Part 5 out of 6
'Everything that you say is just'--said Fenwick, slowly--'I have no
answer to make--except that--No!--I have no answer to make.'
He paced once or twice up and down the length of the room, slowly,
thoughtfully; then he resumed:
'I shall write to Madame de Pastourelles to-night, and by the first
train to-morrow, as soon as these things'--he looked round him--'can
be gathered together, I shall be gone!'
Welby moved sharply, showing a face still drawn and furrowed with
emotion--'No! she will want to see you.'
Fenwick's composure broke down. 'I had better not see her'--he
said--'I had better not see her!'
'You will bear that for her,' said Welby, quietly. 'The more
completely you can enlighten her, the better for us all.'
Fenwick's lips moved, but without speaking. Welby's ignorance of the
whole truth oppressed him; yet he could make no effort to remove it.
Welby came back towards him.
'There is no reason, I think, why we should carry this conversation
further. I will let Miss Morrison know that I have communicated with
'No need,' said Fenwick, interrupting him. 'I shall see her first
thing in the morning--'
'And'--resumed Welby, lifting a book and letting it fall
uncertainly--'if there is anything I can do--with Lord Findon--for
Fenwick had a movement of impatience. He felt his endurance giving
'There is nothing to do!--except to tell the truth--and to as few
people as possible!'
Welby winced. Was the reference to his wife?
'I agree with you--of course.'
He paused a moment--irresolute--wondering whether he had said all
he had to say. Then, involuntarily, his eyes rested questioningly,
piercingly, on the man beside him. They seemed to express the marvel
of his whole being that such an offence could ever be--they tried
to penetrate a character, a psychology which in truth baffled them
He moved to the door, and Fenwick opened it.
As his visitor walked away, Fenwick stood motionless, listening to the
retreating step, which echoed in the silence of the vast, empty hotel,
once the house of Madame de Pompadour.
He looked at his watch. Past midnight. By about three o'clock, in the
midst of a wild autumnal storm, he had finished his letter to Madame
de Pastourelles; and he fell asleep at his table, worn out, his head
on his arms.
Before ten on the following morning Fenwick had seen Bella Morrison.
A woman appeared--the caricature of something he had once known, the
high cheek-bones of his early picture touched with rouge, little curls
of black hair plastered on her temples, with a mincing gait, and a
manner now giggling and now rude. She was extremely sorry if she had
put him out--really particularly sorry! She wouldn't have done so
for the world; but her curiosity got the better of her. Also, she
confessed, she had wished to see whether Mr. Fenwick would acknowledge
his debt to her. It was only lately that she had come across a
statement of it amongst her father's papers. It was funny he should
have forgotten it so long; but there--she wasn't going to be nasty. As
to poor Mrs. Fenwick, no, of course she knew nothing. She had inquired
of some friends in the North, and they also knew nothing. They had
only heard that husband and wife couldn't hit it off, and that Mrs.
Fenwick had gone abroad. It was a pity--but a body might have expected
it, mightn't they?
The crude conceit and violence of her girlhood had given place, under
the pressure of a hard life, to something venomous and servile. She
never mentioned her visit to Phoebe; but her eyes seemed to mock her
visitor all the time. Fenwick cut the interview short as soon as he
could, hastily paid her a hundred pounds, though it left him overdrawn
and almost penniless, and then rushed back to his hotel to see what
might be waiting for him.
An envelope was lying on his table. It cost him a great effort to open
'I have received your letter. There is nothing to say, except that I
must see you. I wish to keep what you have told me from my father, for
the present, at any rate. There would be no possibility of our talking
here. We have only one sitting-room, and my sister is there all the
time. I will be at the Bosquet d'Apollon, by 11.30.'
Only that! He stared at the delicate, almost invisible writing. The
moment he had dreaded for twelve years had arrived; and the world
still went on, and quiet notes like that could still be written.
Long before the hour fixed he was in the Bosquet d'Apollon, walking up
and down in front of the famous grotto, on whose threshold the white
Apollo, just released from the chariot of the Sun, receives the
ministrations of the Muses, while his divine horses are being fed and
stalled in the hollows of the rock to either side. No stranger fancy
than this ever engaged the architects and squandered the finances of
the Builder-King. Reared in solid masonry on bare sandy ground now
entirely disguised, the artificial rock that holds the grotto towers
to a great height, crowned by ancient trees, weathered by wind and
rain, overgrown by leaf and grass, and laved at its base by clear
water. All round, the trees stand close--the lawns spread their quiet
slopes. On this sparkling autumn morning, a glory of russet, amber,
and red, begirt the white figures and the gleaming grotto. The
Immortals, the champing horses, locked behind their _grilles_ lest
the tourist should insult them--all the queer crumbling romance of
the statuary, all the natural beauty of leaf and water, of the white
clouds overhead and their reflexions below--combined to make Fenwick's
guilty bewilderment more complete, to turn all life to dream, and all
its figures into the puppets of a shadow-play.
A light step on the grass. A shock passed through him. He made a
movement, then checked it.
Eugenie paused at some distance from him. In this autumnal moment of
the year, and on week-days, scarcely any passing visitor disturbs the
quiet of the Bosquet d'Apollon. In its deep dell of trees and grass,
they were absolutely alone; the sunlight which dappled the white
bodies of the Muses, and shone on the upstretched arm of Apollo,
seemed the only thing of life besides themselves.
She threw back her veil as she came near him--her long widow's veil,
which to-day she had resumed. Beneath it, framed in it, the face
appeared of an ivory rigidity and pallor. The eyes only were wild and
living as she came up to him, clasping her hands, evidently shrinking
from him--yet composed.
'There is one thing more I want to know. If I have ever been your
friend!--if you have ever felt any kindness for me, tell me--tell me
frankly--why did your wife leave you?'
Fenwick's face fell. Had she come so soon to this point?--by the
sureness of her own instinct?
'There were many troubles between us,' he said, hoarsely, walking on
beside her, his eyes on the grass.
'Was she--was she jealous?'--she breathed with difficulty--'of any of
your models?--I know that sometimes happens--or of your sitters--of
_me_, for instance?'
The last words were scarcely audible; but her gaze enforced them.
'She was jealous of my whole life--away from her. And I was utterly
blind and selfish--I ought to have known what was going on--and I had
'And what happened? I know so little.'
Her voice so peremptorily strange--so remote--compelled him. With
difficulty he gave an outline of Phoebe's tragic visit to his studio.
His letter of the night before had scarcely touched on the details of
the actual crisis, had dwelt rather on the months of carelessness and
neglect on his own part, which had prepared it.
'That was she?--the mother in the "Genius Loci"?'
He assented mutely.
She closed her eyes a moment, seeing, in her suffering, the face of
the young mother and her child.
'But go on. And you were away? Please, please go on! When was it? It
must have been that spring when--'
She put her hand to her head, trying to remember dates.
'It was just before the Academy,' he said, reluctantly.
'You were out?'
'I had gone to tell Watson and Cuningham the good news.'
His voice dropped.
Her hands caught each other again.
'It was that day--that very day we came to you?'
'But why?--what was it made her do such a thing?--go--for
ever--without seeing you--without a word? She must have had some
'She had none!' he said, with energy.
'But she must have thought she had. Can't--can't you explain it to me
He was almost at the end of his resistance.
'I told you--how she had resented--my concealment?'
'Yes--yes! But there must have been something more--something
sudden--that maddened her?'
He was silent. She grew whiter than before.
'Mr. Fenwick--I--I have much to forgive. There is only one course
of action--that can ever--make amends--and that is--an entire--an
Her terrible suspicion--her imperious will had conquered. Anything was
better than to deny her, torture her--deceive her afresh.
He looked at her in a horrible indecision. Then, slowly, he put his
hand within the breast of his coat.
'This is the letter she wrote me. I found it in my room.'
And he drew out the crumpled letter from his pocket-book, which he had
worn thus almost from the day of Phoebe's disappearance.
Eugenie fell upon it, devoured it. Not a demur, not a doubt, as
to this!--in one so strictly, so tenderly scrupulous. Even at that
moment, it struck him pitifully. It seemed to give the measure of her
'The picture?' she said, looking up--'I don't understand--you had sent
'Do you remember--asking me about the sketch? and I told you--it had
been accidentally spoilt?'
She understood. Her lips trembled. Returning the letter, she sank upon
a seat. He saw that her forces were almost failing her. And he dared
not say a word or make a movement of sympathy.
For some little time she was silent. Her eyes ranged the green circuit
of the hollow--the water, the reeds, the rock, and that idle god among
his handmaidens. Her attitude, her look expressed a moral agony,
how strangely out of place amid this setting! Through her--innocent,
unconscious though she were--the young helpless wife had come to
grief--a soul had been risked--perhaps lost. Only a nature trained as
Eugenie's had been, by suffering and prayer and lofty living, could
have felt what she felt, and as she felt it.
Fumbling, Fenwick put back the letter in his pocket-book--thrust it
again into his coat. Never once did the thought cross Eugenie's mind
that he had probably worn it there, through these last days, while
their relation had grown so intimate, so dear. All recollection of
herself had left her. She was possessed with Phoebe. Nothing else
At last, after much more questioning--much more difficult or impetuous
examination--she rose feebly.
'I think I understand. Now--we have to find her!'
She stood, her hands loosely clasped, her eyes gazing into the sunny
vacancy of sky, above the rock.
Fenwick advanced a step. He felt that he must speak, must grovel to
her--repeat some of the things he had said in his letter. But here,
in her presence, all words seemed too crude, too monstrous. His voice
So there was no repetition of the excuses, the cry for pardon he had
spent the night on; and she made no reference to them.
They walked back to the hotel, talking coldly, precisely, almost as
strangers, of what should be done. Fenwick--whose work indeed was
finished--would return to England that night. After his departure,
Madame de Pastourelles would inform her father of what had happened;
a famous solicitor, Lord Findon's old friend, was to be consulted; all
possible measures were to be taken once more for Phoebe's discovery.
