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Chapter 17

  • 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.