One November evening, just after tea, Jan disappeared, and the yellow kitten also. When his bed-time came, Mrs. Lake sought him high and low, and Abel went carefully, mill-candlestick in hand, through every floor, from the millstones to the machinery, but in vain. Neither he nor the kitten was to be found.
It was when the kitten, in chase of her own tail, tumbled in sideways through the round-house door, that Mrs. Lake remembered that Jan might possibly have gone out, and she ran out after him.
The air was chill and fresh, but not bitterly cold. The moon rode high in the dark heavens, and a flock of small white clouds passed slowly before its face and spread over the sky. The shadows of the driving sails fell clearly in the moonlight, and flitted over the grass more quickly than the clouds went by the moon.
Mrs. Lake was not susceptible to effects of scenery, and she was thinking of Jan. As she ran round the windmill, she struck her foot against what proved to be his body, and, stooping, saw that he was lying on his face. But when she snatched him up with a cry of terror, she found that he was not dead, nor even hurt, but only weeping pettishly.
In the first revulsion of feeling from her fright, she was rather disposed to shake her recovered treasure, as a relief to her own excitement. But Abel, whose first sight of Jan was as the light of the mill-candle fell on his tear-stained face, said tenderly, “What be amiss, Janny?”
“Jan can’t make un,” sobbed his foster-brother.
“What can’t Janny make? Tell Abel, then,” said the nurse-boy.
Jan stuck his fists into his eyes, which were drying fast, and replied, “Jan can’t make the moon and the clouds, Abel dear!”
And Abel’s candle being at that moment blown out by a gust of wind, he could see Jan’s slate and pencil lying at some distance apart upon the short grass.
On the dark ground of the slate he had made a round, white, full moon with his soft slate-pencil, and had tried hard to draw each cloud as it passed. But the rapid changes had baffled him, and the pencil-marks were gray compared with the whiteness of the clouds and the brightness of the moon, and the slate, though dark, was a mockery of the deep, deep depths of the night-sky.
And in his despair he had flung the slate one way and the pencil another, and there they lay under the moonlight; and the sandy kitten, who could see more clearly on this occasion than any one else, was dancing a fandango upon poor Jan’s unfinished sketch.
The white horse.—Comro
gues.—Moerdyk.—George confides in the cheap Jack—with reservation.