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   Chapter 35 No.35

December Love By Robert Hichens Characters: 2891

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


That evening Miss Van Tuyn learnt through the telephone from Lady Sellingworth what had happened in Dick Garstin's studio during the previous night. On the following morning at breakfast time she learnt from Sir Seymour that the flat in Rose Tree Gardens had been abruptly deserted by its tenant, who had left very early the day before.

She was free from persecution, and, of course, she realized her freedom; but, so strange are human impulses, she was at first unable to be happy in her knowledge that the burden of fear had been lifted from her. The misfortune which had fallen on Dick Garstin obsessed her mind. Her egoism was drowned in her passionate anger at what Arabian had done. She went early to the studio and found Garstin there alone.

"Hulloh, Beryl, my girl!" he said, in his usual offhand manner. "Come round to see the remains?"

"Oh, Dick!" she exclaimed, grasping his hand. "Oh, I'm so grieved, so horrified! What an awful thing to happen to you! And it's all my fault! Where-what have you done with-"

"What's left do you mean? Go and see for yourself."

She hurried upstairs to the studio. When he followed he found her standing before the mutilated picture, which was still in its place, with tears rolling down her flushed cheeks.

"Good God! Beryl! What's up? What are you whimpering about?"

"How you must hate me!" she said, in a broken voice. "How you must hate me!"

"Rubbish! What for?"

"This has

all happened because of me. If it hadn't been for me you would never have painted him."

"I painted the fellow to please myself."

"But I asked you to get him to come here."

"What you ask, or don't ask, doesn't bother me."

She gazed at him through her tears as if in surprise.

"Dick, I never thought you could be like this," she said.

"Like what? What's all the fuss about?" he exclaimed irritably.

"I always thought you were really a brute."

"That showed your sound judgment."

"How can you take it like this? Your masterpiece-ruined! For you'll never do anything like it again."

"That's probably gospel truth. My girl, you are standing in front of my epitaph on the Cafe Royal. There it is. Look well at it! I've buried my past, and I'm going to start again. And who do you think is to be my next victim?"

"Who?"

"You'll never guess-a gentleman!"

"A gentleman? What do you mean, Dick? The word has gone out."

"But not the thing, thank God, so long as Sir Seymour Portman keeps about on his dear old pins."

"You are going to paint Sir Seymour?"

"I am! Think I can do him?"

She looked at him for a moment, and her violet eyes searched him as if to see whether he were worthy. Then she said soberly:

"Yes, Dick."

"Then let's turn the damned epitaph with its hole to the wall!"

And he lifted what remained of Arabian's portrait from the easel and threw it into a dark corner of the studio.

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