MoboReader> Literature > December Love

   Chapter 11 No.11

December Love By Robert Hichens Characters: 38122

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


Lady Sellingworth was "not at home" when Miss Van Tuyn called, though no doubt she was in the house, and the latter left her card, on which she wrote in pencil, "So sorry not to find you. Do let us meet again soon. I may not be in London much longer." When she wrote the last sentence she was really thinking of Paris with a certain irritation of desire. In Paris she always had a good, even a splendid, time. London was treating her badly. Perhaps it was hardly worth while to stay on. She had many adorers in Paris, and no elderly women there ever got in her way. Frenchmen never ran after elderly women. She could not conceive of any young Frenchman doing what Craven had done if offered the choice between a girl of twenty-two and a woman of sixty. Englishmen really were incomprehensible. Was it worth while to bother about them? Probably not. But she was by nature combative as well as vain, and Craven's behaviour had certainly given him a greater value in her estimation. If he had done the quite ordinary thing, and fallen in love with her at once, she might have been pleased and yet have thought very little of him. He would then have been in a class with many others. Now he was decidedly in a class by himself. If he loved he would not be an ordinary lover. She was angry with him. She intended some day to punish him. But he puzzled her, and very definitely now he attracted her.

No; really she would not go back to Paris of the open arms and the comprehensible behaviour without coming to conclusions with Craven. To do so would be to retreat practically beaten from the field, and she had never yet acknowledged a defeat.

Besides, she had something in prospect, something that for the moment, at any rate, would hold her in London even without the attraction, half repellent, of Craven. Evidently Dick Garstin, for whatever reason, had done something, or was about to do something, for her. Always he managed to be irritating. It was just like him to spend two hours alone with her without saying one word about the living bronze, and then to rouse her curiosity when it was impossible that it should be gratified owing to the presence of Braybrooke. Garstin could never do anything in a pleasant and comfortable way. He must always, even in kindness, be semi-malicious. There was at times something almost Satanic in his ingenious avoidance of the common humanities. But it seemed that he was about to comply with her expressed whim. He had surely spoken to the Cafe Royal man, and had perhaps already received from him a promise to visit the studio.

She had not seen the stranger again. He had not been at the Cafe Royal on the night when she had dined there alone. But Garstin must have seen him again, unless, indeed, Garstin was being absolutely disgusting, was condescending to a cheap and vulgar hoax.

That was just possible. But somehow she believed in Garstin this time. She felt almost sure that he had done what she wished, and that to-morrow afternoon in Glebe Place she would meet the man to whom she had offered the shilling.

That would be distinctly amusing. She felt on the edge of a rather uncommon adventure.

On the following day, very soon after three, she pushed the bell outside Garstin's studio door in Glebe Place. It was not answered immediately, and, feeling impatient, she rang again without waiting long. Garstin opened the door, and smiled rather maliciously on seeing her.

"What a hurry you're in!" he said. "Come along in, my girl."

As he shut the heavy door behind her she turned in the lobby and said:

"Well, Dick?"

"I'm working in the upstairs studio," he returned blandly.

"What are you at work on?"

"Go up and you'll see for yourself."

She hastened through the studio on the ground floor, which was hung with small landscapes, and sketches in charcoal, and audacious caricatures of various well-known people. At the end of it was a short and wide staircase. She mounted it swiftly, and came into another large studio built out at the back of the building. Here Garstin worked on his portraits, and here she expected to come face to face with the living bronze. As she drew near to the entrance of the studio she felt positive that he was waiting for her. But when she reached it and looked quickly and expectantly round she saw at once that the great room was empty. Only the few portraits on easels and on the pale walls looked at her with the vivid eyes which Garstin knew how to endow with an almost abnormal life.

Evidently Garstin had stopped below for a moment in the ground floor studio, but she now heard his heavy tramp on the stairs behind her and turned almost angrily.

"Dick, is this intended for a joke?"

"What do you mean by 'this'?"

"You know! Have you brought me here under false pretences? You know quite well why I came."

"Why don't you take off your hat?"

But for once Miss Van Tuyn's vanity was not on the alert; for once she did not care whether Garstin admired her head or not.