At the door of the hotel, Fenwick raised his hat. Eugenie did not
offer her hand; but her sweet face suddenly trembled afresh--before
her will could master it. To hide it, she turned abruptly away; and
the door closed upon her.
After a moderately bright morning, that after-breakfast fog which we
owe to the British kitchen and the domestic hearth was descending on
the Strand. The stream of traffic, on the roadway and the pavements,
was passing to and fro under a yellow darkness; the shop-lights
were beginning to flash out here and there, but without any of their
evening cheerfulness; and on the passing faces one saw written the
inconvenience and annoyance of the fog--the fear, too, lest it should
become worse and impenetrable.
Fenwick was groping his way along, eastward; one moment feeling and
hating the depression of the February day, of the grimy, overcrowded
street; the next, responsive to some dimly beautiful effect of colour
or line--some quiver of light--some grouping of phantom forms in the
gloom. Halfway towards the Law-Courts he was hailed and overtaken by a
tall, fair-haired man.
'Hallo, Fenwick!--just the man I wanted to see!'
Fenwick, whose eyes--often very troublesome of late--were smarting
with the fog, peered at the speaker, and recognised Philip Cuningham.
His face darkened a little as they shook hands.
'What did you want me for?'
'Did you know that poor old Watson had come back to town--ill?'
'No!' cried Fenwick, arrested. 'I thought he was in Algiers.'
Cuningham walked on beside him, telling what he knew, Fenwick all
the time dumbly vexed that this good-looking, prosperous fellow, this
Academician in his new fur coat, breathing success and commissions,
should know more of his best friend's doings than he.
Watson, it appeared, had been seized with hemorrhage at Marseilles,
and had thereupon given up his winter plans, and crawled home to
London, as soon as he was sufficiently recovered to bear the journey.
Fenwick, much troubled, protested that it was madness to have come
back to the English winter.
'No,' said Cuningham, looking grave. 'Better die at home than among
strangers. And I'm afraid it's come to that, dear old fellow!'
Then he described--with evident self-satisfaction--how he had heard,
from a common friend, of Watson's arrival, how he had rescued the
invalid from a dingy Bloomsbury hotel, and settled him in some rooms
in Fitzroy Square, with a landlady who could be trusted.
'We must have a nurse before long--but he won't have one yet. He wants
badly to see you. I told him I'd look you up this evening. But this'll
do instead, won't it? You'll remember?--23, Fitzroy Square. Shall
I tell him when he may expect you? Every day we try to get him some
little pleasure or other.'
Fenwick's irritation grew. Cuningham was talking as though the old
relation between him and Richard Watson were still intact; while
Fenwick knew well how thin and superficial the bond had grown.
'I shall go to-day,' he said, rather shortly. 'I have two or three
things to do this morning, but there'll be time before my rehearsal
'Your rehearsal?' Cuningham looked amiably curious.
Fenwick explained, but with fresh annoyance. The papers had been full
enough of this venture on which he was engaged; Cuningham's ignorance
'Ah, indeed--very interesting,' said Cuningham, vaguely. 'Well,
good-bye. I must jump into a hansom.'
'Where are you off to?'
'The Goldsmiths' Company are building a new Hall, and they want my
advice about its decoration. Precious difficult, though, to get away
from one's pictures, this time of year, isn't it?'
He hailed a hansom as he spoke.
'That's not a difficulty that applies to me,' said Fenwick, shortly.
Cuningham stared--frowned--and remembered.
'Oh, my dear fellow--what a mistake that was!--if you'll let me say
so. Can't we put it right? Command me at any time.'
'Thank you. I prefer it as it is.'
'We'll talk it over. Well, good-bye. Don't forget old Dick.'
Fenwick walked on, fuming. Cuningham, he said to himself, was now the
type of busy, pretentious mediocrity, the type which eternally keeps
English art below the level of the Continent.
'I say--one moment! Have you had any news of the Findons lately?'
Fenwick turned sharply, and again saw Cuningham, whose hansom had been
blocked by the traffic, close to the pavement. He was hanging over the
door, and smiling.
In reply to the question, Fenwick merely shook his head.
'I had a capital letter from her ladyship a week or two ago,' said
Cuningham, raising his voice, and bringing himself as near to Fenwick
as his position allowed. 'The old fellow seems to be as fit as ever.
But Madame de Pastourelles must be very much changed.'
Fenwick said nothing. It might have been thought that the traffic
prevented his hearing Cuningham's remark. But he had heard distinctly.
'Do you know when they'll be home?' he asked, reluctantly, walking
beside the hansom.
'No--haven't an idea. I believe I'm to go to them for Easter. Ah!--now
we go on. Ta-ta!'
He waved his hand, and the hansom moved away.
Fenwick pursued his walk plunged in disagreeable thought. 'Much
changed?' What did that mean? He had noticed no such change before the
Findons left London. The words fell like a fresh blow upon a wound.
He turned north, toward Lincoln's Inn Fields, called at the offices of
Messrs. Butlin & Forbes, the well-known solicitors, and remained
there half an hour. When he emerged from the old house, he looked, if
possible, more harried and cast down than when he had entered it.
They had had a letter to show him, but in his opinion it contributed
nothing. There was no hope--and no clue! How could there be? He had
never himself imagined for a moment that any gain would come of these
new researches. But he had been allowed no option with regard to them.
Immediately after his return to London from Versailles he had received
a stern letter from Lord Findon, insisting--as his daughter had
already done--that the only reparation he, Fenwick, could make to the
friends he had so long and cruelly deceived, was to allow them a free
hand in a fresh attempt to discover his wife, and so to clear Madame
de Pastourelles from the ridiculous suspicions that Mrs. Fenwick
had been led so disastrously to entertain. 'Most shamefully and
indefensibly my daughter has been made to feel herself an accomplice
in Mrs. Fenwick's disappearance,' wrote Lord Findon; 'the only amends
you can ever make for your conduct will lie in new and vigorous
efforts, even at this late hour, to find and to undeceive your wife.'
Hence, during November and December, constant meetings and
consultations in the well-known offices of Lord Findon's solicitors.
At these meetings both Madame de Pastourelles and her father had
been often present, and she had followed the debates with a quick and
strained intelligence, which often betrayed to Fenwick the suffering
behind. He painfully remembered with what gentleness and chivalry
Eugenie had always treated him personally on these occasions, with
what anxious generosity she had tried to curb her father.
But there had been no private conversation between them. Not only did
they shrink from it; Lord Findon could not have borne it. The storm of
family and personal pride which the disclosure of Fenwick's story had
aroused in the old man had been of a violence impossible to resist.
That Fenwick's obscure and crazy wife should have dared to entertain
_jealousy_ of a being so far above his ken and hers, as Eugenie then
was--that she should have made a ridiculous tragedy out of it--and
that Fenwick should have conduced to the absurd and insulting
imbroglio by his ill-bred and vulgar concealment:--these things
were so irritating to Lord Findon that they first stimulated a rapid
recovery from his illness at Versailles, and then led him to frantic
efforts on Phoebe's behalf, which were in fact nothing but the
expression of his own passionate pride and indignation--resting, no
doubt ultimately, on those weeks at Versailles when even he, with all
the other bystanders, had supposed that Eugenie would marry this man.
His mood, indeed, had been a curious combination of wounded affection
with a class arrogance stiffened by advancing age and long indulgence.
When, in those days, the old man entered the room where Fenwick was,
he bore his grey head and sparkling eyes with the air of a teased
Fenwick, a man of violent temper, would have found much difficulty
in keeping the peace under these circumstances, but for the frequent
presence of Eugenie, and the pressure of his own dull remorse. 'I
too--have--much to forgive!'--that, he knew well, would be the only
reference involving personal reproach that he would ever hear from
her lips, either to his original deceit, or to those wild weeks at
Versailles (that so much ranker and sharper offence!)--when, in his
loneliness and craving, he had gambled both on her ignorance and on
Phoebe's death. Yet he did not deceive himself. The relation between
them was broken; he had lost his friend. Her very cheerfulness and
gentleness somehow enforced it. How natural!--how just! None the less
his bitter realisation of it had worked with crushing effect upon a
About Christmas, Lord Findon's health had again caused his family
anxiety. He was ordered to Cannes, and Eugenie accompanied him. Before
she went she had gone despairingly once more through all the ingenious
but quite fruitless inquiries instituted by the lawyers; and she had
written a kind letter to Fenwick begging to be kept informed, and
adding at the end a few timid words expressing her old sympathy with
his work, and her best wishes for the success of the pictures that she
understood he was to exhibit in the spring.
Then she and her father departed. Fenwick had felt their going as
perhaps the sharpest pang in this intolerable winter. But he had
scarcely answered her letter. What was there to say? At least he had
never asked her or her father for money--had never owed Lord Findon a
penny. There was some small comfort in that.
* * * * *
Nevertheless, it was of money that he thought--and must think--night
After his interview with the magnificent gentlemen in Lincoln's Inn
Fields, he made his way wearily to a much humbler office in Bedford
Row. Here was a small solicitor to whom he had often resorted lately,
under the constant pressure of his financial difficulties. He spent
an hour in this man's room. When he came out, he walked fast towards
Oxford Street and the west, hardly conscious in his excitement of
where he was going. The lawyer he had just seen had for the first time
mentioned the word 'bankruptcy.' 'I scarcely see, Mr. Fenwick, how you
can avoid it.'
Well, it might come to that--it might. But he still had his six
pictures--time to finish two others that were now on hand--and the
It was with that he was now concerned. He called on the manager of
a small gallery near Hanover Square with whom he had already made an
arrangement for the coming May--paying a deposit on the rent--early
in the winter. In his anxiety, he wished now to make the matter still
clearer, to pay down the rest of the rent if need be. He had the notes
always in his breast-pocket, jealously hidden away, lest any other
claim, amid the myriads which pressed upon him, should sweep them from
The junior partner in charge of the gallery and the shop of which it
made part, received him very coldly. The firm had long since regretted
their bargain with a man whose pictures were not likely to sell,
especially as they could have relet the gallery to much better
advantage. But their contract with Fenwick--clinched by the
deposit--could not be evaded; so they were advised.
