When I left the Academy of the Reverend Mr. Blatherskite, after four years' board and educational experience, it
was with a profound confidence in books and a supreme contempt for the world — in which cosmogony I included all
kinds of practical institutions. With a strong poetical
imagination, a memory saturated with fictitious narrative,
and a sensitive temperament full of salient angles not yet
rubbed off by contact with society, I easily glided into the
The great vagabond principle peculiar to such tempera
ments led me to wander. A love for the beautiful made me
an artist. A small patrimony sufficed my wants; and so,
one day, I found myself loitering, pencil and sketch book
in hand, in one of the pleasantest midland counties in
Near the village where I tarried, a noble estate spread
over the country. All that the refined taste of a great
family — whose wealth was incalculable — had gathered in
successive generations, lay in that ancestral park. The same
liberal spirit which had adorned it, opened its gates to the
curious stranger; and here it was that I picked up many
a woodland sketch, a study, a suggestive grouping of light
and shadow, which you may see in those two pictures numbered
in the catalogue of the Academy of Design respectively as
Nos. 190006 and 190007, and to which the "Art
Journal" so favorably alluded as "the happiest pre-Eaphael-
ite effort of the gifted Van Daub."
One July afternoon, — the air had that quivering intensity of heat, which I think is as palpable to sight as feeling, after a quiet stroll in the park, I reached the margin
of a sylvan lake. A lawn, girdled by oaks and beeches,
loped toward it in a semicircle for some few hundred feet,
and its margin was decorated with statuary. Here was Diana
and her hounds, Actseon, Pan and pipe, Satyrs, Fauns, Naiads,
Dryads, and numberless deities of both elements. The spot
was rural, weird, and fascinating. I threw myself luxuriously on the sward beside it.
I had forgotten to mention a strong predilection of mine.
I was passionately fond of swimming. The air was opprsssivethe surface of the lake looked cool and tempting;
thsre was nothing to prevent an indulgence of my propensity but the fear of interruption. The knowledge that the
family were absent from the mansion, that few strangers passed
thai way, and the growing lateness of the hour determined me.
I divested myself of my garments on the wooded margin, and
plunged boldly in. How deliciously the thirsty pores drank
up the pure element! I dived. I rolled over like a dolphin. I swam to the opposite side, by the lawn, and among
ths v/hispering reeds I floated idly on my back, glancing at
ihs statues, and thinking of the quaint legends which had
shadowed them forth. My mind enthusiastically dwelt upon
the pleasures of its sensuous life. "Happy,'' said I, "were
the days when Naiads sported in these waters ! Blest were
the innocent and peaceful Dryads who inhabited the boles
of yonder oaks. Beautiful was the sentiment, and exquisite
the fancy which gave to each harmonious element of nature
a living embodiment." Alas, if I had only been content
with thinking this nonsense ! But then it was that the following solemnly ridiculous idea took possession of me. A
few strokes brought me to the bank, and gathering some
alder boughs, I twined their green leaves intermixed with
rushes around my loins. A few more I twisted into a
wreath around my foolish cranium. Thus crowned, I surveyed myself with unmixed satisfaction in the watery mirror. I might have been Actseon in person, or a graceful
Dryad of the masculine gender. The illusion in either case
I was still looking when I was startled at the sound of
voices. Conceive of my dismay on turning around and perceiving a crowd of well-dressed ladies and gentlemen, scattered in groups about the lawn. It at once rushed upon my
mind that the family had returned with company. What
was to be done? My clothes were on the opposite shore.
An open space intervening between myself and the woods
rendered escape in that direction impossible without detec
tion. As yet I was unperceived. But a party of both
sexes were approaching by a path which led directly toward
me. I looked around in anguish. A few feet from me
arose a pyramidal pedestal of some statue; but Time, the
iconoclast, had long ago tumbled the battered monolith into
the lake. A brilliant idea struck me. I had got myself
into this horrible scrape by the foolish impersonation of my
fancy; I resolved to free myself by its aid. The pedestal
was about eight feet in height. To scale this and place
myself in attitude was but a moment's work. With a beat
ing heart, but perfectly rigid limbs, I awaited their coming.
I hoped, I prayed it might not be long.
