De Lancey glanced up from the book he was reading and smiled at the look of intense concentration on Grant’s face as he worked away at the sketch pad resting on his knee.
“You know there is really no need to draw the landscape round the camp. I think we know our way around by now.”
“There is no harm in keeping one’s hand in,” Grant responded without raising his head, ”besides, I find it quite relaxing.”
He was so engrossed in what he was doing that he did not hear Strange coming up behind him until the magician was virtually looking over his shoulder, at which point he gave a start and the pad slipped off his knee onto the ground.
Strange bent down to pick it up and started flicking through the pages.
“Ah. Merlin.” De Lancey said. “What do you think of Major Grant’s artistic talents?”
“Well, Colonel, he certainly seems to enjoy drawing a particular type of view.”
De Lancey had seen plenty of Grant’s sketches before and would have taken no further interest but for the odd tone of this comment and the peculiar look on Strange’s face.
“Let me see then.” He held out his hand.
Grant’s hurried “Oh I am sure there is no need for that…” as he grabbed the pad back from Strange only served to pique De Lancey’s interest further.
“Show me, Major. That is an order.”
Reluctantly, Grant got to his feet, opened the sketch pad and handed it over. “There is no particular artistic merit in it. It is mostly the topographical features I am concerned with.”
De Lancey looked at Strange, who was still standing behind Grant, and raised his eyebrows when the magician grinned and mimed a page-turning action.
“Really? Well, perhaps some of them have more - what did you call it, artistic merit? - than others.”
He started to look through the pages of the pad, admiring the skill with which Grant was able to capture the details of the surrounding countryside, and was about to compliment him on this but was astonished to see that the Major’s face had turned a most alarming shade of scarlet and he was staring at the ground as if he wished it would open up and swallow him.
Confused, De Lancey threw a little frown at Strange, who rolled his eyes and tried again, signalling for him to keep turning.
After several blank pages he suddenly discovered his own profile, set against a backdrop he recognised as their current surroundings. This did not come as a particular surprise, after all Grant was sometimes called upon to record the features of those he suspected of consorting with the enemy and there was no reason he should not practice that as well.
This idea became less and less plausible as he slowly turned the remaining pages. The portraits were unlike anything else in Grant’s work. Whereas the landscapes were quick sketches designed primarily to convey information to others, these were clearly meant only for the eyes of the artist. Moreover, while many were drawn from life, others … well he was pretty sure Grant had never seen him in that position or state of undress.
The thought of the other man imagining such scenarios and spending so much of his time turning them into such beautifully rendered pictures sent a wave of heat surging through his entire body and he felt his own cheeks flushing as red as the Spanish sunset as the images began to come to life in his mind.
Strange could no longer suppress his amusement. “Well, gentlemen,” he sniggered as he turned on his heels and walked away, “I will leave the two of you to discuss your, erm, artistic merits.”