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hundred guinea dresses and point worth a dowry-the picturesqueness of artistic taste, and innate refinement which gave her the brilliance and grace of a picture. She turned rapidly at the closing of the door, sprang up, and ran towards him with that rapidity and impulsiveness which always made her, in that respect, seem much younger than she was.
"Ah! you have come at last! I began to think you would cheat me as you cheated me of the yachting trip to Lorave; and yet I had faith in you. I thought you would not disappoint me."
"No, but I shall scold you," said De Vigne, "for sitting there, wearing your eyes out-as Mrs. Lee phrases it-over your easel. Why do you do it ?"
"It is my only companion," pleaded Alma. "I like it so much. With my brush I can escape away into an ideal world, and shut out the real and actual, with all its harshness, trials, and privations. You know the sun shines only for me upon canvas; and besides," she added, with a gay smile, to take a practical view of it, I have little or no money, and I must make what talent I have into gold."
"Poor little thing!" exclaimed De Vigne. Malgré lui, it struck him, who had flung about thousands at his pleasure ever since he was a boy, as so singular, and as somehow so unjust, that this girl, young as she was, should have to labour for her living with the genius with which nature had endowed her so royally-genius the divine, the god-given, the signetseal, so rare, so priceless, with which nature marks the few who are to ennoble and sanctify the mass.
"Ah! I am a poor little thing!" repeated Alma, with a moue mutine indicative of supreme pitié d'elle-même and indignation at her fate. "I should love society; I see nothing but nurse and Silvo. I love fun; I have nobody to talk it to but the goldfinch. I hate solitude, and I am always alone. I should like beautiful music, beautiful pictures, gardens, statues, conservatories, luxuries, all the agrémens of life. This quiet life is not at all my rôle; I vegetate in it."
"More honour to you to bear it so well, Miss Tressillian," said I.
"Oh, I don't bear it well," interrupted Alma. "I sometimes get as impatient as a bird beating its wings against a cage; I grow as restless in its monotony as you can fancy; I want to enjoy myself. So I am not a bit of a philosopher, and never shall be."
"Life will make you one in spite of yourself," said De Vigne.
"Never! If I ever come to rose-leaves, I will lie down on them coûte que coûte. As long as I can only get a straw mattress, there is not much virtue in renunciation."
"But there are cankerous worms in rose-leaves," smiled De Vigne. "But who would ever enjoy the roses if they were always remembering that? Where is the good?"
"You little epicurean!" laughed De Vigne, looking at her amusedly. His remembrance of her as a child made him treat her with a certain gentle familiarity, very different to his usual sarcastic hauteur with young ladies of her age. "You would have a brief summer, like the butterflies. That sort of summer costs one dear when the butterfly lies dying on the brown autumn leaves, and envies the bee housed safely at home."
"N'importe!" cried the little lady, recklessly. "The butterfly, at least, has enjoyed life, and the bee, I would bet, goes on humming and
bustling all the year round, never knowing whether the fuchsias are red or white, as long as there is honey in them; only looking in orchises with an eye to business, and never giving a minute in his breathless toil to scent the heliotropes or kiss the blue-bells for their beauty's sake."
"Possibly not; but when the fuchsias and orchises, blue-bells and heliotropes, are withered and dried, and raked away by ruthless gardeners for the unpoetic destiny of making leaf mould, and the ground is frozen, and the trees are bare, and the wind whistles over the snow-how then? Which is best off, butterfly or bee ?"
"Hold your tongue!" laughed Alma. "You put me in mind of those horrible moral apologues, and that detestable incitement to supreme selfishness, La cigale ayant chanté tout l'été,' where the ant is made out a most praiseworthy person, but appears to me simply cruel and mean. But to answer you is easy enough. What good does the bee get from his hard work? Has his honey taken away from him for other people's eating, and is smoked out of his house, poor little thing, by human monsters, whom, if he knew his power, he could sting to death! The butterfly, au contraire, enjoys himself to the last, dies in the course of nature, and leaves others to enjoy themselves after him."
"You did not lose your tongue in Lorave, Alma?" said De Vigne, with a grave air of solicitous interest.
With the little Tressillian he had a little of his old fun, something of his old laugh.
"No, indeed; and I should be very sorry if I had, for I love talking." "You need not tell us that," smiled De Vigne.
"I will never talk to you again," cried Alma, with supreme dignity; "or, rather, I never would if I were not too magnanimous to avenge an insult by such enormous punishment."
"To yourself. Just so. You are quite right," said De Vigne, with an amused smile. "I only know one young lady who can equal you in that line, and she is your St. James's-street friend, Miss Molyneux." "Ah! she would like talking, by her face; and she must talk well, too."
