| Gabriel and the Hour Book|
|by Evaleen Stein|
|Relates the story of the making of an hour book as a wedding gift from King Louis of France to Lady Anne of Brittany and the good fortune it brought to little Gabriel, Brother Stephen's color grinder. Ages 8-10 |
BROTHER STEPHEN'S INSPIRATION
ABRIEL knew nothing of Brother Stephen's troubles, and so was
smiling happily as he stepped into the room, holding
his cap in one hand, while with his other arm he hugged
to him his large bunch of violets and cuckoo-buds.
Indeed he looked so bright and full of life that even
Brother Stephen felt the effect of it, and his frown
began to smooth out a little as he said:
"Well, my lad, who art thou?"
 "I am Gabriel Viaud, Brother Stephen," answered the
boy, "and I have come to help you; for they told me
Jacques is fallen ill. What would you like me to do
To this Brother Stephen scarcely knew what to reply. He
was certainly in no mood for work. He was still very,
very angry, and thought himself terribly misused by the
Abbot; and though he greatly dreaded the latter's
threats, he had almost reached the point of defying him
and the king and everybody else, no matter what
dreadful thing happened to him afterward.
But then as he looked again at the bright-faced little
boy standing there, and seeming so eager
 to help he began to relent more and more; and besides,
he found it decidedly embarrassing to try to explain
things to Gabriel.
So after a little pause, he said to him: "Gabriel, I am
not ready for thee at this moment; go sit on yonder
bench. I wish to think out a matter which is perplexing
me." Then as Gabriel obediently went over to the bench
and seated himself, he added: "Thou canst pass the time
looking at the books on the shelf above thee."
So while Brother Stephen was trying to make up his mind
as to what he would do, Gabriel took down one of the
books, and was soon absorbed in its pages. Presently,
as he turned a new one he
 gave a little involuntary exclamation of delight. At
this Brother Stephen noticed him, and—
"Ah!" he said, "what hast thou found that seems to
"Oh, Sir," answered Gabriel, "this is the most
beautiful initial letter I have ever seen!"
Now Gabriel did not know that the book had been made a
few years before by Brother Stephen himself, and so he
had no idea how much it pleased the brother to have his
Indeed, most people who do good work of any kind
oftentimes feel the need of praise; not flattery, but
the real approval of some one who understands what they
are trying to do. It makes the workman or artist feel
that if his
 work is liked by somebody, it is worth while to try to
do more and better.
Poor Brother Stephen did not get much of this needed
praise, for many of the other monks at the Abbey were
envious of him, and so were unwilling really to admire
his work; while the Abbot was so cold and haughty and
so taken up with his own affairs, that he seldom took
the trouble to say what he liked or disliked.
So when Brother Stephen saw Gabriel's eager admiration,
he felt pleased indeed; for Gabriel had a nice taste in
artistic things, and seemed instinctively to pick out
the best points of anything he looked at. And when, in
his enthusiasm, he carried the book over
 and began to tell Brother Stephen why he so much
admired the painting, without knowing it, he really
made the latter feel happier than he had felt for many
a day. He began to have a decided notion that he would
paint King Louis's book after all. And just then, as if
to settle the matter, he happened to glance at the
corner of the table where Gabriel had laid down his
bunch of flowers as he came in.
It chanced that some of the violets had fallen from the
cluster and dropped upon a broad ruler of brass that
lay beside the painting materials. And even as Brother
Stephen looked, it chanced also that a little white
butterfly drifted into the room through the bars of
 the high, open window; after vaguely fluttering about
for a while, at last, attracted by the blossoms, it
came, and, poising lightly over the violets on the
ruler, began to sip honey from the heart of one of
As Brother Stephen's artistic eye took in the beauty of
effect made by the few flowers on the brass ruler with
the butterfly hovering over them, he, too, gave a
little exclamation, and his eyes brightened and he
smiled; for he had just got a new idea for an
"Yes," he said to himself, "this would be different
from any I have yet seen!" I will decorate King Louis's
book with borders of gold; and on the gold I will
 paint the meadow wildflowers, and the bees and
butterflies, and all the little flying creatures."
