But Helen gloried in the praise, kept a watchful eye, so far as he would let her, on the pennies; and herself ministered to the idea that all else must be subservient, where Ronnie’s literary career was concerned.
She was ministering to it now, at a personal cost known only to her own brave heart.
FIRELIGHT IN THE STUDIO
It was Ronnie’s last evening in England. The parting, which had seemed so far away, must take place on the morrow. It took all Helen’s bright courage to keep up Ronnie’s spirits.
After dinner they sat together in a room they still called the studio, although Helen had given up her painting, soon after their marriage.
It was a large old-fashioned room, oak-panelled and spacious.
A huge mirror, in a massive gilt frame, hung upon the wall opposite door and fireplace, reaching from the ceiling to the parquet floor.
Ronald, who used the studio as a smoking-room, had introduced three or four deep wicker chairs, comfortably cushioned, and a couple of oriental tables.
The fireplace lent itself grandly in winter to great log-fires, when the crimson curtains were drawn in ample folds over the many windows, shutting out the dank bleakness of the park without, and imparting a look of cosiness to the empty room.
A dozen old family portraits—banished from more important places, because their expressions annoyed Ronnie—were crowded into whatever space was available, and glowered down, from the bad light to which they had been relegated, on the very modern young man whose uncomplimentary remarks had effected their banishment, and who sprawled luxuriously in the firelight, monarch of all he surveyed, in the domain which for centuries had been their own.
The only other thing in the room was a piano, on which Ronnie very effectively and very inaccurately strummed by ear; and on which Helen, with careful skill, played his accompaniments, when he was seized with a sudden desire to sing.
Ronald’s music was always a perplexity to Helen. There was a quality about it so extraordinarily, so unusually, beautiful; combined with an entire lack of method or of training, and a quite startling ignorance of the most rudimentary rules.
On one occasion, during a sharp attack of influenza, when he had insisted upon being down and about, with a temperature of 104, he suddenly rose from the depths of a chair in which he had been lying, talking wild and feverish nonsense; stumbled over to the piano, dropped heavily upon the stool, then proceeded to play and sing, in a way, which brought tears to his wife’s eyes, while her heart stood still with anxiety and wonder.
Yet, when she mentioned it a few days later, he appeared to have forgotten all about it, turning the subject with almost petulant abruptness.
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