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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesJan Of The Windmill - Chapter 15. Willum Gives Jan Some Advice...
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Jan Of The Windmill - Chapter 15. Willum Gives Jan Some Advice... Post by :mrj_60 Category :Long Stories Author :Juliana Horatia Ewing Date :May 2012 Read :2042

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Jan Of The Windmill - Chapter 15. Willum Gives Jan Some Advice...


Jan went back to school. Though his foster-mother was indignant, and ready to do battle both with Dame Datchett and with William Smith's aunt (with whom, in lieu of parents, the boy lived), and though Abel expressed his anxiety to go down and "teach Willum to vight one of his own zize," Jan steadily rejected their help, and said manfully, "Jan bean't feared of un. I whopped un, I did."

So Mrs. Lake doctored his bruises, and sent him off to school again. She yielded the more readily that she felt certain that the windmiller would not take the child's part against the Dame.

No further misfortune befell him. William, if loutish and a bit of a bully on occasion, was not an ill-natured child; and, having a turn for humor of a broad, unintellectual sort, he and Jan became rather friendly on the common, but reprehensible ground of playing pranks, which kept the school in a titter and the Dame in doubt. And, if detected, they did not think a dose of the strap by any means too high a price to pay for their fun.

For William's sufferings under that instrument of discipline were not to be measured by his doleful howlings and roarings, nor even by his ready tears.

"What be 'ee so voolish for as to say nothin' when her wollops 'ee?" he asked of Jan, in a very friendly spirit, one day. "Thee should holler as loud as 'ee can. Them that hollers and cries murder she soon stops for, does Dame Datchett. She be feared of their mothers hearing 'em, and comin' after 'em."

Jan could not lower himself to accept such base advice; but his superior adroitness did much to balance the advantage William had over him, in a less scrupulous pride.

As to learning, I fear that, after the untoward consequences of his zeal for the alphabet, Jan made no effort to learn any thing but cat's-cradle from his neighbors.

On one other occasion, indeed, he was somewhat over-zealous, and only escaped the strap for his reward by a friendly diversion on the part of his friend. The Dame had a Dutch clock in the corner of her kitchen, the figures on the face of which were the common Arabic ones, and not Roman. And as one of the few things the Dame professed was to "teach the clock," she would, when the figures had been recited after the fashion in which her scholars shouted over the alphabet, set those who had advanced to the use of slates to copy the figures from the clock-face.

Slowly and sorrowfully did William toil over this lesson. Again and again did he rub out his ill-proportioned fives, with so greasy a finger and such a superabundance of moisture as to make a sort of puddle, into which he dug heavily, and broke two pencils.

"A vive be such an akkerd vigger," he muttered, in reply to Jan, who had looked up inquiringly as the second pencil snapped. "'Twill come aal right, though, when a dries."

It did dry, but any thing but right. Jan rubbed out the mass of thick and blotted strokes, and when the Dame was not looking, he made William's figures for him. Jan was behindhand in spelling, but to copy figures was no difficulty to him.

Having helped his friend thus, he pulled his smock, to draw attention to his own slate. The other children wrote so slowly that time had hung heavy on his hands; and, instead of copying the figures in a row, he had made a drawing of the clock-face, with the figures on it; but instead of the hands, he had put eyes, nose, and mouth, and below the mouth a round gray blot, which William instantly recognized for a portrait of the mole on Dame Datchett's chin. This brilliant caricature so tickled him, that he had a fit of choking from suppressed laughter; and he and Jan, being detected "in mischief," were summoned with their slates to the Dame's chair.

William came off triumphant; but when the Dame caught sight of Jan's slate, without minutely examining his work, she said, "Zo thee's been scraaling on thee slate, instead of writing thee figures," and at once began to fumble beneath her chair.

But William had slightly moved the strap with his foot, as he stood with a perfectly unmoved and vacant countenance beside the Dame, which made some delay; and as Mrs. Datchett bent lower on the right side of her chair, William began upon the left a "hum," which, with a close imitation of the crowing of a cock, the grunting of a pig, and the braying of a donkey, formed his chief stock of accomplishments.

"Drat the thing! Where be un?" said the Dame, endangering her balance in the search.

"B-z-z-z-z!" went William behind the chair; and he added, sotto voce, to Jan, "She be as dunch as a bittle."

At last the Dame heard, and looked round. "Be that a harnet, missus, do 'ee think?" said William, with a face as guileless as a babe's.

Dame Datchett rose in terror. William bent to look beneath her chair for the hornet, and of course repeated his hum. As the hornet could neither be found nor got rid of, the alarmed old lady broke up the school, and went to lay a trap of brown sugar outside the window for her enemy. And so Jan escaped a beating.

