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Art and the Bronco
by [?]

The Senator spoke. The San Saba contingent sat, breathing hard, in the gallery, its disordered hair hanging down to its eyes, its sixteen- ounce hats shifted restlessly from knee to knee. Below, the distinguished Senators either lounged at their desks with the abandon of proven statesmanship or maintained correct attitudes indicative of a first term.

Senator Kinney spoke for an hour. History was his theme–history mitigated by patriotism and sentiment. He referred casually to the picture in the outer hall–it was unnecessary, he said, to dilate upon its merits–the Senators had seen for themselves. The painter of the picture was the grandson of Lucien Briscoe. Then came the word- pictures of Briscoe’s life set forth in thrilling colours. His rude and venturesome life, his simple-minded love for the commonwealth he helped to upbuild, his contempt for rewards and praise, his extreme and sturdy independence, and the great services he had rendered the state. The subject of the oration was Lucien Briscoe; the painting stood in the background serving simply as a means, now happily brought forward, through which the state might bestow a tardy recompense upon the descendent of its favourite son. Frequent enthusiastic applause from the Senators testified to the well reception of the sentiment.

The bill passed without an opening vote. To-morrow it would be taken up by the House. Already was it fixed to glide through that body on rubber tires. Blandford, Grayson, and Plummer, all wheel-horses and orators, and provided with plentiful memoranda concerning the deeds of pioneer Briscoe, had agreed to furnish the motive power.

The San Saba lobby and its /protege/ stumbled awkwardly down the stairs and out into the Capitol yard. Then they herded closely and gave one yell of triumph. But one of them–Buck-Kneed Simmers it was– hit the key with the thoughtful remark:

“She cut the mustard,” he said, “all right. I reckon they’re goin’ to buy Lon’s steer. I ain’t right much on the parlyment’ry, but I gather that’s what the signs added up. But she seems to me, Lonny, the argyment ran principal to grandfather, instead of paint. It’s reasonable calculatin’ that you want to be glad you got the Briscoe brand on you, my son.”

That remarked clinched in Lonny’s mind an unpleasant, vague suspicion to the same effect. His reticence increased, and he gathered grass from the ground, chewing it pensively. The picture as a picture had been humiliatingly absent from the Senator’s arguments. The painter had been held up as a grandson, pure and simple. While this was gratifying on certain lines, it made art look little and slab-sided. The Boy Artist was thinking.

The hotel Lonny stopped at was near the Capitol. It was near to the one o’clock dinner hour when the appropriation had been passed by the Senate. The hotel clerk told Lonny that a famous artist from New York had arrived in town that day and was in the hotel. He was on his way westward to New Mexico to study the effect of sunlight upon the ancient walls of the Zunis. Modern stones reflect light. Those ancient building materials absorb it. The artist wanted this effect in a picture he was painting, and was traveling two thousand miles to get it.

Lonny sought this man out after dinner and told his story. The artist was an unhealthy man, kept alive by genius and indifference to life. He went with Lonny to the Capitol and stood there before the picture. The artist pulled his beard and looked unhappy.

“Should like to have your sentiments,” said Lonny, “just as they run out of the pen.”

“It’s the way they’ll come,” said the painter man. “I took three different kinds of medicine before dinner–by the tablespoonful. The taste still lingers. I am primed for telling the truth. You want to know if the picture is, or if it isn’t?”

“Right,” said Lonny. “Is it wool or cotton? Should I paint some more or cut it out and ride herd a-plenty?”