All, therefore, that the junior partner could do was to try to alarm
Fenwick, as to the incidental expenses involved--hanging, printing,
service, etc. But Fenwick only laughed. 'I shall see to that!' he
said, contemptuously. 'And my pictures will sell, I tell you,' he
added, raising his voice. 'They'll bring a profit both to you and to
The individual addressed said nothing. He was a tall, well-fed young
man, in a faultless frock-coat, and Fenwick, as they stood together
in the office--the artist had not been offered a chair--disliked him
'Well, shall I pay you the rest?' said Fenwick, abruptly, turning to
go, and fumbling at the same time for the pocket-book in which he kept
The other gave a slight shrug.
'That's just as you please, Mr. Fenwick.'
'Well, here's fifty, anyway,' said Fenwick, drawing out a fifty-pound
note and laying it on the table.
'We are not in any hurry, I assure you.'
The young man stood looking at the artist, in an attitude of cool
indifference; but at the same time his hand secured the note, and
placed it safely in the drawer of the table between them.
He wrote a receipt, and handed it to Fenwick.
'Good-day,' said Fenwick, turning to go.
The other followed him, and as they stepped out into the
exhibition-rooms of the shop, hung in dark purple, Fenwick perceived
in the distance what looked like a fine Corot, and a Daubigny--and
'Got some good things, since I was here last?'
'Oh, we're always getting good things,' said his companion,
carelessly, without the smallest motion towards the pictures.
Fenwick nodded haughtily, and walked towards the door. But his soul
smarted within him. Two years before, the owners of any picture-shop
in London would have received him with _empressement_, have shown him
all they had to show, and taken flattering note of his opinion.
On the threshold he ran against the Academician with the orange hair
and beard, who had been his fellow-guest at the Findon's on the night
of his first dinner-party there. The orange hair was now nearly white;
its owner had grown to rotundity; but the sharp, glancing eyes and
pompous manner were the same as of old. Mr. Sherratt nodded curtly to
Fenwick, and was then received with bows and effusion by the junior
partner standing behind.
'Ah, Mr. Sherratt!--_delighted_ to see you! Come to look at the Corot?
By all means! This way, please.'
Fenwick pursued his course to Oxford Street in a morbid
self-consciousness. It seemed to him that all the world knew him by
now for a failure and a bankrupt; that he was stared and pointed at.
He took refuge from this nightmare in an Oxford Street restaurant, and
as he ate his midday chop he asked himself, for the hundredth time,
how the deuce it was that he had got into the debts which weighed him
down. He had been extravagant on the building and furnishing of
his house--but after all he had earned large sums of money. He sat
gloomily over his meal--frowning--and trying to remember. And once,
amid the foggy darkness, there opened a vision of a Westmoreland
stream, and a pleading face upturned to his in the moonlight--'And
then, you know, I could look after money! You're _dreadfully_ bad
about money, John!'
The echo of that voice in his ears made him restless. He rose and set
forth again--toward Fitzroy Square.
On the way his thoughts recurred to the letter he had found waiting
for him at the lawyer's. It came from Phoebe's cousin, Freddy Tolson.
Messrs. Butlin had traced this man anew--to a mining town in New South
Wales. He had been asked to come to England and testify--no matter
at what expense. In the letter just received--bearing witness in its
improved writing and spelling to the prosperous development of the
writer--he declined to come, repeating that he knew nothing whatever
of his Cousin Phoebe's where-abouts, nor of her reasons for leaving
her husband. He gave a fresh and longer account of his conversation
with her, as far as he could remember it at this distance of time;
and this longer account contained the remark that she had asked him
questions about other colonies than Australia, to which he was himself
bound. He thought Canada had been mentioned--the length of the passage
there, and its cost. He had not paid much attention to it at the time.
It had seemed to him that she was glad, poor thing, of some one
to have a 'crack' with--'for I guess she'd been pretty lonesome up
there.' But she might have had something in her head--he couldn't say.
All he could declare was that if she were in Canada, or any other of
the colonies, he had had no hand in it, and knew no more than a 'born
baby' where she might be hidden.
So now, on this vague hint, a number of fresh inquiries were to be
set on foot. Fenwick hoped nothing from them. Yet as he walked fast
through the London streets, from which the fog was lifting, his mind
wrestled with vague images of great lakes, and virgin forests, and
rolling wheat-lands--of the streets of Montreal, or the Heights of
Quebec--and amongst them, now with one background, now with another,
the slender figure of a fair-haired woman with a child beside her. And
through his thoughts, furies of distress and fear pursued him--now as
'Well, this is a queer go, isn't it?' said Watson, in a
half-whispering voice. 'Nature has horrid ways of killing you. I wish
she'd chosen a more expeditious one with me.'
Fenwick sat down beside his friend, the lamp-light in the old panelled
room revealing, against his will, his perturbed and shaken expression.
'How did this come on?' he asked.
'Of itself, my dear fellow'--laughed Watson, in the same hoarse
whisper. 'My right lung has been getting rotten for a year past, and
at Marseilles it happened to break. That's my explanation, anyway, and
it does as well as the doctor's.--Well, how are you?'
Fenwick shifted uneasily, and made a vague answer.
Watson turned to look at him.
'What pictures have you on hand?'
Fenwick gave a list of the completed pictures still in his studio, and
described the arrangements made to exhibit them. He was not as ready
as usual to speak of himself; his gaze and his attention were fixed
upon his friend. But Watson probed further, into the subjects of his
recent work. Fenwick was nearing the end, he explained, of a series of
rustic 'Months' with their appropriate occupations--an idea which had
haunted his mind for years.
'As old as the hills,' said Watson, 'but none the worse for that.
You've painted them, I suppose, out-of-doors?'
Fenwick shrugged his shoulders.
'As much as possible.'
'Ah, that's where those French fellows have us,' said Watson,
languidly. 'One of them said to me in Paris the other day, "It's bad
enough to paint the things you've seen--it's the devil to paint the
things you've not seen."'
'The usual fallacy,' said Fenwick, firing up. 'What do they mean by
He would have liked this time to go off at score. But a sure instinct
told him that he was beside a dying man; and he held himself back,
trying instead to remember what small news and gossip he could, for
the amusement of his friend.
Watson sat in a deep armchair, propped up by pillows. The room in
which they met had been a very distinguished room in the eighteenth
century. It had still some remains of carved panelling, a graceful
mantelpiece of Italian design, and a painted ceiling half-effaced. It
was now part of a lodging-house, furnished with shabby cheapness; but
the beauty, once infused, persisted; and it made no unworthy setting
for a painter's death.
The signs of desperate illness in Richard Watson were indeed plainly
visible. His shaggy hair and thick, unkempt beard brought into relief
the waxen or purple tones of the skin. The breath was laboured and the
cough frequent. But the eyes were still warm, living, and passionate,
the eyes of a Celt, with the Celtic gifts, and those deficiencies,
also, of his race, broadly and permanently expressed in the words of a
great historian--'The Celts have shaken all States, and founded none!'
No founder, no _achiever_, this--no happy, harmonious soul--but a
man who had vibrated to life and Nature, in their subtler and sadder
aspects, through whom the nobler thoughts and ambitions had passed,
like sound through strings, wringing out some fine, tragic notes,
some memorable tones. 'I can't last more than a week or two,' he
said, presently, in a pause of Fenwick's talk, to which he had
hardly listened--'and a good job too. But I don't find myself at all
rebellious. I'm curiously content to go. I've had a good time.'
This from a man who had passed from one disappointed hope to another,
brought the tears to Fenwick's eyes.
'Some of us may wish we were going with you,' he said, in a low voice,
laying his hand a moment on his friend's knee.
Watson made no immediate reply. He coughed--fidgeted--and at last
'How's the money?'
Fenwick hastily drew himself up. 'All right.'
He reached out a hand to the tongs and put the fire together.
'Is that so?' said Watson. The slight incredulity in his voice touched
some raw nerve in Fenwick.
'I don't want anything,' he said, almost angrily. 'I shall get
Cuningham had been talking, no doubt. His affairs had been discussed.
His morbid pride took offence at once.
'Mine'll just hold out,' said Watson, presently, with a humorous
inflexion--'it'll bury me, I think--with a few shillings over. But I
couldn't have afforded another year.'
There was silence a while--till a nurse came in to make up the fire.
Fenwick began to talk of old friends, and current exhibitions; and
presently tea made its appearance. Watson's strength seemed to revive.
He sat more upright in his chair, his voice grew stronger, and he
dallied with his tea, joking hoarsely with his nurse, and asking
Fenwick all the questions that occurred to him. His face, in its
rugged pallor and emaciation, and his great head, black or iron-grey
on the white pillows, were so fine that Fenwick could not take
his eyes from him; with the double sense of the artist, he saw the
_subject_ in the man; a study in black and white hovered before him.
When the nurse had withdrawn, and they were alone again, in a silence
made more intimate still by the darkness of the panelled walls, which
seemed to isolate them from the rest of the room, enclosing them in a
glowing ring of lamp and firelight, Fenwick was suddenly seized by an
impulse he could not master. He bent towards the sick man.
'Watson!--do you remember advising me to marry when we met in Paris?'
The invalid turned his haggard eyes upon the speaker, in a sudden
There was a pause; then Fenwick said, with bent head, staring into the
'Well--I _am_ married.'
Watson gave a hoarse 'Phew!'--and waited.
'My wife left me twelve years ago and took our child with her. I don't
know whether they are alive or dead. I thought I'd like to tell you.
It would have been better if I hadn't concealed it, from you--and--and
'Great Scott!' said Watson, slowly, bringing the points of his long,
emaciated fingers together, like one trying to master a new image. 'So
that's been the secret--'
'Of what?' said Fenwick, testily; but as Watson merely replied by
an interrogative and attentive silence, he threw himself into his
tale--headlong. He told it at far greater length than Eugenie had ever
heard it; and throughout, the subtle, instinctive appeal of man to man
governed the story, differentiating it altogether from the same story,
told to a woman.
He spoke impetuously, with growing emotion, conscious of an infinite
relief and abandonment. Watson listened with scarcely a comment.
