Judge, then, of my indignant shock, one morning, at finding a stranger calmly occupying my place. I stood for a moment rooted to the spot, in the shadow of the encircling woods, and he had not yet seen me. As I stood, pondering on the best way of dealing with the intruder, a sudden revulsion of kindness stole over me. For here indeed was a very different figure from what, in my first shock of surprise, I had expected to see. No common intruder this. In fact, who could have dreamed of coming upon so incongruous an apparition as this in an American woodland? How on earth did this picturesque waif from the Quartier Latin come to stray so far away from the Boul’ Miche! For the little boyish figure of a man that sat sketching in my place was the Frenchiest-looking Frenchman you ever saw—with his dark, smoke-dried skin, his long, straight, blue-black hair, his fine, rather ferocious brown eyes, his long, delicate French nose, his bristling black moustache and short, sting-shaped imperial. He wore on his head a soft white felt hat, somewhat of the shape affected by circus clowns, and too small for him. His coat was of green velveteen corduroy and he wore knickerbockers of an eloquent plaid.
He was intently absorbed in sketching a prosperous group of weeds, a crazy quilt of wildly jostling colour, that had grown up around the decay of a fallen tree, and made a fine blazon of contrast against the massed foliage in the background. There was no mistake how the stranger loved this patch of coloured weeds. Here was a man whose whole soul was evidently—colour. There was a look in his face as if he could just eat those oranges and purples, and soft greens; and there was a sort of passionate assurance in the way in which he handled his brushes, and delicately plunged them here and there in his colour-box, that spoke a master. So intent was he upon his work that, when I came up behind him, he seemed unaware of my presence; though his oblivion was actually the conscious indifference of a landscape painter, accustomed to the ambling cow and the awe-struck peasant looking over his shoulder as he worked.
“Great bunch of weeds,” he said presently, without looking up, and still painting, drawing the while at a quaint pipe about an inch long.
“O, you are not the Boul’ Miche, after all,” I exclaimed in disappointment.
“Aren’t I, though?” he said at last, looking up in interested surprise. “Ever at—?” mentioning the name of a well-known cafe, one of the many rally-points of the Quartier.
“I should say,” I answered.