“I know nothing, you see, Mimo,” the Countess Shulski said, “beyond that you arrived yesterday. I think it was foolish of you to risk it. At least in Paris Madame Dubois would have let you stay and owe a week’s rent. But here—among these strangers—”
“Now do not scold us, Mentor,” the man answered, with a charming smile. “Mirko and I felt the sun had fled when you went last Thursday. It rained and rained two—three—days, and the Dubois canary got completely on our nerves; and, heavens above! the Grisoldi insisted upon cooking garlic in his food at every meal!—we had thought to have broken him of the habit, you remember?—and up, up it came from his stove. Body of Bacchus! It killed inspiration. I could not paint, my Cherisette, and Mirko could not play. And so we said: ’At least—at least the sun of the hair of our Cherisette must shine in the dark England; we, too, will go there, away from the garlic and the canary, and the fogs will give us new ideas, and we shall create wonderful things.’ Is it not so, Mirko mio?”
“But, of course, Papa,” the boy echoed; and then his voice trembled with a pitiful note. “You are not angry with us, darling Cherisette? Say it is not so?”
“My little one! How can you! I could never be angry with my Mirko, no matter what he did!” And the two pools of ink softened from the expression of the black panther into the divine tenderness of the Sistine Madonna, as she pressed the frail, little body to her side and pulled her cloak around it.
“Only I fear it cannot be well for you here in London, and if my uncle should know, all hope of getting anything from him may be over. He expressly said if I would come quite alone, to stay with him for these few weeks, it would be to my advantage; and my advantage means yours, as you know. Otherwise do you think I would have eaten of his hateful bread?”
“You are so good to us, Cherisette,” the man Mimo said. “You have, indeed, a sister of the angels, Mirko mio; but soon we shall be all rich and famous. I had a dream last night, and already I have begun a new picture of grays and mists—of these strange fogs!”
Count Mimo Sykypri was a confirmed optimist.
“Meanwhile you are in the one room, in Neville Street, Tottenham Court Road. It is, I fear, a poor neighborhood.”
“No worse than Madame Dubois’,” Mimo hastened to reassure her, “and London is giving me new ideas.”
Mirko coughed harshly with a dry sound. Countess Shulski drew him closer to her and held him tight.
“You got the address from the Grisoldi? He was a kind little old man, in spite of the garlic,” she said.
“Yes, he told us of it, as an inexpensive resting place, until our affairs prospered, and we came straight there and wrote to you at once.”
“I was greatly surprised to receive the letter. Have you any money at all now, Mimo?”
“Indeed, yes!” And Count Sykypri proudly drew forth eight bits of French gold from his pocket. “We had two hundred francs when we arrived. Our little necessities and a few paints took up two of the twenty-franc pieces, and we have eight of them left! Oh, quite a fortune! It will keep us until I can sell the ‘Apache.’ I shall take it to a picture dealer’s to-morrow.”