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The Works of Rudyard Kipling One Volume Edition by Rudyard Kipling

Part 13 out of 18

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"You mustn't mind what other people do. If their souls were your soul, it would
be different. You stand and fall by your own work, remember, and it's waste of
time to think of any one else in this battle."

Dick paused, and the longing that had been so resolutely put away came back
into his eyes. He looked at Maisie, and the look asked as plainly as words, Was
it not time to leave all this barren wilderness of canvas and counsel and join
hands with Life and Love? Maisie assented to the new programme of schooling so
adorably that Dick could hardly restrain himself from picking her up then and
there and carrying her off to the nearest registrar's office. It was the
implicit obedience to the spoken word and the blank indifference to the
unspoken desire that baffled and buffeted his soul. He held authority in that
house,--authority limited, indeed, to one-half of one afternoon in seven, but
very real while it lasted. Maisie had learned to appeal to him on many
subjects, from the proper packing of pictures to the condition of a smoky
chimney. The red-haired girl never consulted him about anything.

On the other hand, she accepted his appearances without protest, and watched
him always. He discovered that the meals of the establishment were irregular
and fragmentary. They depended chiefly on tea, pickles, and biscuit, as he had
suspected from the beginning. The girls were supposed to market week and week
about, but they lived, with the help of a charwoman, as casually as the young
ravens. Maisie spent most of her income on models, and the other girl revelled
in apparatus as refined as her work was rough. Armed with knowledge, dear-
bought from the Docks, Dick warned Maisie that the end of semi-starvation meant
the crippling of power to work, which was considerably worse than death.

Maisie took the warning, and gave more thought to what she ate and drank. When
his trouble returned upon him, as it generally did in the long winter
twilights, the remembrance of that little act of domestic authority and his
coercion with a hearth-brush of the smoky drawing-room chimney stung Dick like
a whip-lash.

He conceived that this memory would be the extreme of his sufferings, till one
Sunday, the red-haired girl announced that she would make a study of Dick's
head, and that he would be good enough to sit still, and--quite as an
afterthought--look at Maisie. He sat, because he could not well refuse, and for
the space of half an hour he reflected on all the people in the past whom he
had laid open for the purposes of his own craft. He remembered Binat most
distinctly,--that Binat who had once been an artist and talked about
degradation.

It was the merest monochrome roughing in of a head, but it presented the dumb
waiting, the longing, and, above all, the hopeless enslavement of the man, in a
spirit of bitter mockery.

"I'll buy it," said Dick, promptly, "at your own price."

"My price is too high, but I dare say you'll be as grateful if----" The wet
sketch, fluttered from the girl's hand and fell into the ashes of the studio
stove. When she picked it up it was hopelessly smudged.

"Oh, it's all spoiled!" said Maisie. "And I never saw it. Was it like?"

"Thank you," said Dick under his breath to the red-haired girl, and he removed
himself swiftly.

"How that man hates me!" said the girl. "And how he loves you, Maisie!"

"What nonsense? I knew Dick's very fond of me, but he had his work to do, and I
have mine."

"Yes, he is fond of you, and I think he knows there is something in
impressionism, after all. Maisie, can't you see?"

"See? See what?"

"Nothing; only, I know that if I could get any man to look at me as that man
looks at you, I'd--I don't know what I'd do. But he hates me. Oh, how he hates
me!"

She was not altogether correct. Dick's hatred was tempered with gratitude for a
few moments, and then he forgot the girl entirely. Only the sense of shame
remained, and he was nursing it across the Park in the fog. "There'll be an
explosion one of these days," he said wrathfully. "But it isn't Maisie's fault;
she's right, quite right, as far as she knows, and I can't blame her. This
business has been going on for three months nearly. Three months!--and it cost
me ten years" knocking about to get at the notion, the merest raw notion, of my
work. That's true; but then I didn't have pins, drawing-pins, and palette-
knives, stuck into me every Sunday.

"Oh, my little darling, if ever I break you, somebody will have a very bad time
of it. No, she won't. I"d be as big a fool about her as I am now. I'll poison
that red-haired girl on my wedding-day,--she's unwholesome,--and now I'll pass
on these present bad times to Torp."

Torpenhow had been moved to lecture Dick more than once lately on the sin of
levity, and Dick and listened and replied not a word. In the weeks between the
first few Sundays of his discipline he had flung himself savagely into his
work, resolved that Maisie should at least know the full stretch of his powers.
Then he had taught Maisie that she must not pay the least attention to any work
outside her own, and Maisie had obeyed him all too well. She took his counsels,
but was not interested in his pictures.

"Your things smell of tobacco and blood," she said once. "Can't you do anything
except soldiers?"

"I could do a head of you that would startle you," thought Dick,--this was
before the red-haired girl had brought him under the guillotine,--but he only
said, "I am very sorry," and harrowed Torpenhow's soul that evening with
blasphemies against Art. Later, insensibly and to a large extent against his
own will, he ceased to interest himself in his own work.

For Maisie's sake, and to soothe the self-respect that it seemed to him he lost
each Sunday, he would not consciously turn out bad stuff, but, since Maisie did
not care even for his best, it were better not to do anything at all save wait
and mark time between Sunday and Sunday. Torpenhow was disgusted as the weeks
went by fruitless, and then attacked him one Sunday evening when Dick felt
utterly exhausted after three hours' biting self-restraint in Maisie's
presence. There was Language, and Torpenhow withdrew to consult the Nilghai,
who had come it to talk continental politics.

"Bone-idle, is he? Careless, and touched in the temper?" said the Nilghai. "It
isn't worth worrying over. Dick is probably playing the fool with a woman."

"Isn't that bad enough?"

"No. She may throw him out of gear and knock his work to pieces for a while.
She may even turn up here some day and make a scene on the staircase: one never
knows. But until Dick speaks of his own accord you had better not touch him. He
is no easy-tempered man to handle."

"No; I wish he were. He is such an aggressive, cocksure, you-be-damned fellow."

"He'll get that knocked out of him in time. He must learn that he can't storm
up and down the world with a box of moist tubes and a slick brush.

You're fond of him?"

"I'd take any punishment that's in store for him if I could; but the worst of
it is, no man can save his brother."

"No, and the worser of it is, there is no discharge in this war. Dick must
learn his lesson like the rest of us. Talking of war, there'll be trouble in
the Balkans in the spring."

"That trouble is long coming. I wonder if we could drag Dick out there when it
comes off?"

Dick entered the room soon afterwards, and the question was put to him.

"Not good enough," he said shortly. "I'm too comf'y where I am."

"Surely you aren't taking all the stuff in the papers seriously?" said the
Nilghai. "Your vogue will be ended in less than six months,--the public will
know your touch and go on to something new,--and where will you be then?"

"Here, in England."

"When you might be doing decent work among us out there? Nonsense! I shall go,
the Keneu will be there, Torp will be there, Cassavetti will be there, and the
whole lot of us will be there, and we shall have as much as ever we can do,
with unlimited fighting and the chance for you of seeing things that would make
the reputation of three Verestchagins."

"Um!" said Dick, pulling at his pipe.

"You prefer to stay here and imagine that all the world is gaping at your
pictures? Just think how full an average man's life is of his own pursuits and
pleasures. When twenty thousand of him find time to look up between mouthfuls
and grunt something about something they aren't the least interested in, the
net result is called fame, reputation, or notoriety, according to the taste and
fancy of the speller my lord."

"I know that as well as you do. Give me credit for a little gumption."

"Be hanged if I do!"

"Be hanged, then; you probably will be,--for a spy, by excited Turks. Heigh-ho!
I'm weary, dead weary, and virtue has gone out of me." Dick dropped into a
chair, and was fast asleep in a minute.

"That's a bad sign," said the Nilghai, in an undertone.

Torpenhow picked the pipe from the waistcoat where it was beginning to burn,
and put a pillow behind the head. "We can't help; we can't help," he said.
"It's a good ugly sort of old cocoanut, and I'm fond of it. There's the scar of
the wipe he got when he was cut over in the square."

"Shouldn't wonder if that has made him a trifle mad."

"I should. He's a most businesslike madman."

Then Dick began to snore furiously.

"Oh, here, no affection can stand this sort of thing. Wake up, Dick, and go and
sleep somewhere else, if you intend to make a noise about it."

"When a cat has been out on the tiles all night," said the Nilghai, in his
beard, "I notice that she usually sleeps all day. This is natural history."

Dick staggered away rubbing his eyes and yawning. In the night-watches he was
overtaken with an idea, so simple and so luminous that he wondered he had never
conceived it before. It was full of craft. He would seek Maisie on a week-day,-
-would suggest an excursion, and would take her by train to Fort Keeling, over
the very ground that they two had trodden together ten years ago.

"As a general rule," he explained to his chin-lathered reflection in the
morning, "it isn't safe to cross an old trail twice. Things remind one of
things, and a cold wind gets up, and you feel sad; but this is an exception to
every rule that ever was. I'll go to Maisie at once."

Fortunately, the red-haired girl was out shopping when he arrived, and Maisie
in a paint-spattered blouse was warring with her canvas. She was not pleased to
see him; for week-day visits were a stretch of the bond; and it needed all his
courage to explain his errand.

"I know you've been working too hard," he concluded, with an air of authority.
"If you do that, you'll break down. You had much better come."

"Where?" said Maisie, wearily. She had been standing before her easel too long,
and was very tired.

"Anywhere you please. We'll take a train tomorrow and see where it stops. We'll
have lunch somewhere, and I'll bring you back in the evening."

"If there's a good working light tomorrow, I lose a day." Maisie balanced the
heavy white chestnut palette irresolutely.

Dick bit back an oath that was hurrying to his lips. He had not yet learned
patience with the maiden to whom her work was all in all.

"You'll lose ever so many more, dear, if you use every hour of working light.
Overwork's only murderous idleness. Don't be unreasonable. I'll
call for you tomorrow after breakfast early."

"But surely you are going to ask----"

"No, I am not. I want you and nobody else. Besides, she hates me as much as I
hate her. She won't care to come. Tomorrow, then; and pray that we get
sunshine."

Dick went away delighted, and by consequence did no work whatever.

He strangled a wild desire to order a special train, but bought a great gray
kangaroo cloak lined with glossy black marten, and then retired into himself to
consider things.

"I'm going out for the day tomorrow with Dick," said Maisie to the red-haired
girl when the latter returned, tired, from marketing in the Edgware road.

"He deserves it. I shall have the studio floor thoroughly scrubbed while you're
away. It's very dirty."

Maisie had enjoyed no sort of holiday for months and looked forward to the
little excitement, but not without misgivings.

"There's nobody nicer than Dick when he talks sensibly, she thought, "but I'm
sure he'll be silly and worry me, and I'm sure I can't tell him anything he'd
like to hear. If he'd only be sensible, I should like him so much better."

Dick's eyes were full of joy when he made his appearance next morning and saw
Maisie, gray-ulstered and black-velvet-hatted, standing in the hallway. Palaces
of marble, and not sordid imitation of grained wood, were surely the fittest
background for such a divinity. The red-haired girl drew her into the studio
for a moment and kissed her hurriedly.

Maisie's eyebrows climbed to the top of her forehead; she was altogether unused
to these demonstrations. "Mind my hat," she said, hurrying away, and ran down
the steps to Dick waiting by the hansom.

"Are you quite warm enough! Are you sure you wouldn't like some more breakfast?
Put the cloak over your knees."

"I'm quite comf'y, thanks. Where are we going, Dick? Oh, do stop singing like
that. People will think we're mad."

"Let 'em think,--if the exertion doesn't kill them. They don't know who we are,
and I'm sure I don't care who they are. My faith, Maisie, you're looking
lovely!"

Maisie stared directly in front of her and did not reply. The wind of a keen
clear winter morning had put colour into her cheeks. Overhead, the creamy-
yellow smoke-clouds were thinning away one by one against a pale-blue sky, and
the improvident sparrows broke off from water-spout committees and cab-rank
cabals to clamour of the coming of spring.

"It will be lovely weather in the country," said Dick.

"But where are we going?"

"Wait and see."

The stopped at Victoria, and Dick sought tickets. For less than half the
fraction of an instant it occurred to Maisie, comfortably settled by the
waiting-room fire, that it was much more pleasant to send a man to the booking-
office than to elbow one's own way through the crowd. Dick put her into a
Pullman,--solely on account of the warmth there; and she regarded the
extravagance with grave scandalised eyes as the train moved out into the
country.

"I wish I knew where we are going," she repeated for the twentieth time.

The name of a well-remembered station flashed by, towards the end of the run,
and Maisie was delighted.

"Oh, Dick, you villain!"

"Well, I thought you might like to see the place again. You haven't been here
since the old times, have you?"

"No. I never cared to see Mrs. Jennett again; and she was all that was ever
there."

"Not quite. Look out a minute. There's the windmill above the potato-fields;
they haven't built villas there yet; d'you remember when I shut you up in it?"

"Yes. How she beat you for it! I never told it was you."

"She guessed. I jammed a stick under the door and told you that I was burying
Amomma alive in the potatoes, and you believed me. You had a trusting nature in
those days."

They laughed and leaned to look out, identifying ancient landmarks with many
reminiscences. Dick fixed his weather eye on the curve of Maisie's cheek, very
near his own, and watched the blood rise under the clear skin. He congratulated
himself upon his cunning, and looked that the evening would bring him a great
reward.

When the train stopped they went out to look at an old town with new eyes.
First, but from a distance, they regarded the house of Mrs. Jennett.

"Suppose she should come out now, what would you do?" said Dick, with mock
terror.

"I should make a face."

"Show, then," said Dick, dropping into the speech of childhood.

Maisie made that face in the direction of the mean little villa, and Dick
laughed.

"'This is disgraceful,'" said Maisie, mimicking Mrs. Jennett's tone. "'Maisie,
you run in at once, and learn the collect, gospel, and epistle for the next
three Sundays. After all I've taught you, too, and three helps every Sunday at
dinner! Dick's always leading you into mischief. If you aren't a gentleman,
Dick, you might at least '"

The sentence ended abruptly. Maisie remembered when it had last been used.

"'Try to behave like one,'" said Dick, promptly. "Quite right. Now we'll get
some lunch and go on to Fort Keeling,--unless you'd rather drive there?"

"We must walk, out of respect to the place. How little changed it all is!"

They turned in the direction of the sea through unaltered streets, and the
influence of old things lay upon them. Presently they passed a confectioner's
shop much considered in the days when their joint pocket-money amounted to a
shilling a week.

"Dick, have you any pennies?" said Maisie, half to herself.

"Only three; and if you think you're going to have two of 'em to buy
peppermints with, you're wrong. She says peppermints aren't ladylike."

Again they laughed, and again the colour came into Maisie's cheeks as the blood
boiled through Dick's heart. After a large lunch they went down to the beach
and to Fort Keeling across the waste, wind-bitten land that no builder had
thought it worth his while to defile. The winter breeze came in from the sea
and sang about their ears.

"Maisie," said Dick, "your nose is getting a crude Prussian blue at the tip.
I'll race you as far as you please for as much as you please."

She looked round cautiously, and with a laugh set off, swiftly as the ulster
allowed, till she was out of breath.

"We used to run miles," she panted. "It's absurd that we can't run now."

"Old age, dear. This it is to get fat and sleek in town. When I wished to pull
your hair you generally ran for three miles, shrieking at the top of your
voice. I ought to know, because those shrieks of yours were meant to call up
Mrs. Jennett with a cane and----"

"Dick, I never got you a beating on purpose in my life."

"No, of course you never did. Good heavens! look at the sea."

"Why, it's the same as ever!" said Maisie.

Torpenhow had gathered from Mr. Beeton that Dick, properly dressed and shaved,
had left the house at half-past eight in the morning with a travelling-rug over
his arm. The Nilghai rolled in at mid-day for chess and polite conversation.

"It's worse than anything I imagined," said Torpenhow.

"Oh, the everlasting Dick, I suppose! You fuss over him like a hen with one
chick. Let him run riot if he thinks it'll amuse him. You can whip a young pup
off feather, but you can't whip a young man."

"It isn't a woman. It's one woman; and it's a girl."

"Where's your proof?"

"He got up and went out at eight this morning,--got up in the middle of the
night, by Jove! a thing he never does except when he's on service. Even then,
remember, we had to kick him out of his blankets before the fight began at El-
Maghrib. It's disgusting."

"It looks odd; but maybe he's decided to buy a horse at last. He might get up
for that, mightn't he?"

"Buy a blazing wheelbarrow! He'd have told us if there was a horse in the wind.
It's a girl."

"Don't be certain. Perhaps it's only a married woman."

"Dick has some sense of humour, if you haven't. Who gets up in the gray dawn to
call on another man's wife? It's a girl."

"Let it be a girl, then. She may teach him that there's somebody else in the
world besides himself."

"She'll spoil his hand. She'll waste his time, and she'll marry him, and ruin
his work for ever. He'll be a respectable married man before we can stop him,
and--he'll ever go on the long trail again."

"All quite possible, but the earth won't spin the other way when that happens.
. . . No! ho! I"d give something to see Dick 'go wooing with the boys.' Don't
worry about it. These things be with Allah, and we can only look on. Get the
chessmen."

The red-haired girl was lying down in her own room, staring at the ceiling. The
footsteps of people on the pavement sounded, as they grew indistinct in the
distance, like a many-times-repeated kiss that was all one long kiss. Her hands
were by her side, and they opened and shut savagely from time to time.

The charwoman in charge of the scrubbing of the studio knocked at her door:
"Beg y' pardon, miss, but in cleanin' of a floor there's two, not to say three,
kind of soap, which is yaller, an' mottled, an' disinfectink. Now, jist before
I took my pail into the passage I though it would be pre'aps jest as well if I
was to come up 'ere an' ask you what sort of soap you was wishful that I should
use on them boards. The yaller soap, miss----"

There was nothing in the speech to have caused the paroxysm of fury that drove
the red-haired girl into the middle of the room, almost shouting--"Do you
suppose I care what you use? Any kind will do!--any kind!"

The woman fled, and the red-haired girl looked at her own reflection in the
glass for an instant and covered her face with her hands. It was as though she
had shouted some shameless secret aloud.

CHAPTER VII

Roses red and roses white
Plucked I for my love's delight.

She would none of all my posies,--
Bade me gather her blue roses.

Half the world I wandered through,
Seeking where such flowers grew;
Half the world unto my quest
Answered but with laugh and jest.

It may be beyond the grave
She shall find what she would have.

Mine was but an idle quest,--
Roses white and red are best!
----Blue Roses

Indeed the sea had not changed. Its waters were low on the mud-banks, and the
Marazion Bell-buoy clanked and swung in the tide-way. On the white beach-sand
dried stumps of sea-poppy shivered and chattered.

"I don't see the old breakwater," said Maisie, under her breath.

"Let's be thankful that we have as much as we have. I don't believe they've
mounted a single new gun on the fort since we were here. Come and look."

They came to the glacis of Fort Keeling, and sat down in a nook sheltered from
the wind under the tarred throat of a forty-pounder cannon.

"Now, if Ammoma were only here!" said Maisie.

For a long time both were silent. Then Dick took Maisie's hand and called her
by her name.

She shook her head and looked out to sea.

"Maisie, darling, doesn't it make any difference?"

"No!" between clenched teeth. "I'd--I'd tell you if it did; but it doesn't. Oh,
Dick, please be sensible."

"Don't you think that it ever will?"

"No, I'm sure it won't."

"Why?"

Maisie rested her chin on her hand, and, still regarding the sea, spoke
hurriedly--"I know what you want perfectly well, but I can't give it to you,
Dick. It isn't my fault; indeed, it isn't. If I felt that I could care for any
one----But I don't feel that I care. I simply don't understand what the feeling
means."

"Is that true, dear?"

