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CharlesReade

THECLOISTER
AND THE HEARTH





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AUTHOR'SPREFACE

Asmall portion of this tale appeared in Once a WeekJuly- September1859under the title of "A Good Fight."

Afterwriting itI took wider views of the subjectand also felt uneasyat having deviated unnecessarily from the historical outline of atrue story. These two sentiments have cost me more than a year's veryhard labourwhich I venture to think has not been wasted. After thisplain statement I trust all who comment on this work will see that todescribe it as a reprint would be unfair to the public and to me. TheEnglish language is copiousandin any true man's handsquite ableto convey the truth- namelythat one-fifth of the present work is areprintand four- fifths of it a new composition.

CharlesReade

 

CHAPTERI

Nota day passes over the earthbut men and women of no note do greatdeedsspeak great wordsand suffer noble sorrows. of these obscureheroesphilosophersand martyrsthe greater part will never beknown till that hourwhen many that are great shall be smallandthe small great; but of others the world's knowledge may be said tosleep: their lives and characters lie hidden from nations in theannals that record them. The general reader cannot feel themtheyare presented so curtly and coldly: they are not like breathingstories appealing to his heartbut little historic hail-stonesstriking him but to glance off his bosom: nor can he understand them;for epitomes are not narrativesas skeletons are not human figures.

Thusrecords of prime truths remain a dead letter to plain folk: thewriters have left so much to the imaginationand imagination is sorare a gift. Herethenthe writer of fiction may be of use to thepublic - as an interpreter.

Thereis a musty chroniclewritten in intolerable Latinand in it achapter where every sentence holds a fact. Here is toldwith harshbrevitythe strange history of a pairwho lived untrumpetedanddied unsungfour hundred years ago; and lie nowas unpitiedinthat stern pageas fossils in a rock. Thusliving or deadFate isstill unjust to them. For if I can but show you what lies below thatdry chronicler's wordsmethinks you will correct the indifference ofcenturiesand give those two sore-tried souls a place in your heart- for a day.

Itwas past the middle of the fifteenth century; Louis XI was sovereignof France; Edward IV was wrongful king of England; and Philip "theGood" having by force and cunning dispossessed his cousinJacquelineand broken her heartreigned undisturbed this many yearsin Hollandwhere our tale begins.

Eliasand Catherine his wifelived in the little town of Tergou. Hetradedwholesale and retailin clothsilkbrown hollandandabove allin curried leathera material highly valued by themiddling peoplebecause it would stand twenty years' wearand turnan ordinary knifeno small virtue in a jerkin of that centuryinwhich folk were so liberal of their steel; even at dinner a man wouldleave his meat awhileand carve you his neighbouron a verymoderate difference of opinion.

Thecouple were well to doand would have been free from all earthlycarebut for nine children. When these were coming into the worldone per annumeach was hailed with rejoicingsand the saints werethankednot expostulated with; and when parents and children wereall young togetherthe latter were looked upon as lovely littleplaythings invented by Heaven for the amusementjoyand eveningsolace of people in business.

Butas the olive-branches shot upand the parents grew olderand sawwith their own eyes the fate of large familiesmisgivings and caremingled with their love. They belonged to a singularly wise andprovident people: in Holland reckless parents were as rare asdisobedient children. So now when the huge loaf came in on a gigantictrencherlooking like a fortress in its moatandthe tour of thetable once madeseemed to have melted awayElias and Catherinewould look at one another and say"Who is to find bread forthem all when we are gone?"

Atthis observation the younger ones needed all their filial respect tokeep their little Dutch countenances; for in their opinion dinner andsupper came by nature like sunrise and sunsetandso long as thatluminary should travel round the earthso long as the brown loaf goround their family circleand set in their stomachs only to riseagain in the family oven. But the remark awakened the nationalthoughtfulness of the elder boysand being often repeatedsetseveral of the family thinkingsome of them good thoughtssome illthoughtsaccording to the nature of the thinkers.

"Katethe children grow sothis table will soon be too small."

"Wecannot afford itEli" replied Catherineanswering not hiswordsbut his thoughtafter the manner of women.

Theiranxiety for the future took at times a less dismal but moremortifying turn. The free burghers had their pride as well as thenobles; and these two could not bear that any of their blood shouldgo down in the burgh after their decease.

Soby prudence and self-denial they managed to clothe all the littlebodiesand feed all the great mouthsand yet put by a small hoardto meet the future; andas it grew and grewthey felt a pleasurethe miser hoarding for himself knows not.

Oneday the eldest boy but oneaged nineteencame to his motherandwith that outward composure which has so misled some persons as tothe real nature of this peoplebegged her to intercede with hisfather to send him to Amsterdamand place him with a merchant. "Itis the way of life that likes me: merchants are wealthy; I am good atnumbers; pritheegood mothertake my part in thisand I shall everbeas I am nowyour debtor."

Catherinethrew up her hands with dismay and incredulity.

"What!leave Tergou!"

"Whatis one street to me more than another? If I can leave the folk ofTergouI can surely leave the stones."

"What!quit your poor father now he is no longer young?"

"Motherif I can leave youI can leave"

"What!leave your poor brothers and sistersthat love you so dear?"

"Thereare enough in the house without me."

"Whatmean youRichart? Who is more thought of than you Stayhave Ispoken sharp to you? Have I been unkind to you?"

"Neverthat I know of; and if you hadyou should never hear of it from me.Mother" said Richart gravelybut the tear was in his eye"itall lies in a wordand nothing can change my mind. There will be onemouth less for you to feed.'

"Therenowsee what my tongue has done" said Catherineand the nextmoment she began to cry. For she saw her first young bird on the edgeof the nest trying his wings to fly into the world. Richart had acalmstrong willand she knew he never wasted a word.

Itended as nature has willed all such discourse shall end: youngRichart went to Amsterdam with a face so long and sad as it had neverbeen seen beforeand a heart like granite.

Thatafternoon at supper there was one mouth less. Catherine looked atRichart's chair and wept bitterly. On this Elias shouted roughly andangrily to the children"Sit widercan't ye: sit wider!"and turned his head away over the back of his seat awhileand wassilent.

Richartwas launchedand never cost them another penny; but to fit him outand place him in the house of Vander Stegenthe merchanttook allthe little hoard but one gold crown. They began again. Two yearspassedRichart found a niche in commerce for his brother JacobandJacob left Tergou directly after dinnerwhich was at eleven in theforenoon. At supper that day Elias remembered what had happened thelast time; so it was in a low whisper he said"Sit widerdears!" Now until that momentCatherine would not see the gapat tablefor her daughter Catherine had besought her not to grieveto-nightand she had said"NosweetheartI promise I willnotsince it vexes my children." But when Elias whispered "Sitwider!" says she"Ay! the table will soon be too big forthe childrenand you thought it would be too small;" and havingdelivered this with forced calmness. she put up her apron the nextmomentand wept sore.

"'Tisthe best that leave us" sobbed she; "that is the cruelpart."

"Nay!nay!" said Elias"our children are good childrenand allare dear to us alike. Heed her not! What God takes from us stillseems better that what He spares to us; that is to saymen are bynature unthankful - and women silly."

"AndI say Richart and Jacob were the flower of the flock" sobbedCatherine.

Thelittle coffer was empty againand to fill it they gathered likeants. In those days speculation was pretty much confined to thecard-and-dice business. Elias knew no way to wealth but the slow andsure one. "A penny saved is a penny gained" was his humblecreed. All that was not required for the business and the necessariesof life went into the little coffer with steel bands and florid key.They denied themselves in turn the humblest luxuriesand thencatching one another's lookssmiled; perhaps with a greater joy thanself-indulgence has to bestow. And so in three years more they hadgleaned enough to set up their fourth son as a master-tailorandtheir eldest daughter as a robemakerin Tergou. Here were two moreprovided for: their own trade would enable them to throw work intothe hands of this pair. But the coffer was drained to the dregsandthis time the shop too bled a little in goods if not in coin.

Alas!there remained on hand two that were unable to get their breadandtwo that were unwilling. The unable ones were1Gilesa dwarfofthe wrong sorthalf stupidityhalf maliceall head and claws andvoicerun from by dogs and unprejudiced femalesand sided withthrough thick and thin by his mother; 2Little Catherinea poorlittle girl that could only move on crutches. She lived in painbutsmiled through itwith her marble face and violet eyes and longsilky lashes; and fretful or repining word never came from her lips.The unwilling ones were Sybrandtthe youngesta ne'er-do-weeltoomuch in love with play to work; and Cornelisthe eldestwho hadmade calculationsand stuck to the hearthwaiting for dead men'sshoes. Almost worn out by their repeated effortsand above alldispirited by the moral and physical infirmities of those that nowremained on handthe anxious couple would often say"What willbecome of all these when we shall be no longer here to take care ofthem?" But when they had said this a good many timessuddenlythe domestic horizon clearedand then they used still to say itbecause a habit is a habitbut they uttered it half mechanicallynowand added brightly and cheerfully"But thanks to St. Bavonand all the saintsthere's Gerard."

YoungGerard was for many years of his life a son apart and he was goinginto the Churchand the Church could always maintain her children byhook or by crook in those days: no great hopesbecause his familyhad no interest with the great to get him a beneficeand the youngman's own habits were frivolousandindeedsuch as our clothmerchant would not have put up with in any one but a clerk that wasto be. His trivialities were reading and penmanshipand he was sowrapped up in them that often he could hardly be got away to hismeals. The day was never long enough for him; and he carried ever atinder-box and brimstone matchesand begged ends of candles of theneighbourswhich he lighted at unreasonable hours - ayeven ateight of the clock at night in winterwhen the very burgomaster wasabed. Endured at homehis practices were encouraged by the monks ofa neighbouring convent. They had taught him penmanshipand continuedto teach him until one day they discoveredin the middle of alessonthat he was teaching them. They pointed this out to him in amerry way: he hung his head and blushed: he had suspected as muchhimselfbut mistrusted his judgment in so delicate a matter. "Butmy son" said an elderly monk"how is it that youto whomGod has given an eye so truea hand so subtle yet firmand a heartto love these beautiful craftshow is it you do not colour as wellas write? A scroll looks but barren unless a border of fruitandleavesand rich arabesques surround the good wordsand charm thesense as those do the soul and understanding; to say nothing of thepictures of holy men and women departedwith which the severalchapters should be adornedand not alone the eye soothed with thebrave and sweetly blended coloursbut the heart lifted by effigiesof the saints in glory. Answer memy son."

Atthis Gerard was confusedand muttered that he had made severaltrials at illuminatingbut had not succeeded well; and thus thematter rested.

Soonafter this a fellow-enthusiast came on the scene in the unwonted formof an old lady. Margaretsister and survivor of the brothers VanEyckleft Flandersand came to end her days in her native country.She bought a small house near Tergou. In course of time she heard ofGerardand saw some of his handiwork: it pleased her so well thatshe sent her female servantReicht Heynesto ask him to come toher. This led to an acquaintance: it could hardly be otherwiseforlittle Tergou had never held so many as two zealots of this sortbefore. At first the old lady damped Gerard's courage terribly. Ateach visit she fished out of holes and corners drawings andpaintingssome of them by her own handthat seemed to himunapproachable; but if the artist overpowered himthe woman kept hisheart up. She and Reicht soon turned him inside out like a glove:among other thingsthey drew from him what the good monks had failedto hit uponthe reason why he did not illuminateviz.that hecould not afford the goldthe blueand the redbut only the cheapearths; and that he was afraid to ask his mother to buy the choicecoloursand was sure he should ask her in vain. Then Margaret VanEyck gave him a little brush - goldand some vermilion andultramarineand a piece of good vellum to lay them on. He almostadored her. As he left the house Reicht ran after him with a candleand two quarters: he quite kissed her. But better even than the goldand lapis-lazuli to the illuminator was the sympathy to the isolatedenthusiast. That sympathy was always readyandas he returned itan affection sprung up between the old painter and the youngcaligrapher that was doubly characteristic of the time. For this wasa century in which the fine arts and the higher mechanical arts werenot separated by any distinct boundarynor were those who practisedthem; and it was an age in which artists sought out and loved oneanother. Should this last statement stagger a painter or writer ofour daylet me remind him that even Christians loved one another atfirst starting.

Backedby an acquaintance so venerableand strengthened by female sympathyGerard advanced in learning and skill. His spiritstoorosevisibly: he still looked behind him when dragged to dinner in themiddle of an initial G; but once seatedshowed great socialqualities; likewise a gay humourthat had hitherto but peeped inhimshone outand often he set the table in a roarand kept ittheresometimes with his own witsometimes with jests which wereglossy new to his familybeing drawn from antiquity.

Asa return for all he owed his friends the monkshe made themexquisite copies from two of their choicest MSS.viz.the life oftheir founderand their Comedies of Terencethe monastery findingthe vellum.

Thehigh and puissant PrincePhilip "the Good" Duke ofBurgundyLuxemburgand BrabantEarl of Holland and ZealandLordof FrieslandCount of FlandersArtoisand HainaultLord of Salinsand Macklyn - was versatile.

Hecould fight as well as any king going; and lie could lie as well asanyexcept the King of France. He was a mighty hunterand couldread and write. His tastes were wide and ardent. He loved jewels likea womanand gorgeous apparel. He dearly loved maids of honourandindeed paintings generally; in proof of which he ennobled Jan VanEyck. He had also a rage for giantsdwarfsand Turks. These laststood ever planted about himturbaned and blazing with jewels. Hisagents inveigled them from Istamboul with fair promises; but themoment he had got themhe baptized them by brute force in a largetub; and this donelet them squat with their faces towards Meccaand invoke Mahound as much as they pleasedlaughing in his sleeve attheir simplicity in fancying they were still infidels. He had lionsin cagesand fleet leopards trained by Orientals to run down haresand deer. In shorthe relished all raritiesexcept the humdrumvirtues. For anything singularly pretty or diabolically uglythiswas your customer. The best of him washe was openhanded to thepoor; and the next best washe fostered the arts in earnest: whereofhe now gave a signal proof. He offered prizes for the best specimensof orfevrerie in two kindsreligious and secular: itemfor the bestpaintings in white of eggoilsand tempera; these to be on panelsilkor metalas the artists chose: itemfor the best transparentpainting on glass: itemfor the best illuminating andborder-painting on vellum: itemfor the fairest writing on vellum.The burgomasters of the several towns were commanded to aid all thepoorer competitors by receiving their specimens and sending them withdue care to Rotterdam at the expense of their several burghs. Whenthis was cried by the bellman through the streets of Tergouathousand mouths openedand one heart beat - Gerard's. He told hisfamily timidly he should try for two of those prizes. They stared insilencefor their breath was gone at his audacity; but one horridlaugh exploded on the floor like a petard. Gerard looked downandthere was the dwarfslit and fanged from ear to ear at his expenseand laughing like a lion. Naturerelenting at having made Giles sosmallhad given him as a set-off the biggest voice on record. Hisvery whisper was a bassoon. He was like those stunted wide-mouthedpieces of ordnance we see on fortifications; more like a flower-potthan a cannon; but ods tympana how they bellow!

Gerardturned red with angerthe more so as the others began to titter.White Catherine sawand a pink tinge came on her cheek. She saidsoftly"Why do you laugh? Is it because he is our brother youthink he cannot be capable? YesGerardtry with the rest. Many sayyou are skilful; and mother and I will pray the Virgin to guide yourhand."

"Thankyoulittle Kate. You shall pray to our Ladyand our mother shallbuy me vellum and the colours to illuminate with."

"Whatwill they costmy lad?"

"Twogold crowns" (about three shillings and fourpence Englishmoney).

"What!"screamed the housewife"when the bushel of rye costs but agroat! What! me spend a month's meal and meat and fire on such vanityas that: the lightning from Heaven would fall on meand my childrenwould all be beggars."

"Mother!"sighed little Catherineimploringly.

"Oh!it is in vainKate" said Gerardwith a sigh. "I shallhave to give it upor ask the dame Van Eyck. She would give it mebut I think shame to be for ever taking from her."

"Itis not her affair" said Catherinevery sharply; "what hasshe to do coming between me and my sun?" and she left the roomwith a red face. Little Catherine smiled. Presently the housewifereturned with a graciousaffectionate airand two little goldpieces in her hand.

"Theresweetheart" said she"you won't have to trouble dame ordemoiselle for two paltry crowns."

Buton this Gerard fell a thinking how he could spare her purse.

"Onewill domother. I will ask the good monks to let me send my copy oftheir 'Terence:' it is on snowy vellumand I can write no better: sothen I shall only need six sheets of vellum for my borders andminiaturesand gold for my groundand prime colours - one crownwill do.'

"Nevertyne the ship for want of a bit of tarGerard" said hischangeable mother. But she added"WellthereI will put thecrown in my pocket. That won't be like putting it back in the box.Going to the box to take out instead of putting init is like goingto my heart with a knife for so many drops of blood. You will be sureto want itGerard. The house is never built for less than thebuilder counted on."

Sureenoughwhen the time cameGerard longed to go to Rotterdam and seethe Dukeand above all to see the work of his competitorsand soget a lesson from defeat. And the crown came out of the housewife'spocket with a very good grace. Gerard would soon be a priest. Itseemed hard if he might not enjoy the world a little beforeseparating himself from it for life.

Thenight before he wentMargaret Van Eyck asked him to take a letterfor herand when he came to look at itto his surprise he found itwas addressed to the Princess Marieat the Stadthouse in Rotterdam.

Theday before the prizes were to be distributedGerard started forRotterdam in his holiday suitto wita doublet of silver-greyclothwith sleevesand a jerkin of the same over itbut withoutsleeves. From his waist to his heels he was clad in a pair oftight-fitting buckskin hose fastened by laces (called points) to hisdoublet. His shoes were pointedin moderationand secured by astrap that passed under the hollow of the foot. On his head and theback of his neck he wore his flowing hairand pinned to his backbetween his shoulders was his hat: it was further secured by a purplesilk ribbon little Kate had passed round him from the sides of thehatand knotted neatly on his breast; below his hatattached to theupper rim of his broad waist-beltwas his leathern wallet. When hegot within a league of Rotterdam he was pretty tiredbut he soonfell in with a pair that were more so. He found an old man sitting bythe roadside quite worn outand a comely young woman holding hishandwith a face brimful of concern. The country people trudged byand noticed nothing amiss; but Gerardas he passeddrewconclusions. Even dress tells a tale to those who study it so closelyas he didbeing an illuminator. The old man wore a gownand a furtippetand a velvet capsure signs of dignity; but the triangularpurse at his girdle was leanthe gown rustythe fur wornsuresigns of poverty. The young woman was dressed in plain russet cloth:yet snow-white lawn covered that part of her neck the gown leftvisibleand ended half way up her white throat in a little band ofgold embroidery; and her head-dress was new to Gerard: instead ofhiding her hair in a pile of linen or lawnshe wore an open networkof silver cord with silver spangles at the interstices: in this herglossy auburn hair was rolled in front into two solid wavesandsupported behind in a luxurious and shapely mass. His quick eye tookin all thisand the old man's pallorand the tears in the youngwoman's eyes. So when he had passed them a few yardshe reflectedand turned backand came towards them bashfully.

"FatherI fear you are tired."

"Indeedmy sonI am" replied the old man"and faint for lack offood."

Gerard'saddress did not appear so agreeable to the girl as to the old man.She seemed ashamedand with much reserve in her mannersaidthatit was her fault - she had underrated the distanceand imprudentlyallowed her father to start too late in the day.

"Nono "said the old man; "it is not the distanceit is thewant of nourishment."

Thegirl put her arms round his neck with tender concernbut took thatopportunity of whispering"Fathera stranger- a young man!

Butit was too late. Gerardwith simplicityand quite as a matter ofcoursefell to gathering sticks with great expedition. This donehetook down his walletout with the manchet of bread and the ironflask his careful mother had put upand his everlasting tinder-box;lighted a matchthen a candle-endthen the sticks; and put his ironflask on it. Then down he went on his stomachand took a good blow:then looking uphe saw the girl's face had thawedand she waslooking down at him and his energy with a demure smile. He laughedback to her. "Mind the pot" said he"and don't letit spillfor Heaven's sake: there's a cleft stick to hold it safewith;" and with this he set off running towards a corn-field atsome distance.

Whilsthe was gonethere came byon a mule with rich purple housingsanold man redolent of wealth. The purse at his girdle was plethoricthe fur on his tippet was erminebroad and new.

Itwas Ghysbrecht Van Swietenthe burgomaster of Tergou.

Hewas oldand his face furrowed. He was a notorious miserand lookedone generally. But the idea of supping with the Duke raised him justnow into manifest complacency. Yet at the sight of the faded old manand his bright daughter sitting by a fire of sticksthe smile diedout of his faceand he wore a strange look of pain and uneasiness.He reined in his mule.

"WhyPeter- Margaret" said healmost fiercely"what mummeryis this?" Peter was going to answerbut Margaret interposedhastilyand said: "My father was exhaustedso I am warmingsomething to give him strength before we go on."

"What!reduced to feed by the roadside like the Bohemians" saidGhysbrechtand his hand went into his purse; but it did not seem athome there; it fumbled uncertainlyafraid too large a coin mightstick to a finger and come out.

Atthis moment who should come bounding up but Gerard. He had two strawsin his handand he threw himself down by the fire and relievedMargaret of the cooking part: then suddenly recognizing theburgomasterhe coloured all over. Ghysbrecht Van Swieten started andglared at himand took his hand out of his purse. "Oh!"said he bitterly"I am not wanted" and went slowly oncasting a long look of suspicion on Margaretand hostility onGerardthat was not very intelligible. Howeverthere was somethingabout it that Margaret could read enough to blush atand almost tossher head. Gerard only stared with surprise. "By St. BavonIthink the old miser grudges us three our quart of soup" saidhe. When the young man put that interpretation on Ghysbrecht'sstrange and meaning lookMargaret was greatly relievedand smiledgaily on the speaker.

MeanwhileGhysbrecht plodded onmore wretched in his wealth than these intheir poverty. And the curious thing isthat the mulethe purplehousingsand one-half the coin in that plethoric pursebelonged notto Ghysbrecht Van Swietenbut to that faded old man and that comelygirlwho sat by a roadside fire to he fed by a stranger. They didnot know this; but Ghysbrecht knew itand carried in his heart ascorpion of his own begetting; that scorpion is remorse - the remorsethatnot being penitenceis incurableand ready for fresh misdeedsupon a fresh temptation.

Twentyyears agowhen Ghysbrecht Van Swieten was a hard and honest manthetouchstone opportunity came to himand he did an act of heartlessroguery. It seemed a safe one. It had hitherto proved a safe onethough he had never felt safe. To-day he had seen youthenterpriseandabove allknowledgeseated by fair Margaret and her father onterms that look familiar and loving.

Andthe fiends are at big ear again.

 

CHAPTERII

"Thesoup is hot" said Gerard.

"Buthow are we to get it to our mouths?" inquired the seniordespondingly.

"Fatherthe young man has brought us straws." And Margaret smiled slily.

"Ayay!" said the old man; "but my poor bones are stiffandindeed the fire is too hot for a body to kneel over with these shortstraws. St. John the Baptistbut the young man is adroit!"

Forwhile he stated his difficultyGerard removed it. He untied in amoment the knot on his breasttook his hat offput a stone intoeach corner of itthenwrapping his hand in the tail of his jerkinwhipped the flask off the firewedged it in between the stonesandput the hat under the old man's nose with a merry smile. The othertremulously inserted the pipe of rye-straw and sucked. Lo and beholdhis wandrawn face was seen to light up more and moretill it quiteglowed; and as soon as he had drawn a long breath:

"Hippocratesand Galen!" he cried"'tis a soupe au vin - therestorative of restoratives. Blessed be the nation that invented itand the woman that made itand the young man who brings it tofainting folk. Have a suckmy girlwhile I relate to our young hostthe history and virtues of this his sovereign compound. Thiscorroborativeyoung sirwas unknown to the ancients: we find itneither in their treatises of medicinenor in those popularnarrativeswhich reveal many of their remediesboth in chirurgeryand medicine proper. Hectorin the Iliasif my memory does not playme false---

(Margaret."Alas! he's off.")

----wasinvited by one of the ladies of the poem to drink a draught of wine;but he declinedon the plea that he was just going into battleandmust not take aught to weaken his powers. Nowif the soupe au vinhad been known in Troyit is clear that in declining vinum merumupon that scorehe would have added in the hexameter'But a soupeau vinmadamI will degustand gratefully.' Not only would thishave been but common civility - a virtue no perfect commander iswanting in - but not to have done it would have proved him a shallowand improvident personunfit to be trusted with the conduct of awar; for men going into a battle need sustenance and all possiblesupportas is proved by thisthat foolish generalsbringing hungrysoldiers to blows with full oneshave been defeatedin all agesbyinferior numbers. The Romans lost a great battle in the north ofItaly to Hannibalthe Carthaginianby this neglect alone. Nowthisdivine elixir gives in one moment force to the limbs and ardour tothe spirits; and taken into Hector's body at the nick of timewouldby the aid of PhoebusVenusand the blessed saintshave mostlikely procured the Greeks a defeat. For note how faint and weary andheart-sick I was a minute ago; wellI suck this celestial cordialand now behold me brave as Achilles and strong as an eagle."

"Ohfathernow? an eaglealack!"

"GirlI defy thee and all the world. ReadyI saylike a foaming chargerto devour the space between this and Rotterdamand strong to combatthe ills of lifeeven poverty and old agewhich last philosophershave called the summum malum. Negatur; unless the man's life has beenill-spent - whichby the byeit generally has. Now for themoderns!"

"Father!dear father!"

"Fearme notgirl; I will be briefunreasonably and unseasonably brief.The soupe au vin occurs not in modern science; but this is only oneproof moreif proof were neededthat for the last few hundred yearsphysicians have been idiotswith their chicken-broth and theirdecoction of goldwhereby they attribute the highest qualities tothat meat which has the least juice of any meatand to that metalwhich has less chemical qualities than all the metals; mountebanks!dunces! homicides! Sincethenfrom these no light is to begatheredgo we to the chroniclers; and first we find thatDuguesclina French knightbeing about to join battle with theEnglish - mastersat that timeof half Franceand sturdy strikersby sea and land - dranknot onebut three soupes au vin in honourof the Blessed Trinity. This donehe charged the islanders; andasmight have been foretoldkilled a multitudeand drove the rest intothe sea. But he was only the first of a long list of holy andhard-hitting ones who haveby this divine restorativebeensustentatedfortifiedcorroboratedand consoled."

"Dearfatherprithee add thyself to that venerable company ere the soupcools." And Margaret held the hat imploringly in both hands tillhe inserted the straw once more.

Thisspared them the "modern instances" and gave Gerard anopportunity of telling Margaret how proud his mother would be hersoup had profited a man of learning.

"Ay!but" said Margaret"it would like her ill to see her songive all and take none himself. Why brought you but two straws?"

"FairmistressI hoped you would let me put my lips to your strawtherebeing but two."

Margaretsmiled and blushed. "Never beg that you may command" saidshe. "The straw is not mine'tis yours: you cut it in yonderfield."

"Icut itand that made it mine; but after thatyour lip touched itand that made it yours."

"Didit Then I will lend it you. There - now it is yours again; your liphas touched it."

"Noit belongs to us both now. Let us divide it."

"Byall means; you have a knife."

"NoI will not cut it - that would be unlucky. I'll bite it. There Ishall keep my half: you will burn yoursonce you get homeI doubt.'

"Youknow me not. I waste nothing. It is odds but I make a hairpin of itor something."

Thisanswer dashed the novice Gerardinstead of provoking himto fresheffortsand he was silent. And nowthe bread and soup beingdisposed ofthe old scholar prepared to continue his journey. Thencame a little difficulty: Gerard the adroit could not tie his ribbonagain as Catherine had tied it. Margaretafter slily eyeing hisefforts for some timeoffered to help him; for at her age girls loveto be coy and tendersaucy and gentleby turnsand she saw she hadput him out of countenance but now. Then a fair headwith itsstately crown of auburn hairglossy and glowing through silverbowed sweetly towards him; andwhile it ravished his eyetwo whitesupple hands played delicately upon the stubborn ribbonand mouldedit with soft and airy touches. Then a heavenly thrill ran through theinnocent young manand vague glimpses of a new world of feeling andsentiment opened on him. And these new and exquisite sensationsMargaret unwittingly prolonged: it is not natural to her sex to hurryaught that pertains to the sacred toilet. Naywhen the taper fingershad at last subjugated the ends of the knother mind was not quiteeasytillby a manoeuvre peculiar to the female handshe had madeher palm convexand so applied it with a gentle pressure to thecentre of the knot - a sweet little coaxing hand-kissas much as tosay"Now be a good knotand stay so." The palm-kiss wasbestowed on the ribbonbut the wearer's heart leaped to meet it.

"Therethat is how it was" said Margaretand drew back to take onelast keen survey of her work; thenlooking up for simple approval ofher skillreceived full in her eyes a longing gaze of such ardentadorationas made her lower them quickly and colour all over. Anindescribable tremor seized herand she retreated with downcastlashes and tell-tale cheeksand took her father's arm on theopposite side. Gerardblushing at having scared her away with hiseyestook the other arm; and so the two young things went downcastand consciousand propped the eagle along in silence.

Theyentered Rotterdam by the Schiedamze Poort; andas Gerard wasunacquainted with the townPeter directed him the way to the HoochStraetin which the Stadthouse was. He himself was going withMargaret to his cousinin the Ooster-Waagen Straetsoalmost onentering the gatetheir roads lay apart. They bade each other afriendly adieuand Gerard dived into the great town. A profoundsense of solitude fell upon himyet the streets were crowded. Thenhe lamented too late thatout of delicacyhe bad not asked his latecompanions who they were and where they lived.

"Beshrewmy shamefacedness!" said he. "But their words and theirbreeding were above their meansand something did whisper me theywould not be known. I shall never see her more. Oh weary worldIhate you and your ways. To think I must meet beauty and goodness andlearning - three pearls of price - and never see them more!"

Fallinginto this sad reverieand letting his body go where it wouldhelost his way; but presently meeting a crowd of persons all moving inone directionhe mingled with themfor he argued they must bemaking for the Stadthouse. Soon the noisy troop that contained themoody Gerard emergednot upon the Stadthousebut upon a largemeadow by the side of the Maas; and then the attraction was revealed.Games of all sorts were going on: wrestlingthe game of palmthequintainlegerdemainarcherytumblingin which artI blush tosaywomen as well as men performedto the great delectation of thecompany. There was also a trained bearwho stood on his headandmarched uprightand bowed with prodigious gravity to his master; anda hare that beat a drumand a cock that strutted on little stiltsdisdainfully. These things made Gerard laugh now and then; but thegay scene could not really enliven itfor his heart was not in tunewith it. So hearing a young man say to his fellow that the Duke hadbeen in the meadowbut was gone to the Stadthouse to entertain theburgomasters and aldermen and the competitors for the prizesandtheir friendshe suddenly remembered he was hungryand should liketo sup with a prince. He left the river-sideand this time he foundthe Hooch Straetand it speedily led him to the Stadthouse. But whenhe got there he was refusedfirst at one doorthen at anothertillhe came to the great gate of the courtyard. It was kept by soldiersand superintended by a pompous major-domoglittering in anembroidered collar and a gold chain of officeand holding a whitestaff with a gold knob. There was a crowd of persons at the gateendeavouring to soften this official rock. They came up in turn likeripplesand retired as such in turn. It cost Gerard a struggle toget near himand when he was within four heads of the gatehe sawsomething that made his heart beat; there was Peterwith Margaret onhis armsoliciting humbly for entrance.

"Mycousin the alderman is not at home; they say he is here."

"Whatis that to meold man?"

"Ifyou will not let us pass in to himat least take this leaf from mytablet to my cousin. SeeI have written his name; he will come outto us.

"Forwhat do you take me? I carry no messagesI keep the gate."

Hethen bawledin a stentorian voiceinexorably:

"Nostrangers enter herebut the competitors and their companies."

"Comeold man" cried a voice in the crowd"you have gotten youranswer; make way."

Margaretturned half round imploringly:

"Goodpeoplewe are come from farand my father is old; and my cousin hasa new servant that knows us notand would not let us sit in ourcousin's house."

Atthis the crowd laughed hoarsely. Margaret shrank as if they hadstruck her. At that moment a hand grasped hers - a magic grasp; itfelt like heart meeting heartor magnet steel. She turned quicklyround at itand it was Gerard. Such a little cry of joy and appealcame from her bosomand she began to whimper prettily.

Theyhad hustled her and frightened herfor one thing; and her cousin'sthoughtlessnessin not even telling his servant they were comingwas cruel; and the servant's cautionhowever wise and faithful toher masterwas bitterly mortifying to her father and her. And to herso mortifiedand anxious and jostledcame suddenly this kind handand face.

"Hincillae lacrimae."

"Allis well now" remarked a coarse humourist; "she hath gottenher sweetheart."

"Haw!haw! haw!" went the crowd.

Shedropped Gerard's hand directlyand turned roundwith eyes flashingthrough her tears:

"Ihave no sweetheartyou rude men. But I am friendless in your boorishtownand this is a friend; and one who knowswhat you know nothowto treat the aged and the weak."

Thecrowd was dead silent. They had only been thoughtlessand now feltthe rebukethough severewas just. The silence enabled Gerard totreat with the porter.

"Iam a competitorsir."

"Whatis your name?" and the man eyed him suspiciously.

"Gerardthe son of Elias."

Thejanitor inspected a slip of parchment he held in his hand:

"GerardEliassoen can enter."

"Withmy companythese two?"

"Nay;those are not your company they came before you."

"Whatmatter? They are my friendsand without them I go not in."

"Staywithoutthen."

"Thatwill I not."

"Thatwe shall see."

"Wewilland speedily." And with thisGerard raised a voice ofastounding volume and powerand routed so that the whole streetrang:

"Ho!PHILIPEARL OF HOLLAND!"

"Areyou mad?" cried the porter.

"HEREIS ONE OF YOUR VARLETS DEFIES YOU."

"Hushhush!"

"ANDWILL NOT LET YOUR GUESTS PASS IN."

"Hush!murder! The Dukes there. I'm dead" cried the janitorquaking.

Thensuddenly trying to overpower Gerard's thunderhe shoutedwith allhis lungs:

"OPENTHE GATEYE KNAVES! WAY THERE FOR GERARD ELIASSOEN AND HIS COMPANY!(The fiends go with him!)"

Thegate swung open as by magic. Eight soldiers lowered their pikeshalfwayand made an archunder which the victorious three marchedin triumphant. The moment they had passedthe pikes clashed togetherhorizontally to bar the gatewayand all but pinned an abdominalcitizen that sought to wedge in along with them.

Oncepast the guarded portala few steps brought the trio upon a scene ofOriental luxury. The courtyard was laid out in tables loaded withrich meats and piled with gorgeous plate. Guests in rich and variouscostumes sat beneath a leafy canopy of fresh-cut branches fastenedtastefully to goldensilverand blue silken cords that traversedthe area; and fruits of many huesincluding some artificial ones ofgoldsilverand waxhung pendantor peeped like fair eyes amongthe green leaves of plane-trees and lime-trees. The Duke's minstrelsswept their lutes at intervalsand a fountain played red Burgundy insix jets that met and battled in the air. The evening sun darted itsfires through those bright and purple wine spoutsmaking them jetsand cascades of molten rubiesthen passing ontinged with the bloodof the grapeshed crimson glories here and there on fair facessnowy beardsvelvetsatinjewelled hiltsglowing goldgleamingsilverand sparkling glass. Gerard and his friends stood dazzledspell-bound. Presently a whisper buzzed round them"Salute theDuke! Salute the Duke!" They looked upand there on highunderthe daiswas their sovereignbidding them welcome with a kindlywave of the hand. The men bowed lowand Margaret curtsied with adeep and graceful obeisance. The Duke's hand being uphe gave itanother turnand pointed the new-comers out to a knot of valets.Instantly seven of his peoplewith an obedient startwent headlongat our friendsseated them at a tableand put fifteen many-colouredsoups before themin little silver bowlsand as many wines incrystal vases.

"Nayfatherlet us not eat until we have thanked our good friend"said Margaretnow first recovering from all this bustle.

"Girlhe is our guardian angel."

Gerardput his face into his hands.

"Tellme when you have done" said he"and I will reappear andhave my supperfor I am hungry. I know which of us three is thehappiest at meeting again."

"Me?"inquired Margaret.

"No:guess again."

"Father?"

"No."

"ThenI have no guess which it can be;" and she gave a little crow ofhappiness and gaiety. The soup was tastedand vanished in a twirl offourteen handsand fish came on the table in a dozen formswithpatties of lobster and almonds mixedand of almonds and creamandan immense variety of brouets known to us as rissoles. The nexttrifle was a wild boarwhich smelt divine. Whythendid Margaretstart away from it with two shrieks of dismayand pinch so good afriend as Gerard? Because the Duke's cuisinier had been too clever;had made this excellent dish too captivating to the sight as well astaste. He had restored to the animalby elaborate mimicry with burntsugar and other edible coloursthe hair and bristles he had robbedhim of by fire and water. To make him still more enticingthe hugetusks were carefully preserved in the brute's jawand gave his mouththe winning smile that comes of tusk in man or beast; and two eyes ofcoloured sugar glowed in his head. St. Argus! what eyes! so brightso bloodshotso threatening - they followed a man and every movementof his knife and spoon. ButindeedI need the pencil of Granvilleor Tenniel to make you see the two gilt valets on the opposite sideof the table putting the monster down before our friendswith asmilingself-satisfiedbenevolent obsequiousness for this ghastlymonster was the flower of all comestibles - old Peter clasping bothhands in pious admiration of it; Margaret wheeling round withhorror-stricken eyes and her hand on Gerard's shouldersqueaking andpinching; his face of unwise delight at being pinchedthe grizzlybrute glaring sulkily on alland the guests grinning from ear toear.

"What'sto do?" shouted the Dukehearing the signals of femaledistress. Seven of his people with a zealous start went headlong andtold him. He laughed and said"Give her of the beef-stuffingthenand bring me Sir Boar." Benevolent monarch! Thebeef-stuffing was his own private dish. On these grand occasions anox was roasted wholeand reserved for the poor. But this wise aswell as charitable prince had discoveredthat whatever venisonbareslambpoultryetc.you skewered into that beef caverngotcooked to perfectionretaining their own juices and receiving thoseof the reeking ox. These he called his beef-stuffingand tookdelight thereinas did now our trio; forat his wordseven of hispeople went headlongand drove silver tridents into the steamingcave at randomand speared a kida cygnetand a flock of wildfowl.These presently smoked before Gerard and company; and Peter's facesad and slightly morose at the loss of the savage hogexpanded andshone. After thistwenty different tarts of fruits and herbsandlast of allconfectionery on a Titanic scale; cathedrals of sugarall gilt painted in the interstices of the bas-reliefs; castles withmoatsand ditches imitated to the life; elephantscamelstoads;knights on horseback jousting; kings and princesses looking ontrumpeters blowing; and all these personages eatingand their veinsfilled with sweet-scented juices: works of art made to be destroyed.The guests breached a bastioncrunched a crusader and his horse andlanceor cracked a bishopcopechasublecrosier and allasremorselessly as we do a caraway comfit; sipping meanwhile hippocrasand other spiced drinksand Greek and Corsican wineswhile everynow and then little Turkish boysturbanedspangledjewelledandgiltcame offering on bended knee golden troughs of rose-water andorange-water to keep the guests' hands cool and perfumed.

Butlong before our party arrived at this final stage appetite hadsuccumbedand Gerard had suddenly remembered he was the bearer of aletter to the Princess Marieandin an under-tonehad asked one ofthe servants if he would undertake to deliver it. The man took itwith a deep obeisance: "He could not deliver it himselfbutwould instantly give it one of the Princess's suiteseveral of whomwere about."

Itmay be remembered that Peter and Margaret came here not to dinebutto find their cousin. Wellthe old gentleman ate heartilyand -being much fatigueddropped asleepand forgot all about his cousin.Margaret did not remind him; we shall hear why.

Meanwhilethat Cousin was seated within a few feet of themat their backsanddiscovered them when Margaret turned round and screamed at the boar.But he forbore to speak to themfor municipal reasons. Margaret wasvery plainly dressedand Peter inclined to threadbare. So thealderman said to himself:

"'Twillbe time to make up to them when the sun sets and the companydisperses then I will take my poor relations to my houseand nonewill be the wiser."

Halfthe courses were lost on Gerard and Margaret. They were no greateatersand just now were feeding on sweet thoughts that have everbeen unfavourable to appetite. But there is a delicate kind ofsensualityto whose influence these two were perhaps more sensitivethan any other pair in that assembly - the delights of colourmusicand perfumeall of which blended so fascinatingly here.

Margaretleaned back and half closed her eyesand murmured to Gerard: "Whata lovely scene! the warm sunthe green shadethe rich dressesthebright music of the lutes and the cool music of the fountainand allfaces so happy and gay! and thenit is to you we owe it."

Gerardwas silent all but his eyes; observing which -

"Nowspeak not to me" said Margaret languidly; "let me listento the fountain: what are you a competitor for?"

Hetold her.

"Verywell! You will gain one prizeat least."

"Which?which? have you seen any of my work?"

"I?no. But you will gain a prize.

"Ihope so; but what makes you think so?"

"Becauseyou were so good to my father."

Gerardsmiled at the feminine logicand hung his head at the sweet praiseand was silent.

"Speaknot" murmured Margaret. "They say this is a world of sinand misery. Can that be? What is your opinion?"

"No!that is all a silly old song" explained Gerard. "'Tis abyword our elders keep repeatingout of custom: it is not true."

"Howcan you know? You are but a child" said Margaretwith pensivedignity.

"Whyonly look round! And then thought I had lost you for ever; and youare by my side; and now the minstrels are going to play again. Sinand misery? Stuff and nonsense!"

Thelutes burst out. The courtyard rang again with their delicateharmony.

"Whatdo you admire most of all these beautiful thingsGerard?"

"Youknow my name? How is that?"

"Whitemagic. I am a - witch."

"Angelsare never witches. But I can't think how you - "

"Foolishboy! was it not cried at the gate loud enough to deave one?"

"Soit was. Where is my head? What do I admire most? If you will sit alittle more that wayI'll tell you."

"Thisway?"

"Yes;so that the light may fall on you. There! I see many fair thingsherefairer than I could have conceived; but the fairest of alltomy eyeis your lovely hair in its silver frameand the setting sunkissing it. It minds me of what the Vulgate praises for beauty'anapple of gold in a network of silver' and ohwhat a pity I did notknow you before I sent in my poor endeavours at illuminating! I couldilluminate so much better now. I could do everything better. Therenow the sun is full on itit is like an aureole. So our Lady lookedand none since her until to-day."

"Ohfie! it is wicked to talk so. Compare a poorcoarse-favoured girllike me with the Queen of Heaven? OhGerard! I thought you were agood young man." And Margaret was shocked apparently.

Gerardtried to explain. "I am no worse than the rest; but how can Ihelp having eyesand a heart Margaret!"

"Gerard!"

"Benot angry now!"

"Nowis it likely?"

"Ilove you."

"Ohfor shame! you must not say that to me" and Margaret colouredfuriously at this sudden assault.

"Ican't help it. I love you. I love you."

"Hushhush! for pity's sake! I must not listen to such words from astranger. I am ungrateful to call you a stranger. Oh! how one may bemistaken! If I had known you were so bold - And Margaret's bosombegan to heaveand her cheeks were covered with blushesand shelooked towards her sleeping fathervery much like a timid thing thatmeditates actual flight.

ThenGerard was frightened at the alarm he caused. "Forgive me"said he imploringly. "How could any one help loving you?"

"WellsirI will try and forgive you - you are so good in other respects;but then you must promise me never to say you - to say that again."

"Giveme your hand thenor you don't forgive me."

Shehesitated; but eventually put out her hand a very little wayveryslowlyand with seeming reluctance. He took itand held itprisoner. When he thought it had been there long enoughshe triedgently to draw it away. He held it tight: it submitted quitepatiently to force. What is the use resisting force She turned herhead awayand her long eyelashes drooped sweetly. Gerard lostnothing by his promise. Words were not needed here; and silence wasmore eloquent. Nature was in that day what she is in ours; butmanners were somewhat freer. Then as nowvirgins drew back alarmedat the first words of love; but of prudery and artificial coquetrythere was littleand the young soon read one another's hearts.Everything was on Gerard's sidehis good looksher belief in hisgoodnessher gratitude; and opportunity for at the Duke's banquetthis mellow summer eveall things disposed the female nature totenderness: the avenues to the heart lay open; the senses were sosoothed and subdued with lovely coloursgentle soundsand delicateodours; the sun gently sinkingthe warm airthe green canopythecool music of the now violet fountain.

Gerardand Margaret sat hand in hand in silence; and Gerard's eyes soughthers lovingly; and hers now and then turned on him timidly andimploringly and presently two sweet unreasonable tears rolled downher cheeksand she smiled

whilethey were drying: yet they did not take long.

Andthe sun declined; and the air cooled; and the fountain plashed moregently; and the pair throbbed in unison and silenceand this wearyworld looked heaven to them.
Ohthe merry daysthe merry dayswhen we were young.
Ohthe merry daysthe merry days when wewere young.

 

CHAPTERIII

Agrave white-haired seneschal came to their tableand inquiredcourteously whether Gerard Eliassoen was of their company. UponGerard's answerhe said:

"ThePrincess Marie would confer with youyoung sir; I am to conduct youto her presence."

Instantlyall faces within hearing turned sharp roundand were bent withcuriosity and envy on the man that was to go to a princess.

Gerardrose to obey.

"Iwager we shall not see you again" said Margaret calmlybutcolouring a little.

"Thatyou will" was the reply: then he whispered in her ear: "Thisis my good princess; but you are my queen." He added aloud:"Wait for meI pray youI will presently return."

"Ayay!" said Peterawaking and speaking at one and the samemoment.

Gerardgonethe pair whose dress was so homelyyet they were with the manwhom the Princess sent forbecame "the cynosure of neighbouringeyes;" observing whichWilliam Johnson came forwardactedsurpriseand claimed his relations.

"Andto think that there was I at your backsand you saw me not"

"Naycousin JohnsonI saw you long syne" said Margaret coldly.

"Yousaw meand spoke not to me?"

"Cousinit was for you to welcome us to Rotterdamas it is for us to welcomeyou at Sevenbergen. Your servant denied us a seat in your house."

"Theidiot!"

"AndI had a mind to see whether it was 'like maid like master:' for thereis sooth in bywords."

WilliamJohnson blushed purple. He saw Margaret was keenand suspected him.He did the wisest thing under the circumstancestrusted to deeds notwords. He insisted on their coming home with him at onceand hewould show them whether they were welcome to Rotterdam or not.

"Whodoubts itcousin? Who doubts it?" said the scholar.

Margaretthanked him graciouslybut demurred to go just now: said she wantedto hear the minstrels again. In about a quarter of an hour Johnsonrenewed his proposaland bade her observe that many of the guestshad left. Then her real reason came out.

"Itwere ill manners to our friend; and he will lose us. He knows notwhere we lodge in Rotterdamand the city is largeand we haveparted company once already."

"Oh!"said Johnson"we will provide for that. My young manahem! Imean my secretaryshall sit here and waitand bring him on to myhouse: he shall lodge with me and with no other."

"Cousinwe shall be too burdensome."

"Naynay; you shall see whether you are welcome or notyou and yourfriendsand your friends' friendsif need be; and I shall hear whatthe Princess would with him."

Margaretfelt a thrill of joy that Gerard should be lodged under the same roofwith her; then she had a slight misgiving.

"Butif your young man should be thoughtlessand go playand Gerard misshim?"

"Hego play? He leave that spot where I put himand bid him stay? Ho!stand forthHans Cloterman."

Afigure clad in black serge and dark violet hose aroseand took twosteps and stood before them without moving a muscle: a solemnprecise young manthe very statue of gravity and starched propriety.At his aspect Margaretbeing very happycould hardly keep hercountenance. But she whispered Johnson"I would put my hand inthe fire for him. We are at your commandcousinas soon as you havegiven him his orders."

Hanswas then instructed to sit at the table and wait for Gerardandconduct him to Ooster-Waagen Straet. He repliednot in wordsbut bycalmly taking the seat indicatedand MargaretPeterand WilliamJohnson went away together.

"Andindeedit is time you were abedfatherafter all your travel"said Margaret. This had been in her mind all along.

HansCloterman sat waiting for Gerardsolemn and businesslike. Theminutes flew bybut excited no impatience in that perfect young man.Johnson did him no more than justice when he laughed to scorn theidea of his secretary leaving his post or neglecting his duty inpursuit of sport or out of youthful hilarity and frivolity.

AsGerard was long in comingthe patient Hans - his employer's eyebeing no longer on him improved the time by quaffing solemnlysilentlyand at short but accurately measured intervalsgoblets ofCorsican wine. The wine was strongso was Cloterman's head; andGerard had been gone a good hour ere the model secretary imbibed thenotion that Creation expected Cloterman to drink the health of allgood fellowsand nommement of the Duke of Burgundy there present.With this view he filled bumper nineand rose gingerly but solemnlyand slowly. Having reached his full heighthe instantly rolled uponthe grassgoblet in handspilling the cold liquor on more than oneankle - whose owners frisked - but not disturbing a muscle in his ownlong facewhichin the total eclipse of reasonretained itsgravityprimnessand infallibility.

Theseneschal led Gerard through several passages to the door of thepavilionwhere some young noblemenembroidered and featheredsatsentinelguarding the heir-apparentand playing cards by the redlight of torches their servants held. A whisper from the seneschaland one of them rose reluctantlystared at Gerard with haughtysurpriseand entered the pavilion. He presently returnedandbeckoning the pairled thenthrough a passage or two and landedthem in an ante-chamberwhere sat three more young gentlemenfeatheredfurredand embroidered like pieces of fancy workanddeep in that instructive and edifying branch of learningdice.

"Youcan't see the Princess - it is too late" said one.

Anotherfollowed suit:

"Shepassed this way but now with her nurse. She is gone to beddoll andall. Deuce - ace again!"

Gerardprepared to retire. The seneschalwith an incredulous smilereplied:

"Theyoung man is here by the Countess's orders; be so good as conduct himto her ladies."

Onthis a superb Adonis rosewith an injured lookand led Gerard intoa room where sat or lolloped eleven ladieschattering like magpies.Twomore industrious than the restwere playing cat's-cradle withfingers as nimble as their tongues. At the sight of a stranger allthe tongues stopped like one piece of complicated machineryand allthe eyes turned on Gerardas if the same string that checked thetongues had turned the eyes on. Gerard was ill at ease beforebutthis battery of eyes discountenanced himand down went his eyes onthe ground. Then the cowards findinglike the hare who ran by thepond and the frogs scuttled into the waterthat there was a creaturethey could frightengiggled and enjoyed their prowess. Then a duennasaid severely"Mesdames!" and they were all abashed atonce as though a modesty string had been pulled. This same duennatook Gerardand marched before him in solemn silence. The youngman's heart sankand he had half a mind to turn and run out of theplace.

"Whatmust princes be" he thought"when their courtiers are sofreezing? Doubtless they take their breeding from him they serve."These reflections were interrupted by the duenna suddenly introducinghim into a room where three ladies sat workingand a pretty littlegirl tuning a lute. The ladies were richly but not showily dressedand the duenna went up to the one who was hemming a kerchiefandsaid a few words in a low tone. This lady then turned towards Gerardwith a smileand beckoned him to come near her. She did not risebut she laid aside her workand her manner of turning towards himslight as the movement waswas full of graCe and ease and courtesy.She began a conversation at once.

"MargaretVan Eyck is an old friend of minesirand I am right glad to have aletter from her handand thankful to yousirfor bringing it to mesafely. Mariemy lovethis is the gentleman who brought you thatpretty miniature."

"SirI thank you a thousand times" said the young lady.

"Iam glad you feel her debtorsweetheartfor our friend would have usto do him a little service in return.

"Iwill do anything on earth for him" replied the young lady withardour.

"Anythingon earth is nothing in the world" said the Countess ofCharolois quietly.

"WellthenI will - What would you have me to dosir?"

Gerardhad just found out what high society he was in. "My sovereigndemoiselle" said hegently and a little tremulously"wherethere have been no painsthere needs no reward."

Butwe must obey mamma. All the world must obey

"Thatis true. Thenour demoisellereward meif you will. by letting mehear the stave you were going to sing and I did interrupt it."

"What!you love musicsir?"

"Iadore it."

Thelittle princess looked inquiringly at her motherand received asmile of assent. She then took her lute and sang a romaunt of theday. Although but twelve years oldshe was a well-taught andpainstaking musician. Her little claw swept the chords with Courageand precisionand struck out the notes of the arpeggio clearanddistinctand brightlike twinkling stars; but the main charm washer voice. It was not mightybut it was roundclearfullandringing like a bell. She sang with a certain modest eloquencethoughshe knew none of the tricks of feeling. She was too young to betheatricalor even sentimentalso nothing was forced - all gushed.Her little mouth seemed the mouth of Nature. The dittytoowas aspure as its utterance. As there were none of those false divisions -those whining slurswhich are now sold so dear by Italian songstersthough every jackal in India delivers them gratis to his customersall nightand sometimes gets shot for themand always deserves it -so there were no cadences and fioriturithe triteturgidandfeeble expletives of songthe skim-milk with which mindlessmusicians and mindless writers quench firewash out colouranddrown melody and meaning dead.

