He told her about Paris to her fascination; she had never seen it: about the boulevards and the cafes and the men’s ateliers, and the vagrant pathos of student life there—he had seen some clean bits of it—and to all of this old story he gave such life as a word or a phrase can give. Even his repressions were full of meaning, and the best—she felt it was the best—he had to offer her he offered in fewest words, letting her imagination riot with them. He described Lucien and the American Colony. He made her laugh abundantly over the American amateur as Lucien managed him. They had no end of fun over these interesting, ingenious, and prodigal people in their relation to Parisian professional circles. He touched on Nadie Palicsky lightly, and perhaps it was because Janet insisted upon an accentuation of the lines—he had sent her a photograph of one of Nadie’s best things—that he refrained from mentioning Elfrida altogether. Elfrida, he thought, he would keep till another time. She would need so much explanation; she was too interesting to lug in now, it was getting late. Besides, Elfrida was an exhausting subject, and he was rather done.
Individually a large number of Royal Academicians pronounced John Kendal’s work impertinent, if not insulting, meaningless, affected, or flippant. Collectively, with a corporate opinion that might be discussed but could not be identified, they received it and hung it, smothering a distressful doubt, where it would be least likely to excite either the censure of the right-minded or the admiration of the unorthodox. The Grosvenor gave him a discreet appreciation, and the New received him with joy and thanksgiving. If he had gone to any of the Private Views, which temptation he firmly resisted, he would have heard the British public —for after all the British public is always well represented at a Private View—say discontentedly how much better it would like his pictures if they were only a little more finished. He might even have had the cruel luck to hear one patron of the arts, who began by designing the pictorial advertisements for his own furniture-polish, state that he would buy that twilight effect with the empty fields, if only the trees in the foreground weren’t so blurred. Other things, too, he might have heard that would have amused him more as being less commonplace, but pleased him no better, said by people who cast furtive glances over their shoulders to see if anybody that might be the artist was within reach of their discriminating admiration; and here and there, if he had listened well, a vigorous word that meant recognition and reward. It was not that he did not long for the tritest word of comment from the oracle before which he had chosen to lay the fruit of his labors; indeed, he was so conscious of his desire to know this opinion, not over clever as he believed it, that he ran away on the evening of varnishing-day.