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ill with fever, and has been nursed at Mr. Sandford's own house, by his sister, Miss Sandford.'
'Very kind of them,' observed the artist.
They are very kind always, Sir. I rejoice that you do not desire to take away the boy from our school. He is doing so well, although I call him, from his only fault, "my scribbler." Drawing is his mania, and he vexes me very much by it constantly, as he finds out to his cost.' 'Ah, he was poring over a slate when I first observed him. thought it was some punishment. Perhaps you will call them both up once more for an instant.'
They had retired when the conversation with the school-master commenced.
'Over the slate again, I perceive; not a hopeful way of developing his talent, I fear, poor child.'
Mr. White recalled our young friends, and they at once obeyed. Robin slung the slate behind him as he came up.
'Let me see your drawing, Robin,' said the artist.
Robin coloured up very red, but he did not offer to show it. Mr. White then put forth his authority, but not harshly. Mr. Easdale your slate, Robin, directly, if he is so kind as to ask for it.' Robin took the slate from his neck, and put it into the artist's hand. Mr. Easdale smiled. Very well indeed, my boy, though you have not exactly flattered me, nor have I quite so staring an eye, I hope. Don't be frightened; I have drawn a great many people's faces myself, and certainly ought not to mind being sketched. And now I am going to paint your sister, and perhaps when the picture is done I may invite you to come and see it.'
'Paint Amy's picture!' exclaimed Robin, excited beyond his usual decorum, and almost forgetful of his master. 'And will you let me see you do it, Sir? Shall I fetch you some water, and a table?-May I, Sir, if you please?' turning to the school-master, who looked much astonished, but half amused.
'I do not require water, thank you, my boy,' replied the painter, smiling at Robin's eagerness; and I am not going to paint your sister's picture now. I mean to take her away, and paint her at my leisure at home.'
'Take Amy away, Sir!' cried the boy, with a changed countenance. 'You will not take her away, when I have promised—'
The recollections were too much for him; the combination might, he thought, prove too strong: he looked from one hearer's face to the other, and burst into a fit of crying.
Mr. Easdale looked on with considerable surprise, the change was so very sudden and unlooked for.
'Run away now, Robin,' said he, and let me talk to Mr. White; and I will see you another time, and draw you something on your slate.' The boy looked up. He had been preparing his speech, and the time
for it seemed to be come. 'Thank you, Sir,' he said very sadly, 'but pray do not take my sister away. She is very happy here, and I promised Mother a faithful promise that I would take care of her,' continued he, drawing himself up; and Mr. Sandford said I was quite right, and we should not be parted.'
'I see,' returned the painter. 'Then of course we must not part you, to break your promise and your heart; but I do not know whether I can give up my subject, so perhaps you can both come together to my house.'
'Thank you, Sir.'
The tears dried up immediately, and the children turned away. 'Then I shall see the painting,' said Robin to himself.
That is a character,' remarked Mr. Easdale, as soon as the children were out of hearing.
'A very singular boy,' replied the school-master. If it were not for detaining you, Sir, I could mention some strange things about him. He has two charges-his sister, and a small parcel, which he guards with the most jealous care-in trust, he says, for another person who cannot be found. He will not allow anyone to open it, and in giving up some money which he had with him to Mr. Sandford, he requested to be allowed a box with a lock to it for this treasure, and the key is always suspended from his neck. Mr. Sandford is very much interested in him, and also in his sister, who is not clever, and too delicate to be urged on.'
'He need not be afraid of my adopting the little girl because I want her for a few hours a day,' observed the painter, in conclusion. 'I have a tolerable number of my own.'
'He would give up the slate, and the parcel too, Sir, before his sister, no doubt,' was the school-master's reply. But I will speak to Mr. Sandford upon the subject of your application, and let you know when you favour me with another call.'
'Thank you. Here is my card for your clergyman, and tell him that I will take good care of his little orphan during the hour she may remain at my house. Good morning, Mr. White, and thank you once more for your assistance.'
WHEN Mr. Sandford appeared at the school on the following morning, it was not found quite so easy to arrange with him for Amy as the school-master had supposed. For this good clergyman was not sure that he approved of the little girl being placed in so forward a position; and besides that, he knew something of the power of Mr. Easdale's pencil.
The child would, he was sure, make an admirable study, but if Amy should gaze upon her own portrait with half the admiration that it was likely to excite in the minds of others, it might be difficult afterwards to
stem the tide of vanity. Was it safe then to open the door, and admit such a feeling voluntarily? The little girl was quite guileless now, might she not become otherwise from the effect of these sittings?
Yet Mr. Sandford knew the painter to be a good man, and a gentleman; perhaps he might be a friend for life to these almost friendless orphans; and if Robin should ever shew a decided taste for drawing..... But then the clergyman had, to say truly, other views in his own mind for Robin. What poor scholars had done, poor scholars (Mr. Sandford thought) might do. We all build a castle occasionally, it may amuse without harming, and Mr. Sandford might safely be trusted never to run very far after a shadow. No, for he was a man of sound practical common sense; but Robin was quick, his memory very surprising, and his diligence quite equal to the superior power of his childish understanding. Mr. Sandford left a very undecided message for the artist, and went home to consult his sister.
Miss Sandford was not so disinclined towards Mr. Easdale's proposal. 'I should ask him to allude to his work only in a very ordinary manner,' said she, in consultation, and I should let her go. Amy need only observe that the face is her own, and will know that some little girl must sit to make the picture complete.' And here the affair rested during that week; then the painter, desiring to make his final arrangements, paid the intended visit at the clergyman's house.
