Part 2 out of 4
Harris did. The daughter of three generations of bureaucrats was
not likely to forget that at one time her father had been junior to
me in the same office, though in the course of time and the march of
opportunity he had his own show now, and we nodded to each other on
the Mall with an equal sense of the divine right of secretaries. It
may seem irrelevant, but I feel compelled to explain here that I had
remained a bachelor while Harris had married twice, and that I had
kept up my cricket, while Harris had let his figure take all the
soft curves of middle age. Nevertheless the fact remained.
Sometimes I fancied it gave a certain piquancy to my relations with
his daughter, but I could never believe that the laugh was on my
If we met at dinner-parties, it would be sometimes Edward Harris and
sometimes myself who would take the dullest and stoutest woman down.
If she fell to him, the next in precedence was bestowed upon me, and
there might not be a pin to choose between them for phlegm and
inflation. It is a preposterous mistake to suppose that the married
ladies of Simla are in the majority brilliant and fascinating
creatures, who say things in French for greater convenience, and
lead a man on. After fifteen years I am ready to swear that I have
been led on to nothing more compromising than a subscription to the
Young Women's Christian Association, though no one could have been
more docile or more intelligent. During one viceroyalty of happy
memory half a dozen clever and amusing men and women came together
in Simla--it was a mere fortuitous occurrence, aided by a joyous
ruler who hated being bored as none before or ever since have hated
it--and the place has lived socially upon the reputation of that
meteoric term ever since. Whereas the domestic virtues are no more
deeply rooted anywhere than under the deodars; nor could any one, I
hasten to add, chronicle the fact with more profound satisfaction
than myself. A dinner-party, however, is not a favourable setting
for the domestic virtues; it does them so little justice that one
could sometimes almost wish them left at home, and I was talking of
Simla dinner-parties, where I have encountered so many. How often
have I been consulted as to the best school for boys in England, or
instructed as to how much I should let my man charge me for shoe-
blacking, or advised as to the most effectual way of preventing the
butler from stealing my cheroots, while Dora Harris, remote as a
star, talked to a cavalry subaltern about wind-galls and splints!
At these moments I felt my seniority bitterly; to give Dora to a
cavalry subaltern was such plain waste.
It was an infinite pleasure to know any one as well as I seemed to
know Dora Harris. She, I believe, held no one else upon the same
terms of intimacy, though she found women, of course, with whom she
fluttered and embraced; and while there were, naturally, men with
whom I exchanged the time o'day in terms more or less cordial, I am
certain that I kept all my closest thoughts for her. It is
necessary again to know Simla to understand how our friendship was
gilded by the consideration that it was on both sides perfectly
spontaneous. Social life in the poor little place is almost a pure
farce with the number of its dictated, prompted intimacies, not
controlled by general laws of expediency as at home, but each on its
own basis of hope and expectancy, broadly and ludicrously obvious as
a case by itself. There is a conspiracy of stupidity about it, for
we are all in the same hat, every one of us; there is none so
exalted that he does not urgently want a post that somebody else can
give him. So we continue to exchange our depreciated smiles, and
only privately admit that the person who most desires to be
agreeable to us is the person whom we regard with the greatest
suspicion. As between Dora Harris and myself there could be,
naturally, no ax to grind. We amused ourselves by looking on
penetratingly but tolerantly at the grinding of other people's.
That was a very principal bond between us, that uncompromising
clearness with which we looked at the place we lived in, and on the
testimony of which we were so certain that we didn't like it. The
women were nearly all so much in heaven in Simla, the men so well
satisfied to be there too, at the top of the tree, that our
dissatisfaction gave us to one another the merit of originality,
almost proved in one another a superior mind. It was not that
either of us would have preferred to grill out our days in the
plains; we always had a saving clause for the climate, the altitude,
the scenery; it was Simla intrinsic, Simla as its other conditions
made it, with which we found such liberal fault. Again I should
have to explain Simla, at the length of an essay at least, to
justify our condemnation. This difficulty confronts me everywhere.
I must ask you instead to imagine a small colony of superior--very
superior--officials, of British origin and traditions, set on the
top of a hill, years and miles away from literature, music,
pictures, politics, existing like a harem on the gossip of the
Viceroy's intentions, and depending for amusement on tennis and
bumble-puppy, and then consider, you yourself, whether you are the
sort of person to be unquestionably happy there. If you see no
reason to the contrary, pray do not go on. There were times when
Dora declared that she couldn't breathe for want of an atmosphere,
and times when I looked round and groaned at the cheerful
congratulatory aridity in every man's eye--men who had done things
at Oxford in my own year, and come out like me to be mummified into
a last state like this. Thank Heaven, there was never any cheerful
congratulation in my eye; one could always put there, when the
thought inspired it, a saving spark of rank ingratitude instead.
It was as if we had the most desirable things--roses, cool airs, far
snowy ranges--to build what we like with, and we built Simla--
altitude, 7,000, population 2,500, headquarters of the Government of
India during the summer months. An ark it was, of course; an ark of
refuge from the horrible heat that surged below, and I wondered as I
climbed the steeps of Summer Hill in search of I. Armour's
inaccessible address, whether he was to be the dove bearing
beautiful testimony of a world coming nearer. I rejected the
simile, however, as over-sanguine; we had been too long abandoned on
A dog of no sort of caste stood in the veranda and barked at me
offensively. I picked up a stone, and he vanished like the dog of a
dream into the house. It was such a small house that it wasn't on
the municipal map at all: it looked as if someone had built it for
amusement with anything that was lying about. Nevertheless, it had
a name, it was called Amy Villa, freshly painted in white letters on
a shiny black board, and nailed against the nearest tree in the
orthodox Simla fashion. It looked as if the owner of the place had
named it as a duty towards his tenant, the board was so new, and in
that case the reflection presented itself that the tenant might have
cooperated to call it something else. It was disconcerting somehow
to find that our dove had perched, even temporarily, in Amy Villa.
Nor was it soothing to discover that the small white object stuck in
the corner of the board was Mr. Ingersoll Armour's card.
In Simla we do not stick our cards about in that way at the mercy of
the wind and the weather; we paint our names neatly under the names
of our houses with 'I.C.S.' for Indian Civil Service, or 'P.W.D.'
for Public Works Department, or whatever designation we are entitled
to immediately after, so that there can be no mistake. This strikes
newcomers sometimes as a little professional, especially when a hand
accompanies, pointing; but it is the only possible way where there
are no streets and no numbers, but where houses are dropped about a
hilltop as if they had fallen from a pepper-pot. In sticking his
card out like that Mr. Armour seemed to imagine himself au quatrieme
or au cinquieme somewhere on the south side of the Seine; it
betrayed rather a ridiculous lack of conformity. He was high enough
up, however, to give any illusion; I had to stop to find the wind to
announce myself. There was nobody else to do it if I except the
I walked into the veranda and shouted. Then I saw that one end of
it was partly glazed off, and inside sat a young man in his shirt-
sleeves with his back to the door.
In reply he called out, 'That you, Rosario?' and I stood silent,
taken somewhat aback.
There was only one Rosario in Simla, and he was a subordinate in my
own office. Again the hateful need to explain. Between subordinate
clerks and officials in Simla there is a greater gulf fixed than was
ever imagined in parable. Besides, Rosario had a plain strain of
what we call 'the country' in him, a plain strain, that is, of the
colour of the country. It was certainly the first time in my
official career that I had been mistaken for Rosario.
Armour turned round and saw me--that I was a stranger.
He got up at once. 'Oh,' he said, 'I thought it was Rosario.
'It isn't,' I replied, 'my name is Philips. May I ask whether you
were expecting Mr. Rosario? I can come again, you know.'
'Oh, it doesn't matter. Sit down. He may drop in or he may not--I
rather thought he would today. It's a pull up, isn't it, from the
Mall? Have a whisky and soda.'
I stood on the threshold spellbound. It was just the smell that
bound me, the good old smell of oil paints and turpentine and
mediums and varnish and new canvas that you never by any chance put
your nose into in any part of Asia. It carried me back twenty years
to old haunts, old friends, old joys, ideals, theories. Ah, to be
young and have a temperament! For I had one then--that instant in
Armour's veranda proved it to me forever.
'No thanks,' I said. 'If you don't mind I'll just have the smell.'
The young fellow knew at once that I liked the smell. 'Well, have a
chair, anyhow,' he said, and took one himself and sat down opposite
me, letting his lean brown hands fall between his knees.
'Do you mind,' I said, 'if for a minute I sit still and look round?'
He understood again.
'I haven't brought much,' he said, 'I left pretty near everything in
'You have brought a world.' Then after a moment, 'Did you do that?'
I asked, nodding towards a canvas tacked against the wall. It was
the head of a half-veiled Arab woman turned away.
The picture was in the turning away, and the shadow the head-
covering made over the cheek and lips.
'Lord, no! That's Dagnan Bouveret. I used to take my things to
him, and one day he gave me that. You have an eye,' he added, but
without patronage. 'It's the best thing I've got.'
I felt the warmth of an old thrill.
'Once upon a time,' I said, 'I was allowed to have an eye.' The
wine, untasted all those years, went to my head. 'That's a vigorous
bit above,' I continued.
'Oh, well! It isn't really up to much, you know. It's Rosario's.
He photographs mostly, but he has a notion of colour.'
'Really?' said I, thinking with regard to my eye that the sun of
that atrocious country had put it out. 'I expect I've lost it,' I
'Your eye? Oh, you'll easily get a fresh one. Do you go home for
'I did once,' I confessed. 'My first leave. A kind of paralysis
overtakes one here. Last time I went for the grouse.'
He glanced at me with his light clear eyes as if for the first time
he encountered a difficulty.
'It's a magnificent country for painting,' he said.
'But not for pictures,' I rejoined. He paid no attention, staring
at the ground and twisting one end of his moustache.
'The sun on those old marble tombs--broad sun and sand--'
'You mean somewhere about Delhi.'
'I couldn't get anywhere near it.' He was not at that moment
anywhere near me. 'But I have thought out a trick or two--I mean to
have another go when it cools off again down there.' He returned
with a smile, and I saw how delicate his face was. The smile turned
down with a little gentle mockery in its lines. I had seen that
particular smile only on the faces of one or two beautiful women.
It had a borrowed air upon a man, like a tiara or an earring.
