches with pleasure the rosy haze deepening into purple
without losing its transparency. They pass sea-gulls fighting over the
dead fish which Matt left behind, and which have been carried ahead of
him in their unresisting course.

“We’re drifting powerful from them thar coats,” grumbles David. “’Twill
be a tiresome walk back. If it warn’t for them we could cut across
country when we make port.”

Matt strains his vision to the left, but sees only the purple outline of
Five Islands, and in the far background the faint peaks of the Cobequid

“Waal, I’m darned!” exclaims his father, suddenly. “If them thar coats
ain’t comin’ to meet us, it’s a pity.”

And presently, sure enough, Matt catches sight of the coats hastening
along near the shore.

“We must cut ’em off afore they pass by,” cries his father, hilariously.
“Spurt, sonny, spurt. ’Tis a race ’twixt them and us.”

Sea-birds begin to circle low over their heads, scenting David’s fish;
but he pushes steadily on, animating his son with playful racing cries.

“We oughter back the coats,” he observes. “They’ve backed us many a
time. Just a leetle quicker,” he says, at last, “or they’ll git past
yonder p’int, and then they’re off to Truro.”

Matt kicks out more lustily, then his heart almost stops as he suddenly
sees Death beneath the lovely purple haze. It is the human swimmers who
are in danger of being carried off to Truro if they do not make the
shore earlier than “yonder p’int,” for Matt remembers all at once that
it is the last point for miles, the shore curving deeply inward. Even if
they reach the point in time, they will be thrown back by the
centrifugal swirl; they must touch the shore earlier to get in safely.
He perceives his father has been aware of the danger from the start, and
has been disguising his anxiety under the pretext of racing the coats.
He feels proud of this strong, brave man, the cold terror passes from
his limbs, and he spurts bravely.

“That’s a little man,” says David; “we’ll catch ’em yet. Lucky it’s
sandstone yonder ’stead o’ sand--no fear o’ gettin’ sucked in.”

Now it is the shore that seems racing to meet them--the red reef sticks
out a friendly finger, and in another five minutes they are perched upon
it, like Gulliver on the Brobdingnagian’s thumb; and what is more, they
tie with their coats, meeting them just at the landing-place.

David laughs a long Homeric laugh at the queerness of the incident,
quivering like a dog that shakes himself after a swim, and Matt smiles

“Them thar sea-birds air a bit off their feed, that’s a fact,” chuckles
David, as he surveys his fish; and then the two cut across the forest,
drying and steaming in the sun, the elder exhorting the younger to
silence, and hiding the prongless pitchforks in the hay-mow before they
enter the house, all smiles and salmon.

At the early tea-supper they sit in dual isolation at one end of the
table, their chairs close. But lo! Mrs. Strang, passing the hot
flapjacks, or “corn-dodgers,” with the superfluous perambulations of an
excitable temperament, brushes the back of her hand against Matt’s
shoulder, starts, pauses, and brushes it with her palm.

“Why, the boy’s wringin’ wet!” she cries.

“We went wadin’,” David reminds her, meekly.

“Yes, but you don’t wade on your heads,” she retorts.

“I sorter tumbled,” Matt puts in, anxious to exonerate his father.

Mrs. Strang passes her hand down her husband’s jacket.

“An’ father kinder stooped to pick me up,” adds Matt.

“You’re a nice Moloch to trust with one’s children!” she exclaims in
terrible accents.

David shrinks before the blaze of her eyes, almost feeling his coat
drying under it.

“An’ when you kin’t manage to drownd ’em you try to kill ’em with
rheumatics, and then _I_ hev all the responsibility. It’s ’nough to make
a body throw up the position. Take off your clothes, both o’ you.”

Both of them look at each other, feeling vaguely the indelicacy of
stripping at table. They put their hands to their jackets as if to
compromise, then a simultaneous recollection crimsons their faces--their
shirt-sleeves are gone. So David rises solemnly and leads the way
up-stairs, and Matt follows, and Mrs. Strang’s voice brings up the rear,
and goes with them into the bedroom, stinging and excoriating. They shut
the door, but it comes through the key-hole and winds itself about their
naked limbs (Mrs. Strang distributing flapjacks to her brood all the
while); and David, biting his lips to block the muzzle of his
oath-repeater--for he never swears before mother and the children except
when he is not angry--suddenly remembers that if he is to join his ship
at St. John’s by Thursday he must take the packet from Partridge Island
to-morrow. His honey-moon is over; he has this honey-moon every two or
three years, and his beautiful beloved is all amorousness and
amiability, and the best room with the cane-bottomed chairs is thrown
open for occupation; but after a few weeks Mrs. Strang is repossessed of
her demon, and then it is David who throws up the position, and goes
down to the sea in a ship, and does more business--of a mysterious
sort--in the great waters. And so on the morrow of the adventure he
kisses his bairns and his wife--all amorousness and amiability
again--and passes with wavings of his stick along the dusty road, under
the red hemlocks over the brow of the hill, and so--into the great
Beyond. Passes, and with him all that savor of strange, romantic seas,
all that flavor of bustling, foreign ports, that he brings to the lonely
farm, and that cling about it even in his absence, exhaling from
envelopes with picturesque stamps and letters with exotic headings;
passes, narrowing the universe for his little ones, and making their own
bit of soil sterner and their winter colder. He is dead, this brawny,
sun-tanned father, incredibly dead, and the dead face haunts Matt--no
vaporous mask, but stonily substantial, bobbing grewsomely in a green,
sickly light, fathoms down, with froth on its lips, and slimy things of
the sea twining in its hair. He looks questioningly at his own face in
the fragment of mirror, trying to realize that it, too, will undergo
petrifaction, and wondering how and when. He looks at his mother’s face
furtively, and wonders if the volcano beneath it will ever really sleep;
he pictures her rigid underground, the long, black eyelashes neatly
drawn down, and is momentarily pleased with the piquant contrast they
make with the waxen skin. Is it possible the freshness and beauty of
Harriet’s face can decay too? Can Billy sink to a painless rest, with
his leg perhaps growing straight again? Ah! mayhap in Billy’s case Death
were no such grisly mystery.

Morbid thoughts enough for a boy who should be profiting by the goodness
of the northwester towards boykind. But even before this greater tragedy
last year’s accident had taken the zest out of Matt’s enjoyment of the
ice; in former good years he had been the first to cut fancy figures on
the ponds and frozen marshes, or to coast down the slopes in a
barrel-stave fitted with an upright and a cross-piece--a machine of his
own invention worthy of the race of craftsmen from which he sprang. But
this year the glow of the skater’s blood became the heat of remorse when
he saw or remembered Billy’s wistful eyes; he gave up skating and
contented himself with modelling the annual man of snow for the school
at Cobequid Village.

In the which far-straggling village (to take time a little by the
forelock) his father’s death did not remain a wonder for the proverbial
nine days. For a week the young men chewing their evening quid round
the glowing maple-wood of the store stove, or on milder nights tapping
their toes under the verandas of the one village road as they gazed up
vacantly at the female shadows flitting across the gabled dormer-windows
of the snow-roofed wooden houses, spoke in their slightly nasal accent
(with an emphasis on the “r”) of the “pear’ls of the watter,” and
calling for their night’s letters held converse with the postmistress on
“the watter and its pear’ls,” and expectorated copiously, presumably in
lieu of weeping. And the outlying farmers who dashed up with a lively
jingle of sleigh-bells to tether their horses to the hitching-posts
outside the stores, or to the picket-fence surrounding the little wooden
meeting-house (for the most combined business with religion), were
regaled with the news ere they had finished swathing their beasts in
their buffalo robes and “boots”; and it lent an added solemnity to the
appeal of the little snow-crusted spire standing out ghostly against the
indigo sky, and of the frosty windows glowing mystically with blood in
the gleam of the chandelier lamps, and, mayhap, wrought more than the
drawling exposition of the fusty, frock-coated minister. And the old
grannies, smoking their clay pipes as they crouched nid-nodding over the
winter hearth, their wizened faces ruddy with firelight, mumbled and
grunted contentedly over the tidbit, and sighed through snuff-clogged
nostrils as they spread their gnarled, skinny hands to the dancing,
balsamic blaze. But after everybody had mourned and moralized and
expectorated for seven days a new death came to oust David Strang’s from
popular favor; a death which had not only novelty, but equal
sensationalism, combined with a more genuinely local tang, for it
involved a funeral at home. Handsome Susan Hailey, driving her horses
recklessly, her black feather waving gallantly in the wind, had dashed
her sleigh upon a trunk, uprooted by the storm and hidden by the snow.
She was flung forward, her head striking the tree, so that the brave
feather dribbled blood, while the horses bolted off to Cobequid Village
to bear the tragic news in the empty sleigh. And so the young men, with
the carbuncles of tobacco in their cheek, expectorated more and spoke of
the “pear’ls of the land,” and walking home from the singing-class the
sopranos discussed it with the basses, and in the sewing-circles, where
the matrons met to make undergarments for the heathen, there was much
shaking of the head, with retrospective prophesyings and whispers of
drink, and commiseration for “Ole Hey,” and all the adjacent villages
went to the sermon at the house, the deceased lady being, as the
minister (to whose salary she annually contributed two kegs of rum)
remarked in his nasal address, “universally respected.” And everybody,
including the Strangs and their collie, went on to the lonesome
graveyard--some on horse and some on foot and some in sleighs, the
coffin leading the way in a pung, or long box-sleigh--a far-stretching,
black, nondescript procession, crawling dismally over the white, moaning
landscape, between the zigzag ridges of snow marking the buried fences,
past the trailing disconsolate firs, and under the white funereal plumes
of the pines.



Other rumors, too, came by coach to the village--rumors of blizzard and
shipwreck--each with its opportunities of exhortation and expectoration.
But in the lonely forest home, past which the dazzling mail-coach
rattled with only a blast on the horn, the tragic end of David Strang
stood out in equal loneliness. For Death, when he smites the poor, often
cuts off not only the beloved, but the bread-winner; and though, in a
literal sense, the Strangs made their own bread, yet it was David who
kept the roof over their head and the ground under their feet. But for
his remittances the interest on the mortgage, under which they held the
farm and the house, could not have been paid, for the produce of the
clearing, the bit of buckwheat and barley, barely maintained the
cultivators, both Harriet and Matt eking out the resources of the family
by earning a little in kind, sometimes even in money. Matt was a skilful
soapmaker, decorating his bars with fanciful devices; and he delighted
in “sugaring”--a poetic process involving a temporary residence in a
log-hut or a lumberman’s cabin in the heart of the forest.

Now that the overdue mortgage money had gone to the bottom of the sea,
more money must be raised immediately. That the dead man had any claim
upon the consideration of his employers did not occur to the bereaved
family; rather, it seemed, he owed the owners compensation for the lost
_Sally Bell_. A family council was held on the evening of the day so
blackly begun. Not even the baby was excluded--it sat before the
open-doored stove on its mother’s lap and crowed at the great burning
logs that silhouetted the walls with leaping shadows. Sprat, too, was
present, crouched on “Matt’s mat” (as the children called the rag mat
their brother had braided), thrusting forward his black muzzle when the
door rattled with special violence, and by his side lay the boy staring
into the tumbling flames, yet taking the lead in the council with a new
authoritative ring in his voice.

Wherever the realities of life beleaguer the soul, there children are
born serious, and experience soon puts an old head on young shoulders.
The beady-eyed pappoose that the Indian squaw carries sandwichwise
’twixt back and board does not cry. Dump it down, and it stands stolid
like a pawn on a chessboard. Hang it on a projecting knot in the props
of a wig-wam, and it sways like a snared rabbit. Matt Strang, strenuous
little soul, had always a gravity beyond his years: his father’s removal
seemed to equal his years to his gravity. He knew himself the head of
the house. Harriet, despite her superior summers, was of the wrong sex,
and his mother, though she had physical force to back her, was not a
reasoning being. For a time, no doubt, she would be quieted by the peace
of the grave which all but the crowing infant felt solemnizing the
household, but Matt had no hope of more than a truce.

It was the boy’s brain and the boy’s voice that prevailed at the
council-fire. Daisy was to be killed and salted down and
sold--fortunately she was getting on in years, and, besides, they could
never have had the heart to eat their poor old friend themselves, with
her affectionate old nose and her faithful udders. The calves were to
become veal, and all this meat, together with the fodder thus set free,
Deacon Hailey was to be besought to take at a valuation, in lieu of the
mortgage money, for money itself could not be hoped for from Cobequid
Village. Though the “almighty dollar” ruled here as elsewhere, it was an
unseen monarch, whose imperial court was at Halifax. There Matt might
have got current coin, here barter was all the vogue. Accounts were kept
in English money; it was not till a few years later that the dollar
became the standard coin. For their own eating Matt calculated that he
would catch more rabbits and shoot more partridges than in years of
yore, and in the summer he would work on neighboring farms. Harriet
would have to extend her sewing practice, and collaborate with Matt in
making shad-nets for the fishermen, and Mrs. Strang would get spinning
jobs from the farmers’ wives. Which being settled with a definiteness
that left even a balance of savings, the widow handed the infant in her
arms to Harriet, and, replacing it by the big Bible, she slipped on her
spectacles with a nervous, involuntary glance round the kitchen, and
asked the six-year-old Teddy to stick a finger into the book. Opening
the holy tome at that place, she began to read from the head to the end
of the chapter in a solemn, prophetic voice that suited with her black
cap pinched up at the edges. She had no choice of texts; pricking was
her invariable procedure when she felt a call to prelection, and the
issue was an uncertainty dubiously delightful; for one day there would
be a story or a miracle to stir the children’s blood, and another day a
bald genealogy, and a third day a chapter of Revelation, all read with
equal reverence as equally inspiring parts of an equally inspired whole.

Matt breathed freely when his mother announced Ezra, chap. x., not
because he had any interest in Ezra, but because he knew it was a
pictureless portion. When the text was liable to be interrupted by
illustrations, the reading was liable to be interrupted by
remonstrances, for scarce a picture but bore the marks of his
illuminating brush, and his rude palette of ground charcoal, chalk, and
berry-juice. He had been prompted to color before his hand itched to
imitate, and in later years these episodes of the far East had found
their way to planed boards of Western pine, with the figures often in
new experimental combinations, and these scenes were in their turn
planed away to make room for others equally unsatisfactory to the
critical artist. But his mother had never been able to forgive the
iniquities of his prime, not even after she had executed vengeance on
the sinner. She had brought the sacred volume from her home at Halifax,
and a colored Bible she had never seen; color made religion cheerful,
destroyed its essential austerity--it could no more be conceived apart
from black and white than a minister of the Gospel. An especial
grievance hovered about the early chapters of Exodus, for Matt had
stained the Red Sea with the reddish hue of the Bay of Fundy--a
sacrilege to his mother, to whose fervid imagination the Sea of Miracles
loomed lurid with sacred sanguineousness to which no profane water
offered any parallel.

But Ezra is far from Exodus, and to-night the reminder was not likely. A
gleam of exaltation illumined the reader’s eyes when she read the first
verse; at the second her face seemed to flush as if the firelight had
shot up suddenly.

“‘Now when Ezra hed prayed an’ when he hed confessed, weepin’ an’
castin’ himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him
out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children:
fur the people wept very sore.

“‘An’ Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered
an’ said unto Ezra, We hev trespassed against our God, an’ hev taken
strange wives of the people of the land....’”

She read on, pausing only at the ends of the verses. Harriet knitted
stockings over baby’s head; the smaller children listened in awe. Matt’s
thoughts soon passed from Shechaniah, the son of Jehiel, uninterested
even by his relationship to Elam. Usually when the subject-matter was
dull, and when he was tired of watching the wavering shadows on the
gray-plastered walls, he got up a factitious interest by noting the
initial letter of each verse and timing its length, in view of his
Sunday-school task of memorizing for each week a verse beginning with
some specified letter. His verbal memory being indifferent, he would
spend hours in searching for the tiniest verse, wasting thereby an
amount of time in which he could have overcome the longest; though, as
he indirectly scanned great tracts of the Bible, it may be this A B C
business was but the device of a crafty deacon skilled in the young
idea. However this be, Matt’s mind was deeplier moved to-night. The
shriek of the blind wind without contrasted with the cheerful crackle of
the logs within, and the woful contrast brought up that weird image
destined to haunt him for so long.

He shuddered to think of it--down there in the cold, excluded forever
from the warm hearth of life. Was not that its voice in the
wind--wailing, crying to be let in, shaking the door? His eyes filled
with tears. Vaguely he heard his mother’s voice intoning solemnly.

“‘An’ of the sons of Immer; Hanani, and Zebadiah. An’ of the sons of
Harim; Maaseiah, an’ Elijah, an’ Shemaiah, an’ Jehiel, an’ Uzziah. An’
of the sons of Pashur....’”

The baby was still smiling, and tangling Harriet’s knitting, but Billy
had fallen asleep, and presently Matt found himself studying the flicker
of the firelight upon the little cripple’s pinched face.

“‘An’ of the sons of Zattu; Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, an’ Jeremoth,
an’ Zabad, an’ Aziza. Of the sons also of Bebai....’”

The prophetic voice rose and fell unwaveringly, unwearyingly.

“Don’t you think I ought to write and tell Uncle Matt?” came suddenly
from the brooding boy’s lips.

“Silence, you son of Belial!” cried his mother indignantly. “How dare
you interrupt the chapter, so near the end, too! Uncle Matt, indeed!
What’s the mortal use of writin’ to him, I should like to know? Do you
think he’s likely to repent any, to disgorge our land? Why, he don’t
deserve to know his brother’s dead, the everlastin’ Barabbas. If he’d
hed to do o’ me he wouldn’t hev found it so easy to make away with our
inheritance, I do allow, and my poor David would hev been alive, and to
home here with us to-night, thet’s a fact. Christ hev mercy on us all.”
She burst into tears, blistering the precious page. Harriet ceased to
ply her needles; they seemed to be going through her bosom. The baby
enjoyed a free hand with the wool. Billy slept on. Presently Mrs.
Strang choked back her sobs, wiped her eyes, and resumed in a steady,
reverential voice:

“‘Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, Azareel, an’ Shelemiah, Shemariah,
Shallum, Amariah, an’ Joseph. Of the sons of Nebo; Jeiel, Mattithiah,
Zabad, Zebina, Jadau, an’ Joel, Benaiah.

“‘All these hed taken strange wives, an’ some of them hed wives by whom
they hed children.’”

Her voice fell with the well-known droop that marked the close.
“Anyways,” she added, “I don’t know your uncle’s address. London is a
big place--considerable bigger nor Halifax; an’ he’ll allow we want to
beg of him. Never!” She shut the book with an emphatic bang, and Matt
rose from Sprat’s side and put it away.

“Of course, I sha’n’t go back to school any more,” he said, lightly,
remembering the point had not come up.

“Oh yes, you will.” His mother’s first instinct was always of

“I may get a job an’ raise a little money towards the mortgage.”

“What job kin you get in the winter?”

“Why, I kin winnow wheat some,” he reminded her, “an’ chop the
neighbors’ wood, an’ sort the vegetables in their cellars.”

“An’ whatever you make by thet,” she reminded him, “you’ll overbalance
by what you’d be givin’ away to the school-master. You’ve paid Alic
McTavit to the end o’ the season.”

“I guess you’re off the track this load o’ poles, mother,” said Matt,
amused by her muddled finance.

Yet it was the less logical if even more specious argument of completing
the snow months (for only young and useless children went to school in
the summer) that appealed to him. The human mind is strangely under the
sway of times and seasons, and the calendar is the stanchest ally of
sloth and procrastination, and so Mrs. Strang settled in temporary
triumph to her task of making new black mourning dresses for the girls
out of her old merino, and a few days afterwards, when Matt had carried
out his financial programme satisfactorily (except that Deacon Hailey’s
valuation did not afford the estimated surplus), he joined the other
children in their pilgrimage schoolward. The young Strangs amounted to a
procession. At its head came Matt, drawing Billy on a little hand-sled
by a breast-rope that came through the auger-holes in the peaks of the
runners, and the end of Sprat, who sneaked after the children, formed a
literal tail to it, till, arriving too far to be driven back, the animal
ran to the front in fearless gambollings. This morning the air was keen
and bright, the absence of wind preventing the real temperature from
being felt, and the sun lit up the white woods with cold sparkle. Ere
the children had covered the two miles most of them conceived such a new
appetite that their fingers itched to undo their lunch packets. A halt
was called, the bread-and-molasses was unwrapped, and while the future
was being recklessly sacrificed to the present by the younger savages,
Matt edified them by drawing on the snow with the point of Billy’s
crutch. They followed the development of these designs with vociferous
anticipation, one shouting, “A cow,” and another “Ole Hey” before more
than a curve was outlined. Matt always amused himself by commencing at
the most unlikely part of the figure, and working round gradually in
unexpected ways, so as to keep the secret to the last possible moment.
Sometimes, when it had been guessed too early, he would contrive to
convert a fox into a moose, his enjoyment of his dexterity
countervailing the twinge of his conscience. To-day all the animals were
tamer than usual. The boy drew listlessly, abstractedly, unresentful
when his secret was guessed in the first stages. And at last, half of
itself, the crutch began to shape a Face--a Face with shut eyes and
dripping hair, indefinably uncanny.

“Father!” cried Ted, in thick, triumphant tones, exultation tempered by
mastication. But the older children held their breath, and Teddy’s
exclamation was succeeded by an awesome silence. Suddenly a sagging
bough snapped and fell, the collie howled, and Matt, roused from his
reverie, saw that Billy’s face had grown white as the dead snow. The
child was palsied with terror; Matt feared one of his fits was coming
on. In a frenzy of remorse he blurred out the face with the crutch, and
hustled the sled forward, singing cheerily:

    “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
     Look upon a little child,
     Pity my simplicity,
     And suffer me to come to Thee.”

The children took up the burden, sifting themselves instinctively into
trebles and seconds in a harmony loud enough to rouse the hibernating
bear. Billy’s face returned to its normal pallor, and Matt’s to its

In the school-room--a bare, plastered room, cold and uninviting, with a
crowd of boys and girls at its notched pine desks--he continued pensive.
There was nothing to distract his abstraction, for even Ruth Hailey was
away. The geography lesson roused him to a temporary attention. London
flitted across his dreams--the Halifax of England, that mighty city in
which pictures were saleable for actual coin, and a mighty
picture-maker, the Matt Strang of England, was paid for play as if for
work. But the reading-book, with its _menu_ of solid stories and essays,
peppered with religious texts, restored him to his reveries. McTavit,
who was shaping quills with his knife, called upon him to commence the
chapter; but he stared at the little pedagogue blankly, unaware of the
call. He was noting dreamily how his jagged teeth showed beneath the
thin, snuffy upper lip, and the trick the mouth had of remaining wide
open after it had ceased talking. He tried to analyze why McTavit was
not smiling. Months ago, seeking to make his figures smile, the boy had
discovered the rident effect of a wide mouth, and now he essayed to
analyze the subtle muscular movements that separate the sublime from the
ridiculous. Suddenly the haunting thought recurred to him with a new
application. Even McTavit’s freckled face would one day be frozen--those
twitching eyelids still, the thin wide lips shut forever. How long more
would he stride about his motley school-room, scattering blows and
information? Would he come to a stop in the school-room as the clock
sometimes did, grown suddenly silent, its oil congealed by the intense
cold? Or would Death find him in bed, ready stretched? And the restless
boys and girls around him--good God!--they, too, would one day be very
peaceful--mere blocks--Carroty Kitty, who was pinching Amy Warren’s arm,
and Peter Besant, who was throwing those pellets of bread, and even
Simon the Sneak’s wagging tongue would be still as a plummet. They would
all grow rigid alike, not all at once, nor in one way, but some very
soon, perhaps, and others when they were grown tall, and yet others when
they were bent and grizzled; some on sea and some on land, some in this
part of the map and some in that, some peacefully, some in pain;
petrified one by one, ruthlessly, remorselessly, impartially; till at
last all the busy hubbub was hushed, and of all that lively crew of
youngsters not one was left to feel the sun and the rain. The pity of it
thrilled him; even McTavit’s freckled face grew softer through the veil
of mist. Then, as his vision cleared, he saw the face was really darker:
strange emotions seemed to agitate it.

“So ye’re obstinate, are ye?” it screamed, with startling suddenness. At
the same instant something shining flew through the air, and, whizzing
past Matt’s ear, sent back a little thud from behind. Matt turned his
head in astonishment, and saw a penknife quivering in the wall. He
turned back in fresh surprise, and saw that McTavit’s face had changed,
lobster-like, from black to red, as its owner realized how near had been
Matt’s (and his own) escape.

“Eh, awake at last, sleepy-head,” he blustered. “There’s na gettin’ your
attention. Well, what are ye starin’ at? Are ye na goin’ to fetch me my

“I’m not a dog,” answered Matt, sullenly.

“Then dinna bark! Ye think because ye’ve lost your father ye’re
preevileged--to lose your manners,” he added, with an epigrammatic
afterthought that mollified him more than an apology. “I’m verra
obleeged to you,” he concluded, with elaborate emphasis, as Simon the
Sneak handed him the knife.

“Now, then, sleepy-head,” he said again, “p’r’aps ye’ll read your
paragraph--that’s richt, Simon; show him the place.”

McTavit hailed from Cape Breton Isle, and was popularly supposed to
soliloquize in Gaelic. This hurt him when he proposed to the
postmistress, who had been to boarding-school in Truro. She declared she
would not have a man who did not speak good English.

“I do speak guid English,” he protested, passionately. “Mebbe not in the
school-room, when I’m talkin’ only to my pupils, and it dinna matter,
but in private and in society I’m most parteecular.”

McTavit was still a bachelor, and still spoke guid English. When the
reading-lesson had come to an end, Matt was left again to his own
thoughts, for while poor McTavit gave the juniors an exercise in grammar
which they alleviated by gum-chewing, Matt and a few other pupils were
allotted the tranquillizing task of multiplying in copy-books £3949
17_s._ 11¾_d._ by 7958. The sums were so colossal that Matt wondered
whether they existed in the world; and if so, how many pictures it would
be necessary to make to obtain them. An awful silence brooded over the
room, for when written exercises were on, the pupils took care to do
their talking silently, lest they should be suspected of copying, this
being what they were doing. There was a little museum case behind
McTavit’s desk, containing stuffed skunks and other animals and local
minerals lovingly collected by him--stilbite and heulandite and quartz
and amethyst and spar and bits of jasper and curiously clouded agate,
picked up near Cape Blomidon amid the débris of crumbling cliffs. At
such times McTavit would stand absorbed in the contemplation of his
treasures, his rod carelessly tucked under his arm, as one “the world
forgetting, by the world forgot.” Then the tension of silence became
positively painful, for the school-room had long since discovered that
the museum case was a reflector, and McTavit, though he prided himself
on the secret of his Argus eye, never caught any but novices not yet
initiated into the traditions. Imagine, therefore, the shock both to him
and the room, when to-day the acute stillness was broken by a loud cry
of “Bang! bang! bang!” An irresistible guffaw swept over the school, and
under cover of the laughter the cute and ready collogued as to

“Silence!” thundered McTavit. “Who was that?”

In the even more poignant silence of reaction a small still voice was

“Please, sir, it was me,” said Matt, remorsefully.

“Oh, it was you, was it? Then here’s bang! bang! bang! for ye.” And as
he spoke the angry little man accentuated each “bang” with a vicious
thwack. Then his eye caught sight of Matt’s copy-book. In lieu of ranged
columns of figures was a rough pen-and-ink sketch of a line of great
war-ships overhung by smoke-clouds, and apparently converging all their
batteries against one little ship, on whose deck a stalwart man stood
solitary, wrapped in a flag.

McTavit choked with added rage.

“D-defacin’ your books agen. What--what d’ye call that?” he spluttered.

“Blockade,” said Matt, sulkily.

“Blockhead!” echoed McTavit, and was so pleased with the universal
guffaw (whereof the cute and ready took advantage to compare notes as
before) that he contented himself with the one slash that was necessary
to drive the jest home. But it was one slash too much. Matt’s vocal
cannonade had been purely involuntary, but he was willing to suffer for
his over-vivid imagination. The last insult, however--subtly felt as an
injury to his dead father, too--set his blood on fire. He suddenly
remembered that this blockhead was, at any rate, the “head” of a family;
that he could no longer afford to be degraded before the little ones,
who were looking on with pain and awe. He rose and walked towards the

“Where are ye goin’?” cried McTavit.

“To find Captain Kidd’s treasure. I’ve learned all I want to know,” said

“Ye’d better come back.”

Matt turned, walked back to his seat, possessed himself of his
half-empty copy-book, and walked to the door.

“Good-bye, you fellers,” he said, cheerfully, as he passed out. The
girls he ignored.

McTavit gave chase with raised rod, regardless of the pandemonium that
rose up in his wake. Matt was walking slowly across the field, with
Sprat leaping up to lick his face. The dog had rejoined him. McTavit
went back, his rod hanging down behind.

Matt walked on sadly, his blood cooled by the sharp air. Another link
with the past was broken forever. He looked back at the simple wooden
school-house, with the ensign of smoke fluttering above its pitched
roof; kinder memories of McTavit surged at his heart--his little jests
at the expense of the boys, his occasional reminiscences of his native
Cape Breton and of St. John, New Brunswick, with its mighty cathedral,
the _Life of Napoleon_ he had lent him last year, his prowess with line
and hook the summer he boarded with the Strangs in lieu of school-fees,
and then--with a sudden flash--came the crowning recollection of his
talent for cutting turreted castles, and tigers, and anything you
pleased, out of the close-grained biscuits and the chunks of
buckwheat-cake the children brought for lunch. Matt’s thoughts went back
to the beginnings of his school career, when McTavit had spurred him on
to master the alphabet by transforming his buckwheat-cake into any
animal from ass to zebra. He remembered the joy with which he had
ordered and eaten his first elephant. Pausing a moment to cut a stick
and drive Sprat off with it, he walked back into the wondering

“Please, sir, I’m sorry I went away so rudely,” he said, “and I’ve cut
you a new birch rod.”

McTavit was touched.

“Thank you,” he said, simply, as he took it. “What’s the matter?” he
roared, seeing Simon the Sneak’s hand go up.

“Please, sir, hedn’t you better try if he hesn’t split it and put a hair

“Grand idea!” yelled McTavit, grimly. “How’s that?”

And the new birch rod made its trial slash at the raised hand.



Mrs. Strang was busy in Deacon Hailey’s kitchen. The providential death
of Mrs. Hailey had given her chores to do at the homestead; for female
servants--or even male--were scarce in the colony, and Ruth had been
brought up by her mother to play on the harpsichord.

When Mrs. Strang got home after a three mile walk, sometimes through
sleet and slush, she would walk up and down till the small hours,
spinning carded wool into yarn at her great uncouth wheel, and weeping
automatically at her loneliness, reft even of the occasional husband for
whom she had forsaken the great naval city of her girlhood, the
beautiful century-old capital. “It’s ’nough to make a body throw up the
position,” she would cry hysterically to the deaf rafters when the
children were asleep and only the wind was awake. But the droning wheel
went round just the same, steady as the wheel of time (Mrs. Strang
moving to and fro like a shuttle), till the task was completed, and
morning often found her ill-rested and fractious and lachrymose. Matt
would have pitied her more if she had pitied herself less. In the
outside world, however, she had no airs of martyrdom, bearing herself
genially and independently. At the “revivals” held in private houses she
was an important sinful figure, though neither Harriet nor Matt had yet
found grace or membership. She smiled a pleasant response to-night when
Deacon Hailey came in from the tannery and said “Good-evenin’.” It was a
large, low kitchen, heated by an American stove, with a gleaming dresser
and black wooden beams, from which hams hung. The deacon felt more
comfortable there than in the room in which Ruth was at that moment
engaged in tinkling the harpsichord, a room that contained other
archaic heirlooms: old china, a tapestry screen, scriptural mottoes
worked in ancestral hair, and a large colored lithograph of the Ark on
Mount Ararat, for refusing to come away from which Matt had once been
clouted by his mother before all the neighbors. The house was, indeed,
uncommonly luxurious, sheltered by double doors and windows, and warmly
wrapped in its winter cincture of tan-bark.

“An’ how’s Billy?” asked the deacon. “Some folks ’ud say how’s Billy’s
mother, but thet I can see fur myself--rael bonny and han’sum, thet’s a
fact. It’s sick folk es a Christian should inquire arter, hey?”

“Billy’s jest the same,” replied Mrs. Strang, her handsome face

“No more fits, hey?”

“No; not for a long time, thank God. But he’ll never be straight again.”

“Ah, Mrs. Strang, we’re all crooked somehow. ’Tis the Lord’s will, you
may depend. Since my poor Susan was took, my heart’s all torn and
mangled; my heartstrings kinder twisted ’bout her grave. Ah! never kin I
forgit her. Love is love, I allus thinks. My time was spent so happy,
plannin’ how to make her happy--for ’tis only in makin’ others happy
that we git happy ourselves, hey? Now I hev no wife to devote myself to
my han’s are empty. I go ’bout lookin’ everyways fur Sunday.”

“Oh, but I’m sure you’ve never got a minute to spare.”

“You may depend,” said the deacon, proudly. “If I ain’t ’tarnally busy
what with the tannery an’ the grist-mill an’ the farm an’ the local
mail, it’s a pity. I don’t believe in neglectin’ dooty because your
heart’s bustin’ within.” He spat sorrowfully under the stove. “My motto
is, ‘Take kear o’ the minutes, and the holidays ’ll take kear o’
themselves.’ A man hes no time to waste in this oncivilized Province,
where stinkin’ Indians, that never cleared an acre in their lazy lives,
hev the right to encamp on a man’s land, an’ cut down his best firs an’
ashes fur their butter-butts and baskets, and then hev the imperence to
want to swop the identical same for your terbacco. It’s thievin’, I
allus thinks; right-down breakin’ o’ the Commandments, hey?”

“Well, what kin you expec’ from Papists?” replied Mrs. Strang. “Why, fur
sixpence the holy fathers forgive ’em all their sins.”

“‘Tain’t often they’ve got sixpence, hey? When ’lection-day comes round
agen I won’t vote fur no candidate that don’t promise to coop all them
greasy Micmacs up in a reservation, same es they do to Newfoundland.
They’re not fit to mix with hard-workin’ Christian folk. Them thar kids
o’ yourn, now, I hope they’re proper industrious. A child kin’t begin
too airly to larn field-work, hey?”

“Ah, they’re the best children in the world,” said Mrs. Strang. “They’ll
do anythin’ an’ eat anythin’ e’en a’most, an’ never a crost word; thet’s
a fact.”

The deacon suppressed a smile of self-gratulation. Labor was scarcer
than ever that year, and in his idea of marrying Harriet Strang, which
he was now cautiously about to broach, the possibility of securing the
gratuitous services of the elder children counted not a little,
enhancing the beauty of his prospective bride. He replied, feelingly:

“I’m everlastin’ glad to hear it, Mrs. Strang, for I know you kin’t
afford t’ employ outside labor. They’re goin’ to arx three shillin’s a
day this summer, the blood-suckers.”

“The laborer is worthy of his hire,” quoted Mrs. Strang.

“Yes; but he allus wants to be _highered_, hey? A seasonable joke ain’t
bad in its right place, I allus thinks. You needn’t allus be pullin’ a
long face. Thet Matt of yourn, now, I’ve seen him with a face like ole
Jupe’s fiddle, and walkin’ along es slow es a bark-mill turns a’most.”

Mrs. Strang sighed.

“Ah, you’re a good woman, Mrs. Strang. There’s no call to blush, fur
it’s true. D’ye think Deacon Hailey hesn’t got eyes for what’s under his
nose? The way you’re bringing up them thar kids is a credit to the
Province. I only hopes they’ll be proper thankful fur it when they’re
growed up. It makes my heart bleed a’most, I do declare. Many a time
I’ve said to myself, ‘Deacon Hailey, ’tis your dooty to do somethin’ fur
them thar orphans.’ Many a time I’ve thought I’d take the elder ones
off your han’s. There’s plenty o’ room in the ole farm--’twere built for
children, but there’s on’y Ruth left. An’ _she_ isn’t my own, though
when you see a gal around from infancy you forgits you ain’t the father,
hey? What a pity poor Sophia’s two boys were as delicate as herself.”

“Sophia?” murmured Mrs. Strang, interrogatively.

“Thet was my fust wife afore you came to these parts. She died young,
poor critter. Never shall I forgit her. Ah, there’s nothin’ like fust
love, I allus thinks. If I hedn’t wanted to hev children to work fur, I
should never ha’ married agen. But it’s a selfish business, workin’ for
one’s own han’, I allus thinks, knowin’ thet when you die all you’ve
sweated fur ’ll go to strangers. An’ now thet I’ve on’y got one soul
dependent on me, I feels teetotally onswoggled. What do you say? s’pose
I relieve you of Matt--dooty don’t end with passin’ the bag round in
church, hey?--it’s on this airth that we’re called upon to sacrifice
ourselves--or better still--s’pose I take Harriet off your han’s?”

Mrs. Strang answered, hesitatingly: “It is rael kind o’ you, deacon.
But, of course, Harriet couldn’t live here with you.”

“Hey? Why not?”

“She’s too ole.”

“An’ how ole might she be?”

“Gittin’ on for seventeen.”

“I guess thet’s not too ole for me,” he said, with a guffaw.

Mrs. Strang paused, startled. The idea took away her breath. The deacon
smiled on. In the embarrassing silence the tinkle of Ruth’s harpsichord
sounded like an orchestra.

“You--would--raelly--like my Harriet?” Mrs. Strang said, at last.

“You may depend--I’ve thought a good deal of her, a brisk an’ handy
young critter with no boardin’-school nonsense ’bout her.” He worked his
quid carefully into the other cheek, complacently enjoying Mrs. Strang’s
overwhelmed condition, presumably due to his condescension. “Of course
there’s heaps of han’sum gals every ways, but booty is only skin-deep, I
allus thinks. She’s very young, too, but thet’s rather in her favor.
You can eddicate ’em if you take ’em young. Train up a _child_, hey?”

“But I’m afeared Harriet wouldn’t give up Abner Preep,” said Mrs.
Strang, slowly. “She’s the most obstinate gal, thet’s a fact.”

“Hey? She walks out with Abner Preep?”

“No--not thet! I’ve sot my face agin thet. But I know she wouldn’t give
him up, thet’s sartin.”

Ruth’s harpsichord again possessed the silence, trilling forth
“Doxology” with an unwarranted presto movement. Mrs. Strang went on:
“The time o’ your last muddin’ frolic she danced with him all night e’en
a’most and druv off home in his sleigh, an’ there ain’t a quiltin’ party
or a candy-pullin’ or an infare but she contrives to meet him.”

“Scendalous!” exclaimed the deacon.

“I don’t see nothin’ scendalous!” replied Mrs. Strang, indignantly. “The
young man wants to marry her genu_ine_. ’Pears to me _your_ darter is
more scendalous a’most, playin’ hymns as if they were hornpipes. I
didn’t arx my folks if I might meet my poor Davie; we went to dances and
shows together, and me a Baptist, God forgive me! And Harriet’s jest
like that--the hussy--she takes arter her mother.”

“But if you were to talk to her!” urged the deacon.

Mrs. Strang shook her head.

“She’d stab herself sooner.”

“Stab herself sooner’n give up Abner Preep!”

“Sooner’n marry any one else.”

The deacon paused to cut himself a wedge of tobacco imperturbably. There
was no trace of his disappointment visible; with characteristic
promptitude he was ready for the next best thing.

“Well, who wants her to marry anybody else?” he asked, raising his
eyebrows. “_You_ don’t, do you?”

“N-n-o,” gasped Mrs. Strang, purpling.

“Thet’s right. Give her her head a bit. It don’t do to tie a grown-up
gal to her mammy’s apron-strings. You may take a horse to the water, but
you kin’t make her drink, hey? No, no, don’t you worry Harriet with
forcin’ husbands on her.”

“I--I--kinder--thought--” gasped Mrs. Strang, looking handsomer than
ever in the rosy glow of confusion.

“You kinder thought--” echoed Old Hey, spitting accurately under the

“Thet you wanted Harriet--”

“Thet’s so. I guessed she could live here more comfortable than to home.
I don’t ask no reward; ‘the widder and the orphan,’ as Scripter

“You didn’t mean marriage?”

“Hey?” shouted the deacon. “Marriage? Me? Well, I swow! Me, whose Susan
hes only been dead five months! A proper thing to suspec’ me of! Why,
all the neighbors ’ud be sayin’, ‘Susan is hardly cold in her grave
afore he’s thinkin’ of another.’”

“I beg your pardin,” said the abashed woman.

“An’ well you may, I do declare! Five months arter the funeral, indeed!
Why, ten months at least must elapse! But you teetotally mistook my
meanin’, Mrs. Strang; it’s a woman _I_’d be wantin’--a woman with a
heart an’ a soul, not an unbroken filly. All I was a-thinkin’ of was,
Could thet thar Abner Preep clothe and feed your darter? But I ain’t the
man to bear malice; and till you kin feel you kin trust her to him or
some other man, my house is open to her. I don’t draw back my offer, and
when I made it I was quite aware you would hev to be on the spot, too,
to look arter her--hey?”


“Well, you’re not too ole, anyways.” And the deacon smiled again.
“A’ready you’re here all day e’en a’most.” Here he half knelt down to
attend to the stove, which was smoking very slightly. “It wouldn’t be
much of a change to sleep here, hey?”

“Oh, but you’re forgittin’ the other children, deacon.”

“Deacon Hailey ain’t the man to forgit anythin’, I guess,” he said, over
his shoulder. “Afore he talks he thinks. He puts everythin’ in the
tan-pit an’ lets it soak, hey? Is it likely I’d take you over here an’
leave the little uns motherless? I never _did_ like this kind of stove.”
He fidgeted impatiently with the mechanism at the back, making the iron

“I--I--don’t--understand,” faltered Mrs. Strang, her heart beginning to
beat painfully.

“How you do go on ter-day, Mrs. Strang! When I ain’t talkin’ o’ marriage
you jump at it, and when I am you hang back like a mare afore a six-foot
dyke. Ah! thet’s better,” and he adjusted the damper noisily, with a
great sigh of satisfaction.

“You want to marry _me_?” gasped Mrs. Strang. The dark, handsome
features flushed yet deeper; her bosom heaved.

“You’ve struck it! I do want ter, thet’s plain!” He rose to his feet,
and threw his head back and his chest forward. “You’ll allus find me
straightforward, Mrs. Strang. I don’t beat about the bush, hey? But I
shouldn’t hev spoke so prematoor if you hedn’t druv me to it by your
mistake ’bout Harriet. Es if I could marry a giddy young gal with her
head full o’ worldly thoughts! Surely you must hev seen how happy I’ve
been to hev you here, arnin’ money to pay off your mortgage. Not that
I’d a-called it in anyways! What’s thet thar little sum to me? But I was
thinkin’ o’ _your_ feelin’s; how onhappy you would be to owe me the
money. And then thinkin’ how to do somethin’ for your children, I saw it
couldn’t be done without takin’ you into account. A mother clings to her
children. Nater is nater, I allus thinks. And the more I took you into
account, the more you figured up. There’s a great mother, I thinks;
there’s a God-fearin’ woman. An’ a God-fearin’ woman is a crown to her
husban’, hey? If ever I do bring myself to marry agen, thet’s the woman
for my money, I vow! When I say money, it’s on’y speakin’ in parables
like, ’cause I’m not thet sort o’ man. There _air_ men as ’ud come to
you an’ say, ‘See here, Mrs. Strang, I’ve got fifty acres of fust-class
interval-land, an’ a thousand acres of upland and forest-land, an’
thirty head o’ cattle, an’ a hundred sheep a’most, an’ a tannery thet,
with the shoemaker’s shop attached, brings me in two hundred pound a
year, an’ a grist-mill, an’ I carry the local mail, an’ I’ve shares and
mortgages thet would make you open your eyes, I tell you, an’ I’m free
from encumbrances e’en a’most, whereas you’ve got half a dozen.’ But
what does Deacon Hailey say? He says, jest put all thet outer your mind,
Mrs. Strang, an’ think on’y o’ the man--think o’ the man, with no one
to devote himself to.”

He took her hand, and she did not withdraw it. Emotion made her
breathing difficult. In the new light in which he appeared to her she
saw that he was still a proper man--straight and tall and sturdy and
bright of eye, despite his grizzled beard and hair.

“An’ if you kin’t give him devotion in return, jest you say so plump;
take a lesson from his straightforwardness, hey? Don’t you think o’ your
mortgage, or his money-bags, ’cause money ain’t happiness, hey? An’
don’t you go sacrificin’ yourself for your children, thinkin’ o’ poor
little Billy’s future, ’cause I don’t hold with folks sacrificin’
themselves wholesale; self-preservation is the fust law of nater, hey?
an’ it wouldn’t be fair to _me_. All ye hev to arx yourself is jest
this: Kin you make Deacon Hailey happy in his declinin’ years?” He drew
himself up to his full height without letting go her hand, and his eyes
looked into hers. “Yes, I say declinin’ years--there’s no deception, the
’taters air all up to sample. How ole might you think me?”

“Fifty,” she said, politely.

“Nearer sixty!” he replied, triumphantly. “But I hev my cold bath every
mornin’--I’m none o’ your shaky boards that fly into etarnal bits at the
fust clout, hey?”

“But you hev been married twice,” she faltered.

“So will _you_ be--when you marry me, hey?” And the deacon lifted her
chin playfully. “We’re neither on us rough timber--we’ve both hed our
wainy edges knocked off, hey? My father hed three wives--and he’s still
hale and hearty--a widower o’ ninety. Like father like son, hey? He’s a
deacon, too, down to Digby.”

As Deacon Hailey spoke of his father he grew middle-aged to Mrs.
Strang’s vision. But she found nothing to reply, and her thoughts
drifted off inconsequently on the rivulet of sacred music.

“But Ruth won’t like it,” she murmured at last.

“Hey? What’s Ruth got to say in the matter? I guess Ruth knows her fifth
commandment, an’ so do I. My father is the on’y person whose blessin’ I
shall arx on my ’spousals. I allus make a pint o’ thet, you may depend.”

The pathetic picture of Deacon Hailey beseeching his father’s blessing
knocked off ten years more from his age, and it was a young and ardent
wooer whose grasp tightened momently on Mrs. Strang’s hand.

“We might go to see him together,” he said. “It’s an everlastin’ purty
place, Digby.”

“I’d rayther see Halifax,” said Mrs. Strang, weakly. In the whirl of her
thoughts Ruth’s tinkling tune seemed the only steady thing in the
universe. Oh, if Ruth would only play something bearing on the
situation, so that Heaven might guide her in this sudden and fateful

“Halifax, too, some day,” said the deacon, encouragingly, laying his
disengaged hand caressingly on her hair. “We’ll go to the circus

She withdrew herself spasmodically from his touch.

“Don’t ask me!” she cried; “you’re Presbyterian!”

“Well, and what was your last husban’?”

“Don’t ask me. Harriet and Matt air ongodly ’nough as it is; they’ve
neither on ’em found salvation.”

“Well, I won’t interfere with your doctrines, you bet. Freedom o’
conscience, I allus thinks. We all sarve the same Maker, hey? I guess
you’re purty reg’lar at our church, though.”

“Thet’s God’s punishment on me for runnin’ away from Halifax, where I
hed a church of my own to go to, but he never cared nuthin’ ’bout the
’sential rite, my poor Davie. I ought to ha’ been expelled from
membership there and then, thet’s a fact, but the elders were merciful.
Sometimes I think ’tis the old French nater that makes me backslide; my
grandfather came from Paris in 1783, at the end o’ the Amur’can war, and
settled to St. Margaret’s Bay; but then he married into a god-fearin’
German family that emigrated there the same time a’most, and that ought
to ha’ made things straight agen.”

Mrs. Strang talked on, glad to find herself floating away from the
issue. But the deacon caught her by the hand again and hauled her back.

“There won’t be no backslidin’ in Deacon Hailey’s household, you may
depend,” he said. “When a woman hes a godly stay-to-home husband, Satan
takes to his heels. It’s widders and grass-widders es he flirts with,

Mrs. Strang colored up again, and prayed silently for help from the

“I kin’t give you an answer yet,” she said, feebly.

Old Hey slowly squirted a stream of tobacco-juice into the air as
imperturbably as a stone fountain figure.

“I don’t want your answer yet. Didn’t I tell you I couldn’t dream of
marryin’ agen for ages? It don’t matter your bein’ in a hurry ’cause
your pardner left you three years back, but I hev the morals o’ the
township to consider; it’s our dooty in life to set a good example to
the weaker brethren, I allus thinks. Eight months at least must elapse!
I on’y spoke out now ’cause o’ your onfortunate mistake ’bout Harriet,
and all I want is to be sure thet when I do come to ask you in proper
form and in doo course, you won’t say ‘no.’”

Mrs. Strang remained silent. And the harpsichord was silent too. Even
that had deserted her; its sound might have been tortured into some
applicability, but its silence could be construed into nothing, unless
it was taken to give consent. And then all at once Ruth struck a new
chord. Mrs. Strang strained her ears to catch the first bar. The deacon
could not understand the sudden gleam that lit up her face when the
instrument broke into the favorite Nova Scotian song, “The Vacant
Chair!” At last Heaven had sent her a sign; there was a vacant chair,
and it was her mission to fill it.

“Well, is thet a bargen?” asked the deacon, losing patience.

“If you’re sure you want me,” breathed Mrs. Strang.

In a flash the deacon’s arms were round her and his lips on hers. She
extricated herself almost as quickly by main force.

“‘Twarn’t to be yet,” she cried, indignantly.

“Of course not, Mrs. Strang,” retorted the deacon, severely. “On’y you
asked if I was sure, and I allowed I’d show you Deacon Hailey was
genu_ine_. It’s sorter sealin’ the bargen, hey? I couldn’t let you
depart in onsartinty.”

“Well, behave yourself in future,” she said, only half mollified, as she
readjusted her hair, “or I’ll throw up the position. I guess I’ll be
off now,” and she took bonnet and mantle from a peg.

“Not in anger, Mrs. Strang, I hope. ‘Let all bitterness be put away from
you,’ hey? Thet thar han’sum face o’ yourn warn’t meant for

He hastened to help her on with her things, and in the process effected
a reconciliation by speaking of new ones--”store clothes”--that would
set off her beauty better. Mrs. Strang walked airily through the slushy
forest road as on a primrose path. She was excited and radiant--her
troubles were rolled away, and her own and her children’s future
assured, and Heaven itself had nodded assent. Her lonely heart was to
know a lover’s tenderness again; it was swelling now with gratitude that
might well blossom into affection. How gay her home should be with
festive companies, to be balanced by mammoth revivalist meetings! She
would be the centre of hospitality and piety for the country-side.

But as she neared the house--which seemed to have run half-way to meet
her--the primroses changed back to slush, and her face to its habitual

Matt and Harriet were alone in the kitchen. The girl was crocheting, the
boy daubing flowers on a board, which he slid under the table as he
heard his mother stamping off the wet snow in the passage. Mrs. Strang
detected the board, but she contented herself by ordering him to go to
bed. Then she warmed her frozen hands at the stove and relapsed into
silence. Twenty times she opened her lips to address Harriet, but the
words held back. She grew angry with her daughter at last.

“You’re plaguy onsociable to-night, Harriet,” she said, sharply.

“Me, mother?”

“Yes, you. You might tell a body the news.”

“There’s no news to Cobequid. Ole Jupe’s come back from fiddlin’ at a
colored ball way down Hants County. He says two darkies hed a fight over
the belle.”

Harriet ceased, and her needles clicked on irritatingly. Mrs. Strang
burst forth:

“You might ask a body the news.”

“What news can there be down to Ole Hey’s?” Harriet snapped.

“Deacon Hailey,” began Mrs. Strang, curiously stung by the familiar
nickname, and pricked by resentment into courage; then her voice failed,
and she concluded, almost in a murmur, “is a-thinkin’ of marryin’ agen.”

“The ole wretch!” ejaculated Harriet, calmly continuing her crocheting.

“He’s not so ole!” expostulated Mrs. Strang, meekly.

“He’s sixty! Why, _you_ might as well think o’ marryin’! The idea!”

“Oh, but I’m on’y thirty-five, Harriet!”

“Well, it’s jest es ole. Love-makin’ is on’y for the young.”

“Thet’s jest where you’re wrong, Harriet. Youth is enjoyment enough of
itself. It is the ole folks that hev nothin’ else to look fur thet want
to be loved. It’s the on’y thing thet keeps ’em from throwin’ up the
position, an’ _they_ marry sensibly. Young folks oughter wait till
they’ve got sense.”

“The longer they wait the less sense they’ve got! If two people love
each other they ought to marry at once, thet’s a fact.”

“Yes; if they’re two ole sensible people.”

“I’m tar’d o’ this talk o’ waitin’,” said Harriet, petulantly. “How ole
were you when you ran away with father?”

“You ondecent minx!” ejaculated Mrs. Strang.

“You weren’t no older nor me,” persisted Harriet, unabashed.

“Yes, but I lived in a great city. I saw young men of all shapes and
sizes. I picked from the tree--I didn’t take the fust thet fell at my
feet; an’ how you can look at an onsightly critter like Abner Preep! I’d
rayther see you matched with Roger Besant, for though his left shoulder
_is_ half an inch higher than the right a’most, from carrying heavy
timbers in the ship-yard, he don’t bend his legs like a couple o’ broken

“Don’t talk to me o’ Roger Besant--he’s a toad. It’s Abner I love. I
don’t kear ’bout his legs; his heart’s in the right place!”

“You mean he’s give it to you!”

“I reckon so!”

“An’ you will fly in my face?”

“I must,” said Harriet, sullenly, “if you don’t take your face out o’
the way.”

“You imperent slummix! An’ you will leave your mother alone?”

“Es soon es Abner kin build a house.”

“Then if you marry Abner Preep,” said Mrs. Strang, rising in all the
majesty of righteous menace, “I’ll marry Deacon Hailey.”

“What!” Harriet also rose, white and scared.

“You may depend! I’m desprit! You kin try me too far. You know the wust,
now. I _will_ take my face out o’ the way, you onnatural darter! I will
take it to one thet ’preciates it.”

There was a painful silence. Mrs. Strang eyed her daughter nervously.
Harriet seemed dazed.

“You’d marry Ole Hey?” she breathed at last.

“You’d marry young Preep!” retorted the mother

“I’m a young gal!”

“An’ I’m an ole woman! Two ole folks is es good a match es two young

“Ah, but you don’t allow Abner and me _is_ a good match!” said Harriet,

“If you allow the deacon and me is.”

Their eyes met.

“You see, there’s the young uns to think on,” said Mrs. Strang. “If you
were to go away, how could I get along with the mortgage?”

“Thet’s true,” said Harriet, relenting a little.

“An’ if we were all to go to the farm, there’d be the house for you and

Harriet flushed rosily.

“An’ mebbe the deacon wouldn’t be hard with the mortgage!”

“Mebbe,” murmured Harriet. Her heart went pit-a-pat. But suddenly her
face clouded.

“But what will Matt say?” she half whispered, as if afraid he might be
within hearing. “I guess he’ll be riled some.”

“Oh, he’ll be all right if you kinder break the news to him an’ explain
the thing proper. I reckon he won’t take to the deacon at first.”

“The deacon! It’s Abner I’m thinkin’ on!”

“Abner! What does it matter what he thinks of Abner? ’Tain’t es if Matt
was older nor you. He’s got nothin’ to say in the matter, I do allow.”

“But he calls him Bully Preep, and says he used to wallop him at

“And didn’t he desarve it?” asked Mrs. Strang, indignantly.

“He says he won’t hev him foolin’ aroun’. He calls him a mean skunk.”

“And who’s Matt, I should like to know, to pass his opinions on his
elders an’ betters? You jest take no notice of his ’tarnation imperence
and he’ll dry up. It’s hevin’ a new father he’ll be peaked about. Thet’s
why you’d better do the talkin’ to Matt!”

“Then _you’ll_ hev to tell him ’bout Abner,” bargained Harriet.

But neither had the courage.



The old year had rolled off into the shadows, and the new had spun round
as far as April. Spring came to earth for a few hours a day, and behind
her Winter, whistling, clanged his iron gates, refreezing the morass to
which she had reduced the roads. Even at noon there was no genial
current in the air, unless you took the sheltered side of hills and
trees, and found Spring nestling shyly in windless coverts, though many
a se’n-night had still to pass ere, upon some more shaded hummock, the
harbinger Mayflower would timidly put forth a white bud laden with
delicate odor. Everywhere, down the hills and along the tracks, in every
rut and hollow, the sun saw a thousand dancing rivulets gleam and run,
and great freshets stir up the sullen, ice-laden rivers to sweep away
dams and mills, but the moon looked down on a white country demurely

Early in the month, Matt having previously said farewell in earnest to
McTavit’s school-room, left home for the spring sugaring. Billy, alas!
could not accompany him as of yore, so Sprat was left behind, too, by
way of compensation to Billy. For company and co-operation, Matt took
with him an Indian boy whose Christian name (for he was a Roman
Catholic) was Tommy.

Matt had picked up Tommy in the proximate woods, where the noble savage
ran wild in cast-off Christian clothes. Tommy belonged to a tribe that
had recently pitched its wigwams in the backlands, a mile from Cobequid
Village. To Mrs. Strang, who despatched the sugaring expedition and
provisioned it, he was merely “a filthy brat who grinned like a Chessy
cat,” but to Matt he incarnated the poetry of the primitive, and even
spoke it. Not that Matt had more than a few words of Algonquinese, but
Tommy broke English quite unhesitatingly; and his remarks, if terse and
infrequent, were flowery and sometimes intelligible. They generally ran
backward, after the manner of Micmac, which is as highly inflected as
Greek or Hebrew. For the admiring Matt there was an atmosphere of
romance about the red man which extended even to the red boy, and he had
set himself to win Tommy’s heart in exchange for tobacco, which was
itself obtained by another piece of barter. Tommy smoked a clay pipe,
being early indurated to hardship, after the Spartan custom of his
tribe. There were sketches of Tommy, colored like the Red Sea or the Bay
of Fundy, in Matt’s secret gallery. Tommy was easy to do, owing to his
other tribal habit of sitting silent for hours without moving a muscle.
It was only rarely that Matt could extract from him native legends about
Glooscap, the national hero, and Mundu, the devil.

The two boys set out together for a rock-maple district five miles off,
drawing their impedimenta heaped high on a large sled. They were
fortified for a three weeks’ stay. Mrs. Strang had baked them several
batches of bread, and with unwonted enthusiasm supplied them with
corn-meal for porridge, and tea and sugar, and butter and molasses, and
salt pork and beef, all stowed into the barrel that would come home
full of sugar. Their kitchen paraphernalia embraced a teapot and a
teakettle, a frying-pan and a pot, while their manufacturing apparatus
comprised tin pails, Yankee buckets, dippers, and axes. Guns,
ammunition, and blankets completed their equipment. Matt’s painting
materials were stowed away on his person unobtrusively.

They took possession of a disused log-cabin, formerly the property of a
woodsman, as the advertising agent would have put it, had he penetrated
to the backwoods. Possibly under his roseate vision it might have
expanded into a detached villa without basement, or a bungalow standing
in its own grounds, but a non-professional eye would have seen nothing
but four walls and a pitched roof with a great square hole in it to let
the light in and the smoke out. These walls were built of unhewn logs in
their rough, natural bark. The floor was even more primitive, being
simply the soil. It was necessary to thaw it by lighting the fire on it
before the stakes could be driven in to support the cross-pieces from
which the sugar-pot depended.

Then the boys chopped down a vast store of hardwood for fuel, and lanced
the tall maples, catching their blood in birch-bark troughs through pine
spills. They emptied the troughs into pails, and carried the sap to
their cabin, and boiled it in the big pot, and cooled it again to sugar.
A halcyon fortnight passed, full of work, yet leaving Matt leisure for
daubing boyish fancies on pieces of birch-bark to cover withal the
wooden walls of his home, which the aforesaid advertiser might not
unwarrantably have described as a studio with a novel top-light in a
quiet neighborhood. Possibly Matt’s mural decorations would have
enhanced the description. They comprised a fantastic medley of angels
with faces more or less like Ruth Hailey, and devils fashioned more or
less after the similitude of Bully Preep, and strange composite animals
more or less like nothing on earth, moving amid hills and ships and
lurid horizons. One night Matt sat by the fire in the centre of the hut
painting a more realistic picture and meditating a weeding of his
gallery. There had been no sap running that day, a sudden return of
winter had congealed it, and so this extra artistic output during the
comparatively idle hours had almost exhausted his hanging-space. While
he painted he gave an eye to the seething pot in which the sap must
change to molasses, and then thicken to maple syrup, and then to maple
wax ere it was ladled into the birch-bark dishes and set to cool outside
the hut. A piece of fat pork hanging from a hook in the cross-piece just
touched the surface of the sap and prevented it from effervescing. Tommy
was asleep on a heap of fir boughs in a corner, for the boys took it in
turn to watch the pot and replenish the fire. The soundness of Tommy’s
sleep to-night astonished Matt, for usually the young Micmac slept the
sleep of the vigilant, a-quiver at the slightest unwonted sound. Matt
did not know that his ingenious partner had just completed the
distillation of a crude rum from a portion of sap arrested at the
molasses stage, and that he had imbibed gloriously thereof.

Matt’s painting-stool was an inverted bucket. He wore a fur cap with
pendent earlaps that gave him an elderly appearance; and his feet were
cased in moccasins, made from the green shank of a cow. For some time he
painted steadily, trying to reproduce the picturesque interior of the
cabin with his rude home-made colors and brush. The air was warm and
charged with resinous odors. The camp-fire burned brightly, the hardwood
flaming without snapping or crackling, with only the soft hissing and
spurting of liberated gases; the fire purred as if enjoying the warmth.
The yellow billows curled round the bulging bottom of the three-legged
pot, and sent up delicate spirals of blue smoke, tinged below with
flame, to mingle with the white sappy steam that froze as soon as it got
outside and disentangled itself from the wood smoke by falling as
hoar-frost. At moments when all this smoke lifted Matt could see the
stars shining on him through the hole in the roof, stainless and far
away in a deep blue patch of heaven. Somehow they made him dissatisfied
with his work; they seemed like calm, sovran eyes watching his puny
efforts to reproduce, with his pitiable palette, the manifold hues and
shades of the simple scene around him--the greasy copper of the Indian
boy’s face, glistening against the yellow blanket which covered him and
the olive-green boughs on which he lay; the motley firewood, the dull
brown tones of the spruce branches, the silver of birch, the yellow of
beech; the empty birch-bark troughs, silver-white outside and dull
salmon within, touched with tints of light gold or gray. Why, there was
a whole color-scheme of subdued rich tints in the moss alone--the dead
dry moss that filled up the uneven rifts in the log-roof, and gleamed
with a mottle of green and olive and russet. He threw down his brush in
despair, longing for the rich, thick paints he vaguely imagined his
uncle in London must have--real paints that did not fade as his did,
despite the gums he mixed experimentally with them--pure reds and blues
and greens and yellows, capable of giving real skies and real grass and
real water, and of being mixed into every shade of color the heart could
desire. Then he slipped out through the door, shutting it quickly to
prevent the hut filling with smoke. The ground was white under a
brilliant moon, with here and there patches of silver that wellnigh
sparkled. Overhead mystic pallid-gold rays of northern light palpitated
across the clear star-strewn heaven. The trees showed more sombre, the
birches and maples bare of leafage, the spruces and hemlocks and all the
tangled undergrowth reduced to a common gray in the moonlight. Here and
there a brown hummock stood solemnly with bared head. And from all this
sleeping woodland rose a restless breathing, that incessant stir of a
vast alien, self-sufficient life, the rustle of creatures living and
moving and having their being in another world than the human, in that
dim, remote, teeming underworld of animal life, with its keen joys and
transient pains. And every now and then a definite sound disengaged
itself from the immense murmur: a chickadee chirped, a black-headed
snow-bird twittered, a cat-owl hooted, a rabbit ran from the underwood,
as faintly distinguishable from the snow in his white winter coat as he
had been from the dead leaves over which he pattered in autumn in his
gray homespun.

Matt stood leaning against the door, absorbed into the multifarious
night, and hardly conscious of the cold; then he went in, thrilling with
vague, sweet emotion, and vast manful resolutions that cast out despair.
But he did not take up his brush again. He sat down before the fire in
dreamy bliss; all the asperities of his existence softened by its
leaping light, and even that dead face of his father thawed into the
pleasant motions of life. The past shone through a mellow, rosy mist,
and the future was like the scarlet sunrise of the forest, flaming from
splendor to splendor--a future of artistic achievement upon which Ruth
Hailey’s face smiled applause; a future of easy, unsought riches which
banished the gloom upon his mother’s.

And then all of a sudden he caught sight of Tommy’s clay pipe, fallen
from his mouth on to the blanket; and an unforeseen desire to smoke it
and put the seal on this hour of happiness invaded the white boy’s
breast. He rose and picked it up. It was full of charred tobacco. The
craving to light it and taste its mysterious joys grew stronger. His
mother had sternly forbidden him to smoke, backing up her prohibition by
the text in Revelation--“And he opened the bottomless pit, and there
arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the
sun and air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.” But now he
remembered he had left school; he was a man. He put the stem into his
mouth and plucked a brand from the fire, then stood for a moment
irresolute. He wondered if any instinct warned his mother of what he was
doing, and from that thought it was an easy transition to wondering what
she was doing. His fancy saw her still running backward and forward,
working that great buzzing wheel with stern, joyless face. He put down
his pipe.

There was a fresh element in his dreamy bliss as he resumed his seat
before the fire, a sense of something high and tranquillizing like the
clear stars, yet touching the spring of tears. His head drooped in the
drowsy warmth, he surrendered himself to voluptuous sadness, and the
outside world grew faint and fading.

When he looked up again his heart almost ceased to beat. At his side
loomed a strange female figure, her head covered with a drab shawl that
hid her face. She stood in great snow-shoes as on a pair of pedestals,
and the log walls repeated her form in contorted shadow.

The gentle purring of the fire, the Indian boy’s breathing, sounded
painfully in the weird stillness. From without came the manifold rustle
of the night.

“Who are you?” he whispered.

“Give me a glass of water,” she replied, sweetly.

“I hev’n’t any water,” he breathed.

“I am afire with thirst,” she cried. “Quench me! quench me!” Her shawl
slipped back, revealing a face of wild, uncanny beauty crowned with an
aureola of golden hair. But the awesome thrill that had permeated Matt’s
being passed into one of æsthetic pleasure mingled with astonished

“Why, it’s Mad Peggy!” he murmured.

“Aye, it’s the Water-Drinker!” assented the beautiful visitor, in soft,
musical tones, thereupon crying out, “Water, water, for God’s sake!”

“I hev’n’t any water, I tell you. Not till I git some from the spring in
the mornin’. Hev some sap!”

And Matt, starting to his feet, plunged the dipper into the barrel of
raw sap that stood on the floor. Mad Peggy seized it greedily and
drained the great ladle to the dregs. Then she filled it again with
delicious fluid, and then again, and yet again, leaving Matt aghast at
her gigantic capacity. She was filling the dipper a fourth time, but he
pulled it out of her hand, fearing she would do herself a mischief.

“I’m so thirsty!” she whispered, plaintively, in her musical accents.

“What are you doin’ in the woods at this hour?” answered Matt, sternly.

“I’m looking for Peter. What a bonny fire!” And she bent over it,
holding out her long, white hands to the flames.

Matt divined vaguely that Peter must be the sweetheart whose desertion
had crazed the poor creature. It was reported in Cobequid Village that
the handsome German immigrant who had been betrothed to her had gone off
forever on the pretext of “sugaring” when he learned that she was one of
the Water-Drinkers--the unhappy family whose ancestor had refused a cup
of cold water to a strange old woman, who thereupon put the curse upon
him and his descendants that they

[Illustration: “‘I AM AFIRE WITH THIRST,’ SHE CRIED.”]

might drink water and drink water and never quench their thirst. Peggy
was reputed quite harmless.

“You haven’t seen Peter, have you?” she cooed, suddenly.

“No,” replied Matt, with a fresh, nervous thrill. “But this is not a
night for you to be out and about. It’s bitter cold.”

“It’s bitter cold,” she repeated, “bitter cold for an old man like you,
but not for a girl like me, loved by the handsomest young fellow in the
Province; the heart within me keeps me warm, always warm and thirsty.
Give me more water.”

“No, you’ve hed ’nough,” said Matt. “It’s a shame your folks don’t look
arter you better.”

“Look after me! They’re all up at the ball, the heartless creatures; but
I saw the weddings, both of them, in spite of them all, and I think it’s
high time Peter came back from the sugaring to _our_ wedding, and I’ve
come to tell him so. This is the spot he used to sugar at. Are you sure
you haven’t seen him? You are his partner; confess, now,” she wound up,
cajolingly, turning her lovely face towards his troubled gaze.

“Can’t you see I’m only a boy?” he replied.

“Nonsense. You’re not a boy. Boys always call after me and pull my
shawl. I know all the boys.”

Matt felt the moisture gathering afresh under his eyelids.

“What’s your name, then?” she went on, sweetly.

“Matt,” he murmured.

“Ah, mad!” she cried, in ecstasy. “We are cousins--I knew it! That’s
what they call me.”

Her wild eyes shone in the firelight. The boy shuddered.

“Not mad, but Matt!” he corrected her.

“Ah, yes, Mad Matt! Cousins! Mad Peggy--Mad Matt!”

“I’m not mad,” he protested, feebly.

“Yes, yes, you are!” she cried, passionately. “I can see it in your
face. And yet you won’t give me a cup of water.”

“You’ve drunk ’nough,” said the boy, soothingly.

“Oh, what lovely little devils,” she exclaimed, catching sight of the
wall decorations. “Do _you_ see devils, too? Didn’t I say we were
cousins? Why, there’s one of the bridegrooms--ha! ha! ha! I guess he
didn’t show the cloven hoof this morning.”

“Which is the bridegroom?” asked Matt, piqued into curiosity.

“There--there he is! There is the boy!” She pointed to the best portrait
of Bully Preep. “_He_ always called after me, the little devil.”

Matt’s heart beat excitedly, his face crimsoned. But his strange
visitor’s next words threw him back into uneasy chaos.

“Oh, but everybody is saying how scandalous it is! with his wife only
six months in her grave. Look how long Peter and I have waited. Most of
the girls in the village get engaged half a dozen times; they don’t know
what love is, they don’t know anything, they’ve got no education. But
I’ve only been engaged once, and I’m so thirsty. And you’ve got her too,
the little angel! Everybody is saying how hard it is for her! And yet
they all go to the ball. May they dance till they drop, the hypocrites!”

“What are you sayin’?” faltered Matt. “Hard for Ruth Hailey? Why, she’s
only a little girl.”

“She isn’t a little girl. Little girls run after me. I know all the
little girls. She’s a little angel! Just as you’ve pictured her. Give me
some more water.”

This time Matt surrendered the dipper to her.

“Thank you, Cousin Matt,” she said, and drank feverishly. But seeing
that she was about to dip again, he placed himself between her and the
barrel. She turned away with a marvellously dexterous movement
considering her cumbrous foot-gear, and dipped the ladle into the
seething caldron instead. But Matt seized her arm and stayed her from
extracting the dipper.

“You’ll scald yourself,” he said.

“Let go my arm,” she cried, threateningly. “How dare you touch me--you
are not Peter!”

“You mustn’t drink any more.”

“You are very cruel!” she moaned. “Who is that sleeping there? Perhaps
it is Peter. I will wake him up; he will give me water. I am so
thirsty.” She moaned and crooned over the three-legged caldron, stirring
the sap feebly with the ladle in her efforts to wrest herself free, and
the white steam curled about her face, and gave her the air of a young,
beautiful witch bent over a caldron. Matt forgot everything except that
he would like to make a picture of her as she appeared now.

“You’d best go to sleep,” he said at last, awakening to a remembrance of
the strange situation. “There’s my bed--those fir-boughs--you kin lie
down there till the mornin’, and I’ll cover you with my blanket.”

“I want water,” she crooned.

“You kin’t get it,” said Matt.

“Then may the curse light on you and yours,” she cried, stirring the sap
more fiercely in her struggle, while the vapor and the wood smoke rose
in denser volumes around her. “May you thirst and thirst, and never be
satisfied! And that is to be your fate, Cousin Matt. I read it in your
face, in your eyes. Never to quench your thirst--never, never, never! To
thirst and thirst and thirst for everything, and never to be satisfied,
never to have anything you want. Mad Matt and Mad Peggy--cousins, you
and I! Ha! ha! ha!” Her laugh of malicious glee made the boy’s blood run
cold. From without came the answering screech of a wild-cat.

“Lie down and rest!” repeated Matt, imperatively.

“What! stay here with you? No, no, no, Cousin Matt. I know what you
want. You want to paint me and put me on the wall among the devils! No,
no, I must be off to find Peter. I shall stay with him in his cabin.”

Her grip of the dipper relaxed; it reeled against the side of the pot.
She turned away, and Matt let go her arm and watched her, spellbound.
She drew the thick dun shawl over her head, again veiling the glory of
the golden hair, and almost brought the edges together over her sad
beautiful face, so that the eyes alone shone out with unearthly
radiance. Then she moved slowly towards the door and thrust it open, and
the wind came in, and filled the entire cabin with heavy, acrid smoke,
which got into Matt’s eyes and throat, and woke even the Indian boy, who
sat up choking and rubbing his black, beady eyes.

“Dam door shuttum!” he cried, with unusual vehemence.

The words broke Matt’s spell. He rushed to the door, but his smarting
eyes could detect no gray-shawled figure gliding among the gray trunks.
He closed the door, wondering if he had been dreaming.

“‘Tain’t your turn yet, Tommy,” he said, waving away the smoke with his
hand, and Tommy fell back asleep, as if mesmerized. Matt was as relieved
at not having to explain as at Tommy’s momentary wakefulness, which had
braced him against the superstitious awe that had been invading him
while the mad beauty cursed him with that sweet voice of hers that no
anger could make harsh. He thought of the apparition with pity, mingled
with a thrill of solemn adoration; she had for him the beauty and
wildness of the elemental, like the sky or the sea. And yet she had left
in him other feelings--not only the doubt of her reality, but an uneasy
stirring of apprehensions. Was there nothing but insane babble in this
talk of Ruth Hailey and Abner Preep? A fear he could not define weighed
at his heart. Even if he had been dreaming, if he had drowsed over the
fire--as he must in any case have done not to have heard the scrape and
clatter of snow-shoes entering--the dream portended something evil. But,
no! it was not a dream. Assuredly the sap in the barrel had sunk to a
lower level. With a new thought he lit a resinous bough and slipped out
quickly and examined the dry stiff snow. The double trail of departing
snow-shoes was manifest, meandering among the bark dishes and
irregularly intersecting the trail of arrival. The radiant moonlight
falling through the thin bare maple-boughs made his torch superfluous,
except in the fuscous glade of leafy evergreens, along which he followed
the giant footmarks for some little distance. He paused, leaning against
a tall hemlock. Doubt was impossible. He had really entertained a
visitor. Not seldom in former years had he entertained visitors who came
to camp out for the night, which they made uproarious. But never had his
hut sheltered so strange a guest. He was moved at the thought of her
drifting across the wastes of snow like some fallen spirit. He looked up
and abstractedly watched a crow sleeping with its head under its wing on
the top of the hemlock, then his vision wandered to the flashing
streamers of northern light, and, higher still, to those keen depths of
frosty sky where the stars stood beautiful, and they drew up his
thoughts yearningly to the infinite spaces. Something cried within him
for he knew not what--save that it was very great and very majestic and
very beautiful, mystically blending the luminousness of light and color
with the scent of flowers and the troubled sweetness of music; and at
the back of his dim, delicious craving for it was a haunting certainty
that he would never reach up to it, never, never. The prophecy of mad
Peggy recurred to the boy like a cutting blast of wind. Was it true,
then, that he would thirst and thirst, and nothing ever quench his
thirst? He held up his torch yearningly to the stars, while the night
moaned around him, and the flaring pinewood cast a grotesque shadow of
him on the pure white snow, an uncouth image that danced and leered as
in mockery.



As soon as he could get away next morning Matt drew on his oversocks and
started for home, racked by indefinite fears. He had not troubled to
rouse Tommy to take his watch, for he knew he himself would not sleep a
wink, and it seemed a pity to disturb so deep and healthy a slumber; so
he bustled about to blur his thoughts, and had breakfast ready an hour
after sunrise, which his anxiety did not prevent him from observing. To
see sky and forest take fire in gradual glory was an ecstasy
transcending the apprehensions of the moment.

Tommy had asked no questions during the morning meal, and made no
complaints about Matt’s failure to rouse him; but on being apprised of
his companion’s intended journey, he had pointed to the scanty
wood-pile--a reminder that had delayed Matt by a couple of hours spent
in felling and chopping up a straddle or two. But at last he got away,
Tommy undertaking, in a minimum of monosyllables, to attend to
everything else. Matt felt afresh the strength and stability of Tommy.
Tommy was like Sprat--firm, faithful, and uninquisitive.

He had five miles of clogged walking before him, but he made fairly good
progress, for he was unencumbered by snow-shoes, having a light step and
an instinct for hollows and drifts, and his oversocks, which reached
beyond the knee, kept out the snow when he trod deep. The freshness and
buoyancy of the morning dispelled his alarm; dread was impossible under
that wonderful blue sky. But as he got deeper and deeper into the
recesses under thick boughs that shut out the living blue with dead
gray, and took the sparkle out of the snow, his gloom returned, and
lasted till he was nearly at his journey’s end, when the road caught the
sunlight again just as the thought of home flooded his soul. And soon a
bend brought the goal in sight. There it was, the dear old house,
standing back from the road, in the midst of its little clearing, the
sun shining on its bleached clapboards, the black window-sashes standing
out fantastically against the white panes, opaque with frosty designs.
The smoke curled tranquilly from the chimney towards the overarching
azure, making the home seem a living creature whose breath was thus
condensed to visibility. It seemed months since he had left it, yet it
was absolutely unchanged. And then he heard the cock crow from the rear,
and his last fears vanished like evil spirits of the night, and a wave
of pleasurable anticipation bore him to the porch.

He opened the door--no one ever fastened doors by day, for burglars came
only in the milder form of peddlers, and other visitors were accustomed
to stable their horses and take their seats at the board without
ceremony or warning. It was not far from noon, but he heard no sounds
about the house, except the crowing of the cock, which continued, and
brought up to memory a grotesque and long-obliterated image of his
mother holding on to the leg of a soaring hawk that had picked up a
chicken. He listened for the lowing of Daisy; then, remembering she was
dead and salted, he moved forward into the passage. But he found nobody
in the living-room. There was not even a fire. The clumsy spinning-wheel
stood silent. The table was bare and tidy; the chairs were neatly
ranged. He ran into the kitchen--it radiated bleaker desolation. Matt
fought against the cold chill that was gathering at his heart. Of course
there would be nobody at home. Harriet was sewing somewhere, most of
the children were at school; and his mother, instead of leaving the baby
in the kitchen with one of them, must have taken it with her to her
work. And yet it was all very depressing and very disappointing. Then he
remembered, with a fresh shock, the smoke he had seen curling from the
roof, and for an instant he was oppressed by a sense of the uncanny. An
atmosphere of horror seemed to brood over the house. But the
recollection of a proverb of Deacon Hailey’s, “There’s no smoke without
fire, hey?” uttered in a moment of unusual articulateness, brought back
common-sense. He ran up to the bedrooms, but there was not even a stove,
except in his mother’s room--a room tapestried with texts worked in
Berlin wool on perforated card-board--where the bed had not been made,
and where there were traces of extinct logs. Immeasurably puzzled, and
wondering if the smoke had been an optical illusion, he returned to the
living-room. There was only one room he had not gone into--the best
room--and when he at last recollected the existence of it he did not
immediately enter it. Only visitors had the enjoyment of this room and
the privilege of sitting gingerly on its cane chairs and surveying its
papered walls; and, in the absence of the family, there could be no
reception in progress. When, for the sake of logical exhaustiveness, he
did approach the door, it was listlessly and with a certain constraint,
amounting to awe. His nostrils already scented the magnificent mustiness
of its atmosphere. He opened the door with noiseless reverence. Then he
stood rigid, like one turned to stone by the sight of Medusa’s head. It
was indeed a head that petrified him--or, rather, two heads, one pressed
against the other. Though he had only a back view of them, he knew them
both. The lank black hair was Bully Preep’s, the long auburn-brown
tresses were Harriet Strang’s. A fire had been lighted, regardless of
the polish of the Franklin stove and the severity of its fancy
scroll-work and ornamental urn; and before this fire his sister sat on
Abner’s knee, and Abner sat on a cane chair, tilting it with a
familiarity that hovered on contempt. The treble shock was too great.
Matt was dumb and sick and cold, though red-hot thoughts hurtled in his
brain. What! The skunk had sneaked in during his mother’s absence, and
it was thus that Harriet did the honors!

He struggled to get his voice back. “Harriet!” he cried, in raucous

Harriet gave a little shriek and turned her head. The color fled from
her soft cheeks as she caught sight of her outraged junior, then the
blush returned in fuller crimson. Matt fixed her with a stern, imperious

“What are you doin’ in the best room?” was the phrase that leaped to his
angry lips.

Abner turned on him a face of smiling friendship.

“The best thing,” he replied, gayly.

“How dare you kiss my sister?” thundered Matt.

“Don’t be a fool, Matt!” said Abner, amiably. “She isn’t on’y your
sister--she’s my wife.”

“Your wife!” breathed Matt.

“Yes, don’t be streaked, dear. We were married yesterday.” And Harriet
disentangled herself from Abner and ran to throw her arms round Matt.
But the boy repulsed her with a commanding gesture.

“Don’t come near me!” he cried, huskily. “Where’s mother? Does she

“Oh, Matt!” cried Harriet, reproachfully, “d’you think I’d marry without
her consent!”

“I call it rael mean, anyways,” he cried, tears of vexation getting into
his eyes and his voice, “to take advantage of a feller like that, jest
because his back’s turned!”

“Waal, we won’t do it agen!” cried Abner, with unshakable good-humor.
“See here, Matt,” and he rose, too, revealing the slight tendency to
crookedness of lower limb that offended the exigent eye of his
mother-in-law, “let’s be pals. You were allus a spunky little chap, and
I liked you from the day you stood up agin me and blacked my eye, though
you had to jump up a’most to reach it. I was a beast in them thar days,
but I raelly ain’t now, thanks to Harriet--God bless her! I know you
don’t like my legs,” he added, with a flash of humor, “but there’s on’y
two of ’em, anyways.”

“An’ thet’s two too many, you crawlin’ reptile,” retorted Matt. Then,
turning to Harriet, he went on in slow, measured accents, “And is
this--chap--goin’ to--live here?”

“He is so,” retorted Harriet.

“Then,” said Matt, with ominous calm--”then you won’t hev me here,
thet’s all.”

“Of course we won’t,” said Harriet, with a pleasant laugh. “You’ll live
with mother.”

“With mother?” repeated Matt, staring.

“Yes; down to Deacon Hailey’s.”

“Hes mother gone to live to Deacon Hailey’s?” he asked, excitedly.

“You bet!” put in Abner, grinning genially.

“What--altogether?” exclaimed Matt. The world seemed going round as it
did in the geography books.

“I guess so.”

“I won’t hev it!” cried Matt, agitatedly. “I won’t hev her slavin’ like
a nigger. It was bad enough afore, when she hed to go there every day.
But now she’s naught but a servant. It’s a shame, I do declare. An’ you,
Harriet!” he said, turning fiercely on her again; “ain’t you ’shamed o’
yourself, drivin’ mother out of house and home?”

“No,” said Harriet, stoutly.

The laughter that lurked about her mouth filled him with a trembling
presentiment of the truth.

“Don’t you understand?” said Abner, kindly. “Your mother’s been and gone
and married the deacon, and a good thing for all o’ you, I do allow.”

“You’re a liar!” hissed the boy. The world spun round more fiercely.

Abner shrugged his shoulders good-temperedly.

“You see, it was all arranged in a hurry, Matt,” said Harriet,
deprecatingly. “An’ mother thought we’d best get it all over, an’ so we
were both married yesterday, an’ we thought it a pity to bother you to
come all the way. But you hevn’t finished, hev you? Where’s the sugar?”

“An’ a nice scandal, I vow!” he cried, furiously. “Everybody is talkin’
’bout it.”

“Oh come, Matt, thet’s a good un,” laughed Abner. “Why, you’ve heerd
nuthin’ ’bout it.”

“Oh, hevn’t I?” returned Matt, with sullen mysteriousness. “I don’t know
thet everybody went there an’ everybody said it was a shame. Oh no; I’m
blind and deaf, thet’s what I am.”

“Don’t make such a touse, Matt,” said Harriet, putting her hair behind
her ears with some calmness. “Don’t you see things air ever so much
better? I’ve got a man to support me,” and she put her arms lovingly
round Abner’s neck, as if supporting him, “an’ mother’ll be quite a
lady, not a servant, as you were silly ’nough to allow, an’ you won’t
hev to work so hard. An’ I’ll tell you what, Matt, you shall come here
sometimes an’ draw your picters, an’ mother won’t know.”

But Matt clinched his teeth. The bait was tempting, but unfortunately it
reminded him of his obedience to his mother the night before, when in
deference to her views he had denied himself the joy of Tommy’s pipe.
Oh, how he had been duped and bamboozled! At the very hour his inner eye
had seen her toiling, sorrowful at her spinning-wheel, she was
frolicking at her wedding-ball in gay attire. A vast self-compassion
softened his indignation and raw misery. He turned his back on the
newly-married couple, and strode from the house, lest they should
misinterpret his tears. But the tears did not come--anger rekindling
evaporated them unshed. What right had the deacon to steal his mother
without even asking him? And how ignoble of his mother to forget his
father thus! He figured Ruth Hailey replacing himself by another boy
merely because he was dead. It seemed sacrilege. And yet no doubt Ruth
was as bad as the rest of her sex. Had she not submitted tamely to the
supplanting of her dead mother--nay, was she not a necessary accomplice
in the conspiracy to keep him ignorant of the double marriage? Then he
had a vague remembrance that he had once heard she was not originally
the deacon’s daughter, but only the late Mrs. Hailey’s, which somehow
seemed to exonerate her from the full burden of his doings. Still, she
had unquestionably been sly.

His feet had turned instinctively back towards the lonely forest. No,
he would not go and live with the deacon, not even though it brought
Ruth within daily proximity. His attitude towards the deacon had never
been cordial--nay, the auditory strain upon him when “Ole Hey” spoke to
him had gone far towards making him antipathetic. It seemed monstrous
that such an old mumbler should have been deemed fit to replace the
cheery sailor who had gone down wrapped in his flag. No, Matt at least
would have none of him. Life under his roof would be a discord of
jarring memories. He would go back to his hut and live in the wood. He
would shoot enough to live upon, and there, alone and self-sufficient
and free as its denizens, he would pass his life painting and sketching.
Or, if he wanted society, he would seek that of the Indian, the simple,
noble Indian, and pitch his lot with his for a time or forever. Or
perhaps Tommy would stay with him--Tommy who was deep without being
wily, and restful without being dull. What a pity Billy was disabled;
they might have seceded together, but fate had separated them, not his

The five miles were longer now, and the sky had grown a shade colder,
but he trod the gloomiest paths unchilled. His heart was hot with
revolt. As he came to the little open space round the hut a curious
phenomenon arrested his attention. There was no smoke curling above the
chimney-hole. A problem--the exact reverse of that which had greeted him
at the other terminus of his journey--clamored for solution. Surely
Tommy had not let the fire go out! He hastened his steps, and saw that
the door stood wide open on its leather hinges, projecting outwards into
the forest. Outside, too, empty birch-bark troughs were scattered about
in lieu of being piled up neatly. The air of desolation sobered him like
a cold douche. He was frightened. He had not even courage to dwell on
the thought of what foreboding whispered. But perhaps Tommy had only
gone to sleep again, and forgotten about the fire. With a gleam of hope
he ran to the entrance, then leaped back with a wild thrill, and slammed
the door to and put his back to it and stood palpitating, restrained
only by excitement from breaking down in childish tears. The interior of
the hut had been transformed as by enchantment. Of barrels, axes,
ironware, provender, even of his rude paints, there was not a trace,
though the birch-bark picture exhibition was undisturbed. The
birch-boughs were littered over the floor. There was no Tommy. But in
the centre of the cabin, where the fire had been, lay a matted bear,
voluptuously curled up on the warm ashes, and licking the mellifluous
soil, which was syrup-sodden by drops that had fallen from the sap-pot.
The beautiful sunshine had lured the animal from its winter
sleeping-chamber, famished after its long fast.

It was a moment Matt never forgot; one of those moments that age and
imbitter. As he stood with squared shoulders against the rough, battened
door, that was built of stout slabs, he shook from head to foot with
mingled emotions. Numb misery alternated with burning flashes of
righteous indignation against humanity, red and white. And with it all
was a stirring of the hunter’s instinct--an itching to shoot the
creature on the other side of the door--which aggravated his vexation by
the reminder that even his gun had been stolen. It eased him a little to
let his mind dwell on the prospect of potting such glorious game; but
first of all he must run Tommy to earth. Tommy could not have gone far,
burdened as he would be with the spoil.

The broken-hearted boy moved stealthily from the door and pushed up a
small trunk that he had cut down that morning, but not yet chopped up.
With some difficulty he raised this and propped it against the door,
which, being already latched, could not easily be burst open by the
bear. The creature was, moreover, likely to resume its winter nap in the
snug, sweet quarters in which it found itself. Having thus trapped his
bear, Matt started off by a cross-cut in the direction of the Indian
encampment, to which he presumed Tommy would naturally have returned
full-handed. But he had not gone a hundred yards before he called
himself a fool, and ran back. In his agitation he had forgotten to note
the trail of the sled in which Tommy must have drawn off the things.
This he now discovered ran quite in the opposite direction, and was
complicated not only by Tommy’s footmarks, but by a man’s. Whither had
Tommy decamped? The day seemed made up of surprises and puzzles.
However, there was everything to gain, or rather regain, by following
the dusky young impostor and the accomplice who had helped him to draw
the heavy sled. Matt discovered that the trail led towards Long Village,
two and a half miles off, and instantly it flashed upon him that Tommy
had gone there to dispose of the things. He quickened his pace, and in
less than half an hour strode into a truer solution of the mystery, for
suddenly he found himself amid dogs grubbing in the sunshine and
swaddled pappooses swinging on the poles of birch-bark wigwams, and
perceived that the vagrant Micmacs had shifted their encampment during
the fortnight. Tommy’s knowledge of the migration argued secret
correspondence, unless a tribal tempter had visited him accidentally
during Matt’s absence--which seemed rather improbable.

Matt’s soul was aflame with wrath and resentment. He rushed about among
the wigwams, unceremoniously peering behind the blankets that overhung
the doorways, which were partly blocked by spruce boughs arranged to
spring back and forth. Bow-legged, round-shouldered, dumpy men, with
complexions of grayish copper, squatting cross-legged on fir boughs
before the central fire, smoked on unresentful, a few ejaculating
sullenly, “_Kogwa pawotumun?_” (“What is your wish?”) Their faces had
nothing of the American hatchet-shape; they would have been round but
for the angularity of the jaw, and Chinese but for the eyes, which did
not slant upward, but were beady and wide apart. The cheek-bones were
high, the nose was of a negro flatness, and the straight black hair was
long and matted. In attire the men had an air of shabby civilization,
which went ill with the blankets and skins overwrapping the white men’s
leavings. Near the door--in the quarter of less distinction--sitting
with feet twisted round to one side, one under the other, as befits the
inferior sex--were women good-looking but greasy, who wore shawls and
blankets over their kerchiefed heads, and necklaces of blue beads
twinkling against their olive throats, and smoked as gravely as their
lords. But Tommy was invisible. Nor could Matt see anything of the
stolen goods. But in one tent he found Tommy’s father, and,
discourteously omitting the “Kwa” of greeting, plied him with indignant
questions in a mixture of bad English and worse Indian.

Tommy’s father understood little and knew nothing. He did not invite the
visitor into the tent, but smoked on peacefully and whittled a shaving,
and Matt’s admiration of the red man’s taciturnity died a painful death.
Had Tommy’s father not even seen Tommy? No; Tommy’s father had not seen
Tommy for half a moon, and the smoke curled peacefully round Tommy’s
father’s greasy head. Never had the unspeakable uncleanliness of the
picturesque figure struck Matt as it did now. He moved away with heavy
heart and heavy footstep, and interviewed other Indians, equally dingy
and equally reticent; even the squaws kept the secret.

Matt went back in despairing anger and poured out his passion in a flood
of remonstrance upon the unwashed head of Tommy’s father; he pointed to
the trail of the sled that drew up at Tommy’s father’s tent, he
reasoned, he threatened, he clinched his fist and stamped his foot; and
Tommy’s father smoked the pipe of peace and whittled the shaving. The
Indian held the stick on his knee and drew the knife towards himself,
unlike the white man, who cuts away from himself. It was a crooked
knife, with a notch for the thumb in the handle. Matt’s spirit oozed
away before its imperturbable movement to and fro. He felt sick and
faint; he became vaguely conscious that he had eaten nothing since
breakfast. Then he remembered the bear waiting in the cabin--waiting to
be killed. With a happy thought he informed Tommy’s father that he had
trapped a bear and could conduct him to the spot, and Tommy’s father
instantly began to understand him better; and when Matt proceeded to
offer him the beast in exchange for the stolen goods, the Micmac
betrayed a complete comprehension of the offer, and with a courteous
exclamation of “_Up-chelase_,” invited him into the furthermost and most
honorable portion of the tent. He even rose and held colloquy with some
of his brethren gathered round. A bear was a valuable property--dead.
His snout alone was worth five dollars, when presented as a death
certificate to a grateful government, anxious to extinguish him. These
five dollars were a great consideration to a tribe paid mainly in kind,
and hard pushed to find coin for the annual remission of sin at the
hands of the priests. The bear’s skin would fetch four or five dollars
more; while its three or four hundred pounds of flesh would set up the
larder for the season. As a result of the native council, Tommy’s father
informed Matt that he had just learned Tommy had been seen that morning,
but that he had hauled the sled past the encampment on his way to Long
Village to sell the freight (which nobody had suspected was not his own
property, the much dam thief). He had, however, left a gun with a boy
friend, and if Matt was content to swop the bear for this, he could have
it. Matt, fuming at his own helplessness, consented. The gun was
accordingly produced; Matt recognized his old friend, but Tommy’s father
explained in easy pantomime that when bear was dead boy would get gun,
and not before; and he handed it to a blanketless by-stander, who had
evidently bartered external heat for internal fire-water. Then,
shouldering his own gun, he motioned to Matt to lead the way. The little
procession of three set forth, the second Indian prudently providing
himself with a flat, wide sledge. The afternoon was waning, the blue
overhead had lost in luminousness, leaving the coloring of the earth
more vivid. But the shifting of nature’s kaleidoscope had ceased to
interest Matt; humanity occupied him exclusively, and the evil that was
done under the sun. Man or woman, white or red, they were all alike--a
skulking, shifty breed. It was not only he that had been betrayed; it
was truth, it was honor. Were these things, then, merely lip-babble?

On their arrival at the hut Matt explained the position. He was about to
remove the log that braced up the door, but Tommy’s father pulled him
violently back, and gestured that it was much more convenient to shoot
the animal through the chimney-hole. Matt felt a qualm of disgust and
remorse. It seemed cowardly to give the poor beast that had taken refuge
in his hut no chance. He leaned sullenly against the door, feeling
almost like one who had betrayed the laws of hospitality, and conscious,
moreover, of a strange savage sympathy with the bear in its strife with
humanity. His last respect for the noble red man vanished when the two
Micmacs clambered upon the low-pitched roof. They uttered “ughs” of
satisfaction as they peeped over the great square hole and perceived
their prey asleep. After some amiable banter of the animal they began to
put their guns into position. But Tommy’s father insisted on having the
glory of the deed, since he was paying for the bear with Matt’s gun, and
his rival ungraciously yielded. In his cocksureness, however, Tommy’s
father merely hit the bear’s shoulder. The creature started up with a
fierce growl, and began biting savagely at the bleeding wound. Excited
by his failure and the brute’s leap up, Tommy’s father leaned more over
the hole for his second shot; but his companion, exclaiming that it was
his turn now, pushed him back, and strove to get his body in front.
Tommy’s father, who was now effervescing with excitement, thrust himself
more forward still, and in his zeal succeeded so well that he suddenly
found himself flying head-foremost into the hut, while the gun went off
at random. The bullet missed, but the man struck the obfuscated creature
with a thud, ricochetted off its back, and lay prostrate on the
branch-strewn floor.

The sound of the fall, the explosion, the cry of dismay from the roof,
informed Matt of what had happened. In a flash his sympathy went back to
man. He cried to the other Indian to shoot, but the latter’s arm was
shaking, and the bear, after a few seconds of bewilderment, had risen on
its hind legs and stood over the fallen man growling fiercely, so that
the Micmac was afraid of hitting his friend. Matt reached up impatiently
for his gun, which the Micmac readily handed to him in unforeseen
violation of orders, and Matt, overthrowing the door-prop with the butt
end, lifted the latch and dashed in. Tommy’s father was already in the
bear’s grip, the infuriated animal’s elastic fore-paws beginning to
press horribly upon his ribs. Matt clapped the barrel of the gun to the
bear’s ear; then he was overswept by a fearsome doubt lest the gun had
been unloaded since it had left his hands. But his suspense was short.
He pressed the trigger; there was a ringing explosion, and the creature
bounded into the air, relaxing its hold of the Indian, upon whom it fell
again in its death-agony. Matt, aided by the other Micmac, who hurried
in, grunting, disentangled Tommy’s father from the writhing heap, and
found him bruised and breathless, but practically uninjured. Tommy’s
father vowed eternal gratitude to his rescuer, and said his life was
henceforward at Matt’s disposal. The boy curtly asked for his property
instead, whereupon the Indian shook his head and shrugged his shoulders
in token of impotence. Rolling the bear over with a prod of his
contemptuous foot, he produced his knife and started scalping and
skinning the dead enemy, while his brother-in-arms lit some boughs, and
cut a juicy steak from the carcass and set it to broil. The warmth was
grateful, for the shadows were fast gathering and the hyperborean hours
returning. A covey of bob-whites whirred past, and the weird note of a
hoot-owl was borne on the bleak air.

The Indians offered the boy “a cut from the joint,” and he refused
sulkily--a deadly insult in normal circumstances. But the keen pangs of
hunger and the delicious odor of the meat weakened him, and a later
invitation to join the squatting diners found him ravenously responsive,
though he felt he had bartered away his righteous indignation for a mess
of pottage. During the meal his guests or his hosts (he knew not which
they were) betrayed considerable interest in his mural decorations,
which they evidently regarded as symptoms of a relapse from
Christianity, and they were astonished, too, at his refusal to quaff
more than a mouthful or two of their rum--the coarse concoction locally
nicknamed “rot-gut.” While Matt, who had started last, was still eating
from the birch-bark dish he had utilized for the purpose, Tommy’s father
lit his after-dinner pipe, and, having taken a few whiffs, passed it on
to his companion, who in turn held out to Matt the long, reedy stem with
its feather ornaments.

The offer sent a thrill through the boy’s whole being. All his
grievances ascended afresh from the red stone bowl and mingled with the
fragrant smoke. How good, how obedient he had been! And all for what? A
lump gathered in his throat, so that he could not swallow his bit of
bear. He nodded assent, his heart throbbing with defiant manhood, and
motioned to the Micmac to place the pipe beside his dish till he was
ready for it. The two Indians then hauled the carcass athwart the sledge
hastily, for night had come on as though shed from the starless sky, and
they called to Matt to come along, but Matt shouted back that he did not
intend to accompany them. He no longer craved to cast in his lot with
the red man. Yet he went to the door of his tent to watch his
fellow-hunters disappear among the sombre groves, and a deeper dusk
seemed to fall on the landscape when the very rustle of their passage
died away. But as he turned in again and fastened up the door, his heart
leaped up afresh with the leaping flames. The sense of absolute solitude
became exultation--a keen, bitter joy. Here was his home; he had no
other. He had parted company with humanity forever.

He reseated himself on a little pile of fir boughs in his deserted home,
that was naked but for the wall-pictures--the least comforting of all
possible salvage, since they were the only things Tommy had not thought
worth stealing. As Matt sat brooding, darker patches on the soil, and
spots upon some of those pictures, caught his eye. He saw they were of
blood. In one place there was quite a little pool which had not yet sunk
into the earth or evaporated. He touched it curiously with his finger,
and wiped away the stain against a leaf. Then with a sudden thought he
curled a piece of bark and scooped up the blood into his birchen dish,
as a possible color, murmuring, gleefully:

    “‘Who caught his blood?’
        ‘I,’ said the fish,
        ‘With my little dish,
      I caught his blood.’”

