Read CHAPTER III of A Great Success, free online book, by Mrs. Humphry Ward, on

During the weeks that followed the Meadowses’ first visit to Crosby Ledgers, Doris’s conscience was by no means asleep on the subject of Lady Dunstable.  She felt that her behaviour in that lady’s house, and the sudden growth in her own mind of a quite unmanageable dislike, were not to be defended in one who prided herself on a general temper of coolness and common sense, who despised the rancour and whims of other women, hated scenes, and had always held jealousy to be the smallest and most degrading of passions.  Why not laugh at what was odious, show oneself superior to personal slights, and enjoy what could be enjoyed?  And above all, why grudge Arthur a woman friend?

None of these arguments, however, availed at all to reconcile Doris to the new intimacy growing under her eyes.  The Dunstables came to town, and invitations followed.  Mr. and Mrs. Meadows were asked to a large dinner-party, and Doris held her peace and went.  She found herself at the end of a long table with an inarticulate schoolboy of seventeen, a ward of Lord Dunstable’s, on her left, and with an elderly colonel on her right, who, after a little cool examination of her through an eyeglass, decided to devote himself to the debutante on his other side, a Lady Rosamond, who was ready to chatter hunting and horses to him through the whole of dinner.  The girl was not pretty, but she was fresh and gay, and Doris, tired with “much serving,” envied her spirits, her evident assumption that the world only existed for her to laugh and ride in, her childish unspoken claim to the best of everything ­clothes, food, amusements, lovers.  Doris on her side made valiant efforts with the schoolboy.  She liked boys, and prided herself on getting on with them.  But this specimen had no conversation ­at any rate for the female sex ­and apparently only an appetite.  He ate steadily through the dinner, and seemed rather to resent Doris’s attempts to distract him from the task.  So that presently Doris found herself reduced to long tracts of silence, when her fan was her only companion, and the watching of other people her only amusement.

Lord and Lady Dunstable faced each other at the sides of the table, which was purposely narrow, so that talk could pass across it.  Lady Dunstable sat between an Ambassador and a Cabinet Minister, but Meadows was almost directly opposite to her, and it seemed to be her chief business to make him the hero of the occasion.  It was she who drew him into political or literary discussion with the Cabinet Minister, so that the neighbours of each stayed their own talk to listen; she who would insist on his repeating “that story you told me at Crosby Ledgers;” who attacked him abruptly ­rudely even, as she had done in the country ­so that he might defend himself; and when he had slipped into all her traps one after the other, would fall back in her chair with a little satisfied smile.  Doris, silent and forgotten, could not keep her eyes for long from the two distant figures ­from this new Arthur, and the sallow-faced, dark-eyed witch who had waved her wand over him.

Wasn’t she glad to see her husband courted ­valued as he deserved ­borne along the growing stream of fame?  What matter, if she could only watch him from the bank? ­and if the impetuous stream were carrying him away from her?  No!  She wasn’t glad.  Some cold and deadly thing seemed to be twining about her heart.  Were they leaving the dear, poverty-stricken, debt-pestered life behind for ever, in which, after all, they had been so happy:  she, everything to Arthur, and he, so dependent upon her?  No doubt she had been driven to despair, often, by his careless, shiftless ways; she had thirsted for success and money; just money enough, at least, to get along with.  And now success had come, and money was coming.  And here she was, longing for the old, hard, struggling past ­hating the advent of the new and glittering future.  As she sat at Lady Dunstable’s table, she seemed to see the little room in their Kensington house, with the big hole in the carpet, the piles of papers and books, the reading-lamp that would smoke, her work-basket, the house-books, Arthur pulling contentedly at his pipe, the fire crackling between them, his shabby coat, her shabby dress ­Bliss! ­compared to this splendid scene, with the great Vandycks looking down on the dinner-table, the crowd of guests and servants, the costly food, the dresses, and the diamonds ­with, in the distance, her Arthur, divided, as it seemed, from her by a growing chasm, never remembering to throw her a look or a smile, drinking in a tide of flattery he would once have been the first to scorn, captured, exhibited, befooled by an unscrupulous, egotistical woman, who would drop him like a squeezed orange when he had ceased to amuse her.  And the worst of it was that the woman was not a mere pretender!  She had a fine, hard brain, ­“as good as Arthur’s ­nearly ­and he knows it.  It is that which attracts him ­and excites him.  I can mend his socks; I can listen while he reads; and he used to like it when I praised.  Now, what I say will never matter to him any more; that was just sentiment and nonsense; now, he only wants to know what she says; ­that’s business!  He writes with her in his mind ­and when he has finished something he sends it off to her, straight.  I may see it when all the world may ­but she has the first-fruits!”

