Did you have a good luncheon?" And she kissed him noisily, rubbing her fresh, rosy cheeks against the master's gray beard. Renovales smiled good naturedly under this shower of caresses. Ah, his Milita! She was the only joy in that gloomy, showy house. It was she who sweetened that atmosphere of tedious strife which seemed to emanate from the sick woman.
In those hard days when he painted in the attic and Josephina did the cooking, they had no chairs, they ate from the same plate; Milita played with rag-dolls; but in their miserable, whitewashed alcove were piled up with sacred respect all that furniture of the fair-haired wife of some Doge, like a hope for the future, a promise of better times.
She sighed for her gloomy house in Madrid. There she was better, she felt stronger, surrounded with memories; she thought she was safer from the black danger that hovered about her. Besides, she longed to see her daughter. Renovales must telegraph to his son-in-law. They had toured Europe long enough; it was time for them to come back; she must see Milita.
He worshiped Milita; his dejection when she treated him ill was pitiful. He would make an excellent husband. Josephina cut short her husband's chatter in a cold, contemptuous tone. "I don't want any painters for my daughter; you know it. Her mother has had enough of them." Milita was going to marry López de Sosa. The matter was already settled as far as she was concerned.
It was his wife, the Josephina of the early days, when he used to gaze at her admiringly, delighting in reproducing her face. He threw the blame for his slowness on Milita and determined to have the study taken away from there. His wife's portrait ought not be in the hall, beside the hat-rack.
They had not made any agreement; but Concha managed to calm him instantly by asking about Milita, praising her beauty, inquiring for poor Josephina, so good, so lovable, showing great concern for her health and promising to call on her soon. And the master was restrained, tormented by remorse, not daring to make any new advances, until his discomfort had disappeared.
López de Sosa began to pay court to Milita, calling on his great resources, appearing every day in a different suit, coming every afternoon, sometimes in a carriage drawn by a dashing pair, sometimes in one of his cars. The fashionable youth won the favor of her mother, an important part. This was the kind of a husband for her daughter. No painter!
Kittering was not a lovely character. He claimed to have been a soldier. He certainly looked the part, for his fierce white moustache was curled up like horns on his purple face, at each side of his red nose, in a most milita style. His shoulders were square and his gait was swaggering, beside which, he had an array of swear words that was new and tremendously impressive in Connecticut.
He was surprised at her constant requests for money. What did she want it for? He recalled the wedding-presents, that princely abundance of clothes and jewels which had been on exhibition in this very room. What did she need? But Milita looked at her father in astonishment. More than a year had gone by since then. It was clear enough that her father was ignorant in such matters.
And after fixing her little teeth gently in one of the master's cheeks, she ran out, followed by Miss, who was already puffing in anticipation at the thought of the tiresome walk. Renovales remained motionless as if he hesitated to shake off the atmosphere of affection in which his daughter enveloped him. Milita was his, wholly his.