A Cathedral Singer by James Lane Allen


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Page 2

"But among a hundred models there might not be one to arouse such
emotion. Actually in the world, among the thousands of people we know,
how few stir in us our best, force us to our best! It is the rarest
experience of our lifetimes that we meet a man or a woman who literally
drives us to the realization of what we really are and can really do
when we do our best. What we all most need in our careers is the one who
can liberate within us that lifelong prisoner whose doom it is to remain
a captive until another sets it free--our best. For we can never set our
best free by our own hands; that must always be done by another."

They were listening to him with a startled recognition of their inmost
selves. He went on to drive home his point about the stranger:

"I am going to introduce to you, then, a model who beyond all the others
you have worked with will liberate in you your finer selves. It is a
rare opportunity. Do not thank me. I did not find her. Life's storms
have blown her violently against the walls of the art school; we must
see to it at least that she be not further bruised while it becomes her
shelter, her refuge. Who she is, what her life has been, where she comes
from, how she happens to arrive here--these are privacies into which of
course we do not intrude. Immediately behind herself she drops a curtain
of silence which shuts away every such sign of her past. But there are
other signs of that past which she cannot hide and which it is our
privilege, our duty, the province of our art, to read. They are written
on her face, on her hands, on her bearing; they are written all over
her--the bruises of life's rudenesses, the lingering shadows of dark
days, the unwounded pride once and the wounded pride now, the
unconquerable will, a soaring spirit whose wings were meant for the
upper air but which are broken and beat the dust. All these are sublime
things to paint in any human countenance; they are the footprints of
destiny on our faces. The greatest masters of the brush that the world
has ever known could not have asked for anything greater. When you
behold her, perhaps some of you may think of certain brief but eternal
words of Pascal: 'Man is a reed that bends but does not break.' Such is
your model, then, a woman with a great countenance; the fighting face of
a woman at peace. Now out upon the darkened battle-field of this
woman's face shines one serene sun, and it is that sun that brings out
upon it its marvelous human radiance, its supreme expression: the love
of the mother. Your model is the beauty of motherhood, the sacredness of
motherhood, the glory of motherhood: that is to be the portrait of her
that you are to paint."

He stopped. Their faces glowed; their eyes disclosed depths in their
natures never stirred before; from out those depths youthful, tender
creative forces came forth, eager to serve, to obey. He added a few
particulars:

"For a while after she is posed you will no doubt see many different
expressions pass rapidly over her face. This will be a new and painful
experience to which she will not be able to adapt herself at once. She
will be uncomfortable, she will be awkward, she will be embarrassed,
she will be without her full value. But I think from what I discovered
while talking with her that she will soon grow oblivious to her
surroundings. They will not overwhelm her; she will finally overwhelm
them. She will soon forget you and me and the studio; the one ruling
passion of her life will sweep back into consciousness; and then out
upon her features will come again that marvelous look which has almost
remodeled them to itself alone."

He added, "I will go for her. By this time she must be waiting
down-stairs."

As he turned he glanced at the screens placed at that end of the room;
behind these the models made their preparations to pose.

"I have arranged," he said significantly, "that she shall leave her
things down-stairs."

It seemed long before they heard him on the way back. He came slowly, as
though concerned not to hurry his model, as though to save her from the
disrespect of urgency. Even the natural noise of his feet on the bare
hallway was restrained. They listened for the sounds of her footsteps.
In the tense silence of the studio a pin-drop might have been
noticeable, a breath would have been audible; but they could not hear
her footsteps. He might have been followed by a spirit. Those feet of
hers must be very light feet, very quiet feet, the feet of the
well-bred.

He entered and advanced a few paces and turned as though to make way for
some one of far more importance than himself; and there walked forward
and stopped at a delicate distance from them all a woman, bareheaded,
ungloved, slender, straight, of middle height, and in life's middle
years--Rachel Truesdale.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Mon 16th Dec 2019, 10:20