The portfolio which he brought home to his Mother at the end of another half-year, was crowded with laborious and careful copies from the best models of beauty and grace. And not with those only, for many a face could be found on its pages in which the Mother recognized some of her son’s old companions. Portraits, not of the mere formation of mouths and noses, which in so many cases, viewed merely as forms, are defective and unattractive, but portraits of the same faces, upon which the character of the inward mind and heart was so stamped that it threw the mere shape of the features far into the background.
Thus with the pursuit of his favourite art, Joachim combined “that most excellent gift of charity;” for it was now his pride and pleasure to make the charm of expression from “the good points” his old friend had talked about, triumph over any physical defects. The very spirit and soul of the best sort of portrait painting. And here, my dear young readers, I would fain call your attention to the fact of how one right habit produces another. The more Joachim laboured over seizing the good expression of the faces he drew from, the more he was led to seek after and find out the good points themselves whence the expression arose; and thus at last it became a Habit with him to try and discover every thing that was excellent and commendable in the characters of those he met; a very different plan from that pursued by many of us, who in our intercourse with each other, are but too apt to fasten with eagle-eye accuracy on failings and faults. Which is a very grave error, and a very misleading one, for if it does nothing else, it deprives us of all the good we should get by a daily habit of contemplating what is worthy our regard and remembrance. And so strongly did Joachim’s mother feel this, and so earnestly did she wish her son to understand that a power which seems bestowed for worldly ends, may be turned to spiritual advantage also, that when his birthday came round she presented to him among other gifts, a little book, called “The Imitation of Jesus Christ.” It was the work of an old fellow called Thomas a Kempis, and though more practical books of piety have since been written, the idea contained in the title suggests a great lesson, and held up before Joachim’s eyes, Him whom one of our own divines has since called “The Great Exemplar.”
This part of our little hero’s ‘Lesson of Life,’ we can all take to ourselves, and go and do likewise. And so I hope his story may be profitable, though we have not all of us a large Genie-gift of Imitation as he had. With him the excess of this power took a very natural turn, for though he possessed through its aid, considerable facilities for music and the study of languages also, the course of events led him irresistibly to what is usually called “the fine arts.” And if the old dream of the royal chariot and the twelve jet black horses was never realized to him, a higher happiness by far was his, when some years after, he and his Mother stood in the council house of his native town; she looking up with affectionate pride while he showed her a portrait of the good young King which had a few hours before been hung up upon its walls. It was the work of Joachim himself.