Now before this, all the borders of the Abbey books had
been painted, in the usual manner of the time, with
scrolls and birds and flowers more or less
conventionalized; that is, the artists did not try to
make them look exactly like the real ones, but twisted
them about in all sorts of fantastic ways. Sometimes
the stem of a flower would end in the curled-up folds
of a winged dragon, or a bird would have strange
blossoms growing out of his beak, or perhaps the tips
of his wings.
These borders were indeed exquisitely beautiful, but
 Stephen was just tired of it all, and wanted to do
something quite different; so he was delighted with his
new idea of painting the field-flowers exactly like
nature, only placing them on a background of gold.
As he pictured in his mind one page after another thus
adorned, he became more and more interested and
impatient to begin at once. He forgot all about his
anger at the Abbot; he forgot everything else, except
that he wanted to begin King Louis's book as quickly as
And so he called briskly to Gabriel, who meantime had
reseated himself on his bench:
"Gabriel, come hither! Canst thou rule lines without
 Canst thou make ink and grind colours and prepare gold
"Yes, sir," said Gabriel, surprised at the monk's eager
manner, "I have worked at all these things."
"Good!" replied Brother Stephen. "Here is a piece of
parchment thou canst cut and prepare, and then rule it,
thus" (and here he showed him how he wished it done),
"with scarlet ink. But do not take yonder brass ruler!
Here is one of ivory thou canst use instead."
And then as Gabriel went to work, Brother Stephen,
taking a goose-quill pen and some black ink, began
skilfully and carefully to make drawings of the violets
as they lay on the ruler, not
for-  getting the white butterfly which still hovered about.
The harder he worked the happier he grew; hour after
hour passed, till at last the dinner time came, and
Gabriel, who was growing very hungry, could hear the
footsteps of the brothers, as they marched into the
large dining-room where they all ate together.
Brother Stephen, however, was so absorbed that he did
not notice anything; till, by and by, the door opened,
and in came two monks, one carrying some soup and bread
and a flagon of wine. As they entered, Brother Stephen
turned quickly, and was about to rise, when all at once
he felt the tug of the chain still fastened about the
leg of the table; at this his
 face grew scarlet with shame, and he sank back in his
Gabriel started with surprise, for he had not before
seen the chain, partly hidden as it was by the folds of
the brother's robe. As he looked, one of the two monks
went to the table, and, with a key which he carried,
unlocked the chain so Brother Stephen might have a
half-hour's liberty while he ate. The monks, however,
stayed with him to keep an eye on his movements; and
meantime they told Gabriel to go out to the Abbey
kitchen and find something for his own dinner.
As Gabriel went out along the corridor to the kitchen,
his heart swelled with pity! Why was Brother Stephen
 tried to think, and remembered that once before he had
seen one of the brothers chained to a table in the
writing-room because he was not diligent enough with
his work,—but Brother Stephen! Was he not working so
hard? And how beautiful, too, were his drawings! The
more Gabriel thought of it the more indignant he grew.
Indeed, he did not half-enjoy the bread and savoury
soup made of black beans, that the cook dished out for
him; he took his wooden bowl, and sitting on a bench,
ate absently, thinking all the while of Brother
When he had finished he went back to the chapter-house
and found the other monks gone and Brother Stephen
 Gabriel felt much embarrassed to have been obliged to
see it; and when Brother Stephen, pointing to the
chain, said bitterly, "Thou seest they were afraid I
would run away from my work," the lad was so much at a
loss to know what to say, that he very wisely said
Now Brother Stephen, though he had begun the book as
the Abbot wished, yet he had by no means the meek and
penitent spirit which also the Abbot desired of him,
and which it was proper for a monk to have.
And so if the truth must be told, each time the other
monks came in to chain him, he felt more than anything
else like seizing both of them, and thrusting them
 bodily out of the door, or at least trying to do so.
But then he could not forget the Abbot's threat if he
showed disobedience; and he had been brought up to
dread the ban of the Church more than anything else
that could possibly happen to him, because he believed
that this would make him unhappy, not only in this
life, but in the life to come. And so he smothered his
feelings and tried to bear the humiliation as patiently
as he could.
Gabriel could not help but see, however, that it took
him some time to regain the interest he had felt in his
work, and it was not until the afternoon was half-gone
that he seemed to forget his troubles enough really to
have heart in the pages he was making.
 When dusk fell, Gabriel picked up and arranged his
things in order, and bidding Brother Stephen good
night, trudged off home.
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