“Like a gazelle,” said the other. “You know what Mr. —— said—that he never met the appealing look of Mr. Lemuel’s eyes without feeling in his pockets for a biscuit.”
“He wouldn’t say anything like that about you, Gerty,” Carry said reproachfully.
“Oh, Carry, don’t you understand that I am so glad to be allowed to talk nonsense? I have been all strung up lately—like the string of a violin. Everything au grand serieux I want to be idle, and to chat, and to talk nonsense. Where did you get that bunch of stephanotis?”
“Mr. Lemuel brought it last evening. He knew you were coming home to-day. Oh Gerty, do you know I have seen your portrait, though it isn’t finished yet; and you look—you look like an inspired prophetess. I never saw anything so lovely!”
“Indeed!” said Miss White, with a smile; but she was pleased.
“When the public see that, they will know what you are really like, Gerty—instead of buying your photograph in a shop from a collection of ballet-dancers and circus women. That is where you ought to be—in the Royal Academy: not in a shop-window with any mountebank. Oh, Gerty, do you know who is your latest rival in the stationers’ windows? The woman who dresses herself as a mermaid and swims in a transparent tank, below water—Fin-fin they call her. I suppose you have not been reading the newspapers?”
“There is a fine collection for you upstairs. And there is an article about you in the Islington Young Men’s Improvement Association. It is signed Trismegistus. Oh, it is beautiful, Gerty—quite full of poetry! It says you are an enchantress striking the rockiest heart, and a well of pure emotion springs up. It says you have the beauty of Mrs. Siddons and the genius of Rachel.”
“Ah, you don’t half believe in yourself, Gerty,” said the younger sister, with a critical air. “It is the weak point about you. You depreciate yourself, and you make light of other people’s belief in you. However, you can’t go against your own genius. That is too strong for you. As soon as you get on the stage, then you forget to laugh at yourself.”
“Really, Carry, has papa been giving you a lecture about me?”
“Oh, laugh away? but you know it is true. And a woman like you—you were going to throw yourself away on a—”
“Carry! There are some things that are better not talked about,” said Gertrude White, curtly, as she rose and went indoors.
Miss White betook herself to her professional and domestic duties with much alacrity and content, for she believed that by her skill as a letter-writer she could easily ward off the importunities of her too passionate lover. It is true that at times, and in despite of her playful evasion, she was visited by a strange dread. However far away, the cry of a strong man in his agony had something terrible in it. And what was this he wrote to her in simple and calm words?—