Louisa May Alcott
"Handsome is that handsome does."
Once upon a time there raged in a certain city one of those fashionable
epidemics which occasionally attack our youthful population. It wasn't the
music mania, nor gymnastic convulsions, nor that wide-spread malady,
croquet. Neither was it one of the new dances which, like a tarantula-bite,
set every one a twirling, nor stage madness, nor yet that American lecturing
influenza which yearly sweeps over the land. No, it was a new disease called
the Art fever, and it attacked the young women of the community with great
Nothing but time could cure it, and it ran its course to the dismay,
amusement, or edification of the beholders, for its victims did all manner of
queer things in their delirium. They begged potteries for clay, drove Italian
plaster-corkers out of their wits with unexecutable orders got neuralgia and
rheumatism sketching perched on fences and trees like artistic hens, and
caused a rise in the price of bread, paper, and charcoal, by their ardor in
crayoning. They covered canvas with the expedition of scene-painters, had
classes, lectures, receptions, and exhibitions, made models of each other,
and rendered their walls hideous with bad likenesses of all their friends.
Their conversation ceased to be intelligible to the uninitiated, and they
prattled prettily of "chiaro oscuro, French sauce, refraction of the angle of
the eye, seventh spinus process, depth and juiciness of color, tender touch,
and a good tone." Even in dress the artistic disorder was visible; some cast
aside crinoline altogether, and stalked about with a severe simplicity of
outline worthy of Flaxman. Others flushed themselves with scarlet, that no
landscape which they adorned should be without some touch of Turner's
favorite tint. Some were blue in every sense of the word, and the heads of all
were adorned with classic braids, curls tied Hebe-wise, or hair dressed a la
It was found impossible to keep them safe at home, and, as the fever grew,
these harmless maniacs invaded the sacred retreats where artists of the
other sex did congregate, startling those anchorites with visions of large-
eyed damsels bearing portfolios in hands delicately begrimed with crayon,
chalk, and clay, gliding through the corridors hitherto haunted only by
shabby paletots, shadowy hats, and cigar smoke. This irruption was borne
with manly fortitude, not to say cheerfulness, for studio doors stood
hospitably open as the fair invaders passed, and studies from life were
generously offered them in glimpses of picturesque gentlemen posed before
easels, brooding over master-pieces in "a divine despair," or attitudinizing
upon couches as if exhausted by the soarings of genius.
An atmosphere of romance began to pervade the old buildings when the girls
came, and nature and art took turns. There were peepings and whisperings,
much stifled laughter and whisking in and out; not to mention the
accidental rencontres, small services, and eye telegrams, which somewhat
lightened the severe studies of all parties.
Half a dozen young victims of this malady met daily in one of the cells of a
great art beehive called "Raphael's Rooms," and devoted their shining hours
to modelling fancy heads, gossiping the while; for the poor things found the
road to fame rather dull and dusty without such verbal sprinklings.
"Psyche Dean, you've had an adventure! I see it in your face; so tell it at
once, for we are stupid as owls here to-day," cried one of the sisterhood, as a
bright-eyed girl entered with some precipitation.
"I dropped my portfolio, and a man picked it up, that's all." replied Psyche,
hurrying on her gray linen pinafore.
"That won't do; I know something interesting happened, for you've been
blushing, and you look brisker than usual this morning," said the first
speaker, polishing off the massive nose of her Homer.
"It wasn't anything," began Psyche a little reluctantly. "I was coming up in a
hurry when I ran against a man coming down in a hurry. My portfolio
slipped, and my papers went flying all about the landing. Of course we both
laughed and begged pardon, and I began to pick them up, but he wouldn't
let me; so I held the book while he collected the sketches. I saw him glance
at them as he did so, and that made me blush, for they are wretched things,
"Not a bit of it; they are capital, and you are a regular genius, as we all
agree," cut in the Homeric Miss Cutter.
"Never tell people they are geniuses unless you wish to spoil them," returned
Psyche severely. "Well, when the portfolio was put to rights I was going on,
but he fell to picking up a little bunch of violets I had dropped; you know I
always wear a posy into town to give me inspiration. I didn't care for the
dusty flowers, and told him so, and hurried away before any one came. At
the top of the stairs I peeped over the railing, and there he was, gathering up
every one of those half-dead violets as carefully as if they had been tea-
"Psyche Dean, you have met your fate this day!" exclaimed a third damsel,
with straw-colored tresses, and a good deal of weedy shrubbery in her hat,
which gave an Ophelia-like expression to her sentimental countenance.
Psyche frowned and shook her head, as if half sorry she had told her little
"Was he handsome?" asked Miss Larkins, the believer in fate.