But this and the story of his first fight are digressions. It yet remains to be told how he took to drawing pigs.

Dame Datchett's cottage was the last on one side of the street; but it did not face the street, but looked over the water-meadows, and the little river, and the bridge.

As Jan sat on the end of the form, he could look through the Dame's open door, the chief view from which was of a place close by the bridge, and on the river's bank, where the pig-minders of the village brought their pigs to water. Day after day, when the tedium of doing nothing under Dame Datchett's superintendence was insufficiently relieved to Jan's active mind by pinching "Willum" till he giggled, or playing cat's-cradle with one of his foster- brothers, did he welcome the sight of a flock of pigs with their keeper, scuttling past the Dame's door, and rushing snorting to the stream.

Much he envied the freedom of the happy pig-minder, whilst the vagaries of the pigs were an unfailing source of amusement.

The degree and variety of expression in a pig's eye can only be appreciated by those who have studied pigs as Morland must have studied them. The pertness, the liveliness, the humor, the love of mischief, the fiendish ingenuity and perversity of which pigs are capable, can be fully known to the careworn pig-minder alone. When they are running away,--and when are they not running away?--they have an action with the hind legs very like a donkey in a state of revolt. But they have none of the donkey's too numerous grievances. And if donkeys squealed at every switch, as pigs do, their undeserved sufferings would have cried loud enough for vengeance before this.

Jan's opportunities for studying pigs were good. As the smallest and swiftest of the flock, his tail tightly curled, and indescribable jauntiness in his whole demeanor, came bounding to the river's brink, followed by his fellows, driving, pushing, snuffing, winking, and gobbling, and lastly by a small boy in a large coat, with a long switch, Jan was witness of the whole scene from Dame Datchett's door. And, as he sat with his slate and pencil before him, he naturally took to drawing the quaint comic faces and expressive eyes of the herd, and their hardly less expressive backs and tails; and to depicting the scenes which took place when the pigs had enjoyed their refreshment, and with renewed vigor led their keeper in twenty different directions, instead of going home. Back, up the road, where he could hardly drive them at the point of the switch a few hours before; by sharp turns into Squire Ammaby's grounds, or the churchyard; and helter-skelter through the water- meadows.

The fame of Jan's "pitcher-making" had gone before him to Dame Datchett's school by the mouths of his foster-brothers and sisters, and he found a dozen little voices ready to dictate subjects for his pencil.

"Make a 'ouse, Janny Lake." "Make thee vather's mill, Janny Lake." "Make a man. Make Dame Datchett. Make the parson. Make the Cheap Jack. Make Daddy Angel. Make Master Chuter. Make a oss--cow-- ship--pig!"

But the popularity obtained by Jan's pigs soon surpassed that of all his other performances.

"Make pigs for I, Janny Lake!" and "Make pigs for I, too!" was a sort of whispering chorus that went on perpetually under the Dame's nose. But when she found that it led to no disturbance, that the children only huddled round the child Jan and his slate like eager scholars round a teacher, Dame Datchett was wise enough to be thankful that Jan possessed a power she had never been able to acquire,--that he could "keep the young varments quiet."

"He be most's good's a monitor," thought the Dame; and she took a nap, and Jan's genius held the school together.

The children tried other influences besides persuasion.

"Jan Lake, I've brought thee an apple. Draa out a pig for I on a's slate."

Jan had a spirit of the most upright and honorable kind. He never took an unfair advantage, and to the petty cunning which was "Willum's" only idea of wisdom he seemed by nature incapable of stooping. But in addition to, and alongside of, his artistic temperament, there appeared to be in him no small share of the spirit of a trader. The capricious, artistic spirit made him fitful in his use even of the beloved slate; but, when he was least inclined to draw, the offer of something he very much wanted would spur him to work; and in the spirit of a true trader, he worked well.

He would himself have made a charming study for a painter, as he sat surrounded by his patrons, who watched him with gaping mouths of wonderment, as his black eyes moved rapidly to and fro between the river's brink and his slate, and his tiny fingers steered the pencil into cunning lines which "made pigs." "The very moral!" as William declared, smacking his corduroy breeches with delight.

Sometimes Jan hardly knew that they were there, he was so absorbed in his work. His eyes glowed with that strong pleasure which comes in the very learning of any art, perhaps of any craft. Now and then, indeed, his face would cloud with a different expression, and in fits of annoyance, like that in which his foster-mother found him outside the windmill, he would break his pencils, and ruthlessly destroy sketches with which his patrons would have been quite satisfied. But at other moments his face would twinkle with a very sunshine of smiles, as he was conscious of having caught exactly the curve which expressed obstinacy in this pig's back, or the air of reckless defiance in that other's tail.

