“I couldn’t do it—I couldn’t. I can’t even consider it. I’m very sorry. I would, if it were possible. But it isn’t possible.”
“I reckon if you see the photographs once”
“It isn’t that, Mr. Dryfoos. But I’m not in the way of that kind of thing any more.”
“I’d give any price you’ve a mind to name—”
“Oh, it isn’t the money!” cried Beaton, beginning to lose control of himself.
The old man did not notice him. He sat with his head fallen forward, and his chin resting on his folded hands. Thinking of the portrait, he saw Conrad’s face before him, reproachful, astonished, but all gentle as it looked when Conrad caught his hand that day after he struck him; he heard him say, “Father!” and the sweat gathered on his forehead. “Oh, my God!” he groaned. “No; there ain’t anything I can do now.”
Beaton did not know whether Dryfoos was speaking to him or not. He started toward him. “Are you ill?”
“No, there ain’t anything the matter,” said the old man. “But I guess I’ll lay down on your settee a minute.” He tottered with Beaton’s help to the aesthetic couch covered with a tiger-skin, on which Beaton had once thought of painting a Cleopatra; but he could never get the right model. As the old man stretched himself out on it, pale and suffering, he did not look much like a Cleopatra, but Beaton was struck with his effectiveness, and the likeness between him and his daughter; she would make a very good Cleopatra in some ways. All the time, while these thoughts passed through his mind, he was afraid Dryfoos would die. The old man fetched his breath in gasps, which presently smoothed and lengthened into his normal breathing. Beaton got him a glass of wine, and after tasting it he sat up.
“You’ve got to excuse me,” he said, getting back to his characteristic grimness with surprising suddenness, when once he began to recover himself. “I’ve been through a good deal lately; and sometimes it ketches me round the heart like a pain.”
In his life of selfish immunity from grief, Beaton could not understand this experience that poignant sorrow brings; he said to himself that Dryfoos was going the way of angina pectoris; as he began shuffling off the tiger-skin he said: “Had you better get up? Wouldn’t you like me to call a doctor?”
“I’m all right, young man.” Dryfoos took his hat and stick from him, but he made for the door so uncertainly that Beaton put his hand under his elbow and helped him out, and down the stairs, to his coupe.
“Hadn’t you better let me drive home with you?” he asked.
“What?” said Dryfoos, suspiciously.
Beaton repeated his question.
“I guess I’m able to go home alone,” said Dryfoos, in a surly tone, and he put his head out of the window and called up “Home!” to the driver, who immediately started off and left Beaton standing beside the curbstone.