AT THE STUDIO
I was back in London again, back in
my studio with the dull grey light of the city falling
through the windows, and all the vivid glory, the
matchless splendour of the North lay like a past dream
in the background of my memory. But still how
clear the dream, how bright each moment of it, and
how long to my retrospective vision! Was it possible
I had only been there three or four months? It
seemed like as many years. For time has this
peculiarity, that joy and action shorten it while
it is passing, but lengthen it when it is past.
A week in which we have done nothing of note, but
spent in stationary idleness, how long and tedious
it seems, yet in looking back upon it, it appears
short as a day; while a week in which we have travelled
far, seen several cities and been glad in each, though
the gilded moments have danced by on lightning feet,
when we look back upon that week it seems as if we
have lived a year.
It was there, bright, radiant in my
mind, the picture of those blue days and golden northern
nights, and how the light of the picture seemed to
gather round, and centre in a sweet youthful face with
the blue stone earrings, hanging against the creamy
neck, beside the rounded cheek, and the cluster of
red flowers bound on each temple against the smooth
I settled myself lower in the deep
roomy armchair, and pushed my feet forward to the
blazing fire. There was still half an hour before
I could decently ring for tea, and it was too dark
already to work. I had had a hard and disagreeable
morning, too, and felt I needed rest and quiet thought.
How the red flame leapt in the grate, and what a rich,
warm, wine-dark colour it threw all round my red room!
I rose and drew the heavy crimson curtains across
the windows to shut out their steely patches of grey
that spoiled the harmony of colour. I returned
to my chair and glanced round with satisfaction.
Fitted and furnished and hung with every beautiful
shade of red, my studio always delighted and charmed
My friends said I had papered and
furnished it in red to throw up the white limbs and
contours of my models, and this had something to do
with it, for hardly any colour shows off white flesh
to better advantage, though pale blue in this matter
runs it close; but this was not the prompting motive.
Rather it was that in England where all is so cold
and tame and grey, from morals to colours, I liked
to surround myself with this glowing barbaric crimson,
this warm inviting tint.
My eye in wandering from floor to
ceiling rested finally on the empty easel, the numerous
white unused sheets of paper near it. I felt in
despair. Not even a sketch of a Phryne yet!
Not even a model found! Not even the idea of
where to find one!
I had been seeing models all the morning,
and how wearisome and vexatious, and even, towards
the end, how repulsive that becomes! The wearying
search after something that corresponds to the perfect
ideal in one’s brain, the constant raising of
hope and ensuing disappointment as a misshapen foot
or crooked knee destroys the effect of neck and shoulder,
produce at last an intolerable irritation. I had
dismissed them all finally, and they had trailed away
in the rain, a dismal procession of dark-clothed women.
A quarter of an hour of red stillness
in that comfortable room had passed, and the warmth
and quiet of it had crept over me and into me, gradually
soothing away all vexations, when a knock came
on the door and in answer to my, “Come in,”
some one entered the room behind me.
“I am so glad to find you.”
I started to my feet at the sound
of the soft voice, and went forward to the door.
“Viola! how good of you to come.”
I took both her hands and drew her into the firelight
which sparkled gratefully on her tall slender figure
and the fair waves of hair under her velvet hat.
“May I stay and have tea with
you? I have shopping all the afternoon and as
I was driving past I thought I would see if you were
in and disengaged.”
“I shall be delighted,”
I said as I wheeled another armchair up to the fire.
“You are sure? You have nothing else to
“Nothing, really nothing,”
I said, walking to the electric lights and switching
them on; “and if I had, I would leave it all
to have tea with you.”
She laughed, such a pretty dainty
laugh! What a contrast to the rough giggles amongst
the models this morning!
“Trevor! you are just the same
as ever; all compliments. But I am immensely
glad you are not going to turn me out, for I am chilly
and tired and want my tea and a talk with you very
badly.” And she settled down in her large
chair with a sigh of content.
I came back to the hearth and stood
looking down upon her. The light was rose-coloured,
falling through tinted globes, and soft as the firelight.
She looked exquisite, and she must have seen the admiration
in my eyes for she coloured under them.
She was wearing a dark green velvet
gown edged fur and which fitted her lovely figure
closely, being perhaps designed to display it.
