De Vilmarte's Luck
by Mary Heaton Vorse
What Hazelton’s friends called his second manner
had for a mother despair, and for a father irony,
and for a godmother necessity. It leaped into his mind
full-grown, charged with the vitality of his bitterness.
Success had always been scratching at Hazelton’s door,
and then hurrying past. The world had always been
saying to him, “Very well, very well indeed; just a little
bit better and you shall have the recognition that should
be yours.” Patrons came and almost bought pictures.
He was accepted only to be hung so badly that his singing
color was lost on the sky-line. Critics would infuriate
him by telling him that he had almost—almost, mind
you—painted the impossible; that his painting was what
they called “a little too blond.”
How Hazelton hated that insincere phrase which meant
nothing, for, as he explained to Dumont the critic, as
they sat outside the Café de la Rotonde after their return
from the Salon, Nature was blond—what else? He,
Dumont, came from the Midi, didn’t he? Well, then,
he knew what sunshine was! How could paint equal the
color of a summer’s day, the sun shining on the flesh of a
blond woman, a white dress against a white wall? Blond?
Because he loved the vitality of light they wanted him to
dip his brush in an ink-pot—hein? Dumont would be
pleased if he harked back to the gloom of the old Dutch
school, or if he imitated the massed insincerities of
Boecklen, Hazelton opined from the depths of his scorn.
Dumont poised himself for flight on the edge of his
hard metal chair. He was bored, but he had to admit that
if ever Hazelton was justified in bitterness it was to-day
when, after a long search through the miles of canvases,
he had finally discovered his two pictures hung in such
a position as to be as effective as two white spots. He
escaped, leaving Hazelton hunched over the table, his
forceful, pugnacious, red countenance contrasting oddly
with the subtle anemia of his absinthe. He was followed
by Hazelton’s choleric shouts, which informed him that he,
Hazelton, could paint with mud for a medium if he chose.
His profession of art critic had accustomed Dumont
to the difficulties of the artistic temperament, and he
thought no more of Hazelton until he ran into him some
ten days later. There was malice in Hazelton’s small,
brilliant eyes, and an air of suppressed triumph in his
muscular deep-chested figure. His face was red, partly
from living out of doors and partly from drink. He
rolled as he walked, not quite like a bear and not quite
like a seafaring man—a vigorous, pugnacious person
whose vehement greeting made Dumont apprehensive
until he glanced at Hazelton’s hands, which were reassuringly
“Well,” he said, “you remember our conversation?
It was the parent, my dear Dumont, of dead-sea fruit of
the most mature variety.” Hazelton considered this a
joke, and laughed at it with satisfaction. He was very
much pleased with himself.
Dumont went with Hazelton to his studio. On Hazelton’s
easel was a picture of dark, wind-swept trees beaten
by a storm. They silhouetted themselves against a
sinister and menacing sky. The thing was full of violence
and fury, it was drenched with wet and blown with
“Who did this?” asked Dumont. “It is magnificent!”
“You like it?” asked Hazelton, incredulously. And
then he repeated himself, changing his accent, “You like
“Certainly I like it,” Dumont answered, a trifle stiffly.
“There is vitality, form, color! Because you are not
happy unless you are in the midst of a sunbath, at least
permit others to vary their moods.”
At this Hazelton burst into loud laughter.
“You amuse yourself,” Dumont observed, but Hazelton
continued to laugh uproariously, shaking his wide
“Do you know the name of that picture? The name
of that picture is ‘La Guigne Noire’—I painted it from
the depths of my bad luck.”
“Hein?” said Dumont. “You painted that picture?”
“This picture—if you call it that—I painted.”
“I call it a picture,” Dumont asserted, dryly.
“I call it a practical joke,” said Hazelton. “One does
not paint pictures with the tongue in one’s cheek. I
know how one paints pictures.”
“How one paints pictures makes no difference,” Dumont
replied, impatiently. “Who cares if you had your
tongue in your cheek? You had your brush in your
hand. The result is that which matters. This work has
Hazelton slapped his thigh with a mighty blow. “Mon
Dieu!” he cried. “If this fools you, there are others it
will fool as well—and I need the money! And from that
bubbling artesian well from which this sprang I can see
a million others like it—like it, but not like it. Hein,
mon vieux? Come, come, my child, to Mercier’s, who
will sell it for me. The day of glory has arrived!”
