The sheltering darkness of the spectacles I wore prevented him from noticing the searching scrutiny of my fixed gaze. His face was shadowed by a faint tinge of melancholy; his eyes were thoughtful and almost sad.
“You loved him well then in spite of his foolishness?” I said.
He roused himself from the pensive mood into which he had fallen, and smiled.
“Loved him? No! Certainly not—nothing so strong as that! I liked him fairly—he bought several pictures of me—a poor artist has always some sort of regard for the man who buys his work. Yes, I liked him well enough—till he married.”
“Ha! I suppose his wife came between you?” He flushed slightly, and drank off the remainder of his cognac in haste.
“Yes,” he replied, briefly, “she came between us. A man is never quite the same after marriage. But we have been sitting a long time here—shall we walk?”
He was evidently anxious to change the subject I rose slowly as though my joints were stiff with age, and drew out my watch, a finely jeweled one, to see the time. It was past nine o’clock.
“Perhaps,” I said, addressing him, “you will accompany me as far as my hotel. I am compelled to retire early as a rule—I suffer much from a chronic complaint of the eyes as you perceive,” here touching my spectacles, “and I cannot endure much artificial light. We can talk further on our way. Will you give me a chance of seeing your pictures? I shall esteem myself happy to be one of your patrons.”
“A thousand thanks!” he answered, gayly. “I will show you my poor attempts with pleasure. Should you find anything among them to gratify your taste, I shall of course be honored. But, thank Heaven! I am not as greedy of patronage as I used to be—in fact I intended resigning the profession altogether in about six months or so.”
“Indeed! Are you coming into a fortune?” I asked, carelessly.
“Well—not exactly,” he answered, lightly. “I am going to marry one--that is almost the same thing, is it not?”
“Precisely! I congratulate you!” I said, in a studiously indifferent and slightly bored tone, though my heart pulsed fiercely with the torrent of wrath pent up within it. I understood his meaning well. In six months he proposed marrying my wife. Six months was the shortest possible interval that could be observed, according to social etiquette, between the death of one husband and the wedding of another, and even that was so short as to be barely decent. Six months—yet in that space of time much might happen—things undreamed of and undesired—slow tortures carefully measured out, punishment sudden and heavy! Wrapped in these sombre musings I walked beside him in profound silence. The moon shone brilliantly; groups of girls danced on the shore with their lovers, to the sound of a flute and mandoline—far off