“You have come like a glorious
sunset to a gloomy day,” I said. “I
have had a horrid morning and been depressed all the
“You have no inspiration, then,
yet for the Phryne?” she answered, glancing
round; “otherwise you would be in the seventh
“No,” I groaned, “and
the models are so dreadful; so far from giving one
an inspiration, they would kill any one had. All
last week I was trying to find a model, and all this
morning again. I would give anything for a good
She murmured a sympathetic assent,
and I went on, pursuing my own thoughts freely, for
Viola was my cousin and no one else knew or understood
me so well as she did. We had grown up together,
and always talked on all sorts of subjects to each
“The difficulty is with most
of these English models, they are so thick and heavy,
so cart-horsey, or else they are so thin. The
tall, graceful ones are too thin, I want those subtle,
gracious lines, but I don’t want sharp bones
and corners. I want smooth, rounded contours,
and yet the outlines to be delicate; I want slender
grace and suppleness with roundness....”
I stopped suddenly, the blood mounting
to my forehead. I was looking down at her as
she lay back in the chair. She looked at me, and
our gaze got locked together. A thought had sprung
suddenly between us. I realised all at once I
was describing the figure before me, realised that
I was face to face with the most perfect, enchanting
model of my dearest dreams.
There was a swift rush of red to her
face, too, as I stopped. Up till then she had
been quietly listening. But she saw my thought
then. It was visible to both of us and for a
moment a deadly silence dropped on us. Of course,
I ought not to have stopped, but the thought came to
me with such a blinding flash of sudden revelation
that it paralysed me and took speech from my lips.
Just in that moment the door opened and tea was brought
in. I turned my attention immediately to making
it, and what with asking her how much sugar she would
have and pressing her to take hot toast and crumpets,
the cloud of embarrassment passed and all was light
and easy again. I dismissed the idea instantly,
and we did not speak of the picture. I questioned
her about her shopping, we recalled the last night’s
dance where we had been together, and spoke of a hundred
other light matters in which we had common interests.
Then a silence stole over us, and Viola sank far back
in her chair, gazing with absent eyes into the fire.
Suddenly she sat up and turned to
me. I saw her heart must be beating fast, for
her face and lips had grown quite white.
“Trevor, I wish you would let
me be your model for the Phryne.”
Almost immediately she had spoken
the colour rushed in a burning stream across her face,
forcing the tears to her eyes. I saw them brim
up, sparkling to the lids, in the firelight.
I sat up in my chair, leaning forwards
towards her. My own heart seemed to rise with
a leap into my throat.
“Dearest! I could not think
of such a thing! It is so good of you, but....”
I stopped. She had sunk back
in her chair. She was looking away from me.
I saw the tears well up over the lids and roll slowly
unchecked down her face.
“I should so like to be of use
to you,” she murmured in a low tone, “and
I think I could be in that way, immense use.”
I slid to my knees beside her chair,
and took the slim, delicate white hand that hung over
the arm in mine and pressed it, very greatly moved
and hardly knowing what to answer her.
“I shall never forget you have
offered it, never cease to be grateful, but....”
“There is no question of being
grateful,” she broke in gently, “unless
it were on my side. I should think it an honour
to be made part of your work, to live for ever in
it, or at least much longer than in mortal life.
What is one’s body? It is nothing, it perishes
so soon, but what you create will last for centuries
I pressed my lips to her hand in silence.
I felt overwhelmed by the suggestion, by the unselfishness,
by the grandeur of it. I saw that the proposition
stood before her mind in a totally different light
from that in which it would present itself to most
women. But, then, the outlook of an artist upon
life and all the things in life is entirely different
from that of the ordinary person. It takes in
the wide horizon, it embraces a universe, and not
a world, it sweeps up to the large ideals, the abstract
form of things, passing over the concrete and the
actual which to ordinary minds make up the all they
And Viola was an artist: she
expressed herself in music as I did in painting.
Our temperaments were alike though our gifts were different,
and we served the same mystical Goddess though our
appointments in her temple were not the same.
As an artist the idea was, to me,
simple enough, as a man it horrified me.
“I could not allow it.”
She turned upon me.
“Why?” she said simply.
“Well, because ... because it is too great a
“I have said it is no sacrifice. It is
“It would injure you if it became known.”
“It will not become known.”
“Everything becomes known.”
“Well, I shouldn’t care if it did.”
“By and by you might regret
it. It might stand in the way of your marrying
some one you loved.”
“I don’t believe I shall
ever want to marry. Do I look like a domestic
person? In any case, I am quite sure I shouldn’t
want to marry a man if he objected to my being a model
for a great picture to my own cousin. Why, Trevor,
we are part of each other, as it were. I am like
your own sister. What can it matter? While
you are painting me I shall be nothing, the picture
will be everything. I am no more than a dream
or vision which might come before you, and you will
give me life, immortality on your canvas. As
an old woman when all beauty has gone from me, I shall
be there alive, young, beautiful still.”
