Read BROWN ROSES of Prose Fancies (Second Series), free online book, by Richard Le Gallienne, on ReadCentral.com.

‘Well, I never thought to see this day, sir,’ said Gibbs, with something like tears in his voice, as he reluctantly plied his scissors upon Hyacinth Rondel’s distinguished curls.

‘Nor I, Gibbs ­nor I!’ said Rondel sadly, relapsing into silence again, with his head meekly bent over the white sheet spread to catch his shorn beauty.

‘To think of the times, sir, that I have dressed your head,’ continued Gibbs, whose grief bore so marked an emphasis, ’and to think that after to-day ...’

’But you forget, my dear Gibbs, that I shall now be a more constant customer than ever!’

’Ah, sir, but that will be different.  It will be mere machine-cutting, lawn-mowing, steam-reaping, if you understand me; there’ll be no pleasure in it, no artistic pleasure, I mean.’

‘Yes, Gibbs, and you are an artist ­I have often told you that.’

’Ah, sir, but I am coming to the conclusion that it is better not to be an artist, better to be born just like every one else.  In these days one suffers too much.  Why, sir, I haven’t in the whole of my business six heads like yours, and I go on cutting all the rest week in and week out, just for the pleasure of dressing those six ­and now there’ll only be five.’

‘It looks like a winding-sheet,’ mused Rondel presently, after a long silence, broken only by the soft crunch and click of the fatal scissors, as they feasted on the beautiful brown silk.

‘It do indeed, sir,’ said Gibbs, with a shudder, as another little globe of golden brown rolled down into Rondel’s lap.

‘Poor brown roses!’ sighed the poet, after another silence; ’they are just like brown roses, aren’t they, Gibbs?’

‘They are indeed, sir!’

’Brown roses scattered over the winding-sheet of one’s youth ­eh, Gibbs?’

‘They are indeed, sir.’

‘That’s rather a pretty image, don’t you think, Gibbs?’

‘Indeed I do, sir!’

’Well, well, they have bloomed their last; and when Juliet’s white hands come seeking with their silver fingers, white maidens lost in the brown enchanted forest, there will not be a rose left for her to gather.’

’Believe me, sir, I would more gladly have cut off your head than your hair ­that is, figuratively speaking,’ sobbed the artist-in-hair-oils.

’Yes, my head would hardly be missed ­you are quite right, Gibbs; but my hair!  What will they do without it at first nights and private views?  It was worth five shillings a week to many a poor paragraph-writer.  Well, I must try and make up for it by my beard!’

‘Your beard, sir?’ exclaimed Gibbs in horror.

’Yes, Gibbs; for some years I have been a Nazarene ­that is, a Nazarite, with the top half of my head; now I am going to change about and be a Nazarite with the lower.  The razor has kissed my cheeks and my chin and the fluted column of my throat for the last time.’

‘You cannot mean it, sir!’ said Gibbs, suspending his murderous task a moment.

‘It’s quite true, Gibbs.’

‘Does she wish that too, sir?’

‘Yes, that too.’

’Well, sir, I have heard of men making sacrifices for their wives, but of all the cruel....’

’Please don’t, Gibbs.  It does no good.  And Mrs. Rondel’s motive is a good one.’

’Of course, sir, I cannot presume ­and yet, if it wouldn’t be presuming, I should like to know why you are making this great, I may say this noble, sacrifice?’

’Well, Gibbs, we’re old friends, and I’ll tell you some day, but I hardly feel up to it to-day.’

‘Of course not, sir, of course not ­it’s only natural,’ said Gibbs tenderly, while the scissors once more took up the conversation.