"I shall not take off my hat," she said brusquely. "I don't intend to stay unless there is the reason which I expected and which induced me to come here. Have you seen that remarkable-looking man again or not?"

"I have," said Garstin with a mischievous smile.

Miss Van Tuyn looked slightly mollified, but still uncertain.

"Did you speak to him?" she asked.

"I did."

"What did he say?"

"I told him to come along to the studio."

"You did! And-?"

"Why don't you take off your hat?"

"Because it suits me particularly well. Now tell me at once, don't be malicious and tiresome-are you expecting him?"

"I couldn't say that."

"You are not expecting him!"

"My good girl, we expect from those we rely on. What do I know about this fellow's character? I told him who I was, and what I wanted with him, and that I wanted it with him at three this afternoon. He's got the address. But whether we have any reason to expect him is more than I can say."

She looked quickly at the watch on her wrist.

"It is past three. I was late."

After an instant of silence she sat down on an old-fashioned sofa covered with dull green and red silk. Just behind it on an easel stood a half-finished portrait of the Cora woman, staring with hungry eyes over an empty tumbler.

"Give me a cigarette, Dick," she said. "Did he say he would come?"

The painter went over to an old Spanish cabinet and rummaged for a box of cigarettes, with his horsey-looking back turned towards her.

"Did he?" she repeated. "Can't you tell me what happened when you spoke to him? Why force me to cross-examine you in this indelicate way?"

"Here you are!" said Garstin, turning round with a box of cigarettes.

"Thank you."

"I gave him my name."

"He knew it, of course?"

"He didn't say so. There was no celebrity-start of pleasure. I had to explain that I occasionally painted portraits and that I wished to make a study of his damned remarkable head. Upon that he handed me his card. Here it is."

And Garstin drew out of a side pocket a visiting-card, which he gave to Miss Van Tuyn.

She read: "Nicolas Arabian."

There was no address in the corner.

"What a curious name!"

She sat gazing at the card and smoking her cigarette.

"Do you know where he is staying?"

"No."

"Did you speak English to him?"

"I did."

"And he spoke good English?"

"Yes, with a foreign accent of some kind."

At this moment an electric bell sounded below.

"There he is!" said Miss Van Tuyn, quickly giving back the card to Garstin, who dropped it into his pocket. "Do go down quickly and let him in, or he may think it is all a hoax and go away."

The painter stood looking at her keenly, with his hands in his pockets and his strong, thin legs rather wide apart.

"Well, at any rate you're damned unconventional!" he said. "At this moment you even look unconventional. What are your eyes shining about?"

"Dick-do go!"

She laid a hand on his arm. There was a strong grip in her fingers.

"This is a little adventure. And I love an adventure," she said.

"I only hope it ends badly," said Garstin, as he turned towards the staircase. "He's more patient than you. He hasn't rung twice."

"I believe he's gone away," she said, almost angrily as he disappeared down the stairs.

She got up. There was a grand piano in the studio at the far end. She moved as if she were going towards it, then returned and went to the head of the stairs. She heard the front door open and listened. Dick Garstin's big bass voice said in an offhand tone:

"Halloh! Thought you weren't coming! Glad to see you. Come along in!"

"I know I am late," said a warm voice-the voice of a man. "For me this place has been rather difficult to find. I am not well acquainted with the painters' quarter of London."

A door banged heavily. Then Miss Van Tuyn heard steps, and again the warm voice saying:

"I see you do caricatures. Or are these not by you?"

"Every one of them!" said Garstin. "Except that. That's a copy I made of one of Leonardo's horrors. It's fine. It's a thing to live with."

"Leonardo-ah, yes!" said the voice.

"I wonder if that man has ever heard of Leonardo?" was Miss Van Tuyn's thought just then.

"Up those stairs right ahead of you," said Garstin.

