Collected Stories – Part 2 – Day 68 of 274

“But matters got started just the same. Denis fixed up an attic room with skylights, and Marsh sent for all sorts of painting equipment. Everyone was rather excited about the new venture, and I was at least glad that something was on foot to break the brooding tension. Soon the sittings began, and we all took them quite seriously–for we could see that Marsh regarded them as important artistic events. Denny and I used to go quietly about the house as though something sacred were occurring, and we knew that it was sacred as far as Marsh was concerned.

“With Marceline, though, it was a different matter, as I began to see at once. Whatever Marsh’s reactions to the sittings may have been, hers were painfully obvious. Every possible way she betrayed a frank and commonplace infatuation for the artist, and would repulse Denis’ marks of affection whenever she dared. Oddly, I noticed this more vividly than Denis himself, and tried to devise some plan for keeping the boy’s mind easy until the matter could be straightened out. There was no use in having him excited about it if it could be helped.

“In the end I decided that Denis had better be away while the disagreeable situation existed. I could represent his interests well enough at this end, and sooner or later Marsh would finish the picture and go. My view of Marsh’s honour was such that I did not look for any worse developments. When the matter had blown over, and Marceline had forgotten about her new infatuation, it would be time enough to have Denis on hand again.

“So I wrote a long letter to my marketing and financial agent in New York, and cooked up a plan to have the boy summoned there for an indefinite time. I had the agent write him that our affairs absolutely required one of us to go East, and of course my illness made it clear that I could not be the one. It was arranged that when Denis got to New York he would find enough plausible matters to keep him busy as long as I thought he ought to be away.

“The plan worked perfectly, and Denis started for New York without the least suspicion; Marceline and Marsh going with him in the car to Cape Girardeau, where he caught the afternoon train to St. Louis. They returned after dark, and as McCabe drove the car back to the stables I could hear them talking on the veranda–in those same chairs near the long parlour window where Marsh and Denis had sat when I overheard them talk about the portrait. This time I resolved to do some intentional eavesdropping, so quietly went down to the front parlour and stretched out on the sofa near the window.

“At first I could not hear anything but very shortly there came the sound of a chair being shifted, followed by a short, sharp breath and a sort of inarticulately hurt exclamation from Marceline. Then I heard Marsh speaking in a strained, almost formal voice.

“‘I’d enjoy working tonight if you aren’t too tired.’

“Marceline’s reply was in the same hurt tone which had marked her exclamation. She used English as he had done.

“‘Oh, Frank, is that really all you care about? Forever working! Can’t we just sit out here in this glorious moonlight?’

“He answered impatiently, his voice shewing a certain contempt beneath the dominant quality of artistic enthusiasm.

“‘Moonlight! Good God, what cheap sentimentality! For a supposedly sophisticated person you surely do hang on to some of the crudest claptrap that ever escaped from the dime novels! With art at your elbow, you have to think of the moon–cheap as a spotlight at the varieties! Or perhaps it makes you think of the Roodmas dance around the stone pillars at Auteiul. Hell, how you used to make those goggle-eyed yaps stare! But not–I suppose you’ve dropped all that now. No more Atlantean magic or hair-snake rites for Madame de Russy! I’m the only one to remember the old things–the things that came down through the temples of Tanit and echoed on the ramparts of Zimbabwe. But I won’t be cheated of that remembrance–all that is weaving itself into the thing on my canvas–the thing that is going to capture wonder and crystallise the secrets of 75,000 years.’

“Marceline interrupted in a voice full of mixed emotions.

“‘It’s you who are cheaply sentimental now! You know well that the old things had better be let alone. All of you had better watch out if ever I chant the old rites or try to call up what lies hidden in Yuggoth, Zimbabwe, and R’lyeh. I thought you had more sense!

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)