And in poor Doris’s troubled mind the whole scene ­save the two central figures, Lady Dunstable and Arthur ­seemed to melt away.  She was not the first wife, by a long way, into whose quiet breast Lady Dunstable had dropped these seeds of discord.  She knew it well by report; but it was hateful, both to wifely feeling and natural vanity, that she should now be the victim of the moment, and should know no more than her predecessors how to defend herself.  “Why can’t I be cool and cutting ­pay her back when she is rude, and contradict her when she’s absurd?  She is absurd often.  But I think of the right things to say just five minutes too late.  I have no nerve ­that’s the point! ­only l’esprit d’escalier to perfection.  And she has been trained to this sort of campaigning from her babyhood.  No good growling!  I shall never hold my own!”

Then, into this despairing mood there dropped suddenly a fragment of her neighbour, the Colonel’s, conversation ­“Mrs. So-and-so?  Impossible woman!  Oh, one doesn’t mind seeing her graze occasionally at the other end of one’s table ­as the price of getting her husband, don’t you know? ­but ­”

Doris’s sudden laugh at the Colonel’s elbow startled that gentleman so that he turned round to look at her.  But she was absorbed in the menu, which she had taken up, and he could only suppose that something in it amused her.

A few days later arrived a letter for Meadows, which he handed to his wife in silence.  There had been no further discussion of Lady Dunstable between them; only a general sense of friction, warnings of hidden fire on Doris’s side, and resentment on his, quite new in their relation to each other.  Meadows clearly thought that his wife was behaving very badly.  Lady Dunstable’s efforts on his behalf had already done him substantial service; she had introduced him to all kinds of people likely to help him, intellectually and financially; and to help him was to help Doris.  Why would she be such a little fool?  So unlike her, too! ­sensible, level-headed creature that she generally was.  But he was afraid of losing his own temper, if he argued with her.  And indeed his lazy easy-goingness loathed argument of this domestic sort, loathed scenes, loathed doing anything disagreeable that could be put off.

But here was Lady Dunstable’s letter: 

Dear Mr. Arthur, ­Will your wife forgive me if I ask you to come to a tiny men’s dinner-party next Friday at 8.15 ­to meet the President of the Duma, and another Russian, an intimate friend of Tolstoy’s?  All males, but myself!  So I hope Mrs. Meadows will let you come.

                              Yours sincerely,
                                   RACHEL DUNSTABLE.

“Of course, I won’t go if you don’t like it, Doris,” said Meadows with the smile of magnanimity.

“I thought you were angry with me ­once ­for even suggesting that you might!” Doris’s tone was light, but not pleasing to a husband’s ears.  She was busy at the moment in packing up the American proofs of the Disraeli lecture, which at last with infinite difficulty she had persuaded Meadows to correct and return.

“Well ­but of course ­this is exceptional!” said Meadows, pacing up and down irresolutely.

“Everything’s exceptional ­in that quarter,” said Doris, in the same tone.  “Oh, go, of course! ­it would be a thousand pities not to go.”

Meadows at once took her at her word.  That was the first of a series of “male” dinners, to which, however, it seemed to Doris, if one might judge from Arthur’s accounts, that a good many female exceptions were admitted, no doubt by way of proving the rule.  And during July, Meadows lunched in town ­in the lofty regions of St. James’s or Mayfair ­with other enthusiastic women admirers, most of them endowed with long purses and long pedigrees, at least three or four times a week.  Doris was occasionally asked and sometimes went.  But she was suffering all the time from an initial discouragement and depression, which took away self-reliance, and left her awkwardly conscious.  She struggled, but in vain.  The world into which Arthur was being so suddenly swept was strange to her, and in many ways antipathetic; but had she been happy and in spirits she could have grappled with it, or rather she could have lost herself in Arthur’s success.  Had she not always been his slave?  But she was not happy!  In their obscure days she had been Arthur’s best friend, as well as his wife.  And it was the old comradeship which was failing her; encroached upon, filched from her, by other women; and especially by this exacting, absorbing woman, whose craze for Arthur Meadows’s society was rapidly becoming an amusement and a scandal even to those well acquainted with her previous records of the same sort.

