Ensign Knightley and Other Stories

The Fifth Picture

A.E.W. Mason

LADY TAMWORTH felt unutterably bored. The sensation of lassitude, even in its less acute degrees, was rare with her; for she possessed a nature of so fresh a buoyancy that she was able, as a rule, to extract diversion from any environment. Her mind took impressions with the vivid clearness of a mirror, and also, it should be owned, with a mirror’s transient objectivity. To-day, however, the mirror was clouded. She looked out of the window; a level row of grey houses frowned at her across the street. She looked upwards; a grey pall of cloud swung over the rooftops. The interior of the room appeared to her even less inviting than the street. It was the afternoon of the first drawing-room, and a debutante was exhibiting herself to her friends. She stood in the centre, a figure from a Twelfth-Night cake, amidst a babble of congratulations, and was plainly occupied in a perpetual struggle to conceal her moments of enthusiasm beneath a crust of deprecatory languor.

The spectacle would have afforded choice entertainment to Lady Tamworth, had she viewed it in the company of a sympathetic companion. Solitary appreciation of the humorous, however, only induced in her a yet more despondent mood. The tea seemed tepid; the conversation matched the tea. Epigrams without point, sallies void of wit, and cynicisms innocent of the sting of an apt application floated about her on a ripple of unintelligent laughter. A phrase of Mr. Dale’s recurred to her mind, “Hock and seltzer with the sparkle out of it;” so he had stigmatised the style and she sadly thanked him for the metaphor.

There was, moreover, a particular reason for her discontent. Nobody realised the presence of Lady Tamworth, and this unaccustomed neglect shot a barbed question at her breast. “After all why should they?” She was useless, she reflected; she did nothing, exercised no influence. The thought, however, was too painful for lengthened endurance; the very humiliation of it produced the antidote. She remembered that she had at last persuaded her lazy Sir John to stand for Parliament. Only wait until he was elected! She would exercise an influence then. The vision of a salon was miraged before her, with herself in the middle deftly manipulating the destinies of a nation.

“Lady Tamworth!” a voice sounded at her elbow.

“Mr. Dale!” She turned with a sudden sprightliness. “My guardian angel sent you.”

“So bad as that?”

“I have an intuition.” She paused impressively upon the word.

“Never mind!” said he soothingly. “It will go away.”

Lady Tamworth glared, that is, as well as she could; nature had not really adapted her for glaring. “I have an intuition,” she resumed, “that this is what the suburbs mean.” And she waved her hand comprehensively.

“They are perhaps a trifle excessive,” he returned. “But then you needn’t have come.”

“Oh, yes! Clients of Sir John.” Lady Tamworth sighed and sank with a weary elegance into a chair. Mr. Dale interpreted the sigh. “Ah! A wife’s duties,” he began.

“No man can know,” she interrupted, and she spread out her hands in pathetic forgiveness of an over-exacting world. Her companion laughed brutally. “You are rude!” she said and laughed too. And then, “Tell me something new!”

“I met an admirer of yours to-day.”

“But that’s nothing new.” She looked up at him with a plaintive reproach.

“I will begin again,” he replied submissively. “I walked down the Mile-End road this morning to Sir John’s jute-factory.”

“You fail to interest me,” she said with some emphasis.

“I am so sorry. Good-bye!”

“Mr. Dale!”


“You may, if you like, go on with the first story.”

“There is only one. It was in the Mile-End road I met the admirer—Julian Fairholm.”

“Oh!” Lady Tamworth sat up and blushed. However, Lady Tamworth blushed very readily.

“It was a queer incident,” Mr. Dale continued. “I caught sight of a necktie in a little dusty shop-window near the Pavilion Theatre. I had never seen anything like it in my life; it fairly fascinated me, seemed to dare me to buy it.”

The lady’s foot began to tap upon the carpet. Mr. Dale stopped and leaned critically forward.

“Well! Why don’t you go on?” she asked impatiently.

