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Author o/ "O/ Human Bondage" 


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Chapter I 

I CONFESS that when first I made acquaintance 
with Charles Strickland I never for a moment 
discerned that there was in him anything out of 
the ordinary. Yet now few will be found to deny his 
greatness. I do not speak of that greatness which is 
achieved by the fortunate politician or the successful 
soldier; that is a quality which belongs to the place 
he occupies rather than to the man; and a change of 
circumstances reduces it to very discreet proportions. 
The Prime Minister out of office is seen, too often, 
to have been but a pompous rhetorician, and the Gen- 
eral without an army is but the tame hero of a 
market town. The greatness of Charles Strickland 
was authentic. It may be that you do not like his art, 
but at all events you can hardly refuse it the tribute 
of your interest. He disturbs and arrests. The time 
has passed when he was an object of ridicule, and it 
is no longer a mark of eccentricity to defend or of 
perversity to extol him. His faults are accepted as 
the necessary complement to his merits. It is still 
possible to discuss his place in art, and the adulation 
of his admirers is perhaps no less capricious than the 
disparagement of his detractors; but one thing can 



never be doubtful, and that is that he had genius. 
To my mind the most interesting thing in art is the 
personality of the artist; and if that is singular, I am 
willing to excuse a thousand faults. I suppose Velas- 
quez was a better painter than El Greco, but custom 
stales one's admiration for him : the Cretan, sensual 
and tragic, proffers the mystery of his soul like a 
standing sacrifice. The artist, painter, poet, or mu- 
sician, by his decoration, sublime or beautiful, satis- 
fies the aesthetic sense; but that is akin to the sexual 
instinct, and shares its barbarity: he lays before you 
also the greater gift of himself. To pursue his secret 
has something of the fascination of a detective story. 
It is a riddle which shares with the universe the 
merit of having no answer. The most insignificant 
of Strickland's works suggests a personality which is 
strange, tormented, and complex; and it is this surely 
which prevents even those who do not like his pic- 
tures from being indifferent to them; it is this which 
has excited so curious an interest, in his life and 

It was not till four years after Strickland's death 
that Maurice Huret wrote that article in the Mercure 
de France which rescued the unknown painter from 
oblivion and blazed the trail which succeeding writ- 
ers, with more or less docility, have followed. For 
a long time no critic has enjoyed in France a more 
incontestable authority, and it was impossible not to 
be impressed by the claims he made ; they seemed ex- 
travagant; but later judgments have confirmed his es- 
timate, and the reputation of Charles Strickland is 
now firmly established on the lines which he laid 


down. The rise of this reputation is one of the most 
romantic incidents in the history of art. But I do 
not propose to deal with Charles Strickland's work 
except in so far as it touches upon his character. I 
cannot agree with the painters who claim supercil- 
iously that the layman can understand nothing of 
painting, and that he can best show his appreciation 
of their works by silence and a cheque-book. It is 
a grotesque misapprehension which sees in art no 
more than a craft comprehensible perfectly only to 
the craftsman: art is a manifestation of emotion, and 
emotion speaks a language that all may understand. 
But I will allow that the critic who has not a practical 
knowledge of technique is seldom able to say any- 
thing on the subject of real value, and my ignorance 
of painting is extreme. Fortunately, there is no need 
for me to risk the adventure, since my friend, Mr. 
Edward Leggatt, an able writer as well as an admir- 
able painter, has exhaustively discussed Charles 
Strickland's work in a little book* which is a charm- 
ing example of a style, for the most part, less happily 
cultivated in England than in France. 

Maurice Huret in his famous article gave an out- 
line of Charles Strickland's life which was well calcu- 
lated to whet the appetites of the inquiring. With 
his disinterested passion for art, he had a real desire 
to call the attention of the wise to a talent which was 
in the highest degree original; but he was too good 
a journalist to be unaware that the "human interest" 
would enable him more easily to effect his purpose. 

* "A Modern Artist: Notes on the Work of Charles Strick- 
land," by Edward Leggatt, A.R.H.A. Martin Seeker, 1917. 


And when such as had come in contact with Strickland 
in the past, writers who had known him in London, 
painters who had met him in the cafes of Montmar- 
tre, discovered to their amazement that where they 
had seen but an unsuccessful artist, like another, au- 
thentic genius had rubbed shoulders with them there 
began to appear in the magazines of France and 
America a succession of articles, the reminiscences 
of one, the appreciation of another, which added to 
Strickland's notoriety, and fed without satisfying the 
curiosity of the public. The subject was grateful, 
and the industrious Weitbrecht-Rotholz in his impos- 
ing monograph* has been able to give a remarkable 
iist of authorities. 

The faculty for myth is innate in the human race. 
It seizes with avidity upon any incidents, surprising 
or mysterious, in the career of those who have at all 
distinguished themselves from their fellows, and in- 
vents a legend to which it then attaches a fanatical 
belief. It is the protest of romance against the com- 
monplace of life. The incidents of the legend be- 
come the hero's surest passport to immortality. The 
ironic philosopher reflects with a smile that Sir Wal- 
ter Raleigh is more safely inshrined in the memory 
of mankind because he set his cloak for the Virgin 
Queen to walk on than because he carried the English 
name to undiscovered countries. Charles Strickland 
lived obscurely. He made enemies rather than 
friends. It is not strange, then, that those who wrote 

* "Karl Strickland: sein Leben und seine Kunst," by Hugo 
Weitbrecht-Rotholz, Ph.D. Schwingel und Hanisch. Leip- 
zig, 1914. 


of him should have eked out their scanty recollections 
with a lively fancy, and it is evident that there was 
enough in the little that was known of him to give 
opportunity to the romantic scribe; there was much 
in his life which was strange and terrible, in his char- 
acter something outrageous, and in his fate not a lit- 
tle that was pathetic. In due course a legend arose 
of such circumstantiality that the wise historian 
would hesitate to attack it. 

Bnt a wise historian is precisely what the Rev. 
Robert Strickland is not. He wrote his biogra- 
phy* avowedly to "remove certain misconceptions 
which had gained currency" in regard to the later 
part of his father's life, and which had "caused con- 
siderable pain to persons still living." It is obvious 
that there was much in the commonly received account 
of Strickland's life to embarrass a respectable family. 
I have read this work with a good deal of amuse- 
ment, and upon this I congratulate myself, since it 
is cokmrless and dull. Mr. Strickland has drawn the 
portrait of an excellent husband and father, a man 
of kindly temper, industrious habits, and moral dis- 
position. The modern clergyman has acquired in 
his study of the science which I believe is called 
exegesis an astonishing facility for explaining things 
away, but the subtlety with which the Rev. Robert 
Strickland has "interpreted" all the facts in his 
father's life which a dutiful son might find it incon- 
venient to remember must surely lead him in the full- 
ness of time to the highest dignities of the Church. 

* "Strickland: The Man and His Work," by his son, Robert 
Strickland. Wm. Heinemann, 1913. 


I see already his muscular calves encased in the gait- 
ers episcopal. It was a hazardous, though maybe a 
gallant thing to do, since it is probable that the legend 
commonly received has had no small share in the 
growth of Strickland's reputation ; for there are many 
who have been attracted to his art by the detestation 
in which they held his character or the compassion 
frith which they regarded his death; and the son's 
well-meaning efforts threw a singular chill upon the 
father's admirers. It is due to no accident that when 
one of his most important works, The Woman of 
Samaria* was sold at Christie's shortly after the dis- 
cussion which followed the publication of Mr. Strick- 
land's biography, it fetched 235 less than it had 
done nine months before when it was bought by the 
distinguished collector whose sudden death had 
brought it once more under the hammer. Perhaps 
Charles Strickland's power and originality would 
scarcely have sufficed to turn the scale if the remark- 
able mythopoeic faculty of mankind had not brushed 
aside with impatience a story which disappointed all 
its craving for the extraordinary. And presently Dr. 
Weitbrecht-Rotholz produced the work which finally 
set at rest the misgivings of all lovers of art. 

Dr. Weitbrecht-Rotholz belongs to that school of 
historians which believes that human nature is not 
only about as bad as it can be, but a great deal worse; 
and certainly the reader is safer of entertainment in 

* This was described in Christie's catalogue as follows: "A 
nude woman, a native of the Society Islands, is lying on the 
ground beside a brook. Behind is a tropical landscape with 
palm-trees, bananas, etc. 60 in. x 48 in." 


their hands than in those of the writers who take a 
malicious pleasure in representing the great figures 
of romance as patterns of the domestic virtues. For 
my part, I should be sorry to think that there was 
nothing between Anthony and Cleopatra but an eco- 
nomic situation ; and it will require a great deal more 
evidence than is ever likely to be available, thank 
God, to persuade me that Tiberius was as blameless 
a monarch as King George V. Dr. Weitbrecht- 
Rotholz has dealt in such terms with the Rev. Robert 
Strickland's innocent biography that it is difficult to 
avoid feeling a certain sympathy for the unlucky 
parson. His decent reticence is branded as hypocrisy, 
his circumlocutions are roundly called lies, and his 
silence is vilified as treachery. And on the strength 
of peccadillos, reprehensible in an author, but excusa- 
ble in a son, the Anglo-Saxon race is accused of prud- 
ishness, humbug, pretentiousness, deceit, cunning, 
and bad cooking. Personally I think it was rash of 
Mr. Strickland, in refuting the account which had 
gained belief of a certain "unpleasantness" between 
his father and mother, to state that Charles Strick- 
land in a letter written from Paris had described her 
as "an excellent woman," since Dr. Weitbrecht- 
Rotholz was able to print the letter in facsimile, and 
it appears that the passage referred to ran in fact as 
follows: God damn my wife. She is an excellent 
woman. I wish she was in hell. It is not thus that the 
Church in its great days dealt with evidence that was 

Dr. Weitbrecht-Rotholz was an enthusiastic ad- 
mirer of Charles Strickland, and there was no dan- 


ger that he would whitewash him. He had an 
unerring eye for the despicable motive in actions that 
had all the appearance of innocence. He was a 
psycho-pathologist, as well as a student of art, and 
the subconscious had few secrets from him. No 
mystic ever saw deeper meaning in common things. 
The mystic sees the ineffable, and the psycho-pathol- 
ogist the unspeakable. There is a singular fascina- 
tion in watching the eagerness with which the learned 
author ferrets out every circumstance which may 
throw discredit on his hero. His heart warms to him 
when he can bring forward some example of cruelty 
or meanness, and he exults like an inquisitor at the 
auto da fe of an heretic when with some forgotten 
story he can confound the filial piety of the Rev. 
Robert Strickland. His industry has been amazing. 
Nothing has been too small to escape him, and you 
may be sure that if Charles Strickland left a laun- 
dry bill unpaid it will be given you in extenso, and if 
he forebore to return a borrowed half-crown no de- 
tail of the transaction will be omitted. 

Chapter II 

WHEN so much has been written about 
Charles Strickland, it may seem unnecessary 
that I should write more. A painter's mon- 
ument is his work. It is true I knew him more inti- 
mately than most: I met him first before ever he 
became a painter, and I saw him not infrequently dur- 
ing the difficult years he spent in Paris ; but I do not 
suppose I should ever have set down my recollections 
if the hazards of the war had not taken me to Tahiti. 
There, as is notorious, he spent the last years of 
his life; and there I came across persons who were 
familiar with him. I find myself in a position to 
throw light on just that part of his tragic career 
which has remained most obscure. If they who be- 
lieve in Strickland's greatness are right, the personal 
narratives of such as knew him in the flesh can hardly 
be superfluous. What would we not give for the 
reminiscences of someone who had been as intimately 
acquainted with El Greco as I was with Strickland? 
But I seek refuge in no such excuses. I forget 
who it was that recommended men for their soul's 
good to do each day two things they disliked : it was 
a wise man, and it is a precept that I have followed 
scrupulously; for every day I have got up and I 
have gone to bed. But there is in my nature a strain 
of asceticism, and I have subjected my flesh each week 
to a more severe mortification. I have never failed 
to read the Literary Supplement of The Times. It 



is ? 5 to consider the vast number 

of books that are written, the fair hopes with which 
their authors see them published, and the fate which 
awaits them. What chance is there that any book 
will make its way among that multitude? And the 
successful books are but the successes of a season. 
Heaven knows what pains the author has been at, 
what bitter experiences he has endured and what 
heartache suffered, to give some chance reader a 
few hours' relaxation or to while away the tedium 
of a journey. And if I may judge from the reviews, 
many of these books are well and carefully written; 
much thought has gone to their composition ; to some 
even has been given the anxious labour of a lifetime* 
The moral I draw is that the writer should seek his 
reward in the pleasure of his work and in release 
from the burden of his thought; and, indifferent to 
aught else, care nothing for praise or censure, failure 
or success. 

Now the war has come, bringing with it a new 
attitude. Youth has turned to gods we of an earlier 
day knew not, and it is possible to see already the 
direction in which those who come after us will move. 
The younger generation, conscious of strength and 
tumultuous, have done with knocking at the door; 
they have burst in and seated themselves in our 
seats. The air is noisy with their shouts. Of 
their elders some, by imitating the antics of youth, 
strive to persuade themselves that their day is not 
yet over; they shout with the lustiest, but the war 
cry sounds hollow in their mouth; they are like poof 
wantons attempting with pencil, paint and powder, 


with shrill gaiety, to recover tlu illusion ~* v*w~ 
spring. The wiser go their way with a decent grace. 
In their chastened smile is an indulgent mockery. 
They remember that they too trod down a sated 
generation, with just such clamor and with just such 
scorn, and they foresee that these brave torch-bear- 
ers will presently yield their place also. There is 
no last word. The new evangel was old when 
Nineveh reared her greatness to the sky. These gal- 
lant words which seem so novel to those that speak 
them were said in accents scarcely changed a hun- 
dred times before. The pendulum swings back- 
wards and forwards. The circle is ever travelled 

Sometimes a man survives a considerable time from 
an era in which he had his place into one which is 
strange to him, and then the curious are offered one 
of the most singular spectacles in the human comedy. 
Who now, for example, thinks of George Crabbe? 
He was a famous poet in his day, and the world 
recognised his genius with a unanimity which the 
greater complexity of modern life has rendered in- 
frequent. He had learnt his craft at the school of 
Alexander Pope, and he wrote moral stories in 
rhymed couplets. Then came the French Revolu- 
tion and the Napoleonic Wars, and the poets sang 
new songs. Mr. Crabbe continued to write moral 
stories in rhymed couplets. I think he must have 
read the verse of these young men who were mak- 
ing so great a stir in the world, and I fancy he 
found it poor stuff. Of course, much of it was. But 
the odes of Keats and of Wordsworth, a poem or 


two by Coleridge, a few more by Shelley, discov- 
ered vast realms of the spirit that none had explored 
before. Mr. Crabbe was as dead as mutton, but 
Mr. Crabbe continued to write moral stories in 
rhymed couplets. I have read desultorily the writ- 
ings of the younger generation. It may be that 
among them a more fervid Keats, a more ethereal 
Shelley, has already published numbers the world 
will willingly remember. I cannot tell. I admire 
their polish their youth is already so accomplished 
that it seems absurd to speak of promise I marvel 
at the felicity of their style; but with all their copi- 
ousness (their vocabulary suggests that they fingered 
Roget's Thesaurus in their cradles) they say nothing 
to me: to my mind they know too much and feel 
too obviously; I cannot stomach the heartiness with 
which they slap me on the back or the emotion with 
which they hurl themselves on my bosom ; their pas- 
sion seems to me a little anaemic and their dreams 
a trifle dull. I do not like them. I am on the 
shelf. I will continue to write moral stories in 
rhymed couplets. But I should be thrice a fool 
if I did it for aught but my own entertainment 

Chapter II? 

BUT all this is by the way. 
I was very young when I wrote my first 

By a lucky chance it excited attention, and var- 
ious persons sought my acquaintance. 

It is not without melancholy that I wander among 
my recollections of the world of letters in London 
when first, bashful but eager, I was introduced to it. 
It is long since I frequented it, and if the novels that 
describe its present singularities are accurate much 
in it is now changed. The venue is different. Chelsea 
and Bloomsbury have taken the place of Hamp- 
stead, Notting Hill Gate, and High Street, Kensing- 
ton. Then it was a distinction to be under forty, 
but now to be more than twenty-five is absurd. I 
think in those days we were a little shy of our emo- 
tions, and the fear of ridicule tempered the more 
obvious forms of pretentiousness. I do not believe 
that there was in that genteel Bohemia an intensive 
Culture of chastity, but I do not remember so crude 
a promiscuity as seems to be practised in the present 
day. We did not think it hypocritical to draw over 
our vagaries the curtain of a decent silence. The 
spade was not invariably called a bloody shovel. 
Woman had not yet altogether come into her own. 

I lived near Victoria Station, and I recall long 
excursions by bus to the hospitable houses of the 
literary. In my timidity I wandered up and down 



the street while I screwed up my courage to ring 
the bell; and then, sick with apprehension, was ush- 
ered into an airless room full of people. I was 
introduced to this celebrated person after that one, 
and the kind words they said about my book made 
me excessively uncomfortable. I felt they expected 
me to say clever things, and I never could think of 
any till after the party was over. I tried to conceal 
my embarrassment by handing round cups of tea 
and rather ill-cut bread-and-butter. I wanted no one 
to take notice of me, so that I could observe these 
famous creatures at my ease and listen to the clever 
things they said. 

I have a recollection of large, unbending women 
with great noses and rapacious eyes, who wore their 
clothes as though they were armour; and of little, 
mouse-like spinsters, with soft voices and a shrewd 
glance. I never ceased to be fascinated by their 
persistence in eating buttered toast with their gloves 
on, and I observed with admiration the unconcern 
With which they wiped their fingers on their chair 
ftrhen they thought no one was looking. It must 
iave been bad for the furniture, but I suppose the 
hostess took her revenge on the furniture of her 
friends when, in turn, she visited them. Some of 
them were dressed fashionably, and they said they 
couldn't for the life of them see why you should 
be dowdy just because you had written a novel; if 
you had a neat figure you might as well make the 
most of it, and a smart shoe on a small foot had 
never prevented an editor from taking your "stuff." 
But others thought this frivolous, and they wore 


"art fabrics" and barbaric jew J jre 

seldom eccentric in appearance. They tried to look 
as little like authors as possible. They wished to 
be taken for men of the world, and could have 
passed anywhere for the managing clerks of a city 
firm. They always seemed a little tired. I had 
never known writers before, and I found them very 
strange, but I do not think they ever seemed to me 
quite real. 

I remember that I thought their conversation bril- 
liant, and I used to listen with astonishment to the 
stinging humour with which they would tear a 
brother-author to pieces the moment that his back was 
turned. The artist has this advantage over the rest 
of the world, that his friends offer not only their 
appearance and their character to his satire, but also 
their work. I despaired of ever expressing myself 
with such aptness or with such fluency. In those 
days conversation was still cultivated as an art; a 
neat repartee was more highly valued than the crack- 
ling of thorns under a pot; and the epigram, not 
yet a mechanical appliance by which the dull may 
achieve a semblance of wit, gave sprightliness to 
the small talk of the urbane. It is sad that I can 
remember nothing of all this scintillation. But I 
think the conversation never settled down so com- 
fortably as when it turned to the details of the trade 
which was the other side of the art we practised. 
When we had done discussing the merits of the latest 
book, it was natural to wonder how many copies 
had been sold, what advance the author had re- 
ceived, and how much he was likely to make out 


of it. Then we would speak of this publisher and 
of that, comparing the generosity of one with the 
meanness of another; we would argue whether it 
was better to go to one who gave handsome royal- 
ties or to another who "pushed'* a book for all it 
was worth. Some advertised badly and some well. 
Some were modern and some were old-fashioned. 
Then we would talk of agents and the offers they 
had obtained for us ; of editors and the sort of con- 
tributions they welcomed, how much they paid a 
thousand, and whether they paid promptly or other- 
wise. To me it was all very romantic. It gave me 
an intimate sense of being a member of some mystic 

Chapter IV 

NO one was kinder to me at that time than Rose 
Waterford. She combined a masculine intel- 
ligence with a feminine perversity, and the 
novels she wrote were original and disconcerting. 
It was at her house one day that I met Charles Strick- 
land^ wife. Miss Waterford was giving a tea-party, 
and her small room was more than usually full. 
Everyone seemed to be talking, and I, sitting in si- 
lence, felt awkward; but I was too shy to break into 
any of the groups that seemed absorbed in their own 
affairs. Miss Waterford was a good hostess, and 
seeing my embarrassment came up to me. 

"I want you to talk to Mrs. Strickland/ 7 she said. 
"She's raving about your book." 

"What does she do?" I asked. 

I was conscious of my ignorance, and if Mrs. 
Strickland was a well-known writer I thought it as 
well to ascertain the fact before I spoke to her. 

Rose Waterford cast down her eyes demurely to? 
give greater effect to her reply. 

"She gives luncheon-parties. YouVe only got to 
roar a little, and she'll ask you." 

Rose Waterford was a cynic. She looked upon 
life as an opportunity for writing novels and the 
public as her raw material. Now and then she in- 
vited members of it to her house if they showed an 
appreciation of her talent and entertained with proper 
lavishness. She held their weakness for lions in 



good-humoured contempt, but played to them her 
part of the distinguished woman of letters with 

I was led up to Mrs. Strickland, and for ten 
minutes we talked together. I noticed nothing about 
her except that she had a pleasant voice. She had 
a flat in Westminster, overlooking the unfinished 
cathedral, and because we lived in the same neighbour- 
hood we felt friendly disposed to one another. The 
Army and Navy Stores are a bond of union be- 
tween all who dwell between the river and St. 
James's Park. Mrs. Strickland asked me for my ad- 
dress, and a few days later I received an invitation to 

My engagements were few, and I was glad to 
accept. When I arrived, a little late, because in my 
fear of being too early I had walked three times 
round the cathedral, I found the party already 
complete. Miss Waterford was there and Mrs. 
Jay, Richard Twining and George Road. We were 
all writers. It was a fine day, early in spring, and 
we were in a good humour. We talked about a 
hundred things. Miss Waterford, torn between the 
aestheticism of her early youth, when she used to go 
to parties in sage green, holding a daffodil, and the 
flippancy of her maturer years, which tended to high 
heels and Paris frocks, wore a new hat. It put her 
in high spirits. I had never heard her more malicious 
about our common friends. Mrs. Jay, aware that 
impropriety is the soul of wit, made observations 
in tones hardly above a whisper that might well 
have tinged the snowy tablecloth with a rosy hue. 


Richard Twining bubbled over with quaint absurd- 
ities, and George Road, conscious that he need not 
exhibit a brilliancy which was almost a by-word, 
opened his mouth only to put food into it. Mrs. 
Strickland did not talk much, but she had a pleasant 
gift for keeping the conversation general; and when 
there was a pause she threw in just the right remark 
to set it going once more. She was a woman of 
thirty-seven, rather tall and plump, without being 
fat; she was not pretty, but her face was pleasing, 
chiefly, perhaps, on account of her kind brown eyes. 
Her skin was rather sallow. Her dark hair was 
elaborately dressed. She was the only woman of the 
three whose face was free of make-up, and by con- 
trast with the others she seemed simple and un- 

The dining-room was in the good taste of the 
period. It was very severe. There was a high dado 
of white wood and a green paper on which were 
etchings by Whistler in neat black frames. The 
green curtains with their peacock design, hung in 
straight lines, and the green carpet, in the pattern 
of which pale rabbits frolicked among leafy trees, 
suggested the influence of William Morris. There 
was blue delft on the chimneypiece. At that time 
there must have been five hundred dining-rooms in 
London decorated in exactly the same manner. It 
was chaste, artistic, and dull. 

When we left I walked away with Miss Water- 
ford, and the fine day and her new hat persuaded us 
to saunter through the Park. 

"That was a very nice party," I said. 


"Did you think the food was good? I told her 
that if she wanted writers she must feed them well." 

"Admirable advice," I answered. "But why does 
she want them?" 

Miss Waterford shrugged her shoulders. 

"She finds them amusing. She wants to be in the 
movement. I fancy she's rather simple, poor dear, 
and she thinks we're all wonderful. After all, it 
pleases her to ask us to luncheon, and it doesn't hurt 
us. I like her for it." 

Looking back, I think that Mrs. Strickland was 
the most harmless of all the lion-hunters that pur- 
sue their quarry from the rarefied heights of Hamp- 
stead to the nethermost studios of Cheyne Walk. 
She had led a very quiet youth in the country, and 
the books that came down from Mudie's Library 
brought with them not only their own romance, but 
the romance of London. She had a real passion for 
reading (rare in her kind, who for the most part are 
more interested in the author than in his book, in the 
painter than in his pictures), and she invented a 
world of the imagination in which she lived with a 
freedom she never acquired in the world of every 
day. When she came to know writers it was like 
adventuring upon a stage which till then she had 
known only from the other side of the footlights. 
She saw them dramatically, and really seemed her- 
self to live a larger life because she entertained them 
and visited them in their fastnesses. She accepted 1 ' 
the rules with which they played the game of life as 
valid for them, but never for a moment thought of 
regulating her own conduct in accordance with the*?. 


Their moral eccentricities, like their oddities of dress, 
their wild theories and paradoxes, were an enter- 
tainment which amused her, but had not the slightest 
influence on her convictions. 

"Is there a Mr. Strickland?" I asked 

"Oh yes ; he's something in the city. I believe he's 
a stockbroker. He's very dull." 

"Are they good friends?" 

"They adore one another. You'll meet him if you 
dine there. But she doesn't often have people to 
dinner. He's very quiet. He's not in the least in- 
terested in literature or the arts." 

"Why do nice women marry dull men?" 

"Because intelligent men won't marry nice 

I could not think of any retort to this, so I asked 
if Mrs. Strickland had children. 

"Yes; she has a boy and a girl. They're both at 

The subject was exhausted, and we began to talk 
of other things. 

Chapter V 

DURING the summer I met Mrs. Strickland 
not infrequently. I went now and then to 
pleasant little luncheons at her flat, and to 
rather more formidable tea-parties. We took a fancy 
to one another. I was very young, and perhaps she 
liked the idea of guiding my virgin steps on the 
hard road of letters; while for me it was pleasant 
to have someone I could go to with my small trou- 
bles, certain of an attentive ear and reasonable coun- 
sel. Mrs. Strickland had the gift of sympathy. It 
is a charming faculty, but one often abused by those 
who are conscious of its possession: for there is 
something ghoulish in the avidity with which they 
will pounce upon the misfortune of their friends so 
that they may exercise their dexterity. It gushes 
forth like an oil-well, and the sympathetic pour out 
their sympathy with an abandon that is sometimes 
embarrassing to their victims. There are bosoms 
on which so many tears have been shed that I cannot 
bedew them with mine. Mrs. Strickland used her 
advantage with tact. You felt that you obliged her 
by accepting her sympathy. When, in the enthusiasm 
of my youth, I remarked on this to Rose Waterford, 
she said : 

"Milk is very nice, especially with a drop of 
brandy in it, but the domestic cow is only too glad 
to be rid of it. A swollen udder is very uncom- 



Rose Waterford had a blistering tongue. No one 
could say such bitter things; on the other hand, no 
one could do more charming ones. 

There was another thing I liked in Mrs. Strick- 
land. She managed her surroundings with elegance. 
Her flat was always neat and cheerful, gay witH 
flowers, and the chintzes in the drawing-room, not- 
withstanding their severe design, were bright and 
pretty. The meals in the artistic little dining-room 
were pleasant; the table looked nice, the two maids 
were trim and comely; the food was well cooked.; 
It was impossible not to see that Mrs. Strickland was 
an excellent housekeeper. And you felt sure that 
she was an admirable mother. There were photo- 
graphs in the drawing-room of her son and daugh- 
ter. The son his name was Robert was a boy of 
sixteen at Rugby; and you saw him in flannels and 
a cricket cap, and again in a tail-coat and a stand-up 
collar. He had his mother's candid brow and fine, 
reflective eyes. He looked clean, healthy, and nor- 

"I don't know that he's very clever," she said one 
day, when I was looking at the photograph, "but I 
know he's good. He has a charming character." 

The daughter was fourteen. Her hair, thick and 
dark like her mother's, fell over her shoulders in 
fine profusion, and she had the same kindly expres- 
sion and sedate, untroubled eyes. 

"They're both of them the image of you," I said. 

"Yes; I think they are more like me than their 

u Why have you never let me meet him?" I asked* 


"Would you like to?" 

She smiled, her smile was really very sweet, and 
she blushed a little; it was singular that a woman 
of that age should flush so readily. Perhaps her 
naivete was her greatest charm. 

"You know, he's not at all literary," she said. 
"He's a perfect philistine." 

She said this not disparagingly, but affectionately 
rather, as though, by acknowledging the worst about 
him, she wished to protect him from the aspersions 
of her friends. 

"He's on the Stock Exchange, and he's a typical 
broker. I think he'd bore you to death." 

"Does he bore you?" I asked. 

"You see, I happen to be his wife. I'm very fond 
of him." 

She smiled to cover her shyness, and I fancied she 
had a fear that I would make the sort of gibe that 
such a confession could hardly have failed to elicit 
from Rose Waterford. She hesitated a little. Her 
eyes grew tender. 

"He doesn't pretend to be a genius. He doesn't 
even make much money on the Stock Exchange. But 
he's awfully good and kind." 

"I think I should like him very much." 

"I'll ask you to dine with us quietly some time, 
tut mind, you come at your own risk; don't blame 
me if you have a very dull evening." 

Chapter VI 

BUT when at last I met Charles Strickland, it 
was under circumstances which allowed me to 
do no more than just make his acquaintance. 
One morning Mrs. Strickland sent me round a note 
to say that she was giving a dinner-party that even- 
ing, and one of her guests had failed her. She asked 
me to stop the gap. She wrote : 

"Its only decent to warn you that you will be 
bored to extinction. It was a thoroughly dull party 
from the beginning, but if you will come I shall be 
uncommonly grateful. And you and I can have a 
little chat by ourselves." 

It was only neighbourly to accept. 

When Mrs. Strickland introduced me to her hus- 
band, he gave me a rather indifferent hand to shake. 
Turning to him gaily, she attempted a small jest. 

"I asked him to show him that I really had a hus- 
band. I think he was beginning to doubt it." 

Strickland gave the polite little laugh with which 
people acknowledge a facetiousness in which they 
see nothing funny, but did not speak. New arrivals 
claimed my host's attention, and I was left to myself. 
When at last we were all assembled, waiting for din- 
ner to be announced, I reflected, while I chatted with 
the woman I had been asked to "take in," that civ- 
ilised man practises a strange ingenuity in wasting on 



tedious exercises the brief span of his life. It was the 
kind of party which makes you wonder why the host- 
ess has troubled to bid her guests, and why the guests 
have troubled to come. There were ten people. 
They met with indifference, and would part with re- 
lief. It was, of course, a purely social function. 
The Stricklands "owed" dinners to a number of 
persons, whom they took no interest in, and so had 
asked them; these persons had accepted. Why? 
To avoid the tedium of dining tete-a-tete, to give their 
servants a rest, because there was no reason to re- 
fuse, because they were "owed" a dinner. 

The dining-room was inconveniently crowded. 
There was a K.C. and his wife, a Government official 
and his wife, Mrs. Strickland's sister and her hus- 
band, Colonel MacAndrew, and the wife of a Mem- 
ber of Parliament. It was because the Member of 
Parliament found that he could not leave the House 
that I had been invited. The respectability of the 
party was portentous. The women were too nice to 
be well dressed, and too sure of their position to be 
amusing. The men were solid. There was about 
all of them an air of well-satisfied prosperity. 

Everyone talked a little louder than natural in 
an instinctive desire to make the party go, and there 
was a great deal of noise in the room. But there 
was no general conversation. Each one talked to 
his neighbour; to his neighbour on the right during 
the soup, fish, and entree; to his neighbour on the 
left during the roast, sweet, and savoury. They 
talked of the political situation and of golf, of their 
children and the latest play, of the pictures at the 


Royal Academy, of the weather and their plans for 
the holidays. There was never a pause, and the noise 
grew louder. Mrs. Strickland might congratulate 
herself that her party was a success. Her husband 
played his part with decorum. Perhaps he did not 
talk very much, and I fancied there was towards the 
end a look of fatigue in the faces of the women on 
either side of him. They were finding him heavy. 
Once or twice Mrs. Strickland's eyes rested on him 
somewhat anxiously. 

At last she rose and shepherded the ladies out of 
xne room. Strickland shut the door behind her, and, 
moving to the other end of the table, took his place 
between the K.C. and the Government official. He 
passed round the port again and handed us cigars. 
The K.C. remarked on the excellence of the wine, 
and Strickland told us where he got it. We began 
to chat about vintages and tobacco. The K.C. told 
us of a case he was engaged in, and the Colonel 
talked about polo. I had nothing to say and so sat 
silent, trying politely to show interest in the conversa- 
tion; and because I thought no one was in the least 
concerned with me, examined Strickland at my ease. 
He was bigger than I expected: I do not know why 
I had imagined him slender and of insignificant ap- 
pearance; in point of fact he was broad and heavy, 
with large hands and feet, and he wore his evening 
clothes clumsily. He gave you somewhat the idea 
of a coachman dressed up for the occasion. He was 
a man of forty, not good-looking, and yet not ugly, 
for his features were rather good; but they were all 
a little larger than life-size, and the effect was un- 


gainly. He was clean shaven, and his large face 
looked uncomfortably naked. His hair was reddish, 
cut very short, and his eyes were small, blue or grey. 
He looked commonplace. I no longer wondered that 
Mrs. Strickland felt a certain embarrassment about 
him ; he was scarcely a credit to a woman who wanted 
to make herself a position in the world of art and let- 
ters. It was obvious that he had no social gifts, but 
these a man can do without; he had no eccentricity 
even, to take him out of the common run ; he was just 
a good, dull, honest, plain man. One would admire 
his excellent qualities, but avoid his company. He 
was null. He was probably a worthy member of so- 
ciety, a good husband and father, an honest broker; 
but there was no reason to waste one's time over him. 

Chapter VII 

THE season was drawing to its dusty end, and 
everyone I knew was arranging to go away. 
Mrs. Strickland was taking her family to the 
coast of Norfolk, so that the children might have the 
sea and her husband golf. We said good-bye to 
one another, and arranged to meet in the autumn. 
But on my last day in town, coming out of the Stores v 
I met her with her son and daughter; like myself, 
she had been making her final purchases before leav- 
ing London, and we were both hot and tired. I pro- 
posed that we should all go and eat ices in the park. 
I think Mrs. Strickland was glad to show me her 
Children, and she accepted my invitation with alacrity v 
They were even more attractive than their photo- 
graphs had suggested, and she was right to be proud 
of them. I was young enough for them not to feel 
shy, and they chattered merrily about one thing and 
another. They were extraordinarily nice, healthy 
young children. It was very agreeable under the 

When in an hour they crowded into a cab to go 
home, I strolled idly to my club. I was perhaps a 
little lonely, and it was with a touch of envy that I 
thought of the pleasant family life of which I had 
had a glimpse. They seemed devoted to one an- 
other. They had little private jokes of their own 
which, unintelligible to the outsider, amused them 
enormously. Perhaps Charles Strickland was dull 



judged by a standard that demanded above all things 
verbal scintillation; but his intelligence was adequate 
to his surroundings, and that is a passport, not only 
to reasonable success, but still more to happiness. 
Mrs. Strickland was a charming woman, and she 
loved him. I pictured their lives, troubled by no 
untoward adventure, honest, decent, and, by reason 
of those two upstanding, pleasant children, so obvi- 
ously destined to carry on the normal traditions of 
their race and station, not without significance. They 
would grow old insensibly; they would see their son 
and daughter come to years of reason, marry in due 
course the one a pretty girl, future mother of 
healthy children; the other a handsome, manly fellow, 
obviously a soldier; and at last, prosperous in their 
dignified retirement, beloved by their descendants, 
after a happy, not unuseful life, in the fullness of 
their age they would sink into the grave. 

That must be the story of innumerable couples, and 
the pattern of life it offers has a homely grace. It 
reminds you of a placid rivulet, meandering smoothly 
through green pastures and shaded by pleasant trees, 
till at last it falls into the vasty sea ; but the sea is so 
calm, so silent, so indifferent, that you are troubled 
suddenly by a vague uneasiness. Perhaps it is only 
by a kink in my nature, strong In me even in those 
days, that I felt in such an existence, the share of 
the great majority, something amiss. I recognised its 
social values, I saw its ordered happiness, but a fever 
in my blood asked for a wilder course. There seemed 
to me something alarming in such easy delights. In 
my heart was a desire to live more dangerously. I 


was not unprepared for jagged roclcs and treacherous 
shoals if I could only have change change and the 
excitement of the unforeseen. 

Chapter VIII 

ON reading over what I have written of the 
Stricklands, I am conscious that they must 
seem shadowy. I have been able to invest 
them with none of those characteristics which make 
the persons of a book exist with a real life of their 
own; and, wondering if the fault is mine, I rack my 
brains to remember idiosyncrasies which might lend 
them vividness. I feel that by dwelling on some trick 
of speech or some queer habit I should be able to 
give them a significance peculiar to themselves. As 
they stand they are like the figures in an old tapestry; 
they do not separate themselves from the background, 
and at a distance seem to lose their pattern, so that 
you have little but a pleasing piece of colour. My 
only excuse is that the impression they made on me 
was no other. There was just that shadowiness 
about them which you find in people whose lives are 
part of the social organism, so that they exist in it 
and by it only. They are like cells in the body, es- 
sential, but, so long as they remain healthy, engulfed 
in the momentous whole. The Stricklands were an 
average family in the middle class. A pleasant, hos- 
pitable woman, with a harmless craze for the small 
lions of literary society; a rather dull man, doing his 
duty in that state of life in which a merciful Provi- 
dence had placed him ; two nice-looking, healthy chil- 
dren. Nothing could be more ordinary. I do not 



know that there was anything about them to excite 
the attention of the curious. 

When I reflect on all that happened later, I ask 
myself if I was thick-witted not to see that there was 
in Charles Strickland at least something out of the 
common. Perhaps. I think that I have gathered in 
the years that intervene between then and now a 
'fair knowledge of mankind, but even if when I first 
met the Stricklands I had the experience which I 
have now, I do not believe that I should have judgecl 
them differently. But because I have learnt that man 
is incalculable, I should not at this time of day be 
so surprised by the news that reached me when in 
the early autumn I returned to London. 

I had not been back twenty-four hours before I ran 
across Rose Waterford in Jermyn Street. 

"You look very gay and sprightly," I said. 
"What's the matter with you?" 

She smiled, and her eyes shone with a malice I 
knew already. It meant that she had heard some 
scandal about one of her friends, and the instinct of 
the literary woman was all alert. 

"You did meet Charles Strickland, didn't you?" 

Not only her face, but her whole body, gave a 
sense of alacrity. I nodded. I wondered if the poor 
devil had been hammered on the Stock Exchange or 1 
run over by an omnibus. 

"Isn't it dreadful ? He's run away 'from his wife." 

Miss Waterford certainly felt that she could not 
do her subject justice on the curb of Jermyn Street, 
and so, like an artist, flung the bare fact at me and 
declared that she knew no details. I could not do 


her the injustice of supposing that so trifling a circum- 
stance would have prevented her from giving them, 
but she was obstinate. 

"I tell you I know nothing," she said, in reply to 
my agitated questions, and then, with an airy shrug 
of the shoulders: "I believe that a young person in 
a city tea-shop has left her situation. " 

She flashed a smile at me, and, protesting an en- 
gagement with her dentist, jauntily walked on. I 
was more interested than distressed. In those days 
my experience of life at first hand was small, and it 
excited me to come upon an incident among people I 
knew of the same sort as I had read in books. I 
confess that time has now accustomed me to inci- 
dents of this character among my acquaintance. But 
I was a little shocked. Strickland was certainly forty, 
and I thought it disgusting that a man of his age 
should concern himself with affairs of the heart. 
With the superciliousness of extreme youth, I put 
thirty-five as the utmost limit at which a man migh;: 
fall in love without making a fool of himself. And 
this news was slightly disconcerting to me personally, 
because I had written from the country to Mrs. 
Strickland, announcing my return, and had added that 
unless I heard from her to the contrary, I would come 
on a certain day to drink a dish of tea with her. This 
was the very day, and I had received no word from 
Mrs. Strickland. Did she want to see me or did she 
not? It was likely enough that in the agitation of 
the moment my note had escaped her memory. Per- 
haps I should be wiser not to go. On the other hand, 
she might wish to keep the affair quiet, and it might 


be highly indiscreet on my part to give any sign that 
this strange news had reached me. I was torn be* 
tween the fear of hurting a nice woman's feelings and 
the fear of being in the way. I felt she must be 
suffering, and I did not want to see a pain which I 
could not help ; but in my heart was a desire, that I 
felt a little ashamed of, to see how she was taking it. 
I did not know what to do. 

Finally it occurred to me that I would call as 
though nothing had happened, and send a message 
in by the maid asking Mrs. Strickland if it was con- 
venient for her to see me. This would give her the 
opportunity to send me away. But I was over* 
whelmed with embarrassment when I said to the 
maid the phrase I had prepared, and while I waited 
for the answer in a dark passage I had to call up aH 
my strength of mind not to bolt. The maid came 
back. Her manner suggested to my excited fancy a 
complete knowledge of the domestic calamity. 

"Will you come this way, sir?" she said. 

I followed her into the drawing-room. The blinds 
were partly drawn to darken the room, and Mrs. 
Strickland was sitting with her back to the light. 
Her brother-in-law, Colonel MacAndrew, stood in 
"front of the fireplace, warming his back at an unlit 
fire. To myself my entrance seemed excessively awk- 
ward. I imagined that my arrival had taken them 
by surprise, and Mrs. Strickland had let me come in 
only because she had forgotten to put me off. I 
fancied that the Colonel resented the interruption. 

"I wasn't quite sure if you expected me," I said, 
trying to seem unconcerned. 


"Of course I did. Anne will bring the tea in a 


Even in the darkened room, I could not help see- 
ing that Mrs. Strickland's face was all swollen with 
tears. Her skin, never very good, was earthy. 

"You remember my brother-in-law, don't you? 
You met at dinner, just before the holidays." 

We shook hands. I felt so shy that I could think 
of nothing to say, but Mrs. Strickland came to my 
rescue. She asked me what I had been doing with 
myself during the summer, and with this help I man- 
aged to make some conversation till tea was brought 
in. The Colonel asked for a whisky-and-soda. 

"You'd better have one too, Amy," he said. 

"No; I prefer tea." 

This was the first suggestion that anything un- 
toward had happened. I took no notice, and did my 
best to engage Mrs. Strickland in talk. The Colonel, 
still standing in front of the fireplace, uttered no word, 
I wondered how soon I could decently take my leave, 
and I asked myself why on earth Mrs. Strickland 
had allowed me to come. There were no flowers, 
and various knick-knacks, put away during the sum- 
mer, had not been replaced; there was something 
'cheerless and stiff about the room which had always 
seemed so friendly; it gave you an odd feeling, as 
though someone were lying dead on the other side 
of the wall. I finished tea. 

"Will you have a cigarette?" asked Mrs. Strick- 

She looked about for the box, but it was not to 
be seen. 


"I'm afraid there are none." 

Suddenly she burst into tears, and hurried from the 

I was startled. I suppose now that the lack of 
cigarettes, brought as a rule by her husband, forced 
him back upon her recollection, and the new feeling 
that the small comforts she was used to were missing 
gave her a sudden pang. She realised that the old life 
was gone and done with. It was impossible to keep 
up our social pretences any longer. 

"I dare say you'd like me to go," I said to the 
Colonel, getting up. 

"I suppose you've heard that blackguard has de- 
serted her," he cried explosively. 

I hesitated. 

"You know how people gossip," I answered. "I 
was vaguely told that something was wrong." 

"He's bolted. He's gone off to Paris .with a 
woman. He's left Amy without a penny." 

"I'm awfully sorry," I said, not knowing what else 
to say. 

The Colonel gulped down his whisky. He was a 
tall, lean man of fifty, with a drooping moustache 
and grey hair. He had pale blue eyes and a weak 
mouth. I remembered from my previous meeting 
with him that he had a foolish face, and was proud 
of the fact that for the ten years before he left the 
army he had played polo three days a week. 

"I don't suppose Mrs. Strickland wants to be both- 
ered with me just now," I said. "Will you tell hef 
how sorry I am? If there's anything I can do, I shall 
be delighted to do it." 


He took no notice of me. 

"I don't know what's to become of her. And then 
there are the children. Are they going to live on air? 
Seventeen years." 

"What about seventeen years?'* 

"They've been married," he snapped. "I never 
liked him. Of course he was my brother-in-law, and 
I made the best of it. Did you think him a gentle- 
man? She ought never to have married him." 

"Is it absolutely final?" 

