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Chronicles of Clovis

The Background
"That woman's art-jargon tires me," said Clovis to his journalist friend. "She's so fond of
talking of certain pictures as 'growing on one,' as though they were a sort of fungus."
"That reminds me," said the journalist, "of the story of Henri Deplis. Have I ever told it
you?"
Clovis shook his head.
"Henri Deplis was by birth a native of the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg. On maturer
reflection he became a commercial traveller. His business activities frequently took him
beyond the limits of the Grand Duchy, and he was stopping in a small town of Northern
Italy when news reached him from home that a legacy from a distant and deceased
relative had fallen to his share.
"It was not a large legacy, even from the modest standpoint of Henri Deplis, but it
impelled him towards some seemingly harmless extravagances. In particular it led him to
patronize local art as represented by the tattoo-needles of Signor Andreas Pincini. Signor
Pincini was, perhaps, the most brilliant master of tattoo craft that Italy had ever known,
but his circumstances were decidedly impoverished, and for the sum of six hundred
francs he gladly undertook to cover his client's back, from the collar-bone down to the
waistline, with a glowing representation of the Fall of Icarus. The design, when finally
developed, was a slight disappointment to Monsieur Deplis, who had suspected Icarus of
being a fortress taken by Wallenstein in the Thirty Years' War, but he was more than
satisfied with the execution of the work, which was acclaimed by all who had the
privilege of seeing it as Pincini's masterpiece.
"It was his greatest effort, and his last. Without even waiting to he paid, the illustrious
craftsman departed this life, and was buried under an ornate tombstone, whose winged
cherubs would have afforded singularly little scope for the exercise of his favourite art.
There remained, however, the widow Pincini, to whom the six hundred francs were due.
And thereupon arose the great crisis in the life of Henri Deplis, traveller of commerce.
The legacy, under the stress of numerous little calls on its substance, had dwindled to
very insignificant proportions, and when a pressing wine bill and sundry other current
accounts had been paid, there remained little more than 430 francs to offer to the widow.
The lady was properly indignant, not wholly, as she volubly explained, on account of the
suggested writing-off of 170 francs, but also at the attempt to depreciate the value of her
late husband's acknowledged masterpiece. In a week's time Deplis was obliged to reduce
his offer to 405 francs, which circumstance fanned the widow's indignation into a fury.
She cancelled the sale of the work of art, and a few days later Deplis learned with a sense,
of consternation that she had presented it to the municipality of Bergamo, which had
gratefully accepted it. He left the neighbourhood as unobtrusively as possible, and was
 
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