Now he stopped still in the path, and slowly pointing to each star with his little black forefinger, as he counted them, solemnly repeated the charm:
“Star-light, star bright,
Seventh star I’ve seen to-night;
I wish I may and I wish I might
Have the wish come true I wish to-night.”
“Come on in, chile! What you gawkin’ at?” called Mammy from the doorway. John Jay made no answer. It would have broken the charm to have spoken again before going to sleep. He hurried into the house, glad that Mammy was so occupied with her company that she could pay no attention to him. She stood in the door with them so long that John Jay was in bed by the time she came in. Although he pretended to be asleep, inwardly he was in a quiver of excitement.
“I’ll count ’em every night,” he thought. The wish that burned in his little heart was a very earnest one, fraught with hopes for his coming birthday.
Late hours did not agree with John Jay. Next morning he felt too tired to stir. He groaned when he remembered that it was Sunday, for he thought of the long, hot walk down to Brier Crook church. To his great surprise, Mammy did not insist on his going with her: she had been offered a seat in a neighbor’s spring-wagon, and there was no room for him.
So he spent a long, lazy morning, stretched out in the shade of the apple-tree. A smell of clover and ripening orchards filled the heated air. The hens clucked around drowsily with drooping wings. A warm breeze stirred the grasses where he lay.
Ivy dug in the dirt with a broken spoon, while Bud kicked up his heels beside John Jay, listening to a marvellous account of Miss Hallie’s party. It lost nothing in the telling. For years after, John Jay looked back upon that night as a John of Patmos might have looked, remembering some vision of the opened heavens. The lights, the music, the white-robed figures, and above all, that wonderful fountain looking as if it must have sprung from some “sea of glass mingled with fire,” did not belong to the earth with which he was acquainted. He repeated some part of that recollection to Bud every day for a week, always ending with the sentence uppermost in his thought: “And next Satiddy I has a buthday.”
[Illustration: Under the apple-tree]
Of course he knew that his celebration could be nothing like Miss Hallie’s; but he had a vague idea that something would happen to make the day unusual and delightful. Every night after he had gone to bed, and when Mammy was drowsing on the doorstep, he raised himself to his knees, and looked through a wide hole in the wall where the chinking had dropped out from between the logs. Through this he could see a strip of sky studded with twinkling stars. One by one he pointed out the magic seven, repeating the charm and whispering the wish.