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A COMEDY OF MASKS 



KEW NOVELS AT ALL LIBRARIES. 



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LONDON : 
WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21, BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 



A NOVEL 



BY 



ERNEST DOW SON 



ARTHUR MOORE 



IN THREE VOLUMES 
VOL. L 




LONDON 
WILLIAM HEINEMANN 

1893 

[All rights reserved] 






A COMEDY OF MASKS 



S. CHAPTER I. 

o 

In that intricate and obscure locality which 
stretches between the Tower and Poplar, 
'^a tarry region, scarcely suspected by the 
-majority of Londoners, to whom the * Port 
of London' is an expression purely geo- 
. :grapiiical, there is, or was not many years 
j^ago, to be found a certain dry-dock called 
^Blackpool, but better known from time 
>Ckimmcinorial to skippers and longshore- 
omen, and all who go down to the sea in 
^ships, as ' Rainham's Dock.' 

Many years ago, in the days of the first 
^Rainham and of wooden ships, it had been 

VOL. I. I 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 



no doubt a flourishing ship-yard ; and, In- 
deed, models of wooden leviathans of the 
period, which had been turned out, not a 
few, In those palmy days, were still dusty 
ornaments of Its somewhat antique office. 
But as time went on and the age of Iron 
intervened, and the advance on the Clyde 
and the Tyne had made Thames ship- 
building a thing of the past, Blackpool 
Dock had ceased to be of commercial 
importance. No more ships were built 
there, and fewer ships put in to be over- 
hauled and painted ; while even these 
were for the most part of a class viewed 
at Lloyd's with scant favour, which seemed, 
like the yard itself, to have fallen some- 
what behind the day. The original Rain- 
ham had not bequeathed his energy along 
with his hoards to his descendants; and. 
Indeed, the last of these, Philip Ralnham, 
a man of weak health, whose tastes, 
although these were veiled In obscurity, 
were supposed to trench little upon ship- 
ping, let the business jog along so much 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 



after Its own fashion that the popular 
view hinted at its imminent dissolution. 
A dignified, scarcely prosperous quiet 
seemed the normal air of Blackpool Dock, 
so that even when It was busiest, and 
work still came In, almost by tradition, with 
a certain steadiness — when the hammers 
of the riveters and the shipwrights awoke 
the echoes from sunrise to sunset, with a 
ferocious regularity which the present pro- 
prietor could almost deplore, there was 
still a suggestion of mildewed antiquity 
about It all that was, at least to the nostrils 
of the outsider, not unpleasing. And when 
the ships were painted, and had departed, 
it resumed very easily Its more regular 
aspect of picturesque dilapidation. For 
in spite of Its sordid surroundings and its 
occasional lapses into bustle, Blackpool 
Dock, as Ralnham would sometimes remind 
himself, when its commercial motive was 
pressed upon him too forcibly, was deeply 
permeated by the spirit of the picturesque. 
Certainly Mj\__Ridiard^_Lightmark, a 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 



young artist, in whose work some excellent 
judges were beginning already to discern, 
if not the hand of the master, at least a 
touch remarkably happy, was inclined to 
plume himself on having discovered, in his 
search after originality, the artistic points 
of a dockyard. 

It was on his first visit to Rainham, 
whom he had met abroad some years 
before, and with whom he had contracted 
an alliance that promised to be permanent, 
that Lightmark had decided his study 
should certainly be the river. Rainham 
had a set of rooms in the house of his 
foreman — an eighteenth-century house, full 
of carved oak mantels and curious alcoves, 
a ramshackle structure within the dock- 
gates, with a quaint balcony staircase, like 
the approach to a Swiss chalet, leading 
down into the yard. In London these 
apartments were his sole domicile ; though, 
to his friends, none of whom lived nearer 
to him than Bloomsbury, this seemed a 
piece of conduct too flagrantly eccentric — 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 



on a parity with his explanation of it, 
alleging necessity of living on the spot : 
an explanation somewhat droll, in the face 
of his constant lengthy absences, during 
the whole of the winter, when he handed 
the reins of government to his manager, 
and took care of a diseased lune in a 
warmer climate. To LIghtmark, however, 
dining with his friend for the first time on 
chops burnt barbarously and an inferior 
pudding, residence even in a less salu- 
brious quarter than Blackpool would have 
been amply justified, in view of the many 
charming effects — for the most part coldly 
sad and white — which the river offered, 
towards evening, from the window of his 
friend's dining-room. 

After his first visit, he availed himself 
eagerly of Rainham's invitation to make 
his property the point of view from which 
he could most conveniently transfer to 
canvas his impressions ; and he worked 
hard for months, with an industry that 
came upon his friend as a surprise, at the 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 



uneven outlines of the Thames ware- 
houses, and the sharp-pointed masts that 
rose so trenchantly above them. He had 
generated a habit of coming and going, 
as he pleased, without consideration of his 
host's absences ; and latterly, in the early 
spring — whose caprices in England Rain- 
ham was never in a hurry to encounter — 
ihe easel and painting tools of the assiduous 
artist had become an almost constant 
feature of the landscape. 

Now, towards the close of an excep- 
tionally brilliant day in the finish of May, 
he was putting the last touches to a picture 
which had occupied him for some months, 
and which he hoped to have completed for 
Rainham's return. As he stood on the 
wharf, which ran down to the river-side, 
leaning back against a crane of ancient 
pattern, and viewing his easel from a few 
yards' distance critically, he could not con- 
template the result without a certain com- 
placency. 

' It's deuced good, after all,' he said to 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 



himself, with his head poised a little on 
one side. ' Yes, old Rainham will like 
this. And, by Jove ! what matters a good 
deal more, the hangers will like it, and if 
it's sold — and, confound it ! it must be sold 
— it will be a case of three figures.' 

He had one hand in his pocket, and 
instinctively — it may have been the result 
of his meditation — he fell to jingling some 
coins in it. They were not very many, 
but just then, though he was a young 
gentleman keenly alive to the advantages 
of a full purse, their paucity hardly troubled 
him. He felt,, for the nonce, assured of 
his facility, and doubtless had a vista of 
unlimited commissions and the world at 
his feet, for he drew himself up to his full 
height of six feet and looked out beyond 
the easel with a smile that had no longer 
its origin in the fruition of the artist. 
Indeed, as he stood there, in his light, lax 
dress and the fulness of his youth, he had 
(his art apart) excuse for self-complacency. 
He was very pleasant to look upon, with 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 



an air of having always been popular with 
his fellows and the favourite of women ; 
this, too, was borne out by his history. 
Not a beautiful man, by any means, but 
the best type of English comeliness : ruddy- 
coloured, straight, and healthy ; muscular, 
but without a suggestion of brutality. His 
yellow moustache, a shade lighter than his 
hair — which, although he wore it cropped, 
showed a tendency to be curling — con- 
cealed a mouth that was his only question- 
able feature. It was not the sensitive 
mouth of the through and through artist, 
and the lines of It were vacillating. The 
lips, had they not been hidden, would have 
surprised by their fulness, contradicting, in 
some part, the curious coldness of his light 
blue eyes. All said, however, he remained 
a singularly handsome fellow ; and the 
slight consciousness which he occasionally 
betrayed that his personality was pleasing 
hardly detracted from it ; it was, after all, 
a harmless vanity that his friends could 
afford to overlook. Just then his thoughts, 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 



which had wandered many leagues from 
the warehouses of Blackpool, were brought 
up sharply by the noise of an approaching 
footstep. He started slightly, but a moment 
later greeted the new-comer with a pleasant 
smile of recognition. It was Rainham's 
foreman and general manager, with whom 
the artist, as with most persons with whom 
he w^as often in contact, was on excellent, 
and even familiar, terms. 

' Look here, Bullen,' he said, twisting 
the easel round a little, ' the picture is 
practically finished. A few more strokes 
— I shall do them at home — and it is 
ready for the Academy. How do you 
like it r 

Mr. Bullen bent down his burly form 
and honoured the little canvas with a 
respectful scrutiny. 

* That is Trinidad Wharf, sir, I suppose }' 
he suggested, pointing with a huge fore- 
finger at the background a little un- 
certainly. 

* That is Trinidad Wharf, Bullen, cer- 



lo A COMEDY OF MASKS 

tainly ! And those masts are from the 
ships in the Commercial Docks. But the 
river, the atmosphere — that's the point — 
how do they strike you ?' 

* Well, it's beautiful, sir,' remarked 
Bullen cordially ; ' painted like the life, 
you may say. But isn't it just a little 
smudgy, sir T 

* That's the beauty of it, Bullen. It's 
impressionism, you Philistine ! — a sort of 
modified impressionism, you know, to suit 
the hangers. 'Gad, Bullen, you ought to 
be a hanger yourself! Bullen, my dear 
man, if it wasn't that you do know how to 
paint a ship's side, I would even go so far 
as to say that you have all the qualifications 
of an Academician.' 

* Ah, if it comes to that, Mr. Lightmark, 
I dare say I could put them up to some 
dodges. I am a judge of " composition." ' 

' Composition ? The devil you are ! 
Ah, you mean that infernal compound 
which they cover ships' bottoms with '^. 
What an atrocious pun !' The man looked 



A COMEDY OF MASKS ii 

puzzled. ' Bullen, R.A., great at compo- 
sition ; it sounds well/ continued Light- 
mark gaily, just touching in the brown sail 
of a barge. 

M've a nephew in the Royal Artillery, 
sir,' said Mr. Bullen ; ' but I fear he is a 
bad lot.' 

' Oh, they all are !' said Lightmark, ' an 
abandoned crew.' 

His eyes wandered off to the bridge 
over which the road ran, dividing the dry- 
dock from the outer basin and wharf on 
which they stood. A bevy of factory 
girls in extensive hats stuck with brilliant 
Whitechapel feathers were passing ; one 
of them, who was pretty, caught Light- 
mark's eyes and flung him a saucy com- 
pliment, which he returned wath light 
badinage in kind that made the foreman 
grin. 

' They know a fine man when they see 
one, as well as my lady,' he said. Then 
he added, as if by an after-thought, lower- 
ing his voice a little : ' By the way, Mr. 



12 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

Lightmark, there was a young lady — a 
young person here yesterday — making in- 
quiries.' 

Lightmark bent down, frowning a little 
at a fly which had entangled itself on his 
palette. 

' Yes ?' he remarked tentatively, when 
the offender had been removed. 

' It was a young lady come after some- 
one, who, she said, had been here lately : 
a Mr. Dighton or Crichton was the 
name, I think. It was the dockman she 
asked.' 

* Nobody comes here of that name that 
I know of,' said Lightmark. 

* Not to my knowledge,' said Bullen. 

' Curious !' remarked Lightmark gravely. 

'Very, sir!' said Bullen, with equal 
gravity. 

Lightmark looked up abruptly : the two 
men's eyes met, and they both laughed, 
the artist a little nervously. 

' What did you tell her, Bullen ?' 

' No such person known here, sir. I 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 13 

sent her away as wise as she came. I 
hold with minding my own business, and 
asking no questions.' 

' An excellent maxim, Bullen !' said 
Lightmark, preparing to pack up his 
easel. ' I have long believed you to be 
a man of discretion. Well, I must even 
be moving.' 

* You know the governor is back, sir T 
Lightmark dropped the paint-brush he 

was cleaning, with a movement of genuine 
surprise. 

* I never knew it,' he said ; ' I will run 
up and have a yarn with him. I thought 
he w^asn't expected till to-morrow at the 
earliest ?' 

' Nor he was, Mr. Lightmark. But he 
travelled right through from Italy, and got 
to London late last night. He slept at 
the Great Eastern, and I went up to him 
in the City this morning. He hasn't been 
here more than half an hour.' 

' Nobody told me,' said Lightmark. 
^ Gad ! I am glad. I will take him up 



14 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

the picture. Will you carry the other 
traps into the house, Bullen ?' 

He packed them up, and then stood a 
trifle irresolutely, his hand feeling over the 
coins in his pocket. Presently he pro- 
duced two of them, a sovereign and a 
shilling. 

' By the way, Bullen !' he said, 'there is 
a little function common in your trade, the 
gift of a new hat. It costs a guinea, I am 
told ; though judging from the general 
appearance of longshoremen, the result 
seems a little inadequate. Bullen, we are 
pretty old friends now, and I expect I 
shall not be down here so often just at 
present. Allow me — to give you a new 
hat.' 

The foreman's huge fist closed on the 
artist's slender one. 

' Thank you, sir ! You are such a 
facetious gentleman. You may depend 
upon me.' 

* I do,' said Lightmark, with a sudden 
lapse into seriousness, and frowning a little. 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 15 

If something had cast a shadow over 
the artist for the moment, he must have 
had a faculty of quick recovery, for there 
was certainly no shade of constraint upon 
his handsome face when a minute later he 
made his way up the balcony steps and 
into the office labelled ' Private,' and, de- 
positing his canvas upon the floor, treated 
his friend to a prolonged handshaking. 

' My dear Dick !' said Ralnham, ^ this is 
a pleasant surprise. I had not the re- 
motest notion you w^ere here.' 

* I thought you were at Bordighera, till 
Bullen told me of your arrival ten minutes 
ago,' said Lightmark, with a frank laugh. 
* And how well ' 

Rainham held up his hand — a very 
white, nervous hand, with one ring of 
quaint pattern on the forefinger — depre- 
catingly. 

' My dear fellow, I know exactly what 
you are going to say. Don't be con- 
ventional — don't say it. I have a fraudu- 
lent countenance if I do look well; and I 



i6 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

don't, and I am not. I am as bad as I 
ever was.' 

* Well, come now, Rainham, at any rate 
you are no worse.' 

' Oh, I am no worse !' admitted the dry- 
dock proprietor. ' But, then, I could not 
afford to be much worse. However, my 
health is a subject which palls on me after 
a time. Tell me about yourself.' 

He looked up with a smile, in which an 
onlooker might have detected a spark of 
malice, as though Rainham were aware 
that his suggested topic was not without 
attraction to his friend. He was a slight 
man of middle height, and of no apparent 
distinction, and his face, with all its petulant 
lines of lassitude and ill-health — the wear 
and tear of forty years having done with 
him the work of fifty — struck one who saw 
Philip Rainham for the first time by 
nothing so much as by its ugliness. And 
yet few persons who knew him would have 
hesitated to allow to his nervous, suffering 
visage a certain indefinable charm. The 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 17 

large head set on a figure markedly un- 
graceful, on which the clothes seldom 
fitted, was shapely and refined, although 
the features were Indefensible, even gro- 
tesque. And his mouth, with its con- 
strained thin lips and the acrid lines about 
it, was unmistakably a strong one. His 
deep-set eyes, moreover, of a dark gray 
colour, gleamed from under his thick eye- 
brows with a pleasant directness ; while his 
smile, which some people called cynical, as 
his habit of speech most certainly was, 
was found by others extraordinarily sym- 
pathetic. 

' Yes, tell me about yourself, Dick,' he 
said again. 

' I have done a picture, if that is what 
you mean, besides some portraits ; I have 
worked down here like a galley-slave for 
the last three months.' 

* And is the queer little estaminet in 
Soho still in evidence ? Do the men of 
to-morrow still meet there nightly and 
weigh the claims of the men of to-day .'^' 

VOL. I. 2 



l8 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

Lightmark smiled a trifle absently ; his 
eyes had wandered off to his picture In the 
corner. 

' Oh, I believe so !' he said at last ; ' I 
dine there occasionally when I have time. 
But I have been going out a good deal 
lately, and I hardly ever do have time. 
. . . May I smoke, by the way ?' 

Ralnham nodded gently, and the artist 
pulled out his case and started a fragrant 
cigarette. 

'You see, Ralnham,' he continued, send- 
ing a blue ring sailing across the room, 
' I am not so young as I was last year, 
and I have seen a good deal more of the 
world.' 

* I see, Dick,' said Ralnham. ' Well, 
go on !' 

' I mean,' he explained, ' that those men 
who meet at Brodonowski's are very good 
fellows, and deuced clever, and all that ; 
but I doubt if they are the sort of men it 
is well to get too much mixed up with. 
They are rather oiitrS, you know ; though. 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 19 



of course, they are awfully good fellows In 
their way.' 

* Precisely !' said Ralnham, * you are 
becoming a very Solomon, Dick !' 

He sat playing Idly with the ring on his 
forefinger, watching the artist's smoke with 
the same curiously obscure smile. It had 
the effect on LIghtmark now, as Ralnham's 
smile did on many people, however inno- 
cent It might be of satiric Intention, of In- 
fusing his next remarks with the accent of 
apology. 

' You see, Ralnham, one has to think of 
what will help one on, as well as what one 
likes. There Is a man I have come to 
know lately — a very good man too, a 
barrister — who is always dinning that Into 
me. He has Introduced me to some very 
useful people, and is always urging me not 
to commit myself. And Brodonowskl's is 
rather committal, you know. However, 
we must dine there together again one day, 
soon, and then you will understand it.' 

' Oh, I understand It, Dick !' said Rain- 



20 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

ham. ' But let me see the picture while 
the light lasts.' 

* Oh yes !' cried Lightmark eagerly. 
* We must not forget the picture.' He 
hoisted it up to a suitable light, and 
Rainham stood by the bow-window, from 
which one almost obtained the point of 
view which the artist had chosen, regard- 
ing it in a critical silence. 

' What do you call it ?' he asked at 
last. 

' " The Gray River," ' said Lightmark ; 
then a little impatiently : * But how do you 
find it ? Are you waiting for a tripod T 

' I don't think I shall tell you. By 
falling into personal criticism, unless one 
is either dishonest or trivial, one runs the 
risk of losing a friend.' 

' Oh, nonsense, man ! It's not such a 
daub as that. I will risk your candour.' 

Rainham shrugged his shoulder. 

* If you will have it, Dick — only, don't 
think that I am to be coaxed into compli- 
ments.' 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 21 

' Is it bad ?' asked Lightmark sceptically. 

' On the contrary, it is surprisingly 
good. It's clever, and pretty : sure to be 
hung, sure to sell. Only you have come 
down a peg. The sentiment about that 
river is very pretty, and that mist is emi- 
nently pictorial ; but it's not the river you 
would have painted last year ; and that 
mist — I have seen it in a good many pic- 
tures now — is a mist that one can't quite 
believe in. It's the art that pays, but it's 
not the art you talked at Brodonowski's 
last summer, that is all.' 

Lightmark tugged at his moustache a 
little ruefully. Rainham had an idea that 
his ups and downs were tremendous. His 
mind was a mountainous country, and if 
he had elations, he had also depressions as 
acute. Yet his elasticity was enormous, 
and he could throw off troublesome in- 
truders, in the shape of memories or 
regrets, with the ease of a slow-worm 
casting its skin. And so now his confi- 
dence was only shaken for a moment, and 



22 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

he was able to reply gaily to Rainham's 
last thrust : 

' My dear fellow, I expect I talked a 
good deal of trash last year, after all ' — a 
statement which the other did not find it 
worth while to deny. 

They had resumed their places at the 
table, and Lightmark, with a half-sheet 
of notepaper before him, was dashing off 
profiles. They were all the same — the 
head of a girl : a childish face with a 
straight, small nose, and rough hair 
gathered up high above her head in 
a plain knot. Rainham, leaning over, 
watched him with an amused smile. 

* The current infatuation, Dick, or the 
last but one ?' 

'No,' he said; 'only a girl I know. 
Awfully pretty, isn't she V 

Rainham, who was a little short- 
sighted, took up the paper carelessly. 
He dropped it after a minute with a 
slight start. 

' I think 1 know her,' he said. ' You 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 23 

have a knack of catching faces. Is it 
Miss Sylvester ?' 

' Yes ; it is Eve Sylvester,' said Light- 
mark. ' Do you know them } I see a 
good deal of them now.' 

' 1 have known them a good many 
years,' said Rainham. 

' They have never spoken of you to me,' 
said Lightmark. 

' No .'^ I dare say not. Why should 
they ?' He was silent for a moment, 
looking thoughtfully at his ring. Then 
he said abruptly : ' I think I know now 
who your friend the barrister is, Dick. I 
recognise the style. It is Charles Syl- 
vester, is it not ?' 

' You are a wizard,' answered the 
other, laughing. ' Yes, it is.' Then he 
asked : ' Don't you think she is awfully 
pretty ?' 

' Miss Sylvester } . . . Very likely ; she 
was a very pretty child. You know, she 
had not come out last year. Are you 
going ?' 



24 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

Lightmark had pulled out his watch 
absently, and he leapt up as he discovered 
the lateness of the hour. 

* Heavens, yes ! I am dining out, and 
I shall barely have time to dress. I will 
fetch my traps to-morrow ; then we might 
dine together afterwards.' 

* As you like,' said the elder man. * I 
have no engagements yet.' 

Lightmark left him with a genial nod, 
and a moment later Rainham saw him 
through the window passing with long, 
impetuous strides across the bridge. Then 
he returned to his desk, and wrote a letter 
or two until the light failed, when he 
pushed his chair back, and sat, pen in 
hand, looking meditatively, vaguely, at the 
antiquated maps upon the walls. 

Presently his eye fell on Lightmark's 
derelict paper, with its scribble of a girl's 
head. He considered it thoughtfully for 
some time, starting a little, and covering 
it with his blotting-paper, when Mrs. 
Bullen, his housekeeper, entered with a 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 25 

cup of tea — a freak of his nerves which 
made him smile when she had gone. 

Even then he left his tea for a long 
time, cooling and untasted, while he sat 
lethargically lolling back, and regarding 
from time to time the pencilled profile 
with his sad eyes. 



CHAPTER II. 

The period of Lightmark's boyhood had 
not been an altogether happy one. His 
earHest recollections carried him back to a 
time when he lived a wandering, desolate 
life with his father and mother, in an 
endless series of Continental hotels and 
pensions. He was prepared to assert, 
with confidence, that his mother had been 
a very beautiful person, who carried an air 
of the most abundant affection for him on 
the numerous occasions when she received 
her friends. Of his father, who had, as 
far as possible, ignored his existence, he 
remembered very little. 

During these years there had been fre- 
quent difficulties, the nature of which he 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 27 



had since learnt entirely to comprehend ; 
controversies with white-waistcoated pro- 
prietors of hotels and voluble tradespeople, 
generally followed by a severance of 
hastily-cemented friendships, and a depar- 
ture of apparently unpremeditated abrupt- 
ness. 

When his mother died, he was sent to a 
fairly good school in England, where his 
father occasionally visited him, and where 
he had been terribly bullied at first, and 
had afterwards learned to bully in turn. 
He spent his holidays in London, at the 
house of his grandmother — an excellent 
old lady, who petted and scolded him 
almost simultaneously, who talked mysteri- 
ously about his * poor dear father,' and 
took care that he went to church regu- 
larly, and had dancing-lessons three times 
a week. 

His father's death, which occurred at 
Monaco somewhat unexpectedly, and on 
the subject of which his grandmother 
maintained a certain reserve, affected the 



28 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

boy but little ; in fact, the first real grief 
which he could remember to have experi- 
enced was when the old lady herself died 
— he was then nineteen years old — leaving 
him her blessing and a sum of Consols 
sufficient to produce an income of about 
;^2 5o a year. 

The boy's inclinations leaned in the 
direction of Oxford, and in this he was 
supported by his only-surviving relative, 
his uncle, Colonel Lightmark, a loud- 
voiced cavalry officer, who had been the 
terror of Richard's juvenile existence, and 
who, as executor of the old lady's will, was 
fully aware of the position in which her 
death had left him, and her desire that he 
should go into the Church. 

