“Sit down and have a chat, then,” I urged; for I always like to be decent with fellows, and it was a lonely sort of place, that yard.
He shook his head.
“Be ready by ten o’clock in the morning,” he said; and he passed down my stairs and crossed the yard to his studio without even having said “Good night.”
Well, he was at my door again at ten o’clock in the morning, and I photographed him. I made three exposures; but the plates were some that I’d had in the place for some time, and they’d gone off and fogged in the developing.
“I’m awfully sorry,” I said; “but I’m going out this afternoon, and will get some more, and we’ll have another shot in the morning.”
One after the other, he was holding the negatives up to the light and examining them. Presently he put them down quietly, leaning them methodically up against the edge of the developing-bath.
“Never mind. It doesn’t matter. Thank you,” he said; and left me.
After that, I didn’t see him for weeks; but at nights I could see the light of his roof-window, shining through the wreathing river-mists, and sometimes I heard him moving about, and the muffled knock-knocking of his hammer on marble.
Of course I did see him again, or I shouldn’t be telling you all this. He came to my door, just as he had done before, and at about the same time in the evening. He hadn’t come to be photographed this time, but for all that it was something about a camera—something he wanted to know. He’d brought two books with him, big books, printed in German. They were on Light, he said, and Physics (or else it was Psychics—I always get those two words wrong). They were full of diagrams and equations and figures; and, of course, it was all miles above my head.
He talked a lot about “hyper-space,” whatever that is; and at first I nodded, as if I knew all about it. But he very soon saw that I didn’t, and he came down to my level again. What he’d come to ask me was this: Did I know anything, of my own experience, about things “photographing through”? (You know the kind of thing: a name that’s been painted out on a board, say, comes up in the plate.)
Well, as it happened, I had once photographed a drawing for a fellow, and the easel I had stood it on had come up through the picture; and I knew by the way Benlian nodded that that was the kind of thing he meant.
“More,” he said.
I told him I’d once seen a photograph of a man with a bowler hat on, and the shape of his crown had showed through the hat.
“Yes, yes,” he said, musing; and then he asked: “Have you ever heard of things not photographing at all?”
But I couldn’t tell him anything about that; and off he started again, about Light and Physics and so on. Then, as soon as I could get a word in, I said, “But, of course, the camera isn’t Art.” (Some of my miniatures, you understand, were jolly nice little things.)