“It is all sophistry, dearest, I can’t
“You will when you have thought
it all over,” she said softly, “at least
if you think I should do-are you sure of
She rose and stood for a moment, one
hand outstretched towards the mantelpiece, and resting
there for support. The velvet gown clung to her,
and almost every line of her form could be followed
with the eye or divined. The throat was long,
round, and full, the fall of the shoulder and the
way its lines melted into the curves of the breast
had the very intoxication of beauty in them, the waist
was low, slender, and perfect, the main line to the
knee and on to the ankle absolutely straight.
To my practised eyes the clothing had little concealment.
I knew that here was all that I wanted.
“I am supposed to have a very
perfect figure,” she said with a faint smile,
“and it seems rather a pity to use it so little.
To let it be of service to you, to give you just what
you want, to create a great picture, to save you all
further worry over it, which is quite knocking you
up, would be a great happiness to me.”
She paused. I said nothing.
“I do not think I must stay
any longer,” she said glancing at my clock,
“nor shall I persuade you any more. I leave
it entirely in your hands. Write to me if you
want me to come. Perhaps you may find another
She smiled up at me. Her face
had a curious delicate beauty hard to define.
The beauty of a very transparent skin and sapphire
I bent over her and kissed her bright scarlet lips.
“Dearest! if you only knew how
I appreciate all you have said, how good I think it
of you! And I could never find a lovelier model;
you know it is not that thought which influences me,
but it is impossible. You must not think of it.”
“Very well,” she said
with a laugh in her lovely eyes, “but you
She disengaged herself from me, picked
up a fur necklet from her chair, and went to the door.
“Good-night,” she said softly, and went
Left to myself, I walked restlessly
up and down the room. She was right. I could
think of nothing but her words to me, and how her visit
had changed my mood and all the atmosphere about me!
It seemed as if she had filled it with electricity.
My pulses were all beating hard. The quiet of
the studio was intolerable. I was dining out that
evening, and then going on to a dance. I would
dress now a little early and then go to the club and
spend the intermediate time there.
My bedroom opened out of the studio
by a small door, before which I generally had a red
and gold Japanese screen. I went in and switched
on the light and began to dress, trying to get away
from my crowding thoughts.
The temptation to accept Viola’s
suggestion was the greater because she was so absolutely
free and mistress of her own actions.
If she chose of her own free will
to do any particular thing there was practically no
one else to be consulted and no one to trouble her
with reproof or reproaches.
Early left an orphan and in possession
of a small fortune in her own right, she had been
brought up by an old aunt who simply worshipped her
and never questioned nor allowed to be questioned anything
which Viola did.
She had given her niece an elaborate
education, believing that a girl’s mental training
should be as severe as a boy’s, and Viola knew
her Greek and Latin and mathematics better than I knew
mine, though all these had lately given way to the
study of music, for which she had a great and peculiar
The old lady was delighted when she
found her favourite niece was really one of the children
of the gods, as she put it, and henceforth Viola’s
life was left still more unrestrained.
“She has genius, Trevor,”
she would say to me, “just as you have, and
we ordinary people can’t profess to guide or
control those who in reality are so much greater than
we are. I leave Viola to judge for herself about
life, I always have since she was quite a little thing,
and I have no fear for her. Whatever she does
I know it will always be right.”
Viola was just twenty, but this kind
of training had given her an intelligence and developed
her intellect far beyond her years.
In her outlook upon life she was more
like a man than a woman, and, never having been to
school nor mixed much with other girls of her own
age, she was free from all those small, petty habits
of mind, that littleness of mental vision that so
mars and dwarfs the ordinary feminine character.
In this question of posing for the
picture, to take her face also would, of course, be
quite impossible, but I had my own ideal for the Phryne’s
face, nor was that important.
That the figure should be something
of unusual beauty, something peculiarly distinctive
seemed to me a necessity. For the form of the
Grecian Phryne had, by the mere force of its perfect
and triumphant beauty, swept away the reason of all
that circle of grey-bearded hostile judges called
upon to condemn it, had carved for itself a place
in history for ever. There should in its presentment
be something peculiarly arresting and enchanting,
or the artistic idea, the spirit of the picture, would
The next morning I interviewed models
again, and so strange is the human mind that while
I honestly tried to find one that suited me, tried
to be satisfied, I was full of feverish apprehension
that I might do so, and when I had seen the last and
could with perfect honesty reject her, I felt a rush
of extraordinary elation all through me. I knew,
and told myself so, every half second, that Viola’s
temptation was one I ought to and must resist, and
yet the idea of yielding filled me with a wild instinctive
delight that no reason could suppress. Yes, because
once an artist has seen or conceived by his own imagination
his perfect ideal, nothing else, nothing short of
this will satisfy him. If it was difficult for
me to find a model before, it was practically impossible
to do so now. For, having once realised what
it wanted, the mind impatiently rejected everything
else, though it might possibly have accepted something
less than its desire before that realisation of it.