A sardonic malice sparkled on Hazelton’s ugly face,
and his nose, which jutted out with a sudden truculency,
was redder than ever. He took the picture up and
danced solemnly around the studio.
It was in this indecorous fashion, to the echo of Hazelton’s
bitter laughter, that his second manner was born,
and that he achieved his first success, for his second
manner was approved by the public.
Three years went past. Hazelton was medaled. He
was well hung now, he sold moderately, but he never
sold the work which he respected. At last his constant
failure with what he called “his own pictures” had made
him so sensitive that he no longer exposed them.
Hazelton’s position was that of the parent in the old-fashioned
fairy tale who had two children, one beautiful
and dark-haired, whom he despised and ill-treated and
made work that the child of light might thrive. That, in
his good-tempered moments, was how he explained the
matter to his friends.
Dumont explained to Hazelton that he had two personalities
and that he had no cause to be ashamed of this
second and subjective one, even though he had discovered
it by chance and in a moment of mockery.
“You have an artistic integrity that is proof even
against yourself,” was his analysis.
The insistence of the public and of Dumont, in whose
critical judgment he had believed, gave him something
like respect for his foster-child. His belief in his judgment
was subtly undermined.
“I shall leave you,” he told Dumont. “I shall secrete
myself in the country undefiled by the artist’s paintbrush
and there I will paint a chef d’œuvre entitled ‘Le
Mal du Ventre.’ On its proceeds I will return to my
While engaged on this work, which later became Hazelton’s
most successful picture, Hazelton met Raoul de
Vilmarte. This young man was a poor painter, but a
delightful companion, and he endeared himself to Hazelton
at once by his naïve enthusiasm for Hazelton’s former
“What grace they had—what beauty—what light!
What an extraordinary irony that you should throw away
a gift that I should so have cherished!” he exclaimed.
His words were to Hazelton like rain to a dying plant.
He stopped work on “Le Mal du Ventre,” and began to
paint to “suit himself” again. He had a childish delight
in surprising De Vilmarte with his new picture.
“Why, why,” cried his new friend, “do you permit
yourself to bury this supreme talent? No one has painted
sunlight as well! Compared with this, darkness enshrouds
the canvases of all other masters! Why do you
not claim your position as the apostle of light?”
Hazelton explained that critics and the public had
forced these canvases into obscurity.
“Another name signed to them—a Frenchman preferably—and
we might hear a different story,” he added.
A sudden idea came to De Vilmarte. “Listen!” he
said. “I have exposed nothing for two years. Indeed,
I have been doubtful as to whether I should expose
again. I know well enough that were my family unknown
and were not certain members of the jury my
masters, and others friends of my family, I might never
have been accepted at all—it has been a sensitive point
with me. Unfortunately, my mother and my friends believe
me to be a genius—”
“Well?” said Hazelton, seeing some plan moving
darkly through De Vilmarte’s talk.
“Well,” said De Vilmarte, slowly, “we might play a
joke upon the critics of France. There is a gap between
this and my work—immeasurable—one I could never
bridge—and yet it is plausible—” He glanced from a
sketch of his he was carrying to Hazelton’s picture.
Hazelton looked from one to the other. Compared, a
gulf was there, fixed, unbridgable, and yet— He twisted
his small, nervous hands together. Malice sparkled from
“It is plausible!” he agreed. He held out his hand.
A sparkle of his malice gleamed in De Vilmarte’s pale
eyes. They said no more. They shook hands. Later it
seemed to Hazelton the ultimate irony that they should
have entered into their sinister alliance with levity.
The second phase of the joke seemed as little menacing.
You can imagine the three of them outside the Rotonde,
Hazelton and De Vilmarte listening to Dumont’s praise
of De Vilmarte’s picture. You can enter into the feelings
of cynicism, of disillusion, that filled the hearts of the
two farceurs. De Vilmarte’s picture had been accepted,
hung well, then medaled. The critics had acclaimed
They sat there delicately baiting Dumont, bound together
by the knowledge that they had against the world—for
they, and they alone, knew the stuff of which fame
is made. They were in the position of the pessimist who
has proof of his pessimism. No one really believes the
world as bad as he pretends, and here De Vilmarte and
Hazelton had proof of their most ignoble suspicions;
here was the corroding knowledge that Raoul’s position
and popularity could achieve the recognition denied to an
unknown man. He was French, and on the inside, and
Hazelton was a foreigner and on the outside.
