Hide and Seek, by Wilkie Collins

Book I. The Hiding.

Chapter I. A New Neighborhood, and a Strange Character.

At the period when the episode just related occurred in the life of Mr. Zachary Thorpe the younger — that is to say, in the year 1837 — Baregrove Square was the farthest square from the city, and the nearest to the country, of any then existing in the north-western suburb of London. But, by the time fourteen years more had elapsed — that is to say, in the year 1851 — Baregrove Square had lost its distinctive character altogether; other squares had filched from it those last remnants of healthy rustic flavor from which its good name had been derived; other streets, crescents, rows, and villa-residences had forced themselves pitilessly between the old suburb and the country, and had suspended for ever the once neighborly relations between the pavement of Baregrove Square and the pathways of the pleasant fields.

Alexander’s armies were great makers of conquests; and Napoleon’s armies were great makers of conquests; but the modern Guerilla regiments of the hod, the trowel, and the brick-kiln, are the greatest conquerors of all; for they hold the longest the soil that they have once possessed. How mighty the devastation which follows in the wake of these tremendous aggressors, as they march through the kingdom of nature, triumphantly bricklaying beauty wherever they go! What dismantled castle, with the enemy’s flag flying over its crumbling walls, ever looked so utterly forlorn as a poor field-fortress of nature, imprisoned on all sides by the walled camp of the enemy, and degraded by a hostile banner of pole and board, with the conqueror’s device inscribed on it — “THIS GROUND TO BE LET ON BUILDING LEASES?” What is the historical spectacle of Marius sitting among the ruins of Carthage, but a trumpery theatrical set-scene, compared with the mournful modern sight of the last tree left standing, on the last few feet of grass left growing, amid the greenly-festering stucco of a finished Paradise Row, or the naked scaffolding poles of a half-completed Prospect Place? Oh, gritty-natured Guerilla regiments of the hod, the trowel, and the brick-kiln! the town-pilgrim of nature, when he wanders out at fall of day into the domains which you have spared for a little while, hears strange things said of you in secret, as he duteously interprets the old, primeval language of the leaves; as he listens to the death-doomed trees, still whispering mournfully around him the last notes of their ancient even-song!

But what avails the voice of lamentation? What new neighborhood ever stopped on its way into the country, to hearken to the passive remonstrance of the fields, or to bow to the indignation of outraged admirers of the picturesque? Never was suburb more impervious to any faint influences of this sort, than that especial suburb which grew up between Baregrove Square and the country; removing a walk among the hedge-rows a mile off from the resident families, with a ruthless rapidity at which sufferers on all sides stared aghast. First stories were built, and mortgaged by the enterprising proprietors to get money enough to go on with the second; old speculators failed and were succeeded by new; foundations sank from bad digging; walls were blown down in high winds from hasty building; bricks were called for in such quantities, and seized on in such haste, half-baked from the kilns, that they set the carts on fire, and had to be cooled in pails of water before they could be erected into walls — and still the new suburb defied all accidents, and grew irrepressibly into a little town of houses, ready to be let and lived in, from the one end to the other.

The new neighborhood offered house-accommodation — accepted at the higher prices as yet only to a small extent — to three distinct subdivisions of the great middle class of our British population. Rents and premises were adapted, in a steeply descending scale, to the means of the middle classes with large incomes, of the middle classes with moderate incomes, and of the middle classes with small incomes. The abodes for the large incomes were called “mansions,” and were fortified strongly against the rest of the suburb by being all built in one wide row, shut in at either end by ornamental gates, and called a “park.” The unspeakable desolation of aspect common to the whole suburb, was in a high state of perfection in this part of it. Irreverent street noises fainted dead away on the threshold of the ornamental gates, at the sight of the hermit lodge-keeper. The cry of the costermonger and the screech of the vagabond London boy were banished out of hearing. Even the regular tradesman’s time-honored business noises at customers’ doors, seemed as if they ought to have been relinquished here. The frantic falsetto of the milkman, the crash of the furious butcher’s cart over the never-to-be pulverized stones of the new road through the “park,” always sounded profanely to the passing stranger, in the spick-and-span stillness of this Paradise of the large incomes.

