“You’re not to go!” Odd, indeed, if she had not some devil in her, with that parentage!
Next day they had summoned him from the studio to see a peculiar phenomenon—Johnny Dromore, very well groomed, talking to Sylvia with unnatural suavity, and carefully masking the goggle in his eyes! Mrs. Lennan ride? Ah! Too busy, of course. Helped Mark with his—er—No! Really! Read a lot, no doubt? Never had any time for readin’ himself—awful bore not having time to read! And Sylvia listening and smiling, very still and soft.
What had Dromore come for? To spy out the land, discover why Lennan and his wife thought nothing of the word ’outside’—whether, in fact, their household was respectable. . . . A man must always look twice at ‘what-d’you-call-ems,’ even if they have shared his room at school! . . . To his credit, of course, to be so careful of his daughter, at the expense of time owed to the creation of the perfect racehorse! On the whole he seemed to be coming to the conclusion that they might be useful to Nell in the uncomfortable time at hand when she would have to go about; seemed even to be falling under the spell of Sylvia’s transparent goodness—abandoning his habitual vigilance against being scored off in life’s perpetual bet; parting with his armour of chaff. Almost a relief, indeed, once out of Sylvia’s presence, to see that familiar, unholy curiosity creeping back into his eyes, as though they were hoping against parental hope to find something—er—amusing somewhere about that mysterious Mecca of good times—a ‘what-d’you-call-it’s’ studio. Delicious to watch the conflict between relief and disappointment. Alas! no model—not even a statue without clothes; nothing but portrait heads, casts of animals, and such-like sobrieties—absolutely nothing that could bring a blush to the cheek of the young person, or a glow to the eyes of a Johnny Dromore.
With what curious silence he walked round and round the group of sheep-dogs, inquiring into them with that long crinkled nose of his! With what curious suddenness, he said: “Damned good! You wouldn’t do me one of Nell on horseback?” With what dubious watchfulness he listened to the answer:
“I might, perhaps, do a statuette of her; if I did, you should have a cast.”
Did he think that in some way he was being outmanoeuvered? For he remained some seconds in a sort of trance before muttering, as though clinching a bet:
“Done! And if you want to ride with her to get the hang of it, I can always mount you.”