"Yes. Something in your style; as vehement and effervescent as a glass of champagne, and as fast as a twenty minutes' burst, up wind.” "Do you admire her?" asked Alma, quickly.
Certainly. All men must. She is very lovely." "Yes; it is a face to dream of.
Alma, with a sigh of envy.
"I dare say she is; she looks so." "Have you seen her to-day?"
And she must be very happy," added
"Yes. Chevasney and I are just come from a matinée musicale at Twickenham, where she was the lionne."
"How I wish I were in your society," cried Alma, passionately.
"I wish you were," said De Vigne. "You are not made for solitude, nor to derive any pleasure from blushing unseen,' and 'wasting your sweetness on the desert air.' You are a true woman, I guess, Alma, and would enjoy shining, scintillating, slaying, and conquering. All women do who can, and those who cannot make a virtue of necessity, and renounce the admiration that refuses to come to them with as good a grace as they can muster; but they long for it all the same. But take
courage, petite. You were born in that society-you will shine in it some day, I make no doubt."
"If I could make a name like Rosa Bonheur, I might, and then you would admire me as much as you do Miss Molyneux.'
De Vigne laughed.
"What are you painting now, Alma?
May we see?"
"I was drawing you," she answered, tranquilly, turning the easel towards him.
It was a really wonderful likeness from memory, done in pastels. She had admirably caught the high-bred and severe beauty of his face, and she had caught, what was much more difficult, the calm hauteur of bis features, the suppressed passions, veiled under impenetrable reserve, which slumbered in his eyes, while there yet lingered round the grave proud lines of his mouth a shadow of the smile which now came so rarely there, but when it did, gave the lie to the coldness of its expression in repose.
My likeness! By Jove!" cried De Vigne, "you flatter me shockingly, Alma. What on earth put it into your head, petite, to do that?" "I knew you would make a splendid picture-your face is beautiful," said Alma, tranquilly.
Whereupon De Vigne went straight off into a fit of laughter, the first real, cordially amused laughter, with a touch of the old merry ring in it, that I had heard since his marriage-day.
"Why do you laugh?" said Alma, indignantly; "I only tell you the truth. Your face is perfect by the rules of art."
At which gratifying assurance De Vigne laughed still more. The girl amused him, as Richelieu's and Montaigne's little cats amused them when they laid down the sceptre and the pen and tied the string to their kittens' cork. And thinking of her still merely as Tressillian's little granddaughter, he was not on his guard with her as with other women, and treated her with a cordiality and freedom more like his old than his present manners. For De Vigne was a true gentleman, every inch of him; and where he might have been careless and distant to Violet Molyneux, an aristocratic belle, he was carefully courteous and kind to Alma Tressillian, poor, unprotected, and working for her own livelihood.
"Well, Alma, I am extremely obliged to you. You have made a much handsomer fellow of me than Maclise would have done, I am afraid," said he, smiling; "and if ever my picture is wanted side by side with Wellington's, I hope, for the sake of creating an impression on posterity, that you will be kind enough to paint it for me."
"It is no handsomer than you are yourself," said Alma, resolute to maintain her own opinion; "is it, Captain Chevasney? It is too bad of you to laugh so, but that is just like your sex's ingratitude."
"Don't abuse us," said De Vigne; "that is so stale a stage-trick with women. They are eternally running after us, and eternally vowing that they would not stir a step for any of us. They spend their whole existence in trying to catch us, but their whole breath reiterating that they only take us out of compassion. If I hear a lady abuse or find fault with us, I know that her grapes sont trop verts, et bons pour des goujats." Alma laughed:
"Very probably. But I don't abuse you. Au contraire, I prefer Oct.-VOL. CXXIII. NO. Ccccxc.
gentlemen to my own sex; and I have a right, for I have had much more kindness from them. I prefer them, too, for many other things. Your code of honour is far better than ours."
"The generality of women have no notion of honour at all," said De Vigne; "they tell falsehoods and circulate scandals without being called to account for it, and the laxity of honour in trifles that they learn in the nursery and schoolrooms corrodes their sense of right towards others in all their after-life. Men err very often from passion and ambition, or high temper; but women's faults almost always spring from petty motives: spite, malice, love of outshining their neighbour, pleasure in small intrigues, jealousy of prettier rivals. Their sphere is little, their vices and their vanities are little likewise. A boy at school is soon taught that, however lax he may be in other things, it is 'sneaky' to peach, and learns a rough sort of Spartan honour; a girl, on the contrary, tells tales of her sisters unreproved, and hears mamma in her drawing-room take away the character of a 'dearest friend' whom she sees her meet the next moment with a caress and an endearment. But modern society is too 'religious' to remember to be honourable, and is too occupied with proclaiming its 'morality' to have any time to give to common honesty."
