The Creators A Comedy

Language: English
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Three times during dinner he had asked himself what, after all, was he there for? And at the end of it, as she rose, her eyes held him for the first time that evening, as if they said that he would see.

She had put him as far from her as possible, at the foot of her table between two of the four preposterous celebrities whom she had asked him, George Tanqueray, to meet.

Everything, except her eyes, had changed since he had last dined with Jane Holland, in the days when she was, if anything, more obscure than he. It was no longer she who presided at the feast, but her portrait by Gisborne, R.A. He had given most of his attention to the portrait.

Gisborne, R.A., was a solemn egoist, and his picture represented, not Jane Holland, but Gisborne's limited idea of her. It was a sombre face, broadened and foreshortened by the heavy, leaning brows. A face with a straight-drawn mouth and eyes prophetic of tragedy, a face in which her genius brooded, downcast, flameless, and dumb. He had got all her features, her long black eyebrows, her large, deep-set eyes, flattened queerly by the level eyebrows, her nose, a trifle too long in the bridge, too wide in the nostril, and her mouth which could look straight enough when her will was dominant. He had got her hair, the darkness and the mass of it. Tanqueray, in his abominable way, had said that Gisborne had put his best work into that, and when Gisborne resented it he had told him that it was immortality enough for any one to have painted Jane Holland's hair. (This was in the days when Gisborne was celebrated and Tanqueray was not.)

If Jane had had the face that Gisborne gave her she would never have had any charm for Tanqueray. For what Gisborne had tried to get was that oppressive effect of genius, heavily looming. Not a hint had he caught of her high levity, of her look when the bright devil of comedy possessed her, not a flash of her fiery quality, of her eyes' sudden gold, and the ways of her delicate, her brilliant mouth, its fine, deliberate sweep, its darting tilt, like wings lifted for flight.

When Tanqueray wanted to annoy Jane he told her that she looked like her portrait by Gisborne, R.A.

They were all going to the play together. But at the last moment, she, to Tanqueray's amazement, threw them over. She was too tired, she said, to go.

The celebrities pressed round her, voluble in commiseration. Of course, if she wasn't going, they wouldn't go. They didn't want to. They would sacrifice a thousand plays, but not an evening with Jane Holland. They bowed before her in all the postures and ceremonies of their adoration. And Jane Holland looked at them curiously with her tired eyes; and Tanqueray looked at her. He wondered how on earth she was going to get rid of them.

She did it with a dexterity he would hardly have given her credit for. Her tired eyes helped her.

Then, as the door was closing on them, she turned to him.

"Are you going with them," she said, "or will you stay with me?"

"I am certainly not going with them——" He paused, hesitating.

"Then—you'll stay?" For the first time in their intercourse she hesitated too.

"But you're tired?" he said.

"Not now."

She smiled appealingly, but not like a woman sure of the success of her appeal....