"BUT THIS PAINTER!" cried Walter Ludlow, with animation. "He not only excels in his peculiar art, but possesses vast acquirements in all other learning and science. He talks Hebrew with Dr. Mather, and gives lectures in anatomy to Dr. Boylston. In a word, he will meet the best instructed man among us on his own ground. Moreover, he is a polished gentleman--a citizen of the world--yes, a true cosmopolite; for he will speak like a native of each clime and country of the globe except our own forests, whither he is now going. Nor is all this what I most admire in him."You can read it online here. You can listen to it here:
"Indeed!" said Elinor, who had listened with a woman's interest to the description of such a man. "Yet this is admirable enough."
"Surely it is," replied her lover, "but far less so than his natural gift of adapting himself to every variety of character, insomuch that all men--and all women too, Elinor--shall find a mirror of themselves in this wonderful painter. But the greatest wonder is yet to be told."
"Nay, if he have more wonderful attributes than these," said Elinor, laughing, "Boston is a perilous abode for the poor gentleman. Are you telling me of a painter or a wizard?"
"In truth," answered he, "that question might be asked much more seriously than you suppose. They say that he paints not merely a man's features, but his mind and heart. He catches the secret sentiments and passions, and throws them upon the canvas, like sunshine--or perhaps, in the portraits of dark-souled men, like a gleam of infernal fire. It is an awful gift," added Walter, lowering his voice from its tone of enthusiasm. "I shall be almost afraid to sit to him."
"Walter, are you in earnest?" exclaimed Elinor.
"For Heaven's sake, dearest Elinor, do not let him paint the look which you now wear," said her lover, smiling, though rather perplexed. "There: it is passing away now, but when you spoke you seemed frightened to death, and very sad besides. What were you thinking of?"
"Nothing, nothing," answered Elinor hastily. "You paint my face with your own fantasies. Well, come for me tomorrow, and we will visit this wonderful artist."
But when the young man had departed, it cannot be denied that a remarkable expression was again visible on the fair and youthful face of his mistress. It was a sad and anxious look, little in accordance with what should have been the feelings of a maiden on the eve of wedlock. Yet Walter Ludlow was the chosen of her heart.
"A look!" said Elinor to herself. "No wonder that it startled him, if it expressed what I sometimes feel. I know, by my own experience, how frightful a look may be. But it was all fancy. I thought nothing of it at the time--I have seen nothing of it since--I did but dream it."
And she busied herself about the embroidery of a ruff, in which she meant that her portrait should be taken.
Thursday, October 26, 2017
The Prophetic Pictures
The Prophetic Pictures is an 1837 story by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It begins,