In moving the “little dish” he laid bare Tommy’s father’s calumet,
forgotten. He took it up. How the universe had changed since last he
held a pipe in his hand--only last night! Again he heard the howl of a
wild-cat, and he looked round involuntarily, as if expecting to find Mad
Peggy at his elbow. But he had no sense of awe just now--though he had
barred his door inhospitably against further bears--only the
voluptuousness of liberty and loneliness, the healthy after-glow of
satisfied appetite, and the gayety born of flaming logs and a couple of
mouthfuls of fire-water. The Water-Drinker’s prophecy seemed peculiarly
inept in view of the pipe he held in his hand. With tremulous
anticipation of more than mortal rapture he relit it. The sensation was
unexpectedly pungent, but Matt puffed away steadily in hope and trust
that this was merely the verdict of an unaccustomed palate, and he found
a vast compensatory pleasure in his ability to make the thing work, to
send the delicate wreaths into the air as ably as any Micmac or deacon
of them all.

But soon even this pleasure began to be swamped by a wave of less
agreeable sensation, and Matt, puzzled and chagrined, after a gallant
stand, threw down the calumet, and hastened into the cold air with
palpitating heart and splitting head, and there, in the maple wood,
Bruin was avenged. That night, despite his vigil of the night before,
Matt Strang vainly endeavored to close his eyes upon an unsatisfactory



The long, endless years, crowded with petty episodes and uniformities,
and moving like a cumbrous, creeping train that stops at every station,
flash like an express past the eye of memory. Yet it is these unrecorded
minutiæ of monotonous months that color the fabric of our future lives,
eating into our souls like a slow acid. When, in after years, Matt
Strang’s youth defiled before him, the panorama seemed more varied than
when he was living the scenes in all their daily detail of dull routine,
and when, whatever their superficial differences, they were all linked
for him by an underlying unity of toil and aspiration.

First came his apprenticeship in Cattermole’s saw-mill, at the opposite
outskirt of the forest, twenty miles from Cobequid. For, though he early
tired of savagery, as a blind-alley on the road to picture-painting, he
refused, in the dogged pride of his boyish heart, to return to his
folks, contenting himself with informing them of his whereabouts and of
his intention to apprentice himself (with or without their consent).
Labor being so scarce that year, Deacon Hailey drove over in great haste
to offer him a loving home. Matt, who happened to be in the house, which
was only parted from the mill-stream by a large vegetable-garden, saw
through a window the deacon’s buggy arrive at the garden-path, and the
deacon himself alight to open the wooden gate. The boy’s resentment
flamed afresh, and it was supplemented by dread of the deacon’s
inarticulate conversation. He fled to Mrs. Cattermole in the kitchen.

She was a shrewish, angular person, economical of everything save angry
breath. A black silk cap with prim bows and ribbons sat severely on her
head, and a thread-net confined her hair. Cattermole, a simple,
religious, hen-pecked creature, had gone to the village store to trade
off butter.

“There’s Ole Hey coming!” cried Matt, breathlessly.

“Kin’t you speak quietly?” thundered Mrs. Cattermole. “You made my heart
jump like a frog. You don’t mean Ole Hey from Cobequid, the man es you
said married your mother?”

“Yes, thet’s the skunk. I reckon he’s come to take me back.”

Mrs. Cattermole’s eyes flashed angrily. “Well, I swan! But you’ve
promised to bide with us.”

“Thet’s so. I wouldn’t go back fur Captain Kidd’s treasure! I won’t see

“I’ll tell him you’re gone away.”

“No,” said Matt, sturdily. “I wrote that I was goin’ to be ’prenticed
here, and there ain’t any call for lies. Tell him I’m in the kitchen and
I won’t come out, and I don’t want to hev anythin’ to do with him. See!”

“Well, set there and mind the cradle, and I’ll jest give him
slockdologee. You uns allow you’re considerable smart, Cobequid way, but
I reckon he’s struck the wrong track this time.”

Matt grinned joyously. “Spunk up to him, ma’am!” he cried, with stirring
reminiscences of fights at McTavit’s. “Walk into him full split!”

“You mind the baby, young man. There won’t be no touse at all. He don’t
set foot in my kitchen, and there’s an end of it.”

Mrs. Cattermole greeted the deacon politely, and informed him that the
lad he was inquiring after was sulking in the kitchen, and that he
refused to receive his visitor on any account. The deacon sighed
unctuously with an air of patient martyrdom. Matt’s obduracy heightened
his estimate of the lad’s value as a gratuitous field-worker, and
sharpened his sense of being robbed of what small dowry Mrs. Strang had
brought him.

“The boy is dreadful set agin me,” he complained. “But, es I told his
poor mother, if you let a boy run wild, wild he runs, hey? Anyways, it
ain’t fur me to fail in lovin’-kindness. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth,
ain’t the gospel _we’re_ called upon to practise. I allus thinks there’s
no sort o’ use in bein’ a Christian on Sundays and a heathen on

“No, thet thar ain’t,” Mrs. Cattermole assented, amiably.

“Even to beasts a man kin be a Christian, hey? I reckon I’d better wait
in your kitchen an’ give the mare a rest. If _I_’ve come on a fool’s
errand, thet ain’t a reason my ole nag should suffer, hey?”

Mrs. Cattermole, seeing the outworks taken, directed the deacon, by a
flank movement, into the parlor, as alone befitting his dignity. To Matt
this parlor, far finer than the best room at home, was a chamber of awe,
but also of attraction, for its walls were hung with sober Bible prints.
Mrs. Cattermole stood there among her splendors with her back to the
door, partly for defensive purposes, partly so as not to depreciate one
of the hair-cloth chairs by sitting down. It was enough for one day that
her guest sat solidly on the rocking-chair of honor.

“We’ve been hevin’ too much soft weather, Mrs. Cattermole, arter all
thet heavy snow.”

“Yes, I’m afeard the dam will go out,” responded Mrs. Cattermole,

They discussed the disastrous thaw of a few years back, with a vivid
remembrance of the vegetables and dairy produce spoiled in the flooded

“But it’s the Lord’s will,” summed up the deacon. “It ain’t any use
heapin’ up worldly treasure, I allus thinks.”

“Thet’s a fact.” Mrs. Cattermole shook her head in sad acquiescence.

“Heaven’s the only safe place to lay up your goods, hey? So I guess I’m
just goin’ to forgive thet durned boy all the anxiety he’s giv his poor
mother an’ me, an’ take him back right along.”

“Oh, but I guess you ain’t,” said Mrs. Cattermole. “We’ve promised to
take him on here.”

“We’ll let you off thet thar promise, Mrs. Cattermole. We ain’t folks as
allus wants to hold people tight to every onthinkin’ word. An’ you won’t
be the loser hardly, for the lad ain’t worth a tin pint to mortal man.
He’s a dreamy do-nuthin’, an’ the worry he’s been to his poor mother
you’ve no idee--allus wastin’ the Lord’s hours, unbeknown to her, in
scrawlin’ picters an’ smutchin’ boards with colors.”

“I reckon he’ll come in handy in our paint-shop, then.”

The deacon shook his head, as if pitying her bubble delusions.

“He ain’t smart, an’ he ain’t good-tempered. You see for yourself how
grouty he is to the best friend a boy ever hed.”

“He ain’t smart, I know. Thet’s why we ain’t goin’ to pay him no wages.”

The deacon chawed his quid and swayed in silent discomfiture.

“Ah, it’s his poor mother I’m thinkin’ of,” he said, after a while.
“She’s thet delicate she’d kinder worry if he was to--a mother’s heart,
hey? If ’twas my boy, I’d be proper glad to see him in the han’s of sech
a hard-workin’, God-fearin’ couple.”

“You hedn’t ought to talk to me,” said Mrs. Cattermole, softening.
“Father’d be terrible ugly if I was to settle anythin’ while he was to
the store.”

“And if he wouldn’t it’s a pity. Wives, obey your husbands, hey? But
there ain’t no call for hurry. More haste less speed, I allus thinks.
But I don’t want to keep you from your occupations. There air some
visitors who forgit folks kin’t afford to keep more’n one Sunday a week,
hey? Sorter devil’s darnin’-needles flyin’ into your ear--they worry
you, and they don’t do themselves no good. So don’t you take no notice
of me. I’ll jest talk to Matt to fill up the time.”

Mrs. Cattermole straightened herself against the door. “He won’t listen;
he’s too mad.”

“I reckon I could tone him down some.”

“Guess not. He’s too sot--he won’t come in.”

“I ain’t proud. I’ll go to him. True pride is in doin’ what’s right, I
allus thinks. Some folks kin’t see the difference between true pride an’
false pride. I’ll go to the kitchen.”

“I’d rayther you didn’t, deacon. It’s all in a clutter.”

The conversation drooped. The deacon’s mouth moved in mere chawing.
Swallowing his quid in deference to the parlor, he cut himself a new

“You’ve heerd about the doctor, Mrs. Cattermole?” he began again.

“I dunno es I hev.”

“What! Not heerd about our doctor es was said to practise the Black

“Oh, the sorcerer es lives on the ole wood-road. My brother who drives
the stage was tellin’ me ’bout it. He sets spirits turnin’ tables,
tellin’ the future, an’ nobody’ll go past his house arter dark.”

“Ah, but the elders called on him last week,” said the deacon. “Of
course we couldn’t hev him in the vestry. An’ he explained to the
committee thet sperrits or devils ain’t got nuthin’ to do with it.”

“Lan’ sakes! An’ you believed him?”

“Waal, my motto is allus believe your fellow-critters. An evil mind sees
a lookin’-glass everyways, hey? He jest showed us how to make a table
turn and answer questions. He says it’s no more wonderful than turnin’ a

“I guess he’s pulled the wool over the eyes o’ the Church,” said Mrs.
Cattermole, sceptically.

“Not hardly! He turned thet thar table in broad daylight with the Bible
open upon it, to show thet Satan didn’t hev a look in.”

“The Bible on it! ’Pears to me terrible ongodly.”

“Ongodly! Why, you an’ me kin do it--two pillars o’ the Church! I guess
the Evil One couldn’t come nigh _us_, hey?”

“I dunno es it would turn if you an’ me was to do it.”

“You bet! It told me ’bout the future world, an’ my poor Susan’s
Christian name, an’ how much to ast for my upland hay.”

“Good lan’!” cried Mrs. Cattermole. “An’ would it tell me whether my
sister is through her sickness yet?”

“You may depend!”

“My! Thet’s jest great!” And Mrs. Cattermole eagerly inquired how one
set about interrogating the oracle.

The deacon explained, adding that the parlor table would not do. It must
be a rough deal table.

“Ah, the kitchin table,” said Mrs. Cattermole, walking into the
elaborately laid trap.

“I dunno,” said the deacon, shaking his head. “Air you sure it ain’t too
large for us to span around?”

“We could let the flaps down.”

The deacon chawed reflectively.

“Waal, it might,” he said, cautiously, at last. “There ain’t no harm in
tryin’. We hedn’t ought to give up anythin’ without tryin’, I allus
thinks. One never knows, hey?”

“I kinder think we ought to try,” said Mrs. Cattermole.

The deacon rose ponderously, and followed his guide into the kitchen.

“Why, there’s Matt!” he cried, in astonished accents. “Good-day, sonny.”

Matt strained his ears, but pursed his lips and rocked the cradle in
violent impassivity. The deacon was uneasy at the boy’s sullen
resentment. He could not understand open enemies.

“How’s your health, hey?” he asked, affectionately.

“Oh, I’m hunky dory,” said Matt, in off-hand school-boy slang.

“I’m considerable glad you’ve found a good place with rael Christians,
Matt. I on’y hope you’ve made up your mind to work hard an’ turn over a
new leaf. It’s never too late to mend, I allus thinks. You’re growin’ a
young man, now; no more picter-makin’, hey? If it warn’t that you air so
moony an’ lay-abed I’d give you a chanst on my own land, with
pocket-money into the bargain, hey, an’ p’raps a pair o’ store shoes fur
a Chrismus-box.”

A flame shot from Mrs. Cattermole’s now-opened eyes. She shut the cellar
door with a vicious bang, but ere she could speak Matt cried out, “I
wouldn’t come, not fur five shillin’s a week!”

“An’ who wants you to come fur money? What is money, hey? Is it health?
Is it happiness? No, no, sonny. If money was any use, my poor Susan
would hev been alive to this day. You’ll know better when you’re my

He spat out now, directing the stream into the sink under the big wooden

“Don’t worry ’bout him,” interposed Mrs. Cattermole. “Here’s the table.”

Deacon Hailey waved a rebuking palm. “Dooty afore pleasure, Mrs.
Cattermole. See here, sonny, I’ve been talkin’ with Mrs. Cattermole
’bout you. She’s promised me to be a mother to you, Heaven bless her!
But I kin’t forget you’ve got a mother o’ your own.”

“She ain’t my mother now, she’s Ruth’s mother,” said Matt, half divining
the mumble of words.

“She’s mother to both o’ you. A large heart, thet’s what she’s got. An’
if she’s Ruth’s mother, then I’m your father, hey? An’ it ain’t right of
you to disobey your father and mother. But young folks nowadays treats
the commandments like old boots,” and the deacon sighed, as if in
sympathy with the sorrows of a neglected decalogue.

“I’ve got no father an’ no mother,” said Matt. “An’ I’m goin’ to be a
picture-painter soon es I kin. I won’t do _any_thing else, thet’s flat.
An’ when I’m bigger I’m goin’ to write to my uncle Matt and see if he
kin sell my pictures fur me. If you was to drag me back by force, I’d
escape into the woods. An’ I’d work my way to London to be handy my
uncle Matt. I reckon he takes in ’prentices same es the boss here. So
you jest tell my mother I’m done with her, see! I don’t want to hear any
more ’bout it.”

His face resumed its set expression, and his rocking foot its violence.

The deacon cast a reproachful, irate glance at Mrs. Cattermole.

“Did I tell you a lie when I said he warn’t worth thet thar?” he
vociferated, snatching the tin dipper from the water-bucket. The noise
disturbed the baby, which began to whimper feebly. Matt turned his
chair’s back on the deacon and gazed studiously towards the wood-house
in the yard. The deacon’s face grew apoplectic. He seemed about to throw
the dipper at the back of Matt’s head, but mastering himself he let it
fall with a splash, and said, quietly: “I guess you won’t hev me to
blame if he turns out all belly an’ no han’s. Some folks’d say I’m
offerin’ you a smart, likely young man, with his heart in the wood-pile.
But thet’s not Deacon Hailey’s way. He makes a pint of tellin’ the bad
pints. He’s a man you could swap a horse with, hey? I tell you, Mrs.
Cattermole, thet durned boy is all moonshine an’ viciousness, stuffed
with conceit from floor to ridge-piece. Picters, picters, picters, is
all he thinks about! Amoosin’ himself--thet’s his idee of life in this
vale of tears. I reckon he thinks he’s goin’ to strike Captain Kidd’s
treasure. But, arter all, he ain’t _your_ burden. I’ve giv his poor
mother a home, an’ I ain’t the man to grudge bite an’ sup to her boy. So
even now I don’t mind lettin’ you off. He’s my crost, and I’ve got to
bear him. ’Tain’t no use bein’ a Christian only in church, hey?”

“I guess I’m a Christian, too,” said Mrs. Cattermole. “So I must bear
with the poor lad an’ train him up some in the way he should go. An’
then there’s father. You’re a rael saint, deacon, but I sorter think
where heaven is consarned father ’ud like a look-in es well. So let’s
say no more ’bout it. Now, then, deacon, the table’s waitin’!”

He ignored the patient piece of furniture. “Waal, don’t blame me any if
the buckwheat turns out bad,” he shouted, losing his self-control again,
and spurting out his nicotian fluid at the stove like an angry

“Thet’s so,” acquiesced Mrs. Cattermole, quietly. “Now, then, Deacon
Hailey, jest you set there.” She had taken a chair and placed her hands
on the table.

“Hush!” said the deacon. “Don’t you see thet thar young un wakin’ up?
The tarnation boy hes been shakin’ him like an earthquake. I didn’t know
es you kep’ your baby in the kitchin or I wouldn’t hev troubled to come.
When thet thar table kinder began to dance and jump, you wouldn’t thank
me fur rousin’ the innocent baby, hey? Sleep, sleep, thet’s what a baby
wants! A baby kin’t hev too much sleep an’ a grown-up person kin’t hev
too little, hey? They’re a lazy slinky lot, the young men o’ the
Province, sleepin’ with their mouths open, expectin’ johnny-cakes to
fall into ’em. I wonder this young man here don’t get into a cradle
hisself. He’d be es much use to his fellow-critters es makin’ picters, I
do allow. This life’s a battle, I allus thinks, an’ star-gazin’ ain’t
the way to sight the enemy, hey? I reckon I’ll git back now, Mrs.
Cattermole. There’s ’nough time been wasted over thet limb of Satan.
Jest you tell Cattermole what I say ’bout him, an’ if ever you git
durned sick an’ tired feedin’ an onthankful lazybones, es you’re bound
to git, sure es skunks, jest you remember Deacon Hailey is the Christian
you’re lookin’ fur. An’ don’t you forgit it!” And very solemnly he
strode without.

Mrs. Cattermole lifted her hands and brought them down again on the
table with a thump. “The tarnation ole fox!” she cried, “tryin’ to
bamboozle me with tales ’bout turnin’ tables. ’Tain’t likely es a table
is goin’ to dance of itself, an’ tell me ’bout Maria’s sickness. Jest
you come here, Matt, an’ lay your hands alongside o’ mine. What’s thet
you’re doin’?”

For Matt had begun pensively adorning the hood of the cradle by means of
a burned stick he had pulled from the stove.

“It’s on’y Ole Hey,” he said, reddening.

“Jest you leave off makin’ fun o’ your elders an’ betters,” she said,
sharply. “There’ll be plenty of work fur you in the paint-shop.”

There was plenty of work, Matt found, in numerous other directions, too.
Many more things than mechanical wood-cutting did the boy practise at
Cattermole’s saw-mill. To begin with, Mrs. Cattermole’s apprehensions
were justified and the spring freshets swept away the dam, and so Matt
was set to work hauling brushwood and gravel and logs to build up a kind
of breast-work. Cattermole was really a house-joiner and house-builder,
so Matt acquired cabinet-making, decoration, and house-building. His
farming and cattle-rearing experience was also considerably enlarged. He
milked the cows, looked after four stage-horses (driven by Mrs.
Cattermole’s brother) and thirty-six sheep, cut firewood, cleared out
barns, turned churns, hoed potatoes, mowed hay, fed fowls and pigs, and
rocked the cradle, and, in the interval of running the circular and
up-and-down saws in the mill, worked in the paint-shop at the back,
graining and scrolling the furniture and ornamenting it with roses and
other gorgeous flowers, sometimes even with landscapes. This was his
only opportunity of making pictures, for recreation hours he had none.
He rose at four in the morning and went to bed at ten at night. His
wages were his food and clothes, both left off.

Mrs. Cattermole made his garments out of her husband’s out-worn
wardrobe, itself of gray homespun.

But the hours in the paint-shop threw their aroma over all the others
and made them livable.

And Cattermole, though a hard was not a harsh taskmaster, and had gentle
flashes of jest when Mrs. Cattermole was out of ear-shot. And, though
winter was long, yet there were seasons of delicious sunshine, when the
blueberries ripened on the flats, or the apples waxed rosy in the
orchard; when the air thrilled with the song of birds, and the dawn was

In one of these seasons of hope he wrote to his uncle of his father’s
death and his own existence, and Cattermole paid the postage; an
ingenuous letter full of the pathetic, almost incredible ignorance of
obscure and sequestered youth, and inquiring what chances there would be
for him to reap fortune by painting pictures in London. He addressed the
letter--with vague recollection of something in his school
reading-book--to Mr. Matthew Strang, Painter, National Gallery, London.

It was not an ill-written letter nor an ill-spelt. Here and there the
orthography was original, but in the main McTavit had been not
ineffectual, and there were fewer traces of illiteracy about the epistle
than might have been imagined from Matt’s talk. But in Matt’s mind the
written and the spoken were kept as distinct as printed type and the
manuscript alphabet; they ran on parallel lines that never met, and that
“Amur’can” should be spelled “American” seemed no more contradictory
than that “throo” should be spelled “through.” The grammar he had used
in scholastic exercises was not for everyday wear; it was of a
ceremonious dignity that suited with the stateliness of epistolary
communication. Alas! For all the carefulness of the composition, his
uncle of the National Gallery gave no sign.

Matt’s suspense and sorrow dwindled at last into resignation, for he had
come to a renewed sense of religion. As Mrs. Strang would have put it,
he had found grace. There were a few pious books and tracts about the
Cattermole establishment, to devour in stolen snatches or by bartering
sleep for reading, and among these dusty treasures he lighted on _The
Pilgrim’s Progress_, with quaint wood-cuts. In the moral fervor with
which the dramatic allegory informed him Matt felt wickedness an
impossibility henceforward; his future life stretched before him white,
fleckless, unstainable. Meanness or falsehood or viciousness could never
touch his soul. How curiously people must be constituted who could
knowingly prefer evil, when good thrilled one with such rapture, bathed
one in such peace! Already he felt the beatitude of the New Jerusalem.
The pictures he painted should be _good_, please God. They should
exhibit the baseness of Mr. Worldly Wiseman, castigate the town of
Carnal Policy; he would uplift the eyes of the wicked to the
contemplation of the Shining Ones. Though, after all, he began to ask
himself, could any picture equal Bunyan’s book? Was not a book
immeasurably the better medium of expression? The suspicion was
strengthened by the reading of a dime novel which his mistress’s
brother, the stage-driver, had left lying about. It was the first
unadulterated novel he had read, and the sensational episodes stirred
his blood, his new-born religious enthusiasm died. He loved Mike the
Bush-ranger, who was the hero of the novel. Action, strong,
self-dependent action, a big personality--there lay the admirable in
life. The Christians and Hopefuls were pale-blooded figures after all,
and unreal at that. In actual life one only came across mimics who used
their language: the Deacon Haileys or the Abner Preeps, to whom even
thieving Tommy were preferable. No wonder Mike had been driven to
bush-ranging! What a pity he himself had not remained in his forest hut,
rebel against humanity, king of the woods! Ah! and how inadequate was
paint to express the fulness of life; the medium was too childishly
simple. At most one could fix a single scene, a single incident, and
that only in its outside aspect. Books palpitated with motion and
emotion. He set to work to write a dime novel, stealing an hour from his
scanty night. He made but slow progress, though he began with an
exciting episode about a white boy besieged in his log-hut by a party of
Indians, and saved by the sudden advent of a couple of bears. The words
he wrote down seemed a paltry rendition of his thought and inner vision,
they were tame and scant of syllable. He discovered that his literary
palette was even more pitiful than his pictorial. Still he labored on,
for the goal was grand. And, despite his mental divorce between
pronunciation and orthography, his spoken English improved imperceptibly
through all this contact with literature.

Then one wonderful day--to be marked with a white stone and yet also
with a black--he received a letter from England. All his artistic
ambition flamed up furiously again as he broke the seal:

LONDON, Limners’ Club.

     DEAR NEPHEW,--Your letter gave me mingled pain and pleasure. I was
     deeply grieved to hear of the sad death of your dear father. My
     poor brother had not written to me nor had I seen him since his
     marriage, but I knew I should somehow hear of it if anything went
     wrong with him. I am shocked to have remained ignorant for so many
     months after his death. I really think your mother should have let
     me know, as she could have discovered my address through my wife’s
     relatives, who live in Halifax. However, I hope God has given her
     strength to bear the blow. And now, my dear Matthew, let me tell
     you your letter is very childish, and not what I should have
     expected of a young man of fourteen as you describe yourself. It is
     very nice to amuse yourself by painting pictures; it keeps you out
     of mischief. But how can you fancy that your pictures are worth any
     money? Why, painting is the most difficult of all the arts; it
     requires years and years of study under great masters, and it costs
     a heap of money to pay models--that is, men or women who sit or
     stand in uncomfortable positions while you are painting them. No
     picture is any good that is done without models; if you wanted to
     paint a horse you would have to hire a horse, and that is even more
     expensive than hiring a man. Otherwise your horse would be all
     wrong. Why, a friend of mine painted a picture of a forge, and he
     had to have it all built up in his studio, and it cost a hundred
     and twenty pounds. Studio! The word reminds me that an artist must
     have a special room to work in, with windows on top, and these
     rooms are very expensive. London is crammed full of artists who
     have had all these advantages and yet they are starving. The
     pictures that you do now everybody would laugh at. And where would
     you get the money for frames? A nice gold frame might redeem your
     pictures, but gold frames are dear. No, my dear Matthew, you must
     not be a little fool. How could you, a poor orphan, think of coming
     to London? Why, you would die in the streets. No; remain where you
     are, and thank God that you are earning your clothes and your keep
     with an honest sawyer in a land of peace and plenty, and are not a
     burden on your poor mother. I hope you will listen to your uncle
     like a good boy, and grow up to be grateful to him for saving you
     from starvation. Believe me,

Your affectionate uncle,


Matt’s tears blistered the final sheet of this discouraging document.
His roseate visions of the future faded to cold gray, his heart ached
with a sudden sense of the emptiness of existence. But when he had come
to the last word his hand clinched the letter fiercely. A great glow of
resolution pervaded his being, like the heat that returns after a cold
douche. “I will be a painter. I will, I will, I will!” he hissed. And he
tore up the embryo of the dime novel and wrote again to his uncle:

     MY DEAR UNCLE,--How good you are to write to me and tell me
     everything I want to know. Don’t be afraid that I will starve in
     London, dear uncle. I could always earn my living there in the
     fields and paint late at night, but I won’t come till I have enough
     money for lessons and models and a studio, though I think I could
     draw horses without hiring them. I have always been very good at
     animals. Besides, what do they do when they want bears, as the
     geography book says there aren’t any bears in England? I could live
     in the attic, and knock a hole in the roof. My mother doesn’t need
     anything from me, thank God, as she is married again and bears the
     blow well, and my sister Harriet is married too, so you see it will
     be easy for me to save up money. As soon as my apprenticeship is
     over I shall go on to the States, where the greatest fools make
     heaps of money, and so in a few years, please God, I shall be able
     to come over like you did, and be a great artist like you.
     Good-bye, dear uncle, God bless you.

From your loving nephew,


     P.S.--When I come over I will change my name if you like, so as not
     to clash with yours. I know you would not like it if people thought
     you had done my pictures.

     P.P.S.--Besides, my real name now might be Matthew Hailey, as
     mother has changed hers to that.

This letter evoked no answer.

When Matt’s apprenticeship was at an end, the first item of his
programme broke down, for he lacked the money to carry him to the
States, so he had to stay on at Cattermole’s farm at a petty wage,
though a larger than Mrs. Cattermole was aware of, till he had scraped a
little together. And then an accident occurred that bade fair to dispose
of all the other items. He was at work in the saw-mill, when his leg got
jammed between the log he was operating upon and the carriage that was
bearing it towards the gang of up-and-down saws. There would not be room
for his body to pass between the gang of saws and the framework that
held them. It was an awful instant. He cried out, but his voice was lost
in the roar of the water and the clatter of the machinery. Round went
the water-wheel, the carriage glided along, offering inch after inch of
the log to the cruel teeth, and Matt was drawn steadily with it towards
the fatal point. With an inspiration he drew out the stout string he
always carried in his pocket, and, making a noose, threw it towards a
lever. It caught, and Matt was saved, for he had only to pull this lever
to close the gate in the flume and shut out the water. When the
machinery stopped the racket ceased, too, and Matt’s voice could be
heard, and Cattermole rushed in from the adjoining furniture
manufactory, and, knocking away the dogs at the end of the log, lifted
it and released the prisoner, and then made him kneel down and offer a
prayer for his salvation. Matt’s awakening sense of logic dimly
insinuated that this was thanking Providence for having failed to
mutilate him, but the atmosphere of Puritan acceptance in which he moved
and had his being asphyxiated the nascent scepticism.

Shortly after, Matt bade farewell to Cattermole farm, with its complex
appurtenances--a proceeding which Mrs. Cattermole christened
“onchristian ingratitood.” She declared that he ought to strip off the
clothes she had made him, and depart naked as he had come. From a dim
corner of the kitchen Cattermole’s face signalled, “Don’t mind her. God
bless you.”

Softened by the saw-mill accident, Matt tramped to Cobequid to see his
mother before departing for Boston, and thence ultimately for England.
He felt guilty, a sort of Prodigal Son, and kept assuring himself of
his innocence and economy. The third Mrs. Hailey received him with a
rapture that almost surpassed Billy’s. She hugged him to her bosom with
sobs and told him her grievances. These were manifold, but seemed
analyzable into four categories: one, the remissness of Harriet, whose
visits were rare, and whose baby had bow-legs; two, the naughtiness of
the children, of whom Matt had always been the only satisfactory
specimen; three, the cruelty of their step-father in chastising them for
the same; four, the deacon’s breach of contract in refusing to migrate
to Halifax, or to permit her to hold Baptist prayer-meetings. Her black
eyes flashed with strange fire when she spoke of her new husband’s
crimes and derelictions. And there was the old dreaded hysteria in her
threats to throw up the position. Evidently remarriage had not made her
happy, he thought with added tenderness. Perhaps nothing could. He
shuddered at his own deeper perception of unhappiness implanted in
temperament and finding nutriment in any conditions.

In conclusion, she besought her boy--the only person in the world who
loved her, the only person to whom she could tell her troubles--to go to
Halifax instead of the States. It was far nearer, and money could be
made just as easily. Her folks lived at Halifax, and though he must not
dream of seeking their assistance, for they had been very bad to her,
mewing her up strictly so that she had been forced to elope with her
poor Davie, still it would be a consolation to know that he was near her
own people, likewise not far from herself, in case of anything happening
to either of them. Perhaps she would persuade her husband to move there,
after all--who knew? Or she might come there herself and stay with him,
for a week or two at any rate, and meantime he should write to her about
the dear old town. Moved by her lack of reproaches and by her misery,
and impressed into his olden subjugation to the handsome, masterful
woman, Matt acquiesced. Perhaps his main motives were the comparative
cheapness of the journey and the reinflammation of his childish
curiosity concerning the gay city.

It was Saturday, but Matt suffered such tortures under the moral but
mumbled exordiums of “Ole Hey,” of which his unaccustomed ear took in
less than ever, that he determined to depart on the Monday. The deacon
seemed to have aged considerably, his beard was matted and thick, and
his dicky was stained with tobacco-juice. For the rest, Matt discovered
that most of the children were employed about the farm or the works, and
that they had ceased to go to school, the deacon having converted Ruth
into a school-mistress when she could be spared from keeping the books
of his tannery and grist-mill. Ruth herself he met with indifference
that the stateliness of her unexpectedly tall presence did nothing to
thaw. He was surprised to hear from Billy, whose bed he shared that
night, and who was more greedy to hear Matt’s adventures than to talk,
that they were all very fond of her, and that she could still romp
heartily. But Ruth had gradually grown shadowy to his imagination beside
his burning dreams of Art, and the sight of her seemed to add the last
touch of insubstantiality to her image. And yet, in the boredom of the
Sunday services, with his eye roving restlessly about the severe,
unlovely meeting-house in search of distractions, he could not but be
conscious that she was the sweetest and sedatest figure in the village
choir that sang and flirted in the rising tiers of the gallery over the
vestibule; and when Deacon Hailey, tapping his tuning-fork on the rails,
imitated its note with a rasping croak, Matt had a flash of sympathy
with the divined inner life of the girl in this discordant environment.
He told her briefly of his plans--to save up enough money to get to his
uncle in London, who would doubtless put him in the way of studying Art
seriously. She said she wished she had something as fine to live and
work for; still she was busy enough, what with book-keeping and teaching
school, as she put it smilingly. Their parting, like their meeting, was
awkward. Self-consciousness and shyness had come into their simple
relation. Neither dared take the initiative of a kiss, which for the
rest was a rare caress in Cobequid save between children and lovers.
Relatives shook hands; even women were not free of one another’s lips.
And for the lad’s part, timidity was all he felt in the presence of this
sweet graceful stranger. Only at the last moment, when she handed him a
keepsake in the shape of a prize copy of the _Arabian Nights_ her
music-mistress had given her, did their looks meet as of yore, and then
it was more the young painter than the old playmate who was touched by
the earnest radiance of her eyes and the flicker of rose across the
delicate fairness of her cheek. He made a little sketch of her in
return, and sent it her from Halifax.

When he was on his way he opened the gilt-bound volume and read on the


                    From Ruth.

       God make you a great artist.



Halifax exceeded Matt’s expectations, and gave him a higher opinion of
his mother. For the first time his soul received the shock of a great
town, or what was a great town to him. The picturesque bustle enchanted
him. The harbor, with its immense basin and fiords, swarming with ships
and boats, was an inexhaustible pageant, and sometimes across the green
water came softened music from a giant iron-clad. High in the background
of the steep city that sat throned between its waters rose forests of
spruce and fir. From the citadel on the hill black cannon saluted the
sunrise, and Sambro Head and Sherbrooke Tower shot rays of warning
across the night. The streets throbbed with traffic, and were vivid with
the blues and reds of artillery and infantry; and the nigger and the
sailor contributed exotic romance. On the wharves of Water Street, which
were lined with old shanties and dancing-houses, the black men sawed
cord-wood, huge piles of which mounted skyward, surrounded by boxes of
smoked herrings. On one of the wharves endless quintals of codfish lay
a-drying in the sun. And when the great tide, receding, exposed the tall
wooden posts, like the long legs of some many-legged marine monster,
covered with black and white barnacles and slime of a beautiful arsenic
green, the embryonic artist found fresh enchantment in this briny,
fishy, muddy water-side. Then, too, the Government House was the biggest
and most wonderful building Matt had ever seen, and the fish, fruit, and
meat markets were a confusion of pleasant noises.

In the newly opened park on the “Point” the wives of the English
officials and officers--grand dames, who set the tone of the
city--strolled and rode in beautiful costumes. Matt thought that the
detached villas in which they lived, with imposing knockers and
circumscribing hedges instead of fences, were the characteristic
features of great American cities. He loved to watch the young ladies
riding into the cricket-ground on their well-groomed horses; beautiful,
far-away princesses, whose exquisite figures, revealed by their
riding-habits, fascinated rather than shocked his eye, accustomed though
it was to the Puritan modesty of ill-fitting dresses, the bulky
wrappings of a village where to go out “in your shape” was to betray
impure instincts. He would peer into the enclosure with a strange,
wistful longing, eager to catch stray music of their speech, silver
ripples of their laughter. He wondered if he would ever talk to such
celestial creatures, for whom life went so smooth and so fair. What
charming pictures they made in the lovely summer days, when the officers
played against the club, and they sat on the sward drinking tea under
the shady trees, in white dresses, with white lace parasols held over
their softly glinting hair to shield the shining purity of their
complexions--a refreshing contrast of cool color with the scarlet of the
officers’ uniforms. Sometimes the wistful eyes of the boy grew dim with
sad, delicious tears. How inaccessible was all this beautiful life whose
gracious harmonies, whose sweet refinements, some subtle instinct
divined and responded to! At moments he felt he could almost barter his
dreams of Art to move in these heavenly spheres, among these dainty
creatures whose every gesture was grace, whose every tone was
ravishment. There was one girl, the most bewitching of all, whom he only
saw in the saddle, so that in his image of her, as in his sketches of
her, she was always on a beautiful chestnut horse, which she sat with
matchless ease and decision; a tall, slender girl, with yellow-brown
hair that lay soft and fluffy about the forehead of her lovely English
face. Her favorite canter was along the beach-road; and here, before he
had found work, he would loiter in the hope of seeing her. How he
longed--yet dreaded--that she might some day perceive his presence;
sometimes so high flew his secret audacious dream that in imagination he
patted her horse’s glossy neck.

In such an exhilarating atmosphere the boy felt great impulses surge
within him. But, alas! the seamy side of great cities was borne in on
him also. He had a vile lodging in the central slums, near the roof of a
tall tenement-house that tottered between two groggeries, and here
drunken wharfingers and sailors and negro wenches and Irishmen reeled
and swore. To a lad brought up in godly Cobequid, where drunkenness was
spoken of with bated breath, this unquestionable supremacy of Satan was
both shocking and unsettling. Nevertheless, Matt spent the first days in
a trance of delight, for--apart from and above all other wonders--there
were picture-shops in the town; and the works of O’Donovan, the local
celebrity, were marked at twenty, or thirty, and even fifty dollars
apiece. They were sea-paintings of considerable merit, that excited
Matt’s admiration without quite overwhelming him. On the strength of
O’Donovan’s colossal prices, Matt invested some of his scanty stock of
dollars in a kit of paint at a fairy shop, where shone collapsible tubes
of oil-color, such as he had never seen before, and delightful brushes
and undreamed-of easels and canvases. He also bought two yellow-covered
books, one entitled _Artistic Anatomy_, and the other _Practical House
Decoration_, which combined to oppress him with his ignorance of the
human form divine and the house beautiful, and became his bed-fellows,
serving to raise his pillow. His conceit fell to zero when he saw a
portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds among the collection in the Session

After a depressing delay, mitigated only by the sight of his fair
horsewoman, he found work in a furniture shop at the top of an old
rambling warehouse that was congested with broken litter and old pianos.
The proprietor not only dealt in débris, but bought new furniture and
had it painted in the loft. Matt received six dollars a week, half of
which he saved for his English campaign. At first he had the atelier to
himself, but as the proprietor’s business increased he was given a
subordinate--a full-grown Frenchman, rather shorter than himself, who
swore incomprehensibly and was restive under Matt’s surveyorship. By
this time Matt had learned something of the wisdom of the serpent, so he
treated his man to liquor. After the Frenchman had got drunk several
times at the expense of his sober superior, he discovered that Matt was
his long-lost brother, and peace reigned in the paint-shop.

But Matt did not remain long in Halifax. The Frenchman’s jabber of the
mushroom millionaires of the States (though he failed to explain his own
distance from these golden regions) fired Matt’s imagination, and he
resolved to go to Boston in accordance with his original programme. He
considered he had sufficiently studied his mother’s wishes, and her
letters had become too incoherent for attention. It was a pain, not a
pleasure, to receive them. He was not surprised to learn from Billy’s
letters that domestic broils were frequent, and that the deacon’s
proverbial wisdom did not avail to cope with Mrs. Strang’s threats of
suicide. It was only poor Ruth’s girlish sweetness that could bring calm
into these household cyclones.

And so one fine evening Matt set sail for the city of culture and
“Crœsuses.” Everything seemed of good augury. Though the expense of
the trip had wellnigh eaten up his savings, his heart was as light as
his pocket. He was going only to the States, but he felt that, in
quitting his native soil, the voyage to London, the temple of Art, and
to his uncle, its high-priest, had begun. The moon shone over the
twinkling harbor like a great gold coin, and as the vessel spread its
canvas wings and glided out of the confusion of shipping, Matt felt that
its name was not the least happy omen in this auspicious moment. The
ship was named _The Enterprise_.

       *       *       *       *       *

That night, finding some confusion about the distribution of bunks, Matt
lay down on deck, with _Artistic Anatomy_ and _Practical House
Decoration_ for his pillows, and slept the sleep of the weary, tempered
by a farrago of inconsequent dreams.

When he woke up next morning he rubbed his eyes from more than
sleepiness. Halifax seemed still to confront his vision--its hills, its
forts, its wharves, George Island, the Point, and the great harbor in
which _The Enterprise_ rocked gently. What was this hallucination?

He soon discovered that it was reality. There had been a head-wind in
the night, and the ship had dropped her anchor in the harbor for safety.

The incident was typical. In the course of the voyage Matt learned to
know the captain--a grizzled old sea-dog with the heart of a bitch. The
ship was his own, and he sailed it himself to save expense and check
dishonesty. There is a proverb about saving a pennyworth of tar, and
Captain Bludgeon illustrated it. No man was ever so unfitted to walk the
quarter-deck. His idea of navigation was to hug the coast, and he seized
every pretext for putting in at creeks or ports and anchoring for the
night, when the crew would go ashore and come back incapable. The
schooner itself was an old tub, a cumbrous, dingey-like craft, but sound
in timber. Matt had a rough time, though the reading of the _Arabian
Nights_ made the voyage enchanted. The passengers were a plebeian
crowd--a score of women, mostly servant-girls and single, fifteen men
emigrating to the States, and a few children. There were only six bunks.
The mate had given up his state-room--which Matt was to have shared--to
some of the women. Those who could not secure bunks herded dressed in a
big field bed, which also accommodated some of the men, likewise
sleeping in their clothes. For toilet operations all the women resorted
to the state-room, which held a mirror and washing apparatus. Etiquette
was free-and-easy. The food was horrible, the cook’s menus being almost
ingenious in their unpalatableness. Fortunately most of the passengers
were sick already. Matt had no immunity. All the pangs of his first pipe
were repeated, without the moral qualms which rationalized those. He
continued to sleep on deck as often as he could, making friends with the
stars; when the night was too chilly he couched on the wood-pile near
the stove. Thus was he spared licentious spectacles, and his innocence
was granted a little longer term. They passed the signals and flag-staff
of Sable Point safely, Captain Bludgeon’s face as white as the breakers
that girdled its barren rock; then, instead of making a bee-line for
Boston, the captain fetched a semicircle, following the New England
coast line, and holding on to the apron-strings of his mother earth.
Such voyaging he conceived to be sure, if slow; mistakenly enough,
considering the iron-bound character of the coast.

The passengers--once they had got over their sickness--did not complain,
for they had the leisure of poverty, and the prospect of indefinite
board and lodging was not unpleasing, and their frequent stopping-places
diversified the monotony of the voyage with little excursions. One
night, having been driven into harbor by a capful of wind, they
witnessed the torch-light fishing. It was a scene that set Matt’s
fingers itching for the brush--waving torches glittering on the water
from dozens of boats, and lighting up the tanned faces of the fishers,
who were scooping up the herrings with nets. Every detail gave him the
keenest joy--the wavering refractions in the water, the leaping silver
of the fish touched with gold flame, the sombre mystery of sea and sky
above and around. The night was made even more memorable, for some of
the girls who had landed brought back in giggling triumph many bundles
of cured herrings, which they had pilfered from an unguarded
smoke-house, and these they generously distributed, so that the whole
ship supped deliciously in defiance of the cook.

On another occasion--in the afternoon at high-water--Matt and about a
score of the passengers, the majority females, went on shore to pick
gray-beards, as they called the gray cranberries that grew in the
swamps. And they tarried so long that when they came back to the boat
they found the tide turned, and two hundred yards of mud between them
and the water. One of the men tried the mud, and sank to the knees in
slimy batter. In the end there was nothing for it but to launch the
empty boat, and then wade to it. The launching was easy, the boat
slipping along as on grease, but the sequel was boisterous. Jack Floss,
a strapping Anglo-Saxon with a blond mustache and a devil-may-care
humor, set the example of giving a woman a pick-a-back to save her
skirts, and the few other men followed suit, returning again and again
for fresh freight. The air resounded with hysterical giggling and
screaming as the women frantically clutched their bearers, some of whom
extorted unreluctant kisses under jocose threats of tumbling their
burdens over into the mud. One or two actually carried out their
threats, by involuntarily stepping suddenly into a gutter worn by the
rains and sinking up to the waist, but the mishaps abated no jot of the
madcap merriment--it rather augmented the rowdiness as the women were
hauled from their mud-baths. For his part Matt waded warily, more
conscious of the responsibility than of the fun, for he was doing his
duty manfully, as became a lad stout, sturdy, and sixteen. His second
burden was a slim, pretty servant-girl named Priscilla, and when he was
depositing her, speckless, in the boat, she took the opportunity of the
embrace to kiss him in hearty gratitude. Matt dropped her like a hot
coal. He felt scorched and flustered, and had a bewildered moment of
burning blushes ere he ploughed his way back to rescue another of the
distressed damsels. That sudden kiss was an epoch in his growth. A
discomfort at the time, the after-taste of it lent new warmth to his
interest in the royal amours of the _Arabian Nights_. In his dreams he
bore delectable Eastern princesses across perilous magic marshes, and
their gratitude found him stockish no longer.

The next episode in this curious creeping voyage was superficially more
critical for Matt. A sudden gale upset all poor Captain Bludgeon’s
calculations. He was near shore as usual, and tried to beat into harbor
almost under bare poles; but the haven was of a dangerous entrance,
narrow and choked in the throat by a rock, and no one on board had
sufficient seamanship to get the schooner in. The mate advised
abandoning the hope of harbor, and setting the jib and the jib-foresail
to make leeway. The captain swore by everything unholy he would not go a
cable farther out to sea. The night was closing in, but, the wind dying
away, _The Enterprise_ anchored outside the harbor. But in the night the
wind sprang up from the opposite quarter fiercer than ever, and the
vessel dragged her anchors and drove towards the rock that squatted on
guard at the mouth of the harbor, pitching helplessly in the shifting
troughs. In the inky blackness great swamping waves carried off her
boats, her top-sails, and both houses. Her anchors were left behind her,
and part of the bulwarks was likewise torn away. Fortunately her cables
held out as she drove bumping along, though they did not moderate her
pace sufficiently to prevent her keel being partially torn away when she
bumped upon a reef. Yet she jolted over the reef and drifted blindly on
and on, none knew whither.

Within the schooner the scene was almost as wild as without. The women’s
screams rivalled those of the wind; the distracted creatures ran up and
down the companion-ladder, getting in the way of the crew; the captain
went below to quiet them--and did not return. Apparently he preferred
the society of his own sex. The mate, thus left in command, boarded up
the companion-way to stop the aimless scurrying, and told off some of
the crew to help him unload the cargo, which consisted of plaster, and
to pitch it overboard. Matt and the cook bore a hand in the work. Not
daring to unhatch for fear of being water-logged, they had to pass the
plaster through the lazaret.

Jack Floss did his best to comfort the females by profanities. He
laughed, and hoped the Lord would damn the old hulk, whose fleas were
big enough to swim ashore on. His cool blasphemies calmed some, but
others plainly regarded him as a Jonah. Matt was half perturbed, half
fascinated by this unconventional vagabond; of the real danger his own
buoyancy made light.

When the morning light came at last, it showed that they had
providentially skirted the grim rock and were drifting into harbor. The
deck was covered with débris and with sand, which the ship had stirred
and raked up in her dragging progress along the shallow waters. Piles of
grit had accumulated in the corners, and the waves on which she tossed
were discolored with dirt. Very soon she passed a little island where a
brig lay moored; and with great difficulty--for the sea was still
running high--the brig sent her a hawser and made her fast. Then they
were enabled to realize further the extent of their luck, for the harbor
was strewn with wreckage. No fewer than seven schooners had gone down,
and only two men had been saved. The harbor was alive with boats looking
for the dead. Captain Bludgeon, bestriding his desolate quarter-deck,
congratulated himself on his seamanship. He arranged with a tug to draw
_The Enterprise_ back to St. John, New Brunswick, for repairs. The few
impatient passengers who could afford to pay an extra fee went on to
Boston by the rescuing brig, but the majority stuck to _The Enterprise_
and Captain Bludgeon, who was compelled to board and lodge them at a
cheap water-side hotel while the schooner was laid up. Thus were the
fates kind to these waifs on the ocean of life, who enjoyed the holiday
after their manner--plain living and high jinks--and had no need of
Satan, or even Jack Floss, to find mischief for their idle hands to do.

Matt, however, was not of the roysterers. He had remained with _The
Enterprise_, of course, not having the money to exchange; but the
scenery of a new town--and that a hill-girt town like St. John, with a
cathedral, a silver water, and a forest afire with flowers--was always
sufficient business for him. The cathedral was not so colossal as it had
loomed to his childish fancy through McTavit’s reminiscences. After a
day or two Matt found an even more delightful occupation. He happened to
remark to Jack Floss that the ceiling of the hotel sitting-room would be
all the better for a little ornamentation, and that worthy straightway
sought out the proprietor, a gentleman of Scotch descent, and expressed
himself so picturesquely that Matt was offered a dollar to make the
ceiling worthy of being sat under by artistic souls like Jack Floss.
Thereupon Jack Floss and everybody else, except Matt, were turned out of
the sitting-room, and the boy, guided by his _Practical House
Decoration_ in the mixing of colors and the preparation of plaster,
stood on the ladder and stencilled one of his imaginative medleys. His
fellow-passengers were not permitted to see it till it was ready, but
speculation was rife, and the rumor of its glories had spread about the
water-side, and on show-day the room was packed with motley spectators,
gazing reverently heavenward as at fireworks, some breaking out into
rapturous exclamations that made the boy more hot and uncomfortable than
even the damsel’s kiss had done. He was glad he was almost invisible,
squeezed into a corner by the crowd. And despite his discomfort,
aggravated by a crick in the back of the neck, due to painting with his
hand over his head, there was a subtle pleasure for him in his
fellow-passengers’ facile recognition of the torch-light fishing scene
which formed the centre of the decorations. The hotel bar did good
business that day.

Just before _The Enterprise_ started again for Boston a man came to see
the ceiling, and immediately offered the artist a commission. There was
a paint-shop in the railway-carriage works, and Matt could have a
situation just vacant there at ten dollars a week. Dazzled by these
fabulous terms, which seemed almost to realize his ambition at a bound,
Matt accepted; and _The Enterprise_, patched up and refitted, sailed
without him. A few hours later he discovered that it had also sailed
without Priscilla, that seductive young person having found a berth as
chambermaid in the hotel. She came into Matt’s room to tidy up, and
expressed her joy at the prospect of looking after his comfort. But the
boy told her he must seek less comfortable quarters, and, despite her
protests and her offers to help him temporarily, he departed for cheaper
lodgings, leaving behind him a perfunctory promise to call and see her
soon. Jack Floss, whom Matt gratefully regarded as the architect of his
fortunes, had half a mind to stay behind, too. He said he wanted to go
under, and _The Enterprise_ didn’t seem to have any luck. But at the
last moment he found that he could not desert the ladies.

Matt was more sorry to part from him than from Priscilla; there was
something in the young man’s devil-may-care manner that appealed to the
germs of Bohemianism in the artistic temperament. The young artist had,
however, an unpleasant reminder of the defects of the Bohemian
temperament, for Jack Floss was forced to confess that he had lost the
copy of the _Arabian Nights_ which he had persuaded Matt to lend him to
beguile the tedium of the days of waiting. The boy was grievously
distressed by the loss; it seemed an insult to Ruth Hailey and a
misprision of her kindly wishes. However, it was no use crying over
spilled milk, and Jack Floss slightly assuaged his chagrin by fishing
out from among his miscellaneous effects a volume of Shelley in small
type, and another--with an even more microscopic text--containing the
complete works of Lord Byron. Both books opened as by long usage at
their most erotic pages. Through these ivory gates the boy passed into
the great world of romantic poetry. Whole stanzas remained in his
memory. The brain that had refused to retain Bible verses, spending
hours in quest of the tiniest, absorbed the sensuous images of the poets
without effort; he fell asleep with them on his lips.

In the railway-carriage shop--a spacious saloon as full of painters as
an atelier in the Quartier Latin--Matt was allowed a free hand on great
canvases that, when filled with flowers and landscapes, were nailed to
the roofs of the carriages by electroplated pins. He also decorated the
wooden panels with scroll-work and foliage, and gilded the lettering
outside the doors. Thus was the citizen fed on art at every turn,
standing under his ceiling, or sitting on his chair, or lying on his
sofa, or travelling on his railway. Art is notoriously elevating; but as
the depraved quarters of the town continued to flourish, the art must
have been bad.

Matt’s career in the paint-shop was neither so long nor so pleasant as
he had anticipated. His pictures did not please his fellow-artists as
much as his employers, and he became the butt of the place. A series of
impalpable irritations almost too slight for analysis, subtle with that
devilish refinement of which coarseness is only capable when it is
cruel, rendered his life intolerable. Matt’s vocabulary was too mincing
for his fellow-craftsmen; they resented his absence of expletives,
though imperceptibly he succumbed to the polluted atmosphere which had
surrounded him ever since he set foot in Halifax; and the boy, whose
mind was stored with lovely images and ethereal lyrics, began to
bespatter his talk with meaningless oaths. Nor was this his only
coquetry with corruption, for the daily taunt of “milksop” conspired
with the ferment of youth.

“Varnishing-day” was his day of danger. It was pay-day, and Matt had
boundless money. It was also the hardest day of the six, the wind-up,
when all the work of the week was varnished in an atmosphere of sixty
degrees; and the poor lad, drunk with the fumes of turpentine, sticky
from head to foot, his face besplashed, his eyes stinging, his nose red,
and his brain dizzy, threw off his apron and overalls, and reeled to the
door, and groped his way into the streets to breathe in the glorious
fresh air, and revel like the rest of his fellows in the joy of
life--aye, and the joy of license, the saturnalia of Saturday night. For
the glorious fresh air soon palled, and in the evening Matt was dragged
by his mates to a species of music-hall in a hotel near the harbor,
where, in a festive reek of bad tobacco and worse whiskey, he repeated
the choruses of winking soubrettes, dubious refrains whose inner meaning
the brag and badinage of the workshop had made obscurely clear. But
disgust invariably supervened; Byron and Shelley were his Sunday
reading, and under the spell of their romantic song, which chimed with
his soul’s awakening melodies, he revolted against his low-minded
companions, hating himself for almost sinking to their level.

He felt that he inhabited a rarer ether; he was conscious of a curious
aloofness, not only from them, but from humanity at large, and yet here
he was joining in their coarse conviviality. To such a mood the
accidental turning up of an old sketch of his Halifax divinity on her
horse appealed as decisively as an accidental text was wont to appeal to
his mother. The beautiful curves of her figure, the purity of her
complexion, rebuked him. Perhaps it was because he was an artist that
his soul was touched through the concrete. In a spasm of acuter disgust,
and in a confidence of higher destinies, he threw up his berth.

He had saved twenty dollars--twenty stout planks between him and the
deep. But the luck that had been his hitherto deserted him. In six weeks
he had only one fortunate fortnight, when he carried the hod for a
house-joiner, and was nearly choked by the veering round of a little
ladder, through which he had popped his head in mounting a bigger.

One by one his twenty planks slipped from under him, and then he found
himself struggling in the lowest depths. The few dollars he had
squandered on the music-hall haunted him with added reproach.

Too proud to beg or to go back to the paint-shop or to write to his
mother, his only possessions his clothes and a box of cheap water-colors
he carried with his slim library in his jacket pockets, he searched the
streets for an odd job, or stood about the wharves amid the stevedores
and negroes to earn a copper by unasked assistance in rolling casks into
warehouses, till at last, when the cathedral lawn was carpeted with
autumn leaves, the streets became his only lodging. Hungry and homeless,
he was beginning to regret his hut in the woods, and to meditate a
retreat from civilization, for in the frosty nights that shadowed the
genial autumn days this unsheltered life was not pleasant, when, by one
of those strokes of fortune which fall to the most unfortunate, he found
a night-refuge. A fellow-lodger of his at the Hotel of the Beautiful
Star, a glass-blower out of work with whom he had once halved his
evening bread, fell into employment, and gratefully offered him the
nocturnal hospitality of the factory. Here, voluptuously couched on warm
white sand, piles and barrels of which lay all about, the boy forgot the
gnawing emptiness of his stomach and the forlornness of his situation in
the endless fascination of the weird effects of light and shade. It was
a vast place, dim despite its gas-jets, mysterious with shadowy black
corners. The red flannel shirts of the men struck a flamboyant note of
color in the duskiness; the stokers were outlined in red before the
roaring furnaces, the blowers were bathed in a dazzling white glow from
the glass at the end of their blow-pipes, so that their brawny bare arms
and the sweat on their brows stood out luridly. With every movement,
with every flickering and waning light, there was a changing play of
color. Matt would lie awake in his corner, taking mental notes, or
recording the action of muscles by the pencilled silhouette of some
picturesque figure rolling the pliant glass. Great painters, he thought,
in his boyish ignorance, worked from imagination on a basis of memory;
but he was not strong enough yet to dispense with observation, though
observation always brought despair of his power to catch the
ever-shifting subtleties of living nature. In the enthralment of these
studies, and in his sensuous delight in the Dantesque effects, Matt
often omitted to sleep altogether. And sometimes, on that background of
ruddy gloom, other visions opened out to the boy dreaming on his bed of
sinuous sand; the real merged into the imaginative, and this again into
the fantasies of delicious drowsihead. The walls fell away, the factory
blossomed into exotic realms of romance; peerless houris, ripe in
womanhood, passed over moon-silvered waters in gliding caïques; prisoned
princesses, pining for love, showed dark starry eyes behind the
lattice-work of verandas; pensive maidens, divinely beautiful, wandered
at twilight under crescent moons rising faint and ghostly behind groves
of cedars.

London, too, figured in the pageantry of his dreams, glittering like a
city of the _Arabian Nights_, ablaze with palaces, athrob with music;
and perched on the top of the tallest cupola, on the loftiest hill,
stood his uncle Matthew, holding his paint-brush like a sceptre, king of
the realm of Art. Hark! was that not the king’s trumpeters calling,
calling him to the great city, calling him to climb up and take his
place beside the sovereign? Oh, the call to his youth, the clarion call,
summoning him forth to toils and triumphs in some enchanted land! Oh,
the seething of the young blood that thronged the halls of dream with
loveliness, and set seductive faces at the casements of sleep, and
sanctified his waking reveries with prescient glimpses of a sweet
spirit-woman waiting in some veiled recess of space and time to partake
and inspire his consecration to Art! The narrow teachings of his
childhood--the conception of a vale of tears and temptation--shrivelled
away like clouds melting into the illimitable blue, merging in a vast
sense of the miracle of a beautiful world, a world of infinitely notable
form and color. And this expansion of his horizon accomplished itself
almost imperceptibly because the oppression of that ancient low-hanging
heaven overbrooding earth, of that sombre heaven lying over Cobequid
Village like a pall, was not upon him, and he was free to move and
breathe in an independence that made existence ecstasy, even at its
harshest. So that, though he walked in hunger and cold, he walked under
triumphal arches of rainbows.



But the dauntless, practical youth lay beneath the dreamer, even as the
Puritan lay beneath the artist. Matt could not consent to live on his
host, the glass-blower, who shared his lunch with him--in the middle of
the night--and he was almost reduced to applying again at the
paint-shop, when the captain of a schooner gave him a chance to work his
way to Economy, on the basin of Minas, twenty-five miles below Cobequid
Village. Matt had to make up his mind in a hurry, for this was the last
ship bound north before the bay was frozen for the winter, and ships
bound south for the States seemed always to have a plethora of crew. The
mental conflict added to the pains of the situation; to go north again
was to confess defeat. But was it not a severer defeat to lessen a poor
man’s lunch, even although he accepted only a minimum on the pretext of
not being hungry? This reflection decided him; though he had no
prospects in Economy, and nothing to gain but a few days’ food and
shelter, he agreed informally to ship and to help load the schooner at
nightfall. He would have preferred to go on board at once, were it only
to dine off a ship’s biscuit; but no one suspected his straits, and so
he had an afternoon of sauntering.

On the hilly outskirts of the city he was stopped by a stylish young
lady, so dazzling in dress and beauty that for a moment he did not
recognize Priscilla. A fashionable crinoline, and a full-sleeved
astrakhan sacque, together with an afghan muffler round her throat, had
given the slim chambermaid an imposing portliness. An astrakhan toque,
with a waving red feather, was set daintily on her head, and below the
sacque her gown showed magnificent with bows and airy flounces.
Evidently her afternoon out.

“Good land!” she cried. “What have you been up to?”

“Nothing. I’m in a hurry,” he said, flushing shamefacedly as he passed
hastily on.

But Priscilla caught him by the hem of his jacket.

“Don’t look so skairt! Why haven’t you been to see me all this time?”

“Too busy,” he murmured.

“Too proud, I reckon. I thought you’d come for to look at your
decorations, anyways; let’s go right along there; you ain’t lookin’ as
smart as a cricket, that’s a fact; I’ll make you a glass o’ real nice
grog to pick you up some.”

He shook his head. “I’m going away--I’m off to Economy.”

“Scat! You want to give me the mitten. Why don’t you speak straight? You
don’t like me.”

She looked at him, half provoked, half provokingly.

He looked at her with his frank, boyish gaze; he noted the red curve of
her pouting lips, the subtle light in her eyes, the warm coloring of the
skin, shadowed at the neck by waves of soft brown hair, in which the
beads of a chenille net glistened bluishly; he was pleasured by the
brave note of the red feather against the shining black of the toque,
the piquant relation of the toque to the face, and he thought how
delightful it would be to transfer all these tones and shades to canvas.
He forgot to answer her; he tried to store up the complex image in his

“I’m glad you don’t deny it,” she said, her angry face belying her

He started. “Oh yes, I like you well enough,” he said, awkwardly.

Her face softened archly. “Then why don’t you come an’ see me? I won’t
bite you!”

“I’m sorry! I’m sailing to-night.”

“I guess you ain’t!” She smiled imperious solicitation. “What are you
goin’ to do in Economy? Why don’t you stick to the paint-shop?”

“I’ve left there way back in the summer.”

“What made you leave?”

“Oh, well!”

“Then you ain’t got no money?” There was tender concern in her tones.

“Not hardly.”

“How many meals have you had to-day?”

He had a flash of resentment. “Don’t you worry about me,” he said,

“Bother!” said Priscilla, contemptuously, though her voice faltered.
“You’re jest goin’ to come along and have a good square meal.”

“No, I’m not. I’m not hungry any.”

“Oh, Matt! Where _do_ you expect to go to?” said Priscilla, with a
roguish, disarming smile.

“Not with you,” rejoined Matt, smiling in response.

Priscilla laughed heartily. The white teeth gleamed roguishly against
the full red lips.

“Come along,” she said, with good-humored conclusiveness.

He shook a smiling head. “I’m going to Economy.”

“You’re comin’ with me; the boss’ll stand you a dinner for repairin’
your decorations.”

“Why, what’s wrong with them?” he asked, anxiously.

He knew from his book how liable such things were to decay.

“Oh, the centre of the ceilin’ is a bit off color. That silly old owl of
a Cynthia spilt a pail of water on the floor above.”

“You don’t say!” he cried, in concern.

“Honest Injun! I was jest mad. You could get lots to do if you would
stay at our shanty.”

“I’ll come and put the ceiling right,” he said, indecisively; and,
giving her his hand with shy awkwardness, was promenaded in triumph
through the dignified streets. He felt a thrill of romance as this
dazzling person clasped his hand clingingly. He wondered how she dared
be seen with so shabby a being; the juxtaposition had a touch of the
_Arabian Nights_, of the amorous adventures of his day-dreams; it was
like a princess wooing a pauper. They passed other couples better
matched--some in the first stage of courtship, some in the second. In
the first stage the female and the male walked apart--she near the wall
talking glibly, he at the edge of the sidewalk, silent, gazing straight
ahead in apparent disconnection. In the second stage the lovers walked
closer together, but now both gazed straight ahead, and both were
silent; only if one looked between them one saw two red hands clasped
together, like the antennæ of two insects in conversation. When
Priscilla and Matt met pairs in this advanced stage, her hand tightened
on his, and she sidled nearer. It was like a third stage, and Matt’s
sense of romance was modified by a blushing shamefacedness.

As they entered the hotel Matt made instinctively towards the
sitting-room to see his damaged decorations; but Priscilla, protesting
that he must feed first, steered him hurriedly up-stairs into his old
apartment. He was too faint with hunger to resist her stronger will.

“There, you silly boy!” she said, affectionately, depositing him in a
chair before the stove, which she lighted. “Now you jest set there while
I tell the boss.” She lingered a moment to caress his dark hair; then,
stooping down suddenly, she kissed him and fled.

Matt’s heart beat violently, the blood hustled in his ears. The sense of
romance grew stronger, but mingled therewith was now an uneasy,
indefinable apprehension of the unknown. The magnetism of Priscilla
repelled as much as it drew him; his romance was touched with vague
terror. Yet as the fire vivified the bleak bedroom, with its
text-ornamented walls, the warm curves of the girl’s face painted
themselves on the air, subtly alluring.

Priscilla herself was back soon, bearing some cold victual and some hot
grog, and watched with tender satisfaction the boy’s untroubled
appetite. She drank a little, too, when he was done, and they clinked
glasses, and Matt felt it was all very wicked and charming. Stanzas of
Shelley and Byron pulsed in his memory, tropical flowers of speech
blossomed in his brain.

But only weeds sprouted out. “It was real good of you, Priscilla, to
speak to the boss. I’d better see to the ceiling at once.”

“Oh, don’t; it can wait till to-morrow.”

“But I promised to go aboard to-night.”

“You nasty feller, you’re goin’ to shake me, after all.”

“Don’t say that, Priscilla,” he said, shyly. “I only wish I could do
something to show my gratitude to you.”

“No, you don’t.” Priscilla’s bosom heaved, and tears were in her eyes.

“Yes, I do.”

“You don’t like me.”

“I do.”

“You don’t think I’m pretty.”

She had removed her things now, revealing the natural gracefulness of
her figure.

“Oh, Priscilla!” said Matt, looking at her. “Why, I’d give anything if I
could--” He paused, timidly.

“Well, why can’t you?” interrupted Priscilla, her face very close to

“I’m not good enough yet. And the light’s failing.”

“Why! What do you want of the light?”

“I can’t paint so well by night. The color looks different in the day.
But I’d give anything to be able to paint something as pretty as you.”

Priscilla swept her glass aside, pettishly.

“Lan’ sakes, what a boy! Pictures, pictures, pictures! If it ain’t the
ceilin’, it’s me! There are better things on this earth than pictures,

Matt shook his head, with a sceptical smile.

Priscilla looked disconcerted. “Why, didn’t you say I was prettier than
a picture, Matt?”

“Oh, that’s different,” he parried, feebly; then, feeling her
fascination lulling him to forgetfulness of the price to be paid for his
dinner, as well as of the mute appeal of his damaged designs, he jumped
up. “I’d best see to the ceiling before it’s too late. I wonder if
they’ve kept the materials handy.”

“Set down, Matt.”

“Oh, but I mustn’t cheat the boss.”

“Who’s talkin’ o’ cheatin’? This is _my_ treat.”

“Oh, but it ain’t right o’ you, Priscilla,” he protested.

“Never mind; when I’m down on my luck you shall do as much for me.”

“I’ll send you half a dollar from Economy,” he said, resolutely. Then,
smiling to temper his ungraciousness, he added, “Short reckonings make
long friends, hey?--as an old deacon I knew used to say. I guess I’ll go
down-stairs now, Priscilla.”

“What for? You haven’t got to go aboard till nightfall?”

“You’re forgetting the ceiling. I kind o’ want to touch it up all the

“You silly boy,” she said, with a fond smile, “that was only my fun.”

“Priscilla!” He stared at her in reproachful amazement. Was his
incurable trust in humanity always to be shaken thus?

“Don’t look so solemn.”

“But you told me a fib!”

“Scat! D’you think I was goin’ to let you fool around on an empty

“But you told me a lie.” The boy towered over her like an irate

Priscilla had a happy thought. “But you told _me_ a lie. You said you
warn’t hungry.”

Matt looked startled.

“Oh, but that--that was different,” he stammered again.

“Can’t see it. Tit for tat.”

Matt pondered in silence.

Priscilla rose. “Set down,” she said, soothingly, and the boy, feeling
confusedly guilty, let himself be pressed down into his seat.

Priscilla nestled to him, sharing his chair, and pressing her soft cheek
to his.

“Was he mad with his poor little Priscilla?” she cooed. “No, he mustn’t
be angry, bless his handsome face.”

Matt was not angry any longer, but he was uncomfortable. He tried to
whip up his sense of romance, to feel what he felt in reading
love-poetry, to fancy that he was sitting with a pensive princess in a
cedar grove under a crescent moon. But he could only feel that
Priscilla was a real terrestrial person, and mendacious at that.

Priscilla’s lips sought his in a long kiss. “You _are_ fond o’ me, Matt,
aren’t you?” she murmured, coaxingly.

Matt’s conscience checked conventional response. He faltered, slowly: “I
guess you’re real good to me.”

A moment later the door opened. Priscilla sprang up hurriedly, and, to
be doing something, noisily pulled down the roller-blind.

“That you, Cynthia?” she said, carelessly.

“Yes, it’s me,” grumbled the old woman. “You’re wanted down-stairs.”

“In a jiffy. I’m just lighting Mr. Strang’s candles,” she said, fumbling
about for them in the darkness she had herself produced.

“Rayther early,” croaked Cynthia.

“Yes, Mr. Strang wants to paint; there ain’t enough light to see by,”
replied Priscilla, glibly, while Matt felt his cheeks must surely be
visible by the light of their own glow.

The candles were lit, and Priscilla, ostentatiously running into the
next room, returned with a sheet of white paper. “There you are, Mr.
Strang!” she cried, cheerfully, adding in a whisper, “I’ll be back
presently. You won’t go to-night, will you?” And her eyes pleaded

No sooner had Priscilla disappeared than Matt’s perception of romance in
the position began to return; but it was an impersonal, artistic
perception; he was but a spectator of the situation. He could not
understand his own apathetic aloofness.

He walked restlessly about the room, trying to pump up Byronic emotion,
but finding the well of sentiment strangely dry. His eye wandered to the
blind, and became censoriously absorbed in the crude flowers and figures
stamped upon the arsenic-green background; he studied the effects of the
candle-light on the glaring coloration, noting how the yellow roses had
turned pink. Then Priscilla’s face flew up amid the flare of flowers,
and Matt, seizing the sheet of paper and pulling out his paint-box,
forgot everything else, even the artificial light, in the task of
expressing Priscilla in water-color.

He had nearly finished the sketch, which glowed with dainty vitality,
though the figure came out too lady-like. Suddenly the sound of voices
broke upon his ear. Priscilla and Cynthia were talking outside his door.

His critical situation recurred to him in a flash, his broken promise to
the captain if he yielded to the pertinacious Priscilla. The artist’s
imagination might enflame; the crude actuality chilled, curiosity alone
persisting. And the latent Puritan leaped up at bay; far-away
reminiscences of whispered references to the flesh and the devil
resurged, with all that mystic flavor of chill, unspeakable godlessness
that attaches to sins dimly apprehended in childhood. “Remember thy
Creator in the days of thy youth,” seen suddenly in red letters on one
of the wall-texts, was like the voice of a minatory Providence. Poor
Priscilla became an advancing serpent, dragging insidious coils.

He shut up his paint-box hastily, and scribbling beneath the sketch,
“For Priscilla--with Matt’s thanks,” he puffed at the candles. Only one
went out. Priscilla was still talking outside. His heart was thumping
with excitement as he added in a corner: “I promised the captain.
Good-bye.” Then, blowing out the other candle, he waited, striving to
draw serener breath as Priscilla still dallied without.

Only a blurred glimmer showed through the isinglass of the stove door;
the room was quite dark. He began to hope she would ascend with Cynthia,
and leave the coast temporarily clear; but at last only Cynthia’s step
receded, and he heard Priscilla turning the door-handle. It was an
anxious moment. He heard her exclamation of surprise.

“Have you gone to bed?” she cried.

He held his breath as she grazed his sleeve in the darkness. Then he
glided out, and slid boyishly down the banisters like a flash. There was
a gay hubbub of voices in the saloon; he walked unquestioned into the
street, then ran (as if pursued by a horde of Amazons) till he reached
the docks, and saw the friendly vessel moored against the wharf.

Remorse for his balked romance set in severely as soon as the bustle of
loading was over and the anchor weighed; Priscilla took on the halo of
Byronism and the _Arabian Nights_ which had steadily absented itself in
practice. Often during that miserable voyage he called himself a fool
and a milksop; for the passage was a nightmare of new duties,
complicated by sea-sickness and the weakness of a half-starved
constitution, and on that swinging schooner, with its foul-mouthed
captain, the mean bedroom he had deserted showed like a stable paradise.
But blustrous as the captain was by the side of the blubbering Bludgeon,
he had his compensations, for he made the voyage before the few
passengers had found their sea-legs. Arrived in Economy, Matt was again
face to face with starvation. But here Fortune smiled--with a suspicion
of humor in her smile; and having already climbed masts and ladders for
his dinner, her protégé was easily tempted to seek it at the top of a
steeple. The steeple, after tapering to a point two hundred feet high,
was crowned by a ball, which for years had needed regilding.
Unfortunately the architect had made the ball almost inaccessible, but
Matt, being desperate, undertook the job. The breath of winter was
already on the town; a week more and the whole steeple would be
decorated for the season with snow, so Matt’s offer was accepted, and,
his boots equipped with creepers, the young steeple-jack, begirt with
ropes, made the ascent safely in the eye of the admiring populace,
lowered the great ball and then himself, and being thereupon given board
and lodging and materials, he gilded it in the privacy of his garret.
Thus become a public hero, Matt easily got through the winter. He
decorated the ceiling of the Freemasons’ Hall, and painted a portrait of
the member of the House of Assembly, a burly farmer. This was his first
professional experience of an actual sitter, and he found himself more
hampered than helped by too close contact with reality. However, a touch
of imagination does no harm to a portrait, and Matt had by this time
acquired sufficient experience of humanity to lean to beauty’s side even
apart from his youthful tendency to idealization, which made it
impossible for him at this period to paint anything that was not
superficially beautiful or picturesque. The member pronounced the
portrait life-like, and gave Matt a bushel of home-grown potatoes over
and above the stipulated price, which was board and lodging during the
period of painting, and an order on a store for two dollars. With the
order Matt purchased a pair of Congress or side-spring boots; the
potatoes he swopped for a box of paper collars. From Economy he wrote
home to his mother, and received an incoherent letter, in which she
denounced the deacon by the aid of fulminant texts. Matt sighed
impotently, pitying her from his deeper experience of life, but hoping
she got on better with “Ole Hey” than she imagined. He had half a mind
to look up his folks, especially poor Billy; but just then he got an
order from the farmer-deputy’s brother, who wrote that he was so pleased
with his brother’s portrait that he wished Matt to paint his sign-board.
He added that, although he had not seen any specimen of Matt’s
sign-writing, he felt confident the painter of that portrait would be a
competent person. Matt accepted the new task with mixed feelings, and
got so many other commissions from the shopkeepers (for every shop had
its movable sign-board) that he soon saved fifty dollars, and seemed on
the high sea to England and his uncle. He had fixed three hundred
dollars as the minimum with which he might safely go to London to study
art. The steerage passage would cost only twenty. Unfortunately he was
persuaded to invest his savings in a partnership with a Yankee
jewel-peddler, and to travel the country with him. The peddler did not
swindle his partner, merely his clients; but Matt was so disgusted that
he refused to remain in the business. Thereupon the peddler, freed from
the obligations of partnership, treated him as an outsider, and refused
to return his principal. Matt thought himself lucky to escape in the end
with twenty-five dollars and a cleansed conscience. He went back to
sign-painting, but, taking a hint from the Yankee, continued his
travels, and became a peddler-painter. He hated the work, was out of
sympathy with his prosaic sitters, wondering by virtue of what grace or
loveliness they sought survival on canvas; but the road to Art, by way
of his uncle in London, lay over their painted bodies, so he drudged
along. And yet when the sitter was dissatisfied with the picture--it was
generally the sitter’s friends who persuaded him that he was
dissatisfied--and when Matt had to listen to the fatuous criticisms of
farmers and store-keepers, the artist flared up, and more than once the
hot-blooded boy sacrificed dollars to dignity. He was astonished to find
that in many quarters his fame had preceded him, and more astonished to
discover finally that the advance advertiser was his late partner.
Whether the Yankee compounded thus for the use of Matt’s dollars Matt
never knew, but in his kinder thought of the cute peddler the boy came
to think himself the debtor. For the dollars mounted, one on the head of
another, and the heap rose higher and higher, day by day and week by
week, till at last the magic three hundred began to loom in the eye of
hope. Three hundred dollars! saved by the sweat of the brow and
semi-starvation, and sanctified by the blood and tears of youth; sweet
to count over and to dream over, and to pile up like a tower to scale
the skies.

And so the great day drew near when Matt Strang would sail across the



Billy Strang was dreaming happy dreams--dreams of action and adventure,
in which he figured not as the morbid cripple, but as the
straight-limbed hero. Matt was generally with him in these happy
hunting-grounds of sleep--dear old Matt, who had become a creature of
dream to his waking life. But absorbed as Billy was in this
phantasmagoric happiness, he was still the sport of every unwonted sound
from the real world. His tremulous nerves quivered at the first shock,
ready to flash back to his brain the bleaker universe of aches and
regrets and rancorous household quarrels.

To-night he sat up suddenly, with a premonition of something strange,
and gazed into the darkness of the bedroom, seeing only the dim outline
of the other bed in which his two younger brothers slept. After a long
moment of mysterious rustling, a thin ray of light crept in under the
door, then the handle turned very softly, and his mother glided in
swiftly, bearing a candle that made a monstrous shadow follow and bend
over her. She was fully dressed in out-door attire, wearing her bonnet
and sacque and muffler.

Her eyes were wide with excitement and shone weirdly, and the whole face
wore an uncanny look.

Billy trembled in cold terror. His mouth opened gaspingly.

“Sh-h-h-h!” whispered his mother, putting a forefinger to her lips.
Then, in hurried accents, she breathed, “Quick, get up and dress to

Magnetized by her face, he slipped hastily from the bed, too awed to

“Sh-h-h-h!” she breathed again, “or you’ll wake Ruth.” Then, moving with
the same noiseless precipitancy, her shadow now growing to giant, now
dwindling to dwarf, “Quick, quick, children!” she whispered, shaking
them. The two younger boys sat up, dazed by sleep and the candle, and
were silently bundled out of bed, yawning and blinking, and
automatically commencing to draw on the socks they found thrust into
their hands.

“Your best clothes,” she whispered to Billy, throwing open the cupboard
in which they hung.

The action seemed to loosen his tongue.

“But it ain’t Sunday,” he breathed.

“Sh-h-h-h! To-day is a holiday. Put them on quick, quick!” she replied,
in the same awful whisper. “We are goin’ out of the land of bondage in
haste with our loins girded. And lo! in the mornin’ in every house there
was one dead.”

She set down the candle on the little bare wooden table, where it
gleamed solemnly in the gaunt room. Then she fell to feverishly helping
the children to dress, darting violently from one to another, and half
paralyzing Billy, whose fumbling, freezing fingers could not keep pace
with her frantic impatience. He dropped a boot, and the sound seemed to
echo through the silent house like a diabolical thunder-clap. He cowered
before her blazing eyes as she picked up the boot and violently dumped
his foot into it.

“Are we goin’ out, mother?” he said, so as not to scream. His words
sounded sinister and terrible to himself.

“Yes; I’ll go an’ see if the girls are finished dressin’.” She took up
the candle, and her whisper grew sterner. “Don’t make a sound!”

“But where are we goin’, mother?” he said, to detain her for an instant.

“Goin’ home. We’re throwin’ up the position!” And for the first time the
exultation in her voice raised it above a whisper. Then, putting her
forefinger to her lip again, “Not a sound!” she breathed, menacingly,
and moved on tiptoe to the door, her face set and shining, her shadow
tumbling grotesquely on the walls and ceilings.

“A-a-a-h!” Billy fell back on the bed, screaming. Like a flash his
mother turned; her hand was clapped fiercely over his mouth.

“You little devil!” she hissed. “What do you mean by disobeyin’?”

“The light! The light!” he gurgled.

She withdrew her hand. “What are you shakin’ ’bout? There’s light
’nough.” She drew up the blind, and a faint moonlight blurred itself
through the frosty glass. “You’re growed up now, you big booby. An’ your
brothers are with you.”

“I’ll go with you,” he gasped, clutching at her skirt.

“With that crutch o’ yours, you pesky eyesore!” she whispered, angrily.
“You’ll stay with the little uns, bless their brave little hearts.” And
she clasped the dazed children to her breast. “The Lord hes punished him
for his cruelty to you.... Finish your dressin’, quick.” She released
the two little boys and glided cautiously from the room, holding the
candle low, so that her great wavering shadow darkened the room even
before the thicker horror of blackness fell when she was gone. The three
children pressed together, their heartbeats alone audible in the awful
stillness. They were too bewildered and terrified to exchange even a
whisper. An impalpable oppression brooded over the icy room, and a dull
torpor possessed their brain, so that they made no effort to understand.
They only felt that something unreal was happening, something
preternaturally solemn. After a dream-like interval of darkness, the
mysterious rustling was repeated without, a thin line of light crept
again under the door, and their mother’s face reappeared, gleaming lurid
in the circle of the candle-rays. The two girls loomed in her wake, a
big and a little, both wrapped up for a journey, but shivering and
yawning and rubbing their eyes, still glued together by sleep. The
younger boys, who had remained numb, guiltily gave the last hasty
touches to their costume under the irate gaze of their mother. But
Billy’s face had grown convulsed.

His mother advanced towards him, dazzling his eyes with the candle and
her face, and bending down so that her eyes lay almost on his.

“Don’t you dare to have a fit now,” she hissed, her features almost as
agitated as his own, “or I’ll cut your throat like I’ve cut his.”

The intensity of her will mastered him, oversweeping even the added
horror of her words, and combined with the return of the light to ward
off the threatened paroxysm. He dragged on his top-coat. Only a few
minutes had elapsed since he had sat up in bed, yet it seemed hours. The
mother stealthily led the way through the hushed house, down the
creaking stairs, blowing out the light in the hall. When she opened the
outer door the cold air smote their faces like a whip. As she was
cautiously closing the door a dark thing ran out through the aperture.

“There goes his soul!” she whispered, in grim exultation.

But it was only Sprat.

The creature, now old and infirm, quietly took his familiar place in the
rear of the procession, which now set forth over the frozen moonlit snow
under the solemn stars in the direction of Cobequid Village. The
farm-hands, asleep in the attic built over the kitchen, in an “ell,” or
annex, to the main house, heard nothing. Ruth, sleeping the sleep of
virginal health and innocence in her dainty chamber, was deep in kindly
dreams. The woman led the way noiselessly but rapidly, so that the
little children had to run to keep pace with her, and Billy dragged
himself along by clinging to her skirt, dreading to be left behind in
the great lonely night. The road led downhill towards a little valley,
in which stood the deacon’s grist-mill, hidden by trees, but, as they
drew near it, showing dark against the white hill that rose again beyond
it. They descended towards it through a cutting in the hill lined with
overhanging snow-drifts, curled like crystallized waves. Everything
seemed dead; the mill-pond was frozen and snow-covered; frozen bundles
of green hides stood in piles against the front of the mill; there were
icicles round the edges of the sullen cascade that fell over the dam.
The mill-stream was a sheet of ice, spotted ermine-wise with black dots,
where air-holes showed the gloomy water below. The procession crossed
the little wooden bridge, bordered by bare willows, whose branches
glittered with frost, and then the snow-path rose again. Every sound was
heard intensely in the keen air--the rumbling of the little water-fall,
the gurgling of the stream under the ice, the frost fusillade of the
zigzag pole fences snapping along the route, the crunch of crisp snow
under their feet. They mounted the hill, and reached the broad, flat
fields that stretched on white and bare to Cobequid. The last inch of
Deacon Hailey’s possessions was left behind. Then the leader of the
procession slackened her pace, and lifted up her voice in raucous

    “‘When Israel, of the Lord beloved,
       Out from the land of bondage came,
      Her fathers’ God before her moved,
       An awful guide in smoke and flame.’

“Now, then, sing up, children!” she cried.

Bewildered and still half asleep, they obeyed--in bleating, quavering
tones that came through chattering teeth to an accompaniment of cloudy

The woman and her children passed on into the night, singing. Amid the
stretches of sky and space they seemed a group of black insects crawling
across a great white plain.

       *       *       *       *       *

Abner Preep, coming down before dawn, found a bunch of children on the
great kitchen settee, asleep in their clothes. The mother sat on the
floor before the open stove, smiling happily and muttering to herself.
They had quietly taken possession of the old familiar room and stirred
up the slumbering fire.

For the first few seconds Abner wondered if he was dreaming, for the
next if he were mad. But another look at the crouching woman convinced
him that it was not he that was mad; while a phrase from her babbling
lips sent something of the truth home to his beating heart. He roused
Harriet and broke the news as gently as time permitted. The brave girl
bade him drive at once to Deacon Hailey’s while she kept guard over her
mother. Abner thereupon mounted his horse bare-back, to save time, and
galloped to the farm.

To his relief he found the deacon little injured. The neglect of his
beard had been “Ole Hey’s” salvation. It had sprouted thick and tangled
about his throat, and the mad woman, armed with a blunt knife, had only
inflicted a flesh-wound, leaving the trachea unsevered. The sleeping
man, suddenly awakening to the strange spectacle of his wife in out-door
attire brandishing a knife, had fainted from horror and loss of blood.
But presently recovering consciousness, he had clamored for Ruth, and
with her help bound up the wound, already half stanched by the clogging

The matter was kept in the family, but the deacon swore he would have no
more to do with the woman or her unmannerly brood beyond paying the
minimum for her incarceration where she could do no more mischief; and
so Abner took her forthwith by sleigh and train to the capital, and
placed her in a private asylum.

In this manner Mrs. Strang went back to Halifax.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Matt heard the awful tidings his air-castles crashed and fell as at
the crack of doom. Abner Preep was the messenger of evil, for Matt’s
painting tour had brought him near Halifax, and Abner thought it best to
look up his boyish enemy ere he went back home.

Beneath all the tumult of consternation in Matt’s breast there throbbed
an undertone of remorse--a vague feeling that this would never have
happened had he been on the spot. His boyish wilfulness had received its

“But it served him right,” he cried, with irresistible bitterness, when
he heard the deacon had not only washed his hands of the family, but was
now vindictively pressing Abner for the arrears of the mortgage interest
which had been allowed to lapse while Abner was building up his
position. Abner had always understood that Mrs. Strang had exacted the
freedom of her property. But there was nothing in black and white.

“There’s no gettin’ out of it,” said Abner, gloomily. “But your poor
father must hev made an everlastin’ mess of it, fur how there comes to
be so much to pay arter all these years fur a few acres of ground an’ a
wretched shanty, durned if I can make out.”

“He cheated father, you may depend,” said Matt, hotly.

“I wouldn’t go as fur nor thet,” said Abner. “It ain’t right to call a
man a thief without proof. Anyway, I’ve got to stump up. I shouldn’t ha’
minded it in an ornery way, though I _hev_ got two babies, bless their
souls. But it comes hard jest now, with five extra mouths to feed.”

“Oh, but you are not going to feed them!”

“Who, then?”

“Me, of course.”

“Nonsense, nonsense, Matt!” said Abner. “You’ve got to go to London an’
larn paintin’. Harriet’s told me all ’bout you, an’ she’s got some o’
your picters, an’ they’re rael beautiful. There’s one in our bedroom.
Besides, they’re all growed up now a’most, an’ they’ll soon be feedin’
theirselves. An’ then, you see, the house itself is your sister’s, not

“It’s mighty good of you,” said Matt, hoarsely, “but it isn’t fair.”

“No more it was o’ me fightin’ you thet thar time,” said Abner, smiling.
“This evens things up.”

There was a great lump in Matt’s throat so that he could not speak. He
held out his hand mutely, and Abner took it, and they gripped each other
so heartily that the tears started to the eyes of both.

“Then thet’s settled,” said Abner, with husky cheeriness.

“No, that’s only to beg your pardon,” said Matt, recovering his voice.
“I’ve been a skunk to you, that’s a fact. But I’m not going to behave
badly again. I’m just raking in the dollars now hand over fist, and
learning painting all the time into the bargain. I don’t want a bit to
go to London, and I’ve put by two hundred and eighty dollars that aren’t
the least use to me, and that ’ll just come in handy to pay the old
scoundrel. And I can easily send you five dollars a week till I earn
more. Billy alone ’ll cost you near that, I guess, and it’s my fault he
can’t earn anything hardly.”

In the end the imperious Matt had his way, and, while the boy went on to
see his mother, Abner returned home with the situation considerably
lightened, the bearer of money for Deacon Hailey, and loving messages
for all Matt’s brothers and sisters, even Harriet being now restored to

Matt found his mother in a small padded room in a house that stood on
the hill overlooking the harbor. She was gazing yearningly seaward, and
tears trickled down her doleful cheeks. Matt stood silently near the
door, surveying her askance with aching heart. Abner had told him that
her life with Deacon Hailey had grown a blank to her, and he wondered if
she would recognize him; in the last two years he had shot up from a
hobbledehoy into a tall, stalwart youth.

When she turned her head at last and espied him she leaped up with a
wild cry of joy, and folded him in her arms.

“Davie!” she cried, rapturously. “My own Davie! At last! I didn’t see
your ship come in.”

A nervous thrill ran down Matt’s spine as he submitted to her embrace.
The separate tragedies of his parents’ lives seemed poignantly knit
together in this supreme moment.

“They’re so strict with me here, Davie,” she said. “Take me away from my
folks, anywhere, where we can be happy and free. I don’t care what they
say any more--I am so tired of all this humdrum life.”

Matt pacified her as best he could, and, promising to arrange it all
soon, left her, his heart nigh breaking. He walked about the bustling
streets like one in a dream, resenting the sunshine, and wondering why
all these people should be so happy. Again that ancient image of his
father’s dead face was tossed up on the waves of memory, to keep
company henceforth with the death-in-life of his mother’s face. The
breakdown of his ambition seemed a petty thing beside these vaster
ironies of human destiny.



On a dull February day a respectably clad steerage passenger disembarked
at Southampton with little luggage and great hopes. He was only twenty,
but he looked several years older. There were deep traces of thought and
suffering in the face, bronzed though it was; and despite the vigorous
set of the mouth and the jaw, the dark eyes were soft and dreamy. He was
clean-shaven except for a dark-brown mustache, which combined with the
little tangle of locks on his forehead to suggest the artistic
temperament, and to repel the insinuation of rough open-air labor
radiating from his sturdy frame and bearing.

Matt Strang’s foot had touched England at last. Two long, monotonous
years of steadfast endurance, self-sacrifice, and sordid economies--two
years of portrait and sign painting, interrupted by spells of
wagon-striping at two and a half dollars a day, had again given him the
mastery of three hundred dollars, despite his despatch of five dollars a
week to Abner Preep, and of a final subsidy of one hundred dollars to
bridge over the time till he should have a footing in England. Gradually
the cloud of despondency had rolled off, the spring-time of life and
aspiration would not be denied, and though the pity and terror of his
mother’s tragedy had tamed his high spirit and snapped the springs of
buoyancy, the passion for painting returned with an intensity that
dulled him to every appeal of the blood in his veins; and with it a
haunting fear that he could never live to see London or his artist
uncle, that he would die in the flower of his youth, all his
possibilities latent. So impatient was he to give this fear the lie that
he suffered a vexatious loss through his hurry to realize the bills and
the goods in which his art had too often found payment. When the steamer
floundered into a field of ice off Newfoundland, his semi-superstitious
feeling wellnigh amounted to a quiet conviction that he would be
shipwrecked in sight of port, the three hundred dollars serving but to
sink him deeper.

Without stopping in Southampton to tempt Providence, he went straight on
to London, every vein in him pulsing with feverish anticipations of
mysterious splendors. The engine panted in answering exultation, and the
rattle of the carriages was a rhythmic song of triumph. At last he was
approaching the city of his dreams--the mighty capital of culture and
civilization, where Art was loved and taught and honored. For some days
now his whole being had been set in this key.

He sat at the window, gazing eagerly at the sunless landscapes that
raced past him. Gradually he became aware of the approach of the
monstrous city. Fields were interrupted by houses; later, houses were
interrupted by fields; then the rural touches grew fewer and fewer, and
at last he sped under a leaden sky amid appalling, endless, everlasting
perspectives of chimney-pots and sooty tiles, and dingy houses and dead
walls and vomiting columns and gasworks and blank-faced factories
reeking with oppressive odors--on and on and on, as amid the infinities
of a mean Inferno, whirring past geometrical rows of murky backyards
with dust-bins and clothes-lines, and fleeting glimpses of grimy women
and shock-headed children and slouching men, thundering over bridges
that spanned gray streets relieved by motley traffic and advertisement
hoardings, and flashing past gaunt mansions of poverty--bald structures
with peeling fronts and bleared windows. There was a sombre
impressiveness in the manifold frowziness, the squalid monotony; it was
the sublime of the sordid. Fresh as Matt was from the immensities of sea
and sky, the shabbiness of the spectacle caught at his throat; he
thought chokingly of the unnumbered, unnoticed existences dragging
dismally along within those bleak, congested barracks.

What had all this to do with Art? The glow of his blood died away, to be
rekindled only by the seething streets into which he emerged from the
clangorous maze of Waterloo Station; the throb of tumultuous life that
beat as a drum and stirred the blood as a trumpet. Yet he had not come
up to conquer London, but to sit at its feet. His bitter experience of
life had destroyed every vestige of cocksureness, almost of confidence,
leaving him shy and sometimes appalled at his own daring, as he realized
the possibilities of self-delusion. He knew that fame and money were the
guerdons of Art, but these were only indirectly in his mind. If they
sometimes flashed to his heart in intoxicating instants of secret hope,
he was too full of the consciousness of his disadvantages and
imperfections to think much of anything beyond getting the necessary
training. Far down the vista of thought and years lay this rosy rim of
splendor, a faint haze dimly discerned, but the joy of learning and
practising his art was the essence of his yearning. And yet there were
moments, like this of feeling London under his foot for the first time,
when a consciousness of power welled up in his soul--a sense of
overflowing energy and immovable purpose that lifted him high above the
crowd of shadows.

Escaping the touts and cabmen, he carried his valise across a great
noiseful bridge to the nearest inexpensive-looking hotel, intending to
secure a base of operations from which to reconnoitre London before
looking up his uncle. But though he was at once booked for a room, the
genteel air of the place, with its well-dressed customers and white-tied
waiters, terrified him with the prevision of a portentous bill. He would
have backed out at once had he dared, but, he thought, now that he was
in for it, he would give it a week’s trial. He took only his breakfasts
there, however, though the unnatural hour at which he took them made him
an object of suspicion. He seemed always on the point of catching an
early train. His other meals were taken at those modest restaurants
where twopence is not a tip, but the price of a dish, and the menu is
cut up into slips and pasted across the shop-window.

His first visit on the day of his arrival was to the National Gallery,
not only to fulfil a cherished dream, but to see his uncle’s pictures,
to talk of which might smooth the meeting. But he could nowhere come
across the works of Matthew Strang, and a catalogue he could not
afford; and he soon forgot the unseen pictures in the emotions excited
by the seen, which plunged him into alternate heats of delight and
chills of despair.

Despair alone possessed him at first in his passage through the
Florentine and Sienese rooms. The symbolic figures of Catholicism had
scant appeal for a soul which in its emergence from Puritan swaddlings
had not opened out to mediævalism, and the strange draughtsmanship
blinded him to everything else. If Margaritone or even Botticelli was
Art, then his ideas must be even cruder than he had feared. He was
relieved to find, as he continued his progress, that it must be the
Madonnas that were crude, for he was apparently following the evolution
of Art. But the sense of his own superior technique was brief--despair
came back by another route. Before the later masters he was reduced to a
worshipper, thrilled to tears. And, somewhat to his own astonishment, it
was not only the poetic and imaginative that compelled this religious
ecstasy; his soul was astrain for high vision, yet it was seized at once
by Moroni’s “Portrait of a Tailor,” and by the exquisite
modelling--though he did not know the word for it--of the head in his
“Portrait of an Ecclesiastic.” To the young Nova Scotian, who had so
chafed at having to paint uncouth farmers, it was an illumination to see
how in the hands of a Teniers, or, above all, a Rembrandt, the
commonplace could be transfigured by force of technique and sympathy.
And yet he surrendered more willingly to the romantic, held by the later
“Philip the Fourth” of Velasquez, as much for its truculent kingly theme
as for the triumphantly subtle coloring, which got the effects of
modelling almost without the aid of shadows. And the fever of
inspiration and mastery, the sense of flowing paint which pervaded and
animated the portrait of the Admiral, was the more entrancing because of
the romantic figure of the Spanish sailor; while beside Rembrandt’s
“Jewish Merchant,” with its haunting suggestion of suffering and the
East, even the fine Vandyke, its neighbor, seemed to lose in poetry.

The brilliant and seizing qualities had his first vote; luminosity of
color, richness of handling, grip of composition--all that leaped to the
eye. Being alone, he had the courage of his first impressions; and
having always been alone, he had the broadness that is clipped by
school. The beautiful sense of form and landscape in Titian’s “Christ
Appearing to Mary Magdalen” captivated him, though for subject he
preferred the “Bacchus and Ariadne.” He was equally for Murillo’s “St.
John and the Lamb,” and for Andrea del Sarto’s portrait of himself; for
Palma’s Christ-like “Portrait of a Painter.” He wondered wistfully
whence Bassano’s “Good Samaritan” took the glow of its color, or
Greuze’s “Head of a Girl” its pathetic grace, and he was as struck by
the fine personal, if sometimes unsure, touch of Gainsborough as by the
vigorous handling and extraordinary painting force of Sir Joshua
Reynolds, whose children alone he found unreservedly delicious.

Amid many sound if superficial judgments were many crude admirations and
condemnations, destined to undergo almost annual revision. At the
present stage of his growth, for example, the charming Correggio was his
ideal of an artist--to wit, a skilful painter, suffusing poetical themes
with poetical feeling.

Subject counted for him: a sympathetic theme seemed to him of the
essence of Art.

But the craftsman in him was not to be suppressed. When he was absorbed
in Raphael’s “Pope Julius II.,” his practical self suggested that the
reds needed varnishing to bring up the head from the background; and
though the fine feeling of Joseph Ribera’s “Dead Christ” awoke
long-dormant chords of religious emotion, what moved him most was the
modelling of the foot caressed by the Magdalen’s hair. His emotion
subsided in the study of the painter’s mannerisms, his heavy blacks and
shadows. His delight in the luminous quality of Bordone’s “Portrait of a
Lady” was modified by an uneasy conviction that the left hand was
unnatural. Even in Moroni’s portraits the hands seemed slightly too
small. Though he was astonished at the triviality of subject in Gerard
Dow’s “Fish and Poultry Shop,” he must fain admire the exquisite quality
of the still-life passages and the loving patience of the infinite
touches; in Van Mieris’ treatment of the same subject he found a
resentful pleasure in the discovery that, despite the marvellous
accuracy of the dish of fish and the vegetables, the woman’s head was
too little, her left arm too heavy and too big for the right, her flesh
more like fish, and her very cat purring in contented ignorance of its
wrong proportions.

In the landscape galleries he was puzzled by the old classic landscape;
the occasional fineness of line, the masterly distribution of masses,
did not counterbalance his sense of unreality before these brown trees
and sombre backgrounds. Where were the sunlight and atmosphere of Nature
as he had known her, the sky over all, subtly interfused with all the
living hues, the fresh, open-air feeling which he had tried to put into
his own humble sketches of Nova-Scotian forest, and by virtue of which
he found more of the great mother in Peter de Hoogh’s pictures of the
courts of Dutch houses than in all the templed woodlands of the
pre-Gainsborough period? But Constable revealed to him the soul of
loveliness of rural England, setting in his heart a pensive yearning for
those restful woods and waters; Crome touched his imagination with the
sweep of his lonely heaths; and Turner dazzled him with irisations of
splendid dream, and subdued him with the mystery and poetry of sea and

And the total effect of this first look round was inspiration. Over all
the whirling confusion of the appeal of so many schools and ages, over
all his bewilderment before early Italian pictures that seemed to him
badly drawn and modern English that seemed banal, over all his
dispiriting diffidence before the masterpieces, was an exultant sense of
brotherhood, as of a soul come home at last. There were pictures to
which he returned again and again with a feeling of reverential kinship,
a secret audacious voice whispering that he understood those who had
painted them--that he too was of their blood and race, though come from
very far, and lonely and unknown; that he too had thrilled with the
beauty and mystery of things; that he too had seen visions and heard
voices. Quitting the gallery with regret tempered by the prospect of
many magic hours in the society of its treasures, he found out the
whereabouts of the Limners’ Club, and took his way towards Bond Street,
every sense thrilling with vivid perceptions, receiving pleasant
impressions from the shop-windows, exhilarated by the pretty women that
brushed by him with a perfume of fashion, and keenly enjoying the roar
of the town.

On the threshold of the club he inquired for Mr. Matthew Strang. The
door-keeper eyed him surlily, and said there was no such member. The
world grew suddenly dark and bleak again. He stammered in piteous
apology that Mr. Strang had given him that address; and the janitor, a
whit softened by his evident distress, admitted that Mr. Strang was
sometimes about the club, and volunteered to send the boy to see--an
offer which Matt gratefully accepted with a sense of taking alms. But
Mr. Strang was not on the premises, and Matt was further driven to
inquire where he _could_ be found. The door-keeper, tired of him,
replied to the effect that he was not Mr. Strang’s keeper, and that it
was not unusual to look for gentlemen in their own homes; whereupon Matt
turned miserably away, too disheartened to ask where his uncle’s own
home was situate, and feeling that there was nothing for it but to keep
watch over the club door till the great painter should appear. He
lingered about at a safe distance (for to be seen by the door-keeper
were terrible), scanning with eager glances the faces of the few men who
passed through the swinging glass doors, his imagination glorifying
them, and seeing rather halos than silk hats on their heads. But at last
the futility of his sentinelship dawned upon him; he could not be sure
of recognizing his uncle; he could not accost the celestials and
question them; he must come again and again till he found his uncle at
the club. The thought of facing the door-keeper made him flinch, but he
knew the road to Art was thorny and precipitous.

