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Ary Scheffer
by [?]

And so they moved to the great, strange world of Paris–Paris the gay, Paris the magnificent, Paris that laughs and leers and sees men and women go down to death, and still laughs on.

They lived, away up and up in a tenement-house, in two little rooms. There was no servant, and the boys took hold cheerfully to do the housekeeping, for the mother wasn’t so very strong.

The first thing was to acquire the French language, and if you live in Paris the task is easy. You just have to–that’s all.

Madame Scheffer was an artist of some little local repute in the village where they had lived, and she taught her boys the rudiments of drawing.

Ariel was always called Ary. When he grew to manhood he adopted this pet name his mother had playfully given him. He used to call her “Little Mother.” Shortly after reaching Paris, Ary was placed in the studio of M. Guerin. Arnold showed a liking for the Oriental languages, and was therefore allowed to follow the bent of his mind. Henry waxed fat on the crumbs of learning that Ary brought home.

And so they lived and worked and studied; very happy, with only now and then twinges of fear for the future, for it would look a little black at times, do all they could to laugh away the clouds. It was a little democracy of four, with high hopes and lofty ideals. Mutual tasks and mutual hardships bound them together in a love that was as strong as it was tender and sweet.

Two years of Paris life had gone by, and the little fund that had not been augmented by a single franc in way of income had dwindled sadly.

In six months it was gone.

They were penniless.

The mother sold her wedding-ring and the brooch her husband had given her before they were married.

Then the furniture went to the pawnbroker’s, piece by piece.

One day Ary came bounding up the stairs, three steps at a time. He burst into the room and tossed into his mother’s lap fifty francs.

When he got his breath he explained that he had sold his first picture.

Ary, the elder boy, was eighteen; Henri, the younger, was thirteen. “It was just like a play, you see,” said Ary Scheffer, long years afterward. “When things get desperate enough they have to mend–they must. The pictures I painted were pretty bad, but I really believe they were equal to many that commanded large prices, and I succeeded in bringing a few buyers around to my views. Genius may starve in a garret, if alone; but the genius that would let its best friends starve, too, being too modest to press its claims, is a little lacking somewhere.”

Young Scheffer worked away at any subject he thought would sell. He painted just as his teacher, Guerin, told him, and Guerin painted just like his idol, David, or as nearly as he could.

Art had gotten into a fixed groove; laws had been laid down as to what was classic and what not. Conservatism was at the helm.

Art, literature, philosophy, science, even religion, have their periods of infancy, youth, manhood and decay. And there comes a time to every school, and every sect, when it ceases to progress. When it says, “There now, this is perfection, and he who seeks to improve on it is anathema,” it is dead, and should be buried. But schools and sects and creeds die hard. Creeds never can be changed: they simply become obsolete and are forgotten; they turn to dust and are blown away on the free winds of heaven.

The art of the great David had passed into the hands of imitators. It had become a thing of metes and bounds and measurements and geometric theorems. Its colors were made by mixing this with that according to certain fixed formulas.

About this time a young playwright by the name of Victor Hugo was making much din, and the classics as a consequence were making mighty dole and endeavoring to hiss him down. The Censor had forbidden a certain drama of Hugo’s to be played until it had been cut and trimmed and filed and polished, and made just like all other plays.