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(P £/^l {4 l/A re^




University of California • Berkeley

From the Bequest


Dorothy K. Thomas






* Helas ! je sais un chant d'amour
Triste et gai tour a tour ! '




All rights reserved


< Mimi Pinson est une blonde,
Une blonde que I'on connait ;
Elle n'a qu'une robe au monde,
Landerirette ! et qu'un bonnet ! '

It was a fine, sunny, showery day in

The big studio window was open at the
top, and let in a pleasant breeze from the
north-west. Things were beginning to look
shipshape at last. The big piano, a semi-
grand by Broadwood, had arrived from
England by * the Little Quickness' (la
Petite Vitesse, as the goods trains are called



in France), and lay, freshly tuned, alongside
the eastern wall ; on the wall opposite was a
panoply of foils, masks, and boxing-gloves.

A trapeze, a knotted rope, and two parallel
cords, supporting each a ring, depended from
a huge beam in the ceiling. The walls were
of the usual dull red, relieved by plaster casts
of arms and legs and hands and feet ; and
Dante's mask, and Michael Angelo's alto-
rilievo of Leda and the swan, and a centaur
and Lapith from the Elgin Marbles — on none
of these had the dust as yet had time to settle.

There were also studies in oil from the
nude ; copies of Titian, Rembrandt, Velas-
quez, Rubens, Tintoret, Leonardo da Vinci
— none of the school of Botticelli, Mantegna,
and Co.-^a firm whose merits had not as yet
been revealed to the many.

Along the walls, at a great height, ran a
broad shelf, on which were other casts in
plaster, terra-cotta, imitation bronze : a little


Theseus, a little Venus of Milo, a little
discobolus ; a little flayed man threatening
high heaven (an act that seemed almost
pardonable under the circumstances !) ; a lion
and a boar by Barye ; an anatomical figure of
a horse, with only one leg left and no ears ;
a horse's head from the pediment of the
Parthenon, earless also ; and the bust of
Clytie, with her beautiful low brow, her sweet
wan gaze, and the ineffable forward shrug of
her dear shoulders that makes her bosom as a
nest, a rest, a pillow, a refuge — the likeness
of a thing to be loved and desired for ever,
and sought for and wrought for and fought for
by generation after generation of the sons of

Near the stove hung a gridiron, a frying-
pan, a toasting-fork, and a pair of bellows. In
an adjoining glazed corner cupboard were
plates and glasses, black - handled knives,
pewter spoons, and three-pronged steel forks ;



a salad-bowl, vinegar cruets, an oil-flask, two
mustard-pots (English and French), and such
like things — all scrupulously clean. On the
floor, which had been stained and waxed at
considerable cost, lay two cheetah-skins and
a large Persian praying-rug. One half of it,
however (under the trapeze and at the
end farthest from the window, beyond the
model - throne), was covered with coarse
matting, that one might fence or box without
slipping down and splitting one's self in two,
or fall without breaking any bones.

Two other windows of the usual French
size and pattern, with shutters to them and
heavy curtains of baize, opened, east and
west, to let in dawn or sunset, as the case
might be, or haply keep them out. And
there were alcoves, recesses, irregularities,
odd little nooks and corners, to be filled up
as time wore on with endless personal nick-
nacks, bibelots, private properties and acqui-



sitions — things that make a place genial,
homelike, and good to remember, and sweet
to muse upon (with fond regret) in after years.

And an immense divan spread itself in
width and length and delightful thickness
just beneath the big north window, the busi-
ness window — a divan so immense that three
well-fed, well -contented Englishmen could
all lie lazily smoking their pipes on it at
once without being in each other's way, and
very often did !

At present one of these Englishmen — a
Yorkshireman, by the way, called Taffy (and
also the Man of Blood, because he was
supposed to be distantly related to a baronet)
— was more energetically engaged. Bare-
armed, and in his shirt and trousers, he was
twirling a pair of Indian clubs round his
head. His face was flushed, and he was
perspiring freely and looked fierce. He was
a very big young man, fair, with kind but



choleric blue eyes, and the muscles of his
brawny arm were strong as iron bands.

For three years he had borne Her
Majesty's commission, and had been through
the Crimean campaign without a scratch.
He would have been one of the famous six
hundred in the famous charge at Balaklava
but for a sprained ankle (caught playing leap-
frog in the trenches), which kept him in
hospital on that momentous day. So that
he lost his chance of glory or the grave, and
this humiliating misadventure had sickened
him of soldiering for life, and he never quite
got over it. Then, feeling within himself an
irresistible vocation for art, he had sold out ;
and here he was in Paris, hard at work, as
we see.

He was good-looking, with straight feat-
ures ; but I regret to say that, besides his
heavy plunger's moustache, he wore an im-
mense pair of drooping auburn whiskers, of


the kind that used to be called Piccadilly
weepers, and were afterwards affected by-
Mr. Sothern in Lord Dundreary. It was
a fashion to do so then for such of our gilded
youth as could afford the time (and the hair) ;
the bigger and fairer the whiskers, the more
beautiful was thought the youth ! It seems in-
credible in these days, when even Her Majesty's
Household Brigade go about with smooth
cheeks and lips, like priests or play-actors.

* What's become of all the gold
Used to hang and brush their bosoms . . . ? '

Another inmate of this blissful abode —
Sandy, the Laird of Cockpen, as he was
called — sat in similarly simple attire at his
easel, painting at a lifelike little picture of a
Spanish toreador serenading a lady of high
degree (in broad daylight). He had never
been to Spain, but he had a complete
toreador's kit — a bargain which he had



picked up for a mere song in the Boulevard
du Temple — and he had hired the guitar.
His pipe was in his mouth — reversed ; for it
had gone out, and the ashes were spilled all
over his trousers, where holes were often
burned in this way.

Quite gratuitously, and with a pleasing
Scotch accent, he began to declaim :

' A street there is in Paris famous

For which no rhyme our language yields ;
Roo Nerve day Petty Shong its name is —
The New Street of the Little Fields. . . .'

And then, in his keen appreciation of the
immortal stanza, he chuckled audibly, with a
face so blithe and merry and well pleased
that it did one good to look at him.

He also had entered life by another door.
His parents (good, pious people in Dundee)
had intended that he should be a writer to
the signet, as his father and grandfather had
been before him. And here he was in Paris


famous, painting toreadors, and spouting the
* Ballad of the Bouillabaisse,' as he would
often do out of sheer lightness of heart —
much oftener, indeed, than he would say his

Kneeling on the divan, with his elbow
on the window-sill, was a third and much
younger youth. The third he was ' Little
Billee.' He had pulled down the green
baize blind, and was looking over the roofs
and chimney-pots of Paris and all about with
all his eyes, munching the while a roll and a
savoury saveloy, in which there was evidence
of much garlic. He ate with great relish,
for he was very hungry ; he had been all the
morning at Carrel's studio, drawing from the

Little Billee was small and slender, about
twenty or twenty-one, and had a straight
white forehead veined with blue, large dark
blue eyes, delicate, regular features, and coal-



black hair. He was also very graceful and
well built, with very small hands and feet,
and much better dressed than his friends,
who went out of their way to outdo the
denizens of the Quartier Latin in careless
eccentricity of garb, and succeeded. And
in his winning and handsome face there was
just a faint suggestion of some possible very
remote Jewish ancestor — just a tinge of that
strong, sturdy, irrepressible, indomitable,
indelible blood which is of such priceless
value in diluted homoeopathic doses, like the
dry white Spanish wine called montijo, which
is not meant to be taken pure ; but without
a judicious admixture of which no sherry
can go round the world and keep its flavour
intact ; or like the famous bulldog strain,
which is not beautiful in itself, and yet just
for lacking a little of the same no greyhound
can ever hope to be a champion. So, at
least, I have been told by wine merchants



and dog-fanciers — the most veracious persons
that can be. Fortunately for the world, and
especially for ourselves, most of us have in
our veins at least a minim of that precious
fluid, whether we know it or show it or not.
Tant pis pour les autres !

As Little Billee munched he also gazed
at the busy place below — the Place St.
Anatole des Arts — at the old houses opposite,
some of which were being pulled down, no
doubt lest they should fall of their own sweet
will. In the gaps between he would see
discoloured, old, cracked, dingy walls, with
mysterious windows and rusty iron balconies
of great antiquity — sights that set him dream-
ing dreams of mediaeval French love and
wickedness and crime, bygone mysteries of
Paris !

One gap went right through the block,

and gave him a glimpse of the river, the

' Cite,' and the ominous old Morgue ; a little



to the right rose the gray towers of Notre
Dame de Paris into the checkered April sky.
Indeed, the top of nearly all Paris lay before
him, with a little stretch of the imagination
on his part ; and he gazed with a sense of
novelty, an interest and a pleasure for which
he could not have found any expression in
mere language.

Paris! Paris!! Paris!!!

The very name had always been one to
conjure with, whether he thought of it as a
mere sound on the lips and in the ear, or as
a magical written or printed word for the
eye. And here was the thing itself at last,
and he, he himself, ipsissimus, in the very
heart of it, to live there and learn there as
long as he liked, and make himself the great
artist he longed to be.

Then, his meal finished, he lit a pipe, and
flung himself on the divan and sighed deeply,
out of the over-full contentment of his heart.



He felt he had never known happiness
like this, never even dreamed its possibility.
And yet his life had been a happy one. He
was young and tender, was Little Billee;
he had never been to any school, and was
innocent of the world and its wicked ways ;
innocent of French especially, and the ways
of Paris and its Latin Quarter. He had
been brought up and educated at home, had
spent his boyhood in London with his mother
and sister, who now lived in Devonshire on
somewhat straitened means. His father, who
was dead, had been a clerk in the Treasury.

He and his two friends, Taffy and the
Laird, had taken this studio together. The
Laird slept there, in a small bedroom off the
studio. Taffy had a bedroom at the Hotel
de Seine, in the street of that name. Little
Billee lodged at the Hotel Corneille, in the
Place de I'Odeon.

He looked at his two friends, and won-


dered if any one, living or dead, had ever
had such a glorious pair of chums as these.

Whatever they did, whatever they said,
was simply perfect in his eyes ; they were
his guides and philosophers as well as his
chums. On the other hand, Taffy and the
Laird were as fond of the boy as they could

His absolute belief in all they said and
did touched them none the less that they were
conscious of its being somewhat in excess of
their deserts. His almost girlish purity of
mind amused and charmed them, and they
did all they could to preserve it, even in the
Quartier Latin, where purity is apt to go bad
if it be kept too long.

They loved him for his affectionate dis-
position, his lively and caressing ways ; and
they admired him far more than he ever
knew, for they recognised in him a quick-
ness, a keenness, a delicacy of perception, in



matters of form and colour, a mysterious
facility and felicity of execution, a sense of all
that was sweet and beautiful in nature, and a
ready power of expressing it, that had not
been vouchsafed to them in any such gener-
ous profusion, and which, as they ungrudg-
ingly admitted to themselves and each other,
amounted to true genius.

And when one within the immediate
circle of our intimates is gifted in this ab-
normal fashion, we either hate or love him
for it, in proportion to the greatness of his
gift ; according to the way we are built.

So Taffy and the Laird loved Little
Billee — loved him very much indeed. Not
but what Little Billee had his faults. For
instance, he didn't interest himself very
warmly in other people's pictures. He
didn't seem to care for the Laird's guitar-
playing toreador, nor for his serenaded lady
— at all events, he never said anything about



them, either in praise or blame. He looked
at Taffy's realisms (for Taffy was a realist) In
silence, and nothing tries true friendship so
much as silence of this kind.

But, then, to make up for it, when they all
three went to the Louvre, he didn't seem to
trouble much about Titian either, or Rem-
brandt, or Velasquez, Rubens, Veronese, or
Leonardo. He looked at the people who
looked at the pictures, Instead of at the
pictures themselves ; especially at the people
who copied them, the sometimes charming
young lady painters — and these seemed to
him even more charming than they really
were — and he looked a great deal out of the
Louvre windows, where there was much to
be seen : more Paris, for instance — Paris, of
which he could never have enough.

But when, surfeited with classical beauty,

they all three went and dined together, and

Taffy and the Laird said beautiful things



about the old masters, and quarrelled about
them, he listened with deference and rapt
attention and reverentially agreed with all
they said ; and afterwards made the most de-
lightfully funny little pen-and-ink sketches of
them, saying all these beautiful things (which
he sent to his mother and sister at home) ;
so lifelike, so real, that you could almost
hear the beautiful things they said ; so
beautifully drawn that you felt the old
masters couldn't have drawn them better
themselves ; and so irresistibly droll that you
felt that the old masters could not have
drawn them at all — any more than Milton
could have described the quarrel between
Sairey Gamp and Betsy Prig ; no one, in
short, but Little Billee.

Little Billee took up the ' Ballad of the
Bouillabaisse ' where the Laird had left it off,
and speculated on the future of himself and

his friends, when he should have got to
VOL. I 17 c


forty years — an almost impossibly remote

These speculations were interrupted by a
loud knock at the door, and two men
came In.

First, a tall bony individual of any age
between thirty and forty -five, of Jewish
aspect, well-featured but sinister. He was
very shabby and dirty, and wore a red bdret
and a large velveteen cloak, with a big metal
clasp at the collar. His thick, heavy, lan-
guid, lustreless black hair fell down behind
his ears on to his shoulders, in that musician-
like way that is so offensive to the normal
Englishman. He had bold, brilliant black
eyes, with long heavy lids, a thin, sallow
face, and a beard of burnt-up black, which
grew almost from his under eyelids ; and
over It his moustache, a shade lighter, fell In
two long spiral twists. He went by the

name of Svengall, and spoke fluent French



with a German accent and humorous Ger-
man twists and idioms, and his voice was
very thin and mean and harsh, and often
broke into a disagreeable falsetto.

His companion was a little swarthy young
man — a gypsy, possibly — much pitted with
the smallpox, and also very shabby. He
had large, soft, affectionate brown eyes, like
a King Charles spaniel. He had small,
nervous, veiny hands, with nails bitten down
to the quick, and carried a fiddle and a
fiddlestick under his arm, without a case,
as though he had been playing in the

* Ponchour, mes enfants,' said Svengali.
* Che vous amene mon ami Checko, qui
choue du fiolon gomme un anche ! '

Little Billee, who adored all 'sweet
musicianers,' jumped up and made Gecko as
warmly welcome as he could in his early



* Ha ! le biano ! ' exclaimed Svengali,
flinging his red bdret on It, and his cloak on
the ground. ' Ch'espere qu'il est pon, et
pien t'accord ! '

And sitting down on the music-stool, he
ran up and down the scales with that easy-
power, that smooth even crispness of touch,
which reveal the master.

Then he fell to playing Chopin's im-
promptu in A flat, so beautifully that Little
Billee's heart went nigh to bursting with
suppressed emotion and delight. He had
never heard any music of Chopin's before,
nothing but British provincial home-made
music — melodies with variations, ' Annie
Laurie,' 'The Last Rose of Summer,' 'The
Blue Bells of Scotland ' ; Innocent little
motherly and sisterly tinklings, Invented to
set the company at their ease on festive
evenings, and make all-round conversation
possible for shy people, who fear the un-



accompanied sound of their own voices,
and whose genial chatter always leaves off
directly the music ceases.

He never forgot that impromptu, which
he was destined to hear again one day in
strange circumstances.

Then Svengali and Gecko made music
together, divinely. Little fragmentary
things, sometimes consisting of but a few
bars, but these bars of such beauty and
meaning ! Scraps, snatches, short melodies,
meant to fetch, to charm immediately, or to
melt or sadden or madden just for a moment,
and that knew just when to leave off —
czardas, gypsy dances, Hungarian love-
plaints, things little known out of eastern
Europe in the fifties of this century, till the
Laird and Taffy were almost as wild in their
enthusiasm as Little Billee — a silent enthu-
siasm too deep for speech. And when these
two great artists left off to smoke, the three



Britishers were too much moved even for
that, and there was a stillness. . . .

Suddenly there came a loud knuckle-
rapping at the outer door, and a portentous
voice of great volume, and that might almost
have belonged to any sex (even an angel's),
uttered the British milkman's yodel, * Milk
below ! ' and before any one could say
'Entrez,' a strange figure appeared, framed
by the gloom of the little antechamber.

It was the figure of a very tall and fully-
developed young female, clad in the gray
overcoat of a French infantry soldier, con-
tinued netherwards by a short striped petti-
coat, beneath which were visible her bare
white ankles and insteps, and slim,
straight, rosy heels, clean cut and smooth
as the back of a razor ; her toes lost
themselves in a huge pair of male slippers,
which made her drag her feet as she



She bore herself with easy, unembarrassed
grace, like a person whose nerves and muscles
are well in tune, whose spirits are high, who
has lived much in the atmosphere of French
studios, and feels at home in it.

This strange medley of garments was
surmounted by a small bare head with short,
thick, wavy brown hair, and a very healthy
young face, which could scarcely be called
quite beautiful at first sight, since the eyes
were too wide apart, the mouth too large,
the chin too massive, the complexion a mass
of freckles. Besides, you can never tell
how beautiful (or how ugly) a face may be
till you have tried to draw it.

But a small portion of her neck, down
by the collar-bone, which just showed itself
between the unbuttoned lapels of her military
coat collar, was of a delicate privet-like white-
ness that is never to be found on any French
neck, and very few English ones. Also,



she had a very fine brow, broad and low,
with thick level eyebrows much darker than
her hair, a broad, bony, high bridge to her
short nose, and her full, broad cheeks were
beautifully modelled. She would have made
a singularly handsome boy.

As the creature looked round at the
assembled company and flashed her big
white teeth at them in an all-embracing
smile of uncommon width and quite irresist-
ible sweetness, simplicity, and friendly trust,
one saw at a glance that she was out of the
common clever, simple, humorous, honest,
brave, and kind, and accustomed to be
genially welcomed wherever she went. Then
suddenly closing the door behind her, drop-
ping her smile, and looking wistful and sweet,
with her head on one side and her arms
akimbo, * Ye're all English, now, aren't ye ? '
she exclaimed. ^I heard the music, and

thought I'd just come in for a bit, and pass



the time of day : you don't mind ? Trilby,
that's my name — Trilby O'Ferrall.'

She said this in English, with an accent
half Scotch and certain French intonations,
and in a voice so rich and deep and full
as almost to suggest an incipient tenore
robusto ; and one felt instinctively that it
was a real pity she wasn't a boy, she would
have made such a jolly one.

'We're delighted, on the contrary,' said
Little Billee, and advanced a chair for her.

But she said, ' Oh, don't mind me ; go
on with the music,' and sat herself down
cross-legged on the model-throne near the

As they still looked at her, curious and
half embarrassed, she pulled a paper parcel
containing food out of one of the coat-
pockets, and exclaimed :
, * I'll just take a bite, if you don't object;
I'm a model, you know, and it's just rung



twelve — ''the rest." I'm posing for Durien
the sculptor, on the next floor. I pose to
him for the altogether.'

* The altogether ? ' asked Little Billee.

' Yes — r ensemble, you know — head, hands,
and feet — everything — especially feet. That's
my foot,' she said, kicking off her big slipper
and stretching out the limb. * It's the hand-
somest foot in all Paris. There's only one
in all Paris to match it, and here it is,' and
she laughed heartily (like a merry peal of
bells), and stuck out the other.

And in truth they were astonishingly

beautiful feet, such as one only sees in

pictures and statues — a true inspiration of

shape and colour, all made up of delicate

lengths and subtly -modulated curves and

noble straightnesses and happy little dimpled

arrangements in innocent young pink and


So that Little Billee, who had the quick,


prehensile, aesthetic eye, and knew by the

I grace of Heaven what the shapes and sizes
and colours of almost every bit of man,
woman, or child should be (and so seldom
are), was quite bewildered to find that a

I real, bare, live human foot could be such
a charming object to look at, and felt that
such a base or pedestal lent quite an antique
and Olympian dignity to a figure that seemed
just then rather grotesque in its mixed attire

I of military overcoat and female petticoat,
and nothing else !

j Poor Trilby!

The shape of those lovely slender feet
(that were neither large nor small), facsimiled
in dusty pale plaster of Paris, survives on the
shelves and walls of many a studio through-
out the world, and many a sculptor yet
unborn has yet to marvel at their strange
perfection, in studious despair.

For when Dame Nature takes it into


her head to do her very best, and bestow
her minutest attention on a mere detail,
as happens now and then — once in a
blue moon, perhaps — she makes it uphill
work for poor human art to keep pace
with her.

It is a wondrous thing, the human foot
— like the human hand ; even more so,
perhaps ; but, unlike the hand, with which
we are so familiar, it is seldom a thing of
beauty in civilised adults who go about in
leather boots or shoes.

So that it is hidden away in disgrace,
a thing to be thrust out of sight and

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