At one of the less fashionable colleges, 
which he selected because he was en- 
amoured of its picturesque inner quad- 
rangle, and of the quaint Dutch glass in 
the chapel windows, Lightmark was popular 
with his peers, and, for his first term, in 
tolerably good odour with the dons, who 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 29 

decided, on his coming up to matriculate, 
that he ought to read for honours. And 
he did read for honours, after a fashion, 
for nearly a scholastic year ; after which 
an unfortunate excursion to Abingdon, and 
a boisterous re-entry into the University 
precincts, at the latter part of which the 
junior proctor and his satellites were pain- 
fully conspicuous, ended in his being ' sent 
down' for a term. Whereupon he decided 
to travel, a decision prompted as much by 
a not unnatural desire to avoid avuncular 
criticism as by a constitutional yearning for 
the sunny South. Besides, one could live 
for next to nothing abroad. 

During the next few years his proceed- 
ings were wrapped in a veil of mystery 
which he never entirely threw aside. 
Rainham, it is true, saw him occasionally 
at this time ; for, indeed, it was soon after 
his first arrival in Paris that Lightmark 
made his friend's acquaintance, sealed 
by their subsequent journey together to 
Rome. But Rainham was discreet. Lieht- 



30 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

mark before long informed his uncle, with 
whom he at first communicated through 
the post on the subject of dividends, that 
he was studying Art, to which his uncle 
had replied : 

' Don't be a d d fool. Come back 

and take your degree.' 

This letter Dick had light-heartedly 
ignored, and he received his next cheque 
from his uncle's solicitors, together with a 
polite request that he would keep them 
informed as to his wanderings, and an in- 
timation that his uncle found it more con- 
venient to make them the channel of cor- 
respondence for the future. 

At Paris it was generally conceded that, 
for an Englishman, the delicacy of Light- 
mark's touch, and the daring of his concep- 
tion and execution, were really marvellous ; 
and if only he could draw ! But he was 
too impatient for the end to spend the 
necessary time in perfecting the means. 

At Rome he tried his hand at sculpture, 
and made a few sketches which his at- 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 31 

tractive personality rather than their in- 
trinsic merit enabled him to sell. The 
camaraderie of the Cafe Greco welcomed 
him with open arms ; and he was to be 
encountered, in the season, at the most 
fashionable studio tea-parties and diplo- 
matic dances. Before long his talent in 
the direction of seizing likenesses secured 
him a well-paid post as caricaturist-in-chief 
on the staff of a Republican journal of more 
wit than discretion ; and it was in this 
capacity that he gained his literary ex- 
perience. On the eve of the suppression 
of this enterprising organ the Minister of 
Police thought it a favourable opportunity 
to express to Lightmark privately his 
opinion that he was not likely to find the 
atmosphere of Rome particularly salubrious 
during the next few months. Whereupon 
our friend had shrugged his shoulders, and 
after ironically thanking the official for his 
disinterested advice, he had given a fare- 
well banquet of great splendour at the 
Grecco, packed up palettes and paint- 



32 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

boxes, and started for London, where his 
friends persuaded him that his talent would 
be recognised. And at London he had 
arrived, travelling by ruinously easy stages, 
and breaking the journey at Florence, 
where he sketched and smoked pipes in- 
numerable on the Lung Arno ; at Venice, 
where he affected cigarettes, and indulged 
in a desperate flirtation with a pretty black- 
eyed marchesa ; at Monaco, where he 
gambled ; and at Paris, where he spent 
his winnings, and foregathered with his 
friends of the Quartier Latin. 

His empty pockets suggested the im- 
mediate necessity for work in a manner 
more emphatic than agreeable. His uncle, 
upon whom he called at his club, invited 
him to dinner, lectured him with consider- 
able eloquence, and practically declined to 
have any more to do with the young re- 
probate ; which shook Lightmark's faith in 
the teaching of parables. 

However, he set to work in the two little 
rooms beneath the tiles which he rented in 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 33 

Bloomsbury, and which served him as bed- 
room and studio ; and for a few weeks 
he finished sketches by day, and wrote 
sonnets for magazines, and frivolous ar- 
ticles for dailies, by night. And, strange 
to say, though there were times when suc- 
cess seemed very hard to grasp, and when 
he was obliged to forestall quarter-day, and 
even to borrow^ money from Rainham — 
when that bird of passage was within reach 
— he sold sketches from time to time ; he 
obtained commissions for portraits ; and 
the editors occasionally read and retained 
his contributions. 

In course of time he moved further west, 
to the then unfashionable neighbourhood 
of Holland Park, and devoted his energies 
to the production of a work which should 
make an impression at the Academy. It 
was his first large picture in oils, an anony- 
mous portrait, treated with all the audacity 
and chic of the modern French school, of a 
fair-haired girl in a quaint fancy dress, 
standing under the soft light of Japanese 

vol.. I. 3 



34 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

lanterns, in a conservatory, with a back- 
ground of masses of flowers. 

And when it was finished, Rainham and 
the small coterie of artists who were inti- 
mate with Lightmark were generously en- 
thusiastic in their expressions of approval. 

' But I don't know about the Academy, 
old man,' said one of these critics du- 
biously, after the first spontaneous out- 
burst of discussion. ' Of course it's good 
enough, but it's not exactly their style, 
you know. The old buffers on the Hanging 
Committee wouldn't understand it ' 

And though Lightmark maintained his 
intention in the face of this criticism, the 
picture was never submitted to the hangers. 
Rainham brought a wealthy American 
shipowner to see it, and when the com- 
mittee sat in judgment, the work was 
already on the high seas on its way to 
New York. 

After all, Lightmark owed his nascent 
reputation to work of a less important 
nature — a few landscapes, which appeared 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 35 

on the walls of Bond Street galleries and 
were transferred in course of time to 
fashionable drawing-rooms ; a few por- 
traits, which the uninitiated thought ad- 
mirable because they were so ' like.' 
Moreover, he could flatter discreetly, and 
he took care not to bore his sitter ; two 
admirable qualities in a portrait-painter 
who desires to succeed. 



CHAPTER III. 

It was to one of his sitters that Lightmark 
owed his introduction to the Sylvesters. 
Charles Sylvester had been told that 
Lightmark was a man who would certainly 
achieve greatness, and he felt that here 
was an opportunity to add a hitherto 
missing leaf to his laurels, by constituting 
himself a patron of art, a position not often 
attained by young barristers even when, 
as in Sylvester's case, they have already 
designs upon a snug constituency. 

Sylvester began by giving his prot^^gc a 
commission to paint his mother's portrait, 
and before this work was finished a very 
appreciable degree of intimacy had sprung 
up between the Sylvester family and the 



A CO MED V OF MASA'S 37 

young painter, who found no difficulty in 
gratifying a woman-of the-world's passion 
for small-talk and fashionable intelligence 
— judiciously culled from the columns of the 
daily newspapers with the art of a practised 
wielder of the scissors and paste-brush. 

With Miss Sylvester he had a less easy 
task. She was a girl who had from a very 
early age been accustomed to have her 
impressions moulded by her self-assertive 
elder brother ; and he, at any rate at first, 
had been careful to show that he regarded 
Lightmark as an object of his patronage 
rather than as a friend who could meet 
him on his own exalted level. He had 
been known, in his earlier years, to speak 
somewhat contemptuously of ' artists'; and, 
indeed, his want of sympathy with Bohe- 
mians in general had given Eve occasion 
for much wondering mental comment, when 
her brother first spoke of introducing the 
portrait-painter to the family circle. 

However, brotherly rule over a girl's 
opinions is apt to be disestablished when 



38 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

she draws near the autumn of her teens ; 
and after her emancipation from the school- 
room and short frocks, Miss Eve began to 
think it was time that she should be 
allowed to entertain and express views 
of her own. And after her first ball, an 
occasion on which her programme had 
speedily been besieged, and the debutante 
marked as dangerous by the observant 
mothers of marriao-eable sons and dauo^hters 
— after this important function, even Charles 
had begun to regard his pretty sister with 
a certain amount of deference. He cer- 
tainly had reason to congratulate himself 
on having so attractive a young person 
to pour out his coffee and compose 
hia ' buttonholes ' before he started for 
chambers in the morning. Eve was at 
an age when the wild rose tints of a com- 
plexion fostered by judicious walks and 
schoolroom teas had not yet yielded to the 
baneful influence of late dinners and the 
other orgies which society conducts in an 
unduly heated atmosphere. Her figure 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 39 

was still almost childishly slim, but graceful, 
and straight enough to defy criticism in the 
ball-room or the saddle. Her eyes were 
gray, with a curious, starry expression 
In their depths, which always suggested 
that the smile which was so often on her 
lips was quite ready to exaggerate the 
dimples in her cheeks. Her hair was 
refractory, from her own point of view ; 
but Lightmark found the tangled brown 
masses, which she wore gathered into a 
loose knot high at the back of her shapely 
head, entirely charming, and suggestive, In 
a way, of one of Lancret's wood nymphs. 

She could never bring herself to believe 
that her nose was pretty, although in the 
seclusion of her chamber she had frankly 
criticised her reflected Image ; and perhaps 
it was a trifle too small for most critics. 
Still, her admirers declared that, especially 
in profile, it was delightfully piquant, and 
vastly preferable to the uninteresting 
aquilines which adorned the countenances 
of her mother and brother. A provoking, 



40 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

childish, charming face, when all was said : 
it was not wonderful that Lightmark would 
fain put it upon canvas. And, indeed, 
so far as the young girl herself was con- 
cerned, he had already a conditional pro- 
mise. She had no objection whatever to 
make, provided that Charles was first con- 
sulted ; only she had no dress that would 
meet the occasion. And when Lightmark 
protested that the airy white garment, with 
here and there a suggestion of cream- 
coloured lace and sulphur ribbons, which 
she was wearing, was entirely right, she 
scouted the idea with scorn. 

' This old frock, Mr. Lightmark,' she 
exclaimed, with a pretty display of disdain 
for his taste, ' why, I've worn the old thing 
for months ! No ; if Charles says I may 
have my portrait painted, I shall go straight 
off to Madame Sophie, and then you may 
paint me and send me to the Academy or 
Grosvenor in all my glory.' 

Lightmark had found it quite useless to 
protest, well as he knew that the ordinary 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 41 

French milliner can be warranted to succeed 
in producing a garment almost as unpaint- 
able as a masculine black frock-coat. 

On the afternoon of the day after Rain- 
ham's return to the dock, Lightmark was 
caressing- his fair moustache upon the 
doorstep of the Sylvesters' house, No. 
137, Park Street, West, a mansion of un- 
pretending size, glorious in its summer coat 
of white paint, relieved only by the tur- 
quoise - blue tiles which surrounded the 
window-boxes, and the darker blue of the 
railings and front-door. He was calling 
ostensibly for the purpose of inquiring how 
Charles Sylvester liked the frame which he 
had selected for the recently-finished por- 
trait ; really in order to induce her brother 
to allow Eve to sit to him. Sounds as of 
discussion floated down the wide staircase ; 
and when the servant opened the drawing- 
room door preparatory to announcing him, 
Lightmark heard — and it startled him — a 
well-remembered voice upraised in playful 
protest. 



42 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

* No, 'pon my word, Mrs. Sylvester, my 
young scamp of a nephew hasn't done you 
justice, 'pon my soul he hasn't !' 

At first he felt almost inclined to turn 
tall ; though he had long been aware that 
the Sylvesters were cognisant of his 
relationship to the somewhat notorious 
old Colonel, and that they knew him, as 
everyone did, he had never contemplated 
the possibility of meeting his uncle there. 

And when he had shaken hands in a 
bewildered manner with Mrs. Sylvester 
and Eve, he perceived that his uncle was 
greeting him with an almost paternal 
cordiality. 

' Why, Dick, my boy, 'pon my soul I 
haven't seen you for an age ! You mustn't 
neglect your gouty old uncle, you know, 
Dick ; when are you going to paint his 
portrait, in review order, eh ? Not until 
you've painted Miss Eve there, I'll be 
bound !' 

The prodigal nephew needed all his by 
no means deficient stock of nerve to enable 



A CO. If ED y OF A/ ASA'S 43 

him to present an unmoved countenance to 
this unexpected attack of geniality. This, 
he thought, as he returned the other's 
greeting with as great a semblance of ease 
as he could muster — this was the uncle who 
had declined to recognise him when they 
met a few months ago, in the broadest 
daylight, in Pall Mall ! 

Presently, while he was trying to recover 
his equanimity by devoting himself to the 
cult of Eve, he heard the Colonel whisper 
in a confidential undertone to their hostess : 

' Devilish clever fellow, my nephew, 
y'know, though perhaps I oughtn't to say 
so. Those newspaper beggars think very 
highly of him — the critics, y'know, and 
all that ; why, 'pon my soul, I was reading 
something about him only this morning at 
the club in the what's-his-name — the Oi^^- 
cry. Said he ought to be in the Academy.' 

*Yes,' said Mrs. Sylvester sympatheti- 
cally, ' you are quite right to be proud of 
him. Colonel Lightmark. Charles thinks 
he is very clever, and he is so pleased with 



44 A COMEDY^ OF MASKS 

my portrait. We want him to paint Eve, 

you know, only Oh, do let me give 

you another cup of tea, Mr. Lightmark ! 
Two lumps of sugar, I think }' 

'Thank you, Mrs. Sylvester. Do you 
know, I have discovered that we have a 
mutual friend — that is to say, I found out 
not long ago, quite by accident^ that my 
very good friend, Philip Rainham, has the 
pleasure of your acquaintance.' 

* Oh, really !' said Eve delightedly ; ' do 
you know Philip — Mr. Rainham ? And 
have you seen him lately ? We haven't 
heard anything of him for weeks and 
weeks — not since Christmas, have we, 
mamma ?* 

' Ah !' answered Lightmark, smiling, and 
letting his eyes wander over the white 
expanse of the Colonel's waistcoat, ' I 
don't wonder at that. You see, he has 
been nursing himself on the Riviera all the 
winter, lucky dog ! He only came back 
last night. I saw him at his dock, you 
know, down the river — such a jolly old 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 45 

place. I have been sketching there, on 
and off, nearly all the spring. He lets me 
make myself quite at home.' 

'Take care, Dick, my boy,' said the 
Colonel sententiously, fixing his black- 
rimmed eyeglass under the bushy white 
brow that shaded his right eye ; ' don't you 
let him entice you into that business. 
Don't pay nowadays ! All the shipping 
goes up North, y'know. The poor old 
Thames is only used for regattas now, and 
penny steamers.' 

* How very nice for the Thames !' cried 
Eve. ' Why, there's nothing I like more 
than regattas ! I do so hope we shall go 
to Henley this year; but houseboats are 
so expensive, and it's no fun unless you 
have a houseboat. We had a punt last 
year, a sort of thing like a long butler's 
tray, and Charles got into fearful difficulties. 
You know, it looks so easy to push a punt 
along with a pole, but the pole has a 
wicked way of sticking in the mud at 
critical moments — when they are clearing 



46 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

the course, for instance. Oh, it was dread- 
ful ! Everybody was looking at us, and 
I felt like one of those horrid people who 
always get in the way at the Oxford and 
Cambridge boat-race !' 

' Or the Derby dog, by Jove !' suggested 
the Colonel. 

'I can sympathize with you fully, Miss 
Sylvester,' said his nephew. * I shouldn't 
like to say how many times in the course 
of my first summer term at Oxford I found 
myself sprawling ignominiously in the 
Cherwell, instead of posing in a picturesque 
attitude in the stern of my punt. And 
one looked such a fool going up to college 
in wet things. But there aren't many 
regattas going on in the regions below 
London Bridge nowadays. It's not much 
like Henley or Mario w, though it's pretty 
enough in its way at times. You ought to 
get Rainham to invite you to the dock ; 
you would create an impression on the 
natives, and of course he would be 
delighted. He's got a most amiable house- 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 47 



keeper, though I don't think she has heard 
of thin bread-and-butter ; and I have dis- 
covered that his foreman is a judge of art 
— a regular Ruskin.' 

* And how is poor Philip, Mr. Light- 
mark ?' asked Mrs. Sylvester tentatively. 
' You must bring him here very soon, and 
make him give an account of himself.' 

' Oh,' said Lightmark vaguely, ' he's 
looking pretty fit, though he doesn't like 
to be told so. I really believe he would 
be unhappy if he were in robust health. 
He finds his damaged lung such a good 
pretext for neglecting the dock ; and if it 
got quite well, half the occupation of his 
life would be gone.' 

Mrs. Sylvester and Eve both protested 
laughingly against this somewhat heartless 
view of the case; and after declining an offer 
of the back seats of the carriage, which 
was already waiting at the door to take 
Mrs. Sylvester and her daughter for their 
anteprandial drive in the Park, and ex- 
pressing their regret that they had not 



48 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

seen Charles, uncle and nephew took their 
leave together. 

' Dick, my boy,' said the Colonel, when 
they were safely in the street, ' you must 
come and dine with me. Not to-night ; I 
am going to take Lady Dulminster to the 
French play. Let me have your address, 
or come and look me up at the club. I'm 
dev'lish glad you're getting on so well, my 
boy, though you were a fool not to stay up 
at Oxford and take your degree. After 
all, though, perhaps you aren't quite the 
cut for the Church or a fellowship, and^ 
and the Sylvesters are dev'lish good people 
to know, Dick. Ta, ta ! Don't forget to 
come and see me.' 

So saying, Dick's versatile uncle waved 
his cheroot by way of adieu, and clambered 
laboriously into a hansom. 

' By Jove !' said the younger man blankly, 
' what a ridiculous old humbug it is ! And 
how he used to frio-hten me in the old davs 
with his confounded cavalry bluster ! I 
rather think I will look him up : and I'll 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 49 

dine with him three times a week if he 
likes. Meanwhile, it's time for me to go 
and meet old Rainham, and take him 
round to Brodonowski's. What a ripping 
sunset !' 

And he strolled light-heartedly through 
Grosvenor Square, the smoke of his cigar- 
ette fading away behind him. 



VOL. I. 



CHAPTER IV. 

When Rainham pushed back the door of 
the dim Httle restaurant in Turk Street, 
Soho, he stood a moment, blinking his 
eyes a little in the sudden change from the 
bright summer sunshine, before he assured 
himself that his friend had not yet arrived. 
Half a dozen men were sitting about 
smoking or discussing various drinks. The 
faces of several were familiar to him, but 
there were none of them whom he knew ; 
so he took his seat at a table near the 
door, and ordered a vermuth to occupy 
him until LIghtmark, whose unpunctuallty 
was notorious, should put in an appear- 
ance. In the interim his eyes strayed 
round the establishment, taking stock of 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 51 

the walls, with their rough decorations, 
and the clientele, and noting, not without 
a certain pleasure, that during the six 
months in which he had been absent 
neither had suffered much alteration. 

Indeed, to Philip Rainham, who had 
doubtless in his blood the taint of Bohe- 
mia, Brodonowski's and the enthusiasm of 
its guests had a very definite charm. They 
were almost all of them artists ; they were 
all of them young and ardent ; and they had 
a habit of propounding their views, which 
were always of the most advanced nature, 
with a vehemence which to Rainham re- 
presented all the disinterestedness of youth. 
Very often they were exceedingly well 
worth knowing, though in the majority 
of cases the world had not found it out. 
He knew very few of them personally ; 
he had been taken there first by Light- 
mark, w^hen the latter was fresh from 
Paris, and had been himself more in touch 
with them. But he had often sat smoking 
silently a little outside the main group, 



UI^IVERSITV OF ILLINOIS 
LIBRARY 



52 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

listening, with a deferential air that sat 
upon his age somewhat oddly, to their 
audacious propaganda. 

In his mind he would sometimes contrast 
the coterie with certain artistic houses, more 
socially important, which he had from time 
to time frequented : where earnest -eyed 
women in graceful garments — which cer- 
tainly afforded a rest to the eye — dis- 
pensed tea from a samovar, and discoursed 
discreetly of the current Academy and the 
most recent symptomatic novel. 

The delight of a visible, orderly culture 
permeating their manners and their con- 
versation was a real one, and yet, Rainham 
reflected, it left one at the last a trifle 
weary, a little cold. It seemed to him 
that this restaurant, with its perennial 
smell of garlic, its discoloured knife- 
handles, its frequentatlon of picturesque 
poverty, possessed actually a horizon that 
was somewhat less limited. 

Indeed, the dingy room, its assemblage 
apart, had many traces of an artistic 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 53 



patronage. The rough walls were adorned, 
in imitation of the familiar Roman haunt, 
of which this was, so to speak, a colony, 
with a host of fantastic sketches : rapid 
silhouettes in charcoal, drawn for illustra- 
tion or refutation in the heat of some 
strenuous argument ; caricatures in the 
same medium, some of them trenchantly- 
like, of the customers as well as of certain 
artistic celebrities, whose laurels Brodo- 
nowski's had not approved, varied here 
and there by an epigram or a doggerel 
couplet, damning the Philistine. 

Rainham smiled as he recognised occa- 
sionally the grotesque travesty of a familiar 
face. Presently his eyes were arrested by 
a drawing which was new to him, a face of 
striking ugliness, offering advantages to 
the caricaturist of which, doubtless, he had 
not omitted to avail himself. It imposed 
itself on Rainham for the savage strength 
which it displayed, and for an element in 
its hideousness which suggested beauty. 
He was still absorbed in the study of this 



54 A COMEDY OF MASKS 



face when Lightmark entered and took his 
place opposite him with a brief apology 
for his tardiness. He was dressed well, 
with a white orchid in his button-hole, and 
looked prosperous and rosy. Some light 
badinaofe on this score from his various 
acquaintances in the restaurant he parried 
with a good-humoured nonchalance ; then 
he betook himself to consideration of the 
menu. 

' I have been calling on your friends 
the Sylvesters,' he explained after awhile, 
' and I could not get away before. My 
uncle was there, by the way. You have 
heard me speak of him T 

' Your uncle, who holds such a lax view 
of the avuncular offices ?' 

Lightmark smiled a little self-congratu 
latory smile. 

' Ah, that's changed. The old boy was 
deuced friendly — gave me his whole hand 
instead of two fingers, and asked me to 
dine with him. I think,' he went on after 
a moment, ' the Sylvesters have been 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 55 

putting in a good word for me. Or 
perhaps it was Mrs. Sylvester's portrait 
which did the job.' 

'Ah,' said Rainham, 'you have painted 
her, have you T 

Their fish occupied them in silence. 
Lightmark, a trifle flushed from his rapid 
walk, smiled from time to time absently, 
as though his thoughts were pleasant ones. 
The elder man thought he had seldom 
seen him looking more boyishly handsome. 
Presently his eyes again caught the head 
which had so struck his fancy. 

' Is that yours, Dick }' he asked. 

Lightmark followed the direction of his 
eyes to the opposite wall. 

' I believe it is,' he remarked, with a 
shade of deprecation in his manner. * It 
is Oswyn. Don't you know him ?' 

' I don't know him,' said the other, 
sipping his thin Medoc. ' But I think I 
should like to. What is he ?' 

