The next morning, Thomas, the bellboy,
brought me the Herald and a bit of news. The church next door had been
sold. I thanked Heaven for it, not that being a Catholic I had any repugnance
for the congregation next door, but because my nerves were shattered by
a blatant exhorter, whose every word echoed though the aisle of the church
as if it had been my own rooms, and who insisted on his r's with a nasal
persistence which revolted my every instinct. Then, too, there was a fiend
in human shape, an organist, who reeled off some of the grand old hymns
with an interpretation of his own, and I longed for the blood of a creature
who could play the doxology with an amendment of minor chords which one
hears only in a quarter of very young undergraduates. I believe the minister
was a good man, but when he bellowed: "And the Lorrrrd said unto Moses,
the Lorrrd is a man of war; the Lorrrd is his name. My wrath shall wax
hot and I will kill you with the sworrrd!" I wondered how many centuries
of purgatory it would take to atone for such a sin.
"Who bought the property?" I asked
"Nobody that I knows, sir. They
do say the gent wot owns this 'ere 'Amilton flats was lookin' at it. 'E
might be a bildin' more studios." I walked to the window. The young man
with the unhealthy face stood by the churchyard gate, and at the mere sight
of him the same overwhelming repugnance took possession of me.
"By the way, Thomas," I said, "who
is that fellow down there?"
Thomas sniffed. "That there worm,
sir? 'E's night-watchman of the church, sir. 'E makes me tired a-sittin'
out all night on them steps and lookin' at you insultin' like. I'd punched
'is 'ed, sir beg pardon, sir "
"Go on, Thomas."
"One night a comin' 'ome with 'Arry,
the other English boy, I sees 'im sittin' there on them steps. We 'ad Molly
and Jen with us, sir, the two girls on the tray service, an' 'e looks so
insultin' at us that I up and sez: 'Wat you looking hat, you fat slug?'
beg pardon, sir, but that's 'ow I sez, sir. Then 'e don't say nothin' and
I sez: 'Come out and I'll punch that puddin' 'ed.' Then I hopens the gate
an' goes in, but 'e don't say nothin', only looks insultin' like. Then
I 'its 'im one, but, ugh! 'is 'ed was that cold and mushy it ud sicken
you to touch 'im."
"What did he do then?" I asked,
"And you, Thomas?"
The young fellow flushed with embarrassment
and smiled uneasily.
"Mr. Scott, sir, I ain't no coward
an' I can't make it out at all why I run. I was in the 5th Lawncers, sir,
bugler at Tel-el-Kebir, an' was shot by the wells."
"You don't mean to say you ran away?"
"Yes, sir; I run."
"That's just what I want to know,
sir. I grabbed Molly an' run, an' the rest was as frightened as I."
"But what were they frightened at?"
Thomas refused to answer for a while,
but now my curiosity was aroused about the repulsive young man below and
I pressed him. Three years' sojourn in America had not only modified Thomas'
cockney dialect but had given him the American's fear of ridicule.
"You won't believe me, Mr. Scott,
"Yes, I will."
"You will lawf at me, sir?"
He hesitated. "Well, sir, it's God's
truth that when I 'it 'im 'e grabbed me wrists, sir, and when I twisted
'is soft, mushy fist one of 'is fingers come off in me 'and."
The utter loathing and horror of
Thomas' face must have been reflected in my own for he added:
"It's orful, an' now when I see
'im I just go away. 'E maikes me hill."
When Thomas had gone I went to the
window. The man stood beside the church-railing with both hands on the
gate, but I hastily retreated to my easel again, sickened and horrified,
for I saw that the middle finger of his right hand was missing.
At nine o'clock Tessie appeared
and vanished behind the screen with a merry "Good-morning, Mr. Scott."
When she had reappeared and taken her pose upon the model-stand I started
a new canvas much to her delight. She remained silent as long as I was
on the drawing, but as soon as the scrape of the charcoal ceased and I
took up my fixative she began to chatter.
"Oh, I had such a lovely time last
night. We went to Tony Pastor's."
"Who are 'we'?" I demanded.
"Oh, Maggie, you know, Mr. Whyte's
model, and Pinkie McCormick we call her Pinkie because she's got that beautiful
red hair you artists like so much and Lizzie Burke."
I sent a spray from the fixative
over the canvas, and said: "Well, go on."
"We saw Kelly and Baby Barnes the
skirt-dancer and and all the rest. I made a mash."
"Then you have gone back on me,
She laughed and shook her head.
"He's Lizzie Burke's brother, Ed.
He's a perfect gen'l'man."
