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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Light That Failed - Chapter 7
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The Light That Failed - Chapter 7 Post by :mattymo365 Category :Long Stories Author :Rudyard Kipling Date :March 2011 Read :2607

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The Light That Failed - Chapter 7


Roses red and roses white

Plucked I for my love's delight.

She would none of all my posies,--

Bade me gather her blue roses.

Half the world I wandered through,

Seeking where such flowers grew;

Half the world unto my quest

Answered but with laugh and jest.

It may be beyond the grave

She shall find what she would have.

Mine was but an idle quest,--

Roses white and red are best! -- Blue Roses.?

THE SEA had not changed. Its waters were low on the mud-banks, and
the Marazion Bell-buoy clanked and swung in the tide-way. On the white
beach-sand dried stumps of sea-poppy shivered and chattered.

'I don't see the old breakwater,' said Maisie, under her breath.

'Let's be thankful that we have as much as we have. I don't believe
they've mounted a single new gun on the fort since we were here. Come
and look.'

They came to the glacis of Fort Keeling, and sat down in a nook sheltered
from the wind under the tarred throat of a forty-pounder cannon.

'Now, if Ammoma were only here!' said Maisie.

For a long time both were silent. Then Dick took Maisie's hand and
called her by her name.

She shook her head and looked out to sea.

'Maisie, darling, doesn't it make any difference?'

'No!' between clenched teeth. 'I'd--I'd tell you if it did; but it doesn't, Oh,
Dick, please be sensible.'

'Don't you think that it ever will?'

'No, I'm sure it won't.'


Maisie rested her chin on her hand, and, still regarding the sea, spoke
'I know what you want perfectly well, but I can't give it to you, Dick. It
isn't my fault; indeed, it isn't. If I felt that I could care for any one----
But I don't feel that I care. I simply don't understand what the feeling

'Is that true, dear?'

'You've been very good to me, Dickie; and the only way I can pay you
back is by speaking the truth. I daren't tell a fib. I despise myself quit
enough as it is.'

'What in the world for?'

'Because--because I take everything that you give me and I give you
nothing in return. It's mean and selfish of me, and whenever I think of it
it worries me.'

'Understand once for all, then, that I can manage my own affairs, and if I
choose to do anything you aren't to blame. You haven't a single thing to
reproach yourself with, darling.'

'Yes, I have, and talking only makes it worse.'

'Then don't talk about it.'

'How can I help myself? If you find me alone for a minute you are always
talking about it; and when you aren't you look it. You don't know how I
despise myself sometimes.'

'Great goodness!' said Dick, nearly jumping to his feet. 'Speak the truth
now, Maisie, if you never speak it again! Do I--does this worrying bore

'No. It does not.'

'You'd tell me if it did?'

'I should let you know, I think.'

'Thank you. The other thing is fatal. But you must learn to forgive a man
when he's in love. He's always a nuisance. You must have known that?'

Maisie did not consider the last question worth answering, and Dick was
forced to repeat it.

'There were other men, of course. They always worried just when I was
in the middle of my work, and wanted me to listen to them.'

'Did you listen?'

'At first; and they couldn't understand why I didn't care. And they used
to praise my pictures; and I thought they meant it. I used to be proud of
the praise, and tell Kami, and--I shall never forget--once Kami laughed
at me.'

'You don't like being laughed at, Maisie, do you?'

'I hate it. I never laugh at other people unless--unless they do bad work.

Dick, tell me honestly what you think of my pictures generally,--of
everything of mine that you've seen.'

'"Honest, honest, and honest over!"' quoted Dick from a catchword of
long ago. 'Tell me what Kami always says.'

Maisie hesitated. 'He--he says that there is feeling in them.'

'How dare you tell me a fib like that? Remember, I was under Kami for
two years. I know exactly what he says.'

'It isn't a fib.'

'It's worse; it's a half-truth. Kami says, when he puts his head on one
side,--so,--"Il y a du sentiment, mais il n'y a pas de parti pris."' He rolled
the r threateningly, as Kami used to do.

'Yes, that is what he says; and I'm beginning to think that he is right.'

'Certainly he is.' Dick admitted that two people in the world could do and
say no wrong. Kami was the man.

'And now you say the same thing. It's so disheartening.'