"You've been very good to me, Dickie; and the only way I can pay you back is by
speaking the truth. I daren't tell a fib. I despise myself quite enough as it
is."

"What in the world for?"

"Because--because I take everything that you give me and I give you nothing in
return. It's mean and selfish of me, and whenever I think of it it worries me."

"Understand once for all, then, that I can manage my own affairs, and if I
choose to do anything you aren't to blame. You haven't a single thing to
reproach yourself with, darling."

"Yes, I have, and talking only makes it worse."

"Then don't talk about it."

"How can I help myself? If you find me alone for a minute you are always
talking about it; and when you aren't you look it. You don't know how I despise
myself sometimes."

"Great goodness!" said Dick, nearly jumping to his feet. "Speak the truth now,
Maisie, if you never speak it again! Do I--does this worrying bore you?"

"No. It does not."

"You"d tell me if it did?"

"I should let you know, I think."

"Thank you. The other thing is fatal. But you must learn to forgive a man when
he's in love. He's always a nuisance. You must have known that?"

Maisie did not consider the last question worth answering, and Dick was forced
to repeat it.

"There were other men, of course. They always worried just when I was in the
middle of my work, and wanted me to listen to them."

"Did you listen?"

"At first; and they couldn't understand why I didn't care. And they used to
praise my pictures; and I thought they meant it. I used to be proud of the
praise, and tell Kami, and--I shall never forget--once Kami laughed at me."

"You don't like being laughed at, Maisie, do you?"

"I hate it. I never laugh at other people unless--unless they do bad work.
Dick, tell me honestly what you think of my pictures generally,--of everything
of mine that you've seen."

"'Honest, honest, and honest over!'" quoted Dick from a catchword of long ago.
"Tell me what Kami always says."

Maisie hesitated. "He--he says that there is feeling in them."

"How dare you tell me a fib like that? Remember, I was under Kami for two
years. I know exactly what he says."

"It isn't a fib."

"It's worse; it's a half-truth. Kami says, when he puts his head on one side,--
so, 'Il y a du sentiment, mais il n'y a pas de parti pris.'" He rolled
the r threateningly, as Kami used to do.

"Yes, that is what he says; and I'm beginning to think that he is right."

"Certainly he is." Dick admitted that two people in the world could do and say
no wrong. Kami was the man.

"And now you say the same thing. It's so disheartening."

"I'm sorry, but you asked me to speak the truth. Besides, I love you too much
to pretend about your work. It's strong, it's patient sometimes,--not always,--
and sometimes there's power in it, but there's no special reason why it should
be done at all. At least, that's how it strikes me."

"There's no special reason why anything in the world should ever be done. You
know that as well as I do. I only want success."

"You're going the wrong way to get it, then. Hasn't Kami ever told you so?"

"Don't quote Kami to me. I want to know what you think. My work's bad, to begin
with."

"I didn't say that, and I don't think it."

"It's amateurish, then."

"That it most certainly is not. You're a work-woman, darling, to your boot-
heels, and I respect you for that."

"You don't laugh at me behind my back?"

"No, dear. You see, you are more to me than any one else. Put this cloak thing
round you, or you'll get chilled."

Maisie wrapped herself in the soft marten skins, turning the gray kangaroo fur
to the outside. "This is delicious," she said, rubbing her chin thoughtfully
along the fur.

"Well? Why am I wrong in trying to get a little success?"

"Just because you try. Don't you understand, darling? Good work has nothing to
do with--doesn't belong to--the person who does it. It's put into him or her
from outside."

"But how does that affect----"

"Wait a minute. All we can do is to learn how to do our work, to be masters of
our materials instead of servants, and never to be afraid of anything."

"I understand that."

"Everything else comes from outside ourselves. Very good. If we sit down
quietly to work out notions that are sent to us, we may or we may not do
something that isn't bad. A great deal depends on being master of the bricks
and mortar of the trade. But the instant we begin to think about success and
the effect of our work--to play with one eye on the gallery--we lose power and
touch and everything else. At least that's how I have found it. Instead of
being quiet and giving every power you possess to your work, you're fretting
over something which you can neither help no hinder by a minute. See?"

"It's so easy for you to talk in that way. People like what you do. Don't you
ever think about the gallery?"

"Much too often; but I'm always punished for it by loss of power. It's as
simple as the Rule of Three. If we make light of our work by using it for our
own ends, our work will make light of us, and, as we're the weaker, we shall
suffer."

"I don't treat my work lightly. You know that it's everything to me."

"Of course; but, whether you realise it or not, you give two strokes for
yourself to one for your work. It isn't your fault, darling. I do exactly the
same thing, and know that I'm doing it. Most of the French schools, and all the
schools here, drive the students to work for their own credit, and for the sake
of their pride. I was told that all the world was interested in my work, and
everybody at Kami's talked turpentine, and I honestly believed that the world
needed elevating and influencing, and all manner of impertinences, by my
brushes. By Jove, I actually believed that! When my little head was bursting
with a notion that I couldn't handle because I hadn't sufficient knowledge of
my craft, I used to run about wondering at my own magnificence and getting
ready to astonish the world."

"But surely one can do that sometimes?"

"Very seldom with malice aforethought, darling. And when it's done it's such a
tiny thing, and the world's so big, and all but a millionth part of it doesn't
care. Maisie, come with me and I'll show you something of the size of the
world. One can no more avoid working than eating,--that goes on by itself,--but
try to see what you are working for. I know such little heavens that I could
take you to,--islands tucked away under the Line. You sight them after weeks of
crashing through water as black as black marble because it's so deep, and you
sit in the fore-chains day after day and see the sun rise almost afraid because
the sea's so lonely."

"Who is afraid?--you, or the sun?"

"The sun, of course. And there are noises under the sea, and sounds overhead in
a clear sky. Then you find your island alive with hot moist orchids that make
mouths at you and can do everything except talk.

There's a waterfall in it three hundred feet high, just like a sliver of green
jade laced with silver; and millions of wild bees live up in the rocks; and you
can hear the fat cocoanuts falling from the palms; and you order an ivory-white
servant to sling you a long yellow hammock with tassels on it like ripe maize,
and you put up your feet and hear the bees hum and the water fall till you go
to sleep."

"Can one work there?"

"Certainly. One must do something always. You hang your canvas up in a palm
tree and let the parrots criticise. When the scuffle you heave a ripe custard-
apple at them, and it bursts in a lather of cream. There are hundreds of
places. Come and see them."

"I don't quite like that place. It sounds lazy. Tell me another."

"What do you think of a big, red, dead city built of red sandstone, with raw
green aloes growing between the stones, lying out neglected on honey-coloured
sands? There are forty dead kings there, Maisie, each in a gorgeous tomb finer
than all the others. You look at the palaces and streets and shops and tanks,
and think that men must live there, till you find a wee gray squirrel rubbing
its nose all alone in the market-place, and a jewelled peacock struts out of a
carved doorway and spreads its tail against a marble screen as fine pierced as
point-lace. Then a monkey--a little black monkey--walks through the main square
to get a drink from a tank forty feet deep. He slides down the creepers to the
water's edge, and a friend holds him by the tail, in case he should fall in."

"Is that all true?"

"I have been there and seen. Then evening comes, and the lights change till
it's just as though you stood in the heart of a king-opal. A little before
sundown, as punctually as clockwork, a big bristly wild boar, with all his
family following, trots through the city gate, churning the foam on his tusks.
You climb on the shoulder of a blind black stone god and watch that pig choose
himself a palace for the night and stump in wagging his tail. Then the night-
wind gets up, and the sands move, and you hear the desert outside the city
singing, 'Now I lay me down to sleep,' and everything is dark till the moon
rises. Maisie, darling, come with me and see what the world is really like.
It's very lovely, and it's very horrible,--but I won't let you see anything
horrid,--and it doesn't care your life or mine for pictures or anything else
except doing its own work and making love. Come, and I'll show you how to brew
sangaree, and sling a hammock, and--oh, thousands of things, and you'll see for
yourself what colour means, and we'll find out together what love means, and
then, maybe, we shall be allowed to do some good work. Come away!"

"Why?" said Maisie.

"How can you do anything until you have seen everything, or as much as you can?
And besides, darling, I love you. Come along with me. You have no business
here; you don't belong to this place; you're half a gipsy,--your face tells
that; and I--even the smell of open water makes me restless. Come across the
sea and be happy!"

He had risen to his feet, and stood in the shadow of the gun, looking down at
the girl. The very short winter afternoon had worn away, and, before they knew,
the winter moon was walking the untroubled sea. Long ruled lines of silver
showed where a ripple of the rising tide was turning over the mud-banks. The
wind had dropped, and in the intense stillness they could hear a donkey
cropping the frosty grass many yards away. A faint beating, like that of a
muffled drum, came out of the moon-haze.

"What's that?" said Maisie, quickly. "It sounds like a heart beating.
Where is it?"

Dick was so angry at this sudden wrench to his pleadings that he could not
trust himself to speak, and in this silence caught the sound. Maisie from her
seat under the gun watched him with a certain amount of fear.

She wished so much that he would be sensible and cease to worry her with over-
sea emotion that she both could and could not understand. She was not prepared,
however, for the change in his face as he listened.

"It's a steamer," he said,--"a twin-screw steamer, by the beat. I can't make
her out, but she must be standing very close inshore. Ah!" as the red of a
rocket streaked the haze, "she's standing in to signal before she clears the
Channel."

"Is it a wreck?" said Maisie, to whom these words were as Greek.

Dick's eyes were turned to the sea. "Wreck! What nonsense! She"s only reporting
herself. Red rocket forward--there's a green light aft now, and two red rockets
from the bridge."

"What does that mean?"

"It's the signal of the Cross Keys Line running to Australia. I wonder which
steamer it is." The note of his voice had changed; he seemed to be talking to
himself, and Maisie did not approve of it. The moonlight broke the haze for a
moment, touching the black sides of a long steamer working down Channel. "Four
masts and three funnels--she's in deep draught, too. That must be the
Barralong, or the Bhutia. No, the Bhutia has a clipper bow. It's the Barralong,
to Australia. She'll lift the Southern Cross in a week,--lucky old tub!--oh,
lucky old tub!"