Whilethe pure and tender strain was flowing from the pure young throatGerard's eyes filled. The Countess watched him with interestfor itwas usual to applaud the Princess loudlybut not with cheek and eye.So when the voice ceasedand the glasses left off ringingshe askeddemurely"Was he content?"

Gerardgave a little start; the spoken voice broke a charm and brought himback to earth.

"Ohmadam!" he cried"surely it is thus that cherubs andseraphs singand charm the saints in heaven."

"Iam somewhat of your opinionmy young friend" said theCountesswith emotion; and she bent a look of love and gentle prideupon her girl: a heavenly looksuch asthey sayis given to theeye of the short-lived resting on the short-lived.

TheCountess resumed: "My old friend request me to be serviceable toyou. It is the first favour she has done us the honour of asking usand the request is sacred. You are in holy orderssir?"

Gerardbowed.

"Ifear you are not a priestyou look too young."

"Ohnomadam; I am not even a sub-deacon. I am only a lector; but nextmonth I shall be an exorcistand before long an acolyth."

"WellMonsieur Gerardwith your accomplishments you can soon pass throughthe inferior orders. And let me beg you to do so. For the day afteryou have said your first mass I shall have the pleasure of appointingyou to a benefice."

"Ohmadam!"

"AndMarieremember I make this promise in your name as well as my own."

"Fearnotmamma: I will not forget. But if he will take my advicewhat hewill be is Bishop of Liege. The Bishop of Liege is a beautifulbishop. What! do you not remember himmammathat day we were atLiege? he was braver than grandpapa himself. He had on a crownahigh oneand it was cut in the middleand it was full of oh! suchbeautiful jewels; and his gown stiff with gold; and his mantletoo;and it had a broad borderall pictures; butabove allhis gloves;you have no such glovesmamma. They were embroidered and coveredwith jewelsand scented with such lovely scent; I smelt them all thetime he was giving me his blessing on my head with them. Dear oldman! I dare say he will die soon most old people do and thensiryou Can be bishop. you knowand wear -

"GentlyMariegently: bishoprics are for old gentlemen; and this is a younggentleman."

"Mamma!he is not so very young.

"Notcompared with youMarieeh?"

"Heis a good bigth. dear mamma; and I am sure he is good enough for abishop.

"Alas!mademoiselleyou are mistaken"

"Iknow not thatMonsieur Gerard; but I am a little puzzled to know onwhat grounds mademoiselle there pronounces your character so boldly."

"Alas!mammasaid the Princess"you have not looked at his facethen; "and she raised her eyebrows at her mother's simplicity.

"Ibeg your pardon" said the Countess"I have. WellsirifI cannot go quite so fast as my daughterattribute it to my agenotto a want of interest in your welfare. A benefice will do to beginyour Career with; and I must take care it is not too far from - whatcall you the place?"

"Tergoumadam

"Apriest gives up much" continued the Countess; "oftenIfearhe learns too late how much;" and her woman's eye rested amoment on Gerard with mild pity and half surprise at his resigningher sex and all the heaven they can bestowand the great parentaljoys: "at least you shall be near your friends. Have you amother?"

"Yesmadamthanks be to God!"

"Good!You shall have a church near Tergou. She will thank me. And nowsirwe must not detain you too long from those who have a better claim onyour society than we have. Duchessoblige me by bidding one of thepages conduct him to the hall of banquet; the way is hard to find."

Gerardbowed low to the Countess and the Princessand backed towards thedoor.

"Ihope it will be a nice benefice" said the Princess to himwitha pretty smileas he was going out; thenshaking her head with anair of solemn misgiving"but you had better have been Bishop ofLiege."

Gerardfollowed his new conductorhis heart warm with gratitude; but ere hereached the banquet-hall a chill came over him. The mind of one whohas led a quietuneventful life is not apt to take in contradictoryfeelings at the same moment and balance thembut rather to beoverpowered by each in turn. While Gerard was with the Countesstheexcitement of so new a situationthe unlooked-for promise. the joyand pride it would cause at homepossessed him wholly; but now itwas passion's turn to be heard again. What! give up Margaretwhosesoft hand he still felt in hisand her deep eyes in his heart?resign her and all the world of love and joy she had opened on himto-day? The revulsionwhen it did comewas so strong that hehastily resolved to say nothing at home about the offered benefice."The Countess is so good" thought he"she has ahundred ways of aiding a young man's fortune: she will not compel meto be a priest when she shall learn I love one of her sex: one wouldalmost think she does know itfor she cast a strange look on meandsaid'A priest gives up muchtoo much.' I dare say she will give mea place about the palace." And with this hopeful reflection hismind was easedandbeing now at the entrance of the banquetinghallhe thanked his conductorand ran hastily with joyful eyes toMargaret. He came in sight of the table- she was gone. Peter was gonetoo. Nobody was at the table at all; only a citizen in sober garmentshad just tumbled under it dead drunkand several persons wereraising him to carry him away. Gerard never guessed how importantthis solemn drunkard was to him: he was looking for "Beauty"and let the "Beast" lie. He ran wildly round the hallwhich was now comparatively empty. She was not there. He left thepalace: outside he found a crowd gaping at two great fan-lights justlighted over the gate. He asked them earnestly if they had seen anold man in a gownand a lovely girl pass out. They laughed at thequestion. "They were staring at these new lights that turn nightinto day. They didn't trouble their heads about old men and youngwenchesevery-day sights." From another group he learned therewas a Mystery being played under canvas hard byand all the worldgone to see it. This revived his hopesand he went and saw theMystery.

Inthis representation divine personagestoo sacred for me to nameherecame clumsily down from heaven to talk sophistry with thecardinal Virtuesthe nine Musesand the seven deadly sinsallpresent in human shapeand not unlike one another. To enliven whichweary stuff in rattled the Prince of the power of the airand an impthat kept molesting him and buffeting him with a bladderat eachthwack of which the crowd were in ecstasies. When the Vices haduttered good store of obscenity and the Virtues twaddlethecelestialsincluding the nine Muses went gingerly back to heaven oneby one; for there was but one cloud; and two artisans worked it tipwith its supernatural freightand worked it down with a winchinfull sight of the audience. These disposed ofthe bottomless pitopened and flamed in the centre of the stage; the carpenters andVirtues shoved the Vices inand the Virtues and Beelzebub and histormentor danced merrily round the place of eternal torture to thefife and tabor.

Thisentertainment was writ by the Bishop of Ghent for the diffusion ofreligious sentiment by the aid of the sensesand was an averagespecimen of theatrical exhibitions so long as they were in the handsof the clergy. Butin course of timethe laity conducted playsandso the theatreI learn from the pulpithas become profane.

Margaretwas nowhere in the crowdand Gerard could not enjoy the performance;he actually went away in Act 2in the midst of a much-admired pieceof dialoguein which Justice out-quibbled Satan. He walked throughmany streetsbut could not find her he sought. At lastfairly wornouthe went to a hostelry and slept till daybreak. All that dayheavy and heartsickhe sought herbut could never fall in with heror her fathernor ever obtain the slightest clue. Then he felt shewas false or had changed her mind. He was irritated nowas well assad. More good fortune fell on him; he almost hated it. At lastonthe third dayafter he had once more been through every streethesaid"She is not in the townand I shall never see her again.I will go home." He started for Tergou with royal favourpromisedwith fifteen golden angels in his pursea golden medal onhis bosomand a heart like a lump of lead.

 

CHAPTERIV

Itwas near four o'clock in the afternoon. Eli was in the shop. Hiseldest and youngest sons were abroad. Catherine and her littlecrippled daughter had long been anxious about Gerardand now theywere gone a little way down the roadto see if by good luck he mightbe visible in the distance; and Giles was alone in the sitting-roomwhich I will sketchfurniture and dwarf included.

TheHollanders were always an original and leading people. They claim tohave invented printing (wooden type)oil-paintinglibertybankinggardeningetc. Above allyears before my talethey inventedcleanliness. Sowhile the English gentryin velvet jerkins andchicken-toed shoestrode floors of stale rushesfoul receptacle ofbonesdecomposing morselsspittledogseggsand allabominationsthis hosier's sitting-room at Tergou was floored withDutch tilesso highly glazed and constantly washedthat you couldeat off them. There was one large window; the cross stone-work in thecentre of it was very massiveand stood in relieflooking like anactual cross to the inmatesand was eyed as such in their devotions.The panes were very small and lozenge-shapedand soldered to oneanother with strips of lead: the like you may see to this day in ourrural cottages. The chairs were rude and primitiveall but thearm-chairwhose backat right angles with its seatwas so highthat the sitter's head stopped two feet short of the top. This chairwas of oakand carved at the summit. There was a copper pailthatwent in at the waistholding holy waterand a little hand-besom tosprinkle it far and wide; and a longnarrowbut massive oak tableand a dwarf sticking to its rim by his teethhis eyes glaringandhis claws in the air like a pouncing vampire. natureit would seemdid not make Giles a dwarf out of malice prepense; she constructed ahead and torso with her usual care; but just then her attention wasdistractedand she left the rest to chance; the result was a humanwedgean inverted cone. He might justly have taken her to task inthe terms of Horace



"Amphoracoepit
Institui; currente rota cur urceus exit?"

Hiscentre was anything but his centre of gravity. Bisectedupper Gileswould have outweighed three lower Giles. But this very disproportionenabled him to do feats that would have baffled Milo. His brawny armshad no weight to draw after them; so he could go up a vertical polelike a squirreland hang for hours from a bough by one hand like acherry by its stalk. If he could have made a vacuum with his handsas the lizard is said to do with its feethe would have gone along aceiling. Nowthis pocket-athlete was insanely fond of gripping thedinner-table with both handsand so swinging; and then - climax ofdelight! he would seize it with his teethandtaking off his handshold on like grim death by his huge ivories.

Butall our joyshowever elevatingsuffer interruption. Little Katecaught Sampsonet in this postureand stood aghast. She was hermother's daughterand her heart was with the furniturenot with the12mo gymnast.

"OhGiles! how can you? Mother is at hand. It dents the table."

"Goand tell herlittle tale-bearer" snarled Giles. "You arethe one for making mischief."

"AmI?" inquired Kate calmly; "that is news to me."

"Thebiggest in Tergou" growled Gilesfastening on again.

"Ohindeed!" said Kate drily.

Thispiece of unwonted satire launchedand Giles not visibly blastedshesat down quietly and cried.

Hermother came in almost at that momentand Giles hurled himself underthe tableand there glared.

"Whatis to do now?" said the dame sharply. Then turning herexperienced eyes from Kate to Gilesand observing the position hehad taken upand a sheepish expressionshe hinted at cuffing ofears.

"Naymother" said the girl; "it was but a foolish word Gilesspoke. I had not noticed it at another time; but I was tired and incare for Gerardyou know."

"Letno one be in care for me" said a faint voice at the doorandin tottered Gerardpaledustyand worn out; and amidst upliftedhands and cries of delightcuriosityand anxiety mingleddroppedexhausted into the nearest chair.

BeatingRotterdamlike a covertfor Margaretand the long journeyafterwardshad fairly knocked Gerard up. But elastic youth soonrevivedand behold him the centre of an eager circle. First of allthey must hear about the prizes. Then Gerard told them he had beenadmitted to see the competitors' worksall laid out in an enormoushall before the judges pronounced.

"Ohmother! ohKate! when I saw the goldsmiths' workI had liked tohave fallen on the floor. I thought not all the goldsmiths on earthhad so much goldsilverjewelsand craft of design and facture.Butin soothall the arts are divine."

Thento please the femaleshe described to them the reliquariesferetoriescalicescrosierscrossespyxesmonstrancesand otherwonders ecclesiasticaland the gobletshanapswatchesClockschainsbrooches&c.so that their mouths watered.

"ButKatewhen I came to the illuminated work from Ghent and Brugesmyheart sank. Mine was dirt by the side of it. For the first minute Icould almost have cried; but I prayed for a better spiritandpresently I was able to enjoy themand thank God for those lovelyworksand for those skilfulpatient craftsmenwhom I own mymasters. Wellthe coloured work was so beautiful I forgot all aboutthe black and white. But next daywhen all the other prizes had beengiventhey came to the writingand whose name think you was calledfirst?"

"Yours"said Kate.

Theothers laugher her to scorn.

"Youmay well laugh" said Gerard"but for all thatGerardEliassoen of Tergou was the name the herald shouted. I stood stupid;they thrust me forward. Everything swam before my eyes. I foundmyself kneeling on a cushion at the feet of the Duke. He saidsomething to mebut I was so fluttered I could not answer him. Sothen he put his hand to his sideand did not draw a glaive and cutoff my dull headbut gave me a gold medaland there it is."There was a yell and almost a scramble. "And then he gave mefifteen great bright golden angels. I had seen one beforebut Inever handled one. Here they are."

langnp1031"OhGerard! ohGerard!"

"Thereis one for youour eldest; and one for youSybrandtand for youLittle Mischief; and two for theeLittle Lilybecause God hathafflicted thee; and one for myselfto buy colours and vellum; andnine for her that nursed us alland risked the two crowns upon poorGerard's hand."

Thegold drew out their characters. Cornelis and Sybrandt clutched eachhis coin with one glare of greediness and another glare of envy atKatewho had got two pieces. Giles seized his and rolled it alongthe floor and gambolled after it. Kate put down her crutches and satdownand held out her little arms to Gerard with a heavenly gestureof love and tenderness; and the motherfairly benumbed at first bythe shower of gold that fell on her apronnow cried out"Leavekissing himKate; he is my sonnot yours. Ah. Gerard! my boy! Ihave not loved you as you deserved."

ThenGerard threw himself on his knees beside herand she flung her armsround him and wept for joy and pride upon his neck.

"Goodlad! good lad!" cried the hosierwith some emotion. "Imust go and tell the neighbours. Lend me the medalGerard; I'll showit my good friend Peter Buyskens; he is ever regaling me with how hisson Jorian won the tin mug a shooting at the butts."

"Aydomy man; and show Peter Buyskens one of the angels. Tell him thereare fourteen more where that came from. Mind you bring it me back!"

"Staya minutefather; there is better news behind" said Gerardflushing with joy at the joy he caused.

"Better!better than this?"

ThenGerard told his interview with the Countessand the house rang withjoy.

"NowGod bless the good ladyand bless the dame Van Eyck! A benefice? ourson! My cares are at an end. Elimy good friend and masternow wetwo can die happy whenever our time comes. This dear boy will takeour placeand none of these loved ones will want a home or afriend."

Fromthat hour Gerard was looked upon as the stay of the family. He was ason apartbut in another sense. He was always in the rightandnothing too good for him. Cornelis and Sybrandt became more and morejealous of himand longed for the day he should go to his benefice;they would get rid of the favouriteand his reverence's purse wouldbe open to them. With these views he co-operated. The wound love hadgiven him throbbed duller and duller. His success and the affectionand admiration of his parents made him think more highly of himselfand resent with more spirit Margaret's ingratitude and discourtesy.For all thatshe had power to cool him towards the rest of her sexand now for every reason he wished to be ordained priest as soon ashe could pass the intermediate orders. He knew the Vulgate alreadybetter than most of the clergyand studied the rubric and the dogmasof the Church with his friends the monks; andthe first time thebishop came that wayhe applied to be admitted "exorcist"the third step in holy orders. The bishop questioned himandordained him at once. He had to kneelandafter a short prayerthebishop delivered to him a little MS. full of exorcismsand said:"Take thisGerardand have power to lay hands on thepossessedwhether baptized or catechumens!" and he took itreverentlyand went home invested by the Church with power to castout demons.

Returninghome from the churchhe was met by little Kate on her crutches.

"OhGerard! whothink youhath sent to our house seeking you? - theburgomaster himself."

"GhysbrechtVan Swieten! What would he with me?"

"NayGerardI know not. But he seems urgent to see you. You are to go tohis house on the instant."

"Wellhe is the burgomaster: I will go; but it likes me not. KateI haveseen him cast such a look on me as no friend casts. No matter; suchlooks forewarn the wise. To be surehe knows

"KnowswhatGerard?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing?"

"KateI'll go."

 

CHAPTERV

GhysbrechtVan Swieten was an artful man. He opened on the novice with somethingquite wide of the mark he was really aiming at. "The townrecords" said he"are crabbedly writtenand the inkrusty with age." He offered Gerard the honour of transcribingthem fair.

Gerardinquired what he was to be paid.

Ghysbrechtoffered a sum that would have just purchased the pensinkandparchment.

"Butburgomastermy labour? Here is a year's work."

"Yourlabour? Call you marking parchment labour? Little sweat goes to thatI trow."

"'Tislabourand skilled labour to boot; and that is better paid in allcrafts than rude laboursweat or no sweat. Besidesthere's mytime."

"Yourtime? Whywhat is time to youat two-and-twenty?" Then fixinghis eyes keenly on Gerardto mark the effect of his wordshe said:"Sayratheryou are idle grown. You are in love. Your body iswith these chanting monksbut your heart is with Peter Brandt andhis red-haired girl."

"Iknow no Peter Brandt."

Thisdenial confirmed Ghysbrecht's suspicion that the caster-out of demonswas playing a deep game.

"Yelie!" he shouted. "Did I not find you at her elbow on theroad to Rotterdam?"

"Ah!"

"Ah!And you were seen at Sevenbergen but t'other day."

"WasI?'

"Ahand at Peter's house."

"AtSevenbergen?"

"Ayat Sevenbergen."

Nowthis was what in modern days is called a draw. It was a guessputboldly forth as factto elicit by the young man's answer whether hehad been there lately or not.

Theresult of the artifice surprised the crafty one. Gerard started up ina strange state of nervous excitement.

"Burgomaster"said hewith trembling voice"I have not been at Sevenbergenthese three yearsand I know not the name of those you saw me withnor where they dwelt; butas my time is preciousthough you valueit notgive you good day." And he darted outwith his eyessparkling.

Ghysbrechtstarted up in huge ire; but he sank into his chair again.

"Hefears me not. He knows somethingif not all."

Thenhe called hastily to his trusty servantand almost dragged him to awindow.

"Seeyou yon man?" he cried. "Haste! follow him! But let him notsee you. He is youngbut old in craft. Keep him in sight all day.Let me know whither he goesand what he does."

Itwas night when the servant returned.

"Well?well?" cried Van Swieten eagerly.

"Masterthe young man went from you to Sevenbergen."

Ghysbrechtgroaned.

"Tothe house of Peter the Magician."

 

CHAPTERVI

"Lookinto your own heart and write!" said Herr Cant; and earth'scuckoos echoed the cry. Look into the Rhine where it is deepestandthe Thames where it is thickestand paint the bottom. Lower a bucketinto a well of self-deceptionand what comes up must be immortaltruthmustn't it? Nowin the first placeno son of Adam ever readshis own heart at allexceptby the habit acquiredand the lightgainedfrom some years perusal of other hearts; and even thenwithhis acquired sagacity and reflected lighthe can but spell anddecipher his own heartnot read it fluently. Half way to SevenbergenGerard looked into his own heartand asked it why he was going toSevenbergen. His heart replied without a moment's hesitation"Weare going out of curiosity to know why she jilted usand to show herit has not broken our heartsand that we are quite content with ourhonours and our benefice in prospectuand don't want her nor ally ofher fickle sex."

Hesoon found out Peter Brandt's cottage; and there sat a girl in thedoorwayplying her needleand a stalwart figure leaned on a longbow and talked to her. Gerard felt an unaccountable pang at the sightof him. Howeverthe man turned out to be past fifty years of ageanold soldierwhom Gerard remembered to have seen shoot at the buttswith admirable force and skill. Another minute and the youth stoodbefore them. Margaret looked up and dropped her workand uttered afaint cryand was white and red by turns. But these signs of emotionwere swiftly dismissedand she turned far more chill and indifferentthan she would if she had not betrayed this agitation.

"What!is it youMaster Gerard? What on earth brings you hereI wonder?"

"Iwas passing by and saw you; so I thought I would give you good dayand ask after your father."

"Myfather is well. He will be here anon."

"ThenI may as well stay till he comes."

"Asyou will. Good Martinstep into the village and tell my father hereis a friend of his."

"Andnot of yours?"

"Myfather's friends are mine."

"Thatis doubtful. It was not like a friend to promise to wait for meandthen make off the moment my back was turned. Cruel Margaret youlittle know how I searched the town for you; how for want of younothing was pleasant to me."

"Theseare idle words; if you had desired my father's companyor mineyouwould have come back. There I had a bed laid for yousirat mycousin'sand he would have made much of youandwho knowsI mighthave made much of you too. I was in the humour that day. You will notcatch me in the same mind againneither you nor any young manIwarrant me."

"MargaretI came back the moment the Countess let me go; but you were notthere."

"Nayyou did notor you had seen Hans Cloterman at our table; we left himto bring you on."

"Isaw no one therebut only a drunken manthat had just tumbleddown."

"Atour table? How was he clad?"

"NayI took little heed: in sad-coloured garb."

Atthis Margaret's face gradually warmed; but presentlyassumingincredulity and severityshe put many shrewd questionsall of whichGerard answered most loyally. Finallythe clouds clearedand theyguessed how the misunderstanding had come about. Then came arevulsion of tendernessall the more powerful that they had doneeach other wrong; and thenmore dangerous stillcame mutualconfessions. Neither had been happy since; neither ever would havebeen happy but for this fortunate meeting.

AndGerard found a MS. Vulgate lying open on the tableand pounced uponit like a hawk. MSS. were his delight; but before he could get to ittwo white hands quickly came flat upon the pageand a red face overthem.

"Naytake away your handsMargaretthat I may see where you are readingand I will read there too at home; so shall my soul meet yours in thesacred page. You will not? Naythen I must kiss them away." Andhe kissed them so oftenthat for very shame they were fain towithdrawandlo! the sacred book lay open at

"Anapple of gold in a network of silver."

"Therenow" said she"I had been hunting for it ever so longand found it but even now - and to be caught!" and with a touchof inconsistency she pointed it out to Gerard with her white finger.

"Ay"said he"but to-day it is all hidden in that great cap."

"Itis a comely capI'm told by some."

"Maybe;but what it hides is beautiful."

"Itis not: it is hideous."

"Wellit was beautiful at Rotterdam."

"Ayeverything was beautiful that day" (with a little sigh).

Andnow Peter came inand welcomed Gerard cordiallyand would have himto stay supper. And Margaret disappeared; and Gerard had a nicelearned chat with Peter; and Margaret reappeared with her hair in hersilver netand shot a glance half archhalf coyand glided aboutthemand spread supperand beamed bright with gaiety and happiness.And in the cool evening Gerard coaxed her outand she objected andcame; and coaxed her on to the road to Tergouand she declinedandcame; and there they strolled up and downhand in hand; and when hemust gothey pledged each other never to quarrel or misunderstandone another again; and they sealed the promise with a long lovingkissand Gerard went home on wings.

Fromthat day Gerard spent most of his evenings with Margaretand theattachment deepened and deepened on both sidestill the hours theyspent together were the hours they lived; the rest they counted andunderwent. And at the outset of this deep attachment all wentsmoothly. Obstacles there werebut they seemed distant and small tothe eyes of hopeyouthand love. The feelings and passions of somany personsthat this attachment would thwartgave no warningsmoke to show their volcanic nature and power. The course of truelove ran smoothlyplacidly. until it had drawn these two younghearts into its current for ever.

Andthen -

 

CHAPTERVII

Onebright morning unwonted velvet shoneunwonted feathers wavedandhorses' hoofs glinted and ran through the streets of Tergouand thewindows and balconies were studded with wondering faces. The Frenchambassador was riding through to sport in the neighbouring forest.

Besideshis own suitehe was attended by several servants of the Duke ofBurgundylent to do him honour and minister to his pleasure. TheDuke's tumbler rode before him with a gravesedate majestythatmade his more noble companions seem lightfrivolous persons. Butever and anonwhen respect and awe neared the oppressivehe rolledoff his horse so ignobly and funnilythat even the ambassador wasfain' to burst out laughing. He also climbed up again by the tail ina way provocative of mirthand so he played his part. Towards therear of the pageant rode one that excited more attention still - theDuke's leopard. A huntsmanmounted on a Flemish horse of giantprodigious size and powercarried a long box fastened to the rider'sloins by straps curiously contrivedand on this box sat a brightleopard crouching. She was chained to the huntsman. The peopleadmired her glossy hide and spotsand pressed nearand one or twowere for feeling herand pulling her tail; then the huntsman shoutedin a terrible voice"Beware! At Antwerp one did but throw ahandful of dust at herand the Duke made dust of him."

"Gramercy!"

"Ispeak sooth. The good Duke shut him up in prisonin a cell undergroundand the rats cleaned the flesh off his bones in a night.Served him right for molesting the poor thing."

Therewas a murmur of fearand the Tergovians shrank from tickling theleopard of their sovereign.

Butan incident followed that raised their spirits again. The Duke'sgianta Hungarian seven feet four inches highbrought up the rear.This enormous creature hadlike some other giantsa trebleflutyvoice of little power. He was a vain fellowand not conscious ofthis nor any defect. Now it happened he caught sight of Giles sittingon the top of the balcony; so he stopped and began to make fun ofhim.

"Hallo!brother!" squeaked he"I had nearly passed without seeingthee."

"Youare plain enough to see" bellowed Giles in his bass tones.

"Comeon my shoulderbrother" squeaked Titanand held out ashoulder of mutton fist to help him down.

"IfI do I'll cuff your ears" roared the dwarf.

Thegiant saw the homuncule was irascibleand played upon himbeingencouraged thereto by the shouts of laughter. For he did not see thatthe people were laughing not at his witbut at the ridiculousincongruity of the two voices - the gigantic feeble fifeand thepetty deeploud drumthe mountain delivered of a squeakand themole-hill belching thunder.

Thesingular duet came to as singular an end. Giles lost all patience andself-commandand being a creature devoid of fearand in a rage toboothe actually dropped upon the giant's neckseized his hair withone handand punched his head with the other. The giant's firstimpulse was to laughbut the weight and rapidity of the blows sooncorrected that inclination.

"He!he! Ah! ha! hallo! oh! oh! Holy saints! here! help! or I mustthrottle the imp. I can't! I'll split your skull against the - "and he made a wild run backwards at the balcony. Giles saw hisdangerseized the balcony in time with both handsand whipped overit just as the giant's head came against it with a stunning crack.The people roared with laughter and exultation at the address oftheir little champion. The indignant giant seized two of thelaughersknocked them together like dumb-bellsshook them andstrewed them flat - (Catherine shrieked and threw her apron overGiles - then strode wrathfully away after the party. This incidenthad consequences no one then present foresaw. Its immediate resultswere agreeable. The Tergovians turned proud of Gilesand listenedwith more affability to his prayers for parchment. For he drove aregular trade with his brother Gerard in this article. Went about andbegged it gratisand Gerard gave him coppers for it.

Onthe afternoon of the same dayCatherine and her daughter werechatting together about their favourite themeGerardhis goodnesshis beneficeand the brightened prospects of the whole family.

Theirgood luck had come to them in the very shape they would have chosen;besides the advantages of a benefice such as the Countess Charoloiswould not disdain to givethere was the feminine delight at having apriesta holy manin their own family. "He will marry Cornelisand Sybrandt: for they can wed (good housewives)nowif they will.Gerard will take care of you and Gileswhen we are gone."

"Yesmotherand we can confess to him instead of to a stranger"said Kate.

"Aygirl! and he can give the sacred oil to your father and meand closeour eyes when our time comes."

"Ohmother! not for manymany yearsI do pray Heaven. Pray speak not ofthatit always makes me sad. I hope to go before youmother dear.No; let us be gay to-day. I am out of painmotherquite out of allpain; it does seem so strange; and I feel so bright and happythat -motherCan you keep a secret?"

"Nobodybetterchild. Whyyou know I can."

"ThenI will show you something so beautiful. You never saw the likeItrow. Only Gerard must never know; for sure he means to surprise uswith it; he covers it up soand sometimes he carries it awayaltogether."

Katetook her crutchesand moved slowly awayleaving her mother in anexalted state of curiosity. She soon returned with something in aclothuncovered itand there was a lovely picture of the Virginwith all her insigniaand wearing her tiara over a wealth ofbeautiful hairwhich flowed loose over her shoulders. Catherineatfirstwas struck with awe.

"Itis herself" she cried; "it is the Queen of Heaven. I neversaw one like her to my mind before."

"Andher eyesmother: lifted to the skyas if they belonged thereandnot to a mortal creature. And her beautiful hair of burning gold."

"Andto think I have a son that can make the saints live again upon apiece of wood!"

"Thereason ishe is a young saint himselfmother. He is too good forthis world; he is here to portray the blessedand then to go awayand be with them for ever."

Erethey had half done admiring ita strange voice was heard at thedoor. By one of the furtive instincts of their sex they hastily hidthe picture in the cloththough there was no needAnd the nextmoment in camecasting his eyes furtively arounda man that had notentered the house this ten years Ghysbrecht Van Swieten.

Thetwo women were so taken by surprisethat they merely stared at himand at one anotherand said"The burgomaster!" in a toneso expressivethat Ghysbrecht felt compelled to answer it.

"Yes!I own the last time I came here was not on a friendly errand. Menlove their own interest - Eli's and mine were contrary. Wellletthis visit atone the last. To-day I come on your business and none ofmine." Catherine and her daughter exchanged a swift glance ofcontemptuous incredulity. They knew the man better than he thought.

"Itis about your son Gerard."

"Ay!ay! you want him to work for the town all for nothing. He told us."

"Icome on no such errand. It is to let you know he has fallen into badhands."

"NowHeaven and the saints forbid! Mantorture not a mother! Speak outand quickly: speak ere you have time to coin falsehood: we knowthee."

Ghysbrechtturned pale at this affrontand spite mingled with the other motivesthat brought him here. "Thus it isthen" said hegrinding his teeth and speaking very fast. "Your son Gerard ismore like to be father of a family than a priest: he is for ever withMargaretPeter Brandt's red-haired girland loves her like a cowher calf."

Motherand daughter both burst out laughing. Ghysbrecht stared at them.

"What!you knew it?"

"Carrythis tale to those who know not my sonGerard. Women are nought tohim."

"Otherwomenmayhap. But this one is the apple of his eye to himor willbeif you part them notand soon. Comedamemake me not wastetime and friendly counsel: my servant has seen them together a scoretimeshandedand reading babies in one another's eyes like - youknowdame - you have been youngtoo."

"GirlI am ill at ease. YeaI have been youngand know how blind andfoolish the young are. My heart! he has turned me sick in a moment.Kateif it should be true?"

"Naynay!" cried Kate eagerly. "Gerard might love a young woman:all young men do: I can't find what they see in them to love so; butif he didhe would let us know; he would not deceive us. You wickedman! Nodear motherlook not so! Gerard is too good to love acreature of earth. His love is for our Lady and the saints. Ah! Iwill show you the picture there: if his heart was earthlycould hepaint the Queen of Heaven like that - look! look!" and she heldthe picture out triumphantlyandmore radiant and beautiful in thismoment of enthusiasm than ever dead picture was or will beover-powered the burgomaster with her eloquence and her feminineproof of Gerard's purity. His eyes and mouth openedand remainedopen: in which state they kept turningface and all as if on apivotfrom the picture to the womenand from the women to thepicture.

"Whyit is herself" he gasped.

"Isn'tit!" cried Kateand her hostility was softened. "Youadmire it? I forgive you for frightening us."

"AmI in a mad-house?" said Ghysbrecht Van Swieten thoroughlypuzzled. "You show me a picture of the girl; and you say hepainted it; and that is a proof he cannot love her. Whythey allpaint their sweetheartspainters do."

"Apicture of the girl?" exclaimed Kateshocked. "Fie! thisis no girl; this is our blessed Lady."

"Nono; it is Margaret Brandt."

"Ohblind! It is the Queen of Heaven."

"No;only of Sevenbergen village."

"Profaneman! behold her crown!"

"Sillychild! look at her red hair! Would the Virgin be seen in red hair?She who had the pick of all the colours ten thousand years before theworld began."

Atthis moment an anxious face was insinuated round the edge of the opendoor: it was their neighbour Peter Buyskens.

"Whatis to do?" said he in a cautious whisper. "We can hear youall across the street. What on earth is to do?"

"Ohneighbour! What is to do? Whyhere is the burgomaster blackening ourGerard."

"Stop!"cried Van Swieten. "Peter Buyskens is come in the nick of time.He knows father and daughter both. They cast their glamour on him."

"What!is she a witch too?"

"Elsethe egg takes not after the bird. Why is her father called themagician? I tell you they bewitched this very Peter here; they castunholy spells on himand cured him of the colic: nowPeterlookand tell me who is that? and you be silentwomenfor a momentifyou can; who is itPeter?"

"Wellto be sure!" said Peterin reply; and his eye seemed fascinatedby the picture.

"Whois it?" repeated Ghysbrecht impetuously.

PeterBuyskens smiled. "Whyyou know as well as I do; but what havethey put a crown on her for? I never saw her in a crownfor mypart."

"Manalive! Can't you open your great jawsand just speak a wench's nameplain out to oblige three people?"

"I'ddo a great deal more to oblige one of you than thatburgomaster. Ifit isn't as natural as life!"

"Cursethe man! he won'the won't - curse him!"

"Whywhat have I done now?"

"Ohsir!" said little Kate"for pity's sake tell us; are thesethe features of a living womanof - of - Margaret Brandt?"

"Amirror is not truermy little maid."

"Butis it shesirfor very certain?"

"Whywho else should it be?"

"Nowwhy couldn't you say so at once?" snarled Ghysbrecht.

"Idid say soas plain as I could speak" snapped Peter; and theygrowled over this small bone of contention so zealouslythat theydid not see Catherine and her daughter had thrown their aprons overtheir headsand were rocking to and fro in deep distress. The nextmoment Elias came in from the shopand stood aghast. Catherinethough her face was coveredknew his footstep.

"Thatis my poor man" she sobbed. "Tell himgood PeterBuyskensfor I have not the courage."

Eliasturned pale. The presence of the burgomaster in his houseafter somany years of coolnesscoupled with his wife's and daughter'sdistressmade him fear some heavy misfortune.

"Richart!Jacob!" he gasped.

"Nono!" said the burgomaster; "it is nearer homeand nobodyis dead or dyingold friend."

"Godbless youburgomaster! Ah! something has gone off my breast that waslike to choke me. Nowwhat is the matter?"

Ghysbrechtthen told him all that he told the womenand showed the picture inevidence.

"Isthat all?" said Eliprofoundly relieved. "What are yeroaring and bellowing for? It is vexing - it is angeringbut it isnot like deathnot even sickness. Boys will be boys. He will outgrowthat disease: 'tis but skin-deep."

Butwhen Ghysbrecht told him that Margaret was a girl of good character;that it was not to be supposed she would be so intimate if marriagehad not been spoken of between themhis brow darkened.

"Marriage!that shall never be" said he sternly. "I'll stay that; ayby forceif need be - as I would his hand lifted to cut his throat.I'd do what old John Koestein did t'other day."

"Andwhat is thatin Heaven's name?" asked the mothersuddenlyremoving her apron.

Itwas the burgomaster who replied:

"Hemade me shut young Albert Koestein up in the prison of the Stadthousetill he knocked under. It was not long: forty-eight hoursall aloneon bread and watercooled his hot stomach. 'Tell my father I am hishumble servant' says he'and let me into the sun once more - thesun is worth all the wenches in the world.'"

"Ohthe cruelty of men!" sighed Catherine.

"Asto thatthe burgomaster has no choice: it is the law. And if afather says'Burgomasterlock up my son' he must do it. A finething it would be if a father might not lock up his own son."

"Wellwell! it won't come to that with me and my son. He never disobeyed mein his life: he never shallWhere is he? It is past supper-time.Where is heKate?"

"Alas!I know notfather."

"Iknow" said Ghysbrecht; "he is at Sevenbergen. My servantmet him on the road."

Supperpassed in gloomy silence. Evening descended - no Gerard! Eighto'clock came - no Gerard! Then the father sent all to bedexceptCatherine.

"Youand I will walk abroadwifeand talk over this new care."

"Abroadmy manat this time? Whither?"

"Whyon the road to Sevenbergen."

"Ohno; no hasty wordsfather. Poor Gerard! he never vexed you before."

"Fearme not. But it must end; and I am not one that trusts to-morrow withto-day's work."

Theold pair walked hand in hand; forstrange is it may appear to someof my readersthe use of the elbow to couples walking was notdiscovered in Europe till centuries after this. They sauntered on along time in silence. The night was clear and balmy. Such nightscalm and silentrecall the past from the dead.

"Itis a many years since we walked so latemy man" said Catherinesoftly.

"Aysweetheartmore than we shall see again (is he never comingIwonder?)"

"Notsince our courting daysEli."

"No.Ayyou were a buxom lass then."

"Andyou were a comely ladas ever a girl's eye stole a look at. I dosuppose Gerard is with her nowas you used to be with me. Nature isstrongand the same in all our generations."

"NayI hope he has left her by nowconfound heror we shall be here allnight."

"Eli!"

"WellKate?"

"Ihave been happy with yousweetheartfor all our rubs - muchhappierI trowthan if I had - been - a - a - nun. You won't speakharshly to the poor child? One can be firm without being harsh."

"Surely."

"Haveyou been happy with memy poor Eli?"

"Whyyou know I have. Friends I have knownbut none like thee. Buss mewife!"

"Aheart to share joy and grief with is a great comfort to man or woman.Isn't itEli?"

"Itis somy lass.
'It doth joy double
And halveth trouble' runsthe byword. And so I have found itsweetheart. Ah! here comes theyoung fool."

Catherinetrembledand held her husband's hand tight.

Themoon was brightbut they were in the shadow of some treesand theirson did not see them. He came singing in the moonlightand his faceshining.

 

CHAPTERVIII

Whilethe burgomaster was exposing Gerard at TergouMargaret had a troubleof her own at Sevenbergen. It was a housewife's distressbut deeperthan we can well conceive. She came to Martin Wittenhaagenthe oldsoldierwith tears in her eyes.

"Martinthere's nothing in the houseand Gerard is comingand he is sothoughtless. He forgets to sup at home. When he gives over workthenhe runs to me straightpoor soul; and often he comes quite faint.And to think I have nothing to set before my servant that loves me sodear."

Martinscratched his head. "What can I do?"

"Itis Thursday; it is your day to shoot; sooth to SayI counted on youto-day."

"Nay"said the soldier"I may not shoot when the Duke or his friendsare at the chase; read else. I am no scholar." And he took outof his pouch a parchment with a grand seal. It purported to be astipend and a licence given by PhilipDuke of Burgundyto MartinWittenhaagenone of his archersin return for services in the warsand for a wound received at the Dukes side. The stipend was fourmerks yearlyto be paid by the Duke's almonerand the licence wasto shoot three arrows once a weekviz.on Thursdayand no otherdayin any of the Duke's forests in Hollandat any game but aseven-year-old buck or a doe carrying fawn; provisothat the Dukeshould not be hunting on that dayor any of his friends. In thiscase Martin was not to go and disturb the woods on peril of hissalary and his headand a fine of a penny.

Margaretsighed and was silent.

"Comecheer upmistress" said he; "for your sake I'll peril mycarcass; I have done that for many a one that was not worth yourforefinger. It is no such mighty risk either. I'll but step into theskirts of the forest here. It is odds but they drive a hare or a fawnwithin reach of my arrow."

"Wellif I let you goyou must promise me not to go farand not to beseen; far better Gerard went supperless than ill should come to youfaithful Martin."

Therequired promise givenMartin took his bow and three arrowsandstole cautiously into the wood: it was scarce a furlong distant. Thehorns were heard faintly in the distanceand all the game was afoot."Come" thought Martin"I shall soon fill the potand no one be the wiser." He took his stand behind a thick oakthat commanded a view of an open gladeand strung his bowa trulyformidable weapon. It was of English yewsix feet two inches highand thick in proportion; and Martinbroad-chestedwith arms alliron and cordand used to the bow from infancycould draw athree-foot arrow to the headandwhen it flewthe eye could scarcefollow itand the bowstring twanged as musical as a harp. This bowhad laid many a stout soldier low in the wars of the Hoecks andCabbel-jaws. In those days a battlefield was not a cloud of smoke;the combatants were fewbut the deaths many - for they saw what theywere about; and fewer bloodless arrows flew than bloodless bulletsnow. A hare came canteringthen sat sprightlyand her ears made acapital V. Martin levelled his tremendous weapon at her. The arrowflewthe string twanged; but Martin had been in a hurry to pot herand lost her by an inch: the arrow seemed to hit herbut it struckthe ground close to herand passed under her belly like a flashandhissed along the short grass and disappeared. She jumped three feetperpendicular and away at the top of her speed. "Bungler!"said Martin. A sure proof he was not an habitual bungleror he wouldhave blamed the hare. He had scarcely fitted another arrow to hisstring when a wood-pigeon settled on the very tree he stood under."Aha!" thought heyou are smallbut dainty." Thistime he took more pains; drew his arrow carefullyloosed itsmoothlyand saw itto all appearancego clean through the birdcarrying feathers skyward like dust. Instead of falling at his feetthe birdwhose breast was tornnot fairly piercedfluttered feeblyawayandby a great effortrose above the treesflew some fiftyyards and dead at last; but wherehe could not see for the thickfoliage.

"Luckis against me" said he despondingly. But he fitted anotherarrowand eyed the glade keenly. Presently he heard a bustle behindhimand turned round just in time to see a noble buck cross theopenbut too late to shoot at him. He dashed his bow down with animprecation. At that moment a long spotted animal glided swiftlyacross after the deer; its belly seemed to touch the ground as itwent. Martin took up his bow hastily: he recognized the Duke'sleopard. "The hunters will not be far from her" said he"and I must not be seen. Gerard must go supperless this night."

Heplunged into the woodfollowing the buck and leopard. for that washis way home. He had not gone far when he heard an unusual soundahead of him - leaves rustling violently and the ground trampled. Hehurried in the direction. He found the leopard on the buck's backtearing him with teeth and clawand the buck running in a circle andbounding convulsivelywith the blood pouring down his hide. ThenMartin formed a desperate resolution to have the venison forMargaret. He drew his arrow to the headand buried it in the deerwhospite of the creature on his backbounded high into the airand fell dead. The leopard went on tearing him as if nothing hadhappened.

Martinhoped that the creature would gorge itself with bloodand then lethim take the meat. He waited some minutesthen walked resolutely upand laid his hand on the buck's leg. The leopard gave a frightfulgrowl. and left off sucking blood. She saw Martin's gameand wassulky and on her guard. What was to be done? Martin had heard thatwild creatures cannot stand the human eye. Accordinglyhe stooderectand fixed his on the leopard: the leopard returned a savageglanceand never took her eye off Martin. Then Martin continuing tolook the beast downthe leopardbrutally ignorant of naturalhistoryflew at his head with a frightful yellflaming eyesandjaws and distended. He had but just time to catch her by the throatbefore her teeth could crush his face; one of her claws seized hisshoulder and rent itthe otheraimed at his cheekwould have beenmore deadly stillbut Martin was old-fashionedand wore no hatbuta scapulary of the same stuff as his jerkinand this scapulary hehad brought over his head like a hood; the brute's claw caught in theloose leather. Martin kept her teeth off his face with greatdifficultyand griped her throat fiercelyand she kept rending hisshoulder. It was like blunt reaping-hooks grinding and tearing. Thepain was fearful; butinstead of cowing the old soldierit put hisblood upand he gnashed his teeth with rage almost as fierce ashersand squeezed her neck with iron force. The two pair of eyesflared at one another - and now the man's were almost as furious asthe brute's. She found he was throttling herand made a wild attemptto free herselfin which she dragged his cowl all over his face andblinded himand tore her claw out of his shoulderflesh and all;but still he throttled her with hand and arm of iron. Presently herlong tailthat was high in the airwent down. "Aha!"cried Martinjoyfullyand gripped her like death; nexther bodylost its elasticityand he held a choked and powerless thing: hegripped it stilltill all motion ceasedthen dashed it to theearth; thenpantingremoved his cowl: the leopard lay mute at hisfeet with tongue protruding and bloody paw; and for the first timeterror fell on Martin. "I am a dead man: I have slain the Duke'sleopard." He hastily seized a few handfuls of leaves and threwthem over her; then shouldered the buckand staggered awayleavinga trail of blood all the way his own and the buck's. He burst intoPeter's house a horrible figurebleeding and bloodstainedand flungthe deer's carcass down.

"There- no questions" said he"but broil me a steak on'tfor Iam faint."

Margaretdid not see he was wounded; she thought the blood was all from thedeer.

Shebusied herself at the fireand the stout soldier stanched and boundhis own wound apart; and soon he and Gerard and Margaret were suppingroyally on broiled venison.

Theywere very merry; and Gerardwith wonderful thoughtfulnesshadbrought a flask of Schiedamand under its influence Martin revivedand told them how the venison was got; and they all made merry overthe exploit.

Theirmirth was strangely interrupted. Margaret's eye became fixed andfascinatedand her cheek pale with fear. She gaspedand could notspeakbut pointed to the window with trembling finger. Their eyesfollowed hersand there in the twilight crouched a dark form witheyes like glowworms.

Itwas the leopard.

Whilethey stood petrifiedfascinated by the eyes of green firetheresounded in the wood a single deep bay. Martin trembled at it.

"Theyhave lost herand laid muzzled bloodhounds on her scent; they willfind her hereand the venison. Good-byefriendsMartinWittenhaagen ends here."

Gerardseized his bowand put it into the soldier's hands.

"Bea man" he cried; "shoot herand fling her into the woodere they come up. Who will know?"

Morevoices of hounds broke outand nearer.

"Curseher!" cried Martin; "I spared her once; now she must dieor Ior both more likely;" and he reared his bowand drew hisarrow to the head.

"Nay!nay!" cried Margaretand seized the arrow. It broke in half:the pieces fell on each side the bow. The air at the same time filledwith the tongues of the hounds: they were hot upon the scent.

"Whathave you donewench? You have put the halter round my throat."

"No!"cried Margaret. "I have saved you: stand back from the windowboth! Your knifequick!"

Sheseized his long-pointed knifealmost tore it out of his girdleanddarted from the room. The house was now surrounded with baying dogsand shouting men.

Theglowworm eyes moved not.

 

CHAPTERIX

Margaretcut off a huge piece of venisonand ran to the window and threw itout to the green eyes of fire. They darted on to it with a savagesnarl; and there was a sound of rending and crunching: at thismomenta hound uttered a bay so near and loud it rang through thehouse; and the three at the window shrank together. Then the leopardfeared for her supperand glided swiftly and stealthily away with ittowards the woodsand the very next moment horses and men and dogscame helter-skelter past the windowand followed her full cry.Martin and his companions breathed again: the leopard was swiftandwould not be caught within a league of their house. They graspedhands. Margaret seized this opportunityand cried a little; Gerardkissed the tears away.

Totable once moreand Gerard drank to woman's wit: "'Tis strongerthan man's force" said he.

"Ay"said Margaret"when those she loves are in danger; not else."

To-nightGerard stayed with her longer than usualand went home prouder thanever of herand happy as a prince. Some little distance from homeunder the shadow of some treeshe encountered two figures: theyalmost barred his way.

Itwas his father and mother.

Outso late! what could be the cause?

Achill fell on him.

Hestopped and looked at them: they stood grim and silent. He stammeredout some words of inquiry.

"Whyask?" said the father; "you know why we are here."

"OhGerard!" said his motherwith a voice full of reproach yet ofaffection.

Gerard'sheart quaked: he was silent.

Thenhis father pitied his confusionand said to him:

"Nayyou need not to hang your head. You are not the first young fool thathas been caught by a red cheek and a pair of blue eyes."

"Naynay!" put in Catherine"it was witchcraft; Peter theMagician is well known for that."

"ComeSir Priest" resumed his father"you know you must notmeddle with women folk. But give us your promise to go no more toSevenbergenand here all ends: we won't be hard on you for onefault."

"Icannot promise thatfather."

"Notpromise ityou young hypocrite!"

"Nayfathermiscall me not: I lacked courage to tell you what I knewwould vex you; and right grateful am I to that good friendwhoeverhe bethat has let you wot. 'Tis a load off my mind. YesfatherIlove Margaret; and call me not a priestfor a priest I will neverbe. I will die sooner."

"Thatwe shall seeyoung man. Comegainsay me no more; you will learnwhat 'tis to disrespect a father."

Gerardheld his peaceand the three walked home in gloomy silencebrokenonly by a deep sigh or two from Catherine.

Fromthat hour the little house at Tergou was no longer the abode ofpeace. Gerard was taken to task next day before the whole family; andevery voice was loud against himexcept little Kate's and thedwarf'swho was apt to take his cue from her without knowing why. Asfor Cornelis and Sybrandtthey were bitterer than their father.Gerard was dismayed at finding so many enemiesand looked wistfullyinto his little sister's face: her eyes were brimming at the harshwords showered on one who but yesterday was the universal pet. Butshe gave him no encouragement: she turned her head away from him andsaid:

"Deardear Gerardpray to Heaven to cure you of this folly!"

"Whatare you against me too?" said Gerardsadly; and he rose with adeep sighand left the house and went to Sevenbergen.

Thebeginning of a quarrelwhere the parties are bound by affectionthough opposed in interest and sentimentis comparatively innocent:both are perhaps in the right at first startingand then it is thata calmjudicious friendcapable of seeing both sidesis a giftfrom Heaven. For the longer the dissension enduresthe wider anddeeper it grows by the fallibility and irascibility of human nature:these are not confined to either sideand finally the invariable endis reached - both in the wrong.

Thecombatants were unequally matched: Elias was angryCornelis andSybrandt spiteful; but Gerardhaving a larger and more cultivatedmindsaw both sides where they saw but oneand had fits ofirresolutionand was not wrothbut unhappy. He was lonelytoointhis struggle. He could open his heart to no one. Margaret was ahigh-spirited girl: he dared not tell her what he had to endure athome; she was capable of siding with his relations by resigning himthough at the cost of her own happiness. Margaret Van Eyck had been agreat comfort to him on another occasion; but now he dared not makeher his confidant. Her own history was well known. In early life shehad many offers of marriage; but refused them all for the sake ofthat artto which a wife's and mother's duties are so fatal: thusshe remained single and painted with her brothers. How could he tellher that he declined the benefice she had got himand declined itfor the sake of that which at his age she had despised and sacrificedso lightly?

Gerardat this period bade fair to succumb. But the other side had ahorrible ally in Catherinesenior. This good-hearted but uneducatedwoman could notlike her daughteract quietly and firmly: stillless could she act upon a plan. She irritated Gerard at timesand sohelped him; for anger is a great sustainer of the courage: at othersshe turned round in a moment and made onslaughts on her own forces.To take a single instance out of many: one day that they were all athomeCatherine and allCornelis said: "Our Gerard wed MargaretBrandt? Whyit is hunger marrying thirst."

"Andwhat will it be when you marry?" cried Catherine. "Gerardcan paintGerard can writebut what can you do to keep a womanyelazy loon? Nought but wait for your father's shoon. Oh we can see whyyou and Sybrandt would not have the poor boy to marry. You are afraidhe will come to us for a share of our substance. And say that hedoesand say that we give it himit isn't yourn we part fromandmayhap never will be."

Onthese occasions Gerard smiled slilyand picked up heartandtemporary confusion fell on Catherine's unfortunate allies. But atlastafter more than six months of irritationcame the climax. Thefather told the son before the whole family he had ordered theburgomaster to imprison him in the Stadthouse rather than let himmarry Margaret. Gerard turned pale with anger at thisbut by a greateffort held his peace. His father went on to say"And a priestyou shall be before the year is outnilly-willy."

"Isit so?" cried Gerard. "Thenhear meall. By God and St.Bavon I swear I will never be a priest while Margaret lives. Sinceforce is to decide itand not love and dutytry forcefather; butforce shall not serve youfor the day I see the burgomaster come formeI leave Tergou for everand Holland tooand my father's housewhere it seems I have been valued all these yearsnot for myselfbut for what is to be got out of me."

Andhe flung out of the room white with anger and desperation.

"There!"cried Catherine"that comes of driving young folks too hard.But men are crueller than tigerseven to their own flesh and blood.NowHeaven forbid he should ever leave usmarried or single."

AsGerard came out of the househis cheeks pale and his heart pantinghe met Reicht Heynes: she had a message for him: Margaret Van Eyckdesired to see him. He found the old lady seated grim as a judge. Shewasted no time in preliminariesbut inquired coldly why he had notvisited her of late: before he could answershe said in a sarcastictone"I thought we had been friendsyoung sir."

Atthis Gerard looked the picture of doubt and consternation.

"Itis because you never told her you were in love" said ReichtHeynespitying his confusion.

"Silencewench! Why should he tell us his affairs? We are not his friends: wehave not deserved his confidence."

"Alas!my second mother" said Gerard"I did not dare to tell youmy folly."

"Whatfolly? Is it folly to love?"

"Iam told so every day of my life."

"Youneed not have been afraid to tell my mistress; she is always kind totrue lovers."

"Madam- Reicht I was afraid because I was told..."

"Wellyou were told -?"

"Thatin your youth you scorned lovepreferring art."

"Ididboy; and what is the end of it? Behold me here a barren stockwhile the women of my youth have a troop of children at their sideand grandchildren at their knee I gave up the sweet joys of wifehoodand motherhood for what? For my dear brothers. They have gone andleft me long ago. For my art. It has all but left me too. I have theknowledge stillbut what avails that when the hand trembles. NoGerard; I look on you as my son. You are goodyou are handsomeyouare a painterthough not like some I have known. I will not let youthrow your youth away as I did mine: you shall marry this Margaret. Ihave inquiredand she is a good daughter. Reicht here is a gossip.She has told me all about it. But that need not hinder you to tellme."

PoorGerard was overjoyed to be permitted to praise Margaret aloudand toone who could understand what he loved in her.

Soonthere were two pair of wet eyes over his story; and when the poor boysaw thatthere ware three.

Womenare creatures brimful of courage. Theirs is not exactly the samequality as manly courage; that would never dohang it all; we shouldhave to give up trampling on them. No; it is a vicarious courage.They never take part in a bull-fight by any chance; but it isremarked that they sit at one unshaken by those tremors andapprehensions for the combatants to which the malespectator-feebla-minded wretch! -is subject. Nothing can exceed theresolution with which they have been known to send forth men tobattle: as some witty dog says
"Les femmes sont tres bravesavec le peur d'autrui."

Bythis trait Gerard now profited. Margaret and Reicht were agreed thata man should always take the bull by the horns. Gerard's only coursewas to marry Margaret Brandt off-hand; the old people would come toafter a whilethe deed once done. Whereasthe longer thismisunderstanding continued on its present footingthe worse for allpartiesespecially for Gerard.

"Seehow pale and thin they have made him amongst them."

"Indeedyou areMaster Gerard" said Reicht. "It makes a body sadto see a young man so wasted and worn. Mistresswhen I met him inthe street to-dayI had liked to have burst out crying: he was sochanged.

"AndI'll be bound the others keep their colour; ahReicht? such as itis."

"OhI see no odds in them."

"Ofcourse not. We painters are no match for boors. We are glasstheyare stone. We can't stand the worryworryworry of little minds;and it is not for the good of mankind we should be exposed to it. Itis hard enoughHeaven knowsto design and paint a masterpiecewithout having gnats and flies stinging us to death into thebargain."

Exasperatedas Gerard was by his father's threat of violencehe listened tothese friendly voices telling him the prudent course was rebellion.But though he listenedhe was not convinced.

"Ido not fear my father's violence" he said"but I do fearhis anger. When it came to the point he would not imprison me. Iwould marry Margaret to-morrow if that was my only fear. No; he woulddisown me. I should take Margaret from her fatherand give her apoor husbandwho would never thriveweighed down by his parent'scurse. Madam! I sometimes think if I could marry her secretlyandthen take her away to some country where my craft is better paid thanin this; and after a year or twowhen the storm had blown overyouknowcould come back with money in my purseand say'My dearparentswe do not seek your substancewe but ask you to love usonce more as you usedand as we have never ceased to love you' -butalas! I shall be told these are the dreams of an inexperiencedyoung man."

Theold lady's eyes sparkled.

"Itis no dreambut a piece of wonderful common-sense in a boy; itremains to be seen whether you have spirit to carry out your ownthought. There is a countryGerardwhere certain fortune awaits youat this moment. Here the arts freezebut there they flourishasthey never yet flourished in any age or land."

"Itis Italy!" cried Gerard. "It is Italy!"

"AyItaly! where painters are honoured like princesand scribes are paidthree hundred crowns for copying a single manuscript. Know you notthat his Holiness the Pope has written to every land for skilfulscribes to copy the hundreds of precious manuscripts that are pouringinto that favoured land from Constantinoplewhence learning andlearned men are driven by the barbarian Turks?"

"NayI know not that; but it has been the dream and hope of my life tovisit Italythe queen of all the arts; ohmadam! But the journeyand we are all so poor."

"Findyou the heart to goI'll find the means. I know where to lay my handon ten golden angels: they will take you to Rome: and the girl withyouif she loves you as she ought."

Theysat till midnight over this theme. Andafter that dayGerardrecovered his spiritsand seemed to carry a secret talisman againstall the gibes and the harsh words that flew about his ears at home.

Besidesthe money she procured him for the journeyMargaret Van Eyck gavehim money's worth. Said she"I will tell you secrets that Ilearned from masters that are gone from meand have left no fellowbehind. Even the Italians know them not; and what I tell you now inTergou you shall sell hear in Florence. Note my brother Jan'spictures: timewhich fades all other paintingsleaves his coloursbright as the day they left the easel. The reason ishe did nothingblindlyin a hurry. He trusted to no hireling to grind his colours;he did0it himselfor saw it done. His panel was prepared. andprepared again - I will show you how - a year before he laid hiscolour on. Most of them are quite content to have their work suckedup and lostsooner than not be in a hurry. Bad painters are alwaysin a hurry. Above allGerardI warn you use but little oilandnever boil it: boiling it melts that vegetable dross into its heartwhich it is our business to clear away; for impure oil is death tocolour. No; take your oil and pour it into a bottle with water. In aday or two the water will turn muddy: that is muck from the oil. Pourthe dirty water carefully away. and add fresh. When that is pouredawayyou will fancy the oil is clear. You mistaken. Reichtfetch methat!" Reicht brought a glass trough with a glass lid fittingtight. "When your oil has been washed in bottleput it intothis trough with waterand put the trough in the sun all day. Youwill soon see the water turbid again. But markyou must not carrythis game too faror the sun will turn your oil to varnish. When itis as clear as crystalnot too lusciousdrain carefullyand corkit up tight. Grind your own prime coloursand lay them on with thisoiland they shall live. Hubert would put sand or salt in the waterto clear the oil quicker. But Jan used to say'Water will do itbest; give water time.' Jan Van Eyck was never in a hurryand thatis why the world will not forget him in a hurry."

Thisand several other receiptsquae nunc perscribere longum estMargaret gave him with sparkling eyesand Gerard received them like'a legacy from Heavenso interesting are some things that readuninteresting. Thus provided with money and knowledgeGerard decidedto marry and fly with his wife to Italy. Nothing remained now but toinform Margaret Brandt of his resolutionand to publish the banns asquietly as possible. He went to Sevenbergen earlier than usual onboth these errands. He began with Margaret; told her of the Dame VanEyck's goodnessand the resolution he had come to at lastandinvited her co-operation.

Sherefused it plump.

"NoGerard; you and I have never spoken of your familybut when you cometo marriage - " She stoppedthen began again. "I do thinkyour father has no ill-will to me more than to another. He told PeterBuyskens as muchand Peter told me. But so long as he is bent onyour being a priest (you ought have told me this instead of I you)Icould not marry youGerarddearly as I love you."

Gerardstrove in vain to shake this resolution. He found it very easy tomake her crybut impossible to make her yield. Then Gerard wasimpatient and unjust.

"Verywell!" he cried; "then you are on their sideand you willdrive me to be a priestfor this must end one way or another. Myparents hate me in earnestbut my lover only loves me in jest."

Andwith this wildbitter speechhe flung away home againand leftMargaret weeping.

Whena man misbehavesthe effect is curious on a girl who loves himsincerely. It makes her pity him. Thisto some of us malesseemsanything but logical. The fault is in our own eye; the logic is tooswift for us. The girl argues thus:- "How unhappyhow vexedpoor *** must be; him to misbehave! Poor thing!"

Margaretwas full of this sweet womanly pitywhento her great surprisescarce an hour and a half after he left herGerard came running backto her with the fragments of a picture in his handand panting withanger and grief.

"ThereMargaret! see! see! the wretches! Look at their spite! They have cutyour portrait to pieces."

Margaretlookedandsure enoughsome malicious hand had cut her portraitinto five pieces. She was a good girlbut she was not ice; sheturned red to her very forehead.

"Whodid it?"

"NayI know not. I dared not ask; for I should hate the hand that did itaytill my dying day. My poor Margaret! The butchersthe ruffians!Six months' work cut out of my lifeand nothing to show for it now.Seethey have hacked through your very face; the sweet face thatevery one loves who knows it. oh. heartlessmerciless vipers!"

"NevermindGerard" said Margaretpanting. "Since this is howthey treat you for my sake - Ye rob him of my portraitdo ye? Wellthenhe shall have the face itselfsuch as it is."

"OhMargaret!"

"YesGerard; since they are so cruelI will be the kinder: forgive me forrefusing you. I will be your wife: to-morrowif it is yourpleasure."

Gerardkissed her hands with raptureand then her lips; and in a tumult ofjoy ran for Peter and Martin. They came and witnessed the betrothal;a solemn ceremony in those daysand indeed for more than a centurylaterthough now abolished.

 

CHAPTERX

Thebanns of marriage had to be read three timesas in our days; withthis differencethat they were commonly read on week-daysand theyoung couple easily persuaded the cure to do the three readings intwenty-four hours: he was new to the placeand their looks spokevolumes in their favour. They were cried on Monday at matins and atvespers; andto their great delight. nobody from Tergou was in thechurch. The next morning they were both therepalpitating withanxietywhento their horrora stranger stood up and forbade thebannsOn the score that the parties were not of ageand theirparents not consenting.

Outsidethe church door Margaret and Gerard held a tremblingand almostdespairing consultation; butbefore they could settle anythingtheman who had done them so ill a turn approachedand gave them tounderstand that he was very sorry to interfere: that his inclinationwas to further the happiness of the young; but that in point of facthis only means of getting a living was by forbidding banns: whatthen? "The young people give me a crown. and I undo my workhandsomely; tell the cure I was misinformedand all goes smoothly."

"Acrown! I will give you a golden angel to do this" said Gerardeagerly; the man consented as eagerlyand went with Gerard to thecureand told him he had made a ridiculous mistakewhich a sight ofthe parties had rectified. On this the cure agreed to marry the youngcouple next day at ten: and the professional obstructor of bliss wenthome with Gerard's angel. Like most of these very clever knaveshewas a fooland proceeded to drink his angel at a certain hostelry inTergou where was a green devoted to archery and the common sports ofthe day. Therebeing drunkhe bragged of his day's exploit; and whoshould be thereimbibing every wordbut a great frequenter of thespotthe ne'er-do-weel Sybrandt. Sybrandt ran home to tell hisfather; his father was not at home; he was gone to Rotterdam to buycloth of the merchants. Catching his elder brother's eyehe made hima signal to come outand told him what he had heard.

Thereare black sheep in nearly every large family; and these two wereGerard's black brothers. Idleness is vitiating: waiting for the deathof those we ought to love is vitiating; and these two one-idea'd curswere ready to tear any one to death that should interfere with thatmiserable inheritance which was their thought by day and their dreamby night. Their parents' parsimony was a virtue; it was accompaniedby industryand its motive was love of their offspring; but in theseperverse and selfish hearts that homely virtue was perverted intoavaricethan which no more fruitful source of crimes is to be foundin nature.

Theyput their heads togetherand agreed not to tell their motherwhosesentiments were so uncertainbut to go first to the burgomaster.They were cunning enough to see that he was averse to the matchthough they could not divine why.

GhysbrechtVan Swieten saw through them at once; but he took care not to letthem see through him. He heard their storyand putting onmagisterial dignity and coldnesshe said;

"Sincethe father of the family is not herehis duty falleth on mewho amthe father of the town. I know your father's mind; leave all to me;andabove alltell not a woman a word of thisleast of all thewomen that are in your own house: for chattering tongues mar wisestcounsels."

Sohe dismissed thema little superciliously: he was ashamed of hisconfederates.

Ontheir return home they found their brother Gerard seated on a lowstool at their mother's knee: she was caressing his hair with herhandspeaking very kindly to himand promising to take his partwith his father and thwart his love no more. The main cause of thischange of mind was characteristic of the woman. She it was who in amoment of female irritation had cut Margaret's picture to pieces. Shehad watched the effect with some misgivingsand had seen Gerard turnpale as deathand sit motionless like a bereaved creaturewith thepieces in his handsand his eyes fixed on them till tears came andblinded them. Then she was terrified at what she had done; and nexther heart smote her bitterly; and she wept sore apart; butbeingwhat she wasdared not own itbut said to herself"I'll notsay a wordbut I'll make it up to him." And her bowels yearnedover her sonand her feeble violence died a natural deathand shewas transferring her fatal alliance to Gerard when the two blacksheep came in. Gerard knew nothing of the immediate cause; on thecontraryinexperienced as he was in the ins and outs of femalesherkindness made him ashamed of a suspicion he had entertained that shewas the depredatorand he kissed her again and againand went tobed happy as a prince to think his mother was his mother once more atthe very crisis of his fate.

Thenext morningat ten o'clockGerard and Margaret were in the churchat Sevenbergenhe radiant with joyshe with blushes. Peter was alsothereand Martin Wittenhaagenbut no other friend. Secrecy waseverything. Margaret had declined Italy. She could not leave herfather; he was too learned and too helpless. But it was settled theyshould retire into Flanders for a few weeks until the storm should beblown over at Tergou. The cure did not keep them waiting longthoughit seemed an age. Presently he stood at the altarand called them tohim. They went hand in handthe happiest in Holland. The cure openedhis book.

Butere he uttered a single word of the sacred ritea harsh voice cried"Forbear!" And the constables of Tergou came up the aisleand seized Gerard in the name of the law. Martin's long knife flashedout directly.

"Forbearman!" cried the priest. "What! draw your weapon in achurchand ye who interrupt this holy sacramentwhat means thisimpiety?"

"Thereis no impietyfather" said the burgomaster's servantrespectfully. "This young man would marry against his father'swilland his father has prayed our burgomaster to deal with himaccording to the law. Let him deny it if he can."

"Isthis soyoung man?"

Gerardhung his head.

"Wetake him to Rotterdam to abide the sentence of the Duke."

Atthis Margaret uttered a cry of despairand the young creatureswhowere so happy a moment agofell to sobbing in one another's arms sopiteouslythat the instruments of oppression drew back a step andwere ashamed; but one of them that was good-natured stepped up underpretence of separating themand whispered to Margaret:

"Rotterdam?it is a lie. We but take him to our Stadthouse."

Theytook him away on horsebackon the road to Rotterdam; andafter adozen haltsand by sly detoursto Tergou. Just outside the townthey were met by a rude vehicle covered with canvas. Gerard was putinto thisand about five in the evening was secretly conveyed intothe prison of the Stadthouse. He was taken up several flights ofstairs and thrust into a small room lighted only by a narrow windowwith a vertical iron bar. The whole furniture was a huge oak chest.

Imprisonmentin that age was one of the highroads to death. It is horrible in itsmildest form; but in those days it implied coldunbroken solitudetorturestarvationand often poison. Gerard felt he was in thehands of an enemy.

"Ohthe look that man gave me on the road to Rotterdam. There is morehere than my father's wrath. I doubt I shall see no more the light ofday." And he kneeled down and commended his soul to God.

Presentlyhe rose and sprang at the iron bar of the windowand clutched it.This enabled him to look out by pressing his knees against the wall.It was but for a minute; but in that minute he saw a sight such asnone but a captive can appreciate.

MartinWittenhaagen's back.

Martinwas sittingquietly fishing in the brook near the Stadthouse.

Gerardsprang again at the windowand whistled. Martin instantly showedthat he was watching much harder than fishing. He turned hastilyround and saw Gerard - made him a signaland taking up his line andbowwent quickly off.

Gerardsaw by this that his friends were not idle: yet had rather Martin hadstayed. The very sight of him was a comfort. He held onlooking atthe soldier's retiring form as long as he couldthen falling backsomewhat heavily. wrenched the rusty iron barheld only by rustynailsaway from the stone-work just as Ghysbrecht Van Swieten openedthe door stealthily behind him. The burgomaster's eye fell instantlyon the ironand then glanced at the window; but he said nothing. Thewindow was a hundred feet from the ground; and if Gerard had a fancyfor jumping outwhy should he balk it? He brought a brown loaf and apitcher of waterand set them on the chest in solemn silence.Gerard's first impulse was to brain him with the iron bar and flydown the stairs; but the burgomaster seeing something wicked in hiseye. gave a little coughand three stout fellowsarmedshowedthemselves directly at the door.

"Myorders are to keep you thus until you shall bind yourself by an oathto leave Margaret Brandtand return to the Churchto which you havebelonged from your cradle."

"Deathsooner."

"Withall my heart." And the burgomaster retired.

Martinwent with all speed to Sevenbergen; there he found Margaret pale andagitatedbut full of resolution and energy. She was just finishing aletter to the Countess Charoloisappealing to her against theviolence and treachery of Ghysbrecht.

"Courage!"cried Martin on entering. "I have found him. He is in thehaunted towerright at the top of it. AyI know the place: many apoor fellow has gone up there straightand come down feet foremost."

Hethen told them how he had looked up and seen Gerard's face at awindow that was like a slit in the wall.

"OhMartin! how did he look?"

"Whatmean you? He looked like Gerard Eliassoen."

"Butwas he pale?"

"Alittle."

"Lookedhe anxious? Looked he like one doomed?"

"Naynay; as bright as a pewter pot."

"Youmock me. Stay! then that must have been at sight of you. He counts onus. Ohwhat shall we do? Martingood friendtake this at once toRotterdam."

Martinheld out his hand for the letter.

Peterhad sat silent all this timebut ponderingand yetcontrary tocustomkeenly attentive to what was going on around him.

"Putnot your trust in princes" said he.

"Alas!what else have we to trust in?"

"Knowledge."

"Well-a-dayfather!your learning will not serve us here."

"Howknow you that? Wit has been too strong for iron bars ere to-day.

"Ayfather; but nature is stronger than witand she is against us. Thinkof the height! No ladder in Holland might reach him."

"Ineed no ladder; what I need is a gold crown."

"NayI have moneyfor that matter. I have nine angels. Gerard gave themme to keep; but what do they avail? The burgomaster will not bebribed to let Gerard free."

"Whatdo they avail? Give me but one crownand the young man shall supwith us this night."

Peterspoke so eagerly and confidentlythat for a moment Margaret felthopeful; but she caught Martin's eye dwelling upon him with anexpression of benevolent contempt.

"Itpasses the powers of man's invention" said shewith a deepsigh.

"Invention!"cried the old man. "A fig for invention. What need we inventionat this time of day? Everything has been said that is to be saidanddone that ever will be done. I shall tell you how a Florentine knightwas shut up in a tower higher than Gerard's; yet did his faithfulsquire stand at the tower foot and get him outwith no other enginethan that in your handMartinand certain kickshaws I shall buy fora crown."

Martinlooked at his bowand turned it round in his handand seemed tointerrogate it. But the examination left him as incredulous asbefore.

ThenPeter told them his storyhow the faithful squire got the knight outof a high tower at Brescia. The manoeuvrelike most things that arereally scientificwas so simple. that now their wonder was they hadtaken for impossible what was not even difficult.

Theletter never went to Rotterdam. They trusted to Peter's learning andtheir own dexterity.

Itwas nine o'clock on a clear moonlight night; Gerardseniorwasstill away; the rest of his little family had been some time abed.

Afigure stood by the dwarf's bed. It was whiteand the moonlightshone on it.

Withan unearthly noisebetween a yell and a snarlthe gymnast rolledoff his bed and under it by a single unbroken movement. A soft voicefollowed him in his retreat.

"WhyGilesare you afeard of me?"

AtthisGiles's head peeped cautiously upand he saw it was only hissister Kate.

Sheput her finger to her lips. "Hush! lest the wicked Cornelis orthe wicked Sybrandt hear us." Giles's claws seized the side ofthe bedand he returned to his place by one undivided gymnastic.

Katethen revealed to Giles that she had heard Cornelis and Sybrandtmention Gerard's name; and being herself in great anxiety at his notcoming home all dayhad listened at their doorand had made afearful discovery. Gerard was in prisonin the haunted tower of theStadthouse. He was thereit seemedby their father's authority. Buthere must be some treachery; for how could their father have orderedthis cruel act? He was at Rotterdam. She ended by entreating Giles tobear her company to the foot of the haunted towerto say a word ofcomfort to poor Gerardand let him know their father was absentandwould be sure to release him on his return.

"DearGilesI would go alonebut I am afeard of the spirits that men saydo haunt the tower; but with you I shall not be afeard."

"NorI with you" said Giles. "I don't believe there are anyspirits in Tergou. I never saw one. This last was the likest one everI saw; and it was but youKateafter all."

Inless than half an hour Giles and Kate opened the housedoor cautiouslyand issued forth. She made him carry a lanternthough the night wasbright. "The lantern gives me more courage against the evilspirits" said she.

Thefirst day of imprisonment is very tryingespecially if to the horrorof captivity is added the horror of utter solitude. I observe that inour own day a great many persons commit suicide during the firsttwenty-four hours of the solitary cell. This is doubtless why ourJairi abstain so carefully from the impertinence of watching theirlittle experiment upon the human soul at that particular stage of it.

Asthe sun declinedGerard's heart too sank and sank; with the waninglight even the embers of hope went out. He was fainttoowithhunger; for he was afraid to eat the food Ghysbrecht had brought him;and hunger alone cows men. He sat upon the chesthis arms and hishead drooping before hima picture of despondency. Suddenlysomething struck the wall beyond him very sharplyand then rattledon the floor at his feet. It was an arrow; he saw the white feather.A chill ran through him - they meant then to assassinate him from theoutside. He crouched. No more missiles came. He crawled on all foursand took up the arrow; there was no head to it. He uttered a cry ofhope: had a friendly hand shot it? He took it upand felt it allover: he found a soft substance attached to it. Then one of hiseccentricities was of grand use to him. His tinder-box enabled him tostrike a light: it showed him two things that made his heart boundwith delightnone the less thrilling for being somewhat vague.Attached to the arrow was a skein of silkand on the arrow itselfwere words written.

Howhis eyes devoured themhis heart panting the while!

Wellbelovedmake fast the silk to thy knife and lower to us: but holdthine end fast: then count an hundred and draw up.

Gerardseized the oak chestand with almost superhuman energy dragged it tothe window: a moment ago he could not have moved it. Standing on thechest and looking downhe saw figures at the tower foot. They wereso indistinctthey looked like one huge form. He waved his bonnet tothem with trembling hand: then he undid the silk rapidly butcarefullyand made one end fast to his knife and lowered it till itceased to draw. Then he counted a hundred. Then pulled the silkcarefully up: it came up a little heavier. At last he came to a largeknotand by that knot a stout whipcord was attached to the silk.What could this mean? While he was puzzling himself Margaret's voicecame up to himlow but clear. "Draw upGerardtill you seeliberty." At the word Gerard drew the whipcord line upand drewand drew till he came to another knotand found a cord of somethickness take the place of the whipcord. He had no sooner begun todraw this upthan he found that he had now a heavy weight to dealwith. Then the truth suddenly flashed on himand he went to work andpulled and pulled till the perspiration rolled down him: the weightgot heavier and heavierand at last he was well-nigh exhausted:looking downhe saw in the moonlight a sight that revived him: itwas as it were a great snake coming up to him out of the deep shadowcast by the tower. He gave a shout of joyand a score more wildpullsand lo! a stout new rope touched his hand: he hauled andhauledand dragged the end into his prisonand instantly passed itthrough both handles of the chest in successionand knotted itfirmly; then sat for a moment to recover his breath and collect hiscourage. The first thing was to make sure that the chest was soundand capable of resisting his weight poised in mid-air. He jumped withall his force upon it. At the third jump the whole side burst openand out scuttled the contentsa host of parchments.

Afterthe first start and misgiving this gave himGerard comprehended thatthe chest had not burstbut opened: he had doubtless jumped uponsome secret spring. Still it shook in some degree his confidence inthe chest's powers of resistance; so he gave it an ally: he took theiron bar and fastened it with the small rope across the large ropeand across the window. He now mounted the chestand from the chestput his foot through the windowand sat half in and half outwithone hand on that part of the rope which was inside. In the silentnight he heard his own heart beat.

Thefree air breathed on his faceand gave him the courage to risk whatwe must all lose one day - for liberty. Many dangers awaited himbutthe greatest was the first getting on to the rope outside. Gerardreflected. Finallyhe put himself in the attitude of a swimmerhisbody to the waist being in the prisonhis legs outside. Then holdingthe inside rope with both handshe felt anxiously with his feet forthe outside ropeand when he had got ithe worked it in between thepalms of his feetand kept it there tight: then he uttered a shortprayerandall the calmer for itput his left hand on the sill andgradually wriggled out. Then he seized the iron barand for onefearful moment hung outside from it by his right handwhile his lefthand felt for the rope down at his knees; it was too tight againstthe wall for his fingers to get round it higher up. The moment he hadfairly grasped ithe left the barand swiftly seized the rope withthe right hand too; but in this manoeuvre his body necessarily fellabout a yard. A stifled cry came up from below. Gerard hung inmid-air. He clenched his teethand nipped the rope tight with hisfeet and gripped it with his handsand went down slowly hand belowhand. He passed by one huge rough stone after another. He saw therewas green moss on one. He looked up and he looked down. The moonshone into his prison window: it seemed very near. The flutteringfigures below seemed an awful distance. It made him dizzy to lookdown: so he fixed his eyes steadily on the wall close to himandwent slowly downdowndown.

Hepassed a rustyslimy streak on the wall: it was some ten feet long.The rope made his hands very hot. He stole another look up.

Theprison window was a good way off now.

Down- down - down - down.

Therope made his hands sore.

Helooked up. The window was so distanthe ventured now to turn hiseyes downward again; and therenot more than thirty feet below himwere Margaret and Martintheir faithful hands upstretched to catchhim should he fall. He could see their eyes and their teeth shine inthe moonlight. For their mouths were openand they were breathinghard.

"TakecareGerard ohtake care! Look not down."

"Fearme not" cried Gerard joyfullyand eyed the wallbut came downfaster.

Inanother minute his feet were at their hands. They seized him ere hetouched the groundand all three clung together in one embrace.

"Hush!away in silencedear one."

Theystole along the shadow of the wall.

Nowere they had gone many yardssuddenly a stream of light shot from anangle of the buildingand lay across their path like a barrier offireand they heard whispers and footsteps close at hand.

"Back!"hissed Martin. "Keep in the shade."

Theyhurried backpassed the dangling ropeand made for a little squareprojecting tower. They had barely rounded it when the light shottrembling past themand flickered uncertainly into the distance.

"Alantern!" groaned Martin in a whisper. "They are after us."

"Giveme my knife" whispered Gerard. "I'll never be takenalive."

"Nono!" murmured Margaret; "is there no way out where we are?"

"None!none! But I carry six lives at my shoulder;" and with the wordMartin strung his bowand fitted an arrow to the string: "inwar never wait to be struck: I will kill one or two ere they shallknow where their death comes from:" thenmotioning hiscompanions to be quiet he began to draw his bowandere the arrowwas quite drawn to the headhe glided round the corner ready toloose the string the moment the enemy should offer a mark.

Gerardand Margaret held their breath in horrible expectation: they hadnever seen a human being killed.

Andnow a wild hopebut half repressedthrilled through Gerardthatthis watchful enemy might be the burgomaster in person. The soldierhe knewwould send an arrow through a burgher or burgomasteras hewould through a boar in a wood.

Butwho may foretell the futurehowever near? The bowinstead ofremaining firmand loosing the deadly shaftwas seen to waverfirstthen shake violentlyand the stout soldier staggered back tothemhis knees knocking and his cheeks blanched with fear. He lethis arrow falland clutched Gerard's shoulder.

"Letme feel flesh and blood" he gasped. "The haunted tower!the haunted tower!"

Histerror communicated itself to Margaret and Gerard. They gasped ratherthan uttered an inquiry.

"Hush!"he cried"it will hear you. up the wall! it is going up thewall! Its head is on fire. Up the wallas mortal creatures walk upongreen sward. If you know a prayersay itfor hell is looseto-night."

"Ihave power to exorcise spirits" said Gerardtrembling. "Iwill venture forth."

"Goalone then" said Martin; "I have looked on't onceandlive.

 

CHAPTERXI

Thestrange glance of hatred the burgomaster had cast on Gerardcoupledwith his imprisonmenthad filled the young man with a persuasionthat Ghysbrecht was his enemy to the deathand he glided round theangle of the towerfully expecting to see no supernaturalappearancebut some cruel and treacherous contrivance of a bad manto do him a mischief in that prisonhis escape from which couldhardly be known.

Ashe stole fortha soft but brave hand crept into his; and Margaretwas by his sideto share this new peril.

Nosooner was the haunted tower visiblethan a sight struck their eyesthat benumbed them as they stood. More than halfway up the toweracreature with a fiery headlike an enormous glowwormwas steadilymounting the wall: the body was darkbut its outline visible throughthe glare from the headand the whole creature not much less thanfour feet long.

Atthe foot of the tower stood a thing in whitethat looked exactlylike the figure of a female. Gerard and Margaret palpitated with awe.

"Therope! the rope! It is going up the rope" gasped Gerard.

Asthey gazedthe glowworm disappeared in Gerard's late prisonbut itslight illuminated the cell inside and reddened the window. The whitefigure stood motionless below.

Suchas can retain their senses after the first prostrating effect of thesupernatural are apt to experience terror in one of its strangestformsa wild desire to fling themselves upon the terrible object. Itfascinates them as the snake the bird. The great tragedian Macreadyused to render this finely in Macbethat Banquo's second appearance.He flung himself with averted head at the horrible shadow. Thisstrange impulse now seized Margaret. She put down Gerard's handquietlyand stood bewildered; thenall in a momentwith a wildcrydarted towards the spectre. Gerardnot aware of the naturalimpulse I have spoken ofnever doubted the evil one was drawing herto her perdition. He fell on his knees.

"Exorcizovos. In nomine beatae Mariaeexorcizo vos."

Whilethe exorcist was shrieking his incantations in extremity of terrorto his infinite relief he heard the spectre utter a feeble cry offear. To find that hell had also its little weaknesses wasencouraging. He redoubled his exorcismsand presently he saw theghastly shape kneeling at Margaret's kneesand heard it prayingpiteously for mercy.

Kateand Giles soon reached the haunted tower. Judge their surprise whenthey found a new rope dangling from the prisoner's window to theground.

"Isee how it is" said the inferior intelligencetaking facts asthey came. "Our Gerard has come down this rope. He has gotclear. Up I goand see."

"NoGilesno!" said the superior intelligenceblinded byprejudice. "See you not this is glamour? This rope is a line theevil one casts out to wile thee to destruction. He knows theweaknesses of all our hearts; he has seen how fond you are of goingup things. Where should our Gerard procure a rope? how fasten it inthe sky like this? It is not in nature. Holy saints protect us thisnightfor hell is abroad."

"Stuff!"said the dwarf; "the way to hell is downand this rope leadsup. I never had the luck to go up such a long rope. It may be yearsere I fall in with such a long rope all ready for me. As well beknocked on the head at once as never know happiness."

Andhe sprung on to the rope with a cry of delight. as a cat jumps with amew on to a table where fish is. All the gymnast was on fire; and theonly concession Kate could gain from him was permission to fasten thelantern on his neck first.

"Alight scares the ill spirits" said she.

Andsowith his huge armsand his legs like feathersGiles went up therope faster than his brother came down it. The light at the nape ofhis neck made a glowworm of him. His sister watched his progresswith trembling anxiety. Suddenly a female figure started out of thesolid masonry. and came flying at her with more than mortal velocity.

Kateuttered a feeble cry. It was all she couldfor her tongue clove toher palate with terror. Then she dropped her crutchesand sank uponher kneeshiding her face and moaning:

"Takemy bodybut spare my soul!"

Margaret(panting). "Whyit is a woman!"

Kate(quivering). "Whyit is a woman!"

Margaret."How you scared me!"

Kate."I am scared enough myself. Oh! oh! oh!"

"Thisis strange! But the fiery-headed thing? Yet it was with you. and youare harmless! But why are you here at this time of night?"

"Nay.why are YOU?"

"Perhapswe are on the same errand? Ah! you are his good sisterKate!"

"Andyou are Margaret Brandt."

"Yes.

"Allthe better. You love him; you are here. Then Giles was right. He haswon free."

Gerardcame forwardand put the question at rest. But all furtherexplanation was cut short by a horrible unearthly noiselike asepulchre ventriloquizing:

"PARCHMENT!- PARCHMENT! - PARCHMENT!"

Ateach repetitionit rose in intensity. They looked up. and there wasthe dwarfwith his hands full of parchmentsand his face lightedwith fiendish joy and lurid with diabolical fire. The light being athis necka more infernal "transparency" never startledmortal eye. With the wordthe awful imp hurled parchment at theastonished heads below. Down came recordslike wounded wild-ducks;some collapsedothers flutteringand others spread out and wheelingslowly down in airy circles. They had hardly settledwhen again thesepulchral roar was heard - "Parchment -parchment!" anddown pattered and sailed another flock of documents: anotherfollowed: they whitened the grass. Finallythe fire-headed impwithhis light body and horny handsslid down the rope like a fallingstarand (business before sentiment) proposed to his rescued brotheran immediate settlement for the merchandise he had just delivered.

"Hush!"said Gerard; "you speak too loud. Gather them up. and follow usto a safer place than this."

"Willyou come home with meGerard?" said little Kate.

"Ihave no home."

"Youshall not say so. Who is more welcome than you will beafter thiscruel wrongto your father's house?

"Father!I have no father" said Gerard sternly. "He that was myfather is turned my gaoler. I have escaped from his hands; I willnever come within their reach again."

"Anenemy did thisand not our father."

Andshe told him what she had overheard Cornelis and Sybrandt say. Butthe injury was too recent to be soothed. Gerard showed a bitternessof indignation he had hitherto seemed incapable of.

"Cornelisand Sybrandt are two ill curs that have shown me their teeth andtheir heart a long while; but they could do no more. My father it isthat gave the burgomaster authority. or he durst not have laid afinger on methat am a free burgher of this town. So be itthen. Iwas his son. I am his prisoner. He has played his part. I shall playmine. Farewell the burgh where I was bornand lived honestly and wasput in prison. While there is another town left in creationI'llnever trouble you againTergou."

"Oh!Gerard! Gerard!"

Margaretwhispered her: "Do not gainsay him now. Give his choler time tocool!"

Kateturned quickly towards her. "Let me look at your face?" Theinspection was favourableit seemedfor she whispered: "It isa comely faceand no mischief-maker's."

"Fearme not" said Margaretin the same tone. "I could not behappy without your loveas well as Gerard's."

"Theseare comfortable words" sobbed Kate. Thenlooking upshe said"I little thought to like you so well. My heart is willingbutmy infirmity will not let me embrace you."

Atthis hintMargaret wound gently round Gerard's sisterand kissedher lovingly.

"Oftenhe has spoken of you to meKate; and often I longed for this."

"YoutooGerard" said Kate; "kiss me ere you go; for my heartlies heavy at parting with you this night."

Gerardkissed herand she went on her crutches home. The last thing theyheard of her was a little patient sigh. Then the tears came and stoodthick in Margaret's eyes. But Gerard was a manand noticed not hissister's sigh.

Asthey turned to go to Sevenbergenthe dwarf nudged Gerard with hisbundle of parchments and held out a concave claw.

Margaretdissuaded Gerard. "Why take what is not ours?"

"Ohspoil an enemy how you can."

"Butmay they not make this a handle for fresh violence?"

"Howcan they? Think you I shall stay in Tergou after this? Theburgomaster robbed me of my liberty; I doubt I should take his lifefor itif I could."

"Ohfie! Gerard."

"What!Is life worth more than liberty? WellI can't take his lifeso Itake the first thing that comes to hand."

Hegave Giles a few small coinswith which the urchin was gladdenedand shuffled after his sister. Margaret and Gerard were speedilyjoined by Martinand away to Sevenbergen.

 

CHAPTERXII

GhysbrechtVan Swieten kept the key of Gerard's prison in his pouch. He waitedtill ten of the clock ere he visited for he said to himself"Alittle hunger sometimes does well it breaks 'em." At ten hecrept up the stairs with a loaf and pitcherfollowed by his trustyservant well armed. Ghysbrecht listened at the door. There was nosound inside. A grim smile stole over his features. "By thistime he will be as down-hearted as Albert Koestein was" thoughthe. He opened the door.

NoGerard.

Ghysbrechtstood stupefied.

Althoughhis face was not visiblehis body seemed to lose all motion in sopeculiar a wayand then after a little he fell trembling sothatthe servant behind him saw there was something amissand crept closeto him and peeped over his shoulder. At sight of the empty cellandthe ropeand iron barhe uttered a loud exclamation of wonder; buthis surprise doubled when his masterdisregarding all elsesuddenlyflung himself on his knees before the empty chestand felt wildlyall over it with quivering handsas if unwilling to trust his eyesin a matter so important.

Theservant gazed at him in utter bewilderment.

"Whymasterwhat is the matter?"

Ghysbrecht'spale lips worked as if he was going to answer; but they uttered nosound: his hands fell by his sideand he stared into the chest.

"Whymasterwhat avails glaring into that empty box? The lad is notthere. See here! note the cunning of the young rogue; he hath takenout the barand - "

"GONE!GONE! GONE!"

"Gone!What is goneHoly saints! he is planet-struck!"

"STOPTHIEF!" shrieked Ghysbrechtand suddenly turnedon his servantand collared himand shook him with rage. "D'ye stand thereknaveand see your master robbed? Run! fly! A hundred crowns to himthat finds it me again. Nono! 'tis in vain. Oh

fool!fool! to leave that in the same room with him. But none ever foundthe secret spring before. None ever would but he. It was to be. It isto be. Lost! lost!" and his years and infirmity now gained thebetter of his short-lived frenzyand he sank on the chest muttering"Lost! lost!"

"Whatis lostmaster?" asked the servant kindly.

"Houseand lands and good name" groaned Ghysbrechtand wrung hishands feebly.

"WHAT?"cried the servant.

Thisemphatic wordand the tone of eager curiositystruck onGhysbrecht's ear and revived his natural cunning.

"Ihave lost the town records" stammered heand he looked askantat the man like a fox caught near a hen-roost.

"Ohis that all?"

"Is'tnot enough? What will the burghers say to me? What will the burghsdo?" Then he suddenly burst out again"A hundred crowns tohim who shall recover them; allmindall that were in this box. Ifone be missingI give nothing."

"'Tisa bargainmaster: the hundred crowns are in my pouch. See you notthat where Gerard Eliassoen isthere are the pieces of sheepskin yourate so high?"

"Thatis true; that is truegood Dierich: good faithful Dierich. Allmindall that were in the chest."

"MasterI will take the constables to Gerard's houseand seize him for thetheft."

"Thetheft? ay! good; very good. It is theft. I forgot that. Soas he isa thief nowwe will put him in the dungeons belowwhere the toadsare and the rats. Dierichthat man must never see daylight again.'Tis his own fault; he must be prying. Quickquick! ere he has timeto talkyou knowtime to talk."

Inless than half an hour Dierich Brower and four constables entered thehosier's houseand demanded young Gerard of the panic-strickenCatherine.

"Alas!what has he done now?" cried she; "that boy will break myheart."

"Naydamebut a trick of youth" said Dierich. "He hath butmade off with certain skins of parchmentin a frolic doubtless butthe burgomaster is answerable to the burgh for their safe keepingsohe is in care about them; as for the youthhe will doubtless be quitfor a reprimand."

Thissmooth speech completely imposed on Catherine; but her daughter wasmore suspiciousand that suspicion was strengthened by thedisproportionate anger and disappointment Dierich showed the momenthe learned Gerard was not at homehad not been at home that night.

"Comeaway then" said he roughly. "We are wasting time." Headded vehemently"I'll find him if he is above ground."

Affectionsharpens the witsand often it has made an innocent person more thana match for the wily. As Dierich was going outKate made him asignal she would speak with him privately. He bade his men go onandwaited outside the door. She joined him.

"Hush!"said she; "my mother knows not. Gerard has left Tergou."

"How?"

"Isaw him last night."

"Ay!Where?" cried Dierich eagerly.

"Atthe foot of the haunted tower."

"Howdid he get the rope?"

"Iknow not; but this I know; my brother Gerard bade me there farewelland he is many leagues from Tergou ere this. The townyou knowwasalways unworthy of himand when it imprisoned himhe vowed never toset foot in it again. Let the burgomaster be contentthen. He hasimprisoned himand he has driven him from his birthplace and fromhis native land. What need now to rob him and us of our good name?"

Thismight at another moment have struck Dierich as good sense; but he wastoo mortified at this escape of Gerard and the loss of a hundredcrowns.

"Whatneed had he to steal?" retorted he bitterly.

"Gerardstole not the trash; he but took it to spite the burgomasterwhostole his liberty; but he shall answer to the Duke for ithe shall.As for these skins of parchment you keep such a coil aboutlook inthe nearest brook or styeand 'tis odds but you find them."

"Thinkye somistress? - think ye so?" And Dierich's eyes flashed."Mayhap you know 'tis so."

"ThisI knowthat Gerard is too good to stealand too wise to loadhimself with rubbishgoing a journey."

"Giveyou good daythen" said Dierich sharply. "The sheepskinyou scornI value it more than the skin of any in Tergou."

Andhe went off hastily on a false scent.

Katereturned into the house and drew Giles aside.

"Gilesmy heart misgives me; breathe not to a soul what I say to you. I havetold Dirk Brower that Gerard is out of Hollandbut much I doubt heis not a league from Tergou."

"Whywhere is hethen?"

"Whereshould he bebut with her he loves? But if sohe must not loiter.These be deep and dark and wicked men that seek him. GilesI seethat in Dirk Brower's eye makes me tremble. Ohwhy cannot I fly toSevenbergen and bid him away? Why am I not lusty and active likeother girls? God forgive me for fretting at His will; but I neverfelt till now what it is to be lame and weak and useless. But you arestrongdear Giles" added she coaxingly; "you are verystrong."

"YesI am strong" thundered Perpusillus; thencatching sight of hermeaning"but I hate to go on foot" he added sulkily.

"Alas!alas! who will help me if you will not? Dear Gilesdo you not loveGerard?"

"YesI like him best of the lot. I'll go to Sevenbergen on Peter Buyskenshis mule. Ask you himfor he won't lend her me."

Kateremonstrated. The whole town would follow him. It would be knownwhither he was goneand Gerard be in worse danger than before.

Gilesparried this by promising to ride out of the town the opposite wayand not turn the mule's head towards Sevenbergen till he had got ridof the curious.

Katethen assented and borrowed the mule. She charged Giles with a shortbut meaning messageand made him repeat it after her over and overtill he could say it word for word.

Gilesstarted on the muleand little Kate retiredand did the last thingnow in her power for her beloved brother - prayed on her knees longand earnestly for his safety.

 

CHAPTERXIII

Gerardand Margaret went gaily to Sevenbergen in the first flush ofrecovered liberty and successful adventure. But these soon yielded tosadder thoughts. Gerard was an escaped prisonerand liable to beretaken and perhaps punished; and therefore he and Margaret wouldhave to part for a time. Moreoverhe had conceived a hatred to hisnative place. Margaret wished him to leave the country for a whilebut at the thought of his going to Italy her heart fainted. Gerardon the contrary. was reconciled to leaving Margaret only by hisdesire to visit Italyand his strong conviction that there he shouldearn money and reputationand remove every obstacle to theirmarriage. He had already told her all that the demoiselle Van Eyckhad said to him. He repeated itand reminded Margaret that the goldpieces were only given him to go to Italy with. The journey wasclearly for Gerard's interest. He was a craftsman and an artistlostin this boorish place. In Italy they would know how to value him. Onthis ground above all the unselfish girl gave her consent; but manytender tears came with itand at that Gerardyoung and loving asherselfcried bitterly with herand often they asked one anotherwhat they had donethat so many different persons should be theirenemiesand combineas it seemedto part them.

Theysat hand in hand till midnightnow deploring their hard fatenowdrawing bright and hopeful pictures of the futurein the midst ofwhich Margaret's tears would suddenly flowand then poor Gerard'seloquence would die away in a sigh.

Themorning found them resigned to partbut neither had the courage tosay when; and much I doubt whether the hour of parting ever wouldhave struck.

Butabout three in the afternoonGileswho had made a circuit of manymiles to avoid suspicionrode up to the door. They both ran out tohimeager with curiosity.

"BrotherGerard" cried hein his tremendous tones"Kate bids yourun for your life. They charge you with theft; you have given them ahandle. Think not to explain. Hope not for justice in Tergou. Theparchments you tookthey are but a blind. She hath seen your deathin the men's eyes; a price is on your head. Fly! For Margaret's sakeand all who love youloiter not life awaybut fly!"

Itwas a thunder-clapand left two white faces looking at one anotherand at the terrible messenger.

ThenGileswho had hitherto but uttered by rote what Catherine bade himput in a word of his own.

"Allthe constables were at our house after youand so was Dirk Brower.Kate is wiseGerard. Best give ear to her redeand fly!"

"OhyesGerard" cried Margaret wildly. "Fly on the instant.Ah! those parchments; my mind misgave me: why did I let you takethem?"

"Margaretthey are but a blind: Giles says so. No matter: the old caitiff shallnever see them again; I will not go till I have hidden his treasurewhere he shall never find it." Gerard thenafter thanking Gileswarmlybade him farewelland told him to go back and tell Kate hewas gone. "For I shall be gone ere you reach home" saidhe. He then shouted for Martin; and told him what had happened. andbegged him to go a little way towards Tergouand watch the road.

"Ay!"said Martin"and if I see Dirk Brower or any of his menI willshoot an arrow into the oak-tree that is in our garden; and on thatyou must run into the forest hard byand meet me at the weirdhunter's spring. Then I will guide you through the wood."

Surprisethus provided againstGerard breathed again. He went with Margaretand while she watched the oak-tree tremblinglyfearing every momentto see an arrow strike among the branchesGerard dug a deep hole tobury the parchments in.

Hethrew them inone by one. They were nearly all charters and recordsof the burgh; but one appeared to be a private deed between FlorisBrandtfather of Peterand Ghysbrecht.

"Whythis is as much yours as his" said Gerard. "I will readthis."

"Ohnot nowGerardnot now" cried Margaret. "Every momentyou lose fills me with fear; and seelarge drops of rain arebeginning to falland the clouds lower."

Gerardyielded to this remonstrance; but he put the deed into his bosomandthrew the earth in over the othersand stamped it down. While thusemployed there came a flash of lightning followed by a peal ofdistant thunderand the rain came down heavily. Margaret and Gerardran into the housewhither they were speedily followed by Martin.

"Theroad is clear" said he"and a heavy storm coming on."

Hiswords proved true. The thunder came nearer and nearer till it crashedoverhead: the flashes followed one another closelike the strokes ofa whipand the rain fell in torrents. Margaret hid her face not tosee the lightning. On thisGerard put up the rough shutter andlighted a candle. The lovers consulted togetherand Gerard blessedthe storm that gave him a few hours more with Margaret. The sun setunperceivedand still the thunder pealedand the lightning flashedand the rain poured. Supper was set; but Gerard and Margaret couldnot eat: the thought that this was the last time they should suptogether choked them. The storm lulled a little. Peter retired torest. But Gerard was to go at peep of dayand neither he norMargaret could afford to lose an hour in sleep. Martin sat a whiletoo; for he was fitting a new string to his bowa matter in which hewas very nice.

Thelovers murmured their sorrows and their love beside him.

Suddenlythe old man held up his hand to them to be silent.

Theywere quiet and listenedand heard nothing. But the next moment afootstep crackled faintly upon the autumn leaves that lay strewn inthe garden at the back door of the house. To those who had nothing tofear such a step would have said nothing; but to those who hadenemies it was terrible. For it was a foot trying to be noiseless.

Martinfitted an arrow to his string and hastily blew out the candle. Atthis momentto their horrorthey heard more than one footstepapproach the other door of the cottagenot quite so noiselessly asthe otherbut very stealthily - and then a dead pause.

Theirblood froze in their veins.

OhKateohKate! You said fly on the instant." And Margaretmoaned and wrung her hands in anguish and terror and wild remorse forhaving kept Gerard.

"Hushgirl!" said Martinin a stern whisper.

Aheavy knock fell on the door.

Andon the hearts within.

 

CHAPTERXIV

Asif this had been a concerted signalthe back door was struck asrudely the next instant. They were hemmed in. But at these alarmingsounds Margaret seemed to recover some share of self-possession. Shewhispered"Say he was herebut is gone." And with thisshe seized Gerard and almost dragged him up the rude steps that ledto her father's sleeping-room. Her own lay next beyond it.

Theblows on the door were repeated.

"Whoknocks at this hour?"

"Openand you will see!"

"Iopen not to thieves - honest men are all abed now."

"Opento the lawMartin Wittenhaagenor you shall rue it."

"Whythat is Dirk Brower's voiceI trow. What make you so far fromTergou?"

"Openand you will know."

Martindrew the bolt very slowlyand in rushed Dierich and four more. Theylet in their companion who was at the back door.

"NowMartinwhere is Gerard Eliassoen?"

"GerardEliassoen? Whyhe was here but now!"

"Washere?" Dierich's countenance fell. "And where is he now?"

"Theysay he has gone to Italy. Whywhat is to do?"

"Nomatter. When did he go? Tell me not that he went in such a storm asthis!"

"Hereis a coil about Gerard Eliassoen" said Martin contemptuously.Then he lighted the candleand seating himself coolly by the fireproceeded to whip some fine silk round his bow-string at the placewhere the nick of the arrow frets it.

"I'lltell you" said he carelessly. "Know you his brother Giles?- a little misbegotten impall head and arms? Wellhe came tearingover here on a muleand bawled out somethingI was too far off tohear the creature's wordsbut only its noise. Any wayhe startedGerard. For as soon as he was gonethere was such crying andkissingand then Gerard went away. They do tell me he has gone toItaly - mayhap you know where that isfor I don't."

Dierich'scountenance fell lower and lower at this account. There was no flawin itA cunninger man than Martin would perhaps have told a lie toomany and raised suspicion. But Martin did his task well. He only toldthe one falsehood he was bade to telland of his own head inventednothing.

"Mates"said Dierich"I doubt he speaks sooth. I told the burgomasterhow 'twould be. He met the dwarf galloping Peter Buyskens's mule fromSevenbergen. 'They have sent that imp to Gerard' says he"'sothenGerard is at Sevenbergen.' 'Ahmaster!' says I''tis too latenow. We should have thought of Sevenbergen beforeinstead of wastingour time hunting all the odd corners of Tergou for those cursedparchments that we shall never find till we find the man that took'em. If he was at Sevenbergen' quoth I'and they sent the dwarf tohimit must have been to warn him we are after him. He is leaguesaway by now' quoth I. Confound that chalk-faced girl! she hasoutwitted us bearded men; and so I told the burgomasterbut he wouldnot hear reason. A wet jerkin apiecethat is all we shall getmatesby this job."

Martingrinned coolly in Dierich's face.

"However"added the latter"to content the burgomasterwe will searchthe house."

Martinturned grave directly.

Thischange of countenance did not escape Dierich. He reflected a moment.

"Watchoutside two of youone on each side of the housethat no one jumpfrom the upper windows. The rest come with me."

Andhe took the candle and mounted the stairsfollowed by three of hiscomrades.

Martinwas left alone.

Thestout soldier hung his head. All had gone so well at first; and nowthis fatal turn! Suddenly it occurred to him that all was not yetlost. Gerard must be either in Peter's room or Margaret's; they werenot so very high from the ground. Gerard would leap out. Dierich hadleft a man below; but what then? For half a minute Gerard and hewould be two to oneand in that brief spacewhat might not be done?

Martinthen held the back door ajar and watched. The light shone in Peter'sroom. "Curse the fool!" said he"is he going to letthem take him like a girl?"

Thelight now passed into Margaret's bedroom. Still no window was opened.Had Gerard intended to escape that wayhe would not have waited tillthe men were in the room. Martin saw that at onceand left the doorand came to the foot-stair and listened.

Hebegan to think Gerard must have escaped by the window while all themen were in the house. The longer the silence continuedthe strongergrew this conviction. But it was suddenly and rudely dissipated.

Faintcries issued from the inner bedroom - Margaret's.

"Theyhave taken him" groaned Martin; "they have got him."

Itnow flashed across Martin's mind that if they took Gerard awayhislife was not worth a button; and thatif evil befell himMargaret'sheart would break. He cast his eyes wildly round like some savagebeast seeking an escapeand in a twinkling formed a resolutionterribly characteristic of those iron times and of a soldier drivento bay. He stepped to each door in turnand imitating DierichBrower's voicesaid sharply"Watch the window!" He thenquietly closed and bolted both doors. He then took up his bow and sixarrows; one he fitted to his stringthe others he put into hisquiver. His knife he placed upon a chair behind himthe hilt towardshim; and there he waited at the foot of the stair with the calmdetermination to slay those four menor be slain by them. Twoheknewhe could dispose of by his arrowsere they could get near himand Gerard and he must take their chance hand-to-hand with theremaining pair. Besideshe had seen men panic-stricken by a suddenattack of this sort. Should Brower and his men hesitate but aninstant before closing with himhe should shoot three instead oftwoand then the odds would be on the right side.

Hehad not long to wait. The heavy steps sounded in Margaret's roomandcame nearer and nearer.

Thelight also approachedand voices.

Martin'sheartstout as it wasbeat hardto hear men coming thus to theirdeathand perhaps to his; more likely so than not: for four is longodds in a battlefield of ten feet square. and Gerard might be boundperhapsand powerless to help. But this manwhom we have seen shakein his shoes at a Giles-o'-lanthornnever wavered in this awfulmoment of real dangerbut stood therehis body all braced forcombatand his eye glowingequally ready to take life and lose it.Desperate game! to win which was exile instant and for lifeand tolose it was to die that moment upon that floor he stood on.

DierichBrower and his men found Peter in his first sleep. They opened hiscupboardsthey ran their knives into an alligator he had nailed tohis wall; they looked under his bed: it was a large roomandapparently full of hiding-placesbut they found no Gerard.

Thenthey went on to Margaret's roomand the very sight of it wasdiscouraging - it was small and bareand not a cupboard in it; therewashowevera large fireplace and chimney. Dierich's eye fell onthese directly. Here they found the beauty of Sevenbergen sleeping onan old chest not a foot highand no attempt made to cover it; butthe sheets were snowy whiteand so was Margaret's own linen. Andthere she laylooking like a lily fallen into a rut.

Presentlyshe awokeand sat up in the bedlike one amazed; thenseeing themenbegan to scream faintlyand pray for mercy.

Shemade Dierich Brower ashamed of his errand.

"Hereis a to-do" said hea little confused. "We are not goingto hurt youmy pretty maid. Lie you stilland shut your eyesandthink of your wedding-nightwhile I look up this chimney to see ifMaster Gerard is there."

"Gerard!in my room?"

"Whynot? They say that you and he - "

"Cruel!you know they have driven him away from me - driven him from hisnative place. This is a blind. You are thieves; you are wicked men;you are not men of Sevenbergenor you would know Margaret Brandtbetter than to look for her lover in this room of all others in theworld. Ohbrave! Four great hulking men to comearmed to the teethto insult one poor honest girl! The women that live in your ownhouses must be naughtor you would respect them too much to insult agirl of good character."

"There!come awaybefore we hear worse" said Dierich hastily. "Heis not in the chimney. Plaster will mend what a cudgel breaks; but awoman's tongue is a double-edged daggerand a girl is a woman withher mother's milk still in her." And he beat a hasty retreat. "Itold the burgomaster how 'twould be."

 

CHAPTERXV

Whereis the woman that cannot act a part? Where is she who will not do itand do it wellto save the man she loves? Nature on these greatoccasions comes to the aid of the simplest of the sexand teachesher to throw dust in Solomon's eyes. The men had no sooner retiredthan Margaret stepped out of bedand opened the long chest on whichshe had been lying down in her skirt and petticoat and stockingsandnightdress over all; and put the lidbed-clothes and allagainstthe wall: then glided to the door and listened. The footsteps diedaway through her father's room and down the stairs.

Nowin that chest there was a peculiarity that it was almost impossiblefor a stranger to detect. A part of the boarding of the room had beenbrokenand Gerard being applied to to make it look neaterand beingshort of materialshad ingeniously sawed away a space sufficientjust to admit Margaret's soi-disant bedand with the materials thusacquired he had repaired the whole room. As for the bed or chestitreally rested on the rafters a foot below the boards. Consequently itwas full two feet deepthough it looked scarce one.

Allwas quiet. Margaret kneeled and gave thanks to Heaven. Then sheglided from the door and leaned over the chestand whisperedtenderly"Gerard!'

Gerarddid not reply.

Shethen whispered a little louder"Gerardall is safethankHeaven! You may rise; but oh! be cautious!"

Gerardmade no reply.

Shelaid her hand upon his shoulder - "Gerard!"

Noreply.

"Ohwhat is this?" she criedand her hands ran wildly over his faceand his bosom. She took him by the shoulders; she shook him; shelifted him; but he escaped from her trembling handsand fell backnot like a manbut like a body. A great dread fell on her. The lidhad been down. She had lain upon it. The men had been some time inthe room. With all the strength of frenzy she tore him out of thechest. She bore him in her arms to the window. She dashed the windowopen. The sweet air came in. She laid him in it and in the moonlight.His face was the colour of ashes; his body was all limp andmotionless. She felt his heart. Horror! it was as still as the rest!Horror of horrors! she had stifled him with her own body.

Themind cannot all at once believe so great and sudden and strange acalamity. Gerardwho had got alive into that chest scarce fiveminutes agohow could he be dead?

Shecalled him by all the endearing names that heart could think ortongue could frame. She kissed him and fondled him and coaxed him andimplored him to speak to her.

Noanswer to words of lovesuch as she had never uttered to him beforenor thought she could utter. Then the poor creaturetrembling alloverbegan to say over that ashy face little foolish things thatwere at once terrible and pitiable.

"OhGerard! I am very sorry you are dead. I am very sorry I have killedyou. Forgive me for not letting the men take you; it would have beenbetter than this. OhGerard! I am veryvery sorry for what I havedone." Then she began suddenly to rave.

"No!no! such things can't beor there is no God. It is monstrous. Howcan my Gerard be dead? How can I have killed my Gerard? I love him.OhGod! you know how I love him. He does not. I never told him. Ifhe knew my hearthe would speak to mehe would not be so deaf tohis poor Margaret. It is all a trick to make me cry out and betrayhim; but no! I love him too well for that. I'll choke first."And she seized her own throatto check her wild desire to scream inher terror and anguish.

"Ifhe would but say one word. OhGerard! don't die without a word. Havemercy on me and scold mebut speak to me: if you are angry with mescold me! curse me! I deserve it: the idiot that killed the man sheloved better than herself. Ah I am a murderess. The worst in all theworld. Help! help! I have murdered him. Ah! ah! ah! ah! ah!"

Shetore her hairand uttered shriek after shriekso wildso piercingthey fell like a knell upon the ears of Dierich Brower and his men.All started to their feet and looked at one another.

 

CHAPTERXVI

MartinWittenhaagenstanding at the foot of the stairs with his arrow drawnnearly to the head and his knife behind himwas struck withamazement to see the men come back without Gerard: he lowered his bowand looked open-mouthed at them. Theyfor their partwere equallypuzzled at the attitude they had caught him in.

"Whymateswas the old fellow making ready to shoot at us?"

"Stuff!"said Martinrecovering his stolid composure; "I was but tryingmy new string. There! I'll unstring my bowif you think that."

"Humph!"said Dierich suspiciously"there is something more in you thanI understand: put a log onand let us dry our hides a bit ere wego."

Ablazing fire was soon madeand the men gathered round itand theirclothes and long hair were soon smoking from the cheerful blaze. Thenit was that the shrieks were heard in Margaret's room. They allstarted upand one of them seized the candle and ran up the stepsthat led to the bedrooms.

Martinrose hastily tooand being confused by these sudden screamsandapprehending danger from the man's curiositytried to prevent himfrom going there.

Atthis Dierich threw his arms round him from behindand called on theothers to keep him. The man that had the candle got clear awayandall the rest fell upon Martinand after a long and fierce strugglein the course of which they were more than once all rolling on thefloorwith Martin in the middlethey succeeded in mastering the oldSamsonand binding him hand and foot with a rope they had broughtfor Gerard.

Martingroaned aloud. He saw the man had made his way to Margaret's roomduring the struggleand here was he powerless.

"Aygrind your teethyou old rogue" said Dierichpanting with thestruggle. "You shan't use them."

"Itis my beliefmatesthat our lives were scarce safe while this oldfellow's bones were free."

"Hemakes me think this Gerard is not far off" put in another.

"Nosuch luck" replied Dierich. "Hallomates. Jorian Ketel isa long time in that girl's bedroom. Best go and see after himsomeof us."

Therude laugh caused by this remark had hardly subsidedwhen hastyfootsteps were heard running along over head.

"Ohhere he comesat last. WellJorianwhat is to do now up there

 

CHAPTERXVII

JorianKetel went straight to Margaret's roomand thereto his infinitesurprisehe found the man he had been in search ofpale andmotionlesshis head in Margaret's lapand she kneeling over himmute nowand stricken to stone. Her eyes were dilated yet glazedand she neither saw the light nor heard the mannor cared foranything on earthbut the white face in her lap.

Jorianstood awe-struckthe candle shaking in his hand.

"Whywhere was hethenall the time?"

Margaretheeded him not. Jorian went to the empty chest and inspected it. Hebegan to comprehend. The girl's dumb and frozen despair moved him.

"Thisis a sorry sight" said he; "it is a black night's work:all for a few skins! Better have gone with us than so. She is pastanswering mepoor wench. Stop! let us try whether - "

Hetook down a little round mirrorno bigger than his handand put itto Gerard's mouth and nostrilsand held it there. When he withdrewitit was dull.

"THEREIS LIFE IN HIM!" said Jorian Ketel to himself.

Margaretcaught the words instantlythough only mutteredand it was if astatue should start into life and passion. She rose and flung herarms round Jorian's neck.

"Ohbless the tongue that tells me so!" and she clasped the greatrough fellow again and againeagerlyalmost fiercely.

"Therethere! let us lay him warmsaid Jorian; and in a moment he raisedGerard and laid him on the bed-clothes. Then he took out a flask hecarriedand filled his hand twice with Schiedamzeand flung itsharply each time in Gerard's face. The pungent liquor co-operatedwith his recovery - he gave a faint sigh. Ohnever was sound sojoyful to human ear! She flew towards himbut then stoppedquivering for fear she should hurt him. She had lost all confidencein herself.

"Thatis right - let him alone" said Jorian; "don't go cuddlinghim as you did meor you'll drive his breath back again. Let himalone: he is sure to come to. 'Tisn't like as if he was an old man."

Gerardsighed deeplyand a faint streak of colour stole to his lips. Jorianmade for the door. He had hardly reached itwhen he found his legsseized from behind.

Itwas Margaret! She curled round his knees like a serpentand kissedhis handand fawned on him. "You won't tell? You have saved hislife; you have not the heart to thrust him back into his gravetoundo your own good work?"

"Nono! It is not the first time I have done you two a good turn; 'twas Itold you in the church whither we had to take him. Besideswhat isDierich Brower to me? I'll see him hanged ere I'll tell him. But Iwish you'd tell me where the parchments are! There are a hundredcrowns offered for them. That would be a good windfall for my Joanand the childrenyou know."

"Ah!they shall have those hundred crowns.

"What!are the things in the house?" asked Jorian eagerly.

"No;but I know where they are; and by God and St. Bavon I swear you shallhave them to-morrow. Come to me for them when you willbut comealone."

"Iwere made else. What! share the hundred crowns with Dirk Brower? Andnow may my bones rot in my skin if I let a soul know the poor boy ishere."

Hethen ran offlest by staying longer he should excite suspicionandhave them all after him. And Margaret kneltquivering from head tofootand prayed beside Gerard and for Gerard.

"Whatis to do?" replied Jorian to Dierich Brower's query; "whywe have scared the girl out of her wits. She was in a kind of fit."

"Wehad better all go and doctor herthen."

"Ohyes! and frighten her into the churchyard. Her father is a doctorand I have roused himand set him to bring her round. Let us see thefirewill ye?"

Hisoff-hand way disarmed all suspicion. And soon after the party agreedthat the kitchen of the "Three Kings" was much warmer thanPeter's houseand they departedhaving first untied Martin.

"Takenotematethat I was rightand the burgomaster wrong" saidDierich Brower at the door; "I said we should be too late tocatch himand we were too late."

ThusGerardin one terrible nightgrazed the prison and the grave.

Andhow did he get clear at last? Not by his cunningly contrivedhiding-placenor by Margaret's ready wit; but by a good impulse inone of his captorsby the bit of humanity left in a somewhatreckless fellow's heartaided by his desire of gain. So mixed andseemingly incongruous are human motivesso shortsighted ourshrewdest counsels.

Theywhose moderate natures or gentle fates keep themin life's passagefrom the fierce extremes of joy and anguish our nature is capable ofare perhaps the bestand certainly the happiest of mankind. But tosuch readers I should try in vain to convey what bliss unspeakablesettled now upon these persecuted loversEven to those who havejoyed greatly and greatly sufferedmy feeble art can present but apale reflection of Margaret's and Gerard's ecstasy.

Tosit and see a beloved face come back from the grave to the worldtohealth and beautyby swift gradations; to see the roses return tothe loved cheeklove's glance to the loved eyeand his words to theloved mouth - this was Margaret's - a joy to balance years of sorrow.It was Gerard's to awake from a tranceand find his head pillowed onMargaret's arm; to hear the woman he adored murmur new words ofeloquent loveand shower tears and tender kisses and caresses onhim. He never knewtill this sweet momenthow ardentlyhowtenderlyshe loved him. He thanked his enemies. They wreathed theirarms sweetly round each otherand trouble and danger seemed a worldan age behind them. They called each other husband and wife. Werethey not solemnly betrothed? And had they not stood before the altartogether? Was not the blessing of Holy Church upon their union? - hercurse on all who would part them?

Butas no woman's nerves can bear with impunity so terrible a strain.presently Margaret turned faintand sank on Gerard's shouldersmiling feeblybut quitequite unstrung. Then Gerard was anxiousand would seek assistance. But she held him with a gentle graspandimplored him not to leave her for a moment.

"WhileI can lay my hand on youI feel you are safenot else. FoolishGerard! nothing ails me. I am weakdearestbut happyoh! sohappy!"

Thenit was Gerard's turn to support that dear headwith its great wavesof hair flowing loose over himand nurse herand soothe herquivering on his bosomwith soft encouraging words and murmurs ofloveand gentle caresses. Sweetest of all her charms is a woman'sweakness to a manly heart.

Poorthings! they were happy. To-morrow they must part. But that wasnothing to them now. They had seen Deathand all other troublesseemed light as air. While there is life there is hope; while thereis hope there is joy. Separation for a year or twowhat was it tothemwho were so youngand had caught a glimpse of the grave? Thefuture was brightthe present was Heaven: so passed the blissfulhours.

Alas!their innocence ran other risks besides the prison and the grave.They were in most danger from their own hearts and theirinexperiencenow that visible danger there was none.

 

CHAPTERXVIII

GhysbrechtVan Swieten could not sleep all night for anxiety. He was afraid ofthunder and lightningor he would have made one of the party thatsearched Peter's house. As soon as the storm ceased altogetherhecrept downstairssaddled his muleand rode to the "ThreeKings" at Sevenbergen. There he found his men sleepingsome onthe chairssome on the tablessome on the floor. He roused themfuriouslyand heard the story of their unsuccessful searchinterlarded with praises of their zeal.

"Fool!to let you go without me" cried the burgomaster. "My lifeon't he was there all the time. Looked ye under the girl's bed?"

"No;there was no room for a man there."

"Howknow ye thatif ye looked not?" snarled Ghysbrecht. "Yeshould have looked under her bedand in it tooand sounded all thepanels with your knives. Comenowget upand I shall show ye howto search."

DierichBrower got up and shook himself. "If you find himcall me ahorse and no man.

Ina few minutes Peter's house was again surrounded.

Thefiery old man left his mule in the hands of Jorian KetelandwithDierich Brower and the othersentered the house.

Thehouse was empty.

Nota creature to be seennot even Peter. They went upstairsand thensuddenly one of the men gave a shoutand pointed through Peter'swindowwhich was open. The others lookedand thereat some littledistancewalking quietly across the fields with Margaret and Martinwas the man they sought. Ghysbrechtwith an exulting yelldescendedthe stairs and flung himself on his mule; and he and his men set offin hot pursuit.

 

CHAPTERXIX

Gerardwarned by recent perilrose before daybreak and waked Martin. Theold soldier was astonished. He thought Gerard had escaped by thewindow last night. Being consulted as to the best way for him toleave the country and elude pursuithe said there was but one roadsafe. "I must guide you through the great forest to abridle-road I know of. This will take you speedily to a hostelrywhere they will lend you a swift horse; and then a day's gallop willtake you out of Holland. But let us start ere the folk here quittheir beds."

Peter'shouse was but a furlong and a half from the forest. They startedMartin with his bow and three arrowsfor it was Thursday; Gerardwith nothing but a stout oak staff Peter gave him for the journey.

Margaretpinned up her kirtle and farthingalefor the road was wet. Peterwent as far as his garden hedge with themand then with more emotionthan he often bestowed on passing eventsgave the young man hisblessing.

Thesun was peeping above the horizon as they crossed the stony field andmade for the wood. They had crossed about halfwhen Margaretwhokept nervously looking back every now and thenuttered a cryandfollowing her instinctbegan to run towards the woodscreaming withterror all the way.

Ghysbrechtand his men were in hot pursuit.

Resistancewould have been madness. Martin and Gerard followed Margaret'sexample. The pursuers gained slightly on them; but Martin keptshouting"Only win the wood! only win the wood!"

Theyhad too good a start for the men on footand their hearts boundedwith hope at Martin's wordsfor the great trees seemed now tostretch their branches like friendly arms towards themand theirleaves like a screen.

Butan unforeseen danger attacked them. The fiery old burgomaster flunghimself on his muleandspurring him to a gallophe headed not hisown men onlybut the fugitives. His object was to cut them off. Theold man came galloping in a semicircleand got on the edge of thewoodright in front of Gerard; the others might escape for aught hecared.

Margaretshriekedand tried to protect Gerard by clasping him; but he shookher off without ceremony.

Ghysbrechtin his ardour forgot that hunted animals turn on the hunter; and thattwo men can hateand two can long to kill the thing they hate.

Insteadof attempting to dodge himas the burgomaster made sure he wouldGerard flew right at himwith a savageexulting cryand struck athim with all his heartand soul and strength. The oak staff camedown on Ghysbrecht's face with a frightful crashand laid him underhis mule's tail beating the devil's tattoo with his heelshis facestreamingand his collar spattered with blood.

Thenext moment the three were in the wood. The yell of dismay andvengeance that burst from Ghysbrecht's men at that terrible blowwhich felled their leadertold the fugitives that it was now a racefor life or death.

"Whyrun?" cried Gerardpanting. "You have your bowand I havethis" and he shook his bloody staff.

"Boy!"roared Martin; "the GALLOWS! Follow me" and he fled intothe wood. Soon they heard a cry like a pack of hounds opening onsight of the game. The men were in the woodand saw them flittingamongst the trees. Margaret moaned and panted as she ran; and Gerardclenched his teeth and grasped his staff. The next minute they cameto a stiff hazel coppice. Martin dashed into itand shouldered theyoung wood aside as if it were standing corn.

Erethey had gone fifty yards in it they came to four blind paths.

Martintook one. "Bend low" said he. Andhalf creepingtheyglided along. Presently their path was again intersected with otherlittle tortuous paths. They took one of them. It seemed to lead back;but it soon took a turnandafter a whilebrought them to a thickpine grovewhere the walking was good and hard. There were no pathshere; and the young fir-trees were so thickyou could not see threeyards before your nose.

Whenthey had gone some way in thisMartin sat down; andhaving learnedin war to lose all impression of danger with the danger itselftooka piece of bread and a slice of ham out of his walletand beganquietly to eat his breakfast.

Theyoung ones looked at him with dismay. He replied to their looks.

"AllSevenbergen could not find you now; you will lose your purseGerardlong before you get to Italy; is that the way to carry a purse?"

Gerardlookedand there was a large triangular purseentangled by itschains to the buckle and strap of his wallet.

"Thisis none of mine" said he. "What is in itI wonder?"and he tried to detach it; but in passing through the coppice it hadbecome inextricably entangled in his strap and buckle. "It seemsloath to leave me" said Gerardand he had to cut it loose withhis knife. The purseon examinationproved to be well provided withsilver coins of all sizesbut its bloated appearance was greatlyowing to a number of pieces of brown paper folded and doubled. Alight burst on Gerard. "Whyit must be that old thief's; andsee! stuffed with paper to deceive the world!"

Thewonder was how the burgomaster's purse came on Gerard.

Theyhit at last upon the right solution. The purse must have been atGhysbrecht's saddle-bowand Gerard rushing at his enemyhadunconsciously torn it awaythus felling his enemy and robbing himwith a single gesture.

Gerardwas delighted at this featbut Margaret was uneasy.

"Throwit awayGerardor let Martin take it back. Already they call you athief. I cannot bear it."

"Throwit away! give it him back? not a stiver! This is spoil lawfully wonin battle from an enemy. Is it notMartin?"

"Whyof course. Send him back the brown paperand you will; but the purseor the coin - that were a sin."

"OhGerard!" said Margaret"you are going to a distant land.We need the goodwill of Heaven. How can we hope for that if we takewhat is not ours?"

ButGerard saw it in a different light.

"Itis Heaven that gives it me by a miracleand I shall cherish itaccordingly" said this pious youth. "Thus the favouredpeople spoiled the Egyptiansand were blessed."

"Takeyour own way" said Margaret humbly; "you are wiser than Iam. You are my husband" added shein a low murmuring voice; isit for me to gainsay you?"

Thesehumble words from Margaretwhotill that dayhad held thewhip-handrather surprised Martin for the moment. They recurred tohim some time afterwardsand then they surprised him less.

Gerardkissed her tenderly in return for her wife-like docility. and theypursued their journey hand in handMartin leading the wayinto thedepths of the huge forest. The farther they wentthe more absolutelysecure from pursuit they felt. Indeedthe townspeople never venturedso far as this into the trackless part of the forest.

Impetuousnatures repent quickly. Gerard was no sooner out of all danger thanhis conscience began to prick him.

"Martinwould I had not struck quite so hard."

"Whom?Oh! let that passhe is cheap served."

"MartinI saw his grey hairs as my stick fell on him. I doubt they will notfrom my sight this while."

Martingrunted with contempt. "Who spares a badger for his grey hairs?The greyer your enemy isthe older; and the older the craftier andthe craftier the better for a little killing."

"Killing?killingMartin? Speak not of killing!" and Gerard shook allover.

"Iam much mistook if you have not" said Martin cheerfully.

"NowHeaven forbid!"

"Theold vagabond's skull cracked like a walnut. Aha!"

"Heavenand the saints forbid it!"

"Herolled off his mule like a stone shot out of a cart. Said I tomyself'There is one wiped out'" and the iron old soldiergrinned ruthlessly.

Gerardfell on his knees and began to pray for his enemy's life.

Atthis Martin lost his patience. "Here's mummery. What! you thatset up for learningknow you not that a wise man never strikes hisenemy but to kill him? And what is all this coil about killing of oldmen? If it had been a young onenow. with the joys of life waitingfor himwinewomenand pillage! But an old fellow at the edge ofthe gravewhy not shove him in? Go he mustto-day or to-morrow; andwhat better place for greybeards? Nowif ever I should be somischancy as to last so long as Ghysbrecht didand have to go on amule's legs instead of Martin Wittenhaagen'sand a back like this(striking the wood of his bow)instead of this (striking thestring)I'll thank and bless any young fellow who will knock me onthe headas you have done that old shopkeeper; malison on hismemory.

"Ohculpa mea! culpa mea!" cried Gerardand smote upon his breast.

"Lookthere!" cried Martin to Margaret scornfully"he is apriest at heart still - and when he is not in ireSt. Paulwhat amilksop!"

"TushMartin!" cried Margaret reproachfully: then she wreathed herarms round Gerardand comforted him with the double magic of awoman's sense and a woman's voice.

"Sweetheart!"murmured she"you forget: you went not a step out of the way toharm himwho hunted you to your death. You fled from him. He it waswho spurred on you. Then did you strike; but in self-defence and asingle blowand with that which was in your hand. Malice had drawnknifeor struck again and again. How often have men been smittenwith staves not one but many blowsyet no lives lost! If then yourenemy has fallenit is through his own malicenot yoursand by thewill of God."

"BlessyouMargaret; bless you for thinking so!"

"Yes;butbeloved oneif you have had the misfortune to kill that wickedmanthe more need is there that you fly with haste from Holland. Ohlet us on."

"NayMargaret" said Gerard. "I fear not man's vengeancethanksto Martin here and this thick wood: only Him I fear whose eye piercesthe forest and reads the heart of man. If I but struck inself-defence'tis well; but if in hateHe may bid the avenger ofblood follow me to Italy - to Italy? ayto earth's remotest bounds."

"Hush!"said Martin peevishly. "I can't hear for your chat."

"Whatis it?"

"Doyou hear nothingMargaret; my ears are getting old."

Margaretlistenedand presently she heard a tuneful soundlike a singlestroke upon a deep ringing bell. She described it so to Martin.

"NayI heard it" said he.

"Andso did I" said Gerard; "it was beautiful. Ah! there it isagain. How sweetly it blends with the air. It is a long way off. Itis before usis it not?"

"Nono! the echoes of this wood confound the ear of a stranger. It comesfrom the pine grove."

"What!the one we passed?"

"WhyMartinis this anything? You look pale."

"Wonderful!"said Martinwith a sickly sneer. "He asks me is it anything?Comeonon! at any ratelet us reach a better place than this."

"Abetter place - for what?"

"Tostand at bayGerard" said Martin gravely; "and die likesoldierskilling three for one."

"What'sthat sound?"

"ITIS THE AVENGER OF BLOOD."

"OhMartinsave him! OhHeaven be merciful What new mysterious peril isthis?"

"GIRLIT'S A BLOODHOUND."

 

CHAPTERXX

Thecouragelike the talentof common menruns in a narrow groove.Take them but an inch out of thatand they are done. Martin'scourage was perfect as far as it went. He had met and baffled manydangers in the course of his rude lifeand these familiar dangers hecould face with Spartan fortitudealmost with indifference; but hehad never been hunted by a bloodhoundnor had he ever seen thatbrute's unerring instinct baffled by human cunning. Here then a senseof the supernatural combined with novelty to ungenteel his heart.After going a few stepshe leaned on his bowand energy and hopeoozed out of him. Gerardto whom the danger appeared slight inproportion as it was distanturged him to flight.

"Whatavails it?" said Martin sadly; "if we get clear of the woodwe shall die cheap; herehard byI know a place where we may diedear."

"Alas!good Martin" cried Gerard"despair not so quickly; theremust be some way to escape."

"OhMartin!" cried Margaret"what if we were to part company?Gerard's life alone is forfeit. Is there no way to draw the pursuiton us twain and let him go safe?"

"Girlyou know not the bloodhound's nature. He is not on this man's trackor that; he is on the track of blood. My life on't they have takenhim to where Ghysbrecht felland from the dead man's blood to theman that shed it that cursed hound will lead themthough Gerardshould run through an army or swim the Meuse." And again heleaned upon his bowand his head sank.

Thehound's mellow voice rang through the wood.
A cry moretunable
Was never halloed tonor cheered with horn
In Cretein Spartaor in Thessaly.

Strangethat things beautiful should be terrible and deadly' The eye of theboa-constrictorwhile fascinating its preyis lovely. No royalcrown holds such a jewel; it is a ruby with the emerald's green lightplaying ever upon it. Yet the deer that sees it loses all power ofmotionand tremblesand awaits his death and even soto comparehearing with sightthis sweet and mellow sound seemed to fascinateMartin Wittenhaagen. He stood uncertainbewilderedand unnerved.Gerard was little better now. Martin's last words had daunted himHehad struck an old man and shed his bloodandby means of that verybloodblood's four-footed avenger was on his track. Was not thefinger of Heaven in this?

Whilstthe men were thus benumbedthe woman's brain was all activity. Theman she loved was in danger.

"Lendme your knife" said she to Martin. He gave it her.

"But'twill be little use in your hands" said he.

ThenMargaret did a sly thing. She stepped behind Gerardand furtivelydrew the knife across her armand made it bleed freely; thenstoopingsmeared her hose and shoes; and still as the blood trickledshe smeared them; but so adroitly that neither Gerard nor Martin saw.Then she seized the soldier's arm.

"Comebe a man!" she said"and let this end. Take us to somethick placewhere numbers will not avail our foes."

"Iam going" said Martin sulkily. "Hurry avails not; wecannot shun the houndand the place is hard by;" then turningto the lefthe led the wayas men go to execution.

Hesoon brought them to a thick hazel coppicelike the one that hadfavoured their escape in the morning.

"There"said he"this is but a furlong broadbut it will serve ourturn."

"Whatare we to do?"

"Getthrough thisand wait on the other side; then as they comestraggling throughshoot threeknock two on the headand the restwill kill us."

"Isthat all you can think of?" said Gerard.

"Thatis all."

"ThenMartin WittenhaagenI take the leadfor you have lost your head.Comecan you obey so young a man as I am?"

"OhyesMartin" cried Margaret"do not gainsay Gerard! He iswiser than his years."

Martinyielded a sullen assent.

"Dothen as you see me do" said Gerard; and drawing his huge knifehe cut at every step a hazel shoot or two close by the groundandturning round twisted them breast-high behind him among the standingshoots. Martin did the samebut with a dogged hopeless air. Whenthey had thus painfully travelled through the greater part of thecoppicethe bloodhound's deep bay came nearer and nearerless andless musicallouder and sterner.

Margarettrembled.

Martinwent down on his stomach and listened.

"Ihear a horse's feet."

"No"said Gerard; "I doubt it is a mule's. That cursed Ghysbrecht isstill alive: none other would follow me up so bitterly."

"Neverstrike your enemy but to slay him" said Martin gloomily.

"I'llhit harder this timeif Heaven gives me the chance" saidGerard.

Atlast they worked through the coppiceand there was an open wood. Thetrees were largebut far apartand no escape possible that way.

Andnow with the hound's bay mingled a score of voices hooping andhallooing.

"Thewhole village is out after us" said Martin.

"Icare not" said Gerard. "ListenMartin. I have made thetrack smooth to the dogbut rough to the menthat we may deal withthem apart. Thus the hound will gain on the menand as soon as hecomes out of the coppice we must kill him"

"Thehound? There are more than one."

"Ihear but one."

"Ay!but one speaksthe others run mute; but let the leading hound losethe scentthen another shall give tongue. There will be two dogsatleastor devils in dog's hides."

"Thenwe must kill two instead of one. The moment they are deadinto thecoppice againand go right back."

"Thatis a good thoughtGerard" said Martinplucking up heart.

"Hush!the men are in the wood."

Gerardnow gave his orders in a whisper.

"Standyou with your bow by the side of the coppice - therein the ditch. Iwill go but a few yards to yon oak-treeand hide behind it; the dogswill follow meandas they come outshoot as many as you cantherest will I brain as they come round the tree."

Martin'seye flashed. They took up their places.

Thehooping and hallooing came closer and closerand soon even therustling of the young wood was heardand every now and then theunerring bloodhound gave a single bay.

Itwas terrible! the branches rustling nearer and nearerand theinevitable struggle for life and death coming on minute by minuteand that death-knell leading it. A trembling hand was laid onGerard's shoulder. It made him start violentlystrung up as he was.

"Martinsays if we are forced to part companymake for that high ash-tree wecame in by."

"Yes!yes! yes! but go back for Heaven's sake! don't come hereall out inthe open!"

Sheran back towards Martin; butere she could get to himsuddenly ahuge dog burst out of the coppiceand stood erect a moment. Margaretcowered with fearbut he never noticed her. Scent was to him whatsight is to us. He lowered his nose an instantand the next momentwith an awful yellsprang straight at Gerard's tree and rolledhead-over-heels dead as a stoneliterally spitted with an arrow fromthe bow that twanged beside the coppice in Martin's hand. That samemoment out came another hound and smelt his dead comrade. Geraldrushed out at him; but ere he could use his cudgela streak of whitelightning seemed to strike the houndand he grovelled in the dustwounded desperatelybut not killedand howling piteously.

Gerardhad not time to despatch him: the coppice rustled too near: it seemedalive. Pointing wildly to Martin to go backGerard ran a few yardsto the rightthen crept cautiously into the thick coppice just asthree men burst out. These had headed their comrades considerably:the rest were following at various distances. Gerard crawled backalmost on all-fours. Instinct taught Martin and Margaret to do thesame upon their line of retreat. Thuswithin the distance of a fewyardsthe pursuers and pursued were passing one another uponopposite tracks.

Aloud cry announced the discovery of the dead and the wounded hound.Then followed a babble of voicesstill swelling as fresh pursuersreached the spot. The huntersas usual on a surprisewere wastingtimeand the hunted ones were making the most of it.

"Ihear no more hounds" whispered Martin to Margaretand he washimself again.

Itwas Margaret's turn to tremble and despair.

"Ohwhy did we part with Gerard? They will kill my Gerardand I not nearhim."

"Naynay! the head to catch him is not on their shoulders. You bade himmeet us at the ash-tree?"

"Andso I did. Bless youMartinfor thinking of that. To the ash-tree!"

"Ay!but with less noise."

Theywere now nearly at the edge of the coppicewhen suddenly they heardhooping and hallooing behind them. The men had satisfied themselvesthe fugitives were in the coppiceand were beating back.

"Nomatter" whispered Martin to his trembling companion. "Weshall have time to win clear and slip back out of sight by hardrunning. Ah!"

Hestooped suddenly; for just as he was going to burst out of thebrushwoodhis eye caught a figure keeping sentinel. It wasGhysbrecht Van Swieten seated on his mule; a bloody bandage wasacross his nosethe bridge of which was broken; but over this hiseyes peered keenlyand it was plain by their expression he had heardthe fugitives rustleand was looking out for them. Martin muttered aterrible oathand cautiously strung his bowthen with equal cautionfitted his last arrow to the string. Margaret put her hands to herfacebut said nothing. She saw this man must die or Gerard. Afterthe first impulse she peered through her fingersher heart pantingto her throat.

Thebow was raisedand the deadly arrow steadily drawn to its headwhenat that moment an active figure leaped on Ghysbrecht from behind soswiftlyit was like a hawk swooping on a pigeon. A kerchief wentover the burgomasterin a turn of the hand his head was muffled initand he was whirled from his seat and fell heavily upon thegroundwhere he lay groaning with terror; and Gerard jumped downafter him.

"HistMartin! Martin!"

Martinand Margaret came outthe former openmouthed crying"Now fly!fly! while they are all in the thicket; we are saved."

Atthis crisiswhen safety seemed at handas fate would have itMargaretwho had borne up so bravely till nowbegan to succumbpartly from loss of blood.

"Ohmy belovedfly!" she gasped. "Leave mefor I am faint."

"No!no!" cried Gerard. "Death togetheror safety. Ah! themule! mount heryouand I'll run by your side."

Ina moment Martin was on Ghysbrecht's muleand Gerard raised thefainting girl in his arms and placed her on the saddleand relievedMartin of his bow.

"Help!treason! murder! murder!" shrieked Ghysbrechtsuddenly risingon his hams.

"Silencecur" roared Gerardand trode him down again by the throat asmen crush an adder.

"Nowhave you got her firm? Then fly! for our lives! for our lives!"

Buteven as the muleurged suddenly by Martin's heelscattered theflints with his hind hoofs ere he got into a canterand even asGerard withdrew his foot from Ghysbrecht's throat to runDierichBrower and his five menwho had come back for ordersand heard theburgomaster's criesburst roaring out of the coppice on them.

 

CHAPTERXXI

Speechis the familiar vent of human thoughts; but there are emotions sosimple and overpoweringthat they rush out not in wordsbuteloquent sounds. At such moments man seems to lose hischaracteristicsand to be merely one of the higher animals; forthesewhen greatly agitatedejaculatethough they cannot speak.

Therewas something terrible and truly animalboth in the roar of triumphwith which the pursuers burst out of the thicket on our fugitivesand the sharp cry of terror with which these latter darted away. Thepursuers hands clutched the empty airscarce two feet behind themas they fled for life. Confused for a momentlike lions that misstheir springDierich and his men let Gerard and the mule put tenyards between them. Then they flew after with uplifted weapons. Theywere sure of catching them; for this was not the first time theparties had measured speed. In the open ground they had gainedvisibly on the three this morningand nowat lastit was a fairrace againto be settled by speed alone. A hundred yards werecovered in no time. Yet still there remained these ten yards betweenthe pursuers and the pursued.

Thisincrease of speed since the morning puzzled Dierich Brower. Thereason was this. When three run in company. the pace is that of theslowest of the three. From Peter's house to the edge of the forestGerard ran Margaret's pace; but now he ran his own; for the mule wasfleetand could have left them all far behind. Moreoveryouth andchaste living began to tell. Daylight grew imperceptibly between thehunted ones and the hunters. Then Dierich made a desperate effortand gained two yards; but in a few seconds Gerard had stolen themquietly back. The pursuers began to curse.

Martinheardand his face lighted up. "CourageGerard! couragebravelad! they are straggling."

Itwas so. Dierich was now headed by one of his menand another droppedinto the rear altogether.

Theycame to a rising groundnot sharpbut long; and here youthandgritand sober living told more than ever.

Erehe reached the topDierich's forty years weighed him down like fortybullets. "Our cake is dough" he gasped. "Take himdeadif you can't alive;" and he left runningand followed ata foot's pace. Jorian Ketel tailed off next; and then anotherandsoone by oneGerard ran them all to a standstillexcept one whokept on stanch as a bloodhoundthough losing ground every minute.His nameif I am not mistakenwas Eric Wouverman. Followed by himthey came to a rise in the woodshorterbut much steeper than thelast.

"Handon mane!" cried Martin.

Gerardobeyedand the mule helped him up the hill faster even than he wasrunning before.

Atthe sight of this manoeuvreDierich's man lost heartandbeing nowfull eighty yards behind Gerardand rather more than that in advanceof his nearest comradehe pulled up shortandin obedience toDierich's ordertook down his crossbowlevelled it deliberatelyand just as the trio were sinking out of sight over the crest of thehillsent the bolt whizzing among them.

Therewas a cry of dismay; andnext momentas if a thunder-bolt hadfallen on themthey were all lying on the groundmule and all.

 

CHAPTERXXII

Theeffect was so sudden and magicalthat the shooter himself wasstupefied for an instant. Then he hailed his companions to join himin effecting the captureand himself set off up the hill; buterehe had got half wayup rose the figure of Martin Wittenhaagen with abent bow in his hand. Eric Wouverman no sooner saw him in thisattitudethan he darted behind a treeand made himself as small aspossible. Martin's skill with that weapon was well knownand theslain dog was a keen reminder of it.

Wouvermanpeered round the bark cautiously: there was the arrow's point stillaimed at him. He saw it shine. He dared not move from his shelter.

Whenhe had been at peep-ho some minuteshis companions came up in greatforce.

Thenwith a scornful laughMartin vanishedand presently was heard toride off on the mule.

Allthe men ran up together. The high ground commanded a view of a narrowbut almost interminable glade.

Theysaw Gerard and Margaret running along at a prodigious distance; theylooked like gnats; and Martin galloping after them ventre a terre.

Thehunters were outwitted as well as outrun. A few words will explainMartin's conduct. We arrive at causes by noting coincidences; yetnow and thencoincidences are deceitful. As we have all seen a haretumble over a briar just as the gun went offand so raiseexpectationsthen dash them to earth by scudding away untouchedsothe burgomaster's mule put her foot in a rabbit-hole at or about thetime the crossbow bolt whizzed innocuous over her head: she fell andthrew both her riders. Gerard caught Margaretbut was carried downby her weight and impetus; andbeholdthe soil was strewed withdramatis personae.

Thedocile mule was up again directlyand stood trembling. Martin wasnextand looking round saw there was but one in pursuit; on this hemade the young lovers fly on footwhile he checked the enemy as Ihave recorded.

Henow galloped after his companionsand when after a long race hecaught themhe instantly put Gerard and Margaret on the muleandran by their side till his breath failedthen took his turn to rideand so in rotation. Thus the runner was always freshand long erethey relaxed their speed all sound and trace of them was hopelesslylost to Dierich and his men. These latter went crestfallen back tolook after their chief and their winged bloodhound.

 

CHAPTERXXIII

Lifeand libertywhile safeare little thought of: for why? they arematters of course. Endangeredthey are rated at their real value. Inthistoothey are like sunshinewhose beauty men notice not atnoon when it is greatestbut towards eveningwhen it lies in flakesof topaz under shady elms. Yet it is feebler then; but gloom liesbeside itand contrast reveals its fire. Thus Gerard and Margaretthough they started at every leaf that rustled louder than itsfellowsglowed all over with joy and thankfulness as they glidedamong the friendly trees in safety and deep tranquil silencebayingdogs and brutal voices yet ringing in their mind's ears.

Butpresently Gerard found stains of blood on Margaret's ankles.

"Martin!Martin! help! they have wounded her: the crossbow!"

"Nono!" said Margaretsmiling to reassure him; "I am notwoundednor hurt at all."

"Butwhat is itthenin Heaven's name?" cried Gerardin greatagitation.

"Scoldme notthen!" and Margaret blushed.

"DidI ever scold you?"

"Nodear Gerard. WellthenMartin said it was blood those cruel dogsfollowed; so I thought if I could but have a little blood on myshoonthe dogs would follow me insteadand let my Gerard wend free.So I scratched my arm with Martin's knife - forgive me! Whose elsecould I take? YoursGerard? Ahno. You forgive me?" said shebeseechinglyand lovingly and fawninglyall in one.

"Letme see this scratch first" said Gerardchoking with emotion."ThereI thought so. A scratch? I call it a cut - a deepterriblecruel cut.'

Gerardshuddered at sight of it.

"Shemight have done it with her bodkin" said the soldier. "Milksop!that sickens at sight of a scratch and a little blood."

"Nono. I could look on a sea of bloodbut not on hers. OhMargaret!how could you be so cruel?"

Margaretsmiled with love ineffable. "Foolish Gerard" murmured she"to make so much of nothing." And she flung the guilty armround his neck. "As if I would not give all the blood in myheart for youlet alone a few drops from my arm." And withthisunder the sense of his recent dangershe wept on his neck forpity and love; and he wept with her.

"AndI must part from her" he sobbed; "we two that love so dear-one must be in Hollandone in Italy. Ah me! ah me! ah me!"

Atthis Margaret wept afreshbut patiently and silently. Instinct isnever off its guardand with her unselfishness was an instinct. Toutter her present thoughts would be to add to Gerard's misery atpartingso she wept in silence.

Suddenlythey emerged upon a beaten pathand Martin stopped.

"Thisis the bridle-road I spoke of" said he hanging his head; "andthere away lies the hostelry."

Margaretand Gerard cast a scared look at one another.

"Comea step with meMartin" whispered Gerard. When he had drawn himasidehe said to him in a broken voice"Good Martinwatchover her for me! She is my wife; yet I leave her. See Martin! here isgold - it was for my journey; it is no use my asking her to take it -she would not; but you will for herwill you not? OhHeaven! and isthis all I can do for her? Money? But poverty is a curse. You willnot let her want for anythingdear Martin? The burgomaster's silveris enough for me."

"Thouart a good ladGerard. Neither want nor harm shall come to her. Icare more for her little finger than for all the world; and were shenought to meeven for thy sake would I be a father to her. Go with astout heartand God be with thee going and coming." And therough soldier wrung Gerard's handand turned his head awaywithunwonted feeling.

Aftera moment's silence he was for going back to Margaretbut Gerardstopped him. "Nogood Martin; pritheestay here behind thisthicketand turn your head away from uswhile I-ohMartin!Martin!"

Bythis means Gerard escaped a witness of his anguish at leaving her helovedand Martin escaped a piteous sight. He did not see the pooryoung things kneel and renew before Heaven those holy vows cruel menhad interrupted. He did not see them cling together like oneandthen try to partand failand return to one anotherand clingagainlike drowningdespairing creatures. But he heard Gerard soband soband Margaret moan.

Atlast there was a hoarse cryand feet pattered on the hard road.

Hestarted upand there was Gerard running wildlywith both handsclasped above his headin prayerand Margaret tottering backtowards him with palms extended piteouslyas if for helpand ashycheek and eyes fixed on vacancy.

Hecaught her in his armsand spoke words of comfort to her; but hermind could not take them in; only at the sound of his voice shemoaned and held him tightand trembled violently.

Hegot her on the muleand put his arm around herand sosupportingher framewhichfrom being strong like a boyhad now turned allrelaxed and powerlesshe took her slowly and sadly home.

Shedid not shed one tearnor speak one word.

Atthe edge of the wood he took her off the muleand bade her go acrossto her father's house. She did as she was bid.

Martinto Rotterdam. Sevenbergen was too hot for him.

Gerardsevered from her he lovedwent like one in a dream. He hired a horseand a guide at the little hostelryand rode swiftly towards theGerman frontier. But all was mechanical; his senses felt blunted;trees and houses and men moved by him like objects seen through aveil. His companions spoke to him twicebut he did not answer. Onlyonce he cried out savagely"Shall we never be out of thishateful country?"

Aftermany hours' riding they came to the brow of a steep hill; a smallbrook ran at the bottom.

"Halt!"cried the guideand pointed across the valley. "Here isGermany."

"Where?"

"Ont'other side of the bourn. No need to ride down the hillI trow."

Gerarddismounted without a wordand took the burgomaster's purse from hisgirdle: while he opened it"You will soon be out of thishateful country" said his guidehalf sulkily; "mayhap theone you are going to will like you no better; any waythough it be achurch you have robbedthey cannot take youonce across thatbourn."

Thesewords at another time would have earned the speaker an admonition ora cuff. They fell on Gerard now like idle air. He paid the lad insilenceand descended the hill alone. The brook was silvery; it ranmurmuring over little pebblesthat glitteredvarnished by the clearwater; he sat down and looked stupidly at them. Then he drank of thebrook; then he laved his hot feet and hands in it; it was very cold:it waked him. He roseand taking a runleaped across it intoGermany. Even as he touched the strange land he turned suddenly andlooked back. "Farewellungrateful country!" he cried. "Butfor her it would cost me nought to leave you for everand all mykith and kinand - the mother that bore meand - my playmatesandmy little native town. Farewellfatherland - welcome the wide world!omne so-lum for-ti p p-at-r-a." And with these brave words inhis mouth he drooped suddenly with arms and legs all weakand satdown and sobbed bitterly upon the foreign soil.

Whenthe young exile had sat a while bowed downhe rose and dashed thetears from his eyes like a man; and not casting a single glance morebehind himto weaken his heartstepped out into the wide world.

Hislove and heavy sorrow left no room in him for vulgar misgivings.Compared with rending himself from Margaretit seemed a small thingto go on foot to Italy in that rude age.

Allnations meet in a convent. Sothanks to his good friends the monksand his own thirst of knowledgehe could speak most of the languagesneeded on that long road. He said to himself"I will soon be atRome; the sooner the better now."

Afterwalking a good leaguehe came to a place where four ways met. Beingcountry roadsand serpentinethey had puzzled many an inexperiencedneighbour passing from village to village. Gerard took out a littledial Peter had given himand set it in the autumn sunand by thiscompass steered unhesitatingly for Rome inexperienced as a youngswallow flying south; but unlike the swallowwandering south alone.

 

CHAPTERXXIV

Notfar on this road he came upon a little group. Two men in sober suitsstood leaning lazily on each side of a horsetalking to one another.The riderin a silk doublet and bright green jerkin and hosebothof English clothglossy as a molelay flat on his stomach in theafternoon sunand looked an enormous lizard. His velvet cloak(flaming yellow) was carefully spread over the horse's loins.

"Isaught amiss?" inquired Gerard.

"Notthat I wot of" replied one of the servants.

"Butyour masterhe lies like a corpse. Are ye not ashamed to let himgrovel on the ground?"

"Goto; the bare ground is the best cure for his disorder. If you getsober in bedit gives you a headache; but you leap up from the hardground like a lark in spring. EhUlric?"

"Hespeaks soothyoung man" said Ulric warmly.

"Whatis the gentleman drunk?"

Theservants burst into a hoarse laugh at the simplicity of Gerard'squestion. But suddenly Ulric stoppedand eyeing him all oversaidvery gravely"Who are youand where bornthat know not theCount is ever drunk at this hour?" And Gerard found himself asuspected character.

"Iam a stranger" said he"but a true manand one thatloves knowledge; therefore ask I questionsand not for love ofprying."

"Ifyou be a true man" said Ulric shrewdly"then give ustrinkgeld for the knowledge we have given you."

Gerardlooked blankbut putting a good face on itsaid"Trinkgeldyou shall havesuch as my lean purse can sparean if you will tellme why ye have ta'en his cloak from the man and laid it on thebeast."

Underthe inspiring influence of coming trinkgeldtwo solutions wereinstantly offered Gerard at once: the one wasthat should the Countcome to himself (whichbeing a seasoned toperhe was apt to do allin a minute)and find his horse standing sweating in the coldwhilea cloak lay idle at handhe would fall to cursingand peradventureto laying on; the othermore pretentiouswasthat a horse is apoor milksopwhichdrinking nothing but waterhas to be cockeredup and warmed outside; but a masterbeing a creature ever filledwith good beerhas a store of inward heat that warms him to theskinand renders a cloak a mere shred of idle vanity.

Eachof the speakers fell in love with his theoryandto tell the truthboth had taken a hair or two of the dog that had bitten their masterto the brain; so their voices presently rose so highthat the greensot began to growl instead of snoring. In their heat they did notnotice this.

Erelong the argument took a turn that sooner or later was pretty sure toenliven a discussion in that age. Hansholding the bridle with hisright handgave Ulric a sound cuff with his left; Ulric returned itwith interesthis right hand being free; and at it they wentdingdongover the horse's manepommelling one anotherand jagging thepoor beasttill he ran backwardand trode with iron heel upon apromontory of the green lord; helike the toad stung by Ithuriel'sspearstarted up howlingwith one hand clapped to the smart and theother tugging at his hilt. The servantsamazed with terrorlet thehorse go; he galloped off whinnyingthe men in pursuit of him cryingout with fearand the green noble after themvolleying curseshisnaked sword in his handand his body rebounding from hedge to hedgein his headlong but zigzag career down the narrow lane.

"Inwhich hurtling" Gerard turned his back on them alland wentcalmly southglad to have saved the four tin farthings he had gotready for trinkgeldbut far too heavy hearted even to smile at theirdrunken extravagance.

Thesun was nearly settingand Gerardwho had now for some time beenhoping in vain to find an inn by the waywas very ill at ease. Tomake matters worseblack clouds gathered over the sky.

Gerardquickened his pace almost to a run.

Itwas in vain; down came the rain in torrentsdrenched the bewilderedtravellerand seemed to extinguish the very sun-for his raysalready fadingcould not cope with this new assailant.

Gerardtrudged ondarkand wetand in an unknown region. "Fool! toleave Margaret" said he.

Presentlythe darkness thickened.

Hewas entering a great wood. Huge branches shot across the narrow roadand the benighted stranger groped his way in what seemed aninterminable and inky cave with a rugged flooron which he stumbledand stumbled as he went.

Onand onand onwith shivering limbs and empty stomachand faintinghearttill the wolves rose from their lairs and bayed all round thewood.

Hishair bristled; but he grasped his cudgeland prepared to sell hislife dear.

Therewas no wind; and his excited ear heard light feet patter at timesover the newly fallen leavesand low branches rustle with creaturesgliding swiftly past them.

Presentlyin the sea of ink there was a great fiery star close to the ground.He hailed it as he would his patron saint. "CANDLE! a CANDLE!"he shoutedand tried to run. But the dark and rugged way soonstopped that. The light was more distant than he had thought. But atlastin the very heart of the foresthe found a housewith lightedcandles and loud voices inside it. He looked up to see if there was asignboard. There was none. "Not an inn after all!" said hesadly. "No matter; what Christian would turn a dog out into thiswood to-night?" and with this he made for the door that led tothe voices. He opened it slowlyand put his head in timidly. He drewit out abruptlyas if slapped in the faceand recoiled into therain and darkness.

Hehad peeped into a large but low roomthe middle of which was filledby a huge round stoveor clay oventhat reached to the ceiling;round thiswet clothes were drying-some on linesand some morecompendiouslyon rustics. These latter habilimentsimpregnated withthe wet of the daybut the dirt of a lifeand lined with whatanother foot traveller in these parts call "rammish clowns"evolved rank vapours and compound odours inexpressiblein steamingclouds.

Inone corner was a travelling familya large one: thence flowed intothe common stock the peculiar sickly smell of neglected brats. Garlicfilled up the interstices of the air. And all this with closedwindowand intense heat of the central furnaceand the breath of atleast forty persons.

Theyhad just supped.

NowGerardlike most artistshad sensitive organsand the potenteffluvia struck dismay into him. But the rain lashed him outsideandthe light and the fire tempted him in.

Hecould not force his way all at once through the palpable perfumesbut he returned to the light again and againlike the singed moth.At last he discovered that the various smells did not entirely mixno fiend being there to stir them round. Odour of family predominatedin two corners; stewed rustic reigned supreme in the centre; andgarlic in the noisy group by the window. He foundtooby hastyanalysisthat of these the garlic described the smallest aerialorbitand the scent of reeking rustic darted farthest - a flavour asif ancient goatsor the fathers of all foxeshad been drawn througha riverand were here dried by Nebuchadnezzar.

SoGerard crept into a corner close to the door. But though the solidityof the main fetors isolated them somewhatthe heat and reekingvapours circulatedand made the walls drip; and the home-nurturednovice found something like a cold snake wind about his legsand hishead turn to a great lump of lead; and nexthe felt like chokingsweetly slumberingand dyingall in one.

Hewas within an ace of swooningbut recovered to a deep sense ofdisgust and discouragement; and settled to go back to Holland at peepof day. This resolution formedhe plucked up a little heart; andbeing faint with hungerasked one of the men of garlic whether thiswas not an inn after all?

"Whencecome youwho know not 'The Star of the Forest'?" was the reply.