The hapless small incomes had the very worst end of the whole locality entirely to themselves, and absorbed all the noises and nuisances, just as the large incomes absorbed all the tranquillities and luxuries of suburban existence. Here were the dreary limits at which architectural invention stopped in despair. Each house in this poor man’s purgatory was, indeed, and in awful literalness, a brick box with a slate top to it. Every hole drilled in these boxes, whether door-hole or window-hole, was always overflowing with children. They often mustered by forties and fifties in one street, and were the great pervading feature of the quarter. In the world of the large incomes, young life sprang up like a garden fountain, artificially playing only at stated periods in the sunshine. In the world of the small incomes, young life flowed out turbulently into the street, like an exhaustless kennel-deluge, in all weathers. Next to the children of the inhabitants, in visible numerical importance, came the shirts and petticoats, and miscellaneous linen of the inhabitants; fluttering out to dry publicly on certain days of the week, and enlivening the treeless little gardens where they hung, with lightsome avenues of pinafores, and solemn-spreading foliage of stout Welsh flannel. Here that absorbing passion for oranges (especially active when the fruit is half ripe, and the weather is bitter cold), which distinguishes the city English girl of the lower orders, flourished in its finest development; and here, also, the poisonous fumes of the holyday shop-boy’s bad cigar told all resident nostrils when it was Sunday, as plainly as the church bells could tell it to all resident ears. The one permanent rarity in this neighborhood, on week days, was to discover a male inhabitant in any part of it, between the hours of nine in the morning and six in the evening; the one sorrowful sight which never varied, was to see that every woman, even to the youngest, looked more or less unhappy, often care-stricken, while youth was still in the first bud; oftener child-stricken before maturity was yet in the full bloom.

As for the great central portion of the suburb — or, in other words, the locality of the moderate incomes — it reflected exactly the lives of those who inhabited it, by presenting no distinctive character of its own at all.

In one part, the better order of houses imitated as pompously as they could, the architectural grandeur of the mansions owned by the large incomes; in another, the worst order of houses respectably, but narrowly, escaped a general resemblance to the brick boxes of the small incomes. In some places, the “park” influences vindicated their existence superbly in the persons of isolated ladies who, not having a carriage to go out in for an airing, exhibited the next best thing, a footman to walk behind them: and so got a pedestrian airing genteelly in that way. In other places, the obtrusive spirit of the brick boxes rode about, thinly disguised, in children’s carriages, drawn by nursery-maids; or fluttered aloft, delicately discernible at angles of view, in the shape of a lace pocket-handkerchief or a fine-worked chemisette, drying modestly at home in retired corners of back gardens. Generally, however, the hostile influences of the large incomes and the small mingled together on the neutral ground of the moderate incomes; turning it into the dullest, the dreariest, the most oppressively conventional division of the whole suburb. It was just that sort of place where the thoughtful man looking about him mournfully at the locality, and physiologically observing the inhabitants, would be prone to stop suddenly, and ask himself one plain, but terrible question: “Do these people ever manage to get any real enjoyment out of their lives, from one year’s end to another?”

To the looker-on at the system of life prevailing among the moderate incomes in England, the sort of existence which that system embodies seems in some aspects to be without a parallel in any other part of the civilized world. Is it not obviously true that, while the upper classes and the lower classes of English society have each their own characteristic recreations for leisure hours, adapted equally to their means and to their tastes, the middle classes, in general, have (to expose the sad reality) nothing of the sort? To take an example from those eating and drinking recreations which absorb so large a portion of existence:— If the rich proprietors of the “mansions” in the “park” could give their grand dinners, and be as prodigal as they pleased with their first-rate champagne, and their rare gastronomic delicacies; the poor tenants of the brick boxes could just as easily enjoy their tea-garden conversazione, and be just as happily and hospitably prodigal, in turn, with their porter-pot, their teapot, their plate of bread-and-butter, and their dish of shrimps. On either side, these representatives of two pecuniary extremes in society, looked for what recreations they wanted with their own eyes, pursued those recreations within their own limits, and enjoyed themselves unreservedly in consequence. Not so with the moderate incomes: they, in their social moments, shrank absurdly far from the poor people’s porter and shrimps; crawled contemptibly near to the rich people’s rare wines and luxurious dishes; exposed their poverty in imitation by chemical champagne from second-rate wine merchants, by flabby salads and fetid oyster-patties from second-rate pastry-cooks; were, in no one of their festive arrangements, true to their incomes, to their order, or to themselves; and, in very truth, for all these reasons and many more, got no real enjoyment out of their lives, from one year’s end to another.

