The Light That Failed
Part 2 out of 5
overhaul your sketches, and find out about your tendencies. You should
see what the papers say about my tendencies! Then I'll give you good
advice, and you shall paint according. Isn't that it, Maisie?'
Again there was triumph in Dick's eye.
'It's too good of you,--much too good. Because you are consoling yourself
with what will never happen, and I know that, and yet I want to keep
you. Don't blame me later, please.'
'I'm going into the matter with my eyes open. Moreover the Queen can
do no wrong. It isn't your selfishness that impresses me. It's your
audacity in proposing to make use of me.'
'Pooh! You're only Dick,--and a print-shop.'
'Very good: that's all I am. But, Maisie, you believe, don't you, that I love
you? I don't want you to have any false notions about brothers and
Maisie looked up for a moment and dropped her eyes.
'It's absurd, but--I believe. I wish I could send you away before you get
angry with me. But--but the girl that lives with me is red-haired, and an
impressionist, and all our notions clash.'
'So do ours, I think. Never mind. Three months from to-day we shall be
laughing at this together.'
Maisie shook her head mournfully. 'I knew you wouldn't understand,
and it will only hurt you more when you find out. Look at my face, Dick,
and tell me what you see.'
They stood up and faced each other for a moment. The fog was
gathering, and it stifled the roar of the traffic of London beyond the
railings. Dick brought all his painfully acquired knowledge of faces to
bear on the eyes, mouth, and chin underneath the black velvet toque.
'It's the same Maisie, and it's the same me,' he said. 'We've both nice
little wills of our own, and one or other of us has to be broken. Now about
the future. I must come and see your pictures some day,--I suppose when
the red-haired girl is on the premises.'
'Sundays are my best times. You must come on Sundays. There are such
heaps of things I want to talk about and ask your advice about. Now I
must get back to work.'
'Try to find out before next Sunday what I am,' said Dick. 'Don't take my
word for anything I've told you. Good-bye, darling, and bless you.'
Maisie stole away like a little gray mouse. Dick watched her till she was
out of sight, but he did not hear her say to herself, very soberly, 'I'm a
wretch,--a horrid, selfish wretch. But it's Dick, and Dick will
No one has yet explained what actually happens when an irresistible
force meets the immovable post, though many have thought deeply, even
as Dick thought. He tried to assure himself that Maisie would be led in a
few weeks by his mere presence and discourse to a better way of
thinking. Then he remembered much too distinctly her face and all that
was written on it.
'If I know anything of heads,' he said, 'there's everything in that face but
love. I shall have to put that in myself; and that chin and mouth won't be
won for nothing. But she's right. She knows what she wants, and she's
going to get it. What insolence! Me! Of all the people in the wide world,
to use me! But then she's Maisie. There's no getting over that fact; and
it's good to see her again. This business must have been simmering at the
back of my head for years. . . . She'll use me as I used Binat at Port Said.
She's quite right. It will hurt a little. I shall have to see her every
Sunday,--like a young man courting a housemaid. She's sure to come
around; and yet--that mouth isn't a yielding mouth. I shall be wanting to
kiss her all the time, and I shall have to look at her pictures,--I don't even
know what sort of work she does yet,--and I shall have to talk about
Art,--Woman's Art! Therefore, particularly and perpetually, damn all
varieties of Art. It did me a good turn once, and now it's in my way. I'll
go home and do some Art.'
Half-way to the studio, Dick was smitten with a terrible thought. The
figure of a solitary woman in the fog suggested it.
'She's all alone in London, with a red-haired impressionist girl, who
probably has the digestion of an ostrich. Most red-haired people have.
Maisie's a bilious little body. They'll eat like lone women,--meals at all
hours, and tea with all meals. I remember how the students in Paris used
to pig along. She may fall ill at any minute, and I shan't be able to help.
Whew! this is ten times worse than owning a wife.'
Torpenhow entered the studio at dusk, and looked at Dick with eyes full
of the austere love that springs up between men who have tugged at the
same oar together and are yoked by custom and use and the intimacies of
toil. This is a good love, and, since it allows, and even encourages, strife,
recrimination, and brutal sincerity, does not die, but grows, and is proof
against any absence and evil conduct.
Dick was silent after he handed Torpenhow the filled pipe of council. He
thought of Maisie and her possible needs. It was a new thing to think of
anybody but Torpenhow, who could think for himself. Here at last was
an outlet for that cash balance. He could adorn Maisie barbarically with
jewelry,--a thick gold necklace round that little neck, bracelets upon the
rounded arms, and rings of price upon her hands,--thie cool, temperate,
ringless hands that he had taken between his own. It was an absurd
thought, for Maisie would not even allow him to put one ring on one
finger, and she would laugh at golden trappings. It would be better to sit
with her quietly in the dusk, his arm around her neck and her face on his
shoulder, as befitted husband and wife. Torpenhow's boots creaked that
night, and his strong voice jarred. Dick's brows contracted and he
murmured an evil word because he had taken all his success as a right
and part payment for past discomfort, and now he was checked in his
stride by a woman who admitted all the success and did not instantly
care for him.
'I say, old man,' said Torpenhow, who had made one or two vain
attempts at conversation, 'I haven't put your back up by anything I've
said lately, have I?'
'You! No. How could you?'
'Liver out of order?'
'The truly healthy man doesn't know he has a liver. I'm only a bit
worried about things in general. I suppose it's my soul.'
'The truly healthy man doesn't know he has a soul. What business have
you with luxuries of that kind?'
'It came of itself. Who's the man that says that we're all islands shouting
lies to each other across seas of misunderstanding?'
'He's right, whoever he is,--except about the misunderstanding. I don't
think we could misunderstand each other.'
The blue smoke curled back from the ceiling in clouds. Then Torpenhow,
'Dick, is it a woman?'
'Be hanged if it's anything remotely resembling a woman; and if you
begin to talk like that, I'll hire a red-brick studio with white paint
trimmings, and begonias and petunias and blue Hungarias to play among
three-and-sixpenny pot-palms, and I'll mount all my pics in aniline-dye
plush plasters, and I'll invite every woman who maunders over what her
guide-books tell her is Art, and you shall receive 'em, Torp,--in a
snuff-brown velvet coat with yellow trousers and an orange tie. You'll
'Too thin, Dick. A better man than you once denied with cursing and
swearing. You've overdone it, just as he did. It's no business of mine, of
course, but it's comforting to think that somewhere under the stars
there's saving up for you a tremendous thrashing. Whether it'll come
from heaven or earth, I don't know, but it's bound to come and break you
up a little. You want hammering.'
Dick shivered. 'All right,' said he. 'When this island is disintegrated, it
will call for you.'
'I shall come round the corner and help to disintegrate it some more.
We're talking nonsense. Come along to a theatre.'?
'And you may lead a thousand men,
Nor ever draw the rein,
But ere ye lead the Faery Queen
'Twill burst your heart in twain.'?
He has slipped his foot from the stirrup-bar,
The bridle from his hand,
And he is bound by hand and foot
To the Queen o' Faery-land.
Sir Hoggie and the Fairies.
SOME weeks later, on a very foggy Sunday, Dick was returning across
the Park to his studio. 'This,' he said, 'is evidently the thrashing that
Torp meant. It hurts more than I expected; but the Queen can do no
wrong; and she certainly has some notion of drawing.'
He had just finished a Sunday visit to Maisie,--always under the green
eyes of the red-haired impressionist girl, whom he learned to hate at
sight,--and was tingling with a keen sense of shame. Sunday after
Sunday, putting on his best clothes, he had walked over to the untidy
house north of the Park, first to see Maisie's pictures, and then to
criticise and advise upon them as he realised that they were productions
on which advice would not be wasted. Sunday after Sunday, and his love
grew with each visit, he had been compelled to cram his heart back from
between his lips when it prompted him to kiss Maisie several times and
very much indeed. Sunday after Sunday, the head above the heart had
warned him that Maisie was not yet attainable, and that it would be
better to talk as connectedly as possible upon the mysteries of the craft
that was all in all to her. Therefore it was his fate to endure weekly
torture in the studio built out over the clammy back garden of a frail
stuffy little villa where nothing was ever in its right place and nobody
every called,--to endure and to watch Maisie moving to and fro with the
teacups. He abhorred tea, but, since it gave him a little longer time in her
presence, he drank it devoutly, and the red-haired girl sat in an untidy
heap and eyed him without speaking. She was always watching him.
Once, and only once, when she had left the studio, Maisie showed him an
album that held a few poor cuttings from provincial papers,--the briefest
of hurried notes on some of her pictures sent to outlying exhibitions. Dick
stooped and kissed the paint-smudged thumb on the open page. 'Oh, my
love, my love,' he muttered, 'do you value these things? Chuck 'em into
the waste-paper basket!'
'Not till I get something better,' said Maisie, shutting the book.
Then Dick, moved by no respect for his public and a very deep regard for
the maiden, did deliberately propose, in order to secure more of these
coveted cuttings, that he should paint a picture which Maisie should sign.
'That's childish,' said Maisie, 'and I didn't think it of you. It must be my
'Go and design decorative medallions for rich brewers' houses. You are
thoroughly good at that.' Dick was sick and savage.
'Better things than medallions, Dick,' was the answer, in tones that
recalled a gray-eyed atom's fearless speech to Mrs. Jennett. Dick would
have abased himself utterly, but that other girl trailed in.
Next Sunday he laid at Maisie's feet small gifts of pencils that could
almost draw of themselves and colours in whose permanence he believed,
and he was ostentatiously attentive to the work in hand. It demanded,
among other things, an exposition of the faith that was in him.