“It’s pretty,” he reflected aloud.

The foot disappeared demurely into the seclusion of petticoats. “You exasperate me,” she remarked. But her face hardly guaranteed her words. “We were speaking of ties.”

“Ah, the tie wasn’t pretty. It was of satin, bright yellow with blue spots. And an idea struck me; yes, an idea! Sir John’s election colours are yellow, his opponent’s blue. So I thought the tie would make a tactful present, symbolical (do you see?) of the state of the parties in the constituency.”

He paused a second time.


“I went in and bought it.”


“Julian Fairholm sold it to me.”

Lady Tamworth stared at the speaker in pure perplexity. Then all at once she understood and the blood eddied into her cheeks. “I don’t believe it!” she exclaimed.

“His face would be difficult to mistake,” Mr. Dale objected. “Besides I had time to assure myself, for I had to wait my turn. When I entered the shop, he was serving a woman with baby-linen. Oh yes! Julian Fairholm sold me the tie.”

Lady Tamworth kept her eyes upon the ground. Then she looked up. She struck the arm of her chair with her closed fist and cried in a quick petulance, “How dare he?”

“Exactly what I thought,” answered her companion smoothly. “The colours were crude by themselves, the combination was detestable. And he an artist too!” Mr. Dale laughed pleasantly.

“Did he speak to you?”

“He asked me whether I would take a packet of pins instead of a farthing.”

“Ah, don’t,” she entreated, and rose from her chair. It might have been her own degradation of which Mr. Dale was speaking.

“By the way,” he added, “I was so taken aback that I forgot to present the tie. Would you?”

“No! No!” she said decisively and turned away. But a sudden notion checked her. “On second thoughts I will; but I can’t promise to make him wear it.”

The smile which sped the words flickered strangely upon quivering lips and her eyes shone with anger. However the tie changed hands, and Lady Tamworth tripped down stairs and stepped into her brougham. The packet lay upon her lap and she unfolded it. A round ticket was enclosed, and the bill. On the ticket was printed, A Present from Zedediah Moss. With a convulsion of disgust she swept the parcel on to the floor. “How dare he?” she cried again, and her thoughts flew back to the brief period of their engagement. She had been just Kitty Arlton in those days, the daughter of a poor sea-captain but dowered with the compensating grace of personal attractions. Providence had indisputably designed her for the establishment of the family fortunes; such at all events was the family creed, and the girl herself felt no inclination to doubt a faith which was backed by the evidence of her looking-glass. Julian Fairholm at that time shared a studio with her brother, and the acquaintance thus begun ripened into an attachment and ended in a betrothal. For Julian, in the common prediction, possessed that vague blessing, a future. It is true the common prediction was always protected by a saving clause: “If he could struggle free from his mysticism.” But none the less his pictures were beginning to sell, and the family displayed a moderate content. The discomposing appearance of Sir John Tamworth, however, gave a different complexion to the matter. Sir John was rich, and had besides the confident pertinacity of success. In a word, Kitty Arlton married Sir John.

Lady Tamworth’s recollections of the episode were characteristically vague; they came back to her in pieces like disconnected sections of a wooden puzzle. She remembered that she had written an exquisitely pathetic letter to Fairholm “when the end came,” as she expressed it; and she recalled queer scraps of the artist’s talk about the danger of forming ties. “New ties,” he would say, “mean new duties, and they hamper and clog the will.” Ah yes, the will; he was always holding forth about that and here was the lecture finally exemplified! He was selling baby-linen in the Mile-End road. She had borne her disappointment, she reflected, without any talk about will. The thought of her self-sacrifice even now brought the tears to her eyes; she saw herself wearing her orange-blossoms in the spirit of an Iphigeneia.

