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Chapter 8

  • Paris now loomed bright in Eugene's imagination, the prospect mingling with _housand other delightful thoughts. Now that he had attained to the dignity o_ public exhibition, which had been notably commented upon by the newspaper_nd art journals and had been so generally attended by the elect, artists,
  • critics, writers generally, seemed to know of him. There were many who wer_nxious to meet and greet him, to speak approvingly of his work. It wa_enerally understood, apparently, that he was a great artist, not exactl_rrived to the fullness of his stature as yet, being so new, but on his way.
  • Among those who knew him he was, by this one exhibition, lifted almost in _ay to a lonely height, far above the puny efforts of such men as Smite an_acHugh, McConnell and Deesa, the whole world of small artists whose canvase_acked the semi-annual exhibition of the National Academy of Design and th_ater color society, and with whom in a way, he had been associated. He was _reat artist now—recognized as such by the eminent critics who knew; and a_uch, from now on, would be expected to do the work of a great artist. On_hrase in the criticisms of Luke Severas in the _Evening Sun_ as it appeare_uring the run of his exhibition remained in his memory clearly—"If h_erseveres, if his art does not fail him." Why should his art fail him?—h_sked himself. He was immensely pleased to hear from M. Charles at the clos_f the exhibition that three of his pictures had been sold—one for thre_undred dollars to Henry McKenna, a banker; another, the East Side stree_cene which M. Charles so greatly admired, to Isaac Wertheim, for five hundre_ollars; a third, the one of the three engines and the railroad yard, t_obert C. Winchon, a railroad man, first vice-president of one of the grea_ailroads entering New York, also for five hundred dollars. Eugene had neve_eard of either Mr. McKenna or Mr. Winchon, but he was assured that they wer_en of wealth and refinement. At Angela's suggestion he asked M. Charles if h_ould not accept one of his pictures as a slight testimony of his appreciatio_or all he had done for him. Eugene would not have thought to do this, he wa_o careless and unpractical. But Angela thought of it, and saw that he did it.
  • M. Charles was greatly pleased, and took the picture of Greeley Square, whic_e considered a masterpiece of color interpretation. This somehow sealed th_riendship between these two, and M. Charles was anxious to see Eugene'_nterests properly forwarded. He asked him to leave three of his scenes o_ale for a time and he would see what he could do. Meanwhile, Eugene, wit_hirteen hundred added to the thousand and some odd dollars he had left in hi_ank from previous earnings, was convinced that his career was made, an_ecided, as he had planned to go to Paris, for the summer at least.
  • This trip, so exceptional to him, so epoch-making, was easily arranged. Al_he time he had been in New York he had heard more in his circle of Paris tha_f any other city. Its streets, its quarters, its museums, its theatres an_pera were already almost a commonplace to him. The cost of living, the idea_ethods of living, the way to travel, what to see—how often he had sat an_istened to descriptions of these things. Now he was going. Angela took th_nitiative in arranging all the practical details—such as looking up th_teamship routes, deciding on the size of trunks required, what to take,
  • buying the tickets, looking up the rates of the different hotels and pension_t which they might possibly stay. She was so dazed by the glory that ha_urst upon her husband's life that she scarcely knew what to do or what t_ake of it.
  • "That Mr. Bierdat," she said to Eugene, referring to one of the assistan_team-ship agents with whom she had taken counsel, "tells me that if we ar_ust going for the summer it's foolish to take anything but absolut_ecessaries. He says we can buy so many nice little things to wear over ther_f we need them, and then I can bring them back duty free in the fall."
  • Eugene approved of this. He thought Angela would like to see the shops. The_inally decided to go via London, returning direct from Havre, and on th_enth of May they departed, arriving in London a week later and in Paris o_he first of June. Eugene was greatly impressed with London. He had arrived i_ime to miss the British damp and cold and to see London through a golden haz_hich was entrancing. Angela objected to the shops, which she described as
  • "punk," and to the condition of the lower classes, who were so poor an_retchedly dressed. She and Eugene discussed the interesting fact that al_nglishmen looked exactly alike, dressed, walked, and wore their hats an_arried their canes exactly alike. Eugene was impressed with the apparent "go"
  • of the men—their smartness and dapperness. The women he objected to in th_ain as being dowdy and homely and awkward.
  • But when he reached Paris, what a difference! In London, because of the lac_f sufficient means (he did not feel that as yet he had sufficient to permi_im to indulge in the more expensive comforts and pleasures of the city) an_or the want of someone to provide him with proper social introductions, h_as compelled to content himself with that superficial, exterior aspect o_hings which only the casual traveler sees—the winding streets, the crush o_raffic, London Tower, Windsor Castle, the Inns of court, the Strand,
  • Piccadilly, St. Paul's and, of course, the National Gallery and the Britis_useum. South Kensington and all those various endowed palaces where object_f art are displayed pleased him greatly. In the main he was struck with th_onservatism of London, its atmosphere of Empire, its soldiery and the like,
  • though he considered it drab, dull, less strident than New York, and reall_ess picturesque. When he came to Paris, however, all this was changed. Pari_s of itself a holiday city—one whose dress is always gay, inviting, fresh,
  • like one who sets forth to spend a day in the country. As Eugene stepped ont_he dock at Calais and later as he journeyed across and into the city, h_ould feel the vast difference between France and England. The one countr_eemed young, hopeful, American, even foolishly gay, the other serious,
  • speculative, dour.
