I laid it all before him, almost as if I sought to propitiate him. I might have been courting his patronage for his own “Life.” Then, with a start, I came to, to find myself talking nonsense to the portrait that years before Andriaovsky had refused to sell me.
The first check I experienced in the hitherto so easy flow of the “Life” came at the chapter that dealt with Andriaovsky’s attitude towards “professionalism” in Art. He was inflexible on this point; there ought not to be professional artists. When it was pointed out that his position involved a premium upon the rich amateur, he merely replied that riches had nothing to do with the question, and that the starver in the garret was not excused for his poverty’s sake from the observance of the implacable conditions. He spoke literally of the “need” to create, usually in the French term, besogne; and he was inclined to regard the imposition of this need on a man rather as a curse laid upon him than as a privilege and a pleasure. But I must not enlarge upon this further than to observe that this portion of his “Life” which I was approaching coincided in point of time with that period of my own life at which I had been confronted with the alternative of starving for Art’s sake or becoming rich by supplying a clamorous trade demand.
It came, this check I have spoken of, one night, as I was in the very middle of a sentence; and though I have cudgelled my brains in seeking how best I can describe it, I am reduced to the simple statement that it was as arresting, as sharp, actual and impossible to resist, as if my hand had been seized and pinned down in its passage across the paper. I can even see again the fragment of the sentence I had written: “... and the mere contemplation of a betrayal so essential—” Then came that abrupt and remarkable stop. It was such an experience as I had formerly known only in nightmare.
I sat there looking blankly and stupidly at my own hand. And not only was my hand arrested, but my brain also had completely ceased to work. For the life of me I could not recall the conclusion of the sentence I had planned a moment before.