Imagine to yourself a clean-limbed young fellow of one-
and-twenty, sans the ordinary habiliments, with no other
covering than nature's own and a sort of fig-leaf apron made
of rushes and encircling his loins and thighs, his brows bound
with an alder wreath, and the evening shadows cast over
his pale face and chilled but upright figure, and you have
me as I stood at that eventful moment.
To give effect to my acting, I closed my eyes. Footsteps
approached. I heard the rustle of silks and the sound of
"Beautiful!" (full feminine chorus). "How perfectly
natural!" (sotto voce).
A cracked hase voice — probably pater-familias — "Yes,
decidedly. The position is easy and graceful. The contour is excellent — not modern, I should think, but in good
A drawling falsetto : "Ya-as, pretty good — vewy fair
copy; 'ave seen lots of such fellows at Wome. They 're
vewy common there; don't think it's quite cowwect; vewy
bad leg's, vewy!"
This was too much. I had been a great pedestrian
and flattered myself that I had pretty well-developed calves.
I could bear female criticism; but, to put up with the
indelicate comments of a creature whom I felt to be a
spindle-shanked dandy, infuriated me. I choked my rising
wrath with clenched teeth, but moved not an external
"Well," said a sweet voice that thrilled me, "I have no
disposition to stay here all night, with heaven knows how
many woodland sprites about us. The place looks weird
and gloomy. I almost fancy that yonder gentleman has a
disposition to step down from his pedestal and carry some
of us off to his home in some hollow tree!"
I did dare to open my eyes, though each syllable of that
musical, gurgling voice rang in my ears, and sent the blood
slowly back to my heart. But then the evening air was
damp and chill, and my limbs, by the unaccustomed exposure, felt benumbed and dead. I began to fear that I might
stiffen in that position, when, luckily, the party moved
I opened my eyes andshut them instantly. In that
glance, rapid as lightning, I encountered a pair of full-orbed,
blue, girlish eyes gazing intently at me from beneath a coquettish hat streaming with ribbons that rocked like some
fairy boat over a tempestuous sea of golden curls. I dared
not look again.
"Ada, Ada! have you fallen in love with the statue?"
"No, I'm coming I"and the rustling dress and fairy
voice moved away.
I waited in fear and trembling. For the first time I felt
unnerved. Had she discovered me ? I felt myself already
ignominiously expelled from the fatal garden like the sinful
Adam — but alas, without the solace of the beautiful Eve.
Five minutes passed, I ventured to look again. All was
dark. I could hear the singing of voices high up on the
garden terrace.To step from my uneasy elevation by the
light of the rising moon, as soon as my cramped limbs would
permit, run around to the opposite shore, hurry on my
clothes, and through thicket and brake reach the park lodge,
was the work of a moment. That night I left the village.
That week I left England.
I went to France. I went to Germany. I went to
Italy. Three years passed. My imagination and enthusiasm were more under control. I began to think better of
society. I had painted several large pictures, allegorical
and fanciful, with prominent female figures with blue eyes
and golden hair. They were not appreciated. I had
painted some portraits for which I was remunerated handsomely, and had amassed an independence. I lived at
Florence. I was happy.
The saloons of the Due de R were filled one evening
with a pleasant party of painters, sculptors, poets, and authors. I had the entree there, and was formally introduced
to a Mr. Willoughby, an English gentleman, who was trav
eling for his health in company with an only daughter.
Our acquaintance ripened into esteem, and calling one even-
ing at my studio to examine the portrait of a mutual friend,
he proposed that I should make a picture of his daughter. I
was introduced to Ada Willoughby, and she became my
She was a pretty blonde, with whom three years before,
I might have fallen in love at first sight. But a restraint
seemed to be over us when together, and I vainly tried to
shake off some fanciful recollection with which her pretty
face seemed inseparably associated. She was a clever girl,
a genial companion, and our tastes assimilated. I painted
her features faithfully — the picture was admired — but
when I found that, like Eaphael's Fornarina, I was apt
to introduce some of her features in all my portraits, I
dame to the conclusion that I was in love with her. The
old restraint kept my heart from expression. One day
we were walking through one of the galleries when we
stopped before an exquisite picture of Pygmalion's transformation. I challenged her faith in the story. She replied'
simply that it was a "pretty fable." "But if Pygmalion
had been a woman and the sculptured figure a man, do
you imagine her love could have warmed him to life?"
