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BOOK I THE THREE

A HUMAN TRINITY

CHAPTER I

LADY MARY FROZIER M RS SIGISMUND CORDER sat for the painting of her

portrait. The painter found her a restless sitter. For the fifth time Lady Mary Frozier waved her subject's head leftward; and then,

Am I keeping you too long-tiring you?” she asked, with tender but almost impersonal consideration.

“No, I'm not tired," said the other. “But I feel as if I'd been cheated so I can't sit still.”

And Mrs Corder turned face and eyes full upon the woman who was trying to fix her profile upon canvas.

Lady Mary laughed pleasantly.

“That's a very harsh criticism to make, before there's anything to show,” she said.

"Oh, you can paint all right-I know that,” replied Mrs Corder. “That's not what's bothering me.” And then, “I didn't really come to you,” she added, with a chuckle of humorous guilt,“ to have my 'likeness took '.”.

“What did you come for?” asked Lady Mary, responding kindly to the interrogative pause, rather than moved by curiosity.

“I dare say you'll hardly believe me," said Mrs Corder, hesitating over the first words of her explanation; " but I came, Lady Mary, because I had taken a great fancy to you. You are a difficult person to know. Perhaps that is why so many people think you worth knowing."

"If they do,” said Lady Mary," that is probably the reason. Did you really think you would solve my enigma by sitting to me?"

“I hoped I might get to know you; and anyhow," said Mrs Corder, “I promised myself that I should watch your face all the time. That was to be my compensation, even if you wouldn't be friendly. And now you've gone and put me so that I can't even see you while you work. You may complain of my fidgetting, but I complain of being cheated.”

Lady Mary laughed again.

“We'll have some tea,” she said, laying aside palette and brushes and untying her apron. “This room is too bare and ugly for it, though.”

And she led the way into a sunny and delicate little chamber adjoining.

“I see," she went on, when she had rung the bell and made Mrs Corder sit close to the tea-table with her back to the window, "-I see that I shall never accomplish anything till your grievance is removed.”

The tea was brought. Lady Mary seated herself opposite to Mrs Corder, facing the brilliant light that poured through the window across the oblong patch of London turf and shrubs which, in the language of house-agents, is called a garden.

“There,” she said, with a lightness that approached gaiety, " that is more than most women of forty would do-even in the interests of business. Look at me as much as you like.”

While she drank two cups of tea, ate three slices of butter with some adherent bread, and made four commonplace remarks, Mrs Corder hardly took her eyes from the face thus offered to them; and this scrutiny Lady Mary endured with graceful good humour. As her guest drank the last of her second cup of tea, the good humour broke into a gentle smile of amusement.

Well,” she asked, “what do you think of it?”
I simply don't believe it," said Mrs Corder.
“ Believe what?" asked Lady Mary.
“Forty-it's incredible.”

“That's very nice of you," said Lady Mary. “Unfortunately, it can be proved.” And she stretched an interrogative hand for Mrs Corder's tea-cup.

“No-I won't have more tea. When you're ready, I am. And now that I've had a good look at you,” said Mrs Corder, “ I'll sit as still as a model.”

They returned to the studio, and for some fifteen minutes the painter worked in silence. But she found her task difficult, and her mind unable to concentrate itself upon her work.

Her sitter began to interest Lady Mary; and Lady Mary was well aware that this interest would in the end be a good

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