“Then you two are old acquaintances? Mr. Christie is here to paint my portrait,” said Mrs. Chiverton.
The meeting was an agreeable episode in their visit. At dinner the young artist talked with his host of art, and Bessie learnt that he had seen Italy, Spain, Greece, that he had friends and patrons of distinction, and that he had earned success enough to set him above daily cares. Mr. Chiverton had a great opinion of his future, and there was no better judge in the circle of art-connoisseurs.
“Mr. Christie has an exquisite taste and refinement—feelings that are born in a man, and that no labor or pains can enable him to acquire,” her host informed Bessie. It was these gifts that won him a commission for a portrait of the beautiful Mrs. Chiverton, though he was not professedly a painter of portraits.
After dinner, Miss Fairfax and he had a good talk of Beechhurst, of Harry Musgrave, and other places and persons interesting to both. Bessie asked after that drop-scene, at the Hampton theatre, and Mr. Christie, in nowise shy of early reminiscences, gave her an amusing account of how he worked at it. Then he spoke of Lady Latimer as a generous soul who had first given him a lift, and of Mr. Carnegie as another effectual helper. “He lent me a little money—I have long since paid it back,” he whispered to Bessie. He was still plain, but his countenance was full of intelligence, and his air and manner were those of a perfectly simple, cultivated, travelled gentleman. He did salaam to nobody now, for in his brief commerce with the world he had learnt that genius has a rank of its own to which the noblest bow, and ambition he had none beyond excelling in his beloved art. Harry Musgrave was again, after long separation, his comrade in London. He said that he was very fond of Harry.
“He is my constant Sunday afternoon visitor,” he told Bessie. “My painting-room looks to the river, and he enjoys the sunshine and the boats on the water. His own chambers are one degree less dismal than looking down a well.”
“He works very hard, does he not?—Harry used to be a prodigious worker,” said Bessie.
“Yes, he throws himself heart and soul into whatever he undertakes, whether it be work or pleasure. If he had won that fellowship the other day I should have been glad. It would have made him easier.”
“I did not know he was trying for one. How sorry I am! It must be very dull studying law.”
“He lightens that by writing articles for some paper—reviews of books chiefly. There are five years to be got through before he can be called to the bar—a long probation for a young fellow in his circumstances.”
“Oh, Harry Musgrave was never impatient: he could always wait. I am pleased that he has taken to his pen. And what a resource you must be to each other in London, if only to tell your difficulties and disappointments!”
“Oh yes, I am in all Musgrave’s secrets, and he in mine,” said Christie. “A bachelor in chambers has not a superfluity of wants; he is short of money now and then, but that is very much the case with all of us.”