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An Engagement of Convenience A Novel   By: (1869-1938)

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An Engagement of Convenience

A Novel


Louis Zangwill

Author of "The World and a Man," "One's Womenkind," &c., &c.

London Brown, Langham & Co., Ltd. 78 New Bond Street, W. 1908

"In tragic life, God wot, No villain need be!"


An Engagement of Convenience


Miss Robinson had first seen Wyndham and fallen in love with him on the day that he appeared in the road as a neighbour and set up his studio there. But that was years before, and she had never made his acquaintance. He was the Prince Charming of the romances, handsome, of knightly bearing, with a winning smile on his frank face. From her magic window in the big corner house where the road branched off into two, she had narrowly observed his goings and comings, had watched eagerly all that was visible of his romantic, mysterious profession the picturesque Italian models that pulled his bell, the great canvasses and frames that, during the earlier years at least, were borne in through his door, to reappear in due course as finished pictures on their way to the exhibitions and it was sometimes possible to catch glimpses of stately figure paintings and fascinating scenes and landscapes.

Then, too, there was the suggestion of his belonging to a brilliant social world: she had indeed felt that at her first sight of him. Smart broughams and victorias in which nestled stylish people not unfrequently drew up at his studio about tea time, and in the season he could be seen going off every night in garb of ceremony; not to speak of his occasional departures to important country houses, no doubt with portmanteaus and dressing bags stacked on the roof of his hansom.

And not less eagerly had Miss Robinson followed his work, scanning the magazines for his drawings, and haunting the galleries in the search for his paintings. No one guessed how much he was the interest of her life: her parents had no suspicion at all, though they knew of their unusual neighbour, and spoke of him occasionally at table. But Alice Robinson was the humblest of womankind. Her youth lay already in the past: she accounted herself the plainest of the plain. So she idealised and worshipped her hero at a distance, feeling immeasurably farther from him than the hundred yards of respectable Hampstead pavement that separated their lives.

One morning at breakfast her father read out from his paper the news of a sensational bankruptcy. A world famous house of solicitors had fallen, and some of the first families in England were losers. Immense trust funds had gone for building speculations, and amongst the fashionable creditors who had been hit the worst were Mr. Walter Lloyd Wyndham, the artist, of Hampstead, and Miss Mary Wyndham, his sister. It seemed a curious little fact to Mr. Robinson that this affair should vibrate so near to them, and a mild and not unpleasant stimulation was thereby imparted to the breakfast table. But Miss Robinson was hard put to it to dissimulate her deeper interest in the announcement. Her agitation was profound, shattering: she was glad to escape, and sit alone with her secret. It seemed a sacrilege that earthly vicissitude should touch this brilliant existence. And thereafter she watched her hero more narrowly than ever, reading in his bearing a stern defiance of adversity.

At first indeed there was little difference visible in Wyndham's outward seemings, and Miss Robinson was thankful that the calamity had ruffled him so imperceptibly. Yet, as the year went by, it began to dawn upon her that things nevertheless were changing. She had learnt to read with consummate skill all the little activities that beat around the studio, and it did not escape her attention that he was going into society rarely, that smart visitors were fewer, and that pictures were being returned to him after astonishingly brief intervals... Continue reading book >>

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