I walk on in a ruffled, jarred silence. Presently Frank speaks again.
“Are those two “—(slightly indicating by a faint nod the figures in front of us)—“the two you expected?—Are these—what are their names?— Algy and Barbara?”
“Yes,” say I, smiling, with recovered equanimity; “Algy and Barbara.” A little pause. “You can judge for yourself now,” say I, laughing rather nervously, “whether I spoke truth—whether Barbara is as like the St. Catherine as I told you.” For a moment he does not answer. “Of course,” I say, rather crestfallen, “the bonnet makes a difference; the likeness is much more striking when it is off.”
“The St. Catherine!” he repeats, with a puzzled air, “what St. Catherine? I am afraid you will think me very stupid, but I really am quite at sea.”
“Do you mean to say,” cry I, reddening with mortification, “that you forget—that you do not remember that St. Catherine of Palma Vecchio’s in the Dresden Gallery that I always pointed out to you as having such a look of Barbara? Well, you have a short memory!”
“Have I?” he answers, dryly; “perhaps for some things; for others I fancy that mine is a good deal longer than yours.”
“It might easily be that,” I answer, recovering from my temporary annoyance and laughing; “I suppose you mean for books and dates, and things of that kind. Well, you may easily beat me there. The landing of William the Conqueror, and the battle of Waterloo, were the only two dates I ever succeeded in mastering, and that was only after the struggle of years.”
“Dates!” he says, impatiently, “pshaw! I was not thinking of them! I was thinking of Dresden!”
“Are you so sure that you could beat me there?” ask I, thoughtfully; “I do not know about that! I think I could stand a pretty stiff examination; but perhaps you are talking of the pictures and the names of the artists. Ah, yes! there you are right; with me they go in at one ear, and out at another. Only the other day I was racking my brain to think of the name of the man that painted the other Magdalen—not Guido’s—I was telling Algy about it. Bah! what is it? I know it as well as my own.”
His head is turned away from me. He does not appear to be attending.
“What is it?” I repeat; “have you forgotten too?”
“Battoni!” he answers, laconically, still keeping his face averted.
“Battoni! oh, yes! thanks—of course! so it is!—Algy “—(raising my voice a little)—“Battoni!”
“Well, what about him?” replies Algy, turning his head, but not showing much inclination to slacken his speed or to join Frank and me.
“The Magdalen man—you know—I mean the man that painted the Magdalen, and whose name I could not recollect last night, Algy. Barbara! how fast you are walking!”—(speaking rather reproachfully)—“stop a moment! I want to introduce you to Mr. Musgrave.”