Conversation: Alleyn Wallace and Julian Howard
Aug. 19th, 2007 @ 01:08 pm
I've avoided the appropriate for too long, and though it is pouring rain, I feel I must get out and do what I ought to have done during the week. So I find myself outside Julian Howard's building - the Lady Penelope certainly seems to have good taste. He must be home - the weather is dismal and certainly the light must be awful for painting, otherwise I would have called at his studio.
I climb the stairs and stand, dripping, umbrella in hand, before his door. Too late now to run the other direction. So I knock.
I am sitting in the parlor reading when someone knocks on my door. It takes me a moment to even realize what the noise is, but then I am at the door and opening it, asking myself over and over who could be visiting at this time of day, in this weather.
It's Alleyn; I gape at him briefly before ushering him in. Despite the meeting with Tamara Elias a few days ago, which showed that he had thought of me at least once since the fiasco after the party, I had been in the throes of doubt over whether he would ever contact me again. "Alleyn," I say. It comes out as a half-gasp, half-whisper; I would have preferred to sound less shocked. I recover and bit and step back, out of the doorway. "Please come in."
He seems surprised to see me. I don't blame him - I'm not entirely certain myself that I am here. "I thought you would here, what with the weather." I divest myself of my coat, sodden at the bottom, and my hat and umbrella. "Tamara said she would write you - has she?"
"She has. We're to meet tomorrow." I hang up his things then lead him into the parlor. "Should I be concerned?"
Of course, I already am concerned, very much so, but the fact that he has come to see me seems to ease it somehow. One of my many invented scenarios was that she would act as his proxy and tell me to leave his life; at least if he has come to say the same thing today, it will come from his own mouth.
I give him a little smile. I am, after all, quite glad he's here.
"I don't know. She could be very harsh, if she is indeed attempting to save me from myself. She loves me, in her way, and we've only just got back to normal, and now all this. She doesn't trust you. I don't suppose I would, either, if I were an external observer. You mustn't hold it against her, whatever happens." I pause, then it comes flooding out. "I am sorry about last week. In public, you see. You do understand I had to go to Golders Green, don't you? But in public, that was shabby, and I'm sorry."
His words sink into my mind slowly at first; I hear all the negatives, the 'save me from myself,' the 'doesn't trust you,' but then his apology comes in fast, and I chide myself for having doubted him, for being unhappy.
"Alleyn..." I say. "Don't apologize. I understand." I pause, frowning to myself, then laugh a little under my breath from pure relief. "I was so worried that I had offended you somehow, even though I knew it had to be like that, with us on the street... oh, I am so glad to see you."
"Oh, thank god you're not upset. I've been working myself into circles all week." I find I'm slumped on the sofa now, comfortable just in sheer relief I haven't made a complete arse of myself. "I hear Mr Lowell has left the country. Has that made your position a little easier, at any rate?"
I pull one bare foot up under me, getting more comfortable. If I had known someone would call I might've worn shoes today, but I do not feel Alleyn will mind the omission.
I nod in response to his question. "August had to go home... and yes, it has eased things a bit. I think I will miss him, though. He is irritating and bothersome as can be, but he was my friend, in a way. Not much of one, but he was getting better. He had changed a great deal recently."
"I suppose even Americans must grow up at some point. Did Lady Penelope appreciate the portrait? As a portrait, I mean, not as the scribblings of her little pet."
I laugh a bit. "Yes, I think she did; probably more so than anything else I've done, actually. She tries to understand art, but in the end she is just incurably British. Nothing's finer to a member of the peerage than a good portrait that they can hang with all the others their family has collected over the years."
"It's not just the British - it's all peers. The French ones I've met adore slumming, but they wouldn't dare hang anything by the artists they so enjoy as evening companions. The market is run by Forsytes now, the bourgeois ascendant. And they only buy the new stuff as an investment, not because they actually like it. I don't think there's an American who isn't an artist who actually likes Impressionism, but I do suppose it must be easy to find a painting that will look well with the sofa at a decent price. Not that David ever bought anything that will look well over the sofa, but none of it was expensive. Goupil have gone all modern, can you believe that? Tamara told me I was an idiot and should have just gone there if I wanted appraisals."
