“I be obliged to ’ee all the same, Master Swift. But I hope I knows better manners than to intrude on you and Jan just now, let alone a gentleman on whom I shall have pleasure in waiting at the Heart of Oak. There be beds, sir, at your service and Jan’s, and well aired they be. And I’ll be proud to show you the sign, sir, painted by that boy when he were an infant, as I may say. But I knowed what was in un. Master Swift can bear me witness. ‘Mark my words,’ says I, ’the boy Jan be ‘most as good as a sign-painter yet.’ And I do think a will. But you knows best, sir.”
“I feel quite convinced that he will,” said the painter, gravely.
Whilst Master Chuter and the artist thus settled Jan’s career, he cooked the eggs and bacon; and when Master Swift had propelled himself to the table, and the others (including Rufus) had taken their seats, the innkeeper drew cork, dusted the bottle-mouth, and filled the fat-legged wine-glasses; then, throwing a parting glance over the arrangements of the table, he withdrew.
Jan’s fears for the credit of his home, his anxieties as to the effect of the frugal living of his old friends upon the more luxurious taste of his new patron, were very needless. The artist was delighted with every thing, and when he said that he had never tasted food so good as the eggs and bacon, or relished any wine like that from the cellar of the Heart of Oak, he quite believed what he said. In truth, none should be so easily pleased as the artistic, when they wish to be so, since if “we receive but what we give,” and our happiness in any thing is according to the mind we bring to it, imaginative people must have an advantage in being able to put so much rose color into their spectacles.
Warmed by the good cheer, Master Swift discoursed as vigorously as of old. With a graphic power of narration, commoner in his class than in a higher one, he entertained the artist with stories of Jan’s childhood, and gave a vivid picture of his own first sight of him in the wood. He did not fail to describe the long blue coat, the pig-switch, and the slate, nor did he omit to quote the lines which so well described the scene which the child-genius was painting in leaves.
“Well have I named him Giotto!” said the artist; “the shepherd boy drawing on the sand.”
“If ye’d seen the swineherd painting with nature’s own tints,” said Master Swift, with a pertinacious adherence to his own view of things, which had always been characteristic of him, “I reckon you’d have thought he beat the shepherd boy. Not that I could pretend to be a judge of the painting myself, sir; what took my mind was the inventive energy of the child. For maybe fifty men in a hundred do a thing, if you find them the tools, and show them the way, but not five can make their own materials and find a way for themselves.”
“Necessity’s the mother of invention,” said the painter, smiling.