“It’s nonsense, Colonel Quaritch, perfect nonsense, if you will forgive me for telling you so,” Ida was saying with warmth. “It is all very well for you to complain that my trees are a blur, and the castle nothing but a splotch, but I am looking at the water, and if I am looking at the water, it is quite impossible that I should see the trees and the cows otherwise than I have rendered them on the canvas. True art is to paint what the painter sees and as he sees it.”
Colonel Quaritch shook his head and sighed.
“The cant of the impressionist school,” he said sadly; “on the contrary, the business of the artist is to paint what he knows to be there,” and he gazed complacently at his own canvas, which had the appearance of a spirited drawing of a fortified place, or of the contents of a child’s Noah’s ark, so stiff, so solid, so formidable were its outlines, trees and animals.
Ida shrugged her shoulders, laughed merrily, and turned round to find herself face to face with Edward Cossey. She started back, and her expression hardened—then she stretched out her hand and said, “How do you do?” in her very coldest tones.
“How do you do, Miss de la Molle?” he said, assuming as unconcerned an air as he could, and bowing stiffly to Harold Quaritch, who returned the bow and went back to his canvas, which was placed a few paces off.
“I saw you painting,” went on Edward Cossey in a low tone, “so I thought I would come and tell you that I have settled the matter with Mr. de la Molle.”
“Oh, indeed,” answered Ida, hitting viciously at a wasp with her paint brush. “Well, I hope that you will find the investment a satisfactory one. And now, if you please, do not let us talk any more about money, because I am quite tired of the subject.” Then raising her voice she went on, “Come here, Colonel Quaritch, and Mr. Cossey shall judge between us,” and she pointed to her picture.
Edward glanced at the Colonel with no amiable air. “I know nothing about art,” he said, “and I am afraid that I must be getting on. Good-morning,” and taking off his hat to Ida, he turned and went.
“Umph,” said the Colonel, looking after him with a quizzical expression, “that gentleman seems rather short in his temper. Wants knocking about the world a bit, I should say. But I beg your pardon, I suppose that he is a friend of yours, Miss de la Molle?”
“He is an acquaintance of mine,” answered Ida with emphasis.
THE TIGER SHOWS HER CLAWS
After this very chilling reception at the hands of the object of his affection, Edward Cossey continued his drive in an even worse temper than before. He reached his rooms, had some luncheon, and then in pursuance of a previous engagement went over to the Oaks to see Mrs. Quest.
He found her waiting for him in the drawing-room. She was standing at the window with her hands behind her, a favourite attitude of hers. As soon as the door was shut, she turned, came up to him, and grasped his hand affectionately between her own.