“You may take away the things, Belinda,” said Mr Leavesley, lighting his pipe and taking his seat at the easel. “Nobody called this morning, I suppose?”
“Only the Capting, sir,” replied Belinda, piling the tray. “He called at seven to borry your umbrella.”
“Did you give it him?”
“No, sir, Mr Verneede’s got it; you lent it to him the night before last, and he hasn’t brought it back.”
“Ah, so I did,” said Mr Leavesley, squeezing Naples yellow from an utterly exhausted[Pg 2] looking tube. “So I did, so I did; that’s the fifteenth umbrella or so that Verneede has annexed of mine: what does he do with them, do you think, Belinda?”
“I’m sure I don’t know, sir,” replied the maid-of-all-work, looking round the studio as if in search of inspiration, “unless he spouts them.”
“That will do, Belinda,” said the owner of the lost umbrellas, turning to his work, and the servant-maid departed.
It was a large, pleasant studio, furnished with very little affectation, and its owner was a slight, pleasant-faced youth, happy-go-lucky looking, with a glitter in his grey eyes suggesting a touch of genius or insanity in their owner.
He was an orphan blessed with a small competency. His income, to use his own formula, consisted of a hundred a year and an uncle. During the first four months or so of the year he spent the hundred pounds, during the rest of the year he squandered his uncle; that is to say he would have squandered him only for the fact that Mr James Hancock, of the firm of Hancock & Hancock, solicitors, was a person most difficult to “negotiate.”
Art, however, was looking up. He had sold several pictures lately. The morning mists on the road to success were clearing away, leaving to the view in a prospect distant tremulous and golden the mysterious city of attainment.
He would have whistled as he worked only that he was smoking.
Through the open windows came the pulse-like sound of the omnibuses in the King’s Road, the sleigh bells of the hansoms, the rattle of the coster’s barrow, and voices.
As he painted, the sounds outside brought before him the vision of the King’s Road, Chelsea, where flaming June was also at work with her golden brush and palette of violet colours.
He saw in imagination the scarlet pyramids of strawberries in the shops. The blazing barrow of flowers all a-growing and a-blowing, the late-June morning crowd, and through the crowd wending its way the figure of a girl.
He was in love.
In the breast-pocket of his coat (on the heart side) lay a letter he had received by the early morning post. The handwriting[Pg 4] was large and generous and careless, for no man living could tell the “m’s” from the “w’s,” or the “t’s” from the “l’s.” It ran somewhat to this effect:
“The Laurels, Highgate.
“Father is worrying dreadfully, and I want your advice. I think I will be in the King’s Road to-morrow, and will call on you. Excuse this scrawl.—In wild haste,
“How’s the picture?”
Occasionally as he painted he touched his coat where the letter lay, as if to make sure of its presence.
Suddenly he ceased working. There was a step on the stairs, a knock at the door. Could it be?——
Categories: English Literature