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- The Emancipated - 10/91 -
in what you don't understand? I see now what I have been forced to suspect--that your character is just as practical as that of other women. Your talk of art is nothing more than talk. You think, in truth, of pounds, shillings and pence."
"I think of them a good deal," said Madeline, "and I should be an idiot if I didn't. What is art if the artist has nothing to live on? Pray, what are _you_ going to do henceforth? Shall you scorn the mention of pounds, shillings and pence? Come to see me when you have had no dinner to-day, and are feeling very uncertain about breakfast in the morning, and I will say, 'Pooh! your talk about art was after all nothing but talk; you are a sham!'"
Marsh's leg began to ache. He rose and moved about the room. Madeline at length turned her eyes to him; he was brooding genuinely, and not for effect. Her glance discerned this.
"Well, and what _are_ you going to do, ill fact?" she asked.
"I'm hanged if I know, Mad; and there's the truth."
He turned and regarded her with wide eyes, seriously perceptive of a blank horizon.
"I've asked him to let me have half the money, but he refuses even that. His object is, of course, to compel me into the life of a Philistine. I believe the fellow thinks it's kindness; I know my mother does. She, of course, has as little faith in me as you have."
Madeline did not resent this. She regarded the floor for a minute, and, without raising her eyes, said:
"Come here, Clifford."
He approached. Still without raising her eyes, she again spoke.
"Do you believe in yourself?"
The words were impressive. Marsh gave a start, uttered an impatient sound, and half turned away.
"Do you believe in yourself, Clifford?"
"Of course I do!" came from him blusterously.
"Very well. In that case, struggle on. If you care for the kind of help you once said I could give you. I will try to give it still. Paint something that will sell, and go on with the other work at the same time."
"Something that will sell!" he exclaimed, with disgust. "I can't, so there's an end of it."
"And an end of your artist life, it seems to me. Unless you have any other plan?"
"I wondered whether you could suggest any."
Madeline shook her head slowly. They both brooded in a cheerless way. When the girl again spoke, it was in an undertone, as if not quite sure that she wished to be heard.
"I had rather you were an artist than anything else, Clifford."
Marsh decided not to hear. He thrust his hands deeper into his pockets, and trod about the floor heavily. Madeline made another remark.
"I suppose the kind of work that is proposed for you would leave you no time for art?"
"Pooh! of course not. Who was ever Philistine and artist at the same time?"
"Well, it's a bad job. I wish I could help you. I wish I had money.
"If you had, _I_ shouldn't benefit by it," was the exasperated reply.
"Will you please to do what you were going to do at first, and tell Barbara I wish to speak to her?"
"Yes, I will."
His temper grew worse. In his weakness he really had thought it likely that Madeline would suggest something hopeful. Men of his stamp constantly entertain unreasonable expectations, and are angry when the unreason is forced upon their consciousness.
"One word before you go, please," said Madeline, standing up and speaking with emphasis. "After what you said just now, this is, of course, our last interview of this kind. When we meet again--and I think it would be gentlemanly in you to go and live somewhere else--you are Mr. Marsh, and I, if you please, am Miss Denyer."
"I will bear it in mind."
"Thank you." He still lingered near the door. "Be good enough to leave me."
He made an effort and left the room. When the door had closed, Madeline heaved a deep sigh, and was for some minutes in a brown, if not a black, study. Then she shivered a little, sighed again, and again took up the volume she had been reading. It was Daudet's "Les Femmes d'Artistes."
Not long after, all the Denyers were reunited in their sitting-room. Mrs. Denyer had brought up an open letter.
"From your father again," she said, addressing the girls conjointly. "I am sure he wears me out. This is worse than the last. 'The fact of the matter is, I must warn you very seriously that I can't supply you with as much as I have been doing. I repeat that I am serious this time. It's a horrible bore, and a good deal worse than a bore. If I could keep your remittances the same by doing on less myself, I would, but there's no possibility of that. I shall be in Alexandria in ten days, and perhaps Colossi will have some money for me, but I can't count on it. Things have gone deuced badly, and are likely to go even worse, as far as I can see. Do think about getting less expensive quarters. I wish to heaven poor little Mad could get married! Hasn't Marsh any prospects yet?'"
"That's all at an end," remarked Madeline, interrupting. "We've just come to an understanding."
Mrs. Denyer stared.
"You've broken off?"
"Mr. Marsh's allowance is to be stopped. His prospects are worse than ever. What's the good of keeping up our engagement?"
There was a confused colloquy between all four. Barbara shrugged her fair shoulders; Zillah looked very gravely and pitifully at Madeline. Madeline herself seemed the least concerned.
"I won't have this!" cried Mrs. Denyer, finally. "His step-father is willing to give him a position in business, and he must accept it; then the marriage can be soon."
"The marriage will decidedly _not_ be soon, mother!" replied Madeline, haughtily. "I shall judge for myself in this, at all events."
"You are a silly, empty-headed girl!" retorted her mother, with swelling bosom and reddening face. "You have quarrelled on some simpleton's question, no doubt. He will accept his step-father's offer; we know that well enough. He ought to have done so a year ago, and our difficulties would have been lightened. Your father means what he says?"
"Wolf!" cried Barbara, petulantly.
"Well, I can see that the wolf has come at last, in good earnest. My girl, you'll have to become more serious Barbara, _you_ at all events, cannot afford to trifle."
"I am no trifler!" cried the enthusiast for Italian unity and regeneracy.
"Let us have proof of that, then." Mrs. Denyer looked at her meaningly.
"Mother," said Zillah, earnestly, "do let me write to Mrs. Stonehouse, and beg her to find me a place as nursery governess. I can manage that, I feel sure."
"I'll think about it, dear. But, Madeline, I insist on your putting an end to this ridiculous state of things. You will _order_ him to take the position offered."
"Mother, I can do nothing of the kind. if necessary, I'll go for a governess as well."
Thereupon Zillah wept, protesting that such desecration was impossible. The scene prolonged itself to midnight. On the morrow, with the exception of Mrs. Denyer's resolve to subdue Marsh, all was forgotten, and the Denyer family pursued their old course, putting off decided action until there should come another cry of "Wolf!"
But for the aid of his wife's more sympathetic insight, Edward Spence would have continued to interpret Miriam's cheerless frame of mind as a mere result of impatience at being removed from the familiar scenes of her religious activity, and of disquietude amid uncongenial surroundings. "A Puritan at Naples"--that was the phrase which represented her to his imagination; his liking for the picturesque and suggestive led him to regard her solely in that light. No strain of modern humanitarianism complicated Miriam's character. One had not to take into account a possible melancholy
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