Page images
PDF
EPUB

avenue.

[ocr errors]

AUTHOR AND ARTIST.

A Sketch.
BY THE AUTHOR OF “IN THE SHADOW OF GOD,” ETC.

. morning, a vigorous hand swung open Frank's nervousness of manner increased. the handsome iron gate of Plas Wydllan, North Glancing anxiously upwards at the bedroom Wales, and a couple of anglers, one of them windows, he observed that they were closed. bearing a basket of trout, entered the long “I don't like the look of things, Charlie,”

Both were young; but there may he said. have been some five years' difference between “Oh, we anglers, who rise at four, are apt them. The mood of the elder was quiet and to grow vague in our notions of time. It rather silent, as became a brother of the gentle may be earlier than we thought." craft; but the younger seemed excited, at “ What if it were?” returned Frank with one moment pleasurably, at the next rather more sharpness than was quite necessary. painfully; sometimes he broke into a snatch " The family—the young ladies, at least, are of song, then relapsed into silence; some all early risers, I know." times he was disposed to rally his companion “Well, we shall soon see. The bell is at for his gravity, then as suddenly grew grave your side.” himself. The dress of both was suited to Frank rang, and more loudly than he inthe hour and the occupation; but the younger tended; indeed, so loudly that he was startled had evidently bestowed thought and care by the sound. Eh, that's too well done,” upon his, as if he wished, and had a strong he said. “They will think me a tyrant in motive for wishing, to look his best and embryo.” make a favourable impression. He was an “They will not think about you till they author, but the name of Frank Merton was hear your name and see your spoils,” said as yet unknown to fame; and, happily, he Charles, unbuckling the strap which fastened did not altogether depend upon fame for the trout basket to his friend's shoulder. daily bread. His holiday companion and Capital trout, these,-how lucky we have intimate friend, Charles Wiseheart

, was a been!" landscape painter, not famous, but farther Say you ; I'm not cool enough for an advanced in his profession by at least three angler.” years of honest, earnest toil. Both looked “ The door is open.” upon the public for whose recognition they Frank made a brief inquiry. were labouring in hope, as they looked upon “ All away, sir," was the answer. the stately mansion, now becoming visible family left this yesterday, for Switzerland." through the trees, where they expected to "Left -- yesterday for Switserland!find a cordial greeting and pleasant friends, Frank echoed in tones of despair, while his and to sit down by-and-by as welcome guests bronzed face whitened visibly. After that, at a well-spread board. They had a general he said no more. Charles expressed their invitation from the owner of Plas Wydllan, regret and vexation more calmly; and they to “turn in” any morning their sport led turned away. In perfect silence they retraced them in that direction.

their steps down the long avenue. But when “I suppose, Frank,” said Charles as they they passed out of the gate, Charles said, approached the house, “you hardly expect “ Let us go home across the moor." me to lounge about here all day. What is “Don't care if we do.” Another silence; sport to one man may be death to another. then Frank broke out impetuously, as his You are the friend of the family; they only friend knew he was sure to do sooner or make me welcome for your sake. So, if all later, “Those three days' rain have undone goes as you wish, I shall leave the field clear me, spoiled everything! Had we but been for you soon after breakfast, walk round by here on Tuesday-ay, Wednesday even-all the shaking bridge, and finish that sketch I would have been right then, I am sure of it. began on Monday. We can meet at the inn Don't take that comfort from me, at least. for dinner.”

A man knows his own chance, and, since “All right,” said Frank, with the air of the day of the picnic, I have known mine. one who added mentally, “I hope it may Too late now! First Switzerland, then the be all right."

London season-with all it brings to one They had now come to the wide gravelled | like her. Next year ?-you may as well say

[ocr errors]

first page.”

next century—by next year she will be out intend from the beginning that Tom Saunders of my reach, far as the Koh-i-noor. It's hard, (don't be angry if I call him the villain of hard to be the sport of fate in this way-to your story—not quite the traditional stage have one's whole life set wrong because the villain, I allow) should lose his life in that rain happens to fall one day rather than railway accident, or was it an after-thought another. There is neither sense, nor reason, at the end ?” nor meaning in it all. Don't say a word to Now the author, especially the young me about it, Charlie—words are no use. author, who does not meet an intelligent What's this Carlyle tells us about consuming question about his mode of working halfour own smoke? At all events, I need not way, must be more heavy of heart than even make you the victim of my worry and vex- Frank Merton. Moreover, Frank was very ation. Let us talk of other things.”