Miss Van Tuyn quickly drew back and sat down again on the sofa. An instant after she had done so the living bronze appeared at the top of the stairs, and his big brown eyes rested on her. No expression either of surprise, or of anything else, came into his face as he saw her. And she realized immediately that whatever else this man was he was supremely self-possessed. Yet he had turned away from her shilling. Why was that? In that moment she began to wonder about him. He stood still, waiting for Garstin to join him. As he did this he looked formal but amazingly handsome, though there were some lines about his eyes which she had not noticed in the Cafe Royal. He was dressed in a dark town suit and wore a big double-breasted overcoat. He was holding a black bowler hat, a pair of thick white gloves and a silver-topped stick. As Garstin joined him, Miss Van Tuyn slowly got up from her sofa.

"A friend of mine-Beryl Van Tuyn," said Garstin. "Come to have a look round at what I'm up to." (He glanced at Miss Van Tuyn.) "Mr. Arabian," he added. "Take off your coat, won't you? Throw it anywhere."

Arabian bowed to Miss Van Tuyn, still looking formal and as if she were a total stranger whom he had never set eyes on before. She bowed to him. As she did so she thought that he was a little older than she had supposed. He was certainly over thirty. She wondered about his nationality and suspected that very mixed blood ran in his veins. Somehow, in spite of his quite extraordinary good looks, she felt almost certain that he was not a pure type of any nation. In her mind she dubbed him on the spot "a marvellous mongrel."

He obeyed Garstin's suggestion, took off his coat, and laid it with his hat, gloves and stick on a chair close to the staircase. Then for the first time he spoke to Miss Van Tuyn, who was still standing.

"I always love a studio, mademoiselle," he said, "and when Mr. Dick Garstin"-he pronounced the name with careful clearness-"was good enough to invite me to his I was very thankful. His pictures are famous."

"You've been getting me up," said Garstin bluntly. "Reading 'Who's Who'!"

Arabian raised his eyebrows.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Don't be absurd and put on false modesty, Dick," said Miss Van Tuyn. "As if you weren't known to everyone!"

It was the first time she had spoken in Arabian's hearing since the episode in Shaftesbury Avenue, and, as she uttered her first words, she thought she detected a faint and fleeting look of surprise-it was like a mental start made visible-slip over his face, like a ray of pale light slipping over a surface. Immediately afterwards a keen expression came into his eyes, and he looked rather more self-possessed than before, rather harder even.

"Everyone, of course, knows your name, Mr. Dick Garstin, as mademoiselle says."

"Right you are!" said Garstin gruffly. "Glad to hear it!"

He now directed the two pin-points of light to the new visitor, stared at him with almost cruel severity, and yet with a curiously inward look, frowning and lifting his long pursed lips, till the upper lip was pressed against the bottom of his beaked nose.

"Are you going to allow me to paint you?" he said. "That's what I'm after. I should like to do a head and bust of you. I could make something of it-something-yes!"

He still stared with concentrated attention, and suddenly a faint whistle came from his lips. Without removing his eyes from Arabian he whistled several times a little tune of five notes, like the song of a thrush. Arabian meanwhile returned his gaze rather doubtfully, slightly smiling.

"Ever been painted?" said Garstin at last.

"No, never. Once I have sat to a sculptor for the figure. But that was when I was very young. I was something of an athlete as a boy."

"I should say so," said Garstin. "Well, what do you think, eh?"

Miss Van Tuyn had sat down on the sofa again, and was lighting another cigarette. She looked at the two men with interest. She now knew that what Garstin had done he had really done for himself, not for her. As he had said, he did not paint for the pleasure of others, but only for reasons of his own. Apparently he would never gratify her vanity. But he gratified something else in her, her genuine love of talent and the ruthlessness of talent. There was really something of the great man in Garstin, and she appreciated it. She admired him more than she liked him. Even in her frequent irritation against him she knew what he genuinely was. At this moment something in her was sharply disappointed. But something else in her was curiously satisfied.

In reply to Garstin's question Arabian asked another question.

"You wish to make a portrait of me?"

"I do-in oils."

"Will it take long?"

"I couldn't say. I might be a week over it, or less, or more. I shall want you every day."

"And when it is done?" said Arabian. "What happens to it?"

"If it's up to the mark-my mark-I shall want to exhibit it."