I felt constrained to give her some
parental advice concerning mashing, which she took with a bright smile.
"Oh, I can take care of a strange
mash," she said, examining her chewing gum, "but Ed is different. Lizzie
is my best friend."
Then she related how Ed had come
back from the stocking mill in Lowell, Massachusetts, to find her and Lizzie
grown up, and what an accomplished young man he was, and how he thought
nothing of squandering half a dollar for ice-cream and oysters to celebrate
his entry as clerk into the woollen department of Macy's. Before she finished
I began to paint and she resumed the pose, smiling and chattering like
a sparrow. By noon I had the study fairly well rubbed in and Tessie came
to look at it.
"That's better," she said.
I thought so too, and ate my lunch
with a satisfied feeling that all was going well. Tessie spread her lunch
on a drawing table opposite me and we drank our claret from the same bottle
and lighted out cigarettes from the same match. I was very much attached
to Tessie. I had watched her shoot up into a slender but exquisitely formed
woman from a frail, awkward child. She had posed for me during the last
three years, and among all my models she was my favorite. It would have
troubled me very much indeed has she become "tough" or "fly," as the phrase
goes, but I never noticed any deterioration of her manner, and felt at
heart that she was all right. She and I never discussed morals at all,
and I had no intention of doing so, partly because I had none myself, and
partly because I knew she would do what she like in spite of me. Still
I did hope she would steer clear of complications, because I wished her
well, and then also I had a selfish desire to retain the best model I had.
I knew that mashing, as she termed it, had no significance with girls like
Tessie, and that such things in America did not resemble in the least the
same things in Paris. Yet, having lived with my eyes open, I also knew
that somebody would take Tessie away some day, in one manner or another,
and though I professed to myself that marriage was nonsense, I sincerely
hoped that, in this case, there would be a priest at the end of the vista.
I am a Catholic. When I listen to high mass, when I sign myself, I feel
that everything, including myself, is more cheerful, and when I confess,
it down me good. A man who lives as much alone as I do must confess to
somebody. Then, again, Sylvia was Catholic, and it was reason enough for
me. But I was speaking of Tessie, which is very different. Tessie also
was Catholic and much more devout than I, so taking it all in all, I had
little fear for my pretty model until she should fall in love. But then
I knew that fate alone would decide her future for her, and I prayed inwardly
that fate would keep her away from men like me and throw into her path
nothing but Ed Burkes and Jimmy McCormicks, bless her sweet face!
Tessie sat blowing rings of smoke
up to the ceiling and tinkling the ice in her tumbler.
"Do you know, Kid, that I also had
a dream last night?" I observed. I sometimes call her "the Kid."
"Not about that man," she laughed.
"Exactly. A dream similar to yours,
only much worse."
It was foolish and thoughtless of
me to say this, but you know how little tact the average painter has.
"I must have fallen asleep about
10 o'clock," I continued, "and after a while I dreamt that I awoke. So
plainly did I hear the midnight bells, the wind in the tree-branches, and
the whistle of steamers from the bay, that even now I can scarcely believe
I was not awake. I seemed to be lying in a box which had a glass cover.
Dimly I saw the street lamps as I passed, for I must tell you, Tessie,
the box in which I reclined appeared to lie in a cushioned wagon which
jolted me over the stony pavement. After a while I became impatient and
tried to move but the box was too narrow. My hands were crossed on my breast
so I could not raise them to help myself. I listened and then tried to
call. My voice was gone. I could hear the trample of the horses attached
to the wagon and even the breathing of the driver. Then another sound broke
upon my ears like the raising of a window sash. I managed to turn my head
a little, and found I could look, not only through the glass cover of my
box. but also through the glass panes in the sides of the covered vehicle.
I saw houses, empty and silent, with neither light nor life about any of
them excepting one. In that house a window was open on the first floor
and a figure all in white stood looking down into the street. It was you."
Tessie has turned her face away
from me and leaned on the table with her elbow.
"I could see your face," I resumed,
"and it seemed to me to be very sorrowful. Then we passed on and turned
into a narrow black lane. Presently the horses stopped. I waited and waited,
closing my eyes with fear and impatience, but all was silent as the grave.
After what seemed to me hours, I began to feel uncomfortable. A sense that
somebody was close to me made me unclose my eyes. Then I saw the white
face of the hearse-driver looking at me through the coffin-lid "
A sob from Tessie interrupted me.
She was trembling like a leaf. I saw I had made an ass of myself and attempted
to repair the damage.
