HotFreeBooks.com
The Genius
by Margaret Horton Potter
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

There was a slight start. With an effort, the head lifted. Ivan was gazing into a pair of clear, blue eyes, and realizing that there was no taint of vodka in the other's breath. Nay! That face spoke of very different things. Youth was there, and hardship, and suffering, and discouragement. More than that, the gaunt pallor of face and lips, the sharp outline of jaw and cheek-bone, told of want, great and immediate. They were signs that Ivan knew well. The fellow was in the final stages of starvation.

In an instant, Ivan had lifted the canvas from the frozen snow, and was helping the unhappy man to rise. When he spoke, his voice had the tenderness of a woman's:

"My friend, you have been unfortunate! I am a worker myself, and have needed help in my time. Come to my rooms with me. I am all alone; and you must have rest and food."

"Food!" There was a note of elemental savagery in the weakened voice. "Food!—My God! My God! Give me food!—My gloves only got me half a loaf the day before yesterday—or—three days ago it was,—I think."

* * * * *

"Are you strong enough, yet? Are you sure you can?—You see, you've been through a fearful ordeal."

Ivan spoke rather anxiously as, two hours later, he bent over the young man, now lying on the divan in Ivan's living-room and looking even whiter and wearier than before he had eaten the meal just finished.

But the stranger smiled; and at sight of that smile Ivan felt a thrill of surprise. The eyes and features lighted up till the gaunt signs of want were forgotten and the face looked like that of some cherubic boy. It was a revelation so pleasant that a faint suggestion of weakness—resembling the cloying after-taste of a saccharine beverage—went, for the moment, unnoticed.

"I want to talk to you. You see, you're the only one that's done anything for me.—You are an artist, too. I guessed it before you told me.—But you can't have had the struggle I've had: everything against me from the beginning: unknown, and terribly, terribly poor: ambitious, but with no chance for success!—But you've saved me—and my canvas. That was the last thing I had to sell; and without it there was no hope."

"Paints and brushes and knives—what could you do without those? Were they all gone?—You see, I've been pretty near where you are myself, in the past."

It was a surprise to see the sudden look of petulance that crossed the other's face. "Oh, my working-tools!—You see you can't understand. You, of course, only need ink and paper. But we painters must have plenty of implements to work with.—Why, I kept them and starved! Could I do any more?"

Ivan shook his head, slightly puzzled. "You've had a very bad time of it. If you feel able, tell me," he said.

The stranger elbowed himself a little higher, and took a mouthful of wine and water from the chair beside him. Ivan settled close by, cigarette in hand, facing him; and, during the hour that followed, his thoughts never strayed. The tale he heard interested him deeply, stirred his admiration, and, at the same time, vaguely troubled him. It was evident enough that this boy had endured an experience from which only indomitable determination of some sort could have brought him out. Nevertheless, ever and again, came suggestions of egotism, selfishness, love of luxury, that were naive in their unconsciousness. But so foreign were these things to Ivan's own simplicity of nature, that he ended by repudiating his first doubts of the boy before him who had borne so much.

"My name," began the youth, "is Joseph Kashkarin. I was born in Poland, in the spring of 1848, just after we had moved from Lodz to the outskirts of a little village near Choelm. All my life we have been horribly poor. But my grandfather—I am of family, you see—was wealthy, one of the first citizens of Lodz, but a fierce patriot. My father and mother were married in that city, and lived there very well till the uprisings against the Russians in 1847. My family had the folly to take part on the side of the nation; and when the strikes were put down, my grandfather was transported, my father exiled from the city, and all the property confiscated. Thus, when I was born, we were as poor as the serfs that were our neighbors; but we lived decently, because my mother was a lady.

"Our village was on the estate of Ladiskowi: the country-seat of the great family of that name. Before my birth, Prince Ladiskowi heard of my father from our Staroste, and came to see him. After that we were sometimes received at the castle—discreetly, of course, for even the Ladiskowi were under the espionage of Russian spies. But the Prince appreciated us, and wished to do more for us than our father permitted. We had books always when we wished them; and my sister Marie learned to play on a spinnet that they had up there, and had belonged, they said, to the Leczinski themselves.

"I wasn't interested in spinnets. That castle held something better for me. I can scarcely remember the time it first began; but I was not more than seven when I told my mother one night what I was going to be. She, I remember, hoped I would say a soldier, to fight for Poland when the final struggle should come. But I had seen enough of patriotic ruin. Besides," he went on, a little hastily, "I knew in my heart, even then, that art is greater than all other things.—That's not cant, Ivan Mikhailovitch! It's not hypocrisy!—Listen.

"Princess Ladiskowa had been the daughter of a noble artist; and she had her father's love for form and color, though she didn't paint. Instead, she filled the upper gallery of that old fortress with a collection of pictures that would make any gallery in Europe famous. And she added to it continually, until a quarter of all her husband's wealth hung in that room.

"Those pictures were the things that drove me to this pass. I don't know where my talent comes from; but I soon found out how much was in me. I would sit in that hall by the day, looking, studying, puzzling out the secrets of line, and color, and technique, and conception, in the best—always the best, things, you understand; till I felt that I must begin work myself. So I went to my father one day and asked him for paints and pencils, brushes and canvas. At first he didn't believe in me. But I begged so long that at last he sent to Choelm for a little outfit, and I took them up to an empty room in the castle, where Marie and I always played in winter, when the family were in Warsaw; and there I worked in secret, at my picture."

Here Joseph paused to finish his wine, and then lay back rather wearily, while Ivan replenished the glass. He was plainly exhausted again; and his host, interested as he was, suggested that the tale be finished later. Joseph, however, protested. He felt himself a trespasser both on Ivan's time and on his charity. Yet he sorely needed help, and Ivan, if he were to give it, must know all his history.

"It was spring, sir, when my first picture was finished; and I had come to feel that the winter and my hopes were wasted. I was terribly disappointed in myself; because I had never dreamed that imagination, love of the work, and tremendous confidence, cannot produce finished paintings. My father, though, had come to be interested in what I was doing, and insisted on seeing what I had accomplished. I stood with my back to him, sick with mortification, till I heard him whisper one word of high praise. Then I found, to my amazement, that he was astonished at my success.—I was only fifteen; nevertheless, I was furious, because, you see, my portrait of my sister had not the qualities of the Velasquez, the Guido, the David, or the little Vandyke that I had worshipped, each in its turn.

"But from that hour my father became enthusiastic about my talent. He grew as eager as I for the return of the Prince, in order to get his advice about my future. We were both sure of his help and patronage when he should arrive. But we could not know that my personal misfortunes were to begin at once. It was August before the Ladiskowi came that year; and they remained in the country barely two months. The Prince was ill, and the Princess spent all her time in nursing him, till they started for Baden to take the waters. We saw them scarcely at all. They did hear of the picture, and the Prince sent for me to congratulate me. But I was not alone with him for a moment, and so got no opportunity to ask for help more useful than praises.

"When they went away, I knew I must wait another year for my chance. But even that was not to be. For, next year, they did not come at all to the castle. Prince Ladiskowi's illness had become incurable; but it took terribly long to kill him, and he had to be kept in a higher, drier climate. On his death, two years and five months ago, we found he had left my father one thousand roubles, and firewood from his forests forever. This money was left to us. Well then, saying nothing of the wood, my share as eldest son was at least two hundred and fifty roubles. With this I determined to set out for Moscow, enter the school of painting, and work so hard that, by the time my money was gone, I could sell pictures enough to support myself. Later, I believed I could send for my sister, have her keep house for me, and perhaps give her piano lessons, thus relieving my parents, who were all but destitute, now, through the loss of their patron.

"When I spoke to them of my plan, they made some difficulties about the journey and my life in a Russian city; but I waved them all away. They offered me half the money then; but, though perhaps you will say it was an artist's due, I wished to be more than fair, and did not take it. I waited one week for my mother to prepare my clothes. My furs I left to my father, since I could not carry them all the way in August weather; but my first purchase in Moscow had to be this wretched coat and cap, and some woollen gloves. You are amazed, I see. But, though it was only August 18th when I left Chernsk, it was mid-October before I entered the streets of this city of the enemies of my race. For alas! I am a Pole; and the very sun that shines in Russia refuses to give me warmth.

"From Choelm to Moscow, by the straightest road, is thirteen hundred versts. Not one step of this way did I go by train; and but a hundred or two in passing carts. Twice, at Minsk and at Smolensk, I stopped and worked for a week, till I had gained an extra rouble or two for food or beds along the way. True, there was charity among the peasants; and I found many a meal left on the window-ledge for wanderers. But the food of convicts and beggars!—it was long before I, the son of a gentleman, could touch it!—More than once, truly—Ah well, I suffered! I suffered every fatigue, every hardship, that I might reach my destination with my bag of roubles as little depleted as possible.

"Two terrible months of hunger and ceaseless fatigue!—Didst thou as much for music, sir? But no. No. You are already an artist, and famous, while I—oh, it is too much! God is not good!" And Joseph sat suddenly up, excited by this remembrance of by-gone misery, forgetting the sudden exhaustion so recently relieved. Two spots of red flamed in his cheeks; and his blue eyes began to shine, feverishly:

"Who are those that succeed? Only the ones that have shelter for their heads, clothes to keep them warm, food to give them strength to work!—more; who can hire the right models, buy good paints, good brushes, flawless canvases;—who can afford to study, to dream, to wait! But to start at the very beginning—nay, with certain faults to unlearn—and expect to win fame on a fortune of two hundred and fifty roubles! Why, I began in terror! My first talk with the professor at the Institute showed me my situation.—And all the other students had so much! They spent, in a day, an hour, what I stretched out to two weeks, to a—a—"

Ivan sprang up, ran to the sofa, and caught the lean figure in his arms. Kashkarin had wrought himself up to a wretched pitch. The last words had been uttered in a tone high and wavering; and, as Ivan reached him, the life left his body, his cheeks grew gray, his eyes dulled, his breathing became fast and light. His rescuer plied him with weak vodka, chafed his hands, bathed his temples, would have summoned a doctor, but that Joseph soon began to revive, and in another twenty minutes seemed more or less himself again. Indeed, he presently unclosed his eyes, murmuring:

"I must go on, my friend. It is not long now.—Will you—hear me?"

