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Two Studios

Frances Mary Peard

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  Two StudiosBy Frances PeardIllustrations by FMPublished by Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.This edition dated 1887.

  Two Studios, by Frances Peard.


  ________________________________________________________________________TWO STUDIOS, BY FRANCES PEARD.



  Art, in London, has many unexpected hiding-places. In the greatpalace-like houses of her successful followers she makes, it is true, attimes an imposing show; but other votaries, less successful or moreindifferent to outward glitter, find curious homes in which to planttheir easels or model their clay. There is a broad thoroughfare alongwhich the busy prosaic feverish rush of traffic ceaselessly presses;where all the surroundings are sordid and unpicturesque and unlovely;and, in the heart of this, a rusty entrance, with no feature to markthat it forms a division between two worlds, leads you into a strange,long court, where is an avenue of trees--twelve old pollarded trees,breaking into glad greenness of leaf, and gay with the twittering ofbirds. The sudden change from the noisy racket without to the peace ofthis quiet spot, the charm of contrast between the dark houses and theblack stems and the lovely lightness of green, the oddity of an oldfigure-head which ends the line of trees, prepare you, in some measure,for that other world of which they form a threshold--a world in whichthere is hard work and heart-burning and disappointment, but also thejoy of beauty and the eager interest of creation. The studios stretchlike a long arm away to the right, on one side the painters with theirgracious colours and draperies, and the "bits" they have collectedaround them; on the other the cold pure marble and the busy workmencarrying out the master's thought; or, alone and self-contained, thebronze worker, modelling the clay or moulding the wax for his noblysevere art.

  Charles Everitt, who had set up his tent here among the painters,thought it, after five years' trial, the most delightful spot in theworld.

  To be sure he had a right to take a pleasant view of life.

  He worked from choice, not from necessity, by which fact he lost a gooddeal of the charm of success, but also avoided possible temptations topass his time in producing pot-boilers. He was able, without difficultyor hesitation, to enrich his mind and his sketch-book by travel. He hadtoo large an ambition--perhaps it would be fairer to say, too true alove of his art--to stick at its drudgery, or content himself withhalf-hearted _dilettante_ study, and so far his independence had donehim no harm; but it exposed him to some excusable bitterness from thoseof his fellows who saw prizes fall to him which meant bread to them.Perhaps in consequence of this barrier he had formed few--very few--intimate friendships, and at thirty had learned a reserve and cautionwhich at twenty had seemed foreign to his character. It may be said,indeed, that there were times when they still appeared foreign; for hehad been known to commit odd freaks which looked as if the originalnature were not quite flattened out of shape. So far as near relationswere concerned, he had none; but he was a man of good family, and art isfashionable, so that he was in great demand for dinner-parties.Moreover, on Saturday afternoons it was understood that he receivedvisitors, and, though he was careful not to make his hospitalities tooexpansive, people came, wandering about the great studio, asking thesame questions, and making the same unintelligent remarks, until hispatience threatened to fail. Sometimes he got in another painter tohelp him--a young fellow who, unlike Everitt, was only kept at work bythe sheer necessity of living, but who had genius and the very lightestof hearts, and, being the most troublesome, was also the dearest toEveritt of all his comrades. He repaid some of this trouble by beingalways ready to take visitors off his hands, though Everitt more thansuspected that in his mischievous moods he was quite reckless in theassertions with which he amazed them. All sorts of extraordinaryremarks floated towards him in half-caught words.

