Such a blue coat Abel had possessed, but it was not suitable for mill work, and Mrs. Lake was easily persuaded to give it to Jan. He refused to have it curtailed, or in any way adapted to his figure, and in it, with a switch of his own cutting, he presented himself at Master Salter’s farm in good time the following morning.
It could not be said that Jan’s predecessor had exaggerated the perversity of the pigs he drove. If the coat of his choice had a fault in Jan’s estimation, it was that it helped to make him very hot as he ran hither and thither after his flock. But he had not studied pig-nature in vain. He had a good deal of sympathy with its vagaries, and he was quite able to outwit the pigs. Indeed, a curious attachment grew up between the little swineherd and his flock, some of whom would come at his call, when he rewarded their affection, as he had gained it, by scratching their backs with a rough stick.
But there were times when their playful and errant peculiarities were no small annoyance to him. Jan was growing fast both in mind and body. Phases of taste and occupation succeed each other very rapidly when one is young; and there are, perhaps, no more distinct phases, more sudden strides, than in the art of painting. With Jan the pig phase was going, and it was followed by landscape-sketching.
Jan was drawing his pigs one day in the little wood, when he fancied that the gnarled elbow of a branch near him had, in its outline, some likeness to a pig’s face, and he began to sketch it on his slate. But in studying the tree the grotesque likeness was forgotten, and there burst upon his mind, as a revelation, the sense of that world of beauty which lies among stems and branches, twigs and leaves. Painfully, but with happy pains, he traced the branch joint by joint, curve by curve, as it spread from the parent stem and tapered to its last delicate twigs. It was like following a river from its source to the sea. But to that sea of summer sky, in which the final ramifications of his branch were lost, Jan did not reach. He was abruptly stopped by the edge of his slate, which would hold no more.
To remedy this, when next he drew trees, he began the branches from the outer tips, and worked inwards to the stem. It was done for convenience, but to this habit he used afterwards to lay some of the merit of his admirable touch in tree-painting. And so “pig-making” became an amusement of the past, and the spell of the woods fell on Jan.