It was three o’clock, but he had forgotten to lunch. Now that his
emotions had been chilled, he remembered he was hungry. He looked around
in vain for a mean eating-house, then reluctantly slipped into a
public-house and ordered a glass of ale and something brown and dumpy
which he saw under a glass cover. The wench who served him smiled so
amiably that he was emboldened to ask if by chance she knew where
Matthew Strang lived. Her smile died away, and nothing succeeded it.

“Matthew Strang, the painter,” said Matt, with a ghastly suspicion that
the girl did not even know the name. London to him meant largely Matthew
Strang; it was to Matthew Strang that he had taken his ticket and booked
his passage, it was to get to Matthew Strang that he had starved and
pinched himself, and it depressed him to discover the limitations of
fame--to find that Matthew Strang was not hung in the air like
Mohammed’s coffin, ’twixt earth and heaven, for all to see.

“There’s the Directory,” said the girl, lugging it down when she
perceived that the good-looking young man with the curious drawling
accent was not quizzing her. “You’ll find painters in the Trade

The barmaid’s satire was unconscious. Understanding the bulky red volume
but dimly, Matt hunted up “Strang” in the general section. He was
surprised to see there was more than one person of that name. But
fortunately there was only one Matthew Strang, and he lived in a side
street off Cavendish Square. Warmly thanking the girl, Matt gulped down
his ale and hurried out to inquire the way, munching the relics of the
cake as he hastened towards the long-elusive goal. Very soon, scanning
the numbers, his eye flashed and his heart leaped up. There it was--the
magic name--actually ’twixt earth and heaven, painted above a
shop-window. Surprised, he came to a stand-still.

The window was one which would have arrested him in any case, for it was
illumined with paintings and engravings, and through the doorway Matt
saw enchanting stacks of pictures mounting from floor to ceiling, and
the side wall was a gallery of oils and water-colors, and an aroma of
art and refinement and riches seemed over everything, from the gold of
the frames of the oil-colors to the chaste creamy margins of the
engravings. He entered the shop with beating heart. His eyes lit first
on a sweet-faced matron in a cap standing at the far end of the shop,
reverentially surveying a faded “Holy Family,” and while he was
wondering whether she was the artist’s wife, a dapper young gentleman,
installed behind a broad desk near the door, startled him by asking his

He coughed uneasily, overcome by sudden diffidence. The series of
barriers between him and his uncle gave the great painter an appalling

“I want to see Mr. Matthew Strang,” he stammered.

The dapper young gentleman looked inquiringly towards the sweet-faced
matron. “Can this gentleman see Mr. Strang, Madame?” he said. Matt
noticed that he wore a pearl horseshoe in his cravat.

“Certainly, sir. Be seated,” said the lady, with grave courtesy and a
pleasant touch of foreign accent, such as Matt had heard in the French
families of Acadia. She disappeared for a moment, and returned in the
wake of a saturnine-looking elderly gentleman, with interrogative
eyebrows, a pointed beard, and a velvet jacket, the first sight of whom
gave Matt the heart-sickness of yet another disappointment. But though
his keen eye soon snipped off the pointed beard and wiped off the
sallowness of civilization, revealing the David Strang interblent with
the Matthew, his heart-sickness remained. The gap between him and this
fine gentleman and great artist seemed too great to be bridged over thus
suddenly. He became acutely conscious of his homely clothes, of his
coarse, unlettered speech, of the low, menial occupations he had
followed; he saw himself furling the sail and carrying the hod and
sawing the wood; he felt himself far below the dapper young shopman with
the pearl horse-shoe, and his throat grew parched and his eyes misty.

“Good-afternoon, sir,” said his uncle, rubbing his hands with chilling
geniality. “What can I have the pleasure of doing for you?”

In that instant Matt perceived all the perversity of which he had been
guilty, he remembered he had flown in the face of his uncle’s kind
advice, and had not even apprised him of his departure from America.

“I want to buy some colors,” he faltered.

His uncle’s eyebrows mounted. “We do not sell colors, young man,” he
said, frigidly.

“I thought--” Matt stammered.

Matthew Strang contemptuously turned on his heel and withdrew. His
nephew lingered desperately in the shop, without the strength either to
go or to stay.

The lady, who had half followed her husband, turned back hesitatingly,
and with reassuring sweetness said: “You will get colors near at hand,
in Oxford Street. We only sell pictures.”

Under her penetrating sympathy Matt found courage to say: “I’m sorry Mr.
Strang got streaked.”

“Streaked?” echoed Madame, opening her eyes, as with a vision of
broadcloth brushing against wet canvases.

“I mean angry,” said Matt, confusion streaking his own face with red.

“Yes, I remember now,” said madam, sweetly. “It’s an American word.”

“Yes; it was in America that I heard of Mr. Strang,” he replied, slowly,
striving to accentuate his words, as though he were reading them from a

“Indeed?” Madame flushed now.

“Yes, I heard of his fame as a painter.”

“Ah.” Her eyes sparkled. Roses leaped into her blond cheeks. “I always
told him his work was admirable,” she cried, in exultant excitement,
“but he is so easily discouraged.”

Matt thrilled with a sense of the man’s greatness.

“So you see,” he said, with a quaver of emotion in his voice, “I was
just wild to see him.”

“I am so glad,” cried Madame, with a charming smile. “I will go and tell
my husband. He really must see you. Matthew,” she called out,
tremulously, fluttering towards the passage.

The saturnine figure in the velvet coat descended again.

“You must talk to the young gentleman, dear. He has heard of your fame
in America.”

Matthew Strang’s interrogative eyebrows reached their highest point, and
Matt’s face got more streaked than ever. He felt he was in a false

“I heard of you from my father,” he said, hurriedly. “What is the price
of this?” he asked in his confusion, half turning towards the shopman.

“This etching of Millet’s ‘Angelus’? Three guineas, sir.” He added,
gauging his man, “We have a photogravure of the same subject--a little
smaller--for half a guinea.”

“Your father!” repeated Mr. Strang, gruffly. “He was a brother artist, I

Matt would have given much to say he was not an artist, but a brother.
But he replied instead: “No, not exactly. He was a captain.” He felt
somehow as if the whole guilt of his father’s calling rested upon
himself, and it was mean of him to cross the Atlantic to impose some of
it on the dignified figure before him.

“Oh, I love soldiers,” murmured Madame Strang.

Matt felt things were now entangled beyond the possibility of even
future extrication, so he desperately consented to purchase the
photogravure, threw down a sovereign, and, snatching up the change and
the picture-roll, hurried from the establishment.

“What a charming young man!” said Madame Strang.

But Matthew Strang tapped his forehead significantly.

“You always will run yourself down, dear,” murmured Madame.

“Josephine,” replied Matthew Strang, in low, solemn tones, “the fellow
is either a fool or a rogue.”

“He’s left sixpence on the desk,” broke in the voice of the shopman.

“Ha! a fool! It is enough for me to live in my son. He has advantages
which I was denied.”

“The dear boy,” breathed Madame.

The extravagant purchaser of the “Angelus” divided the rest of his week
between the National Gallery, where he concluded his uncle had not yet
been canonized, and the streets of London, which he explored fearlessly.
In a few days of industrious investigation he saw more than many a
Londoner sees in a lifetime. He had experience of the features and
cook-shops of Peckham, Rotherhithe, Clapton, Westminster, Covent Garden,
the East India Docks, the Tower, wandering wherever the shapeless city
stretched its lubber limbs, and seeing things and places that made him
glad of the protection of the pistol he carried in his hip-pocket. The
very formlessness of the city fascinated even while it dazed him. He
ceased to wonder that artists found inspiration in this atmosphere, in
which the fog itself seemed but the visible symbol of the innumerable
mysterious existences swarming in its obscure vastness. The unexpected
was everywhere, green closes in the heart of commerce, quiet quadrangles
in the byways of Fleet Street, quaint old churches by the river-side,
bawling market-places behind stately mansions, great parks set in
deserts of arid poverty, bustling docks hidden away in back streets, and
elegant villas at the end of drab, dismal, long-trailing East-end
thoroughfares, redolent of slush and cabbage-leaves and public-houses
and fried fish. Miles were of light account to one who had lived in a
land of great spaces, yet Matt was wearied by the lengthy sweep of the
great arteries and the multiplicity of their ramifications, by this
vastness that was but reiterated narrowness in its lack of the free open
horizons to which his eye was used.

But the Titanic city awoke strange responses in his soul; something in
him vibrated to the impulse of the endless panorama. Often his fingers
itched for the brush, as if to translate into color and line all this
huge pageant of life; for the spell of youthful poesy was still on his
eyes, and if he could not see London as he had seen his native fields
and sky and ocean, all fresh and pure and beautiful, if in the crude day
its sordid streets seemed labyrinths in an underworld, unlovely,
intolerable, there were atmospheres and lights in which it still loomed
upon his vision through the glamour of fantasy, and chiefly at night,
when the mighty city brooded in sombre majesty, magnificently
transfigured by the darkness, and the solemn river stretched in
twinkling splendor between enchanted warehouses, or shadowed itself with
the inverted architecture of historic piles, or lapped against the gray
old Tower dreaming of ancient battle. But he could only take rough
pencil or mental notes of the romance of it all, and it was almost
always the fantastic that touched his imagination and found expression
in the pictorial short-hand of his sketch-book--lurid splotches of
sunset against tall, grimy chimneys; tawny barges gliding over black
canal-waters shot with quivering trails of liquid gold from the morning
sun; ragged Rembrandtesque figures asleep under glooming railway arches,
over which trains flew with shining windows; street perspectives at
twilight, with strange, livid skies; filmy evening rain blurring the
lights of the town to a tender haze; late omnibuses tearing by
glistering, moonlit pavements, and casting the shadows of the outside
passengers on the sleeping houses; foggy forenoons, with the eye of day
inflamed and swollen in the yellow heaven. With his purchase of the
“Angelus,” on the other hand, he was not greatly taken, despite its
sentiment. He had seen too much of peasants; he had himself stooped over
the furrows when his heart was elsewhere; his soul turned from the mean
drudgeries and miseries of the human lot, yearning for the flash of
poetry, the glow of romance, the light of dream.

In spite of his boarding out, his bill for the week’s bed, breakfast,
and attendance reached as far as £1 19_s._ 3_d._--a terrifying total
that drove him headlong into the frowsiest coffee-house to be found in
the slums round Holborn. Here he spent a wretched, interminable night,
provoked by insects and mysterious noises into dressing again and
keeping his hand on his pistol as he sat shivering on a chair. The
staircases resounded with the incessant tramp of feet mounting and
descending, and there were bursts of rowdy laughter and blows and tipsy
jeers, and once his locked door was shaken, and Matt thought he had
fallen into a thieves’ den, and trembled for his savings. In the morning
he called for his account and left, not without having discovered the
real character of the place into which he had strayed. After some
trouble he chanced upon a clean furnished room in the same neighborhood
for four shillings and sixpence a week, attendance included. It was a
back room on the third floor, and it gave on a perspective of tiles and
shabby plaster, and the evidences of jerry-building in the doors and
windows discomforted the whilom joiner’s apprentice; but he calculated
that for less than twenty of his pounds he would have a foothold in
London for a year. He wellnigh cried to think of the weeks he had lost
in that week of hotel luxury. On sixpence a day he could sustain life.
On ninepence he could live in clover. Why, even making lavish allowance
for the technical expenses of which his uncle had warned him, he would
easily be able to stay on for a whole year. In a year--a year of
ceaseless painting--what might he not achieve?

Ah, what hopes harbored, what dreams hovered in that bleak little room!
The vague, troubled rumor of the great city rolled up in inspiring
mystery; the light played with instructive fascination upon the sooty
tiles; high over the congested chaos of house-tops he saw the evening
mists rifted with sunset, and on starry nights he touched the infinite
through his rickety casement.



Only, where to learn? There was the rub. He had looked to his uncle to
put him in the way of instantly acquiring art, and here had he wasted a
week without acquiring even information. But in the British Museum he
lighted upon young men and women drawing from the antique, and entering
into conversation with the shabbiest of the men, who was working at the
head of a Roman emperor in chalk, pecking at it with a pointed pellet of
bread, he learned that the Roman emperor’s head was intended, in
alliance with the torso of a Greek river-god, to force the doors of the
Royal Academy Schools, the privileges of which gratuitous establishment
the aspirant duly recounted. But the examination would not take place
for some time, and Matt, though he felt it hard to have to pay fees
elsewhere in the meantime, was secretly pleased at being able to shelve
temporarily the thought of partaking in this examination, for the Roman
emperor’s head was appallingly stippled, and the student said he had
been at work on it for four months, and evidently meditated touching and
retouching it till the very eve of the examination. Matt did not think
he could ever muster sufficient interest in Roman emperors to live with
the head of one for more than a week. His heart sank at the thought of
what he might have to go through to please professors and examiners, but
he would have willingly tried his hand at copying a bust had not the
student informed him he must apply for permission and give a reference
to a reputable householder. With the exception of his unclaimed uncle,
Matt knew no one, reputable or disreputable, householder or vagrant. But
he obtained from the shabby delineator of the Roman emperor the address
of a cheap, good art-school, though he found, to his dismay, that even
at the cheapest he could only afford to take the night class, from seven
to ten, three times a week. He saw he would have to study form apart
from natural color, and apply during the days the preachings of the
three nights. Impatient, and holding his paint-box tight against his
palpitating heart, he set out that very night to join the class, but
losing himself in a labyrinth of squares exactly alike, did not find the
school till half-past seven. Passing through an open door marked
“Grainger’s Academy of Art” in ugly and faded lettering, he found
himself in a long, gloomy passage that led away from the rest of the
house; and, following the indication of a dirty finger painted on the
wall, he stole cautiously along the deserted corridor, which grew
momentarily drearier as it receded from the naked jet of gas in the
doorway, till it reached its duskiest at the point where it was bordered
by a pair of cloak-rooms. Matt peered eagerly into their shadowy depths,
which seemed to contain coals and a bicycle and litter, as well as
clothing, and to exhale a flavor of ancient stuffiness; but he could
detect no movement among the congested overcoats. At last, at the end of
the passage, he stumbled against a boy in buttons kneeling with his eye
to the key-hole of a door. Apologetically he asked the boy if this was
Grainger’s, and the boy, jumping up quickly, told him to walk in, and
retreated in haste.

Matt opened the door. A wave of insufferably hot air, reeking of
tobacco, smote his face and his nostrils; a glare of light dazzled his
eyes. He was vaguely aware of a great square room crowded with young men
in uncouth straw hats sitting or standing at work in their shirt-sleeves
before easels; but the whole scene was a blur compared with the central
point that stood out in disconcerting clearness. Immediately facing him,
on a platform at the other end of the room, a nude woman was standing.
He started back shocked, and was meditating flight, when a student near
him growled to him to shut the door. He obeyed, and had an instant of
awful loneliness and embarrassment amid this crowd of gifted strangers,
in the rear of which he stood, paint-box under arm, wondering why nobody
challenged his entry, and where Grainger was. Turning to look for him,
he upset a rickety easel and a disengaged stool, both of which seemed to
topple over at the slightest touch. But his awkwardness saved the
situation; the owner of the easel was good-natured and, perceiving he
was a new-comer, bade him seat himself on the stool and fix up an easel
next to him, the number painted on the oilcloth of the floor being
unappropriated. As Matt had no canvas, he even went outside to buy him
one for two-and-ninepence from the boy in buttons. Matt handed him the
money with a feeling of eternal gratitude.

While his amiable fellow was thus busied in his behalf, the new
student’s keen eye absorbed the scene in detail. A great square dusty
room, rimmed as to the roof by skylights, and lighted to-night from
above by a great circular gas-flare; round two of the walls, patched
here and there by the crumbling away of the plaster, ran a rack on which
innumerable canvases and drawing-boards were stacked, and underneath the
rack a streak of wood permeated the plaster to hold the pins by which
crude sketches were fastened up, evidently for criticism; here and there
hung notices of the meetings of Grainger’s Sketching Club, mixed up with
photographs and advertisements of studios, and of a drawing competition
instituted by the proprietors of a soap, and the mural ornamentation was
completed by clever nude studies, rapid _tours de force_ of the visiting
artists, as Matt discovered later; everywhere about the floor were
canvases, boards, and an unstable assortment of three-legged easels,
donkeys, quaintly carved chairs, and stools, high and low, upon which
last students of all figures and complexions, some of them smoking, sat
perched, crowned with the uncouth straw hats to keep the glare out of
their eyes, and reduced to the shirt-sleeves by the heat from so many
lights and breaths; the pendent gas-jets being supplemented by the
paraffine lamp that lighted a shadowy corner where a skull grinned on a
shelf, and by the big fire that was needed to keep the model from
shivering on the throne, where she stood statuesque against the white
background of a dirty sheet, her head resting against her arm.

And from everything breathed an immemorial dust--from the fire in the
centre of the right-hand wall an impalpable ash seemed to drift; dust
covered the mantel-piece and coated the bottles of linseed-oil and
fixative and the boxes of charcoal that stood upon it, dust draped in
gray the dilapidated squash-nosed lay-figure that leaned drunkenly
against the right side of the throne. In the corners of the room the
dust had an air of legal possession, as if the statute of limitations
had secured it against the broom. There were dusty mysteries doubled up
on shelves, a visible leopard’s skin suggesting infinite romantic
possibilities for the others, and within a dusty barrel in a corner near
him Matt saw dusty bits of velvet and of strange, splendid stuffs which
he divined were for costume models, and the floor seemed a land of lost
drawing-pins and forgotten fragments of charcoal. And then his heart
gave a great leap, for his eye, returning timidly to the throne where it
had scarcely dared as yet to rest, encountered a man’s head bending over
a writing-desk in the compartment of the floor to the left of it. Surely
it could be no other than Grainger himself, that thin, austere man with
the big bald forehead and the air of Wellington, and Matt thrilled with
proportionate reverence, and turned his eye away, as if dazzled, to
repose it on the inchoate paintings of the students who were squinting
scientifically at the model, and measuring the number of heads with
sticks of charcoal or their brush-handles. Some had her large, some
small; some turned her head this way, some that; some were painting her,
some drawing her--each from his point of sight.

As soon as his own canvas arrived, altogether forgetting his startled
modesty in the delightful interest of the work, he fell to touching in
the head with rapid strokes of a flowing brush. The woman vanished in
the woman’s form: what a privilege to enjoy and reproduce those
beautiful curves, those subtle fleshtones, those half-tints of cream and
rose, seen under gaslight!

“What are you about?” said his mentor, presently.

“Painting her portrait,” he replied, pausing, with painful foreboding.

“But where’s the charcoal outline?”

“The charcoal outline!”

“Yes. You can’t paint her without sketching her first in charcoal.”

“Can’t I?” asked Matt, with a sudden remorseful recollection of his
first sitter, the Acadian legislator whose portrait had paved his way to
sign-painting. He hastened to efface his ignorance with a palette-knife,
and to obliterate it with a rag moistened with turpentine; but he was
frightened and nervous and denuded of confidence in himself, and when he
attempted to outline the figure the charcoal boggled at the greasy
surface of the canvas; and while he was wrestling with his medium he
became conscious that the great Grainger was behind him, and a
nervousness that he had not felt when he pointed his gun at the bear in
his forest home paralyzed his hand. Grainger stood for some moments
watching his fumbling strokes, then he said:

“You want to join the Life class?”

Matt, flushing furiously, stammered an affirmative.

“Don’t you think you’d better begin with the Antique?” asked Grainger.

Matt murmured that he didn’t care about the Antique anyhow, and Grainger
shook his austere head.

“Ah! there’s no getting on without slogging away; it’s no good shirking
the ground-work. The living figure is all subtle lines. You can’t expect
to be equal to them without years of practice at the Antique and

Matt plucked up courage to guess that he would have another try at the
figure, and Grainger, having pocketed a quarter’s fees, moved off,
leaving Matt amazed at his own temerity.

“Do you think he’ll be annoyed if I stay on here?” he asked his mentor,
as he resumed his work with the determination to prove himself not
unworthy of the privilege.

“If you want to chuck your money away, it’s your lookout,” said his
mentor, candidly. “You don’t hurt him.”

“Then he won’t say anything?”

“It doesn’t matter what he says. He’s not up to much.”

“No?” queried Matt, astonished. “Isn’t he a great painter?”

The student laughed silently. “A great painter keep a school!” he said.
“No; it’s only the failures that do that!”

“Then how can one learn?” asked Matt, in dismay.

“Oh, well, we have a visitor once a week--he’s rather a good man.
Tarmigan! He’s not an R.A., but he can knock off a head in twenty

“But the R.A.’s--what are they for?” inquired Matt, only partially

“For show,” said the young man, smartly. “You _are_ a green un, to think
that you’re going to get Academicians for thirty bob a month. You’ve got
to go to the Academy Schools if you want _them_. And then the chaps say
they’re not much use. Most of them are out of date, and you get a
different man every month who contradicts all the others. A fellow I
know says the best of the visitors is Marmor, but he’s awfully noisy and
facetious, and claps you on the back, and tells you a story, and forgets
to criticise. And then there’s Peters--he sighs and says ‘Very tender,’
and you think you’ve improved, till you hear him say ‘Very tender’ to
the next man too. The chief advantage of going to a school is that you
get a model which you couldn’t afford to hire for yourself, and you
learn from the other fellows. And then, of course, there’s
composition--Tarmigan’s jolly good for that.”

By this time Matt had sketched his outline, and he was about to resume
the brush when the clock struck eight. The model stretched herself and
retired behind the dirty sheet, which now operated as a screen, and
there was a rising, a putting down of palettes (each with its brushes
stuck idly in its thumb-hole), an outburst of exclamations, a striking
of matches, a mechanical rolling of cigarettes, a sudden lowering of the
lights, and a general air of breaking up.

“School over already?” he asked, in a disappointed tone.

“No, they’re only turning the gas down for coolness while the model has
a rest. You see, she can’t stand two hours straight off the reel.”

“No, I guess not,” said Matt, and then repented of having said “guess,”
for he was trying to prune away his humble expressions and to remember
the idioms of the educated people with whom his new life was bringing
him into contact. “It must be awful hard,” he added.

“Yes; especially in a school where a lot of chaps are working at once,
and she can’t rest a limb because somebody might just be painting it.
One woman told me she’d rather scrub floors so as to feel her limbs
moving about. But posing pays better. This is a new model--first time
she’s been here. Pity women with such fine figures haven’t got prettier
faces. Have a cigarette?”

“No, thanks,” said Matt.

“Don’t smoke?”

“I did smoke once, but I gave it up.” Matt did not like to confess it
was because he could not afford the luxury.

“You can’t be an artist without tobacco,” said his mentor, laughingly.
“Ah, here’s the model. I’ll just go and get her address.”

He went up to the model, who had re-emerged and seated herself at ease
upon the throne, where a group of students, with pipes or cigarettes in
their mouths, was in conversation with her.

Matt followed his mentor, interested in this new specimen of humanity,
and thinking that he would prefer to paint her as she was sitting then,
nude in that dim, mysterious light, surrounded by smoke-wreathed figures
in tropic headgear, her face alive, her feet crossed gracefully, playing
a part in a real scene, yet withal unreal to the point of grotesqueness.

“Oh, I’ve sat a lot for _him_,” she was saying when Matt came up. “I
stand every morning for the portrait of Letty Gray, the skirt-dancer;
it’s for the Academy. She can’t come much, and she’s awfully unpunctual.
Of course I’m only for the figure.”

“Weren’t you in the Grosvenor Gallery last summer?” asked a bald
middle-aged man.

“Yes; I was Setter’s ‘Moonbeam,’” began the model, proudly.

“I thought I recognized you,” said the middle-aged man, with an air of
ancient friendship.

“And I was also on the line in the big room,” she added--“Colin
Campbell’s ‘Return of the Herring-Boats.’ And I got into the Royal
Institute as well--Saxon’s ‘Woman Wailing for Her Demon Lover.’”

“Ah, here you are, then!” said a red-haired young man, producing an
illustrated catalogue.

“Yes,” said she, turning over a few pages. “And there’s my
husband--Sardanapalus, 223. They often have him at the Academy Schools,”
she wound up, with conscious pride.

“Ah, perhaps we shall get him here one week,” said the middle-aged man.

While his mentor was taking down her address, Matt looked round the
room. The austere Grainger, with a cigarette in his mouth, was reading a
yellowish paper embellished with comic cuts. Most of the students were
moving about, looking at one another’s easels, the work on which, with
few exceptions, Matt was surprised to find mediocre; a few sat stolidly
humped on their stools, feet on rail and pipe in mouth; one group was
examining photographs which its central figure had taken, and which he
loudly declared knocked the painting of the Fishtown School to fits.
From all sides the buzz of voices came through the stifling, smoky,
darkened atmosphere.

“Have you seen Piverton’s new picture?”

“Rather! Another S,” contemptuously replied a very young man, seated,
smoking a very long pipe before a very indifferent canvas.

“What do you mean, Bubbles?” asked a by-stander.

“What, haven’t you noticed,” he answered, with ineffable disdain,
swinging his arm in illustration, “that the lines of his compositions
are all curly--they always make S?”

“I thought they always made £ _s._ _d._,” interjected a curly-headed
wag. And all except the very young man laughed.

“Bubbles is gone on Whistler,” observed a freckle-faced student,

“I admire him,” admitted the very young man, candidly, “but I don’t say
he’s the end of art.”

“No; that’s reserved for Bubbles,” laughed the freckle-faced student.

“What _is_ the end of art, Bubbles?” said another man.

“T, of course,” put in the curly-headed wag. “Five o’clock and

“I say, Grainger says Miss Hennery used to work in his day class,” said
a handsome young Irishman, strolling up with a bag of cakes, from which
the model had just helped herself in the pervasive spirit of

“Well, I don’t see anything to boast of in that,” pronounced Bubbles,
puffing at his long hookah. “She’s only a feeble female imitation of
Tarmigan. Her color’s muddy, and her brother comes into all her men’s

“I suppose she can’t afford models,” said the Irishman, charitably.
“Have a banbury.”

Bubbles accepted, and the by-standers helped to empty the bag. Matt
moved back towards his easel, passing a little dark man with a mane, who
was explaining to a derisive audience that the reason he went to
music-halls was to study character, and brushing by a weedy giant, who
was boasting that he hardly ever went to bed, so tied was he to his
anatomy. During his progress a meagre, wrinkled old man, with
pepper-and-salt hair and a stoop, approached him, and said, in a husky

“Excuse me introducin’ myself, but I do admire your feet so!”

Matt flushed, startled.

“My name’s Gregson--William Gregson--and I’ve made a speciality of feet.
The ’uman form divine is beautiful everywhere, sir, but the foot--ah!
there you have the combination of graces, all the beautiful curves in a
small compass; the arch of the foot, the ankle, instep, the beautiful
proportions of it all when you do get a really beautiful foot such as
yours. I come here, sir, every night to study the beautiful--for in
daily life the foot is ’idden, distorted by boots and shoes that ignore
the subtleties and delicacies of nature--and the foot is the first thing
I look at; but how rarely does a model, man or woman, ex’ibit a truly
beautiful foot! Oh, how I wish I could paint your foot, or take a cast
of it--a study from the nude, of course! But no--you will not allow me,
I know. May I at least be allowed to measure it, to take the
proportions, to add to my knowledge of the laws of the beautiful foot?”

Matt faltered that he didn’t know he had anything extraordinary in the
way of feet.

“My dear sir!” protested William Gregson, showing the whites of his

Just then the light was turned up, and William Gregson retreated
abruptly to his easel. The model’s court scattered, and she herself
resumed her inglorious occupation of the throne, placing her feet within
a chalked-out line, and her arm against a mark in the sheet.

Matt, returning to his canvas, worked enthusiastically to finish the
figure by closing-time, and laid down his brush with some minutes to
spare, thereby drawing upon himself the attention of his mentor, who

“By Jove! What made you rush along like that?”

“There was no time,” said Matt.

“Time! Why, there’s four more evenings. Every model sits a
fortnight--six nights, you know.”

“Well, she’s done, anyhow,” said Matt, in rueful amusement.

“Yes, she _is_ done anyhow.” And his mentor laughed. “Why, that ’ll
never do. You can’t show work like that.”

“Why not? It’s like her.”

“Yes, but there’s no finish in it. It’s only a sketch. You’re supposed
to make a careful study of it. Tarmigan insists on the exact character
of the model. He always says even Velasquez’s early things were tight
and careful.”

But Matt felt he could not take the thing any further--at any rate, not
that night; the fury of inspiration was over. He sat abstractedly
watching the quivering of the model’s tired limbs and her shadows on the
screen, a dusky silhouette with lighter penumbras, till the hour was up.

On Matt’s homeward journey he was overtaken by old Gregson, who
discovered that their routes coincided, and renewed his admiration of
Matt’s foot and his request to gauge its beauties, till at last,
unwilling to disoblige a brother artist, but feeling rather ridiculous,
the young man slipped off his boot in the shelter of a doorway, under
the light of a street-lamp, and the wrinkled old man, producing a
tape-measure, ecstatically recorded, on a crumpled envelope, the varied
perfections of its form.

At the next lesson Matt set to work and painted away all the force of
his study in the effort to reach the standard prevailing at Grainger’s.
But he worked dispirited and joyless, like a war-horse between the
shafts of an omnibus, or a savage in a stiff shirt and a frock-coat;
suppressing himself with the same sense of drear duty as when he had
sawn logs or drilled potatoes. During the “rest,” while Matt was
listening in amazement to some secret information concerning royal
personages, who seemed to have confided all their intrigues to Bubbles,
William Gregson drew him mysteriously into the anteroom.

“Do you know, I couldn’t sleep the other night?” said the meagre,
wrinkled old man with the pathetic stoop.

“Were you ill?” said Matt, sympathetically.

“No. Your foot kept me awake.”

Matt cast a furtive look at it, as if to read marks of guilt thereon.

“Yes; you must know I’m a shoemaker by trade, and love art, but I can’t
devote myself to it like you young fellows. I work ’ard all day
’ammerin’ and stitchin’; it’s only in the evenings that I can spare an
hour for paintin’.”

Matt’s eyes moistened sympathetically. “I’m so sorry,” he murmured.

“I knew you would be. I knew you had a beautiful nature. It always goes
with beautiful feet. Ah, you smile! I’m an enthusiast, I admit, and you
will smile more when you ’ear I sat up half the last two nights to
create an artistic boot with your beautiful lines. You had given me the
inspiration. I had to create there and then. I was tired of my day’s
work, I was poor, and my time was valuable; but before all I am an
artist. Sir, I have brought the boots with me”--here he produced a
brown-paper parcel from under his arm--”and I shall be proud if you will
accept them as a ’umble tribute from a lover of the beautiful.”

“No, no; I couldn’t think of taking them,” said Matt, blushing

“Oh, but you will vex me, sir, if you do not. It pains me enough already
to think of you wearin’ the cumbrous, inartistic pair I see.”

“I won’t take them unless I pay you for them.”

“No, no. What is a guinea between artists?” And he pressed the parcel
into Matt’s hand.

Matt shook his head. He was appalled at the price, but he felt it
wouldn’t be fair to take the poor old man’s work for nothing. A vague
suspicion that he was being tricked flitted beneath his troubled mind,
but his worldly experiences had not yet robbed him of his guilelessness,
and there was such a fire of abnegation in the homely face that Matt
felt ashamed of his doubt, and drew out the money with a feeling that he
was, at any rate, helping a worthy artistic soul.

“Here is the price of them,” he said.

The artist took the money and looked at it.

“A guinea would give me nearly another month’s lessons,” he said,

“Put it in your pocket, then,” insisted Matt, his last doubt dissolving
in fellow-feeling.

But the cobbler shook his head. “No, no, sir, you mustn’t rob me of my
impulse. I cannot charge you full price. Take back the shilling. Concede
something to my feelings.”

“There--if that ’ll satisfy you,” said Matt, reaccepting it.

“You won’t tell the chaps,” besought the shoemaker, pathetically. “They
wouldn’t understand us. They would laugh at our innocent enthusiasm.”

As Matt shared this distrust of the sympathy of the studio, he was not
backward with assurances of secrecy, while he was laboriously bulking
his overcoat-pocket with the parcel.

At the end of the four lessons, when Matt’s painting seemed to him to be
getting almost as smooth as a wax figure, and as dead, Tarmigan came--a
stern, ill-dressed man, prematurely gray--at whose approach Matt’s heart
was in his mouth. The famous artist moved leisurely but inevitably
towards him, shedding criticism by grunts and phrases and gestures;
expressing the ineffable by an upward snap of the fingers, accompanied
by a Russian-sounding sibilation; inquiring sarcastically whether one
student was drawing the model or the lay-figure, and sneeringly
recommending another to move his drawing “if the model moved.” Every now
and again he sat down at an easel to get the man’s point of view, and,
taking up his brush, suggested tone and color, or, if it was a
draughtsman’s easel, borrowed his charcoal, and showed him how to put
the head on the shoulders or fit on an extremity. When at length Matt
felt the great man’s breath on his neck a cold shiver ran down his
spine, the brush clove to his paralyzed hand.

“Ah, a new man!” said the visitor. “Not bad.”

All the blood in Matt’s body seemed to be rushing to his face. His hand
began to tremble.

The visitor did not pass on immediately. He said: “Where do you come
from? There’s a want of sharpness in the shadows.”

“From America,” breathed Matt.

“I mean from what school?”

“I haven’t been to school since I was a boy.”

“Not been to an art school?” queried the visitor, in surprise.
“Nonsense! Impossible! The face is very well, but the rest is not taken
far enough. A little too clever! Search! search! Even Velasquez’s early
things were--But you must have had a deal of practice.”

“I have painted quite a little,” admitted Matt, “but not rightly, though
I did study artistic anatomy out of a book. I’ve painted hundreds of
portraits and signs and ceilings.”

The artist was examining the work more minutely. “Don’t you call that
practice?” he said, a little triumphant smile flitting across his wintry
face. “Hundreds of portraits--why, that means hundreds of models! Why,
however did you get all those commissions? It’s more than I can boast
of. Try and keep that lower in tone, and don’t use that color at all,”
he added, his fingers tattooing kindly on Matt’s shoulder. The class had
pricked up its ears, for the artist spoke by habit in a loud tone, so
that all might benefit by his criticism of the individual, and his
remarks to the new-comer were quite out of the ordinary run.

“It was only in the country places in Nova Scotia,” said Matt,
apologetically, “and people didn’t know anything about it. So long as I
made a handsome likeness, it was all they cared for. And then, of
course, they were never--never naked.”

“No?” said the celebrity, with a little laugh.

“No; they always wore their best clothes,” said Matt, smiling, too. “So
this is the first time I’ve done one like this.”

“You haven’t done it yet,” said Tarmigan, moving on. “There’s that foot
yet to be studied. Search! Finish!”

“If you please, sir,” said Matt, with an unconscious reversion to the
idiom of McTavit’s school-room, “I _have_ finished the foot.”

“Nonsense,” said Tarmigan. “You’ve got another toe to paint in.”

“I thought I had to copy the model exactly,” said Matt, meekly.

“Well, sir?” said Tarmigan, puzzled.

“Well, I only see four toes on that foot.”

The artist was startled; he cast a rapid glance at the model. “Good
Lord! the man’s right,” he murmured, for the model was indeed minus a

“I say, you men,” he said, “where are your eyes? You’ve given the model
an extra toe. How often have I told you to look before you paint?”

All eyes were bent on the foot; the model reddened. Those whose work had
not yet been examined hastened to amputate the toe; the others took on
an air of injury.

“You might have told a chap,” whispered his mentor.

“I thought you knew,” said Matt. “I saw it as soon as I began to paint,
but I didn’t take any notice of it in my first rough sketch. It was only
when you told me I must copy the model exactly that I put it in, or,
rather, left it out.”

For some time longer the fusillade of Tarmigan’s criticisms rang out
intermittently: “Not bad.” “Humph! I wouldn’t make too much of those
little things! Keep it broader!” “That’s very well!” “Psch!” “That’s
better!” “Don’t get your shadows too hot!” “That’s a good bit!” “That
leg’s too long from the knee down!” “Don’t lick it _too_ much!” “Not
bad!” “No, no; that won’t do at all!” “You’ll never get her feet into
that canvas!” “Look at the model with your eyes nearly closed and
compare the tones!” Then Tarmigan set a composition to be done at home
in illustration of “Charity,” and stalked through the door amid a chorus
of “Good-nights” in incongruous keys, and then there was a silence so
tense that the creak of his departing boots could be heard dying away in
the long passage; but it was not till the “rest” arrived, and the model,
wrapping a cloak round her, had left the room, and Grainger had
silently disappeared after his wont, that the storm burst.

Bubbles led off.

“Who ever saw a picture of a woman with four toes?” he cried,

“Yes. How could he expect us to examine her blooming toes?” said the
freckle-faced student.

“Oh, I saw she had four toes right enough,” said Bubbles. “But a painter
hasn’t got to paint accidents--he’s got to paint pictures.”

“It ’ll be an accident if you paint pictures,” put in the curly-headed

“_I_ saw the missing toe,” asserted the handsome young Irishman, “when I
set her for the class. But I wasn’t going to spoil the study. One can
easily imagine a toe. He’s got no sense of poetry.”

“I saw a scratch on her wrist,” volunteered the middle-aged man. “I
wonder he didn’t want us to paint that.”

“I suppose he’ll put a background to it, and send it to the Academy,”
cackled the red-headed young man.

“They’ve got blue noses in Nova Scotia, I believe. I wonder if he put
_them_ into his portraits?” the weedy giant remarked in a loud whisper
to the little man with the mane.

Though the last two remarks were so impersonal, Matt knew well enough
they were aimed at him, and he seemed to feel an undercurrent of
resentment against himself beneath the animadversions on Tarmigan, whom
he knew the studio revered. He sat uneasily on his stool, poring
mechanically over his unhappy study from the nude, and morbidly
misreading animosity into this good-humored badinage. Before his
mother’s living death he might have replied violently with word or even
fist, but life had broken him in. Seeing the new man spiritless, another
student took up the parable:

“He’s going to leave it to the nation.”

“Then he’ll have to leave it on the door-step when nobody’s looking,”
replied the weedy giant.

Then the stream of wit ran dry, and comparative silence fell upon the

Abruptly the voice of the curly-headed wag shot across the silence:
“Four-toes, R.A.”

The cry was taken up in a great shout of laughter, even the uninterested
joining in from sheer joy in a catchword. It seemed to Matt he had not a
friend in the room. But he mistook. The grizzled old shoemaker sidled up
to him.

“You’ve licked me, sir,” he said, in emotional accents. “You’ve shamed
me; me, whose speciality is feet. I never noticed there was a toe
missin’. No, sir; not even me. Your hand, sir. I bear you no malice.”

Gratefully Matt gripped the cobbler’s extended hand, and he took
occasion to apologize for not enduing the artistic boots, explaining
that he was reserving them for high days and holidays. He let the
bantering cry die away unanswered, but at heart he was sick with the
thought he was to repeat the experience of the St. John paint-shop, and
he had a fierce impulse to shake the dust of the studio off his feet,
even as he had thrown up his position in New Brunswick, and in his
resentful bitterness he allowed his sense of the inferiority of the
jeerers’ work to well up into clear consciousness. And thus he brought
himself round to the remembrance of the great Tarmigan’s words, and to a
softening sense of gratitude for the strange way in which he had been
acquiring art in his own land, even while he was yearning and planning
to get it across the seas. And so, though the nickname stuck to
him--for, indeed, Grainger’s scarcely knew his real name--he remained at
the studio, learning to take its humors more genially, and even to
partake in them, and drawn to its _habitués_ by the discovery that they,
too, were fighting their way to art from the shop, the school, or the
office, but never losing altogether the shyness and sensitiveness of a
lonely alien and high-spirited soul.

From Tarmigan, whose executive faculty and technical knowledge were
remarkable, and who, despite surface revolts behind his back, was
worshipped by the whole school, Matt got many “pointers,” as he called
them in his transatlantic idiom--traditions of the craft which he might
never have hit out for himself; though, on the other hand, in the little
studies he made at home and sometimes showed to Tarmigan, he produced
effects instinctively, the technique of which he was puzzled to explain
to the master-craftsman, who for the rest did not approve of the strange
warm luminosities Matt professed to see on London tiles, or the misty
coruscations that glorified his chimney-pots. Grainger himself never
offered criticisms to his pupils except casually, and mainly by way of
conversation, when he was bored with his own thoughts.

To the science of art which Tarmigan taught, and which was based upon
inductions from great pictures, Matt in his turn did not always take
kindly; the reduction of æsthetics to rule chafed him; he was distressed
by Tarmigan’s symmetrical formulæ against symmetry, and though some of
the canons of composition seemed to him self-evident when once pointed
out, and others not unreasonable, he could not always relish the
mechanical application of the general law to his particular case; but he
suppressed his untutored instincts, much as in her day his mother had
wrestled with Satan, and in faith, hope, and self-distrust submitted
himself duteously to law and Tarmigan. He worked fluently for the most
part, but every now and then came a sudden impotency not always due to
lack of sympathy with the model; an inability to get the exact effect he
wanted, which tortured him even more than Tarmigan’s strait-waistcoat of

Very soon Grainger’s grew half boastful, half jealous of its American
prodigy, whom all later arrivals, catching up the nickname without the
history of its origin, imagined to be likewise abnormal in the number of
his toes. Some recalled Byron’s clubfoot, and wondered if Matt Strang’s
pedal defect had any connection with the genius of “Four-toes, R.A.”



In the heated discussions at Grainger’s of the demerits of the painters
of the day, no one ever mentioned the name of Strang except once; and
then the Christian name was not Matthew. Matt did not like to bring up
the name himself, as it was his own, but he soon understood that
artists do not deal in other people’s pictures, and, recalling Madame
Strang’s remark about her husband, he gradually came to the conviction
that his namesake was the dethroned god of an earlier day, discouraged
into sterility and commerce by the indifference of the younger
generation. And as the deity loomed less terrible, and as Matt felt
himself more at home in the art atmosphere of England, so the idea of
making himself known to his uncle began to be shorn of its terrors, and
even to be tinged with the generous thought of inspiring the neglected
artist to fresh work--an inversion of attitude, the humor of which did
not occur to him.

But when one afternoon he did betake himself again to the elegant
emporium off Cavendish Square, and found himself face to face with the
dapper young gentleman and his horseshoe cravat-pearl, the old awe of
the refinement radiating from every quarter of the compass overwhelmed
him, and his tongue refused to ask for Mr. Strang, compromising by a
happy thought in the demand for Madame. Madame appeared forthwith,
flashing upon him a sense of matronly sweetness and silk, and snatching
him from the embarrassment of openings by exclaiming in her charming

“Ah, you’ve come for your change.”

“What change?” asked Matt.

“You left sixpence on the desk. I noted it down.”

“It is very kind of you,” said Matt. “I had no idea you would remember
me all this time.”

“I never forget clever people,” said Madame, with a bewitching smile.

“How do you know I’m clever?” Matt smiled back.

Madame waved away the question with her plump white hand in silent
smiling reaffirmation. “I’ve always lived with clever people,” she said,
simply. “Talent is the only thing I admire in this world.”

Matt said lamely that he was glad to hear it. The phrase was a poor
expression of his pleasure in at last meeting a soul with his own

“Where was it you saw my husband’s pictures?” asked Madame, eagerly.

Matt flushed. “I didn’t see any,” he confessed. “My father told me about

“Where did your father see them?”

“At home, when they were boys together.”

“What! They were school-fellows?”

“Brothers!” said Matt, and felt the instant relief of criminal

Madame uttered a little cry of delighted astonishment, and took Matt’s
hands in hers.

“My dear sir, my dear sir!” she cried, shaking them, “I knew you were
clever. Come inside--come inside. Why didn’t you say who you were last
time? You are the boy who wrote to Matthew from Nova Scotia years ago!
What a pity he is out! He will be so charmed.”

And, still holding his hands, she led him up a little flight of stairs
into a daintily furnished sitting-room, resplendent with pictures, and
sat him down in a soft arm-chair, and hung admiringly over him, and
plied him with inquiries as to his past and his projects and things Nova
Scotian (without always waiting for an answer, or ever getting more than
a brief generality), and rang for claret and cake, which were brought in
by a pretty girl in a piquant white cap, but which Matt refused for fear
of seeming to be in want of refreshment.

“I have a son who is also an artist--oh, so clever, the dear boy!” she
told him. “You must know him--you will love each other. He is at work
now in his studio; but he must not be interrupted till the light fails.”

Matt’s eyes kindled. “I shall like to know him,” he cried, fervently.

“Yes, dear Herbert! Oh, you’ve no idea how sweet and good and clever he
is! He’s twenty-three, yet as obedient as a child. We’re so proud of
him--his father and I. He quite consoles us for the failure of the
English to appreciate Matthew’s work.”

“Oh, where can I see uncle’s work?” asked Matt, eagerly.

Madame shook her head sadly. “Oh, he parted with all his pictures ever
so many years ago,” she said.

“But aren’t they exhibited anywhere?”

“We don’t know. They must be some day, if they are not destroyed, for
they are so clever. But the fact is--though, of course, I wouldn’t tell
it to a stranger--we had to--to--pawn them, and they were never
redeemed, and poor Matthew never would paint again, he was so
embittered. Oh, it was such a slow, sad struggle, those early days of
our married life! For years no one would buy poor Matthew’s work, and
when the money he had brought from Nova Scotia gave out we should have
starved if I had not started a little dress-maker’s shop. They still
call me Madame,” she interpolated, with a melancholy smile.

“But you _are_ French, aren’t you?” said Matt, thrilling with the pathos
of those far-away struggles.

“Yes, my parents were French, but I have spoken English almost from

“There is French blood in our family, too,” murmured Matt, with a sad
recollection of his mother. He wondered what she was doing at the

“Indeed! Perhaps that was what drew me to Matthew--that and his artistic
genius. Poor Matthew!”

“But you are well off now?” said Matt, dubiously. He did not trouble to
correct her mistake, to explain that the French blood was on the spindle

“Oh, we are rich. We have all we want. When my dress-maker’s business
grew prosperous--in fact, quite a fashionable resort--Matthew, who could
not bear to be out of touch with art, though he had sworn never to paint
again, saw his way to dealing in pictures. Of course, he makes far more
than any of his artist friends who succeeded, but that does not console
me for the pictures the world has lost.”

“But why doesn’t he paint now that he has money?” inquired Matt.

“He says he’s too old,” said Madame, sighing. “And besides, he thinks
he’d only be eclipsed by Herbert. Of course, Herbert _is_ exceptionally
gifted; he took the medal at the Royal Academy Schools, you know, for
the best copy of an Old Master, and he has had advantages which were
denied to his poor father. But still it often makes me cry to think of
how he sinks himself in the dear boy, not caring a jot about his own
reputation. Oh, there are few such fathers, I can tell you. I don’t know
what I have done to deserve such a husband, I who have no cleverness or
talent of any kind.”

And here, as at his cue, Matthew Strang entered, in a soft hat and a
black cloak vastly more impressive than the staid shabbiness of
Tarmigan, than whom his Vandyke beard alone gave him the greater
artistic distinction. He leaned slightly upon a gnarled walking-stick.

Madame sprang up to meet him in the doorway. “Oh, Matthew!” she cried,
ecstatically, “the young man who wanted to see you is your own nephew.
And he is come to study art. And won’t it be delightful for Herbert to
have a companion? I made him wait for you--I knew you wouldn’t be long.”
And radiant beneath her cap, Madame stepped aside, as if to leave the
stage free for the rapturous embrace between the uncle and his long-lost
nephew. But Matthew Strang stood rigid with astonishment, only his eyes
moving in startled examination of the young man, who had risen

For an interval of seconds that seemed numerable in minutes he looked at
Matt without speaking, leaning on his stick, his saturnine face growing
momently darker.

“Davie’s son, I suppose,” he said, slowly, at last.

“Yes, sir,” said Matt.

“H’m! I might have seen it. So you have come to England, after all?”

“Yes, sir. But not till I had the money for my studies.”

Matthew Strang’s face lightened a little. “Sit down! Sit down! No need
to stand,” he said, with uneasy graciousness, placing his disengaged
hand on Matt’s shoulder. “And how are all your folks?”

“Oh, they’re pretty spry, thank you,” said Matt, resuming his chair.

“Let me see--your mother married again, didn’t she?”

Matt nodded.

“She’s still alive, I suppose?”

“Ye-es,” faltered Matt.

“And how’s the Province?”

“It’s about the same,” said Matt, vaguely.

“Ha!” said Mr. Strang, with an all-comprehending air.

He allowed Madame to divest him lovingly of his cloak. Then he said:
“You’re settled in London, then?”

“I shall stay here some time.”

“Humph! You’re not like your father. He could never stay in one place.
Well, well, I’m sure I wish you success, but you know it’s not an easy
line you’ve gone into.”

“So you wrote to me, sir.”

“Ha! Well, I wrote the truth.”

“I was much obliged to you, sir, for your advice,” said Matt, sincerely.

But the elder man, suspecting sarcasm, replied half defiantly: “There’s
not one man in a thousand that makes his bread-and-butter by it. Why,
I’ve just bought a picture from an A.R.A. for fifty pounds; it’s worth
treble. You would have done better at your farm--or was it a saw-mill?”

“It isn’t the money I was thinking of, sir; it’s the joy of painting.”

“Hum! I talked like that once.” Matthew Strang sat down rather peevishly
and crossed his legs.

“And you talk like that now, too,” said Madame, with gentle reproach.
“Not for yourself,” she corrected, hastily, as his eyebrows took their
interrogative altitude. “But you know you don’t care if Herbert doesn’t
make money for years, so long as he makes a reputation eventually.”

“Herbert is in a different position. He doesn’t need to earn anything.”

“Nor does your nephew,” said Madame. “He has ample resources, he tells

Matt blushed at Madame’s unconscious magnification of his curt statement
on the point, but he did not think it worth while contradicting her.
Matthew uncrossed his legs restlessly. “I suppose your mother married a
well-to-do man?”

“Yes, pretty well-to-do,” Matt stammered.

“Why didn’t you say who you were at first?”

“I didn’t like to. I--I remembered you had advised me not to come to

“Well, the mischief was done; you might just as well have spoken. I
might have given you some advice.... You could have had the engraving at
trade price.... If you are looking for etchings, or any little things
for your rooms, I couldn’t dream of treating you like a stranger.”

“Thank you,” said Matt, with feeble fervency.

“Don’t mention it,” said his uncle, holding up his right palm
deprecatingly. “By-the-way, what made you address your letter to the
National Gallery?”

Matt colored. “I thought all the London painters lived there,” he said,
with an uneasy smile.

Madame laughed heartily. “Why, Matthew only got it through an official
inquiring among the people copying pictures there. One of them happened
to be a customer of ours, and suggested trying us.”

“Yes, it was all boyish foolishness,” said Matt.

“And where are you living, now that you have come?” said his uncle.

“Not far from here--in Holborn.” He added, hastily, for fear his uncle
might be meditating a visit: “I can bring you some of my work if you

“Oh yes, do! Won’t that be charming!” interjected Madame, clapping her

Matthew checked her with a stern glance. “I don’t think I should be able
to do anything with an unknown man,” he said, shaking his head.

“No, I don’t mean that,” said Matt, getting hot. “I thought you might
like to see that I wasn’t quite a duffer. I don’t expect to sell my work
yet, but they think I’m rather promising at the school.”

“What school? Who thinks?”


“Tarmigan!” echoed Matthew Strang. “Why, I could have picked up one of
his water-colors for a fiver last week. Tarmigan has been going down
steadily for the last four years. He took the gold medal at the Academy,
and at first promised well. Ten years ago I even meditated a corner in
him, but luckily I had the sense to sell out in time, before it was
quite certain he would never even be an Associate. No wonder he’s
reduced to visiting.”

“Oh, but he does that for nothing, they say,” protested Matt, hotly.
“He’s a jolly fine chap!”

“Ha! No wonder he doesn’t get on. Who ever heard of a really good man
wasting his time in that way?”

“Then don’t you think I’m doing any good studying under him?” asked
Matt, in affright.

“Oh, he’s all right for teaching; I haven’t a word against him. He’s one
of the few men in England who are supposed to know their trade. But he’s
too stilted and classical; there’s no sentiment in him; he don’t touch
the heart of the buying public. It’s all science and draughtsmanship,
and he won’t do anything to meet the market half way.”

“It’s spunky of him to stick to his convictions, anyhow,” said Matt, in
low tones, provoked by his uncle’s disparagement into a recrudescent
enthusiasm for Tarmigan, who had recently been weighing upon him like a

“Bah! and how does he know his convictions are right? The public’s the
best judge of art.”

“Oh!” said Matt, deprecatingly. “Should you really think that’s so?”

“Of course I think so. Would the public have _me_? No. And the public
was right.” He looked at Matt half fiercely, as if defying him to deny
it. Madame was smiling and shaking her head. “The public’s always
right,” he went on, emphatically. “It’s the critics that throw the
market into perpetual confusion. Such a babel of voices, all laying down
what is right and what is wrong, what is art and what is not art, that
it’s enough to drive a dealer crazy. For my part, I steer by the
Academy; that’s my polestar, and I’m rarely out, for that’s what the
public take their reckoning by. And it’s an R.A. that my boy is going to
be, please God, for theories may come and theories may go, but the
Academy goes on forever.”

“Dear Herbert!” murmured Madame.

“I suppose he’s awfully advanced,” said Matt, wistfully.

“Years ago he took the medal for the best copy of an Old Master at the
Royal Academy Schools, where he is now just finishing his course,”
explained his uncle. “And you know you can’t even begin the course
without being clever.”

“No, I know,” said Matt, with a sinking of heart, for he had by this
time studied the prospectus of the national art-schools and been
dismayed, not so much by the anatomical information and technical
expertness demanded at the entrance competition as by the slow-dragging
septennial course, the drudgery of still-life and perspective and the
antique, and all the tedious grind of convention. “I thought of trying
to get in myself, but I’m afraid I shall have to give up the idea.”

“Oh, Herbert only drops in there now and then,” said Matthew, loftily.
“He works mostly at home with his own models.”

Matt had a pang of envy.

“And then he has always had the benefit of your experience,” he said.

“Oh, I can’t pretend to have done more than encourage him.”

“Now, Matthew,” said Madame, shaking her finger fondly, “you know it was
at your knee that he made his first studies.”

Matthew smiled faintly, not displeased. “I’m like Tarmigan: I can teach
better than I can paint,” he said, and poured himself out a glass of
wine, fascinating Matt’s eye by the play of light in the diamond on his
forefinger. “If I listened to my wife, I should give up business and set
up an easel again, as in my young and foolish days. Thank God,” he said,
pausing to gulp down the claret, “I had sense to stop in time! What
could be expected of a young man who’d lived on a farm in a God-forsaken
country? Ah, your father was right! He never would allow any merit to my
ships or cows.”

Red sands flitted before Matt’s vision, with lambent pools, and overhead
a diaphanous rosy vapor, beyond which brooded the vast cloudless circle
of the sky. Ah, God! why was the sky so blue and depthless in those
days? As from dim, far-away caverns, the acrid voice of the
picture-dealer reached his ears in complacent exposition: “It’s all
training, and if you don’t get trained young, you might as well attempt
to fly.”

Becoming conscious of a silence, Matt answered, “That’s so.”

“It’s the same with music,” went on his uncle, tapping impressively on
his wineglass with his glittering forefinger. “You can’t expect a
grown-up man to sit down and practise scales like a little girl in a
pinafore; and even if he would, his fingers have lost their suppleness,
his joints are set. I saw this clearly, and was determined my boy
shouldn’t suffer as I’d done. Why, Herbert had a brush put into his hand
before he could write!”

Matt’s heart sank lower.

“I should like to see his work,” he said, anxiously.

“Ha!” said Matthew, a complacent smile hovering about his lips.

“Oh yes, let him see Herbert’s work,” pleaded Madame.

“I don’t think we ought to disturb him,” said Matthew, yieldingly.
“Won’t you take another glass of wine?”

“No, thank you, sir,” said Matt, who was quite faint, for his dinner had
been of the slightest; and feeling the request a signal to take his
leave, he rose.

“Oh yes, do let him see them,” said Madame, hurriedly. “It’s only for

“Oh, well, as you’re a sort of relation,” said the father, imposingly.
“But I make it a point not to interrupt him. These hours are precious;
there’s not too much light at the best of times.” And, as if following
Matt’s impulse, he rose and turned doorward.

“There’s no need for you to trouble, Josephine,” he said, waving her

As they mounted the soft-carpeted staircase, on which undraped marble
statues looked down from their niches, he explained, gravely, “There’s a
male model up there, you see.”

Matt nodded, awed to silence by the splendor of the staircase, up which
he toiled side by side with the Vandyke beard and the velvet coat.

“Herbert, of course, uses the side door,” vouchsafed his companion,
graciously, to relieve the monotony of the long ascent. “I couldn’t have
his models coming through the shop.”

Matt murmured something negative, but his reply was lost in a dull thud
from above. The elder man cleared the remaining stairs in alarm, and
threw open the door.

“Give us a hand up, you beggar,” a piping girlish voice was saying.

On the rich carpet of the vast, elegant studio, whose glories dazzled
Matt’s vision, a slim young man was sprawling on his back. Over him
stood a stalwart figure, clad only in boxing-gloves.

The saturnine picture-dealer rushed forward and helped his boy up.

“It’s all right, dad,” said Herbert, in unembarrassed amusement as he
was scrambling to his feet. “I just wanted to give the model’s arms a
little movement during the rest. The position’s so difficult for him, I
haven’t been able to get the thing right all day. Look! there’s nothing
at all on the canvas; I’ve had to paint it out.”

The model had somewhat shamefacedly taken off his gloves and struck an
attitude upon the throne.

“Ha!” said Matthew Strang, in vague accents. “You ought to be getting on
faster with those gold-medal studies, now that you have put aside your
picture for this year’s Academy. You will need all your time, you know.
I’ve brought you a visitor.”

Herbert turned his face towards the door--the handsome, glowing face of
a boy, beardless and clean-shaven, with candid blue eyes and tumbled
flaxen hair, and the flash of white teeth accustomed to display
themselves in laughter. There was his father’s interrogative mark about
the arched eyebrows as he caught sight of Matt, hanging back timidly on
the threshold.

The young Nova-Scotian’s heart was leaden, his soul wrapped in a gloom
which had been gathering blackness ever since he had set foot in his
uncle’s shop, and which the sight of the commodious studio, with its
rich properties and luxurious appliances, its crimson lounges and silk
drapings and fleecy rugs and gleaming marbles and bronzes, had darkened
into despair. The penurious past surged back to him through a suffusion
of unshed tears--tears that were salt with the sense of injustice and of
sorrows unforgettable, all the creeping, irremediable years contributing
their quintessence to the bitterness of this supreme moment: the chances
he had missed, the lessons he had not received, the obstacles that had
rather sprung up to beat him back, whose infant fingers no loving hand
had ever guided, whose boyish yearnings no word of encouragement had
ever sweetened, whose youth had been all distasteful labors and mean
tragedies and burdens too great to bear, and whose very triumph would
find none to sympathize with it, if it came, as it never could come to
one so untrained, so alien from the world of art and elegant studios and
all the soft things of life; driven to the scum of the streets for
models at a few pence an hour, and reduced to studying attitudes from
his own contortions before a bleared strip of mirror in a dingy back
room; unregarded, uncared-for, unknown, an atom in that vast
magic-gleaming London which had so cruelly disillusioned him, and in
which even the one heart in which his own blood ran was cold and far
away; his poor pre-eminence at Grainger’s, his primacy among a set of
duffers, no augury of success in that fierce struggle in which Tarmigan
himself had gone to the wall. Was it worth while to vex himself
endlessly, swirled to and fro like a bubble on an ocean? Were it not
sweeter to break, and to be resolved into the vastness and the silence?

His right hand wandered towards his hip-pocket, where his pistol lay.
How good to be done with life! Then he became aware, through a
semi-transparent mist, that the gracious blond boy was holding out his
hand with a frank smile, and instinct drew out his own right hand in
amicable response, and so the temptation was over. The poor children
dependent upon him came up to memory, and he wondered at his spasm of
selfish despair.

His uncle must have said words to which he had been deaf, for Herbert
seemed to know who he was and why he had come.

“Welcome, fair coz,” he said, gripping Matt’s hand heartily. “I feel as
if I were in Shakespeare. A moment ago I scarcely remembered I had a
relation in the world. Confound it! why weren’t you a girl cousin while
you were about it?”

“Herbert, don’t be rude,” said his father.

Herbert elevated his blond eyebrows. “I wish you would cultivate a sense
of humor, dad,” he observed, wearily. Matt, who was responding to his
grip, fascinated instantly by the boyish, sunny charm, loosed his clasp
in sheer astonishment at the transition.

Matthew Strang disregarded his son’s observation, but gruffly told the
model, whose attitudinizing immobility was irritating, that he need not
pose for a moment or two, whereupon Herbert bade him begone altogether.
“I’ve been off color all day,” he observed, explanatorily, as he counted
out the model’s silver, “but the excitement of discovering I am not
alone in the world is the finishing touch.”

Matthew threw a rather reproachful look at Matt, whose eyes drooped
guiltily. He raised them immediately, however, in accordance with his
uncle’s instructions, to admire a study of a draped figure which was
hung on a wall. The coloring struck him agreeably, though he found a
certain feebleness in the drawing which was equally agreeable to his
jealous mood. This not displeasing impression was borne out by the other
pictures and sketches for which his uncle besought his admiration:
always this facile poetic coloring and this indifferent draughtsmanship,
this suggestion of difficulties shirked rather than of difficulties
overcome; at last seen to be due to the conventional composition, most
of the works, whether in chalk or water-color or oil, being pretty
landscapes or single-figure studies in simple attitudes, or, when
complicated by other figures, embracing episodes which seemed to have
been transferred direct from other pictures, some of which, indeed, Matt
had seen either in the originals or in engravings. To his astonishment,
Herbert, who had been yawning widely, drew his attention to one such
little bit.

“Don’t you recognize that?” he said. “Dad did at once. It’s a quotation
from Millais.”

Matt looked puzzled at the phrase.

“‘Cribbing,’ the unwise it call,” expounded Herbert, “and so did dad,
till I explained to him it was only quoting. When a great writer hits
off a phrase it passes into the language, and when a great painter hits
off a new effect of technique, or gets a happy grouping, I contend it
belongs to the craft, as much as the primitive tricks of scumbling or
glazing. We praise the mellow Virgilisms in Tennyson, but we are down
upon the painter who repeats another’s lines. The Old Masters borrowed
unblushingly, but we are such sticklers for originality, which, after
all, only means plagiarizing nature. Didn’t Raphael crib his composition
from Orcagna, and Michael Angelo copy Masaccio, and Tintoretto turn
Michael Angelo’s Samson into Jupiter? Why, in the Academy at Venice I

“Have you been to Venice?” cried Matt, eagerly.

“Herbert has been to all the galleries of Europe,” said his father,
impressively. “We travel abroad every year. It’s part of the education
of a painter. How are you to know Bellini and Tintoretto if you don’t go
to Venice? Velasquez and Titian cannot be fully studied by any one who
has not been in Madrid; and the man who is ignorant of the treasures of
the Louvre or of the Uffizi at Florence, where”--he interpolated with
simulated facetiousness, laying his hand on Herbert’s shoulder--“I hope
to see my boy’s portrait painted by his own hand one day--”

“Look at this queer stone scarab,” interrupted Herbert, annoyed. “I
picked it up in Egypt; comes from inside a mummy-case.”

Egypt! The word fell like music on Matt’s ears. The rose-light of
romance illumined the uncouth beetle. Herbert hastened to exhibit his
other curios: coins, medals, cameos, scarves, yataghans, pottery,
ivories, with a cursive autobiographical commentary, passing rapidly to
another object whenever his father threatened to take up the thread of

And as Matt handled these picturesque trophies of travel, that wafted
into the studio the aroma of foreign bazaars, the wave of hopelessness
resurged, swamping even the fresh hopefulness engendered by the
discovery that his cousin’s craftsmanship was not so far beyond his
hand, after all; all those marvellous, far-off old-world places that had
disengaged themselves from his lonely readings, fair mirages thrown upon
a phantasmal sky, not vaguely, but with the sensuous definiteness of a
painter’s vision, jostling one another like the images in a shaken
kaleidoscope in an atmosphere of romantic poetry: Venice, dreaming on
its waters in an enchanted moonlight; Paris, all life and light; Spain,
with cathedrals and gypsies and cavaliers tinkling guitars; Sicily, with
gray olive-trees and sombre cypresses and terraced gardens and
black-eyed peasant women with red snoods; the Rhine, haunted by nixies
and robber-chiefs, meandering ’twixt crumbling castles perched on wooded
crags; Egypt, with its glow and color, all lotus-blossoms and bulrushes
and crocodiles and jasper idols, and bernoused Arabs galloping on silken
chargers in a land of sand and sphinxes and violet shadows; the Indies,
east of the sun and west of the moon, full of palm-trees and
nautch-girls and bayaderes--a shifting panorama of strange exotic
cities, steeped in romance and history and sunshine and semi-barbarian
splendors, where the long desolation of his native winter never came,
nor the clammy vapors of Britain; cities of splendid dream, where
anything might happen and nothing could seem unreal; where Adventure
waited masked at every street corner, and Love waved a white hand from
every lattice. And in a flood of sadness, that had yet something
delicious in it, he pitied himself for having been cut off from all
these delectable experiences, which the happier Herbert had so facilely

“I know you are bored, father,” said Herbert, pausing amid his
exposition. “You want to get back to business, and Matt and I want to

Matt’s bitterness was soothed. It thrilled him to be called Matt by this
rich, refined, travelled young gentleman.

“Well, good-bye, my young friend,” said his uncle, holding out his hand
for the first time. “I dare say I shall see you again. Ha! Drop in any
time you’re passing. I think your mother will be wanting you presently,

He moved to the door, then paused, and, turning his head uneasily, said:
“And if you ever want any advice, you know, don’t hesitate to ask me.”
And with a faint friendly nod of his Vandyke beard he went out, closing
the door carefully behind him.

“Awful bore, the governor,” said Herbert, stretching his arms. “He never
knows when he’s _de trop_.”

Matt did not know what _de trop_ was, except when he saw it printed, but
the disrespectful tone jarred upon him.

“You owe him a good deal, it seems to me,” he replied, simply.

“Hullo, hullo, my young Methodist parson!” and Herbert threw back his
head in a ringing laugh which made his white teeth gleam gayly. “Why,
do you think we owe anything to our parents? They didn’t marry to oblige
us. I am only a tool for his ambitions.”

“What do you mean?” murmured Matt.

“Oh, well, I oughtn’t to talk about it, perhaps, but you’re my first
cousin--the first cousin I’ve ever had”--Matt smiled, fascinated
afresh--”and, after all, it’s an open secret that he wants the name of
Strang to live in the annals of painting--if it couldn’t be Matthew
Strang, it must be Herbert Strang, and so he belongs to the minor
artists’ clubs. Of course, he can’t get into the Limners’, though he
contrives to be there on business pretty often, and consoles himself by
using their note-paper; but at the Gillray and the Reynolds’ they dare
not blackball him, because the committee always owe him money, or want
to sell him pictures; but I dare say they laugh at him behind his back
when he jaws to them about art in general, and my talents in particular.
It’s confoundedly annoying. Oh, I’ve been forgetting to smoke. What can
be the matter with me?” And he pulled out a lizard-skin case, from which
Matt, not liking to refuse, drew forth a cigarette.

“But what good does he do by belonging to those clubs?” he asked.

“Oh, he likes it, for one thing,” replied Herbert, striking a match and
holding it to Matt’s cigarette. “My belief is, he only went into the
picture business to rub shoulders with artists, though where the charm
comes in I have never been able to find out, for a duller, a more
illiterate set of fellows I never wish to meet. Shop is all they can
talk. And then, of course, it’s good for business. But in the background
lurks, I feel sure, the idea of advancing my interests, of accumulating
back-stairs influence, of pulling the ropes that shall at last lift me
into the proud position of R.A. Nay, who knows?” he said, puffing out
his first wreath of smoke--“President of the Royal Academy!” And he
laughed melodiously.

“Well, but--” began Matt, inhaling the delicious scent of the tobacco.

“Well, _but_,” echoed Herbert. “That’s just it. My tastes are not
considered in the matter at all. Art! Art! Art! Nothing but Art rammed
down my throat till I’m sick of the sight of a canvas. I was a
connoisseur in my cradle, and sucked a maul-stick instead of a
monkey-on-a-stick, and I live in the midst of Art and out of the profits
of it. It’s pictures, pictures everywhere, and not a--Oh, have a
brandy-and-soda, won’t you? Don’t stand about as if you were going.”
Matt obediently dropped upon a lounge that yielded deliciously to his
pressure. The fragrant smoke curled about his face, while his cousin
made pleasant play with popping corks and gurgling liquids.

“But don’t you really like painting?” he asked, in astonishment.

“I like some things in it well enough,” replied Herbert, “but it’s such
beastly drudgery. All this wretched copying of models is no better than
photography. And a camera would do the tiding in a thousandth part of
the time. I always work from photographs when I can.”

“But is that artistic?” said Matt, slightly shocked.

“It’s the only thing worthy of the artist’s dignity. The bulk of art is
journeyman’s work. Besides, lots of ’em do it nowadays--with
magic-lanterns to boot! Because one man by a fluke happens to be a
better drawing-machine than another, is he to be counted the greater
artist?” Matt felt small before this answer to his secret criticism.
“Did you ever see the camera-obscura at the Crystal Palace? That does
landscapes in a jiffy that we should go messing over for months. And
then think of the looking-glass! They talk of Rembrandt and Franz Hals.
I’ll back a bedroom mirror to put more life into its portraits than
either of ’em. Why, if some process were invented--a sort of magic
mirror to fix the image, living and colored, in the glass--here’s
luck!”--he clinked his glass against Matt’s--”the governor would have to
shut up shop.”

“Yes, but the mirror hasn’t got any imagination,” urged Matt, setting
down his glass refreshed, the glow of brandy in his throat lending added
intellectual charm to the discussion.

“Oh, I don’t know! There are distorting mirrors,” rejoined Herbert,
laughing. “But you are quite right. Art is selection; nature _à travers
d’un tempérament_. Art is autobiography. But painting, which somehow
monopolizes the name of Art, is really the lowest form of Art. Nature
is full of scenes quite as good as Art. Doesn’t Ruskin say an artist has
got to copy Nature? But is there anything in Nature so closely akin to a
poem, or to Ruskin’s own prose, or to a symphony of Beethoven, as a
moonlit sea or a beautiful woman is to a picture? What is the skylark’s
song compared to Shelley’s, or the music of the sea to Mozart’s? The
real creation is in the other arts, which are called literature and
music. They are an addition to Nature--something extra. Painting and
acting--these are mere reduplications of Nature. Perhaps I was unfair to
painting. That, at least, fixes the beauty of Nature, but acting is
merely an evanescent imitation of the temporary.”

The younger man sat half bewildered beneath this torrent of words and
quotations; the respect Herbert had lost in his eyes by his
draughtsmanship (a trifling matter under Herbert’s disdainful analysis)
returning, multiplied to reverence, and with a fresh undercurrent of
humility and envy. How much there was to know in the world, how many
languages and books and arts! How could he mix with Herbert and his set
without being found out?

“That’s why I prefer literature and music,” said Herbert. “But then I’m
not my own master, like you--you lucky beggar. If I had my way, pictures
would be nothing but color-schemes, sheer imagination, with no relation
to truth of Nature. What do I care how her shadows fall, if they don’t
fall gracefully? And then why must my lines imitate Nature’s? That’s
where the Japanese are so great. Don’t smoke that fag-end! Have
another!” And he threw his cigarette-case across to his magnetized
listener. It was the first time in his hard, busy existence Matt had
ever heard any one talk like a book, discussing abstract relations of
Art and Life.

“I wish I knew as much as you,” he said, naïvely.

“I wish I was as free as you,” retorted Herbert, laughingly; “though I
certainly wouldn’t employ my liberty as you do. What in Heaven’s name
made you want to study Art? I did laugh when the governor told the mater
of your letter. I was just in the roughest grind, and felt like writing
you on the sly to warn you.”

“I don’t think I should have taken your advice,” said Matt, with an
embarrassed laugh.

“But what made you come to London, anyhow? Why didn’t you go to Paris?”

“To Paris!”

“Yes; there’s no teaching to be got in London.”

“No?” Matt turned pale.

“No. At least, that’s what everybody says in England. Paris alone has
the tradition. Once it was Holland, once Florence, and now it’s Paris.
Why, in Paris any fellows who club together can get the biggest men to
visit them free, gratis, for nothing. Here the big pots prefer the
society of the swells.”

“Then why are you not in Paris?” asked Matt, rallying.

“Ah! That’s where my governor is such an idiot. He pretends to think
there’s more chance for a man who’s been through the Academy Schools; he
gets known to the R.A.’s, and all that. But his real reason is that he’s
afraid to trust me in Paris by myself.”

“No?” said Matt, in sympathetic incredulity.

“Yes; that’s why he had this room knocked into a studio for me--it
always reminds me of a nursery, at the top of the house-and even selects
my female models, knows their parents, and that sort of thing. It’s all
sheer selfishness, I tell you, and I’m just sick of all this perpetual
fussing and worrying over me, as if I were a prize pig or a race-horse.
A man of twenty-three not allowed to have a studio or chambers of his
own! You don’t realize how lucky you are, my boy. If I could afford it
I’d chuck up the governor to-morrow. But I’m dependent on him for every
farthing. And all he allows me for pocket-money is--well, you’d never

Matt did not make the attempt; he judged Herbert might think meanly of
even a pound a week, but he did not dare to hazard a guess.

“Three hundred a year! And out of that I’ve got to get my clothes and
pay my models, confound ’em!”

Matt stared in startled, reverential envy.

“Yes, you may well stare. Why, you know yourself if you buy a woman a
bracelet it runs away with a month’s allowance. But, talking of
clothes, you’ll have to get better than those things, if you ever want
me to be seen with you.”

“These are quite new,” murmured Matt, in alarm.

“_And_ original,” added Herbert. “I’ll have to introduce you to my

“Is--is he dear?” Matt stammered.

“If you pay him,” said Herbert, dryly.

“Oh, I always pay,” protested Matt.

“You’re lucky. _I_ have to economize.”

Matt thought suddenly of William Gregson with a throb of gratitude. At
least his wardrobe boasted of unimpeachable boots. Then he suddenly
espied a small battalion of foot-gear ranged against a wall--black
boots, brown boots, patent shoes, brown shoes, boots with laces, boots
with beautiful buttons--and he relapsed into his primitive humility.
Uneasy lest Herbert should insist on equipping him similarly, he was
glad to remember that Herbert’s mother was expecting her boy, and with a
murmur to that effect rose to go.

“Nonsense!” said Herbert, “I’m not due till dinner-time; but if you must
be going, I think I’ll just stroll a little. You go towards Oxford
Street, don’t you?”

“Ye-es,” faltered Matt, who was a little frightened at the idea that his
dainty cousin might accompany him to his lodging.

“All right. I’ll just go to the club to see if there are any letters.
There’s another of your privileges, confound you! I can’t have any
letters come to my own place.”

“Why not?”

“Why not? Do you think I’d have the governor nosing my correspondence?
He’d be always asking questions. It’s a jolly little club--I’ll put you
up for it if you like. Take another cigarette; take half a dozen; put
’em in your pocket.”

As they were going down-stairs, Matt said he would like to say good-bye
to Madame, so they passed into the sitting-room.

“_Au revoir_, my dear nephew, _au revoir_!” said Madame, shaking both
his hands. “I said you and Herbert would love each other. You will find
your sixpence awaiting you on the desk.”



“Funny I’ve never been to see your place. I must look you up one day.”
Thus Herbert at uncertain intervals, but he never carried out his
threat. His life was too full, and he had been accustomed from childhood
to have the mountain come to Mohammed. And so, gradually, Matt, who had
at first lived half apprehensive of an exposure, half wishful that
Herbert should become rudely aware of his real position, surrendered
himself to the magnetism of his cousin’s manner, and weakly tried to
live up to that young gentleman’s misconception of him whenever they
were together; even submitting to a morning suit and an evening dress
from Herbert’s tailor for an undefined sum at an unmentioned date. For
if the disadvantages of Herbert’s society were many, if he had to starve
for days to return Herbert’s club hospitality at a restaurant, still he
was satisfied the game was worth the candle. From Herbert he felt
himself acquiring polish and refinement and impeccable English and
social lore; Herbert was an intellectual stimulus, with thoughts to give
away and the newest poets to lend; Herbert was bright and gay, charming
away the vapors of youthful despondency. But, above all, Herbert
sometimes allowed him to work in his studio, amid the sensuous beauty of
draping and decoration and statuary that lapped his artistic nature like
a soft summer sea--a privilege inestimable, but, in view of the mere
model, worth at least all the extra money this friendship cost him. It
befell thus:

On Matt’s second visit Herbert said, good-naturedly:

“I’ve just laid my palette. You sit down. Let’s see what you can do.”

“May I?” cried Matt, eagerly. There was a costume-model on the throne--a
dark-eyed beauty in Oriental drapery.

Herbert relinquished the brush and threw himself upon his back on the
couch, puffing lazily at his cigarette.

“By Jove!” he said, after ten minutes, “you’ve put that in all right.
But what a juicy style you’ve got! Where did you get that from?”

“I can’t do it any other way,” said Matt, apologetically.

“The governor told me you’re under Tarmigan. He never taught you that?”

“No; but that’s the way I’ve always worked. I did a lot of portraits in
Nova Scotia.”

“The devil you did! No wonder you’ve made money, confound you! I thought
you were a blooming ignoramus just come over to learn your pictorial
pothooks and hangers.”

“I thought so, too,” said Matt, flushing with pleasure and modesty.

“None of your sarcasm, you beggar. You can finish the head if you like.”

“Thank you,” said Matt, flutteringly. He felt as if Herbert were heaping
coals of fire upon his own head, repaying his first secret depreciation
by over-generous praise. He painted away bravely, soon losing himself in
the happy travail of execution.

“I must come down to your place and see your work,” said Herbert,
looking up from the volume of Swinburne in which he had immersed

“Oh, there isn’t much!” said Matt, hastily. “I’ll bring you some little
things next time. Only I don’t want your father to see them--they’re not
for sale.”

“You’re quite right,” said Herbert. “Don’t show ’em to him. Hush!”

“What’s the matter?” asked Matt, turning his head.

“Talk of the--Old Gentleman,” said Herbert.

The brush dropped from the painter’s palsied fingers. He felt like one
caught red-handed. He had already come in, somewhat surreptitiously,
through the side door, in obedience to Herbert’s recommendation, and to
be found using Herbert’s appliances and model would be the acme of

The alarm was false, but thenceforward “The Old Gentleman” indicated
Matthew Strang the elder. For they had frequent occasion to fear his
advent, since Matt came often, tempted from his gloomy back room to the
beautiful light studio, where he was allowed not only to do bits of
Herbert’s work while Herbert read or gossiped with the model, but
occasionally to set up another easel and use the same model. But they
were only detected together twice by the Vandyke beard and the velvet
coat, and on one occasion Herbert had had time to resume the brush, and
on another to pose Matt as a model.

“The Old Gentleman’s rather grumpy about you,” he admitted, with his
customary candor. “I’ve had to tell the servant not to mention your
coming so often. The mater’s mashed on you, and I suppose he’s a bit
jealous. She wanted to ask you to our dinner-party last night--we had
two Associates, and a Scotch Academician, and an American millionaire
who buys any rot, and an art critic who praises it--but he said one
didn’t give dinner-parties for one’s relations, but for strangers.”

As Matt had already dined once _en famille_, with Madame’s guileless
homage at his side to put him at ease, he did not feel himself hardly

His position with “The Old Gentleman” was not improved by his demeanor
on an occasion when, meeting him in the doorway, Herbert’s father,
instead of raising remonstrant eyebrows, astonished him by asking if he
would like to see the masterpieces he had in stock. Matt did not know
that this generous offer was due to the death of a member of the
Institute whose watercolors had been accumulating on Matthew Strang’s
hands, and who now, even before his funeral, was showing signs of a
posthumous “boom;” he replied eagerly that nothing could be a greater
favor. The picture-dealer waved his jewelled hand with pompous
geniality, and, mounting one flight of stairs, with the hand on Matt’s
shoulder, ushered him into the holy of holies, a chamber religious with
purple curtains and hushed with soft carpets, where the more precious
pictures reposed behind baize veils that for possible purchasers were
lifted with a reverent silence bespeaking a hundred extra guineas. Long
habit of ritual awe made Matthew Strang’s hands pious even before his

But his nephew’s expected ecstasies were tempered by unexpected
criticism. In an eminent Academician’s portrait of a lady, Matt pointed
out that the eyes were wrong, that pupils should be round, not squashy,
and that the hot shadows made by the Indian reds under the nose were
inspired by Romney. He questioned the veracity of a landscape by a
costly name, demurring to the light on the under sides of the leaves as
impossible under the conditions depicted; and in a historical
composition by an old English master he found a lack of subtlety in the
legs, and a stringy feeling throughout.

All this wanton depreciation of goods by one who was not even an
interested bargainer galled the picture-dealer, conscious of overflowing
good-nature, and prepared for a natural return in breathless adoration.
So when Matt suggested that in a celebrated picture of a sea-beach the
sea had no fluidity and was falling on the fishermen’s heads, he lost
his temper and cried, sarcastically: “I think you had better open a
school for R.A.’s, young man!”

Matt flushed, feeling he had been impertinent; then his sense of justice
repudiated the rebuke. It was of no use pretending a thing was right
when it wasn’t, he protested. He didn’t profess to get things right
himself, and he only wished he could do anything half as good as the
worst of these pictures. But he did know when he was wrong, even if it
wouldn’t come right for all his sweating and fuming.

“A young man oughtn’t to talk till he can paint,” interrupted his uncle,

“But you know what Dr. Johnson says, sir,” Matt remonstrated. “If you
can’t make a plum-pudding, it’s no sign you can’t judge one.”

“Plum-puddings and pictures are very different things,” said Matthew
Strang, stiffly, as though insulted by an implicit association with a

“My, that’s ripping!” cried Matt, abandoning the argument at the sudden
sight of a fine mellow piece of portrait-painting. “How the Old Masters
got the grays! Oh, why don’t people wear wigs nowadays?”

This outburst of enthusiasm made the private exhibition close more
auspiciously than had seemed probable, but Matt was never again invited
to inspect the sacred treasures. His relations with his relatives came
to be limited to morning visits to Herbert, whose stairs he ascended
half secretly, to watch the progress of his cousin’s studies for an
ambitious picture of “Daniel before Nebuchadnezzar,” the models for
which he also used himself. He left his own studies behind at Herbert’s
request--though reluctantly, for he was not at all satisfied with
them--as a species of payment for the privilege. When, through his
interest in this coming masterpiece of Herbert’s, and under the
fascination of this delightful and flattering friendship, he forgot his
pride and fell into the habit of regular morning work in Herbert’s
company, lunch somehow came up regularly for three, though Madame was
not supposed to be aware of his presence. Those were joyous lunches,
full of laughter and levity, made picturesque by the romantic dress or
undress of the third party, and extra palatable for Matt--when his first
reluctance wore off--by the fact that they saved dinners.

“Daniel before Nebuchadnezzar” was intended for next year’s Academy,
Herbert told him, and he gathered from his cousin’s casual observations
that it had also to be submitted beforehand to the professors at the
schools, for there were strange cramping conditions as to the size of
the canvas and the principal figure. But he was less interested in its
destination than in its draughtsmanship. He saw the tableau in his
mind’s eye the moment Herbert told him he was engaged upon it, for the
scene had often figured itself to his fancy in those far-off days when
his mother read the Bible to her helpless children by random prickings.
Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was one of the lucky chapters, to which Matt
listened without distraction as the narrative unrolled itself
pictorially before his inner vision. He rapidly sketched his conception,
then found he disliked it, and ultimately remembered he had
unconsciously reproduced the grouping of figures in the illustration in
his mother’s Bible, one of those he had colored in his childish
naughtiness. Herbert protested this was no drawback, but Matt went away
brooding over a more artistic arrangement, and dreamed that he was
mangled by lions in a den. But in the morning he brought a new grouping
for Herbert’s consideration. This Herbert picked to pieces as being
against the canons.

“Don’t forget it’s for the Academy,” he said. “We mustn’t make mistakes
in grammar. Some of the old buffers are worse than Tarmigan.”

“Damn Tarmigan!” cried Matt, but he had to admit ruefully that his
scheme was full of solecisms. He had by this time as full an
acquaintance with the rules as his senior, but with Herbert they had
become instinctive. It was with a renewed sense of inferiority to his
cousin, paradoxically combined with an inward raging against the Lindley
Murrays of art, that Matt abandoned point after point under Herbert’s
searching criticism. Herbert’s gift of pulling other people’s ideas to
pieces amounted to genius. But he abandoned his original sketch also,
dismissed his projected models, and devoted himself to arguing out the
composition afresh.

Under the banter of the art-critic smoking cynically on the sofa, Matt
was put upon his mettle to group all the figures and dispose the lines
so as to escape the pitfalls lurking on every side, and likewise satisfy
the conditions of the pedantic professors.

“We must get as much subject as possible into it,” explained Herbert.
“They give you such a small space--only fifty by forty--that you must
crowd all you know into it.”

Gradually the composition took shape, with infinite discussion, daily
renewed. Matt was for pillars with curious effects of architecture.
Herbert objected that pillars would make the perspective too difficult,
and only consented on the laughing stipulation that Matt should work out
the angles. And Herbert was very averse from Matt’s suggestions of
strange original attitudes for the figures.

“That ’ll make some awfully stiff foreshortening,” he grumbled.

“What does it matter? You’ll have models,” Matt would reply.

“It’s all very well. You haven’t got to do the work,” Herbert would

And when the grouping was settled, the color and the drapery brought
fresh argumentation, the young men working as at a chess problem till
the puzzle of arriving at the original without deserting the Academic
was solved. And as, in the solution of a chess problem by a pair of
heads, the suggestion of the winning moves has been so obscured by the
indefinite suggestion of abortive moves by both, that neither remembers
to which the final discovery of the right track was due, so Matt would
have been surprised to be told that the ideas that had been retained
were all his, and the ideas that had been rejected were all Herbert’s.
The thought of apportioning their shares in the final scheme never
crossed his mind, even though it was his hand that always held the
experimentative pencil. Indeed, the technical interest of the task had
absorbed every other thought, and the details of the tentative were lost
in the triumph of the achieved, and obscured as by a cigarette cloud of
happy mornings.

And then Herbert told his father he must have new models fresh to

“I don’t want ’em from Haverstock Hill or Lillie Road,” he said--”women
who’ve been hung in every gallery. I don’t want your Italians from
Hatton Garden, or professionals that any of the other fellows might get
hold of and extract my ideas from. Besides, new faces will give me a
better chance.”

And Matthew Strang the Elder recognized there was some reason in his
son’s request; but he pointed out it was not so easy to go outside the
stock families, especially for figure models, and that old hands often
helped the painter. But Herbert easily overrode his objections. It was
only the conventional attitudinizings and foreshortenings which they
understood, the quotations of art, which he was now about to abandon in
deference to paternal prejudice; and so Matthew Strang, morbidly
solicitous, obediently brought picturesque Orientals for Daniel and the
King and the satraps and the counsellors, and blushing brunettes for the
beauties of the Court; and Herbert set to work to reproduce in large on
the canvas Matt’s rough charcoal scheme of the whole, and his own or
Matt’s studies of the parts; and when Herbert blundered, Matt suggested
with pastel a change of tone or color or outline, sometimes even taking
up the brush when Herbert was lazy--as Herbert often was. Matt was
never surprised to find the work no more advanced than when he had gone
away the morning before, for Herbert’s mind was on many and more
important things. The Academy students were rehearsing a burlesque which
he had written for their dramatic society, and he sometimes slipped out
to the rehearsals, lamenting to Matt that, through his father’s
insistence on steady work, he could not even play in his own piece. The
only recreation allowed him was a ride in the Park on a hired hack, and
even that, he grumbled, was to enable him to salute cantering R.A.’s.
Sometimes he went to tea with the girl students at restaurants.
Sometimes he went to balls, and was too tired on the day after to do
anything but describe them. They were always painters’ dances; “The Old
Gentleman blocks others,” he said. On one occasion the host was an R.A.,
whose son was a fellow-student at the schools, and then “The Old
Gentleman chortled.”

Then there was the students’ ball, to which he convoyed Matt, who was
quite dazzled by the elegance and refinement of the ladies, and almost
afraid to speak to his partners, and torn afresh with envy of the
beautiful life from which he had been, and must long be, shut out; not
losing his discomfort till, after the supper (at which he tasted
champagne for the first time), Herbert’s special circle danced the
Lancers with a zest and _entrain_ that horrified some of the matrons,
and brought back to Matt the dear old nights when he took the barn floor
with little Ruth Hailey, under the placid gaze of the cows and amid the
odors of the stable and the hay-mow.

For other memorable experiences, too, Matt was indebted to his
easy-going cousin. There was Herbert’s club, the Bohemian, a cosey
little place favored by actors and journalists, caricatures of whose
sensuous faces lined the walls in company with oil-paintings and
sketches more sensuous still. Matt felt measureless reverence for the
men he brushed against here. He had seen some of them before in the
illustrated papers which he read in shop-windows or penny news-rooms or
Herbert’s studio, and he trembled lest they should detect, from his
embarrassment amid the varied knives and forks and glasses, that he was
only a boor with less education than the waiters. He wondered what the
clever, cultured people--scraps of whose conversation floated across to
him amid the popping of soda-water corks--would think if they knew he
had planted potatoes, chopped logs, made sugar in the woods, and climbed
masts and steeples. In the new snobbishness with which their society had
infected him he could not see that these things were education, not
humiliation, and he was glad that even Herbert knew little of his
history, and asked less. Of other people’s histories, on the other hand,
Matt heard a great deal. “Bubbles” had robbed him of his belief in royal
virtue; in the smoking-room of the Bohemians society fell to pieces like
a house of cards, in building which, as Herbert once said, the knaves
alone had been used. It was a racing, dicing, drinking, swindling,
fornicating fraternity, worm-eaten with hypocrisy. Sincerity or
simplicity was “all my eye;” there was always money or a woman or
position in the background.

“They talk a lot of scandal,” Matt once complained.

“My dear Matt,” remonstrated Herbert, “it’s not scandal; it’s gossip.
Brixton gossips about who marries whom, Bohemia about who lives with
whom. Scandal implies censure.”

Despite the scandal (or the gossip), Matt was full of curiosity to see
this strange new life of clubs and restaurants and theatres (to which
Herbert sometimes got paper admissions), this feverish realm of
intellect and gayety, where nobody seemed to want for anything; but it
sometimes came over him with an odd flash of surprise and bitterness, as
he caught the gleam of white scented shoulders, or saw heavy-jowled
satyrs swilling champagne, that all this settled luxury had been going
on while he was tramping the snowy roads of what might have been another

The feeling wore off as the London season advanced, and the tide of
luxurious life rolled along the great sunny thoroughfares, or flecked
the midnight streets with darting points of fire. His Puritan
conscience, curiously persisting beneath all the scepticism engendered
by his mother’s tragedy, had at first acquiesced but uneasily in the
unscriptural view of life that seemed to prevail around him. But
fainter and fainter grew its prickings, the sensuous in him ripened in
this liberal atmosphere, and that Greek conception of a beautiful world
which, budding for him in solitude, had been almost nipped by the same
cruel tragedy, flowered now in the heats of an ardent city.

“The Old Gentleman” was in such good-humor at the surprising progress of
Herbert’s “Daniel before Nebuchadnezzar” that Madame’s gentle
remonstrance that he ought to do something for Matt touched a responsive
chord, and before the Academy sending-in day Matt had the privilege of
being escorted by his uncle, in company with Herbert, to a
_conversazione_ at the Reynolds Club, of which the dealer was a member.
Herbert was soon lost in the crush of second-rate painters and engravers
and obscurely famous visitors who gathered before the members’ would-be
Academy pictures that lined the walls, or the second-rate entertainers
who struck attitudes on the daïs; but Matt was too nervous amid this
congestion of celebrities to detach himself from his uncle, who did the
honors grandly, pointing out the lions of the club with a proprietorial
air. Matt could not but feel that his uncle (who was of the
swallow-tailed minority) was himself one of the lions of the club, and
in very truth he was its most distinguished-looking member. “The
refreshments are not gratis,” he told Matt, “but of course you can have
anything you like at my expense. Will you have a cup of coffee, or are
you one of those degenerate young men who can’t live without
whiskey-and-water?” But Matt had no appetite for anything; he was too
fluttered by this close contact with the giants of the brush. He
listened eagerly to morsels of their dialogue, strained his vision to
see them through the smoky, lamplit air; critical as he might have been,
and was, before their work, the men themselves were shrouded in a vague
splendor of achievement. They had all been hung.

There seemed a good deal of talk about a virulent article of
comprehensive condemnation in the art columns of the _Saturday
Spectator_; everybody seemed to have read it and nobody to have written
it. For the rest, compliments crossed like smiling couples in the

“What a stunning landscape that is of yours, Rapper!” said Wilfred
Smith, a journalist so ignorant of painting that he was suspected of art
criticism. “Quite like a Corot.”

“Oh, it’s nothing; just knocked off for a color-blind old Johnny who
admires me,” replied Rapper, deprecatingly. He was a moon-faced man with
a double eyeglass on a gold cord. “It’s rotten, really; I’m awfully
ashamed of it.” And he elbowed his way towards it.

“So he ought to be, and so ought you to be ashamed, Wilfred,” said
Morrison, the poet of pessimism and music-halls. “It’s just like those
splashes of silvery gray they sell for Corots on the Boulevards.”

“That’s what I meant,” said Wilfred. “Didn’t you see I was guying him?
Hullo, Clinch, I’ve been admiring that water-color of yours. What an
exquisite face the girl has!”

“It isn’t a water-color, you ---- fool; it’s a pastel,” said Clinch,

“That’s what I meant--not an oil-color,” replied Wilfred, unabashed.

Matt stared with interest at the picture, which was just beside him. The
face was indeed exquisite with the peculiar delicacy of pastel. He
looked at the painter’s own face, coarse and splotched, the teeth fouled
by endless tobacco. It was as though Pan should paint Psyche.

“I see the _Saturday Spectator_ doesn’t understand your ‘Carolina,’
Clinch,” said the poet, smiling.

Clinch damned the _Saturday Spectator_ in a string of unlovely oaths,
which were drowned by the music of a violin and a piano. He did not care
a twopenny damn what people scribbled about him; his pictures were
there, just the same.

“But what does ‘Carolina’ mean, old man?” said the poet, appealingly.

Clinch replied that literary fellows were invariably sanguinary fools
who fancied that painting meant things and could be explained in words.
He had just been reading about the significance of Leonardo’s
backgrounds in some rotten book on the Renaissance. In reality those
bits of landscape must have been put in and painted out a dozen times
before Leonardo had struck the color-harmony he tried after. Morrison
retorted, that if the art-critic could paint he would become a partisan,
tied to his own talent. As it was, he could approach other men’s
pictures without prejudice.

“But also without knowledge,” Clinch replied, goaded. He pointed out
brutally that to learn painting meant to learn a new set of symbols. “If
you wanted to paint that lamp,” he said, “you’d probably put down a----
line to get that edge, and so lose all the---- softness. A real line
wouldn’t look a---- bit like the real thing. Same with color; real red
wouldn’t give red. Painting is all subterfuge, optical illusion. Color
and form are only an affair of relations.”

He went on to explain, with punctilious profanities, that to study the
relation of that lamp to the piano-lid was enough for a picture; treated
perfectly, there would be a poetry and mystery about it. Beauty, too,
was only an affair of relations, and in “Carolina” he had been trying to
get a beautiful relation between two ugly things, and an early Georgian
feeling into a nineteenth-century interior, with a scientific accuracy
of tones known only to modern French art.

Matt listened eagerly, wincing a little at the livelier oaths, but
conscious of piquant perspectives, of novel artistic vision, which, if
not quite intelligible, was in refreshing contrast with Tarmigan’s
old-fashioned orthodoxy.

“But you had the same woman in your picture of the ‘Salvation Lass,’”
persisted the poet.

Clinch explained that if writing chaps knew what it was to hunt for a
satisfactory model, they’d thank their stars they didn’t know a palette
from a planchette. A “swell woman” that really expressed your idea you
couldn’t get to sit for you, and if you could get her you couldn’t swear
at her. Besides, it was his ambition to create a new type of feminine
beauty, and impose her on his period--_une femme de Clinch_! Wilfred
Smith took mental notes, prepared henceforward to expound Clinch to an
ignorant world.

“It’s about time he got a new model, anyway,” he said, when the
repulsive-looking artist had moved off.

“Or painted her,” added Morrison, dryly.

Matt had a flash of resentment. The picture was to him a dainty dream of
cool color and graceful form. Despite his association with Herbert, he
did not yet understand the temperament that strides to Wit over Truth’s

“Isn’t it funny a man like that should draw such refined women?” he
could not help remarking to his cicerone.

Matthew Strang assumed an oracular expression. “Art’s just a knack,” he
said. “You’ve got to be born with it. I wasn’t, more’s the pity; but
Herbert makes up for it, thank Heaven! Art’s got nothing to do with
character. I’ve paid many a man to do me so many easel-pictures a year,
and do you suppose I ever got them? The rogues get drunk or die or
something, but they never come up to time.”

Matt was puzzled. If Art demanded anything, it seemed to him it was
steadfastness and sobriety. The truth about it seemed to lie in those
lines he had read in a volume of Matthew Arnold, borrowed from Herbert:

                          “Young, gay,
    Radiant, adorned outside; a hidden ground
    Of thought and of austerity within.”

A sudden fear that he was not a genius himself was like a vivisector’s
knife through his heart, laying bare with painful incision its secret

“Do you think Clinch gets his effects without bothering?” he asked, with

“O heavens! no,” said Matthew Strang, authoritatively. “I once watched
him at work. He was squatted on a tiny stool, looking up at his picture,
and painting upward. He had a cigarette in his mouth, which he was
always relighting. Every now and then he would sigh heavily, or swear at
himself or his model, and sometimes he would go and lie on the
hearth-rug and stare solemnly at the canvas; then jump up, give one
touch, swear if it went wrong, paint it out, and then go and stand in
the corner with his face to the wall, probably in meditation, but
looking exactly like a naughty little boy at school.”

Matt smiled, half at the picture of Clinch in the corner, half from
relief at finding that even men who swore and drank far more than he
did suffered quite as acutely in the parturition of the Beautiful. He
fell back on the theory of an essential inner delicacy behind the
occasionally coarse envelope of artistic genius, just as grossness could
lurk beneath a gentlemanly refinement.

They ultimately found Herbert in the billiard-room, with a cue in one
hand and a “soda-and-whiskey” in the other. “I don’t want to look at the
pictures,” he protested. “If they’re decent I’ll see them in the
Academy, and if they’re rot it’s waste of time seeing them at all. As
for the entertainment, you can get a better at any music-hall--at least,
so I’ve been told.” Nevertheless, he himself took Matt to another
_conversazione_ the same week, the far more homely gathering of the St.
George’s Sketching Club, where the refreshments _were_ gratis and
evening dress was taboo, and really famous people scrambled for the
bread-and-cheese and beer, of which there was not enough, and members
disported themselves in their models’ costumes for the edification of a
company which had turned its back on their pictures. For the Academy
itself Matt paid his shilling, into such extravagant habits had he
slipped since the days of his arrival in London, when a National Gallery
catalogue was beyond his far fatter purse. But he came away much less
inspired than from that momentous visit, his imagination untouched, save
once or twice, as by Erle-Smith’s personalized projections of mediæval
romance, in which the absence of real atmosphere seemed only natural.
There were so many smooth portraits of uninteresting people that he was
reminded drearily of his Nova-Scotian drudgery, when his heaven-scaling
spirit had to stoop to portray and please some tedious farmer who was
sometimes not even picturesque. It did not occur to him how unfair was
the latent comparison with the National Gallery; he forgot that Art is
short and the Academy long, that one can no more expect a batch of great
pictures every year than a batch of great novels or of great symphonies.

Tarmigan had a picture of “The Rape of the Sabines.” It was hung on the
line, and Grainger’s was very proud of it. In the discussion on the
Academy (which supplied the class with the materials for a fortnight’s
carping) it was the only picture that escaped even “Bubbles’s”
depreciation, though he declared he would never himself paint like that,
which the curly-headed wag eagerly admitted. One of the students had
secured a place in the “skies,” and his success made Matt regret he
himself had not dared to send in.

Grainger’s own contribution had been rejected, which made his pupils
think more highly of themselves.

