As soon as Andre had released her hand, Sabine took off her hat, and, handing it to Modeste, remarked,—
“How am I looking to-day, Andre?”
The young painter hastened to reassure her on this point, and she continued in joyous tones,—
“No, I do not want compliments; I want to know if I look the right thing for sitting for my portrait.”
Sabine was very beautiful, but hers was a different style of beauty from that of Rose, whose ripe, sensuous charms were fitted to captivate the admiration of the voluptuary, while Sabine was of the most refined and ethereal character. Rose fettered the body with earthly trammels, while Sabine drew the soul heavenward. Her beauty was not of the kind that dazzles, for the air of proud reserve which she threw over it, in some slight measure obscured its brilliancy.
She might have passed unnoticed, like the work of a great master’s brush hanging neglected over the altar of a village church; but when the eye had once fathomed that hidden beauty, it never ceased to gaze on it with admiration. She had a broad forehead, covered with a wealth of chestnut hair, soft, lustrous eyes, and an exquisitely chiselled mouth.
“Alas!” said Andre, “when I gaze upon you, I have to confess how impossible it is to do you justice. Before you came I had fancied that the portrait was completed, but now I see that I have only made a failure.”
As he spoke, he drew aside the curtain, and the young girl’s portrait was revealed. It was by no means a work of extraordinary merit. The artist was only twenty-four years of age, and had been compelled to interrupt his studies to toil for his daily bread, but it was full of originality and genius. Sabine gazed at it for a few moments in silence, and then murmured the words,—
“It is lovely!”
But Andre was too discouraged to notice her praise.
“It is like,” remarked he, “but a photograph also has that merit. I have only got your features, but not your expression; it is an utter failure. Shall I try again?”
Sabine stopped him with a gesture of denial.
“You shall not try again,” said she decidedly.
“And why not?” asked he in astonishment.