On the outskirts of that part of the new suburb appropriated to these unhappy middle classes with moderate incomes, there lived a gentleman (by name Mr. Valentine Blyth) whose life offered as strong a practical contradiction as it is possible to imagine to the lives of his neighbors.

He was by profession an artist — an artist in spite of circumstances. Neither his father, nor his mother, nor any relation of theirs, on either side, had ever practiced the Art of Painting, or had ever derived any special pleasure from the contemplation of pictures. They were all respectable commercial people of the steady fund-holding old school, who lived exclusively within their own circle; and had never so much as spoken to a live artist or author in the whole course of their lives. The City-world in which Valentine’s boyhood was passed, was as destitute of art influences of any kind as if it had been situated on the coast of Greenland; and yet, to the astonishment of everybody, he was always drawing and painting, in his own rude way, at every leisure hour. His father was, as might be expected, seriously disappointed and amazed at the strange direction taken by the boy’s inclinations. No one (including Valentine himself) could ever trace them back to any recognizable source; but everyone could observe plainly enough that there was no hope of successfully opposing them by fair means of any kind. Seeing this, old Mr. Blyth, like a wise man, at last made a virtue of necessity; and, giving way to his son, entered him, under strong commercial protest, as a student in the Schools of the Royal Academy.

Here Valentine remained, working industriously, until his twenty-first birthday. On that occasion, Mr. Blyth had a little serious talk with him about his prospects in life. In the course of this conversation, the young man was informed that a rich merchant-uncle was ready to take him into partnership; and that his father was equally ready to start him in business with his whole share, as one of three children, in the comfortable inheritance acquired for the family by the well-known City house of Blyth and Company. If Valentine consented to this arrangement, his fortune was secured, and he might ride in his carriage before he was thirty. If, on the other hand, he really chose to fling away a fortune, he should not be pinched for means to carry on his studies as a painter. The interest of his inheritance on his father’s death, should be paid quarterly to him during his father’s lifetime: the annual independence thus secured to the young artist, under any circumstances, being calculated as amounting to a little over four hundred pounds a year.

Valentine was not deficient in gratitude. He took a day to consider what he should do, though his mind was quite made up about his choice beforehand; and then persisted in his first determination; throwing away the present certainty of becoming a wealthy man, for the sake of the future chance of turning out a great painter.

If he had really possessed genius, there would have been nothing very remarkable in this part of his history, so far; but having nothing of the kind, holding not the smallest spark of the great creative fire in his whole mental composition, surely there was something very discouraging to contemplate, in the spectacle of a man resolutely determining, in spite of adverse home circumstances and strong home temptation, to abandon all those paths in life, along which he might have walked fairly abreast with his fellows, for the one path in which he was predestinated by Nature to be always left behind by the way. Do the announcing angels, whose mission it is to whisper of greatness to great spirits, ever catch the infection of fallibility from their intercourse with mortals? Do the voices which said truly to Shakespeare, to Raphael, and to Mozart, in their youth-time, — You are chosen to be gods in this world — ever speak wrongly to souls which they are not ordained to approach? It may be so. There are men enough in all countries whose lives would seem to prove it — whose deaths have not contradicted it.

But even to victims such as these, there are pleasant resting-places on the thorny way, and flashes of sunlight now and then, to make the cloudy prospect beautiful, though only for a little while. It is not all misfortune and disappointment to the man who is mentally unworthy of a great intellectual vocation, so long as he is morally worthy of it; so long as he can pursue it honestly, patiently, and affectionately, for its own dear sake. Let him work, though ever so obscurely, in this spirit towards his labor, and he shall find the labor itself its own exceeding great reward. In that reward lives the divine consolation, which, though Fame turn her back on him contemptuously, and Affluence pass over unpitying to the other side of the way, shall still pour oil upon all his wounds, and take him quietly and tenderly to the hard journey’s end. To this one exhaustless solace, which the work, no matter of what degree, can yield always to earnest workers, the man who has succeeded, and the man who has failed, can turn alike, as to a common mother — the one, for refuge from mean envy and slanderous hatred, from all the sorest evils which even the thriving child of Fame is heir to; the other, from neglect, from ridicule, from defeat, from all the petty tyrannies which the pining bondman of Obscurity is fated to undergo.