"There's only one thing for her to do, and that's 
to divorce him. That's what I was telling her when 
you came in. 'Fire in with your petition, my dear 
Amy,' I said. 'You owe it to yourself and you owe 
it to the children.' He'd better not let me catch 
sight of him. I'd thrash him within an inch of hU 

I could not help thinking that Colonel MacAndrew 
might have some difficulty in doing this, since Strick- 
land had struck me as a hefty fellow, but I did not 
say anything. It is always distressing when outraged 
morality does not possess the strength of arm to ad- 
minister direct chastisement on the sinner. I was 
making up my mind to another attempt at going when ( 
Mrs. Strickland came back. She had dried her eyes 
and powdered her nose. 

"I'm sorry 1 broke down," she said. "I'm glad 
you didn't go away." 

She sat down. I did not at all know what to say. 
I felt a certain shyness at referring to matters which 
were no concern of mine. I did not then know the 
besetting sin of woman, the passion to discuss her 


private affairs with anyone who is willing to listen, 
Mrs. Strickland seemed to make an effort over her^ 

"Are people talking about it?" she asked. 

I was taken aback by her assumption that I knew 
all about her domestic misfortune. 

"I've only just come back. The only person I've 
seen is Rose Waterford." 

Mrs. Strickland clasped her hands. 

"Tell me exactly what she said." And when I 
hesitated, she insisted. "I particularly want to 

"You know the way people talk. She's not very 
reliable, is she? She said your husband had left 

"Is that all?" 

I did not choose to repeat Rose Waterford's 
parting reference to a girl from a tea-shop. I 

"She didn't say anything about his going with any* 


"That's all I wanted to know." 

I was a little puzzled, but at all events I understood 
that I might now take my leave. When I shook 
hands with Mrs. Strickland I told her that if I could 
be of any use to her I should be very glad. She 
smiled wanly. 

"Thank you so much. I don't know that anybody 
can do anything for me." 

Too shy to express my sympathy, I turned to say 
good-bye to the Colonel. He did not take my hancL 


"I'm just coming. If you're walking up Victoria 
Street, I'll come along with you." 
"All right," I said. "Come on." 

Chapter IX 

i<r X^HIS is a terrible thing/' he said, the moment 
we got out into the street. 

I realised that he had come away with mi 
in order to discuss once more what he had been al- 
ready discussing for hours with his sister-in-law. 

u We don't know who the woman is, you know," 
he said. "All we know is that the blackguard's gone 
to Paris." 

"I thought they got on so well." 

"So they did. Why, just before you came in Am) 
said they'd never had a quarrel in the whole of their 
married life. You know Amy. There never was a 
better woman in the world." 

Since these confidences were thrust on me, I saw 
no harm in asking a few questions. 

"But do you mean to say she suspected noth- 

"Nothing. He spent August with her and the chil- 
dren in Norfolk. He was just the same as he'd al- 
ways been. We went down for two or three days, 
my wife and I, and I played golf with him. He 
came back to town in September to let his partner go 
away, and Amy stayed on in the country. They'd 
taken a house for six weeks, and at the end of her 
tenancy she wrote to tell him on which day she was 
arriving in London. He answered from Paris. He 
said he'd made up his mind not to live with hex any 




"What explanation did he give?" 

"My dear fellow, he gave no explanation. IVe 
seen the letter. It wasn't more than ten lines." 

"But that's extraordinary." 

We happened then to cross the street, and the 
traffic prevented us from speaking. What Colonel 
MacAndrew had told me seemed very improb- 
able, and I suspected that Mrs. Strickland, for rea- 
sons of her own, had concealed from him some part 
of the facts. It was clear that a man after sevenr 
teen years of wedlock did not leave his wife without 
certain occurrences which must have led her to sus- 
pect that all was not well with their married life. 
The Colonel caught me up. 

"Of course, there was no explanation he could give 
except that he'd gone off with a woman. I suppose 
he thought she could find that out for herself. That's 
the sort of chap he was." 

"What is Mrs. Strickland going to do?" 

"Well, the first thing is to get our proofs. I'm 
going over to Paris myself." 

"And what about his business?" 

"That's where he's been so artful. He's been 
drawing in his horns for the last year." 

"Did he tell his partner he was leaving?" 

"Not a word." 

Colonel MacAndrew had a very sketchy knowl- 
edge of business matters, and I had none at all, so 
I did not quite understand under what conditions 
Strickland had left his affairs. I gathered that the 
deserted partner was very angry and threatened pro- 
ceedings. It appeared that when everything was 


settled he would be four or five hundred pounds out 
of pocket. 

"It's lucky the furniture in the flat is in Amy's 
name. She'll have that at all events." 

"Did you mean it when you said she wouldn't 
have a bob?" 

"Of course I did. She's got two or three hundred 
pounds and the furniture." 

"But how is she going to live?" 

"God knows." 

The affair seemed to grow more complicated, and 
the Colonel, with his expletives and his indignation, 
confused rather than informed me. I was glad that ? 
catching sight of the clock at the Army and Navy 
Stores, he remembered an engagement to play cardsr 
at his club, and so left me to cut across St. James 

Chapter X 

A DAY or two later Mrs. Strickland sent me 
round a note asking if I could go and see her 
that evening after dinner. I found her alone. 
Her black dress, simple to austerity, suggested her 
bereaved condition, and I was innocently astonished 
that notwithstanding a real emotion she was able to 
dress the part she had to play according to her no- 
tions of seemliness. 

"You said that if I wanted you to do anything 
you wouldn't mind doing it," she remarked. 

"It was quite true." 

"Will you go over to Paris and see Charlie?" 


I was taken aback. I reflected that I had only 
seen him once. I did not know what she wanted me 
to do. 

"Fred is set on going." Fred was Colonel Mac- 
Andrew. "But I'm sure he's not the man to go. 
He'll only make things worse. I don't know who 
else to ask." 

Her voice trembled a little, and I felt a brute even 
to hesitate. 

"But I've not spoken ten words to your husband. 
He doesn't know me. He'll probably just tell me 
to go to the devil." 

"That wouldn't hurt you," said Mrs. Strickland, 

"What is it exactly you want me to do ?" 



She did not answer directly. 

"I think it's rather an advantage that he doesn't 
know you. You see, he never really liked Fred; he 
thought him a fool; he didn't understand soldiers. 
Fred would fly into a passion, and there'd be a quar- 
rel, and things would be worse instead of better. If 
you said you came on my behalf, he couldn't refuse 
to listen to you." 

"I haven't known you very long," I answered. "I 
don't see how anyone can be expected to tackle a case 
like this unless he knows all the details. I don't 
want to pry into what doesn't concern me. Why 
don't you go and see him yourself?" 

"You forget he isn't alone." 

I held my tongue. I saw myself calling on Charles 
Strickland and sending in my card; I saw him come 
into the room, holding it between finger and thumb : 

"To what do I owe this honour?" 

"I've come to see you about your wife." 

"Really. When you are a little older you will 
doubtless learn the advantage of minding your own 
business. If you will be so good as to turn your 
head slightly to the left, you will see the door. I wish 
you good-afternoon." 

I foresaw that it would be difficult to make my exit 
with dignity, and I wished to goodness that I had not 
returned to London till Mrs. Strickland had com- 
posed her difficulties. I stole a glance at her. She 
was immersed in thought. Presently she looked up 
at me, sighed deeply, and smiled. 

"It was all so unexpected," she said. "We'd been 
married seventeen years. I never dreamed that 


Charlie was the sort of man to get infatuated witK 
anyone. We always got on very well together. Of 
course, I had a great many interests that he didn^t 

"Have you found out who"' I did not quite know 
how to express myself "who the person, who it is 
he's gone away with?" 

"No. No one seems to have an idea. It's so 
strange. Generally when a man falls in love with 
someone people see them about together, lunching 
or something, and her friends always come and tell 
the wife. I had no warning nothing. His letter 
came like a thunderbolt. I thought he was perfectly 

She began to cry, poor thing, and I felt very sorry 
for her. But in a little while she grew calmer. 

"It's no good making a fool of myself," she said, 
drying her eyes. "The only thing is to decide what 
is the best thing to do." 

She went on, talking somewhat at random, now 
of the recent past, then of their first meeting and 
their marriage; but presently I began to form a fairly 
coherent picture of their lives ; and it seemed to me 
that my surmises had not been incorrect. Mrs. 
Strickland was the daughter of an Indian civilian, 
who on his retirement had settled in the depths of 
the country, but it was his habit every August to 
take his family to Eastbourne for change of air; 
and it was here, when she was twenty, that she met 
Charles Strickland. He was twenty-three. They 
played together, walked on the front together, lis- 
tened together to the nigger minstrels ; and she had 


mack up her mind to accept him a week before he 
proposed to her. They lived in London, first in 
IHampstead, and then, as he grew more prosperous, 
in town. Two children were born to them. 

"He always seemed very fond of them. Even if 
he was tired of me, I wonder that he had the heart 
to leave them. It's all so incredible. Even now I 
can hardly believe it's true." 

At last she showed me the letter he had written. 
I was curious to see it, but had not ventured to ask 
for it. 


"/ think you will find everything all right in the 
flat. I have given Anne your instructions, and din- 
ner will be ready for you and the children when you 
come. I shall not be there to meet you. I have made 
up my mind to live apart from you, and I am going 
to Paris in the morning. I shall post this letter on 
my arrival. I shall not come back. My decision is 

"Yours always, 


"Not a word of explanation or regret. Don't you 
think it's inhuman?" 

"It's a very strange letter under the circumstances," 
I replied. 

"There r s only one explanation, and that is that he's 
not himself. I don't know who this woman is who's 
got hold of him, but she's made him into another 
man. fr's evidently been going on a long time." 


"What makes you think that?" 

"Fred found that out. My husband said he went 
to the club three or four nights a week to play 
bridge. Fred knows one of the members, and said 
something about Charles being a great bridge-player. 
The man was surprised. He said he'd never even 
seen Charles in the card-room. It's quite clear now 
that when I thought Charles was at his club he was 
with her." 

I was silent for a moment. Then I thought of the 

"It must have been difficult to explain to Robert," 
I said. 

"Oh, I never said a word to either of them. You 
see, we only came up to town the day before they 
had to go back to school. I had the presence of 
mind to say that their father had been called away 
on business." 

It could not have been very easy to be bright and 
careless with that sudden secret in her heart, nor to 
give her attention to all the things that needed doing 
to get her children comfortably packed off. Mrs. 
Strickland's voice broke again. 

"And what is to happen to them, poor darlings? 
How are we going to live?" 

She struggled for self-control, and I saw her hands 
clench and unclench spasmodically. It was dread- 
fully painful. 

"Of course I'll go over to Paris if you think I 
can do any good, but you must tell me exactly what 
you want me to do." 

"I want him to come back." 


"I understood from Colonel MacAndrew 
that you'd made up your mind to divorce 

"I'll never divorce him," she answered with a 
sudden violence. "Tell him that from me. He'll 
never be able to marry that woman. I'm as obsti- 
nate as he is, and I'll never divorce him. I have to 
think of my children." 

I think she added this to explain her attitude to 
me, but I thought it was due to a very natural jealousy 
rather than to maternal solicitude. 

"Are you in love with him still?" 

"I don't know. I want him to come back. If he'll 
do that we'll let bygones be bygones. After all v 
we've been married for seventeen years. I'm a broad- 
minded woman. I wouldn't have minded what he did 
as long as I knew nothing about it. He must know 
that his infatuation won't last. If he'll come back 
now everything can be smoothed over, and no one 
will know anything about it." 

It chilled me a little that Mrs. Strickland should 
be concerned with gossip, for I did not know then 
how great a part is played in women's life by the 
opinion of others. It throws a shadow of insincerity 
over their most deeply felt emotions. 

It was known where Strickland was staying. His 
partner, in a violent letter, sent to his bank, had 
taunted him with hiding his whereabouts : and Strick- 
land, in a cynical and humourous reply, had told his 
partner exactly where to find him. He was apparent- 
ly living in an hotel. 

"I've never heard of it, 5 * said Mrs. Strickland, 


"But Fred knows it well. He says it's very expen- 


She flushed darkly. I imagined that she saw her 
husband installed in a luxurious suite of rooms, din- 
ing at one smart restaurant after another, and she 
pictured his days spent at race-meetings and his even- 
ings at the play. 

"It can't go on at his age," she said. "After all, 
he's forty. I could understand it in a young man, 
but I think it's horrible in a man of his years, with 
children who are nearly grown up. His health will 
never stand it." 

Anger struggled in her breast with misery. 

"Tell him that our home cries out for him. Every- 
thing is just the same, and yet everything is differ- 
ent. I can't live without him. I'd sooner kill my- 
self. Talk to him about the past, and all we've gone 
through together. What am I to say to the children 
when they ask for him? His room is exactly as it 
was when he left it. It's waiting for him. We're 
all waiting for him." 

Now she told me exactly what I should say. She 
gave me elaborate answers to every possible observa- 
tion of his. 

"You will do everything you can for me?" she 
said pitifully. "Tell him what a state I'm in." 

I saw that she wished me to appeal to his sym- 
pathies by every means in my power. She was weep- 
ing freely. I was extraordinarily touched. I felt 
indignant at Strickland's cold cruelty, and I promised 
to do all I could to bring him back. I agreed to 
go over on the next day but one, and to stay in 


Paris till I had achieved something. Then, as It was 
growing late and we were both exhausted by so much 
emotion, I left her. 

Chapter XI 

DURING the journey I thought over my er- 
rand with misgiving. Now that I was free 
from the spectacle of Mrs. Strickland's dis- 
tress I could consider the matter more calmly. I 
was puzzled by the contradictions that I saw in her 
behaviour. She was very unhappy, but to excite my 
sympathy she was able to make a show of her un- 
happiness. It was evident that she had been prepared 
to weep, for she had provided herself with a suffi- 
ciency of handkerchiefs ; I admired her forethought, 
but in retrospect it made her tears perhaps less 
moving. I could not decide whether she desired the 
return of her husband because she loved him, or 
because she dreaded the tongue of scandal; and I 
was perturbed by the suspicion that the anguish of 
love contemned was alloyed in her broken heart 
with the pangs, sordid to my young mind, of wounded 
vanity. I had not yet learnt how contradictory is 
human nature ; I did not know how much pose there 
is in the sincere, how much baseness in the noble, 
nor how much goodness in the reprobate. 

But there was something of an adventure in my 
trip, and my spirits rose as I approached Paris. I 
saw myself, too, from the dramatic standpoint, and 
I was pleased with my role of the trusted friend 
bringing back the errant husband to his forgiving 
wife. I made up my mind to see Strickland the 
following evening, for I felt instinctively that the 



hour must be chosen with delicacy. An appeal to 
the emotions is little likely to be effectual before 
luncheon. My own thoughts were then constantly 
occupied with love, but I never could imagine con- 
nubial bliss till after tea. 

I enquired at my hotel for that in which Charles 
Strickland was living. It was called the Hotel des 
Beiges. But the concierge, somewhat to my surprise, 
had never heard of it. I had understood from Mrs. 
Strickland that it was a large and sumptuous place 
at the back of the Rue de Rivoli. We looked it 
out in the directory. The only hotel of that name 
was in the Rue des Moines. The quarter was not 
fashionable; it was not even respectable. I shook 
my head. 
, "I'm sure that's not it," I said. 

The concierge shrugged his shoulders. There was 
no other hotel of that name in Paris. It occurred 
to me that Strickland had concealed his address, 
after all. In giving his partner the one I knew 
he was perhaps playing a trick on him. I do not 
know why I had an inkling that it would appeal to 
Strickland's sense of humour to bring a furious 
stockbroker over to Paris on a fool's errand to an 
ill-famed house in a mean street. Still, I thought 
I had better go and see. Next day about six o'clock 
I took a cab to the Rue des Moines, but dismissed 
it at the corner, since I preferred to walk to the 
hotel and look at it before I went in. It was a 
street of small shops subservient to the needs of poor 
people, and about the middle of it, on the left as 
I walked down, was the Hotel des Beiges. My 


own hotel was modest enough, but it was magnifi- 
cent in comparison with this. It was a tall, shabby 
building, that cannot have been painted for years, 
and it had so bedraggled an air that the houses on 
each side of it looked neat and clean. The dirty 
windows were all shut. It was not here that Charles 
Strickland lived in guilty splendour with the unknown 
charmer for whose sake he had abandoned honour 
and duty. I was vexed, for I felt that I had been 
made a fool of, and I nearly turned away without 
making an enquiry. I went in only to be able to 
tell Mrs. Strickland that I had done my best. 

The door was at the side of a shop. It stood 
open, and just within was a sign : Bureau au premier. 
I walked up narrow stairs, and on the landing found 
a sort of box, glassed in, within which were a desk 
and a couple of chairs. There was a bench out- 
side, on which it might be presumed the night porter 
passed uneasy nights. There was no one about, but 
under an electric bell was written Gargon. I rang, 
and presently a waiter appeared. He was a young 
man with furtive eyes and a sullen look. He was 
in shirt-sleeves and carpet slippers. 

I do not know why I made my enquiry as casual 
as possible. 

"Does Mr. Strickland live here by any chance?" 
I asked. 

"Number thirty-two. On the sixth floor." 

I was so surprised that for a moment I did not 

"Is he in?" 

The waiter looked at a board in the bureau. 


"He hasn't left his key. Go up and you'll see." 

I thought it as well to put one more question. 

"Madame est laf" 

"Monsieur est seul" 

The waiter looked at me suspiciously as I made 
my way upstairs. They were dark and airless. 
There was a foul and musty smell. Three flights 
up a woman in a dressing-gown, with touzled hair, 
opened a door and looked at me silently as I passed. 
At length I reached the sixth floor, and knocked at 
the door numbered thirty-two. There was a sound 
within, and the door was partly opened. Charles 
Strickland stood before me. He uttered not a word. 
He evidently did not know me. 

I told him my name. I tried my best to assume 
an airy manner. 

"You don't remember me. I had the pleasure 
of dining with you last July." 

"Come in," he said cheerily. "I'm delighted to 
see you. Take a pew." 

I entered. It was a very small room, overcrowded 
with furniture of the style which the French know 
as Louis Philippe. There was a large wooden bed- 
stead on which was a billowing red eiderdown, and 
there was a large wardrobe, a round table, a very 
small washstand, and two stuffed chairs covered with 
red rep. Everything was dirty and shabby. There 
was no sign of the abandoned luxury that Colonel 
MacAndrew had so confidently described. Strick- 
land threw on the floor the clothes that burdened 
one of the chairs, and I sat down on it. 

"What can I do for you?" he asked. 


In that small room he seemed even bigger than 
I remembered him. He wore an old Norfolk jacket, 
and he had not shaved for several days. When last 
I saw him he was spruce enough, but he looked ill 
at ease: now, untidy and ill-kempt, he looked per- 
fectly at home. I did not know how he would take 
the remark I had prepared. 

"I've come to see you on behalf of your wife." 

"I was just going out to have a drink before din- 
ner. You'd better come too. Do you like absinthe?" 

"I can drink it." 

"Come on, then." 

He put on a bowler hat much in need of brushing. 

"We might dine together. You owe me a din* 
ner, you know." 

"Certainly. Are you alone?" 

I flattered myself that I had got in that impor- 
tant question very naturally. 

"Oh yes. In point of fact I've not spoken to a 
soul^ for three days. My French isn't exactly bril- 

I wondered as I preceded him downstairs what 
had happened to the little lady in the tea-shop. Had 
they quarrelled already, or was his infatuation 
passed? It seemed hardly likely if, as appeared, 
he had been taking steps for a year to make his 
desperate plunge. We walked to the Avenue de 
Clichy, and sat down at one of the tables on the 
ment of a large cafe. 

Chapter XII 

THE Avenue de Clichy was crowded at that 
hour, and a lively fancy might see in the 
passers-by the personages of many a sordid 
romance. There were clerks and shopgirls; old fel- 
lows who might have stepped out of the pages of 
Honore de Balzac; members, male and female, of 
the professions which make their profit of the frail- 
ties of mankind. There is in the streets of the 
poorer quarters of Paris a thronging vitality which 
excites the blood and prepares the soul for the un- 

"Do you know Paris well?" I asked. 

"No. We came on our honeymoon. I haven't 
been since." 

"How on earth did you find out your hotel?" 

"It was recommended to me. I wanted some- 
thing cheap." 

The absinthe came, and with due solemnity we 
dropped water over the melting sugar. 

"I thought Fd better tell you at once why I had 
come to see you," I said, not without embarrassment. 

His eyes twinkled. 

"I thought somebody would come along sooner 
or later. Fve had a lot of letters from Amy." 

"Then you know pretty well what I've got to say." 

"I've not read them." 

I lit a cigarette to give myself a moment's time. 
I did not quite know now how to set about my 



mission. The eloquent phrases I had arranged, pa- 
thetic or indignant, seemed out of place on the Ave- 
nue de Clichy. Suddenly he gave a chuckle. 

"Beastly job for you this, isn't it?" 

"Oh, I don't know," I answered. 

"Well, look here, you get it over, and then we'll 
have a jolly evening." 

I hesitated. 

"Has it occurred to you that your wife is fright- 
fully unhappy?" 

"She'll get over it." 

I cannot describe the extraordinary callousness 
with which he made this reply. It disconcerted me, 
but I did my best not to show it. I adopted the 
tone used by my Uncle Henry, a clergyman, when 
he was asking one of his relatives for a subscription 
to the Additional Curates Society. 

"You don't mind my talking to you frankly?" 

He shook his head, smiling. 

"Has she deserved that you should treat her like 


"Have you any complaint to make against her?" 


"Then, isn't it monstrous to leave her in this 
fashion, after seventeen years of married life, with- 
out a fault to find with her?" 


I glanced at him with surprise. His cordial agree* 
ment with all I said cut the ground from under my 
feet. It made my position complicated, not to say 
ludicrous. I was prepared to be persuasive, touch- 


5ng, and hortatory, admonitory and expostulating, 
if need be vituperative even, indignant and sarcastic; 
but what the devil does a mentor do when the sin- 
ner makes no bones about confessing his sin? I 
had no experience, since my own practice has always 
been to deny everything. 

"What, then?" asked Strickland. 

1 tried to curl my lip. 

"Well, if you acknowledge that, there doesn't 
seem much more to be said." 

"I don't think there is." 

I felt that I was not carrying out my embassy with 
any great skill. I was distinctly nettled. 

"Hang it all, one can't leave a woman without a 

"Why not?" 

"How is she going to live?" 

"I've supported her for seventeen years. Why 
shouldn't she support herself for a change?" 

"She can't." 

"Let her try." 

Of course there were many things I might have 
answered to this. I might have spoken of the eco- 
nomic position of woman, of the contract, tacit and 
overt, which a man accepts by his marriage, and of 
much else; but I felt that there was only one point 
which really signified. 

"Don't you care for her any more?" 

"Not a bit," he replied. 

The matter was immensely serious for all the 
parties concerned, but there was in the manner of 
his answers such a cheerful effrontery that I had to 


bite my lips in order not to laugh. I reminded my- 
self that his behaviour was abominable. I worked 
myself up into a state of moral indignation. 

"Damn it all, there are your children to think 
of. They've never done you any 'harm. They 
didn't ask to be brought into the world. If you 
chuck everything like this, they'll be thrown on the 

"They've had a good many years of comfort. It's 
much more than the majority of children have. Be- 
sides, somebody will look after them. When it comes 
to the point, the MacAndrews will pay for their 

"But aren't you fond of them? They're such 
awfully nice kids. Do you mean to say you don't 
want to have anything more to do with them?" 

"I liked them all right when they were kids, but 
now they're growing up I haven't got any particular 
feeling for them." 

"It's just inhuman." 

"I dare say." 

"You don't seem in the least ashamed." 

"I'm not." 

I tried another tack* 

"Everyone will think you a perfect swine." 

"Let them." 

"Won't it mean anything to you to know that 
people loathe and despise you?" 


His brief answer was so scornful that it made 
my question, natural though it was, seem absurd* 
L reflected for a minute or two. 


"I wonder if one can live quite comfortably when 
bne's conscious of the disapproval of one's, fellows? 
Are you sure it won't begin to worry you? Every- 
one has some sort of a conscience, and sooner or 
later it will find you out. Supposing your wife died, 
wouldn't you be tortured by remorse?" 

He did not answer, and I waited for some time 
for him to speak. At last I had to break the silence 

"What have you to say to that?" 

"Only that you're a damned fool." 

"At all events, you can be forced to support your 
wife and children," I retorted, somewhat piqued. 
"I suppose the law has some protection to offer 

"Can the law get blood out of a stone? I 
haven't any money. IVe got about a hundred 

I began to be more puzzled than before. It was 
true that his hotel pointed to the most straitened 

"What are you going to do when you've spent 

"Earn some." 

He was perfectly cool, and his eyes kept that 
mocking smile which made all I said seem rather 
foolish. I paused for a kittle while to consider what 
I had better say next. But it was he who spoke 

"Why doesn't Amy marry again? She's com- 
paratively young, and she's not unattractive. I can 
recommend her as an excellent wife. If she wants 


to divorce me I don't mind giving her the necessary 

Now it was my turn to smile. He was very cun- 
ning, but it was evidently this that he was aiming 
af. He had some reason to conceal the fact that 
he had run away with a woman, and he was using 
every precaution to hide her whereabouts. I an- 
swered with decision. 

"Your wife says that nothing you can do will 
ever induce her to divorce you. She's quite made 
up her mind. You can put any possibility of that 
definitely out of your head." 

He looked at me with an astonishment that was 
certainly not feigned. The smile abandoned his lips, 
and he spoke quite seriously. 

"But, my dear fellow, I don't care. It doesn't 
matter a twopenny damn to me one way or the 

I laughed. 

"Oh, come now; you mustn't think us such fools 
as all that. We happen to know that you came 
away with a woman." 

He gave a little start, and then suddenly burst 
into a shout of laughter. He laughed so uproar- 
iously that people sitting near us looked rouni, and 
some of them began to laugh too. 

"I don't see anything very amusing in that.'* 

"Poor Amy," he grinned. 

Then his face grew bitterly scornful. 

"What poor minds women have gotl Love, It's 
always love. They think a man leaves only 
because he wants others. Do you think I should 


be such a fool as to do what I've done for a woman?" 

"Do you mean to say you didn't leave your wife 
for another woman?" 

"Of course not." 

"On your word of honour?" 

I don't know why I asked for that. It was very 
ingenuous of me. 

"On my word of honour." 

"Then, what in God's name have you left her 

"I want to paint." 

I looked at him for quite a long time. I did not 
understand. I thought he was mad. It must be 
remembered that I was very young, and I looked 
upon him as a middle-aged man. I forgot every- 
thing but my own amazement. 

"But you're forty." 

"That's what made me think it was high time 
o begin." 

"Have you ever painted?" 

"I rather wanted to be a painter when I was a 
boy, but my father made me go into business be- 
cause he said there was no money in art. I began to 
paint a bit a year ago. For the last year I've been 
going to some classes at night." 

"Was that where you went when Mrs. Strickland 
thought you were playing bridge at your club?" 

"That's it." 

"Why didn't you tell her?" 

"I preferred to keep it to myself." 

"Can you paint?" 

"Not yet. But I shall That's why I've come 


over here. I couldn't get what I wanted in London. 
Perhaps I can here." 

"Do you think it's likely that a man will do any 
good when he starts at your age? Most men begin 
painting at eighteen." 

"I can learn quicker than I could when I was 

"What makes you think you have any talent?" 

He did not answer for a minute. His gaze 
rested on the passing throng, but I do not think he 
saw it. His answer was no answer. 

"I've got to paint." 

"Aren't you taking an awful chance?" 

He looked at me. His eyes had something 
strange in them, so that I felt rather uncomfortable. 

"How old are you? Twenty-three?" 

It seemed to me that the question was beside the 
point. It was natural that I should take chances; 
but he was a man whose youth was past, a stock- 
broker with a position of respectability, a wife and 
two children. A course that would have been nat- 
ural for me was absurd for him. I wished to be 
quite fair. 

"Of course a miracle may happen, and you may 
be a great painter, but you must confess the chances 
are a million to one against it. It'll be an awful 
sell if at the end you have to acknowledge you've 
made a hash of it." 

"I've got to paint," he repeated. 

"Supposing you're never anything more than 
third-rate,, do you think it will have been worth 
while to give up everything? After all, in any other 


walk in life it doesn't matter if you're not very 
good; you can get along quite comfortably if 
you're just adequate; but it's different with an 


"You blasted fool," he said. 

"I don't see why, unless it's folly to say the 

"I tell you I've got to paint. I can't help myself. 
When a man falls into the water it doesn't matter 
how he swims, well or badly : he's got to get out or 
else he'll drown." 

There was real passion in his voice, and in spite 
of myself I was impressed. I seemed to feel in him 
some vehement power that was struggling within 
him; it gave me the sensation of something very 
strong, overmastering, that held him, as it were, 
against his will. I could not understand. He seemed 
really to be possessed of a devil, and I felt that it 
might suddenly turn and rend him. Yet he looked 
ordinary enough. My eyes, resting on him cur- 
iously, caused him no embarrassment. I wondered 
what a stranger would have taken him to be, sitting 
there in his old Norfolk jacket and his unbrushed 
bowler; his trousers were baggy, his hands were not 
clean; and his face, with the red stubble of the 
unshaved chin, the little eyes, and the large, aggres- 
sive nose, was uncouth and coarse. His mouth was 
large, his lips were heavy and sensual. No; I could 
not have placed him. 

"You won't go back to your wife?" I said at last. 


"She's willing to forget everything that's hap- 


pened and start afresh. She'll never make you a 
single reproach." 

"She can go to hell." 

"You don't care if people think you an utter black- 
guard? You don't care if she and your children have 
to beg their bread?" 

"Not a damn." 

I was silent for a moment in order to give greater 
force to my next remark. I spoke as deliberately as 
I could. 

"You are a most unmitigated cad." 

"Now that youVe got that off your chest, let's 
go and have dinner." 

Chapter XIII 

I DARE say it would have been more seemly 
to decline this proposal. I think perhaps I 
should have made a show of the indignation 
I really felt, and I am sure that Colonel MacAndrew 
at least would have thought well of me if I had 
been able to report my stout refusal to sit at the 
same table with a man of such character. But the 
fear of not being able to carry it through effectively 
has always made me shy of assuming the moral 
attitude; and in this case the certainty that my sen- 
timents would be lost on Strickland made it peculiarly 
embarrassing to utter them. Only the poet or the 
saint can water an asphalt pavement in the confi- 
dent anticipation that lilies will reward his labour. 

I paid for what we had drunk, and we made our 
way to a cheap restaurant, crowded and gay, where 
We dined with pleasure. I had the appetite of youth 
and he of a hardened conscience. Then we went to 
a tavern to have coffee and liqueurs. 

I had said all I had to say on the subject that 
had brought me to Paris, and though I felt it in 
a manner treacherous to Mrs. Strickland not to 
pursue it, I could not struggle against his indifference. 
It requires the feminine temperament to repeat the 
same thing three times with unabated zest. I sol- 
aced myself by thinking that it would be useful for 
me to find out what I could about Strickland's state 



of mind. It also interested me much more. But 
this was not an easy thing to do, for Strickland was 
not a fluent talker. He seemed to express himself 
with difficulty, as though words were not the medium 
with which his mind worked; and you had to guess 
the intentions of his soul by hackneyed phrases, slang, 
and vague, unfinished gestures. But though he said 
nothing of any consequence, there was something in 
his personality which prevented him from being dull. 
Perhaps it was sincerity. He did not seem to care 
much about the Paris he was now seeing for the 
first time (I did not count the visit with his wife), 
and he accepted sights which must have been strange 
to him without any sense of astonishment. I have 
been to Paris a hundred times, and it never fails to 
give me a thrill of excitement; I can never walk its 
streets without feeling myself on the verge of ad- 
venture. Strickland remained placid. Looking back, 
I think now that he was blind to everything but to 
some disturbing vision in his soul. 

One rather absurd incident took place. There 
were a number of harlots in the tavern: some were 
sitting with men, others by themselves ; and presently 
I noticed that one of these was looking at us. When 
she caught Strickland's eye she smiled. I do not 
think he saw her. In a little while she went out, 
but in a minute returned and, passing our table, 
very politely asked us to buy her something to drink. 
She sat down and I began to chat with her; but 
it was plain that her interest was in Strickland. 
I explained that he knew no more than two words 
of French. She tried to talk to him, partly by 


signs, partly in pidgin French, which, for some rea- 
son, she thought would be more comprehensible to 
him, and she had half a dozen phrases of English. 
She made me translate what she could only express 
in her own tongue, and eagerly asked for the mean- 
ing of his replies. He was quite good-tempered, a 
little amused, but his indifference was obvious. 

"I think you've made a conquest," I laughed. 

"I'm not flattered." 

In his place I should have been more embarrassed 
and less calm. She had laughing eyes and a most 
charming mouth. She was young. I wondered what 
she found so attractive in Strickland. She made 
no secret of her desires, and I was bidden to trans- 

"She wants you to go home with her." 

"I'm not taking any," he replied. 

I put his answer as pleasantly as I could. It seemed 
to me a little ungracious to decline an invitation of 
that sort, and I ascribed his refusal to lack of money. 

"But I like him," she said. "Tell him it's for 

When I translated this, Strickland shrugged hh 
shoulders impatiently. 

"Tell her to go to hell," he said. 

His manner made his answer quite plain, and the 
girl threw back her head with a sudden gesture. 
Perhaps she reddened under her paint. She rose to 
her feet. 

"Monsieur n'est pas poll" she said. 

She walked out of the inn. I was slightly vexed. 

"There wasn't any need to insult her that I can 


see," I said. "After all, it was rather a compliment 
she was paying you." 

"That sort of thing makes me sick," he said 

I looked at him curiously. There was a real dis- 
taste in his face, and yet it was the face of a coarse 
and sensual man. I suppose the girl had been at- 
tracted by a certain brutality in it. 

"I could have got all the women I wanted in 
J-ondon. I didn't come here for that." 

Chapter XIV 

DURING the journey back to England I 
thought much of Strickland. I tried to set 
in order what I had to tell his wife. It 
was unsatisfactory, and I could not imagine that 
she would be content with me; I was not content 
with myself. Strickland perplexed me. I could not 
understand his motives. When I had asked him 
what first gave him the idea of being a painter, he 
was unable or unwilling to tell me. I could make 
nothing of it. I tried to persuade myself than an 
obscure feeling of revolt had been gradually com- 
ing to a head in his slow mind, but to challenge this 
was the undoubted fact that he had never shown 
any impatience with the monotony of his life. If, 
seized by an intolerable boredom, he had deter- 
mined to be a painter merely to break with irksome 
ties, it would have been comprehensible, and com- 
monplace; but commonplace is precisely what I felt 
he was not. At last, because I was romantic, I 
devised an explanation which I acknowledged to be 
far-fetched, but which was the only one that in any 
way satisfied me. It was this : I asked myself wheth- 
er there was not in his soul some deep-rooted instinct 
of creation, which the circumstances of his life had 
obscured, but which grew relentlessly, as a cancer 
may grow in the living tissues, till at last it took 
possession of his whole being and forced him irre- 
sistibly to action. The cuckoo lays its egg in the 



strange bird's, nest, and when the young one is 
hatched it shoulders its foster-brothers out and breaks 
at last the nest that has sheltered it. 

But how strange it was that the creative instinct 
should seize upon this dull stockbroker, to his own 
ruin, perhaps, and to the misfortune of such as 
were dependent on him; and yet no stranger than 
the way in which the spirit of God has seized men, 
powerful and rich, pursuing them with stubborn 
vigilance till at last, conquered, they have abandoned 
the joy of the world and the love of women for 
the painful austerities of the cloister. Conversion 
may come under many shapes, and it may be brought 
about in many ways. With some men it needs a 
cataclysm, as a stone may be broken to fragments by 
the fury of a torrent; but with some it comes grad- 
ually, as a stone may be worn away by the cease- 
less fall of a drop of water. Strickland had the 
directness of the fanatic and the ferocity of the 

But to my practical mind it remained to be seen 
whether the passion which obsessed him would be 
justified of its works. When I asked him what his 
brother-students at the night classes he had attended 
in London thought of his painting, he answered with 
a grin: 

"They thought it a joke/' 

"Have you begun to go to a studio here?' 1 

"Yes. The blighter came round this morning 
the master, you know; when he saw my drawing he 
just raised his eyebrows and walked on.*' 

Strickland chuckled. He did not seem discouraged. 


He was independent of the opinion of his fel- 

And it was just that which had most disconcerted 
me in my dealings with him. When people say they 
do not care what others think of them, for the most 
part they deceive themselves. Generally they mean 
only that they will do as they choose, in the confi- 
dence that no one will know their vagaries; and at 
the utmost only that they are willing to act con- 
trary to the opinion of the majority because they 
are supported by the approval of their neighbours. 
It is not difficult to be unconventional in the eyes 
of the world when your unconventionality is but the 
convention of your set. It affords you then an inor- 
dinate amount of self-esteem. You have the self- 
satisfaction of courage without the inconvenience of 
danger. But the desire for approbation is perhaps 
the most deeply seated instinct of civilised man. No 
one runs so hurriedly to the cover of respectability 
as the unconventional woman who has exposed her- 
self to the slings and arrows of outraged propriety. 
I do not believe the people who tell me they do not 
care a row of pins for the opinion of their fellows. 
It is the bravado of ignorance. They mean only that 
they do not fear reproaches for peccadillos which 
they are convinced none will discover. 

But here was a man who sincerely did not mind 
what people thought of him, and so convention had 
no hold on him; he was like a wrestler whose body 
is oiled; you could not get a grip on him; it gave 
him a freedom which was an outrage. I remember 
saying to him : 


"Look here, if everyone acted like you, the world 
couldn't go on." 

"That's a damned silly thing to say. Everyone 
doesn't want to act like me. The great majority 
are perfectly content to do the ordinary thing.'* 

And once I sought to be satirical. 

"You evidently don't believe in the maxim: Act 
so that every one of your actions is capable of being 
made into a universal rule." 

"I never heard it before, but it's rotten nonsense." 

"Well, it was Kant who said it." 

"I don't care; it's rotten nonsense." 

Nor with such a man could you expect the appeal 
to conscience to be effective. You might as well ask 
for a reflection without a mirror. I take it that 
conscience is the guardian in the individual of the 
rules which the community has evolved for its own 
preservation. It is the policeman in all our hearts, 
set there to watch that we do not break its laws. 
It is the spy seated in the central stronghold of the 
ego. Man's desire for the approval of his fellows is 
so strong, his dread of their censure so violent, that 
he himself has brought his enemy within his gates; 
and it keeps watch over him, vigilant always in the 
interests of its master to crush any half-formed de- 
sire to break away from the herd. It will force 
him to place the good of society before his own. It 
is the very strong link that attaches the individual to 
the whole. And man, subservient to interests he 
has persuaded himself are greater than his own, 
makes himself a slave to his taskmaster. He sits 
him in a seat of honour. At last, like a courtier, 


fawning on the royal stick that is laid about **.- 
shoulders, he prides himself on the sensitiveness of 
his conscience. Then he has no words hard enough 
for the man who does not recognise its sway; for, 
a member of society now, he realises accurately 
enough that against him he is powerless. When I 
saw that Strickland was really indifferent to the 
blame his conduct must excite, I could only draw 
back in horror as from a monster of hardly human 

The last words he said to me when I bade him 
good-night were : 

"Tell Amy it's no good coming after me. Any* 
how, I shall change my hotel, so she wouldn't be able 
to find me." 

"My own impression is that she's well rid of you," 
I said. 

"My dear fellow, I only hope you'll be able to 
$nake her see it. But women are very unintelligent." 

Chapter XV 

WHEN I reached London I found waiting 
for me an urgent request that I should 
go to Mrs. Strickland's as soon after din- 
ner as I could. I found her with Colonel Mac- 
Andrew and his wife. Mrs. Strickland's sister was 
older than she, not unlike her, but more faded; and 
she had the efficient air, as though she carried the 
British Empire in her pocket, which the wives of 
senior officers acquire from the consciousness of be- 
longing to a superior caste. Her manner was brisk, 
and her good-breeding scarcely concealed her con- 
viction that if you were not a soldier you might 
as well be a counter-jumper. She hated the Guards, 
whom she thought conceited, and she could not trust 
herself to speak of their ladies, who were so remiss 
in calling. Her gown was dowdy and expensive. 

Mrs. Strickland was plainly nervous. 

"Well, tell us your news," she said. 

"I saw your husband. I'm afraid he's quite made 
up his mind not to return." I paused a little. "He 
wants to paint." 

"What do you mean?" cried Mrs. Strickland, with 
the utmost astonishment. 

"Did you never know that he was keen on that 
sort of thing." 

"He must be as mad as a hatter," exclaimed the 



Mrs. Strickland frowned a little. She was search- 
ing among her recollections. 

"I remember before we were married he used 
to potter about with a paint-box. But you never saw 
such daubs. We used to chaff him. He had abso- 
lutely no gift for anything like that." 

"Of course it's only an excuse," said Mrs. Mac- 

Mrs. Strickland pondered deeply for some time. 
It was quite clear that she could not make head 
or tail of my announcement. She had put some 
order into the drawing-room by now, her housewifely 
instincts having got the better of her dismay; and 
it no longer bore that deserted look, like a furnished 
house long to let, which I had noticed on my first 
visit after the catastrophe. But now that I had 
seen Strickland in Paris it was difficult to imagine 
him in those surroundings. I thought it could hardly 
have failed to strike them that there was something 
incongruous in him. 

"But if he wanted to be an artist, why didn't he 
say so?" asked Mrs. Strickland at last. "I should 
have thought I was the last person to be unsympa- 
thetic to to aspirations of that kind." 

Mrs. MacAndrew tightened her lips. I imagine 
that she had never looked with approval on her sis- 
ter's leaning towards persons who cultivated the arts. 
She spoke of "culchaw" derisively. 

Mrs. Strickland continued: 

"After all, if he had any talent I should be the 
first to encourage it, I wouldn't have minded sac- 
rifices. I'd much rather be married to a painter 


than to a stockbroker. If it weren't for the children, 
I wouldn't mind anything. I could be just as happy 
in a shabby studio in Chelsea as in this flat." 

"My dear, I have no patience with you," cried 
Mrs. MacAndrew. "You don't mean to say you 
believe a word of this nonsense ?" 

u But I think it's true," I put in mildly. 

She looked at me with good-humoured con- 

"A man doesn't throw up his business and leave 
his wife and children at the age of forty to become 
a painter unless there's a woman in it. I suppose 
he met one of your artistic friends, and she's 
turned his head." 

A spot of colour rose suddenly to Mrs. Strick- 
land's pale cheeks. 

"What is she like?" 

I hesitated a little. I knew that I had a bombshell. 

"There isn't a woman." 

Colonel MacAndrew and his wife uttered expres- 
sions of incredulity, and Mrs. Strickland sprang to 
her feet 

"Do you mean to say you never saw her?" 

"There's no one to see. He's quite alone." 

"That's preposterous," cried Mrs. MacAndrew. 

"I knew I ought to have gone over myself," said 
the Colonel. "You can bet your boots I'd have 
routed her out fast enough." 

"I wish you had gone over," I replied, somewhat 
tartly. "You'd have seen that every one of your 
suppositions was wrong. He's not at a smart hotel. 
He's living in one tiny room in the most squalid 


way. If he's left his home, it's not to live a gay life. 
He's got hardly any money." 

"Do you think he's done something that we don't 
know about, and is lying doggo on account of the 

The suggestion sent a ray of hope in all their 
breasts, but I would have nothing to do with it. 

"If that were so, he would hardly have been such 
a fool as to give his partner his address," I retorted 
acidly. "Anyhow, there's one thing I'm positive of, 
he didn't go away with anyone. He's not in love. 
Nothing is farther from his thoughts." 

There was a pause while they reflected over my 

"Well, if what you say is true," said Mrs. Mac- 
Andrew at last, "things aren't so bad as I thought." 

Mrs. Strickland glanced at her, but said nothing. 
She was very pale now, and her fine brow was dark 
and lowering. I could not understand the expression 
*f her face. Mrs. MacAndrew continued: 

"If it's just a whim, he'll get over it." 

"Why don't you go over to him, Amy?" hazarded 
the Colonel. "There's no reason why you shouldn't 
live with him in Paris for a year. We'll look after 
the children. I dare say he'd got stale. Sooner or 
later he'll be quite ready to come back to London, 
and no great harm will have been done." 

"I wouldn't do that," said Mrs. MacAndrew. 
"I'd give him all the rope he wants. He'll come 
back with his tail between his legs and settle down 
again quite comfortably." Mrs. MacAndrew looked 
at her sister coolly. "Perhaps you weren't very wise 


with him sometimes. Men are queer creatures, and 
one has to know how to manage them." 

Mrs. MacAndrew shared the common opinion of 
her sex that a man is always a brute to leave a 
woman who is attached to him, but that a woman is 
much to blame if he does. Le cosur a ses raisons que 
la raison ne connait pas. 

