Hurtle Duffield is incapable of loving anything except what he paints. The men and women who court him during his long life are, above all, the victims of his art. He is the vivisector, dissecting their weaknesses with cruel precision: his sister's deformity, a grocer's moonlight indiscretion and the passionate illusions of his mistress, Hero Pavloussi. It is only when Hurtle meets an egocentric adolescent whom he sees as his spiritual child does he experience a deeper, more treacherous emotion.
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