In the morning he asked me to come up in the afternoon. I assumed he wanted me to work with the colors, that he was starting the concert painting. When I got to the studio he was not there. I went straight to the attic. The grinding table was clear ---nothing had been laid out for me. I climbed back down the ladder, feeling foolish.
He had come in and was standing in the studio, looking out a window.
"Take a seat, please, Griet," he said, his back to me.
I sat in the chair by the harpsichord. I did not touch it --- I had never touched an instrument except to clean it. As I waited I studied the paintings he had hung on the back wall that would form part of the concert painting. There was a landscape on the left, and on the right a picture of three people --- a woman playing a lute, wearing a dress that revealed much of her bosom, a gentleman with his arm around her, and an old woman. The man was buying the young woman's favors, the old woman reaching to take the coin he held out. Maria Thins owned the painting and had told me it was called The Procuress.
"Not that chair." He had turned from the window. "That is where van Ruijven's daughter sits."
Where I would have sat, I thought, if I were to be in the painting.
He got another of the lion-head chairs and set it close to his easel but sideways so it faced the window. "Sit here."
"What do you want, sir?" I asked, sitting. I was puzzled --- we never sat together. I shivered, although I was not cold.
"Don't talk." He opened a shutter so that the light fell directly on my face. "Look out the window." He sat down in his chair by the easel.
I gazed at the New Church tower and swallowed. I could feel my jaw tightening and my eyes widening.
"Now look at me."
I turned my head and looked at him over my left shoulder.
His eyes locked with mine. I could think of nothing except how their grey was like the inside of an oyster shell.
He seemed to be waiting for something. My face began to strain with the fear that I was not giving him what he wanted.
"Griet," he said softly. It was all he had to say. My eyes filled with tears I did not shed. I knew now.
"Yes. Don't move."
He was going to paint me.
Girl With a Pearl Earring