“Are you tired of sitting for your portrait, Fraulein Christian?”
Christian shook her head.
“I shall get something into it that everybody does not see—something behind the surface, that will last.”
Christian said slowly: “That’s like a challenge. You were right when you said fighting is happiness—for yourself, but not for me. I’m a coward. I hate to hurt people, I like them to like me. If you had to do anything that would make them hate you, you would do it all the same, if it helped your work; that’s fine—it’s what I can’t do. It’s—it’s everything. Do you like Uncle Nic?”
The young painter looked towards the house, where under the veranda old Nicholas Treffry was still in sight; a smile came on his lips.
“If I were the finest painter in the world, he wouldn’t think anything of me for it, I’m afraid; but if I could show him handfuls of big cheques for bad pictures I had painted, he would respect me.”
She smiled, and said: “I love him.”
“Then I shall like him,” Harz answered simply.
She put her hand out, and her fingers met his. “We shall be late,” she said, glowing, and catching up her book: “I’m always late!”
There was one other guest at dinner, a well-groomed person with pale, fattish face, dark eyes, and hair thin on the temples, whose clothes had a military cut. He looked like a man fond of ease, who had gone out of his groove, and collided with life. Herr Paul introduced him as Count Mario Sarelli.
Two hanging lamps with crimson shades threw a rosy light over the table, where, in the centre stood a silver basket, full of irises. Through the open windows the garden was all clusters of black foliage in the dying light. Moths fluttered round the lamps; Greta, following them with her eyes, gave quite audible sighs of pleasure when they escaped. Both girls wore white, and Harz, who sat opposite Christian, kept looking at her, and wondering why he had not painted her in that dress.
Mrs. Decie understood the art of dining—the dinner, ordered by Herr Paul, was admirable; the servants silent as their, shadows; there was always a hum of conversation.
Sarelli, who sat on her right hand, seemed to partake of little except olives, which he dipped into a glass of sherry. He turned his black, solemn eyes silently from face to face, now and then asking the meaning of an English word. After a discussion on modern Rome, it was debated whether or no a criminal could be told by the expression of his face.
“Crime,” said Mrs. Decie, passing her hand across her brow—“crime is but the hallmark of strong individuality.”
Miss Naylor, gushing rather pink, stammered: “A great crime must show itself—a murder. Why, of course!”
“If that were so,” said Dawney, “we should only have to look about us—no more detectives.”