"As Sir John Lacquers taught us!"
"Sir John Lacquers and scores like him, whose 'slips' are passed over because their scrip is inscribed with a large text, and pilgrim's purse full of almighty dollars. I think of publishing a Manual of Early Lessons for Eminent Christians: I. Do good so that not only your right hand knows it, but all your neighbourhood likewise. II. Give as it shall be given unto you, and not unless you know it will be. III. Strain very hard at a sin the size of a gnat if it be your poor relation's, and swallow one the size of a camel if it be your patron's. IV. Never pray in your closet, as no one will be the wiser, but go as high as you can on the house-top, that society may think you the holiest man in Israel. V. Borrow of your friend without paying him, because he will not harm you, but be careful to give good interest to strangers, because they may have the law on you. VI. Judge very severely, that gaining applause for your condemnation of others you may contrive to hide your own short-comings. VII. Eat pâtés de foie gras in secrecy, but have jours maigres in public, that men who cannot see you in secret may reward you openly. I could write a whole paraphrase of the Gospel as used and translated by the Church of England,' and other elect of the kingdom of Heaven; an election, by the way, exceedingly like that of Themistocles, where every man writes down his own name first, entirely regardless of lack of right or qualification for the honour."
"But different in this respect," said Alma, "that there the generals did remember to put Themistocles after them, whereas the shining lights of the different creeds are a great deal too occupied with securing their own future comfort to think of drawing any of their confrères up with them. The churches all take a cross for their symbol; they would be nearer the truth if they took the beam without the transverse, for egotism is much nearer their point than self-sacrifice. But will you look at my pet picture? I know I need not ask you to tell me candidly what you like and don't like in it."
The picture she spoke of stood with its face to the wall. As she turned it round, De Vigne and I gave an involuntary exclamation of surprise, it so far surpassed anything we should have fancied a girl of her age could have accomplished. It was in water-colours, but her master had been one of the first artists in Rome, and she had acquired under him a brilliance and delicacy of finish rarely seen. The picture was one not possible to criticise chilly by exacting rules of art and of perspective. One looked at it as Murillo looked at the first Madonna of his wonderful mulatto, not to discuss critically, but to admire the genius stamped upon it, to admire the vivid breathing vitality, the delicate grace, and wonderful power marked upon its canvas.
De Vigne looked at it silently while Alma spoke; he continued silent some minutes after she had ceased. He was not rassotté of art as Sabretasche was, but he was passionately fond of talent wherever he found it, and he was a good judge of painting; no one could have imposed a mediocre thing upon him. He stood silently, as I say, looking at her work; then he turned suddenly:
"Alma, if you choose, you can be as great a woman as Elizabeth Sirani -a greater than Rosa Bonheur, because what she gives to horses and cows you will give to human nature. Be content. Whatever sorrows
or privations come to you, you will have God's best gift, which no man can take away, the greatest prize in life-genius!"
Alma looked up at him, her blue eyes brilliant as diamonds and dark as a summer sky at midnight, her whole face flushed, her lips trembling with delight.
"You think so. that!"
Thank God! I would have died to hear you say
"Better live to prove it," said De Vigne, mournfully. Her enthusiasm struck a sad chord in his heart. "Your picture is both well conceived and well carried out: it tells its own story; the imagining of it is poetic, the treatment artistic. There are faults, no doubt, but I like it too well to look out for them, and for your age I regard it as a marvel. Will you let me have it at my house a little while? I have some friends who are artists, others who are really learned cognoscenti, and I should like to hear their opinion on it."
"Will you keep it ?" asked Alma, with the first shyness I had seen in her. "If you would hang it anywhere in your house-an attic, or anything-and just look at it now and then, I shall be so glad. Will you?"
"I will keep it with pleasure, my dear child," answered De Vigne, with a surprised smile; "but I will keep it as I would Landseer's, or Mulready's, by being allowed the pleasure of adding it to my collection. Your picture is worth
“Oh, don't talk of worth!'" cried Alma, vehemently. "Take ittake it, as I give it to you, with all my heart. I am so glad to give you anything, you were so kind to him!”
And at the remembrance of her grandfather poor little Alma leaned against her easel, covered her bright eyes with her hands, and sobbed aloud, unrestrainedly and passionately, like her nature. She was too
instinctively well-bred, however, not to do her best to suppress them, and, brushing away her tears, she looked up at De Vigne :
"Don't be angry with me; I can't help it when I think of grandpapa;