And so he learned little or nothing, and improved in his drawing, and kept the school quiet, and had always a pocket well filled with sweet things, nails, string, tops, balls, and such treasures, earned by his art.

One day as he sat "making pigs" for one after another of the group of children round him, a pig of especial humor having drawn a murmur of delight from the circle, this murmur was dismally echoed by a sob from a little maid on the outside of the group. It was Master Chuter's little daughter, a pretty child, with an oval, dainty- featured face, and a prim gentleness about her, like a good little girl in a good little story. The intervening young rustics began to nudge each other and look back at her.

"Kitty Chuter be crying!" they whispered.

"What be amiss with 'ee, then, Kitty Chuter?" said Jan, looking up from his work; and the question was passed on with some impatience, as her tears prevented her reply. "What be amiss with 'ee?"

"Janny Lake have never made a pig for I," sobbed the little maid, with her head dolefully inclined to her left shoulder, and her oval face pulled to a doubly pensive length. "I axed my vather to let me get him a posy, and a said I might. And I got un some vine Bloody Warriors, and a heap of Boy's Love off our big bush, that smelled beautiful. And vather says a can have some water-blobs off our pond when they blows. But Tommy Green met I as a was coming down to school, and a snatched my vlowers from me, and I begged un to let me keep some of un, and a only laughed at me. And I daren't go back, for I was late; and now I've nothin' to give Janny Lake to make a draft of a pig for I." And, having held up for the telling of her tale, the little maid broke down in fresh tears.

Jan finished off the tail of the pig he was drawing with a squeak of the pencil that might have come from the pig itself and, stuffing the slate into its owner's hands, he ran up to Kitty Chuter and kissed her wet cheeks, saying, "Give I thee slate, Kitty Chuter, and I'll make thee the best pig of all. I don't want nothing from thee for 't. And when school's done, I'll whop Tommy Green, if I sees him."

And forthwith, without looking from the door for studies, Jan drew a fat sow with her little ones about her; the other children clustering round to peep, and crying, "He've made Kitty Chuter one, two, three, vour, VIVE pigs!"

"Ah, and there be two more you can't see, because the old un be lying on 'em," said Jan.

"Six, seven!" William counted; and he assisted the calculation by sticking up first a thumb and then a forefinger as he spoke.

Some who had not thought half a ball of string, or a dozen nails as good as new, too much to pay for a single pig drawn on one side of their slates, and only lasting as long as they could contrive to keep the other side in use without quite smudging that one, were now disposed to be dissatisfied with their bargains. But as the school broke up, and Tom Green was seen loitering on the other side of the road, every thing was forgotten in the general desire to see Jan carry out his threat, and "whop" a boy bigger than himself for bullying a little girl.

Jan showed no disposition to shirk, and William acted as his friend, and held his slate and book.

Success is not always to the just, however; and poor Jan was terribly beaten by his big opponent, though not without giving him some marks of the combat to carry away.

Kitty Chuter wept bitterly for Jan's bloody nose; but he comforted her, saying, "Never mind, Kitty; if he plagues thee again, 'll fight un again and again, till I whops he."

But his valor was not put to the proof, for Tommy Green molested her no more.

Jan washed his face in the water-meadows, and went stout-heartedly home, where Master Lake beat him afresh, as he ironically said, "to teach him to vight young varments like himself instead of minding his book."

But upon Master Chuter, of the Heart of Oak, the incident made quite a different impression. He was naturally pleased by Jan's championship of his child, and, added to this, he was much impressed by the sketch on the slate. It was, he said, the "living likeness" of his own sow; and, as she had seven young pigs, the portrait was exact, allowing for the two which Jan had said were out of sight.

He gave Kitty a new slate, and kept the sketch, which he showed to all in-comers. He displayed it one evening to the company assembled round the hearth of the little inn, and took occasion to propound his views on the subject of Jan's future life.

(Master Chuter was fond of propounding his views,--a taste which was developed by always being sure of an audience.)

"It's nothing to me," said Master Chuter, speaking of Jan, "who the boy be. It be no fault of his'n if he's a fondling. And one thing's sure enough. Them that left him with Master Lake left something besides him. There was that advertisement,--you remember that about the five-pound bill in the paper, Daddy Angel?"

"Ay, ay, Master Chuter," said Daddy Angel; "after the big storm, five year ago. Sartinly, Master Chuter."

"Was it ever found, do ye think?" said Master Linseed, the painter and decorator.