"Iam a stranger; and in my country inns have aye a sign."

"Drollcountry yours! What need of a sign to a public-house -a place thatevery soul knows?"

Gerardwas too tired and faint for the labour of argumentso he turned theconversationand asked where he could find the landlord?

Atthis fresh display of ignorancethe native's contempt rose too highfor words. He pointed to a middle-aged woman seated on the other sideof the oven; and turning to his mateslet them know what anoutlandish animal was in the room. Thereat the loud voices stoppedone by oneas the information penetrated the mass; and each eyeturnedas on a pivotfollowing Gerardand his every movementsilently and zoologically.

Thelandlady sat on a chair an inch or two higher than the restbetweentwo bundles. From the firsta huge heap of feathers and wingsshewas taking the downy plumesand pulling the others from the quillsand so filling bundle two littering the floor ankle-deepandcontributing to the general stock a stuffy little malariawhichmight have played a distinguished part in a sweet roombut went fornothing here. Gerard asked her if he could have something to eat.

Sheopened her eyes with astonishment. "Supper is over this hour andmore.

"ButI had none of itgood dame."

"Isthat my fault? You were welcome to your share for me."

"ButI was benightedand a stranger; and belated sore against my will."

"Whathave I to do with that? All the world knows 'The Star of the Forest'sups from six till eight. Come before sixye sup well; come beforeeightye sup as pleases Heaven; come after eightye get a cleanbedand a stirrup cupor a horn of kine's milkat the dawning."

Gerardlooked blank. "May I go to bedthendame?" said hesulkily "for it is ill sitting up wet and fastingand thebyword saith'He sups who sleeps.'"

"Thebeds are not come yet" replied the landlady. "You willsleep when the rest do. Inns are not built for one.

Itwas Gerard's turn to be astonished. "The beds were not come!whatin Heaven's namedid she mean?" But he was afraid to askfor every word he had spoken hitherto had amazed the assemblyandzoological eyes were upon him-he felt them. He leaned against thewalland sighed audibly.

Atthis fresh zoological traita titter went round the watchfulcompany.

"Sothis is Germany" thought Gerard; "and Germany is a greatcountry by Holland. Small nations for me."

Heconsoled himself by reflecting it was to be his lastas well as hisfirstnight in the land. His reverie was interrupted by an elbowdriven into his ribs. He turned sharp on his assailantwho pointedacross the room. Gerard lookedand a woman in the corner wasbeckoning him. He went towards her gingerlybeing surprised andirresoluteso that to a spectator her beckoning finger seemed to bepulling him across the floor with a gut-line. When he had got up toher"Hold the child" said shein a fine hearty voice;and in a moment she plumped the bairn into Gerard's arms.

Hestood transfixedjelly of lead in his handsand sudden horror inhis elongated countenance.

Atthis ruefully expressive facethe lynx-eyed conclave laughed loudand long.

"Neverheed them" said the woman cheerfully; "they know nobetter; how should theybred an' born in a wood?" She wasrummaging among her clothes with the two penetrating handsone ofwhich Gerard had set free. Presently she fished out a small tin plateand a dried pudding; and resuming her child with one armheld themforth to Gerard with the otherkeeping a thumb on the pudding toprevent it from slipping off.

"Putit in the stove" said she; "you are too young to lie downfasting."

Gerardthanked her warmly. But on his way to the stovehis eye fell on thelandlady. "May Idame?" said he beseechingly.

"Whynot?" said she.

Thequestion was evidently another surprisethough less startling thanits predecessors.

Comingto the stoveGerard found the oven door obstructed by "therammish clowns." They did not budge. He hesitated a moment. Thelandlady sawcalmly put down her workand coming uppulled ahircine man or two hitherand pushed a hircine man or two thitherwith the impassive countenance of a housewife moving her furniture."Turn about is fair play" she said; "ye have been drythis ten minutes and better."

Herexperienced eye was not deceived; Gorgonii had done stewingandbegun baking. Debarred the stovethey trundled homeall but onewho stood like a tablewhere the landlady had moved him tolike atable. And Gerard baked his pudding; and getting to the stoveburstinto steam.

Thedoor openedand in flew a bundle of straw.

Itwas hurled by a hind with a pitchfork. Another and another cameflying after ittill the room was like a clean farm- yard. Thesewere then dispersed round the stove in layerslike the seats in anarenaand in a moment the company was all on its back.

Thebeds had come.

Gerardtook out his puddingand found it delicious. While he was relishingitthe woman who had given it himand who was now abedbeckonedhim again. He went to her bundle side. "She is waiting for you"whispered the woman. Gerard returned to the stoveand gobbled. therest of his sausagecasting uneasy glances at the landladyseatedsilent as fate amid the prostrate multitude. The food boltedhe wentto herand said"Thank you kindlydamefor waiting for me."

"Youare welcome" said she calmlymaking neither much nor little ofthe favour; and with that began to gather up the feathers. But Gerardstopped her. "Naythat is my task;" and he went down onhis kneesand collected them with ardour. She watched him demurely.

"Iwot not whence ye come"said shewith a relic of distrust;addingmore cordially"but ye have been well brought up; -y'have had a good motherI'll go bail."

Atthe door she committed the whole company to Heavenin a formulaanddisappeared. Gerard to his straw in the very corner-for the guestslay round the sacred stove by seniorityi.e. priority of arrival.

Thispunishment was a boon to Gerardfor thus he lay on the shore ofodour and stifling heatinstead of in mid-ocean.

Hewas just dropping offwhen he was awaked by a noise; and lo therewas the hind remorselessly shaking and waking guest after guesttoask him whether it was he who had picked up the mistress's feathers.

"Itwas I" cried Gerard.

"Ohit was youwas it?" said the otherand came striding rapidlyover the intermediate sleepers. "She bade me say'One good turndeserves another' and so here's your nightcap" and he thrust agreat oaken mug under Gerard's nose.

"Ithank herand bless her; here goes - ugh!" and his gratitudeended in a wry face; for the beer was muddyand had a strangemedicinal twang new to the Hollander.

"Trinkeaus!" shouted the hind reproachfully.

"Enowis as good as a feast" said the youth Jesuitically.

Thehind cast a look of pity on this stranger who left liquor in his mug."Ich brings euch" said heand drained it to the bottom.

Andnow Gerard turned his face to the wall and pulled up two handfuls ofthe nice clean strawand bored in them with his fingerand so madea scabbardand sheathed his nose in it. And soon they were allasleep; menmaidswivesand children all lying higgledy-piggledyand snoring in a dozen keys like an orchestra slowly tuning; andGerard's body lay on straw in Germanyand his spirit was away toSevenbergen.

Whenhe woke in the morning he found nearly all his fellow- passengersgone. One or two were waiting for dinnernine o'clock; it was nowsix. He paid the landlady her demandtwo pfenningor about anEnglish halfpennyand he of the pitchfork demanded trinkgeldandgetting a trifle more than usualand seeing Gerard eye a foamingmilk-pail he had just brought from the cowhoisted it up bodily tohis lips. "Drink your fillman" said heand on Gerardoffering to pay for the delicious draughttold him in broad patoisthat a man might swallow a skinful of milkor a breakfast of airwithout putting hand to pouch. At the door Gerard found hisbenefactress of last nightand a huge-chested artisanher husband.

Gerardthanked herand in the spirit of the age offered her a creutzer forher pudding.

Butshe repulsed his hand quietly. "For what do you take me?"said shecolouring faintly; "we are travellers and strangersthe same as youand bound to feel for those in like plight."

ThenGerard blushed in his turn and stammered excuses.

Thehulking husband grinned superior to them both.

"Givethe vixen a kiss for her puddingand cry quits" said hewithan air impartialjudge-like and Jove-like.

Gerardobeyed the lofty behestand kissed the wife's cheek. "Ablessing go with you bothgood people" said he.

"AndGod speed youyoung man!" replied the honest couple; and withthat they partedand never met again in this world.

Thesun had just risen: the rain-drops on the leaves glittered likediamonds. The air was fresh and bracingand Gerard steered southand did not even remember his resolve of overnight.

Eightleagues he walked that dayand in the afternoon came upon a hugebuilding with an enormous arched gateway and a postern by its side.

Amonastery!" cried he joyfully; "I go no further lest I fareworse." He applied at the posternand on stating whence he cameand whither boundwas instantly admitted and directed to theguestchambera large and lofty roomwhere travellers were fed andlodged gratis by the charity of the monastic orders. Soon the belltinkled for vespersand Gerard entered the church of the conventand from his place heard a service sung so exquisitelyit seemed thechoir of heaven. But one thing was wantingMargaret was not there tohear it with himand this made him sigh bitterly in mid rapture. Atsupperplain but wholesome and abundant foodand good beerbrewedin the conventwere set before him and his fellowsand at an earlyhour they were ushered into a large dormitoryand the number beingmoderatehad each a truckle bedand for coveringsheepskinsdressed with the fleece on; but previously to this a monkstruck byhis youth and beautyquestioned himand soon drew out his projectsand his heart. When he was found to be convent bredand going aloneto Romehe became a personageand in the morning they showed himover the convent and made him stay and dine in the refectory. Theyalso pricked him a route on a slip of parchmentand the prior gavehim a silver guilden to help him on the roadand advised him to jointhe first honest company he should fall in with"and not facealone the manifold perils of the way."

"Perils?"said Gerard to himself.

Thatevening he came to a small straggling town where was one inn; it hadno sign; but being now better versed in the customs of the countryhe detected it at once by the coats of arms on its walls. Thesebelonged to the distinguished visitors who had slept in it atdifferent epochs since its foundationand left these customarytokens of their patronage. At present it looked more like a mausoleumthan a hotel. Nothing moved nor sounded either in it or about it.Gerard hammered on the great oak door: no answer. He hallooed: noreply. After a while he hallooed louderand at last a little roundwindowor rather hole in the wallopeneda man's head protrudedcautiouslylike a tortoise's from its shelland eyed Gerardstolidlybut never uttered a syllable.

"Isthis an inn?" asked Gerardwith a covert sneer.

Thehead seemed to fall into a brown study; eventually it noddedbutlazily.

"CanI have entertainment here?"

Againthe head pondered and ended by noddingbut sullenlyand seemed askull overburdened with catch-penny interrogatories.

"Howam I to get withinan't please you?"

Atthis the head popped inas if the last question had shot it; and ahand popped outpointed round the corner of the buildingandslammed the window.

Gerardfollowed the indicationand after some research discovered that thefortification had one vulnerable parta small low door on its flank.As for the main entrancethat was used to keep out thieves andcustomersexcept once or twice in a yearwhen they enteredtogetheri.e.when some duke or count arrived in pomp with histrain of gaudy ruffians.

Gerardhaving penetrated the outer fortsoon found his way to the stove (asthe public room was called from the principal article in it)and satdown near the ovenin which were only a few live embers thatdiffused a mild and grateful heat.

Afterwaiting patiently a long timehe asked a grim old fellow with a longwhite beardwho stalked solemnly inand turned the hour-glassandthen was stalking outwhen supper would be. The grisly Ganymedecounted the guests on his fingers- "When I see thrice as manyhere as now." Gerard groaned.

Thegrisly tyrant resented the rebellious sound. "Inns are not builtfor one" said he; "if you can't wait for the restlookout for another lodging."

Gerardsighed.

Atthis the greybeard frowned.

Aftera while company trickled steadily intill full eighty persons ofvarious conditions were congregatedand to our novice the placebecame a chamber of horrors; for here the mothers got together andcompared ringwormsand the men scraped the mud off their shoes withtheir knivesand left it on the floorand combed their long hairoutinmates includedand made their toiletconsisting generally ofa dry rub. Waterhoweverwas brought in ewers. Gerard pounced onone of thesebut at sight of the liquid contents lost his temper andsaid to the waiter"Wash you first your waterand then a manmay wash his hands withal."

"An'it likes you notseek another inn!"

Gerardsaid nothingbut went quietly and courteously besought an oldtraveller to tell him how far it was to the next inn.

"Aboutfour leagues."

ThenGerard appreciated the grim pleasantry of the unbending sire.

Thatworthy now returned with an armful of woodand counting thetravellersput on a log for every sixby which act of raw justicethe hotter the room the more heat he added. Poor Gerard noticed thislittle flaw in the ancient man's logicbut carefully suppressedevery symptom of intelligencelest his feet should have to carry hisbrains four leagues farther that night.

Whenperspiration and suffocation were far advancedthey brought in thetable-cloths; but ohso brownso dirtyand so coarse; they seemedlike sacks that had been worn out in agriculture and come down tothisor like shreads from the mainsail of some worn-out ship. TheHollanderwho had never seen such linen even in nightmareuttered afaint cry.

"whatis to do?" inquired a traveller. Gerard pointed ruefully to thedirty sackcloth. The other looked at it with lack lustre eyeandcomprehended nought.

ABurgundian soldier with his arbalest at his back came peeping overGerard's shoulderand seeing what was amisslaughed so loud thatthe room rang againthen slapped him on the back and cried"Courage! le diable est mort."

Gerardstared: he doubted alike the good tidings and their relevancy; butthe tones were so hearty and the arbalestrier's facenotwithstandinga formidable beardwas so gay and genialthat he smiledand aftera pause said drily"Il a bien faite avec l'eau et linge du payson allait le noircir a ne se reconnaitre plus."

"Tienstiens!" cried the soldier"v'la qui parle le Francais peus'en faut" and he seated himself by Gerardand in a moment wastalking volubly of warwomenand pillageinterlarding hisdiscourse with curious oathsat which Gerard drew away from him moreor less.

Presentlyin came the grisly servantand counted them all on his fingerssuperciliouslylike Abraham telling sheep; then went out againandreturned with a deal trencher and deal spoon to each.

Thenthere was an interval. Then he brought them a long mug apiece made ofglassand frowned. By-and-by he stalked gloomily in with a hunch ofbread apieceand exit with an injured air. Expectation thus raisedthe guests sat for nearly an hour balancing the wooden spoonsandwith their own knives whittling the bread. Eventuallywhen hope wasextinctpatience worn outand hunger exhausteda huge vessel wasbrought in with pompthe lid was removeda cloud of steam rolledforthand behold some thin broth with square pieces of breadfloating. Thisthough not agreeable to the mindserved to distendthe body. Slices of Strasbourg ham followedand pieces of salt fishboth so highly salted that Gerard could hardly swallow a mouthful.Then came a kind of grueland when the repast had lasted an hour andmoresome hashed meat highly peppered and the French and Dutch beingnow full to the brim with the above daintiesand the draughts ofbeer the salt and spiced meats had provokedin came roasted kidsmost excellentand carp and trout fresh from the stream. Gerard madean effort and looked angrily at thembut "could no more"as the poets say. The Burgundian swore by the liver and pike-staff ofthe good centurionthe natives had outwitted him. Then turning toGerardhe said"Couragel'amile diable est mort" asloudly as beforebut not with the same tone of conviction. The cannynatives had kept an internal corner for contingenciesand polishedthe kid's very bones.

Thefeast ended with a dish of raw animalcula in a wicker cage. A cheesehad been surrounded with little twigs and strings; then a hole madein it and a little sour wine poured in. This speedily bred a smallbut numerous vermin. When the cheese was so rotten with them thatonly the twigs and string kept it from tumbling to pieces and walkingoff quadriviousit came to table. By a malicious caprice of fatecage and menagerie were put down right under the Dutchman's organ ofself-torture. He recoiled with a loud ejaculationand hung to thebench by the calves of his legs.

"Whatis the matter?" said a traveller disdainfully. "Does thegood cheese scare ye? Then put it hitherin the name of all thesaints!"

"Cheese!"cried Gerard"I see none. These nauseous reptiles have madeaway with every bit of it."

"Well"replied another"it is not gone far. By eating of the mites weeat the cheese to boot."

"Naynot so" said Gerard. "These reptiles are made like usanddigest their food and turn it to foul flesh even as we do ours tosweet; as well might you think to chew grass by eating of grass-fedbeevesas to eat cheese by swallowing these uncleanly insects."

Gerardraised his voice in uttering thisand the company received theparadox in dead silenceand with a distrustful airlike any otherstrangerduring which the Burgundianwho understood German butimperfectlymade Gerard Gallicize the discussion. He patted hisinterpreter on the back. "C'est bienmon gars; plus fin que toin'est pas bete" and administered his formula of encouragement;and Gerard edged away from him; for next to ugly sights and illodoursthe poor wretch disliked profaneness.

Meantimethough shaken in argumentthe raw reptiles were duly eaten andrelished by the companyand served to provoke thirsta principalaim of all the solids in that part of Germany. So now the companydrank garausses all roundand their tongues were unloosedand ohthe Babel! But above the fierce clamour rose at intervalslike somehero's war-cry in battlethe trumpet- like voice of the Burgundiansoldier shouting lustily"Couragecamaradesle diable estmort!"

Enteredgrisly Ganymede holding in his hand a wooden dish with circles andsemicircles marked on it in chalk. He put it down on the table andstood silentsadand sombreas Charon by Styx waiting for hisboat-load of souls. Then pouches and purses were rummagedand eachthrew a coin into the dish. Gerard timidly observed that he had drunknext to no beerand inquired how much less he was to pay than theothers.

"Whatmean you?" said Ganymede roughly. "Whose fault is it youhave not drunken? Are all to suffer because one chooses to be amilksop? You will pay no more than the restand no less."

Gerardwas abashed.

"Couragepetitle diable est mort" hiccoughed the soldier and flungGanymede a coin.

"Youare bad as he is" said the old man peevishly; "you arepaying too much;" and the tyrannical old Aristides returned himsome coin out of the trencher with a most reproachful countenance.And now the man whom Gerard had confuted an hour and a half ago awokefrom a brown studyin which he had been ever sinceand came to himand said"Yesbut the honey is none the worse for passingthrough the bees' bellies."

Gerardstared. The answer had been so long on the road he hadn't an ideawhat it was an answer to. Seeing him dumfoundedthe other concludedhim confutedand withdrew calmed.

Thebedrooms were upstairsdungeons with not a scrap of furniture exceptthe bedand a male servant settled inexorably who should sleep withwhom. Neither money nor prayers would get a man a bed to himselfhere; custom forbade it sternly. You might as well have asked tomonopolize a see-saw. They assigned to Gerard a man with a greatblack beard. He was an honest fellow enoughbut not perfect; hewould not go to bedand would sit on the edge of it telling thewretched Gerard by forceand at lengththe events of the dayandalternately laughing and crying at the same circumstanceswhich werenot in the smallest degree pathetic or humorousbut only deadtrivial. At last Gerard put his fingers in his earsand lying downin his clothesfor the sheets were too dirty for him to undresscontrived to sleep. But in an hour or two he awoke coldand foundthat his drunken companion had got all the feather bed; so mighty isinstinct. They lay between two beds; the lower one hard and made ofstrawthe upper soft and filled with feathers light as down. Gerardpulled at itbut the experienced drunkard held it fast mechanically.Gerard tried to twitch it away by surprisebut instinct was too manyfor him. On this he got out of bedand kneeling down on hisbedfellow's unguarded sideeasily whipped the prize away and rolledwith it under the bedand there lay on one edge of itand curledthe rest round his shoulders. Before he slept he often heardsomething grumbling and growling above himwhich was some littlesatisfaction. Thus instinct was outwittedand victorious Reason laychuckling on feathersand not quite choked with dust.

Atpeep of day Gerard roseflung the feather bed upon his snoringcompanionand went in search of milk and air.

Acheerful voice hailed him in French: "What ho! you are up withthe suncomrade."

"Herises betimes that lies in a dog's lair" answered Gerardcrossly.

"Couragel'ami! le diable est mort" was the instant reply. The soldierthen told him his name was Denysand he was passing from Flushing inZealand to the Duke's French dominions; a change the more agreeableto himas he should revisit his native placeand a host of prettygirls who had wept at his departureand should hear French spokenagain. "And who are youand whither bound?"

"Myname is Gerardand I am going to Rome" said the more reservedHollanderand in a way that invited no further confidences.

"Allthe better; we will go together as far as Burgundy."

"Thatis not my road."

"Allroads take to Rome."

"Aybut the shortest road thither is my way."

"Wellthenit is I who must go out of my way a step for the sake of goodcompanyfor thy face likes meand thou speakest Frenchor nearly."

"Therego two words to that bargain" said Gerard coldly. "I steerby proverbstoo. They do put old heads on young men's shoulders.'Bon loup mauvais compagnondit le brebis;' and a soldierthey sayis near akin to a wolf."

"Theylie" said Denys; "besidesif he is'les loups ne semangent pas entre eux.'"

"Ayebutsir soldierI am not a wolf; and thou knowesta bien petiteoccasion se saisit le loup du mouton.'"

"Letus drop wolves and sheepbeing men; my meaning isthat a goodsoldier never pillages-a comrade. Comeyoung mantoo much suspicionbecomes not your years. They who travel should learn to read faces;methinks you might see lealty in mine sith I have seen it in yourn.Is it yon fat purse at your girdle you fear for?" (Gerard turnedpale.) "Look hither!" and he undid his beltand poured outof it a double handful of gold piecesthen returned them to theirhiding-place. "There is a hostage for you" said he; "carryyou thatand let us be comrades" and handed him his beltgoldand all.

Gerardstared. "If I am over prudentyou have not enow." But heflushed and looked pleased at the other's trust in him.

"Bah!I can read faces; and so must youor you'll never take your fourbones safe to Rome."

"Soldieryou would find me a dull companionfor my heart is very heavy"said Gerardyielding.

"I'llcheer youmon gars."

"Ithink you would" said Gerard sweetly; "and sore need haveI of a kindly voice in mine ear this day."

"Oh!no soul is sad alongside me. I lift up their poor little hearts withmy consigne: 'Couragetout le mondele diable est mort.' Ha! ha!"

"Sobe itthen" said Gerard. "But take back your beltfor Icould never trust by halves. We will go together as far as RhineandGod go with us both!"

"Amen!"said Denys. and lifted his cap. "En avant!"

Thepair trudged manfully onand Denys enlivened the weary way. Hechattered about battles and siegesand things which were new toGerard; and he was one of those who make little incidents whereverthey go. He passed nobody without addressing them. "They don'tunderstand itbut it wakes them up" said he. But whenever theyfell in with a monk or priest. he pulled a long faceand sought thereverend father's blessingand fearlessly poured out on him floodsof German words in such order as not to produce a single Germansentence - He doffed his cap to every womanhigh or lowhe caughtsight ofand with eagle eye discerned her best featureandcomplimented her on it in his native tonguewell adapted to suchmatters; and at each carrion crow or magpiedown came his crossbowand he would go a furlong off the road to circumvent it; and indeedhe did shoot one old crow with laudable neatness and despatchandcarried it to the nearest hen-roostand there slipped in and set itupon a nest. "The good-wife will say'Alackhere is Beelzebubahatching of my eggs.'"

"Noyou forget he is dead" objected Gerard.

"Sohe isso he is. But she doesn't know thatnot having the luck to beacquainted with mewho carry the good news from city to cityuplifting men's hearts."

Suchwas Denys in time of peace.

Ourtravellers towards nightfall reached a village; it was a very smallonebut contained a place of entertainment. They searched for itand found a small house with barn and stables. In the former was theeverlasting stoveand the clothes drying round it on linesand atraveller or two sitting morose. Gerard asked for supper.

"Supper?We have no time to cook for travellers; we only provide lodginggoodlodging for man and beast. You can have some beer."

"Madmanwhoborn in Hollandsought other lands!" snorted Gerard inDutch. The landlady started.

"Whatgibberish is that?" asked sheand crossed herself with looks ofsuperstitious alarm. "You can buy what you like in the villageand cook it in our oven; butpritheemutter no charms nor sorceriesheregood man; don't ye nowit do make my flesh creep so."

Theyscoured the village for foodand ended by supping on roasted eggsand brown bread.

Ata very early hour their chambermaid came for them. It was arosy-cheeked old fellow with a lanthorn.

Theyfollowed him. He led them across a dirty farmyardwhere they hadmuch ado to pick their steps. and brought them into a cow-house.Thereon each side of every cowwas laid a little clean strawanda tied bundle of ditto for a pillow. The old man looked down on thishis work with paternal pride. Not so Gerard. "Whatdo you setChristian men to lie among cattle?"

"Wellit is hard upon the poor beasts. They have scarce room to turn."

"Oh!whatit is not hard on usthen?"

"Whereis the hardship? I have lain among them all my life. Look at me! I amfourscoreand never had a headache in all my born days - all alongof lying among the kye. Bless your silly headkine's breath is tentimes sweeter to drink nor Christians'. You try it!" and heslammed the bedroom door.

"Denyswhere are you?" whined Gerard.

"Hereon her other side."

"Whatare you doing?"

"Iknow not; but as near as I can guessI think I must be going tosleep. What are you at?

"Iam saying my prayers."

"Forgetme not in them!"

"Isit likely? DenysI shall soon have done: do not go to sleepI wantto talk.

"Despatchthen! for I feel - augh like floating-in the sky on a warm cloud."

"Denys!"

"Augh!eh! hallo! is it time to get up?"

"Alackno. ThereI hurried my orisons to talk; and look at yougoing tosleep! We shall be starved before morninghaving no coverlets."

"Wellyou know what to do."

"NotIin sooth."

"Cuddlethe cow."

"Thankyou."

"Burrowin the strawthen. You must be very new to the worldto grumble atthis. How would you bear to lie on the field of battle on a frostynightas I did t'other daystark nakedwith nothing to keep mewarm but the carcass of a fellow I had been and helped kill?"

"Horrible!horrible! Tell me all about it! Ohbut this is sweet."

"Wellwe had a little battle in Brabantand won a little victorybut itcost us dear; several arbalestriers turned their toes up. and I amongthem."

"KilledDenys? come now!"

"Deadas mutton. Stuck full of pike-holes till the blood ran out of melike the good wine of Macon from the trodden grapes. It is rightbounteous in me to pour the tale in minstrel phrasefor - augh - Iam sleepy. Augh - now where was I?"

"Leftdead on the field of battlebleeding like a pig; that is to saylike grapes. or something; go onprithee go on'tis a sin to sleepin the midst of a good story."

"Granted.Wellsome of those vagabondsthat strip the dead soldier on thefield of glorycame and took every rag off me; they wrought me nofurther illbecause there was no need."

"No;you were dead."

"C'estconvenu. This must have been at sundown; and with the night came ashrewd frost that barkened the blood on my woundsand stopped allthe rivulets that were running from my heartand about midnight Iawoke as from a trance.'

"Andthought you were in heaven?" asked Gerard eagerlybeing a youthinoculated with monkish tales.

"Toofrost-bitten for thatmon gars; besidesI heard the woundedgroaning on all sidesso I knew I was in the old place. I saw Icould not live the night through without cover. I groped aboutshivering and shivering; at last one did suddenly leave groaning.'You are sped' said Iso made up to himand true enough he wasdeadbut warmyou know. I took my lord in my armsbut was too weakto carry himso rolled with him into a ditch hard by; and there mycomrades found me in the morning properly stung with nettlesandhugging a dead Fleming for the bare life."

Gerardshuddered. "And this is war; this is the chosen theme of poetsand troubadoursand Reden Ryckers. Truly was it said by the men ofolddulce bellum inexpertis."

"Tudis?"

"Isay-ohwhat stout hearts some men have!"

"N'est-cepasp'tit? So after that sort - thing - this sort thing is heaven.Soft - warm - good companycomradancow - cou'age -diable - m-ornk!"

Andthe glib tongue was still for some hours.

Inthe morning Gerard was wakened by a liquid hitting his eyeand itwas Denys employing the cow's udder as a squirt.

"Ohfie!" cried Gerard"to waste the good milk;" and hetook a horn out of his wallet. "Fill this! but indeed I see notwhat right we have to meddle with her milk at all."

"Makeyour mind easy! Last night la camarade was not nice; but what thentrue friendship dispenses with ceremony. To-day we make as free withher."

"Whywhat did she dopoor thing?"

"Atemy pillow."

"Ha!ha!"

"Onwaking I had to hunt for my headand found it down in the stablegutter. She ate our pillow from uswe drink our pillow from her. Avotre santemadame; et sans rancune;" and the dog drank hermilk to her own health.

"Theancient was right though" said Gerard. "Never have I risenso refreshed since I left my native land. Henceforth let us shungreat townsand still lie in a convent or a cow-house; for I'dliever sleep on fresh strawthan on linen well washed six monthsagone; and the breath of kine it is sweeter than that of Christianslet alone the garlicwhich men and women folk affectbut cowenabhor fromand so do ISt. Bavon be my witness!"

Thesoldier eyed him from head to foot: "Now but for that littletuft on your chin I should take you for a girl; and by thefinger-nails of St. Lukeno ill-favoured one neither."

Thesethree towns proved types and repeated themselves with slightvariations for many a weary league; but even when he could getneither a convent nor a cow-houseGerard learned in time to steelhimself to the inevitable. and to emulate his comradewhom he lookedon as almost superhuman for hardihood of body and spirit.

Therewashowevera balance to all this veneration.

Denyslike his predecessor Achilleshad his weak parthis very weak partthought Gerard.

Hisfoible was "woman."

Whateverhe was saying or doinghe stopped short at sight of a farthingaleand his whole soul became occupied with that garment and its inmatetill they had disappeared; and some- times for a good while after.

Heoften put Gerard to the blush by talking his amazing German to suchfemales as he caught standing or sitting indoors or outat whichthey stared; and when he met a peasant girl on the roadhe took offhis cap to her and saluted her as if she was a queen; the invariableeffect of which wasthat she suddenly drew herself up quite stifflike a soldier on paradeand wore a forbidding countenance.

"Theydrive me to despair" said Denys. "Is that a just return toa civil bonnetade? They are largethey are fairbut stupid asswans."

"Whatbreeding can you expect from women that wear no hose?" inquiredGerard; "and some of them no shoon? They seem to me reserved andmodestas becomes their sexand soberwhereas the men are littlebetter than beer-barrels. Would you have them brazen as well ashoseless?"

"Alittle affability adorns even beauty" sighed Denys.

"Thenlet these alonesith they are not to your taste" retortedGerard. "Whatis there no sweet face in Burgundy that wouldpale to see you so wrapped up in strange women?"

"Half-a-dozenthat would cry their eyes out."

"Wellthen!"

"Butit is a long way to Burgundy."

"Ayto the footbut not to the heart. I am theresleeping and wakingand almost every minute of the day."

"InBurgundy? WhyI thought you had never - "

"InBurgundy?" cried Gerard contemptuously. "Noin sweetSevenbergen. Ah! well-a-day! well-a-day!"

Manysuch dialogues as this passed between the pair on the long and wearyroadand neither could change the other.

Oneday about noon they reached a town of some pretensionsand Gerardwas gladfor he wanted to buy a pair of shoes; his own were quiteworn out. They soon found a shop that displayed a goodly arrayandmade up to itand would have entered itbut the shopkeeper sat onthe doorstep taking a napand was so fat as to block up the narrowdoorway; the very light could hardly struggle past his "tootoosolid flesh" much less a carnal customer.

Myfair readersaccustomedwhen they go shoppingto be met half waywith nodsand becksand wreathed smilesand waved into a seatwhile almost at the same instant an eager shopman flings himself halfacross the counter in a semi-circle to learn their commandscan bestappreciate this mediaeval Teutonwho kept a shop as a dog keeps akenneland sat at the exclusion of custom snoring like a pig.

Denysand Gerard stood and contemplated this curiosity; emblempermit meto remarkof the lets and hindrances to commerce that characterizedhis epoch.

"Jumpover him!"

"Thedoor is too low."

"Marchthrough him!"

"Theman is too thick."

"Whatis the coil?" inquired a mumbling voice from the interior;apprentice with his mouth full.

"Wewant to get into your shop?"

"Whatforin Heaven's name??!!!"

"Shoonlazy bones!"

Theire of the apprentice began to rise at such an explanation. "Andcould ye find no hour out of all the twelve to come pestering us forshoonbut the one littlelittle hour my master takes his napand Isit down to my dinnerwhen all the rest of the world is full longago?"

Denysheardbut could not follow the sense. "Waste no more timetalking their German gibberish" said he; "take out thyknife and tickle his fat ribs."

"ThatI will not" said Gerard.

"Thenhere goes; I'll prong him with this."

Gerardseized the mad fellow's arm in dismayfor he had been long enough inthe country to guess that the whole town would take part in any brawlwith the native against a stranger. But Denys twisted away from himand the cross-bow bolt in his hand was actually on the road to thesleeper's ribs; but at that very moment two females crossed the roadtowards him; he saw the blissful visionand instantly forgot what hewas aboutand awaited their approach with unreasonable joy.

Thoughcompanionsthey were not equalsexcept in attractiveness to aBurgundian crossbow man; for one was very tallthe other shortandby one of those anomalies which societyhowever primitivespeedilyestablishesthe long one held up the little one's tail. The tall onewore a plain linen coif on her heada little grogram cloak over hershouldersa grey kirtleand a short farthingale or petticoat ofbright red clothand feet and legs quite barethough her arms wereveiled in tight linen sleeves.

Theother a kirtle broadly trimmed with furher arms in double sleeveswhereof the inner of yellow satin clung to the skin; the outerallbefurredwere open at the inside of the elbowand so the arm passedthrough and left them dangling. Velvet head-dresshuge purse atgirdlegorgeous trainbare legs. And thus they came onthecitizen's wife struttingand the maid gliding afterholding hermistress's train devoutly in both handsand bending and winding herlithe body prettily enough to do it. Imagine (if not pressed fortime) a bantamwith a guineahen stepping obsequious at its statelyheel.

Thispageant made straight for the shoemaker's shop. Denys louted low; theworshipful lady nodded graciouslybut rapidlyhaving business onhandor rather on foot; for in a moment she poked the point of herlittle shoe into the sleeperand worked it round in him like agimlettill with a long snarl he woke. The incarnate shutter risingand grumbling vaguely. the lady swept in and deigned him no furthernotice. He retreated to his neighbour's shopthe tailor'sandsitting on the stepprotected it from the impertinence of morningcalls. Neighbours should be neighbourly.

Denysand Gerard followed the dignity into the shopwhere sat theapprentice at dinner; the maid stood outside with her instepscrossedleaning against the walland tapping it with her nails.

"Thoseyonder" said the dignity brieflypointing with an imperiouslittle white hand to some yellow shoes gilded at the toe. While theapprentice stood stock still neutralized by his dinner and his dutyDenys sprang at the shoesand brought them to her; she smiledandcalmly seating herselfprotruded her footshodbut hoselessandscented. Down went Denys on his kneesand drew off her shoeandtried the new ones on the white skin devoutly. Finding she had awilling victimshe abused the opportunitytried first one pairthen anotherthen the first againand so onbalancing andhesitating for about half an hourto Gerard's disgustand Denys'sweak delight. At last she was fittedand handed two pair of yellowand one pair of red shoes out to her servant. Then was heard a sigh.It burst from the owner of the shop: he had risen from slumberandwas now hovering aboutlike a partridge near her brood in danger.

"Therego all my coloured shoes" said heas they disappeared in thegirl's apron.

Thelady departed: Gerard fitted himself with a stout pairasked thepricepaid it without a wordand gave his old ones to a beggar inthe streetwho blessed him in the marketplaceand threw themfuriously down a well in the suburbs. The comrades left the shopandin it two melancholy menthat lookedand even talkedas if theyhad been robbed wholesale.

"Myshoon are sore worn" said Denysgrinding his teeth; "butI'll go barefoot till I reach Franceere I'll leave my money withsuch churls as these."

TheDutchman replied calmly"They seem indifferent well sewn.

Asthey drew near the Rhinethey passed through forest after forestand now for the first time ugly words sounded in travellers' mouthsseated around stoves. "Thieves!" "black gangs!""cut-throats!" etc.

Thevery rustics were said to have a custom hereabouts of murdering theunwary traveller in these gloomy woodswhose dark and deviouswinding enabled those who were familiar with them to do deeds ofrapine and blood undetectedor if detectedeasily to bafflepursuit.

Certainit wasthat every clown they met carriedwhether for offence ordefencea most formidable weapon; a light axewith a short pike atthe headand a long slender handle of ash or yewwell seasoned.These the natives could all throw with singular precisionso as tomake the point strike an object at several yard's distanceor couldslay a bullock at hand with a stroke of the blade. Gerard bought oneand practised with it. Denys quietly filed and ground his bolt sharpwhistling the whilst; and when they entered a gloomy woodhe wouldunsling his crossbow and carry it ready for action; but not so muchlike a traveller fearing an attackas a sportsman watchful not tomiss a snap shot

Onedaybeing in a forest a few leagues from Dusseldorfas Gerard waswalking like one in a dreamthinking of Margaretand scarce seeingthe road he trodehis companion laid a hand on his shoulderandstrung his crossbow with glittering eye. "Hush!" said hein a low whisper that startled Gerard more than thunder. Gerardgrasped his axe tightand shook a little: he heard a rustling in thewood hard byand at the same moment Denys sprang into the woodandhis crossbow went to his shouldereven as he jumped. Twang! went themetal string; and after an instant's suspense he roared"Runforwardguard the roadhe is hit! he is hit!"

Gerarddarted forwardand as he ran a young bear burst out of the woodright upon him; finding itself interceptedit went upon its hindlegs with a snarland though not half grownopened formidable jawsand long claws. Gerardin a fury of excitement and agitationflunghimself on itand delivered a tremendous blow on its nose with hisaxeand the creature staggered; anotherand it lay grovellingwithGerard hacking it.

"Hallo!stop! you are mad to spoil the meat."

"Itook it for a robber" said Gerardpanting. "I meanI hadmade ready for a robberso I could not hold my hand."

"Aythese chattering travellers have stuffed your head full of thievesand assassins; they have not got a real live robber in their wholenation. NayI'll carry the beast; bear thou my crossbow."

"Wewill carry it by turnsthen" said Gerard"for 'tis aheavy load: poor thinghow its blood drips. Why did we slay it?"

"Forsupper and the reward the baillie of the next town shall give us."

"Andfor that it must diewhen it had but just begun to live; andperchance it hath a mother that will miss it sore this nightandloves it as ours love us; more than mine does me."

"Whatknow you not that his mother was caught in a pitfall last monthandher skin is now at the tanner's? and his father was stuck full ofcloth-yard shafts t'other dayand died like Julius Caesarwith hishands folded on his bosomand a dead dog in each of them?"

ButGerard would not view it jestingly. "Whythen" said he"we have killed one of God's creatures that was all alone in theworld-as I am this dayin this strange land."

"Youyoung milksop" roared Denys"these things must not belooked at soor not another bow would be drawn nor quarrel fly inforest nor battlefield. Whyone of your kidney consorting with atroop of pikemen should turn them to a row of milk-pails; it isendedto Rome thou goest not alonefor never wouldst thou reach theAlps in a whole skin. I take thee to Remiremontmy native placeandthere I marry thee to my young sistershe is blooming as a peach.Thou shakest thy head? ah! I forgot; thou lovest elsewhereand art aone woman mana creature to me scarce conceivable. Well then I shallfind theenot a wifenor a lemanbut a friend; some honestBurgundian who shall go with thee as far as Lyons; and much I doubtthat honest fellow will be myselfinto whose liquor thou has droppedsundry powders to make me love thee; for erst I endured not doves indoublet and hose. From LyonsI sayI can trust thee by ship toItalywhich being by all accounts the very stronghold of milksopsthou wilt there be safe: they will hear thy wordsand make theetheir duke in a twinkling."

Gerardsighed. "In sooth I love not to think of this Dusseldorfwherewe are to part companygood friend."

Theywalked silentlyeach thinking of the separation at hand; the thoughtchecked trifling conversationand at these moments it is a relief todo somethinghowever insignificant. Gerard asked Denys to lend him abolt. "I have often shot with a long bowbut never with one ofthese!"

"Drawthy knife and cut this one out of the cub" said Denys slily.

"NayDayI want a clean one."

Denysgave him three out of his quiver.

Gerardstrung the bowand levelled it at a bough that had fallen into theroad at some distance. The power of the instrument surprised him; theshort but thick steel bow jarred him to the very heel as it went offand the swift steel shaft was invisible in its passage; only the deadleaveswith which November had carpeted the narrow roadflew abouton the other side of the bough.

"Yeaimed a thought too high" said Denys.

"Whata deadly thing! no wonder it is driving out the longbow - to Martin'smuch discontent."

"Aylad" said Denys triumphantly"it gains ground every dayin spite of their laws and their proclamations to keep up the yewenbowbecause forsooth their grandsires shot with itknowing nobetter. You seeGerardwar is not pastime. Men will shoot at theirenemies with the hittingest arm and the killingestnot with thelongest and missingest."

"Thenthese new engines I hear of will put both bows down; for these with apinch of black dustand a leaden balland a child's fingershallslay you Mars and Goliathand the Seven Champions."

"Pooh!pooh!" said Denys warmly; "petrone nor harquebuss shallever put down Sir Arbalest. Whywe can shoot ten times while theyare putting their charcoal and their lead into their leathern smokebelchersand then kindling their matches. All that is too fumblingfor the field of battle; there a soldier's weapon needs be aye readylike his heart."

Gerarddid not answerfor his ear was attracted by a sound behind them. Itwas a peculiar soundtoolike something heavybut not hardrushing softly over the dead leaves. He turned round with some littlecuriosity. A colossal creature was coming down the road at aboutsixty paces' distance.

Helooked at it in a sort of calm stupor at firstbut the next momenthe turned ashy pale.

"Denys!"he cried. "OhGod! Denys!"

Denyswhirled round.

Itwas a bear as big as a cart-horse.

Itwas tearing along with its huge head downrunning on a hot scent.

Thevery moment he saw it Denys said in a sickening whisper-

"THECUB!"

Oh!the concentrated horror of that one wordwhispered hoarselywithdilating eyes! For in that syllable it all flashed upon them bothlike a sudden stroke of lightning in the dark - the bloody trailthemurdered cubthe mother upon themand it. DEATH.

Allthis in a moment of time. The nextshe saw them. Huge as she wasshe seemed to double herself (it was her long hair bristling withrage): she raised her head big as a hull'sher swine-shaped jawsopened wide at themher eyes turned to blood and flameand sherushed upon themscattering the leaves about her like a whirlwind asshe came.

"Shoot!"screamed Denysbut Gerard stood shaking from head to footuseless.

"Shootman! ten thousand devilsshoot! too late! Tree! tree!" and hedropped the cubpushed Gerard across the roadand flew to the firsttree and climbed itGerard the same on his side; and as they fledboth men uttered inhuman howls like savage creatures grazed by death.

Withall their speed one or other would have been torn to fragments at thefoot of his tree; but the bear stopped a moment at the cub.

Withouttaking her bloodshot eyes off those she was huntingshe smelt it allroundand foundhowher Creator only knowsthat it was deadquite dead. She gave a yell such as neither of the hunted ones hadever heardnor dreamed to be in natureand flew after Denys. Shereared and struck at him as he climbed. He was just out of reach.

Instantlyshe seized the treeand with her huge teeth tore a great piece outof it with a crash. Then she reared againdug her claws deep intothe barkand began to mount it slowlybut as surely as a monkey.

Denys'sevil star had led him to a dead treea mere shaftand of no verygreat height. He climbed faster than his pursuerand was soon at thetop. He looked this way and that for some bough of another tree tospring to. There was none; and if he jumped downhe knew the bearwould be upon him ere he could recover the falland make short workof him. MoreoverDenys was little used to turning his back ondangerand his blood was rising at being hunted. He turned to bay.

"Myhour is come" thought he. "Let me meet death like a man."He kneeled down and grasped a small shoot to steady himselfdrew hislong knifeand clenching his teethprepared to jab the huge bruteas soon as it should mount within reach.

Ofthis combat the result was not doubtful.

Themonster's head and neck were scarce vulnerable for bone and masses ofhair. The man was going to sting the bearand the bear to crack theman like a nut.

Gerard'sheart was better than his nerves. He saw his friend's mortal dangerand passed at once from fear to blindish rage. He slipped down histree in a momentcaught up the crossbowwhich he had dropped in theroadand running furiously upsent a bolt into the bear's body witha loud shout. The bear gave a snarl of rage and painand turned itshead irresolutely.

"Keepaloof!" cried Denys"or you are a dead man."

"Icare not;" and in a moment he had another bolt ready and shot itfiercely into the bearscreaming"Take that! take that!"

Denyspoured a volley of oaths down at him. "Get awayidiot!"

Hewas right: the bear finding so formidable and noisy a foe behind herslipped growling down the treerending deep furrows in it as sheslipped. Gerard ran back to his tree and climbed it swiftly. Butwhile his legs were dangling some eight feet from the groundthebear came rearing and struck with her fore pawand out flew a pieceof bloody cloth from Gerard's hose. He climbedand climbed; andpresently he heard as it were in the air a voice say"Go out onthe bough!" He lookedand there was a long massive branchbefore him shooting upwards at a slight angle: he threw his bodyacross itand by a series of convulsive efforts worked up it to theend.

Thenhe looked round panting.

Thebear was mounting the tree on the other side. He heard her clawsscrapeand saw her bulge on both sides of the massive tree. Her eyenot being very quickshe reached the fork and passed itmountingthe main stem. Gerard drew breath more freely. The bear either heardhimor found by scent she was wrong: she paused; presently shecaught sight of him. She eyed him steadilythen quietly descended tothe fork.

Slowlyand cautiously she stretched out a paw and tried the bough. It was astiff oak branchsound as iron. Instinct taught the creature this:it crawled carefully out on the boughgrowling savagely as it came.

Gerardlooked wildly down. He was forty feet from the ground. Death below.Death moving slow but sure on him in a still more horrible form. Hishair bristled. The sweat poured from him. He sat helplessfascinatedtongue-tied.

Asthe fearful monster crawled growling towards himincongruousthoughts coursed through his mind. Margaret: the Vulgatewhere itspeaks of the rage of a she-bear robbed of her whelps - Rome -Eternity.

Thebear crawled on. And now the stupor of death fell on the doomed man;he saw the open jaws and bloodshot eyes comingbut in a mist.

Asin a mist he heard a twang; he glanced down; Denyswhite and silentas deathwas shooting up at the bear. The bear snarled at the twang.but crawled on. Again the crossbow twangedand the bear snarledandcame nearer. Again the cross bow twanged; and the next moment thebear was close upon Gerardwhere he satwith hair standing stiff onend and eyes starting from their socketspalsied. The bear openedher jaws like a grave. and hot blood spouted from them upon Gerard asfrom a pump. The bough rocked. The wounded monster was reeling; itclungit stuck its sickles of claws deep into the wood; it toppledits claws held firmbut its body rolled offand the sudden shock tothe branch shook Gerard forward on his stomach with his face upon oneof the bear's straining paws. At thisby a convulsive effortsheraised her head upuptill he felt her hot fetid breath. Then hugeteeth snapped together loudly close below him in the airwith a lasteffort of baffled hate. The ponderous carcass rent the claws out ofthe boughthen pounded the earth with a tremendous thump. There wasa shout of triumph belowand the very next instant a cry of dismayfor Gerard had swoonedand without an attempt to save himselfrolled headlong from the perilous height.

 

CHAPTERXXV

Denyscaught at Gerardand somewhat checked his fall; but it may bedoubted whether this alone would have saved him from breaking hisneckor a limb. His best friend now was the dying bearon whosehairy carcass his head and shoulders descended. Denys tore him offher. It was needless. She panted stilland her limbs quiveredbut ahare was not so harmless; and soon she breathed her last; and thejudicious Denys propped Gerard up against herbeing softand fannedhim. He came to by degrees. but confusedand feeling the bear aroundhimrolled awayyelling.

"Courage"cried Denys"le diable est mort."

"Isit dead? quite dead?" inquired Gerard from behind a tree; forhis courage was feverishand the cold fit was on him just nowandhad been for some time.

"Behold"said Denysand pulled the brute's ear playfullyand opened her jawsand put in his headwith other insulting antics; in the midst ofwhich Gerard was violently sick.

Denyslaughed at him.

"Whatis the matter now?" said he"alsowhy tumble off yourperch just when we had won the day?"

"IswoonedI trow."

"Butwhy?"

Notreceiving an answerhe continued"Green girls faint as soon aslook at youbut then they choose time and place. What woman everfainted up a tree?"

"Shesent her nasty blood all over me. I think the smell must haveoverpowered me! Faugh! I hate blood."

"Ido believe it potently."

"Seewhat a mess she has made me

"Butwith her bloodnot yours. I pity the enemy that strives to satisfyyou."'

"Youneed not to bragMaitre Denys; I saw you under the treethe colourof your shirt."

"Letus distinguish" said Denyscolouring; "it is permitted totremble for a friend."

Gerardfor answerflung his arms round Denys's neck in silence.

"Lookhere" whined the stout soldieraffected by this little gush ofnature and youth"was ever aught so like a woman? I love theelittle milksop - go to. Good! behold him on his knees now. What newcaprice is this?"

"OhDenysought we not to return thanks to Him who has saved both ourlives against such fearful odds?" And Gerard kneeledand prayedaloud. And presently he found Denys kneeling quiet beside himwithhis hands across his bosom after the custom of his nationand a faceas long as his arm. When they roseGerard's countenance was beaming.

"GoodDenys" said he"Heaven will reward thy piety."

"Ahbah! I did it out of politeness" said the Frenchman. "Itwas to please theelittle one. "C'est egal: 'twas well andorderly prayedand edified me to the core while it lasted. A bishophad scarce handled the matter better; so now our evensong being sungand the saints enlisted with us - marchons."

Erethey had taken two stepshe stopped. "By-the-bythe cub!"

"Ohnono!" cried Gerard.

"Youare right. It is late. We have lost time climbing treesand tumblingoff 'emand swooningand vomitingand praying; and the brute isheavy to carry. And now I think on'twe shall have papa after itnext; these bears make such a coil about an odd cub. What is this?you are wounded! you are wounded!"

"NotI."

"Heis wounded; miserable that I am!"

"BecalmDenys. I am not touched; I feel no pain anywhere."

"You?you only feel when another is hurt" cried Denyswith greatemotion; and throwing himself on his kneeshe examined Gerard's legwith glistening eyes.

"Quick!quick! before it stiffens" he criedand hurried him on.

"Whomakes the coil about nothing now?" inquired Gerard composedly.

Denys'sreply was a very indirect one.

"Bepleased to note" said he"that I have a bad heart. Youwere man enough to save my lifeyet I must sneer at youa novice inwar. Was not I a novice once myself? Then you fainted from a woundand I thought you swooned for fearand called you a milksop.BrieflyI have a bad tongue and a bad heart."

"Denys!"

"Plait-il?"

"Youlie."

"Youare very good to say solittle oneand I am eternally obliged toyou" mumbled the remorseful Denys.

Erethey had walked many furlongsthe muscles of the wounded legcontracted and stiffenedtill presently Gerard could only just puthis toe to the groundand that with great pain.

Atlast he could bear it no longer.

"Letme lie down and die" he groaned"for this isintolerable."

Denysrepresented that it was afternoonand the nights were now frosty;and cold and hunger ill companions; and that it would be unreasonableto lose hearta certain great personage being notoriously defunct.So Gerard leaned upon his axeand hobbled on; but presently he gaveinall of a suddenand sank helpless in the road.

Denysdrew him aside into the woodand to his surprise gave him hiscrossbow and boltsenjoining him strictly to lie quietand if anyill-looking fellows should find him out and come to himto bid themkeep aloof; and should they refuseto shoot them dead at twentypaces. "Honest men keep the path; andknaves in a woodnonebut fools do parley with them." With this he snatched upGerard's axeand set off running - notas Gerard expectedtowardsDusseldorfbut on the road they had come.

Gerardlay aching and smarting; and to him Romethat seemed so near atstartinglooked farfar offnow that he was two hundred milesnearer it. But soon all his thoughts turned Sevenbergen-wards. Howsweet it would be one day to hold Margaret's handand tell her allhe had gone through for her! The very thought of itand hersoothedhim; and in the midst of pain and irritation of the nerves be layresignedand sweetlythough faintlysmiling.

Hehad lain thus more than two hourswhen suddenly there were shouts;and the next moment something struck a tree hard byand quivered init.

Helookedit was an arrow.

Hestarted to his feet. Several missiles rattled among the boughsandthe wood echoed with battle-cries. Whence they came he could nottellfor noises in these huge woods are so reverberatedthat astranger is always at fault as to their whereabout; but they seemedto fill the whole air. Presently there was a lull; then he heard thefierce galloping of hoofs; and still louder shouts and cries arosemingled with shrieks and groans; and above allstrange and terriblesoundslike fierce claps of thunderbellowing loudand then dyingoff in cracking echoes; and red tongues of flame shot out ever andanon among the treesand clouds of sulphurous smoke came driftingover his head. And all was still.

Gerardwas struck with awe. "What will become of Denys?" he cried."Ohwhy did you leave me? OhDenysmy friend! my friend!"

Justbefore sunset Denys returnedalmost sinking under a hairy bundle. Itwas the bear's skin.

Gerardwelcomed him with a burst of joy that astonished him.

"Ithought never to see you againdear Denys. Were you in the battle?"

"No.What battle?"

"Thebloody battle of menor fiendsthat raged in the wood a whileagone;" and with this he described it to the lifeand morefully than I have done.

Denyspatted him indulgently on the back.

