“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.