'There's plenty to paint,' he said, looking at me with an air of
'Indeed, yes. And it has never been done. We are sure it has never
'"We"--you mean people generally?'
'Not at all. I mean Miss Harris, Miss Harris and myself.'
'My name is Philips,' I reminded him pleasantly, remembering that
the intelligence of clever people is often limited to a single art.
'Miss Harris is the daughter of Mr. Edward Harris, Secretary of the
Government of India in the Legislative Department. She is fond of
pictures. We have a good many tastes in common. We have always
suspected that India had never been painted, and when we saw your
things at the Town Hall we knew it.'
His queer eyes dilated, and he blushed.
'Oh,' he said, 'it's only one interpretation. It all depends on
what a fellow sees. No fellow can see everything.'
'Till you came,' I insisted, 'nobody had seen anything.'
He shook his head, but I could read in his face that this was not
news to him.
'That is mainly what I came up to tell you,' I continued, 'to beg
that you will go on and on. To hope that you will stay a long time
and do a great deal. It is such an extraordinary chance that any
one should turn up who can say what the country really means.'
He stuck his hands in his pockets with a restive movement. 'Oh,
don't make me feel responsible,' he said, 'I hate that;' and then
suddenly he remembered his manners. 'But it's certainly nice of you
to think so,' he added.
There was something a little unusual in his inflection which led me
to ask at this point whether he was an American, and to discover
that he came from somewhere in Wisconsin, not directly, but by way
of a few years in London and Paris. This accounted in a way for the
effect of freedom in any fortune about him for which I already liked
him, and perhaps partly for the look of unembarrassed inquiry and
experiment which sat so lightly in his unlined face. He came, one
realized, out of the fermentation of new conditions; he never could
have been the product of our limits and systems and classes in
England. His surroundings, his 'things,' as he called them, were as
old as the sense of beauty, but he seemed simply to have put them
where he could see them, there was no pose in their arrangement.
They were all good, and his delight in them was plain; but he was
evidently in no sense a connoisseur beyond that of natural instinct.
Some of those he had picked up in India I could tell him about, but
I had no impression that he would remember what I said. There was
one Bokhara tapestry I examined with a good deal of interest.
'Yes,' he said, 'they told me I shouldn't get anything as good as
that out here, so I brought it,' but I had to explain to him why it
was anomalous that this should be so.
'It came a good many miles over desert from somewhere,' he remarked,
as I made a note of inquiry as to the present direction of trade in
woven goods from Persia, 'I had to pound it for a week to get the
We spent an hour looking over work he had done down in the plains,
and then I took my leave. It did not occur to me at the moment to
ask Armour to come to the club or to offer to do anything for him;
all the hospitality, all that was worth offering seemed so much more
at his disposition than at mine. I only asked if I might come
again, mentioning somewhat shyly that I must have the opportunity of
adding, at my leisure, to those of his pictures that were already
mine by transaction with the secretary of the Art Exhibition. I
left him so astonished that this had happened, so plainly pleased,
that I was certain he had never sold anything before in his life.
This impression gave me the uplifted joy of a discoverer to add to
the satisfactions I had already drawn from the afternoon; and I
almost bounded down the hill to the Mall. I left the pi dog barking
in the veranda, and I met Mr. Rosario coming up, but in my unusual
elation I hardly paused to consider either of them further.
The mare and her groom were waiting on the Mall, and it was only
when I got on her back that the consciousness visited me of
something forgotten. It was my mission--to propose to take Armour,
if he were 'possible,' to call upon the Harrises. Oh, well, he was
possible enough; I supposed he possessed a coat, though he hadn't
been wearing it; and I could arrange it by letter. Meanwhile, as
was only fair, I turned the mare in the direction of the drawing-
room where I had reason to believe that Miss Dora Harris was
quenching her impatience in tea.
The very next morning I met Armour on my way to the office. He was
ambling along on the leanest and most ill-groomed of bazaar ponies,
and he wore a bowler. In Simla sun hats are admissible, straw hats
are presentable, and soft felt hats are superior, but you must not
wear a bowler. I might almost say that if one's glance falls upon a
bowler, one hardly looks further; the expectation of finding an
acquaintance under it is so vain. In this instance, I did look
further, fortunately, though in doing so I was compelled to notice
that the bowler was not lifted in answer to my salutation. Of no
importance in itself, of course, but betraying in Armour a certain
lack of observation. I felt the Departmental Head crumble in me,
however, as I recognized him, and I pulled the mare up in a manner
which she plainly resented. It was my opportunity to do cautiously
and delicately what I had omitted the afternoon before; but my
recollection is that I was very clumsy.
I said something about the dust, and he said something about the
glare, and then I could think of nothing better than to ask him if
he wouldn't like to meet a few Simla people.
'Oh, I know lots of people, thanks,' he said. 'It's kind of you to
think of it, all the same, but I've got any amount of friends here.'
I thought of Mr. Rosario, and stood, or sat confounded.
The mare fidgeted; I knocked a beast of a fly off her, and so gained
'This is my second season up here, you know.'
'Your second season!' I exclaimed. 'Where on earth have you been
'Well, I didn't exhibit last year, you see. I'd heard it was a kind
of a toy show, so I thought I wouldn't. I think now that was
foolish. But I got to know quite a number of families.'
'But I am sure there are numbers that you haven't met,' I urged,' or
I should have heard of it.'
He glanced at me with a slight flush. 'If you mean society people,'
he said, 'I don't care about that kind of thing, Mr. Philips. I'm
not adapted to it, and I don't want to be. If any one offered to
introduce me to the Viceroy, I would ask to be excused.'
'Oh, the Viceroy,' I responded, disrespectfully, 'is neither here
nor there. But there are some people, friends of my own, who would
like very much to meet you.'
'By the name of Harris?' he asked. I was too amazed to do anything
but nod. By the name of Harris! The Secretary of the Government of
India in the Legislative Department! The expression, not used as an
invocation, was inexcusable.
'I remember you mentioned them yesterday.'
'Yes,' I said, 'there's a father and daughter. Miss Harris is very
His face clouded, as well it might, at the word. 'Does she paint?'
he asked, so apprehensively that I could not forbear a smile at
Dora's expense. I could assure him that she did not paint, that she
had not painted, at all events, for years, and presently I found
myself in the ridiculous position of using argument to bring a young
man to the Harrises. In the end I prevailed, I know, out of sheer
good nature on Armour's part; he was as innocent as a baby of any
sense of opportunity.
We arranged it for the following Friday, but as luck would have it,
His Excellency sent for me at the very hour; we met the messenger.
I felt myself unlucky, but there was nothing for it but that Armour
should go alone, which he did, with neither diffidence nor alacrity,
but as if it were all in the day's work, and he had no reason to be
The files were very heavy during the succeeding fortnight, and the
Viceroy quite importunate in his demand for my valuable suggestions.
I was worked off my legs, and two or three times was obliged to deny
myself in replying to notes from Dora suggesting Sunday breakfast or
afternoon tea. Finally, I shook myself free; it was the day she
'You must come--I can't keep it to myself any longer.'
I half thought Armour would be there, but he wasn't; that is, he was
absent corporeally, but the spirit and expression of him littered
every convenient part. Some few things lay about that I had seen in
the studio, to call it so, but most of the little wooden panels
looked fresh, almost wet, and the air held strongly the fragrance of
Armour's north veranda. In one corner there used to be a Madonna on
a carved easel; the Madonna stood on the floor, and the easel with
working pegs in it held an unfinished canvas. Dora sat in the midst
with a distinct flush--she was inclined to be sallow--and made me
welcome in terms touched with extravagance. She did not rush,
however, upon the matter that was dyeing her cheeks, and I showed
myself as little impetuous. She poured out the tea, and we sat
there inhaling, as it were, the aroma of the thing, while keeping it
consciously in the background.
I imagine there was no moment in the time I describe when we enjoyed
Ingersoll Armour so much as at this one, when he lay in his nimbus
half known and wholly suppressed, between us. There were later
instances, perhaps, of deeper satisfaction, but they were more or
less perplexed, and not unobscured by anxiety. That afternoon it
was all to know and to be experienced, with just a delicious
I said something presently about Lady Pilkey's picnic on the morrow,
to which we had both been bidden.
'Shall I call for you?' I asked. 'You will ride, of course.'
'Thanks, but I've cried off--I'm going sketching.' Her eyes plainly
added, 'with Ingersoll Armour,' but she as obviously shrank from the
roughness of pitching him in that unconsidered way before us. For
some reason I refrained from taking the cue. I would not lug him in
'That is a new accomplishment,' was as much as I felt I could say
with dignity, and she responded:
'Yes, isn't it?'
I felt some slight indignation on Lady Pilkey's account. 'Do you
really think you ought to do things like that at the eleventh hour?'
I asked, but Dora smiled at a glance, the hypocrisy out of my face.
'What does anything matter?' she demanded.
I knew perfectly well the standard by which nothing mattered, and
there was no use, of course, in going on pretending that I did not.
'I assured him that you didn't paint,' I said, accusingly.
'Oh, I had to--otherwise what was there to go upon? He would have
been found only to be lost again. You did not contemplate that?'
Miss Harris inquired sweetly.
'I should have thought it was the surest way of losing him.'
'I can't think why you should be so rude. He observes progress
'With a view to claiming and holding him, would it be of any use,' I
asked, 'for me to start in oils?'
Miss Harris eyed me calmly.
'I don't know,' she said, 'but it doesn't seem the same thing
somehow. I think you had better leave it to me.'
'Indeed, I won't,' I said; 'there is too much in it,' and we smiled
across the gulf of our friendly understanding.
I crossed to the mantelpiece and picked up one of the little wet
panels. There was that in it which explained my friend's exultation
much more plainly than words.
'That is what I am to show him tomorrow,' she exclaimed; 'I think I
have done as he told me. I think it's pretty right.'
Whether it was pretty right or pretty wrong, she had taken in an
extraordinary way an essence out of him. It wasn't of course good,
but his feeling was reflected in it, at once so brilliantly and so
profoundly that it was startling to see.
'Do you think he'll be pleased?' she asked, anxiously.
'I think he'll be astounded,' I said, reserving the rest, and she
cried in her pleasure, 'Oh, you dear man!'
'I see you have taken possession of him,' I went on.