"Itis well" said he; "thou art a good limner; and fever is agreat spur to the imagination. One day I lay in a cart-shed with acracked skulland saw two hosts manoeuvre and fight a good hour oneight feet squarethe which I did fairly describe to my comrade indue orderonly not so gorgeously as thoufor want of book learning.

"Whatthenyou believe me not? when I tell you the arrows whizzed over myheadand the combatants shoutedand - "

"Maythe foul fiends fly away with me if I believe a word of it."

Gerardtook his armand quietly pointed to a tree close by.

"Whyit looks like - it is-a broad arrowas I live!" And he wentcloseand looked up at it.

"Itcame out of the battle. I heard itand saw it."

"AnEnglish arrow."

"Howknow you that?"

"Marryby its length. The English bowmen draw the bow to the earothersonly to the right breast. Hence the English loose a three-foot shaftand this is one of themperdition seize them! Wellif this is notglamourthere has been a trifle of a battle. And if there has been abattle in so ridiculous a place for a battle as thiswhy then 'tisno business of minefor my Duke hath no quarrel hereabouts. So let'sto bed" said the professional. And with this he scrapedtogether a heap of leavesand made Gerard lie on ithis axe by hisside. He then lay down beside himwith one hand on his arbalestanddrew the bear-skin over themhair inward. They were soon as warm astoastand fast asleep.

Butlong before the dawn Gerard woke his comrade.

"Whatshall I doDenysI die of famine?"

"Do?why. go to sleep again incontinent: qui dort dine."

"ButI tell you I am too hungry to sleep" snapped Gerard.

"Letus marchthen" replied Denyswith paternal indulgence.

Hehad a brief paroxysm of yawns; then made a small bundle of bears'earsrolling them up in a strip of the skincut for the purpose;and they took the road.

Gerardleaned on his axeand propped by Denys on the other sidehobbledalongnot without sighs.

"Ihate pain." said Gerard viciously.

"Thereinyou show judgment" replied papa smoothly.

Itwas a clear starlight night; and soon the moon rising revealed theend of the wood at no great distance: a pleasant sightsinceDusseldorf they knew was but a short league further.

Atthe edge of the wood they came upon something so mysterious that theystopped to gaze at itbefore going up to it. Two white pillars rosein the airdistant a few paces from each other; and between themstood many figuresthat looked like human forms.

"Igo no farther till I know what this is" said Gerardin anagitated whisper. "Are they effigies of the saintsfor men topray to on the road? or live robbers waiting to shoot down honesttravellers? Nayliving men they cannot befor they stand on nothingthat I see. Oh! Denyslet us turn back till daybreak; this is nomortal sight."

Denyshaltedand peered long and keenly. "They are men" saidheat last. Gerard was for turning back all the more. "But menthat will never hurt usnor we them. Look not to their feetforthat they stand on!"

"Wheretheni' the name of all the saints?"

"Lookover their heads" said Denys gravely.

Followingthis directionGerard presently discerned the outline of a darkwooden beam passing from pillar to pillar; and as the pair gotnearerwalking now on tiptoeone by one dark snake-like cords cameout in the moonlighteach pendent from the beam to a dead manandtight as wire.

Nowas they came under this awful monument of crime and wholesalevengeance a light air swept byand several of the corpses swungorgently gyrated. and every rope creaked. Gerard shuddered at thisghastly salute. So thoroughly had the gibbetwith its sickeningloadseized and held their eyesthat it was but now they perceiveda fire right underneathand a living figure sitting huddled over it.His axe lay beside himthe bright blade shining red in the glow. Hewas asleep.

Gerardstartedbut Denys only whispered"couragecomradehere is afire."

"Ay!but there is a man at it."

"Therewill soon be three;" and he began to heap some wood on it thatthe watcher had prepared; during which the prudent Gerard seized theman's axeand sat down tight on itgrasping his ownand examiningthe sleeper. There was nothing outwardly distinctive in the man. Hewore the dress of the country folkand the hat of the districtathree-cornered hat called a Brunswickerstiff enough to turn a swordcutand with a thick brass hat-band. The weight of the whole thinghad turned his ears entirely downlike a fancy rabbit's in ourcentury; but even thisthough it spoiled him as a manwas nothingremarkable. They had of late met scores of these dog's-eared rustics.The peculiarity wasthis clown watching under a laden gallows. Whatfor?

Denysif he felt curiouswould not show it; he took out two bears' earsfrom his bundleand running sticks through thembegan to toastthem. "'Twill be eating coined money" said he; "forthe burgomaster of Dusseldorf had given us a rix-dollar for theseearsas proving the death of their owners; but better a lean pursethan a lere stomach."

"Unhappyman!" cried Gerard"could you eat food here?"

"Wherethe fire is lighted there must the meat roastand where it roaststhere must it be eaten; for nought travels worse than your roastedmeat."

"Welleat thouDenysan thou canst! but I am cold and sick; there is noroom for hunger in my heart after what mine eyes have seen" andhe shuddered over the fire. "Oh! how they creak! and who is thismanI wonder? what an ill-favoured churl!"

Denysexamined him like a connoisseur looking at a pictureand in duecourse delivered judgment. "I take him to be of the refuse ofthat companywhereof these (pointing carelessly upward) were thecreamand so ran their heads into danger.

"Atthat ratewhy not stun him before he wakes?" and Gerardfidgeted where he sat.

Denysopened his eyes with humorous surprise. "For one who sets up fora milksop you have the readiest hand. Why should two stun one? tush!he wakes: note now what he says at wakingand tell me."

Theselast words were hardly whispered when the watcher opened his eyes. Atsight of the fire made upand two strangers eyeing him keenlyhestaredand there was a severe and pretty successful effort to becalm; still a perceptible tremor ran all over him. Soon he mannedhimselfand said gruffly. "Good morrow. But at the very momentof saying it he missed his axeand saw how Gerard was sitting uponitwith his own laid ready to his hand. He lost countenance againdirectly. Denys smiled grimly at this bit of byplay.

"Goodmorrow!" said Gerard quietly. keeping his eye on him.

Thewatcher was now too ill at ease to be silent. "You make freewith my fire" said he; but he added in a somewhat falteringvoice"you are welcome."

Denyswhispered Gerard. The watcher eyed them askant.

"Mycomrade says. sith we share your fireyou shall share his meat."

"Sobe it" said the man warmly. "I have half a kid hanging ona bush hard byI'll go fetch it;" and he arose with a cheerfuland obliging countenanceand was retiring.

Denyscaught up his crossbowand levelled it at his head. The man fell onhis knees.

Denyslowered his weaponand pointed him back to his place. He rose andwent back slowly and unsteadilylike one disjointed; and sick atheart as the mousethat the cat lets go a little wayand then dartsand replaces.

"Sitdownfriend" said Denys grimlyin French.

Theman obeyed finger and tonethough he knew not a word of French.

"Tellhim the fire is not big enough for more than thee. He will take mymeaning."

Thisbeing communicated by Gerardthe man grinned; ever since Denys spokehe had seemed greatly relieved. "I wist not ye were strangers"said he to Gerard.

Denyscut a piece of bear's earand offered it with grace to him he hadjust levelled crossbow at.

Hetook it calmlyand drew a piece of bread from his walletanddivided it with the pair. Naymorehe winked and thrust his handinto the heap of leaves he sat on (Gerard grasped his axe ready tobrain him) and produced a leathern bottle holding full two gallons.He put it to his mouthand drank their healthsthen handed it toGerard; he passed it untouched to Denys.

"Mortde ma vie!" cried the soldier"it is Rhenish wineand fitfor the gullet of an archbishop. Here's to theethou prince of goodfellowswishing thee a short life and a merry one! ComeGerardsup! sup! Pshawnever heed themman! they heed not thee. Nathelessdid I hang over such a skin of Rhenish as thisand three churls satbeneath a drinking it and offered me not a dropI'd soon be downamong them."

"Denys!Denys!"

"Myspirit would cut the cordand womp would come my body amongst yewith a hand on the bottleand one eye winkingt'other."

Gerardstarted up with a cry of horror and his fingers to his earsand wasrunning from the placewhen his eye fell on the watcher's axe. Thetangible danger brought him back. He sat down again on the axe withhis fingers in his ears.

"Couragel'amile diable est mort!" shouted Denys gailyand offered hima piece of bear's earput it right under his nose as he stopped hisears. Gerard turned his head away with loathing.

"Wine!"he gasped. "Heaven knows I have much need of itwith suchcompanions as thee and - "

Hetook a long draught of the Rhenish wine: it ran glowing through hisveinsand warmed and strengthened his heartbut could not check histremors whenever a gust of wind came. As for Denys and the otherthey feasted recklesslyand plied the bottle unceasinglyand drankhealths and caroused beneath that creaking sepulchre and its ghastlytenants.

"Askhim how they came here" said Denyswith his mouth fullandpointing up without looking.

Onthis question being interpreted to the watcherhe replied thattreason had been their enddiabolical treason and priest- craft. Hethenbeing rendered communicative by drinkdelivered a long prosynarrativethe purport of which was as follows. These honestgentlemen who now dangled here so miserably were all stout men andtrueand lived in the forest by their wits. Their independence andthriving state excited the jealousy and hatred of a large portion ofmankindand many attempts were made on their lives and liberties;these the Virgin and their patron saintscoupled with theirindividual skill and courage constantly baffled. But yester eve aparty of merchants came slowly on their mules from Dusseldorf. Thehonest men saw them crawlingand let them penetrate near a leagueinto the forestthen set upon them to make them disgorge a portionof their ill-gotten gains. But alas! the merchants were no merchantsat allbut soldiers of more than one nationin the pay of theArchbishop of Cologne; haubergeons had they beneath their gownsandweapons of all sorts at hand; nathelessthe honest men foughtstoutlyand pressed the traitors hardwhen lo! horsementhat hadbeen planted in ambush many hours beforegalloped upand with thesenew diabolical engines of warshot leaden bulletsand laid many anhonest fellow lowand so quelled the courage of others that theyyielded them prisoners. These being taken red-handedthe victorswho with malice inconceivable had brought cords knotted round theirwaistsdid speedily hangand by their side the dead onesto makethe gallanter show. "That one at the end was the captain. Henever felt the cord. He was riddled with broad arrows and leadenballs or ever they could take him: a worthy man as ever cried'Standand deliver!' but a little hastynot much: stay! I forgot; he isdead. Very hastyand obstinate as a pig. That one in the -buffjerkin is the lieutenantas good a soul as ever lived: he was hangedalive. This one hereI never could abide; no (not that one; that isConradmy bosom friend); I mean this one right overhead in thechicken-toed shoon; you were always carrying talesye thiefandmaking mischief; you know you were; andsirsI am a man that wouldrather live united in a coppice than in a forest with backbiters andtale-bearers: strangersI drink to you." And so he went downthe whole stringindicating with the neck of the bottlelike ashowman with his poleand giving a neat description of eachwhichthough pithy was invariably false; for the showman had no real eyefor characterand had misunderstood every one of these people.

"Enoughpalaver!" cried Denys. "Marchons! Give me his axe: now tellhim he must help you along."

Theman's countenance fellbut he saw in Denys's eye that resistancewould be dangerous; he submitted. Gerard it was who objected. Hesaid"Y pensez-vous? to put my hand on a thiefit maketh myflesh creep."

"Childishness!all trades must live. BesidesI have my reasons. Be not you wiserthan your elder."

"No.Only if I am to lean on him I must have my hand in my bosomstillgrasping the haft of my knife."

"Itis a new attitude to walk in; but please thyself."

Andin that strange and mixed attitude of tender offices and deadlysuspicion the trio did walk. I wish I could draw them - I would nottrust to the pen.

Thelight of the watch-tower at Dusseldorf was visible as soon as theycleared the woodand cheered Gerard. Whenafter an hour's marchthe black outline of the tower itself and other buildings stood outclear to the eyetheir companion halted and said gloomily"Youmay as well slay me out of hand as take me any nearer the gates ofDusseldorf town."

Onthis being communicated to Denyshe said at once"Let him gothenfor in sooth his neck will be in jeopardy if he wends muchfurther with us." Gerard acquiesced as a matter of course. Hishorror of a criminal did not in the least dispose him to activeco-operation with the law. But the fact isthat at this epoch noprivate citizen in any part of Europe ever meddled with criminals butin self-defenceexceptby-the-byin Englandwhichbehind othernations in some thingswas centuries before them all in this.

Theman's personal liberty being restoredhe asked for his axe. It wasgiven him. To the friends' surprise he still lingered. Was he to havenothing for coming so far out of his way with them?

"Hereare two batzenfriend.

"Addthe winethe good Rhenish?"

"Didyou give aught for it?"

"Ay!the peril of my life."

"Hum!what say youDenys?"

"Isay it was worth its weight in gold. Hereladhere be silvergroshenone for every acorn on that gallows tree; and here is onemore for theewho wilt doubtless be there in due season."

Theman took the coinsbut still lingered.

"Well!what now?" cried Gerardwho thought him shamefully overpaidalready. "Dost seek the hide off our bones?"

"Naygood sirsbut you have seen to-night how parlous a life is mine. Yebe true menand your prayers avail; give me then a small trifle of aprayeran't please you; for I know not one."

Gerard'scholer began to rise at the egotistical rogue; moreoverever sincehis wound he had felt gusts of irritability. Howeverhe bit his lipand said"There go two words to that bargain; tell me firstisit true what men say of you Rhenish thievesthat ye do murderinnocent and unresisting travellers as well as rob them?"

Theother answered sulkily"They you call thieves are not to blamefor that; the fault lies with the law."

"Gramercy!so 'tis the law's fault that ill men break it?"

"Imean not so; but the law in this land slays an honest man an if he dobut steal. What follows? he would be pitifulbut is discouragedherefrom; pity gains him no pityand doubles his peril: an he butcut a purse his life is forfeit; therefore cutteth he the throat tobootto save his own neck: dead men tell no tales. Pray then for thepoor soul who by bloody laws is driven to kill or else beslaughtered; were there less of this unreasonable gibbeting on thehighroadthere should be less enforced cutting of throats in darkwoodsmy masters."

"Fewerwords had served" replied Gerard coldly. "I asked aquestionI am answered" and suddenly doffing his bonnet -

"'ObsecroDeum omnipotentemutqua cruce jam pendent isti quindecim latronesfures et homicidaein ea homicida fur et latro tu pependeris quamcitissimepro publica salutein honorem justi Dei cui sit gloriain aeternumAmen.'"

"Andso good day."

Thegreedy outlaw was satisfied last. "That is Latin" hemuttered"and more than I bargained for." So indeed itwas.

Andhe returned to his business with a mind at ease. The friends ponderedin silence the many events of the last few hours.

Atlast Gerard said thoughtfully"That she-bear saved both ourlives-by God's will."

"Likeenough" replied Denys; "and talking of thatit was luckywe did not dawdle over our supper."

"Whatmean you?"

"Imean they are not all hanged; I saw a refuse of seven or eight asblack as ink around our fire."

"When?when?"

"Erewe had left it five minutes."

"Goodheavens! and you said not a word."

"Itwould but have worried youand had set our friend a looking backand mayhap tempted him to get his skull split. All other danger wasover; they could not see uswe were out of the moonshineandindeedjust turning a corner. Ah! there is the sun; and here are thegates of Dusseldorf. Couragel'amile diable est mort!"

"Myhead! my head!" was all poor Gerard could reply.

Somany shocksemotionsperilshorrorsadded to the woundhisfirsthad tried his youthful body and sensitive nature too severely.

Itwas noon of the same day.

Ina bedroom of "The Silver Lion" the rugged Denys satanxiouswatching his young friend.

Andhe lay raging with feverdelirious at intervalsand one word forever on his lips.

"Margaret!- Margaret Margaret!"

 

CHAPTERXXVI

Itwas the afternoon of the next day. Gerard was no longer lightheadedbut very irritable and full of fancies; and in one of these he beggedDenys to get him a lemon to suck. Denyswho from a rough soldier hadbeen turned by tender friendship into a kind of grandfathergot uphastilyand bidding him set his mind at ease"lemons he shouldhave in the twinkling of a quart pot" went and ransacked theshops for them.

Theywere not so common in the North as they are nowand he was absent along whileand Gerard getting very impatientwhen at last the dooropened. But it was not Denys. Entered softly an imposing figure; anold gentleman in a long sober gown trimmed with rich furcherry-coloured hoseand pointed shoeswith a sword by his side ina morocco scabbarda ruff round his neck not only starched severelybut treacherously stiffened in furrows by rebatoesor a littlehidden framework of wood; and on his head a four-cornered cap with afur border; on his chin and bosom a majestic white beard. Gerard wasin no doubt as to the vocation of his visitorforthe swordexceptedthis was familiar to him as the full dress of a physician.Moreovera boy followed at his heels with a basketwhere phialslintand surgical tools rather courted than shunned observation. Theold gentleman came softly to the bedsideand said mildly and sottovoce"How is't with theemy son?"

Gerardanswered gratefully that his wound gave him little pain now; but histhroat was parchedand his head heavy.

"Awound! they told me not of that. Let me see it. Ayaya good cleanbite. The mastiff had sound teeth that took this outI warrant me;"and the good doctor's sympathy seemed to run off to the quadruped hehad conjuredhis jackal.

"Thismust be cauterized forthwithor we shall have you starting back fromwaterand turning somersaults in bed under our hands. 'Tis the yearfor raving cursand one hath done your business; but we will bafflehim yet. Urchingo heat thine iron."

"Butsir" edged in Gerard"'twas no dogbut a bear."

"Abear! Young man" remonstrated the senior severely"thinkwhat you say; 'tis ill jesting with the man of art who brings hisgrey hairs and long study to heal you. A bearquotha! Had youdissected as many bears as Ior the titheand drawn their teeth tokeep your hand inyou would know that no bear's jaw ever made thisfoolish trifling wound. I tell you 'twas a dogand since you put meto itI even deny that it was a dog of magnitudebut neither morenor less than one of these little furious curs that are so rifeandrun deviousbiting each manly legand laying its wearer lowbutfor me and my learned brethrenwho still stay the mischief withknife and cautery."

"Alassir! when said I 'twas a bear's jaw? I said'A bear:' it was hispawnow."

"Andwhy didst not tell me that at once?"

"Becauseyou kept telling me instead."

"Neverconceal aught from your leechyoung man" continued the seniorwho was a good talkerbut one of the worst listeners in Europe."Wellit is an ill business. All the horny excrescences ofanimalsto witclaws of tigerspanthersbadgerscatsbearsandthe likeand horn of deerand nails of humansespecially childrenare imbued with direst poison. Y'had better have been bitten by acurwhatever you may saythan gored by bull or stagor scratchedby bear. Howevershalt have a good biting cataplasm for thy leg;meantime keep we the body cool: put out thy tongue!-good!-fever. Letme feel thy pulse: good! - fever. I ordain flebotomyand on theinstant."

"Flebotomy!that is bloodletting: humph! Wellno matterif 'tis sure to curemefor I will not lie idle here." The doctor let him know thatflebotomy was infallibleespecially in this case.

"Hansgo fetch the things needfuland I will entertain the patientmeantime with reasons."

Theman of art then explained to Gerard that in disease the blood becomeshot and distempered and more or less poisonous; but a portion of thisunhealthy liquid removedNature is fain to create a purer fluid tofill its place. Bleedingthereforebeing both a cooler and apurifierwas a specific in all diseasesfor all diseases werefebrilewhatever empirics might say.

"Butthink not" said he warmly"that it suffices to bleed; anypaltry barber can open a vein (though not all can close it again).The art is to know what vein to empty for what disease. T'other daythey brought me one tormented with earache. I let him blood in theright thighand away flew his earache. By-the-byhe has died sincethen. Another came with the toothache. I bled him behind the earandrelieved him in a jiffy. He is also since dead as it happens. I bledour bailiff between the thumb and forefinger for rheumatism.Presently he comes to me with a headache and drumming in the earsand holds out his hand over the basin; but I smiled at his follyandbled him in the left ankle sore against his willand made his headas light as a nut."

Divergingthen from the immediate theme after the manner of enthusiaststhereverend teacher proceeded thus:

"Knowyoung manthat two schools of art contend at this moment throughoutEurope. The Arabianwhose ancient oracles are AvicennaRhazesAlbucazis; and its revivers are Chauliac and Lanfranc; and the Greekschoolwhose modern champions are BessarionPlatinusand MarsiliusFicinusbut whose pristine doctors were medicine's very oraclesPhoebusChironAesculapiusand his sons Podalinus and MachaonPythagorasDemocritusPraxagoraswho invented the arteriesandDioctes'qui primus urinae animum dedit.' All these taught orally.Then came Hippocratesthe eighteenth from Aesculapiusand of him wehave manuscripts; to him we owe 'the vital principle.' He alsoinvented the bandageand tapped for water on the chest; and aboveall he dissected; yet only quadrupedsfor the brutal prejudices ofthe pagan vulgar withheld the human body from the knife of science.Him followed Aristotlewho gave us the aortathe largestblood-vessel in the human body."

"Surelysirthe Almighty gave us all that is in our bodiesand notAristotlenor any Grecian man" objected Gerard humbly.

"Child!of course He gave us the thing; but Aristotle did morehe gave usthe name of the thing. But young men will still be talking. The nextgreat light was Galen; he studied at Alexandriathen the home ofscience. Hejustly malcontent with quadrupedsdissected apesascoming nearer to manand bled like a Trojan. Then came Theophiluswho gave us the nervesthe lacteal vesselsand the pia mater."

Thisworried Gerard. "I cannot lie still and hear it said that mortalman bestowed the parts which Adam our father took from Himwho madehim of the clayand us his sons."

"Wasever such perversity?" said the doctorhis colour rising. "Whois the real donor of a thing to man? he who plants it secretly in thedark recesses of man's bodyor the learned wight who reveals it tohis intelligenceand so enriches his mind with the knowledge of it?Comprehension is your only true possession. Are you answered?"

"Iam put to silencesir."

"Andthat is better still; for garrulous patients are ill to cureespecially in fever; I saythenthat Eristratus gave us thecerebral nerves and the milk vessels; naymorehe was the inventorof lithotomywhatever you may say. Then came another whom I forget;you do somewhat perturb me with your petty exceptions. Then cameAmmoniusthe author of lithotrityand here comes Hans with thebasin-to stay your volubility. Blow thy chaferboyand hand me thebasin; 'tis well. Arabiansquotha! What are they but a sect ofyesterday who about the year 1000 did fall in with the writings ofthose very Greeksand read them awryhaving no concurrent light oftheir own? for their demigodand camel-driverMahoundimpostor inscience as in religionhad strictly forbidden them anatomyeven ofthe lower animalsthe which he who severeth from medicine'tollitsolem e mundo' as Tully quoth. Naywonder not at my fervourgoodyouth; where the general weal stands in jeopardya little warmth iscivichumaneand honourable. Now there is settled of late in thistown a pestilent Arabista mere empiricwhodespising anatomyandscarce knowing Greek from Hebrewhath yet spirited away half mypatients; and I tremble for the rest. Put forth thine ankle; andthouHansbreathe on the chafer."

Whilstmatters were in this posturein came Denys with the lemonsandstood surprised. "What sport is toward?" said heraisinghis brows.

Gerardcoloured a littleand told him the learned doctor was going toflebotomize him and cauterize him; that was all.

"Ay!indeed; and yon impwhat bloweth he hot coals for?"

"Whatshould it be for" said the doctor to Gerard"but tocauterize the vein when opened and the poisonous blood let free? 'Tisthe only safe way. Avicenna indeed recommends a ligature of the vein;but how 'tis to be done he saith notnor knew he himself I wotnorany of the spawn of Ishmael. For meI have no faith in such tricksyexpedients; and take this with you for a safe principle: 'Whatever anArab or Arabist says is rightmust be wrong.'"

"ohI see now what 'tis for" said Denys; "and art thou sosimple as to let him put hot iron to thy living flesh? didst everkeep thy little finger but ten moments in a candle? and this will beas many minutes. Art not content to burn in purgatory after thydeath? must thou needs buy a foretaste on't here?"

"Inever thought of that" said Gerard gravely; "the gooddoctor spake not of burningbut of cautery; to be sure 'tis all onebut cautery sounds not so fearful as burning."

"Imbecile!That is their art; to confound a plain man with dark wordstill hishissing flesh lets him know their meaning. Now listen to what I haveseen. When a soldier bleeds from a wound in battlethese leechessay'Fever. Blood him!' and so they burn the wick at t'other endtoo. They bleed the bled. Now at fever's heels comes desperateweakness; then the man needs all his blood to live; but theseprickers and burnershaving no forethoughtrecking nought of whatis sure to come in a few hoursand seeing like brute beasts onlywhat is under their noseshaving meantime robbed him of the veryblood his hurt had spared him to battle that weakness withal; and sohe dies exhausted. Hundreds have I seen so scratched and pricked outof the worldGerardand tall fellows too; but lo! if they have theluck to be wounded where no doctor can be hadthen they live; thistoo have I seen. Had I ever outlived that field in Brabant but for mymost lucky mischancelack of chirurgery? The frost chocked all mybleeding woundsand so I lived. A chirurgeon had pricked yet onemore hole in this my body with his lanceand drained my last dropoutand my spirit with it. Seeing them thus distraught in bleedingof the bleeding soldierI place no trust in them; for what slays aveteran may well lay a milk-and-water bourgeois low."

"Thissounds like common sense" sighed Gerard languidly"but noneed to raise your voice so; I was not born deafand just now I hearacutely."

"Commonsense! very common sense indeed" shouted the bad listener;"whythis is a soldier; a brute whose business is to kill mennot cure them." He added in very tolerable French"Woe beto youunlearned manif you come between a physician and hispatient; and woe be to youmisguided youthif you listen to thatman of blood."

"Muchobliged" said Denyswith mock politeness; "but I am atrue manand would rob no man of his name. I do somewhat in the wayof bloodbut not worth mention in this presence. For one I slayyouslay a score; and for one spoonful of blood I drawyou spill atubful. The world is still gulled by shows. We soldiers vapour withlong swordsand even in war be-get two foes for every one we kill;but you smooth gownsmenwith soft phrases and bare bodkins'tis youthat thin mankind."

"Asick chamber is no place for jesting" cried the physician.

"Nodoctornor for bawling" said the patient peevishly.

"Comeyoung man" said the senior kindly"be reasonable.Cuilibet in sua arte credendum est. My whole life has been given tothis art. I studied at Montpelier; the first school in Franceand byconsequence in Europe. There learned I DririmancyScatomancyPathologyTherapeusisandgreater than them allAnatomy. Forthere we disciples of Hippocrates and Galen had opportunities thosegreat ancients never knew. Goodbyequadrupeds and apesandpaganismand Mohammedanism; we bought of the churchwardenswe shookthe gallows; we undid the sexton's work of dark nightspenetratedwith love of science and our kind; all the authorities had theirorders from Paris to wink; and they winked. Gods of Olympushow theywinked! The gracious king assisted us: he sent us twice a year aliving criminal condemned to dieand said'Deal ye with him asscience asks; dissect him aliveif ye think fit.'"

"Bythe liver of Herodand Nero's bowelshe'll make me blush for theland that bore mean' if he praises it any more" shouted Denysat the top of his voice.

Gerardgave a little squawkand put his fingers in his ears; but speedilydrew them out and shouted angrilyand as loudly"you greatroaringblaspheming bull of Basanhold your noisy tongue!"

Denyssummoned a contrite look.

"Tushslight man" said the doctorwith calm contemptand vibrated ahand over him as in this age men make a pointer dog down charge; thenflowed majestic on. "We seldom or never dissected the livingcriminalexcept in part. We mostly inoculated them with suchdiseases as the barren time affordedselecting of course the moreinteresting ones."

"Thatmeans the foulest" whispered Denys meekly.

"Thesewe watched through all their stages to maturity."

"Meaningthe death of the poor rogue" whispered Denys meekly.

"Andnowmy poor suffererwho best merits your confidencethis honestsoldier with his youthhis ignoranceand his prejudicesor agreybeard laden with the gathered wisdom of ages

"Thatis" cried Denys impatiently"will you believe what ajackdaw' in a long gown has heard from a starling in a long gownwhoheard it from a jay-piewho heard it from a magpiewho heard itfrom a popinjay; or will you believe what Ia man with nought togain by looking awrynor speaking falsehave seen; nor heard withthe ears which are given us to gull usbut seen with these sentinelsmine eyeseenseen; to witthat fevered and blooded men diethatfevered men not blooded live? staywho sent for this sang-sue? Didyou?"

"NotI. I thought you had."

"Nay"explained the doctor"the good landlord told me one was 'down'in his house; so I said to myself'A strangerand in need of myart' and came incontinently."

"Itwas the act of a good Christiansir."

"ofa good bloodhound" cried Denys contemptuously. "Whatartthou so green as not to know that all these landlords are in leaguewith certain of their fellow-citizenswho pay them toll on eachbooty? Whatever you pay this ancient for stealing your life bloodofthat the landlord takes his third for betraying you to him. Naymoreas soon as ever your blood goes down the stair in that basintherethe landlord will see it or smell itand send swiftly to hisundertaker and get his third out of that job. For if he waited tillthe doctor got downstairsthe doctor would be beforehand and bespeakhis undertakerand then he would get the black thirds. Say I soothold Rouge et Noir? dites!"

"DenysDenyswho taught you to think so ill of man?"

"Mineeyesthat are not to be gulled by what men sayseeing this many ayear what they doin all the lands I travel."

Thedoctor with some address made use of these last words to escape thepersonal question. "I too have eyes as well as thouand go notby tradition onlybut by what I have seenand not only seenbutdone. I have healed as many men by bleeding as that interlopingArabist has killed for want of it. 'Twas but t'other day I healed onethreatened with leprosy; I but bled him at the tip of the nose. Icured last year a quartan ague: how? bled its forefinger. Our curelost his memory. I brought it him back on the point of my lance; Ibled him behind the ear. I bled a dolt of a boyand now he is theonly one who can tell his right hand from his left in a whole familyof idiots. When the plague was here years agono sham plaguesuchas empyrics proclaim every six years or sobut the good honestByzantine pestI blooded an alderman freelyand cauterized thesymptomatic buboesand so pulled him out of the grave; whereas ourthen chirurgeona most pernicious Arabistcaught it himselfanddied of itahacalling on RhazesAvicennaand Mahoundwhocouldthey have comehad all perished as miserably as himself."

"Ohmy poor ears" sighed Gerard.

"Andam I fallen so low that one of your presence and speech rejects myart. and listens to a rude soldierso far behind even his ownmiserable trade as to bear an arbalesta worn- out inventionthatGerman children shoot at pigeons withbut German soldiers mock atsince ever arquebusses came and put them down?"

"Youfoul-mouthed old charlatan" cried Denys"the arbalest isshouldered by taller men than ever stood in Rhenish hoseand evennow it kills as many more than your noisystinking arquebusas thelancet does than all our toys together. Go to! He was no fool whofirst called you 'leeches.' Sang-sues! va!"

Gerardgroaned. "By the holy virginI wish you were both at Jerichobellowing.'

"Thankyou comrade. Then I'll bark no morebut at need I'll bite. If he hasa lanceI have a sword; if he bleeds youI'll bleed him. The momenthis lance pricks your skinlittle onemy sword-hilt knocks againsthis ribs; I have said it."

AndDenys turned palefolded his armsand looked gloomy and dangerous.

Gerardsighed wearily. "Nowas all this is about megive me leave tosay a word."

"Ay!let the young man choose life or death for himself."

Gerardthen indirectly rebuked his noisy counsellors by contrast andexample. He spoke with unparalleled calmnesssweetnessandgentleness. And these were the words of Gerard the son of Eli. "Idoubt not you both mean me well; but you assassinate me between you.Calmness and quiet are everything to me; but you are like two dogsgrowling over a bone. "And in soothbone I should bedid thisuproar last long."

Therewas a dead silencebroken only by the silvery voice of Gerardas helay tranquiland gazed calmly at the ceilingand trickled intowords.

"Firstvenerable sirI thank you for coming to see mewhether fromhumanityor in the way of honest gain; all trades must live.

"Yourlearningreverend sirseems greatto me at leastand for yourexperienceyour age voucheth it.

"Yousay you have bled manyand of these manymany have not diedthereafterbut livedand done well. I must needs believe you."

Thephysician bowed; Denys grunted.

"Othersyou sayyou have bledand-they are dead. I must needs believe you.

"Denysknows few things compared with youbut he knows them well. He is aman not given to conjecture. This I myself have noted. He says he hasseen the fevered and blooded for the most part die; the fevered andnot blooded live. I must needs believe him.

"Herethenall is doubt.

"Butthus much is certain; if I be bledI must pay you a feeand beburnt and excruciated with a hot ironwho am no felon.

"Paya certain price in money and anguish for a doubtful remedythat willI never.

"Nextto money and easepeace and quiet are certain goodsabove all in asick-room; but 'twould seem men cannot argue medicine without heatand raised voices; thereforesirI will essay a little sleepandDenys will go forth and gaze on the females of the placeand I willkeep you no longer from those who can afford to lay out blood andmoney in flebotomy and cautery."

Theold physician had naturally a hot temper; he had often during thisbattle of words mastered it with difficultyand now it mastered him.The most dignified course was silence; he saw thisand drew himselfupand made loftily for the doorfollowed close by his little boyand big basket.

Butat the door he chokedhe swelledhe burst. He whirled and came backopen-mouthedand the little boy and big basket had to whisksemicircularly not to be run downfor de minimis non curatMedicina-even when not in a rage.

"Ah!you reject my skillyou scorn my art. My revenge shall be to leaveyou to yourself; lost idiottake your last look at meand at thesun. Your blood be on your head!" And away he stamped.

Buton reaching the door he whirled and came back; his wicker tailtwirling round after him like a cat's.

"Intwelve hours at furthest you will be in the secondary stage of fever.Your head will split. Your carotids will thump. Aha! And let but apin fallyou will jump to the ceiling. Then send for me; and I'llnot come." He departed. But at the door- handle gathered furywheeled and came flyingwith paleterror-stricken boy and wickertail whisking after him. "Next will come - CRAMPS of theSTOMACH. Aha!

"Then- BILIOUS VOMIT. Aha!

"Then- COLD SWEATand DEADLY STUPOR.

"Then- CONFUSION OF ALL THE SENSES.

"Then- BLOODY VOMIT.

"Andafter that nothing can save younot even I; and if I could I wouldnotand so farewell!"

EvenDenys changed colour at threats so fervent and precise; but Gerardonly gnashed his teeth with rage at the noiseand seized his hardbolster with kindling eye.

Thisadded fuel to the fireand brought the insulted ancient back fromthe impassable doorwith his whisking train.

"Andafter that - MADNESS!

"Andafter that - BLACK VOMIT

"Andthen - CONVULSIONS!

"Andthen - THAT CESSATION OF ALL VITAL FUNCTIONS THE VULGAR CALL 'DEATH'for which thank your own Satanic folly and insolence. Farewell."He went. He came. He roared"And think not to be buried in anyChristian church- yard; for the bailiff is my good friendand Ishall tell him how and why you died: felo de se! felo de se!Farewell."

Gerardsprang to his feet on the bed by some supernatural gymnastic powerexcitement lent himand seeing him so movedthe vindictive oratorcame back at him fiercer than everto launch some master-threat theworld has unhappily lost; for as he came with his whisking trainandshaking his fistGerard hurled the bolster furiously in his face andknocked him down like a shotthe boy's head cracked under hisfalling master'sand crash went the dumb-stricken orator into thebasketand there sat wedged in an inverted anglecrushing phialafter phial. The boybeing lightwas strewed afarbut in asquatting posture; so that they sat in a sequencelike graduatedspecimensthe smaller howling. But soon the doctor's face filledwith horrorand he uttered a far louder and unearthly screechandkicked and struggled with wonderful agility for one of his age.

Hewas sitting on the hot coals.

Theyhad singed the cloth and were now biting the man. Struggling wildlybut vainly to get out of the baskethe rolled yelling over with itsidewaysand lo! a great hissing; then the humane Gerard ran andwrenched off the tight basket not without a struggle. The doctor layon his face groaninghandsomely singed with his own chaferandslaked a moment too late by his own villainous compoundswhichhoweverbeing as various and even beautiful in colour as they wereodious in tastehad strangely diversified his grey robeand paintedit more gaudy than neat.

Gerardand Denys raised him up and consoled him. "Courageman'tisbut cautery; balm of Gileadwhyyou recommend it but now to mycomrade here."

Thephysician replied only by a look of concentrated spiteand went outin dead silencethrusting his stomach forth before him in thedrollest way. The boy followed him next moment but in that slightinterval he left off whiningburst into a grinand conveyed to theculprits by an unrefined gesture his accurate comprehension ofandrapturous though compressed joy athis master's disaster.

 

CHAPTERXXVII

THEworthy physician went home and told his housekeeper he was in agonyfrom "a bad burn." Those were the words. For in phlogisticas in other thingswe cauterize our neighbour's digitsbut burn ourown fingers. His housekeeper applied some old women's remedy mild asmilk. He submitted like a lamb to her experience: his sole object inthe case of this patient being cure: meantime he made out his billfor broken phialsand took measures to have the travellersimprisoned at once. He made oath before a magistrate that theybeingstrangers and indebted to himmeditated instant flight from thetownship.

Alas!it was his unlucky day. His sincere desire and honest endeavour toperjure himself were baffled by a circumstance he had never foreseennor indeed thought possible.

Hehad spoken the truth.

AndIN AN AFFIDAVIT!

Theofficerson reaching "The Silver Lionfound the birds wereflown.

Theywent down to the riverand from intelligence they received therestarted up the bank in hot pursuit.

Thistemporary escape the friends owed to Denys's good sense andobservation. After a peal of laughterthat it was a cordial to hearand after venting his watchword three timeshe turned short graveand told Gerard Dusseldorf was no place for them. "That oldfellow" said he"went off unnaturally silent for such ababbler: we are strangers here; the bailiff is his friend: in fiveminutes we shall lie in a dungeon for assaulting a Dusseldorfdignityare you strong enough to hobble to the water's edge? it ishard by. Once there you have but to lie down in a boat instead of abed; and what is the odds?"

"TheoddsDenys? untoldand all in favour of the boat. I pine for Rome;for Rome is my road to Sevenbergen; and then we shall lie in theboatbut ON the Rhinethe famous Rhine; the coolrefreshing Rhine.I feel its breezes coming: the very sight will cure a littlehop-'o-my-thumb fever like mine; away! away!"

Findinghis excitable friend in this moodDenys settled hastily with thelandlordand they hurried to the river. On inquiry they found totheir dismay that the public boat was gone this half hourand noother would start that daybeing afternoon. By dinthoweverofasking a great many questionsand collecting a crowdthey obtainedan offer of a private boat from an old man and his two sons.

Thiswas duly ridiculed by a bystander. "The current is too strongfor three oars."

"Thenmy comrade and I will help row" said the invalid.

"Noneed" said the old man. "Bless your silly hearthe ownst'other boat."

Therewas a powerful breeze right astern; the boatmen set a broad sailandrowing alsowent off at a spanking rate.

"Areye betterladfor the river breeze?"

"Muchbetter. But indeed the doctor did me good."

"Thedoctor? Whyyou would none of his cures."

"Nobut I mean - you will say I am nought - but knocking the old fooldown - somehow - it soothed me."

"Amiabledove! how thy little character opens more and more every daylike arosebud. I read thee all wrong at first."

"NayDenysmistake me notneither. I trust I had borne with his idlethreatsthough in sooth his voice went through my poor ears; but hewas an infidelor next door to oneand such I have been taught toabhor. Did he not as good as saywe owed our inward parts to menwith long Greek namesand not to Himwhose name is but a syllablebut whose hand is over all the earth? Pagan!"

"Soyou knocked him down forthwith - like a good Christian."

"NowDenysyou will still be jesting. Take not an ill man's part. Had itbeen a thunderbolt from Heavenhe had met but his due; yet he tookbut a sorry bolster from this weak arm."

"Whatweak arm?" inquired Denyswith twinkling eyes. "I havelived among armsand by Samson's hairy pow never saw I one more likea catapult. The bolster wrapped round his nose and the two endskissed behind his headand his forehead resoundedand had he beenGoliathor Julius Caesarinstead of an old quacksalverdown he hadgone. St. Denys guard me from such feeble opposites as thou! andabove all from their weak arms -thou diabolical young hypocrite."

Theriver took many turnsand this sometimes brought the wind on theirside instead of right astern. Then they all moved to the weather sideto prevent the boat heeling over too much all but a child of aboutfive years oldthe grandson of the boatmanand his darling; thisurchin had slipped on board at the moment of startingand being toolight to affect the boat's trimwas aboveor rather belowthe lawsof navigation.

Theysailed merrily onlittle conscious that they were pursued by a wholeposse of constables armed with the bailiff's writand that theirpursuers were coming up with them; for if the wind was strongso wasthe current.

Andnow Gerard suddenly remembered that this was a very good way to Romebut not to Burgundy. "OhDenys" said hewith an almostalarmed look"this is not your road."

"Iknow it" said Denys quietly; but what can I do? I cannot leavethee till the fever leaves thee; and it is on thee stillfor thouart both red and white by turns; I have watched thee. I must e'en goon to CologneI doubtand then strike across."

"ThankHeaven" said Gerard joyfully. He added eagerlywith a littletouch of self-deception"'Twere a sin to be so near Cologne andnot see it. Ohmanit is a vast and ancient city such as I haveoften dreamed ofbut ne'er had the good luck to see. Me miserableby what hard fortune do I come to it now? Well thenDenys"continued the young man less warmly"it is old enough to havebeen founded by a Roman lady in the first century of graceandsacked by Attila the barbarousand afterwards sore defaced by theNorman Lothaire. And it has a church for every week in the yearforbye chapels and churches innumerable of convents and nunneriesand above allthe stupendous minster yet unfinishedand thereinbut in their own chapellie the three kings that brought gifts toour LordMelchior goldand Gaspar frankincenseand Balthazar theblack kinghe brought myrrh; and over their bones stands the shrinethe wonder of the world; it is of ever-shining brass brighter thangoldstudded with images fairly wroughtand inlaid with exquisitedevicesand brave with colours; and two broad stripes run to andfroof jewels so greatso rareeach might adorn a crown or ransomits wearer at need; and upon it stand the three kings curiouslycounterfeitedtwo in solid silverrichly gilt; these be bareheaded;but he of Aethiop ebonyand beareth a golden crown; and in the midstour blessed Ladyin virgin silverwith Christ in her arms; and atthe cornersin golden branchesfour goodly waxen tapers do burnnight and day. Holy eyes have watched and renewed that lightunceasingly for agesand holy eyes shall watch them in saecula. Itell theeDenysthe oldest songthe oldest Flemish or Germanlegendfound them burningand they shall light the earth to itsgrave. And there is St. Ursel's churcha British saint'swhere lieher bones and all the other virgins her fellows; eleven thousand werethey who died for the faithbeing put to the sword by barbarousMoorson the twenty-third day of Octobertwo hundred andthirty-eight. Their bones are piled in the vaultsand many of theirskulls are in the church. St. Ursel's is in a thin golden caseandstands on the high altarbut shown to humble Christians only onsolemn days."

"Eleventhousand virgins!" cried Denys. "What babies German menmust have been in days of yore. Wellwould all their bones mightturn flesh againand their skulls sweet facesas we pass throughthe gates. 'Tis odds but some of them are wearied of their estate bythis time."

"TushDenys!" said Gerard; "why wilt thoubeing goodstill makethyself seem evil? If thy wishing-cap be onpray that we may meetthe meanest she of all those wise virgins in the next worldand tothat end let us reverence their holy dust in this one. And then thereis the church of the Maccabeesand the cauldron in which they andtheir mother Solomona were boiled by a wicked king for refusing toeat swine's flesh."

"Ohperemptory king! and pig-headed Maccabees! I had eaten bacon with mypork liever than change places at the fire with my meat."

"Whatscurvy words are these? it was their faith."

"Naybridle thy cholerand tell meare there nought but churches in thisthy so vaunted city? for I affect rather Sir Knight than Sir Priest."

"Aymarrythere is an university near a hundred years old; and there isa market-placeno fairer in the worldand at the four sides of ithouses great as palaces; and there is a stupendous senate-house allcovered with imagesand at the bead of them stands one of stoutHerman Gryna soldier like thyselflad."

"Ay.Tell me of him! what feat of arms earned him his niche?"

"Arare one. He slew a lion in fair combatwith nought but his cloakand a short sword. He thrust the cloak in the brute's mouthand cuthis spine in twainand there is the man's effigy and eke the lion'sto prove it. The like was never done but by three moreI ween;Samson was oneand Lysimachus of Macedon anotherand Benaiahacaptain of David's host."

"Marry!three tall fellows. I would like well to sup with them all to-night."

"Sowould not I" said Gerard drily.

"Buttell me" said Denyswith some surprise"when wast thouin Cologne?"

"Neverbut in the spirit. I prattle with the good monks by the wayand theytell me all the notable things both old and new.

"Ayayhave not I seen your nose under their very cowls? But when Ispeak of matters that are out of sightmy words they are smallandthe thing it was big; now thy words be as big or bigger than thethings; art a good limner with thy tongue; I have said it; and for asaintas ready with handor steelor bolster - as any poor sinnerliving; and soshall I tell thee which of all these things thou hastdescribed draws me to Cologne?"

"AyDenys."

"Thouand thou only; no dead saintbut my living friend and comrade true;'tis thou alone draws Denys of Burgundy to Cologne?"

Gerardhung his head.

Atthis juncture one of the younger boatmen suddenly inquired what wasamiss with "little turnip-face?"

Hisyoung nephew thus described had just come aft grave as a judgeandburst out crying in the midst without more ado. On this phenomenonso sharply definedhe was subjected to many interrogatoriessomecoaxingly utteredsome not. Had he hurt himself? had he over-atehimself? was he frightened? was he cold? was he sick? was he anidiot?

Toall and each he uttered the same replywhich English writers renderthusoh! oh! oh! and French writers thushi! hi! hi! So fixed areFiction's phonetics.

"Whocan tell what ails the peevish brat?" snarled the young boatmanimpatiently. "Rather look this way and tell me whom be theseafter!" The old man and his other son lookedand saw four menwalking along the east bank of the river; at the sight they leftrowing awhileand gathered mysteriously in the sternwhispering andcasting glances alternately at their passengers and the pedestrians.

Thesequel may show they would have employed speculation better in tryingto fathom the turnip-face mystery; I begpardon of my age: I mean"the deep mind of dauntless infancy.

"If'tis as I doubt" whispered one of the young men"why notgive them a squeak for their lives; let us make for the west bank."

Theold man objected stoutly. "What" said he"run ourheads into trouble for strangers! are ye mad? Naylet us rathercross to the east side; still side with the strong arm! that is myrede. What say youWerter?"

"Isayplease yourselves."

Whatage and youth could not decide upona puff of wind settled mostimpartially. Came a squalland the little vessel heeled over; themen jumped to windward to trim her; but to their horror they saw inthe very boat from stem to stern a ditch of water rushing to leewardand the next moment they saw nothingbut felt the Rhinethe coldand rushing Rhine.

"Turnip-face"had drawn the plug.

Theofficers unwound the cords from their waists.

Gerardcould swim like a duck; but the best swimmercanted out of a boatcapsizedmust sink ere he can swim. The dark water bubbled loudlyover his headand then he came up almost blind and deaf for amoment; the nexthe saw the black boat bottom uppermostand figuresclinging to it; he shook his head like a water-dogand made for itby a sort of unthinking imitation; but ere he reached it he heard avoice behind him cry not loud but with deep manly distress"Adieucomradeadieu!"

Helookedand there was poor Denys sinkingsinkingweighed down byhis wretched arbalest. His face was paleand his eyes staring wideand turned despairingly on his dear friend. Gerard uttered a wild cryof love and terrorand made for himcleaving the water madly; butthe next moment Denys was under water.

ThenextGerard was after him.

Theofficers knotted a rope and threw the end in.

 

CHAPTERXXVIII

Thingsgood and evil balance themselves in a remarkable manner and almostuniversally. The steel bow attached to the arbalestrier's backandcarried above his headhad sunk him. That very steel bowowing tothat very positioncould not escape Gerard's handsone of whichgrasped itand the other went between the bow and the cordwhichwas as good. The next momentDenysby means of his crossbowwashoisted with so eager a jerk that half his body bobbed up out ofwater.

"Nowgrip me not! grip me not!" cried Gerardin mortal terror ofthat fatal mistake.

"Passi bete" gurgled Denys.

Seeingthe sort of stuff he had to deal withGerard was hopeful and calmdirectly. "On thy back" said he sharplyand seizing thearbalestand taking a stroke forwardhe aided the desired movement."Hand on my shoulder! slap the water with the other hand! No -with a downward motion; so. Do nothing more than I bid thee."Gerard had got hold of Denys's long hairand twisting it hardcaught the end between his side teethand with the strong muscles ofhis youthful neck easily kept up the soldier's headand struck outlustily across the current. A moment he had hesitated which side tomake forlittle knowing the awful importance of that simpledecision; then seeing the west bank a trifle nearesthe made towardsitinstead of swimming to jail like a good boyand so furnishingone a novel incident. Owing to the force of the current they slantedconsiderablyand when they had covered near a hundred yardsDenysmurmured uneasily"How much more of it?"

"Courage"mumbled Gerard. "Whatever a duck knowsa Dutchman knows; artsafe as in bed."

Thenext momentto their surprisethey found themselves in shallowwaterand so waded ashore. Once on terra firmathey looked at oneanother from head to foot as if eyes could devourthen by oneimpulse flung each an arm round the other's neckand panted therewith hearts too full to speak. And at this sacred moment life wassweet as heaven to both; sweetest perhaps to the poor exiled loverwho had just saved his friend. Ohjoy to whose height what poet hasyet soaredor ever tried to soar? To save a human life; and thatlife a loved one. Such moments are worth living foraythree scoreyears and ten. And thencalmerthey took handsand so walked alongthe bank hand in hand like a pair of sweetheartsscarce knowing orcaring whither they went.

Theboat people were all safe on the late concavenow convex craftHerrTurnip-facethe "Inverter of things" being in the middle.All this fracas seemed not to have essentially deranged his habits.At least he was greeting when he shot our friends into the Rhineandgreeting when they got out again.

"Shallwe wait till they right the boat?"

"NoDenysour fare is paid; we owe them nought. Let us onand briskly."

Denysassentedobserving that they could walk all the way to Cologne onthis bank.

"Ifare not to Cologne" was the calm reply.

"Whywhither then?"

"ToBurgundy."

"ToBurgundy? Ahno! that is too good to be sooth."

"Sooth'tisand sense into the bargain. What matters it to me how I go toRome?"

"Naynay; you but say so to pleasure me. The change is too sudden; andthink me not so ill-hearted as take you at your word. Also did I notsee your eyes sparkle at the wonders of Cologne? the churchestheimagesthe relics

"Howdull art thouDenys; that was when we were to enjoy them together.Churches! I shall see plentygo Rome-ward how I will. The bones ofsaints and martyrs; alas! the world is full of them; but a friendlike theewhere on earth's face shall I find another? NoI will notturn thee farther from the road that leads to thy dear homeand herthat pines for thee. Neither will I rob myself of thee by leavingthee. Since I drew thee out of Rhine I love thee better than I did.Thou art my pearl: I fished thee; and must keep thee. So gainsay menotor thou wilt bring back my fever; but cry courageand lead on;and hey for Burgundy!"

Denysgave a joyful caper. "Courage! va pour la Bourgogne. Oh! soyestranquille! cette fois il est bien decidement mortce coquin-la."And they turned their backs on the Rhine.

Onthis decision making itself clearacross the Rhine there was acommotion in the little party that had been watching the discussionand the friends had not taken many steps ere a voice came to themover the water. "HALT!"

Gerardturnedand saw one of those four holding out a badge of office and aparchment slip. His heart sank; for he was a good citizenand usedto obey the voice that now bade him turn again to Dusseldorf - theLaw's.

Denysdid not share his scruples. He was a Frenchmanand despised everyother nationlawsinmatesand customs included. He was a soldierand took a military view of the situation. Superior force opposed;river between; rear open; why'twas retreat made easy. He saw at aglance that the boat still drifted in mid-streamand there was noferry nearer than Dusseldorf. "I shall beat a quick retreat tothat hill" said he"and thenbeing out of sightquickstep."

Theysauntered off.

"Halt!in the bailiff's name" cried a voice from the shore.

Denysturned round and ostentatiously snapped his fingers at the bailiffand proceeded.

"Halt!in the archbishop's name."

Denyssnapped his fingers at his graceand proceeded.

"Halt!in the emperor's name."

Denyssnapped his fingers at his majestyand proceeded.

Gerardsaw this needless pantomime with regretand as soon as they hadpassed the brow of the hillsaid"There is now but one coursewe must run to Burgundy instead of walking;" and he set offandran the best part of a league without stopping.

Denyswas fairly blownand inquired what on earth had become of Gerard'sfever. "I begin to miss it sadly" said he drily.

"Idropped it in RhineI trow" was the reply.

Presentlythey came to a little villageand here Denys purchased a loaf and ahuge bottle of Rhenish wine. "For" he said"we mustsleep in some hole or corner. If we lie at an innwe shall be takenin our beds." This was no more than common prudence on the oldsoldier's part.

