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   Chapter 12 AT THE STUDIO

The Twelfth Hour By Ada Leverson Characters: 7235

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Woodville let himself in with the key, and sat down, in deep despondency, in front of his easel. On it was a second copy of a copy that some one had found him doing at the National Gallery of the great Leonardo. It was not good, and it made him sick to look at it. The studio was a battered little barn in the depths of Chelsea, with the usual dull scent of stale paint and staler tobacco, and very little else; it was quite devoid of the ordinary artistic trappings. From the window shrill cries were heard from the ragged children, who fought and played in the gutter of a sordid street. Woodville had come here to think.

He knew how shocked and distressed Sylvia had been when he had ventured to say that he thought he saw something in the Athenian scheme. He smiled with a slight reaction of gaiety at his surroundings, and wondered, for the hundredth time, why that extraordinary old American lady at the National Gallery had actually ordered from him the second copy of his picture. How marvellously bad it was!

An unusual noise in the street-that of a hansom cab rattling up to the door-startled him. He went to the window, with a strange feeling at his heart. It was impossible that it could be Sylvia; she did not even know the address. It was Sylvia, in pale grey, gracefully paying the cabman while dirty children collected round her feet. He saw through the window that she smiled at them, and gave them a bunch of violets and some money, for which they fought. Horrified, he almost fell down the stairs and opened the door. There was no one else in the house.

She followed him up to the studio, looking pale, but smiling bravely. He closed the door and leant against it. He was panting.

"What-on-earth," he said, "do you mean by this madness?"

Sylvia, seeing he was angry, took the hatpin out of her hat, and looked round for a place to sit down and quarrel comfortably.

There was no seat, except a thing that had once been red and once a sofa, but was now a skeleton, and looked so cold and bare that she instinctively took off her chinchilla fur cloak and covered it up. Then she said-

"Because-I-chose! I never can get a word with you at home, and I have a perfect right to come and talk to my future husband on a subject that concerns my whole happiness."

She had invented this speech coming along, being prepared for his anger.

"But what would people--"

"People! People! You live for people! Everything matters except me!"

He resolved on calmness.

"Sylvia, dear, since you are here," he said quietly, "let us talk reasonably."

He tried to sit next to her, but the sofa gave way, and he found himself kneeling by her side.

They both laughed angrily. He got up and stood by the mantelpiece.

"So you think it is decent to accept money to leave the country to please my enemy?" said Sylvia.

"Will you tell me a really better plan by which we can marry in a year on an assured income?" he asked patiently.

"Income! Haven't I when I marry--" But he looked too angry. She changed the sentence and became imploring.

"Frank! If you love me really, you can't leave me. Think, every day, every hour without you!"

"Very well! We'll tell your father to-night, and chance it. I won't stand these subterfuges any more. After all, we have the right to do as we like."

"No, Frank, you will not tell him till I'm twenty-one. I haven't a right before. You would only be called horrid things-have to go, and-think how mean it is to poor Ridokanaki! Taking his kindness, only to round on him next year! Have you no pride, Frank?"

"Sylvia, that's all very wel

l. But he knows all that. It's his idea."

"Yes, it would be! As if I didn't see through his mean, sly scheme. Why, it's not kindness at all!" she exclaimed.

"Good God! Well, what is it? Does he think you'll forget me, do you mean?" said Woodville.

"No, he doesn't. He knows you'll forget me-in Athens. Oh, Frank," and she suddenly burst out crying, "there'll be Greeks there!"

At the sight of her tears Frank was deeply touched; but he smiled, feeling more in the real world again-the world he knew.

"My dear girl, I don't pretend for one moment to deny that there will be Greeks there. One can't expect the whole country to be expatriated because I go to Athens to work in a bank. What do you want there? Spaniards?"

"Oh! Vulgar taunts and jokes!" She dried her eyes proudly, and then said-

"Are you sure you'll be true to me?"

Woodville met unflinchingly that terrible gaze of the inquisitional innocent woman, before which men, guilty or guiltless equally, assume the same self-conscious air of shame. His eyes fell. He had no idea why he felt guilty. Certainly there had never been in his life anything to which Sylvia need have taken exception. Then his spirit asserted itself again.

"Oh, hang it all! I really can't stand this! All right, I won't go. Have it your own way. Distrust me! I dare say you think I deserve it. Is it a pleasure to leave you like this, surrounded by a lot of--Did any one look at you as you came along in the cab?"

"I don't know," she said.

He spoke tenderly, passionately now.

"I worship you, Sylvia. You've got that? You take it in?"

"Yes, dearest."

"Well, I'm yours. You can do what you like. I give in. I dare say your woman's instinct is right. And, besides, I can't leave you. And now, my darling, lovely, exquisite angel you will go-AT ONCE!"

"Oh, Frank, forgive me."

A violently loud knock startled them from each other's arms. There was another cab at the door.

"Keep still. Keep over here, Sylvia," commanded Woodville.

From the window he saw, standing on the steps, Savile, in his Eton suit. He smiled and waved his hand to the boy.

"It's Savile. I'll open the door. It'll be all right. I expect he followed you."

In two seconds Sylvia was composed and calm, looking round at the pictures in her chinchilla cloak.

Savile followed his host up, laughing vaguely, and said when he saw Sylvia, in a rather marked way-

"Ah! You didn't believe me when I told you I'd come and fetch you! But, you see, here I am."

"Sweet of you, dear," said Sylvia.

"And a fine place it is-well worth coming to see, isn't it?" said Frank, laughing a great deal.

"Well, we'd better be off. I kept the cab because of dining at Aunt William's to-night. You know, Sylvia, we're late."

"Oh, yes, dear. I'd almost given you up."

As they went to the door, Savile suddenly turned round, and having decided a debate in his mind, said-

"I know all about it. I congratulate you, Woodville. But we'll keep it dark a bit yet, eh?"

Savile thought his knowing of the engagement made it more conventional.

The brother and sister drove off.

Sylvia was silent. Savile did not say a single word until they nearly reached home. Then he remarked casually-

"As I found out where you'd gone, I thought it would sort of look better, eh, for me to fetch you? Didn't mean to be a bore or anything."

"Oh, Savile dear, thank you! I'll never--"

"Yes; it's not going to happen again. Go and dress, old girl. Wear your pink. Motor'll be round in half an hour; heaps of time. I'm going too, you know-at Aunt William's."

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