"It must have been found," said the landlord; "but I bean't so sure about it's having been given up, the notice was in so long. And whoever did find un must have found un at once. But what I says is, five-pound notes lost as easy as that comes from where there's more of the same sort. And, if Master Lake be paid for the boy, he can 'fford to 'prentice him when his time comes. He've boys enough of his own to take to the mill, and Jan do seem to have such an uncommon turn for drawing things out, I'd try him with painting and varnishing, if he was mine. And I believe he'd come to signs, too! Look at that, now! It be small, and the boy've had no paint to lay on, but there's the sign of the Jolly Sow for you, as natteral as life. You know about signs, Master Linseed," continued the landlord. For there was a tradition that the painter could "do picture-signs," though he had only been known to renew lettered ones since he came to the neighborhood. "Master Lake should 'prentice him with you when he's older," Master Chuter said in conclusion.

But Master Linseed did not respond warmly. He felt it a little beneath his dignity as a sign-painter to jump at the idea, though the rest of the company assented in a general murmur.

"Scrawling on a slate," the painter and decorator began--and at this point he paused, after the leisurely customs of the district, to light his pipe at the leaden-weighted candlestick which stood near; and then, as his hearers sat expectant, but not impatient, proceeded: "Scrawling on a slate is one thing, Master Chuter: painting and decorating's another. Painting's a trade; and not rightly to be understood by them that's not larned it, nor to be picked up by all as can scrawl a line here and a line there, as the whim takes 'em. Take oak-graining,"--and here Master Linseed paused again, with a fine sense of effect,--"who'd ever think of taking a comb to it as didn't know? And for the knots, I've worked 'em--now with a finger and now a thumb--over a shutter-front till it looked that beautiful the man it was done for telled me himself,--'I'd rather,' says he, 'have 'em as you've done 'em than the real thing.' But young hands is nowhere with the knots. They puts 'em in too thick."

The company said, "Ay, ay!" in a tone of unbroken assent, for Master Linseed was understood to have "come from a distance," and to "know a good deal." But an innkeeper stands above a painter and decorator anywhere, and especially on his own hearth, and Master Chuter did not mean to be put down.

"I suppose old hands were young uns once, Master Linseed," said he; "and if the boy were never much at oak-graining, I'd back him for sign-painting, if he were taught. Why, the pigs he draas out, look you. I could cut 'em up, and not a piece missing; not a joint, nor as much as would make a pound of sausages. And if a draas pigs, why not osses, why not any other kind?"

"Ay, ay!" said the company.

"I be thinking," continued Master Chuter, "of a gentlemen as draad out that mare of my father's that ran in the mail. You remember the coaches, Daddy Angel?"

"Ay, ay, Master Chuter. Between Lonnon and Exeter a ran. Fine days at the Heart of Oak, then, Master Chuter."

"He weren't a sign-painter, that I knows on. A were somethin' more in the gentry way," said Master Chuter, not, perhaps, quite without malice in the distinction. "He were what they calls in genteel talk a" -

"Artis'," said Master Linseed, removing his pipe, to supply the missing word with a sense of superiority.

"No, not a artis'," said Master Chuter, "though it do begin with a A, too. 'Twasn't a artis' he was, 'twas a" -

"Ammytoor," said the travelled sign-painter.

"That be it," said the innkeeper. "A ammytoor. And he was short of money, I fancy, and so 'twas settled a should paint this mare of my father's to set against the bill. And a draad and a squinted at un, and a squinted at un and a draad, and laid the paint on till the pictur' looked all in a mess, and then he took un away to vinish. But when a sent it home, I thought my vather would have had the law of un. I'm blessed if a hadn't given the mare four white feet, and shoulders that wouldn't have pulled a vegetable cart; and she near- wheeler of the mail! I'd lay a pound bill Jan Lake would a done her ever so much better, for as young a hand as a is, if a'd squinted at her as long."

"Well, well, Master Chuter," said the painter and decorator, rising to go, "let the boy draw pigs and osses for his living. And I wish he may find paint as easy as slate-pencil."

Master Linseed's parting words produced upon the company that somewhat unreasonable depression which such ironical good wishes are apt to cause; but they only roused the spirit of contradiction in Master Chuter, and heightened his belief in Jan's talents more than any praise from the painter could have done.

"Here's a pretty caddle about giving a boy's due!" said the innkeeper. "But I knows the points of a oss, and the makings of a pig, if I bean't a sign-painter. And, mark my words, the boy Jan 'ull out-paint Master Linseed yet."

Master Chuter spoke with triumph in his tone, but it was the triumph of delivering his sentiments to unopposing hearers.

There were moments of greater triumph to come, of which he yet wotted not, when the sevenfold fulfilment of his prediction should be past dispute, and attested from his own walls by more lasting monuments of Jan's skill than the too perishable sketch which now stood like a text for the innkeeper on the mantelpiece of the Heart of Oak.

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