  • Eugene had taken a number of letters from M. Charles, Hudson Dula, Loui_eesa, Leonard Baker and others, who, on hearing that he was going, ha_olunteered to send him to friends in Paris who might help him. The principa_hing, if he did not wish to maintain a studio of his own, and did wish t_earn, was to live with some pleasant French family where he could hear Frenc_nd pick it up quickly. If he did not wish to do this, the next best thing wa_o settle in the Montmartre district in some section or court where he coul_btain a nice studio, and where there were a number of American or Englis_tudents. Some of the Americans to whom he had letters were already domicile_ere. With a small calling list of friends who spoke English he would do ver_ell.
  • "You will be surprised, Witla," said Deesa to him one day, "how much Englis_ou can get understood by making intelligent signs."
  • Eugene had laughed at Deesa's descriptions of his own difficulties an_uccesses, but he found that Deesa was right. Signs went very far and the_ere, as a rule, thoroughly intelligible.
  • The studio which he and Angela eventually took after a few days spent at a_otel, was a comfortable one on the third floor of a house which Eugene foun_eady to his hand, recommended by M. Arkquin, of the Paris branch of Kellne_nd Son. Another artist, Finley Wood, whom afterwards Eugene recalled a_aving been mentioned to him by Ruby Kenny, in Chicago, was leaving Paris fo_he summer. Because of M. Charles' impressive letter, M. Arkquin was mos_nxious that Eugene should be comfortably installed and suggested that he tak_his, the charge being anything he cared to pay—forty francs the month. Eugen_ooked at it and was delighted. It was in the back of the house, looking ou_n a little garden, and because of a westward slope of the ground from thi_irection and an accidental breach in the building line, commanded a wid_weep of the city of Paris, the twin towers of Notre Dame, the sheer rise o_he Eiffel tower. It was fascinating to see the lights of the city blinking o_n evening. Eugene would invariably draw his chair close to his favorit_indow when he came in, while Angela made lemonade or iced tea or practise_er culinary art on a chafing dish. In presenting to him an almost standar_merican menu she exhibited the executive ability and natural industry whic_as her chief characteristic. She would go to the neighboring groceries,
  • rotisseries, patisseries, green vegetable stands, and get the few things sh_eeded in the smallest quantities, always selecting the best and preparin_hem with the greatest care. She was an excellent cook and loved to set _ainty and shining table. She saw no need of company, for she was perfectl_appy alone with Eugene and felt that he must be with her. She had no desir_o go anywhere by herself—only with him; and she would hang on every though_nd motion waiting for him to say what his pleasure would be.
  • The wonder of Paris to Eugene was its freshness and the richness of its ar_pirit as expressed on every hand. He was never weary of looking at th_ndersized French soldiery with their wide red trousers, blue coats and re_aps, or the police with their capes and swords and the cab drivers with thei_ir of leisurely superiority. The Seine, brisk with boats at this season o_he year, the garden of the Tuileries, with its white marble nudes and forma_aths and stone benches, the Bois, the Champ de Mars, the Trocadero Museum,
  • the Louvre—all the wonder streets and museums held him as in a dream.
  • "Gee," he exclaimed to Angela one afternoon as he followed the banks of th_eine toward Issy, "this is certainly the home of the blessed for all goo_rtists. Smell that perfume. (It was from a perfume factory in the distance.)
  • See that barge!" He leaned on the river wall. "Ah," he sighed, "this i_erfect."
  • They went back in the dusk on the roof of an open car. "When I die," h_ighed, "I hope I come to Paris. It is all the heaven I want."
  • Yet like all perfect delights, it lost some of its savour after a time, thoug_ot much. Eugene felt that he could live in Paris if his art would permi_im—though he must go back, he knew, for the present anyhow.
  • Angela, he noticed after a time, was growing in confidence, if not i_entality. From a certain dazed uncertainty which had characterized her th_receding fall when she had first come to New York, heightened and increase_or the time being by the rush of art life and strange personalities she ha_ncountered there and here she was blossoming into a kind of assurance born o_xperience. Finding that Eugene's ideas, feelings and interests were of th_pper world of thought entirely—concerned with types, crowds, the aspect o_uildings, streets, skylines, the humors and pathetic aspects of living, sh_oncerned herself solely with the managerial details. It did not take her lon_o discover that if anyone would relieve Eugene of all care for himself h_ould let him do it. It was no satisfaction to him to buy himself anything. H_bjected to executive and commercial details. If tickets had to be bought,
  • time tables consulted, inquiries made, any labor of argument or disput_ngaged in, he was loath to enter on it. "You get these, will you, Angela?" h_ould plead, or "you see him about that. I can't now. Will you?"
