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"Listen. I have go to England. I arrive at the Park of Domesday.
I penetrate the beautiful, wild garden. I approach the fountain.
I see the wonderful water, the exquisite light and shade, the
lilies, the mysterious reeds--beautiful, yet not as beautiful as
you have made it, mademoiselle, but no statue--no river god! I
demand it of the concierge. He knows of it absolutely nothing. I
transport myself to the noble proprietor, Monsieur le Duc, at a
distant chateau where he has collected the ruined marbles. It is
not there."

"Yet I saw it," said the young girl earnestly, yet with a troubled
face. "O professor," she burst out appealingly, "what do you think
it was?"

"I think, mademoiselle," said the professor gravely, "that you
created it. Believe me, it is a function of genius! More, it is a
proof, a necessity! You saw the beautiful lake, the ruined
fountain, the soft shadows, the empty plinth, curtained by reeds.
You yourself say you feel there was 'something wanting.'
Unconsciously you yourself supplied it. All that you had ever
dreamt of mythology, all that you had ever seen of statuary,
thronged upon you at that supreme moment, and, evolved from your
own fancy, the river god was born. It is your own, chere enfant,
as much the offspring of your genius as the exquisite atmosphere
you have caught, the charm of light and shadow that you have
brought away. Accept my felicitations. You have little more to
learn of me."

As he bowed himself out and descended the stairs he shrugged his
shoulders slightly. "She is an adorable genius," he murmured.
"Yet she is also a woman. Being a woman, naturally she has a
lover--this river god! Why not?"

The extraordinary success of Miss Forrest's picture and the
instantaneous recognition of her merit as an artist, apart from her
novel subject, perhaps went further to remove her uneasiness than
any serious conviction of the professor's theory. Nevertheless, it
appealed to her poetic and mystic imagination, and although other
subjects from her brush met with equally phenomenal success, and
she was able in a year to return to America with a reputation
assured beyond criticism, she never entirely forgot the strange
incident connected with her initial effort.

And by degrees a singular change came over her. Rich, famous, and
attractive, she began to experience a sentimental and romantic
interest in that episode. Once, when reproached by her friends for
her indifference to her admirers, she had half laughingly replied
that she had once found her "ideal," but never would again. Yet
the jest had scarcely passed her lips before she became pale and
silent. With this change came also a desire to re-purchase the
picture, which she had sold in her early success to a speculative
American picture-dealer. On inquiry she found, alas! that it had
been sold only a day or two before to a Chicago gentleman, of the
name of Potter, who had taken a fancy to it.

Miss Forrest curled her pretty lip, but, nothing daunted, resolved
to effect her purpose, and sought the purchaser at his hotel. She
was ushered into a private drawing-room, where, on a handsome
easel, stood the newly acquired purchase. Mr. Potter was out, "but
would return in a moment."

Miss Forrest was relieved, for, alone and undisturbed, she could
now let her full soul go out to her romantic creation. As she
stood there, she felt the glamour of the old English garden come
back to her, the play of light and shadow, the silent pool, the
godlike face and bust, with its cast-down, meditative eyes, seen
through the parted reeds. She clasped her hands silently before
her. Should she never see it again as then?

"Pray don't let me disturb you; but won't you take a seat?"

Miss Forrest turned sharply round. Then she started, uttered a
frightened little cry, and fainted away.

Mr. Potter was touched, but a master of himself. As she came to,
he said quietly: "I came upon you suddenly--as you stood entranced
by this picture--just as I did when I first saw it. That's why I
bought it. Are you any relative of the Miss Forrest who painted
it?" he continued, quietly looking at her card, which he held in
his hand.

Miss Forrest recovered herself sufficiently to reply, and stated
her business with some dignity.

"Ah," said Mr. Potter, "THAT is another question. You see, the
picture has a special value to me, as I once saw an old-fashioned
garden like that in England. But that chap there,--I beg your
pardon, I mean that figure,--I fancy, is your own creation,
entirely. However, I'll think over your proposition, and if you
will allow me I'll call and see you about it."

Mr. Potter did call--not once, but many times--and showed quite a
remarkable interest in Miss Forrest's art. The question of the
sale of the picture, however, remained in abeyance. A few weeks
later, after a longer call than usual, Mr. Potter said:--

"Don't you think the best thing we can do is to make a kind of
compromise, and let us own the picture together?"

And they did.





Under the Redwoods by Bret Harte
Category:
General Fiction
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