The end of July arrived.  The Dunstables left town.  At a concert, for which she had herself sent them tickets, Lady Dunstable met Doris and her husband, the night before she departed.

“In ten days we shall expect you at Pitlochry,” she said, smiling, to Arthur Meadows, as she swept past them in the corridor.  Then, pausing, she held out a perfunctory hand to Doris.

“And we really can’t persuade you to come too?”

The tone was careless and patronising.  It brought the sudden red to Doris’s cheek.  For one moment she was tempted to say ­“Thank you ­since you are so kind ­after all, why not?” ­just that she might see the change in those large, malicious eyes ­might catch their owner unawares, for once.  But, as usual, nerve failed her.  She merely said that her drawing would keep her all August in town; and that London, empty, was the best possible place for work.  Lady Dunstable nodded and passed on.

The ten days flew.  Meadows, kept to it by Doris, was very busy preparing another lecture for publication in an English review.  Doris, meanwhile, got his clothes ready, and affected a uniformly cheerful and indifferent demeanour.  On Arthur’s last evening at home, however, he came suddenly into the sitting-room, where Doris was sewing on some final buttons, and after fidgeting about a little, with occasional glances at his wife, he said abruptly: 

“I say, Doris, I won’t go if you’re going to take it like this.”

She turned upon him.

“Like what?”

“Oh, don’t pretend!” was the impatient reply.  “You know very well that you hate my going to Scotland!”

Doris, all on edge, and smarting under the too Jovian look and frown with which he surveyed her from the hearthrug, declared that, as it was not a case of her going to Scotland, but of his, she was entirely indifferent.  If he enjoyed it, he was quite right to go. She was going to enjoy her work in Uncle Charles’s studio.

Meadows broke out into an angry attack on her folly and unkindness.  But the more he lost his temper, the more provokingly Doris kept hers.  She sat there, surrounded by his socks and shirts, a trim, determined little figure ­declining to admit that she was angry, or jealous, or offended, or anything of the kind.  Would he please come upstairs and give her his last directions about his packing?  She thought she had put everything ready; but there were just a few things she was doubtful about.

And all the time she seemed to be watching another Doris ­a creature quite different from her real self.  What had come over her?  If anybody had told her beforehand that she could ever let slip her power over her own will like this, ever become possessed with this silent, obstinate demon of wounded love and pride, never would she have believed them!  She moved under its grip like an automaton.  She would not quarrel with Arthur.  But as no soft confession was possible, and no mending or undoing of what had happened, to laugh her way through the difficult hours was all that remained.  So that whenever Meadows renewed the attempt to “have it out,” he was met by renewed evasion and “chaff” on Doris’s side, till he could only retreat with as much offended dignity as she allowed him.

It was after midnight before she had finished his packing.  Then, bidding him a smiling good night, she fell asleep ­apparently ­as soon as her head touched the pillow.

The next morning, early, she stood on the steps waving farewell to Arthur, without a trace of ill-humour.  And he, though vaguely uncomfortable, had submitted at last to what he felt was her fixed purpose of avoiding a scene.  Moreover, the “eternal child” in him, which made both his charm and his weakness, had already scattered his compunctions of the preceding day, and was now aglow with the sheer joy of holiday and change.  He had worked very hard, he had had a great success, and now he was going to live for three weeks in the lap of luxury; intellectual luxury first and foremost ­good talk, good company, an abundance of books for rainy days; but with the addition of a supreme chef, Lord Dunstable’s champagne, and all the amenities of one of the best moors in Scotland.

Doris went back into the house, and, Arthur being no longer in the neighbourhood, allowed herself a few tears.  She had never felt so lonely in her life, nor so humiliated.  “My moral character is gone,” she said to herself.  “I have no moral character.  I thought I was a sensible, educated woman; and I am just an ‘’Arriet,’ in a temper with her ‘’Arry.’  Well ­courage!  Three weeks isn’t long.  Who can say that Arthur mayn’t come back disillusioned?  Rachel Dunstable is a born tyrant.  If, instead of flattering him, she begins to bully him, strange things may happen!”