And Ivan, who had become a little restless with his desire to get to work, answered, after an instant's hesitation, in the affirmative.

"It took me a month to find a place where I dared stay; and it's taken two years to find out just how horrible life can be. We had always been poor enough; but at least I had had shelter, clothes, a bed, and food. Here nothing comes naturally; and I could buy only two hundred and ten roubles' worth of everything. One comfort I had. I was in the art-school, free; and they thought I had talent, and was doing well. When I worked I was happy; I could forget. But at the end of one year they said: 'Two years more. Then you can begin to exhibit, and will have the right to sell.' And now only one of those two years is gone; and—I am here, here, alive only through charity!—No, do not speak! I must tell you. I owe much money, for my rent, for food, for paints; and I was carrying my last canvas back to the dealer's to-day, to ask him to give me back half of what I paid for it. My room-mate, Wencislaus Wendt, has done what he could for me. But the one who, in the beginning, did most—who once helped us all in the Students' Quarter—Boris Lemsky—was taken away in the first spring after I came. He was a university man; but he was good to me. I owe him my life: everything I have. And now they say that—what is it, Ivan Mikhailovitch?—Why do you look so? Do you know what became of him?"

Ivan had bent his head forward on his arms. "Boris"—the voice was muffled and unnatural—"Boris was shot through the heart, trying to get to the rooms of Sergius Lihnoff, eighteen months ago."

"By—by whom?"

"The police."

"A—ah!—And his brother—Feodor?"

"In Siberia."

There was a moment's pause. Then, after a little, the youth said, dully: "Yes, it is like Poland here. Only, in this country, it seems they kill their own patriots.—Boris could not have done a wrong!—Ah, Ivan Mikhailovitch, my story has been no story. It hurts me too much to think back through the last months. I fought with starvation, and lost. Now I am here. I can do nothing; can be of no use. I am sick. I am tired. I am discouraged. Better have died on the street before I was fed again!—I can never go back to my family, to burden them with my wretched existence—a failure added to failures.—I have in me the blood of Titian—of Rubens—of Raphael! I see, I feel, I create! Color is life to me: form is the bread of my soul! But I cannot get beyond my body. Hunger and cold and fever—then all the visions go!—The soul of an artist, mated with the existence of a serf!—Almighty God! Do me justice at last, and free me from this useless torture of life!"

Once more carried beyond himself by this fragmentary outpouring of his long and unsuccessful battle, Joseph sank back on his pillows, weak and shaken, but evidently at the end of his confession.

Ivan was deeply moved; and in more ways than one. He pitied, profoundly; yet he wondered at much in this ethereal, fair-haired youth that was utterly foreign to himself.—He had had no more than Joseph to start with; and he had not starved.—But what use in saying that?—Instead, he returned to his chair, and sat lost in thought, rapidly adding, the while, to the pile of cigarette stubs which were thrown upon the table at his side. Joseph, meantime, lay still, watching him with weary expectation, while the clock ticked slowly round the hour.

As distant Ivan Veliki boomed the half after four, and the increasing echoes of troika bells without, announced the advance of the fashionable driving-hour, Sosha entered with tea, and lighted the big table-lamp that presently mingled its soft radiance with the last glimmer of the dead day. Then, when the old servitor had shuffled out, Ivan rose, cigarette in hand, and, gazing down upon the stranger's white face, said, gently:

"My brother, Russia has used you hardly. You must, therefore, let me, not only a Russian, but also a fellow-workman, a lover of art, try to make amends for your unhappiness here. I can give you your chance—a fair one this time. It will be a joy to me as well as a duty to help you as others helped me in my time of need.—To-night, however, you are too weak for further emotion. You shall sleep here; and to-morrow, when you are more yourself, we will arrange for your future.—And now, if it will not be disturbing to you, I shall play for an hour. You have given me an idea, and the mood to work it out.—Perhaps you will understand—or it will soothe you—"

Joseph's face brightened. He answered, with a note of eagerness in his still shaking voice: "Ah, I had not dared ask you to play to me.—But indeed I shall understand!—Music brings pictures of heaven."

Thereupon Ivan seated himself at his instrument. When, as he expressed it, he was in the mood, few men could improvise more exquisitely, with a technique more Chopinesque, than this man whose orchestral work was so tremendous: so filled with the rolling grandeur, the passion, the energy, the gigantic climaxes, the seething, troubled depths, of a nature titanic in its conceptions, overpowering in their presentment.

For a time Ivan played, so delicately, so melodiously, and, withal, with an individuality so elf-like in its quaintness, that Joseph's quivering nerves were stilled and relaxed as by the caresses of a woman's hands. Then, when count of time had ceased, when the room was filled with velvet shadows, and the rich, dim glow of the crimson-shaded lamp touched only the seated figure and the ivory keys his fingers pressed, Ivan's low voice added itself to the melody. He began to speak, accompanying his words with music like the tracery of fine gold that sets forth and enriches the deep beauty of perfect jewels. What he said came from him spontaneously, without any previous arrangement. It was as if the long-locked door to the inner sanctum of his soul had swung open, betraying all the wealth of a treasure-room the very existence of which was unsuspected by any other man: for the treasure it contained was the gathered store of his many years of labor, moulded now into the Credo of his working life: the creed by which he lived; which was slowly writing itself upon his face.

"Art," he whispered, softly, arabesquing the beloved, misused word with a ripple of vagrant melody, "is a high goddess, one supreme, all-sufficing, all-embracing, absolutely jealous. Her priests may serve none and nothing but her; and she is worthy of such worship.—Beauty of Aphrodite of old—chastity of Artemis of the crescent moon—wisdom of high Athene, of the silver spear—integrity of Hera the quiet-browed, giver of laws—these she combines in her perfect whole; these are the virtues we are bound to emulate who serve her. Let them that are weak, that understand not, complain of constraint under these rules. Such are unworthy of the trust. Those things that we need—imagination, independence, courage of conviction—every quality bespeaking her one great requirement in the characters of her chosen ones—originality—are to be fostered in a hundred ways not unpleasing to her. But this first quality, which may not be bought either by labor or by gold, has been made the mark whereby she knows and claims her own. Once self-ordained, a man finds himself subject gloriously to her: divinely driven to prayer and fasting, to unceasing labor, to the long and beautiful vigils of the night that bring him her highest rewards: inspiration and love of her and of her service. For us she is lady of night and of day, of sun and sky and the green earth. Through her eyes we see and marvel at them all. Of her many favors to her chosen ones, which is more perfect than that power of inward vision that brings forth secret beauties in every corner of our earthly dwelling-places? How small a price to pay for this alone:—the absolute fealty to her that is her one demand?

"Yet there have been many unfaithful: many that have been called, and found wanting.—Bitter enough their self-wrought punishment! the yearning, never to be crushed, for her gifts once known and now removed. These in their anguish do her much despite: paint her as devil, call Philistia down upon her in wrath. They call us blasphemers who serve her. Yet what is she but the great Goddess of Truth, holding by one hand the All-Father; by the other her Mother, and ours? And by this Union of which she was the first-born, cometh also all we can know of perfect beauty, all our heritage of creation and creative power. Shall it not be for us to make this known to men? to the unbelievers? Showing them that, in working for our Lady, we are likewise serving their God, who is also ours?

"Thou, Joseph, hast been chosen her priest. Thou and I together know how little is any reward but those she gives: how vain that petty applause of the Philistines for which many an artist has betrayed both his art and himself. But we who remain long at our apprenticeship, learn well how petty is the outward and visible of success.—Have we not been led up into the high place of communion, where, for a little, the veil is lifted, and the image of Truth shown blazing in the splendor of Her shrine? These are our moments of fortification and of revelation. No man who has stood before that vision has failed to understand why the laws of Truth and the law of the mass of men can never be the same. In the communion we gain the strength that bids us disdain all applause of man given for things other than the highest and best. And it is our secret sense of this, which, through humiliation and defeat, through mockery and revilement, through want and privation, shall keep us steadfast and of good courage!

"Look you, Joseph, even now she stands, Immaculate One, radiant upon her height, searching, with fearless eyes, our hearts, and those of that multitude that kneel, and lift their arms to her in supplication!—And some can raise their eyes to hers and smile; and some—look you, alas, how many!—must shrink and cower away beneath the scrutiny before which no deception will avail.—Those now withdraw themselves, to begin their bitter journey backward and down—down to their native Philistia: but never again will they rejoice among their fellows, for they have beheld that which has lifted them far towards the stars; and the companionship of clods must be hateful to them even in their fall.—But the rest, oh Joseph, see how they are gathered into those great mother-arms, and given comfort and good courage, power to continue on their upward way, strength to fight all battles, face all mockery, kill all slander, till the day dawns when they shall receive both the homage of the low, and the loving applause of the Most High; when they shall sit enthroned, wearing the double crown of man and of God.

"Oh Priest, oh Painter, such is our Law."

