This proposition did not find favor in the eyes of the mild-mannered artist, who explained to him that something more important and ornate was necessary in the middle of a bouquet. He could have a circle of rose-buds, if he liked, outside; and a great white lily or camellia in the centre. He could have—this thing and the next; she showed him how she could combine the features of this bouquet with those of the next. But the tall Highlander remained obdurate.
“Yes,” said he, “I think you are quite right. You are quite right, I am sure. But it is this that I would rather have—only one red rose in the centre, and you can make the rest what you like, only I think if they were smaller flowers, and all white, that would be better.”
“Very well,” said the young lady, with a pleasing smile (she was rather good-looking herself). “I will try what I can do for you if you don’t mind waiting. Will you take a chair?”
He was quite amazed by the dexterity with which those nimble fingers took from one cluster and another cluster the very flowers he would himself have chosen; and by the rapid fashion in which they were dressed, fitted, and arranged. The work of art grew apace.
“But you must have something to break the white,” said she, smiling, “or it will look too like a bride’s bouquet;” and with that—almost in the twinkling of an eye—she had put a circular line of dark purple-blue through the cream-white blossoms. It was a splendid rose that lay in the midst of all that beauty.
“What price would you like to give, sir?” the gentle Phyllis had said at the very outset. “Half a guinea—fifteen shillings?”
“Give me a beautiful rose,” said he, “and I do not mind what the price is.”
And at last the lace-paper was put round; and a little further trimming and setting took place; and finally the bouquet was swathed in soft white wool and put into a basket.
“Shall I take the address?” said the young lady no doubt expecting that he would write it on the back of one of his cards. But no. He dictated the address, and then lay down the money. The astute young person was puzzled—perhaps disappointed.
“Is there no message, sir?” said she—“no card?”
“No; but you must be sure to have it delivered to-night.”
“It shall be sent off at once,” said she, probably thinking that this was a very foolish young man who did not know the ways of the world. The only persons of whom she had any experience who sent bouquets without a note or a letter were husbands, who were either making up a quarrel with their wives or going to the opera, and she had observed that on such occasions the difference between twelve-and-sixpence and fifteen shillings was regarded and considered.