Eden was annoyed. Burton Ives had been very nice to her and had begged her to sit for him. “You must admit that he’s a very successful one,” she said coldly.
“Of course he is! Anybody can be successful who will do that sort of thing. I wouldn’t paint his pictures for all the money in New York.”
“Well, I saw a lot of them, and I think they are beautiful.”
Hedger bowed stiffly.
“What’s the use of being a great painter if nobody knows about you?” Eden went on persuasively. “Why don’t you paint the kind of pictures people can understand, and then, after you’re successful, do whatever you like?”
“As I look at it,” said Hedger brusquely, “I am successful.”
Eden glanced about. “Well, I don’t see any evidences of it,” she said, biting her lip. “He has a Japanese servant and a wine cellar, and keeps a riding horse.”
Hedger melted a little. “My dear, I have the most expensive luxury in the world, and I am much more extravagant than Burton Ives, for I work to please nobody but myself.”
“You mean you could make money and don’t? That you don’t try to get a public?”
“Exactly. A public only wants what has been done over and over. I’m painting for painters,—who haven’t been born.”
“What would you do if I brought Mr. Ives down here to see your things?”
“Well, for God’s sake, don’t! Before he left I’d probably tell him what I thought of him.”
Eden rose. “I give you up. You know very well there’s only one kind of success that’s real.”
“Yes, but it’s not the kind you mean. So you’ve been thinking me a scrub painter, who needs a helping hand from some fashionable studio man? What the devil have you had anything to do with me for, then?”
“There’s no use talking to you,” said Eden walking slowly toward the door. “I’ve been trying to pull wires for you all afternoon, and this is what it comes to.” She had expected that the tidings of a prospective call from the great man would be received very differently, and had been thinking as she came home in the stage how, as with a magic wand, she might gild Hedger’s future, float him out of his dark hole on a tide of prosperity, see his name in the papers and his pictures in the windows on Fifth Avenue.
Hedger mechanically snapped the midsummer leash on Caesar’s collar and they ran downstairs and hurried through Sullivan Street off toward the river. He wanted to be among rough, honest people, to get down where the big drays bumped over stone paving blocks and the men wore corduroy trowsers and kept their shirts open at the neck. He stopped for a drink in one of the sagging bar-rooms on the water front. He had never in his life been so deeply wounded; he did not know he could be so hurt. He had told this girl all his secrets. On the roof, in these warm, heavy summer nights, with her hands locked in his, he had been able to explain all his misty ideas about an unborn art the world was waiting for; had been able to explain them better than he had ever done to himself. And she had looked away to the chattels of this uptown studio and coveted them for him! To her he was only an unsuccessful Burton Ives.