Ivan, moved beyond himself, struggled slowly out of the vision in which he had been enwrapped, his mind still soaring in regions of the imagination, where melodies sky-born did, indeed, surround him. But his return to earth came with a quick shock. When at length his reluctant hands fell from the keys, Ivan turned, instinctively, to the couch where the stranger lay. The gaunt form there was motionless, the head thrown back upon the pillows, one hand hanging limply to the floor. Something in the attitude, and the faint sound of quiet, regular breathing, brought a flood of scarlet over Ivan's face. The Pole's lips were parted in an angelic smile. Joseph the painter was fast asleep!



CHAPTER XVII

HERITAGE

When he woke next morning, and the unusual incidents of the day before came back to him one by one, Ivan's sense of mortification at his self-abandonment in the evening had but one saving grace: the fact that Joseph had slept through his impulsive and extravagant fantasy. But unhappily, as it presently appeared, this supposition proved a mistake. The youth had certainly heard part of his rescuer's parable; though how much Ivan did not attempt to discover, in his embarrassment at finding himself burdened with a disciple who very evidently believed him a world-famous man.

First of all Ivan set to work to assure himself of the truth of the young man's story; and, this being proved, next sought his friends' advice about establishing him somewhere in the neighborhood of the big art-school where he had worked, (which, as a matter of fact, happens to be the best in Russia); meantime giving him the wherewithal to live till his course was finished.

Unquestionably, Joseph had been in a state of abject destitution. His rooms were bare of every salable object save the cheapest of necessary toilet articles, and a rather extravagant color-box and set of brushes. But this fact of his having refused to sacrifice the implements of his art, put a final touch to Ivan's growing friendship for and belief in the plucky boy who had suffered as he had suffered for love of his work. For one week Joseph remained in Ivan's rooms. At the end of this time he, now fairly well recovered from the effects of his long privation, removed to the new rooms provided for him by Ivan, Nicholas Rubinstein, and four or five more intimates who had become interested in the young fellow's career. With these rooms, of which the rent for three months was already paid, went a purse of five hundred roubles:—far more than enough, Joseph protested, to keep him during the ten months that would elapse before the autumn salon which would, he hoped, exhibit his first picture.

The young Pole made no trouble about accepting this help from his sudden friends. Nevertheless, his gratitude was well-expressed and patently sincere. Nicholas Rubinstein alone, felt some secret, uncorroborated doubts about the character of the boy; but he was too doubtful of his perceptions not to abuse even his own alter ego for a pessimistic cynic. And when, within the month, he received from the protege a small portrait of himself, in which the likeness was so striking that it excused every fault of execution, he tried hard to take Joseph to his genial heart as, years ago, he had taken Ivan, on sight.

Every member of the group who had helped him received similar testimony of the stranger's gratitude. But of them all only the picture of Ivan, a pastel, in which the face alone was thrown out by the light of a red lamp, and the rest of the figure, seated at a piano, remained deep in shadow, was in any way remarkable for its execution. This, however, impressionistic though it is, remains to this day the one thoroughly characteristic portrait of Gregoriev; albeit in later life he sat for, and at the request of, three great artists. This little picture, however, being recognized as something remarkable, went into the salon in the following October, and received the first medal for pastels—completely overtopping the more elaborate oil which had also been accepted, and which got a mention.—Truly, the Pole's second start in life bade fair to be as sensationally successful as his first had been unhappy.

Joseph once settled and happily at work, Ivan went back to his own routine again in excellent spirits. Now and then he saw the young man, who regarded him, as Ivan could not but know, as his benefactor, his self-constituted guardian and adviser. Ivan was himself a man of so much individuality and independence that he failed to understand Joseph as one of those who cannot live without leaning, if not for help, at least for constant encouragement, on some one else. Ivan had, indeed, perceived that a little vein of weakness ran side by side with the peculiar spirituality of the Pole. But so beyond his own nature was this combination, that it never entered his head to watch and guard the young fellow as he might have done had he understood. Perhaps, in this way, Joseph's gift might have been saved to the world. But fate grants much help to no man; and when Ivan's eyes were opened, it was already too late. This did not come about, however, until, in the spring of the year 1871, something had happened to change Gregoriev's mode of life almost as completely as he had altered that of the waif thrown up at his door out of the troubled sea of the Akheskaia.

* * * * *

It was now twelve years since the youth Ivan, graduated from his four penitential years of military schooling, had taken his first long flight from Moscow, northward, into the joyous unknown: twelve years since he had put behind him all that half-comprehended blackness of evil and grim unhappiness that had weighted his boyhood with vague premonitions of coming disaster. Indeed, had he been told, at the hour of his going, that he should never again know a month of life in the same house with his father, he would have been possessed by a secret joy. Not so, however, Prince Michael. Nothing in all his merciless life had hurt this man of shadows like the defection of his son. Nor did the rolling years soften the sting of loss. Rather, as, little by little, the mantle of loneliness was drawn closer and closer about him, muffling him at last even from contact with the companions of his relaxation and license, the hardness and the bitterness in him increased, till something of it was surmised even by the jackals that served him. Still, of the processes of that strange nature, no one in the world knew much. His high position, held against all rivals by power of fear, naturally brought him into contact with officialdom, from Czar down to police-sergeant. But from every man he got the same species of servility, fawning or inimical, born of guilty knowledge of Michael's hieroglyphic map and his relentless use of it. And this attitude of the world, encouraged though it was by its recipient, bred in him no desire for intimacy with any of his kind, but only a half-indifferent, lazily calculating, contempt.

There had been a time when certain of his private occupations—interviews with personages of wealth or influence, cryptic conversations, resulting always, however defiant the beginning, in the same grovelling pleas and promises—had amused and interested the cynic most mightily: been the cream of his labors, indeed. But latterly even these scenes had palled; and it came to him with a faint shock of surprise that he was beginning to remember with relief those few occasions on which such talks had ended, by reason, truly, of some mere wanton freak, in unconditional release.—Preposterous indeed that the only acts of his life hitherto viewed with self-contempt, were beginning to seem the only ones bearable to remember!

His wife, a woman for whom he had had a certain tolerant affection, but no respect, he had probably not greatly mourned. Of friendship with his equals, he knew nothing. So, of sheer necessity, all the personal interest of his last years had been centered in the career of his banished son.—And ah! How he had suffered through that son! No other blow devised by man or God could have touched him save just the disgrace and downfall of Ivan in Petersburg. During the months immediately following the court-martial, the palace in Konnaia Square had been the abode of a fiend incarnate. Servants slunk from room to room in terror of their very lives; and the Governor-General, an Imperial Highness, had looked forward with dire dread to his occasional necessary visits to the chief of the Third Section. This lasted throughout the summer. Then, in the autumn, had come sudden opportunity for vengeance, of a sort, on Ivan's persecutor, Colonel Brodsky, whose disgrace and exile were achieved with marvellous swiftness, and who died, fifteen years later, in the horrible mines of Kara. Not until midwinter, however, did Prince Michael's agents receive orders to locate, watch, and make report on the condition of his son. It took some weeks before Ivan, half-starved, badly clothed, living like a day-laborer, was discovered in his garret on Vassily Island. Help was not proffered. But never again did Michael lose sight of the young man.

In the succeeding years, the Prince watched the growing career of his son with a mingled passion of anger, pride, humiliation, relief, and a mighty, uncontrollable eagerness. As, slowly, wearily, beset with every difficulty, Ivan climbed, round by round, the ladder of his chosen profession, his father noted his progress far more accurately than he himself. And when at last Michael was forced to realize that the younger Gregoriev had come to a distinction almost as marked as, and infinitely more respected than, his own, the grim-souled Prince felt himself torn by an almost unbearable emotion, half delight, half remorseful pain. For, all unconsciously, the musician stood a living reproach to the father whose ambition had found no better road to celebrity than that of trickery, dishonesty, blackmail,—all-unscrupulousness; while the boy, by personal sacrifice and hard and honorable labor, had reached the same end many years earlier.

A pity, perhaps, that his father's inmost heart should have gone forever unfathomed by Ivan. But deep down in the son's nature lay the sting of Michael's desertion in the hour of his great need. That strange interview held between them on the night of the students' capture, had done no more to soften the relationship between them than had the money sent to Ivan on one or two occasions when it had not been greatly needed. As to the interview, indeed, it was only Ivan who came out unscathed; for the ring of Ivan's laugh—that cruel laugh which Michael had understood far better than Ivan himself—sounded for many a month in the official's ears; and for a time he denied himself his greatest, but unacknowledged, delight. For three months he kept away from the opera on Ivan's nights, thereby suffering incredibly.

Many another incident showing the possibility of reconciliation between the two might be recounted; but none brought result; and, in fact, till the very end, a mocking fate kept the two apart.

In the January of 1872, Michael Gregoriev entered upon his seventy-fourth year. Up to this time he had held his age back in the leash of an iron will. Death was, to him, the one unconquerable terror; and he was determined to hold it off as long as human mortality might. To the danger of personal attack in which he hourly dwelt, he was absolutely indifferent. But with the least suggestion of physical suffering, the thought of the relentless approach of that blank nothingness of death gripped him till his brow grew cold, and his limbs trembled.

Up to the Christmas of that year he had kept the appearance of a man in his fifties. Then, quite suddenly, his failure began. He was himself aware of it in December. By the end of January it was the great topic of the kitchen. In mid-lent the Governor remarked upon it to the Governor-General;—and hope began to stir in a hundred hearts: hope of a long despaired-of release from the terrors of an invincible blackmail.