"Why, Tess," I said, "I only told
you this to show you what influence your story might have on another person's
dreams. You don't suppose I really lay in a coffin, do you? What are you
trembling for? Don't you see that your dream and my unreasonable dislike
for that inoffensive watchman of the church simply set my brain working
as soon as I fell asleep?"
She laid her head between her arms
and sobbed as if her heart would break. What a precious triple donkey I
had made of myself! But I was about to break my record. I went over and
put my arm about her.
"Tessie dear, forgive me," I said;
"I had no business to frighten you with such nonsense. You are too sensible
a girl, too good a Catholic to believe in dreams."
Her hand tightened on mine and her
head fell upon my shoulder, but she still trembled and I petted her and
"Come, Tess, open your eyes and
Her eyes opened with a slow languid
movement and met mine, but their expression was so queer that I hastened
to reassure her again.
"It's all humbug, Tessie, you surely
are not afraid that any harm will come to you because of that."
"No," she said, but her scarlet
"Then what's the matter? Are you
"Yes. Not for myself."
"For me, then?" I demanded gaily.
"For you," she murmured in a voice
almost inaudible, "I I care for you."
At first I started to laugh, but
when I understood her a shock passed through me and I sat like one turned
to stone. This was the crowning bit of idiocy I had committed. During the
moment which elapsed between her reply and my answer I thought of a thousand
responses to that innocent confession. I could pass it by with a laugh,
I could misunderstand her and reassure her as to my health, I could simply
point out that it was impossible she could love me. But my reply was quicker
than my thoughts, and I might think and think now when it was too late,
for I had kissed her on the mouth.
That evening I took my usual walk
in Washington Park, pondering over the occurrences of the day. I was thoroughly
committed. There was no back out now, and I stared the future straight
in the face. I was not good, not even scrupulous, but I had no idea of
deceiving either myself or Tessie. The one passion of my life lay buried
in the sunlit forests of Brittany. Was it buried forever? Hope cried "No!"
For three years I had been listening to the voice of Hope, and for three
years I had waited for a footstep on my threshold. Had Sylvia forgotten?
"No!" cried Hope.
I said that I was not good. That
is true, but still I was not exactly a comic opera villain. I had lead
an easy-going reckless life, taking what invited me of pleasure, deploring
and sometimes bitterly regretting consequences. In one thing alone, except
my painting, was I serious, and that was something which lay hidden if
not lost in the Breton forests.
It was too late now for me to regret
what had occurred during the day. Whatever it had been, pity, a sudden
tenderness for sorrow, or the more brutal instinct of gratified vanity,
it was all the same now, and unless I wished to bruise an innocent heart
my path lay marked before me. The fire and strength, with all my imagined
experience in the world, left me no alternative but to respond or send
her away. Whether because I am so cowardly about giving pain to others,
or whether it was that I have little of the gloomy Puritan in me, I do
not know, but I shrank from disclaiming responsibility for that thoughtless
kiss, and in fact had no time to do so before the gate of her heart opened
and the flood poured forth. Others who habitually do their duty and find
a sullen satisfaction in making themselves and everybody else unhappy,
might have withstood it. I did not. I dared not. After the storm had abated
I did tell her that she might better have loved Ed Burke and worn a plain
gold ring, but she would not hear of it, and I thought perhaps that as
long as she had decided to love somebody she could not marry, it had better
be me. I, at least, could treat her with an intelligent affection, and
whenever she became tired of her infatuation she could go none the worse
for it. For I was decided on that point although I knew how hard it would
be. I remembered the usual termination of Platonic liaisons and thought
how disgusted I had been whenever I heard of one. I knew I was undertaking
a great deal for so unscrupulous a man as I was, and I dreaded the future,
but never for one moment did I doubt that she was safe with me. Had it
been anybody but Tessie I should not have bothered my head about scruples.
For it did not occur to me to sacrifice Tessie as I would have sacrificed
a woman of the world. I looked the future squarely in the face and saw
the several probably endings to the affair. She would tire of the whole
thing, or become so unhappy that I should have either to marry her or go
away. If I married her we would be unhappy. I with a wife unsuited to me,
and she with a husband unsuitable for any woman. For my past life could
scarcely entitle me to marry. If I went away she might either fall ill,
recover, and marry some Eddie Burke, or she might recklessly or deliberately
go and do something foolish. On the other hand if she tired of me, then
her whole life would be before her with beautiful vistas of Eddie Burkes
and marriage rings and twins and Harlem flats and Heaven knows what. As
I strolled along through the trees by the Washington Arch, I decided that
she should find a substantial friend in me anyway and the future could
take care of itself. Then I went into the house and put on my evening dress
for the little faintly perfumed note on my dresser said, "Have a cab at
the stage door at eleven," and the note was signed "Edith Carmichel, Metropolitan
Theater, June 19th, 189-."