Matt was more interested in the Azure Art Gallery, a little exhibition
(mainly of landscapes with violet shadows) held by some young men about
whom Herbert was enthusiastic; for they did not attempt, said he, to vie
either with the camera or the conte. “If painting be an art at all,” he
contended, “it can only be so by virtue of ignoring Nature. As Goethe
said, ‘We call art Art because it is not Nature.’ The musician works up
notes, the poet syllables into a music unlike anything in Nature, and so
must the painter work up Nature’s colors and forms under the sole
guidance of his artistic instinct. And whatever can be better expressed
in words has no place in painting. These young men’s pictures tell no
stories, and no truths either. They are merely concerned with color and

Matt afterwards found that, with the exception of a couple of Scotchmen,
these young men by no means accepted Herbert’s account of their aims;
indeed, they rather regarded it as satirical, for to give truer
impressions of Nature was precisely their boast and glory. Although Matt
could not always credit them with success in this, still he found a note
of life and fantasy in their work. He was especially struck by
Cornpepper’s “Chimney on Fire in Fitzroy Street”--a flight of sparks
falling and curving in a golden rain, in vivid contrast with the dark,
starlit sky above and the black mass of spectators below, faintly
illumined by street-lamps, and broken at the extreme end by the brassy
gleam of the fire-engine tearing up the street. There were inaccuracies
of detail, but Matt was immensely impressed by the originality of the
subject and the touch of weirdness, and it was with joy that he accepted
Herbert’s offer to take him to the Azure Art Club, where Cornpepper and
his clique mostly forgathered. Since Herbert had misinterpreted them to
his cousin, Matt had read a good deal about them in the papers, and
they had held forth brilliantly to interviewers on the veracity of their
rendering of Nature, Cornpepper going so far as to claim that you could
not look at his landscapes without feeling--from the color of stone and
sea, from the tints of the sky and the disposition of the clouds--what
o’clock it was. Whereupon the interviewer had consulted a study of
poppies on a cliff, and reported that it was half-past eleven,
Cornpepper crying “Correct!” All of which did not fail to provoke
counterblasts from the Academic camp and from the irresponsible
concocters of facetious paragraphs.

It was all very small--the feeble British refraction of the great Gallic
battle then waging, of the campaign of plein air and modern subject
against bituminous landscapes and classic conventions, the expurgated
English edition of the eternal battle of youth and age, spiritless as
the bouts of boxers in a Quaker land, _sans_ prize-rings or
hero-worshippers; the shadowy warfare of art in a Puritan country
vibrating only to politics and religion, indifferent to style, gauging
literature merely by its message and art by its idea.

But Matt was not a true-born Briton, and his own aversion from an unreal
Nature doctored and tricked up, in which an artificial chiaroscuro took
the place of observation and atmosphere, led him into instant sympathy
with this painting of “real moments,” with this presentation of “Nature
caught in the fact,” as Cornpepper brilliantly defined the Impressionism
he had smuggled over from Paris. Even if Nature was not so violet as she
was painted, Matt felt the mistake was on the right side. And who but
Cornpepper had revealed and interpreted the mystery and poetry of the
night? True, he was rather staggered to remember, it was impossible to
paint the night with your eye on the object. The night side of Nature
might be caught in the fact; it could not be arrested in the fact.

Herbert was not a member of the Azure Art Club; they had to call on a
man in Kensington to get him to take them there. He proved to be no
other than the moon-faced Rapper, whom Herbert had invited to invite
them to dinner.

“He’s an awful duffer,” he said, enviously, “but he has a flat of his
own and an income of his own, and he’s had the run of Copenhagen,
Paris, and Antwerp. They say Copenhagen is worse than Paris.”

Rapper made them stay to admire his rooms. “Don’t look at my pictures,”
he said; “that’s only a portrait I’m doing of Riggs, the bucket-shop
keeper. I’m an awful duffer; why I should get so many commissions at a
hundred and fifty guineas when there’s lots of geniuses starving, I
never can make out. I suppose it’s because I don’t want the money--I
shall only blue it at Monte Carlo. I’ve only just come back from the
country--a J.P., an awful screw. He made me do him and his wife for
two-fifty. Still, they’re only half-lengths. Do try some of this
Burgundy; it’s genuine. I import it direct from a small grower. I get a
huge barrel for five pounds, and pay three pounds duty, and get hundreds
of bottles out of it. People don’t know how to get wine in England. Oh,
do please look at that Limoges enamel over the mantel-piece, Mr. Strang;
it’s far better worth looking at than that daub of a library.”

“I always prefer to look at pictures,” said Matt, apologetically.

“It _is_ rather a strong bit of color,” admitted Rapper.

“Yes. Do you think the light is accounted for?” asked Matt. “That red

“Don’t you see the library lamp?” rejoined Rapper.

“Yes, but the shade’s off; and even then, isn’t it more like firelight?”

“Not a bit of it!” replied Rapper, hotly. “Do you suppose I didn’t study
the effects with a lighted lamp? That’s a good bit of action in the old
scholar’s arm, reaching for the book.”

Matt examined it carefully.

“The forearm is a little out of drawing, isn’t it--a little too long?”
he asked, timidly.

“My dear fellow, the model had an unusually long forearm. You don’t
suppose everybody is alike. Of course it isn’t near finished yet. But
really I was trying for color more than for line; and, after all, it’s
the careless draughtsmanship of a man who can draw. It attracted quite a
lot of notice at the Azure Art Gallery last year, but I put a big price
on it, so that it shouldn’t sell, and I’d have time to work it up.
That’s a little bust of myself; it’s only plaster of Paris bronzed
over. I model ever so much better than I paint, but nobody will give me
a commission. Isn’t it funny? Do have some more of the Burgundy. I’m not
much of an artist, but I flatter myself I do know a good wine.”

Before they left he presented them with photographs of his library
picture, apparently forgetting that he hadn’t near finished it.

“I say, I can’t go about with you if you go on like this,” whispered
Herbert to Matt, as Rapper lingered to extinguish his gas and lock his
door. “Fancy telling a chap his faults. You mustn’t go by me and my
Nebuchadnezzar. I rather like to be pitched into. It keeps a fellow from
getting conceited.”

“I didn’t know,” Matt murmured, with a new admiration for Herbert, who
had already become a hero to him, moving so brilliantly amid all these
shining circles. The three young men got into a hansom and smoked
Rapper’s cigars. At the little club, which was only ten minutes off,
they dined in a long, narrow, drab-painted room, with a billiard-table
near the door. Several men, whose work Matt had studied with interest,
were dining in their vicinity. Matt strained his ears to catch their
conversation, but it seemed to be all about the billiard-table, an
apparently recent acquisition. At last, to his joy, he was introduced to
some of the most famous--to Butler, tall, dark, muscular, and
frock-coated, most erratic of etchers, most slap-dash of painters; to
the foul-mouthed, dainty-fingered Clinch; to Gurney, slim, youthful, and
old-faced, habited in tweeds, the latest recruit, an earnest disciple of
every master in turn, old or new, always in superlatives of eulogy or
abuse, and untaught by his own gyrations to respect a past adoration or
to tone down a present; to Greme, more barefacedly boyish than even
Herbert, a blonde youth credited by his admirers with a charming new
blond vision of Nature, though the Philistines contended that all he did
was to get water-color effects with oils; to Simpson, who ground his own
colors, and had mysterious glazes and varnishes, and was consumed by an
unshared anxiety as to the permanence of his pictures; and--oh, awful
joy!--to the great Cornpepper, the most brilliant and the youngest of
them all, a squat, juvenile figure, with a supercilious eye-glass in the
right eye, a beak-like nose, and a habit of rasping the middle of his
seat with his hands, like an owl on a perch. Matt was dying to talk to
them--and especially to Cornpepper--of their art; as to men who had
already done something in the world through which they moved, burdened
with aspirations and haloed with dreams. But the talk would not veer
round to painting, and the evening was entirely devoted to a general
game of shell-out with halfpenny points. Matt was drawn into taking a
cue, and lost one and threepence halfpenny in the first game, his
inexperience being aggravated by Herbert’s whispered caution not to cut
the cloth. However, his skilled eye and hand, practised with gun and
brush, soon told, and he won his money back in the second, much to his
relief, for his funds were running away at an appalling rate. The
strenuous leaders of the newest art movement relaxed over the green
table, highly hilarious as the white ball ran among the red balls like a
sheep-dog, to drive them into the pockets, and stamping and contorting
themselves in mock applause after a failure to score.

“That’s a fluke!” Herbert would say when the failure was his, and the
jest became a catchword provocative of perpetual cachinnation.

There were so many hands in the game that Matt had plenty of time for
occasional remarks between his turns, but nobody would speak of art
except a venerable graybeard named Brinkside, who talked to him
enthusiastically of the Azure Art campaign. He told him of the heroism
of its leaders: of how Cornpepper had lived on dates and water while
doing black-and-white illustrations for the _Christian Home_, salvation
subjects at starvation prices; of how the even sturdier Butler had slept
in a stable-loft, refusing to compromise with his genius or to modify
the great dabs of paint that the world mistook for daubs. In answer to
Matt’s inquiries, the old man explained to him how Cornpepper painted
his night scenes, by putting down at fever heat in the morning some
beautiful effect noted and absorbed the night before. In the evening
Cornpepper would return to the spot, Brinkside said; but if, despite all
his waiting, he could not see the same effect, he would wilfully forget
the second impression, and return again and again till the first
conditions were repeated. Matt, relieved to find that Cornpepper’s
method was similar to his own, and that genius had no esoteric
prerogatives of method, pointed out that in Nature’s infinite
permutations an effect never recurred exactly as before, and that,
therefore, he, for his part, contented himself with storing up in his
mind the main values and color-planes, relying on deduction for the
minutiæ. But, of course, it all depended on holding the total effect,
the original sensation, vividly in the memory. On leaving he thanked
Brinkside with touching humility for the instructive interest of his

“Funny to find an old man in a new movement,” he observed, suddenly, to
Herbert, in their homeward hansom.

“Why not? Old men often creep in. It’s their last chance. But if it’s
Brinkside you’re thinking of, he’s not an artist at all. He’s an
artists’ colorman, who supplied ’em with their materials on tick before
they caught on. Brinkside’s like a dress-maker I used to know at
Brighton, who financed lovely woman till she married wealthy flats. He
foresaw they would get on, and, by Jove, they are blazing away like a
house on fire, or, perhaps I ought to say, like a chimney on fire.”

“Then the opposition to the Academy is flourishing!” cried Matt,
joyfully. His vague, youthful sympathy with all that was fresh and young
was strengthened and made concrete by the revelations of struggle and
starvation in the lives of those that had preceded him, martyred for the
faith that was in them.

“Yes, it is flourishing,” said Herbert; “so much so that in ten years’
time most of ’em will be Academicians or Associates. If I were the
governor I’d buy ’em up now; but he’s got no insight.”

“Oh,” said Matt, disappointed. “Do you mean the Academy will win, after

“Six of one and half a dozen of t’other. They’ll be half accepted and
half toned down. Already Greme and Butler are married--and that’s the
beginning of the end. Lucky beggars! supplied with enthusiasm in their
youth, and comfort in their old age. I wish I was young myself.”

“What nonsense!”

“I never was young,” said Herbert, shaking his head. “I always saw
through everything. Heigho! Give us a light from your cigar. I’ve sighed
mine out.”

“I suppose they’re very grateful to Brinkside,” said Matt, when the fire
of Herbert’s cigar was rekindled.

“They play billiards with him, but I don’t suppose they’ve squared up

“But they’re making money now,” urged Matt, horrified. Years of bitter
slavery to domestic liabilities had unfitted him to understand this
laxity of financial fibre.

“And then? Why be rash? One can’t foresee the future.”

Before the magnificence of this rebuke Matt shrank abashed; he had a
sneaking twinge of shame and concern for his own homely honesty, as for
something inauspiciously inartistic.

“Talking of money,” went on Herbert, “I’m devilish hard up myself for a
day or two--bills to meet at once, and my allowance don’t come due for a
few days. You couldn’t advance me a trifle, I suppose?”

“Of course I could,” said Matt, eagerly.

“Do you think you could let me have a pony?”

“A pony?” repeated Matt, mystified.

“Twenty-five pounds. Don’t do it if it will at all inconvenience you.”

Matt was glad that it was too dark for Herbert to read his face. The sum
was by far the greater portion of his worldly possessions. But he did
not hesitate. Herbert would refund it in a day or two.

“I will bring it to the studio to-morrow,” he said.

“That’s a good chap,” said Herbert. “By-the-way, we’ve got to go to
Cornpepper’s studio next Sunday week.”

“Really?” cried Matt, in delighted excitement.

“Yes; he told me he didn’t like to ask you direct, because you looked so
serious and strait-laced.”

“Oh!” protested Matt, with a vague sense of insult.

“Well, you do, there’s no denying it. Remember how you preached to me
about the governor the first time you saw me. Perhaps you’ll go
lecturing Cornpepper because he economizes by domesticating his model
when he has a big picture on the easel. Personally, I like Cornpepper;
he is the only fellow who has the courage of his want of principles in
this whitewashed sepulchre of a country. But be careful that you don’t
talk to him as you did to Rapper, for he lives up to his name. He is
awfully peppery when you tread on his corns, though he has no objection
to stamping on yours. Not that I believe there’s any real malice in him,
but they say his master at the Beaux-Arts was a very quarrelsome fellow,
and my opinion is that he models himself on him, and thinks that to
quarrel with everybody is to be a great artist.”

“Oh, but don’t you think he _will_ be a great artist?” said Matt.

“He _is_ a great artist, but he won’t be,” said Herbert. “He’ll be an
R.A. By Jove! we nearly ran over that Guardsman. Mary Ann has been
standing him too many drinks. Do you know the price of a Guardsman,

“The price?”

“Yes; a nurse-maid who wishes to be seen walking out with a swagger
soldier has to give him half a crown and his beer.”

Herbert never lost an opportunity of showing off to Matt his knowledge
of the inner working of the great social machine. Madame, passing her
white hand lovingly over her boy’s hair, had no idea of the serpentine
wisdom garnered in the brain beneath.

At the Marble Arch, Matt, carefully bearing the photograph of Rapper’s
“Library,” got out of the hansom to exchange to a ’bus which passed near
his street. He offered to pay his share of the hansom, but Herbert waved
the silver aside with princely magnificence.



Matt’s desire to hear the brotherhood of the brush on Art was gratified
_ad nauseam_ at Cornpepper’s, for a batch of artists of all ages,
together with a couple of journalists, assembled in the big, bare,
picture-littered studio to smoke their own pipes and to say “when” to
the neat-handed model who dispensed the host’s whiskey. Some declared
they wanted it neat, to take off the effects of a grewsome tale with
which Rapper had started the evening. It was about the time when he had
studied art in Berlin and attended Ringschneider’s anatomy class. (“I’m
not much of an artist, but I do know anatomy,” he interpolated.) One day
when the corpse upon which the professor was about to demonstrate was
uncovered, the students recognized, to their horror, a favorite
fellow-pupil, who had been away for a few days. He had been taken ill in
his garret, conveyed to the hospital, and, being alone in the world, had
been sold to the lecture-room. The startled class immediately subscribed
for another corpse, and buried the unfortunate boy with due honors.
Greme tried to counteract this tale by another one about a model, an old
fellow named William Tell, who, after vainly applying at the Slade and
Lambeth schools for work, had been taken up by the St. George’s
Sketching Club for the sake of his picturesque corded breeches. When, at
the end of the two hours’ spell, the men were criticising one another’s
work, one said to another, “There doesn’t seem any leg under those
breeches.” Overhearing which, William Tell fell to indignantly
unbuttoning his gaiters.

The arrival of a twinkling-eyed caricaturist, joyously greeted by all as
“Jimmy,” dispelled the last flavors of the mortuary. “Aren’t you in
China?” everybody asked. Jimmy explained he had thrown up the
commission, but was off to the West Indies next month, though he
expected to find himself in Paris instead. He was a genius, with an
infinite capacity for taking pains and making friends, and, being forced
to rise in the small hours to get through his work before the countless
callers arrived to distract him, was popularly supposed to be an idle
scapegrace, who produced sketches as rapidly and copiously as the
conjurer produces oranges from his coat-sleeve. Matt’s breath was almost
taken away in a rush of reverence and rapture at the unexpected
privilege of seeing him; for, despite his own craving for the Sublime
and the Beautiful, Jimmy Raven’s sketches of low London life had for him
a magnetic appeal whose strength surprised himself. Sometimes he fancied
it was the humor and the fun that held him, as being the qualities in
which he himself was most deficient; sometimes it flashed upon him
obscurely--as in a light thrown through a fog--that Jimmy Raven was
teaching him to see the spectacle of life more deeply and truthfully
through the medium of his humorous vision; at such instants he almost
thought one of Jimmy’s loafers worth a whole Academy of poetic myths,
but he suppressed the suspicion as absurd and perturbing to his own
ideals and vision, telling himself it was only the truth and subtlety of
the draughtsmanship that he admired. He listened to him now as eagerly
and deferentially as to Cornpepper, his eyes fixed mainly on these two
famous faces, as if to seize the secret of their gifts in some contour
of nose or chin; but he had ample curiosity and respect to spend even on
the other men, though below all his real modesty and diffidence was a
curious bed-rock of self-conscious strength, as of a talent that might
hope one day to be recognized even of these.

But there was little art-talk to be got out of Jimmy. Having likewise
said “when,” he launched into an account of an East End girl he had
sketched that morning in the Park, and quoted her idea of a coster
gentleman. “My brother’s a toff,” he had overheard her boasting. “He
wears three rows of buttons down his trousers, and sixteen wentilation
’oles in ’is ’at.” “And who do you think I saw in the Park?” he went on.
“Egyptian Bill.”

“No?” cried various voices. “What was he preaching?”

“Buddhism,” said Jimmy. “He’s sitting to Winkelman, that old chap who
became a Buddhist when he was painting those Eastern things the critics
made such a fuss about.”

There was a laugh at the expense of the Mohammedan model, who always
suited his religion to his employer’s.

“When I did him,” said Jimmy, “I pretended to be a Jew, and it was great
fun after he became a Jew to tell him I was a Christian.... I don’t know
which was the biggest lie,” he added, with his droll twinkle.

“Did you hear about the Hindoo who went to see Winkelman’s things at
Dowdeswell’s?” said Butler. “He spat out. You see, he knew the real
thing.” He smiled with grim satisfaction, for the things were licked
and stippled into a meretricious poetry, and his own bold blobs of
Oriental color had been laughed at.

“Don’t you wish they supplied spittoons at the Academy?” asked Jimmy.

It was the red rag. For the next ten minutes the absurdities of the
Academy and the transcendent merits of the Salon (which most of them had
run over to Paris to see) occupied the tapis, and then a spectacled
Scotchman, who answered to the name of Mack, dilated upon the decadence
of the grisette and the degeneracy of the students’ orgies.

“Ah, but still Paris stands for the joy of life,” said Cornpepper. “They
are not ashamed of living.”

“They ought to be,” said Matt, and the company laughed, as at a good

“Our young friend thinks the artist should be moral,” said Herbert,

“He’ll say art should be moral next,” said Mack.

“It isn’t immoral, is it?” said Matt, feebly. As usual, he was half
fascinated, half shocked by the freedom of the artistic standpoint, for
which his intellect was ready, but not his deeper organization. He
wondered again why he was so uncomfortably constructed, and he envied
these others for whom their art seemed to flow in happy irrelation to
conduct and character, or at least to the moral ideals of the bourgeois.
He marvelled at them, too, not understanding how talents more
subconscious than his own could lie in closed compartments, as it were,
of the artists’ minds, apparently unaffected by the experiences of their
temporary owners.

“Art’s neither moral nor immoral,” pronounced the little host,
magisterially, as he grasped his perch more tightly, “any more than it’s
lunar or calendar. The artist thinks and feels in line and color. He
sees Nature green or gray, according to his temperament. There are as
many views from Richmond Hill as there are artists. If two views are
alike, one is a plagiarism. Nature will never be exhausted, for every
man sees her differently.”

“And so long as he doesn’t see her double--” put in Jimmy.

“Quite so,” said Cornpepper. “So long as he isn’t too drunk to keep his
brush steady, we ask no more of him. In fact, it’s always best to be in
love with your sitter--that’s what gives _chic_.”

“Rot!” said a granite-faced, white-bearded septuagenarian who had been
smoking in silent amusement. “_Chic_ comes merely from painting with
brushes too large for the work.”

“Avast there, Rocks!” said Jimmy. “We don’t want any of your
revolutionary notions here. What would you say if we denounced jammy
shadows at the Academy dinner?”

“Avast yourself!” cried Cornpepper, rather angrily. “This is Liberty
Hall. I won’t be classed with the new school, or with any school.”
Cornpepper’s success had already made him feel the dead-weight of an
extravagant school with which one is confounded. “Because I exhibit with
you chaps, people credit me with all your views. You might as well say I
agree with the president because I’m on the line in the Academy.”

“Have you got a picture in the Academy, Teddy? I didn’t notice it,” said
Wilfred Smith, the journalist, thereby expressing what was in Matt’s
mind too.

“There you are!” laughed Rocks. “When you come among us you’re lost.
It’s only by our rejecting you that we make you famous. When you exhibit
by yourselves, you stand out.”

“I allow Rocks to talk,” said little Cornpepper, with a good-natured
smile. “He was the first to detect my talent, and I am really sorry to
be the last to detect his. I think his big nudes are shocking. He and
Tarmigan are a pair. Where is the point of painting heathen mythology?”

“I only paint the nude because I can’t paint clothes,” said Rocks,
smiling. “You are all so versatile nowadays.”

“Ah, Teddy’ll come round to the classic, too, one day,” said Butler,
with a weary expression on his strong, stern face. “You should have seen
his joy when he got the invitation for varnishing-day.”

“Nothing of the sort,” cried little Cornpepper, glaring through his
eye-glass and humping himself into a more owl-like curve. “I didn’t even
accept the invitation. I wasn’t going to help the R.A.’s to correct
their draughtsmanship.” The glare relaxed under his pleasure at the
laugh, and he added, more quietly: “Do let us drop shop, for Heaven’s
sake. I’m not one of a school--I’m myself. And I don’t say salvation
lies with any sect. Give me style; that’s all I ask for.”

“Will you have it neat?” murmured Jimmy.

“Style, not school,” pursued Cornpepper, pleased with the phrase. “Take
literature! There’s style in Boccaccio, and style in Flaubert, and style
in Wycherley. Even a moral work may pass if it has style--Pope’s
satires, for instance. So, too, in painting. I don’t find style in
Bouguereau or Fred Walker, in Rocks or Tarmigan, who are only fit for
chromos, but I do find it in Mantegna, in Fortuny, in Degas, in--”

“Good-bye!” said Jimmy, getting up. “I have to meet my wife at ten.”

“Oh, there’s lots of time,” said Cornpepper. “Carrie, pass Jimmy the
whiskey. Sit down, there’s a good chap.” And Jimmy sat down.

“Style’s going to be a square touch and a feathery outline,” said Greme,

“Style’s merely a decorative appearance,” said Mack. “A picture is
primarily a wall-decoration; it has no right to exist for itself.”

“Hear, hear!” cried Herbert. Mack lived up to his principles, for he
always saw Nature as a pretty pattern.

“Style’s an accident; look at the blottesque effects you get in
water-color,” said Rocks.

“The last and greatest art--the art to blot,” quoted Levison, the second
journalist, who also posed as a war-artist in times of peace.

“When I was in Antwerp, under Villat,” said Rapper--”a fierce little man
he was--he used to come and correct our canvases with big blotches of
burnt sienna and lamp-black on the last day of a model. Rocks would call
that a blottesque effect. Now I flatter myself _I_ can tell you what
style is, though I don’t profess to get it myself. Style is--”

“The art of leaving in--or leaving out--accidents,” finished Rocks. “You
see that so well in Fortuny’s work.”

“Jimmy gets his effects by leaving out all the dead lines of his first
sketch,” said Wilfred Smith, the journalist; “don’t you, Jimmy?”

“So I’m told,” said Jimmy.

“Style _is_ the art of leaving out,” said Herbert. “They don’t leave out
the R.A.’s pictures in the Academy. Hence the absence of style in the

“Tut, tut, tut! Shop again!” cried Cornpepper, despairingly. “The only
chance of progress for art is in neglecting values--not from ignorance,
like the Germans, but from intention; not viewing Nature through a bit
of black glass, like Millet, or toning down the violets of her shadows,
but painting real sunlight.”

“But you can’t really paint sunlight,” put in Matt, timidly. “Paint’s
only mud.”

“Quite so,” said Cornpepper. “But Delacroix said, ‘Give me mud, and I’ll
paint you the skin of Venus.’ It depends on what you put round your

“Or how you put it on,” added Gurney. “The only way is to get optics to
help you, and mix your primaries on the canvas, not on the palette, with
a Bright’s brush.”

“I reckon you’ll be breaking out in ‘spots’ next,” laughed Rocks. “That
_Vibriste_ nonsense has been the ruin of young Dircks. He used to be
quite second-rate, but since he crossed the Channel he squeezes his
tubes on to his canvas, and it’s all streaks like a clown’s face.”

“Paint is neither mud nor sunlight,” interposed Butler, authoritatively.
“It’s paint. Glory in it. Don’t pretend it’s silk or wood. According to
the Academy, the highest art is to conceal paint.”

“Shop again!” groaned Cornpepper. “We’re an awfully narrow set, we
artists--always girding at each other’s methods, though we’re all trying
for the same thing.” Then, recalled by Butler’s frowning face to a sense
of his position as _chef d’école_, a position he was not yet prepared to
abdicate, he added, in more conciliatory accents: “All I object to in
the Academy is its existence. No body of men has the right to say to the
public, _L’art, c’est moi_. I don’t for a moment claim our work’s better
than theirs, only--”

“That theirs is worse than ours,” suggested Jimmy.

“It’s all very well, but their ideal is smooth things,” persisted
Butler, vehemently. “Smooth things in paint, in life, and in
after-dinner speeches. I should have taken the Gold Medal in my year,
and been spared years of grinding misery, if I had scraped out the life
with a fish-shell or a razor-blade.”

Matt’s eyes flashed sympathetic admiration at him.

“Bother the Academy!” said Herbert, hastily. “Pass me the jug.”

“Schools of Arts are barracks,” went on Butler, his resentment
unexhausted. “They would fuse all talents in one mould, and put together
what God has put asunder. You may teach craft; but Art--never!”

“The idea of setting a subject, too,” said Greme, who was very proud of
his private color-vision. “They go on a false analogy. Art can’t be got
at by a competitive examination. It isn’t like Latin or Greek, or the
use of the globes; it’s the expression of individual temperament. And
it’s always such a rotten, stilted subject they set for the Gold Medal.
I wonder what it is this year?”

“Strang’s at the Academy,” said Rapper. “He’ll tell you.”

“Oh, confound the Academy!” said Herbert, crossly.

“Something Biblical, you bet your boots,” said Jimmy. “It makes the
fellows read the Bible, anyhow. But I must really go and meet my wife.”

“I heard it was about Nebu--” Greme began.

“Here, shut up, Greme!” interrupted Herbert. “Isn’t it time to sing

He glanced anxiously at his cousin; but that enthusiastic young man was
gazing at Butler with a hypnotized stare, lost in an inward vision of
the youthful rebel painting in his stable-loft.

“It’s time to drop shop,” responded Cornpepper, sharply. “I’ve been
trying to get the talk off art for the last half-hour. I want to discuss
whiskey, woman, and song. What’s the difference who wins the Gold Medal,
or even the Prix de Rome? That’s the last one ever hears of them.”

“Oh no,” said Rapper; “all the professors at the Beaux-Arts took the
Prix de Rome.”

“Did the men with guts?” inquired Cornpepper, scathingly, as he glared
through his monocle at his contradictor. “Did the biggest of all, Puvis
de Chavannes? Now, you fellows define style, but it never occurs to you
that it is simply the perfect handling of your medium, whatever it be.
What makes the decorations of Puvis de Chavannes so great? Merely that
the gray, cool color scheme just suits the stone of the Pantheon. The
decorations of Laurens would be finer as easel pictures. They make the
building look smaller. Those of Chavannes ennoble it, give the sense of
space and atmosphere. The medium forced to yield its best--that is
style. There is one glory of silver-point and another of chalk or
pencil. Fritz’s pictures are damn bad because they are in the wrong
medium. To preserve a chronicle of the time is the function of black and
white. Only by--”

“I really must go,” said Jimmy, starting up again. “As a black-and-white
man I preserve a chronicle of the time, and it tells me it’s a
quarter-past ten, and I have got to meet my wife at the Monico at ten.”

“Oh, rot! There’s lots of time.” And a dozen hands pushed Jimmy into his
seat, and Carrie brought him more whiskey.

“I never could see how you square that with your principles,
Cornpepper,” argued Gurney, the gyrator, with a thoughtful wrinkle of
his elderly face. “Every painter’s got to do his own time. Posterity
won’t want Erle-Smith’s Greek gods with ginger-bread flesh, and sickly
sea-nymphs with wooden limbs. A cod’s head, well painted, is better than
a Madonna.” Erle-Smith had been his last idolized Master before he came
to worship at the shrine of Cornpepper.

“But there’s imagination in Erle-Smith,” Matt protested, deferentially.

Gurney snorted out quintessence of contempt in an indecorous
monosyllable. “‘Bus-drivers and ballet-girls--that’s the modern artist’s
duty to posterity. And his duty to his contemporaries is to find the
poetry and beauty around ’em and teach ’em to see it. That’s why your
‘Chimney on Fire in Fitzroy Street’ is the picture of the year.”

“Oh yes!” Matt burst forth, in the idiom of Granger’s, “it’s jolly

Cornpepper made a _moue_ of disgust. “Are we never going to get away
from shop?” he asked, desperately. “What has my chimney to do with the
chronicles of the time? You chaps have always misunderstood me. You all
go by what O’Brien writes of me in the _Saturday Spectator_. I do wish
he wouldn’t interpret me. I wish he’d leave me alone. It’s bad enough to
have the papers writing about one’s sayings and doings, it’s bad enough
to be afraid of your own friends when, like Levison and Wilfred Smith,
they happen to be journalists; but to be interpreted in leading articles
by O’Brien is the crowning blow. What right has he to meddle with art?
Why the hell doesn’t he stick to his last? If I painted that chimney--”

“Instead of sweeping it,” murmured Jimmy. “Do let me go and meet my

“--it was because I saw an opportunity for style, and for giving an epic
sense of London,” little Cornpepper went on, fixing Jimmy with his
basilisk glare. “I don’t care a twopenny damn about posterity or my
contemporaries. I paint as I do everything else--to please myself.”

“We know you don’t please anybody else,” retorted Jimmy. “I _must_ be

“Well, black and white is going to be the art of the future, anyhow,”
said Butler. “Art is dead in England. Nobody disputes that.”

“Of course not,” said Cornpepper. “Painting’s a lost art. Not one of us
can touch the old men--Watts, Millais, Whistler. No; we none of us can

“But English art’ll revive through black and white,” Butler maintained.
“It’s the art of the people. I wish I had discovered that in the days
when I refused to do it.”

“Black and white is not the art of the future, but the future of Art,”
said Herbert. “Nothing else pays.”

“It’s surer than anything else,” admitted Gurney. “And a paper gives you
a far wider appeal than a gallery. It’s the only way of elevating the
people.” His eye lit up. He was meditating a new departure.

Matt pricked up his ears; Herbert had not yet repaid him the twenty-five
pounds, borrowed for a day or two, and in any case he felt he must soon
be earning money. In the stagnation of the picture market, of which he
heard on every side, and on which the talk fell now, it was at once
comforting and distressing to hear of another source of income. Black
and white had scarcely entered into his thoughts before; he looked upon
it as a degraded commercial form of art--a thing manufactured for the
moment in obedience to editorial instructions. Perhaps if times had
changed, if editors allowed the artist to express himself through their
pages, one might think of it; otherwise it was too horrible. Art to
order! The spirit whose essence was freedom chained to a cash-box! It
were as well--and honester--to be a cobbler like William Gregson. He
shuddered violently, remembering his sufferings as a portrait-painter in
Nova Scotia, and very resolved to starve sooner than repeat those
degrading efforts to please customers.

“I don’t talk about it,” said Cornpepper, after ten minutes of general
tragic anecdotage, from which he gathered there was quite a rush into
black and white--a subject concerning which both the journalists seemed
fully posted. “I just go on working; I don’t care whether I sell or not.
The dealers I hate and despise; they have no measure of Art but what
it’ll fetch. I will have nothing to do with them. The world will come to
me sooner or later. You never hear _me_ grumbling about the market.”

“The more I hear of the troubles of you chaps,” said Rapper, “the more
surprised I am that I, with nothing like your talents, should be the one
to get the commissions, as if I had any need of the shiners. I’m going
to Birmingham again next week to do a municipal duffer in his robes.
Even when I studied art in Brussels--”

“The real reason we’re coming to black and white,” broke in the
spectacled Scotchman, “is that we’re all born color-blind. The dulness
of our surroundings, the long centuries of homes without decorations,
with unbeautiful furniture and crockery, have told, and now--”

There was a roar of laughter. “Stow that, Mack!” cried Rapper.

“You can’t keep Mack off shop,” cried Cornpepper. “I’m sick of this talk
about principles. Art, life, nature, realism, the decorative! The
decorative indeed! For what is Art? It isn’t studio-pictures, it’s--”

“It’s half-past ten,” groaned Jimmy, trying to shake off the detaining
hands of his friends. “Where’s Sandstone? Why hasn’t he turned up? He
goes my way.”

“I don’t know,” said Cornpepper. “He’s been quarrelling with the man who
published his lithographs. What a quarrelsome beggar he is! I believe
he’s quarrelled with Clinch now. By-the-way, where _is_ Clinch? He said
he was coming.”

Everybody supposed simultaneously that Clinch was drunk, and their
light-hearted acceptance of the idea jarred upon Matt, who again became
conscious of a curious aloofness from the company, from which he seemed
as cut off on the moral side as from the despised bourgeoisie on the
artistic side. What a strange isolation! The thought made him feel
lonely, and then--by reaction--strong.

Even Rocks laughed. “I prefer Philip drunk to Philip sober,” he said.
“It’s the only time he uses drawing-room English.”

“How can I sup with my wife at the Monico?” persisted Jimmy,
plaintively. “The beastly place closes at eleven on Sundays.”

“Oh, the English Sunday!” said Herbert. “How can you have art and the
English Sunday together? You talk of the art of the people, Curtis. The
real national art of England is oratorio, and Elijah may not appear on
the stage except in evening dress.”

“Don’t talk to me of the middle classes,” groaned Cornpepper. “They will
never be saved till Boccaccio is read aloud in every parlor on Sunday

“Don’t be an ass, Teddy,” said Butler. “You’ll be moral some day.”

“I can get my stockings darned without marrying,” retorted Cornpepper,
with an irritating laugh, and Butler reddened angrily. He had married a
slipshod, artistic creature who neglected his shirt-buttons, and the
thrust rankled.

“_My_ wife’s waiting at the Monico,” complained Jimmy, in a droll

“Oh, bother! Carrie’s just making the coffee,” replied the host.

“I won’t have coffee,” said Jimmy; “I never mix drinks.”

The coffee came round, and with it sandwiches, and broke up the talk
into duets and trios. Cornpepper planned a house-boat party for the
summer to pick up nautical models and paint the river. Matt’s envious
consciousness that he was too poor and too obscure to share in these
delightful artistic experiences gave him a new and more disagreeable
sense of aloofness. Then the proceedings became musical and remained so
till the next morning, their refusal to depart before the advent of
which the guests melodiously declared.

As the party was breaking up, Cornpepper cried: “Oh, I was nearly

“What?” said Jimmy. “To offer a prayer?”

“No, to take up a collection,” retorted Cornpepper, his eye-glass
gleaming with joy of the _mot_. “Lily’s broken her leg.”

“_Our_ Lily?” asked Greme. “But she doesn’t sit now--she’s on the

“I know; she’s dislocated her ankle, and can’t dance.”

“She never could dance,” observed Herbert. “How ever did she get an

“Browney put her into his types of English beauty,” replied Cornpepper.
“But she’s a good girl all the same, and she hasn’t got any money. I’ll
lead off with five bob.”

In a few minutes two guineas were collected, Matt giving half a crown,
which he could ill spare. As the men left, Cornpepper stood at the door
exchanging a confidential word with each. “By Jove, you didn’t say a
word during the whole discussion, Mossop,” he said, as he shook hands
with a brown-bearded, middle-aged Scotchman, whose cranium bulged
curiously at the side.

Mossop took his pipe out of his mouth and looked meditatively at the
stem. “If art could be talked, it wouldn’t want to be painted,” he said,
gravely. “Good-night.”

“Good-night, old chap. Ah, good-night, Wilfred!” said Cornpepper to the
journalist. “Understand, this evening is private. I don’t object to your
quoting what I or anybody else said--my opinions are common
property--but, damn it, if you mention who were here in any of your
papers you’ll never cross my door-step again. You don’t mind my
frankness? Good-night, old man.”

“Good-night, Cornpepper,” said Herbert. “I’ll let the governor know
about those things of yours,” he added, in a low tone.

“That’s a good fellow. He won’t regret taking me up. Mind you mention
I’m not unreasonable--I’m open to an offer. I’m awfully glad to have
made your acquaintance. Good-night, old chap. Ah, good-night, Levison!”
he said, shaking hands with the other journalist. “Now, please do
understand that what passes at my gatherings is strictly confidential.
If you can earn half a dollar by mentioning who were here--Rocks is
rather a lion just now--I’m not the man to stand in your light. But I
won’t have what one says in private reported, and that’s straight.
Good-night, old fellow.”

Two o’clock boomed from a neighboring steeple. “Good-night, Teddy,” said
Jimmy, the last man to go. He added, lugubriously: “I’ve _still_ got to
meet my wife.” Then, as he caught sight of himself in the hall-rack
mirror, the gleam in his eye grew droller. “I’m going home in my own hat
and coat,” he grumbled. “I’m sober.”

It was delicious to breathe the balmy night air after the smoky,
alcoholic atmosphere of the studio. Rocks walked a little way with
Herbert and Matt under the silent stars before they came upon a hansom.

“Are you also an artist?” he asked Matt.

“I hope to be,” said Matt, gravely, “but it’s awfully confusing to know
what’s right. They all talk so cleverly, and they all seem to be right.”
He was still worried about formulæ, not having discovered that there are
only men.

Rocks emitted a short laugh. “Don’t you bother your head with theories,
my boy,” he said, laying his hand kindly on Matt’s shoulder. “You just
paint. Every man does what he can, and runs down what he can’t. After
all, Art is very old; there are no great sensational reforms left, like
West’s discarding the toga for the clothes of the period. The _plein
air_ school is this century’s contribution; after that there can only be
permutations and combinations of the old. What is new in the Azure Art
Gallery is not good, and what is good is not new.”

“_C’est fini!_” said Herbert. “That’s what people always say till genius
comes along. My belief is, going by literature and music, that painting
hasn’t said its last word.”

“It may come back to its first,” admitted Rocks, laughing. “Things go in
cycles. At present the last word of Art is azure.”

“But there _are_ azure shadows?” said Matt.

“Yes; sunshine on a yellow sand gives a suspicion of blue and violet
where the yellow light is cut off. But you exaggerate it and call that a

“Yes, but this intensified violet, made on your canvas out of light
pigments, does produce the illusion of sunlight,” argued Matt. “And, to
my mind, it doesn’t falsify nature or values one bit, because in bright
sunlight the eye really sees the dazzle, not the values.”

“Perhaps you young men see the new ultra-shades at the end of the
spectrum,” said Rocks, a little annoyed to find Matt restive under his
patronizing geniality. “Apelles had only four colors, but his reputation
has survived. It is the craze for novelty that makes these fads catch

“On the contrary,” retorted Matt, hotly, “people are so accustomed to
the false they have no eyes for the true. It’s the old fable of the man
with the pig under his cloak. I read somewhere that in Sir Joshua’s day
it was the convention to paint portraits with hats under their arm, and
that Sir Joshua, having to paint a man with his hat on, automatically
put a second hat under his arm. If he hadn’t found it out, I don’t
believe the public would have. And weren’t the 1830 men laughed at in
France, though now they’re thrown in the teeth of the Impressionists?
It’s always the same tale--the revolutionary is always wrong till he’s
right. Treason never prospers. What’s the reason? When ’tis successful,
’tis no longer treason.’ Truth and light--that’s the right formula of

Herbert laughed. “My stars, Matt!” he cried, gayly, “that’s the longest
speech I’ve ever heard you make! Is Cornpepper’s whiskey so much better
than mine?”

It was, perhaps, not so much the whiskey as the reaction after the long,
respectful self-repression of the evening. But Rocks caught fire in his

“Revolution!” he cried, scornfully. “Doing things literally by
halves--_there’s_ a revolution, _there’s_ a revelation for you. The new
art! If the modern young man can’t draw, color’s the thing; and if he’s
got no sense of color, color is vulgar. And even if he doesn’t offend my
sense of line by figures that couldn’t stand and limbs that don’t fit on
he won’t finish his work. He leaves it half-cooked to show his _chic_;
to take it further would be Academic. It’s mere notes for pictures, not
pictures. And even at that half the ideas come from Paris, like our
ladies’ gowns; if you ran over there as often as I do you could put your
finger on most of these azure fellows’ inspirations. If they would only
search like the French! If they would only really imitate their Monet!
That’s a real worker for you--how he slaves at his hay-stacks! More
science than art to my thinking; but how he searches! These chaps are
such dwarfs. Think of Leonardo, think of Raphael, think of Millet--real
men, with big brains and big souls. No; this Azure Art Club’s a set of
bounders and bad draughtsmen. There’s too much mutual admiration; it
prevents men getting on; they’ll find themselves stranded with a

“And hasn’t Butler got a big soul?” cried Matt, boiling over. “And
hasn’t Cornpepper got a big brain?”

“Cornpepper?--oh, but this is shop again. He’s a good little chap at
bottom, but he’s succeeding too young.” And in Rocks’s hearty guffaw the
storm-clouds rolled away.

“You mustn’t fancy I agree with him altogether, Mr. Rocks,” said Matt,
simmering down in his turn. “About the morality of Art, now, isn’t

“Ah, there’s the Methodist parson again,” interrupted Herbert, laughing.
“Hang it all, man, you’re not a virgin, are you?”

“No, of course not,” faltered Matt, mendaciously. He went on in haste:
“_There’s_ a cab!”

“No, I hate four-wheelers!” said Herbert. “Then why the devil do you
always talk such rot? Hansom!”

“They don’t seem as united as the papers make out, anyway,” said Matt,
in shame-faced evasion. He was ashamed of the lie, and ashamed of its
not being true.

“No, there’s no _esprit de corps_ among artists,” returned Rocks.
“People always imagine there are schools. But in London there’s only the
camaraderie of success and the camaraderie of unsuccess. Good-night.”

“Can’t we give you a lift?” said Herbert.

“No, thanks; I’m successful,” rejoined Rocks, and went off chuckling.

“I wish _I_ was,” Herbert grumbled to Matt. “Fancy not being able to
join that house-boat party, but to be stuck down in town by the Old
Gentleman to paint Nebuchadnezzar. I wish I was you, Matt.”

Matt was on the point of consoling him by confessing he was on the brink
of ruin, but that would have seemed like dunning a friend, to whom he
owed so much, for the twenty-five pounds, so he postponed the inevitable



It was midsummer, and everybody who was anybody was pent in the
sweltering city.

“The sort of weather to make one want to be a figure-model,” Herbert
said, wearily, as he flicked finically at “Daniel before
Nebuchadnezzar,” now well on its way to completion. “But it seems to
suit the Old Gentleman. You might laugh, Matt. I’m too languid myself.”

Matt did not reply; he was leaning against the marble mantel-piece, pale
and perspiring.

“What do you think is his latest move?” pursued Herbert. “Though that’s
rather a bull, for the mischief is that he refuses to go on our annual
autumn jaunt abroad, lest it should interfere with Daniel and Nebby.
However, I am to have a horse of my own, and that’s some consolation.
Talking of horses, how do you like Nebby’s left leg? You see I’ve
repainted it as you marked it.” He got up, walked backward, and surveyed
the picture approvingly, brush in hand. “By Jove, it’s coming on
splendidly! I could imagine I was in the palace. There _is_ something in
following Nature, after all. The creative part lies in the invention and
color.... What’s the matter with you this morning, Matt? You don’t say a
word. Are you sunstruck? or moonstruck?”

“Both,” said Matt, with a ghastly smile.

“Why, what’s up?” Herbert scrutinized his cousin’s face for the first

Matt looked towards the model.

“You know his English is limited,” Herbert remarked, reassuringly.
“Unless you are bent on talking Arabic.” But Matt still hesitated. At
last, as in desperation, he extracted a letter from his breast-pocket
and tendered it to Herbert, who took it wonderingly, cast a glance at
it, and frowned.

“The scoundrel!” he said. “How dare he send it in so soon? I shall never
recommend him to anybody again.”

“It isn’t soon,” corrected Matt; “it’s more than three months.”

“You’re not going to take any notice of him yet?”

“Oh, I must.”

“Oh, nonsense! Why, the shock would drive him silly. He only sends it in
as a matter of form.”

“I don’t like not to pay.”

“All right,” said Herbert, sulkily; “only you’ll spoil the market for us
poor devils who’re not Crœsuses, that’s all. But don’t give him the
fifteen guineas at once; give him five on account.”

Matt struggled with himself. “I can’t even do that,” he faltered at
last, “unless you can manage to pay me something.”

“Oh, by Jove!” said Herbert, whistling lugubriously. “I’d forgotten you
were among my creditors. But I’m stony-broke just now. So the old
scoundrel will have to wait, after all. Ha! ha! ha! When do you expect
to be flush again? I suppose you draw interest on bonds or something.
All Americans do.”

“I--I don’t,” said Matt, his head drooping shame-stricken. Then, with
the courage of despair, he burst out, “I’ve only got tenpence in the
world; that’s a fact.”

Herbert gave a shrill whistle of surprise and dismay, and let himself
drop upon his painting-stool. “Here, go and play a little, Haroun al
Raschid,” he called over to the model; and Nebuchadnezzar, shedding his
purpureal splendors, cantered joyously down-stairs.

“Now then,” he said, sternly. “What in the devil have you been up to, my
Methodist parson? Gambling, horse-racing, women?”

Matt shook his head, a wan smile struggling with his shame-faced
expression. He already felt happier--the false atmosphere in which he
had moved was dissipated forever. “I’ve never had any money to lose,” he
confessed. “I only saved up fifty or sixty pounds to study in London for
a year, and now it’s all gone--unless you can manage to repay me the
twenty-five pounds.”

“Well, of all the--” cried Herbert, and did not finish the mysterious
phrase. He leaned his elbows on his knees, and supporting his face upon
his palms, stared severely at his cousin. “So this is the man who thinks
Art should be moral,” he said, half musingly, half indignantly. “To go
and let us all think you were a capitalist! And to let me in for
borrowing money of a man who was practically a pauper! Why, I must have
taken almost your last penny!”

Matt, flushing afresh under his reproachful gaze, did not attempt to
deny it.

“Well, if that’s your idea of cousinly behavior, or even decent
behavior--” said Herbert, witheringly.

“I--I didn’t mean to deceive you,” Matt stammered, apologetically. “You
all took it for granted I was well-to-do. All I said was I had money
enough to go along with, and so I thought I had.”

“Yes, but when I asked you for the pony, you consented at once. I gave
you an opportunity to explain, but instead of that you intensified the
original false impression.”

Matt was silent.

“And now you’ve put me into the wretched position of owing money, which
I can’t pay, to a poor relation from whom I never would have borrowed
it, had he been frank and truthful.”

Now both were silent, meditating the painful situation.

“Then you’ve got no money at all?” said Herbert at last, in stern
accents, in which a note of astonishment still lingered.

Matt shook his head. His throat felt parched. “Unless you can pay me,”
he murmured.

Herbert’s face softened, his tones became sympathetic.

“Then what are you going to do?” he asked, anxiously.

Matt was touched by the transition from reproach to solicitude.

“Oh, I shall manage somehow,” he said, huskily. “I don’t want to worry
you--you’ve always been very good to me.”

“Yes, that’s all very well, but suppose you starve?” said Herbert,

“Oh, I shall find something to do,” said Matt. “In fact, I’ve already
done some illustrations for the _Christian Home_, though they haven’t
paid yet. I wouldn’t have told you if it hadn’t been for this tailor’s

“Confound him!” cried Herbert, savagely. “I’ll never recommend him
another customer as long as I live.” He started promenading the studio
angrily, muttering maledictions against the snip as the source of all
the mischief.

“What a pity the governor won’t touch a new man’s work!” he said,

“Oh, I’d rather not trouble him,” said Matt, shrinking from a
supplementary explanation with the Vandyke beard.

Herbert resumed his promenade with knitted brow. “I wonder if Drücker
would take them. If you did sea-pieces--”

“Oh, please don’t worry,” pleaded Matt, concerned at his cousin’s
anxiety. “I dare say I shall fall on my feet.”

“Yes, but while falling? Tenpence isn’t enough to fall with. You don’t
owe any money into the bargain, I hope.”

Matt turned red. “Three weeks’ rent,” he murmured.

“How much is that?”

Matt shrank weakly from shredding his last rag of dignity.

“Not much,” he said. “She hasn’t said anything yet; I always paid her so
regularly. But I don’t see any reason to despair; it looks as if I can
make my bread and cheese by black and white. They were all agreed that
that was the most paying kind of Art. You remember that night at

“Yes, I remember,” said Herbert, curtly. “But I can’t let you go away
with tenpence in your pocket. I wonder if I’ve got anything.” He drew a
handful of silver and copper coins out of his trousers-pocket. “Eight
and fourpence halfpenny,” he announced, dolefully. “And I shall want
seven for Haroun al Raschid this evening. I told you I was stony-broke.
I suppose it’s no use offering you one and fourpence halfpenny.”

“No; then _you’d_ have nothing,” said Matt. “Don’t bother.”

“Oh, but I must bother. I wish I knew how to raise a little cash for you
to keep you going till you get work.”

The grave anxiety of his tones troubled Matt sympathetically. He was
pained to see Herbert so distressed. Suddenly his eyes fell on Herbert’s
battalion of boots ranged against the wall--brown boots, black boots,
patent boots, riding boots, shoes, slippers--and a wild, impish idea
flew into his brain, breathing malicious suggestion, and even kindling a
flash of resentment: “Why should not Herbert sell some of those serried
boots if he was really in earnest?” But the impish idea was extruded in
a moment. It savored of ungenerous cynicism, and, in so far as it
meditated diminishing Herbert’s wardrobe, touched indecency; it was
impossible to imagine Herbert with only a single pair of breeches or
without sub-varieties of ornamental shoes. He moved in a large
atmosphere of discriminate waistcoats and superfluous neckties.

“I’ll give you an introduction to Drücker, if you like,” said Herbert.
“I dare say you have some little things by you.”

“I--I’ve already been to Drücker,” Matt admitted. “A fellow at
Grainger’s told me about him. But he won’t look at my work.”

There was another embarrassing pause. Matt’s eyes wandered distractedly
towards Herbert’s boots. The spotless battalion fascinated him; the
buttons winked maliciously.

“How about portraits?” said Herbert, suddenly. “I thought you did
portraits in Nova Scotia. Was that also--was that, er--true?”

Matt did not at once answer; it had suddenly occurred to him that there
was probably another battalion of boots in Herbert’s dressing-room. When
Herbert’s question at last penetrated to his consciousness, he replied
with a start:

“Oh yes. Perhaps I may get sitters here, too. The only thing that really
worries me is that bill.”

“Oh, well, if that’s all, you can make your mind easy. He can’t touch
you; you’ve no money.” Herbert laughed gleefully. “It’ll serve him
right, the scoundrel!”

“But he can put me in prison,” said Matt, blanching at the mere idea;
“and that I could never survive.”

Herbert’s laugh became more boisterous.

“Oh, you innocent!” he gasped. “We’re not living in the dark ages. A man
without a farthing is the king of creation. Nothing can touch him.”

“Oh, but they put people in prison for debt in Nova Scotia,” said Matt,

“Really?” ejaculated Herbert, surprised in his turn. “Well, I had no
idea the country was so uncivilized as that. No, don’t funk. And even
suppose you _were_ put into quod for debt? What then? Why, debt is the
breath of the artistic nostril. Read your Bankruptcy Court daily in your
paper, and cheer up, d’ye hear? Why should you take other people’s
worries on your shoulders?”

“Other people’s?” quoth Matt, puzzled.

“Yes; the worry is for the tailor who can’t get his money, not for you,”
explained Herbert, with the gay smile that showed his white teeth.

“I _must_ pay him,” Matt repeated, stolidly, and, lunch coming up, he
took himself off in spite of every protest. Now that Herbert knew him
in his true colors, his pride would not endure sitting as a pauper at
the mid-day banquet, though he had eaten nothing all day except a
halfpenny roll. He saw Haroun al Raschid in the street luxuriating in
the sultry sunshine, and sent him up to luncheon, then dragged himself
along the hot pavements to his back room, brightened now with unsaleable
sketches, and threw himself upon the little iron bed, and abandoned
himself to bitter reflection. Why, indeed, could he not take life as
lightly as the artistic temperament demanded?

He had already tried other dealers than Drücker, with as little success.
The Irishman at Grainger’s was wont to boast that he always sold his
work by pawning it. Matt had essayed to imitate him, speculating the
outlay for a gold frame; but either his face betrayed him to the
pawnbrokers, or his picture, and it eventually went for less than the
price of the frame. And--O vanity of resolutions and ideals!--his horror
at doing Art to order had dwindled daily. In the actual imminence of
starvation, in the impossibility of sending any further subsidies to his
family, he had broached to other students his desire to get on this or
that paper, but could gain no sympathetic information from them, except
that they had already refused the positions he coveted. On the strength
of some specimens sent by post he had been permitted to illustrate five
short stories for the _Christian Home_, but only two had yet been
published, and none had yet been paid for. And so the dregs of his
savings had dripped away, slowly, slowly, like honey from an inverted
pot, more and more slowly the less there remained, till only twenty
drops (for he had come down to counting in halfpennies) divided him from
starvation. The arrears of rent had been an agony more gnawing than that
at his stomach, and now this tailor’s bill had come as the crowning

Yet none of his bitterness was for Herbert, despite the impish
suggestions of the buttons; he did not even blame himself much. In a
sense he had had value for his money, he had bought experience, if not
quite of the kind for which he had saved up his dollars. But for those
frightful fifteen guineas he might have weathered starvation-point, even
though by the practice of a form of art he had not contemplated. To
pawn or sell the unfortunate clothes would be but to cut himself off
from gentility without surmounting the crisis. His hopeless reverie was
interrupted by a tap at the door, and the landlady entered, bearing a
letter. He jumped up from the bed in excitement--it must be his check
for the drawings. But the letter bore an American stamp, and was in
Billy’s writing, and he tore it open, fearful of new evils.

     DEAR MATT,--I write not because there is anything fresh, but
     because there isn’t. Life here is so dreary and monotonous I can no
     longer endure it. It isn’t my health, for that is better, and the
     fits are very rare now, thank God; but sometimes I think I shall go
     mad or cut my throat if something doesn’t happen. Don’t you think I
     could come over and stay with you? You’ve seen so much of the
     world, and always enjoyed yourself, and I have always been tied
     down to one wretched little village. The people are so dismally
     religious, and between you and me I am losing faith in everything,
     the more I think of it, and how bad the good people are. Deacon
     Hailey and Ruth have quarrelled, and she has gone away to the
     States. She came to see us before she left--she is just lovely--I
     like to picture her before me. I should not be much extra expense,
     dear Matt, because you could deduct something from the amount you
     are soon going to send us monthly. I have mentioned this to Abner,
     and he is willing. I am very little use here in the fields, and in
     London I might perhaps earn money by writing. I feel I have it in
     me to write tales; I have already written one called “The Whale
     Hunters,” and another called “In the Burning Desert.” I do so long
     to be famous. We should be a pair, dear Matt. Do you think you
     could get these tales printed in a paper? I should not want money
     at first. I did not like to send them to you without asking, as the
     postage would be heavy, and the winter has been so unusually
     protracted we are delayed with the crops. Do please send me some
     books if you can; I have read everything in the school library
     twice over. Novels and books of travel are what I like best. The
     last we heard from Halifax was that mother was less violent. Do
     write and say I may come, and if you can let me have the fare I
     will repay you out of my tales. Abner and Harriet send their love,
     and so do all the boys and girls (Amy is getting quite podgy), and
     with the same from me, I remain,

Your affectionate brother,


     P.S.--Don’t you think “William Strang” would look fine on the cover
     of a book?

Matt suddenly felt faint and dizzy. Raising his eyes, he perceived that
the landlady had not gone, that she was effervescing with unuttered

“I am very sorry, Mrs. Lipchild,” he said, “I thought that your rent
would have been in this letter.”

The lank, elderly woman looked grieved.

“Lor’ bless you, sir,” said she, “I’m not worryin’ about the rent. Don’t
I know an honest face when I see it? Us landladies are always made out
so bad. We’re always stealin’ the lodgers’ provisions and what not, and
we can’t speak proper. I should like to see a book written on the other
side. Why, last year I had an old maid in this very room--she took her
meals here, and said I wasn’t to charge for attendance because she’d be
always out; but bless me if the bell didn’t go tinkely-tinkely every
minute, like an alarm-clock gone wrong in its inside. Believe me, Mr.
Strang, it isn’t the lodgers as is always taken in. I’ve often wished my
son was a writer instead of an artist; I’d get him to write the book.”

“Your son is an artist?” said Matt, in astonishment.

“Yes, Mr. Strang, though not near so clever as you. I could show you
some of his work if you didn’t mind.”

“Oh, I should like to see it,” said Matt, half amused at this unexpected
interlude, though his temples throbbed with a shooting pain.

“Would you mind comin’ down into the parlor, sir?”

“With pleasure,” said Matt.

He followed his landlady down the narrow stairs into the musty little
room, resplendent with oleographs and a gilt mirror and two

“There,” said Mrs. Lipchild, proudly. “Me and my husband in uniform.”

Matt surveyed the large colored presentments of Mr. and Mrs. Lipchild in
their oval mounts, further astonished to discover that his landlord was
a policeman.

“What did he do them with?” asked Matt, rather puzzled.

“With his own hand,” replied the proud mother. “They were taken quite
plain, but he colored them lifelike, as you see. They would have charged
half a crown more each, but for a shilling he bought a book telling him
how to do it himself. My cousin Bob, who is in the Post-office, said he
ought to be an artist, but I wouldn’t let him give up his place at


Brothers. He’s in the grocery department, and earnin’ good money, and
I’ve seen such a heap of artists sittin’ on the pavement, with the risk
any moment of the rain washin’ all the pictures out; don’t you think I
was right, sir?”

“Quite right,” said Matt, heartily.

Mrs. Lipchild thereupon produced a bottle of brandy and what she called
a “seedy-cake” from a cupboard under a sideboard, and insisted on Matt’s
partaking of the same. To refuse would pain her, to accept would refresh
him, so he accepted. In the conversation which ensued it transpired that
Mrs. Lipchild’s daughter was about to marry a young man from Brown
Brothers (haberdashery department), that the young couple were now
furnishing, and that it had occurred to Mrs. Lipchild that they might
get their parlor pictures from Matt instead of from a shop, if they
could get them any cheaper.

So Matt and his art patroness remounted again to the bedroom studio and
haggled over prices, Mrs. Lipchild pointing out that his pictures were
far inferior to shop pictures, not only by their unsympathetic subjects,
but by their absence of frames and glass, and that she could get much
bigger sizes than any of his for five shillings apiece. But as it came
to be understood that ready money would not be required, and that the
price was to be reckoned off the rent, Mrs. Lipchild ultimately departed
in possession of a month’s worth of pictures--six of the prettiest
landscapes and ladies in the collection, with Rapper’s “Library” thrown
in. The poetic street-scenes she scorned, much to Matt’s relief, for he
set no value on the earlier Nova Scotian work she had carried off.

This was Matt’s first sale of pictures in the great Metropolis of Art.

Considerably exhilarated by the change in his fortunes, and revived by
the brandy and the “seedy-cake,” he reviewed the situation again, proof
even against Billy’s letter, which he put by for later consideration. He
found himself actually smiling, for a phrase of Cornpepper’s kept
vibrating in his brain--“Art’s neither moral nor immoral, any more than
it’s lunar or calendar.” Mrs. Lipchild’s last words had been: “Very
well, we’ll reckon it a month,” and he wondered whimsically whether the
month was to be lunar or calendar.

Under the impulse of these gayer sentiments, he resolved to raise money
by pawning whatever he could part with, and by persisting in the search
for an adventurous dealer; and reflecting that, after all, the tailor
would be satisfied with an instalment, he wound himself up to the pitch
of applying to Herbert by letter, though he could not bring himself to a
verbal request.

     MY DEAR HERBERT,--I am sorry to bother you again, but if you could
     let me have only five guineas to offer the tailor I should be very
     grateful. I hope soon to find work, or sell some things; and you
     will be pleased to hear that I have got over the difficulty with
     the rent--at least for the moment.

Yours sincerely,


     P.S.--Don’t put yourself out if you cannot. You have been very kind
     to me, and I shall never forget it. I dare say I shall pull through

Matt carried this request to the pillar-box through the stuffy splendor
of a summer night in Holborn back streets. As he heard the slight thud
of the letter in the box he had a sense of something achieved, and had
no compunction in spending one of his nine remaining pennies on his
supper of “baked fagot” in a muggy pork-butcher’s shop. Nightmare,
followed by a giddy uprising with furred tongue and aching forehead, was
the sequel of this devil-may-care diet, and early in the afternoon the
nightmare seemed to resume its riot in the guise of a reply from

     DEAR MATT,--What in the name of all that is unholy made you send
     that letter to my house instead of to the club? There’s been a
     devil of a row. The Old Gentleman opened the letter. He pretends he
     did so without noticing, as it came mixed up with his, and so few
     come for me to the house. When I got down to breakfast the mater
     was in tears and the Old Gentleman in blazes. Of course, he’d
     misread it altogether--imagined you wanted to borrow money instead
     of to get it back (isn’t it comical? It’s almost an idea for a
     farce for our dramatic society), and insisted you had been draining
     me all along (you did write you were sorry to bother me again, you
     old duffer). Of course I did my best to dispel the misconception,
     but it was no use my swearing till all was blue that this was the
     first application, he wouldn’t believe a word of it. He said he had
     had his suspicions all along, and he called the mater to witness
     that the first time he saw you in the shop he said you were a
     rogue. And at last the mater, who’d been standing up for you--I
     never thought she had so much backbone of her own--was converted,
     and confessed with tears that you had been here pretty nigh every
     day and swore you should never set foot here again, and the Old
     Gentleman dilated on the pretty return you had made for his
     kindness (sucking his boy’s blood, he called it, in an unusual
     burst of poetry), and he likewise offered some general observations
     on the comparative keenness of a serpent’s tooth and ingratitude.
     And that’s how it stands. There’s nothing to be done, I fear, but
     to let the thing blow over--he’ll cool down after a time.
     Meanwhile, you will have to write to me at the club if you want to
     meet me. I am awfully sorry, as I enjoyed your visits immensely. Do
     let me know if I can do anything for you. I’m in a frightful
     financial mess, but I might give you introductions here or there. I
     know chaps on papers and that sort of thing. I am sure you have
     sufficient talent to get along--and you can snap your fingers at
     creditors, as you haven’t got anything they can seize, and can flit
     any day you like. I wish I was you. With every good wish,

Yours always,


Matt took this letter more stoically than he would have predicted. He
even grinned like a Red Indian at the stake. In truth, he was already so
prostrated by illness, hunger, and above all by the heat, that there was
nothing left in him to be prostrated. He crawled out soon after the
receipt of the letter, and recklessly bought a halfpenny currant loaf,
which he washed down with water.



The summer rolled heavily along, bringing strange new experiences to
Matt Strang, and strange glimpses of other art-worlds than Herbert’s.
For he did not starve, though Herbert had gone quite out of his life,
and he had none with whom to exchange the thoughts of youth.

Two pounds ten shillings lent on his dress-suit staved off hunger and
his tailor (who got the pounds), till, by the aid of the landlady’s
son’s book, he found out how to tint photographs, and earned sixpences
and shillings by coloring cartes-de-visite and cabinets for cheap
touting photographers, censoriously critical and given to refusing the
work of hours. By-and-by the _Christian Home_ took him to its hearth,
situate at the summit of a cobwebbed ramshackle staircase in Bolt Court,
and paid him seven and sixpence for a half-page illustration of an
unworldly serial. “Pay-day” was a delightful weekly emotion, the staff
adjourning to a public-house in Fleet Street to drink one another’s
health and their own damnation. Matt was forced to join them because
Dick Gattel, the puffy-faced author of the spiritual romance he was
illustrating (“A Godly Atonement”), insisted on standing treat,
declaring with odd oaths that he’d never been so well interpreted before
by any blooming paper-smudger. He also initiated Matt into the secrets
of his craft, summing up in a formula the experience of a quarter of a
century of story-writing. “Emotion for the penny papers, excitement for
the halfpenny, self-sacrifice for the religious.” Strange impecunious
beings gathered in this public-house or outside it, uncouth, unclean,
unshaven; many had drifted down from society, from the universities,
from the army, from the navy, with reserve forces from India and
America, the flotsam of life’s wreckage, and they consoled themselves by
babbling of the seamy side of the successful, rolling under their
tongues the money these others were making, and parading a confident
familiarity with their doings and their pass-books. Matt shuddered at
the thought that he might one day become even as these--the
damned-before-death. There was another artist on the staff--a thick-set
German, whose wife was wont to waylay him on “pay-day,” and who always
wrote on professional paper girdled with his own designs in proof of his
prowess, and expressive of his willingness to undertake wash-drawings,
line-drawings, color-work, or lithography, at reasonable rates and with
prompt deliveries.

Through this German, who was good-natured after his second glass, Matt
procured extra employment in a comic-picture factory managed by a
solemn, snuffy Scotchman, who selected from old comic papers the jokes
that were to be illustrated by his “hands,” and, signing the sketches
with his own name, peddled them in the offices of new comic papers. Matt
was paid half a crown per sketch, and his employer from four to five
shillings; but when the young man tried to send original jokes and
sketches direct to these papers, he got only the same two and sixpence
for the few things they accepted. One editor, whose pages bristled with
ballet-girls, took the trouble to explain to him that the presence of a
clergyman in a sketch was a disqualification, as any attack on the
Church would be distasteful to his public. From another, the _Merry
Miracle_, whose proprietor was a philanthropist, a member of the school
board, and a candidate for Parliament, he received a prospectus
instructing him to eschew cross-hatching, solid black, line-work, and
society figures, in favor of rough-and-tumble farce in bold outline. The
more sober of the comic papers had settled staffs and settled jokes, and
new-comers were not welcomed. Not that Matt’s jokes were very good:
labored verbal oddities for the most part, intellectual quips and cranks
which, he was quite aware, lacked the true humorous insight of Jimmy
Raven, upon whom he modelled himself, feeling no first-hand impulse.
Humor, indeed, was not his vocation; when he saw the world through
Jimmy’s eyes he was tickled yet fortified, as one set face to face with
the prose of the real, and finding it genial; but he could not see it
like this himself. His was a world of beauty set over a strange,
disquieting substratum of ugliness, from which it were best to avert
one’s eyes, and which, perhaps, existed only as something to aspire away

Jimmy Raven had published _A Sketch-Book of Beggars_ which Matt Strang
had found vastly entertaining; and yet Matt Strang saw rather the
tragedy of beggars than their humor, and this tragedy seemed to him
outside the realm of Art. It was only their occasional picturesqueness
that attracted his artistic interest at this period of his development,
and all the figures of his so-called comic sketches were either pretty
or picturesque. He studied extensively in the streets, note-book in
hand, fearful of losing the subtleties of nature through his inability
to afford even the cheap, casual models of his first days in London, and
training himself to catch the salient points of character or movement at
first glance. Probably no artist ever made comic pictures so seriously
as Matt Strang, with such scrupulous backgrounds, in the which, when
they were done in wash, he strove with entirely unappreciated
thoroughness, by careful adjustment of values, to make his black and
white yield veracious color-effects. When the drawings were accepted,
they came out so reduced and so badly reproduced that the subtleties
were blurred away, and the values quite transmuted. Wood-engraving
falsified the lines or photography the color, and thus their appearance
in print was as much a pain as a pleasure.

Matt’s redemption from comic journalism was partly due to the prosperity
of the proprietor of the comic-picture factory, who started a
serious-art department, where Matt found less uncongenial work in
painting figures into the landscapes of his less competent
fellow-workmen. This gradually opened up to his astonished eyes a new
section of the trade. He saw one of these landscapes near King’s Cross,
resplendent in a gorgeous gold frame, and marked “Original
oil-painting--two guineas only,” and another, in a poor neighborhood
marked “Water-color, hand-painted--a bargain!” and he perceived that he
had been flying too high in his early attempts to approach dealers of
the type of Drücker. Henceforward he haunted furniture dealers,
picture-frame makers, and artists’ colormen, and thus he occasionally
obtained half a sovereign to despatch to his tailor. His drawings in the
_Christian Home_ attracted the attention of the editor of the _Working
Man_, and Matt was commissioned to accompany a journalist through the
East End to expose the evils of sweating. The _Working Man_ was owned by
a syndicate, and Matt had to settle terms with the manager, a truculent
gentleman with a double chin and a double watch-chain, who agreed to
give him five shillings a sketch. Matt did several sketches for each
article, and the pathetic series caused a great stir and much
correspondence; but at the end of the month--when poor Matt, who had
already nearly starved himself for his tailor’s sake, was expecting a
goodly check to send to Abner Preep--he received only a quarter of what
he had bargained for. He went to the editor, who referred him to the
manager, who insisted the terms were five shillings for the illustration
of a single article. “You must remember, too, what a lift we are giving
you, with our big circulation,” concluded the manager, his double
watch-chain heaving pompously on his abdomen. “It is not every young man
who gets such a chance of showing what he can do.”

“You’re a set of damned scoundrels!” cried Matt, with an access of
ancient rage, and had wellnigh torn up the check and thrown it in the
manager’s face, when his later chastened self plucked at his coat-tails
and bade him begone with it. Who so helpless as the black-and-white
artist, his work poorly paid, and reproduced again and again without his
control; his very originals taken from him and sometimes sold at a

It was not a happy time for Matt, this period of spiritless work by day
and spiritless study by night, his soul chafing alike against the
degradations of life and the routine of school. For what an actuality
had he exchanged his dreams! Yet he had no option; the tailor must be
paid, his family must be helped, and to these two ends, moreover, he
himself must exist. But the friction of ideals and realities left him
irritable and high-strung; and even when, towards the autumn, he won his
way into the _Ladies’ Weekly_, at a guinea an illustration, he lost his
work by not concealing his contempt for the art editor, a pragmatic
person, absolutely dead to art, but excessively fastidious about the
drawings, which he refused whenever there was time for alterations.

“This is feeble, but we’re pressed for time,” was his encouraging
apology to the artist for accepting his work, “and I’ll put it into the
hands of a competent engraver.” His first self-revelation to Matt was
his complaint about some rough shadows on the borders of a sketch: “I
wish you would bear in mind, Mr. Strang, that we have to pay as much per
inch for the reproduction of those blotches as for the most finished
work.” But it was not till the “old lady” (as the other artists called
the art editor of the _Ladies’ Weekly_ behind his back) had insisted on
his dressing his figures better that Matt lost control of his tongue and
retorted, “I draw pictures, not fashion-plates.” In after-remorse, he
would have been glad to get fashion-plates to do. He replaced the lost
work by returning to photo-tinting, though he now obtained more
important work on enlarged photographs, which he colored in oil at
three and six apiece, managing to do two or three a day while the light
held, without interfering with his black and white, which could be done
at night; by which means he scraped together enough to pay off the
tailor in full, and to send his promised contribution home, together
with seven fourpenny halfpenny “Notable Novels” to reconcile Billy to
his narrow existence. And then, with these burdens thrown off, his
idealism resurged again, for beneath the placid everyday exterior of
this homely young man, who trudged up foul staircases, portfolio under
arm, or danced attendance on smug h-less photographers smoking twopenny
cigars, a volcanic fire burned, and the thought of his precious youth
wasted and abraded in this inartistic art-drudgery, under the yoke of
vulgar souls, was a dull haunting torment. His qualms of self-distrust
vanished under the pressure of obstacles, and the measure of his
aversion from joyless commercial art became to him the measure of his
genius. One gray windy forenoon of late autumn he had stopped to take a
mental sketch of a strangely attired woman, who was listening to a
Salvation Army exhortation, a woman who was a dab of color upon the
dreary day. Below an enormous white hat with a recumbent ostrich feather
and a broad brim with an upward slant, tied under the chin with black
bands, shone through a black veil a glorious oval-shaped dark face with
flashing eyes, full red lips, large shapely ears, and raven hair curling
low over the forehead. She wore a black, half-masculine jacket, with big
mother-of-pearl buttons and a yellow bow that was awry, and by a shapely
hand cased in a white glove with three black stripes she held the skirts
of a slaty gown clear of the mud.

While Matt was whimsically wondering what the editor of the _Christian
Home_ would say to a sketch of her in his staid organ, he instinctively
noted the other romantic touches about the scene, ineffably grimy though
the roadway was to the inartistic eye, flanked on one side by a coal
office, with a blear-eyed old man at the window, and on the other by a
canal running lengthwise. There were fresh country faces among the
girl-soldiers, and among the men was an ex-heathen in a turban, a
flaring Paisley shawl, flowing robes, and sandals, bearing aloft a red
flag with a blue border and a central yellow star, around which ran the
words “Blood and Fire.” And while his eye selected the picturesque
points, the whole scene passed half insensibly into his
sub-consciousness as into a camera, to be developed in after-years--the
grotesque snag-toothed hags in the crowd, the collarless men with the
air of being connected with the canal, one of them with a
Mephistophelian red tuft on his chin; the ice-cream stall at the corner,
where a postman, a baby of three, and an urchin with his collar
paradoxically up against the cold were licking green glasses. And then a
buxom work-girl with a tambourine began to hold forth, pouring out
breathless sentences all running into one another, clutching her
inspiration tight lest it should escape her, and repeating herself
endlessly rather than pause for a moment.

“Only the blood of Christ can save only the blood of Christ has saved
only the blood of Christ will save.”

And her fellow-soldiers, quivering with unction, punctuated her
shapeless periods with soul-wrung ejaculations.

“Ah, yes.”

“Bless her.”

“Glory to God.”

“You may try earthly pleasures you may go to the theaytre,” she gasped,
“but it brings no peace nothing brings peace but the Rock but the


“But the oldest of all religions proved over and over again Christianity
tried in the furnace any day you may die no one knows the end now’s the
time don’t put it off come are you prepared once I had bad companions--”

“A--a--ah!” groaned a melodramatic brother, with folded arms.

“But I gave them up--”

“Glory!” in a great sob of relief from all the palpitating figures.

Matt began to forget the visual aspects of the scene; the infectious
emotion of the girl and her comrades gained upon him. What she was
saying left no dint on his mind--to her dogmas he was become
indifferent. But her earnestness thrilled him, her impassioned
ignorance flashed upon him a clearer sense of baseness, hollowness,
insincere falling away from the ideals that had sailed with him to
England, glorifying the noisome steerage. Turning his head, he saw tears
rolling down the dark passionate face of his dashing neighbor, and he
hurried away, shaken and troubled, pursued by the cacophonous melody
into which the street congregation had broken.

What was the point of his life? What had he become?

At Grainger’s there were fellows who looked to Art as an escape from
some worse-paid calling. That was not, had never been, his idea. To him
Art was an end in itself; he was of those who live to paint, not paint
to live. Even in his boyish days, when the vendibility of pictures first
came within his ken, the money had always seemed to him a pleasant
by-product, not a motive. And now, instead of pouring out on canvas all
that effervescence of youthful poetry that flooded his soul, he was
coloring photographs and illustrating foolish stories for foolish
editors in contravention of all his own ideas of what illustrations
should be. Why, even in Nova Scotia he had painted from the life; in his
lowest days he had decorated furniture at his own pleasure. Oh, it was
sordid, unworthy, humiliating! He would give it all up: if he could not
pursue Art, at least he would not degrade it. Thanks to his Nova-Scotian
training, his good right hand could do more than wield the brush. Better
to earn bread and water for himself and his family by some honest craft,
till such time as honest Art came within his means. Rather an honest
artisan than a dishonest artist. And while he was still hot with the
impulse he looked through the advertisement columns of the _Clerkenwell
Chronicle_, and answered three demands, one for a “joiner,” another for
a “sugar-boiler,” and the third for a “harness-cleaner.”

The sugar-boiling firm alone answered, and he was asked to call. He
stated that he had had considerable experience of the manufacture in
Nova Scotia, but a brief conversation convinced the manager that the
applicant knew nothing of scientific sugar-boiling, with its elaborate
engines and differentiation of labor; but Matt’s sober, respectable
appearance and his conviction of his capacity stood him in good stead,
and he was given a fortnight’s trial at eighteen shillings a week, with
a prospect of rising to forty. In his confidence of mastering the easy
detail, and to clinch his resolution, he wrote to his art patrons
throwing up his position in each establishment with due form and
superfluous sarcasm, and one happy morning, soon after sunrise, repaired
to the factory with a more buoyant tread than had been his since the
memorable day when he crossed the great bridge which led to the heart of
all the splendors.

The fortnight’s end found him spiritually seared and physically scalded.
The depressing society of the British working-man, the ever-present
contrast of the blank building with the free forest in which he had made
sugar in his boyhood (how happy his boyhood seemed now!), and the
overflowing contents of the seething boilers, demonstrated to him daily
that he had made a mistake. He might have stayed on nevertheless, but
the dread that an accidental scald on the hand might permanently injure
his power with the brush made the trial fortnight his last. He scanned
the advertisement columns again, with no suspicion of what now awaited

He had been misled by the comparative facility with which he had found
work hitherto; he was now destined to re-experience--far more poignantly
than in New Brunswick--the long-drawn agony of unemployment, the
sickness of hope deferred; to bruise himself against the ruthless
indifference of an overstaffed nation; to see and hear the blind, deaf
forces of the social machine grind out happiness for all but him. At
first he did not mind getting no replies, except for the waste of
stamps, for he took feverish advantage of the hours of daylight thus
left free for Art. But as day followed day, and week followed week, the
perturbation of his soul and the weakness of his body, enfeebled by
hunger and cold, made painting difficult; and he had not even the
capital to expend on canvas. Broken in health and pride, he applied
again for his old work, prepared even to tint cartes-de-visite. But his
place had been filled up. The stream of human life had flowed on as if
he had never been. The work he had got was the only work in London open
to a man in his position, and this work he had thrown away. One of the
papers he had so imprudently quarrelled with was willing to take him on
again, but at half the price. Subdued as he was, a pride he afterwards
felt to have been insane spurred him to refuse. He fancied he could get
such terms from a score of other papers, but he was mistaken. In truth,
black and white was no more his _métier_ than humor. The rush into black
and white, of which he had first heard at Cornpepper’s, had filled the
ranks with abler men or of older standing, with a better appreciation of
the market, and of how to draw for reproduction by the new processes
just coming up. And he had yet to learn, also, that the world went very
well without him; that it had no need for him either as artist or
artisan, craftsman or clerk; that every hole had its peg, round or
square; and that he was of no more account in the surging life of London
than the fallen leaves blown about the bleak squares.

He earned a few odd shillings now and then for his old pictures by
persuading some small skinflint dealer to cheat him; and that was all.
Once he was cruelly tantalized--a five-pound commission to copy a
National Gallery picture being dangled before him, only to be withdrawn.
He parted with all but the barest necessities--with the fashionable
morning suit, with his pistol, with the Gregson boots; his only luxury
was the engraving of the “Angelus,” which he had retained because nobody
offered more than eighteenpence for it. The bulk of the money thus
raised was remitted to Abner Preep, as promised; the rest went to pay
Mrs. Lipchild. Himself he so stinted that often when he went to
Grainger’s (which he had fortunately prepaid) he took care to arrive
first, not only because of the warmth, but because the girl students,
whose class preceded his, left stale crusts lying about, whose crumb had
been used up on their charcoal drawings. To such straits may a man sink
in a few weeks, though he sinks slowly, for each week is a year to him.
But outwardly he preserved dignity, brushing his one suit scrupulously,
and glad that, owing to his interlude of fashionable tailoring, it was
still in good condition; for the vision of the lost mortals was ever
before his eyes, and he foresaw that without a decent appearance he
would not be able to grasp an opportunity even when it came, but would
be driven down to the deeps to join the damned souls outside that Fleet
Street public-house, within which the happier staff of the _Christian
Home_ ushered in the Sabbath with beer.

And the more London refused him the more his consciousness of power
grew. As he tramped the teeming streets in quest of a job or a customer,
a thousand ideas for great pictures jostled in his sick brain, a
thousand fine imaginings took form and shape in beautiful
color-harmonies and majestic groupings. In the ecstatic frenzy of
moments of hysterical revolt against the blind forces closing in upon
him like a tomb to shut him out forever from the sunlight, he grew
Titanic to his own thought, capable of masterpieces in any and every
kind of art--great heroic frescos like Michael Angelo’s, great homely
pictures like those of the Dutch, great classic canvases like Raphael’s,
great portraits like Rembrandt’s, great landscapes like Turner’s, great
modern street-pieces like Cornpepper’s, great mediæval romances like
Erle-Smith’s, not to say great new pictures that should found the school
of Strang, combining all the best points of all the schools, the ancient
poetry with the modern realism. Nay, even literary impulses mingled with
artistic in these spasms of nebulous emotion, his immature genius not
having yet grasped the limitations of the paintable. Good God! what did
he ask? Not the voluptuous round of the young men whose elegant
silhouettes standing out against the black, silent night from the warm
lighted windows of great houses athrob with joyous music filled him with
a mad bitterness; not the soft rose-leaf languors of the beautiful white
women who passed in shimmering silks and laces from gleaming
spick-and-span carriages under canvas awnings over purple carpets amid
spruce, obsequious footmen; not the selfish joys of these radiant
shadows dancing their way to dusty oblivion, to be trodden under foot by
the generations over which he would shine as a star, serene, immortal;
but bread and water and a little money for models and properties, and a
top-light straight in touch with heaven, and a few pounds to send home
to his kith and kin; but to paint, to paint, to joy in conception and to
glory in difficult execution, to express the poetry of the ideal through
real flesh and real shadows and real foliage, and find a rapturous agony
in the search for perfection; to paint, to paint, to exult fiercely in
the passing of faces, with their pathos and their tragedy, to catch a
smile on a child’s face and the grace of a girl’s movement and the
passion in the eyes of a woman; to watch the sunrise consecrating tiles
and chimneys, or the river, mirroring a thousand night-lights, glide on,
glorifying its own uncleanness; to express the intense stimulus of the
wonderful city, resonant with the tireless tread of millions of feet,
vibrant with the swirl of perpetual currents of traffic, pulsating with
the rough music of humanity-roaring markets, shrilling trains, panting
steamships; to record in pigment not only the romance of his dreams or
the glamour of the dead past, but the poetry of the quick--the rich,
full life of the town, the restless day and the feverish night, with its
mysterious perspectives of fitful gleams; to paint, to paint, anything,
everything, for the joy of eternalizing the transient beauty that lurked
everywhere--in the shimmer of a sunlit puddle, in the starry heaven, in
the motions of barefoot children dancing to a barrel-organ, in the
scarlet passing of soldiers, in the play of light on the fish in a
huckster’s barrow, in the shadowy aisles of city churches throbbing with
organ diapasons.

Oh, the joy of life! Oh, the joy of Art that expressed the joy of life!

Yes, but in the absence of a few bits of metal, neither joy nor Art nor
even life could be his. He must die, be swept off from among the surging
crowds of which he was an unnoticed unit, and no one would ever know
what mighty things he had dreamed and suffered in his little span of
years. Every supper eaten by radiant couples at richly lit restaurants
would have nourished him for weeks, nor did it diminish the bitter
socialistic sentiment this reflection caused him to remember that he
himself had fared as wantonly once and again. At least, he had earned
his money. What gave those young men with the vacant faces, those women
with the improbable complexions, the right to all the good things at the
table of life? Even Herbert was splashed by this wave of bitterness;
Herbert, the brilliant, with his battalion of boots. Ah! poor little
Billy was right. It was impossible to believe in anything--to see any
justice in life.

And was it worth while going on? The thought presented itself again and
again, especially in those November days when London was as dark as his
own soul; and it made him half sorry, half glad that a grim Providence
had sent his pistol to the pawnshop. He was walking to Grainger’s one
evening in such a double darkness of without and within, when the memory
came to him of a newspaper paragraph concerning people who had wandered
into the river, and, hypnotized by the idea, he bent his steps towards
the docks, with a vague intention of giving death a chance. What did it
matter what became of his brothers and sisters? It were better that they
died too. In any case he could not help them any more; he had just
scraped together the usual remittance, but he could not see where the
next was to come from. But his semi-somnambulistic motion did not bear
him towards the water-side; in the gray obscurity he erred endlessly in
strange ghostly squares, whose chill iron-railed enclosures loomed like
cemeteries through the sepulchral air.

London smelled like a boiled sponge; the raw air reeked with sulphurous
grime, as if the chimneys of hell had been swept. It was not an inviting
world to remain in. A gigantic brown head of a horse suddenly shot past
his. He jumped back, but a shadowy wheel caught him in the pit of the
stomach and hurled him across the road, where he fell on his back,
hearing inarticulate noises from the cabman, and just seeing the hansom
swallowed up again by the yellow sea. He got up, feeling dazed and
indignant, rather than hurt, and staggered along in purposeless pursuit
of the vanished cab. He found himself in a business street, where the
illumined shop-fronts thinned the fog. A familiar face, with a strange
green light upon it from a chemist’s window, burst upon him as
unexpectedly as the horse. It was Tarmigan’s. He studied it abstractedly
for a moment in its greenish pallor, with its deep furrows, seeming to
read clearly a weariness and heart-sickness akin to his own, and struck
for the first time by the shabbiness and flaccidity of the figure. Then
the face took a more joyous expression than he had ever seen in it, and
he heard Tarmigan saying:

“Hullo, Strang! Are you lost, too?”

“Yes, sir--at least, I don’t quite know, sir,” he replied, like one
awaking from a dream.

“You’re usually at Grainger’s at this hour. I’m on my way there. If you
are going to-night we had better keep together.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Matt.

He went into the chemist’s to inquire their whereabouts, and feeling a
little stiff, had the sudden idea of laying out his last coppers in
arnica; then he began to pilot his master with a sense of lofty
responsibility. But they walked in silence, mutually embarrassed.

Tarmigan coughed lengthily.

“Ought you to be out on a night like this, sir?” Matt ventured to say.

“Duty, my boy, duty,” rejoined Tarmigan, gruffly.

“But you are not bound to go, are you, sir?” Matt remonstrated,
remembering that Tarmigan’s services were a voluntary sacrifice at the
shrine of Art.

“I am not forced by an outsider, if that’s what you mean,” said
Tarmigan. “But that wouldn’t be duty, that would be necessity--at least,
in my definition.”

“Then duty is only what you feel you ought to do,” said Matt.

“Decidedly. Any man who knows what true Art is is bound to hand it down
to the next generation, especially in an age when there is so much false
doctrine in the air.”

“But can’t each generation find out its own Art?” Matt asked, timidly.

“Can each generation find out its own science?” Tarmigan retorted,
sharply. “In all things there is a great human tradition, and the torch
is handed down from generation to generation; otherwise we should be in
a nice fog,” he added, grimly, and coughed again. “And a nice fog the
young men are in who reject the light of the past, with their azure Art,
and their violet nonsense, and their slapdash sketchiness.”

“But they seem to be gaining the public ear,” Matt murmured, liking
neither to contradict his master nor to agree with him.

“The public ear!” Tarmigan laughed scornfully. “Yes, they gain that,
but not the public eye, thank God. That can still tell slipshod botchery
from honest, faithful work.”

“But Cornpepper is in the Academy this year,” Matt reminded him.

“Yes; the Academy lets itself be outbawled,” said Tarmigan, sharply. “I
wish I were a member!”

“I wish you were,” said Matt, fervently.

Tarmigan coughed.

“I didn’t mean what you mean,” he said, gruffly.

“Oh, but they ought to elect you, sir!” said Matt, rushing in on
delicate ground in his enthusiasm for the man’s character. “Everybody
says so.”

“Who’s everybody?” Tarmigan inquired, bitterly. “Society doesn’t say so,
for I don’t go to its drawing-rooms; the R.A.’s don’t say so, for I’m
unknown to their wives. But I am unjust. Let us drop the subject. After
all, a man’s work stands, even if he is passed over in his lifetime.”

Matt felt a sharp pang of sympathy for this strong, stern man sustained
by the false dream of immortality. He could not conceive that posterity
would care a rap for Tarmigan’s cold classic pictures. Indeed, now that
he had assimilated all that was good in Tarmigan’s teaching, he only
went to the studio for the sake of the model and the practice. Emotion
and embarrassment kept him silent.

“Do you live with your people?” Tarmigan asked, presently, in an
interested tone.

“No,” said Matt; “they are in America.”

“Oh, ah, yes; so you told me. You’re not married?”


“Nor engaged, I hope?”

“No,” said Matt, wonderingly.

“That’s right. No artist should marry. His wife is sure to drag him down
to sacrifice his Art to her pleasures and wants. Fine feathers and fine
houses are ruining English Art. I warn you of this, because you have the
makings of an artist if you work hard.”

“You are very kind, sir,” said Matt, touched.

“Not at all. You have a fine natural talent, still undisciplined. So
long as you keep yourself free from matrimonial complications you may
hope to achieve something. A single man can live on bread and water. I
am heartily glad to hear you have nobody to keep but yourself.”

Matt smiled grimly under the imagined cover of the fog.

“Ah, I know what you’re smiling at,” said Tarmigan, more genially than
he had yet spoken. “You’re wondering whether the preacher is a bachelor.
Well, I am proud to say I’m still single, though I can’t boast of living
on bread and water. You see, it isn’t only the expense; marriage spoils
the silent incubation of ideas; the wife wants her husband, not his

“But suppose an artist falls in love--isn’t it hard on him?” asked Matt.

“No man can serve two masters. Every artist has got to ask himself, Does
he want Happiness, or does he want Art? That choice will face _you_ one
day, Mr. Strang.”

“I hope not,” said Matt. “But I guess Art’s enough for me.” He spoke in
a tone of quiet conviction, and his bosom swelled. Happiness, forsooth!
How could there be Happiness apart from Art? Or how could Art be apart
from Happiness?

Their talk fell to a lower level. Matt casually expressed an ardent wish
to see sundry R.A.’s, especially the president. He had only come across
the second-rate painters or the young men. He felt vaguely that he was
at one with Butler and Greme and Herbert, and apparently Tarmigan also,
in despising them, though he had only seen one of their exhibitions;
they were in power and popular, and therefore time-serving mediocrities.
Yet beneath all this prejudice was a keen curiosity about them, and a
latent respect for these oldsters who had arrived. Tarmigan promised to
get him a ticket for the prize distribution of the Academy Schools next
month, when he would see most of them. The suggestion of suicide slunk
into the rear; the spectacle of the Academicians was something to live
for. Then the old man and the young relapsed into silent thoughts of
their art, projecting visions of ideal beauty on the background of
yellow, grimy vapor that shrouded the great dreary city.

But when Matt sat down to paint that night he found himself
incapacitated, a mass of aches and bruises. He went home to anoint
himself with his arnica; in the unconscious optimism of sickness the
suggestion of suicide had vanished altogether.



With a step that faltered from nervousness even more than from the
weakness due to a diet of one meal per diem, Matt Strang passed across
the clangorous court-yard of Burlington House, nigh turned back by the
imposing bustle of broughams and cabs, whose shadows were thrown sharply
on the stones under the keen, frosty starshine of the December night. In
the warm-lighted hall he shrank back, even more timidly, blinking at the
radiance of the company, the white shirt-fronts of the men, the dazzling
shoulders of the women. Before a counter a block of black figures
struggled to get rid of their hats and coats in exchange for numbers.
Matt hid his hat, fortunately flexible, in the pocket of his overcoat,
which, being the least shabby of his vestments by reason of its summer
vacation, he did not dare to take off; otherwise he would not have dared
to keep it on. There were spots of discoloration on the concealed
garments, for they had suffered from the week’s job, which, together
with the expectation of this gala-night, had kept him alive since he had
met Tarmigan in the fog three weeks before. As a house-painter and
distemperer Matt had still hovered on the verge of Art, and if Butler
was right in his interpretation of the Academy of his day, and the
highest art was indeed to conceal paint, then was the young Nova Scotian
strictly Academic in retaining his overcoat on this most Academic of
occasions. He marched with the courage of desperation up a broad crimson
staircase, keenly conscious of the frayed edges of his trousers, and
mistily aware of overarching palms and bordering flower-pots and
fashionable companions, and surrendered the ticket Tarmigan had given
him to a sumptuous official who seemed a part of the ornamental avenue
to the Academic salons. Once safely past this point the haze cleared,
and he saw, to his joy, less fashionable figures in frock-coats and
ladies in hats and jackets, and though he wished they had been more
numerous and more dowdy, he felt a morsel more at ease. There seemed to
be pictures on view, and he eagerly joined the sparse groups of
spectators that promenaded the rooms, in curious contrast with the crush
of the populace the last time he had walked, at the price of a shilling,
within these historic walls. The exhibition was curious: in one room
dozens of semi-detached heads, some evidently from the same model; in
another, cartoons of draped figures; in a third, sculptures. He saw from
a placard that they had been done in competition for the prizes that
were to be adjudged to-night. He heard scraps of foolish criticism from
the people about him, but his commerce with art-editors had blunted his
once sensitive nerves, and he was only amused. From the pictures his
eyes strayed to the spectators, and he wondered which were celebrities.
It occurred to him, with a pang of dismay, that in the absence of any
cicerone he might go away no wiser than he had come, and he remembered
with regret the personally conducted tour he had made through the
Reynolds Club. Would his uncle be here to-night? he thought, with
apprehensive shrinking. As he moved aimlessly about, thinking of the Old
Gentleman, his heart leaped to see--not Matthew Strang, but “Daniel
before Nebuchadnezzar,” and not the “Daniel before Nebuchadnezzar” he
knew, but other Daniels and other Nebuchadnezzars--a veritable vision of
Daniels and Nebuchadnezzars, a gallery of Daniels and Nebuchadnezzars,
perspectives of Daniels and Nebuchadnezzars, stretching away on both
sides of the room; young clean-shaven Daniels and old gray-bearded
Daniels and middle-aged Daniels with mustaches, Daniels with uplifted
arms and Daniels with downcast eyes, Daniels dressed and Daniels
undressed, Daniels with flashing faces and Daniels with turned backs,
and Nebuchadnezzars analogously assorted, and palaces of equal variety
and backgrounds of similar dissimilarity, each tableau differing in
properties and supernumeraries, but all appearing only the more alike
because of their differences, so conventional were the variations.

Matt divined instantly that the picture Herbert had painted must be
among them, and he looked about ardently for the painted palace in which
he had spent so many happy hours. Ah! there it was, the dear old canvas,
though it had an undreamed-of grandeur in its broad gold frame; there
was Daniel and there was “Nebby,” more finished than when he had last
seen Herbert at work on them that fatal midsummer day, but essentially
unchanged. He felt quite a small proprietary interest in it, unconscious
how much it really owed to him; his touches on the actual final canvas
had been but few, and these mainly suggestions in pastel, and his
remembrance of the scaffolding work that preceded was hopelessly blurred
by the countless discussions. He was shaken by a resurgence of pleasant
memories of these artistic talks and merry lunches, with the bright
sunshine streaming down on the skin rugs and the gleaming busts. He
became absorbed in the painting, seeing episodes of the past in it, like
a magician looking into a pool of ink. And then he was pierced to the
marrow as by an icy wind; he heard an ecstatic voice ejaculating “Isn’t
it beautiful? The dear boy!” in charming foreign accents, and he divined
the Vandyke beard hovering haughtily in his rear. He felt the couple had
come to see their son’s work, and he tried to sidle away unperceived,
but an advancing group forced him to turn round, and he found himself
eye to eye with Madame, whose radiant face of praise was exchanged for
one of smiling astonished welcome when she caught sight of him.

“My dear young--” she began, in accents of lively affection. Then Matt
saw her face freeze suddenly, and he quailed beneath the glooming
eyebrows of her dignified consort, who swept round the other way with
the frozen lady on one arm and Herbert on the other, turning three backs
to his nephew in a sort of triple insult. The semicircular sweep which
veered Madame off brought Herbert near, and Matt’s heart beat more
rapidly as his whilom chum’s dress-coat, with its silk facings, brushed
against his tightly buttoned overcoat. The glimpse he had of Herbert’s
face showed it severe, impassive, and devoid of recognition; but ere the
young gentleman had quite swept past he managed to give his homely
cousin a droll dig in the ribs, which was as balm in Gilead to the
lonely youth, and brought back in a great wave all his fondness for his
dashing relative, with whom he now felt himself a fellow conspirator in
a facetious imbroglio. The last lees of his bitterness were extruded by
the dig; he gazed with affectionate admiration after the solemn
swallow-tails of his cousin, receding staidly and decorously up the
avenue of Daniels, at one or other of which his disengaged hand pointed
with no faintest suggestion of droll digs in its immaculate cuff and
delicately tapering fingers. Presently there was a marked move in a
particular direction, and Matt, joining the current, was floated towards
a great room filled with chairs, and already half full of gentlefolks.
He made instinctively for the rear, but finding himself amid a mob of
young fellows in evening dress, some of them sporting the ivory medal of
studentship, he retreated farther towards the front, ultimately taking
up a position on the last chair of the left extremity of the fourth row
from the back, out of view of the incomers streaming through the oaken
panels. It was a broad oblong room, with skylights in the handsome
ceiling, and large watercolors hanging on the walls. A temporary dais
covered by a crimson baize and ascended by a crimson step faced the
audience, and at its central point stood a reading-desk lighted from the
right by a lamp. Matt heard whispered comments on the new-comers from
his neighbors; now it was a knighted brewer who rolled his corporeal
cask into a front seat, now it was a musical conductor with an air of
exile from the central desk. A few painters of eminence with neither
handles nor tails to their names dotted Art about the audience, while
wives and daughters of the Academically distinguished exhaled an aroma
of fashion, striving to banish all reminiscences of paint from
everything but their complexions; here and there was an actor out of
employment or a strayed nondescript celebrity, and on a plush couch to
the right of the platform a popular author chatted noisily with a
pretty, vivacious lady journalist; the mixture was completed by a few
favored relatives of the students, like Mr. and Madame Strang, whose
anxious faces were clearly visible to Matt in a diagonal direction a few
rows ahead. Herbert himself herded with his fellow-students, who had
taken exclusive possession of the back rows, where they stood in
evening dress, a serried gallery of black-and-white figures, prophesying
“all the winners.”

A great round of applause from their ranks set everybody peering towards
the door, only to encounter the stern gaze of the magnificent beadle,
whose entry had prompted the salvoes, and who, arrayed in what appeared
to be a rich red dressing-gown, showed like a Venetian color-study amid
a collection of engravings.

