The sequence of events was such that MacMaster did not make his
pilgrimage to Hugh Treffinger's studio until three years after that
painter's death. MacMaster was himself a painter, an American of
the Gallicized type, who spent his winters in New York, his summers
in Paris, and no inconsiderable amount of time on the broad waters
between. He had often contemplated stopping in London on one of
his return trips in the late autumn, but he had always deferred
leaving Paris until the prick of necessity drove him home by the
quickest and shortest route.
Treffinger was a comparatively young man at the time of his
death, and there had seemed no occasion for haste until haste was
of no avail. Then, possibly, though there had been some
correspondence between them, MacMaster felt certain qualms about
meeting in the flesh a man who in the flesh was so diversely
reported. His intercourse with Treffinger's work had been so
deep and satisfying, so apart from other appreciations, that he
rather dreaded a critical juncture of any sort. He had always
felt himself singularly inept in personal relations, and in this
case he had avoided the issue until it was no longer to be feared
or hoped for. There still remained, however, Treffinger's great
unfinished picture, the Marriage of Phaedra, which had never
left his studio, and of which MacMaster's friends had now and again
brought report that it was the painter's most characteristic
The young man arrived in London in the evening, and the next
morning went out to Kensington to find Treffinger's studio. It
lay in one of the perplexing bystreets off Holland Road, and the
number he found on a door set in a high garden wall, the top of
which was covered with broken green glass and over which
a budding lilac bush nodded. Treffinger's plate was still there,
and a card requesting visitors to ring for the attendant. In
response to MacMaster's ring, the door was opened by a cleanly
built little man, clad in a shooting jacket and trousers that had
been made for an ampler figure. He had a fresh complexion, eyes
of that common uncertain shade of gray, and was closely shaven
except for the incipient muttonchops on his ruddy cheeks. He
bore himself in a manner strikingly capable, and there was a sort
of trimness and alertness about him, despite the too-generous
shoulders of his coat. In one hand he held a bulldog pipe, and
in the other a copy of Sporting Life. While MacMaster was
explaining the purpose of his call he noticed that the man surveyed
him critically, though not impertinently. He was admitted into a
little tank of a lodge made of whitewashed stone, the back door
and windows opening upon a garden. A visitor's book and a pile
of catalogues lay on a deal table, together with a bottle of ink
and some rusty pens. The wall was ornamented with photographs
and colored prints of racing favorites.
"The studio is h'only open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays,"
explained the man--he referred to himself as "Jymes"--"but of
course we make exceptions in the case of pynters. Lydy Elling
Treffinger 'erself is on the Continent, but Sir 'Ugh's orders was
that pynters was to 'ave the run of the place." He selected a key
from his pocket and threw open the door into the studio which, like
the lodge, was built against the wall of the garden.
MacMaster entered a long, narrow room, built of smoothed
planks, painted a light green; cold and damp even on that fine
May morning. The room was utterly bare of furniture--unless a
stepladder, a model throne, and a rack laden with large leather
portfolios could be accounted such--and was windowless, without
other openings than the door and the skylight, under which hung
the unfinished picture itself. MacMaster had never seen so many
of Treffinger's paintings together. He knew the painter had
married a woman with money and had been able to keep such of his
pictures as he wished. These, with all of 182 his
replicas and studies, he had left as a sort of common legacy to
the younger men of the school he had originated.
As soon as he was left alone MacMaster sat down on the edge
of the model throne before the unfinished picture. Here indeed
was what he had come for; it rather paralyzed his receptivity for
the moment, but gradually the thing found its way to him.
At one o'clock he was standing before the collection of studies
done for Boccaccio's Garden when he heard a voice at his
"Pardon, sir, but I was just about to lock up and go to
lunch. Are you lookin' for the figure study of Boccaccio
'imself?" James queried respectfully. "Lydy Elling Treffinger
give it to Mr. Rossiter to take down to Oxford for some lectures
he's been agiving there."
"Did he never paint out his studies, then?" asked MacMaster
with perplexity. "Here are two completed ones for this picture.
Why did he keep them?"
"I don't know as I could say as to that, sir," replied James,
smiling indulgently, "but that was 'is way. That is to say, 'e
pynted out very frequent, but 'e always made two studies to stand;
one in watercolors and one in oils, before 'e went at the final
picture--to say nothink of all the pose studies 'e made in pencil
before he begun on the composition proper at all. He was that
particular. You see, 'e wasn't so keen for the final effect as for
the proper pyntin' of 'is pictures. 'E used to say they ought to
be well made, the same as any other h'article of trade. I can lay
my 'and on the pose studies for you, sir." He rummaged in one of
the portfolios and produced half a dozen drawings, "These three,"
he continued, "was discarded; these two was the pose he finally
accepted; this one without alteration, as it were.
