thus gained access to it two or three times in a century.
Absorbed in these thoughts Samuel approached the fireplace,
which, as we have said, was directly opposite the
window. Just then, a bright ray of sunlight, piercing
the clouds, shone full upon two large portraits, hung
upon either side of the fireplace, and not before
remarked by the Jew. They were painted life size,
and represented one a woman, the other a man.
By the sober yet powerful coloring of these paintings,
by the large and vigorous style, it was easy to recognize
a master’s hand. It would have been difficult
to find models more fitted to inspire a great painter.
The woman appeared to be from five-and-twenty to thirty
years of age. Magnificent brown hair, with golden
tints, crooned a forehead, white, noble, and lofty.
Her head-dress, far from recalling the fashion, which
Madame de Sevigne brought in during the age of Louis
XIV., reminded one rather of some of the portraits
of Paul Veronese, in which the hair encircles the face
in broad, undulating bands, surmounted by a thick
plait, like a crown, at the back of the head.
The eyebrows, finely pencilled, were arched over large
eyes of bright, sapphire blue. Their gaze at once
proud and mournful, had something fatal about it.
The nose, finely formed, terminated in slight dilated
nostrils: a half smile, almost of pain, contracted
the mouth; the face was a long oval, and the complexion,
extremely pale, was hardly shaded on the cheek by a
light rose-color. The position of the head and
neck announced a rare mixture of grace and dignity.
A sort of tunic or robe, of glossy black material,
came as high as the commencement of her shoulders,
and just marking her lithe and tall figure, reached
down to her feet, which were almost entirely concealed
by the folds of this garment.
The attitude was full of nobleness and simplicity.
The head looked white and luminous, standing out from
a dark gray sky, marbled at the horizon by purple
clouds, upon which were visible the bluish summits
of distant hills, in deep shadow. The arrangement
of the picture, as well as the warm tints of the foreground,
contrasting strongly with these distant objects, showed
that the woman was placed upon an eminence, from which
she could view the whole horizon. The countenance
was deeply pensive and desponding. There was
an expression of supplicating and resigned grief,
particularly in her look, half raised to heaven, which
one would have thought impossible to picture.
On the left side of the fireplace was the other portrait,
painted with like vigor. It represented a man,
between thirty and thirty-five years of age, of tall
stature. A large brown cloak, which hung round
him in graceful folds, did not quite conceal a black
doublet, buttoned up to the neck, over which fell a
square white collar. The handsome and expressive
head was marked with stern powerful lines, which did
not exclude an admirable air of suffering, resignation,
and ineffable goodness. The hair, as well as the
beard and eyebrows, was black; and the latter, by
some singular caprice of nature, instead of being
separated and forming two distinct arches, extended
from one temple to the other, in a single bow, and
seemed to mark the forehead of this man with a black