Sections of the puzzle, however, were missing to Lady Tamworth’s perceptions. For, in fact, her sense of sacrifice had been mainly artificial, and fostered by a vanity which made the possession of a broken romance seem to pose her on a notable pedestal of duty. What had really attracted her to Julian was the evidence of her power shown in the subjugation of a being intellectually higher than his compeers. It was not so much the man she had cared for, as the sight of herself in a superior setting; a sure proof whereof might have been found in a certain wilful pleasure which she had drawn from constantly impelling him to acts and admissions which she knew to be alien to his nature.

It was some revival of this idea which explained her exclamation, “How dare he?” For his conduct appeared more in the light of an outrage and insult to her than of a degradation of himself. He must be rescued from his position, she determined.

She stooped to pick up the bill from the floor as the brougham swung sharply round a corner. She looked out of the window; the coachman had turned into Berkeley Square; in another hundred yards she would reach home. She hastily pulled the check-string, and the footman came to the door. “Drive down the Mile-End road,” she said; “I will fetch Sir John home.” Lady Tamworth read the address on the bill. “Near the Pavilion Theatre,” Mr. Dale had explained. She would just see the place this evening, she determined, and then reflect on the practical course to be pursued.

The decision relieved her of her sense of humiliation, and she nestled back among her furs with a sigh of content. There was a pleasurable excitement about her present impulse which contrasted very brightly with her recent ennui. She felt that her wish to do something, to exert an influence, had been providentially answered. The task, besides, seemed to her to have a flavour of antique chivalry; it smacked of the princess undoing enchantments, and reminded her vaguely of Camelot. She determined to stop at the house and begin the work at once; so she summoned the footman a second time and gave him the address. So great indeed was the charm which her conception exercised over her, that her very indignation against Julian changed to pity. He had to be fitted to the chivalric pattern, and consequently refashioned. Her harlequin fancy straightway transformed him into the romantic lover who, having lost his mistress, had lost the world and therefore, naturally, held the sale of baby-linen on a par with the painting of pictures. “Poor Julian!” she thought.

The carriage stopped suddenly in front of a shuttered window. A neighbouring gas-lamp lit up the letters on the board above it, Z. Moss. This unexpected check in the full flight of ardour dropped her to earth like a plummet. And as if to accentuate her disappointment the surrounding shops were aglare with light; customers pressed busily in and out of them, and even on the roadway naphtha-jets waved flauntingly over barrows of sweet-stuff and fruit. Only this sordid little house was dark. “They can’t afford to close at this hour,” she murmured reproachfully.

The footman came to the carriage door, disdain perceptibly struggling through his mask of impassivity.

“Why is the shop closed?” Lady Tamworth asked.

“The name, perhaps, my lady,” he suggested. “It is Friday.”

Lady Tamworth had forgotten the day. “Very well,” she said sullenly. “Home at once!” However, she corrected herself adroitly: “I mean, of course, fetch Sir John first.”

Sir John was duly fetched and carried home jubilant at so rare an attention. The tie was presented to him on the way, and he bellowed his merriment at its shape and colour. To her surprise Lady Tamworth found herself defending the style, and inveighing against the monotony of the fashions of the West End. Nor was this the only occasion on which she disagreed with her husband that evening. He launched an aphorism across the dinner-table which he had cogitated from the report of a divorce-suit in the evening papers. “It is a strange thing,” he said, “that the woman who knows her influence over a man usually employs it to hurt him; the woman who doesn’t, employs it unconsciously for his good.”

“You don’t mean that?” she asked earnestly.

“I have noticed it more than once,” he replied.

For a moment Lady Tamworth’s chivalric edifice showed cracks and rents; it threatened to crumble like a house of cards; but only for a moment. For she merely considered the remark in reference to the future; she applied it to her present wish to exercise an influence over Julian. The issue of that, however, lay still in the dark, and was consequently imaginable as inclination prompted. A glance at Sir Julian sufficed to finally reassure her. He was rosy and modern, and so plainly incapable of appreciating chivalric impulses. To estimate them rightly one must have an insight into their nature, and therefore an actual experience of their fire; but such fire left traces on the person. Chivalric people were hollow-cheeked with luminous eyes; at least chivalric men were hollow-cheeked, she corrected herself with a look at the mirror. At all events Sir John and his aphorism were beneath serious reflection; and she determined to repeat her journey upon the first opportunity.

