Mrs. Humphry Ward
Part 2 out of 6
away--'seen with other men's eyes!'
But on Lord Findon and on Cuningham the effect was of another kind.
The picture seemed to them also a combination of many things, or
rather of attempts at many things--Burne-Jones' mystical colour--the
rustic character of a Bastien-Lepage or a Millet--with the jewelled
detail of a fourteenth-century Florentine, so wonderful were the
harebells in the foreground, the lichened rocks, the dabbled fleece
of the lamb: but they realised that it was a combination that only a
remarkable talent could have achieved.
'By Jove!' said Findon, turning on the artist with animation, 'where
did you learn all this?'
'I've been painting a good many years,' said Fenwick, his cheeks
aglow. 'But I've got on a lot this last six months.'
'I suppose, in the country, you couldn't get properly at the model?'
'No. I've had no chances.'
'Let's all pray to have none,' said Cuningham, good-naturedly. 'I had
no notion you were such a swell.'
But his light-blue eyes as they rested on Fenwick were less friendly.
His Scotch prudence was alarmed. Had he in truth introduced a genius
unawares to his only profitable patron?
'Who is the model, if I may ask?' said Lord Findon, still examining
The reply came haltingly, after a pause.
'Oh!--some one I knew in Westmoreland.'
The speaker had turned red. Naturally no one asked any further
questions. Cuningham noticed that the face was certainly from the same
original as the face in the sketch-book, but he kept his observation
Lord Findon, with the eagerness of a Londoner discovering some new
thing, fell into quick talk with Fenwick; looked him meanwhile up
and down, his features, bearing, clothes; noticed his North-Country
accent, and all the other signs of the plebeian. And presently
Fenwick, placed at his ease, began for the first time to expand,
became argumentative and explosive. In a few minutes he was
laying down the law in his Westmoreland manner--attacking the
Academy--denouncing certain pictures of the year--with a flushed,
confident face and a gesticulating hand. Watson observed him with some
astonishment; Lord Findon looked amused--and pulled out his watch.
'Oh, well, everybody kicks the Academy--but it's pretty strong, as
you'll find when you have to do with it.'
'Have you been writing those articles in the _Mirror_?' said Watson,
'I'm not a journalist.' The young man's tone was sulky. He got up and
his loquacity disappeared.
'Well, I must be off,' said Lord Findon. 'But you're coming to dinner
with me to-morrow night, Cuningham, aren't you? Will you excuse a
short invitation'--he turned, after a moment's pause, to Fenwick--'and
accompany him? Lady Findon would, I'm sure, be glad to make your
acquaintance. St. James's Square--102. All right'--as Fenwick,
colouring violently, stammered an acceptance--'we shall expect you.
Aurevoir! I'm afraid it's no good to ask _you_!' The last words were
addressed smilingly to Watson, as Lord Findon, with outstretched hand,
passed through the door, which Cuningham opened for him.
'Thank you,' said Watson, with a grave inclination--'I'm a hermit.'
The door closed on a gay and handsome presence. Lord Findon could not
possibly have been accused of anything so ill-mannered as patronage.
But there was in his manner a certain consciousness of power--of
vantage-ground; a certain breath of autocracy. The face of Watson
showed it as he returned to look closely into Fenwick's picture.
A few minutes later Fenwick found himself alone. He stood in front of
the picture, staring into Phoebe's eyes. A wave of passionate remorse
broke upon him. He had as good as denied her; and she sat there before
him like some wronged, helpless thing. He seemed to hear her voice, to
see her lips moving.
Hastily he took her last letter out of his pocket.
'I _am_ glad you're getting on so well, and I'm counting the weeks to
Christmas. Carrie kisses your photograph morning and night, but I'm
afraid she'll have forgotten you a good deal. Sometimes I'm very weary
here--but I don't mind if you're getting on, and if it won't be much
longer. Miss Anna has sent me some new patterns for my tatting, and
I'm getting a fine lot done. All the visitors are quite gone now, and
it's that quiet at nights! Sometimes when it's been raining I think I
can hear the Dungeon Ghyll stream, though it's more than a mile away.'
Fenwick put up the letter. He had a sudden vision of Phoebe in her
white night-dress, opening the casement-window of the little cottage
on a starry night, and listening to the sounds of distant water.
Behind her was the small room with its candle--the baby's
cot--the white bed, with his vacant place. A pang of longing--of
Then he began to pace his room, driven by the stress of feeling to
take stock of his whole position. He had reached London in May; it was
now November. Six months--of the hardest effort, the most strenuous
labour he had ever passed through. He looked back upon it with
exultation. Never had he been so conscious of expanding power and
justified ambition. Through the Berners Street life-school he had
obtained some valuable coaching and advice which had corrected faults
and put him on the track of new methods. But it was his own right
hand and his own brain he had mostly to thank, together with the
opportunities of London. Up early, and to bed late--drawing from the
model, the antique, still life, drapery, landscape; studying pictures,
old and new, and filling his sketch-book in every moment of so-called
leisure with the figures and actions of the great city--he had made
magnificent use of his time; Phoebe could find no fault with him
Had he forgotten her and the babe?--found letters to her sometimes a
burden, and his heart towards her dry often and barren? Well, he _had_
written regularly; and she had never complained. Men cannot be like
women, absorbed for ever in the personal affections. For him it was
the day of battle, in which a man must strain all his powers to the
uttermost if any laurels are to be won before evening. His whole soul
was absorbed in the stress of it, in the hungry eagerness for fame,
and--though in a lesser degree--for money.
Money! The very thought of it filled him with impatient worry.
Morrison's hundred was nearly gone. He knew well enough that Phoebe
was right when she accused him of managing his money badly. It ran
through his fingers loosely, incessantly. He hardly knew now where the
next remittances to Phoebe were to come from. At first he had done
a certain amount of illustrating work and had generally sent her the
proceeds of it. But of late he had been absorbed in his big picture,
and there had been few or no small earnings. Perhaps, if he hadn't
written those articles to the _Mirror_, there would have been time for
some? Well, why shouldn't he write them? His irritable pride took fire
at once at the thought of blame.
No one could say, anyway, that he had spent money in amusement. Why,
he had scarcely been out of Bloomsbury!--the rest of London might not
have existed for him. A gallery-seat at the Lyceum Theatre, then in
its early fame, and hot discussions of Irving and Ellen Terry with
such artistic or literary acquaintance as he had made through the
life-school or elsewhere--these had been his only distractions. He
stood amazed before his own virtues. He drank little--smoked little.
As for women--he thought with laughter or wrath of Phoebe's touch of
jealousy! There was an extremely pretty girl--a fair-haired, conscious
minx--drawing in the same room with him at the British Museum.
Evidently she would have been glad to capture him; and he had loftily
denied her. If he had ever been as susceptible as Phoebe thought him,
he was susceptible no more. Life burned with sterner fire!
And yet, for all these self-denials, Morrison's money and his own
savings were nearly gone. Funds might hold out till after Christmas.
He had heard once or twice from Morrison, asking for news of the
pictures promised. Lately he had left the letters unanswered; but he
lived in terror of a visit. For he had nothing to offer him--neither
money nor pictures. His only picture so far--as distinguished from
exercises--was the 'Genius Loci.' He had begun that in a moment of
weariness with his student work, basing it on a number of studies
of Phoebe's head and face he had brought South with him. He had been
lucky enough to find a model very much resembling Phoebe in figure;
and now, suddenly, the picture had become his passion, the centre of
all his hopes. It astonished himself; he saw his artistic advance in
it writ large; of late he had been devoting himself entirely to it,
wrapt, like the body of Hector, in a heavenly cloud that lifted him
from the earth! If the picture sold--and it would surely sell--then
all paths were clear. Morrison should be paid; and Phoebe have her
rights. Let it only be well hung at the Academy, and well sold to some
discriminating buyer--and John Fenwick henceforward would owe no man
anything--whether money or favour.
At this point he returned to his picture, grappling with it afresh in
a feverish pleasure. He caught up a mirror and looked at it reversed;
he put in a bold accent or two; fumed over the lack of brilliancy in
some colour he had bought the day before; and ended in a fresh burst
of satisfaction. By Jove, it was good! Lord Findon had been evidently
'bowled over' by it--Cuningham too. As for that sour-faced fellow,
Watson, what did it matter what he thought?
It _must_ succeed! Suddenly he found himself on his knees beside his
picture, praying that he might finish it prosperously, that it might
be given a good place in the Academy, and bring him fame and fortune.
Then he got up sheepishly, looking furtively round the room to be sure
that the door was shut, and no one had seen him. He was a good deal
ashamed of himself, for he was not in truth of a religious mind,
and he had, by now, few or no orthodox beliefs. But in all matters
connected with his pictures the Evangelical tradition of his youth
still held him. He was the descendant of generations of men and women
who had prayed on all possible occasions--that customers might be
plentiful and business good--that the young cattle might do well, and
the hay be got in dry--that their children might prosper--and they
themselves be delivered from rheumatism, or toothache, or indigestion.
Fenwick's prayer to some 'magnified non-natural man' afar off, to come
and help him with his picture, was of the same kind. Only he was no
longer whole-hearted and simple about it, as he had been when Phoebe
married him, as she was still.
He put on his studio coat and sat down to his work again, in a very
tender, repentant mood. What on earth had possessed him to make that
answer to Lord Findon--to let him and those other fellows take him
for unmarried? He protested, in excuse, that Westmoreland folk are
'close,' and don't like talking about their own affairs. He came of a
secretive, suspicious stock; and had no mind at any time to part with
unnecessary facts about himself. As talkative as you please about art
and opinion; of his own concerns not a word! London had made him all
the more cautious and reticent. No one knew anything about him except
as an artist. He always posted his letters himself; and he believed
that neither his landlady nor anybody else suspected him of a wife.
But to-day he had carried things too far--and a guilty discomfort
weighed upon him. What was to be done? Should he on the first
opportunity set himself right with Lord Findon--speak easily and
unexpectedly of Phoebe and the child? Clearly what would have been
simplicity itself at first was now an awkwardness. Lord Findon would
be puzzled--chilled. He would suppose there was something to be
ashamed of--some skeleton in the cupboard. And especially would he
take it ill that Fenwick had allowed him to run on with his diatribes
against matrimony as though he were talking to a bachelor. Then the
lie about the picture. It had been the shy, foolish impulse of a
moment. But how explain it to Lord Findon?
