“’Tis likely she have,” said George, regaining his composure.
“Abel! Abel! Abel!” cried the mother from the dwelling-room. “Come to bed, child!”
“Good-night, Gearge. I’m main sorry to be so stupid, Gearge,” said Abel, and off he ran.
Mrs. Lake was walking up and down, rocking the little Jan in her arms, who was wailing fretfully.
“I be puzzled to know what ails un,” said Mrs. Lake, in answer to Abel’s questions. “He be quite in a way tonight. But get thee to bed, Abel.”
And though Abel begged hard to be allowed to try his powers of soothing with the little Jan, Mrs. Lake insisted upon keeping the baby herself; and Abel undressed, and crept into the press-bed. He fell asleep in spite of a somewhat disturbed mind. That mysterious word and George’s evident displeasure worried him, and he was troubled also by the unusual fretfulness of the little Jan, and the sound of sorrow in his baby wail. His last waking thoughts were a strange mixture, passing into stranger dreams.
The word Moerdyk danced before his eyes, but brought no meaning with it. Jan’s cries troubled him, and with both there blended the droning of the ancient plaintive ditty, which the foster-mother sang over and over again as she rocked the child in her arms. That wail of the baby’s must have in some strange manner recalled the first night of his arrival, when Abel found him wailing on the bed. For the fierce eyes of the strange gentleman haunted Abel’s dreams, but in the face of the miller’s man.
The poor boy dreamed horribly of being “dropped on” by George, with fierce black eyes added to the terrors of his uncouth grimaces. He seemed to himself to fly blindly and vainly through the mill from his tormentor, till George was driven from his thoughts by his coming suddenly upon the little Jan, wailing as he really did wail, round whose head a miller-moth was sailing slowly, and singing in a human voice: —
“The swallow twitters
on the barn,
The rook is cawing on the tree,
And in the wood the ringdove coos,
But my false love hath fled from me.
Like tiny pipe
of wheaten straw,
The wren his little note doth swell,
And every living thing that flies,
Of his true love doth fondly tell.
But I alone am
left to pine,
And sit beneath the withy tree;
For truth and honesty be gone,
And my false love hath fled from me.”
Abel goes to school again.—Dame Datchett.—A column of spelling.— Abel plays moocher.—The miller’s man cannot make up his mind.
Abel went to school again in the spring, and, though George would have been better pleased had he forgotten the whole affair, he remembered the word in George’s young woman’s love-letter which had puzzled him; and never was a spelling-lesson set him among the M’s that he did not hope to come across it and to be able to demand the meaning of Moerdyk from his Dame.