Mrs. Strickland looked slowly from one to an- 
other of us. 

1 'He'll never come back," she said. 

"Oh, my dear, remember what we've just heard. 
He's been used to comfort and to having someone 
to look after him. How long do you think it'll be 
before he gets tired of a scrubby room in a scrubby 
hotel? Besides, he hasn't any money. He must 
come back." 

"As long as I thought he'd run away with some 
woman I thought there was a chance. I don't be- 
lieve that sort of thing ever answers. He'd have got 
sick to death of her in three months. But if he 
hasn't gone because he's in love, then it's finished." 

"Oh, I think that's awfully subtle," said the 
Colonel, putting into the word all the contempt he 
felt for a quality so alien to the traditions of his call- 
ing. "Don't you believe it. He'll come back, and, as 
Dorothy says, I dare say he'll be none the worse for 
having had a bit of a fling." 

"But I don't want him back," she said, 


It was anger that had seized Mrs. Strickland, and 
her pallor was the pallor of a cold and sudden rage. 
She spoke quickly now, with little gasps. 


"I could have forgiven it if he'd fallen desperately 
in love with someone and gone off with her. I should 
have thought that natural. I shouldn't really have 
blamed him. I should have thought he was led 
away. Men are so weak, and women are so un- 
scrupulous. But this is different. I hate him. I'll 
never forgive him now." 

Colonel MacAndrew and his wife began to talk 
to her together. They were astonished. They told 
her she was mad. They could not understand. Mrs. 
Strickland turned desperately to me. 

"Don't you see?" she cried. 

"I'm not sure. Do you mean that you could have 
forgiven him if he'd left you for a woman, but not 
if he's left you for an idea? You think you're a 
match for the one, but against the other you're help- 

Mrs. Strickland gave me a look in which I read 
no great friendliness, but did not answer. Perhaps 
I had struck home. She went on in a low and trem- 
bling voice : 

"I never knew it was possible to hate anyone as 
much as I hate him. Do you know, I've been com- 
forting myself by thinking that however long it lasted 
he'd want me at the end ? I knew when he was dying 
he'd send for me, and I was ready to go; I'd have 
nursed him like a mother, and at the last I'd have 
told him that it didn't matter, I'd loved him always, 
and I forgave him everything." 

I have always been a little disconcerted by the pas- 
sion women have for behaving beautifully at the 
death-bed of those they love. Sometimes it seems 


as if they grudge the longevity which postpones their 
chance of an effective scene. 

"But now now it's finished. I'm as indifferent 
to him as if he were a stranger. I should like him 
to die miserable, poor, and starving, without a friend. 
I hope he'll rot with some loathsome disease. I've 
done with him." 

I thought it as well then to say what Strickland 
had suggested. 

"If you want to divorce him, he's quite willing to 
do whatever is necessary to make it possible." 

"Why should I give him his freedom?" 

"I don't think he wants it. He merely thought it 
might be more convenient to you." 

Mrs. Strickland shrugged her shoulders impatient- 
ly. I think I was a little disappointed in her. I 
expected then people to be more of a piece than I do 
now, and I was distressed to find so much vindictive- 
ness in so charming a creature. I did not realise how 
motley are the qualities that go to make up a human 
being. Now I am well aware that pettiness and gran- 
deur, malice and charity, hatred and love, can find 
place side by side in the same human heart. 

I wondered if there was anything I could say that 
would ease the sense of bitter humiliation which at 
present tormented Mrs. Strickland. I thought I 
would try. 

"You know, I'm not sure that your husband is 
quite responsible for his actions. I do not think he 
is himself. He seems to me to be possessed by some 
power which is using him for its own ends, and in 
whose hold he is as helpless as a fly in a spider's web. 


It's as though someone had cast a spell over him. 
I'm reminded of those strange stories one sometimes 
hears of another personality entering into a man and 
driving out the old one. The soul lives unstably in 
the body, and is capable of mysterious transforma^ 
tions. In the old days they would say Charles Strick- 
land had a devil." 

Mrs. MacAndrew smoothed down the lap of her 
gown, and gold bangles fell over her wrists. 

U A11 that seems to me very far-fetched," she said 
acidly. "I don't deny that perhaps Amy took her 
husband a little too much for granted. If she hadn't 
been so busy with her own affairs, I can't believe that 
she wouldn't have suspected something was the mat- 
ter. I don't think that Alec could have something 
0n his mind for a year or more without my having 
ft pretty shrewd idea of it.'* 

The Colonel stared into vacancy, and I wondered 
whether anyone could be quite so innocent of guile 
as he looked. 

"But that doesn't prevent the fact that Charles 
Strickland is a heartless beast." She looked at me 
severely. "I can tell you why he left his wife from 
pure selfishness and nothing else whatever." 

"That is certainly the simplest explanation," I said. 
But I thought it explained nothing. When, saying I 
was tired, I rose to go, Mrs. Strickland made no at- 
tempt to detain me. 

Chapter XVI 

WHAT followed showed that Mrs. Strickland 
was a woman of character. Whatever an- 
guish she suffered she concealed. She saw 
shrewdly that the world is quickly bored by the recital 
of misfortune, and willingly avoids the sight of dis- 
tress. Whenever she went out and compassion for 
her misadventure made her friends eager to entertain 
her she bore a demeanour that was perfect. She 
was brave, but not too obviously; cheerful, but not 
brazenly; and she seemed more anxious to listen to 
the troubles of others than to discuss her own. When- 
ever she spoke of her husband it was with pity. Her 
attitude towards him at first perplexed me. One day 
she said to me : 

"You know, I'm convinced you were mistaken about 
Charles being alone. From what I've been able to 
gather from certain sources that I can't tell you, I 
know that he didn't leave England by himself." 

"In that case he has a positive genius for covering 
up his tracks." 

She looked away and slightly coloured. 

"What I mean is, if anyone talks to you about it, 
please don't contradict it if they say he eloped with 

"Of course not." 

She changed the conversation as though it were a 
matter to which she attached no importance. I dis- 
covered presently that a peculiar story was circulating 



among her friends. They said that Charles Strick- 
land had become infatuated with a French dancer, 
whom he had first seen in the ballet at the Empire, 
and had accompanied her to Paris. I could not find 
out how this had arisen, but, singularly enough, it 
created much sympathy for Mrs. Strickland, and at 
the same time gave her not a little prestige. This was 
not without its use in the calling which she had de- 
cided to follow. Colonel MacAndrew had not exag- 
gerated when he said she would be penniless, and it 
was necessary for her to earn her own living as quick- 
ly as she could. She made up her mind to profit by 
her acquaintance with so many writers, and without 
loss of time began to learn shorthand and typewrit- 
ing. Her education made it likely that she would be 
a typist more efficient than the average, and her story 
made her claims appealing. Her friends promised 
to send her work, and took care to recommend her 
to all theirs. 

The MacAndrews, who were childless and in easy 
circumstances, arranged to undertake the care of the 
children, and Mrs. Strickland had only herself to 
provide for. She let her flat and sold her furniture. 
She settled in two tiny rooms in Westminster, and 
faced the world anew. She was so efficient that it 
was certain she would make a success of the adven- 

Chapter XVII 

IT was about five years after this that I decided to 
live in Paris for a while. I was growing stale in 
London. I was tired of doing much the same 
thing every day. My friends pursued their course 
with uneventfulness ; they had no longer any surprises 
for me, and when I met them I knew pretty well what 
they would say; even their love-affairs had a tedious 
banality. We were like tram-cars running on their 
lines from terminus to terminus, and it was possible 
to calculate within small limits the number of pas* 
jsengers they would carry. Life was ordered too 
pleasantly. I was seized with panic. I gave up my 
small apartment, sold my few belongings, and re- 
solved to start afresh. 

I called on Mrs. Strickland before I left. I had 
not seen her for some time, and I noticed changes in 
her : it was not only that she was older, thinner, and 
more lined; I think her character had altered. She 
had made a success of her business, and now had 
an office in Chancery Lane ; she did little typing her- 
self, but spent her time correcting the work of the 
four girls she employed. She had had the idea of 
giving it a certain daintiness, and she made much use 
of blue and red inks; she bound the copy in coarse 
paper, that looked vaguely like watered silk, in van 
ious pale colours ; and she had acquired a reputation 
for neatness and accuracy. She was making money. 

But she could not get over the idea that to earn her 



living was somewhat undignified, and she was in- 
clined to remind you that she was a lady by birth. 
She could not help bringing into her conversation the 
names of people she knew which would satisfy you 
that she had not sunk in the social scale. She was a 
little ashamed of her courage and business capacity, 
but delighted that she was going to dine the next 
night with a K.C. who lived in South Kensington. 
She was pleased to be able to tell you that her son 
was at Cambridge, and it was with a little laugh that 
she spoke of the rush of dances to which her daugh- 
ter, just out, was invited. I suppose I said a very 
stupid thing. 

"Is she going into your business?" I asked. 

"Oh no; I wouldn't let her do that," Mrs. Strick- 
land answered. "She's so pretty. I'm sure she'll 
marry well." 

"I should have thought it would be a help to you." 

"Several people have suggested that she should go 
on the stage, but of course I couldn't consent to that, 
I know all the chief dramatists, and I could get her 
a part to-morrow, but I shouldn't like her to mix with 
all sorts of people." 

I was a little chilled by Mrs. Strickland's exclusive- 

"Do you ever hear of your husband?" 

"No; I haven't heard a word. He may be dead 
for all I know." 

"I may run across him in Paris. Would you like 
me to let you know about him?" 

She hesitated a minute. 

"If he's in any real want I'm prepared to help 


him a little. Yd send you a certain sum of money, and 
you could give it him gradually, as he needed it." 

"That's very good of you," I said. 

But I knew it was not kindness that prompted the 
offer. It is not true that suffering ennobles the char- 
acter; happiness does that sometimes, but suffering, 
for the most part, makes men petty and vindictive. 

Chapter XVIII 

IN point of fact, I met Strickland before I had 
been a fortnight in Paris. 

I quickly found myself a tiny apartment on 
the fifth floor of a house in the Rue des Dames, and 
for a couple of hundred francs bought at a second- 
hand dealer's enough furniture to make it habitable. 
I arranged with the concierge to make my coffee in 
the morning and to keep the place clean. Then I 
went to see my friend Dirk Stroeve. 

Dirk Stroeve was one of those persons whom, ac- 
cording to your character, you cannot think of without 
derisive laughter or an embarrassed shrug of the 
shoulders. Nature had made him a buffoon. He was 
a painter, but a very bad one, whom I had met in 
Rome, and I still remembered his pictures. He had a 
genuine enthusiasm for the commonplace. His soul 
palpitating with love of art, he painted the models 
who hung about the stairway of Bernini in the Piazza 
de Spagna, undaunted by their obvious picturesque- 
ness; and his studio was full of canvases on which 
were portrayed moustachioed, large-eyed peasants in 
peaked hats, urchins in becoming rags, and women in 
bright petticoats. Sometimes they lounged at the 
steps of a church, and sometimes dallied among cy- 
presses against a cloudless sky; sometimes they made 
love by a Renaissance well-head, and sometimes 
they wandered through the Campagna by the side of 
an ox-waggon. They were carefully drawn and cart- 



fully painted. A photograph could not have been 
more exact. One of the painters at the Villa Medici 
had called him Le Maitre de la Boite a Chocolats. 
To look at his pictures you would have thought that 
Monet, Manet, and the rest of the Impressionists had 
never been. 

"I don't pretend to be a great painter," he said. 
"I'm not a Michael Angelo, no, but I have some- 
thing. I sell. I bring romance into the homes of all 
sorts of people. Do you know, they buy my pictures 
not only in Holland, but in Norway and Sweden and 
Denmark? It's mostly merchants who buy them, and 
rich tradesmen. You can't imagine what the winters 
are like in those countries, so long and dark and cold. 
They like to think that Italy is like my pictures. 
That's what they expect. That's what I expected 
Italy to be before I came here." 

And I think that was the vision that had remained 
with him always, dazzling his eyes so that he could 
not see the truth; and notwithstanding the brutality 
of fact, he continued to see with the eyes of the spirit 
an Italy of romantic brigands and picturesque ruins. 
It was an ideal that he painted a poor one, common 
and shop-soiled, but still it was an ideal; and it gave 
his character a peculiar charm. 

It was because I felt this that Dirk Stroeve was not 
to me, as to others, merely an object of ridicule. His 
fellow-painters made no secret of their contempt for 
his work, but he earned a fair amount of money, and 
they did not hesitate to make free use of his purse. 
He was generous, and the needy, laughing at him be- 
cause he believed so naively their stones of distress, 


borrowed from him with effrontery. He was very 
emotional, yet his feeling, so easily aroused, had in 
it something absurd, so that you accepted his kind- 
ness, but felt no gratitude. To take money from him 
was like robbing a child, and you despised him be- 
cause he was so foolish. I imagine that a pickpocket, 
proud of his light fingers, must feel a sort of indigna- 
tion with the careless woman who leaves in a cab a 
vanity-bag with all her jewels in it. Nature had 
made him a butt, but had denied him insensibility. 
He writhed under the jokes, practical and otherwise, 
which were perpetually made at his expense, and yet 
never ceased, it seemed wilfully, to expose himself 
to them. He was constantly wounded, and yet his 
good-nature was such that he could not bear malice : 
the viper might sting him, but he never learned by ex 
perience, and had no sooner recovered from his pain 
than he tenderly placed it once more in his bosom. 
His life was a tragedy written in the terms of knock- 
about farce. Because I did not laugh at him he was 
grateful to me, and he used to pour into my sympa- 
thetic ear the long list of his troubles. The saddest 
thing about them was that they were grotesque, and 
the more pathetic they were, the more you wanted to 

But though so bad a painter, he had a very delicate 
feeling for art, and to go with him to picture-galleries 
was a rare treat. His enthusiasm was sincere and his 
criticism acute. He was catholic. He had not only 
a true appreciation of the old masters, but sympathy 
with the moderns. He was quick to discover talent, 
and his praise was generous, I think I have never 


known a man whose judgment was surer. And he was 
better educated than most painters. He was not, 
like most of them, ignorant of kindred arts, and his 
taste for music and literature gave depth and variety 
to his comprehension of painting. To a young man 
like myself his advice and guidance were of incom- 
parable value. 

When I left Rome I corresponded with him, and 
about once in two months received from him long let- 
ters in queer English, which brought before me vivid- 
ly his spluttering, enthusiastic, gesticulating conversa- 
tion. Some time before I went to Paris he had 
married an Englishwoman, and was now settled in 
a studio in Montmartre. I had not seen him for four 
years, and had never met his wife. 

Chapter XIX 

I HAD not announced my arrival to Stroeve, and 
when I rang the bell of his studio, on opening 
the door himself, for a moment he did not know 
me. Then he gave a cry of delighted surprise and 
drew me in. It was charming to be welcomed with 
so much eagerness. His wife was seated near the 
stove at her sewing, and she rose as I came in. He 
introduced me. 

"Don't you remember?" he said to her. "I've 
talked to you about him often." And then to me: 
"But why didn't you let me know you were coming? 
How long have you been here? How long are you 
going to stay ? Why didn't you come an hour earlier, 
and we would have dined together?" 

He bombarded me with questions. He sat me 
down in a chair, patting me as though I were a cush- 
ion, pressed cigars upon me, cakes, wine. He could 
not let me alone. He was heart-broken because 
he had no whisky, wanted to make coffee for me, 
racked his brain for something he could possibly do 
for me, and beamed and laughed, and in the exuber- 
ance of his delight sweated at every pore. 

"You haven't changed," I said, smiling, as I looked 
at him. 

He had the same absurd appearance that I remem- 
bered. He was a fat little man, with short legs, 
young still he could not have been more than thirty 



- but prematurely bald. His face was perfectly 
round, and he had a very high colour, a white skin, 
red cheeks, and red lips. His eyes were blue and 
round too, he wore large gold-rimmed spectacles, and 
his eyebrows were so fair that you could not see them. 
He reminded you of those jolly, fat merchants that 
Rubens painted. 

When I told him that I meant to live in Paris for a 
while, and had taken an apartment, he reproached me 
bitterly for not having let him know. He would have 
found me an apartment himself, and lent me furni- 
ture did I really mean that I had gone to the ex- 
pense of buying it? and he would have helped me 
to move in. He really looked upon it as unfriendly 
that I had not given him the opportunity of making 
himself useful to me. Meanwhile, Mrs. Stroeve sat 
quietly mending her stockings, without talking, and 
she listened to all he said with a quiet smile on her 

"So, you see, I'm married," he said suddenly; 
"what do you think of my wife?" 

He beamed at her, and settled his spectacles on 
the bridge of his nose. The sweat made them con- 
stantly slip down. 

"What on earth do you expect me to say to that?" 
I laughed. 

"Really, Dirk," put in Mrs. Stroeve, smiling. 

"But isn't she wonderful? I tell you, my boy, lose 
no time; get married as soon as ever you can. I'm 
the happiest man alive. Look at her sitting there. 
Doesn't she make a picture ? Chardin, eh? I've seen 
all the most beautiful women in the world; I've never 


seen anyone more beautiful than Madame Dirk 

"If you don't be quiet, Dirk, I shall go away." 

"Mon petit choux" he said. 

She flushed a little, embarrassed by the passion in 
his tone. His letters had told me that he was very 
much in love with his wife, and I saw that he could 
hardly take his eyes off her. I could not tell if she 
loved him. Poor pantaloon, he was not an object to 
excite love, but the smile in her eyes was affectionate, 
and it was possible that her reserve concealed a very 
deep feeling. She was not the ravishing creature that 
his love-sick fancy saw, but she had a grave comeli- 
ness. She was rather tall, and her gray dress, simple 
and quite well-cut, did not hide the fact that her fig- 
ure was beautiful. It was a figure that might have 
appealed more to the sculptor than to the costumier. 
Her hair, brown and abundant, was plainly done, 
her face was very pale, and her features were good 
without being distinguished. She had quiet gray eyes. 
She just missed being beautiful, and in missing it was 
not even pretty. But when Stroeve spoke of Chardin 
it was not without reason, and she reminded me cu- 
riously of that pleasant housewife in her mob-cap 
and apron whom the great painter has immortalised. 
I could imagine her sedately busy among her pots 
and pans, making a ritual of her household duties, 
so that they acquired a moral significance; I did not 
suppose that she was clever or could ever be amusing, 
but there was something in her grave intentness which 
excited my interest. Her reserve was not without 
mystery. I wondered why she had married Dirft 


Stroeve. Though she was English, I could not ex- 
actly place her, and it was not obvious from what 
rank in society she sprang, what had been her up- 
bringing, or how she had lived before her marriage. 
She was very silent, but when she spoke it was with 
a pleasant voice, and her manners were natural. 

I asked Stroeve if he was working. 

"Working? I'm painting better than IVe ever 
painted before." 

We sat in the studio, and he waved his hand to 
an unfinished picture on an easel. I gave a little 
start. He was painting a group of Italian peasants, 
in the costume of the Campagna, lounging on the 
steps of a Roman church. 

"Is that what you're doing now?" I asked. 

"Yes. I can get my models here just as well as 
in Rome." 

"Don't you think it's very beautiful?" said Mrs. 

"This foolish wife of mine thinks I'm a great 
artist," said he. 

His apologetic laugh did not disguise the pleasure 
that he felt. His eyes lingered on his picture. It 
was strange that his critical sense, so accurate and 
unconventional when he dealt with the work of others, 
should be satisfied in himself with what was hack- 
neyed and vulgar beyond belief. 

"Show him some more of your pictures," she said. 

"Shall I?" 

Though he had suffered so much from the ridicule 
of his friends, Dirk Stroeve, eager for praise and 
naively self-satisfied, could never resist displaying his 


work. He brought out a picture of two curly-headed 
Italian urchins playing marbles. 

"Aren't they sweet?" said Mrs. Stroeve. 

And then he showed me more. I discovered that 
in Paris he had been painting just the same stale, 
obviously picturesque things that he had painted for 
years in Rome. It was all false, insincere, shoddy; 
and yet no one was more honest, sincere, and frank 
than Dirk Stroeve. Who could resolve the contra- 
diction ? 

I do not know what put it into my head to ask: 

"I say, have you by any chance run across a 
painter called Charles Strickland ?" 

"You don't mean to say you know him?'* cried 

"Beast," said his wife. 

Stroeve laughed. 

"Ma pauvre cherie" He went over to her and 
kissed both her hands. "She doesn't like him. How 
strange that you should know Strickland !" 

"I don't like bad manners," said Mrs. Stroeve. 

Dirk, laughing still, turned to me to explain. 

"You see, I asked him to come here one day and 
look at my pictures. Well, he came, and I showed 
him everything I had." Stroeve hesitated a moment 
with embarrassment. I do not know why he had 
begun the story against himself; he felt an awkward- 
ness at finishing it. "He looked at at my pictures, 
and he didn't say anything. I thought he was re- 
serving his judgment till the end. And at last I said : 
'There, that's the lot!' He said: 'I came to ask 
you to lend me twenty francs.' " 


"And Dirk actually gave it him," said his wife in- 

"I was so taken aback. I didn't like to refuse. He 
put the money in his pocket, just nodded, said 
'Thanks,' and walked out." 

Dirk Stroeve, telling the story, had such a look of 
blank astonishment on his round, foolish face that 
it was almost impossible not to laugh. 

"I shouldn't have minded if he'd said my pictures 
were bad, but he said nothing nothing." 

"And you will tell the story, Dirk," said his wife. 

It was lamentable that one was more amused by 
the ridiculous figure cut by the Dutchman than out- 
raged by Strickland's brutal treatment of him. 

"I hope I shall never see him again," said Mrs. 

Stroeve smiled and shrugged his shoulders. He 
had already recovered his good-humour. 

"The fact remains that he's a great artist, a very 
great artist." 

"Strickland?" I exclaimed. "It can't be the same 


"A big fellow with a red beard. Charles Strick- 
land. An Englishman." 

"He had no beard when I knew him, but if 
he has grown one it might well be red. The 
man I'm thinking of only began painting five years 

"That's it. He's a great artist." 


"Have I ever been mistaken?" Dirk asked me. "I 
tell you he has genius. I'm convinced of it. In a hun- 


dred years, if you and I are remembered at all, it will 
be because we knew Charles Strickland." 

I was astonished, and at the same time I was very 
much excited. I remembered suddenly my last talk 
with him. 

"Where can one see his work?" I asked. "Is he 
having any success? Where is he living?" 

"No; he has no success. I don't think he's ever 
sold a picture. When you speak to men about him 
they only laugh. But I know he's a great artist. 
After all, they laughed at Manet. Corot never sold 
a picture. I don't know where he lives, but I can 
take you to see him. He goes to a cafe in the Avenue 
de Clichy at seven o'clock every evening. If you like 
we'll go there to-morrow." 

"I'm not sure if he'll wish to see me. I think I 
may remind him of a time he prefers to forget. But 
I'll come all the same. Is there any chance of seeing 
any of his pictures?" 

"Not from him. He won't show you a thing. 
There's a little dealer I know who has two or three. 
But you musn't go without me ; you wouldn't under- 
stand. I must show them to you myself." 

"Dirk, you make me impatient," said Mrs. Stroeve* 
"How can you talk like that about his pictures when 
he treated you as he did?" She turned to me. "Do 
you know, when some Dutch people came here to buy 
Dirk's pictures he tried to persuade them to buy 
Strickland's? He insisted on bringing them here to 

"What did you think of them?" I asked her, smil- 


"They were awful." 

"Ah, sweetheart, you don't understand." 

"Well, your Dutch people were furious with you. 
They thought you were having a joke with them." 

Dirk Stroeve took off his spectacles and wiped 
them. His flushed face was shining with excitement. 

"Why should you think that beauty, which is the 
most precious thing in the world, lies like a stone on 
the beach for the careless passer-by to pick up idly? 
Beauty is something wonderful and strange that the 
artist fashions out of the chaos of the world in the 
torment of his soul. And when he has made it, it 
is not given to all to know it. To recognize it you 
must repeat the adventure of the artist. It is a mel- 
ody that he sings to you, and to hear it again in your 
own heart you want knowledge and sensitiveness and 

"Why did I always think your pictures beautiful, 
Dirk? I admired them the very first time I saw 

Stroeve's lips trembled a little. 

"Go to bed, my precious. I will walk a few steps 
with our friend, and then I will come back." 

Chapter XX 

DIRK STROEVE agreed to fetch me on the 
following evening and take me to the cafe at 
which Strickland was most likely to be found. 
I was interested to learn that it was the same as that 
at which Strickland and I had drunk absinthe when I 
had gone over to Paris to see him. The fact that 
he had never changed suggested a sluggishness of 
habit which seemed to me characteristic. 

"There he is," said Stroeve, as we reached the cafe. 

Though it was October, the evening was warm, and 
the tables on the pavement were crowded. I ran my 
eyes over them, but did not see Strickland. 

"Look. Over there, in the corner. He's playing 

I noticed a man bending over a chess-board, but 
could see only a large felt hat and a red beard. We 
threaded our way among the tables till we came to 


He looked up. 

"Hulloa, fatty. What do you want?" 

"I've brought an old friend to see you." 

Strickland gave me a glance, and evidently did not 
recognise me. He resumed his scrutiny of the chess- 

"Sit down, and don't make a noise," he said. 

He moved a piece and straightway became ab- 
sorbed in the game. Poor Stroeve gave me a troubled 



look, but I was not disconcerted by so little. I or- 
dered something to drink, and waited quietly till 
Strickland had finished. I welcomed the opportunity 
to examine him at my ease. I certainly should never 
have known him. In the first place his red beard, 
ragged and untrimmed, hid much of his face, and his 
hair was long ; but the most surprising change in him 
;was his extreme thinness. It made his great nose pro- 
trude more arrogantly; it emphasized his cheek- 
bones; it made his eyes seem larger. There were 
deep hollows at his temples. His body was cadaver- 
ous. He wore the same suit that I had seen him in 
five years before; it was torn and stained, threadbare, 
and it hung upon him loosely, as though it had been 
made for someone else. I noticed his hands, dirty, 
with long nails; they were merely bone and sinew, 
large and strong; but I had forgotten that they were 
so shapely. He gave me an extraordinary impression 
as he sat there, his attention riveted on his game an 
impression of great strength; and I could not under- 
stand why it was that his emaciation somehow made 
it more striking. 

Presently, after moving, he leaned back and gazed 
with a curious abstraction at his antagonist. This 
was a fat, bearded Frenchman. The Frenchman 
considered the position, then broke suddenly into 
jovial expletives, and with an impatient gesture, gath- 
ering up the pieces, flung them into their box. He 
cursed Strickland freely, then, calling for the waiter, 
paid for the drinks, and left. Stroeve drew his chair 
closer to the table. 

"Now I suppose we can talk," he said. 


Strickland's eyes rested on him, and there was in 
them a malicious expression. I felt sure he was seek- 
ing for some gibe, could think of none, and so was 
forced to silence. 

"I've brought an old friend to see you," repeated 
Stroeve, beaming cheerfully. 

Strickland looked at me thoughtfully for nearly a 
minute. I did not speak. 

"I've never seen him in my life," he said. 

I do not know why he said this, for I felt certain I 
had caught a gleam of recognition in his eyes. I was 
not so easily abashed as I had been some years earlier. 

"I saw your wife the other day," I said. "I felt 
sure you'd like to have the latest news of her." 

He gave a short laugh. His eyes twinkled. 

"We had a jolly evening together," he said. "How 
long ago is it?" 

"Five years." 

He called for another absinthe. Stroeve, with vol- 
uble tongue, explained how he and I had met, and by 
what an accident we discovered that we both knew 
Strickland. I do not know if Strickland listened. He 
glanced at me once or twice reflectively, but for the 
most part seemed occupied with his own thoughts; 
and certainly without Stroeve's babble the conver- 
sation would have been difficult. In half an hour the 
Dutchman, looking at his watch, announced that he 
must go. He asked whether I would come too. I 
thought, alone, I might get something out of Strick- 
land, and so answered that I would stay. 

When the fat man had left I said: 

"Dirk Stroeve thinks you're a great artist. " 


"What the hell do you suppose I care?" 

"Will you let me see your pictures?'' 

"Why should I?" 

"I might feel inclined to buy one." 

"I might not feel inclined to sell one." 

"Are you making a good living?" I asked, smiling. 

He chuckled. 

"Do I look it?" 

"You look half starved." 

"I am half starved." 

"Then come and let's have a bit of dinner." 

"Why do you ask me?" 

"Not out of chanty," I answered coolly. "I don't 
really care a twopenny damn if you starve or not." 

His eyes lit up again. 

"Come on, then," he said, getting up. "I'd like 
a decent meal." 

Chapter XXI 

I LET him take me to a restaurant of his choice, 
but on the way I bought a paper. When we had 
ordered our dinner, I propped it against a bottle 
of St. Galmier and began to read. We ate in silence. 
I felt him looking at me now and again, but I took 
no notice. I meant to force him to conversation. 

"Is there anything in the paper?" he said, as 
we approached the end of our silent meal. 

I fancied there was in his tone a slight note of 

"I always like to read the Jeuilleton on the drama," 
I said. 

I folded the paper and put it down beside me. 

"I've enjoyed my dinner," he remarked. 

"I think we might have our coffee here, don't 


We lit our cigars. I smoked in silence. I noticed 
that now and then his eyes rested on me with a faint 
smile of amusement. I waited patiently. 

"What have you been up to since I saw you last?" 
he asked at length. 

I had not very much to say. It was a record of 
hard work and of little adventure; of experiments 
in this direction and in that; of the gradual acquisition 
of the knowledge of books and of men. I took care 
to ask Strkkland nothing about his own doings. I 
showed not the least interest in him, and at last I was 



rewarded. He began to talk of himself. But with 
his poor gift of expression he gave but indications 
of what he had gone through, and I had to fill up 
the gaps with my own imagination. It was tanta- 
lising to get no more than hints into a character that 
interested me so much. It was like making one's way^ 
through a mutilated manuscript. I received the im- 
pression of a life which was a bitter struggle against 
every sort of difficulty ; but I realised that much which 
would have seemed horrible to most people did not 
in the least affect him. Strickland was distinguished 
from most Englishmen by his perfect indifference 
to comfort; it did not irk him to live always in one 
shabby room; he had no need to be surrounded by 
beautiful things. I do not suppose he had ever no- 
ticed how dingy was the paper on the wall of thd 
room in which on my first visit I found him. He did 
not want arm-chairs to sit in; he really felt more at 
his ease on a kitchen chair. He ate with appetite, 
but was indifferent to what he ate ; to him it was only 
food that he devoured to still the pangs of hunger; 
and when no food was to be had he seemed capable 
of doing without. I learned that for six months he; 
had lived on a loaf of bread and a bottle of milk a 
day. He was a sensual man, and yet was indifferent 
to sensual things. He looked upon privation as no 
hardship. There was something impressive in the 
manner in which he lived a life wholly of the spirit. 
When the small sum of money which he brougnt 
with him from London came to an end he suffered 
[from no dismay. He sold no pictures; I think he 
made little attempt to sell any; he set about finding 


some way to make a bit of money. He told me with 
grim humour of the time he had spent acting as guide 
to Cockneys who wanted to see the night side of life 
in Paris; it was an occupation that appealed to his 
sardonic temper and somehow or other he had ac- 
quired a wide acquaintance with the more disrep- 
utable quarters of the city. He told me of the long 
hours he spent walking about the Boulevard de la 
Madeleine on the look-out for Englishmen, prefer- 
ably the worse for liquor, who desired to see things 
which the law forbade. When in luck he was able 
to make a tidy sum; but the shabbiness of his clothes 
at last frightened the sight-seers, and he could not 
find people adventurous enough to trust themselves 
to him. Then he happened on a job to translate the 
advertisements of patent medicines which were sent 
broadcast to the medical profession in England. Dur- 
ing a strike he had been employed as a house-painter* 
Meanwhile he had never ceased to work at his art; 
but had soon tiring of the__s&idios, entirely by him- 
self. He had never been so poor that he could not 
buy canvas and paint, and really he needed nothing 
else. So far as I could make out, he painted with 
great difficulty, and in his unwillingness to accept 
help from anyone lost much time in finding out for 
himself the solution of technical problems which pre- 
ceding generations had already worked out one by 
one. He was aiming at something, I knew not what, 
land perhaps he hardly knew himself; and I got again 
more strongly the impression of a man possessed. 
He did not seem quite sane. It seemed to me that 
he would not show his pictures because he was really 


not interested in them. He lived in a dream, and 
the reality meant nothing to him. I had the feeling 
that he worked on a canvas with all the force of his 
violent personality, oblivious of everything in his ef- 
fort to get what he saw with the mind's eye; and 
then, having finished, not the picture perhaps, for I 
had an idea that he seldom brought anything to com- 
pletion, but the passion that fired him, he lost all care 
for it. He was never satisfied with what he had done ; 
it seemed to him of no consequence compared with 
the vision that obsessed his mind. 

"Why don't you ever send your work to exhibi- 
tions?" I asked. "I should have thought you'd like 
to know what people thought about it." 

"Would you?" 

I cannot describe the unmeasurable contempt he put 
into the two words. 

"Don't you want fame? It's something that most 
artists haven't been indifferent to." 

"Children. How can you care for the opinion of 
the crowd, when you don't care twopence for the 
opinion of the individual?" 

"We're not all reasonable beings," I laughed. 

"Who makes fame ? Critics, writers, stockbrokers, 

"Wouldn't it give you a rather pleasing sensation 
to think of people you didn't know and had never seen 
receiving emotions, subtle and passionate, from the 
work of your hands ? Everyone likes power. I can't 
imagine a more wonderful exercise of it than to move 
the souls of men to pity or terror." 



"Why do you mind if you paint well or 

"I don't. I only want to paint what I see." 

"I wonder if I could write on a desert island, with 
the certainty that no eyes but mine would ever see 
what I had written." 

Strickland did not speak for a long time, but his 
eyes shone strangely, as though he saw something 
that kindled his soul to ecstasy. 

"Sometimes IVe thought of an island lost in a 
boundless sea, where I could live in some hidden val- 
ley, among strange trees, in silence. There I think 
I could find what I want." 

He did not express himself quite like this. He 
used gestures instead of adjectives, and he halted. 
I have put into my own words what I think he wanted 
to say. 

"Looking back on the last five years, do you think 
it was worth it?" I asked. 

He looked at me, and I saw that he did not know 
what I meant. I explained. 

"You gave up a comfortable home and a life as 
happy as the average. You were fairly prosperous. 
You seem to have had a rotten time in Paris. If you 
had your time over again would you do what you 


"Do you know that you Haven't asked anything 
about your wife and children? Do you never think 
of them?" 


"I wish you weren't so damned monosyllabic. 


Have you never had a moment's regret for all the 
unhappiness you caused them?" 

His lips broke into a smile, and he shook his head. 

"I should have thought sometimes you couldn't 
help thinking of the past. I don't mean the past of 
seven or eight years ago, but further back still, when 
you first met your wife, and loved her, and married 
her. Don't you remember the joy with which you 
first took her in your arms?" 

"I don't think of the past. The only thing that 
matters is the everlasting present." 

I thought for a moment over this reply. It was 
obscure, perhaps, but I thought that I saw dimly his 

"Are you happy?" I asked. 


I was silent. I looked at him reflectively. He held 
my stare, and presently a sardonic twinkle lit up his 

"I'm afraid you disapprove of me?" 

"Nonsense," I answered promptly; "I don't dis- 
approve of the boa-constrictor; on the contrary, I'm 
interested in his mental processes." 

"It's a purely professional interest you take in 


"It's only right that you shouldn't disapprove of 
me. You have a despicable character." 

"Perhaps that's why you feel at home with me," 
I retorted. 

He smiled dryly, but said nothing. I wish I knew 
how to describe his smile. I do not know that it 


was attractive, but it lit up his face, changing the ex- 
pression, which was generally sombre, and gave it a 
look of not ill-natured malice. It was a slow smile, 
starting and sometimes ending in the eyes; it was 
very sensual, neither cruel nor kindly, but suggested 
rather the inhuman glee of the satyr. It was his 
smile that made me ask him : 

"Haven't you been in love since you came to 
Paris ?" 

"I haven't got time for that sort of nonsense. Life 
isn't long enough for love and art." 

"Your appearance doesn't suggest the anchorite." 

"All that business fills me with disgust." 

"Human nature is a nuisance, isn't it?" I said. 

"Why are you sniggering at me?" 

"Because I don't believe you." 

"Then you're a damned fool." 

I paused, and I looked at him searchingly. 

"What's the good of trying to humbug me?" I 

"I don't know what you mean." 

I smiled. 

"Let me tell you. I imagine that for months the 
matter never comes into your head, and you're able 
to persuade yourself that you've finished with it for 
good and all. You rejoice in your freedom, and you 
feel that at last you can call your soul your own. 
You seem to walk with your head among the stars. 
And then, all of a sudden you can't stand it any more, 
and you notice that all the time your feet have been 
walking in the mud. And you want to roll yourself 
in it. And you find some woman, coarse and low and 


vulgar, some beastly creature in whom all the horror 
of sex is blatant, and you fall upon her like a wild 
animal. You drink till you're blind with rage." 

He stared at me without the slightest movement. 
I held his eyes with mine. I spoke very slowly. 

'Til tell you what must seem strange, that when 
it's over you feel so extraordinarily pure. You feel 
like a disembodied spirit, immaterial; and you seem 
to be able to touch beauty as though it were a palpable 
thing; and you feel an intimate communion with the 
breeze, and with the trees breaking into leaf, and 
with the iridescence of the river. You feel like God. 
Can you explain that to me?" 

He kept his eyes fixed on mine till I had finished, 
and then he turned away. There was on his face a 
strange look, and I thought that so might a man 
look when he had died under the torture. He was 
silent, I knew that our conversation was ended. 

Chapter XXII 

I SETTLED down in Paris and began to write 
a play. I led a very regular life, working in 
the morning, and in the afternoon lounging 
about the gardens of the Luxembourg or sauntering 
through the streets. I spent long hours in the Louvre, 
the most friendly of all galleries and the most con- 
venient for meditation ; or idled on the quays, finger- 
ing second-hand books that I never meant to buy. 
I read a page here and there, and made acquaintance 
with a great many authors whom I was content to 
know thus desultorily. In the evenings I went to see 
my friends. I looked in often on the Stroeves, and 
sometimes shared their modest fare. Dirk Stroeve 
flattered himself on his skill in cooking Italian dishes, 
and I confess that his spaghetti were very much bet- 
ter than his pictures. It was a dinner for a King 
when he brought in a huge dish of it, succulent with 
tomatoes, and we ate it together with the good house- 
hold bread and a bottle of red wine. I grew more in- 
timate with Blanche Stroeve, and I think, because I 
was English and she knew few English people, she 
was glad to see me. She was pleasant and simple, 
but she remained always rather silent, and I knew 
not why, gave me the impression that she was con- 
cealing something. But I thought that was perhaps 
no more than a natural reserve accentuated by the 
verbose frankness of her husband. Dirk never con- 
cealed anything. He discussed the most intimate 



matters with a complete lack of self-consciousnesi. 
Sometimes he embarrassed his wife, and the only 
time I saw her put out of countenance was when he 
insisted on telling me that he had taken a purge, and 
went into somewhat realistic details on the subject. 
The perfect seriousness with which he narrated his 
misfortunes convulsed me with laughter, and this 
added to Mrs. Stroeve's irritation. 

"You seem to like making a fool of yourself," she 

His round eyes grew rounder still, and his brow 
puckered in dismay as he saw that she was angry. 

"Sweetheart, have I vexed you? I'll never take 
another. It was only because I was bilious. I lead 
a sedentary life. I don't take enough exercise. For 
three days I hadn't . . ." 

"For goodness sake, hold your tongue," she in- 
terrupted, tears of annoyance in her eyes. 

His face fell, and he pouted his lips like a scolded 
child. He gave me a look of appeal, so that I 
might put things right, but, unable to control myself, 
I shook with helpless laughter. 

We went one day to the picture-dealer in whose 
shop Stroeve thought he could show me at least two 
or three of Strickland's pictures, but when we arrived 
were told that Strickland himself had taken them 
away. The dealer did not know why. 

"But don't imagine to yourself that I make myself 
bad blood on that account. I took them to oblige 
Monsieur Stroeve, and I said I would sell them if I 

could. But really " He shrugged his shoulders* 

"I'm interested in the young men, but voyons, yoir 


yourself, Monsieur Stroeve, you don't think there's 
any talent there." 

"I give you my word of honour, there's no one 
painting to-day in whose talent I am more convinced. 
Take my word for it, you are missing a good affair. 
Some day those pictures will be worth more than all 
you have in your shop. Remember Monet, who could 
not get anyone to buy his pictures for a hundred 
francs. What are they worth now?" 

"True. But there were a hundred as good painters 
as Monet who couldn't sell their pictures at that time, 
and their pictures are worth nothing still. How can 
one tell? Is merit enough to bring success? Don't 
helieve it. Du reste, it has still to be proved that this 
friend of yours has merit. No one claims it for him 
but Monsieur Stroeve." 

"And how, then, will you recognise merit?" asked 
Dirk, red in the face with anger. 

"There is only one way by success." 

"Philistine," cried Dirk. 

"But think of the great artists of the past Ra- 
phael, Michael Angelo, Ingres, Delacroix they were 
all successful." 

"Let us go," said Stroeve to me, "or I shall kill 
this man." 

Chapter XXIII 

I SAW Strickland not infrequently, and now and 
then played chess with him. He was of uncer- 
tain temper. Sometimes he would sit silent and 
abstracted, taking no notice of anyone ; and at others, 
when he was in a good humour, he would talk in his 
own halting way. He never said a clever thing, but 
he had a vein of brutal sarcasm which was not in- 
effective, and he always said exactly what he thought. 
[He was indifferent to the susceptibilities of others, 
and when he wounded them was amused. He was 
constantly offending Dirk Stroeve so bitterly that he 
flung away, vowing he would never speak to him 
again; but there was a solid force in Strickland that 
attracted the fat Dutchman against his will, so that 
he came back, fawning like a clumsy dog, though he 
knew that his only greeting woulb! be the blow he 

I do not know why Strickland put up with me. 
Our relations were peculiar. One day he asked me 
to lend him fifty francs. 

"I wouldn't dream of it," I replied. 

"Why not?" 

"It wouldn't amuse me." 

"I'm frightfully hard up, you know." 

"I don't care." 

"You don't care if I starve?" 

"Why on earth should I?" I asked in my turn. 


He looked at me for a minute or two, pulling his 
untidy beard. I smiled at him. 

"What are you amused at?" he said, with a gleam 
of anger in his eyes. 

"You're so simple. You recognise no obligations. 
No one is under any obligation to you." 

"Wouldn't it make you uncomfortable if I went 
and hanged myself because I'd been turned out of 
my room as I couldn't pay the rent?" 

"Not a bit." 

He chuckled. 

"You're bragging. If I really did you'd be over- 
whelmed with remorse." 

"Try it, and we'll see," I retorted. 

A smile flickered in his eyes, and he stirred his 
absinthe in silence. 

"Would you like to play chess?" I asked. 

"I don't mind." 

We set up the pieces, and when the board was 
ready he considered it with a comfortable eye. There 
is a sense of satisfaction in looking at your men all 
ready for the fray. 

"Did you really think I'd lend you money?" I 

"I didn't see why you shouldn't." 

"You surprise me." 


"It's disappointing to find that at heart you are 
sentimental. I should have liked you better if you 
hadn't made that ingenuous appeal to my sympathies." 

"I should have despised you if you'd been moved 
by it," he answered. 


"That's better," I laughed. 

We began to play. We were both absorbed in the 
game. When it was finished I said to him : 

"Look here, if you're hard up, let me see your pic- 
tures. If there's anything I like I'll buy it." 

"Go to hell," he answered. 

He got up and was about to go away. I stopped 

"You haven't paid for your absinthe," I said, smil- 

He cursed me, flung down the money and left. 

I did not see him for several days after that, but 
one evening, when I was sitting in the cafe, reading 
a paper, he came up and sat beside me. 

"You haven't hanged yourself after all," I re- 

"No. I've got a commission. I'm painting the 
portrait of a retired plumber for two hundred 

"How did you manage that?" 

"The woman where I get my bread recommended 
me. He'd told her he was looking out for someone 
to paint him. I've got to give her twenty francs." 

"What's he like?" 

"Splendid. He's got a great red face like a leg 
of mutton, and on his right cheek there's an enormous 
mole with long hairs growing out of it." 

Strickland was in a good humour, and when DirK 

* This picture, formerly in the possession of a wealthy 
manufacturer at Lille, who fled from that city on the ap- 
proach of the Germans, is now in the National Gallery at 
Stockholm. The Swede is adept at the gentle pastime of 
fishing in troubled waters. 