Fenwick stood there tortured by an intense and morbid distress;
realising how much this rich and illustrious person had already
entered into his day dream. For all his pride as an artist--and he was
full of it--his trembling, crude ambition had already seized on Lord
Findon as a stepping-stone. He did not know whether he could stoop to
court a patron. His own temper had to be reckoned with. But to lose
him at the outset by a silly falsehood would be galling. A man who
has to live in the world as a married man must not begin by making a
mystery of his wife. He felt the social stupidity of what he had done,
yet could not find in himself the courage to set it right.
Well, well, let him only make a hit in the Academy, sell his picture,
and get some commissions. Then Phoebe should appear, and smile down
astonishment. His _gaucherie_ should be lost in his success.
He tossed about that night, sleepless, and thinking of Cuningham's two
hundred and fifty pounds--for a picture so cheaply, commonly clever.
It filled him with the thirst to _arrive_. He had more brains, more
drawing, more execution--more everything!--than Cuningham. No doubt a
certain prudence and tact were wanted--tact in managing yourself and
Well!--in spite of Watson's rude remark, what human being _knew_ he
was writing those articles in the _Mirror_? He threw out his challenge
to the darkness, and so fell asleep.
Fenwick had never spent a more arduous hour than that which he devoted
to the business of dressing for Lord Findon's dinner-party. It was his
first acquaintance with dress-clothes. He had, indeed, dined once or
twice at the tables of the Westmoreland gentry in the course of his
portrait-painting experiences. But there had been no 'party,' and it
had been perfectly understood that for the Kendal bookseller's son
a black Sunday coat was sufficient. Now, however, he was to meet the
great world on its own terms; and though he tried hard to disguise his
nervousness from his sponsor, Philip Cuningham, he did not succeed.
Cuningham instructed him where to buy a second-hand dress-suit that
very nearly fitted him, and he had duly provided himself with gloves
and tie. When all was done he put his infinitesimal looking-glass on
the floor of his attic, flanked it with two guttering candles, and
walked up and down before it in a torment, observing his own demeanour
and his coat's, saying 'How d'ye do?' and 'Good-bye' to an imaginary
host, or bending affably to address some phantom lady across the
When at last he descended the stairs, he felt as though he were just
escaped from a wrestling-match. He followed Cuningham into the omnibus
with nerves all on edge. He hated the notion, too, of taking an
omnibus to go and dine in St. James's Square. But Cuningham's Scotch
thriftiness scouted the proposal of a hansom.
On the way Fenwick suddenly asked his companion whether there was a
Lady Findon. Cuningham, startled by the ignorance of his _protege_,
drew out as quickly as he could _la carte du pays_.
Lady Findon, the second wife, fat, despotic, and rich, rather noisy,
and something of a character, a political hostess, a good friend, and
a still better hater; two sons, silent, good-looking and clever, one
in the brewery that provided his mother with her money, the other
in the Hussars; two daughters not long 'introduced'--one pretty--the
other bookish and rather plain; so ran the catalogue.
'I believe there is another daughter by the first
wife--married--something queer about the husband. But I've never seen
her. She doesn't often appear--Hullo--here we are.'
They alighted at the Haymarket, and as they walked down the street
Fenwick found himself in the midst of the evening whirl of the West
End. The clubs were at their busiest; men passed them in dress-suits
and overcoats like themselves, and the street was full of hansoms,
whence the faces of well-dressed women, enveloped in soft silks and
furs, looked out.
Fenwick felt himself treading a new earth. At such an hour he was
generally wending his way to a Bloomsbury eating-house, where he
dined for eighteenpence; he was a part of the striving, moneyless
But here, from this bustling Haymarket with its gay, hurrying figures,
there breathed new forces, new passions which bewildered him. As he
was looking at the faces in the carriages, the jewels and feathers
and shining stuffs, he thought suddenly and sharply of Phoebe sitting
alone at her supper in the tiny cottage room. His heart smote him a
little. But, after all, was he not on her business as well as his own?
The door of Lord Findon's house opened before them. At sight of the
liveried servants within, Fenwick's pride asserted itself. He walked
in, head erect, as though the place belonged to him.
Lord Findon came pleasantly to greet them as they entered the
drawing-room, and took them up to Lady Findon. Cuningham she already
knew, and she gave a careless glance and a touch of the hand to his
companion. It was her husband's will to ask these raw, artistic youths
to dinner, and she had to put up with it; but really the difficulty of
knowing whom to send them in with was enormous.
'I am glad to make your acquaintance,' she said, mechanically, to
Fenwick, as he stood awkwardly beside her, while her eyes searched the
door for a Cabinet Minister and his wife who were the latest guests.
'Thank you; I too am pleased to make yours,' said Fenwick, nervously
pulling at his gloves, and furious with his own _malaise_.
Lady Findon's eyebrows lifted in amusement. She threw him another
Good-looking!--but really Findon should wait till they were a little
'I hear your picture is charming,' she said, distractedly; and then,
suddenly perceiving the expected figures, she swept forward to receive
'Very sorry, my dear fellow, we have no lady for you; but you will
be next my daughter, Madame de Pastourelles,' said Lord Findon, a few
minutes later, in his ear, passing him with a nod and a smile. His
gay, half-fatherly ways with these rising talents were well known.
They made part of his fame with his contemporaries; a picturesque
element in his dinner-parties which the world appreciated.
Fenwick found his way rather sulkily to the dining-room. It annoyed
him that Cuningham had a lady and he had none. His companion on the
road downstairs was the private secretary, who tried good-naturedly
to point out the family portraits on the staircase wall. But Fenwick
scarcely replied. He stalked on, his great black eyes glancing
restlessly from side to side; and the private secretary thought him a
As he was standing bewildered inside the dining-room a servant caught
hold of him and piloted him to his seat. A lady in white, who was
already seated in the next chair, looked up and smiled.
'My father told me we were to be neighbours. I must introduce myself.'
She held out a small hand, which, in his sudden pleasure, Fenwick
grasped more cordially than was necessary. She withdrew it smiling,
and he sat down, feeling himself an impulsive ass, intimidated by the
lights, the flowers, the multitude of his knives and forks, and most
of all, perhaps, by this striking and brilliant creature beside him.
Madame de Pastourelles was of middle height, slenderly built, with
pale-brown hair, and a delicately white face, of a very perfect oval.
She had large, quiet eyes, darker than her hair; features small, yet
of a noble outline--strength in refinement. The proud cutting of the
nose and mouth gave delight; it was a pride so unconscious, so masked
in sweetness, that it challenged without wounding. The short upper lip
was sensitive and gay; the eyes ranged in a smiling freedom; the
neck and arms were beautiful. Her dress, according to the Whistlerian
phrase just coming into vogue, might have been called an 'arrangement
in white.' The basis of it seemed to be white velvet; and breast and
hair were powdered with diamonds delicately set in old flower-like
'You are in the same house with Mr. Cuningham?' she asked, when a
dean had said grace and the soup was served. Her voice was soft and
courteous; the irritation in Fenwick felt the soothing of it.
'I am on the floor above.'
'He paints charming things.'
'You think so?' he said, bluntly, turning to look at her.
She coloured slightly and laughed.
'Do you mean to put me in the Palace of Truth?'
'Of course I would if I could,' said Fenwick, also laughing. 'But I
suppose ladies never say quite what they mean.'
'Oh yes, they do. Well, then, I am not much enamoured of Mr.
Cuningham's pictures. I like _him_, and my father likes his painting.'
'Lord Findon admires that kind of thing?'
'Besides a good many other kinds. Oh! my father has a dreadfully
catholic taste. He tells me you haven't been abroad yet?'
Fenwick acknowledged it.
'Ah, well; of course you'll go. All artists do--except'--she dropped
her voice--'the gentleman opposite.'
Fenwick looked, and beheld a personage scarcely, indeed, to be seen
at all for his very bushy hair, whiskers, and moustache, from
which emerged merely the tip of a nose and a pair of round eyes in
spectacles. As, however, the hair was of an orange colour and the eyes
of a piercing and pinlike sharpness, the eclipse of feature was not
a loss of effect. And as the flamboyant head was a tolerably familiar
object in the shop-windows of the photographers and in the illustrated
papers, Fenwick recognised almost immediately one of the most popular
artists of the day--Mr. Herbert Sherratt.
Fenwick flushed hotly.
'Lord Findon doesn't admire _his_ work?' he said, almost with
fierceness, turning to his companion.
'He hates his pictures and collects his drawings.'
'Drawings!' Fenwick shrugged his shoulders. 'Anybody can make a clever
drawing. It's putting on the paint that counts. Why doesn't he go
'Oh, well, he does go to Holland. But he thinks Italian painting all
stuff, and that so many Madonnas and saints encourage superstition.
But what's the use of talking? They have to station a policeman beside
his picture in the Academy to keep off the crowd. Hush-sh! He is
looking this way.'
She turned her head, and Fenwick feared she was lost to him. He
managed to get in another question. 'Are there any other painters
She pointed out the president of the Academy, a sculptor, and an
art-critic, at whose name Fenwick curled his lip, full of the natural
animosity of the painter to the writer.
'And, of course, you know my neighbour?'
Fenwick looked hastily, and saw a very handsome youth bending forward
to answer a question which Lord Findon had addressed to him from
across the table; a face in the 'grand style'--almost the face of
a Greek--pure in outline, bronzed by foreign suns, and lit by
eyes expressing so strong a force of personality that, but for the
sweetness with which it was tempered, the spectator might have been
rather repelled than won. When the young man answered Lord Findon, the
voice was, like the face, charged--perhaps over-charged--with meaning
'I took Madame de Pastourelles to see it to-day,' the youth was
saying. 'She thought it as glorious as I did.'
'Oh! you are a pair of enthusiasts,' said Lord Findon. 'I keep my
The 'it' turned out to be a Titian portrait from the collection of
an old Roman family, lately brought to London and under offer to the
National Gallery, of which Lord Findon was a trustee.
Madame de Pastourelles looked towards her father, confirming what
the unknown youth had said. Her eyes had kindled. She began to talk
rapidly in defence of her opinion. Between her, Lord Findon, and her
neighbour there arose a conversation which made Fenwick's ears tingle.