  "Yes. Nice picturesque interior, isn't it? There were three childrenill of scarlet fever in the room when Everitt painted it. He was onlyadmitted on condition that he sat on the edge of the bed, and gave themtheir medicine at the proper hour. Long ago? Oh dear, no--not long.Everitt never sticks at anything which--"

  Somebody began to speak to Everitt, and he lost the remainder.Presently Jack Hibbert drifted again into hearing--

  "That? Oh yes, there's a very remarkable story connected with thatpicture. A great deal in the girl's face, as you say. Well, Everitthappened to have painted it from a model; he doesn't always, you know.No, you're quite right; we do our best things entirely out of our ownheads; it secures originality. Just so. However, sometimes Everitt hasto fall back on a model, and we heard afterwards that this one was indisguise; there's was a hint that she was a duke's daughter--"

  "Oh, Mr Hibbert, how delightfully romantic! Do you mean to say you didnot guess?"

  "Well, there was a something, there certainly was a something--you cansee it in the face, can't you?--something so--so--"

  "_So_ distinguished. Exactly!"

  "Hibbert?" growled at his elbow.

  "Ah, here's Everitt himself; I'll make you over to him," said theunabashed young man, with a laugh. "I give you warning, though, that hehates romance. If you listen to him he'll deny that there's a word oftruth in any of my stories."

  Later on Everitt fell upon him.

  "You unprincipled young dog, what do you mean by uttering such a farragoof nonsense? You'll be bringing all the scandal-mongers of London downon my head. A duke's daughter disguised as a model! I should like toknow where your impudence will lead you!"

  "Oh, it was the duke's daughter which made it all right. Mr Smith willwant to buy that picture, you'll see. Hallo!"

  Everitt's brow relaxed; he burst into a laugh, as the parrot, which Jackhad been teasing, made a successful dive at his finger and seized it.Just at this moment the studio bell rang.

  "Another! I'm off!" cried Jack, jumping up from his chair. Everitthimself looked anything but pleased; he flung his cigarette down with anexclamation of annoyance, and went to the door, while Jack made hisescape by another exit behind an elaborate Japanese screen. It was pastthe time for visitors, and the foremost of the two new-comers made hasteto apologise. She was a pretty woman, and a favourite cousin ofEveritt's, so that there was some excuse for her intrusion.

  "Yes, I know exactly what you said when you heard the bell," she saidsmiling. "Was Mr Hibbert with you as usual, and did he run away? I amsorry for that, because I like Mr Hibbert."

  "Did you come here to tell me so? And now that you are here, won't yousit down?" questioned Everitt in his turn, putting forward a couple ofchairs, and clearing away a few motley bits of drapery.

  "No," said Mrs Marchmont; "I had two much better reasons. One was thatI might bring Miss Aitcheson here. She has come up to London with aningenuous mind which takes the most reverential attitude in the worldtowards art. I am trotting out all my lions for her benefit, and youare the biggest. Please show her something, and roar nicely."

  "I had better," he said, "since there is nothing else I can do. Don'tyou know that this is the empty time at all the studios?"

  "Oh, never mind. Your unconsidered trifles will be gratefullyappreciated. Look, Bell; don't you like that face?"

  "That's my duke's daughter," said Everitt with a laugh. And he toldthem the story of Jack's romance.

  Miss Aitcheson did not say much. Everitt privately thought her ratheruninteresting. She was tall and fair and slender, with light brownhair, a small head, and a very quiet manner, whether due to shyness orreserve or dulness he could not tell; nor, indeed, did he give himselfthe trouble to investigate very closely. He directed his attention tohis cousin, Mrs Marchmont;
and she was a sufficiently lively littleperson to have no objection to its monopoly. Meanwhile Miss Aitchesonwandered about, looking as she liked--at faded hangings, and ancientIndian rugs of fabulously fine needlework, and pictures in frames andout of them, and the parrot in his cage, and odd bits of a painter'sproperty. In this fashion she enjoyed the studio a hundred times morethan if she had been called upon at every moment to remark on itscontents; and certainly the painter and Mrs Marchmont were doing verywell without her. But presently their conversation touched on somesubject which evidently interested her: for she drew nearer to hear itdiscussed, although still examining a Roman sketch which she held in herhands.

  "Don't look so miserable, Charlie, but promise that you'll do it forher. In fact, I _have_ promised.