Miss Sandford only was at home. She was glad to hear Mr. Easdale's proposal from his own lips.
'I have a wood scene or two in hand for the next season,' said he, in explanation, and your little orphan harmonizes with my idea of the intended subject. She shall not be made conceited by me, and if she frets I will send her into my nursery for change of scene. She shall return home in an omnibus with her brother, if you will permit them to come together, for the first time at least. You may quite depend upon my care, and I will not forget to forward your views for the children's future, if ever it should lie in my power. If you should not feel quite satisfied, and were coming into St. John's Wood at any time-'
'I do indeed feel quite satisfied,' replied Miss Sandford. 'So many instances of Mr. Easdale's kindness and benevolence have already come under my notice, that I am not inclined to lose so good a friend for our orphans. Name your time, and if my brother will consent, I will send the children to you in a cab by a driver whom we happen to know. Amy cannot walk to St. John's Wood, unfortunately.'
'And you will not, I think, find any objection to the omnibus afterwards,' rejoined Mr. Easdale. They can always travel by the same conveyance, and will make their way very well together.'
The painter scarcely acknowledged how completely he had, in his own mind, identified the little Amy with his forthcoming picture. He knew it would be successful; already he could see it completed. Already he could hear, and he could see, as he thought, in the next season's exhibition . . .
Mr. Easdale was standing before his canvas when a tiny maiden ran into the room. 'Papa,' she exclaimed, with great enthusiasm, "The children are come in a cab, I saw them drive up to the door.'
Papa took the intelligence all too calmly for the pleased little messenger.
'May I stay to see them?'
'Yes, Meggie, you may see them come in. Go into your corner.'
So Meggie sat in her corner, (the privileged spot in which her presence was permitted during the painter's busiest hours) and Mr. Easdale's visitors were shewn in.
Robin entered with the proud consciousness that this was the happiest, the most auspicious day of his young life. Amy felt more afraid; she was beginning to be a little shy-not a characteristic which usually makes a first appearance so late in child life; but her position had been a peculiar one, and this had come on with the kindness and the notice.
'Now, Robin Gray, you may look about you, but without touching anything. And you, little maiden, take off your bonnet and sit there.’ He placed her gently on a low seat opposite to him. 'Look round too, you like, once for a minute, and at that good little girl in her corner. Now sit quite still, so, and think of something. Think of being out in a thick wood. Do you know what a thick wood is like?'
"Think of being all alone there, without Robin, and that you could not find your way out. Darkness coming on, and that you might be left by yourself all night: open your eyes and look towards this, not at anything in particular, and think, without moving your head.'
So Amy sat and thought, and her expressive countenance grew more and more touching. The terrors of a dark wood were not nearly so great to her as the artist had imagined, but she tried to think about it as she was bid. Then came recollections far sadder and more real. At the thought of the darkness she mentally returned to the one dark night of woe outside the Gipsy tent; and without moving her face from its position, or her eyes from the spot enjoined, a large tear rolled down each cheek. Was it cruel that the art lover was so pleased to see her cry? Here was his opportunity, and he worked away at his sketch too much interested and absorbed to consider with any regret the real feelings of sorrow he had aroused. At last came a time when the poor little head must really be allowed to move again, so Mr. Easdale paused for a moment, and looked round upon Robin. Need we report what he had been doing all this time? That he had brought with him his beloved slate will be a hint sufficient.
'Here, my boy, take these,' said the painter, compassionating Robin's pursuit of the fine arts under such very adverse circumstances. 'Now draw me that large head as well as you can.'
Very eagerly did the boy come forward, and in a moment became as fully absorbed as his master had been a few minutes before.
'What made you take a fancy to drawing, Robin Gray?' inquired Mr. Easdale, after another pause. 'Did you ever see anyone painting before to-day?'
'Yes, Sir. I've seen many painting, different times,' replied the boy. 'And they were making fine pictures too. Out in the open air, on heaths and commons, and lanes, and roads often. But I could have done as well as some of them myself, they drew so badly.'
"You thought so, that is to say.'
'Yes, Sir, I did. I am sure of it.'
'Perhaps they put you into the pictures sometimes, these artists.'
'Yes, Sir, one did, I know, for that is just what he told me afterwards. "Sit still, boy," said he, "and I will give you twopence;" so I sat still; and then he said, “There, you're in the picture now." to see it! but he looked fierce whenever I came near. kept his twopence to have let me see, if it had not been wanted by-by somebody.'
How I did long
'But how came you out on so many heaths and commons, Robin Gray? Where do you come from?'
The boy coloured. Civilization, and above all Christian instruction, had not heightened his opinion of his former wild companions and Gipsy life.
'Mr. Sandford knows, Sir,' replied he; 'I've told him where I came from, very particularly, and he told me I need not say it again if I would rather not. And I would much rather not, Sir, if you please.' 'Very well, my boy, I will not ask you; so now you may go on with your drawing.'
And the sitting went favourably to its close, nor adventure attending the journey home.
was there any
(To be continued.)
ONE evening, at sunset, an old man came towards Brentholm Church, with some keys in his hand. He was the sexton; and he was coming to toll the knell for a woman who had died that afternoon.
The air had that strange evening glimmer, in which everything looks so wonderfully distinct and near, and yet even the stocks and stones seem to tremble, as if they had life. Therefore, when the sexton saw something dark upon the steps of the church door, he thought at first that it was a shadow; but having rubbed his eyes, which were old and dim, he fancied it was a large black dog; and at last, coming close to the door, he saw that it was a little girl sitting there, with her chin