Arabian said nothing for a moment. He seemed to be thinking rather seriously, and presently his large eyes turned towards Miss Van Tuyn for an instant, almost, she thought, as if they wished to consult her, to read in her eyes something which might help him to a decision. She felt that the man was flattered by Garstin's request, but she felt also that something-she did not know what-held him back from granting it. And again she wondered about him.

What was he? She could not divine. She looked at him and felt that she was looking at a book not one of whose pages she could read. And yet she thought he had what is sometimes called an "open" face. There was nothing sly in the expression of his eyes. They met other eyes steadily, sometimes with a sort of frank audacity, sometimes with-apparently-an almost pleading wistfulness.

Finally, as if coming to a conclusion as to what he considered it wise to do for the moment, Arabian said:

"Excuse me, but are these pictures which I see portraits painted by you?"

"Every one of them," said Garstin, rather roughly and impatiently.

"Will you allow me to look at them?"

"They're there to be looked at."

Again Arabian glanced at Miss Van Tuyn. She got up from the sofa quickly.

"I will show Mr. Arabian the pictures," she said.

She had noticed the cloud lowering on Garstin's face and knew that he was irritated by Arabian's hesitation. As Garstin had once said to her he could be "sensitive," although his manners were often rough, and his face was what is usually called a "hard" face. And he was quite unaccustomed to meet with any resistance, even with any hesitation, when he was disposed to paint anyone, man or woman. Besides, the fact of Arabian's arrival at the studio had naturally led Garstin to expect compliance with his wish already expressed at the Cafe Royal. He was now obviously in a surly temper, and Miss Van Tuyn knew from experience that when resisted he was quite capable of an explosion. How, she wondered, would Arabian face an outburst from Garstin? She could not tell. But she thought it wise if possible to avoid anything disagreeable. So she came forward smiling.

"That will be very kind," said Arabian, in his soft and warm voice, and with his marked but charming foreign accent. "I am not expert in these matters."

Garstin pushed up his lips in a sort of sneer. Miss Van Tuyn sent him a look, and for once he heeded a wish of hers.

"I'll be back in a minute," he said. "Have a good stare at my stuff, and if you don't like it-why, damn it, you're free to say so."

Miss Van Tuyn's look had sent him away down the stairs to the ground floor studio. Arabian had not missed her message, but he was apparently quite impassive, and did not show that he had noticed the painter's ill humour.

For the first time Miss Van Tuyn was quite alone with the living bronze.

"Do you know much about pictures?" she asked him.

"Not very much," he answered, with a long, soft look at her. "I have only one way to judge them."

"And what way is that?"

"If they are portraits, I mean."

"Yes?"

"I judge them by their humanity. One does not want to be made worse than one is in a picture."

"I'm afraid you won't like Dick Garstin's work," she said decisively.

She was rather disappointed. Had this audaciously handsome man a cult for the pretty-pretty?

"Let us see!" he replied, smiling.

He looked round the big studio. As he did so she noticed that he had an extraordinarily quick and all-seeing glance, and realized that in some way, in some direction, he must be clever, even exceptionally clever. There were some eight to ten portraits in the studio, a few finished, others half finished or only just begun. Arabian went first to stand before the finished portrait of a girl of about eighteen, whose face was already plainly marked-blurred, not sharpened-by vice. Her youth seemed obscured by a faint fog of vice-as if she had projected it, and was slightly withdrawn behind it. Arabian looked at her in silence. Miss Van Tuyn watched him, standing back, not quite level with him. And she saw on his face an expression that suggested to her a man contemplating something he was very much at home with.

"That is a bad girl!" was his only comment, as he moved on to the next picture.

This was also the portrait of a woman, but of a woman well on in life, an elderly and battered siren of the streets, wrecked by men and by drink. Only the head and bust were shown, a withered head crowning a bust which had sunken in. There was an old pink hat set awry on the head. From beneath it escaped coarse wisps of almost orange-coloured hair. The dull, small eyes were deep-set under brows which looked feverish. A livid spot of

red glowed almost like a torch-end on each high cheek-bone. The mouth had fallen open.