“Well,” said Raoul, when Dumont had left them, “we
have a fine gaffe to spring on them, hein? It’s going to
cost me something. My mother is charmed—she will
take it rather badly, I am afraid.”
“Well, why should she take it?” asked Hazelton, after
a pause. “Why should we share our joke with all the
“You mean?” asked Raoul.
It was then that the voice of fate spoke through
“You can have the picture,” he said, jerking his big
“Do you mean that I can have it—to keep?”
“Have it if you like. Money and what money buys is
all I want from now on,” said Hazelton, and he shook his
shoulders grossly and sensually while his nervous hands,
the hands whose work the picture was, twisted themselves
as though in agonized protest.
Hazelton went back to his studio and stood before his
blond pictures, the children of his heart. It was already
evening, but they shone out in the dim light. He was a
“So,” he said to them—“so all these years you have
deceived me, as many a man has been deceived before by
his beloved. Your flaunting smiles made me think you
were what you are not. Dumont was right—my foster-child
is better than you, for she made her way alone and
without favor. I tried to think I had painted the impossible.
Light is beyond me. Why should I think I could
paint light? I am a child of darkness and misfortune.
I know who my beloved is. You shall no longer work to
support your sister!”
“What are you doing?” came his wife’s querulous
voice. “Talking and mumbling to yourself before your
pictures in the dark? Are you drunk again?”
Some months passed before De Vilmarte and Hazelton
met again. They ran into each other on the corner of the
Boulevard Raspail and the Boulevard du Montparnasse.
“Hey! What are you doing so far from home?” cried
“Looking for you.”
“I was going to you,” Hazelton acknowledged.
They stared at each other scrutinizingly, each measuring
the other with dawning distrust. Each waited.
“Let us go to the Rotonde,” Hazelton suggested.
They talked of other things, each waiting for the other
to begin. Hazelton had the most resistance; he had
flipped a penny as to whether he should go to seek De
Vilmarte, but De Vilmarte had made his decision with
anguish. It was he who finally said:
“You know—about the matter of the picture—my
mother is quite frantic about my success. She is
“Toc!” cried Hazelton. “My poor wife has to go to
“Nothing to do, I know,” said De Vilmarte, looking
away diffidently, “but for one’s mother—”
“But for one’s wife,” Hazelton capped him, genially.
“An aged mother and a sick wife, and a joke on the
world shared between two friends— What will a man
not do for his sick wife and for his aged mother!”
A little shiver of cold disgust ran over Raoul. For the
first time he felt a vague antipathy for Hazelton, his
neck was so short and he rolled his big head in such a
They said good-by, Hazelton’s swagger, De Vilmarte’s
averted eyes betraying their guilty knowledge that they
had bought and sold things that should not be for sale.
Just how it came to be a settled affair neither De Vilmarte
nor Hazelton could have told. Now an exhibition
occurred for which De Vilmarte needed a picture; now
Hazelton dogged by his need of money would come to
him. Hazelton’s wife was always ailing. Her beauty
and her disposition had been undermined by ill-health and
self-indulgence, and he was one of those men temperamentally
in debt and always on the edge of being sued or
But in Hazelton’s brain a fantastic and mad sense of
rivalry grew. He had transferred his affection to his
darker mood. Every notice of De Vilmarte’s name
rankled in his mind. De Vilmarte’s growing vogue infuriated
him. He felt that he must wring from the critics
and the public the recognition that was his due so that
this child of his, born of his irony and his despair, and
that had been so faithful to him in spite of abuse, might
be crowned. Just what had happened to both of them
they realized after the opening of the Salon next year.
“Take care,” Hazelton had warned De Vilmarte, “that
they do not hang you better than they do me. That I will
not have.” He had said it jokingly; but while De Vilmarte’s
exhibit was massed, and he had won the second
medal, Hazelton’s was scattered, and he had but one
picture on the line; worse still, the critics gave Hazelton
formal praise while they acclaimed De Vilmarte as the
most promising of the younger school of landscape-painters.
De Vilmarte sought out Hazelton, full of a sense of
apology. He found him gazing morosely into his glass
of absinthe like one seeing unpleasant visions.
“It is really too strong,” Raoul said. “I am sorry.”
