It was a severe room, scrupulously neat. Along one side ran a bookcase, with beaded glass doors, containing, as one might see by peering through the spaces, the collected, unread literature of two stern generations. A few old prints, placed in bad lights, hung on the walls. In the centre of the room was a leather-covered library table, with writing materials arranged in painful precision. A couch was lined along one wall, in the draught of the door. On either side of the fireplace were ranged two stiff leather armchairs. In one of these chairs sat an old man, in the other a faded woman just verging upon middle age. The old man was looking at a picture which he supported on his knees-a narrow, oblong strip of canvas nailed on to a rough wooden frame. The woman eyed him with some interest, as if awaiting a decision.