Page:My Life and Loves.djvu/356

This page has been validated.

"he had written to his people for money", he said, "he would soon pay his debt to me"; but that wasn't what I wanted: I felt that I had got off the right road because of him and was angry with myself for having wasted my substance in profligate living and worst of all in silly luxury and brainless showing off.

I declared I was ill and was going to England at once; I must make a new start and accumulate some more money and a few mornings later I bade Bancroft "Good-bye" and crossed the Channel and went on to my sister and father in Tenby, arriving there in a severe shivering fit with a bad headache and every symptom of ague.

I was indeed ill and played out: I had taken double doses of life and literature, had swallowed all the chief French writers from Rabelais and Montaigne to Flaubert, Zola and Balzac, passing by Pascal and Vauvenargues, Renan and Hugo, a glutton's feast for six months. Then, too, I had nosed out this artist's studio and that; had spent hours watching Rodin at work and more hours comparing this painter's model with that: these breasts and hips with those.

My love of plastic beauty nearly brought me to grief at least once and perhaps I had better record the incident, though it rather hurt my vanity at the time. One day I called at Manet's old studio which was rented now by an American painter named Alexander. He had real power as a craftsman but only a moderate brain and was always trying by beauty or something remarkable in his model to make up for his own want of originality. On this visit I noticed an extraordinary sketch of a young girl standing where childhood and womanhood meet: she had cut her hair short and her chestnut-dark eyes lent her a startling distinction.