Part 6 out of 15
sole possible judge of painting has anything but its impertinence to
A day or two later Philip and Lawson gave their party. Cronshaw, making an
exception in their favour, agreed to eat their food; and Miss Chalice
offered to come and cook for them. She took no interest in her own sex and
declined the suggestion that other girls should be asked for her sake.
Clutton, Flanagan, Potter, and two others made up the party. Furniture was
scarce, so the model stand was used as a table, and the guests were to sit
on portmanteaux if they liked, and if they didn't on the floor. The feast
consisted of a pot-au-feu, which Miss Chalice had made, of a leg of
mutton roasted round the corner and brought round hot and savoury (Miss
Chalice had cooked the potatoes, and the studio was redolent of the
carrots she had fried; fried carrots were her specialty); and this was to
be followed by poires flambees, pears with burning brandy, which
Cronshaw had volunteered to make. The meal was to finish with an enormous
fromage de Brie, which stood near the window and added fragrant odours
to all the others which filled the studio. Cronshaw sat in the place of
honour on a Gladstone bag, with his legs curled under him like a Turkish
bashaw, beaming good-naturedly on the young people who surrounded him.
From force of habit, though the small studio with the stove lit was very
hot, he kept on his great-coat, with the collar turned up, and his bowler
hat: he looked with satisfaction on the four large fiaschi of Chianti
which stood in front of him in a row, two on each side of a bottle of
whiskey; he said it reminded him of a slim fair Circassian guarded by four
corpulent eunuchs. Hayward in order to put the rest of them at their ease
had clothed himself in a tweed suit and a Trinity Hall tie. He looked
grotesquely British. The others were elaborately polite to him, and during
the soup they talked of the weather and the political situation. There was
a pause while they waited for the leg of mutton, and Miss Chalice lit a
"Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair," she said suddenly.
With an elegant gesture she untied a ribbon so that her tresses fell over
her shoulders. She shook her head.
"I always feel more comfortable with my hair down."
With her large brown eyes, thin, ascetic face, her pale skin, and broad
forehead, she might have stepped out of a picture by Burne-Jones. She had
long, beautiful hands, with fingers deeply stained by nicotine. She wore
sweeping draperies, mauve and green. There was about her the romantic air
of High Street, Kensington. She was wantonly aesthetic; but she was an
excellent creature, kind and good natured; and her affectations were but
skin-deep. There was a knock at the door, and they all gave a shout of
exultation. Miss Chalice rose and opened. She took the leg of mutton and
held it high above her, as though it were the head of John the Baptist on
a platter; and, the cigarette still in her mouth, advanced with solemn,
"Hail, daughter of Herodias," cried Cronshaw.
The mutton was eaten with gusto, and it did one good to see what a hearty
appetite the pale-faced lady had. Clutton and Potter sat on each side of
her, and everyone knew that neither had found her unduly coy. She grew
tired of most people in six weeks, but she knew exactly how to treat
afterwards the gentlemen who had laid their young hearts at her feet. She
bore them no ill-will, though having loved them she had ceased to do so,
and treated them with friendliness but without familiarity. Now and then
she looked at Lawson with melancholy eyes. The poires flambees were a
great success, partly because of the brandy, and partly because Miss
Chalice insisted that they should be eaten with the cheese.
"I don't know whether it's perfectly delicious, or whether I'm just going
to vomit," she said, after she had thoroughly tried the mixture.
Coffee and cognac followed with sufficient speed to prevent any untoward
consequence, and they settled down to smoke in comfort. Ruth Chalice, who
could do nothing that was not deliberately artistic, arranged herself in
a graceful attitude by Cronshaw and just rested her exquisite head on his
shoulder. She looked into the dark abyss of time with brooding eyes, and
now and then with a long meditative glance at Lawson she sighed deeply.
Then came the summer, and restlessness seized these young people. The blue
skies lured them to the sea, and the pleasant breeze sighing through the
leaves of the plane-trees on the boulevard drew them towards the country.
Everyone made plans for leaving Paris; they discussed what was the most
suitable size for the canvases they meant to take; they laid in stores of
panels for sketching; they argued about the merits of various places in
Brittany. Flanagan and Potter went to Concarneau; Mrs. Otter and her
mother, with a natural instinct for the obvious, went to Pont-Aven; Philip
and Lawson made up their minds to go to the forest of Fontainebleau, and
Miss Chalice knew of a very good hotel at Moret where there was lots of
stuff to paint; it was near Paris, and neither Philip nor Lawson was
indifferent to the railway fare. Ruth Chalice would be there, and Lawson
had an idea for a portrait of her in the open air. Just then the Salon was
full of portraits of people in gardens, in sunlight, with blinking eyes
and green reflections of sunlit leaves on their faces. They asked Clutton
to go with them, but he preferred spending the summer by himself. He had
just discovered Cezanne, and was uger to go to Provence; he wanted heavy
skies from which the hot blue seemed to drip like beads of sweat, and
broad white dusty roads, and pale roofs out of which the sun had burnt the
colour, and olive trees gray with heat.
The day before they were to start, after the morning class, Philip,
putting his things together, spoke to Fanny Price.
"I'm off tomorrow," he said cheerfully.
"Off where?" she said quickly. "You're not going away?" Her face fell.
"I'm going away for the summer. Aren't you?"
"No, I'm staying in Paris. I thought you were going to stay too. I was
She stopped and shrugged her shoulders.
"But won't it be frightfully hot here? It's awfully bad for you."
"Much you care if it's bad for me. Where are you going?"
"Chalice is going there. You're not going with her?"
"Lawson and I are going. And she's going there too. I don't know that
we're actually going together."
She gave a low guttural sound, and her large face grew dark and red.
"How filthy! I thought you were a decent fellow. You were about the only
one here. She's been with Clutton and Potter and Flanagan, even with old
Foinet--that's why he takes so much trouble about her--and now two of you,
you and Lawson. It makes me sick."
"Oh, what nonsense! She's a very decent sort. One treats her just as if
she were a man."
"Oh, don't speak to me, don't speak to me."
"But what can it matter to you?" asked Philip. "It's really no business of
yours where I spend my summer."
"I was looking forward to it so much," she gasped, speaking it seemed
almost to herself. "I didn't think you had the money to go away, and there
wouldn't have been anyone else here, and we could have worked together,
and we'd have gone to see things." Then her thoughts flung back to Ruth
Chalice. "The filthy beast," she cried. "She isn't fit to speak to."
Philip looked at her with a sinking heart. He was not a man to think girls
were in love with him; he was too conscious of his deformity, and he felt
awkward and clumsy with women; but he did not know what else this outburst
could mean. Fanny Price, in the dirty brown dress, with her hair falling
over her face, sloppy, untidy, stood before him; and tears of anger rolled
down her cheeks. She was repellent. Philip glanced at the door,
instinctively hoping that someone would come in and put an end to the
"I'm awfully sorry," he said.
"You're just the same as all of them. You take all you can get, and you
don't even say thank you. I've taught you everything you know. No one else
would take any trouble with you. Has Foinet ever bothered about you? And
I can tell you this--you can work here for a thousand years and you'll
never do any good. You haven't got any talent. You haven't got any
originality. And it's not only me--they all say it. You'll never be a
painter as long as you live."
"That is no business of yours either, is it?" said Philip, flushing.
"Oh, you think it's only my temper. Ask Clutton, ask Lawson, ask Chalice.
Never, never, never. You haven't got it in you."
Philip shrugged his shoulders and walked out. She shouted after him.
"Never, never, never."
Moret was in those days an old-fashioned town of one street at the edge of
the forest of Fontainebleau, and the Ecu d'Or was a hotel which still
had about it the decrepit air of the Ancien Regime. It faced the winding
river, the Loing; and Miss Chalice had a room with a little terrace
overlooking it, with a charming view of the old bridge and its fortified
gateway. They sat here in the evenings after dinner, drinking coffee,
smoking, and discussing art. There ran into the river, a little way off,
a narrow canal bordered by poplars, and along the banks of this after
their day's work they often wandered. They spent all day painting. Like
most of their generation they were obsessed by the fear of the
picturesque, and they turned their backs on the obvious beauty of the town
to seek subjects which were devoid of a prettiness they despised. Sisley
and Monet had painted the canal with its poplars, and they felt a desire
to try their hands at what was so typical of France; but they were
frightened of its formal beauty, and set themselves deliberately to avoid
it. Miss Chalice, who had a clever dexterity which impressed Lawson
notwithstanding his contempt for feminine art, started a picture in which
she tried to circumvent the commonplace by leaving out the tops of the
trees; and Lawson had the brilliant idea of putting in his foreground a
large blue advertisement of chocolat Menier in order to emphasise his
abhorrence of the chocolate box.
Philip began now to paint in oils. He experienced a thrill of delight when
first he used that grateful medium. He went out with Lawson in the morning
with his little box and sat by him painting a panel; it gave him so much
satisfaction that he did not realise he was doing no more than copy; he
was so much under his friend's influence that he saw only with his eyes.
Lawson painted very low in tone, and they both saw the emerald of the
grass like dark velvet, while the brilliance of the sky turned in their
hands to a brooding ultramarine. Through July they had one fine day after
another; it was very hot; and the heat, searing Philip's heart, filled him
with languor; he could not work; his mind was eager with a thousand
thoughts. Often he spent the mornings by the side of the canal in the
shade of the poplars, reading a few lines and then dreaming for half an
hour. Sometimes he hired a rickety bicycle and rode along the dusty road
that led to the forest, and then lay down in a clearing. His head was full
of romantic fancies. The ladies of Watteau, gay and insouciant, seemed to
wander with their cavaliers among the great trees, whispering to one
another careless, charming things, and yet somehow oppressed by a nameless
They were alone in the hotel but for a fat Frenchwoman of middle age, a
Rabelaisian figure with a broad, obscene laugh. She spent the day by the
river patiently fishing for fish she never caught, and Philip sometimes
went down and talked to her. He found out that she had belonged to a
profession whose most notorious member for our generation was Mrs. Warren,
and having made a competence she now lived the quiet life of the
bourgeoise. She told Philip lewd stories.
"You must go to Seville," she said--she spoke a little broken English.
"The most beautiful women in the world."
She leered and nodded her head. Her triple chin, her large belly, shook
with inward laughter.
