The Young Artist

WELL done, little one! A very pretty tune, and very nicely sung!”

The speaker was a stranger who had just come in sight of the pretty cottage where Robbie and Maria Barnes lived with their widowed mother, and outside of which the little singer sat nursing the baby, while Robbie chopped wood at a little distance.

The widow, hearing a stranger’s voice, came to the door, and seeing that he appeared to have been walking far invited him to come in and take a rest. This he very gladly did; and while she dusted a chair for him, Mary brought a mug of fresh milk, and they were soon on very friendly terms with him.

He said that he was an artist, and that he had come to that part of the country for a time to take sketches of the scenery around; that he was at present staying at the village inn, but that he would be very glad if they could arrange to let him live with them for a few weeks. This was agreed upon, and on the next day Mr. Page—for that was the stranger’s name—took up his abode in the widow Paul’s cottage.

Very pleased Robbie and Maria were with him; and when he came home from his rambles and sat under the shade of the large tree by the side of the house finishing the sketches he had taken, they would stand looking on with wondering interest. Robbie especially, who had never seen any other pictures than those in his spelling-book, was rapt in amazement as he saw hills, rivers, flowers, trees and animals start up into seeming life under the artist’s hand. Mr. Page, seeing how interested the boy was in what he saw, invited him to accompany him in his rambles. Robbie did so, and many valuable things he learned in these pleasant wanderings.

When the time came for Mr. Page to leave these simple cottagers, he was as sorry to go as they were to part with him; and he promised that if he lived and prospered, he would endeavor to do something for his favorite, Robbie.

This visit of the artist to their humble abode became the turning-point in Robbie’s life. An idea had taken possession of the boy’s mind. Why should he not learn to be an artist like Mr. Page? He had watched very carefully the manner in which that gentleman proceeded when taking sketches of the objects around him; he had begun himself to look upon those objects with very different eyes from what he had been accustomed to, and felt sure that with patience and perseverance he could master the art of drawing and painting himself.

His first attempt was a rough sketch of grandma on his slate. It was done with a few strokes of the pencil, but there was really some likeness to the dear old lady in it, and mother felt sure her boy would some day be an artist.

Grandma and mother admire Robbie's slate sketch


Several weeks passed away, and at length he thought he might attempt the portrait of his little dog, “Pink,” and, if he could succeed to his satisfaction,  he determined that he would carry it home and surprise his mother with it. After much patient labor he finished his task, and showed the sketch first of all to his friend Thomas, who being much pleased with it, they hastened at once to Robbie’s home with it. Watching their opportunity, they stood the picture unobserved against the wall, and waited to see the effect it would produce. Little Maria was the first to notice it. “Oh, mother,” she cried, “here’s a picture of Pinky! Do come and look at it! Isn’t it real?”

The widow turned from her work to look.

“Why, so it is,” she exclaimed. “Who painted it, Robbie? Where did you get it from?”

“Robbie did it himself,” cried Thomas, unable to keep the secret any longer.

“Robbie did it?” echoed the widow, with a look of bewilderment. “You painted it, Robbie?”

“Yes, mother,” laughed Robbie, enjoying her perplexity; “I did it all myself. I have been learning unknown to you. If I can learn to paint as well as Mr. Page, mother, eh! Sha’n’t I be able to help you then, mother?”

She smiled and kissed him. His cleverness was pleasing to her, but his loving ambition to be of service to her was still more grateful to her mother’s heart.

The famous Benjamin West said his mother’s kiss made him a painter. Robbie Barnes might have said the same thing, for from that moment he was more than ever determined to persevere. A few weeks after this, Robbie and Thomas were out in the woods together. It was a holiday with them both, and Robbie had determined to spend the time in sketching a certain landscape he had in view. They had brought their dinner with them; and while Robbie was drawing, Thomas laid out the provisions. Having got it all ready, he went off to the brook to fetch a mug of water, and as he returned called to Robbie to come to dinner. But what was his annoyance, as he came near, to see the mischievous dog munching the last piece of cheese? In sudden passion he caught up a stick and gave chase to Pink, who scampered off with the cheese in his mouth. Robbie was so amused at the comical scene that he thought he would attempt a painting of it, and this idea set Thomas laughing as heartily as himself. It was weeks before he had finished the sketch; but when it was completed, it made a striking picture for a boy of his age.

Years passed, and Robbie worked faithfully at his painting, and made such progress that Mr. Moring urged him to go with him on a visit to the neighboring city, where he could see some gentlemen who might be able to assist him in his desire of becoming a painter. Robbie was unwilling to leave his mother, but she was resolved he should not lose the opportunity for her; and shortly afterward Robbie, with Thomas and Mr. Moring, was on his way to the great city, which he had never seen before. Arrived there, Mr. Moring took him  to an exhibition of pictures, and there introduced him again to his old friend Mr. Page. The artist, to whom Mr. Moring had already showed the painting of the dog running off with the dinner, was exceedingly surprised that a boy so entirely self-taught should have made such progress, and was pleased indeed to see him again. His judgment of the merits of Robbie’s work was such that Mr. Moring undertook to have the boy instructed by one of the best teachers of drawing, and so put him in a fair way of attaining that upon which his heart was set—the becoming a painter like Mr. Page. Robbie’s mother, though sad to part with him, gratefully consented to his leaving his home for a time for this purpose; and though Robbie was much troubled to think what his mother would do without the little help he had been able to render her, he was persuaded that the best way to serve her was to improve himself. He had not been long away before a message came to his mother telling her that he could earn enough by the sale of his little drawings to pay one of the village-lads to fetch wood and water, and to do other little things for her; that he was improving very fast, and that he had good reason to hope that he should one day be able to earn enough to keep them all in comfort.

Little Maria was busy braiding straw when this message came.

“I shall not want Robbie to work for me, mother,” she said. “I shall soon be able to earn my own living, and I will help to support our dear mother when she grows old.”

“God bless you, my child!” said the happy mother. “With such dutiful children as you and your dear brother, no mother need fear to grow old.”

YOU’RE starting to-day on life’s journey,
Along on the highway of life;
You’ll meet with a thousand temptations;
Each city with evil is rife.
This world is a stage of excitement;
There’s danger wherever you go;
But if you are tempted in weakness,
Have courage, my boy, to say NO!