'Ah, body and soul,' Dora rejoined, and it must have been something
like that. I could imagine how she did it; with what wiles of
simplicity and candid good-fellowship she had drawn him to
forgetfulness and response, and how presently his enthusiasm leaped
up to answer hers and they had been caught altogether out of the
plane of common relations, and he had gone away on that disgraceful
bazaar pony with a ratified arrangement to return next day which had
been almost taken for granted from the beginning.
I confess, though I had helped to bring it about, the situation
didn't altogether please me. I did not dream of foolish dangers,
but it seemed to take a little too much for granted; I found myself
inwardly demanding whether, after all, a vivid capacity to make
colour conscious was a sufficient basis on which to bring to Edward
Harris's house a young man about whom we knew nothing whatever else.
An instant's regard showed the scruple fraudulent, it fled before
the rush of pleasure with which I gazed at the tokens he had left
behind him. I fell back on my wonder, which was great, that Dora
should have possessed the technique necessary to take him at a point
where he could give her so much that was valuable.
'Oh, well,' she said when I uttered it, 'you know I made the
experiment! I found out in South Kensington--you can learn that
much there--that I never would be able to paint well enough to make
it worth while. So I dropped it and took a more general line
towards life. But I find it very easy to imagine myself dedicated
to that particular one again.'
'You never told me,' I said. Why had I been shut out of that
'I tell you now,' Dora replied, absently, 'when I am able to offer
you the fact with illustrations.' She laughed and dropped a still
illuminated face in the palm of her hand. 'He has wonderfully
revived me,' she declared. 'I could throw, honestly, the whole of
Simla overboard for this.'
'Don't,' I urged, feeling, suddenly, an integral part of Simla.
'Oh, no--what end would be served? But I don't care who knows,' she
went on with a rush, 'that in all life this is what I like best, and
people like Mr. Armour are the people I value most. Heavens, how
few of them there are! And wherever they go how the air clears up
round them! It makes me quite ill to think of the life we lead
here--the poverty of it, the preposterous dullness of it. . ..'
'For goodness' sake,' I said, obscurely irritated, 'don't quote the
bishop. The life holds whatever we put into it.'
'For other people it does, and for us it holds what other people put
into it,' she retorted. 'I don't know whether you think it's
adequately filled with gold lace and truffles.'
'Why should I defend it?' I asked, not knowing indeed why. 'But it
has perhaps a dignity, you know. Ah, you are too fresh from your
baptism,' I continued, as she shook her head and went to the piano.
The quality, whatever it was, that the last fortnight had generated
in her, leaped from her fingers; she played with triumph, elation,
intention. The notes seemed an outlet for the sense of beauty and
for power to make it. I had never heard her play like that before.
It occurred to me to ask when she had done, how far, after a
fortnight, she could throw light on Armour's aims and history, where
he had come from, and the great query with which we first received
him, what he could be doing in Simla. I gathered that she had
learned practically nothing, and had hardly concerned herself to
learn anything. What difference did it make? she asked me. Why
should we inquire? Why tack a theory of origin to a phenomenon of
joy? Let us say the wind brought him, and build him a temple. She
was very whimsical up to the furthest stretch of what could possibly
be considered tea-time. When I went away I saw her go again and sit
down at the piano. In the veranda I remembered something, stopped,
and went back. I had to go back. 'You did not tell me,' I said,
'when he was coming again.'
'Oh, tomorrow--tomorrow, of course,' Dora paused to reply.
I resented, as I made my way to the Club, the weight of official
duties that made it so impossible for me to keep at all closely in
touch with this young man.
The art of the photographer usually arouses in me all that is
splenetic, and I had not submitted myself to him for years before
Dora made such a preposterous point of it--years in which, as I
sadly explained to her, I might have submitted to the ordeal with
much more 'pleasing' results. She had often insisted before, but I
could never see that she made out a particularly good case for the
operation until one afternoon when she showed me the bold
counterfeit presentment of an Assistant Adjutant-General or some
such person, much flattered as to features but singularly faithful
in its reproduction of the straps and buttons attached. To my post
also there belongs a uniform and a cocked hat sufficiently dramatic,
but persons who serve the State primarily with the intelligence are
supposed to have a mind above buttons; and when I decided that my
photograph should compete with the Assistant Adjutant-General's, I
gave him every sartorial advantage. I gathered that the offer,
cabinet size, of this gentleman had been a spontaneous one; that
certainly could not be said of mine. Most unwillingly I turned one
morning into Kauffer's; and I can not now imagine why I did it, for
emulation of the Assistant Adjutant-General was really not motive
enough, unless it was with an instinct prepared to stumble upon
matter germane in an absurd degree to this little history.
I had the honour to be subjected to the searching analysis of Mr.
Kauffer himself. It was he who placed the chair and arranged the
screw, he who fixed the angle of my chin and gently disposed my
fingers on my knee. He gave me, I remember, a recent portrait of
the Viceroy to fix my eye upon, doubtless with the purpose of
inspiring my countenance with the devotion which would sit suitably
upon one of His Excellency's slaves, and when it was all over he
conducted me into another apartment in order that I might see the
very latest viceregal group--a domestic one, including the Staff.
The walls of the room contained what is usually there, the enlarged
photograph, the coloured photograph, the amateur theatrical group,
the group of His Excellency's Executive Council, the native
dignitary with a diamond-tipped aigrette in the front of his turban.
The copy in oils of some old Italian landscape, very black and
yellow, also held its invariable place, and above it, very near the
ceiling, a line of canvases which, had I not been led past them to
inspect our ruler and his family, who sat transfixed on an easel in
a resplendent frame, would probably have escaped my attention. I
did proper homage to the easel, and then turned to those pictures.
It was plain enough who had painted them. Armour's broad brush
stood out all over them. They were mostly Indian sporting subjects,
the incident a trifle elliptical, the drawing unequal, but the verve
and feeling unmistakeable, and colour to send a quiver of glorious
acquiescence through you like a pang. What astonished me was the
number of them; there must have been at least a dozen, all the same
size and shape, all hanging in a line of dazzling repetition. Here
then was the explanation of Armour's seeming curious lack of output,
and plain denial of the supposition that he spent the whole of his
time in doing the little wooden 'pochade' things whose sweetness and
delicacy had so feasted our eyes elsewhere. It was part, no doubt,
of his absolutely uncommercial nature--we had experienced together
passages of the keenest embarrassment over my purchase of some of
his studies--that he had not mentioned these more serious things
exposed at Kauffer's; one had the feeling of coming unexpectedly on
treasure left upon the wayside and forgotten.
'Hullo!' I said, at a standstill, 'I see you've got some of Mr.
Armour's work there.'
Mr. Kauffer, with his hands behind him, made the sound which has its
counterpart in a shrug. 'Yass,' he said, 'I haf some of Mr.
Armour's work there. This one, that one, all those remaining
pictures--they are all the work of Mr. Armour.'
'I didn't know that any of his things were to be seen outside his
studio,' I observed.
'So? They are to be seen here. There is no objection.'
'Why should there be any objection?' I demanded, slightly nettled.
'People must see them before they buy them.'
'Buy them!' Kauffer's tone was distinctly exasperated. 'Who will
buy these pictures? Nobody. They are all, every one of them to
'If you know Mr. Armour well enough,' I said, 'you should advise him
to exhibit some of his local studies and sketches here. They might
My words seemed unfortunately chosen. Mr. Kauffer turned an honest
'Do I not know Mr. Armour well enough--und better!' he exclaimed.
'What this man wass doing when I in Paris find him oudt? Shtarving,
mein Gott! I see his work. I see he paint a very goot horse, very
goot animal subject. I bring him oudt on contract, five hundred
rupees the monnth to paint for me, for my firm. Sir, it is now nine
monnth. I am yoost four tousand five hundred rupees out of my
pocket by this gentleman!'
To enable me to cope with this astonishing tale I asked Mr. Kauffer
for a chair, which he obligingly gave me, and begged that he also
would be seated. The files at my office were my business, and this
was not, but no matter of Imperial concern seemed at the moment half
so urgently to require probing. 'Surely,' I said, 'that is an
unusual piece of enterprise for a photographic firm to employ an
artist to paint on a salary. I don't know even a regular dealer who
Mr. Kauffer at once and frankly explained. It was unusual and
entirely out of the regular line of business. It was, in fact, one
of the exceptional forms of enterprise inspired in this country by
the native prince. We who had to treat with the native prince
solely on lofty political lines were hardly likely to remember how
largely he bulked in the humbler relations of trade; but there was
more than one Calcutta establishment, Mr. Kauffer declared, that
would be obliged to put up its shutters without this inconstant and
difficult, but liberal customer. I waited with impatience. I could
not for the life of me see Armour's connection with the native
prince, who is seldom a patron of the arts for their own sakes.
'Surely,' I said, 'you could not depend on the Indian nobility to
buy landscapes. They never do. I know of only one distinguished
exception, and he lives a thousand miles from here, in Bengal.'
'No, not landscape,' returned Mr. Kauffer; 'but that Indian nobleman
will buy his portrait. We send our own man--photographic artist--to
his State, and he photograph the Chief and his arab, the Chief and
his Prime Minister, the Chief in his durbar, palace, gardens,
stables--everything. Presently the Chief goes on a big shoot. He
says he will not have a plain photograph--besides, it is difficult.
He will have a painting, and he will pay.'
'Ah,' I said, 'I begin to see.'
'You see? Then I send this Armour. Look!' Mr. Kauffer continued
with rising excitement, baited apparently by the unfortunate canvas
to which he pointed, 'when Armour go to make that I say you go paint
ze Maharajah of Gridigurh spearing ze wild pig. You see what he
'Well,' I said, 'it is a wonderfully spirited, dashing thing, and
the treatment of all that cane-brake and jungle grass is superb.'
'Ze treatment--pardon me, sir, I overboil--do you know which is ze
'I can't say I do.'
'Neider does he. Ze Maharajah refuse zat picture; he is a good
fellow, too. He says it is a portrait of ze pig.'
'But it is so good,' I protested, 'of the pig.'
'But that does not interest the Maharajah, you onderstand, no. You
see this one? Nawab of Kandore on his State elephant.'
No doubt about it,' I said. 'I know the Nawab well, the young
scoundrel. How dignified he looks!'
There was a note of real sorrow in Kauffer's voice. 'Dignified?
Oh, yes; dignified, but, you observe, also black. The Nawab will
not be painted black. At once it is on my hands.'
