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whole poem. After kindling his fire, slaying his heifers, and offering a portion to each of the twelve gods,
- his mind became aware
Tempted him, though immortal. Nathless
Though what it cost him words can scarce express.' Here, you see, is real self-denial and self-conquest,-for the sake of making an acceptable sacrifice,—and their deep after delight."
" If the offering had been less ill-gotten," remarked Bergan, somewhat dryly, “I think the 'touch' would have been still finer.”
“I confess that I had forgotten all about that,” said Astra, laughing, “in my admiration of the infant god's mastery over himself. Still, we cannot expect to find the purity of the Gospel standard of life in the heathen mythology; we can but be thankful for the gleams of Divine light here and there irradiating it, since a whole people long lived and died under its sanction. But, at this rate, my story will never end! The baby god next proceeded to remove every trace of his holocaust, working all night ‘in the serene moonshine.' Then, at break of day, he betook himself to his natal cavern, crept quickly to his cradle, pulled his 'ambrosial swaddling clothes about him,' and put on a soft semblance of new-born innocence. In due time, Apollo, having discovered the loss of his cattle, and suspecting who was the rogue, came to the cavern, found the subtle, 'swindling baby,'' lying swathed in his sly wiles,' and taxed him with the theft. the young 'god of lies' shows forth his character. He stoutly denies all knowledge of the mischief; he pathetically declares,
'I am but a little newborn thing.
My business is to suck and sleep and fling
Or, half-asleep, hear my sweet mother sing. ---
And hushed and kissed and kept secure from harm :and, finally, he swears that he does not even know ‘ whatever things cows are!' However, Apollo turns a deaf ear to all his wiles and pleadings, and compels him to go before Jupiter ; who laughs to hear his plausible account of himself,—' and every word a lie,'—but finally bids him show Apollo where he has hidden the stolen cattle. This he does, nothing loth,' and finally subdues the sun-god
- by the might
sweet as love,
Listened with all his soul, and laughed with pleasure.' And here we may as well leave them. For the rest of the story,—as well as for many pleasant pictures and nice touches, of which my abstract gives no hint,--you should go to the poem itself.”
“I shall be sure to do so,” said Bergan, “with this arch, airy little figure to lead the way. But it should be in marble, it seems to me, rather than in plaster.”
Astra smiled gravely. “For that, a patron-or, at least, a purchaser-is needed. Marble is expensive as well as indestructible; few artists can afford to put their works into its safe keeping, without help. And perhaps it is as well that such is the case, else Posterity would never be able to bear the stony accumulation that would be heaped on its back."
“I think I can venture to promise that it would never feel this airy creation to be a burden," said Bergan, earnestly.
“I hope not. But my little Mercury is still my youngest darling, and I feel all a mother's partiality for it; I have no eyes for its faults. When the inevitable time of disenchantment comes, and I am able to see it as it is, I can better tell whether I care to commit it to the white immortality of marble.”
She continued to gaze at the statue for some moments with fond, dreamy, wistful eyes,—just as a mother might regard her newborn infant. Bergan felt a slight pang in beholding this nearness of the work to its author, this strong, tender, indissoluble bond between the two. Would ever any work of his—any brief, or plea-come from such a warm depth of his heart, and embody so much of his life? A poet, a musician even, might know something of this deep gladness of creation; but a lawyer, a judge, dealing with dry reason and dusty legal enactments,—was there any such joy in his work for him?
Leaving the question unanswered,-as he must needs do, until time and experience should come to his help, Bergan turned anew to the contemplation of the Mercury; which seemed to grow in beauty and power, as he continued to look. It would be hard to say how much of this pleasurable effect was due to the inherent charm of the work, and how much to the spell shed from the rapt face and softly illuminated eyes of the artist. Many a work that we look upon but coldly, would quickly find its way to our hearts, if we knew enough of its history and its author, to give us the clue to its subtler spirit and aim; while those which we love without such knowledge, would, by its help, be transfigured -glorified. If we could stand with Michael Angelo before his “Moses," or with Guido before his triumphant “ Archangel," what new lights of interpretation would be lit for us at the eyes and lips of those great masters!