A more general outburst of clapping, accompanied by a buzz of interest,
greeted the arrival of the less picturesque “train” of Academicians,
headed by the president. The procession, bowing and smiling, defiled
slowly towards the dais, especial enthusiasm being reserved for the more
popular or the newest Academicians and Associates, the students having a
ruling hand or hands in the distribution of the noise. Matt craned
forward eagerly to see these pillars of English Art, whose names flew
from lip to lip. As they only looked like men, he had a flash of

The president takes his seat on the central chair, flanked and backed by
the faithful forty and the trusty thirty, minus the absentees. The
R.A.’s dispose themselves along the front bench, the A.R.A.’s occupy the
rear--a younger set, on the whole, with more hair on their heads and
less on their chins. The beadle solemnly slides the oak panels to,
cloistering the scene from the world, and a religious silence spreads
from him till it infects even the excited back rows. The president rises
bland and stately. There is a roar of welcome, succeeded by a deeper
hush. It is seen that he has papers on his desk, and is about to declare
the results of the competitions, and to determine the destiny of dozens,
if not the future of English Art. There is no vulgar sensationalism.
With a simple dignity befitting the venerable self-sufficient
institution, which still excludes great newspapers--and great
painters--from its banquets, he disdains working up to a climax, and
starts with the tidbit of the evening, “the gold medal and travelling
studentship for £200,” awarded every two years for the best historical
painting, the subject this year being “Daniel before Nebuchadnezzar.”
The president pauses for a breathless instant. The ranks of
black-and-white figures standing in the background have grown rigid with
excitement. The president imperturbably announces “Herbert Strang.”
There is a brief pause for mental digestion, then a great crash of
applause--the harmonious cacophony of clapping hands, generous lungs,
and frenzied feet. Matt, thrilling through and through with joy and
excitement, shouting frantically, and applauding with all his limbs,
turns to look for Herbert amid the students, but sees only rows of
heaving shirt-fronts and animated black arms. Then he becomes aware of
his cousin strolling leisurely along the near side of the room, through
a mad tempest of cheering, towards the president’s desk, a faint smile
playing about his beautiful boyish lips, which yet tremble a little.
Matt feels proud of being the cousin of the hero of the moment, whose
course he follows with tear-dimmed eyes. He sees him reach the
presidential desk and receive a medal and an envelope from the great
man, who shakes hands with him and evidently offers words of
congratulation. He follows his passage back to his fellow-students
through the undiminished tempest. Then his eye lights suddenly on
Matthew Strang’s face, and sees great tears rolling down towards the
Vandyke beard, while beside him Madame Strang, her face radiating
sunshine, her eyes dancing, throws kisses towards the cynosure of all
eyes, who, carrying his honors, and studiously avoiding the weakness of
a glance in the direction of his parents, ploughs his way amid fraternal
back-thumpings to his place among his cronies. There is a rapid exchange
of criticism and gossip among the students, ejaculations of
commiseration for Flinders, whose friends had convinced him that he
would win, and for Rands, a poor devil of talent, the only hope of a
desperately genteel family in Dalston. But comment must be hushed, for
other prizes, some of them important enough, have to be announced. There
is a steady succession of individual students, more or less blushing,
moving to and from the president’s congratulatory hand, some stumbling
nervously against the crimson step placed in front of his desk, probably
by the beadle to disconcert the shy. Some fortunate prize-winners come
up three times, and stumble three times. Sometimes they are girls. One
wears spectacles and a yellow sash, and has the curved back of the
student; another is pretty and _petite_, and causes a furore by her
multiplex successes and her engaging charm; a third is handsome, but
gawky, with bare red arms. A young man who wins two events attracts
special attention by his poetical head and his rapt air of mystic
reverie, and goes back winking. Then the president commences his
biennial address to an audience of students throbbing with excitement,
afire with the after-glow of all that applause, anxious to canvass the
awards, and dying to run out into the other rooms to look at the winning
pictures, which have, in some instances, been dark horses which nobody
remembers to have noticed.

His theme is the Evolution of Ecclesiastical Art. For half an hour the
audience, always with the exception of the students he is addressing,
listens patiently to the procession of ornate periods, classically
chiselled, hoping to emerge from the dulness and gloom of obscure epochs
into the light of familiar names. Then the seats begin to feel hard. By
the aid of copious shufflings, wrigglings, and whisperings, they drag
through another bad quarter of an hour, relieved only by the mention of
Albrecht Dürer, whose name is unaccountably received with rapturous
cheers, as if he were a political allusion. The next quarter of an hour
is lightened by the feeling that it is to be the last. But, as the
second hour arrives without a harbinger sentence, three brave men arise
and pass through the beadle-guarded portal. There is tremendous cheering
from the back, which is taken up and re-echoed from all parts of the
room, and the president beams and turns over a new page.

The seats become granite, the presidential eloquence flows on as if it
would wear them away; an endlessly trickling stream. He enters into
painful analyses of vanished frescos, painted in churches long since
swept away, and elaborates punctilious appreciations of artists and
architects known only to biographical dictionaries. Some have fancy
without imagination, some imagination without fancy, a few both fancy
and imagination, and the rest neither imagination nor fancy. The stream
strewn with dead names flows on slow and stately, with never a playful
eddy, and another man, greatly daring, fortified by the example of his
gallant predecessors, steals from the room, and blushes to find it fame.
Amid the plaudits that ring around this manful deed, Matt suddenly finds
Herbert at his side. His cousin slips a note into his hand and retreats
hastily to his place. Excited and glad of the relief, he opens it and
reads: “Meet me outside after this rot is over. Don’t let the Old
Gentleman see you.” Matt smiles, proud and happy to resume his old
relations with the hero of the evening, and pleased to find the ancient
password of “the Old Gentleman” supplementing the droll dig in the ribs
in re-setting their camaraderie on its ancient footing. In his eagerness
to talk to Herbert again and to congratulate him personally, the
presidential oration seems to him duller and the seat more adamantine
than ever. He strains his ears to catch instead the babble of the
students, who have finally given up any pretence of interest in mediæval
Flemish cathedrals. His eye, long since satiate with the sight of the
celebrities, roves again over the faces of the Academicians on their
platform, austere in their striving to appear absorbed, and again he
draws confidence from their merely human aspect. He watches the popular
novelist gossiping with the vivacious lady journalist. He examines for
the eighth time the water-colors on the walls, which he gathers, from
one of the many conversations going on in his neighborhood, are by the
competitors for the Turner prize. He sees that the hard-worked newspaper
artist in the row in front of him has given up sketching and gone to
sleep, despairing of escape. The pangs of his own stomach keep him
awake; he looks forward wistfully to the hour of release, resolved to
treat himself to two-pennyworth of supper in honor of Herbert’s triumph.
But the interminable voice goes on, discoursing learnedly and elegantly
of apses and groins and gargoyles. The wrigglings have ceased. All
around, but especially in the quiet front rows under the presidential
eye, apathetic listless beings droop on their chairs. Matt steals a
glance towards his uncle, and finds him the only member of the audience
genuinely alert and interested, his head perked up, his eyes gazing
admiringly towards the rostrum, where perchance in imagination he
already sees his son carrying on the time-honored tradition of the
great Sir Joshua. At his side Madame sustains herself by furtive looks
in the direction of the same young gentleman. Then Matt turns his
attention to the speaker, watching his mouth open and shut, and his
shapely hand turning the perpetual pages. He expects that every moment
will be the orator’s last. But the great man is just warming to his
work. His silvery voice, rising above the buzz and the murmur, descants
dreamily on the spiritual aspirations of uncouthly christened
architects, who had mouldered in their graves long centuries before his
Gracious Majesty George III., patron of arts and letters, gave the
Academy house-room. After an hour and a half he launches lightly into a
treatise on glass-staining. The audience has now given up all hope. It
has the sense of condemnation to an earthly inferno, in which the suave
voice of a fiend of torture, himself everlastingly damned, shall forever
amble on, unwinding endless erudition. A reference to “my young
architectural friends,” greeted with suspicious thunders by all the
students, affords a momentary break in the monotony. The end comes
suddenly, after a “Lastly,” forgotten ten minutes before. There is a
brief interval of incredulity. People awakened by the silence look up
sleepily. Yes, there is no doubt. The president is actually down. Then a
great roar of joy bursts out from all sides. The back benches go
delirious, and then the meeting dissolves in a stampede towards the
oaken panels, at last open in three places. The discharged prisoners
swarm down the grand staircase and besiege the cloak-rooms; some parade
the rooms to inspect the winning pictures, now ticketed, and to express
their surprise at the judges’ decisions.

Outside in the cold air, which immediately began to make him sneeze
through the compulsory imprudence of having worn his overcoat
throughout, Matt lurked about looking for Herbert, and at last the hero
appeared, carefully muffled and wrapped up, and with a murmur of “Wasn’t
it awful? Wait by the Arcade till my people’s cab rolls off,” dashed
back. When he reappeared, smiling sunnily, he explained that he had told
his people he must show up at the Students’ Club in order not to appear
caddish. “I’ve been slobbered over enough,” he added, whimsically
flicking the traces of an imaginary maternal kiss off his fresh, smooth

“Oh, but I don’t wonder your people are delighted,” said Matt; “I know I
am. I haven’t congratulated you yet.” And he shook his cousin’s hand

“Thank you, old fellow; it’s very good of you. Oh, by-the-way, don’t
mention to anybody I let you see the picture on the easel, will you? One
is supposed to keep it to one’s self, don’t you know. That’s why I
didn’t tell you I was doing it for the Gold Medal.”

“Oh, who should I mention it to?” asked Matt, reassuringly.

“That’s a good chap. You see, if it got out that I talked it over with
you there might be a bother; people are so jealous, especially now that
it has won.”

“Oh, I sha’n’t tell a soul, you may depend,” said Matt. “It was very
good of you to let me come so often and chat about it; and even if I did
save you a little trouble in working out the perspective, I learned a
great deal about composition from you.”

“Don’t mention it,” said Herbert.

“Oh, I won’t,” said Matt, gravely; whereat Herbert laughed, and replied:
“Now _you_ must do an Academy picture, old fellow. There’s three months’
time yet.”

“Would there be any chance of my getting in?” asked Matt, wistfully. He
had been fluttered by the applause of the evening; it seemed impossibly
grand to be the centre of an admiring fashionable assemblage, instead of
a shabby alien hovering on its outside rim. In such company the colossal
self-confidence of his solitary exaltations dwindled to a pitiful sense
of his real insignificance.

“Rather,” replied Herbert. “Why, I thank my stars you weren’t a
competitor. I should never have got the medal if you had been.”

Matt shook his head deprecatingly, but Herbert rattled on with
increasing enthusiasm. “Wouldn’t it be jolly if you got a picture in and
it was hung on the line next to mine? Now that I’ve taught you
composition and educated you up to the Academy’s ideas, you could easily
do something that would take the old buffers’ fancy, and then, once you
got a show in the Academy, the Old Gentleman would take up your work
and run you.”

“I don’t think they’d take what I wanted to do.”

“Oh, but you mustn’t want to do it,” said Herbert. “At least, not till
you can afford it. Besides, I’m not so sure that there isn’t something
in the Academy’s ideas, after all. Candidly, I don’t quite see how
Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar could have been treated any better.”

“I don’t want to treat them at all,” said Matt.

“Well, anyway, do something, you old duffer. You don’t want to go
grubbing along at ten bob a week--or was it tenpence a day? I forget.
Promise me to do a picture for the next show, or I sha’n’t feel easy in
my mind about you.”

“I promise,” Matt murmured.

“That’s right,” said Herbert, considerably relieved. He went on
heartily: “The Academy is the stepping-stone. It’s no good kicking it
out of the way. Put a picture in the Academy, by fair means if thou
canst, but--put a picture in the Academy. You see, even Cornpepper had
to come to us. And even if you _will_ do new-fangled stuff, you can
always get in if you make the picture a certain queer size--just to fit
an awkward corner. I forget the exact measurements, but the Old
Gentleman knows; he took care to find out in case I couldn’t get in
legitimately. I’ll make a point of asking him. Poor old governor! I
don’t suppose he’ll sleep to-night. Why, he was quite blubbery when the
cab drove off. Do you know, there’s a certain pathos about the Old

“He’s been very good to you,” said Matt.

“Well, and now he is happy. Virtue rewarded. The cream of the joke is
that now I’ve got to go abroad in spite of him--travelling studentship,
you see--and he can’t possibly chuck business for a year to come with

“Was the money in that envelope?” Matt asked.

“Only the first quarterly instalment. What a shame I can’t pay you out
of that! Only I must study abroad with the money. It wouldn’t be honest
to use it for any other purpose, would it?”

“Don’t talk of it,” said Matt, flushing from a sense of the
misconstruction of his thoughtless query.

“Oh, don’t be so shocked. You look as if I had already misappropriated
it. I can’t tell you how glad I was to see your dear old phiz to-night.
What have you been doing with yourself? I often wondered why you didn’t
look me up at the club. By-the-way, here we are at the club.”

“Here?” echoed Matt, interrogatively. They had been walking
automatically as they conversed, and had come to a stand-still before a
blank, cheerless building in Golden Square.

“Yes, this is the shanty. Not _my_ club, you duffer. This is only the
students’ little ken. I told my people the truth, you know. It _would_
be snobbish not to drop in to-night. They make rather a night of it,
though I hadn’t intended to go otherwise. Hang it all, I had an
appointment to sup with a girl at half-past ten! I forgot all about
her--she’ll be mad.” He took out his watch. “Ten past eleven. Why,
Ecclesiastical Art must have evolved till close on eleven! It isn’t my
fault, anyhow. Do you mind trotting round to the Imperial? She’s in the
first ballet. We’d better have a hansom.”

The young men drove round to the stage door, but the fair one had
departed after a few impatient instants. “I think I heard her tell the
cabby ‘Rule’s,’” was the sixpenny worth of information obtained from the

“Let’s go there,” said Matt, who was now quite faint with hunger, and
who had a lurking wish that Herbert would stand a supper--one of the
olden heroic suppers that he had not tasted for half a year--a wild riot
of a supper, with real meat and wholesome vegetables and goodly
sauces--nay, even red wine, and a crowning cup of coffee made of real
beans, not the charred crust of over-baked loaves, out of which he had
been making his own lately; getting the burned bread cheaper with a
double economy; a supper fit for well-fed gods, which a starving man
having eaten might be well content to die. But Herbert, unaware of what
was going on in Matt’s inner man, replied, cruelly, “No, it’s too late
to look for her at the restaurant. I know her address, but she won’t be
there yet. Besides, I ought to show up at the club.”

So they strolled back to the bleak building (Matt suddenly bethinking
himself that even here supper might lie in wait), and passing through a
dark hall, mounted a stone corkscrew staircase that led to a hubbub of
voices and a piano jingling music-hall tunes. The doorway of the first
room was congested by black backs over-circled with clouds of smoke.
Herbert and Matt peered in unseen for a few moments. The little room,
decorated only by a few sketches from the hands of members, and
separated from the second room by the primitive partition of a screen,
was crowded with young men in evening dress sitting round on chairs or
knees or coal-scuttles, with glasses in their hands and cigars in their
mouths, and new men were squeezing in from the inner room, the advent of
each being greeted by facetious cheers. Plaudits more genuine in their
ring welcomed Flinders, who, it was understood, had been in the final
running. He came in, trying to make his naturally long face look short,
and exclaiming with punctilious carelessness, “Where’s my whiskey?”
Rands, who, it was whispered, had lost by only a few votes, was not
present; he had, apparently, gone home to the heart-broken gentility at
Dalston. Matt caught sight of Cornpepper on the right of the doorway,
and his heart rejoiced as at the sight of a laid supper. The little
painter was clutching the middle of his chair with his most owl-like
expression. His single eye-glass glittered in the gaslight.

“Why, there’s Cornpepper!” Matt whispered, in awed accents.

“Oh, has he come in?” yawned Herbert. “I saw him marching Greme about
among the Daniels, and giving them hell in emulation of Clinch--looking
round after every swear, as if half hoping the ladies hadn’t heard him,
and half hoping they had.” But Matt had only half heard Herbert. He was
listening to the oracles of Cornpepper. But listeners rarely hear any
good of themselves.

“Strang’s not in it with you,” Cornpepper was saying to Flinders.
“There’s no blooming style in his technique. It might have been done by
an R.A.”

“They do say the result would have been very different if more R.A.’s
had come down,” said the semi-consoled Flinders, somewhat illogically.
“But Barbauld had the gout, and Platt is in Morocco, and--”

At this point shouts of “Strang!” made the cousins start, but it was
only the playfulness of the room greeting a new-comer as the victor. The
youth acquiesced humorously in the make-believe, slouching round the
room with a comical shuffle and a bow to each chair. Then a man got up
and began a burlesque lecture on Ecclesiastical Art “to my young
architectural friends.” Every reference to apses, groins, or gargoyles
was received with yells of delight, a demoniac shriek being reserved for
Albrecht Dürer.

“I’m awfully glad I escaped it,” said a youth in front of Matt. “I got
there five minutes late, and the man wouldn’t let me in. At least he
said, ‘I’m not supposed to let you in after nine-fifteen.’ But I didn’t
take the tip--or give it.”

In the middle of the address on Art, Gurney, coming up the staircase in
the wake of a student friend (to whom he had been descanting on the
absurdities of Cornpepperism, from which he had now revolted), perceived
Herbert, and pushed him boisterously into the room, which straightway
became a pandemonium; the pianist banging “See, the Conquering Hero
Comes,” the boys stamping, singing, huzzahing, rattling their glasses,
and shouting, “Cigars!” “Drinks!” “Strang!”

Herbert beamingly ordered boxes of Havanas and “soda-and-whiskies,” and
soon Matt, still in his overcoat, found himself drinking and smoking and
shouting with the rest, exalted by the whiskey into forgetfulness of his
clothes and his fortunes, and partaking in all the rollicking humors of
the evening, in all the devil-may-care gayety of the eternal
undergraduate, roaring with his boon companions over the improper
stories of the ascetic-looking young man with the poetic head, bawling
street choruses, dancing madly in grotesque congested waltzes, wherein
he had the felicity to secure Cornpepper for a partner, and
distinguishing himself in the high-kicking _pas seul_, not departing
till the final “Auld Lang Syne” had been sung with joined hands in a
wildly whirling ring. Herbert had left some time before.

“Good-night, Matt; I want to get away. I don’t often get such an excuse
for being out late. There’s no need for you to go yet, you lucky
beggar,” he whispered, confidentially, as he sallied forth, radiantly
sober, weaving joyous dreams of his travelling studentship future.

When the party broke up in the small hours, Matt Strang, saturated with
whiskey and empty of victual, staggered along the frosty pavements,
singing to the stars, that reeled round, blinking and winking like the
buttons on Herbert’s boots.



His own boots preoccupied Matt’s attention ere the New Year dawned. Had
“Four-toes” continued going to Grainger’s, instead of letting his
subscription lapse perforce with the Christmas quarter, he might have
convinced the class that his toes were normal, for they had begun to
peep out despite all his efforts to botch up the seams. The state of his
wardrobe prevented him from looking up Herbert at his club, especially
as he was doubtful whether the travelling studentship had not already
carried his cousin off; and thus that mad night, which was a hot shame
to sober memory, grew to seem an unreal nightmare, and Herbert as
distant as ever.

A vagrant atom of the scum of the city, he tasted all the bitterness of
a million-peopled solitude. His quest for work was the more hopeless the
shabbier his appearance grew. In optimistic after-dinner moods he had
thought the spectacle of the streets sufficient, and to feast one’s eyes
on the pageant of life a cloyless ecstasy; and, indeed, in the first
days of his wanderings, the merest artistic touch in the wintry streets
could still give him a pleasurable sensation that was a temporary
anodyne--the yellow sand scattered on slippery days along the tram
lines, and showing like a spilth of summer sunshine; the warm front of a
public-house, making the only spot of color in the long suburban
street; strange faces seen for an instant in fog and lost forever;
snow-flakes tumbling over one another in their haste, or fluttering
lingeringly to earth; red suns, gray-ringed, like school-boys’
taws--but, as the slow days unfolded their sordid unchanging coils, he
found himself shrinking more and more into himself. He sought warmth and
refuge from reality in the National Gallery or the British Museum,
dreaming away the hours before the more imaginative pictures or the
Elgin marbles. But even these failed him at last, their beauty an
intolerable irony. Sometimes he realized with a miserable start the real
tragedy of being “out of work,” how it narrowed the horizon down to the
prospect of meals, so that the great movement of the world from which he
was shut out left him equally exclusive, and the announcements on the
newspaper posters--wars and international football and the opening of
parks and new plays and the deaths of great men and the rise of
ministries--struck no responsive chord in his imagination, were all
shadowy emanations from some unreal mockery of a universe. The real
universe had his own navel for centre. Sometimes a faint perception of
the humor of the position distorted his lips in a melancholy smile; he
wondered how he would come out under Jimmy Raven’s pencil. At other
times he lay huddled up in his bed, his fading clothes heaped over the
one blanket, passing the day in an apathetic trance, interrupted only by
the intermittent working of his imagination, or by observation of
optical effects that accidentally arrested his gaze; and the next day,
in remorse for lost possibilities, he would rise before dawn, and
recommence his search for employment.

From such a long day’s tramp he was shuffling homeward late one dark,
dismal night, when, pausing to warm his feet and hands at the
cellar-grating of a baker’s shop, he was accosted by William Gregson,
striding along with a frown on his forehead and a brown-paper parcel in
his hand.

“Hullo, Fourt--Strang!” he cried, pausing. “Don’t see you any more.”

“No,” said Matt, wishing Gregson wouldn’t see him now, and edging a
little away from a street-lamp.

“You don’t want any boots?”

“No,” said Matt, sticking his toes downward to hide the gaps as far as

“You won’t forget I am at your service whatever you want,” said the
little stooping old man, with shining enthusiastic eyes. “It is a
pleasure to work for a man with feet like yours. I was only thinkin’ of
you to-night at the studio--a scurvy wretch has been servin’ me a shabby
trick, and I was thinkin’ to myself: Ah, Four--ah, Strang, there’s a
difference now! Strang’s a man and a brother artist. This bloke’s a
’artless biped.”

“Why, what did he do?”

“There’s no need to go into details,” said William Gregson,
pathetically. “Suffice it to say he refuses the boots. And here they
are. A beautiful pair! Left on my hands! After I sat up half the night
to finish ’em for him, trade’s so brisk just now.”

He unwrapped the package to expose their perfections.

“And what will you do with them?” said Matt.

“I’d like to put ’em on and kick him with ’em,” replied Gregson,
gloomily. “Only they’re too small.” Gregson’s own feet were decidedly
not beautiful.

“Yes, they seem more my size,” agreed Matt.

“Will you have them?” cried the old man, eagerly. “Name your own price!
Don’t be afraid. I sha’n’t ask more than last time.”

But Matt shook his head. “I’m hard up,” he confessed, blushing in the

“I’ll trust you,” was the fervid response.

“I’d never pay you,” Matt protested, “unless I could do something for
you in return. If you want,” he hesitated, “your shop painted, or any
wall-papering, or--or I could build you a counter, or--”

But the shoemaker was shaking his head. “I don’t want my shop
painted--but ’ow if you painted me?” he cried, with an inspiration.
“I’ve often tried to do it myself, but some’ow an angelic expression
gets into it, and the missus don’t recognize it. Have you ever tried
doin’ your own portrait, Strang?”

“No--not seriously,” said Matt.

“Well, you try, and see if you don’t find it as I say. It’s a curious
thing how that angelic expression will creep in when a man’s paintin’
his own portrait. Besides, you can paint better than me; I don’t say it
behind your back, but--”

“Then it’s a bargain?” interrupted Matt, anxiously.

“Yes; I can give you an hour every mornin’. Trade’s so slack,

“May I take the boots with me?” inquired Matt.

“Yes, the moment the portrait’s done,” said Gregson, in generous

“Are you afraid I’ll walk off in ’em?” Matt cried, angrily. “And suppose
they don’t fit?”

“Ah, well; you may try them on,” conceded Gregson. And, with a curious
repetition of a former episode, Matt slipped off his boot under a
street-lamp. The boots were a little tight, especially after the yawning
laxness of the old; but it was heavenly to stamp on the wet pavement and
to feel a solid sole under one’s foot, even though an oozy, sloppy
stocking intervened.

Gregson perceived the ruin of the vacant boot, and his face grew stern.

“Keep it on, keep it on,” he said, harshly. “You’re an old customer.”

“Oh, thank you!” ejaculated Matt.

“You can give me the old pair,” he rejoined, gruffly.

“Oh, but they’re past mending,” said Matt.

“But they can help to mend other boots. They’re like clergymen,” said
the little shoemaker, laughing grimly. “Nothing is ever wasted in this

Matt was thinking so too, though from a different point of view. He was
grateful to the economical order of the universe.

The boots reinvigorated the pilgrim on his way to the ever-receding
Mecca of employment, and each day he sallied forth further refreshed by
the bread and butter and tea which William Gregson’s spouse dispensed
after the sittings. All over London he tramped. One day he wandered in
hopes of a job among the docks of Rotherhithe, feeling a vague romance
in the great gray perspectives of towering wood-stacks with their
far-away flavor of exotic forests, and in the sombre canals and locks
along which men with cordwain faces were tugging discolored barges. The
desolation of the scene and of the district was akin to his mood--his
eyes were full of delicious hopeless tears; he rambled on, forgetting to
ask for the job, through the forlorn streets, all ship-chandler shops
and one-story cottages, and threading a narrow passage strewn with
lounging louts, found himself on a little floating pier on the bank of
the river, and lost himself again in contemplating the grimy picturesque
traffic, the bleak wharves and warehouses.

“You see that air barge with the brick-dust sails?”

Matt started; an aged gentleman with a rusty silk hat was addressing

“Well, t’other day I see one just like that capsize in calm weather
under my very eyes. I come here every day after dinner to watch the
water, and I do get something worth seein’ sometimes. The pier-master he
told me it was loaded with road-slop, and road-slop’s alive--shifts the
weight on the lurchin’ side, you see, and that’s ’ow it occurred. There
was two men drowned--oh! it’s worth while coming here sometimes, I can
tell you. You see that green flag off the buoy?--that’s where she lays,
right in the fairway of the river.”

Here the aged gentleman snuffed himself with tremulous fingers that
spilled half, and offered Matt the box. The young man took a pinch for

A strayed sparrow hopped dolefully amid the grains of snuff on the
floating platform in futile quest of seeds.

“It would be ’appier stuffed,” the aged gentleman declared. “I mean with
tow, not toke.” And he laughed wheezingly.

Matt contesting this, the aged gentleman maintained, with an air of deep
philosophy, that all birds would be ’appier stuffed--that their life in
a state of nature was a harrowing competition for crumbs and worms,
while to keep them alive in cages was the climax of cruelty.

It subsequently transpired that he was a retired bird-stuffer, and the
conversation ended in Matt’s accompanying him home to learn the process,
as the bird-stuffer’s son and heir in far-off Stepney was in need of a
trustworthy hand in the shop.

“There isn’t a honest ’art in the trade,” he said, gloomily, “and the
boys are wuss than the men. They ought to be stuffed. What I like about
you is that you’ve got no character. The better the character the wuss
the man. They takes advantage of it.”

Arrived at his house--which was more pretentious than most of its
one-story neighbors--for it had a basement sublet to a blind woman whose
insignia read, “Chairs neatly cained on reasonable terms,” and its
parlor window was gay with wax fruits and stuffed birds--the aged
gentleman, who gave the name of Ground, discovered that he had no skin
to operate on, and, being spent from the walk, directed Matt to buy a
dead canary for sixpence from a bird-fancier “in the Eye Road.”

“There’s the tanner,” he said. “Now if you don’t come back with the bird
you may stuff me for a old goose.”

Matt came back with the bird, but the aged gentleman put it to his nose
and contorted his aged snuff-colored nostrils.

“I want a bird, not manure,” he said. “A bird fresh from this wale of
tears. Why, if I began to skin this the feathers ’ould drop out. You’ve
been took in, but you haven’t took me in, so here’s another tanner.”

In great anxiety Matt stood outside the bird-fancier’s shop-window,
staring wistfully at the frowsy-looking birds roosting in the cages, and
hoping that some kindly canary would drop off to eternal sleep under his
very nose so that he might be sure of its freshness. But the poor little
creatures all clung to existence and their perches. Suddenly he began to
laugh. There was an owl in a cage, and it looked like Cornpepper. On its
head was an erectile tuft like Cornpepper’s hair after argument, and,
though devoid of an eye-glass, the creature regarded him from its great
feather-fringed eyes with the same large, profound gaze.

“Give me style,” he heard it saying, “give me style.”

And then he thought of Cornpepper’s theories, of which he had heard more
on that glad mad night when the juvenile celebrity had been his partner
in the waltz.

“Erle-Smith is all wrong,” Cornpepper had pronounced, testily. “But I
don’t want to talk shop to-night. Imagination is shown in treatment, not
in subject. There may be more imagination in the painting of a
dressing-gown than of an allegory. Painters are called poets when they
can’t paint. And the _Saturday Spectator_ is quite at sea when it claims
me as the champion of modern subject against ancient, mediæval, or
imaginary. Subject, indeed! What I demand is modern _treatment_. I do
wish O’Brien would leave off interpreting me.”

And Matt Strang fell into a reverie, wondering what he should paint for
the Academy, and gazing into the owl’s eyes. What if he were destined to
waltz to fame in company with Cornpepper! And then he remembered
Gurney’s enthusiastic talk during the pauses of the wild waltz in
denunciation of the “real moments” of Cornpepperism, and in acclamation
of the simpler harmonies of Outamaro, the great Japanese master, from
whose work Cornpepper’s was a rotten retrogression rather than a
legitimate evolution. Matt speculatively surrendered his fancy to
Japanese images. A gallery of beautiful dream-pictures passed before his
eyes like a panorama. A brusque tap on the shoulder roused him from his
day-dream, and turning, he saw the animated face of the aged gentleman
beneath the rusty silk hat.

“Where’s the bloomin’ bird?” cried Mr. Ground, relieved to find Matt not
run off, for during the suspense of waiting it had struck him that even
the first bird might have been picked up in the gutter.

“The bird,” Matt murmured, dazedly. “Oh! Ah! I was waiting for one to
die. I wanted to be sure it was--new.”

“With my little eye, I sore ’im die,” quoted the aged gentleman,
mockingly. “‘Ere, give us the cash--you’re a juggins. But I suppose
folks can’t be honest and clever too.”

He took the sixpence and went inside, and re-emerged with what he called
a “new-laid” linnet, and returning to his parlor, skinned it, and
smeared the skin with arsenical soap, which he manufactured on the spot
out of common yellow soap beaten up into a batter with water, white
arsenic, and some drops of toothache mixture he had in a vial. He
stuffed the skin with the cotton-wool in which the vial was embedded,
and ran a wire right through from mouth to tail, with half a hair-pin
for each leg and each wing.

“I’m out of eyes,” he said, pausing. “But in them sockets you sticks
glass eyes--they’re so much a dozen, according to size. See?”

Matt’s aptitude as a pupil regained him the aged gentleman’s esteem, and
a day or so after the oddly assorted couple sailed down the Thames on a
penny steamboat, and walked from Blackwall to Stepney, where Matt was
introduced to the bird-stuffer’s son, a fat, greasy, hilarious man, who
told his father that he was “a old innercent,” and facetiously argued
out the probabilities of Matt’s honesty in Matt’s presence. Ultimately,
Ground Junior took the young man on a week’s trial. The trial going in
Matt’s favor, he was installed permanently in the establishment at
eighteen shillings a week, fulfilling miscellaneous functions, the most
troublesome of which was the superintendence of a snub-nosed errand-boy,
who played excruciatingly on a penny whistle. This boy, whose name was
Tommy, and who reminded Matt queerly of his ancient Indian chum by his
dishonesty as well as by his name, would calmly return with bare
pedestals where there had been birds and shades, and assert that he had
smashed the glass, and that thieves in the crowd had torn off the birds.
He did not flinch from smashing whole nests of glass shades, two dozen
inside one another, a veritable Napoleon among errand-boys. Sometimes,
when he had been out with the barrow delivering orders, he would wheel
it home laden with mysterious coats and boots, which he vainly offered
Matt on easy terms. At irregular intervals, too, he fell ill, a note
from his mother arriving in his handwriting differently sloped, and then
Matt was reduced to trundling the barrow himself, while the fat
facetious man, summoned from the workroom over the shop, or from his
other establishment in the New Cut, where his wiry vixen of a wife had
her headquarters, replaced him behind the counter. Matt had also spells
of mechanical occupation in the workshop. He not only stuffed the skins
(which came from abroad), but arranged baskets of wax-fruit (which were
bought ready-made) and paper flowers and cases of shells with moss and
sea-weeds and pyramids of pebbles. And he made mock red coral out of
balls of brown paper, dipped into a hot composition of beeswax and
rosin, and stuck it on wooden stands with many-hued shells variegating
it, and preserved insects creeping prettily over it; likewise he
manufactured wax-flowers to replace breakages; hollow frauds, mere wax
shells pounced with dry colors, or mixed originally with coloring
matter, yellow ochre making apples, and lake lending transparency to
cherries, or uniting with Prussian blue to furnish the florid richness
of purple grapes.

But though--as ever--his taskwork hovered oddly about the purlieus of
Art, or the vaults of its Temple, and though his eighteen shillings a
week enabled him to send nine shillings a week home, in monthly
instalments, to Abner Preep, still he was not happy. The difficulties
with the errand-boy; the fat facetiousness of Ground Junior; the menial
trundling of the barrow, with the dread of some day meeting “Bubbles,”
or other fellows from Grainger’s, to say nothing of Cornpepper, Gurney,
Rapper, or the Old Gentleman; the retail trade over the counter, the
biweekly task of cleaning all the shades with a chamois leather--all
this, combined with the sense of wasted months, galled and fretted him.
He was working at his Academy picture now--in accordance with his
promise to Herbert--but his hours being from eight to eight, Sunday was
his only leisure time, and he was paradoxically grateful for the ancient
Oriental ordinance which made the godless British bird-stuffer close his
shop once a week and thus enable him to work. He was able to do some of
the preliminary sketching-out in the early morning and at night; but
there was no light for the real work, nor was there much light in his
back bedroom, even at noon on Sundays.

He had not changed his address, though he had to walk three miles to and
from his work; kept to his old lodging by habit and the trust that his
landlady--an artist’s mother--would not hastily throw him upon the
streets. The subject of his picture had grown upon him from his daily
occupation; the simulated bird-life around him moved him at moments to
thoughts of the joyous winged creatures butchered to make a parlor
ornament. He could not agree with Ground Senior that they were happier
stuffed. And then, too, the pathos of prisoned birds would overwhelm
him, exiled from their natural woodland home, and set to peck endlessly
at wires. His own lot and theirs became subtly interlinked, and his
imagination, turning from the sordid prose of the actual world in which
he found himself, brooded on visions of poetry and idyllic happiness,
and so, instead of selecting from reality that which was beautiful in
it, instead of following Cornpepper’s theories, or his own theories, or
anybody’s theories, he found himself irresistibly and instinctively
seized and possessed by a subject and a mode of treatment
uncompromisingly imaginative--“The Paradise of the Birds,” a beautiful
wood, suffused with a magic sunlight, in which freed birds of many
species should flutter blithely around a divine female figure with a
wondrous radiance of love and joy upon her welcoming face, and at her
feet a beautiful boy playing upon an oaten pipe. There should be an
undertone of tender pathos--the pathos of birds--but light and joy were
to be the essence of this harmony of lovely forms and colors; all the
painter’s semi-unconscious yearning for happiness, all his revolt
against his narrow, squalid lot, his secret, resentful sense of the high
place denied him at the banquet of life, reflecting themselves,
inverted, in the mirror of his art. And though the sunlight and
atmosphere should be real enough to satisfy the Cornpepper faction, yet
over all he would put something of Erle-Smith’s glamour:--

                          “The gleam,
    The light that never was on sea or land,
    The consecration and the poet’s dream.”

For the paradise Matt drew on his recollections and old sketches of
Acadia, supplemented by a few water-color studies made in Epping Forest,
which was within difficult walking distance of the bird-shop, from
which, of course, he got his birds; the divine female figure was based
upon his first study from the nude at Grainger’s, which he still
possessed, though he now gave the woman the normal allowance of toes;
while by the aid of coppers he bribed the snub-nosed apprentice with his
penny whistle to sit for the cherub with the oaten reed. And thus was
Nature transfigured to Art. But as Eden to Epping, so was Matt’s mental
conception of the picture to the real picture.

From dawn to sunset Matt painted tirelessly, and with many patient
effacements and substitutions of passages, during his one working-day,
convinced that the Academy was now his only avenue to recognition; and
as sending-in day drew nearer, and the precious light was born earlier,
he was able to snatch an hour or two every morning before setting out
for Stepney. Towards the end the need of time drove him to the omnibus.

Nor was it only the need of time. Of late a strange languor had grown
upon him, against which he was incessantly battling. The image in his
strip of glass frightened him; his face was white, his once sturdy frame
thin, and so feeble was he become that the three-mile walk, which had
been rather a pleasure than an inconvenience, was now a weary, endless
drag. He had bilious headaches. But he toiled on at his picture, finding
in the fairyland of imagination consolation for existence, and in the
anxieties and agonies of artistic travail an antidote to the agonies and
anxieties of the daily grind. “The Paradise of the Birds,” though he was
conscious it did not equal his conception, still seemed to him far
superior to the ordinary Academy picture; it could not fail to redeem
him from his own Inferno, reveal him to the world, make him an honored
guest in artistic coteries, and give him all the day for Art. Through
the sordid life of Stepney and Whitechapel he moved, sustained by an
inner vision of beauty and victory, and it was not till he had
surreptitiously wheeled his picture to Burlington House in the
bird-stuffer’s barrow, at the price of a reprimand for idling about,
that his will-power gave way, and he realized that he was but a limp
shadow. Hope kept him on his feet a little longer, but the terrifying
symptoms developed rapidly, and at last even Ground Junior perceived his
condition, and allowed him a morning’s leave to attend a hospital. For
two hours and a half he waited on one of the bare benches of a
cheerless, dim-lit anteroom amid a grimy crowd of invalids, ranging from
decrepit, bandaged old men to wan-faced children, all coughing and
groaning and conversing fatuously, and ostentatiously comparing
complaints, and finally fading away tediously two by two into the
presence of the physician. At last his own turn came, announced by the
sharp ting of a hand-bell; and, preceded by a rheumy-eyed stone-mason,
he passed through the polished, awe-inspiring portal, and found himself
in the presence of an austere gentleman with frosty side-whiskers.

“What’s the matter with you, my man?” the doctor inquired in low tones
of the stone-mason.

“All outer sorts,” replied the stone-mason.

“Ah! Any special pain anywhere?” he went on, in the same dulcet accents.

“Eh?” asked the stone-mason, hearing imperfectly in his fluster.

The doctor shouted in a mighty yell: “Any special pain anywhere?”

The appalled stone-mason admitted to a stitch in the side, and the
doctor continued his interrogative thunders. He had only two
conversational methods--the piano and the fortissimo.

Matt, trembling, awaited his succession to the criminal dock, and,
straining his ears when the trying moment came, was fortunate enough to
secure the piano treatment.

“Your blood is poisoned,” was the great man’s verdict. “This is the
third case I have had from bird-stuffing establishments. When you clean
the glass shades and breathe on the insides you imbibe the arsenical and
other foul gases that are given off by the skins and collect inside the
air-tight glasses. You will take the medicine three times a day, but it
won’t do you any good if you go on living in that atmosphere. You want
sea-air. You ought to try and get into the country, and have a little

And Matt Strang, dazed, but smiling grimly, crawled down into the
dispensary and handed in his prescription, and tottered back to the
bird-shop with a big bottle of yellow fluid in his hand. He would not
let himself think; there was only one point of light--his Academy
picture--and he kept his eyes fixed on that as on a star.

A few days later the notice of rejection arrived, and the thin, sickly
faced young man, being out with orders, surreptitiously wheeled “The
Paradise of the Birds” home on his barrow, and discounted the renewed
wrath of his employer by giving a week’s notice. He did his work as
usual that afternoon, smiling in uneasy defiance at the oddly intrusive
thought that the Cobequid folks would have said it was all through his
painting on Sundays, yet not without a shred of their superstition. But
when he got home he fell helplessly on his little iron bed, and wept
like a child.

He was beaten, broken, shattered in body and soul. He had fought and

And as an ailing child turns yearningly to its mother, so his heart
yearned to his native land in a great surge of homesickness. Here the
narrow labyrinthine streets were muddy with spring rains, but there the
snow would still be on the fields and forests, white and pure and
beautiful under the dazzling blue sky. Oh, the keen, tingling cold, the
large embrace of the salt breezes, the joy of skating over the frozen
flats! His poor poisoned blood glowed at the thought. Here he was ill
and lonely, there he would be among loving faces. Poor Billy! How the
boy must long for him! It would be humiliating to return a failure, but
there would be none to reproach him, and his own pride was gone,
vanished with his physical strength. But how to get back? He was too ill
to go before the mast, too impoverished to command even the steerage. He
had unfortunately sent thirty-six shillings home just before the
rejection of his picture, and he was again in arrears of rent, through
the extra expense of the canvas and the compulsory gilt frame. Mrs.
Lipchild was induced by the splendor of the frame to take “The Paradise
of the Birds” in payment for the three weeks (lunar), and the “carver
and gilder, over-mantel and picture-frame maker” in Red Lion Street, who
had made the frame, purchased all his remaining pictures and
school-studies for a sovereign down.

There was nothing for it but to borrow. So feeble was his whole being
that the first suggestion of this ignominy carried no sting. He thought
first of Herbert, and brushing his garments to a threadbare
specklessness, inquired of his club door-keeper, who informed him curtly
that Mr. Strang was abroad. This was as he expected, but he was
disappointed. Tarmigan was his only other friend, but him he had lost
sight of since Christmas, and though he had in these hours of weakness
abandoned the hope of Art, he had still a vague paradoxical aversion
from applying to a man whose artistic ideas he did not share, and who
might hereafter have a sort of right to resent his departure from them.
Besides, Tarmigan was poor, was unsuccessful. In his desperation he
thought of Madame Strang, and though, in the course of their chat that
night at the Students’ Club, Herbert had told him the Old Gentleman had
given her an awful wigging, and she had renewed her promise to close her
door in the culprit’s face, yet Matt nerved himself to risk insult. So,
spying the shop from a sheltered doorway across the street, he hung
about till the Vandyke beard and the velvet jacket had issued and
disappeared round a corner, then he rang the bell of the side door, and
to his joy Madame herself opened it.

“My poor boy! What is the matter with you?” she cried.

The unexpected sympathy of her words clouded the lonely young man’s gaze
with hot tears; he staggered into the passage, and Madame, growing pale
herself, took him by the arm and helped him into the sitting-room, and
in her agitation poured him out a whole tumblerful of brandy, which
fortunately he only sipped.

A little recovered, he explained--improving his pallid complexion with
blushes when he came to the point--that he was returning to Nova Scotia,
as the doctor had ordered him a sea-voyage, and he wanted four or five
pounds till he got to the other side, when he would easily be able to
repay the loan.

“Certainly, my poor boy, certainly,” said Madame. “The idea of clever
people having no money, and people like me having plenty.”

She ran up-stairs, and returned with ten of the sovereigns, that she
hoarded--literally--in her stocking.

But Matt would not take more than five. He felt it foolish to burden
himself with superfluous temptations.

“I knew you weren’t a rogue,” cried Madame, in thoughtless triumph. The
sentiment reminding her of the interrogative eyebrows, she added,
hastily, “Of course, you won’t tell my husband. Not that he would mind,
of course, for I am helping you to leave the country. But oh, how I wish
you had come to me instead of to Herbert! The dear boy has such hard
work and so few pleasures, and his allowance is so small that his father
was naturally annoyed to think of your making the poor boy stint
himself. Of course, I made it up to Herbert unbeknown to his father, who
would only return him a little of the money you had borrowed. Promise me
you will not apply to Herbert again. You know it is so expensive living
in Paris!”

“I promise,” Matt murmured, hardly conscious of what Madame was saying,
his soul already in Nova Scotia, and dissolved in tenderness and
gratitude. The prospect of leaving London was as delightful as the
prospect of coming to it had been not fifteen months ago.

Ere he bade her farewell Madame made him promise to come and see her
when he was back in London again, hoped the voyage would do him good,
and scolded him for never having shown her his pictures.

“I am sure you will be a great artist,” she said, smiling winsomely.
“You have the artistic hand. God bless you.”

The young man listened unmoved; he was hoping the ice would bear till he
arrived in Cobequid Village.

And so, with all his worldly goods, including the unsaleable “Angelus,”
packed in the smallest of satchels, Matt Strang sailed back across the
Atlantic, the blood clogged in his veins, an unregarded unit of the
countless myriads that London has allured and scorched.



But the prodigal son was not fated to see any of his relatives
immediately upon his return to his native land except his mother, and
this was scarcely his mother, this pale creature with eyes vacant of all
save tears, who babbled to him, with heart-rending verbal repetitions,
of Revelation and the Beast, not even mistaking him for his dead father.
She had survived her life.

From Halifax Matt did not proceed forthwith to Cobequid Village,
joining, instead, a crew of mackerel-fishers, in the hope of earning
enough to repay Madame Strang immediately; for his soul, reinvigorated
by the sea-breezes of the voyage and the skies of his childhood, had
returned to its healthy repugnance to debt, and was ashamed of its

It was a mixed company that he sailed away with--the bulk decent Nova
Scotians, of old fisher stock, but some rougher and more casual, and a
few--though these were harmless enough--despised “Portigees.” The
fishing was not devoid of danger. The men had to row out from the
schooner in twos or threes to tend the nets spread on the mackerel
banks, and sometimes a fog would come on and ingulf the ship, and the
fishers with their mocking freight would row for hours and hours, and at
times for days and days, on the ghostly sea in search of their floating
home. And sometimes they, too, would be swallowed up in the mystery of
sea and fog, and wives and mothers, running anxiously to the wharf to
meet them, would learn that an older fisher had netted his prey.

To Matt the hard work and the peril were alike welcome; the very mists
were poetry after the yellow charnel-house vapors of London, which now
lay behind him like a nightmare, and with it his dream of Art. His soul
had swung round violently. In the strain of hauling up the nets in the
misty moonlight, in the silence of sea and sky and night, he found
repose from his morbid craving to reproduce this mighty Nature, which
stretched away all around him in large, sane serenity, as indifferent to
the puny images of Art as the waste of waters to the little dory rocking
on its bosom. And the rugged simplicity of his briny, horny-handed mates
was equally restful after the garish brilliance of the young artists
about town; after all, his heart was with homely folk, went out to
sea-folk; he was his father’s son and the brother of all those who go
down to the sea in ships and do business in the great waters. How like a
child’s cackle Cornpepper’s epigrams sounded across the silence of the
lonely deep! Under the hushed stars, touching the infinite spaces with
awful beauty, all these feverish figures of the smoking-room showed
like fretful midges.

When the cruise was over, and the spoil had been unloaded and sold on
the fishy wharf, or steeped in brine and packed in the vats, Matt was
able to send ten dollars to England, besides keeping up his usual
allowance to Cobequid Village and maintaining himself--a triple task
which weighed heavily upon his brain, and gave him frequent moments of
corroding, nervous apprehension. For his health was only partially
re-established, and his correspondence with Cobequid Village was not
reassuring. His brothers and sisters were growing up without finding
much to do; Billy moped a great deal, and though he thanked his brother
for the engraving of the “Angelus,” which Matt sent him, he intimated
that he would have been better pleased had Matt spent his money on books
of travel and adventure for him. And Abner wrote, with pathetic
facetiousness, that he was “tolerable pleased” that his brother-in-law
had not come home, as they would have been “mighty squeezed” to put him
up, for, what with the increase of Abner’s own progeny and the growth of
the Strangs, even the best room with the cane chairs had long since been
turned into a bedroom, though it could still be restored to its pristine
magnificence on state occasions.

From the neighboring fishing-ground Matt gravitated back to Halifax. His
thoughts, divorced from Art, centred on money. His artistic fibre was
coarser now than in those days of almost religious enthusiasm for Art.
He had an idea of opening a drawing-school and becoming the local
“Grainger,” but the initial funds were to seek. He got a few
drawing-lessons, but the stupidity of his pupils was maddening, and his
communion with their parents fretted him after the larger mind of
London. He feared he would have to take to the road again in search of
sitters, and the prospect of weary tramps in quest of patronizing
store-keepers and farmers was not alluring, even though that fine
squeamish horror at the idea of Art to order had been knocked out of
him. He was saved from the tramping by becoming assistant in a
photographic caravan, which toured the country, leaving in each village
a trail of attitudinizing inhabitants mounted and framed; in the course
of which campaign, by a pleasanter stroke of fortune, he painted the
portraits of a minister of fisheries and of the cook he had married, and
so gained enough money to quit the caravan and start a carriage-painting
shop in the village where the happy couple had their country home. As
the poorest inhabitants were carriage-folk--for horses and oats and hay
were cheap, and carriage taxes unknown--Matt Strang, with a commercial
instinct sharpened and an artistic interest blunted by miseries,
calculated to do well. His sign-board, executed by his own hand, ran:

                |        CARRIAGES PAINTED,           |
                |           ALSO SLEIGHS.             |
                |   HOUSE DECORATING, PORTRAITS, AND  |
                |       DRAWING-LESSONS.              |

The shop was a success. Ere the summer waned many of the villagers had
their idle sleighs brilliantly illumined, and when winter came their
faded carriages were handed over to Matt to be berouged or otherwise
beautified. Each man had his equipage decorated after his own taste or
whim, though he always began by leaving it entirely to the artist. One
would order lemon-yellow underworks, with vermilion stripes and an
olive-green body, for another the ideal of beauty lay in lake and
russet-and-green, while the fancy of a third would turn lightly to
Prussian blue and gold stripes; and Matt, devoid now of artistic
interest and thus of artistic irritability, faithfully obeyed the
behests of his employers, and filled the leafy streets with a riotous
motley of perambulating color. The little village was pranked and
rejuvenated. It wore a sempiternally festive air. The sign-boards were
spick-and-span, the house fronts fresh and bright, the vehicles gayly
a-glitter, the glass windows of the stores black with self-laudatory
lettering by day, while at night the buff store-blinds repeated the
brag; and over all the village was a sense of “wet paint.” Thus did the
artist throw a glamour over life, and touch the sleeping souls of his
fellows to livelier issues, though his own interest in Art was numb.
But prices were small, and paid mainly in kind, and when once the place
was transmogrified there was nothing further to be done, the latter
items of his sign-board evoking no response. So Matt shifted his ensign
to Starsborough, a ship-building village on the coast, where he found
new scope for his versatile craftsmanship, as witness two new items
added to his painted prospectus:--

             SHIP DECORATING.

He got leave to set up in the ship-yard, speculated in a set of
carving-tools, and supplied the prows of the ships with those
picturesque wooden persons whose uselessness is of the essence of Art.
He occupied a corner in the calker’s shop, reeking with tarry odors, and
worked hemmed in by the oakum-pickers, who relieved the tedium of toil
by smoking and singing lewd songs. One of his works, a Turkish lady
eight feet high, to get which done in time cost him much sweat and
sacrifice of other work, pleased the ship-builder so vastly that he gave
Matt the contract--in preference to all the other candidates who sent in
estimates--for painting his next ship within and without. The delighted
young man saw his way to speedy competence, the long-torpid thought of
Art began to stir drowsily, only it was Paris that now gleamed fitfully
in the background of his day-dreams. He talked over the decorations with
the ship-builder, and agreed to pay the men from week to week, and to
supply the tools, paints, and gold-leaf till the job was completed, when
his employer undertook to pay him the sum agreed upon in actual coin. As
Matt was able to get the materials from a store on three months’ credit,
and to pay his men with orders on the same all-embracing store on the
same terms, and the job would be finished in less than three months, the
arrangement promised to be very profitable. Alas! it proved the crash
and break-down of all his new prosperity. In the middle of the work the
ship-builder failed heavily, and Matt found himself on the point of
bankruptcy too, for, though he sent in his claim against the estate,
there seemed scant chance of his obtaining anything. Even the Turkish
woman had not been paid for, Matt having consented to receive her price
with the rest of the money, for the sake of getting silver in lieu of
goods. His account with the store-keeper had run up to $250. He could
not see how to meet his bills; the weeks without other work had
exhausted his savings; there was even about a fourth of his debt still
to be sent to Madame Strang. He got other little jobs, but the great
shipwright’s failure had reduced Starsborough to stagnation. The time of
payment drew nigh. After sleepless nights of anguish he went to the
store-keeper and told him he could not pay. The man received him
sympathetically, said he had been expecting the confession, and
consented to give him a little time; so Matt broke up his establishment,
and journeyed by train and packet to another village nearer Halifax, and
set up his sign-board afresh. A job took him to the capital, and in the
streets he ran across his Starsborough creditor, who was come up to
order hardware, and who, apparently delighted to see him, invited him to
breakfast with him at his hotel next morning. Always glad to save a
meal, and rejoiced to find his creditor so genial and debonair, Matt
tramped into town the first thing in the morning and repaired to the
hotel. But there was no breakfast for him. A sheriff’s officer awaited
him instead, and arrested him for debt. He had been the victim of a
subterfuge, his creditor fearing from his migratory movements that he
was about to run off to the States.

And so Matt was clapped into the prison to await his trial, and became
one of the broken-down band that inhabited its spacious ward, promenaded
the long whitewashed corridor on which the lavatory gave, and slept on
the iron beds ranged against the wall. Every morning the bedclothes were
stripped off and piled in the empty cells to give the ward a more
habitable air. In this dreary bed and sitting room Matt spent days of
mental agony, though physically he fared better than under his own
parsimonious _régime_. But the sense of degradation outweighed all else.
He felt he could never look his fellow-men in the face again. His
character was gone; his ambitions had received their death-blow--nay,
his very business career in his native land was at an end. The stigma
would always soil his future. All the long travail and aspiration had
ended at what a goal! He could not understand the careless merriment of
his fellow-prisoners, who fleeted the time with cards, which they played
for love. There was a negro among them who was the whetstone of their
wit, and a Frenchman who varied his tearful narrative of the misfortune
that had brought him low, with ventriloquial performances and anecdotes
of self-made Yankee millionaires. In this gesticulating little man Matt
recognized with surprise and shamefacedness his ancient fractious
subordinate in the Halifax furniture shop, who had taken him to his
bosom after due alcohol, but he was glad to find his unconscious fellow
made no advances. At moments he forced himself to look for the comic
Bohemian side of the situation, to imagine Cornpepper’s superiority to a
debtors’ prison, the artist sublime amid the ruins of his credit,
snorting disdain for the absurd institutions of the bourgeois; but
neither this nor philosophy availed to shake his sense of shame. He
summoned the infinite to his aid, saw himself again rocking on the
little dory between sea and sky, and asked himself what anything
mattered in this vast of space and time. But these excursions of the
intellect left instinct unmoved; from childhood the word “jail” had been
fraught with shuddering associations; they could not be argued away.
Strang’s aloofness from his companions, even when an outside friend had
sent in liquor or dainties to one of them, attracted the notice of the
jailer, a kindly man in a cutaway coat, with only an official cap to
mark his calling. He talked to the sullen, brooding prisoner, conceived
a liking for him, and commissioned him to paint his portrait for ten
dollars, supplying the materials himself and providing a temporary
easel. The darkness that had threatened Matt’s reason, if not his life,
fled before this kindness; the days before the trial flew by almost
joyously, and the nights were rendered more tolerable by being passed
alone on a plank bed in one of the criminal cells, whose stout doors,
studded with iron nails and furnished with little gratings, rarely held
anybody, so that the painter easily persuaded his patron to allow him to
occupy it.

He had scarcely set up his easel when his companions clustered round,
and the Frenchman burst into tears of emotion, and professed that he,
too--he who spoke to you--was an artist. If only some one could see the
creditor who had thrown him into prison, and explain to him that his
victim was guiltless of all save genius. As Matt had heard all this
before, he pursued his work unmoved, affording a new distraction to his
mates, so that the negro’s life became endurable, and less love was lost
at cards. But ere the second sitting was over the Frenchman, who had
studied alternately the artist’s face and his canvas, uttered an
exclamation of joyous recollection and fell upon his neck, crying that
he had at last found again the comrade of his soul. When Matt had shaken
him off, he drew a romantic picture of their early affection and
collaboration for the edification of the salon, and henceforth took a
proud fraternal interest in the progress of the portrait.

The picture turned out better than Matt had expected; to his own
surprise he found himself painting more vigorously than ever; his hand,
instead of having lost its cunning, seemed to have gained by the rest.
The jailer was well content, and promised two and a half dollars over
and above the price; but as Matt had expressed his intention of sending
the money to his creditor, his new friend held over the surplus till he
should need it for himself. When at the end of the third week the trial
came on, and Matt “swore out,” solemnly asserting absolute
impecuniosity, his creditor, mollified by the ten dollars, and further
assuaged by the sale of Matt’s effects, from his tools to his
sign-board, did not press the counter-proof of competency, and so the
prisoner was set at liberty. Sundry other bankrupts “swore out” at the
same time, one or two, who had boasted privily of their means, perjuring
themselves back to freedom and prosperity.

Before Matt Strang bade farewell to the jail, the Frenchman broke off a
ventriloquial performance to beseech him with tears in the name of the
_camaraderie_ of Art, and for the sake of their ancient affection, now
that he was going forth into the free sunshine, to expostulate with that
cruel creditor and plead for unhappy genius. The persecutor--Coble by
name--would not listen to his own appeals; but if a brother-artist would
speak for him, Coble’s better nature--and every man had a better
nature--might be touched, and the skylark might soar freely again
towards the blue empyrean. He was quite honest--oh, Heaven, yes! He did
not really possess two hundred dollars, as Coble imagined, but he could
not account for them before the court--one would see why--though
privately he could account for them in a way that would satisfy every
honest man. Some emissary of Satan had put a bill into his hand which
said, “For a hundred dollars we will give you a thousand dollars of our
goods.” He had hankered, as any man might, after those thousand dollars,
and sought out the coiners (for all the world knew that was their
formula), and paid his hundred dollars. But the bag of coin they had
given him was snatched from him on his road back by one of their agents.
Determined not to be outwitted, he had gone again and invested another
hundred dollars, and posted the parcel to himself at a neighboring
post-office, but when it arrived he had found only a brick-bat inside.
He had been afraid to “swear out” lest Coble should maintain he had the
money, and thus get him indicted for perjury.

If the friend of his youth would lay these facts before the cruel Coble,
he would no longer languish in a dungeon. Would not the great artist
promise him?

The story seemed too strange to be false, and Matt promised, at the risk
of a kiss, to recount it to the cruel Coble, though he failed to see how
it proved the Frenchman’s honesty. He was, indeed, not sorry to have
something definite to do, for with the completion of the jailer’s
portrait had come a reaction, and he had lapsed, if not into his first
agony, into a listless apathy that was worse--the nerveless, purposeless
inertia of a crushed spirit. He had been in jail! Not even a miracle
could erase that blot upon his name. How could he take up the burden of
life afresh? Unless, perhaps, temporarily, with the sole object of
wiping off the debt which he owed morally, though no longer legally.
Anyway, he would see this Mr. Coble; the Frenchman seemed--curiously
enough--to attach value to life, and if a little bit of his own life
could be of any use to the poor weak creature, it was at his disposal.
Mr. Coble, too, must be a strange person to derive any satisfaction from
keeping the pygmy in prison in revenge for the loss of a few hundred

Money! Money! Money! How it had cramped and crippled and defiled his

He washed himself in the lavatory before leaving, and brushed his
clothes, which were in a very fair condition. He was startled to find
how many gray hairs streaked the curly locks he combed. “It won’t be a
monochrome much longer,” he thought, surveying his mane with bitter

Outside it was May, but he was not brightened by the great blue sky that
roofed him once more. The bustle of life sounded pleasantly about him,
but he slunk through the busy quarters of the town with hanging head, as
if every passer-by could read his shame in his face. The horrible
thought struck him suddenly that Coble would know whence he came, but on
top of it came the happy idea of explaining he had only gone to the jail
to paint the portrait of an official.

The journey was not very long, though the road was muddy and steep. Mr.
Coble lived beyond Citadel Hill, amid whose grassy expanse a path wound
towards the more scattered portions of the town. The ice was quite off
the sunny fields, except in the shaded parts under the fences, and men
were ploughing with yokes of oxen, though here and there heaped-up piles
of snow still bordered the route, which they flooded with slush in their
gradual deliquescence. Mr. Coble’s suburban residence was a detached,
double-fronted wooden cottage, barred from the road by a neat,
white-painted picket-fence. There were attics in the roof, which, like
its neighbors, was pitched, with broad eaves, for the sliding down of
the snow. The front garden had been newly dug up and laid out to receive
seed; there was a dirty line round the house, showing where the winter
embanking had recently been removed.

Matt pushed open the white picket garden-gate and walked up the gravel
path towards the pillared porch; three wooden steps led to the little
platform, and then the door was raised one step higher to prevent snow
drifting in from without.

Matt knocked. He heard the inner door open, the patter of light
footsteps; then the outer door swung back, and a girl--passably
pretty--appeared in the little entry between the doors, which were thus
duplicated against the frost.

Matt lifted his hat and inquired for Mr. Coble. He had reverted to the
drawling accents of the colony, though not altogether to its locutions.

“Oh, pa’s down at the store,” answered the girl, staring at the visitor.

“When will he be in?” Matt asked, disappointed.

“Oh, not for hours,” said Miss Coble. “Is it anything I can tell him?”

“No, no; I don’t think so,” Matt replied, hesitatingly. “I had better
call again this evening.”

The girl lingered silently without closing the door. There was a
perceptible pause.

“Yes,” she answered, at last. “I guess you had.”

He raised his hat again and went down the gravel path. At the
garden-gate it struck him that he ought to have inquired the address of
the store in town, and so saved a second journey. He turned his head,
and saw the girl still at the door looking after him. Then it seemed
funny to go back.

He shut the gate hastily and pursued his way to town down the muddy
road, wondering what he would do next, and how he could cope with life.
The thought of the Frenchman brought up the memory of that furniture
warehouse in which they had worked together in the days of his boyish
dreams. He bent his steps towards it with a vague thought of seeking
work there again, but found it had been converted into an emporium for
sewing-machines. As he sauntered aimlessly down the street, his eye was
caught by a lurid picture in a store window. It represented a shark
snapping savagely at a diver upon the bed of the ocean. He smiled at the
crude composition, which reminded him of his own early works; then, as
he perceived its relation to the stock-in-trade, his smile became
broader. Sponge was the staple, and a gigantic delicate sponge, with
ornamental spout-holes and fragments of rock adhering realistically to
it, was a conspicuous object amid dandy-brushes and spoke-brushes and
chamois-leather and glass cases covering rock-work. There were little
sponges on a card, and Matt started violently as he read, “Coble’s
five-cent sponges.” The mountain had come to Mahomet!

He walked in, crunching over a débris of shells, grit, and sand, and
inhaling a pungent saline odor. A veritable mountain of a man towered
over him with beetling brows and snowy hair and beard. His paunch
protruded imposingly, and his eyes glittered.

“Mr. Coble?” said Matt, inquiringly.

“That’s me,” cried the mountain of flesh, in fierce accents, as if
defying contradiction.

Matt felt the business would not be easy.

“I’ve taken the liberty of coming to you--on behalf of--”

“Not that tarnation Frenchman?” shrieked Mr. Coble.

Matt reddened uncomfortably.

“That’s the fifth man he’s sent me. When did you come out of prison?”

“I’ve been painting the jailer’s portrait,” Matt stammered, with burning
cheeks. “And I used to know the poor little man years ago, and he

“I can’t listen now. Does he think I’ve no business to attend to?”

“He didn’t send me here, he sent me to your house.”

“Ho, that’s a new dodge. But I reckon he told you the old things,
eh?--that I’m a stony-hearted cuss, that I’d sneak the coppers off a
corpse’s eyes or squeeze a cent till the eagle squeaked.”

“No, really, he didn’t tell me that,” said Matt.

“Oh, you needn’t spare the old man’s feelings. I know what a man says
when he finds you won’t be swindled. He’s the everlastingest old dodger
that ever drummed for me. His tricks ’ould puzzle a Philadelphia lawyer.
The only honest bit of work he ever did in his life was that thar
pictur’ of a shark. That’s stunnin’, I admit, and I’d willingly let the
poor devil out of the cage if my darter warn’t so bitter agen him.
There, that’s the truth. I never told it to any of the other fellows,
they all looked such moulty jail-birds. Say now, you said you were a
painter, ain’t that a good pictur’?”

Although Mr. Coble’s words were now more amiable, his accent was still
fierce, and it required some courage on Matt’s part to reply that the
picture was pretty good in a manner that betokened that it was pretty

“Ho, two of a trade!” quoth the mountain of a man.

“The shark couldn’t be like that,” Matt explained, mildly. “He has to
turn on his back before biting. It isn’t true to life.”

“Waal,” said Mr. Coble, in irate tones, “as the shark’s got nothing at
all to do with the sponge business, and the divers ain’t in no sort o’
danger whatever from it, I don’t see where truth to life comes in,

“Oh, but the less lies you tell in Art the better,” urged Matt. “I’ll do
you another if you like.”

“Ho, that’s your dodge, is it?”

“I’m not asking anything for it,” the young man retorted, indignantly.
“It ’ll be a return for your listening to my appeal.”

Mr. Coble was startled.

“Thunderation!” he cried, sharply. “You’re a Christian. Step outside,
and we’ll liquor up.”

The invitation was uttered so fiercely that it sounded like a command,
especially as the Titan stamped three times with his foot--only his way
of signalling to his subordinate, Matt found. In the nearest bar, which
happened to be an illicit one, approached through a porch at the back of
a temperance hotel for the convenience of avowed teetotalers, the
man-mountain imparted to Matt the information that it was the
Frenchman’s amorous advances that had imbittered his daughter. “For my
part,” he said, “so far from wantin’ to keep him in there in clover, I’d
like to lift him out on the point of my toe, and I’d make him vamoose
from the town that smart you couldn’t see his heels for the dust. I’ll
mention it to Rosina that you’ve been putting in a good word for the
skunk, but I don’t think she’ll listen, that’s a fact.”

“Oh, but I’m sure she will,” said Matt. “She looks a kindhearted young

“You haven’t seen her!” exclaimed Mr. Coble, fiercely.

“Yes; I saw her this afternoon,” said Matt.

“Then you’ve seen the purtiest gal you’ll see this year. Set ’em up
again. This old rye’s whopping good. Always rely on a temperance hotel
for good whiskey. And as my gal has a goodish bit of money,” pursued
the old man, smacking his lips and growing communicative without losing
any of the sternness of his accent, “you can understand what made the
wretched little froggy roll his eyes and twist his mustache at her. How
he found it out will be a mystery to my dyin’ day, for I’m careful never
to breathe a whisper of it to a single soul, but he ferreted out somehow
or t’other that when she’s twenty-one my Rosie will step into an income
of eight hundred dollars.”

He shouted the statement so loudly that the whole bar pricked up its
ears. Matt quite believed that Coble was incapable of whispering
anything to anybody. He had a vague envy of the fortunate girl.

“Not to mention three thousand dollars I’ve put aside myself to hand her
on her wedding-day,” continued Coble. “Young folks are lucky nowadays.
When I married I had to lend my father-in-law ten dollars to rig himself
up respectable for church.”

Before they parted the mountain of flesh had consented thunderously to
Matt’s supplying another picture of the dangers of sponge-fishing, but
would not bind himself, although in his third glass, to do more in
return than lay the matter before his daughter. Once alone in the
streets again, Matt felt he had made a bad bargain. The two and a half
dollars the jailer had given him were all his funds, and even the few
nickels that would have to be expended on common water-colors and the
double-royal card-board were a consideration. But he loyally executed
the work in the bedroom he had ventured to take, finding rather a relief
in this further postponement of the problem of his future. By the
following afternoon he was back at Coble’s with a brilliant sketch far
more arrestive than the Frenchman’s. The shark was more formidable, the
nude diver more graceful, his netted bag more accurate, and the
ocean-bed was a veritable fairy-land of sea-lichens and polyps. Coble
glared long at the sketch as Matt held it up, but he said nothing.

“What do you think of it?” asked Matt, apprehensively, at last.

“What do I think of it?” roared old Coble, and rushing to the window he
grabbed the old, inaccurate shark, tore it savagely in two, snatched
the new picture from the hands of the astonished Matt, filled up the
vacancy with it, dashed outside to survey it from the sidewalk, and
reappearing at the door, bellowed, “Step this way, young man,” and
stamped three times on the threshold.

Over the old rye he reported to the artist that he had found his Rosie
more placable than usual; that she was even willing to listen to the
young man’s plea, though she seemed to want to hear it from his own
mouth before deciding. Matt gladly consented to sup that evening with
the mountain and his daughter. Free drinks never surprised him, but a
free square meal was like having larks flying into one’s mouth ready

It was the happiest evening he had spent for many a long day. There was
a spotless cloth on the round table, and the food was good, if solid.
Miss Coble made herself agreeable, and if she was not so pretty as her
father saw her, her plump cheek was sufficiently rosy and her figure
sufficiently comely and her frock sufficiently nice to be grateful to
the eye of an artist and a young man just emerged from prison society,
and starving for the amenities of life. Her light-blue eyes lit up
pleasantly when he addressed her, or when she helped him to more
griddle-cakes. Some stuffed birds over a low bookcase that contained a
few brightly bound volumes reminded him pleasurably of past miseries.
The stentorian voice of old Coble almost monopolized the conversation.
He had much to say that was not worth listening to--on the bad crops of
the year before last, the scarcity of helps, and the failure of the
colony to go ahead, which was apparently connected with the
uncleanliness of the inhabitants, as manifest from the small sales of
bath-sponges. After dinner the mountain smoked, and after smoking the
volcano slept.

“I’m afraid you think pa’s got a bad temper,” said Miss Coble, abruptly.
She had hastily cleared away the supper dishes, and had seated herself,
half recumbent amid a litter of sewing, upon a couch opposite the
easy-chair which Matt now occupied. The young man instinctively glanced
towards her trumpeting parent.

“Oh, he’s sound enough; can’t you hear?” she said, laughing gayly. “I
only hope he doesn’t disturb you. I’m used to it.”

“I only hope I sha’n’t disturb _him_,” answered Matt.

“I guess he’s making more noise than us,” laughed Miss Coble. “He can’t
even be quiet when he’s asleep. I was going to explain to you that he
can’t help it; there’s something wrong with his throat. It happened when
his voice broke in his boyhood, and it always sounds as if he was
angry--it always frightens off strangers, but he is really the
best-tempered papa in the township.”

Matt smiled. “I did think he was rather a fire-eater at first,” he
admitted. “But I’ve found him real jolly, and couldn’t quite make it out
all this time.” He continued to smile at the drollness of Coble’s
disability, and the girl’s eyes met his in an answering gleam of

“Pa says you’re a powerful painter, Mr. Strang,” she said after a
silence, filled up by ruttling sounds from pa’s larynx.

“Oh, your pa’s only seen a rough thing I did for him,” he protested,

“Never mind.” She shook her head sagely. “I’m going down town to see it
to-morrow,” and she flashed a sunny smile at him that showed her teeth
were white.

Matt murmured, uneasily: “Oh, it’s not worth the trouble.”

“It’ll do me good, anyway. I’m getting fat, pa says. Wouldn’t it be
awful if I was to take after him? You know he lives away from town so as
to have exercise up and down Citadel Hill, but he might as well have
lived over the store.” And she giggled, not unmusically.

“You can’t tell what he would have been,” Matt reminded her with a

“Gracious! you frighten me. He might have come through the walls! Do you
think there is really any danger of my growing like him? Do tell!”

“There’s no danger of your losing your good looks,” replied Matt,

“You mean I never had any,” she said, with a roguish gleam that made the
plump face piquant.

“Oh, you know what I mean,” he protested, lamely.

Miss Coble meditatively picked up a piece of tape from the litter of
sewing and put it round her waist. Then she measured her bust.

“Is that the proper proportion?” she said, holding it up. “Artists are
supposed to know, aren’t they?”

“The figure couldn’t be better,” said Matt.

The girl shook her head in laughing reproof.

“I guess I’d better measure you and prove it, then,” said Matt, rising.

“My, how that lamp flares!” cried Miss Coble, rushing towards the table,
and carefully fumbling with the regulator. Matt resumed his seat,
feeling rather foolish; but soon, when the girl turned the talk on
himself, the reserved, solitary young man found himself telling her of
adventures by sea and land, which he had not told anybody, perhaps
because nobody had ever asked him. He gave Halifax prison a wide berth,
warding off her casual questions about his position and prospects by
general statements about his artistic aspirations. Concerning aspects of
London life Miss Coble’s curiosity was at its keenest, her own
experience of existence having been limited, she said, to Halifax and
its environs, with faint, childish reminiscences of Greencastle,
Pennsylvania, where her mother had died thirteen years before, when she
was six years old.

“Oh, but I didn’t mean to tell you my age,” she said, pouting. “In ten
years’ time you will know I am nearly thirty.”

Matt was about to reassure her by declaring that in ten years’ time he
would have forgotten all about her, when the fall of the sleeper’s pipe
checked the unchivalrous statement.

He rose to go as soon as the mountain awoke, for he had a goodish tramp
before him.

Miss Coble accompanied him to the outer door. His eye was caught by the
beauty of the moon, gleaming irregularly from a lurid rack of clouds. He
stood in charmed silence gazing upward.

“What are you staring at? Aren’t you going to say good-night?” asked
Miss Coble, rather tartly.

His spirit returned to earth.

“Oh, good-night,” he said, holding out his hand.

She put her fingers--rougher, but warmer--into his for the first time.

“Good-night,” she said, softly.

He did not let her hand go immediately. At the last instant he was
invaded by an indefinite conviction that something--he knew not
what--had still to be done or said. He stood silent on the little

As if echoing his thought, “Haven’t you forgot something?” she asked.

His heart leaped violently with a thrilling suggestion. He looked into
her quizzing eyes. They were on a level with his own, her shorter figure
having the advantage of the raised threshold.

“I thought you came to speak to me about a Frenchman?” she went on.

He was relieved and disappointed.

“Of course; what a fool I am! I haven’t said a word about him.”

“Well, it’s too late now. I can’t stand talking here; the neighbors
might see us.”

“I’m so sorry,” said Matt, in a woe-begone tone.

“Well, you’ll have to come again to-morrow evening, then, if you want to
go on with it, that’s certain. Good-night again.”

“Till to-morrow, then,” said Matt, raising his hat.

He walked briskly down the gravel-path, glowing with the pleasure of the
evening, and looking forward to another pleasant free meal on the
morrow. Then his eye sought the moon again, but the cloud-rack had
covered it up entirely.



Lying awake next morning after a night of troubled dreams, it flashed
upon him that he ought scarcely to go and see Miss Coble again upon the
mere impulsive invitation given on the door-step without her father’s
knowledge. He was angry with

[Illustration: “‘GOOD-NIGHT,’ SHE SAID, SOFTLY.”]

himself for having so curiously let himself drift away from the very
purpose of his visit. He concluded he had best call on old Coble again
at the store, and walked thither with hangdog mien, unable even now to
shake off the jail. Old Coble was sorting out a bale of sponge into
three baskets--one for bests, one for seconds, and one for thirds.

“Hello, young man!” he roared. Matt felt a momentary trepidation before
he remembered that the old man meant his tones to be inviting. He
crunched his way towards the mountain over the gritty débris, sniffing
in the pungent aroma of the place. The old giant straightened himself,
brushed the sand off each hand with the other, and, running his fingers
through his white beard by way of combing that, held out his hairy paw
to Matt. He gripped the young man’s long fingers heartily, then waved
him to a seat on an empty inverted sponge-box.

“I hope I’m not interrupting you,” said Matt.

“Not at all,” said Coble, in angry accents.

There was a pause.

“I made a fool of myself last night,” Matt commenced, abruptly.

Coble looked down inquiringly at him.

“I didn’t say one word to your daughter about the Frenchman,” he
continued, ruefully.

The mountain shook with explosive laughter.

“Ho, I suppose you were too taken up sayin’ ’em about yourself.”

Matt reddened uncomfortably, but was silent.

“The gal seems to know a powerful deal about you, anyway,” said old
Coble, with a Homeric chuckle.

“We had to talk about something,” Matt explained, apologetically.

“Well, Rosie doesn’t ’pear to want to talk about anything else, that’s a
fact. I reckon she was glad enough not to be reminded of the snivellin’

“Oh, but I’ve got to tell her,” the young man urged, uneasily.

“Oh yes, she knows you’ve got to tell her. You’re coming to-night,
aren’t you?”

“I thought of it,” Matt stammered, taken aback, “if I might!”

“Ho, don’t you be afraid of us; we don’t bite. We ain’t sharks.” He spat
out. “This gritty atmosphere makes one powerful dry.”

Matt had an instant of intense mental conflict, impecuniosity contending
with his instinct of what was due to the situation and Coble’s past

“Will you liquor with me?” he said.

“I was just about to ask you that,” and the mountain stamped his foot
three times.

The moment the two glasses were set on the counter of the little secret
bar Matt threw down a ringing dollar with careless magnificence. Coble
put his paw on it and pushed it back to him, throwing down a rival
dollar. There was a playful scuffle of shoving fingers, accompanied by
expostulatory murmurs. Then Matt, rejoicing in defeat, resignedly
pocketed his vanquished piece.

“What do you make out of that there paintin’ business?” suddenly asked
Coble, as he set down his half-emptied glass and lounged reposefully
against the counter.

Matt took another sip of whiskey. “Oh, there are ups and downs,” he

“Well, what’s the uppiest up?”

“It depends,” said Matt, vaguely. “If I could succeed in London there’s
no end to the money I might make. It isn’t unusual to get three or four
thousand dollars for a picture.”

“Three or four thousand dollars!” roared the Titan. “Where do you think
I was raised?”

“Why, my uncle in London has often paid five thousand dollars for a
picture. Yes, and even ten, though that’s usually after the painter’s

“Then why don’t you go to London?”

“I can’t afford it,” said Matt, frankly. “I’ve been there, but it’s a
great job to get on without money, so I had to come back.”

“But couldn’t your uncle buy your pictures?”

“They weren’t good enough yet,” Matt explained, anxious to defend the
family honor. “I want to study a lot more yet.”

“Nonsense! what do you want to study for? Why, that thar shark of yours
licks creation.”

Matt shook his head. “I’ve got to go to Paris,” he said, “and to Italy,
and see all the great pictures. That’s the only way a man can learn
after a certain point.” He added, proudly, “My cousin was sent to Paris
by the Royal Academy of London. He won the Gold Medal.”

“Why doesn’t your uncle send you there, then? He ’pears to have made his

Matt had to take another sip of whiskey before he could reply. “He knows
I wouldn’t take anything from anybody.”

“Don’t be a goney. _I_ began life with high notions. Them thar sponges
you saw me sortin’ out just now--they’re Florida cup grasses, but the
fine-shaped ones in the first basket are goin’ to be Levantine sponges
soon as they are bleached with permanganate. Time was when I’d ’a
thought that dishonest; now I see it’s only the outsides o’ things that
the world wants. When you’re a boss painter nobody ’ll ask who bleached

“I hope I can get on without bleaching,” Matt retorted.

“Ho, don’t get mad! I don’t mean to insinuate you’re not genu_ine_. But
the world ain’t a soft place to get on in. They don’t bath you with
rose-water and Turkey firsts. I kinder fancy,” he added, with a roguish
twinkle, “you must have found that out of late. Now, what you want, Mr.
Strang, is to marry a purty, level-headed, healthy gal, with two or
three thousand dollars to tide over the time till you can make your five
thousand a pictur.”

Matt shot a startled glance at Coble’s beaming face. What he read there
supplemented the sensational suggestion of the Titan’s words. A nervous
thrill ran through all his body. The thought was like a lightning-flash,
at once swift, dazzling, and terrifying. But without waiting to analyze
his state of mind, he felt immediately that there was one thing which at
the outset rendered the idea impossible. Honesty required that he should
instantly put a stop to the parent’s overtures, by informing him that he
was a dishonored man--that he had been in prison. But still he shrank
from self-exposure. The union was so impossible that it seemed
superfluous to humiliate himself.

“Maybe,” he replied; “but five thousand’s only the uppiest up, as you
call it. If I didn’t get there, I might be thought a humbug.”

“Oh! any smart man who saw that shark would take the risk of that; and,
even if you didn’t get to the uppiest up, there ’d be no fear of your
coming down again to the downiest down.”

Matt turned his eyes away, and his fingers tattooed nervously on the
stem of his glass.

“That Frenchy friend of yours now, he had the sense and the sarse to
want my gal, but, of course, no proper parent would trust his darter to
a man like that. So there he lays in the downiest down--good name for
jail, eh? Ho! ho!”

Matt wished his companion could moderate his accents; he did not relish
this thunderous talk of jail.

“Well, I must be going now,” he said.

“I’m with you; I’m with you,” genially thundered Coble, sauntering after
him into the sunny street. “You just think that pointer o’ mine over; it
lets you keep your independence and your high notions, and you ain’t
indebted to anybody. All you’ve got to do is to find a purty gal who’s
got money and who won’t fool it away, a gal who’s been raised simply and
can do her own cookin’ and make her own dresses, and don’t play the
pianner; you find a gal like that, with a sensible father that don’t
think wuss of a young man because he’s been in the downiest down.”

“You know?” Matt faltered. He came to a halt.

“Of course I know. Warn’t it in the paper?”

“But I did paint the portrait of the jailer,” he protested, his cheeks

“I knew you’d been in chokey all the same.” Coble clapped his paw on the
last button of his waistcoat. “A stomach that size warn’t born
yesterday. But I’ve kept it from Rosie; she don’t understand business,
nor how credit’s a fair wind to-day, and to-morrow a tornado tearin’
around and layin’ everything low. You find a good father,” pursued
Coble, in accents as impersonal as they were angry, so that Matt fancied
he had mistaken the Titan’s import, “and convince him your folks are
respectable, and there’s no wife foolin’ around in London or New York
City, and,” here he resumed his walk, “if he don’t jump at
you--I’ll--waal, I’m blamed if I don’t give you my own darter. There!”

What he would have replied to this wager Matt never knew, for with a
sudden cry of “Thunderation! The shark’s stolen,” the mountain bounded
forward with incredible alacrity and dashed into the store.

But it was his own child who was the temporary thief. Matt, following
Mr. Coble back into the store to see if his picture had been really paid
the compliment of appropriation, found father and daughter bending
admiringly over it as it stood on the counter, propped up against some
large coarse grass-sponges. His heart beat faster with surprise and

“Hullo! You here?” said Rosina, raising a face that seemed radiant amid
the dull browns and grays of the store.

“I didn’t know you would be here,” he answered, awkwardly, not knowing
what to reply.

“Why, didn’t I tell you yesterday I was coming?”

She looked roguishly at him from beneath the broad brim of her
flower-wreathed hat, whose narrow black-velvet strings were tied
coquettishly under her left ear.

“So you did. I forgot,” he said.

“You seem to forget everything,” she responded, pertly.

“Yes, he’s lost his head altogether,” roared old Coble.

“Thank you for reminding me,” said Matt, eagerly. “Now you are here I
can tell you what the Frenchman says.”

“Bother the Frenchman!” said Miss Coble, pouting.

“Yes, but he’s languishing in prison this fine, bright day--”

“Mr. Strang painted the jailer’s portrait. That’s how he met the rogue,”
old Coble interrupted.

“And he often cries,” went on Matt.

Miss Coble laughed.

“Gracious, you make me feel like a princess, keeping men in dungeons.”

“Well, that’s how you ought to feel,” said Matt.

“Then I guess I’ll take the privilege of a princess,” said Miss Coble.
“I’ll let him out on my wedding-morn.”

Coble roared with laughter.

“There, that’s a fair offer for you, my boy.”

Matt felt very embarrassed, but he ventured to hope, “for the poor
devil’s sake,” that Miss Coble would get married soon.

“I hope not,” said Coble, to Matt’s relief. “You’re forgettin’ _this_
poor devil. What am I to do without my Rosie?”

“Oh, you’ll get along all right,” said Miss Coble, with a playful tug at
his drooping white beard. “You can send for Aunt Clara.”

“I wish you’d be serious about the poor man in the prison,” Matt

“I am serious,” Miss Coble insisted, indignantly.

“Oh yes, she’s serious,” interposed the parent. “She’s solid, is Rosie.
You can’t squeeze her like this ’ere sponge. ’Pears to me the only way
to help your man is to hurry on the marriage.”

The advent of a customer here removed him, chuckling, from the
conversation; and while he was talking angrily to the new-comer, Matt,
who had been itching to slip away, found himself compelled to linger on
and entertain the young lady, a task which he ended by finding pleasant
enough. When she at last said she must go about her marketing, he even
asked if there was anything he could carry for her.

“Gracious, no! we get the things sent. But you can walk along, if you
have nothing better to do.”

So Matt threaded his way with her among the busy stores, feeling her a
part of the sunny freshness of the day, to which he was now alive again;
and walking with head erect, for he felt himself rehabilitated by the
companionship of so genteel a member of society. He was amused by the
keen bargains she drove, and acquired a new interest in prices.
Evidently Coble was right--she would make a provident house-keeper. But
she would only let him see her part of the way home, though she told him
papa expected him to join their evening meal.

“He’s taken quite a fancy to you,” she said. “I don’t know why, I’m

“I don’t know why, either,” said Matt, simply.

“Perhaps that’s why,” Miss Coble answered, enigmatically.

Then she lent him her gloved fingers for a moment, and gave him a
pleasant smile, and tripped away, and he went back and down to the
water-side, and lounged about aimlessly in the sun, sky and sea and
shipping and the glimpses of hill and forest across the harbor and the
white sea-gulls and the bronzed Scandinavian sailors thrilling him with
the old sense of the beauty and romance of life. But the open air gave
him an appetite, too, and the appetite brought him back to the
sordidness of things, to his nigh-bare pockets and the insistent sphinx
of his future. He laid out a few cents to stave off hunger till evening
should bring better fare at Coble’s; then, in the stronger mood induced
by even this minimum of nutriment, a tiresome inner voice began asking
by what right he meditated foisting himself upon strangers. He had no
longer the excuse of the Frenchman. He had heard Miss Coble’s ultimatum
on that matter. And the tiresome voice persisted in dragging up other
troublesome thoughts from the depths of consciousness. As he walked
about the lively quays it kept repeating Mr. Coble’s observations,
though less loudly. Despite some dubious remarks, despite the _à priori_
improbability and unexpectedness of the whole thing, was it possible for
Matt to doubt that the old man would be willing to give him his
daughter? With whatever timidity he shrank from facing the possibility,
wilfully closing his eyes as before a great glare, he could not but feel
that Coble’s idea was both rash and generous. Of course his future would
justify the old man’s trust and repay it a hundred-fold, but such
confidence was none the less touching. Coble did not know--the sun and
sea had made the young man drunk again--that he was entertaining a
genius. And Miss Coble, too; how kind of her to be so nice to a
penniless young man! Her pleasant smiles had been medicinal sunshine to
his despairing apathy. If he had not met the Cobles, what would have
become of him? But was the girl quite of her father’s mind towards him?
Her attitude was certainly not repellent. He allowed himself to dally
undisguisedly with the idea, and it made him giddy. The hope of Art
flamed again so fiercely that he wondered how it could have lain
smouldering so long in his bosom. He was like a pedestrian toiling
foot-sore and heart-broken towards a great light that shone celestially
on the verge of the horizon. For years he had followed the sacred gleam,
over lonely deserts and waste places, with hunger and thirst and pain;
and now as, with bleeding feet that could drag along no longer, he was
fain to drop down on the way-side, lo! a sound of wheels and a sudden
carriage at his side, and he had but to step in to be driven luxuriously
to the long-tantalizing goal.

And in this fairy carriage, moreover, sat a pretty maiden, on whose ripe
breast he could pillow his tired head, and in whose arms he could find
consolation for the blank years. Oh! it was bewildering, dazzling,
intoxicating. But did he love the maiden of this enchanting vision?
Well, what was love? It would certainly be sweet to hold her warm hand
in his, to see her blue eyes soften with tenderness as they gazed into
his own. It was so long since a woman had kissed him--such weary,
crawling, barren years! That ancient episode with Priscilla came up, as
it had not seldom done before, transfigured by the haze of time and the
after-glamour of romance; he had long since forgotten how little the
girl had really appealed to him in the flesh, and to remember that he
had spurned her caresses did not always give him a glow of moral
satisfaction. In the delicious sunshine that danced to-day in a myriad
gleams on the green waters, and made the air like wine, lurked a subtle
appeal to his mere manhood. Were not all women equally lovable for their
sex? In the novels and poems he had read love was glorified and woman
was a spirit; in his own soul lay divine conceptions of womanhood that
inspired his art and sanctified his dreams: a womanhood whose bodily
incarnation--imagined now in this gracious shape, now in that--was the
outer symbol of an inner loveliness of thought and emotion. But he had
not met this Ideal Womanhood; nor did he even expect to meet it in the
crude common day. Once or twice in his London life, as in his boyhood in
this very city of Halifax, when he had worshipped the beautiful
horsewoman, he had seemed to catch a glimpse of it, but it was always
far off--as far as the star from the moth. And so, whether seen or
divined, it belonged almost equally to that world of imagination in
which his true life had been lived, in which he had always taken refuge
from the real. He had scarcely known before a girl so refined as Miss
Coble, unless, perhaps, it was the adolescent Ruth Hailey, whose shy
stateliness had made her so alien from the little girl he dimly
remembered taking for a sweetheart in those days of childish mimicry
when one drives broomsticks for horses. Why should he not marry this
pleasant, plump young woman, if she would condescend to him? Though her
position was so much better than his, he did not feel her too remote
from him for comfortable companionship, especially as she would never
know that he had been in jail. If he did not love her, in the vague
transcendental sense, at least he did not love any other woman, and was
never likely to. He was not as other men: his life was not in their
world; it was centred on Art, it was occupied with visions, its goal was
not happiness or a home. But if these offered themselves to him by the
way, even while they made his real goal possible, it were mere insane
self-martyrdom to refuse them. A wife would save him from his lower
self, and in his moments of artistic despair she would always be there
to comfort and console. Nay--and he smiled at the consideration--even in
his moments of artistic achievement, she could be there as a model.
Models ran away with a great deal of money, and for an artist a wife was
really an economy. And if in his artistic aspiration she could have no
share, neither could any one else, woman or man. An artist could not
really have a mate--at most a mistress or a house-keeper. His Art was a
holy of holies, in which he must ever be the sole priest, and in this
holy of holies Ideal Womanhood could still have its place as before.

Such are the pitfalls of the artistic temperament, moving amid
unrealities, spinning its own cosmos.

Three thousand dollars down! He could pay off the store-keeper and
cleanse away the prison stain. He could send Madame Strang her little
balance, and, best of all--and the thought moved him almost to
tears--his poor brothers and sisters would henceforth be certain of
their allowance. For himself the prospects were equally tempting--a
honey-moon in Europe, in the cities of romantic dream, amid the
masterpieces of Art. And then when, after a couple of years of study and
work, his own masterpiece should be completed, a settled income of
eight hundred dollars--bread and cheese always sure, putting him for
life beyond the vulgar necessity of pandering to the market, rescuing
him from that sordid internal conflict which imbittered even when it
failed to degrade. Oh, the rapture of a life so consecrated to Art!

But would Miss Coble or her parent consent to this expenditure of the
money? Of course it would all have to be distinctly understood ere he
could agree to marry the girl. He flushed, finding how mercenary motive
predominated in his reverie. Mr. Coble had indeed hinted acquiescence in
some such scheme. But an instinct kept the young man from concluding to
acquiesce in it himself. A vague shame and repugnance struggled with his
sense of the advantages of the match; waxing so strong in the reaction
that followed the glow of temptation that he determined not to go to the
Cobles’ that evening. This visit, he felt, would be fatal.

He went home to his little room in the central slums, determined not to
stir out. He had meant to go to bed, broad day though it was, and sleep
away the temptation. But he only threw himself upon the pallet, in his
clothes, and was more conscious of hunger than of the heaviness
necessary for sleep. Yet he would not break into his last two dollars
to-day. He tried to divert his mind from Miss Coble’s dowry by
alternative projects for continuing his life, but they only served to
show the length of the bleak, arid, solitary road that lay before his
bruised feet if he let the carriage go by. Money! Money! Money! What had
he not suffered from the struggle for it? Degrading to live on another
person’s money? It was life without money that was degrading,
humiliating, full of petty considerations, consumed in irrelevant
labors. In the novels that made such a fuss about love troubles, the
fine-sounding sorrows seemed to him infinitely smaller than the carks
and worries of prosaic existence.

He dozed a little and dreamed of his mother. He was back in childhood,
standing with bare feet in an icy passage, and she was screaming at
Harriet for refusing to marry Mr. Coble. He went through all the old
agony of these frequent domestic tragedies. But he did not feel cold so
much as hungry, and breakfast was being delayed by the squabble. He
heard Daisy, equally aggrieved, lowing in the barn. In the face of the
advantages of the Coble marriage it did seem unreasonable of Harriet to
stick to Bully Preep, who would probably beat her. He awoke with a
sensation of relief, which was instantly exchanged for a new worry.
Ought he to tell the Cobles about his mother, supposing he really
thought of--But no; he did not think of--And, in any case, there was no
use in raking up unpleasant matters. He had not inherited her dementia;
it was not in her blood; it had grown up gradually from the sad, narrow
circumstances of her lot; it was his father that he took after. He was
not mad; he was more likely to go mad if he continued his terrible
solitary struggle. Unless, indeed--and here came a sudden vision of a
scene that had lain forgotten for long years--unless, indeed, Mad Peggy
had been right! Mad Matt! Oh no, it was madness to attach any meaning to
the Water-Drinker’s words. Never had he felt so sane. He got up and
looked into the dusty glass on the wash-stand. That was not the face of
a madman. She had prophesied he would never be happy--never, never! He
would thirst and thirst for happiness, but never would he quench his
thirst. Ah, the crazy creature was right there, anyhow. He watched with
curious interest the tears rolling down the face in the mirror. Well, be
it so! He was strong, he could dispense with happiness. He would not go
to the Cobles’ that evening. To-morrow he would leave Halifax, and join
his folks in Cobequid at last. They would all live out their lives
together--poor victims of a common destiny. He would work on the farm,
he would rent more land, he would make it pay. His uncle had been right
all along. Why had he not taken his advice and stayed on at Cattermole’s
farm? Ah, well, his dream of Art was over now. He was getting on in
years; the energy had been buffeted out of him. One could not always be
young and ambitious. He would never be famous now; he would toil
obscurely like his brothers and sisters, and his bones would lie with
theirs in the little lonesome church-yard among the pines. It did not
matter; nothing mattered. Death would shovel them all away soon enough.

He lay down on the bed again. Near it stood a wash-stand with a piece of
ragged sponge upon it. His eye noted a patch of light on the sponge, and
he wondered how the sunshine had got there. Then he perceived the yellow
patch was only a reflection from the water-bottle, and his thoughts
turned to the problem of painting sunlight by optical illusion. He
thought of Cornpepper and the fellows and all the happy discussions he
had had in London. The afternoon waned into evening; the patch of mock
sunshine faded; the shadows gathered, shrouding the walls with mystery.

He grew faint with hunger; in the dusk there opened out a picture of a
lamp-lit room with a snowy cloth on its round table, and a plump figure
with soft blue eyes presiding over the savory dishes.

The vision drew him. He rose, washed himself carefully, and went out.

       *       *       *       *       *

A month later, a week before his marriage, Matt Strang journeyed to
Cobequid to see his folks, and bid them farewell before leaving for his
artistic honey-moon in Europe. He had written the news home, but they
could not afford to come to Halifax for the wedding, and so he had
promised to run down before starting on his second voyage in search of
Art. He alighted from the coach at Cobequid Village overwhelmed with
emotion, resolved to walk the rest of the way towards the joyous reunion
with his brothers and sisters; he wished to note each familiar
landmark--the fields, the farms, the stores, the little meeting-house,
all the beloved features of the spacious, scattered wooden metropolis of
his childhood. It was almost noon, and the landscape, seen through the
waves of hot air rising from the soil, quivered in the heat. The white
farmhouses glittered; the paint of the verandas bulged out; the wooden
spire of the meeting-house pointed piously to a heaven of stainless
blue. In the farm-yards the fowls lolled prostrate on their sides with
open mouths and drooping wings, their tongues protruding, their eyes
closed, their legs every now and then uneasily stirring up the dust
under their wings; the cattle and horses stood deep in pools under the
trees. The bumblebees droned sleepily about the wild roses of the
way-side, or buzzed among the white-weed and yellow buttercups and
dandelions that mottled the hay-fields. The red squirrels chattered on
the spruces as they sat shelling cones, their tails curved over their
backs; the woodpeckers tapped on the hollow stubs, the blue-jays
screamed among the branches; a hawk circled tranquilly upward to a
speck, then sailed softly downward with motionless wings outspread. In
the fields men were hoeing potatoes, following the slow oxen that
dragged the ploughs between the furrows, and heaping up the earth with
leisurely, monotonous movements; belated sowers of buckwheat were
scattering the triangular grains with a slow, measured, hypnotic motion.
In the sultry stores there was nothing doing; now and then a
store-keeper in his shirt-sleeves spat solemnly or drawled a lazy
monosyllable. Behind a casement a slumbrous old crone snuffed herself. A
wagon rumbled dustily beneath the overarching trees. The far-stretching
village drowsed in the sun.

High noon. The conches began sounding to call the farm-hands to dinner,
and every sign of labor melted away. The languor crept over the young
pedestrian. A perception of the futility of ambition flooded his soul
like a wave of summer sea, soft and warm and bitter. To pass through
life tranquil and obscure, amid the simplicities and sanctities of
childish custom, with work and rest, with feast-day and Sunday; to walk
in foot-worn ways amid the same fragrant wild-flowers, to the music of
the same birds, hand in hand with a daughter of the same soil, to whom
every hoar usage and green meadow should be similarly dear; to carry on
the chain of the quiet generations, and so pass lingeringly towards a
forgotten grave amid humble kinsfolk--were not this sweeter than the
trump and glare of Fame, and the ache of ambition, and the loneliness of
untrodden footways? He seemed to hear Mad Peggy’s mocking laughter in
the distance.

He moved curiously in the direction of the sounds, skirting a new
barn-like building which blocked his view, and which he saw from a
notice was a Baptist meeting-house, such as his mother had always
yearned for; McTavit’s school-house met his gaze, still standing in its
field, and in the foreground a mob of boys and girls shouting and
laughing with the exuberance of school-children just let out. After a
moment he perceived that they were jeering and hooting somebody; then he
caught a glimpse of the ungainly figure of a young man in the centre of
derision, with a dozen hands playfully pulling and pushing him. The poor
butt fell down, and there was a great outburst of hilarious delight.
Matt’s blood boiled; he ran quickly forward towards the booing juvenile
crowd, which scattered a little at the sight of his flaming countenance.

“You pesky little ----!” he cried. Then his voice failed. With a flash of
horror he recognized his brother Billy.

“Boo!” recommenced one of the bigger louts. “Rot-gut rum!”

Matt seized the crutch which lay at the side of the prostrate drunken
cripple, and described a threatening circle with it; the pack of
children broke up and made off, hooting from a safer distance.

“Billy!” he said, hoarsely, clutching the wretched young fellow by the
coat-collar, half to raise him, half in instinctive anger.

Returning intelligence struggled with the look of maudlin pathos on
Billy’s white face. The shock of the sight of his brother sobered him.
He suffered himself to be lifted to his feet, then he took his crutch
and moved forward, refusing further help.

“I kin walk,” he said, sullenly.

The tone and accent grated on Matt’s ear. But a pang of self-reproach
mixed with his wrath and disgust. It was his part to have looked after
Billy better.

“I didn’t expect we should meet like this, Billy,” he said, softly.

“You should hev come sooner,” Billy retorted, “‘stead of gaddin’ about
all the world over enjoyin’ yourself, and never comin’ nigh us, not even
when you were tourin’ in the Province with your portraits an’ your

“I never was near enough, and I always had to move on,” he explained,
gently, as he flicked the dust of the road off Billy’s coat.

“Never mind my clothes; they won’t spoil, they’re not so fine as yours.
If you’re ’shamed to walk with me--”

“Don’t talk like that, Billy. I’m only glad to see how well you can

The brothers passed defiantly through the straggling remnants of the
juvenile crowd.

“I’ve walked to the village,” said Billy. “I’m strong enough to go
anywhere a’most.”

A few hoots recommenced in the rear.

“I wish you hadn’t gone to the village to-day,” sighed Matt.

“And why shouldn’t I?” cried Billy, pricked to savagery again. “What is
there for me but gittin’ drunk? I got drunk when you wrote the news--so
I did. Thet was the first time. We all drank your health an’ your
bride’s, an’ I got drunk, an’ I’m glad I found out the joy of it. Why
shouldn’t I hev some pleasure too? I’ll never hev a bride of my
own--thet’s certain. What girl would take me? Do you deny it? Why, even
when Ruth Hailey was here she on’y pitied me.”

“Hadn’t we better get a lift?” said Matt, gently, for a carriage was
rumbling behind them.

“I’ve been twice to the rum-hole since the money came,” pursued Billy,
in dogged defiance. “It’s the on’y way to forgit everythin’.”

He stumped on sturdily. Beads of perspiration glistened on his white,
bloodless face.

“What money came?” Matt asked, puzzled.

“The two hundred and fifty dollars you sent a couple of days after you
got engaged.”

“I never sent two hundred and fifty dollars,” he cried.

“Didn’t you?” Billy opened his large, pathetic eyes wider. “Well, now,
that’s funny. We wondered why you did it so curiously, and why the
postmark was Maine. We thought you were up to some fun, now you had so
much money, but we allowed we’d wait till you came.”

But Matt could not solve the mystery. The notes had been addressed to
“The Strangs,” and were accompanied by a slip of paper: “The same amount
of the money due to you will be forwarded next year.”

That was all the message. Matt exhausted himself in guesses. His
thoughts even went back to the owners of the _Sally Bell_, imagining
some tardy conscience-money in repayment of arrears due to the dead
captain. At last he concluded the remittance must have come from Madame
Strang, acting through some American agent. She had discovered Herbert
owed him money, and was sending him double and quadruple by way of
remorse for the mistake she and her husband had made. To prevent him
from returning it, she had sent it to his family, and anonymously.

