The Painter’s Daughters

Ryan Slattery

The Painter’s Daughters There was once a painter who had two daughters; one rare and beautiful, the other common and ugly. The painter delighted greatly in his beautiful daughter and made her the subject of all his paintings. The ugly daughter, however, received no attention and wept alone hidden in her room.

When the daughters’ mother came to see the father’s paintings, she felt great sorrow for her ugly daughter. She entered her room, comforted the child, and took a single tear from her cheek and placed it in her garden outside.

Over time the beautiful daughter grew vain and could only see beauty in the contours of her own face. Even the paintings by her father, once cherished relics of her father’s preference, now seemed incomplete and a mockery of her true beauty.

Meanwhile it happened that the solitary tear which had fallen into the garden soil produced a flower so beautiful and fragrant, yet delicate and fragile, that the ugly daughter found delight in her soul. The colors of this treasure were so complex and vibrant that the painter broke from his obsession with painting only the beautiful daughter and tried desperately to capture the flower’s beauty in paint.

When the beautiful daughter saw that the painter had abandoned her she cried not tears of sadness, but of jealousy and anger. For you see even though she admired no beauty except her own she, even she, could not deny the splendor and surpassing quality of the rare flower.

At night, when all were asleep, the beautiful daughter grasped the delicate and fragile flower and tore it petal by petal until nothing remained but a single thin stem. She gathered the desolate petals and burned them in the fireplace careful to destroy every last bit.

It happened that at morning’s light the ugly daughter went out to tend to her flower and found it missing. Overcome with grief she ran into her room and began to week anew. This was a different sort of crying; it was deeper and sadder than before. The beautiful daughter entered the room and sat beside her sister. “Why do you cry? The flower may be gone, but its beauty was never yours.”

The ugly daughter only continued to cry.

“Did you suppose one day you might wear the flower and be found beautiful like me? Foolish sister, there is no helping your appearance with a flower! Your crying is for nothing.”

At long last the ugly daughter calmed from her crying and responded to her sister saying, “dear sister, it is not for myself that I cry, but for you. I have always admired your beauty, perhaps even as much as father, and when I saw the flower that grew from my tear I knew at once that this gift, rare and gorgeous, would have but one surpassing use. I daily tended to cultivate the fragile flower until the day of my sister’s wedding when at long last you could wear it as a brooch of exceeding beauty. But as it is, a jealous thief has stolen my one perfect gift for my own sister. Now you can see why it is I cry.”

The beautiful sister was so astonished by her sister’s love that she swore an oath that very hour to wear a veil over her face until she learned the same inward beauty shown by her sister.

©2013 Ryan Slattery


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