"Where's Mr. Hawker this morning?" asked the younger Miss Worcester. "I thought he was coming up to play tennis?"
"I don't know. Confound him! I don't see why he didn't come," said Hollanden, looking across the shining valley. He frowned questioningly at the landscape. "I wonder where in the mischief he is?"
The Worcester girls began also to stare at the great gleaming stretch of green and gold. "Didn't he tell you he was coming?" they demanded.
"He didn't say a word about it," answered Hollanden. "I supposed, of course, he was coming. We will have to postpone the mêlée."
Later he met Miss Fanhall. "You look as if you were going for a walk?"
"I am," she said, swinging her parasol. "To meet the stage. Have you seen Mr. Hawker to-day?"
"No," he said. "He is not coming up this morning. He is in a great fret about that field of stubble, and I suppose he is down there sketching the life out of it. These artists--they take such a fiendish interest in their work. I dare say we won't see much of him until he has finished it. Where did you say you were going to walk?"
"To meet the stage."
"Oh, well, I won't have to play tennis for an hour, and if you insist----"
As they strolled slowly in the shade of the trees Hollanden began, "Isn't that Hawker an ill-bred old thing?"
"No, he is not." Then after a time she said, "Why?"
"Oh, he gets so absorbed in a beastly smudge of paint that I really suppose he cares nothing for anything else in the world. Men who are really artists--I don't believe they are capable of deep human affections. So much of them is occupied by art. There's not much left over, you see."
"I don't believe it at all," she exclaimed.
"You don't, eh?" cried Hollanden scornfully. "Well, let me tell you, young woman, there is a great deal of truth in it. Now, there's Hawker--as good a fellow as ever lived, too, in a way, and yet he's an artist. Why, look how he treats--look how he treats that poor setter dog!"
"Why, he's as kind to him as he can be," she declared.
"And I tell you he is not!" cried Hollanden.
"He is, Hollie. You--you are unspeakable when you get in these moods."
"There--that's just you in an argument. I'm not in a mood at all. Now, look--the dog loves him with simple, unquestioning devotion that fairly brings tears to one's eyes----"
"Yes," she said.
"And he--why, he's as cold and stern----"
"He isn't. He isn't, Holly. You are awf'ly unfair."
"No, I'm not. I am simply a liberal observer. And Hawker, with his people, too," he went on darkly; "you can't tell--you don't know anything about it--but I tell you that what I have seen proves my assertion that the artistic mind has no space left for the human affections. And as for the dog----"
"I thought you were his friend, Hollie?"
"No, not the dog's. And yet you--really, Hollie, there is something unnatural in you. You are so stupidly keen in looking at people that you do not possess common loyalty to your friends. It is because you are a writer, I suppose. That has to explain so many things. Some of your traits are very disagreeable."
"There! there!" plaintively cried Hollanden. "This is only about the treatment of a dog, mind you. Goodness, what an oration!"
"It wasn't about the treatment of a dog. It was about your treatment of your friends."
"Well," he said sagely, "it only goes to show that there is nothing impersonal in the mind of a woman. I undertook to discuss broadly----
"At any rate, it was rather below you to do such scoffing at me."
"Well, I didn't mean--not all of it, Hollie."
"Well, I didn't mean what I said about the dog and all that, either."
"You didn't?" She turned toward him, large-eyed.
"No. Not a single word of it."
"Well, what did you say it for, then?" she demanded indignantly.
"I said it," answered Hollanden placidly, "just to tease you." He looked abstractedly up to the trees.
Presently she said slowly, "Just to tease me?"
At this time Hollanden wore an unmistakable air of having a desire to turn up his coat collar. "Oh, come now----" he began nervously.
"George Hollanden," said the voice at his shoulder, "you are not only disagreeable, but you are hopelessly ridiculous. I--I wish you would never speak to me again!"
"Oh, come now, Grace, don't--don't---- Look! There's the stage coming, isn't it?"
"No, the stage is not coming. I wish--I wish you were at the bottom of the sea, George Hollanden. And--and Mr. Hawker, too. There!"
"Oh, bless my soul! And all about an infernal dog," wailed Hollanden. "Look! Honest, now, there's the stage. See it? See it?"
"It isn't there at all," she said.
Gradually he seemed to recover his courage. "What made you so tremendously angry? I don't see why."
After consideration, she said decisively, "Well, because."
"That's why I teased you," he rejoined.
"Go on," he told her finally. "You are doing very well." He waited patiently.
"Well," she said, "it is dreadful to defend somebody so--so excitedly, and then have it turned out just a tease. I don't know what he would think."
"Who would think?"
"What could he think? Now, what could he think? Why," said Hollanden, waxing eloquent, "he couldn't under any circumstances think--think anything at all. Now, could he?"
She made no reply.
She was apparently reflecting.
"Under any circumstances," persisted Hollanden, "he couldn't think anything at all. Now, could he?"
"No," she said.
"Well, why are you angry at me, then?"
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