“A what!” cried young Mrs. Carstairs, indignantly. “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? You’re not a failure. It’s the New Yorkers who don’t know what’s good when it’s shown them. They’ll buy all those nasty French pictures because they’re expensive and showy, and they can’t understand what’s true and good. They’re not educated up to it, and they won’t be for fifty years yet.”
“Fifty years is a long time to wait,” said her husband, resignedly, “but if necessary we can give them that much time. And we were to have gone abroad, and taken dinner at Bignon’s, and had a studio in Montmartre.”
“Well, you needn’t talk about that just now,” said Mrs. Carstairs, as she shook out an old shawl. “It’s not cheerful.”
There came a knock at the door, and the railroad king walked in, covered with snow. “Goodness me!” exclaimed King Cole, “what are you doing?”
They told him they were going back to Vermont to spend Christmas and the rest of the winter.
“You might have let me know you were going,” said the king. “I had something most important to say to you, and you almost gave me the slip.”
He seated himself very comfortably and lighted a fat, black cigar, which he chewed as he smoked. “You know,” he said, “that I was brought up in Connecticut. I own the old homestead there still, and a tenant of mine lives in it. I’ve got a place in London, or, I mean, my wife has, and one in Scotland, and one in Brittany, a chateau, and one in—well, I’ve a good many here and there. I keep ’em closed till I want ’em. I’ve never been to the shooting-place in Scotland—my sons go there—nor to the London house, but I have to the French place, and I like it next best to only one other place on earth. Because it’s among big trees and on a cliff, where you can see the ships all day, and the girls in colored petticoats catching those little fish you eat with brown bread. I go there in the summer and sit on the cliff, and smoke and feel just as good as though I owned the whole coast and all the sea in sight. I bought a number of pictures of Brittany, and the girls had the place photographed by a fellow from Paris, with the traps in the front yard, and themselves and their friends on the front terrace in groups. But it never seemed to me to be just what I remembered of the place. And so what I want to ask is, if you’ll go up to my old place in Connecticut and paint me a picture of it as I used to know it when I was a boy, so that I can have it by me in my room. A picture with the cow-path leading up from the pool at the foot of the hill, and the stone walls, and the corn piled on the fields, and the pumpkins lying around, and the sun setting behind the house. Paint it on one of these cold, snappy afternoons, when your blood tingles and you feel good that you’re alive. And when you get through with that, I’d like you to paint me a picture to match it of the chateau, and as many little sketches of the fishermen, and the girls with the big white hats and bare legs and red petticoats, as you choose. You can live in the homestead till that picture’s done, and then you can cross over and live in the chateau.