'But he is black,' I remonstrated. 'He's the darkest native I've
ever seen among the nobility.'
'No matter for that. He will not be black. When I photograph that
Nawab--any nawab--I do not him black make. But ziss ass of Armour--
It was a fascinating subject, and I could have pursued it all along
the line of poor Armour's rejected canvases, but the need to get
away from Kauffer with his equal claim upon my sympathy was too
great. To have cracked my solemn mask by a single smile would have
been to break down irrepressibly, and never since I set foot in
India had I felt a parallel desire to laugh and to weep. There was
a pang in it which I recognize as impossible to convey, arising from
the point of contact, almost unimaginable yet so clear before me, of
the uncompromising ideals of the atelier and the naive demands of
the Oriental, with an unhappy photographer caught between and
wriggling. The situation was really monstrous, the fatuous
rejection of all that fine scheming and exquisite manipulation, and
it did not grow less so as Mr. Kauffer continued to unfold it.
Armour had not, apparently, proceeded to the scene of his labours
without instructions. In the pig-sticking delineation he had been
specially told that the Maharajah and the pig were to be in the
middle, with the rest nowhere and nothing between. Other
injunctions were as clear, and as clearly disregarded. Armour, like
the Maharajahs, had simply 'REfuse' to abandon his premeditated
conceptions of how the thing should be done. And here was the
result, for the laughter of the gods and anybody else that might
see. I asked Kauffer unguardedly if no sort of pressure could be
brought to bear upon these chaps to make them pay up. His face
beaming with hope and intelligence, he suggested that I should
approach the Foreign Office in his behalf; but this I could not
quite see my way to. The coercion of native rulers, I explained,
was a difficult and a dangerous art, and to insist, for example,
that one of them should recognize his own complexion might be to run
up a disproportionate little bill of our own. I did, however,
compound something with Kauffer; I hope it wasn't a felony. 'Look
here,' I said to Kauffer, 'this isn't official, you know, in any
way, but how would it do to write that scamp Kandore a formal letter
regretting that the portrait does not suit him, and asking his
permission to dispose of it to me? Of course it is yours to do as
you like with already, but that is no reason why you shouldn't ask.
I should like it, but the Porcha tiger beat will do as well.'
Kauffer nearly fell upon my neck.
'That Kandore will buy it to put in one bonfire first,' he assured
me, and I sincerely hoped for his sake that it would be the case.
'Of course it's understood,' I bethought me to say, 'that I get it,
if I do get it, at Mr. Armour's price. I'm not a Maharajah, you
know, and it isn't a portrait of me.'
'Of course!' said Kauffer, 'but I sink I sell you that Porcha; it is
ze best of ze two.'
I ventured for a few days to keep the light which chance had shed
for me upon Armour's affairs to myself. The whole thing considered
in connection with his rare and delicate talent, seemed too
derogatory and disastrous to impart without the sense of doing him
some kind of injury in the mere statement. But there came a point
when I could no longer listen to Dora Harris's theories to account
for him, wild idealizations as most of them were of any man's
circumstances and intentions. 'Why don't you ask him point-blank?'
I said, and she replied, frowning slightly, 'Oh, I couldn't do that.
It would destroy something--I don't know what, but something
valuable--between us.' This struck me as an exaggeration,
considering how far, by that time, they must have progressed towards
intimacy, and my mouth was opened. She heard me without the
exclamations I expected, her head bent over the pencil she was
sharpening, and her silence continued after I had finished. The
touch of comedy I gave the whole thing--surely I was justified in
that!--fell flat, and I extracted from her muteness a sense of
rebuke; one would think I had been taking advantage of the poor
At last, having broken the lead of her pencil three times, she
turned a calm, considering eye upon me.
'You have known this for a fortnight?' she asked. 'That doesn't
seem somehow quite fair.'
'To whom?' I asked, and her answer startled me.
'To either of us,' she said.
How she advised herself to that effect is more than I can imagine,
but the print of her words is indelible, that is what she said.
'Oh, confound it!' I exclaimed. 'I couldn't help finding out, you
'But you could help keeping it to yourself in that--in that base
way,' she replied, and almost--the evening light was beginning to
glimmer uncertainly through the deodars--I could swear I saw the
flash of a tear on her eyelid.
'I beg your pardon,' she went on a moment later, 'but I do hate
having to pity him. It's intolerable--that.'
I picked up a dainty edition of Aucassin and Nicolette with the
intention of getting upon ground less emotional, and observed on the
flyleaf 'D.H. from I.A. In memory of the Hill of Stars.' I looked
appreciatively at the binding, and as soon as possible put it down.
'He was not bound to tell me,' Dora asserted presently, in reply to
my statement that the mare had somehow picked up a nail in the
stable, and was laid up.
'You have been very good to him,' I said. 'I think he was.'
'His reticence was due,' she continued, as if defying contradiction,
'to a simple dislike to bore one with his personal affairs.'
'Was it?' I assented. My tone acknowledged with all humility that
she was likely to know, and I did not deserve her doubtful glance.
'He could not certainly,' she went on, with firmer decision, 'have
been in the least ashamed of his connection with Kauffer.'
'He comes from a country where social distinctions are less sharp
than they are in this idiotic place,' I observed.
'Oh, if you think it is from any lack of recognition! His
sensitiveness is beyond reason. He has met two or three men in the
Military Department here--he was aware of the nicest shade of their
patronage. But he does not care. To him life is more than a
clerkship. He sees all round people like that. They are only
figures in the landscape.'
'Then,' I said, 'he is not at all concerned that nobody in this
Capua of ours knows him, or cares anything about him, or has bought
a scrap of his work, except our two selves.'
'That's a different matter. I have tried to rouse in him the
feeling that it would be as well to be appreciated, even in Simla,
and I think I've succeeded. He said, after those two men had gone
away on Sunday, that he thought a certain reputation in the place
where he lived would help anybody in his work.'
'On Sunday? Do you mean between twelve and two?'
'Yes, he came and made a formal call. There was no reason why he
'Now that I think of it,' I rejoined, 'he shot a card on me too, at
the Club. I was a little surprised. We didn't seem somehow to be
on those terms. One doesn't readily associate him with any
'There's no reason why he shouldn't,' said Dora again, and with this
vague comment we spoke of something else, both of us, I think, a
little disquieted and dissatisfied that he had.
'I think,' Dora said as I went away, 'that you had better go up to
the studio and tell him what you have told me. Perhaps it doesn't
matter much, but I can't bear the thought of his not knowing.'
'Come to Kauffer's in the morning and see the pictures,' I urged;
but she turned away, 'Oh, not with you.'
I found my way almost at once to Amy Villa, not only because I had
been told to go there. I wanted, myself, certain satisfactions.
Armour was alone and smoking, but I had come prepared against the
contingency of one of his cigars. They were the cigars of the man
who doesn't know what he eats. With sociable promptness I lighted
one of my own. The little enclosed veranda testified to a wave of
fresh activity. The north light streamed in upon two or three fresh
canvases, the place seemed full of enthusiasm, and you could see its
source, at present quiescent under the influence of tobacco, in
'You have taken a new line,' I said, pointing to a file of camels,
still half obscured by the dust of the day, coming along a mountain
road under a dim moon. They might have been walking through time
and through history. It was a queer, simple thing, with a world of
early Aryanism in it.
'Does that say anything? I'm glad. It was to me articulate, but I
didn't know. Oh, things have been going well with me lately. Those
two studies over there simply did themselves. That camp scene on
the left is almost a picture. I think I'll put a little more work
on it and give it a chance in Paris. I got in once, you know.
Champ de Mars. With some horses.'
'Did you, indeed?' I said. 'Capital.' I asked him if he didn't
atrociously miss the life of the Quarter, and he surprised me by
saying that he never had lived it. He had been en pension instead
with a dear old professor of chemistry and his family at Puteaux,
and used to go in and out. A smile came into his eyes at the
rememberance, and he told me one after the other idyllic little
stories of the old professor and madame. Madame and the omelet--
madame and the melon--M. Vibois and the maire; I sat charmed. So
long as we remained in France his humour was like this, delicate and
expansive, but an accidental allusion led us across the Channel when
he changed. He had no little stories of the time he spent in
England. Instead he let himself go in generalizations, aimed, for
they had a distinct animus, at English institutions and character,
particularly as these appear in English society. I could not
believe, from the little I had seen of him, that his experience of
English society of any degree had been intimate; what he said had
the flavour of Radical Sunday papers. The only original element was
the feeling behind, which was plainly part of him; speculation
instantly clamoured as to how far this was purely temperamental and
how far the result of painful contact. He himself, he said, though
later of the Western States, had been born under the British flag of
British parents--though his mother was an Irishwoman she came from
loyal Ulster--and he repeated the statement as if it in some way
justified his attitude towards his fellow countrymen and excused his
truculence in the ear of a servant of the empire which he had the
humour to abuse. I heard him, I confess, with impatience, it was
all so shabby and shallow, but I heard him out, and I was rewarded;
he came for an illustration in the end to Simla. 'Look,' he said,
'at what they call their "Government House list"; and look at
Strobo, Signor Strobo. Isn't Strobo a man of intelligence, isn't he
a man of benevolence? He gave ten thousand rupees last week to the
famine fund. Is Strobo on Government House list? Is he ever
invited to dine with the Viceroy? No, because Strobo keeps a hotel!
Look at Rosario--where does Rosario come in? Nowhere, because
Rosario is a clerk, and a subordinate. Yet Rosario is a man of wide
reading and a very accomplished fellow!'
It became more or less necessary to argue then, and the commonplaces
with which I opposed him called forth a wealth of detail bearing
most picturesquely upon his stay among us. I began to think he had
never hated English rigidity and English snobbery until he came to
Simla, and that he and Strobo and Rosario had mingled their
experiences in one bitter cup. I gathered this by inference only,
he was curiously watchful and reticent as to anything that had
happened to him personally; indeed, he was careful to aver
preferences for the society of 'sincere' people like Strobo and
Rosario, that seemed to declare him more than indifferent to circles
in which he would not meet them. In the end our argument left me
ridiculously irritated--it was simply distressing to see the
platform from which he obtained so wide and exquisite a view of the
world upheld by such flimsy pillars--and my nerves were not soothed
by his proposal to walk with me to the Club. I could hardly refuse
it, however, and he came along in excellent spirits, having effected
the demolition of British social ideals, root and branch. His
mongrel dog accompanied, keeping offensively near our heels. It was
not even an honest pi, but a dog of tawdry pretensions with a
banner-like tail dishonestly got from a spaniel. On one occasion I
very nearly kicked the dog.
