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The Painter
by [?]

MR PAUL SAMWAYS was in a mood of deep depression. The artistic temperament is peculiarly subject to these moods, but in Paul’s case there was reason why he should take a gloomy view of things. His masterpiece, “The Shot Tower from Battersea Bridge,” together with the companion picture, “Battersea Bridge from the Shot Tower,” had been purchased by a dealer for seventeen and sixpence. His sepia monochrome, “Night,” had brought him an I.O.U. for five shillings. These were his sole earnings for the last six weeks, and starvation stared him in the face.

“If only I had a little capital!” he cried aloud in despair. “Enough to support me until my Academy picture is finished.” His Academy picture was a masterly study entitled, “Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean, roll,” and he had been compelled to stop half-way across the Channel through sheer lack of ultramarine.

The clock struck two, reminding him that he had not lunched. He rose wearily and went to the little cupboard which served as a larder. There was but little there to make a satisfying meal–half a loaf of bread, a corner of cheese, and a small tube of Chinese-white. Mechanically he set the things out….

He had finished, and was clearing away, when there came a knock at the door. His charwoman, whose duty it was to clean his brushes every week, came in with a card.

“A lady to see you, sir,” she said.

Paul read the card in astonishment.

“The Duchess of Winchester,” he exclaimed. “What on earth–Show her in, please.” Hastily picking up a brush and the first tube which came to hand, he placed himself in a dramatic position before his easel and set to work.

“How do you do, Mr Samways?” said the

Duchess.

“G–good-afternoon,” said Paul, embarrassed both by the presence of a duchess in his studio and by his sudden discovery that he was touching up a sunset with a tube of carbolic tooth-paste.

“Our mutual friend, Lord Ernest Topwood, recommended me to come to you.”

Paul, who had never met Lord Ernest, but had once seen his name in a ha’penny paper beneath a photograph of Mr Arnold Bennett, bowed silently.

“As you probably guess, I want you to paint my daughter’s portrait.”

Paul opened his mouth to say that he was only a landscape painter, and then closed it again. After all, it was hardly fair to bother her Grace with technicalities.

“I hope you can undertake this commission,” she said pleadingly.

“I shall be delighted,” said Paul. “I am rather busy just now, but I could begin at two o’clock on Monday.”

“Excellent,” said the Duchess. “Till Monday, then.” And Paul, still clutching the tooth-paste, conducted her to her carriage.

Punctually at 3.15 on Monday Lady Hermione appeared. Paul drew a deep breath of astonishment when he saw her, for she was lovely beyond compare. All his skill as a landscape painter would be needed if he were to do justice to her beauty. As quickly as possible he placed her in position and set to work.

“May I let my face go for a moment?” said Lady Hermione after three hours of it.

“Yes, let us stop,” said Paul. He had outlined her in charcoal and burnt cork, and it would be too dark to do any more that evening.

“Tell me where you first met Lord Ernest?” she asked as she came down to the fire.

“At the Savoy, in June,” said Paul boldly.

Lady Hermione laughed merrily. Paul, who had not regarded his last remark as one of his best things, looked at her in surprise.

“But your portrait of him was in the Academy in May!” she smiled.

Paul made up his mind quickly.

“Lady Hermione,” he said with gravity, “do not speak to me of Lord Ernest again. Nor,” he added hurriedly, “to Lord Ernest of me. When your picture is finished I will tell you why. Now it is time you went.” He woke the Duchess up, and made a few commonplace remarks about the weather. “Remember,” he whispered to Lady Hermione as he saw them to their car. She nodded and smiled.