“All right, Chris! I don’t ask for quarter, and I don’t give it!”
Harz made a gesture of despair.
“I’ve acted squarely by you, sir,” Mr. Treffry went on, “I ask the same of you. I ask you to wait, and come like an honest man, when you can say, ‘I see my way—here’s this and that for her.’ What makes this art you talk of different from any other call in life? It doesn’t alter facts, or give you what other men have no right to expect. It doesn’t put grit into you, or keep your hands clean, or prove that two and two make five.”
Harz answered bitterly:
“You know as much of art as I know of money. If we live a thousand years we shall never understand each other. I am doing what I feel is best for both of us.”
Mr. Treffry took hold of the painter’s sleeve.
“I make you an offer,” he said. “Your word not to see or write to her for a year! Then, position or not, money or no money, if she’ll have you, I’ll make it right for you.”
“I could not take your money.”
A kind of despair seemed suddenly to seize on Mr. Nicholas Treffry. He rose, and stood towering over them.
“All my life—” he said; but something seemed to click deep down in his throat, and he sank back in his seat.
“Go!” whispered Christian, “go!” But Mr. Treffry found his voice again: “It’s for the child to say. Well, Chris!”
Christian did not speak.
It was Harz who broke the silence. He pointed to Mr. Treffry.
“You know I can’t tell you to come with—that, there. Why did you send for me?” And, turning, he went out.
Christian sank on her knees, burying her face in her hands. Mr. Treffry pressed his handkerchief with a stealthy movement to his mouth. It was dyed crimson with the price of his victory.
A telegram had summoned Herr Paul from Vienna. He had started forthwith, leaving several unpaid accounts to a more joyful opportunity, amongst them a chemist’s bill, for a wonderful quack medicine of which he brought six bottles.
He came from Mr. Treffry’s room with tears rolling down his cheeks, saying:
“Poor Nicholas! Poor Nicholas! Il n’a pas de chance!”
It was difficult to find any one to listen; the women were scared and silent, waiting for the orders that were now and then whispered through the door. Herr Paul could not bear this silence, and talked to his servant for half an hour, till Fritz also vanished to fetch something from the town. Then in despair Herr Paul went to his room.
It was hard not to be allowed to help—it was hard to wait! When the heart was suffering, it was frightful! He turned and, looking furtively about him, lighted a cigar. Yes, it came to every one—at some time or other; and what was it, that death they talked of? Was it any worse than life? That frightful jumble people made for themselves! Poor Nicholas! After all, it was he that had the luck!