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A Vision Of The Fountain
by [?]

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?”


“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.

“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.”