Synopsis

The reader is introduced properly to Martin Stuart, the Vicar’s nephew.  He is described as being of delicate constitution and suffering from a stammer.  His father was an alcoholic who committed suicide, and his uncle agreed to take care of this “sickly little creature”, treating him as his own son.  He has enjoyed the best possible education and a handsome allowance, but remains the same “enfeebled, stammering, insignificant creature.”  The Reverend’s greatest wish is that his daughter Henrietta and Martin should marry.

The Vicar teases Henrietta that reading Guy Livingstone has given her unrealistic ideas as to masculine perfection.  He hints at a relationship between her and Martin, which she hotly denies.  The Vicar, clearly worried, enquires as to whether she prefers that “girl” Leofric Temple.  She allays his fears on that count, but reveals that she has already turned down Martin’s proposal of marriage.

Joseph Balchin, father of Winifred, makes an appearance.  He is the clerk and sexton of the parish.  He enjoys a reputation for being kind and sensitive, but this is just a front for a domestic bully who mistreats his motherless children.  Winifred has sneaked out for an evening assignation with Leofric.  They spend several hours together, after which she visits her mother’s grave and pleads for forgiveness.

Jack Wardlaw arrives in London at the house of a fellow artist, with whom he is to stay.  Tom Cornicott is married with eleven young children and is desperate to become a Fellow of the Royal Academy.  Jack attends his first painting class at Matterby’s and afterwards visits the National Gallery.  Here he is struck by one of Cornicutt’s paintings, Death of Sisera, which shows Jael, wife of Heber the Kentie.  He gazes at the perfect features of the woman, worshipping her classical beauty.  Cornicutt informs him that the model was an actress by the name of Rowney Bellew.

Jack later encounters Rowney backstage at the theatre.  She is dressed as a pageboy, but he still finds her beautiful.  She is described as being more like a statue than a living creature, with eyes that are cold, hard and unyielding.  He falls head over heels in love with her, conceiving a “devouring passion”.  He returns to the theatre many times in order that he might gaze upon her.

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