Puslapio vaizdai

I've heard tell. He reads French newspapers.
He's got some now at my house."

each other; but then, she added, perhaps it would have been more curious yet if they had not.

"Well, he's a foreigner, you know, Jane. You never can tell anything about them like Of course Andy accepted Blossier in exactly other people. He's been here doing niggah's Jane's spirit. He felt a little at a loss as to how work years, but it don't seem exactly like any to conduct himself with a Frenchman, finding other white man doing it. He's just a French- himself without social traditions on that point; man first or last, and for them that wants to but he had the best will in the world to adapt learn French, I reckon that 's what they want. himself as well as he could to any new etiquette I s'pose it would be a good thing for the pore required. Neither he nor Jane had a touch of old body, but you can't do much, Jane, with the usual sore contempt for ways new to them the war going on, and the Lord only knows-"-so little may a large spirit be dependent on then loyalty sealed her lips against the first ex- experience or intellectuality. pression of doubt as to the conclusion and after-tale of the conflict. As to the present she was right. In those days there was small interest in Strathboro' in the acquirement of French by any means whatsoever. Jane accepted this fact, and went her own way.

Long before poor Andy M'Grath, gaunt and tattered, despairing and beaten, came back to his home, Strathboro' had become familiar with the sight of Blossier going about his work with a tiny figure by his side-a little girl with the most marvelous double rows of brown curls under her corn-shuck hat; curls as stiff and slick and regular as if they had been done out of wood with a turning-lathe. Strathboro' admired the curls unanimously, but an accomplishment of their owner filled them with an even livelier interest. That little thing could speak French -talk it right along with old Blossy!

The pair were continually called upon to demonstrate the fact.

When old Mrs. Farnley came in from the country to stay with her daughter-in-law, she was not to be convinced by the ordinary exhibition.

"You, Mr. Blossy," said she-"you go clean out there by that there crape-myrtle, and stay there where I can see you. Janey, you tell Mr. Blossy when he comes back to give me my stick-tell him in French." Janey was a little mystified, but she was used to exhibiting her French, so she successfully performed the feat required of her; and when Blossier, with a bow, handed the old lady her staff, more witnesses than one had a new realization that the strange tongue was not a meaningless jargon.

Andy M'Grath's soul was as much like Jane's as one corn-field pea is like another. The Infinite mind doubtless saw distinctions between them, and Jane knew that Andy took more sugar in his coffee than she did, and Andy knew that she would spank Janey sometimes when he would not; but so far as other human beings were concerned, they might as well have had interchangeable identities. When they got married, Mrs. Pembroke remarked to Mrs. Kitchens that it was curious to see two such good, dumb, clever, say-nothing bodies marry VOL. XLIV. — 119.

Andy had been home a week, and it was the evening after they had first persuaded Blossier to sup with them. Janey, her curls tumbled into merely human tresses, but presumably dreaming French dreams, lay in her trundle-bed; and close by, Jane and Andy sat at the window, cooling off, and, as they said, "talking things over." Jane now opened up the subject she had had so long at heart.

"Pears, Andy, like Mr. Blossy 's too good to be doing niggah's work all the time. Of course with a Frenchman things is different, but seems like if he can teach Janey he might teach others."

"It 'pears like it would be more fitting," said Andy, seizing the idea.

"It's called a smart thing to know French; there 's Babe Tucker."

"Blossy must know all about it," responded Andy again.

"Yes; I heard Judge Caldwell say years ago that he was educated."

"It's a bad time now, Jane."

"I know that, Andy, but we can just try and get him started. The war 's over, and people got to educate their children quick if they 're going to 't all."


French is extry."

"Well, Blossy 's right here, and a heap of houses besides ourn would have burnt down if he had n't been. It won't cost much. He'll be better off, anyhow, than working all the time like a niggah. You talk to your brother Ben, Andy; he 'll like to have his girls as smart as Janey," concluded the self-sacrificing Jane, with a sigh.

