Lord Findon shrugged his shoulders, and then, throwing back his head against the back of his capacious chair, proceeded to ‘sip’ his tea, held in both hands, according to an approved digestive method—ten seconds to a sip—he had lately adopted. He collected new doctors with the same zeal that he spent in pushing new artists.
Eugenie put out a hand and patted his shoulder tenderly. She and her father were the best of comrades, and they showed it most plainly in Lady Findon’s absence. That lady was again on her travels, occupied in placing her younger daughter for a time in a French family, with a view to ‘finishing.’ Eugenie or Lord Findon wrote to her every day; they discussed her letters when they arrived with all proper egards; and, for the rest, enjoyed their tete-a-tete, and never dreamed of missing her. Tete-a-tete, indeed, it scarcely was; for there was still another daughter in the house, whom Madame de Pastourelles—her much older half-sister—mothered with great assiduity in Lady Findon’s absence; and the elder son also, who was still unmarried, lived mainly at home. Nevertheless, it was recognised that ‘papa’ and Eugenie had special claims upon each other, and as the household adored them both, they were never interfered with.
On this occasion Eugenie was bent on business as well as affection. She withdrew her hand from her father’s shoulder in order to raise a monitory finger.
‘Genius or no, papa, it’s time you paid him his money.’
‘How you go on, Eugenie!’ said Lord Findon, crossing his knees luxuriously, as the tea filtered down. ’Pray, what money do I owe him?’
’Well, of course, if you wait till he’s made a hit, prices will go up,’ said Eugenie, calmly. ’I advise you to agree with him quickly, while you are in the way with him.’
‘I never asked him to paint you,’ said Lord Findon, hastily, swallowing a sip of tea under the regulation time, and frowning at the misdeed.
‘Oh, shuffling papa! Come—how much?—two hundred?’
’Upon my word! A painter shouldn’t propose to paint a picture, my dear, and then expect to get paid for it as if he’d been commissioned. The girls might as well propose matrimony to the men.’
‘Nobody need accept,’ said Eugenie, slyly, replenishing his cup. ’I consider, papa, that you have bolted that cup.’
‘Then for goodness’ sake, don’t give me any more!’ cried Lord Findon. ’It’s no joke, Eugenie, this sipping business—Where were we? Oh, well, of course I knew we should have to take it—and I don’t say I’m not pleased with it. But two hundred!’
‘Not a penny less,’ said Eugenie—’and the apotheosis of my frock alone is worth the money. Two hundred for that—and two-fifty for the other?’
’Welby told me that actually was the price he had put on it! The young man won’t starve, my dear, for want of knowing his own value.’
‘I shouldn’t wonder if he had been rather near starving,’ said Eugenie, gravely.