Nor must it be said that the spectator may be dazzled by the artist's enthusiasm into awarding the work higher praise than a cooler judgment would sanction. For just here lies the truth which is too often overlooked in criti. cism, both of literature and art. If the critic be not in sympathy with the worker, if he do not, in some measure, behold the work through his eyes, if he cannot discern what was attempted as well as what is attained, then his
eyes will be partially holden both from the beauties and the faults of the work. For nothing, in life or art, was meant to be looked at by itself. Everything is related to something else; each helps all. The moment wherein the spectator's mood and the artist's work make sweet harmony, is the moment of correct appreciation.
If Bergan did not understand what an illumination the
presence of Miss Lyte threw over her work, he was fully conscious that her work shed a transfiguring light over her. The face under the whispering oak boughs was not the same as this in the studio. That had been simply bright and mobile, with a spice of espiéglerie ; this was all alight and astir with genius. Miss Lyte's very hand partook of the transformation. Bergan had happened to notice its symmetrical shape, as revealed by a careless gesture, at their first meeting ; but he now decided that it was not so much its beauty which had attracted his attention, as a certain peculiarity of delicate energy and adroitness, which ought of itself to have suggested its artistic skill.
Bergan's eye fell next on the pedestal of the Mercury, improvised by turning up on end the packing-box in which it had arrived. The lid lay on the floor, in two pieces, and was surmounted by a sturdy-looking hammer and chisel. Bergan's glance went back to that slender hand, with an unconscious question in it, which Astra was quick to understand.
“Why not?" she said, with a smile. might have called in old Cato to open the box; but he would have done it so slowly and awkwardly that I should have suffered tortures in watching him ; it was easier to do it myself. To be sure,” she went on, taking up the hammer and chisel, “these are not quite so fit for a lady's hands as the lighter and slenderer implements that I use in modelling; but I like them well, nevertheless. It would go hard with me here, in this quiet country town, away from all aids and appliances of art, if I were not on very good terms with purely mechanical labour. I made the mould, from which that cast was taken, myself ;" she pointed to the Mercury.
Bergan looked as if he scarcely understood.
suppose you are aware,” pursued Astra, “ that the word ‘sculptor' is a misnomer now-a-days. The real sculpture—that is, the marble cutting-except a few finishing touches, is done by artisans skilled in that work. The plaster casts are made by regular casters, from moulds taken from clay models. These last only are the work of the artist throughout, shaped by his fingers, and informed by his thought. See, here is the raw material of
“Of course, I
rupted the flow of his thoughts with a question as to their character.
“I was thinking," replied he,“ of the many differing shapes--lovely, grand, sorrowful, joyous, winning, repul. sive, that might be lurking within your tub. And I was wondering which of them you would next call forth."
“Think, rather,” said Astra, smiling, "of all the shapes that I have sent into it.”
“You do not mean to say that you use the same clay over again ?" exclaimed Bergan, in surprise.
“Certainly I do. It loses none of its adaptability by use. In that tub is the original clay of everything that you see in my studio-all the busts, statues, and reliefs, that I have ever done or tried to do—all my successes and all my failures; every one of them has gone into that tab, even as it came out of it."
“ Creation and death !” exclaimed Bergan. “ Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.' It is a world in miniature !"
“And does it not also show that there is nothing new under the sun?” said Astra. " It is always the old material in new shapes, the old thought in new phraseology, the old human nature in new conditions, even the old particles of disintegrated human bodies in new organisms."
“And yet,” remarked Bergan, musingly, “the spirit, the idea, that informed those bodies, and gave them identity, is not lost, as your Mercury shows plainly. The being that you have created lives, and glows with all his proper warmth and fire, even though his original substance has not only returned whence it came, but has helped to frame an entirely different being."
“The natural body and the spiritual body," returned Astra. “Not that the two processes are really analogous, I do not mean that; but one naturally suggests the other to the mind. And, seeing how I am thus able to accomplish a kind of resurrection, in a way that I understand, I do not find it difficult to believe that the Almighty can do it, in a way that I do not understand, and far more per. fectly, retaining not only the indwelling spirit, but enough of the individual clay to justify Job's saying, 'In my
flesh I shall see God.'”
The thought kept them both silent for a moment; then Bergan turned to see what else of interest was to be found in the studio.
The completed works were not many; Miss Lyte was still too young to have made a large accumulation of such things. There was a bust, with a very sweet and noble expression, wherein she had embodied her recollections of a fellow-student in art. There was a half-sleepy, halfashamed boy-face, looking out from under the shadow of a drooping hat, representing " Little Boy Blue," of nursery fame. There was a winged cherub, with an exceedingly lovely, innocent face, a very incarnation of celestial joy and peace. In relief, there was a stout urchin, ankle-deep in water, laden with pond-lilies, and looking for more. Finally, there were innumerable studies,
my work !"
She pointed to a large triangular box in one corner of her closet, filled with fine, moist clay. She even leaned over it, and inhaled its earthy odour, with a kind of affection.
Bergan also looked into it so long, so silently, and with so meditative an aspect, that Miss Lyte finally inter
sketches, and designs, with all the warmth and freshness of the original inspiration lingering about them, which interested Bergan scarcely less than the finished work, as admitting him still more freely into the arcana of the artist's mind and method.
He was especially interested to observe in how many directions the genius of Miss Lyte had tried its wing. There were studies, and even finished pictures, in oil and in crayon; there was an exquisitely cut cameó, fastened on a background of velvet; there were designs for stained glass windows; and in all there was a curious medley of subjects—scriptural, mythological, historical, domestic, and still-life. It was plain that she had been slowly feeling her way to some point where she could take her final stand, and see her life-work lying clear and fair before her. Had she found it? Looking at the Mercury, Bergan could almost believe that she had; but glancing again at her deep, wistful eyes, he doubted it. A little more time, a profounder and wider experience, would settle her genius, fix her aims, and make her capable of things far higher than aught that she had yet achieved.
Meanwhile, never, he thought, was anything quite so inspiriting as her conversation. As she went with him from statue to statue, and sketch to sketch, talking frankly of her difficulties and struggles, her failures and successes, her aims and aspirations,-now dropping a fertile suggestion, now pointing out a subtile analogy, now giving the key-note to some elevating strain of thought,-she seemed to radiate energy, and exhale inspiration. Listening to her, Bergan's depression and discouragement vanished like mists before the sunshine. When he went back to his studio, it was with new strength and courage and ambition. Somehow, life had ceased to look unsympatbizing, and success remote.
them in the degree of easy comfort and luxury to which they had long been accustomed. In due time changes and sacrifices became necessary ; among which may be mentioned the letting of the vacant medical office to Doctor Remy, and the subsequent handing over of other dispensable rooms to the occupancy of Bergan Arling.
Before this last arrangement was effected, however, Astra had gone to New York, to see what could be done to make her art productive of something besides pleasure. That had been a very bright moment, amid the gloom and straitness following upon her father's death, wherein it had occurred to her that she possessed in brain and fingers, in her wonderful power of kneading together thought and matter into beautiful and significant shapes, the means of restoring to her mother the ease and independence which had been impaired by her father's death. Never had her art looked so divine as when it cast aside the soft drapery of personal gratifications and aims, and stood forth a young athlete, eager for strife, a sturdy son of toil, ready to earn its bread by the sweat of its brow.
