His great gift did indeed bring fortune as well as fame to our hero.
The Boys’ Home knows this. It has some generous patrons (it should have many!), and first amongst them must rank the great painter who sometimes presides at its annual festival, and is wont on such occasions pleasantly to speak of himself as “an old boy.”
More accurately entitled to that character is the bow-legged man-servant of another artist,—Jan’s old master. These two live on together, and each would find it difficult to say whether pride and pleasure in the good luck of their old companion, or the never healed pain of his loss, is the stronger feeling in their kindly hearts.
Amabel was her father’s heir, and in process of time Jan became the Squire, and went back to spend his life under the skies which inspired his childhood. But his wife is wont to say that she believes his true vocation was to be a miller, so strong is the love of windmills in him, and so proud is he of his Miller’s Thumb.
At one time Mr. Ammaby wished him to take his name and arms, but Jan decided to keep his own. And it is by this name that Fame writes him in her roll of painters, and not by that of the old Squires of Ammaby, nor by the name he bore when he was a Child of the Windmill.
A south-west wind is blowing over the plains. It drives the “messengers” over the sky, and the sails of the windmill, and makes the dead leaves dance upon the graves. It does much to dispel the evil effects of the foul smells and noxious gases, which are commoner yet in the little village than one might suppose. (But it is a long time, you see, since the fever was here.) It shows the silver lining of the willow leaves by the little river, and bends the flowers which grow in one glowing mass—like some gorgeous Eastern carpet—on Master Swift’s grave. It rocks Jan’s sign in mid-air above the Heart of Oak, where Master Chuter is waiting upon a newly arrived guest.
It is the man of business. Long has he promised to try the breezes of the plains for what he calls dyspepsia, and the artist calls “money-grubbing-on-the-brain,” but he never could find leisure, until a serious attack obliged him to do so. But at that moment the painter could not leave London, and he is here alone. He has not said that he knows Jan, for it amuses him to hear the little innkeeper ramble on with anecdotes of the great painter’s childhood.
“This ale is fine,” says the man of business. “I never can touch beer at home. The painter is married, you say?”