« PreviousContinue »
He sat there watching and feeding all through the long night. But the enamel did not melt. The sun rose upon his labours. His wife brought him a portion of the scanty morning meal, for he would not stir from the furnace, into which he continued from time to time to heave more fuel. The second day passed, and still the enamel did not melt. The sun set, and another night passed, The pale, haggard, unshorn, baffled, yet not beaten, Palissy sat by his furnace eagerly looking for the melting of the enamel. A third day passed—a fourth, a fifth, and even a sixth; yes, for six long days and nights did the unconquerable Palissy watch and toil, fighting against- hope, and still the enamel would not melt. Then he was afraid there was some defect in the materials he had used; so he set to work to pound and compound a fresh mixture for a new experiment, and in a few weeks was ready. But his pots were all spoilt, and he had no money. He borrowed sufficient from a friend to enable him to buy more fuel and more pots, and was again ready for another experiment; the pots were covered with the new compound, placed in the furnace, and the fire lighted.
It was the last and most desperate experiment of the whole. The fire blazed up; the heat became , intense ; but still the enamel would not melt. The fuel began to run short! How was he to keep
up the fire ? There were the garden palings; these would burn. They must be sacrificed rather than that the great experiment should fail. The garden palings were pulled up and cast into the furnace. They were burnt in vain! The enamel had not yet melted. Ten minutes more heat might do it. Fuel must be had at whatever cost. There remained the household furniture and shelving A crashing noise was heard in the house, and amidst the screams of his wife and children, who now feared Palissy's reason was giving way, the tables were seized, broken up, and heaved into the furnace. The enamel had not melted yet! There remained the shelving. Another noise of the wrenching of timber was heard within the house, and the shelves were torn down and hurled after the furniture into the fire. Wife and children then rushed from the house, and went frantically through the town, calling out that poor Palissy had gone mad, and was breaking up his very furniture for firewood!
For an entire month his shirt had not been off his back, and he was utterly worn out—wasted with toil, anxiety, watching, and want of food. He was in debt, and seemed on the verge of ruin. But he had at length mastered the secret, for the last great burst of heat had melted the enamel. The common brown household jars, when taken out of the furnace after it had become cool, were found covered with a white glaze! For this he could endure reproach, contumely, and scorn, and wait patiently for the opportunity of putting His great
his discovery into practice as better days came round.
His troubles did not end here. difficulty was to maintain himself and his family until his wares were made, and ready for sale, and to do this he endured great hardships. Palissy next erected an improved furnace, but he was so unfortunate as to build part of the inside with flints. When it was heated, these flints cracked and burst, and the fragments were scattered over the pieces of pottery, sticking to them. Though the enamel came out right, the work was irretrievably spoilt, and thus six months' more labour was lost. Persons were found willing to buy the articles at a low price, notwithstanding the injury they had sustained; but Palissy would not sell them, considering that to have done so would be but to “decry and abase his honour;" and so he broke in pieces the entire batch. “Nevertheless," said he, “hope continued to inspire me, and I held on manfully. Sometimes, when visitors called, I entertained them with pleasantry, while I was really sad at heart.
Worst of all the sufferings I had to endure were the mockeries and persecutions of those of my own household, who were so unreasonable as to expect me to execute work without the means of doing so. For years my furnaces were without any covering or protection, and while attending to them, I have been for - nights at the mercy of the wind and rain, without help or consolation, save, it might be, the wailing of cats on one side, and the howling of dogs on the other. Sometimes the tempest would beat so furiously against the furnaces that I was compelled to leave them, and seek shelter within doors. Drenched by rain, and in no better plight than if I had been dragged through mire, I have gone to lie down at midnight, or at daybreak, stumbling into the house without a light, and reeling from one side to another as if I had been drunken, but really weary with watching, and filled with sorrow at the loss of my labour after such long toiling. But alas ! my home proved no refuge; for, drenched and besmeared as I was, I found in my chamber a second persecution worse than the first, which makes me even now marvel that I was not utterly consumed by my many sorrows." It was not till eight years after this, during which time he had borne great misery, that he perfected his invention. He gradually learnt dexterity and certainty of result by experience, gathering practical knowledge out of many failures. Every mishap was a fresh lesson to him, teaching him something new about the materials he worked with. At last, after sixteen, . years' labour, Palissy took heart, and called himself the Potter. These sixteen years had been the term of his apprenticeship to the art, during which he had wholly to teach himself, beginning at the beginning. He was now able to sell his wares, and thereby maintain his family. But he never rested satisfied with what he had accomplished. He proceeded from one step of improvement to another, always aiming at the greatest perfection possible. He studied natural objects for his patterns, and with such success, that the great Buffon spoke of him as “ so great a naturalist as nature only can produce.” His ornamental pieces are now regarded as rare gems in the cabinets of collectors, and sell at almost fabulous prices. The ornaments on them are for the most part accurate models from life of wild animals, lizards, and plants found in the fields, and arranged so as to form ornaments for plates
A very small plate made by Palissy sold lately in London for £162.
Adapted from Smiles”.“ Self-Help.”
29.-SCOTCH MOUNTAIN SCENERY.
Awhile their route they silent made,
As men who stalk for mountain deer,
“St Mary! what a scene is here !
But, by my halidome,