Tracy made slow progress with his work, for his mind wandered a good
deal. Many things were puzzling him. Finally a light burst upon him all
of a sudden--seemed to, at any rate--and he said to himself, "I've got
the clew at last--this man's mind is off its balance; I don't know how
much, but it's off a point or two, sure; off enough to explain this mess
of perplexities, anyway.
These dreadful chromos which he takes for old
masters; these villainous portraits--which to his frantic mind represent
Rossmores; the hatchments; the pompous name of this ramshackle old crib--
Rossmore Towers; and that odd assertion of his, that I was expected. How
could I be expected? that is, Lord Berkeley. He knows by the papers that
that person was burned up in the New Gadsby. Why, hang it, he really
doesn't know who he was expecting; for his talk showed that he was not
expecting an Englishman, or yet an artist, yet I answer his requirements
notwithstanding. He seems sufficiently satisfied with me. Yes, he is a
little off; in fact I am afraid he is a good deal off, poor old
gentleman. But he's interesting--all people in about his condition are,
I suppose. I hope he'll like my work; I would like to come every day and
study him. And when I write my father--ah, that hurts! I mustn't get on
that subject; it isn't good for my spirits. Somebody coming--I must get
to work. It's the old gentleman again. He looks bothered. Maybe my
clothes are suspicious; and they are--for an artist. If my conscience
would allow me to make a change, but that is out of the question.
I wonder what he's making those passes in the air for, with his hands.
I seem to be the object of them. Can he be trying to mesmerize me?
I don't quite like it. There's something uncanny about it."
The colonel muttered to himself, "It has an effect on him, I can see it
myself. That's enough for one time, I reckon. He's not very solid, yet,
I suppose, and I might disintegrate him. I'll just put a sly question or
two at him, now, and see if I can find out what his condition is, and
where he's from."
He approached and said affably:
"Don't let me disturb you, Mr. Tracy; I only want to take a little
glimpse of your work. Ah, that's fine--that's very fine indeed. You are
doing it elegantly. My daughter will be charmed with this. May I sit
down by you?"
"Oh, do; I shall be glad."
"It won't disturb you? I mean, won't dissipate your inspirations?"
Tracy laughed and said they were not ethereal enough to be very easily
The colonel asked a number of cautious and well-considered questions--
questions which seemed pretty odd and flighty to Tracy--but the answers
conveyed the information desired, apparently, for the colonel said to
himself, with mixed pride and gratification:
"It's a good job as far as I've got, with it. He's solid. Solid and
going to last, solid as the real thing.
It's wonderful--wonderful. I believe I could--petrify him." After a
little he asked, warily "Do you prefer being here, or--or there?"
"Why--er--where you've been?"
Tracy's thought flew to his boarding-house, and he answered with decision
"Oh, here, much!"
The colonel was startled, and said to himself, "There's no uncertain ring
about that. It indicates where he's been to, poor fellow. Well, I am
satisfied, now. I'm glad I got him out."
He sat thinking, and thinking, and watching the brush go. At length he
said to himself, "Yes, it certainly seems to account for the failure of
my endeavors in poor Berkeley's case. He went in the other direction.
Well, it's all right. He's better off."
Sally Sellers entered from the street, now, looking her divinest, and the
artist was introduced to her. It was a violent case of mutual love at
first sight, though neither party was entirely aware of the fact,
perhaps. The Englishman made this irrelevant remark to himself, "Perhaps
he is not insane, after all." Sally sat down, and showed an interest in
Tracy's work which greatly pleased him, and a benevolent forgiveness of
it which convinced him that the girl's nature was cast in a large mould.
Sellers was anxious to report his discoveries to Hawkins; so he took his
leave, saying that if the two "young devotees of the colored Muse"
thought they could manage without him, he would go and look after his
affairs. The artist said to himself, "I think he is a little eccentric,
perhaps, but that is all." He reproached himself for having injuriously
judged a man without giving him any fair chance to show what he really
Of course the stranger was very soon at his ease and chatting along
comfortably. The average American girl possesses the valuable qualities
of naturalness, honesty, and inoffensive straightforwardness; she is
nearly barren of troublesome conventions and artificialities,
consequently her presence and her ways are unembarrassing, and one is
acquainted with her and on the pleasantest terms with her before he knows
how it came about. This new acquaintanceship--friendship, indeed--
progressed swiftly; and the unusual swiftness of it, and the thoroughness
of it are sufficiently evidenced and established by one noteworthy fact--
that within the first half hour both parties had ceased to be conscious
of Tracy's clothes. Later this consciousness was re-awakened; it was
then apparent to Gwendolen that she was almost reconciled to them, and it
was apparent to Tracy that he wasn't. The re-awakening was brought about
by Gwendolen's inviting the artist to stay to dinner. He had to decline,
because he wanted to live, now--that is, now that there was something to
live for--and he could not survive in those clothes at a gentleman's
table. He thought he knew that. But he went away happy, for he saw that
Gwendolen was disappointed.