'I'm sorry, but you asked me to speak the truth. Besides, I love you too
much to pretend about your work. It's strong, it's patient sometimes,--not
always,--and sometimes there's power in it, but there's no special reason
why it should be done at all. At least, that's how it strikes me.'

'There's no special reason why anything in the world should ever be
done. You know that as well as I do. I only want success.'

'You're going the wrong way to get it, then. Hasn't Kami ever told you

'Don't quote Kami to me. I want to know what you think. My work's bad,
to begin with.'

'I didn't say that, and I don't think it.'

'It's amateurish, then.'

'That it most certainly is not. You're a work-woman, darling, to your
boot-heels, and I respect you for that.'

'You don't laugh at me behind my back?'

'No, dear. You see, you are more to me than any one else. Put this cloak
thing round you, or you'll get chilled.'

Maisie wrapped herself in the soft marten skins, turning the gray
kangaroo fur to the outside.

'This is delicious,' she said, rubbing her chin thoughtfully along the fur.

'Well? Why am I wrong in trying to get a little success?'

'Just because you try. Don't you understand, darling? Good work has
nothing to do with--doesn't belong to--the person who does it. It's put into
him or her from outside.'

'But how does that affect----'

'Wait a minute. All we can do is to learn how to do our work, to be
masters of our materials instead of servants, and never to be afraid of

'I understand that.'

'Everything else comes from outside ourselves. Very good. If we sit down
quietly to work out notions that are sent to us, we may or we may not do
something that isn't bad. A great deal depends on being master of the
bricks and mortar of the trade. But the instant we begin to think about
success and the effect of our work--to play with one eye on the
gallery--we lose power and touch and everything else. At least that's how
I have found it. Instead of being quiet and giving every power you possess
to your work, you're fretting over something which you can neither help
no hinder by a minute. See?'

'It's so easy for you to talk in that way. People like what you do. Don't
you ever think about the gallery?'

'Much too often; but I'm always punished for it by loss of power. It's as
simple as the Rule of Three. If we make light of our work by using it for
our own ends, our work will make light of us, and, as we're the weaker,
we shall suffer.'

'I don't treat my work lightly. You know that it's everything to me.'

'Of course; but, whether you realise it or not, you give two strokes for
yourself to one for your work. It isn't your fault, darling. I do exactly the
same thing, and know that I'm doing it. Most of the French schools, and
all the schools here, drive the students to work for their own credit, and
for the sake of their pride. I was told that all the world was interested in
my work, and everybody at Kami's talked turpentine, and I honestly
believed that the world needed elevating and influencing, and all manner
of impertinences, by my brushes. By Jove, I actually believed that! When
my little head was bursting with a notion that I couldn't handle because I
hadn't sufficient knowledge of my craft, I used to run about wondering at
my own magnificence and getting ready to astonish the world.'

'But surely one can do that sometimes?'

'Very seldom with malice aforethought, darling. And when it's done it's
such a tiny thing, and the world's so big, and all but a millionth part of it
doesn't care. Maisie, come with me and I'll show you something of the
size of the world. One can no more avoid working than eating,--that goes
on by itself,--but try to see what you are working for. I know such little
heavens that I could take you to,--islands tucked away under the Line.

You sight them after weeks of crashing through water as black as black
marble because it's so deep, and you sit in the fore-chains day after day
and see the sun rise almost afraid because the sea's so lonely.'

'Who is afraid?--you, or the sun?'

'The sun, of course. And there are noises under the sea, and sounds
overhead in a clear sky. Then you find your island alive with hot moist
orchids that make mouths at you and can do everything except talk.

There's a waterfall in it three hundred feet high, just like a sliver of
green jade laced with silver; and millions of wild bees live up in the
rocks; and you can hear the fat cocoanuts falling from the palms; and
you order an ivory-white servant to sling you a long yellow hammock
with tassels on it like ripe maize, and you put up your feet and hear the
bees hum and the water fall till you go to sleep.'

'Can one work there?'

'Certainly. One must do something always. You hang your canvas up in a
palm tree and let the parrots criticise. When the scuffle you heave a ripe
custard-apple at them, and it bursts in a lather of cream. There are
hundreds of places. Come and see them.'

'I don't quite like that place. It sounds lazy. Tell me another.'

