“Jan Lake,” said Master Swift, “when I found you in yon wood, I found what I’ve looked for in vain for thirty-five years. Have I been schoolmaster so long, d’ye think, and don’t know one boy’s face from another? Lad? is it possible ye don’t care to be a great man?”
Jan cared very much, but he was afraid of Master Swift; and it was by an effort that he summoned up courage to say, —
“Couldn’t I be a great painter, Master Swift, don’t ’ee think?”
The old man frowned impatiently. “What have I been telling ye? The Fine Arts are not the road to fame for working-men. Jan, Jan, be guided by me. Learn what I bid ye. And when ye’ve made name and fortune the way I show ye, ye can buy paints and paintings at your will, and paint away to please your leisure hours.”
It did not need the gentle Abel’s after-counsel to persuade Jan to submit himself to the schoolmaster’s direction.
“I’ll do as ye bid me, Master Swift; indeed, I will, sir,” said he.
But, when the pleased old man rambled on of fame and fortune, it must be confessed that Jan but thought of them as the steps to those hours of wealthy leisure in which he could buy paints and indulge the irrepressible bent of his genius without blame.
The white horse in clover.—Amabel and her guardians.—Amabel in the wood.—Bogy.
The white horse lived to see good days. He got safely home, and spent the winter in a comfortable stable, with no work but being exercised for the good of his health by the stable-boy. It was expensive, but expense was not a first consideration with the Squire, and when he had once decided a matter, he was not apt to worry himself with regrets. As to Amabel the very narrowness of the white horse’s escape from death exalted him at once to the place of first favorite in her tender heart, even over the head (and ears) of the new donkey.
“Miss Amabel’s” interest in the cart-horse offended her nurse’s ideas of propriety, and met with no sympathy from her mother or grandmother. But she was apt to get her own way; and from time to time she appeared suddenly, like a fairy-imp, in the stable, where she majestically directed the groom to hold her up whilst she plied a currycomb on the old horse’s back. This over, she would ask with dignity, “Do you take care of him, Miles?” And Miles, touching his cap, would reply, “Certainly, miss, the very greatest of care.” And Amabel would add, “Does he get plenty to eat, do you think?” “Plenties to heat, miss,” the groom would reply. And she generally closed the conversation with, “I’m very glad. You’re a good man, Miles.”
In spring the white horse was turned out into the paddock, where Amabel had begged that he might die comfortably. He lived comfortably instead; and Amabel visited him constantly, and being perfectly fearless would kiss his white nose as he drooped it into her little arms. Her visits to the stable had been discovered and forbidden, but the scandal was even greater when she was found in the paddock, standing on an inverted bucket, and grooming the white horse with Lady Louisa’s tortoise-shell dressing-comb.