Arabian examined this tragedy, which was one of Garstin's finest bits of work in Miss Van Tuyn's estimation, with careful and close attention, but without showing the faintest symptom of either pity or disgust.

"In my opinion that is well painted," was his comment. "They do get to be like that. And then they starve. And that is because they have no brains."

"Garstin swears that woman must once have been very beautiful," said Miss Van Tuyn.

"Oh-quite possible," said Arabian.

"Well, I can't conceive it."

He turned and gave her a long, steady look, full of softness and ardour.

"It would be very sad if you could," he said. "Excuse me, but are you American?"

"Yes."

"Well, Americans never get like that. They are too practical."

"And not romantic-do you mean?" she said, not without irony.

"They can be romantic, but they save themselves from disaster with their practical sense. I hope I put it right."

She smiled at him.

"You speak very good English. What do you think of this?"

"But I have seen her!" he said.

They had come to the easel on which was the half-finished portrait of Cora, staring across her empty glass.

"She goes to the Cafe Royal."

He looked again at Miss Van Tuyn.

"Do you ever go there?" he asked gravely.

"No, never," she said with calm simplicity, returning his gaze.

"Well she-that woman-sits there alone just like that. She has a purpose. She is waiting for someone to come in who will come some night. And she knows that, and will wait, like a dog before a hole which contains something he intends to kill. This Mr. Dick Garstin is very clever. He is more than a painter; he is an understander."

"Ah!" she said, intimately pleased by this remark. "You do appreciate him! Garstin is great because he paints not merely for the eye that looks for a sort of painted photograph, but for the eye that demands a summing up of character."

Arabian looked sideways at her.

"What is that-of character, mademoiselle?"

"A summing up! That is a presentation of the sum total of the character."

"Oh, yes."

He looked again at Cora.

"One knows what she is by that," he said.

Then, standing still, he looked rapidly all round the studio, glancing first at one portrait then at another, with eyes which despite their lustrous softness, seemed to make a sort of prey of whatever they lighted on.

"But they are all women and all of a certain world!" he said, almost suspiciously. "Why is that?"

"Garstin is passing through a phase just now. He paints from the Cafe Royal."

"Oh!"

He paused, and his brown face took on a look of rather hard meditation.

"Does he never paint what they call decent people?" he inquired. "One may occasionally spend an hour at the Cafe Royal-especially if one is not English-without belonging to the bas-fonds. I do not know whether Mr. Dick Garstin understands that."

"Of course he does," she said, instantly grasping the meaning of his hesitation. "But there is one portrait-of a man-which I don't think you have looked at."

"Where?"

"On that big easel with its back to us. If you want a decent person"-she spoke with a slightly ironical intonation-"go and see what Garstin can do with decency."

"I will."

And he walked over to the side of the room opposite to the grand piano, and went to stand in front of the easel she had indicated. She stood where she was and watched him. For two or three minutes he looked at the picture in silence, and she thought his expression had become slightly hostile. His audacious and rather thick lips were set together firmly, almost too firmly. His splendid figure supple, athletic and harmonious, looked almost rigid. She wondered what he was feeling, whether he disliked the portrait of the judge of the Criminal Court at which he was looking. Finally he said:

"I think Mr. Dick Garstin is a humorist. Do not you?"

"But-why?"

"To put this gentleman in the midst of all the law breakers."

Miss Van Tuyn crossed the room and joined him in front of the picture, which showed the judge seated in his wig and robes.

"And that is not all," added Arabian. "This man's business is to judge others, naughty people who do God knows what, and, it seems, have to be punished sometimes. Is it not?"

"Yes, to be sure."

"But Mr. Dick Garstin when painting him is saying to himself all the time, 'And he is naughty, too! And who is going to put on wig and red clothes and tell him he, too, deserves a few months of prison?' Now is not that true, mademoiselle? Is not that man bad underneath the judge's skin? And has not Mr. Dick Garstin found this out, and does not he use all his cleverness to show it?"