fond of the theory of his art, and much given And Frank walked along proudly, with to expounding it. head erect and feet that almost spurned the " I intended it," he said, “throughout. ground, as if determined to trample down Don't you remember, in the very first scene, all personal considerations, and to afford his how he bullies his poor, timid little wife for friend the sublime spectacle of a broken- being “afraid to travel on those dreadful railhearted man heroically resigned and self-ways'? An author should have his whole forgetful. Even in his keenest pain there plot in his mind before he puts pen to paper. was a touch of the self-consciousness fostered The reader should not be able to forecast by the habit of analyzing and describing the issue, yet should know, when he discovers feeling; but there was also the sensitiveness it, that the author knew it throughout, and and intensity of the true imaginative tem- was working for it, and up to it, from the perament.

Had any one told Charles that he was “I have heard that some of the very best “managing” his friend, " playing him” authors have not known the end from the skilfully, after the manner of anglers, he beginning." might have resented the accusation; and yet “That was the imperfection of their art," as a fact his knowledge of his character and said Frank with the dogmatism of threehis moods, a knowledge quickened by love, and-twenty. “They ought to have known. gave him, in dealing with him, that uncon- But the best things are not always the scious art which is really the perfection of most faultless in construction. 'A diaart. He did not attempt consolation or mond with a flaw is better than a pebble remonstrance, but said presently, in a com- without one.' A comparatively commonmon-place tone, “We may as well relieve place work may be formally correct, and ourselves of the contents of our basket. The have a well-constructed plot, while a real old man who showed us the way across that work of genius may be badly arranged. Nay; ugly bit of bog the other day, said he lived the very force and vitality of the characters, in a cabin down this lane. He seems very the spirit of life in them, by which they prove poor, and may be glad of our trout, either to themselves real creations, not mere qualities eat or sell.”

going about with labels on their backs, may “He is welcome to my share. I hate the sometimes prove too strong for their maker, sight of them,” said Frank bitterly.

and they may break from his control. As It took them a few minutes to find the Thackeray said, when asked why he married cottage, and some time longer to make them- two of his characters, “I did not do it; they selves understood by the old man and his did it themselves.'' daughter, whose stock of English was limited. “I understand. Then suppose an artist A neighbour's child, a stout rosy-cheeked really perfect in his craft-an ideal artist. lad, on his way to school, was stopped and He would unite the strongest creative power pressed into the service; and Frank, who with the greatest self-control and the largest was fond of children, roused himself for a faculty for arrangement.” quiet joke with the stolid-looking, but not “Pardon me, I think it is all creative power really unintelligent little Welshman. Alto- from first to last. The plot, or plan, should gether, half an hour had passed before the be a perfect, harmonious whole, a real • mysyoung men found themselves on the straight tery' in the true sense of that much-abused path across the moor and conversation was word; not a hopeless puzzle, but a secret resumed.

kept for a time and with a purpose, then Said the artist to the author, “I have revealed to the full satisfaction of all. No often wanted to ask you, Frank, did you one should discover it beforehand, but when

66

revealed, every one should recognise it, as the fortune that enables him to marry your the one right and natural thing.

heroine; brings out the self-forgetting courage Stop a minute, Frank. There is a hidden under the quiet, shy exterior of the thought working in my mind that I want to reputed dunce Lockton; and, not least, points tell you. One understands a thing better in the moral of your whole book, which is a trying to do it than in any other way—is it voice crying in the wilderness against the not so?”

hurry and strain of our modern civilisa“Yes; as my worthless little sketches help tion, the setting the how much before the me to see all there is in your pictures." how,' the rushing about at railway speed,

These two friends believed thoroughly each which too often involves railway catasin the other.

trophes." “ And my own 'worthless little sketches,' Couldn't have put it better myself," adas in comparison they may truly be called, mitted candidly the gratified author. have given me a new sense—have awakened “Thus your great idea, planned at the bemy heart and opened my eyes as nothing else ginning, is developed gradually, and worked could have done to the wonders of His work-out finally to your own satisfaction and that ing who has painted the glories of the sun- of your readers." shine, the bright clouds with their matchless My own satisfaction? Halt there, Charlie.” lights and shadows, the mountains, the trees, “Don't think I forget for a moment that the rivers and brooks of water, and all this your ideal must transcend your actual, and magnificent world. Yet I think your art has that its ceasing to do so would be the surest a secret or two of His ways to teach which sign of decay and death ; for aspiration is even mine cannot reveal. The very name the very life of creative art, as indeed it you give it, and not wrongly, the name of must be, if my dream hold true.