' He will be here soon, no doubt, and 
then you will see for yourself. He is 



56 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

Oswyn ! I knew him in Paris better than 

I do now. He was in B 's studio ; 

and B swore that he had a magnificent 

genius. He painted a monstrous picture 

which the Salon wouldn't hang ; but B 

bought it, and hung it in his studio, where 
it frightened his models into fits. Last 
year he came to London, where he makes 
enough, when he is sober, by painting pot- 
boilers for the dealers, to keep him in 
absinthe and tobacco, which are apparently 
his sole sustenance. In the meanwhile he 
is painting a masterpiece ; at least, so he 
will tell you. He is a virulent fanatic, 
whose art is the most monstrous thing 
imaginable. He is — but talk of the 

devil ' 

He broke off and nodded to a little 
lean man of ambiguous age, in a strained 
coat, who entered at this moment with a 
rapid lurching gait. He sat down imme- 
diately opposite them, under Lightmark's 
presentment, with which Rainham curiously 
compared him. And it struck him that 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 57 



there was something in that oddly repul- 
sive figure which Lightmark's superficial 
crayon had missed. The long, haggard 
face was there, with its ill-kempt hair and 
beard ; and the lips, which, when they 
parted in a smile that was too full of irony, 
revealed the man's uneven, discoloured 
teeth. Rainham lost sight of his uncouth- 
ness in a sense of his extreme power. His 
eyes, which were restless and extraordi- 
narily brilliant, met Rainham's presently ; 
and the latter was conscious of a certain 
fascination in their sustained gaze. In 
spite of the air of savagery which pervaded 
the man, it was a movement of sympathy 
which, on the whole, he experienced to- 
wards him. And it seemed as if this senti- 
ment were reciprocal, for when the Ger- 
man youth, who was the cupbearer of the 
establishment, had taken Oswyn's order, 
and had brought him absinthe in a long 
glass, he motioned it abruptly to the oppo- 
site table. Then he crossed over and 
accosted Lightmark, whom he had not 



58 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

hitherto appeared to recognise, with a 
word of greeting. Lightmark murmured 
his name and Rainham's, and the strange 
little man nodded to him not unamiably. 

' I must smoke, if you don't mind,' he 
said, after a moment. 

They nodded assent, and he produced 
tobacco in a screw of newspaper from the 
pocket of his coat, and began rapidly to 
make cigarettes. Rainham watched the 
dexterous movements of his long nervous 
hands — the colour of old ivory — and found 
them noticeable. 

' You are not an artist, I think,' he 
suggested after a moment, fixing his curi- 
ously intent eyes on Rainham. 

* No,' admitted the other, smiling, ' I am 
afraid I am not. I am only here on suf- 
ferance. I am a mender of ships.' 

' He is a connoisseur,' put in Lightmark 
gaily. ' It's an accident that he happens 
to be connected with shipping — a fortunate 
one, though, for he owns a most picturesque 
old shanty in the far East. But actually 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 59 



he does not know a rudder post from a 
jibboom.' 

' I suppose you have been palnthig It ?' 
said Oswyn shortly. 

LIghtmark nodded. 

* I have been painting the river from 
his wharf The picture Is just finished, 
and on the whole I am pleased with It. 
You should come In and give It a look, 
Oswyn, some time. You haven't seen my 
new studio.' 

* I never go west of Regent Street,' said 
Oswyn brusquely. 

LIghtmark laughed a little nervously. 

' Oswyn doesn't believe In me, you 
know, Philip,' he explained lightly. ' It Is 
a humiliating thing to have to say, but I 
may as well say it, to save him the trouble. 
He Is so infernally frank about it, you 
know. He thinks that I am a humbug, 
that I don't take my art seriously, and 
because, when I have painted my picture, 
I begin to think about the pieces of silver, 
he is not quite sure that I may not be a 



6o A COMEDY OF MASKS 



descendant of Judas. And then, worst of 
all, I have committed the unpardonable 
sin : I have been hung at Burlington 
House. Isn't that about it, Oswyn ?' 

The elder man laughed his low, mirth- 
less laugh. 

' We understand each other, Dick ; but 
you don't quite do yourself justice — or me. 
I have an immense respect for your talent. 
I feel sure you will achieve greatness — in 
Burlington House.' 

* Well, it's a respectable institution,' said 
the young man soberly. 

Oswyn finished his drink at a long, 
thirsty gulp, watching the young man 
askance with his impressive eyes. Rain- 
ham noticed for the first time that he had 
a curious trick of smiling with his lips only 
— or was it of sneering ? — while the upper 
part of his face and his heavy brows 
frowned. 

' By the way, Lightmark,' he observed 
presently, ' I have to congratulate you on 
your renown. There is quite a long pane- 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 6i 

gyric on your picture in the OiUcry this 
week. Do you know who wrote it ?' 

' Damn it, man !' broke out Lightmark, 
with a vehemence which, to Rainham, 
seemed uncalled-for, ' how should I know ? 
I haven't seen the rag for an age.' 

There was an angry light in his eyes, 
but it faded immediately. 

Oswyn continued apologetically : 

' I beg your pardon. It must be very 
annoying to you to be puffed Indiscreetly. 
But I fancied, you know ' 

Lightmark, flushing a little, interrupted 
him, laying his hand with a quick gesture, 
that might have contained an appeal in it, 
on the painter's frayed coat-sleeve. 

' Your glass is empty, and we are about 
ready for our coffee. What will you take T 

Oswyn repeated his order, smiling still a 
little remotely, as he let the water trickle 
down from a scientific height to his glass, 
whipping the crystal green of its contents 
into a nebulous yellow. Rainham, who 
had listened to the little passage of arms in 



62 A COMEDY OF MASKS 



silence, felt troubled, uneasy. The air 
seemed thunderous, and was heavy with 
unspoken words. There appeared to be 
an under-current of understanding between 
the two painters which was the reverse of 
sympathetic, and made conversation diffi- 
cult and volcanic. It caused him to remind 
himself, a trifle sadly, how little, after all, 
one knew of even one's nearest friend — and 
Lightmark, perhaps, occupied to him that 
relation — how much of the country of his 
mind remained perpetually undiscovered ; 
and it made him wonder, as he had some- 
times wondered before, whether the very 
open and sunny nature of the young painter, 
which was so large a part of his charm, 
had not its concealed shadows — how far, 
briefly, Lightmark's very frankness might 
not be a refinement of secretiveness. 

If, however, a word here and there, a 
trait surprised, indefinable, led him on 
occasion to doubt of his dominant impres- 
sion of Lightmark's character, these doubts 
were never of lono^ duration ; and he would 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 63 

dismiss them, barely entertained, even as 
a sort of disloyalty, to the limbo of still- 
born fancies. And so now, with his ac- 
customed generosity, he speedily flung 
himself into the breach, and did his best to 
drive the conversation into impersonal and 
presumably safer channels. He touched 
on the prospects of the Academy, of aca- 
demic art, and art in general, and by-and- 
by, as Oswyn rose to the discussion, he 
became himself interested, and was ac- 
tuated less by a wish to make conversation 
than to draw his new friend out. And as 
the artist leant forward, grew excited, with 
his white, lean face working into strange 
contortions — as he shot out his savagfe 
paradoxes, expounding the gospel of the 
new art a trifle thickly now, and rolling 
and as rapidly smoking perpetual cigarettes, 
he found him again strangely attractive. 

He had flashes of insight, it seemed to 
Rainham ; there was something in his 
caustic criticism which led him to believe 
that he could at another time have justified 



6+ A COMEDY OF MASKS 

himself, defended reasonably and sanely a 
position that was at least tenable. 

But the tide of his spleen invariably 
overtook him, and he abandoned exegesis 
for tirade. The dou7^geois, limited scope of 
the art in vogue — this was the burden of 
his reiterated rabid attacks ; art watered 
down to suit the public's insipid palate, 
and he quoted Chamfort furiously : ' Com- 
bien de sots faut-il pour faire un public ?' 
— the art of simpering prettlness, without 
root or fruit in life, the art of absolute con- 
vention. He ran over a list of successful 
names with an ever-growing rancour — 
artistic hacks, the crew of them, the 
journalists of painting — with a side-glance 
at Lightmark, who sat pulling his flaxen 
moustache, looking stiff and nervous — he 
would hang the lot of them to-morrow if 
he had his way, for corrupters of taste, or, 
better still, condemn them to perpetual in- 
carceration in the company of their own 
daubs. These people — in fine, the mutual 
admiration society of incompetents — 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 65 

where was their justification, where would 
they be in a decade or so ? The hangers- 
on of the fashionable world, caring for 
their art as a means of success, of ac- 
quiring guineas or a baronetcy or a couple 
of initials, who dropped the little technique 
they possessed as soon as they had a com- 
petency, and foisted their pictures most on 
people when they had forgotten how to 
paint. Pompiers^ fimiistes, makers of re- 
spectable pomjfiade — as the painter's pota- 
tions increased, his English became less 
fluent, and he was driven back constantly 
to the dialect of the Paris ateliers, which 
was more familiar to him than his mother- 
tongue. Ah ! how he hated these people 
and their thread-paper morality, and their 
sordid conception of art— a prettiness that 
would sell ! ^ 

Rainham had heard it all before ; it was 
full of spleen and rancour, unnecessarily 
violent, and, conceivably, unjust. But 
what he could not help recognising, in 
spite' of his repulsion, was a certain nobility 

VOL. I. 5 



66 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

and singleness in the man, ruin as he was. 
Virtue came out of him ; he had the saving 
quality of genius, and it was a veritable 
burning passion of perfection which mas- 
queraded in his spleen. His conception 
of art for the sake of art only might be 
erroneous, but it was at least exalted ; and 
the instinct which drove him always for 
his material directly to life, rejecting 
nothing as common or unclean — in the 
violence of his revolt, perhaps dwelling 
too uniformly on what was fundamentally 
ugly — might be disputable, but was obviously 
sincere. The last notion which Rainham 
took away with him, when they parted 
late in the evening (Oswyn having sud- 
denly lapsed from the eloquence to the 
incoherency of drunkenness), was a wish 
to see more of him. He had given him 
his card, and he waited until he had seen 
him place it — after observing it for some 
moments attentively with lack-lustre eyes 
— In the security of his waistcoat. And 
as the two friends walked towards Charing 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 67 

Cross, Rainham observed that he hoped 
he would call. 

* He is a disreputable fellow,' said Light- 
mark a little sullenly, ' and an unprofitable 
acquaintance. You will find it less difificult 
to persuade him to make you a visit than 
to finish it.' At which Rainham had merely 
shrugged his shoulders, finding his friend, 
perhaps for the first time, a little banal. 



CHAPTER V. 

A DAY or two later, as Ralnham sat in his 
river-bound office struggling, by way of 
luncheon, with the most primitive of chops, 
his eyes, wandering away from a somewhat 
mechanic scrutiny of the Shipping Gazette, 
fell upon the shifting calendar on the 
mantelpiece. 

The dial noted Thursday ; and he re- 
minded himself that on that day his friend 
Lady Garnett had a perennial habit of 
being at home to her intimates, on the list 
of whom Rainham could acknowledge, 
without undue vanity, his name occurred 
high. There was a touch of self-reproach 
in his added reminder that a week had 
elapsed since his return, and he had not 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 69 



already hastened to clasp the excellent old 
lady's hand. It was an unprecedented 
postponement and an infringement of a 
time-honoured habit ; and Rainham had 
for his habit all the respect of a man who 
is always indolent and often ill ; though it 
must be admitted that to his clerks, who 
viewed the trait complacently, and to the 
importunate Bullen, who resented it, he 
seemed to be only regular in his irregularity. 
He decided that at least this occasion 
should not be allowed to slip ; a free after- 
noon would benefit him. He was always 
rather lavish of those licenses ; and it 
seemed to him that the tintinnabulation 
•of teacups in Lady Garnett's primrose and 
gray drawing-room would be a bearable 
change from the din of a hundred hammers, 
which had pelted him through the open 
windows all the morning. They were 
patching a little wooden barque with 
copper, and he paused a moment in the 
yard, leaning on his slim umbrella to 
admire the brilliant vellow of the renewed 



70 A COMEDY OF MASKS 



sheets, standing out in vivid blots against 
the tarnished verdigris of the old. To 
pass from Blackpool to the West, however, 
is a tardy process ; and when Rainham 
reached the spruce little house in one of 
the most select of the discreet and uniform 
streets which adjoin Portman Square, he 
found the clatter of teacups for the most 
part over. There were, in fact, only two 
persons in the long room, which, with its 
open Erard, and its innumerable bibelots, 
and its plenitude of quaint, impossible 
chairs, seemed quite cosily exiguous. An 
old lady with a beautiful, refined face and 
a wealth of white hair, which was still 
charming to look at, sat In an attitude full 
of comfortable Indolence, with a small pug 
in her lap, who bounced at Rainham with 
a bark of friendly recognition. A young 
lady at the other side of the room (she was 
at least young by courtesy), who was pour- 
ing out tea, stopped short In this operation 
to greet the new visitor with a little soft 
exclamation. In which pleasure and sur- 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 71 



prise mingled equally. The old lady also 
looked up smiling. She seemed both 
good-natured and distinguished, and she 
had the air — a sort of tired complacency- — 
of a person who has been saying witly 
things for a whole afternoon, and is at last 
in the enjoyment of a well-deserved rest. 
She extended both hands to Rainham, who 
held them for a minute in his own, silently 
smiling down at her, before he released 
them to greet her companion. 

She was a tall, pale girl in a black dress, 
whom at first sight the impartial observer 
might easily declare to be neither pretty 
nor young. As a matter of fact, she was 
younger than she seemed, for she was 
barely five-and-twenty, although her face 
and manner belonged to a type which, 
even in girlhood, already forestalls some of 
the gravity and reserve that arrive with 
years. As for her beauty, there were 
those who disputed it altogether ; and yet 
even when one had gone so far as to 
declare that Mary Masters was plain, one 



72 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

had, In justice, to add that she possessed 
none the less a distinct and deHcate charm 
of her own. It was a dalsy-Hke charm, 
differing in kind from the charm of Eve 
Sylvester, which was that of a violet or a 
child, perpetually perfuming the air. It 
could be traced at last — for she had not a 
good feature — to the possession of a pair 
of very soft and shy brown eyes, and of 
a voice, simply agreeable in conversation, 
which burgeoned out in song Into the 
richest contralto imaginable, causing her 
to be known widely in society as * the 
Miss Masters who sings.' Indeed, she 
had a wonderful musical talent, which she 
had cultivated largely. Her playing had 
even approved itself to the difficult Rubin- 
stein ; and, although she had a certain 
reputation for cleverness, the loss to 
society when she left the music-stool to 
mingle in it was generally felt not to be 
met by a corresponding gain ; and, indeed, 
as a rule, people did not consider her 
separately. The generality were inclined 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 73 

simply to accept her, In relation to her 
aunt, Lady Garnett, with whom she had 
lived since she was a girl of sixteen, as 
any other of that witty old woman's im- 
pedimenta — her pug Mefistofele, or her 
matchless enamels, or her Watteau fans. 
As she came towards him now with a cup 
in her hand, her pale face a little flushed, 
her dark hair braided very plainly and 
neatly above her high forehead, Rainham 
could not help thinking that she would 
make an adorable old maid. 

' You look well, Mary,' he remarked, 
holding her at arm's length critically, with 
the freedom of an old friend. ' You look 
insultingly well — I hope you don't mean it.' 

' I am afraid I do,' laughed the girl. ' I 
wish I could say as much for you.' 

Rainham shook his head with burlesque 
solemnity, and sank down with his fragile 
cup into the most comfortable of the Louis 
Quinze chairs which he could select. 

' It's delightful to be back again,' he 
remarked, letting his eyes wander round 



74 A COMEDY OF MASKS 



the familiar walls. ' I know your things 
by heart, Lady Garnett ; there's not one of 
them I could spare. Thanks, Mary, no 
sugar ; cream, if you please. After all, I 
don't know anyone who has such charming 
rooms. Let me see if there is anything 
new. Yes, those enamels ; introduce me, 
Mary, please. Yes, they are very nice. 
By the way, I picked up some old point 
for you at Genoa, only I have not unpacked 
it yet. But the Gustave Moreau, where 
is that } Ah, I see you have shifted it 
over the piano. Yes, it is exactly the 
same ; you are all precisely the same ; it's 
delightful, such constancy — delightful ! I 
take it as a personal compliment. But 
where are all the delightful people T 

Lady Garnett smiled placidly. 

' The delightful people have gone. To 
tell you the truth, I am just a little glad, 
especially as you have dropped in from the 
clouds, or the Riviera di Ponente — which 
is it, Philip ?' 

' To be frank with you, from neither. I 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 75 

have it on my conscience to tell you that I 
have been back some days. I wanted to 
come here before.' 

' Ah well, so long as you have come 
now !' said the old lady. 

'Your knock was mystifying, Philip,' 
put in the girl presently ; ' we expected 
nobody else but the Sylvesters, and when 
we heard your solitary step our hearts 
sank. We thought that Charles Sylvester 
had taken it into his head to come by 
himself.' 

' He is a terrible young man,' said Lady 
Garnett ; ' he is almost as limited as 
his mamma, and he takes himself more 
seriously. When he is with his sister one 
can tolerate him, but alone ' 

She held up her thin wrinkled hands 
with a little gesture of*elision, at which her 
expressive shoulders assisted. She was of 
French extraction, the last survivor of an 
illustrious family ; and reconciled as she 
had become to England — for years she 
had hardly left London — a slight and 



76 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

very pretty accent, and this trick of her 
shoulders, remained to remind people that 
her point of view was still essentially 
foreign. Rainham, who had from his boy- 
hood found England somewhat a prison- 
house, adored her for this trait. The 
quaint old woman, indeed, with her smooth, 
well-bred voice, her elaborate complexion, 
her little dignified incongruities, had always 
been the greatest solace to him. She had 
the charm of all rococo things ; she repre- 
sented so much that had passed away, ex- 
haling a sort of elegant wickedness to find 
a parallel to which one had to seek back 
to the days of the Regency. Of course, 
in society, she passed for being very 
devout ; and, indeed, her little pieties, her 
unfailing attendance at Mass on days of 
Obligation, at the chapel of the French 
Embassy hard by, struck Rainham as most 
edifying. Really, he perceived that her 
devout attitude was purely traditional, a 
form of good manners. She remained the 
same wicked, charming old Sadducee as 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 77 

before : her morocco - bound paroissten 
might appear on festivals and occasions ; 
she still slept as often as not of nights with 
* Candide ' under her pillow. 

The knowledge of a certain sentiment 
which they shared towards the limitations 
of London (they were both persons strik- 
ingly without prejudice) lent a certain 
piquancy to their old-established relations, 
an allusive flavour to their conversation — 
it was always highly seasoned with badin- 
age — that puzzled many of their common 
acquaintance enormously. 

Mary Masters, as a shy and serious 
maiden, fresh from a country parsonage, 
remembered well the astonishment, mingled 
with something not unlike awe, with which 
she had first heard them talk. Philip 
Rainham had been calling, as it might be 
now, when she arrived, and Lady Garnett 
had promptly introduced him to her as her 
godson, because, as she remarked lightly, 
if he were not, he ought to have been. To 
which Philip had replied, in a like humour, 



78 A COMEDY OF MASKS 



that It was all the same : if they hadn't 
that relation, at any rate their behaviour 
implied it. 

It was a novelty in her small and serious 
experience to find herself in conjunction 
with such frivolity ; she was almost inclined 
to be shocked. Nevertheless, in the ten 
years during which she had made her home 
in Parton Street, Mary Masters had sur- 
mounted her awe, if her astonishment still 
occasionally obtained. Neither her aunt 
nor Rainham had altered, nor had they 
grown perceptibly older. 

Watching the latter to-day as he sat 
lolling back lazily, balancing his teacup, 
she was curiously reminded of her first 
impression of him ; taking stock of her 
humorously, silently, in almost the same 
attitude, with the same sad eyes. And 
since Mary, too, had remained virtually 
unchanged, it is to the credit of the head 
of a particularly serious little daughter of 
the Puritans that she had ended by appre- 
ciating them both. In fact, she had dis- 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 79 ^ 

covered that neither of them was so 
frivolous as it appeared, or, at least, that 
there were visitors in Parton Street who 
seemed less frivolous, and whose frivolity 
shocked her more. Her shy brown eyes 
were penetrative, and often saw more than 
one would have imagined, and at last 
they believed that they had seen through 
the philosophic indifference of Lady Gar- 
nett's shrug, the gentle irony of Rainham's 
perpetual smile, the various masks of tragic 
comedians on a stage where there is no 
prompter, where the footlights are most 
pitiless, and where the gallery is only too 
lavish of its cat-calls at the smallest slip. 
Beneath it all she saw two people who 
understood each other as well as any two 
persons in the world. Did they under- 
stand each other so well that they could 
afford to trifle ? She had an idea that 
their silences were eloquent, and that they 
might well be lavish of the crudity of 
speech. Oh, they pretended very well ! 
The young girl found something admirable 



8o A COMEDY OF MASKS 



in the hard, polished surface which her 
aunt presented to the world : her rouge 
and her diamonds, her little bird-like air of 
living only in the present, of being in- 
tensely interested, of having no regrets- — a 
manner to which Rainham responded so 
fluently, with an assumption that she was 
right, that things were an excellent joke. 
After all, perhaps they pretended too 
much ; at least, she found herself often, 
when they were present, falling away into 
reveries full of conjecture, from which, as 
happened now, she only awoke with a 
slight blush to find herself directly ad- 
dressed. 

' Wake up, Mary ! we are talking of the 
Sylvesters. I was telling Philip that his 
little friend Eve has become entirely 
charming.' 

' Yes,' said Mary slowly ; * she is charm- 
ing, certainly. Haven't you seen her, 
Philip } You used to be constantly there.' 

Rainham assumed the air of reflection. 

' Really, I believe I used, when Eve 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 8i 

was in short frocks, and Charles con- 
spicuously absent. Like Lady Garnett, I 
find the barrister exhausting. He is very 
unlike his father.' 

* We are going to Switzerland with them 
this summer, you know, Philip. Will you 
join us ?' 

* Ah !' he put his cup down, not respond- 
ing for a moment. ' It would be delight- 
ful, but I am afraid impossible. You see, 
there's the dock ; I have been away from 
it six months, and I shall have to repeat 
the process when the fogs begin. No, 
Lady Garnett, I won't be tempted.' 

She began to press him, and they fenced 
rapidly for some minutes, laughing. Rain- 
ham had just been induced to promise that 
he would at least consider the proposition, 
when the footman announced Mr. and Miss 
Sylvester. They came in a moment later ; 
and while the barrister, a tall well-dressed 
man, with the shaven upper lip and neat 
whisker of his class, and a back which 
seemed to bend with difficulty, explained 

VOL. I. 6 



82 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

to Lady Garnett that his mother was 
suffering too much from neuralgia to come 
with them, Rainham resumed his acquaint- 
ance with the young girl. He had seen 
little of her during the past two years, and 
in the last of them, in which she had 
changed most, he had not seen her at all. 
It was with a slight shock, then, that he 
realized how completely she had grown up. 
He remembered her in so many phases of 
childhood and little girlhood, ranging up 
from a time when her speech was inco- 
herent, and she had sat on his knee and 
played with his watch, to the more recent 
occasions when he had met her riding in 
the Park with her brother, and she had 
waved her little whip to him, looking parti- 
cularly slim and pretty in the very trying 
costume which fashion prescribes for little 
ofirls who ride. 

They had always been very good 
friends ; she had been a most engaging 
little companion, and really, he reflected, 
he had been extremely fond of her. It 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 83 

gave him a distinct pain to reflect that 
their relation had, In the nature of things, 
come to an end. Gradually, as they 
talked, the young girl growing out of the 
first restraint of her shyness, and falling 
back Into something of her old manner, 
the first painful Impression of her entire 
strangeness left Ralnham. In spite of her 
mature little society air, her engaging 
attempts at worldjlness, she was, after all, 
not so grown-up as she seemed. The 
child gleamed out here and there quite 
daintily, and as he indulged In reminis- 
cence, and reminded her of some of their 
more remote adventures, her merriment 
found utterance very childishly. 

