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I had seen, and determined to prolong my stay in the city till the labours of the day should be suspended. The night brought other scenes than those I had witnessed during the day: the streets were dimly lighted, and I observed men walking about, and who were employed for the purpose of protecting life and property. The busy population of the day had all betaken themselves to other pursuits-for the most part pleasure and amusement. Some of the houses I passed had become the resort of boisterous companies, and music and dancing were the great attractions that drew people within; almost in every street I met some drunkard reeling home after his night's debauch, and who had, probably, spent the whole of his money in dissipation, for which he had so arduously laboured during the day. Drunkenness, however, was not confined to the male portion of the community, for I regret to say that I saw more than one woman in the same predicament; and surely, if aught could disgust me with city life, a sight like that was better calculated to do it than any other. I confined, it is true, my observations almost entirely to the lower and more squalid parts of the town. was one street that I passed through, where a large concourse of people was assembled outside a tavern; curious to know what was the cause of it, I made inquiry, and found that a quarrel had arisen between two drunken men, and that they were employed in endeavouring to inflict bodily chastisement upon each other. Further on I descried a number of persons, all hurrying in one direction, and I involuntarily allowed myself to be carried away by the tide by which I had so suddenly been overtaken. We reached at length a little, curious, dark street, and about the middle of it we discovered, upon the ground, a man whose cries had attracted us to the spot. He was bleeding profusely; and, in answer to our inquiries, he informed us that he had been knocked down by three or four ruffians, and robbed of all the money he had in his possession. Some of the crowd at once gave pursuit in the direction in which the robbers were alleged to have gone; but I believe without success, for they were already beyond reach of pursuit when we arrived at the place where the unfortunate man lay.
I did not wait to witness further sights in this extraordinary place, but I at once proceeded on my journey homeward. When I reached the cottage, I found my friends as ready as ever to receive me, but very curious to know what was the cause of my long absence. I explained to them everything that had engaged my attention, and Myrtle, who was more strange to town life than I was myself, listened with the most greedy ears to all that I had to say.
I will not attempt to paint my joy, my contentment, my sense of security, when I found myself again in the abode of the humble sculptor. What I had just witnessed formed a striking contrast with what I saw around me here was contentment, cheerfulness, peace, and holy aspirations, unmixed with all sordid views; there was discontent, drunkenness, crime, restless ambition, unceasing craving after wealth; here was heaven -there was hell!
I would there were no dark shades to the picture. A year or two after this time, my aged friend was deprived of those resources from which he had hitherto mainly drawn his supplies, and was left almost destitute in the world. The source from which he had derived his small revenue was
some property in a distant town, which, by the overflowing of the river near which it was situated, had been destroyed. There remained for the old man but one thing, which was to fall back upon his skill as a sculptor, and to offer for sale some of those works which could not fail to make his merit known to the public. It was not the love of money, as I have before stated, that had stimulated the sculptor to exertion; it was the pure love of his art-that burning and insatiable desire to embody those glowing conceptions with which his mind was so often illuminated.
It was the misfortune of Durand to live in a day when the arts were not sufficiently appreciated by the people, and, as a matter of course, their professors not adequately rewarded. He was nearly a generation in advance of his time, and if he did hope for justice and recognition, it was assuredly not from his contemporaries but from posterity. He who is indifferent to, or independent of, his own times-who wishes to carve for himself a name less perishable than marble or brass-who seeks to erect his monument in his own works-may write, paint, carve, do anything he pleases for posterity; but the man who has to provide for his daily wants, and those physical nourishments which human nature requires, must pay his respects to the times in which he lives, and his dutiful obeisances to the people who flourish therein. And so it was that my aged friend was unfortunate, in that he preceded his admirers and friends by a period of about fifty years. I must leave this digression and return to the subject. It became a question with Durand as to how he was to raise a sufficient sum of money to enable him to maintain his little household as he had hitherto done. During the time I had lived with him I had rendered him considerable service in his studio, so that I did not feel that I was a mere dependent upon his bounty. So soon, however, as my friend's circumstances were changed, I at once proposed that we should remove to the neighbouring city (great antipathy as I had to it), and that there I should follow some pursuit which should be more profitable in a pecuniary sense than the art which I had pursued for the last few years; and thus I should be able to support his little establishment, and permit him to follow his noble avocation unmolested by any sordid care or anxiety on the score of pecuniary matters.
