The Sandman: His House Stories  by Willliam J. Hopkins

The Painter Story

O NCE upon a time there was a little boy, and he was almost five years old, and his name was David. And there weren't any other children near for him to play with, so he used to play happily all by himself.

He had his cat and his cart and his shovel and his hoe, and he always wore his overalls when he was playing.

They were building a new house in the field next to David's house, and the masons were through their work, and the bricklayers were through, and the water men were through, and the plumbers were through, and the gas men were through, and the plasterers were through, and the carpenters were almost through, for they were laying nice clean boards on the floors, and they had the floors almost done.

David had watched them do it, and had seen how they put one board down after another, and gave the last board whacks with a hammer, to drive it close up against the next board, and nailed it through the edge, so that the nails shouldn't show.

But they always put a piece of a board against the floor board, and whacked the hammer on that, because they wanted the floor to be all smooth and shiny and not to show any marks of a hammer.

And now the house had to be painted.

So, one morning, a great big wagon came to the new house.

And on the wagon were ladders, some of them very tall, and they stuck out far beyond the ends of the wagon and there were great enormous hooks, and boards that were all painty and a great many pots of paint, some dark green for the blinds, and some a lemon-yellow for the corners of the house and what the painters call the trimmings.

But most of the paint was white.

There were two kinds of white paint, one kind for the outside of the house and another for the inside.

And there were all the kinds of brushes that the painters would need, and there were great bundles of cloth, which the painters would spread over the floors, so that the nice clean floors shouldn't get all spattered with paint, and there were some odds and ends besides.

And the painters came, and they took the things all off the wagon.

Of course, the carpenters had some ladders that would reach, but those were the carpenters' ladders, not the painters'; and the carpenters had some boards, but those were the carpenters' boards, not the painters'.

That is why the painters had brought boards and ladders.

David had gone on the train with his father and his mother, that morning, but the painters didn't know about him, so they kept right on with their work.

The foreman was there, and he was sorry that David wasn't there to see what the painters were doing, but he knew that David would see them before they were through with their work.

The wagon was unloaded, and some of the painters went inside the house, to paint the parts that had to be painted in there and some of the painters got ready to paint the outside of the house.

And they took thick pieces of board, and bored a hole in the middle, and they nailed those pieces of board on the roof, near the edge.

And they put the great enormous hooks up there, with the pointed ends in the holes in the boards, and the other ends hanging over the edge of the roof, over the gutter and the eaves.

The ends of the hooks which hung over had pulleys in them, and through the pulleys ran long ropes which hung down to the ground.

And the painters fastened the end of one of the ropes to one end of a ladder, and the end of another rope to the other end of the ladder.

Then they put some of the painty boards along over the rungs, so that the men shouldn't fall through or drop their pots of paint through, and they had made a sort of a staging which could be highered or lowered by the ropes.

And they tried the ropes, to see that it was all right, and two painters got on it, with their pots of paint and their brushes and everything they needed.

And one man sat at each end, and they pulled on the ropes, and hoisted the staging, with themselves sitting on it, up off the ground.

And the staging, with the two men on it, and their pots of paint, went slowly higher and higher, until it was as high as it could go, and the men could reach the highest board that they had to paint.

Then they fastened the ropes carefully, and they stirred up the paint, and they took up the brushes and they dipped the brushes in the paint, and they knocked them gently against the side of the paint-pot, plop, plop, plop,  and they began to move them quickly over the boards, swish, swish, swish,  first one side of the brush, and then back again on the other side.

And the first thing you knew they had all those boards painted, and they had to lower the staging so that they could reach the boards lower down.

"Hello!" called a little clear voice, and the painters looked down.

The foreman was standing there, watching the painters; and he looked, and there was David, all dressed in his go-to-town clothes.

And the foreman looked again, and there was David's mother, standing by her gate and waiting for David.

And she had on her go-to-town clothes, too.

"Hello, Davie," the foreman called. "You're all dressed up, aren't you? You'd better go and get into your overalls, quick, and then come back."

David's mother had heard what the foreman said, and she nodded and smiled to thank him, because she would have to call very loud, indeed, to make him hear, and she didn't like to.

And David nodded, and he ran back to his mother.

"Mother," he said, "the foreman said to get into my overalls. What did he mean, mother? Does that mean to put them on?"

"Yes, dear," his mother said, smiling.

So David paid no attention to his cat, who was coming to meet him and to rub against him, but he hurried to change his clothes and to put on his overalls.

And when he had his clothes changed and his overalls on, he ran out, and there was his cat waiting for him.

And he took up the handle of his cart, and he walked off as fast as he could, dragging his cart, and his shovel and his hoe rattled in the bottom of it and his cat ran on ahead, with her bushy tail sticking up in the air.

I don't know why David took his cart that time, for there wasn't any mortar man, and there wasn't any sand-pile. He almost always took his cart.

When David got to the house, there was the foreman standing in almost the same place, but the painters had lowered the staging some more.

And David didn't say anything, but he dropped the handle of his cart, and he went to the foreman and reached up for the foreman's hand.

