It was by such real services that Marien endeavored to repay the friendship and the kindness always awaiting him in the small house in the Parc Monceau, where we have just seen Jacqueline eagerly offering him some spiced cakes. To complete what seemed due to the household there only remained to paint the curiously expressive features of the girl at whom he had been looking that very day with more than ordinary attention. Once already, when Jacqueline was hardly out of baby-clothes, the great painter had made an admirable sketch of her tousled head, a sketch in which she looked like a little imp of darkness, and this sketch Madame de Nailles took pains should always be seen, but it bore no resemblance to the slender young girl who was on the eve of becoming, whatever might be done to arrest her development, a beautiful young woman. Jacqueline disliked to look at that picture. It seemed to do her an injury by associating her with her nursery. Probably that was the reason why she had been so pleased to hear Hubert Marien say unexpectedly that she was now ready for the portrait which had been often joked about, every one putting it off to the period, always remote, when “the may-pole” should have developed a pretty face and figure.
And now she was disquieted lest the idea of taking her picture, which she felt was very flattering, should remain inoperative in the painter’s brain. She wanted it carried out at once, as soon as possible. Jacqueline detested waiting, and for some reason, which she never talked about, the years that seemed so short and swift to her stepmother seemed to her to be terribly long. Marien himself had said: “There is a great interval between a dream and its execution.” These words had thrown cold water on her sudden joy. She wanted to force him to keep his promise—to paint her portrait immediately. How to do this was the problem her little head, reclining on Madame de Nailles’s lap after the departure of their visitors, had been endeavoring to solve.
Should she communicate her wish to her indulgent stepmother, who for the most part willed whatever she wished her to do? A vague instinct—an instinct of some mysterious danger—warned her that in this case her father would be her better confidant.
THE FRIEND OF THE FAY
A week later M. de Nailles said to Hubert Marien, as they were smoking together in the conservatory, after the usual little family dinner on Wednesday was over:
“Well!—when would you like Jacqueline to come to sit for her picture?”
“What! are you thinking about that?” cried the painter, letting his cigar fall in his astonishment.
“She told me that you had proposed to make her portrait.”
“The sly little minx!” thought Marien. “I only spoke of painting it some day,” he said, with embarrassment.