Page:A Leaf in the Storm.djvu/38

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The whole soul of the little Ardennois thrilled and stirred with an absorbing passion for art.

Going on his ways through the old city in the early daybreak before the sun or the people had seen them, Nello, who looked only a little peasant-boy, with a great dog drawing milk to sell from door to door, was in a heaven of dreams, whereof Rubens was the god. Nello, cold and hungry, with stockingless feet in wooden shoes, and the winter winds blowing amongst his curls and lifting his poor thin garments, was in a rapture of meditation, wherein all that he saw was the beautiful fair face of the Mary of "The Assumption," with the waves of her golden hair lying upon her shoulders, and the light of an eternal sun shining down upon her brow. Nello, reared in poverty, and buffetted by fortune, and untaught in letters, and unheeded by men, had the compensation or the curse which is called Genius.

No one knew it. He as little as any. No one knew it.

Only indeed Patrasche, who being with him always, saw him draw with chalk upon the stones any and every thing that grew or breathed,—heard him on his little bed of hay, murmur all manner of timid, pathetic prayers to the spirit of the great Master; watched his gaze darken and his face radiate at the evening glow of sunset or