Torpenhow's hair would have stood on end had he heard the fluency
with which Dick preached his own gospel of Art.
A month before, Dick would have been equally astonished; but it was
Maisie's will and pleasure, and he dragged his words together to make
plain to her comprehension all that had been hidden to himself of the
whys and wherefores of work. There is not the least difficulty in doing a
thing if you only know how to do it; the trouble is to explain your
'I could put this right if I had a brush in my hand,' said Dick,
despairingly, over the modelling of a chin that Maisie complained would
not 'look flesh,'--it was the same chin that she had scraped out with the
palette knife,--'but I find it almost impossible to teach you. There's a
queer grin, Dutch touch about your painting that I like; but I've a notion
that you're weak in drawing. You foreshorten as though you never used
the model, and you've caught Kami's pasty way of dealing with flesh in
shadow. Then, again, though you don't know it yourself, you shirk hard
work. Suppose you spend some of your time on line lone. Line doesn't
allow of shirking. Oils do, and three square inches of flashy, tricky stuff
in the corner of a pic sometimes carry a bad thing off,--as I know. That's
immoral. Do line-work for a little while, and then I can tell more about
your powers, as old Kami used to say.'
Maisie protested; she did not care for the pure line.
'I know,' said Dick. 'You want to do your fancy heads with a bunch of
flowers at the base of the neck to hide bad modelling.' The red-haired girl
laughed a little. 'You want to do landscapes with cattle knee-deep in
grass to hide bad drawing. You want to do a great deal more than you
can do. You have sense of colour, but you want form. Colour's a gift,--put
it aside and think no more about it,--but form you can be drilled into.
Now, all your fancy heads--and some of them are very good--will keep
you exactly where you are. With line you must go forward or backward,
and it will show up all your weaknesses.'
'But other people----' began Maisie.
'You mustn't mind what other people do. If their souls were your soul, it
would be different. You stand and fall by your own work, remember, and
it's waste of time to think of any one else in this battle.'
Dick paused, and the longing that had been so resolutely put away came
back into his eyes. He looked at Maisie, and the look asked as plainly as
words, Was it not time to leave all this barren wilderness of canvas and
counsel and join hands with Life and Love?
Maisie assented to the new programme of schooling so adorably that
Dick could hardly restrain himself from picking her up then and there
and carrying her off to the nearest registrar's office. It was the implicit
obedience to the spoken word and the blank indifference to the unspoken
desire that baffled and buffeted his soul. He held authority in that
house,--authority limited, indeed, to one-half of one afternoon in seven,
but very real while it lasted. Maisie had learned to appeal to him on
many subjects, from the proper packing of pictures to the condition of a
smoky chimney. The red-haired girl never consulted him about anything.
On the other hand, she accepted his appearances without protest, and
watched him always. He discovered that the meals of the establishment
were irregular and fragmentary. They depended chiefly on tea, pickles,
and biscuit, as he had suspected from the beginning. The girls were
supposed to market week and week about, but they lived, with the help of
a charwoman, as casually as the young ravens. Maisie spent most of her
income on models, and the other girl revelled in apparatus as refined as
her work was rough. Armed with knowledge, dear-bought from the
Docks, Dick warned Maisie that the end of semi-starvation meant the
crippling of power to work, which was considerably worse than death.
Maisie took the warning, and gave more thought to what she ate and
drank. When his trouble returned upon him, as it generally did in the
long winter twilights, the remembrance of that little act of domestic
authority and his coercion with a hearth-brush of the smoky
drawing-room chimney stung Dick like a whip-lash.
He conceived that this memory would be the extreme of his sufferings,
till one Sunday, the red-haired girl announced that she would make a
study of Dick's head, and that he would be good enough to sit still,
and--quite as an afterthought--look at Maisie. He sat, because he could
not well refuse, and for the space of half an hour he reflected on all the
people in the past whom he had laid open for the purposes of his own
craft. He remembered Binat most distinctly,--that Binat who had once
been an artist and talked about degradation.
It was the merest monochrome roughing in of a head, but it presented the
dumb waiting, the longing, and, above all, the hopeless enslavement of
the man, in a spirit of bitter mockery.
'I'll buy it,' said Dick, promptly, 'at your own price.'
'My price is too high, but I dare say you'll be as grateful if----' The wet
sketch, fluttered from the girl's hand and fell into the ashes of the studio
stove. When she picked it up it was hopelessly smudged.
'Oh, it's all spoiled!' said Maisie. 'And I never saw it. Was it like?'
'Thank you,' said Dick under his breath to the red-haired girl, and he
removed himself swiftly.
'How that man hates me!' said the girl. 'And how he loves you, Maisie!'
'What nonsense? I knew Dick's very fond of me, but he had his work to
do, and I have mine.'
'Yes, he is fond of you, and I think he knows there is something in
impressionism, after all. Maisie, can't you see?'
'See? See what?'
'Nothing; only, I know that if I could get any man to look at me as that
man looks at you, I'd--I don't know what I'd do. But he hates me. Oh,
how he hates me!'
She was not altogether correct. Dick's hatred was tempered with
gratitude for a few moments, and then he forgot the girl entirely. Only
the sense of shame remained, and he was nursing it across the Park in the
fog. 'There'll be an explosion one of these days,' he said wrathfully. 'But
it isn't Maisie's fault; she's right, quite right, as far as she knows, and I
can't blame her. This business has been going on for three months nearly.
Three months!--and it cost me ten years' knocking about to get at the
notion, the merest raw notion, of my work. That's true; but then I didn't
have pins, drawing-pins, and palette-knives, stuck into me every Sunday.
Oh, my little darling, if ever I break you, somebody will have a very bad
time of it. No, she won't. I'd be as big a fool about her as I am now. I'll
poison that red-haired girl on my wedding-day,--she's
unwholesome,--and now I'll pass on these present bad times to Torp.'
Torpenhow had been moved to lecture Dick more than once lately on the
sin of levity, and Dick and listened and replied not a word. In the weeks
between the first few Sundays of his discipline he had flung himself
savagely into his work, resolved that Maisie should at least know the full
stretch of his powers. Then he had taught Maisie that she must not pay
the least attention to any work outside her own, and Maisie had obeyed
him all too well. She took his counsels, but was not interested in his
'Your things smell of tobacco and blood,' she said once. 'Can't you do
anything except soldiers?'
'I could do a head of you that would startle you,' thought Dick,--this was
before the red-haired girl had brought him under the guillotine,--but he
only said, 'I am very sorry,' and harrowed Torpenhow's soul that
evening with blasphemies against Art. Later, insensibly and to a large
extent against his own will, he ceased to interest himself in his own work.
For Maisie's sake, and to soothe the self-respect that it seemed to him he
lost each Sunday, he would not consciously turn out bad stuff, but, since
Maisie did not care even for his best, it were better not to do anything at
all save wait and mark time between Sunday and Sunday. Torpenhow
was disgusted as the weeks went by fruitless, and then attacked him one
Sunday evening when Dick felt utterly exhausted after three hours'
biting self-restraint in Maisie's presence. There was Language, and
Torpenhow withdrew to consult the Nilghai, who had come it to talk
'Bone-idle, is he? Careless, and touched in the temper?' said the Nilghai.
'It isn't worth worrying over. Dick is probably playing the fool with a
'Isn't that bad enough?'
'No. She may throw him out of gear and knock his work to pieces for a
while. She may even turn up here some day and make a scene on the
staircase: one never knows. But until Dick speaks of his own accord you
had better not touch him. He is no easy-tempered man to handle.'
'No; I wish he were. He is such an aggressive, cocksure, you-be-damned
'He'll get that knocked out of him in time. He must learn that he can't
storm up and down the world with a box of moist tubes and a slick brush.
You're fond of him?'
'I'd take any punishment that's in store for him if I could; but the worst
of it is, no man can save his brother.'
'No, and the worser of it is, there is no discharge in this war. Dick must
learn his lesson like the rest of us. Talking of war, there'll be trouble in
the Balkans in the spring.'
'That trouble is long coming. I wonder if we could drag Dick out there
when it comes off?'
Dick entered the room soon afterwards, and the question was put to him.
'Not good enough,' he said shortly. 'I'm too comf'y where I am.'
'Surely you aren't taking all the stuff in the papers seriously?' said the
Nilghai. 'Your vogue will be ended in less than six months,--the public
will know your touch and go on to something new,--and where will you
'Here, in England.'
'When you might be doing decent work among us out there? Nonsense! I
shall go, the Keneu will be there, Torp will be there, Cassavetti will be
there, and the whole lot of us will be there, and we shall have as much as
ever we can do, with unlimited fighting and the chance for you of seeing
things that would make the reputation of three Verestchagins.'
'Um!' said Dick, pulling at his pipe.
'You prefer to stay here and imagine that all the world is gaping at your
pictures? Just think how full an average man's life is of his own pursuits
and pleasures. When twenty thousand of him find time to look up
between mouthfuls and grunt something about something they aren't the
least interested in, the net result is called fame, reputation, or notoriety,
according to the taste and fancy of the speller my lord.'
'I know that as well as you do. Give me credit for a little gumption.'
'Be hanged if I do!'
'Be hanged, then; you probably will be,--for a spy, by excited Turks.
Heigh-ho! I'm weary, dead weary, and virtue has gone out of me.' Dick
dropped into a chair, and was fast asleep in a minute.
'That's a bad sign,' said the Nilghai, in an undertone.
Torpenhow picked the pipe from the waistcoat where it was beginning to
burn, and put a pillow behind the head. 'We can't help; we can't help,' he
said. 'It's a good ugly sort of old cocoanut, and I'm fond of it. There's the
scar of the wipe he got when he was cut over in the square.'
