to him his eyes rested gravely on her slim, small figure. He was a man of forty, with a high but well- shaped head, on which the hair, still dense, but prematurely grizzled, had been cropped close. He had a fine, narrow, extremely modelled and composed face, of which the only fault was just this effect of its running a trifle too much to points; an appearance to which the shape of the beard contributed not a little. This beard, cut in the manner of the portraits of the sixteenth century and surmounted by a fair moustache, of which the ends had a romantic upward flourish, gave its wearer a foreign, traditionary look and suggested that he was a gentleman who studied style. His conscious, curious eyes, however, eyes at once vague and penetrating, intelligent and hard, expressive of the observer as well as of the dreamer, would have assured you that he studied it only within well-chosen limits, and that in so far as he sought it he found it. You would have been much at a loss to determine his original clime and country; he had none of the superficial signs that usually render the answer to this question an insipidly easy one. If he had English blood in his veins it had probably received some French or Italian commixture; but he suggested, fine gold coin as he was, no stamp nor emblem of the common mintage that provides for general circulation; he was the elegant complicated medal struck off for a special occasion. He had a light, lean, rather languid-looking figure, and was apparently neither tall nor short. He was dressed as a man dresses who takes little other trouble about it than to have no vulgar things.

‘Well, my dear, what do you think of it?’ he asked of the young girl. He used the Italian tongue, and used it with perfect ease; but this would not have convinced you he was Italian.

The child turned her head earnestly to one side and the other. ‘It’s very pretty, papa. Did you make it yourself?’

‘Certainly I made it. Don’t you think I’m clever?’

‘Yes, papa, very clever; I also have learned to make pictures.’ And she turned round and showed a small, fair face painted with a fixed and intensely sweet smile.

‘You should have brought me a specimen of your powers.’

‘I’ve brought a great many; they’re in my trunk.’

‘She draws very—very carefully,’ the elder of the nuns remarked, speaking in French.

‘I’m glad to hear it. Is it you who have instructed her?’

‘Happily no,’ said the good sister, blushing a little. ‘Ce n’est pas ma partie.2 I teach nothing; I leave that to those who are wiser. We’ve an excellent drawing-master, Mr—Mr—what is his name?’ she asked of her companion.

Her companion looked about at the carpet. ‘It’s a German name,’ she said in Italian, as if it needed to be translated.

‘Yes,’ the other went on, ‘he’s a German, and we’ve had him many years.’

The young girl, who was not heeding the conversation, had wandered away to the open door of the large room and stood looking into the garden. ‘And you, my sister, are French,’ said the gentleman.

‘Yes, sir,’ the visitor gently replied. ‘I speak to the pupils in my own tongue. I know no other. But we have sisters of other countries—English, German, Irish. They all speak their proper language.’

The gentleman gave a smile. ‘Has my daughter been under the care of one of the Irish ladies?’ And then, as he saw that his visitors suspected a joke, though failing to understand it, ‘You’re very complete,’ he instantly added.

‘Oh, yes, we’re complete. We’ve everything, and everything’s of the best.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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