"I didn't particularly observe."
"It was the red-headed man, whom we call Titian: he's always on the stairs."
"No, it wasn't; his hair was brown and curly," cried Psyche, innocently
falling into the trap.
"Like Peerybingle's baby when its cap was taken off," quoted Miss
Dickenson, who pined to drop the last two letters of her name.
"Was it Murillo, the black-eyed one?" asked the fair Cutter, for the girls had
a name for all the attitudinizers and promenaders whom they oftenest met.
"No, he had gray eyes, and very fine ones they were too," answered Psyche,
adding, as if to herself, "he looked as I imagine Michael Angelo might have
looked when young."
"Had he a broken nose, like the great Mike?" asked an irreverent damsel.
"If he had, no one would mind it, for his head is splendid; he took his hat
off, so I had a fine view. He isn't handsome, but he'll do something," said
Psyche, prophetically, as she recalled the strong, ambitious face which she
had often observed, but never mentioned before.
"Well, dear, considering that you didn't 'particularly look' at the man, you've
given us a very good idea of his appearance. We'll call him Michael Angelo,
and he shall be your idol. I prefer stout old Rembrandt myself, and Larkie
adores that dandified Raphael," said the lively Cutter, slapping away at
Homer's bald pate energetically, as she spoke.
"Raphael is a dear, but Rubens is more to my taste now," returned Miss
Larkins. "He was in the hall yesterday talking with Sir Joshua, who had his
inevitable umbrella, like a true Englishman. Just as I came up, the umbrella
fell right before me. I started back; Sir Joshua laughed, but Rubens said,
'Deuce take it!' and caught up the umbrella, giving me a never-to-be-
forgotten look. It was perfectly thrilling."
"Which,--the umbrella, the speech, or the look?" asked Psyche, who was not
"Ah, you have no soul for art in nature, and nature in art," sighed the
amber-tressed Larkins. "I have, for I feed upon a glance, a tint, a curve, with
exquisite delight. Rubens is adorable (as a study); that lustrous eye, that
night of hair, that sumptuous cheek, are perfect. He only needs a cloak, lace
collar, and slouching hat to be the genuine thing."
"This isn't the genuine thing by any means. What does it need?" said
Psyche, looking with a despondent air at the head on her stand.
Many would have pronounced it a clever thing; the nose was strictly Greek,
the chin curved upward gracefully, the mouth was sweetly haughty, the
brow classically smooth and low, and the breezy hair well done. But
something was wanting; Psyche felt that, and could have taken her Venus
by the dimpled shoulders, and given her a hearty shake, if that would have
put strength and spirit into the lifeless face.
"Now I am perfectly satisfied with my Apollo, though you all insist that it is
the image of Theodore Smythe. He says so himself, and assures me it will
make a sensation when we exhibit," remarked Miss Larkins, complacently
caressing the ambrosial locks of her Smythified Phebus.
"What shall you do if it does not?" asked Miss Cutter, with elegance.
"I shall feel that I have mistaken my sphere, shall drop my tools, veil my
bust, and cast myself into the arms of Nature, since Art rejects me;" replied
Miss Larkins, with a tragic gesture and an expression which strongly
suggested that in her eyes nature meant Theodore.
"She must have capacious arms if she is to receive all Art's rejected
admirers. Shall I be one of them?"
Psyche put the question to herself as she turned to work, but somehow
ambitious aspirations were not in a flourishing condition that morning; her
heart was not in tune, and head and hands sympathized. Nothing went well,
for certain neglected home-duties had dogged her into town, and now
worried her more than dust, or heat, or the ceaseless clatter of tongues.
Tom, Dick, and Harry's unmended hose persisted in dancing a spectral jig
before her mental eye, mother's querulous complaints spoilt the song she
hummed to cheer herself, and little May's wistful face put the goddess of
beauty entirely out of countenance.
"It's no use; I can't work till the clay is wet again. Where is Giovanni?" she
asked, throwing down her tools with a petulant gesture and a dejected air.
"He is probably playing truant in the empty upper rooms, as usual. I can't
wait for him any longer, so I'm doing his work myself," answered Miss
Dickenson, who was tenderly winding a wet bandage round her Juno's face,
one side of which was so much plumper than the other that it looked as if
the Queen of Olympus was being hydropathically treated for a severe fit of
"I'll go and find the little scamp; a run will do me good; so will a breath of air
and a view of the park from the upper windows."
