He was amused by his own self-confidence, and laughed as he walked. But his mood never wavered.
He had the power—the gift. Nobody ever doubted that who saw him draw. And he had, besides, what so many men of his own class made shipwreck for want of—he had imagination—enough to show him what it is that makes the mere craftsman into the artist, enough to make him hunger night and day for knowledge, travel, experience. Thanks to his father’s shop, he had read a great deal already; and with a little money, how he would buy books, how he would read them!—
And at the thought, fresh images, now in rushing troops, and now in solitary fantastic beauty, began to throng before the inward eye, along the rich background of the valley; images from poetry and legend, stored deep in a greedy fancy, a retentive mind. They came from all sources—Greek, Arthurian, modern; Hephaestus, the lame god and divine craftsman, receiving Thetis in his workshop of the skies, the golden automata wrought by his own hands supporting him on either side; the maidens of Achilles washing the dead and gory body of Hector in the dark background of the hut, while in front swift-foot Achilles holds old Priam in talk till the sad offices are over, and the father may be permitted to behold his son; Arthur and Sir Bedivere beside the lake; Crusaders riding to battle—the gleam of their harness—the arched necks of their steeds—the glory of their banners—the shade and sunlight of the deep vales through which they pass; the Lady of Shalott as the curse conies upon her—Oenone—Brunhilda—Atalanta. Swift along the May woods the figures fled, vision succeeding vision, beauty treading on beauty. It became hallucination—a wildness—an ecstasy. Fenwick stood still, gave himself up to the possession—let it hold him—felt the strangeness and the peril of it—then, suddenly, wrenched himself free.
Running down to the edge of the river, he began to pick up stones and throw them violently into the stream. It was a remedy he had long learnt to use. The physical action released the brain from the tyranny of the forms which held it. Gradually they passed away. He began to breathe more quietly, and, sitting down by the water, his head in his hands, he gave himself up to a quieter pleasure in the nature round him, and in the strength of his own faculty.
To something else also. For while he was sitting there, he found himself praying ardently for success—that he might do well in London, might make a name for himself, and leave his mark on English art. This was to him a very natural outlet of emotion; he was not sure what he meant by it precisely; but it calmed him.
Meanwhile Phoebe Fenwick was watching for her husband.
She had come out upon the green strip of ground in front of Green Nab Cottage, and was looking anxiously along the portion of high-road which was visible from where she stood.