The Light that Failed
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See Article History. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. His novel The Light That Failed is the story of a painter going blind and spurned by the woman he loves. Captains Courageous , in spite of its sense of adventure, is burdened by excessive descriptive writing. Kim , about an Irish orphan in India, is…. Sudan , the vast tract of open savanna plains extending across Africa between the southern limits of the Sahara desert and the northern limits of the equatorial rain forests.
Rereading: The Light that Failed by Rudyard Kipling | Books | The Guardian
Novel, an invented prose narrative of considerable length and a certain complexity that deals imaginatively with human experience, usually through a connected sequence of events involving a group of persons in a specific setting. Within its broad framework, the genre of the novel has encompassed an…. History at your fingertips. I knew it would be so. For my face? My God! I will not.
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Take him away. He is a devil. Or at least do thou, Celeste, demand of him more.
Eh, 'how you call—'alf a sovereign. The money was paid, and the mad dance was held at night in a walled courtyard at the back of Madame Binat's house. The lady herself, in faded mauve silk always about to slide from her yellow shoulders, played the piano, and to the tin-pot music of a Western waltz the naked Zanzibari girls danced furiously by the light of kerosene lamps.
Binat sat upon a chair and stared with eyes that saw nothing, till the whirl of the dance and the clang of the rattling piano stole into the drink that took the place of blood in his veins, and his face glistened. Dick took him by the chin brutally and turned that face to the light. Madame Binat looked over her shoulder and smiled with many teeth. Dick leaned against the wall and sketched for an hour, till the kerosene lamps began to smell, and the girls threw themselves panting on the hard-beaten ground. Then he shut his book with a snap and moved away, Binat plucking feebly at his elbow.
The courtyard gate shut, and Dick hurried up the sandy street to the nearest gambling-hell, where he was well known. The luck held. Three turns of the wheel left him richer by twenty pounds, and he went down to the shipping to make friends with the captain of a decayed cargo-steamer, who landed him in London with fewer pounds in his pocket than he cared to think about. A thin gray fog hung over the city, and the streets were very cold; for summer was in England. The packed houses gave no answer. Dick looked down the long lightless streets and at the appalling rush of traffic.
You have to supply me with men-servants and maid-servants,'—here he smacked his lips,—'and the peculiar treasure of kings. Meantime I'll find clothes and boots, and presently I will return and trample on you. As he stooped to make investigations, a man jostled him into the gutter. Good clothes and boots are not cheap, and Dick left his last shop with the certainty that he would be respectably arrayed for a time, but with only fifty shillings in his pocket. He returned to streets by the Docks, and lodged himself in one room, where the sheets on the bed were almost audibly marked in case of theft, and where nobody seemed to go to bed at all.
When his clothes arrived he sought the Central Southern Syndicate for Torpenhow's address, and got it, with the intimation that there was still some money waiting for him. If it would be any convenience to you, of course we could let you have it at once; but we usually settle accounts monthly. Wait till I come back, and I'll see about it.
Heldar, that you do not intend to sever your connection with us? Dick's business in life was the study of faces, and he watched the speaker keenly. There's a big deal coming.
And that day was the seventh of the month, and that month, he reckoned with awful distinctness, had thirty-one days in it! It is not easy for a man of catholic tastes and healthy appetites to exist for twenty-four days on fifty shillings. Nor is it cheering to begin the experiment alone in all the loneliness of London.
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Dick paid seven shillings a week for his lodging, which left him rather less than a shilling a day for food and drink. Naturally, his first purchase was of the materials of his craft; he had been without them too long. Half a day's investigations and comparison brought him to the conclusion that sausages and mashed potatoes, twopence a plate, were the best food. Now, sausages once or twice a week for breakfast are not unpleasant. As lunch, even, with mashed potatoes, they become monotonous. At dinner they are impertinent.
At the end of three days Dick loathed sausages, and, going forth, pawned his watch to revel on sheep's head, which is not as cheap as it looks, owing to the bones and the gravy. Then he returned to sausages and mashed potatoes. Then he confined himself entirely to mashed potatoes for a day, and was unhappy because of pain in his inside. Then he pawned his waistcoat and his tie, and thought regretfully of money thrown away in times past.
There are few things more edifying unto Art than the actual belly-pinch of hunger, and Dick in his few walks abroad,—he did not care for exercise; it raised desires that could not be satisfied—found himself dividing mankind into two classes,—those who looked as if they might give him something to eat, and those who looked otherwise.
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Dick took it,—would have fought all the world for its possession,—and it cheered him. The month dragged through at last, and, nearly prancing with impatience, he went to draw his money. Then he hastened to Torpenhow's address and smelt the smell of cooking meats all along the corridors of the chambers. Torpenhow was on the top floor, and Dick burst into his room, to be received with a hug which nearly cracked his ribs, as Torpenhow dragged him to the light and spoke of twenty different things in the same breath.
Torp, I've been starving on that accursed horse-flesh for thirty days and thirty nights. Dick spoke of the last few weeks with unbridled speech. Then he opened his coat; there was no waistcoat below. Eat, and talk afterwards. Torpenhow handed him a filled pipe, and he smoked as men smoke who for three weeks have been deprived of good tobacco. Besides I had a sort of superstition that this temporary starvation—that's what it was, and it hurt—would bring me luck later. It's over and done with now, and none of the syndicate know how hard up I was. Fire away. What's the exact state of affairs as regards myself?
You've caught on here. People like your work immensely. I don't know why, but they do. They say you have a fresh touch and a new way of drawing things. And, because they're chiefly home-bred English, they say you have insight.
The Light That Failed
You're wanted by half a dozen papers; you're wanted to illustrate books. They seem to think the money sunk in you is a good investment. Just now you're a fashion, a phenomenon, or whatever you please. I appeared to be the only person who knew anything about you here, and I have been showing the most useful men a few of the sketches you gave me from time to time. Those coming after your work on the Central Southern Syndicate appear to have done your business.
You're in luck. Do call it luck, when a man has been kicking about the world like a dog, waiting for it to come! I'll luck 'em later on. I want a place to work first.
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There's your skylight, or your north light, or whatever window you call it, and plenty of room to thrash about in, and a bedroom beyond. What more do you need? A pale yellow sun shone through the skylight and showed the much dirt of the place. Three steps led from the door to the landing, and three more to Torpenhow's room.