“But, my dear Lacroix, do be practical. Just think of the price you will get. Think, too, of the eclat. What a queer unworldly sort of creature you are. Any other man would be fairly beside himself with joy at such success as yours.”
“Yes,” replied Lacroix, wearily; “of course I know it is a great thing for me. I appreciate it, indeed I do.”
“You do not show your appreciation very enthusiastically,” said the president, as he moved off to speak to some other guests who were just coming into the gallery.
Next day, early in the afternoon, Lacroix started for his long walk up Highgate Hill, with M. Bois-le-Duc’s letter safely in his pocket this time. He was a good walker and used to outdoor exercise, and enjoyed the prospect of the long tramp this bright summer day.
He did not hurry himself, for there was plenty of time before five o’clock, and he stopped every few moments to examine some wayside plant, and to listen with the ardor of a true lover of nature to the merry voices of the thrush and blackbird singing a gladsome carol.
And he was often tempted by the fascinating beauty of the quiet landscape, as he left the grimy smoke of London far behind him and ascended into the pure fresh country, to take out his sketch-book and dot down dainty little glimpses, thus laying up a store for future work.
But at length he reached number 17, The Grove, and the door was opened by the trim little maid-servant, who replied, in answer to his inquiry—
“Yes, sir, Mademoiselle Laurentia is at home. Please walk up this way.”
“I know, dear heart! that in our
May mingle tears and sorrow;
But love’s rich rainbow’s built from tears
To-day, with smiles to [**-?]morrow.
The sunshine from our sky may die,
The greenness from life’s tree,
But ever ’mid the warring storm
Thy nest shall shelter’d be.
The world may never know, dear heart!
What I have found in thee;
But, though naught to the world, dear heart!
Thou’rt all the world to me.”
Mademoiselle Laurentia was sitting at her five o’clock tea-table, a dainty little wicker-work affair, covered with delicate china of palest pink, blue and green tints. The cups and saucers were clustered invitingly round a huge old-fashioned silver teapot, and, on the nob of the little fire-place a kettle was singing away merrily. A great rug of white bear-skin was stretched on the floor, and curled up comfortably in its warmest corner lay a large Persian cat, which, at the entrance of the visitor, merely turned languidly to see whether he had a dog, and then sank into sleep again.
A very homelike scene it was that Eugene Lacroix was ushered upon that summer afternoon, and the greeting of his hostess set him at once at his ease.