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dabbling. She felt in it satisfaction of a kind which no other
employment afforded her.
She had long wished to try herself on Madame Ratignolle.
Never had that lady seemed a more tempting subject than at that
moment, seated there like some sensuous Madonna, with the gleam of
the fading day enriching her splendid color.
Robert crossed over and seated himself upon the step below
Mrs. Pontellier, that he might watch her work. She handled her
brushes with a certain ease and freedom which came, not from long
and close acquaintance with them, but from a natural aptitude.
Robert followed her work with close attention, giving forth little
ejaculatory expressions of appreciation in French, which he addressed to
"Mais ce n'est pas mal! Elle s'y connait, elle a de la force, oui."
During his oblivious attention he once quietly rested his head
against Mrs. Pontellier's arm. As gently she repulsed him. Once
again he repeated the offense. She could not but believe it to be
thoughtlessness on his part; yet that was no reason she should
submit to it. She did not remonstrate, except again to repulse him
quietly but firmly. He offered no apology.
The picture completed bore no resemblance to Madame Ratignolle.
She was greatly disappointed to find that it did not look like her.
But it was a fair enough piece of work, and in many respects
Mrs. Pontellier evidently did not think so. After surveying
the sketch critically she drew a broad smudge of paint across its
surface, and crumpled the paper between her hands.
The youngsters came tumbling up the steps, the quadroon
following at the respectful distance which they required her to
observe. Mrs. Pontellier made them carry her paints and things
into the house. She sought to detain them for a little talk and
some pleasantry. But they were greatly in earnest. They had only
come to investigate the contents of the bonbon box. They accepted
without murmuring what she chose to give them, each holding out two
chubby hands scoop-like, in the vain hope that they might be
filled; and then away they went.
The sun was low in the west, and the breeze soft and
languorous that came up from the south, charged with the seductive