He was not quite himself that evening. I heard him complain at dinner, and he went out afterwards and came back reeking of drunkards and cheap beer. I was climbing the steps to bed when he came back in. He looked at me indifferently, his face red and sorely vexed. His expression grew tired of me.
The next morning, the workshop gave few hints about what had happened the afternoon before. Three seats had been placed, one at the harpsichord, the others with their backs to the painter. There was a flute on the chair, and a viola on the encasement to the right. The bass cello still lay in its wrap under the encasement. It was hard to tell how many figures were to be in the painting.
“What is the son’s age?” I couldn’t help asking.
“Sixteen, so I heard.”
They told me to run on more chores and entertain the other housemaids elsewhere for the day. I felt like reminding them that I could not stay away every day my master was painting; it was much too cold to linger out of doors, and there was too much work to be done. But I could not say anything. I would not explain it to myself, but I deeply felt that something was to change. I just did not know what.
Instead of going to my parents again, as they would think something was off, I went to the tile factory. I had not seen Hans since he had asked me about the heirlooms in the home. His conversations frustrated me completely, with their insinuations that I would grow to start stealing, and I had made no later attempt to speak with him.
When the boys saw me, a ruckus erupted, high-pitched whistles that made me want to scream. I walked into a large room where boys younger than me sat on benches at low tables, painting tiles. They were working on elementary layouts. Many were not even drawing in the main figures, but leaving only the decorations in the corners of the tiles, the leaflets and symbols and curlicues, leaving a blank middle portion for a skilled master to finish.
I went up to the nearest boy and asked him where my younger brother was. He turned crimson and avoided me, turning his head away. Although I found I was a pleasant interruption, none of them could answer me.
I found another room, hotter and smaller, keeping the kiln. Hans was there alone, with the sweat dripping from him and a severe countenance. The muscles in his chest and arms had burgeoned. He was growing to become a man.
I was frightened to shout to him because he could be surprised and drop a salver. He had tied felt material around his arms and hair that made him appear incompetent, but when he pulled salvers of tiles within and out from the kiln, he masterfully applied the flat sheets so that he did not burn himself.
He saw me before I spoke, and immediately set down the salver he was holding. I opened my mouth to speak but no words came out.
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