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'You never said anything about it.' The words came as an accusation, and I realised that I had no excuse to offer.

'I never seen anything like it, never,' said Texas Jack slowly, emotion leading him back beyond his newly-acquired grammar to primal depths. It's damned queer,' he went on. I've seen

• women holdin' their kids that way, but I never sensed what it meant.'

It was the only real instance I have ever seen of the miracleworking power of art fulfilling its original intention, and then, as on succeeding days, Texas Jack often caused me to forget the colours on my palette, as he made discovery after discovery in the Uffizi. He always returned to my painting stool to tell me what he had seen, and, from all lesser discoveries, he invariably came back to his Botticelli “Madonna, claiming, to use his own words, that it was 'a blank sight better than any of the rest of 'em.

The air brightened after this, both the inner and the outer air, it seemed to me. Day after day, spring sunshine and the glory of the city's past lingered in the air as a crumbling fine gold dust, and daffodil and hyacinth bloomed out against the dull stones of the old palaces. I saw Mr. and Mrs. James C. Bunton everywhere, driving up green heights toward Fiesole, or wandering past the worn and expressive corners of the Florentine streets. The subdued and terrified look of the woman began to disappear; her hair grew brighter, whether from Nature or Art we could not say, and it did not matter-either indicated hope. The very way in which she clung to her husband's arm in the crowded street showed lessening fear. The change in him affected her as sunshine did the growing flowers ; we felt it ourselves, and gradually lost our wary way of approaching Texas Jack as if he were some high explosive. Doubtless we were all softened by the magic of the land, and by the gracious ways of this Italian folk, whose long civilisation, in numberless imperceptible ways, constantly touches the souls of alien folk to finer issues.

Yes ; spring had come to us all, even to this faded woman whom we were so deeply interested in watching, but it was the flowers on the bonnets in shop windows that appealed to her, not wild anemone and crocus from the fields beyond the gates. As her face grew happier, her garments became more trying, villainous purple and magenta blending in impossible combinations there. Curiously enough, though I saw husband and wife together almost everywhere, I never saw them in the gallery, which the man haunted so much alone. Never, that is, but once. Texas Jack took Mrs. Bunton to see his pet Botticelli, and tiptoed to it from the threshold, as was his wont. She stood dazed, helpless, even frightened, not knowing what to say, while the man's expectant eyes watched.

'I can't say I like the way she does her hair,' said Mrs. Bunton with a nervous little laugh ; her own was done high that day under a flame-coloured hat. When her attention had been drawn by a Paris gown worn by one of the sightseers the man turned to me.

She can't see it,' he muttered blankly. “It's mighty queer ; now you can!'

It was I who became the confidant of his new enthusiasm, and who was consulted at every point about the collection of Botticellis that he was starting. Reproductions of all the artist had done he would have, asserted Mr. James C. Bunton, and money, combined with persistence, brought into his hands the most complete representation of the master's work that I have ever seen : photographs, engravings, a copy in oil of the beautiful · Madonna , of the Corsini gallery, copies of the graceful figures in the Sistine Chapel, and of the frescoed fragment at Paris. Wherever a slender, dancing foot or a bit of fluttering drapery bearing the artist's touch was to be found on a crumbling wall, the agent of Mr. Bunton was sure to be, setting deft hands at work to reproduce it. Our wild friend's collection was as choice as if amassed by one whose lifework had been art appreciation, and his comments, though unconventional, were those of one to whom the very soul of the master had been laid bare. I was grateful that he did not talk with many people about his enthusiasm, for it seemed to me that he would not at any time have hesitated to prove by a pistol shot the superiority of Botticelli to Raphael.

While I was busy watching the growth of this collection, watching, too, the coming of emotion to Texas Jack’s bleak face, suggestive of the growth of green things over the ruins of an earthquake, watching something like gaiety creep into Mrs. Bunton's wide blue eyes, as pink colour, undoubtedly real, came into her cheeks, the man suddenly asked me to copy his “ Madonna of the Pomegranate' for him. With a sense as of honour conferred upon me I accepted, and my pleasure in the commission was not due to the fabulous sum offered me. There was deeper interest in

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it than in any task I had undertaken, and also a sense of risk. Would my employer use the bowie knife on me if the work were not done to his satisfaction ?

The lads had great sport with me in those days : Texas Jack had taken a fancy to me—there was no denying it. They called me The Desperado's Darling and The Ruffian's Pet, pretended to be afraid of being left alone with me, and searched me for concealed weapons. They jeered at me as a lion-tamer, and talked of getting

. up a syndicate to promote me and my wild man. When I told

I them I had given up my projected picture, The Cave Dweller, for which I had hoped my new friend would sit, and had decided to ask him to pose as one of the three worshipping kings in a Nativity study, they hooted gleefully; yet, under all the chaff about the beneficent working of art on the savage mind, I was conscious that they were little less tensely interested than I in the transformation that was going on.