I took supper that night, or rather
we took supper, Miss Carmichel and I, at Solari's and the dawn was just
beginning to gild the cross on the Memorial Church as I entered Washington
Square after leaving Edith at the Brunswick. There was not a soul in the
park as I passed among the trees and took the walk which leads from the
Garibaldi statue to the Hamilton Apartment House, but as I passed the churchyard
I saw a figure sitting on the stone steps. In spite of myself a chill crept
over me at the sight of the white puffy face, and I hastened to pass. Then
he said something which might have been addressed to me or might merely
have been a mutter to himself, but a sudden furious anger flamed up within
me that such a creature should address me. For an instant I felt like wheeling
about and smashing my stick over his head, but I walked on, and entering
the Hamilton went to my apartment. For some time I tossed about the bed
trying to get the sound of his voice out of my ears, but could not. It
filled my head, that muttering sound, like thick oily smoke from a fat-rending
vat or an odor of noisome decay. And as I lay and tossed about, the voice
in my ears seemed more distinct, and I began to understand the words he
had muttered. They came to me slowly as if I had forgotten them, and at
last I could make some sense out of the sounds. It was this:
"Have you found the Yellow Sign?"
"Have you found the Yellow Sign?"
"Have you found the Yellow Sign?"
I was furious. What did he mean
by that? Then with a curse upon him and his I rolled over and went to sleep,
but when I awoke later I looked pale and haggard, for I had dreamed the
dream of the night before and it troubled me more than I cared to think.
I dressed and went down into my
studio. Tessie sat by the window, but as I came in she rose and put both
arms around my neck for an innocent kiss. She looked so sweet and dainty
that I kissed her again and then sat down before my easel.
"Hello! Where's the study I began
yesterday?" I asked.
Tessie looked conscious, but did
no answer. I began to hunt among the pile of canvases, saying, "Hurry up,
Tess, and get ready; we must take advantage of the morning light."
When at last I gave up the search
among the other canvases and turned to look around the room for the missing
study I noticed Tessie standing by the screen with her clothes on.
"What's the matter," I asked, "don't
you feel well?"
"Do you want me to pose as as I
have always posed?"
Then I understood. Here was a new
complication. I had lost, of course, the best nude model I had ever seen.
I looked at Tessie. Her face was scarlet. Alas! Alas! We had eaten of the
tree of knowledge, and Eden and native innocence were dreams of the past
I mean for her.
I suppose she noticed the disappointment
on my face, for she said: "I will pose if you wish. The study is behind
the screen here where I put it."
"No," I said, "we will begin something
new;" and I went into my wardrobe and picked out a Moorish costume which
fairly blazed with tinsel. It was a genuine costume, and Tessie retired
to the screen with it enchanted. When she came forth again I was astonished.
Her long black hair was bound above her forehead with a circlet of turquoises,
and the ends curled about her glittering girdle. Her feet were encased
in the embroidered pointed slippers and the skirt of her costume, curiously
wrought with arabesques in silver, fell to her ankles. The deep metallic
blue vest embroidered with silver and the short Mauresque jacket spangled
and sewn with turquoises became her wonderfully. She came up to me and
held up her face smiling. I slipped my hand into my pocket and drawing
out a gild chain with a cross attached, dropped it over her head.
"It's yours, Tessie."
"Mine?" she faltered.
"Yours. Now go and pose." Then with
a radiant smile she ran behind the screen and presently reappeared with
a little box on which was written my name.
"I had intended to give it to you
when I went home to-night," she said, "but I can't wait now."
I opened the box. On the pink cotton
inside lay a clasp of black onyx, on which was inlaid a curious symbol
or letter in gold. It was neither Arabic or Chinese, nor as I found afterwards
did it belong to any human script.
"It's all I had to give you for
a keepsake," she said, timidly.
I was annoyed, but I told her how
much I should prize it, and promised to wear it always. She fastened in
on my coat beneath the lapel.
"How foolish, Tess, to go and buy
me such a beautiful thing as this," I said.
"I did not buy it," she laughed.
"Where did you get it?"
Then she told me how she found it
one day while coming from the Aquarium in the Battery, how she had advertised
it and watched the papers, but at last gave up all hopes of finding the
"That was last winter," she said,
"the very day I had the first horrid dream about the hearse."
I remembered my dream of the previous
night but said nothing, and presently my charcoal was flying over a new
canvas, and Tessie stood motionless on the model-stand.
End of PART TWO..... GO TO PART