He stared intently, and moved up the slope of the fort to get a better view,
but the mist on the sea thickened again, and the beating of the screws grew
fainter. Maisie called to him a little angrily, and he returned, still keeping
his eyes to seaward. "Have you ever seen the Southern Cross blazing right over
your head?" he asked. "It"s superb!"

"No," she said shortly, "and I don't want to. If you think it's so lovely, why
don't you go and see it yourself?"

She raised her face from the soft blackness of the marten skins about her
throat, and her eyes shone like diamonds. The moonlight on the gray kangaroo
fur turned it to frosted silver of the coldest.

"By Jove, Maisie, you look like a little heathen idol tucked up there." The
eyes showed that they did not appreciate the compliment. "I'm sorry," he
continued. "The Southern Cross isn't worth looking at unless someone helps you
to see. That steamer's out of hearing."

"Dick," she said quietly, "suppose I were to come to you now,--be quiet a
minute,--just as I am, and caring for you just as much as I do."

"Not as a brother, though. You said you didn't--in the Park."

"I never had a brother. Suppose I said, 'Take me to those places, and in time,
perhaps, I might really care for you,' what would you do?"

"Send you straight back to where you came from, in a cab. No, I wouldn't; I"d
let you walk. But you couldn't do it, dear. And I wouldn't run the risk. You're
worth waiting for till you can come without reservation."

"Do you honestly believe that?"

"I have a hazy sort of idea that I do. Has it never struck you in that light?"

"Ye--es. I feel so wicked about it."

"Wickeder than usual?"

"You don't know all I think. It's almost too awful to tell."

"Never mind. You promised to tell me the truth--at least."

"It's so ungrateful of me, but--but, though I know you care for me, and I like
to have you with me, I'd--I"d even sacrifice you, if that would bring me what I
want."

"My poor little darling! I know that state of mind. It doesn't lead to good
work."

"You aren't angry? Remember, I do despise myself."

"I'm not exactly flattered,--I had guessed as much before,--but I'm not angry.
I'm sorry for you. Surely you ought to have left a littleness like that behind
you, years ago."

"You've no right to patronise me! I only want what I have worked for so long.
It came to you without any trouble, and--and I don't think it"s fair."

"What can I do? I"d give ten years of my life to get you what you want. But I
can't help you; even I can't help."

A murmur of dissent from Maisie. He went on--"And I know by what you have just
said that you're on the wrong road to success. It isn't got at by sacrificing
other people,--I've had that much knocked into me; you must sacrifice yourself,
and live under orders, and never think for yourself, and never have real
satisfaction in your work except just at the beginning, when you're reaching
out after a notion."

"How can you believe all that?"

"There's no question of belief or disbelief. That's the law, and you take it or
refuse it as you please. I try to obey, but I can't, and then my work turns
bad on my hands. Under any circumstances, remember, four-fifths of everybody's
work must be bad. But the remnant is worth the trouble for its own sake."

"Isn't it nice to get credit even for bad work?"

"It's much too nice. But----May I tell you something? It isn't a pretty tale,
but you're so like a man that I forget when I'm talking to you."

"Tell me."

"Once when I was out in the Soudan I went over some ground that we had been
fighting on for three days. There were twelve hundred dead; and we hadn't time
to bury them."

"How ghastly!"

"I had been at work on a big double-sheet sketch, and I was wondering what
people would think of it at home. The sight of that field taught me a good
deal. It looked just like a bed of horrible toadstools in all colours, and--I'd
never seen men in bulk go back to their beginnings before. So I began to
understand that men and women were only material to work with, and that what
they said or did was of no consequence. See? Strictly speaking, you might just
as well put your ear down to the palette to catch what your colours are
saying."

"Dick, that's disgraceful!"

"Wait a minute. I said, strictly speaking. Unfortunately, everybody must be
either a man or a woman."

"I'm glad you allow that much."

"In your case I don't. You aren't a woman. But ordinary people, Maisie, must
behave and work as such. That's what makes me so savage." He hurled a pebble
towards the sea as he spoke. "I know that it is outside my business to care
what people say; I can see that it spoils my output if I listen to 'em; and
yet, confound it all,"--another pebble flew seaward,--"I can't help purring
when I'm rubbed the right way. Even when I can see on a man's forehead that he
is lying his way through a clump of pretty speeches, those lies make me happy
and play the mischief with my hand."

"And when he doesn't say pretty things?"

"Then, belovedest,"--Dick grinned,--"I forget that I am the steward of these
gifts, and I want to make that man love and appreciate my work with a thick
stick. It's too humiliating altogether; but I suppose even if one were an angel
and painted humans altogether from outside, one would lose in touch what one
gained in grip."

Maisie laughed at the idea of Dick as an angel.

"But you seem to think," she said, "that everything nice spoils your hand."

"I don't think. It's the law,--just the same as it was at Mrs. Jennett's.
Everything that is nice does spoil your hand. I'm glad you see so clearly."

"I don't like the view."

"Nor I. But--have got orders: what can do? Are you strong enough to face it
alone?"

"I suppose I must."

"Let me help, darling. We can hold each other very tight and try to walk
straight. We shall blunder horribly, but it will be better than stumbling
apart. Maisie, can't you see reason?"

"I don't think we should get on together. We should be two of a trade, so we
should never agree."

"How I should like to meet the man who made that proverb! He lived in a cave
and ate raw bear, I fancy. I'd make him chew his own arrow-heads. Well?"

"I should be only half married to you. I should worry and fuss about my work,
as I do now. Four days out of the seven I'm not fit to speak to."

"You talk as if no one else in the world had ever used a brush. D'you suppose
that I don't know the feeling of worry and bother and can't-get-at-ness?
You're lucky if you only have it four days out of the seven. What difference
would that make?"

"A great deal--if you had it too."

"Yes, but I could respect it. Another man might not. He might laugh at you. But
there's no use talking about it. If you can think in that way you can't care
for me--yet."

The tide had nearly covered the mud-banks and twenty little ripples broke on
the beach before Maisie chose to speak.

"Dick," she said slowly, "I believe very much that you are better than I am."

"This doesn't seem to bear on the argument--but in what way?"

"I don't quite know, but in what you said about work and things; and then
you're so patient. Yes, you're better than I am."

Dick considered rapidly the murkiness of an average man's life. There was
nothing in the review to fill him with a sense of virtue. He lifted the hem of
the cloak to his lips.

"Why," said Maisie, making as though she had not noticed, "can you see things
that I can't? I don't believe what you believe; but you're right, I believe."

"If I've seen anything, God knows I couldn't have seen it but for you, and I
know that I couldn't have said it except to you. You seemed to make everything
clear for a minute; but I don't practice what I preach. You would help me. . .
There are only us two in the world for all purposes, and--and you like to have
me with you?"

"Of course I do. I wonder if you can realise how utterly lonely I am!"

"Darling, I think I can."

"Two years ago, when I first took the little house, I used to walk up and down
the back-garden trying to cry. I never can cry. Can you?"

"It's some time since I tried. What was the trouble? Overwork?"

"I don't know; but I used to dream that I had broken down, and had no money,
and was starving in London. I thought about it all day, and it frightened me--
oh, how it frightened me!"

"I know that fear. It's the most terrible of all. It wakes me up in the night
sometimes. You oughtn't to know anything about it."

"How do you know?"

"Never mind. Is your three hundred a year safe?"

"It's in Consols."

"Very well. If any one comes to you and recommends a better investment,--even
if I should come to you,--don't you listen. Never shift the money for a minute,
and never lend a penny of it,--even to the red-haired girl."

"Don't scold me so! I'm not likely to be foolish."

"The earth is full of men who'd sell their souls for three hundred a year; and
women come and talk, and borrow a five-pound note here and a ten-pound note
there; and a woman has no conscience in a money debt. Stick to your money,
Maisie, for there's nothing more ghastly in the world than poverty in London.
It's scared me. By Jove, it put the fear into me! And one oughtn't to be afraid
of anything."

To each man is appointed his particular dread,--the terror that, if he does not
fight against it, must cow him even to the loss of his manhood. Dick"s
experience of the sordid misery of want had entered into the deeps of him, and,
lest he might find virtue too easy, that memory stood behind him, tempting to
shame, when dealers came to buy his wares. As the Nilghai quaked against his
will at the still green water of a lake or a mill-dam, as Torpenhow flinched
before any white arm that could cut or stab and loathed himself for flinching,
Dick feared the poverty he had once tasted half in jest. His burden was heavier
than the burdens of his companions.

Maisie watched the face working in the moonlight.

"You've plenty of pennies now," she said soothingly.

"I shall never have enough," he began, with vicious emphasis. Then, laughing,
"I shall always be three-pence short in my accounts."

"Why threepence?"

"I carried a man's bag once from Liverpool Street Station to Blackfriar"s
Bridge. It was a sixpenny job,--you needn't laugh; indeed it was,--and I wanted
the money desperately. He only gave me threepence; and he hadn't even the
decency to pay in silver. Whatever money I make, I shall never get that odd
threepence out of the world."

This was not language befitting the man who had preached of the sanctity of
work. It jarred on Maisie, who preferred her payment in applause, which, since
all men desire it, must be of the right. She hunted for her little purse and
gravely took out a threepenny bit.

"There it is," she said. "I'll pay you, Dickie; and don't worry any more; it
isn't worth while. Are you paid?"

"I am," said the very human apostle of fair craft, taking the coin. "I'm paid a
thousand times, and we'll close that account. It shall live on my watch-chain;
and you're an angel, Maisie."

"I'm very cramped, and I'm feeling a little cold. Good gracious! the cloak is
all white, and so is your moustache! I never knew it was so chilly."

A light frost lay white on the shoulder of Dick's ulster. He, too, had
forgotten the state of the weather. They laughed together, and with that laugh
ended all serious discourse.

