+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

When I saw Alice again, she sat before me
while I drew the outline of her face in chalk,
and shortly after I began my task. The figure
was almost the size of life. The feet were
bare. The robe was girdled at the waist, and,
behind, the hair hung down between half-
folded wings. I cut the features from the
drawing something like her, but not wholly
she; until I fetched her, and begged her to
stand before me, while I carved from life.
I covered up the wings, so that she did know
that my figure was an angel. I told her that
it was my whim to give to it her features.
For several months I worked upon it
afterwards. The folds of the full robe grew
perfect to my eyethe curves and feathered
plaits of the long wingsthe flowing lengths
of hair. Lastly, I retouched the face, and
came again each day and touched it, till it
brought her fully to my mind.

The summer had come round again, but I
had begun my work in the house, and it
remained there. One evening, I put my tools
aside, and sat down to look at it. I rose and
walked about itbrushed the dust and chips
from round the feet and pedestal, and sat
down again. My task was finished. I saw
its perfect symmetry and beauty, with a feeling
of delight that almost stayed the beating
of my heart. I remembered no more the
long years, in which my soul had often become
sick and weary, struggling with imperfect
utterance. My thought stood out before me
fully manifested; the crown and recompense
of all my toil. I sat and looked upon it till
the twilight gathered in the room. The
pedestal, the feet, and robe grew shadowy; but
the head was level with the window, and the
light lingered about it, like a glory, and the
features shone. Then the dusk increased;
until I saw only the outline; and that mingled
also with the darkness where I sat alone. Yet
not alone; but with a mute companion, in
whose presence I had laid aside my sorrow
a remembrancer of Alice, as she was, while
pity made her worthy of those wings. I had
not seen her for some days, and the last time
she had hurt me with her raillery, and made
me angry; though I had said nothing, and
perhaps she did not know it.

My purpose was, now that I had finished
my statue, to get it set up, somewhere, in the
cathedral, where I had first dreamed of meeting
her. I went, the next day, to one of the
vergers, an old man who lived inside the
gateway, close to the cloisters. He knew me
well, for I had been a customer of his for
prints of monuments and inscriptions, which
he sold in a little shop. He promised to speak
to the Dean about it; and I pointed out an
empty niche, just through the entrance to the
choir, which I had measured, and found to be
of the dimensions of my work. A day or two
afterwards, the Dean himself called at our
house, and saw the statue. He praised it
highly, and asked my reason for wishing it to
be placed there; but I told him I had none
beyond a wish to see it in a fitting place. He
was satisfied, and afterwards sent some masons
who were at work in the cathedral to remove
it in the evening. I stood by and assisted
them, anxious lest an accident should happen
to my work. I went with them, and saw it
finally set up in its place. Afterwards people
talked of it in the city, but few persons knew
whose work it was. On the Sunday following
I stood in a little group of people looking at
it, and heard their various comments.

After that, the cathedral was my favourite
haunt. I went to service there in the afternoon,
and lingered sometimes afterwards for
hours, until I knew every monument, and
learned almost every inscription by heart.
Sometimes coming there after the doors were
closed, I talked with the masons working at
a side-window. At length, as I became more
familiar, I climbed their scaffolding, got
through the window, and descended by another
scaffolding inside. At such times I walked
about the cathedral till dusk, when they
called to me, and said they were about to
leave their work, and I returned by the

Alice came once to see it. I was with her.
When she saw the wings, she laughed, and
said, "Her own mother would not take it for
her had she lived to see it. Not only for the
wings," said she, "but for the flattery of the
artist; for, mark you," she added, "I look
into my glass half-a-dozen times a day, and
am not to be deceived." We went out
together afterwards, and I walked home with
her. It was a cold day, towards the end of
autumn, with a strong wind blowing, and a
cloudy sky. As we drew near the lodge,
there fell some drops of rain. I entered, and
while we sat there, it began to beat hard
upon the windows. I rose several times to
go, but the storm had not abated, and I
returned, and sat down again. Her sister-in-law
was in the next room, making bread, and we
were alone. We sat beside the fire, and
talked. She was, as usual, in a merry mood;
but that day my passion had returned with
tenfold force, and I listened to every word
she said, and loved her more for every word.
She twisted her hands, till the firelight threw
strange shapes upon the ceiling, and then
turned her face sideways to make a gigantic
shadow of her features on the wainscot. She
laughed, and shifted her discourse from one
subject to another, until I grew bewildered.
Yet I felt, as it were, drawn towards her
tempted to forget my pride, the danger of
her scorn, and all that had hitherto
restrained me, and to tell her there my passion,
once for all. I determined that I would
know that night, before I left her, if she had
really any love for me. I blamed myself for
the dreaming life that I had led; nourishing
a passion without the courage to avow
it; putting off the day that must come at
last; only, perhaps, to make my disappointment
still more bitter. Yet I arose again,