“I have bad news for you, Francesca, I’m sorry to say,” Henry announced. Had he heard, too?
“Henneberg has been here and looked at the picture,” he continued, seating himself by her side, “and though he admired it immensely as a work of art he gave me a disagreeable surprise by assuring me that it’s not a genuine Van der Meulen. It’s a splendid copy, but still, unfortunately, only a copy.”
Henry paused and glanced at his sister to see how she had taken the unwelcome announcement. Even in the dim light he caught some of the anguish in her eyes.
“My dear Francesca,” he said soothingly, laying his hand affectionately on her arm, “I know that this must be a great disappointment to you, you’ve always set such store by this picture, but you mustn’t take it too much to heart. These disagreeable discoveries come at times to most picture fanciers and owners. Why, about twenty per cent. of the alleged Old Masters in the Louvre are supposed to be wrongly attributed. And there are heaps of similar cases in this country. Lady Dovecourt was telling me the other day that they simply daren’t have an expert in to examine the Van Dykes at Columbey for fear of unwelcome disclosures. And besides, your picture is such an excellent copy that it’s by no means without a value of its own. You must get over the disappointment you naturally feel, and take a philosophical view of the matter. . . "
Francesca sat in stricken silence, crushing the folded morsel of paper tightly in her hand and wondering if the thin, cheerful voice with its pitiless, ghastly mockery of consolation would never stop.
*** End of the project gutenberg EBOOK, the unbearable Bassington ***
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