“And I hope you won’t mind, Elfrida,” he added, “but I’ve promised that they shall have one of your paintings to raffle off in the bazar for the alterations in the Sunday-school next week.”
“Oh no, papa. I shall be delighted.”
Elfrida was sitting beside her mother on the sofa, and at the dose of this proposition Mr. Bell came and sat there too. There was a silence for a moment while they all three confronted the line of pictures leaning against the wall Then Elfrida began to laugh, and she went on laughing, to the astonishment of her parents, until the tears came into her eyes. She stopped as suddenly, kissed her mother and father, and went upstairs. “I’m afraid you’ve hurt Her feelings, Leslie,” said Mrs. Bell, when she had well gone.
But Elfrida’s feelings had not been hurt, though one might say that the evening left her sense of humor rather sore. At that moment she was dallying with the temptation to describe the whole scene in a letter to a valued friend in Philadelphia, who would have appreciated it with mirth. In the end she did not write. It would have been too humiliating.
“Pas mal, parbleu!” Lucien remarked, with pursed-out lips, running his fingers through his shock of coarse hair, and reflectively scratching the top of his big head as he stepped closer to Nadie Palicsky’s elbow, where she stood at her easel in his crowded atelier. The girl turned and looked keenly into his face, seeking his eyes, which were on her work with a considering, interested look. Satisfied, she sent a glance of joyous triumph at a somewhat older woman, whose place was next, and who was listening with the amiable effacement of countenance that is sometimes a more or less successful disguise for chagrin. On this occasion it seemed to fail, for Mademoiselle Palicsky turned her attention to Lucien and her work again with a slight raising of the eyebrows and a slighter sigh. Her face assumed a gentle melancholy, as if she were pained at the exhibition of a weakness of her sex; yet it was unnecessary to be an acute observer to read there the hope that Lucien’s significant phrase had not by any chance escaped her neighbor.
“The drawing of the neck,” Lucien went on, “is excellently brutal.” Nadie wished he would speak a little louder, but Lucien always arranged the carrying power of his voice according to the susceptibilities of the atelier. He thrust his hands into his pockets and still stood beside her, looking at her study of the nude model who posed upon a table in the midst of the students. “In you, mademoiselle,” he added in a tone yet lower, “I find the woman and the artist divorced. That is a vast advantage—an immense source of power. I am growing more certain of you; you are not merely cleverly eccentric as I thought. You have a great deal that no one can teach you. You have finished that—I wish to take it downstairs to show the men. It will not be jeered at, I promise you.”