It grew so hot that it was almost impossible to sleep at night. The heat
seemed to linger under the trees as though it were a material thing. They
did not wish to leave the starlit night, and the three of them would sit
on the terrace of Ruth Chalice's room, silent, hour after hour, too tired
to talk any more, but in voluptuous enjoyment of the stillness. They
listened to the murmur of the river. The church clock struck one and two
and sometimes three before they could drag themselves to bed. Suddenly
Philip became aware that Ruth Chalice and Lawson were lovers. He divined
it in the way the girl looked at the young painter, and in his air of
possession; and as Philip sat with them he felt a kind of effluence
surrounding them, as though the air were heavy with something strange. The
revelation was a shock. He had looked upon Miss Chalice as a very good
fellow and he liked to talk to her, but it had never seemed to him
possible to enter into a closer relationship. One Sunday they had all gone
with a tea-basket into the forest, and when they came to a glade which was
suitably sylvan, Miss Chalice, because it was idyllic, insisted on taking
off her shoes and stockings. It would have been very charming only her
feet were rather large and she had on both a large corn on the third toe.
Philip felt it made her proceeding a little ridiculous. But now he looked
upon her quite differently; there was something softly feminine in her
large eyes and her olive skin; he felt himself a fool not to have seen
that she was attractive. He thought he detected in her a touch of contempt
for him, because he had not had the sense to see that she was there, in
his way, and in Lawson a suspicion of superiority. He was envious of
Lawson, and he was jealous, not of the individual concerned, but of his
love. He wished that he was standing in his shoes and feeling with his
heart. He was troubled, and the fear seized him that love would pass him
by. He wanted a passion to seize him, he wanted to be swept off his feet
and borne powerless in a mighty rush he cared not whither. Miss Chalice
and Lawson seemed to him now somehow different, and the constant
companionship with them made him restless. He was dissatisfied with
himself. Life was not giving him what he wanted, and he had an uneasy
feeling that he was losing his time.
The stout Frenchwoman soon guessed what the relations were between the
couple, and talked of the matter to Philip with the utmost frankness.
"And you," she said, with the tolerant smile of one who had fattened on
the lust of her fellows, "have you got a petite amie?"
"No," said Philip, blushing.
"And why not? C'est de votre age."
He shrugged his shoulders. He had a volume of Verlaine in his hands, and
he wandered off. He tried to read, but his passion was too strong. He
thought of the stray amours to which he had been introduced by Flanagan,
the sly visits to houses in a cul-de-sac, with the drawing-room in
Utrecht velvet, and the mercenary graces of painted women. He shuddered.
He threw himself on the grass, stretching his limbs like a young animal
freshly awaked from sleep; and the rippling water, the poplars gently
tremulous in the faint breeze, the blue sky, were almost more than he
could bear. He was in love with love. In his fancy he felt the kiss of
warm lips on his, and around his neck the touch of soft hands. He imagined
himself in the arms of Ruth Chalice, he thought of her dark eyes and the
wonderful texture of her skin; he was mad to have let such a wonderful
adventure slip through his fingers. And if Lawson had done it why should
not he? But this was only when he did not see her, when he lay awake at
night or dreamed idly by the side of the canal; when he saw her he felt
suddenly quite different; he had no desire to take her in his arms, and he
could not imagine himself kissing her. It was very curious. Away from her
he thought her beautiful, remembering only her magnificent eyes and the
creamy pallor of her face; but when he was with her he saw only that she
was flat-chested and that her teeth were slightly decayed; he could not
forget the corns on her toes. He could not understand himself. Would he
always love only in absence and be prevented from enjoying anything when
he had the chance by that deformity of vision which seemed to exaggerate
He was not sorry when a change in the weather, announcing the definite end
of the long summer, drove them all back to Paris.
When Philip returned to Amitrano's he found that Fanny Price was no longer
working there. She had given up the key of her locker. He asked Mrs. Otter
whether she knew what had become of her; and Mrs. Otter, with a shrug of
the shoulders, answered that she had probably gone back to England. Philip
was relieved. He was profoundly bored by her ill-temper. Moreover she
insisted on advising him about his work, looked upon it as a slight when
he did not follow her precepts, and would not understand that he felt
himself no longer the duffer he had been at first. Soon he forgot all
about her. He was working in oils now and he was full of enthusiasm. He
hoped to have something done of sufficient importance to send to the
following year's Salon. Lawson was painting a portrait of Miss Chalice.
She was very paintable, and all the young men who had fallen victims to
her charm had made portraits of her. A natural indolence, joined with a
passion for picturesque attitude, made her an excellent sitter; and she
had enough technical knowledge to offer useful criticisms. Since her
passion for art was chiefly a passion to live the life of artists, she was
quite content to neglect her own work. She liked the warmth of the studio,
and the opportunity to smoke innumerable cigarettes; and she spoke in a
low, pleasant voice of the love of art and the art of love. She made no
clear distinction between the two.
Lawson was painting with infinite labour, working till he could hardly
stand for days and then scraping out all he had done. He would have
exhausted the patience of anyone but Ruth Chalice. At last he got into a
"The only thing is to take a new canvas and start fresh," he said. "I know
exactly what I want now, and it won't take me long."
Philip was present at the time, and Miss Chalice said to him:
"Why don't you paint me too? You'll be able to learn a lot by watching Mr.
It was one of Miss Chalice's delicacies that she always addressed her
lovers by their surnames.
"I should like it awfully if Lawson wouldn't mind."
"I don't care a damn," said Lawson.
It was the first time that Philip set about a portrait, and he began with
trepidation but also with pride. He sat by Lawson and painted as he saw
him paint. He profited by the example and by the advice which both Lawson
and Miss Chalice freely gave him. At last Lawson finished and invited
Clutton in to criticise. Clutton had only just come back to Paris. From
Provence he had drifted down to Spain, eager to see Velasquez at Madrid,
and thence he had gone to Toledo. He stayed there three months, and he was
returned with a name new to the young men: he had wonderful things to say
of a painter called El Greco, who it appeared could only be studied in
"Oh yes, I know about him," said Lawson, "he's the old master whose
distinction it is that he painted as badly as the moderns."
Clutton, more taciturn than ever, did not answer, but he looked at Lawson
with a sardonic air.
"Are you going to show us the stuff you've brought back from Spain?" asked
"I didn't paint in Spain, I was too busy."
"What did you do then?"
"I thought things out. I believe I'm through with the Impressionists; I've
got an idea they'll seem very thin and superficial in a few years. I want
to make a clean sweep of everything I've learnt and start fresh. When I
came back I destroyed everything I'd painted. I've got nothing in my
studio now but an easel, my paints, and some clean canvases."
"What are you going to do?"
"I don't know yet. I've only got an inkling of what I want."
He spoke slowly, in a curious manner, as though he were straining to hear
something which was only just audible. There seemed to be a mysterious
force in him which he himself did not understand, but which was struggling
obscurely to find an outlet. His strength impressed you. Lawson dreaded
the criticism he asked for and had discounted the blame he thought he
might get by affecting a contempt for any opinion of Clutton's; but Philip
knew there was nothing which would give him more pleasure than Clutton's
praise. Clutton looked at the portrait for some time in silence, then
glanced at Philip's picture, which was standing on an easel.
"What's that?" he asked.
"Oh, I had a shot at a portrait too."
"The sedulous ape," he murmured.
He turned away again to Lawson's canvas. Philip reddened but did not
"Well, what d'you think of it?" asked Lawson at length.
"The modelling's jolly good," said Clutton. "And I think it's very well
"D'you think the values are all right?"
Lawson smiled with delight. He shook himself in his clothes like a wet
"I say, I'm jolly glad you like it."
"I don't. I don't think it's of the smallest importance."
Lawson's face fell, and he stared at Clutton with astonishment: he had no
notion what he meant, Clutton had no gift of expression in words, and he
spoke as though it were an effort. What he had to say was confused,
halting, and verbose; but Philip knew the words which served as the text
of his rambling discourse. Clutton, who never read, had heard them first
from Cronshaw; and though they had made small impression, they had
remained in his memory; and lately, emerging on a sudden, had acquired the
character of a revelation: a good painter had two chief objects to paint,
namely, man and the intention of his soul. The Impressionists had been
occupied with other problems, they had painted man admirably, but they had
troubled themselves as little as the English portrait painters of the
eighteenth century with the intention of his soul.
"But when you try to get that you become literary," said Lawson,
interrupting. "Let me paint the man like Manet, and the intention of his
soul can go to the devil."
"That would be all very well if you could beat Manet at his own game, but
you can't get anywhere near him. You can't feed yourself on the day before
yesterday, it's ground which has been swept dry. You must go back. It's
when I saw the Grecos that I felt one could get something more out of
portraits than we knew before."
"It's just going back to Ruskin," cried Lawson.
"No--you see, he went for morality: I don't care a damn for morality:
teaching doesn't come in, ethics and all that, but passion and emotion.
The greatest portrait painters have painted both, man and the intention of
his soul; Rembrandt and El Greco; it's only the second-raters who've only
painted man. A lily of the valley would be lovely even if it didn't smell,
but it's more lovely because it has perfume. That picture"--he pointed to
Lawson's portrait--"well, the drawing's all right and so's the modelling
all right, but just conventional; it ought to be drawn and modelled so
that you know the girl's a lousy slut. Correctness is all very well: El
Greco made his people eight feet high because he wanted to express
something he couldn't get any other way."
"Damn El Greco," said Lawson, "what's the good of jawing about a man when
we haven't a chance of seeing any of his work?"
Clutton shrugged his shoulders, smoked a cigarette in silence, and went
away. Philip and Lawson looked at one another.
"There's something in what he says," said Philip.
Lawson stared ill-temperedly at his picture.
"How the devil is one to get the intention of the soul except by painting
exactly what one sees?"
About this time Philip made a new friend. On Monday morning models
assembled at the school in order that one might be chosen for the week,
and one day a young man was taken who was plainly not a model by
profession. Philip's attention was attracted by the manner in which he
held himself: when he got on to the stand he stood firmly on both feet,
square, with clenched hands, and with his head defiantly thrown forward;
the attitude emphasised his fine figure; there was no fat on him, and his
muscles stood out as though they were of iron. His head, close-cropped,
was well-shaped, and he wore a short beard; he had large, dark eyes and
heavy eyebrows. He held the pose hour after hour without appearance of
fatigue. There was in his mien a mixture of shame and of determination.
His air of passionate energy excited Philip's romantic imagination, and
when, the sitting ended, he saw him in his clothes, it seemed to him that
he wore them as though he were a king in rags. He was uncommunicative, but
in a day or two Mrs. Otter told Philip that the model was a Spaniard and
that he had never sat before.
