“So they say, sir,” said the schoolmaster, smartly; “though, from my own experience of the shiftlessness of necessitous folk, I’ve been tempted to doubt the truth of the proverb.”
The painter laughed, and thought of the widow, as Master Swift added, “Necessity may be the mother of invention, sir, but the father must have had a good head on his shoulders.”
The sun had set, the moon had risen, and the dew mixed with kindred rain-drops on the schoolmaster’s flowers, when Jan and the painter bade him good-by. For half an hour past it had seemed to the painter that he was exhausted, and spoke languidly.
“Don’t get up till I come in the morning, Master Swift,” said Jan; “I’ll come early and dress you.”
Rufus walked with them to the gate, and waved his tail as Jan kissed his soft nose and brow, but then he went back to Master Swift and lay down at his feet. The old man had refused to have the door shut, and he propelled his chair to the porch again, and lay looking at the stars. The moon set, and the night grew cold, so that Rufus tucked his nose deeper into his fur, but Master Swift did not close the door.
The sun was shining brightly when Jan came back in the morning. It was very early. The convolvulus bells were open, but Rufus and the schoolmaster still slept. Jan’s footsteps roused Rufus, who stretched himself and yawned, but Master Swift did not move, nor answer to Jan’s passionate call upon his name. And in the very peace and beauty of his countenance Jan saw that he was dead.
But at what hour the silent messenger had come—whether at midnight, or at cock-crow, or in the morning—there was none to tell.
George again.—The painter’s advice.—“Home brewed” At the heart of oak.—Jan changes the painter’s mind.
Master Swift’s death was a great shock to the windmiller, who was himself in frail health; and Jan gave as much time as he could to cheering his foster-father.
He had been spending an afternoon at the windmill, and the painter had been sketching the old church from the water-meadows, when they met on the little bridge near Dame Datchett’s, and strolled together to the Heart of Oak. Master Chuter met them at the door.
“There be a letter for you, Jan,” said he. “’Twas brought by a young varment I knows well. He belongs to them that keeps a low public at the foot of the hill, and he do be for all the world like a hudmedud, without the usefulness of un.” The letter was dirty and ill-written enough to correspond to the innkeeper’s account of its origin. Misspellings omitted, it ran thus: —
“Master Jan Ford,