Not that Astra expected to win success all at once, or quickly. There was a vast deal of practicality underlying her imaginativeness and enthusiasm,-the solid foundation which is needed to make genius available. She foresaw (no one more clearly) the difficulties, delays, and disappointments before her. But what of that? She was young; she was in good health; she had a courageous heart, an energetic temperament, and buoyant spirits; she could afford to work and wait. Her tastes were simple, her wants, outside the domain of art, few,-and, even there, deficiencies could be supplied, in a measure, by severe study and closer application. If the superior masters, the sojourn in Europe, to which she had looked forward, were denied her, she was not going to break her heart nor cloud her brow, about it. God, who had given her talent, would not leave her without due means of increase. Her duty was to work, to be brave, and to be cheerful ; all else would come in good time.
This, then, was the sort of a person who had now come to dwell under the same roof with Bergan; and who straightway set to work in her studio, which was divided from his office only by the airy breadth of the main hall. Of course, he saw her frequently; her art afforded them broader, freer ground upon which to meet than is always open to man and woman. Not that the proprieties need have been scandalized had Miss Lyte's occupation been the embroidering of roses in worsted, instead of the modelling of figures in clay; for the door between studio and sitting-room stood always open, and Mrs. Lyte, from her work-table, frequently threw a passing remark into the conversation that came so freely to her ears; while Cathie continually flashed in and out like a fire-fly or a humming bird. But the worsted roses would scarcely have constituted a subject of mutual interest for the young man and woman, as did the clay figures ; nor would the talks over them have run so naturally, and almost inevitably, upon the same elevated and impersonal plane of thought.
Up to this time, the history of Astra Lyte may be compressed into a few sentences. She was the daughter of Dr. Harvey Lyte, who had been, for many years, the leading physician of Berganton. Her artistic talent having early manifested itself, her father had taken pleasure in fostering and developing it; first, by giving her the benefit of whatever rudimentary instruction the neighbourhood offered, and then, by affording her a year's enjoyment of the best art advantages to be procured in New York.
Little more than a year ago, however, the good doctor had been forced to succumb, in his own person, to the two powerful foes that he had spent his lifetime in battling for others,-namely, disease and death. His professional income necessarily dying with him, only a moderate provision remained for his family; enough to enable them to eat the bread of carefulness, but not sufficient to maintain
Setting the worker entirely aside, Bergan could not fail to be deeply interested in the work. He liked to understand its process, and watch its progress. It was wonderful to him to see the dull clay slowly taking the shape of the viewless, informing thought. He went back to his office, not only with a deeper comprehension of the respective functions of mind and matter, but with a wider view of their scope and influence. Words, he saw, were also a kind of plastic material, through which thought revealed itself to eye and ears. He began to study expression as well as meaning; he selected words, and constructed sentences, with greater care and conscientiousness; he saw that, since thought could only become visible through form, form was a matter of more moment, and involved a stricter duty than he had hitherto believed.
But if Bergan learned so much from the work, it must be acknowledged that he also learned something from the worker. She was so loyal to her art and her aims. She wrought with such cheerful diligence, such unwasting enthusiasm, and such thorough conscientiousness. Having dane the best of which she was capable, she maintained such a steady front against the assaults of depression and discouragement, deploying their forces upon the wide space between her conception and her achievement. If she failed, she cheerfully declared that the failure had taught her more than any success could have done, and commenced anew; if she succeeded, she was soberly glad, as having gained an inch or two of the field, over which, however, it might be long ere she could wave the banner of victory. The spectacle could not fail to have a healthful influence upon Bergan, inasmuch as Miss Lyte's patrons were not more numerous than his clients; he saw that she kept her face bright, and her spirit brave, under very real trials of limitation, delay, and disappointment. He always went to his own work with a stouter heart and steadier purpose, after watching hers for some moments; whether she merely retouched and revised the preceding day's labour, with minute, inexhaustible patience; or quietly gathered up the fragments of a model overtaken by sudden disaster ; or moulded moist clay, with rapt face, eyes lit by a deep, inward fire, and fingers so swift and forceful as to suggest the guidance of some unseen power. In this last case, he did not disturb her by so much as a word. He only looked on in silence until her white heat of inspiration had kindled something like a kindred glow in his own mind; when he noiselessly stole out, to plunge into his own work with renewed ardour. We may well believe that, just at the moment when Bergan's lonely life and dim prospects were beginning to tell upon his spirits and energies, it was not without providential design that an object so inspiring and heartening as Astra Lyte in her studio, was placed before his eyes.