'Shouldn't wonder if that has made him a trifle mad.'
'I should. He's a most businesslike madman.'
Then Dick began to snore furiously.
'Oh, here, no affection can stand this sort of thing. Wake up, Dick, and go
and sleep somewhere else, if you intend to make a noise about it.'
'When a cat has been out on the tiles all night,' said the Nilghai, in his
beard, 'I notice that she usually sleeps all day. This is natural history.'
Dick staggered away rubbing his eyes and yawning. In the night-watches
he was overtaken with an idea, so simple and so luminous that he
wondered he had never conceived it before. It was full of craft. He would
seek Maisie on a week-day,--would suggest an excursion, and would take
her by train to Fort Keeling, over the very ground that they two had
trodden together ten years ago.
'As a general rule,' he explained to his chin-lathered reflection in the
morning, 'it isn't safe to cross an old trail twice. Things remind one of
things, and a cold wind gets up, and you feel said; but this is an exception
to every rule that ever was. I'll go to Maisie at once.'
Fortunately, the red-haired girl was out shopping when he arrived, and
Maisie in a paint-spattered blouse was warring with her canvas. She was
not pleased to see him; for week-day visits were a stretch of the bond;
and it needed all his courage to explain his errand.
'I know you've been working too hard,' he concluded, with an air of
authority. 'If you do that, you'll break down. You had much better come.'
'Where?' said Maisie, wearily. She had been standing before her easel
too long, and was very tired.
'Anywhere you please. We'll take a train to-morrow and see where it
stops. We'll have lunch somewhere, and I'll bring you back in the
'If there's a good working light to-morrow, I lose a day.' Maisie balanced
the heavy white chestnut palette irresolutely.
Dick bit back an oath that was hurrying to his lips. He had not yet
learned patience with the maiden to whom her work was all in all.
'You'll lose ever so many more, dear, if you use every hour of working
light. Overwork's only murderous idleness. Don't be unreasonable. I'll
call for you to-morrow after breakfast early.'
'But surely you are going to ask----'
'No, I am not. I want you and nobody else. Besides, she hates me as much
as I hate her. She won't care to come. To-morrow, then; and pray that
we get sunshine.'
Dick went away delighted, and by consequence did no work whatever.
He strangled a wild desire to order a special train, but bought a great
gray kangaroo cloak lined with glossy black marten, and then retired
into himself to consider things.
'I'm going out for the day to-morrow with Dick,' said Maisie to the
red-haired girl when the latter returned, tired, from marketing in the
'He deserves it. I shall have the studio floor thoroughly scrubbed while
you're away. It's very dirty.'
Maisie had enjoyed no sort of holiday for months and looked forward to
the little excitement, but not without misgivings.
'There's nobody nicer than Dick when he talks sensibly, she though, but
I'm sure he'll be silly and worry me, and I'm sure I can't tell him
anything he'd like to hear. If he'd only be sensible, I should like him so
Dick's eyes were full of joy when he made his appearance next morning
and saw Maisie, gray-ulstered and black-velvet-hatted, standing in the
hallway. Palaces of marble, and not sordid imitation of grained wood,
were surely the fittest background for such a divinity. The red-haired
girl drew her into the studio for a moment and kissed her hurriedly.
Maisie's eyebrows climbed to the top of her forehead; she was altogether
unused to these demonstrations. 'Mind my hat,' she said, hurrying away,
and ran down the steps to Dick waiting by the hansom.
'Are you quite warm enough! Are you sure you wouldn't like some more
breakfast? Put the cloak over you knees.'
'I'm quite comf'y, thanks. Where are we going, Dick? Oh, do stop singing
like that. People will think we're mad.'
'Let 'em think,--if the exertion doesn't kill them. They don't know who
we are, and I'm sure I don't care who they are. My faith, Maisie, you're
Maisie stared directly in front of her and did not reply. The wind of a
keen clear winter morning had put colour into her cheeks. Overhead, the
creamy-yellow smoke-clouds were thinning away one by one against a
pale-blue sky, and the improvident sparrows broke off from water-spout
committees and cab-rank cabals to clamour of the coming of spring.
'It will be lovely weather in the country,' said Dick.
'But where are we going?'
'Wait and see.'
The stopped at Victoria, and Dick sought tickets. For less than half the
fraction of an instant it occurred to Maisie, comfortably settled by the
waiting-room fire, that it was much more pleasant to send a man to the
booking-office than to elbow one's own way through the crowd. Dick put
her into a Pullman,--solely on account of the warmth there; and she
regarded the extravagance with grave scandalised eyes as the train
moved out into the country.
'I wish I knew where we are going,' she repeated for the twentieth time.
The name of a well-remembered station flashed by, towards the end of
the run, and Maisie was delighted.
'Oh, Dick, you villain!'
'Well, I thought you might like to see the place again. You haven't been
here since the old times, have you?'
'No. I never cared to see Mrs. Jennett again; and she was all that was
'Not quite. Look out a minute. There's the windmill above the
potato-fields; they haven't built villas there yet; d'you remember when I
shut you up in it?'
'Yes. How she beat you for it! I never told it was you.'
'She guessed. I jammed a stick under the door and told you that I was
burying Amomma alive in the potatoes, and you believed me. You had a
trusting nature in those days.'
They laughed and leaned to look out, identifying ancient landmarks with
many reminiscences. Dick fixed his weather eye on the curve of Maisie's
cheek, very near his own, and watched the blood rise under the clear
skin. He congratulated himself upon his cunning, and looked that the
evening would bring him a great reward.
When the train stopped they went out to look at an old town with new
eyes. First, but from a distance, they regarded the house of Mrs. Jennett.
'Suppose she should come out now, what would you do?' said Dick, with
'I should make a face.'
'Show, then,' said Dick, dropping into the speech of childhood.
Maisie made that face in the direction of the mean little villa, and Dick
'"This is disgraceful,"' said Maisie, mimicking Mrs. Jennett's tone.
'"Maisie, you run in at once, and learn the collect, gospel, and epistle for
the next three Sundays. After all I've taught you, too, and three helps
every Sunday at dinner! Dick's always leading you into mischief. If you
aren't a gentleman, Dick, you might at least--"'
The sentence ended abruptly. Maisie remembered when it had last been
'"Try to behave like one,"' said Dick, promptly. 'Quite right. Now we'll
get some lunch and go on to Fort Keeling,--unless you'd rather drive
'We must walk, out of respect to the place. How little changed it all is!'
They turned in the direction of the sea through unaltered streets, and the
influence of old things lay upon them. Presently they passed a
confectioner's shop much considered in the days when their joint
pocket-money amounted to a shilling a week.
'Dick, have you any pennies?' said Maisie, half to herself.
'Only three; and if you think you're going to have two of 'em to buy
peppermints with, you're wrong. She says peppermints aren't ladylike.'
Again they laughed, and again the colour came into Maisie's cheeks as
the blood boiled through Dick's heart. After a large lunch they went
down to the beach and to Fort Keeling across the waste, wind-bitten land
that no builder had thought it worth his while to defile. The winter
breeze came in from the sea and sang about their ears.
'Maisie,' said Dick, 'your nose is getting a crude Prussian blue at the tip.
I'll race you as far as you please for as much as you please.'
She looked round cautiously, and with a laugh set off, swiftly as the
ulster allowed, till she was out of breath.
'We used to run miles,' she panted. 'It's absurd that we can't run now.'
'Old age, dear. This it is to get fat and sleek in town. When I wished to
pull you hair you generally ran for three miles, shrieking at the top of
your voice. I ought to know, because those shrieks of yours were meant to
call up Mrs. Jennett with a cane and----'
'Dick, I never got you a beating on purpose in my life.'
'No, of course you never did. Good heavens! look at the sea.'
'Why, it's the same as ever!' said Maisie.
Torpenhow had gathered from Mr. Beeton that Dick, properly dressed
and shaved, had left the house at half-past eight in the morning with a
travelling-rug over his arm. The Nilghai rolled in at mid-day for chess
and polite conversation.
'It's worse than anything I imagined,' said Torpenhow.
'Oh, the everlasting Dick, I suppose! You fuss over him like a hen with
one chick. Let him run riot if he thinks it'll amuse him. You can whip a
young pup off feather, but you can't whip a young man.'
'It isn't a woman. It's one woman; and it's a girl.'
'Where's your proof?'
'He got up and went out at eight this morning,--got up in the middle of
the night, by Jove! a thing he never does except when he's on service.
Even then, remember, we had to kick him out of his blankets before the
fight began at El-Maghrib. It's disgusting.'
'It looks odd; but maybe he's decided to buy a horse at last. He might get
up for that, mightn't he?'
'Buy a blazing wheelbarrow! He'd have told us if there was a horse in
the wind. It's a girl.'
'Don't be certain. Perhaps it's only a married woman.'
'Dick has some sense of humour, if you haven't. Who gets up in the gray
dawn to call on another man's wife? It's a girl.'
'Let it be a girl, then. She may teach him that there's somebody else in
the world besides himself.'
'She'll spoil his hand. She'll waste his time, and she'll marry him, and
ruin his work for ever. He'll be a respectable married man before we can
stop him, and--he'll ever go on the long trail again.'
'All quite possible, but the earth won't spin the other way when that
happens. . . . No! ho! I'd give something to see Dick "go wooing with the
boys." Don't worry about it. These things be with Allah, and we can only
look on. Get the chessmen.'?
The red-haired girl was lying down in her own room, staring at the
ceiling. The footsteps of people on the pavement sounded, as they grew
indistinct in the distance, like a many-times-repeated kiss that was all one
long kiss. Her hands were by her side, and they opened and shut savagely
from time to time.
