“Thank you,” said the rejected applicant. “It’s not so far but that I can walk, and I don’t think you’d believe in me if I took money.”
“Oh, yes, I would,” said the lieutenant. “How much do you want?”
“Thank you, but I’d rather walk,” said the other. “I can get there easily enough by to-morrow. I’ll be a nice Christmas present, won’t I?” he added, grimly.
“You’ll do,” said the young officer. “I fancy you’ll be about as welcome a one as they’ll get.” He held out his hand and the other shook it, and walked out with his shoulders as stiff as those of Corporal Goddard.
Then he came back and looked into the room shyly. “I say,” he said, hesitatingly. The lieutenant ran his hand down into his pocket. “You’ve changed your mind?” he asked, eagerly. “That’s good. How much will you want?”
The rejected applicant flushed. “No, not that,” he said. “I just came back to say—wish you a merry Christmas.”
Young Carstairs and his wife had a studio at Fifty-seventh Street and Sixth Avenue, where Carstairs painted pictures and Mrs. Carstairs mended stockings and wrote letters home to her people in Vermont. Young Carstairs had had a picture in the Salon, and was getting one ready for the Academy, which he hoped to have accepted if he lived long enough to finish it. They were very poor. Not so poor that there was any thought of Carstairs starving to death, but there was at least a possibility that he would not be able to finish his picture in the studio, for which he could not pay the rent. He was very young and had no business to marry; but she was willing, and her people had an idea it would come out all right. They had only three hundred dollars left, and it was mid-winter.
Carstairs went out to sketch Broadway at One Hundred and Fifty-ninth Street, where it is more of a country road than anything else, and his hands almost froze while he was getting down the black lines of the bare trees, and the deep, irregular ruts in the road, where the mud showed through the snow. He intended to put a yellow sky behind this, and a house with smoke coming out of the chimney, and with red light shining through the window, and call it Winter.
A horse and buggy stopped just back of him, and he was conscious from the shadows on the snow that the driver was looking down from his perch.
Carstairs paid no attention to his spectator. He was used to working with Park policemen and nursery-maids looking over his shoulder and making audible criticisms or giggling hysterically. So he sketched on and became unconscious of the shadow falling on the snow in front of him; and when he looked up about a quarter of an hour later and noticed that the shadow was still there, he smiled at the tribute such mute attention paid his work. When the sketch was finished he leaned back and closed one eye, and moved his head from side to side and surveyed it critically. Then he heard a voice over his shoulder say, in sympathetic tones, “Purty good, isn’t it?” He turned and smiled at his critic, and found him to be a fat, red-faced old gentleman, wrapped in a great fur coat with fur driving-gloves and fur cap.