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Once more he looked at the portrait.
‘She is lovely,’ he murmured. ‘She is well named the Rose of the
World, indeed!’ ‘And may I not paint one like it for you?’ ‘Cui
bono? No.’ He drew over the picture the sheet of thin paper on
which I was accustomed to rest my hand in painting, to prevent the
card-board from being sullied. What he suddenly saw on this
blank paper, it was impossible for me to tell; but something had
caught his eye. He took it up with a snatch; he looked at the edge;
then shot a glance at me, inexpressibly peculiar, and quite
incomprehensible: a glance that seemed to take and make note of
every point in my shape, face, and dress; for it traversed all, quick,
keen as lightning. His lips parted, as if to speak: but he checked the
coming sentence, whatever it was.
‘What is the matter?’ I asked. ‘Nothing in the world,’ was the reply;
and, replacing the paper, I saw him dexterously tear a narrow slip
from the margin. It disappeared in his glove; and, with one hasty
nod and ‘good-afternoon,’ he vanished.
‘Well!’ I exclaimed, using an expression of the district, ‘that caps
the globe, however!’ I, in my turn, scrutinised the paper; but saw
nothing on it save a few dingy stains of paint where I had tried the
tint in my pencil. I pondered the mystery a minute or two; but
finding it insolvable, and being certain it could not be of much
moment, I dismissed, and soon forgot it.