"I suppose he was starving," said Philip.
"Have you noticed his clothes? They're quite neat and decent, aren't
It chanced that Potter, one of the Americans who worked at Amitrano's, was
going to Italy for a couple of months, and offered his studio to Philip.
Philip was pleased. He was growing a little impatient of Lawson's
peremptory advice and wanted to be by himself. At the end of the week he
went up to the model and on the pretence that his drawing was not finished
asked whether he would come and sit to him one day.
"I'm not a model," the Spaniard answered. "I have other things to do next
"Come and have luncheon with me now, and we'll talk about it," said
Philip, and as the other hesitated, he added with a smile: "It won't hurt
you to lunch with me."
With a shrug of the shoulders the model consented, and they went off to a
cremerie. The Spaniard spoke broken French, fluent but difficult to
follow, and Philip managed to get on well enough with him. He found out
that he was a writer. He had come to Paris to write novels and kept
himself meanwhile by all the expedients possible to a penniless man; he
gave lessons, he did any translations he could get hold of, chiefly
business documents, and at last had been driven to make money by his fine
figure. Sitting was well paid, and what he had earned during the last week
was enough to keep him for two more; he told Philip, amazed, that he could
live easily on two francs a day; but it filled him with shame that he was
obliged to show his body for money, and he looked upon sitting as a
degradation which only hunger could excuse. Philip explained that he did
not want him to sit for the figure, but only for the head; he wished to do
a portrait of him which he might send to the next Salon.
"But why should you want to paint me?" asked the Spaniard.
Philip answered that the head interested him, he thought he could do a
"I can't afford the time. I grudge every minute that I have to rob from my
"But it would only be in the afternoon. I work at the school in the
morning. After all, it's better to sit to me than to do translations of
There were legends in the Latin quarter of a time when students of
different countries lived together intimately, but this was long since
passed, and now the various nations were almost as much separated as in an
Oriental city. At Julian's and at the Beaux Arts a French student was
looked upon with disfavour by his fellow-countrymen when he consorted with
foreigners, and it was difficult for an Englishman to know more than quite
superficially any native inhabitants of the city in which he dwelt.
Indeed, many of the students after living in Paris for five years knew no
more French than served them in shops and lived as English a life as
though they were working in South Kensington.
Philip, with his passion for the romantic, welcomed the opportunity to get
in touch with a Spaniard; he used all his persuasiveness to overcome the
"I'll tell you what I'll do," said the Spaniard at last. "I'll sit to you,
but not for money, for my own pleasure."
Philip expostulated, but the other was firm, and at length they arranged
that he should come on the following Monday at one o'clock. He gave Philip
a card on which was printed his name: Miguel Ajuria.
Miguel sat regularly, and though he refused to accept payment he borrowed
fifty francs from Philip every now and then: it was a little more
expensive than if Philip had paid for the sittings in the usual way; but
gave the Spaniard a satisfactory feeling that he was not earning his
living in a degrading manner. His nationality made Philip regard him as a
representative of romance, and he asked him about Seville and Granada,
Velasquez and Calderon. But Miguel bad no patience with the grandeur of
his country. For him, as for so many of his compatriots, France was the
only country for a man of intelligence and Paris the centre of the world.
"Spain is dead," he cried. "It has no writers, it has no art, it has
Little by little, with the exuberant rhetoric of his race, he revealed his
ambitions. He was writing a novel which he hoped would make his name. He
was under the influence of Zola, and he had set his scene in Paris. He
told Philip the story at length. To Philip it seemed crude and stupid; the
naive obscenity--c'est la vie, mon cher, c'est la vie, he cried--the
naive obscenity served only to emphasise the conventionality of the
anecdote. He had written for two years, amid incredible hardships, denying
himself all the pleasures of life which had attracted him to Paris,
fighting with starvation for art's sake, determined that nothing should
hinder his great achievement. The effort was heroic.
"But why don't you write about Spain?" cried Philip. "It would be so much
more interesting. You know the life."
"But Paris is the only place worth writing about. Paris is life."
One day he brought part of the manuscript, and in his bad French,
translating excitedly as he went along so that Philip could scarcely
understand, he read passages. It was lamentable. Philip, puzzled, looked
at the picture he was painting: the mind behind that broad brow was
trivial; and the flashing, passionate eyes saw nothing in life but the
obvious. Philip was not satisfied with his portrait, and at the end of a
sitting he nearly always scraped out what he had done. It was all very
well to aim at the intention of the soul: who could tell what that was
when people seemed a mass of contradictions? He liked Miguel, and it
distressed him to realise that his magnificent struggle was futile: he had
everything to make a good writer but talent. Philip looked at his own
work. How could you tell whether there was anything in it or whether you
were wasting your time? It was clear that the will to achieve could not
help you and confidence in yourself meant nothing. Philip thought of Fanny
Price; she had a vehement belief in her talent; her strength of will was
"If I thought I wasn't going to be really good, I'd rather give up
painting," said Philip. "I don't see any use in being a second-rate
Then one morning when he was going out, the concierge called out to him
that there was a letter. Nobody wrote to him but his Aunt Louisa and
sometimes Hayward, and this was a handwriting he did not know. The letter
was as follows:
Please come at once when you get this. I couldn't put up with it any more.
Please come yourself. I can't bear the thought that anyone else should
touch me. I want you to have everything.
I have not had anything to eat for three days.
Philip felt on a sudden sick with fear. He hurried to the house in which
she lived. He was astonished that she was in Paris at all. He had not seen
her for months and imagined she had long since returned to England. When
he arrived he asked the concierge whether she was in.
"Yes, I've not seen her go out for two days."
Philip ran upstairs and knocked at the door. There was no reply. He called
her name. The door was locked, and on bending down he found the key was in
"Oh, my God, I hope she hasn't done something awful," he cried aloud.
He ran down and told the porter that she was certainly in the room. He had
had a letter from her and feared a terrible accident. He suggested
breaking open the door. The porter, who had been sullen and disinclined to
listen, became alarmed; he could not take the responsibility of breaking
into the room; they must go for the commissaire de police. They walked
together to the bureau, and then they fetched a locksmith. Philip found
that Miss Price had not paid the last quarter's rent: on New Year's Day
she had not given the concierge the present which old-established custom
led him to regard as a right. The four of them went upstairs, and they
knocked again at the door. There was no reply. The locksmith set to work,
and at last they entered the room. Philip gave a cry and instinctively
covered his eyes with his hands. The wretched woman was hanging with a
rope round her neck, which she had tied to a hook in the ceiling fixed by
some previous tenant to hold up the curtains of the bed. She had moved her
own little bed out of the way and had stood on a chair, which had been
kicked away. it was lying on its side on the floor. They cut her down. The
body was quite cold.
The story which Philip made out in one way and another was terrible. One
of the grievances of the women-students was that Fanny Price would never
share their gay meals in restaurants, and the reason was obvious: she had
been oppressed by dire poverty. He remembered the luncheon they had eaten
together when first he came to Paris and the ghoulish appetite which had
disgusted him: he realised now that she ate in that manner because she was
ravenous. The concierge told him what her food had consisted of. A
bottle of milk was left for her every day and she brought in her own loaf
of bread; she ate half the loaf and drank half the milk at mid-day when
she came back from the school, and consumed the rest in the evening. It
was the same day after day. Philip thought with anguish of what she must
have endured. She had never given anyone to understand that she was poorer
than the rest, but it was clear that her money had been coming to an end,
and at last she could not afford to come any more to the studio. The
little room was almost bare of furniture, and there were no other clothes
than the shabby brown dress she had always worn. Philip searched among her
things for the address of some friend with whom he could communicate. He
found a piece of paper on which his own name was written a score of times.
It gave him a peculiar shock. He supposed it was true that she had loved
him; he thought of the emaciated body, in the brown dress, hanging from
the nail in the ceiling; and he shuddered. But if she had cared for him
why did she not let him help her? He would so gladly have done all he
could. He felt remorseful because he had refused to see that she looked
upon him with any particular feeling, and now these words in her letter
were infinitely pathetic: I can't bear the thought that anyone else should
touch me. She had died of starvation.
Philip found at length a letter signed: your loving brother, Albert. it
was two or three weeks old, dated from some road in Surbiton, and refused
a loan of five pounds. The writer had his wife and family to think of, he
didn't feel justified in lending money, and his advice was that Fanny
should come back to London and try to get a situation. Philip telegraphed
to Albert Price, and in a little while an answer came:
"Deeply distressed. Very awkward to leave my business. Is presence
Philip wired a succinct affirmative, and next morning a stranger presented
himself at the studio.
"My name's Price," he said, when Philip opened the door.
He was a commonish man in black with a band round his bowler hat; he had
something of Fanny's clumsy look; he wore a stubbly moustache, and had a
cockney accent. Philip asked him to come in. He cast sidelong glances
round the studio while Philip gave him details of the accident and told
him what he had done.
"I needn't see her, need I?" asked Albert Price. "My nerves aren't very
strong, and it takes very little to upset me."
He began to talk freely. He was a rubber-merchant, and he had a wife and
three children. Fanny was a governess, and he couldn't make out why she
hadn't stuck to that instead of coming to Paris.
"Me and Mrs. Price told her Paris was no place for a girl. And there's no
money in art--never 'as been."
It was plain enough that he had not been on friendly terms with his
sister, and he resented her suicide as a last injury that she had done
him. He did not like the idea that she had been forced to it by poverty;
that seemed to reflect on the family. The idea struck him that possibly
there was a more respectable reason for her act.
"I suppose she 'adn't any trouble with a man, 'ad she? You know what I
mean, Paris and all that. She might 'ave done it so as not to disgrace
Philip felt himself reddening and cursed his weakness. Price's keen little
eyes seemed to suspect him of an intrigue.
"I believe your sister to have been perfectly virtuous," he answered
acidly. "She killed herself because she was starving."
"Well, it's very 'ard on her family, Mr. Carey. She only 'ad to write to
me. I wouldn't have let my sister want."
Philip had found the brother's address only by reading the letter in which
he refused a loan; but he shrugged his shoulders: there was no use in
recrimination. He hated the little man and wanted to have done with him as
soon as possible. Albert Price also wished to get through the necessary
business quickly so that he could get back to London. They went to the
tiny room in which poor Fanny had lived. Albert Price looked at the
pictures and the furniture.
"I don't pretend to know much about art," he said. "I suppose these
pictures would fetch something, would they?"
"Nothing," said Philip.
"The furniture's not worth ten shillings."
Albert Price knew no French and Philip had to do everything. It seemed
that it was an interminable process to get the poor body safely hidden
away under ground: papers had to be obtained in one place and signed in
another; officials had to be seen. For three days Philip was occupied from
morning till night. At last he and Albert Price followed the hearse to the
cemetery at Montparnasse.
"I want to do the thing decent," said Albert Price, "but there's no use
The short ceremony was infinitely dreadful in the cold gray morning. Half
a dozen people who had worked with Fanny Price at the studio came to the
funeral, Mrs. Otter because she was massiere and thought it her duty,
Ruth Chalice because she had a kind heart, Lawson, Clutton, and Flanagan.
They had all disliked her during her life. Philip, looking across the
cemetery crowded on all sides with monuments, some poor and simple, others
vulgar, pretentious, and ugly, shuddered. It was horribly sordid. When
they came out Albert Price asked Philip to lunch with him. Philip loathed
him now and he was tired; he had not been sleeping well, for he dreamed
constantly of Fanny Price in the torn brown dress, hanging from the nail
in the ceiling; but he could not think of an excuse.
"You take me somewhere where we can get a regular slap-up lunch. All this
is the very worst thing for my nerves."
"Lavenue's is about the best place round here," answered Philip.
Albert Price settled himself on a velvet seat with a sigh of relief. He
ordered a substantial luncheon and a bottle of wine.
"Well, I'm glad that's over," he said.
He threw out a few artful questions, and Philip discovered that he was
eager to hear about the painter's life in Paris. He represented it to
himself as deplorable, but he was anxious for details of the orgies which
his fancy suggested to him. With sly winks and discreet sniggering he
conveyed that he knew very well that there was a great deal more than
Philip confessed. He was a man of the world, and he knew a thing or two.
He asked Philip whether he had ever been to any of those places in
Montmartre which are celebrated from Temple Bar to the Royal Exchange. He
would like to say he had been to the Moulin Rouge. The luncheon was very
good and the wine excellent. Albert Price expanded as the processes of
digestion went satisfactorily forwards.
"Let's 'ave a little brandy," he said when the coffee was brought, "and
blow the expense."
He rubbed his hands.
"You know, I've got 'alf a mind to stay over tonight and go back tomorrow.
What d'you say to spending the evening together?"
"If you mean you want me to take you round Montmartre tonight, I'll see
you damned," said Philip.
"I suppose it wouldn't be quite the thing."
The answer was made so seriously that Philip was tickled.
"Besides it would be rotten for your nerves," he said gravely.
Albert Price concluded that he had better go back to London by the four
o'clock train, and presently he took leave of Philip.
"Well, good-bye, old man," he said. "I tell you what, I'll try and come
over to Paris again one of these days and I'll look you up. And then we
won't 'alf go on the razzle."
Philip was too restless to work that afternoon, so he jumped on a bus and
crossed the river to see whether there were any pictures on view at
Durand-Ruel's. After that he strolled along the boulevard. It was cold and
wind-swept. People hurried by wrapped up in their coats, shrunk together
in an effort to keep out of the cold, and their faces were pinched and
careworn. It was icy underground in the cemetery at Montparnasse among all
those white tombstones. Philip felt lonely in the world and strangely
homesick. He wanted company. At that hour Cronshaw would be working, and
Clutton never welcomed visitors; Lawson was painting another portrait of
Ruth Chalice and would not care to be disturbed. He made up his mind to go
and see Flanagan. He found him painting, but delighted to throw up his
work and talk. The studio was comfortable, for the American had more money
than most of them, and warm; Flanagan set about making tea. Philip looked
at the two heads that he was sending to the Salon.
"It's awful cheek my sending anything," said Flanagan, "but I don't care,
I'm going to send. D'you think they're rotten?"
"Not so rotten as I should have expected," said Philip.
They showed in fact an astounding cleverness. The difficulties had been
avoided with skill, and there was a dash about the way in which the paint
was put on which was surprising and even attractive. Flanagan, without
knowledge or technique, painted with the loose brush of a man who has
spent a lifetime in the practice of the art.
"If one were forbidden to look at any picture for more than thirty seconds
you'd be a great master, Flanagan," smiled Philip.
These young people were not in the habit of spoiling one another with
"We haven't got time in America to spend more than thirty seconds in
looking at any picture," laughed the other.
Flanagan, though he was the most scatter-brained person in the world, had
a tenderness of heart which was unexpected and charming. Whenever anyone
was ill he installed himself as sick-nurse. His gaiety was better than any
medicine. Like many of his countrymen he had not the English dread of
sentimentality which keeps so tight a hold on emotion; and, finding
nothing absurd in the show of feeling, could offer an exuberant sympathy
which was often grateful to his friends in distress. He saw that Philip
was depressed by what he had gone through and with unaffected kindliness
set himself boisterously to cheer him up. He exaggerated the Americanisms
which he knew always made the Englishmen laugh and poured out a breathless
stream of conversation, whimsical, high-spirited, and jolly. In due course
they went out to dinner and afterwards to the Gaite Montparnasse, which
was Flanagan's favourite place of amusement. By the end of the evening he
was in his most extravagant humour. He had drunk a good deal, but any
inebriety from which he suffered was due much more to his own vivacity
than to alcohol. He proposed that they should go to the Bal Bullier, and
Philip, feeling too tired to go to bed, willingly enough consented. They
sat down at a table on the platform at the side, raised a little from the
level of the floor so that they could watch the dancing, and drank a bock.
Presently Flanagan saw a friend and with a wild shout leaped over the
barrier on to the space where they were dancing. Philip watched the
people. Bullier was not the resort of fashion. It was Thursday night and
the place was crowded. There were a number of students of the various
faculties, but most of the men were clerks or assistants in shops; they
wore their everyday clothes, ready-made tweeds or queer tail-coats, and
their hats, for they had brought them in with them, and when they danced
there was no place to put them but their heads. Some of the women looked
like servant-girls, and some were painted hussies, but for the most part
they were shop-girls. They were poorly-dressed in cheap imitation of the
fashions on the other side of the river. The hussies were got up to
resemble the music-hall artiste or the dancer who enjoyed notoriety at the
moment; their eyes were heavy with black and their cheeks impudently
scarlet. The hall was lit by great white lights, low down, which
emphasised the shadows on the faces; all the lines seemed to harden under
it, and the colours were most crude. It was a sordid scene. Philip leaned
over the rail, staring down, and he ceased to hear the music. They danced
furiously. They danced round the room, slowly, talking very little, with
all their attention given to the dance. The room was hot, and their faces
shone with sweat. it seemed to Philip that they had thrown off the guard
which people wear on their expression, the homage to convention, and he
saw them now as they really were. In that moment of abandon they were
strangely animal: some were foxy and some were wolf-like; and others had
the long, foolish face of sheep. Their skins were sallow from the
unhealthy life they led and the poor food they ate. Their features were
blunted by mean interests, and their little eyes were shifty and cunning.
There was nothing of nobility in their bearing, and you felt that for all
of them life was a long succession of petty concerns and sordid thoughts.
The air was heavy with the musty smell of humanity. But they danced
furiously as though impelled by some strange power within them, and it
seemed to Philip that they were driven forward by a rage for enjoyment.
They were seeking desperately to escape from a world of horror. The desire
for pleasure which Cronshaw said was the only motive of human action urged
them blindly on, and the very vehemence of the desire seemed to rob it of
all pleasure. They were hurried on by a great wind, helplessly, they knew
not why and they knew not whither. Fate seemed to tower above them, and
they danced as though everlasting darkness were beneath their feet. Their
silence was vaguely alarming. It was as if life terrified them and robbed
them of power of speech so that the shriek which was in their hearts died
at their throats. Their eyes were haggard and grim; and notwithstanding
the beastly lust that disfigured them, and the meanness of their faces,
and the cruelty, notwithstanding the stupidness which was worst of all,
the anguish of those fixed eyes made all that crowd terrible and pathetic.
Philip loathed them, and yet his heart ached with the infinite pity which
He took his coat from the cloak-room and went out into the bitter coldness
of the night.
Philip could not get the unhappy event out of his head. What troubled him
most was the uselessness of Fanny's effort. No one could have worked
harder than she, nor with more sincerity; she believed in herself with all
her heart; but it was plain that self-confidence meant very little, all
his friends had it, Miguel Ajuria among the rest; and Philip was shocked
by the contrast between the Spaniard's heroic endeavour and the triviality
of the thing he attempted. The unhappiness of Philip's life at school had
called up in him the power of self-analysis; and this vice, as subtle as
drug-taking, had taken possession of him so that he had now a peculiar
keenness in the dissection of his feelings. He could not help seeing that
art affected him differently from others. A fine picture gave Lawson an
immediate thrill. His appreciation was instinctive. Even Flanagan felt
certain things which Philip was obliged to think out. His own appreciation
was intellectual. He could not help thinking that if he had in him the
artistic temperament (he hated the phrase, but could discover no other) he
would feel beauty in the emotional, unreasoning way in which they did. He
began to wonder whether he had anything more than a superficial cleverness
of the hand which enabled him to copy objects with accuracy. That was
nothing. He had learned to despise technical dexterity. The important
thing was to feel in terms of paint. Lawson painted in a certain way
because it was his nature to, and through the imitativeness of a student
sensitive to every influence, there pierced individuality. Philip looked
at his own portrait of Ruth Chalice, and now that three months had passed
he realised that it was no more than a servile copy of Lawson. He felt
himself barren. He painted with the brain, and he could not help knowing
that the only painting worth anything was done with the heart.
He had very little money, barely sixteen hundred pounds, and it would be
necessary for him to practise the severest economy. He could not count on
earning anything for ten years. The history of painting was full of
artists who had earned nothing at all. He must resign himself to penury;
and it was worth while if he produced work which was immortal; but he had
a terrible fear that he would never be more than second-rate. Was it worth
while for that to give up one's youth, and the gaiety of life, and the
manifold chances of being? He knew the existence of foreign painters in
Paris enough to see that the lives they led were narrowly provincial. He
knew some who had dragged along for twenty years in the pursuit of a fame
which always escaped them till they sunk into sordidness and alcoholism.
Fanny's suicide had aroused memories, and Philip heard ghastly stories of
the way in which one person or another had escaped from despair. He
remembered the scornful advice which the master had given poor Fanny: it
would have been well for her if she had taken it and given up an attempt
which was hopeless.
