From Biloxi, because of the approach of summer when it would be unbearabl_arm there, and because his funds were so low that it was necessary to make _ecisive move of some kind whether it led to complete disaster or not, h_ecided to return to New York. In storage with Kellners (M. Charles had kindl_olunteered to take care of them for him) were a number of the pictures lef_ver from the original show, and nearly all the paintings of the Pari_xhibition. The latter had not sold well. Eugene's idea was that he could sli_nto New York quietly, take a room in some side street or in Jersey City o_rooklyn where he would not be seen, have the pictures in the possession of M.
Charles returned to him, and see if he could not get some of the minor ar_ealers or speculators of whom he had heard to come and look at them and bu_hem outright. Failing that, he might take them himself, one by one, t_ifferent dealers here and there and dispose of them. He remembered now tha_berhard Zang had, through Norma Whitmore, asked him to come and see him. H_ancied that, as Kellners had been so interested, and the newspaper critic_ad spoken of him so kindly the smaller dealers would be eager to take up wit_im. Surely they would buy this material. It was exceptional—very. Why not?
Eugene forgot or did not know the metaphysical side of prosperity and failure.
He did not realize that "as a man thinketh so is he," and so also is th_stimate of the whole world at the time he is thinking of himself thus—not a_e is but as he thinks he is. The sense of it is abroad—by what processes w_now not, but so it is.
Eugene's mental state, so depressed, so helpless, so fearsome—a rudderles_oat in the dark, transmitted itself as an impression, a wireless message t_ll those who knew him or knew of him. His breakdown, which had firs_stonished M. Charles, depressed and then weakened the latter's interest i_im. Like all other capable, successful men in the commercial world M. Charle_as for strong men—men in the heyday of their success, the zenith of thei_bility. The least variation from this standard of force and interest wa_oticeable to him. If a man was going to fail—going to get sick and lose hi_nterest in life or have his viewpoint affected, it might be very sad, bu_here was just one thing to do under such circumstances—get away from him.
Failures of any kind were dangerous things to countenance. One must not hav_nything to do with them. They were very unprofitable. Such people as Templ_oyle and Vincent Beers, who had been his instructors in the past and who ha_eard of him in Chicago at the time of his success, Luke Severas, Willia_cConnell, Oren Benedict, Hudson Dula, and others wondered what had become o_im. Why did he not paint any more? He was never seen in the New York haunt_f art! It was rumored at the time of the Paris exhibition that he was goin_o London to do a similar group of views, but the London exhibition never cam_ff. He had told Smite and MacHugh the spring he left that he might do Chicag_ext, but that came to nothing. There was no evidence of it. There were rumor_hat he was very rich, that his art had failed him, that he had lost his min_ven, and so the art world that knew him and was so interested in him n_onger cared very much. It was too bad but—so thought the rival artists—ther_as one less difficult star to contend with. As for his friends, they wer_orry, but such was life. He might recover. If not,—well—.
As time went on, one year, another year, another year, the strangeness of hi_uddenly brilliant burst and disappearance became to the talented in thi_ield a form of classic memory. He was a man of such promise! Why did he no_o on painting? There was an occasional mention in conversation or in print,
but Eugene to all intents and purposes was dead.
When he came to New York it was after his capital had been reduced to thre_undred dollars and he had given Angela one hundred and twenty-five of this t_ake her back to Blackwood and keep her there until he could make suc_rrangements as would permit her to join him. After a long discussion they ha_inally agreed that this would be best, for, seeing that he could neithe_aint nor illustrate, there was no certainty as to what he would do. To com_ere on so little money with her was not advisable. She had her home where sh_as welcome to stay for a while anyhow. Meanwhile he figured he could weathe_ny storm alone.
The appearance of the metropolis, after somewhat over two years of absenc_uring which he had wandered everywhere, was most impressive to Eugene. It wa_ relief after the mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee and the loneliness o_he Biloxi coast, to get back to this swarming city where millions wer_urrying to and fro, and where one's misery as well as one's prosperity wa_pparently swallowed up in an inconceivable mass of life. A subway was bein_uilt. The automobile, which only a few years before was having a vague,
uncertain beginning, was now attaining a tremendous vogue. Magnificent cars o_ew design were everywhere. From the ferry-house in Jersey City he could se_otable changes in the skyline, and a single walk across Twenty-third Stree_nd up Seventh Avenue showed him a changing world—great hotels, grea_partment houses, a tremendous crush of vainglorious life which was mouldin_he city to its desires. It depressed him greatly, for he had always hoped t_e an integral part of this magnificence and display and now he was not—migh_ever be again.
It was still raw and cold, for the spring was just beginning to break, an_ugene was compelled to buy a light overcoat, his own imperishable great coa_aving been left behind, and he had no other fit to wear. Appearances, h_hought, demanded this. He had spent forty of his closely-guarded one hundre_nd seventy-five dollars coming from Biloxi to New York, and now an additiona_ifteen was required for this coat, leaving him one hundred and twenty-fiv_ollars with which to begin his career anew. He was greatly worried as to th_utcome, but curiously also he had an abiding subconscious feeling that i_ould not be utterly destructive to him.
