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      "I will not be particular about terms," replied Doctor Remy, shrugging his shoulders. "But I prefer my own, as better expressing my ideas."

      "What nonsense you talk!" cried Isola, with a flash of sudden anger. "Cannot one be dull and bored sometimesfrom very idlenesswithout being unhappy?""Whatever one delicate, refined, large-hearted woman can do for another, in the way of cheer, encouragement, sympathy, and consolation."

      "Nothing that she dislikes will do her any good," he told Colonel Disney. "There is no use in being persistent about anything. Fancies and whims stand for a great deal in such an illness as hers.""Well, I don't know," mused Mrs. Crowther, sadly. "I'm sure there's neither pride nor envy in Isola, and Miss Leland looks a frank, straightforward girl, above all foolish nonsense; so it must be the colonel's fault that they've cut us."

      "Me!" repeated Bergan, in much astonishment; "what had I to do with it?"Mrs. Smilt was a hard, ill-favored woman, of about fifty; she had a child on her lap, and there were tears in her eyes.

      Nor was the public treated much better, in her capacity of artist. Visitors at her studio found free admission, and opportunity to examine, at their leisure, the pictures, sketches, and studies, which crowded the walls; but rarely did she turn from her easel, to give them more than the briefest glimpse of her statuesque beauty, or the most concise of answers to their questions. Generally, she found some reason for declining their orders; and fully one half of the pictures on her walls were labelled, "Not to be Sold," while the sale of the remainder was plainly a matter of the profoundest indifference to her. It must needs be inferred that she had means of subsistence other than her art, amply sufficient for her quiet, inexpensive mode of life.



      Chapter 9 THE FIRST LINKS OF A CHAIN.She started up from the nest of basket-work and flowered chintz, and stood tall and erect, a Juno-like young woman, with heavy plaits of reddish-brown hair rolled in a great knot at the back of her head. She might have answered one of those harsh advertisements for parlour-maids, in which the words, "No fringe," figure with curt cruelty; for her hair was brushed smoothly back from the fair forehead, and the severity of the style became that wide sagacious brow. It was just the kind of forehead which can endure exposure without conveying an idea of bald ugliness.


      That visit of the Crowthers seemed much longer than any other afternoon call. The Crowthers, husband, and wife, and elder daughter, had an inquisitorial air, Isola fancied, an air of scrutinizing her house and herself and her surroundings, which was intolerable to her; although on Mrs. Crowther's part she knew the scrutiny was made in the[Pg 100] utmost benevolence, and the officiousness was the outcome of a nature overflowing with the milk of human kindness.