He continued his lessons with Mr. Buitrago for several years, when he was taken to a professional piano teacher, Paul Desvernine, with whom he studied until he was fifteen. He received, too, at this time, occasional supplementary lessons from the brilliant Venezuelan, Teresa Carreno. When he was in his fifteenth year it was determined that he should go abroad for a course in piano and theory at the Paris Conservatory, and in April, 1876, accompanied by his mother, he left America for France. He passed the competitive examination for admission to the Conservatory, and began the Autumn term as a pupil of Marmontel in piano and of Savard in theory and composition—having for a fellow pupil, by the way, that most remarkable of contemporary music-makers, Claude Debussy, whom MacDowell described as having been, even then, a youth of erratic and non-conformist tendencies.
MacDowell’s experiences at the Conservatory were not unmixed with perplexities and embarrassment. His knowledge of French was far from secure, and he had considerable difficulty in following Savard’s lectures. It was decided, therefore, that he should have a course of tuition in the language. A teacher was engaged, and Edward began a resolute attack upon the linguistic chevaux de frise which had proved so troublesome an impediment—a move which brought him, unexpectedly enough, to an important crisis in his affairs.
On one occasion it happened that, during these lessons in French, he was varying the monotony of a study hour by drawing, under cover of his lesson-book, a portrait of his teacher, whose most striking physical characteristic was a nose of extravagant bulk. He was detected just as he was completing the sketch, and was asked, much to his confusion, to exhibit the result. It appears to have been a remarkable piece of work as well as an excellent likeness, for the subject of it was eager to know whether or not MacDowell had studied drawing, and, if not, how he acquired his proficiency. Moreover, he insisted on keeping the sketch. Not long after, he called upon Mrs. MacDowell and told her, to her astonishment, that he had shown the sketch to a certain very eminent painter—an instructor at the Ecole de Beaux Arts—and that the painter had been so much impressed by the talent which it evidenced that he