Thus it was with Valentine. He had sacrificed a fortune to his Art; and his Art — in the world’s eye at least — had given to him nothing in return. Friends and relatives who had not scrupled, on being made acquainted with his choice of a vocation, to call it in question, and thereby to commit that worst and most universal of all human impertinences, which consists of telling a man to his face, by the plainest possible inference, that others are better able than he is himself to judge what calling in life is fittest and worthiest for him — friends and relatives who thus upbraided Valentine for his refusal to accept the partnership in his uncle’s house, affected, on discovering that he made no public progress whatever in Art, to believe that he was simply an idle fellow, who knew that his father’s liberality placed him beyond the necessity of working for his bread, and who had taken up the pursuit of painting as a mere amateur amusement to occupy his leisure hours. To a man who labored like poor Blyth, with the steadiest industry and the highest aspirations, such whispered calumnies as these were of all mortifications the most cruel, of all earthly insults the hardest to bear.

Still he worked on patiently, never losing faith or hope, because he never lost the love of his Art, or the enjoyment of pursuing it, irrespective of results, however disheartening. Like most other men of his slight intellectual caliber, the works he produced were various, if nothing else. He tried the florid style, and the severe style; he was by turns devotional, allegorical, historical, sentimental, humorous. At one time, he abandoned figure-painting altogether, and took to landscape; now producing conventional studies from Nature, — and now, again, reveling in poetical compositions, which might have hung undetected in many a collection as doubtful specimens of Berghem or Claude.

But whatever department of painting Valentine tried to excel in, the same unhappy destiny seemed always in reserve for each completed effort. For years and years his pictures pleaded hard for admission at the Academy doors, and were invariably (and not unfairly, it must be confessed) refused even the worst places on the walls of the Exhibition rooms. Season after season he still bravely struggled on, never depressed, never hopeless while he was before his easel, until at last the day of reward — how long and painfully wrought for! — actually arrived. A small picture of a very insignificant subject — being only a kitchen “interior,” with a sleek cat on a dresser, stealing milk from the tea-tray during the servant’s absence — was benevolently marked “doubtful” by the Hanging Committee; was thereupon kept in reserve, in case it might happen to fit any forgotten place near the floor — did fit such a place — and was really hung up, as Mr. Blyth’s little unit of a contribution to the one thousand and odd works exhibited to the public, that year, by the Royal Academy.

But Valentine’s triumph did not end here. His picture of the treacherous cat stealing the household milk — entitled, by way of appealing jocosely to the strong Protestant interest, “The Jesuit in the Family,” — was really sold to an Art–Union prize-holder for ten pounds. Once furnished with a bank note won by his own brush, Valentine indulged in the most extravagant anticipations of future celebrity and future wealth; and proved, recklessly enough, that he believed as firmly as any other visionary in the wildest dreams of his own imagination, by marrying, and setting up an establishment, on the strength of the success which had been achieved by “The Jesuit in the Family.”

He had been for some time past engaged to the lady who had now become Mrs. Valentine Blyth. She was the youngest of eight sisters, who formed part of the family of a poor engraver, and who, in the absence of any mere money qualifications, were all rich alike in the ownership of most magnificent Christian names. Mrs. Blyth was called Lavinia–Ada; and hers was by far the humblest name to be found among the whole sisterhood. Valentine’s relations all objected strongly to this match, not only on account of the bride’s poverty, but for another and a very serious reason, which events soon proved to be but too well founded.

Lavinia had suffered long and severely, as a child, from a bad spinal malady. Constant attention, and such medical assistance as her father could afford to employ, had, it was said, successfully combated the disorder; and the girl grew up, prettier than any of her sisters, and apparently almost as strong as the healthiest of them. Old Mr. Blyth, however, on hearing that his son was now just as determined to become a married man as he had formerly been to become a painter, thought it advisable to make certain inquiries about the young lady’s constitution; and addressed them, with characteristic caution, to the family doctor, at a private interview.

The result of this conference was far from being satisfactory. The doctor was suspiciously careful not to commit himself: he said that he hoped the spine was no longer in danger of being affected; but that he could not conscientiously express himself as feeling quite sure about it. Having repeated these discouraging words to his son, old Mr. Blyth delicately and considerately, but very plainly, asked Valentine whether, after what he had heard, he still honestly thought that he would be consulting his own happiness, or the lady’s happiness either, by marrying her at all? or, at least, by marrying her at a time when the doctor could not venture to say that the poor girl might not be even yet in danger of becoming an invalid for life?

