“But you must paint me as I wish, not as you will,” resumed Berenice. “I hate conventional portraits. Papa Mineur chills me with his cabinet pictures of haughty society ladies, their faces as stiff as their starched gowns.”
“Oh, Berenice, will you never say polite things of your father?”
“Never,” she defiantly replied. “He wouldn’t believe me if I did. No, Hubert, I want to pose as Ophelia. Oh, don’t laugh, please!” They could not help it, and she leaped to the grass and called out:—
“I don’t mean a theatrical Ophelia, singing songs and spilling flowers; I mean Ophelia drowned—” she threw herself on the sward, her arms crossed on her bosom, and in the moonlight they could see her eyes closed as if by death.
“Help me down, Hubert. That girl will go mad some day.” He reached the earth and he gave her a hand. Berenice had arisen. Sulkily she said:—
“Shall I step into the Dark Tarn of Auber and float for you? I’ll make a realistic picture, my Master Painter—who paints without imagination.” And then she darted into the shrubbery and was lost to view. Without further speech the two regained the path and returned to the house.
THE CRIMSON SPLASH
When Eloise was asked by Berenice how long Monsieur Mineur would remain away on his tour, she did not reply. Rather, she put a question herself: why this sudden solicitude about the little-loved stepfather. Berenice jokingly answered that she thought of slipping away to Switzerland for a vacance on her own account. Eloise, who was not agreeable looking, viewed her charge suspiciously.
“Young lady, you are too deep for me. But you’ll bear watching,” she grimly confessed. Berenice skipped about her teasingly.
“I know something, but I won’t tell, unless you tell.”
“What is it?”
“Will you tell?”
“When is he coming back, and where is he now?” she insisted.
“Your father, you half-crazy child, expects to return in a month—by the first of June. And if you wish to wire or write him, let me know.”
“Now I won’t tell you my secret,” and she was off like a gale of wind. Eloise shook her head and wondered.
In the atelier Hubert painted. Elaine sat on a dais, her hands folded in her lap; about her head twisted nun’s-veiling gave her the old-fashioned quality of a Cosway miniature—the very effect he had sought. It was to be a “pretty” affair, this picture, with its subdued lighting, the face being the only target he aimed at; all the rest, the suave background, the gauzy draperies, he would brush in—suggest rather than state.
“I’ll paint her soul, that sensitive soul of hers which tremulously peeps out of her eyes,” he thought. Elaine was a patient subject. She took the pose naturally and scarcely breathed during the weary sittings. He recalled the early gossip and sought to evoke her as a professional model. But he gave up in despair. She was hopelessly “ladylike,” and to interpret her adequately, only the decorative patterns of earlier men—Mignard, Van Loo, Nattier, Largilliere—would translate her native delicacy.