"No, no," said Durand; "we will remain where we are ; but I will tell you what we will do: we will journey to the next city, and endeavour to dispose of some of the works I have finished."
And so we went to the next city-the very same of which I have already given a slight account. The citizens directed us to call upon three noblemen of the place, who were described to be great connoisseurs and munificent patrons of the fine arts.
The Marquis de Vaudeville was the first we waited upon. He received us somewhat oddly.
"Oh-ah! a sculptor, indeed-very unprofitable pursuit, should think; advise you to try something else, friend."
"It is now too late in life," urged Durand, "even if I were inclined. Misfortune, I am sorry to say, has compelled me, for the first time, to seek a subsistence from that pursuit which I have hitherto followed for my own pleasure. I have one or two works which I wish to dispose of, and it would afford me much pleasure if your lordship would pay a visit to my humble studio to inspect them."
"Well, well, I will do so one of these days; leave-leave your address." And he bowed stiffly, and left the room.
We next proceeded to the mansion of the Duke of Acquetaine, but he was so much engaged discussing the pleasures of the table, that he refused to give us an interview. The other nobleman whom we called upon was the Count de Brogley, whom we found at home. He gave us a reception, but communicated to us that, Durand being unknown, it was useless to give himself the trouble to call upon him.
Disappointed and annoyed we returned home, with misery and starvation staring us in the face. There was no likelihood of any good accruing from our visit to the Marquis de Vaudeville, nor indeed did we expect that he would pay us a visit; but after the lapse of a few weeks, and contrary to all expectation, he actually did fulfil his promise. There was no satisfaction derived from it; he found innumerable faults with the works he inspected, and I believe wanted to appear in our eyes as a very shrewd and excellent judge. I certainly did not value his opinion, and I could discover that my friend looked upon it in the same light. There was one circumstance connected with his visit which I must not omit to mention. He had set his eyes upon Myrtle, and before he took his leave, which he was not very anxious to do, he took several occasions to direct his conversation to her. I could perceive he was struck with her beauty and intelligence, as indeed who could fail to be? I was sorry to see that Myrtle was not displeased with his attentions-nay, that she appeared to be flattered by them. I was annoyed-vexed, and for the first time since my arrival at this humble cottage, I felt my heart stung to the very core. And wherefore? What was Myrtle to me? A little sister, a gentle playmate, a kind friend. I knew not till this moment that she was aught more. I looked upon her as a favourite pupil, as apt to receive information as I was to impart it. My heart trembled, and suddenly I became conscious of a new existence-everything around me assumed a different aspect, and I knew that my happiness was no longer in my own keeping. And had I remained so long in ignorance of emotions which only now awakened me to a sense of my actual position? It was but yesterday-nay, an hour ago that I could have laughed atridiculed such a notion, and even yet I could scarcely bring myself to believe in its reality. I had hitherto thought Myrtle a child. I felt now that she was a woman; and it was only, so to speak, when I saw strange hands held out to seize it, that I became aware of the inestimable value of a prize which had so long, as I believed, been within my own grasp. A new impulse was given to my existence-a fresh motive for life.
The marquis, before leaving, promised to call again, and I divined at once his object in doing so. It was not to see the extraordinary works of the old man; it was not to pay homage to genius; it was not to bring relief to the suffering and the needy. No: he was fascinatedpleased with Myrtle-and he thought it a pleasant way of beguiling a tedious half hour.
"I am sure the marquis is a handsome man," said Myrtle, as soon as he had gone, "and very gentlemanly in his manners."
"I thought you appeared fascinated with him," I said.
"Oh! not in the least. I only say he is a handsome and agreeable
"Could you love such a man, Myrtle ?" I asked.
"What a very foolish question to put. I can scarcely judge of a man from a few minutes' conversation with him."
A day or two after this, Myrtle and I were roving again in the pleasant wood-it was a delicious summer evening, which I shall always remember-and as we sat or walked together, the gentle breeze wafted us the most delightful odours from some neighbouring fields of new-mown hay; the increasing shadows of the objects around us, and the scarcely heard note of a bird, reminded us that the day was fast drawing to a close. My heart was oppressed and sad, and there was an evident reserve in the demeanour of Myrtle. I deemed it no longer prudent to conceal my feelings from her, and whatever misgivings I might have as to the result, I resolved to bring the matter to an issue.