' Our most tragical encounter, though, 
was with the monkey. Have you for- 
gotten that .^ It was on one of your 
birthdays — you had a good many of them 
in Florence — I fororet which it was. You 
must have been about ten. I had taken 
you to the Zoological Gardens, such as 
they were.' 



84 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

Her laughter rippled out softly again. 

'I remember,' she nodded, 'it was 
dreadful.' 

* Yes,' he said ; ' we were at the monkey- 
cage ; you had grown tired of feeding the 
ostrich with centeshni! 

' Oh, Philip !' she interrupted him ; ' I 
never, never would have done such a 
thing. It was you who used to give the 
poor bird centesimi. I only used to 
watch.' 

' Ah, you connived at it, anyhow,' he 
went on. ' Well, we were feeding the 
monkeys, this time with melon - seeds, 
when we somehow aroused the ire of a 
particularly ugly brute, who must have 
been distantly connected with a bull. 
Anyhow, he made a grab at the scarlet 
berret you were wearing, just missed your 
hair, and demolished the cap.' 

' I remember,' she laughed. ' You tied 
your handkerchief round my head, like an 
old peasant woman, and took me back in 
a carriage. And mamma was dreadfully 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 85 



angry about the cap, because she had 
bought It at Biarritz, and couldn't replace 
it in Italy. She thought you ought to have 
taken steps to get it back.' 

' Dear me !' said Rainham solemnly, 
' why didn't I think of it before ? I 
wonder if it's too late to do anything 
now.' 

The girl's laughter broke out again, this 
time attracting the attention of her brother, 
who was discussing the projected travels, 
with the aid of Bradshaw, at Mary Masters' 
side. He glanced at them askance, pulling 
at his collar in his stiff, nervous fashion a 
little uneasily. 

' What a long time ago all that seems, 
Philip !' she remarked after awhile. 

He was silent for a moment, examining 
his finger-nails intently. 

'Yes,' he said rather sadly ; ' I suppose 
it does. I dare say you wouldn't care 
much for the Zoo now ?' 

* Oh, I shouldn't mind,' she said gaily, 
* if you will take me.' 



86 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

But a move had been made opposite, 
and Charles Sylvester, coming up to them, 
overheard this last remark. 

' I think we must be off,' he said, con- 
sulting his watch. ' Where is Rainham 
going to take you ?' 

* To Florence,' she said, smiling, 'to the 
Zoo.' 

' Ah, a eood idea,' he murmured. 'Well, 
good-bye. Lady Garnett ; good-day. Rain- 
ham. I am sorry to see you don't seem 
to have benefited much by your winter 
abroad. I almost wonder you came back 
so soon. Was not it rather unwise } This 
treacherous climate, you know.' 

'Yes,' said Rainham ; ' I, too, think you 
are right. I think I had much better have 
stayed — very much better.' 

'Ah, well,' he said, 'you must take care 
of yourself, and give us a look in if you 
have time.' 

Eve looked up at him, flushing a little, 
as though she found her brother's formal 
politeness lacking in hospitality. She was 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 87 

Struck then, as she had not been yet during 
her visit, by a curious lassitude in her old 
friend's face. It affected her with an un- 
conscious pity, causing her to second her 
brother's somewhat chilly invitation more 
cordially. 

The humour which had shone in Rain- 
hams eyes while they had been talking- 
seemed to have gone out suddenly, like a 
lamp, leaving them blank and tired. It 
shocked her to realize how old and ill he 
had become. 



CHAPTER VI. 

Indolence and ill-health, in the opinion of 
many the salient points in Philip Rain- 
ham's character, had left him at forty with 
little of the social habit. The circle of his 
intimates had sensibly narrowed, and for 
the rest he was becoming more and more 
conscious that people whom one does not 
know exceedingly well are not worth 
knowing at all. The process of dining 
out two or three times a week in the 
company of two or three persons whose 
claims on his attention were of the 
slenderest he found a process attended 
with less and less pleasure the older he 
grew. There were few houses now which 
he frequented, and this year, when he had 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 89 



made an effort to devote a couple of even- 
ings to the renewal of some acquaintance 
of the winter, and had discovered, as he 
discovered anew each season, that the 
effort gave him no appreciable compensa- 
tions for the disagreeables it involved, he 
made fresh resolutions of abstinence, and 
on the whole he kept them amazingly- 
well. 

For the most part, when he was not 
routed out by Lightmark (and since the 
young artist was in train to become a 
social acquisition this happened less fre- 
quently than of old), it was at Blackpool 
that he spent his evenings. He had, it is 
true, a standing invitation to dinner at 
Lady Garnett's when that old lady found 
herself at home ; but Portman Square was 
remote, and evening dress, to a man with 
one lung in a climate which had so fickle 
a trick of registering itself either at the 
extreme top or bottom of the thermometer, 
presented various discomforts. His den 
behind the office — a litde sitting-room 



90 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

with a bay - window facing Blackpool 
Reach, a room filled with books that had 
no relation to shipping, and hung round 
with etchings and pictures in those curi- 
ously low tones for which he had so un- 
reasonable an affection — was what he 
cherished most in London. He read 
little now, but the mere presence of the 
books he loved best in rough, uneven 
cases, painted black, lining the walls, 
caressed him. As with persons one has 
loved and grown used to loving, it was 
not always needful that they should speak 
to him ; it was sufficient, simply, that they 
should be there. Neither did he write on 
these long, interminable evenings, which 
were prolonged sometimes far into the 
night. He had ended by being able to 
smile at his literary ambitions of twenty, 
cultivating his indolence as something 
choice and original, finding his destiny 
appropriate. 

He spent the time in interminable 
reveries, sitting with a volume before 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 91 

him, as often as not unopened, smoking 
incessantly, and looking out of the window. 
The habit amused himself at times ; it was 
so eminently symbolic of his destiny. 
Life, after all, had been to him nothing 
so much as that— a long looking out of 
window, the impartial spectatorship of a 
crowd of persons and passions from which 
he had come at last to seem strangely 
detached, almost as much as from this 
chameleon river, which he had observed 
with such satisfaction in all its manifold 
gradations of character and colour ; its 
curious cold grayness in the beginning of 
an autumnal dawn ; the illusion of warmth 
and depth which it sustained at noon, 
bringing up its burden of leviathans on the 
top of the flood ; its sheen on moonless 
nights, when only little punctures, green 
and red and orange, and its audible still- 
ness, reminded him that down in the 
obscurity the great polluted stream stole 
on wearily, monotonously, everlastingly to 
the sea. It was changeful and changeless. 



92 A COMEDY OF MASKS 



He thought he knew its effects by heart, 
but it had always new ones in reserve to 
surprise and delight him. He declared it 
at last to be inexhaustible. It was like a 
diamond on sunny days, flashing out light 
in every little ripple ; in the late, sunless 
afternoon the light lay deeply within it, 
and it seemed jealous of giving back the 
least particle. He compared it then to an 
opal or a sapphire, which shine with the 
same parsimonious radiance. 

One night, while he sat smoking in his 
wonted meditative fashion, he had a visitor 
— the painter Oswyn. He had almost 
forgotten his invitation, but he reminded 
himself of his first impression, and greeted 
him with a cordiality which the other 
seemed to find surprising. He took him 
into his sanctuary and found him whisky 
and a pipe ; then he set himself to make 
the painter talk, a task which he found by 
no means arduous. 

Oswyn was sober, and Rainham was 
surprised after awhile at his sanity. He 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 93 

decided that, though one might differ from 
him, dissent from his premises or his con- 
clusions, he was still a man to be taken 
seriously. His fluency was as remarkable 
as ever, and at first as spleenful ; by-and- 
by his outrageous mood gave way, and, 
in response to some of Rainham's adroit 
thrusts, he condescended to stand on his 
defence. He could give a reasonable 
account of himself ; was prepared clearly, 
and succinctly, and seriously with his justi- 
fication. Rainham was impressed anew 
by his singleness, the purity of his artistic 
passion. His life might be disgraceful, 
indescribable : his art lay apart from it ; 
and when he took up a brush an enthu- 
siasm, a devotion to art, almost religious, 
steadied his hand. 

'You may think me a charlatan,' he 
said, with the same savage earnestness, 
' but I can tell you I am not. I may fail 
or I may succeed, as the world counts 
those things. It is all the same : I believe 
in myself. It is sufficient to me if I ap- 



94 A COMEDY OF MASK'S 

prove myself, and the world may go to 
damnation ! What I care for is my idea ! 
. . . yes, my idea, that's it ! They can 
howl at me,' he went on; 'but they can 
never say of any stroke of my brush that 
I put it there for them. I could have 
painted pictures like Lightmark if I had 
cared, you know, but I did not care !' 

' And yet he has great facility,' said 
Rainham tentatively. 

' He has more,' said Oswyn bitterly, 
' or, at least, he had — genius. And he 
has deliberately chosen to go the wrong 
way, to be conventional. He can't plead 
"invincible ignorance" like the others; 
he oueht to know better. Well, he has 
his reward ; but I can't forgive him.' 

Rainham shrugged his shoulders, with 
something between a sigh and a laugh. 

' Poor boy ! he is young, you know. 
Perhaps he will live to see the errors of 
his ways.' 

' When he's an Academician, I suppose ?' 
suggested the other ironically. ' Do they 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 95 

ever see the errors of their ways ? If 
they do, they don't show It. No ; he will 
marry a rich wife, and make speeches at 
banquets, and paint portraits of celebrities, 
for the rest of his days. And In fifty 
years' time people will say, " Lightmark, 
R.A. ? Who the devil was he ?" ' 

By this time the young moon had risen, 
and its cold light shimmered on the misty 
river. Rainham refilled his pipe, and 
opened the window still more widely. 

' By Jove, what a night !' he said. 
' What a night for a painter ! I am sure 
you are longing to be out In It. I'm 
afraid there's nothing to show you In the 
dock at present ; you must come down 
again when there's a ship coming In at 
night. I feel quite reconciled to the dock 
on those occasions. Shall we go for a 
stroll In the moonlight — and seek impres- 
sions ?' 

Oswyn's restless humour welcomed the 
suggestion, and he was already waiting, 
his soft felt hat In one ungloved hand, and 



96 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

a heavy, quaintly carved stick in the 
other. 

They stood for some minutes on the 
little, square, pulpit-like landing, at the top 
of the creaking wooden staircase which 
led down the side of the building from 
office to yard, listening to the faint drip of 
the water through the sluice-gates ; the 
wail of a child outside the walls, and the 
pacing step of the woman who hushed it ; 
the distant Intermittent roar of the song 
which reached them through the often 
opened doors of a public - house. Pre- 
sently the night-watchman lumbered out 
of his sentry-box by the gates, his dim 
lantern sounding pools of mysterious dark- 
ness, which were untouched by the solitary 
gas-lamp In the street outside, and which 
the faint moonlight only seemed to in- 
tensify. 

Oswyn drew in a long breath of the 
cool, caressing air, momentarily straighten- 
ing his bent figure. Then he gave a short 
laugh, which startled Rainham from the 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 97 

familiar state of half- smiling reverie to 
which he was always so ready to 
recur. 

' The last time I saw the river like this, 
he said — ' the last time I was down here at 
night, that is — was when I went with a 
Malay model of mine to his favourite opium 
den.' 

' You have not repeated the experi- 
ment ?' asked Rainham absently. 

' No ; not yet, at any rate. It made 
my hand shake so damnably for a week 
afterwards that I couldn't paint. Besides, 
I doubt if I could find the place again. I 
couldn't get the Malay to come away at 
all ; he is probably there still.' 

' Beg your pardon, sir,' said the night- 
watchman hoarsely, when they reached 
.the bottom of the difficult staircase, 
' there's been a young woman here ask- 
ing for a gentleman of the name of 
Crichton. I told her there weren't no 
one of that name here, and Mr. Bullen, 
sir, he saw her, and sent her away. I 

VOL. I. 7 



98 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

thought I had better mention it to you, 
sir.' 

' Crichton ? Crichton ?' repeated Rain- 
ham indifferently. ' I don't know anyone 
of that name. Some mistake, I suppose, 

or Well, sailors will be sailors ! 

Thank you, Andrewes, that will do. 
Good-night — or, rather, we shall be back 
in half an hour or so.' He turned to 
Oswyn, who had been hanging back to 
avoid any appearance of interest in the 
conversation, for corroboration. ' You 
will come back, of course ?' 

' Rather late, isn't it ? I think I had 
better catch some train before midnight, if 
there is one.' 

' Oh, there are plenty of trains,' said 
Rainham vaguely. ' We can settle that 
matter later. I can give you a bed here, 
you know, or a berth, at any rate.' 

As they stepped through the narrow 
opening in the gate, a dark form sprang 
forward out of the shadow, and then 
stopped timidly. 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 99 

' Oh, Cyril !' cried a woman's plaintive 
voice. ' Cyril ! I knew you were here, 

and they wouldn't let me Ah, my 

God ! it isn't Cyril after all . . . ! 

The voice — and it struck Rainham that 
it was not the voice of a woman of the 
sort one would expect to encounter in the 
streets at that hour — died away in a broken 
sob, and the girl fell back a step, almost 
dropping the child she carried in her 
arms. 

Her evident despair appealed to Rain- 
ham's somewhat inconveniently assertive 
sensibility. 

He hesitated for a moment, glancing 
from the girl to Oswyn, and noting that 
the face, too, had a certain beauty which 
was not of the order affected by the women 
of Blackpool. 

* Don't go,' he said to Oswyn, who had 
withdrawn a few paces. ' I won't keep 
you a moment !' 

The baby in the woman's arms set up 
a feeble wail, and it was borne in upon 



lOO A COMEDY OF MASKS 

Ralnham's mind that the unhappy creature 
with the white face and pleading dark eyes 
had been waiting long. 

* Didn't my foreman tell you that the — 
that the gentleman you asked for is not 
here ?' he inquired gently. ' No one here 
has ever heard of Mr. Crichton. I'm 
afraid you have made a mistake. . . . 
Hadn't you better go home .^ I'm sure 
it would be best for your child.' 

* Home ?' echoed the girl bitterly. Then, 
changing her tone, ' But I saw him here 
with my own eyes !' she pleaded. ' I saw 
him at the window there not a week ago 
quite plain, and then they told me he wasn't 
here! I'm sure he would see me if he 
only knew — if he only knew !' 

' He may have been here,' suggested 
Rainham doubtfully. ' There are a great 
many people here from day to day, and 
we don't always know their names. But 
I assure you he isn't here now.' 

The girl — for in spite of her pale 
misery she did not look more — drew 



A COMEDY OF MASKS loi 

her dark shawl more closely round her- 
self and the child with a little despairing 
shudder, glancing over her shoulder. 
Rainham let his eyes rest on the frail 
figure pityingly, and a thought of the 
river behind her struck him with a sudden 
chill. 

He put his hand, almost surreptitiously, 
into his pocket. 

' Where do you live ?' he asked. ' Near 
here T The girl mentioned a street 
which he sometimes passed through when 
economy of time induced him to make an 
otherwise undesirable short - cut to the 
railway - station. 'Well,' he said pre- 
sently, ' I can't keep my friend here 
waiting, you know. Come and see me 
to-morrow morning about mid-day, and I 
will see if I can help you. Only you 
must promise me to go straight home 
now ! And ' — here he dropped a coin 
quickly into her hand — ' buy something 
for your child ; you both look as if you 
wanted it' 



I02 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

The girl looked at him dumbly for a 
moment. 

' I will come, sir, and — and thank you !' 
she said, with a quaver in her voice. And 
then, in obedience to Rainham's playfully 
threatening gesture, she turned away. 

Rainham gazed after her until she had 
turned the corner. 

'I'm sorry to have treated you to this — 
scene,' he said apologetically, as he joined 
Oswyn, who was gazing over the narrow 
bridge. ' I felt bound to do something 
for the girl, after she had been wasting 
all that time outside my gates. Did you 
notice what a pretty, refined face she had ? 
I wonder who the man can be — Crichton, 
Cecil Crichton, wasn't it ? . . . I never 
heard the name before. It doesn't sound 
like a sailor's name.' 

' Cecil Crichton }' echoed the other. 
' No . . . and yet it sounds familiar. Per- 
haps I am thinking of the Admirable, 
though he wasn't Cecil, as far as I re- 
member. The old story, I suppose. 



A COMEDY OF xMASKS 103 

Cecil Crichton — ah, Cyril Crichton ?' he 
repeated. Then, dismissing the subject 
somewhat brutally, ' Ah, well, it's no busi- 
ness of mine ! Will you give me a light ? 
Thanks !' 



CHAPTER VII. 

At three o'clock Lightmark dismissed his 
model — an Italian, with a wonderfully fine 
torso and admirable capabilities for pic- 
turesque pose, whom he had easily per- 
suaded to abandon his ice-cream barrow 
and to sit for him two or three times a 
week, acting the part of studio servant in 
the intervals. 

' That will do, Cesare,' he said, ' aspetto 
persone ; besides, you're shivering : I shall 
have you catching cold next, and I can't 
paint while you're sneezing. Yes, you're 
quite right, e tin freddo terribile, con- 
sidering that it's July. Off with you now, 
and come again at the same time on 
Friday. Si conservi — that's to say, don't 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 105 

get drunk in the interval ; it makes you 
look such a brute that I can't paint 
you.' 

While the model transformed himself 
from a scantily-attired Roman gladiator 
into an Italian of the ordinary Saffron Hill 
description, Lightmark hastily washed his 
brushes, turned down his shirt - sleeves, 
and donned the becoming velvet painting- 
jacket which Mrs. Dollond had so much 
admired. 

' I hope they won't notice Cesare's pipe,' 
he said anxiously. ' Even though he 
doesn't smoke here, it aways seems to 
hang about. Perhaps I had better open 
the window and burn a pastille. And 
now, are we prepared to receive Philistia ? 
Yes, I don't think the place looks bad, 
and — but perhaps Mrs. Sylvester mightn't 
like the gladiator. He certainly is deucedly 
anatomical at present. I'll go and leave 
him in Copal's studio, and then I can 
borrow his tea-things at the same time.' 

The studio was a lofty room on the 



io6 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

ground -floor, with an elaborately -devised 
skylight, and a large window facing north, 
through which a distant glimpse of Holland 
Park could be obtained. Lightmark had 
covered the floor with pale Indian mat- 
ting, with a bit of strong colour here and 
there, in the shape of a modern Turkish 
rug. For furniture, he had picked up 
some old chairs and a large straight- 
backed settee with grotesquely - carved 
legs, which, with the aid of a judicious 
arrangement of drapery, looked eminently 
attractive, and conveyed an impression 
of comfort which closer acquaintance did 
not altogether belie. Then there was the 
platform, covered with dark cloth, on 
which his models posed ; the rickety 
table with many drawers, in which he 
kept brushes and colours ; a lay figure, 
disguised as a Venetian flower-girl, which 
had collapsed tipsily into a corner ; two or 
three easels ; and a tall, stamped leather 
screen, which was useful for backgrounds. 
A few sketches, mostly unframed, stood 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 107 

in a row on the narrow shelf which ran 
along the pale-green distempered walls ; 
and more were stacked in the corners — 
some in portfolios, and some with their 
dusty backs exposed to view. The palette 
which he had been using lay, like a great 
fantastic leaf, upon the table, amid a chaos 
of broken crayons, dingy stumps, photo- 
graphs of sitters, pellets of bread, dis- 
reputable colour-tubes, and small bottles 
of linseed-oil, varnish, and turpentine. A 
sketch for Mrs. Sylvester's portrait, in 
crayons, was propped against the foot of 
an easel (Lightmark hoped that her son 
might buy it for his chambers) ; the canvas 
which he had prepared against the much- 
delayed sitting due from Miss Sylvester 
exposed its blank surface on another. A 
tall Japanese jar full of purple and yellow 
irises, a tribute to his expected guests, 
stood on the dusty black stove. 

He had barely had time to arrange the 
borrowed tea-things, and to set a kettle 
on a little spirit-lamp behind the screen, 



io8 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

when Mrs. Dollond and her husband were 
announced. He threw his black sombrero 
somewhat theatrically into a corner, and 
advanced with effusion to meet them. 
Mrs. Dollond had taken a decided interest 
in the young painter ever since the delight- 
fully uncandid reflection of her by no 
means youthful beauty which he had ex- 
hibited at the Grosvenor had provoked so 
much comment amonor her friends. 

She was a plump little fair - haired 
woman, with blue eyes, a very pink and 
white complexion, small hands, and a pas- 
sion for dress with which people who had 
known her before her marriage, as a slim 
maiden devoted to sage-green draperies 
and square-toed shoes, declined to credit 
her, until they were told that she had, to 
put it plainly, grown fat — a development 
which compelled her to give up sestheticism 
and employ a modiste. 

Her husband, who followed her into the 
room, carrying her impedimenta, wore the 
bored expression of the R.A. who is ex- 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 109 

pected to admire the work of an outsider. 
He was the abject slave of his good- 
natured wife — she was good-natured, in 
spite of her love of scandal — and his only 
fault from her point of view, and his 
greatest one in the eyes of people in 
general, lay in an unfortunate habit of 
thinking aloud, a dangerous characteristic, 
which persons who are apt to find them- 
selves in the position of critic should at 
any cost eradicate. Luckily, his benevo- 
lence was such that these outspoken com- 
ments were never really virulent, and not 
ofteil offensive. 

Mrs. Dollond seated herself smilingly on 
the least rickety chair, disposed of her veil 
with one neatly-gloved hand, and prepared 
a tortoiseshell eyeglass for action with the 
other. 

' What a charming portrait !' she said, 
pointing with her plump index-finger to 
the sketch of Mrs. Sylvester. ' Do I know 
the lady, I wonder } Oh ! I do believe 
it's that Mrs. Sylvester.' 



no A COMEDY OF MASKS 

'Yes,' said Lightmark. * If you remem- 
ber, you introduced me to her at the 
Academy soiree last year. I expect her 
here this afternoon, with her daughter. I 
am going to paint Miss Sylvester's por- 
trait.' 

' Ah,' said Mrs. Dolland mischievously, 
* and that accounts for the pastille. You 
never made such preparations when / sat 
to you. I suppose you thought that a 
painter's wife could not possibly object to 
tobacco.' 

* And she certainly doesn't, judging by 
her consumption of cigarettes !' interposed 
her husband. 

' Hugh, I'm ashamed of you ! You 
know I'm a martyr to asthma — and cigar- 
ettes aren't tobacco. But how old is Miss 
Sylvester ? Is she pretty ?' 

' Don't ask me to describe her, Mrs. 
Dollond. Wait till you see her — she's 
coming, you know. What do you think 
of that river-scape, most reverend signor } 
It's one of the little things I've been doing 



A COMEDY OF MASKS in 

down at Rainham's Dock — down at Black- 
pool' 

The Academician tried to appear in- 
terested as he assumed the conventional 
bird-like pose of the picture -gazer and 
surveyed the sketch. 

' Very pretty — very pretty ! I should 
hardly have thought it was the Thames, 
though. It isn't muddy enough. In fact, 
the whole scheme of colour is much too 
clean for London. Quite absurd ! Not a 
bit like it ! Eh, my dear, what was I 
saying ? Oh yes, I like the effect of the 
sunlight on that brown sail immensely. 
It's really very clever, very clever.' 

