I felt myself pulled away by the arm, and Mr. Click and I stood alone at the corner of the next crossing.
"Why, Tom," said Mr. Click, "what a horrid expression of face you've got!"
"Have I?" says I.
"Have you?" says Mr. Click. "Why, you looked as if you would have his blood."
"The artist's?" I repeated. And I laughed, frantically, wildly, gloomily, incoherently, disagreeably. I am sensible that I did. I know I did.
Mr. Click stared at me in a scared sort of a way, but said nothing until we had walked a street's length. He then stopped short, and said, with excitement on the part of his forefinger:
"Thomas, I find it necessary to be plain with you. I don't like the envious man. I have identified the cankerworm that's pegging away at YOUR vitals, and it's envy, Thomas."
"Is it?" says I.
"Yes, it is," says be. "Thomas, beware of envy. It is the green- eyed monster which never did and never will improve each shining hour, but quite the reverse. I dread the envious man, Thomas. I confess that I am afraid of the envious man, when he is so envious as you are. Whilst you contemplated the works of a gifted rival, and whilst you heard that rival's praises, and especially whilst you met his humble glance as he put that card away, your countenance was so malevolent as to be terrific. Thomas, I have heard of the envy of them that follows the Fine-Art line, but I never believed it could be what yours is. I wish you well, but I take my leave of you. And if you should ever got into trouble through knifeing--or say, garotting--a brother artist, as I believe you will, don't call me to character, Thomas, or I shall be forced to injure your case."
Mr. Click parted from me with those words, and we broke off our acquaintance.
I became enamoured. Her name was Henrietta. Contending with my easy disposition, I frequently got up to go after her. She also dwelt in the neighbourhood of the Obstacle, and I did fondly hope that no other would interpose in the way of our union.
To say that Henrietta was volatile is but to say that she was woman. To say that she was in the bonnet-trimming is feebly to express the taste which reigned predominant in her own.
She consented to walk with me. Let me do her the justice to say that she did so upon trial. "I am not," said Henrietta, "as yet prepared to regard you, Thomas, in any other light than as a friend; but as a friend I am willing to walk with you, on the understanding that softer sentiments may flow."
Under the influence of Henrietta's beguilements, I now got out of bed daily. I pursued my calling with an industry before unknown, and it cannot fail to have been observed at that period, by those most familiar with the streets of London, that there was a larger supply. But hold! The time is not yet come!
One evening in October I was walking with Henrietta, enjoying the cool breezes wafted over Vauxhall Bridge. After several slow turns, Henrietta gaped frequently (so inseparable from woman is the love of excitement), and said, "Let's go home by Grosvenor Place, Piccadilly, and Waterloo"--localities, I may state for the information of the stranger and the foreigner, well known in London, and the last a Bridge.
"No. Not by Piccadilly, Henrietta," said I.
"And why not Piccadilly, for goodness' sake?" said Henrietta.
Could I tell her? Could I confess to the gloomy presentiment that overshadowed me? Could I make myself intelligible to her? No.
"I don't like Piccadilly, Henrietta."
"But I do," said she. "It's dark now, and the long rows of lamps in Piccadilly after dark are beautiful. I WILL go to Piccadilly!"
Of course we went. It was a pleasant night, and there were numbers of people in the streets. It was a brisk night, but not too cold, and not damp. Let me darkly observe, it was the best of all nights- -FOR THE PURPOSE.
As we passed the garden wall of the Royal Palace, going up Grosvenor Place, Henrietta murmured:
"I wish I was a Queen!"
"Why so, Henrietta?"
"I would make YOU Something," said she, and crossed her two hands on my arm, and turned away her head.