Midway a little pattering, scuffling noise startled the speaker. He
looked round and saw the monkey, Anatole, who had been lying asleep
in his basket. Watson nodded to Fenwick to go on, and then feebly
motioned to his knee. The monkey clambered there, and Watson folded
his bony arms round the creature, who lay presently with his weird
face pressed against his master's dressing-gown, his melancholy eyes
staring out at Fenwick.
'It was Madame she was jealous of?' said Watson, when the story came
to an end.
Fenwick hesitated--then nodded reluctantly. He had spoken merely of
'one of my sitters.' But it was not possible to fence with this dying
'And Madame knows?'
But Fenwick sharply regretted the introduction of Madame de
Pastourelles' name. He had brought the story down merely to the point
of Phoebe's flight and the search which followed, adding only--with
vagueness--that the search had lately been renewed, without success.
Watson pondered the matter for some time. Fenwick took out his
handkerchief and wiped a brow damp with perspiration. His story--added
to the miseries of the day--had excited and shaken him still further.
Suddenly Watson put out a hand and seized his wrist. The grip hurt.
'What on earth do you mean?'
'You've lost them--but you've had a woman in your arms--a child on
your knee! You don't go to your grave--[Greek: apraktos]--an ignorant,
barren fool--like me!'
Fenwick looked at him in amazement. Self-scorn--bitter and passionate
regret--transformed the face beside him. He pressed the fevered hand.
Watson withdrew his hand, and once more folded the monkey to him.
'There are plenty of men like me,' he muttered. 'We are afraid of
living--and art is our refuge. Then art takes its revenge--and we
are bad artists, because we are poor and sterilised human beings.
But you'--he spoke with fresh energy, composing himself--'don't talk
rot!--as though _your_ chance was done. You'll find her--she'll come
back to you--when she's drunk the cup. Healthy young women don't die
before thirty-five;--and by your account she wasn't bad--she had a
conscience. The child'll waken it. Don't you be hard on her!'--he
raised himself, speaking almost fiercely--'you've no right to!
Take her in--listen to her--let her cry it out. My God!'--his voice
dropped, as his head fell back on the pillows--'what happiness--what
His eyes closed. Fenwick stooped over him in alarm, but the thin hand
closed again on his.
'Don't go. What was she like?'
Fenwick asked him whether he remembered the incident of the
sketch-book at their first meeting--the drawing of the mother and
child in the kitchen of the Westmoreland farm.
'Perfectly. And she was the model for the big picture, too? I see. A
lovely creature! How old is she now?'
'Thirty-six--if she lives.'
'I tell you, she _does_ live! Probably more beautiful now than she
was then. Those Madonna-like women mellow so finely. And the child?
_Vois-tu, Anatole_!--something superior to monkeys!'
But he pressed the little animal closer to him as he spoke. Fenwick
rose to go, conscious that he had stayed too long. Watson looked up.
'Good-bye, old man--courage! Seek--till you find. She's in the
world--and she's sorry. I could swear it.'
Fenwick stood beside him, quivering with emotion and despondency.
Their eyes met steadily, and Watson whispered:
'I pass from one thing to another. Sometimes it's Omar Khayyam--"One
thing is certain and the rest is lies--The flower that once is born
for ever dies"--and the next it's the Psalms, and I think I'm at a
prayer-meeting--a Welsh Methodist again.'
He fell into a flow of Welsh, hoarsely musical. Then, with a smile, he
nodded farewell; and Fenwick went.
* * * * *
Fenwick wrote that night to Eugenie de Pastourelles at Cannes,
enclosing a copy of the letter received from Freddy Tolson. It meant
nothing; but she had asked to be kept informed. As he entered upon the
body of his letter, his eyes still recurred to its opening line:
'Dear Madame de Pastourelles.'
For many years he had never addressed her except as 'My dear friend.'
Well, that was all gone and over. The memory of her past goodness, of
those walks through the Trianon woods, was constantly with him. But he
had used her recklessly and selfishly, and she had done with him.
He admitted it now, as often before, in a temper of dull endurance;
bending himself to the task of his report.
* * * * *
Eugenie read his letter, sitting on a bench above the blue
Mediterranean, in the pine woods of the Cap d'Antibes. She had torn
it open in hope, and the reading of it depressed her. In the
pine-scented, sun-warmed air she sat for long motionless and sad. The
delicate greenish light fell on the soft brown hair, the white face
and hands. Eugenie's deep black had now assumed a slight 'religious'
air which disturbed Lord Findon, and kindled the Protestant wrath
of her stepmother. That short moment of a revived _mondanite_ which
Versailles had witnessed, was wholly past; and for the first and only
time in her marred life, Eugenie's natural gaiety was quenched. She
knew well that in the burden which weighed upon her there were morbid
elements; but she could only bear it; she could not smile under it.
Fenwick's letter led her thoughts back to the early incidents of
this fruitless search. Especially did she recall every moment of her
interview with Daisy Hewson--Phoebe Fenwick's former nursemaid, now
married to a small Westmoreland farmer. One of the first acts of the
lawyers had been to induce this woman to come to London to repeat once
more what she knew of the catastrophe.
Then, after the examination by the lawyers, Eugenie had pleaded that
she might see her--and see her alone. Accordingly, a shy and timid
woman, speaking with a broad Westmoreland accent, called one morning
in Dean's Yard.
Eugenie had won from her many small details the lawyers had been
unable to extract. They were not, alack, of a kind to help the search
for Phoebe; but, interpreted by the aid of her own quick imagination,
they drew a picture of the lost mother and child, which sank deep,
deep, into Eugenie's soul.
Mrs. Fenwick, said Mrs. Hewson, scarcely spoke on the journey south.
She sat staring out of window, with her hands on her lap, and Daisy
thought there was 'soomat wrang'--but dared not ask. In saying
good-bye at Euston, Mrs. Fenwick had kissed her, and given the guard a
shilling to look after her. She was holding Carrie in her arms, as
the train moved away. The girl had supposed she was going to join her
And barely a week later, John Fenwick had been dining in St. James's
Square, looking harassed and ill indeed--it was supposed, from
overwork; but, to his best friends, as silent as that grave of
darkness and oblivion which had closed over his wife.
Yet, as the weeks of thought went on, Eugenie blamed him less and
less. Her clear intelligence showed her all the steps of the unhappy
business. She remembered the awkward, harassed youth, as she had first
seen him at her father's table, with his curious mixture of arrogance
and timidity; now haranguing the table, and now ready to die with
confusion over some social slip. She understood what he had told her,
in his first piteous letter, of his paralysed, tongue-tied states--of
his fear of alienating her father and herself. And she went deeper.
She confessed the hatefulness of those weakening timidities, those
servile states of soul, by which our social machine balances the
insolences and cruelties of the strong--its own breeding also; she
felt herself guilty because of them; the whole of life seemed to her
sick, because a young man, ill at ease and cowardly in a world not his
own, had told or lived a foolish lie. It was as though she had
forced it from him; she understood so well how it had come about. No,
no!--her father might judge it as he pleased. She was angry no longer.
Nor--presently--did she even resent the treachery of those weeks at
Versailles, so quick and marvellous was the play of her great gift of
sympathy, which was only another aspect of imagination. In recoil from
a dark moment of her own experience, of which she could never think
without anguish, she had offered him a friend's hand, a friend's
heart--offered them eagerly and lavishly. Had he done more than
take them, with the craving of a man, for whom already the ways are
darkening, who makes one last clutch at 'youth and bloom, and this
delightful world'? He had been reckless and cruel indeed. But in its
profound tenderness and humility and self-reproach her heart forgave
Yet of that forgiveness she could make no outward sign--for her own
sake and Phoebe's. That old relation could never be again; the weeks
at Versailles had killed it. Unless, indeed, some day it were her
blessed lot to find the living Phoebe, and bring her to her husband!
Then friendship, as well as love, might perhaps lift its head once
more. And as during the months of winter, both before and since her
departure from England, the tidings reached her of Fenwick's growing
embarrassments, of his increasing coarseness and carelessness of work,
his violence of temper, the friend in her suffered profoundly. She
knew that she could still do much for him. Yet there, in the way,
stood the image of Phoebe, as Daisy Hewson described her,--pale,
weary, desperate,--making all speech, all movement, on the part of
the woman, for jealousy of whom the wife had so ignorantly destroyed
herself and Fenwick, a thing impossible.
Eugenie's only comfort indeed, at this time, was the comfort of
religion. Her soul, sorely troubled and very stern with itself,
wandered in mystical, ascetic paths out of human ken. Every morning
she hurried through the woods to a little church beside the sea,
filled with fishing-folk. There she heard Mass, and made the spiritual
communion which sustained her.
Once, in the mediaeval siege of a Spanish fortress, so a Spanish
chronicler tells us, all the defenders were slaughtered but one man;
and he lay dying on the ground, across the gate. There was neither
priest nor wafer; but the dying man raised a little of the soil
between the stones to his lips, and so, says the chronicler,
'communicated in the earth itself,' before he passed to the Eternal
Presence. Eugenie would have done the same with a like ardour and
simplicity; her thought differing much, perhaps, in its perceived and
logical elements, from that of the dying Spaniard, but none the less
profoundly akin. The act was to her the symbol and instrument of an
Inflowing Power; the details of those historical beliefs with which
it was connected, mattered little. And as she thus leant upon the old,
while conscious of the new, she never in truth felt herself alone.
It seemed to her, often, that she clasped hands with a vast invisible
multitude, in a twilight soon to be dawn.
A fortnight later Dick Watson died. Fenwick saw him several times
before the end, and was present at his last moments. The funeral
was managed by Cuningham; so were the obituary notices; and Fenwick
attended the funeral and read the notices, with that curious mixture
of sore grief and jealous irritation into which our human nature is so
often betrayed at similar moments.