Stroeve came up and sat down with us he attacked him 
with ferocious banter. He showed a skill I should 
never have credited him with in finding the places 
where the unhappy Dutchman was most sensitive. 
Strickland employed not the rapier of sarcasm but 
the bludgeon of invective. The attack was so un- 
provoked that Stroeve, taken unawares, was defence- 
less. He reminded you of a frightened sheep running 
aimlessly hither and thither. He was startled and 
amazed. At last the tears ran from his eyes. And 
the worst of it was that, though you hated Strickland, 
and the exhibition was horrible, it was impossible 
not to laugh. Dirk Stroeve was one of those un- 
lucky persons whose most sincere emotions are ridicu- 

But after all when I look back upon that winter in 
Paris, my pleasantest recollection is of Dirk Stroeve. 
There was something very charming in his little 
household. He and his wife made a picture which 
the imagination gratefully dwelt upon, and the sim- 
plicity of his love for her had a deliberate grace. He 
remained absurd, but the sincerity of his passion ex- 
cited one's sympathy. I could understand how his 
wife must feel for him, and I was glad that her af- 
fection was so tender. If she had any sense of 
humour, it must amuse her that he should place her 
on a pedestal and worship her with such an honest 
idolatry, but even while she laughed she must have 
been pleased and touched. He was the constant 
lover, and though she grew old, losing her rounded 
lines and her fair comeliness, to him she would cer- 
tainly never alter. To him she would always be die 


loveliest woman in the world. There was a pleasing 
grace in the orderliness of their lives. They had but 
the studio, a bedroom, and a tiny kitchen. Mrs. 
Stroeve did all the housework herself ; and while Dirk 
painted bad pictures, she went marketing, cooked the 
luncheon, sewed, occupied herself like a busy ant all 
the day; and in the evening sat in the studio, sewing 
again, while Dirk played music which I am sure was 
far beyond her comprehension. He played with taste, 
but with more feeling than was always justified, and 
into his music poured all his honest, sentimental, ex- 
uberant soul. 

Their life in its own way was an idyl, and it man- 
aged to achieve a singular beauty. The absurdity that 
clung to everything connected with Dirk Stroeve gave 
it a curious note, like an unresolved discord, but made 
it somehow more modern, more human ; like a rough 
joke thrown into a serious scene, it heightened the 
poignancy which all beauty has. 

Chapter XXIV 

SHORTLY before Christmas Dirk Stroeve came 
to ask me to spend the holiday with him. He 
had a characteristic sentimentality about the 
day and wanted to pass it among his friends with suit- 
able ceremonies. Neither of us had seen Strickland 
for two or three weeks I because I had been busy 
with friends who were spending a little while in Paris, 
and Stroeve because, having quarreled with him more 
violently than usual, he had made up his mind to 
have nothing more to do with him. Strickland was 
impossible, and he swore never to speak to him again. 
But the season touched him with gentle feeling, and 
he hated the thought of Strickland spending Christ- 
mas Day by himself; he ascribed his own emotions to 
him, and could not bear that on an occasion given up 
to good-fellowship the lonely painter should be aban- 
doned to his own melancholy. Stroeve had set up a 
Christmas-tree in his studio, and I suspected that we 
should both find absurd little presents hanging on its 
festive branches ; but he was shy about seeing Strick- 
land again; it was a little humiliating to forgive so 
easily insults so outrageous, and he wished me to be 
present at the reconciliation on which he was de- 

We walked together down the Avenue de Clichy v 
but Strickland was not in the cafe. It was too cold to 
sit outside, and we took our places on leather benches 
within. It was hot and stuffy, and the air was gray 



with smote. Strickland did not come, but presently 
we saw the French painter who occasionally played 
chess with him. I had formed a casual acquaintance 
with him, and he sat down at our table. Stroeve 
asked him if he had seen Strickland. 

"He's ill," he said. "Didn't you know?" 


"Very, I understand." 

Stroeve's face grew white. 

"Why didn't he write and tell me? How stupid 
of me to quarrel with him We must go to him at 
once. He can have no one to look after him. Where 
does he live ?" 

"I have no idea," said the Frenchman. 

We discovered that none of us knew how to find 
him. Stroeve grew more and more distressed. 

"He might die, and not a soul would know any- 
thing about it. It's dreadful. I can't bear the 
thought. We must find him at once." 

I tried to make Stroeve understand that it was ab- 
surd to hunt vaguely about Paris. We must first 
think of some plan. 

"Yes ; but all this time he may be dying, and when 
we get there it may be too late to do anything." 

"Sit still and let us think," I said impatiently. 

The only address I knew was the Hotel des Beiges, 
but Strickland had long left that, and they would 
have no recollection of him. With that queer idea of 
his to keep his whereabouts secret, it was unlikely 
that, on leaving, he had said where he was going. 
Besides, it was more than five years ago. I felt pretty 
sure that he had not moved far. If he continued to 


frequent the same cafe as when he had stayed at the 
hotel, it was probably because it was the most con- 
venient. Suddenly I remembered that he had got his 
commission to paint a portrait through the baker 
from whom he bought his bread, and it struck me 
that there one might find his address. I called for 
a directory and looked out the bakers. There were 
five in the immediate neighbourhood, and the only 
thing was to go to all of them. Stroeve accompanied 
me unwillingly. His own plan was to run up and 
down the streets that led out of the Avenue de Clichy 
and ask at every house if Strickland lived there. My 
commonplace scheme was, after all, effective, for in 
the second shop we asked at the woman behind the 
counter acknowledged that she knew him. She was 
not certain where he lived, but it was in one of the 
three houses opposite. Luck favoured us, and in the 
first we tried the concierge told us that we should find 
him on the top floor. 

"It appears that he's ill," said Stroeve. 

"It may be," answered the concierge indifferently. 
"En effet, I have not seen him for several days." 

Stroeve ran up the stairs ahead of me, and when I 
reached the top floor I found him talking to a work- 
man in his shirt-sleeves who had opened a door at 
which Stroeve had knocked. He pointed to another 
door. He believed that the person who lived there 
was a painter. He had not seen him for a week. 
Stroeve made as though he were about to knock, and 
then turned to me with a gesture of helplessness. I 
saw that he was panic-stricken. 

"Supposing he's dead? M 


"Not he," I said. 

I knocked. There was no answer. I tried the 
handle, and found the door unlocked. I walked in, 
and Stroeve followed me. The room was in dark- 
ness. I could only see that it was an attic, with a 
sloping roof; and a faint glimmer, no more than a 
less profound obscurity, came from a skylight. 

"Strickland," I called. 

There was no answer. It was really rather myste- 
rious, and it seemed to me that Stroeve, standing just 
behind, was trembling in his shoes. For a moment 
I hesitated to strike a light. I dimly perceived a bed 
in the corner, and I wondered whether the light 
would disclose lying on it a dead body. 

"Haven't you got a match, you fool?" 

Strickland's voice, coming out of the darkness, 
harshly, made me start. 

Stroeve cried out. 

"Oh, my God, I thought you were dead." 

I struck a match, and looked about for a candle. I 
had a rapid glimpse of a tiny apartment, half room, 
half studio, in which was nothing but a bed, canvases 
with their faces to the wall, an easel, a table, and a 
chair. There was no carpet on the floor. There was 
no fire-place. On the table, crowded with paints, 
palette-knives, and litter of all kinds, was the end of 
a candle. I lit it. Strickland was lying in the bed, 
uncomfortably because it was too small for him, and 
he had put all his clothes over him for warmth. It 
was obvious at a glance that he was in a high fever. 
Stroeve, his voice cracking with emotion, went up to 


"Oh, my poor friend, what is the matter with 
you? I had no idea you were ill. Why didn't you 
let me know? You must know I'd have done any- 
thing in the world for you. Were you thinking of 
what I said? I didn't mean it. I was wrong. It 
was stupid of me to take offence.'* 

"Go to hell," said Strickland. 

"Now, be reasonable. Let me make you com- 
fortable. Haven't you anyone to look after 
you? 5> 

He looked round the squalid attic in dismay. He 
tried to arrange the bed-clothes. Strickland, breath'- 
ing laboriously, kept an angry silence. He gave me a 
resentful glance. I stood quite quietly, looking at 

"If you want to do something for me, you can get 
me some milk," he said at last. "I haven't been able 
to get out for two days." 

There was an empty bottle by the side of the be4, 
which had contained milk, and in a piece of news- 
paper a few crumbs. 

"What have you been having?" I asked. 


"For how long?" cried Stroeve. "Do you mean to 
say you've had nothing to eat or drink for two days? 
It's horrible." 

"I've had water." 

His eyes dwelt for a moment on a large can within 
reach of an outstretched arm. 

"I'll go immediately," said Stroeve. "Is there 
anything you fancy?" 

I suggested that he should get a thermometer, and 


a few grapes, and some bread. Stroeve, glad to make 
himself useful, clattered down the stairs. 

"Damned fool," muttered Strickland. 

I felt his pulse. It was beating quickly and feebly. 
I asked him one or two questions, but he would not 
answer, and when I pressed him he turned his face 
irritably to the wall. The only thing was to wait in 
silence. In ten minutes Stroeve, panting, came back. 
Besides what I had suggested, he brought candles, and 
meat-juice, and a spirit-lamp. He was a practical 
little fellow, and without delay set about making 
bread-and-milk. I took Strickland's temperature. It 
was a hundred and four. He was obviously very ill. 

Chapter XXV] 

PRESENTLY we left him. Dirk was going 
home to dinner, and I proposed to find a doc- 
tor and bring him to see Strickland; but when 
we got down into the street, fresh after the stuffy 
attic, the Dutchman begged me to go immediately to 
his studio. He had something in mind which he 
would not tell me, but he insisted that it was very 
necessary for me to accompany him. Since I did not 
think a doctor could at the moment do any more than 
we had done, I consented. We found Blanche 
Stroeve laying the table for dinner. Dirk went up 
to her, and took both her hands. 

"Dear one, I want you to do something for me," 
he said. 

She looked at him with the grave cheerfulness 
which was one of her charms. His red face was shin- 
ing with sweat, and he had a look of comic agitation, 
but there was in his round, surprised eyes an eager 

" Strickland is very ill. He may be dying. He is 
alone in a filthy attic, and there is not a soul to look 
after him. I want you to let me bring him here." 

She withdrew her hands quickly, I had never seen 
Her make so rapid a movement,; and her cheeks 

"Oh no." 

"Oh, my dear one, don't refuse. I couldn't bear to 


leave him where he is. I shouldn't sleep a wink for 
thinking of him." 

"I have no objection to your nursing him." 

Her voice was cold and distant. 

"But he'll die." 

"Let him." 

Stroeve gave a little gasp. He wiped his face. He 
turned to me for support, but I did not know what to 

"He's a great artist." 

"What do I care ? I hate him." 

"Oh, my love, my precious, you don't mean that. 
I beseech you to let me bring him here. We can 
make him comfortable. Perhaps we can save him. 
He shall be no trouble to you. I will do everything. 
We'll make him up a bed in the studio. We can't let 
him die like a dog. It would be inhuman." 

"Why can't he go to a hospital?" 

"A hospital ! He needs the care of loving hands. 
He must be treated with infinite tact." 

I was surprised to see how moved she was. She 
went on laying the table, but her hands trembled. 

<T I have no patience with you. Do you think if you 
were ill he would stir a finger to help you ?" 

"But what does that matter? I should have you 
to nurse me. It wouldn't be necessary. And besides^ 
I'm different; I'm not of any importance." 

"You have no more spirit than a mongrel cur. 
You lie down on the ground and ask people to tram- 
ple on you." 

Stroeve gave a little laugh. He thought he under- 
stood the reason of his wife's attitude. 


"Oh, my poor dear, you're thinking of that day he 
came here to look at my pictures. What does it mat- 
ter if he didn't think them any good? It was stupid 
of me to show them to him. I dare say they're not 
very good." 

He looked round the studio ruefully. On the easel 
was a half-finished picture of a smiling Italian peas- 
ant, holding a bunch of grapes over the head of a 
dark-eyed girl. 

"Even if he didn't like them he should have been 
civil. He needn't have insulted you. He showed 
that he despised you, and you lick his hand. Oh, I 
hate him." 

"Dear child, he has genius. You don't think I 
believe that I have it. I wish I had; but I know it 
when I see it, and I honour it with all my heart. It's 
the most wonderful thing in the world. It's a great 
burden to its possessors. We should be very tolerant 
with them, and very patient." 

I stood apart, somewhat embarrassed by the do- 
mestic scene, and wondered why Stroeve had insisted 
on my coming with him. I saw that his wife was on 
the verge of tears. 

"But it's not only because he's a genius that I ask 
you to let me bring him here; it's because he's a 
human being, and he is ill and poor." 

"I will never have him in my house never." 

Stroeve turned to me. 

"Tell her that it's a matter of life and death. It's 
impossible to leave him in that wretched hole." 

"It's quite obvious that it would be much easier to 
nurse him here," I said, "but of course it would b* 


very inconvenient I have an idea that someone will 
have to be with him day and night." 

"My love, it's not you who would shirk a little 

"If he comes here, I shall go," said Mrs. Stroeve 

"I don't recognize you. You're so good and kind." 

"Oh, for goodness sake, let me be. You drive me 
to distraction." 

Then at last the tears came. She sank into a chair, 
and buried her face in her hands. Her shoulders 
shook convulsively. In a moment Dirk was on his 
knees beside her, with his arms round her, kissing her, 
calling her all sorts of pet names, and the facile tears 
ran down his own cheeks. Presently she released 
herself and dried her eyes. 

"Leave me alone," she said, not unkindly; and then 
to me, trying to smile: "What must you think of 

Stroeve, looking at her with perplexity, hesitated. 
His forehead was all puckered, and his red mouth set 
in a pout. He reminded me oddly of an agitated 

"Then it's No, darling?" he said at last. 

She gave a gesture of lassitude. , She was ex- 

"The studio is yours. Everything belongs to you. 
If you want to bring him here, how can I prevent 

A sudden smile flashed across his round face. 

"Then you consent? I knew you would. Oh, my 


Suddenly she pulled herself together. She looked 
at him with haggard eyes. She clasped her hands 
over her heart as though its beating were intolerable. 

"Oh, Dirk, I've never since we met asked you to 
Ho anything for me." 

"You know there's nothing in the world that I 
wouldn't do for you." 

"I beg you not to let Strickland comfehere. Any- 
one else you like. Bring a thief, a drunkard, any 
outcast off the streets, and I promise you I'll do 
everything I can for them gladly. But I bese^li you 
not to bring Strickland here." 

"But why?" 

"I'm frightened of him. I don't know why, but 
there's something in him that terrifies me. He'll do 
us some great harm. I know it. I feel it If you 
bring him here it can only end badly." 

"But how unreasonable!" 

"No, no. I know I'm right. Something terrible 
will happen to us." 

"Because we do a good action?" 

She was panting now, and in her face was a terror 
which was inexplicable. I do not know what she 
thought. I felt that she was possessed by some shape- 
less dread which robbed her of all self-control. As 
a rule she was so calm ; her agitation now was amaz- 
ing. Stroeve looked at her for a while with puzzled 

"You are my wife; you are dearer to me than any- 
one in the world. No one shall come here without 
your entire consent." 

She closed her eyes for a moment, and I thought 


she was going to faint. I was a little impatient with 
her; I had not suspected that she was so neurotic a 
woman. Then I heard Stroeve's voice again. It 
seemed to break oddly on the silence. 

"Haven't you been in bitter distress once when a 
helping hand was held out to you? You know how 
much it means. Wouldn't you like to do someone a 
good turn when you have the chance?" 

The words were ordinary enough, and to my mind 
there was in them something so hortatory that I al- 
most smiled. I was astonished at the effect they had 
on Blanche Stroeve. She started a little, and gave 
her husband a long look. His eyes were fixed on the 
ground. I did not know why he seemed embarrassed. 
A faint colour came into her cheeks, and then her 
face became white more than white, ghastly; you 
felt that the blood had shrunk away from the whole 
surface of her body; and even her hands were pale. 
A shiver passed through her. The silence of the 
studio seemed to gather body, so that it became an 
almost palpable presence. I was bewildered. 

"Bring Strickland here, Dirk. I'll do my best for 

"My precious," he smiled. 

He wanted to take her in his arms, but she avoided 

"Don't be affectionate before strangers, Dirk," 
she said. "It makes me feel such a fool." 

Her manner was quite normal again, and no one 
could have told that so shortly before she had been 
shaken by such a great emotion. 

Chapter XXVI 

NEXT day we moved Strickland. It needed a 
good deal of firmness and still more patience 
to induce him to come, but he was really too 
ill to offer any effective resistance to Stroeve's en- 
treaties and to my determination. We 'dressed him, 
while he feebly cursed us, got him downstairs, into 
a cab, and eventually to Stroeve's studio. He was 
so exhausted by the time we arrived that he allowed 
us to put him to bed without a word. He was ill for 
six weeks. At one time it looked as though he could 
not live more than a few hours, and I am convinced 
that it was only through the Dutchman's doggedness 
that he pulled through. I have never known a more 
difficult patient. It was not that he was exacting and 
querulous ; on the contrary, he never complained, he 
asked for nothing, he was perfectly silent; but he 
seemed to resent the care that was taken of him ; he 
received all inquiries about his feelings or his needs 
with a jibe, a sneer, or an oath. I found him de- 
testable, and as soon as he was out of danger I had 
no hesitation in telling him so. 

"Go to hell/' he answered briefly. 

Dirk Stroeve, giving up his work entirely, nursed 
Strickland with tenderness and sympathy. He was 
dexterous to make him comfortable, and he exercised 
a cunning of which I should never have thought him 
capable to induce him to take the medicines prescribed 
by the doctor. Nothing was too much trouble for 



him. Though his means were adequate to the needs 
of himself and his wife, he certainly had no money 
to waste; but now he was wantonly extravagant in 
the purchase of delicacies, out of season and dear, 
which might tempt Strickland's capricious appetite. 
I shall never forget the tactful patience with which 
he persuaded him to take nourishment. He was never 
put out by Strickland's rudeness; if it was merely 
sullen, he appeared not to notice it; if it was aggres- 
sive, he only chuckled. When Strickland, recovering 
somewhat, was in a good humour and amused him- 
^self by laughing at him, he deliberately did absurd 
things to excite his ridicule. Then he would give 
me little happy glances, so that I might notice hi 
how much better form the patient was. Stroeve was 

But it was Blanche who most surprised me. She 
proved herself not only a capable, but a devoted 
nurse. There was nothing in her to remind you 
that she had so vehemently struggled against her 
husband's wish to bring Strickland to the studio. She 
insisted on doing her share of the offices needful to 
the sick. She arranged his bed so that it was pos- 
sible to change the sheet without disturbing him. She 
washed him. When I remarked on her competence, 
she told me with that pleasant little smile of hers 
that for a while she had worked in a hospital. She 
gave no sign that she hated Strickland so desperately. 
She did not speak to him much, but she was quick 
to forestall his wants. For a fortnight it was neces- 
sary that someone should stay with him all night, and 
she took turns at watching with her husband. I 


wondered what she thought during the long darkness 
as she sat by the bedside. Strickland was a weird 
figure as he lay there, thinner than ever, with his 
ragged red beard and his eyes staring feverishly into 
vacancy; his illness seemed to have made them larger, 
and they had an unnatural brightness. 

"Does he ever talk to you in the night?" I asked 
her once. 


"Do you dislike him as much as you did?" 

"More, if anything." 

She looked at me with her calm gray eyes. Her 
expression was so placid, it was hard to believe that 
she was capable of the violent emotion I had wit- 

"Has he ever thanked you for what you do for 

"No," she smiled. 

"He's inhuman." 

"He's abominable." 

Stroeve was, of course, delighted with her. He 
could not do enough to show his gratitude for the 
whole-hearted devotion with which she had accepted 
the burden he laid on her. But he was a little puz- 
zled by the behaviour of Blanche and Strickland 
towards one another. 

"Do you know, I've seen them sit there for hours 
together without saying a word?" 

On one occasion, when Strickland was so much 
better that in a day or two he was to get up, I sat 
with them in the studio. Dirk and I were talking. 
Mrs. Stroeve sewed, and I thought I recognised the 


shirt she was mending as Strickland's. He lay on his 
back; he did not speak. Once I saw that his eyes 
were fixed on Blanche Stroeve, and there was in them 
a curious irony. Feeling their gaze, she raised her 
own, and for a moment they stared at one another. 
I could not quite understand her expression. Her 
eyes had in them a strange perplexity, and perhaps 
but why ? alarm. In a moment Strickland looked 
away and idly surveyed the ceiling, but she continued 
to stare at him, and now her look was quite inex- 

In a few days Strickland began to get up. He was 
nothing but skin and bone. His clothes hung upon 
him like rags on a scarecrow. With his untidy beard 
and long hair, his features, always a little larger than 
life, now emphasised by illness, he had an extraordi- 
nary aspect; but it was so odd that it was not quite 
ugly. There was something monumental in his un- 
gainliness. I do not know how to express precisely 
the impression he made upon me. It was not exactly 
spirituality that was obvious, though the screen of the 
flesh seemed almost transparent, because there was 
in his face an outrageous sensuality; but, though it 
sounds nonsense, it seemed as though his sensuality 
were curiously spiritual. There was in him some- 
thing primitive. He seemed to partake of those ob- 
scure forces of nature which the Greeks personified 
in shapes part human and part beast, the satyr and 
the faun. I thought of Marsyas, whom the god 
flayed because he had dared to rival him in song. 
Strickland seemed to bear in his heart strange har- 
monies and unadventured patterns, and I foresaw for 


him an end of torture and despair. I had again the 
feeling that he was possessed of a devil; but you 
could not say that it was a devil of evil, for it was 
a primitive force that existed before good and ill. 

He was still too weak to paint, and he sat in the 
studio, silent, occupied with God knows what dreams, 
or reading. The books he liked were queer; some- 
times I would find him poring over the poems of 
Mallarme, and he read them as a child reads, form- 
ing the words with his lips, and I wondered what 
strange emotion he got from those subtle cadences 
and obscure phrases; and again I found him absorbed 
in the detective novels of Gaboriau. I amused my- 
self by thinking that in his choice of books he showed 
pleasantly the irreconcilable sides of his fantastic 
nature. It was singular to notice that even in the 
weak state of his body he had no thought for its 
comfort. Stroeve liked his ease, and in his studio 
were a couple of heavily upholstered arm-chairs and 
a large divan. Strickland would not go near them, 
not from any affectation of stoicism, for I found him 
seated on a three-legged stool when I went into the 
studio one day and he was alone, but because he 
did not like them. For choice he sat on a kitchen 
chair without arms. It often exasperated me to see 
him. I never knew a man so entirely indifferent 
to his surroundings. 

Chapter XXVII 

TWO or three weeks passed. One morning, 
having come to a pause in my work, I thought 
I would give myself a holiday, and I went to 
the Louvre. I wandered about looking at the pic- 
tures I knew so well, and let my fancy play idly with 
the emotions they suggested. I sauntered into the 
long gallery, and there suddenly saw Stroeve. I 
smiled, for his appearance, so rotund and yet so 
startled, could never fail to excite a smile, and then 
as I came nearer I noticed that he seemed singularly 
disconsolate. He looked woebegone and yet ridicu- 
lous, like a man who has fallen into the water with 
all his clothes on, and, being rescued from death, 
frightened still, feels that he only looks a fool. Turn- 
ing round, he stared at me, but I perceived that he 
did not see me. His round blue eyes looked harassed 
behind his glasses. 

"Stroeve," I said. 

He gave a little start, and then smiled, but his 
smile was rueful. 

"Why are you idling in this disgraceful fashion?" 
J asked gaily. 

"It's a long time since I was at the Louvre. I 
thought I'd come and see if they had anything new." 

"But you told me you had to get a picture fin- 
ished this week." 

"Strickland's painting in my studio." 




"I suggested it myself. He's not strong enough to 
go back to his own place yet. I thought we could 
both paint there. Lots of fellows in the Quarter 
share a studio. I thought it would be fun. I've 
always thought it would be jolly to have someone to 
talk to when one was tired of work." 

He said all this slowly, detaching statement from 
statement with a little awkward silence, and he kept 
his kind, foolish eyes fixed on mine. They were full 
of tears. 

"I don't think I understand," I said. 

"Strickland can't work with anyone else in the stu- 

"Damn it all, it's your studio. That's his look- 


He looked at me pitifully. His lips were trem- 

"What happened?" I asked, rather sharply. 

He hesitated and flushed. He glanced unhappily 
at one of the pictures on the wall. 

"He wouldn't let me go on painting. He told me 
to get out." 

"But why didn't you tell him to go to hell?" 

"He turned me out. I couldn't very well struggle 
with him. He threw my hat after me, and locked 
the door." 

I was furious with Strickland, and was indignant 
with myself, because Dirk Stroeve cut such an ab- 
surd figure that I felt inclined to laugh. 

"But what did your wife say?" 

"She'd gone out to do the marketing." 

"Is he going to let her in?" 


"I don't know." 

I gazed at Stroeve with perplexity. He stood like 
a schoolboy with whom a master is finding fault. 

"Shall I get rid of Strickland for you?" I asked. 

He gave a little start, and his shining face grew 
very red. 

"No. You'd better not do anything." 

He nodded to me and walked away. It was clear 
that for some reason he did not want to discuss the 
matter. I did not understand. 

Chapter XXVIII 

THE explanation came a week later. It was 
about ten o'clock at night; I had been dining 
by myself at a restaurant, and having returned 
to my small apartment, was stiting in my parlour, 
reading. I heard the cracked tinkling of the bell, and, 
going into the corridor, opened the door. Stroeve 
stood before me. 

"Can I come in?" he asked. 

In the dimness of the landing I could not see him 
very well, but there was something in his voice that 
surprised me. I knew he was of abstemious habit 
or I should have thought he had been drinking. I 
led the way into my sitting room and asked him to 
sit down. 

"Thank God I've found you," he said. 

"What's the matter?" I asked in astonishment at 
his vehemence. 

I was able now to see him well. As a rule he 
was neat in his person, but now his clothes were 
in disorder. He looked suddenly bedraggled. I 
was convinced he had been drinking, and I smiled. 
I was on the point of chaffing him on his 

"I didn't know where to go," he burst out. "I 
came here earlier, but you weren't in." 

"I dined late," I said. 

I changed my mind: it was not liquor that had 


driven him to this obvious desperation. His face, 
usually so rosy, was now strangely mottled. His 
hands trembled. 

"Has anything happened?" I asked. 

"My wife has left me." 

He could hardly get the words out. He gave a 
little gasp, and the tears began to trickle down his 
round cheeks. I did not know what to say. My 
first thought was that she had come to the end of 
her forbearance with his infatuation for Strickland, 
and, goaded by the latter's cynical behaviour, had 
insisted that he should be turned out. I knew her 
capable of temper, for all the calmness of her man- 
ner; and if Stroeve still refused, she might easily 
have flung out of the studio with vows never to re- 
turn. But the little man was so distressed that I 
could not smile. 

"My dear fellow, don't be unhappy. She'll come 
back. You mustn't take very seriously what women 1 
say when they're in a passion." 

"You don't understand. She's in love with Strick- 

"What!" I was startled at this, but the idea had 
no sooner taken possession of me than I saw it was 
absurd. "How can you be so silly? You don't mean 
to say you're jealous of Strickland?" I almost 
laughed. "You know very well that she can't bear 
the sight of him." 

"You don't understand," he moaned. 

"You're an hysterical ass," I said a little impa- 
tiently. "Let me give you a whisky-and-soda, and 
you'll feel better." 


I supposed that for some reason or other and 
Heaven knows what ingenuity men exercise to tor- 
ment themselves Dirk had got it into his head that 
his wife cared for Strickland, and with his genius 
for blundering he might quite well have offended her 
so that, to anger him, perhaps, she had taken pains 
to foster his suspicion. 

"Look here," I said, "let's go back to your studio. 
If youVe made a fool of yourself you must eat hum- 
ble pie. Your wife doesn't strike me as the sort of 
woman to bear malice." 

"How can I go back to the studio?" he said wear- 
ily. "They're there. I've left it to them." 

"Then it's not your wife who's left you; it's you 
who've left your wife." 

"For God's sake don't talk to me like that." 

Still I could not take him seriously. I did not for 
a moment believe what he had told me. But he was 
In very real distress. 

"Well, you've come here to talk to me about it. 
You'd better tell me the whole story." 

"This afternoon I couldn't stand it any more. I 
went to Strickland and told him I thought he was 
quite well enough to go back to his own place. I 
wanted the studio myself." 

"No one but Strickland would have needed tell- 
ing," I said. "What did he say?" 

"He laughed a little ; you know how he laughs, not 
as though he were amused, but as though you were 
a damned fool, and said he'd go at once. He began 
to put his things together. You remember I fetched 
from his room what I thought he needed, and he 


asked Blanche for a piece of paper and some string 
to make a parcel." 

Stroeve stopped, gasping, and I thought he was 
going to faint. This was not at all the story I had 
expected him to tell me. 

"She was very pale, but she brought the paper 
and the string. He didn't say anything. He made 
the parcel and he whistled a tune. He took no 
notice of either of us. His eyes had an ironic smile 
in them. My heart was like lead. I was afraid 
something was going to happen, and I wished I 
hadn't spoken. He looked round for his hat. Then 
she spoke: 

" Tm going with Strickland, Dirk,' she said. 'I 
can't live with you any more.' 

"I tried to speak, but the words wouldn't come. 
Strickland didn't say anything. He went on 
whistling as though it had nothing to do with 

Stroeve stopped again and mopped his face. I 
kept quite still. I believed him now, and I was 
astounded. But all the same I could not under- 

Then he told me, in a trembling voice, with the 
tears pouring down his cheeks, how he had gone up 
to her, trying to take her in his arms, but she had 
drawn away and begged him not to touch her. He 
implored her not to leave him. He told her how 
passionately he loved her, and reminded her of all 
the devotion he had lavished upon her. He spoke 
to her of the happiness of their life. He was not 
angry with her. He did not reproach her. 


"Please let me go quietly, Dirk," she said at last. 
"Don't you understand that I love Strickland? Where 
he goes I shall go." 

"But you must know that he'll never make you 
happy. For your own sake don't go. You don't 
know what you've got to look forward to." 

"It's your fault. You insisted on his coming here." 

He turned to Strickland. 

"Have mercy on her," he implored him. "You 
can't let her do anything so mad." 

"She can do as she chooses," said Strickland. 
"She's not forced to come." 

"My choice is made," she said, in a dull voice. 

Strickland's injurious calm robbed Stroeve of the 
rest of his self-control. Blind rage seized him, and 
without knowing what he was doing he flung himself 
on Strickland. Strickland was taken by surprise and 
he staggered, but he was very strong, even after his 
illness, and in a moment, he did not exactly know 
how, Stroeve found himself on the floor. 

"You funny little man," said Strickland. 

Stroeve picked himself up. He noticed that his 
wife had remained perfectly still, and to be made 
ridiculous before her increased his humiliation. His 
spectacles had tumbled off in the struggle, and he 
could not immediately see them. She picked them up 
and silently handed them to him. He seemed sud- 
denly to realise his unhappiness, and though he knew 
he was making himself still more absurd, he began 
to cry. He hid his face in his hands. The others 
watched him without a word. They did not move 
from where they stood. 


"Oh, my dear," he groaned at last, "how can you 
be so cruel?" 

"I can't help myself, Dirk," she answered. 

"I've worshipped you as no woman was ever 
worshipped before. If in anything I did I displeased 
you, why didn't you tell me, and I'd have changed. 
I've done everything I could for you." 

She did not answer. Her face was set, and he 
saw that he was only boring her. She put on a coat 
and her hat. She moved towards the door, and he 
saw that in a moment she would be gone. He went 
up to her quickly and fell on his knees before her, 
seizing her hands: he abandoned all self-respect. 

"Oh, don't go, my darling. I can't live without 
you; I shall kill myself. If I've done anything to 
offend you I beg you to forgive me. Give me an- 
other chance. I'll try harder still to make you 

"Get up, Dirk. You're making yourself a perfect 

He: staggered to his feet, but still he would not 
let her go. 

"Where are you going?" he said hastily. "You 
don't know what Strickland's place is like. You can't 
live there. It would be awful." 

"If I don't care, I don't see why you should." 

"Stay a minute longer. I must speak. After all, 
you can't grudge me that." 

"What is the good? I've made up my mind. 
Nothing that you can say will make me alter it." 

He gulped, and put his hand to his heart to ease 
its painful beating. 


"I'm not going to ask you to change your mind, 
but I want you to listen to me for a minute. It's 
the last thing I shall ever ask you. Don't refuse me 

She paused, looking at him with those reflective 
eyes of hers, which now were so different to him. 
She came back into the studio and leaned against 
the table. 


Stroeve made a great effort to collect himself. 

"You must be a little reasonable. You can't live 
on air, you know. Strickland hasn't got a penny." 

"I know." 

"You'll suffer the most awful privations. You 
know why he took so long to get well. He was half 

"I can earn money for him." 


"I don't know. I shall find a way." 

A horrible thought passed through the Dutchman's 
mind, and he shuddered. 

"I think you must be mad. I don't know what 
has come over you." 

She shrugged her shoulders. 

"Now may I go?" 

"Wait one second longer." 

'He looked round his studio wearily; he Had lovecl 
it because her presence had made it gay and home- 
like; he shut his eyes for an instant; then he gave 
her a long look as though to impress on his mind 
the picture of her. He got up and took his hat* 

"No; I'll go." 



She was startled. She did not know what he 

"I can' (3 bear to think of you living in that hor- 
rible, filthy attic. After all, this is your home just 
as much as mine. You'll be comfortable here. You'll 
be spared at least the worst privations." 

He went to the drawer in which he kept his money 
and took out several bank-notes. 

"I would like to give you half what I've got here." 

He put them on the table. Neither Strickland nor 
his wife spoke. 

Then he recollected something else. 

"Will you pack up my clothes and leave them with 
the concierge ? I'll come and fetch them to-morrow." 
He tried to smile. "Good-bye, my dear. I'm grate- 
ful for all the happiness you gave me in the past." 

He walked out and closed the door behind him. 
With my mind's eye I saw Strickland throw his hat 
on a table, and, sitting down, begin to smoke a cig- 

.Chapter XXIX 

I KEPT silence for a little while, thinking of what 
Stroeve had told me. I could not stomach his 
weakness, and he saw my disapproval. 

"You know as well as I do how Strickland lived," 
he said tremulously. "I couldn't let her live in those 
circumstances I simply couldn't." 

"That's your business," I answered. 

"What would you have done?" he asked. 

"She went with her eyes open. If she had to put 
up with certain inconveniences it was her own look- 

"Yes; but, you see, you don't love her." 

"Do you love her still?" 

"Oh, more than ever. Strickland isn't the man to 
make a woman happy. It can't last. I want her to 
know that I shall never fail her." 

"Does that mean that you're prepared to take her 

"I shouldn't hesitate. Why, she'll want me more 
than ever then. When she's alone and humiliated 
and broken it would be dreadful if she had nowhere 
to go." 

He seemed to bear no resentment. I suppose it 
was commonplace in me that I felt slightly outraged 
at his lack of spirit. Perhaps he guessed what was 
in my mind, for he said: 

"I couldn't expect her to love me as I loved her. 
I'm a buffoon. I'm not the sort of man that women 



love. IVe always known that. I can't blame Her 
if she's fallen in love with Strickland." 

"You certainly have less vanity than any man IVe 
ever known," I said. 

"I love her so much better than myself. It seems 
to me that when vanity comes into love it can only 
be because really you love yourself best. After all, 
it constantly happens that a man when he's married 
falls in love with somebody else ; when he gets over 
it he returns to his wife, and she takes him back, and 
everyone thinks it very natural. Why should it be 
different with women?" 

"I dare say that's logical," I smiled, "but most 
men are made differently, and they can't." 

But while I talked to Stroeve I was puzzling over 
the suddenness of the whole affair. I could not imag- 
ine that he had had no warning. I remembered the 
curious look I had seen in Blanche Stroeve's eyes; 
perhaps its explanation was that she was growing 
dimly conscious of a feeling in her heart that sur- 
prised and alarmed her. 

"Did you have no suspicion before to-day that there 
was anything between them?" I asked. 

He did not answer for a while. There was a 
pencil on the table, and unconsciously he drew a head 
on the blotting-paper. 

"Please say so, if you hate my asking you ques- 
tions," I said. 

"It eases me to talE Oh, if you knew the fright- 
ful anguish in my heart." He threw the pencil 
down. "Yes, IVe known it for a fortnight. I 
knew it before she did." 


"Why on earth didn't you send Strickland paclc- 

"I couldn't believe it. It seemed so improbable. 
She couldn't bear the sight of him. It was more 
than improbable ; it was incredible. I thought it was 
merely jealousy. You see, I've always been jealous, 
but I trained myself never to show it; I was jealous 
of every man she knew; I was jealous of you. I 
knew she didn't love me as I loved her. That was 
only natural, wasn't it? But she allowed me to love 
her, and that was enough to make me happy. I 
forced myself to go out for hours together in order 
to leave them by themselves; I wanted to punish 
myself for suspicions which were unworthy of me; 
2nd when I came back I found they didn't want me 
* not Strickland, he didn't care if I was there or 
not, but Blanche. She shuddered when I went to 
kiss her. When at last I was certain I didn't know 
what to do; I knew they'd only laugh at me if I 
made a scene. I thought if I held my tongue and 
pretended not to see, everything would come right. 
I made up my mind to get him away quietly, with- 
out quarrelling. Oh, if you only knew what I've suf- 
fered I" 

Then he told me again of his asking Strickland to 
go. He chose his moment carefully, and tried to 
make his request sound casual; but he could not 
master the trembling of his voice; and he felt him- 
self that into words that he wished to seem jovial 
and friendly there crept the bitterness of his jeal- 
ousy. He had not expected .Strickland to take him 
up on the spot and make his preparations to go there 


and then; above all, he had not expected his wife's 
decision to go with him. I saw that now he wished 
with all his heart that he had held his tongue. He 
preferred the anguish of jealousy to the anguish of 

"I wanted to kill him, and I only made a fool of 

He was silent for a long time, and then he said 
what I knew was in his mind. 

"If I'd only waited, perhaps it would have gone all 
right I shouldn't have been so impatient. Oh, poor 
child, what have I driven her to?" 

I shrugged my shoulders, but did not speak. I 
had no sympathy for Blanche Stroeve, but knew that 
it would only pain poor Dirk if I told him exactly 
what I thought of her. 

He had reached that stage of exhaustion when he 
could not stop talking. He went over again every 
word of the scene. Now something occurred to him 
that he had not told me before; now he discussed 
what he ought to have said instead of what he did 
say; then he lamented his blindness. He regretted 
that he had done this, and blamed himself that he 
had omitted the other. It grew later and later, and 
at last I was as tired as he. 

"What are you going to do now?" I said finally. 

"What can I do? I shall wait till she sends for 


"Why don't you go away for a bit?" 
"No, no; I must be at hand when she wants me." 
For the present he seemed quite lost. He had 
made no plans. When I suggested that he should 


go to bed he said he could not sleep; he wanted to 
go out and walk about the streets till day. He was 
evidently in no state to be left alone. I persuaded 
him to stay the night with me, and I put him into 
my own bed. I had a divan in my sitting-room, and 
could very well sleep on that. He was by now so 
worn out that he could not resist my firmness. I gave 
him a sufficient dose of veronal to insure his uncon- 
sciousness for several hours, I thought that was the 
best service I could render him. 

Chapter XXX 

BUT the bed I made up for myself was suffi* 
ciently uncomfortable to give me a wakeful 
night, and I thought a good deal of what the 
unlucky Dutchman had told me. I was not so much 
puzzled by Blanche Stroeve's action, for I saw in 
that merely the result of a physical appeal. I do 
not suppose she had ever really cared for her hus- 
band, and what I had taken for love was no more 
than the feminine response to caresses and comfort 
which in the minds of most women passes for it. 
It is a passive feeling capable of being roused for 
any object, as the vine can grow on any tree; and 
the wisdom of the world recognises its strength when 
it urges a girl to marry the man who wants her with 
the assurance that love will follow. It is an emotion 
made up of the satisfaction in security, pride of 
property, the pleasure of being desired, the grat- 
ification of a household, and it is only by an amiable. 
Vanity that women ascribe to it spiritual value. It 
is an emotion which is defenceless against passion. 
I suspected that Blanche Stroeve's violent dislike of 
'Strickland had in it from the beginning a vague ele- 
ment of sexual attraction. Who am I that I should 
seek to unravel the mysterious intricacies of sex? 
Perhaps Stroeve's passion excited without satisfying 
that part of her nature, and she hated Strickland 
because she felt in him the power to give her what 
she needed. I think she was quite sincere when she 



Struggled against her husband's desire to bring him 
into the studio; I think she was frightened of him, 
though she knew not why; and I remembered how 
she had foreseen disaster. I think in some curious 
way the horror which she felt for him was a trans- 
ference of the horror which she felt for herself be- 
cause he so strangely troubled her. His appearance 
was wild and uncouth ; there was aloofness in his eyes 
and sensuality in his mouth; he was big and strong; 
he gave the impression of untamed passion; and 
perhaps she felt in him, too, that sinister element 
which had made me thinK of those wild beings of 
the world's early history when matter, retaining its 
early connection with the earth, seemed to possess 
yet a spirit of its own. If he affected her at all, 
it was inevitable that she should love or hate him. 
She hated him. 

And then I fancy that the daily intimacy with the 
sick man moved her strangely. She raised his head 
to give him food, and it was heavy against her hand ; 
when she had fed him she wiped his sensual mouth 
and his red beard. She washed his limbs ; they were 
povered with thick hair; and when she dried his hands, 
even in his weakness they were strong and sinewy. 
His fingers were long; they were the capable, fashion- 
ing fingers of the artist; and I know not what trou- 
bling thoughts they excited in her. He slept very 
quietly, without a movement, so that he might have 
been dead, and he was like some wild creature of 
the woods, resting after a long chase; and she won- 
dered what fancies passed through his dreams. Did 
he dream of the nymph flying through the woods of 


Greece with the satyr in hot pursuit? She fled, swift 
cf foot and desperate, but he gained on her step by 
step, till she felt his hot breath on her neck; and still 
she fled silently, and silently he pursued, and when 
at last he seized her was it terror that thrilled her 
heart or was it ecstasy? 

Blanche Stroeve was in the cruel grip of appetite. 
Perhaps she hated Strickland still, but she hungered 
for him, and everything that had made up her life 
till then became of no account. She ceased to be a 
woman, complex, kind and petulant, considerate and 
thoughtless; she was a Maenad. She was desire. 

But perhaps this is very fanciful; and it may be 
that she was merely bored with her husband and 
went to Strickland out of a callous curiosity. She may 
have had no particular feeling for him, but suc- 
cumbed to his wish from propinquity or idleness, to 
find then that she was powerless in a snare of her 
own contriving. How did I know what were the 
thoughts and emotions behind that placid brow and 
those cool gray eyes? 

But if one could be certain of nothing in dealing 
with creatures so incalculable as human beings, there 
were explanations of Blanche Stroeve's behaviour 
which were at all events plausible. On the other 
hand, I did not understand Strickland at all. I 
racked my brain, but could in no way account for 
an action so contrary to my conception of him. It 
was not strange that he should so heartlessly have 
betrayed his friends* confidence, nor that he hesitated 
not at all to gratify a whim at the cost of another's 
misery. That was in his character. He was a man 


without any conception of gratitude. He had no 
compassion. The emotions common to most of us 
simply did not exist in him, and it was as absurd to 
blame him for not feeling them as for blaming the 
tiger because he is fierce and cruel. But it was the 
whim I could not understand. 

I could not believe that Strickland had fallen in, 
love with Blanche Stroeve. I did not believe him 
capable of love. That is an emotion in which ten- 
derness is an essential part, but Strickland had no 
tenderness either for himself or for others; there is 
in love a sense of weakness, a desire to protect, an 
eagerness to do good and to give pleasure if not 
unselfishness, at all events a selfishness which mar- 
vellously conceals itself; it has in it a certain diffi- 
dence. These were not traits which I could imagine 
in Strickland. Love is absorbing; it takes the lover 
out of himself; the most clear-sighted, though he may 
know, cannot realise that his love will cease ; it gives 
body to what he knows is illusion, and, knowing it 
is nothing else, he loves it better than reality. It 
makes a man a little more than himself, and at the 
same time a little less. He ceases to be himself. He 
is no longer an individual, but a thing, an instrument 
to some purpose foreign to his ego. Love is never 
quite devoid of sentimentality, and Strickland was 
the least inclined to that infirmity of any man I have 
known. I could not believe that he would ever suf- 
fer that possession of himself which love is ; he could 
never endure a foreign yoke. I believed him capa- 
ble of uprooting from his heart, though it might be 
with agony, so that he was left battered and en- 


sanguined, anything that came between himself and 
that uncomprehended craving that urged him con- 
stantly to he knew not what. If I have succeeded at 
all in giving the complicated impression that Strick- 
land made on me, it will not seem outrageous to 
say that I felt he was at once too great and too small 
for love. 

