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Marion The Story of an Artist's Model

The Story of an Artist's Model
Title: Marion The Story of an Artist's Model
Release Date: 2018-09-17
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
Count views: 31
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I knelt down beside him and entreated him to forgiveme.



Herself and the Author of “Me”

Illustrations by

[Image unavailable.]

New York
W. J. Watt & Company

Copyright, 1916, by





“IN dat familee dere are eleven cheeldren, and more—they come! See datleetle one? She is très jolie! Oui, très jolie, n’est-ce pas? De fatherhe come from Eengland about ten year ago. He was joost young man, mebbetwenty-seven or twenty-eight year ol’, and he have one leetle foreignwife and six leetle cheeldren. They were all so cold. They were not useto dis climate of Canada. My wife and I, we keep de leetle ’otel atHochelaga, and my wife she take all dose leetle ones and she warm dembefore the beeg hall stove, and she make for dem the good Frenchpea-soup.”

Mama had sent me to the corner grocer to buy some things. MonsieurThebeau, the grocer, was talking, and to a stranger. I felt ashamed andhumiliated to hear our family thus discussed. Why should we always bepointed out in this way{2} and made to feel conspicuous and freaky? It washorrid that the size of our family and my mother’s nationality should betold to everyone by that corner grocer. I glared haughtily at MonsieurThebeau, but he went garrulously on, regardless of my discomfiture.

“De eldest—a boy, monsieur—he was joost nine year old, and my wife shecall him, ‘Le petit père.’ His mother she send him out to walk wiz allhees leetle sisters, and she say to him: ‘Charles, you are one beeg boy,almost one man, and you must take care you leetle sisters; so, when dewind she blow too hard, you will walk you on de side of dat wind, andput yourself between it and your sisters.’ ‘Yes, mama,’ il dit. And we,my wife and I, we look out de window, and me? I am laugh, and my wife,she cry—she have lost her only bebby, monsieur—to see dat leetle boywalk him in front of his leetle sisters, open hees coat, comme ça,monsieur, and spread it wiz hees hands, to make one shield to keep dewind from his sisters.”

The man to whom Monsieur Thebeau had been speaking, had turned around,and was regarding me curiously. I felt abashed and angry under hiscompelling glance. Then he smiled, and nodding his head, he said:

“You are right. She is pretty—quite remarkably pretty!{3}

I forgot everything else. With my little light head and heart awhirl, Ipicked up my packages and ran out of the store. It was the first time Ihad been called pretty, and I was just twelve years old. I feltexhilarated and utterly charmed.

When I reached home, I deposited the groceries on a table in the kitchenand ran up to my room. Standing on a chair, I was able to see my face inthe oval mirror that topped a very high and scratched old chiffonier. Igazed long and eagerly at the face I had often heard Monsieur Thebeausay was “très jolie,” which French words I now learned must mean:“Pretty—quite remarkably pretty!” as had said that Englishman in thestore.

Was I really pretty then? Surely the face reflected there was too fatand too red. My! my cheeks were as red as apples. I pushed back theoffending fat with my two hands, and I opened my eyes wide and blinkedthem at myself in the glass. Oh! if only my hair were gold! I twistedand turned about, and then I made grimaces at my own face.

Suddenly I was thrilled with a great idea—one that for the momentrouted my previous ambition to some day be an artist, as was my father.I would be an actress! If I were pretty, and both that Frenchman andEnglishman had said so, why should I not be famous?

I slipped into mama’s room, found a long skirt,{4} and put it on me; alsoa feather which I stuck in my hair. Then, fearing detection, I ran outon tiptoe to the barn. There, marching up and down, I recited poems. Iwas pausing, to bow elaborately to the admiring audience, which, in myimagination, was cheering me with wild applause, when I heard mama’svoice calling to me shrilly:

“Marion! Marion! Where in the world is that girl?”

“Coming, mama.”

I divested myself hastily of skirt and feather, and left the barn on arun for the house. Here mama thrust our latest baby upon me, withinstructions to keep him quiet while she got dinner. I took that baby inmy arms, but I was still in that charmed world of dreams, and in my handI clasped a French novel, which I had filched from my brother Charles’room. Charles at this time was twenty years of age, and engaged to bemarried to a girl we did not like.

I tried to read, but that baby would not keep still a minute. Hewriggled about in my lap and reached a grimy hand after my book.Irritated and impatient, I shook him, jumped him up and down, and then,as he still persisted, I pinched him upon the leg. He simply yelled.Mama’s voice screamed at me above the baby’s:

“If you can’t take better care of that baby, and keep him quiet, youshall not be allowed to paint{5} with your father this afternoon, butshall sit right here and sew,” a punishment that made me put down thebook, and amuse the baby by letting him pull my hair, which seemed tomake him supremely happy, to judge from his chuckles and shouts ofdelight.

