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Francois Millet
by [?]

Jean Francois Millet was going to Paris to study to be an artist.

Tears rained down the wrinkled, leathery cheeks of the old grandmother; the mother stood by dazed and dumb, nursing a six-months-old babe; children of various ages hung to the skirts of mother and grandmother, tearful and mystified; the father leaned on the gate, smoking a pipe, displaying a stolidity he did not feel.

The diligence swung around the corner and came rattling down the single, stony, narrow street of the little village. The driver hardly deigned to stop for such common folks as these; but the grandmother waved her apron, and then, as if jealous of a service some one else might render, she seized one end of the canvas bag and helped the brown young man pass it up to the top of the diligence. Jean Francois climbed up after, carrying a little prayer-book that had been thrust into his hands–a final parting gift of the grandmother.

The driver cracked his whip and away they went.

As the diligence passed the rectory, Father Lebrisseau came out and held up a crucifix; the young man took off his cap and bowed his head.

The group of watchers moved out into the roadway. They strained their eyes in the direction of the receding vehicle.

* * * * *

After a three days’ ride, Jean Francois was in Paris. The early winter night was settling down, and the air was full of fog and sleet.

The young man was sore from the long jolting. His bones ached, and the damp and cold had hunted out every part of his sturdy frame.

The crowds that surged through the street hurrying for home and fireside after the day’s work were impatient.

“Don’t block the way, Johnny Crapaud!” called a girl with a shawl over her head; and with the combined shove and push of those behind, the sabot-shod young man was shouldered into the street.

There he stood dazed and bereft, with the sailor’s bag on his back.

“Where do you wish to go?” asked a gendarme, not unkindly.

“Back to Gruchy,” came the answer.

And the young man went into the diligence office and asked when the next stage started.

It did not go until the following morning. He would have to stay somewhere all night.

The policeman outside the door directed him to a modest tavern.

Next morning things looked a little better. The sun had come out and the air was crisp. The crowds in the street did not look quite so cold and mean.

After hunger had been satisfied, “Johnny Crapaud” concluded to stay long enough to catch a glimpse of the Louvre, that marvel of marvels! The Louvre had been glowingly described to him by his old drawing-master at Cherbourg. Visions of the Louvre had been in his mind for weeks and months, and now his hopes were soon to be realized. In an hour perhaps he would stand and look upon a canvas painted by Rubens, the immortal Rubens!

His enthusiasm grew warm.

The girl who had served him with coffee stood near and was looking at him with a sort of silent admiration, such as she might bestow upon a curious animal.

He looked up; their eyes met.

“Is it true–is it true that there are pictures by Rubens in the Louvre?” asked the young man.

The oddity of the question from such a being and the queer Normandy accent amused the girl, and she burst out laughing. She did not answer the question, but going over to a man seated at another table whispered to him. Then they both looked at the queer youth and laughed.

The young countryman did not know what they were laughing at–probably they did not, either–but he flushed scarlet, and soon made his way out into the street, his luggage on his back. He wanted to go to the Louvre, but dare not ask the way–he did not care to be laughed at.