The child fixed his bright eyes steadily on Abel’s well-loved face for a few seconds, and then said quite clearly, in soft, evenly accented syllables, —
And the sandy kitten, having escaped with its life, crept back into Jan’s bosom and purred itself to rest.
Abel at home.—Jan objects to the miller’s man.—The alphabet.—The cheap Jack.—“Pitchers.”
Poor Abel was not fated to get much regular schooling. He particularly liked learning, but the interval was all too brief between the time when his mother was able to spare him from housework and the time when his father began to employ him in the mill.
George got more lazy and stupid, instead of less so, and though in some strange manner he kept his place, yet when Master Lake had once begun to employ his son, he found that he would get along but ill without him.
To Jan, Abel’s being about the windmill gave the utmost satisfaction. He played with his younger foster-brothers and sisters contentedly enough, but his love for Abel, and for being with Abel, was quite another thing.
Mrs. Lake, too, had no confidence in any one but Abel as a nurse for her darling; the consequence of which was, that the little Jan was constantly trotting at his foster-brother’s heels through the round-house, attempting valiant escalades on the ladders, and covering himself from head to foot with flour in the effort to cultivate a miller’s thumb.
One day Mrs. Lake, having sent the other children off to school, was bent upon having a thorough cleaning-out of the dwelling-room, during which process Jan was likely to be in her way; so she caught him up in her arms and went to seek Abel in the round-house.
She had the less scruple in availing herself of his services, that there was no wind, and business was not brisk in the windmill.
“Maester!” she cried, “can Abel mind Jan a bit? I be going to clean the house.”
“Ay, ay,” said the windmiller, “Abel can mind un. I be going to the village myself, but there’s Gearge to start, if so be the wind rises. And then if he want Abel, thee must take the little un again.”
“Sartinly I will,” said his wife; and Abel willingly received his charge and carried him off to play among the sacks.
George joined them once, but Jan had a rooted and unconquerable dislike to the miller’s man, and never replied to his advances with any thing more friendly than anger or tears. This day was no exception to others in this respect; and after a few fruitless attempts to make himself acceptable, in the course of which he trod on the sandy kitten’s tail, who ran up Jan’s back and spat at her enemy from that vantage-ground, George went off muttering in terms by no means complimentary to the little Jan. Abel did his best to excuse the capricious child to George, besides chiding him for his rudeness—with very little effect. Jan dried his black eyes as the miller’s man made off, but he looked no more ashamed of himself than a good dog looks who has growled or refused the paw of friendship to some one for excellent reasons of his own.