Miss Van Tuyn looked at Arabian with a stronger interest than any she had shown yet. It was quite true. Garstin had a peculiar faculty for getting at the lower parts of a character and for bringing it to the surface in his portraits. Perhaps in the exercise of this faculty he showed his ingrained cynicism, sometimes even his malice. Arabian had, it seemed, immediately discovered the painter's predominant quality as a psychologist of the brush.

"You are quite right," she said. "One feels that someone ought to judge that judge."

"That is more than a portrait of one man," said Arabian. "It is a portrait of the world's hypocrisy."

In saying this his usually soft voice suddenly took on an almost biting tone.

"The question is," he added, "whether one wishes to be painted as bad when perhaps one is not so bad. Many people, I think, might fear to be painted by this very famous Mr. Dick Garstin."

"Would you be afraid to be painted by him?" she said.

He cast a sharp glance at her with eyes which looked suddenly vigilant.

"I did not say that."

"He'll be furious if you refuse."

"I see he is accustomed generally to have what he wishes."

"Yes. And he would make a magnificent thing of you. I am certain of that."

She saw vanity looking out of his eyes, and her vanity felt suddenly almost strangely at home with it.

"It is a compliment, I know, that he should wish to paint me," said Arabian. "But why does he?"

The question sounded to Miss Van Tuyn almost suspicious.

"He admires your appearance," she answered. "He thinks you a very striking type."

"Ah! A type! But what of?"

"He didn't tell me," she answered.

Arabian was silent for a moment; then he said:

"Does Mr. Dick Garstin get high prices for his portraits? Are they worth a great deal?"

"Yes," she said, with a sudden light touch of disdain, which she could not forego. "The smallest sketch of a head painted by him will fetch a lot of money."

"Ah-indeed!"

"Let him paint you! There he is-coming back."

As Garstin reappeared Arabian turned to him with a smile that looked cordial and yet that seemed somehow wanting in real geniality.

"I have seen them all."

"Have you? Well, let's have a drink."

He went over to the Spanish cabinet and brought out of it a flagon of old English glass ware, soda-water, and three tall tulip-shaped glasses with long stems.

"Come on. Let's sit down," he said, setting them down on a table. "I'll get the cigars. Squat here, Beryl. Here's a chair for you, Arabian. Help yourselves."

He moved off and returned with a box of his deadly cigars. Arabian took one without hesitation, and accepted a stiff whisky and soda. While he had been downstairs Garstin had apparently recovered his good humour, or had deliberately made up his mind to take a certain line with his guest from the Cafe Royal. He said nothing about his pictures, made no further allusion to his wish to paint Arabian's portrait, but flung himself down, lit a cigar, and began to drink and smoke and talk, very much as if he were in the bar of an inn with a lot of good fellows. When he chose Garstin could be human and genial, at times even rowdy. He was genial enough now, but Miss Van Tuyn, who was very sharp about almost everything connected with people, thought of a patient's first visit to a famous specialist, and of the quarter of an hour so often apparently wasted by the great physician as he talks about topics unconnected with symptoms to his anxious visitor. She was certain that Garstin was determined to paint Arabian whether the latter was willing to be painted or not, and she was equally certain that already Garstin had begun to work on his sitter, not with brushes but with the mind. For his own benefit, and incidentally for hers, Garstin was carelessly, but cleverly, trying to find out things about Arabian, not things about his life, but things about his education, and his mind and his temperament. He did not ask him vulgar questions. He just talked, and watched, and occasionally listened in the midst of the cigar smoke, and often with the whisky at his lips.

She had refused to take any whisky, but smoked cigarette after cigarette quickly, nervously almost. She was enjoying herself immensely, but she felt unusually excited, mentally restless, almost mentally agitated. Her usual coolness of mind had been changed into a sort of glow by Garstin and the living bronze. She always liked being alone with men, hearing men talk among themselves or talking with them free from the presence of women. But to-day she was exceptionally stimulated for she was exceptionally curious. There was something in Arabian which vaguely troubled her, and which also enticed her almost against her will. And now she was following along a track, pioneered by a clever and cunning leader.