Then he found himself absorbed by the later rehearsals of _The Queen's
Necklace_; by the completion of his pictures for the May exhibition;
and by the perpetual and ignominious hunt for money. As to this last,
it seemed to him that each day was a battle in which he was for ever
worsted. He was still trying in vain to sell his house at Chelsea, the
house planned at the height of his brief prosperity, built and finely
furnished on borrowed money, and now apparently unsaleable, because
of certain peculiarities in it, which suited its contriver, and no one
else. And meanwhile the bank from which he had borrowed most of his
building money was pressing inexorably for repayment; the solicitor in
Bedford Row could do nothing, and was manifestly averse to running
up a longer bill on his own account; so that, instead of painting,
Fenwick often spent his miserable days in rushing about London, trying
to raise money by one shift after another, in an agony to get a bill
accepted or postponed, borrowing from this person and that, and with
every succeeding week losing more self-respect and self-control.
The situation would have been instantly changed if only his artistic
power had recovered itself. And if Eugenie had been within his reach
it might have done so. She had the secret of stimulating in him what
was poetic, and repressing what was merely extravagant or violent. But
she was far away: and as he worked at the completion of his series of
'Months,' or at various portraits which the kindness or compassion of
old friends had procured for him, he fell headlong into all his worst
His handling, once so distinguished through all its inequalities, grew
steadily more careless and perfunctory; his drawing lost force and
grip; his composition, so rich, interesting, and intelligent in his
early days, now meant nothing, said nothing. The few friends who still
haunted his studio during these dark months were often struck with
pity; criticism or argument was useless; and some of them believed
that he was suffering from defects of sight, and was no longer capable
of judging his own work.
The portrait commissions, in particular, led more than once to
disaster. His angry vanity suspected that while he was now thought
incapable of the poetic or imaginative work in which he had once
excelled, he was still considered--'like any fool'--good enough for
portraits. This alone was enough to make him loathe the business. On
two or three occasions he ended by quarrelling with the sitter. Then
for hours he would walk restlessly about his room, smoking enormously,
drinking--sometimes excessively--out of a kind of excitement and
_desoeuvrement_--his strong, grizzled hair bristling about his head,
his black eyes staring and bloodshot, and that wild gypsyish look
of his youth more noticeable than ever in these surroundings of what
promised soon to be a decadent middle age.
One habit of his youth had quite disappeared. The queer tendency to
call on Heaven for practical aid in any practical difficulty--to make
of prayer a system of 'begging-letters to the Almighty'--which had of
ten quieted or distracted him in his early years of struggle, affected
him no longer. His inner life seemed to himself shrouded in a sullen
numbness and frost.
And the old joy in reading, the old plenitude and facility of
imagination, were also in abeyance. He became the fierce critic
of other men's ideas, while barren of his own. To be original,
successful, happy, was now in his eyes the one dark and desperate
offence. Yet every now and then he would have impulses of the largest
generosity; would devote hours to the teaching of some struggling
student and the correction of his work; or draw on his last remains of
credit or influence--pester people with calls, or write reams to the
newspapers--on behalf of some one, unduly overlooked, whose work he
But through it all, the shadows deepened, and a fixed conviction that
he was moving towards catastrophe. In spite of Watson's touching words
to him, he did not often let himself think of Phoebe. Towards her, as
towards so much else, his mind and heart were stiffened and voiceless.
But for hours in the night--since sleeplessness was now added to his
other torments--he would brood on the loss of his child, would try
to imagine her dancing, singing, sewing--or helping her mother in the
house. Seventeen! Why, soon no doubt they would be marrying her, and
he, her father, would know nothing, hear nothing. And in the darkness
he would feel the warm tears rise in his eyes, and hold them there,
The rehearsals in which he spent many hours of the week, generally
added to his distress and irritation. The play itself was, in his
opinion, a poor vulgar thing, utterly unworthy of the 'spectacle' he
had contrived for it. He could not hide his contempt for the piece,
and indeed for most of its players; and was naturally unpopular
with the management and the company. Moreover, he wanted his money
desperately, seeing that the play had been postponed, first from
November to February, and then from February to April; but the
actor-manager concerned was in somewhat dire straits himself, and
nothing could be got before production.
One afternoon, late in March, a rehearsal was nearing its completion,
everybody was tired out, and everything had been going badly. One of
Fenwick's most beautiful scenes--carefully studied from the Trianon
gardens on the spot--had been, in his opinion, hopelessly spoilt in
order to bring in some ridiculous 'business' wholly incongruous with
the setting and date of the play. He had had a fierce altercation on
the stage with the actor-manager. The cast, meanwhile, dispersed
at the back of the stage or in the wings, looked on maliciously or
chatted among themselves; while every now and then one or other of the
antagonists would call up the leading lady, or the conceited gentleman
who was to act Count Fersen, and hotly put a case. Fenwick was madly
conscious all the time of his lessened consideration and dignity in
the eyes of a band of people whom he despised. Two years before,
his cooperation would have been an honour and his opinion law.
Now, nothing of the kind; indeed, through the heated remarks of the
actor-manager there ran the insolent implication that Mr. Fenwick's
wrath was of no particular account to anybody, and that he was
presuming on a commission he had been very lucky to get.
At last a crowd of stage-hands, setting scenery for another piece in
the evening, invaded the stage, and the rehearsal was just breaking
up when Fenwick, still talking in flushed exasperation, happened to
notice two ladies standing in the wings, on the other side of the vast
stage, close to the stage-entrance.
He suddenly stopped talking--stammered--looked again. They were two
girls, one evidently a good deal older than the other. The elder was
talking with the assistant stage-manager. The younger stood quietly, a
few yards away, not talking to any one. Her eyes were on Fenwick, and
her young, slightly frowning face wore an expression of amusement--of
something besides, also--something puzzled and intent. It flashed upon
him that she had been there for some time, that he had been vaguely
conscious of her--that she had, in fact, been watching from a distance
the angry scene in which he had been engaged.
'Why!--whatever is the matter, Mr. Fenwick?' said the actor beside
him, startled by his look.
Fenwick made no answer, but he dropped a roll of papers he was holding
and suddenly rushed forward across the stage, through the throng of
carpenters and scene-shifters who were at work upon it. Some garden
steps and a fountain just being drawn into position came in his way;
he stumbled and fell, was conscious of two or three men coming to his
assistance, rose again, and ran on, blindly, pushing at the groups in
his way, till he ran into the arms of the stage-manager.
'Who were those ladies?--where are they?' he said, panting, and
looking round him in despair; for they had vanished, and the
stage-entrance was blocked by an outgoing stream of people.
'Don't know anything about them,' said the man, sulkily. Fenwick had
been the plague of his life in rehearsals. 'What?--you mean those two
girls? Never saw 'em before.'
'But you must know who they are--you must!' shouted Fenwick. 'What's
their name? Why did you let them go?'
'Because I had finished with them.'
The manager turned on his heel, and was about to give an order to a
workman, when Fenwick caught him by the arm.
'I implore you,' he said, in a shaking voice, his face crimson--'tell
me who they are--and where they went.'
The man looked at him astonished, but something in the artist's face
made him speak more considerately.
'I am extremely sorry, Mr. Fenwick, but I really know nothing about
them. Oh, by the way'--he fumbled in his pocket. 'Yes--one of them did
give me a card--I forgot--I never saw the name before.' He extracted
it with difficulty and handed it to Fenwick, who stood trembling from
head to foot.
Fenwick looked at it.
'Miss Larose.' Nothing else. No address.
'But the other one!--the other one!' he said, beside himself.
'I never spoke to her at all,' said his companion, whose name was
Fison. 'They came in here twenty minutes ago and asked to see me. The
door-keeper told them the rehearsal was just over and they would find
me on the stage. The lady I was talking to wished to know whether we
had all the people we wanted for the ballroom scene. Some friend with
whom she had been acting in the country had advised her to apply--'
'Acting _where_?' said Fenwick, still gripping him.
The stage-manager rubbed his nose in perplexity.
'I really can't remember. Leeds--Newcastle--Halifax--was it? It's
altogether escaped my memory.'
'For God's sake, remember!' cried Fenwick.
The stage-manager shook his head.
'I really didn't take notice. I liked the young lady very well. We got
on, as you may say, at once. I talked to her while you were discussing
over there. But I had to tell her there was no room for her--and no
more there is. Her sister--or her friend--whichever it was--was an
uncommonly pretty girl. I noticed that as she went out--which reminds
me--she asked me to tell her who you were.'
Fenwick gazed at the speaker in passionate despair.
'And you can't tell me any more--can't help me?' His voice rose again
into a shout, then failed him.
'No, I really can't,' said the other, decidedly, pulling himself away.
'You go and ask the door-keeper. Perhaps he'll know something.'
But the door-keeper knew only that he had been asked for 'Mr. Fison'
by two nice-spoken young ladies, that he had directed them where to
go, and had opened the stage-door for them. He hadn't happened to be
in his 'lodge' when they went out, and couldn't say in which direction
they had gone.
'Why, lor' bless you, sir, they come here in scores every week!'
Fenwick rushed out into the Strand, and walked from end to end of the
theatrical section of it several times, questioning the policemen on
duty. But he could discover nothing.
Then, blindly, he made his way down a narrow street to the Embankment.
There he threw himself on a bench, almost fainting, unable to stand.
What should he do? He was absolutely convinced that he had seen
Carrie--his child; his little Carrie!--his own flesh and blood. It was
her face--her eyes--her movement--changed, indeed, but perfectly to
be recognised by him, her father. And by the cruel, the monstrous
accidents of the meeting, she had been swept away from him again into
this whirlpool of London, before he had had the smallest chance of
grasping at the little form as it floated past him on this aimless
stream of things. His whole nature was in surging revolt against
life--against men's senseless theories of God and Providence. If it
should prove that he had lost all clue again to his wife and child,
he would put an end, once for all, to his share in the business--he
swore, with clenched hands, that he would. The Great Potter had made
sport of him long enough; it was time to break the cup and toss its
fragments back into the vast common heap of ruined and wasted things.
