Greta, with feet crossed, sat on a coloured blanket, dabbling her fnger in a little pool of coffee, and gazing up at Harz. And he thought: ’I should like to paint her like that. “A forget-me-not."’
He took out his chalks to make a sketch of her.
“Shall you show me?” cried out Greta, scrambling to her feet.
“‘Will,’ Greta—’will’; how often must I tell you? I think we should be going—it is very late—your father—so very kind of you, but I think we should be going. Scruff!” Miss Naylor gave the floor two taps. The terrier backed into a plaster cast which came down on his tail, and sent him flying through the doorway. Greta followed swiftly, crying:
“Ach! poor Scrufee!”
Miss Naylor crossed the room; bowing, she murmured an apology, and also disappeared.
Harz was left alone, his guests were gone; the little girl with the fair hair and the eyes like forget-me-nots, the little lady with kindly gestures and bird-like walk, the terrier. He looked round him; the room seemed very empty. Gnawing his moustache, he muttered at the fallen cast.
Then taking up his brush, stood before his picture, smiling and frowning. Soon he had forgotten it all in his work.
It was early morning four days later, and Harz was loitering homewards. The shadows of the clouds passing across the vines were vanishing over the jumbled roofs and green-topped spires of the town. A strong sweet wind was blowing from the mountains, there was a stir in the branches of the trees, and flakes of the late blossom were drifting down. Amongst the soft green pods of a kind of poplar chafers buzzed, and numbers of their little brown bodies were strewn on the path.
He passed a bench where a girl sat sketching. A puff of wind whirled her drawing to the ground; Harz ran to pick it up. She took it from him with a bow; but, as he turned away, she tore the sketch across.
“Ah!” he said; “why did you do that?”
This girl, who stood with a bit of the torn sketch in either hand, was slight and straight; and her face earnest and serene. She gazed at Harz with large, clear, greenish eyes; her lips and chin were defiant, her forehead tranquil.
“I don’t like it.”
“Will you let me look at it? I am a painter.”
“It isn’t worth looking at, but—if you wish—”
He put the two halves of the sketch together.
“You see!” she said at last; “I told you.”
Harz did not answer, still looking at the sketch. The girl frowned.
Harz asked her suddenly:
“Why do you paint?”
She coloured, and said:
“Show me what is wrong.”
“I cannot show you what is wrong, there is nothing wrong—but why do you paint?”
“I don’t understand.”
Harz shrugged his shoulders.