- chatper: CHAPTER XII. CHICORA'S FAWN.
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MARK had a fine talent for drawing and a good eve for color, a gift of nature in which he found great delight, and which he had cultivated carefully both at home and in Europe. He often spent whole days absorbed before his easel, which had been carefully contrived so as to move readily by mechanism, that he might reverse the usual order of a painter's motions, for instead of rising and walking back from his easel in order to judge of an effect, poor Mark would shove the whole apparatus off from him, controlling its movements by cords and pulleys until he got the desired focus for his eyes. It was rather cumbrous, but. he had learned immense patience, and was very grateful for any means by which the monotony and helplessness of his life could be relieved. All of his small circle took the deepest interest in everything that interested him, so that his paintings were subjects of comment and affectionate observation from their inception to their finishing. Panola especially used to be never weary of sitting by his side to watch his skilful touches, and used to make superwomanly efforts to provide hint with graceful subjects for his pencil. She would bring him flowers, leaves, weeds, etc., for | | 151 his foregrounds; would sit immovably hour after hour for the innumerable sketches Mark would make of herself in every conceivable poetic or allegorical pope. Mark painted all of his friends--Natika, Victor, his grandfather, Lizbette, Cherokee Joe, his stepmother, every body that would sit to him, and no one ever refused to do anything that could give Mark pleasure. So he had all of them.
Victor was rummaging one day in Mark's studio, when he came across a half-finished picture which struck his fancy, and he asked Mark to explain the design. He recognized the likenesses.
It was a fine portrait of Chicora. She was represented as sitting in a grove of noble trees, upon a low ban]: covered with grass; leaning against her shoulder, with one aria encircling her mother's graceful neck, was the little two-year-old Panola, white as a snowflake; just the pale little child Victor remembered, looking whiter in contrast with the rich roseate tintings of her mother's flesh. Chicora, was beautiful, with a warmth of color that Titian would have rejoiced over; she was represented in her early youth, is the fullest splendor of her life-loveliness. Victor felt a rush of admiration that amounted to a pang of pain as he looked upon the quiet picture and recalled the present condition of this transcendently lovely woman. The eyes of the picture, though large and lustrous in their midnight blackness, had not the expression of defiance and concen- | | 152 trated vitality that they now wore perpetually. In the picture they were soft and tender as a Madonna's. The infant Panola stood upon one side of her mother, and upon the other, With one foot laid upon Chicora's lap and the other lifted playfully pawing in the air as if to attract her attention, was a noble red deer, his antlers showing that he was only about two years old. The deer was licking Chicora's hand, as she encircled Panola's waist and pressed the child closer to her maternal breast.
"What a beautiful picture!" exclaimed Victor. "What does it mean?"
"Oh, that!" replied Mark, pausing from his work to glance up; "that is Chicora and her children. Did you never hear of Panola's foster-brother, the wild deer!"
"No," said Victor; "what about it?"
"When Panola was two or three months old Chicora was nourishing her from her own breast, and was in danger of suffering from the too abundant secretion of milk. Grandpapa proposed she should adopt another infant for a while, but there were only little negro children to be found, amid Chicora could not subdue her repugnance to the race, so grandpapa was much troubled, when one day Cherokee Joe brought into Chicora's chamber a young fawn of two days age, whose dam he had shot. Chicora took the poor little beast, and it fed from her bosom until it got old enough to feed itself, | | 153 dividing her cares with Panola. It was really touching to see the creature's love for Panola and Chicora; it would crawl upon the couch by the child and lie down by her when she was sleeping, and lick her hands and feet; when it grew older it would never suffer a stranger to approach Panola it would spring into an attitude of defiance, and stamp its hoofs and slake its head, already adorned with soft antlers. It followed Chicora everywhere; would lie down at her feet, and showed a wondrous docility and intelligence; somehow it secured to have imbibed a sort of human instinct from Chicora's milk. It lived for several years, and when it died ,Major Flanoy had it buried. I began to paint that picture for him, but he died suddenly, and I never completed it."
"I wish you would finish it for me," exclaimed Victor. "It is so pretty and so queer! I don't wonder Panola has so much of the wild fawn about her, since she had such a companion in her infancy. Somehow it does not seem incongruous in Chicora, her preferring the deer of the wild woods to an African baby."
"No," replied Mark; "there remains under all the cultivation of Chicora and Panola a strain of wildness and primeval shyness and reticence."
"Do you know, I find that immensely attractive," said Victor.
"It is because you are a true creature of the salon | | 154 you appreciate a touch of true, wild nature," said Mark, smiling.
"Will you complete the picture for me?" asked Victor, not replying to Mark's words, but gazing on the picture intensely. It fascinated him.
"Yes, with pleasure."
"Thanks. I shall value it. It is the reverse of the story of Genevieve of Brabant, is it not?"
"Yes, the dove fed Genevieve, but Chicora fed the deer," said Mark.
"She is close kin to primeval nature anyhow," said Victor, "and she--is very beautiful."
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