Page:The Black Cat November 1916.djvu/47

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43
LOST—A STAR

breathing, the counterpart of life itself, seems to me—But of course," he broke off shyly, "I am only an amateur. I haven't yet learned to know when I'm inspired and when I'm not. I've always felt that if I could just know an artist, talk to one, I could feel so much more confidence in myself and my work."

So serious was he that Ivy felt a little sorry for the deception. But she could not bring herself to confide. "Anything I can do for you,' she whispered, "I'll do gladly. 'Help one another' is almost an axiom among us. Besides,—you rescued me."

"Will you? Oh, will you?" the young man cried eagerly. "I knew you would. I prayed you would. You'll have the time. Wait while I get a taxi. Please don't think better of what you've promised. It means so much to me. Wait here." And he would have been off and away had not Ivy caught at his sleeve and clung in almost feminine fear.

"Wait a minute! Don't go! Please! Tell me first what you want."

"I'm afraid you won't do it. It's not much to ask. Please don't think of refusing."

"Yes, but what?"

The young man was quiet for a moment while the earnestness and pleading gathered in his eyes. "Only to look at my pictures. Tell me whether they're good or—or bad; whether I've got a chance. It means so much to me to know. Won't you come?"

Then, while Ivy was grasping the import of his request, the low-gear noises of a taxicab grated in the street, and from the direction of Perreard's came the vehicle gathering speed. The young man at her side darted forth, and in an instant too brief for reflection or consideration, too brief in fact for anything but a soft laugh over the mischief her feet were doing, she was in the machine.

There was no talk during the brief, swift ride. Ivy combed her memory for art phrases, professional-sounding words of vague meaning. Then she found herself waiting on the sidewalk in front of a dark, dingy building looming upward four stories or so. Her friend rejoined her.

"We could have walked," she suggested, nodding at the departing taxi. "Those things are expensive."

He smiled sadly. "Oh, I can afford it," he mourned. "It I were a real artist it might have occurred to me to walk. But I'm tied to a job and a salary, and my father gives me studio and room rent free here. That's why I have to paint afternoons and Sundays and do my drawing by artificial light. You draw in the evening sometimes, don't you?"

"Saturday night," replied Ivy gravely, and with little fear that he would catch her meaning. "I've got a reputation for drawing, too. That's the reason they pay me what I ask."

They had entered the gloomy building with its unlighted halls and climbed three flights of steps. Along a passage, they groped until the boy paused, and she heard the clink of keys. She wavered for a moment, then, with a smile, stood waiting.

"I've been after Father to put electric lights in this old barn," he explained as he bent to the keyhole. "There's only gas; but I think we