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ANTONIO ALLEGRI DA COREGGIO.
“Here comes Antonio, with his new picture,” said Maddelena to her father Nicolo; “do, dear father, speak kindly to him."
“Nay, daughter,” replied Nicolo, “thou canst not expect me to be as dove-like as thyself. I will speak to him as may speak to another. It would have been well for thee, had I not yielded to thy foolish fancy in the first place. Hadst thou married Pietro, thou wouldst have taken thy proper station in the world, and been mistress of one of the finest Inns in Coreggio. I should not see thee, as I do now, wanting the necessaries of life.”
“ Father,” said Maddelena, “thou art mistaken; I want nothing. I am the happiest being in the world.”'
" Then why dost thou weep?” said
Nicolo, for the tears of the young wife were falling like a morning shower.
“Look !" said she, “Antonio is just coming up the hill - see how feeble he walks — he can scarcely carry his picture ah, he stops to rest - do you see how pale he is ?"
“ Yes, yes, I see ; he had better have taken my advice, and worked at my trade; I offered to give him a year's instruction for no remuneration but his services; but nothing would do but he must paint pictures, that are good for nothing in the world. Now jars, and pipkins, and milk-pans, and flower-pots, are good for something, and will always bring money."
“ Yes, father, but Antonio's works will bring him fame-glory."
Fame, glory! nonsense! canst thou live upon these commodities ??
We want but very little to live upon : indeed, father, if Antonio were well, I should not have a wish ungratified. He is so kind, so gentle, so fond of our little Giovanni, and of the infant. Oh, there are few so blest as I am! To have such a husband, father, --one whose genius will lead him to immortality!"
". It is in a fair way of leading thee to im.
mortality, my poor child," said Nicolo with feeling “ Thou art almost as pale as he. 1 little thought, when I let thee out of my fold, that thou wouldst find no other shepherd.”
Say what you please to me," said Maddelena, "you are my father, my dear father, and I can bear it all; but I beseech you do not say such things to' my poor Antonio ; they make him miserable, they break his heart."
“I wish you had married Pietro,” reiterated Nicolo," he has a stout heart."
“Rather say, you wish I was in my grave; for I would sooner be there, than married to him. No, no, you do not wish such misery for your poor child. Look, father! Antonio is up again, and coming — ah, when you see his picture, I am sure you will say to him, * You did right, Antonio, to pursue painting, it will lead you to immortality.''
Antonio slowly ascended the hill, and Maddelena met him. " Let me look at it," said she, and he turned the picture towards her. “How beautiful !” she exclaimed, “they are just such faces as we shall see in heaven."
When they entered the house, the painter modestly set down the picture with its face to the wall.
'A warm day, Antonio,” said Nicolo, " thou shalt have a cup of my good old wine to refresh thee.”
“Rather a cup of milk,” replied Antonio, "I do not love your heating draughts; they only add to the heat here," and he laid his hand upon his breast.
“My dear husband,” said Maddelena, soothingly, “thou hast painted too closely for these few days past; but it is for you, father, Antonio has been engaged. He said he would paint a picture for your room, and he has brought it."
“ It is but a little thing,” said Antonio rising, “but I will show it to you."
“Wait a moment." exclaimed Maddelena, I hear our little Giovanni, and baby too is awake," and going out she returned in a few moments with the child in her arms, seated herself near the window, with Giovanni leaning upon her lap, and said, “Come, Antonio, I am ready.”
Slowly and with some trepidation the painter displayed the picture.
It was Madonna with the infant in her arms, and John near her Maria and her children bearing a very striking resemblance to the living group before them.
Nicolo gazed upon it ; his stern features relaxed; he attempted to speak, and burst into tears.
My daughter!” he at length exclaimed, 'my little Giovanni ! just as they look now," and suddenly turning to Antonio, he seized his hand. “ Yes," continued he," thou wert right to pursue painting; it will lead thee to immortality."
“Did I not say so ? " said the delighted wife, and her arms were in a moment around her father's neck.
“Good kind Antonio," said Nicolo, "I will not find fault with Maddelena that she did not choose Pietro no, no, he cannot paint such a picture as this — he is a very good tapster, and keeps good wines, and a good Inn ; but thou hast chosen well, my daughter."
It was a happy day for Antonio and his wife. Nicolo, who estimated the value of the picture, by the perfect resemblance the mother and children bore to the beings he loved best, and by his devotional impressions, repeatedly exclaimed, “Pietro never could have painted such a picture as that.”
"Don't let us talk of Pietro, father," said Maddelena, “I never hear his name without shuddering.”