"It has occurred to me very often lately, Myrtle," I said, "that I ought no longer to stay here, when I can render your grandfather so little assistance in his declining years."
"I am convinced grandfather would not consent to your leaving us; besides, you have rendered him great service in the execution of his works."
"I have rendered him no service at all adequate to the obligations he has placed me under; there is yet another reason, Myrtle; I fear to stay longer." And I looked earnestly in her face.
"And have you ground for fear?" she said, in surprise.
I took her small white hand, which she did not permit me to detain above half a minute.
"Dear Myrtle," I said, "I will no longer attempt to conceal my feelings from you, though I apprehend you are already able to appreciate them. It is only within the last few days that I have begun to know myself, and that knowledge has taught me, that everything which I prize in life depends upon you.'
As I uttered these words her colour changed, and her bosom heaved with excitement. I drew closer towards her, and winding my arm round her waist, pressed her to my bosom.
We determined, after some consultation amongst ourselves, to remove the works of the old man to the city, and to make an appeal to the public in general. Accordingly, a suitable building was taken, and the various works of sculpture ranged with considerable taste round one of its largest chambers. In the centre of the room stood the chef-d'œuvre of the sculptor, the piece of which I have previously spoken as "THE COMFORTERS." It was scarcely even yet finished, and during the greater part of each day the old man was still busy with his tools in bringing his magnificent work to a close. On these occasions it was surrounded by a screen, so that he could work unobserved by the people.
Our exhibition was unfortunate, for there happened to be a large collection of wild beasts and dancing dogs in the city, and the attractions were so great, that the proprietors thereof appropriated all the people's money to themselves. The attempt which we had made to do justice to the sculptor entailed upon him a heavy loss, for the little patronage he received did not, by a considerable degree, enable him to meet the expenses he had incurred.
I think we had been opened about a week when an event occurred so sudden and unexpected, that it took us all by surprise. I have already said that Durand was still daily employed during certain hours upon his great work. On the day to which I refer, I was engaged in showing some of our visitors round the room, and explaining to them the subjects of the various works which we had submitted for their inspection. At length it became my duty to remove the screen which concealed "THE COMFORTERS." As soon as I had done so, a sight presented itself to me which is stamped for ever upon my memory, and is as vivid now as it was at the time of its first occurrence. At the base of this exquisite piece of statuary lay the lifeless body of Durand, with chisel and mallet in his hands. He had finished his work, for I know that on this day he was to give the finishing stroke to it, and Death, in hastening to his assistance, had thus borne testimony to the truth of his own beautiful conception.
The manuscript which furnishes us with the preceding narrative here terminates. It is not necessary to say how it fell into my possession, but the circumstances therein recorded are, I believe, substantially correct. The city (to which reference has been made) was almost totally destroyed by fire about one hundred years after the occurrence of the events just narrated. In the period between the death of Durand and the destruction of the city, a better appreciation of the fine arts had sprung up amongst the people, and the edifice in which the great works of art were deposited was the first object, at the outbreak of the conflagration, to which the attention of the citizens was mainly directed, and they succeeded in rescuing it from the fate with which it was threatened. In the most conspicuous place in the gallery stands "THE COMFORTERS," the work of Durand, and this piece of sculpture has attracted pilgrims from all parts of Europe and America, to pay their homage at the shrine of genius.
DEATH IN BATTLE.
THE hour has come to that bright-eyed, hopeful boy-the hour he has pondered and dreamt of so many, many times: he is to take a prominent part in a tremendous operation pending. He knows the little chance which exists that he will see to-morrow's sun, but the thought brings no gloom; nay, it remains but for an instant, and comes not again. He is full of life, and strength, and hope, and anticipation. The recollections of home, dear, loved home, but nerves him to his task. The path before him leads, not to death-no, not to death, he will not think this-but to honour and to fame, to the means by which he may surround those whom he loves better than his own life's blood with enjoyment and luxury. His soul fires. Come the moment-come the danger-come the strife-and come the glory!
And it has come. He has gone forward. Whose eye so bright, whose spirit so ardent, whose resolution so firm and undaunted? They