These models were all well-formed
women, but they were commonplace. The hold Viola’s
form had upon the eye was that it was not commonplace.
Its beauty was distinctive, peculiar, arresting.
I was not a painter of types, but of exceptions.
The common things of life are not interesting, nor
do I think they are worthy subjects for Art to concern
itself with. Something unusually beautiful, transcending
the common type, is surely the best for the artist
to try to perpetuate.
Friday came, the end of the week,
and I was still without a model. My nights had
been nearly sleepless, and my days full of feverish
anxiety: an active anxiety to accept another sitter
and withstand the temptation of Viola, which fought
desperately with the more passive anxiety not to be
satisfied and to be obliged to yield. Between
these two I had grown thin, as they fought within
me, tearing me in the struggle.
To-day, Friday, the war was over.
I had sent a note to Viola asking her to have tea
with me. If she came, if she still held to her
wish, I should accept, and the Phryne was assured.
How my heart leapt at the thought! Those last
hours before an artist gives the first concrete form
to the brain children of his intangible dreams, how
full of a double life he seems! I was back from
lunch and in the studio early; I could not tell when
she might come, and I closed all the windows and made
up the fire till the room seemed like a hot-house.
I arranged a dais with screens of flaming colour behind
it reflecting the red rays of the fire.
If she consented, she should stand
here after having changed into the Greek dress.
And as the moment chosen for the picture was that in
which Phryne is unveiling herself before her judges,
I intended to let her discard the drapery as she liked.
I should not attempt to pose her; I would not even
direct her; I should simply watch her, and at some
moment during the unveiling she would fall naturally
into just the pose-some pose-I
did not know myself yet which might give me my inspiration-that
I wished. Then I would arrest her, ask her to
remain in it. I thought so we should arrive nearest
to the effect of that famous scene of long ago.
The dress I had chosen was of a dull
red tint, not unlike that of Leighton’s picture,
but I had no fear of seeming to copy Leighton.
What true artist ever fears he may be considered a
copyist? He knows the strength and vitality of
his conception will need no spokesman when it appears.
I felt frightfully restless and excited,
a mad longing filled me to get the first sketch on
paper. I hardly thought of Viola as Viola or
my cousin then. She was already the Phryne of
Athens for me, but when suddenly a light knock came
on the door outside my heart seemed to stand still
and I could hardly find voice to say, “Come in.”
When she entered, dressed in her modern clothes and
hat, and held out her hand, all the modern, mundane
atmosphere came back and brought confusion with it.
“You said come early, so here
I am,” she said lightly. “Trevor,”
she added, gazing at me closely, “you are looking
awfully handsome, but so white and ill. What
is the matter?”
“I have been utterly wretched
about the picture. I know I ought not to accept
your offer, but the temptation is too great. If
you feel the same as you did about it, I am going
to ask you to pose for me this afternoon.”
“I do feel just the same, Trevor,”
she answered earnestly. “You can’t
think how happy and proud I am to be of use to you.”
“You know what the picture is?”
I asked her, holding her two hands and looking down
into the great eyes raised confidently to mine.
“I want you to dress in all
those red draperies, and then, standing on the dais,
to drop them, let them fall from you.”
“Yes, I think I know exactly.
I will try, and, if I don’t do it rightly, you
must tell me and we must begin again.”
She took off her hat and cloak and
gloves. Then she turned to me and asked for the
dress. I gave it to her and showed her how it
fastened and unfastened with a clasp on the shoulder.
She listened quietly to my directions,
then, gathering up all the thin drapery, walked to
the screen and disappeared from my view.
I sat down waiting. A great nervous
tension held me. I had ceased to think of the
right or wrong of my action. I was too absorbed
now in the thought of the picture to be conscious
of anything else.
When she came from behind the screen
clothed in the red Athenian draperies her face was
quite white, but composed and calm. She did not
look at me, but walked to the platform at once.
I had withdrawn to a chair as far from it as was practicable,
divining that the nearer I was the more my presence
would weigh upon her. She faced me now on the
dais, and very slowly began to unfasten the buckle
on her shoulder. I sat watching her intently,
hardly breathing, waiting for the moment.
