“Oh no!” said Miss Kimpsey.
“But Elfrida’s reading has always been very general. She has a remarkable mind, if you will excuse my saying so; it devours everything. I can’t tell you when she learned to read, Miss Kimpsey—it seemed to come to her. She has often reminded me of what you see in the biographies of distinguished people about their youth. There are really a great many points of similarity sometimes. I shouldn’t be surprised if Elfrida did anything. I wish I had had her opportunities!”
“She’s growing very good-looking,” remarked Miss Kimpsey.
“It’s an interesting face,” Mrs. Bell returned. “Here is her last photograph. It’s full of soul, I think. She posed herself,” Mrs. Bell added unconsciously.
It was a cabinet photograph of a girl whose eyes looked definitely out of it, dark, large, well shaded, full of a desire to be beautiful at once expressed and fulfilled. The nose was a trifle heavily blocked, but the mouth had sensitiveness and charm. There was a heaviness in the chin, too, but the free springing curve of the neck contradicted that, and the symmetry of the face defied analysis. It was turned a little to one side, wistfully; the pose and the expression suited each other perfectly.
“Full of soul!” responded Miss Kimpsey. “She takes awfully well, doesn’t she! It reminds me—it reminds me of pictures I’ve seen of Rachel, the actress, really it does.”
“I’m afraid Elfrida has no talent that way.” Mrs. Bell’s accent was quite one of regret.
“She seems completely wrapped up in her painting just now,” said Miss Kimpsey, with her eyes still on the photograph.
“Yes; I often wonder what her career will be, and sometimes it comes home to me that it must be art. The child can’t help it—she gets it straight from me. But there were no art classes in my day.” Mrs. Bell’s tone implied a large measure of what the world had lost in consequence. “Mr. Bell doesn’t agree with me about Elfrida’s being predestined for art,” she went on, smiling; “his whole idea is that she’ll marry like other people.”
“Well, if she goes on improving in looks at the rate she has, you’ll find it difficult to prevent, I should think, Mrs. Bell.” Miss Kimpsey began to wonder at her own temerity in staying so long. “Should you be opposed to it?”
“Oh, I shouldn’t be opposed to it exactly. I won’t say I don’t expect it. I think she might do better, myself; but I dare say matrimony will swallow her up as it does everybody—almost everybody—else.” A finer ear than Miss Kimpsey’s might have heard in this that to overcome Mrs. Bell’s objections matrimony must take a very attractive form indeed, and that she had no doubt it would. Elfrida’s instructress did not hear it; she might have been less overcome with the quality of these latter-day sentiments if she had. Little Miss Kimpsey, whom matrimony had not swallowed up, had risen to go. “Oh, I’m sure the most gifted couldn’t do better!” she said, hardily, in departing, with a blush that turned her from buff-and-gray to brick color.