He rented a cheap room in a semi-respectable neighborhood in West Twenty-
fourth Street near Eleventh Avenue solely because he wanted to keep out of th_un of intellectual life and hide until he could get on his feet. It was a_ld and shabby residence in an old and shabby red brick neighborhood such a_e had drawn in one of his views, but it was not utterly bad. The people wer_oor but fairly intellectual. He chose this particular neighborhood with al_ts poverty because it was near the North River where the great river traffi_ould be seen, and where, because of some open lots in which were store_agons, his one single west window gave him a view of all this life. About th_orner in Twenty-third Street, in another somewhat decayed residence, was _oderate priced restaurant and boarding house. Here he could get a meal fo_wenty-five cents. He cared nothing for the life that was about him. It wa_heap, poor, from a money point of view, dingy, but he would not be her_orever he hoped. These people did not know him. Besides the number 552 Wes_4th Street did not sound bad. It might be one of the old neighborhoods wit_hich New York was dotted, and which artists were inclined to find and occupy.
After he had secured this room from a semi-respectable Irish landlady, a doc_eigher's wife, he decided to call upon M. Charles. He knew that he looke_uite respectable as yet, despite his poverty and decline. His clothes wer_ood, his overcoat new, his manner brisk and determined. But what he could no_ee was that his face in its thin sallowness, and his eyes with their semi-
feverish lustre bespoke a mind that was harassed by trouble of some kind. H_tood outside the office of Kellner and Son in Fifth Avenue—a half block fro_he door, wondering whether he should go in, and just what he should say. H_ad written to M. Charles from time to time that his health was bad and tha_e couldn't work—always that he hoped to be better soon. He had always hope_hat a reply would come that another of his pictures had been sold. One yea_ad gone and then two, and now a third was under way and still he was not an_etter. M. Charles would look at him searchingly. He would have to bear hi_aze unflinchingly. In his present nervous state this was difficult and yet h_as not without a kind of defiance even now. He would force himself back int_avor with life sometime.
He finally mustered up his courage and entered and M. Charles greeted hi_armly.
"This certainly is good,—to see you again. I had almost given up hope that yo_ould ever come back to New York. How is your health now? And how is Mrs.
Witla? It doesn't seem as though it had been three years. You're lookin_xcellent. And how is painting going now? Getting to the point where you ca_o something again?"
Eugene felt for the moment as though M. Charles believed him to be i_xcellent condition, whereas that shrewd observer of men was wondering wha_ould have worked so great a change. Eugene appeared to be eight years older.
There were marked wrinkles between his eyes and an air of lassitude an_eariness. He thought to himself, "Why, this man may possibly be done fo_rtistically. Something has gone from him which I noted the first time I me_im: that fire and intense enthusiasm which radiated force after the fashio_f an arclight. Now he seems to be seeking to draw something in,—to sav_imself from drowning as it were. He is making a voiceless appeal fo_onsideration. What a pity!"
The worst of it all was that in his estimation nothing could be done in such _ase. You couldn't do anything for an artist who could do nothing for himself.
His art was gone. The sanest thing for him to do would be to quit trying, g_t some other form of labor and forget all about it. It might be that he woul_ecover, but it was a question. Nervous breakdowns were not infrequentl_ermanent.
Eugene noticed something of this in his manner. He couldn't tell exactly wha_t was, but M. Charles seemed more than ordinarily preoccupied, careful an_istant. He wasn't exactly chilly in his manner, but reserved, as though h_ere afraid he might be asked to do something which he could not very well do.
"I noticed that the Paris scenes did not do very well either here or i_aris," observed Eugene with an air of nonchalance, as though it were a matte_f small importance, at the same time hoping that he would have some favorabl_ord. "I had the idea that they would take better than they did. Still I don'_uppose I ought to expect everything to sell. The New York ones did al_ight."
"They did very well indeed, much better than I expected. I didn't think a_any would be sold as were. They were very new and considerably outside th_ines of current interest. The Paris pictures, on the other hand, were foreig_o Americans in the wrong sense. By that I mean they weren't to be included i_hat genre art which comes from abroad, but is not based on any locality an_s universal in its appeal—thematically speaking. Your Paris pictures were, o_ourse, pictures in the best sense to those who see art as color an_omposition and idea, but to the ordinary lay mind they were, I take it,
merely Paris scenes. You get what I mean. In that sense they were foreign, an_aris has been done illustratively anyhow. You might have done better wit_ondon or Chicago. Still you have every reason to congratulate yourself. You_ork made a distinct impression both here and in France. When you feel able t_eturn to it I have no doubt you will find that time has done you no harm."
He tried to be polite and entertaining, but he was glad when Eugene went awa_gain.
The latter turned out into the street disconsolate. He could see how thing_ere. He was down and out for the present and would have to wait.