TEN years from that night Judge Caldwell was saying to a guest, a lawyer from western Tennessee: "Yes, sir; Strathboro' can show more people, old and young, accomplished in the French tongue, sir, than any town-a larger proportion, sir, so accomplished — than any town in the State. There are numerous children in Strathboro' that talk French with each other together at their play, sir, sometimes. In fact, there is a little niggah here about the house somewhere now that I heard saying

you, 'Liza, where 's that piccaninny of yours?" the Judge interrupted himself to call to a servant passing the door.

"She done sleep, Jedge."


Very well; never mind.

"Well, sir, I must let you hear that little darky talk French in the morning. It sounds comic, it does indeed. She picked it up from my grandchildren. Strathboro' always had a literary taste. This county has produced a large proportion of the great men of middle Tennessee, Mr. Hunter,-a large proportion even take the whole State together, sir,-and owing to the circumstances I have related to you, a rivalry in the French language and literature sprang up among our people,-ladies and children, that is, chiefly,- till now, sir, almost as many of them have read 'Corinne,' sir, Madame de Staël's masterpiece, as are familiar with the 'Beulah' or 'St. Elmo' of our own Miss Evans." The Judge spoke truly. It had come about that learning French was the game the town most affected; and Blossier was, of course, the teacher.

The tone about him had not greatly changed; a familiarity with French had not much decreased Strathboro's sense of the anomalous in the existence of a Frenchman; but the face of life had greatly altered to Blossier. Stimulated by the gentle proddings of Jane M'Grath, he had studied to fit himself for his new calling, and it had come about that he had developed a little genuine simple interest in exercising his few wits, and (bless him!) was enjoying the sweets of the intellectual life."

Moreover, though the tone of the town about him had not much altered, nevertheless its tone to him was necessarily, in the new circumstances, more friendly and considerate, and that deeply touched and pleased the little man.

He still lived by himself, but now it was in the "office," in Mrs. Pembroke's yard, and so he was within the pale of civilization, and could be looked after if he fell sick. Jane had not rested till that possibility was provided for. But Fate is apt to pass over the possibilities scrupulously provided for; Blossier had never spent a day in bed since he recovered from his burns, when one autumn the dear Jane herself sickened and died, and was laid away in that shadow village always growing, growing, silently and ominously, by Strathboro's side.

Poor Andy M'Grath was indeed left, as Aunt 'Cindy said, like the half of a pair of scissors. Yes, that was it; he was now a something absurdly useless, unnaturally unfit for existence, a something to provoke the mirth of Olympus. How strange a thing, still strange in its awful familiarity, that a creature so inoffensive, living in dumb, helpless good faith the life thrust upon him, could seem so played upon!

At the funeral, after Jane was laid in the ground and the earth was well heaped over her, Andy turned his poor bewildered, pain-dazed eyes upon the faces about him, and amid their wearied assumption of solemnity, beneath which the usual easy little interest in the commonplace was already asserting itself, he saw Blossier, his features working convulsively, as he gazed with eyes that did not see upon the hideous mound.

It was not in Andy to feel resentment against the others; perhaps he too realized, in the depths of his wordless consciousness, that poor humanity could hardly exist except as it is "well wadded with stupidity"; but his heart went out to Blossier, and was eased a little at the sight of his grief.

He went to him and took his hand, and without a word the two men, the two piteous old children, went away together from Jane's grave.

Months went by, and Strathboro' became used to seeing them together, and had almost ceased to gossip about the queer taste Andy showed, when one June day new fuel fed the flame of popular criticism.

The week before, Blossier had overheard one of his pupils, a middle-aged, unmarried lady, say, in his class, to her nearest neighbor, that "it was a plum' shame the way poor Mrs. M'Grath's little girls was runnin' wild with nobody but Aunt 'Cindy to look after 'em, and she so old she did n't know what she was doin', anyhow," and that it was her "'pinion that pore Miss Jane would rather they had a step-ma than to have 'em left with no raisin' at all like that."

