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THE MYSTERIOUS PORTRAIT.
THERE nro many things in human existence we do not under
derstund. Few individuals live their alloted span without
ono or mora of 111086 incromprehensible experiences which,
for want of tho projwr designation, are vaguely tenned "suicrnat
ural." Theso experiences are, in reality, but tho evidences of tho ex
istence of some great natural law, that will in time bo as plain to all
mankind as tho simple law of gravitation; but meanwhile they must
bo universally assigned to tho "realm of tho mysterious."
Perhaps there was never such another case as that of Gideon
Trowe. Illustrating as it does, one of tho peculiar phases or life that
scientists are over seeking to explain, it is well worthy of narration,
and I hero set down tho facts exactly as they occurred.
On a certain pleasant morning tho artist, in pursuance of -his cus
tom, walked from his private apartments near the Park to his studio
in tho same street, and, greatly to his surprise, discovered on his
easel, in tho centre of the atelier, a canvas on which was outlined
the perfect and beautiful figure of a women.
Tho fact of itself was not remarkable, for tho young man, as all
the world knew, was exclusively a portrait painter, and in tho studio
at all times were many oil and pastel likenesses in various stages of
completion; but this particular picture was of a votnen ho had never
seen: it had not been there the evening before, and of the mannc- in
which it came to be there he had not the faintest conception.
Ho was satisfied that .ho had locked tho door vjb usual when de
parting at Ave o'clock tho day previous, and he was equally certain
that it was locked on his return in the mornng, for thero were his
kejs still dangling from tho lock. How, then, had an intruder gain
Nothing was missing and everything was in its place, if tho arti
cles of f urnituro and vertu which were scattered about in artistic
negligence may truthfully be said to have had a place. It was evi
dent, therefore, that tho nocturnal visitor, or visitors, whoever they
might be, had not been bent on plunder.
However, they had not shrunk from appropriating such materials
as were needed for their purpose. Trowe noted that his paletto and
brushes had been used, and recognized tho canvas as one that he
had purchased only yesterday, and which was intended for a por
trait of young Mrs. Tescott, a rich English widow, who had been
taken with somo of his paintings exhibited abroad, and was now on
her way to New York to sit to him.
The artist gave the picture a long and careful scrutiny. There
could be no doub of its excellence, for although tho face and figure
were as yet little more than laid in, there was a certainty and finish
to every lineament that betokened tho work of a master hand. The
figure was full length, standing in an attitude of dreamy meditation,
and was nude. Nothing classic or historic wa& represented; it was
simply a portrait and a study.
Who was tho artist-and who was the model? Tho moro Trowo
puzzled over tho mystery the moro of a mystery it became. Who
was there among his fellow aitists who would presume to forco a
way into his studio in his absence and make free with his materials?
And what an insane notion prompted the painting of such a picture
at night, in this mysterious manner?
He examined tho lock of the door, but there was no evidence of its
having been tampered with; he made inquiries of tho janitor, but
that functionary bad seen no strangers in the building tho night bo
fore. At last the artist gave uo tho investigation, and turning tho
canvas to the wall, proceeded with a work he had under way for tho
private gallery of a local connaisseur. However, ho was nervous and
restless, and found it impossible to apply himself, so that ho finally
left the studio in "tisgust, taking special precaution to lock the door
as he went out.
The next morning he was still further astonished to find that tho
mysterious picture had been worked on during the night. It occu-
pied tho easel, as before and the colors were fresh on paletto and
brushes. The artist had evidently labored rapidly at his task, for
tho painting was very materially advanced, and presented many
.qualities of grace and beauty which had not been apparrent in its
Trowe was fairly dumbfounded. It occurred to him that he
was the victim of a practical joke, but the high character of tho
work and the evident sincerity of its conception dispelled the idea.
A painting like that was never originated in a spirit of humor.
