Eugenie’s only comfort indeed, at this time, was the comfort of religion. Her soul, sorely troubled and very stern with itself, wandered in mystical, ascetic paths out of human ken. Every morning she hurried through the woods to a little church beside the sea, filled with fishing-folk. There she heard Mass, and made the spiritual communion which sustained her.
Once, in the mediaeval siege of a Spanish fortress, so a Spanish chronicler tells us, all the defenders were slaughtered but one man; and he lay dying on the ground, across the gate. There was neither priest nor wafer; but the dying man raised a little of the soil between the stones to his lips, and so, says the chronicler, ‘communicated in the earth itself,’ before he passed to the Eternal Presence. Eugenie would have done the same with a like ardour and simplicity; her thought differing much, perhaps, in its perceived and logical elements, from that of the dying Spaniard, but none the less profoundly akin. The act was to her the symbol and instrument of an Inflowing Power; the details of those historical beliefs with which it was connected, mattered little. And as she thus leant upon the old, while conscious of the new, she never in truth felt herself alone. It seemed to her, often, that she clasped hands with a vast invisible multitude, in a twilight soon to be dawn.
A fortnight later Dick Watson died. Fenwick saw him several times before the end, and was present at his last moments. The funeral was managed by Cuningham; so were the obituary notices; and Fenwick attended the funeral and read the notices, with that curious mixture of sore grief and jealous irritation into which our human nature is so often betrayed at similar moments.
Then he found himself absorbed by the later rehearsals of The Queen’s Necklace; by the completion of his pictures for the May exhibition; and by the perpetual and ignominious hunt for money. As to this last, it seemed to him that each day was a battle in which he was for ever worsted. He was still trying in vain to sell his house at Chelsea, the house planned at the height of his brief prosperity, built and finely furnished on borrowed money, and now apparently unsaleable, because of certain peculiarities in it, which suited its contriver, and no one else. And meanwhile the bank from which he had borrowed most of his building money was pressing inexorably for repayment; the solicitor in Bedford Row could do nothing, and was manifestly averse to running up a longer bill on his own account; so that, instead of painting, Fenwick often spent his miserable days in rushing about London, trying to raise money by one shift after another, in an agony to get a bill accepted or postponed, borrowing from this person and that, and with every succeeding week losing more self-respect and self-control.