The opportunity, however, was delayed for a week and occasioned Lady Tamworth no small amount of self-pity. Here was noble work waiting for her hand, and duty kept her chained to the social oar!

On the afternoon, then, of the following Friday she dressed with what even for her was unusual care, aiming at a complex effect of daintiness and severity, and drove down in a hansom to Whitechapel. She stopped the cab some yards from the shop and walked up to the window. Through the glass she could see Julian standing behind the counter. His hands (she noticed them particularly because he was displaying some cheap skeins of coloured wool) seemed perhaps a trifle thinner and more nervous, his features a little sharpened, and there was a sprinkling of grey in the black of his hair. For the first time since the conception of her scheme Lady Tamworth experienced a feeling of irresolution. With Fairholm in the flesh before her eyes, the task appeared difficult; its reality pressed in upon her, driving a breach through the flimsy wall of her fancies. She resolved to wait until the shop should be empty, and to that end took a few steps slowly up the street and returned yet more slowly. She looked into the window again; Julian was alone now, and still she hesitated. The admiring comments of two loungers on the kerb concerning her appearance at last determined her, and she brusquely thrust open the door. A little bell jangled shrilly above it and Julian looked up.

“Lady Tamworth!” he said after the merest pause and with no more than a natural start of surprise. Lady Tamworth, however, was too taken aback by the cool manner of his greeting to respond at once. She had forecast the commencement of the interview upon such wholly different lines that she felt lost and bewildered. An abashed confusion was the least that she expected from him, and she was prepared to increase it with a nicely-tempered indignation. Now the positions seemed actually reversed; he was looking at her with a composed attention, while she was filled with embarrassment.

A suspicion flashed through her mind that she had come upon a fool’s errand. “Julian!” she said with something of humility in her voice, and she timidly reached out her little gloved hand towards him. Julian took it into the palm of his own and gazed at it with a sort of wondering tenderness, as though he had lighted upon a toy which he remembered to have prized dearly in an almost forgotten childhood.

This second blow to her pride quickened in her a feeling of exasperation. She drew her fingers quickly out of his grasp. “What brought you down to this!” She snapped out the words at him; she had not come to Whitechapel to be slighted at all events.

“I have risen,” he answered quietly.

“Risen? And you sell baby-linen!”

Julian laughed in pure contentment. “You don’t understand,” he said. For a moment he looked at her as one debating with himself and then: “You have a right to understand. I will tell you.” He leaned across the counter, and as he spoke the eager passion of a devotee began to kindle in his eyes and vibrate through the tones of his voice. “The knowledge of a truth worked into your heart will lift you, eh, must lift you high? But base your life upon that truth, centre yourself about it, till your thoughts become instincts born from it! It must lift you still higher then; ah, how much higher! Well, I have done that. Yes, that’s why I am here. And I owe it all to you.”

Lady Tamworth repeated his words in sheer bewilderment. “You owe it all to me?”

“Yes,” he nodded, “all to you.” And with genuine gratitude he added, “You didn’t know the good that you had done.”

“Ah, don’t say that!” she cried.

The bell tinkled over the shop-door and a woman entered. Lady Tamworth bent forward and said hastily, “I must speak to you.”

“Then you must buy something; what shall it be?” Fairholm had already recovered his self-possession and was drawing out one of the shelves in the wall behind him.

“No, no!” she exclaimed, “not here; I can’t speak to you here. Come and call on me; what day will you come?”

Julian shook his head. “Not at all, I am afraid. I have not the time.”

A boy came out from the inner room and began to get ready the shutters. “Ah, it’s Friday,” she said. “You will be closing soon.”

“In five minutes.”

“Then I will wait for you. Yes, I will wait for you.”