'What do you think of a big, red, dead city built of red sandstone, with
raw green aloes growing between the stones, lying out neglected on
honey-coloured sands? There are forty dead kings there, Maisie, each in
a gorgeous tomb finer than all the others. You look at the palaces and
streets and shops and tanks, and think that men must live there, till you
find a wee gray squirrel rubbing its nose all alone in the market-place,
and a jewelled peacock struts out of a carved doorway and spreads its
tail against a marble screen as fine pierced as point-lace. Then a
monkey--a little black monkey--walks through the main square to get a
drink from a tank forty feet deep. He slides down the creepers to the
water's edge, and a friend holds him by the tail, in case he should fall in.'

'Is that all true?'

'I have been there and seen. Then evening comes, and the lights change
till it's just as though you stood in the heart of a king-opal. A little before
sundown, as punctually as clockwork, a big bristly wild boar, with all his
family following, trots through the city gate, churning the foam on his
tusks. You climb on the shoulder of a blind black stone god and watch
that pig choose himself a palace for the night and stump in wagging his
tail. Then the night-wind gets up, and the sands move, and you hear the
desert outside the city singing, "Now I lay me down to sleep," and
everything is dark till the moon rises. Maisie, darling, come with me and
see what the world is really like. It's very lovely, and it's very
horrible,--but I won't let you see anything horrid,--and it doesn't care
your life or mine for pictures or anything else except doing its own work
and making love. Come, and I'll show you how to brew sangaree, and
sling a hammock, and--oh, thousands of things, and you'll see for yourself
what colour means, and we'll find out together what love means, and
then, maybe, we shall be allowed to do some good work. Come away!'

'Why?' said Maisie.

'How can you do anything until you have seen everything, or as much as
you can? And besides, darling, I love you. Come along with me. You have
no business here; you don't belong to this place; you're half a
gipsy,--your face tells that; and I--even the smell of open water makes me
restless. Come across the sea and be happy!'

He had risen to his feet, and stood in the shadow of the gun, looking down
at the girl. The very short winter afternoon had worn away, and, before
they knew, the winter moon was walking the untroubled sea. Long ruled
lines of silver showed where a ripple of the rising tide was turning over
the mud-banks. The wind had dropped, and in the intense stillness they
could hear a donkey cropping the frosty grass many yards away. A faint
beating, like that of a muffled drum, came out of the moon-haze.

'What's that?' said Maisie, quickly. 'It sounds like a heart beating.

Where is it?'

Dick was so angry at this sudden wrench to his pleadings that he could
not trust himself to speak, and in this silence caught the sound. Maisie
from her seat under the gun watched him with a certain amount of fear.

She wished so much that he would be sensible and cease to worry her
with over-sea emotion that she both could and could not understand. She
was not prepared, however, for the change in his face as he listened.

'It's a steamer,' he said,--'a twin-screw steamer, by the beat. I can't make
her out, but she must be standing very close in-shore. Ah!' as the red of a
rocket streaked the haze, 'she's standing in to signal before she clears the

'Is it a wreck?' said Maisie, to whom these words were as Greek.

Dick's eyes were turned to the sea. 'Wreck! What nonsense! She's only
reporting herself. Red rocket forward--there's a green light aft now, and
two red rockets from the bridge.'

'What does that mean?'

'It's the signal of the Cross Keys Line running to Australia. I wonder
which steamer it is.' The note of his voice had changed; he seemed to be
talking to himself, and Maisie did not approve of it. The moonlight broke
the haze for a moment, touching the black sides of a long steamer
working down Channel. 'Four masts and three funnels--she's in deep
draught, too. That must be the Barralong, or the Bhutia. No, the Bhutia
has a clopper bow. It's the Barralong, to Australia. She'll lift the
Southern Cross in a week,--lucky old tub!--oh, lucky old tub!'

He stared intently, and moved up the slope of the fort to get a better
view, but the mist on the sea thickened again, and the beating of the
screws grew fainter. Maisie called to him a little angrily, and he
returned, still keeping his eyes to seaward. 'Have you ever seen the
Southern Cross blazing right over your head?' he asked. 'It's superb!'

'No,' she said shortly, 'and I don't want to. If you think it's so lovely, why
don't you go and see it yourself?'

