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"You are fortunate, in any case, more fortunate than you imagine. At least one day you will escape from Bruges—I never shall."

"Why not, if you hate it so much?"

"Oh, that's too difficult to explain, ma petite. All I can say is that once I had my chance of escaping and was too stupid, or hadn't enough talent, to take it. I studied art in Paris for four years and took myself seriously then. I was convinced that I would be a great painter, as convinced as you are that you will be a great dancer. I think you are right; I know I was wrong."

"What happened then?"

"Oh, it's too monotonous to relate! I learned gradually in a particularly bitter way, that I was not a great painter, not even a mediocre painter, only an extraordinarily bad one. And I was poor, and in debt. I lived in Holland then, with a woman I loved deeply, and in whose love for me I had a sublime, an imbecile confidence. She left me, for a rich man. Now, when I look back, I am sorry for that woman, but in those days I was only sorry for myself. And so I came here to live, where I was born, because I cared little enough about anything, and because I thought, and still think, that Bruges is the saddest town in all the world. And that, I think, is the reason why Rosing came here. Yet his case is not the same as mine, but even more melancholy, for Rosing had everything once and now has nothing. He had fame, and through you he will have fame again. I never had."

"You think fame is everything, then?" Lina wanted to know.

"For an artist, yes, of course it is." He grinned at her. "You will learn that for yourself one day. And now we have talked enough of desolate things. Will you, next time you visit me, bring your dancing dress, and allow a very bad painter to sketch you?"