“It’s not your fault,” Hazelton replied, listlessly.
“It’s got to stop, though!” He did not look up, but he
felt the shock that traveled through De Vilmarte’s well-knit
body. “It’s got to stop!” he repeated. “It’s too
strong, as you say.”
There was a long silence, a silence full of gravity, full
of despair, the silence of a man who has suddenly and
unexpectedly heard his death sentence, a silence in whose
duration De Vilmarte saw his life as it was. He had
begun this as a joke, after his first agonized indecision,
and now suddenly he saw not only his mother but himself
involved, and the honor of his name. He waited for
Hazelton to say something—anything, but Hazelton was
chasing chimeras in the depths of his pale drink. As
usual, his resistance was the greater. He sat hunched
and red, his black hair framing his truculent face, unmindful
“It has gone beyond a joke,” was what Raoul finally
“That’s just it,” Hazelton agreed. “My God! Think
how they have hung you—think how they have hung
me. Where do I get off? Have I got to work for nothing
all my life?”
“The recognition—you know what that means—it
means nothing!” cried Raoul.
Hazelton did not answer.
“But I can’t—confess now!” Raoul’s anguish
dragged it out of him. “I could afford to be a farceur—I
cannot afford to be a cheat.”
Hazelton looked at him suddenly. Then he laughed.
“Ha! ha! The little birds!” he said. “They stepped
in the lime and they gummed up their little feet, didn’t
they?” He lifted up his own small foot, which was well
shod in American shoes. “Poor little bird! Poor little
gummed feet!” He laughed immoderately.
Disgust and shame had their will with Raoul.
Hazelton was enchanted with his own similes, and, unmindful
of his friend’s mood, he placed his small hand
next Raoul’s, which was nervous and brown, the hand
of a horseman.
“Can you see the handcuffs linking us?” he chuckled.
“‘Linked for Life’ or ‘The Critics’ Revenge.’” He
laughed again, but there was bitterness in his mirth.
“We should have told before,” he muttered. “I suppose
it is too late now. I cannot blame you or myself, but, by
God! I’m not going to paint for you all my days. Why
should I? We had better stop it, you know.” He drank
deeply. “Courage, my boy!” he cried, setting down his
glass. “I will have the courage to starve my wife if you
will have the courage to disappoint your mother.”
They left it this way.
When De Vilmarte again entered Hazelton’s studio,
Hazelton barked at him ungraciously: “Ho! So you are
“Yes,” said Raoul, “I am back.” He stood leaning
upon his cane, very elegant, very correct, a hint of austerity
about him that vanished charmingly under the sunshine
of his smile.
Hazelton continued painting. “Well,” he said, without
turning around, “you have not come, I suppose, for
the pleasure of my company; but let me tell you in advance
that I have no time to do any painting for you. I
am not your bonne à tout faire.”
By Hazelton’s tone De Vilmarte realized that he was
ready to capitulate; he wanted to be urged, and he desired
to make it as disagreeable as he could because he was not
in a position to send De Vilmarte to the devil any more
than De Vilmarte could follow his instinct and leave
Hazelton to come crawling to him—for there was always
the chance that Hazelton might be lucky and would
not come crawling.
“It’s your mother again, I suppose,” said Hazelton,
De Vilmarte grew white around his mouth; he grasped
his cane until his hand was bloodless. “Some one unfortunately
told her that they were urging me to have a
private exhibition, and her heart is set upon it.”
“There are a number of things upon which my wife’s
heart is set,” Hazelton admitted after a pause, during
which he painted with delicate deliberation and exquisite
surety while, fascinated and full of envy, De Vilmarte
watched the delicate hand that seemed to have an independent
existence of its own that seemed to be the utterance
of some other and different personality than that
which was expressed in Hazelton’s body. He turned
around suddenly, grinning at De Vilmarte.
“How much are you going to pay for my soul this
time?” he asked.
They had never bargained before. In the midst of it
Hazelton stopped and looked De Vilmarte over from top
to toe. No detail of his charm and of his correctness
“How are you able to stand it?” he asked. “It must
be hard on you, too.” The thought came to him as something
“Oh,” said Raoul, with awful sarcasm, “you think it
is hard on me?”
“You must be fond of your mother,” said Hazelton.