"That's in Paris, as I remember," James continued reflectively.
"It went with the Saint Cecilia into the Baron H---'s
collection. Could you tell me, sir, 'as 'e it still? I
don't like to lose account of them, but some 'as changed 'ands
since Sir 'Ugh's death."
"H---'s collection is still intact, I believe," replied MacMaster.
"You were with Treffinger long?"
"From my boyhood, sir," replied James with gravity. "I was
a stable boy when 'e took me."
"You were his man, then?"
"That's it, sir. Nobody else ever done anything around the studio.
I always mixed 'is colors and 'e taught me to do a share of the
varnishin'; 'e said as 'ow there wasn't a 'ouse in England as could
do it proper. You ayn't looked at the Marriage yet, sir?"
he asked abruptly, glancing doubtfully at MacMaster, and indicating
with his thumb the picture under the north light.
"Not very closely. I prefer to begin with something simpler;
that's rather appalling, at first glance," replied MacMaster.
"Well may you say that, sir," said James warmly. "That one regular
killed Sir 'Ugh; it regular broke 'im up, and nothink will ever
convince me as 'ow it didn't bring on 'is second stroke."
When MacMaster walked back to High Street to take his bus
his mind was divided between two exultant convictions. He felt
that he had not only found Treffinger's greatest picture, but
that, in James, he had discovered a kind of cryptic index to the
painter's personality--a clue which, if tactfully followed, might
lead to much.
Several days after his first visit to the studio, MacMaster
wrote to Lady Mary Percy, telling her that he would be in London
for some time and asking her if he might call. Lady Mary was an
only sister of Lady Ellen Treffinger, the painter's widow, and
MacMaster had known her during one winter he spent at Nice. He
had known her, indeed, very well, and Lady Mary, who was
astonishingly frank and communicative upon all subjects, had been
no less so upon the matter of her sister's unfortunate marriage.
In her reply to his note Lady Mary named an afternoon when
she would be alone. She was as good as her word, and when
MacMaster arrived he found the drawing room empty. Lady Mary
entered shortly after he was announced. She was a tall woman,
thin and stiffly jointed, and her body stood out under the folds
of her gown with the rigor of cast iron. This rather metallic
suggestion was further carried out in her heavily knuckled hands,
her stiff gray hair, and her long, bold-featured face,
which was saved from freakishness only by her alert eyes.
"Really," said Lady Mary, taking a seat beside him and
giving him a sort of military inspection through her nose
glasses, "really, I had begun to fear that I had lost you
altogether. It's four years since I saw you at Nice, isn't it? I
was in Paris last winter, but I heard nothing from you."
"I was in New York then."
"It occurred to me that you might be. And why are you in London?"
"Can you ask?" replied MacMaster gallantly.
Lady Mary smiled ironically. "But for what else, incidentally?"
"Well, incidentally, I came to see Treffinger's studio and
his unfinished picture. Since I've been here, I've decided to
stay the summer. I'm even thinking of attempting to do a
biography of him."
"So that is what brought you to London?"
"Not exactly. I had really no intention of anything so serious
when I came. It's his last picture, I fancy, that has rather
thrust it upon me. The notion has settled down on me like a thing
"You'll not be offended if I question the clemency of such a
destiny," remarked Lady Mary dryly. "Isn't there rather a
surplus of books on that subject already?"
"Such as they are. Oh, I've read them all"--here MacMaster
faced Lady Mary triumphantly. "He has quite escaped your amiable
critics," he added, smiling.
"I know well enough what you think, and I daresay we are not
much on art," said Lady Mary with tolerant good humor. "We leave
that to peoples who have no physique. Treffinger made a stir for
a time, but it seems that we are not capable of a sustained
appreciation of such extraordinary methods. In the end we go
back to the pictures we find agreeable and unperplexing. He was
regarded as an experiment, I fancy; and now it seems that he was
rather an unsuccessful one. If you've come to us in a missionary
spirit, we'll tolerate you politely, but we'll laugh in our
sleeve, I warn you."
"That really doesn't daunt me, Lady Mary," declared
MacMaster blandly. "As I told you, I'm a man with a mission."
Lady Mary laughed her hoarse, baritone laugh. "Bravo! And
you've come to me for inspiration for your panegyric?"