"The Italians I knew were not especially good connoisseurs of the modern, either - they know their Renaissance much better than, well, anything, past the Renaissance. And I can believe Goupil going modern - it is the way to turn now, with so many of the bourgeois snatching up art for status. If people like Penelope's husband have all the old art hanging from their walls, the nouveau rich have to find something they can collect in kind. All the better if it matches the upholstery."
I consider for a moment.
"You know, I am modern, and some of my things might even match some family's upholstery, but I cannot abide by the thought of my art hanging above some ill-designed mantlepiece overflowing with ill-chosen, poorly made objets d'art. How will I get anything sold if I insist upon having strong aesthetic principals? Not that anyone, ugly mantlepiece or not, has offered to buy one of my paintings. The very idea of it still irks me terribly."
I pause once more, then smile at him. "I am glad you didn't go to Goupil. It might make you an idiot, but it makes you an idiot whom I have had the pleasure of meeting."
as eclectictastes7: Letter from Tamara. Not meeting with. I got a bit confused on the dates.
I am unsure of what to say, so I remain hidden behind my hand and laugh a little to myself; it eases the grating of my nerves a bit. I peek at him from between my fingers; he does not look upset.
"Father and son..." I say, wondering if it really is that he hears in my words. I had missed it, so far. "That is not what I want either, Alleyn. I've already done that, and it's no good, in the end." I have my own father, and my grandfather, strong parental figures both of them. And then there was Bernardo; he was a father, and I the son, in an entirely different way. "All I want is friendship; I hope you know that?"
I lean forward. "Do you? Some of what you say doesn't quite sound as if you mean a relationship of equals."
I take my hand away from my face and look at him, trying to read his expression. "You have to understand that I have not gone through friendship of any sort in a long time, and the best friend I've ever had was also my lover, and a great deal older than me. I'm not much good at socializing, truly - I can be charming, and pleasantries come easy, but the rest of it... I've no idea what to do. But I do want to be your friend, and to be your equal, but for all I know that is out of my reach."
I worry too much and judge too harshly - he spent his youth avoiding people in fear and his adulthood prostituting himself. Of course his reaction to kind treatment is sexualised, even in the language. "That is for us to discover together. You are too young to be fully formed, so how can either of us know what is in your reach?"
I smile a little at him, relieved. "Thank you. I will try my best not to be an awful friend."
"Are you worried about tomorrow?"
"Somewhat. I want her to like me. Not because of Goupil, but because she's your friend. So, yes, I am a little anxious." I look around the room and remember that I am the host today. "Would you like some tea?"
"Only if you want some - I do not want to put you out. Tamara's bark is worse than her bite, I promise."
I nod. "I could use some tea. This weather demands it." I ring the bell and smile. "I have a housekeeper, you know. It makes me feel far more upper class than I deserve." I unfold myself and lean back in my chair. "In a strange way, I am actually looking forward to conversing with your friend. She must be an interesting woman, for you to like her."
Mrs. Hedgely comes in and stares a bit at Alleyn. I do not often have guests; only Penelope and August that I can remember, and she was never in when August visited me on his own. I ask her for tea and some toast and she leaves again.
"Penelope is her employer, not I," I explain after we have watched her go. "The money comes from Penelope, as do the instructions on how to run a bachelor's household. I think she was told I was a distant cousin the Goldstones had been trusted with; that is what most people hear."
"At least she keeps you in style. Yes, Tamara is interesting - far more interesting than I am. Well, her family are more interesting than mine, and her sex automatically makes her more interesting than I am."
I laugh. "If family and sex are all that dictates our interest, then I'm doomed. Male, the middle child of a terribly bourgeois family in Southampton... so bland. Oh, well. At least those are two things I can admit are fully, and naturally, out of my control."
P.S. (as eclectictastes7): I'm going out of town and my internet access is going to be limited to non-existent until Sunday night, but I'll check back when I can.
"I think they do youthen; she seems to have worked her way down until she found me, and I am as close to a youth as you can get and still find someone who knows how to pleasure you. And her husband... I am unsure how much he knows. He is very much in his own world, filled with politics and his club and his own mistress. Penelope is very good at getting her allowance raised whenever she wants, but he must know it is all going somewhere. If he knows about me in particular, though, I have no idea."