  • Angela would hurry to the task, whatever it was, anxious to show that she wa_f real use and necessity. On the busses of London or Paris, as in New York,
  • he was sketching, sketching, sketching—cabs, little passenger boats of th_eine, characters in the cafes, parks, gardens, music halls, anywhere,
  • anything, for he was practically tireless. All that he wanted was not to b_othered very much, to be left to his own devices. Sometimes Angela would pa_ll the bills for him for a day. She carried his purse, took charge of all th_xpress orders into which their cash had been transferred, kept a list of al_heir expenditures, did the shopping, buying, paying. Eugene was left to se_he thing that he wanted to see, to think the things that he wanted to think.
  • During all those early days Angela made a god of him and he was very willin_o cross his legs, Buddha fashion, and act as one.
  • Only at night when there were no alien sights or sounds to engage hi_ttention, when not even his art could come between them, and she could dra_im into her arms and submerge his restless spirit in the tides of her lov_id she feel his equal—really worthy of him. These transports which came wit_he darkness, or with the mellow light of the little oil lamp that hung i_hains from the ceiling near their wide bed, or in the faint freshness of daw_ith the birds cheeping in the one tree of the little garden below—were to he_t once utterly generous and profoundly selfish. She had eagerly absorbe_ugene's philosophy of self-indulgent joy where it concerned themselves—al_he more readily as it coincided with her own vague ideas and her own ho_mpulses.
  • Angela had come to marriage through years of self-denial, years of bitte_onging for the marriage that perhaps would never be, and out of those year_he had come to the marriage bed with a cumulative and intense passion.
  • Without any knowledge either of the ethics or physiology of sex, except a_ertained to her state as a virgin, she was vastly ignorant of marriag_tself; the hearsay of girls, the equivocal confessions of newly marrie_omen, and the advice of her elder sister (conveyed by Heaven only knows wha_rocess of conversation) had left her almost as ignorant as before, and no_he explored its mysteries with abandon, convinced that the unrestraine_ratification of passion was normal and excellent—in addition to being, as sh_ame to find, a universal solvent for all differences of opinion o_emperament that threatened their peace of mind. Beginning with their life i_he studio on Washington Square, and continuing with even greater fervor no_n Paris, there was what might be described as a prolonged riot of indulgenc_etween them, bearing no relation to any necessity in their natures, an_ertainly none to the demands which Eugene's intellectual and artistic task_aid upon him. She was to Eugene astonishing and delightful; and yet perhap_ot so much delightful as astonishing. Angela was in a sense elemental, bu_ugene was not: he was the artist, in this as in other things, rousing himsel_o a pitch of appreciation which no strength so undermined by intellectua_ubtleties could continuously sustain. The excitement of adventure, o_ntrigue in a sense, of discovering the secrets of feminine personality—thes_ere really what had constituted the charm, if not the compelling urge, of hi_omances. To conquer was beautiful: but it was in essence an intellectua_nterprise. To see his rash dreams come true in the yielding of the las_weetness possessed by the desired woman, had been to him imaginatively a_ell as physically an irresistible thing. But these enterprises were like thi_ilver strands spun out across an abyss, whose beauty but not whose danger_ere known to him. Still, he rejoiced in this magnificent creature-joy whic_ngela supplied; it was, so far as it was concerned, what he thought h_anted. And Angela interpreted her power to respond to what seemed hi_nexhaustible desire as not only a kindness but a duty.
  • Eugene set up his easel here, painted from nine to noon some days, and o_thers from two to five in the afternoon. If it were dark, he would walk o_ide with Angela or visit the museums, the galleries and the public building_r stroll in the factory or railroad quarters of the city. Eugene sympathize_ost with sombre types and was constantly drawing something which represente_rim care. Aside from the dancers in the music halls, the toughs, in wha_ater became known as the Apache district, the summer picnicking parties a_ersailles and St. Cloud, the boat crowds on the Seine, he drew factor_hrongs, watchmen and railroad crossings, market people, market in the dark,
  • street sweepers, newspaper vendors, flower merchants, always with a memorabl_treet scene in the background. Some of the most interesting bits of Paris,
  • its towers, bridges, river views, façades, appeared in backgrounds to the gri_r picturesque or pathetic character studies. It was his hope that he coul_nterest America in these things—that his next exhibition would not onl_llustrate his versatility and persistence of talent, but show an improvemen_n his art, a surer sense of color values, a greater analytical power in th_atter of character, a surer selective taste in the matter of composition an_rrangement. He did not realize that all this might be useless—that he was,
  • aside from his art, living a life which might rob talent of its finest flavor,
  • discolor the aspect of the world for himself, take scope from imagination an_amper effort with nervous irritation, and make accomplishment impossible. H_ad no knowledge of the effect of one's sexual life upon one's work, nor wha_uch a life when badly arranged can do to a perfect art—how it can distort th_ense of color, weaken that balanced judgment of character which is s_ssential to a normal interpretation of life, make all striving hopeless, tak_rom art its most joyous conception, make life itself seem unimportant an_eath a relief.