She raised her face from the soft blackness of the marten skins about her
throat, and her eyes shone like diamonds. The moonlight on the gray
kangaroo fur turned it to frosted silver of the coldest.

'By Jove, Maisie, you look like a little heathen idol tucked up there.' The
eyes showed that they did not appreciate the compliment. 'I'm sorry,' he
continued. 'The Southern Cross isn't worth looking at unless someone
helps you to see. That steamer's out of hearing.'

'Dick,' she said quietly, 'suppose I were to come to you now,--be quiet a
minute,--just as I am, and caring for you just as much as I do.'

'Not as a brother, though You said you didn't--in the Park.'

'I never had a brother. Suppose I said, "Take me to those places, and in
time, perhaps, I might really care for you," what would you do?'

'Send you straight back to where you came from, in a cab. No, I
wouldn't; I'd let you walk. But you couldn't do it, dear. And I wouldn't
run the risk. You're worth waiting for till you can come without

'Do you honestly believe that?'

'I have a hazy sort of idea that I do. Has it never struck you in that

'Ye--es. I feel so wicked about it.'

'Wickeder than usual?'

'You don't know all I think. It's almost too awful to tell.'

'Never mind. You promised to tell me the truth--at least.'

'It's so ungrateful of me, but--but, though I know you care for me, and I
like to have you with me, I'd--I'd even sacrifice you, if that would bring
me what I want.'

'My poor little darling! I know that state of mind. It doesn't lead to good

'You aren't angry? Remember, I do despise myself.'

'I'm not exactly flattered,--I had guessed as much before,--but I'm not
angry. I'm sorry for you. Surely you ought to have left a littleness like
that behind you, years ago.'

'You've no right to patronise me! I only want what I have worked for so
long. It came to you without any trouble, and--and I don't think it's fair.'

'What can I do? I'd give ten years of my life to get you what you want.

But I can't help you; even I can't help.'

A murmur of dissent from Maisie. He went on--
'And I know by what you have just said that you're on the wrong road to
success. It isn't got at by sacrificing other people,--I've had that much
knocked into me; you must sacrifice yourself, and live under orders, and
never think for yourself, and never have real satisfaction in your work
except just at the beginning, when you're reaching out after a notion.'

'How can you believe all that?'

'There's no question of belief or disbelief. That's the law, and you take it
or refuse it as you please. I try to obey, but I can't, and then my work
turns bad on my hands. Under any circumstances, remember, four-fifths
of everybody's work must be bad. But the remnant is worth the trouble
for it's own sake.'

'Isn't it nice to get credit even for bad work?'

'It's much too nice. But---- May I tell you something? It isn't a pretty
tale, but you're so like a man that I forget when I'm talking to you.'

'Tell me.'

'Once when I was out in the Soudan I went over some ground that we
had been fighting on for three days. There were twelve hundred dead;
and we hadn't time to bury them.'

'How ghastly!'

'I had been at work on a big double-sheet sketch, and I was wondering
what people would think of it at home. The sight of that field taught me a
good deal. It looked just like a bed of horrible toadstools in all colours,
and--I'd never seen men in bulk go back to their beginnings before. So I
began to understand that men and women were only material to work
with, and that what they said or did was of no consequence. See? Strictly
speaking, you might just as well put your ear down to the palette to catch
what your colours are saying.'

'Dick, that's disgraceful!'

'Wait a minute. I said, strictly speaking. Unfortunately, everybody must
be either a man or a woman.'

'I'm glad you allow that much.'

'In your case I don't. You aren't a woman. But ordinary people, Maisie,
must behave and work as such. That's what makes me so savage.' He
hurled a pebble towards the sea as he spoke. 'I know that it is outside my
business to care what people say; I can see that it spoils my output if I
listen to 'em; and yet, confound it all,'--another pebble flew seaward,--'I
can't help purring when I'm rubbed the right way. Even when I can see
on a man's forehead that he is lying his way through a clump of pretty
speeches, those lies make me happy and play the mischief with my hand.'

'And when he doesn't say pretty things?'

'Then, belovedest,'--Dick grinned,--'I forget that I am the steward of
these gifts, and I want to make that man love and appreciate my work
with a thick stick. It's too humiliating altogether; but I suppose even if
one were an angel and painted humans altogether from outside, one
would lose in touch what one gained in grip.'

