By S. L. Bacon Edit

Published in Short Stories 1893

In the days of the past, which holds many legends, a story ran thus.

There was a woman more beautiful than any other woman, and so more loved than any other woman. Her hair was like amber when the sun-light is upon it, and her eyes were gray like the sea. Two men there were who loved her with an exceeding love. It was a love that burned and ate into their hearts. It was a love which had no master. Now they were painters and, next to the woman, they loved their art. Yet they were friends.

And they came to the woman that she might choose between them. In her eyes there was a calm— on her lips there was a doubt. She said: ''Which one of you paints me a picture most true to life, will be most true to me — and him I will accept. “So she left them.

And one of them went out into the woods and fields and listened to the birds and to all nature's life, and he cried to the sea and to the winds and to the elements: “ Give me inspiration!” But the other sat in his attic, and he said to his heart: “Help me! “

So when the day came, the woman with amber hair, and eyes grey like the sea, came to where the painters stood together, and her face was more beautiful than the morning, and her voice was as when the stars sang together.

And he, the first, cried triumphantly as he drew back his curtain. “These cherries are mine, and see as they hang, painted, the birds of the air have pecked them. I have deceived nature herself ! “

And his heart warmed and glowed with triumph and love.

“Thou hast indeed done well, “cried the woman. Then turning to where the other stood: “Surely you can't do no more than that, yet draw back the curtain that we may see. “

Then he turned to her, and his eyes were full of a joy unspeakable. “With love, nothing is impossible. I can not draw back my curtain. I have but painted as life paints her greatest picture, the one we may not penetrate. I have deceived, not the birds of the air, but you. The curtain is mine, and thou art mine — mine forever!” And from afar, the echo came — forever!

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