`Number of what, child?' inquired Miss La Creevy, looking up from her work. `Character portraits, oh yes -- they're not real military men, you know.'
`Bless your heart, of course not; only clerks and that, who hire a uniform coat to be painted in, and send it here in a carpet bag. Some artists,' said Miss La Creevy, `keep a red coat, and charge seven-and- sixpence extra for hire and carmine; but I don't do that myself, for I don't consider it legitimate.'
Drawing herself up, as though she plumed herself greatly upon not resorting to these lures to catch sitters, Miss La Creevy applied herself, more intently, to her task: only raising her head occasionally, to look with unspeakable satisfaction at some touch she had just put in: and now and then giving Miss Nickleby to understand what particular feature she was at work upon, at the moment; `not,' she expressly observed, `that you should make it up for painting, my dear, but because it's our custom sometimes to tell sitters what part we are upon, in order that if there's any particular expression they want introduced, they may throw it in, at the time, you know.'
`And when,' said Miss La Creevy, after a long silence, to wit, an interval of full a minute and a half, `when do you expect to see your uncle again?'
`I scarcely know; I had expected to have seen him before now,' replied Kate. `Soon I hope, for this state of uncertainty is worse than anything.'
`I suppose he has money, hasn't he?' inquired Miss La Creevy.
`He is very rich, I have heard,' rejoined Kate. `I don't know that he is, but I believe so.'
`Ah, you may depend upon it he is, or he wouldn't be so surly,' remarked Miss La Creevy, who was an odd little mixture of shrewdness and simplicity, `When a man's a bear, he is generally pretty independent.'
`His manner is rough,' said Kate.
`Rough!' cried Miss La Creevy, `a porcupine's a featherbed to him! I never met with such a cross-grained old savage.'
`It is only his manner, I believe,' observed Kate, timidly; `he was disappointed in early life, I think I have heard, or has had his temper soured by some calamity. I should be sorry to think ill of him until I knew he deserved it.'
`Well; that's very right and proper,' observed the miniature painter, `and Heaven forbid that I should be the cause of your doing so! But, now, mightn't he, without feeling it himself, make you and your mamma some nice little allowance that would keep you both comfortable until you were well married, and be a little fortune to her afterwards? What would a hundred a year for instance, be to him?'
`I don't know what it would be to him,' said Kate, with energy, `but it would be that to me I would rather die than take.'
`Heyday!' cried Miss La Creevy.
`A dependence upon him,' said Kate, `would embitter my whole life. I should feel begging a far less degradation.'
`Well!' exclaimed Miss La Creevy. `This of a relation whom you will not hear an indifferent person speak ill of, my dear, sounds oddly enough, I confess.'
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