The first week of solitude she spent in household drudgery.  Bills had to be paid, and there was now mercifully a little money to pay them with.  Though it was August, the house was to be “spring-cleaned,” and Doris had made a compact with her sulky maids that when it began she would do no more than sleep and breakfast at home.  She would spend her days in the Campden Hill studio, and sup on a tray ­anywhere.  On these terms, they grudgingly allowed her to occupy her own house.

The studio in which she worked was on the top of Campden Hill, and opened into one of the pleasant gardens of that neighbourhood.  Her uncle, Charles Bentley, an elderly Academician, with an ugly, humorous face, red hair, red eyebrows, a black skull-cap, and a general weakness for the female sex, was very fond of his niece Doris, and inclined to think her a neglected and underrated wife.  He was too fond of his own comfort, however, to let Meadows perceive this opinion of his; still less did he dare express it to Doris.  All he could do was to befriend her and make her welcome at the studio, to advise her about her illustrations, and correct her drawing when it needed it.  He himself was an old-fashioned artist, quite content to be “mid” or even “early” Victorian.  He still cultivated the art of historical painting, and was still as anxious as any contemporary of Frith to tell a story.  And as his manner was no less behind the age than his material, his pictures remained on his hands, while the “vicious horrors,” as they seemed to him, of the younger school held the field and captured the newspapers.  But as he had some private means, and no kith or kin but his niece, the indifference of the public to his work caused him little disturbance.  He pleased his own taste, allowing himself a good-natured contempt for the work which supplanted him, coupled with an ever-generous hand for any post-Impressionist in difficulties.

On the August afternoon when Doris, escaping at last from her maids and her accounts, made her way up to the studio, for some hours’ work on the last three or four illustrations wanted for a Christmas book, Uncle Charles welcomed her with effusion.

“Where have you been, child, all this time?  I thought you must have flitted entirely.”

Doris explained ­while she set up her easel ­that for the first time in their lives she and Arthur had been seeing something of the great world, and ­mildly ­“doing” the season.  Arthur was now continuing the season in Scotland, while she had stayed at home to work and rest.  Throughout her talk, she avoided mentioning the Dunstables.

“H’m!” said Uncle Charles, “so you’ve been junketing!”

Doris admitted it.

“Did you like it?”

Doris put on her candid look.

“I daresay I should have liked it, if I’d made a success of it.  Of course Arthur did.”

“Too much trouble!” said the old painter, shaking his head.  “I was in the swim, as they call it, for a year or two.  I might have stayed there, I suppose, for I could always tell a story, and I wasn’t afraid of the big-wigs.  But I couldn’t stand it.  Dress-clothes are the deuce!  And besides, talk now is not what it used to be.  The clever men who can say smart things are too clever to say them.  Nobody wants ’em!  So let’s ‘cultivate our garden,’ my dear, and be thankful.  I’m beginning a new picture ­and I’ve found a topping new model.  What can a man want more?  Very nice of you to let Arthur go, and have his head.  Where is it? ­some smart moor?  He’ll soon be tired of it.”

Doris laughed, let the question as to the “smart moor” pass, and came round to look at the new subject that Uncle Charles was laying in.  He explained it to her, well knowing that he spoke to unsympathetic ears, for whatever Doris might draw for her publishers, she was a passionate and humble follower of those modern experimentalists who have made the Slade School famous.  The subject was, it seemed, to be a visit paid to Joanna the mad and widowed mother of Charles V., at Tordesillas, by the envoys of Henry VII., who were thus allowed by Ferdinand, the Queen’s father, to convince themselves that the Queen’s profound melancholia formed an insuperable barrier to the marriage proposals of the English King.  The figure of the distracted Queen, crouching in white beside a window from which she could see the tomb of her dead and adored husband, the Archduke Philip, and some of the splendid figures of the English embassy, were already sketched.

“I have been fit to hang myself over her!” said Bentley, pointing to the Queen.  “I tried model after model.  At last I’ve got the very thing!  She comes to-day for the first time.  You’ll see her!  Before she comes, I must scrape out Joanna, so as to look at the thing quite fresh.  But I daresay I shall only make a few sketches of the lady to-day.”

“Who is she, and where did you get her!”