She paused at the door and looked at Julian. He was deferentially waiting on his customer, and Lady Tamworth noticed with a queer feeling of repugnance that he had even acquired the shopman’s trick of rubbing the hands. Those five minutes proved for her a most unenviable period. Julian’s sentence,—“I owe it all to you”—pressed heavily upon her conscience. Spoken bitterly, she would have given little heed to it; but there had been a convincing sincerity in the ring of his voice. The words, besides, brought back to her Sir John’s uncomfortable aphorism and freighted it with an accusation. She applied it now as a search-light upon her jumbled recollections of Julian’s courtship, and began to realise that her efforts during that time had been directed thoughtlessly towards enlarging her influence over him. If, indeed, Julian owed this change in his condition to her, then Sir John was right, and she had employed her influence to his hurt. And it only made her fault the greater that Julian was himself unconscious of his degradation. She commenced to feel a personal responsibility commanding her to rescue him from his slough, which was increased moreover by a fear that her persuasions might prove ineffectual. For Julian’s manner pointed now to an utter absence of feeling so far as she was concerned.

At last Julian came out to her. “You will leave here,” she cried impulsively. “You will come back to us, to your friends!”

“Never,” he answered firmly.

“You must,” she pleaded; “you said you owed it all to me.”


“Well, don’t you see? If you stay here, I can never forgive myself; I shall have ruined your life.”

“Ruined it?” Julian asked in a tone of wonder. “You have made it.” He stopped and looked at Lady Tamworth in perplexity. The same perplexity was stamped upon her face. “We are at cross-purposes, I think,” he continued. “My rooms are close here. Let me give you some tea, and explain to you that you have no cause to blame yourself.”

Lady Tamworth assented with some relief. The speech had an odd civilised flavour which contrasted pleasantly with what she had imagined of his mode of life.

They crossed the road and turned into a narrow side-street. Julian halted before a house of a slovenly exterior, and opened the door. A bare rickety staircase rose upwards from their feet. Fairholm closed the door behind Lady Tamworth, struck a match (for it was quite dark within this passage), and they mounted to the fourth and topmost floor. They stopped again upon a little landing in front of a second door. A wall-paper of a cheap and offensive pattern, which had here and there peeled from the plaster, added, Lady Tamworth observed, a paltry air of tawdriness to the poverty of the place. Julian fumbled in his pocket for a key, unlocked the door, and stepped aside for his companion to enter. Following her in, he lit a pair of wax candles on the mantelpiece and a brass lamp in the corner of the room. Lady Tamworth fancied that unawares she had slipped into fairyland; so great was the contrast between this retreat and the sordid surroundings amidst which it was perched. It was furnished with a dainty, and almost a feminine luxury. The room, she could see, was no more than an oblong garret; but along one side mouse-coloured curtains fell to the ground in folds from the angle where the sloping roof met the wall; on the other a cheerful fire glowed from a hearth of white tiles and a kettle sang merrily upon the hob. A broad couch, piled with silk cushions occupied the far end beneath the window, and the feet sank with a delicate pleasure into a thick velvety carpet. In the centre a small inlaid table of cedar wood held a silver tea-service. The candlesticks were of silver also, and cast in a light and fantastic fashion. The solitary discord was a black easel funereally draped.

Julian prepared the tea, and talked while he prepared it. “It is this way,” he began quietly. “You know what I have always believed; that the will was the man, his soul, his life, everything. Well, in the old days thoughts and ideas commenced to make themselves felt in me, to crop up in my work. I would start on a picture with a clear settled design; when it was finished, I would notice that by some unconscious freak I had introduced a figure, an arabesque, always something which made the whole incongruous and bizarre. I discovered the cause during the week after I received your last letter. The thoughts, the ideas were yours; better than mine perhaps, but none the less death to me.”

