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Henry Bowen was a young artist of moderate talent, who had abandoned the farm on which he had labored as a boy, for the sake of pursuing his favorite profession. He was not competent to achieve the highest success. But he had good taste and a skillful hand, and his productions were pleasing and popular. He had formed a connection with a publisher of prints and engravings, who had thrown considerable work in his way.
"Have you any new commission to-day?" inquired the young artist, on the day before Ida's discovery that she had been employed to pass off spurious coin.
"Yes," said the publisher, "I have thought of something which may prove attractive. Just at present, pictures of children seem to be popular. I should like to have you supply me with a sketch of a flower girl, with, say, a basket of flowers in her hand. Do you comprehend my idea?"
"I believe I do," answered the artist. "Give me sufficient time, and I hope to satisfy you."
The young artist went home, and at once set to work upon the task he had undertaken. He had conceived that it would be an easy one, but found himself mistaken. Whether because his fancy was not sufficiently lively, or his mind was not in tune, he was unable to produce the effect he desired. The faces which he successively outlined were all stiff, and though beautiful in feature, lacked the great charm of being expressive and lifelike.
"What is the matter with me?" he exclaimed, impatiently. "Is it impossible for me to succeed? It's clear," he decided, "that I am not in the vein. I will go out and take a walk, and perhaps while I am in the street something may strike me."
He accordingly donned his coat and hat, and emerged into the great thoroughfare, where he was soon lost in the throng. It was only natural that, as he walked, with his task uppermost in his thoughts, he should scrutinize carefully the faces of such young girls as he met.
"Perhaps," it occurred to him, "I may get a hint from some face I see. It is strange," he mused, "how few there are, even in the freshness of childhood, that can be called models of beauty. That child, for example, has beautiful eyes, but a badly cut mouth. Here is one that would be pretty, if the face were rounded out; and here is a child--Heaven help it!--that was designed to be beautiful, but want and unfavorable circumstances have pinched and cramped it."
It was at this point in the artist's soliloquy that, in turning the corner of a street, he came upon Peg and Ida.
The artist looked earnestly at the child's face, and his own lighted up with sudden pleasure, as one who stumbles upon success just as he had begun to despair of it.
"The very face I have been looking for!" he exclaimed to himself. "My flower girl is found at last."
He turned round, and followed Ida and her companion. Both stopped at a shop window to examine some articles which were on exhibition there.
"It is precisely the face I want," he murmured. "Nothing could be more appropriate or charming. With that face the success of the picture is assured."
The artist's inference that Peg was Ida's attendant was natural, since the child was dressed in a style quite superior to her companion. Peg thought that this would enable her, with less risk, to pass spurious coin.
The young man followed the strangely assorted pair to the apartments which Peg occupied. From the conversation which he overheard he learned that he had been mistaken in his supposition as to the relation between the two, and that, singular as it seemed, Peg had the guardianship of the child. This made his course clearer. He mounted the stairs and knocked at the door.
"What do you want?" demanded a sharp voice.
"I should like to see you just a moment," was the reply.
Peg opened the door partially, and regarded the young man suspiciously.
"I don't know you," she said, shortly.
"I presume not," said the young man, courteously. "We have never met, I think. I am an artist. I hope you will pardon my present intrusion."
"There is no use in your coming here," said Peg, abruptly, "and you may as well go away. I don't want to buy any pictures. I've got plenty of better ways to spend my money than to throw it away on such trash."
No one would have thought of doubting Peg's word, for she looked far from being a patron of the arts.
"You have a young girl living with you, about seven or eight years old, have you not?" inquired the artist.
Peg instantly became suspicious.
"Who told you that?" she demanded, quickly.
"No one told me. I saw her in the street."
Peg at once conceived the idea that her visitor was aware of the fact that the child had been lured away from home; possibly he might be acquainted with the cooper's family? or might be their emissary.
"Suppose you did see such a child on the street, what has that to do with me?"
"But I saw the child entering this house with you."
"What if you did?" demanded Peg, defiantly.
"I was about," said the artist, perceiving that he was misapprehended, "I was about to make a proposition which may prove advantageous to both of us."
"Eh!" said Peg, catching at the hint. "Tell me what it is and we may come to terms."
"I must explain," said Bowen, "that I am an artist. In seeking for a face to sketch from, I have been struck by that of your child."
"Yes, if that is her name. I will pay you five dollars if you will allow me to copy her face."
"Well," she said, more graciously, "if that's all you want, I don't know as I have any objections. I suppose you can copy her face here as well as anywhere?"
"I should prefer to have her come to my studio."
"I shan't let her come," said Peg, decidedly.
"Then I will consent to your terms, and come here."
"Do you want to begin now?"
"I should like to do so."
"Come in, then. Here, Ida, I want you."
"This gentleman wants to copy your face."
Ida looked surprised.
"I am an artist," said the young man, with a reassuring smile. "I will endeavor not to try your patience too much, or keep you too long. Do you think you can stand still for half an hour without too much fatigue?"
He kept her in pleasant conversation, while, with a free, bold hand he sketched the outlines of her face.
"I shall want one more sitting," he said. "I will come to-morrow at this time."
"Stop a minute," said Peg. "I should like the money in advance. How do I know you will come again?"
"Certainly, if you desire it," said Henry Bowen.
"What strange fortune," he thought, "can have brought them together? Surely there can be no relation between this sweet child and that ugly old woman!"
The next day he returned and completed his sketch, which was at once placed in the hands of the publisher, eliciting his warm approval.
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