'The fact is,' I said to Dora as we rode down to the gymkhana, 'his
personality takes possession of one. I constantly go to that little
hut of his with intentions, benevolent or otherwise, which I never
'You mean,' she answered, 'that you completely forgot to reveal to
him your hateful knowledge about Kauffer.'
'On the contrary, I didn't forget it for a moment. But the
conversation took a turn that made it quite impossible to mention.'
'I can understand,' Miss Harris replied softly, 'how that might be.
And it doesn't in the least matter,' she went on triumphantly,
'because I've told him myself.'
My nerves must have been a trifle strung up at the time, for this
struck me as a matter for offense. 'You thought I would trample
upon him,' I exclaimed.
'No, no really. I disliked his not knowing it was known--rien de
plus,' she said lightly.
'What did he say?'
'Oh, not much. What should he say?'
'He might have expressed a decent regret on poor Kauffer's account,'
I growled. Dora did not reply, and a glance showed her frowning.
'I believe he apologized!' I cried, pushing, as it were, my
'Of course he hasn't relished the position, and of course he didn't
realize it before he came. Shall we trot?'
I was compelled to negative the idea of trotting, since we were
descending quite the steepest pitch of the road down to Annandale.
We went on at a walk, and it occurred to me, as my contemplative
gaze fell on my own pig-skins, that we were, even for Simla, an
uncommonly well-turned-out pair. I had helped to pick Dora's hack,
and I allowed myself to reflect that he did my judgment credit. She
sat him perfectly in her wrath--she was plainly angry--not a hair
out of place. Why is it that a lady out of temper with her escort
always walks away from him? Is her horse sympathetic? Ronald, at
all events, was leading by a couple of yards, when suddenly he
shied, bounding well across the road.
The mare, whose manners I can always answer for, simply stopped and
looked haughtily about for explanations. A path dropped into the
road from the hillside; something came scrambling and stumbling
'Oh!' cried Dora, as it emerged and was Armour on his much enduring
white pony, 'how you frightened us!'
'Why don't you stick to the road, man?' I exclaimed. 'It isn't
usual to put ponies up and down these coolie tracks!'
He took no notice of this rather broad hint that I was annoyed, but
fixed his eager, light, luminous eyes upon Dora.
'I'm sorry,' he said, and added, 'I did not expect to see you
'Not till tomorrow,' she returned. 'You remember that we are
He looked at her and smiled slightly; and then I remember noticing
that his full, arched upper lip seldom quite met its counterpart
over his teeth. This gave an unpremeditated casual effect to
everything he found to say, and made him look a dreamer at his
busiest. His smile was at the folly of her reminder.
'I've just been looking for something that you would like,' he said,
'but it isn't much good hunting about alone. I see five times as
much when we go together.'
He and his pony barred the way; he had an air of leisure and of
felicity; one would think we had met at an afternoon party.
'We are on our way,' I explained, 'to the gymkhana. Miss Harris is
in one of the events. You did enter for the needle-threading race,
didn't you, with Lord Arthur? I think we must get on.'
A slow, dull red mounted to Armour's face and seemed to put out that
curious light in his eyes.
'Is it far?' he asked, glancing down over the tree-tops. 'I've
never been there.'
'Why,' cried Dora, suddenly, 'you've been down!'
'So you have,' I confirmed her. 'Your beast is damaged too.'
'Oh, it was only a stumble,' Armour replied; 'I stuck on all right.'
'Well,' I said, 'you had better get off now, as you didn't then, and
look at your animal's near fore. The swelling's as big as a bun
Again he made me no answer, but looked intently and questioningly at
'Get off, Mr. Armour,' she said, sharply, 'and lead your horse home.
It is not fit to be ridden. Goodbye.'
I have no doubt he did it, but neither of us were inclined to look
back to see. We pushed on under the deodars, and I was indulgent to
a trot. At the end of it Dora remarked that Mr. Armour naturally
could not be expected to know anything about riding, it was very
plucky of him to get on a horse at all, among these precipices; and
I of course agreed.
Lord Arthur was waiting when we arrived, on his chestnut polo pony,
but Dora immediately scratched for the brilliant event in which they
were paired. Ronald, she said, was simply cooked with the heat.
Ronald had come every yard of the way on his toes and was fit for
anything, but Lord Arthur did not insist. There were young ladies
in Simla, I am glad to say, who appealed more vividly to his
imagination than Dora Harris did, and one of them speedily replaced
her, a fresh-coloured young Amazon who was staying at the Chief's.
She wandered about restlessly over the dry turf for a few minutes,
and then went and sat down in a corner of the little wooden Grand
Stand and sent me for a cup of tea.
'Won't you come to the tent?' I asked a little ruefully, eyeing the
distance and the possible collisions between, but she shook her
'I simply couldn't bear it,' she said, and I went feeling somehow
chastened myself by the cloud that was upon her spirit.
I found her on my return regarding the scene with a more than
usually critical eye, and a more than usually turned down lip. Yet
it was exactly the scene it always was, and always, probably, will
be. I sat down beside her and regarded it also, but more charitably
than usual. Perhaps it was rather trivial, just a lot of pretty
dresses and excited young men in white riding-breeches doing foolish
things on ponies in the shortest possible time, with one little
crowd about the Club's refreshment tent and another about the
Staff's, while the hills sat round in an indifferent circle; but it
appealed to me with a kind of family feeling that afternoon, and
inspired me with tolerance, even benevolence.
'After all,' I said, 'it's mainly youth and high spirits--two good
things. And one knows them all.'
'And who are they to know?' complained Dora.
'Just decent young Englishmen and Englishwomen, out here on their
country's business,' I replied cheerfully; 'with the marks of Oxford
and Cambridge and Sandhurst and Woolwich on the men. Well-set-up
youngsters, who know what to do and how to do it. Oh, I like the
'I wonder,' said she, in a tone of preposterous melancholy, 'if
eventually I have to marry one of them.'
'Not necessarily,' I said. She looked at me with interest, as if I
had contributed importantly to the matter in hand, and resumed
tapping her boot with her riding-crop. We talked of indifferent
things and had long lapses. At the close of one effort Dora threw
herself back with a deep, tumultuous sigh. 'The poverty of this
little wretched resort ties up one's tongue!' she cried. 'It is the
bottom of the cup; here one gets the very dregs of Simla's
commonplace. Let us climb out of it.'
I thought for a moment that Ronald had been too much for her nerves
coming down, and offered to change saddles, but she would not. We
took it out of the horses all along the first upward slopes, and as
we pulled in to breathe them she turned to me paler than ever.
'I feel better now,' she said.
For myself I had got rid of Armour for the afternoon. I think my
irritation with him about his pony rose and delivered me from the
too insistent thought of him. With Dora it was otherwise; she had
dismissed him; but he had never left her for a moment the whole long
She flung a searching look at me. With a reckless turn of her head,
she said, 'Why didn't we take him with us?'
'Did we want him?' I asked.
'I think I always want him.'
'Ah!' said I, and would have pondered this statement at some length
in silence, but that she plainly did not wish me to do so.
'We might perfectly well have sent his pony home with one of our own
servants--he would have been delighted to walk down.'
'He wasn't in proper kit,' I remonstrated.
'Oh, I wish you would speak to him about that. Make him get some
tennis-flannels and riding-things.'
'Do you propose to get him asked to places?' I inquired.
She gave me a charmingly unguarded smile. 'I propose to induce you
to do so. I have done what I could. He has dined with us several
times, and met a few people who would, I thought, be kind to him.'
'Oh, well,' I said, 'I have had him at the Club too, with old Lamb
and Colonel Hamilton. He made us all miserable with his shyness.
Don't ask me to do it again, please.'
'I've sent him to call on certain people,' Dora continued, 'and I've
shown his pictures to everybody, and praised him and talked about
him, but I can't go on doing that indefinitely, can I?'
'No,' I said; 'people might misunderstand.'
'I don't think they would MISunderstand,' replied this astonishing
girl, without flinching. She even sought my eyes to show me that
hers were clear and full of purpose.
'Good God!' I said to myself, but the words that fell from me were,
'He is outside all that life.'
'What is the use of living a life that he is outside of?'
'Oh, if you put it that way,' I said, and set my teeth, 'I will do
what I can.'
She held out her hand with an affectionate gesture, and I was
reluctantly compelled to press it.
The horses broke into a trot, and we talked no more of Armour, or of
anything, until Ted Harris joined us on the Mall.
I have rendered this conversation with Dora in detail because
subsequent events depend so closely upon it. Some may not agree
that it was basis enough for the action I thought well to take; I
can only say that it was all I was ever able to obtain. Dora was
always particularly civil and grateful about my efforts, but she
gave me only one more glimpse, and that enigmatic, of any special
reason why they should be made. Perhaps this was more than
compensated for by the abounding views I had of the situation as it
lay with Ingersoll Armour, but of that, other persons, approaching
the subject without prejudice, will doubtless judge better than I.
It was better not to inquire, so I never knew to what extent Kauffer
worked upon the vanity of ancient houses the sinful dodge I
suggested to him; but I heard before long that the line of Armour's
rejected efforts had been considerably diminished. Armour told me
himself that Kauffer's attitude had become almost conciliatory, that
Kauffer had even hinted at the acceptance of, and adhesion to,
certain principles which he would lay down as the basis of another
year's contract. In talking to me about it, Armour dwelt on these
absurd stipulations only as the reason why any idea of renewal was
impossible. It was his proud theory with me that to work for a
photographer was just as dignified as to produce under any other
conditions, provided you did not stoop to ideals which for lack of a
better word might be called photographic. How he represented it to
Dora, or permitted Dora to represent it to him, I am not so certain-
-I imagine there may have been admissions and qualifications. Be
that as it may, however, the fact was imperative that only three
months of the hated bond remained, and that some working substitute
for the hated bond would have to be discovered at their expiration.
