Page:Stories by Foreign Authors (French III).djvu/23

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THE HIDDEN MASTERPIECE

By Honoré de Balzac

I.

ON a cold morning in December, towards the close of the year 1612, a young man, whose clothing betrayed his poverty, was standing before the door of a house in the Rue des Grands-Augustins, in Paris. After walking to and fro for some time with the hesitation of a lover who fears to approach his mistress, however complying she may be, he ended by crossing the threshold and asking if Maître François Porbus were within. At the affirmative answer of an old woman who was sweeping out one of the lower rooms, the young man slowly mounted the stairway, stopping from time to time and hesitating, like a newly-fledged courtier doubtful as to what sort of reception the king might grant him.

When he reached the upper landing of the spiral ascent, he paused a moment before laying hold of a grotesque knocker which ornamented the door of the atelier, where the famous painter

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