The cardinal had seen the picture of Emma Campbell and her cat. He had seen an enchanting sketch of the Spanish student in the velvet coat, recently purchased by a friend of his. And now his own portrait must be painted. He was so great a cardinal, of so striking a personality, that his own noble family had an immense pride in him, and the Vatican, along with certain great temporal powers, took him very seriously. So the painting of the cardinal’s portrait wouldn’t be a light undertaking, to be given at random. This and that great painter was urged upon him. But the astonishing portrait of that old colored woman and her cat decided his Eminence, who had a will of his own. Here was his artist! Also, he insisted upon the cat.
The anticlerical press of Paris was insisting that the cardinal’s stay in the French capital was of sinister import. The cardinal smiled, and Peter Champneys besought his gods to let him get that smile on canvas. His Eminence was an ideal sitter. He spoke English beautifully, and it pleased him to converse with the lanky young American painter in his mother tongue. He felt drawn to the young man, and when the cardinal liked one, he was irresistible. Peter was so fascinated by this brilliant and versatile aristocrat, so deeply interested in the psychology of a great Roman prelate, a prince of the Church, that he forgot everything except that he was a creative artist—and a great sitter, a man worthy of his best, was to be portrayed.
He gave his whole heart to his task, and he brought to it a new sense of values, born of suffering. When he had finished, you could see the cardinal’s soul looking at you from the canvas. The smile Peter prayed to catch curves his lips, a smile that baffles and enchants. He wears his red robes, and one fine, aristocratic hand with the churchly ring on it rests upon the magnificent cat lying on the table beside him. That superb “Cardinal with the Cat” put the seal upon Peter Champneys’s reputation as a great artist.
He knew what he had achieved. Yet his lips quivered and his eyes were smileless when, down in the left-hand corner, he painted in the Red Admiral.
THE OTHER MAN
In Florence the nascent swan-feathers of Anne Champneys grew into perfect plumage. She was like a spirit new-born to another world, with all the dun-colored ties of a darker existence swept away, and only a residue of thought and feeling left of its former experience. This bright and rosy world, enriched by nature and art, was so new, its values were so different, that at first she was dazed into dumbness by it.