“We shall be all ready for you,” Alma called after her down the steps.
“Well, Alma?” her mother asked, when the door closed upon them.
“She doesn’t know any more about art,” said Alma, “than—nothing at all. But she’s jolly and good-hearted. She praised everything that was bad in my sketches, and said she was going to take lessons herself. When a person talks about taking lessons, as if they could learn it, you know where they belong artistically.”
Mrs. Leighton shook her head with a sigh. “I wish I knew where they belonged financially. We shall have to get in two girls at once. I shall have to go out the first thing in the morning, and then our troubles will begin.”
“Well, didn’t you want them to begin? I will stay home and help you get ready. Our prosperity couldn’t begin without the troubles, if you mean boarders, and boarders mean servants. I shall be very glad to be afflicted with a cook for a while myself.”
“Yes; but we don’t know anything about these people, or whether they will be able to pay us. Did she talk as if they were well off?”
“She talked as if they were poor; poo’ she called it.”
“Yes, how queerly she pronounced,” said Mrs. Leighton. “Well, I ought to have told them that I required the first week in advance.”
“Mamma! If that’s the way you’re going to act!”
“Oh, of course, I couldn’t, after he wouldn’t let her bargain for the rooms. I didn’t like that.”
“I did. And you can see that they were perfect ladies; or at least one of them.” Alma laughed at herself, but her mother did not notice.
“Their being ladies won’t help if they’ve got no money. It ’ll make it all the worse.”
“Very well, then; we have no money, either. We’re a match for them any day there. We can show them that two can play at that game.”
Arnus Beaton’s studio looked at first glance like many other painters’ studios. A gray wall quadrangularly vaulted to a large north light; casts of feet, hands, faces hung to nails about; prints, sketches in oil and water-color stuck here and there lower down; a rickety table, with paint and palettes and bottles of varnish and siccative tossed comfortlessly on it; an easel, with a strip of some faded mediaeval silk trailing from it; a lay figure simpering in incomplete nakedness, with its head on one side, and a stocking on one leg, and a Japanese dress dropped before it; dusty rugs and skins kicking over the varnished floor; canvases faced to the mop-board; an open trunk overflowing with costumes: these features one might notice anywhere. But, besides, there was a bookcase with an unusual number of books in it, and there was an open colonial writing-desk, claw-footed, brass-handled, and scutcheoned, with foreign periodicals—French and English—littering its leaf, and some pages of manuscript scattered among them. Above all, there was a sculptor’s revolving stand, supporting a bust which Beaton was modelling, with an eye fixed as simultaneously as possible on the clay and on the head of the old man who sat on the platform beside it.