“Not the only one, I trust,” said the business gentleman, almost passionately. “I trust in god, not the only alternative. If I have a hope, it is that of greater and more effective efforts than hitherto to rescue the children of London from crime.”
In the warmth of this outburst, he had permitted a salmon-colored omnibus to escape him, but, being much too good a man of business to waste time in regrets, he placed himself at a convenient point for catching the next, and went on speaking.
“I am glad to hear you have another picture in hand.”
“Not a picture—a pot boiler,” said the artist, testily. “Low art— domestic sentiment—cheap pathos. My picture no one would look at, even if it were finished, and if I could bring myself to part with it.”
“Mind, you give me the first refusal.”
“Of my picture?”
“Yes, that is, I mean your street boy. It is just in my line. I delight in your things. But don’t make it too pathetic, or my wife won’t be able to bear it in the drawing room. Your things always make her cry.”
“That’s the pot boiler,” said the artist; “I really wish you’d look at my picture, unfinished as it is. I should like you to have it. Anybody’ll take the pot boiler. I want a model for the picture too, and, oddly enough, a boy; but one you can’t provide me with.”
“No? The subject you say is”—said the man of business, dreamily, as he strove at the same time to make out if a distant omnibus were yellow or salmon-colored.
“Cimabue finding the boy Giotto drawing on the sand. Ah! my friend, can one realize that meeting? Can one picture the generous glow with which the mature and courtly artist recognized unconscious genius struggling under the form of a shepherd lad,—yearning out of his great Italian eyes over that glowing landscape whose beauties could not be written in the sand? Will the golden age of the arts ever return? We are hardly moving towards it, I fear. For I have found a model for my Cimabue,—an artist too, and a true one; but no boy Giotto! Still I should like you to see it. I flatter myself the coloring” —
“Salmon,” said the man of business, briskly. “I thought it was yellow. My dear fellow—hi!—take as many boys as you like—to the city!”
The conductor of the salmon-colored omnibus touched his bell, and the painter was left alone.
A choice of vocations.—Recreation hour.—The bow legged boy.— Drawing by heart.—Giotto.
Jan found favor with his new friends. The master’s sharp eyes noted that the prescribed ablutions seemed both pleasant and familiar to the new boy, and the superintendent of the wood-chopping department expressed his opinion that Jan’s intelligence and dexterity were wasted among the fagots, and that his vocation was to be a brushmaker at least, if not a joiner.