'Some to honour--and some to dishonour'--the words rang in his ears,
mingling with that deep bell of St. Paul's, whereof the echoes were
being carried up the river towards him on the light southeasterly
But first--he tried to make his mind follow out the natural
implications and consequences of what had happened. Carrie had asked
his name. But clearly, when it was given her, it had meant nothing
to her. She could not have left her father there--knowing it was her
father--without a word. No; Phoebe's first step, of course, would have
been to drop her old name, and the child would have no knowledge of
But Phoebe? If Carrie was in England, so was Phoebe. He could not
believe that she would part with the child. And supposing Carrie spoke
of the prating, haranguing fellow she had seen?--mentioned the name,
which the stage-manager had given her?--what then? Could Phoebe still
have the cruelty, the wickedness to maintain her course of action--to
keep Carrie from him? Ah! if he had been guilty towards her in the old
days, she had wrung out full payment long ago; the balance of injury
had long since dropped heavily on his side. But who could know how
she had developed?--whether towards hardness or towards repentance.
Still--to-night, probably--she would hear what and whom Carrie had
seen. Any post might bring the fruits of it. And if not--he was
not without a clue. If a girl whose name is known has been playing
recently at an English provincial theatre, it ought to be possible
somehow to recover news of her. He looked at his watch. Too late for
the lawyers. But he roused himself, hailed a cab, and went to his
club, where he wrote at length to his solicitor, describing what had
happened, and suggesting various lines of action.
Then he went home, got some charcoal and paper and by lamp-light began
to draw the face which he had seen--a very young and still plastic
face, with delicate lips open above the small teeth; and eyes--why,
they were Phoebe's eyes, of course!--no other eyes like them in the
world. He drew them with an eager hand, knowing the way of them. He
put the light--the smile--into them; a happy smile!--as of one to
whom life has been kind. No sign of fear, distress, or cringing
poverty--rather an innocent sovereignty, lovely and unashamed. Then
the brow, and the curly hair in its brown profusion; and the small
neck; and the thin, straight shoulders. He drew in the curve of the
shady hat--the knot of lace at the throat--the spare young lines of
So it emerged; and when it was done, he put it on an easel and sat
staring at it, his eyes blind with tears.
Yes, it was Carrie--he had no doubt whatever that it was Carrie.
And behind her, mingling with her image--yet distinct--a veiled,
intangible presence, stood Phoebe--Phoebe so like her, and yet so
different. But of Phoebe--still--he would not think. It was as when
a man, mortally tired, shrinks from some fierce contest of brain and
limb, which yet he knows may some day have to be faced. He put his
wife aside, and sank himself in the covetous, devouring vision of his
Next day there was great activity among the lawyers. They were
confident of recovering the clue, and if Fenwick's identification was
a just one, the search was near its end.
Only, till they really _were_ on the track, better say nothing to
Lord Findon and Madame de Pastourelles. This was the suggestion of the
Findon's solicitor, and Fenwick eagerly endorsed it.
Presently inquiry had been made from every management in London as to
the touring companies of the year; confidential agents had been sent
to every provincial town that possessed a theatre; long lists of names
had been compiled and carefully scanned. Fenwick's drawing of the girl
whom he had seen had been photographed; and some old likenesses of
Phoebe and Carrie had been reproduced and attached to it, for the
use of Messrs. Butlin's provincial correspondents. The police were
appealed to; the best private detectives to be had were employed.
In vain! The smiling child of seventeen had emerged for that one
appearance on the stage of her father's life, only, it seemed, to
vanish again for ever. No trace could be found anywhere of a 'Miss
Larose,' either as a true or a theatrical name; the photographs
suggested nothing to those who saw them; or if various hints and clues
sometimes seemed to present themselves, they led to no result.
Meanwhile, day after day, Fenwick waited on the post, hurrying for and
scanning his letters with feverish, ever-waning hope. Not a sign, not
a word from Phoebe. His heart grew fierce. There were moments when
he felt something not unlike hatred for this invisible woman, who was
still able to lay a ghostly and sinister hand upon his life. And yet,
and yet!--suppose, after all, that she were dead?
During these same weeks of torment _The Queen's Necklace_ was
produced; it was a pretentious failure, and after three weeks of
difficult existence flickered to an end. The management went
into bankruptcy, and the greater part of Fenwick's payment was
irrecoverable. He could hardly now meet his daily living expenses,
and there was an execution in his house, put in by the last firm of
Close upon this disaster came the opening of his private exhibition.
Grimly, in a kind of dogged abstraction, he went through with it.
He himself, with the help of a lad who was his man-of-all-work in
Chelsea, nailed up the draperies, hung the pictures, and issued the
invitations for the private view.
About a hundred people came to the private view. His reputation was
not yet dead, and there was much curiosity about his circumstances.
But Fenwick, looking at the scanty crowd, considering the faces that
were there and the faces that were not there, knew very well that it
could be of no practical assistance to him. Not a picture sold; and
next day there were altogether seven people in the gallery, of
whom five were the relations of men to whom he had given gratuitous
teaching at one period or other of his career.
And never, alack, in the case of any artist of talent, was there a
worse 'press' than that which dealt with his pictures on the following
morning. The most venomous article of all was the work of a man whom
Fenwick had treated with conceit and rudeness in the days of his
success. The victim now avenged himself, with the same glee which a
literary club throws into the black-balling of some evil tongue--some
too harsh and too powerful critic of the moment. 'Scamped and empty
work,' in which 'ideas not worth stating' find an expression 'not
worth criticism.' Mannerisms grown to absurdity; faults of early
training writ dismally large; vulgarity of conception and carelessness
of execution--no stone that could hurt or sting was left unflung,
and the note of meditative pity in which the article came to an end,
marked the climax of a very neat revenge. After reading it, Fenwick
felt himself artistically dead and buried.
A great silence fell upon him. He spoke to no one in the gallery, and
he avoided his club. Early in the afternoon he went to Lincoln's Inn
Fields--only to hear from the lawyers that they had done all they
could with the new scent, and it was no use pursuing it further. He
heard what they had to say in silence, and after leaving their office
he visited a shop in the Strand. Just as the light was waning, about
seven o'clock on a May evening, he found himself again in his studio.
It was now absolutely bare, save for a few empty easels, a chair
or two, and some tattered portfolios. The two men representing the
execution were in the dining-room. He could hear the voices of a
charwoman and of the lad who had helped him to arrange the gallery,
talking in the kitchen.
Fenwick locked himself into the studio. On his way thither he had
recoiled, shivering, from the empty desolation of the house. In the
general disarray of the ticketed furniture and stripped walls, all
artistic charm had disappeared. And he said to himself, with a grim
twist of the mouth, that if the house had grown ugly and commonplace,
that only made it a better setting for the ugly and commonplace thing
which he was about to do.
* * * * *
About half an hour later a boy, looking like the 'buttons' of a
lodging-house, walked up to the side entrance of Fenwick's ambitious
mansion--which possessed a kind of courtyard, and was built round two
sides of an oblong. The door was open and the charwoman just inside,
so that the boy had no occasion to ring. He carried a parcel carefully
wrapped in an old shawl.
'Is this Mr. Fenwick's?' asked the boy, consulting a dirty scrap of
'Aye,' said the woman. 'Well, who's it from? isn't there no note with
The boy replied that there was no note, and his instructions were to
'But what name am I to say?' the woman called after him as he went
down the path.
The boy shook his head.
'Don't know--give it up!' he said, impudently, and went off whistling.
'Silly lout,' said the woman, crossly, and, taking up the package,
which was not very large, she went with it to the studio, reflecting
as she went that by the feel of it it was an unframed picture, and
that if some one would only take away some of the beastly, dusty
things that were already in the house--that wouldn't, so the bailiffs
said, fetch a halfpenny--it would be better worth while than bringing
new ones where they weren't wanted.
There was at first no answer to her knock. She tried the door, and
wondered to find it locked. But presently she heard Fenwick moving
'Well, what is it?'
His voice was low and impatient.
'A parcel for you, sir.'
'Take it away.'
'Very well, sir.'
She turned obediently and was halfway down the passage which led to
the dining-room, when the studio door opened with a great crash and
Fenwick looked out.
'Bring that here. What is it?'
She retraced her steps.
'Well, it's a picture, I think, sir.'
He held out his hand for it, took it, and instantly withdrew into the
studio and again locked the door. She noticed that he seemed to
have lit one candle in the big studio, and his manner struck her as
strange. But her slow mind followed the matter no further, and she
went back to the cooking of his slender supper.
Fenwick meanwhile was standing with the parcel in his hand. At the
woman's knock he had risen from a table, where he had been writing a
letter. A black object, half-covered with a painting-rag, lay beside
'I must make haste,' he thought, 'or she will be bothering me again.'
He looked at the letter, which was still unfinished. Meanwhile he had
absently deposited the parcel on the floor, where it rested against
the leg of the table.
'Another page will finish it. Hotel Bristol, Rome--till the end of the
week?--if I only could be _sure_ that was what Butlin said!'
He paced up and down, frowning, in an impotent distress, trying to
make his brain work as usual. On his visit of the afternoon he had
asked the lawyers for the Findon's address; but his memory now was of
Suddenly he wheeled round, sat down, and took up a book which had been
lying face downwards on the table. It was the 'Memoirs of Benjamin
Haydon,' and he opened it at one of the last pages--
'About an hour after, Miss Haydon entered the painting-room, and
found her father stretched out dead, before the easel on which stood,
blood-sprinkled, his unfinished picture. A portrait of his wife stood
on a smaller easel facing his large picture.'
* * * * *
The man reading, paused.
'He had suffered much more than I,' he thought--'but his wife had
helped him--stood by him--'
And he passed on to the next page--to the clause in Haydon's will
which runs--'My dearest wife, Mary Haydon, has been a good, dear,
and affectionate wife to me--a heroine in adversity and an angel in
'And he repaid her by blowing his brains out,' thought Fenwick,
contemptuously. 'But he was mad--of course he was mad. We are all
mad--when it comes to this.'
And he turned back, as though in fascination, to the page before, to
the last entry in Haydon's Journal.
'21st.--Slept horribly. Prayed in sorrow and got
up in agitation.
'22d.--God forgive me. Amen.'