Maisie laughed at the idea of Dick as an angel.

'But you seem to think,' she said, 'that everything nice spoils your hand.'

'I don't think. It's the law,--just the same as it was at Mrs. Jennett's.

Everything that is nice does spoil your hand. I'm glad you see so clearly.'

'I don't like the view.'

'Nor I. But--have got orders: what can do? Are you strong enough to face
it alone?'

'I suppose I must.'

'Let me help, darling. We can hold each other very tight and try to walk
straight. We shall blunder horribly, but it will be better than stumbling
apart. Maisie, can't you see reason?'

'I don't think we should get on together. We should be two of a trade, so
we should never agree.'

'How I should like to meet the man who made that proverb! He lived in a
cave and ate raw bear, I fancy. I'd make him chew his own arrow-heads.


'I should be only half married to you. I should worry and fuss about my
work, as I do now. Four days out of the seven I'm not fit to speak to.'

'You talk as if no one else in the world had ever used a brush. D'you
suppose that I don't know the feeling of worry and bother and
can't-get-at-ness? You're lucky if you only have it four days out of the
seven. What difference would that make?'

'A great deal--if you had it too.'

'Yes, but I could respect it. Another man might not. He might laugh at
you. But there's no use talking about it. If you can think in that way you
can't care for me--yet.'

The tide had nearly covered the mud-banks and twenty little ripples
broke on the beach before Maisie chose to speak.

'Dick,' she said slowly, 'I believe very much that you are better than I

'This doesn't seem to bear on the argument--but in what way?'

'I don't quite know, but in what you said about work and things; and
then you're so patient. Yes, you're better than I am.'

Dick considered rapidly the murkiness of an average man's life. There
was nothing in the review to fill him with a sense of virtue. He lifted the
hem of the cloak to his lips.

'Why,' said Maisie, making as though she had not noticed, 'can you see
things that I can't? I don't believe what you believe; but you're right, I

'If I've seen anything, God knows I couldn't have seen it but for you, and
I know that I couldn't have said it except to you. You seemed to make
everything clear for a minute; but I don't practice what I preach. You
would help me. . . . There are only us two in the world for all purposes,
and--and you like to have me with you?'

'Of course I do. I wonder if you can realise how utterly lonely I am!'

'Darling, I think I can.'

'Two years ago, when I first took the little house, I used to walk up and
down the back-garden trying to cry. I never can cry. Can you?'

'It's some time since I tried. What was the trouble? Overwork?'

'I don't know; but I used to dream that I had broken down, and had no
money, and was starving in London. I thought about it all day, and it
frightened me--oh, how it frightened me!'

'I know that fear. It's the most terrible of all. It wakes me up in the night
sometimes. You oughtn't to know anything about it.'

'How do you know?'

'Never mind. Is your three hundred a year safe?'

'It's in Consols.'

'Very well. If any one comes to you and recommends a better
investment,--even if I should come to you,--don't you listen. Never shift
the money for a minute, and never lend a penny of it,--even to the
red-haired girl.'

'Don't scold me so! I'm not likely to be foolish.'

'The earth is full of men who'd sell their souls for three hundred a year;
and women come and talk, and borrow a five-pound note here and a
ten-pound note there; and a woman has no conscience in a money debt.

Stick to your money, Maisie, for there's nothing more ghastly in the
world than poverty in London. It's scared me. By Jove, it put the fear
into me! And one oughtn't to be afraid of anything.'

To each man is appointed his particular dread,--the terror that, if he does
not fight against it, must cow him even to the loss of his manhood. Dick's
experience of the sordid misery of want had entered into the deeps of
him, and, lest he might find virtue too easy, that memory stood behind
him, tempting to shame, when dealers came to buy his wares. As the
Nilghai quaked against his will at the still green water of a lake or a
mill-dam, as Torpenhow flinched before any white arm that could cut or
stab and loathed himself for flinching, Dick feared the poverty he had
once tasted half in jest. His burden was heavier than the burdens of his

Maisie watched the face working in the moonlight.

'You've plenty of pennies now,' she said soothingly.

'I shall never have enough,' he began, with vicious emphasis. Then,
laughing, 'I shall always be three-pence short in my accounts.'

'Why threepence?'