Nor was the benefit wholly on one side. Astra found real help and cheer in Bergan's intelligent interest and hearty appreciation. Moreover, he was quick to see whenever mechanical contrivance or manly strength could
come to her aid; and he knew how to furnish both, in fit and delicate measure. His perceptions were scarcely less nice than her own; he knew just when to extend the helping hand, and when to withdraw it; neither hesitation nor officiousness marred his aid.
But Bergan was not the only visitor at the studio. Doctor Remy's straight-featured, intellectual face was often to be seen there, with its chill and satirical expression half-obliterated by a look of kindly interest. And his aid was not less ready than Bergan's, and, perhaps, more valuable. Hints and criticisms, suggested by his profound anatomical and physiological knowledge, often came just in time to prevent a blunder or clinch a success.
So time rolled on, for another month or two, doing much for the growth of acquaintance, and even a degree of intimacy, between the artist, the lawyer, and the physician, thus thrown together under one roof, but very little for the pecuniary advantage of the two former. Astra had received a commission for a small portraitmedallion ; Bergan had been employed to draw up a few law papers. The two often exchanged good-humoured jests upon the manifest ability of the world to get on without their help. But it was a much more serious matter for the young man than the maiden. Astra had understood that, Art being a luxury, it must first create the demand which it meant to supply; but Bergan knew well that law was neither unknown nor unsought, in Berganton. Courts were held, and lawyers gathered there; it was strange that so little of the work came to his hands. Meanwhile, the funds with which he had been supplied, on leaving home, were rapidly melting away; and he was unwilling to apply for more, both because he desired to be self-dependent, and disliked to admit failure.
He was sitting in his office, one afternoon, dividing his thoughts between his books and the unpromising state of his affairs, when there came a cautious knock at the door.
“Come in !” he called out, wondering if his longexpected client were about to present himself.
First, appeared a black hand and a nondescript hat; next, a woolly head and a wide, delighted grin; finally, a loose, slouching form, in a shapeless suit of plantation grey. No client was this. It was only his would-be property, Brick.
Perhaps Bergan's disappointment showed itself in his countenance, for the negro hastily began to explain the reason of his coming. “Gramma Rue, she sent me, massa.
She don't feel right smart, dese yere times, an' she say she tink her days drawin' to her close, an' she's mighty anxious to see you, massa, 'fore she done gone. So she tole me to ax you, could n' you come to yer ole room in de Hall some ob dese yere ebenings, jes' so's to gib her a chance to talk wid you. Ole massa need n' know nothin' 'bout it; he's allers safe 'nough in de cottage dem times. An' she hopes you'l
hab de kin'ness to come, 'case she's got suthin' bery partic'lar to say to you."
Bergan hesitated. He could not visit the old Hall without reviving painful recollections; besides, it did not suit his natural straightforwardness to go thither in a halfclandestine way. Yet how could he refuse the urgent request of Maumer Rue, weighted not only with the probability of coming death, but with the consideration of her long, faithful, life service of his mother's family? And, after all, there was no great harm in a visit to the deserted Hall, to gratify an old, infirm, attached dependant. He certainly need do no skulking; if he chanced to come upon his uncle, he could fairly and frankly face both him and the situation.
