“Are your folk religious, Jan?” he added, abruptly. And whilst Jan stood puzzling the question, he asked with an almost official air of authority, “Do ye any of ye come to church?”
“My father does on club-days,” said Jan.
“And the rest of ye,—do ye attend any place of worship?” Jan shook his head.
“And I’ll dare to say ye didn’t know I was the clerk?” said Master Swift. “There’s paganism for ye in a Christian parish! Well, well, you’re coming to me, lad, and, apart from your secular studies, you’ll be instructed in the Word of god, and in the Church Catechism on Fridays.”
“Thank you, sir,” said Jan. He felt this civility to be due, though of the schoolmaster’s plans for his benefit he had a very confused notion. He then took leave. Rufus went with him to the gate, and returned to his master with a look which plainly said, “We could have done with him very well, if you had kept him.”
When Jan had reached a bit of rising ground, from which the house he had just left was visible, he turned round to look at it again.
Master Swift was standing where he had left him, gazing out into the distance with painful intensity. The fast-sinking sun lit up his heavy face and figure with a transforming glow, and hung a golden mist above the meads, at which he stared like one spellbound. But when Jan turned to pursue his way to the windmill, the schoolmaster turned also, and went back into the cottage.
The parish church.—Rembrandt.—The snow scene.—Master Swift’s autobiography.
In most respects, Jan’s conduct and progress were very satisfactory. He quickly learned to read, and his copy-books were models.
The good clerk developed another talent in him. Jan learned to sing, and to sing very well; and he was put into the choir-seats in the old church, where he sang with enthusiasm hymns which he had learned by heart from the schoolmaster.
No wild weather that ever blustered over the downs could keep Jan now from the services. The old church came to have a fascination for him, from the low, square tower without, round which the rooks wheeled, to the springing pillars, the solemn gray tints of the stone, and the round arches that so gratified the eye within. And did he not sit opposite to the one stained window the soldiers of the Commonwealth had spared to the parish! It was the only colored picture Jan knew, and he knew every line, every tint of it, and the separate expression on each of the wan, quaint faces of the figures. When the sun shone, they seemed to smile at him, and their ruby dresses glowed like garments dyed in blood. When the colors fell upon Abel’s white head, Jan wished with all his heart that he could have gathered them as he gathered leaves, to make pictures with. Sometimes he day-dreamed that one of the figures came down out of the window, and brought the colors with him, and that he and Jan painted pictures in the other windows, filling them with gorgeous hues, and pale, devout faces. The fancy, empty as it was, pleased him, and he planned how every window should be done, and told Abel, to whom the ingenious fancy seemed as marvellous as if the work had been accomplished.