How many things and persons and places it touched upon that were
wholly unknown to him! Pictures in foreign museums--Vienna, Berlin,
St. Petersburg--the names of French or German experts--quotations from
Italian books or newspapers--the three dealt lightly and familiarly
with a world in which Fenwick had scarcely a single landmark. How
clever she was! how charming! What knowledge without a touch of
pedantry! And how the handsome youth kept up with her--nay, rather,
led her, with a mastery, a resource, to which she always yielded in
case of any serious difference of opinion! It seemed that they
had been abroad together--had seen many sights in each other's
company--had many common friends.
Fenwick felt himself strangely sore and jealous as he listened. Who
was this man? Some young aristocrat, no doubt, born silver spoon in
mouth--one of your idle, insolent rich, with nothing to do but make a
hobby of art, and patronise artists. He loathed the breed.
Her voice startled him back from these unspoken tirades, and once more
he found her eyes fixed upon him. It provoked him to feel that their
scrutiny made him self-conscious--anxious to please. They were so
gentle, so gay!--and yet behind the first expression there sat what
seemed to him the real personality, shrewd, critical, and remote.
'You must see this picture,' she said, kindly. 'It's glorious!'
'Where is it?'
'In a house near here. But father could get you in.'
He hesitated, then laughed, ungraciously.
'I don't seem to have finished yet with the National Gallery.
Who--please--is the gentleman on your right?'
'Oh! don't you know him? You must let me introduce him. It is Mr.
Arthur Welby. Doesn't he talk well?'
She introduced them. Welby received the introduction with a
readiness--a touch of eagerness indeed--which seemed to show a mind
favourably prepared for it.
'Lord Findon tells me you're sending in a most awfully jolly thing
to the Academy!' he said, bending across Madame de Pastourelles, his
musical voice full of cordiality. Fenwick made a muttered reply. It
might have been thought he disliked being talked to about his own
work. Welby accordingly changed the subject at once; he returned to
the picture he had been pressing on Lord Findon.
'Haven't you seen it? You really should.' But this elicited even less
response. Fenwick glared at him--apparently tongue-tied. Then Madame
de Pastourelles and her neighbour talked to each other, endeavouring
to draw in the stranger. In vain. They fell back, naturally, into
the talk of intimates, implying a thousand common memories and
experiences; and Fenwick found himself left alone.
His mind burned with annoyance and self-disgust. Why did he let these
people intimidate him? Why was he so ridiculously self-conscious?--so
incapable of holding his own? He knew all about Arthur Welby; his name
and fame were in all the studios. The author of the picture of the
year--in the opinion, at least, of the cultivated minority for whom
rails and policemen were not the final arbiters of merit; glorified in
the speeches at the Academy banquet; and already overwhelmed with more
commissions than he could take--Welby should have been one of the
best hated of men. On the contrary, his mere temperament had drawn
the teeth of that wild beast, Success. Well-born, rich, a social
favourite, trained in Paris and Italy, an archaeologist and student as
well as a painter, he commanded the world as he pleased. Society asked
him to dinners, and he gave himself no professional airs and went
when he could. But among his fellows he lived a happy comrade's life,
spending his gifts and his knowledge without reserve, always ready to
help a man in a tight place, to praise a friend's picture, to take up
a friend's quarrel. He took his talent and his good-fortune so simply
that the world must needs insist upon them, instead of contesting
As for his pictures, they were based on the Italian tradition--rich,
accurate, learned, full of literary allusion and reminiscence. In
Fenwick's eyes, young as was their author, they were of the past
rather than of the future. He contemptuously thought of them as
belonging to a dead _genre_. But the man who painted them could
Meanwhile he seemed to have lost Madame de Pastourelles, and must
needs fall back on the private secretary beside him. This gentleman,
who had already entered him on the tablets of the mind as a mannerless
outsider, was not particularly communicative. But at least Fenwick
learned the names of the other guests. The well-known Ambassador
beside Lady Findon, with a shrewd, thin, sulky face, and very black
eyes under whitish hair--eyes turned much more frequently on the
pretty actress to his right than upon his hostess; a financier
opposite, much concerned with great colonial projects; the Cabinet
Minister--of no account, it seemed, either in the House or the
Cabinet--and his wife, abnormally thin, and far too discreet for the
importance of her husband's position; a little farther, the wife of
the red-haired Academician, a pale, frightened creature who looked
like her husband's apology, and was in truth his slave;--all these he
learned gradually to discriminate.
So this was the great world. He was stormily pleased to be in it,
and at the same time scornful of it. It seemed to contain not a few
ancient shams and hollow pretenders--
Ah! once more the soft, ingratiating voice beside him. Madame de
Pastourelles was expressing a flattering wish to see his picture, of
which her father had talked so much.
'And he says you have found such a beautiful model--or, rather, better
Fenwick stared at her. It was on the tip of his tongue to say 'She
is my wife.' But he did not say it. He imagined her look of
surprise--'Ah, my father had no idea!'--imagined it with a morbid
intensity, and saw no way of confronting or getting round it; not
at the dinner-table, anyway--with all these eyes and ears about
him--above all, with Lord Findon opposite. Why, they might think he
had been ashamed of Phoebe!--that there was some reason for hiding her
away. It was ridiculous--most annoying and absurd; but now that
the thing had happened, he must really choose his own moment for
unravelling the coil.
So he stammered something unintelligible about a 'Westmoreland type,'
and then hastily led the talk to some other schemes he had in mind.
With the sense of having escaped a danger he found his tongue for the
first time, and the power of expressing himself.
Madame de Pastourelles listened attentively--drew him out,
indeed--made him show himself to the best advantage. And presently, at
a moment of pause, she said, with a smile and a shrug, 'How happy you
are to have an art! Now I--'
She let her hand fall with a little plaintive movement.
'I am sure you paint,' said Fenwick, eagerly.
'Then you are musical?'
'Not at all. I embroider--'
'All women should,' said Fenwick, trying for a free and careless air.
'You do not need to say it.'
She opened her eyes at this readiness of reply; but still pursued:
'And I have a Chinese pug.'
'And no children?' The words rose to Fenwick's lips, but remained
unspoken. Perhaps she divined them, for she began hastily to describe
her dog--its tricks and fidelities. Fenwick could meet her here; for
a mongrel fox-terrier--taken, a starving waif, out of the streets--had
been his companion since almost the first month of his solitude. Each
stimulated the other, and they fell into those legends of dog-life in
which every dog-lover believes, however sceptical he may be in other
directions. Till presently she said, with a sigh and a stiffening of
her delicate features:
'But mine shows some symptoms of paralysis. He was run over last
summer. I'm afraid it will be long and painful.'
Fenwick replied that she should send for the vet. and have the dog
'No. I shall nurse him.'
'Why should you look on at suffering?'
'Why not--if sometimes he enjoys life?'
'I am thinking of the mistress.'
'Oh, for us,' she said, quickly, 'for me--it is good to be with
As she spoke, she drew herself slightly more erect. Neither tone nor
manner showed softness, made any appeal. The words seemed to have
dropped from her, and the strange pride and dignity she at once threw
around them made a veiling cloud through which only a man entirely
without the finer perceptions would have tried to penetrate. Fenwick,
for all his surface _gaucherie_, did not attempt it. But he attacked
her generalisation. With some vehemence he developed against it
a Neo-pagan doctrine of joy--love of the earth and its natural
pleasures--courage to take and dare--avoidance of suffering--and war
on asceticism. He poured out a number of undigested thoughts, which
showed a great deal of reading, and at least betrayed a personality,
whatever value they might have as a philosophy.
She listened with a charming kindness, laughing now and then, putting
in a humorous comment or two, and never by another word betraying her
own position. But he was more and more conscious of the double self in
her--of the cultivated, social self she was bringing into play for his
benefit, and of something behind--a spirit watchful and still--wrapt
in a great melancholy--or perhaps a great rebellion? And by this sense
of something concealed or strongly restrained, she began to affect
his imagination, and so, presently, to absorb his attention. Something
exquisite in her movements and looks, also in the quality of her voice
and the turn of her phrases, drew from his own crude yet sensitive
nature an excited response. He began to envisage what these highly
trained women of the upper class, these _raffinees_ of the world, may
be for those who understand them--a stimulus, an enigma, an education.
It flashed on him that women of this type could teach him much that he
wanted to know; and his ambition seized on the idea. But what chance
that she would ever give another thought to the raw artist to whom her
father had flung a passing invitation?
He made haste, indeed, to prove his need of her or some other Egeria;
for she was no sooner departed with the other ladies than he came
to mischief. Left alone with the gentlemen, his temperament asserted
itself. He had no mind in any company to be merely a listener.
Moreover, that slight, as he regarded it, of sending him down without
a lady, still rankled; and last, but not least, he had drunk a good
deal of champagne, to which he was quite unaccustomed. So that when
Lord Findon fell into a discussion with the Ambassador of Irving's
_Hamlet_ and _Othello_, then among the leading topics of London--when
the foreigner politely but emphatically disparaged the English actor
and Lord Findon with zeal defended him--who should break into the
august debate but this strong-browed, black-eyed fellow, from no one
knew where, whose lack of some of the smaller conventions had already
been noticed by a few of the company.
At first all looked well. A London dinner-party loves novelty, and is
always ready to test the stranger within its gates. Fenwick slipped
into the battle as a supporter of Lord Findon's argument, and his host
with smiling urbanity welcomed him to the field. But in a few minutes
the newcomer had ravaged the whole of it. The older men were silenced,
and Fenwick was leaning across the table, gesticulating with one hand,
and lifting his port-wine with the other, addressing now Lord Findon
and now the Ambassador--who stared at him in amazement--with an
assurance that the world only allows to its oldest favourites. Lord
Findon in vain tried to stop him.
'Didn't know this was to be a dinner with speeches,' murmured the
financier, after a few minutes, in his neighbour's ear. 'Think I'll
get up and propose a vote of thanks to the chairman.'
'There ought, at least, to be a time-limit,' said the neighbour, with
a shrug. 'Where on earth did Findon pick him up?'
'I say, what an awfully rum chap!' said the young son of the
house--wondering--to Arthur Welby. 'What does he talk like that for?'
'He doesn't talk badly,' said Welby, whose mouth showed the laughter
Meanwhile Fenwick--loud-voiced, excited--had brought his raid to a
climax by an actual attack upon the stately Frenchman opposite, whose
slight sarcastic look pricked him intolerably. All other conversation
at the table fell dumb.
Lord Findon coloured, and rose.
