“It was your suggestion,” said Eshley, setting his canvas in position.
“I forbid it; I absolutely forbid it!” stormed Adela.
“I don’t see what standing you have in the matter,” said the artist; “you can hardly pretend that it’s your ox, even by adoption.”
“You seem to forget that it’s in my morning-room, eating my flowers,” came the raging retort.
“You seem to forget that the cook has neuralgia,” said Eshley; “she may be just dozing off into a merciful sleep and your outcry will waken her. Consideration for others should be the guiding principle of people in our station of life.”
“The man is mad!” exclaimed Adela tragically. A moment later it was Adela herself who appeared to go mad. The ox had finished the vase-flowers and the cover of “Israel Kalisch,” and appeared to be thinking of leaving its rather restricted quarters. Eshley noticed its restlessness and promptly flung it some bunches of Virginia creeper leaves as an inducement to continue the sitting.
“I forget how the proverb runs,” he observed; “of something about ’better a dinner of herbs than a stalled ox where hate is.’ We seem to have all the ingredients for the proverb ready to hand.”
“I shall go to the Public Library and get them to telephone for the police,” announced Adela, and, raging audibly, she departed.
Some minutes later the ox, awakening probably to the suspicion that oil cake and chopped mangold was waiting for it in some appointed byre, stepped with much precaution out of the morning-room, stared with grave inquiry at the no longer obtrusive and pea-stick-throwing human, and then lumbered heavily but swiftly out of the garden. Eshley packed up his tools and followed the animal’s example and “Larkdene” was left to neuralgia and the cook.
The episode was the turning-point in Eshley’s artistic career. His remarkable picture, “Ox in a morning-room, late autumn,” was one of the sensations and successes of the next Paris Salon, and when it was subsequently exhibited at Munich it was bought by the Bavarian Government, in the teeth of the spirited bidding of three meat-extract firms. From that moment his success was continuous and assured, and the Royal Academy was thankful, two years later, to give a conspicuous position on its walls to his large canvas “Barbary Apes Wrecking a Boudoir.”
Eshley presented Adela Pingsford with a new copy of “Israel Kalisch,” and a couple of finely flowering plants of Madame Adnre Blusset, but nothing in the nature of a real reconciliation has taken place between them.