They ran inland across the waste to warm themselves, then turned to look at the
glory of the full tide under the moonlight and the intense black shadows of the
furze bushes. It was an additional joy to Dick that Maisie could see colour
even as he saw it,--could see the blue in the white of the mist, the violet
that is in gray palings, and all things else as they are,--not of one hue, but
a thousand. And the moonlight came into Maisie's soul, so that she, usually
reserved, chattered of herself and of the things she took interest in,--of
Kami, wisest of teachers, and of the girls in the studio,--of the Poles, who
will kill themselves with overwork if they are not checked; of the French, who
talk at great length of much more than they will ever accomplish; of the
slovenly English, who toil hopelessly and cannot understand that inclination
does not imply power; of the Americans, whose rasping voices in the hush of a
hot afternoon strain tense-drawn nerves to breaking-point, and whose suppers
lead to indigestion; of tempestuous Russians, neither to hold nor to bind, who
tell the girls ghost-stories till the girls shriek; of stolid Germans, who come
to learn one thing, and, having mastered that much, stolidly go away and copy
pictures for evermore. Dick listened enraptured because it was Maisie who
spoke. He knew the old life.

"It hasn't changed much," he said. "Do they still steal colours at lunch-time?"

"Not steal. Attract is the word. Of course they do. I'm good--I only attract
ultramarine; but there are students who'd attract flake-white."

"I've done it myself. You can't help it when the palettes are hung up.

Every colour is common property once it runs down,--even though you do start it
with a drop of oil. It teaches people not to waste their tubes."

"I should like to attract some of your colours, Dick. Perhaps I might catch
your success with them."

"I mustn't say a bad word, but I should like to. What in the world, which
you've just missed a lovely chance of seeing, does success or want of success,
or a three-storied success, matter compared with----No, I won't open that
question again. It's time to go back to town."

"I'm sorry, Dick, but----"

"You're much more interested in that than you are in me."

"I don't know, I don't think I am."

"What will you give me if I tell you a sure short-cut to everything you want,--
the trouble and the fuss and the tangle and all the rest? Will you promise to
obey me?"

"Of course."

"In the first place, you must never forget a meal because you happen to be at
work. You forgot your lunch twice last week," said Dick, at a venture, for he
knew with whom he was dealing.

"No, no,--only once, really."

"That's bad enough. And you mustn't take a cup of tea and a biscuit in place of
a regular dinner, because dinner happens to be a trouble."

"You're making fun of me!"

"I never was more in earnest in my life. Oh, my love, my love, hasn't it dawned
on you yet what you are to me? Here's the whole earth in a conspiracy to give
you a chill, or run over you, or drench you to the skin, or cheat you out of
your money, or let you die of overwork and underfeeding, and I haven't the mere
right to look after you. Why, I don't even know if you have sense enough to put
on warm things when the weather's cold."

"Dick, you're the most awful boy to talk to--really! How do you suppose I
managed when you were away?"

"I wasn't here, and I didn't know. But now I'm back I'd give everything I have
for the right of telling you to come in out of the rain."

"Your success too?"

This time it cost Dick a severe struggle to refrain from bad words.

"As Mrs. Jennett used to say, you're a trial, Maisie! You've been cooped up in
the schools too long, and you think every one is looking at you. There aren't
twelve hundred people in the world who understand pictures. The others pretend
and don't care. Remember, I've seen twelve hundred men dead in toadstool-beds.
It's only the voice of the tiniest little fraction of people that makes
success. The real world doesn't care a tinker's--doesn't care a bit. For aught
you or I know, every man in the world may be arguing with a Maisie of his own."

"Poor Maisie!"

"Poor Dick, I think. Do you believe while he's fighting for what"s dearer than
his life he wants to look at a picture? And even if he did, and if all the
world did, and a thousand million people rose up and shouted hymns to my honour
and glory, would that make up to me for the knowledge that you were out
shopping in the Edgware Road on a rainy day without an umbrella? Now we'll go
to the station."

"But you said on the beach----" persisted Maisie, with a certain fear.

Dick groaned aloud: "Yes, I know what I said. My work is everything I have, or
am, or hope to be, to me, and I believe I've learnt the law that governs it;
but I've some lingering sense of fun left,--though you've nearly knocked it out
of me. I can just see that it isn't everything to all the world. Do what I say,
and not what I do."

Maisie was careful not to reopen debatable matters, and they returned to London
joyously. The terminus stopped Dick in the midst of an eloquent harangue on the
beauties of exercise. He would buy Maisie a horse,--such a horse as never yet
bowed head to bit,--would stable it, with a companion, some twenty miles from
London, and Maisie, solely for her health's sake should ride with him twice or
thrice a week.

"That's absurd," said she. "It wouldn't be proper."

"Now, who in all London tonight would have sufficient interest or audacity to
call us two to account for anything we chose to do?"

Maisie looked at the lamps, the fog, and the hideous turmoil. Dick was right;
but horseflesh did not make for Art as she understood it.

"You're very nice sometimes, but you're very foolish more times. I'm not going
to let you give me horses, or take you out of your way tonight. I"ll go home by
myself. Only I want you to promise me something. You won't think any more about
that extra threepence, will you? Remember, you've been paid; and I won't allow
you to be spiteful and do bad work for a little thing like that. You can be so
big that you mustn't be tiny."

This was turning the tables with a vengeance. There remained only to put Maisie
into her hansom.

"Goodbye," she said simply. "You'll come on Sunday. It has been a beautiful
day, Dick. Why can't it be like this always?"

"Because love's like line-work: you must go forward or backward; you can't
stand still. By the way, go on with your line-work. Good night, and, for my--
for my sake, take care of yourself."

He turned to walk home, meditating. The day had brought him nothing that he
hoped for, but--surely this was worth many days--it had brought him nearer to
Maisie. The end was only a question of time now, and the prize well worth the
waiting. By instinct, once more, he turned to the river.

"And she understood at once," he said, looking at the water. "She found out my
pet besetting sin on the spot, and paid it off. My God, how she understood! And
she said I was better than she was! Better than she was!" He laughed at the
absurdity of the notion. "I wonder if girls guess at one-half a man's life.
They can't, or--they wouldn't marry us." He took her gift out of his pocket,
and considered it in the light of a miracle and a pledge of the comprehension
that, one day, would lead to perfect happiness. Meantime, Maisie was alone in
London, with none to save her from danger. And the packed wilderness was very
full of danger.

Dick made his prayer to Fate disjointedly after the manner of the heathen as he
threw the piece of silver into the river. If any evil were to befal, let him
bear the burden and let Maisie go unscathed, since the threepenny piece was
dearest to him of all his possessions. It was a small coin in itself, but
Maisie had given it, and the Thames held it, and surely the Fates would be
bribed for this once.

The drowning of the coin seemed to cut him free from thought of Maisie for the
moment. He took himself off the bridge and went whistling to his chambers with
a strong yearning for some man-talk and tobacco after his first experience of
an entire day spent in the society of a woman. There was a stronger desire at
his heart when there rose before him an unsolicited vision of the Barralong
dipping deep and sailing free for the Southern Cross.

CHAPTER VIII

And these two, as I have told you,
Were the friends of Hiawatha,
Chibiabos, the musician,
And the very strong man, Kwasind.
--Hiawatha

Torpenhow was paging the last sheets of some manuscript, while the Nilghai, who
had come for chess and remained to talk tactics, was reading through the first
part, commenting scornfully the while.

"It's picturesque enough and it's sketchy," said he; "but as a serious
consideration of affairs in Eastern Europe, it's not worth much."

"It's off my hands at any rate. . . . Thirty-seven, thirty-eight, thirty-nine
slips altogether, aren't there? That should make between eleven and twelve
pages of valuable misinformation. Heigh-ho!" Torpenhow shuffled the writing
together and hummed--

'Young lambs to sell, young lambs to sell,
If I'd as much money as I could tell,
I never would cry, Young lambs to sell!'"

Dick entered, self-conscious and a little defiant, but in the best of tempers
with all the world.

"Back at last?" said Torpenhow.

"More or less. What have you been doing?"

"Work. Dickie, you behave as though the Bank of England were behind you. Here's
Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday gone and you haven't done a line. It's scandalous."

"The notions come and go, my children--they come and go like our 'baccy," he
answered, filling his pipe. "Moreover," he stooped to thrust a spill into the
grate, "Apollo does not always stretch his----Oh, confound your clumsy jests,
Nilghai!"

"This is not the place to preach the theory of direct inspiration," said the
Nilghai, returning Torpenhow's large and workmanlike bellows to their nail on
the wall. "We believe in cobblers" wax. La!--where you sit down."

"If you weren't so big and fat," said Dick, looking round for a weapon, "I'd---
-"

"No skylarking in my rooms. You two smashed half my furniture last time you
threw the cushions about. You might have the decency to say How d'you do? to
Binkie. Look at him."

Binkie had jumped down from the sofa and was fawning round Dick's knee, and
scratching at his boots.

"Dear man!" said Dick, snatching him up, and kissing him on the black patch
above his right eye. "Did ums was, Binks? Did that ugly Nilghai turn you off
the sofa? Bite him, Mr. Binkie." He pitched him on the Nilghai's stomach, as
the big man lay at ease, and Binkie pretended to destroy the Nilghai inch by
inch, till a sofa cushion extinguished him, and panting he stuck out his tongue
at the company.

"The Binkie-boy went for a walk this morning before you were up, Torp. I saw
him making love to the butcher at the corner when the shutters were being taken
down--just as if he hadn't enough to eat in his own proper house," said Dick.

"Binks, is that a true bill?" said Torpenhow, severely. The little dog
retreated under the sofa cushion, and showed by the fat white back of him that
he really had no further interest in the discussion.

"Strikes me that another disreputable dog went for a walk, too," said the
Nilghai. "What made you get up so early? Torp said you might be buying a
horse."

"He knows it would need three of us for a serious business like that. No, I
felt lonesome and unhappy, so I went out to look at the sea, and watch the
pretty ships go by."

"Where did you go?"