Up to the middle of March he managed to get about alone. But as the breath of spring began to make itself perceptible in the icy air, Michael was forced secretly to realize that will and body were on the verge of divorce. On the afternoon of March 13th, his sleigh was announced, ready to drive him across the city to a council with his colleagues of the police. His furs—cap and coat—were up-stairs in his bedroom. Piotr delayed answering his ring. At the end of five minutes the Prince, raging like a school-boy, left the house coatless, wearing only a common felt hat, and in that guise drove for more than two miles in the open troika. It was a performance not unique; but it was destined to be his last.

Prince Michael was carried home from the council and put to bed, burning with fever. Two days later the whole city sat awaiting the six-hour bulletins that recounted the state of the mysterious official, whose attack of double pneumonia was as serious as it was sudden. The notice of the morning of April 3d read thus:

"His Excellency has passed a critical night, and this morning it is feared that there is slight hope of recovery."

By noon of that day Ivan was speeding across the city in his father's sleigh, with Piotr, who had been sent for him, at his side.

During the drive, Ivan did not speak. By this time he had somewhat recovered from the shock of the news of three days before. But Piotr's word that his father was actually dying, brought up those thoughts which, hitherto, he had resolutely refused to consider. And, as his mind wavered through innumerable irrelevant subjects, he was subconsciously wondering why, in all the years of his banishment, the possibility of reinstatement and the inheritance of that enormous fortune, had never once entered his head. That his casting-off had been final, he had not doubted. Who had known Michael Gregoriev to forgive?—And now—even now, how could he have the faintest assurance that this summons meant forgiveness?—No. His watchword must still be:—Wait.

When at last the flying vehicle halted at the familiar portal, the heavy door swung open on the instant, and Ivan found himself facing a sharp-eyed, lean-jawed man of forty-five, who announced himself one of the doctors in attendance, and begged "his Excellency" to come up-stairs at once. Marvelling at the form of address and the vast respect of him who had used it, Ivan followed, docilely, and soon found himself in the antechamber to one of the state bedrooms, in which, it appeared, Prince Michael had been installed. Here the stranger halted, and proceeded to give Ivan the details of his father's condition. These were of the worst; and Dr. Froel Pavaniev strove in no way to make them appear better.—It was a peculiar form of flattery, but one heretofore used with excellent effect.—Ivan, however, failed to appreciate it; and presently pushed past the pessimist, flung open the bedroom door, and—paused. A sound had reached his ears that struck him to the heart: a high, feeble, gasping wail, that was repeated again and again. Ivan shuddered, and immediately the smooth voice whispered in his ear:

"It is merely his breathing.—The lungs are nearly filled you see; and his weakness is too great to repress the sound. However, we must not expect—"

But once more Ivan shook off the unbearable man, and walked into the room. It was a great, tapestried chamber, dusky in the early candle-light, furnished with heavily carved chairs and chests, and a huge, four-posted bed. In a distant corner stood a man bending over a tiny oil-stove, and stirring the contents of a steaming dish that stood thereon. Beside the bed was a sister of mercy, with the white coif on her smooth hair, her white robes girdled at the waist by a rosary which she fingered, mechanically. Finally, in the bed, shaded by curtains which, on one side, were drawn tight, on the other thrust wide apart, lay the huge form from which issued those ceaseless, sobbing breaths.

Ivan remained standing a little way beyond the threshold till Pavaniev entered and passed him, and the sister looked around. Then, for an instant, the wailing ceased, and was replaced by a high, wavering, querulous voice, that none would have dreamed of as belonging to Michael Gregoriev.

"He is come?—Ivan?—Bring him to me!"

Only then did the other doctor turn and perceive the new-comer. He did not summon him, however, but hurriedly poured his decoction into a cup and carried it to the bed. Then followed whispered words, the slow administration of the draught, and some further performance requiring the united efforts of the nurse and both doctors. Afterwards, all three drew away, and Ivan felt himself called. At once he was at the bedside, gazing down upon the fever-ravaged face, with its stubble of beard and the shock of white hair beneath which the cavernous eyes glowed and burned with something of their old fierceness.

"Ivan!" whispered the hoarse and feeble voice.

A rush of pity overwhelmed the son, and, for the moment, to his own amazement, he could not speak. Instead, he lifted and pressed to his cheek one of the burning hands. At that moment the nun placed a chair for him, whispering, adroitly, that strychnine had been given, that in a few minutes Prince Gregoriev would be much stronger, and that she, with the doctors, would remain in the antechamber awaiting his summons. Then, evidently by command, the three left the room, and Ivan was alone with his dying father.

For thirty-five minutes the hired attendants waited in the anteroom, before they were called by the white-faced son of their rebellious and powerful patient. Ivan emerged from the sick-room, motioned the three to go in, and then himself passed swiftly out and made his way down to his father's office, whither Piotr the omniscient presently brought a little dejeuner and a bottle of champagne—of Imperial vintage. Ivan drank rather eagerly, but touched no food. The revelations of the last, emotional half-hour had affected him to a point of exhaustion. For, though no priest of the Orthodox Church had been summoned to the Gregoriev palace, its master had made his confession—fully, without reservation,—to his son. All his life lay bare before the mental gaze of Ivan, who had in his pocket the slip of parchment containing the key to the cipher of the famous map—that marvellous biographical history of Russia which must always be a fortune of untold magnitude to its possessor. For there was many a man in the white empire who would have offered a million roubles for its destruction on the day of Michael's death; and there were yet others who would have given double the sum for its possession;—both of which facts Ivan had surmised. And Ivan knew also, now, that this treasure was but as one gold piece in a mint. He had been left his father's sole heir; and a few hours more would see him one of the wealthiest Princes in Europe. Strange, then, that, as he reflected on these things, there was no joy in his heart, but, rather, sensations of revolt and horror, flaming against a background of dreariness unspeakable: the combination forming an emotion the memory of which caused this day to stand out from its fellows draped in midnight darkness.

It was afternoon before the young man reascended to the antechamber, where Pavaniev greeted him with the report: "Great exhaustion, lapsing from semi to total unconsciousness." Any attempt at rousing might possibly prove fatal.—Was there any message?—No?—Then one could but wait.—These things were, indeed, most trying. And so Ivan seated himself on a bench against the wall in the dark little room, to wait.

There come to most lives certain periods of crisis, when the violence of shock drives away every commonplace thought or remembrance; when the mind seems a comparative blank, and time ceases to have any meaning. For an instant, or an hour, a mortal gazes out upon the void of eternity. So was it with Ivan, to-day. He sat for the most part huddled in a chair, lost in depths of the past, the strangeness of the present, the blank of the morrow. Memories of the last, agonizing, saintly hours of his mother's life, mingled themselves with remorse for his present numb indifference. A chaos of thoughts and dreams followed, bringing up detached visions of the various periods of his life. In the midst of them he was summoned to another meal; and he followed Piotr docilely to the table, this time trying to force a little food between his lips.

It did not occur to him to re-enter the bedroom;—afterwards he wondered why. Neither, however, did he think of going to bed. Numberless people were calling at the palace for information:—among them the Governor-General, who came in person. Ivan, however, saw no one; and by ten o'clock the house was wrapped in a vast silence. Piotr came to tell the heir that his old room was prepared; but Ivan still sat beside the fire, smoking, lost in vague conjectures. It was as well that he had not gone to bed. Precisely at midnight—the ghostly hour—the older doctor came quietly in to him.

"Your Excellency, I regret to inform you that your father, Prince Michael, passed from us five minutes ago."

* * * * *

At ten o'clock on the following morning Ivan, quiet, self-possessed, entirely himself again, came down to the small drawing-room for his morning tea. He knew that a mountain of work lay before him; though there were people enough to execute his orders. But the only command which the obsequious Piotr could extract from the young Prince was this:

"Till twelve o'clock I will neither speak to nor see a single person. At that hour have the whole household assembled in the state drawing-room." Only this bit of news could the excited valet of the dead Prince carry out to the kitchen; but the effect of his announcement was to send every servant, male and female, scudding across the court to their own building, to prepare themselves for the inspection of the new master.

Ivan, meantime, was occupying himself with the one matter which must be concealed from all the throng of executors, lawyers and officials of administration, by which he would presently be surrounded. During the night he had pondered on what was to be done concerning the affair of which his father had spoken at such length. And by now his course was chosen; his way looked clear; his mother, from on high, seemed smiling down on him in loving approval.

At half-past ten he stood alone in that sanctum which was to know its grim master no more. Behind him was a locked door; before him, the huge map, now entirely covered with the minute black figures that constituted the life-misery of many a respected malefactor;—that map which Grand-Dukes had prayed to look upon, and which, saving Piotr, and twice, in his boyhood, Ivan, no human eye but its creator's had ever seen.

Before this sinister cipher stood Michael's son; and in his hand was the little slip of parchment by means of which he was to read the strange secrets of his father's rise and position. For some minutes Ivan stood debating within himself as to his right to read so much as a fragment of this condemnatory document. If he began, what great name might not become forever dishonored in his thoughts?—Bah!—What need to fear for good men, after all? With a cynical shrug, he advanced to where the parchment hung; and then, referring each second to his key, began to read at the top of one of the narrow columns. After fifteen minutes, he drew the great table across the room, pulled pencil and paper towards him, and set to work systematically. It was an hour before he had translated the following disjointed items:

"March 18, 1832: Contract for new outfits of line regiments Nos. 87-8-9 and 90, granted to C—— A—— (one of the Grand-Dukes). Perquisites understood, 30,000 roubles. Actual per. 280,000 roubles: all cloth, arms, and ammunitions being lowered two grades. Suspect Count A—— of complicity. Not proved. Remonstrance from H—— E—— overruled."