And whither did he go? He went straight to a slopshop and bought as neat
and reasonably well-fitting a suit of clothes as an Englishman could be
persuaded to wear. He said--to himself, but at his conscience--"I know
it's wrong; but it would be wrong not to do it; and two wrongs do not
make a right."
This satisfied him, and made his heart light. Perhaps it will also
satisfy the reader--if he can make out what it means.
The old people were troubled about Gwendolen at dinner, because she was
so distraught and silent. If they had noticed, they would have found
that she was sufficiently alert and interested whenever the talk stumbled
upon the artist and his work; but they didn't notice, and so the chat
would swap around to some other subject, and then somebody would
presently be privately worrying about Gwendolen again, and wondering if
she were not well, or if something had gone wrong in the millinery line.
Her mother offered her various reputable patent medicines, and tonics
with iron and other hardware in them, and her father even proposed to
send out for wine, relentless prohibitionist and head of the order in the
District of Columbia as he was, but these kindnesses were all declined--
thankfully, but with decision. At bedtime, when the family were breaking
up for the night, she privately looted one of the brushes, saying to
herself, "It's the one he has used, the most."
The next morning Tracy went forth wearing his new suit, and equipped with
a pink in his button-hole--a daily attention from Puss. His whole soul
was full of Gwendolen Sellers, and this condition was an inspiration,
art-wise. All the morning his brush pawed nimbly away at the canvases,
almost without his awarity--awarity, in this sense being the sense of
being aware, though disputed by some authorities--turning out marvel upon
marvel, in the way of decorative accessories to the portraits, with a
felicity and celerity which amazed the veterans of the firm and fetched
out of them continuous explosions of applause.
Meantime Gwendolen was losing her morning, and many dollars. She
supposed Tracy was coming in the forenoon--a conclusion which she had
jumped to without outside help. So she tripped down stairs every little
while from her work-parlor to arrange the brushes and things over again,
and see if he had arrived. And when she was in her work-parlor it was
not profitable, but just the other way--as she found out to her sorrow.
She had put in her idle moments during the last little while back, in
designing a particularly rare and capable gown for herself, and this
morning she set about making it up; but she was absent minded, and made
an irremediable botch of it. When she saw what she had done, she knew
the reason of it and the meaning of it; and she put her work away from
her and said she would accept the sign. And from that time forth she
came no more away from the Audience Chamber, but remained there and
waited. After luncheon she waited again. A whole hour. Then a great
joy welled up in her heart, for she saw him coming. So she flew back up
stairs thankful, and could hardly wait for him to miss the principal
brush, which she had mislaid down there, but knew where she had mislaid
it. However, all in good time the others were called in and couldn't
find the brush, and then she was sent for, and she couldn't find it
herself for some little time; but then she found it when the others had
gone away to hunt in the kitchen and down cellar and in the woodshed,
and all those other places where people look for things whose ways they
are not familiar with. So she gave him the brush, and remarked that she
ought to have seen that everything was ready for him, but it hadn't
seemed necessary, because it was so early that she wasn't expecting--but
she stopped there, surprised at herself for what she was saying; and he
felt caught and ashamed, and said to himself, "I knew my impatience would
drag me here before I was expected, and betray me, and that is just what
it has done; she sees straight through me--and is laughing at me, inside,
Gwendolen was very much pleased, on one account, and a little the other
way in another; pleased with the new clothes and the improvement which
they had achieved; less pleased by the pink in the buttonhole.
Yesterday's pink had hardly interested her; this one was just like it,
but somehow it had got her immediate attention, and kept it. She wished
she could think of some way of getting at its history in a properly
colorless and indifferent way. Presently she made a venture. She said:
"Whatever a man's age may be, he can reduce it several years by putting a
bright-colored flower in his button-hole. I have often noticed that.
Is that your sex's reason for wearing a boutonniere?"
"I fancy not, but certainly that reason would be a sufficient one. I've
never heard of the idea before."
"You seem to prefer pinks. Is it on account of the color, or the form?"
"Oh no," he said, simply, "they are given to me. I don't think I have
"They are given to him," she said to herself, and she felt a coldness
toward that pink. "I wonder who it is, and what she is like." The
flower began to take up a good deal of room; it obtruded itself
everywhere, it intercepted all views, and marred them; it was becoming
exceedingly annoying and conspicuous for a little thing. "I wonder if he
cares for her." That thought gave her a quite definite pain.