The charwoman in charge of the scrubbing of the studio knocked at her
door: 'Beg y' pardon, miss, but in cleanin' of a floor there's two, not to
say three, kind of soap, which is yaller, an' mottled, an' disinfectink.
Now, jist before I took my pail into the passage I though it would be
pre'aps jest as well if I was to come up 'ere an' ask you what sort of soap
you was wishful that I should use on them boards. The yaller soap,
There was nothing in the speech to have caused the paroxysm of fury
that drove the red-haired girl into the middle of the room, almost
'Do you suppose I care what you use? Any kind will do!--any kind!'
The woman fled, and the red-haired girl looked at her own reflection in
the glass for an instant and covered her face with her hands. It was as
though she had shouted some shameless secret aloud.
Roses red and roses white
Plucked I for my love's delight.
She would none of all my posies,--
Bade me gather her blue roses.
Half the world I wandered through,
Seeking where such flowers grew;
Half the world unto my quest
Answered but with laugh and jest.
It may be beyond the grave
She shall find what she would have.
Mine was but an idle quest,--
Roses white and red are best! -- Blue Roses.?
THE SEA had not changed. Its waters were low on the mud-banks, and
the Marazion Bell-buoy clanked and swung in the tide-way. On the white
beach-sand dried stumps of sea-poppy shivered and chattered.
'I don't see the old breakwater,' said Maisie, under her breath.
'Let's be thankful that we have as much as we have. I don't believe
they've mounted a single new gun on the fort since we were here. Come
They came to the glacis of Fort Keeling, and sat down in a nook sheltered
from the wind under the tarred throat of a forty-pounder cannon.
'Now, if Ammoma were only here!' said Maisie.
For a long time both were silent. Then Dick took Maisie's hand and
called her by her name.
She shook her head and looked out to sea.
'Maisie, darling, doesn't it make any difference?'
'No!' between clenched teeth. 'I'd--I'd tell you if it did; but it doesn't, Oh,
Dick, please be sensible.'
'Don't you think that it ever will?'
'No, I'm sure it won't.'
Maisie rested her chin on her hand, and, still regarding the sea, spoke
'I know what you want perfectly well, but I can't give it to you, Dick. It
isn't my fault; indeed, it isn't. If I felt that I could care for any one----
But I don't feel that I care. I simply don't understand what the feeling
'Is that true, dear?'
'You've been very good to me, Dickie; and the only way I can pay you
back is by speaking the truth. I daren't tell a fib. I despise myself quit
enough as it is.'
'What in the world for?'
'Because--because I take everything that you give me and I give you
nothing in return. It's mean and selfish of me, and whenever I think of it
it worries me.'
'Understand once for all, then, that I can manage my own affairs, and if I
choose to do anything you aren't to blame. You haven't a single thing to
reproach yourself with, darling.'
'Yes, I have, and talking only makes it worse.'
'Then don't talk about it.'
'How can I help myself? If you find me alone for a minute you are always
talking about it; and when you aren't you look it. You don't know how I
despise myself sometimes.'
'Great goodness!' said Dick, nearly jumping to his feet. 'Speak the truth
now, Maisie, if you never speak it again! Do I--does this worrying bore
'No. It does not.'
'You'd tell me if it did?'
'I should let you know, I think.'
'Thank you. The other thing is fatal. But you must learn to forgive a man
when he's in love. He's always a nuisance. You must have known that?'
Maisie did not consider the last question worth answering, and Dick was
forced to repeat it.
'There were other men, of course. They always worried just when I was
in the middle of my work, and wanted me to listen to them.'
'Did you listen?'
'At first; and they couldn't understand why I didn't care. And they used
to praise my pictures; and I thought they meant it. I used to be proud of
the praise, and tell Kami, and--I shall never forget--once Kami laughed
'You don't like being laughed at, Maisie, do you?'
'I hate it. I never laugh at other people unless--unless they do bad work.
Dick, tell me honestly what you think of my pictures generally,--of
everything of mine that you've seen.'
'"Honest, honest, and honest over!"' quoted Dick from a catchword of
long ago. 'Tell me what Kami always says.'
Maisie hesitated. 'He--he says that there is feeling in them.'
'How dare you tell me a fib like that? Remember, I was under Kami for
two years. I know exactly what he says.'
'It isn't a fib.'
'It's worse; it's a half-truth. Kami says, when he puts his head on one
side,--so,--"Il y a du sentiment, mais il n'y a pas de parti pris."' He rolled
the r threateningly, as Kami used to do.
'Yes, that is what he says; and I'm beginning to think that he is right.'
'Certainly he is.' Dick admitted that two people in the world could do and
say no wrong. Kami was the man.
'And now you say the same thing. It's so disheartening.'
'I'm sorry, but you asked me to speak the truth. Besides, I love you too
much to pretend about your work. It's strong, it's patient sometimes,--not
always,--and sometimes there's power in it, but there's no special reason
why it should be done at all. At least, that's how it strikes me.'
'There's no special reason why anything in the world should ever be
done. You know that as well as I do. I only want success.'
'You're going the wrong way to get it, then. Hasn't Kami ever told you
'Don't quote Kami to me. I want to know what you think. My work's bad,
to begin with.'
'I didn't say that, and I don't think it.'
'It's amateurish, then.'
'That it most certainly is not. You're a work-woman, darling, to your
boot-heels, and I respect you for that.'
'You don't laugh at me behind my back?'
'No, dear. You see, you are more to me than any one else. Put this cloak
thing round you, or you'll get chilled.'
Maisie wrapped herself in the soft marten skins, turning the gray
kangaroo fur to the outside.
'This is delicious,' she said, rubbing her chin thoughtfully along the fur.
'Well? Why am I wrong in trying to get a little success?'
'Just because you try. Don't you understand, darling? Good work has
nothing to do with--doesn't belong to--the person who does it. It's put into
him or her from outside.'
'But how does that affect----'
'Wait a minute. All we can do is to learn how to do our work, to be
masters of our materials instead of servants, and never to be afraid of
'I understand that.'
'Everything else comes from outside ourselves. Very good. If we sit down
quietly to work out notions that are sent to us, we may or we may not do
something that isn't bad. A great deal depends on being master of the
bricks and mortar of the trade. But the instant we begin to think about
success and the effect of our work--to play with one eye on the
gallery--we lose power and touch and everything else. At least that's how
I have found it. Instead of being quiet and giving every power you possess
to your work, you're fretting over something which you can neither help
no hinder by a minute. See?'
'It's so easy for you to talk in that way. People like what you do. Don't
you ever think about the gallery?'
'Much too often; but I'm always punished for it by loss of power. It's as
simple as the Rule of Three. If we make light of our work by using it for
our own ends, our work will make light of us, and, as we're the weaker,
we shall suffer.'
'I don't treat my work lightly. You know that it's everything to me.'
'Of course; but, whether you realise it or not, you give two strokes for
yourself to one for your work. It isn't your fault, darling. I do exactly the
same thing, and know that I'm doing it. Most of the French schools, and
all the schools here, drive the students to work for their own credit, and
for the sake of their pride. I was told that all the world was interested in
my work, and everybody at Kami's talked turpentine, and I honestly
believed that the world needed elevating and influencing, and all manner
of impertinences, by my brushes. By Jove, I actually believed that! When
my little head was bursting with a notion that I couldn't handle because I
hadn't sufficient knowledge of my craft, I used to run about wondering at
my own magnificence and getting ready to astonish the world.'
'But surely one can do that sometimes?'
'Very seldom with malice aforethought, darling. And when it's done it's
such a tiny thing, and the world's so big, and all but a millionth part of it
doesn't care. Maisie, come with me and I'll show you something of the
size of the world. One can no more avoid working than eating,--that goes
on by itself,--but try to see what you are working for. I know such little
heavens that I could take you to,--islands tucked away under the Line.
You sight them after weeks of crashing through water as black as black
marble because it's so deep, and you sit in the fore-chains day after day
and see the sun rise almost afraid because the sea's so lonely.'
'Who is afraid?--you, or the sun?'
'The sun, of course. And there are noises under the sea, and sounds
overhead in a clear sky. Then you find your island alive with hot moist
orchids that make mouths at you and can do everything except talk.
There's a waterfall in it three hundred feet high, just like a sliver of
green jade laced with silver; and millions of wild bees live up in the
rocks; and you can hear the fat cocoanuts falling from the palms; and
you order an ivory-white servant to sling you a long yellow hammock
with tassels on it like ripe maize, and you put up your feet and hear the
bees hum and the water fall till you go to sleep.'
'Can one work there?'
'Certainly. One must do something always. You hang your canvas up in a
palm tree and let the parrots criticise. When the scuffle you heave a ripe
custard-apple at them, and it bursts in a lather of cream. There are
hundreds of places. Come and see them.'
'I don't quite like that place. It sounds lazy. Tell me another.'
'What do you think of a big, red, dead city built of red sandstone, with
raw green aloes growing between the stones, lying out neglected on
honey-coloured sands? There are forty dead kings there, Maisie, each in
a gorgeous tomb finer than all the others. You look at the palaces and
streets and shops and tanks, and think that men must live there, till you
find a wee gray squirrel rubbing its nose all alone in the market-place,
and a jewelled peacock struts out of a carved doorway and spreads its
tail against a marble screen as fine pierced as point-lace. Then a
monkey--a little black monkey--walks through the main square to get a
drink from a tank forty feet deep. He slides down the creepers to the
water's edge, and a friend holds him by the tail, in case he should fall in.'
'Is that all true?'