She was to me nothing now but the
Phryne, and I was nothing but a pencil held in the
hand of Art.
The first folds of crimson fell, disclosing
her throat and shoulders, the others followed, piling
softly one on the other to her waist, where they stayed
held by her girdle. The shoulders and breasts
were revealed exquisite, gleaming white against the
dull glow of the crimson stuff. I waited.
It was a lovely, entrancing vision but I waited.
She lowered her hand from her shoulder and brought
it to her waist, firmly and without hesitation she
unclasped the belt, and then taking the sides of it,
one in each hand, with its enclosed drapery, which
parted easily in the centre, she made a half step forwards
to free herself from it, and stood revealed from head
to foot. It was the moment. Her head thrown
up, with her eyes fixed far above me, her throat and
the perfect breast thrown outwards and forwards, the
slight bend at the slim waist accentuating the round
curves of the hips, one straight limb with the delicate
foot advanced just before the other, the arms round,
beautifully moulded, held tense at her sides, as the
hands clutched tightly the falling folds behind her,
these made up the physical pose, and the pride, the
tense nervousness, the defiance of her own feelings
gave its meaning expression. I raised my hand
and called to her to pause just so, to be still, if
she could, without stirring.
She quivered all through her frame
at the sudden shock of hearing my voice; then stood
rigid. I had my paper ready, and began to sketch
How beautiful she was! In all
my experience, in the whole of my career, I had never
had such a model. The skin was a marvellous whiteness:
there seemed no brown, red, or yellow shades upon it;
nor any of that mottled soap appearance that ruins
so many models. She was white, with the warm,
true dazzling whiteness of the perfect blonde.
My head burned: I felt that great
wave of inspiration roll through me that lifts the
artist to the feet of heaven. There is no happiness
like it. No, not even the divine transports and
triumph of love can equal it.
I sketched rapidly, every line fell
on the paper as I wished it. The time flew.
I felt nothing, knew nothing, but that the glorious
image was growing, taking life under my hand.
I was in a world of utter silence, alone with the
spirit of divine beauty directing me, creating through
Suddenly, from a long distance it
seemed, a little cry or exclamation came to me.
“Trevor, I must move!”
I started, dropped the paper, and rose.
The light had grown dim, the fire
had burned hollow. Viola had dropped to her knees,
and was for the moment a huddled blot of whiteness
amongst the crimson tones. I advanced, filled
with self-reproach for my selfish absorption.
But she rose almost directly, wrapped in some of the
muslin, and walked from the dais to the screen.
I hesitated to follow her there, and went back to the
fallen picture. I picked it up and gazed on it
with rapture-how perfect it was! The
best thing of a lifetime! Viola seemed so long
behind the screen I grew anxious and walked over to
it. As I came round it, she was just drawing
on her bodice, her arms and neck were still bare.
She motioned me back imperatively, and I saw the colour
stream across her face. I retreated. It
was absurd in a way, that blush as my eyes rested on
her then, I who just now ... and yet perfectly reasonable,
understandable. Then she was the Phryne, a vision
to me, as she had said, in ancient Athens. And
now we were modern man and woman again. All that
we do in this life takes its colour from our attitude
of mind towards it, and but for her artist’s
mind, a girl like Viola could never have done what
she had at all.
In a moment more she came from behind
the screen. She looked white and cold, and came
towards the fire shivering. I drew her into my
arms, strained her against my breast, and kissed her
over and over again in a passion of gratitude.
“How can I thank you! You
have done for me what no one else could. I can
never tell you what I feel about it.”
She put her arms round my neck, and
kissed me in return.
“Any one would do all they could
for you, I think,” she said softly. “You
are so beautiful and so nice about things I am only
too happy to have been of use to you.”
“What a brute I was to have
forgotten you were standing so long. Was it very
bad? Were you cold?”
“At the end I was, but I shouldn’t
have moved for that. I got so cramped. I
couldn’t keep my limbs still any longer.
I was sorry to be so stupid and have to disturb you.”
“I can’t think how you
stood so well,” I said remorsefully, “and
so long. It is so different for a practised model.”
“Well, I did practise keeping
quite still in one position every day all this last
week, but of course a week is not long.”
I had pressed the bell, and tea was
brought in. I busied myself with making it for
her. She looked white and ill. I felt burning
with a sense of elation, of delighted triumph.
The picture was there. It glimmered a white patch
against the chair a little way off. The idea
was realised, the inspiration caught, all the rest
was only a matter of time.
We drank our tea in silence.
