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A Question Of Art
by [?]


John Clayton had pretty nearly run the gamut of the fine arts. As a boy at college he had taken a dilettante interest in music, and having shown some power of sketching the summer girl he had determined to become an artist. His numerous friends had hoped such great things for him that he had been encouraged to spend the rest of his little patrimony in educating himself abroad. It took him nearly two years to find out what being an artist meant, and the next three in thinking what he wanted to do. In Paris and Munich and Rome, the wealth of the possible had dazzled him and confused his aims; he was so skilful and adaptable that in turn he had wooed almost all the arts, and had accomplished enough trivial things to raise very pretty expectations of his future powers. He had enjoyed an uncertain glory among the crowd of American amateurs. When his purse had become empty he returned to America to realize on his prospects.

On his arrival he had elaborately equipped a studio in Boston, but as he found the atmosphere “too provincial” he removed to New York. There he was much courted at a certain class of afternoon teas. He was in full bloom of the “might do,” but he had his suspicions that a fatally limited term of years would translate the tense into “might have done.” He argued, however, that he had not yet found the right milieu; he was fond of that word–conveniently comprehensive of all things that might stimulate his will. He doubted if America ever could furnish him a suitable milieu for the expression of his artistic instincts. But in the meantime necessity for effort was becoming more urgent; he could not live at afternoon teas.

Clayton was related widely to interesting and even influential people. One woman, a distant cousin, had taken upon herself his affairs.

“I will give you another chance,” she said, in a business-like tone, after he had been languidly detailing his condition to her and indicating politely that he was coming to extremities. “Visit me this summer at Bar Harbor. You shall have the little lodge at the Point for a studio, and you can take your meals at the hotel near by. In that way you will be independent. Now, there are three ways, any one of which will lead you out of your difficulties, and if you don’t find one that suits you before October, I shall leave you to your fate.”

The young man appeared interested.

“You can model something–that’s your line, isn’t it?”

Clayton nodded meekly. He had resolved to become a sculptor during his last six months in Italy.

“And so put you on your feet, professionally.” Clayton sighed. “Or you can find some rich patron or patroness who will send you over for a couple of years more until your chef d’ oeuvre makes its appearance.” Her pupil turned red, and began to murmur, but she kept on unperturbed. “Or, best of all, you can marry a girl with some money and then do what you like.” At this Clayton rose abruptly.

“I haven’t come to that,” he growled.

“Don’t be silly,” she pursued. “You are really charming; good character; exquisite manners; pleasant habits; success with women. You needn’t feel flattered, for this is your stock in trade. You are decidedly interesting, and lots of those girls who are brought there every year to get them in would be glad to make such an exchange. You know everybody, and you could give any girl a good standing in Boston or New York. Besides, there is your genius, which may develop. That will be thrown in to boot; it may bear interest.”

Clayton, who had begun by feeling how disagreeable his situation was when it exposed him to this kind of hauling over, ended by bursting into a cordial laugh at the frank materialism with which his cousin presented his case. “Well,” he exclaimed, “it’s no go to talk to you about the claims and ideals of art, Cousin Della, but I will accept your offer, if only for the sake of modelling a bust of ‘The Energetic Matron (American).'”