But I suppose that everyone's conception of the 
passion is formed on his own idiosyncrasies, and it 
is different with every different person. A man like 
Strickland would love in a manner peculiar to him- 
self. It was vain to seek the analysis of his emo- 

Chapter XXXI 

NEXT day, though I pressed him to remain, 
Stroeve left me. I offered to fetch his things 
from the studio, but he insisted on going him- 
self; I think he hoped they had not thought of get- 
ting them together, so that he would have an op- 
portunity of seeing his wife again and perhaps in- 
ducing her to come back to him. But he found his 
traps waiting for him in the porter's lodge, and the 
concierge told him that Blanche had gone out. I do 
not think he resisted the temptation of giving her an 
account of his troubles. I found that he was telling 
them to everyone he knew; he expected sympathy, 
but only excited ridicule. 

He bore himself most unbecomingly. Knowing at 
what time his wife did her shopping, one day, unable 
any longer to bear not seeing her, he waylaid her 
in the street. She would not speak to him, but he 
insisted on speaking to her. He spluttered out 
words of apology for any wrong he had committed 
towards her; he told her he loved her devotedly and 
begged her to return to him. She would not answer; 
she walked hurriedly, with averted face. I imagined 
him with his fat little legs trying to keep up with 
her. Panting a little in his haste, he told her how 
miserable he was; he besought her to have mercy on 
him; he promised, if she would forgive him, to do 
everything she wanted. He offered to take her for 



a journey. He told her that Strickland would soon 
tire of her. When he repeated to me the whole 
sordid little scene I was outraged. He had shown 
neither sense nor dignity. He had omitted nothing 
that could make his wife despise him. There is no 
cruelty greater than a woman's to a man who loves 
her and whom she does not love; she has no kind- 
ness then, no tolerance even, she has only an insane 
irritation. Blanche Stroeve stopped suddenly, and as 
hard as she could slapped her husband's face. She 
took advantage of his confusion to escape, and ran 
up the stairs to the studio. No word had passed 
her lips. 

When he told me this he put his hand to his cheek 
as though he still felt the smart of the blow, and in 
his eyes was a pain that was heartrending and an 
amazement that was ludicrous. He looked like an 
overblown schoolboy, and though I felt so sorry for 
him, I could hardly help laughing. 

Then he took to walking along the street which 
she must pass through to get to the shops, and he 
would stand at the corner, on the other side, as she 
went along. He dared not speak to her again, but 
sought to put into his round eyes the appeal that 
was in his heart. I suppose he had some idea that 
the sight of his misery would touch her. She never 
made the smallest sign that she saw him. She never 
even changed the hour of her errands or sought an 
alternative route. I have an idea that there was some 
cruelty in her indifference. Perhaps she got enjoy- 
ment out of the torture she inflicted. I wondered why 
she hated him so much. 


I begged Stroeve to behave more wisely. His want 
of spirit was exasperating. 

"You're doing no good at all by going on like 
this," I said. "I think you'd have been wiser if you'd 
hit her over the head with a stick. She wouldn't 
have despised you as she does now." 

I suggested that he should go home for a while. 
He had often spoken to me of the silent town, some- 
where up in the north of Holland, where his parents 
still lived. They were poor people. His father was 
a carpenter, and they dwelt in a little old red-brick 
house, neat and clean, by the side of a sluggish canal. 
The streets were wide and empty; for two hundred 
years the place had been dying, but the houses had 
the homely stateliness of their time. Rich merchants, 
sending their wares to the distant Indies, had lived 
in them calm and prosperous lives, and in their de- 
cent decay they kept still an aroma of their splendid 
past. You could wander along the canal till you came 
to broad green fields, with windmills here and there, 
in which cattle, black and white, grazed lazily. I 
thought that among those surroundings, with their 
recollections of his boyhood, Dirk Stroeve would for- 
get his unhappiness. But he would not go. 

"I must be here when she needs me," he repeated. 
"It would be dreadful if something terrible hap- 
pened and I were not at hand." 

"What do you think is going to happen?" I asked. 

"I don't know. But I'm afraid." 

I shrugged my shoulders. 

For all his pain, Dirk Stroeve remained a ridicu- 
lous object. He might have excited sympathy if 


he had grown worn and thin. He did nothing of the 
kind. He remained fat, and his round, red cheeks 
shone like ripe apples. He had great neatness of 
person, and he continued to wear his spruce black coat 
and his bowler hat, always a little too small for him, 
in a dapper, jaunty manner. He was getting some- 
thing of a paunch, and sorrow had no effect on it. 
He looked more than ever like a prosperous bag- 
man. It is hard that a man's exterior should tally 
so little sometimes with his soul. Dirk Stroeve had 
the passion of Romeo in the body of Sir Toby Belch. 
He had a sweet and generous nature, and yet was 
always blundering; a real feeling for what was beau- 
tiful and the capacity to create only what was com- 
monplace ; a peculiar delicacy of sentiment and gross 
manners. He could exercise tact when dealing with 
the affairs of others, but none when dealing with his 
own. What a cruel practical joke old Nature played 
when she flung so many contradictory elements to- 
gether, and left the man face to face with the per- 
plexing callousness of the universe. 

Chapter XXXII 

I DID not see Strickland for several weeks. I was 
disgusted with him, and if I had had an oppor- 
tunity should have been glad to tell him so, but 
I saw no object in seeking him out for the purpose. 
I am a little shy of any assumption of moral indig- 
nation; there is always in it an element of self-sat- 
isfaction which makes it awkward to anyone who has 
a sense of humour. It requires a very lively passion 
to steel me to my own ridicule. There was a sar- 
donic sincerity in Strickland which made me sensitive 
to anything that might suggest a pose. 

But one evening when I was passing along the 
lAvenue de Clichy in front of the cafe which Strick- 
land frequented and which I now avoided, I ran 
straight into him. He was accompanied by Blanche 
Stroeve, and they were just going to Strickland's fa- 
vourite corner. 

"Where the devil have you been all this time?" 
said he. "I thought you must be away." 

His cordiality was proof that he knew I had no 
wish to speak to him. He was not a man with whom 
it was worth while wasting politeness. 

"No," I said; "I haven't been away. 11 

"Why haven't you been here?" 

"There are more cafes in Paris than one, at which 
to trifle away an idle hour." 

Blanche then held out her hand and! bade me 
good-evening. I do not know why I had expected her 



to be somehow changed; she wore the same gray 
dress that she wore so often, neat and becoming, and 
her brow was as candid, her eyes as untroubled, as 
when I had been used to see her occupie'd with her 
household duties in the studio. 

"Come and have a game of chess," said Strick- 

I do not know why at the moment I could think 
of no excuse. I followed them rather sulkily to the 
table at which Strickland always sat, and he called 
for the board and the chessmen. They both took 
the situation so much as a matter of course that I felt 
it absurd to do otherwise. Mrs. Stroeve watched the 
game with inscrutable face. She was silent, but she 
had always been silent. I looked at her mouth for 
an expression that could give me a clue to what she 
felt; I watched her eyes for some tell-tale flash, some 
hint of dismay or bitterness ; I scanned her brow for 
any passing line that might indicate a settling emo- 
tion. Her face was a mask that told nothing. Her 
hands lay on her lap motionless, one in the other 
loosely clasped. I knew from what I had heard 
that she was a woman of violent passions; and that 
injurious blow that she had given Dirk, the man who 
had loved her so devotedly, betrayed a sudden tern-, 
per and a horrid cruelty. She had abandoned the 
safe shelter of her husband's protection and the com- 
fortable ease of a well-provided establishment for 
what she could not but see was an extreme hazard. 
It showed an eagerness for adventure, a readiness for 
the hand-to-mouth, which the care she took of her 
home and her love of good housewifery made not a 


little remarkable. She must be a woman of com- 
plicated character, and there was something dramatic 
in the contrast of that with her demure appearance. 

I was excited by the encounter, and my fancy 
worked busily while I sought to concentrate myself 
on the game I was playing. I always tried my best 
to beat Strickland, because he was a player who 
despised the opponent he vanquished; his exultation 
in victory made defeat more difficult to bear. On 
the other hand, if he was beaten he took it with 
complete good-humour. He was a bad winner and 
a good loser. Those who think that a man betrays 
his character nowhere more clearly than when he 
is playing a game might on this draw subtle infer- 

When he had finished I called the waiter to pay 
for the drinks, and left them. The meeting had 
been devoid of incident. No word had been said to 
give me anything to think about, and any surmises 
I might make were unwarranted. I was intrigued. 
I could not tell how they were getting on. I would 
have given much to be a disembodied spirit so that 
I could see them in the privacy of the studio and 
hear what they talked about. I had not the smallest 
indication on which to let my imagination work. 

Chapter XXXIII 

TWO or three days later Dirk Stroeve called on 

""I hear you've seen Blanche, he said. 

"How on earth did you find out?" 

"I was told by someone who saw you sitting with 
them, Why didn't you tell me?" 

"I thought it would only pain you." 

"What do I care if it does? You must know that 
I want to hear the smallest thing about her." 

I waited for him to ask me questions. 

"What does she look like?" he said. 

"Absolutely unchanged." 

"Does she seem happy?" 

I shrugged my shoulders. 

"How can I tell? We were in a cafe; we were 
playing chess ; I had no opportunity to speak to her." 

"Oh, but couldn't you tell by her face?" 

I shook my head. I could only repeat that by no 
word, by no hinted gesture, had she given an indi- 
cation of her feelings. He must know better than 
I how great were her powers of self-control. He 
clasped his hands emotionally. 

"Oh, I'm so frightened. I know something is 
going to happen, something terrible, and I can do 
nothing to stop it." 

"What sort of thing?" I asked. 

"Oh, I don't know," he moaned, seizing his head 


with his hands. "I foresee some terrible catastro- 

Stroeve had always been excitable, but now he was 
beside himself; there was no reasoning with him. I 
thought it probable enough that Blanche Stroeve 
would not continue to find life with Strickland toler- 
able, but one of the falsest of proverbs is that you 
must lie on the bed that you have made. The experi- 
ence of life shows that people are constantly doing 
things which must lead to disaster, and yet by some 
chance manage to evade the result of their folly. 
When Blanche quarrelled with Strickland she had 
only to leave him, and her husband was waiting hum- 
bly to forgive and forget. I was not prepared to 
feel any great sympathy for her. 

"You see, you don't love her," said Stroeve. 

"After all, there's nothing to prove that she is 
unhappy. For all we know they may have settled 
down into a most domestic couple." 

Stroeve gave me a look with his woeful eyes. 

"Of course it doesn't much matter to you, but 
to me it's so serious, so intensely serious." 

I was sorry if I had seemed impatient or flippant. 

"Will you do something for me?" asked Stroeve. 


"Will you write to Blanche for me?" 

"Why can't you write yourself?" 

"I've written over and over again. I didn't expect 
her to answer. I don't think she reads the letters." 

"You make no account of feminine curiosity. 
you think she could resist?" 

"She could mine." 


I looked at him quickly. He lowered his eyes. 
That answer of his seemed to me strangely humil- 
iating. He was conscious that she regarded him with 
an indifference so profound that the sight of his 
handwriting would have not the slightest effect on 

"Do you really believe that she'll ever come back 
to you?" I asked. 

"I want her to know that if the worst comes to 
the worst she can count on me. That's what I want 
you to tell her." 

I took a sheet of paper. 

"What is it exactly you wish me to say?" 

This is what I wrote : 


Dirk wishes me to tell you that if at any time 
you want him he will be grateful for the opportunity 
of being of service to you. He has no ill-feeling 
towards you on account of anything that has hap* 
pened. His love for you is unaltered. You will always 
find him at the following address: 

Chapter XXXIV 

BUT though I was no less convinced than 
Stroeve that the connection between Strick- 
land and Blanche would end disastrously, I 
did not expect the issue to take the tragic form it 
did. The summer came, breathless and sultry, and 
even at night there was no coolness to rest one's 
jaded nerves. The sun-baked streets seemed to give 
back the heat that had beat down on them during 
the day, and the passers-by dragged their feet along 
them wearily. I had not seen Strickland for weeks. 
Occupied with other things, I had ceased to think 
of him and his affairs. Dirk, with his vain lamen- 
tations, had begun to bore me, and I avoided his so- 
ciety. It was a sordid business, and I was not in- 
clined to trouble myself with it further. 

One morning I was working. I sat in my py- 
jamas. My thoughts wandered, and I thought of 
the sunny beaches of Brittany and the freshness of 
the sea. By my side was the empty bowl in which 
the concierge had brought me my cafe au lait and 
the fragment of croissant which I had not had appe- 
tite enough to eat. I heard the concierge in the next 
room emptying my bath. There was a tinkle at my 
bell, and I left her to open the door. In a moment I 
heard Stroeve's voice asking if I was in. Without 
moving, I shouted to him to come. He entered the 
room quickly, and came up to the table at which I 



"She's killed herself," he said hoarsely. 

"What do you mean?" I cried, startled. 

He made movements with his lips as though he 
were speaking, but no sound issued from them. Hfe 
gibbered like an idiot. My heart thumped against 
my ribs, and, I do not know why, I flew into a 

"For God's sake, collect yourself, man," I said. 
"What on earth are you talking about?" 

He made despairing gestures with his hands, but 
still no words came from his mouth. He might have 
been struck dumb. I do not know what came over 
me; I took him by the shoulders and shook him. 
Looking back, I am vexed that I made such a fool 
of myself; I suppose the last restless nights had 
shaken my nerves more than I knew. 

"Let me sit down," he gasped at length. 

I filled a glass with St. Galmier, and gave it to 
him to drink. I held it to his mouth as though 
he were a child. He gulped down a mouthful, and 
some of it was spilt on his shirt-front. 

"Who's killed herself?" 

I do not know why I asked, for I knew whom he 
meant. He made an effort to collect himself. 

"They had a row last night. He went away." 

"Is she dead?" 

"No ; they've taken her to the hospital." 

"Then what are you talking about?" I cried im- 
patiently. "Why did you say she'd killed her- 
self?" ' 

"Don't be cross with me. I can't tell you anything 
if you talk to me like that." 


I clenched my hands, seeking to control my irri- 
tation. I attempted a smile. 

"I'm sorry. Take your time. Don't hurry, there's 
a good fellow." 

His round blue eyes behind the spectacles were 
ghastly with terror. The magnifying-glasses he wore 
distorted them. 

"When the concierge went up this morning to take 
a letter she could get no answer to her ring. She 
heard someone groaning. The door wasn't locked, 
and she went in. Blanche was lying on the bed. She'd 
been frightfully sick. There was a bottle of oxalic 
acid on the table." 

Stroeve hid his face in his hands and swayed back- 
wards and forwards, groaning. 

"Was she conscious?" 

"Yes. Oh, if you knew how she's suffering! I 
can't bear it. I can't bear it." 

His voice rose to a shriek. 

"Damn it all, you haven't got to bear it," I cried 
impatiently. "She's got to bear it." 

"How can you be so cruel?" 

"What have you done?" 

"They sent for a doctor and for me, and they told 
the police. I'd given the concierge twenty francs, 
and told her to send for me if anything happened." 

He paused a minute, and I saw that what he had 
to tell me was very hard to say. 

"When I went she wouldn't speak to me. She 
told them to send me away. I swore that I forgave 
her everything, but she wouldn't listen. She tried 
to beat her head against the wall. The doctor told 


me that I mustn't remain with her. She kept on 
saying, 'Send him away!' I went, and waited in the 
studio. And when the ambulance came and they 
put her on a stretcher, they made me go in the 
kitchen so that she shouldn't know I was there." 

While I dressed for Stroeve wished me to go 
at once with him to the hospital he told me that 
he had arranged for his wife to have a private room, 
so that she might at least be spared the sordid pro- 
miscuity of a ward. On our way he explained to me 
why he desired my presence; if she still refused to 
see him, perhaps she would see me. He begged me 
to repeat to her that he loved her still; he would 
reproach her for nothing, but desired only to help 
her; he made no claim on her, and on her recovery 
would not seek to induce her to return to him; she 
would be perfectly free. 

But when we arrived at the hospital, a gaunt, cheer- 
less building, the mere sight of which was enough to 
make one's heart sick, and after being directed from 
this official to that, up endless stairs and through 
long, bare corridors, found the doctor in charge of 
the case, we were told that the patient was too ill 
to see anyone that day. The doctor was a little 
bearded man in white, with an offhand manner. He 
evidently looked upon a case as a case, and anxious 
relatives as a nuisance which must be treated with 
firmness. Moreover, to him the affair was common- 
place ; it was just an hysterical woman who had quar- 
relled with her lover and taken poison; it was con- 
stantly happening. At first he thought that Dirk was 
the cause of the disaster, and he was needlessly 


brusque with him. When I explained that he was the 
husband, anxious to forgive, the doctor looked at him 
suddenly, with curious, searching eyes. I seemed to 
see in them a hint of mockery ; it was true that Stroeve 
had the head of the husband who is deceived. The 
doctor faintly shrugged his shoulders. 

"There is no immediate danger," he said, in answer 
to our questioning. "One doesn't know how much she 
took. It may be that she will get off with a fright. 
Women are constantly trying to commit suicide for 
love, but generally they take care not to succeed. It's 
generally a gesture to arouse pity or terror in their 

There "was in his tone a frigid contempt. It was 
obvious that to him Blanche Stroeve was only a unit 
to be added to the statistical list of attempted suicides 
in the city of Paris during the current year. He was 
busy, and could waste no more time on us. He told 
us that if we came at a certain hour next day, should 
Blanche be better, it might be possible for her hus- 
band to see her. 

Chapter XXXV 

I SCARCELY know how we got through that day. 
Stroeve could not bear to be alone, and I exhaust- 
ed myself in efforts to distract him. I took him 
to the Louvre, and he pretended to look at pictures, 
but I saw that his thoughts were constantly with his 
wife. I forced him to eat, and after luncheon I in- 
duced him to lie down, but he could not sleep. He 
accepted willingly my invitation to remain for a few 
days in my apartment. I gave him books to read, 
but after a page or two he would put the book down 
and stare miserably into space. During the evening 
we played innumerable games of piquet, and bravely, 
not to disappoint my efforts, he tried to appear in- 
terested. Finally I gave him a draught, and he sank 
into uneasy slumber. 

When we went again to the hospital we saw a nurs- 
ing sister. She told us that Blanche seemed a little 
better, and she went in to ask if she would see her 
husband. We heard voices in the room in which she 
lay, and presently the nurse returned to say that the 
patient refused to see anyone. We had told her that 
if she refused to see Dirk the nurse was to ask if she 
would see me, but this she refused also. Dirk's lips 

"I dare not insist," said the nurse. "She is too ill. 
Perhaps in a day or two she may change her mind." 

"Is there anyone else she wants to see?" asked 
Dirk, in a voice so low it was almost a whisper. 



"She says she only wants to be left in peace." 

Dirk's hands moved strangely, as though they had 
nothing to do with his body, with a movement of their 

u WilI you tell her that if there is anyone else she 
wishes to see I will bring him? I only want her to be 

The nurse looked at him with her calm, kind eyes, 
which had seen all the horror and pain of the world, 
and yet, filled with the vision of a world without sin, 
remained serene. 

1 'I will tell her when she is a little calmer." 

Dirk, filled with compassion, begged her to take., 
the message at once. 

"It may cure her. I beseech you to ask her now." 

With a faint smile of pity, the nurse went back into 
the room. We heard her low voice, and then, in a 
voice I did not recognise the answer: 

"No. No. No." 

The nurse came out again and shook her head. 

"Was that she who spoke then?" I asked. "Her 
voice sounded so strange." 

"It appears that her vocal cords have been burnt 
by the acid." 

Dirk gave a low cry of distress. I asked him to go 
on and wait for me at the entrance, for I wanted to 
say something to the nurse. He did not ask what it 
was, but went silently. He seemed to have lost all 
power of will; he was like an obedient child. 

"Has she told you why she did it?" I asked. 

"No. She won't speak. She lies on her back quite 
quietly. She doesn't move for hours at a time. But 


she cries always. Her pillow is all wet. She's toe 
weak to use a handkerchief, and the tears just run 
down her face." 

It gave me a sudden wrench of the heart-strings. 
I could have killed Strickland then, and I knew that 
my voice was trembling when I bade the nurse good- 

I found Dirk waiting for me on the steps. He 
seemed to see nothing, and did not notice that I had 
joined him till I touched him on the arm. We walked 
along in silence. I tried to imagine what had hap- 
pened to drive the poor creature to that dreadful 
step. I presumed that Strickland knew what had hap- 
pened, for someone must have been to see him from 
the police, and he must have made his statement. I 
did not know where he was. I supposed he had gone 
back to the shabby attic which served him as a studio. 
It was curious that she should not wish to see him. 
Perhaps she refused to have him sent for because she 
knew he would refuse to come. I wondered what an 
abyss of cruelty she must have looked into that in hor- 
ror she refused to live. 

Chapter XXXVI 

THE next week was dreadful. Stroeve went 
twice a day to the hospital to enquire after 
his wife, who still declined to see him; and 
came away at first relieved and hopeful because 
he was told that she seemed to be growing better, 
and then in despair because, the complication which 
the doctor had feared having ensued, recovery was 
impossible. The nurse was pitiful to his distress, 
but she had little to say that could console him. The 
poor woman lay quite still, refusing to speak, with 
her eyes intent, as though she watched for the com- 
ing of death. It could now be only the question 
of a day or two ; and when, late one evening, Stroeve 
came to see me I knew it was to tell me she was 
dead. He was absolutely exhausted. His volubility 
had left him at last, and he sank down wearily on 
my sofa. I felt that no words of condolence availed, 
and I let him lie there quietly. I feared he would 
think it heartless if I read, so I sat by the window, 
smoking a pipe, till he felt inclined to speak. 

"YouVe been very kind to me," he said at last. 
"Everyone's been very kind." 

"Nonsense," I said, a little embarrassed. 

"At the hospital they told me I might wait. They 
gave me a chair, and I sat outside the door. When 
she became unconscious they said I might go in. 
Her mouth and chin were all burnt by the acid. 
It was awful to see her lovely skin all wounded. She 



died very peacefully, so that I didn't know she was 
dead till the sister told me." 

He was too tired to weep. He lay on his back 
limply, as though all the strength had gone out 
of his limbs, and presently I saw that he had fallen 
asleep. It was the first natural sleep he had had 
for a week. Nature, sometimes so cruel, is some- 
times merciful. I covered him and turned down 
the light. In the morning when I awoke he was 
still asleep. He had not moved. His gold-rimmed 
spectacles were still on his nose. 

Chapter XXXVII 

THE circumstances of Blanche Stroeve's death 
necessitated all manner of dreadful formalities, 
but at last we were allowed to bury her. Dirk 
and I alone followed the hearse to the cemetery. We 
went at a foot-pace, but on the way back we trotted, 
and there was something to my mind singularly hor- 
rible in the way the driver of the hearse whipped 
up his horses. It seemed to dismiss the dead with 
a shrug of the shoulders. Now and then I caught 
sight of the swaying hearse in front of us, and our 
own driver urged his pair so that we might not re- 
main behind. I felt in myself, too, the desire to 
get the whole thing out of my mind. I was begin- 
ning to be bored with a tragedy that did not really 
concern me, and pretending to myself that I spoke 
in order to distract Stroeve, I turned with relief to 
other subjects. 

"Don't you think you'd better go away for a bit?'* 
I said. "There can be no object in your staying in 
Paris now." 

He did not answer, but I went on ruthlessly: 

"Have you made any plans for the immediate 
future ?" 


"You must try and gather together the threads 
again. Why don't you go down to Italy and start 

Again he made no reply, but the driver of our 


carriage came to my rescue. Slackening his pace for 
a moment, he leaned over and spoke. I could not 
hear what he said, so I put my head out of the win- 
dow; he wanted to know where we wished to be 
set down. I told him to wait a minute. 

"You'd better come and have lunch with me," I 
said to Dirk. "I'll tell him to drop us in the Place 

"I'd rather not. I want to go to the studio." 

I hesitated a moment. 

"Would you like me to come with you?" I asked 

"No; I should prefer to be alone." 

"All right." 

I gave the driver the necessary direction, and in 
renewed silence we drove on. Dirk had not been 
to the studio since the wretched morning on which 
they had taken Blanche to the hospital. I was glad 
he did not want me to accompany him, and when I 
left him at the door I walked away with relief. I 
took a new pleasure in the streets of Paris, and 
I looked with smiling eyes at the people who hur- 
ried to and fro. The day was fine and sunny, and 
I felt in myself a more acute delight in life. I could 
not help it; I put Stroeve and his sorrows out of 
my mind. I wanted to enjoy. 

Chapter XXXVIII 

I DID not see him again for nearly a week. Then, 
he fetched me soon after seven one evening and 
took me out to dinner. He was dressed in the 
deepest mourning, and on his bowler was a broad 
black band. He had even a black border to his 
handkerchief. His garb of woe suggested that he 
had lost in one catastrophe every relation he had in 
the world, even to cousins by marriage twice re- 
moved. His plumpness and his red, fat cheeks made 
his mourning not a little incongruous. It was cruel 
that his extreme unhappiness should have in it some- 
thing of buffoonery. 

He told me he had made up his mind to go away, 
though not to Italy, as I had suggested, but to Hol- 

"I'm starting to-morrow. This is perhaps the 
last time we shall ever meet." 

I made an appropriate rejoinder, and he smiled 

"I haven't been home for five years. I think I'd 
forgotten it all; I seemed to have come so far away 
from my father's house that I was shy at the idea 
of revisiting it; but now I feel it's my only refuge." 

He was sore and bruised, and his thoughts went 
back to the tenderness of his mother's love. The 
ridicule he had endured for years seemed now to 
weigh him down, and the final blow of Blanche's 
treachery had robbed him of the resiliency whicH 



had made him take it so gaily. He could no longer 
laugh with those who laughed at him. He was an 
outcast. He told me of his childhood in the tidy 
brick house, and of his mother's passionate orderli- 
ness. Her kitchen was a miracle of clean bright- 
ness. Everything was always in its place, and no- 
where could you see a speck of dust. Cleanliness, 
indeed, was a mania with her. I saw a neat little 
old woman, with cheeks like apples, toiling away 
from morning to night, through the long years, to 
keep her house trim and spruce. His father was 
a spare old man, his hands gnarled after the work 
of a lifetime, silent and upright; in the evening h'e 
read the paper aloud, while his wife and daughter 
(now married to the captain of a fishing smack), 
unwilling to lose a moment, bent over their sewing. 
Nothing ever happened in that little town, left be- 
hind by the advance of civilisation, and one year 
followed the next till death came, like a friend, to 
give rest to those who had laboured so diligently. 

"My father wished me to become a carpenter like 
himself. For five generations we've carried on the 
same trade, from father to son. Perhaps that is 
the wisdom of life, to tread in your father's steps, 
and look neither to the right nor to the left. When 
I was a little boy I said I would marry the daugh- 
ter of the harness-maker who lived next door. She 
was a little girl with blue eyes and a flaxen pigtail. 
She would have kept my house like a new pin, and 
I should have had a son to carry on the business after 


Stroeve sighed a little and was silent. His 


thoughts dwelt among pictures of what might have 
been, and the safety of the life he had refused filled 
him with longing. 

"The world is hard and cruel. We are here 
none knows why, and we go none knows whither. 
We must be very humble. We must see the beauty 
of quietness. We must go through life so incon- 
spicuously that Fate does not notice us. And let us 
seek the love of simple, ignorant people. Their 
ignorance is better than all our knowledge. Let us 
be silent, content in our little corner, meek and gentle 
like them. That is the wisdom of life." 

To me it was his broken spirit that expressed itself, 
and I rebelled against his renunciation. But I kep't 
my own counsel. 

"What made you think of being a painter?" I 

He shrugged his shoulders. 

"It happened that I had a knack for drawing. 
I got prizes for it at school. My poor mother was 
very proud of my gift, and she gave me a box of 
water-colours as a present. She showed my sketches 
to the pastor and the doctor and the judge. And 
they sent me to Amsterdam to try for a scholar- 
ship, and I won it. Poor soul, she was so proud; 
and though it nearly broke her heart to part from 
me, she smiled, and would not show me her grief. 
She was pleased that her son should be an artist. 
They pinched and saved so that I should have enough 
to live on, and when my first picture was exhibited 
they came to Amsterdam to see it, my father and 
mother and my sister, and my mother cried when 


she looked at it." His kind eyes glistened. "And 
now on every wall of the old house there is one of 
my pictures in a beautiful gold frame." 

He glowed with happy pride. I thought of those 
cold scenes of his, with their picturesque peasants 
and cypresses and olive-trees. They must look queer 
in their garish frames on the walls of the peasant 

"The dear soul thought she was doing a wonder- 
ful thing for me when she made me an artist, but 
perhaps, after all, it would have been better for me 
if my father's will had prevailed and I were now 
but an honest carpenter." 

"Now that you know what art can offer, would 
you change your life? Would you have missed all 
the delight it has given you?" 

"Art is the greatest thing in the world," he an- 
swered, after a pause. 

He looked at me for a minute reflectively; he 
seemed to hesitate; then he said: 

"Did you know that I had been to see Strickland?" 


I was astonished. I should have thought he could 
not bear to set eyes on him. Stroeve smiled faintly. 

"You know already that I have no proper pride." 

"What do you mean by that?" 

He told me a singular story. 

Chapter XXXIX 

WHEN I left him, after we had buried poor 
Blanche, Stroeve walked into the house 
with a heavy heart. Something impelled 
him to go to the studio, some obscure desire for self- 
torture, and yet he dreaded the anguish that he 
foresaw. He dragged himself up the stairs; his 
feet seemed unwilling to carry him; and outside the 
door he lingered for a long time, trying to summon 
up courage to go in. He felt horribly sick. He had 
an impulse to run down the stairs after me and beg 
me to go in with him; he had a feeling that there 
was somebody in the studio. He remembered how 
often he had waited for a minute or two on the 
landing to get his breath after the ascent, and how 
absurdly his impatience to see Blanche had taken it 
away again. To see her was a delight that never 
staled, and even though he had not been out an 
hour he was as excited at the prospect as if they 
had been parted for a month. Suddenly he could 
not believe that she was dead. What had hap- 
pened could only be a dream, a frightful dream; 
and when he turned the key and opened the door, 
he would see her bending slightly over the table in 
the gracious attitude of the woman in Chardin's 
Benedicite, which always seemed to him so exquisite. 
Hurriedly he took the key out of his pocket, opened, 
and walked in. 



The apartment had no look of desertion. His 
wife's tidiness was one of the traits which had so 
much pleased him; his own upbringing had given 
him a tender sympathy for the delight in orderliness ; 
and when he had seen her instinctive desire to put 
each thing in its appointed place it had given him 
a little warm feeling in his heart. The bedroom 
looked as though she had just left it: the brushes 
were neatly placed on the toilet-table, one on each 
side of the comb; someone had smoothed down the 
bed on which she had spent her last night in the 
studio; and her nightdress in a little case lay on the 
pillow. It was impossible to believe that she would 
never come into that room again. 

But he felt thirsty, and went into the kitchen to 
get himself some water. Here, too, was order. On 
a rack were the plates that she had used for dinner 
on the night of her quarrel with Strickland, and they 
had been carefully washed. The knives and forks 
were put away in a drawer. Under a cover were 
the remains of a piece of cheese, and in a tin box 
was a crust of bread. She had done her marketing 
from day to day, buying only what was strictly need- 
ful, so that nothing was left over from one day to 
the next. Stroeve knew from the enquiries made 
by the police that Strickland had walked out of the 
house immediately after dinner, and the fact that 
Blanche had washed up the things as usual gave him 
a little thrill of horror. Her methodicalness made 
her suicide more deliberate. Her self-possession was 
frightening. A sudden pang seized him, and his 
knees felt so weak that he almost fell. He wsnt 


back into the bedroom and threw himself on the 
bed. He cried out her name. 

"Blanche. Blanche." 

The thought of her suffering was intolerable. He 
had a sudden vision of her standing in the kitchen 
it was hardly larger than a cupboard washing the 
plates and glasses, the forks and spoons, giving the 
knives a rapid polish on the knife-board; and then 
putting everything away, giving the sink a scrub, 
and hanging the dish-cloth up to dry it was there 
still, a gray torn rag; then looking round to see 
that everything was clean and nice. He saw her 
roll down her sleeves and remove her apron the 
apron hung on a peg behind the door and take 
the bottle of oxalic acid and go with it into the 

The agony of it drove him up from the bed and 
out of the room. He went into the studio. It was 
dark, for the curtains had been drawn over the great 
window, and he pulled them quickly back; but a 
sob broke from him as with a rapid glance he took 
in the place where he had been so happy. Nothing 
was changed here, either. Strickland was indiffer- 
ent to his surroundings, and he had lived in the 
other's studio without thinking of altering a thing. 
It was deliberately artistic. It represented Stroeve's 
idea of the proper environment for an artist. There 
were bits of old brocade on the walls, and the piano 
was covered with a piece of silk, beautiful and tar- 
nished; in one corner was a copy of the Venus 
of Milo, and in another of the Venus of the Medici. 
Here and there was an Italian cabinet surmounted 


with Delft, and here and there a bas-relief. In a 
handsome gold frame was a copy of Velasquez''' Inno- 
cent X., that Stroeve had made in Rome, and placed 
so as to make the most of their decorative effect 
were a number of Stroeve's pictures, all in splendid 
frames. Stroeve had always been very proud of his 
taste. He had never lost his appreciation for the 
romantic atmosphere of a studio, and though now 
the sight of it was like a stab in his heart, without 
thinking what he was at, he changed slightly the 
position of a Louis XV. table which was one of 
his treasures. Suddenly he caught sight of a canvas 
with its face to the wall. It was a much larger 
one than he himself was in the habit of using, and 
lie wondered what it did there. He went over to 
It and leaned it towards him so that he could see 
the painting. It was a nude. His heart began 
to beat quickly, for he guessed at once that it was 
one of Strickland's pictures. He flung it back 
against the wall angrily what did he mean by leav- 
ing it there? but his movement caused it to fall, 
face downwards, on the ground. No matter whose 
the picture, he could not leave it there in the dust, 
and he raised it; but then curiosity got the better 
of him. He thought he would like to have a proper 
look at it, so he brought it along and set it on the 
easel. Then he stood back in order to see it at 
his ease. 

He gave a gasp. It was the picture of a woman 
lying on a sofa, with one arm beneath her head 
and the other along her body; one knee was raised, 
and the other leg was stretched out. The pose wa 


classic. Stroeve's head swam. It was Blanche. 
Grief and jealousy and rage seized him, and he cried 
out hoarsely; he was inarticulate; he clenched his 
fists and raised them threateningly at an invisible 
enemy. He screamed at the top of his voice. He 
was beside himself. He could not bear it. That 
was too much. He looked round wildly for some 
instrument; he wanted to hack the picture to pieces; 
it should not exist another minute. He could see 
nothing that would serve his purpose; he rummaged 
about his painting things; somehow he could not 
find a thing; he was frantic. At last he came 
upon what he sought, a large scraper, and he 
pounced on it with a cry of triumph. He seized 
it as though it were a dagger, and ran to the 

As Stroeve told me this he became as excited as 
,when the incident occurred, and he took hold of a 
dinner-knife on the table between us, and brandished 
it. He lifted his arm as though to strike, and then, 
opening his hand, let it fall with a clatter to the 
ground. He looked at me with a tremulous smile. 
He did not speak. 

"Fire away," I said. 

"I don't know what happened to me. I was just 
going to make a great hole in the picture, I had 
my arm all ready for the blow, when suddenly I 
seemed to see it." 

"See what?" 

"The picture. It was a work of art. I couldn't 
touch it. I was afraid." 

Stroeve was silent again, and he stared at me 


with his mouth open and his round blue eyes start- 
ing out of his head. 

"It was a great, a wonderful picture. I was 
seized with awe. I had nearly committed a dreadful 
crime. I moved a little to see it better, and my 
foot knocked against the scraper. I shuddered." 

I really felt something of the emotion that had 
caught him. I was strangely impressed. It was 
as though I were suddenly transported into a world 
in which the values were changed. I stood by, at 
a loss, like a stranger in a land where the reac- 
tions of man to familiar things are all different 
from those he has known. Stroeve tried to talk to 
me about the picture, but he was incoherent, and I 
had to guess at what he meant. Strickland had burst 
the bonds that hitherto had held him. He had 
found, not himself, as the phrase goes, but a new 
soul with unsuspected powers. It was not only the 
bold simplification of the drawing which showed so 
rich and so singular a personality; it was not only 
the painting, though the flesh was painted with a 
passionate sensuality which had in it something mi- 
raculous; it was not only the solidity, so that you 
felt extraordinarily the weight of the body; there 
was also a spirituality, troubling and new, which led 
the imagination along unsuspected ways, and sug- 
gested dim empty spaces, lit only by the eternal stars, 
where the soul, all naked, adventured fearful to the 
discovery of new mysteries. 

If I am rhetorical it is because Stroeve was rhetor- 
ical. (Do we not know that man in moments of 
emotion expresses himself naturally in the terms of 


a novelette?) Stroeve was trying to express a feel- 
ing which he had never known before, and he did 
not know how to put it into common terms. He 
was like the mystic seeking to describe the ineffable. 
But one fact he made clear to me; people talk of 
beauty lightly, and having no feeling for words, they 
use that one carelessly, so that it loses its force; 
and the thing it stands for, sharing its name with 
a hundred trivial objects, is deprived of dignity. 
They call beautiful a dress, a dog, a sermon; and 
when they are face to face with Beauty cannot rec- 
ognise it. The false emphasis with which they try 
to deck their worthless thoughts blunts their suscep- 
tibilities. Like the charlatan who counterfeits a 
spiritual force he has sometimes felt, they lose the 
power they have abused. But Stroeve, the uncon- 
querable buffoon, had a love and an understanding 
of beauty which were as honest and sincere as was 
his own sincere and honest soul. It meant to him 
what God means to the believer, and when he saw 
it he was afraid. 

"What did you say to Strickland when you saw, 

"I asked him to come with me to Holland." 

I was dumbfounded. I could only look at Stroeve 
in stupid amazement. 

"We both loved Blanche. There would have 
been room for him in my mother's house. I think 
the company of poor, simple people would have done 
his soul a great good. I think he might have learnt 
from them something that would be very useful to 


"What did he say?" 

"He smiled a little. I suppose he thought nte 
very silly. He said he had other fish to fry." 

I could have wished that Strickland had used 
some other phrase to indicate his refusal. 

"He gave me the picture of Blanche." 

I wondered why Strickland had done that. But 
I made no remark, and for some time we kept si- 

"What have you done with all your things?" I 
said at last. 

"I got a Jew in, and he gave me a round sum 
for the lot. I'm taking my pictures home with me. 
Beside them I own nothing in the world now but a 
box of clothes and a few books." 

"I'm glad you're going home," I said. 

I felt that his chance was to put all the past 
behind him. I hoped that the grief which now 
seemed intolerable would be softened by the lapse 
of time, and a merciful forgetfulness would help him 
to take up once more the burden of life. He was 
young still, and in a few years he would look back 
on all his misery with a sadness in which there 
would be something not unpleasurable. Sooner or 
later he would marry some honest soul in Holland, 
and I felt sure he would be happy. I smiled at the 
thought of the vast number of bad pictures he would 
paint before he died. 

Next day I saw him off for Amsterdam. 

Chapter XL 

FOR the next month, occupied with my own af- 
fairs, I saw no one connected with this la- 
mentable business, and my mind ceased to be 
occupied with it. But one day, when I was walking 
along, bent on some errand, I passed Charles 
Strickland. The sight of him brought back to me 
all the horror which I was not unwilling to forget, 
and I felt in me a sudden repulsion for the cause 
of it. Nodding, for it would have been childish to 
cut him, I walked on quickly; but in a minute I felt 
a hand on my shoulder. 

"You're in a great hurry," he said cordially. 

It was characteristic of him to display geniality 
with anyone who showed a disinclination to meet 
him, and the coolness of my greeting can have left 
him in little doubt of that. 

"I am," I answered briefly. 

"I'll walk along with you," he said. 

"Why?" I asked. 

"For the pleasure of your society." 

I did not answer, and he walked by my side si- 
lently. We continued thus for perhaps a quarter 
of a mile. I began to feel a little ridiculous. At 
last we passed a stationer's, and it occurred to me 
that I might as well buy some paper. It would be 
an excuse to be rid of him. 

"I'm going in here," I said. "Good-bye. n 

'Til wait for you." 



I shrugged my shoulders, and went into the shop. 
I reflected that French paper was bad, and that, 
foiled of my purpose, I need not burden myself with 
a purchase that I did not need. I asked for some- 
thing I knew could not be provided, and in a min- 
ute came out into the street. 

"Did you get what you wanted?" he asked. 


We walked on in silence, and then came to a place 
where several streets met. I stopped at the curb. 

"Which way do you go?" I enquired. 

"Your way," he smiled. 

"I'm going home." 

"I'll come along with you and smoke a pipe." 

"You might wait for an invitation," I retorted 

"I would if I thought there was any chance of 
getting one." 

"Do you see that wall in front of you?" I said, 


"In that case I should have thought you could 
see also that I don't want your company." 

"I vaguely suspected it, I confess." 

I could not help a chuckle. It is one of the defects 
of my character that I cannot altogether dislike any* 
one who makes me laugh. But I pulled myself to- 

"I think you're detestable. You're the most loath- 
some beast that it's ever been my misfortune to meet. 
Why do you seek the society of someone who hates 
and despises you?" 


"My dear fellow, what the hell do you suppose I 
care what you think of me?" 

"Damn it all," I said, more violently because I 
had an inkling my motive was none too creditable, 
"I don't want to know you." 

"Are you afraid I shall corrupt you?" 

His tone made me feel not a little ridiculous. I 
knew that he was looking at me sideways, with a 
sardonic smile. 

"I suppose you are hard up," I remarked inso- 

"I should be a damned fool if I thought I had 
any chance of borrowing money from you." 

"YouVe come down in the world if you can bring 
yourself to flatter." 

He grinned. 

"You'll never really dislike me so long as I give 
you the opportunity to get off a good thing now 
and then." 

I had to bite my lip to prevent myself from laugh- 
ing. What he said had a hateful truth in it, and 
another defect of my character is that I enjoy the 
company of those, however depraved, who can give 
me a Roland for my Olive'r. I began to feel that 
my abhorrence for Strickland could only be sus- 
tained by an effort on my part. I recognised my 
moral weakness, but saw that my disapprobation had 
in it already something of a pose; and I knew that 
if I felt it, his own keen instinct had discovered it, 
too. He was certainly laughing at me up his sleeve. 
I left him the last word, and sought refuge in $ 
shrug of the shoulders and taciturnity. 

Chapter XLI 

WE arrived at the house in which I lived. 
I would not ask him to come in with me, 
but walked up the stairs without a word. 
He followed me, and entered the apartment on my 
heels. He had not been in it before, but he never 
gave a glance at the room I had been at pains to 
make pleasing to the eye. There was a tin of 
tobacco on the table, and, taking out his pipe, he 
filled it. He sat down on the only chair that had 
no arms and tilted himself on the back legs. 

"If you're going to make yourself at home, why 
don't you sit in an arm-chair ?" I asked irritably. 

"Why are you concerned about my comfort?" 

"I'm not," I retorted, "but only about my own. 
It makes me uncomfortable to see someone sit on 
an uncomfortable chair." 

He chuckled, but did not move. He smoked on 
in silence, taking no further notice of me, and ap- 
parently was absorbed in thought. I wondered why 
he had come. 

Until long habit has blunted the sensibility, there 
is something disconcerting to the writer in the in- 
stinct which causes him to take an interest in the 
singularities of human nature so absorbing that his 
moral sense is powerless against it. He recognises 
in himself an artistic satisfaction in the contempla- 
tion of evil which a little startles him; but sincerity 



forces him to confess that the disapproval he feels 
for certain actions is not nearly so strong as his 
curiosity in their reasons. The character of a scoun- 
drel, logical and complete, has a fascination for his 
creator which is an outrage to law and order. I 
expect that Shakespeare devised lago with a gusto 
which he never knew when, weaving moonbeams 
with his fancy, he imagined Desdemona. It may be 
that in his rogues the writer gratifies instincts deep- 
rooted in him, which the manners and customs of 
a civilised world have forced back to the mysterious 
recesses of the subconscious. In giving to the char- 
acter of his invention flesh and bones he is giving 
life to that part of himself which finds no other 
means of expression. His satisfaction is a sense 
of liberation. 

The writer is more concerned to know than to 

There was in my soul a perfectly genuine horror 
of Strickland, and side by side with it a cold curi- 
osity to discover his motives. I was puzzled by him, 
and I was eager to see how he regarded the tragedy 
he had caused in the lives of people who had used 
him with so much kindness. I applied the scalpel 

"Stroeve told me that picture you painted of his 
wife was the best thing youVe ever done." 