'Amen!' repeated Fenwick, aloud, as he dropped the book. The word
echoed in the empty room. He covered his eyes with his right hand,
leaning his arm on the table.
The other hand, as it fell beside him, came in contact with the
parcel which was propped against the table. His touch told him that
it contained a picture--an unframed canvas. A vague curiosity awoke in
him. He took it up, peered at the address, then began to finger with
and unwrap it.
Suddenly--he bent over it. What was it!
He tore off the shawl, and some brown paper beneath it, lifted the
thing upon the table, so that the light of the one candle fell upon
it, and held it there.
Slowly his face, which had been deeply flushed before, lost all its
colour; his jaw dropped a little.
He was staring at the picture of himself which he had painted for
Phoebe in the parlour of the Green Nab Cottage thirteen years before.
The young face, in its handsome and arrogant vigour, the gypsy-black
hair and eyes, the powerful shoulders in the blue serge coat, the
sunburnt neck exposed by the loose, turn-down collar above the
greenish tie--there they were, as he had painted them, lying once
more under his hand. The flickering light of the candle showed him his
signature and the date.
He laid it down and drew a long breath. Thrusting his hands into his
pockets, he stood staring at it, his brain, under the sharp stimulus,
beginning to work more clearly. So Phoebe, too, was alive--and in
England. The picture was her token. That was what it meant.
He went heavily to the door, unlocked it, and called. The charwoman
'Who brought this parcel?'
'A boy, sir.'
'Where's the note?--he must have brought something with it.'
'No, he didn't, sir--there was no note.'
'Don't be absurd!' cried Fenwick. 'There must have been.'
Mrs. Flint, outraged, protested that she knew what she was a-saying
of. He questioned her fiercely, but there was nothing to be got out of
her rigmarole account, which Fenwick cut short by retreating into the
studio in the middle of it.
This fresh check unhinged him altogether--seemed to make a mere fool
of him--the sport of gods and men. There he paced up and down in a
mad excitement. What in the Devil's name was the meaning of it? The
picture came from Phoebe--no one else. But it seemed she had only
sent it to him to torment him to punish him yet more? Women were the
cruellest of God's creatures. And as for himself--idiot!--if he had
only finished his business an hour ago, both she and he would have
been released by this time. He worked himself up into a wild passion
of rage, stopping every now and then to look at that ghost of his
youth, which lay on the table, propped up against some books--and once
at the reflexion of his haggard face and grey hair as he passed in
front of an old mirror on the wall.
Then suddenly the tension gave way. He sank on the chair beside the
table, hiding his face on his arms in an utter exhaustion, while yet,
through the physical weakness, something swept and vibrated, which was
in truth the onset of returning life.
As he lay there a cab drove up to the front door, and a lady dressed
in black descended from it. She rang, and Mrs. Flint appeared.
'Is Mr. Fenwick at home?'
'He is, ma'am,' said the woman, hesitating--'but he did say he wasn't
to be disturbed.'
'Will you please give him my card and say I wish to see him at once? I
have brought him an important letter.'
Mrs. Flint, wavering between her dread of Fenwick's ill-humour and the
impression produced upon her by the gentle decision of her visitor,
retreated into the house. The lady followed.
'Well, if you'll wait there, ma'am'--the charwoman opened the door of
the dismantled sitting-room--'I'll speak to Mr. Fenwick.'
She shuffled off. Eugenie de Pastourelles threw back her veil. She
had arrived only that morning in London after a night journey, and her
face showed deep lines of fatigue. But its beauty of expression had
never been more striking. Animation--joy--spoke in the eyes, quivered
in the lips. She moved restlessly up and down, holding in one hand a
parcel of letters. Once she noticed the room--the furniture ticketed
in lots--and paused in concern and pity. But the momentary cloud was
soon chased by the happiness of the thought which held her. Meanwhile
Mrs. Flint knocked at the door of the studio.
'Mr. Fenwick! Sir! There's a lady come, sir, and she wishes to speak
to you particular.'
An angry movement inside.
'I'm busy. Send her away.'
'I've got her card here, sir,' said Mrs. Flint, dropping her voice.
'It's a queer name, sir--somethin furrin--Madam somethin. She says
it's _most_ pertickler. I was to tell you she'd only got home to-day,
A sudden noise inside. The door was opened.
'Where is she? Ask her to come in.'
He himself retreated into the darkness of the studio, clinging, so
the charwoman noticed, to the back of a chair, as though for support.
Wondering 'what was up,' she clattered back again down the long
passage which led from the sitting-room to the studio.
But Eugenie had heard the opening door and came to meet her.
'Is anything wrong?' she asked, anxiously. 'Is Mr. Fenwick ill?'
'Well, you see, ma'am,' said Mrs. Flint, cautiously--'it's the
Sheriff's horficers--though they do it as kind as they can.'
Eugenie looked bewildered.
'A hexecution, ma'am,' whispered the woman as she led the way.
'Oh!' It was a cry of distress, checked by the sight of Fenwick, who
stood in the door of his studio.
'I am sorry you were kept waiting,' he said, hoarsely.
She made some commonplace reply, and they shook hands. Mrs. Flint
looked at them curiously, and withdrew again into the back premises.
Fenwick turned and walked in front of Eugenie towards the table from
which he had risen. She looked at him in sudden horror--arrested--the
words she had come to speak stifled on her lips. Then a quick impulse
made her shut the door behind her. He turned again, bewildered, and
raised his hand to his head.
'My God!' he said, in a low voice; 'I oughtn't to have let you come in
here. Go away--please go away.'
Then she saw him totter backward, raise an overcoat which hung across
the back of a chair, and throw it over something lying on the table.
Terror possessed her; his aspect was so ghastly, his movements so
strange. She flew to him, and took his hand in both hers.
'No, no--don't send me away! My friend--my dear friend--listen to me.
You look so ill--you've been in trouble! If I'd only known!
But I've thought of you always--I've prayed for you. And
listen--_listen_!--I've brought you good news.'
She paused, still holding him. Her eyes were bright with tears, but
her mouth smiled. He looked at her, trembling. Her pale charm, her
pleading grace moved him unbearably; this beauty, this tenderness--the
sudden apparition of them in this dark room--unmanned him altogether.
But she came nearer.
'We got home only this morning. It was a sudden wish of my
father's--he thought Italy wasn't suiting him. We came straight
from Rome. I wrote to you by this morning's post. Then--this
afternoon--after we'd settled my father--I drove to Lincoln's Inn
Fields. And I found them so excited--just sending off a messenger to
you. A letter had arrived by the afternoon post, an hour after you
left the office. I have it here--they trusted it to me. Oh, dear Mr.
Fenwick, listen to me! They are on the track--it's a _real_ clue this
time! Your wife has been in Canada--they know where she was three
months ago--it's only a question of time now. Oh! and they told me
about the theatre--how _wonderful_! Oh! I believe they're not far
off--know it--I feel it!'
He had fallen on his chair; she stood beside him.
'And you've been ill,' she said, sadly, 'and in great distress, I'm
afraid--about money, was it? Oh, if I'd only known! But you'll let me
make that right, won't you?--you couldn't refuse me that? And think!
you'll have them again--your wife--your little girl.'
She smiled at him, while the tears slipped down her cheeks. She
cherished his cold hands, holding them close in her warm, soft palms.
He seemed to be trying to speak. Then suddenly he disengaged himself,
rose feebly, went to the mantelpiece, lit another candle, and brought
it, holding it towards something on a chair--beckoning to her. She
went to him--perceived the unframed portrait--and cried out.
'Phoebe sent it me--just now,' he said, almost in a whisper--'without
a word--without a single word. It was left here by a boy--with no
letter--no address. Wasn't it cruel?--wasn't it horribly cruel?'
She watched him in dismay.
'Are you sure there was nothing--no letter?'
He shook his head. She released herself, took up the picture, and
examined it. Then she shook out the folds of the shawl, the fragments
of the brown paper, and still found nothing. But as she took the
candle and stooped with it to the floor, something white gleamed.
A neatly folded slip of paper had dropped among some torn letters
beneath the table. She held it up to him with a cry of delight.
He made a movement, then fell back.
'Read it, please,' he said, hoarsely, refusing it. 'There's something
wrong with my eyes.'
And he held his hands pressed to them, while she--little reluctantly,
wistfully--opened and read:
* * * * *
MY DEAR JOHN,--I have Phoebe safe. She can't write. But she sends you
this--as her sign. It's been with her all through. She knows she's
been a sinful wife. But there, it's no use writing. Besides, it makes
me cry. But come!--come soon! Your child is an angel. You'll forget
and forgive when you see her.
[Illustration: '_Be my messenger_']
I brought Phoebe here last week. Do you see the address?--it's the old
cottage! I took it with a friend--three years ago. It seemed the right
place for your poor wife--till she could make up her mind how and when
to let you know.
As to how _I_ came to know--we'll tell you all that.
Carrie knows nothing yet. I keep thinking of the first look in her
eyes! Come soon!
Ever your affectionate old friend,
There was silence. Eugenie had read the letter in a soft voice that
trembled. She looked up. Fenwick was staring straight before him, and
she saw him shudder.
'I know it's horrible,' he said, in a low voice--'and cowardly--but I
feel as if I couldn't face it--I couldn't bear it.'
And he began feebly to pace to and fro, looking like an old,
grey-haired man in the dim grotesqueness of the light. Eugenie
understood. She felt, with mingled dread and pity, that she was in the
presence of a weakness which represented far more than the immediate
emotion; was the culmination, indeed, of a long, disintegrating
She hesitated--moved--wavered--then took courage again.
'Come and sit down,' she said, gently.
And, going up to him, she took him by the arm and led him back to his
He sank upon it, his eyes hanging on her. She stooped over him.
'Shall I,' she said, uncertainly--'shall I--go first? Oh, I _oughtn't_
to go! Nobody ought to interfere--between husband and wife. But if you
wish it--if I could do any good--'
Her eyes sought the answer of his.
Her face, framed in the folds of her black veil, shone in the
candle-light; her voice was humble, yet brave.
The silence continued a moment. Then his lips moved.