Philip finished his portrait of Miguel Ajuria and made up his mind to send
it to the Salon. Flanagan was sending two pictures, and he thought he
could paint as well as Flanagan. He had worked so hard on the portrait
that he could not help feeling it must have merit. It was true that when
he looked at it he felt that there was something wrong, though he could
not tell what; but when he was away from it his spirits went up and he was
not dissatisfied. He sent it to the Salon and it was refused. He did not
mind much, since he had done all he could to persuade himself that there
was little chance that it would be taken, till Flanagan a few days later
rushed in to tell Lawson and Philip that one of his pictures was accepted.
With a blank face Philip offered his congratulations, and Flanagan was so
busy congratulating himself that he did not catch the note of irony which
Philip could not prevent from coming into his voice. Lawson,
quicker-witted, observed it and looked at Philip curiously. His own
picture was all right, he knew that a day or two before, and he was
vaguely resentful of Philip's attitude. But he was surprised at the sudden
question which Philip put him as soon as the American was gone.
"If you were in my place would you chuck the whole thing?"
"What do you mean?"
"I wonder if it's worth while being a second-rate painter. You see, in
other things, if you're a doctor or if you're in business, it doesn't
matter so much if you're mediocre. You make a living and you get along.
But what is the good of turning out second-rate pictures?"
Lawson was fond of Philip and, as soon as he thought he was seriously
distressed by the refusal of his picture, he set himself to console him.
It was notorious that the Salon had refused pictures which were afterwards
famous; it was the first time Philip had sent, and he must expect a
rebuff; Flanagan's success was explicable, his picture was showy and
superficial: it was just the sort of thing a languid jury would see merit
in. Philip grew impatient; it was humiliating that Lawson should think him
capable of being seriously disturbed by so trivial a calamity and would
not realise that his dejection was due to a deep-seated distrust of his
Of late Clutton had withdrawn himself somewhat from the group who took
their meals at Gravier's, and lived very much by himself. Flanagan said he
was in love with a girl, but Clutton's austere countenance did not suggest
passion; and Philip thought it more probable that he separated himself
from his friends so that he might grow clear with the new ideas which were
in him. But that evening, when the others had left the restaurant to go to
a play and Philip was sitting alone, Clutton came in and ordered dinner.
They began to talk, and finding Clutton more loquacious and less sardonic
than usual, Philip determined to take advantage of his good humour.
"I say I wish you'd come and look at my picture," he said. "I'd like to
know what you think of it."
"No, I won't do that."
"Why not?" asked Philip, reddening.
The request was one which they all made of one another, and no one ever
thought of refusing. Clutton shrugged his shoulders.
"People ask you for criticism, but they only want praise. Besides, what's
the good of criticism? What does it matter if your picture is good or
"It matters to me."
"No. The only reason that one paints is that one can't help it. It's a
function like any of the other functions of the body, only comparatively
few people have got it. One paints for oneself: otherwise one would commit
suicide. Just think of it, you spend God knows how long trying to get
something on to canvas, putting the sweat of your soul into it, and what
is the result? Ten to one it will be refused at the Salon; if it's
accepted, people glance at it for ten seconds as they pass; if you're
lucky some ignorant fool will buy it and put it on his walls and look at
it as little as he looks at his dining-room table. Criticism has nothing
to do with the artist. It judges objectively, but the objective doesn't
concern the artist."
Clutton put his hands over his eyes so that he might concentrate his mind
on what he wanted to say.
"The artist gets a peculiar sensation from something he sees, and is
impelled to express it and, he doesn't know why, he can only express his
feeling by lines and colours. It's like a musician; he'll read a line or
two, and a certain combination of notes presents itself to him: he doesn't
know why such and such words call forth in him such and such notes; they
just do. And I'll tell you another reason why criticism is meaningless: a
great painter forces the world to see nature as he sees it; but in the
next generation another painter sees the world in another way, and then
the public judges him not by himself but by his predecessor. So the
Barbizon people taught our fathers to look at trees in a certain manner,
and when Monet came along and painted differently, people said: But trees
aren't like that. It never struck them that trees are exactly how a
painter chooses to see them. We paint from within outwards--if we force
our vision on the world it calls us great painters; if we don't it ignores
us; but we are the same. We don't attach any meaning to greatness or to
smallness. What happens to our work afterwards is unimportant; we have got
all we could out of it while we were doing it."
There was a pause while Clutton with voracious appetite devoured the food
that was set before him. Philip, smoking a cheap cigar, observed him
closely. The ruggedness of the head, which looked as though it were carved
from a stone refractory to the sculptor's chisel, the rough mane of dark
hair, the great nose, and the massive bones of the jaw, suggested a man of
strength; and yet Philip wondered whether perhaps the mask concealed a
strange weakness. Clutton's refusal to show his work might be sheer
vanity: he could not bear the thought of anyone's criticism, and he would
not expose himself to the chance of a refusal from the Salon; he wanted to
be received as a master and would not risk comparisons with other work
which might force him to diminish his own opinion of himself. During the
eighteen months Philip had known him Clutton had grown more harsh and
bitter; though he would not come out into the open and compete with his
fellows, he was indignant with the facile success of those who did. He had
no patience with Lawson, and the pair were no longer on the intimate terms
upon which they had been when Philip first knew them.
"Lawson's all right," he said contemptuously, "he'll go back to England,
become a fashionable portrait painter, earn ten thousand a year and be an
A. R. A. before he's forty. Portraits done by hand for the nobility and
Philip, too, looked into the future, and he saw Clutton in twenty years,
bitter, lonely, savage, and unknown; still in Paris, for the life there
had got into his bones, ruling a small cenacle with a savage tongue, at
war with himself and the world, producing little in his increasing passion
for a perfection he could not reach; and perhaps sinking at last into
drunkenness. Of late Philip had been captivated by an idea that since one
had only one life it was important to make a success of it, but he did not
count success by the acquiring of money or the achieving of fame; he did
not quite know yet what he meant by it, perhaps variety of experience and
the making the most of his abilities. It was plain anyway that the life
which Clutton seemed destined to was failure. Its only justification would
be the painting of imperishable masterpieces. He recollected Cronshaw's
whimsical metaphor of the Persian carpet; he had thought of it often; but
Cronshaw with his faun-like humour had refused to make his meaning clear:
he repeated that it had none unless one discovered it for oneself. It was
this desire to make a success of life which was at the bottom of Philip's
uncertainty about continuing his artistic career. But Clutton began to
"D'you remember my telling you about that chap I met in Brittany? I saw
him the other day here. He's just off to Tahiti. He was broke to the
world. He was a brasseur d'affaires, a stockbroker I suppose you call it
in English; and he had a wife and family, and he was earning a large
income. He chucked it all to become a painter. He just went off and
settled down in Brittany and began to paint. He hadn't got any money and
did the next best thing to starving."
"And what about his wife and family?" asked Philip.
"Oh, he dropped them. He left them to starve on their own account."
"It sounds a pretty low-down thing to do."
"Oh, my dear fellow, if you want to be a gentleman you must give up being
an artist. They've got nothing to do with one another. You hear of men
painting pot-boilers to keep an aged mother--well, it shows they're
excellent sons, but it's no excuse for bad work. They're only tradesmen.
An artist would let his mother go to the workhouse. There's a writer I
know over here who told me that his wife died in childbirth. He was in
love with her and he was mad with grief, but as he sat at the bedside
watching her die he found himself making mental notes of how she looked
and what she said and the things he was feeling. Gentlemanly, wasn't it?"
"But is your friend a good painter?" asked Philip.
"No, not yet, he paints just like Pissarro. He hasn't found himself, but
he's got a sense of colour and a sense of decoration. But that isn't the
question. it's the feeling, and that he's got. He's behaved like a perfect
cad to his wife and children, he's always behaving like a perfect cad; the
way he treats the people who've helped him--and sometimes he's been saved
from starvation merely by the kindness of his friends--is simply beastly.
He just happens to be a great artist."
Philip pondered over the man who was willing to sacrifice everything,
comfort, home, money, love, honour, duty, for the sake of getting on to
canvas with paint the emotion which the world gave him. it was
magnificent, and yet his courage failed him.
Thinking of Cronshaw recalled to him the fact that he had not seen him for
a week, and so, when Clutton left him, he wandered along to the cafe in
which he was certain to find the writer. During the first few months of
his stay in Paris Philip had accepted as gospel all that Cronshaw said,
but Philip had a practical outlook and he grew impatient with the theories
which resulted in no action. Cronshaw's slim bundle of poetry did not seem
a substantial result for a life which was sordid. Philip could not wrench
out of his nature the instincts of the middle-class from which he came;
and the penury, the hack work which Cronshaw did to keep body and soul
together, the monotony of existence between the slovenly attic and the
cafe table, jarred with his respectability. Cronshaw was astute enough to
know that the young man disapproved of him, and he attacked his
philistinism with an irony which was sometimes playful but often very
"You're a tradesman," he told Philip, "you want to invest life in consols
so that it shall bring you in a safe three per cent. I'm a spendthrift, I
run through my capital. I shall spend my last penny with my last
The metaphor irritated Philip, because it assumed for the speaker a
romantic attitude and cast a slur upon the position which Philip
instinctively felt had more to say for it than he could think of at the
But this evening Philip, undecided, wanted to talk about himself.
Fortunately it was late already and Cronshaw's pile of saucers on the
table, each indicating a drink, suggested that he was prepared to take an
independent view of things in general.
"I wonder if you'd give me some advice," said Philip suddenly.
"You won't take it, will you?"
Philip shrugged his shoulders impatiently.
"I don't believe I shall ever do much good as a painter. I don't see any
use in being second-rate. I'm thinking of chucking it."
"Why shouldn't you?"
Philip hesitated for an instant.
"I suppose I like the life."
A change came over Cronshaw's placid, round face. The corners of the mouth
were suddenly depressed, the eyes sunk dully in their orbits; he seemed to
become strangely bowed and old.
"This?" he cried, looking round the cafe in which they sat. His voice
really trembled a little.
"If you can get out of it, do while there's time."
Philip stared at him with astonishment, but the sight of emotion always
made him feel shy, and he dropped his eyes. He knew that he was looking
upon the tragedy of failure. There was silence. Philip thought that
Cronshaw was looking upon his own life; and perhaps he considered his
youth with its bright hopes and the disappointments which wore out the
radiancy; the wretched monotony of pleasure, and the black future.