Strickland took his pipe out of his mouth, and a 
smile lit up his eyes. 

"It was great fun to do." 

"Why did you give it him?" 
Td finished it. It wasn't any good to me." 



"Do you know that Stroeve nearly destroyed it?" 

"It wasn't altogether satisfactory.'* 

He was quiet for a moment or two, then he tooK 
his pipe out of his mouth again, and chuckled. 

"Do you know that the little man came to see 

"Weren't you rather touched by what he had 
to say?" 

"No; I thought it damned silly and sentimental." 

"I suppose it escaped your memory that you'd 
ruined his life?" I remarked. 

He rubbed his bearded chin reflectively. 

"He's a very bad painter." 

"But a very good man." 

"And an excellent cook," Strickland added de- 

His callousness was inhuman, and in my indig- 
nation I was not inclined to mince my words. 

"As a mere matter of curiosity I wish you'd tell 
me, have you felt the smallest twinge of remorse for 
Blanche Stroeve's death?" 

I watched his face for some change of expression, 
but it remained impassive. 

"Why should I?" he asked 

"Let me put the facts before you. You were 
dying, and Dirk Stroeve took you into his own 
house. He nursed you like a mother. He sacri- 
ficed his time and his comfort and his money for 
you. He snatched you from the jaws of death." 

Strickland shrugged his shoulders. 

"The absurd little man enjoys doing things for 
other people. That's his life." 


"Granting that you owed him no gratitude, were 
you obliged to go out of your way to take his wife 
from him? Until you came on the scene they were 
happy. Why couldn't you leave them alone? 11 

"What makes you think they were happy?'* 

"It was evident." 

"You are a discerning fellow. Do you think she 
could ever have forgiven him for what he did for 

"What do you mean by that?" 

"Don't you know why he married her?" 

I shook my head. 

"She was a governess in the family of some 
Roman prince, and the son of the house seduced 
her. She thought he was going to marry her. They 
turned her out into the street neck and crop. She 
was going to have a baby, and she tried to commit 
suicide. Stroeve found her and married her." 

"It was just like him. I never knew anyone witH 
so compassionate a heart." 

I had often wondered why that ill-assorted pair 
had married, but just that explanation had never 
occurred to me. That was perhaps the cause of 
the peculiar quality of Dirk's love for his wife. I 
had noticed in it something more than passion. I 
remembered also how I had always fancied that her 
reserve concealed I knew not what; but now I saw 
in it more than the desire to hide a shameful secret. 
Her tranquillity was like the sullen calm that broods 
over an island which has been swept by a hurricane. 
Her cheerfulness was the .cheerfulness of despair. 
Strickland interrupted my reflections with an ob 



; servation the profound cynicism of which startled 

"A woman can forgive a man for the harm he 
does her," he said, "but she can never forgive him 
for the sacrifices he makes on lier account." 

"It must be reassuring to you to know that you 
certainly run no risk of incurring the resentment of 
the women you come in contact with," I retorted. 

A slight smile broke on his lips. 

"You are always prepared to sacrifice your prin- 
ciples for a repartee," he answered. 

"What happened to the child?" 

"Oh, it was still-born, three or four months after 
they were married." 

Then I came to the question which had seemed 
to me most puzzling. 

"Will you tell me why you bothered about 
Blanche Stroeve at all?" 

He did not answer for so long that I nearly 
repeated it. 

"How do I know?" he said at last. "She couldn't 
bear the sight of me. It amused me." 

"I see." 

He gave a sudden flash of anger. 

"Damn it all, I wanted her." 

But he recovered his temper immediately, and 
looked at me with a smile. 

"At first she was horrified." 

"Did you tell her?" 

"There wasn't any need. She knew. I never 
said a word. She was frightened. At last I took 


I do not know what there was in the way he told 
me this that extraordinarily suggested the violence 
of his desire. It was disconcerting and rather hor- 
rible. His life was strangely divorced from ma- 
terial things, and it was as though his body at times 
wreaked a fearful revenge on his spirit. The satyr 
in him suddenly took possession, and he was power- 
less in the grip of an instinct which had all the 
strength of the primitive forces of nature. It was 
an obsession so complete that there was no room 
in his soul for prudence or gratitude. 

"But why did you want to take her away with 
you?" I asked. 

"I didn't," he answered, frowning. "When she 
said she was coming I was nearly as surprised as 
Stroeve. I told her that when I'd had enough of 
her she'd have to go, and she said she'd risk that." 
He paused a little. "She had a wonderful body, 
and I wanted to paint a nude. When I'd finished 
my picture I took no more interest in her." 

"And she loved you with all her heart." 

He sprang to his feet and walked up and down 
the small room. 

"I don't want love. I haven't time for it. It's 
weakness. I am a man, and sometimes I want a 
woman. When I've satisfied my passion I'm ready 
for other things. I can't overcome my desire, but 
I hate it; it imprisons my spirit; I look forward to 
the time when I shall be free from all desire and 
can give myself without hindrance to my work. Be- 
cause women can do nothing except love, they've 
given it a ridiculous importance. They want to per- 


suade us that it's the whole of life. It's an insig- 
nificant part. I know lust. That's normal and 
healthy. Love is a disease. Women are the instru- 
ments of my pleasure ; I have no patience with their 
claim to be helpmates, partners, companions." 

I had never heard Strickland speak so much at 
one time. He spoke with a passion of indignation. 
But neither here nor elsewhere do I pretend to 
give his exact words; his vocabulary was small, and 
he had no gift for framing sentences, so that one 
had to piece his meaning together out of interjec- 
tions, the expression of his face, gestures and hack- 
neyed phrases. 

"You should have lived at a time when women 
were chattels and men the masters of slaves," I 

"It just happens that I am a completely normal 


I could not help laughing at this remark, made 
in all seriousness; but he went on, walking up and 
down the room like a caged beast, intent on express- 
ing what he felt, but found such difficulty in putting 

"When a woman loves you she's not satisfied until 
she possesses your soul. Because she's weak, she 
has a rage for domination, and nothing less will 
satisfy her. She has a small mind, and she resents 
the abstract which she is unable to grasp. She is 
occupied with material things, and she is jealous 
of the ideal. The soul of man wanders through the 
uttermost regions of the universe, and she seeks 
to imprison it in the circle of her account-book. Do 


rji . 



you remember my wife? I saw Blanche little by 
little trying all her tricks. With infinite patience 
she prepared to snare me and bind me. She wanted 
to bring me down to her level; she cared nothing 
for me, she only wanted me to be hers. She was 
willing to do everything in the world for me except 
the one thing I wanted: to leave me alone." 

I was silent for a while. 

"What did you expect her to do when you left 

"She could have gone back to Stroeve," he said 
irritably. "He was ready to take her." 

"You're inhuman," I answered. "It's as useless 
to talk to you about these things as to describe col- 
ours to a man who was born blind." 

He stopped in front of my chair, and stood look- 
ing down at me with an expression in which I read 
a contemptuous amazement. 

"Do you really care a twopenny damn if Blanche 
Stroeve is alive or dead?" 

I thought over his question, for I wanted to an- 
swer it truthfully, at all events to my soul. 

"It may be a lack of sympathy in myself if it 
does not make any great difference to me that she 
is dead. Life had a great deal to offer her. I think 
it's terrible that she should have been deprived of 
it in that cruel way, and I am ashamed because I do 
not really care." 

"You have not the courage of your convictions. 
Life has no value. Blanche Stroeve didn't commit 
suicide because I left her, but because she was a 
foolish and unbalanced woman. But we've talked 

*- - 


**, tfU ^ K^U%U --t~a rr* <&> 



about her quite enough; she was an entirely unim- 
portant person. Come, and I'll show you my pic- 

He spoke as though I were a child that needed 
to be distracted. I was sore, but not with him so 
much as with myself. I thought of the happy life 
that pair had led in the cosy studio in Montmartre, 
Stroeve and his wife, their simplicity, kindness, and 
hospitality; it seemed to me cruel that it should 
have been broken to pieces by a ruthless chance; 
but the cruellest thing of all was that in fact it 
made no great difference. The world went on, and 
no one was a penny the worse for all that wretched- 
ness. I had an idea that Dirk, a man of greater 
emotional reactions than depth of feeling, would 
soon forget; and Blanche's life, begun with who 
knows what bright hopes and what dreams, might 
just as well have never been lived. It all seemed 
useless and inane. 

Strickland had found his hat, and stood looking 
at me. 

"Are you coming?" 

"Why do you seek my acquaintance?" I asked 
him. "You know that I hate and despise you." 

He chuckled good-humouredly. 

"Your only quarrel with me really is that I don't 
care a twopenny damn what you think about rne." 

I felt my cheeks grow red with sudden anger. It 
was impossible to make him understand that one 
might be outraged by his callous selfishness. I 
longed to pierce his armour of complete indiffer- 
ence. I knew also that in the end there was truth, 

V,,, &*f 


in what he said. Unconsciously, perhaps, we treas- 
ure the power we have over people by their regard 
for our opinion of them, and we hate those upon 
whom we have no such ^influence. I suppose it is 
the bitterest wound to human pride. But I would 
not let him see that I was put out. 

"Is it possible for any man to disregard others 
entirely?" I said, though more to myself than to 
him. "You're dependent on others for everything 
in existence. It's a preposterous attempt to try to 
live only for yourself and by yourself. Sooner or 
later you'll be ill and tired and old, and then you'll 
crawl back into the herd. Won't you be ashamed 
when you feel in your heart the desire for comfort 
and sympathy? You're trying an impossible thing. 
Sooner or later the human being in you will yearn 
for the common bonds of humanity." 
"Come and look at my pictures." 
"Have you ever thought of death?" 
"Why should I? It doesn't matter." 
I stared at him. He stood before me, motion- 
less, with a mocking smile in his eyes ; but for all that, 
for a moment I had an inkling of a fiery, tortured 
spirit, aiming at something greater than could be 
conceived by anything that was bound up with the 
flesh. I had a fleeting glimpse of a pursuit of the 
ineffable. I looked at the man before me in his 
shabby clothes, with his great nose and shining eyes, 
his red beard and untidy hair; and I had a strange 
sensation that it was only an envelope, and I was 
in the presence of a disembodied spirit. 

"Let us go and look at your pictures," I said. 

" /r- 

K/r-^c,, ^ *~ -*-M 


Chapter XLII 

I DID not know why Strickland had suddenly of- 
fered to show them to me. I welcomed the 
opportunity. A man's work reveals him. In 
social intercourse he gives you the surface that he 
wishes the world to accept, and you can only gain 
a true knowledge of him by inferences from little 
actions, of which he is unconscious, and from fleet- 
ing expressions, which cross his face unknown to 
him. Sometimes people carry to such perfection 
the mask they have assumed that in due course they 
actually become the person they seem. But in his 
book or his picture the real man delivers himself 
defenceless. His pretentiousness will only expose 
his vacuity. The lathe painted to look like iron is 
seen to be but a lathe. No affectation of peculiar- 
ity can conceal a commonplace mind. To the acute 
observer no one can produce the most casual work 
without disclosing the innermost secrets of his soul. 
As I walked up the endless stairs of the house in 
which Strickland lived, I confess that I was a little 
excited. It seemed to me that I was on the thresh- 
old of a surprising adventure. I looked about the 
room with curiosity. It was even smaller and more 
bare than I remembered it. I wondered what those 
friends of mine would say who demanded vast stu- 
dios, and vowed they could not work unless all the 
conditions were to their liking. 



"You'd better stand there," he said, pointing to a 
spot from which, presumably, he fancied I could 
see to best advantage what he had to show me. 

"You don't want me to talk, I suppose," I said. 

"No, blast you; I want you to hold your tongue." 

He placed a picture on the easel, and let me look 
at it for a minute or two; then took it down and 
put another in its place. I think he showed me 
about thirty canvases. It was the result of the six 
years during which he had been painting. He had 
never sold a picture. The canvases were of differ- 
ent sizes. The smaller were pictures of still-life and 
the largest were landscapes. There were about half 
a dozen portraits. 

"That is the lot," he said at last. 

I wish I could say that I recognised at once 
their beauty and their great originality. Now that 
I have seen many of them again and the rest are 
familiar to me in reproductions, I am astonished 
that at first sight I was bitterly disappointed. I 
felt nothing of the peculiar thrill which it is the 
property of art to give. The impression that Strick- 
land's pictures gave me was disconcerting; and the 
fact remains, always to reproach me, that I never 
even thought of buying any. I missed a wonderful 
chance. Most of them have 'found their way into 
museums, and the rest are the treasured possessions 
of wealthy amateurs. I try to find excuses for my- 
self. I think that my taste is good, but I am con- 
scious that it has no originality. I know very little 
about painting, and I wander along trails that others 
liave blazed for me. At that time I had the great- 


est admiration for the Impressionists. I longed to 
possess a Sisley and a Degas, and I worshipped 
Manet. His Olympia seemed to me the greatest 
picture of modern times, and Le Dejeuner sur 
I'Herbe moved me profoundly. These works seemed 
to me the last word in painting. 

I will not describe the pictures that Strickland 
showed me. Descriptions of pictures are always 
dull, and these, besides, are familiar to all who take 
an interest in such things. Now that his influence 
has so enormously affected modern painting, now 
that others have charted the country which he was 
among the first to explore, Strickland's pictures, seen 
for the first time, would find the mind more pre- 
pared for them; but it must be remembered that I 
had never seen anything of the sort. First of all 
I was taken aback by what seemed to me the clumsi- 
ness of his technique. Accustomed to the drawing 
of the old masters, and convinced that Ingres was 
the greatest draughtsman of recent times, I thought 
that Strickland drew very badly. I knew nothing of 
the simplification at which he aimed. I remember 
a still-life of oranges on a plate, and I was both- 
ered because the plate was not round and the oranges 
were lop-sided. The portraits were a little larger 
than life-size, and this gave them an ungainly look. 
To my eyes the faces looked like caricatures. They 
were painted in a way that was entirely new to me. 
The landscapes puzzled me even more. There were 
two or three pictures of the forest at Fontainebleau 
and several of streets in Paris : my first feeling was 
that they might have been painted by a drunken cab* 


driver. I was perfectly bewildered. The colour 
seemed to me extraordinarily crude. It passed 
through my mind that the whole thing was a stu- 
pendous, incomprehensible farce. Now that I look 
back I am more than ever impressed by Strocve's 
acuteness. He saw from the first that here was a 
revolution in art, and he recognised in its beginnings 
the genius which now all the world allows. 

But if I was puzzled and disconcerted, I was not 
unimpressed. Even I, in my colossal ignorance, 
could not but feel that here, trying to express itself, 
was real power. I was excited and interested. I 
felt that these pictures had something to say to me 
that was very important for me to know, but I 
could not tell what it was. They seemed to me 
ugly, but they suggested without disclosing a secret 
of momentous significance. They were strangely 
tantalising. They gave me an emotion that I could 
not analyse. They said something that words were 
powerless to utter. I fancy that Strickland saw 
vaguely some spiritual meaning in material things 
that was so strange that he could only suggest it 
with halting symbols. It was as though he found 
in the chaos of the universe a new pattern, and 
were attempting clumsily, with anguish of soul, to 
set it down. I saw a tormented spirit striving for 
the release of expression. 

I turned to him. 

"I wonder if you haven't mistaken your medium," 
I said. 

"What the hell do you mean?" 

"I think you're trying to say something, I don't 


quite know what it is, but I'm not sure that the best 
way of saying it is by means of painting." 

When I imagined that on seeing his pictures I 
should get a clue to the understanding of his strange 
character I was mistaken. They merely increased 
the astonishment with which he filled me. I was 
more at sea than ever. The only thing that seemed 
clear to me and perhaps even this was fanciful 
was that he was passionately striving for liberation 
from some power that held him. But what the 
power was and what line the liberation would take 
remained obscure. Each one of us is alone in the 
world. He is shut in a tower of brass, and can 
communicate with his fellows only by signs, and the 
signs have no common value, so that their sense is 
vague and uncertain. We seek pitifully to convey 
* to ot ^ ers tne treasures of our heart, but they have 
not t ^ le P ower to accept them, and so we go lonely, 
side by side but not together, unable to know our 
fellows and unknown by them. We are like people 
"living in a country whose language they know so 
little that, with all manner of beautiful and pro- 
found things to say, they are condemned to the 
banalities of the conversation manual. Their brain 
is seething with ideas, and they can only tell you 
that the umbrella of the gardener's aunt is in the 

The final impression I received was of a pro- 
digious effort to express some state of the soul, 
and in this effort, I fancied, must be sought the 
explanation of what so utterly perplexed me. It 
was evident that colours and forms had a signif- 


icance for Strickland that was peculiar to himself. 
He was under an intolerable necessity to convey 
something that he felt, and he created them with 
that intention alone. He did not hesitate to sim- 
plify or to distort if he could get nearer to that 
unknown thing he sought. Facts were nothing to 
him, for beneath the mass of irrelevant incidents 
he looked for something significant to himself. It 
was as though he had become aware of the soul of 
the universe and were compelled to express it. 
Though these pictures confused and puzzled me, I 
could not be unmoved by the emotion that was pat* 
ent in them; and, I knew not why, I felt in myself 
a feeling that with regard to Strickland was the 
last I had ever expected to experience. I felt an 
overwhelming compassion. 

"7. think I know now why you surrendered to 
your feeling for Blanche Stroeve," I said to him. 


"I think your courage failed. The weakness of 
your body communicated itself to your soul. I do 
not know what infinite yearning possesses you, so 
that you are driven to a perilous, lonely search for 
some goal where you expect to find a final release 
from the spirit that torments you. I see you as 
the eternal pilgrim to some shrine that perhaps does 
not exist I do not know to what inscrutable Nir- 
vana you aim. Do you know yourself? Perhaps A /# 
it is Truth and Freedom that you seek, and for a 
moment you thought that you might find release in *<*'- 
Love. I think your tired soul sought rest iru a 
woman's arms, and when you found no rest there 


you hated her. You had no pity for her, because 
you have no pity for yourself. And you killed her 
out of fear, because you trembled still at the danger 
you had barely escaped. 

He smiled dryly and pulled his beard. 

"You are a dreadful sentimentalist, my poor 

A week later I heard by chance that Strickland 
had gone to Marseilles. I never saw him again. 

Chapter XLIII 

L .COKING back, I realise that what I have 
written about Charles Strickland must seem 
very unsatisfactory. I have given incidents 
that came to my knowledge, but they remain ob- 
scure because I do not know the reasons that led 
to them. The strangest, Strickland's determination 
to become a painter, seems to be arbitrary; and 
though it must have had causes in the circumstances 
of his life, I am ignorant of them. From his own. 
conversation I was able to glean nothing. If I 
were writing a novel, rather than narrating such 
Jacts as I know of a curious personality, I should 
have invented much to account for this change of 
heart. I think I should have shown a strong voca- 
tion in boyhood, crushed by the will of his father 
or sacrificed to the necessity of earning a living; 
I should have pictured him impatient of the re- 
straints of life; and in the struggle between his pas- 
sion for art and the duties of his station I could 
have aroused sympathy for him. I should so have 
made him a more imposing figure. Perhaps it would 
have been possible to see in him a new Prometheus. 
There was here, maybe, the opportunity for a mod- 
ern version of the hero who for the good of man- 
kind exposes himself to the agonies of the damned. 
It is always a moving subject. 

On the other hand, I might have found his mo- 
lives in the influence of the married relation. There 



are a dozen ways in which this might be managed. 
A latent gift might reveal itself on acquaintance with 
the painters and writers whose society his wife 
sought; or domestic incompatability might turn him 
upon himself; a love affair might fan into bright 
flame a fire which I could have shown smouldering 
dimly in his heart. I think then I should have 
drawn Mrs. Strickland quite differently. I should 
have abandoned the facts and made her a nagging, 
tiresome woman, or else a bigoted one with no sym- 
pathy for the claims of the spirit. I should have 
made Strickland's marriage a long torment from 
which escape was the only possible issue. I think 
I should have emphasised his patience with the un- 
suitable mate, and the compassion which made him 
unwilling to throw off the yoke that oppressed 
him. I should certainly have eliminated the chil- 

An effective story might also have been made by 
bringing him into contact with some old painter 
whom the pressure of want or the desire for com- 
mercial success had made false to the genius of his 
youth, and who, seeing in Strickland the possibili- 
ties which himself had wasted, influenced him to 
forsake all and follow the divine tyranny of art. I 
think there would have been something ironic in the 
picture of the successful old man, rich and hon- 
oured, living in another the life which he, though 
knowing it was the better part, had not had the 
strength to pursue. 

The facts are much duller. Strickland, a boy 
Sfresh from school, went into a broker's office with- 


out any feeling of distaste. Until he married he 
led the ordinary life of his fellows, gambling mildly; 
on the Exchange, interested to the extent of a sov- 
ereign or two on the result of the Derby or the 
Oxford and Cambridge Race. I think he boxed a 
little in his spare time. On his chimney-piece he 
had photographs of Mrs. Langtry and Mary An- 
derson. He read Punch and the Sporting Times* 
He went to dances in Hampstead. 

It matters less that for so long T should have 
lost sight of him. The years during which he was 
struggling to acquire proficiency in a difficult art 
were monotonous, and I do not know that there was 
anything significant in the shifts to which he was 
put to earn enough money to keep him. An ac- 
count of them would be an account of the things 
he had seen happen to other people. I do not think 
they had any effect on his own character. He must 
have acquired experiences which would form abun- 
dant material for a picaresque novel of modern 
Paris, but he remained aloof, and judging from his 
conversation there was nothing in those years that 
had made a particular impression on him. Perhaps 
when he went to Paris he was too old to fall a 
victim to the glamour of his environment. Strange 
as it may seem, he always appeared to me not only 
practical, but immensely matter-of-fact. I suppose 
his life during this period was romantic, but he 
certainly saw no romance in it. It may be that in 
order to realise the romance of life you must have 
something of the actor in you; and, capable of 
standing outside yourself, you must be able to watch* 


your actions with an interest at once detached and 
absorbed. But no one was more single-minded than 
Strickland. I never knew anyone who was less self- 
conscious. But it is unfortunate that I can give no 
description of the arduous steps by which he reached 
such mastery over his art as he ever acquired; for 
if I could show him undaunted by failure, by an 
unceasing effort of courage holding despair at bay, 
doggedly persistent in the face of self-doubt, which 
is the artist's bitterest enemy, I might excite some 
sympathy for a personality which, I am all too 
conscious, must appear singularly devoid of charm. 
But I have nothing to go on. I never once saw 
Strickland at work, nor do I know that anyone else 
did. He kept the secret of his struggles to himself. 
If in the loneliness of his studio he wrestled des- 
perately with the Angel of the Lord he never al- 
lowed a soul to divine his anguish. 

When I come to his connection with Blanche 
Stroeve I am exasperated by the fragmentariness of 
the facts at my disposal. To give my story coher- 
ence I should describe the progress of their tragic 
union, but I know nothing of the three months 
during which they lived together. I do not know 
how they got on or what they talked about. After, 
all, there are twenty-four hours in the day, and the 
summits of emotion can only be reached at rare 
intervals. I can only imagine how they passed the 
rest of the time. While the light lasted and so long 
as Blanche's strength endured, I suppose that Strick- 
land painted, and it must have irritated her when 
she saw him absorbed in his work. As a mistress 


she did not then exist for him, but only as a model; 
and then there were long hours in which they lived 
side by side in silence. It must have frightened her. 
When Strickland suggested that in her surrender 
to him there was a sense of triumph over Dirk 
Stroeve, because he had come to her help in her 
extremity, he opened the door to many a dark con- 
jecture. I hope it was not true. It seems to me 
rather horrible. But who can fathom the subtleties 
of the human heart? Certainly not those who expect 
from it only decorous sentiments and normal emo- 
tions. When Blanche saw that, notwithstanding his 
moments of passion, Strickland remained aloof, she 
must have been filled with dismay, and even in those 
moments I surmise that she realised that to him 
she was not an individual, but an instrument of 
pleasure; he was a stranger still, and she tried to 
bind him to herself with pathetic arts. She strove 
to ensnare him with comfort and would not see that 
comfort meant nothing to him. She was at pains 
to get him the things to eat that he liked, and would 
not see that he was indifferent to food. She was 
afraid to leave him alone. She pursued him with 
attentions, and when his passion was dormant 
sought to excite it, for then at least she had the il- 
lusion of holding him. Perhaps she knew with her 
intelligence that the chains she forged only aroused 
his instinct of destruction, as the plate-glass window 
makes your fingers itch for half a brick; but her 
heart, incapable of reason, made her continue on a 
course she knew was fatal. She must have been 
very unhappy. But the blindness of love led her 


to believe what she wanted to be true, and her love 
was so great that it seemed impossible to her that it 
should not in return awake an equal love. 

But my study of Strickland's character suffers 
from a greater defect than my ignorance of many 
facts. Because they were obvious and striking, I 
have written of his relations to women; and yet 
they were but an insignificant part of his life. It 
is an irony that they should so tragically have af- 
fected others. His real life consisted of dreams 
and of tremendously hard work. 

Here lies the unreality of fiction. For in men, as 
a rule, love is but an episode which takes its place 
among the other affairs of the day, and the emphasis 
laid on it in novels gives it an importance which 
is untrue to life. There are few men to whom it 
is the most important thing in the world, and they 
are not very interesting ones; even women, with 
whom the subject is of paramount interest, have a 
contempt for them. They are nattered and excited 
by them, but have an uneasy feeling that they are 
poor creatures. But even during the brief intervals 
in which they are in love, men do other things which 
distract their mind; the trades by which they earn 
their living engage their attention; they are ab- 
sorbed in sport; they can interest themselves in art. 
For the most part, they keep their various activities 
in various compartments, and they can pursue one 
to the temporary exclusion of the other. They have 
a faculty of concentration on that which occupies 
them at the moment, and it irks them if one en- 
croaches on the other. As lovers, the difference be- 


tween men and women is that women can love all 

day long, but men only at times. ^uu j 

With Strickland the sexual appetite took a very 
small place. It was unimportant. It was irksome. #Zt^AfOU 
His soul aimed elsewhither. He had violent pas- 

'*' T^t 

sions, and on occasion desire seized his body so 
that he was driven to an orgy of lust, but he hated 
the instincts that robbed him of his self-possession. 
I think, even, he hated the inevitable partner in his 
debauchery. When he had regained command over 
himself, he shuddered at the sight of the woman 
he had enjoyed. His thoughts floated then serenely 
in the empyrean, and he felt towards her the horror 
that perhaps the painted butterfly, hovering about 
the flowers, feels to the filthy chrysalis from which 
it has triumphantly emerged. I suppose that art 
is a manifestation of the sexual instinct. It is the 
same emotion which is excited in the human heart 
by the sight of a lovely woman, the Bay of Naples 
under the yellow moon, and the Entombment of 
Titian. It is possible that Strickland hated the nor- 
mal release of sex because it seemed to him brutal 
by comparison with the satisfaction of artistic crea- 
tion. It seems strange even to myself, when I have 
described a man who was cruel, selfish, brutal and 
sensual, to say that he was a great idealist. The 
fact remains. 

He lived more poorly than an artisan. He worked 
harder. He cared nothing for those things which 
with most people make life gracious and beautiful. 
He was indifferent to money. He cared nothing >o~mfr& 
about fame. You cannot praise him because he re- 


'* a*v 


sisted the temptation to make any of those com- 
promises with the world which most of us yield to. 
He had no such temptation. It never entered his 
head that compromise was possible. He lived in 
Paris more lonely than an anchorite in the deserts 
of Thebes. He asked nothing from his fellows 
except that they should leave him alone. He was 
single-hearted in his aim, and to pursue it he was 

^ willing to sacrifice not only himself many can do 

^j that but others. He had a vision. 

Strickland was an odious man, but I still think 
was a great one. 

Chapter XLIV 

A CERTAIN importance attaches to the views 
on art of painters, and this is the natural 
place for me to set down what I know of 
Strickland's opinions of the great artists of the past. 
I am afraid I have very little worth noting. Strick- 
land was not a conversationalist, and he had no 
gift for putting what he had to say in the striking 
phrase that the listener remembers. He had no 
wit. His humour, as will be seen if I have in any 
way succeeded in reproducing the manner of his 
conversation, was sardonic. His repartee was rude. 
He made one laugh sometimes by speaking the truth, 
but this is a form of humour which gains its force 
only by its unusualness; it would cease to amuse 
if it were commonly practised. 

Strickland was not, I should say, a man of great 
intelligence, and his views on painting were by no 
means out of the ordinary. I never heard him speak 
of those whose work had a certain analogy with his 
own of Cezanne, for instance, or of Van Gogh; 
and I doubt very much if he had ever seen their 
pictures. He was not greatly interested in the Im- 
pressionists. Their technique impressed him, but I 
fancy that he thought their attitude commonplace. 
When Stroeve was holding forth at length on the 
excellence of Monet, he said: "I prefer Winterhal- 
ter." But I dare say he said it to annoy, and if 
he did he certainly succeeded. 



I am disappointed that I cannot report any ex- 
travagances in his opinions on the old masters. 
There is so much in his character which is strange 
that I feel it would complete the picture if his views 
were outrageous. I feel the need to ascribe to him 
fantastic theories about his predecessors, and it is 
with a certain sense of disillusion that I confess he 
thought about them pretty much as does everybody 
else. I do not believe he knew El Greco. He had 
a great but somewhat impatient admiration for 
Velasquez. Chardin delighted him, and Rembrandt 
moved him to ecstasy. He described the impres- 
sion that Rembrandt made on him with a coarseness 
I cannot repeat. The only painter that interested 
him who was at all unexpected was Brueghel the 
Elder. I knew very little about him at that time, 
and Strickland had no power to explain himself. 
1 remember what he said about him because it was 
so unsatisfactory. 

"He's all right," said Strickland. "I bet he 
found it hell to paint." 

When later, in Vienna, I saw several of Peter 
Brueghel's pictures, I thought I understood why he 
had attracted Strickland's attention. Here, too, was 
a man with a vision of the world peculiar to himself. 
I made somewhat copious notes at the time, intending 
to write something about him, but I have lost them, 
and have now only the recollection of an emotion. 
He seemed to see his fellow-creatures grotesquely, 
and he was angry with them because they were 
grotesque; life was a confusion of ridiculous, sordid 
happenings, a fit subject for laughter, and yet it 


made him sorrowful to laugh. Brueghel gave me 
the impression of a man striving to express in one 
medium feelings more appropriate to expression in 
another, and it may be that it was the obscure con- 
sciousness of this that excited Strickland's sympathy. 
Perhaps both were trying to put down in paint ideas 
which were more suitable to literature. 

Strickland at this time must have been nearly 

Chapter XLV 

I HAVE said already that but for the hazard of 
a journey to Tahiti I should doubtless never 
have written this book. It is thither that after 
many wanderings Charles Strickland came, and it 
is there that he painted the pictures on which his 
fame most securely rests. I suppose no artist achieves 
completely the realisation of the dream that obsesses 
him, and Strickland, harassed incessantly by his 
struggle with technique, managed, perhaps, less than 
others to express the vision that he saw with his 
mind's eye; but in Tahiti the circumstances were 
favourable to him; he found in his surroundings the 
accidents necessary for his inspiration to become 
effective, and his later pictures give at least a sug- 
gestion of what he sought. They offer the imagina- 
tion something new and strange. It is as though 
in this far country his spirit, that had wandered 
disembodied, seeking a tenement, at last was able 
to clothe itself in flesh. To use the hackneyed 
phrase, here he found himself. 

It would seem that my visit to this remote island 
should immediately revive my interest in Strickland, 
but the work I was engaged in occupied my atten- 
tion to the exclusion of something that was irrele- 
vant, and it was not till I had been there some days 
that I even remembered his connection with it. After 
all, I had not seen him for fifteen years, and it was 
nine since he died. But I think my arrival at Tahiti 



would have driven out of my head matters of much 
more immediate importance to me, and even after a 
week I found it not easy to order myself soberly. 
I remember that on my first morning I awoke early, 
and when I came on to the terrace of the hotel no 
one was stirring. I wandered round to the kitchen, 
but it was locked, and on a bench outside it a native 
boy was sleeping. There seemed no chance of 
breakfast for some time, so I sauntered down to 
the water-front. The Chinamen were already busy 
in their shops. The sky had still the pallor of 
dawn, and there was a ghostly silence on the lagoon. 
Ten miles away the island of Murea, like some 
high fastness of the Holy Grail, guarded its mystery. 
I did not altogether believe my eyes. The days 
that had passed since I left Wellington seemed ex- 
traordinary and unusual. Wellington is trim and 
neat and English; it reminds you of a seaport town 
on the South Coast. And for three days afterwards 
the sea was stormy. Gray clouds chased one an- 
other across the sky. Then the wind dropped, and 
the sea was calm and blue. The Pacific is more 
desolate than other seas; its spaces seem more vast, 
and the most ordinary journey upon it has somehow 
the feeling of an adventure. The air you breathe 
is an elixir which prepares you for the unexpected 
Nor is it vouchsafed to man in the flesh to know 
aught that more nearly suggests the approach to the 
golden realms of fancy than the approach to Tahiti. 
Murea, the sister isle, comes into view in rocky splen- 
dour, rising from the desert sea mysteriously, like 
the unsubstantial fabric of a magic wand. With its 


jagged outline it is like a Monseratt of the Pacific, 
and you may imagine that there Polynesian knights 
guard with strange rites mysteries unholy for men to 
know. The beauty of the island is unveiled as dimin- 
ishing distance shows you in distincter shape its 
lovely peaks, but it keeps its secret as you sail by, 
and, darkly inviolable, seems to fold itself together 
in a stony, inaccessible grimness. It would not sur- 
prise you if, as you came near seeking for an open- 
ing in the reef, it vanished suddenly from your view, 
and nothing met your gaze but the blue loneliness 
of the Pacific. 

Tahiti is a lofty green island, with deep folds of 
a darker green, in which you divine silent valleys; 
there is mystery in their sombre depths, down which 
murmur and plash cool streams, and you feel that in 
those umbrageous places life from immemorial times 
has been led according to immemorial ways. Even 
here is something sad and terrible. But the impres- 
sion is fleeting, and serves only to give a greater 
acuteness to the enjoyment of the moment. It is 
like the sadness which you may see in the jester's 
eyes when a merry company is laughing at his sallies ; 
his lips smile and his jokes are gayer because in the 
communion of laughter he finds himself more intol- 
erably alone. For Tahiti is smiling and friendly; it 
is like a lovely woman graciously prodigal of her 
charm and beauty; and nothing can be more concilia- 
tory than the entrance into the harbour at Papeete. 
The schooners moored to the quay are trim and 
neat, the little town along the bay is white and ur- 
^ and the flamboyants, scarlet against the blue 


sky, flaunt their colour like a cry of passion. They 
are sensual with an unashamed violence that leaves 
you breathless. And the crowd that throngs the 
wharf as the steamer draws alongside is gay and 
debonair; it is a noisy, cheerful, gesticulating crowd. 
It is a sea of brown faces. You have an impres- 
sion of coloured movement against the flaming blue 
of the sky. Everything is done with a great deal 
of bustle, the unloading of the baggage, the examina- 
tion of the customs; and everyone seems to smile at 
you. It is very hot. The colour dazzles you. 

Chapter XLVI 

I HAD not been in Tahiti long before I met Cap- 
tain Nichols. He came in one morning when I 
was having breakfast on the terrace of the hotel 
and introduced himself. He had heard that I was 
interested in Charles Strickland, and announced that 
he was come to have a talk about him. They are 
as fond of gossip in Tahiti as in an English village, 
and one or 'two enquiries I had made for pictures by 
Strickland had been quickly spread. I asked the 
stranger if he had breakfasted. 

"Yes; I have my coffee early," he answered, "but 
I don't mind having a drop of whisky." 

I called the Chinese boy. 

"You don't think it's too early?" said the Captain. 

"You and your liver must decide that between 
you," I replied. 

"I'm practically a teetotaller," he said, as he 
poured himself out a good half-tumbler of Canadian 

When he smiled he showed broken and discoloured 
teeth. He was a very lean man, of no more than 
average height, with gray hair cut short and a 
stubbly gray moustache. He had not shaved for a 
couple of days. His face was deeply lined, burned 
brown by long exposure to the sun, and he had a 
pair of small blue eyes which were astonishingly 
shifty. They moved quickly, following my smallest 
gesture, and they gave him the look of a very 



thorough rogue. But at the moment he was all 
heartiness and good-fellowship. He was dressed jn 
a bedraggled suit of khaki, and his hands would 
have been all the better for a wash. 

"I knew Strickland well,'* he said, as he leaned 
back in his chair and lit the cigar I had offered him. 
"It's through me he came out to the islands." 

" Where did you meet him?" I asked. 

"In Marseilles." 

"What were you doing there?" 

He gave me an ingratiating smile. 

"Well, I guess I was on the beach." 

My friend's appearance suggested that he was 
now in the same predicament, and I prepared myself 
to cultivate an agreeable acquaintance. The society 
of beach-combers always repays the small pains you 
need be at to enjoy it. They are easy of approach 
and affable in conversation. They seldom put on 
airs, and the offer of a drink is a sure way to their 
hearts. You need no laborious steps to enter upon 
familiarity with them, and you can earn not only 
their confidence, but their gratitude, by turning an 
attentive ear to their discourse. They look upon 
conversation as the great pleasure of life, thereby, 
proving the excellence of their civilisation, and for 
the most part they are entertaining talkers. The 
extent of their experience is pleasantly balanced by 
the fertility of their imagination. It cannot be said 
that they are without guile, but they have a tolerant 
respect for the law, when the law is supported by 
strength. It is hazardous to play poker with them, 
but their ingenuity adds a peculiar excitement to 


the best game in the world. I came to know Cap- 
tain Nichols very well before I left Tahiti, and I 
am the richer for his acquaintance. I do not con- 
sider that the cigars and whisky he consumed at 
my expense (he always refused cocktails, since he 
was practically a teetotaller), and the few dollars, 
borrowed with a civil air of conferring a favour 
upon me, that passed from my pocket to his, were in 
any way equivalent to the entertainment he afforded 
me. I remained his debtor. I should be sorry if 
my conscience, insisting on a rigid attention to the 
matter in hand, forced me to dismiss him in a couple 
of lines. 

I do not know why Captain Nichols first left 
England. It was a matter upon which he was retic 
cent, and with persons of his kidney a direct ques- 
tion is never very discreet. He hinted at undeserved 
misfortune, and there is no doubt that he looked 
upon himself as the victim of injustice. My fancy 
played with the various forms of fraud and violence, 
and I agreed with him sympathetically when he 
remarked that the authorities in the old country were 
so damned technical. But it was nice to see that any 
unpleasantness he had endured in his native land 
had not impaired his ardent patriotism. He fre- 
quently declared that England was the finest country 
in the world, sir, and he felt a lively superiority 
over Americans, Colonials, Dagos, Dutchmen, and 

But I do not think he was a happy man. He suf- 
fered from dyspepsia, and he might often be seen 
sucking a tablet of pepsin; in the morning his appe- 


tite was poor; but this affliction alone would hardly 
have impaired his spirits. He had a greater cause 
of discontent with life than this. Eight years before 
he had rashly married a wife. There are men whom 
a merciful Providence has undoubtedly ordained to 
a single life, but who from wilfulness or through 
circumstances they could not cope with have flown 
in the face of its decrees. There is no object more 
deserving of pity than the married bachelor. Of 
such was Captain Nichols. I met his wife. She 
was a woman of twenty-eight, I should think, though 
of a type whose age is always doubtful; for she can- 
not have looked different when she was twenty, and 
at forty would look no older. She gave me an im- 
pression of extraordinary tightness. Her plain face 
with its narrow lips was tight, her skin was stretched 
tightly over her bones, her smile was tight, her hair 
was tight, her clothes were tight, and the white drill 
she wore had all the effect of black bombazine. I 
could not imagine why Captain Nichols had married 
her, and having married her why he had not deserted 
her. Perhaps he had, often, and his melancholy 
arose from the fact that he could never succeed. 
However far he went and in howsoever secret a place 
he hid himself, I felt sure that Mrs. Nichols, inex- 
orable as fate and remorseless as conscience, would 
presently rejoin him. He could as little escape her 
as the cause can escape the effect. 

The rogue, like the artist and perhaps the gentle- 
man, belongs to no class. He is not embarrassed 
by the sans gene of the hobo, nor put out of coun- 
tenance by the etiquette of the prince. But Mrs. 


Nichols belonged to the well-defined class, of late 
become vocal, which is known as the lower-middle. 
Her father, in fact, was a policeman. I am certain 
that he was an efficient one. I do not know what 
her hold was on the Captain, but I do not think it 
was love. I never heard her speak, but it may be that 
in private she had a copious conversation. At any 
rate, Captain Nichols was frightened to death of her." 
Sometimes, sitting with me on the terrace of the 
hotel, he would become conscious that she was walk- 
ing in the road outside. She did not call him; she 
gave no sign that she was aware of his existence ; she 
merely walked up and down composedly. Then a 
strange uneasiness would seize the Captain; he would 
look at his watch and sigh. 

"Well, I must be off," he said. 

Neither wit nor whisky could detain him then. 
Yet he was a man who had faced undaunted hurri- 
cane and typhoon, and would not have hesitated to 
fight a dozen unarmed niggers with nothing but a 
revolver to help him. Sometimes Mrs. Nichols 
would send her daughter, a pale-faced, sullen child 
of seven, to the hotel. 

"Mother wants you," she said, in a whining tone. 
I "Very well, my dear," said Captain Nichols. 

He rose to his feet at once, and accompanied his 
daughter along the road. I suppose it was a very 
pretty example of the triumph of spirit over mat- 
ter, and so my digression has at least the advantage 
of a moral. 

Chapter XLVII 

I HAVE tried to put some connection into the 
various things Captain Nichols told me about 
Strickland, and I here set them down in the best 
order I can. They made one another's acquain- 
tance during the latter part of the winter following 
my last meeting with Strickland in Paris. How he 
had passed the intervening months I do not know, 
but life must have been very hard, for Captain Nich- 
ols saw him first in the Asile de Nuit There was 
a strike at Marseilles at the time, and Strickland, 
having come to the end of his resources, had ap- 
parently found it impossible to earn the small sum 
he needed to keep body and soul together. 

The Asile de Nuit is a large stone building where 
pauper and vagabond may get a bed for a week, 
provided their papers are in order and they can 
persuade the friars in charge that they are working- 
men. Captain Nichols noticed Strickland for his 
size and his singular appearance among the crowd 
that waited for the doors to open; they waited list- 
lessly, some walking to and fro, some leaning against 
the wall, and others seated on the curb with their 
feet in the gutter; and when they filed into the 
office he heard the monk who read his papers address 
him in English. But he did not have a chance to 
speak to him, since, as he entered the common-room, 
a monk came in with a huge Bible in his arms, 
mounted a pulpit which was at the end of the room, 



and began the service which the wretched outcasts 
had to endure as the price of their lodging. He 
and Strickland were assigned to different rooms, and 
when, thrown out of bed at five in the morning by 
a stalwart monk, he had made his bed and washed 
his face, Strickland had already disappeared. Cap- 
tain Nichols wandered about the streets for an hour 
of bitter cold, and then made his way to the Place 
Victor Gelu, where the sailor-men are wont to con- 
gregate. Dozing against the pedestal of a statue, he 
saw Strickland again. He gave him a kick to awaken 

"Come and have breakfast, mate," he said. 

"Go to hell," answered Strickland. 

I recognised my friend's limited vocabulary, and 
I prepared to regard Captain Nichols as a trust- 
worthy witness. 

"Busted?" asked the Captain. 

"Blast you," answered Strickland. 

"Come along with me. I'll get you some break- 

After a moment's hesitation, Strickland scrambled 
to his feet, and together they went to the Bouchee 
de Pain, where the hungry are given a wedge of 
bread, which they -must eat there and then, for it is 
forbidden to take it away; and then to the Cuillere 
de Soupe, where for a week, at eleven and four, you 
may get a bowl of thin, salt soup. The two build- 
ings are placed far apart, so that only the starving 
should be tempted to make use of them. So they 
had breakfast, and so began the queer companion- 
ship of Charles Strickland and Captain Nichols, 


They must have spent something like four monthi 
at Marseilles in one another's society. Their ca 
reer was devoid of adventure, if by adventure you 
mean unexpected or thrilling incident, for their days 
were occupied in the pursuit of enough money to 
get a night's lodging and such food as would stay 
the pangs of hunger. But I wish I could give here 
the pictures, coloured and racy, which Captain Nich- 
ols' vivid narrative offered to the imagination. His 
account of their discoveries in the low life of a sea- 
port town would have made a charming book, and 
in the various characters that came their way the 
student might easily have found matter for a very 
complete dictionary of rogues. But I must content 
myself with a few paragraphs. I received the im- 
pression of a life intense and brutal, savage, multi- 
coloured, and vivacious. It made the Marseilles 
that I knew, gesticulating and sunny, with its com- 
fortable hotels and its restaurants crowded with 
the well-to-do, tame and commonplace. I envied 
men who had seen with their own eyes the sights 
that Captain Nichols described. 

