Scarecrows and men.—Jan refuses to “Make Gearge.”—Uncanny.—“Jan’s off."-The moon and the clouds.
The picture gave Jan great pleasure, but it proved a stumbling-block on the road to learning.
To “make letters” on his slate had been the utmost of his ambition, and as he made them he learned them. But after the Cheap Jack’s visit his constant cry was, “Jan make pitchers.” And when Abel tried to confine his attention to the alphabet, he would, after a most perfunctory repetition of a few letters that he knew, and hap-hazard blunders over fresh ones, fling his arms round Abel’s neck and say coaxingly, “Abel dear, make Janny pitchers on his slate.”
Abel’s pictures, at the best, were of that style of wall decoration dear to street boys.
“Make a pitcher of a man,” Jan would cry. And Abel did so, bit by bit, to Jan’s dictation. Thus “Make’s head. Make un round. Make two eyes. Make a nose. Make a mouth. Make’s arms. Make’s fingers,” etc. And, with some “free-handling,” Abel would strike the five fingers off, one by one, in five screeching strokes of the slate-pencil. But his art was conventional, and when Jan said, “Make un a miller’s thumb,” he was puzzled, and could only bend the shortest of the five strokes slightly backwards to represent the trade-mark of his forefathers.
And when a little later Jan said one day, “’Tis a galley crow, that is. Now make a pitcher of a man, Abel dear!” Abel found that the scarecrow figure was the limit of his artist powers, and thenceforward it was Jan who “made pitchers.”
He drew from dawn to dusk upon the little slate which he wore tied by a bit of string to the belt of his pinafore. He drew his foster-mother, and Abel, and the kitten, and the clock, and the flower-pots in the window, and the windmill itself, and every thing he saw or imagined. And he drew till his slate was full on both sides, and then in very primitive fashion he spat and rubbed it all out and began again. And whenever Jan’s face was washed, the two faces of his slate were washed too; and with this companion he was perfectly happy and constantly employed.
Now it was Abel who gave the subjects for the pictures, and Jan who made them, and it was good Abel also who washed the slate, and rubbed the well-worn stumps of pencil to new points upon the round-house floor.
They often went together to a mound at some little distance, where, seated side by side, they “made a mill” upon the slate, Jan drawing, and Abel dictating the details to be recorded.
“Put in the window, Jan,” he would say; “and another, and another, and another, and another. Now put the sails. Now put the stage. Now put daddy by the door.”