Philip's eyes rested on the little pile of saucers, and he knew that
Cronshaw's were on them too.
Two months passed.
It seemed to Philip, brooding over these matters, that in the true
painters, writers, musicians, there was a power which drove them to such
complete absorption in their work as to make it inevitable for them to
subordinate life to art. Succumbing to an influence they never realised,
they were merely dupes of the instinct that possessed them, and life
slipped through their fingers unlived. But he had a feeling that life was
to be lived rather than portrayed, and he wanted to search out the various
experiences of it and wring from each moment all the emotion that it
offered. He made up his mind at length to take a certain step and abide by
the result, and, having made up his mind, he determined to take the step
at once. Luckily enough the next morning was one of Foinet's days, and he
resolved to ask him point-blank whether it was worth his while to go on
with the study of art. He had never forgotten the master's brutal advice
to Fanny Price. It had been sound. Philip could never get Fanny entirely
out of his head. The studio seemed strange without her, and now and then
the gesture of one of the women working there or the tone of a voice would
give him a sudden start, reminding him of her: her presence was more
noticuble?? now she was dead than it had ever been during her life; and he
often dreamed of her at night, waking with a cry of terror. it was
horrible to think of all the suffering she must have endured.
Philip knew that on the days Foinet came to the studio he lunched at a
little restaurant in the Rue d'Odessa, and he hurried his own meal so that
he could go and wait outside till the painter came out. Philip walked up
and down the crowded street and at last saw Monsieur Foinet walking, with
bent head, towards him; Philip was very nervous, but he forced himself to
go up to him.
"Pardon, monsieur, I should like to speak to you for one moment."
Foinet gave him a rapid glance, recognised him, but did not smile a
"Speak," he said.
"I've been working here nearly two years now under you. I wanted to ask
you to tell me frankly if you think it worth while for me to continue."
Philip's voice was trembling a little. Foinet walked on without looking
up. Philip, watching his face, saw no trace of expression upon it.
"I don't understand."
"I'm very poor. If I have no talent I would sooner do something else."
"Don't you know if you have talent?"
"All my friends know they have talent, but I am aware some of them are
Foinet's bitter mouth outlined the shadow of a smile, and he asked:
"Do you live near here?"
Philip told him where his studio was. Foinet turned round.
"Let us go there? You shall show me your work."
"Now?" cried Philip.
Philip had nothing to say. He walked silently by the master's side. He
felt horribly sick. It had never struck him that Foinet would wish to see
his things there and then; he meant, so that he might have time to prepare
himself, to ask him if he would mind coming at some future date or whether
he might bring them to Foinet's studio. He was trembling with anxiety. In
his heart he hoped that Foinet would look at his picture, and that rare
smile would come into his face, and he would shake Philip's hand and say:
"Pas mal. Go on, my lad. You have talent, real talent." Philip's heart
swelled at the thought. It was such a relief, such a joy! Now he could go
on with courage; and what did hardship matter, privation, and
disappointment, if he arrived at last? He had worked very hard, it would
be too cruel if all that industry were futile. And then with a start he
remembered that he had heard Fanny Price say just that. They arrived at
the house, and Philip was seized with fear. If he had dared he would have
asked Foinet to go away. He did not want to know the truth. They went in
and the concierge handed him a letter as they passed. He glanced at the
envelope and recognised his uncle's handwriting. Foinet followed him up
the stairs. Philip could think of nothing to say; Foinet was mute, and the
silence got on his nerves. The professor sat down; and Philip without a
word placed before him the picture which the Salon had rejected; Foinet
nodded but did not speak; then Philip showed him the two portraits he had
made of Ruth Chalice, two or three landscapes which he had painted at
Moret, and a number of sketches.
"That's all," he said presently, with a nervous laugh.
Monsieur Foinet rolled himself a cigarette and lit it.
"You have very little private means?" he asked at last.
"Very little," answered Philip, with a sudden feeling of cold at his
heart. "Not enough to live on."
"There is nothing so degrading as the constant anxiety about one's means
of livelihood. I have nothing but contempt for the people who despise
money. They are hypocrites or fools. Money is like a sixth sense without
which you cannot make a complete use of the other five. Without an
adequate income half the possibilities of life are shut off. The only
thing to be careful about is that you do not pay more than a shilling for
the shilling you earn. You will hear people say that poverty is the best
spur to the artist. They have never felt the iron of it in their flesh.
They do not know how mean it makes you. It exposes you to endless
humiliation, it cuts your wings, it eats into your soul like a cancer. It
is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one's dignity, to
work unhampered, to be generous, frank, and independent. I pity with all
my heart the artist, whether he writes or paints, who is entirely
dependent for subsistence upon his art."
Philip quietly put away the various things which he had shown.
"I'm afraid that sounds as if you didn't think I had much chance."
Monsieur Foinet slightly shrugged his shoulders.
"You have a certain manual dexterity. With hard work and perseverance
there is no reason why you should not become a careful, not incompetent
painter. You would find hundreds who painted worse than you, hundreds who
painted as well. I see no talent in anything you have shown me. I see
industry and intelligence. You will never be anything but mediocre."
Philip obliged himself to answer quite steadily.
"I'm very grateful to you for having taken so much trouble. I can't thank
Monsieur Foinet got up and made as if to go, but he changed his mind and,
stopping, put his hand on Philip's shoulder.
"But if you were to ask me my advice, I should say: take your courage in
both hands and try your luck at something else. It sounds very hard, but
let me tell you this: I would give all I have in the world if someone had
given me that advice when I was your age and I had taken it."
Philip looked up at him with surprise. The master forced his lips into a
smile, but his eyes remained grave and sad.
"It is cruel to discover one's mediocrity only when it is too late. It
does not improve the temper."
He gave a little laugh as he said the last words and quickly walked out of
Philip mechanically took up the letter from his uncle. The sight of his
handwriting made him anxious, for it was his aunt who always wrote to him.
She had been ill for the last three months, and he had offered to go over
to England and see her; but she, fearing it would interfere with his work,
had refused. She did not want him to put himself to inconvenience; she
said she would wait till August and then she hoped he would come and stay
at the vicarage for two or three weeks. If by any chance she grew worse
she would let him know, since she did not wish to die without seeing him
again. If his uncle wrote to him it must be because she was too ill to
hold a pen. Philip opened the letter. it ran as follows:
My dear Philip,
I regret to inform you that your dear Aunt departed this life early this
morning. She died very suddenly, but quite peacefully. The change for the
worse was so rapid that we had no time to send for you. She was fully
prepared for the end and entered into rest with the complete assurance of
a blessed resurrection and with resignation to the divine will of our
blessed Lord Jesus Christ. Your Aunt would have liked you to be present at
the funeral so I trust you will come as soon as you can. There is
naturally a great deal of work thrown upon my shoulders and I am very much
upset. I trust that you will be able to do everything for me.
Your affectionate uncle,
Next day Philip arrived at Blackstable. Since the death of his mother he
had never lost anyone closely connected with him; his aunt's death shocked
him and filled him also with a curious fear; he felt for the first time
his own mortality. He could not realise what life would be for his uncle
without the constant companionship of the woman who had loved and tended
him for forty years. He expected to find him broken down with hopeless
grief. He dreaded the first meeting; he knew that he could say nothing
which would be of use. He rehearsed to himself a number of apposite
He entered the vicarage by the side-door and went into the dining-room.
Uncle William was reading the paper.
"Your train was late," he said, looking up.
Philip was prepared to give way to his emotion, but the matter-of-fact
reception startled him. His uncle, subdued but calm, handed him the paper.
"There's a very nice little paragraph about her in The Blackstable
Times," he said.
Philip read it mechanically.
"Would you like to come up and see her?"
Philip nodded and together they walked upstairs. Aunt Louisa was lying in
the middle of the large bed, with flowers all round her.
"Would you like to say a short prayer?" said the Vicar.
He sank on his knees, and because it was expected of him Philip followed
his example. He looked at the little shrivelled face. He was only
conscious of one emotion: what a wasted life! In a minute Mr. Carey gave
a cough, and stood up. He pointed to a wreath at the foot of the bed.
"That's from the Squire," he said. He spoke in a low voice as though he
were in church, but one felt that, as a clergyman, he found himself quite
at home. "I expect tea is ready."
They went down again to the dining-room. The drawn blinds gave a
lugubrious aspect. The Vicar sat at the end of the table at which his wife
had always sat and poured out the tea with ceremony. Philip could not help
feeling that neither of them should have been able to eat anything, but
when he saw that his uncle's appetite was unimpaired he fell to with his
usual heartiness. They did not speak for a while. Philip set himself to
eat an excellent cake with the air of grief which he felt was decent.
"Things have changed a great deal since I was a curate," said the Vicar
presently. "In my young days the mourners used always to be given a pair
of black gloves and a piece of black silk for their hats. Poor Louisa used
to make the silk into dresses. She always said that twelve funerals gave
her a new dress."
Then he told Philip who had sent wreaths; there were twenty-four of them
already; when Mrs. Rawlingson, wife of the Vicar at Ferne, had died she
had had thirty-two; but probably a good many more would come the next day;
the funeral would start at eleven o'clock from the vicarage, and they
should beat Mrs. Rawlingson easily. Louisa never liked Mrs. Rawlingson.
"I shall take the funeral myself. I promised Louisa I would never let
anyone else bury her."
Philip looked at his uncle with disapproval when he took a second piece of
cake. Under the circumstances he could not help thinking it greedy.
"Mary Ann certainly makes capital cakes. I'm afraid no one else will make
such good ones."
"She's not going?" cried Philip, with astonishment.
Mary Ann had been at the vicarage ever since he could remember. She never
forgot his birthday, but made a point always of sending him a trifle,
absurd but touching. He had a real affection for her.
"Yes," answered Mr. Carey. "I didn't think it would do to have a single
woman in the house."
"But, good heavens, she must be over forty."
"Yes, I think she is. But she's been rather troublesome lately, she's been
inclined to take too much on herself, and I thought this was a very good
opportunity to give her notice."
"It's certainly one which isn't likely to recur," said Philip.
He took out a cigarette, but his uncle prevented him from lighting it.
"Not till after the funeral, Philip," he said gently.
"All right," said Philip.
"It wouldn't be quite respectful to smoke in the house so long as your
poor Aunt Louisa is upstairs."
