Holding his paint-mottled palette up against the garish hues in the western sky, Charles Martin squinted, cursed, spat. He peered at his canvas. He’d captured something of the more muted tones of the reflection in the waters of the Thames, but nothing of the bizarre shades of the sunset itself. It was a daub, no better than William Ashcroft’s wretched pastel sketches. Martin had sought out rare pigments, which he could ill afford, and mixed them with care, but still the colours wouldn’t come out aright: the eerie greenish streak at the horizon, the lustreless cochineal whorls above, the mallow and puce blotches, the deep indigo arcing over.
Martin set down palette and brush, took out his gin bottle, dashed his tin cup full, and raised it to his lips. But his hand trembled, as it was sometimes wont to, and he slopped spirits on the painting.
Scrabbling in his bag, he pulled out a cloth and dabbed at the canvas. But he managed only to smear the paint. With a snort of disgust, he kicked over his easel, then took a long pull straight from the bottle, sighed, and began packing his things.