The innkeeper was not insensible to this consideration, but his chief wish was to spite Master Linseed. He lost no time in making ready, and for the rest of the week Jan lived between the tallet (or hay-loft) of the inn and the wood where he had first studied trees. Master Chuter provided him with sheets of thick whitey-brown paper, on which he made water-color studies, from which he painted afterwards. By his desire no one was admitted to the tallet, though Master Chuter’s delight increased with the progress of the picture till the secret was agony to him. Towards the end of the week they were disturbed by a scuffling on the tallet stairs, and Rufus bounced in, followed at a slower pace by the schoolmaster, crying, “Unearthed at last!”
“Come in, come in! That’s right!” shouted Master Chuter. “Let Master Swift look, Jan. He be a scholar, and’ll tell us all about un.”
But Jan shrank into the shadow. The schoolmaster stood in the light of the open shutter, towards which the painting was sloped, and Rufus sat by him on his haunches, and blinked with all the gravity of a critic; and in the half light between them and the stairs stood the fat little innkeeper, with his hands on his knees, crying, “There, Master Swift! Did ’ee ever see any thing to beat that? Artis’ or ammytoor!”
Jan’s very blood seemed to stand still. As Master Swift put on his spectacles, each fault in the painting sprang to the front and mocked him. It was indeed a wretched daub!
But Jan had been studying the scene under every lovely light of heaven from dawn to dusk for a week of summer days: Master Swift carried no such severe test in his brain. As he raised his head, the tears were in his eyes, and he held out his hand, saying, “My lad, it’s just the spirit of the woods.
“But d’ye not think a figure or so would enliven it?” he continued. “One of Robin Hood’s foresters ’chasing the flying roe’?”
“Foresters! To be sure!” said Master Chuter. “What did I say? Have the schoolmaster in, says I. He be a scholar, and knows what’s what. Put ’em in, Jan, put ’em in! there’s plenty of room.”
What Jan had already suffered from the innkeeper’s suggestions, only an artist can imagine, and his imagination will need no help!
“I’d be main glad to get a bit of red in there,” said Jan, in a low voice, to Master Swift; “but Robin Hood must be in green, sir, mustn’t he?”
“There’s Will Scarlet. Put Will in,” said Master Swift, who, pleased to be appealed to, threw himself warmly into the matter. “He can have just drawn his bow at a deer out of sight.” And with a charming simplicity the old schoolmaster flung his burly figure into an appropriate attitude.
“Stand so a minute!” cried Jan, and seizing a lump of charcoal, with which he had made his outlines, he rapidly sketched Master Swift’s figure on the floor of the tallet. Thinned down to what he declared to have been his dimensions in youth, it was transferred to Jan’s picture, and the touch of red was the culminating point of the innkeeper’s satisfaction.