This time he had not meant to be brutal, and he was sorry
to see De Vilmarte wince, but he did not know how to
mend matters. “How are we going to break through?”
he said. “What end is there for us? I do it for my
wife, whom I don’t love, poor wretch, but for whom I
feel damned responsible; and you sell your soul to please
your mother. And do you get nothing for yourself, I
wonder—” He half closed his little eyes, which glinted
like jewels between his black lashes. “Appreciation and
applause must be pleasant. One can buy as much with
stolen money as one can with money earned.... There
is only one way out—it is for one of us to die, or for
one of them. There is death in our little drama, hein,
It was the private exhibition that fixed De Vilmarte’s
reputation as an artist. It also marked in his own mind
the precariousness of his position. And now the matter
was complicated for him because he fell in love with a
young girl who cared for his talent as did his mother.
She was one of those proud young daughters of France
who had no interest in rich and idle young men. Each
word of her praise was anguish to him. The praise of
the feuilletons he could stand better, because some way
they seemed to have nothing to do with him. It was the
price which he paid willingly for his mother’s happiness.
He cared so much that he had tried not to care for her,
and again his mother intervened. It was in every way a
suitable match, and his mother told him that she did not
wish to die without a grandchild. “You have obligations
to your art,” she said, “but your obligations to your race
are above those.”
She was now very feeble. His wedding and his next
Salon picture filled her mind. She was haunted by the
presentiment that she would not see the summer come
to its close.
So Raoul would hurry from her room to Hazelton to
see how the picture was coming on. Hazelton was painting
as he had never painted before. It seemed, indeed,
as if he had a double personality, and as if each one of
these personalities was trying to outstrip the other. As
happens sometimes to an artist, he had made a sudden
leap ahead. No picture that he had painted had the depth
or the beauty or the clear, flowing color of this one. But
he lagged along. It was as though the beauty of the picture
which De Vilmarte was to sign tortured him, and he
did not wish to finish it. He would stand before it, lost
in the contemplation of its excellences like a devotee,
refusing to paint.
The picture Hazelton was painting for his own signature
was dark and magnificent, but the picture which he
was painting for De Vilmarte had a singular radiance.
It was as though at last Hazelton had painted the impossible;
light shone from that picture. Yet it was not
finished. Days passed, and Hazelton had not brought the
picture further toward completion.
One day when De Vilmarte came in he found Hazelton
brooding before it. He had been drinking. Tears were
in his eyes. “It is too beautiful—too beautiful! Light
is more beautiful than darkness. The taste for the black,
the menacing, is the decadent appreciation of a too sheltered
world. I cannot finish this picture for another to
“No,” De Vilmarte soothed him, “of course not.”
“Oh, my beautiful!” cried Hazelton, addressing his
picture. “I cannot finish you! Come, De Vilmarte, we
De Vilmarte went with Hazelton. He watched over
him as a mother over her child. He talked; he reasoned;
he sat quiet, white-lipped, while Hazelton would speculate
as to what De Vilmarte got out of it.
“You are, I think, like the victim of a drug,” he said,
jeering at De Vilmarte, his brilliant eyes agleam. That
was truer than Hazelton knew. He could not stop. His
mother, his fiancée, his friends, the critics, his world,
expected a picture from him. He visualized them sometimes
pushing him on to some doom of whose exact nature
he was ignorant. Again it was to him as though
they dug a dark channel in which his life had to flow.
Meantime he had to nurse Hazelton’s sick spirit along.
He would go with him as he drank, stand by him in his
studio, urging him to paint. In this way they spent hideous
Hazelton developed a passion for torture. He was tortured
himself. Alcohol tortured him, his embittered nature
tortured him. He loved to see De Vilmarte writhe.
He was torn between his desire to finish the picture and
the anguish which he felt at seeing it about to pass into
another’s hands. There were days when its existence
hung in the balance.
“You see this palette-knife,” he would tell De Vilmarte,
“and this palette of dark paint? A twist, my
friend, a little twist of the knife and a little splash, and
where is this luminous radiance? Gone!” And he
would watch De Vilmarte as he let his brush hover over
the brilliant surface.
How it hurt Raoul he knew, because when he thought
of destroying the picture it was as though a knife were
twisted in his own heart.
One afternoon De Vilmarte nursed Hazelton from
café to café, listening to his noble braggadocio.
“Remember,” Hazelton urged Raoul, “the wonderful
Mongolian legend of the father and son who loved the
same woman, and whom for their honor they threw over
a cliff! That’s the idea—the cliff! You shall throw our
love over the cliff—you shall destroy the picture yourself.
Come back with me!” He was as though possessed.
Full of apprehension, De Vilmarte followed
They stood before the picture. It shone out as though
indeed light came from it. Hazelton put the palette into
De Vilmarte’s hand.
“Now, my friend, go to it!” he cried. “Paint, De
Vilmarte—paint in your own natural manner! A few
strokes of the brush of the great master De Vilmarte,
and color and light will vanish from it. Why not—why
not? You suffer, too—your face is drawn. You think
I do not know how you hate me. I don’t need to look at
you to know that. We always hate those who have
power over us. Paint—paint! If I can bear it, surely
you can. Paint naturally, De Vilmarte! Paint into it
your own meagerness and banality! Paint into my masterpiece
the signature of your own defeat.”
The afternoon was ebbing. It seemed as though the
room were full of silent people, all holding Raoul back—his
world, the critics, his fiancée, his mother. Besides,
he had no right to destroy this beautiful thing to save his
“You are not yourself,” he said.
“Aha! I know what you think of me. Ha! De Vilmarte,
but I am a master, a great painter. Paint, and
betray yourself. Ha! sale voyou, you will not? You
are waiting to steal from me my final beautiful expression.
You stand there— How is it that you permit me
to call the Vicomte de la Tour de Vilmarte names? Why
do you not strike me?”
“Oh, call me what you like,” Raoul cried. “Only finish
the picture. There is very little more to do.”
“I tell you what I shall call you,” Hazelton jeered at
him. “I will call you nothing worse than Raoul—Ra-oul—Ra—o—u—l!”
He meowed it like a tom-cat.
“How can I be so vile when I paint like an angel,
Ra—o—u—l ... Ra—o—u—l!”
Sweat stood on Raoul’s forehead. He stood quiet.
The picture was finished.
“Sign, my little Raoul, sign!” cried Hazelton. And
with murder in his heart, a bitter tide of dark and sluggish
blood mounting, ever mounting, Raoul signed and
then fled into the lovely spring evening.
“This is the end,” he thought. “There shall be no
more of this. Not for any one—not for any one, can I
be so defiled!” For he felt the mystic identity between
himself and his mother—that he was flesh of her flesh,
and that in some vicarious way she was being insulted
But it was not the end. It was with horror that Raoul
learned that the picture had been bought by the state,
that he was to receive the Legion of Honor. His mother
was wild with joy.
“Now,” she cried, embracing him—“now I can depart
in peace.” She looked so fragile that it seemed as
if indeed her spirit had lingered only for this joy. She
looked at him narrowly. “But you have been working
too hard—you look ill. A long rest is what you need.”
“A very long rest,” Raoul agreed. He left the house,
and, as if it was a magnet, the great exhibition drew him
to it, and in front of his picture stood the thick, familiar
figure of Hazelton, his nose jutting out truculently from
his face, which was red and black like a poster. He broke
through his attitude of devoted contemplation to turn
“Bought by the state!” he cried. “To be hung in the
Luxembourg!” He pointed menacingly with his cane at
De Vilmarte’s neat little signature. “Why, I ask, should
I go to my grave unknown, poor, a pensioner of your
bounty? Why should you be happy—fêted?”
The irony of being accused of happiness was too much
for De Vilmarte. He laughed aloud.
“Wouldn’t it be better for you to be an honest man?”
“Only death can make an honest man of me,” answered
“My death could make an honest man of you,” Hazelton
said slowly. It was as if he had read the dark and
nameless secret that was lurking in the bottom of De Vilmarte’s
For a moment they two seemed alone in all the earth,
the only living beings. They stood alone, their secret in
Then Hazelton’s lips began to move. “My God!” he
said. “Bought by the state and hung in the Luxembourg!
Bought by the state and hung in the Luxembourg!”
He repeated it as if trying to familiarize himself
with some inexplicable fact. “I will not have it!” he
went on. “I will not have it! If I’m not bought by the
state I shall not go on!”
Raoul looked at him with entreaty. Hazelton came up
to the surface of consciousness and his eyes followed
Raoul’s. A very frail little old lady was being pushed in
a wheel-chair near them.
“My mother,” Raoul whispered.
“I wish to meet her,” said Hazelton.