'I have been there and seen. Then evening comes, and the lights change
till it's just as though you stood in the heart of a king-opal. A little before
sundown, as punctually as clockwork, a big bristly wild boar, with all his
family following, trots through the city gate, churning the foam on his
tusks. You climb on the shoulder of a blind black stone god and watch
that pig choose himself a palace for the night and stump in wagging his
tail. Then the night-wind gets up, and the sands move, and you hear the
desert outside the city singing, "Now I lay me down to sleep," and
everything is dark till the moon rises. Maisie, darling, come with me and
see what the world is really like. It's very lovely, and it's very
horrible,--but I won't let you see anything horrid,--and it doesn't care
your life or mine for pictures or anything else except doing its own work
and making love. Come, and I'll show you how to brew sangaree, and
sling a hammock, and--oh, thousands of things, and you'll see for yourself
what colour means, and we'll find out together what love means, and
then, maybe, we shall be allowed to do some good work. Come away!'
'Why?' said Maisie.
'How can you do anything until you have seen everything, or as much as
you can? And besides, darling, I love you. Come along with me. You have
no business here; you don't belong to this place; you're half a
gipsy,--your face tells that; and I--even the smell of open water makes me
restless. Come across the sea and be happy!'
He had risen to his feet, and stood in the shadow of the gun, looking down
at the girl. The very short winter afternoon had worn away, and, before
they knew, the winter moon was walking the untroubled sea. Long ruled
lines of silver showed where a ripple of the rising tide was turning over
the mud-banks. The wind had dropped, and in the intense stillness they
could hear a donkey cropping the frosty grass many yards away. A faint
beating, like that of a muffled drum, came out of the moon-haze.
'What's that?' said Maisie, quickly. 'It sounds like a heart beating.
Where is it?'
Dick was so angry at this sudden wrench to his pleadings that he could
not trust himself to speak, and in this silence caught the sound. Maisie
from her seat under the gun watched him with a certain amount of fear.
She wished so much that he would be sensible and cease to worry her
with over-sea emotion that she both could and could not understand. She
was not prepared, however, for the change in his face as he listened.
'It's a steamer,' he said,--'a twin-screw steamer, by the beat. I can't make
her out, but she must be standing very close in-shore. Ah!' as the red of a
rocket streaked the haze, 'she's standing in to signal before she clears the
'Is it a wreck?' said Maisie, to whom these words were as Greek.
Dick's eyes were turned to the sea. 'Wreck! What nonsense! She's only
reporting herself. Red rocket forward--there's a green light aft now, and
two red rockets from the bridge.'
'What does that mean?'
'It's the signal of the Cross Keys Line running to Australia. I wonder
which steamer it is.' The note of his voice had changed; he seemed to be
talking to himself, and Maisie did not approve of it. The moonlight broke
the haze for a moment, touching the black sides of a long steamer
working down Channel. 'Four masts and three funnels--she's in deep
draught, too. That must be the Barralong, or the Bhutia. No, the Bhutia
has a clopper bow. It's the Barralong, to Australia. She'll lift the
Southern Cross in a week,--lucky old tub!--oh, lucky old tub!'
He stared intently, and moved up the slope of the fort to get a better
view, but the mist on the sea thickened again, and the beating of the
screws grew fainter. Maisie called to him a little angrily, and he
returned, still keeping his eyes to seaward. 'Have you ever seen the
Southern Cross blazing right over your head?' he asked. 'It's superb!'
'No,' she said shortly, 'and I don't want to. If you think it's so lovely, why
don't you go and see it yourself?'
She raised her face from the soft blackness of the marten skins about her
throat, and her eyes shone like diamonds. The moonlight on the gray
kangaroo fur turned it to frosted silver of the coldest.
'By Jove, Maisie, you look like a little heathen idol tucked up there.' The
eyes showed that they did not appreciate the compliment. 'I'm sorry,' he
continued. 'The Southern Cross isn't worth looking at unless someone
helps you to see. That steamer's out of hearing.'
'Dick,' she said quietly, 'suppose I were to come to you now,--be quiet a
minute,--just as I am, and caring for you just as much as I do.'
'Not as a brother, though You said you didn't--in the Park.'
'I never had a brother. Suppose I said, "Take me to those places, and in
time, perhaps, I might really care for you," what would you do?'
'Send you straight back to where you came from, in a cab. No, I
wouldn't; I'd let you walk. But you couldn't do it, dear. And I wouldn't
run the risk. You're worth waiting for till you can come without
'Do you honestly believe that?'
'I have a hazy sort of idea that I do. Has it never struck you in that
'Ye--es. I feel so wicked about it.'
'Wickeder than usual?'
'You don't know all I think. It's almost too awful to tell.'
'Never mind. You promised to tell me the truth--at least.'
'It's so ungrateful of me, but--but, though I know you care for me, and I
like to have you with me, I'd--I'd even sacrifice you, if that would bring
me what I want.'
'My poor little darling! I know that state of mind. It doesn't lead to good
'You aren't angry? Remember, I do despise myself.'
'I'm not exactly flattered,--I had guessed as much before,--but I'm not
angry. I'm sorry for you. Surely you ought to have left a littleness like
that behind you, years ago.'
'You've no right to patronise me! I only want what I have worked for so
long. It came to you without any trouble, and--and I don't think it's fair.'
'What can I do? I'd give ten years of my life to get you what you want.
But I can't help you; even I can't help.'
A murmur of dissent from Maisie. He went on--
'And I know by what you have just said that you're on the wrong road to
success. It isn't got at by sacrificing other people,--I've had that much
knocked into me; you must sacrifice yourself, and live under orders, and
never think for yourself, and never have real satisfaction in your work
except just at the beginning, when you're reaching out after a notion.'
'How can you believe all that?'
'There's no question of belief or disbelief. That's the law, and you take it
or refuse it as you please. I try to obey, but I can't, and then my work
turns bad on my hands. Under any circumstances, remember, four-fifths
of everybody's work must be bad. But the remnant is worth the trouble
for it's own sake.'
'Isn't it nice to get credit even for bad work?'
'It's much too nice. But---- May I tell you something? It isn't a pretty
tale, but you're so like a man that I forget when I'm talking to you.'
'Once when I was out in the Soudan I went over some ground that we
had been fighting on for three days. There were twelve hundred dead;
and we hadn't time to bury them.'
'I had been at work on a big double-sheet sketch, and I was wondering
what people would think of it at home. The sight of that field taught me a
good deal. It looked just like a bed of horrible toadstools in all colours,
and--I'd never seen men in bulk go back to their beginnings before. So I
began to understand that men and women were only material to work
with, and that what they said or did was of no consequence. See? Strictly
speaking, you might just as well put your ear down to the palette to catch
what your colours are saying.'
'Dick, that's disgraceful!'
'Wait a minute. I said, strictly speaking. Unfortunately, everybody must
be either a man or a woman.'
'I'm glad you allow that much.'
'In your case I don't. You aren't a woman. But ordinary people, Maisie,
must behave and work as such. That's what makes me so savage.' He
hurled a pebble towards the sea as he spoke. 'I know that it is outside my
business to care what people say; I can see that it spoils my output if I
listen to 'em; and yet, confound it all,'--another pebble flew seaward,--'I
can't help purring when I'm rubbed the right way. Even when I can see
on a man's forehead that he is lying his way through a clump of pretty
speeches, those lies make me happy and play the mischief with my hand.'
'And when he doesn't say pretty things?'
'Then, belovedest,'--Dick grinned,--'I forget that I am the steward of
these gifts, and I want to make that man love and appreciate my work
with a thick stick. It's too humiliating altogether; but I suppose even if
one were an angel and painted humans altogether from outside, one
would lose in touch what one gained in grip.'
Maisie laughed at the idea of Dick as an angel.
'But you seem to think,' she said, 'that everything nice spoils your hand.'
'I don't think. It's the law,--just the same as it was at Mrs. Jennett's.
Everything that is nice does spoil your hand. I'm glad you see so clearly.'
'I don't like the view.'
'Nor I. But--have got orders: what can do? Are you strong enough to face
'I suppose I must.'
'Let me help, darling. We can hold each other very tight and try to walk
straight. We shall blunder horribly, but it will be better than stumbling
apart. Maisie, can't you see reason?'
'I don't think we should get on together. We should be two of a trade, so
we should never agree.'
'How I should like to meet the man who made that proverb! He lived in a
cave and ate raw bear, I fancy. I'd make him chew his own arrow-heads.
'I should be only half married to you. I should worry and fuss about my
work, as I do now. Four days out of the seven I'm not fit to speak to.'
'You talk as if no one else in the world had ever used a brush. D'you
suppose that I don't know the feeling of worry and bother and
can't-get-at-ness? You're lucky if you only have it four days out of the
seven. What difference would that make?'
'A great deal--if you had it too.'
'Yes, but I could respect it. Another man might not. He might laugh at
you. But there's no use talking about it. If you can think in that way you
can't care for me--yet.'
The tide had nearly covered the mud-banks and twenty little ripples
broke on the beach before Maisie chose to speak.
'Dick,' she said slowly, 'I believe very much that you are better than I
'This doesn't seem to bear on the argument--but in what way?'
'I don't quite know, but in what you said about work and things; and
then you're so patient. Yes, you're better than I am.'
Dick considered rapidly the murkiness of an average man's life. There
was nothing in the review to fill him with a sense of virtue. He lifted the
hem of the cloak to his lips.
'Why,' said Maisie, making as though she had not noticed, 'can you see
things that I can't? I don't believe what you believe; but you're right, I
'If I've seen anything, God knows I couldn't have seen it but for you, and
I know that I couldn't have said it except to you. You seemed to make
everything clear for a minute; but I don't practice what I preach. You
would help me. . . . There are only us two in the world for all purposes,
and--and you like to have me with you?'
