“Winter’s bally awful, when you’re not huntin’. You’ve changed a lot; should hardly have known you. Last time I saw you, you’d just come back from Rome or somewhere. What’s it like bein’ a—a sculptor? Saw something of yours once. Ever do things of horses?”
Yes; he had done a ‘relief’ of ponies only last year.
“You do women, too, I s’pose?”
The eyes goggled slightly. Quaint, that unholy interest! Just like boys, the Johnny Dromores—would never grow up, no matter how life treated them. If Dromore spoke out his soul, as he used to speak it out at ‘Bambury’s,’ he would say: ’You get a pull there; you have a bally good time, I expect.’ That was the way it took them; just a converse manifestation of the very same feeling towards Art that the pious Philistines had, with their deploring eyebrows and their ‘peril to the soul.’ Babes all! Not a glimmering of what Art meant—of its effort, and its yearnings!
“You make money at it?”
Again that appreciative goggle, as who should say: ’Ho! there’s more in this than I thought!’
A long silence, then, in the dusk with the violet glimmer from outside the windows, the fire flickering in front of them, the grey kitten purring against his neck, the smoke of their cigars going up, and such a strange, dozing sense of rest, as he had not known for many days. And then—something, someone at the door, over by the sideboard! And Dromore speaking in a queer voice:
“Come in, Nell! D’you know my daughter?”
A hand took Lennan’s, a hand that seemed to waver between the aplomb of a woman of the world, and a child’s impulsive warmth. And a voice, young, clipped, clear, said:
“How d’you do? She’s rather sweet, isn’t she—my kitten?”
Then Dromore turned the light up. A figure fairly tall, in a grey riding-habit, stupendously well cut; a face not quite so round as a child’s nor so shaped as a woman’s, blushing slightly, very calm; crinkly light-brown hair tied back with a black ribbon under a neat hat; and eyes like those eyes of Gainsborough’s ’Perdita’—slow, grey, mesmeric, with long lashes curling up, eyes that draw things to them, still innocent.
And just on the point of saying: “I thought you’d stepped out of that picture”—he saw Dromore’s face, and mumbled instead:
“So it’s your kitten?”
“Yes; she goes to everybody. Do you like Persians? She’s all fur really. Feel!”
Entering with his fingers the recesses of the kitten, he said:
“Cats without fur are queer.”
“Have you seen one without fur?”
“Oh, yes! In my profession we have to go below fur—I’m a sculptor.”
“That must be awfully interesting.”
What a woman of the world! But what a child, too! And now he could see that the face in the sepia drawing was older altogether— lips not so full, look not so innocent, cheeks not so round, and something sad and desperate about it—a face that life had rudely touched. But the same eyes it had—and what charm, for all its disillusionment, its air of a history! Then he noticed, fastened to the frame, on a thin rod, a dust-coloured curtain, drawn to one side. The self-possessed young voice was saying: