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For a wild moment he recurred to his first idea of diving and
swimming at all hazards to the bank, but the conviction that now
his slightest movement must be detected held him motionless. He
must save her the mortification of knowing she was sketching a
living man, if he died for it. She sketched rapidly but fixedly
and absorbedly, evidently forgetting all else in her work. From
time to time she held out her sketch before her to compare it with
her subject. Yet the seconds seemed minutes and the minutes hours.
Suddenly, to his great relief, a distant voice was heard calling
"Lottie." It was a woman's voice; by its accent it also seemed to
him an American one.

The young girl made a slight movement of impatience, but did not
look up, and her pencil moved still more rapidly. Again the voice
called, this time nearer. The young girl's pencil fairly flew over
the paper, as, still without looking up, she lifted a pretty voice
and answered back, "Y-e-e-s!"

It struck him that her accent was also that of a compatriot.

"Where on earth are you?" continued the first voice, which now
appeared to come from the other side of the willows on the path by
which the young girl had approached. "Here, aunty," replied the
girl, closing her sketch-book with a snap and starting to her feet.

A stout woman, fashionably dressed, made her appearance from the
willow path.

"What have you been doing all this while?" she said querulously.
"Not sketching, I hope," she added, with a suspicious glance at the
book. "You know your professor expressly forbade you to do so in
your holidays."

The young girl shrugged her shoulders. "I've been looking at the
fountains," she replied evasively.

"And horrid looking pagan things they are, too," said the elder
woman, turning from them disgustedly, without vouchsafing a second
glance. "Come. If we expect to do the abbey, we must hurry up, or
we won't catch the train. Your uncle is waiting for us at the top
of the garden."

And, to Potter's intense relief, she grasped the young girl's arm
and hurried her away, their figures the next moment vanishing in
the tangled shrubbery.

Potter lost no time in plunging with his cramped limbs into the
water and regaining the other side. Here he quickly half dried
himself with some sun-warmed leaves and baked mosses, hurried on
his clothes, and hastened off in the opposite direction to the path
taken by them, yet with such circuitous skill and speed that he
reached the great gateway without encountering anybody. A brisk
walk brought him to the station in time to catch a stopping train,
and in half an hour he was speeding miles away from Domesday Park
and his half-forgotten episode.

    .      .      .      .      .      .

Meantime the two ladies continued on their way to the abbey. "I
don't see why I mayn't sketch things I see about me," said the
young lady impatiently. "Of course, I understand that I must go
through the rudimentary drudgery of my art and study from casts,
and learn perspective, and all that; but I can't see what's the
difference between working in a stuffy studio over a hand or arm
that I know is only a STUDY, and sketching a full or half length in
the open air with the wonderful illusion of light and shade and
distance--and grouping and combining them all--that one knows and
feels makes a picture. The real picture one makes is already in
one's self."

"For goodness' sake, Lottie, don't go on again with your usual
absurdities. Since you are bent on being an artist, and your
Popper has consented and put you under the most expensive master in
Paris, the least you can do is to follow the rules. And I dare say
he only wanted you to 'sink the shop' in company. It's such horrid
bad form for you artistic people to be always dragging out your
sketch-books. What would you say if your Popper came over here,
and began to examine every lady's dress in society to see what
material it was, just because he was a big dry-goods dealer in
America?"

The young girl, accustomed to her aunt's extravagances, made no
reply. But that night she consulted her sketch, and was so far
convinced of her own instincts, and the profound impression the
fountain had made upon her, that she was enabled to secretly finish
her interrupted sketch from memory. For Miss Charlotte Forrest was
a born artist, and in no mere caprice had persuaded her father to
let her adopt the profession, and accepted the drudgery of a
novitiate. She looked earnestly upon this first real work of her
hand and found it good! Still, it was but a pencil sketch, and
wanted the vivification of color.

When she returned to Paris she began--still secretly--a larger
study in oils. She worked upon it in her own room every moment she
could spare from her studio practice, unknown to her professor. It
absorbed her existence; she grew thin and pale. When it was
finished, and only then, she showed it tremblingly to her master.
He stood silent, in profound astonishment. The easel before him
showed a foreground of tangled luxuriance, from which stretched a
sheet of water like a darkened mirror, while through parted reeds
on its glossy surface arose the half-submerged figure of a river
god, exquisite in contour, yet whose delicate outlines were almost
a vision by the crowning illusion of light, shadow, and atmosphere.

"It is a beautiful copy, mademoiselle, and I forgive you breaking
my rules," he said, drawing a long breath. "But I cannot now
recall the original picture."

"It's no copy of a picture, professor," said the young girl
timidly, and she disclosed her secret. "It was the only perfect
statue there," she added diffidently; "but I think it wanted--
something."

"True," said the professor abstractedly. "Where the elbow rests
there should be a half-inverted urn flowing with water; but the
drawing of that shoulder is so perfect--as is YOUR study of it--
that one guesses the missing forearm one cannot see, which clasped
it. Beautiful! beautiful!"

Suddenly he stopped, and turned his eyes almost searchingly on
hers.

"You say you have never drawn from the human model, mademoiselle?"

"Never," said the young girl innocently.

"True," murmured the professor again. "These are the classic ideal
measurements. There are no limbs like those now. Yet it is
wonderful! And this gem, you say, is in England?"

"Yes."

"Good! I am going there in a few days. I shall make a pilgrimage
to see it. Until then, mademoiselle, I beg you to break as many of
my rules as you like."

Three weeks later she found the professor one morning standing
before her picture in her private studio. "You have returned from
England," she said joyfully.

"I have," said the professor gravely.

"You have seen the original subject?" she said timidly.

"I have NOT. I have not seen it, mademoiselle," he said, gazing at
her mildly through his glasses, "because it does not exist, and
never existed."

The young girl turned pale.




Under the Redwoods by Bret Harte
Category:
General Fiction
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