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The Lost Monogram
by [?]

I

The woman seated in the light of the low, arched window was absorbed in the piece of linen stretched on a frame before her. As her fingers hovered over the brilliant surface, her eyes glowed with a look of satisfaction and lighted the face, making it almost handsome. It was a round, smooth face, untouched by wrinkles, with light-blue eyes–very near the surface–and thin, curved lips.

She leaned back in her chair to survey her work, and her lips took on a deeper curve. Then they parted slightly. Her face, with a look of listening, turned toward the door.

The young man who entered nodded carelessly as he threw back the blue-gray cloak that hung about his shoulders and advanced into the room.

She regarded the action coldly. “I have been waiting, Albrecht.” She spoke the words slowly. “Where have you been?”

“I see.” He untied the silken strings of the cloak and tossed it from him. “I met Pirkheimer–we got to talking.”

The thin lips closed significantly. She made no comment.

The young man crossed the room and knelt before a stack of canvases by the wall, turning them one by one to the light. His full lips puckered in a half whistle, and his eyes had a dreamy look.

The woman had returned to her work, drawing in the threads with swift touch.

As the man rose to his feet her eyes flashed a look at the canvas in his hand. They fell again on her work, and her face ignored him.

He placed the canvas on an easel and stood back to survey it. His lips whistled softly. He rummaged again for brushes and palette, and mixed one or two colors on the edge of the palette. A look of deep happiness filled his absorbed face.

She lifted a pair of scissors and snipped a thread with decisive click. “Are you going on with the portrait?” she asked. The tone was clear and even, and held no trace of resentment.

He looked up absently. “Not to-day,” he said. “Not to-day.” His gaze returned to the easel.

The thin lips drew to a line. They did not speak. She took off her thimble and laid it in its velvet sheath. She gathered up the scattered skeins of linen and silk, straightening each with a little pull, and laid them in the case. She stabbed a needle into the tiny cushion and dropped the scissors into their pocket. Then she rose deliberately, her chair scraping the polished boards as she pushed it back from the frame.

He looked up, a half frown between the unseeing eyes.

She lifted the embroidery-frame from its rest and turned toward the door. “I have other work to do if I am not to pose for you,” she said quietly.

He made no reply.

Half-way to the door she paused, looking back. “Herr Muendler was here while you were out. We owe him twenty-five guldens. It was due the fifth.” She spoke the words crisply. Her face gave no sign of emotion.

He nodded indifferently. “I know. I shall see him.” The soft whistle was resumed.

“There is a note from the Rath, refusing you the pension again.” She drew a paper from the work-box in her hand and held it toward him.

He turned half about in his chair. “Don’t worry, Agnes,” he said. The tone was pleading. He did not look at the paper or offer to take it. His eyes returned to the easel. A gentle light filled them.

She dropped the paper into the box, a smile on her lips, and moved toward the easel. She stood for a moment, looking from the pictured face of the Christ to the glowing face above it. Then she turned again to the door. “It’s very convenient to be your own model,” she said with a laugh. The door clicked behind her.

He sat motionless, the grave, earnest eyes looking into the eyes of the picture. Now and then he stirred vaguely. But he did not lift his hand or touch the brushes beside it. Gazing at each other, in the fading light of the low window, the two faces were curiously alike. There was the same delicate modelling of lines, the same breadth between the eyes, the long, flowing locks, the full, sensitive lips, and in the eyes the same look of deep melancholy–touched with a subtle, changing, human smile that drew the beholder. It disarmed criticism and provoked it. Except for the halo of mocking and piercing thorns, the living face might have been the pictured one below it. The look of suffering in one was shadowed in the other.