Garstin talked about London, which Arabian apparently knew fairly well, though he said he had never lived long in London; then about Paris, which Arabian also knew and spoke of like a man who visited it now and then for purposes of pleasure. Then Garstin spoke of the art he followed, of the old Italian painters and of the Galleries of Italy. Arabian became very quiet. His attitude and bearing were those of one almost respectfully listening to an expert holding forth on a subject he had made his own. Now and then he said something non-committal. There was no evidence that he had any knowledge of Italian pictures, that he could distinguish between a Giovanni Bellini and a Raphael, tell a Luini from a Titian.

Miss Van Tuyn wondered again whether he had ever heard of Leonardo.

Garstin mentioned some Paris painters of the past, but of more recent times than those of the grand old Italians, spoke of Courbet, of Manet, of Renoir, Guilaumin, Sisley, the Barbizon school, Cezanne and his followers. Finally he came to the greatest of the French Impressionist painters, to Pissaro, for whom, as Miss Van Tuyn knew, he had an admiration which amounted almost to a cult.

"He's a glorious fellow, isn't he?" he said in his loud bass voice to Arabian. "You know his 'Pont Neuf,' of course?"

He did not wait for an answer, but drove on with immense energy, puffing away at his cigar and turning his small, keen eyes swiftly from Arabian to Miss Van Tuyn and back again. The talk, which was now a monologue, fed by frequent draughts of the excellent whisky, included a dissertation on Pissaro's oil paintings, his water-colours, his etchings and lithographs, his pupils, Cezanne, Van Gogh and Gauguin, his friendships, his troubles, and finally a paean on his desperate love of work, which was evidently shared by the speaker.

"Work-it's the thing in life!" roared Garstin. "It's the great consolation for all the damnableness of the human existence. Work first and the love of women second!"

"Thank you very much for your chivalry, Dick," said Miss Van Tuyn, sending one of her most charming blue glances to the living bronze, who returned it, almost eagerly, she thought.

"And the love of women betrays," continued Garstin. "But work never lets you down."

He flung out his right arm and quoted sonorously from Pissaro: "I paint portraits because doing it helps me to live!" he almost shouted. "Another cigar!" He turned to Arabian.

"Thank you. They are beauties and not too strong."

"You've got a damned strong constitution if you can say that. You have been like me; you have fortified it by work."

"I fear not," he said with a smile. "I have been a flaneur, an idler. It has been my great misfortune to have enough money for what I want without working."

"Like poor me!" said Miss Van Tuyn, feeling suddenly relieved.

"I pity you both!" said Garstin.

And he branched away to literature, to music, to sculpture. Lowering his big voice suddenly he spoke of the bronzes of the Naples Museum, half shutting his eyes till they were two narrow slits, and looking intently at Arabian.

"You have the throat of one of those bronzes," he said bluntly, "and should never wear that cursed abomination, a starched linen collar."

"What is one to do in London?" murmured Arabian, suddenly stretching his brown throat and lifting his strong chin.

"Show it something worth looking at," said Garstin.

And he returned to the subject of women, and spoke on it so freely and fully that Miss Van Tuyn presently pulled him up. Rather to her surprise he showed unusual meekness under her interruption.

"All right, my girl! I've done! I've done! But I always forget you're not a young man."

"Ma foi!" said Arabian, almost under his breath.

Garstin looked across at him

"She's a Tartar. She'd keep the devil himself in order."

"He deserves restraint far less than you do," said Miss Van Tuyn.

"She won't leave me alone," continued Garstin, flinging one leg over the arm of his easy chair. "She even attacks me about my painting, says I only paint the rats of the sewers."

"I never said that," said Miss Van Tuyn. "I said you were a painter of the underworld, and so you are."

"But Mr. Dick Garstin also paints judges, mademoiselle," said Arabian.

"Oh, lord! Drop the Mister! I'm Dick Garstin tout court or I'm nothing. Now, Arabian, you know the reason, part of the reason, why I want to stick you on canvas."

"You mean because-"

He seemed to hesitate, and touched his little Guardsman's moustache.

"Because you're a jolly fine subject and nothing to do with the darlings that live in the sewers."

"Ah! Thank you!" said Arabian. "But you paint judges."

