The Trees of Pride HTML version

IV. The Chase After The Truth
Some time after the inquest, which had ended in the inconclusive verdict which
Mr. Andrew Ashe had himself predicted and achieved, Paynter was again sitting
on the bench outside the village inn, having on the little table in front of it a tall
glass of light ale, which he enjoyed much more as local color than as liquor. He
had but one companion on the bench, and that a new one, for the little market
place was empty at that hour, and he had lately, for the rest, been much alone.
He was not unhappy, for he resembled his great countryman, Walt Whitman, in
carrying a kind of universe with him like an open umbrella; but he was not only
alone, but lonely. For Ashe had gone abruptly up to London, and since his return
had been occupied obscurely with legal matters, doubtless bearing on the
murder. And Treherne had long since taken up his position openly, at the great
house, as the husband of the great lady, and he and she were occupied with
sweeping reforms on the estate. The lady especially, being of the sort whose
very dreams "drive at practice," was landscape gardening as with the gestures of
a giantess. It was natural, therefore, that so sociable a spirit as Paynter should
fall into speech with the one other stranger who happened to be staying at the
inn, evidently a bird of passage like himself. This man, who was smoking a pipe
on the bench beside him, with his knapsack before him on the table, was an artist
come to sketch on that romantic coast; a tall man in a velvet jacket, with a shock
of tow-colored hair, a long fair beard, but eyes of dark brown, the effect of which
contrast reminded Paynter vaguely, he hardly knew why, of a Russian. The
stranger carried his knapsack into many picturesque corners; he obtained
permission to set up his easel in that high garden where the late Squire had held
his al fresco banquets. But Paynter had never had an opportunity of judging of
the artist's work, nor did he find it easy to get the artist even to talk of his art.
Cyprian himself was always ready to talk of any art, and he talked of it
excellently, but with little response. He gave his own reasons for preferring the
Cubists to the cult of Picasso, but his new friend seemed to have but a faint
interest in either. He insinuated that perhaps the Neo-Primitives were after all
only thinning their line, while the true Primitives were rather tightening it; but the
stranger seemed to receive the insinuation without any marked reaction of
feeling. When Paynter had even gone back as far into the past aA the Post-
Impressionists to find a common ground, and not found it, other memories began
to creep back into his mind. He was just reflecting, rather darkly, that after all the
tale of the peacock trees needed a mysterious stranger to round it off, and this
man had much the air of being one, when the mysterious stranger himself said
"Well, I think I'd better show you the work I'm doing down here."
He had his knapsack before him on the table, and he smiled rather grimly as he
began to unstrap it. Paynter looked on with polite expressions of interest, but was
considerably surprised when the artist unpacked and placed on the table, not any
recognizable works of art, even of the most Cubist description, but (first) a quire
of foolscap closely written with notes in black and red ink, and (second), to the