Doffing her apron, Psyche strolled away up an unfrequented staircase to the
empty apartments, which seemed to be too high even for the lovers of High
Art. On the western side they were shady and cool, and, leaning from one of
the windows, Psyche watched the feathery tree-tops ruffled by the balmy
wind, that brought spring odors from the hills, lying green and sunny far
away. Silence and solitude were such pleasant companions that the girl
forgot herself, till a shrill whistle disturbed her day-dreams, and reminded
her what she came for. Following the sound she found the little Italian
errand-boy busily uncovering a clay model which stood in the middle of a
scantily furnished room near by.
"He is not here; come and look; it is greatly beautiful," cried Giovanni,
beckoning with an air of importance.
Psyche did look and speedily forgot both her errand and herself. It was the
figure of a man, standing erect, and looking straight before him with a
wonderfully lifelike expression. It was neither a mythological nor a historical
character, Psyche thought, and was glad of it, being tired to death of gods
and heroes. She soon ceased to wonder what it was, feeling only the
indescribable charm of something higher than beauty. Small as her
knowledge was, she could see and enjoy the power visible in every part of it;
the accurate anatomy of the vigorous limbs, the grace of the pose, the
strength and spirit in the countenance, clay though it was. A majestic
figure, but the spell lay in the face, which, while it suggested the divine, was
full of human truth and tenderness, for pain and passion seemed to have
passed over it, and a humility half pathetic, a courage half heroic seemed to
have been born from some great loss or woe.
How long she stood there Psyche did not know. Giovanni went away unseen,
to fill his water-pail, and in the silence she just stood and looked. Her eyes
kindled, her color rose, despondency and discontent vanished, and her soul
was in her face, for she loved beauty passionately, and all that was best and
truest in her did honor to the genius of the unknown worker.
"If I could do a thing like that, I'd die happy!" she exclaimed impetuously, as
a feeling of despair came over her at the thought of her own poor attempts.
"Who did it, Giovanni?" she asked, still looking up at the grand face with
It was not the boy's voice, and, with a start, Psyche turned to see her
Michael Angelo, standing in the doorway, attentively observing her. Being
too full of artless admiration to think of herself just yet, she neither blushed
nor apologized, but looked straight at him, saying heartily,--
"You have done a wonderful piece of work, and I envy you more than I can
The enthusiasm in her face, the frankness of her manner, seemed to please
him, for there was no affectation about either. He gave her a keen, kind
glance out of the "fine gray eyes," a little bow, and a grateful smile, saying
quietly,--"Then my Adam is not a failure in spite of his fall?"
Psyche turned from the sculptor to his model with increased admiration in
her face, and earnestness in her voice, as she exclaimed delighted,--
"Adam! I might have known it was he. O sir, you have indeed succeeded, for
you have given that figure the power and pathos of the first man who sinned
and suffered, and began again."
"Then I am satisfied." That was all he said, but the look he gave his work
was a very eloquent one, for it betrayed that he had paid the price of success
in patience and privation, labor and hope.
"What can one do to learn your secret?" asked the girl wistfully, for there
was nothing in the man's manner to disturb her self-forgetful mood, but
much to foster it, because to the solitary worker this confiding guest was as
welcome as the doves who often hopped in at his window.
"Work and wait, and meantime feed heart, soul, and imagination with the
best food one can get," he answered slowly, finding it impossible to give a
receipt for genius.
"I can work and wait a long time to gain my end; but I don't know where to
find the food you speak of?" she answered, looking at him like a hungry
"I wish I could tell you, but each needs different fare, and each must look for
it in different places."
The kindly tone and the sympathizing look, as well as the lines in his
forehead, and a few gray hairs among the brown, gave Psyche courage to say
"I love beauty so much that I not only want to possess it myself, but to gain
the power of seeing it in all things, and the art of reproducing it with truth. I
have tried very hard to do it, but something is wanting; and in spite of my
intense desire I never get on."
As she spoke the girl's eyes filled and fell in spite of herself, and turning a
little with sudden shamefacedness she saw, lying on the table beside her
among other scraps in manuscript and print, the well-known lines,--
"I slept, and dreamed that life was beauty;
I woke, and found that life was duty.
Was thy dream then a shadowy lie?
Toil on, sad heart, courageously,
And thou shall find thy dream to be
A noonday light and truth to thee."She knew them at a glance, had read
them many times, but now they came home to her with sudden force, and,
seeing that his eye had followed hers, she said in her impulsive fashion.--
"Is doing one's duty a good way to feed heart, soul, and imagination?"
As if he had caught a glimpse of what was going on in her mind, Paul
"Excellent; for if one is good, one is happy, and if happy, one can work well.
Moulding character is the highest sort of sculpture, and all of us should
learn that art before we touch clay or marble."