She bowed graciously and then sat in her chair gazing at
the picture bought by the state. Pride was in every line
of her old face. She seemed returned from the shadows
only to gaze at this picture. Then, in a voice which was
cracked with age, she said, turning to Hazelton:
“I know your work, too. Monsieur—the opposite of
my son’s. It is as though between you you encompassed
all of nature’s moods. To me there has always been—you
will laugh I know—a strange similarity, as though
you were two halves of a whole, as day and night.”
A cold wave flowed over Hazelton, a feeling as though
his hair were lifting on the back of his head. It was as
though this frail old lady was linking him irrevocably to
Raoul. He was powerless now to take his own.
“Madame,” he said, “I feel as if no one had understood
my work before.”
But she had turned to gaze upon her son’s painting. A
sort of senility enveloped her, and his drunkenness
reached out to it. His gaze had in it respect and tenderness
and abnegation. His manner, more eloquent than
words, said: “I give up; I resign. Take it.”
He went to the end of the gallery, and Raoul saw him
sit down in the attitude of one who waits. When Mme.
de Vilmarte left, Raoul joined him.
Hazelton’s head sank deeply between his shoulders; his
pugnacity had oozed away. After a time he spoke with
an effort. “I understand,” he said. “I understand—”
A curious sense of liberation seized De Vilmarte. His
old liking for Hazelton returned. “I am sorry for all of
us,” he said.
“My poor friend, there is no way out,” said Hazelton.
“I am vile—a beast. But trust me—believe in me.”
“I will,” cried De Vilmarte, deeply touched.
Hazelton’s little jewel-like eyes were blurred with unwonted
sentiment. “I am a king in exile,” he muttered
over and over. “A king in exile,” he repeated. This
sentimental simile seemed to be a well of bitter comfort
This story should end here, for stories should end like
this, on the high note; but life is different. Hazelton
was a man with a bad liver, and he got no joy from his
sacrifice. Moreover, in real life one seldom fights a decisive
battle with one’s lower nature. One goes on fighting;
it dies hard when it dies at all. There are the high
moments when one thinks the battle won, and the next
day the enemy attacks again, with the battle to be fought
Hazelton had formed the habit of cursing fate and De
Vilmarte, and, to revenge himself, of threatening De Vilmarte’s
exposure, and he continued to do these things.
And De Vilmarte let his mind stray far in contemplating
Hazelton’s possible vileness, and in doing this he himself
became vile. What he could not recognize was the definite
place where Hazelton’s vileness stopped. His life
was like a fair fruit rotten within.
It was the summer of 1914, and Hazelton, whose
drunkenness before had been occasional, now drank always,
and forever in the background of De Vilmarte’s
mind was this powerful figure with its red face and black
hair and truculent bearing, drunken and obscene, who
carried in his careless hand the honor of the De Vilmartes.
At any moment Hazelton could rob Raoul of his
pride, embitter his mother’s last hours, and make him the
laughing stock of his world. Raoul became like an entrapped
animal running around and around the implacable
barriers of a cage. It is a terrible thing to have one’s
honor in the hands of another.
He thought of everything that might end this torment,
and he found no answer. Madness grew in him. Wherever
Raoul de la Tour de Vilmarte went, there followed
him unseen a shadow, swart, dark, and red-faced. It
followed him, mouthing, “Ra-o-u-l—Ra-o-u-l!” like a
cat. “Ra-o-u-l! Ra-o-u-l!” from morning till night.
When De Vilmarte was at a table in a café a huge and
mocking shadow sat beside him, and it said, wagging its
head in a horrid fashion, “There’s death in our little
drama, hein, mon vieux?”
The fate that had made their interests one, bound them
together. They sought each other out to spend strange
and tortured hours in each other’s company, while in the
depths of Raoul’s heart a plan to end the torture was coming
to its own slow maturity, and grew large and dark
during the hot days of July. He could not continue to
live. The burden of his secret weighed him down. Nor
could he leave Hazelton behind him, the honor of the De
Vilmartes in his hands.
The bloody answer to the riddle leaped out at him.
Hazelton’s death—that was the answer. Then De Vilmarte
could depart in peace. For two mad, happy days
he saw life simply. First Hazelton, then himself.
