MAURICE F. EGAN.
A LAW UNTO HERSELF.
Miss Fleming arrived that evening while Jane was on the water. She was in the habit of coming out to the Hemlock Farm for a day’s holiday, and went directly to her own room as though she were at home. When she stepped presently out on the porch, where the gentlemen had gone to smoke, a soft black silk showing every line of her supple figure, glimpses of the rounded arms revealed with every movement of the loose sleeves, one or two thick green leaves in her light hair—ugly, quiet, friendly—they all felt more at home than they had done before. There was a pitcher of punch by the captain’s elbow: she tasted it, threw in a dash of liquor, poured him out a glass and sat down beside him, and he felt that a gap was comfortably filled.
“You have turned your back on Philadelphia, they tell me, Miss Fleming,” complained Judge Rhodes. “New York sucks in all the young blood of the country—the talent and energy.”
“Oh, I came simply to sell my wares. New York is my market, but Philadelphia will always be home to me,” in her peculiar pathetic voice. “I left good friends there,” with one of her bewildering glances straight into the judge’s beady eyes, at which his flabby face was suffused with heat.
“You do not forget your friends, that’s certain,” he said, lowering his voice. “That was a delicate compliment, sending my portrait back to the Exhibition. I felt it very much, I assure you.”
Cornelia bowed silently. Neither she nor the judge said anything about the round-numbered cheque which he had sent her for it. In the moonlight they preferred to let the affair stand on a sentimental basis.
Mr. Van Ness meanwhile eyed Miss Fleming’s pose and rounded figure with a watery gleam of complacency.
“An exceptional woman,” was his verdict. He turned the conversation to art, and asked innumerable questions with a profound humility. Cornelia replied eagerly, until the fact crept out from the judge that there was not an aesthetic dogma nor a gallery in the world with which he was not familiar. Then to pottery, in which field his modesty was as profound, until the judge pushed him, as it were, to a corner, when he acknowledged himself the possessor of a few “nice bits.”
“I have some old Etruscan pieces which I should like you to see, Miss Fleming,” with his mild, deprecating cough, “and a bit of Capo di Monte, and the only real specimen of Henri Deux in the country.”
“I must see them,” emphatically. “Where are your cabinets?”
“Oh, nowhere,” with a shrug. “My poor little specimens have never been unpacked since I returned to this country. They are boxed up in a friend’s cellar.”
“God bless me, Cornelia!” cried the captain in a muffled tone, “how could Mr. Van Ness spend his time koo-tooing to cracked pots? He has, as I may say, the future of Pennsylvania in his hand. When I think what he is doing for the friendless children—thousands of’em—” The punch had heated the captain’s zeal to the point where words failed him.