Abner Preep contended that there was no occasion for Matt to help his
brothers and sisters further for the present. The subsidy was ample;
more would only lead to unnecessary extravagance. Matt was not entirely
pleased to find his family had no immediate need to profit by his
marriage. Indeed, he almost wished the money had not come. It was
perturbing to feel in himself a yearning--now that his burdens were
lightened--to make one last desperate effort to take the kingdom of Art
by his own unaided assault; it was even more perturbing to feel himself
solicited by that other self, which had spoken out on that sultry summer
afternoon, to abandon Art altogether for the simple restfulness of a
life in his own village at one with Nature. The life that had cramped
him once seemed curiously soothing now; his old fretful sense of
superiority to this Philistine environment was gone. But most perturbing
of all was the thought of Rosina. In neither of these suggested
alternatives--to have another try alone, or to settle down in
Cobequid--did she play any part, and he always came back with a shock to
the recollection of his relation to her, that made both of these futures
impossible. He would not allow himself to dwell for a moment on the
thought of backing out of his engagement--honor forbade that. And was he
even certain that he did not care for her? How piquant she had looked
now and then when she had accidentally got into one or other of the two
postures that became her best, as on the night when, smiling, she had
thrown back her head a little to the left, with the somewhat plebeian
nose refined by foreshortening, and the warm carmines and ivory of the
face and throat showing in the lamplight against the loosened hair. And
then how simple and unpretentious she was, how charmingly candid her
chafferings with the store-keepers! But it eased his mind somewhat to
find Billy selfishly laying claim to the mysterious money, persisting he
would travel with it--he would see the world. Matt persuaded Harriet to
acquiescence in the idea, relieved to find his immediate
responsibilities to the smaller children restored to him. But, unknown
to Billy, Matt had already decided he must, if possible, take charge of
the poor fellow and keep him from drink. He wrote to ask Rosina’s
permission to let his crippled brother travel with him, as his health
needed a sea voyage. He waited anxiously for the reply.

“I can reffuse my darling nothing,” Rosina responded, with more
promptitude than orthography.

“God bless you,” murmured Matt, kissing the letter. “I believe I shall
love you, after all.”



Foresight is insight. It was due to Matthew Strang’s ignorance of life
and of himself that his marriage in no way turned out as he had
calculated. Oh, the fatal mistake of it, perceived as soon as it was too
late, though he shrank weakly from the perception, afraid to face the
chill, blank truth, hoping against hope that love would be the child of
marriage. Oh, the ghastliness of being chained to a loving woman he did
not love, bound by law and honor to simulate a responsive affection, and
to hide the deadly apathy which her caresses could not overcome. He
tried hard to love her, calling his own attention to her youth, her
freshness, her prettiness, her flashes of expression, making the most of
every hint of charm, seeing her through a wilful glamour, even
attempting to persuade himself that she was the woman of his dreams; all
the while his leaden heart coldly refusing itself to the hollow
pretence. Before the marriage he had almost felt on the point of love;
but it was only, he knew later, the self-disguise of cupidity and
mercenariness, though no doubt a measure of gratitude had helped to
becloud his vision. In his bachelor days he could never have imagined
such indifference to any woman. Sometimes he wondered if this was all
marriage meant to any man, but a wistful incredulity denied him the
consolation of acquiescence in a common lot. The testimony of mankind
was quite other, and his own yearning instinct refused to look upon his
union as typical. If only she had been a little more intellectual, less
limited to gossip about servants and prices! How he had deceived
himself, taking the sprightliness of a young girl in love, the
coquettish gayety, the evanescent brilliancy of a bird in the pairing
season, for the output of perennial intellect and good-humor! He had
lived so much alone with his dreams that he had fallen out of touch with
humanity, and particularly with feminine humanity. He had had no
standard of comparison by which to gauge her, and once united to her,
the habitual recluse could not accommodate himself to her constant

What an irony their honey-moon in Paris, in Florence, the ardors of
artistic renascence yoked with the blankness of boredom! Despite
Rosina’s affectionate clinging to him, and her almost pathetic endeavor
to admire old churches and dingy picture-galleries, it was a relief to
both when she at last acquiesced in his happy idea of regarding his
rounds as “work,” and, under the convoy of Billy, beguiled the
expectation of fonder reunion by the more exhilarating spectacle of the
streets and the endless glories of the _Bon Marché_. And very soon she
wearied altogether of foreign places, clamoring to be settled in London,
where the language was not gibberish, and one could go a-marketing
without being bamboozled and cut off from bargaining. For after the
first fervors of the honey-moon she had developed that instinct for
petty economy which had amused and charmed him when he had gone shopping
with her in Halifax, but which now fretted him, seeming like a daily
reproach for all those great sums her acquisition of him had cost her.
He was glad that the due arrival of the second mysterious instalment
promised to the Nova-Scotian household relieved him of the painful
necessity of applying to her on its behalf. Unexpectedly enough this sum
was supplemented by a dividend of a hundred and fifteen dollars paid to
him, after he had forgotten all about the matter, by the trustee in
Halifax in settlement of his claim against the estate of the
Starsborough ship-builder.

In vain he tried to interest his wife in books, in the poems and essays,
in the study of French and German, into which he now threw himself with
a feverish desire for culture. In vain he tried to impart to her his
vision of nature, to get her to observe scenery and sunsets. Colors and
shades were only interesting to her as they occurred in dress materials.
Once when they stood by a sea-beach on a December afternoon under a
cold, gray sky, and Rosina complained of the dreariness of the
seascape, he had attempted to show her how beautiful it really was, how
much more interesting to the artistic eye than a crude sunlight effect;
how nearest the horizon it was grayish steel-blue, and then a still
amber, and then emerald green, and how just before the final fringe of
both there shone a band of sparkling amber, grayed by cloud-reflections.
But Rosina shivered, and refused to see anything but a chill green

She would not even allow him to arrange her furniture, and a pair of
colossal pink vases, garishly hand-painted with pastoral figures (picked
up “a bargain”), were a permanent pain to him, spoiling for him the
drawing-room of the little North London house with the rude whitewashed
studio, in which they had settled down after the birth of their first
child. The temporary lull that attended their installation in British
domesticity was succeeded by graver frictions when Rosina had finished
furnishing. They had no society; neither of the couple knew anybody in
London, and the husband shrank from making friends, constrained,
moreover, by his art to a solitary way of living. Rosina, who before her
child demanded her care had sat to him out of pure desire to be with
him, began to be jealous of the models who replaced her, declaring that
she had had no conception such goings-on were a part of art or she would
never have married him.

The only alleviation of his numb misery was his ability to paint without
pecuniary under-thought the picture with which he was to storm the
Academy, to throw all his individuality into it. The very seclusion of
his life favored this devotion to his ideals.

And these ideals were only partially those of his celibate. He had been
swaying to and fro under the opposite solicitations of Idealism and
Realism; now in a violent upheaval, his sympathy with modern subjects
and even with modern methods had been submerged.

On the Continent for the first time he came into contact with the Old
World. London had been to him as modern as America, repeating its ideas
and ideals, but in France, and more especially in Italy, the mere
variation of tongues helped to draw him into an earlier world,
co-operated with the appeal of ancient churches and streets and palaces,
and the countless treasure of ancient Art. The modern world grew
hateful to him, and he absorbed by affinity the ancient and the
mediæval. At bottom it was not so much the modern that repelled him as
real life, and it was not so much the past towards which he yearned as
towards that timeless realm wherein ideal beauty dwells. The past was at
least less real than the present. Real life was horrible, and marriage
had put the coping-stone on his dissatisfaction with it. From birth to
death it was embased by a sordid series of physical processes. Even the
much-vaunted love was hideous at root. Beauty itself was never really
perfect, and was transient at best, while the beautiful idea that lurked
in nearly every human face and figure had for the most part been left
embryonic. Only in Art could the imperfections of Nature be
corrected--and this was the Artist’s mission, not to imitate Nature, but
to transcend her; from her faulty individuals, frail and perishable, to
draw types of perfection, flawless, immortal, like that Venus de Milo,
which stood at the end of the Louvre passage, beautiful from every
standpoint, fixing in its pensive sweetness of spiritualized form his
dream of Ideal Womanhood; or like that mighty torso of winged Victory
that had achieved the last victory over its own mutilation. Real life
was Deacon Hailey and his mad mother and Billy and Rosina and his uncle
and the grimy denizens of the London slums and the blackguardly crowd at
the Fleet Street public-house and the lewd workmen in the Starsborough
ship-yard. But Art was Rosalind and Imogen, Hamlet and Ariel, Don
Quixote and Beatrix Esmond, and the love in Shelley’s lyrics, and the
music of Beethoven, and the pictures of Botticelli, and the cold white
statues of the Greeks--that imaginary world which man’s soul had called
into being to redress the balance of the Real. It was Art against Nature
throughout--the immortal shadows against the ephemeral realities.

    “She cannot fade though thou hast not thy bliss,
     Forever wilt thou love and she be fair.”

And so for the “real atmosphere” of Cornpepper he no longer cared: what
mattered the realities of space more than those of time to the soul,
emperor of its own fantasy? All this scientific precision after which he
had been hankering--was it not irrelevant to Art? The Beautiful was the
Ideal; to create the Ideal, the Real must be passed through the crucible
of the Artist’s soul. The Artist was the true creator. In him Nature’s
yearning to beget the Beautiful became conscious. She herself had
infinite failures--ugly moods, fogs, glooms, skies of iron, seas of tin.
And feeling all this instinctively rather than by a lucid excogitation,
he was now for the ideal, for the romantic, for the religious even, for
anything that was not real, that shut out the unbeautiful necessity, as
those glorious stained windows of cathedrals, blazing with saints, shut
out the crude daylight and the raw air of reality, filtering the garish
sunlight to that dim religious light in which the soul could see best.
Ah, how wisely the poor human soul had fenced itself in against the
bleak realities--even as the body had housed itself against the
inhospitalities of Nature--painting its windows with beautiful dreams,
with an incarnate Love that ruled the world, and an image of immaculate
Motherhood. And in a strange hybrid, hazy blend of Catholicism and
Hellenism, possible only to an artist who sees things by their sensuous
outsides, the Venus de Milo and the Madonna of the Italian masters were
to him more akin by beauty than divorced by dogma. In a sense they were
one--the highest types of Beauty conceivable by the Pagan and Christian
ages, so akin that when Botticelli came to draw Venus, as in his
“Nascita di Venere,” his brush fashioned a meek Miltonic Eve,
prefiguring the Virgin Mother, while Andrea del Sarto, in his
Annunziazone in the “Pitti,” had given the Virgin Mother almost the
brooding serenity of a Greek goddess. Ideal Womanhood, Ideal Womanhood,
this was what poor Matthew Strang seemed to find in either--ay, and even
in Perugino’s “Magdalen,” and the saying of Keats, “Beauty is Truth,
Truth Beauty,” seemed to him to be indeed all that mortals needed to

But that Pagan serenity which had produced Greek art could not be his.
For him as for the ages the first sensuous joy in beauty was over. And
what appealed even more than the Greek marbles to the artist who had set
out from his native village with quick blood, worshipper of a beautiful
world, was that subtler art which expressed rather the inadequacy than
the perfection of life; the wistfulness of a Botticelli Madonna, the
unfathomable smile of a Leonardo portrait, the pensive melancholy of
Lorenzo di Credi’s “Unknown Youth” in the Uffizi, or the mystic
aspiration of the monk in that famous “Concerto di Musica,” and
inversely Raphael’s lovelier line than Nature’s, and Michael Angelo’s
with its more majestic sweep. He longed with that yearning, with which
the boy had looked up to the stars in the midnight forest, for God, for
Christ, for Apollo, for some dream of whiteness and beauty, for
something that persisted beneath all the purposeless generations of
which the Louvre held record in those cumbrous relics of vanished
civilization--Egyptian, Phœnician, Syrian, Babylonian, Persian,
Chaldean--those broken shafts of pillars that had upheld barbaric
temples, those friezes that had adorned the façades of palaces, those
blurred monuments perpetuating the victories of forgotten dust, those
faded bass-reliefs that had pleased the lustful eyes of nameless kings,
enthroned in their gigantic halls, those uncouth torsos of bulls and
sphinxes, emblems of a vaster, crueller life. Amid the flux of the
centuries the visibles of Art, the invisibles of Religion--were not
these the only true Realities?

Such had been Matthew Strang’s thoughts, as in a deep silence he walked
through the Louvre with Rosina, a silence that was at its deepest when
he responded to her chatter. She hated the slippery parquet and the dull
oil-colors under the glazed skylight, preferring the fresh coloring of
the copies, though she made fun of the copyists who sat so patiently on
their stools. What queer men, what funny, frumpy girls, what strange old
ladies! And, look! there was a young woman in widows’ weeds, painting
such a cute picture, and--gracious! there was quite a young girl copying
a naked man--weren’t they horrid, the French? She liked the attendants’
cocked hats with a dash of gilt, and enjoyed the desultory crowd of
perambulating spectators, that ranged from old gentlemen hobbling along
on sticks to artisans in red blouses and clayey boots. And wouldn’t Matt
come back into the jewelry and china departments, which were really
interesting? And wasn’t the heat unbearable? It was her restlessness
that made her husband quit this Paris which fascinated him, this
beautiful city, with whose artistic activity, divined from the mere
architecture of the École des Beaux Arts, he had had no opportunity to
get into intimate touch; for he could not even come across Herbert, whom
he had rather hoped to find still there, a cicerone to initiate him into
the art-coteries of Paris. In Florence, where they went for the winter,
Rosina was even more restless. The towered palaces, the Duomo, and the
gracious Campaniles, the gardens, the enchanting environs, and all the
stock wonders of the place, had none but a superficial interest for her;
they were exhausted at first sight; amid the marble calm of colonnades
she even regretted the liveliness of the Boulevards. And the climate,
too, was worse than that of Paris; her grumblings were perpetual. To
pass from the warm piazza or promenade to the biting wind of the narrow
streets was not only uncomfortable, but made it a problem how to dress.
And, indeed, Matt himself suffered keenly from the cold; though there
was a small brass heating apparatus in the centre of the gallery, it
scarcely did more than keep his colors from congealing. For he was
copying Botticelli’s “Virgin with the Child and Angels.” Yes, Botticelli
had become his master--Botticelli, whom at first sight in the National
Gallery he had rejected for insufficient draughtsmanship, but all of
whose naïve exaggerations, of hands or feet or necks, he now credited to
artistic intention, prepared to maintain from loving study of his
delicately luminous canvases and his blond ethereal frescos that the
Master’s drawing had only repudiated the bonds of the Real in quest of a
higher beauty, a more gracious harmony of curves, even as his coloring
had refined away that oleaginous quality which a Rubens found in human
flesh. To brood over a Madonna of Botticelli or of Filippo Lippi,
Matthew Strang would turn from the women of Rubens or the young men of
Titian or the children of Velasquez or Rembrandt’s old men. Though at
the sight of “Les Glaneurs” of Millet he felt a lurking sympathy in his
submerged self, he preferred that morning landscape of Corot, in which
bodiceless beauties dance round trees as half-dressed women never did in
any period of French history. He found a winter scene of Van Ostade’s
none the less charming because the figures were not enveloped, and the
lights were untruly set off by bituminous shadows. He was in the mood in
which even the gilded rose-nudity of the eighteenth century seemed
precious. Amid the infinitude of Art that surrounded him now,
Cornpepper’s cocksureness seemed to him as futile as it had already
appeared amid the infinity of Nature. And all the Masters were so akin
that evolution by revolution seemed less credible than in the smoky
atmosphere of Azure Art studios. Modern subject? Had they not all done
the contemporary, had the Dutch done anything else? Impressionism? In so
far as it meant a free brush-work, was not Rembrandt an Impressionist?
Was not Velasquez in his later manner?

His first picture, then, need not be revolutionary in technique, but it
must be more imaginative than the bulk of English work in the Academy of
his day, more emotional. Photography had reduced realism to absurdity,
had proved that Art lay in the transfusion of Nature through the
artist’s soul. And the essence of all art was emotion, feeling. The work
of Art was but the medium by which the artist passed on his emotion to
the spectator, his joy in beauty, his feeling for nature, his sadness,
his aspiration, even his view of life. Because emotion could be conveyed
by literature and music, there was no reason why these should have the
preference in cases where painting was equal to conveying it, too.
Without emotion a picture was null and void; technique by itself could
give works of craft, never works of Art. On the other hand, to have the
artistic emotion without the technique necessary to pass it on to the
spectator was to be artistic, but not an artist.

The choice of a subject gave him much harassing hesitation; it brought
delicious peace merely to make his final decision amid all the whirl of
ideas that pressed upon him. He would found his picture on those
beautiful lines in Matthew Arnold’s “Forsaken Merman.”

    “Once she sat with you and me
     On a red-gold throne in the heart of the sea,
     And the youngest sat on her knee.
     She combed its bright hair, and she tended it well,
     When down swung the sound of a far-off bell.
     She sighed, she look’d up through the clear green sea;
     She said: ‘I must go, for my kinsfolk pray
     In the little gray church on the shore to-day.
     ’Twill be Easter-time in the world--ah me!
     And I lose my poor soul, Merman! here with thee.’”

The subject seemed to him made to his hand. It would enable him to
fulfil his young ambitious dream of reconciling the decorative with the
idea-picture; the composition should weave a beautiful pattern, and the
coloring a scheme of harmony, and yet the picture should make a distinct
emotional appeal. A woman, with a soul, throned amid a lower race, yet
yearning for the higher spiritual fervors--that was an idea which lent
itself beautifully to pictorial expression: a literary idea doubtless,
but yet a visual, too, so that there was no need even to label it with
the poet’s lines which had suggested it; it should be self-explanatory.
And what sensuous glow in the accessories--the clear, green sea-depths,
the red-gold throne, the child’s flowing hair! The thought of them was
like wine in his veins. He set to work eagerly on a large scale,
informed by his contemplation of the Old Masters with big ambitions--to
do, not the little lyrics that satisfied contemporary cocksureness, but
a great sustained poem.

What pleasures and pains the work brought him! The thrill of conception
was deadened by inadequacy of execution, to revive when some charm of
color and line flowered under happy accident. He had great joy in doing
the heart of the sea with its “deep, divine, dark dayshine”--it was his
sympathy with this marine fairy-land that had partly inspired his
readiness to do old Coble’s misleading ensign of the shark and the
sponge-diver. Around the red-gold throne of the Merman’s bride that
stood on the sand-strewn sea-bed the submarine flora bloomed in strange,
fantastic arabesques and subtle shades of amber and gray and white and
crimson, and through the green translucent water, spent sunbeams
quivered and gleamed, and vague tropical fish shot lovely notes of
color, and a sea-snake coiled its glittering mail; and there were
strange pied amorphous creatures and moss-like corallines and
red-branching madrepores and gleaming shells, and mother-o’-pearl
touched with purple and azure, yet all strictly subordinated to the two
central figures of the composition--the throned woman with her youngest
on her knee, which, despite the nudity and the strange accessories, took
on a curious likeness to the Madonna and Child. The canvas indeed showed
the influence upon him of those wistful Madonnas he had pored over so
wistfully; the cold, strange eyes of the golden-haired child were in the
imaginative vein of the poem, the form of the throned woman was inspired
by merely Pagan ideals of beauty; and yet the yearning in her uplifted
eyes for the world of prayer whose sound floated mystically down to her
was the same that showed in the eyes of the Holy Mother. But this
analogy was not consciously in the artist’s design, though it had
doubtless influenced his choice of subject, nor, though he had certainly
had in mind to suggest through her the yearning of humanity for a higher
world, did he connect his work with the school of Symbolists which was
just arising across the Channel, and which was capable of finding in the
dominant green of his sea the color-symbol of Resurrection. Even the
dead face which he had placed in a corner in the foreground, though it
might well seem symbolic of the tragedy lurking amid this sensuous
beauty, was in truth only the dead face of his father, and he had put it
in less for its symbolic significance or its realistic appositeness than
from an uncontrollable desire to have it there, as though thus to
dispossess his mind of that ancient haunting image which the continuous
thought of the sea had inevitably brought up again. He told himself it
was but natural some drowned face should bob ghastly in this submarine
paradise, but in reality he felt a morbid craving to put it there, to
have something in his picture for himself alone, that no one else in the
great wide world could possibly understand to the full.

For the rest the picture cost him infinite trouble, for his genius was
an incapacity for not taking infinite pains. The poetry of paint is
achieved by the prose of work, and as despite his Romanticism his
hankerings for the Real persisted, his ambitious conception entailed
much preliminary study, and the setting up in his studio of a little
sea-water aquarium, in the construction of which his ancient experience
at the Stepney bird-stuffing establishment in making cases of shells
with mosses and sea-weeds and coral came in unexpectedly useful. But he
could not get a satisfactory model for his principal figure, and
curiously enough her left hand gave him more vexation than anything else
in this complex composition. He could not settle its pose, scraped out
finger after finger with an old sailor’s knife, relic of his
mackerel-fishing voyage, specially ground down, painted out the whole
hand fourteen times, and at last in despair weakly solved the problem by
hiding the hand altogether. Two days later, working on the scales of the
sea-snake that basked sinuously at the woman’s feet, he suddenly had a
last furious dash at the refractory hand. This time it came right and
brought rejoicing. Sometimes he seemed at the mercy of these haphazard
inspirations; what came, came, quite irrespective of conscious will and
training. “Als ixh Xan” (as I can), the old Flemish motto which Van Eyck
put to his work, seemed to him apt for any painter.

When he began “The Merman’s Bride” he was already much more exigent
towards himself than in his younger days; self-criticism had checked
that fearless execution; by the time he had finished his picture, those
very months of steady work, rigorously revised, had raised his ideal
higher, so that though the actual picture pretty well corresponded with
his first conception, it was still far removed from his later standard.
The expression of the woman’s face seemed especially inadequate, and as
great actresses do not sit as models, and the artist has to imagine
emotional expression, he felt again, despite his Romanticism, that he
had missed the subtleties of reality. But every genus of art has to
sacrifice something, and sending-in day was drawing swiftly nigh, and he
had to lay down his brushes at last, and through his frame-maker
despatch the canvas to Burlington House, and await with what composure
he could the verdict that should bring him the recognition he had
struggled for during such long tedious years. Now that the absorbing
task was over, he had time to think of its reward, to dwell on the
thought of recognition, of Fame, the one thing on earth that still
loomed before him, enshrouded in vague, misty splendors. In a world of
illusions, this was the solid happiness it might yet be his to grasp.

This last illusion was not destined to be dissipated yet awhile. He was
sitting at the breakfast-table when he received a blue card inviting him
to take back his picture. Burning with revolt and despair, he had to
strive to appear calm, what time Rosina was unfolding a tale of woe
concerning the maid-of-all-work, whom she had detected throwing away
half-burned coals into the dust-hole. That, she reiterated monotonously,
explained the mysteriously rapid disappearance of the coals--over a ton
since quarter-day. An investigation of the dust-hole had revealed a
veritable coal-mine. It was one of the most curious characteristics of
Rosina that, with all her hardness, she flinched mentally before her
servants, pouring out her grievances against them when they were out of
ear-shot, so that her husband suffered vicariously for their sins of
omission or commission. Usually he listened to her silently with the
courteous deference he would have shown a guest, never provoked to an
angry retort save by her absurd objections to his models. He had
abandoned as hopeless the effort to unite their souls. But to-day he had
no option but to cap her tragic narrative by telling her of his
disappointment. The news excited her not to sympathy with his aspersed
art, but to reproachful alarm for his pecuniary future.

This was the last straw. He might have stood out against the Academy,
exhibiting elsewhere, and gradually building up an outside reputation;
but the pecuniary independence to enable him to do this, which had been
the main motive of his marriage, was the very thing that he now saw he
must abandon. In his secret paroxysms of resentment--more against
himself than against her--it became increasingly plain to him that he
could not live on her money; that were intolerable to his reawakened
manhood. He must make a financial success on his own account; he must
become independent of her at any cost to Art. His entire preconception
of his future had broken down, his marriage a failure from the financial
point of view as from every other. Instead of having emancipated himself
from the necessity of a monetary success, he had made life impossible
without it. Well, he would compromise; he would recoil to leap the
better; he would do what the public wanted, and then, having secured its
attention, he would do what _he_ wanted.

He went to the Academy and to the Grosvenor Gallery, he studied the most
popular pictures of his day, and in a couple of large canvases--one
domestic, the other Biblical--set himself to outdo them in anecdotage
and obviousness of technique.

In a passion of irony he half parodied his own picture of “The Merman’s
Bride” in an idyllic interior called “Motherhood,” representing a mother
holding up a little girl, who in her turn nursed a doll. Rosina sat for
this to save expense, her own little girl being now weaned. The other
picture was a “Vashti,” and for the repudiated queen did Rosina pose
likewise, and with unwonted interest in her husband’s work.

Both pictures were cleverly painted, for Matthew Strang strove to atone
for his lack of interest in his subjects by painful impeccability of
technique, and to Rosina’s joy both won acceptance from the Hanging
Committee, though at the eleventh hour--on the Saturday night before
Varnishing Day--husband and wife were alike disappointed to
receive an intimation that, through lack of space, only the
smaller--“Motherhood”--could be hung.

Despite all his contempt for his picture and for the Academy, it was a
tingling sensation to move amid the crowd of artists on Varnishing Day,
and to see some whose serious faces he remembered noting on the platform
on that memorable “Gold Medal Night” pause before his picture in
admiration of the vigorous brush-work. This was a sign of success he was
destined to experience in far greater measure the following year, but
the keenness of the thrill could never be matched again.

And when “Motherhood” was mentioned in the papers, and in the early days
of the Exhibition he watched fashionably clad ladies gather in front of
it to commend the “sweetly pretty” child and its touching foreshadowing
of maternity, Matthew Strang found himself insensibly beginning to
partake in the general admiration; and with that strain of weakness
which London had exposed in him from the first, he was tickled by the
praise of these pretty women with their rustle of silks and their
atmosphere of scent and culture, and his American birth subtly lent
added spice to his sensation, in the thought of conquering with his rude
home-born genius these votaries of an elegant civilization. He was
quite annoyed when he heard of Morrison’s _mot_, that the doll was hit
off to the life, but the other two figures were wooden. But it was not
till “Motherhood” sold for two hundred pounds that the process of
corruption really began to set in.

The buyer--a provincial cotton-spinner in town for his holiday--wished
to sit for his portrait. The painter did not like to ask him to the
whitewashed studio. He told Rosina they must move to a better
neighborhood. The economical Rosina would not consent to quit a quarter
where rates and provisions were low, and where she had by this time
acquired several cronies equally martyred by their maids-of-all-work, so
ultimately he took a larger studio in a more fashionable district, going
to his work every day, like a clerk to his office, relieved from his
wife’s overpowering proximity, and from her personal vision of his
models coming and going, though her morbid suspicion was always ready to
flare up. Thus the estrangement had begun. People sent him cards, not
knowing he was married; after some embarrassed refusals he weakly
accepted, without explanation, an invitation to dinner--unable to
decline it gracefully, and knowing Rosina unsuited to the company--and
his reticence made subsequent explanation more and more difficult. After
a still greater success in the next Academy, with an only less
conventional picture, he was caught in a fashionable whirl of work and
social engagements, finding commission after commission thrust upon him,
driven to hasty production of imposing compositions to preserve his
place in the rapidly recurrent Academy and other Exhibitions, and always
postponing the time when he would start upon the real artistic work of
his life, when he should have accumulated enough money to give him a
couple of years of freedom for independent Art, for that fearless
expression of his own individuality which alone makes Art, which alone
adds aught to the world’s treasure of Beauty by contributing a new
individual vision of the Beautiful, and which, so far from being
demanded by the paying public, must be a revelation of unknown riches.

A plethora of portrait commissions was not conducive to personal Art;
people were much more clamorous for the likeness than in the days of
Sir Joshua before photography had been invented, and every artist’s best
portraits were always those unpaid, unchallenged portraits of his
parents and friends--unflattered, yet touched with the higher beauty of
truth. And portraits stood in the way of more complex work, though they
got one a cheap reputation as a stylist. But there was a great run on
Matthew Strang for portraits; almost as much as on one of his
fellow-sufferers for marbles. The public would scarcely have anything
else, and the voice of the public is the voice of the purse.

By fits and snatches he made attempts to express himself, but he never
had time to find out what “himself” was. Sometimes, in a reversion to
one of his earlier manners, he thought he wanted to express sensation,
to transfer to the spectator of his landscape the sensation the original
had given him, and from his country visits he would come back with
studies of strange blue moonlight effects on cliffs, or weird dark seas,
destined never to be worked up. He began a realistic picture of a winter
view from Primrose Hill, with brownish trees in the foreground and gray
in the background, and a white misty townlet to the left; but,
fluctuating again, he abandoned it for an attempt to do the lyric of the
brush, to express, as in balanced metres, harmonies of tree and sky and
water, and this, again, was thrown aside for the picture of “Ideal
Womanhood,” which, under the influence of a beautiful woman’s rebuke, he
had felt was the real “himself” it behooved him to express. But the
beautiful woman’s passage across his horizon had been momentary, and so
even this piece of imaginative art had been finished hurriedly under the
pressure of other work. And thus the years flew by like months, with
incredible velocity. He could not escape from the net-work of
engagements he had helped to weave, nor did he always desire to. There
was a circumlapping consolation about the applause of the public, though
it did not warm him. He found a bitter satisfaction, as of revenge, in
the smiles of society dames, though he did not court them. He took no
pleasure in the personal paragraphs and the notices of his work, though
he knew they were necessary to his prices, and though he had no more
liking for the severe estimates of the few who would have none of him.
The breach with his wife widened imperceptibly, half involuntarily,
though he was passively glad when she was not with him to complicate his
life with her bourgeois ways, with her vulgar outlook.

He was driven to a more pretentious studio, which had sometimes to be
the scene of responsive hospitalities, and which raised his prices. He
fell into a semi-bachelor life. Late evening parties, early morning
rides in the Park, visits for pleasure or portrait-painting or
decoration to country houses (where his early familiarity with rod and
gun gave him a valuable air of autochthonic aristocracy), excursions to
Goodwood, to Henley, sketching tours, all tended to separate him from
his wife, till at last an almost complete separation had grown up, so
gradually that, except for her spasms of jealousy, Rosina seemed almost
to have become reconciled to it in view of the popular success, the
inflow of money, and the eternal economy of Camden Town, and instead of
resenting his absence, to have come to welcoming his presence. When, on
rare gala occasions, he took her out, the places she loved were those
which no fashionable foot ever trod; and as the couple wandered--an
obscure matrimonial molecule among the holiday masses--he was not sorry
that his juvenile idea of fame as a blazoning _vade mecum_ was only one
of the many illusions of youth. And so none of the scented chattering
crowd that gathered on Show Sunday before his pictures or his
refreshments had any inkling of the more legitimate _ménage_ in the less
fashionable quarter. He absolved his occasional qualms of conscience by
lavishing his earnings on her, which she hoarded--though he knew it
not--partly from instinct, partly from a superstitious dread of a
catastrophe when his hand should fail or her shares fall to zero. Too
late he comprehended the hardness in money matters that had been at the
root of her resentment against the defalcating Frenchman, and it was to
spare her feelings, as well as to preserve peace, that he said never a
word to her about the great sums with which he gladdened the
Nova-Scotian household.

Not that Rosina knew much of his other affairs. In truth, she knew very
little of her husband’s life, nor by how vast a sweep it circumscribed
her own. She knew he had to be away from her a very great deal, that he
had to stay in the country to paint great people; she was vaguely aware
that the necessities of his profession made a wide sociality profitable.
She had been once or twice to peep at his studio, horrified by the
grandeur, and only consoled by the demonstration that its cost was
repaid in the prices, like the luxurious fittings of the shops in the
Holloway Road. But her imagination lacked the materials to construct a
vision of the whirlpool which had sucked him away from her; her reading
was limited to a weekly newspaper in which his name seldom appeared. And
he, in his mental isolation from her, found scant self-reproach for his
silence; reserve seemed more natural than communicativeness. She could
never know the doings of his soul, his thoughts were not her thoughts,
he had given up the attempt at communion, the effort to teach her to
know his real self; why should he be less reticent concerning his
outward movements, his superficial self? He was aloof from her
spiritually; beside this, his material separation from her was
insignificant. The children--a girl of seven and a boy of nearly
four--were no bonds of union. The elder, christened Clara, after
Rosina’s aunt, was sharp and lively enough, but given to passionate
sulking; the younger--called after his grandfather, David--was a
lymphatic, colorless youngster, sickly and rather slow-witted, with
something of Billy’s pathos in his large gray eyes. Their father had
tried hard to love them, as he had tried to love their mother, and had
taken a certain proprietary interest in their infantile graces, and in
the engaging ways of early childhood, but the claims of his Art left
them in the mother’s hands, and the older they grew the less he grew to
feel them his. Neither Clara nor David had as yet displayed any
scintilla of artistic instinct. When he went home he usually had
something for them in his pocket, as he would have had for the children
of an acquaintance, but they gave him no parental thrill.



The studio bell had tinkled so often that afternoon that Mr. Matthew
Strang refused to budge from the comfortable arm-chair in which he sat
smoking his cigarette and reading the _Nineteenth Century_ after the
labors of the day. The model had sipped her tea, taken her silver, and
was gone to resume her well-earned place among the clothed classes, and
the hard-working artist was in no mood to open his door to the latest

Probably it was only another model to inquire if he had any work, or to
apprise him of a change of address or of wardrobe; or else it was a
_soi-disant_ decayed artist, who had tramped all the way from
Camberwell, ignorant that his old patron had moved from the studio a
year ago; or mayhap it was a child. He had been much worried by children
lately, since he had picked up a couple in the gutter and placed them on
the “throne.” The dingy court where the fortunate twain resided had been
agitated from attic to cellar; the entire juvenile population had pulled
his bell in quest of easy riches; mothers had quarrelled with one
another over the chances of their young ones; the whole court had been
torn with intestine war.


The person had rung again, more ferociously. Ah, it must be that
interminable Mrs. Filbert back again. Well, let her ring on, the old
jade. Rather an hour of tintinnabulation than ten minutes of her tongue.
Had his man been in, he might himself have been “out,” but he could
scarcely appear at the door and deny himself. Her shrill falsetto voice
resurged in the ear of memory, offering nude photos from Paris at
exorbitant prices, or lists of models full of inaccurate addresses, or
rare costumes, most of which could be picked up at any old clo’ shop. He
smiled, recalling one of these costumes--something like a fishing-net
with holes about an inch across. “This is Greek, and shows the figure.”
Certainly it showed the figure, he thought, smiling more broadly. And
now he remembered--she had threatened to bring her younger sister. “And
I have also a little sister. I don’t know if you paint pretty girls,”
here his memory inserted a giggle. “She sits for modern dress or the
head. Not for the figure. Of course she doesn’t mind a light costume,
something diaphanous. Though I’m not quite sure she has any time left.
She is always with Mr. Rapper, who does those pastels for the Goupil Art
Gallery. He is so very sweet to her. She goes to the theatre and dines
with him. I sit myself sometimes, though you mightn’t think so”
(giggle). “So of course she can’t sit in the evening, in case you want
her for black and white.” (“Just like a woman,” he reflected, cynically,
“too careless to take the trouble to discover that I am far too eminent
for black and white.”) “I know I’m dressed carelessly just now, I really
must be more careful” (giggle). “I have an Empire gown to sit in, very
sweet. I will bring it you to look at.”


Yes, it was the sweet Empire gown she was bringing him if it was not her
sweeter sister. His experienced eye foresaw the Empire gown--something
cut by herself out of muslin, with an old yellow silk sash. He let the
last vibration of the bell-wire die away; the creature would know now he
was not in. The smoke curled in a blue-gray cloud about his head, as,
looking up from the page of the magazine, he gazed dreamily at his
half-finished picture, standing on the easel at the other extremity of
the great luxurious room, where the westering sun of June sent down a
flood of light that brightened the gleam of the gold frames of hanging
pictures, touched up rough sketches and preliminary studies standing
about, and lay in a splash of brilliancy among the sheets of music and
the dainty volumes of poetry and _belles-lettres_ on the grand piano.
Suddenly, as his gaze rested with a suspicion of wistfulness on this
doubly artistic interior, in which the pictures were only pleasant spots
of color in a larger harmony, a harmony of rugs and flowers and tapestry
and picturesque properties and bric-à-brac, there shot up in his mind an
image of an ancient episode. He saw himself, a shy, homely figure,
standing in despairing bitterness on the threshold of an elegant
studio--though not so elegant nor so commodious as this--the studio of
the brilliant cousin whose life had intersected his own so many years
ago. His face changed, a sad smile hovered about the corners of his
mouth. Perhaps some unhappy young man was now outside his own less
hospitable door, growing hopeless as the echoes alone answered him. He
started up hastily, and hurrying into the passage drew back the handle
of the door. A slim, fashionably attired gentleman, who was just walking
off down the gravel pathway, turned, hearing the sound of the open door,
his handsome, clean-shaven, bronzed face radiating joyous amusement.

“You duffer!” he exclaimed.

The famous painter turned pale. His cigarette fell from his mouth, so
startled was he. That he should have just been thinking of Herbert
Strang seemed almost supernatural. But the nervous feeling was submerged
in a wave of happiness; to have Herbert again was an incredible bliss.
How lucky he had opened the door!

“Herbert!” he cried, seizing his cousin’s delicately gloved hands with
an affectionate impulsiveness worthy of Herbert’s mother.

Herbert surveyed him roguishly. “You’re a nice old pal to make me ring
three times. What’s going on inside?”

“Nothing at all,” laughed the painter, in effusive happiness. “Only tea,
and that’s cold. But come in.”

“You’re sure I’m not disturbing you,” said Herbert, mischievously.

“No, I’m all by myself.”

“It must be awfully convenient to have a back door,” murmured Herbert.

The painter shook his head. “You haven’t changed one bit,” he said, in
laughing reproach, as they moved within.

“Oh, but you have,” said Herbert, pausing in the doorway to take him by
the shoulders, and looking affectionately into his face. “Why, there’s
quite a dash of gray in your hair. You must have been killing yourself
with work.”

And, indeed, there were lines of premature age on the handsome face,
too, though the rather tall, sturdy figure was still alert and unbent.
The dark eyes had lost something of their old softness, the light of
dream was rarer in them, but the little tangle of locks on his forehead
still co-operated with the dark brown mustache and the smoothness of the
firm chin to suggest the artist behind the practical man of the world.

“You forget I’m getting old,” he replied, only half jocosely.

“What nonsense! Why, I’m several years older than you.”

“No, are you?”

“Of course I am. Don’t you remember I was your senior, instructing you
in the ways of this wicked world?”

“Well, you’re still looking a boy, anyhow,” said Mr. Strang.

“That’s what I want to look,” said Herbert, laughing. “It makes pretty
women pet you and hold your hand. Why, in Italy I was the envy of all
the cavaliers. _Per Dio_, this is a change!” he exclaimed, as he entered
the fashionable studio. “Do you remember the time you came to me and
wanted to borrow tenpence, or something? Ha, ha, ha! Not that I’m
surprised, old boy, not a bit. I’ve heard your name come up quite half a
dozen times in the few days I’ve been back in stony old London. No,
thanks, I’ll sit on the couch. It’s cooler there. And I won’t have any
cold tea in this frightfully hot weather. I’m still faithful to
soda-and-whiskey, if you’ve got any.”

“Lots,” said Mr. Strang. “A cigar?”

“Not before dinner, thanks. I don’t mind a cigarette. But I’m not
interrupting your work?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, old fellow. The idea of my turning you away!”

“Well, considering you nearly did it! But you’re a celebrity now. Your
time’s valuable.”

“Oh, but I’ve struck work for to-day.”

“What, with all this light left? This is indeed a change from the
tenpenny days.”

“Yes, I suppose one gets tired,” the painter sighed. “Do you like
Turkish or Egyptians?”

“In cigarettes Turkish, in women Egyptians,” he answered, laconically.
“But what a joke to find you tired of painting! You’re beginning to feel
like I felt, eh? That it’s one demnition grind. And I’m tired of
travelling, and wouldn’t mind doing a little painting now, ha, ha, ha!
How funnily things do turn out, to be sure. Why, you’ve changed inside
almost as much as outside,” he said, looking up languidly into his
host’s face, as he selected a cigarette from the box. “I wonder if I
should have recognized you if I had met you in the streets instead of
tracking the lion to his own den. I shouldn’t have thought half a dozen
years would have made such a difference.”

“Half a dozen years! It’s nearer ten since we met.”

“Nearer ten? Is it possible? Let me see. It must be quite seven years
since the governor died, poor old chap. We haven’t met since then, have

“No,” said the painter.

“No, of course; I’ve been careering about the world ever since. You know
he died in Egypt?”

“No, I didn’t know that,” said Mr. Strang. “I only heard of his death
from the dealer who took over the connection.”

“Yes, he had to go there pretty sharp for his lungs, and I was compelled
to leave Paris in my second year to go with him and the mater. But he
died happy. That blessed gold medal of mine made him sure the name of
Strang would be immortal in the history of Art. I always said there was
a certain pathos about the poor old gentleman. But perhaps his assurance
wasn’t so wrong after all, because _you_ are going to make the name
glorious, aren’t you, you lucky beggar! And his own name, too; which
ought to make him happy, even in heaven.”

The great man smiled sadly, but he only said, “And your mother--how is
she? I’ve often wished to see her again.”

“Oh, she’s living now at Lyons with some distant relatives of hers. Of
course, she soon tired of gadding about with me. She sent me a cutting
about you once from a French paper. So you see how your fame has spread!
I’ve often been meaning to write to you, but you know how it is, always
moving about, and I always intended to look you up when I came to
London. I was here two years ago on a flying visit, but some paper said
you were in Rome. Yes, and I saw a colored reproduction of a picture of
yours, ‘Motherhood,’ decorating a miner’s cabin in the Rockies--the
Christmas supplement of the _Illustrated London News_, if I remember
aright. It was a mother nursing a little girl, while the kid herself
nursed a doll.”

The painter turned away and struck a match.

“And then there were a couple of years before your father died,” he
said. “The last time we met was at the Students’ Club in Seven Dials on
Gold Medal Night.”

“Yes, by Jove, you’re right,” said Herbert, thoughtfully. “If I didn’t
wish to avoid a platitude I should say that time flies. It’s been a
jolly good time, though, for me, with nothing to do except spend the
poor old governor’s savings, and a jolly big hole I’ve knocked in them,
too. And _you_ haven’t come out of it so badly, eh? That’s a stunning
thing of yours in the Academy. Aren’t you glad I made you promise to
send a picture to it in those tenpenny times? I’ve just come from there.
Got your address from the catalogue. I congratulate you heartily. It’s
not the sort of thing I expected from you; but it’s well put in, and I
suppose it pays. It is astonishing,” he went on, after pausing to sip
from his glass, “how paltry English art looks to me after all these
years and seeing everything everywhere. The picture of the year is
exactly like the lid of a bon-bon box. There aren’t half a dozen things
in to-day’s show that I’d care to look at again. _You’re_ in the
running, don’t look so glum, ha, ha, ha! Frankly, old man, your ‘Triumph
of Bacchus’ is jolly good work. You know I never cared much for subject,
but the modelling is A 1, and that sunlight effect is ripping! And what
a crowd there was before it! Phew! I nearly got suffocated trying to see
it, and I had to retire to the Architectural Room to cool. I don’t like
Cornpepper’s picture one bit, though he _is_ an A.R.A.”

“You mean _because_ he is,” said Matthew Strang, with melancholy

“No, nothing of the kind; that rather prejudices me in his favor. You
mustn’t forget I prophesied it. You don’t mean to say you admire his
‘Ariadne in Naxos’? ‘Poached lady on greens,’ I marked it in my
catalogue. Do laugh! You look as dull and faded as an Old Master. I
think I shall have to restore you. Here, have some whiskey yourself.
You’re damned unsociable.”

“I rarely drink,” the host said, feebly.

“You used to drink my whiskey,” Herbert reminded him, and as he poured
himself out a little in deference to his brilliant cousin, he thought
how queerly things had inverted themselves.

“The Triumph of Bacchus,” said Herbert, laughing. “Now I’ve put in the
good spirit, I’ll exorcise the bad, as David did to Saul.” And crossing
over to the piano he played a lively air.

“I picked up that from a Spanish gypsy,” he said. “Not George Eliot’s.
But I’m sinking to puns. It’s the English climate. You’ve got no wit
here, and there isn’t even a word for _esprit_. Let’s examine your
pictures. Ha! Hum! I see you’ve got quite a number on your hands. I
suppose they must be the good ones. Ah! What do you call that thing--the
lady in blue and the harp?”

“‘Ideal Womanhood,’” answered the painter, adding, hastily: “It’s just
been returned from Australia. I lent it to an international exhibition.
They beguiled me with the prospect it would be bought by the

“Ideal moonshine, I should call it,” laughed Herbert. “There never was
such moonlight on sea or land. And does the ideal woman play the harp on
snowy mountain-tops at midnight without a chaperon?”

“It’s supposed to be symbolic, you know, of her inspiring man to nobler
heights,” explained the artist, with an embarrassed air.

He wondered vaguely what had become of that beautiful woman--what was
her name?--whose casual words at a garden-party had driven him back for
a time into what he thought was the true path of his Art.

“Dear me. There’s quite a mystic feeling about it. Isn’t that the right
phrase? Do you know, I’m seriously thinking of becoming an art critic.
Yes, really! As I told you, I’ve had my fill of travelling, and now I’m
going to try and settle down here, and I rather like getting a
reputation for something or other. It makes real woman more interested
in one. The only thing I’m afraid of is, I know too much about the
subject, and have actually handled the brush. I’m going to paint, too,
but I’ve neglected to keep my hand in, so I’ve not much hopes of that.
Unless I came out as a stylist, who sees the world as he fails to paint
it. You’ve got several new men like that, I hear. There’s money in
myopia and diseases of the eye generally. And _per Dio_! how photography
has come along since I was one of the pioneers of its use in art!”

Matthew Strang shrugged his shoulders.

“What does it matter?” he said, wearily. “The whole thing’s a farce.”

“Here, I say, must I play another gypsy dance? I came here expecting to
find you a harmony in gold, and lo! you’re a discord in the blues.
What’s the matter with you? You’re jealous of Cornpepper. How is it they
haven’t made you an A.R.A. yet? Don’t you go out enough?”

The painter’s lips essayed a melancholy smile.

“I go out all I want to.”

“There are enough cards stuck over your mantel.”

“Yes, I have to go out a good deal in the season. It doesn’t pay to
offend patrons.”

“Or Ideal Womanhood. I reckon you’ll be making a fine marriage one of
these days when you’re an A.R.A., as you must be. Lady Bettina Modish,
or something of that sort, eh?”

“Won’t you have another cigarette?” said the painter, jerkily.

“Thanks. Oh, by-the-way, ha, ha, ha! What’s become of that woman, you

“What woman?”

“Real womanhood. The woman you were living with in Paris. Ha, ha, ha!
You didn’t think I knew that. But I met Cornpepper there on my return
from Egypt, and he told me he’d seen you going about with her. How we
laughed over our Methodist parson, who wanted art to be moral! What’s
the matter?”

The painter’s face had grown white and agitated.

“I’m sorry if I’ve said anything to annoy you,” Herbert protested.
“Perhaps I oughtn’t to have given Cornpepper away. But the affair is so
ancient. I didn’t know you’d mind a reference to it now.”

“The woman I was living with in Paris,” said Matthew Strang, hoarsely,
“was my wife.”

“Non--sense,” said Herbert, in low, long-drawn incredulity. But his
cousin’s face was only too convincing.

“She’s not alive now?” he asked.

The painter nodded his head hopelessly.

Herbert sprang to his feet.

“Good God!” he said. “You don’t mean to say you were such an ass as to
marry! No wonder you’re in the blues.”

Matthew Strang was silent. There was a painful pause.

“But you’ve kept it pretty dark,” Herbert said, at last. “Everybody
seems to look upon you as a bachelor.”

“I know,” replied the painter. “I’ve always lived a lonely life, and I
don’t speak about my affairs.”

“I’m sorry I touched upon them, then.”

“No. I can talk with _you_.”

“Thanks, old man.” And Herbert took his friend’s hand and pressed it
sympathetically. “You’re not living with her, anyhow, and that’s

“Oh, but I _am_ living with her--at least, I go home sometimes. It’s not
quite my fault--it’s grown up gradually. She lives in Camden Town.”


“Oh no! There’s Billy--that’s my young brother--to keep her company. And
then there’s the children.”

“What! kids as well?”

“Only two.”

Herbert looked glum. “I suppose she’s an impossible person,” he said.

“Do you mean to live with?”

“No, to be seen with.”

“We’ve never been out together in London,” replied the painter, simply.
“We drifted apart before I was asked out. Oh, but it’s no use going into
it--it’s all too sordid.”

“Poor chap!” said Herbert. “Well, you may rely on my respecting your
confidence. I suppose it _is_ a secret?”

“It seems to be. I make none of it, except negatively. You will find
Mrs. Strang in the directory as a householder in Camden Town; she took
the house, as it happened. She has a little money of her own.”

Herbert smiled sadly. “That’s what I always say. The safest secret in
the world is the open secret. If you had hidden her away in Patagonia,
or tried to put her into a lunatic asylum, it would have been the talk
of the town. As you simply let her live quietly in the heart of London,
nobody’s provoked into inquisitiveness, and if anybody knows--as no
doubt an odd person does here and there--he doesn’t tell anybody else
because he doesn’t know it’s a secret. I shouldn’t be surprised to hear
the marriage was duly advertised in the first column of the _Times_.”

Mr. Matthew Strang’s smile faintly reflected his cousin’s. “No, we were
married in Nova Scotia,” he replied. “But what are you doing to-night?”

“How improbable life is,” mused Herbert. “Only yesterday I heard that
Jackson, the Cabinet Minister, has been secretly married these last
twenty years. What am I doing to-night? Oh, nothing particular. I
thought of dropping into a music-hall. I can’t stand the English
theatre. It’s so unintellectual.”

“Well, why not dine with me at the Limners’?”

“Sure you haven’t got any other engagement?” And Herbert peered
curiously at the large chalked-over engagement slate hung on the wall.

“Oh, I said I would dine _en famille_ at Lady Conisbrooke’s, but I can
easily send a wire. As it isn’t a formal dinner-party, and as I’m rather
a privileged person with her, I dare say she’ll forgive me.”

“It’s awfully naughty of you,” said Herbert. “But then, there, you’re a
genius! And it _would_ be jolly to dine together as in the days of auld
lang syne. I’ve got an awful lot to yarn about, and so have you. I’ll
rush to my rooms and dress.”

“Oh, why bother to dress? Though _I_ must, if you don’t mind. I’ve got
to go on to one or two places. If you don’t mind waiting a few minutes
while I wash my brushes and put on my war-paint, we can go at once.
Unless you’re too fashionable to dine prematurely.”

“No, but I think I’d rather dress. It’s cooler in this frightful
weather. Shall I come back or meet you at the club?”

“As you like.”

“Well, you go on to the club, and I’ll be there just as quick as I can.
Oh, by-the-way, write out that wire, and I’ll send it for you.”

“Thanks; perhaps you had better, though I expect my man back in a few
minutes. He’s seeing about the delivery of a picture to the London
agents of the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition.”

When Herbert was gone Matthew Strang did not at once mount to his
dressing-room. The advent of this visitor from the past had stirred up
all its muddy depths, and the knowledge that he had a little time to
spare kept him brooding over it all, recalling the episodes of their
_camaraderie_; and blended with them, as faded scents with old letters,
he caught faint, elusive whiffs of that freshness of feeling and
aspiration which had impregnated them in those dear, divine days of
youth, when even his darkest hours were tinged with a rose-light of
dawn. Never again would he feel that glow, that fervor, those strange
stirrings of romance, that delicious sadness sweeter than all mirth,
when a perfect blue day could bring tears to the eyes, and the
melancholy patter of rain at twilight was like a dying fall of music,
and something strange and far away subtly interfused itself with the
loveliness of nature, with flowers and sunsets and summer nights, a
haunting grace, intangible, inexpressible, hinting somehow of divine
archetypes of beauty in some celestial universe.

No; even his spasmodic strivings to escape from the rut of false Art
were becoming fewer and farther between. Perhaps he was not a genius,
after all, he had begun to think. Why should he vex himself? That
sentiment of Constable at which he had winced when he first came across
it, “People may say what they like of my art, what I know is that it is
_my_ art,” was losing its power to sting. The stirrings of his astral
self were subsiding. He felt himself hardening steadily into a mere
unit of the Club world of tired and successful men, who, having blunted
their emotions by heavy feeding of all their appetites, could no longer
feel the primal things, taking even their vices with the joyless
sobriety of virtue. And though he himself was temperate enough and had
not been unfaithful to Rosina, but only to the spirit of the marriage
contract, yet this same drought of feeling, this furred tongue of the
emotional being, was becoming unpleasantly familiar.

As he sat now moodily reviewing the situation he burst into a spasmodic,
bitter laugh. It had struck him for the first time that his life had
come to be not unlike his father’s--a life apart from his wife’s, with a
rare stay under the domestic roof, the wife the more amiable for his
absences. A sudden intuition seemed a flash-light on his father’s past.
He felt drawn to the dead sailor with a new sympathy. He rose in
agitation, extending his arms towards a visionary form.

“Father, father!” he cried aloud. “Did you suffer like me?”

“Did you call, sir?” And Claydon, his man-servant, who had come in
quietly through the back door, descended from the bedroom, where he had
been laying out his master’s things.

“Yes,” said his master. “Is my shaving-water ready? I’m going out a
little earlier than usual.”

“Yes, sir.” And the painter, recalled to reality, hastened to perform
his toilet. But his mind still ran in the grooves of the past, remote
from all the new interests and distractions of a brilliant career.

When he sprang from the hansom and walked through the door of the
Limners’ Club, he remembered that this was the very club he had come to
on his first day in London--nay, that the gray-headed, deferential
door-keeper was the very man whose majesty had chilled him. He wondered
now whether the old fellow ever connected the popular painter with the
homely, diffident youth who had inquired for Mr. Matthew Strang.

“Gentleman waiting for you, sir.”

Curious! Now it was Herbert that was waiting for Mr. Matthew Strang.

But the thought of the whirligig of time gave him no pleasure. In his
early struggles in London, when no one would buy his work, he had
gloated in anticipation over the humility of the dealers when he should
have made his position; now he had long since forgotten and forgiven
their contempt; how could they know he was worth taking up? There was
nothing but the palest shadow of satisfaction in the thought that they
would scour London in search of those despised pictures if they only
knew. He wondered sometimes if those early things of his would ever come
up into the light, whether the daughter of his ancient landlady still
treasured her mother’s wedding-present, and what had become of “The
Paradise of the Birds.”

A bluff graybeard in the hall shook his hand heartily. It was
Erle-Smith. Matthew Strang knew now that Erle-Smith, whom he had
imagined to pass his days encamped before the beatific vision, was a
jolly good fellow with sheaves of amusing anecdotes. But he remembered
the first time Erle-Smith had spoken to him--at a City banquet in the
beginnings of his fame.

“We oldsters will have to be looking to our laurels,” he had said,
placing his hand on the young man’s shoulder. After the banquet
Erle-Smith had given him a lift in his open carriage, and as they rolled
through the busy, flashing London night a voice in Matt’s breast kept
crying out, “This is Erle-Smith! Look! This is the great Erle-Smith I am
driving with. Why don’t you look, you stupid multitudes? Do you not know
this is Erle-Smith--Erle-Smith himself?” Oh, why did not some of the
people who knew Matthew Strang come along and see him driving with
Erle-Smith? Perhaps they did--there must surely be one acquaintance, at
least, among all those crowds, and he would tell the others. He had
scarcely been able to reply rationally to Erle-Smith’s conversation, so
intoxicated was he by the great man’s proximity. And now he himself was
a popular celebrity--shown with the finger--on the eve of Academic
honors; had he not, of all the younger men among the guests, been called
upon (with disconcerting unexpectedness) to respond to a toast at the
Academy Greenwich Dinner only last month? Was he not already on the
Council of minor artistic societies? Yes; doubtless he himself was
already the cause of like foolish flutterings in the breasts of youthful
hero-worshippers--he whose heart could no longer flutter, not even when
the youthful hero-worshipper was a woman and beautiful.

He dined with Herbert at a little table. His burst of communicativeness
had exhausted itself, and he was glad to let the returned traveller do
the bulk of the talking as well as of the dining. He himself ate little,
though the cuisine was excellent, and the cellar took high rank. Over
dinner Herbert bubbled over in endless reminiscences of the rare dishes
and vintages he had consumed, the operas and symphonies he had heard,
the women who had loved him--a veritable rhapsody of wine, woman, and
song. In an access of unmalicious bitterness, like that which had
overcome him on the threshold of Herbert’s studio, Matthew Strang felt
that Herbert was the real Master--the Master of life.

In the smoking-room other men gathered round. There was Grose, whose
colossal canvases were exhibited at a shilling a head with explanatory
pamphlets by high ecclesiastical authorities, and there was Thornbury,
who succeeded him in the same gallery with colossal nudes that needed no
explanation from ecclesiastical authorities.

Matthew introduced Herbert to Trapp, the realistic novelist, and Herbert
introduced Matthew to Sir Frederick Boyd, the composer, who related with
gusto a story of how he had exposed a cheat at Monte Carlo. A Scotch
landscape-painter asked Matthew to recommend him a model. Two Associates
joined the group. One was a vigorous painter who painted everything _à
premier coup_, the other was Cornpepper, externally unchanged, save for
a round beard.

He had long since cut himself adrift from the Azure Art Club, though he
still counted his disciples, whose experimental fumblings in development
of his methods he boasted of observing in sapient passivity. “Try it on
the dog,” he used to chuckle to his familiars. “I’ve done searching--let
my imitators search, and risk the bogs and the blind-alleys. If they do
strike a path, I’m on the spot instantly to lead them along it. That’s
the only way one can learn from one’s followers.” He used to tell with
glee how one of them had ruined a picture by putting it out in the rain
to mellow it. “Some of those modern


stylists who are trying to discount Old Mastership will survive their
pictures,” was Cornpepper’s commentary on a phase of the newer art.
“They will leave masterpieces of invisibility.”

A good many changes had taken place in the Art world since Matthew
Strang had first had the felicity of drinking whiskey in Cornpepper’s
studio. The flowing tide was now with the decorative artists, of whom
the “Mack” of that evening had proved a pioneer; the Fishtown school of
photographic realism had lived long enough to be orthodox; the Azure Art
Club itself was half absorbed by the Academy, and a new formula of
revolt was momently expected on the horizon; some said it was to be
Primitive, others mysteriously whispered “spots”; to-night Herbert, with
mock seriousness, announced that he himself was about to lead a
movement, the originality of which consisted in seeing Nature through
stained glass. What weird magic a landscape gained when observed through
a green or pink window! But he found the men not so willing to talk of
principles as in the days of Cornpepper’s Bohemian parties, when Carrie
with the whiskey bottle stood for the sober club attendant with his tray
of liqueur brandies. The conversation was rigidly concrete, except for a
moment when Cornpepper nearly came to hot words with the photographic
painter who insisted that Nature was always beautiful. The little man,
glaring through his monocle and rasping the plush arm-chair with his
nails, insisted that this was sheer cant, one had only to look in the
glass to see how ugly Nature could sometimes be! Selection was the only
excuse for Art. Random transcripts from Nature were as foolish as the
excesses of the Neo-Japanese school, into which the Azure Art Gallery
had degenerated. But this lapse of Cornpepper’s into his early manner
was brief. Recovering himself, he told a malicious anecdote about an
artist who was taking to etching because his eyesight was failing, and
he explained the domesticity of British Art by the objection of artists’
wives to all models except babies. Everybody knew, he said, why
Carruthers had been driven to landscape and Christmas supplements.
“Depend upon it,” dogmatized the little man with his most owlish air of
wisdom, “the man who marries his model is lost. She will never tolerate
a model on the premises again.”

His fellow-Associate told a story of a stock-broker who had got himself
invited to the Greenwich dinner last year, and had asked Erle-Smith to
give him the sketch of passing barges which the great man had pencilled
on his sketch-book after dinner. “Erle-Smith good-naturedly gave it to
him. This year he was there again, and said with proud respect to
Erle-Smith, ‘I’ve still got that sketch.’ And produced it _crumpled up_
from his waistcoat pocket!”

“Yes, but did you hear Vanbrugh’s _mot_?” asked Trapp. “He said,
‘Naturally; being a financier he doubled it.’”

“Why, I said that!” cried Cornpepper, angrily.

“No doubt,” said Herbert. “It’s a well-known chestnut.”

“Then I pulled it out of the fire,” screamed Cornpepper.

Somebody exhibited another sketch, grotesquely indecorous, by a popular
painter of religious masterpieces, and the latest epigram on the divorce
case of the hour was repeated and enjoyed. But Matthew Strang’s laughter
held no merriment.

“Shall you be at the Academy _soirée_?” he asked Trapp, to turn the

“No, I don’t care for crowds,” replied the realistic novelist.

The conversation rambled on. The composer drifted away, and a
full-fledged Academician took his place--an elderly, dandified figure
with a languid drawl, an aristocratic manner caught from his sitters,
and a shoulder-shrugging contempt for Continental Art; in despite of
which Matthew Strang protested mildly against the bad hanging at
Burlington House of a portrait by an eminent Frenchman. Cornpepper
talked of a sale at Christie’s at which most of the pictures had fetched
lower prices than was given for them by their last owners.

“It’s all a spec’,” said Herbert; “there’s no such thing as a fixed
value in a work of art. Everything depends on the artist’s pose. The
more the buyer gives for a picture the more he likes it. It’s a game of
brag. Set up a fine establishment--the dealer will pay. My old governor
was a good deal taken in by pretentious humbugs with pals in the press.”
As the Academician’s own establishment was notoriously finer than his
pictures--a fact of which the wandering Herbert was ignorant--Matthew
Strang hastened to speak of Tarmigan, who had been recalled to memory
by the catalogue of the aforesaid sale. “I’m afraid he’s gone under,
poor fellow,” he said. “I’ve tried to come across him, but he was always
a mysterious person.”

But Cornpepper continued to talk of the sale, of the fluctuations of
prices; of the impoverished condition of the market, so menacing to
young artists who had set up fashionable establishments on the strength
of their first sales; of the potentialities of America, that yet
undiscovered continent, till all the tide of secret bitterness welled up
in a flood from the depths of Matthew Strang’s soul. Money! Money!
Money! He had never really escaped from it. What a mirage Art was! Even
success only brought the same preoccupations with prices, it was all the
old sordidness over again on a higher plane. The ring of the gold was
the eternal undertone, bringing discord into every harmony. With a
public ignorant of what Art meant, conceiving it as something rigid like
science, not as the expression of the temperament, technique, and vision
of individual genius; with a public craving for pictorial platitudes;
Art could not be, and was not, produced, save by a martyr here and
there. Everywhere the counting of pieces and the shuffling of
bank-notes! The complacent Academician irritated him; he was tired of
reading of his marble halls, the vassals and serfs at his side, his
garden parties, his Belgravian palace erected on the ruins of a
forgotten bankruptcy. The fumes of expensive wines and cigars gave him a
momentary vertigo.

“For God’s sake, stop talking shop!” he burst out suddenly.

The astonished Cornpepper let his eye-glass fall.

“Have you gone crazy, Strang?” he asked, witheringly. “What do you join
an artists’ club for, if you don’t want to talk shop? Strikes me you’d
better get yourself put up for the Commercial Travellers’ Union.”

“That’s what we are,” retorted Matthew Strang.

The Scotch landscape-painter pacified them by proposing a game of
“shell-out,” and Herbert eagerly seconding the proposal it was carried
_nem. con._, and the group mounted to the billiard-room, where Matthew
Strang won half a crown before he went off to his nocturnal parties,
leaving his cousin still renewing with zest his olden experience of the
lighter side of British Art.



As a matter of habit Mr. Matthew Strang went, some weeks later, to the
Academy Soirée to add his handshake to the many suffered by the
presidential image of patience at the top of the stairs, and to help
appease the insatiable appetite of the crowd of Christians to whom lions
are thrown. It was part of his success to move through fluttering
drawing-rooms, and it imbittered him to feel that the average admirer
conceives the artist as living in a world of beautiful dreams, sweet
with the incense of perpetually swung censers, and knows nothing of the
artist’s agonies, or the craftsman’s sweatings, that go to the making of
beautiful things; sees always the completed design, and never the
workman scraping the paint or wetting the back of the canvas or tossing
sleeplessly under the weight of a ruined picture.

To-night, in the restless dissatisfaction that had grown upon him since
the reappearance of Herbert had undammed a flood of ancient memories,
this feeling possessed him more strongly than ever, inspiring a morbid
resentment of the chattering crew divided between hero-worship and
champagne-cup. There was almost a suspicion of a leonine snarl in the
stereotyped answer, “You are very kind to say so,” which he gave to the
grimacing persons who buttonholed him to bask in the radiance of his
success or to effuse honest admiration. Everybody seemed to him
ill-dressed, ill-mannered, and in ill-health. He thought he had never
seen so many cadaverous complexions, snag teeth, powder-tipped noses,
scraggy shoulders, glazed eyes (with pince-nez, monocle, or spectacles),
ungainly figures (squat or slim), queer costumes, bald heads, or
top-heavy hair-dressings; how horrible gentlefolk were, more uncouth
even than the denizens of the slums! Those one could imagine to be a
very different breed, cleaned and properly clothed, but these had had
every chance. How poorly humanity compared with cows and horses; what a
price man had paid for soul--and without always getting it. Surely, none
but custom-blinded eyes could gaze unblinking, unsmiling, at the
grotesque show of mankind, the quaint crania, the unsightly bodies; the
crowd struck him as the inventions of a comic draughtsman in a malicious
mood, the men in black and white, the ladies in color. And, indeed,
though he was not thinking of himself, his stalwart, well-proportioned
figure and his handsome head stood out notably from a serried batch of
degenerate physiques.

“So you are determined to cut me, Mr. Strang?”

The painter started violently as the laughing syllables, sounding far
more musical than the faint far-away strains of the band in the
Sculpture Room, vibrated above the endless buzz of the crowd that hemmed
him in.

He looked up. His moody fit vanished before the radiant apparition of a
beautiful woman in a shimmering amber gown from which her shoulders rose
dazzling. A jewelled butterfly fluttered at her breast. In the twinkling
of an eye--and that eye hers--he recanted his contempt for the Creator’s

“I have bowed to you three times,” she said, and the twinkling of her
eye--large and gray and lambent--was supplemented by the smile that
hovered about the corners of her wide sweet mouth. “But you won’t take
any notice of me.”

“I beg your pardon,” he said, in flushed embarrassment, “I must have
been lost in thought.”

She shook her head bewitchingly.

“You don’t remember me. Celebrities never do remember people, though
people always remember celebrities.”

“I do remember you,” he protested, chords of memory vibrating
tremulously and melodiously. “I had the pleasure of meeting you at a
garden-party some years ago.”

“But you don’t remember my name?”

“I don’t think I caught it then,” he said, simply. “But I remember you
scolded me because my pictures were only beautiful.”

She laughed gayly.

“Ah, then I ought to apologize to you. I have changed my mind.”

“Now you don’t think they’re even that!”

“Far from it! What I mean is that I have come to think less of useful
things. You know I was a Socialist then. But let me introduce my friend
to you.”

“You have to introduce yourself first, Nor,” said a younger lady whom he
then perceived at her side.

He smiled.

“You are irrepressible, Olive,” said her friend. “Mr. Strang, let me
introduce myself then--Mrs. Wyndwood.”

He bowed, still smiling.

“Eleanor Wyndwood,” she added, “to explain my friend’s abbreviation,
which always puzzles strangers.”

“Everybody knows Nor stands for Eleanor,” remonstrated her friend. “Do
they suppose your name is Norval?”

Mrs. Wyndwood’s smile met the painter’s.

“And now, if my punctilious friend is satisfied, let me introduce Miss

Miss Regan gave him her hand cordially.

“Where are your pictures to be found, Mr. Strang?” she asked. “We
haven’t been to the Academy before, and we should so like to save the

“Oh, they’re not worth looking at,” he said, uncomfortably. He suddenly
felt ashamed of them. It was thus that he had felt more than two years
ago, when, over her strawberries and cream, Mrs. Wyndwood had lectured
him for artistic aloofness from the travail of the time, insisting that
it was the mission of all forms of Art to express the aspiration of the
century towards a higher and juster social life, towards the coming of
God’s kingdom on earth, and that it would be honester for him to plough
the land than to paint decorative pictures for the dining-rooms of
capitalists. He had scarcely taken in her point of view, more persuaded
by her presence than by her words, by some intangible radiation of
earnestness and goodness from the lovely face and the soulful gray
eyes, and less ashamed of the sinfulness of his own artistic standpoint
than of the often meretricious quality of his performance. She had been
the first woman to speak slightingly of his rôle in the world, and her
dispraise, co-operating, as it did, with his own discontent, had
impressed him more than all the praise, just as one unfavorable
newspaper critique rankled, while a hundred eulogies passed across
consciousness, scarcely ruffling its waves.

When the flux of the garden-party had drifted her off in the wake of
Gerard Brode, the handsome young Socialist, he had felt that he, too,
might have become a Socialist or a ploughboy, or even an honest painter,
under the inspiration of her enthusiastic eyes. He had thought of her
for several months, almost as a creature of dream, so swift and shadowy
had been her flitting across his horizon, and she had easily lent
herself to that conception of Ideal Womanhood which the world had not
yet destroyed, because the world had not created it. It was under the
impulsion of the eloquent play of light across her face that he had
conceived and painted that allegory of woman’s inspiration which
Herbert, unable to read in it the pathetic expression of the painter’s
dissatisfaction at once with real womanhood and his own work, had found
so amusing, and he was startled now to see how nearly he had reproduced
her traits in his conception of the figure on the mountain-top; not so
much, perhaps, in the features, in which the slight upward tilt of the
nose was omitted and the size of the ears diminished, as in the
clustering chestnut hair, with gold lights in it, and in the poise of
the head, the long, thin Botticelli hands, the small feet, and the
graceful curves of the rather tall form, and, above all, in the
expression that seemed to suffuse her face with spiritual effluence. The
first impression renewed itself in all its depth; he asked himself with
amazement how he could have let the waves of life wash it away so
completely that even Herbert’s inquiry about the picture had not
recalled her clearly to his memory.

“Oh, but I want to see your pictures,” she said. “There’s a ‘Triumph of
Bacchus,’ I hear. I saw the fresco--by Caracci, wasn’t it?--in the
Farnese Palace, in Rome, on our homeward journey. We’ve been in Russia,
Miss Regan and I, with Monsieur and Madame Dolkovitch, to see Podnieff
in his dairy-farm. Oh! he’s so charming--so simple and saintly. He
enables one to construct St. Francis of Assisi.”

“He makes very bad butter,” said Miss Regan.

“He is the greatest spiritual force in Russia,” Mrs. Wyndwood said,
sweetly. “And Dolkovitch is doing much to extend his influence in
England. I wish you knew Dolkovitch, Mr. Strang.”

“Why, would he make me do better pictures?” he asked, playfully,
struggling a little against the obsession of her sweet seriousness.

“I will reserve my opinion till I have seen your latest manner. Though I
confess I don’t find the title, ‘The Triumph of Bacchus,’ a hopeful
augury of noble work. But do tell me where it is--or must I consult the
catalogue? Miss Regan made me bring one.”

“It is in this very room.”


“Yes, it’s rather a compliment. The Academicians generally reserve the
big room--or at least the line--for their own works. But it is cruel of
you to leave me so soon.”

“How subtle, Nor,” said Miss Regan. “Of course he cannot be seen looking
at his own picture.”

“Do let us go where the crowd is thinner,” he pleaded.

“Than round your picture?” queried Miss Regan, naïvely.

“For shame, Olive,” laughed Mrs. Wyndwood. “I shall punish you by not
letting you see it. We are at your service, Mr. Strang. Show us what you

“May I not get you any refreshment?” he said, as they passed into the
smaller room, and into a perceptibly cooler atmosphere.

“No, thank you; this is refreshing enough,” said Mrs. Wyndwood, with a
sigh of relief.

“Mrs. Wyndwood means that she lives on air,” said her friend.

“Oh, Olive, I eat quite as much as you.”

“You used to before you developed this Dolkovitch phase, and began
understudying an angel.”

Matthew saw the opportunity for a commonplace compliment, but he did
not take it. The plane on which Mrs. Wyndwood existed demanded
reverential originality. Every word she said sounded magically musical,
and delightfully wise and witty. Olive’s remarks one merely smiled at,
though she, too, had a low voice, “that excellent thing in woman,” and
was considered handsome by those she did not annoy. She reminded the
painter of a Caryatid as she stood there, rather more sturdy than her
friend, and shorter, with stronger features and a firmer chin, but to
the full as graciously proportioned. She had dark hair and eyes, and a
warm coloring that reached its most vivid tint in the intense red of the
lips. Her dress was of a soft green-blue, cut high, with yellow roses at
the throat, and but for the painter’s preoccupation with her friend,
would have challenged his eye by subtle harmonies.

“There goes William Lodge, the poet,” cried Mrs. Wyndwood, suddenly.

“Impossible!” said Olive.

“But it is the poet,” insisted Mrs. Wyndwood.

“Impossible,” repeated Olive. “No man can be a poet with mutton-chop

“What has the man’s appearance to do with his poetry?”

“Everything. Mutton chops and lyrics don’t rhyme--they’re like that
woman’s emeralds against her turquoise bodice. A poet’s publisher should
keep him out of sight--he damages sales. Look at the hook-nosed creature
there with the goggles and the green gown--who would believe that is
Mrs. Ashman Watford, who writes those dainty essays, and who, realizing
it, could ever help reading her between the lines?”

“Or who,” retorted Mrs. Wyndwood, “reading the essays, could help seeing
the beautiful soul behind the goggles?”

A tremor of sympathy traversed the painter’s form.

“I stand unreproved, Nor. You can afford to be magnanimous. But I
contend that beautiful souls have no right to get mixed up with hooked
noses. We ought to judge a soul by the body it keeps. If this country
ever becomes a republic, it will be due, not to democracy, but to
photography. You will agree with me, I know, Mr. Strang.”

He started, wondering what he was called upon to agree with.

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” he quoted, vaguely.

“But you never put truly ugly persons into pictures,” Miss Regan

“No,” he admitted, “unless in portraits.”

“And not even then,” the girl retorted. “I’d far rather these portraits
came out of their frames and walked about, than promenade among the
originals as we are doing now.”

“Why, I don’t suppose there’s one original present,” Mrs. Wyndwood

“Isn’t there?” queried Olive, in innocent accents. “I thought there were
a lot, judging by the want of resemblance.”

“You are not up to date,” said Matthew Strang, smilingly. “Likeness is
the last thing a portrait-painter goes for. Values, spots, passages,
color schemes, all sorts of things take precedence of the likeness in
their importance for art. The likeness is irrelevant to art. It concerns
only the sitter--art concerns the world. A friend of mine, who edits an
illustrated paper, which is the first to publish portraits of everybody
who becomes anybody, contends that the number of persons who know any
one man’s features is a negligible quantity. ‘All the public demands,’
he says, ‘is portraits.’ So you see your criticism leaves our withers

“Oh, do produce your catalogue, Nor,” said Miss Regan, flying off at a
tangent for want of an answer. “I am dying to see the name of that
thing, stuck right up there on the ceiling.” Mrs. Wyndwood, after
protesting that nobody else was consulting a catalogue, which only made
Olive more eager, fished out the booklet from some obscure pocket, and
Olive turned the pages impatiently.

“It’s just like Miss Regan to want to look at the skied pictures,” her
friend murmured to the painter.

“Oh, the poor man!” cried Miss Regan. “Listen, this is what the picture
is called:

    “‘Sweet Love--but oh! most dread desire of Love,
      Life-thwarted. Linked in gyves I saw them stand,
      Love shackled with Vain-Longing, hand to hand:
      And one was eyed as the blue vault above:
      But hope tempestuous like a fire-cloud hove
      I’ the other’s gaze, even as in his whose wand
      Vainly all night with spell-wrought power has spann’d
      The unyielding caves of some deep treasure-trove.’

“Oh, the poor man! Fancy the indignity of having a long quotation

“What lovely lines!” exclaimed Mrs. Wyndwood, ignoring the humorous
aspect which appealed to her companion. “Do they not express the idea
perfectly, Mr. Strang?”

“I am afraid I did not quite catch their significance,” he said,
flushing. The confession was not so candid as it sounded, for he had
been less intent on the quotation than on studying the sweetness of her
face, and watching the emotional heaving of the jewelled butterfly on
her beautiful bosom.

Olive Regan politely offered him the catalogue, and his flush grew
deeper as he seemed to read his personal tragedy in the poet’s images.
What ironical Providence had sent him the words just then?

          “Oh! most dread desire of Love,

Perhaps it was that which made his life so unreal to him, which
explained its hollowness. He had never loved.

In a strange flash of imaginative insight, it seemed to him that the
room was full of lovers. Love was in the air; delicate rumors and
whispers of divine delight, of holy pain, fluttered tremulously. On all
sides couples moved, heart-bound, their beauty spiritualized, their very
ugliness transfigured. Love redeemed the creation.

He remembered that in the days when he had trodden the lonely London
pavements, hungry and heart-sick, jostled by hurrying crowds, he had yet
seemed to himself the only solid figure amid a throng of shadows
flitting to death and oblivion. In this tense instant he felt it was he
that had always been the shadow; the one shadow amid a world of
substantialities and solidities, a world that lived while he was
recording the forms and colors of life.

And even if he should ever love--and the thought set his heart
fluttering as he had imagined it could never flutter again--even if Love
should ever make existence real for him, was he not predestined to a
doom more terrible even than the apathy of loveless life?

          “Linked in gyves I saw them stand,
    Love shackled with Vain-Longing, hand to hand.”

_Mrs._ Wyndwood! She, too, was married. And in that thought he knew that
Love had begun for him. The unrest into which the first vision of her
had plunged him, and which time had stilled, had at last come to
understand itself. He loved, and his love was vain. They had come to
him, both at once--

    “Love shackled with Vain-Longing, hand to hand.”

He returned the catalogue mechanically to Miss Regan.

“They’re Rossetti’s--fine, are they not?” said Mrs. Wyndwood.

The question dragged him up from abysses of dream. But even though he
felt he must be answering it, he lingered in luxurious agony over the
music of the question, its vibrations prolonging themselves in his ear.

“They are indeed exquisite,” he said, slowly, at last. “But do you think
there would be any ‘hope tempestuous’?”

“There is always hope,” said Mrs. Wyndwood, gently.

There seemed a sweet assurance in the unconscious words: he heard a
chime of golden bells floating up from some sea-buried city. Perhaps it
was only from the band in the Sculpture Room. But he felt he must not
attach himself further to the fascinating twain; his solicitude would be
too marked, and he was aware of many eyes drawn by their beauty.

But before he could speak, Mrs. Wyndwood went on, musingly:

“And after all, hope is better than fulfilment. There are blue hills on
the horizon which the child longs to go beyond; but happiness always
lies on the hither side, with the blue hills still beckoning.” Her eyes
filled with dreamy light. “It is as George Herbert so beautifully says:

    “‘False glozing pleasures, casks of happiness,
      Foolish night-fires, women’s and children’s wishes,
      Chases in arras, gilded emptiness,
      Shadows well-mounted, dreams in a career,
      Embroider’d lies, nothing between two dishes,
         These are the pleasures here.’”

How exquisitely she spoke the melancholy lines that seemed fraught with
all the pathos of the human destiny, her words rippling through the buzz
of platitudinarian trivialities he heard vaguely all around him, like a
silver stream through an unlovely country. She had suffered too. She,
too, had found life and its pleasures hollow; he saw that in the quiver
of the beautiful lip, in the wistful brightness of the eye. Straightway
his heart was full of tears for her. He longed to comfort her, to
sacrifice himself for her. Why could she not be happy?

He had a sense of jar when Miss Regan said:

“That’s rather a strange quotation for you, Nor.”


“‘Foolish night-fires, _women’s_ and children’s wishes.’ He had a true
notion of our futility, that gentle old poet.”

“I am in no fighting mood to-night, Olive,” replied Mrs. Wyndwood,

“You don’t stand up for your sex?” the painter asked Miss Regan, in
surprise. She had that resourceful, self-sufficient air which he
associated with pioneers of female movements.

Olive shrugged her shapely shoulders. “Heaven forbid that I should be
the _advocatus diaboli_.”

The tossing of the crowd threw up a long-haired, long-bearded man with a
handsome leonine cast of features, who greeted the two ladies with an
air of _camaraderie_.

“Ah, _nous voilà encore_,” he cried, joyously, adding in good English,
though with a Russian accent, “Oh, Mrs. Wyndwood, you must see the
little picture of the Christ-child by a young follower of our
Nicolovitch. He is exiled three years already, and has established
himself on your hospitable shores. Ah, how it makes a spiritual ray
among your English platitudes! You will come too, Miss Regan?”

Olive, who had cast a droll glance towards the painter at the Russian’s
awkward allusion to British banality, shook her head. “No, thank you. I
hate children, and I am tired. You will find me here, Nor,” and she let
herself sink into a lounge.

Mrs. Wyndwood hesitated, as if about to introduce the two men, but the
leonine Dolkovitch swept her off, and she had only time to leave a
bewitching smile behind her.

“Won’t you go and see the child, Mr. Strang?” Olive asked.

He hesitated in his turn. But she would come back if he waited.

“I would rather stay with you if I may,” he replied, gallantly.

Olive looked sideways along the lounge.

“There is room,” she reported.

“Thank you.” He seated himself at her side, and stolidly regarded the
crowd and the opposite pictures.

Olive fanned herself silently at great length. The painter, stealing a
sudden glance at her, found her observing the human spectacle with an
air of infinite sadness.

“Do you like dogs?” she asked, unexpectedly.

“Yes,” he replied, startled, and with a vision of Sprat. “But I haven’t
kept one since I was a boy. But why?”

“I don’t know. That woman there made me think of them--that creature
they’re crowding round. Don’t you see that pasty-faced hag with the
false hair and the real diamonds? That’s Miss Craven St. Clair.”

“Well, what has she to do with dogs?”

“Oh, she’s a leading lady. Plays those erotic parts.”

He looked at her a little surprised by the adjective, and still

“And what then?”

“Don’t you know all leading ladies keep dogs--to get extra paragraphs? I
hope you hate leading ladies. I do. They’re so virtuous, and you know
virtue is such a feeble vice. Nor has a dog, though she’s not a leading
lady. But rather a led lady. L--E--D, you know.”

“Do you mean led by the dog?”

“Yes, whenever she’s blind and the dog is sly,” she said, mysteriously,
adding quickly, “Nor’s dog isn’t all hers--it’s mine on alternate days.
He’s such a snob, is Roy--he’ll never go out with her if she’s frumpy.
He insists on swell dresses, dear old Roy.”

“_Can_ she be frumpy?” he asked.

She flashed a quick look at him.

“No, she is very sweet and amusing,” she answered, gravely. “She is the
only woman I have ever been able to live with.”

“Do you live with her?”

“Of course--I chaperon her.”

Matthew smiled.

“What, don’t you think I’m old enough to chaperon a young widow?”

His heart leaped.

“I didn’t know she was a young widow.”

“Yes, she’s quite an old widow.”

“Have you lived together long?”

“Æons; we disagree so much.”

“In what way?”

“Our complexions go well with each other’s.”

“I should call that harmony, not disagreement.”

“Perhaps--in your technical nomenclature. But I call it disagreement.
Besides, we haven’t a thought in common. I am a--well, how shall I
define myself?” she looked up quizzingly, her fan to her lips. “I belong
to that class of women whose sex is a misfit. And she is--”

“And she is”--he repeated, in some suspense.

“She is the sort of woman who won’t renew the velvet edging on her

“Now you puzzle me.”

“It is evident you know nothing of women, or have only observed
Englishwomen who mostly put up with braid. Velvet edging, which is an
American notion, saves frayed skirts, and wears out quicker than the
stuff. Look at her gown to-night--it trails; mine fits. She retains the
infantile habit of long clothes; I am ‘growd up’ and in short frocks.”

“I didn’t notice her gown.”

“Men never do. That’s why we wear so little of them.”

He was puzzled by a curious bitterness in her tone, as well as by a
perplexity as to her exact meaning. Her own frock was certainly
prudishly high.

“I don’t quite follow your definition, anyhow,” he said.

“No? I’ll try another. There are only two classes of women--those who
ought to have been born men, and those who ought never to have been born
at all. I am of the first, Nor’s of the second.”

He shook his head laughingly.

“Oh! but I won’t believe that of either.”

“If I expected to be believed I should have more hesitation in telling
the truth,” she replied, gravely. “We are both mistakes, but Nor is an
incorrigible one. You heard her say she’s dropped Socialism. She didn’t
tell you she’s dropped a power of money, too, in subscriptions to the
Cause. She probably thought equality would come about in three months,
and that she was merely disgorging in advance.”

“Is that why she looks so sad?”

“Dear me, no; money doesn’t trouble her.”

“What’s the matter, then?”

“She’s been married.”

“You mean she grieves?”

“Quite the contrary. But marriage brands.”

“You speak bitterly--yet you have no personal experience.”

“No, I was never tempted.”

Her frank brusquerie made him feel an old acquaintance.

“I cannot believe it,” he said, with a smile.

“Oh, if you call a proposal a temptation! I call it a bare hook.”

“You’re a man-hater, I see.”

“A woman-hater, if you will. Man I adore.”

“I don’t understand you,” he confessed again.

“Really? I am a very simple person. _Omne ignotum pro magnifico._ Women
I know and detest. Men I don’t know and admire. If I married one, I
should know him.”

“But you might find him better than you expected.”

“If I didn’t expect to find him better than I expected, I shouldn’t
marry him; so I should still be disappointed. You see I know just enough
about men to know that they are better left unknown. I quite agree with
Nor about the blue hills. It is better to keep one’s illusions. At
present I am happy in the thought that somewhere in the universe there
exists a fine man. Even the average man is less petty than the average
woman, so that the one fine man must be a Bayard indeed.”

He laughed.

“Then, if _he_ came along and made you an offer of marriage--”

“I should close with it at once.”

“You are a droll girl,” he could not help saying. “You are the first of
your sex who has ever admitted to me that men are better than women.”

“Didn’t I tell you how sly we were? A man has one or two big sins, a
woman a bundle of little ones.”

“Ah, well,” he said, smiling. “Two of a trade, as a friend of mine

“Now I don’t understand you--or rather, your friend,” she said, flushing
a little.

“Oh, he’s rather brutal. He takes the Darwinian view of things, you
know. He says all women are in the same trade--man-hunting--so they run
one another down.”

“But I’m not running one another down. I’m running us down _en bloc_.
And, besides, that isn’t the Darwinian view at all. It’s the males who
always seek the females and develop the lively colors to attract them.
Don’t you remember Tennyson?--

    “‘In the spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin’s breast.’”

“Yes, but that’s only in the lower creation,” argued Matthew Strang.

“Do you make a distinction? But I am ready to agree with your
friend--since he isn’t here. We _are_ man-hunters. What a pity, though,
that civilization has so reversed the order of natural selection that
the human female has to be picked instead of picking the male. See the

“I see what you mean. Man has degenerated physically.”

“And woman morally. We adore the beauties of your purse instead of your

“And so we develop brain to get purses with. Really, the effect is not
so bad.”

“Brains are cheap to-day; and they don’t improve the appearance, anyhow.
If people wore their brains outside--but who is this brutal friend of
yours who gauges my sex so well? Do I know him?”

“I shouldn’t think so. He’s just back from strange places.”

“So am I. What’s his name?”

“Herbert--Herbert Strang.”

“A brother?”

“A cousin.”

“He’s not an artist?”

He hesitated: “Yes--and no,” he said.

“Ah, two of a trade,” she said, slyly.

He smiled. “Oh, he’s gone out of the business. He’s become a critic.”

“Wise man!”

He glanced furtively every now and then to see if Mrs. Wyndwood was
returning. He was conducting the conversation with only the untroubled
surface of his mind, interested enough in his piquant companion, but
feeling her entirely as an interlude. Miss Regan perceived his
perturbation at last.

“Oh, don’t let me monopolize you, Mr. Strang. I am quite safe here till
Nor returns. There are so many people thirsting for you.”

“Oh, I’d rather stay with you,” he averred, disingenuously.

“Don’t be a mere man,” she returned, raising her dark eyebrows. “Even
your admirers think you more than that. It’s not fair for me to keep you
from them.”

He was rather in a quandary. He could not tell her he was waiting for
her friend.

To his relief, “Ah, I see them coming,” she said. “You’ll be off duty in
a moment. I must introduce you to Dolkovitch. He’s great fun. He will
invite you to his spiritual Sunday afternoons. Do you judge people by
their hat-racks?”

He stared at her.

“I mean when they’ve got company. Dolk’s hat-rack when he’s ‘at home’ is
lovely; I’d go miles to see it. Such curious curly, dusty, many-hued,
amorphous things on the pegs--a cosmopolitan congress, only the
chimney-pot unrepresented. Nor goes to meet the earnest people, but I go
to see their hats. Oh, M. Dolkovitch, do let me introduce Mr. Strang. He
is dying to know you.”

“De-lighted,” said Dolkovitch. “But I do not like this word ‘dying,’
Miss Regan.”

“Oh, I beg your pardon--I forgot,” said Olive. “Mr. Strang is living to
know you. M. Dolkovitch, like the ancient Greeks, Mr. Strang, doesn’t
like to think of death.”

“I can’t let you misrepresent him to a stranger, Olive,” said Mrs.
Wyndwood. “M. Dolkovitch is wide as the poles asunder from Pagan
thought, Mr. Strang. His teaching simply is that, as there is no death,
but merely upward evolution, the sooner the word is banished from our
vocabulary the better.”

Her voice raised the discussion to celestial heights.

“Never say die!” cried Miss Regan, enthusiastically. “Every dictionary
should be without it.”

“Just so,” said M. Dolkovitch, gravely. “Our European customs, Mr.
Strang, with regard to death are all in direct contradiction to our
creed. The spirit rises into more blessed states, and instead of
rejoicing in festive attire, we mourn for it, we put on black, and our
looks are black, and our hearses are black, and the horses they are of
black also.”

“I think it’s very proper,” said Miss Regan, decisively. “I love black
funerals. Colored funerals would make me feel sad.” She rose. “We are
going soon, Nor, aren’t we? You look tired.”

“Yes, we are going at once,” Mrs. Wyndwood breathed.

The Russian gave the painter his card, and hoped he would come and hear
more of the new gospel. Next Sunday afternoon spiritual people came from
four to seven.

Mr. Strang made a movement to accompany the ladies, but Mrs. Wyndwood
begged him not to trouble--M. Dolkovitch would see them to the carriage.

“Good-bye, then,” she said with an enchanting smile. “It was so good of
you to talk to us.”

Words failed him in reply. Fortunately, a little white-haired gentleman
bowed to her at that moment and distracted her attention.

“That was General Dale, Olive,” she said. “What a fine, soldierly walk!”

“Varied by ducking for bullets every moment,” remarked Miss Regan. “He
oughtn’t to know so many people. Not that I admire the military bearing.
It’s so unnatural and stiff. One sees the drill behind. Even those
little wooden soldiers I never liked. Good-bye, Mr. Strang.”

“_Au revoir_, I hope,” he said. Her, at least, he could answer.

He went to the “Sunday afternoon” at five o’clock, the earliest hour one
could decently go to a reception commencing at four. In the meantime he
had reread a great deal of Shelley, who seemed to have written a great
deal about Eleanor, as she became to her lover’s secret thought, though
her full name he learned was the Honorable Mrs. Wyndwood, and she was
the daughter-in-law of a Viscount, and connected by blood or marriage
with several pages of Debrett. In the hopelessness of his love these
ties were no separation; he did not think of anything but the blissful
pain of seeing her again. He had ridden every morning in the Row, but
neither of the friends had shown herself.

The reception was held in a flat half way up a bleak stone staircase in
the West Central district. He was so agitated that he forgot to note the
hat-rack, and his first glance at the company appalled him with the
sense of a cosmopolitan chaos, without form and void, over which no
light of Mrs. Wyndwood brooded. There were mystic oil-paintings on the
walls of the narrow room, and on the gray marble mantel-piece stood a
glass of water, in which floated vaguely the white of an egg.

The host introduced him to his wife--a tall, haggard, giraffe-necked
woman--who gave him a cup of tea, and passed him on to a nervously
peering Herr Grundau, who spoke to him of the revival of religion among
the University _Burschen_, and passed him on to Mademoiselle Brinskaïa,
a little yellow Polishwoman, with eyes like live coals, who had been
speaking every European language in turn with equal fluency, as she
knitted colored wools into some occult pattern.

“I have heard your name,” she told him in English that sounded almost
native, as he seated himself next to her in the cushioned window-seat.

“It is so good of you to say so,” he murmured, automatically, not
without the astonishment which from the first had pervaded him when
strangers professed knowledge of him, and which had never quite worn
off. He thought his peculiar name accounted for his notoriety.

“You’re not a spiritual artist,” she said, half interrogatively.

“An artist can only be artistic,” he replied, in vague self-defence.

“That’s all my eye and Betty Martin,” said Mademoiselle, knitting
indefatigably. Then she smiled. “You see I know your idioms.”

A gradual silence fell among the jabbering, gesticulating crowd. All
eyes were directed alternately towards the glass on the mantel-piece and
Mademoiselle Brinskaïa.

“It is settled,” Dolkovitch declared.

The Polish old maid rose solemnly, marched towards the fireplace, and
inspected the glass curiously, noting the shape which the egg-white had

“It is a _porte-cochère_,” she announced. “That means riches.”

There was a buzz of satisfaction and a little hand-clapping, the
blinking octogenarian who had broken the egg being cheerfully
complimented on his prospects.

The sibyl did not return to Matthew Strang’s side, and the vacant niche
was taken by a stout, elderly, motherly lady, who was introduced to him
as the Countess de Villiers, and who, regardless of the fact that his
eyes perpetually wandered towards the door, published her autobiography
to him, from her babyhood in Brazil to her maturity in Gibraltar. There
could be no close to her story, she volunteered, for she could never

This drew Matthew’s attention even from the door.

“Do you mean metaphorically?” he said.

“No, literally. You could not kill me if you tried.”

“What! Not with a knife?”

“Neither with fire nor sword.”

“You know I wouldn’t try,” he said.

“If you are going to treat me facetiously I will not pursue the
subject,” she declared, the red blood mantling in her sallow cheek.

“I am quite serious,” he said, deprecatingly.

“A woman who can live without eating cannot die,” pursued the Countess,
mollified. “I was an invalid, and in my convalescence gradually worked
my way to the Truth, and by means of it I have lived fourteen weeks
without food. I worked down from five ounces a day to nothing, dropping
an ounce a day. And I didn’t lose a pound of flesh.”

“I have fasted, too,” he said, grimly. “But I never found any Truth
through it.” He reflected bitterly on the anxious competition of people
to give him food, now that he had plenty of his own. Was this the London
which he had tramped for work, famished and rebellious?

“You must be patient,” she answered, earnestly. “You must kill the man
in you; then you will have got rid of the mortal part. You will be pure
spirit, part of God. Existence is only God’s thoughts; everything good
is a God-idea, everything evil a man-idea. Jesus was the first
discoverer of the Truth, and only the man-idea in Him was crucified, the
mortal part. Only the evil part of us is mortal. I have suppressed the
man-idea in myself, therefore I cannot die.”

“But do you mean to say you will always live on?”

“Yes, though not necessarily on earth.”

“But what will happen--will you disappear?”

She frowned. “Oh, I know you are making fun of me; but I assure you many
eminent men have sat at my feet. Even Dolkovitch says I have a greater
grip of the Truth--the glorious Truth of immortality--than any other
woman in Europe, except Mademoiselle Brinskaïa and the clairvoyant
Princess Stevanovna. There is nothing miraculous. I don’t keep away from
society, I dance and paint, but throughout all I am struggling against
the bad-self.”

“What sort of things do you paint?” he asked, feeling for firmer ground.

“My vision!” she said, in rapt tones. “My assurance that the universe is
all living spirit.”

And all of a sudden a conviction came to him that she was right, that
there was no death, no room for death. Eleanor Wyndwood had arrived, and
in the light of her face the noisy, motley throng took meaning and
music. He rose eagerly, but she did not see him in his niche, and he sat
down again awkwardly. The Countess talked on, but he had forgotten even
to feign the listener. He could only see the gleam of a creamy dress in
rifts of the crowd, which thickened momently. Presently he was aware of
Miss Regan, who gave him an abrupt bow, and then crossing over to him
said, in vexed accents:

“I am very angry with you. How are you, Countess? Young as ever, I see.”

“What have I done?” inquired Matthew Strang.

“You’ve spoiled my hat-rack. There’s a chimney-pot on it. Life has so
few pleasures one can’t afford to be robbed.”

“Oh, please forgive me,” he said, half seriously.

“I sha’n’t--you’re too respectable.”

“Tell me something Bohemian, and I’ll do it,” he pleaded.

“Well, come to tea with me some five o’clock--with me and Nor, that is.”

“Is that very Bohemian?”

“No, I’m afraid not,” said Olive, glumly. Then, brightening up. “But
that’s only a beginning. And you haven’t got time to come, either. That
makes it a pleasure.”

“I shall be delighted to find time,” he said, looking his words. While
they were discussing dates, the Countess rose and stalked away.

“She looks offended,” he said.

“Poor old Countess!” said Olive, “she’s breaking up fast.”

“But she’s going to live forever.”

“I know. How sad! We came across her at Rome--the eternal lady in the
eternal city. She’s much grayer since then. Earthly immortality seems
almost as horrible as heavenly. Fancy living for ever and ever and ever.
No rest for the righteous! Oh, I do hope religion isn’t true. How’s your

“Which friend?”

“The brutal friend!”

“You’re a queer girl,” he said, laughing in spite of himself.

“That’s tautology. All girls are queer. Did you ever know a woman
absolutely sane?”

He winced a little--shadows of his mother and his wife flashed past. She
answered herself, triumphantly.

“Of course not. We’ve all got bees in our bonnets. Men haven’t even got
bonnets. Except Highlanders. And they don’t wear the breeches. I beg
pardon, I should have said ‘unmentionables’ to a member of the
chimney-potted classes. But that always seems silly. It’s like spelling
‘damn’ in books with a ‘d’ and a blank. I have a lovely private swear.
Would you like to hear it?”

He laughed assent.

“_Damakakaparatanasuta!_ The pink lady, who always forgets her bodice,
is looking shocked. She doesn’t know it’s Sanscrit, or something, and
means: ‘The foundation of the kingdom of righteousness.’ Don’t laugh, it
really does. There is a cousin of the Guicowar of Baroda over there--you
can ask him. Why, I have even got Nor to swear to swear it. It’s like
temperance champagne.”

“Ah! I’d better go over to her,” he said, snapping at the opportunity.
“Or else she’ll accuse me of cutting her again.”

He pushed a whit rudely through the teacup-balancing throng. But to his
horror he found Eleanor distributing farewells.

She smiled faintly at him, as her magnetic fingers touched his for a

“What wicked things have you been saying to Mademoiselle Brinskaïa?”

He looked at her in astonishment. “I’ve hardly said a word to her.”

She shook her head and passed towards the door. He spent some wretched
days, wondering if he had offended her, and what the little yellow woman
had been saying about him. He put the question as soon as he was seated
at the tea-table in the dainty drawing-room of the tiny Mayfair house
which the oddly assorted couple had taken for the season. Mrs. Wyndwood
would not say, but Miss Regan cried out:

“Don’t make such a mystery, Nor; you’ll make the man think he’s accused
of murder, or drinking his tea out of a saucer. The Polish priestess
says she doesn’t like your auras--_voilà tout_!”

“What are auras?” he asked, relieved and puzzled.

“The Latin for airs, of course,” laughed Olive. “It’s her mystical way
of saying you give yourself airs. Yes, you do. You’re disapproving of
our furniture now. But it’s through Nor’s objecting to furniture that
suited my complexion and vice versa. We compromised by getting furniture
in discord with both our complexions. The beautiful photos you see all
about you are mine--I mean my collection. They are actresses. I adore
beautiful women. After what you told me about the unimportance of the
likeness I shall consider them works of art. I have always thought that
actresses’ photographs are intended as a protection against the
curiosity of the public. But for them, actresses would be liable to be
recognized and mobbed in the streets. Great Heavens! I’ve forgotten the
scones.” And with this unexpected exclamation, Olive rushed out of the

“She would insist on baking scones herself,” Mrs. Wyndwood explained
with an affectionate smile.

“She is deliciously odd,” he replied, laughing.

“Do you find her so? I’ve got used to her. There’s a monotony in the
variety. Behind it all I see always this one fact--she’s the noblest
creature in the world.”

He was touched by the enthusiastic tribute, so different from Olive’s
amused estimate of her friend.

“You must find it very pleasant to live with her,” he said.

