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sensation. “Besides,” said Kerisen, “the school had been accused of effeminacy, and it gave them a comfortable feeling of manliness to have among them so liberal a swearer. You must know him. Come on, and be introduced.” So saying, he dragged Irvine down-stairs. Mr Bush had risen to meet his brandy-and-sodawater. He grunted and jerked his head at Dale, who returned him the slightest possible bow. He then, frowning gloomily at the waiter, from whom he took the tumbler, became absorbed in his favourite drink. His forehead was broad, prominent above the eyes, and shaded by a sort of fringe of hair. He was short, but defiantly erect. Standing still, he seemed to concentrate his efforts on the task of adding a cubit to his stature.
“Come to my place to-morrow afternoon," said Mr Rodney Bush to Kerisen, as if he were hurling bim a defiance.
Kerisen replied that Dale was staying with him. “He can come if he likes," said the poet.
Irvine was on the brink of a curt refusal, when his friend touched his arm, and accepted with gratitude.
“Morfly is coming," said Mr Bush, “and her husband, and some other folk, and a new man.”
“What new man?”
“I don't know his name, damn him. He has been somewhere or done something. At least he is new.”
“Reason enough,” said Kerisen, with a sidelong look at his friend.
The poet stalked off, and the limpet-like youth pushed himself off from the pillar and shambled in pursuit. Dale looked after the great man's clumsy head and coarse red ears with a feeling of strange repugnance.
“Somewhat out of place as the complete artist,” said Kerisen, laughing ; “but he does not do the thing badly."
“Do the thing !” said Dale, bitterly. “Why must we all be doing the thing for which we are not intended? Why can't this fellow be natural ?”
“And frankly be the brute which nature made him," said Kerisen, with his mock-heroic manner, and added, “Who is his new friend, I wonder ? Of course he knew his name.”
“ Then he lied,” said Dale, curtly.
“Nevertheless," said Kerisen, "you must come and see him to-morrow, and his pictures, and his china, and his books, and his last thing in friends. He writes lovely soft things about friendship."
Dale turned impatiently away.
THE house of Mr Rodney Bush stands in a dull street in a mean and dingy part of the town, and seems to the uninitiated no less dreary than its neighbours. Irvine, following his friend down the dark narrow passage which leads from the front door, was surprised to find no sign of the strange individuality of the owner. Mr Bush delights in contrasts. At the end of the obscure passage Kerisen pushed open a door, lifted a heavy curtain of dull orange velvet, and ushered his friend into a large and well - proportioned room. All the colours of a faded rainbow were combined for its adornment. Pieces of stuff too big for the wall, and pieces too small to cover a chair; Venetian tapestries, brasses, glasses, old velvet cloaks, plumed hats, strange weapons, and china plates, were thick
upon the walls. There were books on shelves, and books upon the floor; old chests and deep lounging - chairs, writing - tables, divans, couches, rugs, mats, skins, the boots and spurs of a cavalier, and drinking - vessels from every spot on earth. Many easels stood about the room-some empty, some holding divers pictures and sketches of a woman represented in various attitudes.
“Why, it's always the same face,” said Dale to Kerisen.
“Hush !” whispered the other ; “it's Mrs Morfly; you will see her presently. Morfly worships Bush, and Bush worships Mrs Morfly.”
The poet having greeted his friends with the usual abruptness, flung himself down before one of his own paintings, and awaited his other guests. Blossett and Jones came first; the former in a flutter of excitement at being admitted to this palace of art—the latter veiling his unusual emotion under an air of exaggerated weariness. Blossett began at once to expatiate on the wonders of the place, while Mr Bush acknowledged his politeness by a nod, and Jones sank down among the cushions and abandoned himself to a dream. There was a slight show of excitement when Mr and Mrs Morfly entered. It is a rule of the house that
nobody should be announced. Thus it happened that Dale, looking up suddenly from a reverie, in which he fancied himself in a society of opiumeaters, saw in the midst of the party a tall, slight woman, with a long nose and great sleepy eyes, behind whom stood a man whose most remarkable feature was a receding chin. Mr Bush did not rise from his place, but only turned his eyes from the picture to the fair original. Jones imitated the behaviour of his host, but Blossett and Kerisen rose and bowed, and the latter said, briefly, “My friend, Irvine Dale.” The lady turned on Irvine her great musing eyes, while her little husband came out and took him by the hand with an eager expression of countenance. He had the air of always expecting something strange.
“Will you sing ?” asked Mr Bush, who had risen and fetched a guitar.
“No," said the lady, in a soft, sad voice. “You must read to me.”
The great man did not venture to dispute her commands. He seemed to study the light; then pushed a long low couch into the chosen position, flung a strangely-coloured stuff across it, and looked at the lady. She placed herself carefully upon it, while the pensive, almost melancholy expression