“Now, if you will be very gentle, you can see my sketch and tell me what to do next.”
It was a pretty and unpretentious picture that she had made. The flower was faithfully though stiffly given, and nothing especially remarkable had been attempted or achieved. Farnham looked at the sketch with eyes in which there was no criticism. He gave Alice a word or two of heartier praise for her work than she knew she deserved. It was rather more than she expected, and she was not altogether pleased to be so highly commended, though she could hardly have said why. Perhaps it was because it made her think less of his critical faculty. This was not agreeable, for her admiration of him from her childhood had been one of the greatest pleasures of her life. She had regarded him as children regard a brilliant and handsome young uncle. She did not expect from him either gallantry or equality of treatment.
“There! Do not say too much about it—you will make me ashamed of it. What does it lack?”
“Nothing, except something on the right to balance the other side. You might sketch in roughly a half-opened flower on the vine about there,” indicating the place.
She took her pencils and began obediently to do what he had suggested. He leaned over her shoulder, so near her she could feel his breath on the light curls that played about her ear. She wished he would move. She grew nervous, and at last said:
“I am tired. You put in that flower.”
He took the book and pencils from her, as she rose from her chair and gave him her place, and with a few strong and rapid strokes finished the sketch.
“After all,” she said to herself, with hearty appreciation, “men do have the advantage of girls. He bothered me dreadfully, and I did not bother him in the least. And yet I stood as near to him as he did to me.”
Mrs. Belding came in a moment later. She was in high spirits. They had had a good meeting—had converted a Jew, she thought. She admired the sketch very much; hoped Alice had been no trouble to Farnham. He walked home with the ladies, and afterward smoked a cigar with great deliberation under the limes.
Mrs. Belding asked Alice how they had got on.
“He did not eat you, you see. You must get out of your ideas of men, especially men of Arthur Farnham’s age. He never thinks of you. He is old enough to be your father.”
Alice kissed her mother and went to her own room, calculating on the way the difference between her age and Captain Farnham’s.
A DRAMA WITH TWO SPECTATORS.
The words of Bott lingered obstinately in Maud Matchin’s mind. She gave herself no rest from dwelling on them. Her imagination was full, day after day, of glowing pictures of herself and Farnham in tete-a-tete; she would seek in a thousand ways to tell her love—but she could never quite arrange her avowal in a satisfactory manner. Long before she came to the decisive words which were to kindle his heart to flame in the imaginary dialogue, he would himself take fire by spontaneous combustion, and, falling on his knees, would offer his hand, his heart, and his fortune to her in words taken from “The Earl’s Daughter” or the “Heir of Ashby.”