'You are a great deal more sure of my own opinion than I am myself,'
he said, coldly. 'I am much obliged to you, but--shall we adjourn this
As the men walked upstairs, Fenwick realised that he had blundered;
he felt himself isolated and in disfavour. Arthur Welby had approached
him, but Lord Findon had rather pointedly drawn an arm through Welby's
and swept him away. No one else spoke to him, and even the private
secretary, who had before befriended him, left him severely alone.
None of the ladies in the drawing-room upstairs showed, as it seemed
to him, any desire for his company, and he was reduced to looking at
a stand of miniatures near the door, while his heart swelled fiercely.
So this was what society meant?--a wretched pleasure purchased on
degrading terms! A poor dependant like himself, he supposed, was to be
seen and not heard--must speak when he was spoken to, play chorus, and
whisper humbleness. As to meeting these big-wigs on equal terms, that
clearly was not expected. An artist may be allowed to know something
about art; on any other subject let him listen to his betters.
He said to himself that he was sick of the whole business; and he
would gladly have slipt through the open door down the stairs, and
out of the house. He was restrained, however, by the protest of a
sore ambition which would not yet admit defeat. Had he set Lord Findon
against him?--ruined the chance of a purchaser for his picture and
of a patron for the future? Out of the corner of his eye he saw
Cuningham, neat, amiable, and self-possessed, sitting in a corner by
Lady Findon, who smiled and chatted incessantly. And it was clear to
him that Welby was the spoilt child of the room. Wherever he went men
and women grouped themselves about him; there was a constant eagerness
to capture him, an equal reluctance to let him go.
'Well, I'm as good as he--as either of them,' thought Fenwick
fiercely, as he handled a Cosway. 'Only they can talk these people's
lingo, and I can't. I can paint as well as they any day--and I'll be
bound, if they let me alone, I could talk as well. Why do people ask
you to their houses and then ill-treat you? Damn them!'
Meanwhile, Lord Findon had had a few whispered words with his daughter
in an inner room.
'My dear!'--throwing up his hands--'a _barbarian_! Can't have him here
'Mr. Fenwick, papa?'
'Of course. Cuningham ought to have warned me. However, I suppose I
brought it on myself. I do these rash things, and must pay for them.
He was so rude to De Chailles that I have had to apologise.'
'Poor papa! Where is he?'
'In the other room--looking at things. Better leave him alone.'
'Oh no; he'll feel himself neglected.'
'Well, let him. A man ought to be made to understand that he can't
behave like that.'
'What did he do?'
'My dear, he spoiled the whole business after dinner--harangued the
table!--as good as told De Chailles he had no right to talk about
Irving or Shakespeare, being a foreigner. You never saw such an
'Poor Mr. Fenwick. I must go and talk to him.'
'Eugenie, don't be a goose. Why should you take any trouble about
'He's wonderfully clever, papa. And clever people are always getting
into scrapes. Somebody must take him in hand.'
And, rising, she threw her father a whimsical backward look as she
departed. Lord Findon watched her with mingled smiles and chagrin.
How charmingly she was dressed to-night--his poor Eugenie! And how
beautifully she moved!--with what grace and sweetness! As he turned to
do his duty by an elderly countess near him, he stifled a sigh--that
was also an imprecation.
It had often been said of Eugenie de Pastourelles that she possessed
a social magic. She certainly displayed it on this occasion. Half an
hour later Lord Findon, who was traversing the drawing-rooms after
having taken the Ambassadress to her carriage, found a regenerate and
humanised Fenwick sitting beside his daughter; the centre, indeed, of
a circle no less friendly to untutored talent than the circle of the
dinner-table had been hostile. Lord Findon stopped to listen. Really
the young man was now talking decently!--about matters he understood;
Burne-Jones, Rossetti--some French pictures in Bond Street--and so
forth. The ruffled host was half appeased, half wroth. For if he
_could_ make this agreeable impression, why such a superfluity
of naughtiness downstairs? And the fellow had really some general
cultivation; nothing like Welby, of course--where would you find
another Arthur Welby?--but enough to lift him above the mere
journeyman. After all, one must be indulgent to these novices--with
no traditions behind them--and no--well, to put it plainly--no
grandfathers! And so, with reflexions of this kind, the annoyance of a
good-natured man subsided.
It was all Eugenie's doing, of course. She and Welby between them
had caught the bear, tamed him, and set him to show whatever parlour
tricks he possessed. Just like her! He hoped the young man understood
her condescension--and that to see her and talk with her was a
privilege. Involuntarily Lord Findon glanced across the room, at the
_decollete_ shoulders and buxom good looks of his wife. When Eugenie
was in the house the second Lady Findon never seemed to him well
When Fenwick and Cuningham had departed--Fenwick in a glow of grateful
good-humour, expressing himself effusively to his host--Madame de
Pastourelles approached her father, smiling.
'That youth has asked me to sit to him.'
'The audacious rascal!' cried Lord Findon, fuming. 'He has never seen
you before--and, besides, how does any one know what he can do?'
'Why, you said yourself his picture was remarkable.'
'So it is. But what's one picture? What do you think, Welby?' he
said, impulsively addressing the man beside him. 'Wasn't it like his
'Like Eugenie's kindness! It was rather charming to see his look when
she said "Yes"!'
'You said "_Yes_"!' Lord Findon stared at her.
'Come with me and see what he can do in a morning.' She laid a
quieting hand on her father's arm. 'You know that always amuses you.
And I want to see his picture.'
'His picture is not bad,' said Lord Findon, with decision.
'I think you will have to buy it, papa.'
'There you go,' said Lord Findon--'letting me in!'
'Well, I'm off to bed.' Smiling, she gave her hand to each, knowing
that she had gained her point, or would gain it. Arthur Welby,
turning, watched her move away, say 'Good-night' to Lady Findon, and
disappear through a distant door. Then for him, though the room was
still full of people, it was vacant. He slipped away without any more
It was Christmas Eve, and the dark had fallen. The train from Euston
had just drawn up in Windermere Station, and John Fenwick, carrying
his bag, was making his way among the vehicles outside the station,
inquiring whether any one was going in the direction of Great
Langdale, who could give him a lift. He presently found a farmer's
cart bound for a village on the road, and made a bargain with the lad
driving it to carry him to his destination.
They set off in bitter weather. The driver was a farmer's son who had
come to the station to fetch his small brother. Fenwick and he took
the little school-boy between them, to protect him as best they could
from the wind and sleet. They piled some empty sacks, from the back
of the cart, on their knees and shoulders; and the old grey horse
set forward cautiously, feeling its way down the many hills of the
The night was not yet wholly in possession. The limestone road shone
dimly white, the forms of the leafless trees passed them in a windy
procession, and afar on the horizon, beyond the dark gulf of the lake,
there was visible at intervals a persistent dimness, something less
black than the sky above and the veiled earth below, which Fenwick
knew must be the snowy tops of the mountains. But it was a twilight
more mournful than a total darkness; the damp air was nipping cold,
and every few minutes gusts of sleet drove in their faces.
The two brothers talked to each other sometimes, in a broad
Westmoreland speech. To Fenwick the dialect of his childhood was
already strange and disagreeable. So, too, was the wild roughness of
the Northern night, the length of the road, the sense of increasing
distance from all that most held his mind. He longed, indeed, to see
Phoebe and the child, but it was as though he had wilfully set up some
barrier between himself and them, which spoiled his natural pleasure.
Moreover, he was afraid of Phoebe, of her quick jealous love, and of
certain passionate possibilities in her character that he had long
ago discerned. If she discovered that he had made a mystery of his
marriage--that he had passed in London as unmarried? It was an ugly
and uncomfortable 'if.' Did he shrink from the possible blow to
her--or the possible trouble to himself? Well, she must not find it
out! It had been a wretched sort of accident, and before it could do
any harm it should be amended.
Suddenly, a sound of angry water. They were close on the lake, and
waves driven by the wind were plashing on the shore. Across the lake,
a light in a house-window shone through the storm, the only reminder
of human life amid a dark wilderness of mountains. Wild sounds crashed
through the trees; and accompanying the tumult of water came the
rattle of a bitter rain lashing the road, the cart, and their bent
'There'll not be a dry stitch on us soon,' said Fenwick, presently, to
the young man beside him.
'Aye, it's dampish,' said his companion, cheerfully.
The caution of the adjective set Fenwick grinning. The North found and
gripped him; these are not the ways of the South.
And in a moment the sense of contrast, thus provoked, had carried him
far--out of the Westmoreland night, back to London, and his shabby
studio in Bernard Street. There, throned on a low platform, sat Madame
de Pastourelles; and to her right, himself, sitting crouched before
his easel, working with all his eyes and all his mind. The memory of
her was, as it were, physically stamped upon his sight, his hands;
such an intensity of study had he given to every detail of her face
and form. Did he like her? He didn't know. There were a number of
curious resentments in his mind with regard to her. Several times in
the course of their acquaintance she had cheapened or humiliated him
in his own eyes; and the sensation had been of a sharpness as yet
unknown to him.
Of course, there was in it, one way or another, an aristocratic
insolence! There must be: to move so delicately and immaculately
through life, with such superfine perceptions, must mean that you were
brought up to scorn the common way, and those who walk in it. 'The
poor in a lump are bad'--coarse and ill-mannered at any rate--that
must be the real meaning of her soft dignity, so friendly yet so
remote, her impossibly ethereal standards, her light words that so
often abashed a man for no reasonable cause.
She had been sitting to him, off and on, for about six weeks.
Originally she had meant him to make a three-hour sketch of her. He
triumphed in the remembrance that she and Lord Findon had found the
sketch so remarkable that, when he had timidly proposed a portrait in
oils, Lord Findon himself had persuaded her to sit. Since that moment
his work on the portrait, immediately begun, had absorbed him to such
a degree that the 'Genius Loci,' still unfinished, had been put aside,
and must have its last touches when he returned to town.
But in the middle of the sittings, Madame de Pastourelles being away,
and he in a mood to destroy all that he had done, he had suddenly
spent a stray earning on a railway ticket to Paris.
There--excitement!--illumination!--and a whole fresh growth of
ambition! Some of the mid-century portraits in the Luxembourg, and in
a loan exhibition then open in the Rue Royale, excited him so that
he lost sleep and appetite. The work of Bastien-Lepage was also to
be seen; and the air rang with the cries of Impressionism. But the
beautiful surface of the older men held him. How to combine the
breadth of the new with the keeping, the sheer _pleasure_ of the old!