"Somewhere on the Channel. Progly or Snigly, or some watering-place was its
name; I've forgotten; but it was only two hours" run from London and the ships
went by."

"Did you see anything you knew?"

"Only the Barralong outwards to Australia, and an Odessa grain-boat loaded down
by the head. It was a thick day, but the sea smelt good."

"Wherefore put on one's best trousers to see the Barralong?" said Torpenhow,
pointing.

"Because I've nothing except these things and my painting duds. Besides, I
wanted to do honour to the sea."

"Did She make you feel restless?" asked the Nilghai, keenly.

"Crazy. Don't speak of it. I'm sorry I went."

Torpenhow and the Nilghai exchanged a look as Dick, stooping, busied himself
among the former's boots and trees.

"These will do," he said at last; "I can't say I think much of your taste in
slippers, but the fit's the thing." He slipped his feet into a pair of sock-
like sambhur-skin foot coverings, found a long chair, and lay at length.

"They're my own pet pair," Torpenhow said. "I was just going to put them on
myself."

"All your reprehensible selfishness. Just because you see me happy for a
minute, you want to worry me and stir me up. Find another pair."

"Good for you that Dick can't wear your clothes, Torp. You two live
communistically," said the Nilghai.

"Dick never has anything that I can wear. He's only useful to sponge upon."

"Confound you, have you been rummaging round among my clothes, then?" said
Dick. "I put a sovereign in the tobacco-jar yesterday. How do you expect a man
to keep his accounts properly if you----"

Here the Nilghai began to laugh, and Torpenhow joined him.

"Hid a sovereign yesterday! You're no sort of financier. You lent me a fiver
about a month back. Do you remember?" Torpenhow said.

"Yes, of course."

"Do you remember that I paid it you ten days later, and you put it at the
bottom of the tobacco?"

"By Jove, did I? I thought it was in one of my colour-boxes."

"You thought! About a week ago I went into your studio to get some 'baccy and
found it."

"What did you do with it?"

"Took the Nilghai to a theatre and fed him."

"You couldn't feed the Nilghai under twice the money--not though you gave him
Army beef. Well, I suppose I should have found it out sooner or later. What is
there to laugh at?"

"You're a most amazing cuckoo in many directions," said the Nilghai, still
chuckling over the thought of the dinner. "Never mind. We had both been working
very hard, and it was your unearned increment we spent, and as you're only a
loafer it didn't matter."

"That's pleasant--from the man who is bursting with my meat, too. I'll get that
dinner back one of these days. Suppose we go to a theatre now."

"Put our boots on,--and dress,--and wash?" The Nilghai spoke very lazily.

"I withdraw the motion."

"Suppose, just for a change--as a startling variety, you know--we, that is to
say we, get our charcoal and our canvas and go on with our work."

Torpenhow spoke pointedly, but Dick only wriggled his toes inside the soft
leather moccasins.

"What a one-ideaed clucker that is! If I had any unfinished figures on hand, I
haven't any model; if I had my model, I haven't any spray, and I never leave
charcoal unfixed overnight; and if I had my spray and twenty photographs of
backgrounds, I couldn't do anything tonight. I don't feel that way."

"Binkie-dog, he's a lazy hog, isn't he?" said the Nilghai.

"Very good, I will do some work," said Dick, rising swiftly. "I"ll fetch the
Nungapunga Book, and we'll add another picture to the Nilghai Saga."

"Aren't you worrying him a little too much?" asked the Nilghai, when Dick had
left the room.

"Perhaps, but I know what he can turn out if he likes. It makes me savage to
hear him praised for past work when I know what he ought to do. You and I are
arranged for----"

"By Kismet and our own powers, more's the pity. I have dreamed of a good deal."

"So have I, but we know our limitations now. I'm dashed if I know what Dick's
may be when he gives himself to his work. That's what makes me so keen about
him."

"And when all's said and done, you will be put aside--quite rightly--for a
female girl."

"I wonder . . . Where do you think he has been today?"

"To the sea. Didn't you see the look in his eyes when he talked about her? He's
as restless as a swallow in autumn."

"Yes; but did he go alone?"

"I don't know, and I don't care, but he has the beginnings of the go-fever upon
him. He wants to up-stakes and move out. There's no mistaking the signs.
Whatever he may have said before, he has the call upon him now."

"It might be his salvation," Torpenhow said.

"Perhaps--if you care to take the responsibility of being a saviour."

Dick returned with the big clasped sketch-book that the Nilghai knew well and
did not love too much. In it Dick had drawn all manner of moving incidents,
experienced by himself or related to him by the others, of all the four corners
of the earth. But the wider range of the Nilghai's body and life attracted him
most. When truth failed he fell back on fiction of the wildest, and represented
incidents in the Nilghai's career that were unseemly,--his marriages with many
African princesses, his shameless betrayal, for Arab wives, of an army corps to
the Mahdi, his tattooment by skilled operators in Burmah, his interview (and
his fears) with the yellow headsman in the blood-stained execution-ground of
Canton, and finally, the passings of his spirit into the bodies of whales,
elephants, and toucans. Torpenhow from time to time had added rhymed
descriptions, and the whole was a curious piece of art, because Dick decided,
having regard to the name of the book which being interpreted means "naked,"
that it would be wrong to draw the Nilghai with any clothes on, under any
circumstances. Consequently the last sketch, representing that much-enduring
man calling on the War Office to press his claims to the Egyptian medal, was
hardly delicate. He settled himself comfortably on Torpenhow's table and turned
over the pages.

"What a fortune you would have been to Blake, Nilghai!" he said. "There's a
succulent pinkness about some of these sketches that's more than life-like.
"The Nilghai surrounded while bathing by the Mahdieh"--that was founded on
fact, eh?"

"It was very nearly my last bath, you irreverent dauber. Has Binkie come into
the Saga yet?"

"No; the Binkie-boy hasn't done anything except eat and kill cats. Let's see.
Here you are as a stained-glass saint in a church. Deuced decorative lines
about your anatomy; you ought to be grateful for being handed down to posterity
in this way. Fifty years hence you'll exist in rare and curious facsimiles at
ten guineas each. What shall I try this time? The domestic life of the
Nilghai?"

"Hasn't got any."

"The undomestic life of the Nilghai, then. Of course. Mass-meeting of his wives
in Trafalgar Square. That's it. They came from the ends of the earth to attend
Nilghai's wedding to an English bride. This shall be an epic. It's a sweet
material to work with."

"It's a scandalous waste of time," said Torpenhow.

"Don't worry; it keeps one's hand in--specially when you begin without the
pencil." He set to work rapidly. "That's Nelson's Column. Presently the Nilghai
will appear shinning up it."

"Give him some clothes this time."

"Certainly--a veil and an orange-wreath, because he's been married."

"Gad, that's clever enough!" said Torpenhow over his shoulder, as Dick brought
out of the paper with three twirls of the brush a very fat back and labouring
shoulder pressed against stone.

"Just imagine," Dick continued, "if we could publish a few of these dear little
things every time the Nilghai subsidises a man who can write, to give the
public an honest opinion of my pictures."

"Well, you'll admit I always tell you when I have done anything of that kind. I
know I can't hammer you as you ought to be hammered, so I give the job to
another. Young Maclagan, for instance----"

"No-o--one half-minute, old man; stick your hand out against the dark of the
wall-paper--you only burble and call me names. That left shoulder's out of
drawing. I must literally throw a veil over that. Where's my pen-knife? Well,
what about Maclagan?"

"I only gave him his riding-orders to--to lambast you on general principles for
not producing work that will last."

"Whereupon that young fool,"--Dick threw back his head and shut one eye as he
shifted the page under his hand,--"being left alone with an ink-pot and what he
conceived were his own notions, went and spilt them both over me in the papers.
You might have engaged a grown man for the business, Nilghai. How do you think
the bridal veil looks now, Torp?"

"How the deuce do three dabs and two scratches make the stuff stand away from
the body as it does?" said Torpenhow, to whom Dick"s methods were always new.

"It just depends on where you put 'em. If Maclagan had know that much about his
business he might have done better."

"Why don't you put the damned dabs into something that will stay, then?"
insisted the Nilghai, who had really taken considerable trouble in hiring for
Dick's benefit the pen of a young gentleman who devoted most of his waking
hours to an anxious consideration of the aims and ends of Art, which, he wrote,
was one and indivisible.

"Wait a minute till I see how I am going to manage my procession of wives. You
seem to have married extensively, and I must rough 'em in with the pencil--
Medes, Parthians, Edomites. . . . Now, setting aside the weakness and the
wickedness and--and the fat-headedness of deliberately trying to do work that
will live, as they call it, I'm content with the knowledge that I've done my
best up to date, and I shan't do anything like it again for some hours at
least--probably years. Most probably never."

"What! any stuff you have in stock your best work?" said Torpenhow.

"Anything you've sold?" said the Nilghai.

"Oh no. It isn't here and it isn't sold. Better than that, it can't be sold,
and I don't think any one knows where it is. I'm sure I don't. . . . And yet
more and more wives, on the north side of the square. Observe the virtuous
horror of the lions!"

"You may as well explain," said Torpenhow, and Dick lifted his head from the
paper.

"The sea reminded me of it," he said slowly. "I wish it hadn't. It weighs some
few thousand tons--unless you cut it out with a cold chisel."

"Don't be an idiot. You can't pose with us here," said the Nilghai.

"There's no pose in the matter at all. It's a fact. I was loafing from Lima to
Auckland in a big, old, condemned passenger-ship turned into a cargo-boat and
owned by a second-hand Italian firm. She was a crazy basket. We were cut down
to fifteen ton of coal a day, and we thought ourselves lucky when we kicked
seven knots an hour out of her. Then we used to stop and let the bearings cool
down, and wonder whether the crack in the shaft was spreading."

"Were you a steward or a stoker in those days?"

"I was flush for the time being, so I was a passenger, or else I should have
been a steward, I think," said Dick, with perfect gravity, returning to the
procession of angry wives. "I was the only other passenger from Lima, and the
ship was half empty, and full of rats and cockroaches and scorpions."