Lady Tamworth stirred uneasily under a sense of guilt, and murmured a faint objection. Julian shook off the occupation of his theme and handed her some cake, and began again, standing over her with the cake in his hand, and to all seeming unconscious that there was a strain of cruelty in his words. “I found out what that meant. My emotions were mastering me, drowning the will in me. You see, I cared for you so much—then.”

A frank contempt stressing the last word cut into his hearer with the keenness of a knife. “You are unkind,” she said weakly.

“There’s no reproach to you. I have got over it long ago,” he replied cheerily. “And you showed me how to get over it; that’s why I am grateful. For I began to wonder after that, why I, who had always been on my guard against the emotions, should become so thoroughly their slave. And at last I found out the reason; it was the work I was doing.”

“Your work?” she exclaimed.

“Exactly! You remember what Plato remarked about the actor?”

“How should I?” asked poor Lady Tamworth.

“Well, he wouldn’t have him in his ideal State because acting develops the emotions, the shifty unstable part of a man. But that’s true of art as well; to do good work in art you must feel your work as an emotion. So I cut myself clear from it all. I furnished these rooms and came down here,—to live.” And Julian drew a long breath, like a man escaped from danger.

“But why come here?” Lady Tamworth urged. “You might have gone into the country—anywhere.”

“No, no, no!” he answered, setting down the cake and pacing about the room. “Wherever else I went, I must have formed new ties, created new duties. I didn’t want that; one’s feelings form the ties, one’s soul pays the duties. No, London is the only place where a man can disappear. Besides I had to do something, and I chose this work, because it didn’t touch me. I could throw it off the moment it was done. In the shop I earn the means to live; I live here.”

“But what kind of a life is it?” she asked in despair.

“I will tell you,” he replied, sinking his tone to an eager whisper; “but you mustn’t repeat it, you must keep it a secret. When I am in this room alone at night, the walls widen and widen away until at last they vanish,” and he nodded mysteriously at her. “The roof curls up like a roll of parchment, and I am left on an open platform.”

“What do you mean?” gasped Lady Tamworth.

“Yes, on an open platform underneath the stars. And do you know,” he sank his voice yet lower, “I hear them at times; very faintly of course,—their songs have so far to travel; but I hear them,—yes, I hear the stars.”

Lady Tamworth rose in a whirl of alarm. Before this crazy exaltation, her very desire to pursue her purpose vanished. For Julian’s manner even more than his words contributed to her fears. In spite of his homily, emotion was dominant in his expression, swaying his body, burning on his face and lighting his eyes with a fire of changing colours. And every note in his voice was struck within the scale of passion.

She glanced about the room; her eyes fell on the easel. “Don’t you ever paint?” she asked hurriedly.

He dropped his head and stood shifting from one foot to the other, as if he was ashamed. “At times,” he said hesitatingly; “at times I have to,—I can’t help it,—I have to express myself. Look!” He stepped suddenly across the room and slid the curtains back along the rail. The wall was frescoed from floor to ceiling.

“Julian!” Lady Tamworth cried. She forgot all her fears in face of this splendid revelation of his skill. Here was the fulfilment of his promise.

In the centre four pictures were ranged, the stages in the progress of an allegory, but executed with such masterful craft and of so vivid an intention that they read their message straightway into the heart of one’s understanding. Round about this group, were smaller sketches, miniatures of pure fancy. It seemed as if the artist had sought relief in painting these from the pressure of his chief design. Here, for instance, Day and Night were chasing one another through the rings of Saturn; there a swarm of silver stars was settling down through the darkness to the earth.

“Julian, you must come back. You can’t stay here.”

“I don’t mean to stay here long. It is merely a halting-place.”

“But for how long?”

“I have one more picture to complete.”

They turned again to the wall. Suddenly something caught Lady Tamworth’s eye. She bent forward and examined the four pictures with a close scrutiny. Then she looked back again to Julian with a happy smile upon her face. “You have done these lately?”

“Quite lately; they are the stages of a man’s life, of the struggle between his passions and his will.”