He rushed home--aflame!--and fell to work again.
And now he found himself a little more able to cope with his sitter.
He was in possession, at any rate, of fresh topics--need not feel
himself so tongue-tied in the presence of this cosmopolitan culture of
hers, which she did her feminine best to disguise--which nevertheless
made the atmosphere of her personality. She had lived some six years
in Paris, it appeared; and had known most of the chief artists and
men of letters. Fenwick writhed under his ignorance of the French
language; it was a disadvantage not to be made up.
However, he talked much, and sometimes arrogantly; he gave his views,
compared one man with another; if he felt any diffidence, he showed
little. And indeed she led him on. Upon his art he had a right
to speak, and the keen intellectual interest she betrayed in his
impressions--the three days impressions of a painter--stirred and
But he made a great many rather ludicrous mistakes, inevitable to one
who had just taken a first canter through the vast field of French
art; mistakes in names and dates, in the order of men and generations.
And when he made a blunder he was apt to stick to it absurdly, or
excuse it elaborately. She soon gave up correcting him, even in the
gentle, hesitating way she at first made use of. She said nothing; but
there was sometimes mischief, perhaps mockery, in her eyes. Fenwick
knew it; and would either make fresh plunges, or paint on in a sulky
How on earth had she guessed the authorship of those articles in the
_Mirror_? He supposed he must have talked the same kind of stuff to
her. At any rate, she had made him feel in some intangible way that
it seemed to her a dishonourable thing to be writing anonymous attacks
upon a body from whom you were asking, or intending to ask, exhibition
space for your pictures and the chance of selling your work. His
authorship was never avowed between them. Nevertheless this criticism
annoyed and pricked him. He said to himself that it was just like a
woman--who always took the personal view. But he had not yet begun on
his last two articles, which were overdue.
On one occasion, encouraged perhaps by some kindness of expression
on her part, he had ventured an indirect question or two, meant to
procure him some information about her past history and present way
of life. She had rebuffed him at once; and he had said to himself
fiercely that it was of course because he was a man of the people
and she one of 'the upper ten.' He might paint her; but he must not
presume to know her!
On the other hand, his mind was still warm with memories of her
encouragement, her praise. Sometimes in their talks he would put the
portrait aside, and fall to sketching for her--either to illustrate
his memories of pictures, or things noticed in French life and
landscapes. And as the charcoal worked; as he forgot himself in
hurried speech, and those remarks fell from him which are the natural
outcome of a painter's experience, vivacious also and touched with
literature; then her brown eyes would lighten and soften, and for
once his mind would feel exultant that it moved with hers on equal
terms--nay, that he was teacher and she taught. Whenever there emerged
in him the signs of that demonic something that makes greatness
she would be receptive, eager, humble even. But again his commoner,
coarser side, his mere lack of breeding, would reappear; and she would
fall back on her cold or gentle defensiveness. Thus protected by what
his wrath called 'airs,' she was a mystery to him, yet a mystery that
tamed and curbed him. He had never dreamt that such women existed.
His own views of women were those of the shopkeeping middle class,
practical, selfish, or sensual. But he had been a reader of books; and
through Madame de Pastourelles certain sublimities or delicacies of
poetry began to seem to him either less fantastic or more real.
All the same:--he was not sure that he liked her, and while one hour
he was all restlessness to resume his task, the next it was a relief
to be temporarily quit of it. As for Lord Findon, except for a certain
teasing vagueness on the business side of things, he had shown himself
a good friend. Several times since the first variegated evening had
Fenwick dined with them, mostly _en famille_. Lady Findon, indeed, had
been away, nursing an invalid father; Madame de Pastourelles
filled her place. The old fellow would talk freely--politics,
connoisseurship, art. Fenwick too was allowed his head, and said
his say; though always surrounded and sometimes chafing under
that discipline of good society which is its only or its best
justification. It flattered his vanity enormously, however, to be thus
within touch of the inner circle in politics and art; for the Findons
had relations and friends in all the foremost groups of both; and
incidentally Fenwick, who had the grudges and some of the dreams of
the democrat, was beginning to have a glimpse of the hidden springs
and powers of English society--to his no small bewilderment often!
Great luck--he admitted--all this--for a nameless artist of the
people, only six months in London. He owed it to Cuningham, and
believed himself grateful. Cuningham was often at the Findons, made a
point, indeed, of going. Was it to maintain his place with them, and
to keep Fenwick under observation? Fenwick triumphantly believed
that Lord Findon greatly preferred his work--and even, by now, his
conversation--to Cuningham's. But he was still envious of Cuningham's
smooth tact, and agreeable, serviceable ways.
As to Welby and his place in the Findon circle, that was another
matter altogether. He came and went as he pleased, on brotherly terms
with the son and the younger daughters, clearly an object of great
affection to Lord Findon, and often made use of by her ladyship.
What was the degree of friendship between him and Madame de
Pastourelles?--that had been already the subject of many meditations
on Fenwick's part.
The cart deposited the school-boy in Brathay and started again for
'Yo couldna get at Langdale for t' snaw lasst week,' said the young
farmer, as they turned a corner into the Skelwith Valley. 'T' roads
were fair choked wi't.'
'It's been an early winter,' said Fenwick.
'Aye, and t' Langdales get t' brunt o't. It's wild livin there,
soomtimes, i' winter.'
They began to climb the first steep hill of the old road to Langdale.
The snow lay piled on either side of the road, the rain beat down, and
the trees clashed and moaned overhead. Not a house, not a light, upon
their path--only swirling darkness, opening now and then on that high
glimmer of the snow. Fresh from London streets, where winter, even if
it attack in force, is so soon tamed and conquered, Fenwick was for
the first time conscious of the harsher, wilder aspects of his native
land. Poor Phoebe! Had she been a bit lonesome in the snow and rain?
The steep lane to the cottage was still deep in snow. The cart could
not attempt it. Fenwick made his way up, fighting the eddying sleet.
As he let fall the latch of the outer gate, the cottage door opened,
and Phoebe, with the child in her arms, stood on the threshold.
'Yes! God bless my soul, what a night!' He reached the door, put down
his umbrella with difficulty, and dragged his bag into the passage.
Then, in a moment, his coat was off and he had thrown his arm round
her and the child. It seemed to him that she was curiously quiet and
restrained. But she kissed him in return, drew him further within the
little passage, and shut the outer door, shivering.
'The kitchen's warm,' she said, at last.
She led him in, and he found the low-ceiled room bright with fire and
lamp, the table spread, and his chair beside the blaze. Kneeling down,
she tried to unlace his wet boots.
'No, no!' he said, holding her away--'I'll do that, Phoebe. What's
wrong with you?--you look so--so queer!'
She straightened herself, and with a laugh put back her fair hair. Her
face was very pale--a greyish pallor--and her wonderful eyes stared
from it in an odd, strained way.
'Oh, I'm all right,' she said; and she turned away from him to the
fire, opening the oven-door to see whether the meat-pie was done.
'How have you kept in this weather?' he said, watching her. 'I'd no
notion you'd had it so bad.'
'Oh, I don't know. I suppose I've had a chill or something. It's been
'You didn't tell me anything about your chill.'
'Didn't I? It seems hardly worth while telling such things, from such
a distance. Will you have supper at once?'
He drew up to the table, and she fed him and hovered round him, asking
the while about his work, in a rather perfunctory way, about his rooms
and the price of them, inquiring after the state of his clothes. But
her tone and manner were unlike herself, and there was in his mind a
protesting consciousness that she had not welcomed him as a young wife
should after a long separation. Her manner too was extraordinarily
nervous; her hand shook as she touched a plate; her movements were
full of starts, and checks, as though, often, she intended a thing and
then forgot it.
They avoided talking about money, and he did not mention the name of
Madame de Pastourelles; though of course his letters had reported the
external history of the portrait. But Phoebe presently inquired after
'Have you nearly done painting that lady, John?--I don't know how to
say her name.'
As she spoke, she lifted a bit of bread-and-butter to her mouth and
put it down untasted. In the same way she had tried to drink some tea,
and had not apparently succeeded. Fenwick rose and went over to her.
'Look here, Phoebe,' he said, putting his hand on her beautiful hair
and turning her face to him--'what's the matter?'
Her eyelids closed, and a quiver went through the face.
'I don't know. I--I had a fright a few days ago--at night--and I
suppose I haven't got over it.'
'Yes. There was a tramp one night came to the door. I half-opened
it--and his face was so horrible I tried to shut it again at once. And
he struggled with me, but I was strongest. Then he tried to get in
at the window, but luckily I had fastened the iron bar across the
shutter--and the back door. But it all held, mercifully. He couldn't
get in. Then he abused me through the door, and said he would have
killed me and the child, if he could have got in--and some day he
would come again.' She shuddered.
Fenwick had turned pale. With his painter's imagination he saw the
thing--the bestial man outside, the winter night, the slender form
within pressing against the door and the bolt--
'Look here,' he said, abruptly. 'We can't have this. Somebody must
sleep here. Did you tell the police?'
'Yes, I wrote--to Ambleside. They sent a man over to see me. But they
couldn't catch him. He's probably left the country. I got a bell'--she
opened her eyes, and pointed to it. 'If I rang it, they might hear it
down at Brow Farm. They _might_--if the wind was that way.'
There was silence a moment. Then Fenwick stooped and kissed her.
'Poor old girl!' he said, softly. She made but slight response. He
returned to his place, repeating with a frowning energy--'You must
have some one to sleep here.'
'Daisy would come--if I'd pay her.'
Daisy was their little servant of the summer, the daughter of a
quarryman near by.
'Well, pay her!'
She drew herself up sharply. 'I haven't got the money--and you always
say, when you write, you haven't any either.'
'I'll find some for that. I can't have you scared like this.'
But, though his tone was vehement, it was not particularly
affectionate. He was horribly discomposed indeed, could not get the
terrible image out of his mind. But as he went on with his supper, the
shock of it mingled with a good many critical or reproachful thoughts.
Why had she persisted in staying on in Langdale, instead of going to
her father? All that foolish dislike of her stepmother! It had been
open to her to stay in her father's farm, with plenty of company. If
she wouldn't, was _he_ to blame if the cottage was lonesome?
But as though she divined this secret debate she presently said:
'I went to Keswick last week.'
He looked up, startled. 'Well?'
'Father's ill--he's got a bad chest, and the doctor says he may be
going into a consumption.'