Viola looked away from me into the fire. She
did not seem constrained or embarrassed. Having
decided to do, as she had, and conquer her own feelings,
she did so simply, grandly, in a way that suited the
greatness of her nature. There was no mincing
modesty, no self-conscious affectation. The agony
of confusion that she had felt in that moment when
she had stood before me with her hand on the clasp
of her girdle, had been evident to me, but her pride
forced her to crush it out of sight.
I went over to her low chair and sat down at her feet.
“Do you know you have shown
me this afternoon something which I did not believe
existed-an absolutely perfect body without
a fault or flaw anywhere. I did not believe there
could be anything so exquisitely beautiful.”
She coloured, but a warm happy look
came into her eyes as she gazed back at me.
“So I did really satisfy you?
I realised your expectations?” she murmured.
I lifted one of her hands to my lips and kissed it.
“Satisfied is not the word,”
I returned, looking up into the dark blue eyes above
me with my own burning with admiration. “I
was entranced. May I shew it to you?”
“Yes, I should like to see it,” she answered.
I rose and brought over to her the
picture and set it so that we both could see it together.
She gazed at it some time in silence.
“Do you like it?” I asked suddenly with
“You have idealised me, Trevor!”
“It is impossible to idealise
what is in itself divine,” I replied quietly.
She looked at me, her face full Of colour but her eyes
alight and smiling.
“I am so glad, so happy that
you are pleased. You have drawn it magnificently.
What life you put into your things-they
live and breathe.”
She turned and looked at my clock.
“I must go now, I have been
here ages.” She began to put on her hat
and cloak. When I had fastened the latter round
her throat, I took both her hands in mine.
“May I expect you to-morrow?”
“To-morrow? Let me see.
Well, I was going to the Carrington’s to lunch.
I promised to go, so I must; but I need not stay long.
I can leave at three and be here at half past; only
that will be too late in any case on account of the
light, won’t it?”
“Not if it is a bright day.”
“You see, I need not accept
any more invitations. I shan’t, if I am
coming here, but I have one or two old engagements
I must keep.”
I dropped her hands and turned away.
“But I can’t let you give
up your amusements, your time for me in this way!”
“It’s not much to give
up-a few luncheons and teas! As long
as I have time for my music I will give you all the
She stood drawing on her gloves, facing
the fire; her large soft, fearless eyes met mine across
the red light.
I stepped forwards towards her impulsively.
“What can I say?
How can I thank you or express a hundredth part of
Viola shook her head with her softest
smile and a warm caressing light in her eyes.
“You look at it quite wrongly,”
she said lightly. “My reward is great enough,
surely! You are giving me immortality.”
Then she went out, and I was alone.
For a fortnight I was happy.
Viola came regularly every day to the studio, and
the picture grew rapidly, I was absorbed in it, lived
for it, and had that strange peace and glowing content
that Art bestows, and which like that other peace
“passeth all understanding.”
Then gradually a sense of unrest mingled
with the calm. The whole afternoon while Viola
was with me I worked happily, content to the point
of being absolutely oblivious of everything except
ourselves and the picture. Our tea together afterwards,
when we discussed the progress made and the colour
effects, was a delight. But the moment the door
was closed after her, when she had left me, a blank
seemed to spread round me. The picture itself
could not console me. I gazed and gazed at it,
but the gaze did not satisfy me nor soothe the feverish
unrest. I longed for her presence beside me again.
One day after the posing she seemed
so tired and exhausted that I begged her to lie down
a little and drew up my great comfortable couch, like
a Turkish divan, to the fire. She did as she was
bid, and I heaped up a pile of blue cushions behind
her fair head.
“I am so tired,” she exclaimed
and let her eyes close and her arms fall beside her.
I stood looking down on her.
Her face was shell-like in its clear fairness and
transparency, and the beautiful expressive eyebrows
drawn delicately on the white forehead appealed to
The intimacy established between us,
her complete willing sacrifice to me, her surrender,
her trust in me, the knowledge of herself and her
beauty she had allowed me gave birth suddenly in my
heart to a great overwhelming tenderness and a necessity
for its expression.
I bent over her, pressed my lips down
on hers and held them there. She did not open
her eyes, but raised her arms and put them round my
neck, pressing me to her. In a joyous wave of
emotion I threw myself beside her and drew the slender,
supple figure into my arms.
“Trevor,” she murmured,
as soon as I would let her, “I am afraid you
are falling in love with me.”
“I have already,” I answered.
“I love you, I want for my own. You must
marry me, and come and live at the studio.”
