“Our pictures are sold!”
“What pictures?” mimicking the indifferent tone. “Oh! how indifferent
we are! yet a year ago how blessed were the feet of the messenger who
brought such tidings! Success falls upon you, my boy. Now with me a
ready sale is quite an event. Of course I meant the pictures we sent to
The same old studio at Rome into which we looked three years ago, and
the same two artists we saw then. Carl Muller had just entered, waving
an open letter over his head.
The gay, mercurial German looked as boyishly handsome as ever, as
though time had forgotten him. Not so with Leslie Dane, who stood
beside a half-finished picture, critically regarding it. He was
handsomer than ever, as though the subtle hand of a sculptor had been
at work upon his features chiseling the fine Greek outlines into rarer
perfection and delicacy. A few lines of thought and care added rather
than detracted from the interest with which one turned a second time to
look at his face. The full lips half shaded by the dark mustache had
lost a little of the almost womanly sweetness of the past and acquired
a sterner curve. Into the dark eyes there had crept a gleam of brooding
sadness, and a few silver threads shone in the clustering locks about
his white brow. His last three years had made their mark upon him in
many subtle changes.
“I could have told you that yesterday, Carl,” he said, smiling, “but
you were out when my letter came, and I was so busy over my picture
here that I forgot it when you returned.”
“The agent wrote to you first then,” said Carl. “He might have had the
courtesy to drop me a line at the same time.”
“Do not blame him too much, Carl,” said Leslie Dane. “He was in a
hurry about writing to me because he had a letter to inclose from the
purchaser of the pictures.”
“Another commission, you lucky dog!” exclaimed Carl Muller.
“It amounts to that, I suppose. He wants me to go to Paris and paint
his wife’s portrait. If I will not go to Paris he will come to Rome.”
“If the mountain will not go to Mahomet, then Mahomet must go to the
mountain,” said Carl.
“Something that way,” said Leslie, carelessly.
“You will accept, of course. The old fellow paid such an extravagant
price for the pictures that another commission might be a temptation
even to you who have lately been surfeited with success.”
“The money certainly might be an object, but I think I shall refuse,”
was the abrupt reply.
“Refuse!” exclaimed Carl, in surprise, “and why, if I may ask?”
“The man is an American.”
“So are you,” cried the German, surprised at the dark frown that
darkened on Leslie’s brow. “Is that a disgrace?”
“I suppose not. Yet I will have nothing to do with my countrymen,” said
the artist, sternly.
Carl gave vent to a low whistle.
“Ye gods! An American–born under the shadow of the eagle’s wing of
liberty, a citizen of a land the most patriotic upon earth–coolly
repudiating his country! I never expected to see such a novel sight
under the sun!”
“You mistake me, Carl,” said Leslie Dane, a little vexed. “I do not
repudiate my native land. I revere her as the noblest country upon
earth, but I am from henceforth an exile, self-expatriated from her
shores, and I do not wish to meet anyone who can recall memories I
would fain forget.”
“You are a strange fellow, Leslie, I cannot understand your moods.”
“You do not? Shall I explain, Carl? Listen, then.”
Carl looked up into the dark face with its look of proud grief mingled
“No, no; forgive my levity,” he said; “I would not intrude upon your
secret, dear friend. Let it rest.”
“It does not matter,” said Leslie, his deep voice full of pain. “I will
tell you, Carl. It is only this: One woman in that fair land where I
was born has played me false and ruined my life. I hate and shun all
Americans for her sake!”
He took up his brush and went to work at his picture without another
word. Carl was silent also; he was recalling that episode of three
years ago when Leslie in his wild outbreak had painted out the portrait
of his fair, false-hearted love.
“So he has not forgotten her,” he thought; “and yet he has never
breathed another word of her until to-day. Ah! she will never know what
a true and noble heart she cast away.”
He sat still awhile thinking profoundly, and referring to his letter
now and then with ever-increasing pride in the lucrative sale of his
picture, for Carl was a lazy fellow, and though he commenced numbers
of things seldom had patience to finish them. Consequently a completed
work and its ready sale had all the charm of novelty to him.
“I say,” he said, breaking the silence that had brooded as long as
he could bear it, and returning to the charge upon his friend, “old
fellow, it’s a shame you should refuse such a profitable commission for
a scruple I must say is not worthy of you. Do accept it, Leslie. This
old fellow–let me see”–referring again to his letter–“Carlyle his
name is–Colonel Carlyle–need not trouble you much with the sight of
his obnoxious face, and the old lady–Favart says he is an old man, so
of course she is an old lady–need only give you a few sittings. They
would not trouble you long, and you need not think of them as Americans
at all. Simply regard the sitter as your model, and think no more about
Leslie Dane did not answer, but the slight smile that played around his
lips showed that he had been an attentive listener to Carl’s admonition.
“You know,” resumed Carl, seeing that Leslie would not answer, “we
have been promising ourselves a trip to Paris for ever so long. I
see no chance so suitable as the present when I have this pot of
money to spend, and when you might so agreeably combine business with
pleasure in the execution of this portrait and the enjoyment of all the
pleasures of Paris. Recollect, you would be fairly lionized there.”
“I do not fancy being lionized,” said Leslie Dane, grimly.
“Do you not! Now, I should enjoy it above all things. But since I am
not apt to have that honor I should enjoy following in your wake and
taking all the glories second-hand. I should be sure to get a little
of the honor reflected on me, for though I am not the rose, you know I
have lived near it.”
Leslie Dane looked up with a quizzical smile.
“Confess now, Carl,” he said, “that nothing will content you but to
get away and spend the gold you have earned. All your flattery and
sophistry leads to this–that you are wild for a companion to aid and
abet you in spending the money that is burning a hole in your pocket
“Somehow the gold does seem to burn through my pockets,” said Carl,
reflectively. “But, tra, la, what is it good for but to buy pleasure?”
He began to hum a few bars of a German song with a gay refrain.
“Come, come, get to your work,” exclaimed the other. “Your signal
success with your last work should stimulate you to renewed efforts.”
“So it will,” affirmed Carl; “but not to-day. I feel so giddy over my
good news that I could not work to-day. I should hardly know how to mix
my colors. I feel as lazy, shiftless and good-natured as the Italian
lazzaroni out in the sunshine.”
Leslie Dane gave a little sigh as he looked at his happy companion.
Nothing ever seemed to ruffle the gay current of his good nature. His
temperament was an enviable one.
“Carl, did you ever have a sweetheart?” Leslie asked curiously.
“Sweethearts–yes, a score of them,” laughed Carl. “More Gretchens,
Madchens, and Anitas than you could count on your fingers. Why do you
“Only for curiosity. I thought you could not be so care-free and joyous
if love had ever come into your life.”
“That is according to how we look at love,” said the German; “with you
it is all a solemn epic or tragedy. With me it would be a pretty little
poem or a happy song.”
Leslie sighed but did not answer.
“Come, now,” said the German, “we have wandered from our subject. Give
up your selfishness this once, Leslie, and take a holiday. Come with me
to Paris next week.”
Leslie stood silently meditating, and Carl saw that the battle was
“Don’t hesitate,” said he, pushing his advantage. “Indeed you work too
hard, my boy. There is no need of it since you have forsworn marriage.
Take a breathing spell and come with me to Paris and paint old Mrs.
Leslie frowned slightly at the words.
“Pray do not mention those people again,” he said, in an irritated
tone. “Perhaps I will accompany you to Paris; but I have no fancy to
paint the portrait of a wrinkled old woman.”