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Chapter 6


'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
work. Mine,--mine,--mine!'

'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
method.

'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
pictures.

'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
continental politics.

'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
woman.'

'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
fellow.'

'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
be then?'

'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
evening.'

'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
Edgware road.

'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
much better.'

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
looking lovely!'

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
ever there.'

'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
mock terror.

'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
laughed.

'"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
used.

'"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
there?'

'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,
miss----'

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
shouting--
'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.

Rudyard Kipling

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