W. Somerset Maugham: The Moon and Sixpence

22. Chapter XXII (continued)

His face fell, and he pouted his lips like a scolded child. He gave me a look of appeal, so that I might put things right, but, unable to control myself, I shook with helpless laughter.

We went one day to the picture-dealer in whose shop Stroeve thought he could show me at least two or three of Strickland's pictures, but when we arrived were told that Strickland himself had taken them away. The dealer did not know why.

"But don't imagine to yourself that I make myself bad blood on that account. I took them to oblige Monsieur Stroeve, and I said I would sell them if I could. But really --" He shrugged his shoulders. "I'm interested in the young men, but voyons, you yourself, Monsieur Stroeve, you don't think there's any talent there."

"I give you my word of honour, there's no one painting to-day in whose talent I am more convinced. Take my word for it, you are missing a good affair. Some day those pictures will be worth more than all you have in your shop. Remember Monet, who could not get anyone to buy his pictures for a hundred francs. What are they worth now?"

"True. But there were a hundred as good painters as Monet who couldn't sell their pictures at that time, and their pictures are worth nothing still. How can one tell? Is merit enough to bring success? Don't believe it. Du reste, it has still to be proved that this friend of yours has merit. No one claims it for him but Monsieur Stroeve."

"And how, then, will you recognise merit?" asked Dirk, red in the face with anger.

"There is only one way -- by success."

"Philistine," cried Dirk.

"But think of the great artists of the past -- Raphael, Michael Angelo, Ingres, Delacroix -- they were all successful."

"Let us go," said Stroeve to me, "or I shall kill this man."

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