Constance, in diaphanous black, was at the piano, trying to recall, for Radowitz’s benefit, some of the Italian folk-songs that had delighted the river-party. The room was full of a soft mingled light from the still uncurtained windows and the lamp which had been just brought in. It seemed to be specially concentrated on the hair, “golden like ripe corn,” of the young musician, and on Connie’s white neck and arms. Radowitz lay back in a low chair gazing at her with all his eyes.
On the further side of the room Nora was reading, Mrs. Hooper was busy with the newspaper, and Alice and Herbert Pryce were talking with the air of people who are, rather uncomfortably, making up a quarrel.
Sorell spent his half-hour mostly in conversation with Mrs. Hooper and Nora, while his inner mind wondered about the others. He stood with his back to the mantelpiece, his handsome pensive face, with its intensely human eyes, bent towards Nora, who was pouring out to him some grievances of the “home-students,” to which he was courteously giving a jaded man’s attention.
When he left the room Radowitz broke out—
“Isn’t he like a god?”
Connie opened astonished eyes.
“My tutor—Mr. Sorell. Ah, you didn’t notice—but you should. He is like the Hermes—only grown older, and with a soul. But there is no Greek sculptor who could have done him justice. It would have wanted a Praxiteles; but with the mind of Euripides!”
The boy’s passionate enthusiasm pleased her. But she could think of nothing less conventional in reply than to ask if Sorell were popular in college.
“Oh, they like him well enough. They know what trouble he takes for them, and there’s nobody dares cheek him. But they don’t understand him. He’s too shy. Wasn’t it good fortune for me that he happens to be my friend?”
And he began to talk at headlong speed, and with considerable eloquence, of Sorell’s virtues and accomplishments. Constance, who had been brought up in a southern country, liked the eloquence. Something in her was already tired of the slangy brevities that do duty in England for conversation. At the same time she thought she understood why Falloden, and Meyrick, and others called the youth a poseur, and angrily wished to snub him. He possessed besides, in-bred, all the foreign aids to the mere voice—gesticulation of hands and head, movements that to the Englishman are unexpected and therefore disagreeable. Also there, undeniably, was the frilled dress-shirt, and the two diamond studs, much larger and more conspicuous than Oxford taste allowed, which added to its criminality. And it was easy to see too that the youth was inordinately proud of his Polish ancestry, and inclined to rate all Englishmen as parvenus and shopkeepers.
“Was it in Paris you first made friends with Mr. Sorell?” Connie asked him.