"But what has this to do with the picture?"

"Wait a minute. She had been in the China passenger trade and her lower decks
had bunks for two thousand pigtails. Those were all taken down, and she was
empty up to her nose, and the lights came through the port holes--most annoying
lights to work in till you got used to them. I hadn't anything to do for weeks.
The ship's charts were in pieces and our skipper daren't run south for fear of
catching a storm. So he did his best to knock all the Society Islands out of
the water one by one, and I went into the lower deck, and did my picture on the
port side as far forward in her as I could go. There was some brown paint and
some green paint that they used for the boats, and some black paint for
ironwork, and that was all I had."

"The passengers must have thought you mad."

"There was only one, and it was a woman; but it gave me the notion of my
picture."

"What was she like?" said Torpenhow.

"She was a sort of Negroid-Jewess-Cuban; with morals to match. She couldn't
read or write, and she didn't want to, but she used to come down and watch me
paint, and the skipper didn't like it, because he was paying her passage and
had to be on the bridge occasionally."

"I see. That must have been cheerful."

"It was the best time I ever had. To begin with, we didn't know whether we
should go up or go down any minute when there was a sea on; and when it was
calm it was paradise; and the woman used to mix the paints and talk broken
English, and the skipper used to steal down every few minutes to the lower
deck, because he said he was afraid of fire. So, you see, we could never tell
when we might be caught, and I had a splendid notion to work out in only three
keys of colour."

"What was the notion?"

"Two lines in Poe--

'Neither the angels in Heaven above nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul of the beautiful Annabel Lee.'

It came out of the sea--all by itself. I drew that fight, fought out in green
water over the naked, choking soul, and the woman served as the model for the
devils and the angels both--sea-devils and sea-angels, and the soul half
drowned between them. It doesn't sound much, but when there was a good light on
the lower deck it looked very fine and creepy. It was seven by fourteen feet,
all done in shifting light for shifting light."

"Did the woman inspire you much?" said Torpenhow.

"She and the sea between them--immensely. There was a heap of bad drawing in
that picture. I remember I went out of my way to foreshorten for sheer delight
of doing it, and I foreshortened damnably, but for all that it's the best thing
I've ever done; and now I suppose the ship's broken up or gone down. Whew! What
a time that was!"

"What happened after all?"

"It all ended. They were loading her with wool when I left the ship, but even
the stevedores kept the picture clear to the last. The eyes of the demons
scared them, I honestly believe."

"And the woman?"

"She was scared too when it was finished. She used to cross herself before she
went down to look at it. Just three colours and no chance of getting any more,
and the sea outside and unlimited love-making inside, and the fear of death
atop of everything else, O Lord!" He had ceased to look at the sketch, but was
staring straight in front of him across the room.

"Why don't you try something of the same kind now?" said the Nilghai.

"Because those things come not by fasting and prayer. When I find a cargo-boat
and a Jewess-Cuban and another notion and the same old life, I may."

"You won't find them here," said the Nilghai.

"No, I shall not." Dick shut the sketch-book with a bang. "This room's as hot
as an oven. Open the window, some one."

He leaned into the darkness, watching the greater darkness of London below him.
The chambers stood much higher than the other houses, commanding a hundred
chimneys--crooked cowls that looked like sitting cats as they swung round, and
other uncouth brick and zinc mysteries supported by iron stanchions and clamped
by 8-pieces. Northward the lights of Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square
threw a copper-coloured glare above the black roofs, and southward by all the
orderly lights of the Thames. A train rolled out across one of the railway
bridges, and its thunder drowned for a minute the dull roar of the streets. The
Nilghai looked at his watch and said shortly, "That's the Paris night-mail. You
can book from here to St. Petersburg if you choose."

Dick crammed head and shoulders out of the window and looked across the river.
Torpenhow came to his side, while the Nilghai passed over quietly to the piano
and opened it. Binkie, making himself as large as possible, spread out upon the
sofa with the air of one who is not to be lightly disturbed.

"Well," said the Nilghai to the two pairs of shoulders, "have you never seen
this place before?"

A steam-tug on the river hooted as she towed her barges to wharf. Then the boom
of the traffic came into the room. Torpenhow nudged Dick.

"Good place to bank in--bad place to bunk in, Dickie, isn't it?"

Dick's chin was in his hand as he answered, in the words of a general not
without fame, still looking out on the darkness--"'My God, what a city to
loot!'"

Binkie found the night air tickling his whiskers and sneezed plaintively.

"We shall give the Binkie-dog a cold," said Torpenhow. "Come in," and they
withdrew their heads. "You'll be buried in Kensal Green, Dick, one of these
days, if it isn't closed by the time you want to go there--buried within two
feet of some one else, his wife and his family."

"Allah forbid! I shall get away before that time comes. Give a man room to
stretch his legs, Mr. Binkie." Dick flung himself down on the sofa and tweaked
Binkie's velvet ears, yawning heavily the while.

"You'll find that wardrobe-case very much out of tune," Torpenhow said to the
Nilghai. "It's never touched except by you."

"A piece of gross extravagance," Dick grunted. "The Nilghai only comes when I'm
out."

"That's because you're always out. Howl, Nilghai, and let him hear."

"The life of the Nilghai is fraud and slaughter, His writings are watered
Dickens and water; But the voice of the Nilghai raised on high Makes even the
Mahdieh glad to die!"

Dick quoted from Torpenhow's letterpress in the Nungapunga Book.

"How do they call moose in Canada, Nilghai?"

The man laughed. Singing was his one polite accomplishment, as many Press-tents
in far-off lands had known.

"What shall I sing?" said he, turning in the chair.

""Moll Roe in the Morning,"" said Torpenhow, at a venture.

"No," said Dick, sharply, and the Nilghai opened his eyes. The old chanty
whereof he, among a very few, possessed all the words was not a pretty one, but
Dick had heard it many times before without wincing. Without prelude he
launched into that stately tune that calls together and troubles the hearts of
the gipsies of the sea--

"Farewell and adieu to you, Spanish ladies, Farewell and adieu to you, ladies
of Spain."

Dick turned uneasily on the sofa, for he could hear the bows of the Barralong
crashing into the green seas on her way to the Southern Cross.

Then came the chorus--

"We'll rant and we'll roar like true British sailors, We'll rant and we'll roar
across the salt seas, Until we take soundings in the Channel of Old England
From Ushant to Scilly 'tis forty-five leagues."

"Thirty-five-thirty-five," said Dick, petulantly. "Don't tamper with Holy Writ.
Go on, Nilghai."

"The first land we made it was called the Deadman,"

and they sang to the end very vigourously.

"That would be a better song if her head were turned the other way--to the
Ushant light, for instance," said the Nilghai.

"Flinging his arms about like a mad windmill," said Torpenhow. "Give us
something else, Nilghai. You're in fine fog-horn form tonight."

"Give us the 'Ganges Pilot'; you sang that in the square the night before El-
Maghrib. By the way, I wonder how many of the chorus are alive tonight," said
Dick.

Torpenhow considered for a minute. "By Jove! I believe only you and I. Raynor,
Vicery, and Deenes--all dead; Vincent caught smallpox in Cairo, carried it here
and died of it. Yes, only you and I and the Nilghai."

"Umph! And yet the men here who've done their work in a well-warmed studio all
their lives, with a policeman at each corner, say that I charge too much for my
pictures."

"They are buying your work, not your insurance policies, dear child," said the
Nilghai.

"I gambled with one to get at the other. Don't preach. Go on with the "Pilot."
Where in the world did you get that song?"

"On a tombstone," said the Nilghai. "On a tombstone in a distant land. I made
it an accompaniment with heaps of base chords."

"Oh, Vanity! Begin." And the Nilghai began--

"I have slipped my cable, messmates, I'm drifting down with the tide, I have my
sailing orders, while yet at anchor ride.
And never on fair June morning have I put out to sea With clearer conscience or
better hope, or a heart more light and free.

"Shoulder to shoulder, Joe, my boy, into the crowd like a wedge Strike with the
hangers, messmates, but do not cut with the edge.
Cries Charnock, "Scatter the faggots, double that Brahmin in two, The tall pale
widow for me, Joe, the little brown girl for you!"

"Young Joe (you're nearing sixty), why is your hide so dark? Katie has soft
fair blue eyes, who blackened yours?--Why, hark!"

They were all singing now, Dick with the roar of the wind of the open sea about
his ears as the deep bass voice let itself go.

"The morning gun--Ho, steady! the arquebuses to me! I ha' sounded the Dutch
High Admiral's heart as my lead doth sound the sea.

"Sounding, sounding the Ganges, floating down with the tide, Moore me close to
Charnock, next to my nut-brown bride.
My blessing to Kate at Fairlight--Holwell, my thanks to you; Steady! We steer
for heaven, through sand-drifts cold and blue."

"Now what is there in that nonsense to make a man restless?" said Dick, hauling
Binkie from his feet to his chest.

"It depends on the man," said Torpenhow.

"The man who has been down to look at the sea," said the Nilghai.

"I didn't know she was going to upset me in this fashion."

"That's what men say when they go to say good-bye to a woman. It's more easy
though to get rid of three women than a piece of one's life and surroundings."

"But a woman can be----" began Dick, unguardedly.

"A piece of one's life," continued Torpenhow. "No, she can't." His face
darkened for a moment. "She says she wants to sympathise with you and help you
in your work, and everything else that clearly a man must do for himself. Then
she sends round five notes a day to ask why the dickens you haven't been
wasting your time with her."

"Don't generalise," said the Nilghai. "By the time you arrive at five notes a
day you must have gone through a good deal and behaved accordingly. Shouldn't
begin these things, my son."

"I shouldn't have gone down to the sea," said Dick, just a little anxious to
change the conversation. "And you shouldn't have sung."

"The sea isn't sending you five notes a day," said the Nilghai.

"No, but I'm fatally compromised. She's an enduring old hag, and I"m sorry I
ever met her. Why wasn't I born and bred and dead in a three-pair back?"

"Hear him blaspheming his first love! Why in the world shouldn't you listen to
her?" said Torpenhow.