'I carried a man's bag once from Liverpool Street Station to Blackfriar's
Bridge. It was a sixpenny job,--you needn't laugh; indeed it was,--and I
wanted the money desperately. He only gave me threepence; and he
hadn't even the decency to pay in silver. Whatever money I make, I shall
never get that odd threepence out of the world.'

This was not language befitting the man who had preached of the
sanctity of work. It jarred on Maisie, who preferred her payment in
applause, which, since all men desire it, must be of he right. She hunted
for her little purse and gravely took out a threepenny bit.

'There it is,' she said. 'I'll pay you, Dickie; and don't worry any more; it
isn't worth while. Are you paid?'

'I am,' said the very human apostle of fair craft, taking the coin. 'I'm
paid a thousand times, and we'll close that account. It shall live on my
watch-chain; and you're an angel, Maisie.'

'I'm very cramped, and I'm feeling a little cold. Good gracious! the cloak
is all white, and so is your moustache! I never knew it was so chilly.'

A light frost lay white on the shoulder of Dick's ulster. He, too, had
forgotten the state of the weather. They laughed together, and with that
laugh ended all serious discourse.

They ran inland across the waste to warm themselves, then turned to
look at the glory of the full tide under the moonlight and the intense
black shadows of the furze bushes. It was an additional joy to Dick that
Maisie could see colour even as he saw it,--could see the blue in the white
of the mist, the violet that is in gray palings, and all things else as they
are,--not of one hue, but a thousand. And the moonlight came into
Maisie's soul, so that she, usually reserved, chattered of herself and of
the things she took interest in,--of Kami, wisest of teachers, and of the
girls in the studio,--of the Poles, who will kill themselves with overwork if
they are not checked; of the French, who talk at great length of much
more than they will ever accomplish; of the slovenly English, who toil
hopelessly and cannot understand that inclination does not imply power;
of the Americans, whose rasping voices in the hush of a hot afternoon
strain tense-drawn nerves to breaking-point, and whose suppers lead to
indigestion; of tempestuous Russians, neither to hold nor to bind, who tell
the girls ghost-stories till the girls shriek; of stolid Germans, who come to
learn one thing, and, having mastered that much, stolidly go away and
copy pictures for evermore. Dick listened enraptured because it was
Maisie who spoke. He knew the old life.

'It hasn't changed much,' he said. 'Do they still steal colours at

'Not steal. Attract is the word. Of course they do. I'm good--I only attract
ultramarine; but there are students who'd attract flake-white.'

'I've done it myself. You can't help it when the palettes are hung up.

Every colour is common property once it runs down,--even though you
do start it with a drop of oil. It teaches people not to waste their tubes.'

'I should like to attract some of your colours, Dick. Perhaps I might catch
your success with them.'

'I mustn't say a bad word, but I should like to. What in the world, which
you've just missed a lovely chance of seeing, does success or want of
success, or a three-storied success, matter compared with---- No, I won't
open that question again. It's time to go back to town.'

'I'm sorry, Dick, but----'

'You're much more interested in that than you are in me.'

'I don't know, I don't think I am.'

'What will you give me if I tell you a sure short-cut to everything you
want,--the trouble and the fuss and the tangle and all the rest? Will you
promise to obey me?'

'Of course.'

'In the first place, you must never forget a meal because you happen to
be at work. You forgot your lunch twice last week,' said Dick, at a
venture, for he knew with whom he was dealing.'

'No, no,--only once, really.'

'That's bad enough. And you mustn't take a cup of tea and a biscuit in
place of a regular dinner, because dinner happens to be a trouble.'

'You're making fun of me!'

'I never was more in earnest in my life. Oh, my love, my love, hasn't it
dawned on you yet what you are to me? Here's the whole earth in a
conspiracy to give you a chill, or run over you, or drench you to the skin,
or cheat you out of your money, or let you die of overwork and
underfeeding, and I haven't the mere right to look after you. Why, I
don't even know if you have sense enough to put on warm things when
the weather's cold.'

'Dick, you're the most awful boy to talk to--really! How do you suppose I
managed when you were away?'

'I wasn't here, and I didn't know. But now I'm back I'd give everything I
have for the right of telling you to come in out of the rain.'

'Your success too?'

This time it cost Dick a severe struggle to refrain from bad words.