He spoke with the energy of a man who believed what he said, and did his
best to be worthy of the rich gift bestowed upon him. The sight of her violets
in a glass of water, and Giovanni staring at her with round eyes, suddenly
recalled Psyche to a sense of the proprieties which she had been innocently
outraging for the last ten minutes. A sort of panic seized her; she blushed
deeply, retreated precipitately to the door, and vanished, murmuring thanks
and apologies as she went.
"Did you find him? I thought you had forgotten," said Miss Dickenson, now
hard at work.
"Yes, I found him. No, I shall not forget," returned Psyche, thinking of Gage,
She stood before her work eying it intently for several minutes; then, with an
expression of great contempt for the whole thing, she suddenly tilted her
cherished Venus on to the floor, gave the classical face a finishing crunch,
and put on her hat in a decisive manner, saying briefly to the dismayed
"Good-by, girls; I shan't come any more, for I'm going to work at home
The prospect of pursuing artistic studies at home was not brilliant, as one
may imagine when I mention that Psyche's father was a painfully prosaic
man, wrapt in flannel, so to speak; for his woollen mills left him no time for
anything but sleep, food, and newspapers. Mrs. Dean was one of those
exasperating women who pervade their mansions like a domestic steam-
engine one week and take to their sofas the next, absorbed by fidgets and
foot-stoves, shawls and lamentations. There were three riotous and robust
young brothers, whom it is unnecessary to describe except by stating that
they were boys in the broadest sense of that delightful word. There was a
feeble little sister, whose patient, suffering face demanded constant love and
care to mitigate the weariness of a life of pain. And last, but not least by any
means, there were two Irish ladies, who, with the best intentions
imaginable, produced a universal state of topsy-turviness when left to
themselves for a moment.
But being very much in earnest about doing her duty, not because it was
her duty, but as a means toward an end, Psyche fell to work with a will,
hoping to serve both masters at once. So she might have done, perhaps, if
flesh and blood had been as plastic as clay, but the live models were so
exacting in their demands upon her time and strength, that the poor statues
went to the wall. Sculpture and sewing, calls and crayons, Ruskin and
receipt-books, didn't work well together, and poor Psyche found duties and
desires desperately antagonistic. Take a day as a sample.
"The washing and ironing are well over, thank goodness, mother quiet, the
boys out of the way, and May comfortable, so I'll indulge myself in a blissful
day after my own heart," Psyche said, as she shut herself into her little
studio, and prepared to enjoy a few hours of hard study and happy day-
With a book on her lap, and her own round white arm going through all
manner of queer evolutions, she was placidly repeating, "Deltoides, Biceps,
Triceps, Pronator, Supinator, Palmanis, Flexor carpi ulnaris--"
"Here's Flexis what-you-call-ums for you," interrupted a voice, which began
in a shrill falsetto and ended in a gruff bass, as a flushed, dusty, long-legged
boy burst in, with a bleeding hand obligingly extended for inspection.
"Mercy on us, Harry! what have you done to yourself now? Split your fingers
with a cricket-ball again?" cried Psyche, as her arms went up and her book
"I just thrashed one of the fellows because he got mad and said father was
going to fail."
"O Harry, is he?"
"Of course he isn't! It's hard times for every one, but father will pull through
all right. No use to try and explain it all; girls can't understand business; so
you just tie me up, and don't worry," was the characteristic reply of the
young man, who, being three years her junior, of course treated the weaker
vessel with lordly condescension.
"What a dreadful wound! I hope nothing is broken, for I haven't studied the
hand much yet, and may do mischief doing it up," said Psyche, examining
the great grimy paw with tender solicitude.
"Much good your biceps, and deltoids, and things do you, if you can't right
up a little cut like that," squeaked the ungrateful hero.
"I'm not going to be a surgeon, thank heaven; I intend to make perfect hands
and arms, not mend damaged ones," retorted Psyche, in a dignified tone,
somewhat marred by a great piece of court-plaster on her tongue.
"I should say a surgeon could improve that perfect thing, if he didn't die a-
laughing before he began," growled Harry, pointing with a scornful grin at a
clay arm humpy with muscles, all carefully developed in the wrong places.
"Don't sneer, Hal, for you don't know anything about it. Wait a few years
and see if you're not proud of me."
"Sculp away and do something, then I'll hurrah for your mud-pies like a
good one;" with which cheering promise the youth left, having effectually
disturbed his sister's peaceful mood.
Anxious thoughts of her father rendered "biceps, deltoids, and things"
uninteresting, and hoping to compose her mind, she took up The Old
Painters and went on with the story of Claude Lorraine. She had just
reached the tender scene where,--
"Calista gazed with enthusiasm, while she looked like a being of heaven
rather than earth. 'My friend,' she cried, 'I read in thy picture thy
immortality!' As she spoke, her head sunk upon his bosom, and it was
several moments before Claude perceived that he supported a lifeless form."