“Yes, especially after”--But she shuddered, and did not complete the
sentence. He read in her face the tragedy of an unhappy marriage. His
eyes grew moist with pity; he felt a mad, fighting passion against the
inevitable past.

“Olive is so good,” she said, brokenly, “she was of my husband’s
family--an Irish branch--but she quarrelled with them all--her father,
her sisters--and came to live with me. Fortunately she is immensely rich
in her own right, and independent of them all.”

“Done to a turn!” cried Miss Regan, rushing in with the scones. “And I
feared I was King Alfred!”

At tea they talked Art.

It was an exquisite sensation to have these charming ladies treat him as
Sir Oracle. He was surprised to learn that in her girlhood Miss Regan
had displayed considerable talent for sculpture, but had “washed her
hands of the clay” on seeing the torso of Victory in the Louvre. He
remonstrated with her, insisting that technical skill came slowly, with
infinite labor. There were things he himself wanted to do--all sorts of
new things that he had never yet done. One day he would try to do
them--when he had time. Mrs. Wyndwood spoke contemptuously of technical
skill in comparison with soul, but here Olive mischievously took up the
cudgels for craftsmanship, and led the rather reluctant painter into an
eloquent exposition of the joys of technical mastery; of doing what you
would with your material. Mrs. Wyndwood at last caught the fire of his
enthusiasm, and astonished him by expressing his sense of the joy of Art
better than himself. Under the passion of her words he wondered that he
could ever have wasted his time on portraits for mere money, or on
scamped pictures for Exhibitions, when all these interesting problems
were waiting to be wrought out. Ah, but Miss Regan was wrong, he felt,
in thinking these problems the be-all and end-all of Art; it was soul
that was the essence of Art; Art had no _raison d’être_ except as the
expression of soul, of the upward aspiration of the Spirit towards the
Good and the Beautiful and the True, a trinity that was mysteriously



The sands of the season were running out, but Matthew Strang sifted them
for every grain of the gold of meetings with Eleanor Wyndwood. He was
shy of formal visits to the house, he did not venture on the
conventional course of asking her to sit to him, for he would not
consciously feed the flame of a passion that must be hopeless. But with
that curious illogicality which distinguishes man from the brute, he
called in accident to arrange their rendezvous, pursuing possibility
with a perseverance that made it probability.

He could not follow Eleanor to all her fashionable fastnesses as easily
as to the shrines of spirituality, for to be born well is still a
necessity of life in some circles; but they met often enough amid the
monotonous glitter which was the woman’s birthright and second nature to
the man. His eye perpetually sought her; in chattering drawing-rooms, in
cool gardens, on congested staircases, in whirling ballrooms; finding
every place dark and empty till she filled and illumined the scene. She
gleamed upon him as unreal and insubstantial as the figures he had once
noted in one of these ballrooms, completely girdled by electric lights,
which, robbing the dancers of shadows, made them fairy-like and
phantasmal. But he did not follow out the analogy or suspect it might be
his own love which was surrounding her with this spiritualizing electric
illumination. Each time he saw her he resolved never to see her again.
He could never tell her what was in his heart, never insult her
exquisite purity with the avowal of his love, even though that love were
clarified to unimagined ethereality by her stainless radiance of soul.
And each time the possibility of seeing her drew nigh again, he told
himself that he needed her for his Art--that she was drawing him up from
the slough of banality, that now for the first time his soul was really
opening out to the appeal of the higher beauty. Not that he had as yet
begun to express the higher beauty; he had simply abandoned the old. He
was too restless to work, to concentrate himself; he flitted between the
unfinished and the projected, painting in and painting out; he took long
rides in the middle of the day, to the amazement of his faithful
body-servant; he read emotional literature. Once an unconscious hostess
gave him Eleanor’s company at dinner. Mrs. Wyndwood was in stately
black, with a bunch of violets at her bosom. It was an enchanted meal.
They talked of poetry, and he seemed to be dining off poetry too. The
wines where special brands of nectar, laid down by the gods in the
golden age, the meats were ambrosia, the sweets honey-dew. A beauty as
of Hebe transfigured the faces of the neat-handed waiting-men. It seemed
only natural that the beautiful stately creature at his side should
overflow with quotations from religious poetry--was she not herself a
religious poem? His recent feverish readings had branded lines on his
own heart; he was able to answer her in lyric antiphony. His other
neighbor he simply forgot, though she was a bishop’s consort and a
patroness of the arts, with printed views on the genuineness of Old
Masters. There was an old picture of his own on the opposite wall, and
the fear lest Eleanor should raise her eyes to it was all the serpent in
his Paradise. His subconsciousness noted with pleasure, however, that
the painting had mellowed--a proof that his theory of colors was right.

He watched with furtive fascination the play of Eleanor’s beautiful
Botticelli hands, plying her knife and fork, as she explained how under
the influence of Dolkovitch she had drifted away from Socialism, whose
professors always laid too much stress on the needs of the body. But she
apologized for having spoken rudely of his “Triumph of Bacchus” from a
mere knowledge of its title; he had made her understand now that the
appeal of painting must always be sensuous, and that subject was only an
excuse for draughtsmanship and coloring, and she startled him by saying
she liked that picture of his on the opposite wall, which he had been
hoping had escaped her eye. It became at once glorified to his own.

After the ladies had retired, the gentlemen talked about a newly
invented torpedo, the finances of India, and the prospects of the
Conservatives; the conversation sounded almost indecent, and he was glad
Eleanor was not there to hear it. He took no part in the fatuous
discussion, contenting himself with watching Eleanor’s face amid the
wreaths of his cigar-smoke; even in the flesh the face had for him
something of this vaporous, elusive incorporeality.

In the drawing-room the inevitable Miss Regan claimed his attention.
Eleanor was playing Mendelssohn, and he would have liked to listen, but
Olive was less original.

“You have never honored our five-o’clocks again,” she said,

He murmured that he was busy.

“That was the charm of your coming,” she reminded him. “One had the
sensation of beguiling you to play truant. But I suppose the tea was
bad. Nor _would_ make it.”

“The tea was beautiful,” he said, smiling. “But aren’t we disturbing the

“On the contrary. Nor is giving us ‘Lieder ohne Wörte,’ and we have to
supply the words. I wonder what makes her play such old-fashioned
school-girl things. Then it must have been the scones.”

He shook his head and pursed his lips, and the music flowed on like a
lovely moonlit stream. He was drifting on the stream with Eleanor, as,
in those far-off days of young romance, he had dreamed of lovers
drifting. A mystic silver haze was shed from the moon that sailed softly
through the lambent starry sky, the whisper of the wind among the trees
and the quiet lapping of the water made a dulcet stillness that was
punctuated by the passionate “jug-jug” of the nightingale; mysterious
palaces of night glided along the banks behind dim gardens wafting
drowsy odors. The thought shook him that the world held such
lovers--lovers who were not brought together for a moment and hurled
apart in the accidental whirl of society atoms, lovers whose lips were
not eternally sundered, but lovers who were each other’s sunshine and
moonlight and music, daily, nightly, perennially. He alone was doomed to
eternal loneliness--nay, to that aggravated form of loneliness which is
shared with a life-long partner.

“I came across your cynical friend the other day.”

He started, becoming conscious that his eyes were full of sweet,
hopeless tears.

“Indeed,” he murmured automatically.

“Yes, the cousin you told me of.”

“Did I tell you of him?”

“Don’t you remember you told me he said all women are in the same trade?
Well, he is veritably a cynic of cynics, for he candidly informed me,
after I had been bantering and mystifying him with my foreknowledge of
him, that he had simply quoted Schopenhauer.”

“Where did you meet him?” he asked, a little interested.

“At the Dudley-Heatons’s reception a fortnight ago. I call him the
Minister of the Interior, he’s such an epicure--the politician, I mean,
not your cousin. There was Lord Fashborough there, the man who’s just
been appointed president of the Cruelty to Children Commission, and who
glittered with stars and orders like a comic-opera Begum. He it was
introduced your cousin--at my request, of course. Your cousin told me
the Begum and he had travelled together in Spain, when the Begum’s
appetite for bull-fights and cock-fights was insatiable. I have never
been in Spain, and two of my favorite illusions were destroyed at one
fell blow. It seems that they simply push reluctant, decrepit old horses
on to the horns of the bulls. And then the Spanish women! Your cousin
describes them as ugly and unwashed.”

He shuddered. Why would Miss Regan perversely obtrude the prose of life
upon his consciousness? He would not answer her--he tried to drift again
with the magic stream, but the spell was broken. He knew it was
Eleanor’s music that made the pictures, and that the odors came from the
flowers at Olive’s throat.

“He is painting Nor’s portrait,” she went on, indifferently.

He had to answer her now--in a stifled interrogative, masking a sudden
sharp agony and foreboding.

“What, Herbert?”

“Yes; he asked her to give him some sittings. He hasn’t altogether
become a critic, you see.”

“Who introduced him to her?”

“I did, of course.”

“But his request was rather hasty, wasn’t it?”

“Oh, it wasn’t the first time. We met him again at the Russian Embassy.”

“And how does Mrs. Wyndwood know he can paint?”

Olive laughed quietly. “Oh, he said so. He usually tells the truth, I
fancy. But he _is_ an artist, isn’t he?”

“He was a Gold Medallist of the Royal Academy,” he answered, with
unaccustomed bitterness. A mad envy was consuming him. Why had he not
asked Mrs. Wyndwood to sit to him, seeing that her consent was so
facile? Was he always to stand by while the best of life was seized and
carried off by the bolder, the more reckless, nay, by the more unworthy?
The remembrance that Herbert had the right, and he had not, did not
dilute his bitterness, though it brought a hot flush to his cheek. Who
was he to see profanation in the juxtaposition of Eleanor with a man
like Herbert? However ignoble Herbert’s conception of womanhood, had not
he himself always found him lovable?

“Aren’t you friends?” Olive asked, divining alienation in his tone.

He felt remorseful. “Oh, we are great friends,” he answered, with
cordial warmth. “He was very kind to me when I first came to London.”

“He asked me to sit as well,” Olive pursued, satisfied.

Matthew Strang felt the tension in his brain relax.

“And are you going to?”

“No. I hate flattery. So I sacrificed Nor instead. Of course I shall go
and sit by her, though not with her. Curious, the subtleties of

“Then you will still chaperon her,” he said, with a joyous smile.

“I never neglect a pleasant duty,” she answered, placidly. “But we can
only give him a few sittings.”

“Ah!” he interrupted, with an involuntary exclamation of relief.

“We’re leaving town.”

He looked blank now. “Are you, indeed?”

“Of course. Why are you surprised? Didn’t you think we were proper? Nor
wanted the eternal Homburg or Switzerland, but I’m resolved to show her
England. Like most travelled cockneys, she thinks England’s the capital
of London, and I want to teach her geography, so we’re off to

“She will enjoy Devonshire scenery.”

“Yes, especially the Creamery. That’s what I’ve christened the little
God-forsaken village I discovered. So you know, if you ever want a cup
of tea, we shall have five-o’clocks going on there also. Patronize the

“I will,” he said, with an instant resolution to take tea both in
Mayfair and in Devonshire.

“That’s right. We’ll send a coach-and-four to meet you. At least, you’ll
find it waiting at the station for passengers. Do you know whom I should
like to meet most of all men living?”

“Wagner? The Pope? The Czar?”

“Don’t be absurd. The Rev. Septimus Wheercastle. A local guide-book
says, ‘The Rev. Septimus Wheercastle speaks in very favorable terms of
the Undercliff.’ Isn’t it delicious? Imagine a gentleman in a white tie
patronizing an Undercliff! But, then, the clergy are always patronizing
the Almighty, so why not His works?”

“Hush,” he said, indicating the proximity of the Bishop.

“Isn’t he beautiful?” she asked, in an awed whisper. “What a privilege
never to be mistaken for a waiter! I am so proud of the bishops in my
family. We have a pair, with gaiters to match, both High Church
atheists; they are the joys of my life, they and the dowager duchess,
who wears kiss-curls and raves for blood. ‘Give me blood!’ she cries, as
she denounces modern society, stabbing her potato with her fork _à la_
Sarah Siddons.”

To Matthew Strang, who still had a vague reverence for duchesses, it was
troubling to see them through the eyes of relatives for whom they were
common clay. But this had always been his disappointment, the further he
penetrated into the arcana of aristocracy and into the ranks of the
distinguished--nobody ever seemed quite so imposing as his or her name
in the paper. Taken in the mass, aristocracy of birth or brain was
dazzling, overwhelming; but the individual was always amiably imperfect,
with the exception, of course, of the one perfect being in the universe,
Eleanor Wyndwood.

“You don’t think much of your family, Miss Regan,” he said, smiling.

“No, and they return the compliment. They don’t realize how near
Doomsday is for us aristocrats. We must disappear. We have played our

“What part?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I suppose the upper classes, the people of leisure,
existed to evolve culture. That can now be grafted on to the artisan,
and both the upper and the lower classes can disappear. We want the
amalgam now--culture without its vices, and work without its vulgarity.”

“Shall we ever get what we want?”

She smiled with ineffable sadness and weariness. “I sometimes think that
that makes life worth living. That and bishops. This is the only world
in which bishops could happen. There is some consolation, too, in Royal
Drawing-rooms and kangaroos. Do you think there is any other planet in
which ladies walk backward or animals hop? I wonder. When one feels
weary of the burden of existence, one thinks of the humor of Creation
and stays on. It is a delicious world.”

“Do you mean that you enjoy the imperfections of life?”

“I don’t know what I mean. I hate to see ill-fed people, and I hate to
see well-fed people. Unhappy people pain me and happy people irritate
me. What _do_ I mean? Oh, I think I see it at last. It is the
unintelligent people that I hate to see unhappy, and the intelligent
people that I hate to see happy. People who have brains and are happy
can’t have souls. The fools ought to have creature comforts because they
are fools enough to value them before all else. How I envy my maid’s
capacity for envying me! Thank you, Mr. Strang, you have enabled me to
understand myself.”

The music stopped, but the player was at once monopolized by the bishop.
Fragments of their conversation reached the ears of the couple.

“She’s trying to convert him to Christianity,” Olive observed, gravely;
“didn’t I tell you she was the most unpractical creature? She’s always
leading forlorn hopes.”

“How is Herbert--my cousin--painting her?” he asked.

“Oh! he’s only had one sitting. She’s to be done _à l’ordinaire_, but
she had her hair dressed specially--such a waste of time--and was
manicured, and the man took as long manicuring her as if she had been

“I mean, what will she wear?”

“Oh! a sentimental expression--the sort of look you see in a girl’s
face when she’s sitting on the stairs with her hand in a man’s.”

A shudder traversed her shoulders, crinkling the blue bodice that
covered them. “For the rest, she will be clothed in one of those creamy
low-necked gowns that become her so well.”

Before the evening was over Olive was induced to sing. Matthew Strang
was startled to find her choosing a love-song, and he was as astonished
by the passionate intensity of her vocalization as by the beauty of her
rich contralto voice.

“_Ninon, Ninon_,” she sang. “_Que fais-tu de la vie--toi qui n’as pas
d’amour?_” And the notes melted exquisitely in pity. The tears returned
to his eyes. It was his tragedy, it was Eleanor’s tragedy, it was
everybody’s tragedy. “_Ninon, Ninon, que fais-tu de la vie?_”

Very few days went by before he rang Mrs. Wyndwood’s bell. The mental
image of Eleanor sitting to Herbert was the motor that drove him to
call. He had only seen his volatile cousin once or twice since they had
dined together at the Limners’--Herbert Strang’s curious facility for
taking up and dropping people had persisted unchanged. But the couple
were destined to meet now, for victorias and hansoms hovered outside
Mrs. Wyndwood’s house, and Matthew Strang found that he had stumbled
upon a formal “At Home,” at which Herbert was fetching and carrying
strawberry-ices to perspiring beauty. The popular painter noted with a
novel thrill of alarm the boyish good looks of his friend, whose spruce,
smiling figure was so visibly the cynosure of feminine eyes. Happily for
his peace of mind, Eleanor was too busy welcoming her miscellaneous
visitors to allot much attention to Herbert, who seemed, indeed, amply
content with engaging the interest of half a dozen fair women, not
counting an occasional interlude of Miss Regan. Matthew Strang slowly
ploughed his way to the hostess, a cool-looking angel in white, through
the block of bonneted ladies, amid which an occasional man stood out

“You seem surprised to see me,” he said, in low tones, into which he
infused an intimate note.

“Yes, indeed,” said Eleanor, with a little frank laugh. “How did you
know it was my day?”

He smiled mysteriously, wondering the while if she could hear his heart
beat above the feminine babble.

“You ought not to have come,” pursued Eleanor, with a little pout that
made her face adorable. “We pay you the compliment of not asking you to
our tea-fights, and this is how you appreciate it.”

“Forgive me,” he said, intoxicatingly flattered. “I do appreciate it. I
didn’t know. I came for a cup of tea, with no idea of fighting for it.”

“Then let me give it you. Do you take sugar?”

And she handed him the cup, which he took with a hand that trembled.
Then a press of fresh people cut him off from her, and she made no
effort to keep him by her side. Gloom invaded his breast again. He had
to speak to some of the crowd, and he did his duty with ill grace. He
feared it would be too presumptuous to outstay the intrusive crew, so he
resolved to escape as soon as possible. But Herbert captured him with a
hearty hand-shake, and introduced him--with a certain proprietary
pride--to his bevy of dames, and he was perforce added to the applausive
circle in the centre of which Herbert quizzed the rest of the company
and the universe at large.

“Isn’t that Lily O’Reilly talking with Mrs. Wyndwood?” he said, catching
Olive’s passing eye.

“Sure, and it is that,” answered Olive, permitting the eye an unwonted
roguish twinkle. “She is talking about her new novel.”

“Wonderful woman,” soliloquized Herbert for the benefit of his galaxy.
“She is more read by the superfine critics than any other lady novelist
in London.”

“Oh, Mr. Strang,” protested Lady William Dallox, a petite, elegant
creature with an air of having stepped off a decorative panel, “why, the
critics all slate her awfully.”

“I know. But that’s her revenge--to threaten her reviewers with libel
actions, so that they have to read her to see if she deserved their

“You’re a saucy cynic, sir,” said Olive, laughingly.

“What is a cynic?” airily retorted Herbert. “An accurate observer of

“Beyond that definition cynicism cannot go,” said Olive, ceasing to

“What a pity!” said Herbert. “At any rate, it is true as far as it goes.
To call Miss O’Reilly’s hair chameleon-colored would be considered
cynical. Yet it is but accurate observation. The inaccurate observer of
life would call it auburn, not seeing that it is only auburn _pro tem._,
and that it goes through as many editions as her books. Similarly, to
call her complexion hand-painted--”

“Would be rudeness,” interrupted Olive, more severely, “especially as I
heard her asking Mrs. Wyndwood to introduce to her the young man who
looked so much like the hero of one of her novels.”

“Ah, that puts another complexion on the matter,” said Herbert, lightly.
Under cover of the confusion of feminine compliment that greeted the
quick sally, Matthew Strang slipped away, leaden-hearted, from the sight
of the smiles and the sound of the laughter. Even had he been free, what
chance would he have had, pitted against his brilliant cousin? He knew
himself a silent man, scarcely speaking, unless abnormally moved, much
less scintillating. He had only one talent--one poor talent for
expressing the Beautiful to one sense--and this one talent he had
prostituted. Everything grew black to his morbid mood. The dying
afternoon, cool, sun-glinted, had no beauty for him; the speckless
grooms outside the door irritated him; the shining carriages dashing
along the great arteries of the West End, bearing their lolling
occupants to dress and dinner, stirred him to something of the same
revolt that he had felt when he had walked the metropolis of wealth and
fashion in broken boots. After all, he had never really entered this
circle of pleasure, it had always been a fairy-ring he could not step
into. Beautiful as his boots were externally, there had always been a
nail, a pebble inside; that adverse atom which, according to the
philosopher, suffices to destroy happiness. His had always been a life
of labor, of misery. He was still of the down-trodden classes, of those
whom fate, if not man, grinds down, whose lives slip by in a vain
yearning for the sun, who see happiness as a phantasm that is only solid
for others, and love as the mocking mirage of a beauty that is far
away. He was angry--so unreasonably angry that the unreason seemed a
reason for fresh anger with himself. And he was angry, not only with
himself, but with Herbert, with the world, aye, with Eleanor Wyndwood
and her idle, hare-brained visitors, reeking of the toilet-table,
chattering of poems, pictures, and symphonies.

The thought of his mother came up from dim recesses of memory--still
babbling in the asylum that was her haven of refuge after a life of
storm and stress and sorrow and weary watchings for a vagrant mate--and
he was jealous of Eleanor for her sake, jealous of her beauty, her
breeding, her wealth, her fine dresses, her carriage, her fashionable
visitors; jealous of all that made her different from his mother, of all
that made her life fuller, freer, higher, richer--of all, in fine, that
made him love her! Ah, God, how he loved her! He could scarcely keep
back the hysteric sobs that swelled at his throat. But they had always
been shut out from the sunshine, his mother and he. Happiness! oh, to
clasp it, to hold it tight! Nothing counted except happiness--ambition,
success, art, money, alike vain gauds, shadows. He walked past his
turning, and far beyond. Lights began to twinkle in the great tired
city; the summer evening brooded, fresh and cool, over the vast
stretches of dusty stone. When at last he reached his studio the sun had
set. He saw the pale rose-glow, mystically tender, at the end of the
long suburban avenue of green trees and yellow street-lamps; it spoke to
him of peace and rest and resignation, and some secret beauty behind

Not many days later his restless feet took him again to the Mayfair
house. He would speak out--at some opportunity which the shrewd, kindly
Olive would not fail to afford him--he would tell Eleanor all she meant
to him, how she was becoming the pivot of his thought, how she and she
alone might inspire his art to higher purpose. He would not ask for
love, only for a noble friendship; he needed an understanding soul to
sympathize with his inmost self, his aspirations, his agonies. He had
always been hedged in by thick barriers of ice, through which no human
soul had ever pierced. No one knew what tinder for divine fires lay
awaiting the spark within, nor how cold and lonely he felt in his
glacial isolation.

But at first his visit threatened to be even more disappointing than the
last. Another man was taking tea--or rather, eating nougat with Mrs.
Wyndwood and Miss Regan--young and fascinating of feature, but with a
fatal air of the minor poet. And a poet, indeed, he proved to be: a poet
of considerable pretensions, who might win the bays if only he could get
over his unfortunate appearance, which seemed to tie him down to sugared
prettiness and elegant concetti. Matthew Strang had read one of his
dainty, gilt-edged volumes, wherein dapper lyrics posed in the centre of
broad-margined pages, and he wondered resentfully why Mrs. Wyndwood did
not lecture him into spirituality instead of feeding him with nougat,
which his poetry already resembled. But though Harold Lavender was
accommodating enough to go soon, Matthew Strang profited little by his
retirement from the field, for Eleanor seemed to be in a freakish mood,
as if the contagion of Olive had infected her, or the nougat had made
her terrestrial, and she played a lively second to her vivacious friend
in recapitulating the charms of their dog, Roy, a slumbrous Scotch
collie, that he had barely noted before, but which now became the climax
of creation.

“We’ve only hired him,” Mrs. Wyndwood explained. “Lady Arthur, to whom
the house belongs, asked us to take charge of him, so he’s in the
inventory. His father was a pedigree dog, and won five hundred guineas.”

“Yes, her ladyship had him catalogued completely, lest we should lose a
bit of him,” said Olive, rolling the animal over, and digging her
fingers affectionately into his fur and pulling his ears and his paws
and his tail to illustrate her recital of his perfections.
“Brown-and-white coat--the brown of an autumn filbert, with a collar and
shirt-front of white fur over skin as pink as rosebuds--look at
it--black gums and palate, with the whitest of teeth, canines, I
believe; a tail of russet and black and white that waves like a
palm-tree. Observe the little black ring; we identified him once by it,
though we had never noticed it before, had we, my beauty?”

Mrs. Wyndwood took up the ball. “He was lost, stolen, or strayed, and
information was lodged at a police-station that a collie with a black
ring round his tail had been found. We told the superintendent ours had
no such ring.”

“The inaccurate observation of life, you see, Mr. Strang,” broke in
Olive, “which, according to your cousin, delivers one from cynicism.”

“But cynicism has something to do with dogs, hasn’t it?” observed Mrs.
Wyndwood, smilingly.

“Yes,” said Olive. “We must get Mr. Strang to define cynicism as the
accurate observation of dogs. Don’t forget to tell him, Nor, when you
sit to him to-morrow.”

Matthew Strang moved uncomfortably on his seat, raging inwardly, and
scarcely knowing whether he was more jealous of Herbert or of Roy.

“Well, that superintendent must have been a cynic,” Mrs. Wyndwood went
on, “for he recommended us to go and look at the dog all the same. It
was a wild expedition--nearly eleven o’clock at night--we routed out a
nest of costers who lived over a stable, and were invaded by means of a
ladder. I felt like a robber Viking, all heart-beat and adventure. It
was glorious!”

“Yes; and Roy came bounding out and nearly toppled you over. And all the
little costers came crowding out of bed in their night-dresses, and you
gave Mrs. Coster a sovereign for them in mistake for a shilling.”

Mrs. Wyndwood went into a fit of mirth over the recollection. For once
her melodious laugh grated upon his ears. What in the world was there to
laugh about? It seemed all the most puerile nonsense. He could have
cried more easily.

“Remark his lively air,” said Olive. “His intuitive sympathy is
wonderful. He is sad when you weep, and merry when you frivol.”

The painter merely heard the dog panting like an impatient steam-engine.

“He wants a run, I think,” he observed, ungraciously.

“Aye, you should see him run!” cried Mrs. Wyndwood. “It makes one feel
young again to see him scampering up hill and down dale. Even a mudhill
delights him; it reminds him of his native moors, doesn’t it, Roy,

Roy stared at her with large, unblinking eyes.

“But we are not dressed well enough to go out with him now,” said Olive.
“I told you what a snob he was, Mr. Strang. Shake paws with the
gentleman, dear. He’s smart enough even for your tastes. See how he
likes you, Mr. Strang. If he didn’t, the skin over his dear old nose
would snarl up into gathers and puckers and frills. There! That’s his
favorite attitude--on his hind-legs, with his fore-paws placably on a
beloved lap. Now he is happy. How simple life is for him! Lucky dog!”

“Ah, you forget that he, too, has his ideal, his unachieved aspiration,”
said Mrs. Wyndwood. “The disappointment of his life is that he can’t
catch birds. He snaps at everything that soars in air--even insects; it
exasperates him to find things hovering mockingly overhead in defiance
of gravity. He sits on his haunches and wails over the emptiness of

Matthew Strang gave Roy a kindlier pat. But the creature was still
stretched on the tapis of conversation, and Olive proceeded to a
whimsical account of the partition of Roy between Eleanor and herself,
as joint house-keepers. Since they could not bisect the collie, he
belonged to each on alternate days, so that if he were lost again, the
onus would rest on the mistress for the day.

By this time the painter could hardly refrain from kicking the dog, and
when Mrs. Wyndwood added that Roy was only eighteen months old, he rose
to go.

Mrs. Wyndwood’s expression changed.

“You’re not running away yet?” she said.

“I must,” he murmured, his ill-humor abating under the sweet seriousness
of her face.

“Why, you haven’t talked to us at all--we want to hear more about

“Technique can’t be talked,” he said, still surly.

“We haven’t any materials for practical demonstrations,” said Olive,
“not even a black-board.”

“I should love to be an artist,” cried Mrs. Wyndwood. “To feel beauty
growing under one’s hand--what a sense of creative divinity. I never sit
to an artist without thinking what a privilege is his---- Now what
_are_ you laughing at, Olive?”

“Nothing, except your subtle way of complimenting yourself on your good
looks. Now, if Mr. Strang will be good, and waste a little more valuable
time on two foolish women, I will pay him a compliment.”

He sat down, his curiosity stimulated, and Olive, producing a box of
Turkish cigarettes, asked if he objected to her smoking. Permission
being obtained, she got him to apply a light to her cigarette, and then
bade him smoke one himself. He was relieved to find Mrs. Wyndwood an

“There,” said Olive, puffing out a thin cloud, “that is the highest
compliment I can pay a man--to expose myself in all my horror. I smoke
neither for toothache nor neuralgia, but for sheer viciousness. See the
result of our visit to Podnieff--Nor picked up ideals, and I, smoke.
Perhaps they are the same thing in the long-run.”

Matthew Strang dissented vehemently. “Ideals are the only realities.”

“Nonsense, they are the only things that change,” retorted Miss Regan.
“The ideal woman of to-morrow will smoke shag and birdseye in long clay

Eleanor Wyndwood came to his assistance, and together they did battle
with Olive, who took up the most perverse Philistine positions and
fought as if for life, eluding, shuffling, dodging, equivocating,
turning, twisting, doubling upon herself with the most daring defiance
of consistency, and the most bizarre flashes of wit and argument. She
would snatch a victory by specious logic that could only hold for a
moment, and stand in as serenely mocking triumph upon a crumbling
sand-heap as if she knew herself upon a rock, and was not about to bound
off to the next sand-heap the instant the tide of reason swept this one
hopelessly away. The painter found a celestial knitting of soul in thus
fighting side by side with Eleanor; he did not blench even when she
quoted a quatrain from Harold Lavender to enforce her point. But the
shades of earth returned when she referred to Herbert Strang.

“Here is an example of a man who has absolutely nothing to gain from
Art--who doesn’t need it, who has means--to whose sceptical spirit the
applause of the world is indifferent. And yet the other morning--when
the sunshine called one to the joys of the _dolce far niente_--he sat
for hours toiling painfully at his Art, and fretting because he had
allowed his right hand to lose its cunning. He had neglected the Ideal,
but now his soul thirsts for it again, and the Ideal is avenged.”

Matthew Strang felt a malicious satisfaction in the thought that Herbert
was not getting on very well with the portrait. He had a sudden
curiosity to see it.

“You are really too simple, Nor,” said Olive, plaintively. “Can’t you
see the man’s only trying to spread out the sittings so as to have you
come there? I dare say he can paint as well as the present Mr. Strang.”

Eleanor flushed, hotly. “Oh, there’s no deception about his limitations.
I am almost sorry I consented.”

Matthew Strang’s heart leaped exultant. “He did let his gifts rust,” he
said, magnanimously. “But I dare say his old talent will come back after
a little practice. He had a fine color-sense in the old days.”

His magnanimity seemed to please both ladies, especially Olive, and the
discussion wound up suddenly in a congruity as unexpected as any of her

“You were great chums then, weren’t you?” she asked.

“Yes; he was my cicerone in artistic society. I might almost say in
civilized society. I owe him a good deal.” He had no shame in hinting at
his humble origin to these two unconventional gentlewomen.

“Where is his studio?” he asked.

They told him; but Miss Regan seemed to be suddenly uneasy. A little
clock on the mantel-piece struck six silvery notes. He thought his
hostesses might want to dress elaborately for some dinner-party or the
theatre, so he tore himself away, and, jumping into a hansom, drove, on
the impulse of the moment, to Herbert’s studio.

Olive sighed wearily, and leaned her head upon her elbows, which were
planted on the tea-table. Eleanor stooped and kissed her.

“Lie down, dear, till dinner. The heat has been too much for you. You
look tired to death.”

“Heigho! I wish I was really. What’s the use of living, Nor, darling?”

“Oh, life is so beautiful!” exclaimed Eleanor, with shining eyes. “Think
of Art, think of Nature! Cheer up, Olive. The horrid season will soon be
over, and then hey for Devonshire!”

“And the Creamery,” added the girl, in hollow accents. “But let’s get
away at once, dear.”

“We must stay for a few things yet--we promised,” Mrs. Wyndwood reminded
her sweetly. “There’s the dance at Lady Surbiton’s, and the reception

Olive interrupted her with a burst of laughter that sounded hysterical
to her friend’s anxious ears. “Oh, it’s a mad, bad world! But there are
Lady Surbiton’s tea-gowns!”

“Do lie down, dear.”

“Why aren’t there convents for unbelievers, Nor? It’s an oversight. I’d
get me into a nunnery, but I should be suspected of piety. The hospitals
are overrun. They are as impossible as Ramsgate; and your nurse is
suspected of being a heroine. When will people understand that altruism
is a passion, and that nobody wants to be patted on the back for
gratifying instinct? When I did that month’s hard in the Dublin
Hospital--but that was before I knew you, dear--half my family thought
me mad, and the other half a saint. But I was only incapable, Nor,
dearest. I couldn’t dress ugly wounds as if I wasn’t feeling the pain of
them. No, I’m a failure. There’s nothing for it save suicide.”

“Or marriage,” said Mrs. Wyndwood, softly, laying her cheek to her

Olive moved her head away, shuddering violently. “I’d breed dogs
rather.” She rose to her feet and stretched her arms. “They are happy,
aren’t you, Roy?” She leaned down and pulled the collie’s jaws apart.
“Eating and sleeping, sleeping and eating. Why didn’t Evolution stop
with you, instead of going further and faring worse? But still there are
those birds, Roy. And on our side there’s Art and there’s Nature,
Eleanor Wyndwood says. Which Art is it going to be, by-the-way, Eleanor
Wyndwood--Poetry or Painting? But it’s two to one on Painting.”

“You’re feverish, darling,” said Eleanor, troubled. “Don’t talk at

“I’m talking straight, dear. Two Strangs to one Lavender. And what has
become of Spirit, dearest? That used to come before Art and Nature!”

“And who said it doesn’t still?” Eleanor answered, deprecatingly. Then,
with a passionate cry that set her beautiful bosom heaving, “My God,
Olive, why do you misjudge me? Can’t you understand earnest seeking?”
Tears came into her eyes and trickled down her face.

Olive kissed them away. “I’m a brute, Eleanor. The heat’s too much for
both of us. Good-night!”

“Going to lie down, dearest?”

“No; going to bed.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Matthew Strang had rung several times before he could gain admittance to
his cousin’s studio. Herbert appeared in his shirt-sleeves, grinning and

“Tit for tat,” he said. “But I’m awfully glad you came, old man. I was
just dreaming of you. By Jove, isn’t it hot?”

When Herbert said “old man,” in his caressing voice, Matthew became as
clay in the hands of the potter. It seemed so good to have the
friendship of this sunny being. He answered affectionately that it _was_

“You haven’t seen this den before?” said Herbert. “Not so swell as
yours. But then I’m hard up.”

Matthew smiled incredulously, for the studio was charming.

“You’re doing a portrait of Mrs. Wyndwood, I hear.”

“Who told you?”

“I was there this afternoon.”

“Yes? Did you see her friend Miss Regan?”

“She is always there.”

“I know. Isn’t she a jolly little girl?”

“She’s very odd,” said Matthew.

“Odd? You Philistine! She’s the most amusing girl in London. And so
unaffected! You can say anything to her--talk about anything. No beastly
prudishness. That’s what I like in a woman. The other day she was
complaining gravely that a woman couldn’t be a burglar because it would
land her in compromising situations. Therefore there never could be
thorough equality of the sexes, she maintained. Wasn’t it quaint? She
sits here smoking cigarettes while I paint that saintly friend of hers,
and all the while rattles on in the most delightful fashion. What a flow
of spirits! And, by Jove! the clever, biting things she says make your
hair curl. I’m not in it with her, though I try hard. I draw her out to
talk about her relations--it’s better than Thackeray. She’s no end of a
swell, you know.”

“I know.”

“And disgustingly rich. In short, she’d be intolerable if she wasn’t
herself. What an enviable lot! All the B’s--Beauty, Bullion, Blue Blood,
and Brilliancy. No wonder she’s light-hearted! They say she had an
eccentric dad, which accounts for her--a man who wasted one of his
fortunes on socialistic experiments! But she knows better than that.
Eccentricity in the parent is epigram in the child.”

“Which is an epigram,” said Matthew, laughing, and considerably relieved
by this outburst on his cousin’s part. “But _your_ parents were not

“Indeed? Don’t you see any eccentricity in the poor old governor’s
trying to make an artist out of me?”

“Where _is_ that portrait?” asked Matthew, amused.

“Here it is, you duffer, staring you in the face on the easel all the
time. Don’t say you didn’t recognize it. Please don’t.”

“Now that I know who it is,” began Matthew, laughing.

“It _is_ ghastly, old man, isn’t it? But that girl distracts me with her

“What made you attempt it?” asked Matthew, candidly.

“I wanted to hear her talk.”


“Miss Regan.”

Matthew felt a great wave of affection for his cousin.

“But why don’t you paint _her_?”

“She wouldn’t sit. I had to ask her friend, knowing she’d accompany her.
But I’m half sorry I undertook it now.”

“You’re certainly not doing her justice!”

There was still plenty of light. He took up the brush, and within a
quarter of an hour Mrs. Wyndwood’s sweetly spiritual face gleamed
unmistakably upon the canvas. Herbert watched with admiration those
sure, swift strokes, behind which lay so arduous a training, so
irrepressible an instinct.

“You seem to have her face by heart,” he said at last, with a suspicious
twinkle. “But don’t let me interrupt you.” And lighting a cigarette, he
threw himself on a lounge in an attitude that curiously recalled old
times to the painter.

Matthew Strang painted on lovingly till he could no longer see his
palette, then Herbert took him to his new club--the Epicurean--and gave
him a delightful dinner for his pains, and over the kümmel and the
coffee borrowed a hundred pounds from him so as not to sell out a stock
that was depreciated for the moment.



Herbert Strang had gone down to Devonshire to finish his portrait of
Mrs. Wyndwood, whose dress was still unrecognizable, and who was so
agreeably surprised by the face that she graciously consented to
continue the sittings at the “Creamery.” Matthew had arranged to join
him--on the excellent pretext of keeping his old friend company--but
before he left town for his holiday, Conscience began working hard,
ominously presageful of the complications that might spring up in the
solitudes of hills and waters. The inner voice whispered strenuously to
him to profit by Eleanor’s absence to fight down his impossible passion,
not intensify it unendurably by following in her train. Thoughts of his
wife began to haunt him--thoughts which, while he was only an absentee
husband, had been but pale shadows of remorse, dogging his few
unoccupied moments, but which, now that another woman had at last
enthroned herself in the vacant temple of his soul, assumed shapes more
solid and insistent. Home plucked at his heart, subtly transformed to
something more than an unpleasant recollection. In a spasm of
compunction and foreboding, he resolved to pay a visit to his wife to
strengthen himself against temptation. The idea, once conceived, drove
him to instant execution. Ere the train had drawn up at Camden Town he
had determined to elude temptation altogether by accompanying his own
family on its annual jaunt.

The visit began inauspiciously. When he had passed the ivy-clad turreted
church, which was the one picturesque object on the road from the
station, he was back in the old familiar mesh of gray streets, any one
like any other, with rows of shabby semi-genteel stone-fronted houses,
exactly alike, broken at corners by baker-shops and green-grocers. The
August afternoon was depressed, with misty, sputtering rain. A few
tradesmen’s carts rattled forlornly down the drab avenues of apathetic
houses. A diminutive barrel-organ wheezed a lively air. Never had his
street seemed so hopeless. His ardor grew chill.

He paused before the door of the little studio where he had painted his
first success--“Motherhood.” The discolored wood--set in the blankness
of a long brick wall--was scrawled over with chalk inscriptions and
sketches by the urchins of the neighborhood. The house was round the
corner, and, after a melancholy moment, he walked listlessly towards the
front gate, swung it on its creaking hinges, and mounted the chipped
stone steps, washed ashen-gray by the drippings of rain.

There was a new face, heavy and smudged, under the ill-adjusted cap of
the maid-of-all-work who opened the door, and as he entered the narrow
hall the sickly smell of boiled cabbage saluted his nostrils, and
justified him to himself. But he was grimly embarrassed at having to
explain himself to the girl.

“Is your mistress in?” he asked.

“Yes, sir. Will you wait in the drorin’-room, sir? What name, sir?”

He felt mortified and a whit ashamed. The servant’s ignorance was an
unconscious rebuke that counterbalanced the boiled cabbage.

“Oh, tell her Matthew,” he said, flushing. “She’ll know.”

“Yes, sir.” And the girl’s cap, stuck on askew for the edification of
unexpected company, disappeared down the kitchen stairs.

He would have liked to brush majestically past her, but delicacy
prevented so abrupt an intrusion upon his wife in the recesses of
domesticity. His coming was already sufficient surprise. A few hours ago
he himself had not foreseen that a swamping wave of moral emotion would
sweep him homeward. He walked about the room, morbidly fascinated by the
flashy vases with the hand-painted shepherds, and wondering what Rosina
would say if he made away with them, as decency demanded. To his bitter
amusement he heard her voice from the passage remonstrating with
Billy--in a very audible whisper--for the servant’s indiscretion in
admitting to the drawing-room a stranger who might do havoc among her
cherished possessions.

“Goodness knows what he may not pocket,” she grumbled, uneasily, as she
approached the door.

“It’s all right, Rosina,” he called out, coming into the passage. “It’s
only me.”

“Gracious!” ejaculated Mrs. Matthew Strang, angrily, putting her hand to
her heart. “What a turn you gave me! So you’re the Mr. Matthews! I
really do wish you wouldn’t come sneaking in and prying and ferreting
and frightening a body out of her wits.”

She stood there--no more pleasing than the vases--the features, that had
once threatened to be pretty, sharpened shrewishly, though the figure
had grown plumper except where the breasts had fallen. She did not look
her youth. The face was weary, the pale blue eyes had lost their
softness. She had hastily donned a cheap black cashmere dress trimmed
with jet. The painter was glad the usual effusion of affection was
wanting. Notwithstanding the pitch of reaction to which he was wrought
up, all his being shrank from the desecrating embrace of the woman he
did not love. Nevertheless he was conscious of an undercurrent of
astonishment. Longer intervals than this last had parted them, yet she
had never failed to exhibit amorous emotion, even though it took the
shape of jealous reproach. This afternoon there was a suggestion of
resentment in her greeting--for the first time he felt unwelcome. He was
puzzled, albeit relieved. But the secret of her mood did not leak out
yet; and in the meantime there was Billy, sulkily awaiting his famous
brother’s recognition. The young man looked whiter and thinner than on
Matthew’s last visit to the house.

“How glad he’ll be to come for a holiday with me,” thought the painter,
with a pang of joyful repentance. “He oughtn’t to live in London at all.
We’ll all go down to some pretty little village where I can paint if
necessary, and we’ll stay till the winter.” The cripple churlishly took
the hand which his brother extended. His palm burned.

“All right, Billy?” questioned Matthew, cheerfully.

“It doesn’t matter how I am,” snapped the younger man. “It’s months
since you’ve been nigh us.”

Rosina turned upon Billy. “Don’t you take my part--I can speak for
myself. You can’t expect to see your brother in the summer when all the
fashionable folks come up to London to be painted.”

Billy murmured something inarticulate, and looked doggedly at Matthew,
leaning on his crutch.

“I suppose I must ask you to walk in and take a chair, since you are
such a stranger,” said Mrs. Matthew Strang.

Her husband meekly retreated into the drawing-room, and sat down with
his back to the vases that adorned the mantel-piece. But now a new
horror caught his eye--nothing less than a framed oleograph of
“Motherhood,” which had found its way into the house in the days when
its wide popularity still gave him a certain interest in it not far
removed from pride. On his soul, tensely strung by Eleanor’s hand for
the high notes of imagination, this cheap domesticity now jarred
abominably. The picture glared at him, it loomed suddenly symbolic. It
was representative of Rosina and her influence. This was her height of
poetry, the top measure of her soul--the mother carrying the little girl
who carried the doll. The work he wanted to do--nay, the work he had
always wanted to do--that was what Eleanor stood for--the rare, the
fine, the ethereal. Years of insincere work had blunted and torpified
him--Eleanor had recreated his soul, had given him freshness of
feeling, and something of the early ardor of aspiration.

This passed through his mind before Billy had stumped in and taken a
chair opposite him. Rosina remained standing at the open door in an
attitude expressive of household duties plucking at her skirts.

The painter shifted nervously on his chair. There was a dead silence. It
permitted the tootling of a tin whistle to become audible, and gave the
painter the happy thought of asking after the children.

“Clara’s at school,” replied Rosina, ungraciously. “She’s the second
girl in her class, and could be top if she wasn’t so sulky.”

“And Davie?”

“Can’t you hear for yourself? He’s only too quiet as a rule, but since
you brought him that whistle he’s been unbearable. It’s the only thing
that rouses him. It was stopped up for a fortnight, and he went about
like a little ghost till Billy put it right. If he only had a notion of
music! Billy tried to teach him to play on it, but he’s got no head for
anything. There! did you ever hear such a squeal?”

“Oh! he’s such a baby yet,” said her husband, deprecatingly.

Then the conversation languished again, and Davie’s lugubrious whistle
held the field.

Billy drew vague designs on the carpet with his crutch. Matthew fidgeted
and at last got up. He was meditating how to turn the conversation into
a tenderer channel, and broach the holiday in common. Rosina maintained
her inconclusive attitude in the doorway.

“You’ve still got those vases,” Matthew said. There being no other
thought in the way, this thought escaped.

“Yes,” she rejoined; “but I don’t wonder at your asking; any day may see
the end of them, servants are growing that careless. Even as it is, they
only dust their outsides. If I didn’t wash them myself with tea-leaves
they’d be choked up in a month.”

She walked to the mantel-piece, and ran her forefinger down one of
them. The finger grew black as with anger; her brow darkened.

“Why, Amy is worse than Jane!” she cried, harshly. “I won’t stand any
more of her nonsense. Do you know what she did last week?” Here she
walked back to the door and shut it tightly, lest her words should reach
the kitchen. “She washed the colored things in the same water as the
whites. And then, after the wash, I missed a pair of Billy’s red socks,
and I hunted high and low for them, and made a fuss. The next day Billy
found them mysteriously mixed up with his flannels. I am convinced she
stole them, not knowing she had a sharp eye to deal with. I know they’ll
worry me into the grave, these servants. This morning I particularly
said to her, ‘Have you dusted the drawing-room?’ and she said, bold as
brass, ‘Yes, mum.’ And this is what she calls dusting.” She held up her
gloomy forefinger. Then, lowering her voice as if it might penetrate
even through the closed door, she hissed menacingly at the
brothers--“I’ll give her a piece of my mind, that I will. If she don’t
know when she’s got a good place, the great hulking brute, she shall
pack herself off this very afternoon. A charwoman I give her every
Monday to help her; two shillings I have to pay and her beer money, to
say nothing of the work I do with my own hands. Often and often I make
the beds myself, for there isn’t a girl in creation you can trust to
shake out the bedding, they leave it all lumpy. And what is the reward
for all my kindness? I hate them all; I wish their necks were screwed.”

“I wish they were,” said Billy, impatiently. “I’m sick of hearing about

Rosina turned upon him again. “And who asks you to stay here? I’m sure
I’m sick of hearing you grumbling and whining about the house.”

Billy’s eyes blazed. A red spot burned in each white cheek.

“Won’t you give me a cup of tea, Rosina?” interposed Matthew, gently.

“I dare say Amy has let the fire go out,” she snapped. “Ring the bell,
you’re nearest it.”

Matthew rang the bell, and Amy appeared.

“Can you make some tea, Amy?” Rosina inquired, in sweet, seductive

“Yes, mum.”

“My husband has just come from abroad,” she explained, deferentially and
apologetically, “and we sha’n’t be wanting any more at tea-time. We’ll
have tea a little earlier, and you can keep the water hot for Miss

“Yes, mum.” Amy disappeared.

“Did you see the smudge on her cheek?” asked Rosina, despairingly. “She
can’t even dust her face.”

While Rosina was speaking, her husband fretted under her conversation;
the awkward silence that ensued when she ceased made him wish she would
go on talking.

“How is business?” she asked, finding him dumb.

He suppressed a grimace. “Pretty fair. You know I’ve always got as much
to do as I care for.”

“You know what I’ve been thinking?” Rosina replied, in a softened and
more confidential tone. “You ought to make enough to be able to retire
one day. Why should you always live away from me?--it’s as bad as
marrying a drummer. At No. 49 there’s one--a commercial traveller they
call them in England--and his wife tells me--it’s the house with the
striped linen blinds--she doesn’t see him half a dozen times a year, and
you’re getting almost as scarce, particularly this year.” She dropped
into a chair, finally dismissing her tentative attitude.

This seemed a favorable opening at last, so her husband plunged into it.

“You haven’t been out of town yet?” he began.

Rosina bounded wrathfully from her chair.

“There! I knew that that was what you came to spy out. Isn’t it enough
that you’ve left your brother here to be a spy on all my comings and
goings? It’s rather me that ought to be setting a spy on you, God knows,
what with your studios and your models and your fashionable,
false-hearted women. Well, there he is to witness, anyhow. We have _had_
our fortnight at the sea-side. Haven’t we, Billy?”

Billy nodded.

“There! There’s your own brother to witness. We went last month, and
all to save you money, though I know you think I’m making a stocking.
They charged us so much last year for lodgings at Margate in August that
I made up my mind I wouldn’t be swindled any more, and so we went in
July. And we did save--it’s no use my denying it, with that spy of yours
ever at my tail--but I’ve had to spend twice as much in London, with
everything gone up in price. They’re asking a shilling a peck for
peas--you can go round and ask Delton, the green-grocer, if you don’t
believe me--it’s enough to ruin anybody. And then there was the rise in
coals in the spring on account of the strike--something frightful, and
such a lot of slag. And then poor Clara has been so poorly; I sent for
the doctor once, and then he would keep on coming to see her every
day--there was no getting rid of him, and that brother of yours hadn’t
the spunk to tell him straight out not to come any more. Goodness knows
what his bill has run up to. They’re simply blood-squeezers, these
doctors. So there! If you think you’ve caught me out, coming down on me
like a detective in my sea-side week, you’re nicely mistaken, Mr.
Slyboots. What are you glaring at me for? Looking for the brown? I’d
have given myself a coat of paint if I had known you were coming, though
I don’t pretend to be so clever at it as you, or your fine ladies
either, for the matter of that.”

As Rosina stood over him, breathlessly pouring forth her impassioned
defence of the position she took up in financial matters, Matthew Strang
felt he understood why men sometimes kill women. He had long since given
up attempting to make her understand that her thoughts were not his
thoughts, that, despite his hard training in the value of money, details
of expenditure had ceased to occupy his consciousness the moment the
pinch of need was become a thing of the past. He was inured to her
financial apologetics, her tedious justifications of what he (in his
ignorance that she was indeed hoarding money secretly, and, like all
women, saving on her house-keeping) never called into question. He had
steeled himself to a simulation of attention when she elaborately
accounted for every farthing he had given her, and, habituated to money
perpetually passing from his hands, he had never even reflected that her
style of living could not possibly exhaust the sums with which he
supplemented her own income; to his heedless mind a growing family
vaguely explained everything. But to-day the prosaic minutiæ, though
painfully familiar, set up an inward fume that, intensified by her
misconstruction of his visit and by her digs at Billy, approached
insanity. He controlled himself with a great effort.

“It is you that are mistaken, Rosina,” he rejoined, clinching his palms.
“I came merely to propose that you should take your holiday now. I
thought we might go somewhere together.”

“Well, then, you’re a bit too late,” she replied, with no diminution of
ill-temper. “And what’s come over you that you want my company all of a
sudden? I thought you couldn’t spare me a week ever. I reckon the truth
is that work’s got slack.”

“Nonsense, I told you my hands were full,” he said, losing his

“That’s no reason why you should waste money on me. I can’t go twice to
the sea-side.”

“I didn’t want you to go twice. I didn’t know you had been.”

“I explained to you why I went,” she retorted, hotly. “They wanted three
guineas last year for a sitting-room and two poky bedrooms, and there
was no key to the chiffonier, and I’m sure the landlady nibbled at our

“But I would have gladly let you have a little extra if you wanted to go
in August.”

“I’d much rather you spent the money on the children. Clara wears out
her shoes frightfully--the expense turns my hair gray.”

“Then you wouldn’t care to go with me?”

“No; it would be sinful extravagance to go twice. Give me the money if
you’re so anxious to get rid of it.”

“Do be reasonable, Rosina. I dare say the children will enjoy another
week of--”

“The children! Much you care about the children. You haven’t asked to
see Davie yet, and as for Clara--” Rosina’s scornful accents dried up
suddenly. Her acute ear had caught the gentle clatter of the mounting
tray. She opened the door for Amy. “You’re sure the water was boiling?”
she inquired, pleasantly.

“Yes, mum.”

The mistress produced a little key from her bosom. “You will find a cake
in the cupboard under the dining-room sideboard. And bring up the
blue-bordered plates, the little ones, please.”

“Yes, mum.”

When the tea was duly served, Rosina resumed: “And as for Clara, I
didn’t even write to you she had been ailing. I knew you took so little
interest in the poor child. She might die and be buried for all you’d

“I can’t know if you don’t tell me,” he said, sulkily, stung by the germ
of truth in her words. “Why don’t you let Davie come up to me?--you
ought to have sent him up as soon as you knew I was here.”

Rosina threw open the door again with a jerk, and leaned over the
kitchen stairs. “Davie,” she bawled, “stop that dreadful noise, and come
up at once, do you hear? Your father is dying to see you.”

The painter bit his lips. An irrelevant memory rang in his brain with a
Russian accent. “I do not like this word, dying.” The face of Eleanor
Wyndwood swam up on the cabbage-scented air. The patter of Davie’s feet
was heard, toddling up the stairs.

The child stumbled shyly into the room, the tin whistle clasped
distrustfully to his breast--a pathetic, anæmic little figure with
flaxen curls and big gray eyes that easily brimmed over with tears. He
wore serge knickerbockers, and the rest of him aped the sailor,
picturesquely enough. The child paused near the door, clutching his
mother’s skirt.

“This way, my little man,” said Matthew, smiling encouragingly from the
green sofa that sprawled across the centre of the room. “Come to your

“Go to the gentleman, dear,” said Rosina, with withering sarcasm.

But the boy hung back, clutching her skirt and his whistle tighter.

“Don’t be afraid, Davie. I won’t take your whistle from you--don’t you
remember, I gave it you?” He held up a piece of Rosina’s home-made cake.
Thus adjured and enticed, Davie moved cautiously forward, waves of
returning recollection agitating the wee wan face.

A lump swelled in the father’s throat as he surveyed the weakling. The
poor child suddenly appeared to him the scape-goat for an unholy union.
Life had taught him from what fount of sacred love children should

While he was hoisting the child on his knee, responsive to that strong
appeal of feeble creatures, but with no specific stirrings of paternity,
Davie wistfully held up his disengaged hand for the cake, which he
grabbed as soon as it came within range of his little arm. His mouth was
too preoccupied with cake to return his father’s kiss, to which he
submitted passively.

The painter laid his hand tenderly on the flaxen hair.

“Did you enjoy yourself at Margate, Davie?”

Rosina uttered an exclamation of disgust.

“Well, I never! Who’ll you be cross-examining next? Perhaps you think
Billy and me are in a conspiracy; that I’ve gained over your spy. I’d
better go down-stairs so as not to influence the child’s evidence.”

And turning on her heel, she marched haughtily kitchenwards.

Matthew sighed wearily.

“What’s the matter with her, Billy?” he asked.

“Don’t ask me. She’s been as cross as two sticks ever since they’ve had
new curtains at No. 53 opposite. And the weather has been so muggy. And
your coming has upset her.”

“But she seems to have turned against you, too. You used to get on so
well together.”

“She’s so difficult to live with,” replied Billy, fretfully. “So
quarrelsome and discontented.”

“What is she discontented about?” Matthew asked, uneasily. “She’s got
plenty of money.”

“Oh, it isn’t the money,” replied Billy, morosely. “She’s lucky, is
Rosina. She has money of her own. Do you know, her little American
property has gone up a good deal lately. Her income is nearer nine
hundred than eight hundred dollars.”

“Indeed?” murmured his brother, dimly interested.

“Yes, old Coble wrote to her, telling her things were looking up, and he
was right. No, it isn’t Rosina that’s got cause of complaint about money
matters. She isn’t like me--she isn’t dependent on you for every
farthing.” His words rang bitterly, resentfully.

“But surely you don’t mind taking money from me, Billy?” he said, with
infinite gentleness.

“And why shouldn’t I mind taking money from a stranger?”

“A stranger!”

“Yes, you’re naught else. Do you think I don’t know of your goings-on,
your gaddings about to parties and banquets? Because Rosina don’t read
the papers, you mustn’t think I’m ignorant, too. I’ve got a heap of
things about you in my study, all cut out and pasted in books. I don’t
tell Rosina, because it would only make her discontented, but it riles
me, I tell you straight, to be left here, leading this wretched,
lonesome life. Why can’t I live with you?”

“You could live with me to-morrow if you liked, Billy. But don’t you see
you’d be just as wretched and lonesome? All day I should be at work, and
when I went out you couldn’t accompany me. I can’t foist my relatives on
the people who invite me out. They only want _me_--and that only as a
curiosity,” he added, with a bitter perception of how extrinsic he
really was to the charmed circles of Society; of how little affinity
there was between him and the bulk of those who gushed over his Art.

“But if you would only help me to get my work published, they’d make a
fuss over me, too. But you’ve never moved your little finger to help

“I got Wilson and Butler to read some of your MSS. I couldn’t do any
more. It isn’t my fault if they don’t think your work good enough.”

“Nonsense! I don’t believe they ever saw it. You only said they did to
pacify me.”

“Oh, Billy!” cried Matthew, in shocked reproach.

“Well, even if they did,” said Billy, tetchily, “they’re not
infallible. They’re prejudiced. They think two brothers can’t both be
clever. I’m sure my stories are as good as anything that appears in
their magazines, and a damned sight better. But there are any amount of
other editors that you come across, for I’ve seen your name printed with
theirs in the lists of guests at public dinners. But you go your own
way, and never spare a thought for me, eating my heart out here. I come
in handy to keep your wife company and to prevent her feeling deserted,
and you think that’s about all I’m good for.” His white face was worked
up to a flush of anger. He had the common delusion of the unsuccessful,
that the successful in any department can pull the ropes in every other.
Nor could he understand that Matthew disliked approaching people, and
people disliked being approached.

“Whatever you’re good for you’ll be,” said Matthew, soothingly. “If your
work is really first-class--it will come to the front in the long-run.”
He shrank from adding that he did not think it even second-class; it was
no use making the boy more miserable.

“Yes, but I can’t run--I’m a cripple!” Billy burst forth, passionately.
“Who knows whether I shall live to see the end of the long-run? Perhaps
they’ll give me a stone when I’m dead--but what’s the good of _that_ to
me? You have everything that makes life worth living: you have love--you
have a wife whenever you choose to come; you have money, and heaps of
it, all earned by the sweat of your own brow; you have fame--your name
is in all the papers; you have fashionable folk courting and caressing
you. I dare say some fine-scented lady fixed that rose so beautifully in
your button-hole; I can smell her white fingers. It’s all roses and
sunshine for you. But you take jolly good care to keep ’em to yourself.”

The imbittered words carried no sting to the painter’s breast. But he
was sick at heart as he replied, gently:

“You don’t really mean what you’re saying, Billy. You know I’ve offered
to defray the cost of publication of ‘By Field and Flood’ if you’d only
let me.”

“Yes, but that’s making me more of a drag on you. Besides, you told me
it’s only the rotten houses that publish novels at the author’s
expense, and that the critics look askance on them. But if I could earn
enough on my short stories to pay for a book, I’d chance that.” His
voice took on a maundering, pitiful intonation. “I’m sure I’ve worked
hard enough, toiling at my desk and denying myself every pleasure in
life; you can’t say I don’t keep sober now. I never go beyond one glass
of ale at meal-times.”

“Yes, you’re very good, Billy. You’ve been good for a long time.”

“Good!” echoed Billy, in the same testy, lachrymose accents. “What’s the
good of being good? I wish I was dead. Why don’t you let me drink my
fits back again?” His breast heaved, he seemed on the point of sobs. The
painter sat in mute misery.

A blood-curdling shriek from the whistle destroyed the intolerable
situation. Davie, having finished munching his cake, had his mouth free
again for musical operations.

“Put your fingers over the holes, Davie,” said his father, “then it ’ll
play nicer.”

“It’s no use,” put in Billy, moodily. “I tried to teach him.”

“Look, I’ll move my fingers, Davie, and you shall blow, and we’ll play a
pretty tune together. No, don’t be alarmed. I’m not taking the whistle
away, only putting my fingers on it. See, you shall hold the end fast in
your mouth.”

The child blew spasmodically. His father mechanically played the first
tune that came into his fingers. A gleam of excited interest leaped into
the child’s eyes as he heard the notes varying mysteriously in a rough
jingle. But the painter broke off suddenly. He realized that he was
playing “Home, Sweet Home.” It was too ghastly.

“More, more!” panted Davie, imperatively.

Matthew Strang obediently started “Yankee Doodle,” and had to grant two
encores before the juvenile tyrant was robbed of breath and desire.

“What’s your name, my little man?” he asked, thoughtlessly, to make


“Davie what?”

“Davie Thrang.”

“Ah! and how old are you?”

“I’se nearly four,” replied Davie, adding in a burst of new confidence,
“when I come to my fourf birfday, mummy says she’ll gi’ me a penny every
week all to mythelf.”

“Really?” said the painter, with a sad smile. “A whole penny?”

Davie shook his head in vehement affirmation: “Yeth, and I am thinkin’
what I shall buy mummy wi’ my firth penny--appleth or a flower.”

A thrill shot down the painter’s spine. The poor, sickly infant appeared
suddenly lovable to him; for the first time, too, he realized the child
as an independent entity, with thoughts of its own at work in the queer
little brain. Whatever the quality of this little brain, Davie’s heart
was sound enough. And this heart was evidently entirely given to his
mother. The momentary prick of irrational jealousy that the discovery
caused the father was forgotten in softer feelings. His conception of
the mother rose with his conception of the child. She was the other side
of the relation, and there must be something beautiful in her to
correspond with the beauty of her child’s sentiment. The oleograph of
“Motherhood” caught his eye again; he saw how insincerely he had painted
it, from a mere intellectual idea, unfelt, unrealized; but he saw also
the secret of its popularity, each observer contributing the emotion the
painter had not felt. His eye dwelt upon it more tolerantly.

“Kiss me, Davie,” he said, “and you shall have a penny now to buy mummy
a flower.”

Davie readily put up his lips to clinch the bargain, and his father gave
him the coin. The boy regarded it wistfully.

“What do you say?” Billy put in, more amiably.

“Fank you,” said Davie.

“Thank you, da--” prompted Billy.

“Daddy,” wound up Davie, triumphantly. “There ain’t no flower-womans
now,” he added, dubiously. “They was a lot at Margit.”

“I’ll be a flower-woman, Davie,” said his father, cheerily. “Wouldn’t
you like to have this beautiful flower--this rose in my button-hole--for
your penny, to give to mummy?”

“Yeth--I wants it,” said Davie, clutching greedily for it.

“Gently, or all the lovely pink leaves will fall out. And you must give
me your penny, you know.”

Davie, with a perplexed air, vaguely conscious of commercial
transactions too complicated for his intellect, hesitatingly retendered
the penny, and, receiving the rose, was set down on the carpet. He ran
eagerly to the door, blowing one disconsolate, irrelevant blast on the
whistle, and then the brothers heard him tumble down the
oilcloth-covered stairs with three thuds, followed by shrill ululations.
They ran to the head of the stairs, but Rosina had already rushed forth
to pick up her child, and her soothing prattle, varied by scolding for
his careless hurry, made a duet with his howls.

“Where did you get that flower from? You’ve crumpled it all to pieces.”
She extracted it from the fingers that had closed upon it tenaciously
when the fall commenced.

“From the gen’leman. Him what I calls daddy. It’s for you, mummy.”

“Tell him he can keep it!”

Davie’s howls recommenced.

Matthew Strang’s heart contracted. He went half-way down the stairs to
where Rosina ministered to her bruised offspring.

“I didn’t send you the flower, Rosina,” he said, gently. “It’s a gift
from the child.”

“Oh, is it? Then he’s better-hearted than his father, that’s all I can
say. Thank you, my poor darling, thank you. Dry your little eyes, and
mummy shall take you out to see all the pretty shops.”

“Won’t you come up-stairs and finish your tea, Rosina?” Matthew pleaded.

“I’m busy,” she said, tartly. “I’m giving Clara her tea. She’s just come
home from school.”

“Let her bring her tea up-stairs; then she can talk to me.”

“I’ll tell her you’re here. I dare say she’ll remember you--she
generally gets something out of you.”

He bit his lips to keep back angry speech, and remounted to the
drawing-room. Clara came close upon his footsteps, and ran to offer her
lips. She was a tall child of seven, with a low forehead, dark hair and
eyebrows, a heavy jaw, and a high color--handsome after a rather Gallic
fashion. The painter always trod gingerly with her, knowing she had her
grandmother’s temper. Rosina, lacking the clew, was less delicate with
the girl, whose sullen phases irritated her immeasurably. This afternoon
Clara was conciliated by sixpence, and chatted amicably with her father
about her lessons. Presently her mother came up too, with Davie in her
train, and there was the outward spectacle of a happy family group
united at tea. The painter was emboldened to strengthen an idea that was
gradually forming in his mind by expressing it.

“Billy feels very lonely down in this part of the town,” he began,

“And what must I feel?” Rosina snapped.

“Then why can’t we all live together, Rosina?” he said, more boldly.

“Are you beginning that again?” she asked, sharply. “You won’t come and
live here, will you?”

“You know it is impossible.”

“And you know it is impossible for me to move to your neighborhood. I’ve
told you a thousand times you can’t afford one of those big houses--it
would be ruinous; you’d have to keep a staff of servants to match, and
things would be coming to the house at extravagant prices from
aristocratic tradespeople, whereas here I go out and do my bit of
marketing, and pick up a bargain here and a bargain there; I’ve found
out a place in Holloway where I get the best meat a penny a pound
cheaper than anywhere in Camden Town, and it only means a penny tram
there and back. You don’t know how much I save you a year when you
suspect me of making a stocking for myself out of my sea-side allowance.
And even if you can afford such a house, rather give me the money and
let me put it by for the children.”

He made a despairing gesture. “We could get a small house,” he said. “I
could work harder for a year or two. Perhaps I could get a few more
rooms added to my studio. There’s a piece of ground I use at the back
for open-air studies.”

“And what would be the use of my living with you?” inquired Rosina,
brutally. “You don’t want me any more. I dare say you could come home at
night now if you wanted to.”

“Hush!” said her husband, flushing. “Clara, my dear, take Davie out and
buy him some candy. This penny is really his.”

“Yes, father.” And the joyous children disappeared.

“Poor orphans!” said Rosina. “Perhaps it’s just as well there won’t be
any more of them.”

Matthew Strang was startled, yet not quite surprised by the revelation
of his wife’s mood. She had never before so openly resented or dissented
from the situation that had gradually grown up--one of those strange,
complex, undefined situations of which life is so full, and which are
only able to exist by virtue of not being put into words.

He stirred the dregs of his tea with his spoon, painfully embarrassed.

“I shall talk to an architect I know,” he said at last, ignoring her
allusion. “The cost mightn’t be much, and it needn’t be all paid off at
once. Besides,” he added, with forced playfulness, “that extra hundred
dollars a year of yours must be used up somehow.”

Rosina turned eyes of flame upon the unhappy Billy. “I knew it!” she
said, cuttingly. “I knew you were here to spy upon me. So you have
sneaked about that, have you?”

Matthew lost his temper at last.

“Don’t be a fool, Rosina!” he said, roughly. “Do you think I care a pin
whether you spend a wretched hundred dollars more or less?”

“No; I dare say you would rather have a wife that would bring you to the
workhouse. They had the bailiffs in at No. 36A only yesterday. There’s a
wife there that would just suit you. The husband’s something in your way
of business, an author or a poet, and she’s a tall, stuck-up creature
who sits at the window in strange long gowns without stays, and reads
books to him and never goes to church. My! You should see her out
marketing--they swindle her at every turn; she doesn’t know a horse from
a ham sandwich. I don’t wonder they’ve come to a bad end--you should see
the dust on her Venetian blinds. I prophesied the crash last
winter--ask Billy if I didn’t. They took in their coals by the
hundred-weight. Don’t you fancy I don’t know that’s the sort of woman
you’re hankering after. Ever since my Davie was born, and you got mixed
up with those sort of creatures, you’ve been sorry you married me. Oh,
it’s no use denying it. You want a fine lady that would scorn to soil
her fingers with housework, and expect you to cover ’em with diamonds, a
creature that would faint at the sight of a black-beetle. But you were
glad enough to marry me once upon a time, when you hadn’t a dollar to
your name. They say you’re a fine painter, and who made you a fine
painter? Who took you abroad, and supported you while you were studying?
They think you’re a fine gentleman, and who made you a fine gentleman?
Oh yes, I know I’m not one of your fine ladies--but if I had been, where
would you have been now? In the bankruptcy court--perhaps back again in
the jail from which I dragged you.”

Matthew crimsoned furiously. Billy leaped in his chair.

“You fish-wife! How dare you say such things to my brother?” he cried,
choking with rage. “Matt in jail, indeed!”

“Let her talk,” said Matthew, wearily. “I see it was a mistake to have
come here at all.”

Rosina cast a glance of venomous triumph at her drooping husband. The
jail was a chance shot. In long, lonely, agonizing watches the resentful
suspicion had germinated and grown.

“It’s true,” she said, defiantly. “Let him deny it.”

“Why did you take a husband from jail?” retorted the painter, with a
flash of fire.

“I didn’t know it; I was tricked and bamboozled, and I had a heart in my
breast then, not a stone. If I had been a fine lady I might have been
more particular to examine your pedigree.”

A sense of guilt damped the man’s fire. The jail episode was not the
only thing he had concealed.

“If you’re sorry you married me we can separate,” he murmured.

“Separate--aren’t we separated enough? Do you mean you’d like a divorce?
Oh no, not for this child. So that you may marry one of your fine
ladies. Perhaps make an honest woman of her?”

“Rosina!” He sprang to his feet, thundering. The image of Eleanor
Wyndwood swept involuntarily before him, and he felt that this
coarse-tongued woman had profaned it.

She flinched before the cry, but parodied it daringly.


He flung from the room. Billy prodded frantically after him.

“Don’t go, Matt! Don’t go! You’ll never come back again.”

The piteous appeal sounded like a prophecy. He paused in the hall,

Rosina laughed hysterically. “You had better go with him, Billy, if
you’re so frightened. And good riddance to the pair of you. I’ve got my
bread and butter, thank God. My children sha’n’t starve, if their father
_does_ desert them.”

“Let me go, Billy,” he said, hoarsely, shaking off the cripple’s clutch.
“I can’t breathe here. Come with me--write to me--do what you like.” He
opened the hall-door and closed it behind him, and dashed against his
children coming back through the gate, with their mouths full of
almond-rock. Clara caught at the skirts of his coat.

“Don’t go away again, father,” she mumbled, peevishly. “Mother cries for
you in the night, and I can’t get to sleep.”

He swayed as if struck by a bullet. Then he took the little girl’s
sticky hand, and suffered himself to be led back through the area door.
As Clara unlatched it he heard her mother sobbing hysterically above.
The servant’s foolish face peeped, white and scared, from the kitchen
door, and made his own scarlet with shame.

“Your mistress is ill,” he muttered, and ran hastily up-stairs.

Rosina detected his footstep, and the sobs changed back to frenzied
laughter. Then she controlled both by sheer pride, all the steel in her
springing back unsnapped from its bend, and she opposed a mocking smile
to his discomfited concern. The strength that had kept her silent for
years was now summoned to undo the effects of speech.

“What have you forgotten?” she asked, tauntingly. “Have you come back
for your good-bye kiss or your umbrella or what? Kisses, they’re off;
we’re an old married couple now, but I don’t want to stick to your
umbrella. It might be a present from somebody nice. _Is_ there an
umbrella about, Billy? No? Dear me! Then it must be that rose. Ah, but
Davie gave me that.” She called down the stairs. “Wasn’t it you that
gave me the rose, Davie? Yes, and I’m not going to give it back. Don’t
be afraid, dear. Mummy won’t give away her darling’s present. Did ’um
bruise himself to give it to me? Poor Davie!”

There was a hectic flush on her cheek; her voice rang false. Matthew was

“Well, good-bye,” she jerked, after a pause. “What are you waiting for?”

“Don’t go away,” whispered Billy, nervously, shattered by the scenes of
the afternoon. “Come to the study; she’ll cool down soon.”

The suggestion commended itself to Matthew. It seemed cowardly to leave
this hysteric couple to themselves. He descended the kitchen stairs once
more, and passed along the corridor that led to his old studio, now
turned into a workroom for Billy, and fitted up with bookshelves, whose
contents hid the whitewashed walls. A writing-table, littered with
papers, occupied the centre of the floor, and piles of manuscript showed
within a little angle cupboard, whose door swung open. There were
several reproductions of his brother’s works roughly stuck on the
wall--one a valuable engraving signed by the artist; and the “Triumph of
Bacchus” was already represented in two shapes--once by the half-page
cut out of “The Season’s Pictures,” and again by a full-page photograph
of it from the _Graphic_.

“It’s a shame they don’t make you an A.R.A., Matt,” said Billy. “Your
pictures get more advertisement for the Academy than almost anybody

“For God’s sake, don’t talk of that now,” said the painter, brokenly.
His eye noted curiously that ancient engraving of “The Angelus,”
miraculously preserved to be one of Billy’s treasures, by the world’s
refusal to give more than eighteenpence for it.

It was a poor representative of the original, but the other ornaments of
the study seemed to him tawdry in comparison. His taste had changed: the
picture attracted him now. Without analyzing--the turmoil of his mind
did not permit that--he had an impression of sincerity, of sympathetic
vision, of work done inevitably; not, like his own work, from
cleverness. Despair of his life and his Art mingled in one dark paroxysm
as he dropped upon a chair and laid his head upon the writing-table.

“Don’t, you may get your hair sticky,” said Billy. “I don’t think it’s
quite dry--I was just pasting it in before you came.”

He withdrew the album from under his brother’s head--the pious
compilation with which he fed at once his jealousy and his pride. “I
suppose you saw that little sketch of your life in ‘Our Celebrities’
this month?”

Matthew did not answer.

“It’s not quite accurate, you know,” went on Billy. “It says you’re a
bachelor, and that you were born in Canada, and so on. But that doesn’t
matter. There are always mistakes, and, of course, nobody knows about
Rosina. Listen! ‘The eldest child of a prosperous Canadian farmer, he
gave early evidence of talent, and was sent to England to study art, and
soon became the favorite pupil at Grainger’s well-known Art School in
central London, where he studied under Tarmigan, a frigid artist who at
one time enjoyed considerable repute. Later, Mr. Strang pursued his
studies in Paris and Rome, and, returning to London with ripened art,
sought and obtained the suffrages of the Academicians with his picture
entitled “Motherhood,” since so familiar to the public in countless
reproductions, and the herald of a career of uniform success. Next year
his classic picture--’”

“My God! Do you want to drive me mad?” roared the sick lion, raising his
head. “I know all about it.”

“You needn’t bully my head off,” said Billy, pettishly. “I asked you if
you’d seen it.”

“It’s copied from _People of the Time_,” groaned the painter. He
clinched his fists in a blind rage against the universe. This was what
the public read and believed about his life--his life, with its slow,
sick struggles, its inner and outer discords, its poignant pathos. And
this was what he read and believed about other men. Good God! What was
behind their lives, the lives of his fellows, whose smooth histories he
read in biographical summaries? The possibilities of the human tragedy
frightened him. Then the realities of the human farce seized him, and he
terrified Billy by a long peal of sardonic laughter.

The laughter ceased suddenly. “Go and see how she is,” he commanded the
shuddering Billy, and the poor cripple, now less frightened of Rosina
than of his brother, sped away as fast as his crutch could carry him.

Left alone, the painter looked abstractedly at “The Angelus,” and it
drifted his thoughts back to the time when he had tried to sell it for
bread. How happy were those times of youthful aspiration, when all
things were new and all things were true, and hunger itself was but a
sauce to eke out the scanty meal! What was starvation to this terrible
hunger for happiness, what the want of money to this want of something
to live for? Ah, money was nothing; money troubles were mental figments.
It was the cark of life that killed--money or no money. Oh, to be young
and free again; free to be a slave to Art! How hollow it all was--this
fame, this running about, this Society that welcomed him, as he had
truly told Billy, like a kind of monstrosity! He had been happier when
he had toiled in this little whitewashed studio, even after his mistaken
marriage. The lines of the poet in whom he had read most of late fell
from his lips like an original personal cry:

    “Oh, I could lie down like a tired child,
      And weep away this sordid life of care.”

And thus Billy found him, his head on the desk, his shoulders heaving

“Matt!” he cried, timidly.

“Well!” in muffled accents.

“She’s gone to her room and locked herself in. She says you’re not to
come near her any more ever.”

A long silence.

“But I dare say it’ll blow over, Matt. This is not the first time she’s
been taken like that, though you’ve not been here to bear it.”

A longer silence.

Billy cudgelled his brain to rouse his brother.

“I saw Ruth Hailey a month ago,” he said at last. This time he succeeded
in evoking an indifferent monosyllable.


“Yes. She called here to see us--she was in London. She had got our
address from Abner Preep before leaving America. I gave her the address
of your studio, but she said she was uncertain whether she would have
time to look you up. She seems to be secretary to Mrs. Verder, the
Woman’s Rights woman, goes about with her everywhere. Linda Verder’s
lectures--you remember them at the St. James’s Hall in July. She’s in
Scotland now, and later on, Ruth writes to me (for I asked her to
correspond with me a little) they’re going to Paris for a course, under
the patronage of the American Embassy. They’ll stay in Paris some time,
as Linda Verder wants a rest badly, and has a lot of American friends
there. Then they go to Australia and New Zealand. Curious, isn’t it?”

“How did she look?”

“Ruth? Oh, she’s gone off a good deal, to my thinking. She must be
getting pretty old now--about as old as you, which is young for a man,
but old for a woman. But her eyes are fine, and there’s a sweetness--I
can’t describe it. She says she used to teach Sunday-school in the
States, and, though she enjoys travelling about, regrets having had to
give up her class. Fancy! She used to be such a smart girl, too, and I
should have thought the deacon had disgusted her with religion. You know
she won’t have anything to do with him.”

“Is he still alive?”

“Oh, he’s just as spry as ever. His father’s curled up his toes, though.
Old Hey had the old man from Digby to live with him, and they used to go
at it hammer and tongs.”

Billy could extract no further answer. But he would not let his brother
go that night, insisting he must sleep with him as usual in the spare
bed in his bedroom.

About nine o’clock Rosina sent a specially nice supper for two down to
the study. Matthew roused himself to eat a morsel to keep Billy company,
and then, before going to his sleepless couch in Billy’s room, bethought
himself of whiling away the time by answering some letters which had
been bulking his inner coat-pocket for days. One of these was a
reverential request for an autograph, addressed from a fine-sounding
country house, and backed by the compulsive seduction of a stamped

His emotions were exhausted. He wrote apathetically, “Yours truly,
Matthew Strang,” writing very near the top of the note-paper for fear of
fraud, and cutting off the Camden Town heading.

The celebrity was at home for once.



The old-fashioned yellow coach, top-heavy with pyramidal luggage,
rattled along the Devonshire coast, striking its apex against
over-arching boughs, and Matthew Strang sat on the box-seat, forgetting
London in the prospect of Eleanor Wyndwood and in the view of white and
red houses scattered like wild-flowers about a steep green hill
overhanging the curve of a lovely bay.

For Rosina had continued obdurate and invisible; she had sent up
breakfast from the kitchen without appearing, and with an irritating air
of cooking for a gentleman-boarder, and he, fretful and anguished after
a wretched wakeful night, had fled, snarling even at Billy, who would
have stayed him further. The remembrance of her cantankerousness and of
his own ill-humor had accompanied him all the way to Devonshire, but the
sight of the sea--rolling vast and green and sun-dimpled--the wrinkled
unaging sea, had calmed him. His burdens fell from him. The last vapors
of London, the torpid miasma of the packed streets, the cabbage odors of
Camden Town, were blown afar; he drew deep breaths of the delicious

How lucky it was Rosina had shied at the suggestion which he had thrown
out on the reckless impulse of a desperate moment! How could they
possibly live together any more? To draw the same atmosphere with her
was stifling; and at the thought his deep inspirations took on a new
voluptuousness of freedom regained. Decidedly he had not counted the
cost when the quixotic proposal sprang to his lips. For that atmosphere
meant death to his soul--nothing less; death to all his new stirrings
and yearnings--asphyxiation to his Art. Ah! the good salt air, let it
blow on his free forehead, let it play among his early-graying locks.
Let it whisper the brave dreams of youth till the nimble blood tingles
and the eyes are wet with tears. Let him feel the freshness of morning,
though the sun is hastening westward, and the best of the day is spent.
The coachman blows his horn, and the hills are filled with the echoes of
romance. Away with the clogging mists and the moral fogs of the town,
away with the moody vision of a narrow-souled virago in a gray house in
a drab labyrinth, and ho! for the enchanted cliffs and waters, where
loveliness broods like light over earth and sea, and a spirit that is
half a woman and half the soul of all beauty waits with swelling bosom
and kindling eyes. Oh, the bonny horses, the spanking quartette, how
they sweep round the curves and dash down the dales, and how gallantly
the ruddy-faced driver holds them in the hollow of his hand! What
delightful villages, primitive as the rough stone of which they are
built, what quaint old hostels and archaic streets steeped in the
mingled scent of the sea and the moors! Here be old-world orchards, here
be cosey cottages and sweet homely gardens, gay with nasturtiums and
hollyhocks and scarlet-runners, with roses and pansies.

Ta-ra! Ta-ra-ra-ra! Ta-ra! The driver airily salutes the afternoon. Over
the ferny walls of the Devonshire lanes, the outside passengers behold
the red crags perching picturesquely on the sea-front like petrified
monsters of an earlier era, and the trail of redder gold quivering
across the great water; the wind rises and flecks the shimmering green
as with a flock of skimming sea-birds. Oh, the beauty of the good round
earth, the beauty forgotten and blotted out in the reeking back streets
of great cities! Oh, gracious privilege of the artist, to seize a
moment of the flowing loveliness of all things; to pass it through the
alembic of his soul, and give it back transfigured and immortal.

“To feel Beauty growing under one’s hand.” The words were
Eleanor’s--they chimed celestially in his ears, not as words, but as
_her_ words, stored up as in a phonograph with every dainty intonation,
but with their music sweetened rather than deadened. All she had ever
said to him he could recall as from a box of heavenly airs. Every
syllable had the golden cadence of poesie. To love her was to be young
again, fit for every high emprise, sensitive to every tremor of fantasy
and romance.

“Stiff collar-work that, sir.”

The driver’s tongue was clattering tirelessly--of his horses, which,
more sensible than men, wouldn’t touch a drop more than was good for
them; of his life on the box from boyhood, his easy-going content, his
pioneer daughter, the first in those parts to wear spectacles; his
pleasure in seeing gentlefolk come down to circulate the money, his
scorn of chapel-goers; but Matthew Strang’s private phonograph was
performing with equal indefatigability, and his spirit leaped
incessantly from one to the other, touched to a large geniality for
horn-blowing humanity.

The sun was sinking royally in the sea, like a Viking in his burning
vessel, when the coach obligingly drew up with a flourish of the horn
and a scattering of chickens and a barking of dogs at the farm where
Herbert had his headquarters. He was disappointed not to find Herbert
there to receive him, as he had telegraphed his advent; but just as he
was comfortably installed and was beginning to wonder whether he should
start dining alone, that ever-young gentleman galloped up, flushed with
health and sun and exercise, and, leaping from his horse, gave Matthew
such hearty greeting that the painter had a grateful sense of being
welcomed to an ancient seignorial home by a bluff and hospitable squire.

“I’ve been working at the portrait,” Herbert explained, ascending to his
room with his hand affectionately on the shoulder of Matthew, who was
thus forced to remount the stairs. “Of course I keep my painting kit at
their place. And a jolly old place it is, with the sea cleaning the
doorsteps, or pretty nearly. They’re beastly comfortable, with their
London servants and carriages, and they’ve a motherly old person who
seems a combination of cook and chaperon, and turns out delicious
dishes, and they’ve taken on a native girl to help them--a sweet simple
creature with cheeks like strawberries and cream. Do you remember the
lady who said strawberries and cream needed only to be forbidden to be
an ecstasy? These _are_ forbidden. Oh, don’t look glum, I haven’t
indulged. Forbidden fruit is out of season. I’m tired of it. It’s
generally canned. And I have had too much of the foreign brands--ugh! I
can see the litter of broken tins. I’m developing a healthy taste for
the fresh-growing article, without any prohibitive tariff.”

Matthew turned to grasp his friend’s hand silently, as though sealing
some compact. He felt it was Eleanor whose magnetism had uplifted
Herbert to that reverence for womanhood he himself had always
entertained. It was impossible to live under her spell and remain
coarse. And, paradoxically enough, he was glad Herbert was living on a
higher plane--it strengthened him in his own purely spiritual devotion
to the beautiful friend of his soul. How stupid to have hesitated; how
commonplace and ignoble to have gone to see Rosina for fear of Eleanor’s
influence upon him. Like the old Roman, he had lost a day. And he had
uselessly harrowed his soul to boot.

And yet, perhaps, not altogether uselessly, he reflected consolingly.
The visit had laid the ghost of remorse; the full daylight had been
turned upon the situation; he had seen beyond reach of further doubt
that he was not to blame for it; that he was the victim of the blind
tragedy of circumstance. True, the full daylight had also revealed that
Rosina was taking the situation far more tragically than he had ever
allowed himself to suspect; it was pitiful, but it could not be helped.
His own mother had fared far worse, her living death had taught him
resentful resignation to the workings of fate. No, Rosina must be put on
one side. He had lost happiness; his Art at least must be saved.

Waiting for Herbert to change his clothes, he looked out of the
ivy-wreathed, diamond-paned casement, and saw a lonely white wraith of a
moon glimmering in the great spaces over the great lonely deep, and
heard the moan of the waves under the wind’s lash, and watched the
sunset dying in pale greens and pinks and saffrons; and so, in an
exalted mood, went down to dinner.

It was getting towards nine o’clock when the cousins lit their cigars
and strolled along the cliffs, their feet taking them westwards, where
phosphorescent streaks of light green lingered in the sky, sending out
thinner lucent shoots to join the eastern gray.

“I’ll show you the house--it’s not more than a mile,” Herbert

“We can’t call to-night,” said Matthew.

“What! Not with a madcap like Olive? You don’t mind my calling her
Olive, do you, old man?”

“No,” laughed Matthew.

“Well, then! If I may call her Olive, why mayn’t I call on her in the
evening? But that’s an argument rather in Olive’s vein, though it
appears to puzzle you--ha! ha! ha! But you mustn’t bring your London
etiquette down here with you, my boy,” he went on in a harangue tempered
by puffs--”you’d better send it back by the carrier to-morrow if you
packed it in your luggage by mistake. We’re in another world, and in an
earlier century. What a superficial view to think contemporaries live in
the same century! These people--as yet unsophisticated by the
tourist--are living in the seventeenth century A.D. at the latest;
they’d burn Olive for a witch if they knew her as I do, the droll elf,
with her masculine brain and her tricksy femininity. I think I’ve lived
in every place and time under the sun. I’ve been with fourteenth-century
brigands and sixth-century monks. And in Jerusalem with the Jews I was
back in the B.C. ages. I really think all the centuries live side by
side. There must have been A.D. people in the B.C. times, just as there
are B.C. people living in A.D. times. Fancy thinking these bucolics an
evolutionary advance on Pericles and Horace. Evolution must move like
those waves down below, sending scouts out here and there far in
advance of the general march of the waters, whenever there’s a hollow
curve in the coast. I’m a twenty-fifth century man myself, which makes
the nineteenth call me godless and immoral. But what were we talking

“Goodness knows. Oh, I know--”

“I’m aware you are goodness incarnate,” interpolated Herbert.

“I was saying we couldn’t call on Mrs. Wyndwood to-night.”

“Ah, but why shouldn’t Mrs. Wyndwood want a stroll after dinner as much
as we? I told her of your wire. What more natural than that they should
stroll eastward?” And Herbert smiled mysteriously, as one with
experience. “I told you we made our own etiquette--laws are for the
benefit of the community. _We_ are the community, we four, the only
civilized beings in a loutish world. We began as a triumvirate, but your
coming has changed the form of government. You are the fourth party. We
are now--what shall I say?--a constitutional quartette.”

As Herbert rattled on, Matthew felt more and more the fascination of his
gay cousin, whose white teeth flashed as facetiously as in the days of
yore, and whose lissome figure was a continuous pleasure to the artistic
eye. Gratitude mingled with his admiration; but for Herbert’s ingenuity
he would never have been a citizen of the earthly paradise that was
opening before him. The smoke of his cigar rose like incense on the
solemn air, upon which the sound of the wind and the sea broke like a
hush. Under foot were gorse and bracken, mixed with sparse sprouts of
grass; overhead a rich yellow half-moon, partly hidden by scowling
clouds, but throwing a band of pale gold, that changed with the
deepening dusk to rippling silver, across the sombre bay, in whose
distant cliffs the lights of vague scattered villages twinkled
mysteriously, suggesting romantic windows of illumined hollow chambers
in the steep rock. And presently white figures were seen advancing
slowly to meet them, pausing each instant as if to drink in the beauty
of the night.

“Ah, there they are!” cried Herbert.

“No, there are three of them,” said Matthew, in disappointed tones.

“That’s the maid, carrying a reserve of wraps, you duffer! Don’t throw
away your cigar. There’s Olive herself with a cigarette, if my eyes do
not deceive me.”

But Matthew Strang’s cigar went out ere the two parties--sauntering more
slowly than before they had become unconscious of each other--were
startled to find themselves face to face. His heart was beating
furiously as if he were really startled by the apparition of a queenly
figure and a lovely flushed face on the background of the night. A smile
danced in the eyes and parted the red lips with an expression of more
eager welcome than had ever been accorded him in town; and there was a
more intimate pressure in the clasp of the warm hand, subtly heralding a
new phase in their friendship, in this disappearance of the conventional
stage properties of the fashionable human scene, in this isolation amid
the primitiveness of nature, and of a humanity simpler than their own;
while Miss Regan’s cigarette and her frank laugh and hand-shake
indicated less subtly, but no less pleasantly, the commencement of a
semi-Bohemian artistic period which loomed more agreeably to Matthew
than any of the periods Herbert had boasted of living in.

“Welcome to the Creamery,” said Olive, “or rather to the Ice-Creamery,
as we’ve had to call it lately.”

“Then why don’t you put on your wraps?” said Matthew, anxiously.

“Oh, it’s comparatively tropical to-night, and we had to give Primitiva
a pretext for accompanying us. This is Primitiva (_née_ Rose) the
ex-post.” The pretty lass made a courtesy. “She was the post, you know,
when we first came. She used to bring letters from the post-office,
which is near you, and our first acquaintance with the post was to find
it in tears because it had lost a letter of ours. She had dropped it _en

“Was it an important letter?” asked Matthew.

“That is very nearly a bull, Mr. Strang,” replied Olive. “However, as
the letter was picked up by a coast-guard, I am able to tell you it
wasn’t of the slightest importance--merely a request from Mr. Harold
Lavender to be allowed to dedicate his next book of poems to Nor. Still
it might have been important; it might have contained a P.O.M.”

“Do you mean a poem or a post-office order?” laughed Mrs. Wyndwood,
turning a flippant face towards Matthew’s, over which a cloud had come
like that now entirely over the moon.

“Neither,” said Olive, gravely; “a P.O.M., a proposal of marriage. But
wasn’t it odd to see the post crying? I fell in love with her at once. I
saw that such a quaint creature would do more good to me than to Her
Majesty’s service, and so, hey, presto! she was whisked from the
post-office and changed into a tire-woman.”

“And, oh! what a refreshing contrast with the London servant,” added
Mrs. Wyndwood. “Primitiva is really a servant, not a critic on the

“Yes,” said Olive, “she believes that all London ladies smoke, and
considers Nor eccentric for not indulging. And whatever I tell her is
gospel; she thinks I’m like George Washington--invariably truthful.”

“Then she thinks you eccentric, too,” said Herbert, smiling back.

Olive’s eyes danced; her lips quivered trying to keep back the smile of

“Save your cynicism for town, sir,” she said. “Primitiva doesn’t think
anything of the kind. The world is not a whited sepulchre to her. It is
lucky I removed her from the sphere of your blighting influence.”

“Yes,” grumbled Herbert. “She’s our farmer’s daughter, Matt. And she
might have hovered about our dinner-table.”

“I couldn’t leave Marguerite in the way of Faust,” said Olive, plumply.

Matthew Strang winced; Miss Regan’s plain speaking grated upon him, and
he saw that Mrs. Wyndwood had lowered her eyes in like annoyance and had
commenced to walk homewards. And he resented this preoccupation with
Primitiva; he feared she was going to play the part of the dog, Roy.
Herbert hummed an operatic bar or two and broke off laughing: “I wish I
had Faust’s voice. A lovely tenor voice was apparently among the profits
of his bargain with the devil.”

Miss Regan laughed merrily. “Are you going back, Nor?” she called out.

“Yes,” said Mrs. Wyndwood. “We must say good-night.”

“Oh, we must see you home,” protested Matthew, as he moved to her side.

“There’s really no need,” she returned. “We sha’n’t meet anybody.”

“But it’s so dark,” said Matthew, for the moon still dallied behind its
cloud-rack, and threw only a faint wavering circle of light on the weird
water, though the stars were now clear enough.

“Then, come along!” cried Olive, bounding forwards, from Herbert’s side,
rather to his disgust. “Run straight home, Primitiva.” And, waving her
cigarette-tip in the darkness, she disappeared in the earth like a red

Herbert dashed after her down the cliff descent. The exhilaration of
their spirits caught Eleanor. She was swallowed down abruptly. Matthew
followed more cautiously, wondering. And then began a mad, unforgetable,
breakneck, joyous scramble in the darkness down the steepest and
craggiest of roughly worn paths, diversified by great sheer gaps without
foothold for a goat, down which they had to drop. At first Matthew tried
to steady and help himself by clutching at the vegetation and bushes
through which the path broke, but it was all blackberry-bushes and
prickly gorse, and his involuntary interjections were answered by peals
of mocking laughter from the invisible pioneer below.

“How do you like seeing us home?” she called up.

But Matthew was rapt far beyond the sting of taunts and
blackberry-bushes. Mrs. Wyndwood was only a few inches ahead of him;
every moment she turned to cheer him on, and her face was close to his,
and the divine darkness was filled with light and perfume. Twice or
thrice in this topsy-turvy harum-scarum descent she gave him a helping
hand, as one familiar with the ground, and he took it with no sense of
unmanliness. “Be careful here,” she said once, “or the brambles will
scratch your face,” and she looked up adorably from her insecure perch
below, holding the prickly net-work apart with her upper arm as he slid
cautiously towards her, blissfully conscious that this sharing of
common--if petty--peril was bringing them together beyond the reach of
ceremonial coldness for evermore. Sometimes the gray sea showed below
through the interstices on the left, and its dull boom mingled with the
gentle swish of the wind and the gurgle of a little water-fall. The last
twenty feet were the worst, and they were aggravated by the banter of
the couple safely below. Herbert had never caught up with Olive, who had
skeltered down like a wild-cat, leaving a trail of gay ejaculations; but
Mrs. Wyndwood herself had to be helped in the precipitous windings of
the base, with its tiny niches of crumbling stone at long intervals, and
now in sweet revenge Matthew held her hand to steady her from above,
while below Herbert waited with open arms for her final jump. An odd
recollection of his climbing down the steeple in Economy flashed through
his brain, as he himself half slipped, half leaped to the ground, hot
and red and breathless; and gratitude for the miraculous metamorphosis
in his fortunes added to the tenderness of his mood. How good it was to
be alive--there in the brave night, moneyed and famous and still young,
glowing with physical well-being--amid a joyous human company, with a
delightful friend and cousin, and two brilliant and beautiful ladies,
both members of that fashionable world which had once filled him with
envious bitterness, and one of them a woman whose presence made
everything magical. Rosina was very shadowy now.

They seemed in a great closed circle, walled by cliffs, with a roof
fretted by stars. Two glooming pools made dark patches in the lighter
soil, and they heard the stir of fish.

“A deserted stone quarry,” Olive explained.

“There are carp in the pools,” said Herbert.

“We live outside,” said Mrs. Wyndwood.

“It’s nearer over the cliff and more ladylike,” added Olive.

“It was hardly fair to Mr. Matthew Strang, though,” Eleanor remarked,
smiling. “We’ve all learned the way in the daylight. When you see it in
the morning, Mr. Strang, you’ll find it sometimes within a few inches
of the sheer precipice, and if you had caught hold of the bushes to stay
your fall you would have dropped them like a hornet’s nest. We ought to
have warned him--in the dark, too.”

“If we had warned him he would have fallen,” laughed Olive, gayly.
“Anybody could walk a four-inch plank over a precipice if he thought it
was on the ground. Ignorance is salvation. But you will have to come in,
Strangs, and brush yourselves before you go. What a nuisance your both
having the same name. When I insult Mr. Herbert I shall excite the
animosity of Mr. Matthew, and vice versa. I really think, Nor, we shall
have to call them by their Christian names.”

“Only when they’re together,” said Mrs. Wyndwood, smiling.

“We must always stick together, Matt,” cried Herbert, with jocose
enthusiasm. “Your hand, Matt.”

“We might call one the Painter,” began Mrs. Wyndwood, “and the other--”

“No, that’s ungrateful,” Olive remonstrated, “after the beautiful
success Mr. Herbert has made of you.”

“I meant Mr. Herbert,” replied Eleanor, roguishly, and for once Olive
had no retort ready.

“No, even taking the portrait into account, Matt’s the Painter,” said
Herbert, placing his hand lovingly on the shoulder of his friend, who
thrilled with a sense of his cousin’s large-heartedness. “Call me the

“You are both Painters,” Miss Regan persisted. “But the problem is
solved--one is Mr. Herbert and the other Mr. Matthew.” She took
Eleanor’s arm and led the way to the house.

“Since when are you a playwright, Mr. Herbert?” asked Matthew, as they
fell a little into the rear.

“None of _your_ sarcasm, you beggar. I’ve always been a playwright.
Don’t you remember my doing a burlesque for the Academy students? I’m
writing a comedy in the evenings--the lessee of the Folly is a friend of
mine--I must make some money now--there’s that hundred pounds I owe
you--and I know I’m not going to make it by painting.”

“But surely you will let me know if you want anything,” said Matthew,
with genuine concern, for there seemed something immoral in the idea of
Herbert feeling the pinch of need, to say nothing of his shock at
finding that his cousin had run through all that money. Herbert had,
indeed, several times hinted at his impecuniosity, but Matthew had never
taken him seriously.

Herbert shook his head. “I know you’re a brick, old chap, but a hundred
pounds is as much as I care to owe any one man.”

“But you don’t consider me _any_ one man.”

“Ah! it’s awfully good of you to remember that I did as much for
you--comparatively speaking--in your tenpenny times, but still it isn’t
quite agreeable to find one’s bread on the waters after many days. I
never did like soaked bread, even in milk. The most I could do would be
to let you settle up every week with Primitiva’s father. But it’s really
halves, mind you, and when my comedy is produced, you’ll have to reckon
with me. They like what I’ve written--the women--they think it’ll make a
hit--I read them the night’s work after lunch the next day--of course, I
always lunch with them after the morning’s sitting. Ah, here we are!”

They had emerged from the sheltered quarry and met the smack of the salt
wind from the moaning sea-front. A lawn ran out to meet the pebbly
beach, from which it was separated by a low stone wall; the ancient
slate-roofed house stood out radiantly cheerful against the dusky
background of the night and the cliffs. Primitiva was at the door
looking out anxiously, and a man-servant shared her anxiety, or at least
her vigil.

“How delightful!” exclaimed Matthew.

“Yes, weren’t we lucky?” said Mrs. Wyndwood. “It’s an old family
residence. The owner kept it untenanted for thirty years, and has never
consented to let it before.”

The ladies took off their things while the men brushed themselves in the
hall, where, divided by a heavily carved barometer, a pair of faded
oil-paintings hung--a gentleman in a wig and a lady in a coif. These
reminded Miss Regan that Matthew must see how splendidly Herbert’s
portrait of Mrs. Wyndwood had turned out after all. “The rogue!” she
cried. “As soon as he thought the sittings were to cease, the picture
picked up wonderfully! And now he’s dilly-dallying with it again!”

So they wandered through the large rambling house with its old-fashioned
belongings till they reached the room which Herbert had been allowed to
use as a studio. Matthew saw with joy that Herbert had let the glorious
face and figure be as he himself had painted them in that spurt of
inspiration, and had confined his own attention to the minutiæ of the
dress, which was nearly finished. Olive held a lamp to it, awaiting his
praises. He had a moment of embarrassment.

“She is very beautiful,” he said, ambiguously, but rapturously. Then,
turning to Herbert, he added, heartily, “If your comedy is only as good,
old fellow--”

“It will be,” said Mrs. Wyndwood, enthusiastically. “Who should write
comedy if not a man like Mr. Strang--I mean Mr. Herbert--a man who has
seen the manners of men and cities? I should think he could do it even
better than he can paint.”