Mrs. Dollond, who never knew what 
her husband would say next, welcomed the 
influx of a small throng of visitors with a 
sigh of relief. 

The Sylvesters and Philip Rainham, 
arriving at the same time, found the little 
studio almost crowded. Besides the Dol- 
londs there were two or three of the Turk 
Street fraternity ; a young sculptor, newly 



112 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

arrived from Rome, with his wife ; Dio- 
nysus F. Quain, an American interested in 
petroleum, who had patronized Lightmark 
also at Rome ; and Copal, whose studio 
was in the same building, and who was 
manifestly anxious about his Chelsea tea- 
cups. 

Mrs. Sylvester greeted her protdgd with 
a flattering degree of warmth which was 
entirely absent from the stare and conven- 
tional smile with which she honoured Mrs. 
Dollond, and the somewhat impertinent air 
of patronage which she wore when one or 
two of the young artists were introduced to 
her. If they did not mind, Mrs. Dollond 
was inclined to be resentful, for the 
moment, at least ; and, as a preliminary 
attack, she maliciously encouraged Eve, 
who, ensconced in a corner, blissfully un- 
conscious of the maternal anxiety which 
the other matron had detected, was eagerly 
turning over the contents of a portfolio 
which she had unearthed from its lurkincr- 
place behind her chair. 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 113 

Rainham was looking over her shoulder, 
admiring the charming poise of the girl's 
head, and the contours of her wrists and 
hands, as she submitted the drawings to 
his inspection. Charles Sylvester stationed 
himself close by, and devoted himself to 
button-holing the American senator, to 
the obvious discomfort of his victim, whose 
knowledge of Pennsylvanian oil-wells was 
infinitely greater than his acquaintance 
with the rudiments of summary jurisdic- 
tion, as practised in his native State, and 
who, after hazarding a remark to the effect 
that Judge Lynch had long since retired 
from the Bench, had, as he would have 
put it, 'pretty considerably petered out.' 

' I hope my daughter isn't indiscreet T 
Mrs. Sylvester had hazarded, after catch- 
ing Lightmark's eye on its return journey 
from a glance in the direction of the little 
group in the corner ; and the young man 
had reassured her hastily, before mis- 
givings had time to assail him, and when 
they did, he hoped for the best. For a 

VOL. I. 8 



114 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

painter's portfolio is, after all, hardly less 
confidential than a diary, and may be on 
occasion almost as compromising, in spite 
of the fact that the records it contains are 
written in cipher. 

The sunlight, mellowed to a dull straw 
colour by its passage through London air, 
slanted in at the window, falling first on 
Charles Sylvester's handsome face, with 
its eminently professional, severely - cut 
features, and the careful limitation of 
whisker, which seemed so completely in 
harmony with his shaven upper lip and 
the unsympathetic scrutiny of his double 
eyeglass ; then, losing some of its bright- 
ness among the little ripples of brown hair 
which a gracious Providence had forbidden 
her hat to conceal, fell like a halo upon 
the pale green wall behind Eve's head. 

The young artists — the 'boys,' as they 
would have called themselves — were cir- 
culating busily with teacups and petits 
fours, and the chatter of voices bore 
testimony to the preponderance of the 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 115 

Bohemian element. It is only the dwellers 
on the confines who lose their voices in 
the Temple of Art — a goddess who, to 
judge by her votaries, is not wont to take 
pleasure in silence. 

' Oh,' said Eve, in reply to one of 
Rainham's remarks, ' is that Bordighera ? 
What lovely blue water ! and what per- 
fectly delicious little fishing-boats ! I 
should like to go there. Charles is going 
to take us to Lucerne in a week or two, 
you know, when the Long Vacation 
begins. But I suppose we shall hardly 
get to Italy.' 

' Yes, that's Bordighera ' — with a sigh 
— ' my happy hunting-ground. And the 
water is much bluer really — only don't tell 
Dick I said so. Yes, you ought to go 
there. If you stayed late enough you 
would have me dropping in on you one 
fine day, as soon as the fogs begin here. 
Happy thought ! Why shouldn't we all 
winter out there ?' 

' That would be nice,' said Eve, rather 



Ii6 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

doubtfully ; ' but, you know, there's 
Charles — he would have to come back 
for the Law Courts in the autumn, and 
he would be so lonely all by himself. 
And — and there's my portrait. Mr. 
Lightmark wants to get that ready for 
next year's Academy ; and I can't sit to 
him very often, as it is, because of cha- 
perons, you know.' 

Meanwhile Lightmark was telling Mrs. 
Dollond, in a confidential undertone, some 
story of a fair American sitter, who, on 
his expressing himself dissatisfied with his 
efforts worthily to transfer her complexion 
to canvas, had at once offered to send 
her maid round to his studio with an 
assortment of her {diV ouni^ poudre de rose. 
Dollond listened with an amused smile to 
a recital of the sculptor's impressions of 
the Salon, which he had taken on his way 
from Rome. Copal was making desper- 
ate efforts to count his precious teacups, 
a task which their scattered positions 
rendered distressingly difficult. Charles 



A COMEDY OF MASKS /117 

Sylvester was somewhat listlessly cross- 
examining a P.R.A. in embryo as to the 
exact meaning of ' breadth ' in a painting ; 
and Mr. Quain had been making his way 
as unostentatiously as the creakiness of 
his boots would permit towards the door. 
Eve had despatched one of ' the boys ' in 
search of a portfolio to replace the one 
which she had exhausted, and another 
had been entrusted with the safe bestowal 
of her empty teacup. The new portfolio, 
when it arrived, proved to be filled, not 
as the others, with landscapes and water- 
scapes, but with studies from life — Capri 
fisher - girls, groups of market people, 
Venetian boatmen, and hasty sketches for 
portraits. 

Eve paused rather longer than usual 
over one of these, the picture of a pretty 
fair-haired girl, dressed as Pierrette, the 
general lack of detail and absence of back- 
ground only making the vigorously out- 
lined face more distinct. 

* What a pretty girl, Philip !' said the 



ii8 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

young critic, presently ; ' and how curiously 
she's dressed ! What is she intended to 
represent? Is it a fancy dress? . . . . 
Mr. Rainham, if you don't attend, I won't 
show you any more pictures.' 

* Tyrant,' said Rainham absently, as 
he carried his eyes from the contemplative 
stare with which they had been regarding 
the vagaries of a butterfly on the skylight. 
' What have you found now } — Kitty, by 
Jove !' 

He had no sooner uttered these last three 
words, in a very different tone to that of 
his previous idle remarks, than he cursed 
his indiscretion. It was a piece of 
gaiicherie which he would find it hard to 
forgive in himself, and Lightmark might 
well resent it. 

' Kitty ?' asked Eve, with some surprise, 
'who is Kitty? Mr. Lightmark, please 
tell us who this charming young lady, 
whom Mr. Rainham calls Kitty, is, since 
he won't.' 

' Kitty ?' repeated Lightmark, with only 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 119 

a momentary hesitation, which the sudden- 
ness of the query might well account for ; 
* I'm afraid I don't quite remember. There 
are so many Kitties, you know. All 
models are either Kitty or Polly. But 
if Rainham says it's Kitty, depend upon 
it he's right. He's got a wonderful 
memory for faces, especially pretty ones. 
Yes,' he added mischievously, ' you ask 
Rainham.' 

Mrs. Sylvester looked uneasy, and, to 
her subsequent disgust, began to press 
'dear Mrs. Dollond' to come and see 
her. 

Charles, who had looked up sharply at 
the first mention of the name which had 
so disturbed the usually imperturbable 
Rainham, fixed his interrogative glasses 
first on the latter and then on Lightmark, 
and finally let them rest, with an expres- 
sion of inquiring censure, on Rainham, 
whose confusion savoured to his mind so 
unmistakably of guilt that * Gentlemen 
of the jury ' rose almost automatically to 



120 A COMEDY OF MASKS 



his lips. Nor did Rainham's attempt to 
smooth matters assist him. 

' I must have seen the girl at the 
studio,' he said, ' when Lightmark was 
painting her. It's certainly a striking 
likeness, and that's what astonished me, 
you know. Almost like seeing a ghost. 
Ah, that little fellow used to sit for Light- 
mark in Rome — little sunburnt ruffian. 
We picked him up on the Ghetto, almost 
starving, and he got quite an artistic con- 
nection before we left. He was positively 
growing too fat ; prosperity spoiled him as 
a model.' 

* Really ?' said Eve listlessly. * I don't 
think I want to look at any more draw^- 
ings ; one can have too much of a good 
thing, and it must be time for us to go. 
We're dining out, and Charles doesn't 
like dressing in a hurry. Yes, mamma 
is buttoning her gloves. Good-bye, Mr. 
Rainham. Shall we see you again before 
we go to Switzerland ? Ah, well, let's 
hope so. Au revoir, Mr. Lightmark. If 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 121 

you really think it's worth while for 
me to give you a solitary sitting next 
week ' 

' If you would be so good. You see, 
I should have some ideas to go on with. 
Don't I deserve some reward, too, for 
allowing Rainham to monopolize you all 
the afternoon ? And if you don't give me 
a sitting now, I'm afraid you will forget all 
about it when you come back to town ; 
whereas, if we make a beginning, you will 
have to see it through — you will be com- 
promised.' 

' What a stupid expression !' thought 
Mrs. Sylvester as the carriage rolled along 
the Kensington highroad. 

Charles was unusually silent during the 
drive. The subject which occupied his 
thoughts was not one which he would have 
dreamed of ventilating even with his 
mother, and Eve's presence seemed to 
render the faintest allusion to it impracti- 
cable. 

He had no great affection or even 



122 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

regard for Philip Rainham, whom he con- 
templated with that undefined disdain 
which a younger man so often feels for 
one who is too old to be on his own level, 
and too young to inspire reverence. The 
half-pitying regard which Mrs. Sylvester 
bestowed on the man who had been to her 
husband as a very dear younger brother 
had never furthered Rainham's advance- 
ment in her son's favour ; and the manner 
in which Eve had centred her childish 
affections in Philip, who had made her his 
especial favourite, was even more preju- 
dicial to his interests in that quarter. 
Hitherto, indeed, Silvester's vague dislike 
had been so undemonstrative and im- 
material that he would hardly have owned 
to it as such, and far less would he have 
acknowledged that he was, however 
unconsciously, feeling for a peg on which 
to hang it, for ground to support it ; and 
yet from the first moment when the man's 
startled voice drew the questioning eyes 
upon his embarrassment, the judicial mind 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 123 

had been able to plume itself upon the 
penetration which had enabled it to detect 
something of doubtful odour about him 
from the first. ' Kitty !' That word 
might explain so much — Rainham's long 
sojourns away from his business, for 
example. 

Charles looked at Eve and frowned. 
Decidedly, thought the young moralist, the 
old intimacy must be discouraged. Nor^ 
did the fact that Rainham had been the 
source of his first brief, as well .as of subse- 
quent others, though it was not forgotten, 
suggest the advisability of a compromise ; 
he even began to take a certain pride 
in the determination with which he was 
bringing himself to contemplate the sacri- 
fice of so useful a friendship. 

When they reached home there was 
barely time to dress for dinner, and 
Charles had no opportunity for a tete-a-tete 
discussion of the situation with his mother 
that evening. And as he breakfasted 
early next day and dined at the club, he 



124 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

had ample time in which to determine 
that, for the present, he would avoid any- 
thing in the shape of a family conference, 
and would content himself with keeping 
his eye on the mauvais sujet. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

As soon as Lightmark and Rainham were 
left alone in the twilight of the studio, the 
former flung himself into a chair with a 
sigh of relief, and devoted himself to roll- 
ing and lighting a cigarette. Rainham 
picked up his hat, consulted his watch, 
with a preoccupation of mind which pre- 
vented him from noticing what the time 
was, and, refusing the proffered tobacco- 
pouch and the suggested whisky-and- 
soda, seemed about to go. Then he 
stopped, with his back turned towards his 
host and a pretence of examining a 
sketch. 

* I'm sorry I made such an ass of myself 
about that study — that girl, you know,' he 



126 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

said presently. ' The fact is, I saw her 
the other day, and the coincidence was 
rather startling/ 

Lightmark blew a light cloud of smoke 
from his lips before he spoke. 

' Oh, it doesn't matter in the least, old 
man. You didn't implicate me, as it hap- 
pened, though I'm afraid you got yourself 
into rather hot water. A poor devil of a 
painter must have models, and it's recog- 
nised, but men of business ! It's 

quite another thing. There's no possible 
connection between girls and dry-docks.' 
Then he added lightly, ' Where are you 
going to dine to-night ? Let's go to one 
of our Leicester Square haunts, or shall we 
get into a hansom and drive to Richmond ? 
I've sold old Quain a picture, and I feel 
extravagantly inclined. What do you 
say? Under which chef? Speak, or 
let's toss up.' 

Rainham appeared to consider for a 
moment ; then he sat down again. 

' About that girl,' he said ; ' I suppose you 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 127 

do remember something about her ? She 
must have been very pretty when you 
painted her, though she's nothing wonder- 
ful now, poor thing ! I don't want to 
pump you, Dick, but she seems to have 
been pretty badly treated, and I want to 
see if I can't help her.' 

' Help her !' with a shrug. * For good- 
ness' sake tell me : is it Don Quixote or 
Don Lothario that you are playing ?' 

' I should have thought you need hardly 
have asked,' answered the other a little 
sadly. ' I found the wretched creature 
waiting, with an equally wretched baby, 
both apparently not far from starvation, 
outside the dock the other night ; and — well, 
I thought she might be waiting for you.' 

Lightmark threw the stump of his cigar- 
ette into a corner viciously, with a danger- 
ous glance at the other. 

'Why the devil should she have been 
waiting for me ? Did she say she was 
waiting for me ? How should a model 
know that I had been painting there ? But 



128 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

I don't want to quarrel with you, and, 
after all you've done for me, I suppose 
you've a certain right to put yourself in 
loco parentis, and all that sort of thing. 
Tell me all you have found out about the 
girl — all she has told you, that is to say, 
and then I'll see what I can do.' 

This masterly suggestion seemed to 
Rainham both plausible and practical, and 
he proceeded to unfold the whole story of 
his first meeting with Kitty. When he 
reached the part of his narrative which 
brought out the girl's explanation that she 
was seeking to speak with a Mr. Crichton, 
Lightmark looked at him again covertly, 
with the same threatening light in his 
glance. Then, apparently reassured, he 
resigned himself again to listen, with a 
cigarette unlighted between his fingers. 

' You say Oswyn heard the whole 
story ?' he asked, when Rainham had 
finished. ' Did the girl seem to know 
him ? Or did he seem to have heard of 
— of this Crichton before ?' 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 129 



' No,' said Rainham reflectively ; * the 
girl didn't know Oswyn, though, on the 
other hand, he seemed certain that he had 
seen her face somewhere — probably in that 
study of yours, by the way ; and he ap- 
peared to think that I ought to have heard 
of Crichton — Cyril Crichton. He told me 
that the man wrote clever, scurrilous articles 
on art and the drama for the Outcry. But 
I don't read English papers much. You 
see, our difficulty is that Cyril Crichton is 
obviously a nom de plume, and no one — 
not even the people at the Outcry office — 
know, or will say, who the man is ; Kitty 
has tried. I suppose the editor knows all 
right, but he is discreet.' 

' Ah !' cried Lightmark. * Now I remem- 
ber something about her. Have you got 
your hat .-^ Let's get into a hansom, and 
go and dine — I'm positively starving. Til 
stand you a dinner at the Cavour — stand- 
ing you a dinner will be such a new sensa- 
tion ; and new sensations are the only 
things worth living for. I will tell you 

VOL. I. 9 



I30 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

about Kitty in the cab. What a beneficent 
old beggar you are !' 

As they drove rapidly eastward along 
the High Street of Old Kensington, 
where the pale orange of the lamplight 
was just beginning to tell in the dusk, 
Lightmark explained how, some two years 
ago or more, he had been talking to a 
stranger in a railway carriage, and lament- 
ing the difficulty of finding really pretty 
girls who would act as models ; how the 
stranger had told him that he knew of 
such an one — a dressmaker's apprentice, 
or something of that sort, who found the 
work and hours too hard ; and how, finally, 
Kitty had called at his studio — the old one 
in Bloomsbury — and had sat to him, per- 
haps half a dozen times, before vanishing 
from his knowledge. This account had been 
freely interspersed with exclamations on the 
beauty of the evening light in the Park 
and the subtle charm of the hour after sun- 
set, more exquisite in the clear atmosphere 
of Paris, but still sufficiently lovely even in 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 131 

London, and acknowledged by both of 
them to be one of the few compensations 
accorded to the dwellers in the much- 
abused Metropolis. 

' I'm sorry,' said Rainham penitently ; ' I 
had a stupid sort of idea that you were 
mixed up in the business somehow. I 
thought so even before I saw the sketch, 
because I couldn't understand whom else 
she could have been looking for at the 
dock. It's very mysterious !' 

* I shouldn't bother about the girl if I 
were you,' replied the other light-heartedly. 
' Even if I had been mixed up with her, as 
you gracefully express it. you wouldn't 
have anything to do with it. I believe 
you think I've been playing the devil 
with her now, you old moralist ! Hear 

me swear, by yon pale Dash it ! 

there isn't a moon — well, bv the cresset 
on the top of the Empire, that the 
young person in question has been my 
model for a brief space, and nothing more. 
Only my model, in the strictest sense of 



132 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

the word. No, I'll pay the cab, for once in 
a way.' 

When they had dined, sitting at their 
favourite table, which, from its position at 
the end, commanded a view of the bright 
exotic room, with its cosmopolitan con- 
tents, their wants cared for by the head- 
waiter, who adored Lightmark for his 
knowledge of his mother-tongue, recog- 
nising and being recognised by the for- 
gotten of their acquaintance who were also 
dining there, Lightmark proposed an ad- 
journment to the little theatre in Dean 
Street hard by, where ' Niniche ' was 
being played for the last time by a clever 
companv from across the Channel. 

' We must go to the theatre,' he said, 
' unless you prefer a hall ; I confess I'm 
sick of them. I haven't satisfied my ideas 
of extravagance nearly yet. We will go 
and sit in the stalls at the Royalty and see 
Jane May and the others ; it will remind 
us of old days.' 

* But, my dear fellow,' expostulated the 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 133 

Other, ' it's so late, and we're in morning 
dress. Let's go to-morrow night instead.' 

' Ah no ! to-morrow I shan't be in the 
right mood. Never put off till to-morrow, 
you know. Our not being in evening 
dress won't matter a bit, they'll only think 
we're critics ; and '' Niniche " doesn't begin 
till nine.' 

On their speedy arrival at the modest 
portals of the little theatre, Lightmark in- 
structed his companion, with an air of 
mystery, to wait, and presently emerged, 
smiling, from a triumphant encounter with 
the gentleman presiding at the box-office. 

'They had no stalls left,' he whispered ; 
' but they're going to put us in two chairs 
at the side.' 

The house, with the exception of the 
more popular places, was crowded ; and 
the boisterous absurdity of the farce was 
at its height. Rainham at first felt quite 
disconcerted by the proximity of the ludi- 
crous figure in bathing dress who was 
leaning over the footlights, and declaiming 



134 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

his woes with a directness of appeal to the 
audience which alone would have marked 
the nationality of the robust actor, who 
was creating so much mirth out of the 
extremely hackneyed situation. He had 
got into the wrong bathing-machine (Light- 
mark seemed to find it intensely amusing) 
and the trousers of the rightful occupant 
only came down to his knees. Rainham 
at first was disconcerted, and then he 
began to feel bored. He fell into a semi- 
comatose state of contemplation, from 
which he was only aroused by the cadence 
on his ear of one of the most charming 
voices he had ever heard. So he charac- 
terized it, to Lightmark's amusement, when 
they were discussing their cigarettes and 
the J eune premiere in the interval between 
the acts. 

' Oh for an epithet to describe her !' 
said Lightmark, catching his friend's en- 
thusiasm. ' She isn't exactly pretty — yes, 
she is pretty, but she isn't beautiful ! She's 
got any amount of what dramatic critics 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 135 

call chic. Don't shudder — I hate the word 
quite as much as you do, but it was in- 
evitable. The only thing I feel sure about 
is that she's espiegle, and altogether de- 
lightful. And how funny that man is, or 
would be, if the authors had only given 
him a better chance ! The fun of the piece 
is like those trousers — it only comes down 
to his knees.' 

'What I admire most is her voice,' said 
the other inconsequently. ' How is it that 
French actresses have such beautiful 
voices ? Freedom from fogs can't be the 
only cause. And it's got all that delicious 
plaintiveness ' 

' Yes,' interposed Lightmark, ' it's the 
voice of a true Parisian fe7n77ie de siecle, fin 
de siecle. There's the bell ; let's go and 
hear some more of it.' 

After the second act Lightmark, in 
whom the influence of the evening was 
beginning to manifest itself in the shape 
of a geniality which was absent in a great 
degree from his more serious hours, and 



136 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

which had undoubtedly won him more 
friends than the other slightly pugnacious 
phase of his temperament, decided that 
Niniche was really very like Miss Syl- 
vester, only less beautiful, and asserted 
that he was confident that she was younger 
than the newspapers made out. 

Later, before the two friends parted on 
the steps of the modest club which in- 
cluded both In Its list of town members, 
Lightmark assumed an air of mystery, 
sighed once or twice, and looked at his 
friend with an expression In which forgive- 
ness, reproach, and the lateness of the hour 
were strangely commingled. 

' Old boy,' he said, bending his eyebrows 
with an effort towards gravity, ' I'm really 
rather cut up about that business — you 
thinking that I was playing the gay de- 
ceiver, and all that sort of thing, you know. 
It was unworthy of you, Philip — It was, 
really. Dash it! I've been In love forever 
so long. All the summer, seriously ; I'm 
going to get married — settle down, range 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 137 

myself. Cut all you rips of bachelors. . . . 
But perhaps she won't see it. Oh, Lord ! 
. . . Damn it all ! Why don't you con- 
gratulate me, eh ?' 

Rainham was growing more and more 
serious, and it w^as with a real heartache 
and a curious apprehension of a moral 
blow that he answered, as gaily as he 
could : 

* You're going a little too fast, Dick. 
If you haven't asked the girl, it's rather too 
early for congratulations, however irresist- 
ible your attractions may be. Who — who 
is it, Dick ?' 

' Oh, come, you know well enough. 
Eve — I wonder if she'll let me call her 
Eve ? Eve ! Isn't it a pretty name ?' 

' I wish you hadn't told me this, Dick,' 
said the other, with more of the familiar 
weariness in his voice. ' Are you sure you 
mean it ? I don't believe you've thought 
it out. Why, what do you suppose Mrs. 
Sylvester will say, and Charles Sylvester ?' 

* You think they won't have anything to 



138 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

do with a poor devil of an artist, I suppose? 
Right you are, sir ; but when the poor 
devil has a rich and gouty uncle, who is 
disposed to be friendly. . . . See ? I 
think that alters the complexion of the 
case. You know, the Sylvesters are 
awfully well connected, and so on, but 
they haven't got much money. Mrs. Syl- 
vester has a life annuity, and Charles — 
whom I always want to call " Chawles," 
because he's so pompous — has got his pro- 
fessional income. And Eve has got a 
little, enough to dress her, I should think. 
*' Payable quarterly on her attaining the 
age of twenty-one years, or marrying under 
that age, whichever shall first happen." 
I've looked it all up at Somerset House . 
Last will and testament of Sylvester 
Charles Sylvester, Esq. I know they're 
rather ambitious, and wouldn't look at me if 
it wasn't for the Colonel. But the Colonel 
is a solid fact, and I've no doubt they think 
he's richer than he is. And I am making 
money, though you mightn't think it.' 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 139 

' I don't believe Mrs. Sylvester has 
thought about it at all,' said Rainham 
doubtfully. ' Eve is so young, and young 
artists are never looked on as marrying 
men. Take my advice and think about . 
it.' 

