Harz began to gather his brushes: “Thank you,” he said, “that’s all I can do to-day.”
“Can I look?” Mr. Treffry inquired.
Uncle Nic got up slowly, and stood in front of the picture. “When it’s for sale,” he said at last, “I’ll buy it.”
Harz bowed; but for some reason he felt annoyed, as if he had been asked to part with something personal.
“I thank you,” he said. A gong sounded.
“You’ll stay and have a snack with us?” said Mr. Treffry; “the doctor’s stopping.” Gathering up his paper, he moved off to the house with his hand on Greta’s shoulder, the terrier running in front. Harz and Christian were left alone. He was scraping his palette, and she was sitting with her elbows resting on her knees; between them, a gleam of sunlight dyed the path golden. It was evening already; the bushes and the flowers, after the day’s heat, were breathing out perfume; the birds had started their evensong.
“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.