"December, 1853. Indictment prepared, November 11th, for inquiry into recent deaths of Prince D—— and his heir, attributed to poisoning, by person or persons unknown (?). November 20th, Princess D—— engaged in secret service work for Alexis G——. November 26th. This day investigation dropped; reconsidered verdict states poisoning to have been by sterlet caviar. Public feeling high. Note: Wait definite development. Try woman first."

Over these typical paragraphs Ivan sat for some time. They were what he had expected.—He himself, indeed, remembered well enough the D—— scandal, and the subsequent disappearance of the notorious Princess, who had been her husband's second wife, and had hated the heir that took precedence of her own son.—Had Gregoriev finally exposed her? or had accident taken from Prince Michael this hold upon a powerful minister, and one of the greatest beauties of her time?—Faugh!—Sickening, indeed, this wretched system of blackmail, more systematic, daring and successful than ever blackmail had been before!—That map! Good Heaven! What further revelations might it not contain?—What great name of Russia was absent from it?—Crime, intrigue, peculation, faithlessness, treachery, treason—by these sins of others had his father risen to his position and his wealth. Trusting to the ever-renewed baseness, cupidity, passion of humankind, and their cowardice in the possibility of discovery, Michael had known that his sources of revenue would never fail, his victims never rebel. So much, indeed, he had openly acknowledged. His defence had been: "No innocent person could ever be touched by me. One mistake on my part, and I should be lost. Whatever I may have done, Ivan, know that I have never been the coward, never the remorseless traitor, that my victims are and have been." And the man who could say this, the man who had taken pride in his skilful manipulation of the world's evil, and had used it all his life, had been his own father!

Little by little Ivan's rising emotions of shame and repudiation had grown into an excitement of righteous anger. All the blood in his body seemed to have rushed to his brain and to have remained there, throbbing. Before his mental eyes rose mental pictures of the events in his father's life: deeds of dishonor unregretted, that ate poisonously into Ivan's sensitive intelligence. The fearful significance of the foundations of the enormous wealth that had come to him; its foul sources, its beginnings laid in filth, in deeds of blackness known to men and left unrebuked through fear, came upon him, as it were, for the first time. In this mood he sprang to his feet, hands shaking, eyes ablaze, in his soul such a rage as he had never been subject to. For an instant he stood wavering, gone blind and sick with the fury of his shame. Then, with a hoarse and guttural cry, he threw himself at the wall, snatched the great map from its fastenings, and tore, and tore, and trampled and tore again, till that long record of Russia's corruption lay scattered at his feet, a pile of crushed and crumpled bits of the vellum that had been chosen because of its indestructibility!

When the mood passed, as suddenly as it had risen, Ivan sank weakly back into a chair, trembling, and gazing blankly at his bruised and bleeding hands. He was in this state still when, to his astonishment and displeasure, there came a knock at the door.—Had the years of his father's discipline been obliterated in a single night?—What could Piotr be about, thus to disobey his first command?—What!—Was the knock repeated?

It was a stern and angry master that shot back the bolts of the door and opened it by half an inch. And it was a very humble voice that addressed him from without:

"May the Prince pardon his servant!—What choice had I? His Imperial Highness the Governor-General commands your Excellency's presence. He is in the outer office."

Struck though he was by the condescension of such a visit, Ivan hesitated. Then, with a gesture of impatience, he came out, ignored Piotr's exclamation at sight of his bleeding hands, and locked the door after him, following his father's example of putting the key in his pocket. In one moment he was standing in the presence of the uncle of the Czar.

The Grand-Duke's greeting was gracious in the extreme; and five minutes of condolences and conventionalities passed between them before Ivan, driven by the recollection of infinite work to be begun, precipitated that subject to which his Highness was troublously leading up.

"The graciousness of your Imperial Highness does my father much honor. At the same time, realizing the value of your time, it emboldens me to refer to a matter that may seem to you unduly personal. I am beginning the adjustment of my father's private papers, that all matters may be in perfect order for his successor in office. Now if there is—"

"My dear Prince, this brings us capitally to the second object of my visit this morning. You are indeed most thoughtful. As it happens, I am myself—hum—ha—interested in this matter of—You must understand that I knew your father intimately, for many years. Having the highest respect for his ability, I took him into my inmost confidence on—hum!—many affairs.—So, my dear Prince Gregoriev, I will come straight to my point. You have it in your power to do me the highest favor. Among your father's personal documents, or somewhere, in some form, among his papers, there is something relating wholly to me: a few brief notes regarding an old, and quite unofficial, transaction which, now that your father is so unhappily lost to us, would be nearly or entirely incomprehensible and valueless to any one save myself. But to me, that paper happens to be of some moment: so much so, indeed, that really no recompense for your trouble in obtaining it for me would be too great for you to ask. Whatever office might most appeal to you—"

"Your Imperial Highness will pardon me if I request permission to answer you in deeds rather than words? Will you do me the honor to come with me?"

The Governor-General sprang to his feet. Ivan, without speaking, led the way back to dead Michael's inner room, into which the Grand-Duke preceded him, his eyes falling at once upon the litter on the floor.

The royal visitor turned silently to his host; and Ivan, answering his look, said, slowly, without royal formalities, but as man to man:

"The sole condition that I must impose, and which, for your sake as well as his memory, you will grant, is absolute silence regarding what I have to say to you here.—Have I your promise?"

"Absolutely: upon the honor of my house and station!"

"The details of the incident to which you have referred, sir, I do not know; but the paper containing it does not lie among my father's documents. It, with many hundreds of such notes, was written upon a huge sheet of vellum which hung on the wall of this, my father's private room. Of the use he made of those notes, we shall not speak.—You were not alone by more than a thousand men and women.—Yesterday, before his death, I was given the cipher key to this document, and was urged to continue his use of it."

The Governor-General gave a slight, involuntary groan.

"How I carried out that wish, you may see for yourself, sir. The whole of that infamous document lies there, on the floor, before you. Within one hour those shreds will be in ashes."

* * * * *

"And your reward, Ivan Mikhailovitch?—What can I make you?—What have I to give you?"

"Two things, your Imperial Highness: first, your hand—to me! Secondly, if possible, your forgiveness,—at least, not too much condemnation—of the crimes of him who was my father."

But the Grand-Duke Dmitri, faulty though he might be, had not the vice of utter ingratitude. In that hour, and for the rest of his life, there was no exertion of power or strength that he would not have made for the man who had voluntarily freed him from the yoke which, for years, had been forcing him ever lower and lower towards the soil. He left Ivan's house that day with twenty years fallen from his face and his heart. One week later a royal messenger entered Prince Gregoriev's presence, leaving in his hand a little packet, which was found to contain one of the great honors of Russia:—the white-and-gold cross of St. George, bestowed only on one who has performed a deed of surpassing personal heroism.

* * * * *

It took nearly three months to dissolve every vestige of the world that had once revolved round Michael Gregoriev. At the end of that time there was a new chief of the Third Section in Moscow, who dwelt far on the other side of the Moskva. Thus the great palace on Konnaia Square opened no longer to receive the great dignitaries of the mother-city: nor rang to any sounds of revelry by night. The formidable suite in the east wing was closed; for the new Prince dwelt up-stairs, in rooms that had been his mother's. The palace routine knew little state. The staff of servants had been cut in twain; but old Sosha was again in the house of his youth, having first superintended the removal of the furniture from Ivan's old rooms to the palace: articles gathered, one by one, during the years of Ivan's long struggle, and so endeared to him forever. The grand Erard, which had been his one great extravagance, stood in the new studio between two high windows. And about it Ivan's new life revolved, dreamwise, for a time. Indeed, Piotr and Sosha and a handful of their fellows, used to weep with the weakly sentiment of age, as they served their young master in the rooms that had witnessed the long tragedy of their beloved Lady Sophia, who had been his mother, and whose gentle presence, outliving the wild individuality of her lord, still haunted the house for them as for Ivan.



CHAPTER XVIII

JOSEPH THE SOWER

Ivan's new life was monotonous enough, uneventful enough, but singularly tranquil. The spring this year had brought not so much a quickening of life as a soothing sense of relief, relaxation, and a lazy contentment of mind. For the first time in years, Ivan felt absolutely at ease on the subject of money: knew no uncertainty as to future raiment, and food and shelter. True, the acquisition of wealth had brought him a loss of companionship: one never openly proclaimed, but perhaps, for that reason, the more keenly felt. In June, at the end of the year's work, Ivan resigned his professorship at the Conservatoire, secretly glorying in the prospect of thenceforward being free to devote himself wholly to his own affairs. The resignation put him still further beyond the old pale of intimacy with composers, painters and writers: the cream of that intellectual and artistic Bohemia of which he had so long been an esteemed citizen. In mind, he was unchanged. But a millionaire Prince and a genius to boot!—It was a combination too fortunate for the toleration of any class. Where Fate gives too lavishly, man strives to even things up for the spoiled darling of Heaven:—and usually succeeds uncommonly well. Envy, jealousy, injustice,—these Ivan believed he had known already. He found himself mistaken. It seemed now that not one friend would remain loyal. Anton wrote a sneering and malicious letter from Paris, purporting to congratulate. Laroche openly mourned. Ugly-faced, big-hearted Balakirev shook his convict head melancholy-wise. Even Nicholas and Kashkine could only hope, halfheartedly, that, despite his wealth, Ivan would stick to his work out of the inward necessity: the divine driving of the great artist.