' Yozc call her Eve, do you } Ah, well, I 
won't be jealous of you, old boy. You shall 
come to the wedding and be best man ; or 
no, the Colonel will be best man, I sup- 
pose ? I can imagine him returning thanks 
for the bridesmaids in the most dazzling 
white waistcoat that was ever starched. 
Good-night ; see you again soon.' 

' I don't know how it is,' thought Rain- 
ham, as he walked up Old Compton Street 
on his way to the attic near the British 
Museum which he rented when he was in 
England for use on occasions of this kind, 
' It's very stupid of me, but I can't bear 
the idea of Eve marrying. A species of 
jealousy, I suppose ; not ordinary jealousy, 
of course. And yet why not } I have 
never thought of her as anything but a 



I40 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

child . . . why shouldn't Lightmark marry 
her ? He's young, and good-looking, and 
sure to get on ; and I'm a selfish old wreck. 
Yes, he shall marry her, and I will buy his 
pictures.' Still, he shook his head even as 
he formulated this generous solution of the 
question, and could not induce himself to 
regard the position with equanimity, though 
he sat up till broad daylight wrestling with 
it. ' I wonder if I am in love,' he said, 
with a bitter laugh, as he shook the ashes 
out of his last pipe. 



CHAPTER IX. 

The upper end of the Park is never so 
fashionably frequented as its southern 
regions, and Rainham, whose want of 
purpose had led him past gay carpet- 
beds and under branching trees nearly 
to the Marble Arch, was hardly surprised 
to recognise among the heterogeneous 
array of promenaders, tramps, and nurse- 
maids, whom the heat of the slanting sun 
had prompted to occupy the benches dotted 
at intervals along the Row, a face whose 
weary pallor caused him a pang of self- 
reproach, Kitty ! 

For the last few days, since his en- 
counter with her portrait at Lightmark's 
studio, he had scarcely given her troubles 



142 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

a thought. When the girl saw him, after 
a startled look and movement, she seemed 
to shrink still further into the folds of her 
rusty black cloak, and, to avoid meeting 
Rainham's eyes, bent her head over the 
child who was seated at her side. He 
found something irresistibly charming and 
pathetically generous in the girl's spon- 
taneous denial of any claim to his notice, 
although, except that he had promised to 
let her know anything he might learn of 
the whereabouts of the father of her child, 
he would have found it hard to establish 
in the mind of an outside critic that any 
such claim in fact existed. 

' Well, my poor child,' he said softly, as 
he dropped into one of the vacant seats 
on the same bench, ' how goes it with you 
and the little one ?' 

' Oh, sir, you shouldn't speak to me — 
not here. Anyone might see you. Pray 
go. I know I shall get you into trouble, 
and you so kind !' 

These words were spoken in a rapid, 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 143 



frightened whisper, and with an appre 
hensive glance at the intermittent stream 
of carriages passing within a few yards of 
them. Rainham shrugged his shoulders 
pitifully, but found it rather difficult to say 
anything. Certainly, his reputation was 
running a risk, and he felt that his in- 
difference was somewhat exceptional. 

' I'm sorry to say I've got no news for 
you,' he said presently, after a silent pause, 
during which he had observed that the 
wide-eyed child was really far prettier than 
many who (as he had been assured by the 
complacent matrons who exhibited them) 
were 'little cherubs,' and that it was as 
scrupulously cared for as the little cherubs, 
even in their exhibition array. ' I haven't 
been able to discover anything ; but you 
mustn't despair — we shall find him sooner 
or later.' 

The girl glanced at him irresolutely, and 
then dropped her eyes again, leaning over 
the child. 

* It's no good, sir,' she said. ' I'm only 



144 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

sorry to have given you so much trouble 
already. He won't come back — he's tired 
of me. He could find me if he wanted to, 
and watching and hunting for him like 
this would only set him more and more 
against me.' 

Rainham, as he listened to her, rather 
puzzled by her sudden change of attitude 
since their last interview, was forced to 
admit mentally that her reasoning, if it 
lacked spontaneity, was, at all events, indis- 
putably sound ; and while he found himself 
doubting whether the victim was not better 
versed in worldliness than he had at first 
suspected, he still felt a curious reluctance 
which, though he was half ashamed of his 
delicacy, prevented him from suggesting 
that, sentimental reasons apart, the betrayer 
still ought to be discovered, if only in 
order to force him to provide for the main- 
tenance of his child. It hardly, perhaps, 
occurred to him that he, after all, would be 
the person who would suffer most, and he 
certainly did not for an instant credit the 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 145 



girl with any ulterior designs upon his 
purse. 

* Oh, I don't know/ he said feebly. 

* Perhaps he does not know where you 
are. And I dare say, if he saw the 
child ' 

' The child T echoed the woman bitterly. 

* That's just the worst of it !' 

Rainham sighed, forced again to ac- 
knowledge his lower standing in the 
wisdom of the world. He would have 
given a great deal to be able to get up 
and go. 

' Then you don't want me to employ a 
detective, or to advertise, or — or to make 
an appeal to the editor of the Outcry ?' 

Mrs. Crichton seemed to welcome the 
opportunity afforded by this direct ques- 
tioning. 

' No,' she said, ' 1 think it would be 
better not. I don't want to seem ungrate- 
ful, sir — and I'm sure I thank you very, 
very much for all you have done for me — 
but I think you had better take no more 

VOL. I. 10 



146 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

trouble about it. If I can get work I shall 
do all right.' 

In spite of the girl's evident attempt to 
pull herself together, her voice was less 
brave than her words, and they conveyed 
but little assurance to the listener. He 
shrugged his shoulders somewhat im- 
patiently : the interview was beginning to 
tell upon his nerves. 

* Of course, it's for you to decide, and I 
suppose you have thought it well out, and 
have good reason for this alteration of pur- 
pose. But when you talk about work ?' 

He finished his sentence with a note of 
inquiry and a half-apologetic glance at her 
slight form and frail white fingers. 

* I haven't alwa\'s been a model,' she 
explained with some dignity. ' Would to 
God I never had ! I can sew better than 
most, and I can work a type-machine. 
That's what I used to do before he 
came. But type -writing work isn't so 
easy to get as it was, and I am out of 
practice.' 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 147 

It occurred to him for a moment to ask 
the girl whether she could remember 
sitting for Mr. Lightmark, but he felt that 
Dick might resent the introduction of his 
name ; and, remembering that she had 
told him that, for a time, before her health 
gave way, her artist patrons had been 
numerous, he dismissed the idea as not 
likely to be profitable. 

As they spoke, she with her mournful 
eyes turned on Rainham's sympathetic 
face, he absently following the movements 
of the child as it laboriously raised a small 
edifice of gravel-stones on the seat be- 
tween them, neither of them noticed the 
severely correct figure in the frock-coat 
and immaculate hat who passed close 
behind with observant eyeglass fixed 
upon the little group, and with an 
air which, after the first flush of open- 
mouthed surprise, was eloquently expres- 
sive of regretful indignation and the 
hicrhest motives. 

Charles Sylvester continued his walk for 



148 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

a distance of about fifty paces, and then 
seated himself in a position to command a 
view of the persons in whom he was in- 
terested. 

' I don't Hke watching Rainham Hke 
this,' he said to himself; 'but it's a duty 
which I owe to society.' 

That the man was Rainham was as 
obvious as that the woman he was talking 
to was of a far lower rank in life than his 
own. And then there was the child ! 

' By Jove!' said Sylvester sententiously, 
' it's worse than I thought. People really 
ought to be warned. I suppose it's that 
girl he was talking about at the studio the 
other day ; and he tried to shift her on to 
Lightmark. What a hypocrite the man 
must be !' 

He was not, however, for long called 
upon to maintain, in the interests of 
society, his position of espionage ; for 
Rainham, warned of the lapse of time by 
the clock which adorns the Park lodge, 
presently became aware that, if he was to 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 149 

fulfil his intention of calling on Mrs. Syl- 
vester, he had no time to spare ; and 
when he rose from his seat Charles Syl- 
vester thought it advisable to resume the 
walk which his zeal had induced him to 
interrupt. 



CHAPTER X. 

After all, he need not have hurried. 
Mrs. Sylvester was out, he was told by 
the butler, who proceeded to suggest, 
with the freedom of an old friend, that 
he should make his way upstairs and find 
Miss Eve. 

'Yes, I think I will, Phelps,' he said, 
after a moment's hesitation, ' if she is dis- 
engaged.' 

* Miss Eve is in the music-room playing, 
I think, sir. Will you go up ?' 

They found the room empty, however, 
though an open violin-case on the table 
and a music-stand, on which leaflets of 
Schubert fluttered fitfully in the light 
breeze that entered through the open 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 151 

window, testified to its recent occupa- 
tion. 

While the butler left Rainham, with 
apologies, to make further search, the 
latter stood, hat in hand, making a survey 
of the little wainscoted room, which he 
remembered as the school-room. Indeed, 
though the name, in deference doubtless 
to Eve's mature age, had been altered, it 
still retained much of its former aspect. 
From the little feminine trifles lying about, 
scraps of unfinished crewel - work and 
embroidery, and the fresh flowers in the 
vases, he gathered that it was still an 
apartment which Eve frequented. He 
recognised her cage of love-birds hanging 
in the window ; the cottage piano with its 
frontal of faded silk, on which he could 
remember her first painful struggles with 
Czerny and scales ; the pictures on the 
walls, many of them coloured reproduc- 
tions from the Christmas numbers of the 
illustrated papers ; the ink-stained table- 
cloth on the round table in the centre. 



152 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

He examined the photographs on the 
mantelpiece with a smile — Charles in his 
wig and gown, and Mrs. Sylvester with 
her pretty, faded face, gazed at each other, 
with a curious likeness in their disparity, 
from a double frame in the centre ; the 
spectacled profile of the eminently respect- 
able woman who had superintended Miss 
Eve's studies held another place of honour ; 
and, opposite, Rainham recognised a faded 
photograph of himself, taken six years 
before in Rome. He turned from these 
to the bookshelves, which seemed to be 
filled with relegations from the rest of the 
house — children's story-books in tarnished 
bright covers and dilapidated school-books. 
He took down one of these latter and 
examined it absently, with a half-sigh. 
He had it still in his hand when the young 
girl fluttered in, looking very cool and 
fresh in her plain white dress, with a broad 
sash of apple-green ribbon. 

' I thought you were never coming to 
see us again, Philip,' she said reproach- 



A COMEDY OF MASKS i53 



fully, as she held out her little hand to 
him. ' What possessed them to bring you 
here ? It's awfully untidy.' 

* Phelps had an idea you were making 
music' he explained ; 'and, for the untidi- 
ness, I suppose he remembered that I was 
used to it of old.' 

' Yes, it's just the same. It is an untidi- 
ness of years, and it is hopeless to cope 
with it. What have you got there ?' 

He turned the book round to acquaint 
himself 

' Ollendorf's " Elementary German 
Grammar," ' he said with a smile ; ' it's 
an interesting work.' 

She made a little 7noue expressive of 
disapproval. 

' Ah, how nice it is to have done with 
all that, Philip ! You can't believe how 
glad I am to be "finished"; yes, I am 
finished now. I don't even have masters, 
and Miss Murison has gone away to 
Brighton and opened a school for young 
gentlemen. Poor little wretches ! how 



154 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

sorry I am for them ! Do you remember 
Miss Murison, Philip ?' 

She had sunk down into an arm-chair, 
and Rainham stood, his stooping shoulders 
propped against the mantelpiece, smiling 
down at her. 

* Yes, I remember Miss Murison ; and 
so you are glad her reign has come 
to an end. Eve ? Well, I suppose it is 
natural.' 

She nodded her pretty head. 

* Just a little, Philip. But how tired 
you look ' Will you have some tea ? I 
suppose you have just come from Black- 
pool ?' 

His face darkened suddenly, and the 
smile for a moment died away. 

' No,' he said shortly, ' I have been in 
the Park.' 

' Well,' she remarked after a moment, 
' you must have some tea, anyhow. Of 
course you will wait and see mamma ; she 
has gone to the Dollonds' "at home," you 
know. I am all alone. If you like, we 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 155 

will have it in here, as we did in the old 
days — a regular schoolroom tea.' 

' It will be charming,' said Rainham, 
seating himself ; ' it will only want the 
Murison to complete the illusion.' 

' Oh, it will do just as well without 
her,' said Eve, laughing ; ' ring the bell, 
please.' 

Rainham sat back watching her with 
far-away eyes, as she moved lightly about, 
giving her orders with a childish im- 
periousness, and setting out the little tea- 
table between them. 

'It is delightful,' he said again, when 
they were once more alone and he had 
accepted a well-creamed cup and a wafer- 
like tartine ; ' and I feel as if I had turned 
back several years. But how is it, by-the- 
bye, that you have not gone to the Dol- 
londs' ?' 

She laughed up at him merrily. 

' Because I have had much more im- 
portant things to do. I have been with 
my dressmaker. I am going to a dance 



156 A COMEDY OF MASKS 



to-night, and I have had a great deal of 
bother over my new frock. But it is all 
right now, and I shall wear it to-night ; 
and it is perfectly sweet. Oh, you have 
never seen me at a party yet, Philip !' 

' Never } My dear child, I have danced 
with you at scores.' 

' Oh yes, at children's parties ; but never 
since I have grown up — "come out," I 
mean. Oh, Philip, is there anything in 
life so deliofhtful as one's first ball ? I 
wish you would come out with us some- 
times. I should like to dance with you 
again now.' 

*Ah,' he said, 'my dancing days are 
over. I am a wallflower. Eve, now ; and 
my only use at balls is to fetch and carry 
for the chaperons.' 

' Philip !' she cried reproachfully, ' what 
a dreadful thing to say ! Besides, you used 
to dance so splendidly.' 

' Did I ?' he asked ; ' I expect you would 
be less lenient now. Yes, I will have 
another cup, please.' 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 157 

She filled it, and he took it from her in 
silence, wondering how he could least 
obtrusively gain the knowledge of her 
mind he sought. He had said to himself 
that if he could find her alone, it would be 
so easy ; just a word, an accent, would tell 
him how far she really cared. But now 
that she was actually with him, it had 
become strangely difficult. Very sadly 
he reflected that she had grown out of his 
knowledge ; away from her, she rested in 
his memory as a child whom he could help. 
The actual presence of this young girl with 
the deep eyes, in the first flush of her 
womanhood, corrected him ; an intolerable 
weight sealed his tongue, forbidding him 
to utter Lightmark's name, greatly as he 
desired. He racked himself for delicate 
circumlocutions, and it was only at last, 
by a gigantic effort, when he realized that 
the afternoon waned, while he wasted a 
unique occasion in humorous common- 
place, that he broke almost brutally into 
Eve's disquisitions on her various festivities 



158 A COMEDY OF MASKS 



to ask, blushing like a girl, if Lightmark s 
picture progressed. 

' I have had only a few sittings,' she 
admitted, * and I expect they will be the 
last here. Perhaps they will be continued 
abroad. You know, Mr. Lightmark is 
going to meet us in Switzerland, perhaps.' 

' You will like that ?' suggested Rainham 
gravely. 

She looked into her cup, beating a tattoo 
on the carpet with her little foot nervously. 

' Yes,' she said, after a minute, ' I think 
so.' 

There was nothing in her words, her 
tone, to colour this bare statement of a 
simple fact. Only a second later, as if in 
a sudden need of confidence, a resumption 
of her old childish habit towards him, she 
raised her eyes to his, and in their clear, 
gray depths, before they drooped again 
beneath the long lashes, he read her secret. 
No words could have told him more plainly 
that she loved Lightmark — that Dick had 
merely to speak. Their silence only lasted 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 159 

a moment ; but it seemed to Rainham, who 
had not shifted his position or moved a 
muscle, that it stretched over an inter- 
minable space of time. It was curiously 
intangible, and yet even then he realized 
that it would remain with its least acces- 
sories in his mind one of those trivial, 
indelible photographs which last a lifetime. 
The smell of mignonette that spread in 
from the window-box through the tur- 
quoise-blue Venetian blinds ; the chatter- 
ing of the love-birds ; the strains of a 
waltz of Waldteufel's floating up from a 
German band in the street below — they 
ran into a single sensation that was like the 
stab of cold steel. He sat staring blankly 
at the tattered bookshelves, playing me- 
chanically with his teaspoon ; and presently 
he became aware that the young girl was 
talking, was telling him the route they 
should take next week, and the name of 
the hotel they were going to at Basel. 

* Yes,' he hazarded, and ' Yes,' and ' Yes,' 
his smiling lips belying the lassitude of his 



i6o A COMEDY OF MASKS 

eyes. Actually, he looked out and beyond 
her, at another Eve, to whom he now paid 
his adieux. It was the dainty little figure 
of her childish self which he saw, with its 
bright long hair, and its confiding eyes, 
and its caressing little ways, in the deepen- 
ing shadows between the bookshelves — 
and for the last time. It vanished like a 
shadow, smiling mockingly, and he knew 
it would never return. In its place abode 
henceforth the image of this stately maiden, 
comely and desirable, with the profound 
eyes which lighted up — for Dick. An 
unaccountable sense of failure stole over 
Rainham — unaccountable because he could 
lay his finger upon no tangible cause of 
his discomfiture. 



CHAPTER XL 

The little town was brilliant with Sep- 
tember sunshine ; the blue smoke spired 
almost unbroken into the bluer vault above, 
and the cream-coloured facades of the 
houses, with their faded blue shutters and 
verandas, the gay striped awnings of the 
little fleet of rowing boats, the gray of the 
stone parapet, and the dull green of the 
mountainous opposite shore, were mirrored 
steeply in the bight of narrowing sunlit 
lake. The wide dusty esplanade was 
almost empty, except at the corners, where 
voluble market-women gossiped over their 
fruit-baskets, heaped with purple-brown 
figs, little mountain - born strawberries, 
sweet, watery grapes, green almonds, and 

VOL. I. II 



1 62 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

Stupendous pears. At rare intervals a 
steamboat, bright and neat as a new toy, 
trailed a long feather of smoke from the 
foot of the Rigi, shed a small and dusty 
crowd into the sleepy town, and then 
bustled back, shearing the silken flood and 
strangely distorting its reflections. 

'The worst of Lucerne,' said Mrs. 
Sylvester — ' the worst of Lucerne is that 
one can't escape from Mount Pilatus and 
the Lion. The inhabitants all think that 
Pilatus regulates the weather, and they 
would certainly give their Lion the pre- 
ference over the Venus of Milo.' 

They were all sitting on the terrace in 
front of the Schweitzerhof ; Lady Garnett 
and Mary, Mrs. Sylvester and Eve. Lady 
Garnett and her companion were but 
newly arrived, and, as birds of passage, 
preferred the hotel to a pe7isio7i. The 
Sylvesters had been staying in the quaint, 
rambling town for nearly a fortnight. It 
was their usual summer resort, and 
although the spring of each year found 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 163 

them deciding to go elsewhere for a 
change, in the end they nearly always 
proved faithful to the familiar lake. Their 
pension — they regarded it almost as a 
country house — was such an inducement ! 
The Pension Bungay was maintained by 
an old servant of the family, who, when he 
began to find the duties of butler too 
exacting for his declining years, gave a 
warning, which applied also to one of his 
fellow-servants, the cook, to wit, a lady of 
Continental origin, who had consented to 
become Madame Bungay ; and the pair, 
having souls above public-houses, and re- 
lying on their not inconsiderable connec- 
tion among the servants of Mayfair, had 
boldly and successfully launched into an 
independent career as sole proprietors 
and managers of the Pension Bungay, 
Lucerne. 

* Yes,' said Lady Garnett sympatheti- 
cally ; ' I suppose Pilatus is rather mono- 
tonous. It's rather too near, I think. It 
ought to be far away, and covered with 



1 64 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

snow, more like the Jungfrau, which we 
have been worshipping at Interlaken — 
where, by the way, there are positively 
more Americans than natives.' 

' Oh,' Mrs. Sylvester chimed in, ' isn't 
it dreadful the way they overrun Europe 
nowadays ! There are two American 
families staying at our pension, and you 
see them everywhere.' 

' I think I rather like them. They 
amuse me, you know, and somehow^ 
though it may be disloyal for me, as a 
naturalized Englishwoman, to say so, as 
a rule they comport themselves much 
better than the ordinary British tourist. 
Of course, the country is not so accessible 
for the Americans ; it's out of the reach 
of their cheap excursionists. But how 
opportune that curious tower is, and the 
bridge ! of course, it's correct to admire 
them ?' 

Mary Masters and Eve, who had been 
quietly discussing chiffons, got up from 
their chairs with a preconcerted air. 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 165 



'We are so tired of sitting still,' said 
the former, balancing herself with an air 
of indecision, and giving Mrs. Sylvester 
time to note the admirable taste of her 
simple maize-coloured travelling dress, 
which did not suffer from contrast with 
the younger girl's brighter and more 
elaborately charming toilette. ' Miss Syl- 
vester wants to show me the uncatchable 
trout in the lake, and I want to go and 
see if the salon is empty, so that I can try 
the piano ; and we can't decide which to 
do. I suppose, Mrs. Sylvester, that the 
hotel is more within the bounds of pro- 
priety ?' 

'Oh, well,' said Eve, laughing, ' I don't 
care ; anyhow, let's go and find the piano. 
Only, there is sure to be someone there 
already.' 

' By the way,' said Lady Garnett, when 
the girls had vanished into the building, 
' of course you know that Philip Rainham's 
friend — the young man who paints and 
has a moustache, I mean — is here, or will 



1 66 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

be very shortly? He was staying at oar 
hotel at Berne.' 

' Mr. Lightmark, I suppose ?' answered 
the other, without showing her surprise 
except in her eyes. ' We told him that 
we were coming to Lucerne, and it was 
more or less arranged.' 

' Ah, yes,' interposed Lady Garnett ; 
' am I indiscreet in suggesting an excep- 
tional attraction ?' 

Mrs. Sylvester merely looked myster- 
ious, and Lady Garnett was encouraged to 
continue : 

'' Your daughter is very beautiful. This 
Mr. Lightmark has been painting her 
portrait, nest ce pas ? 1 should think it 
ought to be a success. Am I to congra- 
tulate him ?' 

' Oh,' said Mrs. Sylvester hurriedly, 
' dear Lady Garnett, it hasn't gone so far 
as that.' 

' The portrait ?' murmured the other 
innocently. 'Ah, I'm afraid you misunder- 
stood me.' 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 167 

Mrs. Sylvester cast a meaning glance 
in the direction of Eve, who, sauntering 
along the terrace with Mary, was now 
behind their seat, and the conversation, 
which promised to become interesting, 
dropped, while Mary explained that they 
had found the music-stool occupied by a 
lady, who was superfluously protesting her 
inability to sing ' the old songs ' — the 
person who always did monopolize hotel 
pianos, as Mary laughingly asserted. 

