Evening papers reported that Harman was “lingering.” He was lingering the next day. He was lingering the next week, and the end of a month saw him still “lingering.” Then I went down to Capri, where—for he had been after all the merest episode to me—I was pleased to forget all about him.
A great many people keep their friends in mind by writing to them, but more do not; and Ward and I belong to the majority. After my departure from Paris I had but one missive from him, a short note, written at the request of his sister, asking me to be on the lookout for Italian earrings, to add to her collection of old jewels. So, from time to time, I sent her what I could find about Capri or in Naples, and she responded with neat little letters of acknowledgment.
Two years I stayed on Capri, eating the lotus which grows on that happy island, and painting very little—only enough, indeed, to be remembered at the Salon and not so much as knowing how kindly or unkindly they hung my pictures there. But even on Capri, people sometimes hear the call of Paris and wish to be in that unending movement: to hear the multitudinous rumble, to watch the procession from a cafe terrace and to dine at Foyot’s. So there came at last a fine day when I, knowing that the horse-chestnuts were in bloom along the Champs Elysees, threw my rope-soled shoes to a beggar, packed a rusty trunk, and was off for the banks of the Seine.
My arrival—just the drive from the Gare de Lyon to my studio—was like the shock of surf on a bather’s breast.
The stir and life, the cheerful energy of the streets, put stir and life and cheerful energy into me. I felt the itch to work again, to be at it, at it in earnest—to lose no hour of daylight, and to paint better than I had painted!
Paris having given me this impetus, I dared not tempt her further, nor allow the edge of my eagerness time to blunt; therefore, at the end of a fortnight, I went over into Normandy and deposited that rusty trunk of mine in a corner of the summer pavilion in the courtyard of Madame Brossard’s inn, Les Trois Pigeons, in a woodland neighborhood that is there. Here I had painted through a prolific summer of my youth, and I was glad to find—as I had hoped—nothing changed; for the place was dear to me. Madame Brossard (dark, thin, demure as of yore, a fine-looking woman with a fine manner and much the flavour of old Norman portraits) gave me a pleasant welcome, remembering me readily but without surprise, while Amedee, the antique servitor, cackled over me and was as proud of my advent as if I had been a new egg and he had laid me. The simile is grotesque; but Amedee is the most henlike waiter in France.