Bentley laughed.  “You won’t like her, my dear!  Never mind.  Her appearance is magnificent ­whatever her mind and morals may be.”

And he described how he had heard of the lady from an artist friend who had originally seen her at a music-hall, and had persuaded her to come and sit to him.  The comic haste and relief with which he had now transferred her to Bentley lost nothing in Bentley’s telling.  Of course she had “a fiend of a temper.”  “Wish you joy of her!  Oh, don’t ask me about her!  You’ll find out for yourself.”  “I can manage her,” said Uncle Charles tranquilly.  “I’ve had so many of ’em.”

“She is Spanish?”

“Not at all.  She is Italian.  That is to say, her mother was a Neapolitan, the daughter of a jeweller in Hatton Garden, and her father an English bank clerk.  The Neapolitans have a lot of Spanish blood in them ­hence, no doubt, the physique.”

“And she is a professional model!”

“Nothing of the sort! ­though she will probably become one.  She is a writer ­Heaven save the mark! ­and I have to pay her vast sums to get her.  It is the greatest favour.”

“A writer?”

“Poetess! ­and journalist!” said Uncle Charles, enjoying Doris’s puzzled look.  “She sent me her poems yesterday.  As to journalism” ­his eyes twinkled ­“I say nothing ­but this.  Watch her hats!  She has the reputation ­in certain circles ­of being the best-hatted woman in London.  All this I get from the man who handed her on to me.  As I said to him, it depends on what ‘London’ you mean.”


“Oh dear no, though of course she calls herself ‘Madame’ like the rest of them ­Madame Vavasour.  I have reason, however, to believe that her real name is Flink ­Elena Flink.  And I should say ­very much on the look-out for a husband; and meanwhile very much courted by boys ­who go to what she calls her ‘evenings.’  It is odd, the taste that some youths have for these elderly Circes.”

“Elderly?” said Doris, busy the while with her own preparations.  “I was hoping for something young and beautiful!”

“Young? ­no! ­an unmistakable thirty-five.  Beautiful?  Well, wait till you see her ...  H’m ­that shoulder won’t do!” ­Doris had just placed a preliminary sketch of one of her “subjects” under his eyes ­“and that bit of perspective in the corner wants a lot of seeing to.  Look here!” The old Academician, brought up in the spirit of Ingres ­“ dessin, c’est la probité! ­ dessin, c’est l’honneur!” ­fell eagerly to work on the sketch, and Doris watched.

They were both absorbed, when there was a knock at the door.  Doris turned hastily, expecting to see the model.  Instead of which there entered, in response to Bentley’s “Come in!” a girl of four or five and twenty, in a blue linen dress and a shady hat, who nodded a quiet “Good afternoon” to the artist, and proceeded at once with an air of business to a writing-table at the further end of the studio, covered with papers.

“Miss Wigram,” said the artist, raising his voice, “let me introduce you to my niece, Mrs. Meadows.”

The girl rose from her chair again and bowed.  Then Doris saw that she had a charming tired face, beautiful eyes on which she had just placed spectacles, and soft brown hair framing her thin cheeks.

“A novelty since you were here,” whispered Bentley in Doris’s ear.  “She’s an accountant ­capital girl!  Since these Liberal budgets came along, I can’t keep my own accounts, or send in my own income-tax returns ­dash them!  So she does the whole business for me ­pays everything ­sees to everything ­comes once a week.  We shall all be run by the women soon!”

The studio had grown very quiet.  Through some glass doors open to the garden came in little wandering winds which played with some loose papers on the floor, and blew Doris’s hair about her eyes as she stooped over her easel, absorbed in her drawing.  Apparently absorbed:  her subliminal mind, at least, was far away, wandering on a craggy Scotch moor.  A lady on a Scotch pony ­she understood that Lady Dunstable often rode with the shooters ­and a tall man walking beside her, carrying, not a gun, but a walking stick: ­that was the vision in the crystal.  Arthur was too bad a shot to be tolerated in the Dunstable circle; had indeed wisely announced from the beginning that he was not to be included among the guns.  All the more time for conversation, the give and take of wits, the pleasures of the intellectual tilting-ground; the whole watered by good wine, seasoned with the best of cooking, and lapped in the general ease of a house where nobody ever thought of such a vulgar thing as money except to spend it.

