“I be thinking,” continued Master Chuter, “of a gentlemen as draad out that mare of my father’s that ran in the mail. You remember the coaches, Daddy Angel?”
“Ay, ay, Master Chuter. Between Lonnon and Exeter a ran. Fine days at the Heart of Oak, then, Master Chuter.”
“He weren’t a sign-painter, that I knows on. A were somethin’ more in the gentry way,” said Master Chuter, not, perhaps, quite without malice in the distinction. “He were what they calls in genteel talk a” —
“Artis’,” said Master Linseed, removing his pipe, to supply the missing word with a sense of superiority.
“No, not a artis’,” said Master Chuter, “though it do begin with a A, too. ‘Twasn’t a artis’ he was, ’twas a” —
“Ammytoor,” said the travelled sign-painter.
“That be it,” said the innkeeper. “A ammytoor. And he was short of money, I fancy, and so ’twas settled a should paint this mare of my father’s to set against the bill. And a draad and a squinted at un, and a squinted at un and a draad, and laid the paint on till the pictur’ looked all in a mess, and then he took un away to vinish. But when a sent it home, I thought my vather would have had the law of un. I’m blessed if a hadn’t given the mare four white feet, and shoulders that wouldn’t have pulled a vegetable cart; and she near-wheeler of the mail! I’d lay a pound bill Jan Lake would a done her ever so much better, for as young a hand as a is, if a’d squinted at her as long.”
“Well, well, Master Chuter,” said the painter and decorator, rising to go, “let the boy draw pigs and osses for his living. And I wish he may find paint as easy as slate-pencil.”
Master Linseed’s parting words produced upon the company that somewhat unreasonable depression which such ironical good wishes are apt to cause; but they only roused the spirit of contradiction in Master Chuter, and heightened his belief in Jan’s talents more than any praise from the painter could have done.
“Here’s a pretty caddle about giving a boy’s due!” said the innkeeper. “But I knows the points of a oss, and the makings of a pig, if I bean’t a sign-painter. And, mark my words, the boy Jan ’ull out-paint Master Linseed yet.”
Master Chuter spoke with triumph in his tone, but it was the triumph of delivering his sentiments to unopposing hearers.
There were moments of greater triumph to come, of which he yet wotted not, when the sevenfold fulfilment of his prediction should be past dispute, and attested from his own walls by more lasting monuments of Jan’s skill than the too perishable sketch which now stood like a text for the innkeeper on the mantelpiece of the Heart of Oak.
The mop.—The shop.—What the cheap Jack’s wife had to tell.—What George withheld.