'Doctors'll say anything!' cried Fenwick, wrathfully. 'If ever there
was a strong man, it's your father. Don't you believe any croaking of
that sort, Phoebe.'
She shook her head.
'He looks so changed,' she said; and began drawing with her finger on
the tablecloth. He saw that her lips were trembling. A strong impulse
worked in him, bidding him go to her again, kiss away her tears, and
say--'Hang everything! Come with me to London, and let's sink or swim
Instead of which some perverse cross-current hurried him into the
'He'd be all right if you'd go and nurse him, Phoebe.'
'No, not at all. They didn't want me--and Mrs. Gibson, poor creature,
was real glad when I said I was going. She was jealous of me all the
'I expect you imagined that.'
Phoebe's face flushed angrily.
'I didn't!' she said, shortly. 'Everybody in the house knew it.'
The meal went on rather silently. Fenwick's conscience said
to him, 'Take her back with you!--whatever happens, take her to
London--she's moping her life out here.' And an inner voice clamoured
in reply--'Take her to those rooms?--in the very middle of the
struggle with those two pictures?--go through all the agitation
and discomfort of explanations with Lord Findon and Madame de
Pastourelles?--run the risk of estranging them, and of distracting
your own mind from your work at this critical moment?--the further
risk, moreover, of Phoebe's jealousy?'
For in her present nervous and fidgety state she would very likely be
jealous of his sitter, and of the way in which Madame de Pastourelles'
portrait possessed his mind. No, it really couldn't be done!--it
really _couldn't!_ He must finish the two pictures--persuade Lord
Findon to buy the 'Genius Loci,' and make the portrait such a success
that he must needs buy that too. Then let discovery come on; it should
find him steeled.
Meanwhile, Phoebe must have a servant, and not any mere slip of a
girl, but some one who would be a companion and comfort. He began
to talk of it, eagerly, only to find that Phoebe took but a languid
interest in the idea.
She could think of no one--wanted no one, but Daisy. Again his secret
ill-humour waxed and justified itself. It was unreasonable and selfish
that she should not be able to think for herself and the child better;
after all, he was slaving for her as much as for himself.
Meanwhile, Carrie sat very silent beside her father, observing him,
and every now and then applying her pink lips to some morsel he held
out to her on his fork. He had kissed her, and tossed her, and she was
now sitting in his pocket. But after these eight months the child of
four was shy and timid with this unfamiliar father. He on his side saw
that she was prettier than before; his eye delighted in some of the
rarer and lovelier lines of her little face; and he felt a fatherly
pride. He must make some fresh studies of her; the child in the
'Genius Loci' might be improved.
After supper, Phoebe seemed to him so pale and tottering that he made
her rest beside the fire, while he himself cleared the supper-things
away. She lay back in her chair, laughing at his awkwardness, or
starting up when china clashed.
Meanwhile, as in their farewell talk beside the ghyll eight months
before, her mood gradually and insensibly changed. Whatever unloving
thoughts or resentments had held her in the first hour of their
meeting, however strong had been the wish to show him that she had
been lonely and suffering, she could not resist what to her was the
magic of his presence. As he moved about in the low, firelit room, and
she watched him, her whole nature melted; and he knew it.
Presently she took the child upstairs. He waited for her, hanging over
the fire--listening to the storm outside--and thinking, thinking--
When she reappeared, and he, looking round, saw her standing in the
doorway, so tall and slender, her pale face and hair coloured by the
glow of the fire, passion and youth spoke in him once more.
He sprang up and caught her in his arms. Presently, sitting in the old
armchair beside the blaze, he had gathered her on his knee, and she
had clasped her hands round his neck, and buried her face against him.
All things were forgotten, save that they were man and wife together,
within this 'wind-warm space'--ringed by night, and pattering sleet,
and gusts that rushed in vain upon the roof that sheltered them.
But next morning, within the little cottage--beating rain on the
windows, and a cheerless storm-light in the tiny rooms--the hard
facts of the situation resumed their sway. In the first place money
questions had to be faced. Fenwick made the most of his expectations;
but at best they were no more, and how to live till they became
certainties was the problem. If Lord Findon had commissioned the
portrait, or definitely said he would purchase the 'Genius Loci,'
some advance might have been asked for. As it was, how could money
be mentioned yet a while? Phoebe had a fine and costly piece of
embroidery on hand, commissioned through an 'Art Industry' started at
Windermere the summer before; but it could not be finished for some
weeks, possibly months, and the money Fenwick proposed to earn during
his fortnight in the North by some illustrations long overdue had been
already largely forestalled. He gloomily made up his mind to appeal
to an old cousin in Kendal, the widow of a grocer, said to be richly
left, who had once in his boyhood given him five shillings. With much
distaste he wrote the letter and walked to Elterwater in the rain
to post it. Then he tried to work; but little Carrie, fractious from
confinement indoors, was troublesome and disturbed him. Phoebe, too,
would make remarks on his drawing which seemed to him inept. In old
days he would have laughed at her for pretending to know, and turned
it off with a kiss. Now what she said set him on edge. The talk he had
been living amongst had spoilt him for silly criticisms. Moreover,
for the first time he detected in her a slight tone of the
'schoolmarm'--didactic and self-satisfied, without knowledge. The
measure Madame de Pastourelles had dealt out to him, he in some sort
avenged on Phoebe.
At the same time there were much more serious causes of difference.
Each had a secret from the other. Fenwick's secret was that he had
foolishly passed in London as an unmarried man, and that he could not
take Phoebe back with him, because of the discomforts and risks in
which a too early avowal of her would involve him. He was morbidly
conscious of this; brooded over it, and magnified it.
She on the other hand was tormented by a fixed idea--already in
existence at the time of their first parting, but much strengthened by
loneliness and fretting--that he was tired of her and not unwilling to
be without her. The joy of their meeting banished it for a time, but
it soon came back. She had never acquiesced in the wisdom of their
separation; and to question it was to resent it more and more
deeply--to feel his persistence in it a more cruel offence, month by
month. Her pride prevented her from talking of it; but the soreness
of her grievance invaded their whole relation. And in her moral unrest
she showed faults which had been scarcely visible in their early
married years--impatience, temper, suspicion, a readiness to magnify
small troubles whether of health or circumstance.
During her months alone she had been reading many novels of an
indifferent sort, which the carrier brought her from the lending
library at Windermere. She talked excitedly of some of them, had
'cried her eyes out' over this or that. Fenwick picked up one or two,
and threw them away for 'trash.' He scornfully thought that they had
done her harm, made her more nervous and difficult. But at night, when
he had done his work, he never took any trouble to read to her, or to
talk to her about other than household things. He smoked or drew in
silence; and she sat over her embroidery, lost in morbid reverie.
One morning he discovered amongst her books a paper-covered 'Life of
Romney'--a short compilation issued by a local bookseller.
'Why, whatever did you get this for, Phoebe?' he said, holding it up.
She looked up from her mending, and coloured. 'I wanted to read it.'
'Well'--she hesitated--'I thought it was like you.'
'Like me?--you little goose!'
'I don't know,' she said, doggedly, looking hard at her work--'there
was the hundred pounds that he got to go to London with--and then,
marrying a wife in Kendal--and'--she looked up with a half-defiant
smile--'and leaving her behind!'
'Oh! so you think that's like me?' he said, seating himself again at
'It's rather like.'
'You suppose you're going to be left here for thirty years?' He
laughed as he spoke.
She laughed too, but not gaily--with a kind of defiance.
'Well, it wouldn't be quite as easy now, would it?--with trains, and
all that. There were only coaches then, I suppose. Now, London's so
'I wish you'd always think so!' he cried. 'Why, of course it's near.
I'm only seven hours away. What's that, in these days? And in three
months' time, things will be all right and square again.'
'I dare say,' she said, sighing.
'Why can't you wait cheerfully?' he asked, rather
exasperated--'instead of being so down.'
'Because'--she broke out--'I don't see the reason of it--there! No,
I don't!--However!'--she pressed back her hair from her eyes and drew
herself together. 'You've never shown me your studies of that--that
lady--John; you said you would.'
Relieved at the change of subject, he took a sketch-book out of his
pocket and gave it to her. It contained a number of 'notes' for his
portrait of Madame de Pastourelles--sketches of various poses, aspects
of the head and face, arrangements of the hands, and so forth. Phoebe
pondered it in silence.
'She's pretty--I think,' she said, at last, doubtfully.
'I'm not sure that she is,' said Fenwick. 'She's very pale.'
'That doesn't matter. The shape of her face is awfully pretty--and her
eyes. Is her hair like mine?'
'No, not nearly so good.'
'Ah, if I could only do it as prettily as she does!' said Phoebe,
faintly smiling. 'I suppose, John, she's very smart and fashionable?'
'Well, she's Lord Findon's daughter--that tells you. They're pretty
well at the top.'
Phoebe asked various other questions, then fell silent, still
pondering the sketches. After a while she put down her work and came
to sit on a stool beside Fenwick, sometimes laying her golden
head against his knee, or stretching out her hand to touch his. He
responded affectionately enough; but as the winter twilight deepened
in the little room, Phoebe's eyes, fixed upon the fire, resumed their
melancholy discontent. She was less necessary to him even than before;
she knew by a thousand small signs that the forces which possessed his
mind--perhaps his heart!--were not now much concerned with her.
She tried to control, to school herself. But the flame within was
not to be quenched--was, indeed, perpetually finding fresh fuel. How
quietly he had taken the story of the tramp's attack upon her!--which
still, whenever she thought of it, thrilled her own veins with horror.
No doubt he had been over to Ambleside to speak to the police; and he
had arranged that the little servant, Daisy, should come to her when
he left. But if he had merely caught her to him with one
shuddering cry of love and rage--that would have been worth all his
precautions!--would have effaced the nightmare, and filled her heart.
As to his intellectual life, she was now much more conscious of her
exclusion from it than she ever had been in their old life together.
For it was a consciousness quickened by jealousy. Little as Fenwick
talked about Madame de Pastourelles, Phoebe understood perfectly that
she was a woman of high education and refinement, and that her stored
and subtle mind was at once an attraction and a cause of humiliation
to John. And through his rare stories of the Findon household and the
Findon dinner-parties, the wife dimly perceived a formidable world,
bristling with strange acquirements and accomplishments, in which he,
perhaps, was beginning to find a place, thanks to his art; while she,
his obscure and ignorant wife, must resign herself to being for ever
shut out from it--to knowing it from his report only. How could she
ever hold her own with such people? He would talk with them, paint
them, dine with them, while she sat at home--Carrie's nurse, and the
And yet she was of that type which represents perhaps the most
ambitious element in the lower middle class. It had been a great
matter that she, a small farmer's daughter, should pass her
examinations and rise to be a teacher in Miss Mason's school. She had
had her triumphs and conceits; had been accustomed to think herself
clever and successful, to hold her head high amongst her schoolmates.
