In the mean time the strange adventure on The Mountain had brought the young master into new relations with Elsie. She had saved him in the extremity of peril by the exercise of some mysterious power. He was grateful, and yet shuddered at the recollection of the whole scene. In his dreams he was pursued by the glare of cold glittering eyes,—whether they were in the head of a woman or of a reptile he could not always tell, the images had so run together. But he could not help seeing that the eyes of the young girl had been often, very often, turned upon him when he had been looking away, and fell as his own glance met them. Helen Darley told him very plainly that this girl was thinking about him more than about her book. Dick Venner found she was getting more constant in her attendance at school. He learned, on inquiry, that there was a new master, a handsome young man. The handsome young man would not have liked the look that came over Dick’s face when he heard this fact mentioned.
In short, everything was getting tangled up together, and there would be no chance of disentangling the threads in this chapter.
It is barely fifty years since England refused the gift of the pictures that now constitute the Dulwich Gallery. So rapidly, however, did public opinion and taste become enlightened, that twenty-five years afterwards Parliament voted seventy-three thousand pounds for the purchase of thirty-eight pictures collected by Mr. Angerstein. This was the commencement of their National Gallery. In 1790 but three national galleries existed in Europe,—those of Dresden, Florence, and Amsterdam. The Louvre was then first originated by a decree of the Constituent Assembly of France. England now spends with open hand on schools of design, the accumulation of treasures of art of every epoch and character, and whatever tends to elevate the taste and enlarge the means of the artistic education of her people,—perceiving, with far-sighted wisdom, that, through improved manufacture and riper civilization, eventually a tenfold return will result to her treasury. The nations of Europe exult over a new acquisition to their galleries, though its cost may have exceeded a hundred thousand dollars.
We are in that stage of indifference and neglect that one of our wealthiest cities recently refused to accept the donation of a gallery of some three hundred pictures, collected with taste and discrimination by a generous lover of art, because it did not wish to be put to the expense of finding wall-room for them. But this spirit is departing, and now our slowness or reluctance is rather the result of a want of knowledge and critical judgment than of a want of feeling for art.