And it didn’t seem in the least horrible to me, for I kept on murmuring, “Of course, of course.”
Then Benlian rubbed his hands and smiled at me. “I’m making good progress, am I not?” he said.
“Splendid!” I breathed.
“Better than you know, too,” he chuckled, “for you’re not properly under yet. But you will be, Pudgie, you will be—”
“Yes, yes!... Will it be long, Benlian?”
“No,” he replied, “not if I can keep from eating and sleeping and thinking of other things than the statue—and if you don’t disturb me by having girls about the place, Pudgie.”
“I’m awfully sorry,” I said contritely.
“All right, all right; ssh!... This, you know, Pudgie, is my own studio; I bought it; I bought it purposely to make my statue, my god. I’m passing nicely into it; and when I’m quite passed—quite passed, Pudgie—you can have the key and come in when you like.”
“Oh, thanks awfully,” I murmured gratefully.
He nudged me.
“What would they think of it, Pudgie—those of the exhibitions and academies, who say ‘their souls are in their work’? What would the cacklers think of it, Pudgie?”
“Aren’t they fools!” I chuckled.
“And I shall have one worshipper, shan’t I, Pudgie?”
“Rather!” I replied. “Isn’t it splendid!... Oh, need I go back just yet?”
“Yes, you must go now; but I’ll send for you again very soon.... You know I tried to do without you, Pudge; I tried for thirteen days, and it nearly killed me! That’s past. I shan’t try again. Now off you trot, my Pudgie—”
I winked at him knowingly, and came skipping and dancing across the yard.
It’s just silly—that’s what it is—to say that something of a man doesn’t go into his work.
Why, even those wretched little ivories of mine, the thick-headed fellows who paid for them knew my touch in them, and once spotted it instantly when I tried to slip in another chap’s who was hard up. Benlian used to say that a man went about spreading himself over everything he came in contact with—diffusing some sort of influence (as far as I could make it out); and the mistake was, he said, that we went through the world just wasting it instead of directing it. And if Benlian didn’t understand all about those things, I should jolly well like to know who does! A chap with a great abounding will and brain like him, it’s only natural he should be able to pass himself on, to a statue or anything else, when he really tried—did without food and talk and sleep in order to save himself up for it!
“A man can’t both do and be,” I remember he said to me once. “He’s so much force, no more, and he can either make himself with it or something else. If he tries to do both, he does both imperfectly. I’m going to do one perfect thing.” Oh, he was a queer chap! Fancy, a fellow making a thing like that statue, out of himself, and then wanting somebody to adore him!