Whereas now, if she tried to talk of art or books, she was hotly aware
that everything she said was, in John's eyes, pretentious or
absurd. He was comparing her with others all the time, with men
and women--women especially--in whose presence he felt himself as
diffident as she did in his. He was thinking of ladies in velvet
dresses and diamonds, who could talk wittily of pictures and theatres
and books, who could amuse him and distract him. And meanwhile _she_
went about in her old stuff dress, her cotton apron and rolled-up
sleeves, cooking and washing and cleaning--for her child and for him.
She felt through every nerve that he was constantly aware of details
of dress or _menage_ that jarred upon him; she suspected miserably
that all her little personal ways and habits seemed to him ugly and
common; and the suspicion showed itself in pride or _brusquerie_.
Meanwhile, if she had been _restful_, if he could only have forgotten
his cares in her mere youth and prettiness, Fenwick would have been
easily master of his discontents. For he was naturally of a warm,
sensuous temper. Had the woman understood her own arts, she could have
But she was not restful, she was exacting and self-conscious; and,
moreover, a certain new growth of Puritanism in her repelled him.
While he had been passing under the transforming influences of
an all-questioning thought and culture, she had been turning to
Evangelical religion for consolation. There was a new minister in a
Baptist chapel a mile or two away, of whom she talked, whose services
she attended. The very mention of him presently became a boredom
to Fenwick. The new influence had no effect upon her jealousies and
discontents; but it re-enforced a natural asceticism, and weakened
whatever power she possessed of playing on a husband's passion.
Meanwhile, Fenwick was partly aware of her state of mind, and far
from happy himself. His conscience pricked him; but such prickings are
small help to love. Often he found himself guiltily brooding over Lord
Findon's tirades against the early marriages of artists. There was
a horrid truth in them. No doubt an artist should wait till his
circumstances were worthy of his gifts; and then marry a woman who
could understand and help him on.
Nor was even the child a binding influence. Fenwick in this visit
became for the first time a fond father. A certain magic in the little
Carrie flattered his vanity and excited his hopes. He drew her many
times, and prophesied confidently that she would be a beauty. But,
in his secret opinion, she was spoilt and mismanaged; and he talked a
good deal to Phoebe about her bringing-up, theorising and haranguing
in his usual way. Phoebe listened generally with impatience, resenting
interference with her special domain. And often, when she saw the
father and child together, a fresh and ugly misery would raise its
head. Would he in time set even Carrie against her--teach the child to
look down upon its mother?
One day he returned from Ambleside, pale and excited--bringing a
'Phoebe!' he called, from the gate.
Startled by something in his voice, Phoebe ran out to him.
'Phoebe, an awful thing's happened! Old Morrison's--dead! Look here!'
And he showed her a paragraph headed 'Defalcations and suicide.' It
described how Mr. James Morrison, the chief cashier of the Bartonbury
Bank, had committed suicide immediately after the discovery by the
bank authorities of large falsifications in the bank accounts. Mr.
Morrison had shot himself, leaving a statement acknowledging a long
course of fraudulent dealings with the funds entrusted to him,
and pleading with his employers for his wife and daughter. 'Great
sympathy,' said the _Guardian_ reporter, 'is felt in Bartonbury with
Mrs. Morrison, whose character has always been highly respected. But,
indeed, the whole family occupied a high position, and the shock to
the locality has been great.' On which followed particulars of the
frauds and a long report of the inquest.
Phoebe was struck with horror. She lingered over the paper,
commenting, exclaiming; while Fenwick sat staring into the fire, his
hands on his knees.
Presently she came to him and said in a low voice:
'And what about the money, John--the loan?'
'I am not obliged to return it in money,' he said, sharply.
'Well, the pictures?'
'That'll be all right. I must think about it. There'll be no hurry.'
'Did Mrs. Morrison know--about the loan?'
'I dare say. I never heard.'
'I suppose she and the daughter'll have nothing?'
'That doesn't follow at all. Very likely he'd settled something on
them, which can't be touched. A man like that generally does.'
'Poor things!' she said, shuddering. 'But, John--you'll pay it back to
'Of course I shall,' he said, impatiently--'in due time. But please
remember, Phoebe, that's my affair. Don't you talk of it--_to any
He looked up to emphasise his words.
'I wasn't going to talk of it to any one,' she said, proudly, as she
Presently he took up his hat again and went out, that he might be
alone with his thoughts. The rain had vanished; and a frosty sunshine
sparkled on the fells, on the red bracken and the foaming becks. He
took the mountain-path which led past the ghyll, up to the ridge
which separates Langdale from Grasmere and Easedale. Morrison's finely
wrinkled face, with its blue, complacent eyes and thin nose, hovered
before him--now as he remembered it in life, and now as he imagined it
in death. Hard fate! There had been an adventurous, poetic element in
Morrison--something beyond the ken of the ordinary Philistine--and
it had come to this. Fenwick remembered him among the drawings he had
collected. Real taste--real sense of beauty--combined no doubt with
the bargaining instinct and a natural love of chicanery. Moreover,
Fenwick believed that, so far as a grasping temper would allow, there
had been a genuine wish to help undiscovered talent. He thought of the
hand which had given him the check, and had a vision of it holding
the revolver--of the ghastly, solitary end. And no one had
guessed--unless, indeed, it were his wife? Perhaps that look of
hers--as of a creature hunted by secret fears--was now explained.
How common such things are!--and probably, so ran his thoughts,
will always be. We are all acting. Each man or woman carries this
potentiality of a double life--it is only a question of less or more.
Suddenly he coloured, as he saw _himself_ thus writ double--first
as he appeared to Madame de Pastourelles, and then as he appeared to
Phoebe. Masquerading was easy, it seemed; and conscience made little
fuss! Instantly, however, the inner man rebelled against the implied
comparison of himself with Morrison. An accidental concealment,
acquiesced in temporarily, for business reasons--what had that in
common with villainy like Morrison's? An awkward affair, no doubt; and
he had been a fool to slip into it. But in a few weeks he would put it
right--come what would.
As to the debt--he tried to fight against a feeling of
deliverance--but clearly he need be in no hurry to pay it. He had been
living in dread of Morrison's appearing in Bernard Street to claim
his bond--revealing Phoebe's existence perhaps to ears unprepared--and
laying greedy hands upon the 'Genius Loci.' It would have been hard to
keep him off it--unless Lord Findon had promptly come forward--and it
would have been odious to yield it to him. 'Now I shall take my time.'
Of course, ultimately, he would repay the money to Mrs. Morrison and
Bella. But better, even in their interests, to wait a while, till
there could be no question of any other claim to it.
So from horror he passed to a personal relief, of which he was rather
ashamed, and then again to a real uneasy pity for the wife and for
the vulgar daughter who had so bitterly resented his handling of her
charms. He remembered the note in which she had acknowledged the final
delivery of her portrait. In obedience to Morrison's suggestion, he
had kept it by him a few days; and then, either unable or proudly
unwilling to alter it, he had returned it to its owner. Whereupon a
furious note from Miss Bella, which--knowing that her father took no
account of her tempers--Fenwick had torn up with a laugh. It was clear
that she had heard of her father's invitation to him to 'beautify' it,
and when the picture reappeared unaltered she took it as a direct and
personal insult--a sign that he disliked her and meant to humiliate
her. It was an odd variety of the _spretae injuria formae_. Fenwick
had never been in the least penitent for his behaviour. The picture
was true, clever--and the best he could do. It was no painter's
business to endow Miss Bella with beauty, if she did not possess it.
As a piece of paint, the picture _had_ beauty--if she had only eyes to
find it out.
Poor girl!--what husband now would venture on such a termagant
wife?--penniless too, and disgraced! He would like to help her, and
her mother--for Morrison's sake. Stirred by a fleeting impulse, he
began to scheme how he might become their benefactor, as Morrison had
Then, as he raised his eyes from the path--with a rush of delight
he noticed the flood of afternoon sunlight pouring on the steep
fell-side, the sharp black shadows thrown by wall and tree, the
brilliance of the snow along the topmost ridge. He raced along,
casting the Morrisons out of his thoughts, forgetting everything
but the joy of atmosphere and light--the pleasure of his physical
strength. Near one of the highest crags he came upon a shepherd-boy
and his dog collecting some sheep. The collie ran hither and thither
with the marvellous shrewdness of his breed, circling, heading,
driving; the stampede of the sheep, as they fled before him, could be
heard along the fell. The sun played upon the flock, turning its dirty
grey to white, caught the little figure of the shepherd-boy, as he
stood shouting and waving, or glittered on the foaming stream beside
him. Purple shadows bathed the fell beyond--and on its bosom the
rustic scene emerged--a winter idyl.
Fenwick sat down upon a rock, ransacked his pockets for sketch-book
and paints, and began to sketch. When he had made his 'note,' he sat
lost a while in the pleasure of his own growing skill and sharpening
perceptions, and dreaming of future 'subjects.' A series of
'Westmoreland months,' illustrating the seasons among the fells and
the life of the dalesmen, ran through his mind. Nature appeared to his
exultant sense as a vast treasure-house stored for him only--a mine
inexhaustible offered to his craftsman's hand. For him the sweeping
hues, the intricate broideries--green or russet, red or purple--of
this winter world!--for him the delicacy of the snow, the pale azure
of the sky, the cloud-shadows, the white becks, the winding river in
the valley floor, the purple crags, the lovely accents of light and
shade, the hints of composition that wooed his eager eye. Who was it
that said 'Composition is the art of preserving the accidental look'?
Clever fellow!--there was the right thing said, for once! And so he
slipped into a reverie, which was really one of those moments--plastic
and fruitful--by which the artist makes good his kinship with 'the
great of old,' his right to his own place in the unending chain.
