She had not posed for Drene during the last two weeks,
and he had begun to miss her, after his own fashion--that is, he thought
of her when not preoccupied and sometimes desired her companionship when
And one evening he went to his desk, rummaged among note-books, and scribbled
sheets of paper, until he found her address, which he could never remember,
wrote it down on another slip of paper, pocketed it, and went out to his
But as he dined, other matters reoccupied his mind, matters professional,
schemes little and great, broad and in detail, which gradually, though
not excluding her entirely, quenched his desire to see her at that particular
Sometimes it was sheer disinclination to make an effort to communicate
with her, sometimes, and usually, the self-centering concentration which
included himself and his career, as well as his work, seemed to obliterate
even any memory of her existence.
Now and then, when alone in his shabby bedroom, reading a dull book, or
duly preparing to retire, far in the dim recesses of heart and brain a
faint pain became apparent--if it could still be called pain, this vague
ghost of anger stirring in the ashes of dead years--and at such moments
he thought of Graylock, and of another; and the partly paralyzed emotion,
which memory of these two evoked, stirred him finally to think of Cecile.
It was at such times that he always determined to seek her the next day
and continue with her what had been begun--an intimacy which depended upon
his own will; a destiny for her which instinct whispered was within his
own control. But the next day found him at work; models of various types,
ages, and degrees of stupidity came, posed, were paid, and departed; his
studies for the groups in collaboration with Guilder and Quair were approaching
the intensely interesting period--that stage of completion where composition
has been determined upon and the excitement of developing the construction
and the technical charm of modeling begins.
And evening always found him physically tired and mentally satisfied--or
perturbed--to the exclusion of such minor interests as life is made of--dress,
amusement, food, women. Between a man and a beloved profession in full
shock of embrace there is no real room for these or thought of these.
He ate irregularly and worked with the lack of wisdom characteristic of
creative ability, and he grew thinner and grayer at the temples, and grayer
of flesh, too, so that within a month, between the torrid New York summer
and his own unwisdom, he became again the gaunt, silent, darkly absorbed
recluse, never even stirring abroad for air until some half-deadened pang
of hunger, or the heavy warning of a headache, set him in reluctant motion.
He heard of Cecile now and then; Cosby had used her for a figure on a fountain
destined to embellish the estate of a wealthy young man somewhere or other;
Greer employed her for the central figure of Innocence in his lovely and
springlike decoration for some Western public edifice. Quair had met her
several times at Manhattan Beach with various and assorted wealthy young
And one evening Guilder came alone to his studio and found him lying on
the lounge, his lank, muscular hands, still clay-stained, hanging inert
to the floor above an evening paper fallen there.
"Hello, Guilder," he said, without rising, as the big architect shambled
loosely through the open doorway.
"How are you, Drene?"
"All right. It's hot."
"There's not a breath of air. It looks like a thunder-storm in the
He pulled up a chair and sprawled on it, wiping his grave features with
a damp handkerchief.
"Drene," he said, "a philanthropic guy of sorts wants to add a chapel to
the church at Shallow Brook, Long Island. We've pinched the job. Can you
do an altar piece?"
"They want a Virgin. It's to be called the Chapel of the Annunciation.
It's for women to repair to--under certain and natural circumstances."
"I've so much on hand--"
"It's only a single figure-barring the dove. Why don't you do it?"
"There are plenty of other men--"
"They want you. There'll be no difficulty about terms."
Drene said with a shrug:
"Terms are coming to mean less and less to me, Guilder. It costs
very little for me to live." He turned his gray, tired face. "Look at this
barn of a place; and go in there and look at my bedroom. I have no use
for what are known as necessities."
"Still, terms are terms--"
"Oh, yes. A truck may run over me. Even at that, I've enough
to live life out as I am living it here--between these empty walls--and
that expanse of glass overhead. That's about all life holds for me--a sheet
of glass and four empty walls--and a fistfull of wet clay."
"Are you a trifle morbid, Drene?"
"I'm not by any means; I merely prefer to live this way. I have sufficient
means to live otherwise if I wish. But this is enough of the world to suit
me, Guilder--and I can go to a noisy restaurant to eat in when I'm so inclined--"
He laughed a rather mirthless laugh and glanced up, catching a peculiar
expression in Guilder's eyes.
"You're thinking," said Drene coolly, "what a god I once set up on the
altar of domesticity. I used to talk a lot once, didn't I?--a hell of a
clamor I made in eulogy of the domestic virtues. Well, only idiots retain
the same opinions longer than twentyfour hours. Fixity is imbecility; the
inconstant alone progress; dissatisfaction is only a synonym for intelligence;
contentment translated means stagnation. . . . . I have changed my opinion
concerning the virtues of domesticity."
Guilder said, in his even, moderate voice:
"Your logic is weird, Drene: in one breath you say you have changed your
opinion; in another that you are content; in another that contentment is
the fixedness of imbecility--"
Drene, reddening slightly, half rose on one elbow from his couch:
"What I meant was that I change in my convictions from day to day, without
reproaching myself with inconstancy. What I believed with all my heart
to be sacred yesterday I find a barrier to-day; and push it aside and go
"I go on, that's all I know--toward sanctuary."
"You mean professionally."
"In every way--ethically--spiritually. The gods of yesterday, too,
were very real--yesterday."
"Drene, a man may change and progress on his way toward what never changes.
But standards remained fixed. They were there in the beginning; they are
immutable. If they shifted, humanity could have no goal."
"Is there a goal?"
"Where are you going, then?"
"In your profession there is a goal toward which you sculptors all journey."
"But," smiled Drene, "no two sculptors ever see it alike."
