In a small studio in Chelsea—a studio furnished with severe and comfortless simplicity—a man and a woman were talking. The man was Sir Richard Kilcoursie; the woman was Anna Christian. There was something in her bearing which was even majestic; something in her expression which was childlike and yet not young—a worldly wisdom more elfish than mortal. Her pale, delicate face seemed to peep out from the cloud of black hair which overshadowed her brows and hung in a large knot at her neck. A mouth which seemed too firm to be passionate, and was too pretty to be austere, grey eyes, full of a tenderness which was half mockery, emphasized the contradiction in terms which was the strange characteristic of the whole woman. Sir Richard looked at her furtively, and very often with what was plainly unwilling admiration. He would rather not have admired her that day.
They had been discussing for more than an hour various practical matters relating to his private affairs: the management of his estate, certain poor cousins, the wages he was going to give his new coachman. Every moment he grew more startled at her intimate knowledge of all that concerned him: he realized, with dismay, that there had been, that there was, nothing too trivial or too deep in his life for her regard.
"There is something you want to tell me," she said, suddenly; "what is it?"