The kind creative art, witnesses that it is an outcome of satisfaction I mean now is quite a lower of the instinct of the child, ever prompting thing, just a feeling that you have wrought him to mimic the Father's work."

out your plan, and there it remains ; you have “Go on. I should like to sce how you had a word to say, and you have said it. work that out. Though there's a deal of Meanwhile, what you do for the whole you romance in you, Charlie.”

do for each part, and the more perfectly the “Well, then

more perfect your work. Say you have ten, God Himself is the true poet,,

twenty characters, “persons' in the true dra

matic sense (and you might have many more), “A very strange song !" Frank broke in each stands distinct in his or her own indibitterly. "And with scant harmony. Indeed viduality, each is the object of your special with none, that I can perceive. Come now, care, each acted upon by every influence Charlie, don't go and take a fellow up. You you bring forward; it may be the same in. know I mean no harm. But wherever I fluence, the same event, yet to one it is life, look, whether at the concerns of the big to another death ; to one joy, to another world, the infinitely great, or at my own, the sorrow ; just as you intend, and as they need infinitely small, it seems a precious muddle. for their proper development. Does not this That's all I say."

help you to see a little way-a very little “Ought that to surprise you, disciple of way, truly-into the methods of the great the Maker's craft? The more consummate Artist's working? Of the grand revelation the artist, the more complicated the nexus, that shall take place in that day when the —the plot or plan of his work—the more bewil mystery of God is finished,' we may not dering the puzzle he gives us. We toil at it speak now, since, by the very nature of in vain; while he, knowing the end from the things, we know not, and we cannot know, beginning, holds every thread firm and dis- what it shall be. But I am well content to tinct in his own grasp, and will, at last, re- wait. I know it will be worthy of Him. I solve apparent confusion into order, discord know, moreover, that there is in the universe into harmony. And what is true of the one man who knows it already, and He is work as a whole is true of every part of it. satisfied.” In a perfect story, each character is dealt One man?" Frank repeated musing. with carefully on its own merits and in its “ But the dead are many. 'Gone over to own individuality. One is not sacrificed to the majority,' used the ancients say." another. Take your own, for example: the “I do not speak of many, but of One, who same accident that kills Saunders (to every-liveth and was dead,"” said Charles with a body's relief) gives your hero, by his death, low thrill in his voice. “ But let that rest

And the real is His song.

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small][subsumed]

for the present. Come with me a step farther. “What is your best ?

By the way, What the Great Artist does for the whole, Frank, do you not love the persons of your that does He as carefully for each. Each story?” life-story is complete, as if God and that one “Don't ask me," said Frank, half laughing. soul existed alone in the universe, and all “I'm sure I have bored you often enough things were ordered with reference to it." with them to make you hate them.”

“Oh, I begin to understand ! You think “Then why not deal with them as with that we makers are in some sort a providence persons you love in real life? There is to the beings we create, and that ought to Gertrude, your heroine, a sweet girl too. help us to receive what you would call the One would think you would fly to the world's doctrine of a particular providence.”

end to save her the least pain or sorrow; “Just so. Are not five sparrows sold for but, on the contrary, you plunge her into a two farthings, and not one of them is for- sea of troubles one after the other-one gotten before God?' Incomprehensible

Incomprehensible to worse than the other.” us, of course, and yet we can comprehend “Whom the poet loves he allows to suffer," that it must be so in the infinite mind of Frank quoted. God, because He is infinite.”

“While those we love in real life we would “Then you would have me believe that even not allow to suffer at all, could we help it, an accident seemingly trivial—nay, a thing that even by suffering in their stead," Charles conmust affect thousands of other people as well tinued. “ What makes the difference? Is it as me, such as a rainy day, for example, has that, after all, your creations are not real to its special meaning and message for me ?- you?” that God sent it into my life with a purpose, “No, a thousand times! The more real that he thought of me, planned for me?" my creation becomes, the more intensely I “I do mean that, Frank.”

love-well, say Gertrude, for example—the “ But——”Frank paused, his eyes full of an more I am content, nay, in a strange sense, unspoken doubt and pain—"but I do the glad, that she should suffer because it best I can for my characters—the best I know.” makes her so beautiful.

