As long as the cottage was in sight John Jay kept rolling his eyes backward as he trudged along in the dust; but Mars’ Nat was the only one in view. Twice he stumbled and almost spilled the eggs. A little farther along he concluded that he was tired enough to rest a while. So he sat down on a log in a shady fence corner, and took a green apple from his pocket. He rolled it around in his hands and over his face, enjoying its tempting odor before he stuck his little white teeth into it. The first bite was so sour that it drew his face all up into a pucker and made his eyes water. He raised his hand to throw it away, but paused with his arm in the air to listen. Somebody was playing on the organ in the church a few rods up the hill.
It was a quaint little stone church, all overgrown with ivy, that the Chadwicks had built generations ago. The high arched door was never opened of late years, except at long intervals, when some one came out from the city to hold services. But the side door was certainly ajar now, for the saddest music that John Jay had ever heard in all his life came trembling out on the warm summer air.
Forgetting all about his errand, he scrambled through the fence and up the gently rising knoll. His bare feet made no noise as he tiptoed up the steps and stood peering through the open door. It was dim and cool inside, with only the light that could sift through the violet and amber of the stained glass windows; but in one, the big one at the end, was the figure of a snowy dove, with outstretched wings. Through this silvery pane a long slanting ray of light, dazzling in its white radiance, streamed across the keys of the organ and the man who played them,—the Reverend George.
It threw a strange light on the upturned face,—a face black as ebony, worn with suffering, but showing in every feature the refining touch of a noble spirit. His mournful eyes seemed looking into another world, while his fingers wandered over the keys with the musical instinct of his race.
John Jay slipped inside and crouched down behind a tall pew. The only music that he had been accustomed to was the kind that Uncle Billy scraped from his fiddle and plunked on his banjo. It was the gay, rollicking kind, that put his feet to jigging and every muscle in his body quivering in time. This made him want to cry; yet it was so sweet and deep and tender as it went rolling softly down the aisles, that he forgot all about the eggs and Miss Hallie. He forgot that he was John Jay. All he thought of was that upturned face with the strange unearthly light in its dark eyes, and the melody that swept over him.
A spell of coughing seized the rapt musician. After it had passed, he lay forward on the organ a while, with his head bowed on his arms. Then he straightened himself up wearily, and began pushing the stops back into their places.