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Read December Love Part 119

December Love is a Webnovel made by Robert Hichens.
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Read WebNovel December Love Part 119

“Sir Seymour’s had a good look at your portrait, Arabian.”

“Indeed!” said Arabian.

“And he thinks it’s d.a.m.n fine. As I’m giving it to you, I thought you’d like to know that it’s appreciated.”

There was an unmistakably malicious expression on Garstin’s face as he spoke, and his small eyes travelled quickly from Arabian to Sir Seymour.

“In fact,” added Garstin, lifting the decanter to pour the whisky into Arabian’s gla.s.s, “Sir Seymour is so pleased with my work that I shouldn’t wonder if he lets me paint him.”

“Ah!” said Arabian, looking at Sir Seymour, with a sudden hard intensity which strangely transformed his face, “this is good news. I am pleased.

But–thank you!” (to Garstin who poured out some more whisky) “that will do, please! But you are not afraid of the drawback?”

“What drawback?” asked Sir Seymour.

“Mr. d.i.c.k Garstin makes us all look like _canaille_!”

“Indeed!”

“But have you not noticed this?” said Arabian.

And the agreeable softness of his voice altered, giving way to an almost rasping quality of sound. He put down his gla.s.s and got up, with a lithe and swift movement that seemed somehow menacing. It was so light, so agile, so noiseless and controlled.

“Surely you have. Please, look at all these!”

He made a sweeping circular movement with his arm. Sir Seymour got on his feet.

“Do you not see? There is the same thing in all. We are all placed by Mr. d.i.c.k Garstin in the same boat. Even the judge, he is there too.

Look!”

Sir Seymour looked from canvas to canvas and then at Arabian.

“Well?” said Arabian, still in the rasping voice. “Do I say true? Are we not all turned into _canaille_ by d.i.c.k Garstin?”

Sir Seymour did not answer.

“With you if you are painted,” continued Arabian, “it will be the same.

d.i.c.k Garstin must see bad in us all.”

He laughed and his laugh was oddly shrill and ugly.

“It is an _idee fixe_,” he said. “You see, I am frank. I say what I think, d.i.c.k Garstin.”

“No objection to that!” said Garstin, with a mischievous smile. “But if you don’t like your picture you won’t want to have it. So let us consider our bargain cancelled.”

“Oh, no,” said Arabian, “the picture is mine.”

“The bargain we made,” said Garstin, turning to Sir Seymour, “was this: Mr. Arabian was to be kind enough to sit to me on two conditions. One was in my favour, the other in his.”

“I beg your pardon!” said Arabian sharply.

But Garstin continued inflexibly:

“I was to have the right to exhibit the picture, and, after that, I was to hand it over as a present to Arabian.”

“No, that was not the bargain, please!” said Arabian.

“Not the bargain?” said Garstin, with an air of humorous surprise.

“Oh, no. You kindly said that if I gave up my time to you, as I have done, very much of my time, you would give me the picture when it was finished. That was the bargain between us. But I did not say I would allow you to exhibit my picture.”

“But I told you before I ever put a smudge of paint on the canvas that I should want to exhibit it.”

“That is quite true.”

“Well, then?”

“Two must speak to make a bargain. Is it not so?” He spoke to Sir Seymour.

“I presume so,” said the latter, very solemnly.

He had realized that this odd scene had been brought about deliberately, and perhaps by both of the men who stood before him. Garstin had certainly started it, but Arabian had surely with purpose, taken the cue from Garstin.

“Ah! You hear!”

“I do!” said Garstin, composedly.

“Well, d.i.c.k Garstin, I did not say I would permit my picture to be exhibited by you. And that was on purpose. I intended to wait until I saw how you would make me appear. I have waited. There I am!” He pointed to the portrait. “It is fine, perhaps, as you say. But I do not choose that people should see that and be told, ‘That is Nicolas Arabian.’ I do not give you permission to show that portrait.”

“You don’t like it?”

“You have made of me a beast. That is what I say.”

“Sorry you think so! But what’s to be done? That picture is worth from eight hundred to a thousand pounds at the very least. You don’t suppose I am going to give it to you without letting the people who care about my stuff have a look at it? Why, where is your sense of fairness, my boy?”

“I do not know really what you mean by that!”

“Well, I ask you, Sir Seymour, would it be fair that I should have all my trouble for nothing? He can have the picture. But I want my _kudos_.

Eh?”

“I quite understand that,” said Sir Seymour, calmly.

Arabian turned round and faced him. And as he did so Sir Seymour said to himself:

“The fellow’s been drinking heavily.”

This thought had not occurred in his mind till this moment, but he felt certain that Garstin’s sharp eyes had noticed the fact sooner, probably directly they had seen Arabian at the street door. No doubt the very stiff whisky-and-soda Arabian had just drunk had made it more obvious.

Anyhow, Sir Seymour had no doubt at all about it now. It was not noticeable in Arabian’s face. But his manner began to show it to the experienced eyes of the old campaigner.

———-

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Published inDecember Love