“I don’t think I can marry
you,” she replied in very soft tones, but she
did not try to move from my clasp.
“Artists should not marry:
it prevents their development. How old are you?”
“Twenty-eight,” I answered,
half-submerged in the delight of the contact with
her, of knowing her in my arms, hardly willing or able
to listen to what she said.
“And how many women have you loved?”
“Oh, I don’t know,”
I answered. “I have been with lots, of course,
but I don’t think I have ever loved at all till
“What about the little girl in the tea-shop
“I don’t think I loved her. I wanted
her as an experience.”
“Is it not just the same with me?”
“No, it isn’t. It’s
quite different. Do not worry me with questions,
Viola. Kiss me and tell me you love me.”
She raised herself suddenly on one
elbow and leant over me, kissing me on the eyes and
lips, all over my face, with passionate intensity.
“I do love you. You are
like my life to me, but I know I ought not to marry
you. I should absorb you. You would love
me. You would not want to be unfaithful to me.
But fidelity to one person is madness an impossibility
to an artist if he is to reach his highest development.
It can’t be. We must not think of it.”
The blood went to my head in great
waves. The supreme tenderness of a moment back
seemed gone, her words had roused another phase of
passion, the harsh fury of it.
“I don’t care about the
art, I don’t care about anything. You shall
marry me. I will make you love me.”
“You don’t understand.
If you were fifty-eight I would marry you directly.”
“You shall marry me before then,”
I answered, and kissed her again and put my hands
up to her soft-haired head to pull it down to my breast
and dragged loose some of its soft coils.
“Trevor, you are mad. Let me get up.”
I rose myself, and left her free to
get up. She sat up on the couch, white and trembling.
“Now you are going to say you
won’t come to me any more, I suppose?”
I said angrily. The nervous excitement of the
moment was so great; there was such a wild booming
in my ears I could hardly hear my own voice.
She looked up. The tears welled
into her luminous blue eyes.
“How unkind you are! and how
unjust! Of course I shall come, must come every
day if you want it till the Phryne is done. You
don’t know how I love you.”
I took her dear little hand and kissed it.
“I am sorry,” I said.
“Forgive me, but you must not say such stupid
things. Of course you will marry me; why, we are
half married already. Most people would say we
ought to be.”
I turned on the lights and drew the
table up to the fire, which I stirred, and began to
make the tea.
Viola sat on the edge of the couch
in silence, coiling up her hair.
She seemed very pale and tired, and
I tried to soothe her with increased tenderness.
I made her a cup of tea and came and sat beside her
while she drank it. Then I put my arm round her
waist and got her to lean against me, and put her
soft fair-haired head down on my shoulder and rest
there in silence.
I stroked one of her hands that lay
cold and nerveless in her lap with my warm one.
“You have done so much for me,”
I said softly; “wonderful things which I can
never forget, and now you must belong to me altogether.
No two people could love each other more than we do.
It would be absurd of us not to marry.”
I kissed her, and she accepted my caresses and did
not argue with me any more; so I felt happier, and
when she rose to leave our good-bye was very tender,
our last kiss an ecstasy.
When she had gone I picked up one
of the sketches I had first made of her and gazed
long at it.
How extravagantly I had come to love
her now. I realised in those moments how strong
this passion was that had grown up, as it were, under
cover of the work, and that I had not fully recognised
How intensely the sight of these wonderful
lines moved me! I felt that I could worship her,
literally. That she had become to me as a religion
is to the enthusiast.
I must be the possessor, the sole
owner of her. I felt she was mine already.
The agony and the loss, if she ever gave herself to
another, would be unendurable. If that happened
I should let a revolver end everything for me.
I did not believe even the thought of my work would
Yet how curious this same passion
is, I reflected, gazing at the exquisite image on
the paper before me. If one of these lines were
bent out of shape, twisted, or crooked, this same passion
would cease to be. The love and affection and
esteem I had for her would remain, but this intense
desire and longing for her to be my own property,
which shook me now to the very depths of my system,
would utterly vanish.
Yet it would be wrong to say that
these lines alone had captured me, for had they enclosed
a stupid or commonplace mind they would have stirred
me as little as if they themselves had been imperfect.
No it is when we meet a Spirit that
calls to us from within a form of outward beauty,
and only then, that the greatest passion is born within
And that I felt for Viola now, and
I knew-looking back through a vista of
other and lighter loves-I had never known
yet its equal. She loved me, too, that great
fact was like a chord of triumphant music ringing
through my heart. Then why this fancy that she
would not marry me? How could I possibly break
it down? persuade her of its folly?