Texas Jack became my daily companion, at least for several hours, though he never let his career as art critic interfere with his scrupulous attendance on his wife in a drive through the Cascine or up San Miniato. I grew used to the scrutiny of those large gray eyes, which never, even as they softened and grew luminous, lost their bloodshot look. If I was nervous I trust I did not show it, though sometimes the casual use of the word aim made me jump a bit, even when it referred to art and not to the revolver. Texas Jack was very stern about my work, and more than once that stiff forefinger, curiously scarred, pointed out a delicate line of throat or forehead that I had failed to get. Sometimes, after standing lost in thought before the original, he muttered : ‘Just like the real thing, only more so, more so.'

It was through a bit of his art criticism, drawn forth by a mistaken remark of my own, that I was privileged to hear something of his early history. I had said in my foolishness, vexed probably by my inability to get the delicate blues and faded rose tints of the original, that Botticelli was not a great colourist. The bloodshot look in Texas Jack's eyes deepened alarmingly, and I wondered if he would give me time to say a prayer.

'I reckon he was colourist enough to say what he wanted to say,' remarked my employer, with a gleam of fighting teeth. I lamely suggested that perhaps it was I who failed in being a colourist, but Mr. Bunton did not hear, for his thoughts had gone drifting backward over the stormy seas of his past life. He

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You see,

shook his fist gently and approvingly at the ‘Madonna' and her great creator.

'I tell you there's a man that got where he started for! So did I, but it wasn't quite the same.'

I waited, for the tone hinted confidences, and I wondered if he referred to successful mining ventures. He turned to me suddenly, demanding :

'Did you ever kill a man?'

Almost apologetically I admitted that I had not. Circumstances, I murmured feebly, had not offered. I did not ask him if he had done so, for inquiry seemed unnecessary; I only worked on.

Well, I have,' he vouchsafed finally, and it was what more than anything else I'd set out to do. It made me feel good, as if I had nothin' left to ask for, the way that fellow there,' pointing with his thumb to Botticelli, 'must a felt when he got some of his things done.' I went on busily, touching with gold the falling tresses of the angel's hair.

'I had to wait several years to get him, but I just bided my time, and I knew nothin' short o' death could stop me. he'd done me the meanest trick, the low down cussedest trick that one man could do another.' The polite tourist vocabulary which he usually managed with such conscientiousness seemed slipping from him. Shootin' was too good for him,' said Texas Jack, regretfully, “but I just personally surrounded his ranch when the time came and shot him up. 'Twas fair fight, for he had plenty time to get gone, or to get ready and sass back. He stayed and sassed back; I did for him, and I got back what he'd took away from me.' He stopped, watching my none too skilful brush as it rendered the halo hovering above the head of the Christ child.

“Maybe I oughtn't to done it,' he stated inquiringly after a pause. I parried, for his brow wore a threatening look. After all, virtue is relative, and life was sweet to one-and-twenty in the fragrant Florentine spring.

Circumstances alter cases,' I remarked sagely. He drew a sigh of relief.

'I'm glad to have you say so,' he responded heartily, insisting that I should stop and shake hands with him. 'I couldn't be sorry for that if I tried.'

Even this expression of satisfaction in sin—the word seems as inapplicable to him as to an earthquake—did not lessen my impression of the gradual change in Texas Jack. He was mellowing.

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That night I saw his wife come eagerly to meet him, slip her arm through his and carry him off to the corner of the salon to whisper something in his ear, and a minute later his loud haw-haw mingled with her merry laughter. She no longer laughed in the shrill, obligatory fashion of the early days; she no longer jumped in a startled way when her husband spoke, and it seemed to me that his air of triumph in looking at her was changing to a look of wistful

While I am talking of changes in others, I may as well confess the change that came over me at this time. As I look back I can see how much this unrepentant homicide, innocent of all training, had to do with determining my ideas of art. At a moment when, fresh from Paris, I was absorbed in questions of technique, thinking that line and shade were all, this man, through the great change wrought upon him by the work of an old master, made me realise once for all that the mission of art is to speak.

One by one the perfect days drifted on, while sunshine poured into the valley, and misty blue lay in the hollows of the encompassing hills beyond the soft wooded slopes. One afternoon I saw Texas Jack bring in from the green fields beyond San Miniato blood-red tulips that grew wild there, and lay them in his wife's hands. She was greatly pleased and showed it, saying that, if they were only artificial, she could wear them in the Leghorn straw hat she had that day bought in the open market, and the man seemed content with the reply. Meanwhile, he did not relax his scrutiny of my work, and, after his confession, his manner always wore a confidential air. I saw that he had more to tell, and so asked him nothing, while by hints and signs he slowly led up to the point. It was a day when I was busy with the Madonna's hand, which lovingly supports the Christ child, and I felt that I had failed to get the tenderness of her touch. My critic looked on long and silently, and when I turned toward him I saw that his eyes were dim with what I did not dare name tears.

'You remember what I told you the other day? ' he asked. I nodded ; holding the brush in my teeth, I could not well speak.

There was one thing I didn't tell,' he added huskily. While I was shootin'

that ranch there was

an accident.' I looked at him sympathetically, for something in his voice touched me to the quick.

Jest as I was good and ready, that skulkin' varmint I was layin' for flung the window open, and I fired. 'Twas too late to see, but his wife was settin' there holdin' her baby up to her just

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