MacMaster smiled with some embarrassment. "Not altogether
for that purpose. But I want to consult you, Lady Mary, about
the advisability of troubling Lady Ellen Treffinger in the
matter. It seems scarcely legitimate to go on without asking her
to give some sort of grace to my proceedings, yet I feared the
whole subject might be painful to her. I shall rely wholly upon
"I think she would prefer to be consulted," replied Lady
Mary judicially. "I can't understand how she endures to have the
wretched affair continually raked up, but she does. She seems to
feel a sort of moral responsibility. Ellen has always been
singularly conscientious about this matter, insofar as her light
goes,--which rather puzzles me, as hers is not exactly a
magnanimous nature. She is certainly trying to do what she
believes to be the right thing. I shall write to her, and you
can see her when she returns from Italy."
"I want very much to meet her. She is, I hope, quite
recovered in every way," queried MacMaster, hesitatingly.
"No, I can't say that she is. She has remained in much the
same condition she sank to before his death. He trampled over
pretty much whatever there was in her, I fancy. Women don't
recover from wounds of that sort--at least, not women of Ellen's
grain. They go on bleeding inwardly."
"You, at any rate, have not grown more reconciled," MacMaster
"Oh I give him his dues. He was a colorist, I grant you;
but that is a vague and unsatisfactory quality to marry to; Lady
Ellen Treffinger found it so."
"But, my dear Lady Mary," expostulated MacMaster, "and just
repress me if I'm becoming too personal--but it must, in the
first place, have been a marriage of choice on her part as well
as on his."
Lady Mary poised her glasses on her large forefinger and
assumed an attitude suggestive of the clinical lecture room as
she replied. "Ellen, my dear boy, is an essentially
romantic person. She is quiet about it, but she runs deep. I
never knew how deep until I came against her on the issue of that
marriage. She was always discontented as a girl; she found
things dull and prosaic, and the ardor of his courtship was
agreeable to her. He met her during her first season in town.
She is handsome, and there were plenty of other men, but I grant
you your scowling brigand was the most picturesque of the lot.
In his courtship, as in everything else, he was theatrical to the
point of being ridiculous, but Ellen's sense of humor is not her
strongest quality. He had the charm of celebrity, the air of a
man who could storm his way through anything to get what he
wanted. That sort of vehemence is particularly effective with
women like Ellen, who can be warmed only by reflected heat, and
she couldn't at all stand out against it. He convinced her of his
necessity; and that done, all's done."
"I can't help thinking that, even on such a basis, the marriage
should have turned out better," MacMaster remarked reflectively.
"The marriage," Lady Mary continued with a shrug, "was made
on the basis of a mutual misunderstanding. Ellen, in the nature
of the case, believed that she was doing something quite out of
the ordinary in accepting him, and expected concessions which,
apparently, it never occurred to him to make. After his marriage
he relapsed into his old habits of incessant work, broken by
violent and often brutal relaxations. He insulted her friends
and foisted his own upon her--many of them well calculated to
arouse aversion in any well-bred girl. He had Ghillini
constantly at the house--a homeless vagabond, whose conversation
was impossible. I don't say, mind you, that he had not
grievances on his side. He had probably overrated the girl's
possibilities, and he let her see that he was disappointed in
her. Only a large and generous nature could have borne with him,
and Ellen's is not that. She could not at all understand that
odious strain of plebeian pride which plumes itself upon not
having risen above its sources.
As MacMaster drove back to his hotel he reflected that Lady
Mary Percy had probably had good cause for dissatisfaction
with her brother-in-law. Treffinger was, indeed, the last man who
should have married into the Percy family. The son of a small
tobacconist, he had grown up a sign-painter's apprentice; idle,
lawless, and practically letterless until he had drifted into the
night classes of the Albert League, where Ghillini sometimes
lectured. From the moment he came under the eye and influence of
that erratic Italian, then a political exile, his life had swerved
sharply from its old channel. This man had been at once incentive
and guide, friend and master, to his pupil. He had taken the raw
clay out of the London streets and molded it anew. Seemingly he
had divined at once where the boy's possibilities lay, and had
thrown aside every canon of orthodox instruction in the training of
him. Under him Treffinger acquired his superficial, yet facile,
knowledge of the classics; had steeped himself in the monkish Latin
and medieval romances which later gave his work so naive and remote
a quality. That was the beginning of the wattle fences, the cobble
pave, the brown roof beams, the cunningly wrought fabrics that gave
to his pictures such a richness of decorative effect.