Autumn justified the faithful. From the leisure of Monsieur Gregoriev, came his second ballet—"The Enchantress"—a series of rhythmical minor melodies in the most delicate of the composer's moods; a military overture, which was one long series of tempestuously mounting climaxes, built on the theme of the Russian battle-hymn; six songs to poems of Heine, with piano accompaniment; and, finally, the third of his symphonies, declared by Balakirev too technical, as more resembling a clever experiment in orchestral possibilities, than a serious effort in the most rigid of classical forms.

Unfortunately, despite these flat disprovals of the accusations made against Ivan by his oldest friends, the summer's work did little to soften the feeling between the millionaire Prince and his scoffing fellow-workmen. Their cry now was: Who was he to step in between the fame, nay, the very bread, of men obliged to live by their work? Humph! He should see! It should be made very plain to him that neither wealth nor money could avail to win him entrance into the sanctums of art!—him, the greatest, the only great, artist of them all! Ah! Bitter indeed was the fresh humiliation he encountered: knowledge that, while his music was beginning to be sought for by every orchestra in Europe, Russia would suddenly have none of him! Nicholas Rubinstein fought his losing battles somewhat daunted by the constant cries of "hypocrite" and "toad-eater." Kashkine filled foreign journals with his praises. Useless! Henceforth, for many years, the concerts at the Moscow theatre, now under the baton of Laroche, knew Gregoriev's name no more: until that day, indeed, when, with his last and supreme effort, by means of the sheer force of his genius, Ivan overrode them all, broke every barrier down, and, winning victory unconditional, became at last the boast and the glory of the Russian musical world. But it was also out of this victory that Fate got her bitterest laugh at her puppet plaything. For death and fame ran neck and neck for his goal; and the race ended with fame four lengths behind.

Meantime, however, even in the midst of this first battle with his compatriots, Ivan and they were to meet one last time on neutral ground, under the white flag of truce. This was on the occasion of varnishing-day at the salon of native painters—Russians and Poles; where were exhibited works by men hors concours, together with those of advanced students: both classes being required to pass an incorruptible committee of twelve, who spared neither veteran nor tyro. Hither, on the artists' day, came Ivan and his former circle, to enjoy the success of a young Polish student, whose three pictures—two oils and a pastel portrait, were destined to become the sensation of the exhibit.

The afternoon was a happy one. The little group about Joseph made common cause of rejoicing over the work of their protege. And, in later months, Ivan, sore wounded, came to remember these hours as the last of the old, free life of careless poverty, with its untold wealth of comradeship.

Certainly Joseph's much-lauded work was good. There could be no question of that. The boy's talent was pronounced, his style highly individual, his conceptions normal, unimpressionistic, but beautifully his own. One of his oils represented a peasant-girl of the south, leaning upon a black fence, looking off into her own gray future, with that wistful, patient gaze so common to the low-class Russian. The background was a shadowy suggestion of steppe farm-land, unobtrusively implying vast distances of bluish-gray. The other work, more pretentious in subject but even more severely simple in treatment, was that of a woman of fashion, seated by a table on which stood a lighted lamp, the glow from which shone full upon her joy-lit face, on the sewing-materials scattered about her, and on the little garment, newly finished, which she was examining.

Joseph, his varnishing accomplished, stood about among groups of flatterers, his ethereal face, framed in its pale-gold hair, betraying very little of the elation that was tingling through him, as he listened to the comments on his work made by these men who "understood." Still, of all the extravagant words, not one meant to him so much as Ivan's strong hand-clasp and his smiling:

"It is worth the thousand-mile walk;—yes, and the starvation too, Joseph, isn't it?"

And Joseph bowed his head, in momentary, deep sincerity.

* * * * *

Nicholas Rubinstein was not wholly justified in his conclusion that Joseph's manner to a poor and untitled Ivan would have lost the greater part of its obsequiousness. Joseph did care for his benefactor, honestly. But later in the afternoon there came a little incident which, in some measure, bore out the old musician's instinctive scepticism. Nearly every one in the room had gathered about one or another of the samovar-tables, indulging in their favorite recreation of eating; and busily talking shop. Ivan, however, still occupied with the work of his protege, remained seated before the smaller picture, comparing it with a little, two-year-old sketch in oil which he had brought with him. Presently Joseph moved towards him. Nicholas, watching, saw the young fellow hesitate, palpably, for an instant, and then speak a few rapid, low-voiced sentences into Ivan's ear. Ivan's face betrayed a strain of surprise; but Nicholas saw the nod that accompanied his answer, and knew that it meant assent—to what, he guessed. Later, when good-byes were being said, Joseph was somewhat discomfited at the extreme chilliness of the gruff old man, who had seen what Joseph imagined he had kept absolutely invisible:—the passing of certain hundred-rouble notes from Ivan's hand to his own:—Ivan could now so well afford to give!

Late in the afternoon, when the young painter regained his own studio, he threw himself upon his battered sofa with a sigh of relief that was half-petulant. He had had an afternoon doubly successful; for he had taken a long-contemplated plunge. In his pocket was another whole year of frugality; or a month, one little month, of extravagance. His question now was, which should it be? If he took a scholarship with either of his pictures—and how they had been admired to-day!—there, in itself, was a year's subsistence. Again, would not one or both the pictures sell, at a good price? The whole wealth of Moscow would pass through those rooms during the next month. Only take the fancy of a wealthy man, or woman, and he might say good-bye forever to frugality: to his whole life of unrelenting poverty.

Ah, how he hated it, all those dreary little shifts that had formed the laws of his life! How he yearned, how he longed, for a month of carelessness concerning the state of his pocket!—But what a humiliation to ask for money—even from great-hearted Ivan! Ivan, with his new millions—why had he not offered something, instead of letting himself be dunned? Truly, truly, Providence—his Providence, was a sorry jade! Tricks enough she had certainly played him: him, to whom she had given so enormous a secret capability for spending! With a crust for food, a rag for his covering, a garret for shelter, she had endowed him with artist-dreams of luxury, with every extravagant desire, and but one, faint possibility of attainment. One, however, he had; together with a higher ambition than that for material things. He longed for the best sort of fame: was ready to do the best of work to gain it: provided only it should also bring him wealth!—Perhaps, of all the contradictions about this youth, the oddest was that, to those who knew him, his most salient characteristic appeared to be, not one of his many weaknesses, but his single, undying strength. Possibly, however, the explanation lay in the fact, that Joseph himself did not realize the extent of his baser nature. As yet his many thorns had in no wise hurt the single blossom. All his weaknesses could not hide his strength. A little more, indeed, and this strength might have grown till it hid all the rest, and formed a safe refuge for him from himself.—Ah! Had that but been possible!—How many geniuses have, indeed, come into the world only to go out of it unfamed, unsuspected? How many have dropped down to hell through the pitfalls of their own creation, and so been lost forever to the world? Good God! How pitiful it is!—Turn we away.

Joseph Kashkarin had many a plaint for his unfortunate lot. But the one which came to tongue oftener than any other, was that which proclaimed the red fires of the artist-flesh to burn within him, while he bemoaned the fact that he had never yet found a woman worthy of his devotion. Loudly did he bewail his over-fastidiousness; in which, nevertheless, he secretly glorified. But now for so long had he mourned his loveless estate, that, since of all the subjects of his brush woman was most congenial to him, he had gradually come to lay every fault of his work, crudeness of coloring, hardness of line, harshness of texture, finally, his very conventionality of conception, to the door of his ignorance of the grand passion, in which he expected to attain to his final development. In the end, as might have been expected, Fate, wearying of his everlasting complaint, became suddenly impatient, and set about granting his desire with diabolical fulness.

Joseph's peasant-girl took a mention, but no prize. Chilled by this and by the unaccountable failure of either picture to sell, he laid away, for the hour, his dreams of folly, and worked through the winter steadfastly. At length, however, the gray cold wore itself away; and, with the breath of the new spring, there came for Joseph desire fulfilled, and an end of steadfastness for the rest of his life.

Endless as the Russian winter seems, there does, at length, when hope is dormant, come that quickening of nature when the green steppes break through snowy coverlets, when swelling buds burst the last, thin ice-films from the branches, and the melancholy peasant-chants come nearer to the major key than at any other season. Now, also, was the time when young blood rushes like sap through the veins, and artists' dreams turn, irresistibly, to the greatest of their subjects. On such a day it was that Joseph Kashkarin and Irina Petrovna came for the first time face to face.

Irina's reappearance in the city of her brother's fall, was made a year or more after the battle in the Akheskaia. The history of the twelvemonth of her hiding, lay buried in that oblivion that must shroud frequent periods of lives like hers. It seemed destined that she should flash, at intervals, across certain horizons, and never without bringing to bear some momentary, powerful influence upon the life she illumined. She was not, like some of her class, led by principles more or less consistent and dependable: sordid greed for money; complete selfishness; experienced heartlessness. To her own detriment, Bohemia and penury could attract her as surely and as frequently as heavily paid-for luxury. Contrast, indeed, constituted the one law of her lawlessness. Without this, how had it been possible for that first contact with the young painter to have filled her, instantaneously, with the variable flame that had so often been her undoing?

Mademoiselle Petrovna, a young person fairly notorious, by this time, among the half-world of three or four Russian cities, was now living in Moscow, perfectly protected by the patronage of the universally connected, much-besought, Prince G——: a venerable personage of some seventy winters, whose decorous mansion in the old Equerries' Quarter was considerably better known than his bijou maisonnette in the Fourmenny district, at present occupied by the young lady of whom he ardently desired to possess a discreet portrait: one which, as an "ideal figure" might safely decorate drawing-room or library in his ostensible home. But in this affair, as in all other really desirable matters, Prince G——easily perceived the difficulty of complete discretion. Alas! To no famous brush dared he intrust his rather obvious commission. And his search for a competent, yet unknown, artist, led him at last to the studio of Monsieur Kashkarin, who had been recommended by the voice of Fate speaking through the decorous tongue of the Academy director.