Valentine, as usual, persisted at first in looking exclusively at the bright side of the question, and made light of the doctor’s authority accordingly.

“Lavvie and I love each other dearly,” he said with a little trembling in his voice, but with perfect firmness of manner. “I hope in God that what you seem to fear will never happen; but even if it should, I shall never repent having married her, for I know that I am just as ready to be her nurse as to be her husband. I am willing to take her in sickness and in health, as the Prayer–Book says. In my home she would have such constant attention paid to her wants and comforts as she could not have at her father’s, with his large family and his poverty, poor fellow! And this is reason enough, I think, for my marrying her, even if the worst should take place. But I always have hoped for the best, as you know, father: and I mean to go on hoping for poor Lavvie, just the same as ever!”

What could old Mr. Blyth, what could any man of heart and honor, oppose to such an answer as this? Nothing. The marriage took place; and Valentine’s father tried hard, and not altogether vainly, to feel as sanguine about future results as Valentine himself.

For several months — how short the time seemed, when they looked back on it in after-years! — the happiness of the painter and his wife more than fulfilled the brightest hopes which they had formed as lovers. As for the doctor’s cautious words, they were hardly remembered now; or, if recalled, were recalled only to be laughed over. But the time of bitter grief, which had been appointed, though they knew it not, came inexorably, even while they were still lightly jesting at all medical authority round the painter’s fireside. Lavinia caught a severe cold. The cold turned to rheumatism, to fever, then to general debility, then to nervous attacks — each one of these disorders, being really but so many false appearances, under which the horrible spinal malady was treacherously and slowly advancing in disguise.

When the first positive symptoms appeared, old Mr. Blyth acted with all his accustomed generosity towards his son. “My purse is yours, Valentine,” said he; “open it when you like; and let Lavinia, while there is a chance for her, have the same advice and the same remedies as if she was the greatest duchess in the land.” The old man’s affectionate advice was affectionately followed. The most renowned doctors in England prescribed for Lavinia; everything that science and incessant attention could do, was done; but the terrible disease still baffled remedy after remedy, advancing surely and irresistibly, until at last the doctors themselves lost all hope. So far as human science could foretell events, Mrs. Blyth, in the opinion of all her medical advisers, was doomed for the rest of her life never to rise again from the bed on which she lay; except, perhaps, to be sometimes moved to the sofa, or, in the event of some favorable reaction, to be wheeled about occasionally in an invalid chair.

What the shock of this intelligence was, both to husband and wife, no one ever knew; they nobly kept it a secret even from each other. Mrs. Blyth was the first to recover courage and calmness. She begged, as an especial favor, that Valentine would seek consolation, where she knew he must find it sooner or later, by going back to his studio, and resuming his old familiar labors, which had been suspended from the time when her illness had originally declared itself.

On the first day when, in obedience to her wishes, he sat before his picture again — the half-finished picture from which he had been separated for so many months — on that first day, when the friendly occupation of his life seemed suddenly to have grown strange to him; when his brush wandered idly among the colors, when his tears dropped fast on the palette every time he looked down on it; when he tried hard to work as usual, though only for half an hour, only on simple background places in the composition; and still the brush made false touches, and still the tints would not mingle as they should, and still the same words, repeated over and over again, would burst from his lips: “Oh, poor Lavvie! oh, poor, dear, dear Lavvie!” — even then, the spirit of that beloved art, which he had always followed so humbly and so faithfully, was true to its divine mission, and comforted and upheld him at the last bitterest moment when he laid down his palette in despair.

While he was still hiding his face before the very picture which he and his wife had once innocently and secretly glorified together, in those happy days of its beginning that were never to come again, the sudden thought of consolation shone out on his heart, and showed him how he might adorn all his afterlife with the deathless beauty of a pure and noble purpose. Thenceforth, his vague dreams of fame, and of rich men wrangling with each other for the possession of his pictures, took the second place in his mind; and, in their stead, sprang up the new resolution that he would win independently, with his own brush, no matter at what sacrifice of pride and ambition, the means of surrounding his sick wife with all those luxuries and refinements which his own little income did not enable him to obtain, and which he shrank with instinctive delicacy from accepting as presents bestowed by his father’s generosity. Here was the consoling purpose which robbed affliction of half its bitterness already, and bound him and his art together by a bond more sacred than any that had united them before. In the very hour when this thought came to him, he rose without a pang to turn the great historical composition, from which he had once hoped so much, with its face to the wall, and set himself to finish an unpretending little “Study” of a cottage courtyard, which he was certain of selling to a picture-dealing friend. The first approach to happiness which he had known for a long, long time past, was on the evening of that day, when he went upstairs to sit with Lavinia; and, keeping secret his purpose of the morning, made the sick woman smile in spite of her sufferings, by asking her how she should like to have her room furnished, if she were the lady of a great lord, instead of being only the wife of Valentine Blyth.