Theofficial network for catching law-breakersespecially plebeian oneswas very close in that age; though the co-operation of the public wasalmost nullat all events upon the Continent. The innkeepers wereeverywhere under close surveillance as to their travellersfor whoseacts they were even in some degree responsiblemore so it would seemthan for their sufferings.

Thefriends were both glad when the sun set; and delightedwhenafter along trudge under the stars (for the moonif I remember rightdidnot rise till about three in the morning) they came to a large barnbelonging to a house at some distance. A quantity of barley had beenlately thrashed; for the heap of straw on one side thethrashing-floor was almost as high as the unthrashed corn on theother.

"Herebe two royal beds" said Denys; "which shall we lie onthemowor the straw?"

"Thestraw for me" said Gerard.

Theysat on the heapand ate their brown breadand drank their wineandthen Denys covered his friend up in strawand heaped it high abovehimleaving him only a breathing hole: "Waterthey sayisdeath to fevered men; I'll make warm water on'tanyhow."

Gerardbade him make his mind easy. "These few drops from Rhine cannotchill me. I feel heat enough in my body now to parch a kennelorboil a cloud if I was in one." And with this epigram hisconsciousness went so rapidlyhe might really be said to "fallasleep."

Denyswho lay awake awhileheard that which made him nestle closer.Horses' hoofs came ringing up from Dusseldorfand the wooden barnvibrated as they rattled past howling in a manner too well known andunderstood in the 15th century. but as unfamiliar in Europe now as ared Indian's war-whoop.

Denysshook where he lay.

Gerardslept like a top.

Itall swept byand troop and howls died away.

Thestout soldier drew a long breathwhistled in a whisperclosed hiseyesand slept like a toptoo.

Inthe morning he sat up and put out his hand to wake Gerard. It lightedon the young man's foreheadand found it quite wet. Denys then inhis quality of nurse forbore to wake him. "It is ill to checksleep or sweat in a sick man" said he. "I know that farthough I ne'er minced ape nor gallows-bird."

Afterwaiting a good hour he felt desperately hungry; so he turnedand inself-defence went to sleep again.

Poorfellowin his hard life he had been often driven to this manoeuvre.At high noon he was waked by Gerard movingand found him sitting upwith the straw smoking round him like a dung-hill. Animal heat versusmoisture. Gerard called him "a lazy loon." He quietlygrinned.

Theyset outand the first thing Denys did was to give Gerard hisarbalestetc.and mount a high tree on the road. "Coast clearto the next village" said heand on they went.

Ondrawing near the villageDenys halted and suddenly inquired ofGerard how he felt.

"What!can you not see? I feel as if Rome was no further than yon hamlet."

"Butthy bodylad; thy skin?"

"Neitherhot nor cold; and yesterday 'twas hot one while and cold another. Butwhat I cannot get rid of is this tiresome leg."

"Legrand malheur! Many of my comrades have found no such difficulty."

"Ah!there it goes again; itches consumedly."

"Unhappyyouth" said Denys solemnly"the sum of thy troubles isthis: thy fever is goneand thy wound is - healing. Sith so it is"added he indulgently"I shall tell thee a little piece of newsI had otherwise withheld."

"Whatis't?" asked Gerardsparkling with curiosity.

"THEHUE AND CRY IS OUT AFTER US: AND ON FLEET HORSES."

"Oh!"

 

CHAPTERXXIX

Gerardwas staggered by this sudden communicationand his colour came andwent. Then he clenched his teeth with ire. For men of any spirit atall are like the wild boar; he will run from a superior forceowingperhaps to his not being an ass; but if you stick to his heels toolong and too closeandin shortbore himhe will whirland cometearing at a multitude of huntersand perhaps bore you. Gerard thenset his teeth and looked battleBut the next moment his countenancefelland he said plaintively"And my axe is in Rhine."

Theyconsulted together. Prudence bade them avoid that village; hungersaid "buy food."

Hungerspoke loudest. Prudence most convincingly. They settled to strikeacross the fields.

Theyhalted at a haystack and borrowed two bundles of hayand lay on themin a dry ditch out of sightbut in nettles

Theysallied out in turn and came back with turnips. These they munched atintervals in their retreat until sunset.

Presentlythey crept out shivering into the rain and darknessand got into theroad on the other side of the village.

Itwas a dismal nightdark as pitchand blowing hard. They couldneither seenor hearnor be seennor heard; and for aught I knowpassed like ghosts close to their foes. These they almost forgot inthe natural horrors of the black tempestuous nightin which theyseemed to grope and hew their way as in black marble. When the moonrose they were many a league from Dusseldorf. But they still trudgedon. Presently they came to a huge building.

"Courage!"cried Denys"I think I know this convent. Aye it is. We are inthe see of Juliers. Cologne has no power here.

Thenext moment they were safe within the walls.

 

CHAPTERXXX

HereGerard made acquaintance with a monkwho had constructed the greatdial in the prior's gardenand a wheel for drawing waterand awinnowing machine for the grainetc.and had ever some ingeniousmechanism on hand. He had made several psalteries and two dulcimersand was now attempting a set of regallesor little organ for thechoir.

NowGerard played the humble psaltery a little; but the monk touched thatinstrument divinelyand showed him most agreeably what a novice hewas in music. He also illuminated finelybut could not write sobeautifully as Gerard. Comparing their acquirements with theearnestness and simplicity of an age in which accomplishments implieda true natural bentYouth and Age soon became like brothersandGerard was pressed hard to stay that night. He consulted Denyswhoassented with a rueful shrug.

Gerardtold his old new friend whither he was goingand described theirlate adventuressoftening down the bolster.

"Alack!"said the good old man"I have been a great traveller in my daybut none molested me." He then told him to avoid inns; they werealways haunted by rogues and roystererswhence his soul might takeharm even did his body escapeand to manage each day's journey so asto lie at some peaceful monastery; then suddenly breaking off andlooking as sharp as a needle at Gerardhe asked him how long sincehe had been shriven? Gerard coloured up and replied feebly -

"Betterthan a fortnight."

"Andthou an exorcist! No wonder perils have overtaken thee. Comethoumust be assoiled out of hand."

"Yesfather" said Gerard"and with all mine heart;" andwas sinking down to his kneeswith his hands joinedbut the monkstopped him half fretfully -

"Notto me! not to me! not to me! I am as full of the world as thou or anybe that lives in't. My whole soul it is in these wooden pipesandsorry leathern stopswhich shall perish - with them whose minds arefixed on such like vanities."

"Dearfather" said Gerard"they are for the use of the Churchand surely that sanctifies the pains and labour spent on them?"

"Thatis just what the devil has been whispering in mine ear this while"said the monkputting one hand behind his back and shaking hisfinger half threateninglyhalf playfullyat Gerard. "He waseven so kind and thoughtful as to mind me that Solomon built the Lorda house with rare hangingsand that this in him was counted graciousand no sin. Oh! he can quote Scripture rarely. But I am not so simplea monk as you thinkmy lad" cried the good fatherwith suddendefianceaddressing not Gerard but - Vacancy. "This one toyfinishedvigilsfastsand prayers for me; prayers standingprayers lying on the chapel floorand prayers in a right good tub ofcold water." He nudged Gerard and winked his eye knowingly."Nothing he hates and dreads like seeing us monks at our orisonsup to our chins in cold water. For corpus domat aqua. So now goconfess thy little trumpery sinspardonable in youth and secularityand leave me to minesweet to me as honeyand to be expiated inproportion."

Gerardbowed his headbut could not help saying"Where shall I find aconfessor more holy and clement?"

"Ineach of these cells" replied the monk simply (they were now inthe corridor) "therego to Brother Anselmyonder."

Gerardfollowed the monk's directionand made for a cell; but the doorswere pretty close to one anotherand it seems he mistook; for justas he was about to taphe heard his old friend crying to him in anagitated whisper"Nay! nay! nay!" He turnedand there wasthe monk at his cell-doorin a strange state of anxietygoing upand down and beating the air double-handedlike a bottom sawyer.Gerard really thought the cell he was at must be inhabited by somedangerous wild beastif not by that personage whose presence in theconvent had been so distinctly proclaimed. He looked back inquiringlyand went on to the next door. Then his old friend nodded his headrapidlybursting in a moment into a comparatively blissfulexpression of faceand shot back into his den. He took hishour-glassturned itand went to work on his regalles; and often helooked upand said to himself"Well-a-daythe sands how swiftthey run when the man is bent over earthly toys."

FatherAnselm was a venerable monkwith an ample headand a face alldignity and love. Therefore Gerard in confessing to himand replyingto his gentle though searching questionscould not help thinking"Here is a head! - Oh dear! oh dear! I wonder whether you willlet me draw it when I have done confessing." And so his own headgot confusedand he forgot a crime or two. Howeverhe did not lowerthe bolstering this timenor was he so uncandid as to detract fromthe pagan character of the bolstered.

Thepenance inflicted was this: he was to enter the convent churchandprostrating himselfkiss the lowest step of the altar three times;then kneeling on the floorto say three paternosters and a credo:"this donecome back to me on the instant."

Accordinglyhis short mortification performedGerard returnedand found FatherAnselm spreading plaster.

"Afterthe soul the body" said he; "know that I am the chirurgeonherefor want of a better. This is going on thy leg; to cool itnotto burn it; the saints forbid"

Duringthe operation the monastic leechwho had naturally been interestedby the Dusseldorf branch of Gerard's confessionrather sided withDenys upon "bleeding." "We Dominicans seldom let bloodnowadays; the lay leeches say 'tis from timidity and want of skill;butin soothwe have long found that simples will cure most of theills that can be cured at all. Besidesthey never kill in capablehands; and other remedies slay like thunderbolts. As for the bloodthe Vulgate saith expressly it is the life of a man.' And in medicineor lawas in divinityto be wiser than the All-wise is to be afool. Moreoversimples are mighty. The little four-footed creaturethat kills the poisonous snakeif bitten herselffinds an herbpowerful enough to quell that poisonthough stronger and of swifteroperation than any mortal malady; and wetaught by her wisdomandour own traditionsstill search and try the virtues of those plantsthe good God hath strewed this earth withsome to feed men's bodiessome to heal them. Only in desperate ills we mix heavenly withearthly virtue. We steep the hair or the bones of some dead saint inthe medicineand thus work marvellous cures."

"Thinkyoufatherit is along of the reliques? for Peter a Florisalearned leech and no pagandenies it stoutly"

"Whatknows Peter a Floris? And what know I? I take not on me to say we cancommand the saintsand will they nill theycan draw corporal virtuefrom their blest remains. But I see that the patient drinking thus infaith is often bettered as by a charm. Doubtless faith in therecipient is for much in all these cures. But so 'twas ever. A sickwomanthat all the Jewish leeches failed to curedid but touchChrist's garment and was healed in a moment. Had she not touched thatsacred piece of cloth she had never been healed. Had she withoutfaith not touched it onlybut worn it to her graveI trow she hadbeen none the better for't. But we do ill to search these things toocuriously. All we see around us calls for faith. Have then a littlepatience. We shall soon know all. MeantimeIthy confessor for thenoncedo strictly forbid theeon thy soul's healthto hearkenlearned lay folk on things religious. Arrogance is their bane; withit they shut heaven's open door in their own faces. MindI saylearned laics. Unlearned ones have often been my masters in humilityand may be thine. Thy wound is cared for; in three days 'twill be buta scar. And now God speed theeand the saints make thee as good andas happy as thou art thoughtful and gracious." Gerard hopedthere was no need to part yetfor he was to dine in the refectory.But Father Anselm told himwith a shade of regret just perceptibleand no morethat he did not leave his cell this weekbeing himselfin penitence; and with this he took Gerard's head delicately in bothhandsand kissed him on the browand almost before the cell doorhad closed on himwas back to his pious offices. Gerard went awaychilled to the heart by the isolation of the monastic lifeandsaddened too. "Alas!" he thought"here is a kind faceI must never look to see again on earth; a kind voice gone from mineear and my heart for ever. There is nothing but meeting and partingin this sorrowful world. Well-a-day! well-a-day!" This pensivemood was interrupted by a young monk who came for him and took him tothe refectory; there he found several monks seated at a tableandDenys standing like a pokerbeing examined as to the towns he shouldpass through: the friars then clubbed their knowledgeand marked outthe routenoting all the religious houses on or near that road; andthis they gave Gerard. Then supperand after it the old monk carriedGerard to his celland they had an eager chatand the friarincidentally revealed the cause of his pantomime in the corridor. "Yehad well-nigh fallen into Brother Jerome's clutches. Yon was hiscell."

"IsFather Jerome an ill manthen?"

"Anill man!" and the friar crossed himself; "a saintananchoritethe very pillar of this house! He had sent ye barefoot toLoretto. NayI forgoty'are bound for Italy; the spiteful old saintupon earthhad sent ye to Canterbury or Compostella. But Jerome wasborn old and with a cowl; Anselm and I were boys onceand wickedbeyond anything you can imagine" (Gerard wore a somewhatincredulous look): "this keeps us humble more or lessand makesus reasonably lenient to youth and hot blood."

Thenat Gerard's earnest requestone more heavenly strain upon thepsalterionand so to bedthe troubled spirit calmedand the soreheart soothed.

Ihave described in full this daymarked only by contrasta day thatcame like oil on waves after so many passions and perils - because itmust stand in this narrative as the representative of many such dayswhich now succeeded to it. For our travellers on their weary wayexperienced that which most of my readers will find in the longerjourney of lifeviz.that stirring events are not evenlydistributed over the whole roadbut come by fits and startsand asit werein clusters. To some extent this may be because they drawone another by links more or less subtle. But there is more in itthan that. It happens so. Life is an intermittent fever. Now allnarratorswhether of history or fictionare compelled to slur thesebarren portions of time or else line trunks. The practicehowevertends to give the unguarded reader a wrong arithmetical impressionwhich there is a particular reason for avoiding in these pages as faras possible. I invite therefore your intelligence to my aidand askyou to try and realize thatalthough there were no more vividadventures for a long whileone day's march succeeded another; onemonastery after another fed and lodged them gratis with a welcomealways charitablesometimes genial; and though they met no enemy butwinter and rough weatherantagonists not always contemptibleyetthey trudged over a much larger tract of territory than thattheirpassage through which I have described so minutely. And so the pairGerard bronzed in the face and travel-stained from head to footandDenys with his shoes in tattersstiff and footsore both of themdrew near the Burgundian frontier.

 

CHAPTERXXXI

Gerardwas almost as eager for this promised land as Denys; for the latterconstantly chanted its praisesand at every little annoyance showedhim "they did things better in Burgundy;" and above allplayed on his foible by guaranteeing clean bedclothes at the inns ofthat polished nation. "I ask no more" the Hollander wouldsay; "to think that I have not lain once in a naked bed since Ileft home! When I look at their lineninstead of doffing habit andhoseit is mine eyes and nose I would fain be shut of."

Denyscarried his love of country so far as to walk twenty leagues in shoesthat had explodedrather than buy of a German churlwho would throwall manner of obstacles in a customer's wayhis incivilityhisdinnerhis body.

Towardssunset they found themselves at equal distances from a little townand a monasteryonly the latter was off the road. Denys was for theinnGerard for the convent. Denys gave waybut on condition thatonce in Burgundy they should always stop at an inn. Gerard consentedto this the more readily that his chart with its list of conventsended here. So they turned off the road. And now Gerard asked withsurprise whence this sudden aversion to places that had fed andlodged them gratis so often. The soldier hemmed and hawed at firstbut at last his wrongs burst forth. It came out that this was nosudden aversionbut an ancient and abiding horrorwhich he hadsuppressed till nowbut with infinite difficultyand out ofpoliteness: "I saw they had put powder in your drink" saidhe"so I forbore them. Howeverbeing the lastwhy not ease mymind? Know then I have been like a fish out of water in all thosegreat dungeons. You straightway levant with some old shaveling: soyou see not my purgatory."

"Forgiveme! I have been selfish."

"AyayI forgive theelittle one; 'tis not thy fault: art not the firstfool that has been priest-ridand monk-hit. But I'll not forgivethem my misery." Thenabout a century before Henry VIII.'scommissionershe delivered his indictment. These gloomy piles wereall built alike. Inns differedbut here all was monotony. Greatgatelittle gateso many steps and then a gloomy cloister. Here thedortourthere the great cold refectorywhere you must sitmumchanceor at least inaudiblehe who liked to speak his mind out;"and then" said he"nobody is a man herebut allare slavesand of what? of a peevishtinkling bellthat neversleeps. An 'twere a trumpet nowaye sounding alarums'twouldn'tfreeze a man's heart so. Tinkletinkletinkleand you must sit tomeat with may be no stomach for food. Ere your meat settles in yourstomachtinkletinkle! and ye must to church with may be no stomachfor devotion: I am not a hog at prayersfor one. Tinkletinkleandnow you must to bed with your eyes open. Wellby then you havecontrived to shut themsome uneasy imp of darkness has got to thebell-ropeand tinkletinkleit behoves you say a prayer in thedarkwhether you know one or not. If they heard the sort of prayersI mutter when they break my rest with their tinkle! Wellyou dropoff again and get about an eyeful of sleep: loit is tinkletinklefor matins."

"Andthe only clapper you love is a woman's" put in Gerard halfcontemptuously.

"Becausethere is some music in that even when it scolds" was the stoutreply. "And then to be always checked. If I do but put my fingerin the salt-cellarstraightway I hear'Have you no knife that youfinger the salt?' And if I but wipe my knife on the cloth to savetimethen 'tis'Wipe thy knife dirty on the breadand clean uponthe cloth!' Oh small of soul! these little peevish pedantries fallchill upon good fellowship like wee icicles a-melting down fromstrawen eaves."

"Ihold cleanliness no pedantry" said Gerard. "Shouldst learnbetter manners once for all."

"Nay;'tis they who lack manners. They stop a fellow's mouth at everyword."

"Atevery other wordyou mean; every obscene or blasphemous one."

"Exaggeratorgo to! Whyat the very last of these dungeons I found the poortravellers sitting all chilled and mute round one shavelinglikerogues awaiting their turn to be hanged; so to cheer them upI didbut cry out'Couragetout le mondele dia-

"Connu!what befell?"

"Marrythis. 'Blaspheme not!' quo' the bourreau. 'Plait-il' say I. Doesn'the wheel and wyte on me in a sort of Alsatian Frenchturning all theP's into B's. I had much ado not to laugh in his face."

"Beingthyself unable to speak ten words of his language without a fault."

"Wellall the world ought to speak French. What avail so many jargonsexcept to put a frontier atwixt men's hearts?"

"Butwhat said he?"

"Whatsignifies it what a fool says?"

"Ohnot all the words of a fool are follyor I should not listen toyou."

"Wellthenhe said'Such as begin by making free with the devil's nameaye end by doing it with all the names in heaven.' 'Father' said I'I am a soldierand this is but my "consigne" orwatchword.' 'Ohthenit is just a custom?' said he. I not diviningthe old foxand thinking to clear myselfsaid'Ayit was.' 'Thenthat is ten times worse' said he. ''Twill bring him about your earsone of these days. He still comes where he hears his name oftencalled.' Observe! no gratitude for the tidings which neither hismissals nor his breviary had ever let him know. Then he was so goodas to tell mesoldiers do commonly the crimes for which all othermen are broke on the wheel; a savoir' murderrapeand pillage."

"Andis't not true?"

"Trueor notit was ill manners" replied Denys guardedly. "Andso says this courteous host of mine'Being the foes of mankindwhymake enemies of good spirits into the bargainby still shouting thenames of evil ones?' and a lot more stuff."

"WellbutDenyswhether you hearken his redeor slight itwhereforeblame a man for raising his voice to save your soul?"

"Howcan his voice save my soulwhen he keeps turning of his P's intoB's"

Gerardwas staggered: ere he could recover at this thunderbolt of GallicismDenys went triumphant off at a tangentand stigmatized all monks ashypocrites. "Do but look at themhow they creep about andcannot eye you like honest men."

"Nay"said Gerard eagerly"that modest downcast gaze is part of theirdiscipline'tis 'custodia oculorum'."

"Cussedtoads eating hoc hac horum? No such thing; just so looks a cut-purse.Can't meet a true man's eye. Doff cowlmonk; and beholda thief;don cowl thiefand loa monk. Tell me not they will ever be able tolook God Almighty in the facewhen they can't even look a true manin the face down here. Ahhere it isblack as ink! into the well wegocomrade. Misericordethere goes the tinkle already. 'Tis thebest of tinkles though; 'tis for dinner: staylisten! I thought so:the wolf in my stomach cried

'Amen!'"This last statement he confirmed with two oathsand marched like avictorious gamecock into the conventthinking by Gerard's silence hehad convinced himand not dreaming how profoundly he had disgustedhim.

 

CHAPTERXXXII

Inthe refectory allusion was madeat the table where Gerard sattothe sudden death of the monk who had undertaken to write out freshcopies of the charter of the monasteryand the ruleetc.

Gerardcaught thisand timidly offered his services. There was a hesitationwhich he mistook. "Naynot for hiremy lordsbut for loveand as a trifling return for many a good night's lodging the brethrenof your order have bestowed on me a poor wayfarer."

Amonk smiled approvingly; but hinted that the late brother was anexcellent penmanand his work could not be continued but by amaster. Gerard on this drew from his wallet with some trepidation avellum deedthe back of which he had cleaned and written upon by wayof specimen. The monk gave quite a start at sight of itand veryhastily went up the hall to the high tableand bending his knee soas just to touch in passing the fifth step and the tenthor lastpresented it to the prior with comments. Instantly a dozen knowingeyes were fixed on itand a buzz of voices was heard; and soonGerard saw the prior point more than onceand the monk came backlooking as proud as Punchwith a savoury crustade ryalor game piegravied and spicedfor Gerardand a silver grace cup full of richpimentum. This latter Gerard tookand bowing lowfirst to thedistant priorthen to his own companyquaffedand circulated thecup.

Instantlyto his surprisethe whole table hailed him as a brother: "Artconvent breddeny it not?" He acknowledged itand gave Heaventhanks for itfor otherwise he had been as rude and ignorant as hisbrothersSybrandt and Cornelis.

"But'tis passing strange how you could know" said he.

"Youdrank with the cup in both hands" said two monksspeakingtogether.

Thevoices had for some time been loudish round a table at the bottom ofthe hall; but presently came a burst of mirth so obstreperous andprolongedthat the prior sent the very sub-prior all down the hallto check itand inflict penance on every monk at the table. AndGerard's cheek burned with shame; for in the heart of the unrulymerriment his ear had caught the word "courage!" and thetrumpet tones of Denys of Burgundy.

SoonGerard was installed in feu Werter's cellwith wax lightsand alittle frame that could be set at any angleand all the materials ofcaligraphy. The workhoweverwas too much for one evening. Thencame the questionhow could he ask Denysthe monk-haterto staylonger? Howeverhe told himand offered to abide by his decision.He was agreeably surprised when Denys said graciously"A day'srest will do neither of us harm. Write thouand I'll pass the timeas I may."

Gerard'swork was vastly admired; they agreed that the records of themonastery had gained by poor Werter's death. The sub-prior forced arix-dollar on Gerardand several brushes and colours out of theconvent stockwhich was very large. He resumed his march warm atheartfor this was of good omen; since it was on the pen he reliedto make his fortune and recover his well-beloved. "ComeDenys"said he good-humouredly"see what the good monks have given me;nowdo try to be fairer to them; for to be round with youitchilled my friendship for a moment to hear even you call mybenefactors 'hypocrites.'"

"Irecant" said Denys.

"Thankyou! thank you! Good Denys."

"Iwas a scurrilous vagabond."

"Naynaysay not soneither!"

"Butwe soldiers are rude and hasty. I give myself the lieand I offerthose I misunderstood all my esteem. 'Tis unjust that thousandsshould be defamed for the hypocrisy of a few."

"Noware you reasonable. You have pondered what I said?"

"Nayit is their own doing."

Gerardcrowed a littlewe all like to be proved in the right; and was allattention when Denys offered to relate how his conversion waseffected.

"Wellthenat dinner the first day a young monk beside me did open hisjaws and laughed right out and most musically. 'Good' said I'atlast I have fallen on a man and not a shorn ape.' Soto sound himfurtherI slapped his broad back and administered my consigne.'Heaven forbid!' says he. I stared. For the dog looked as sad asSolomon; a better mime saw you nevereven at a Mystery. 'I see waris no sharpener of the wits' said he. 'What are the clergy for butto fight the foul fiend? and what else are the monks for?
"Thefiend being dead
The friars are sped."

Youmay plough up the conventsand we poor monks shall have nought to do- but turn soldiersand so bring him to life again.' Then there wasa great laugh at my expense. Wellyou are the monk for me' said I.'And you are the crossbowman for me' quo' he. 'And I'll be bound youcould tell us tales of the war should make our hair stand on end.''Excusez! the barber has put that out of the question' quoth Iandthen I had the laugh."

"Whatwretched ribaldry!" observed Gerard pensively.

Thecandid Denys at once admitted he had seen merrier jests hatched withless cackle. "'Twas a great matter to have got rid of hypocrisy.'So' said I'I can give you the chaire de pouleif that maycontent ye.' 'That we will see' was the cryand a signal wentround."

Denysthen relatedbursting with gleehow at bedtime he had been taken toa cell instead of the great dortourand strictly forbidden to sleep;and to aid his vigila book had been lent him of picturesrepresenting a hundred merry adventures of monks in pursuit of thefemale laity; and how in due course he had been taken out barefootedand down to the parlourwhere was a supper fit for the dukeand atit twelve jolly friarsthe roaringest boys he had ever met in peaceor war. How the storythe toastthe jestthe wine-cup had goneroundand some had played cards with a gorgeous packwhere SaintTheresaand Saint Catherineetc.bedizened with goldstood forthe four queens; and blackwhitegreyand crutched friars for thefour knaves; and had staked their very rosariesswearing liketroopers when they lost. And how about midnight a sly monk had stolenoutbut had by him and others been as cannily followed into thegardenand seen to thrust his hand into the ivy and out with arope-ladder. With this he had run up on the wallwhich was ten feetbroadyet not so nimbly but what a russet kirtle had popped up fromthe outer world as quick as he; and so to billing and cooing: thatthis situation had struck him as rather feline than ecclesiasticaland drawn from him the appropriate comment of a "mew!" Themonks had joined the mewsical chorusand the lay visitor shriekedand been sore discomforted; but Abelard only cried"Whatareye thereye jealous miauling knaves? ye shall caterwaul to some tuneto-morrow night. I'll fit every man-jack of ye with a fardingale."That this brutal threat had reconciled him to stay another day - atGerard's request.

Gerardgroaned.

Meantimeunable to disconcert so brazen a monkand the demoiselle beginningto whimperthey had danced caterwauling in a circlethen bestowed asolemn benediction on the two wall-flowersand off to the parlourwhere they found a pair lying dead drunkand other two affectionateto tears. That they had straightway carried off the inanimateanddragged off the loving and lachymosekicked them all merrily eachinto his cell

"Andso shut up in measureless content."

Gerardwas disgusted: and said so

Denyschuckledand proceeded to tell him how the next day he and the youngmonks had drawn the fish-ponds and secreted much pikecarptenchand eel for their own use: and howin the dead of nighthe had beentaken shoeless by crooked ways into the chapela ghost-like placebeing darkand then down some steps into a crypt below the chapelfloorwhere suddenly paradise had burst on him.

"'Tisthere the holy fathers retire to pray" put in Gerard.

"Notalways" said Denys; "wax candles by the dozen werelightedand princely cheer; fifteen soups maigrewith marvelloustwangs of venisongrouseand hare in themand twenty differentfishes (being Friday)cooked with wondrous artand each he betweentwo buxom lassesand each lass between two lads with a cowl; all butme: and to think I had to woo by interpreter. I doubt the knave putin three words for himself and one for me; if he didn'thang him fora fool. And some of the weaker vessels were novicesand not wont tohold good wine; had to be coaxed ere they would put it to their whiteteeth; mais elles s'y faisaient; and the storyand the jestand thecup went round (by-the-bythey had flagons made to simulatebreviaries); and a monk touched the citternand sang ditties with avoice tunable as a lark in spring. The posies did turn the faces ofthe women folk bright red at first: but elles s'y faisaient."

HereGerard exploded.

"Miserablewretches! Corrupters of youth! Perverters of innocence! but for yourbeing thereDenyswho have been taught no betterohwould God thechurch had fallen on the whole gang. Impiousabominable hypocrites!"

"Hypocrites?"cried Denyswith unfeigned surprise. "Whythat is what I cleptthem ere I knew them: and you withstood me. Naythey are sinners;all good fellows are that; butby St. Denys his helmeted skullnohypocritesbut right jolly roaring blades."

"Denys"said Gerard solemnly"you little know the peril you ran thatnight. That church you defiled amongst you is haunted; I had it fromone of the elder monks. The dead walk theretheir light feet havebeen heard to patter o'er the stones."

"Misericorde!"whispered Denys.

"Aymore" said Gerardlowering his voice almost to a whisper;"celestial sounds have issued from the purlieus of that verycrypt you turned into a tavern. Voices of the dead holding unearthlycommunion have chilled the ear of midnightand at timesDenysthefaithful in their nightly watches have even heard music from deadlips; and chordsmade by no mortal fingerswept by no mortal handhave rung faintlylike echoesdeep among the dead in those sacredvaults."

Denyswore a look of dismay. "Ugh! if I had knownmules andwain-ropes had not hauled me thither; and so" (with a sigh) "Ihad lost a merry time."

Whetherfurther discussion might have thrown any more light upon theseghostly soundswho can tell? for up came a "bearded brother"from the monasteryspurring his muleand waving a piece of vellumin his hand. It was the deed between Ghysbrecht and Floris Brandt.Gerard valued it deeply as a remembrance of home: he turned pale atfirst but to think he had so nearly lost itand to Denys's infiniteamusement not only gave a piece of money to the lay brotherbutkissed the mule's nose.

"I'llread you now" said Gerard"were you twice as ill written;and - to make sure of never losing you" - here he sat downandtaking out needle and threadsewed it with feminine dexterity to hisdoubletand his mindand heartand soul were away to Sevenbergen.

Theyreached the promised landand Denyswho was in high spiritsdoffedhis bonnet to all the females; who curtsied and smiled in return;fired his consigne at most of the men; at which some staredsomegrinnedsome both; and finally landed his friend at one of thelong-promised Burgundian inns.

"Itis a little one" said he"but I know it of old for a goodone; Les Trois Poissons.' But what is this writ up? I mind not this;"and he pointed to an inscription that ran across the whole buildingin a single line of huge letters. "OhI see. 'Ici on loge apied et a cheval'" said Denysgoing minutely through theinscriptionand looking bumptious when he had effected it.

Gerarddid lookand the sentence in question ran thus:

"ONNE LOGE CEANS A CREDIT; CE BONHOMME EST MORTLES MAUVAIS PAIEURSL'ONT TUE."

CHAPTERXXXIII

Theymet the landlord in the passage.

"Welcomemessieurs" said hetaking off his capwith a low bow.

"Comewe are not in Germany" said Gerard.

Inthe public room they found the mistressa buxom woman of forty. Shecurtsied to themand smiled right cordially "Give yourself thetrouble of sitting ye downfair sir" said she to Gerardanddusted two chairs with her apronnot that they needed it.

"Thankyoudame" said Gerard. "Well" thought he"thisis a polite nation: the trouble of sitting down? That will I withsingular patience; and presently the labour of eatingalso the toilof digestionand finallyby Hercules his aidthe strain of goingto bedand the struggle of sinking fast asleep.

"WhyDenyswhat are you doing? ordering supper for only two?"

"Whynot?"

"Whatcan we sup without waiting for forty more? Burgundy forever!"

"Aha!Couragecamarade. Le dia - "

"C'estconvenu."

Thesalic law seemed not to have penetrated to French inns. In this oneat least wimple and kirtle reigned supreme; doublets and hose werefew in numberand feeble in act. The landlord himself wanderedobjectlesseternally taking off his cap to folk for want of thought;and the womenas they passed him in turnthrust him quietly asidewithout looking at himas we remove a live twig in bustling througha wood.

Amaid brought in supperand the mistress followed herempty handed.

"Falltomy masters" said she cheerily; "y'have but one enemyhere; and he lies under your knife." (I shrewdly suspect this offormula.)

Theyfell to. The mistress drew her chair a little toward the table; andprovided company as well as meat; gossiped genially with them likeold acquaintances: but this form gone throughthe busy dame was soonoff and sent in her daughtera beautiful young woman of abouttwentywho took the vacant seat. She was not quite so broad andgenial as the elderbut gentle and cheerfuland showed a womanlytenderness for Gerard on learning the distance the poor boy had comeand had to go. She stayed nearly half-an-hourand when she left themGerard said"This an inn? Whyit is like home."

"Quifit Francois il fit courtois" said Denysbursting withgratified pride.

"Courteous?nayChristian; to welcome us like home guests and old friendsusvagrantshere to-day and gone to-morrow. But indeed who bettermerits pity and kindness than the worn traveller far from his folk?Hola! here's another."

Thenew-comer was the chambermaida woman of about twenty-fivewith acocked nosea large laughing mouthand a sparkling black eyeand abare arm very stout but not very shapely.

Themoment she came inone of the travellers passed a somewhat free jeston her; the next the whole company were roaring at his expensesoswiftly had her practised tongue done his business. Even asin apassage of arms between a novice and a master of fencefoils clash -novice pinked. On this anotherand then anothermust break a lancewith her; but Marion stuck her great arms upon her haunchesand heldthe whole room in play. This country girl possessed in perfectionthat rude and ready humour which looks mean and vulgar on paperbutcarries all before it spoken: not wit's rapier; its bludgeon. Naturehad done much for her in this wayand daily practice in an inn therest.

Yetshall she not be photographed by mebut feebly indicated: for it wasjust four hundred years agothe raillery was coarseshe returnedevery stroke in kindand though a virtuous womansaid thingswithout winkingwhich no decent man of our day would say even amongmen.

Gerardsat gaping with astonishment. This was to him almost a new variety of"that interesting species" homo. He whispered "Denys"Now I see why you Frenchmen say 'a woman's tongue is hersword:'" just then she levelled another assailant; and thechivalrous Denysto console and support "the weaker vessel"the iron kettle among the clay potsadministered his consigne"Couragema miele - - " etc.

Sheturned on him directly. "How can he be dead as long as there isan archer left alive?" (General laughter at her ally's expense.)

"Itis 'washing day' my masters" said shewith sudden gravity.

"Apres?We travellers cannot strip and go bare while you wash our clothes"objected a peevish old fellow by the firesidewho had kept mumchanceduring the raillerybut crept out into the sunshine of commonplaces.

"Iaimed not your wayancient man" replied Marion superciliously."But since you ask me" (here she scanned him slowly fromhead to foot)"I trow you might take a turn in the tubclothesand alland no harm done" (laughter). "But what I spokeforI thought this young sire might like his beard starched."

PoorGerald's turn had come; his chin crop was thin and silky.

Theloudest of all the laughers this time was the traitor Denyswhosebeard was of a good lengthand singularly stiff and bristly; so thatShakespearethough he never saw himhit him in the bull'seye.
"Full of strange oathsand bearded like the pard."
-As You Like It.

Gerardbore the Amazonian satire mighty calmly. He had little personalvanity. "Nay'chambriere'" said hewith a smile"mineis all unworthy your pains; take you this fair growth in hand!"and he pointed to Denys's vegetable.

"Ohtime for thatwhen I starch the besoms.

Whilstthey were all shouting over this palpable hitthe mistress returnedand in no more time than it took her to cross the thresholddid ourAmazon turn to a seeming Madonna meek and mild.

Mistressesare wonderful subjugators. Their like I think breathes not on theglobe. Housemaidsdecide! It was a waste of histrionic abilitythough; for the landlady had heardand did not at heart disapprovethe peals of laughter.

"AhMarionlass" said she good-humouredly"if you laid me anegg every time you cackle'L'es Trois Poissons' would never lack anomelet."

"Nowdame" said Gerard"what is to pay?"

"Whatfor?"

"Oursupper."

"Whereis the hurry? cannot you be content to pay when you go? lose theguestfind the moneyis the rule of 'The Three Fish.'"

"Butdameoutside 'The Three Fish' it is thus written - 'Ici-on ne loge -"

"Bah!Let that flea stick on the wall! Look hither" and she pointedto the smoky ceilingwhich was covered with hieroglyphics. Thesewere accountsvulgo scores; intelligible to this dame and herdaughterwho wrote them at need by simply mounting a low stoolandscratching with a knife so as to show lines of ceiling through thedeposit of smoke. The dame explained that the writing on the wall wasput there to frighten moneyless folk from the inn altogetheror tobe acted on at odd times when a non-paying face should come in andinsist on being served. "We can't refuse them plumpyou know".The law forbids us."

"Andhow know you mine is not such a face?"

"Outfie! it is the best face that has entered 'The Three Fish' thisautumn."

"Andminedame?" said Denys; "dost see no knavery here?"

Sheeyed him calmly. "Not such a good one as the lad's; nor everwill be. But it is the face of a true man. For all that" addedshe drily"an I were ten years youngerI'd as lieve not meetthat face on a dark night too far from home."

Gerardstared. Denys laughed. "WhydameI would but sip the night dewoff the flower; and you needn't take ten years offnor ten daystobe worth risking a scratched face for."

"Thereour mistress" said Marionwho had just come in"said Inot t'other day you could make a fool of them stillan if you wereproperly minded?"

"Idare say ye did; it sounds like some daft wench's speech."

"Dame"said Gerard"this is wonderful."

"What?Oh! nonothat is no wonder at all. WhyI have been here all mylife; and reading faces is the first thing a girl picks up in aninn."

Marion."And frying eggs the second; notelling lies; frying eggs isthe thirdthough."

TheMistress. "And holding her tongue the lastand modesty the dayafter never at all."

Marion."Alack! Talk of my tongue. But I say no more. She under whosewing I live now deals the blow. I'm sped - 'tis but a chambermaidgone. Catch what's left on't!" and she staggered and sankbackwards on to the handsomest fellow in the roomwhich happened tobe Gerard.

"Tic!tic!" cried he peevishly; "theredon't be stupid! that istoo heavy a jest for me. See you not I am talking to the mistress?"

Marionresumed her elasticity with a grimacemade two little bounds intothe middle of the floorand there turned a pirouette. "Theremistress" said she"I give in; 'tis you that reignssupreme with the menleastways with male children."

"Youngman" said the mistress"this girl is not so stupid as herdeportment; in reading of facesand frying of omeletsthere we aregreat. 'Twould be hard if we failed at these artssince they areabout all we do know."

"Youdo not quite take medame" said Gerard. "That honesty ina face should shine forth to your experienced eyethat seemsreasonable: but how by looking on Denys here could you learn his onelittle foiblehis insanityhis miserable mulierosity?" PoorGerard got angrier the more he thought of it.

"Hismule - his what?" (crossing herself with superstitious awe atthe polysyllable).

"Nay'tis but the word I was fain to invent for him."

"Invent?Whatcan a child like you make other words than grow in Burgundy bynature? Take heed what ye do! whywe are overrun with them alreadyespecially bad ones. Lordthese be times. I look to hear of a newthistle invented next."

"Wellthendamemulierose - that means wrapped upbody and soulinwomen. So prithee tell me; how did you ever detect the noodle'smulierosity?"

"Alas!good youthyou make a mountain of a molehill. We that are women benotice-takers; and out of the tail of our eye see more than most mencanglaring through a prospect glass. Whiles I move to and fro doingthis and thatmy glance is still on my guestsand I did notice thatthis soldier's eyes were never off the womenfolk: my daughterorMarionor even an old woman like meall was gold to him: and therea sat glowering; ohyou foolishfoolish man! Now you still turnedto the speakerher or himand that is common sense.

Denysburst into a hoarse laugh. "You never were more out. Whythissilkysmooth-faced companion is a very Turk -all but his beard. Heis what d'ye call 'em oser than ere an archer in the Duke'sbody-guard. He is more wrapped up in one single Dutch lass calledMargaretthan I am in the whole bundle of yebrown and fair."

"Manalivethat is just the contrary" said the hostess. "Yournis the baneand hisn the cure. Cling you still to Margaretmy dear.I hope she is an honest girl."

"Dameshe is an angel."

"Ayaythey are all that till better acquainted. I'd as lieve have herno more than honestand then she will serve to keep you out of worsecompany. As for yousoldierthere is trouble in store for you. Youreyes were never made for the good of your soul."

"Norof his pouch either" said Marionstriking in"and hislipsthey will sip the dewas he calls itoff many a bramblebush."

"Overmuchclack! Marion overmuch clack."

"Odsbodikinsmistress; ye didn't hire me to be one o' your three fishesdid ye?" and Marion sulked thirty seconds.

"Isthat the way to speak to our mistress?" remonstrated thelandlordwho had slipped in.

"Holdyour whisht" said his wife sharply; "it is not yourbusiness to check the girl; she is a good servant to you."

"Whatis the cock never to crowand the hens at it all day?"

"Youcan crow as loud as you likemy man out o' doors. But the hen meansto rule the roost."

"Iknow a byword to that tune." said Gerard.

"Doyenow? out wi't then."
"Femme veut en toutesaison
Estre dame en sa mason."

"Inever heard it afore; but 'tis as sooth as gospel. Aythey that setthese bywords a rolling had eyes and tonguesand tongues and eyes.Before all the world give me an old saw."

"Andme a young husband" said Marion. "Now there was a chancefor you alland nobody spoke. Oh! it is too late nowI've changedmy mind."

"Allthe better for some poor fellow" suggested Denys.

Andnow the arrival of the young mistressoras she was calledthelittle mistresswas the signal for them all to draw round the firelike one happy familytravellershosthostessand even servantsin the outer ringand tell stories till bedtime. And Gerard in histurn told a tremendous one out of his repertorya MS. collection of"acts of the saints" and made them all shudderdeliciously; but soon after began to nodexhausted by the effortIshould say. The young mistress sawand gave Marion a look. Sheinstantly lighted a rushand laying her hand on Gerard's shoulderinvited him to follow her. She showed him a room where were two nicewhite bedsand bade him choose.

"Eitheris paradise" said he. "I'll take this one. Do you knowIhave not lain in a naked bed once since I left my home in Holland."

"Alack!poor soul!" said she; "wellthenthe sooner my flax andyour down (he! he!) come togetherthe better; so - allons!" andshe held out her cheek as business-like as if it had been her handfor a fee.

"Allons?what does that mean?"

"Itmeans 'good-night.' Ahem! Whatdon't they salute the chambermaid inyour part?"

"Notall in a moment."

"Whatdo they make a business on't?"

"Nayperverter of wordsI mean we make not so free with strange women.

"Theymust be strange women if they do not think you strange foolsthen.Here is a coil. Whyall the old greasy greybeards that lie at ourinn do kiss us chambermaids; faugh! and what have we poor wretches toset on t'other side the compt but now and then a nice young----?Alack! time flieschambermaids can't be spared long in the nurseryso how is't to be?"

"An'tplease you arrange with my comrade for both. He is mulierose; I amnot."

"Nay'tis the curb he will wantnot the spur. Well! well! you shall tobed without paying the usual toll; and ohbut 'tis sweet to fall inwith a young man who can withstand these ancient ill customsandgainsay brazen hussies. Shalt have thy reward."

"Thankyou! But what are you doing with my bed?"

"Me?ohonly taking off these sheetsand going to put on the pair thedrunken miller slept in last night."

"Ohno! no! You cruelblack-hearted thing! There! there!"

"Ala bonne heure! What will not perseverance effect? But note now thefrowardness of a mad wench! I cared not for't a button. I am deadsick of that sport this five years. But you denied me; so thenforthwith I behoved to have it; belike had gone through fire andwater for't. Alasyoung sirwe women are kittle cattle; poorperverse toads: excuse us: and keep us in our placesavoirat arm'slength; and so good-night!"

Atthe door she turned and saidwith a complete change of tone andmanner: "The Virgin guard thy headand the holy Evangelistswatch the bed where lies a poor young wanderer far from home! Amen!"

Andthe next moment he heard her run tearing down the stairsand soon apeal of laughter from the salle betrayed her whereabouts.

"Nowthat is a character" said Gerard profoundlyand yawned overthe discovery.

Ina very few minutes he was in a dry bath of coldclean lineninexpressibly refreshing to him after so long disuse: then came adelicious glow; and then - Sevenbergen.

Inthe morning Gerard awoke infinitely refreshedand was for risingbut found himself a close prisoner. His linen had vanished. Now thiswas paralysis; for the nightgown is a recent institution. In Gerard'scenturyand indeed long aftermen did not play fast and loose withclean sheets (when they could get them)but crept into them clothedwith their innocencelike Adam: out of bed they seem to have takenmost after his eldest son.

Gerardbewailed his captivity to Denys; but that instant the door openedand in sailed Marion with their linennewly washed and ironedonher two armsand set it down on the table.

"Ohyou good girl" cried Gerard.

"Alackhave you found me out at last?"

"Yesindeed. Is this another custom?"

"Naynot to take them unbidden: but at night we aye question travellersare they for linen washed. So I came into youbut you were bothsound. Then said I to the little mistress'La! where is the sense ofwaking wearied ment'ask them is Charles the Great deadand wouldthey liever carry foul linen or cleanespecially this one with askin like cream? 'And so he hasI declare' said the youngmistress."

"Thatwas me" remarked Denyswith the air of a commentator.

"Guessonce moreand you'll hit the mark."

"Noticehim notMarionhe is an impudent fellow; and I am sure we cannot begrateful enough for your goodnessand I am sorry I ever refused you- anything you fancied you should like."

"Ohare ye there" said l'espiegle. "I take that to mean youwould fain brush the morning dew offas your bashful companion callsit; well thenexcuse me'tis customarybut not prudent. I decline.Quits with youlad."

"Stop!stop!" cried Denysas she was making off victorious"I amcurious to know how manyof ye were here last night a-feasting youreyes on us twain.

"'Twasso satisfactory a feast as we weren't half a minute over't. Who? whythe big mistressthe little mistressJanetand meand the wholeposse comitatuson tiptoe. We mostly make our rounds the last thingnot to get burned down; and in prodigious numbers. Somehow thatmaketh us bolderespecially where archers lie scattered about."

"Whydid not you tell me? I'd have lain awake."

"Beausirethe saying goes that the good and the ill are all one whiletheir lids are closed. So we said'Here is one who will serve Godbest asleepBreak not his rest!'"

"Sheis funny" said Gerard dictatorially.

"Imust be either that or knavish."

"Howso?"

"Because'The Three Fish' pay me to be funny. You will eat before you part?Good! then I'll go see the meat be fit for such worshipful teeth."

"Denys!"

"Whatis your will?"

"Iwish that was a great boyand going along with usto keep uscheery."

"Sodo not I. But I wish it was going along with us as it is."

"NowHeaven forefend! A fine fool you would make of yourself."

Theybroke their fastsettled their scoreand said farewell. Then it wasthey found that Marion had not exaggerated the "custom of thecountry." The three principal women took and kissed them rightheartilyand they kissed the three principal women. The landlordtook and kissed themand they kissed the landlord; and the cry was"Come backthe sooner the better!"

"Neverpass 'The Three Fish'; should your purses be voidbring yourselves:'le sieur credit' is not dead for you."

Andthey took the road again.

Theycame to a little townand Denys went to buy shoes. The shopkeeperwas in the doorwaybut wide awake. He received Denys with a bow downto the ground. The customer was soon fittedand followed to thestreetand dismissed with graceful salutes from the doorstep.

Thefriends agreed it was Elysium to deal with such a shoemaker as this."Not but what my German shoes have lasted well enough"said Gerard the just.

Outsidethe town was a pebbled walk.

"Thisis to keep the burghers's feet drya-walking o' Sundays with theirwives and daughters" said Denys.

Thosesimple words of Denysone stroke of a careless tonguepainted"home" in Gerard's heart. "Ohhow sweet!" saidhe.

"Mercy!what is this? A gibbet! and ughtwo skeletons thereon!

OhDenyswhat a sorry sight to woo by!"

"Nay"said Denys"a comfortable sight; for every rogue i' the airthere is one the less a-foot"

Alittle farther on they came to two pillarsand between these was ahuge wheel closely studded with iron prongs; and entangled in thesewere bones and fragments of cloth miserably dispersed over the wheel.

Gerardhid his face in his hands. "Ohto think those patches and bonesare all that is left of a man! of one who was what we are now."

"Excusez!a thing that went on two legs and stole; are we no more than that?"

"Howknow ye he stole? Have true men never suffered death and torturetoo?"

"Noneof my kith ever found their way to the gibbetI know."

"Thebetter their luck. Pritheehow died the saints?"

"Hard.But not in Burgundy."

"Yemassacred them wholesale at Lyonsand that is on Burgundy'sthreshold. To you the gibbet proves the crimebecause you read notstory. Alas! had you stood on Calvary that bloody day we sigh for tothis hourI tremble to think you had perhaps shouted for joy at thegibbet builded there; for the cross was but the Roman gallowsFatherMartin says."

"Theblaspheming old hound!"

"Ohfie! fie! a holy and a book-learned man. AyDenysy'had read themthat suffered thereby the bare light of the gibbet. 'Drive in thenails!' y'had cried: 'drive in the spear!' Here be three malefactors.Three 'roues.' Yet of those little three one was the first Christiansaintand another was the Saviour of the world which gibbeted him."

Denysassured him on his honour they managed things better in Burgundy. Headdedtooafter profound reflectionthat the horrors Gerard hadalluded to had more than once made him curse and swear with rage whentold by the good cure in his native village at Eastertide: "butthey chanced in an outlandish nationand near a thousand yearsagone. Mort de ma vielet us hope it is not true; or at least soreexaggerated. Do but see how all tales gather as they roll!"

Thenhe reflected againand all in a moment turned red with ire. "Doye not blush to play with your book-craft on your unlettered friendand throw dust in his eyesevening the saints with these reptiles?"

Thensuddenly he recovered his good humour. "Since your heart beatsfor verminfeel for the carrion crows! they be as good vermin asthese; would ye send them to bed supperlesspoor pretty poppets?Whythese be their larder; the pangs of hunger would gnaw them deadbut for cold cut-purse hung up here and there."

Gerardwho had for some time maintained a dead silenceinformed him thesubject was closed between themand for ever. "There arethings" said he"in which our hearts seem wide as thepoles asunderand eke our heads. But I love thee dearly all thesame" he addedwith infinite grace and tenderness.

Towardsafternoon they heard a faint wailing noise on ahead; it grewdistincter as they proceeded. Being fast walkers they soon came upwith its cause: a score of pikemenaccompanied by severalconstableswere marching alongand in advance of them was a herd ofanimals they were driving. These creaturesin number rather morethan a hundredwere of various agesonly very few were downrightold: the males were downcast and silent. It was the females from whomall the outcry came. In other wordsthe animals thus driven along atthe law's point were men and women.

"GoodHeaven!" cried Gerard"what a band of them! But staysurely all those children cannot be thieves; whythere are some inarms. What on earth is thisDenys?"

Denysadvised him to ask that "bourgeois" with the badge; "Thisis Burgundy: here a civil question ever draws a civil reply.

Gerardwent up to the officerand removing his capa civility which wasimmediately returnedsaid"For our Lady's sakesirwhat doye with these poor folk?"

"Naywhat is that to youmy lad?" replied the functionarysuspiciously.

"MasterI'm a strangerand athirst for knowledge."

"Thatis another matter. What are we doing? ahem. Why we - Dost hearJacques? Here is a stranger seeks to know what we are doing"and the two machines were tickled that there should be a man who didnot know something they happened to know. In all ages this hastickled. Howeverthe chuckle was brief and moderated by the nativecourtesyand the official turned to Gerard again. "What we aredoing? hum!" and now he hesitatednot from any doubt as to whathe was doingbut because he was hunting for a single word thatshould convey the matter.

"Ceque nous faisonsmon gars? - Mais - dam - NOUS TRANSVASONS."

"Youdecant? that should mean you pour from one vessel to another."

"Precisely."He explained that last year the town of Charmes had been sore thinnedby a pestilencewhole houses emptied and trades short of hands. Muchado to get in the ryeand the flax half spoiled. So the bailiff andaldermen had written to the duke's secretary; and the duke he sentfar and wide to know what town was too full. "That are we"had the baillie of Toul writ back. "Then send four or five scoreof your townsfolk" was the order. "Was not this to decantthe full town into the emptyand is not the good duke the father ofhis peopleand will not let the duchy be weakenednor its fairtowns laid waste by sword nor pestilence; but meets the one withpikeand arbalest (touching his cap to the sergeant and Denysalternately)and t'other with policy? LONG LIVE THE DUKE!"

Thepikemen of course were not to be outdone in loyalty; so they shoutedwith stentorian lungs "LONG LIVE THE DUKE!" Then thedecanted onespartly because loyalty was a non-reasoning sentimentin those dayspartly perhaps because they feared some further illconsequence should they alone be muteraised a feebletremulousshout"Long live the Duke!"

Butat thisinsulted nature rebelled. Perhaps indeed the sham sentimentdrew out the realforon the very heels of that royal noisea loudand piercing wail burst from every woman's bosomand a deepdeepgroan from every man's; oh! the air filled in a moment with womanlyand manly anguish. Judge what it must have been when the rude pikemenhalted unbiddenall confused; as if a wall of sorrow had started upbefore them.