Simla, in short, must be made to buy Armour's pictures, to
appreciate them, if the days of miracle were not entirely past, but
to buy them any way. On one or two occasions I had already made
Simla buy things. I had cleared out young Ludlow's stables for him
in a week--he had a string of ten--when he played polo in a straw
hat and had to go home with sunstroke; and I once auctioned off all
the property costumes of the Amateur Dramatic Society at astonishing
prices. Pictures presented difficulties which I have hinted at in
an earlier chapter, but I did not despair. I began by hauling old
Lamb, puffing and blowing like a grampus, up to Amy Villa, filling
him up all the way with denunciations of Simla's philistinism and
suggestions that he alone redeemed it.
It is a thing I am ashamed to think of, and it deserved its reward.
Lamb criticized and patronized every blessed thing he saw, advised
Armour to beware of mannerisms and to be a little less liberal with
his colour, and heard absolutely unmoved of the horses Armour had
got into the Salon. 'I understand,' he said, with a benevolent
wink, 'that about four thousand pictures are hung every year at the
Salon, and I don't know how many thousand are rejected. Let Mr.
Armour get a picture accepted by the Academy. Then he will have
something to talk about.'
Neither did Sir William Lamb buy anything at all.
The experiment with Lady Pilkey was even more distressing. She
gushed with fair appropriateness and great liberality, and finally
fixed upon one scene to make her own. She winningly asked the price
of it. She had never known anybody who did not understand prices.
Poor Armour, the colour of a live coal, named one hundred rupees.
'One hundred rupees! Oh, my dear boy, I can never afford that! You
must, you must really give it to me for seventy-five. It will break
my heart if I can't have it for seventy-five.'
'Give me the pleasure,' said Armour, 'of making you a present of it.
You have been so kind about everything, and it's so seldom one meets
anybody who really cares. So let me send it to you.' It was honest
embarrassment; he did not mean to be impertinent.
And she did.
Blum, of the Geological Department--Herr Blum in his own country--
came up and honestly rejoiced, and at end of an interminable pipe
did purchase a little Breton bit that I hated to see go--it was one
of the things that gave the place its air; but Blum had a large
family undergoing education at Heidelberg, and exclaimed, to
Armour's keenest anguish, that on this account he could not more do.
Altogether, during the months of August and September, persons
resident in Simla drawing their income from Her Majesty, bought from
the eccentric young artist from nowhere, living on Summer Hill,
canvases and little wooden panels to the extent of two hundred and
fifty rupees. Lady Pilkey had asked him to lunch--she might well!
and he had appeared at three garden-parties and a picnic. It was
It was not enough, and yet it was, in a manner, too much. Pitiful
as it was in substance, it had an extraordinary personal effect.
Armour suddenly began to turn himself out well--his apparel was of
smarter cut than mine, and his neckties in better taste. Little
elegances appeared in the studio--he offered you Scotch in a
Venetian decanter and Melachrinos from a chased silver box. The
farouche element faded out of his speech; his ideas remained as
fresh and as simple as ever, but he gave them a form, bless me! that
might have been used at the Club. He worked as hard as ever, but
more variously; he tried his hand at several new things. He said he
was feeling about for something that would really make his
In spite of all this his little measure of success made him more
contemptuous than before of its scene and its elements. He declared
that he had a poorer idea than ever of society now that he saw the
pattern from the smart side. That his convictions on this head
survived one of the best Simla tailors shows that they must always
have been strong. I think he believed that he was doing all that he
did do to make himself socially possible with the purpose of
pleasing Dora Harris. I would not now venture to say how far Dora
inspired and controlled him in this direction, and how far the
impulse was his own. The measure of appreciation that began to seek
his pictures, poor and small though it was, gave him, on the other
hand, the most unalloyed delight. He talked of the advice of Sir
William Lamb as if it were anything but that of a pompous old ass,
and he made a feast with champagne for Blum that must have cost him
quite as much as Blum paid for the Breton sketch. He confirmed my
guess that he had never in his life until he came to Simla sold
anything, so that even these small transactions were great things to
him, and the earnest of a future upon which he covered his eyes not
to gaze too raptly. He mentioned to me that Kauffer had been asked
for his address--who could it possibly be?--and looked so damped by
my humourous suggestion that it was a friend of Kauffer's in some
other line who wanted a bill paid, that I felt I had been guilty of
brutality. And all the while the quality of his wonderful output
never changed or abated. Pure and firm and prismatic it remained.
I found him one day at the very end of October, with shining eyes
and fingers blue with cold, putting the last of the afternoon light
on the snows into one of the most dramatic hill pictures I ever knew
him to do. He seemed intoxicated with his skill, and hummed the
'Marseillaise,' I remember, all the way to Amy Villa whither I
It was the last day of Kauffer's contract; and besides, all the
world, secretaries, establishments, hill captains, grass widows,
shops, and sundries, was trundling down the hill. I came to ask my
young friend what he meant to do.
'Do?' he cried. 'Why, eat, drink, and be merry! Kauffer has paid
up, and his yoke is at the bottom of the sea. Come back and dine
The hour we spent together in his little inner room before dinner
was served stands out among my strangest, loveliest memories of
Armour. He was divinely caught up, and absurd as it is to write, he
seemed to carry me with him. We drank each a glass of vermouth
before dinner sitting over a scented fire of deodar branches, while
outside the little window in front of me the lifted lines of the
great empty Himalayan landscape faded and fell into a blur. I
remembered the solitary scarlet dahlia that stood between us and the
vast cold hills and held its colour when all was grey but that. The
hill world waited for the winter; down a far valley we could hear a
barking deer. Armour talked slowly, often hesitating for a word, of
the joy there was in beauty and the divinity in the man who saw it
with his own eyes. I have read notable pages that brought
conviction pale beside that which stole about the room from what he
said. The comment may seem fantastic, but it is a comment--I
caressed the dog. The servant clattered in with the plates, and at
a shout outside Armour left me. He came in radiant with Signor
Strobo, also radiant and carrying a violin, for hotel-keeping was
not the Signor's only accomplishment. I knew Strobo well; many a
special dish had he ordered for my little parties; and we met at
Armour's fireside like the genial old acquaintances we were.
Another voice without and presently I was nodding to Rosario and
vaguely wondering why he looked uncomfortable.
'I'm sorry,' said Armour, as we sat down, 'I've got nothing but
beer. If I had known you were all coming, no vintage that crawls up
the hill would have been good enough for me.' He threw the bond of
his wonderful smile round us as we swallowed his stuff, and our
hearts were lightened. 'You fellows,' he went on nodding at the
other two, 'might happen any day, but my friend John Philips comes
to me across aerial spaces; he is a star I've trapped--you don't do
that often. Pilsener, John Philips, or Black?' He was helping his
only servant by pouring out the beer himself, and as I declared for
Black he slapped me affectionately on the back and said my choice
The last person who had slapped me on the back was Lord Dufferin,
and I smiled softly and privately at the remembrance, and what a
difference there was. I had resented Dufferin's slap.
We had spiced hump and jungle-fowl and a Normandy cheese, everybody
will understand that; but how shall I make plain with what
exultation and simplicity we ate and drank, how the four candid
selves of us sat around the table in a cloud of tobacco and cheered
each other on, Armour always far in front turning handsprings as he
went. Scraps come back to me, but the whole queer night has receded
and taken its place among those dreams that insist at times upon
having been realities. Rosario told us stories Kipling might have
coveted of the under life of Port Said. Strobo talked with glorious
gusto of his uncle the brigand. They were liberated men; we were
all liberated men. 'Let the direction go,' cried Armour, 'and give
the senses flight, taking the image as it comes, beating the air
with happy pinions.' He must have been talking of his work, but I
can not now remember. And what made Strobo say, of life and art, 'I
have waited for ten years and five thousand pounds--now my old
violin says, "Go, handle the ladle! Go, add up the account!"' And
did we really discuss the chances of ultimate salvation for souls in
the Secretariat? I know I lifted my glass once and cried, 'I, a
slave, drink to freedom!' and Rosario clinked with me. And Strobo
played wailing Hungarian airs with sudden little shakes of hopeless
laughter in them. I can not even now hear Naches without being
filled with the recollection of how certain bare branches in me that
I walked alone down the hill and along the three miles to the Club,
and at every step the tide sank in me till it cast me on my
threshold at three in the morning, just the middle-aged shell of a
Secretary to the Government of India that I was when I set forth.
Next day when my head clerk brought me the files we avoided one
another's glances; and it was quite three weeks before I could bring
myself to address him with the dignity and distance prescribed for
his station as 'Mr.' Rosario.
I went of course to Calcutta for the four winter months. Harris and
I were together at the Club. It was the year, I remember, of the
great shindy as to whether foreign consuls should continue to be
made honourary members, in view of the sentiments some of them were
freely reflecting from Europe upon the subject of a war in South
Africa which was none of theirs. Certainly, feeling as they did, it
would have been better if they had swaggered less about a club that
stood for British Government; but I did not vote to withdraw the
invitation. We can not, after all, take notice of every idle word
that drops from Latin or Teutonic tongues; it isn't our way; but it
was a liverish cold weather on various accounts, and the public
temper was short. I heard from Dora oftener, Harris declared, than
he did. She was spending the winter with friends in Agra, and
Armour, of course, was there too, living at Laurie's Hotel, and
painting, Dora assured me, with immense energy. It was just the
place for Armour, a sumptuous dynasty wrecked in white marble and
buried in desert sands for three hundred years; and I was glad to
hear that he was making the most of it. It was quite by the way,
but I had lent him the money to go there--somebody had to lend it to
him--and when he asked me to decide whether he should take his
passage for Marseilles or use it for this other purpose I could
hardly hesitate, believing in him, as I did, to urge him to paint a
little more of India before he went. I frankly despaired of his
ever being able to pay his way in Simla without Kauffer, but that
was no reason why he should not make a few more notes for further
use at home, where I sometimes saw for him, when his desultory and
experimental days were over and some definiteness and order had come
into his work, a Bond Street exhibition.