Then came the happy day when the secret was revealed, and afterwards the pleasant years when poor Mrs. Blyth’s most splendid visions of luxury were all gradually realized through her husband’s exertions in his profession. But for his wife’s influence, Valentine would have been in danger of abandoning high Art and Classical Landscape altogether, for cheap portrait-painting, cheap copying, and cheap studies of Still Life. But Mrs. Blyth, bedridden as she was, contrived to preserve all her old influence over the labors of the Studio, and would ask for nothing new, and receive nothing new, in her room, except on condition that her husband was to paint at least one picture of High Art every year, for the sake (as she proudly said) of “asserting his intellect and his reputation in the eyes of the public.” Accordingly, Mr. Blyth’s time was pretty equally divided between the production of great unsaleable “compositions,” which were always hung near the ceiling in the Exhibition, and of small marketable commodities, which were as invariably hung near the floor.

Valentine’s average earnings from his art, though humble enough in amount, amply sufficed to fulfill the affectionate purpose for which, to the last farthing, they were rigorously set aside. “Lavvie’s Drawing–Room” (this was Mr. Blyth’s name for his wife’s bed-room) really looked as bright and beautiful as any royal chamber in the universe. The rarest flowers, the prettiest gardens under glass, bowls with gold and silver fish in them, a small aviary of birds, an Aeolian harp to put on the window-sill in summertime, some of Valentine’s best drawings from the old masters, prettily-framed proof-impressions of engravings done by Mrs. Blyth’s father, curtains and hangings of the tenderest color and texture, inlaid tables, and delicately-carved book-cases, were among the different objects of refinement and beauty which, in the course of years, Mr. Blyth’s industry had enabled him to accumulate for his wife’s pleasure. No one but himself ever knew what he had sacrificed in laboring to gain these things. The heartless people whose portraits he had painted, and whose impertinences he had patiently submitted to; the mean bargainers who had treated him like a tradesman; the dastardly men of business who had disgraced their order by taking advantage of his simplicity — how hardly and cruelly such insect natures of this world had often dealt with that noble heart! how despicably they had planted their small gad-fly stings in the high soul which it was never permitted to them to subdue!

No! not once to subdue, not once to tarnish! All petty humiliations were forgotten in one look at “Lavvie’s Drawing–Room;” all stain of insolent words vanished from Valentine’s memory in the atmosphere of the Studio. Never was a more superficial judgment pronounced than when his friends said that he had thrown away his whole life, because he had chosen a vocation in which he could win no public success. The lad’s earliest instincts had indeed led him truly, after all. The art to which he had devoted himself was the only earthly pursuit that could harmonize as perfectly with all the eccentricities as with all the graces of his character, that could mingle happily with every joy, tenderly with every grief; belonging to the quiet, simple, and innocent life, which, employ him anyhow, it was in his original nature to lead. But for this protecting art, under what prim disguises, amid what foggy social climates of class conventionality, would the worlds clerical, legal, mercantile, military, naval, or dandy, have extinguished this man, if any one of them had caught him in its snares! Where would then have been his frolicsome enthusiasm that nothing could dispirit; his inveterate oddities of thought, speech, and action, which made all his friends laugh at him and bless him in the same breath; his affections, so manly in their firmness, so womanly in their tenderness, so childlike in their frank, fearless confidence that dreaded neither ridicule on the one side, nor deception on the other? Where, and how, would all these characteristics have vanished, but for his art — but for the abiding spirit, ever present to preserve their vital warmth against the outer and earthly cold? The wisest of Valentine’s friends, who shook their heads disparagingly whenever his name was mentioned, were at least wise enough in their generation never to ask themselves such embarrassing questions as these.

Thus much for the history of the painter’s past life. We may now make his acquaintance in the appropriate atmosphere of his own Studio.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/c/collins/wilkie/hide_and_seek/book1.1.html

Last updated Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 21:30