'Of course I do. I wonder if you can realise how utterly lonely I am!'
'Darling, I think I can.'
'Two years ago, when I first took the little house, I used to walk up and
down the back-garden trying to cry. I never can cry. Can you?'
'It's some time since I tried. What was the trouble? Overwork?'
'I don't know; but I used to dream that I had broken down, and had no
money, and was starving in London. I thought about it all day, and it
frightened me--oh, how it frightened me!'
'I know that fear. It's the most terrible of all. It wakes me up in the night
sometimes. You oughtn't to know anything about it.'
'How do you know?'
'Never mind. Is your three hundred a year safe?'
'It's in Consols.'
'Very well. If any one comes to you and recommends a better
investment,--even if I should come to you,--don't you listen. Never shift
the money for a minute, and never lend a penny of it,--even to the
'Don't scold me so! I'm not likely to be foolish.'
'The earth is full of men who'd sell their souls for three hundred a year;
and women come and talk, and borrow a five-pound note here and a
ten-pound note there; and a woman has no conscience in a money debt.
Stick to your money, Maisie, for there's nothing more ghastly in the
world than poverty in London. It's scared me. By Jove, it put the fear
into me! And one oughtn't to be afraid of anything.'
To each man is appointed his particular dread,--the terror that, if he does
not fight against it, must cow him even to the loss of his manhood. Dick's
experience of the sordid misery of want had entered into the deeps of
him, and, lest he might find virtue too easy, that memory stood behind
him, tempting to shame, when dealers came to buy his wares. As the
Nilghai quaked against his will at the still green water of a lake or a
mill-dam, as Torpenhow flinched before any white arm that could cut or
stab and loathed himself for flinching, Dick feared the poverty he had
once tasted half in jest. His burden was heavier than the burdens of his
Maisie watched the face working in the moonlight.
'You've plenty of pennies now,' she said soothingly.
'I shall never have enough,' he began, with vicious emphasis. Then,
laughing, 'I shall always be three-pence short in my accounts.'
'I carried a man's bag once from Liverpool Street Station to Blackfriar's
Bridge. It was a sixpenny job,--you needn't laugh; indeed it was,--and I
wanted the money desperately. He only gave me threepence; and he
hadn't even the decency to pay in silver. Whatever money I make, I shall
never get that odd threepence out of the world.'
This was not language befitting the man who had preached of the
sanctity of work. It jarred on Maisie, who preferred her payment in
applause, which, since all men desire it, must be of he right. She hunted
for her little purse and gravely took out a threepenny bit.
'There it is,' she said. 'I'll pay you, Dickie; and don't worry any more; it
isn't worth while. Are you paid?'
'I am,' said the very human apostle of fair craft, taking the coin. 'I'm
paid a thousand times, and we'll close that account. It shall live on my
watch-chain; and you're an angel, Maisie.'
'I'm very cramped, and I'm feeling a little cold. Good gracious! the cloak
is all white, and so is your moustache! I never knew it was so chilly.'
A light frost lay white on the shoulder of Dick's ulster. He, too, had
forgotten the state of the weather. They laughed together, and with that
laugh ended all serious discourse.
They ran inland across the waste to warm themselves, then turned to
look at the glory of the full tide under the moonlight and the intense
black shadows of the furze bushes. It was an additional joy to Dick that
Maisie could see colour even as he saw it,--could see the blue in the white
of the mist, the violet that is in gray palings, and all things else as they
are,--not of one hue, but a thousand. And the moonlight came into
Maisie's soul, so that she, usually reserved, chattered of herself and of
the things she took interest in,--of Kami, wisest of teachers, and of the
girls in the studio,--of the Poles, who will kill themselves with overwork if
they are not checked; of the French, who talk at great length of much
more than they will ever accomplish; of the slovenly English, who toil
hopelessly and cannot understand that inclination does not imply power;
of the Americans, whose rasping voices in the hush of a hot afternoon
strain tense-drawn nerves to breaking-point, and whose suppers lead to
indigestion; of tempestuous Russians, neither to hold nor to bind, who tell
the girls ghost-stories till the girls shriek; of stolid Germans, who come to
learn one thing, and, having mastered that much, stolidly go away and
copy pictures for evermore. Dick listened enraptured because it was
Maisie who spoke. He knew the old life.
'It hasn't changed much,' he said. 'Do they still steal colours at
'Not steal. Attract is the word. Of course they do. I'm good--I only attract
ultramarine; but there are students who'd attract flake-white.'
'I've done it myself. You can't help it when the palettes are hung up.
Every colour is common property once it runs down,--even though you
do start it with a drop of oil. It teaches people not to waste their tubes.'
'I should like to attract some of your colours, Dick. Perhaps I might catch
your success with them.'
'I mustn't say a bad word, but I should like to. What in the world, which
you've just missed a lovely chance of seeing, does success or want of
success, or a three-storied success, matter compared with---- No, I won't
open that question again. It's time to go back to town.'
'I'm sorry, Dick, but----'
'You're much more interested in that than you are in me.'
'I don't know, I don't think I am.'
'What will you give me if I tell you a sure short-cut to everything you
want,--the trouble and the fuss and the tangle and all the rest? Will you
promise to obey me?'
'In the first place, you must never forget a meal because you happen to
be at work. You forgot your lunch twice last week,' said Dick, at a
venture, for he knew with whom he was dealing.'
'No, no,--only once, really.'
'That's bad enough. And you mustn't take a cup of tea and a biscuit in
place of a regular dinner, because dinner happens to be a trouble.'
'You're making fun of me!'
'I never was more in earnest in my life. Oh, my love, my love, hasn't it
dawned on you yet what you are to me? Here's the whole earth in a
conspiracy to give you a chill, or run over you, or drench you to the skin,
or cheat you out of your money, or let you die of overwork and
underfeeding, and I haven't the mere right to look after you. Why, I
don't even know if you have sense enough to put on warm things when
the weather's cold.'
'Dick, you're the most awful boy to talk to--really! How do you suppose I
managed when you were away?'
'I wasn't here, and I didn't know. But now I'm back I'd give everything I
have for the right of telling you to come in out of the rain.'
'Your success too?'
This time it cost Dick a severe struggle to refrain from bad words.
'As Mrs. Jennett used to say, you're a trial, Maisie! You've been cooped
up in the schools too long, and you think every one is looking at you.
There aren't twelve hundred people in the world who understand
pictures. The others pretend and don't care. Remember, I've seen twelve
hundred men dead in toadstool-beds. It's only the voice of the tiniest little
fraction of people that makes success. The real world doesn't care a
tinker's--doesn't care a bit. For aught you or I know, every man in the
world may be arguing with a Maisie of his own.'
'Poor Dick, I think. Do you believe while he's fighting for what's dearer
than his life he wants to look at a picture? And even if he did, and if all
the world did, and a thousand million people rose up and shouted hymns
to my honour and glory, would that make up to me for the knowledge
that you were out shopping in the Edgware Road on a rainy day without
an umbrella? Now we'll go to the station.'
'But you said on the beach----' persisted Maisie, with a certain fear.
Dick groaned aloud: 'Yes, I know what I said. My work is everything I
have, or am, or hope to be, to me, and I believe I've learnt the law that
governs it; but I've some lingering sense of fun left,--though you've
nearly knocked it out of me. I can just see that it isn't everything to all
the world. Do what I say, and not what I do.'
Maisie was careful not to reopen debatable matters, and they returned to
London joyously. The terminus stopped Dick in the midst of an eloquent
harangue on the beauties of exercise. He would buy Maisie a horse,--such
a horse as never yet bowed head to bit,--would stable it, with a
companion, some twenty miles from London, and Maisie, solely for her
health's sake should ride with him twice or thrice a week.
'That's absurd,' said she. 'It wouldn't be proper.'
'Now, who in all London to-night would have sufficient interest or
audacity to call us two to account for anything we chose to do?'
Maisie looked at the lamps, the fog, and the hideous turmoil. Dick was
right; but horseflesh did not make for Art as she understood it.
'You're very nice sometimes, but you're very foolish more times. I'm not
going to let you give me horses, or take you out of your way to-night. I'll
go home by myself. Only I want you to promise me something. You won't
think any more about that extra threepence, will you? Remember, you've
been paid; and I won't allow you to be spiteful and do bad work for a
little thing like that. You can be so big that you mustn't be tiny.'
This was turning the tables with a vengeance. There remained only to
put Maisie into her hansom.
'Good-bye,' she said simply. 'You'll come on Sunday. It has been a
beautiful day, Dick. Why can't it be like this always?'
'Because love's like line-work: you must go forward or backward; you
can't stand still. By the way, go on with your line-work. Good-night, and,
for my--for my sake, take care of yourself.'
He turned to walk home, meditating. The day had brought him nothing
that he hoped for, but--surely this was worth many days--it had brought
him nearer to Maisie. The end was only a question of time now, and the
prize well worth the waiting. By instinct, once more, he turned to the
'And she understood at once,' he said, looking at the water. 'She found
out my pet besetting sin on the spot, and paid it off. My God, how she
understood! And she said I was better than she was! Better than she
was!' He laughed at the absurdity of the notion. 'I wonder if girls guess
at one-half a man's life. They can't, or--they wouldn't marry us.' He took
her gift out of his pocket, and considered it in the light of a miracle and a
pledge of the comprehension that, one day, would lead to perfect
happiness. Meantime, Maisie was alone in London, with none to save her
from danger. And the packed wilderness was very full of danger.
Dick made his prayer to Fate disjointedly after the manner of the
heathen as he threw the piece of silver into the river. If any evil were to
befal, let him bear the burden and let Maisie go unscathed, since the
threepenny piece was dearest to him of all his possessions. It was a small
coin in itself, but Maisie had given it, and the Thames held it, and surely
the Fates would be bribed for this once.