As he had told Lady Mary Percy, MacMaster had found the imperative
inspiration of his purpose in Treffinger's unfinished picture, the
Marriage of Phaedra. He had always believed that the key to
Treffinger's individuality lay in his singular education; in the
Roman de la Rose, in Boccaccio, and Amadis, those works
which had literally transcribed themselves upon the blank soul of
the London street boy, and through which he had been born into the
world of spiritual things. Treffinger had been a man who lived
after his imagination; and his mind, his ideals and, as MacMaster
believed, even his personal ethics, had to the last been colored by
the trend of his early training. There was in him alike the
freshness and spontaneity, the frank brutality and the religious
mysticism, which lay well back of the fifteenth century. In the
Marriage of Phaedra MacMaster found the ultimate expression
of this spirit, the final word as to Treffinger's point of view.
As in all Treffinger's classical subjects, the conception
was wholly medieval. This Phaedra, just turning from her husband
and maidens to greet her husband's son, giving him her
first fearsome glance from under her half-lifted veil, was no
daughter of Minos. The daughter of heathenesse and the
early church she was; doomed to torturing visions and scourgings,
and the wrangling of soul with flesh. The venerable Theseus
might have been victorious Charlemagne, and Phaedra's maidens
belonged rather in the train of Blanche of Castile than at the
Cretan court. In the earlier studies Hippolytus had been done
with a more pagan suggestion; but in each successive drawing the
glorious figure bad been deflowered of something of its serene
unconsciousness, until, in the canvas under the skylight, he
appeared a very Christian knight. This male figure, and the face
of Phaedra, painted with such magical preservation of tone under
the heavy shadow of the veil, were plainly Treffinger's highest
achievements of craftsmanship. By what labor he had reached the
seemingly inevitable composition of the picture--with its twenty
figures, its plenitude of light and air, its restful distances
seen through white porticoes--countless studies bore witness.
From James's attitude toward the picture MacMaster could
well conjecture what the painter's had been. This picture was
always uppermost in James's mind; its custodianship formed, in
his eyes, his occupation. He was manifestly apprehensive when
visitors--not many came nowadays--lingered near it. "It was the
Marriage as killed 'im," he would often say, "and for the
matter 'o that, it did like to 'av been the death of all of us."
By the end of his second week in London MacMaster had begun the
notes for his study of Hugh Treffinger and his work. When his
researches led him occasionally to visit the studios of
Treffinger's friends and erstwhile disciples, he found their
Treffinger manner fading as the ring of Treffinger's personality
died out in them. One by one they were stealing back into the
fold of national British art; the hand that had wound them up was
still. MacMaster despaired of them and confined himself more and
more exclusively to the studio, to such of Treffinger's letters
as were available--they were for the most part singularly negative
and colorless--and to his interrogation of Treffinger's man.
He could not himself have traced the successive steps
by which he was gradually admitted into James's confidence.
Certainly most of his adroit strategies to that end failed
humiliatingly, and whatever it was that built up an understanding
between them must have been instinctive and intuitive on both
sides. When at last James became anecdotal, personal, there was
that in every word he let fall which put breath and blood into
MacMaster's book. James had so long been steeped in that
penetrating personality that he fairly exuded it. Many of his
very phrases, mannerisms, and opinions were impressions that he
had taken on like wet plaster in his daily contact with
Treffinger. Inwardly he was lined with cast-off epitheliums, as
outwardly he was clad in the painter's discarded coats. If the
painter's letters were formal and perfunctory, if his expressions
to his friends had been extravagant, contradictory, and often
apparently insincere--still, MacMaster felt himself not entirely
without authentic sources. It was James who possessed
Treffinger's legend; it was with James that he had laid aside his
pose. Only in his studio, alone, and face to face with his work,
as it seemed, had the man invariably been himself. James had
known him in the one attitude in which he was entirely honest;
their relation had fallen well within the painter's only
indubitable integrity. James's report of Treffinger was
distorted by no hallucination of artistic insight, colored by no
interpretation of his own. He merely held what he had heard and
seen; his mind was a sort of camera obscura. His very
limitations made him the more literal and minutely accurate.
One morning, when MacMaster was seated before the Marriage
of Phaedra, James entered on his usual round of dusting.
"I've 'eard from Lydy Elling by the post, sir," he remarked,
"an' she's give h'orders to 'ave the 'ouse put in readiness. I
doubt she'll be 'ere by Thursday or Friday next."
"She spends most of her time abroad?" queried MacMaster; on
the subject of Lady Treffinger James consistently maintained a
very delicate reserve.
"Well, you could 'ardly say she does that, sir. She finds
the 'ouse a bit dull, I daresay, so durin' the season she stops
mostly with Lydy Mary Percy, at Grosvenor Square. Lydy
Mary's a h'only sister." After a few moments he continued,
speaking in jerks governed by the rigor of his dusting: "H'only
this morning I come upon this scarfpin," exhibiting a very
striking instance of that article, "an' I recalled as 'ow Sir
'Ugh give it me when 'e was acourting of Lydy Elling. Blowed if
I ever see a man go in for a 'oman like 'im! 'E was that gone,
sir. 'E never went in on anythink so 'ard before nor since,
till 'e went in on the Marriage there--though 'e mostly
went in on things pretty keen; 'ad the measles when 'e was
thirty, strong as cholera, an' come close to dyin' of 'em.
'E wasn't strong for Lydy Elling's set; they was a bit too stiff
for 'im. A free an' easy gentleman, 'e was; 'e liked 'is dinner
with a few friends an' them jolly, but 'e wasn't much on what you
might call big affairs. But once 'e went in for Lydy Elling 'e
broke 'imself to new paces; He give away 'is rings an' pins, an'
the tylor's man an' the 'aberdasher's man was at 'is rooms
continual. 'E got 'imself put up for a club in Piccadilly; 'e
starved 'imself thin, an' worrited 'imself white, an' ironed
'imself out, an' drawed 'imself tight as a bow string. It was a
good job 'e come a winner, or I don't know w'at'd 'a been to
The next week, in consequence of an invitation from Lady
Ellen Treffinger, MacMaster went one afternoon to take tea with
her. He was shown into the garden that lay between the residence
and the studio, where the tea table was set under a gnarled pear
tree. Lady Ellen rose as he approached--he was astonished to
note how tall she was-and greeted him graciously, saying that she
already knew him through her sister. MacMaster felt a certain
satisfaction in her; in her reassuring poise and repose, in the
charming modulations of her voice and the indolent reserve of her
full, almond eyes. He was even delighted to find her face so
inscrutable, though it chilled his own warmth and made the open
frankness he had wished to permit himself impossible. It was a
long face, narrow at the chin, very delicately featured, yet
steeled by an impassive mask of self-control. It was behind just
such finely cut, close-sealed faces, MacMaster reflected, that
nature sometimes hid astonishing secrets. But in spite of this
suggestion of hardness he felt that the unerring taste that
Treffinger had always shown in larger matters had not deserted
him when he came to the choosing of a wife, and he admitted that
he could not himself have selected a woman who looked more as
Treffinger's wife should look.
While he was explaining the purpose of his frequent visits
to the studio she heard him with courteous interest. "I have
read, I think, everything that has been published on Sir Hugh
Treffinger's work, and it seems to me that there is much left to
be said," he concluded.
"I believe they are rather inadequate," she remarked vaguely. She
hesitated a moment, absently fingering the ribbons of her gown,
then continued, without raising her eyes; "I hope you will not
think me too exacting if I ask to see the proofs of such chapters
of your work as have to do with Sir Hugh's personal life. I have
always asked that privilege."
MacMaster hastily assured her as to this, adding, "I mean to touch
on only such facts in his personal life as have to do directly with
his work--such as his monkish education under Ghillini."
"I see your meaning, I think," said Lady Ellen, looking at
him with wide, uncomprehending eyes.
When MacMaster stopped at the studio on leaving the house he
stood for some time before Treffinger's one portrait of himself,
that brigand of a picture, with its full throat and square head;
the short upper lip blackened by the close-clipped mustache, the
wiry hair tossed down over the forehead, the strong white teeth
set hard on a short pipestem. He could well understand what
manifold tortures the mere grain of the man's strong red and
brown flesh might have inflicted upon a woman like Lady Ellen.
He could conjecture, too, Treffinger's impotent revolt against
that very repose which had so dazzled him when it first defied
his daring; and how once possessed of it, his first instinct had
been to crush it, since he could not melt it.
Toward the close of the season Lady Ellen Treffinger left
town. MacMaster's work was progressing rapidly, and he and James
wore away the days in their peculiar relation, which by this time
had much of friendliness. Excepting for the regular visits of a
Jewish picture dealer, there were few intrusions upon their
solitude. Occasionally a party of Americans rang at the
little door in the garden wall, but usually they departed speedily
for the Moorish hall and tinkling fountain of the great show
studio of London, not far away.
This Jew, an Austrian by birth, who had a large business in
Melbourne, Australia, was a man of considerable discrimination,
and at once selected the Marriage of Phaedra as the object
of his especial interest. When, upon his first visit, Lichtenstein
had declared the picture one of the things done for time, MacMaster
had rather warmed toward him and had talked to him very freely.
Later, however, the man's repulsive personality and innate
vulgarity so wore upon him that, the more genuine the Jew's
appreciation, the more he resented it and the more base he somehow
felt it to be. It annoyed him to see Lichtenstein walking up and
down before the picture, shaking his head and blinking his watery
eyes over his nose glasses, ejaculating: "Dot is a chem, a chem!
It is wordt to gome den dousant miles for such a bainting, eh? To
make Eurobe abbreciate such a work of ardt it is necessary to take
it away while she is napping. She has never abbreciated until she
has lost, but," knowingly, "she will buy back."
James had, from the first, felt such a distrust of the man
that he would never leave him alone in the studio for a moment.
When Lichtenstein insisted upon having Lady Ellen Treffinger's
address James rose to the point of insolence. "It ayn't no use
to give it, noway. Lydy Treffinger never has nothink to do with
dealers." MacMaster quietly repented his rash confidences,
fearing that he might indirectly cause Lady Ellen annoyance from
this merciless speculator, and he recalled with chagrin that
Lichtenstein had extorted from him, little by little, pretty much
the entire plan of his book, and especially the place in it which
the Marriage of Phaedra was to occupy.
By this time the first chapters of MacMaster's book were in
the hands of his publisher, and his visits to the studio were
necessarily less frequent. The greater part of his time was now
employed with the engravers who were to reproduce such of
Treffinger's pictures as he intended to use as illustrations.
He returned to his hotel late one evening after a long
and vexing day at the engravers to find James in his room, seated
on his steamer trunk by the window, with the outline of a great
square draped in sheets resting against his knee.
"Why, James, what's up?" he cried in astonishment, glancing
inquiringly at the sheeted object.
"Ayn't you seen the pypers, sir?" jerked out the man.
"No, now I think of it, I haven't even looked at a paper. I've
been at the engravers' plant all day. I haven't seen anything."
James drew a copy of the Times from his pocket and handed it
to him, pointing with a tragic finger to a paragraph in the
social column. It was merely the announcement of Lady Ellen
Treffinger's engagement to Captain Alexander Gresham.
"Well, what of it, my man? That surely is her privilege."
James took the paper, turned to another page, and silently pointed
to a paragraph in the art notes which stated that Lady Treffinger
had presented to the X--gallery the entire collection of paintings
and sketches now in her late husband's studio, with the exception
of his unfinished picture, the Marriage Of Phaedra, which
she had sold for a large sum to an Australian dealer who had come
to London purposely to secure some of Treffinger's paintings.
MacMaster pursed up his lips and sat down, his overcoat
still on. "Well, James, this is something of a--something of a
jolt, eh? It never occurred to me she'd really do it."
"Lord, you don't know 'er, sir," said James bitterly, still
staring at the floor in an attitude of abandoned dejection.
MacMaster started up in a flash of enlightenment, "What on
earth have you got there, James? It's not-surely it's not--"
Yes, it is, sir," broke in the man excitedly. "It's the
Marriage itself. It ayn't agoing to H'Australia, no'ow!"
"But man, what are you going to do with it? It's
Lichtenstein's property now, as it seems."
It ayn't, sir, that it ayn't. No, by Gawd, it ayn't!"
shouted James, breaking into a choking fury. He controlled
himself with an effort and added supplicatingly: "Oh, sir, you
ayn't agoing to see it go to H'Australia, w'ere they send
convic's?" He unpinned and flung aside the sheets as though to
let Phaedra plead for herself.
MacMaster sat down again and looked sadly at the doomed
masterpiece. The notion of James having carried it across London
that night rather appealed to his fancy. There was certainly a
flavor about such a highhanded proceeding. "However did you get
it here?" he queried.
"I got a four-wheeler and come over direct, sir. Good job I
'appened to 'ave the chaynge about me."
"You came up High Street, up Piccadilly, through the
Haymarket and Trafalgar Square, and into the Strand?" queried
MacMaster with a relish.
"Yes, sir. Of course, sir, " assented James with surprise.
MacMaster laughed delightedly. "It was a beautiful idea,
James, but I'm afraid we can't carry it any further."
"I was thinkin' as 'ow it would be a rare chance to get you to take
the Marriage over to Paris for a year or two, sir, until the
thing blows over?" suggested James blandly.
"I'm afraid that's out of the question, James. I haven't
the right stuff in me for a pirate, or even a vulgar smuggler,
I'm afraid." MacMaster found it surprisingly difficult to say
this, and he busied himself with the lamp as he said it. He heard
James's hand fall heavily on the trunk top, and he discovered
that he very much disliked sinking in the man's estimation.
"Well, sir," remarked James in a more formal tone, after a
protracted silence; "then there's nothink for it but as 'ow I'll
'ave to make way with it myself."
"And how about your character, James? The evidence would be
heavy against you, and even if Lady Treffinger didn't prosecute
you'd be done for."
"Blow my character!--your pardon, sir," cried James, starting to
his feet. "W'at do I want of a character? I'll chuck the 'ole
thing, and damned lively, too. The shop's to be sold out, an' my
place is gone any'ow. I'm agoing to enlist, or try the gold
fields. I've lived too long with h'artists; I'd never give
satisfaction in livery now. You know 'ow it is yourself, sir;
there ayn't no life like it, no'ow."
For a moment MacMaster was almost equal to abetting James in
his theft. He reflected that pictures had been whitewashed, or
hidden in the crypts of churches, or under the floors of palaces
from meaner motives, and to save them from a fate less
ignominious. But presently, with a sigh, he shook his head.
"No, James, it won't do at all. It has been tried over and
over again, ever since the world has been agoing and pictures
amaking. It was tried in Florence and in Venice, but the
pictures were always carried away in the end. You see, the
difficulty is that although Treffinger told you what was not to
be done with the picture, he did not say definitely what was to
be done with it. Do you think Lady Treffinger really understands
that he did not want it to be sold?"
"Well, sir, it was like this, sir," said James, resuming his seat
on the trunk and again resting the picture against his knee. "My
memory is as clear as glass about it. After Sir 'Ugh got up from
'is first stroke, 'e took a fresh start at the Marriage.
Before that 'e 'ad been working at it only at night for a while
back; the Legend was the big picture then, an' was under the
north light w'ere 'e worked of a morning. But one day 'e bid me
take the Legend down an' put the Marriage in its
place, an' 'e says, dashin' on 'is jacket, 'Jymes, this is a start
for the finish, this time.'
"From that on 'e worked at the night picture in the mornin'--a
thing contrary to 'is custom. The Marriage went wrong, and
wrong--an' Sir 'Ugh agettin' seedier an' seedier every day. 'E
tried models an' models, an' smudged an' pynted out on account of
'er face goin' wrong in the shadow. Sometimes 'e layed it on the
colors, an' swore at me an' things in general. He got that
discouraged about 'imself that on 'is low days 'e used to say to
me: 'Jymes, remember one thing; if anythink 'appens to me, the
Marriage is not to go out of 'ere unfinished. It's worth
the lot of 'em, my boy, an' it's not agoing to go shabby for lack
of pains.' 'E said things to that effect repeated.
"He was workin' at the picture the last day, before 'e went
to 'is club. 'E kept the carriage waitin' near an hour while 'e
put on a stroke an' then drawed back for to look at it, an' then
put on another, careful like. After 'e 'ad 'is gloves on,
'e come back an' took away the brushes I was startin' to clean, an'
put in another touch or two. 'It's acomin', Jymes,' 'e says, 'by
gad if it ayn't.' An' with that 'e goes out. It was cruel sudden,
w'at come after.
"That night I was lookin' to 'is clothes at the 'ouse when
they brought 'im 'ome. He was conscious, but w'en I ran
downstairs for to 'elp lift 'im up, I knowed 'e was a finished
man. After we got 'im into bed 'e kept lookin' restless at me
and then at Lydy Elling and ajerkin' of 'is 'and. Finally 'e
quite raised it an' shot 'is thumb out toward the wall. 'He
wants water; ring, Jymes,' says Lydy Elling, placid. But I
knowed 'e was pointin' to the shop.
"'Lydy Treffinger,' says I, bold, 'he's pointin' to the studio. He
means about the Marriage; 'e told me today as 'ow 'e never
wanted it sold unfinished. Is that it, Sir 'Ugh?'
"He smiled an' nodded slight an' closed 'is eyes. 'Thank
you, Jymes,' says Lydy Elling, placid. Then 'e opened 'is eyes
an' looked long and 'ard at Lydy Elling.
"'Of course I'll try to do as you'd wish about the picture,
'Ugh, if that's w'at's troublin' you,' she says quiet. With that
'e closed 'is eyes and 'e never opened 'em. He died unconscious
at four that mornin'.
"You see, sir, Lydy Elling was always cruel 'ard on the
Marriage. From the first it went wrong, an' Sir 'Ugh was
out of temper pretty constant. She came into the studio one day
and looked at the picture an 'asked 'im why 'e didn't throw it up
an' quit aworriting 'imself. He answered sharp, an' with that she
said as 'ow she didn't see w'at there was to make such a row
about, no'ow. She spoke 'er mind about that picture, free; an'
Sir 'Ugh swore 'ot an' let a 'andful of brushes fly at 'is study,
an' Lydy Elling picked up 'er skirts careful an' chill, an'
drifted out of the studio with 'er eyes calm and 'er chin 'igh.
If there was one thing Lydy Elling 'ad no comprehension of, it
was the usefulness of swearin'. So the Marriage was a sore
thing between 'em. She is uncommon calm, but uncommon bitter, is
Lydy Elling. She's never come anear the studio since that day she
went out 'oldin' up of 'er skirts. W'en 'er friends goes over she
excuses 'erself along o' the strain. Strain--Gawd!" James ground
his wrath short in his teeth.
"I'll tell you what I'll do, James, and it's our only hope. I'll
see Lady Ellen tomorrow. The Times says she returned today.
You take the picture back to its place, and I'll do what I can
for it. If anything is done to save it, it must be done through
Lady Ellen Treffinger herself, that much is clear. I can't think
that she fully understands the situation. If she did, you know,
she really couldn't have any motive--" He stopped suddenly.
Somehow, in the dusky lamplight, her small, close-sealed face
came ominously back to him. He rubbed his forehead and knitted
his brows thoughtfully. After a moment he shook his head and
went on: "I am positive that nothing can be gained by highhanded
methods, James. Captain Gresham is one of the most popular men
in London, and his friends would tear up Treffinger's bones if he
were annoyed by any scandal of our making--and this scheme you
propose would inevitably result in scandal. Lady Ellen has, of
course, every legal right to sell the picture. Treffinger made
considerable inroads upon her estate, and, as she is about to
marry a man without income, she doubtless feels that she has a
right to replenish her patrimony."
He found James amenable, though doggedly skeptical. He went
down into the street, called a carriage, and saw James and his
burden into it. Standing in the doorway, he watched the carriage
roll away through the drizzling mist, weave in and out among the
wet, black vehicles and darting cab lights, until it was
swallowed up in the glare and confusion of the Strand. "It is
rather a fine touch of irony," he reflected, "that he, who is so
out of it, should be the one to really care. Poor Treffinger,"
he murmured as, with a rather spiritless smile, he turned back
into his hotel. "Poor Treffinger; sic transit gloria."
The next afternoon MacMaster kept his promise. When he
arrived at Lady Mary Percy's house he saw preparations for a
function of some sort, but he went resolutely up the steps,
telling the footman that his business was urgent. Lady Ellen
came down alone, excusing her sister. She was dressed for
receiving, and MacMaster had never seen one so beautiful.
The color in her cheeks sent a softening glow over her small,
delicately cut features.
MacMaster apologized for his intrusion and came unflinchingly
to the object of his call. He had come, he said, not only to offer
her his warmest congratulations, but to express his regret that a
great work of art was to leave England.
Lady Treffinger looked at him in wide-eyed astonishment.
Surely, she said, she had been careful to select the best of the
pictures for the X--- gallery, in accordance with Sir Hugh
"And did he--pardon me, Lady Treffinger, but in mercy set my
mind at rest--did he or did he not express any definite wish
concerning this one picture, which to me seems worth all the
others, unfinished as it is?"
Lady Treffinger paled perceptibly, but it was not the pallor
of confusion. When she spoke there was a sharp tremor in her
smooth voice, the edge of a resentment that tore her like pain.
"I think his man has some such impression, but I believe it to be
utterly unfounded. I cannot find that he ever expressed any wish
concerning the disposition of the picture to any of his friends.
Unfortunately, Sir Hugh was not always discreet in his remarks to
"Captain Gresham, Lady Ellingham, and Miss Ellingham,"
announced a servant, appearing at the door.
There was a murmur in the hall, and MacMaster greeted the
smiling Captain and his aunt as he bowed himself out.
To all intents and purposes the Marriage of Phaedra was
already entombed in a vague continent in the Pacific, somewhere
on the other side of the world.