The perpetual pale smile on Mrs. Decie’s face seemed to invite his confidence, yet to warn him that his words would be sucked in somewhere behind those broad fine brows, and carefully sorted. Mrs. Decie, indeed, was thinking: ’Interesting young man, regular Bohemian—no harm in that at his age; something Napoleonic in his face; probably has no dress clothes. Yes, should like to see more of him!’ She had a fine eye for points of celebrity; his name was unfamiliar, would probably have been scouted by that famous artist Mr. C—–, but she felt her instinct urging her on to know him. She was, to do her justice, one of those “lion” finders who seek the animal for pleasure, not for the glory it brings them; she had the courage of her instincts—lion-entities were indispensable to her, but she trusted to divination to secure them; nobody could foist a “lion” on her.
“It will be very nice. You will stay and have some lunch? The arrangements here are rather odd. Such a mixed household—but there is always lunch at two o’clock for any one who likes, and we all dine at seven. You would have your sittings in the afternoons, perhaps? I should so like to see your sketches. You are using the old house on the wall for studio; that is so original of you!”
Harz would not stay to lunch, but asked if he might begin work that afternoon; he left a little suffocated by the sandalwood and sympathy of this sphinx-like woman.
Walking home along the river wall, with the singing of the larks and thrushes, the rush of waters, the humming of the chafers in his ears, he felt that he would make something fine of this subject. Before his eyes the faces of the two girls continually started up, framed by the sky, with young leaves guttering against their cheeks.
Three days had passed since Harz began his picture, when early in the morning, Greta came from Villa Rubein along the river dyke and sat down on a bench from which the old house on the wall was visible. She had not been there long before Harz came out.
“I did not knock,” said Greta, “because you would not have heard, and it is so early, so I have been waiting for you a quarter of an hour.”
Selecting a rosebud, from some flowers in her hand, she handed it to him. “That is my first rosebud this year,” she said; “it is for you because you are painting me. To-day I am thirteen, Herr Harz; there is not to be a sitting, because it is my birthday; but, instead, we are all going to Meran to see the play of Andreas Hofer. You are to come too, please; I am here to tell you, and the others shall be here directly.”
Harz bowed: “And who are the others?”
“Christian, and Dr. Edmund, Miss Naylor, and Cousin Teresa. Her husband is ill, so she is sad, but to-day she is going to forget that. It is not good to be always sad, is it, Herr Harz?”
He laughed: “You could not be.”