The drowning of the coin seemed to cut him free from thought of Maisie
for the moment. He took himself off the bridge and went whistling to his
chambers with a strong yearning for some man-talk and tobacco after his
first experience of an entire day spent in the society of a woman. There
was a stronger desire at his heart when there rose before him an
unsolicited vision of the Barralong dipping deep and sailing free for the
And these two, as I have told you,
Were the friends of Hiawatha,
Chibiabos, the musician,
And the very strong man, Kwasind.
TORPENHOW was paging the last sheets of some manuscript, while the
Nilghai, who had come for chess and remained to talk tactics, was
reading through the first part, commenting scornfully the while.
'It's picturesque enough and it's sketchy,' said he; 'but as a serious
consideration of affairs in Eastern Europe, it's not worth much.'
'It's off my hands at any rate. . . . Thirty-seven, thirty-eight, thirty-nine
slips altogether, aren't there? That should make between eleven and
twelve pages of valuable misinformation. Heigho!' Torpenhow shuffled
the writing together and hummed--
Young lambs to sell, young lambs to sell,
If I'd as much money as I could tell,
I never would cry, Young lambs to sell!
Dick entered, self-conscious and a little defiant, but in the best of tempers
with all the world.
'Back at last?' said Torpenhow.
'More or less. What have you been doing?'
'Work. Dickie, you behave as though the Bank of England were behind
you. Here's Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday gone and you haven't done a
line. It's scandalous.'
'The notions come and go, my children--they come and go like our
'baccy,' he answered, filling his pipe. 'Moreover,' he stooped to thrust a
spill into the grate, 'Apollo does not always stretch his---- Oh, confound
your clumsy jests, Nilghai!'
'This is not the place to preach the theory of direct inspiration,' said the
Nilghai, returning Torpenhow's large and workmanlike bellows to their
nail on the wall. 'We believe in cobblers' wax. La!--where you sit down.'
'If you weren't so big and fat,' said Dick, looking round for a weapon,
'No skylarking in my rooms. You two smashed half my furniture last
time you threw the cushions about. You might have the decency to say
How d'you do? to Binkie. Look at him.'
Binkie had jumped down from the sofa and was fawning round Dick's
knee, and scratching at his boots.
'Dear man!' said Dick, snatching him up, and kissing him on the black
patch above his right eye. 'Did ums was, Binks? Did that ugly Nilghai
turn you off the sofa? Bite him, Mr. Binkie.' He pitched him on the
Nilghai's stomach, as the big man lay at ease, and Binkie pretended to
destroy the Nilghai inch by inch, till a sofa cushion extinguished him, and
panting he stuck out his tongue at the company.
'The Binkie-boy went for a walk this morning before you were up, Torp.
I saw him making love to the butcher at the corner when the shutters
were being taken down--just as if he hadn't enough to eat in his own
proper house,' said Dick.
'Binks, is that a true bill?' said Torpenhow, severely. The little dog
retreated under the sofa cushion, and showed by the fat white back of
him that he really had no further interest in the discussion.
'Strikes me that another disreputable dog went for a walk, too,' said the
Nilghai. 'What made you get up so early? Torp said you might be buying
'He knows it would need three of us for a serious business like that. No, I
felt lonesome and unhappy, so I went out to look at the sea, and watch the
pretty ships go by.'
'Where did you go?'
'Somewhere on the Channel. Progly or Snigly, or some watering-place
was its name; I've forgotten; but it was only two hours' run from London
and the ships went by.'
'Did you see anything you knew?'
'Only the Barralong outwards to Australia, and an Odessa grain-boat
loaded down by the head. It was a thick day, but the sea smelt good.'
'Wherefore put on one's best trousers to see the Barralong?' said
'Because I've nothing except these things and my painting duds. Besides,
I wanted to do honour to the sea.'
'Did She make you feel restless?' asked the Nilghai, keenly.
'Crazy. Don't speak of it. I'm sorry I went.'
Torpenhow and the Nilghai exchanged a look as Dick, stooping, busied
himself among the former's boots and trees.
'These will do,' he said at last; 'I can't say I think much of your taste in
slippers, but the fit's the thing.' He slipped his feet into a pair of sock-like
sambhur-skin foot coverings, found a long chair, and lay at length.
'They're my own pet pair,' Torpenhow said. 'I was just going to put them
'All your reprehensible selfishness. Just because you see me happy for a
minute, you want to worry me and stir me up. Find another pair.'
'Good for you that Dick can't wear your clothes, Torp. You two live
communistically,' said the Nilghai.
'Dick never has anything that I can wear. He's only useful to sponge
'Confound you, have you been rummaging round among my clothes,
then?' said Dick. 'I put a sovereign in the tobacco-jar yesterday. How do
you expect a man to keep his accounts properly if you----'
Here the Nilghai began to laugh, and Torpenhow joined him.
'Hid a sovereign yesterday! You're no sort of financier. You lent me a
fiver about a month back. Do you remember?' Torpenhow said.
'Yes, of course.'
'Do you remember that I paid it you ten days later, and you put it at the
bottom of the tobacco?'
'By Jove, did I? I thought it was in one of my colour-boxes.'
'You thought! About a week ago I went into your studio to get some
'baccy and found it.'
'What did you do with it?'
'Took the Nilghai to a theatre and fed him.'
'You couldn't feed the Nilghai under twice the money--not though you
gave him Army beef. Well, I suppose I should have found it out sooner or
later. What is there to laugh at?'
'You're a most amazing cuckoo in many directions,' said the Nilghai, still
chuckling over the thought of the dinner. 'Never mind. We had both been
working very hard, and it was your unearned increment we spent, and as
you're only a loafer it didn't matter.'
'That's pleasant--from the man who is bursting with my meat, too. I'll get
that dinner back one of these days. Suppose we go to a theatre now.'
'Put our boots on,--and dress,--and wash?' The Nilghai spoke very lazily.
'I withdraw the motion.'
'Suppose, just for a change--as a startling variety, you know--we, that is
to say we, get our charcoal and our canvas and go on with our work.'
Torpenhow spoke pointedly, but Dick only wriggled his toes inside the
soft leather moccasins.
'What a one-ideaed clucker that is! If I had any unfinished figures on
hand, I haven't any model; if I had my model, I haven't any spray, and I
never leave charcoal unfixed overnight; and if I had my spray and
twenty photographs of backgrounds, I couldn't do anything to-night. I
don't feel that way.'
'Binkie-dog, he's a lazy hog, isn't he?' said the Nilghai.
'Very good, I will do some work,' said Dick, rising swiftly. 'I'll fetch the
Nungapunga Book, and we'll add another picture to the Nilghai Saga.'
'Aren't you worrying him a little too much?' asked the Nilghai, when
Dick had left the room.
'Perhaps, but I know what he can turn out if he likes. It makes me savage
to hear him praised for past work when I know what he ought to do. You
and I are arranged for----'
'By Kismet and our own powers, more's the pity. I have dreamed of a
'So have I, but we know our limitations now. I'm dashed if I know what
Dick's may be when he gives himself to his work. That's what makes me
so keen about him.'
'And when all's said and done, you will be put aside--quite rightly--for a
'I wonder . . . Where do you think he has been to-day?'
'To the sea. Didn't you see the look in his eyes when he talked about her?
He's as restless as a swallow in autumn.'
'Yes; but did he go alone?'
'I don't know, and I don't care, but he has the beginnings of the go-fever
upon him. He wants to up-stakes and move out. There's no mistaking the
signs. Whatever he may have said before, he has the call upon him now.'
'It might be his salvation,' Torpenhow said.
'Perhaps--if you care to take the responsibility of being a saviour.'
Dick returned with the big clasped sketch-book that the Nilghai knew
well and did not love too much. In it Dick had drawn all manner of
moving incidents, experienced by himself or related to him by the others,
of all the four corners of the earth. But the wider range of the Nilghai's
body and life attracted him most. When truth failed he fell back on
fiction of the wildest, and represented incidents in the Nilghai's career
that were unseemly,--his marriages with many African princesses, his
shameless betrayal, for Arab wives, of an army corps to the Mahdi, his
tattooment by skilled operators in Burmah, his interview (and his fears)
with the yellow headsman in the blood-stained execution-ground of
Canton, and finally, the passings of his spirit into the bodies of whales,
elephants, and toucans. Torpenhow from time to time had added rhymed
descriptions, and the whole was a curious piece of art, because Dick
decided, having regard to the name of the book which being interpreted
means 'naked,' that it would be wrong to draw the Nilghai with any
clothes on, under any circumstances. Consequently the last sketch,
representing that much-enduring man calling on the War Office to press
his claims to the Egyptian medal, was hardly delicate. He settled himself
comfortably on Torpenhow's table and turned over the pages.
'What a fortune you would have been to Blake, Nilghai!' he said. 'There's
a succulent pinkness about some of these sketches that's more than
life-like. "The Nilghai surrounded while bathing by the Mahdieh"--that
was founded on fact, eh?'
'It was very nearly my last bath, you irreverent dauber. Has Binkie come
into the Saga yet?'
'No; the Binkie-boy hasn't done anything except eat and kill cats. Let's
see. Here you are as a stained-glass saint in a church. Deuced decorative
lines about your anatomy; you ought to be grateful for being handed
down to posterity in this way. Fifty years hence you'll exist in rare and
curious facsimiles at ten guineas each. What shall I try this time? The
domestic life of the Nilghai?'
'Hasn't got any.'
'The undomestic life of the Nilghai, then. Of course. Mass-meeting of his
wives in Trafalgar Square. That's it. They came from the ends of the
earth to attend Nilghai's wedding to an English bride. This shall be an
epic. It's a sweet material to work with.'
'It's a scandalous waste of time,' said Torpenhow.
'Don't worry; it keeps one's hand in--specially when you begin without
the pencil.' He set to work rapidly. 'That's Nelson's Column. Presently
the Nilghai will appear shinning up it.'
'Give him some clothes this time.'
'Certainly--a veil and an orange-wreath, because he's been married.'
'Gad, that's clever enough!' said Torpenhow over his shoulder, as Dick
brought out of the paper with three twirls of the brush a very fat back
and labouring shoulder pressed against stone.
'Just imagine,' Dick continued, 'if we could publish a few of these dear
little things every time the Nilghai subsidises a man who can write, to
give the public an honest opinion of my pictures.'
'Well, you'll admit I always tell you when I have done anything of that
kind. I know I can't hammer you as you ought to be hammered, so I give
the job to another. Young Maclagan, for instance----'
'No-o--one half-minute, old man; stick your hand out against the dark of
the wall-paper--you only burble and call me names. That left shoulder's
out of drawing. I must literally throw a veil over that. Where's my
pen-knife? Well, what about Maclagan?'
'I only gave him his riding-orders to--to lambast you on general
principles for not producing work that will last.'
'Whereupon that young fool,'--Dick threw back his head and shut one
eye as he shifted the page under his hand,--'being left alone with an
ink-pot and what he conceived were his own notions, went and spilt them
both over me in the papers. You might have engaged a grown man for
the business, Nilghai. How do you think the bridal veil looks now, Torp?'
'How the deuce do three dabs and two scratches make the stuff stand
away from the body as it does?' said Torpenhow, to whom Dick's
methods were always new.
'It just depends on where you put 'em. If Maclagan had know that much
about his business he might have done better.'
'Why don't you put the damned dabs into something that will stay, then?'
insisted the Nilghai, who had really taken considerable trouble in hiring
for Dick's benefit the pen of a young gentleman who devoted most of his
waking hours to an anxious consideration of the aims and ends of Art,
which, he wrote, was one and indivisible.
'Wait a minute till I see how I am going to manage my procession of
wives. You seem to have married extensively, and I must rough 'em in
with the pencil--Medes, Parthians, Edomites. . . . Now, setting aside the
weakness and the wickedness and--and the fat-headedness of deliberately
trying to do work that will live, as they call it, I'm content with the
knowledge that I've done my best up to date, and I shan't do anything
like it again for some hours at least--probably years. Most probably
'What! any stuff you have in stock your best work?' said Torpenhow.
'Anything you've sold?' said the Nilghai.
'Oh no. It isn't here and it isn't sold. Better than that, it can't be sold, and
I don't think any one knows where it is. I'm sure I don't. . . . And yet
more and more wives, on the north side of the square. Observe the
virtuous horror of the lions!'
'You may as well explain,' said Torpenhow, and Dick lifted his head from
'The sea reminded me of it,' he said slowly. 'I wish it hadn't. It weighs
some few thousand tons--unless you cut it out with a cold chisel.'
'Don't be an idiot. You can't pose with us here,' said the Nilghai.
'There's no pose in the matter at all. It's a fact. I was loafing from Lima
to Auckland in a big, old, condemned passenger-ship turned into a
cargo-boat and owned by a second-had Italian firm. She was a crazy
basket. We were cut down to fifteen ton of coal a day, and we thought
ourselves lucky when we kicked seven knots an hour out of her. Then we
used to stop and let the bearings cool down, and wonder whether the
crack in the shaft was spreading.'
'Were you a steward or a stoker in those days?'
'I was flush for the time being, so I was a passenger, or else I should have
been a steward, I think,' said Dick, with perfect gravity, returning to the
procession of angry wives. 'I was the only other passenger from Lima,
and the ship was half empty, and full of rats and cockroaches and
'But what has this to do with the picture?'
'Wait a minute. She had been in the China passenger trade and her lower
decks had bunks for two thousand pigtails. Those were all taken down,
and she was empty up to her nose, and the lights came through the port
holes--most annoying lights to work in till you got used to them. I hadn't
anything to do for weeks. The ship's charts were in pieces and our
skipper daren't run south for fear of catching a storm. So he did his best
to knock all the Society Islands out of the water one by one, and I went
into the lower deck, and did my picture on the port side as far forward in
her as I could go. There was some brown paint and some green paint that
they used for the boats, and some black paint for ironwork, and that was
all I had.'
'The passengers must have thought you mad.'
'There was only one, and it was a woman; but it gave me the notion of
'What was she like?' said Torpenhow.
'She was a sort of Negroid-Jewess-Cuban; with morals to match. She
couldn't read or write, and she didn't want to, but she used to come down
and watch me paint, and the skipper didn't like it, because he was paying
her passage and had to be on the bridge occasionally.'
'I see. That must have been cheerful.'
'It was the best time I ever had. To begin with, we didn't know whether
we should go up or go down any minute when there was a sea on; and
when it was calm it was paradise; and the woman used to mix the paints
and talk broken English, and the skipper used to steal down every few
minutes to the lower deck, because he said he was afraid of fire. So, you
see, we could never tell when we might be caught, and I had a splendid
notion to work out in only three keys of colour.'
'What was the notion?'
'Two lines in Poe--
Neither the angles in Heaven above nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul of the beautiful Annabel Lee.
It came out of the sea--all by itself. I drew that fight, fought out in green
water over the naked, choking soul, and the woman served as the model
for the devils and the angels both--sea-devils and sea-angels, and the soul
half drowned between them. It doesn't sound much, but when there was
a good light on the lower deck it looked very fine and creepy. It was
seven by fourteen feet, all done in shifting light for shifting light.'
'Did the woman inspire you much?' said Torpenhow.
'She and the sea between them--immensely. There was a heap of bad
drawing in that picture. I remember I went out of my way to foreshorten
for sheer delight of doing it, and I foreshortened damnably, but for all
that it's the best thing I've ever done; and now I suppose the ship's
broken up or gone down. Whew! What a time that was!'
'What happened after all?'
'It all ended. They were loading her with wool when I left the ship, but
even the stevedores kept the picture clear to the last. The eyes of the
demons scared them, I honestly believe.'
'And the woman?'
'She was scared too when it was finished. She used to cross herself before
she went down to look at it. Just three colours and no chance of getting
any more, and the sea outside and unlimited love-making inside, and the
fear of death atop of everything else, O Lord!' He had ceased to look at
the sketch, but was staring straight in front of him across the room.
'Why don't you try something of the same kind now?' said the Nilghai.
'Because those things come not by fasting and prayer. When I find a
cargo-boat and a Jewess-Cuban and another notion and the same old life,
'You won't find them here,' said the Nilghai.
'No, I shall not.' Dick shut the sketch-book with a bang. 'This room's as
hot as an oven. Open the window, some one.'
He leaned into the darkness, watching the greater darkness of London
below him. The chambers stood much higher than the other houses,
commanding a hundred chimneys--crooked cowls that looked like sitting
cats as they swung round, and other uncouth brick and zinc mysteries
supported by iron stanchions and clamped by 8-pieces. Northward the
lights of Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square threw a copper-coloured
glare above the black roofs, and southward by all the orderly lights of the
Thames. A train rolled out across one of the railway bridges, and its
thunder drowned for a minute the dull roar of the streets. The Nilghai
looked at his watch and said shortly, 'That's the Paris night-mail. You
can book from here to St. Petersburg if you choose.'
Dick crammed head and shoulders out of the window and looked across
the river. Torpenhow came to his side, while the Nilghai passed over
quietly to the piano and opened it. Binkie, making himself as large as
possible, spread out upon the sofa with the air of one who is not to be
'Well,' said the Nilghai to the two pairs of shoulders, 'have you never
seen this place before?'
A steam-tug on the river hooted as she towed her barges to wharf. Then
the boom of the traffic came into the room. Torpenhow nudged Dick.
'Good place to bank in--bad place to bunk in, Dickie, isn't it?'
Dick's chin was in his hand as he answered, in the words of a general not
without fame, still looking out on the darkness--'"My God, what a city to
Binkie found the night air tickling his whiskers and sneezed plaintively.
'We shall give the Binkie-dog a cold,' said Torpenhow. 'Come in,' and
they withdrew their heads. 'You'll be buried in Kensal Green, Dick, one
of these days, if it isn't closed by the time you want to go there--buried
within two feet of some one else, his wife and his family.'
'Allah forbid! I shall get away before that time comes. Give a man room
to stretch his legs, Mr. Binkie.' Dick flung himself down on the sofa and
tweaked Binkie's velvet ears, yawning heavily the while.
'You'll find that wardrobe-case very much out of tune,' Torpenhow said
to the Nilghai. 'It's never touched except by you.'
'A piece of gross extravagance,' Dick grunted. 'The Nilghai only comes
when I'm out.'
'That's because you're always out. Howl, Nilghai, and let him hear.'?
'The life of the Nilghai is fraud and slaughter,
His writings are watered Dickens and water;
But the voice of the Nilghai raised on high
Makes even the Mahdieh glad to die!'?
Dick quoted from Torpenhow's letterpress in the Nungapunga Book.
'How do they call moose in Canada, Nilghai?'
The man laughed. Singing was his one polite accomplishment, as many
Press-tents in far-off lands had known.
'What shall I sing?' said he, turning in the chair.
'"Moll Roe in the Morning,"' said Torpenhow, at a venture.
'No,' said Dick, sharply, and the Nilghai opened his eyes. The old chanty
Back to Full Books