Art and Elizabeth
Mr. Tierce called her a curlyhaired moron, but that was the day he had the toothache
ELIZABETH EDWARDS was eighteen years old when she took charge of her brother's household; and she was at that time so small, her tumble of curls so golden, her childish chin so touchingly determined, that people would say to one another, “Isn’t it wonderful the way little Elizabeth has taken hold of things?” And. expatiating, would usually wind up with, “Of course one feels dreadfully for poor Terry. It’s a tragedy. But one can’t help feeling that he shouldn’t allow a young girl like that to sacrifice herself.”
The truth was, it never occurred to either Terry or his sister that any sacrifice was involved. Greentrees had always been their home. During the six years of Terry’s marriage to his sweet Margery, it had been even more of a home to Elizabeth than during the motherless years before, and now after Margery’s death it was still home. Where else would Elizabeth be? And who else look after her brother's babies? During the first shattering months after his loss. Terry never asked himself the question. He was so deep in pain that he was hardly aware of life about him, and when he returned to awareness it was to find his house well run and his family happy. So his heart was not really in the objection he voiced one morning. He said:
“Elizabeth; all this. I don’t think I should be letting you do it.”
Elizabeth was counting the laundry and frowning darkly. She answered irrelevantly:
"They simply will not send back that second collar to your blue shirt. Do you think if 1 wrote something about, T absolutely must insist’ —What do you mean not let me do it? You know Annie never counts the laundry. That’s why I've had all this trouble about your collar.”
“No. I mean everything. Running the house and looking after us all.”
Elizabeth glanced at him then, and reflected for the hundredth time that jxx>r sweet Margery must have hated most dreadfully to leave him.
She said: “Has Aunt Connie been saying anything
Terry Edwards was a simple soul and took no credit for his action. "Yes. In that letter this morning. Apparently I’m blighting your young life. She says that during these young years you should have the urge to create, and the life force should be thrusting you forward to meet your mate.” Terry sniggered. “As a matter of fact, it’s rather good. She says I’m throwing a sop to your instinct by letting you l;x>k after me and the children. Then one day she says you’ll find yourself beached high and dry. full of complexes without having fulfilled yourself.”
“I like that. 1 think that’s g;xxi.” Elizabeth said.
“Of course, the way she puts it, it sounds a lot of rot.” Terry said, but added seriously: "All the same, there’s
something in it, Betts. Do you get around enough? 1 mean—that party of Conways last week; you had to miss it because of John’s earache. You shouldn’t have to do that. You should go to these affairs, meet people, men. After all you will want a man and a home of your own some day. Aunt Connie’s right there.”
"Isn’t this a home of my own?”
“Don’t be silly. You know it is. It’s just that I feel . . ” And there the matter comfortably ended. Elizabeth remained mistress of the sprawling old house. With the help of the willing if not overbright Annie, she managed to.clothe and feed her family adequately on the inadequate allowance which was all Terry could give her. She spanked the children when they were naughty, kissed them when they were good, romjied with them, adored them, and went for days to town when the strain was too much for even her young nerv es.
Aunt Connie told Elizabeth that she was being swamped, hinted at dreary dooms, said her personality was being
obscured and she should seek some opportunity to express her individuality. The Edwards, brother and sister, were able to defy Aunt Connie at a distance, to laugh at and disdain her. But sometimes her visits were disturbing, and Elizabeth, temporarily depressed, would have an evening of wondering if there might not be strange delights in the “artistic circles,” the wilder, freer life, to which Aunt Connie referred. But she would settle down again; and it was comforting to reflect that, after all, even if the world did not know of it, she was “expressing her individuality,” though until Aunt Connie gave it a name, she had not thought to call her delightful avocation anything but sculpting.
The family knew of it, of course. Each of them possessed examples of her work and, though the little figurines were well kwed, as toys
were, the children could hardly be expected to constitute a body of worth-while art critics, and Elizabeth, though grateful for their appreciation of her efforts, was not unduly inflated by it. Even Terry, because the things had been done by his little sister, gave them little value. “Elizabeth’s the artist of the family,” he would say offhandedly to a visitor who perhaps had been startled into comment by the vivid life in a tiny statue—Robin crying, with a curiously moving despair caught in the miniature lineaments; or John, solemn as an owl; or Jane with an unwilling puppy caught in her rounded arms.
“But they’re good !” the visitor would say, bewildered; and Terry proudly would agree, but he never knew how good.
A sympathetic art mistress at her school had discovered and fostered Elizabeth’s talent; but as the girl had little confidence in herself, she went contentedly enough, on leaving college, to her position in Terry’s household, without the least hankering after training and a career which the mistress had said should be hers. She was contented enough now. joyously creating her little effigies of the children whenever a suddenly striking expression on one or other of their faces wrould drive her to her messy corner of the attic, euphemistically called her studio. And, without knowing quite howr she did it any more than why she did it, she would, in the brief hours she could snatch from her domestic duties, produce a tiny statue of a child, alive and vivid in grief, or anger or jov, or dreaming in the heaven of childish dreams.
And there, since she had no particular initiative or cour-
age in the matter, it would all have ended if she had not met Franklin Tierce at a party given by her near neighbors, the Rigdens.
ELIZABETH loved parties and when it looked as if— after buying a new frock and having her hair done more perfectly than it had ever been done before—she would not to able to go to this one, she was bitterly disappointed.
She was almost unkind when Jane, leading John by the hand, appeared in her bedroom and announced:
“John think’s he’s got his earache coming on.”
The children had been in tod for two hours, Elizabeth was bathed and perfumed, and enjoying herself thoroughly in the leisured stage of putting on filmy underwear and lacquering her nails. Everything, she had thought, was quite under control. And now here were the three little pyjama-clad figures.
“Well, you should not have got out of tod,” she said crossly. “You should have called Annie.”
“But John can’t have Annie when he’s got the earache.” That was true, and Elizabeth’s heart sank. She wailed: “John darling, why do you always get earache when I want to go anywTiere really important?”
“I think I’m going to have it, I haven’t got it yet,” John corrected.
“Well, if I put in hot oil and wrap you up warmly, you’d know soon, wouldn’t you. darling?”
John agreed that he would. “If I can get into your tod,” he said.
“I want to get into your tod too, auntie,” Robin said. So did Jane, and Elizabeth submitted to the moment.
“But you’re not to play; you’re not even to speak,” she said when the three were popped up, bright-eyed and pleased, in the wide tod. “And you’re to tell me truly, John.”
John, solemn and important, said that he would, and then there was no sound in the lovely old rcx>m save Elizabeth’s silken rustlings, and whisperings and thumpings from the tod. At times like these, the girl thought despairingly, it seemed that Aunt Connie was right. Perhaps it would to rather wonderful to to free of family, to live completely alone in a small studio in town, to make small lovely statues all day, and have nothing to impede one in the evenings from going to parties with interesting men — the kind of men who never came to Greentrees. No children, however lovable, to scratch their knees and get holes in their socks and fight with one another, nor a brother to have bitter moods, and a hopeless maid like Annie who could never to trusted to do anything really well. Swamped was the word. All the disadvantages of being married straight from the schoolroom, without any of the advantages.
“John says he knows now, auntie,” Jane announced suddenly.
John was a wise and utterly truthful little boy. “I’m not going to have it,” he said. “Í thought I was, but I’m not.”
“Oh. that’s splendid, darling.” Elizabeth kissed him in her relief, and with only the weakest of protests consented to their staying in her tod until she had finished dressing.
On their solemn promise that they would not make trouble for Annie, and would return to the nursery the instant she came to fetch them.
And if. she thought as she started off, I look as beautiful as they say 1 do, something rather special should happen tonight.
Perhaps Simon Gill would propose. He was so near it. Perhaps the new frock would help him to make up his miad. And though that would to something special, she hoped earnestly that it would not occur. Because she had not the slightest desire to marry Simon, nor, though she was practically twenty-two, any man she knew. And she wondered for a panic-stricken moment if Aunt Connie’s dreadful predictions would come true.
And because Simon did propose and she was so upset by refusing him, she did not at first recognize the special occurrence for what it was. She was standing in the doorway which led from the garden when her hostess found her. She was pale, her eyes were, starry with pity for Simon’s hurt, and she was so completely lovely that her hostess seized her gratefully and said:
“Elizabeth, there’s a man here whom Elsie brought, and he’s done nothing but glower at everybody when he hasn't been hiding. See what you can do.’’
“I don’t want to meet any more men,” Elizabeth said, and found no reason to change her mind when she was presented to the forbidding if handsome young man to whom her hostess led her, ignoring her protests. But she murmured politely. Being a good-mannered child, she would doubtless have danced politely with the young man, had he asked her. And never have known the special thing had occurred if Mrs. Rigden had not thrown over her shoulder, vaguely and ungrammatically:
“Mr. Tierce is an art connoisseur, Elizabeth. He knows all about painting and sculpture. He sells them. Tell him about your sculpture.”
“Yes, do,” Mr. Tierce said with intense bitterness. “Tell me about your sculpture. I’d love to hear about it.” And he thought, this is the last thing necessary to complete this ghastly evening. Franklin Tierce had not the slightest desire to be at the Rigdens’ party. He was still not quite clear as to why he had taken an interminable journey from town with a woman he disliked to visit people he did not know. And more devastating than all else, he had a raging toothache.
A gloomy young man with a toothache Elizabeth might have handled, but someone who knew all about painting and sculpture struck her dumb. She opened her lovely mouth and closed it again.
MR. TIERCE’S tooth began a stabbing crescendo of pain, and from the black darkness of his inward cursing arose a weapon of words to smite the curly-haired moron who was gaping at him.
“There’s nothing l like more than discovering women sculptors,” he said outrageously. “That's why I go to so many parties in the country. One so often discovers them at these places. Genius blushing unfound.”
Elizabeth felt no weapon. She had never met an unkind man. She was encouraged by this, and found her voice. “But I’m not a genius, Mr. Tierce. 1 just do it in between other things.”
The situation was quite perfect. Perhaps if he let her go on, she might act as a counterirritant. One pain might drive out another.
“Tell me,” he said, “did you feel the urge to create when you were quite a child? Or did it come later? I'm always so interested.”
“Not exactly as a child.” Elizabeth was unsure of herself; her sweet face was flushed with anxiety. "It waswell—at school. After I went to school.”
The counterirritant was not working. The tooth was winning all the way. With one last masochistic twist, Mr. Tierce said:
“You must send me some of your stuff. I’d like to see it. I like young girls to send me their stuff to sell. Please don t deny me the privilege.”
On the drive back to town his tooth eased a little, and he had a moment of compunction for his treatment of the curly-headed schoolgirl before he comfortably forgot her with the reflection that, if he had prevented one female from turning the hobby of chiselling ghastly statues into a habit, he had done a good night’s work. Had she called it a hobby? They usually did. Fifteen years of constant association with artists had made Franklin Tierce, as his mother repeatedly told him, "suspicious, intolerant and cynical, which would not have mattered, if it had taught him what to to suspicious, intolerant and cynical of.”
She repeated this again on the evening, three weeks later, when he told her of his discovery of Elizabeth.
“But how on earth was I to know?” her son exclaimed. “She looked about fifteen; she gasped like a beached fish and said all the banal idiotic things I've heard so often.” “The poor little thing was probably terrified of you,” Mrs. Tierce said severely.
“Well, she had no reason to to. She’s good. Those kids of hers are alive. It's the kind of thing people Lke. I wouldn’t to surprised if she had a real vogue.”
Continued on pa¿e 24
— Continued from page 11—Starts on page 10 -
“Did you say she was pretty?” his mother asked.
“I think st). I don’t quite remember her —except that she kept her mouth open. But what has that to do with it? It's her work I want.”
He got it, from time to time, each example a little better than the last, each possessing a freshness and a vitality which charmed even the more discerning of his customers. It soon became apparent that there was a definite demand for Elizabeth’s work.
“I’d like much more of it.” Tierce said to his secretary. “Her output is too small to lx* really useful. We’ll have to shake her up a bit. Take a letter; no. just write and ask her to call. I'll have a talk to her.”
T?LIZABETH, in a new spring suit which had a fiat childish collar, and a hat haloing high above her gold curls, was no less intimidated by Tierce at their second meeting than at their first. She sat very straightly and tried not to fidget with her hands, but excitement had confused her and she was so altogether lovely to look at and stupid to listen to that Tierce, after one instant of shock when he thought, I must remember to tell mother that she is pretty, found himself talking very gently and carefully, as one would to a not
overbright child, and not at all as he had intended to do to the presumably intelligent woman who produced the statuettes under discussion.
Under this treatment Elizabeth became almost normal. She understood, she said, and she realized her output was very small.
No, she didn’t think she was particularly lazy. And since her things were selling, she enjoyed doing them even more than before. It was just the difficulty of finding time, with three children to look after
“But great heavens!” Franklin Tierce was more than shocked. He was peculiarly outraged. "You never said you were married.”
Hastily Elizabeth explained, and in the explanation gave a vivid if brief picture of Greentrees and its household.
“And in this last nine months, just when I wanted time to work, everything that could happen has happened.” The children had had measles, one after the other. Terry had had a broken arm. Annie had got married and no one satisfactory had taken her place. The house had been
painted, though they had put that off as long as they could. So surely he saw . . .
But what he didn’t see was why, with the talent she had, she should be wasting her time doing what any paid housekeeper could do as well and probably better. He told her this at some length, forgetting to speak gently.
Elizabeth smiled ruefully. “You sound just like Aunt Connie.” she said, and as Tierce did not know Aunt Connie he was not injured. He was, indeed, rather grateful for the interpolation because their relationship was thereby put on an acceptable footing. And that there would be a relationship a little less formal than the situation really demanded had become plain as the interview progressed. He had already wasted an hour on her; he was more interested in her than he had ever been in better sculptors and prettier girls; he was exasperated, he was annoyed by her obstinacy, and he had a wholly unbusinesslike desire to wait and watch for the faint quiver of her red mouth which seemed to prelude all her statements.
Well, if all that made him seem like her Aunt Connie—good ! That was the best
possible way for him to seem. He had long ago made a rule never to mix business with pleasure. It was a good rule. Still, without departing from the role of an Aunt Connie, he supposed he could ask her to have tea. After all, she would have that long train journey, and you could call it business . . .
He was saved from this somewhat indecisive moment by a knock on the door and the entrance of a young man who was quite as impatient as he looked.
“Sorry to crash in on you, Franklin, but I’ve seen all I can bear of your door mat. It’s nothing private and I’m rushed. I only want two minutes, if you don’t mind.”
Oddly enough, Tierce did mind. He attended to the young man’s business, and he introduced him to the expectant Elizabeth with a bare civility.
“This is one Roger Brown, Miss Edwards. He paints. If you produced his quantity and your own quality, you’d get somewhere.”
Roger Brown pondered that. “There’s something there I don’t quite like, I think. However ...” His smile was delightful. He was untidy, but appeared brightly clean because his complexion was clear and his teeth so white. Elizabeth began to be excited again.
“Miss Edwards is one of our newest and
brightest. Roger. Her work is selling the way I'd like yours to sell,” Franklin Tierce said, and the young man bent a thoughtful look on Elizabeth.
“If she was any newer, her feathers would be damp,” he said, “but I’d have thought she would have found work to be superfluous.”
“She does,” Tierce said, suddenly rude. “I’ve been trying to knock some sense into her.”
Roger Brown looked swiftly at Tierce, then grinned at a joke which he was not apparently inclined to share. However, he was not grinning when he turned to Elizabeth and he spoke very politely:
“It’s just four o’clock, Miss Edwards. If you’ve nothing better to do, would you let me give you tea? Then I can talk to you about quantity and you can talk to me about quality.”
“Quantity and quality of what?” said Tierce nastily. “I thought you said you were in a hurry.”
“I am still in a hurry—to have tea. You know what I’m like when I’m balked of my tea.”
A little later Tierce spoke very coldly to his secretary. “When I’m engaged, Miss Greene, I’d rather you didn’t let people come barging in on me. It’s just a whim. But try to humor me, if you can.”
“I didn’t think you’d mind Roger Brown. You know how impatient he gets.”
“And why shouldn’t I mind Brown? As a matter of fact, in this case I minded him particularly. He can’t let any pretty woman alone, and a shy girl like Miss Edwards is easily embarrassed. She’s not used to this kind of thing.”
“Then she learns fast,” Miss Greene said grimly. “She didn’t look embarrassed when they passed me. She looked thrilled to death if I know anything about it.”
EVIDENTLY Miss Greene knew a great deal about it, because she had gauged Elizabeth’s state of mind accurately. Though brother Terry, when he had heard the story of the afternoon, put things more mildly.
“Well, you seem to have enjoyed yourself.”
“It was all heavenly, Terry. So different from anything I’ve experienced. Mr. Tierce has been so wonderful. I do wish I’d done more work for him. I don’t think he understood when I tried to explain to him about the way things were here. You know yourself, whenever I begin to work, something crops up or somebody wants me. It’s not as if I were free.”
The significance of her words did not at first strike her, but, suddenly noticing Terry’s face, she was aware and cried out hurriedly:
“Terry darling, I didn’t mean anything by that. You know I didn’t. Please don’t look so hurt.”
Terry smiled slowly. “My dear, I’m not hurt. Why should I be? I’m merely thoughtful. The truth is, if you have this gift, as people appear to think you have— I do myself—you should be free to develop
it. Aunt Connie thinks so too. She’s been bombarding me ever since this thing happened. And so have all our friends. I’ve said nothing because I want you to do exactly as you feel yourself in the matter.”
Elizabeth was moving restlessly about the room, and suddenly she halted with her back to her brother.
“I don’t know. I’ll see how I get on. The thought of being anywhere else but here—making a real career—I don’t know. It’s hard to take in all at once.”
But a day came when, resolute and a little pale, she announced her decision.
“It doesn’t seem to be much use, Terry. It’s a month now, and I can’t get on very far. Yesterday afternoon seemed to finish things. Just as I was really getting along and enjoying myself, Robin had that attack. I know it’s my fault for letting him get at the apples, but Maggie forgets everything. I’ve thought and thought, and I feel that unless I get right away it will always be the same. The children wouldn’t go to anyone else as long as I was here. And you wouldn’t. I wouldn’t want you to. I couldn’t just sit back and let a housekeeper do things. What I thought of doing ...”
Terry was not too pleased with the plan, which was that she should take a studio in the excellent lodginghouse where Roger Brown lived, though Brown had been down to Greentrees and seemed a decent enough fellow. He appeared to do fairly well, and he was in the same line of business. There were few men for Elizabeth to meet down here, and she didn’t seem to cotton on to those she did meet.
Perplexed, more than a little regretful that his sister had ever discovered her talents, Terry submitted at last, his few scruples blown away by Aunt Connie’s decisive attitude.
“The very thing the child wants. It would be worse than murder to keep her here. She must get into the world, live and suffer ...”
“Not too much of the suffering,” Terry suggested. And that was the tenor of his last talk with Elizabeth as he drove her, tearful, excited, more thrilled and more unhappy than she had ever been, to the station on the morning she left.
“If you’re the slightest bit unhappy, you’re to come home at once. And you’re not to worry about us, because you’ve seen this woman can look after us as well as you can.”
ELIZABETH’S studio was quite small, the cheapest in the house. Its windows looked out on a brick wall. But it was quietest at the back, the landlady said.
It was very quiet. On her first evening, Elizabeth, sitting alone, found herself listening to the quiet. Now and again footsteps would pass, a door would he shut, there was the distant, unobtrusive sound of traffic. The quiet was that rather of being alone behind a shut door. No one to interrupt. If John got earache, she would not know about it. If Terry wanted some missing papers, there would be no yelling up the stairs. If the boiler smoked again, the servant would not he able to drag her down to attend to it. Peace and quiet. What on so many nights at Greentrees she had yearned for. Well, she had it now. She would be able really to work. Yet oddly she had not the slightest desire to work.
Her gratitude when Roger Brown knocked on her door was out of all proportion, the young man thought. But he was pleased by it.
“I’d have been here sooner, but I couldn’t get away. It was a curse having that appointment on your first night here.”
Then he saw that she had been crying.
“That’s natural enough,” he said comfortingly. “You’re bound to feel lonely at first, and of course the change will put you off your work. Leave it a week or so until you’ve settled in.”
But several weeks went by, and the little result from them began to worry her. In the mornings there were lessons, and that was all right. But for the rest of
“If you have already sent along your renewal, please disregard this request entirely.”
This sentence appears at the top of all notices sent you advising that your subscription is due for renewal.
The routine of a large subscription list requires a period of a few days before a renewal can be recorded. A notice, therefore, may in some instances go forward to you even after remittance actually has reached us. In such cases, please ignore the notice and accept our regrets and thanks.
If you are not sure of the date when your subscription expires, you will find it printed on the address label on your magazine.
the time . . . She was certainly, as Roger pointed out. making contacts. Living life, which at that stage in her career, he insisted, was so important to an artist, whatever his medium. And she was too impressed by his cleverness and the cleverness of his friends to ask him, as she began to ask herself, just why she should be considered to be "living life” now, and to have been apparently unborn during all her previous existence. There was not much excitement in the lonely days, when she looked at her brick wall, wrestled with clay which refused to come to life, went for walks through a town street which never presented anything to her except unheeding faces, or parks which had nothing so excitingly discoverable as the woods at home. And the endless parties, which were gatherings in her own studio or in other studios like it, or in flats, were not so dissimilar from the ones she had been accustomed to having. There was less food and more drink, less space, shoddier surroundings, worse manners, and no gaiety at all. There was incessant talk, and she found herself wondering (late in the party when her head was aching and her eyes stinging from cigarette smoke) why so many words were needed to translate so few thoughts. And because that seemed vaguely like superiority, she decided that the trouble lay in herself, and she would listen with such concentration and effort that she became a prey for anyone with a theory to expound or a selfdramatization to indulge in.
And each night she went to bed with the consciousness of yet another failure covered by the dark on the table near the window where she worked.
She heard nothing from Franklin Tierce, nor did she expect to. She had notified him of her change of address, and had had a brief line from him to the effect that he was lwking forward to getting a lot of stuff from her now.
It was to see why that was not materializing, he said, that he had come to look her up, when he appeared one night, standing outside the door which she had opened to his knock. Surprise at first kept her wordless, but, more easily mistress of herself now, she asked him in, achieved a gaiety which she had been far from feeling before his entrance, and said, with no hint of her momentary return to childish timidity: “This is the mountain coming to Mahomet or something, isn’t it?”
TIERCE was looking round the room, frowning.
“This is the wrong background for you. Whatever made you choose a place like this?”
He made her nervous for all her efforts to conceal it. "Roger Brown found it for me. It’s all right. Not as nice as his room. There are some quite g;xxi studios in the house.”
Well, she hadn’t lost that adorable quiver to her mouth, anyhow.
“So Brown hangs out here too, does he?"
“I thought you knew he did. 1 thought he was a friend of yours.”
“Is he? I suppose you could call it that. But, my good woman, I don't call on all the people with whom I have business dealings. I suppose we have his address.” He was looking at her peculiarly, and his voice was grim as he said :
“Well, now that you’re in an artistic atmosphere, how are things going?”
“I—I—it takes a while to settle dow n, I suppose. It seems rather hard work.” Tierce’s laugh was a short bark.
“I thought it used to amuse you; that you did it because you enjoyed doing it.” Elizabeth was flushed. "It did; it was relaxation then. But now—well, it’s different. But I have done something. I’ve nearly finished. I was going to send it to you next week.”
"It—I think you’ll like it. It’s more sophisticated, Roger says. He says I’m maturing.”
“The devil he does!” Tierce’s tone was
sharp. "Where is it? Let’s have a look at it.”
Elizabeth was suffering. "It’s not finished,” she pleaded. "You probably wouldn’t ...”
"My good child, don’t go coy on me.”
His tone stiffened her and she almost flung the covering from the group at which she had been working miserably for days. Then she stood rather rigidly, one small hand clenched.
Tierce, after some moments of silence, looked at her rather dubiously, “That’s rather out of your line, isn’t it? Forgive me for discouraging you, but that looks like being a bad copy of any of the multitude of twined lovers that have been turned out. by sculptors since the business started. That is what you mean it to be, isn't it? A love clinch?”
Elizabeth said with dignity: "It’s to be called ‘Passion.’ ”
Tierce made a sound of disgust. "What do you know about passion? For lord’s sake, I don’t want this muck. I can get this from anyone. If this is Roger’s doing, I’ll wring his neck !”
Elizabeth flared: “Why shouldn’t I
know about passion?”
"Why should you? I don’t suppose you’ve ever been kissed thoroughly. At any rate you don’t look it.”
“Well, I have. Thoroughly and often.” “The devil you have! Yet—of course. Why not? You girls start this sort of thing in the schoolroom now, don’t you? I suppose you’re an old hand. Forgive my senility. I just thought you seemed different, that’s all.”
Some scorn in his tone hurt Elizabeth. She flushed more deeply.
“I’ve never been kissed by anyone I wanted to kiss me,” she said in what was practically a sulky manner. Her head was bent and she missed Franklin’s sudden intent regard.
“Did you find out you didn’t want it when Roger kissed you?”
"Yes, I did. But I liked it better than any others so far.”
"So!” He sprang up, losing his temper for no reason apparent to either of them. "That’s what’s going on. Well, it’s none of my business. You can kiss all the bad
painters in London. All I’m interested in is getting some decent saleable work from you occasionally. And I don’t look like getting that as long as you spend your time trying to immortalize your silly little love affairs with people like Roger Brown and calling it ‘Passion.’ My good child, snap out of it. And now I must be going. I’m on my way to see some friends. As soon as you produce something worth while, send it along to me. You know what I want—exactly what you’ve been giving me.”
Two days later he telephoned that he had tickets for a concert and would she care to go? She said, yes please. And her attitude, when she met him, was as it had been in the beginning. He gave her no apology for his previous rudeness and made no personal references. Nor did he mention work until he was leaving her, starryeyed and grateful on the threshold of her room.
"Work coming along?”
“It will, of course it will. It’s just— getting used to being here.” Her voice was overeager. "Roger says I worry too much, and that finishes me before I start.”
"Nice for you to have him on hand to advise you.”
"Yes; he has been wonderful.”
"I don’t know what we’d do without him. He’s a public benefit. But you don’t need Roger or anyone to advise you. You think of those funny kids, and your dogs, and don’t bother about what Brown or anyone else tells you.”
“I see.” She left him hurriedly and cried herself to sleep. And next day she sat in her uninterrupted quiet and was utterly unable to do any work at all.
A WEEK-END at Greentrees did -AA. ornething to restore her, and in the week following her return she produced a group which, Tierce said, though not up to standard, was at least a start along the right lines. He had taken her to dinner at a small Soho restaurant and, the night being fine and warm, had suggested a walk along the Embankment.
"I think it’s good for you to come out with me occasionally,” he had said over the telephone. "An antidote against the kind of people you are meeting.”
And again, as they leaned over the parapet, watching the still black waters, he was driven by a necessity to explain himself.
"I feel in a way responsible for you. I want you to be a success, and I think you can be. Later on, when you really make a hit with something, we’ll start thinking about reproductions. That will be out of my hands.”
"Roger said that,” she answered thoughtlessly, and the comfort which this easy, talkative night had brought to Tierce was suddenly marred.
“Roger seems exceedingly efficient in his care of you,” he snapped. "It’s unusual. I might tell you that artists of Brown’s standard are not given to helping others. Just be sure he is trying to help. So far he’s done his best to spoil your work.” "Just when we seem to be getting along nicely, I always say something which irritates you. I’m sorry.”
Tierce turned on her. “Why will women always translate every remark into an intimate personal one? I’m being purely detached. You don’t irritate me. It’s the failure of your work which irritates me.”
Elizabeth broke the silence which naturally ensued. “You’ve been very kind. I know it must irritate you—when you thought I was really going to be of some use, and you’ve taken all this trouble. I will try harder. Please believe me.”
“Well then, let’s forget it all for a while. I’ll keep an eye on you from time to time, and you do veur best.”
But the next time he called at her rooms it was to find Roger Brown comfortably ensconced on her settee. There were cocoa and biscuits on a tray on the fleer, and a
tumble of dented cushions showed where Elizabeth had been lounging.
“Sitting at the feet of the master?” said Tierce unpleasantly.
He stayed ten minutes and left disgruntled. Elizabeth heard no more from him for a fortnight, but at the end of that time he telephoned. It was ten c ’clock, and because he knew he was being rr.ther a fool he said severely :
“This could well have waited until business hours, but I thought I'd give you a little encouragement while the mood’s on me. I don’t often encourage artists. But that last thing is good.”
“It’s better, isn’t it?” Elizabeth’s voice sounded humble.
“Much better. It’s quite good. So good that I thought you must have gone home to do it. That’s why I’m telephoning you at this absurd hour—to see if you’re still here.”
“I’m still here.”
“Well, now, you’ve nothing to worry about. Just keep on.”
“But there was a special circumstance. I—well, it’s nice of you to take the trouble to encourage me. But it's no good. I’ve found out something about myself.” Her voice was certainly queer.
“You’re not crying or anything, are you?” Tierce said suspiciously, and at her instant disclaimer he insisted :
“Well, you don’t sound as bucked as you should.”
“I’m not bucked at all.” Something like a sob came very effectively over the wire. “I’m completely miserable, as a matter of fact.”
The silence ended with Tierce saying curtly, “I’ll come out,” and the click of the receiver left them each separately surprised at their ends of the wire.
"DUT FOR all the haste with which he covered the ground between his ofiice and Elizabeth’s house, he showed no hurry to enter when she opened the downstairs door to him.
He commented on her doing that, after saying he supposed there was little point in his calling at that hour, but something seemed to be the matter, and it was on his way home. No trouble at all.
“At this hour there’s no one about, and when I heard the bell I thought it would be you,” Elizabeth said. “Besides I’ve been doing odd jobs around here lately.” Her voice was shaky and she did not look at him.
“Well, I may as well come up and hear all about it. That is,” he added suspiciously, “if Brown isn’t littered all over the room.”
“No, he’s gone.”
“Nice that he does go sometimes,” Tierce said sourly, and followed her up the stairs in a silence which he seemed to have some difficulty in breaking, even when the door of her room was shut behind them.
Awkward, acutely conscious of her reddened eyelids and swollen mouth, Elizabeth moved round the room trying to avoid his look, but at last she submitted to his plainly seeing her unhappiness and began to speak in a rush.
“It’s not any good, Mr. Tierce. I'm afraid you’ll be dreadfully disappointed in me, but I'm not cut out for a career. I’m not in the least like all these people I’ve been meeting. The only way I can do it, is in between other thingsjust for fun, when it comes of its own accord. Taking it up seriously, as I’ve tried ...”
“Well you’ve succeeded with this last one, haven’t you?”
“Only because Mrs. Willoughby’s daughter Annie got appendicitis.” she said flatly.
“But what in the name ...”
“Mrs. Willoughby’s the landlady here, and she and Annie run the place between them. Annie has a baby—her husband deserted her—that’s the baby I sent you! Annie’s had to be away to have her appendicitis, so I’ve been looking after the baby and helping with the rooms. And being
rushed off my feet all day like that. I was quite glad to be able to sit down and work in the evenings. It was almost like being at home again. You see. it’s all plain enough. I’m just a purely ordinary person. I'll never have a career. It's been simply ghastly all these weeks, with nothing to c’o but work and completely unable to. I’ve been nearly off my head with boredom. Then, meeting people and listening to them talk about the way they do things. They all seem to know how they do it. And they make it sound so confusing and difficult. I just can’t take it in. What I said to you was right. With me it’s an accident, or it doesn’t happen at all. And it doesn’t happen often. I’m terribly ashamed.”
CUE STOPPED and turned her head ^ away, and for some thoughtful moments Tierce regarded her. He sighed at last and said:
“Well, if that’s the way you really feel, there’s no more to be said. I think you should go home. After all, why should you be unhappy?”
“Going home won’t solve things. That’s another thing I have to consider now. Since I’ve been away, Terry—he’s my brotherhas been seeing a lot of a woman we’ve known a long while. She’s the right sort for him, and he’s young, he should marry again. Aunt Connie came to see me during the week-end and told me about everything. I’d said I might go home, and she gave me very good reasons why I shouldn’t. As long as I’m there, Terry won’t look any farther until it would be too late, and—well, I’d be doing him out of real happiness. So . . . ” She Hung out her hands in a helpless little gesture.
“So . . .” Elizabeth’s laugh was hysterical and ended in something like a sob.
“So I might as well get married mysdf. I’d just been proposed to, before you t lephoned.”
Tierce stood up. He was breathing hard and he said grimly:
“You’ve been making rather a fool of me, haven’t you, with all this pretty little act about your work? I might have known you wouldn’t stick in these unlikely surroundings for the sake of your art. And to think that at my age I should be deluded by a schoolgirl pursuing a love affair!”
“That’s not true. I didn’t say I was going to marry Roger. I wouldn’t if lie was the last man on earth ! If you’d heard him —saying we’d live on in this beastly way, or travel, not have any domestic worries, and never have any children, and work together and— I didn’t come up here because of him. I came because of you, because I thought you were a sort of god. and I’d have done anything to please you. And now I know you better, you’re just a bad-tempered machine, interested in nothing but how much I can produce for you to sell. I hate selling things and I hate you !”
She was blowing her small nose violently and did not observe the strange look on Tierce’s face, the mixture of exasperation and tenderness and the bewilderment over all. Though he was breathing unevenly, his words were judicial enough.
“This seems to be rather a crisis in your career, doesn’t it? I’d like to help, if I could. As you say, I am interested in your work, and if three children and domestic worries are needed to make you work, well I . . . ”
His calm deserted him, he practically shouted: “What I mean is, of course I’m in love with you! Elizabeth darling, don’t stand with your mouth open. It makes you look so unintelligent. Isn’t there any way of stopping you from doing that?”
There was a simple and effective way, he found as he felt her young mouth tremble and settle under his.