Two days later Lightmark presented 
himself at the Pension Bungay. He had 
come to Lucerne with the fixed purpose 
of definitely proposing marriage to Eve. 
He was far too worldly-wise to fail to 
perceive that, so far at least, Mrs. Sylves- 
ter had certainly taken no trouble to dis- 
courage his pretensions. His attentions, 
he argued, had been by no means obscure ; 
his studio had been singularly honoured 
by the presence of Miss Sylvester and her 
mother, for the purposes of the portrait ; 
he had even been granted a sitting at the 



i68 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

house in Park Street, when a less rigid 
supervision had been exercised, a'nd when, 
in the absence of the mother, he had been 
able to assure himself that the girl was 
far from despising his adoration. Before 
leavino- town he had dined with his uncle, 
the Colonel, at his club, and the veteran 
had spontaneously and strenuously urged 
the step, and even thrown out promising 
hints as to settlements. He broke in upon 
the little circle at the hour of afternoon 
tea, and Eve found his gray travelling 
suit and the bronze of his complexion ex- 
ceedingly becoming. He announced that 
he had come to stay for a week or two ; 
he was going to make some sketches, and 
he couldn't tear himself aw^ay from that 
delightful bridge and his lodgings ! 

* My dear fellow,' he said to Charles 
Sylvester, with an air of familiarity which 
gave one an insight as to the advance the 
artist had made in his relations with the 
family, ' you must come and see my 
diggings. The most delightful old hos- 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 169 



telry In Europe. Built straight up out of 
the lake, like the Castle of Chillon. It's 
called the GastJiof zuni Pfistern. I could 
fish out of my bedroom window. I assure 
you, It's charming. You must come and 
dine with me there. I hope you ladies 
will so far honour me ?' 

This project, however, fell through, and 
by way of compensation Lightmark and 
Charles enjoyed the privilege of entertain- 
ing the party, including Lady Garnett and 
Miss Masters, at Borghoni's ; after which 
the younger people chartered a boat, and 
floated idly about the star-reflecting lake, 
while the dowagers maintained a discreet 
surveillance from their seat on the es- 
planade. 

Of this last incident it may be said that 
Lightmark and Eve found it altogether 
delightful, the latter especially being struck 
by the romance of the situation ; while 
Charles was inclined to be ponderously 
sentimental, and Miss Masters afterwards 
confessed to having felt bored. 



17 o A COMEDY OF MASKS 

In the course of the next day Lightmark 
had the privilege of a confidential inter- 
view with the mother of his adored. 
Mrs. Sylvester had fully armed herself 
for the occasion, and presented an edifying 
example of matronly affection and pru- 
dence. 

' Of course, I was not altogether unpre- 
pared for this, Mr. Lightmark. In fact, I 
may as well own that I have talked it over 
with my son, and we agreed that the 
whole question resolved itself into — ah — 
into settlements. You must not think me 
mercenary.' This was said with a dig- 
nified calm, which made the idea prepos- 
terous. * If you can' — here she seemed 
to refer to some mental note-book — 'ah — 
satisfy Charles on that point, I am sure 
that it will give me great pleasure to 
regard you as a prospective son-in-law. 
Of course, you know, I can't answer for 
Eve, or Charles.' 

' Ah, my dear lady,' said the other, 
gracefully overwhelmed, ' if I may count 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 171 

on your good offices I am very for- 
tunate.' 

That evening, as the two men sat dis- 
cussing their cigars and coffee, Lightmark 
listened with wonderful patience to a dis- 
quisition on the subject of — he couldn't 
afterwards remember whether it was 
Strikes or the Sugar Bounty. He was 
rather afraid of the necessary interview 
with Charles. It would require some tact, 
and he was prepared to find him unplea- 
santly exacting as arbiter of his pecuniary 
status. 

' You ought to be in the House, by 
Jove! that's your line, Sylvester, with a 
clever wife, you know, to do the canvass- 
ing for you' — 'and write your speeches,' 
he mentally added. 

The other owned that he had thought 
of it. 

' But the wife,' he added, with an 
attempt at levity, ' that's the difficulty !' 

And the connection of a subsequent 
remark with this topic, though some con- 



172 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

versatlon intervened, did not escape his 
astute companion, and he was careful to 
sing Miss Masters' praises with an absence 
of allusiveness which showed the actor. 
Then he threw away the stump of his 
cigar and mentally braced himself. 

' You have seen a good deal of me 
lately,' he said. ' I want to ask you if you 
have any objection to me as a possible 
brother-in-law ; in fact, I want to marry 
your sister.' 

' Yes ?' said the other encouragingly. 

' I have, as you may know, spoken to 
Mrs. Sylvester about it, and I believe she 
will — that is to say, I think she has no per- 
sonal objection to me.' 

' Oh, of course, my dear fellow, my 
mother and I are flattered, quite flattered ; 
but you will understand our anxiety that 
Kve should run no risk of sacrificing any 
of the advantages she has enjoyed hitherto. 
May I ask, er ' 

' What is my income from all sources Y 
suggested Lightmark rather flippantly. 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 173 

* Well, I have to confess that my profes- 
sion, in which I am said to be rising, 
brings me in about four hundred and fifty 
a year, in addition to which I have a 
private income, which amounts to, say, 
three hundred ; total, seven hundred and 
fifty.' Then, seeing that Charles looked 
grave, he played his trump card : ' And I 
ought to add that my uncle, the Colonel, 
you know, has been good enough to talk 
about making me an allowance, on my 
marrying with his approval. In fact he is, 
1 believe, prepared to make a settlement 
on my marriage with your sister.' 

Charles Sylvester pronounced himself 
provisionally satisfied, and it was arranged 
that he should communicate with Colonel 
Lightmark, and that meanwhile the engage- 
ment should not be made public. 

Eve was standing on the little balcony 

appertaining to the sitting-room which had 

been dedicated to the ladies as a special 

mark of favour by the proprietor of the 

pension, and Lightmark hastened to join 



174 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

her there ; and while Charles and his 
mother played a long game of chess, the 
two looked out at the line of moonlit 
Alps, and were sentimentally and absurdly 
happy. 

' Mrs. Sylvester,' said Lightmark, when 
that lady thought it advisable to warn her 
daughter that there was a cold wind blow- 
ing off the lake, ' we have arranged that a 
certain portrait shall figure in the Academy 
catalogue next spring as " Portrait of the 
Artist's Wife." ' 

After which Mrs. Sylvester began to 
call him Richard, and Charles became 
oppressively genial ; a development which 
led the embarrassed recipient of these 
honours to console himself by reflecting 
that, after all, he was not going to marry 
the entire family. 

' Ma chdrie' said Lady Garnett, as the 
Paris train steamed out of Lucerne on the 
afternoon of the next day but one, ' do 
you know that I feel a sensation of posi- 
tive relief at getting away from those 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 175 

people ? Eve is very gentille, but lovers 
are so uninteresting, when they are pro- 
perly engaged : and the excellent Charles ! 
My child, I am afraid you have been very 
cruel.' 

' Cruel, aunt ?' said Mary, with a demure 
look of astonishment. ' I like Eve very 
much, and I suppose Mr. Lightmark must 
be nice, because he's such a friend of 
Philip's. But I don't quite like the way 
he talks about Philip, and . . . he's very 
clever.' 

' Yes,' said the old lady drowsily ; 'he's 
cleverer than Philip.' 

' He may be cleverer, but ' Mary 

began with some warmth, and paused. 

Her companion opened her eyes widely, 
and darted a keen glance at the girl. 
Then, settling herself into her corner : 

* My dear child, to whom do you 
say it ?' 

It was eminently characteristic of Lady 
Garnett that, even when she was sleepy, 
she understood what people were going to 



176 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

say long before the words were spoken, 
and, especially with her familiars, she had 
a habit of taking her anticipations as 
realized. 

Mary found something embarrassing in 
the humour of the old lady's expression, 
and devoted herself to gazing out of the 
window at the mountain-bound landscape, 
in which houses, trees, and cattle all seemed 
to be in miniature, until the sound of regular 
breathing assured her that the inquisitive 
eyes were closed. 



CHAPTER XII. 

During the long, hot August, which 
variously dispersed the rest of their 
acquaintances, the intimacy of that ill- 
assorted couple, the bird of passage Rain- 
ham, and Oswyn the artist, was able to 
ripen. They met occasionally at Brodo- 
nowski's, of which dingy restaurant they 
had now almost a monopoly ; for its artistic 
session had been prorogued, and the 
' boys ' were scattered, departing one by 
one, as their purses and inclinations 
prompted, to resume acquaintance with 
their favourite ' bits ' in Cornwall, or among 
the orchards and moors of Brittany; to 
study mountains in sad Merioneth, or to 
paint ocean rollers and Irish peasants in 

VOL. I. 12 



178 A COMEDY OF MASKS 



ultimate Galway. On the occasion of their 
second meeting, Rainham having (a trifle 
diffidently, for the painter was not a ques- 
tionable man) evinced a curiosity as to his 
summer movements, Oswyn had scornfully 
repudiated such a notion. 

' Thank God !' he cried, * I have out- 
worn that mania of searching for pretti- 
ness. London is big enough for me. My 
work is here, and the studies I want are 
here, and here I stay till the end of all 
things. I hate the tame country faces, the 
aggressive stillness and the silent noise, 
the sentiment and the sheep of it. Give 
me the streets and the yellow gas, the roar 
of the City, smoke, haggard faces, flaming 
omnibuses, parched London, and the river 
rolling oilily by the embankment like Styx 
at night when the lamps shine.' 

He drew in a breath thirstily, as though 
the picture were growing on canvas before 
him, 

' Well, if you want river subjects you 
must come and find them at Blackpool,' 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 179 

said Rainham ; and Oswyn had replied 
abruptly that he would. 

And he kept his word, not once but 
many times, dropping down on Rainham 
suddenly, unexplainedly, after his fashion, 
as it were from the clouds, in the late 
afternoon, when the clerks had left. He 
would chat there for an hour or two in his 
spasmodic, half-sullen way, in which, how- 
ever, an increasing cordiality mingled, 
making, before he retired once more into 
space, some colour notes of the yard or the 
river, or at times a rough sketch, which 
was never without its terse originality. 

Rainham began to look forward to these 
visits with a recurring pleasure. Oswyn's 
beautiful genius and Oswyn's savage 
humours fascinated him, and no less his 
pleasing personal ambiguity. He seemed 
to be a person without antecedents, as he 
was certainly without present ties. Except 
that he painted, and so must have a place 
to paint in, he might have lodged pre- 
cariously in a doss-house, or on door-steps, 



i8o A COMEDY OF MASKS 

or under the Adelphi arches with those 
outcasts of civiHzation to whom, in personal 
appearance, one might not deny he bore a 
certain resemblance. To no one did he 
reveal his abiding-place, and it was the 
merest tradition of little authority that a 
man from Brodonowski's had once been 
taken to his studio. By no means a 
perspicuous man, and to be approached 
perhaps charily ; yet Rainham, as his 
acquaintance progressed, found himself 
from time to time brought up with a 
certain surprise, as he discovered, under 
all his savage cyi*icism, his overweening 
devotion to a depressing theory, a very 
real vein of refinement, of delicate mundane 
sensibility, revealed perhaps in a chance 
phrase or diffidence, or more often in some 
curiously fine touch to canvas of his rare, 
audacious brush. The incongruities of the 
man, his malice, his coarseness, his reckless 
generosity, gave Rainham much food for 
thought. And, indeed, that parched 
empty August seemed full of problematical 



A COMEDY OF MASKS i8i 



issues ; and he had, on matters of more 
import than the enigmatic mind of a new 
friend, to be content at last to be tossed to 
and fro on the winds of vain conjecture. 

Lightmark and the Sylvesters occupied 
him much ; but beyond a brief note from 
Mrs. Sylvester in Lucerne, which told him 
nothing that he would know, there came 
to him no news from Switzerland. In the 
matter of the girl whom he had befriended 
— recklessly he told himself at times — diffi- 
culties multiplied. A sort of dumb devil 
seemed to have entered into her, and, with 
the best will in the world, it was a merely 
pecuniary assistance which he could give 
her, half angry with himself the while that 
his indolent good nature (it appeared to 
him little else) forbad him to cast back 
at her what seemed a curious ingratitude 
almost passing the proverbial feminine 
perversity, and let her go her own way as 
she would have it. On two occasions, 
since that chance meeting in the Park, he 
had called at the lodging in which he had 



1 82 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

helped her to install herself; and from the 
last he had come away with a distinct 
sense of failure. Something had come 
between them, an alien influence was in 
the air, and the mystery which surrounded 
the girl, he saw with disappointment, she 
would not of her own accord assist to dis- 
sipate. And yet there was nothing offen- 
sive in her attitude, only it had changed, 
lacked frankness. 

One afternoon, finding that he could 
leave the dock early, he made another effort. 
He stopped before one in a dingy row of 
small houses, uniformly depressing, in a 
street that ran into the Commercial Road, 
and rang the bell, which tinkled aggres- 
sively. A slatternly woman, with a bandage 
round her head and an air of drunken 
servility, responded to his inquiry for 
* Mrs. Crichton ' by ushering him into a 
small back parlour, in which a pale girl in 
black sat with her head bent over a type- 
writer. She rose, as he came in, a little 
nervously, and stood, her thin hands 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 183 

clasped in front of her, looking up at him 
with expectant, terrified eyes. 

' I am sorry to alarm you,' he said stiffly. 
* I came to see if I could do nothing for 
you, and to tell you once more that I can 
do nothing for you unless you are open 
with me, unless you help me.' 

The woman looked away to where the 
child sat, in a corner of the small room, 
playing with some disused cotton reels. 

' You are very kind, sir,' she said in a 
low, uneasy voice ; ' but I want nothing ; 
we want very little, the child and I ; and 
with what your kindness in getting me the 
machine helps us to, we have enough.' 

• You don't want to be reinstated, to get 
back your lover, to have your child acknow- 
ledged }' 

The girl flushed ; her hands, which were 
still locked together, trembled a little. 

* I don't want for nothing, sir, except to 
be left alone.' 

Then she added, lookino- him straio^ht in 
the face now, with a certain rude dignity : 



1 84 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

' I wouldn't seem ungrateful, sir, for 
your great kindness. I think you are the 
best man I ever met. Oh, believe me, I 
am not ungrateful, sir ! But it is no good, 
not a scrap, though once I thought it. 
We must get along as we can now, the 
child and I — shame and all.' 

She sighed, gazed intently for a silent 
minute at the keys of the elaborate 
machine before her, and then continued, 
speaking very slowly, as if she were afraid 
of drawing too largely on her newly-found 
candour : 

' Why should I keep it from you ? It 
makes me feel a liar every time I see you. I 
will be quite plain with you, sir ; perhaps 
the truth's best, though it's hard enough. 
I've seen him; that's why I couldn't tell 
you any more. And it's all over and 
done, and God help us ! We must make 
the best of it. You see, sir, he is married,' 
said the girl, with a sharp intonation in her 
voice like a sob. 

Rainham had sunk into a chair wearily ; 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 185 

he looked up at her now, drawing a long 
breath, which, for some reason he could 
not analyze, was replete with relief. 

' Married ?' he ejaculated ; * are you 
sure ?' 

' Sure enough,' said Kitty Crichton. 
* He told me so.' 

' Do you care for this fellow Y he asked 
curiously after awhile. 

The flush on her face had faded into 
two hectic spots on either cheek ; there 
was a lack of all animation in her voice, 
whether of hope or indignation ; she had 
the air of a person who gave up, who was 
terribly tired of things. 

' Care ?' she echoed. ' I don't rightly 
know, sir ; I think it's all dead together — 
love and anger, and my good looks and 
all. I care for the child, and I don't want 
to harry or hunt him down for the sake of 
what has been — that's all.' 

He regarded her with the same dis- 
interested pity which had seized him when 
he saw her first. There were only ruins 



1 86 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

of a beauty that must have once been 
striking. As he watched her a doubt 
assailed him, whether, after all, he had not 
been deceived by a bare resemblance ; 
whether, in effect, she had ever been 
actually identical with that brilliant 
Pierrette whose likeness had so amazed 
him in Lightmark's rooms. 

* By the way,' he asked suddenly, 'you 
told me you have been a model : did — 
was this man a painter } Has he ever 
painted you T 

The girl fell back a step or two irreso- 
lutely. 

' Ah ! why do you trouble so ? What 
does it matter T Then she added faintly, 
but hurriedly stumbling over her words : 
'He wasn't a painter — only for amuse- 
ment ; he didn't exhibit. He was a news- 
paper writer. But he couldn't get work, 
and got a place in a foreign-going steamer, 
to keep accounts, I think. That was 
afterwards, and that's why I looked for 
him at your dock. They told me the 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 187 

ship had been there, but it wasn't true. 
Ah ! let me be, sir, let me be !' 

She broke off hastily, clasping her hands 
across her breast. 

The story, though incoherent, was 
possible ; Rainham could see no motive 
for her deceiving him, and yet he believed 
she was lying. He merely shrugged his 
shoulders, with a rising lassitude. He 
seemed to have been infected by her own 
dreariness, to labour under a disability of 
doing or saying any more ; he, too, gave 
it up. He wanted to get away out of the 
dingy room ; its rickety table and chairs, 
its two vulgar vases on the stained mantel, 
its gross upholstery, seemed too trench- 
antly sordid in the strong August sun. 
The child's golden head — -she was growing 
intelligent now, and strong on her legs — 
was the one bright spot in the room. He 
stopped to pat it with a great pity, a sense 
of too much pathos in things flooding him, 
before he passed out again into the mean 
street. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

September set in cold, with rain and east 
winds, and Rainham, a naturally chilly 
mortal, as he handed his coat to Lady 
Garnett's butler, and followed him into the 
little library, where dinner was laid for 
three, congratulated himself that a season- 
able fire crackled on the large hearth. 

' I hardly expected you back yet,' he 
remarked, after the first greetings, stretch- 
ing out his hands to the blaze ; ' and your 
note was a welcome surprise. I almost 
think we are the only people in town.' 

Lady Garnett shrugged her shoulders 
with a gesture of rich tolerance, as one 
who acknowledged the respectability of all 
tastes, whilst preferring her own. 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 189 

* London has its charm, to me,* she re- 
marked. ' We are glad to be back. I 
am getting too old to travel — that terrible 
crossing, and the terrible people one 
meets !' 

Rainham smiled with absent sympathy, 
looking into the red coals. 

* You must remember, I don't know 
where you have been. Tell me your 
adventures and your news.' 

* I leave that to Mary, my dear,' said 
the old lady. 

And at that moment the girl came in, 
looking stately and older than her age in 
one of the dark, high-cut dresses which 
she affected. She shook hands with 
Rainham, smiling ; and as they went to 
table he repeated his question. 

' It is difficult,' she said : ' we seem to 
have been everywhere. Oh, we have 
been very restless this year, Philip. I 
think we were generally in the train. We 
tried Trouville ' 

' Detestable !' put in Lady Garnett with 



I90 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

genial petulance ; ' it was too small. Half 
the world was crowded into it ; and it was 
precisely the half-world ' 

' I can imagine it,' interrupted Rainham, 
with his grave smile ; ' and then ?' 

' Then we thought of Switzerland,' con- 
tinued the young girl. ' We went to 
Geneva. We were almost dead when we 
arrived, because we had to go a very 
roundabout way to avoid Paris ; we could 
not go to Paris, because we were afraid of 
seeing the Republic. It was very hot in 
Geneva. No place ever was so hot before. 
We lay on the sofa for three days, and then 
we were strong enough to run away.' 

' It was purgatorial !' said the elder lady ; 
' it was full of English governesses and 
Swiss pastors.' 

' Then we went to look for cool places, 
and we had a charming week at Inter- 
laken, and looked longingly at the Jung- 
frau, and contemplated the ascent' 

Lady Garnett laughed her quaint little 
laugh. 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 191 

' Interlaken might have sufficed, my 
dear ; but, unfortunately — it was one of 
Mary's ridiculous economies — we went to 
a pension ; and we fell into the hands of 
an extraordinary woman with a fringe 
and a Bible, a native of North America, 
who endeavoured to persuade me that I 
was a Jewess.' 

'No, no !' laughed Mary, * not quite so 
bad as that. It was one of the other 
tribes she would have us belong to — one 
of the lost tribes. It was not personal.' 

'Ah, Dieu merci ! if they are lost,' 
ejaculated her aunt ; ' but you are wrong ; 
it was most personal, Mary.' 

' I will do her the justice to add that 
she only suggested it once,' continued the 
girl, with a smile of elision. ' However, 
we had to flee from her ; and so we came 
to Lucerne.' 

'That was worst of all,' said Lady 
Garnett, arching her delicate eyebrows ; 
' it was full of lovers. ' 

The solemn butler had placed a pair of 



192 A COMEDY OF MASKS 



obdurate birds before Rainham, which 
engrossed him : presently he looked up, 
remarking quietly : 

' Did you see the Sylvesters ?' 

' Ah yes ! we saw the Sylvesters ; we 
walked with the Sylvesters ; we drank tea 
with the Sylvesters ; we made music with 
the Sylvesters ; we went on the lake with 
the Sylvesters. That handsome artist — 
Mr. Lightmark, is it not, Mary? — was 
there, making the running with Miss Eve. 
The marriage seems to be arranged.' 

She shrugged her shoulders ; the precise 
shade of meaning in the gesture escaped 
Rainham : he looked over to Mary in- 
quiringly. 

' They seem very much attached to each 
other,' she remarked. 

' Oh, they were imbecile !' added Lady 
Garnett ; ' try the Moselle, my dear, and 
leave that terrible sweet stuff to Mary. 
Yes, I was glad to come away from 
Lucerne. Everything is very bad now 
except my Constant's vol-att-vent, which 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 193 

you don't seem to have tried ; but lovers 
are the worst of all. Though I like that 
young man, Lightmark ; he is a type that 
interests me ; he seems ' 

She looked round the room vaguely, as 
if the appropriate word might be lurking 
in some angle of the apartment ; finally, the 
epithet proving difficult, she abandoned 
the search. 

' II ira loin /' she said tersely ; ' he 
flatters me discreetly, as they did when I 
was young, before the Republic' 

The silent, well - trained man handed 
round caviare and olives ; Mary trifled 
with some grapes, her brow knitted a 
little, thoughtfully. Lady Garnett poured 
herself a glass of maraschino. When they 
were left alone, the girl remarked abruptly: 

' I am not sure whether I quite like 
Mr. Lightmark ; he does not seem to me 
sincere.' 

Lady Garnett lifted up her hands. 

' Why should he be, my dear ? sincerity 
Is very trying. A decent hypocrisy is the 

VOL. I. 13 



194 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

secret of good society. Your good, frank 
people are very rude. If I am a wicked 
old woman, it is nobody's business to tell 
me so but my director's.' 

Mary had risen, and had come over to 
the old lady's side. 

' But, then, you are not a wicked old 
woman, my aunt,' she observed gently. 

' Ah !' she threw back, ' how do you 
judge ? Do me the justice to believe, 
chirie, that, if I tell you a good deal, 
there is a good deal, happily, which I 
don't tell you.' 

She pushed a box of cigarettes, which 
the man had placed on the table, towards 
Rainham. He took one and lit it silently, 
absently, without his accustomed protests ; 
the girl looked up smiling. 

* That means that you want your tete-a- 
tete. Aunt Marcelle ? I know the signal. 
Well, I will leave you ; I want to try over 
that new march of Liszt's ; and I expect, 
by the time I have grappled with it, you 
will be coming up for your coffee.' 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 195 

'You are a good girl,' answered the 
elder lady, stroking her hand. ' Yes, run 
away and make music ! When Philip and 
I have had enough scandal and frivolity, 
we will come and find you ; and you shall 
play us a little of that strange person 
Wagner, who fascinates me, though you 
may not believe it.' 

