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A Memory That Worked Overtime
by [?]

Minver’s brother took down from the top of the low bookshelf a small painting on panel, which he first studied in the obverse, and then turned and contemplated on the back with the same dreamy smile. “I don’t see how that got here,” he said, absently.

“Well,” Minver returned, “you don’t expect me to tell you, except on the principle that any one would naturally know more about anything of yours than you would.” He took it from his brother and looked at the front of it. “It isn’t bad. It’s pretty good!” He turned it round. “Why, it’s one of old Blakey’s! How did you come by it?”

“Stole it, probably,” Minver’s brother said, still thoughtfully. Then with an effect of recollecting: “No, come to think of it,” he added, “Blakey gave it to me.” The Minvers played these little comedies together, quite as much to satisfy their tenderness for each other as to give their friends pleasure. “Think you’re the only painter that gets me to take his truck as a gift? He gave it to me, let’s see, about ten years ago, when he was trying to make a die of it, and failed; I thought he would succeed. But it’s been in my wife’s room nearly ever since, and what I can’t understand is what she’s doing with it down here.”

“Probably to make trouble for you, somehow,” Minver suggested.

“No, I don’t think it’s that, quite,” his brother returned, with a false air of scrupulosity, which was part of their game with each other. He looked some more at the picture, and then he glanced from it at me. “There’s a very curious story connected with that sketch.”

“Oh, well, tell it,” Minver said. “Tell it! I suppose I can stand it again. Acton’s never heard it, I believe. But you needn’t make a show of sparing him. I couldn’t stand that.”

“I certainly haven’t heard the story,” I said, “and if I had I would be too polite to own it.”

Minver’s brother looked towards the open door over his shoulder, and Minver interpreted for him: “She’s not coming. I’ll give you due warning.”

“It was before we were married, but not much before, and the picture was a sort of wedding present for my wife, though Blakey made a show of giving it to me. Said he had painted it for me, because he had a prophetic soul, and felt in his bones that I was going to want a picture of the place where I first met her. You see, it’s the little villa her mother had taken that winter on the Viale Petrarca, just outside of Florence. It was the first place I met her, but not the last.”

“Don’t be obvious,” Minver ordered.

His brother did not mind him. “I thought it was mighty nice of Blakey. He was barking away, all the time he was talking, and when he wasn’t coughing he was so hoarse he could hardly speak above a whisper; but he kept talking on, and wishing me happy, and fending off my gratitude, while he was finding a piece of manila paper to wrap the sketch in, and then hunting for a piece of string to tie it. When he handed it to me at last, he gasped out: ‘I don’t mind her knowing that I partly meant it as the place where she first met you, too. I’m not ashamed of it as a bit of color. Anyway, I sha’n’t live to do anything better.’

“‘Oh, yes, you will,’ I came back in that lying way we think is kind with dying people. I suppose it is; anyway, it turned out all right with Blakey, as he’ll testify if you look him up when you go to Florence. By the way, he lives in that villa now.”

“No?” I said. “How charming!”

Minver’s brother went on: “I made up my mind to be awfully careful of that picture, and not let it out of my hand till I left it with ‘her’ mother, to be put among the other wedding presents that were accumulating at their house in Exeter Street. So I held it on my lap going in by train from Lexington, where Blakey lived, and when I got out at the old Lowell Depot–North Station, now–and got into the little tinkle-tankle horse-car that took me up to where I was to get the Back Bay car–Those were the prehistoric times before trolleys, and there were odds in horse-cars. We considered the blue-painted Back Bay cars very swell. You remember them?” he asked Minver.