He began to describe them. In the first picture a brutish god was seated on a throne of clay; before the god a man of coarse heavy features lay grovelling; but from his shoulders sprang a white figure, weak as yet and shadowy, but pointing against the god the shadow of a spear; and underneath was written, “At last he knoweth what he made.” In the second, the figure which grovelled and that which sprang from its shoulders were plodding along a high-road at night, chained together by the wrist. The white figure halted behind, the other pressed on; and underneath was written, “They know each other not.” In the third the figures marched level, that which had grovelled scowling at its companion; but the white figure had grown tall and strong and watched its companion with contempt. Above the sky had brightened with the gleam of stars; and underneath was written, “They know each other.” In the fourth, the white figure pressed on ahead and dragged the other by the chain impatiently. Before them the sun was rising over the edge of a heath and the road ran straight towards it in a golden line; and underneath was written, “He knoweth his burden.”

Lady Tamworth waited when he had finished, in a laughing expectancy. “And is that all?” she asked. “Is that all?”

“No,” he replied slowly; “there is yet a further stage. It is unfinished.” And he pointed to the easel.

“I don’t mean that. Is that all you have to say of these?”

“I think so. Yes.”

“Look at me!”

Julian turned wonderingly to Lady Tamworth. She watched him with a dancing sparkle of her eyes. “Now look at the pictures!” Julian obeyed her. “Well,” she said after a pause, with a touch of anxiety. “What do you see now?”


“Nothing?” she asked. “Do you mean that?”

“Yes! What should I see?” She caught him by the arm and stared intently into his eyes in a horror of disbelief. He met her gaze with a frank astonishment. She dropped his arm and turned away.

“What should I see?” he repeated.

“Nothing,” she echoed with a quivering sadness in her voice. “It is late, I must go.”

The white figure in each of those four pictures wore her face, idealised and illumined, but still unmistakably her face; and he did not know it, could not perceive it though she stood by his side! The futility of her errand was proved to her. She drew on her gloves and looking towards the easel inquired dully, “What stage is that?”

“The last; and it is the last picture I shall paint. As soon as it is completed I shall leave here.”

“You will leave?” she asked, paying little heed to his words.

“Yes! The experiment has not succeeded,” and he waved a hand towards the wall. “I shall take better means next time.”

“How much remains to be done?” Lady Tamworth stepped over to the easel. With a quick spring Julian placed himself in front of it.

“No!” he cried vehemently, raising a hand to warn her off. “No!”

Lady Tamworth’s curiosity began to reawaken. “You have shown me the rest.”

“I know; you had a right to see them.”

“Then why not that?”

“I have told you,” he said stubbornly. “It is not finished.”

“But when it is finished?” she insisted.

Julian looked at her strangely. “Well, why not?” he said reasoning with himself. “Why not? It is the masterpiece.”

“You will let me know when it’s ready?”

“I will send it to you; for I shall leave here the day I finish it.”

They went down stairs and back into the Mile-End road. Julian hailed a passing hansom, and Lady Tamworth drove westwards to Berkeley Square.

The fifth picture arrived a week later in the dusk of the afternoon. Lady Tamworth unpacked it herself with an odd foreboding.

It represented an orchard glowing in the noontide sun. From the branches of a tree with lolling tongue and swollen twisted face swung the figure which had grovelled before the god. A broken chain dangled on its wrist, a few links of the chain lay on the grass beneath, and above the white figure winged and triumphant faded into the blue of the sky; and underneath was written, “He freeth himself from his burden.”

Lady Tamworth rushed to the bell and pealed loudly for her maid. “Quick!” she cried, “I am going out.” But the shrill screech of a newsboy pierced into the room. With a cry she flung open the window. She could hear his voice plainly at the corner of the square. For a while she clung to the sash in a dumb sickness. Then she said quietly: “Never mind! I will not go out after all! I did not know I was so late.”

Ensign Knightley and Other Stories - Contents

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