Before Dick could reply the Nilghai lifted up his voice with a shout that shook
the windows, in "The Men of the Sea," that begins, as all know, "The sea is a
wicked old woman," and after wading through eight lines whose imagery is
truthful, ends in a refrain, slow as the clacking of a capstan when the boat
comes unwillingly up to the bars where the men sweat and tramp in the shingle.

"'Ye that bore us, O restore us! She is kinder than ye; For the call is on our
heart-strings!' Said The Men of the Sea."

The Nilghai sang that verse twice, with simple cunning, intending that Dick
should hear. But Dick was waiting for the farewell of the men to their wives.

"'Ye that love us, can ye move us? She is dearer than ye; And your sleep will
be the sweeter,' Said The Men of the Sea."

The rough words beat like the blows of the waves on the bows of the rickety
boat from Lima in the days when Dick was mixing paints, making love, drawing
devils and angels in the half dark, and wondering whether the next minute would
put the Italian captain's knife between his shoulder-blades. And the go-fever
which is more real than many doctors' diseases, waked and raged, urging him who
loved Maisie beyond anything in the world, to go away and taste the old hot,
unregenerate life again,--to scuffle, swear, gamble, and love light loves with
his fellows; to take ship and know the sea once more, and by her beget
pictures; to talk to Binat among the sands of Port Said while Yellow Tina mixed
the drinks; to hear the crackle of musketry, and see the smoke roll outward,
thin and thicken again till the shining black faces came through, and in that
hell every man was strictly responsible for his own head, and his own alone,
and struck with an unfettered arm. It was impossible, utterly impossible, but--

"'Oh, our fathers in the churchyard, She is older than ye, And our graves will
be the greener,' Said The Men of the Sea."

"What is there to hinder?" said Torpenhow, in the long hush that followed the
song.

"You said a little time since that you wouldn't come for a walk round the
world, Torp."

"That was months ago, and I only objected to your making money for travelling
expenses. You've shot your bolt here and it has gone home. Go away and do some
work, and see some things."

"Get some of the fat off you; you're disgracefully out of condition," said the
Nilghai, making a plunge from the chair and grasping a handful of Dick
generally over the right ribs. "Soft as putty--pure tallow born of over-
feeding. Train it off, Dickie."

"We're all equally gross, Nilghai. Next time you have to take the field you'll
sit down, wink your eyes, gasp, and die in a fit."

"Never mind. You go away on a ship. Go to Lima again, or to Brazil. There's
always trouble in South America."

"Do you suppose I want to be told where to go? Great Heavens, the only
difficulty is to know where I'm to stop. But I shall stay here, as I told you
before."

"Then you'll be buried in Kensal Green and turn into adipocere with the
others," said Torpenhow. "Are you thinking of commissions in hand? Pay forfeit
and go. You've money enough to travel as a king if you please."

"You've the grisliest notions of amusement, Torp. I think I see myself shipping
first class on a six-thousand-ton hotel, and asking the third engineer what
makes the engines go round, and whether it isn't very warm in the stokehold.
Ho! ho! I should ship as a loafer if ever I shipped at all, which I'm not going
to do. I shall compromise, and go for a small trip to begin with."

"That's something at any rate. Where will you go?" said Torpenhow. "It would do
you all the good in the world, old man."

The Nilghai saw the twinkle in Dick's eye, and refrained from speech.

"I shall go in the first place to Rathray's stable, where I shall hire one
horse, and take him very carefully as far as Richmond Hill. Then I shall walk
him back again, in case he should accidentally burst into a lather and make
Rathray angry. I shall do that tomorrow, for the sake of air and exercise."

"Bah!" Dick had barely time to throw up his arm and ward off the cushion that
the disgusted Torpenhow heaved at his head.

"Air and exercise indeed," said the Nilghai, sitting down heavily on Dick.

"Let's give him a little of both. Get the bellows, Torp."

At this point the conference broke up in disorder, because Dick would not open
his mouth till the Nilghai held his nose fast, and there was some trouble in
forcing the nozzle of the bellows between his teeth; and even when it was there
he weakly tried to puff against the force of the blast, and his cheeks blew up
with a great explosion; and the enemy becoming helpless with laughter he so
beat them over the head with a soft sofa cushion that became unsewn and
distributed its feathers, and Binkie, interfering in Torpenhow's interests, was
bundled into the half-empty bag and advised to scratch his way out, which he
did after a while, travelling rapidly up and down the floor in the shape of an
agitated green haggis, and when he came out looking for satisfaction, the three
pillars of his world were picking feathers out of their hair.

"A prophet has no honour in his own country," said Dick, ruefully, dusting his
knees. "This filthy fluff will never brush off my legs."

"It was all for your own good," said the Nilghai. "Nothing like air and
exercise."

"All for your good," said Torpenhow, not in the least with reference to past
clowning. "It would let you focus things at their proper worth and prevent your
becoming slack in this hothouse of a town. Indeed it would, old man. I
shouldn't have spoken if I hadn't thought so. Only, you make a joke of
everything."

"Before God I do no such thing," said Dick, quickly and earnestly. "You don't
know me if you think that."

I don't think it," said the Nilghai.

"How can fellows like ourselves, who know what life and death really mean, dare
to make a joke of anything? I know we pretend it, to save ourselves from
breaking down or going to the other extreme. Can't I see, old man, how you're
always anxious about me, and try to advise me to make my work better? Do you
suppose I don't think about that myself? But you can't help me--you can't help
me--not even you. I must play my own hand alone in my own way."

"Hear, hear," from the Nilghai.

"What's the one thing in the Nilghai Saga that I've never drawn in the
Nungapunga Book?" Dick continued to Torpenhow, who was a little astonished at
the outburst.

Now there was one blank page in the book given over to the sketch that Dick had
not drawn of the crowning exploit in the Nilghai's life; when that man, being
young and forgetting that his body and bones belonged to the paper that
employed him, had ridden over sunburned slippery grass in the rear of Bredow's
brigade on the day that the troopers flung themselves at Caurobert's artillery,
and for aught they knew twenty battalions in front, to save the battered 24th
German Infantry, to give time to decide the fate of Vionville, and to learn ere
their remnant came back to Flavigay that cavalry can attack and crumple and
break unshaken infantry. Whenever he was inclined to think over a life that
might have been better, an income that might have been larger, and a soul that
might have been considerably cleaner, the Nilghai would comfort himself with
the thought, "I rode with Bredow's brigade at Vionville," and take heart for
any lesser battle the next day might bring.

"I know," he said very gravely. "I was always glad that you left it out."

"I left it out because Nilghai taught me what the Germany army learned then,
and what Schmidt taught their cavalry. I don't know German.

What is it? 'Take care of the time and the dressing will take care of itself.'
I must ride my own line to my own beat, old man."

"Tempe ist richtung. You've learned your lesson well," said the Nilghai.

"He must go alone. He speaks truth, Torp."

"Maybe I'm as wrong as I can be--hideously wrong. I must find that out for
myself, as I have to think things out for myself, but I daren't turn my head to
dress by the next man. It hurts me a great deal more than you know not to be
able to go, but I cannot, that's all. I must do my own work and live my own
life in my own way, because I'm responsible for both.

Only don't think I frivol about it, Torp. I have my own matches and sulphur,
and I'll make my own hell, thanks."

There was an uncomfortable pause. Then Torpenhow said blandly, "What did the
Governor of North Carolina say to the Governor of South Carolina?"

"Excellent notion. It is a long time between drinks. There are the makings of a
very fine prig in you, Dick," said the Nilghai.

"I've liberated my mind, estimable Binkie, with the feathers in his mouth."
Dick picked up the still indignant one and shook him tenderly. "You're tied up
in a sack and made to run about blind, Binkie-wee, without any reason, and it
has hurt your little feelings. Never mind. Sic volo, sic jubeo, stet pro
ratione voluntas, and don't sneeze in my eye because I talk Latin. Good night."

He went out of the room.

"That's distinctly one for you," said the Nilghai. "I told you it was hopeless
to meddle with him. He's not pleased."

"He'd swear at me if he weren't. I can't make it out. He has the go-fever upon
him and he won't go. I only hope that he mayn't have to go some day when he
doesn't want to," said Torpenhow.
* * * * * *

In his own room Dick was settling a question with himself--and the question was
whether all the world, and all that was therein, and a burning desire to
exploit both, was worth one threepenny piece thrown into the Thames.

"It came of seeing the sea, and I'm a cur to think about it," he decided.
"After all, the honeymoon will be that tour--with reservations; only . . .
only I didn't realise that the sea was so strong. I didn't feel it so much when
I was with Maisie. These damnable songs did it. He's beginning again."

But it was only Herrick's Nightpiece to Julia that the Nilghai sang, and before
it was ended Dick reappeared on the threshold, not altogether clothed indeed,
but in his right mind, thirsty and at peace.

The mood had come and gone with the rising and the falling of the tide by Fort
Keeling.

CHAPTER IX

"If I have taken the common clay
And wrought it cunningly
In the shape of a god that was digged a clod,
The greater honour to me."

"If thou hast taken the common clay,
And thy hands be not free
From the taint of the soil, thou hast made thy spoil
The greater shame to thee."
--The Two Potters

HE DID no work of any kind for the rest of the week. Then came another Sunday.
He dreaded and longed for the day always, but since the red-haired girl had
sketched him there was rather more dread than desire in his mind.

He found that Maisie had entirely neglected his suggestions about line-work.
She had gone off at score filed with some absurd notion for a "fancy head." It
cost Dick something to command his temper.

"What's the good of suggesting anything?" he said pointedly.

"Ah, but this will be a picture,--a real picture; and I know that Kami will let
me send it to the Salon. You don't mind, do you?"

"I suppose not. But you won't have time for the Salon."

Maisie hesitated a little. She even felt uncomfortable.

"We're going over to France a month sooner because of it. I shall get the idea
sketched out here and work it up at Kami"s.

Dick's heart stood still, and he came very near to being disgusted with his

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