Page:Hopkinson Smith--armchair at the inn.djvu/178

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we can all enjoy it. See how beautiful is the Madonna’s face—it is very seldom that so lovely a smile has lived in marble—and the tenderness of the mother suggested in the poise of the head as it bends over the Child. I never look at it without a twinge of my conscience, for it is the only thing in this room which I made off with without letting any one know I had it, but I was young then and a freebooter like Monsieur Herbert’s man Goringe. I did penance for years afterward by putting a few lira in the poor-box whenever I was in Italy, and I often come in here and say my prayers, standing reverently before her, begging her forgiveness; and she always gives it—that is, she must—for the smile has never, during all these years, faded from her face.”

“But this is plaster,” remarked Herbert, reaching up and passing his skilled fingers over the caste. “Very well done, too.”

“Yes—of course. I helped make the mould myself from the original marble built into the altar—and in the night too, when I had to feel my way about. I am glad you think it is so good.”

“Couldn’t do it better myself. But why in the night?”