Mosses from an Old Manse and other stories
The Artist Of The Beautiful
An elderly man, with his pretty daughter on his arm, was passing along the street, and
emerged from the gloom of the cloudy evening into the light that fell across the pavement
from the window of a small shop. It was a projecting window; and on the inside were
suspended a variety of watches, pinchbeck, silver, and one or two of gold, all with their
faces turned from the streets, as if churlishly disinclined to inform the wayfarers what
o'clock it was. Seated within the shop, sidelong to the window with his pale face bent
earnestly over some delicate piece of mechanism on which was thrown the concentrated
lustre of a shade lamp, appeared a young man.
"What can Owen Warland be about?" muttered old Peter Hovenden, himself a retired
watchmaker, and the former master of this same young man whose occupation he was
now wondering at. "What can the fellow be about? These six months past I have never
come by his shop without seeing him just as steadily at work as now. It would be a flight
beyond his usual foolery to seek for the perpetual motion; and yet I know enough of my
old business to be certain that what he is now so busy with is no part of the machinery of
"Perhaps, father," said Annie, without showing much interest in the question, "Owen is
inventing a new kind of timekeeper. I am sure he has ingenuity enough."
"Poh, child! He has not the sort of ingenuity to invent anything better than a Dutch toy,"
answered her father, who had formerly been put to much vexation by Owen Warland's
irregular genius. "A plague on such ingenuity! All the effect that ever I knew of it was to
spoil the accuracy of some of the best watches in my shop. He would turn the sun out of
its orbit and derange the whole course of time, if, as I said before, his ingenuity could
grasp anything bigger than a child's toy!"
"Hush, father! He hears you!" whispered Annie, pressing the old man's arm. "His ears are
as delicate as his feelings; and you know how easily disturbed they are. Do let us move
So Peter Hovenden and his daughter Annie plodded on without further conversation, until
in a by-street of the town they found themselves passing the open door of a blacksmith's
shop. Within was seen the forge, now blazing up and illuminating the high and dusky
roof, and now confining its lustre to a narrow precinct of the coal-strewn floor, according
as the breath of the bellows was puffed forth or again inhaled into its vast leathern lungs.
In the intervals of brightness it was easy to distinguish objects in remote corners of the
shop and the horseshoes that hung upon the wall; in the momentary gloom the fire
seemed to be glimmering amidst the vagueness of unenclosed space. Moving about in
this red glare and alternate dusk was the figure of the blacksmith, well worthy to be
viewed in so picturesque an aspect of light and shade, where the bright blaze struggled
with the black night, as if each would have snatched his comely strength from the other.
Anon he drew a white-hot bar of iron from the coals, laid it on the anvil, uplifted his arm