"The sweet work grows Beneath my hand, unfolding, as a rose, Leaf after leaf to beauty.'

For they had just come out upon the high

road again. Near them was a little stone Or rather, like the statue beneath the sculp- quarry, and on the other side of the road a tor's chisel. Who grudges the blows that row of neat, substantial cottages, built for the

accommodation of the quarrymen. fall upon it, knowing them necessary to its

“Willingly," said Charles.

“I am sorry perfection? When we love our characters,

we gave away our fish." we love the best that is in them, and that

“Silver fish will do as well, I dare say. best we will bring out, exalt, purify, never come now, which shall we try ?” heeding their pain, or our own for them,

"This one," Charles decided, coming to a while we see it doing. Not that there is no pain, Charles—far from it: I went with Ger- halt. “There are flowers in the window."

" And therefore the occupants are likely trude through everything she suffered with an

to be better than their neighbours ? Eh, intensity of feeling that was almost agony. disciple of Ruskin? Come along then.”. Still, I would not spare one drop of the cup,

He drew near the small half-open door, one touch of the chisel; for I so loved her, but Charles pulled him back.. “Look at and I wished every one to love her as I did." that interior,” he whispered, with an artist's “Well, Frank, and what if God loves like

pleasure in his tone. The neat kitchen was that?"

in shadow, except for one sunbeam that Frank made no answer, and they walked on in silence. At last he said quite suddenly, leaves that obscured the little window. But

struggled through the rose and geranium Charlie, I see a tremendous difference.”

the fire was burning clearly, filling half the “ Where?”

room with a warm, soft glow. Two children “Gertrude could not refuse the training I meant for her, set up her will against mine- remarkably pretty, yet they came well into

were playing on the floor; they were not in fact, fight with her maker.”

the picture, with their golden hair and the “You have just hit the point where my unconscious grace of their attitudes. A whole comparison breaks down, as every young girl sat in an arm-chair by the fire, comparison must, somewhere or other. The and a homely pitcher on a small table near poet or maker, however great his genius, can her held a nosegay of rare hot-house flowers only make shadows, not real things. When which awakened Frank's curiosity, while they all is done, and after all, he is but a * mimic,' as we said, a little child playing scarlet, another of purest blue, and some

supplied Charles with a spot of intense at his father's handicraft

, and making be- tender rose-pinks and purples to complete lieve' that he makes real things,-coats, his satisfaction with the whole. houses, what not,-as father does. But it is making believe, and he knows it. It is only room and came towards the door. The

Presently a woman appeared from an inner God whose thoughts are living souls.””

hungry anglers accosted her, explained their “ Well?”

necessity and preferred their request. She “Don't you see? That terrible possibility responded good-naturedly, and invited them which exists for us and not for our mimic in. Her husband and two sons were at work creations is the birthright of the living soul.

in the quarry, she said, as she placed chairs * Able, His own Word saith, to grieve Him, for them, and sent the children out of the But able to glorify Him too.'

way,--and that was her eldest daughter. We are not God's thoughts merely, we are The same thought, the same feeling, struck the people of his pasture and the sheep of the hearts of both the young men, though his hand. But being sheep, we can stray ; neither betrayed it by word or sign. In being people, we can rebel.'

entering that lowly dwelling, they had Once again Frank was silent. He was entered the presence of a great King, to thinking. Was he a living thought of God, whom none refuse their reverence, their awe. with this awful power, this terrible possibility Death was there before them. That pale of loss and ruin? How much may flash slender girl, propped by pillows in the one through the mind in a few moments! When arm-chair the cottage contained, was evi. he spoke once more, his words were pur- dently in almost the last stage of consumpposely trivial and wide of his thoughts. tion. It was characteristic of both that

“I say, Charlie, it must be ten o'clock at Frank instinctively sought the chair farthest least. I am starving. Here are some decent from the invalid, whilst Charles sat down cottages. Let us beg a crust and a drink of contentedly, perhaps designedly, beside her. milk."

Bread and bacon and beer were quickly

« PreviousContinue »