I think I knew Fortuny as well as any one did. He was surcharged with energy, animation and good-cheer; and the sunshine he worked into every canvas he attempted, was only a reflection of the sparkling, gem-like radiance of his own nature. He absorbed from earth, air, sky, the waters and men, and transmuted all dross into gold. To him all things were good.
—Letter From Regnault
Now, once upon a day there was a swart, stubby boy by the name of Mariano Fortuny. He was ten years old, going on ‘leven, and lived with his grandfather away up and up four flights of rickety stairs in an old house at the village of Reus, in Spain. Mariano’s father had died some years before–died mysteriously in a drunken fight at a fair, where he ran a Punch and Judy show. Some said the Devil had come and carried him off, just as he nightly did Mr. Punch.
Frowsy, little, shock-headed Mariano didn’t feel so awfully bad when his father died, because his father used to make him turn the hand-organ all day, and half the night, and take up the collections; and the fond parent used to cuff him when there were less than ten coppers in the tambourine. They traveled around from place to place, with a big yellow dog and a little blue wagon that contained the show. They hitched their wagon to a dog. At night they would sleep in some shed back of a tavern, or under a table at a market, and Mariano would pillow his head on the yellow dog and curl up in a ball trying to keep warm.
When the father died, a tall man, who carried a sword and wore spurs, and had two rows of brass buttons down the front of his coat, took the dog and the wagon and the Punch and Judy show and sold ’em all–so as to get money to pay the funeral expenses of the dead man.
The tall man with the sword might have sold little Mariano, too, or thrown him in with the lot for good measure, but nobody seemed to want the boy–they all had more boys than they really needed already.
A fat market-woman gave the lad a cake, and another one gave him two oranges, and still another market-woman, fatter than the rest, blew her nose violently on her check apron and said it was too bad a boy like that didn’t have a mother.
Mariano never had a mother–at least none that he knew of, and it really seemed as if it didn’t make much difference, but now he began to cry, and, since the fat woman had suggested it, really wished he had a mother, after all.
There was an old priest standing by in the group. Mariano had not noticed him. But when the priest said, “But God is both our father and our mother, so no harm can come to us!” Mariano looked up in his face and felt better.
The priest’s name was Father Gonzales; Mariano knew, because this is what the market-woman called him. The fat market-woman talked with the priest, and the priest talked with the man with the dangling sword, and then Father Gonzales took the boy by the hand and led him away, and Mariano trotted along by his side, quite content, save for a stifled wish that the big yellow dog might go too. And it is a gross error to suppose that a yellow dog is necessarily nothing but a canine whose capillary covering is highly charged with ocherish pigment.
Where they were going made no difference. “God is our father and our mother”–Father Gonzales said so–and, faith! he ought to know.
And by and by they came to the tall old tenement-house, and climbed up the stairs to where Mariano’s old “grandfather” lived. Perhaps he wasn’t Mariano’s sure-enough grandfather, but he was just as good as if he had been.