"I only put that red-faced old ruffian here as a joke. Directly I set eyes on him I knew he ought to have been in quod himself! Come now, what do you say? Look here! I'll make a bargain with you. I'll give you the thing when it's done."

Miss Van Tuyn looked at Garstin in amazement, and missed the sudden gleam of light that came into Arabian's eyes. But Garstin did not miss it and repeated:

"I'll give you the thing! Now what do you say? Is it a bargain?"

"But how can I accept?" said Arabian, quickly adding: "And how can I refuse? Mr.-"

"Drop the Mister, I say."

"Dick Garstin then."

"That's better."

"I wish to tell you that I am not a connoisseur of art. On the other hand, please, I have an eye for what is fine. Mademoiselle, I hope, will say it is so?"

He looked at Miss Van Tuyn.

"Mr. Arabian made some remarkably cute remarks about the portraits, Dick," she said in reply to the glance.

"I care for a fine painting so much that really I do not know how to refuse the temptation you offer me-Dick Garstin."

Garstin poured himself out another whisky.

"I'll start on it to-morrow," he said, staring hard at the man who had now become definitely his subject.

Soon afterwards Arabian got up and said he must go. As he said this he looked pleadingly at Miss Van Tuyn. But she sat still in her chair, a cigarette between her lips. He said "good-bye" to her formally. Garstin went down with Arabian to let him out, and was away for three or four minutes. From her chair Miss Van Tuyn heard a murmur of voices, then presently a loud bass: "To-morrow morning at eleven sharp," then the bang of a door. A minute later Garstin bounded up the stairs heavily, yet with a strong agility.

"I've got him, my girl! He's afraid of it like the devil, but I've got him. I hit on the only way. I found the only bait which my fish would take. Now for another cigar."

He seized the box.

"Did you see his eyes when I said I'd give him the picture?"

"No; I was looking at you."

"Then you missed revelation. I had diagnosed him all right."

"Tell me your diagnosis."

"I told it you long ago. That fellow is a being of the underworld."

Miss Van Tuyn slightly reddened.

"I wonder!" she said. "I'm not at all sure that you're right, Dick."

"What did you gather when I put him through his paces just now?" he asked, sending out clouds of strong-smelling smoke.

"Oh, I don't know! Not very much. He seems to have been about, to have plenty of money."

"And no education. He doesn't know a thing about pictures, painters. Just at first I thought he might have been a model. Not a bit of it! Books mean nothing to him. What that chap has studied is the pornographic book of life, my girl. He has no imagination. His feeling runs straight in the direction of sensuality. He's as ignorant and as clever as they're made. He's never done a stroke of honest work in his life, and despises all those who are fools enough to toil, me among them. He is as acquisitive as a monkey and a magpie rolled into one. His constitution is made of iron, and I dare say his nerves are made of steel. He's a rare one, I tell you, and I'll make a rare picture of him."

"I don't know whether you are right, Dick."

Garstin seemed quite unaffected by her doubt of his power to read character. Perhaps at that moment he was coolly reading hers, and laughing to himself about women. But if so, he did not show it. And she said in a moment:

"You are really going to give him the portrait?"

"Yes, when I've exhibited it. Not before, of course. The gentleman isn't going to have it all his own way."

Miss Van Tuyn looked rather thoughtful, even preoccupied. Almost immediately afterwards she got up to go.

"Coming to-morrow?" he said.

"What-to see you paint?"

"Coming?"

"You really mean that I may?"

"I do. You'll help me."

She looked rather startled, and then, immediately, keenly curious.

"I don't see how."

"No reason you should! Now off with you! I've got things to do."

"Then good-bye."

As she was going away she stopped for a moment before the portrait of the judge.

"He found out why you painted that portrait."

"Arabian?" said Garstin.

"Yes. And he said something about it that wasn't stupid."

"What was that?"

"He said it was more than a portrait of one man, that it was a portrait of the world's hypocrisy."

"Damned good!" said Garstin with a sonorous chuckle. "And his portrait will be more than the portrait of one man."

"Yes?" she said, looking eagerly at him.

But he would not say anything more, and she went away full of deep curiosity, but thankful that she had decided to stay on in London.

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