One day he stopped short, for he realized he could not
go until his mother—went. He must stay a while—until
He had to wait until she died. He watched her, wondering
if his endurance would outlast her life. He tried
not to let her see him watching—for he knew there was
madness in his eyes—and he would go out to find his
dark shadow, for often it was less painful to be with him
than away from him—he knew then what Hazelton was
up to. He spent days in retracing the steps which had
brought him to this desperate impasse. They had been
easy, but he knew that weakness was at the bottom of it—perhaps,
unless he did it now, he would never do it—perhaps
an unworthy desire for life—and love—might
hold back his hand.
So De Vilmarte lived his days and nights bound on the
torturing pendulum of conflict.
Suddenly Europe was aflame. France stood still and
waited. And as he waited, with Europe, Raoul for a
moment forgot his torment. War is a great destroyer,
but among other things it destroys the smaller emotions.
Its licking flame shrivels up personal loves and hates.
When war was declared, old hates were blotted out, and
hopeless lovers trembling on the brink of suicide were
cured overnight. Small human atoms were drowned in
the larger hate and the larger love. Men ceased to have
power over their own lives since their lives belonged to
So when war was declared, choice was taken from
Raoul’s hands. A high feeling of liberation possessed
him. He walked along the street, and suddenly he realized
that instead of going toward his home he was seeking
his other half, the dark shadow to whom he had been
On Hazelton’s door a note was pinned, addressed to
“My friend,” it said, “you have luck! You will have
your regiment, while nothing better than the ambulance,
like a sale embusque, for me. If harm comes to you,
don’t fear for your mother.”
This letter made him feel as though Hazelton had
clasped his hand. He no longer felt toward Hazelton as
an enemy, since France had also claimed him.
Madness had brushed him with its dark wings. By so
slender a thread his life and Hazelton’s had hung! Yes—and
“Thank God!” he said, “for an honorable death!”
It was the last personal thought that was his for a long
time. War engulfed him. Instead of an individual he
was a soldier of France, and his life was broken away
from the old life which now seemed illusion, the days
which streamed past him like pennants torn in the wind.
Later, in the monotony of trench warfare, he had time
to think of Hazelton. He desired two things—to serve
France, and to see Hazelton. Raoul wanted a word of
friendship to pass between them, and especially he wanted
to tell Hazelton that he need not worry about his wife.
He wrote to him, but got no answer. Life went on; war
had become the normal thing. The complexities of his
former life receded further and further from him, and
became more phantasmal, but the desire to see Hazelton
before either of them should die remained with Raoul.
When he was wounded it was his last conscious
thought before oblivion engulfed him. There followed
a half-waking—pain—a penumbral land through which
shapes moved vaguely; the smell of an anesthetic, an
awakening, and again sleep. When he wakened fully
he was in a white hospital ward with a sister bending over
“In the next bed,” she said, “there is a grand blessé.”
She looked at him significantly. “He wishes to speak to
you—he is a friend of yours.”
In the next bed lay Hazelton, the startling black of his
shaggy hair framing the pallor of his face.
With difficulty Raoul raised his head. They smiled at
each other. From the communion of their silence came
Hazelton’s deep voice.
“Why the devil,” he said, “did we ever hate each
Raoul shook his head. He didn’t know. He, too, had
wanted to ask Hazelton this.
“It has bothered me,” said Hazelton. “I wanted to
see you—” His voice trailed off. “I’ve wanted to ask
you why we have needed this war—death—to make us
know we don’t hate each other.”
“I don’t know,” said De Vilmarte. It was an effort
for him to speak; his voice sounded frail and broken.
“Raoul,” Hazelton asked, tenderly, “where are you
wounded? Is it bad?”
“I don’t know,” Raoul answered again.
“It’s his head,” the sister answered for him, “and his
Hazelton raised his great head; a red mounted to his
face; his old sardonic laughter boomed out through the
ward. With a sharply indrawn breath of pain: “Oh,
la—la!” he shouted. “’Cré nom! ’Cré nom! What
luck—imperishable! I’m dying—your right hand—your
right hand!” He sank back, his ironic laughter
drowned in a swift crimson tide.
The nurse beckoned to an orderly to bring a
Tears of grief and weakness streamed down Raoul’s
face. To the last his ill luck had held. He hadn’t been
able to make his friend understand, or to make amends.
His right hand was wounded, and he could no longer
The sister looked at him with pity. She tried to console
“Death is not always so mercifully quick with these
strong men,” she said.