And the foreman's big hand closed over David's little one, and the foreman smiled, but he didn't say anything, either. He waited for David to speak.

David watched the painters for some time.

"What color are they painting it?" he asked at last. "It looks like white on the brushes, but sort of watery when they put it on, just as my paints look when I put a great deal of water with them. Have they got a great deal of water with their paint?"

"Not water, Davie," the foreman answered, "but oil. This is the first coat of paint, you see, put right on the bare wood, and the wood soaks the oil out of the paint at a great rate. They won't put so much oil in the second and third coats."



"Oh," said David, "will they paint it three times?"

"Three times for new wood," the foreman said.

He didn't say any more then, but he watched and so did David while the painters dipped their brushes and patted them against the sides of their paint-pots and brushed them quickly back and forth over the new clapboards.

"Come with me, Davie," the foreman said at last, "and let's see if we can't scare up something else that's interesting."

And so David went with the foreman, and they went around by the cellar door.

And there they saw a great pile of shutters or blinds which were to go on the outside of all the windows of the house.

These blinds were leaning, one against another, and they had already been painted a kind of bluish gray, and each one had whole rows of little slats that you could turn back and forth.

And beyond the pile of bluish gray blinds was a smaller pile of dark green blinds, and the dark green blinds glistened with fresh paint, and they were leaning, one against another.

And between the pile of bluish gray blinds and the pile of dark green blinds were two painters, painting for dear life, and they were painting the bluish gray blinds dark green.

David watched them for a few minutes. It seemed to be a good deal of trouble to get the slats well painted.

"These," said the foreman, putting his hand on the bluish gray blinds, "are just as they come from the mill—the factory where they are made. This first coat of paint is put on there. Then our painters paint them whatever color is wanted."

David nodded, but he didn't say anything, for he didn't understand why the carpenters didn't make the blinds.

Pretty soon he pulled at the foreman's hand.

"I want to go back," he said.

So they went back to the painters who were painting the side of the house.

They had lowered the staging so low that the foreman could reach it.

"I'll tell you what, Davie," the foreman said. "Do you suppose you could paint a clapboard?"

"Oh," cried David, "will they let me?"

"I guess so," the foreman answered. "You ask them."

David looked up at the painters, and the painters looked down at David, and they were smiling.

David started to speak, but he couldn't ask what he wanted to. And the painters saw what was the matter, and one of them spoke.

"Want to paint a board?" he asked. "Well, come on up here."

So the foreman put his hands under David's arms, and he lifted David right up, over the staging, and set him down with his feet hanging over. And the painter dipped his brush into the paint, and patted it gently against the side of the paint-pot, plop, plop, plop,  and he handed the brush to David.

"Oh," David said, "it's heavy!"

"So it is," the painter said. "The paint is mostly lead, that's why. Now, you move the brush away from you as if you were sweeping the floor or dusting the board. Then, when it has gone as far as you can reach, you bring it back on the other side."

David tried, but he didn't do it very well, and the paint squeezed out of the brush and ran down and dripped from the edge of the clapboard.

"Not that way," the painter said. "I'll show you."

Then he took hold of David's wrist, but he left the brush in David's hand, and he moved it the way it ought to go, and he swept up all the little rivers of paint and all the little drips, and spread it smoothly over the clapboard.

"There!" said the painter. "Now, do you see?"

David nodded, and he tried again.

This time he did better, but the paint was all gone from the brush, and he held it out to the painter for more.

So the painter dipped it again, and David took it, and painted some more.

And each time he did better than he had done the last time, and he hitched along on the staging, and that clapboard was all painted before he knew it.

And David sighed and started to get up on his feet.

But the other painter called to him.

"Hey, David!" he called. "Aren't you going to do any painting for me? That isn't fair. You come over and do a board for me."

David smiled with pleasure. "Yes, I will," he said.

So he crawled on his hands and knees along the staging, and the foreman walked along on the ground beside him.

And he painted a clapboard for that other painter, but a great drop of the paint got on the leg of his overalls.

"Oh," he said, "I got some paint on my overalls."

"Gracious!" said the painter. "That's nothing. Look at my overalls."

The painter's overalls were made of strong white cloth, and they were all splashed up with paint, all colors. But he had painted a great deal more than David had.

So David finished the clapboard, and then he got up on his feet, and the foreman took him and lifted him down to the ground.

"Thank you," said the painter.

"Thank you," said the other painter.

"You're welcome," David said. "Good-bye."

"Good-bye," said both the painters.

And David began to run to his cart.

"Good-bye, Davie," the foreman said.

David stopped a moment and looked around.

"Good-bye," he said.

Then his cat came running to meet him, and he grabbed up the handle of his cart, and he kept on running, dragging his cart, and his shovel and his hoe rattled away like everything in the bottom of it.

And when he got to his house, he didn't stop running, but just dropped the handle of the cart, and he climbed up the steps as fast as he could and ran into the house.

"Mother," he called, "I painted two boards and I got some paint on my overalls. But you ought to see the painter's overalls. They're awful  painty."

And that's all.