Josiah Graves, churchwarden and manager of the bank, came back to dinner
at the vicarage after the funeral. The blinds had been drawn up, and
Philip, against his will, felt a curious sensation of relief. The body in
the house had made him uncomfortable: in life the poor woman had been all
that was kind and gentle; and yet, when she lay upstairs in her bed-room,
cold and stark, it seemed as though she cast upon the survivors a baleful
influence. The thought horrified Philip.
He found himself alone for a minute or two in the dining-room with the
"I hope you'll be able to stay with your uncle a while," he said. "I don't
think he ought to be left alone just yet."
"I haven't made any plans," answered Philip. "if he wants me I shall be
very pleased to stay."
By way of cheering the bereaved husband the churchwarden during dinner
talked of a recent fire at Blackstable which had partly destroyed the
"I hear they weren't insured," he said, with a little smile.
"That won't make any difference," said the Vicar. "They'll get as much
money as they want to rebuild. Chapel people are always ready to give
"I see that Holden sent a wreath."
Holden was the dissenting minister, and, though for Christ's sake who died
for both of them, Mr. Carey nodded to him in the street, he did not speak
"I think it was very pushing," he remarked. "There were forty-one wreaths.
Yours was beautiful. Philip and I admired it very much."
"Don't mention it," said the banker.
He had noticed with satisfaction that it was larger than anyone's else. It
had looked very well. They began to discuss the people who attended the
funeral. Shops had been closed for it, and the churchwarden took out of
his pocket the notice which had been printed: Owing to the funeral of
Mrs. Carey this establishment will not be opened till one o'clock."
"It was my idea," he said.
"I think it was very nice of them to close," said the Vicar. "Poor Louisa
would have appreciated that."
Philip ate his dinner. Mary Ann had treated the day as Sunday, and they
had roast chicken and a gooseberry tart.
"I suppose you haven't thought about a tombstone yet?" said the
"Yes, I have. I thought of a plain stone cross. Louisa was always against
"I don't think one can do much better than a cross. If you're thinking of
a text, what do you say to: With Christ, which is far better?"
The Vicar pursed his lips. It was just like Bismarck to try and settle
everything himself. He did not like that text; it seemed to cast an
aspersion on himself.
"I don't think I should put that. I much prefer: The Lord has given and
the Lord has taken away."
"Oh, do you? That always seems to me a little indifferent."
The Vicar answered with some acidity, and Mr. Graves replied in a tone
which the widower thought too authoritative for the occasion. Things were
going rather far if he could not choose his own text for his own wife's
tombstone. There was a pause, and then the conversation drifted to parish
matters. Philip went into the garden to smoke his pipe. He sat on a bench,
and suddenly began to laugh hysterically.
A few days later his uncle expressed the hope that he would spend the next
few weeks at Blackstable.
"Yes, that will suit me very well," said Philip.
"I suppose it'll do if you go back to Paris in September."
Philip did not reply. He had thought much of what Foinet said to him, but
he was still so undecided that he did not wish to speak of the future.
There would be something fine in giving up art because he was convinced
that he could not excel; but unfortunately it would seem so only to
himself: to others it would be an admission of defeat, and he did not want
to confess that he was beaten. He was an obstinate fellow, and the
suspicion that his talent did not lie in one direction made him inclined
to force circumstances and aim notwithstanding precisely in that
direction. He could not bear that his friends should laugh at him. This
might have prevented him from ever taking the definite step of abandoning
the study of painting, but the different environment made him on a sudden
see things differently. Like many another he discovered that crossing the
Channel makes things which had seemed important singularly futile. The
life which had been so charming that he could not bear to leave it now
seemed inept; he was seized with a distaste for the cafes, the restaurants
with their ill-cooked food, the shabby way in which they all lived. He did
not care any more what his friends thought about him: Cronshaw with his
rhetoric, Mrs. Otter with her respectability, Ruth Chalice with her
affectations, Lawson and Clutton with their quarrels; he felt a revulsion
from them all. He wrote to Lawson and asked him to send over all his
belongings. A week later they arrived. When he unpacked his canvases he
found himself able to examine his work without emotion. He noticed the
fact with interest. His uncle was anxious to see his pictures. Though he
had so greatly disapproved of Philip's desire to go to Paris, he accepted
the situation now with equanimity. He was interested in the life of
students and constantly put Philip questions about it. He was in fact a
little proud of him because he was a painter, and when people were present
made attempts to draw him out. He looked eagerly at the studies of models
which Philip showed him. Philip set before him his portrait of Miguel
"Why did you paint him?" asked Mr. Carey.
"Oh, I wanted a model, and his head interested me."
"As you haven't got anything to do here I wonder you don't paint me."
"It would bore you to sit."
"I think I should like it."
"We must see about it."
Philip was amused at his uncle's vanity. It was clear that he was dying to
have his portrait painted. To get something for nothing was a chance not
to be missed. For two or three days he threw out little hints. He
reproached Philip for laziness, asked him when he was going to start work,
and finally began telling everyone he met that Philip was going to paint
him. At last there came a rainy day, and after breakfast Mr. Carey said to
"Now, what d'you say to starting on my portrait this morning?" Philip put
down the book he was reading and leaned back in his chair.
"I've given up painting," he said.
"Why?" asked his uncle in astonishment.
"I don't think there's much object in being a second-rate painter, and I
came to the conclusion that I should never be anything else."
"You surprise me. Before you went to Paris you were quite certain that you
were a genius."
"I was mistaken," said Philip.
"I should have thought now you'd taken up a profession you'd have the
pride to stick to it. It seems to me that what you lack is perseverance."
Philip was a little annoyed that his uncle did not even see how truly
heroic his determination was.
"'A rolling stone gathers no moss,'" proceeded the clergyman. Philip hated
that proverb above all, and it seemed to him perfectly meaningless. His
uncle had repeated it often during the arguments which had preceded his
departure from business. Apparently it recalled that occasion to his
"You're no longer a boy, you know; you must begin to think of settling
down. First you insist on becoming a chartered accountant, and then you
get tired of that and you want to become a painter. And now if you please
you change your mind again. It points to..."
He hesitated for a moment to consider what defects of character exactly it
indicated, and Philip finished the sentence.
"Irresolution, incompetence, want of foresight, and lack of
The Vicar looked up at his nephew quickly to see whether he was laughing
at him. Philip's face was serious, but there was a twinkle in his eyes
which irritated him. Philip should really be getting more serious. He felt
it right to give him a rap over the knuckles.
"Your money matters have nothing to do with me now. You're your own
master; but I think you should remember that your money won't last for
ever, and the unlucky deformity you have doesn't exactly make it easier
for you to earn your living."
Philip knew by now that whenever anyone was angry with him his first
thought was to say something about his club-foot. His estimate of the
human race was determined by the fact that scarcely anyone failed to
resist the temptation. But he had trained himself not to show any sign
that the reminder wounded him. He had even acquired control over the
blushing which in his boyhood had been one of his torments.
"As you justly remark," he answered, "my money matters have nothing to do
with you and I am my own master."
"At all events you will do me the justice to acknowledge that I was
justified in my opposition when you made up your mind to become an
"I don't know so much about that. I daresay one profits more by the
mistakes one makes off one's own bat than by doing the right thing on
somebody's else advice. I've had my fling, and I don't mind settling down
Philip was not prepared for the question, since in fact he had not made up
his mind. He had thought of a dozen callings.
"The most suitable thing you could do is to enter your father's profession
and become a doctor."
"Oddly enough that is precisely what I intend."
He had thought of doctoring among other things, chiefly because it was an
occupation which seemed to give a good deal of personal freedom, and his
experience of life in an office had made him determine never to have
anything more to do with one; his answer to the Vicar slipped out almost
unawares, because it was in the nature of a repartee. It amused him to
make up his mind in that accidental way, and he resolved then and there to
enter his father's old hospital in the autumn.
"Then your two years in Paris may be regarded as so much wasted time?"
"I don't know about that. I had a very jolly two years, and I learned one
or two useful things."
Philip reflected for an instant, and his answer was not devoid of a gentle
desire to annoy.
"I learned to look at hands, which I'd never looked at before. And instead
of just looking at houses and trees I learned to look at houses and trees
against the sky. And I learned also that shadows are not black but
"I suppose you think you're very clever. I think your flippancy is quite
Taking the paper with him Mr. Carey retired to his study. Philip changed
his chair for that in which his uncle had been sitting (it was the only
comfortable one in the room), and looked out of the window at the pouring
rain. Even in that sad weather there was something restful about the green
fields that stretched to the horizon. There was an intimate charm in the
landscape which he did not remember ever to have noticed before. Two years
in France had opened his eyes to the beauty of his own countryside.
He thought with a smile of his uncle's remark. It was lucky that the turn
of his mind tended to flippancy. He had begun to realise what a great loss
he had sustained in the death of his father and mother. That was one of
the differences in his life which prevented him from seeing things in the
same way as other people. The love of parents for their children is the
only emotion which is quite disinterested. Among strangers he had grown up
as best he could, but he had seldom been used with patience or
forbearance. He prided himself on his self-control. It had been whipped
into him by the mockery of his fellows. Then they called him cynical and
callous. He had acquired calmness of demeanour and under most
circumstances an unruffled exterior, so that now he could not show his
feelings. People told him he was unemotional; but he knew that he was at
the mercy of his emotions: an accidental kindness touched him so much that
sometimes he did not venture to speak in order not to betray the
unsteadiness of his voice. He remembered the bitterness of his life at
school, the humiliation which he had endured, the banter which had made
him morbidly afraid of making himself ridiculous; and he remembered the
loneliness he had felt since, faced with the world, the disillusion and
the disappointment caused by the difference between what it promised to
his active imagination and what it gave. But notwithstanding he was able
to look at himself from the outside and smile with amusement.
"By Jove, if I weren't flippant, I should hang myself," he thought
His mind went back to the answer he had given his uncle when he asked him
what he had learnt in Paris. He had learnt a good deal more than he told
him. A conversation with Cronshaw had stuck in his memory, and one phrase
he had used, a commonplace one enough, had set his brain working.