After dinner, which we had at noon, I received the cherished permission,and ran along to papa’s room. Dear papa, whose gentle, sensitive handsare now at rest! I can see him sitting at his easel, with his blue eyesfixed absently upon the canvas before him. Papa, with the heart and soulof a great artist, “painting, painting,” as he would say, with a grimsmile, “pot-boilers to feed my hungry children.”

I pulled out my paints and table, and began to work. From time to time Ispoke to papa.

“Say, papa, what do I use for these pink roses?”

“Try rose madder, white and emerald green—a little naples yellow,”answered papa patiently.

“Papa, what shall I use for the leaves?”

“Oh, try making your greens with blues and yellows.”

From time to time I bothered him. By and by, I tired of the work, andgetting up with a clatter, I went over and watched him. He was paintingcool green waves dashing over jagged rocks, from a little sketch he hadtaken down at Lachine last summer.{6}

“Tell me, papa,” I said after a moment, “if I keep on learning, do youthink I will ever be able to earn my living as an artist?”

“Who? What—you? Oh!” Absently papa blew the smoke about his head, gazedat me, but did not seem to see me. He seemed to be talking rather tohimself, not bitterly, but just sadly:

“Better be a dressmaker or a plumber or a butcher or a policeman. Thereis no money in art!{7}


NEXT to our garden, separated only by a wooden fence, through which wechildren used to peep, was the opulent and well-kept garden of MonsieurPrefontaine, who was a very important man, once Mayor of Hochelaga, theFrench quarter of Montreal, in which we lived. Madame Prefontaine,moreover, was an object of unfailing interest and absorbing wonder to uschildren. She was an enormously fat woman, and had once taken a trip toNew York City, to look for a wayward sister. There she had been offereda job as a fat woman for a big circus. Madame Prefontaine used to say tothe neighbors, who always listened to her with great respect:

“Mon dieu! That New York—it is one beeg hell! Never do I feel so hot asin dat terrible city! I feel de grease it run all out of me! Mebbe, eefI stay at dat New York, I may be one beeg meelionaire—oui! But, non!Me? I prefer my leetle home, so cool and quiet in Hochelaga than bemeelionaire in dat New York, dat is like purgatory.”

We had an old straggly garden. Everything{8} about it looked “seedy” anduncared for and wild, for we could not afford a gardener. My sisters andI found small consolation in papa’s stout assertion that it lookedpicturesque, with its gnarled old apple trees and shrubs in theirnatural wild state. I was sensitive about that garden. It was awfullypoor-looking in comparison with our neighbors’ nicely kept places. Itwas just like our family, I sometimes treacherously thought—unkempt andwild and “heathenish.” A neighbor once called us that. I stuck out mytongue at her when she said it. Being just next to the fine garden ofMonsieur Prefontaine, it appeared the more ragged and beggarly, thatgarden of ours.

Mama would send us children to pick the maggots off the currant bushesand the bugs off the potato plants and, to encourage us, she would giveus one cent for every pint of bugs or maggots we showed her. I hated thebugs and maggots, but it was fascinating to dig up the potatoes. To seethe vegetables actually under the earth seemed almost like a miracle,and I would pretend the gnomes and fairies put them there, and hidinside the potatoes. I once told this to my little brothers and sisters,and Nora, who was just a little tot, wouldn’t eat a potato again forweeks, for fear she might bite on a fairy. Most of all, I loved to pickstrawberries, and it was a matter of real grief and humiliation to methat our own straw{9}berries were so dried-up looking and small, ascompared with the big, luscious berries I knew were in the garden ofMonsieur Prefontaine.

On that day, I had been picking strawberries for some time, and the sunwas hot and my basket only half full. I kept thinking of the berries inthe garden adjoining, and the more I thought of them, the more I wishedI had some of them.

It was very quiet in our garden. Not a sound was anywhere, except thebreezes, making all kinds of mysterious whispers among the leaves. Forsome time, my eye had become fixed, fascinated, upon a loose board, witha hole in it near the ground. I looked and looked at that hole, and Ithought to myself: “It is just about big enough for me to crawlthrough.” Hardly had that thought occurred to me, when down on hands andknees I dropped, and into the garden of the great Monsieur Prefontaine Icrawled.

The strawberry beds were right by the fence. Greedily I fell upon them.Oh, the exquisite joy of eating forbidden fruit! The fearful thrillsthat even as I ate ran up and down my spine, as I glanced about me onall

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