The Penalty eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 232 pages of information about The Penalty.

III

It seemed to Wilmot that he had not seen Barbara for an age.  And indeed a week had passed without their meeting.  Therefore, although he had often been forbidden to call during working hours, he had himself driven to 17 McBurney Place and climbed the two flights of stairs to her studio.

It was a disconsolate Barbara who received him.  She had on her work-apron, but she was not working.  She sat in a deep chair, and presented the soles of her small shoes to an open fire.  Wilmot, expecting to be scolded for disobeying orders, was relieved at being received with visible signs of pleasure.

“You’re just the person I wanted to see,” she said, “just the one and only Wilmot in the world.”

“Are you dying?” he asked.

She laughed.  “I’m discouraged.  I’ve come to one of those times when you just want to chuck everything.  And there’s a man at the bottom of it.”

“Tell me,” said Wilmot, “in words of two syllables.”

“Well,” said Barbara, “I woke up in the middle of the night out of a dream.  I dreamed I’d made a statue of Satan after the fall from heaven, and that everybody said:  ‘Well done, Barbs, bully for you,’ ’Got Rodin skinned a mile’—­it was you said that—­and so forth and so on.  I rose, swollen with conceit, and made a sketch of the head I’d dreamed about, so’s not to forget the pose, and then I went to sleep again.  Next day, early, a man stopped me in Washington Square and begged for a dime.  I looked at him, and he had just the expression of the fallen Satan I’d dreamed about—­a beast of a face, but all filled with a sort of hopeless longing to ‘get back,’ and remorse.  I invited him to pose for me—­not for a dime—­but for real money.  Well, he fell for it.  And for all that morning he looked just the way I wanted him to look.  But the next morning, having had the spending of certain moneys, he looked too tidy and well fed for Satan.  And this morning he was hopeless.  He looked smug and fatuous and disgustingly self-satisfied.  So I gave him quite a lot of money, not wishing to hurt the creature’s feelings, and told him to go away.”  She looked up, laughing at herself.  “Do you know, I really believed I’d dreamed out a golden inspiration, and then to strike just the face I wanted—­and then to have everything foozle out!”

Wilmot walked over to the modelling-table on which, strongly modelled in wet clay but quite meaningless, was the bust of a man.

“I think.” said Barbara, “it would look better if you snubbed his nose for him.”

Wilmot snubbed the long nose heavenward, and the effect was such as to make them laugh.  Barbara recovered all her usual good humor.

[Illustration:  She had on her work-apron, but she was not working.]

“Get some forms out of the kitchen,” she said, “and we’ll turn him into mud pies.”

For half an hour they diverted themselves, displaying a tremendous rivalry and enthusiasm.  And then Barbara announced that there had been enough foolishness, and that if Wilmot would put fuel on the fire, he might talk with her till lunch-time and then take her out to lunch.

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The Penalty from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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