“P.S. I’d main like to see your vace again, Jan, my dear.”
Jan sobbed so bitterly in reading the postscript that, after vain attempts to console him by chaff, the bow-legged boy wept from sympathy.
As to the painter, the whole letter so caught his capricious fancy that he was for ever questioning Jan as to the details of his life in that out-of-the-world district where the purest breath of heaven turned the sails of the windmill, and where the miller took payment for his work “in kind.”
“It must be a wonderful spot, Giotto,” said he; “and, if I were richer, just now we’d go down together, and paint sunsets, and see your friends.” And he walked up and down the studio, revolving his new caprice, whilst Jan tried to think if any thing were likely to bring money into his master’s pocket before long. Suddenly the artist seized a sketch that was lying near, and, turning it over, began one on the other side, questioning Jan as he drew. “What do old country wives dress in down yonder?—What did you wear in the mill?—Where does the light come from in a round-house,” etc.
Presently he flung it to Jan, and, in answer to the boy’s cry of admiration, growled, “Ay, ay. You must do what you can now, for every after-touch of mine will spoil it. There are hundreds of men, Giotto, whose sketches are good, and their paintings daubs. But it is only the sketches of great men that sell. The public likes canvas and linseed oil for its money, where small reputations are concerned.”
The sketch was of a peep into the round-house. Jan, toll-dish in hand, with a quaint business gravity, was met by a dame who was just raising her old back after letting down her sack of gleanings, with garrulous good-humor in her blinking eyes and withered face.
“Chiaroscuro good,” dictated the painter; “execution sketchy; coloring quiet, to be in keeping with the place and subject, but pure. You know the scene better than I, so work away, Giotto. Motto—’Will ye pay or toll it, mother?’ Price twenty-five guineas. Take it to What’s-his-name’s, and if it sells we’ll go to Arcadia, Giotto mio! The very thought of those breezes is as quinine to my languid faculties!”