THE BELDONALD HOLBEIN
friend of mine, a French painter, Paul Outreau, was at the moment in London, and I had proposed, as he was much interested in types, to get together for his amusement a small afternoon party. Everyone came, my big room was full, there was music and a modest spread; and I have not forgotten the light of admiration in Outreau's expressive face as, at the end of half an hour, he came up to me in his enthusiasm.
"Bonté divine, mon cher—que cette vieille est donc belle!"
I had tried to collect all the beauty I could, and also all the youth, so that for a moment I was at a loss. I had talked to many people and provided for the music, and there were figures in the crowd that were still lost to me. "What old woman do you mean?"
"I don't know her name—she was over by the door a moment ago. I asked somebody and was told, I think, that she's American."
I looked about and saw one of my guests attach a pair of fine eyes to Outreau very much as if she knew he must be talking of her. "Oh, Lady Beldonald! Yes, she's handsome; but the great point about her is that she has been 'put up' to keep, and that she wouldn't be flattered if she knew you spoke of her as old. A box of sardines is only 'old' after it has been opened. Lady Beldonald never has yet been—but I'm going to do it." I joked, but I was somehow disappointed. It was a type that, with his unerring sense for the banal, I shouldn't have expected Outreau to pick out.
"You're going to paint her? But, my dear man, she is painted—and as neither you nor I can do it. Oú est-elle donc?" He had lost her, and I saw I had made a mistake. "She's the greatest of all the great Holbeins."
I was relieved. "Ah, then, not Lady Beldonald! But do I possess a Holbein, of any price, unawares?"
"There she is—there she is! Dear, dear, dear, what