Strange!--from that poverty of feeling in which he had considered
the Morrison tragedy--from his growing barrenness of heart towards
Phoebe--he had sprung at a bound into this ecstasy, this expansion of
the whole man. It brought with it a vivid memory of the pictures he
was engaged upon. By the time he turned homeward, and the light was
failing, he was counting the days till he could return to London--and
* * * * *
There was still, however, another week of his holiday to run. He wrote
to Mrs. Morrison a letter which cost him much pains, expressing a
sympathy that he really felt. He got on with his illustration work,
and extracted a further advance upon it. And the old cousin in Kendal
proved unexpectedly generous. She wrote him a long Scriptural letter,
rating him for disobedience to his father, and warning him against
debt; but she lent him twenty pounds, so that, for the present, Phoebe
could be left in comparative comfort, and he had something in his
Yet with this easing of circumstance, the relation between husband and
wife did not improve. During this last week, indeed, Phoebe teased
him to make a sketch of himself to leave with her. He began it
unwillingly, then got interested, and finally made a vigorous sketch,
as ample as their largest looking-glass would allow, with which he was
extremely pleased. Phoebe delighted in it, hung it up proudly in the
parlour, and repaid him with smiles and kisses.
Yet the very next day, under the cloud of his impending departure, she
went about pale and woe-begone, on the verge of tears or temper. He
was provoked into various harsh speeches, and Phoebe felt that despair
which weak and loving women know, when parting is near, and they
foresee the hour beyond parting--when each unkind word and look, too
well remembered, will gnaw and creep about the heart.
But she could not restrain herself. Nervous tension, doubt of her
husband, and condemnation of herself drove her on. The very last night
there was a quarrel--about the child--whom Fenwick had punished for
some small offence. Phoebe hotly defended her--first with tears, then
with passion. For the first time these two people found themselves
looking into each other's eyes with rage, almost with hate. Then they
kissed and made up, terrified at the abyss which had yawned between
them; and when the moment came, Phoebe went through the parting
But when Fenwick had gone, and the young wife sat alone beside the
cottage fire, the January darkness outside seemed to her the natural
symbol of her own bitter foreboding. Why had he left her? There was
no reason in it, as she had said. But there must be some reason behind
it. And slowly, in the firelight, she fell to brooding over the image
of that pale classical face, as she had seen it in the sketch-book.
John had talked quite frankly about Madame de Pastourelles--not like
a man beguiled; making no mystery of her at all, answering all
questions. But his restlessness to get back to London had been
extraordinary. Was it merely the restlessness of the artist?
This was Tuesday. To-morrow Madame de Pastourelles was to come to a
sitting. Phoebe sat picturing it; while the curtain of rain descended
once more upon the cottage, blotting out the pikes, and washing down
the sodden fields.
'I must alter that fold over the arm,' murmured Fenwick, stepping
back, with a frown, and gazing hard at the picture on his easel--'it's
Madame de Pastourelles gave a little shiver.
The big bare room, with its Northern aspect and its smouldering fire,
had been of a polar temperature this March afternoon. She had been
sitting for an hour and a half. Her hands and feet were frozen, and
the fur cloak which she wore over her white dress had to be thrown
back for the convenience of the painter, who was at work on the velvet
Meanwhile, on the further side of the room sat 'propriety'--also
shivering--an elderly governess of the Findon family, busily knitting.
'The dress is coming!' said Fenwick, after another minute or two.
'Yes, it's coming.'
And with a flushed face and dishevelled hair he stood back again,
staring first at his canvas and then at his sitter.
Madame de Pastourelles sat as still as she could, her thin, numbed
fingers lightly crossed on her lap. Her wonderful velvet dress, of
ivory-white, fell about her austerely in long folds, which, as they
bent or overlapped, made beautiful convolutions, firm yet subtle, on
the side turned towards the painter, and over her feet. The classical
head, with its small ear, the pale yet shining face, combined with
the dress to suggest a study in ivory, wrought to a great delicacy and
purity. Only the eyes, much darker than the hair, and the rich brown
of the sable cloak where it touched the white, gave accent and force
to the ethereal pallor, the supreme refinement, of the rest--face,
dress, hands. Nothing but civilisation in its most complex workings
could have produced such a type; that was what prevailed dimly in
Fenwick's mind as he wrestled with his picture. Sometimes his day's
work left him exultant, sometimes in a hell of despair.
'I went to see Mr. Welby's studio yesterday,' he said, hastily, after
another minute or two, seeing her droop with fatigue.
Her face changed and lit up.
'Well, what did you see?'
'The two Academy pictures--several portraits--and a lot of studies.'
'Isn't it fine--the "Polyxena"?'
Fenwick twisted his mouth in a trick he had.
'Yes,' he said, perfunctorily.
She coloured slightly, as though in antagonism.
'That means that you don't admire it at all?'
'Well, it doesn't say anything to me,' said Fenwick, after a pause.
'What do you dislike?'
'Why doesn't he paint flesh?' he said, abruptly--'not coloured wax.'
'Of course there is a decorative convention in his painting'--her tone
was a little stiff--'but so there is in all painting.'
Fenwick shrugged his shoulders.
'Go and look at Rubens--or Velasquez.'
'Why not at Leonardo--and Raphael?'
'Because they are not _moderns_--and we can't get back into their
skins. Rubens and Velasquez _are_ moderns,' he protested, stoutly.
'What is a "modern"?' she asked, laughing.
It was on the tip of his tongue to say, 'You are--and it is only
fashion--or something else--that makes you like this archaistic
stuff!' But he restrained himself, and they fell into a skirmish, in
which, as usual, he came off badly. As soon as he perceived it, he
became rather heated and noisy, trying to talk her down. Whereupon she
sprang up, came down from her pedestal to look at the picture, called
mademoiselle to see--praised--laughed--and all was calm again. Only
Fenwick was left once more reflecting that she was Welby's champion
through thick and thin. And this ruffled him.
'Did Mr. Welby study mostly in Italy?' he asked her presently, as he
fetched a hand-glass, in which to examine his morning's work.
'Mostly--but also in Vienna.'
And, to keep the ball rolling, she described a travel-year--apparently
before her marriage--which she, Lord Findon, a girl friend of hers,
and Welby had spent abroad together--mainly in Rome, Munich,
and Vienna--for the purpose, it seemed, of Welby's studies. The
experiences she described roused a kind of secret exasperation in
Fenwick. And what was really resentment against the meagreness of
his own lot showed itself, as usual, in jealousy. He said something
contemptuous of this foreign training for an artist--so much concerned
with galleries and Old Masters. Much better that he should use his
eyes upon his own country and its types; that had been enough for all
the best men.
Madame de Pastourelles politely disagreed with him; then, to change
the subject, she talked of some of the humours and incidents of
their stay in Vienna--the types of Viennese society--the Emperor, the
beautiful mad Empress, the Archdukes, the priests--and also of
some hurried visits to Hungarian country houses in winter, of the
cosmopolitan luxury and refinement to be found there, ringed by
forests and barbarism.
Fenwick listened greedily, and presently inquired whether Mr. Welby
had shared in all these amusements.
'Oh yes. He was generally the life and soul of them.'
'I suppose he made lots of friends--and got on with everybody?'
Madame de Pastourelles assented--cautiously.
'That's all a question of manners,' said Fenwick, with sudden
She gave a vague 'Perhaps'--and he straightened himself aggressively.
'I don't think manners very important, do you?'
'Very!' She said it, with a gay firmness.
'Well, then, some of us will never get any,' his tone was surly--'we
weren't taught young enough.'
'Our mothers teach us generally--all that's wanted!'
He shook his head.
'It's not as simple as that. Besides--one may lose one's mother.'
'Ah, yes!' she said, with quick feeling.
And presently a little tact, a few questions on her part had brought
out some of his own early history--his mother's death--his years of
struggle with his father. As he talked on--disjointedly--painting
hard all the time, she had a vision of the Kendal shop and its
customers--of the shrewd old father, moulded by the business, the
avarice, the religion of an English country town, with a Calvinist
contempt for art and artists--and trying vainly to coerce his sulky
and rebellious son.
'Has your father seen these pictures?' She pointed to the 'Genius
Loci' on its further easel--and to the portrait.
'My father! I haven't spoken to him or seen him for years.'
'Years!' She opened her eyes. 'Is it as bad as that?'
'Aye, that's North-Country. If you've once committed yourself, you
stick to it--like death.'
She declared that it might be North-Country, but was none the less
barbarous. However, of course it would all come right. All the
interesting tales of one's childhood began that way--with a cruel
father, and a rebellious son. But they came to magnificent ends,
notwithstanding--with sacks of gold and a princess. Diffident, yet
smiling, she drew conclusions. 'So, you see, you'll make money--you'll
be an R.A.--you'll _marry_--and Mr. Fenwick will nurse the
grandchildren. I assure you--that's the fairy-tale way.'
Fenwick, who had flushed hotly, turned away and occupied himself in
replenishing his palette.
'Papa, of course, would say--Don't marry till you're a hundred and
two!' she resumed. 'But pray, don't listen to him.'
'I dare say he's right,' said Fenwick, returning to his easel, his
face bent over it.
'Not at all. People should have their youth together.'
'That's all very well. But many men don't know at twenty what they'll
want at thirty,' said Fenwick, painting fast.
Madame de Pastourelles laughed.
'The doctors say nowadays--it is papa's latest craze--that it doesn't
matter what you eat--or how little--if you only chew it properly. I
wonder if that applies to matrimony?'
'What's the chewing?'
'Manners,' she said, laughing--'that you think so little of. Whether
the food's agreeable or not, manners help it down.'
'Manners!--between husband and wife?' he said, scornfully.
'But certainly!' She lifted her beautiful brows for emphasis. 'Show me
any persons, please, that want them more!'
'The people I've been living among,' said Fenwick, with sharp
persistence, 'haven't got time for fussing about manners--in the sense
you mean. Life's too hard.'
A flush of bright colour sprang into her face. But she held her
'What do you suppose I mean? I don't meant court trains and
courtesies--I really don't.'
Fenwick was silent a moment, and then said--aggressively--' We can't
all of us have the same chances--as Mr. Welby, for instance.'
Madame de Pastourelles looked at him in astonishment. What an
extraordinary obsession! They seemed not to be able to escape from
Arthur Welby's name: yet it never cropped up without producing some
sign of irritation in this strange young man. Poor Arthur!--who had
always shown himself so ready to make friends, whenever the two
men met--as they often did--in the St. James's Square drawing-room.
Fenwick's antagonism, indeed, had been plain to her for some time.
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