It was a habit of the house, on occasion of 
these triangular dinner-parties, that Lady 
Garnett should remain with Rainham 
in the interval which custom would have 
made him spend solitary over his wine. 
It was a habit which Mary sacredly re- 
spected, although it often amused her ; 
and she knew it was one which her aunt 
valued. And, indeed, though the two 
made no movement, and for awhile said 
nothing, there was an air of increased 
intimacy, if it were only in their silence, 
when the door had closed on the girl and 
left them together. Presently Lady Gar- 
nett began, holding up her little glass of 
crystal maraschino that vied in the light 



io6 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

of the candelabra with the diamonds on 
her fingers : 

' I had a conversation with that weari- 
some young man Charles Sylvester at 
Lucerne, Philip ; he tried to sound me as 
to Mary's prospects and the state of her 
affections.' 

Rainham looked up with quiet surprise. 

' Do you mean to say ?' he queried. 

' It is very obvious,' she answered 
quickly ; ' I saw it long ago. But don't 
imagine that he got much out of me. I 
was as deep as a well. But what do you 
think of it T 

' I hope they will be happy,' he answered 
absently. She arched her expressive brows, 
and he coloured, recollecting himself. ' I 
beg your pardon,' he said hastily ; ' I con- 
fess I was thinking of something else. 
You were talking of Mary ; why should it 
not do } Does she care about him T 

His companion laughed, and her laugh 
had more than its wonted suggestion of 
irony. 



A COM ED V OF MASKS 197 

* My dear Philip, for a clever man you 
can be singularly dense ! Care for him ! 
of course she does not.' 

' She might do worse,' he said ; ' Syl- 
vester is not very bright, but he works 
hard, and will succeed after a fashion. 
His limitations dovetail conveniently with 
his capacities. What do you intend to do ?' 

' Do I ever interfere in these things ? 
My dear, you are remarkably dull to-night. 
I never make marriages, nor prevent them. 
With all my faults, match-making is not 
one of them. I think too ill of life to try 
and arrange it. You must admit,' she 
added, ' that, long as I have known you, I 
have never tried to marry you !' 

' Ah, that would have been too fatuous !' 
he remarked lightly. 

They were both silent for awhile, 
regarding each other disinterestedly ; they 
appeared to be following a train of 
thought which led nowhither ; presently 
Lady Garnett asked : 

' Are you going abroad this year ?' 



198 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

' Yes,' he said, *as soon as I can — about 
the middle of October ; to Mentone or 
Bordighera, I suppose.' 

' Do you find them interesting ? Do 
they do you much good ?' 

He smiled rather listlessly, ignoring her 
second question. 

'I confess,' he said, * it becomes rather 
a bore. But, I suppose, at my time of life 
one finds nothing very interesting. The 
mere act of living becomes rather a bore 
after a time.' 

' I wonder what you are thinking about, 
Philip ?' she asked meditatively ; ' some- 
thing has annoyed you to-night ; I wonder 
if you are going to tell me.' 

He laughed. 

' Do we ever tell each other our annoy- 
ances ? I think we sit and look at each 
other, and discover them. That is much 
more appropriate.' 

' You take things too seriously,' she went 
on ; ' my dear, they are really not worth it. 
That is my settled conviction.' 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 199 

She sat and sipped her Hqueur appre- 
ciatively, smiling good-humouredly, and 
Philip could not help regarding her with 
a certain admiration. /Her small, sharp, 
subtile face, beneath its^ rnask of smiling 
indifference, looked positively" youthful in 
the judicious candle-light ; only the little, 
birdlike, withered hands bore the stigmata 
of age. And he could not conceive her 
changing ; to the last, those tell-tale hands 
apart, she would be comely and cynical, 
and would die as she had lived, secure ' in 
the high places of laughter ' — a laughter 
that, for all its geniality, struck him at times 
as richly sardonic — in the decent drapery 
of her fictitious youth ; in a decorous piety, 
yet a little complicated, in the very recep- 
tion of the last rites, by the amiable arching 
of her expressive eyebrows. 

'You are wonderful,' he exclaimed, after 
an interval, ' wonderful ; that was what I 
was thinking.' 

She smiled disinterestedly. 

' Because you don't understand me ? 



200 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

My dear, nothing is so easy as mystifica- 
tion ; that is why 1 don't return the com- 
pliment. Yourself, you know — you are not 
very intelligible to-night.' 

He looked away frowning, but without 
embarrassment ; presently, throwing up 
his hands with a little mock gesture of 
despair, he remarked : 

* I should be delighted to explain myself, 
but I can't. I am unintelligible to myself 
also ; we must give it up, and go and find 
Mary.' 

' Ah no ! let us give it up, by all means ; 
but we will not join Mary yet ; smoke 
another cigarette.' 

He took one and lit it, absently, in the blue 
flame of the spirit-lamp, and she watched 
him closely with her bright, curious eyes. 

* You know this Mr. Lightmark very 
well, don't you, Philip ?' 

' Intimately,' he answered, nodding. 

'You must be pleased,' she said. ' It is 
a great match for him, a struggling artist. 
Can he paint, by the way ?' 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 201 

' He has great talent.' He held his 
cigarette away from him, considering the 
ash critically. ' Yes, he can certainly 
paint. I suppose it is a good thing — and 
for Eve, too. Why should it not be ?' 

' He is a charming young man ' — she 
spoke judicially — ' charming ! But in 
effect Mary was quite right ; she generally 
is — he is not sincere.' 

' I think you are wrong,' said Rainham 
after a moment. ' I should be sorry to 
believe you were not, for the little girls 
sake. And I have known him a long- 
time ; he is a good fellow at bottom.' 

' Ah !' cried Lady Garnett with a little 
quick gesture of her right hand, ' that is 
precisely what he is not. He exaggerates; 
he must be very secret ; no one ever was 
so frank as he seems to be.' 

' Why are you saying all this to me ?' 
the other asked after a moment. ' You 
know I should be very sorry ; but what 
can I do .'^ it's arranged.' 

' I think you might have prevented it, if 



202 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

you had cared ; but, as you say, it is too 
late now.' 

* There was no way possible in which I 
could have prevented it,' he said slowly, 
after an interval which seemed to strike 
them both as ponderous. 

' That was an admission I wanted,' she 
flashed back. ' You wotild have prevented 
it — you would have given worlds to have 
prevented it.' 

His retort came as quickly, accented by 
a smile : 

' Not a halfpenny. I make no admis- 
sions ; and I have not the faintest idea of 
what you are driving at. I am a pure 
spectator. To quote yourself, I don't 
make marriages, nor mar them ; I think 
too ill of life.' 

* Ah no !' she said ; ' it is that you are 
too indolent ; you disappoint me.' 

' It is you, dear lady, who are incon- 
sistent,' he cried, laughing. 

' No, you disappoint me,' she resumed ; 
' seriously, my dear, I am dissatisfied with 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 203 

you. You will not assert yourself ; you do 
nothing ; you have done nothing. There 
never was a man who made less of his 
life.' 

He protested laughingly : 

' I have had no time ; I have been look- 
ing after my lungs.' 

' Ah, you are Incorrigible !' she ex- 
claimed, rising ; * let us go and find Mary. 
I give you up ; or, rather, I give myself up, 
as an adviser. For, after all, you are right 
— there is nothing worth doing in this bad 
world except looking after one's lung, or 
whatever It may be.' 

' Perhaps not even that,' said Philip, as 
he followed her from the room ; ' even 
that, after a time, becomes monotonous.' 



CHAPTER XIV. 

It occurred to LIghtmark one evening, as 
he groped through the gloom of his studio, 
on his way to bed, after assisting at a very 
charming social gathering at the Sylvesters', 
that as soon as he was married he would 
have to cut Brodonowski's. The reasons 
he gave himself were plausible enough, 
and, indeed, he would have found himself 
the only Benedict among this horde of 
wild bachelors. The informal circle was 
of such recent association that, so far, 
no precedent for matrimony had occurred, 
and it was more than doubtful how the 
experiment might be received. In any 
case, he told himself, he could not be 
expected to introduce people like Oswyn 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 205 

and McAllister to his wife — or, rather, 
to Mrs. Sylvester's daughter. Oswyn 
was plainly impossible, and McAllister's 
devotion to tobacco so inordinate that 
it had come to be a matter of common 
belief that he smoked short pipes in his 
sleep. 

Then he had dismissed the subject ; the 
long, pleasant holiday in Switzerland inter- 
vened, and it was only on his return, late 
in the autumn, that the question again 
presented itself, as he turned from the 
threshold of the house in Park Street, 
where he had been dining, and half uncon- 
sciously took the familiar short cut towards 
Turk Street. He paused for a deliberate 
instant when he had hailed the first passing 
hansom, and then told the man to drive to 
Piccadilly Circus. 

* I 7mcst go there a few times more, if 
only to break it off gently,' he reflected, 
'and I want to see old Rainham. It is 
stupid of me not to have written to him — 
yes, stupid ! Wonder if he has heard } I 



2o6 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

mustn't give him up, at any rate. We'll — 
we'll ask him to dinner, and all that sort of 
thing. And what the deuce am I going to 
send to the Academy ? Thank goodness, 
I have enough Swiss sketches to work up 
for the other galleries to last me for years. 
But the Academy ' 

Then he lost himself in contemplative 
enjoyment of the familiar vista of Regent 
Street, the curved dotted lines of crocus- 
coloured lamps, fading in the evening fog, 
the flitting ruby-eyed cabs, and the calm 
white arc-lights, set irregularly about the 
circus, dulling the grosser gas. He owned 
to himself that he had secretly yearned for 
London ; that his satisfaction on leaving 
the vast city was never so great as his 
joy on again setting foot upon her pave- 
ments. 

The atmosphere of the long low room, 
with Its anomalous dark ceiling and gro- 
tesquely-decorated walls, was heavily laden 
with the incense of tobacco and a more 
subtile odour, which numbered among its 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 207 

factors whisky and absinthe. The slip- 
pered, close - cropped waiter, who, by- 
popular report, could speak five languages, 
and usually employed a mixture of two or 
three, was still clearing away the debris of 
protracted dinners ; and a few men sat 
about, in Informal groups, playing dominoes, 
chatting, or engrossed In their Extra 
Specials. The fire shone cheerfully be- 
neath the high mantel, and the pleasant 
lamplight lent a mellow glow, which was 
vaguely suggestive of Dutch Interiors, as 
it flickered on the dark wooden floor, and 
glanced from the array of china on the 
dresser in the corner. 

When LIghtmark entered, closing the 
door briskly on the foggy, chill October 
night, he was greeted warmly and demon- 
stratively. The fraternity which made 
Brodonowski's its head-quarters generously 
admired his genius, and, for the most part, 
frankly envied his good - fortune. The 
younger men respected him as a man who 
had seen life ; and the narratives with 



2o8 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

which he occasionally favoured them pro- 
duced in such of his hearers feelings very 
different to those which older men, like 
Oswyn, expressed by a turn of the eye- 
brow or a shrug. They were always ready 
enough to welcome him, to gather round 
him, and to drink with him ; and this, 
perhaps, expresses the limits of their rela- 
tion. 

' Lightmark, by Jove !' cried one of 
them, waving his pipe in the air, as the 
new-comer halted in the low doorway, 
smiline in a rather bewildered manner as 
he unbuttoned his overcoat. * Welcome 
to the guerilla camp ! And a dress suit ! 
These walls haven't enclosed such a thing 
since you went away. This is indeed an 



occasion !' 



Lightmark passed from group to group, 
deftly parrying and returning the chorus 
of friendly thrusts, and shaking hands with 
the affability which was so characteristic a 
feature of his attitude toward them. The 
man he looked for, the friend whom he 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 209 

Intended to honour with a somewhat tardy- 
confidence of his happiness, was not there. 
When he asked for Rainham, he was told 
that ' the dry-docker,' as these flippant 
youngsters familiarly designated the silent 
man, whom they secretly revered, had 
gone for an after-dinner stroll, or perchance 
to the theatre, with Oswyn. 

* With Oswyn ?' queried LIghtmark, with 
the shadow of a frown. 

' Oh, Oswyn and he are getting very 
thick !' said Copal. ' They are almost as 
inseparable as you two used to be. I'm 
afraid you will find yourself cut out. Three 
is an awkward number, you know. But 
when did you come back ? When are you 
going to show us your sketches } And 
how long did you stay in Paris ? . . . You 
didnt stop in Paris ? This won't do, you 
know. I say, Dupuis, here's a man who 
didn't stop in Paris ! Ask him if he wants 
to insult you.' 

*Ah, moncher!' expostulated the French- 
man, looking up from his game of domi- 

VOL. I. 14 



2IO A COMEDY OF MASKS 

noes, ' I would not stop in London if I 
could help it.' 

' Oh, shut up. Copal !' said Lightmark 
good-humouredly. ' I was with ladies — 
Dupuis will sympathize with me there, eh, 
mon vieux ? — and they wanted to stay at 
Lucerne until the last minute. So we 
came straight through.' 

* Then you haven't seen Sarah in 
" Cleopatra," and we were relying on you 
for an unvarnished account. Ladies, too ! 
See here, my boy, you won't get any good 
out of touring about the Continent with 
ladies. Hang it all ! I believe it'll come 
true, after all !' 

' Very likely — what ?' 

' Oh, well, they said — I didn't believe it, 
but they said that you were going to desert 
the camp, and prance about with corpulent 
R.A.'s in Hanover Square.' 

' And so would we all, if we got the 
chance,' said McAllister cynically. 

And after the general outcry which 
followed this suggestion, the conversa- 



A CO MED V OF MASKS 2 1 1 

tion drifted back to the old discussion 
of the autumn shows, the pastels at the 
Grosvenor, and the most recent additions 
to the National Gallery. 

When at last Rainham came into the 
room, following, with his habitual half- 
timid air, the shambling figure of the 
painter Oswyn, it struck Lightmark that 
he had grown older, and that he had, as 
it were, assimilated some of the intimate 
disreputability of the place : it would no 
longer have been possible to single him 
out as a foreign unit in the circle, or to 
detect in his mental attitude any of the 
curiosity of the casual seeker after new 
impressions, the Philistine in Bohemia. 
There was nothing but pleasure in the 
slight manifestation of surprise which pre- 
ceded his frank greeting of Lightmark, 
a greeting thoroughly English in its 
matter-of-fact want of demonstrativeness. 
and the avoidance of anything likely to 
attract the attention of others. 

Oswyn seemed less at his ease : there 



212 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

was an extra dash of nervous brusqueness 
in the sarcastic welcome which he offered 
to the new-comer ; and although there was 
a vacant seat in the little circle of which 
Copal and Lightmark formed the nucleus, 
and to which Rainham had joined himself, 
he shuffled off to his favourite corner, and 
buried himself in * Gil Bias ' and an abnor- 
mally thick cloud of tobacco-smoke. 

Rainham gazed after him for a moment 
or two with a puzzled expression. 

' Amiable as ever !' said Lightmark, with 
a laugh. ' Poor old beggar ! Have a 
cigarette ? You ought to give up pipes. 
Haven't you been told that cigarettes are 
— what is it ? — '' the perfect type " ?' 

'Oh, chestnuts !' interposed Copal, ' that's 
at least six months old. And it's rot, too ! 
Do you know what McAllister xalls them ^. 
Spittle and tissue. Brutal, but expressive. 
But I say, old man, won't Mrs. Thingumy 
drop on you for smoking in your dress- 
coat .'^ Or — or No, break it to me 

gently. You don't mean to say that you 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 213 

possess two ? I really feel proud of having 
my studio next door to you.' 

' Copal is becoming quite a humorist,' 
Lightmark suggested in an impartial 
manner. ' What a wag it is ! Keep it 
up, my boy. By the way, Mrs. Grumbit 
has been talking about your "goings on," 
as she calls them : she's apparently very 
much exercised in her mind as to the state 
of your morals. She told me she had to 
take you in with the matutinal milk three 
times last week. She wants me to talk 
to you like a father. It won't do, you 
know.' 

' I should like to hear you, Dick,' said 
Rainham lazily. ' Fire away ! But who 
is Mrs. Grumbit ?' 

' Oh, she's our housekeeper — the lady 
who dusts the studio, you know, and gives 
the models tea and good advice. She's 
very particular as to the models : she 
won't let us paint from any who don't 
come up to her standard of propriety. 
And the worst of it is that the properest 



214 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

girls are always the ugliest. I don't 
know ' 

* Before you proceed with this highly 
original disquisition,' interrupted Copal, 
* I think you ought to be warned that we 
have recently formed a Society for the 
Protection of Reputations, models and 
actresses' in particular. It was McAllis- 
ter's idea. You now have the honour of 
being in the headquarters— the committee- 
room — of the society, and anything like 
slander, or even truth, will be made an 
example of.' 

' Don't you find it rather difficult to 
spread your sheltering wings over what 
doesn't exist Y hazarded Lightmark 
amusedly. 

* Ah, I knew you would say that ! You 
see, that's just where we come in. We 
talk about their morals and reputations 
until they begin to imagine they have 
some, and they unconsciously get induced 
to live up to them. See? It's rather 
mixed, but it works beautifully. Ask the 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 215 



vice-president ! Rainham holds that proud 
office. I may remark that I am treasurer, 
and the subscription is half a guinea, 
which goes towards the expenses of pro- 
viding light refreshments for the — the 
beneficiaries.' 

' This is really very interesting ! Rain- 
ham vice-president, too ! I thought he 
looked rather — rather worn by the cares 
of the office. You must make me a 
member at once. But who's president ?' 

' President ? Who is president, McAl- 
lister ? 1 really forget. You see, when- 
ever the president is caught speaking too 
candidly of any of our clients' characters, 
we pass a vote of censure, and depose 
him, and he has to stand drinks. The 
competition isn't so keen as it used to be. 
If you would like to stand — for the office, 
I mean — 1 dare say there will be an open- 
ing soon. . . . Well, I must be off: I'm 
afraid of Mrs. Grumbit, and — yes, by 
Jove! — I've forgotten my latchkey again ! 
Of course you're not coming yet, Dick ? 



2i6 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

Come and breakfast with me to-morrow. 
Good-night, you fellows !' 

' Copal has been in great form to-night/ 
said Lightmark, after the door had closed 
on him, getting up and stretching himself. 
' What does it mean ? Joy at my return ^ 
Fatted calf .^' 

* No doubt, my boy, no doubt,' growled 
McAllister humorously, on his way to the 
door. ' But you must bear in mind, too, 
the circumstance that the laddie's just sold 
a picture.' 

' Good business !' ejaculated Lightmark, 
as he reflected to himself that perhaps that 
despaired-of fiver would be repaid after 
all. 

About midnight most of the men left. 
Rainham remained, and Lightmark, who 
professed himself too lazy to move. Rain- 
ham lapsed into his familiar state of half- 
abstraction, while his friend cross-examined 
a young sculptor fresh from Rome. 

At the next table Oswyn was holding 
forth, with eager gesticulations and the 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 217 

excitement of the hour in his eyes, on the 
subject of a picture which he contemplated 
painting in oils for exhibition at the Salon 
next year. Rainham had heard it all 
before ; still, he listened with a keen appre- 
ciation of the wonderful touch with which 
the little dishevelled artist enlarged on the 
capabilities of his choice, the possibilities 
of colour and treatment. The picture was 
to be painted at the dock, and the painter 
had already achieved a daringly suggestive 
impression in pastels of the familiar night- 
scene which he now described : the stream- 
ing, vivid torches, their rays struggling 
and drowning in the murky water, glim- 
mering faintly in the windows of the black 
warehouse barely suggested at the side ; 
the alert, swarming sailors, busy with ropes 
and tackle ; and in the middle the dark, 
steep leviathan, fresh from the sea-storms, 
growing, as it were, out of the impene- 
trable chaos of the foggy background, in 
which the river-lights gleamed like opals 
set in dull ebony. 



2i8 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

When the tide of inspiration failed the 
speaker, as it soon did, Lightmark con- 
tinued to look at him askance, with an air 
of absent consideration turning to uneasi- 
ness. There was a general silence, broken 
only by the occasional striking of a match 
and the knocking of a pipe against a boot- 
heel. Soon the young sculptor discovered 
that he had missed his last train, and fled 
incontinently. Oswyn settled himself back 
in his chair, as one who has no regard for 
time, and rolled a cigarette, the animation 
with which he had spoken now only per- 
ceptible in the points of colour in either 
cheek. Rainham and Ligfhtmark left him 
a few minutes later, the last of the revel- 
lers, drawing the cat with the charred end 
of a match on the back of an envelope, 
and too deeply engrossed to notice their 
departure. 

The fog had vanished, and the moon 
shone softly, through a white wreath of 
clouds, over the straggling line of house- 
tops. The narrow, squalid little street was 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 219 

deserted, and the sound of wheels In the 
busier thoroughfare at the end was very- 
intermittent. 

Lightmark buttoned his gloves de- 
liberately, and drew a long breath of the 
night air before he broke the silence. 

' It's on occasions like this that I wish 
Bloomsbury and Kensington lay in the 
same direction — from here, you know ; we 
should save a fortune in cab-fares. . . . 
But — but that wasn't what I wanted to say. 
Philip, my dear fellow, congratulate me.' 

He paused for a minute looking at the 
other curiously, with something of a melo- 
dramatic pose. Rainham had his face 
turned rather away, and was gazing at the 
pale reflection of the moonlight in one of 
the opposite windows. 

' I know,' he said simply. ' I do con- 
gratulate you — from the bottom of my 
heart. And I hope you will make her 
happy.' Then he turned and looked 
Lightmark in the face. ' I suppose you 
do love her, Dick ?' 



220 A COMEDY OF MASKS 

' I suppose I do. But how the deuce 
did you know anything about it ? I have 
been blaming myself, needlessly it appears, 
for not letting you hear of it. Has it — 
has it been in the papers ?' 

Rainham laughed in spite of himself. 

' Approaching marriage of a celebrated 
artist 1 No, Dick, I don't think it has. Lady 
Garnett told me more than a week ago.' 

'Oh,' said Dick blankly. ' I — I'm much 
obliged to her. I thought perhaps it was 
the Colonel ; I wrote to him, you know, 
and I thought he was a discreet old bird. 
But how did Lady Garnett know i^' 

' She seemed to think it was no secret,' 
said Rainham, with a suggestion of apology 
in his tone ; ' and, of course, she knows 
that I am ' 

' My best friend,' interposed the other 
impulsively. ' So you are. And I ought 
to have told you ; I was a brute. And I 
feel like the devil about it. . . . Well, it 
can't be helped ! Will you have this cab, 
or shall I ?' 



A COMEDY OF MASKS 221 

Rainham drew back with a gesture of 
abnegation as the driver reined the horse 
back upon its haunches with a clatter. 

' I'm going to walk, I think. Only up 
to Bloomsbury, you know. Good-night, 
Dick. I hope you'll be very happy, both 
of you.' 

When the cab drove off, Rainham stood 
still for a minute and watched it out of 
sight. Then he started and seemed to 
pull himself together. 

' I wish I knew !' he said aloud to him- 
self, as he stepped rapidly towards the 
East. ' Well, we'll be off to Bordighera 
now, mon vieux. We've lost Dick, I 
think, and we've lost ' 

The soliloquy died away in a sigh and a 
pathetic shrug. 



END OF VOL. I. 



aiLI.ING AND SONS, PRINTERS, GUILDFORD. 



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