"My dear fellow," Cronshaw said, "there's no such thing as abstract
When Philip ceased to believe in Christianity he felt that a great weight
was taken from his shoulders; casting off the responsibility which weighed
down every action, when every action was infinitely important for the
welfare of his immortal soul, he experienced a vivid sense of liberty. But
he knew now that this was an illusion. When he put away the religion in
which he had been brought up, he had kept unimpaired the morality which
was part and parcel of it. He made up his mind therefore to think things
out for himself. He determined to be swayed by no prejudices. He swept
away the virtues and the vices, the established laws of good and evil,
with the idea of finding out the rules of life for himself. He did not
know whether rules were necessary at all. That was one of the things he
wanted to discover. Clearly much that seemed valid seemed so only because
he had been taught it from his earliest youth. He had read a number of
books, but they did not help him much, for they were based on the morality
of Christianity; and even the writers who emphasised the fact that they
did not believe in it were never satisfied till they had framed a system
of ethics in accordance with that of the Sermon on the Mount. It seemed
hardly worth while to read a long volume in order to learn that you ought
to behave exactly like everybody else. Philip wanted to find out how he
ought to behave, and he thought he could prevent himself from being
influenced by the opinions that surrounded him. But meanwhile he had to go
on living, and, until he formed a theory of conduct, he made himself a
"Follow your inclinations with due regard to the policeman round the
He thought the best thing he had gained in Paris was a complete liberty of
spirit, and he felt himself at last absolutely free. In a desultory way he
had read a good deal of philosophy, and he looked forward with delight to
the leisure of the next few months. He began to read at haphazard. He
entered upon each system with a little thrill of excitement, expecting to
find in each some guide by which he could rule his conduct; he felt
himself like a traveller in unknown countries and as he pushed forward the
enterprise fascinated him; he read emotionally, as other men read pure
literature, and his heart leaped as he discovered in noble words what
himself had obscurely felt. His mind was concrete and moved with
difficulty in regions of the abstract; but, even when he could not follow
the reasoning, it gave him a curious pleasure to follow the tortuosities
of thoughts that threaded their nimble way on the edge of the
incomprehensible. Sometimes great philosophers seemed to have nothing to
say to him, but at others he recognised a mind with which he felt himself
at home. He was like the explorer in Central Africa who comes suddenly
upon wide uplands, with great trees in them and stretches of meadow, so
that he might fancy himself in an English park. He delighted in the robust
common sense of Thomas Hobbes; Spinoza filled him with awe, he had never
before come in contact with a mind so noble, so unapproachable and
austere; it reminded him of that statue by Rodin, L'Age d'Airain, which
he passionately admired; and then there was Hume: the scepticism of that
charming philosopher touched a kindred note in Philip; and, revelling in
the lucid style which seemed able to put complicated thought into simple
words, musical and measured, he read as he might have read a novel, a
smile of pleasure on his lips. But in none could he find exactly what he
wanted. He had read somewhere that every man was born a Platonist, an
Aristotelian, a Stoic, or an Epicurean; and the history of George Henry
Lewes (besides telling you that philosophy was all moonshine) was there to
show that the thought of each philospher was inseparably connected with
the man he was. When you knew that you could guess to a great extent the
philosophy he wrote. It looked as though you did not act in a certain way
because you thought in a certain way, but rather that you thought in a
certain way because you were made in a certain way. Truth had nothing to
do with it. There was no such thing as truth. Each man was his own
philosopher, and the elaborate systems which the great men of the past had
composed were only valid for the writers.
The thing then was to discover what one was and one's system of philosophy
would devise itself. It seemed to Philip that there were three things to
find out: man's relation to the world he lives in, man's relation with the
men among whom he lives, and finally man's relation to himself. He made an
elaborate plan of study.
The advantage of living abroad is that, coming in contact with the manners
and customs of the people among whom you live, you observe them from the
outside and see that they have not the necessity which those who practise
them believe. You cannot fail to discover that the beliefs which to you
are self-evident to the foreigner are absurd. The year in Germany, the
long stay in Paris, had prepared Philip to receive the sceptical teaching
which came to him now with such a feeling of relief. He saw that nothing
was good and nothing was evil; things were merely adapted to an end. He
read The Origin of Species. It seemed to offer an explanation of much
that troubled him. He was like an explorer now who has reasoned that
certain natural features must present themselves, and, beating up a broad
river, finds here the tributary that he expected, there the fertile,
populated plains, and further on the mountains. When some great discovery
is made the world is surprised afterwards that it was not accepted at
once, and even on those who acknowledge its truth the effect is
unimportant. The first readers of The Origin of Species accepted it with
their reason; but their emotions, which are the ground of conduct, were
untouched. Philip was born a generation after this great book was
published, and much that horrified its contemporaries had passed into the
feeling of the time, so that he was able to accept it with a joyful heart.
He was intensely moved by the grandeur of the struggle for life, and the
ethical rule which it suggested seemed to fit in with his predispositions.
He said to himself that might was right. Society stood on one side, an
organism with its own laws of growth and self-preservation, while the
individual stood on the other. The actions which were to the advantage of
society it termed virtuous and those which were not it called vicious.
Good and evil meant nothing more than that. Sin was a prejudice from which
the free man should rid himself. Society had three arms in its contest
with the individual, laws, public opinion, and conscience: the first two
could be met by guile, guile is the only weapon of the weak against the
strong: common opinion put the matter well when it stated that sin
consisted in being found out; but conscience was the traitor within the
gates; it fought in each heart the battle of society, and caused the
individual to throw himself, a wanton sacrifice, to the prosperity of his
enemy. For it was clear that the two were irreconcilable, the state and
the individual conscious of himself. THAT uses the individual for its
own ends, trampling upon him if he thwarts it, rewarding him with medals,
pensions, honours, when he serves it faithfully; THIS, strong only in
his independence, threads his way through the state, for convenience'
sake, paying in money or service for certain benefits, but with no sense
of obligation; and, indifferent to the rewards, asks only to be left
alone. He is the independent traveller, who uses Cook's tickets because
they save trouble, but looks with good-humoured contempt on the personally
conducted parties. The free man can do no wrong. He does everything he
likes--if he can. His power is the only measure of his morality. He
recognises the laws of the state and he can break them without sense of
sin, but if he is punished he accepts the punishment without rancour.
Society has the power.
But if for the individual there was no right and no wrong, then it seemed
to Philip that conscience lost its power. It was with a cry of triumph
that he seized the knave and flung him from his breast. But he was no
nearer to the meaning of life than he had been before. Why the world was
there and what men had come into existence for at all was as inexplicable
as ever. Surely there must be some reason. He thought of Cronshaw's
parable of the Persian carpet. He offered it as a solution of the riddle,
and mysteriously he stated that it was no answer at all unless you found
it out for yourself.
"I wonder what the devil he meant," Philip smiled.
And so, on the last day of September, eager to put into practice all these
new theories of life, Philip, with sixteen hundred pounds and his
club-foot, set out for the second time to London to make his third start
The examination Philip had passed before he was articled to a chartered
accountant was sufficient qualification for him to enter a medical school.
He chose St. Luke's because his father had been a student there, and
before the end of the summer session had gone up to London for a day in
order to see the secretary. He got a list of rooms from him, and took
lodgings in a dingy house which had the advantage of being within two
minutes' walk of the hospital.
"You'll have to arrange about a part to dissect," the secretary told him.
"You'd better start on a leg; they generally do; they seem to think it
Philip found that his first lecture was in anatomy, at eleven, and about
half past ten he limped across the road, and a little nervously made his
way to the Medical School. Just inside the door a number of notices were
pinned up, lists of lectures, football fixtures, and the like; and these
he looked at idly, trying to seem at his ease. Young men and boys dribbled
in and looked for letters in the rack, chatted with one another, and
passed downstairs to the basement, in which was the student's
reading-room. Philip saw several fellows with a desultory, timid look
dawdling around, and surmised that, like himself, they were there for the
first time. When he had exhausted the notices he saw a glass door which
led into what was apparently a museum, and having still twenty minutes to
spare he walked in. It was a collection of pathological specimens.
Presently a boy of about eighteen came up to him.
"I say, are you first year?" he said.
"Yes," answered Philip.
"Where's the lecture room, d'you know? It's getting on for eleven."
"We'd better try to find it."
They walked out of the museum into a long, dark corridor, with the walls
painted in two shades of red, and other youths walking along suggested the
way to them. They came to a door marked Anatomy Theatre. Philip found that
there were a good many people already there. The seats were arranged in
tiers, and just as Philip entered an attendant came in, put a glass of
water on the table in the well of the lecture-room and then brought in a
pelvis and two thigh-bones, right and left. More men entered and took
their seats and by eleven the theatre was fairly full. There were about
sixty students. For the most part they were a good deal younger than
Philip, smooth-faced boys of eighteen, but there were a few who were older
than he: he noticed one tall man, with a fierce red moustache, who might
have been thirty; another little fellow with black hair, only a year or
two younger; and there was one man with spectacles and a beard which was
The lecturer came in, Mr. Cameron, a handsome man with white hair and
clean-cut features. He called out the long list of names. Then he made a
little speech. He spoke in a pleasant voice, with well-chosen words, and
he seemed to take a discreet pleasure in their careful arrangement. He
suggested one or two books which they might buy and advised the purchase
of a skeleton. He spoke of anatomy with enthusiasm: it was essential to
the study of surgery; a knowledge of it added to the appreciation of art.
Philip pricked up his ears. He heard later that Mr. Cameron lectured also
to the students at the Royal Academy. He had lived many years in Japan,
with a post at the University of Tokyo, and he flattered himself on his
appreciation of the beautiful.
"You will have to learn many tedious things," he finished, with an
indulgent smile, "which you will forget the moment you have passed your
final examination, but in anatomy it is better to have learned and lost
than never to have learned at all."
He took up the pelvis which was lying on the table and began to describe
it. He spoke well and clearly.
At the end of the lecture the boy who had spoken to Philip in the
pathological museum and sat next to him in the theatre suggested that they
should go to the dissecting-room. Philip and he walked along the corridor
again, and an attendant told them where it was. As soon as they entered
Philip understood what the acrid smell was which he had noticed in the
passage. He lit a pipe. The attendant gave a short laugh.
"You'll soon get used to the smell. I don't notice it myself."
He asked Philip's name and looked at a list on the board.
"You've got a leg--number four."
Philip saw that another name was bracketed with his own.
"What's the meaning of that?" he asked.
"We're very short of bodies just now. We've had to put two on each part."
The dissecting-room was a large apartment painted like the corridors, the
upper part a rich salmon and the dado a dark terra-cotta. At regular
intervals down the long sides of the room, at right angles with the wall,
were iron slabs, grooved like meat-dishes; and on each lay a body. Most of
them were men. They were very dark from the preservative in which they had
been kept, and the skin had almost the look of leather. They were
extremely emaciated. The attendant took Philip up to one of the slabs. A
youth was standing by it.