"How sweet!" said Psyche, with a romantic sigh.
"Faith, and swate it is, thin!" echoed Katy, whose red head had just
appeared round the half opened door. "It's gingy-bread I'm making the day,
miss, and will I be puttin' purlash or sallyrathis into it, if ye plase?"
"Purlash, by all means," returned the girl, keeping her countenance, fearing
to enrage Katy by a laugh; for the angry passions of the red-haired one rose
more quickly than her bread.
As she departed with alacrity to add a spoonful of starch and a pinch of
whiting to her cake, Psyche, feeling better for her story and her smile, put on
her bib and paper cap and fell to work on the deformed arm. An hour of
bliss, then came a ring at the door-bell, followed by Biddy to announce
callers, and add that as "the mistress was in her bed, miss must go and take
care of 'em." Whereat "miss" cast down her tools in despair, threw her cap
one way, her bib another, and went in to her guests with anything but a
Dinner being accomplished after much rushing up and down stairs with
trays and messages for Mrs. Dean, Psyche fled again to her studio, ordering
no one to approach under pain of a scolding. All went well till, going in
search of something, she found her little sister sitting on the floor with her
cheek against the studio door.
"I didn't mean to be naughty, Sy, but mother is asleep, and the boys all
gone, so I just came to be near you; it's so lonely everywhere," she said,
apologetically, as she lifted up the heavy head that always ached.
"The boys are very thoughtless. Come in and stay with me; you are such a
mouse you won't disturb me. Wouldn't you like to play be a model and let
me draw your arm, and tell you all about the nice little bones and muscles?"
asked Psyche, who had the fever very strong upon her just then.
May didn't look as if the proposed amusement overwhelmed her with
delight, but meekly consented to be perched upon a high stool with one arm
propped up by a dropsical plaster cherub, while Psyche drew busily, feeling
that duty and pleasure were being delightfully combined.
"Can't you hold your arm still, child? It shakes so I can't get it right," she
said, rather impatiently.
"No, it will tremble 'cause it's weak. I try hard, Sy, but there doesn't seem to
be much strongness in me lately."
"That's better; keep it so a few minutes and I'll be done," cried the artist,
forgetting that a few minutes may seem ages.
"My arm is so thin you can see the bunches nicely,--can't you?"
Psyche glanced up at the wasted limb, and when she drew again there was a
blur before her eyes for a minute.
"I wish I was as fat as this white boy; but I get thinner every day somehow,
and pretty soon there won't be any of me left but my little bones," said the
child, looking at the winged cherub with sorrowful envy.
"Don't, my darling; don't say that," cried Psyche, dropping her work with a
sudden pang at her heart. "I'm a sinful, selfish girl to keep you here! you're
weak for want of air; come out and see the chickens, and pick dandelions,
and have a good romp with the boys."
The weak arms were strong enough to clasp Psyche's neck, and the tired
face brightened beautifully as the child exclaimed, with grateful delight,--
"Oh, I'd like it very much! I wanted to go dreadfully; but everybody is so
busy all the time. I don't want to play, Sy; but just to lie on the grass with
my head in your lap while you tell stories and draw me pretty things as you
The studio was deserted all that afternoon, for Psyche sat in the orchard
drawing squirrels on the wall, pert robins hopping by, buttercups and
mosses, elves and angels; while May lay contentedly enjoying sun and air,
sisterly care, and the "pretty things" she loved so well. Psyche did not find
the task a hard one; for this time her heart was in it, and if she needed any
reward she surely found it; for the little face on her knee lost its weary look,
and the peace and beauty of nature soothed her own troubled spirit, cheered
her heart, and did her more good than hours of solitary study.
Finding, much to her own surprise, that her fancy was teeming with lovely
conceits, she did hope for a quiet evening. But mother wanted a bit of
gossip, father must have his papers read to him, the boys had lessons and
rips and grievances to be attended to, May's lullaby could not be forgotten,
and the maids had to be looked after, lest burly "cousins" should be hidden
in the boiler, or lucifer matches among the shavings. So Psyche's day ended,
leaving her very tired, rather discouraged, and almost heart-sick with the
shadow of a coming sorrow.
All summer she did her best, but accomplished very little, as she thought;
yet this was the teaching she most needed, and in time she came to see it.
In the autumn May died, whispering, with her arms about her sister's neck,-
"You make me so happy, Sy, I wouldn't mind the pain if I could stay a little
longer. But if I can't, good-by, dear, good-by."