'As Mrs. Jennett used to say, you're a trial, Maisie! You've been cooped
up in the schools too long, and you think every one is looking at you.

There aren't twelve hundred people in the world who understand
pictures. The others pretend and don't care. Remember, I've seen twelve
hundred men dead in toadstool-beds. It's only the voice of the tiniest little
fraction of people that makes success. The real world doesn't care a
tinker's--doesn't care a bit. For aught you or I know, every man in the
world may be arguing with a Maisie of his own.'

'Poor Maisie!'

'Poor Dick, I think. Do you believe while he's fighting for what's dearer
than his life he wants to look at a picture? And even if he did, and if all
the world did, and a thousand million people rose up and shouted hymns
to my honour and glory, would that make up to me for the knowledge
that you were out shopping in the Edgware Road on a rainy day without
an umbrella? Now we'll go to the station.'

'But you said on the beach----' persisted Maisie, with a certain fear.

Dick groaned aloud: 'Yes, I know what I said. My work is everything I
have, or am, or hope to be, to me, and I believe I've learnt the law that
governs it; but I've some lingering sense of fun left,--though you've
nearly knocked it out of me. I can just see that it isn't everything to all
the world. Do what I say, and not what I do.'

Maisie was careful not to reopen debatable matters, and they returned to
London joyously. The terminus stopped Dick in the midst of an eloquent
harangue on the beauties of exercise. He would buy Maisie a horse,--such
a horse as never yet bowed head to bit,--would stable it, with a
companion, some twenty miles from London, and Maisie, solely for her
health's sake should ride with him twice or thrice a week.

'That's absurd,' said she. 'It wouldn't be proper.'

'Now, who in all London to-night would have sufficient interest or
audacity to call us two to account for anything we chose to do?'

Maisie looked at the lamps, the fog, and the hideous turmoil. Dick was
right; but horseflesh did not make for Art as she understood it.

'You're very nice sometimes, but you're very foolish more times. I'm not
going to let you give me horses, or take you out of your way to-night. I'll
go home by myself. Only I want you to promise me something. You won't
think any more about that extra threepence, will you? Remember, you've
been paid; and I won't allow you to be spiteful and do bad work for a
little thing like that. You can be so big that you mustn't be tiny.'

This was turning the tables with a vengeance. There remained only to
put Maisie into her hansom.

'Good-bye,' she said simply. 'You'll come on Sunday. It has been a
beautiful day, Dick. Why can't it be like this always?'

'Because love's like line-work: you must go forward or backward; you
can't stand still. By the way, go on with your line-work. Good-night, and,
for my--for my sake, take care of yourself.'

He turned to walk home, meditating. The day had brought him nothing
that he hoped for, but--surely this was worth many days--it had brought
him nearer to Maisie. The end was only a question of time now, and the
prize well worth the waiting. By instinct, once more, he turned to the

'And she understood at once,' he said, looking at the water. 'She found
out my pet besetting sin on the spot, and paid it off. My God, how she
understood! And she said I was better than she was! Better than she
was!' He laughed at the absurdity of the notion. 'I wonder if girls guess
at one-half a man's life. They can't, or--they wouldn't marry us.' He took
her gift out of his pocket, and considered it in the light of a miracle and a
pledge of the comprehension that, one day, would lead to perfect
happiness. Meantime, Maisie was alone in London, with none to save her
from danger. And the packed wilderness was very full of danger.

Dick made his prayer to Fate disjointedly after the manner of the
heathen as he threw the piece of silver into the river. If any evil were to
befal, let him bear the burden and let Maisie go unscathed, since the
threepenny piece was dearest to him of all his possessions. It was a small
coin in itself, but Maisie had given it, and the Thames held it, and surely
the Fates would be bribed for this once.

The drowning of the coin seemed to cut him free from thought of Maisie
for the moment. He took himself off the bridge and went whistling to his
chambers with a strong yearning for some man-talk and tobacco after his
first experience of an entire day spent in the society of a woman. There
was a stronger desire at his heart when there rose before him an
unsolicited vision of the Barralong dipping deep and sailing free for the
Southern Cross.

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The Light That Failed - Chapter 8 The Light That Failed - Chapter 8

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The Light That Failed - Chapter 6 The Light That Failed - Chapter 6

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