Jane had left four daughters. This little incident gave Blossier food for profound reflection. He reflected to some purpose. That night instead of going and sitting on the gallery steps, after supper, with Andy, as usual, he stopped outside the front gate, and called with a portentous, mysterious air, “Mees-tere Andee, Mees-tere Andee,-non, non!" in answer to the invitation to enter, and then he beckoned, still mysteriously, with sidelong. backward nods of the head, for Andy to come to him. "Howdy?" said he when Andy reached the gate, now assuming a light, dégagé air, totally inconsistent with his previous manner. "Come chez-moi, these eve-ning."

When Andy was seated on the steps of the "office," Blossier brought him a mint-julep, and with a glass of cheap claret for himself— the one luxury of his prosperity-sat down in the doorway.

"Mighty nice," said Andy, politely; "get your mint close by?"

But Blossier was so absorbed in trying to arrange his thoughts for presentation that he forgot to answer.

[ocr errors][merged small]

leetle daughtere air-r much upon my meditation. I weis zey have ze bess condition possible."

Andy stopped with the uplifted glass half-way to his mouth, and began with a troubled countenance scrupulously to study its contents.

"My fatere was one taileur, Mees-tere Andee," Blossier inexplicably proceeded, putting his glass down on the step, and talking eagerly with outstretched palms, "and my moo-tere was-was-she make toy, mose delicate wiz fin-gere, et moi, me-I help, I help bote when I leetle, when I biggere."

Andy had forgotten his glass now, and was staring and yet trying to look polite and not too conscious of the strangeness of French ways.

"And, Mees-tere Andee, my fin-gere also, alway, even now-I sew for my clo'es my-se'f alway, you not know? I know I do ainy t'ing zat way easee, beautiful; and ze manière, ze politeness, ah, Mees-tere Andee, you know ze French peepul zey have ze manière; I teach ze leetle daughtere all, I keep ze houze, I sew ze clo'es, so not in Strathboro' is such clo'es, Mees-tere Andee, si vous-peremeet me, Meestere Andee, come chez vous, to your houzeyou comprehend?"

By this time Blossier was standing on the walk in front of Andy, rapidly pantomiming his ideas, and pleading with gesture as well as with voice, as if begging that children of his own should be cared and labored for by Andy. For a moment Andy stared on in silence, and Blossier's heart was in his mouth; then he got up, caught and wrung the Frenchman's hand an instant, dropped it, and, turning his back, pulled his old soft hat over his face.

Two days later Strathboro' had the enormous excitement of seeing Blossier's household gods a queer little cart-load they made moved to Andy M'Grath's house, and behind the cart walked Blossier, carrying our old friend the double-bass.

So was established the oddest household south of Mason and Dixon's line.

It was a year before Strathboro' sounded the full depths of its oddity, and ceased to vibrate with the excitement of fresh discovery. Blossier took completely a woman's place in the household economy, and the world has seen

few more touchingly funny sights than that little man sitting cross-legged on the floor of Jane's old sitting-room, making feminine fripperies of an unmistakably Parisian character, frivolous and modish, airy and coquettish, to be worn by his favorite, the faithful but stolid Janey.

He sits there yet, bald, a little shaky, annoyingly dim of sight, but still enjoying turning out, for Janey's babies now, such dainty confections of laces and ribbons as no other fingers in Strathboro' have ever concocted. Strathboro' has long ago accepted Andy M'Grath's establishment-for Andy still heads it-as one of its peculiar possessions, and takes much pride in it; and Jimmy Pendleton, who buys goods in Memphis, or one of Judge Caldwell's granddaughters, who is a belle and visits the best people from Louisville to New Orleans, or any of the most traveled residents of the place, will tell you again and again that the fame of its French and its Frenchman has gone abroad as far as west Tennessee and southern Kentucky and even northern Alabama.