I persisted. She replied that "any woman was a fool to fall
in love with the mere physical semblance of a man."
Disappointed, but why I did not clearly know, I did not
But she was to return to England. I had endeavored to
reason myself out of a feeling which was beginning to exert
an influence over my future. A party had been formed to
visit a villa on the outskirts of the city, and I was to accompany her. The grounds were tastefully adorned; there
were groups of statuary, and the never-failing Italian accesseries of rills and fountains. A gay party we were, making
the alleys ring with laughter. At length Mr. Willoughby,
Ada, a few ladies, and myself, seated ourselves by the margin of an artificial lake, from whose centre a trickling fountain sent its spray toward the clear blue sky. The evening
was deliciously cool and Ada lent her sweet voice to the
rippling water. I had fallen into a reverie, from which
I was recalled, accused of unsociability, and taxed to contribute to the amusement of the day.
"Well," said I, "politeness forbade me to sing before
Miss Willoughby, and prudence forbids my singing after.
What shall I do?"
"A story, a story," said they.
"What shall it be? Of love or war, or a most 'lament,
"Oh, a love story," said Ada, "full of fairies, knights,
dragons, and disconsolate damsels,something like your
pictureswith lights and shadowsand dark gray masses,
and rather vague!"
"With a moral," said papa.
''To hear is to obey," replied I; "I call my story 'The
most Mournful and Pathetic Story of the Enchanted
Knights, or the Wicked Naiad.'"
An expected pause ensued, and I went on.
"In the days of Fairy dynasty there lived a knight. He
was young and adventurous. To him had been given the
art of reproducing that which caught his errant fancy, and
the true appreciation of the beautiful, without which it has
been held all happiness is naught. But from his youth he
had been a wanderer, and had fallen in love with a being
whose image he met in every lake and fountain, and whose
virtues he fully appreciated. In return for his constancy
she had bestowed upon him the gifts of unfailing health and
strength. One day, in a distant land, he traversed a fair
domain, and amid the luxuries of taste and elegance, he
found her image still. But she was loved by the great
monarch of the domain, who had kept her in secluded pri-
vacy. The knight, being headstrong and adventurous,
rushed to her forbidden embrace. She received him coldly.
The chill of her touch stiffened his limbs and benumbed his
faculties. He felt himself gradually turning into stone.
Alas! the waters of the lake in which she dwelt held in
solution strange minerals, and possessed a petrifying quality.
He was found hy the monarch and placed on a pedestal, as
an example to warn others from a like unlawful intrusion."
"How delightfully ohscure!" said Ada.
"Mark the sequel. For a long time he remained in this
state; motionless hut not senseless, mute hut not passion-
less. The subjects of the monarch passed before him with
ironical comments and jests and jeers. He was powerless
to reply. But it chanced that a good fairy passed that
way. She possessed the power of disarming wicked en-
chantment and restoring all unnatural changes, for which
she repaid herself by making the subject her vassal forever.
She bent her luminous eyes on the petrified knight, and
their glances melted away the icy torpor which clung to
him. Under their genial sunshine his lids opened as a
flower, his own eyes reflected back the love that lent him
life. He moved and was again a man."
"And of course gave up hydropathy for matrimony,"
I did not answer, for Ada claimed my attention. The
blood had climbed step by step into her cheek, and at last
the red signal of the success of my stratagem waved from
the topmost turret. She looked at me and said nothing,
but the look bade me hope.
I need not continue; my story is done. I, of course,
managed to have a tete-a-t6te with my former acquaintance
and generous friend — my new love and charming sitter
before she left for England. What transpired the reader
may guess. The only answer I shall transcribe was given
some time after the great affirmative which made me forever
"But, Ada, my darling, how was it that your bright
eyes alone detected in the marble statue a living imposture?"
"Why," said Ada, looking saucily into my eyes, "I
never before saw a marble statue with a plain gold ring
upon its little finger."
So I took the treacherous ornament from my little finger
and placed it on her hand.
Golden Era, April 29, 1860.