“Oh, papa! They’re not etchings, they’re subjects in charcoal—from casts and things.”
“They do you credit—I’ve no doubt they do you credit. They’re very nicely drawn,” returned her father, “but they’re a good deal alike. We wont be able to hang more than two of them in the same room. Was that what they gave you the medal for?”
Mr. Bell indicated a drawing of Psyche. The lines were delicate, expressive, and false; the relief was imperfect, yet the feeling was undeniably caught. As a drawing it was incorrect enough, but its charm lay in a subtle spiritual something that bad worked into it from the girl’s own fingers, and made the beautiful empty classic face modernly interesting. In view of its inaccuracy the committee had been guilty of a most irregular proceeding in recognizing it with a medal; but in a very young art school this might be condoned.
“It’s a perfectly lovely thing,” interposed Mrs. Bell from the sofa. “I’m sure it deserves one.”
Elfrida said nothing. The study was ticketed, it had obviously won a medal.
Mr. Bell looked at it critically. “Yes, it’s certainly well done. In spite of the frame—I wouldn’t give ten cents for the frame—the effect is fine. We most find a good light for that. Oh, now we come to the oil-paintings. We both presumed you would do well at the oil-paintings; and for my part,” continued Mr. Bell definitely, “I like them best. There’s more variety in them.” He was holding at arm’s-length, as he spoke, an oblong scrap of filmy blue sky and marshy green fields in a preposterously wide, flat, dull gold frame, and looking at it in a puzzled way. Presently he reversed it and looked again.
“No, papa,” Elfrida said, “you had it right side up before.” She was biting her lip, and struggling with a desire to pile them all back into the box and shut the lid and stamp on it.
“That’s exquisite!” murmured Mrs. Bell, when Mr. Bell had righted it again.
“It’s one of the worst,” said Elfrida briefly. Mr. Bell looked relieved. “Since that’s your own opinion, Elfrida,” he said, “I don’t mind saying that I don’t care much about it either. It looks as if you’d got tired of it before you finished it.”
“Does it?” Elfrida said.
“Now this is a much better thing, in my opinion,” her father went on, standing the picture of an old woman behind an apple-stall along the wall with the rest “I don’t pretend to be a judge, but I know what I like, and I like that. It explains itself.”
“It’s a lovely bit of color,” remarked Mrs. Bell.
Elfrida smiled. “Thank you, mamma,” she said, and kissed her.
When the box was exhausted, Mr. Bell walked up and down for a few minutes in front of the row against the wall, with his hands in his pockets, reflecting, while Mrs. Bell discovered new beauties to the author of them.
“We’ll hang this lot in the dining-room,” he said at length, “and those black-and-whites with the oak mountings in the parlor. They’ll go best with the wall-paper there.”