The contrast to the real Phin was startling. For one thing, Phin was wearing nothing more than a little jacket and a nappy listing inelegantly in the direction of his chubby knees. For another, he had a mophead full of curls that stood out in all directions. The inelegance of his appearance was not helped by the fact that Chloe had taken up her favorite post, on his shoulder. Phin talked constantly, although no one understood what he said; likewise, Chloe squawked without forming intelligible words. The two of them made a cacophonous noise together.
Tess looked back at the portrait. Mr. West had depicted the three of them seated under a sycamore. Tess was the picture of slender elegance, dressed as if for a drawing room with the queen. Phineas was dozing in his mother’s arms, while Tess looked up at her husband, posed just behind her with his hand on her chair. Lucius gazed at the viewer, sleepy-eyed and powerful.
“I like the way you’re looking at me,” Lucius said with some satisfaction.
She smiled. “I appear to love you, don’t I? Or perhaps if I wasn’t quite so lazy, I might feel the emotion.”
His arms wrapped around her, and a fierce voice said in her ear, “might?”
“All right, do.” She laughed. And then, “Your arms won’t reach about me if I grow any larger.”
“I’m not worried,” Lucius said, patting her belly with satisfaction.
She laughed again and turned in the circle of his arms so that she could look at the portrait again. “We just look so—so idle!”
“Love-in-idleness,” he said into her hair.
“William’s flower?” she said, remembering. “Heartsease.”
“You are an ease to my heart,” he told her.
She laid her head back against his shoulder and smiled at the three of them…the perfect family portrait.
Phin toddled by, swiping the leg of the pedestal as he did so. The portrait tottered, and the fate of the elegant, indolent family hung in the balance, until Lucius reached forward with a lightning grab and saved it.