Janey only, of the children,- with her husband and her children,-lives in the old place; the rest are married and scattered, and Andy and Blossier seem to depend on each other more and more as the years go by. They never had anything to say to each other, and they have nothing now, but they love to sit side by side on the gallery on summer evenings, or by the open fire in winter, as might two roughcoated, long-acquainted old dogs, and with no more sense of failure of companionship in the silence. Each understands how past and present are mingled in the other's mind, as Janey's children tumble about, nightgowned for their final romp; and each knows the dear figure that as wife or patron saint is ever in the other's thoughts, though Jane M'Grath has been buried so long that even in this small world she is become to others little more than a name on a tombstone; and together these two look forward quite trustfully to the time when their names also shall be on tombstones. And, truly, if there is assurance for the merciful and the meek and the pure in heart, for the salt of the earth in short, as to that veiled and awful door through which poor humanity is always crowding, they may be assured.

[merged small][graphic]






HE father of the painter known, from the insignificant little town between Modena and Mantua in which he was born, as Correggio, was a clothier, but the uncle of the artist, Lorenzo Allegri, was a painter of the local school of art, of which the head was Antonio Bartolozzi. It is probable that Antonio Allegri was a pupil in the school. All that we know is that he was set to work in an artist's studio at an early age, and next appears as a master, painting the churches of his native town in a style which for individuality and power of a certain kind must remain a problem. The chroniclers have not failed to suggest solutions in attributing his education to certain masters; but evidence is lacking for any authoritative statement of that kind, nor does Correggio's matured style grow naturally out of that of any of his contemporaries or predecessors of whom we know, unless it may show a slight early tinge of the school of Ferrara. There is no proof that he went to Rome or came under the influence of Raphael or Michelangelo, or that he studied under Da Vinci. It is useless to spend conjectures on origins or supposed influences which are not recorded in the work of the painter. Our first positive information of him is that when twenty years of age, and therefore not legally capable of making a contract, he and his father were called to the convent of the Minor Brethren of S. Francesco in Correggio, to make arrangements for the execution of an altarpiece, the price for which was fixed at one hundred ducats. This was in August of 1514; and in the following April the picture was delivered, having been executed, as is shown by a memorandum of the delivery of the panel for the work, since the previous November. The picture represents the Madonna and Child with St. Francis and three other saints, and is now in the Dresden Gallery. It is signed "Antonius de Alegris P." In the town of Correggio there remains an altarpiece in the church of Sta. Maria della Misericordia, representing Saints Leonard, Martha, Mary Magdalen, and Peter. Of what may

be recognized as the painter's early work, preceding these altarpieces, but already of wellformed manner, may be accepted a panel lately discovered in London, "Christ taking Leave of Mary before the Passion," a Madonna and Child at Hampton Court, and some minor works at Milan.

In 1518, when twenty-four years old, Correggio came to Parma, his fame preceding him, and he received at once important commissions. Donna Giovanna, abbess of the Convent of St. Paul, commissioned him to paint the ceiling of the great chamber in a fine suite of rooms occupied by her. The fresco represents a vine-covered trellis in which are sixteen oval apertures through which the blue sky appears, and in every opening there is a group of little genii playing with hunting-trophies. Sixteen lunettes underneath contain mythological scenes in chiaroscuro of gray. Over the mantel is Diana mounting her chariot. Classical convention is disregarded in the mythology, and perspective in the architectural design; in these particulars, as in his method of painting, Correggio refuses to be other than his own master. It is not known when this decoration was finished, but in 1519 the painter was at home again, called there by a lawsuit, which he finally gained in 1528, and which concerned a legacy left him by a maternal uncle. During the year 1519, however, he was a not infrequent visitor to a fair daughter of Parma, the orphan child of an esquire of the Duke of Mantua; and she became his wife at the end of the year. In 1521 he had a son born, and soon after moved to Parma, where he resided until 1530, when, having lost his wife, he returned to his native town. Here he possessed two houses and some land, and was in favor with the ruling family, as appears from his being a witness for the marriage-contract of the daughter of the lord, Gian Battista.

In 1521 Correggio signed an agreement for the decoration of the cupola and the apse of S. Giovanni of the Benedictines of Parma, for which work he was paid 272 gold ducats in 1524, 30 having been paid in advance. The paintings in the apse seem to have been removed in 1587, and are now in the museum of Parma, except two fragments in London: those of the cupola are still in place. While

[graphic][merged small][subsumed][merged small][merged small]
« AnkstesnisTęsti »