Doris had in general a severe mind as to the rich and aristocratic classes.  Her own hard and thrifty life had disposed her to see them en noir.  But the sudden rush of a certain section of them to crowd Arthur’s lectures had been certainly mollifying.  If it had not been for the Vampire, Doris was well aware that her standards might have given way.

As it was, Lady Dunstable’s exacting ways, her swoop, straight and fierce, on the social morsel she desired, like that of an eagle on the sheepfold, had made her, in Doris’s sore consciousness, the representative of thousands more; all greedy, able, domineering, inevitably getting what they wanted, and more than they deserved; against whom the starved and virtuous intellectuals of the professional classes were bound to contend to the death.  The story of that poor girl, that clergyman’s daughter, for instance ­could anything have been more insolent ­more cruel?  Doris burned to avenge her.

Suddenly ­a great clatter and noise in the passage leading from the small house behind to the studio and garden.

“Here she is!”

Uncle Charles sprang up, and reached the studio door just as a shower of knocks descended upon it from outside.  He opened it, and on the threshold there stood two persons; a stout lady in white, surmounted by a huge black hat with a hearse-like array of plumes; and, behind her, a tall and willowy youth, with ­so far as could be seen through the chinks of the hat ­a large nose, fair hair, pale blue eyes, and a singular deficiency of chin.  He carried in his arms a tiny black Spitz with a pink ribbon round its neck.

The lady looked, frowning, into the interior of the studio.  She held in her hand a very large fan, with the handle of which she had been rapping the door; and the black feathers with which she was canopied seemed to be nodding in her eyes.

“Maestro, you are not alone!” she said in a deep, reproachful voice.

“My niece, Mrs. Meadows ­Madame Vavasour,” said Bentley, ushering in the new-comer.

Doris turned from her easel and bowed, only to receive a rather scowling response.

“And your friend?” As he spoke the artist looked blandly at the young man.

“I brought him to amuse me, Maestro.  When I am dull my countenance changes, and you cannot do it justice.  He will talk to me ­I shall be animated ­and you will profit.”

“Ah, no doubt!” said Bentley, smiling.  “And your friend’s name?”

“Herbert Dunstable ­Honourable Herbert Dunstable! ­Signor Bentley,” said Madame Vavasour, advancing with a stately step into the room, and waving peremptorily to the young man to follow.

Doris sat transfixed and staring.  Bentley turned to look at his niece, and their eyes met ­his full of suppressed mirth.  The son! ­the unsatisfactory son!  Doris remembered that his name was Herbert.  In the train of this third-rate sorceress!

Her thoughts ran excitedly to the distant moors, and that magnificent lady, with her circle of distinguished persons, holiday-making statesmen, peers, diplomats, writers, and the like.  Here was a humbler scene!  But Doris’s fancy at once divined a score of links between it and the high comedy yonder.

Meanwhile, at the name of Dunstable, the girl accountant in the distance had also moved sharply, so as to look at the young man.  But in the bustle of Madame Vavasour’s entrance, and her passage to the sitter’s chair, the girl’s gesture passed unnoticed.

“I’m just worn out, Maestro!” said the model languidly, uplifting a pair of tragic eyes to the artist.  “I sat up half the night writing.  I had a subject which tormented me.  But I have done something splendid!  Isn’t it splendid, Herbert?”

“Ripping!” said the young man, grinning widely.

“Sit down!” said Madame, with a change of tone.  And the youth sat down, on the very low chair to which she pointed him, doing his best to dispose of his long legs.

“Give me the dog!” she commanded.  “You have no idea how to hold him ­poor lamb!”

The dog was handed to her; she took off her enormous hat with many sighs of fatigue, and then, with the dog on her lap, asked how she was to sit.  Bentley explained that he wished to make a few preliminary sketches of her head and bust, and proceeded to pose her.  She accepted his directions with a curious pettishness, as though they annoyed her; and presently complained loudly that the chair was uncomfortable, and the pose irksome.  He handled her, however, with a good-humoured mixture of flattery and persuasion, and at last, stepping back, surveyed the result ­well content.