Withal, there was something in the whole proceeding that impress
ed him with the most indescriblo sensation; tho mjstery of tho
affair assumed an exaggerated importance and preyed upon his mind
and unsteadied his nerves. Had he believed in tho so called super
natural, ho must have thought tho picture tho work of spirit hands.
For its existence in his.studio ho could hit upon absolutely no plaus
The woman's face and figure began to havo a fascination for him,
and aroused his profoundest admiration and interest. Tho canvas
was not again turned to the wall, and he found it difficult to pursue
his work for gazing upon it. Indeed, the whole day passed without
his accomplishing a single satisfactory stroke of his brush.
That night, executing a plan determined upon during tho day, ho
remained in the studio in opaque darkness, watching for a third
visit of tho unknown artist and model. But they came not, and the
picture was in no way altered in appearance. Bafllcd, he returned
homo at sunrise and slept half the day.
On tho succeeding morning, however, the picture again presented
a marked advance. In truth, it evidenced marvelous progress to
ward completion. The color and texture of tho fair skin were done
with exquisite deliacy and the art that conceals art. The really
transcendent merit of tho masterpiece now revealed itself, and
charmed Trowe the artist quite as much as the su object charmed
Trowe tho man.
"If it is the work of a spirit," said the mystified painter to him
self, "surely tho spirit is that of Titian or Raffeal."
He knew of no living artist that could paint liko that. It was far
greater work than any of which he had demonstrated himself capa
ble. It combined strength and beauty to an extent that insured
dying fame to its creator.
But his admiration of its superlative technical value was d'tnmed
by his enthusiasm for the glory of the subject it portrayed. What
manner of model was this that possessed all tho attributes of an
oriental ideal? It would nave appeared liko profanation to conceal
with senseless drapery tho least of her youthful perfections. Tho
philosophers that havo declared that Nature never makes anything
perfect, could not have seen the glorious and radiant creature this
Who was she? A thousand times Trowo asked himself the ques
tion. And a thousand times it remained unanswered.
So deeply wa he affected that sho now became as a real presence
to him, and he sat gazing upon her in a sort of rapture, abandoning
all attempt to continue his labors, ne locked the door against tho
intrusion of patrons and visitors, of whom ho developed a sudden
jealousy lest they should insult her naked beauty with an evil
thought. Ho also began to dread lest some ono should come to take
her away and thus djprive him of an object ho now deemed priceless
and indispensihic to his happiness.
In Bhort, Gideon Irwe was in love with n being ho had never
seen a mysterious creaflnof the night that came whence he knew
not, that might not even bo of oarth, so fur as ho could tell, whoso
only semblence, as discovered to hhu. was this shadow on tho cau
vas. To bolve the mystery enshrouding her, to learn her identity if
she be a living women, now became the dominant purpose or his
Tho inscrutable circumstances or tho case and tho intensity of his
strange passion told heavily upon his physical nature. Uo had" not
been in good health for moro than a mouth past, and now a great
nervousness and depression beset all his waking hours. Ho discou-
tiuued his work altogether, and gave himself up to tho absorbing
contemplation of tho mysterious picture.
Day by day it grew, unfolding its beauties to his eager oyes as a
flower unfolds its graces to tho sun. A second and still a third night
ho watched in vain for the appearance of tho nocturnal artist and
his model. Then seeing that by this useless vigilance ho but deter
red the completion of the portrait, ho forbore from further investi
gation, and preserved his custom of departing from the studio with
In good time he resolved he should kuow and understand.
It made him feverishly happy to gaze on that beautiful form, and
dwell on the joy of holding its living counterpart to his heart. Each
day he speculated on tho nature and extent of tho improvement that
should take place in the picture during the succeeding night, and
each morning was gratified to see that tho identical improvement
he had foreshadowed had really been made, only his ideas were al
ways" enchauced and exalted.
More and more lifelike grew tho painted form, and as Trowe
lingered before her, gazing into her dreamy eyes, he wsa so impress-
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