Kendal, as the door closed behind Elfrida on the afternoon of her last sitting, shutting him in with himself and the portrait on the easel, and the revelation she had made, did his best to feel contrition, and wondered that he was so little successful. He assured himself that he had been a brute; yet in an uncompromising review of all that he had ever said or done in connection with Elfrida he failed to satisfy his own indignation with himself by discovering any occasion upon which his brutality had been particularly obvious. He remembered with involuntary self-justification how distinctly she had insisted upon camaraderie between them, how she had spurned everything that savored of another standard of manners on his, part, how she had once actually had the curious taste to want him to call her “old chap,” and how it had grated. He remembered her only half-veiled invitation, her challenge to him to see as much as he cared, and to make what he could of her. He was to blame for accepting, but he would have been a conceited ass if he had thought of the danger of a result like this. In the midst of his reflections an idea came to him about the portrait, and he observed, with irritation, after giving it a few touches, that the light was irretrievably gone for the day.
Next morning he worked for three hours at it without a pang, and in the afternoon with relaxed nerves and a high heart, he took his hat and turned his face toward Kensington Square. The distance was considerable, but he walked lightly, rapidly, with a conscious enjoyment of that form of relief to his wrought nerves, his very limbs drawing energy from the knowledge of his finished work. Never before had he felt so completely the divine sense of success, and though he had worked at the portrait with passionate concentration from the beginning, this realization had come to him only the day before, when, stepping back to look with Elfrida, he saw what he had done. Troubled as the revelation was, in it he saw himself a master. He had for once escaped, and he felt that the escape was a notable one, from the tyranny of his brilliant-technique. He had subjected it to his idea, which had grown upon the canvas obscure to him under his own brush until that final moment, and he recognized with astonishment how relative and incidental the truth of the treatment seemed in comparison with the truth of the idea.
With the modern scornful word for the literary value of paintings on his lips, Kendal was forced to admit that in this his consummate picture, as he very truly thought it, the chief significance lay elsewhere than in the brushing and the color—they were only its dramatic exponents—and the knowledge of this brought him a new and glorious sense of control. It had already carried him further in power, this portrait, it would carry him further in place, than anything he had yet done; and the thought gave a sparkle