My Dear, I feel a perfect fool. Sitting at home in the safe silence of my Kentish farmhouse, with the stove spitting smoke and insufficient heat, my letter unanswered, I begin to think I imagined the sudden warmth and delight I saw in your eyes. I wait in vain for a sign that I am not mad. A letter from Muriel mentions you, linking you with some young man called Daniel France – another painter. I remember the electrifying realisation that Muriel’s glorious painting was you, and my feeling of idiocy that I recognised your yellow dress first. How does Daniel France paint you? I dread to think. I would like to buy Muriel’s painting, but what would she say? She would surely guess why. Did I tell you she laughed when I foolishly admitted to finally recognising you? She thought I was apologising for slighting her skill at capturing you.
It’s not a portrait, she said. Muriel would call it a figure study I expect; explaining the way the light falls across your shoulder casting your features into the shade from the hat. I don’t see that, of course, not any more. I see the stretch of your arm along the back of the seat, the swell of your breast beneath that ridiculous dandelion dress; the curve of your lower lip just visible in the penumbra of that cast shadow. So relaxed, even indolent, you look, as though you sit there after a satisfying luncheon, slightly hazy with Beaujolais and cream – waiting with absolute confidence for someone to come and sit beside you. Oh for that confidence! Why have you not written?
Portrait of the Artist’s Model as a Young Woman
I still dream that gasp from sister Ana, the way the happy excited murmuring, like bees round the hive, dropped into silence from her gasp. And then the whispering, harsh and breathy, and the sideways glances and the space opening around me, cold as the north wind. I still dream the sound of the great door closing behind them, and the darkness of the hall, with the doom glowering at me in the light of the remaining candles, and his face as he realised what he had done, with his little joking portrait.