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Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/441

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THE ORIGINAL PAINTER.

ed, or that the story would prove a valuable one, even to a naturalist, who is seldom a painter, I seated myself at his side, and observed with interest how adroitly he transferred the colours from his glistening pallet to the canvas before him. I was about to compliment him on his facility of touch, when he spoke as follows:

"This is, sir, or, I ought to say rather, this will be the portrait of one of our best navy officers, a man as brave as Cæsar, and as good a sailor as ever walked the deck of a seventy-four. Do you paint. Sir.?" I replied "Not yet." "Not yet! what do you mean?" "I mean what I say: I intend to paint as soon as I can draw better than I do at present." "Good," said he, "you are quite right, to draw is the first object; but, sir, if you should ever paint, and paint portraits, you will often meet with difficulties. For instance, the brave Commodore, of whom this is the portrait, although an excellent man at every thing else, is the worst sitter I ever saw; and the incident I promised to relate to you, as one curious enough, is connected with his bad mode of sitting. Sir, I forgot to ask if you would take any refreshment—a glass of wine, or——." I assured him I needed nothing more than his agreeable company, and he proceeded. "Well, Sir, the first morning that the Commodore came to sit, he was in full uniform, and with his sword at his side. After a few moments of conversation, and when all was ready on my part, I bade him ascend this throne, place himself in the attitude which I contemplated, and assume an air becoming an officer of the navy." He mounted, placed himself as I had desired, but merely looked at me as if I had been a block of stone. I waited a few minutes, when, observing no change on his placid countenance, I ran the chalk over the canvas, to form a rough outline. This done, I looked up to his face again, and opened a conversation which I thought would warm his warlike nature; but in vain. I waited and waited, talked and talked, until my patience—Sir, you must know I am not overburdened with phlegm—being almost run out, I rose, threw my pallet and brushes on the floor, stamped, walking to and fro about the room, and vociferated such calumnies against our navy, that I startled the good Commodore. He still looked at me with a placid countenance, and, as he has told me since, thought I had lost my senses. But I observed him all the while, and, fully as determined to carry my point, as he would be to carry off an enemy's ship, I gave my oaths additional emphasis, addressed him as a representative of the navy, and, steering somewhat clear of personal insult, played off my batteries