Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/427

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383
HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES.

mous value, came before us. At last we turned and looked down the long gallery. There was a little group of people standing on one side near the other end. And on the wall, alone, hung a little picture—"The Angelus"—that was to all the others as a diamond is to its setting. It was sold in Paris a few months ago, the price being $129,000 (the largest sum ever paid for a painting), and the duty on it when brought here was $30,000 more. But it was worth more. You know the picture from the engraving; it is the same size; but the coloring is like the very touch of God Himself in the sweet, flushing sunset. Far away on the fields is the church spire. The sun is very low, and is not seen; but the most exquisite gentle flush that ever was painted by man touches the bowed head and crossed hands on the breast of the praying woman and the back of the head and shoulders of the man. It is not a man and woman praying—it is a painted prayer. You can hear the Angelus bell filling the beautiful air; you can see the woman's lips moving; you pray with her. One looks at the lovely picture with parted lips and hushed breath. And so great is art that all who see it feel the same sweet influence—Protestant as well as Catholic. It was bought by Protestants; probably Mammie and I were the only Catholics in the building that day. We could hardly go away from it; and as we did go, we looked at nothing else there. Everything else had lost value. We passed "The Sower" with a glance (because it was Millet's, too), but we never looked at the bronzes. All day and ever since I keep saying at times to Mammie, "I can see the reddish flush on those French peasants"; and she says: "I can hear the Angelus bell whenever I think of the picture."

And yet the genius who painted this treasure sold it for a few hundred francs. He lived all his life in a little French village. He was not regarded as a great man; and he died very poor. His brother is now in Boston, a very poor old man, a sculptor; he wanted to make a bust of me last year. But Francois Millet was no sooner dead than France knew that she had lost an illustrious son. Foreigners were buying up his pictures at enormous prices. Fortunately for Boston, Mr. Shaw had recognized the genius many years ago, and had bought all the pictures he could get; so that we now have in this collection in Boston the best pictures he ever painted, except "L' Angelus."

Now, good-by, dear Bess and dear Agnes. When I get something to tell, I shall write a long letter to my dear little fiddler. Love and kisses.

Papa.

The place in literature of John Boyle O'Reilly will be fixed by time. When we study his poems and speeches, and even his necessarily hasty editorial work, the one conspicuous quality evident in them is their author's steady