'Be my messenger!' he said, just breathing it.
She made a sign of assent. And he, feebly lifting her hands, brought
them to his lips. Close to them--unseen by her--for the moment
unremembered by him--lay the revolver with which he had meant to take
his life--and the letter in which he had bid her a last farewell.
Great Langdale was once more in spring. After the long quiet of the
winter, during which these remoter valleys of the Lakes resume their
primitive and self-dependent life, there were now a few early tourists
in the two Dungeon Ghyll hotels, and the road traffic had begun to
revive. Phoebe Fenwick, waiting and listening for the post in an upper
room of Green Nab Cottage, ran hurriedly to the window several times
in vain, drawn by the sound of wheels. The cart which clattered past
was not that which bore Her Majesty's mails.
At the third of these false alarms she lingered beside the open
casement window, looking out into the valley. It was a very weary
woman who stood thus--motionless and drooping; a woman so tired, so
conscious of wasted life and happiness, that although expectation held
her in a grip of torture, there was in it little or nothing of hope.
Twelve years since she had last looked on those twin peaks, those
bare fields and winding river! Twelve years! Time, the inexorable, had
dealt with her, and not softly. All that rounded grace which Fenwick
had once loved to draw had dropped from her, as the bloom drops from
a wild cherry in the night. Phoebe was now thirty-five--close on
thirty-six; and twelve years of hard work, joyless struggle, and
pursuing remorse had left upon her indelible marks. She had grown
excessively thin, and lines of restlessness, of furtive pain and
suspicion, had graven themselves, delicately, irrevocably, about
her eyes and mouth, on her broad brow and childish neck. There were
hollows in the cheeks, the cutting of the face seemed to be ruder and
the skin browner than of old. Nevertheless, the leanness of the face
was that of energy, not that of emaciation. It pointed to life in
the open air, a strenuous physical life; and, but for the look
of fretting, of ceaseless and troubled longing with which it was
associated, it would rather have given beauty than taken it away.
Her eyes were more astonishing than ever; but there was a touch of
wildness in them, and they were grown, in truth, too big and staring
for the dwindled face. A pathetic face!--as of one in whom the impulse
to weep is always present, yet for ever stifled. It had none of that
noble intimacy with sorrow which so often dignifies a woman's whole
aspect; it spoke rather of the painful, struggling, desiring will,
the will of passion and regret, the will which fights equally with the
past and with the future, and is, for Buddhist and Christian alike,
the torment of existence.
Again a sound of wheels drew her eyes to the road. But it was only the
Hawkshead butcher going his rounds. He stopped below the cottage,
and Miss Anna's servant went out to him. Phoebe sighed afresh in
disappointment, her ears still strained the while to catch the first
sound of that primitive horn, wherewith the postman in his cart, as
he mounts the Langdale Valley, summons the dwellers in the scattered
farms and cottages to come and take their letters.
But very likely there would be no letter at all. This was Thursday.
On Saturday Miss Anna had met her and Carrie at Windermere, and had
brought them to the old place. Sunday and Monday had been filled
with agitated consultations. Then, on Tuesday, a neighbour living in
Elterwater, and an old friend of Miss Anna's, had gone up to London,
bearing with her a parcel addressed to 'John Fenwick, Constable
House, East Road, Chelsea,' which she had promised to deliver, either
personally or through one of the servants of the boarding-house
whither she was bound.
This lady must have delivered it on Wednesday--some time on
Wednesday--she would not pledge herself. But probably not till the
afternoon or evening. If so, there could be no letter. But if not a
letter, a telegram; unless, indeed, John were determined not to
take her back; unless her return were in his eyes a mere trouble and
burden; unless they were to be finally and for ever separated. Then he
would take his time--and write.
But--_Carrie_! Phoebe resumed her wandering from room to room and
window to window, her mind deafened as it were by the rush of her own
thoughts--unable to rest for a moment. He must want to see Carrie! And
that seeing must and should carry with it at least one interview with
his wife, at least the permission to tell her story, face to face.
Was it only a week since, under a sudden impulse, she had written to
Miss Anna?--from the Surrey lodging, where for nearly two months she
had hidden herself after their landing in England. Each day since
then had been at once the longest and the shortest she had ever known.
Every emotion of which she was capable had been roused into fresh
life, crowding the hours; while at the same time each day had flown
on wings of flame, bringing the moment--so awful, yet so desired--when
she should see John's face again. After the slow years of
self-inflicted exile; after the wavering weeks and months of
repentance, doubt, and changing resolution, life had suddenly become
breathless--a hurrying rush down some Avernian descent, towards
crashing pain and tumult. For how could it end well? She was no silly
girl to suppose that such things can be made right again with a few
soft words and a kiss.
Idly her mind wandered through the past; through the years of dumb,
helpless bitterness, when she would have given the world to undo what
she had done, and could see no way, consistently with the beliefs
which still held her; and through the first hours of sharp reaction,
produced partly by events in her own history and partly by fresh and
unexpected information. She had thought of John as hard, prosperous,
and cruel; removed altogether out of her social ken, a rich and
fashionable gentleman who might have and be what he would. The London
letter of a Canadian weekly paper had given her the news of his
election to the Academy. Then, from the same source, she had learnt
of the quarrel, the scene with the Hanging Committee, the noisy
resignation, and all the controversy surrounding it. She read and
re-read every line of this scanty news, pondering and worrying over
it. How like John, to ruin himself by these tempers! And yet, of
course, he had been abominably treated!--any one could see that. From
her anger and concern sprang new growths of feeling in a softened
heart. If she had only been there!
Well!--what did it matter? The great lady who advised and patronised
him no doubt had been there. If she had not been able to smooth out
the tangle, what chance would his despised wife have had with him?
Then--last fall--there had come to the farm in the green Ontario
country, a young artist, sent out on a commission from an English
publishing firm who were producing a great illustrated book on Canada.
The son of the house, who was at college in Montreal, had met him, and
made friends with him; had brought him home to draw the farm, and the
apple-orchards, heavy with fruit. And there, night after night, he had
sat talking in the rich violet dusk; talking to this sad-faced Mrs.
Wilson, this Englishwoman, who understood his phrases and his ways,
and had been in contact with artists in her youth.
John Fenwick! Why, of course, he knew all about John Fenwick!
Quarrelsome, clever chap! Had gone up like a rocket, and was now
nowhere. What call had he to quarrel with the Academy? The Academy had
treated him handsomely enough--much better than it had treated a lot
of other fellows. The public wouldn't stand his airs and his violence.
He wasn't big enough. A Whistler might be insolent, and gain by it;
but the smaller men must keep civil tongues in their heads. Oh, yes,
talent of course--enormous talent!--but a poor early training, and
a man wants all his time to get the better of _that_--instead of
spouting and scribbling all over the place. No--John Fenwick would
do nothing more of importance. Mrs. Wilson might take his word for
that--sorry if he had said anything unpleasant of a friend of hers.
General report, besides, made him an unhappy, moody kind of fellow,
living alone, with very few friends, taking nobody's advice--and as
obstinate as a pig about his work.
So said this young Daniel-come-to-judgement, between the whiffs of his
pipe, in the Canadian farm-garden, while the darkness came down and
hid the face of the silent woman beside him.
And so Remorse, and anguished Pity, sprang up beside her--grey and
stern comrades--and she walked between them night and day. John, a
lonely failure in England--poor and despised. And she, an exile here,
with her child. And this dumb, irrevocable Time, on which she had
stamped her will, so easily, so fatally, flowing on the while, year by
year, towards Death and the End!--and these voices of 'Too late!' in
But still the impulse of return grew--mysteriously it
seemed--independently. And other facts and experiences came strangely
to its aid. In the language of Evangelicalism which had been natural
to her youth, Phoebe felt now, as she looked back, that she had been
wonderfully 'led.' It was this sense, indeed, which had softened
the humiliation and determined the actual steps of her homeward
pilgrimage; she seemed to have been yielding to an actual external
force in what she had done.
For it had not been easy, this second uprooting. Carrie, especially,
had had her own reasons for making it difficult. And Phoebe had never
yet had the courage to tell her the truth. She had spoken vaguely of
'business' obliging them to take a journey to England--had asked the
child to trust her--and taken refuge in tears and depression from
Carrie's objections. In consequence, she had seen the first shadow
descend on Carrie's youth; she had been conscious of the first breach
between herself and her daughter.
In a sudden agony, she walked back to the window in her own room,
looking this time, not towards Elterwater and the post, but towards
Dungeon Ghyll and the wild upper valley.
Anna Mason had taken Carrie for a walk. At that moment, on Phoebe's
prayer, she was telling the child the story of her father and mother.
Phoebe's eyes filled. She was, in truth, waiting for judgement--at
the hands of her husband--and her daughter. Ever since their flight
together, Carrie had been taught to regard her father as dead. As
the years went on, 'poor papa' was represented to her by a few fading
memories, by the unframed picture which her mother kept jealously
locked from sight, which she had been only once or twice allowed to
And now? Phoebe recalled the anguish of that night, when Carrie,
returning to her mother in Surrey, from a day's expedition to town,
with a Canadian friend, described the queer, passionate, grey-haired
man--'Mr. Fenwick, they called him'--whom she had seen directing
the rehearsal at the Falcon Theatre. Phoebe had a vision of herself
leaning back in her chair, wrapped in shawls, feigning the exhaustion
and blindness of nervous headache--while the child gave her laughing
account of the scene, in the intervals of kissing and comforting 'poor
And that drive from Windermere, beside Miss Anna, with Carrie
opposite!--Carrie excitable, happy, talkative--her father's child--now
absorbed in a natural delight, exclaiming at the beauty of the
mountains, the trees, the river, catching her mother's hand, to make
her smile too, and then in a sudden shyness and hardness, looking
with her deep jealous eyes at the unknown friend opposite, wondering
clearly what it all meant, resenting that she was told so little, and
too proud to insist on more--or, perhaps, afraid to pierce what might
turn out to be the unhappy or shameful secret of their life?
Yet Phoebe had tried to make it plausible. They were going to stay