"It is still Perfection. It is still the goal to the color-blind
and normal alike, whatever they call it, however, they visualize it. That
is its only importance; it is The Goal. . . . . In things spiritual the
same obtains--whether one's vision embraces Nirvana, or the Algonquin Ocean
of Light, or a pallid Christ half hidden in floating clouds--Drene, it
is all one, all one. It is not the Goal that changes; only our intelligence
concerning its existence and its immortality."
Drene lay looking at him:
"You never knew pain--real pain, did you? The world never ended for
you, did it?"
"In one manner or another we all must be reborn before we can progress."
"That is a cant phrase."
"No; there's truth under the cant. Under all the sleek, smooth, canty
phrases of ecclesiastic proverb, precept, axiom, and lore, there is truth
worth the sifting out."
"You are welcome to think so, Guilder."
"You also could come to no other conclusion if you took the trouble to
"Morals are no more than folk-ways--merely mental condition consequent
upon custom. Spiritual beliefs are radically dependant upon folkways and
the resultant physical and mental condition of the human brain which creates
everything that has been and that is to be."
"Physiology has proven that no idea, no thought, ever originated within
the concrete and physical brain."
"I've read of those experiments."
"Then you can't ignore a conclusion."
"I haven't reached a conclusion. Meanwhile, I have my own beliefs."
"That's all that's necessary," said Guilder, gravely, "--to entertain some
belief, temporary or final." He smiled slightly down at Drene's drawn,
"You and I have been friends of many years, Drene, but we have never before
talked this way. I did not feel at liberty to assume any intimacy with
you, even when I wanted to, even when--when you were in trouble--" He hesitated.
"Go on," grunted the other. "I'm out of trouble now."
"I just--it's a whimsical notion--no, it's a belief;--I just wanted to
tell you one or two things concerning my own beliefs--"
"I don't know. It doesn't matter; they are beliefs. And this
is one: all physical and mental ills are created only by our own minds--"
"Christian Science?" sneered Drene.
"Call it what you like," said Guilder serenely. "And call this what
you like: All who believe worthily will find that particular belief true
in every detail after death."
"What do you call that?" demanded Drene, amused.
"God knows. It seems to be my interpretation of the Goal. I
seem to be journeying toward it without more obstacles and more embarrassments
to encounter than confront the wayfarer who professes any other creed."
After a while Drene sat up on his couch:
"How did all this conversation start?" he asked uneasily.
"It was about the Virgin for that chapel we are going to do. . . . . That's
part of my belief: those who pray for her intercession will find her after
death, interceding--" he smiled, "--if any intercession be necessary between
us and Him who made us."
"And those unlisted millions who importune Mohammed and Buddha?"
"They shall find Mohammed and Buddha, who importune them worthily."
"He bears that name also--He!"
"Oh! And so, spiritually as well as artistically, you believe in
"You also can make a better Virgin if you believe in her otherwise than
Drene gazed at him incredulously, then, with a shrug:
"When do you want this thing started?"
"I can't take it on now."
"I want a sketch pretty soon--the composition. You can have a model
of the chapel to--morrow. We went on with it as a speculation. Now we've
clinched the thing. When shall I send it up from the office?"
"I'll look it over, but--"
"And," interrupted Guilder, "you had better get that Miss White for the
Virgin--before she goes off somewhere out of reach."
Drene looked up somberly:
"I haven't kept in touch with her. I don't know what her engagements may
"One of her engagements just now seems to be to go about with Graylock,"
Drene flushed, but said nothing.
"If he marries her," added Guilder, "as it's generally understood he is
trying to, the best sculptor's model in town is out of the question. Better
secure her now."
"He wants to marry her?" repeated Drene, in a curiously still voice.
"He's mad about her. He's abject. It's no secret among his
friends. Men like that--and of that age--sometimes arrive at such a terminal--men
with Graylock's record sometimes get theirs. She has given him a run, believe
me, and he's brought up with a crash against a stone wall. He is lying
there all doubled up at her feet like a rabbit with a broken back. There
was nothing left for him to do but lie there. He's lying there still, with
one of her little feet on his bull neck. All the town knows it."
"He wants to marry her," repeated Drene, as though to himself.
"She may not take him at that. They're queer--some women. I suppose
she'd jump at it if she were not straight. But there's another thing--"
Guilder looked curiously at Drene. "Some people think she's rather crazy
Drene gazed into space.
"But that wouldn't hurt her," added Guilder, in his calm, pleasant voice.
"She's a straight little thing--white and straight. She could come to no
harm through a man like you."
Drene continued to stare at space.
"So," continued the other, confident, "when she recovers from a natural
and childlike infatuation for you she'll marry somebody. . . Possibly even
such a man as Graylock might make her happy. You can't ever tell about
such men at the eleventh hour."
Drene turned his eyes on him. There was no trace of color in his face.
"Aren't you pretty damned charitable?"
"Charitable? Well, I--I'm so inclined, I fancy."
"You'd be content to see that girl marry a dog like that?"
"I did not say so. I am no judge of men. No man knows enough
to condemn souls."
Drene looked at him:
"Well, I'll tell you something. I know enough to do it. I had
rather damn my soul--and hers, too--than see her marry the man you have
named. It would be worth it to me."
After a strained silence, Guilder said:
"There is a mode of dealing with those who have injured you, which is radically
"I deal with such people in my own fashion!"
"But, after all, the infamy is Graylock's. Why oblige him by sharing
it with him?"
"Do you know what he did to me and mine?"
"A few of us know," said Guilder, gently, "--your old friends."
There came a pale, infernal flicker into Drene's eyes:
"I'll take your commission for that altar piece," he said.
"What is it? An Annunciation?"