When the doors of the Asile de Nuit were closed 
to them, Strickland and Captain Nichols sought the 
hospitality of Tough Bill. This was the master 
of a sailors' boarding-house, a huge mulatto with a 
heavy fist, who gave the stranded mariner food and 
shelter till he found him a berth. They lived with 
him a month, sleeping with a dozen others, Swedes, 
negroes, Brazilians, on the floor of the two bare 
rooms in his house which he assigned to his charges; 
and every day thev went with him to the Place Victor 


Gelu, whither came ships' captains in search of a 
man. He was married to an American woman, obese 
and slatternly, fallen to this pass by Heaven knows 
what process of degradation, and every day the 
boarders took it in turns to help her with the house- 
work. Captain Nichols looked upon it as a smart 
piece of work on Strickland's part that he had got 
out of this by painting a portrait of Tough Bill. 
Tough Bill not only paid for the canvas, colours, 
and brushes, but gave Strickland a pound of smug- 
gled tobacco into the bargain. For all I know, this 
picture may still adorn the parlour of the tumble- 
down little house somewhere near the Quai de la 
Joliette, and I suppose it could now be sold for fif- 
teen hundred pounds. Strickland's idea was to ship 
on some vessel bound for Australia or New Zealand, 
and from there make his way to Samoa or TahitL 
I do not know how he had come upon the notion of 
going to the South Seas, though I remember tha* 
his imagination had long been haunted by an island, 
all green and sunny, encircled by a sea more blue 
than is found in Northern latitudes. I suppose that 
he clung to Captain Nichols because he was acquaint- 
ed with those parts, and it was Captain Nichols 
who persuaded him that he would be more comfort- 
able in Tahiti. 

"You see, Tahiti's French," he explained to me. 
"And the French aren't so damned technical." 

I thought I saw his point. 

Strickland had no papers, but that was not a mat- 
ter to disconcert Tough Bill when he saw a profit (he 
took the first month's wages of the sailor for whom 


he found a berth), and he provided Strickland with 
those of an English stoker who had providentially 
died on his hands. But both Captain Nichols and 
Strickland were bound East, and it chanced that the 
only opportunities for signing on were with ships 
sailing West. Twice Strickland refused a berth on 
tramps sailing for the United States, and once on 
a collier going to Newcastle. Tough Bill had no 
patience with an obstinacy which could only result 
in loss to himself, and on the last occasion he flung 
both Strickland and Captain Nichols out of his house 
without more ado. They found themselves once 
more adrift 

Tough Bill's fare was seldom extravagant, and 
you rose from his table almost as hungry as you sat 
down, but for some days they had good reason to 
regret it. They learned what hunger was. The 
Cuillere de Soupe and the Asile de Nuit were both 
closed to them, and their only sustenance was the 
wedge of bread which the Bouchee de Pain provided. 
They slept where they could, sometimes in an empty 
truck on a siding near the station, sometimes in a 
cart behind a warehouse; but it was bitterly cold, 
and after an hour or two of uneasy dozing they 
would tramp the streets again. What they felt the 
lack of most bitterly was tobacco, and Captain Nich- 
ols, for his part, could not do without it; he took 
to hunting the "Can o' Beer," for cigarette-ends and 
the butt-end of cigars which the promenaders of the 
night before had thrown away. 

"I've tasted worse smoking mixtures in a pipe," 
he added, with a philosophic shrug of his shoulders, 


as he took a couple of cigars from the case I offered 
him, putting one in his mouth and the other in his 

Now and then they made a bit of money. Some- 
times a mail steamer would come in, and Captain 
Nichols, having scraped acquaintance with the time- 
keeper, would suceed in getting the pair of them a 
job as stevedores. When it was an English boat, 
they would dodge into the forecastle and get a hearty 
breakfast from the crew. They took the risk of run- 
ning against one of the ship's officers and being 
hustled down the gangway with the toe of a boot 
to speed their going. 

"There's no harm in a kick in the hindquarters 
when your belly's full," said Captain Nichols, "and 
personally I never take it in bad part. An officer's 
got to think about discipline." 

I had a lively picture of Captain Nichols flying 
headlong down a narrow gangway before the up- 
lifted foot of an angry mate, and, like a true 
Englishman, rejoicing in the spirit of the Mercantile 

There were often odd jobs to be got about the 
fish-market. Once they each of them earned a franc 
by loading trucks with innumerable boxes of oranges 
that had been dumped down on the quay. One daj) 
they had a stroke of luck: one of the boarding- 
masters got a contract to paint a tramp that had 
come in from Madagascar round the Cape of Good 
Hope, and they spent several days on a plank hang- 
ing over the side, covering the rusty hull with paint. 
It was a situation that must have appealed to Strick 


land's sardonic humour. I asked Captain Nichols 
how he bore himself during these hardships. 

4 'Never knew him say a cross word,'* answered 
the Captain. "He'd be a bit surly sometimes, but 
when we hadn't had a bite since morning, and we 
hadn't even got the price of a lie down at the Chink's, 
h^'d be as lively as a cricket." 

I was not surprised at this. Strickland was just 
the man to rise superior to circumstances, when they 
were such as to occasion despondency in most; but 
whether this was due to equanimity of soul or to con- 
trsdictoriness it would be difficult to say. 

The Chink's Head was a name the beach-combers 
gave to a wretched inn off the Rue Bouterie, kept by 
a one-eyed Chinaman, where for six sous you could 
sleep in a cot and for three on the floor. Here they 
made friends with others in as desperate condition 
as themselves, and when they were penniless and 
the night was bitter cold, they were glad to borrow 
from anyone who had earned a stray franc during 
the day the price of a roof over their heads. They 
were not niggardly, these tramps, and he who had 
money did not hesitate to share it among the rest. 
They belonged to all the countries in the world, but 
this was no bar to good-fellowship; for they felt 
themselves freemen of a country whose frontiers in- 
clude them all, the great country of Cockaine. 

"But I guess Strickland was an ugly customer 
when he was roused," said Captain Nichols, re- 
flectively. "One day we ran into Tough Bill in the 
Place, and he asked Charlie for the papers he'd given 


" 'You'd better come and take them if you want 
them/ says Charlie. 

"He was a powerful fellow, Tough Bill, but he 
didn't quite like the look of Charlie, so he began curs- 
ing him. He called him pretty near every name he 
could lay hands on, and when Tough Bill began curs- 
ing it was worth listening to him. Well, Charlie 
stuck it for a bit, then he stepped forward and he 
just said: 'Get out, you bloody swine.' It wasn't so 
much what he said, but the way he said it. Tough 
Bill never spoke another word; you could see him 
go yellow, and he walked away as if he'd remem- 
bered he had a date." 

Strickland, according to Captain Nichols, did not 
use exactly the words I have given, but since this 
book is meant for family reading I have thought it 
better, at the expense of truth, to put into his mouth 
expressions familiar to the domestic circle. 

Now, Tough Bill was not the man to put up with 
humiliation at the hands of a common sailor. His 
power depended on his prestige, and first one, then 
another, of the sailors who lived in his house told 
them that he had sworn to do Strickland in. 

One night Captain Nichols and Strickland were 
sitting in one of the bars of the Rue Bouterie. The 
Rue Bouterie is a narrow street of one-storeyed 
houses, each house consisting of but one room; they 
are like the booths in a crowded fair or the cages of 
animals in a circus. At every door you see a woman. 
Some lean lazily against the side-posts, humming to 
themselves or calling to the passer-by in a raucous 
voice, and some listlessly read. They are French, 


Italian, Spanish, Japanese, coloured; some are fat 
and some are thin; and under the thick paint on 
their faces, the heavy smears on their eyebrows, 
and the scarlet of their lips, you see the lines of age 
and the scars of dissipation. Some wear black shifts 
and flesh-coloured stockings; some with curly hair, 
dyed yellow, are dressed like little girls in short mus- 
lin frocks. Through the open door you see a red- 
tiled floor, a large wooden bed, and on a deal table 
a ewer and a basin. A motley crowd saunters along 
die streets Lascars off a P. and O., blond North- 
men from a Swedish barque, Japanese from a man- 
pf-war, English sailors, Spaniards, pleasant-looking 
fellows from a French cruiser, negroes off an Ameri- 
can tramp. By day it is merely sordid, but at night, 
lit only by the lamps in the little huts, the street has 
a sinister beauty. The hideous lust that pervades 
the air is oppressive and horrible, and yet there is 
something mysterious in the sight which haunts and 
troubles you. You feel I know not what primitive 
force which repels and yet fascinates you. Here all 
the decencies of civilisation are swept away, and you 
feel that men are face to face with a sombre reality. 
There is an atmosphere that is at once intense and 

In the bar in which Strickland and Nichols sat a 
mechanical piano was loudly grinding out dance 
music. Round the room people were sitting at table, 
here half a dozen sailors uproariously drunk, there a 
group of soldiers; and in the middle, crowded to- 
gether, couples were dancing. Bearded sailors with 
brown faces and large horny hands clasped their 


partners in a tight embrace. The women wore noth- 
ing but a shift. Now and then two sailors would get 
up and dance together. The noise was deafening. 
People were singing, shouting, laughing; and when 
a man gave a long kiss to the girl sitting on his knees, 
cat-calls from the English sailors increased the din. 
The air was heavy with the dust beaten up by the 
heavy boots of the men, and gray with smoke. It 
was very hot. Behind the bar was seated a woman 
nursing her baby. The waiter, an undersized youth 
with a flat, spotty face, hurried to and fro carrying 
a tray laden with glasses of beer. 

In a little while Tough Bill, accompanied by two 
huge negroes, came in, and it was easy to see that he 
was already three parts drunk. He was looking for 
trouble. He lurched against a table at which three 
soldiers were sitting and knocked over a glass of 
beer. There was an angry altercation, and the owner 
of the bar stepped forward and ordered Tough Bill 
to go. He was a hefty fellow, in the habit of stand- 
ing no nonsense from his customers, and Tough 
Bill hesitated. The landlord was not a man he 
cared to tackle, for the police were on his side, and 
with an oath he turned on his heel. Suddenly he 
caught sight of Strickland. He rolled up to him. 
He did not speak. He gathered the spittle in his 
mouth and spat full in Strickland's face. Strickland 
seized his glass and flung it at him. The dancers 
stopped suddenly still. There was an instant of 
complete silence, but when Tough Bill threw himself 
on Strickland the lust of battle seized them all, and in 
a moment there was a confused scrimmage. Tables 


were overturned, glasses crashed to the ground. 
There was a hellish row. The women scattered to 
the door and behind the bar. Passers-by surged in 
from the street. You heard curses in every tongue 
the sound of blows, cries; and in the middle of the 
room a dozen men were fighting with all their might. 
On a sudden the police rushed in, and everyone who 
could made for the door. When the bar was more 
or less cleared, Tough Bill was lying insensible on 
the floor with a great gash in his head. Captain 
Nichols dragged Strickland, bleeding from a wound 
in his arm, his clothes in rags, into the street. His 
own face was covered with blood from a blow on th<X 

"I guess you'd better get out of Marseilles before 
Tough Bill comes out of hospital," he said to Strick- 
land, when they had got back to the Chink's Head 
and were cleaning themselves. 

"This beats cock-fighting," said Strickland. 

I could see his sardonic smile. 

Captain Nichols was anxious. He knew Tough 
Bill's vindictiveness. Strickland had downed the 
mulatto twice, and the mulatto, sober, was a man 
to be reckoned with. He would bide his time stealth- 
ily. He would be in no hurry, but one night Strick- 
land would get a knife-thrust in his back, and in a 
day or two the corpse of a nameless beach-comber 
would be fished out of the dirty water of the harbour. 
Nichols went next evening to Tough Bill's house and 
made enquiries. He was in hospital still, but his 
wife, who had been to see him, said he was swear- 
ing hard to kill Strickland when they let him out. 


A week passed. 

"That's what I always say,' 7 reflected Captain 
Nichols, "when you hurt a man, hurt him bad. It 
gives you a bit of time to look about and think what 
you'll do next." 

Then Strickland had a bit of luck. A ship bound 
for Australia had sent to the Sailors 1 Home for a 
stoker in place of one who had thrown himself over- 
board off Gibraltar in an attack of delirium tremens. 

"You double down to the harbour, my lad," said 
the Captain to Strickland, "and sign on. You've 
got your papers." 

Strickland set off at once, and that was the last 
Captain Nichols saw of him. The ship was only in 
port for six hours, and in the evening Captain 
Nichols watched the vanishing smoke from her fun- 
nels as she ploughed East through the wintry sea. 

I have narrated all this as best I could, because I 
like the contrast of these episodes with the life that I 
had seen Strickland live in Ashley Gardens when he 
was occupied with stocks and shares; but I am aware 
that Captain Nichols was an outrageous liar, and I 
dare say there is not a word of truth in anything he 
told me. I should not be surprised to learn that he 
had never seen Strickland in his life, and owed his 
knowledge of Marseilles to the pages of a magazine. 

Chapter XLVIII 

IT is here that I purposed to end my book. My 
first idea was to begin it with the account of 
Strickland's last years in Tahiti and with his hor- 
rible death, and then to go back and relate what I 
knew of his beginnings. This I meant to do, not 
from wilfulness, but because I wished to leave Strick- 
land setting out with I know not what fancies in his 
lonely soul for the unknown islands which fired his 
imagination. I liked the picture of him starting at 
the age of forty-seven, when most men have already 
settled comfortably in a groove, for a new world. I 
saw him, the sea gray under the mistral and foam- 
flecked, watching the vanishing coast of France, 
which he was destined never to see again; and I 
thought there was something gallant in his bearing 
and dauntless in his soul. I wished so to end on a 
note of hope. It seemed to emphasise the uncon- 
querable spirit of man. But I could not manage it. 
Somehow I could not get into my story, and after 
trying once or twice I had to give it up; I started 
from the beginning in the usual way, and made up 
my mind I could only tell what I knew of Strickland's 
life in the order in which I learnt the facts. 

Those that I have now are fragmentary. I am in 
the position of a biologist who from a single bone 
must reconstruct not only the appearance of an ex- 
tinct animal, but its habits. Strickland made no par- 
ticular impression on the people who came in contact 



with him in Tahiti. To them he was no more than 
a beach-comber in constant need of money, remark- 
able only for the peculiarity that he painted pictures 
which seemed to them absurd; and it was not till he 
had been dead for some years and agents came from 
the dealers in Paris and Berlin to look for any pic- 
tures which might still remain on the island, that 
they had any idea that among them had dwelt a 
man of consequence. They remembered then that 
they could have bought for a song canvases which 
now were worth large sums, and they could not for- 
give themselves for the opportunity which had es- 
caped them. There was a Jewish trader called 
Cohen, who had come by one of Strickland's pictures 
in a singular way. He was a little old Frenchman, 
with soft kind eyes and a pleasant smile, half trader 
and half seaman, who owned a cutter in which he 
wandered boldly among the Paumotus and the Mar- 
quesas, taking out trade goods and bringing back 
copra, shell, and pearls. I went to see him because 
I was told he had a large black pearl which he was 
willing to sell cheaply, and when I discovered that 
it was beyond my means I began to talk to him 
about Strickland. He had known him well. 

"You see, I was interested in him because he 
was a painter," he told me. "We don't get many 
painters in the islands, and I was sorry for him 
because he was such a bad one. I gave him his 
first job. I had a plantation on the peninsula, and 
I wanted a white overseer. You never get any work 
out of the natives unless you have a white man 
over them. I said to him: 'You'll have plenty of 


time for painting, and you can earn a bit of money.' 
I knew he was starving, but I offered him good 

"I can't imagine that he was a very satisfactory 
overseer," I said, smiling. 

"I made allowances. I have always had a sym- 
pathy for artists. It is in our blood, you know. 
But he only remained a few months. When he had 
enough money to buy paints and canvases he left 
me. The place had got hold of him by then, and 
he wanted to get away into the bush. But I con- 
tinued to see him now and then. He would turn 
up in Papeete every few months and stay a little 
while; he'd get money out of someone or other 
and then disappear again. It was on one of these 
visits that he came to me and asked for the loan 
of two hundred francs. He looked as if he hadn't 
had a meal for a week, and I hadn't the heart to 
refuse him. Of course, I never expected to see my 
money again. Well, a year later he came to see 
me once more, and he brought a picture with him. 
He did not mention the money he owed me, but 
he said: 'Here is a picture of your plantation 
that I've painted for you.' I looked at it. I did 
not know what to say, but of course I thanked 
him, and when he had gone away I showed it to my 

"What was it like?" I asked. 

"Do not ask me. I could not make head or tail 
of it. I never saw such a thing in my life. 'What 
shall we do with it?' I said to my wife. 'We can 
never hang it up/ she said. 'People would laugh 


at us.' So she took it into an attic and put it 
away with all sorts of rubbish, for my wife can 
never throw anything away. It is her mania. Then, 
imagine to yourself, just before the war my brother 
wrote to me from Paris, and said: 'Do you know 
anything about an English painter who lived in 
Tahiti? It appears that he was a genius, and his 
pictures fetch large prices. See if you can lay your 
hands on anything and send it to me. There's 
money to be made.' So I said to my wife: 'What 
about that picture that Strickland gave me?' Is it 
possible that it is still in the attic?' 'Without doubt,' 
she answered, 'for you know that I never throw 
anything away. It is my mania.' We went up 
to the attic, and there, among I know not what 
rubbish that had been gathered during the thirty 
years we have inhabited that house, was the pic- 
ture. I looked at it again, and I said : 'Who would 
have thought that the overseer of my plantation 
on the peninsula, to whom I lent two hundred francs, 
had genius? Do you see anything in the picture?' 
'No,' she said, 'it does not resemble the plantation 
and I have never seen cocoa-nuts with blue leaves; 
but they are mad in Paris, and it may be that your 
brother will be able to sell it for the two hundred 
francs you lent Strickland.' Well, we packed it up 
and we sent it to my brother. And at last I re- 
ceived a letter from him. What do you think he 
said? 'I received your picture,' he said, 'and I 
confess I thought it was a joke that you had played 
on me. I would not have given the cost of post- 
age for the picture. I was half afraid to show it 


to the gentleman who had spoken to me about it 
Imagine my surprise when he said it was a master- 
piece, and offered me thirty thousand francs. I 
dare say he would have paid more, but frankly 
I was so taken aback that I lost my head; I accepted 
the offer before I was able to collect myself.' ' 

Then Monsieur Cohen said an admirable thing. 

"I wish that poor Strickland had been still alive. 
I wonder what he would have said when I gave 
him twenty-nine thousand eight hundred francs for 
his picture." 

Chapter XLIX 

1 LIVED at the Hotel de la Fleur, and Mrs. 
Johnson, the proprietress, had a sad story to 
tell of lost opportunity. After Strickland's death 
certain of his effects were sold by auction in the 
market-place at Papeete, and she went to it her- 
self because there was among the truck an American 
stove she wanted. She paid twenty-seven francs 
for it. 

"There were a dozen pictures," she told me, "but 
they were unframed, and nobody wanted them. Some 
of them sold for as much as ten francs, but mostly 
they went for five or six. Just think, if I had 
bought them I should be a rich woman now." 

But Tiare Johnson would never under any cir- 
cumstances have been rich. She could not keep 
money. The daughter of a native and an English 
sea-captain settled in Tahiti, when I knew her she 
was a woman of fifty, who looked older, and of 
enormous proportions. Tall and extremely stout, 
she would have been of imposing presence if the 
great good-nature of her face had not made it im- 
possible for her to express anything but kindliness. 
Her arms were like legs of mutton, her breasts 
like giant cabbages; her face, broad and fleshy, 
gave you an impression of almost indecent naked' 
ness, and vast chin succeeded to vast chin. I do 
not know how many of them there were. They fell 
away voluminously into the capaciousness of her 



bosom. She was dressed usually in a pink Mother 
Hubbard, and she wore all day long a large straw 
hat. But when she let down her hair, which she 
did now and then, for she was vain of it, you saw 
that it was long and dark and curly; and her eyes 
had remained young and vivacious. Her laughter 
was the most catching I ever heard; it would begin, 
a low peal in her throat, and would grow louder and 
louder till her whole vast body shook. She loved 
three things a joke, a glass of wine, and a hand- 
some man. To have known her is a privilege. 

She was the best cook on the island, and she 
adored good food. From morning till night yo2 
saw her sitting on a low chair in the kitchen, sur- 
rounded by a Chinese cook and two or three native 
girls, giving her orders, chatting sociably with all 
and sundry, and tasting the savoury messes she de- 
vised. When she wished to do honour to a friend 
she cooked the dinner with her own hands. Hos- 
pitality was a passion with her, and there was no 
one on the island who need go without a dinner 
when there was anything to eat at the Hotel de la 
Fleur. She never turned her customers out of her 
house because they did not pay their bills. She al- 
ways hoped they would pay when they could. There 
was one man there who had fallen on adversity, and 
to him she had given board and lodging for several 
months. When the Chinese laundryman refused to 
wash for him without payment she had sent his 
things to be washed with hers. She could not allow 
the poor fellow to go about in a dirty shirt, she 
said, and since he was a man, and men must smoke/ 


she gave him a franc a day for cigarettes. She 
used him with the same affability as those of her 
clients who paid their bills once a week. 

Age and obesity had made her inapt for love, but 
she took a keen interest in the amatory affairs of 
the young. She looked upon venery as the natural 
occupation for men and women, and was ever ready 
with precept and example from her own wide ex- 

"I was not fifteen when my father found that I 
had a lover," she said. "He was third mate on the 
Tropic Bird. A good-looking boy." 

She sighed a little. They say a woman always 
remembers her first lover with affection; but per- 
haps she does not always remember him. 

"My father was a sensible man." 

"What did he do?" I asked. 

"He thrashed me within an inch of my life, and 
then he made me marry Captain Johnson. I did 
not mind. He was older, of course, but he was 
good-looking too." 

Tiare her father had called her by the name of 
the white, scented flower which, they tell you, if you 
have once smelt, will always draw you back to Tahiti 
in the end, however far you may have roamed 
Tiare remembered Strickland very well. 

"He used to come here sometimes, and I used 
to see him walking about Papeete. I was sorry 
for him, he was so thin, and he never had any money. 
When I heard he was in town, I used to send a boy 
to find him and make him come to dinner with me. 
I got him a job once or twice, but he couldn't stick 


to anything. After a little while he wanted to get 
back to the bush, and one morning he would be 

Strickland reached Tahiti about six months after 
he left Marseilles. He worked his passage on a sail- 
ing vessel that was making the trip from Auckland 
to San Francisco, and he arrived with a box of 
paints, an easel, and a dozen canvases. He had a 
few pounds in his pocket, for he had found work 
in Sydney, and he took a small room in a native 
house outside the town. I think the moment he 
reached Tahiti he felt himself at home. Tiare told 
me that he said to her once : 

"I'd been scrubbing the deck, and all at once a 
chap said to me : 'Why, there it is.' And I looked 
up and I saw the outline of the island. I knew 
right away that there was the place I'd been leok- 
ing for all my life. Then we came near, and I 
seemed to recognise it. Sometimes when I walk 
about it all seems familiar. I could swear I've lived 
here before." 

"Sometimes it takes them like that," said Tiare. 
"I've known men come on shore for a few hours 
while their ship was taking in cargo, and never go 
back. And I've known men who came here to be 
in an office for a year, and they cursed the place, 
and when they went away they took their dying oath 
they'd hang themselves before they came back again, 
and in six months you'd see them land once more, 
and they'd tell you they couldn't live anywhere else." 

Chapter L 

1HAVE an idea that some men are born out of 
their due place. Accident has cast them amid 
certain surroundings, but they have always a nos- 
talgia for a home they know not They are stran- 
gers in their birthplace, and the leafy lanes they have 
known from childhood or the populous streets in 
which they have played, remain but a place of pass- 
age. They may spend their whole lives aliens among 
their kindred and remain aloof among the only 
scenes they have ever known. Perhaps it is this 
sense of strangeness that sends men far and wide 
in the search for something permanent, to which 
they may attach themselves. Perhaps some deep- 
rooted atavism urges the wanderer back to lands 
which his ancestors left in the dim beginnings of 
history. Sometimes a man hits upon a place to 
which he mysteriously feels that he belongs. Here 
is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes 
that he has never seen before, among men he has 
never known, as though they were familiar to him 
from his birth. Here at last he finds rest. 

I told Tiare the story of a man I had known 
at St. Thomas's Hospital. He was a Jew named 
Abraham, a blond, rather stout young man, shy and 
very unassuming; but he had remarkable gifts. He 
entered the hospital with a scholarship, and during 
the five years of the curriculum gained every prize 
that was open to him. He was made house-phy- 



sician and house-surgeon. His brilliance was allowed 
by all. Finally he was elected to a position on the 
staff, and his career was assured. So far as human 
things can be predicted, it was certain that he would 
rise to the greatest heights of his profession. Hon- 
ours and wealth awaited him. Before he entered 
upon his new duties he wished to take a holiday, 
and, having no private means, he went as surgeon 
on a tramp steamer to the Levant. It did not gen- 
erally carry a doctor, but one of the senior surgeons 
at the hospital knew a director of the line, and Abra- 
ham was taken as a favour. 

In a few weeks the authorities received his resigna* 
tion of the coveted position on the staff. It created 
profound astonishment, and wild rumours were cur- 
rent. Whenever a man does anything unexpected, 
his fellows ascribe it to the most discreditable mo- 
tives. But there was a man ready to step into Abra- 
ham's shoes, and Abraham was forgotten. Nothing 
more was heard of him. He vanished. 

It was perhaps ten years later that one morning on 
board ship, about to land at Alexandria, I was bid- 
den to line up with the other passengers for the doc- 
tor's examination. The doctor was a stout man in 
shabby clothes, and when he took off his hat I no- 
ticed that he was very bald. I had an idea that I 
had seen him before. Suddenly I remembered. 

"Abraham," I said. 

He turned to me with a puzzled look, and then, 

recognizing me, seized my hand. After expressions 

of surprise on either side, hearing that I meant to 

spend the night in Alexandria, he asked me to dine 


with him at the English Club. When we met again 
I declared my astonishment at finding him there. It 
was a very modest position that he occupied, and 
there was about him an air of straitened circumstance. 
Then he told me his story. When he set out on his 
holiday in the Mediterranean he had every intention 
of returning to London and his appointment at St. 
Thomas's. One morning the tramp docked at Alex- 
andria, and from the deck he looked at the city, 
white in the sunlight, and the crowd on the wharf; 
he saw the natives in their shabby gabardines, the 
blacks from the Soudan, the noisy throng of Greeks 
and Italians, the grave Turks in tarbooshes, the sun- 
shine and the blue sky; and something happened to 
him. He could not describe it. It was like a thun- 
der-clap, he said, and then, dissatisfied with this, he 
said it was like a revelation. Something seemed to 
twist his heart, and suddenly he felt an exultation, 
a sense of wonderful freedom. He felt himself at 
home, and he made up his mind there and then, in 
a minute, that he would live the rest of his life in 
Alexandria. He had no great difficulty in leaving 
the ship, and in twenty-four hours, with all his be- 
longings, he was on shore. 

"The Captain must have thought you as mad as 
a hatter," I smiled. 

"I didn't care what anybody thought. It wasn't 
I that acted, but something stronger within me. I 
thought I would go to a little Greek hotel, while I 
looked about, and I felt I knew where to find one. 
And do you know, I walked straight there, and when 
I saw it, I recognised it at once." 


"Had you been to Alexandria before?" 
"No; I'd never been out of England in my life." 
Presently he entered the Government service, and 
there he had been ever since. 
"Have you never regretted it?" 
"Never, not for a minute. I earn just enough to 
live upon, and I'm satisfied. I ask nothing more 
than to remain as I am till I die. I've had a won- 
derful life." 

I left Alexandria next day, and I forgot about 
Abraham till a little while ago, when I was dining 
with another old friend in the profession, Alec Car- 
michael, who was in England on short leave. I ran 
across him in the street and congratulated him on the 
knighthood with which his eminent services during 
the war had been rewarded. We arranged to spend 
an evening together for old time's sake, and when 
I agreed to dine with him, he proposed that he should 
ask nobody else, so that we could chat without in- 
terruption. He had a beautiful old house in Queen 
Anne Street, and being a man of taste he had fur- 
nished it admirably. On the walls of the dining- 
room I saw a charming Bellotto, and there was a 
pair of Zoffanys that I envied. When his wife, a 
tall, lovely creature in cloth of gold, had left us, 
I remarked laughingly on the change in his present 
circumstances from those when we had both been 
medical students. We had looked upon it then as an 
extravagance to dine in a shabby Italian restaurant 
in the Westminster Bridge Road. Now Alec Car- 
michael was on the staff of half a dozen hospitals. 
I should think he earned ten thousand a year, an3 


his knighthood was but the first of the honours 
which must inevitably fall to his lot. 

"I've done pretty well," he said, "but the strange 
thing is that I owe it all to one piece of luck." 

"What do you mean by that?" 

"Well, do you remember Abraham? He was the 
man who had the future. When we were students 
he beat me all along the line. He got the prizes 
and the scholarships that I went in for. I always 
played second fiddle to him. If he'd kept on he'd 
be in the position I'm in now. That man had a 
genius for surgery. No one had a look "in with 
him. When he was appointed Registrar at Thom- 
as's I hadn't a chance of getting on the staff. I 
should have had to become a G.P., and you know 
what likelihood there is for a G.P. ever to get out 
of the common rut. But Abraham fell out, and I 
got the job. That gave me my opportunity." 

"I dare say that's true." 

"It was just luck. I suppose there was some kink 
in Abraham. Poor devil, he's gone to the dogs al- 
together. He's got some twopenny-halfpenny job 
in the medical at Alexandria sanitary officer or 
something like that. I'm told he lives with an ugly 
old Greek woman and has half a dozen scrofulous 
kids. The fact is, I suppose, that it's not enough 
to have brains. The thing that counts is character. 
Abraham hadn't got character." 

Character? I should have thought it needed a 
good deal of character to throw up a career after 
half an hour's meditation, because you saw in an- 
other way of living a more intense significance. And 


it required still more character never to regret the 
sudden step. But I said nothing, and Alec Car- 
michael proceeded reflectively: 

"Of course it would be hypocritical for me to 
pretend that I regret what Abraham did. After all, 
I've scored by it." He puffed luxuriously at the long 
Corona he was smoking. "But if I weren't person- 
ally concerned I should be sorry at the waste. It 
seems a rotten thing that a man should make such 
a hash of life." 

I wondered if Abraham really had made a hash 
of life. Is to do what you most want, to live under 
the conditions that please you, in peace with your- 
self, to make a hash of life; and is it success to be 
an eminent surgeon with ten thousand a year and 
a beautiful wife? I suppose it depends on what 
meaning you attach to life, the claim which you ac- 
knowledge to society, and the claim of the individual. 
But again I held my tongue, for who am I to argue 
with a knight? 

Chapter LI 

TIARE, when I told her this story, praised my 
prudence, and for a few minutes we worked in 
silence, for we were shelling peas. Then her 
eyes, always alert for the affairs of her kitchen, fell 
on some action of the Chinese cook which aroused 
her violent disapproval. She turned on him with 
a torrent of abuse. The Chink was not backward 
to defend himself, and a very lively quarrel ensued. 
They spoke in the native language, of which I had 
learnt but half a dozen words, and it sounded as 
though the world would shortly come to an end; 
but presently peace was restored and Tiare gave 
the cook a cigarette. They both smoked comfort- 

"Do you know, it was I who found him his wife?" 
said Tiare suddenly, with a smile that spread all 
over her immense face. 

"The cook?" 

"No, Strickland." 

"But he had one already." 

"That is what he said, but I told him she was in 
England, and England is at the other end of the 

"True," I replied. 

"He would come to Papeete every two or three 
months, when he wanted paints or tobacco or money, 
and then he would wander about like a lost dog. I 
was sorry for him. I had a girl here then called 



Ata to do the rooms ; she was some sort of a relation 
of mine, and her father and mother were dead, so 
I had her to live with me. Strickland used to come 
here now and then to have a square meal or to play 
chess with one of the boys. I noticed that she looked 
at him when he came, and I asked her if she liked 
him. She said she liked him well enough. You 
know what these girls are; they're always pleased 
to go with a white man." 

"Was she a native?" I asked. 

"Yes; she hadn't a drop of white blood in her. 
Well, after I'd talked to her I sent for Strickland, 
and I said to him : 'Strickland, it's time for you to 
settle down. A man of your age shouldn't go play- 
ing about with the girls down at the front. They're 
bad lots, and you'll come to no good with them. 
You've got no money, and you can never keep a job 
for more than a month or two. No one will employ 
you now. You say you can always live in the bush 
with one or other of the natives, and they're glad 
to have you because you're a white man, but it's not 
decent for a white man. Now, listen to me, Strick- 

Tiare mingled French with English in her con- 
versation, for she used both languages with equal 
facility. She spoke them with a singing accent 
which was not unpleasing. You felt that a bird 
would speak in these tones if it could speak Eng- 

" 'Now, what do you say to marrying Ata? She's 
a good girl and she's only seventeen. She's never 
been promiscuous like some of these girls a cap- 


tain or a first mate, yes, but she's never been touched 
by a native. Elle se respecte, vois-tu. The purser 
of the Oahu told me last journey that he hadn't met 
a nicer girl in the islands. It's time she settled down 
too, and besides, the captains and the first mates 
like a change now and then. I don't keep my girls 
too long. She has a bit of property down by Tara- 
vao, just before you come to the peninsula, and with 
copra at the price it is now you could live quite com- 
fortably. There's a house, and you'd have all the 
time you wanted for your painting. What do you 
say to it?" 

Tiare paused to take breath. 

"It was then he told me of his wife in England. 
*My poor Strickland,' I said to him, 'they've all got 
a wife somewhere ; that is generally why they come to 
the islands. Ata is a sensible girl, and she doesn't 
expect any ceremony before the Mayor. She's a 
Protestant, and you know they don't look upon these 
things like the Catholics.' 

"Then he said: 'But what does Ata say to it?' 'It 
appears that she has a begum for you,' I said. 'She's 
willing if you are. Shall I call her?' He chuckled 
in a funny, dry way he had, and I called her. She 
knew what I was talking about, the hussy, and I saw 
her out of the corner of my eyes listening with all 
her ears, while she pretended to iron a blouse that 
she had been washing for me. She came. She was 
laughing, but I could see that she was a little shy, 
and Strickland looked at her without speaking." 

"Was she pretty?" I asked. 

"Not bad. But you must have seen pictures of 


her. He painted her over and over again, some- 
times with a pareo on and sometimes with nothing at 
all. Yes, she was pretty enough. And she knew 
how to cook. I taught her myself. I saw Strick- 
land was thinking of it, so I said to him : Tve given 
her good wages and she's saved them, and the cap- 
tains and the first mates she's known have given her 
a little something now and then. She's saved sev- 
eral hundred francs. 1 

"He pulled his great red beard and smiled. 

" 'Well, Ata,' he said, 'do you fancy me for a hus- 

"She did not say anything, but just giggled. 

" 'But I tell you, my poor Strickland, the girl has 
a beguin for you,' I said. 

" 'I shall beat you,' he said, looking at her. 

" 'How else should I know you loved me,' she an- 

Tiare broke off her narrative and addressed her- 
self to me reflectively. 

"My first husband, Captain Johnson, used to 
thrash me regularly. He was a man. He was 
handsome, six foot three, and when he was drunk 
there was no holding him. I would be black 
and blue all over for days at a time. Oh, I 
cried when he died. I thought I should never 
get over it. But it wasn't till I married George 
Rainey that I knew what I'd lost. You can never 
tell what a man is like till you live with him. I've 
never been so deceived in a man as I was in George 
Rainey. He was a fine, upstanding fellow too. He 
was nearly as tall as Captain Johnson, and he looked 


strong enough. But it was all on the surface. He 
never drank. He never raised his hand to me. He 
might have been a missionary. I made love with the 
officers of every ship that touched the island, and 
George Rainey never saw anything. At last I was 
disgusted with him, and I got a divorce. What was 
the good of a husband like that? It's a terrible 
thing the way some men treat women." 

I condoled with Tiare, and remarked feelingly 
that men were deceivers ever, then asked her to go 
on with her story of Strickland. 

" Well,' I said to him, 'there's no hurry about it. 
Take your time and think it over. Ata has a very 
nice room in the annexe. Live with her for a month, 
and see how you like her. You can have your meals 
here. And at the end of a month, if you decide you 
want to marry her, you can just go and settle down 
on her property.' 

"Well, he agreed to that. Ata continued to do the 
housework, and I gave him his meals as I said I 
would. I taught Ata to make one or two dishes I 
knew he was fond of. He did not paint much. He 
wandered about the hills and bathed in the stream. 
And he sat about the front looking at the lagoon, 
and at sunset he would go down and look at Murea. 
He used to go fishing on the reef. He loved to 
moon about the harbour talking to the natives. He 
was a nice, quiet fellow. And every evening after 
dinner he would go down to the annexe with Ata. 
I saw he was longing to get away to the bush, and at 
the end of the month I asked him what he intended 
to do. He said if Ata was willing to go, he was 


willing to go with her. So I gave them a wedding 
dinner. I cooked it with my own hands. I gave 
them a pea soup and lobster a la portugaise, and a 
curry, and a cocoa-nut salad you've never had one 
of my cocoa-nut salads, have you ? I must make you 
one before you go and then I made them an ice. 
We had all the champagne we could drink and 
liqueurs to follow. Oh, I'd made up my mind to do 
things well. And afterwards we danced in the draw- 
ing-room. I was not so fat, then, and I always loved 

The drawing-room at the Hotel de la Fleur was 
a small room, with a cottage piano, and a suite of 
mahogany furniture, covered in stamped velvet, 
neatly arranged around the walls. On round tables 
were photograph albums, and on the walls enlarged 
photographs of Tiare and her first husband, Cap- 
tain Johnson. Still, though Tiare was old and fat, 
on occasion we rolled back the Brussels carpet, 
brought in the maids and one or two friends of 
Tiare's, and danced, though now to the wheezy 
music of a gramaphone. On the verandah the air 
was scented with the heavy perfume of the tiare, 
and overhead the Southern Cross shone in a cloudless 

Tiare smiled indulgently as she remembered the 
gaiety of a time long passed. 

"We kept it up till three, and when we went to 
bed I don't think anyone was very sober. I had told 
them they could have my trap to take them as far as 
the road went, because after that they had a long 
walk. Ata's property was right away in a fold of the 


mountain. They started at dawn, and tHe boy I 
sent with them didn't come back till next day. 
"Yes, that's how Strickland was married." 

Chapter LII 

I SUPPOSE the next three years were the hap- 
piest of Strickland's life. Ata's house stood 
about eight kilometres from the road that runs 
round the island, and you went to it along a wind- 
ing pathway shaded by the luxuriant trees of the 
tropics. It was a bungalow of unpainted wood, con- 
sisting of two small rooms, and outside was a small 
shed that served as a kitchen. There was no fur- 
niture except the mats they used as beds, and a rock- 
ing-chair, which stood on the verandah. Bananas 
with their great ragged leaves, like the tattered ha- 
biliments of an empress in adversity, grew close up 
to the house. There was a tree just behind which 
bore alligator pears, and all about were the cocoa- 
nuts which gave the land its revenue. Ata's father 
had planted crotons round his property, and they 
grew in coloured profusion, gay and brilliant; they 
fenced the land with flame. A mango grew in front 
of the house, and at the edge of the clearing were 
two flamboyants, twin trees, that challenged the gold 
of the cocoa-nuts with their scarlet flowers. 

Here Strickland lived, coming seldom to Papeete, 
on the produce of the land. There was a little 
stream that ran not far away, in which he bathed, 
and down this on occasion would come a shoal of 
fish. Then the natives would assemble with spears, 
and with much shouting would transfix the great 
startled things as they hurried down to the sea. 



Sometimes Strickland would go down to the reef, 
and come back with a basket of small, coloured fish 
that Ata would fry in cocoa-nut oil, or with a lobster; 
and sometimes she would make a savoury dish of the 
great land-crabs that scuttled away under your feet. 
Up the mountain were wild-orange trees, and now 
and then Ata would go with two or three women 
from the village and return laden with the green, 
sweet, luscious fruit. Then the cocoa-nuts would 
be ripe for picking, and her cousins (like all the 
natives, Ata had a host of relatives) would swarm 
up the trees and throw down the big ripe nuts. They 
split them open and put them in the sun to dry. 
Then they cut out the copra and put it into sacks, 
and the women would carry it down to the trader at 
the village by the lagoon, and he would give in ex- 
change for it rice and soap and tinned meat and a 
little money. Sometimes there would be a feast in 
the neighbourhood, and a pig would be killed. Then 
they would go and eat themselves sick, and dance, 
and sing hymns. 

But the house was a long way from the village, 
and the Tahitians are lazy. They love to travel and 
they love to gossip, but they do not care to walk, 
and for weeks at a time Strickland and Ata lived 
alone. He painted and he read, and in the evening, 
when it was dark, they sat together on the verandah, 
smoking and looking at the night. Then Ata had 
a baby, and the old woman who came up to help 
her through her trouble stayed on. Presently the 
granddaughter of the old woman came to stay with 
her, and then a youth appeared no one quite knew 


where from or to whom he belonged but he set- 
tled down with them in a happy-go-lucky way, and 
they all lived together* 

Chapter LI1I 

" 'ITIENEZ, voila le Capltaine Brunot" said 

i Tiare, one day when I was fitting together 

what she could tell me of Strickland. "He 

knew Strickland well; he visited him at his house." 

I saw a middle-aged Frenchman with a big black 
beard, streaked with gray, a sunburned face, and 
large, shining eyes. He was dressed in a neat suit 
of ducks. I had noticed him at luncheon, and Ah 
Lin, the Chinese boy, told me he had come from 
the Paumotus on the boat that had that day arrived. 
Tiare introduced me to him, and he handed me his 
card, a large card on which was printed Rene Brunot, 
and underneath, Capltalne au Long Cours. We were 
sitting on a little verandah outside the kitchen, and 
Tiare was cutting out a dress that she was making 
for one of the girls about the house. He sat down 
with us. 

"Yes; I knew Strickland well," he said. "I am 
very fond of chess, and he was always glad of a 
game. I come to Tahiti three or four times a year 
for my business, and when he was at Papeete he 
would come here and we would play. When ne 
married"- Captain Brunot smiled and shrugged his 
shoulders "enfin, when He went to live with the 
girl that Tiare gave him, he asked me to go and see 
him. I was one of the guests at the wedding feast." 
He looked at Tiare, and they both laughed. "He 



did not come much to Papeete after that, and about 
a year later it chanced that I had to go to that part 
of the island for I forgot what business, and when 
I had finished it I said to myself: 'Foyons, why 
should I not go and see that poor Strickland?' I 
asked one or two natives if they knew anything about 
him, and I discovered that he lived not more than 
five kilometres from where I was. So I went. I 
shall never forget the impression my visit made on 
me. I live on an atoll, a low island, it is a strip of 
land surrounding a lagoon, and its beauty is the 
beauty of the sea and sky and the varied colour of 
the lagoon,, and the grace of the cocoa-nut trees ; but 
the place where Strickland lived had the beauty of 
the Garden of Eden. Ah, I wish I could make you 
see the enchantment of that spot, a corner hidden 
away from all the world, with the blue sky overhead 
and the rich, luxuriant trees. It was a feast of colour. 
And it was fragrant and cool. Words cannot de- 
scribe that paradise. And here he lived, unmindful 
of the world and by the world forgotten. I suppose 
to European eyes it would have seemed astonishingly 
sordid. The house was dilapidated and none too 
clean. Three or four natives were lying on the ver- 
andah. You know how natives love to herd together. 
There was a young man lying full length, smoking a 
cigarette, and he wore nothing but a pareo" 

The pareo is a long strip of trade cotton, red or 
blue, stamped with a white pattern. It is worn round 
the waist and hangs to the knees. 

"A girl of fifteen, perhaps, was plaiting pandanus- 
leaf to make a hat, and an old woman was sitting on 


her haunches smoking a pipe. Then I saw Ata, 
She was suckling a new-born child, and another 
child, stark naked, was playing at her feet. 
When she saw me she called out to Strickland, 
and he came to the door. He, too, wore nothing 
but a pareo. He was an extraordinary figurt, with 
his red beard and matted hair, and his great hairy 
chest. His feet were horny and scarred, so that 
I knew he went always bare foot. He had gone 
native with a vengeance. He seemed pleased to 
see me, and told Ata to kill a chicken for our dinner. 
He took me into the house to show me the pic- 
ture he was at work on when I came in. In one 
corner of the room was the bed, and in the 
middle was an easel with the canvas upon it. Be- 
cause I was sorry for him, I had bought a couple 
of his pictures for small sums, and I had sent others 
to friends of mine in France. And though I had 
bought them out of compassion, after living with 
them I began to like them. Indeed, I found a strange 
beauty in them. Everyone thought I was mad, but 
it turns out that I was right. I was his first admirer 
in the islands." 

