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it is all that I look for. In your case let me see your hand, Alice."
She gave it to me with a bewildered face.
"I am not a fortune-teller, though it does look a little. like it," I said, smiling at her amazement. "But there are musical hands, Alice-Ruth has them. The fingers are long, the joints firm, yet flexible, the movement rapid and forceful. Now yours-really! it is the oddest circumstance! Where do you suppose I saw the duplicates of your hands, Alice?"
“In Italy, I met one of our sweetest poetesses there. She had just such hands as these-small, white, cool, soft,— they seemed to melt in my grasp as if they were made of mist,—with nails not quite perfect in shape, too, because, as she told me, with a little laugh of vexation at herself, she had the habit of biting them in her youth, and suspected she sometimes did it still, when she was in a brown study! But there was no music in them, Alice, except such as flowed from the point of her pen; which is, after all, the sweetest, richest music-far wider in its scope and influence than any music of tone simply, For poetry is the highest of all the arts."
Alice looked down shyly, yet with something bright in her face. Ruth gave her a smile and a meaning glance. Then she said to me, nodding her head:
"You have hit Alice exactly. She used to bite her nails in school-many a time have I scolded her for it. And she makes verses, too,"
ALICE PRESCOTT IN A NEW LIGHT,
T was as if scales fell from my eyes. Those three words, "Alice makes verses," carried a spell in them. All that had seemed strange, incomplete, or incongruous, in Alice Prescott, became at once natural and comprehensible. Her character fell into its place in the harmony of the universe.
That intuitive comprehension of the thoughts and feelings of others, under which I had been so restive, I now saw to be the rightful dower of the poet; whose insight must needs be of that fine, penetrative quality, to which all of earth, and much of heaven, is open. The youngest poet whose song ever won the ear of mankind, has always sung intelligently of many things wherewith he could have no intimate, personal acquaintance; but which he comprehends as perfectly by intuition and sympathy as other men by experience. He is not only moved, but com pelled, often against his own will, and to the damage of his own comfort,-to live much in other lives, to feel the warmth of their sunshine and the chill of their shadow, to be thrilled with their passions and shaken by their conflicts. Where his own experience falls short, theirs serves him in good stead; and, by the help of delicate intuition, ready sympathy, and instinctive perception of things so slight and subtile as to escape other observation, he is enabled to catch
every note that humanity gives forth under the touch of Life, and to weave it deftly into his songs.
Others of Alice's characteristics, too, hitherto unnoted in this chronicle, came crowding forth to get the benefit of this new light, and reveal themselves in their true colors and proportions. She was subject to fits of absence of mind, from which not even her mother's shrill voice aroused her, until it had been two or three times exerted, and had gained acuteness by impatience; and there were whole days when she seemed to walk in a dream; doing whatever she did in the most mechanical, unreasoning fashion; listening to your words with ears fast locked against every sound, and looking you in the face with eyes that had no more sight in them than a blind man's. Often I had found her sitting in the porch, or on the garden bench, with her gaze fastened on the distant hill-tops; and, at such times, it was plain that I crossed her field of vision without producing any image on her mind, if I did upon her retinas. I had inwardly stigmatized her, therefore, as listless, indolent-a dreamer and an idler in a world heavy with realities, and teeming with work for hand and brain. I now inferred that these were moments of inward life and sight, full and active in proportion to her outward immobility; the depth of her abstraction being the visible sign of the intensity with which she contemplated the flow of her own ideas, and the avidity wherewith she received and assimilated intellectual nutriment from scenes and events which passed for an actual void with her neighbors.
She was quick and skilful in the feminine accomplishment of needlework. She had a natural aptitude for the lighter and more fanciful parts of dress-making and millinery; and a ready knack at turning to good account old laces, ribbons, and other débris of the wardrobe, that seemed little short of miraculous; yet was only the result of a quick eye for latent beauties of form and color, and a happy facility in combining them. In short, she had both taste
and imagination, and could not help lavishing them wherever there was material for them to work upon. But for the coarser matters of the domestic routine, she appeared to have an innate and ineradicable aversion. She "shirked" them (her grandmother said); but it was plain that she did it involuntarily, rather than of deliberate purpose. When she was forced to it, she took them in hand aptly enough, but with a certain fastidious, arm's-length haste, that the distasteful duty might be quickly done with; or she worked dreamily, with a mind afar off. So I had set her hastily down as a vain and frivolous girl, with her head chiefly running on matters of dress, and cherishing in her heart an unwise contempt and distaste for life's every-day duties and burdens. I now saw that this judgment must needs be greatly modified; though it might still be true, in a mild degree, for Alice was too young a poetess to have discovered the essential poetry latent in life's most prac tical affairs, the beauty that grows beside its commonest walks.
Yet she possessed something that might soon lead to the discovery-the art of practical arrangement. She had that mysterious happiness of touch, by which all the hidden capabilities of things are brought forth and made to minister to comfort or to taste;-a charming attribute in the mistress of a household, enabling her to organize a delightful enough home out of apparently barren and incongruous elements. Whatever Alice touched seemed to fall inevitably into lines of grace. A room where her hand had been, wore a cosy, habitable aspect, curiously in contrast with the starched propriety of Mrs. Prescott's arrangement. The bouquets that she arranged looked as if the flowers had spontaneously grouped themselves together in obedience to their own lovely and mystical affinities. The dishes of fruit that she brought to the table, wreathed with their own leaves, or with buds and blossoms exquisitely adapted to them in fragrance and color, might have served as studies
for an artist. These works suited her; they seemed to be a spontaneous outgrowth, rather than the result of conscious volition. Within their sphere, her fancy was inexhaustible, her invention akin to magic. It was a mystery where she got the trait; it was innate, of course, but not hereditary, -unless derived from some very remote ancestress, whose name has dropped out of the genealogical table that Mrs. Divine keeps in a convenient niche of her memory, ready to be produced and consulted, at the shortest notice.
The pleasant illumination thus thrown upon Alice's character fell rosily over her person also, and transfigured that to my outer vision, as it had the former to my mental view. She was not beautiful: beside Ruth's rare and artistic loveliness-the rich glory of her auburn hair, and the shifting light and shadow of her brown eyes,-the pale, cool tints of Alice's face looked like a crayon sketch beside a brilliant painting. Nevertheless, my glance now lingered with pleasure on the graceful contour of her head, the intellect crowning her brow, the mystic depths of her thoughtful, far-gazing eyes, the harmonious lines of her womanly, yet most petite figure,-for Alice is small enough. to have fairy blood in her veins. Always a little inclined to genius-worship, I began to feel a half-reverence for the shy, silent girl, whom I had been accustomed to regard with indifference. I was humbled to the dust by the discovery of my long blindness!
"The point that is made against you," said Bona, quietly, "being simply that you cannot recognize your own ideal of incipient genius, when it is taken out of the domain of imagination, and walks beside you daily in the humble garb of a plain, shy New England maiden, amid the homely duties of a New England farm-house!"
The next moment I was ready to laugh at my own credulity, and satirize my late-budding enthusiasm. "Don't be a goose!" I said to myself, severely. "As if every girl in Christendom does not, during the fertile period of her