And just as the father bird watches the nest from his perch on some branch of the tree, the father at work in the garden can look from time to time at the little family circle in the doorway. As in the picture of the Woman Feeding Hens, the house is built of stone covered with plaster. The door casing is of large ill-matched blocks of stone. The dooryard is made to appear much larger by the glimpse of the orchard we get through the gateway. No out-of-door picture is complete which does not show something of the beauty of nature. The dooryard itself would be a bare place but for the shady garden beyond.
THE CHURCH AT GREVILLE
The village-commune of Greville has nothing to make it famous except that it was the birthplace of the painter Millet. It is at the tip of Cape La Hague, which juts abruptly from the French coast into the English channel. The cape is a steep headland bristling with granite rocks and needles, and very desolate seen from the sea. Inland it is pleasant and fruitful, with apple orchards and green meadows.
The village life centres about the church, for the inhabitants of Grenville are a serious and God-fearing people. The church is the spot around which cluster the most sacred associations of life. Here the babies are baptized, and the youths and maidens confirmed; here the young people are married, and from here young and old alike are carried to their last resting-place. The building is hallowed by the memories of many generations of pious ancestors.
The Millet family lived in an outlying hamlet (Gruchy) of Grenville, and were somewhat far from the church. Yet they had even more associations with it than other village families. Here our painter’s father had early shown his talent for music at the head of the choir of boys who sang at the Sunday service. Here at one time his old uncle priest, Charles Millet, held the office of vicar and went every morning to say mass.
Among the earliest recollections of Jean Francois was a visit to the church of Greville at a time when some new bells had just been bought. They were first to be baptized, as was the custom, before being hung in the tower, and it was while they still stood on the ground that the mother brought her little boy to see them. “I well remember how much I was impressed,” he afterwards said, “at finding myself in so vast a place as the church, which seemed even more immense than our barn, and how the beauty of the big windows, with their lozenge-shaped panes, struck my imagination.”
At the age of twelve the boy went to be confirmed at the church of Greville, and thenceforth had another memorable experience to associate with the place. The vicar, who questioned him, found him so intelligent that he offered to teach him Latin. The lessons led to the poems of Virgil, which opened a new world to him.
[Illustration: From a carbon print by Braun, Clement & Co. John Andrew & Son, Sc. THE CHURCH AT GREVILLE]