He smiled maliciously at Tiare, and with lamen- 
tations she told us again the story of how at the 
sale of Strickland's effects she had neglected the pic- 
tures, but bought an American stove for twenty-seven 

"Have you the pictures still?" I asked. 

"Yes; I am keeping them till my daughter is of 
marriageable age, and then I shall sell them. They 
will be her dot.' 


Then he went on with the account of his visit to 

"I shall never forget the evening I spent with 
him. I had not intended to stay more than an hour, 
but he insisted that I should spend the night. I 
hesitated, for I confess I did not much like the look 
of the mats on which he proposed that I should 
sleep; but I shrugged my shoulders. When I was 
building my house in the Paumotus I had slept out 
for weeks on a harder bed than that, with nothing to 
shelter me but wild shrubs; and as for vermin, my 
tough skin should be proof against their malice. 

4 'We went down to the stream to bathe while Ata 
was preparing the dinner, and after we had eaten it 
we sat on the verandah. We smoked and chatted. 
The young man had a concertina, and he played the 
tunes popular on the music-halls a dozen years be- 
fore. They sounded strangely in the tropical night 
thousands of miles from civilisation. I asked Strick- 
land if it did not irk him to live in that promiscuity. 
No, he said; he liked to have his models under his 
hand. Presently, after loud yawning, the natives 
went away to sleep, and Strickland and I were left 
alone. I cannot describe to you the intense silence 
of the night. On my island in the Paumotus there 
is never at night the complete stillness that there 
was here. There is the rustle of the myriad animals 
on the beach, all the little shelled things that crawl 
about ceaselessly, and there is the noisy scurrying of 
the land-crabs. Now and then in the lagoon you 
hear the leaping of a fish, and sometimes a hurried 
noisy splashing as a brown shark sends all the other 


fish scampering for their lives. And above all, cease- 
less like time, is the dull roar of the breakers on 
the reef. But here there was not a sound, and the 
air was scented with the white flowers of the night. 
It was a night so beautiful that your soul seemed 
hardly able to bear the prison of the body. You 
felt that it was ready to be wafted away on the 
immaterial air, and death bore all the aspect of a 
beloved friend." 

Tiare sighed. 

"Ah, I wish I were fifteen again." 

Then she caught sight of a cat trying to get at a 
dish of prawns on the kitchen table, and with a dex- 
terous gesture and a lively volley of abuse flung a 
book at its scampering tail. 

"I asked him if he was happy with Ata. 

" 'She leaves me alone,' he said. 'She cooks my 
food and looks after her babies. She does what I 
tell her. She gives me what I want from a woman. 1 

" 'And do you never regret Europe? Do you 
not yearn sometimes for the light of the streets in 
Paris or London, the companionship of your friends, 
and equals, que sais-je? for theatres and newspapers, 
and the rumble of omnibuses on the cobbled pave- 
ments ?' 

"For a long time he was silent. Then he said: 

" 'I shall stay here till I die.' 

" 'But are you never bored or lonely?* I asked. 

"He chuckled. 

' 'Mon pauvre ami' he said. 'It is evident that 
you do not know what it is to be an artist.' ' 

Capitaine Brunot turned to me with a gentle smile, 


and there was a wonderful look in his dark, kind eyes. 

"He did me an injustice, for I too know what it 
is to have dreams. I have my visions too. In my 
way I also am an artist." 

We were all silent for a while, and Tiare fished 
out of her capacious pocket a handful of cigarettes. 
She handed one to each of us, and we all three 
smoked. At last she said: 

"Since ce monsieur is interested in Strickland, 
why do you not take him to see Dr. Coutras? He 
can tell him something about his illness and 

"Volontiers" said the Captain, looking at me. 

I thanked him, and he looked at his watch. 

"It is past six o'clock. We should find him at 
home if you care to come now." 

I got up without further ado, and we walked along 
the road that led to the doctor's house. He lived 
out of the town, but the Hotel de la Fleur was on the 
edge of it, and we were quickly in the country. The 
broad road was shaded by pepper-trees, and on each 
side were the plantations, cocoa-nut and vanilla. The 
pirate birds were screeching among the leaves of the 
palms. We came to a stone bridge over a shallow 
river, and we stopped for a few minutes to see the 
native boys bathing. They chased one another with 
shrill cries and laughter, and their bodies, brown and 
wet, gleamed in the sunlight. 

Chapter LIY 

AS we walked along I reflected on a circum- 
stance which all that I had lately heard about 
Strickland forced on my attention. Here, on 
this remote island, he seemed to have aroused none 
of the detestation with which he was regarded at 
home, but compassion rather; and his vagaries were 
accepted with tolerance. To these people, native and 
European, he was a queer fish, but they were used to 
queer fish, and they took him for granted ; the world 
was full of odd persons, who did odd things; and 
perhaps they knew that a man is not what he wants 
to be, but what he must be. In England and France 
he was the square peg in the round hole, but here the 
holes were any sort of shape, and no sort of peg was 
quite amiss. I do not think he was any gentler here, 
less selfish or less brutal, but the circumstances were 
more favourable. If he had spent his life amid these 
surroundings he might have passed for no worse 
a man than another. He received here what he 
neither expected nor wanted among his own people 

I tried to tell Captain Brunot something of the 
astonishment with which this filled me, and for a 
little while he did not answer. 

"It is not strange that I, at all events, should have 
had sympathy for him," he said at last, "for, though 
perhaps neither of us knew it, we were both aiming 
at the same thing." 



"What on earth can it be that two people so 
dissimilar as you and Strickland could aim at?" I 
asked, smiling. 


"A large order," I murmured. 

"Do you know how men can be so obsessed by love 
that they are deaf and blind to everything else in 
the world? They are as little their own masters as 
the slaves chained to the benches of a galley. The 
passion that held Strickland in bondage was no less 
tyrannical than love." 

"How strange that you should say that!" I an- 
swered. "For long ago I had the idea that he was 
possessed of a devil." 

"And the passion that held Strickland was a pas- 
sion to create beauty. It gave him no peace. It 
urged him hither and thither. He was eternally a 
pilgrim, haunted by a divine nostalgia, and the demon 
within him was ruthless. There are men whose de- 
sire for truth is so great that to attain it they will 
shatter the very foundation of their world. Of suck 
was Strickland, only beauty with him took the place 
of truth. I could only feel for him a profound com- 

"That is strange also. A man whom he had deep- 
ly wronged told me that he felt a great pity for 
him." I was silent for a moment. "I wonder if 
there you have found the explanation of a character 
which has always seemed to me inexplicable. How 
did you hit on it?" 

He turned to me with a smile. 

"Did I not tell you that I, too, in my way was 


an artist? I realised in myself the same desire as 
animated him. But whereas his medium was paint, 
mine has been life." 

Then Captain Brunot told me a story which I 
must repeat, since, if only by way of contrast, it adds 
something to my impression of Strickland. It has 
also to my mind a beauty of its own. 

Captain Brunot was a Breton, and had been in 
the French Navy. He left it on his marriage, and 
settled down on a small property he had near Quim- 
per to live for the rest of his days in peace ; but the 
failure of an attorney left him suddenly penniless, 
and neither he nor his wife was willing to live in 
penury where they had enjoyed consideration. Dur- 
ing his seafaring days he had cruised the South Seas, 
and he determined now to seek his fortune there. 
He spent some months in Papeete to make his plans 
and gain experience ; then, on money borrowed from 
a friend in France, he bought an island in the Pau- 
motus. It was a ring of land round a deep lagoon, 
uninhabited, and covered only with scrub and wild 
guava. With the intrepid woman who was his wife, 
and a few natives, he landed there, and set about 
building a house, and clearing the scrub so that he 
could plant cocoa-nuts. That was twenty years be- 
fore, and now what had been a barren island was 
a garden. 

"It was hard and anxious work at first, and we 
Vorked strenuously, both of us. Every day I was 
up at dawn, clearing, planting, working on my house, 
and at night when I threw myself on my bed it was 
to sleep like a log till morning. My wife worked as 


hard as I did. Then children were born to us, first 
a son and then a daughter. My wife and I have 
taught them all they know. We had a piano sent 
out from France, and she has taught them to play 
and to speak English, and I have taught them Latin 
and mathematics, and we read history together. They 
can sail a boat. They can swim as well as the na- 
tives. There is nothing about the land of which 
they are ignorant. Our trees have prospered, and 
there is shell on my reef. I have come to Tahiti 
jiiow 1 to buy a schooner. I can get enough shell to 
make it worth while to fish for it, and, who knows? 
I may find pearls. I have made something where 
'there was nothing. I too have made beauty. Ah, 
you do not know what it is to look at those tall, 
healthy trees and think that every one I planted my- 

"Let me ask you the question that you asked Strick- 
land. Do you never regret France and your old home 
in Brittany?" 

"Some day, when my daughter is married and my 
son has a wife and is able to take my place on the 
island, we shall go back and finish our days in the 
old house in which I was born." 

"You will look back on a happy life," I said. 

"Evidemment, it is not exciting on my island, and 
we are very far from the world imagine, it takes 
me four days to come to Tahiti but we are happy 
there. It is given to few men to attempt a work 
and to achieve it. Our life is simple and innocent. 
We are untouched by ambition, and what pride we 
have is due only to our contemplation of the work 


of our hands. Malice cannot touch us, nor envy 
attack. Ah, mon cher monsieur, they talk of the 
blessedness of labour, and it is a meaningless phrase, 
but to me it has the most intense significance. I am 
a happy man." 

"I am sure you deserve to be," I smiled. 

"I wish I could think so. I do not know how I 
have deserved to have a wife who was the perfect 
friend and helpmate, the perfect mistress and the 
perfect mother." 

I reflected for a while on the life that the Captain 
suggested to my imagination. 

"It is obvious that to lead such an existence and 
make so great a success of it, you must both have 
needed a strong will and a determined charac- 

"Perhaps; but without one other factor we could 
have achieved nothing." 

"And what was that?" 

He stopped, somewhat dramatically, and stretched 
out his arm. 

"Belief in God. Without that we should have 
been lost." 

Then we arrived at the house of Dr. Coutras. 

Chapter LV 

MR. COUTRAS was an old Frenchman of great 
stature and exceeding bulk. His body was 
shaped like a huge duck's egg; and his eyes, 
sharp, blue, and good-natured, rested now and then 
with self-satisfaction on his enormous paunch. His 
complexion was florid and his hair white. He was 
a man to attract immediate sympathy. He received 
us in a room that might have been in a house in a 
provincial town in France, and the one or two Poly- 
nesian curios had an odd look. He took my hand 
in both of his they were huge and gave me a 
hearty look, in which, however, was great shrewd* 
ness. When he shook hands with Capitaine Brunot 
he enquired politely after Madame et les enfants. 
For some minutes there was an exchange of courtesies 
and some local gossip about the island, the prospects 
of copra and the vanilla crop; then we came to the 
object of my visit. 

I shall not tell what Dr. Coutras related to me 
in his words, but in my own, for I cannot hope to 
give at second hand any impression of his vivacious 
delivery. He had a deep, resonant voice, fitted to 
his massive frame, and a keen sense of the dramatic. 
To listen to him was, as the phrase goes, as good 
as a play; and much better than most. 

It appears that Dr. Coutras had gone one day to 
Taravao in order to see an old chiefess who was ill, 
and he gave a vivid picture of the obese old lady t 



lying in a huge bed, smoking cigarettes, and sur- 
rounded by a crowd of dark-skinned retainers. When 
he had seen her he was taken into another room and 
given dinner raw fish, fried bananas, and chicken 
que sais-je, the typical dinner of the indigene and 
while he was eating it he saw a young girl being driven 
away from the door in tears. He thought nothing of 
it, but when he went out to get into his trap and 
drive home, he saw her again, standing a little way 
off; she looked at him with a woebegone air, and 
tears streamed down her cheeks. He asked someone 
what was wrong with her, and was told that she had 
come down from the hills to ask him to visit a white 
man who was sick. They had told her that the 
doctor could not be disturbed. He called her, and 
himself asked what she wanted. She told him that 
Ata had sent her, she who used to be at the Hotel de 
la Fleur, and that the Red One was ill. She thrust 
into his hand a crumpled piece of newspaper, and 
when he opened it he found in it a hundred-franc 

"Who is the Red One?" he asked of one of the 

He was told that that was what they called the 
Englishman, a painter, who lived with Ata up in the 
valley seven kilometres from where they were. He 
recognised Strickland by the description. But it was 
necessary to walk. It was impossible for him to go; 
that was why they had sent the girl away. 

"I confess," said the doctor, turning to me, "that 
I hesitated. I did not relish fourteen kilometres over 
a bad pathway, and there was no chance that I could 


get back to Papeete that night. Besides, Strickland 
was not sympathetic to me. He was an idle, useless 
scoundrel, who preferred to live with a native woman 
rather than work for his living like the rest of us. 
Mon Dieu y how was I to know that one day the world 
would come to the conclusion that he had genius? I 
asked the girl if he was not well enough to have come 
down to see me. I asked her what she thought was 
the matter with him. She would hot answer. I 
pressed her, angrily perhaps, but she looked down 
on the ground and began to cry. Then I shrugged 
my shoulders; after all, perhaps it was my duty to go, 
and in a very bad temper I bade her lead the way." 

His temper was certainly no better when he ar- 
rived, perspiring freely and thirsty. Ata was on the 
look-out for him, and came a little way along the 
path to meet him. 

"Before I see anyone give me something to drink 
or I shall die of thirst/' he cried out. "Pour t amour 
de Dieu, get me a cocoa-nut." 

She called out, and a boy came running along. He 
swarmed up a tree, and presently threw down a ripe 
nut. Ata pierced a hole in it, and the doctor took a 
long, refreshing draught. Then he rolled himself a 
cigarette and felt in a better humour. 

"Now, where is the Red One?" he asked. 

"He is in the house, painting. I have not told 
him you were coming. Go in and see him." 

"But what does he complain of? If he is well 
enough to paint, he is well enough to have come down 
to Taravao and save me this confounded walk. I 
presume my time is no less valuable than his." 


Ata did not speak, but with the boy followed him 
to the house. The girl who had brought him was 
by this time sitting on the verandah, and here was 
lying an old woman, with her back to the wall, mak- 
ing native cigarettes. Ata pointed to the door. The 
doctor, wondering irritably why they behaved so 
strangely, entered, and there found Strickland clean- 
ing his palette. There was a picture on the easel. 
Strickland, clad only in a pareo, was standing with 
his back to the door, but he turned round when he 
heard the sound of boots. He gave the doctor a 
look of vexation. He was surprised to see him, and 
resented the intrusion. But the doctor gave a gasp, 
he was rooted to the floor, and he stared with all 
his eyes. This was not what he expected. He was 
seized with horror. 

"You enter without ceremony," said Strickland. 
"What can I do for you?" 

The doctor recovered himself, but it required quite 
an effort for him to find his voice. All his irritation 
was gone, and he felt eh bien, oui, je ne le nie pas 
he felt an overwhelming pity. 

"I am Dr. Coutras. I was down at Taravao to see 
the chief ess, and Ata sent for me to see you." 

"She's a damned fool. I have had a few aches 
and pains lately and a little fever, but that's nothing; 
it will pass off. Next time anyone went to Papeete 
I was going to send for some quinine." 

"Look at yourself in the glass." 

Strickland gave him a glance, smiled, and went over 
to a cheap mirror in a little wooden frame, that hung 
on the wall. 



"Do you not see a strange change in your face? 
Do you not see the thickening of your features and 
a look how shall I describe it? the books call it 
lion-faced. Mon pauvre ami, must I tell you that 
you have a terrible disease?" 


"When you look at yourself in the glass you see 
the typical appearance of the leper." 

"You are jesting," said Strickland. 

"I wish to God I were." 

"Do you intend to tell me that I have leprosy?" 

"Unfortunately, there can be no doubt of 

Dr. Coutras had delivered sentence of death on 
many men, and he could never overcome the horror 
with which it filled him. He felt always the furious 
hatred that must seize a man condemned when he 
compared himself with the doctor, sane and healthy, 
who had the inestimable privilege of life. Strickland 
looked at him in silence. Nothing of emotion could 
be seen on his face, disfigured already by the loath- 
some disease. 

"Do they know?" he asked at last, pointing to the 
persons on the verandah, now sitting in unusual, un- 
accountable silence. 

"These natives know the signs so well," said the 
doctor. "They were afraid to tell you." 

Strickland stepped to the door and looked out. 
There must have been something terrible in his face, 
for suddenly they all burst out into loud cries and 
lamentation. They lifted up their voices and they 


wept. Strickland did not speak. After looking at 
them for a moment, he came back into the room. 

"How long do you think I can last?" 

"Who knows? Sometimes the disease continues 
for twenty years. It is a mercy when it runs its 
course quickly." 

Strickland went to his easel and looked reflectively 
at the picture that stood on it 

"You have had a long journey. It is fitting that 
the bearer of important tidings should be rewarded. 
Take this picture. It means nothing to you now, 
but it may be that one day you will be glad to have 

Dr. Coutras protested that he needed no payment 
for his journey; he had already given back to Ata 
the hundred-franc note, but Strickland insisted that 
he should take the picture. Then together they went 
out on the verandah. The natives were sobbing vio- 

"Be quiet, woman. Dry thy tears/' said Strick- 
land, addressing Ata. "There is no great harm. I 
shall leave thee very soon." 

"They are not going to take thee away?" she cried. 

At that time there was no rigid sequestration on the 
islands, and lepers, if they chose, were allowed to go 

"I shall go up into the mountain," said Strickland. 

Then Ata stood up and faced him. 

"Let the others go if they choose, but I will not 
leave thee. Thou art my man and I am thy woman. 
If thou leavest me I shall hang myself on the tree 
that is behind the house. I swear it by God." 


There was something immensely forcible in the way 
she spoke. She was no longer the meek, soft native 
girl, but a determined woman. She was extraordi- 
narily transformed. 

"Why shouldst thou stay with me? Thou canst 
go back to Papeete, and thou wilt soon find another 
white man. The old woman can take care of thy 
children, and Tiare will be glad to have thee 

4 'Thou art my man and I am thy woman. Whither 
thou goest I will go, too." 

For a moment Strickland's fortitude was shaken, 
and a tear filled each of his eyes and trickled slowly 
down his cheeks. Then he gave the sardonic smile 
which was usual with him. 

"Women are strange little beasts," he said to Dr. 
Coutras. "You can treat them like dogs, you can 
beat them till your arm aches, and still they love you." 
He shrugged his shoulders. "Of course, it is one 
of the most absurd illusions of Christianity that they 
have souls." 

"What is it that thou art saying to the doctor?" 
asked Ata suspiciously. "Thou wilt not go?" 

"If it please thee I will stay, poor child." 

Ata flung herself on her knees before him, and 
clasped his legs with her arms and kissed them. 
Strickland looked at Dr. Coutras with a faint smile. 

"In the end they get you, and you are helpless in 
their hands. White or brown, they are all the same." 

Dr. Coutras felt that it was absurd to offer ex- 
pressions of regret in so terrible a disaster, and he 
took his leave. Strickland told Tane, the boy, to lead 


him to the village. Dr. Coutras paused for a mo- 
ment, and then he addressed himself to me. 

"I did not like him, I have told you he was not 
sympathetic to me, but as I walked slowly down to 
Taravao I could not prevent an unwilling admiration 
for the stoical courage which enabled him to bear 
perhaps the most dreadful of human afflictions. When 
Tane left me I told him I would send some medicine 
that might be of service; but my hope was small 
that Strickland would consent to take it, and even 
smaller that, if he did, it would do him good. I gave 
the boy a message for Ata that I would come when- 
ever she sent for me. Life is hard, and Nature takes 
sometimes a terrible delight in torturing her children. 
It was with a heavy heart that I drove back to my 
comfortable home in Papeete." 

For a long time none of us spoke. 

"But Ata did not send for me," the doctor went 
on, at last, "and it chanced that I did not go to 
that part of the island for a long time. I had no 
news of Strickland. Once or twice I heard that Ata 
had been to Papeete to buy painting materials, but 
I did not happen to see her. More than two years 
passed before I went to Taravao again, and then 
it was once more to see the old chief ess. I asked 
them whether they had heard anything of Strickland. 
By now it was known everywhere that he had leprosy. 
First Tane, the boy, had left the house, and then, a 
little time afterwards, the old woman and her grand- 
child. Strickland and Ata were left alone with their 
babies. No one went near the plantation, for, as 
you know, the natives have a very lively horror of 


the disease, and in the old days when it was discov- 
ered the sufferer was killed; but sometimes, when 
the village boys were scrambling about the hills, they 
would catch sight of the white man, with his great 
red beard, wandering about. They fled in terror. 
Sometimes Ata would come down to the village at 
night and arouse the trader, so that he might sell 
her various things of which she stood in need. She 
knew that the natives looked upon her with the same 
horrified aversion as they looked upon Strickland, 
and she kept out of their way. Once some women, 
venturing nearer than usual to the plantation, saw her 
washing clothes in the brook, and they threw stones 
at her. After that the trader was told to give her 
the message that if she used the brook again men 
would come and burn down her house." 

"Brutes," I said. 

"Mais non, mon cher monsieur, men are always 
the same. Fear makes them cruel. ... I decided 
to see Strickland, and when I had finished with the 
chiefess asked for a boy to show me the way. But 
none would accompany me, and I was forced to find 
it alone." 

When Dr. Coutras arrived at the plantation he 
was seized with a feeling of uneasiness. Though he 
was hot from walking, he shivered. There was 
something hostile in the air which made him hesitate, 
and he felt that invisible forces barred his way. Un- 
seen hands seemed to draw him back. No one would 
go near now to gather the cocoa-nuts, and they lay 
rotting on the ground. Everywhere was desolation. 
The bush was encroaching, and it looked as though' 


very soon the primeval forest would regain posses- 
sion of that strip of land which had been snatched 
from it at the cost of so much labour. He had the 
sensation that here was the abode of pain. As he 
approached the house he was struck by the unearthly 
silence, and at first he thought it was deserted. Then 
he saw Ata. She was sitting on her haunches in the 
lean-to that served her as kitchen, watching some 
mess cooking in a pot. Near her a small boy was 
playing silently in the dirt. She did not smile when 
she saw him. 

"I have come to see Strickland," he said. 

"I will go and tell him." 

She went to the house, ascended the few steps that 
led to the verandah, and entered. Dr. Coutras fol- 
lowed her, but waited outside in obedience to her 
gesture. As she opened the door he smelt the sickly 
sweet smell which makes the neighbourhood of the 
leper nauseous. He heard her speak, and then he 
heard Strickland's answer, but he did not recognise 
the voice. It had become hoarse and indistinct. Dr. 
Coutras raised his eyebrows. He judged that the 
disease had already attacked the vocal chords. Then 
Ata came out again. 

"He will not see you. You must go away." 

Dr. Coutras insisted, but she would not let him 
pass. Dr. Coutras shrugged his shoulders, and after 
a moment's reflection turned away. She walked with 
him. He felt that she too wanted to be rid of him. 

"Is there nothing I can do at all?" he asked. 

"You can send him some paints," she said. "There 
is nothing else he wants." 


"Can he paint still?" 

"He is painting the walls of the house." 
"This is a terrible life for you, my poor child." 
Then at last she smiled, and there was in her eyes 
a look of superhuman love. Dr. Coutras was star- 
tled by it, and amazed. And he was awed. He 
found nothing to say. 

"He is my man," she said. 

"Where is your other child?" he asked. "When I 
was here last you had two." 

"Yes; it died. We buried it under the mango." 
When Ata had gone with him a little way she 
said she must turn back. Dr. Coutras surmised she 
was afraid to go farther in case she met any of the 
people from the village. He told her again that if 
she wanted him she had only to send and he would 
ome at once. 

Chapter LVI 

THEN two years more went Ly, or perhaps 
three, for time passes imperceptibly in Tahiti, 
and it is hard to keep count of it; but at last a 
message was brought to Dr. Coutras that Strickland 
was dying. Ata had waylaid the cart that took the 
mail into Papeete, and besought the man who drove 
it to go at once to the doctor. But the doctor was 
out when the summons came, and it was evening 
when he received it. It was impossible to start at 
so late an hour, and so it was not till next day soon 
after dawn that he set out. He arrived at Taravao, 
and for the last time tramped the seven kilometres 
that led to Ata's house. The path was overgrown, 
and it was clear that for years now it had remained 
all but untrodden. It was not easy to find the way. 
Sometimes he had to stumble along the bed of the 
stream, and sometimes he had to push through shrubs, 
dense and thorny; often he was obliged to climb 
over rocks in order to avoid the hornet-nests that 
hung on the trees over his head. The silence was 

It was with a sigh of relief that at last he came 
upon the little unpainted house, extraordinarily be- 
draggled now, and unkempt; but here too was the 
same intolerable silence. He walked up, and a little 
boy, playing unconcernedly in the sunshine, started at 
his approach and fled quickly away: to him the 
* tranger was the enemy. Dr. Coutras had a sense 



tfiac the child was stealthily watching him from be- 
hind a tree. The door was wide open. He called 
out, but no one answered. He stepped in. He 
knocked at a door, but again there was no answer. 
He turned the handle and entered. The stench that 
assailed him turned him horribly sick. He put his 
handkerchief to his nose and forced himself to go in. 
The light was dim, and after the brilliant sunshine for 
a while he could see nothing. Then he gave a start. 
He could not make out where he was. He seemed 
on a sudden to have entered a magic world. He 
had a vague impression of a great primeval forest 
and of naked people walking beneath the trees. Then 
he saw that there were paintings on the walls. 

"Mon Dieuy I hope the sun hasn't affected me," he 

A slight movement attracted his attention, and he 
saw that Ata was lying on the floor, sobbing quietly. 

"Ata," he called. "Ata." 

She took no notice. Again the beastly stench al- 
most made him faint, and he lit a cheroot. His eyes 
grew accustomed to the darkness, and now he was 
seized by an overwhelming sensation as he stared 
at the painted walls. He knew nothing of pictures, 
but there was something about these that extraordi- 
narily affected him. From floor to ceiling the walls 
were covered with a strange and elaborate composi- 
tion. It was indescribably wonderful and mysterious. 
It took his breath away. It filled him with an emo- 
tion which he could not understand or analyse. He 
felt the awe and the delight which a man might feel 
who watched the beginning of a world. It was 


tremendous, sensual, passionate; and yet there was 
something horrible there, too, something which made 
him afraid. It was the work of a man who had 
delved into the hidden depths of nature and had 
discovered secrets which were beautiful and fearful 
too. It was the work of a man who knew things 
which it is unholy for men to know. There was 
something primeval there and terrible. It was not 
tuman. It brought to his mind vague recollections of 
black magic. It was beautiful and obscene. 

"Mon Dieu, this is genius." 

The words were wrung from him, and he did not 
know he had spoken. 

Then his eyes fell on the bed of mats in the corner, 
and he went up, and he saw the dreadful, mutilated, 
ghastly object which had been Strickland. He was 
dead. Dr. Coutras made an effort of will and bent 
over that battered horror. Then he started vio- 
lently, and terror blazed in his heart, for he felt that 
someone was behind him. It was Ata. He had not 
heard her get up. She was standing at his elbow, 
looking at what he looked at. 

"Good Heavens, my nerves are all distraught," he 
said. "You nearly frightened me out of my wits." 

He looked again at the poor dead thing that had 
been man, and then he started back in dismay. 

"But he was blind." 

"Yes; he had been blind for nearly a year." 

Chapter LVII 

AT that moment we were interrupted by the 
appearance of Madame Coutras, who had 
been paying visits. She came in, like a ship 
in full sail, an imposing creature, tall and stout, with 
an ample bust and an obesity girthed in alarmingly 
by straight-fronted corsets. She had a bold hooked 
nose and three chins. She held herself upright. She 
had not yielded for an instant to the enervating charm 
of the tropics, but contrariwise was more active, more 
worldly, more decided than anyone in a temperate 
clime would have thought it possible to be. She was 
evidently a copious talker, and now poured forth a 
breathless stream of anecdote and comment. She 
made the conversation we had just had seem far 
away and unreal. 

Presently Dr. Coutras turned to me. 

"I still have in my bureau the picture that Strick. 
land gave me," he said. "Would you like to see 


We got up, and he led me on to the verandah 
which surrounded his house. We paused to look at the 
gay flowers that rioted in his garden. 

"For a long time I could not get out of my head 
the recollection of the extraordinary decoration with 
which Strickland had covered the walls of his house," 
lie said reflectively. 



I had been thinking of it, too. It seemed to me 
that here Strickland had finally put the whole ex- 
pression of himself. Working silently, knowing that 
it was his last chance, I fancied that here he must 
have said all that he knew of life and all that he 
divined. And I fancied that perhaps here he had 
at last found peace. The demon which possessed him 
was exorcised at last, and with the completion of 
the work, for which all his life had been a painful 
preparation, rest descended on his remote and tor- 
tured soul. He was willing to die, for he had fulfilled 
his purpose. 

"What was the subject?" I asked. 

"I scarcely know. It was strange and fantastic. It 
was a vision of the beginnings of the world, the Gar- 
den of Eden, with Adam and Eve que sais-je? ifc 
was a hymn to the beauty of the human form, male 
and female, and the praise of Nature, sublime, indif- 
ferent, lovely, and cruel. It gave you an awful sense 
of the infinity of space and of the endlessness of time. 
Because he painted the trees I see about me every day, 
the cocoa-nuts, the banyans, the flamboyants, the al- 
ligator-pears, I have seen them ever since differently, 
as though there were in them a spirit and a mystery 
which I am ever on the point of seizing and which 
for ever escapes me. The colours were the colours 
familiar to me, and yet they were different They 
had a significance which was all their own. And 
those nude men and women. They were of the earth, 
and yet apart from it. They seemed to possess some- 
thing of the clay of which they were created, and 
at the same time something divine. You saw man 


in the nakedness of his primeval instincts, and you 
were afraid, for you saw yourself." 

Dr. Coutras shrugged his shoulders and smiled. 

"You will laugh at me. I am a materialist, and 
I am a gross, fat man Falstaff, eh? the lyrical 
mode does not become me. I make myself ridiculous. 
But I have never seen painting which made so deep 
an impression upon me. Tenez, I had just the same 
feeling as when I went to the Sistine Chapel in Rome. 
There too I was awed by the greatness of the man 
who had painted that ceiling. It was genius, and 
it was stupendous and overwhelming. I felt small 
and insignificant. But you are prepared for the great- 
ness of Michael Angelo. Nothing had prepared me 
for the immense surprise of these pictures in a native 
hut, far away from civilisation, in a fold of the moun- 
tain above Taravao. And Michael Angelo is sane 
and healthy. Those great works of his have the calm 
of the sublime; but here, notwithstanding beauty, was 
something troubling. I do not know what it was. 
It made me uneasy. It gave me the impression you 
get when you are sitting next door to a room that 
you know is empty, but in which, you know not why, 
you have a dreadful consciousness that notwithstand- 
ing there is someone. You scold yourself; you know 
it is only your nerves and yet, and yet ... In 
a little while it is impossible to resist the terror that 
seizes you, and you are helpless in the clutch of an 
unseen horror. Yes; I confess I was not altogether 
sorry when I* heard that those strange masterpieces 
had been destroyed." 

"Destroyed?" I cried. 


"Mais oui; did you not know?" 

1 'How should I know? It is true I had never 
heard of this work; but I thought perhaps it had 
fallen into the hands of a private owner. Even now 
there is no certain list of Strickland's paintings." 

"When he grew blind he would sit hour after 
hour in those two rooms that he had painted, looking 
at his works with sightless eyes, and seeing, perhaps, 
more than he had ever seen in his life before. Ata 
told me that he never complained of his fate, he never 
lost courage. To the end his mind remained serene 
and undisturbed. But he made her promise that when 
she had buried him did I tell you that I dug his 
grave with my own hands, for none of the natives, 
would approach the infected house, and we buried 
him, she and I, sewn up in three pareos joined to- 
gether, under the mango-tree he made her promise 
that she would set fire to the house and not leave 
it till it was burned to the ground and not a stick 

I did not speak for a while, for I was thinking. 
Then I said: 

"He remained the same to the end, then." 

"Do you understand? I must tell you that I 
thought it my duty to dissuade her." 

"Even after what you have just said?" 

"Yes; for I knew that here was a work of genius, 
and I did not think we had the right to deprive the 
world of it. But Ata would not listen to me. She 
had promised. I would not stay to witness the bar- 
barous deed, and it was only afterwards that I heard 
what she had done. She poured paraffin on the dry 


floors and on the pandanus-mats, and then she set 
fire. In a little while nothing remained but smoulder- 
ing embers, and a great masterpiece existed no longer. 

"I think Strickland knew it was a masterpiece. He 
had achieved what he wanted. His life was com- 
plete. He had made a world and saw that it was 
good. Then, in pride and contempt, he destroyed, 

"But I must show you my picture," said Dr. 
Coutras, moving on. 

"What happened to Ata and the child?" 

They went to the Marquesas. She had relations 
there. I have heard that the boy works on one of 
Cameron's schooners. They say he is very like his 
father in appearance." 

At the door that led from the verandah to the 
doctor's consulting-room, he paused and smiled. 

"It is a fruit-piece. You would think it not a 
very suitable picture for a doctor's consulting-room, 
but my wife will not have it in the drawing-room. She 
says it is frankly obscene." 

"A fruit-piece !" I exclaimed in surprise. 

We entered the room, and my eyes fell at once 
on the picture. I looked at it for a long time. 

It was a pile of mangoes, bananas, oranges, and I 
know not what; and at first sight it was an innocent 
picture enough. It would have been passed in an 
exhibition of the Post-Impressionists by a careless per- 
son as an excellent but not very remarkable example 
of the school ; but perhaps afterwards it would come 
back to his recollection, and he would wonder why. 
I do not think then he could ever entirely forget it. 


The colours were so strange that words can hardly 
tell what a troubling emotion they gave. They were 
sombre blues, opaque like a delicately carved bowl in 
lapis lazuli, and yet with a quivering lustre that 
suggested the palpitation of mysterious life; there 
were purples, horrible like raw and putrid flesh, and 
yet with a glowing, sensual passion that called up 
vague memories of the Roman Empire of Heliogaba- 
lus; there were reds, shrill like the berries of holly 
one thought of Christmas in England, and the 
snow, the good cheer, and the pleasure of children' 
and yet by some magic softened till they had the 
swooning tenderness of a dove's breast; there were 
deep yellows that died with an unnatural passion into 
a green as fragrant as the spring and as pure as the 
sparkling water of a mountain brook. Who can 
tell what anguished fancy made these fruits? They 
belonged to a Polynesian garden of the Hesperides. 
There was something strangely alive in them, as 
though they were created in a stage of the earth's 
dark history when things were not irrevocably fixed 
to their forms. They were extravagantly luxurious. 
They were heavy with tropical odours. They seemed 
to possess a sombre passion of their own. It was 
enchanted fruit, to taste which might open the gateway 
to God knows what secrets of the soul and to mys- 
terious palaces of the imaginaion. They were sullen 
with unawaited dangers, and to eat them might turn 
a man to beast or god. All that was healthy and 
natural, all that clung to happy relationships and the 
simple joys of simple men, shrunk from them in 
dismay; and yet a fearful attraction was in fhem, 


and, like the fruit on the Tree of the Knowledge 
of Good and Evil they were terrible with the pos- 
sibilities of the Unknown. 

At last I turned away. I felt that Strickland had 
kept his secret to the grave. 

"Voyons, Rene, mon ami" came the loud, cheerful 
voice of Madame Coutras, "what are you doing all 
this time ? Here are the aperitifs. Ask Monsieur if 
he will not drink a little glass of Quinquina Dubon- 

tr Volontiers, Madame," I said, going out on to the 

The spell was broken. 

Chapter LVIII 

THE time came for my departure from Tahiti. 
According to the gracious custom of the island, 
presents were given me by the persons with 
whom I had been thrown in contact baskets made 
of the leaves of the cocoa-nut tree, mats of pandanus, 
fans; and Tiare gave me three little pearls and three 
jars of guava-jelly made with her own plump hands. 
When the mail-boat, stopping for twenty-four hours 
on its way from Wellington to San Francisco, blew 
the whistle that warned the passengers to get on 
board, Tiare clasped me to her vast bosom, so that 
I seemed to sink into a billowy sea, and pressed her 
red lips to mine. Tears glistened in her eyes. And 
when we steamed slowly out of the lagoon, making 
our way gingerly through the opening in the reef, 
and then steered for the open sea, a certain melan- 
choly fell upon me. The breeze was laden still with 
the pleasant odours of the land. Tahiti is very far 
away, and I knew that I should never see it again. 
A chapter of my life was closed, and I felt a little 
nearer to inevitable death. 

Not much more than a month later I was in Lon- 
don; and after I had arranged certain matters which 
claimed my immediate attention, thinking Mrs. Strick- 
land might like to hear what I knew of her husband's 
last years, I wrote to her. I had not seen her since 



long before the war, and I had to look out her ad- 
dress in the telephone-book. She made an appoint- 
ment, and I went to the trim little house on Campden 
Hill which she now inhabited. She was by this time 
a woman of hard on sixty, but she bore her years 
well, and no one would have taken her for more than 
fifty. Her face, thin and not much lined, was of the 
sort that ages gracefully, so that you thought in youth 
she must have been a much handsomer woman than 
in fact she was. Her hair, not yet very gray, was 
becomingly arranged, and her black gown was mod- 
ish. I remembered having heard that her sister, Mrs. 
MacAndrew, outliving her husband but a couple of 
years, had left money to Mrs. Strickland; and by 
the look of the house and the trim maid who opened 
the door I judged that it was a sum adequate to. 
keep the widow in modest comfort. 

When I was ushered into the drawing-room I found 
that Mrs. Strickland had a visitor, and when I dis- 
covered who he was, I guessed that I had been asked 
to come at just that time not without intention. The 
caller was Mr. Van Busche Taylor, an American, and 
Mrs. Strickland gave me particulars with a charming 
smile of apology to him. 

"You know, we English are so dreadfully ignorant. 
You must forgive me if it's necessary to explain." 
Then she turned to me. "Mr. Van Busche Taylor is 
the distinguished American critic. If you haven't 
read his book your education has been shamefully 
neglected, and you must repair the omission at once. 
He's writing something about dear Charlie, and he's 
come to ask me if I can help him." 


Mr. Van Busche Taylor was a very thin man with 
a large, bald head, bony and shining; and under the 
great dome of his skull his face, yellow, with deep 
lines in it, looked very small. He was quiet and 
exceedingly polite. He spoke with the accent of New 
England, and there was about his demeanour a blood- 
less frigidity which made me ask myself why on earth 
he was busying himself with Charles Strickland. I 
had been slightly tickled at the gentleness which Mrs. 
Strickland put into her mention of her husband's 
name, and while the pair conversed I took stock of 
the room in which we sat. Mrs. Strickland had 
moved with the times. Gone were the Morris papers 
and gone the severe cretonnes, gone were the Arundel 
prints that had adorned the walls of her drawing- 
room in Ashley Gardens; the room blazed with fan- 
tastic colour, and I wondered if she knew that those 
varied hues, which fashion had imposed upon her, 
were due to the dreams of a poor painter in a South 
Sea island. She gave me the answer herself. 

"What wonderful cushions you have," said Mr. 
Van Busche Taylor. 

"Do you like them?" she said, smiling. "Bakst, 
you know." 

And yet on the walls were coloured reproductions 
of several of Strickland's best pictures, due to the 
enterprise of a publisher in Berlin. 

"You're looking at my pictures," she said, follow- 
ing my eyes. "Of course, the originals are out of my 
reach, but it's a comfort to have these. The pub- 
lisher sent them to me himself. They're a great con- 
solation to me." 


"They must be very pleasant to live with," said 
Mr. Van Busche Taylor. 

"Yes; they're so essentially decorative." 

"That is one of my profoundest convictions," said 
Mr. Van Busche Taylor. "Great art is always decor- 

Their eyes rested on a nude woman suckling a baby, 
while a girl was kneeling by their side holding out a 
flower to the indifferent child. Looking over them 
was a wrinkled, scraggy hag. It was Strickland's 
version of the Holy Family. I suspected that for 
the figures had sat his household above Taravao, and 
the woman and the baby were Ata and his first son. 
I asked myself if Mrs. Strickland had any inkling of 
the facts. 

The conversation proceeded, and I marvelled at 
the tact with which Mr. Van Busche Taylor avoided 
all subjects that might have been in the least em- 
barrassing, and at the ingenuity with which Mrs. 
Strickland, without saying a word that was untrue, 
insinuated that her relations with her husband had 
always been perfect. At last Mr. Van Busche Taylor 
rose to go. Holding his hostess* hand, he made he.r 
a graceful, though perhaps too elaborate, speech of 
thanks, and left us. 

"I hope he didn't bore you," she said, when the 
door closed behind him. "Of course it's a nuisance 
sometimes, but I feel it's only right to give people 
any information I can about Charlie. There's a cer- 
tain responsibility about having been the wife "of a 

She looked at me with those pleasant eyes of hers, 


which had remained as candid and as sympathetic as 
they had been more than twenty years before. I 
wondered if she was making a fool of me. 

"Of course you've given up your business/* I 

"Oh, yes," she answered airily. "I ran it more 
by way of a hobby than for any other reason, and my 
children persuaded me to sell it. They thought I was 
overtaxing my strength." 

I saw that Mrs. Strickland had forgotten that she 
had ever done anything so disgraceful as to work 
for her living. She had the true instinct of the nice 
woman that it is only really decent for her to live 
on other people's money. 

"They're here now," she said. "I thought they'd 
like to hear what you had to say about their father. 
You remember Robert, don't you ? I'm glad to say 
he's been recommended for the Military Cross." 

She went to the door and called them. There 
entered a tall man in khaki, with the parson's collar, 
handsome in a somewhat heavy fashion, but with the 
frank eyes that I remembered in him as a boy. He 
was followed by his sister. She must have been the 
same age as was her mother when first I knew her, 
and she was very like her. She too gave one the 
impression that as a girl she must have been prettier 
than indeed she was. 

"I suppose you don't remember them in the least," 
said Mrs. Strickland, proud and smiling. "My 
daughter is now Mrs. Ronaldson. Her husband's a 
Major in the Gunners." 

"He's by way of being a pukka soldier, you know," 


said Mrs. Ronaldson gaily. "That's why he's only 
a Major.' 7 

I remembered my anticipation long ago that she 
would marry a soldier. It was inevitable. She had 
all the graces of the soldier's wife. She was civil 
and affable, but she could hardly conceal her inti- 
mate conviction that she was not quite as others 
Were. Robert was breezy. 

"It's a bit of luck that I should be in London 
when you turned up," he said. "I've only got three 
days' leave." 

"He's dying to get back," said his mother. 

"Well, I don't mind confessing it, I have a rattling 
good time at the front. I've made a lot of good 
pals. It's a first-rate life. Of course war's terrible, 
and all that sort of thing; but it does bring out the 
best qualities in a man, there's no denying that." 

Then I told them what I had learned about Charles 
Strickland in Tahiti. I thought it unnecessary to 
say anything of Ata and her boy, but for the rest 
I was as accurate as I could be. When I had nar- 
rated his lamentable death I ceased. For a minute 
or two we were all silent. Then Robert Strickland 
struck a match and lit a cigarette. 

"The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind 
exceeding small," he said, somewhat impressively. 

Mrs. Strickland and Mrs. Ronaldson looked down 
with a slightly pious expression which indicated, I 
felt sure, that they thought the quotation was from 
Holy Writ. Indeed, I was unconvinced that Robert 
Strickland did not share their illusion. I do not 
know why I suddenly thought of Strickland's son by 


Ata. They had told me he was a merry, light- 
hearted youth. I saw him, with my mind's eye, on 
the schooner on which he worked, wearing nothing 
but a pair of dungarees ; and at night, when the boat 
sailed along easily before a light breeze, and the 
sailors were gathered on the upper deck, while the 
captain and the supercargo lolled in deck-chairs, 
smoking their pipes, I saw him dance with another 
lad, dance wildly, to the wheezy music of the con- 
certina. Above was the blue sky, and the stars, and 
all about the desert of the Pacific Ocean. 

A quotation from the Bible came to my lips, but 
I held my tongue, for I know that clergymen think 
it a little blasphemous when the laity poach upon 
their preserves. My Uncle Henry, for twenty-seven 
years Vicar of Whitstable, was on these occasions 
in the habit of saying that the devil could always 
quote scripture to his purpose. He remembered the 
days when you could get thirteen Royal Natives for 
a shilling. 



PR Maugham, William Somerset 
6025 The moon and sixpence