And the sun, blazing suddenly out of a cloud, shone on his black figure and the little gold cross, in the middle of Portland Place.
Men, even if they are not artistic, who have been in strange places and known many nooks of the world, get the scenic habit, become open to pictorial sensation. It was as a picture or series of pictures that Jimmy Fort ever afterwards remembered his first supper at Leila’s. He happened to have been all day in the open, motoring about to horse farms under a hot sun; and Leila’s hock cup possessed a bland and subtle strength. The scenic sense derived therefrom had a certain poignancy, the more so because the tall child whom he met there did not drink it, and her father seemed but to wet his lips, so that Leila and he had all the rest. Rather a wonderful little scene it made in his mind, very warm, glowing, yet with a strange dark sharpness to it, which came perhaps from the black walls.
The flat had belonged to an artist who was at the war. It was but a pocket dwelling on the third floor. The two windows of the little square sitting-room looked out on some trees and a church. But Leila, who hated dining by daylight, had soon drawn curtains of a deep blue over them. The picture which Fort remembered was this: A little four-square table of dark wood, with a Chinese mat of vivid blue in the centre, whereon stood a silver lustre bowl of clove carnations; some greenish glasses with hock cup in them; on his left, Leila in a low lilac frock, her neck and shoulders very white, her face a little powdered, her eyes large, her lips smiling; opposite him a black-clothed padre with a little gold cross, over whose thin darkish face, with its grave pointed beard, passed little gentle smiles, but whose deep sunk grey eyes were burnt and bright; on his right, a girl in a high grey frock, almost white, just hollowed at the neck, with full sleeves to the elbow, so that her slim arms escaped; her short fair hair a little tumbled; her big grey eyes grave; her full lips shaping with a strange daintiness round every word—and they not many; brilliant red shades over golden lights dotting the black walls; a blue divan; a little black piano flush with the wall; a dark polished floor; four Japanese prints; a white ceiling. He was conscious that his own khaki spoiled something as curious and rare as some old Chinese tea-chest. He even remembered what they ate; lobster; cold pigeon pie; asparagus; St. Ivel cheese; raspberries and cream. He did not remember half so well what they talked of, except that he himself told them stories of the Boer War, in which he had served in the Yeomanry, and while he was telling them, the girl, like a child listening to a fairy-tale, never moved her eyes from his face. He remembered that after supper they all smoked cigarettes, even the tall child, after the padre had said to her mildly, “My dear!” and she had answered: “I