I have not said all this time what I thought of Ingersoll Armour and
Dora Harris together, because their connection seemed too vague and
fantastic and impossible to hold for an instant before a steady
gaze. I have no wish to justify myself when I write that I
preferred to keep my eyes averted, enjoying perhaps just such a
measure of vision as would enter at a corner of them. This may or
may not have been immoral under the circumstances--the event did not
prove it so--but for urgent private reasons I could not be the
person to destroy the idyll, if indeed its destruction were
possible, that flourished there in the corner of my eye. Besides,
had not I myself planted and watered it? But it was foolish to
expect other people, people who are forever on the lookout for
trousseaux and wedding-bells, and who considered these two as mere
man and maid, and had no sight of them as engaging young spirits in
happy conjunction--it was foolish to expect such people to show
equal consideration. Christmas was barely over before the lady with
whom Miss Harris was staying found it her duty to communicate to
Edward Harris the fact that dear Dora's charming friendship--she was
sure it was nothing more--with the young artist--Mrs. Poulton
believed Mr. Harris would understand who was meant--was exciting a
good deal of comment in the station, and WOULD dear Mr. Harris
please write to Dora himself, as Mrs. Poulton was beginning to feel
I saw the letter; Harris showed it to me when he sat down to
breakfast with the long face of a man in a domestic difficulty, and
we settled together whom we should ask to put his daughter up in
Calcutta. It should be the wife of a man in his own department of
course; it is to one's Deputy Secretary that one looks for succour
at times like this; and naturally one never looks in vain. Mrs.
Symons would be delighted. I conjured up Dora's rage on receipt of
the telegram. She loathed the Symonses.
She came, but not at the jerk of a wire; she arrived a week later,
with a face of great propriety and a smile of great unconcern.
Harris, having got her effectually out of harm's way, shirked
further insistence, and I have reason to believe that Armour was
never even mentioned between them.
Dora applied herself to the gaieties of the season with the zest of
a debutante; she seemed really refreshed, revitalized. She had
never looked better, happier. I met her again for the first time at
one of the Thursday dances at Government House. In the glance she
gave me I was glad to detect no suspicion of collusion. She plainly
could not dream that Edward Harris in his nefarious exercise of
parental authority had acted upon any hint from me. It was rather
Out in the veranda, away from the blare of the Viceroy's band, she
told me very delicately and with the most charming ellipses how
Armour had been filling her life in Agra, how it had all been, for
these two, a dream and a vision. There is a place below the bridge
there, where the cattle come down from the waste pastures across the
yellow sands to drink and stand in the low water of the Jumna, to
stand and switch their tails while their herdsmen on the bank coax
them back with 'Ari!' 'Ari!' 'Ari!' long and high, faint and
musical; and the minarets of Akbar's fort rise beyond against the
throbbing sky and the sun fills it all. This place I shall never
see more distinctly than I saw it that night on the veranda at
Government House, Calcutta, with the conviction, like a margin for
the picture, that its foreground had been very often occupied by the
woman I profoundly worshiped and Ingersoll Armour. She told me that
he had sent me a sketch of it, and I very much wished he hadn't.
One felt that the gift would carry a trifle of irony.
'He has told me,' she said once brusquely, 'how good you have been
'Is he coming to Simla again?' I asked.
'Oh yes! And please take it from me that this time he will conquer
the place. He has undertaken to do it.'
'At your request?'
'At my persuasion--at my long entreaty. They must recognize him--
they must be taught. I have set my heart on it.'
'Does he himself very much care?' I asked remembering the night of
the thirty-first of October.
'Yes, he does care. He despises it, of course, but in a way he
cares. I've been trying to make him care more. A human being isn't
an orchid; he must draw something from the soil he grows in.'
'If he were stable,' I mused; 'if he had a fixed ambition somewhere
in the firmament. But his purpose is a will-o'-the-wisp.'
'I think he has an ambition,' said Miss Harris, into the dark.
'Ah! Then we must continue,' I said--'continue to push from
Dora did not reply. She is a person of energy and determination,
and might have been expected to offer to cooperate gladly. But she
'He is painting a large picture for next season's exhibition,' she
informed me. 'I was not allowed to see it or to know anything about
it, but he declares it will bring Simla down.'
'I hope not,' I said, piously.
'Oh, I hope so. I have told him,' Dora continued, slowly, 'that a
great deal depends on it.'
'Here is Mrs. Symons,' I was able to return, 'and I am afraid she is
looking for you.'
March came, and the city lay white under its own dust. The electric
fans began to purr in the Club, and Lent brought the flagging season
to a full stop. I had to go that year on tour through the famine
district with the Member, and we escaped, gasping, from the Plains
about the middle of April. Simla was crimson with rhododendron
blossoms, and seemed a spur of Arcady. There had been the usual
number of flittings from one house to another, and among them I
heard with satisfaction that Armour no longer occupied Amy Villa. I
would not for the world have blurred my recollections of that last
evening--I could not have gone there again.
'He is staying with Sir William Lamb,' said Dora, handing me my cup
of tea. 'And I am quite jealous. Sir William, only Sir William,
has been allowed to see the exhibition picture.'
'What does that portend?' I said, thoughtfully.
'I don't know. Sir William was here yesterday simply swelling with
his impression of it. He says it's the finest thing that has been
done in India. I told you he would conquer them.'
'You did,' and without thinking I added, 'I hope you won't be sorry
that you asked him to.' It must have been an inspiration.
Armour, those weeks before the exhibition, seemed invisible. Dora
reported him torn with the incapacity of the bazaar frame-maker to
follow a design, and otherwise excessively occupied, and there was
no lack of demands upon my own time. Besides, my ardour to be of
assistance to the young man found a slight damper in the fact that
he was staying with Sir William Lamb. What competence had I to be
of use to the guest of Sir William Lamb?
'I do not for a moment think he will be there,' said Dora, on the
day of the private view as we went along the Mall towards the Town
Hall together. 'He will not run with an open mouth to his success.
He will take it from us later.'
But he was there. We entered precisely at the dramatic moment of
his presentation by Sir William Lamb to the Viceroy. He stood
embarrassed and smiling in a little circle of compliments and
congratulation. Behind him and a little to the left hung his
picture, large and predominant, and in the corner of the frame was
stuck the red ticket that signified the Viceroy's gold medal. We
saw that, I think, before we saw anything else. Then with as little
haste as was decent, considering His Excellency's proximity, we
walked within range of the picture.
I am not particularly pleased, even now, to have the task of
describing the thing. Its subject was an old Mahomedan priest with
a green turban and a white beard exhorting a rabble of followers. I
heard myself saying to Dora that it was very well painted indeed,
very conscientiously painted, and that is certainly what struck me.
The expression of the fire-eater's face was extremely
characteristic; his arm was flung out with a gesture that perfectly
matched. The group of listeners was carefully composed and most
'naturally'; that is the only word that would come to me.
I glanced almost timidly at Dora. She was regarding it with a deep
vertical line between her handsome brows.
'What--on earth--has he done with himself?' she demanded, but before
I could reply Armour was by our side.
'Well?' he said, looking at Dora.
'It--it's very nice,' she stammered, 'but I miss YOU.'
'She only means, you know,' I rushed in, 'that you've put in
everything that was never there before. Accuracy of detail, you
know, and so forth. 'Pon my word, there's some drawing in that!'
'No,' said Dora, calmly, 'what I complain of is that he has left out
everything that was there before. But he has won the gold medal,
and I congratulate him.'
'Well,' I said, uneasily, 'don't congratulate me. I didn't do it.
Positively I am not to blame.'
'His Excellency says that it reminds him of an incident in one of
Mrs. Steel's novels,' said Armour, just turning his head to
ascertain His Excellency's whereabouts.
'Dear me, so it does,' I exclaimed, eagerly, 'one couldn't name the
chapter--it's the general feeling.' I went on to discourse of the
general feeling. Words came generously, questions with point,
comments with intelligence. I swamped the situation and so carried
'The Viceroy has bought the thing,' Armour went on, looking at Dora,
'and has commissioned me to paint another. The only restriction he
'That it shall be of the same size?' asked Dora.
'That it must deal with some phase of native life.'
Miss Harris walked to a point behind us, and stood there with her
eyes fixed upon the picture. I glanced at her once; her gaze was
steady, but perfectly blank. Then she joined us again, and struck
into the stream of my volubility.
'I am delighted,' she said, pleasantly, to Armour. 'You have done
exactly what I wanted you to do. You have won the Viceroy's medal,
and all the reputation there is to win in this place. Come and dine
tonight, and we will rejoice together. But wasn't it--for you--a
He looked at her as if she had offered him a cup, and then dashed it
from his lips; but the occasion was not one, of course, for crying
'Oh no,' he said, putting on an excellent face. 'But it took a
Within a fortnight I was surprised and a little irritated to receive
from Armour the amount of my loan in full. It was not in accordance
with my preconceived idea of him that he should return it at all. I
had arranged in my own mind that he should be governed by the most
honest impulses and the most approved intentions up to the point of
departure, but that he should never find it quite convenient to pay,
and that in order to effect his final shipment to other shores I
should be compelled to lend him some more money. In the far future,
when he should be famous and I an obscure pauper on pension, my
generous imagination permitted me to see the loan repaid; but not
till then. These are perhaps stereotyped and conventional lines to
conceive him on, but I hardly think that anybody who has followed my
little account to this point will think them unjustifiable. I
looked at his cheque with disgust. That a man turns out better than
you expected is no reason why you such not be annoyed that your
conception of him is shattered. You may be gratified on general
grounds, but distinctly put out on personal ones, especially when
your conception pointed to his inevitable removal. That was the way
The cheque stood for so much more than its money value. It stood
for a possible, nay, a probable capacity in Armour to take his place
in the stable body of society, to recognize and make demands, to
become a taxpayer, a churchgoer, a householder, a husband. As I
gazed, the signature changed from that of a gnome with luminous eyes
who inhabited an inaccessible crag among the rhododendrons to that
of a prosperous artist-bourgeois with a silk hat for Sundays. I
have in some small degree the psychological knack, I saw the
possibilities of the situation with immense clearness; and I cursed
Coincidence is odious, tells on the nerves. I never felt it more so
than a week later, when I read in the 'Pioneer' the announcement of
the death of my old friend Fry, Superintendent of the School of Art
in Calcutta. The paragraph in which the journal dismissed poor Fry
to his reward was not unkind, but it distinctly implied that the
removal of Fry should include the removal of his ideas and methods,
and the substitution of something rather more up to date. It
remarked that the Bengali student had been pinned down long enough
to drawing plaster casts, and declared that something should be done
to awake within him the creative idea. I remember the phrase, it
seemed so directly to suggest that the person to awake it should be
I turned the matter over in my mind; indeed, for the best part of an
hour my brain revolved with little else. The billet was an
excellent one, with very decent pay and charming quarters. It
carried a pension, it was the completest sort of provision. There
was a long vacation, with opportunities for original effort, and I
had heard Fry call the work interesting. Fry was the kind of man to
be interested in anything that gave him a living, but there was no
reason why a more captious spirit, in view of the great advantages,
should not accommodate itself to the routine that might present
itself. The post was in the gift of the Government of Bengal, but
that was no reason why the Government of Bengal should not be
grateful in the difficulty of making a choice for a hint from us.
The difficulty was really great. They would have to write home and
advertise in the 'Athenaeum'--for some reason Indian Governments
always advertise educational appointments in the 'Athenaeum'; it is
a habit which dates from the days of John Company--and that would
mean delay. And then the result might be a disappointment. Might
Armour not also be a disappointment? That I really could not say.
A new man is always a speculation, and departments, like
individuals, have got to take their luck.
The Viceroy was so delighted--everybody was so delighted--with the
medal picture that the merest breath blown among them would secure
Armour's nomination. Should I blow that breath? These happy
thoughts must always occur to somebody. This one had occurred to
me. Ten to one it would occur to nobody else, and last of all to
Armour himself. The advertisement might already be on its way home
to the 'Athenaeum'.
It would make everything possible. It would throw a very different
complexion over the idyll. It would turn that interlacing wreath of
laurels and of poppies into the strongest bond in the world.
I would simply have nothing to do with it.
But there was no harm I asking Armour to dine with me; I sent the
note off by messenger after breakfast and told the steward to put a
magnum of Pommery to cool at seven precisely. I had some idea, I
suppose, of drinking with Armour to his eternal discomfiture. Then
I went to the office with a mind cleared of responsibility and
comfortably pervaded with the glow of good intentions.
The moment I saw the young man, punctual and immediate and a little
uncomfortable about the cuffs, I regretted not having asked one or
two more fellows. It might have spoiled the occasion, but it would
have saved the situation. That single glance of my accustomed eye--
alas! that it was so well accustomed--revealed him anxious and
screwed up, as nervous as a cat, but determined, revealed--how well
I knew the signs!--that he had something confidential and important
and highly personal to communicate, a matter in which I could, if I
only would, be of the greatest possible assistance. From these
appearances twenty years had taught me to fly to any burrow, but
your dinner-table offers no retreat; you are hoist, so to speak, on
your own carving-fork. There are men, of course, and even women,
who have scruples about taking advantage of so intimate and
unguarded an opportunity, but Armour, I rapidly decided, was not one
of these. His sophistication was progressing, but it had not
reached that point. He wanted something--I flew instantly to the
mad conclusion that he wanted Dora. I did not pause to inquire why
he should ask her of me. It had seemed for a long time eminently
proper that anybody who wanted Dora should ask her of me. The
application was impossible, but applications nearly always were
impossible. Nobody knew that better than the Secretary to the
Government of India in the Home Department.
I squared my shoulders and we got through the soup. It was
necessary to apologize for the fish. 'I suppose one must remember,'
I said, 'that it has to climb six thousand feet,' when suddenly he
'Sir William Lamb tells me,' he said, and stopped to swallow some
wine, 'that there is something very good going in Calcutta and that
I should ask you to help me to get it. May I?'
So the miserable idea--the happy thought--had occurred to somebody
'Is there?' I said, with interest and attention.
'It's something in the School of Art. A man named Fry has died.'
'Ah!' I said, 'a man named Fry. He, I think was Director of that
institution.' I looked at Armour in the considering, measuring way
with which we suggest to candidates for posts that their fitness to
fill them is not to be absolutely taken for granted. 'Fry was a man
of fifty-six,' I said.
'I am thirty.' He certainly did not look it, but years often fall
lightly upon a temperament.
'It's a vile climate.'
'I know. Is it too vile, do you think,' he said anxiously, 'to ask
a lady to share?'
'Lots of ladies do share it,' I replied, with amazing calmness; 'but
I must decline absolutely to enter into that.'
My frown was so forbidding that he couldn't and didn't dare to go
on. He looked dashed and disappointed; he was really a fool of an
applicant, quite ready to retire from the siege on the first
intimation that the gates were not to be thrown open at his
'Do you think you would like teaching?' I asked.
'I can teach. Miss--my only pupil here has made capital progress.'
'I am afraid you must not measure the Bengali art student by the
standard of Miss Harris,' I replied coldly. He WAS a fool. We
talked of other things. I led him on to betray his ludicrous lack
of knowledge of the world in various directions. At other times it
had irritated me, that night it gave me purest pleasure. I agreed
with him about everything.
As he selected his smoke to go home with I said, 'Send your
application in to the Director of Public Instruction, Bengal--Lamb
will tell you how--and I'll see what I can do.'
They were only too thankful to get him. As a student it seemed he
had been diligent both in London and Paris; he possessed diplomas or
some such things bearing names which were bound to have weight with
a Department of Public Instruction anywhere. I felt particularly
thankful for this, for I was committed to him if he had not a rag to
The matter was settled in three weeks, during which Armour became
more and more the fashion in Simla. He was given every opportunity
of experiment in the society of which he was about to become a
permanent item. He dined out four or five times a week, and learned
exactly what to talk about. He surprised me one day with a piece of
news of my own department, which was a liberty of a very serious
kind, but I forgave him upon finding that it was not true. He rode
Lamb's weight-carriers, to cross which his short legs were barely
adequate, and apart from this disadvantage he did not ride them
badly. Only one thing marred the completeness of the
transformation--he didn't dismiss the dog. The dog, fundamentally,
was still and ever his companion. It was a suspicious circumstance
if we had known; but we saw in it only a kind heart, and ignored it.
I saw little of Dora Harris at this time. Making no doubt that she
was enjoying her triumph as she deserved, I took the liberty of
supposing that she would hardly wish to share so intimate a source
of satisfaction. I met them both several times at people's houses--
certain things had apparently been taken for granted--but I was only
one of the little circle that wondered how soon it might venture
upon open congratulations. The rest of us knew as much, it seemed,
as Edward Harris did. Lady Pilkey asked him point-blank, and he
said what his daughter found to like in the fellow the Lord only
knew, and he was glad to say that at present he had no announcement
to make. Lady Pilkey told me she thought it very romantic--like
marrying a newspaper correspondent--but I pointed to a lifelong
task, with a pension attached, of teaching fat young Bengalis to
draw, and asked her if she saw extravagant romance in that.
They wrote up from Calcutta that they would like to have a look at
Armour before making the final recommendation, and he left us, I
remember, by the mail tonga of the third of June. He dropped into
my office to say goodbye, but I was busy with the Member and could
see nobody, so he left a card with 'P.P.C.' on it. I kept the card
by accident, and I keep it still by design, for the sake of that
Strobo had given up his hotel in Simla to start one in Calcutta. It
never occurred to me that Armour might go to Strobo's; but it was,
of course, the natural thing for him to do, especially as Strobo
happened to be in Calcutta himself at the time. He went and stayed
with Strobo, and every day he and the Signor, clad in bath-towels,
lay in closed rooms under punkahs and had iced drinks in the long
tumblers of the East, and smoked and talked away the burden of the
Strobo was in Calcutta to meet a friend, an Austrian, who was
shortly leaving India in the Messagerie Maritimes steamer Dupleix
after agreeable wanderings disguised as a fakir in Tibet; and to
this friend was attached, in what capacity I never thought well to
inquire, a lady who was a Pole, and played and sang as well as
Strobo fiddled. I believe they dined together every night, this
precious quartet, and exchanged in various tongues their impressions
of India under British control. 'A houri in stays,' the lady who
was a Pole described it. I believe she herself was a houri without
them. And at midnight, when the south wind was cool and strong from
the river, Strobo and Armour would walk up Chowringhee Road and look
at the red brick School of Art from the outside in the light of the
street lamps, as a preliminary to our friend's final acceptance of
the task of superintending it from within.
We in Simla, of course, knew nothing of all this at the time; the
details leaked out later when Strobo came up again. I began to feel
some joyful anxiety when in a letter dated a week after Armour's
arrival in Calcutta, the Director of Public Instruction wrote to
inquire whether he had yet left Simla; but the sweet blow did not
fall with any precision or certainty until the newspaper arrived
containing his name immediately under that of Herr Vanrig and Mme.
Dansky in the list of passengers who had sailed per S.S. Dupleix on
the fifteenth of June for Colombo. There it was, 'I. Armour,' as
significant as ever to two persons intimately concerned with it, but
no longer a wrapping of mystery, rather a radiating centre of light.
Its power of illumination was such that it tried my eyes. I closed
them to recall the outlines of the School of Art--it had been built
in a fit of economy--and the headings of the last Director's report,
which I had kindly sent after Armour to Calcutta. Perhaps that had
been the last straw.
The real meaning of the task of implanting Western ideals in the
Eastern mind rose before me when I thought of Armour's doing it--how
they would dwindle in the process, and how he must go on handling
them and looking at them withered and shrunken for twenty-odd years.
I understood--there was enough left in me to understand--Armour's
terrified escape. I was happy in the thought of him, sailing down
the Bay. The possibilities of marriage, social position, assured
income, support in old age, the strands in the bond that held him,
the bond that holds us all, had been untwisting, untwisting, from
the third of June to the fifteenth. The strand that stood for Dora
doubtless was the last to break, but it did not detract from my
beatitude to know that even this consideration, before the Dupleix
and liberty, failed to hold.
I kept out of Miss Harris's way so studiously for the next week or
two that she was kind enough in the end to feel compelled to send
for me. I went with misgivings--I expected, as may be imagined, to
be very deeply distressed. She met me with a storm of gay
reproaches. I had never seen her in better health or spirits. My
surprise must have been more evident than I supposed or intended,
for before I went away she told me the whole story. By that time
she had heard from Ceylon, a delicious letter with a pen-and-ink
sketch at the top. I have it still; it infallibly brought the man
back to me. But it was all over; she assured me with shining eyes
that it was. The reason of her plainly boundless thankfulness that
Armour had run away from the School of Art did not come to the
surface until I was just going. Then I gathered that if he had
taken the post she would have felt compelled, compelled by all she
had done for him, to share its honours with him; and this, ever
since at her bidding he had begun to gather such things up, was
precisely what she had lost all inclination to do.
We were married the following October. We had a big, gorgeous
official wedding, which we both enjoyed enormously. I took
furlough, and we went home, but we found London very expensive and
the country very slow; and with my K.C.S.I. came the offer of the