Her last look and word and kiss were all for Psyche, who felt then with
grateful tears that her summer had not been wasted; for the smile upon the
little dead face was more to her than any marble perfection her hands could
In the solemn pause which death makes in every family, Psyche said, with
the sweet self-forgetfulness of a strong yet tender nature,--
"I must not think of myself, but try to comfort them;" and with this
resolution she gave herself heart and soul to duty, never thinking of reward.
A busy, anxious, humdrum winter, for, as Harry said, "it was hard times for
every one." Mr. Dean grew gray with the weight of business cares about
which he never spoke; Mrs. Dean, laboring under the delusion that an
invalid was a necessary appendage to the family, installed herself in the
place the child's death left vacant, and the boys needed much comforting,
for the poor lads never knew how much they loved "the baby" till the little
chair stood empty. All turned to Sy for help and consolation, and her
strength seemed to increase with the demand upon it. Patience and
cheerfulness, courage and skill came at her call like good fairies who had
bided their time. Housekeeping ceased to be hateful, and peace reigned in
parlor and kitchen while Mrs. Dean, shrouded in shawls, read Hahnemann's
Lesser Writings on her sofa. Mr. Dean sometimes forgot his mills when a
bright face came to meet him, a gentle hand smoothed the wrinkles out of
his anxious forehead, and a daughterly heart sympathized with all his cares.
The boys found home very pleasant with Sy always there ready to "lend a
hand," whether it was to make fancy ties, help conjugate "a confounded
verb," pull candy, or sing sweetly in the twilight when all thought of little
May and grew quiet.
The studio door remained locked till her brothers begged Psyche to open it
and make a bust of the child. A flush of joy swept over her face at the
request, and her patient eyes grew bright and eager, as a thirsty traveller's
might at the sight or sound of water. Then it faded as she shook her head,
saying with a regretful sigh, "I'm afraid I've lost the little skill I ever had."
But she tried, and with great wonder and delight discovered that she could
work as she had never done before. She thought the newly found power lay
in her longing to see the little face again; for it grew like magic under her
loving hands, while every tender memory, sweet thought, and devout hope
she had ever cherished, seemed to lend their aid. But when it was done and
welcomed with tears and smiles, and praise more precious than any the
world could give, then Psyche said within herself, like one who saw light at
"He was right; doing one's duty is the way to feed heart, soul, and
imagination; for if one is good, one is happy, and if happy, one can work
"She broke her head and went home to come no more," was Giovanni's
somewhat startling answer when Paul asked about Psyche, finding that he
no longer met her on the stairs or in the halls. He understood what the boy
meant, and with an approving nod turned to his work again, saying, "I like
that! If there is any power in her, she has taken the right way to find it out, I
How she prospered he never asked; for, though he met her more than once
that year, the interviews were brief ones in street, concert-room, or picture-
gallery, and she carefully avoided speaking of herself. But, possessing the
gifted eyes which can look below the surface of things, he detected in the
girl's face something better than beauty, though each time he saw it, it
looked older and more thoughtful, often anxious and sad.
"She is getting on," he said to himself with a cordial satisfaction which gave
his manner a friendliness as grateful to Psyche as his wise reticence.
Adam was finished at last, proved a genuine success, and Paul heartily
enjoyed the well-earned reward for years of honest work. One blithe May
morning, he slipped early into the art-gallery, where the statue now stood, to
look at his creation with paternal pride. He was quite alone with the stately
figure that shone white against the purple draperies and seemed to offer him
a voiceless welcome from its marble lips. He gave it one loving look, and
then forgot it, for at the feet of his Adam lay a handful of wild violets, with
the dew still on them. A sudden smile broke over his face as he took them
up, with the thought, "She has been here and found my work good."
For several moments he stood thoughtfully turning the flowers to and fro in
his hands; then, as if deciding some question within himself, he said, still
"It is just a year since she went home; she must have accomplished
something in that time; I'll take the violets as a sign that I may go and ask
He knew she lived just out of the city, between the river and the mills, and
as he left the streets behind him, he found more violets blooming all along
the way like flowery guides to lead him right. Greener grew the road, balmier
blew the wind, and blither sang the birds, as he went on, enjoying his
holiday with the zest of a boy, until he reached a most attractive little path
winding away across the fields. The gate swung invitingly open, and all the
ground before it was blue with violets. Still following their guidance he took
the narrow path, till, coming to a mossy stone beside a brook, he sat down
to listen to the blackbirds singing deliciously in the willows over head. Close
by the stone, half hidden in the grass lay a little book, and, taking it up he
found it was a pocket-diary. No name appeared on the fly-leaf, and, turning
the pages to find some clue to its owner, he read here and there enough to
give him glimpses into an innocent and earnest heart which seemed to be
learning some hard lesson patiently. Only near the end did he find the clue
in words of his own, spoken long ago, and a name. Then, though longing
intensely to know more, he shut the little book and went on, showing by his
altered face that the simple record of a girl's life had touched him deeply.
