`Yes, if you don't object to walking four miles,--or nearly so--little short of eight miles there and back--and over a somewhat rough, fatiguing road.'
`In what direction does it lie?'
I described the situation as well as I could, and was entering upon an explanation of the various roads, lanes, and fields to be traversed in order to reach it, the goings straight on, and turnings to the right, and the left, when she checked me with,--
`Oh, stop!--don't tell me now: I shall forget every word of your directions before I require them. I shall not think about going till next spring; and then, perhaps, I may trouble you. At present we have the winter before us, and--'
She suddenly paused, with a suppressed exclamation, started up from her seat, and saying, `Excuse me one moment,' hurried from the room, and shut the door behind her.
Curious to see what had startled her so, I looked towards the window,--for her eyes had been carelessly fixed upon it the moment before--and just beheld the skirts of a man's coat vanishing behind a large holly bush that stood between the window and the porch.
`It's mamma's friend,' said Arthur.
Rose and I looked at each other.
`I don't know what to make of her, at all,' whispered Rose.
The child looked at her in grave surprise. She straightway began to talk to him on indifferent matters, while I amused myself with looking at the pictures. There was one in an obscure comer that I had not before observed. It was a little child, seated on the grass with its lap full of flowers. The tiny features and large, blue eyes, smiling through a shock of light brown curls, shaken over the forehead as it bent above its treasure, bore sufficient resemblance to those of the young gentleman before me, to proclaim it a portrait of Arthur Graham in his early infancy.
In taking this up to bring it to the light, I discovered another behind it, with its face to the wall. I ventured to take that up too. It was the portrait of a gentleman in the full prime of youthful manhood--handsome enough, and not badly executed; but, if done by the same hand as the others, it was evidently some years before; for there was far more careful minuteness of detail, and less of that freshness of colouring and freedom of handling, that delighted and surprised me in them. Nevertheless, I surveyed it with considerable interest. There was a certain individuality in the features and expression that stamped it, at once, a successful likeness. The bright, blue eyes regarded the spectator with a kind of lurking drollery--you almost expected to see them wink; the lips--a little too voluptuously full--seemed ready to break into a smile; the warmly tinted cheeks were embellished with a luxuriant growth of reddish whiskers; while the bright chestnut hair, clustering in abundant, wavy curls, trespassed too much upon the forehead, and seemed to intimate that the owner thereof was prouder of his beauty than his intellect--as perhaps, he had reason to be;--and yet he looked no fool.
I had not had the portrait in my hands two minutes before the fair artist returned.
`Only someone come about the pictures,' said she, in apology for her abrupt departure: `I told him to wait.'
`I fear it will be considered an act of impertinence,' said I, `to presume to look at a picture that the artist has turned to the wall; but may I ask'--
`It is an act of very great impertinence, sir; and therefore, I beg you will ask nothing about it, for your curiosity will not be gratified,' replied she, attempting to cover the tartness of her rebuke with a smile;--but I could see, by her flushed cheek and kindling eye, that she was seriously annoyed.
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|