There was no doubt whatever that she was a very handsome woman, and that her physical type ­that of the more lethargic and heavily built Neapolitan ­suggested very happily the mad and melancholy Queen.  She had superb black hair, eyes profoundly dark, a low and beautiful brow, lips classically fine, a powerful head and neck, and a complexion which, but for the treatment given it, would have been of a clear and beautiful olive.  She wore a draggled dress of cream-coloured muslin, very transparent over the shoulders, somewhat scandalously wanting at the throat and breast, and very frayed and dirty round the skirt.  Her feet, which were large and plump, were cased in extremely pointed shoes with large paste buckles; and as she crossed them on the stool provided for them she showed a considerable amount of rather clumsy ankle.  The hands too were large, common, and ill-kept, and the wrists laden with bracelets.  She was adorned indeed with a great deal of jewellery, including some startling earrings of a bright green stone.  The hat, which she had carefully placed on a chair beside her, was truly a monstrosity! ­but, as Doris guessed, an expensive monstrosity, such as the Rue de la Paix provides, at anything from a hundred and fifty to two hundred and fifty francs, for those of its cosmopolitan customers whom it pillages and despises.  How did the lady afford it?  The rest of her dress suggested a struggle with small means, waged by one who was greedy for effect, obtained at a minimum of trouble.  That she was rouged and powdered goes without saying.

And the young man?  Doris perceived at once his likeness to his father ­a feeble likeness.  But he was evidently simple and good-natured, and to all appearance completely in the power of the enchantress.  He fanned her assiduously.  He picked up all the various belongings ­gloves, handkerchiefs, handbag ­which she perpetually let fall.  He ran after the dog whenever it escaped from the lady’s lap and threatened mischief in the studio; and by way of amusing her ­the purpose for which he had been imported ­he kept up a stream of small cryptic gossip about various common acquaintances, most of whom seemed to belong to the music-hall profession, and to be either “stars” or the satellites of “stars.”  Madame listened to him with avidity, and occasionally broke into a giggling laugh.  She had, however, two manners, and two kinds of conversation, which she adopted with the young man and the Academician respectively.  Her talk with the youth suggested the jealous ascendency of a coarse-minded woman.  She occasionally flattered him, but more generally she teased or “ragged” him.  She seemed indeed to feel him securely in her grip; so that there was no need to pose for him, as ­figuratively as well as physically ­she posed for Bentley.  To the artist she gave her opinions on pictures or books ­on the novels of Mr. Wells, or the plays of Mr. Bernard Shaw ­in the languid or drawling tone of accepted authority; dropping every now and then into a broad cockney accent, which produced a startling effect, like that of unexpected garlic in cookery.  Bentley’s gravity was often severely tried, and Doris altered the position of her own easel so that he and she could not see each other.  Meanwhile Madame took not the smallest notice of Mr. Bentley’s niece, and Doris made no advances to the young man, to whom her name was clearly quite unknown.  Had Circe really got him in her toils?  Doris judged him soft-headed and soft-hearted; no match at all for the lady.  The thought of her walking the lawns or the drawing-rooms of Crosby Ledgers as the betrothed of the heir stirred in Arthur Meadows’s wife a silent, and ­be it confessed! ­a malicious convulsion.  Such mothers, so self-centred, so set on their own triumphs, with their intellectual noses so very much in the clouds, deserved such sons!  She promised herself to keep her own counsel, and watch the play.

The sitting lasted for two hours.  When it was over, Uncle Charles, all smiles and satisfaction, went with his visitors to the front door.

He was away some little time, and returned, bubbling, to the studio.

“She’s been cross-examining me about her poems!  I had to confess I hadn’t read a word of them.  And now she’s offered to recite next time she comes!  Good Heavens ­how can I get out of it?  I believe, Doris, she’s hooked that young idiot!  She told me she was engaged to him.  Do you know anything of his people?”

The girl accountant suddenly came forward.  She looked flushed and distressed.

“I do!” she said, with energy.  “Can’t somebody stop that?  It will break their hearts!”

Doris and Uncle Charles looked at her in amazement.

“Whose hearts?” said the painter.

“Lord and Lady Dunstable’s.”

“You know them?” exclaimed Doris.

“I used to know them ­quite well,” said the girl, quietly.  “My father had one of Lord Dunstable’s livings.  He died last year.  He didn’t like Lady Dunstable.  He quarrelled with her, because ­because she once did a very rude thing to me.  But this would be too awful!  And poor Lord Dunstable!  Everybody likes him.  Oh ­it must be stopped! ­it must!”