Then, followed submissively by “that other monsieur,” he strode into the path and went thundering forth through the forest.
No doubt the most absurd thing I could have done after the departure of Professor Keredec and his singular friend would have been to settle myself before my canvas again with the intention of painting—and that is what I did. At least, I resumed my camp-stool and went through some of the motions habitually connected with the act of painting.
I remember that the first time in my juvenile reading I came upon the phrase, “seated in a brown study,” I pictured my hero in a brown chair, beside a brown table, in a room hung with brown paper. Later, being enlightened, I was ambitious to display the figure myself, but the uses of ordinary correspondence allowed the occasion for it to remain unoffered. Let me not only seize upon the present opportunity but gild it, for the adventure of the afternoon left me in a study which was, at its mildest, a profound purple.
The confession has been made of my curiosity concerning my fellow-lodgers at Les Trois Pigeons; however, it had been comparatively a torpid growth; my meeting with them served to enlarge it so suddenly and to such proportions that I wonder it did not strangle me. In fine, I sat there brush-paddling my failure like an automaton, and saying over and over aloud, “What is wrong with him? What is wrong with him?”
This was the sillier inasmuch as the word “wrong” (bearing any significance of a darkened mind) had not the slightest application to “that other monsieur.” There had been neither darkness nor dullness; his eyes, his expression, his manner, betrayed no hint of wildness; rather they bespoke a quick and amiable intelligence—the more amazing that he had shown himself ignorant of things a child of ten would know. Amedee and his fellows of Les Trois Pigeons had judged wrongly of his nationality; his face was of the lean, right, American structure; but they had hit the relation between the two men: Keredec was the master and “that other monsieur” the scholar—a pupil studying boys’ textbooks and receiving instruction in matters and manners that children are taught. And yet I could not believe him to be a simple case of arrested development. For the matter of that, I did not like to think of him as a “case” at all. There had been something about his bright youthfulness— perhaps it was his quick contrition for his rudeness, perhaps it was a certain wistful quality he had, perhaps it was his very “singularity”— which appealed as directly to my liking as it did urgently to my sympathy.
I came out of my vari-coloured study with a start, caused by the discovery that I had absent-mindedly squeezed upon my palette the entire contents of an expensive tube of cobalt violet, for which I had no present use; and sighing (for, of necessity, I am an economical man), I postponed both of my problems till another day, determined to efface the one with a palette knife and a rag soaked in turpentine, and to defer the other until I should know more of my fellow-lodgers at Madame Brossard’s.