Irina appeared upon the threshold of Joseph's modest studio clad from top to toe in a billow of flaming scarlet: tulle and velvet and poppies cunningly mingled, and well foiled by the solemn black of her escort's formal garb. While the vision floated about the room examining the various sketches and studies scattered over the walls, Joseph managed to keep his head sufficiently to go through the necessary preliminaries with his Excellency, who, a trifle nervous about his situation, and convinced that no danger to his possession could possibly accrue through this shy and boyish young artist, so plainly in the throes of poverty, was much relieved when the matter of size and price had been settled and he could take his departure, leaving Irina to her first sitting.

As the door closed behind the well-padded back of her Prince, Irina's indifference dropped from her like a cloak, and she returned to the proximity of the intoxicated boy, captured his blue gaze with the slumbrous fire of her Oriental eyes, and then laughed at him—and laughed—and musically laughed, till the fire from his brain leaped to his fingertips. Suddenly, commanding her, he flung his canvas on the easel, seized his charcoal, and, completely misconstruing his own sensations, began to draw her as she stood.

The work of that hour was inspirational. In it, he accomplished more than was done in the succeeding month. In the very beginning he managed, unconsciously, to make Irina respect his talent. She saw all the best of him, the finest of his power: which never before had flamed so high, and was never to flame so high again. But Irina, filled from top to toe with the temperament that comprehends every vagary and something of genius, watched the illumination of his face and eyes till she was beset with high desire: till her present life, with its hollow luxury, its spiceless ease, its savorless pretence, had become abominable to her. Her heart was in the room wherein she stood, set all upon the man for whom she posed: whose eye, as yet, looked upon her not as man but as workman, who sought only the secret message in her written for his brush.

Through the first two hours, during which she alternately posed and rested, the two of them spoke scarce one word. In the beginning, their sensations were crudely formulative. But they rose, by degrees, till, at the end, each was beset by a force so powerful that action had become an impossibility. Their farewell ran thus:

"When do you wish me again, Monsieur?"

"When you can come, Madame."

"In two days?"

"Yes; in two days."

"Alorsau revoir!"

"Au revoir, Madame."

Thus they entered upon the eight-and-forty hours that were to prepare the storm of the next meeting which was to set upon them both the seal of the inevitable. Well for Prince G—— that there came to him no inkling of the scene which ended that second afternoon! Irina lay back upon the artist's couch in the dreamy languor of her most dangerous mood. Joseph knelt on the floor at her side, her hands clasped in his, the broken, cryptic syllables of innermost intimacy already flowing familiarly between them.—How it had come about, neither one of them could possibly have told. But that night Joseph, sitting alone at his high window gazing over the silvered city, knew at last that he had entered into the kingdom: that, if he should live a thousand years, he could never know again the pure emotion of the hours that were gone. He sat there in the dusk, and his lips formed broken phrases—fragments of the thoughts that swirled through his storm-ridden brain:

"It has come!—It is here!—I am a true artist now.—Now, too, I am a man.—Irina!—Irina!"

And, alas! Joseph fully believed himself! He never knew that, had he been in truth an artist now, those last words of his would have been: "My work! My work!" For to those who hold the greatest gift, there is no experience in life, from highest joy to highest sorrow, that is not transmuted, in the crucible of the artist's brain, into some new form of knowledge to be used in his labor. Such a one was Ivan, whom Nathalie herself could only have served again and again to quicken into higher and richer musical expression: to whom her loss had only meant many years of minor melodies. Such a man as Ivan, Joseph still believed himself to be. Slowly, inch by inch, with every step a form of torture, was he to learn the truth.

Thus abruptly, thus all unheralded, arrived Joseph's passion-time. In the beginning, Irina came for her sittings twice or thrice in the week. Then, driven by the force of their two natures, the visits became daily, and there began, in the Fourmenny maisonnette, a system of shift and subterfuge not wholly new to its mistress. None knew better than Irina herself the inevitable end of this period of excuse and deception. But, so long as Joseph continued to combine for her those qualities of novelty, inexperience, and inexhaustible feeling that had seized so firmly upon her imagination, she was reckless of discovery. After all, her Prince was proving exceptionally stupid and complaisant. Her words were gospel to him; and her frequent invisibility seemed only to whet his appetite for to-morrow.

Meantime Joseph, perfectly ignorant of his road, careless of the future, enamoured of each passing hour, left Irina absolutely free so far as her course was concerned. He himself, however, was neglecting his professional duties. All the work he did was upon two portraits of her; for he had decided to finish for himself that first, Carmen-like creation so happily seized upon. Meantime, there was another for the Prince; in which the too-vivid draperies were toned down to pinkish clouds; the background left in misty indecision; and all his care expended on the face: a face that presently looked forth from the canvas with a gaze so startlingly lifelike, that Irina herself frequently shivered at its uncanny reality.

No. There could be no doubt about the marvel of Joseph's present technique. Yet, for all that, he had already lost something of his former purity of style. And now, for six long months, he worked at nothing but studies of the same subject; knowing only the criticisms of Irina herself. The days of honest labor and study, the earnest self-criticism and self-examination, were gone. For the moment he might believe himself to be of the elect few. But the period was brief; and, with the coming of the first cloud, the whole horizon suddenly grew black.

It was the early twilight of an October day. For the third or fourth time, Irina had failed in her appointment, and Joseph, sitting alone, waiting for the sound of her step, had drifted into a reverie concerning himself and his summer's work. He was kneeling in the midst of a dusty little group of last year's studies, regarding them with newly contemplative eyes. Were they, after all, with all their muddy color and uncertain composition, better—actually better, in the fundamentals that count, than those two glorified forms that ruled the room?—For the first time since the very beginning, he doubted: began to feel a weariness of that garish sea of color, beside which the dull little studies suddenly looked so quietly restful; so sincere.

He had come thus far in his musing; and his face was troubled; his blue eyes had darkened, when, suddenly, without warning, his door was flung wide. The well-known, silken swish of skirts, a breath of the familiar perfume of gown and hair and person, and then Irina—an Irina unfamiliar—had entered, shut and bolted the door behind her, stared at him for a moment, and then began to weep, hysterically.

"You!—But Irina—I—you.—But there is no light for the pose now!"

"Ah, mon Dieu! A sitting!—Pouf! Listen, mon cher! It has come. I have always known it must.—Monsieur le Prince knows all the truth.—Quelle scene!—Incroyable pour un viellard!—And I am banished. I have none now but you, mon ami. What shall you do with me, Joseph?" And, as she spoke, her arms crept sinuously about the young man's stiff figure, and she drew him, by degrees, to the couch, at her side.

There followed silence: a silence so long that, almost for the first time in her career, Irina began to wonder if she could have miscalculated the strength of her hold on this boy for whom she had conceived so violent a passion.

Had she, indeed, been able, at that moment, to read the depths of Joseph's mind, her wonder would probably have been augmented to fear. For, now that the thing that Joseph had been wanting for months had come to pass, he was suddenly thrown back upon himself in a panic of doubt. His mind was a blind chaos of mingled emotion and desire: the new-born anxiety concerning his profession; the powerful fascination exerted by the mere presence of the woman he loved; and, lastly, a selfishly inconsistent anger that Irina's act had forced him at last to the long-desired point of decision.

These three feelings warred within him, and the little force of good fought valiantly and well. But, unhappily, Joseph had always regarded the promptings of conscience as unwarrantable and unnecessary; and that inner voice, so often stifled, had grown weak. Irina was now beside him, the fragrance of her personality stealing upon him with all its accustomed magnetism. Surely, too, she had been inspired to the silence she kept? He never dreamed of the heart-sickness that was slowly invading her. Had he guessed it, that of the brute which lay in him, would instantly have risen up against her. For the young gentleness of his face belied him. As it was, however, there came a moment when the breath of perfume was strong; when conscience took a step too far. One instant—and he turned, clasping her in his arms:

"So let it be, beloved! Thou hast come to me:—be mine! If I have little wealth, I can give thee love:—love, the glory of life, clothed in colors of scarlet and gold!—Thou art here to be my inspiration. Mayst thou find me worthy!—Ah, see! The world shall kneel to us yet: shall glorify us with laurel and with gold.—Yes, it has come at last, beloved, the freedom of our love!"

And the woman, with a half-sob, yielded herself to the strong, young arms, nor wasted a thought upon that crushed and broken talent now lying between them, dead, upon the paint-stained floor.

* * * * *

Such was the beginning of their hundred days: the three months' madness that was to become the amazement and the scandal of the Students' Quarter. Irina's history, well known to every one except her lover, kept this strange romance always vivid, always replete with dramatic possibilities. Meantime, however, during the first weeks, the small menage prospered amazingly. Irina had been living for some time among cloying luxuries. She brought with her a considerable sum of money and jewels, the amount of which seemed, to Joseph's eyes, princely enough. He rejoiced over their sudden access of wealth; while she amused herself by adapting her tastes to the comparative poverty of her present life. Moreover, the enthusiasm that was really borne from the pleasant novelty of this existence, seemed, to the boy, wholly the result of her love for him. He had been possessed by a sudden demon of work.—Ah! How he worked, during those brief weeks! He had resigned, now, from his classes, and was painting for the public. In the beginning, his things caught the general fancy, and he had an unquestioned vogue. It was pot-boiling, certainly; but, for the moment, glaring faults were concealed by the meteoric brilliancy of his technique. Irina was his only model. But what the world likes, it is willing to have repeated; and head after head of the beautiful woman was sold, and still the dealers clamored for more.

Of his old work—those laborious little studies of still life or nature, the public would have none. Even the two life-sized pictures, which had more than a little merit in them, remained unpurchased. Both were for sale now; for Joseph needed no portrait of what was his; and Prince G—— naturally never commanded his to be delivered.

There did, at length, come one offer for the Carmen picture; but of it Joseph never heard. It had been made by a man who, calling at the studio one day, found Mademoiselle Irina alone; and to whose impulsive proposition she had replied—with a certain manner—that his price was too low—"as yet." Rapidly estimating the pretty woman, and catching the tone of her last word, the gentleman said no more about the picture; but presently left the studio and the lady together, and returned to his club—to bide his time.

Six weeks saw the end of the first phase of this oft-acted drama. Intoxicated by the success which no one had as yet explained to him, Joseph began suddenly to discover spending-powers of his own. After that, work as he would, a Raphael could scarcely have kept his menage out of debt. Irina, watching her lover minutely, and perfectly foreseeing the forthcoming exigencies of the situation, was quite prepared when Joseph came to her for advice. That night was the first on which they drove to a certain house in the aristocratic Sretenskaia, where, by day and by night, the various rooms glowed with light, and, during twenty hours of the day, a dozen great, green tables were wreathed by men and women to whose ears the chink and rustle of gold and notes were sounds that followed and drove them, day by day, night by night, on towards that low-lying land where dwell the throngs that are gathered together in the outer darkness that is so much denser than the tomb.

Lights!—Green tables, gold-bespattered!—The droning undertone of croupiers; the continual, languid in-rake and out-rake of golden piles, of crackling notes, of rouleaux—on one of which the old-time Joseph could have lived so well for months: here, side by side, the much-remarked woman, the pale-faced, angel-eyed youth, quietly took their places, and began to play.



CHAPTER XIX

HIS HARVEST

"No Ivan, you'll do better alone. You have influence with him.—Good God! a year ago he worshipped you! I believe there was something you told him—some pointer you gave him at one time about work, that made an immense impression on him.—You mean something to him. Me, he dislikes. He knew months ago that I—well, saw something of his infirmity. But, while I don't believe in him, this affair mustn't go on. The fellow could have learned to paint. He's killing himself now, not physically, but mentally and morally.—The whole city's waked up to him. His pace is unprecedented.

"Come, there's nothing more to say, Ivan Mikhailovitch. Go and pull your protege out of the mire—if you can!"

The two men rose, simultaneously. Ivan was very pale. He was still in the first shock of full revelation; and it was a moment or two before he put his hand into that of Nicholas, and answered, simply: "Yes, I will go."

"Soon?"

"Oh yes." The reply had a weary tone. "Yes. I will go to-day."

Rubinstein nodded with satisfaction. His self-imposed mission was accomplished. A moment later, after a close hand-clasp, he was gone.

It was the first Wednesday of the new year. For the past three months Ivan, who had been on a distant country estate, engrossed in his father's affairs, had heard nothing of the gossip of Moscow. Two days after his return, Nicholas came to him with the story of Joseph's disgrace and disaster; the tale over which the malignant city was now holding its sides with amusement. Ivan, sick with amazement and regret, had promised his old friend to seek the young fool out and—and what? Remonstrate—with madness? Right, in an hour or two, a situation that was the climax of months of wrong? Impossible! All Ivan's instincts rebelled against the idea. Nevertheless, as Nicholas had clearly pointed out, something must be done. Yet who but he, Joseph's first friend in Russia, had the faintest chance of success: of once more setting those purposeless feet on the upward path?—Thus, in the end, with his mood an indecisive mixture of pity and revolt, Ivan prepared himself for the necessary visit.

Nicholas and he had been lunching together in the Gregoriev palace. The brief midwinter day was still bright when the Prince's sleigh set its owner down in the Academy Quarter, a door or two away from the tall house in which Joseph still retained his rooms. Ivan knew his way well enough; but he stood in the empty hall before the closed door for some seconds before he could bring himself to knock, so strong was his feeling of impotence, his dread of intruding into these two, alien lives. At length, stifling his thoughts, he hastily clacked the brass knocker of the door.

A moment. Then came the sound of a woman's voice, muffled, but startlingly familiar:

"C'est toi, Joseph?"

Instantly, all the blood in Ivan's body rushed to his brain. Then, fiercely seizing the door, he thrust it open, strode into the studio, and found himself face to face with Irina Petrovna.

Irina was garbed very much en negligee, but Ivan's profound amazement, (by some freak of chance the woman's name had never been mentioned to him) for a few seconds prevented his noticing that she was standing beside a trunk half filled with her own garments, more of which were scattered about the room. Looking from her dishevelled figure to the box, the significance of her evident occupation was suddenly borne in upon him.

The question which had risen to his lips was prevented by the woman's exclamation, made in a voice whose usual velvet tones—how long familiar to him!—were now broken and harsh and strained by her palpable emotion:

"You here, Ivan!—You!"

He raised his eyes to hers, looking her calmly in the face; for, suddenly, by her confusion, his self-control had returned to him, and he felt his power. "Yes, Irina; I have come for a special purpose. But—you—" he looked doubtfully from her to the trunk, "you—and Joseph—are leaving this house?"

"No!—Ah, wait, wait, I will tell you!—Will you sit down?"

Ivan turned to obey her, and, an instant later, found himself alone. Irina had disappeared into the adjoining bedroom, whence she emerged, in a very short space of time, clad in a tea-gown that bore the air—and the name—of the greatest of Parisian couturieres. Her appearance corresponded with the garment; for Irina's dramatic instinct for effect was unfailing; and, penniless and debt-laden though she was, no Duchesse of St.-Germain could have surpassed her now in beauty and in chic.

As she entered the room and seated herself on the couch with a manner and a smile that affected him powerfully, a great discouragement came upon the man. He was here on man's business: to fight with a weak man against that man's weakness. How was he to cope with a woman: and, above all, such a woman as this?

As the question passed through his mind, Irina herself answered it:

"Eh bien, Monsieur le Prince, you have come, I am sure, to help that poor Joseph! Is it not so?—Let us forget the acquaintance which we have had, you and I. Let us speak of that little one who, in his heart, worships you, monsieur, though you have not come to him. Well, you hear of his debts? of his disgrace? his fever for play?—So, at last, you yield: you come!—Good!—You find me here. I embarrass you. Neanmoins, I tell you, monsieur, that I, also, in my way—I, who have so hurt him, pauvre enfant! am at last wishful for his repentance and recovery.

"You have asked me if we, Joseph et moi, were leaving this place. I tell you no. I am leaving it. I! To-night, when that boy comes back from the 'Masque,' he shall find himself once more unencumbered.—Well, I have allowed myself the luxury of explanation with you. But now I must finish—that, and go."

"And where do you go, Irina Petrovna?" inquired Ivan, in the deep, calm voice that suddenly bereft the woman of all her easy impertinence.

Unquestionably, she flushed. "Do not ask me. There is a refuge that is mine for the asking—"

"Ah!—Well, about Joseph. I have been listening to his story as told by a man—my friend. But I wish also to hear it from you, who know it all.—How was it that you met?—And what has become of his real work: of his talent?"

Irina did not immediately reply. Picking a small, gold case from a heap of baubles at her side, she drew therefrom a cigarette, lighted it, with that innate coquetry that was her bane, and believed that Ivan did not see how the match trembled. After three puffs she suddenly turned her great eyes on the man, and smiled, joyously:

"You embarrassed me, monsieur! Of my meeting with Joseph, of our life here, I shall say nothing. His—fall, you may impute to me, wholly. And yet—and yet, Ivan, in the face of all I have done, I still say to you, Joseph's own weakness would have killed him in the end.—You, who are a great artist, who have labored through poverty, through injustice, through calumny, through the jealousy of friends and the libel of enemies, and have conquered them all, you know well in your heart that great ignorance, great vanity, great self-indulgence, belong not to the characters of the truly great.—Oh I, I, Irina, the outcast, know that well! Did I tempt you?—Those traits were Joseph's. I, who have loved him, say it. For love of me and of himself, he degraded his art. For himself, he has played and played and played, at the 'Masque,' till even I bade him stop.—Roulette—baccarat—trente et quarante:—all he has, is gone; and he has borrowed again and again from every one.—Oh bah! You, mon Prince, can do nothing with or for him. Leave these rooms. Return to your beautiful, calm life. This is not for you.—And as for me"—she suddenly flung the cigarette away and leaped to her feet—"I, also, am going!" And, throwing herself down beside the trunk, she began to stuff the litter of the room into its capacious trays.

In the dim light, Ivan saw not the unsteadiness of her hand; nor knew that her heart was throbbing, wildly; nor that she was fighting back an impulse to crawl to him, miserably, on hands and knees, and beg for the generosity of his great heart.

No, Ivan suspected nothing. He merely sat, rigid, silent, white-faced, tossing aside stub after stub of cigarettes, and gazing, vacantly, into the spaces of past and future, trying to reconstruct the broken life of that starving boy whom he once had fed.

The trunk was packed, and locked. Ivan did not look up. Not, indeed, until a tall woman, in a severely-cut cloth costume, entered the studio from the inner chamber bearing with her a lighted lamp, did he come back to himself, and offer to help her into the fur coat that hung over one arm.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse