Twice Told Tales HTML version
The Prophetic Pictures
"But this painter!" cried Walter Ludlow, with animation. "He not only excels in his
peculiar art, but possesses vast acquirements in all other learning and science. He talks
Hebrew with Dr. Mather and gives lectures in anatomy to Dr. Boylston. In a word, he
will meet the best-instructed man among us on his own ground. Moreover, he is a
polished gentleman, a citizen of the world—yes, a true cosmopolite; for he will speak like
a native of each clime and country on the globe, except our own forests, whither he is
now going. Nor is all this what I most admire in him."
"Indeed!" said Elinor, who had listened with a women's interest to the description of such
a man. "Yet this is admirable enough."
"Surely it is," replied her lover, "but far less so than his natural gift of adapting himself to
every variety of character, insomuch that all men—and all women too, Elinor—shall find
a mirror of themselves in this wonderful painter. But the greatest wonder is yet to be
"Nay, if he have more wonderful attributes than these," said Elinor, laughing, "Boston is
a perilous abode for the poor gentleman. Are you telling me of a painter, or a wizard?"
"In truth," answered he, "that question might be asked much more seriously than you
suppose. They say that he paints not merely a man's features, but his mind and heart. He
catches the secret sentiments and passions and throws them upon the canvas like
sunshine, or perhaps, in the portraits of dark-souled men, like a gleam of infernal fire. It
is an awful gift," added Walter, lowering his voice from its tone of enthusiasm. "I shall be
almost afraid to sit to him."
"Walter, are you in earnest?" exclaimed Elinor.
"For Heaven's sake, dearest Elinor, do not let him paint the look which you now wear,"
said her lover, smiling, though rather perplexed. "There! it is passing away now; but
when you spoke, you seemed frightened to death, and very sad besides. What were you
"Nothing, nothing!" answered Elinor, hastily. "You paint my face with your own
fantasies. Well, come for me tomorrow, and we will visit this wonderful artist."
But when the young man had departed, it cannot be denied that a remarkable expression
was again visible on the fair and youthful face of his mistress. It was a sad and anxious
look, little in accordance with what should have been the feelings of a maiden on the eve
of wedlock. Yet Walter Ludlow was the chosen of her heart.