The Man Who Went Too Far
by E.F. Benson
page 3 of 10 | page 1
But the other stared at him in amazement.
"Frank!" he exclaimed.
"Yes, that is my name," he said laughing, "what is the matter?"
Darcy took his hand.
"What have you done to yourself?" he asked. "You are a boy again."
"Ah, I have a lot to tell you," said Frank. "Lots that you will hardly believe, but I shall convince you----"
He broke off suddenly, and held up his hand.
"Hush, there is my nightingale," he said.
The smile of recognition and welcome with which he had greeted his friend faded from his face, and a look of rapt wonder took its place, as of a lover listening to the voice of his beloved. His mouth parted slightly, showing the white line of teeth, and his eyes looked out and out till they seemed to Darcy to be focused on things beyond the vision of man. Then something perhaps startled the bird, for the song ceased.
"Yes, lots to tell you," he said. "Really I am delighted to see you. But you look rather white and pulled down; no wonder after that fever. And there is to be no nonsense about this visit. It is June now, you stop here till you are fit to begin work again. Two months at least."
"Ah, I can't trespass quite to that extent."
Frank took his arm and walked him down the grass.
"Trespass? Who talks of trespass? I shall tell you quite openly when I am tired of you, but you know when we had the studio together, we used not to bore each other. However, it is ill talking of going away on the moment of your arrival. Just a stroll to the river, and then it will be dinner-time."
Darcy took out his cigarette case, and offered it to the other.
"No, not for me. Dear me, I suppose I used to smoke once. How very odd!"
"Given it up?"
"I don't know. I suppose I must have. Anyhow I don't do it now. I would as soon think of eating meat."
"Another victim on the smoking altar of vegetarianism?"
"Victim?" asked Frank. "Do I strike you as such?"
He paused on the margin of the stream and whistled softly. Next moment a moor-hen made its splashing flight across the river, and ran up the bank. Frank took it very gently in his hands and stroked its head, as the creature lay against his shirt.
"And is the house among the reeds still secure?" he half-crooned to it. "And is the missus quite well, and are the neighbors flourishing? There, dear, home with you," and he flung it into the air.
"That bird's very tame," said Darcy, slightly bewildered.
"It is rather," said Frank, following its flight.
* * * * *
During dinner Frank chiefly occupied himself in bringing himself up-to-date in the movements and achievements of this old friend whom he had not seen for six years. Those six years, it now appeared, had been full of incident and success for Darcy; he had made a name for himself as a portrait painter which bade fair to outlast the vogue of a couple of seasons, and his leisure time had been brief. Then some four months previously he had been through a severe attack of typhoid, the result of which as concerns this story was that he had come down to this sequestered place to recruit.
"Yes, you've got on," said Frank at the end. "I always knew you would. A.R.A. with more in prospect. Money? You roll in it, I suppose, and, O Darcy, how much happiness have you had all these years? That is the only imperishable possession. And how much have you learned? Oh, I don't mean in Art. Even I could have done well in that."
"Done well? My dear fellow, all I have learned in these six years you knew, so to speak, in your cradle. Your old pictures fetch huge prices. Do you never paint now?"
Frank shook his head.
"No, I'm too busy," he said.
"Doing what? Please tell me. That is what every one is for ever asking me."
"Doing? I suppose you would say I do nothing."
Darcy glanced up at the brilliant young face opposite him.
"It seems to suit you, that way of being busy," he said. "Now, it's your turn. Do you read? Do you study? I remember you saying that it would do us all--all us artists, I mean--a great deal of good if we would study any one human face carefully for a year, without recording a line. Have you been doing that?"