Soon an old house appeared nestling to the hillside with the river shining in
the low green meadows just before it.
"She lives there," he said, with as much certainty as if the pansies by the
door-stone spelt her name, and, knocking, he asked for Psyche.
"She's gone to town, but I expect her home every minute. Ask the gentleman
to walk in and wait, Katy," cried a voice from above, where the whisk of
skirts was followed by the appearance of an inquiring eye over the banisters.
The gentleman did walk in, and while he waited looked about him. The
room, though very simply furnished, had a good deal of beauty in it, for the
pictures were few and well chosen, the books such as never grow old, the
music lying on the well-worn piano of the sort which is never out of fashion,
and standing somewhat apart was one small statue in a recess full of
flowers. Lovely in its simple grace and truth was the figure of a child looking
upward as if watching the airy flight of some butterfly which had evidently
escaped from the chrysalis still lying in the little hand.
Paul was looking at it with approving eyes when Mrs. Dean appeared with
his card in her hand, three shawls on her shoulders, and in her face a
somewhat startled expression, as if she expected some novel demonstration
from the man whose genius her daughter so much admired.
"I hope Miss Psyche is well," began Paul, with great discrimination if not
The delightfully commonplace remark tranquillized Mrs. Dean at once, and,
taking off the upper shawl with a fussy gesture, she settled herself for a
"Yes, thank heaven, Sy is well. I don't know what would become of us if she
wasn't. It has been a hard and sorrowful year for us with Mr. Dean's
business embarrassments, my feeble health, and May's death. I don't know
that you were aware of our loss, sir;" and unaffected maternal grief gave
sudden dignity to the faded, fretful face of the speaker.
Paul murmured his regrets, understanding better now the pathetic words on
a certain tear-stained page of the little book still in his pocket.
"Poor dear, she suffered everything, and it came very hard upon Sy, for the
child wasn't happy with any one else, and almost lived in her arms,"
continued Mrs. Dean, dropping the second shawl to get her handkerchief.
"Miss Psyche has not had much time for art-studies this year, I suppose?"
said Paul, hoping to arrest the shower, natural as it was.
"How could she with two invalids, the housekeeping, her father and the boys
to attend to? No, she gave that up last spring, and though it was a great
disappointment to her at the time, she has got over it now, I hope," added
her mother, remembering as she spoke that Psyche even now went about
the house sometimes pale and silent, with a hungry look in her eyes.
"I am glad to hear it," though a little shadow passed over his face as Paul
spoke, for he was too true an artist to believe that any work could be as
happy as that which he loved and lived for. "I thought there was much
promise in Miss Psyche, and I sincerely believe that time will prove me a
true prophet," he said, with mingled regret and hope in his voice, as he
glanced about the room, which betrayed the tastes still cherished by the girl.
"I'm afraid ambition isn't good for women; I mean the sort that makes them
known by coming before the public in any way. But Sy deserves some
reward, I'm sure, and I know she'll have it, for a better daughter never lived."
Here the third shawl was cast off, as if the thought of Psyche, or the
presence of a genial guest had touched Mrs. Dean's chilly nature with a
Further conversation was interrupted by the avalanche of boys which came
tumbling down the front stairs, as Tom, Dick, and Harry shouted in a sort of
"Sy, my balloon has got away; lend us a hand at catching him!"
"Sy, I want a lot of paste made, right off."
"Sy, I've split my jacket down the back; come sew me up, there's a dear!"
On beholding a stranger the young gentlemen suddenly lost their voices,
found their manners, and with nods and grins took themselves away as
quietly as could be expected of six clumping boots and an unlimited
quantity of animal spirits in a high state of effervescence. As they trooped
off, an unmistakable odor of burnt milk pervaded the air, and the crash of
china, followed by an Irish wail, caused Mrs. Dean to clap on her three
shawls again and excuse herself in visible trepidation.
Paul laughed quietly to himself, then turned sober and said, "Poor Psyche!"
with a sympathetic sigh. He roamed about the room impatiently till the
sound of voices drew him to the window to behold the girl coming up the
walk with her tired old father leaning on one arm, the other loaded with
baskets and bundles, and her hands occupied by a remarkably ugly turtle.