“But he has one disadvantage,” said Olive, gloomily. “He is witty.”

Herbert stood bowing with his hand on his breast in mock acknowledgment.
His boyish face looked flushed and handsome in the lamplight. Matthew
had a spasm of despair--a momentary sense of being an outsider.

“Don’t practise your footlights bow here,” said Olive. “No one has
called ‘author!’”

“‘Many are called, but few chosen,’” quoted Herbert.

“I wonder how I should come out under _your_ brush?” said Eleanor,
turning to Matthew. His black fit vanished; he was taken back again into
the charmed circle. But the question remained awkward.

“Not more beautiful than this,” he murmured. “Perhaps you will give me
the pleasure. I am here to paint--partly, that is.”

“Perhaps in town; not here. I want to be out and about. Olive, we must
give them something before they go back through the cold night.”

Olive rang the bell and ordered refreshment. They adjourned to the
drawing-room, a spacious apartment, with strange heavy antique furniture
and curious bronzes and vases, the _ensemble_ made more quaint by the
irrelevant presence of a grandfather’s chair, with its high, stiff
canvas back.

“I fished that up from the kitchen,” said Olive. “It’s jolly to sit
there and imagine one’s self an old crone nodding to one’s last sleep.”

She seated herself upon it forthwith, nid-nodding, and against the white
canvas her dark face shone, lovely and young and more provoking by the
suggestive contrast.

Herbert stood over her, fidgeting, his fingers drumming nervously on the
canvas awning.

She sprang up and threw back the lid of a mahogany instrument, and began
to play a joyous melody.

Matthew had seated himself in an arm-chair near the window. Eleanor, her
superb arms and neck bare, was opposite him, a wonderful white vision in
the soft-toned light. He caught her eyes and they smiled at him, the
friendly smile that means nothing and everything.

As Olive touched the keys, his breast grew tenderer; where had he heard
those tinkling harmonies before? His dead childhood came back to him for
a moment--it was a harpsichord, and the last person he had heard playing
it was Ruth Hailey. A vision of her girlish figure flitted before him,
then passed into the picture of the young woman with the sweet earnest
eyes that Billy had conjured up, then faded into the sweeter vision of
reality, as, through eyes still misty, he saw Eleanor’s bosom softly
rising and falling with the melody, the joyous soul of which sparkled in
her eager eyes. The tune grew merrier, madder. Herbert was at the
player’s side now; he was talking to her as her long, white fingers
darted among the keys. Suddenly the music jarred and stopped; Olive
leaped up and ran to the window and threw it open, and a cold wind swept
in, and the solemn sobbing of the waves.

“There it is,” she cried, “the great lonely blackness, roaring outside
like a wild beast in its lonely agony. We shut it out with our walls,
and hang them with pictures and plaques, but there it is all the same,
and all our tapestries cannot quite deaden its wail. Don’t you hear it
in the darkness, don’t you hear it crying out there--the pain of the

Mrs. Wyndwood sprang up in alarm and closed the window.

“Olive, Olive, calm yourself,” she said, tenderly, pressing the girl’s
face to her bosom.

Olive broke from her with a peal of laughter. “You look as if you had
seen a ghost, Nor. Are you afraid of the black night that you shut it
out? Are you out of tune with it already?”

“You exaggerate the pain of the world, dearest,” said Eleanor,

Herbert looked startled. “The pain of the world?” he said. “The futility
of the world, you mean. People eat and drink and go to theatres, and
over their graves the parson prates of infinities and immortalities.
Religion is too big for us. We’re like mice in a cathedral.”

“You are right.” Olive dropped wearily into the grandfather’s chair.
“God said, ‘Let man be,’ and _nascitur ridiculus mus_.”

Eleanor’s eyes kindled. “We are small most times,” she said. “But there
are moments when, as Wordsworth says:

    “‘Through Love, through Hope, and Faith’s transcendent dower,
      We feel that we are greater than we know.’

I’m not afraid, Olive. There! I open the window again. Come and
look--not at the black night, but up at the stars.”

Matthew’s soul melted in worship. He moved to her side and, refreshed by
the cool sea air, lifted his eyes to the far-sprinkled vault where the
moon had now suffused the dark clouds, which seemed to have grown light
and porous. The two infinities of sky and sea brooded together in the
night, ineffably solemn.

Olive would not budge. “The stars!” she shuddered. “Big, lonely worlds.”

Mrs. Wyndwood did not hear her. “Ah, there’s the Plough,” she said; “and
there’s the Polar Star in a straight line, and there’s Cassiopeia. And
that’s all I know. But, oh! surely they are havens of rest, where the
tears are wiped from all faces.” Her voice faltered, her face was rapt
as in prayer.

“Won’t you put something over your shoulders?” Matthew said, anxiously.

“No; it’s quite warm. Unless perhaps we take a turn up and down the
beach before you go; shall we? It looks so divine out there.”

He was startled and intoxicated by the proposal.

“Won’t you come, too, Olive? It’s nearly ten o’clock. We must be sending
them home to their farm, or Primitiva’s father will bar the door.
Already we have a reputation for witchcraft because our house shines
afar at eleven o’clock, a beacon of evil to all the neighboring hamlets.
In London we should just be preparing to go out.”

“I am tired, Nor. You can have a turn, if you like. You go, too, Mr.

Herbert hesitated. “No, it wouldn’t be fair to leave you alone.”

“Does company prevent one from being alone?”

“I’ve _got_ to have a turn in a moment, anyhow,” said Herbert, weakly.
“A _re_turn, alas!”

“We’ll leave them to fight it out.” And Mrs. Wyndwood laid her hand a
moment on Matthew’s shoulder, thrilling him. They went out under the
stars. She had taken only a light, fleecy wrap, beneath which the white
shoulders were half defined, half divined. They went across the lawn and
through the gate, and crunching lightly over the little pebbles, walked
towards where the surf bubbled white in the grayness. All was very
still, save for the eternal monotone of the sea. There were a few yellow
glimmers from the villages on the cliffs. Far to the east a light-house
sent watery rays across the night. They stood without speaking, in a
religious ecstasy, breathing in the salt air.

At last the delicious silence was broken by her more delicious voice.

“I am so glad you came,” she said, simply.

His breast swelled painfully.

“You are very good to me.”

“Oh, I mean your cousin will have company.”

“Is that all?” he said, audaciously.

“And then, he likes to be with Miss Regan.”

“Is that all?”

She smiled.

“You are too ambiguous. The plain truth is that your cousin prefers to
talk to Miss Regan alone, and I didn’t care about appearing a marplot.
You know the proverb.”

He was never shrewd. Harassed as he had been by his own affairs,
Herbert’s admiration of Olive had never struck him as a serious passion.
He conceived his cousin as a philandering person, a man of many
flirtations. But now the suggestion that came from Eleanor’s lips seemed
to throw a flood of light on everything, even on Herbert’s remark about
forbidden fruit. For once Herbert was veritably in love. In his relief
at the butterfly’s choice of a definite flower he forgot to resent Mrs.
Wyndwood’s reason for giving himself her company.

“Are you sure it isn’t you he admires?” he asked, merely for the
pleasure of her denial.

“Oh no! I’m an old, staid, prosaic, mature widow. My romance is over,”
she sighed.

She never looked more spiritual than thus in the moonlight. But he could
never bring himself to the conventional compliments. He asked, simply:

“And what about Miss Regan?”

“Ah! I should not tell you if I knew, and I don’t know. I don’t profess
to understand Miss Regan. I never knew any one so easy to live with and
so difficult to understand. But, as she doesn’t understand herself, I
don’t feel humiliated. Of course she has always had men at her feet, and
she has refused one of the most brilliant _partis_ in the kingdom. I was
afraid she hated men, and I’m still uncertain. If she ever does marry I
think it will be to spite her relatives, to make them lament she has
thrown herself away. Did I tell you that she quarrelled with them all
and came to live with me?”

“Yes, you told me. And you were unhappy then?”

She passed her hand across her eyes, but did not speak.

“You are not unhappy now?”

She smiled. “Are you fishing for compliments?”


“Indeed not. Only I am so sorry for you.” His voice trembled.

“Let us walk along,” she said.

He obeyed. “You are not angry with me for being sorry?” he faltered.

“No, sympathy is always sweet. Though I do not deserve it, some people
will tell you.”

“What people?” he asked, fiercely.

“Olive’s people. They all say I saddened my husband’s last hours. He was
brought home dead from the hunting-field, you know. He had been--but,
no! _de mortuis nil nisi bonum_.”

“Tell me,” he said, softly.

She began to speak, then broke off. “No, why should I tell you?” she
said, gently.

“Because--because--I want to be your friend.”

Her bosom heaved. She caught her breath.

“It was a vile sporting-house.” She shuddered. “He left me with an oath
on his lips.”

Matthew Strang was at boiling-point. He ground the pebbles furiously
under his foot. Oh, the infamy of Society! That this lily should have
been handled roughly! It was sacrilege. And yet, in some subtle way, he
felt her more human than before. She, too--painful as it was to realize
it--had known the mire of life; she, too, this delicate flower of
womanhood! though it had left her unsullied, ethereal still. Then she
would understand what he had gone through, she would know how coarse and
unlovely life could be. He felt strangely nearer to her heart at this
moment; some icy partition had melted away.

She ceased walking, and put both hands over her face. The fleecy wrap
quivered on her shoulders. He waited in silent reverence.

“Perhaps I _was_ inconsiderate,” she said at last, lifting her face
dimmed with tears, “not forbearing enough.”

“You angel!” he whispered.

“You’ll hear another story from his people. All--except Olive. They will
tell you that--that I am a--” she smiled wistfully--”a flirt.”

He had no words hot enough. He kicked a stone savagely. “The vile
slanderers!” he cried. “They are all tarred with the same brush. You’re
lucky to be done with them.”

“There was young Gerard Brode staying in the house, a mere boy up from
Oxford and bubbling over with Socialism. I was interested in his
theories and we had long talks, and I tried to convert Douglas--that was
my poor husband--and to persuade him that we ought to divide our
property with everybody; but he met me with coarse ribaldry, and said he
wasn’t going to divide his wife with any man, least of all a
whipper-snapper like Gerard Brode, and feeble taunts like that, and that
was the beginning of our dissensions.”

“Poor Mrs. Wyndwood!” he said, and felt it a sweet privilege to pity
her. “And so you spent your fortune on the movement.”

She smiled sadly. “Scarcely my fortune. Poor Douglas never lived to
inherit, and I wasn’t born with a gold spoon in my mouth, though it had
a crest on it. But who has been telling you about my indiscretions?” She
did not wait for an answer, adding: “But, there, you know all about me
now,” and her pathetic smile had a dazzling _camaraderie_, though it
flickered away as she wound up meditatively: “I wonder why I told you.
Shall we go in?”

“Not yet,” he pleaded, hastily. “Oh, if you knew how proud I am of your
confidences! That they should be made to me--to me! Oh, if you knew what
my life has been!” He felt choking.

“You terrify me,” she returned, lightly. “Nothing very dreadful, I

“I am nothing, nobody.” He struggled with his voice. “I have slept in
the streets. I have consorted with the vilest.”

“All the more honor to you that you are fine.”

“Oh, if I had met you before! You would have inspired me, uplifted me.”

“No higher than you are.”

“Ah, you don’t understand. I have been so poor.”

“Poverty is not a crime.”

“I have been in prison.”

“You were innocent!” Her face shone.

“It was only for debt. I was the victim of a bankruptcy, and I have paid
it all off since. But the stain remains.”

“On the laws that put you there.”

He gulped down the great lump that made his throat dry and painful. “I
was born in a poor Nova-Scotian village. No one cared for Art.”

She stooped down and plucked up a sea-pink. “See! how sturdily it grows
among the stones!”

Now all the pent-up self-pity of the long, solitary years burst forth in
a great torrent, breaking through the proud, passionate reserve that no
living being had ever penetrated; his soul yielded up its secrets in a
strange blend of pride, self-depreciation, and yearning for the woman’s

“I have had to carry the hod, to climb the mast.”

“You climbed nearer heaven.”

“Ah, but I swabbed the deck.”

“You touched life at first hand. I have never envied you so much as now.
We never get near its secret, we idle rich.”

“You glorify my past for me. I see it now as a divine education. I have
been living for false ideals. Oh, if you could glorify my future!”

“I should be proud to inspire it!” The flash in her eyes passed to his.

“If I could see you every day, if I could tell you my hopes, my dreams.
But what am I asking? It is impossible. You are the beautiful Mrs.
Wyndwood, and I--”

“A genius, a Master! Towering over a humble slave!”

Her eyes, swimming in tears, but shining still, like stars through rain,
sought his in humble adoration. Never had he pictured such a look from
her. He shook, divining undreamed-of possibilities. For a moment he
forgot everything. He caught her hot hand and held it to his lips. In
that frenzy of divine fever, half fire, half tears, he felt again that
love rationalized life. An infinity of thought and emotion was
concentred in the instant; his long, sordid struggles, his craving for
happiness, the infinite yearning with which as a boy in a lonely forest
he had looked up at the stars. This was the secret of his yearning, this
the flash that illumined life. And underlying and intertangled with
everything, an astonishment at the vast sweep of life, the possibilities
it held. Last night Rosina and Camden Town; to-night Eleanor and the sea
and the stars.

She drew her hand away gently, though there was no rebuke in the
withdrawal, murmuring, “We must be going in,” and straightway the image
of Rosina arose sinister and vindictive, her voice raucous and strained
to a ghastly jocosity, crying, “Kisses, they’re off!” And then, as he
moved silently towards the house, thrilling with the memory of her hand
and her look, prisoned sobs still fluttering at his throat, he had a
sudden paradoxical intuition that if he spoke of his wife, as he had
been on the point of doing, something would go out of the magic of those
touches and glances, all spiritual though they were. The figure of
Rosina--sinister and vindictive--would stand between their souls,
troubling their most transcendental moments. Was not a man’s wife the
natural recipient of his confidences, the nurse of his Art? And then, if
Eleanor knew that he was ashamed of his wife, that he had always passed
as a bachelor, would she not deem him contemptible? The fine ethical
sense that had refused to despise him for material degradations, would
it not certainly scorn him for moral weaknesses? A great temptation took
him not to imperil by indiscreet speech the footing he had won. But his
soul had been moved to its depths. To be false--and with her!

“I have not told you all, Mrs. Wyndwood.”

“You can tell me nothing nobler.”

That was like an icy wind. He walked on storm-tossed. They came to a
jutting crag, skirted it, and the house rose radiant in the hollow of
the cliff. He had an aching vision of their living there together, she
and he, with all the dear domesticities of wedded union. His fancy
feigned them re-entering now their joint domain. The pretence left his
heart sick and empty. They walked across the lawn. “You would not call
me noble,” he said, coming to an abrupt stand-still, “if you knew that

He flinched under the sceptical, confident smile she threw over her

“That I am married.”

The half-mocking smile faded from the beautiful face, and with it the
color. She turned her head again towards the house, but she was not
moving forward.

He was glad he had not to meet her eyes. The sea broke solemnly with a
fused roar of irregular waves, and he wondered why the sound was so
continuous. A cricket’s chirp in the cliff-bushes seemed to him
extraordinarily loud. He looked up at the stars. Were the tears, indeed,
wiped from all eyes in those shining islands, he thought, or were they
only dead, lonely worlds? Or were they alive and full of unhappy people
like the star he stood on?

She spoke at last, with a catch in her breath and a strained smile in
her voice.

“Why should that make me think less of you?”

He caught only the celestial reassurance of her reply. How fine, how
sympathetic she was! But he hastened to immolate himself. Her unexpected
question had thrown him off the track; he forgot that his _concealment_
of his marriage was the only circumstance for which he had foreseen the
world’s blame, and he answered, desperately,

“Because I married for money.”

“For money,” she repeated, in a toneless voice.

He was cold and sick with shame. Despite her experience of the coarser
side of life, such a contingency was, he felt, quite beyond her
comprehension. That money played no part in her consciousness he would
have divined, even if her friend had not informed him of the fact in
their first talk. An impulse had driven him to humble himself, a
counter-instinct now spurred him to excuse himself.

“It was to pursue my art career,” he said, deprecatingly. Even now he
would not speak of the younger children he had had to support.

She turned her head again, and the smile was struggling back, and her
voice had an echo of the old enthusiastic ring.

“Then you married for Art, not for money!”

“Ah, do not comfort me! My God, how I am punished!”

She veered round now. Her tones were low and trembling with compassion.

“Is she a bad woman?”

“She is worse! She is a good woman. All her thoughts are on the
household; it is unbearable. Never a thought of anything but the kitchen
and cabbages.”

“Poor woman!” she said.

The prisoned sobs could hardly be choked back now.

“The world does not know. I have been ashamed of her. Now you see how
low I am, you cannot respect me.”

Her voice was almost a whisper.

“I respect you the more for what you have done in despite of her. You
have had a hard life.”

“Oh, have I not?” and a sob escaped at last.

“Compose yourself. We must go in.”

“You will be my friend all the same?”

“Yes, I will be your friend. Your confidences are safe in my keeping.
There is my hand.”

He took it again and held it fast, feeling its warm response. “You make
me so happy! Life will not be empty now.” He struggled with the lump in
his throat. “With your friendship, what can I not achieve? You shall
tell me what I am to strive for.”

“It is too great a responsibility. It was all very well to criticise. I
sha’n’t know what to say.”

“You need say nothing. I shall look into your eyes and read it there.”

He looked into them now, and they were not lowered. They were full of
sympathetic sweetness, glistening behind tears.

“I am afraid they are rather red,” she said, with a melancholy smile.
“If I am not careful they may betray your confidences.”

She moved forward in the direction of the water, and he, turning on his
heel, followed, wondering. By a salt pool near the rim of the billows
she bent down and bathed her face. To see her half kneeling in the
moonlight affected him like reading poetry; and as she washed off the
traces of the tears he had made her shed, it seemed to him as if their
spiritual friendship were being consecrated by some mystic baptism.

They went in. Olive had not moved from her indolent attitude in the
grandfather’s chair. Herbert was standing at the window-curtain.

“I’m so glad you’ve come in,” she said, yawning. “Mr. Herbert has been
sulking at having been left behind, and I have been snapping his head
off for not leaving me to myself.”

“Yes; Miss Regan speaks the truth for once,” said Herbert, audaciously.

“Oh, I am glad Primitiva is not here to have her ideal shattered.
Good-night--before you get ruder.”

“Good-night,” he responded, “before you get truthfuller.”

“Take care of him to-night, Mr. Matthew. He is irresponsible. Don’t go
by the cliff route.”

“Not I. Good-night, Miss Regan. Good-night, Mrs. Wyndwood.” And that
dear secret pressure thrilled his palm again.

In a few moments the two cousins were marching with measured step along
the winding road. Herbert had lit a cigar, but Matthew was busy enough
chewing the cud of his memories.

“Olive was rather strange to-night,” said Herbert, breaking the silence
of the cliff-tops.

“Not more than usual, surely?” answered Matthew.

“That’s your conventionality and your ignorance of women. I never found
her strange except to-night with her nonsense about the pain of the

“She’s talked to me like that before several times; she thinks people
with souls can’t be happy. I suppose it’s Mrs. Wyndwood’s influence over
her natural flippancy.”

“Ah, perhaps so. But why so formal, Matt? You have my permission to call
her Eleanor.”

“Thank you,” said Matthew, with a forced smile.

“I hope you enjoyed your _tête-à-tête_ more than I did. Not that there
isn’t a certain fascination in sparring. But perhaps you fought, too.”

He returned a staccato “No.”

After a silence accentuated by the tramp, tramp of their automatic feet
as they swung along, he said: “I told her I was married.”

Herbert gave a long whistle. “The devil you did! And you don’t call that
fighting? What a knock-down blow!”

“What do you mean?” Matthew murmured.

“D’ you mean to say you don’t know the woman is in love with you?”

Matthew’s blood made delicious riot in his veins. He saw that strange
look of worship in her eyes again.

“Nonsense!” he jerked, thickly. “The Honorable Mrs. Wyndwood in love
with me!”

“I didn’t say the Honorable Mrs. Wyndwood. I said the woman. Trust me.
Behind all the titles and the purple and the fine linen--there’s flesh
and blood.”

“It is impossible. In love with _me_!”

“You may well be astonished, you duffer. To fix her affections on you
with me in the neighborhood! But women were always strange. And men were
deceivers ever.”

“All the more reason I shouldn’t deceive her. How glad I am I told her
the truth. I breathe easier, there’s a weight off my mind.”

“You selfish beggar! And now it’s all over between you, I suppose, and
our nice little constitutional quartette is broken up. And I thought it
was going to be so jolly when you came down. Heigho!”

“Don’t be afraid,” said Matthew, with a touch of bitterness.
“Eleanor--Mrs. Wyndwood and I are going to be better friends than
ever--thank God!”

“Thank whom? Don’t be blasphemous.”

“Thank God,” repeated Matthew, firmly.

“Oh, well, you were always a Methodist parson. But if I were a Jew, I
wouldn’t say grace over pork. Not a bad epigram that; I must get it into
my comedy.”

Matthew shuddered. Herbert’s tone was desecrating. “You don’t
understand,” he said.

“Don’t plume yourself on your superior intelligence, old man. Mine’s
quite equal to the study of Plato. It isn’t such Greek to me as you

“Well, whatever you think, you are quite wrong,” he replied, with
spirit. “Our friendship is on a different plane. It is based on our
common interest in Art--and Mrs. Wyndwood’s not the sort of woman you’ve
had experience of.”

“Well, that’s cool! How do you know what sort of women I’ve had
experience of? Besides, a woman is a woman. The world--our world, that
is--is full of Greek scholars who study Plato. Strictly under the rose.
Society is only an incarnate wink.”

“I should put that into the comedy,” sneered Matthew.

“It’s a quotation from it,” laughed Herbert. “Had you there, my boy.”

It nearly came to a quarrel. But Herbert good-naturedly said he must
save Matthew from himself, and he fervently hoped his cousin would not
confide in any more women. “You can’t syndicate a secret,” he said,

At the house they had left, things were equally disturbed. Mrs. Wyndwood
retired at once to bed, throwing herself upon it in her clothes; and her
delicate white shoulders, which, like her emotions, had no need to be
covered up now, rose and fell spasmodically. After a while she got up,
bathed her eyes again, in fresh water this time, and went into Olive’s
room. Miss Regan was brushing her dusky tresses savagely. She had sent
her maid to bed.

“Nice hours,” she growled.

“You’ll catch cold, dear,” Eleanor replied, gently, for a window was
wide open at the bottom.

“Nonsense, Nor,” said Olive, petulantly. “I should like to sleep on the

“What, in this costume?”

“One bathes in less. Still, while you’re here--”

She closed the window with a bang.

“Olive! You make my heart jump.”

“Really? I’m not a man.”

Mrs. Wyndwood colored painfully, then looked at her with brimming eyes
of reproach. “And this is my reward for leaving you _tête-à-tête_.”

“Leaving _me tête-à-tête_. I thought that was a by-product.”

Mrs. Wyndwood controlled her vexation. “I said just now I had never
known any one so easy to live with. Don’t make me change my opinion,

“So you’ve been discussing me with Matthew! And what right have you to
discuss me with anybody? Oh, how hateful everybody is! I know what it
is. You’d like to see me brought down to your level.”

“Good-night, Miss Regan. You will apologize in the morning.”

“Don’t glare. The level of womanhood, if you like. You’ve loved a man.”

Eleanor’s face flushed. “That is the height of womanhood, Olive.”

“Oh yes--fine phrases! The height of womanhood!” She drew a comb
fiercely through her hair. “To hang on a man’s lips, to feel a foolish
sense of blankness when he isn’t there, and a great wave of joyful pain
when he heaves in sight again. To kiss his every little note! To think
of him and your trivial self as the centre of the universe, and to want
the planets to spin for your joint happiness--oh!” She pulled the comb
viciously through a knot.

“You describe it very accurately, Olive,” said her friend, maliciously.

“I’m quoting the novels. This passion that they crack up so much seems
nothing more than selfishness at compound interest.”

“Selfishness! When you yourself say it makes you yearn for the other
person’s happiness.”

“So that it may subserve yours.”

“You are a cynic.”

“What is a cynic? An accurate observer of life. Oh, you needn’t smile. I
know I’m quoting, but one can’t put quotation marks into one’s
conversation. You can’t face the facts of life, Nor. You like dull
people without insight.”

“I like you.”

“That’s too cheap. You like socialists and spiritualists and poets and
painters--the whole spawn of idealists. Bah! They ought to have a
month’s experience of a hospital.”

“The world isn’t a hospital ward, Olive. The people I like have the
truer insight.”

“What insight has your Matthew Strang?”

“He is as much yours as mine.”

“Don’t shuffle out of the question.”

“His insight expresses itself through his work. He doesn’t talk.”

“Is that a hit at his cousin?” queried Olive, savagely. “If so, it falls
remarkably flat, considering Herbert Strang paints as well as talks.”

“Olive, why will you put words into my mouth? You know how much I admire
Herbert Strang.”

“Ah, then you have more insight than I gave you credit for. You may even
understand that a cynic is only a disappointed idealist, a saint plus
insight. His soul is a palace of truth; society and its shams come to
the test, yield up their implicit falseness, and are scornfully
rejected. The stroke of wit is made with the sword of judgment. Its
shaft is the lightning of righteous indignation.”

Mrs. Wyndwood felt this might pass well enough for an analysis of
Olive’s own cynicism, but she had her doubts as to its applicability to

Olive puzzled her frequently, and shocked her not seldom, but she felt
instinctively that hers were the aberrations of a noble nature, while
the cynicisms of Herbert jarred upon her without such reassurance of
sweet bells jangled. Not that she doubted but that he, too, was much
more idealistic than he made himself out--did he not write charming
comedy love-scenes? Still he was a man who had seen the world, not a
crude girl like Olive, and in the face of Olive’s affectionate analysis
of Herbert--which she rightly divined owed less to reason than to the
growing love for him which she had long suspected in her turbulent
friend--Eleanor felt vaguely that while jarring notes may be struck from
the soundest keyboard, they may also be the index of an instrument
hopelessly out of tune. Of course Herbert was not that, she was sure; he
lacked Matthew’s idealism and manly beauty, but he was handsome, too, in
his daintier way, and charming and gifted, and probably the very husband
to put an end to Olive’s psychical growing-pains. All this mixture of
acute and feeble insight occupied Eleanor’s consciousness.

But all she said was, “Is that Emerson?”

“No, it’s me. Now go to bed and sleep on it.”

“I sha’n’t. I couldn’t sleep on anything so hard. Dear me, what a lot of
hair-pins you have! What nice ones! I must borrow some.”

“Take them all and go.”

“Not yet.”

“I shall blow out the candles,” snapped Olive.

“I love talking in the dark. I’m pining for feminine conversation to
soothe my overwrought nerves. How pretty that lace is!” Eleanor touched
her friend’s shoulder cajolingly. “What exquisite things you have!
Everything--from hair-pins to carving-knives--perfect after its kind,
like the animals that went into the ark. It will be difficult to give
you a wedding present.”

Olive laughed, despite herself.

“The only wedding present a woman wants is a husband.”

“You have had plenty of those presents offered you, dear.”

Olive shuddered violently. “Imagine existence with a Guardsman
or--worse!--with that doddering young Duke! Dulness without idealism.
Your Matthew Strang is endurable--he has at least the family idealism,
the Strang goodness, though he carries it so much more heavily than his
cousin. But a lifetime with a dull man--who wouldn’t understand a
joke--who would smile and smile and be a hypocrite! Oh, ye gods! I
should shriek! In a year I should be in a lunatic asylum, or the Divorce
Court. Oh, why do you women who have been through the mill egg us girls
on? Is it the same instinct that makes an ex-fag send his boy to Eton?
Or do you think it improves our health? I know you think me hysterical.”

Mrs. Wyndwood flushed.

“Your tongue runs away with you, Olive. You’d do better to say your
prayers. I’ll leave you to them.”

Olive laughed hilariously. “Aha! I thought that would get you to go. You
always will forget that I’ve been in a hospital. Say my prayers, eh? Let
me see, what shall I say? The one I used to say in the hospital, ‘O
Lord, I beseech Thee, let not this be counted unto me for righteousness,
for Thou knowest, O Lord, that I can’t help it.’ But that’s not
applicable now. Suppose I say just what’s in my heart, as the
theologians recommend.” She went down on her knees and said solemnly:
“O Lord, don’t you think you are sometimes a little hard upon us? Don’t
you think we are born into a very confusing world? It would be so easy
to do Thy will, to make Thy will our will, if we only knew what it was.
Don’t you think that half our life that might be devoted to Thy service
is wasted because of the mist through which we grope, bearing the
offering of our life in quest of we know not what Divine altar, and
blurring the road more thickly with our tears?” She sprang up. “How’s
that for an addition to the Liturgy, Nor?”

“I am disgusted,” said Mrs. Wyndwood, sternly. “Both blasphemous _and_

Olive threw herself back on the bed, laughing unrestrainedly: “You
delightful, stupid old thing. Ha! ha! ha! Blasphemous _and_
ungrammatical! You Dissenting Hellenist! Sacrilege and Syntax! Ha! ha!
ha! No, you sha’n’t escape. You must abide the question. Tell me, O
friend of my soul, why do women who have been unhappily married want to
see other women victimized equally, like people who have been fooled in
a penny show and come out laughing to beguile the other people?”

“That’s not a fair analogy,” said Eleanor, more gently.

Olive looked up archly, her arms under her head.

“No, perhaps not in your case. I dare say you’re quite capable of
marrying again, yourself. The triumph of hope over experience. Quotation
marks, please. You’re looking awfully handsome, Nor, and that saucy tilt
of your nose spoils you for a saint. Speaking as an ex-sculptress, it’s
like a blunt pencil.” She sprang up remorsefully: “Oh, I’m a beast. I
apologize to your nose. I forgot the tip was a sore point.”

Mrs. Wyndwood drew back in sorrowful hauteur. “I shall never marry
again, Olive,” she said, solemnly. There was an under-tone of self-pity,
and her eyes were moist. She turned hastily and walked from the room
with a firm, stately step.

Olive watched the sweep of the gown till it reached the door. Then she
gave chase and renewed her apologies, and let Eleanor sob out sweet
reconciliation on her shoulder.

After which she opened the window, sat on the side of the bed, and
screwed up her ripe red lips to produce a perplexed whistle.



They fleeted the days delightfully, as men did in the golden world. They
rode together on the rolling moors, they drove through the Devonshire
lanes, they strolled through combe and copse, they climbed the tors,
they fished the leys, they swam in the sea, and when it was cloudy and
cold, and the wind wailed about the house like a woman in pain, they
listened to the comedy which Herbert wrote in those dreary days when the
ladies drove off to distant houses for lunch or tennis or croquet. For
they had not quite hidden their retreat or detached themselves from
their kind.

“There’s always scandal within a four-mile radius,” as Miss Regan put
it. “Is there on earth a greater piece of philanthropy than to give your
neighbors food for gossip? Man cannot live by bread alone.” Matthew
asked her in concern if his and Herbert’s visits were causing any talk.

“My dear Mr. Matthew,” she replied, scornfully, “even an actress cannot
escape scandal, especially if she goes into society. And truly society
is so corrupt, I have often wondered that actresses’ mothers allow them
to go into it!”

During one of these absences of the feminine element, when Herbert went
over to the house to put the last touches to the painted costume,
grumbling at the boredom of such finicking work, Matthew gladly relieved
him of the brush, and worked up the whole portrait, while Herbert lay
smoking and thinking out the comedy.

Partly out of bravado, partly to enjoy the series of lovely views of
dark-green sea and broken crags and nestling villages, the cousins
invariably arrived by the cliff-path, seeing the blackberries get riper
every day. Sometimes they found the ladies sitting reading on the top of
the cliff, which was furzy, with a road-side border of hemlock and
dandelions and blue orchids, amid which their dainty parasols showed
from afar like gigantic tropical flowers. Then while Matthew drowsed in
the light of the sun and of Eleanor, inhaling the odors of bracken and
thyme, lazily watching the white surf break far below, the brown
trawlers glide across the horizon, the swallows swarm on the beach, and
the wild ducks over the sea, Herbert and Olive would rattle away by the
hour, often in verbal duels. Matthew Strang thought he had never tasted
such pure intellectual joy. Art was often on the tapis; they classified
the skies--to-day a Constable, and yesterday a Turner, and to-morrow a
Corot. Herbert expounded glibly to the rapt Eleanor the Continental
ideas, descanting on Manet and Monet. Nature lay all around them like a
model to illustrate these theories, and Eleanor discovered all sorts of
shadows and subtle effects she had never noticed before, all with the
naïve joy of a child lighting on pretty treasures. She cried out that
Art taught people to see Nature. And the Impressionists were right. Look
over there! You couldn’t tell whether it was a pool or a pile of fish.
And the colors of things changed incessantly! Matthew would sometimes
put in a word when appealed to by her, but never when the subject was
music, concerning which he was as ignorant as the rest of the party was
learned. Once Herbert maintained that the musician was better off than
the painter, because his work remained, while pictures perished,
destroyed by the aniline and bitumen in their own colors. “Even Mona
Lisa’s smile will fade,” he said. “The artist lingers a little longer on
the stage than the actor. Pictures are but paltry things at best, and
few artists have brains or any large outlook upon life. They’re a petty,
quarrelsome clan.” Matthew did not deny it.

Olive cited sculpture as a more durable art than the musician’s, which
only lived when performed. Mrs. Wyndwood was convinced that the joy of
Art must be to the artist; she said she was fast acquiring a keen
interest in the subjective side of Art, and feeling a growing desire to
be an artist herself. The Spiritual was all very well, but it needed to
be expressed through the Beautiful.

Olive playfully suggested an expedition to the Latin Quarter; Mrs.
Wyndwood accepted it seriously and eagerly; she returned to the idea
again and again, both in public and in private. Why should they not go
to Paris for the winter, and Olive take up sculpture again, and initiate
her into the divine mysteries? To judge by the Strangs, artists must be
delightful creatures to live among, and sculpture seemed easier and
simpler than painting. Olive continued to play with the project. Herbert
sneered at the idea of Miss Regan’s return to the plaster of Paris.
Literature was, after all, the only art, he said. It contained
everything--music of words, painting of scenery, passion of drama. He
almost converted Mrs. Wyndwood. She quoted ecstatically, “_L’univers a
été fait pour aboutir à un beau livre_.” But a word from Matthew
restored the balance.

They talked of life, too, of fate, free-will, and knowledge absolute,
like Milton’s archangels. Herbert, as Lucifer, steadfastly took the
lowest views of human nature; now and then Olive’s eye, twinkling with
fun, met his as if in a secret understanding that Mrs. Wyndwood must be
shocked at all hazards. He fought for the doctrine that sin was a human
invention. “Let people have their fling. They exaggerate their powers of
sinning. They think they can draw on a boundless internal reservoir of
wickedness. As a matter of fact, their powers are singularly limited.
They have too much original goodness. For my part, alas! I have found
few opportunities of sinning.”

“And have you never found opportunities for remorse?” Mrs. Wyndwood
asked, scathingly.

“Alas! often, I tell you. Remorse for the sins I couldn’t do. The
remorse of your religious person is too often like the snivelling
repentance of the condemned criminal. That murderer felt a truer remorse
who was unexpectedly reprieved after indulging in an indigestible

Olive laughed heartily. “That must go into the comedy.”

It had become their stock phrase. Then remembering her part in the
comedy was to score off Herbert, she capped his anecdote of the
condemned criminal by another about the politeness of a Frenchman, who,
ascending the scaffold, said to his neighbor in the tumbril, “_Après

Eleanor raised the talk to a more elevated plane, insisting on the value
of remorse, and of suffering generally. “I would not recall one of my
sufferings,” said she, with her simple earnestness. “If I didn’t suffer
I shouldn’t think I had grown.” And her eyes instinctively sought
Matthew’s, and he thought she was reminding him of the educative
efficacy of his own sufferings as well, and again Herbert’s philosophy

And whatever she was saying or doing she always fell naturally into some
attitude that enchanted his eye by its unaffected grace; always wore an
expression whose sweetness and candor softened him in worship. Her
beauty--to a painter’s soul the miracle of miracles--she wore with a
royal unconsciousness; he could not understand it. She was so simple,
just like a human being. He saw her, not in her society drapings, but in
all moods and weathers, and she bore the test. On fishing days they
would draw up the boat in the centre of the nearest ley, where perch and
“rudd” abounded, the former avid of the gentles, the latter only less
eager for the paste, but demanding an iota of skill when hooked. Olive
would take no hand in this mild sport; she had given up hunting and
fishing, she said, when she rose in the ethical scale. Challenged as to
her readiness to eat meat and fish, she failed to see the relevancy of
the criticism. The reason she wouldn’t kill other creatures was not that
it gave them pain, but that it gave her pain; to eat them, on the
contrary, gave her pleasure. Mrs. Wyndwood, however, though not callous
enough to impale her own worms, was persuaded by Matthew to take a rod,
and beguiled numbers of perch, and admitted to a thrill of savage joy
each time she hauled up a leaping flash of silver. She was glad, though,
she said, that the poor little fishes had horny membranes for gills, so
that the hook should not hurt them; when it passed through the eye, she
trusted that the cornea was insensitive, too.

“But how would you feel,” Olive once remonstrated, “if, sitting at
dinner, just after swallowing a mouthful of mayonnaise, and in the
middle of a remark to your neighbor about the Rhine or the
Pre-Raphaelites, you were suddenly to find yourself rising towards the
ceiling, at the end of a rope fixed by a hook to your upper lip, and
arriving slowly but surely, despite your kicking and writhing, into a
stratum of air totally devoid of oxygen?”

Herbert Strang thought one would feel like a fish out of water, but
Matthew Strang eluded the point by drawing a pike across the track. The
bait of a captured roach had fetched the monster, whose struggles
interested even Olive, while Eleanor was wrought up to a wild enthusiasm
for Matthew’s prowess, and regretted that in Scotland she had always
refused to go to see the grouse-shooting.

“I hear they are doing badly this year,” Olive observed.

“Oh no, Olive,” cried Mrs. Wyndwood. “Didn’t we hear at the Archdeacon’s
yesterday that they were making excellent bags?”

“I meant the birds,” said Olive, dryly.

“Bother the birds! I should love to be a sportsman,” cried Eleanor,
exultantly landing her eleventh perch. They trooped like children to the
dinner-bell. “I can see how fascinating it must be. To actually _feel_
the struggle for existence; it brings you back to the primitive. You
touch reality; you remember you’re an animal.”

“Lunch always reminds me sufficiently of that,” said Olive.

“No,” Eleanor argued. “The napery and the flowers come between us and
the facts. How glorious it would be to be primitive!” Between Art and
Sport--with that charming impressionability of hers--she had drifted as
far from the spiritualities of Dolkovitch as, under the Russian’s
influence, from the Socialism of Gerard Brode.

Herbert, whose skill with the rod was not remarkable, diverged into an
account of his stay in a Servian fishing-village which was entirely
primitive, “so primitive,” he said, laughing, “that the wives do most of
the work.” He sketched the place with admirable literary touches.
“Sheepskin is their only wear,” he wound up. “In the winter they wear
the wool outside. In the summer they take off their skins and--no, not
sit in their bones, as Miss Regan is about to remark--but wear the wool

Matthew was thus led on to relate juvenile sporting experiences on the
shores of the Bay of Fundy, and finally his one encounter with a bear in
the Cobequid forest, which put the seal on Mrs. Wyndwood’s new-born
ardor for sport. This tame picking-up of perch palled; they must go
mackerel-fishing, she insisted. And so Matthew Strang arranged with a
fisherman to go out to sea in his boat next day. But the sea ran high,
and to the undisguised relief of Herbert, who felt himself rather cut
out by his cousin in these unliterary expeditions, Primitiva arrived the
first thing in the morning with a note from Mrs. Wyndwood, saying she
had forgotten the lawn-meet at Colonel Chesham’s to inaugurate the
season of the local pack, and she would ride over to that in the hope of
catching sight of a bit of the hunt. There was a postscript from Olive,
saying: “And, of course, I must go to chaperon her among all those men.”
Nevertheless, they went out in the boat late that same afternoon, when
the ocean was calm again and quivering in the sun. Their course lay
along a track of diamonds which seemed to dance off the water like a
million elves of light. By the time they returned, the path of diamonds
had changed to one of red gold. Delicious was the ripping sound of the
living boat tearing the water, as it dipped gently from side to side,
its white sail bellying gracefully. The sunset was strange: one dull red
narrow bar crowned by a ball of molten gold radiating four hazy spokes
like mill-sails. The ball gradually sank in the sea. In the south the
white sickle of the moon grew yellower and yellower; in the east fleecy
strips of cloud reflected the dying day. The colors of the cliffs still
stood out vivid. The moment was poetic; the air was charged with amorous
electricity. The talk drifted into love and marriage.

They played with the subject, skimming it gracefully, touching it with
subtle lights, flashed and withdrawn, shooting out audacities with
ingenuous impersonality, all four the while tingling with
self-consciousness from crown to sole.

Herbert said that to a woman love is a complete romance, to a man a
collection of short stories. Olive maintained that the reverse was true.
“Oh, if man knew woman!” she cried. “And you who pretend to write

Mrs. Wyndwood admitted that Byron was right about love being all in all
to a woman. “Nine-tenths of unmarried women,” she said, looking at
Herbert, “have never had a proposal.”

“Nine-tenths of married women more likely,” Olive flashed back.

In Matthew’s opinion marriage was a failure. Mrs. Wyndwood sadly
acquiesced. They sought the remedy.

“Marriage may be a failure, but not friendship,” Olive pronounced.

Now it was Matthew’s eyes that Eleanor’s sought, and his involuntarily
met hers. There was exaltation in this secret glance, and mutual

“Unless,” pursued Olive, “the friendship is contracted between persons
of different sex.”

Mrs. Wyndwood’s eyes drooped; then opened full again to note how Matthew
took the addendum. The friends perceived themselves reddening in
simultaneous confession that Olive was not so very wrong; an indefinable
expression, half abashment, half radiance, flickered over Eleanor’s
features; her glance, swift, probing, challenging, dazzled him; his
whole frame trembled at the thought that this heavenly creature could
love him. Then he grew chill again, for she cried, as in the highest

“Oh, look at the sun! How comic!”

It had, indeed, become a clown’s face, swollen and bulbous and crossed
with red bars.

The talk went on to Woman’s Rights, and Matthew mentioned that he had an
indirect relation to the subject, because a girl he used to know in
childhood had become Linda Verder’s secretary.

“Is she pretty?” Mrs. Wyndwood asked.

“I don’t know; I’ve never seen her.”

“But you said you used to know her.”

“Oh! you mean Ruth Hailey. She used to be pretty, but my brother tells
me she’s gone off.”

“Haven’t you seen her yourself?”

“Oh! not for years.”

“I sent Mrs. Verder a subscription some few years ago,” said Mrs.
Wyndwood, “but I have ceased to believe in Woman’s Rights.”

“Woman’s Rights are a husband and children,” said Herbert, with his eye
fixed on Olive.

“It is a mistake for the movement to be led by women,” pursued Mrs.

“Oh, was that why you resigned when Lord Boscombe left the Council?”
asked Olive, innocently.

Eleanor looked annoyed. “You mean, Mrs. Wyndwood,” Matthew hastened to
say, “that they lay themselves open to the imputation of being soured

“Precisely,” she replied. “Besides, they are crying for the moon.”

“Or the man in it,” muttered Olive.

“No; that’s ungenerous to your sisters,” said Eleanor.

“Why demand generosity?” Olive retorted. “We are all in the same trade.”
And she smiled audaciously at Herbert. “Even Mrs. Verder didn’t take up
with this movement till she lost her husband, and I’ll wager this Ruth
Bailey is an old maid.”

“Ruth Hailey,” corrected Matthew, flushing painfully, he scarcely knew
why, perhaps from sympathy with the aspersed friend of his childhood.
“She _is_ unmarried, but I am quite sure it must be from her own choice,
for she is very pretty.”

“You said she wasn’t,” said Mrs. Wyndwood, quickly.

He laughed confusedly. “I was thinking of the girl.”

The subject dropped.

Ere they got in the wind freshened and Matthew was busy with the sheet.
And now a proposition was broached which promised to bring a new
sensation into their comparatively sequestered existence. Light-hearted
discussions as to what they would do in the event of capsizing through
Matthew’s mishandling of the sail led to estimates of the distance they
could swim in their clothes. Mrs. Wyndwood could not swim at all, and
complained of the abrupt shelving of the beach, which gave her only a
few feet of splashing room, while Olive was sailing gloriously off in
search of the horizon. Herbert said that, like the man who was asked if
he could play the violin, he didn’t know if he could swim in his
clothes, because he had never tried, and, besides, he had his comedy in
his pocket, which was heavy enough to drag down a theatre. Olive said
she didn’t see that it made any difference whether a lady swam in her
clothes or not, especially if she was in evening dress. She claimed that
the cap and gown worn in the water were as heavy as men’s boating

The upshot of the discussion was that Miss Regan challenged Mr. Matthew
Strang to a race in clothes, which, she insisted, must be new. “You
don’t go out getting capsized in old clothes,” she contended. “Boots you
needn’t have, nor a coat; people always have time to throw them off--in
books. I shall be clothed in a new yachting costume, superficially, of
course, to counteract your sheddings from above.”

“What waste!” remonstrated Eleanor.

“You who pretend to philanthropy!” mocked Herbert, mimicking her
intonation of “You who pretend to write comedies!”

“Waste? To learn to save my life! And don’t you see I shall forthwith
give away the spoiled costume to a poor creature who would never
otherwise have got it?” And Olive, who was quite serious, fell to
elaborating a facetious programme of “The Creamery Regatta.”

The regatta day duly arrived. Two bathing tents were erected on the
beach and decorated with flags. It was arranged that the competitors
should swim out leisurely together as far as they cared to go, then turn
and race for shore. Herbert was chosen referee; he offered to take them
out in a boat and then accompany them back, as a precaution, but Olive
laughed at him for an old woman. Eleanor, entering enthusiastically into
the fun, had ordered a silver cup from London, and was to present it to
the winner.

But the day opened badly, with fitful weather; a gray rain, and thunder
and lightning. They waited till the afternoon, when the sun burst out in
sudden fire, and in a moment the great stretch of gray cloud was
shrivelling off all around it like a burned cobweb. The eager combatants
dashed into their dressing-tents, and, emerging as lightly clad as was
compatible with the conditions, they plunged together into the great
sapphire sea. Olive’s yachting costume turned out to be a pair of
knickerbockers and a jacket, rather lighter than her ordinary bathing
costume, and Matthew had begged off his waistcoat, and was only hampered
by a white flannel shirt and trousers. The outward swim was an ecstasy;
the water was warm and sparkling with patches of molten silver breaking
up into little shining circles and reuniting; it sent a voluptuous
thrill to the palms to cleave its buoyant elasticity, and the forward
movement of the body was a rapture. Drawing in the balmy air with joyous
breaths, Matthew felt an immense gratitude for existence. There was
exhilaration in the mere proximity of Olive, with her lively snatches of
conversation. Her lovely flushed face and dripping hair went with him
like a mermaiden’s. The same thought struck her, for she began to sing
jerkily with her beautiful voice snatches of Heine’s ballad:

    “Die schönste Jungfrau sitzet
     Dort oben wunderbar,
     Ihr gold’nes Geschmeide blitzet,
     Sie kämmt ihr gold’nes Haar.”

“Yes, but you haven’t got golden hair,” the man laughed, joyously.

Farther and farther they swam into the vast shimmering blue, and ecstasy
made the pace brisker than they had meditated.

“Shall we start from here?” he asked, at last.

“No, not yet. I want a long race.”

They swam on. The brown trawling boats loomed plainer in the offing.

“Here?” said Matthew.

“No--a little farther, faint-heart!”

He turned on his back and propelled himself gently, gazing up in
luxurious content at the great circle of blue sky, cloud-mottled round
its rim. Olive, lying on her side, paddled lazily a little ahead.

“This is delicious!” she called back. “Clothes make no difference. But
fancy a clothed Lorelei!” And she began to sing again, with pauses for

    “Den Schiffer im kleinen Schiffe
     Ergreift es mit wildem Weh;
     Er schaut nicht die Felsenriffe,
     Er schaut nur hinauf in die Höh’.”

He threw the reply over his head: “You shall lure me no farther.” But
she mocked him, elated by the glory of motion, and witched him to follow
her till the shore was far.

At last they turned, trod water, Olive cried, “One, two, three,” and
they were off.

For some minutes they swam side by side, Olive making the pace, and
Matthew finding it no trouble to keep up with it; at last she made a
spurt and shot past him with a triumphant taunt; he allowed her to enjoy
some seconds of victory, then came up hand-over-hand and forged ahead.
He eased off and she overtook him; he spurted and she flagged; he let
her come up again and she came up with a sneer. Resolved to damp her
frolicsome spirits, he put on a powerful stroke and showed her a clean
pair of heels. She made a desperate effort and drew level with him
again. The instinct of victory was now aroused in the painter; he fixed
his eyes on the shore and settled steadily to the task of reaching it.
Very soon Olive was hopelessly in the rear. He still heard her vague
cries from afar. At last they died away entirely. He turned his head to
measure the interval. Olive was nowhere to be seen.

His heart contracted with a cold sick horror. He raced back with great
side strokes, shouting, “Miss Regan, Miss Regan, holloa!” The great
sparkling water stretched all around in deadly silent bareness, suddenly
become an evil enemy. He hoped desperately she was only swimming under
water for speed or to frighten him.

And then in a moment her head popped up to the right, and he saw from
the exhausted expression of the face and the spasmodic struggles of the
limbs that she had really gone under. In a few strokes he was at her
side. She still retained sufficient self-possession not to grab at him;
he supported her with one hand, then with the rest of his limbs he
struck out stoutly for home, she helping him with feeble movements.
After an interval of weakness and humility, she recovered somewhat and
smiled faintly.

“So you wouldn’t follow the Lorelei,” she spluttered, reproachfully.

“I am sorry I followed her so far,” he said, ruefully regarding the
distant shore.

Olive struggled for breath. “Prosaic man! I waited down there for you,
but I gave you up and came to the surface again.” She essayed sturdier

“You only sank once?” he said.

“Yes; didn’t you hear me calling you to come?”

“I heard sounds, but I thought they were epigrams.”

“Brute! To hit a woman when she’s down. But I shall be better soon.... I
hope they can’t see us from shore.”

“Don’t talk! You brought Herbert an opera-glass to see we started fair.”

“Nonsense,” Olive gasped, indignantly.

“I distinctly remember it.”

“How dare you set up your memory against a drowning woman’s?”

He was glad to find her like herself, and not alarmed. Her strokes were
getting stronger now, but he still feared for the consequences if she
should suddenly lose her nerve. “What did you think of when you sank?”
he asked, lightly, to make her think the danger of sinking was over.

“Of Her--” she began, and stopped short. “Of her carryings-on at my
funeral, poor Nor. I was regretting I hadn’t made my will and left her
my nose.”

This sounded pure nonsense to her companion.

“I think I can go by myself now,” she added, after a long silence.
“Thank you so much for the use of your arm.”

“You are quite sure?” he said, anxiously.

“Yes. Of course, you have won.”

He removed his arm, but kept watchfully at her side. And his misgivings
were justified, for, after a slow twenty yards, her strokes became so
spent and irregular that he came to her assistance again, and she
accepted his support with a wan smile.

“It’s this soppy, clogging costume,” she said.

“You had better keep your breath in your lungs,” he said, not in rebuke,
but in hortation.

“I’ll inflate myself like an air-balloon,” she replied, humbly. “I am so
sorry to be such a nuisance.” And she turned upon her back and paddled
feebly in silence.

He did not answer, for his own nerve was giving way. The responsibility
weighed more than the burden, though that was heavy enough with the
double weight of superadded garments. He had a spasm of sickening
apprehension. His own strokes were getting jerkier; what if he should
fail to reach that strip of beach on which he dimly descried two
agitated figures! And in this tense, terrible moment the figures were
blotted out, he saw only the cliffs in the background and the white
sea-gulls overhead, and he was a boy again in the Bay of Fundy, swimming
in his clothes for dear life. The illusion was momentary, but it left
the memory. A sense of the tragic contrast between the ardent
Nova-Scotian lad, dreaming of pictures, and the popular London painter,
occupied his consciousness, while his limbs moved automatically
shoreward. Then he remembered that of the two who had struck out for
home on that memorable day the sailor had only put off the day of
drowning. And at the thought that ancient dead face swam up again in
front of him. Oh, it was horrible to die, to be dragged down out of the
sunlight, to leave a world which held Eleanor Wyndwood! What would
become of her? She would live to forget him; she would marry; another
man would hold her in his arms. Another man! Oh, direful thought,
bitterer than death! There was no need for his death ere another man
could possess her. She was only his friend; he had not wanted more than
her friendship. Oh, ghastly self-delusion! Olive’s sneer at the
friendship of the sexes rang in his brain, and that strange intoxicating
expression in Eleanor’s face--half abashment, half radiance--dispelled
the vision of his father’s. In a moment of delirium his lips touched her
warm cheek; it was her weight that was on his arm. What did it matter if
they had a gleam of happiness, he and Eleanor, both victims of an
unsatisfactory world? Was not the great, shining, mocking, remorseless
sea waiting to suck him down, indifferent to the aspirations and
agonizings of the long years? And then between his lips and hers the
dead stony face swam up again, and he turned on his back to escape it,
and found unexpected relief in the more reposeful attitude and in the
change of arm involved, for the left, which had supported Olive, had
grown numb. When, sufficiently rested, he turned again he saw with a
thrill of joy that the shore was perceptibly nearer. There were more
than two figures now; he made out Primitiva and the old cook. And
Herbert’s arm was round Mrs. Wyndwood’s waist, supporting her. A
powerful spurt brought him within clear hearing of Herbert’s hail.

“Shall I come out?”

Olive roused herself. “What for?” she sang out, lustily. “The race is

“All right,” came the joyous reply. “I was sure Matt could manage it. I
wouldn’t spoil his chances of a medal.”

As they came nearer in he cheered them on with sportive ejaculations,
and confounded the beach because there wasn’t a single boat within half
a mile. When the couple scrambled on shore, shaking themselves like
spaniels, Mrs. Wyndwood dragged more heavily on Herbert’s sustaining
arm, and he saw that she had fainted. Almost at the same instant, by a
curious coincidence, the sun, upon which the clouds had gradually been
closing in, again disappeared, and the wail of the wind rang wilder
round the cliffs.

There was confusion in the household that afternoon. Mrs. Wyndwood soon
revived, but had to be put to bed, and Miss Regan, who was secretly
grateful for an excitement that kept her from assuming the invalid
herself, sat with her. The men hung about the house, anxious, and
receiving frequent reassuring bulletins by the lips of Primitiva.
Presently those pretty lips brought them an invitation to stay to seven
o’clock dinner, when Mrs. Wyndwood would try to come down to present the
cup. They need have no delicacy about the larder, for Colonel Chesham
had opportunely sent Mrs. Wyndwood a gift of grouse. They galloped over
the cliffs to get themselves into their dress-clothes. Meantime Mrs.
Wyndwood had fallen asleep, and at her bedside Olive Regan writhed in a
black paroxysm, asking herself why, having once gone down, she had
wanted to come up again.

The hostesses were a little late, but the reunion was gay beyond all
precedent. The last trappings of ceremony were thrown off. A Bohemian
merriment reigned, regardless of the liveried menial who alone sustained
the dignity of the dinner-table. Mrs. Wyndwood, looking a shade paler
and more spiritual, but no whit less beautiful than her wont, appeared
in a low white satin gown, with the same jewelled butterfly poised at
the bosom as on the night when Matthew had met her at the Academy
soirée. He fancied some occult significance in the circumstance. Olive
was in soft green that harmonized so suavely with her complexion as to
give her a less aggressive air than when she wore blue. There was a
fragrant tea-rose with a sprig of maiden-hair fern at her throat; and
the table was gay with many choice specimens of aster and hydrangea,
presents from Primitiva’s father. Outside the roar of the sea and the
wail of the wind emphasized the charm and comfort of the interior and
the gladness of being alive.

There was a wavering flush on Mrs. Wyndwood’s cheek and a shining
moisture in her eye as, before they sat down, she presented Matthew with
the cup, which Olive complained had been dashed from her lips.
Interrogated as to her sensations, she said she had a horrible feeling
of littleness in the midst of the great churn of waters and under the
naked sky. It did not seem the same sea she had been bestriding so
recklessly and voluptuously. She seemed to herself absolutely
unimportant--a mere atom in the blind wash of the waves, a straw they
would engulf, drift, or disgorge with equal indifference. It was this
thought that suddenly paralyzed her, and made her give up and go under;
when she came up, something not herself made her strain every sinew to
keep afloat.

“Something not ourselves that makes for life,” said Herbert.

She smiled.

“My last thought was of you,” she said, audaciously. “I determined to
send you a message by submarine cable.”

“I had the greatest ado to prevent Primitiva stripping and going out to
fetch you in,” he rejoined, laughing.

The incidents of the regatta continued to afford amusement from the
_hors d’œuvres_ to the dessert. At the fish Olive sprang up suddenly
and rushed to the window. Her exclamation of “The regatta fireworks!”
drew them all after her.

Herbert uttered the long-drawn “Oh!” of the spectators of pyrotechnics.
It was, indeed, an extraordinary set-piece, this sunset, in affinity
with the fitful tempestuous day--a sky steel-blue again, with great
broad sulphur-edged clouds of black smoke; on the upper rim of this
smoke, white clouds; towards the horizon, over the inhabited hills, a
lovely pale-green light, and on the right of that a monstrous
sulphur-cloud, its base hidden below the horizon; the shadow of this
brilliant cloud darkening to a purple and crimson beauty on the
ever-stirring water, and the cloud itself infiltrating its pores more
and more with sulphur and deepening momently to old gold; over the green
light, patches of bright gold; the left extremity of the sulphur-cloud
coming to meet it in spots of smoky red; every little pool of rain or
brine on the beach crimsoning and purpling in responsive radiance.

They returned to their fish, but watched from their seats till the
beautiful sulphur-cloud faded into a pale bluish blot. Mrs. Wyndwood,
observing it all minutely with her recently acquired artistic vision,
said she had never realized before how many editions a sunset went
through; she wondered how artists arrested it long enough to paint it.
Herbert said sunsets were not fixed but faked. He resumed his badinage
of Olive for her failure to see her whole life defile pictorially before
her; and she apologized for her forgetfulness on the ground that she
hadn’t arrived at drowning point. A discussion on memory ensued. Mrs.
Wyndwood acknowledged possessing a good verbal memory--especially for
poetry. Herbert said that he could only remember ideas, so that he
carried away nothing from contemporary literature. Only the Continentals
had ideas; the English were a wooden race, “the wooden heads of Old
England,” he said, derisively; he was glad of his infusion of French
blood, there was no salt in English life--nothing but putrefying
Puritanism. Olive said, although she was a Celt, she could remember
neither ideas nor words. Herbert asked what was her earliest
recollection. After screwing up her forehead in earnest effort she
replied, honestly, “I forget,” and he cried “Bull!” Mrs. Wyndwood
proffered her own earliest recollection--of gliding in her mother’s arms
in a gondola, with a boatman crying _Stali_--and was curious to know
Matthew’s. He replied mirthfully that he didn’t remember, and covered
his discomposure with champagne. He could not expose to strangers that
memory of his mother scolding his father, shrieking, vociferating,
offering to throw up the position, threatening to shoot herself. Even
Mrs. Wyndwood would never know that--no one would ever really see the
scars on his soul. The thought of her, now babbling harmlessly, saner in
her insanity than in her sanity, came up like the skeleton at the feast.
He put her resolutely outside with the night and the wind that wailed
like a woman. But he heard them moaning: “Oh, the pain of the world!”

After dinner they walked along the shore towards the neighboring
village. It blew half a gale now, but the air was not cold and the
ladies took only wraps. The quartette looked upon this deserted beach as
a private promenade, an appanage of the house. They walked two and two,
Matthew and Miss Regan, Herbert and Mrs. Wyndwood. There was only a rim
of orange all along the horizon; the rollers thundered on the stones,
smashing themselves in flying spray; a fierce undertow kept the waves
sandy for half a mile out; there was just light enough to distinguish
where the paler green commenced. The darkness grew rapidly as they
walked; the last faint reflection of sunset faded on the gray sea. An
unusual silence possessed them after the exuberance of the evening. They
stopped now and again to shake the little pebbles out of their shoes.
All was black when they reached the village. The beach was full of
wickerwork crab-pots, and the headless divided forms of skate and
dog-fish loomed uncannily from the poles on which they hung. They were
the crab-fishers’ bait. Only a stray mongrel represented the village,
which already slept. The sea was mournful and gloomy; its pitchy
blackness, over which the sky hinged like a half-raised gray lid, was
relieved only by its own broken lines of foam, which sometimes rolled
in six deep, looking exactly like streaks of phosphorescence on a dark
wall, and adding weirdness to the forlorn desolation of the scene. There
was no other line of light either on sea or land; the lonesome sea
tossed sleeplessly in its agony, howling and crying.

They turned back, interchanging companions. During the walk Mrs.
Wyndwood suddenly asked Matthew if his wife knew where he was: he said,
“No”; sometimes his brother Billy did; Billy lived with her: his man
forwarded all letters from his studio. After a long pause he added that
practically he had been separated from his wife for years. Eleanor
murmured again, “Poor woman,” and he was too shame-stricken to look her
in the face, and to read that the sympathy was for him. They relapsed
into silence, and indeed conversation was difficult.

The night had grown wilder, the wind blew more fiercely, drenching their
faces with salt spray, whirling them round and round and almost lifting
them off their feet. But the clouds were driven off and the
star-sprinkled heaven was revealed, majestic.

Near the house Mrs. Wyndwood and Matthew Strang stopped to admire the
sublime spectacle, sheltering themselves from the gale in a niche in the
cliff; the other two had already gone round the craggy projection which
hid the house.

They watched the mad cavalry charge of creaming billows; watched them
break, thundering and throwing their spray heavenwards like a continuous
play of white fountains all along the line of march. To the right,
beyond the village whence they had come, where the cliff jutted out at
its lowest level, a ghostly fountain leaped again and again sheer over
the top of the cliff with a crashing and splashing that was succeeded by
the long-receding moan of the back-drawn wave soughing through the
rattling pebbles.

Her face, flushed with the passion of the storm, showed divinely in the
dim starlight; beneath her wrap her bosom, panting from the walk in the
teeth of the wind, heaved with excitement; the gale had dishevelled her
hair. They scarcely spoke; the organ-roll of the sea crashed
majestically like the bass in some savage symphony of the winds.

Now at last the moon leaped out, framed in a weird cloud-rack; the
moonlight played on her loveliness and made it wonderful.

She moved slightly forward. “The cliff is too damp to lean upon,” she

Audaciously he slipped a trembling arm against the rock and let her form
rest against that. She scarcely seemed conscious of him; she was
watching the rampant, seething waters, volleying their white jets
skyward with a crash of cannon that outroared the wind; her scarlet lips
were parted eagerly; the dreamy light had gone from her eyes; they
flashed fire.

“Oh, I could dare to-night!” she cried.

The wind blew her tresses into his face; the perfume of them stung his
blood. Her loveliness was maddening him. So close! so close! Oh, to
shower mad kisses upon her lips, her eyes, her hair! What did it matter,
there on that wild beach alone with the elements! He had been so near
death; who would have recked if he had been dead now, tossed in that
welter of waters?

The waves broke with a thousand thunders, the white fountains flew at
the stars; they seemed alive, exultant, frenzied with the ecstasy of
glorious living. Oh, for life--simple, sublime--the keen, tingling,
savage life of Vikings and sea-robbers in the days before civilization,
in the full-blooded days when men loved and hated fiercely, strenuously,
wrenching through rapine and slaughter the women they coveted. Ah,
surely he had some of their blood; it ran in his veins like fire; he was
of their race, despite his dreamings. He was his father’s son, loving
the storm and the battle.

The wind wailed; it was like the cry of his tortured heart, his yearning
for happiness. It rose higher and higher. A bat flew between them and
the moon. Eleanor nestled to him involuntarily; her face was very near
to his. It gleamed seductively; there was no abashment, only alluring
loveliness; the fire in her eyes kindled him now not to the secondary
life of Art, but to the primary life of realities. Could she not hear
his heart beat? Yes, surely the storm of the elements had passed into
her blood, too. Her face was ardent, ecstatic. His arm held her tight.
Oh, to stake the world on a kiss!

The moon was hidden again; they were alone in the mad, dim night; the
complexities of Society were far away. They looked at each other, and
through her eyes he seemed to see heaven.

A star fell overhead. It drew her eyes away a moment to watch its fiery
curve. He felt the spell was broken. The wind shrieked with an eldritch
cry, like the mocking threnody of his thwarted hope. He had a shuddering
remembrance of Mad Peggy. And straightway he saw her weird figure
dashing round the crag in the darkness--a shawl over her head, and a
lovely face, at once radiant and frenzied, gleaming from between its
dusky folds. His heart almost stopped, a superstitious thrill froze his
hot blood. Never to be happy! Ah, God! never! never! To thirst and
thirst, and nothing ever to quench his thirst!

Mrs. Wyndwood started forward. “Oh, there you are, Olive!”

The figure threw passionate arms round her. “Comfort me, darling; I am

       *       *       *       *       *

For the happier Herbert had spoken. And Olive had listened shyly,
humbly, with tears, full of an exquisite uplifting emotion, akin to the
exaltation of righteousness, at the thought of giving herself to this
man, of living her life with and for the one true soul in the world.

They stood close to the hoary rim of the black welter; dusky figures,
wind-rocked and spray-drenched, a little apart from each other, the
shining house in the background.

“And when did you begin to think of me--in that way?” she faltered.

“I never thought of you in any other. But that night when Matthew
arrived, when you sat nid-nodding in the grandfather’s chair, you
maddened me; you were adorable! the contrast was exquisite. To think of
you--a wilful little misanthrope--to think of that glorious, wayward
creature fading away till she suited the chair. Oh, it was too--”

He broke off. Passion robbed him of words. He moved nearer--she drew

“Oh, but will you still”--she hesitated, shy of the word--”love me when
I do suit the chair?”

“I shall always see you as you were then.”

She laughed with a half-sob.

“And just then,” she confessed deliciously, fluttering even now like a
bird in the net, “I was beginning to get frightened of you. I felt you
growing upon me, shadowing the horizon like the roc in the _Arabian
Nights_. And the pain of the world was outside--in the great black
night--calling to me in my slough of luxury.”

“You witch! Veil those eyes or I shall kiss them.”

She retreated.

“And why were you frightened of me?” he asked, tenderly.

She said, humbly, in little shy jerks: “I felt like in the sea this
morning--one little atom, and the whole world against me, and my own
weakness most of all.... I had prided myself on my swimming, and here
was I being dragged under ... just like other girls ... a victim to the
same ridiculous passion.”

“You delightful, candid creature! With me as the object?”

“Don’t be flippant now, Herbert.” How delicious his name sounded; it
made amends for the rebuke! “You do understand me. Marriage is a second
birth--voluntary, this time. It means accepting the universe, which was
thrust upon one unasked.”

“It means making the best of it.”

“Oh, surely it means more. It means passing it on to others. But I
surrender. I cannot live without you.”


He sprang to take her, but she eluded him. “Look! the moon is covered up

“I only want to see your face.”

“Don’t talk like other men, though I have fallen like other girls.”

“No, you are always yourself, Olive--I have dreamed of this moment. I
would not have it otherwise--except perhaps with you in the
grandfather’s chair and a poke bonnet.”

“Now you are _your_self. This is such a conventional ending to a
holiday, we must preserve what originality we can.” She was recovering
her spirits.

“A conventional ending! Why, it’s a most romantic incongruous match. It
beats the comedy. I shall burn it.”

“No, let’s produce it--it wouldn’t cost much.”

“I am not worthy of you, Olive,” he said, with a quiver in his voice. “I
have nothing.”

“Oh! When you have my heart!”

“My queen of girls! But what of your relatives?”

A gleam of fun passed across her wet face. She had her droll look of

“You are all of them. I was of age long ago--I am awfully old, you
know--you take me with your eyes open--”

“I can’t; yours dazzle me.”

“That’ll do for the comedy,” she laughed, gleefully. “Still, if you do
want me, there are only you and I to consider.”

“Only we two,” he murmured.

“We two,” she repeated, and her eyes were suffused with tender moisture.

There was a delicious silence. He tried to take her hand. This time she
abandoned it to him; a wave of moral emotion lifted her to the stars.

The wind wailed, the black sea crashed white at their feet, its whirling
brine blinded their eyes as with salt tears.

“Isn’t it curious?” she said, as they moved back a little, hand in hand.

“What, dearest?”

“That you and I should be made happier by our common perception of the
unhappiness of life?”

“Queer girl!” he thought. But he only squeezed her hand.

“The Catechism is right,” she went on, thoughtfully, proceeding to
misquote it. “The waves are too strong. It’s no use fighting against
your sex or your station. Do your duty in that state of life in which it
has pleased God to call you. But I would have that text taught to the
rich exclusively, not to the poor. The poor should be encouraged to
ascend; the rich should be taught contentment. Else their strength for
good is wasted fruitlessly.” And the electric current of love generated
by those close-pressed palms flashed to her soul the mission of a life
of noble work hand in hand.

Herbert scarcely heard her. The glow of her lovely face, the flashes of
feeling that passed over it, the tears that glistened on her
eyelashes--these absorbed his senses. Her generalizations were only a
vague, exquisite music. He lifted her hand and held it passionately to
his lips. She murmured, beseechingly:

“You will never disappoint me, Herbert?”

“My darling!” And he strove to draw her nearer and press his first kiss
upon those bewitching lips.

“Oh! there’s a star falling,” she cried, and slipped from his hold, a
beautiful Diana, virgin as the white spray and tameless as the night.

She had disappointed Herbert. He was puzzled. But as she disappeared
round the cliff in quest of the others, a smile of triumphant content
curled round his boyish lips.

“That’s the last touch of piquancy,” he murmured, as he chased her round
the crag.



Two days after Herbert’s engagement, Matthew Strang left Devonshire on
the plea of a death in the family.

A letter from Billy had indeed brought the news that Rosina’s father was
no more. Matthew had never thought untenderly of old Coble; the mountain
of a man had acted generously after his lights, and now that his genial
roar had passed into the eternal silence, the pathos of death softened
his son-in-law towards his memory and towards the bereaved daughter.
Nevertheless, Matthew’s plea was only a pretext. He had no intention of
intruding upon Rosina. After her recent reception of him he had no
reason to suppose a visit would be welcome. The letter from Billy had
included no message from her, except a request, superfluously and
irritatingly formal, that she should be allowed to give house-room to
her aunt Clara, who had gone to live with old Coble when his daughter
married. His reply to Billy contained warmly sympathetic reference to
the loss of old Coble, and expressed his joy at the prospect of
receiving Miss Coble.

His real reason for fleeing from Devonshire was his discovery of his
real feeling towards Mrs. Wyndwood. When the frenzy of the stormy night
had merged in the sober reflections of the mild morning, he shuddered to
think how near he had gone to forfeiting her respect, to insulting her
by the revelation of a dishonorable passion. To continue in her daily
society would have been too great a torment, aggravated, as it must have
been, by the sight of Herbert’s happiness. Perhaps the rude reminder of
his domestic shackles contained in Billy’s letter strengthened his
resolve to tear himself away. Courtesy compelled him to leave behind him
an invitation to the ladies to take tea one day at his studio, which
neither had ever seen. How could he snap abruptly the links he had
forged with this delightful twain?

He threw himself with ardor into work, trying to soothe his pain by
expressing it in Art, as a woman sheds it away in tears. He toiled at a
symbolic picture to illustrate Rossetti’s sonnet, “Love’s Fatality.”

    “Love shackled with Vain-longing, hand to hand.”

He put the figures in a vague landscape, but did not study his models in
the open, for he now had a desire to produce that fatness of effect
suggested by a concentrated studio light instead of the dry flatness
which the open air always diffused. He no longer pinned himself to
technical theories, finding by experience that he only invented them
afterwards to justify the procedure his instinct dictated for any
particular picture. But his progress with “Love’s Fatality” was slow and
unsatisfactory. He was feeling about, as it were, for a new manner
worthy of her who inspired it. He wrote her once telling her that it was
on the easel, and reminding her and Miss Regan of their promise to visit
him on their return from Devonshire, and he had from her an
answer--elegantly indited on dainty, crested paper, delicately
scented--which he held often to his lips with a rankling, gnawing pain
of unsatisfied and unspoken desire. She wrote that she was very anxious
to see the picture, and also to be back in town, for she was weary of
the country with its monotony, its lack of the complex thrill of
civilization. Not that the town held much to enthral her. Fortunately
Olive had consented to the Paris project; the girl did not want to marry
before next summer, and rather hailed the idea of a farewell
quasi-bachelor Bohemian period of art and liberty. What she, Eleanor,
would do when she lost Olive Heaven only knew. And then came the wail of
world-weariness which his ear had caught already in the first stages of
their acquaintanceship. He interpreted it in the light of his own blank
unrest, but to imagine her hungering for him as he hungered for her was
impossible to his reverent passion. That she admired and liked him he
could not doubt; and in one or two instants of mutual electricity he had
dared to think that Herbert was right, and that she loved him. But his
diffidence could never cherish the hope for more than a few seconds; and
even if she indeed loved him, he felt that her delicacy, her finer, more
ethereal ethical sense would preserve her from the wistful images that
tortured him. It was the memory of her unhappy marriage to which her
sadness must be due; no doubt, too, her life lacked love, though she
might not be consciously aware of it.

When she at last came to see the picture, he was startled to find her
alone, and the bearer of a message of apology from Miss Regan. His
studio being, so to speak, a place of business, he was not unused to
receive ladies in connection with commissions, but his poor, agonized
heart--that had so ached to see her again--pulsed furiously with mad
hope as her stately figure, clad in widow-like black that set off her
beauty in novel lights, moved slowly about the great studio, admiring
pictures which he would have hidden from her in the days when he thought
of her more as a spiritual critic than a woman. Now, even though she
stood before him making remarks, he was too distraught to catch the
purport of her criticisms. He followed her about in a haze, a dream,
speaking, replying, and feeling all the while as if it was all part of a
game of make-believe, and in a moment the thin pretence would be thrown
off and she would be in his arms. But the moments passed, the haze
cleared, and he realized that he was entertaining a fashionable,
self-possessed lady, wrapped up in artistic interest, with no apparent
relation to the woman who had flushed with the passion of the sea and
the winds on that night of stress and storm.

His mind flew back from her bodily presence to picture her leaning
against his arm, and the memoried vision seemed incredible. She was
unapproachably demure in her black-silk gown. Over the shoulders she
wore a short black-velvet cape embroidered in jet, with a beaded fringe,
finished off with a filmy black lace reaching just below the waist. When
she threw it back, Matt saw the great puff sleeves of her gown and a
turned-down collar that combined with them to give an old-world feeling.
At her throat was a soft ruche of black chiffon. And from this monotone
of black the blond skin of the throat and face rose dazzling, crowned by
a small pink bonnet, of shamrock shape, entirely composed of roses, with
a lace-and-jet butterfly fluttering over it. Now and then she pointed
out something with a long black-gloved forefinger. Her left hand held a
dainty little book, that looked--like herself--poetry. How far away she
seemed, standing thus at his side! He was in a fever of chills and

She stopped longest before his unfinished picture of “Love’s Fatality.”
He heard her approving his conception of

    “Love shackled with Vain-longing, hand to hand,”

but, even as her ravishing lips spoke golden words of praise, his vain
longing to kiss them admonished him how feebly his symbols expressed the
heart-sickness he was feeling. The longer he heard the music of her
lauding voice, the more those gray eyes kindled below the pink bonnet in
adoration of his genius, the more his disgust with the picture grew; and
when a chance word of hers reminded him that the subject had already
been treated in the last Academy, he determined to destroy his work the
moment she was gone, though he had always been aware of the little skied
picture which had drawn Miss Regan’s eccentric attention. The last
vestiges of his hope of her love died as she discussed “Love’s
Fatality,” with apparent unconsciousness that to him, at least, the
picture stood for something personal; her aloofness was exacerbating.
The heats of his fever died; only the chill was left.

He gave her some tea, and became gradually aware that she was abnormally
loquacious and vivacious. He remembered to ask after Miss Regan’s
health, and was told that Olive was bright and gay, with only rare
reactions of pessimism. Mrs. Wyndwood wondered dolefully again what she
would do when Olive was married. His heart, bolder than his lips, beat
“Come to me. Come to me.” But she did not seem to catch its appeal,
though his eyes spoke, too. In his embarrassment he turned over the
pages of the dainty little book she had laid down on the table. He
started at finding it a new volume of Harold Lavender’s poems, and when
on the fly-leaf he read “To Eleanor” his face twitched noticeably.

“Ah, that was the book Mr. Lavender wrote about in the letter that
Primitiva lost,” she said, quickly. “It’s just out to-day.”

“I see he calls you Eleanor,” he observed, tonelessly.

“Yes,” she responded, smiling, “that is a poetic license. Besides, it is
a screen. There are so many Eleanors.”

That sounded true to his bitter mood. There were indeed so many
Eleanors, all in contradiction. He kept turning over the leaves in
silent jealousy.

“Ah, that is a very pretty one you have there,” she said, lightly. “It
might suggest a subject to you. Read it aloud, it’s only ten lines.”

Fuming inwardly at the suggestion that the dapper poet of sugar-plums
and the hero of the nougat, whom he mentally classed with Roy as an
interloper, could afford him any inspiration, and further incensed by
the command to read the fellow’s verses, he gabbled through the little
poem, which extended over two deckle-edged, rough, creamy pages.


    “I watch her dainty rose-bud mouth,
     That trembles with the exquisite
     And wondrous tide that steals from it
     Of song, redolent of the South;
     While o’er her April countenance,
     The music of the quaint romance,
     The sweeter for a sense of pain,
     Sends sun and shade; and lost in dream,
     Her sweet eyes softly flash and gleam
     With golden smiles and diamond rain.”

“I hope she read it better than that,” laughed Mrs. Wyndwood,

“Well, she couldn’t make the fourth line scan anyhow,” he said.

“Oh, you mean ‘redolent.’ That’s another poetic license.”

“And Rosalind seems to be another,” he said, surlily.

“Oh no, I’m not Rosalind. I haven’t a dainty rose-bud mouth. Mine is a
full-grown rose at least.” And her laugh showed the white teeth gleaming
against the red lips.

Her arch laughing face so close to his across the little tea-table
tantalized him intolerably.

“It is a red, red rose,” he whispered, hoarsely, half rising and bending
over as if to survey it.

“Beware of the thorn!” she laughed, nervously, drawing back
involuntarily. “And to think that but for the coast-guard who found
Primitiva’s letter,” she rattled on hastily, “some other fair lady would
have had the honor of the dedication.”

“One of the other Eleanors, perhaps,” he said, sulkily, sinking back
into his chair.

“Poor Primitiva!” she cried, in unabated hilariousness and intensified
volubility. “Oh, she’s been such fun. You know Olive has brought her to
London. She begged her away from her father, to the excessive joy of
Primitiva, who has become her devoted slave. The other night Olive took
her to the theatre with us and would have her in the box. She had been
wrought up to a wild excitement, and when she got inside the theatre and
looked round at the festive company she drew a deep breath of rapture.
She said she liked it very much. Long before the orchestra struck up,
Olive discovered that Primitiva imagined she was already in complete
enjoyment of the play, and that to sit in the theatre was all in all.
Only one thing marred Primitiva’s pleasure. She was looking round
furtively for your cousin, and at last asked where Mr. Herbert sat;
not, it transpired, because of his position as Olive’s _fiancé_, but
because she had heard us talk of Herbert as writing a play, and imagined
he was an inseparable adjunct of the theatre. Of course, she doesn’t
know even now that there are more theatres than one. When the overture
struck up she was surprised and delighted by this unexpected addition to
the pleasures of the evening. The rising of the curtain was the climax
of her astonishment and her transport. The action of the piece--a
melodrama, purposely chosen for her behoof by our sportive friend,
experimenting upon her freshness--seized her from the start, and kept
her riveted. The fall of the first curtain, and the arrest of the
innocent man for the murder, left her weeping bitterly. ‘It isn’t real,
you little goose!’ Olive said, to pacify her. ‘Isn’t it?’ Primitiva
replied, opening her brimming trustful eyes to their widest. She gave a
little sobbing laugh. ‘And I thought they was all alive!’ Then she rose
to go, and was astonished to hear that there was more. Alas! it would
have been better had she gone. When the hero’s wife, visiting the hero
in prison, kissed him, Primitiva inquired if the actor and actress were
really married, and learning that they were not, was too disgusted to
sympathize any further with their misfortunes. It revolted her,”
concluded Mrs. Wyndwood, taking up her teacup with an air of preparing
for the resumption of sips, “that a man who was not a woman’s husband
should kiss her.” And her face gleamed more tantalizing than ever under
the roses of her bonnet.

His fingers dented the teaspoon they fidgeted with; it seemed
intolerable that his life should be spoiled by acceptance of the moral
stand-point of this simple creature. He with his artistic agonies and
his complex sorrows and his high imaginings to be squeezed into the same
moral moulds as Primitiva! He refused to see the humor of her. The girl
had no more interest for him than that irritating Roy. It was maddening
to have Eleanor sitting there in cold blood, the Honorable Mrs.
Wyndwood, an irreproachable widow in black, talking abstractly of
kisses. Then the tense string of expectation snapped; the apathy that he
felt in the presence of Rosina invaded him--he stirred his tea
listlessly, awaiting the moment of her departure. As she talked on,
loquacious to the end, prattling of Erle-Smith and Beethoven, and
Swinburne, his apathy quickened into impatience; he longed for her to be
gone. His hidden fingers played a tattoo on the side of his chair. She
bade him good-bye at last; she would not see him again for many months,
unless he came to Paris.

“I always run over to do the Salon,” he answered, indifferently.

When he had seen her, stately and stiff, to her carriage, and his
studio-door had shut him in again, he ripped up the canvas with his old
sailor’s knife in a paroxysm of fury. His eye caught the silver regatta
cup standing proudly upon the piano. He felt like dashing it down; then
it occurred to him how fine and bitter a revenge it would be upon her
and humanity at large to fill it with poison and drain it to the dregs.
But he only threw himself upon a couch in a passion of sobs, such as had
not shaken him since childhood. The great picturesque room, which the
autumn twilight had draped in dusk, was ineffably dreary without her;
his heart seemed full of dust, and tears were a blessed relief in the
drought. They probably saved him from ending his empty life there and

He rallied, and began other pictures, but he could do nothing with them.
He refused commissions for portraits, hating the imposition of subject,
and fearful of exposing his restlessness to a stranger’s gaze. The
return of the world to town renewed social solicitations, but he felt he
was wearing his heart on his sleeve, and declined to parade it through
drawing-rooms. Despite this gain of time, the weeks passed without any
definite product. He was searching, but he could not find. One day he
would sit down and fix in charcoal some rough suggestions for a greater
symbolic picture than that which he had destroyed; but the next day he
would be working up his recollections of Devonshire night-scenery,
trying by a series of tentative touches on a toned canvas to evolve the
romantic mystery of those illumined villages niched in the cliffs, or of
the moon making a lovely rippling path across the dark lonely sea, as
Eleanor had made across his life; while a day or so after he would
discard these thinly painted shadowy night-pieces, and, painting
straight from the shoulder, “impasto” his canvas with brutal blobs of
paint that at a distance merged into the living flow of red sunlit

And always this rankling, gnawing pain of unsatisfied and unspoken
desire. No man could work with that at his breast. And her rare letters
did not allay it, though they spoke no word of love, but were full of
enthusiasm for the free student life in Paris, the glorious
_camaraderie_, the fun of dining occasionally for a few centimes in tiny
_crémeries_, and going to the People’s Theatre off the Boulevard
Montparnasse, where they gave a bonus of _cerises à l’eau de vie_
between the pieces. Oh, if she had only been younger, less staled by
life! If she could only begin over again. If she only had the energy of
Olive, who started work at the Academy at the preternatural hour of
eight A.M. But she had lost the faculty of beginnings, she feared, and
she made but poor progress in sculpture. That was the undercurrent of
these gay letters, the characteristic note of despondency.

Rosina held out no hand of reconciliation. His only contact with her was
through Billy, who paid him one visit to escort “Aunt Clara” over the
studio. His wife had, it transpired, held forth so copiously and
continuously upon its glories that the poor creature had plucked up
courage to ask to see it, and Rosina, who had evidently concealed the
breach with her famous husband, had besought Billy to convoy her. And so
one day these two routed out the sick lion from the recesses of his den.

The appearance of Miss Clara Coble was as much a shock as a surprise to
Matthew Strang. In the nine years or so since she had assisted at his
wedding--an unimportant but not disagreeable personage, tall and
full-blooded as her brother, she had decayed lamentably. She was now an
ungainly old maid, stooping and hollow-eyed, with crows’ feet and
sharpened features. She had a nervous twitch of the eyelids, her head
drooped oddly, and her conversation was at times inconsecutive to the
verge of fatuity. From the day of her birth to the day of his death
Coble had thought of her as his little sister, and he never realized
the tragedy of her spinsterhood, of her starved nature, though under his
very eye she had peaked and pined in body and soul.

But it leaped to the painter’s eye at the first sight of her, and her
image remained in his brain, infinitely pathetic.

The ugliness that in earlier days would have averted his eyes in
artistic disgust, drew him now in human pity. He grew tenderer to Rosina
at the thought that she was harboring this wreck of femininity. It
rejoiced him to think how much “Aunt Clara” was enjoying this visit to
his grandeurs; he listened with pleased tolerance to her artless
babble--in her best days she had always had something of her brother’s
big simplicity--as she told tale after tale out of school, repeating the
colossal things her poor brother had said about his son-in-law’s genius
and wealth, recounting how Coble had thus become the indirect hero of
the Temperance Bar, and unconsciously revealing--what was more
surprising to the painter--the pride with which Rosina had always
written home (and still spoke to her aunt) about her husband and his
fashionable friends and successes. And poor Miss Coble expanded in the
atmosphere of the great man, which she had never hoped to breathe. Her
cadaverous cheek took a flush, she held her head straighter on her
shoulders. He felt that, after all, it was worth while being famous if
he could give such pleasure to simple souls by his mere proximity. The
fame he had sold his body and soul for was a joyless possession; happy
for him if it could yet give joy to others.

Billy told him that Ruth Hailey was in Paris at the Hotel Windsor with
Mrs. Verder, preparatory to the long Antipodean tour, and suggested that
he might call upon her when he went over to see the Salon if she was
still there. Matthew wrote down the address, but said he didn’t think he
should go over that year. Billy looked disappointed; he had been about
to suggest accompanying his brother. Life at Camden Town, he intimated
fretfully, had resumed its dead-alive routine, and he glanced towards
Miss Coble as if to imply that her advent had not brightened the
domestic table.

When the visitors left, Matthew put them into a cab and drove with them
a little way to purchase presents for the children. There was a doll
for Clara and a box of animals for Davie. To Rosina he did not venture
to send even a message. At a word from her he would have gone to her,
but he had no stomach to cope with her tantrums.

This new reminder of home left him more depressed than before. It was
impossible to concentrate himself upon his work, even in the presence of
models. They were an unprofitable expense, and he dismissed them and
brooded over the ruins of his life. Without Eleanor Art was impossible,
he felt. True Art he could not produce without her inspiration, and
false Art was falseness to her and a vile slavery.

Insomnia dogged his nights, and when he slept it was but to suffer under
harassing dreams fantastically compounded of his early struggles. These
dreams never touched his later life; many of them dealt oppressively
with the bird-shop, and he had often to clean endless shades with
chamois leather, smashing one after the other under the rebuking but
agonizingly unintelligible “Pop! Pop! Pop!” of “Ole Hey,” though he felt
sure Tommy, the young Micmac errand-boy, had cracked them beforehand.
And what added to the sleeper’s agony was that these breakages would
have to be made good to the Deacon from his scanty wage, or, worse, he
would be discharged and unable to send the monthly subsidy to Cobequid
Village. The anguish and anxiety were quite as harassing as though the
troubles were real.

He made one desperate excursion into Society--it was the delightful
dinner-party of a gifted fellow-artist whose cultured and beautiful wife
had always seemed to him the ideal hostess. And a pretty and guileless
girl, full of enthusiasm for Art and Nature and the life that was
opening out before her, fell to his escorting arm; she was visibly
overpowered by her luck and charmingly deferential; at first his
responsive smile was bitter, but his mood lightened under her engaging
freshness and the champagne he imbibed recklessly.

But the next morning’s reaction, aggravated by the headache of
indigestion, plunged him into more tenebrous glooms. But for the
unkindly fates he might have sat with such a wife, host and hostess of
such a gathering. He pictured Eleanor receiving his guests, and in his
factitious happiness he gathered the poor and the despised to his
hearth. The images of suicide resurged. He saw it on the
bills:--“Suicide of a Popular Painter.” Why not? The position was
hopeless; were it not best to throw it up? How the world would stare! No
one would understand the reason. Rosina would still remain unknown,
irrelevant to the situation. And his eyes filled with tears, in the
bitter luxury of woe.

But he did not commit suicide, and all that the world, or that minute
portion of it which talks Art, wondered at, was why Matthew Strang was
unrepresented when the Academy opened in May. It leaked out that he had
been ill, and there were sympathetic paragraphs which were not
altogether misinformed, for these sleepless or dream-tortured nights had
brought on nervous prostration and acute headaches. That ancient
blood-poisoning, too, had left its traces in his system, and when he was
worried and overwrought his body had to pay again the penalty of
unforgiven physical error.

Again, as in those far-off days, he thought of a sea-voyage to his
native village; it dwindled down to crossing the Channel. As the opening
of the Salon drew nearer and nearer, he felt more and more strongly that
he must not miss the Exhibition. It was part of a painter’s education.
There was no need to see Eleanor Wyndwood; by remaining on the
fashionable side of the river the chances were he would not even come
across her casually in the few days of his stay. No, there was nothing
to apprehend. And besides, it began to be increasingly borne in upon him
that it was his duty to look up Ruth Hailey; she had called upon him at
Camden Town, and etiquette demanded that he should return the call. What
had she and Rosina talked about? he wondered dully. If he did not go
soon, she might be off to Australia, and the opportunity of seeing his
ancient playmate would probably recur nevermore.

And so a bright May morning saw him arrive in the capital of Art,
breakfast hastily at the Grand Hotel, and--drive straight to the Latin
Quarter. Other climes, other thoughts, and the gayety of the Boulevards,
with their green trees and many-colored kiosks, had begun to steal into
his spirit, and his gloomy apprehension of danger to dissipate in the
crisp sunny air. Why should he not see Eleanor Wyndwood?

And then he discovered that he did not know her address, that she wrote
from the English Ladies’ Art Club; he hunted out the place, but the
concierge told him she was not there, and gave him the address of the
Academy most of the ladies attended, but this was the hour of
_déjeuner_, and monsieur would probably not find them there till the
afternoon. He grew downcast again, and, dismissing the cab, he sauntered
on foot towards the Academy, trying to kill time. He dropped into a tiny
restaurant close by to get a cup of coffee; it was decorated by studies
from the nude, evidently accepted in payment for dinners; and the
ceiling had a central decoration that reminded him of his own crude
workmanship in the sitting-room of that hotel in New Brunswick. He sat
down at a little table facing the only lady customer, a dashing
Frenchwoman, the warm coloring of whose handsome model’s face showed
between a great black-plumed hat and a light-blue bow, and who paused
between her spoonfuls of apple-stew to chant joyously, “Coucou, coucou,
fal la, la, la, la.” A decadent poet with a leonine name sipped
absinthe, a spectacled Dane held forth intermittently on the bad faith
of England towards Denmark at the commencement of the century, a Scotch
painter discoursed on fly-fishing, and exhibited a box of trout-flies,
and one or another paused from time to time to hum, “Coucou, coucou, fal
la, la, la, la,” in sympathy with the gay refrain. Hens fluttered and
clucked about the two sunlit tables, and a goat wandered around, willing
to eat.

Matthew Strang fed the hens and was taken by the humors of the quarter,
into which he had scarcely penetrated before, knowing mainly the other
side of the water. Perceiving him looking at her pictures, the stout
smiling proprietress, whose homely face, minus her characteristic smile,
flared in paint on a wall, protruding from a scarlet-striped bodice,
asked him in very loud tones if he would like to see her collection, and
straightway haled him up-stairs to her salon, which was hung thickly
with meritorious pictures, upon whose beauties she held a running
comment, astonishing Matthew by the intelligence of her criticisms.
“This represents a hawthorn, monsieur, which blossoms in the spring.
This was done by a Dane who is dead. The King of Denmark offered him a
commission, but he would not work for him, because he was a
revolutionary--in painting only, you understand, an Impressionist. That
is a copy of the one in the Luxembourg. I paid two hundred francs to
have it made, because I love the original so. Oh yes, it is a very good
copy. My landlord offered me four hundred for it, but I prefer to live
in a little apartment, surrounded by my pictures. As you say, I am an
amateur of pictures. There are more here in my bedroom,” and she ushered
him in, apologizing for the bed not being made. Then she told him her
history. She was a widow with an only son, who was _beau garçon_. Ah,
she was beautiful herself when she had twenty years. Her son was to be
an artist. Matthew Strang feelingly hoped the boy would become a great
artist; inwardly he wondered wistfully why he himself had not been
blessed with an art-loving mother. And then in a curious flash of
retrospective insight he recognized for the first time the essential
artistic elements in his mother’s character, stifled by a narrow
creed--her craving for the life of gay cities, her Pagan anger at Abner
Preep’s bow-legs! What a pity she had not been born in this freer
artistic atmosphere, which indeed her ancestors must have breathed,
though their blood had been crossed with German and Scotch, as if to
produce his own contradictory temperament. In London, he thought,
artistic connoisseurship was the last thing one would look for in small
shopkeepers. In a softer mood he repaired to the Academy, which was
entered through a pair of large folding doors that gave upon a stone
corridor. He passed through this passage and came out under a sloping
porch, with broken trellis-work at one side and an untidy tree. At the
top of a flight of stone steps that descended thence, he was stopped by
a block of young American fellows in soft felt hats, who motioned him to
stand still, and, to his astonishment and somewhat melancholy amusement,
he found himself part of a group about to be photographed by a pretty
young lady student in the sunny, dusty court-yard below.

The group she had posed stretched all down the steps, and consisted
mainly of models--male and female. There were Italian women, dusky and
smiling, some bareheaded, some hooded, and a few pressing
infants--literal olive-branches--to their bosoms. There was an Italian
girl of fourteen with a mustache, who was a flare of color in her green
velvet apron and gorgeous trailing head-dress. There were Frenchwomen
with coquettish straw hats, and a child in a Tam o’ Shanter; there was a
Corsican in a slouch-hat, with coal-black hair and a velvet jacket to
match, and a little Spanish boy in a white hat. Thrown in as by way of
artistic contrast with all this efflorescence of youth was a doddering,
pathetic old man with a spreading gray beard and flowing gray locks; and
there were young lady students of divers nationalities--Polish, Greek,
Dutch, and American--curiously interspersed in the motley group which
stretched right down the stone steps between the stone balustrades that
terminated in stone urns spouting disorderly twigs. Behind the pretty
photographer were the terra-cotta walls of the sculpture atelier, which,
high beyond her head, were replaced by long, green-glazed windows, into
which a pink lilac-bush, tiptoeing, tried to peep; around her were
stools, dumb-bells, damaged busts, a headless terra-cotta angel with
gaping trunk and iron stump, nursing a squash-faced cherub, and
dismantled packing-cases swarming with sportive black kittens; and
facing her a great blackened stone head of Medusa stared from a
red-brick pedestal, awful with spiders’ webs across the mouth and
athwart the hollow orbits and in the snaky hair covered with green moss;
and towering over her head and dominating the court-yard stood a
colossal classical statue, tarnished and mutilated, representing a huge
helmeted hero, broken-nosed and bleared, sustaining a heroine, as
armless but not so beautiful as the Venus de Milo, doing a backward
fall. But the sun shone on the dusty litter and the mess and the lumber,
and the lilac-bush blossomed beautifully, and over all was the joy of
youth and Art and the gayety of the spring. Matthew Strang felt an
ancient thrill pass through his sluggish veins. To be young and to
paint--what happiness! His eyes moistened in sympathy with the scene.
The models were redolent of Art--the very children breathed Art, the
babes sucked it in. Art was a republic, and everybody was equal in
it--the doughtiest professor and the meanest model, the richest amateur
and the penurious youth starving himself to be there. There was nothing
in the world but Art--it was the essence of existence. There were people
who lived for other things, but they did not count. Oh, the free brave
life! He was glad to be photographed as part and parcel of all this
fresh aspiration; it revivified him; he had a superstitious sense that
it was symbolic.

The group scattered, dismissed by the “Merci” of the pretty
photographer; and Matthew, descending the steps, asked her if Mrs.
Wyndwood worked in her atelier. She did not know, but she guessed from
his description it must be the aristocratic-looking lady who had dropped
in once or twice in Miss Regan’s company. Miss Regan came regularly
every morning at eight o’clock, but not at all in the afternoon, when
she worked at home. Miss Regan’s own studio was in an Impasse about ten
minutes away; probably her friend lived with her. Heartily thanking his
informant, he betook himself thither. He found the Impasse in a prosaic,
grimy street, amid which the charming, if battered bass-relief of Venus
with Cupids over its entrance, struck an unexpected note of poetry,
which was intensified by the little Ionic portico with classic bronze
figures between its pillars that faced him as he passed through the
corridor. Leafy trees and trellised plants added rusticity to the poetry
of the sunny, silent, deserted court-yard, so curiously sequestered amid
the surrounding squalor. The windows of many studios gave upon it, and
the backs of canvases showed from the glass annexes for _plein air_
study. But as he passed under the pretty, natural porch of embowering
foliage that led to the door of the studio he sought, his heart beat as
nervously at the thought of again facing the Hon. Mrs. Wyndwood as when,
in his young days, he had first saluted the magnificent uncle whose name
he bore. He had an inward shrinking: was it wise to expose himself to
the perturbation of another interview with this cold, stately creature,
the image of whom, passing graciously to her carriage, was still vivid
to him? But he could not go back now. He knocked at the door.

Eleanor opened the door--a radiant, adorable apparition in a big white
clay-smeared blouse with a huge serviceable pocket. He had never
imagined her thus; he was as taken aback by her appearance as she by his
presence. He stared at her in silence, as she stood there under the
overarching greenery, with gold flecks of sunlight on her hair. But both
recovered themselves in a moment; the sight of her in this homely
artistic costume knocked her off the pedestal of fashion and propriety
on which his mental vision had posed her; she became part of that brave
young democracy of Art he had just left; and there was a charming
_camaraderie_ in the gay laugh with which, withdrawing her long white
hands beyond reach of his proffered glove, and exhibiting them piquantly
clay-covered, she cried, “Can’t shake.”

The seriousness of the imagined meeting vanished in a twinkling. He
looked at her dancing eyes, the sweet, red mouth smiling with a gleam of
lustrous teeth: he had an audacious inspiration.

“Well, then there’s nothing for it but--” he said, smiling back, and
finished the sentence by kissing her. Instantly her eyelids drooped,
half-closing; her lips responded passionately to his.

They were withdrawn in a moment before he could realize what he had
done, or the wonderful transformation in their relations.

“In the open air!” she cried, horrified, and ran within. He followed
her, closing the door; his heart beat tumultuously now. Nothing could
undo that moment. A wilderness of talk could not have advanced matters
so far.

Through the tall glass roof of the airy studio the sun streamed in rays
of dusty gold, dappling the imaginative clay models in their wet
wrappings, the busts, fountains, serpents, rock-work, witches, that
variegated the shelves, and lent an air of fantasy and poetry, extruding
the tedious commonplace of plebeian existence, and harmonizing with the
joyous aloofness of the scene in the court-yard its sense of existence
in and for itself, by souls attuned to Art and dedicate to loveliness.

Mrs. Wyndwood stood, saucily beautiful, leaning against a shelf, with
one hand in the pocket of her blouse, and rubbing the clay of the other
against the sides of what looked like a tin baking-dish filled with
plaster-pie. How harmonious was that tilt to her nose! He had never
noticed before how delightfully it turned up. She smiled roguishly.

“Imprudent creature! Suppose Olive had been in!”

The great moment was taken in a livelier key than he had ever dreamed.

“But _you_ were out,” he said, trying to respond to her lightness,
though he trembled in every limb. He made a movement towards her. She
shrank back against the shelf.

“Don’t!” she cried, gayly, “you’ll spoil your gloves.”

He dabbled them magnificently in a heap of plaster of Paris and advanced

“Now you’ll spoil my blouse,” she cried, moving hastily away to dip her