I walked up and down the studio all
that evening, unable to go out to dinner, unable to
think of anything but her, and all through the night
I tossed about, restless and sleepless, longing for
the hour on the following day which should bring her
to me again.
Yet how those hours tried me now!
It would be impossible to continue. She must
and should marry me. It was only for me she held
back from it apparently, yet for me it would be everything.
One afternoon, after a long sitting,
the power to work seemed to desert me suddenly.
My throat closed nervously, my mouth grew dry, the
whole room seemed swimming round me, and the faultless,
dazzling figure before me seemed receding into a darkening
mist. I flung away my brush and rose suddenly.
I felt I must move, walk about, and I started to pace
the room then suddenly reeled, and saved myself by
clutching at the mantelpiece.
“What is it? What is the
matter?” came Viola’s voice, sharp with
anxiety, across the room. “Are you ill?
Shall I come to you?”
“No, no,” I answered,
and put my head down on the mantelpiece. “Go
and dress. I can’t work any more.”
I heard her soft slight movements
as she left the dais. I did not turn, but sank
into the armchair beside me, my face covered by my
Screens of colour passed before my eyes, my ears sang.
I had not moved when I felt her come
over to me. I looked up, she was pale with anxiety.
“You are ill, Trevor! I am so sorry.”
“I have worked a little too
much, that’s all,” I said constrainedly,
turning from her lovely anxious eyes.
“Have you time to stay with
me this evening? We could go out and get some
dinner, if you have, and then go on to a theatre.
Would they miss you?”
“Not if I sent them a wire.
I should like to stay with you. Are you better?”
I looked up and caught one of her
hands between my own burning and trembling ones.
“I shall never be any better
till I have you for my own, till we are married.
Why are you so cruel to me?”
“Cruel to you? Is that
possible?” Her face had crimsoned violently,
then it paled again to stone colour.
“Well, don’t let’s
discuss that. The picture’s done. I
can’t work on it any more. It can’t
be helped. Let’s go out and get some dinner,
Viola was silent, but I felt her glance
of dismay at the only half-finished figure on the
She put on her hat and coat in silence,
and we went out. After we had ordered dinner
and were seated before it at the restaurant table we
found we could not eat it. We sat staring at one
another across it, doing nothing.
“Did you really mean that ...
that you wouldn’t finish the picture?”
she said, after a long silence.
I looked back at her; the pale transparency
of her skin, the blue of the eyes, the bright curls
of her hair in the glow of the electric lamp, looked
wonderfully delicate, entrancing, and held my gaze.
“I don’t think I can.
I have got to a point where I must get away from it
and from you.”
“But it is dreadful to leave it unfinished.”
“It’s better than going
mad. Let’s have some champagne. Perhaps
that will give us an appetite.”
Viola did not decline, and the wine
had a good effect upon us.
We got through some part of our dinner
and then took a hansom to the theatre. As we
sat close, side by side, in one of the dark streets,
I bent over her and whispered:
“If we had been married this
morning, and you were coming back to the studio with
me after the theatre I should be quite happy and I
could finish the picture.”
She said nothing, only seemed to quiver
in silence, and looked away from me out of the window.
We took stalls and had very good seats,
but what that play was like I never knew. I tried
to keep my eyes on the stage, but it floated away
from me in waves of light and colour. I was lost
in wondering where I had better go to get fresh inspiration,
to escape from the picture, from Viola, from myself.
Away, I must get away. Coelum, non animum, mutant
qui trans mare current is not always true.
Our mind is but a chameleon and takes its hues from
In the vestibule at the end I said:
“It’s early yet.
Come and have supper somewhere with me, you had a
Anything to keep her with me for an
hour longer! Any excuse to put off, to delay
that frightful wrench that seems to tear out the inside
of both body and soul which parting from her to-night
“Do you want me to come to the
studio with you afterwards?” she asked.
I looked back at her with my heart
beating violently. Her face was very pale, and
the pupils in her eyes dilated.
We had moved through the throng and passed outside.
The night was fine. We walked
on, looking out for a disengaged hansom. I could
hardly breathe: my heart seemed stifling me.
What was in her mind? What would the next few
minutes mean for us both?
My brain swam. My thoughts went
round in dizzying circles.
“We shan’t have time for
supper and to go to the studio as well,” I answered
“I don’t think I want any supper,”
A sudden joy like a great flame leapt
through me as I caught the words.
A crawling hansom came up. I
hailed it and put her in and sprang in beside her,
full of that delight that touches in its intensity
upon agony. “Westbourne Street,”
I called to the man. “N, The Studio.”