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De Amicitia
by [?]

The painter arrived at the station with a box of sweets, which he handed to Valentia with a smile. He shook Ferdinand’s hand warmly and muttered under his breath,–

‘Silly fool! he’s thinking of friendship, too!’

Then, as the train steamed out, he waved his hand and cried,–

‘Be foolish! Be foolish!’

He walked slowly out of the station, and sat down at a cafe. He lit a cigarette, and, sipping his absinthe, said,–



They arrived at Amsterdam in the evening, and, after dinner, gathered together their belongings and crossed the Ij as the moon shone over the waters; then they got into the little steam tram and started for Monnickendam. They stood side by side on the platform of the carriage and watched the broad meadows bathed in moonlight, the formless shapes of the cattle lying on the grass, and the black outlines of the mills; they passed by a long, sleeping canal, and they stopped at little, silent villages. At last they entered the dead town, and the tram put them down at the hotel door.

Next morning, when she was half dressed, Valentia threw open the window of her room, and looked out into the garden. Ferdinand was walking about, dressed as befitted the place and season–in flannels–with a huge white hat on his head. She could not help thinking him very handsome–and she took off the blue skirt she had intended to work in, and put on a dress of muslin all bespattered with coloured flowers, and she took in her hand a flat straw hat with red ribbons.

‘You look like a Dresden shepherdess,’ he said, as they met.

They had breakfast in the garden beneath the trees; and as she poured out his tea, she laughed, and with the American accent which he was beginning to think made English so harmonious, said,–

‘I reckon this about takes the shine out of Paris.’

They had agreed to start work at once, losing no time, for they wanted to have a lot to show on their return to France, that their scheme might justify itself. Ferdinand wished to accompany Valentia on her search for the picturesque, but she would not let him; so, after breakfast, he sat himself down in the summer-house, and spread out all round him his nice white paper, lit his pipe, cut his quills, and proceeded to the evolution of a masterpiece. Valentia tied the red strings of her sun-bonnet under her chin, selected a sketchbook, and sallied forth.

At luncheon they met, and Valentia told of a little bit of canal, with an old windmill on one side of it, which she had decided to paint, while Ferdinand announced that he had settled on the names of his dramatis personae. In the afternoon they returned to their work, and at night, tired with the previous day’s travelling, went to bed soon after dinner.

So passed the second day; and the third day, and the fourth; till the end of the week came, and they had worked diligently. They were both of them rather surprised at the ease with which they became accustomed to their life.

‘How absurd all this fuss is,’ said Valentia, ‘that people make about the differences of the sexes! I am sure it is only habit.’

‘We have ourselves to prove that there is nothing in it,’ he replied. ‘You know, it is an interesting experiment that we are making.’

She had not looked at it in that light before.

‘Perhaps it is. We may be the fore-runners of a new era.’

‘The Edisons of a new communion!’

‘I shall write and tell Monsieur Rollo all about it.’

In the course of the letter, she said,–

Sex is a morbid instinct. Out here, in the calmness of the canal and the broad meadows, it never enters one’s head. I do not think of Ferdinand as a man–

She looked up at him as she wrote the words. He was reading a book and she saw him in profile, with the head bent down. Through the leaves the sun lit up his face with a soft light that was almost green, and it occurred to her that it would be interesting to paint him.