Accordingly, he directed his evening stroll toward Bergan Hall. It was an obscure night of late March. A grey veil of cloud covered the wide expanse of sky from horizon to zenith, through which only the faintest light struggled, to guide his steps up the ruined avenue. He could not but be reminded of his first forlorn coming upon the desolate scene, even though he was obliged to confess that, in some respects, matters were mending. Though the Hall stood silent and ruinous as before under the sighing oaks, it was not wholly dark. An arch of light shone above the doorway, and a second gleam came invitingly from the window of the room that he had once called his own. The door, too, yielded readily to his pressure. At this rate of improvement, a few years might easily transform the shadow-haunted old ruin into a cheery, heart-warm home.
It was only a passing thought, and did not slacken in the least the light, quick step with which he ran up to his old room.
Rue had done her best to give it a look of home and welcome. A fire blazed on the hearth, and reddened the walls; his favourite arm-chair was drawn before it; near by stood a round table, with two tall candles, a few scattered books, and a tray of refreshments. It all looked strangely familiar: there was the secretary at which he had written his letters home; there was the book that he had been reading, with his mark between the leaves; there was the Aute, so few of whose long-prisoned harmonies he had been able to set free. Was it really five months since he saw them last?
Rue was not in the room when he entered it; it did not suit her notion of their respective positions to assume any quality of hostess. But she almost immediately appeared, and greeted him with tearful affection and respect. Bergan looked at her narrowly, and was pained to see that her tall form had lost much of its old erect stateliness, and that she leaned heavily on her cane as she walked. Still there was no sign of immediate loosing of the silver lifecord; on the whole, he thought that she bore her heavy burden of years wonderfully well, and the thought came naturally to his lips.
It may seem so," replied the old woman, with a slow shake of her head, “but I feel a greater change than you can see, Master Bergan. Till now, I never knew anything
about the chill or the heaviness of age; it has come upon me all at once. I do not think, any more than you do, that the end itself is close at hand; but the beginning of the end is certainly here. Let it come as soon as the Lord wills; He knows I'm ready. Only it is borne in upon me that there's something more for me to do for the family before I leave their service, though I cannot rightly see what. Sometimes I am almost sure that it's just to see that you are put into your rightful place as the master of Bergan Hall. If that is all that I am waiting for, I wish it might be done quickly. Couldn't you make up your mind to come back here now, if Master Harry would ask you kindly? I know I can get him to do it.”
“Indeed I could not, Maumer,” answered Bergan, quietly, but very firmly. “I am not yet in a position to treat with my uncle, on equal terms; and I am less than ever inclined to be dependent upon him, or any one. Let me beg you to give yourself no further care or thought in the matter."
Rue sighed deeply. There was something in the young man's tone that forestalled either argument or entreaty.
“Pardon an old woman's curiosity,” she said, at length, “but are you very much nearer to independence than when you left here?”
“I cannot say that I am."
have much to do in the way of your profession?
“I could easily do more.”
There was a slight dryness in Bergan's intonation that did not escape the blind woman's quick ear.
“Come with me, please ; I have something to show you,” said she, turning toward the door. “You had better bring a light, too; you will need it, though I do not.”
She led the way to a large room on the other side of the hall—the bed-chamber and death-chamber, too) of the mansion's departed owners. It was lined from floor to ceiling, with carved and panelled wainscoting. Rue went straightway to one side, not far from the mantel, ran her fingers carefully over the dark, uneven surface, and finally pressed hard on a projecting point.
“Now, Master Bergan," said she, pointing to a great, carved acorn, “take hold of that, and push this way.”
Bergan obeyed, and a considerable portion of the wainscoting slid easily to one side, disclosing a small room or closet, so artfully contrived between wall and chimney that its existence could never have been suspected. It was lighted and ventilated by a window, and furnished with an arm-chair, and a massive, old-fashioned secretary. Rue opened one of the compartments of the latter, and revealed several small canvas bags, which, it was easy to see, contained gold and silver coin.
Bergan was naturally a good deal surprised at sight of the hidden horde. It seemed scarcely credible that any. man in his senses should care to lay up such idle store of the precious metals, which might otherwise be profitably employed in an easy process of self-augmentation. Still,