"Here we are!" cried a cheery voice, as they entered without observing the
new-comer. "I've done all my errands and had a lovely time. There is Tom's
gunpowder, Dick's fishhooks, and one of Professor Gazzy's famous turtles
for Harry. Here are your bundles, mother dear, and, best of all, here's father
home in time for a good rest before dinner. I went to the mill and got him."
Psyche spoke as if she had brought a treasure; and so she had, for though
Mr. Dean's face usually was about as expressive as the turtle's, it woke and
warmed with the affection which his daughter had fostered till no amount of
flannel could extinguish it. His big hand patted her cheek very gently as he
said, in a tone of fatherly love and pride,--
"My little Sy never forgets old father, does she?"
"Good gracious me, my dear, there's such a mess in the kitchen! Katy's
burnt up the pudding, put castor-oil instead of olive in the salad, smashed
the best meat-dish, and here's Mr. Gage come to dinner," cried Mrs. Dean in
accents of despair as she tied up her head in a fourth shawl.
"Oh, I'm so glad; I'll go in and see him a few minutes, and then I'll come and
attend to everything; so don't worry, mother."
"How did you find me out?" asked Psyche as she shook hands with her guest
and stood looking up at him with all the old confiding frankness in her face
"The violets showed me the way."
She glanced at the posy in his button-hole and smiled.
"Yes, I gave them to Adam, but I didn't think you would guess. I enjoyed
your work for an hour to-day, and I have no words strong enough to express
"There is no need of any. Tell me about yourself: what have you been doing
all this year?" he asked, watching with genuine satisfaction the serene and
sunny face before him, for discontent, anxiety, and sadness were no longer
"I've been working and waiting," she began.
"And succeeding, if I may believe what I see and hear and read," he said,
with an expressive little wave of the book as he laid it down before her.
"My diary! I didn't know I had lost it. Where did you find it?"
"By the brook where I stopped to rest. The moment I saw your name I shut it
up. Forgive me, but I can't ask pardon for reading a few pages of that little
gospel of patience, love, and self-denial."
She gave him a reproachful look, and hurried the telltale book out of sight
as she said, with a momentary shadow on her face,--
"It has been a hard task; but I think I have learned it, and am just beginning
to find that my dream is 'a noonday light and truth,' to me."
"Then you do not relinquish your hopes, and lay down your tools?" he
asked, with some eagerness.
"Never! I thought at first that I could not serve two masters, but in trying to
be faithful to one I find I am nearer and dearer to the other. My cares and
duties are growing lighter every day (or I have learned to bear them better),
and when my leisure does come I shall know how to use it, for my head is
full of ambitious plans, and I feel that I can do something now."
All the old enthusiasm shone in her eyes, and a sense of power betrayed
itself in voice and gesture as she spoke.
"I believe it," he said heartily. "You have learned the secret, as that proves."
Psyche looked at the childish image as he pointed to it, and into her face
there came a motherly expression that made it very sweet.
"That little sister was so dear to me I could not fail to make her lovely, for I
put my heart into my work. The year has gone, but I don't regret it, though
this is all I have done."
"You forget your three wishes; I think the year has granted them."
"What were they?"
"To possess beauty in yourself, the power of seeing it in all things, and the
art of reproducing it with truth."
She colored deeply under the glance which accompanied the threefold
compliment, and answered with grateful humility,--
"You are very kind to say so; I wish I could believe it." Then, as if anxious to
forget herself, she added rather abruptly,--
"I hear you think of giving your Adam a mate,--have you begun yet?"
"Yes, my design is finished, all but the face."
"I should think you could image Eve's beauty, since you have succeeded so
well with Adam's."
"The features perhaps, but not the expression. That is the charm of feminine
faces, a charm so subtile that few can catch and keep it. I want a truly
womanly face, one that shall be sweet and strong without being either weak
or hard. A hopeful, loving, earnest face with a tender touch of motherliness
in it, and perhaps the shadow of a grief that has softened but not saddened
"It will be hard to find a face like that."
"I don't expect to find it in perfection; but one sometimes sees faces which
suggest all this, and in rare moments give glimpses of a lovely possibility."
"I sincerely hope you will find one then," said Psyche, thinking of the dinner.
"Thank you; I think I have."
Now, in order that every one may be suited, we will stop here, and leave our
readers to finish the story as they like. Those who prefer the good old
fashion may believe that the hero and heroine fell in love, were married, and
lived happily ever afterward. But those who can conceive of a world outside
of a wedding-ring may believe that the friends remained faithful friends all
their lives, while Paul won fame and fortune, and Psyche grew beautiful with
the beauty of a serene and sunny nature, happy in duties which became
pleasures, rich in the art which made life lovely to herself and others, and
brought rewards in time.