"Enavant" roared the sergeantand they marched againbutmuttering and cursing.

"Ahthe ugly sound" said the civilianwincing. "Lesmalheureux!" cried he ruefully: for where is the single man canhear the sudden agony of a multitude and not be moved? "Lesingrats! They are going whence they were de trop to where they willbe welcome: from starvation to plenty - and they object. They evenmake dismal noises. One would think we were thrusting them forth fromBurgundy."

"Comeaway" whispered Gerardtrembling; "come away" andthe friends strode forward.

Whenthey passed the head of the columnand saw the men walk with theireyes bent in bitter gloom upon the groundand the womensomecarryingsome leading little childrenand weeping as they wentandthe poor bairnssome frolickingsome weeping because "theirmammies" weptGerard tried hard to say a word of comfortbutchoked and could utter nothing to the mourners; but gasped"ComeonDenysI cannot mock such sorrow with little words of comfort."And nowartist-likeall his aim was to get swiftly out of the griefhe could not soothe. He almost ran not to hear these sighs and sobs

"Whymate" said Denys"art the colour of a lemon. Man alivetake not other folk's troubles to heart! not one of those whiningmilksops there but would see theea strangerhanged withoutwinking."

Gerardscarce listened to him.

"Decantthem?" he groaned; "ayif blood were no thicker than wine.Princesye are wolves. Poor things! Poor things! AhDenys! Denys!with looking on their grief mine own comes home to me. Well-a-day!ahwell-a-day!"

"Aynow you talk reason. That youpoor ladshould be driven all the wayfrom Holland to Rome is pitiful indeed. But these snivelling curswhere is their hurt? There is six score of 'em to keep one anothercompany: besidesthey are not going out of Burgundy."

"Betterfor them if they had never been in it."

"Mechantva! they are but going from one village to anothera mule's journey!whilst thou - thereno more. Couragecamaradele diable est mort."

Gerardshook his head very doubtfullybut kept silence for about a mileand then he said thoughtfully"AyDenysbut then I amsustained by booklearning. These are simple folk that likely thoughttheir village was the world: now what is this? more weeping. Oh! 'tisa sweet world Humph! A little girl that hath broke her pipkin. Nowmay I hang on one of your gibbets but I'll dry somebody's tears"and he pounced savagely upon this little martyrlike a kite on achickbut with more generous intentions. It was a pretty little lassof about twelve; the tears were raining down her two peachesand herpalms lifted to heaven in that utterthough temporarydesolationwhich attends calamity at twelve; and at her feet the fatal causeabroken potworthsay the fifth of a modern farthing.

"Whathast broken thy potlittle one?" said Gerardacting intensestsympathy.

"Helas!bel gars; as you behold;" and the hands came down from the skyand both pointed at the fragments. A statuette of adversity.

"Andyou weep so for that?"

"NeedsI mustbel gars. My mammy will massacre me. Do they not already"(with a fresh burst of woe) "c-c-call me J-J-Jean-net-onC-c-casse tout? It wanted but this; that I should break my poor

pot.Helas! fallait-il doncmere de Dieu?"

"Couragelittle love" said Gerard; "'tis not thy heart lies broken;money will soon mend pots. See nowhere is a piece of silverandtherescarce a stone's throw offis a potter; take the bit ofsilver to himand buy another potand the copper the potter willgive thee keep that to play with thy comrades"

Thelittle mind took in all thisand smiles began to struggle with thetears: but spasms are like wavesthey cannot go down the very momentthe wind of trouble is lulled. So Denys thought well to bring up hisreserve of consolation "Couragema miele diable est mort!"cried that inventive warrior gaily. Gerard shrugged his shoulders atsuch a way of cheering a little girl.
"What a fine thing
Isa lute with one string" said he.

Thelittle girl's face broke into warm sunshine.

"Ohthe good news! ohthe good news!" she sang out with suchheartfelt joyit went off into a honeyed whine; even as our gay oldtunes have a pathos underneath "So then" said shetheywill no longer be able to threaten us little girls with himmakingour lives a burden!" And she bounded off "to tell Nanette"she said.

Thereis a theory that everything has its counterpart; if trueDenys itwould seem had found the mind his consigne fitted.

Whilehe was roaring with laughter at its unexpected success and Gerard'samazementa little hand pulled his jerkin and a little face peepedround his waist. Curiosity was now the dominant passion in that smallbut vivid countenance.

"Est-cetoi qui l'a tuebeau soldat?"

"Ouima mie" said Denysas gruffly as ever he couldrightlydeeming this would smack of supernatural puissance to owners ofbell-like trebles. "C'est moi. Ca vaut une petite embrassade-pas?"

"Jecrois ben. Aie! aie!"

"Qu'as-tu?"

Capique! ca pique!"

"Queldommage! je vais la couper."

"Neince n'est rien; et pisque t'as tue ce mechant. T'es fierement beautout d' memetoi; t'es lien miex que ma grande soeur.

"Willyou not kiss metooma mie?" said Gerard.

"Jene demande par miex. Tienstienstiens! c'est doulce celle-ci. Ah!que j'aimons les hommes! Des famesca ne m'aurait jamais donnel'arjanblancplutot ca m'aurait ri au nez. C'est si peu de choseles fames. Serviteurbeaulx sires! Bon voiage; et n'oubliez point laJeanneton!"

"Adieupetit coeur" said Gerardand on they marched; but presentlylooking back they saw the contemner of women in the middle of theroadmaking them a reverenceand blowing them kisses with littleMay morning face.

"Comeon" cried Gerard lustily. "I shall win to Rome yet. HolySt. Bavonwhat a sunbeam of innocence hath shot across ourbloodthirsty road! Forget theelittle Jeanneton? not likelyamidstall this slobberingand gibbetingand decanting. Come onthoulaggard! forward!"

"Dostcall this marching?" remonstrated Denys; "whywe shallwalk o'er Christmas Day and never see it."

Atthe next town they came tosuddenly an arbalestrier ran out of atavern after themand in a moment his beard and Denys's were liketwo brushes stuck together. It was a comrade. He insisted on theircoming into the tavern with himand breaking a bottle of wine. Incourse of conversationhe told Denys there was an insurrection inthe Duke's Flemish provincesand soldiers were ordered thither fromall parts of Burgundy. "IndeedI marvelled to see thy faceturned this way.

"Igo to embrace my folk that I have not seen these three years. Ye canquell a bit of a rising without me I trow."

SuddenlyDenys gave a start. "Dost hear Gerard? this comrade is bound forHolland."

"Whatthen? aha letter! a letter to Margaret! but will he be so goodsokind?"

Thesoldier with a torrent of blasphemy informed him he would not onlytake itbut go a league or two out of his way to do it.

Inan instant out came inkhorn and paper from Gerard's wallet; and hewrote a long letter to Margaretand told her briefly what I fear Ihave spun too tediously; dwelt most on the bearand the plunge inthe Rhineand the character of Denyswhom he painted to the life.And with many endearing expressions bade her to be of good cheer;some trouble and peril there had beenbut all that was over nowandhis only grief left wasthat he could not hope to have a word fromher hand till he should reach Rome. He ended with comforting heragain as hard as he could. And so absorbed was he in his love and hisworkthat he did not see all the people in the room were standingpeepingto watch the nimble and true finger execute such rarepenmanship.

Denysproud of his friend's skilllet him alonetill presently thewriter's face workedand soon the scalding tears began to run downhis young cheeksone after anotheron the paper where he was thenwriting comfortcomfort. Then Denys rudely repulsed the curiousandasked his comrade with a faltering voice whether he had the heart tolet so sweet a love-letter miscarry? The other swore by the face ofSt. Luke he would lose the forefinger of his right hand sooner.

Seeinghim so readyGerard charged him also with a shortcold letter tohis parents; and in it he drew hastily with his pen two handsgrasping each otherto signify farewell. By-the-byone drop ofbitterness found its way into his letter to Margaret. But of thatanon.

Gerardnow offered money to the soldier. He hesitatedbut declined it. "Nono! art comrade of my comrade; and may" (etc.) "but thylove for the wench touches me. I'll break another bottle at thycharge an thou wiltand so cry quits."

"Wellsaidcomrade" cried Denys. "Hadst taken moneyI hadinvited thee to walk in the courtyard and cross swords with me."

"WhereuponI had cut thy comb for thee" retorted the other.

"Hadstdone thy endeavourdroleI doubt not."

Theydrank the new bottleshook handsadhered to customand parted onopposite routes.

Thisdelayhoweversomewhat put out Denys's calculationsand eveningsurprised them ere they reached a little town he was making forwhere was a famous hotel. Howeverthey fell in with a roadsideaubergeand Denysseeing a buxom girl at the doorsaid"Thisseems a decent inn" and led the way into the kitchen. Theyordered supperto which no objection was raisedonly the landlordrequested them to pay for it beforehand. It was not an uncommonproposal in any part of the world. Still it was not universalandDenys was nettledand dashed his hand somewhat ostentatiously intohis purse and pulled out a gold angel. "Count me the changeandspeedily" said he. "You tavern-keepers are more likely torob me than I you."

Whilethe supper was preparingDenys disappearedand was eventually foundby Gerard in the yardhelping Manonhis plump but not bright decoyduckto draw waterand pouring extravagant compliments into herdullish ear. Gerard grunted and returned to tablebut Denys did notcome in for a good quarter of an hour.

"Uphillwork at the end of a march" said heshrugging his shoulders.

"Whatmatters that to you!" said Gerard drily. "The mad dog bitesall the world."

"Exaggerator.You know I bite but the fairer half. Wellhere comes supper; that isbetter worth biting."

Duringsupper the girl kept constantly coming in and outand lookingpoint-blank at themespecially at Denys; and at last in leaning overhim to remove a dishdropped a word in his ear; and he replied witha nod.

Assoon as supper was cleared awayDenys rose and strolled to the doortelling Gerard the sullen fair had relentedand given him a littlerendezvous in the stable-yard.

Gerardsuggested that the calf-pen would have been a more appropriatelocality. "I shall go to bedthen" said hea littlecrossly. "Where is the landlord? out at this time of night? nomatter. I know our room. Shall you be longpray?"

"NotI. I grudge leaving the fire and thee. But what can I do? There aretwo sorts of invitations a Burgundian never declines."

Denysfound a figure seated by the well. It was Manon; but instead ofreceiving him as he thought he had a right to expectcoming byinvitationall she did was to sob. He asked her what ailed her? Shesobbed. Could he do anything for her? She sobbed.

Thegood-natured Denysdriven to his wits' endwhich was no greatdistanceproffered the custom of the country by way of consolation.She repulsed him roughly. "Is it a time for fooling?" saidsheand sobbed.

"Youseem to think so" said Denyswaxing wroth. But the next momenthe added tenderly"and Iwho could never bear to see beauty indistress."

"Itis not for myself."

"Whothen? your sweetheart?"

"Ohque nenni. My sweetheart is not on earth now: and to think I have notan ecu to buy masses for his soul;" and in this shallow naturethe grief seemed now to be all turned in another direction.

"Comecome" said Denys"shalt have money to buy masses for thydead lad; I swear it. Meantime tell me why you weep."

"Foryou."

"Forme? Art mad?"

"No;I am not mad. 'Tis you that were mad to open your purse before him."

Themystery seemed to thickenand Denyswearied of stirring up the mudby questionsheld his peace to see if it would not clear of itself.Then the girlfinding herself no longer questionedseemed to gothrough some internal combat. At last she saiddoggedly and aloud"I will. The Virgin give me courage? What matters it if theykill mesince he is dead? Soldierthe landlord is out."

"Ohis he?"

"Whatdo landlords leave their taverns at this time of night? also see whata tempest! We are sheltered herebut t'other side it blows ahurricane."

Denyssaid nothing.

"Heis gone to fetch the band."

"Theband! what band?"

"Thosewho will cut your throat and take your gold. Wretched man; to go andshake gold in an innkeeper's face!"

Theblow came so unexpectedly it staggered even Denysaccustomed as hewas to sudden perils. He muttered a single wordbut in it a volume.

"Gerard!"

"Gerard!What is that? Oh'tis thy comrade's namepoor lad. Get him outquick ere they come; and fly to the next town."

"Andthou?"

"Theywill kill me."

"Thatshall they not. Fly with us."

"'Twillavail me nought: one of the band will be sent to kill me. They aresworn to slay all who betray them."

"I'lltake thee to my native place full thirty leagues from henceand putthee under my own mother's wingere they shall hurt a hair o' thyhead. But first Gerard. Stay thou here whilst I fetch him!"

Ashe was darting offthe girl seized him convulsivelyand with allthe iron strength excitement lends to women. "Stay me not! forpity's sake" he cried; "'tis life or death."

"Sh!- sh!" whispered the girlshutting his mouth hard with herhandand putting her pale lips close to himand her eyesthatseemed to turn backwardsstraining towards some indistinct sound.

Helistened.

Heheard footstepsmany footstepsand no voices. She whispered in hisear"They are come." And trembled like a leaf.

Denysfelt it was so. Travellers in that number would never have come indead silence.

Thefeet were now at the very door.

"Howmany?" said hein a hollow whisper.

"Hush!"and she put her mouth to his very ear. And whothat had seen thisman and woman in that attitudewould have guessed what freezinghearts were theirsand what terrible whispers passed between them?

"Howarmed?"

"Swordand dagger: and the giant with his axe. They call him the Abbot."

"Andmy comrade?"

"Nothingcan save him. Better lose one life than two. Fly!"

Denys'sblood froze at this cynical advice. "Poor creatureyou know nota soldier's heart."

Heput his head in his hands a momentand a hundred thoughts of dangersbaffled whirled through his brain.

"Listengirl! There is one chance for our livesif thou wilt but be true tous. Run to the town; to the nearest tavernand tell the firstsoldier therethat a soldier here is sore besetbut armedand hislife to be saved if they will but run. Then to the bailiff. But firstto the soldiers. Naynot a wordbut buss megood lassand fly!men's lives hang on thy heels."

Shekilted up her gown to run. He came round to the road with hersawher cross the road cringing with fearthen glide awaythen turninto an erect shadowthen melt away in the storm.

Andnow he must get to Gerard. But how? He had to run the gauntlet of thewhole band. He asked himselfwhat was the worst thing they could do?for he had learned in war that an enemy doesnot what you hope hewill dobut what you hope he will not do. "Attack me as I enterthe kitchen! Then I must not give them time."

Justas he drew near to the latcha terrible thought crossed him."Suppose they had already dealt with Gerard. Whythen"thought he"nought is left but to killand be killed;"and he strung his bowand walked rapidly into the kitchen. Therewere seven hideous faces seated round the fireand the landlordpouring them out neat brandyblood's forerunner in every age.

"What?company!" cried Denys gaily; "one minutemy ladsand I'llbe with you;" and he snatched up a lighted candle off the tableopened the door that led to the staircaseand went up it hallooing."WhatGerard! whither hast thou skulked to?" There was noanswer. He hallooed louder"Gerardwhere art thou?"

Aftera momentin which Denys lived an hour of agonya peevishhalf-inarticulate noise issued from the room at the head of thelittle stairs. Denys burst inand there was Gerard asleep.

"ThankGod!" he saidin a choking voicethen began to sing louduntuneful ditties. Gerard put his fingers into his ears; butpresently he saw in Denys's face a horror that contrasted strangelywith this sudden merriment.

"Whatails thee?" said hesitting up and staring.

"Hush!"said Denysand his hand spoke even more plainly than his lips."Listen to me."

Denysthen pointing significantly to the doorto show Gerard sharp earswere listening hard bycontinued his song aloud but under cover ofit threw in short muttered syllables.

"(Ourlives are in peril.)

"(Thieves.)

"(Thydoublet.)

"(Thysword.)

"Aid.

"Coming.

"Putoff time." Then aloud -

"Wellnowwilt have t'other bottle? - Say nay."

"Nonot I."

"ButI tell theethere are half-a-dozen jolly fellows. Tired."

"Aybut I am too wearied" said Gerard. "Go thou."

"Naynay!" Then he went to the door and called out cheerfully"Landlordthe young milksop will not rise. Give those honestfellows t'other bottle. I will pay for't in the morning."

Heheard a brutal and fierce chuckle.

Havingthus by observation made sure the kitchen door was shutand themiscreants were not actually listeninghe examined the chamber doorclosely: then quietly shut itbut did not bolt it; and went andinspected the window.

Itwas too small to get out ofand yet a thick bar of iron had been letin the stone to make it smaller; and just as he made this chillingdiscoverythe outer door of the house was bolted with a loud clang.

Denysgroaned. "The beasts are in the shambles."

Butwould the thieves attack them while they were awake? Probably not.

Notto throw away this their best chancethe poor souls now made aseries of desperate efforts to converseas if discussing ordinarymatters; and by this means Gerard learned all that had passedandthat the girl was gone for aid.

"PrayHeaven she may not lose heart by the way" said Denyssorrowfully.

AndDenys begged Gerard's forgiveness for bringing him out of his way forthis.

Gerardforgave him.

"Iwould fear them lessGerardbut for one they call the Abbot. Ipicked him out at once. Taller than youbigger than us both puttogether. Fights with an axe. Gerarda man to lead a herd of deer tobattle. I shall kill that man to-nightor he will kill me. I thinksomehow 'tis he will kill me."

"Saintsforbid! Shoot him at the door! What avails his strength against yourweapon?"

"Ishall pick him out; but if it comes to hand fightingrun swiftlyunder his guardor you are a dead man. I tell thee neither of us maystand a blow of that axe: thou never sawest such a body of a man."

Gerardwas for bolting the door; but Denys with a sign showed him that halfthe door-post turned outward on a hingeand the great bolt waslittle more than a blind. "I have forborne to bolt it"said he"that they may think us the less suspicious."

Nearan hour rolled away thus. It seemed an age. Yet it was but a littlehourand the town was a league distant. And some of the voices inthe kitchen became angry and impatient.

"Theywill not wait much longer" said Denys"and we have nochance at all unless we surprise them."

"Iwill do whate'er you bid" said Gerard meekly.

Therewas a cupboard on the same side as the door; but between it and thewindow. It reached nearly to the groundbut not quite. Denys openedthe cupboard door and placed Gerard on a chair behind it. "Ifthey run for the bedstrike at the napes of their necks! a sword cutthere always kills or disables." He then arranged the bolstersand their shoes in the bed so as to deceive a person peeping from adistanceand drew the short curtains at the head.

MeantimeGerard was on his knees. Denys looked round and saw him.

"Ah!"said Denys"above allpray them to forgive me for bringing youinto this guet-apens!

Andnow they grasped hands and looked in one another's eyes ohsuch alook! Denys's hand was coldand Gerard's warm.

Theytook their posts.

Denysblew out the candle..

"Wemust keep silence now.

Butin the terrible tension of their nerves and very souls they foundthey could hear a whisper fainter than any man could catch at alloutside that door. They could hear each other's hearts thump attimes.

"Goodnews!" breathed Denyslistening at the door. "They arecasting lots."

"Praythat it may be the Abbot."

"Yes.Why?

"Ifhe comes alone I can make sure of him."

"Denys!"

"Ay!"

"Ifear I shall go madif they do not come soon."

"ShallI feign sleep? Shall I snore?"

"Willthat-------?

"Perhaps"

"Dothen and God have mercy on us!"

Denyssnored at intervals.

Therewas a scuffling of feet heard in the kitchenand then all was still.

Denyssnored again. Then took up his position behind the door.

Butheor theywho had drawn the lotseemed determined to run nofoolish risks. Nothing was attempted in a hurry.

Whenthey were almost starved with coldand waiting for the attackthedoor on the stairs opened softly and closed again. Nothing more.

Therewas another harrowing silence.

Thena single light footstep on the stair; and nothing more.

Thena light crept under the door and nothing more.

Presentlythere was a gentle scratchingnot half so loud as a mouse'sand thefalse door-post opened by degreesand left a perpendicular spacethrough which the light streamed in. The doorhad it been boltedwould now have hung by the bare tip of the boltwhich went into thereal door-postbut as it wasit swung gently open of itself. Itopened inwardsso Denys did not raise his crossbow from the groundbut merely grasped his dagger.

Thecandle was held upand shaded from behind by a man's hand.

Hewas inspecting the beds from the thresholdsatisfied that hisvictims were both in bed.

Theman glided into the apartment. But at the first step something in theposition of the cupboard and chair made him uneasy. He ventured nofurtherbut put the candle on the floor and stooped to peer underthe chair; but as he stooped. an iron hand grasped his shoulderanda dagger was driven so fiercely through his neck that the point cameout at his gullet. There was a terrible hiccoughbut no cry; andhalf-a-dozen silent strokes followed in swift successioneach adeath-blowand the assassin was laid noiselessly on the floor.

Denysclosed the doorbolted it gentlydrew the post toand even whilehe was going whispered Gerard to bring a chair. It was done.

"Helpme set him up."

"Dead?"

"Parbleu."

"Whatfor?"

"Frightenthem! Gain time."

Evenwhile saying thisDenys had whipped a piece of string round the deadman's neckand tied him to the chairand there the ghastly figuresat fronting the door.

"DenysI can do better. Saints forgive me!"

"What?Be quick thenwe have not many moments."

AndDenys got his crossbow readyand tearing off his straw mattressreared it before him and prepared to shoot the moment the door shouldopenfor he had no hope any more would come singlywhen they foundthe first did not return.

Whilethus employedGerard was busy about the seated corpseand to hisamazement Denys saw a luminous glow spreading rapidly over the whiteface.

Gerardblew out the candle; and on this the corpse's face shone still morelike a glowworm's head.

Denysshook in his shoesand his teeth chattered.

"Whatin Heaven's nameis this?" he whispered.

"Hush!'tis but phosphorusbut 'twill serve."

"Away!they will surprise thee."

Infactuneasy mutterings were heard belowand at last a deep voicesaid"What makes him so long? is the drole rifling them?"

Itwas their comrade they suspected thennot the enemy. Soon a stepcame softly but rapidly up the stairs: the door was gently tried.

Whenthis resistedwhich was clearly not expectedthe sham post was verycautiously movedand an eye no doubt peeped through the aperture:for there was a howl of dismayand the man was heard to stumble backand burst into the kitchenhere a Babel of voices rose directly onhis return.

Gerardran to the dead thief and began to work on him again.

"Backmadman!" whispered Denys.

"Naynay. I know these ignorant brutes; they will not venture here awhile.I can make him ten times more fearful."

"Atleast close that opening! Let them not see you at your devilishwork."

Gerardclosed the sham postand in half a minute his brush gave the deadhead a sight to strike any man with dismay. He put his art to astrange useand one unparalleled perhaps in the history of mankind.He illuminated his dead enemy's face to frighten his living foe: thestaring eyeballs he made globes of fire; the teeth he left whiteforso they were more terrible by the contrast; but the palate and tonguehe tipped with fireand made one lurid cavern of the red depths thechapfallen jaw revealed: and on the brow he wrote in burning letters"La Mort." Andwhile he was doing itthe stout Denys wasquakingand fearing the vengeance of Heaven; for one mans courage isnot another's; and the band of miscreants below were quarrelling anddisputing loudlyand now without disguise.

Thesteps that led down to the kitchen were fifteenbut they were nearlyperpendicular: there was therefore in point of fact no distancebetween the besiegers and besiegedand the latter now caught almostevery word. At last one was heard to cry out"I tell ye thedevil has got him and branded him with hellfire. I am more like toleave this cursed house than go again into a room that is full offiends."

"Artdrunk? or mad? or a coward?" said another.

"Callme a cowardI'll give thee my dagger's pointand send thee wherePierre sits o' fire for ever.

"Comeno quarrelling when work is afoot" roared a tremendousdiapason"or I'll brain ye both with my fistand send ye wherewe shall all go soon or late."

"TheAbbot" whispered Denys gravely.

Hefelt the voice he had just heard could belong to no man but thecolossus he had seen in passing through the kitchen. It made theplace vibrate. The quarrelling continued some timeand then therewas a dead silence.

"LookoutGerard."

"Ay.What will they do next?"

"Weshall soon know."

"ShallI wait for youor cut down the first that opens the door?"

"Waitfor melest we strike the same and waste a blow. Alas! we cannotafford that."

Deadsilence.

Suddencame into the room a thing that made them start and their heartsquiver.

Andwhat was it? A moonbeam.

Evenso can this machinethe bodyby the soul's actionbe strung up tostart and quiver. The sudden ray shot keen and pure into thatshamble.

Itscalmcoldsilvery soul traversed the apartment in a stream of nogreat volumefor the window was narrow.

Afterthe first tremor Gerard whispered"CourageDenys! God's eye ison us even here." And he fell upon his knees with his faceturned towards the window.

Ayit was like a holy eye opening suddenly on human crime and humanpassions. Many a scene of blood and crime that pure cold eye hadrested on; but on few more ghastly than thiswhere two menwith alighted corpse between themwaited pantingto kill and be killed.Nor did the moonlight deaden that horrible corpse-light. If anythingit added to its ghastliness: for the body sat at the edge of themoonbeamwhich cut sharp across the shoulder and the earand seemedblue and ghastly and unnatural by the side of that lurid glow inwhich the face and eyes and teeth shone horribly. But Denys dared notlook that way.

Themoon drew a broad stripe of light across the doorand on that hiseyes were glued. Presently he whispered"Gerard!"

Gerardlooked and raised his sword.

Acutelyas they had listenedthey had heard of late no sound on the stair.Yet therein the door-postat the edge of the stream of moonlightwere the tips of the fingers of a hand.

Thenails glistened.

Presentlythey began to crawl and crawl down towards the boltbut withinfinite slowness and caution. In so doing they crept into themoonlight. The actual motion was imperceptiblebut slowlyslowlythe fingers came out whiter and whiter; but the hand between the mainknuckles and the wrist remained dark.

Denysslowly raised his crossbow.

Helevelled it. He took a long steady aim.

Gerardpalpitated. At last the crossbow twanged. The hand was instantlynailedwith a stern jarto the quivering door-post. There was ascream of anguish. "Cut" whispered Denys eagerlyandGerard's uplifted sword descended and severed the wrist with twoswift blows. A body sank down moaning outside.

Thehand remained insideimmovablewith blood trickling from it downthe wall. The fierce boltslightly barbedhad gone through it anddeep into the real door-post.

"Two"said Denyswith terrible cynicism.

Hestrung his crossbowand kneeled behind his cover again.

"Thenext will be the Abbot."

Thewounded man movedand presently crawled down to his companions onthe stairsand the kitchen door was shut.

Therenothing was heard now but low muttering. The last incident hadrevealed the mortal character of the weapons used by the besieged.

"Ibegin to think the Abbot's stomach is not so great as his body"said Denys.

Thewords were scarcely out of his mouth when the following eventshappened all in a couple of seconds. The kitchen door was openedroughlya heavy but active man darted up the stairs without anymanner of disguiseand a single ponderous blow sent the door notonly off its hingesbut right across the room on to Denys'sfortificationwhich it struck so rudely as nearly to lay him flat.And in the doorway stood a colossus with a glittering axe.

Hesaw the dead man with the moon's blue light on half his faceand thered light on the other half and inside his chapfallen jaws: hestaredhis arms fellhis knees knocked togetherand he crouchedwith terror.

"LAMORT!" he criedin tones of terrorand turned and fled. Inwhich act Denys started up and shot him through both jaws. He sprangwith one bound into the kitchenand there leaned on his axespitting blood and teeth and curses.

Denysstrung his bow and put his hand into his breast.

Hedrew it out dismayed.

"Mylast bolt is gone" he groaned.

"Butwe have our swordsand you have slain the giant."

"NoGerard" said Denys gravely"I have not. And the worst isI have wounded him. Fool! to shoot at a retreating lion. He had neverfaced thy handiwork againbut for my meddling."

"Ha!to your guard! I hear them open the door."

ThenDenysdepressed by the one error he had committed in all thisfearful nightfelt convinced his last hour had come. He drew hisswordbut like one doomed. But what is this? a red light flickers onthe ceiling. Gerard flew to the window and looked out. There were menwith torchesand breastplates gleaming red. "We are saved!Armed men!" And he dashed his sword through the window shouting"Quick! quick! we are sore pressed."

"Back!"yelled Denys; "they come! strike none but him!"

Thatvery moment the Abbot and two men with naked weapons rushed into theroom. Even as they camethe outer door was hammered fiercelyandthe Abbot's comrades hearing itand seeing the torchlightturnedand fled. Not so the terrible Abbot: wild with rage and painhespurned his dead comradechair and allacross the roomthenasthe men faced him on each side with kindling eyeballshe waved histremendous axe like a feather right and leftand cleared a spacethen lifted it to hew them both in pieces.

Hisantagonists were inferior in strengthbut not in swiftness anddaringand above all they had settled how to attack him. The momenthe reared his axethey flew at him like catsand both together. Ifhe struck a full blow with his weapon he would most likely kill onebut the other would certainly kill him: he saw thisand intelligentas well as powerfulhe thrust the handle fiercely in Denys's faceandturningjobbed with the steel at Gerard. Denys went staggeringback covered with blood. Gerard had rushed in like lightningandjust as the axe turned to descend on himdrove his sword so fiercelythrough the giant's bodythat the very hilt sounded on his ribs likethe blow of a pugilistand Denysstaggering back to help hisfriendsaw a steel point come out of the Abbot behind.

Thestricken giant bellowed like a bulldropped his axeand clutchingGerard's throat tremendouslyshook him like a child. Then Denys witha fierce snarl drove his sword into the giant's back. "Standfirm now!" and he pushed the cold steel through and through thegiant and out at his breast.

Thushorribly spitted on both sidesthe Abbot gave a violent shudderandhis heels hammered the ground convulsively. His lipsfast turningblueopened wide and deepand he cried"LA MORT!-LA MORT!-LAMORT!!" the first time in a roar of despairand then twice in ahorror-stricken whispernever to be forgotten.

Justthen the street door was forced.

Suddenlythe Abbot's arms whirled like windmillsand his huge body wrenchedwildly and carried them to the doorwaytwisting their wrists andnearly throwing them off their legs.

"He'llwin clear yet" cried Denys: "out steel! and in again!"

Theytore out their smoking swordsbut ere they could stab againtheAbbot leaped full five feet highand fell with a tremendous crashagainst the door belowcarrying it away with him like a sheet ofpaperand through the aperture the glare of torches burst on theawe-struck faces abovehalf blinding them.

Thethieves at the first alarm had made for the back doorbut driventhence by a strong guard ran back to the kitchenjust in time to seethe lock forced out of the socketand half-a-dozen mailed archersburst in upon them. On these in pure despair they drew their swords.

Butere a blow was struck on either sidethe staircase door behind themwas battered into their midst with one ponderous blowand with itthe Abbot's body came flyinghurled as they thought by no mortalhandand rolled on the floor spouting blood from back and bosom intwo furious jetsand quiveredbut breathed no more.

Thethieves smitten with dismay fell on their knees directlyand thearchers bound themwhileabovethe rescued ones still stood likestatues rooted to the spottheir dripping swords extended in the redtorchlightexpecting their indomitable enemy to leap back on them aswonderfully as he had gone.

 

CHAPTERXXXIV

"Wherebe the true men?"

"Herebe we. God bless you all! God bless you!"

Therewas a rush to the stairsand half-a-dozen hard but friendly handswere held out and grasped them warmly.

"Y'havesaved our liveslads" cried Denys"y'have saved ourlives this night."

Awild sight met the eyes of the rescued pair. The room flaring withtorchesthe glittering breastplates of the archerstheir bronzedfacesthe white cheeks of the bound thievesand the bleeding giantwhose dead body these hard men left lying there in its own gore.

Gerardwent round the archers and took them each by the hand with glisteningeyesand on this they all kissed him; and this time he kissed themin return. Then he said to one handsome archer of his own age"Pritheegood soldierhave an eye to me. A strange drowsinessovercomes me. Let no one cut my throat while I sleep - for pity'ssake."

Thearcher promised with a laugh; for he thought Gerard was jesting: andthe latter went off into a deep sleep almost immediately.

Denyswas surprised at this: but did not interfere; for it suited hisimmediate purpose. A couple of archers were inspecting the Abbot'sbodyturning it half over with their feetand inquiring"Whichof the two had flung this enormous rogue down from an upper storeylike that; they would fain have the trick of his arm.

Denysat first pished and pshawedbut dared not play the braggartfor hesaid to himself"That young vagabond will break in and say'twas the finger of Heavenand no mortal armor some such stuffand make me look like a fool." But nowseeing Gerardunconscioushe suddenly gave this required information.

"Wellthenyou seecomradesI had run my sword through this one up tothe hiltand one or two more of 'em came buzzing about me; so itbehoved me have my sword or die: so I just put my foot against hisstomachgave a tug with my hand and a spring with my footand senthim flying to kingdom come! He died in the airand his carrionrolled in amongst you without ceremony: made you jumpI warrant me.But pikestaves and pillage! what avails prattling ofthese triflesonce they are gone by? buvonscamaradesbuvons.

Thearchers remarked that it was easy to say "buvons" where noliquor wasbut not so easy to do it.

"NayI'll soon find you liquor. My nose hath a natural alacrity atscenting out the wine. You follow me: and I my nose: bring a torch!"And they left the roomand finding a short flight of stone stepsdescended them and entered a largelowdamp cellar.

Itsmelt close and dank: and the walls were encrusted here and therewith what seemed cobwebs; but proved to be saltpetre that had oozedout of the damp stones and crystallized.

"Oh!the fine mouldy smell" said Denys; "in such places stilllurks the good wine; advance thy torch. Diable! what is that in thecorner? A pile of rags? No: 'tis a man."

Theygathered round with the torchand lo! a figure crouched on a heap inthe cornerpale as ashes and shivering.

"Whyit is the landlord" said Denys.

"Getupthou craven heart!" shouted one of the archers.

"Whymanthe thieves are boundand we are dry that bound them. Up! andshow us thy wine; for no bottles see here."

"Whatbe the rascals bound?" stammered the pale landlord; "goodnews. W-w-wine? that will Ihonest sirs."

Andhe rose with unsure joints and offered to lead the way to the winecellar. But Denys interposed. "You are all in the darkcomrades. He is in league with the thieves."

"Alackgood soldierme in league with the accursed robbers! Is thatreasonable?"

"Thegirl said so anyway."

"Thegirl! What girl? Ah! Curse hertraitress!"

"Well"interposed the other archer; "the girl is not herebut gone onto the bailiff. So let the burghers settle whether this craven beguilty or no: for we caught him not in the act: and let him draw usour wine."

"Onemoment" said Denys shrewdly. "Why cursed he the girl? Ifhe be a true manhe should bless her as we do."

"Alassir!" said the landlord"I have but my good name to livebyand I cursed her to youbecause you said she had belied me."

"Humph!I trow thou art a thiefand where is the thief that cannot lie witha smooth face? Therefore hold himcomrades: a prisoner can draw winean if his hands be not bound."

Thelandlord offered no objection; but on the contrary said he would withpleasure show them where his little stock of wine wasbut hoped theywould pay for what they should drinkfor his rent was due this twomonths.

Thearchers smiled grimly at his simplicityas they thought it; one ofthem laid a hand quietly but firmly on his shoulderthe other led onwith the torch.

Theyhad reached the threshold when Denys cried "Halt!"

"Whatis't?"

"Herebe bottles in this corner; advance thy light."

Thetorch-bearer went towards him. He had just taken off his scabbard andwas probing the heap the landlord had just been crouched upon.

"Naynay" cried the landlord"the wine is in the next cellar.There is nothing there."

"Nothingis mighty hardthen" said Denysand drew out something withhis hand from the heap.

Itproved to be only a bone.

Denysthrew it on the floor: it rattled.

"Thereis nought there but the bones of the house" said the landlord.

"Justnow 'twas nothing. Now that we have found something 'tis nothing butbones. Here's another. Humph? look at this onecomrade; and you cometoo and look at itand bring you smooth knave along."

Thearcher with the torchwhose name was Philippeheld the bone to thelight and turned it round and round.

"Well?"said Denys.

"Wellif this was a field of battleI should say 'twas the shankbone of aman; no moreno less. But 'tisn't a battlefieldnor a churchyard;'tis an inn."

"Truemate; but yon knave's ashy face is as good a light to me as a fieldof battle. I read the bone by itBring yon face nearerI say. Whenthe chine is amissingand the house dog can't look at you withouthis tail creeping between his legswho was the thief? Good brothersminemy mind it doth misgive me. The deeper I thrust the more therebe. Mayhap if these bones could tell their tale they would make truemen's flesh creep that heard it."

"Alas!young manwhat hideous fancies are these! The bones are bones ofbeevesand sheepand kidsand notas you thinkof men and women.Holy saints preserve us!"

"Holdthy peace! thy words are air. Thou hast not got burghers by the earthat know not a veal knuckle from their grandsire's ribs; butsoldiers-men that have gone to look for their dear comradesandfound their bones picked as clean by the crows as these I doubt havebeen by thee and thy mates. Men and womensaidst thou? And pritheewhen spake I a word of women's bones? Wouldst make a child suspectthee. Field of battlecomrade! Was not this house a field of battlehalf an hour agone? Drag him close to melet me read his face: nowthenwhat is thisthou knave?" and he thrust a small objectsuddenly in his face.

"Alas!I know not."

"WellI would not swear neither: but it is too like the thumb bone of aman's hand; matesmy flesh it creeps. Churchyard! how know I this isnot one?"

Andhe now drew his sword out of the scabbard and began to rake the heapof earth and broken crockery and bones out on the floor.

Thelandlord assured him he but wasted his time. "We poor innkeepersare sinners" said he; "we give short measure and baptizethe wine: we are fain to do these things; the laws are so unjust tous; but we are not assassins. How could we afford to kill ourcustomers? May Heaven's lightning strike me dead if there be anybones there but such as have been used for meat. 'Tis the kitchenwench flings them here: I swear by God's holy motherby holy Paulby holy Dominicand Denys my patron saint - ah!"

Denysheld out a bone under his eye in dead silence. It was a bone no manhowever ignoranthowever lyingcould confound with those of sheepor oxen. The sight of it shut the lying lipsand palsied theheartless heart.

Thelandlord's hair rose visibly on his head like spikesand his kneesgave way as if his limbs had been struck from under him. But thearchers dragged him fiercely upand kept him erect under the torchstaring fascinated at the dead skull whichwhite as the living cheekopposedbut no whiterglared back again at its murdererwhose palelip now opened and openedbut could utter no sound.

"Ah!"said Denys solemnlyand trembling now with rage"look on thesockets out of which thou hast picked the eyesand let them blastthine eyesthat crows shall pick out ere this week shall end. Nowhold thou that while I search on. Hold itI sayor here I rob thegallows - " and he threatened the quaking wretch with his nakedswordtill with a groan he took the skull and held italmostfainting.

Oh!that every murdererand contriver of murdercould see himsickand staggering with terrorand with his hair on endholding thecold skulland feeling that his own head would soon be like it. Andsoon the heap was scatteredand alas! not one nor twobut manyskulls were brought to lightthe culprit moaning at each discovery.

SuddenlyDenys uttered a strange cry of distress to come from so bold and harda man; and held up to the torch a mass of human hair. It was longglossyand golden. A woman's beautiful hair. At the sight of it thearchers instinctively shook the craven wretch in their hands: and hewhined.

"Ihave a little sister with hair just so fair and shining as this"gulped Denys. "Jesu! if it should be hers! There quicktake mysword and daggerand keep them from my handlest I strike him deadand wrong the gibbet. And thoupoor innocent victimon whose headthis most lovely hair did growhear me swear thison bended kneenever to leave this man till I see him broken to pieces on the wheeleven for thy sake."

Herose from his knee. "Ayhad he as many lives as here be hairsI'd have them allby God" and he put the hair into his bosom.Then in a sudden fury seized the landlord fiercely by the neckandforced him to his knees; and foot on head ground his face savagelyamong the bones of his victimswhere they lay thickest; and theassassin first yelledthen whined and whimperedjust as a dog firstyellsthen whineswhen his nose is so forced into some leveret orother innocent he has killed.

"Nowlend me thy bowstringPhilippe!" He passed it through the eyesof a skull alternatelyand hung the ghastly relic of mortality andcrime round the man's neck; then pulled him up and kicked himindustriously into the kitchenwhere one of the aldermen of theburgh had arrived with constablesand was even now taking anarcher's deposition.

Thegrave burgher was much startled at sight of the landlord driven inbleeding from a dozen scratches inflicted by the bones of his ownvictimsand carrying his horrible collar. But Denys came pantingafterand in a few fiery words soon made all clear.

"Bindhim like the rest" said the alderman sternly. "I count himthe blackest of them all."

Whilehis hands were being boundthe poor wretch begged piteously that"the skull might be taken from him."

"Humph!"said the alderman. "Certes I had not ordered such a thing to beput on mortal man. Yet being thereI will not lift voice nor fingerto doff it. Methinks it fits thee trulythou bloody dog. 'Tis thyensignand hangs well above a heart so foul as thine."

Hethen inquired of Denys if he thought they had secured the whole gangor but a part.

"Yourworship" said Denys"there are but seven of themandthis landlord. One we slew upstairsone we trundled down deadtherest are bound before you."

"Good!go fetch the dead one from upstairsand lay him beside him I causedto be removed."

Herea voice like a guinea-fowl's broke peevishly in. "Nownownowwhere is the hand? that is what I want to see." The speaker wasa little pettifogging clerk.

"Youwill find it abovenailed to the door-post by a crossbow bolt."

"Good!"said the clerk. He whispered his master"What a goodly showwill the 'pieces de conviction' make!" and with this he wrotethem downenumerating them in separate squeaks as he penned them.Skulls - Bones - A woman's hair - A thief's hands 1 axe -2 carcasses- 1 crossbow bolt. This donehe itched to search the cellar himself:there might be other invaluable morsels of evidencean earor evenan earring. The alderman assentinghe caught up a torch and washurrying thitherwhen an accident stopped himand indeed carriedhim a step or two in the opposite direction.

Theconstables had gone up the stair in single file.

Butthe head constable no sooner saw the phosphorescent corpse seated bythe bedsidethan he stood stupefied; and next he began to shake likeone in an agueandterror gaining on him more and morehe uttereda sort of howl and recoiled swiftly. Forgetting the steps in hisrecoilhe tumbled over backward on his nearest companion; but heshaken by the shout of dismayand catching a glimpse of somethinghorridwas already staggering backand in no condition to sustainthe head constablewholike most head constableswas a ponderousman. The two carried away the thirdand the three the fourthandthey streamed into the kitchenand settled on the flooroverlappingeach other like a sequence laid out on a card-table. The clerk cominghastily with his torch ran an involuntary tilt against the fourthmanwhosharing the momentum of the massknocked him instantly onhis backthe ace of that fair quint; and there he lay kicking andwaving his torchapparently in triumphbut really in convulsionsense and wind being driven out together by the concussion.

"Whatis to do nowin Heaven's name?" cried the aldermanstarting upwith considerable alarm. But Denys explainedand offered toaccompany his worship. "So be it" said the latter. His menpicked themselves ruefully upand the alderman put himself at theirhead and examined the premises above and below. As for the prisonerstheir interrogatory was postponed till they could be confronted withthe servant.

Beforedawnthe thievesalive and deadand all the relics and evidencesof crime and retributionwere swept away into the law's netand theinn was silent and almost deserted. There remained but one constableand Denys and Gerardthe latter still sleeping heavily.

 

CHAPTERXXXV

Gerardawokeand found Denys watching him with some anxiety.

"Itis you for sleeping! Why'tis high noon."

"Itwas a blessed sleep" said Gerard; "methinks Heaven sent itme. It hath put as it were a veil between me and that awful night. Tothink that you and I sit here alive and well. How terrible a dream Iseem to have had!"

"Ayladthat is the wise way to look at these things when once they arepastwhythey are dreamsshadows. Break thy fastand then thouwilt think no more on't. MoreoverI promised to bring thee on to thetown by noonand take thee to his worship."

Gerardthen sopped some rye bread in red wine and ate it to break his fast:then went with Denys over the scene of combatand came backshudderingand finally took the road with his friendand keptpeering through the hedgesand expecting sudden attacksunreasonablytill they reached the little town. Denys took him to"The White Hart".

"Nofear of cut-throats here" said he. "I know the landlordthis many a year. He is a burgessand looks to be bailiff. 'Tis hereI was making for yestreen. But we lost timeand night o'ertook us -and -

"Andyou saw a woman at the doorand would be wiser than a Jeanneton; shetold us they were nought."

"Whywhat saved our lives if not a woman? Ayand risked her own to doit."

"Thatis trueDenys; and though women are nothing to meI long to thankthis poor girland reward heraythough I share every doit in mypurse with her. Do not you?"

"Parbleu."

"Whereshall we find her?"

"Mayhapthe alderman will tell us. We must go to him first."

Thealderman received them with a most singular and inexplicableexpression of countenance. Howeverafter a moment's reflectionhewore a grim smileand finally proceeded to put interrogatories toGerardand took down the answers. This donehe told them that theymust stay in the town till the thieves were triedand be at hand togive evidenceon peril of fine and imprisonment. They looked veryblank at this.

"However"said he"'twill not be longthe culprits having been takenred-handed." He added"And you knowin any case you couldnot leave the place this week."

Denysstared at this remarkand Gerard smiled at what he thought thesimplicity of the old gentleman in dreaming that a provincial town ofBurgundy had attraction to detain him from Rome and Margaret.

Henow went to that which was nearest both their hearts.

"Yourworship" said he"we cannot find our benefactress in thetown."

"Naybut who is your benefactress?"

"Who?why the good girl that came to you by night and saved our lives atperil of her own. Oh sirour hearts burn within us to thank andbless her; where is she?"

 

CHAPTERXXXVI

"Inprisonsir; good lackfor what misdeed?"

"Wellshe is a witnessand may be a necessary one."

"WhyMessire Bailiff" put in Denys"you lay not all yourwitnesses by the heels I trow."

Thealdermanpleased at being called bailiffbecame communicative. "Ina case of blood we detain all testimony that is like to give us legbailand so defeat justiceand that is why we still keep the womenfolk. For a man at odd times hides a week in one mindbut a womanif she do her duty to the realm o' Fridayshe shall undo it aforeSundayor try. Could you see yon wench nowyou should find hera-blubbering at having betrayed five males to the gallows. Had theybeen femaleswe might have trusted to a subpoena. For they despiseone another. And there they show some sense. But now I think on'tthere were other reasons for laying this one by the heels. Hand methose depositionsyoung sir." And he put on his glasses. "Ay!she was implicated; she was one of the band."

Aloud disclaimer burst from Denys and Gerard at once.

"Noneed to deave me" said the alderman. "Here 'tis in blackand white. 'Jean Hardy (that is one of the thieves)beingquestionedconfessed that - humph? Ayhere 'tis. 'And that the girlManon was the decoyand her sweetheart was Georges Vipontone ofthe band; and hanged last month: and that she had been deject eversinceand had openly blamed the band for his deathsaying if theyhad not been rank cowardshe had never been takenand it is hisopinion she did but betray them out of very spiteand -

"Hisopinion" cried Gerard indignantly; "what signifies theopinion of a cut-throatburning to be revenged on her who hasdelivered him to justice? And an you go to thatwhat avails histestimony? Is a thief never a liar? Is he not aye a liar? and here amotive to lie? Revengewhy'tis the strongest of all the passions.And ohsirwhat madness to question a detected felon and listen tohim lying away an honest life - as if he were a true man swearing inopen daywith his true hand on the Gospel laid!"

"Youngman" said the alderman"restrain thy heat in presence ofauthority! I find by your tone you are a stranger. Know then that inthis land we question all the world. We are not so weak as to hope toget at the truth by shutting either our left ear or our right."

"Andso you would listen to Satan belying the saints!"

"Ta!ta! The law meddles but with men and womenand these cannot utter astory all lieslet them try ever so. Wherefore we shut not thebarn-door (as the saying is) against any man's grain. Only havingtaken it inwe do winnow and sift it. And who told you I hadswallowed the thief's story whole like fair water? Not so. I did butcredit so much on't as was borne out by better proof."

"Betterproof?" and Gerard looked blank. "Whywho but the thieveswould breathe a word against her?"

"Marryherself."

"Herselfsir? whatdid you question her too?"

"Itell you we question all the world. Here is her deposition; can youread? - Read it yourselfthen."

Gerardlooked at Denys and read him Manon's deposition.

"Iam a native of Epinal. I left my native place two years ago because Iwas unfortunate: I could not like the man they bade me. So my fatherbeat me. I ran away from my father. I went to service. I left servicebecause the mistress was jealous of me. The reason that she gave forturning me off wasbecause I was saucy. Last year I stood in themarketplace to be hired with other girls. The landlord of 'The FairStar' hired me. I was eleven months with him. A young man courted me.I loved him. I found out that travellers came and never went awayagain. I told my lover. He bade me hold my peace. He threatened me. Ifound my lover was one of a band of thieves. When travellers were tobe robbedthe landlord went out and told the band to come. Then Iwept and prayed for the travellers' souls. I never told. A month agomy lover died.

"Thesoldier put me in mind of my lover. He was bearded like him I hadlost. I cannot tell whether I should have interferedif he had hadno beard. I am sorry I told now."

Thepaper almost dropped from Gerard's hands. Now for the first time hesaw that Manon's life was in mortal danger. He knew the dogged lawand the dogged men that executed it. He threw himself suddenly on hisknees at the alderman's feet. "Ohsir! think of the differencebetween those cruel men and this poor weak woman! Could you have theheart to send her to the same death with them; could you have theheart to condemn us to look on and see her slaughteredwhobut thatshe risked her life for ourshad not now been in jeopardy? Alassir! show me and my comrade some pityif you have none for herpoorsoul. Denys and I be true menand you will rend our hearts if youkill that poor simple girl. What can we do? What is left for us to dothen but cut our throats at her gallows' foot?"

Thealderman was toughbut mortal; the prayers and agitation of Gerardfirst astoundedthen touched him. He showed it in a curious way. Hebecame peevish and fretful. "Thereget updo" said he."I doubt whether anybody would say as many words for me. WhathoDaniel! go fetch the town clerk." And on that functionaryentering from an adjoining room'Here is a foolish lad frettingabout yon girl. Can we stretch a point? say we admit her to bearwitnessand question her favourably."

Thetown clerk was one of your "impossibility" men.

"Naysirwe cannot do that: she was not concerned in this business. Hadshe been accessorywe might have offered her a pardon to bearwitness."

Gerardburst in"But she did better. Instead of being accessoryshestayed the crime; and she proffered herself as witness by runninghither with the tale."

"Tushyoung man'tis a matter of law." The alderman and the clerkthen had a long discussionthe one maintainingthe other denyingthat she stood as fair in law as if she had been accessory to theattempt on our travellers' lives. And this was lucky for Manon: forthe aldermanirritated by the clerk reiterating that he could not dothisand could not thatand could not do t'othersaid "hewould show him he could do anything he chose" And he had Manonoutand upon the landlord of "The White Hart" being herbondsmanand Denys depositing five gold pieces with himand thegirl promisingnot without some coaxing from Denysto attend as awitnesshe liberated herbut eased his conscience by telling her inhis own terms his reason for this leniency.

"Thetown had to buy a new rope for everybody hangedand present it tothe bourreauor compound with him in money: and she was not in hisopinion worth this municipal expensewhereas decided characters likeher late confederateswere." And so Denys and Gerard carriedher offGerard dancing round her for joyDenys keeping up her heartby assuring her of the demise of a troublesome personageand sheweeping inauspiciously. Howeveron the road to "The White Hart"the public found her outand having heard the whole story from thearcherswho naturally told it warmly in her favourfollowed herhurrahing and encouraging hertill finding herself backed by numbersshe plucked up heart. The landlord too saw at a glance that herpresence in the inn would draw customand received her politelyandassigned her an upper chamber: here she buried herselfand beingalone rained tears again.

Poorlittle mindit was like a rippleup and downdown and upup anddown. Bidding the landlord be very kind to herand keep her aprisoner without letting her feel itthe friends went out: and lo!as they stepped into the street they saw two processions comingtowards them from opposite sides. One was a large oneattended withnoise and howls and those indescribable cries by which rude naturesreveal at odd times that relationship to the beasts of the field andforestwhich at other times we succeed in hiding. The otherverythinly attended by a few nuns and friarscame slow and silent.

Theprisoners going to exposure in the market-place. The gathered bonesof the victims coming to the churchyard.

Andthe two met in the narrow street nearly at the inn doorand couldnot pass each other for a long timeand the bierthat bore therelics of mortalitygot wedged against the cart that carried the menwho had made those bones what they wereand in a few hours must diefor it themselves. The mob had not the quick intelligence to be atonce struck with this stern meeting: but at last a woman cried"Lookat your workye dogs!" and the crowd took it like wildfireandthere was a horrible yelland the culprits groaned and tried to hidetheir heads upon their bosomsbut could nottheir hands being tied.And there they stoodimages of pale hollow-eyed despairand oh howthey looked on the bierand envied those whom they had sent beforethem on the dark road they were going upon themselves! And the twomen who were the cause of both processions stood and looked gravelyonand even Manonhearing the disturbancecrept to the windowandhiding her facepeeped trembling through her fingersas womenwill.

Thisstrange meeting parted Denys and Gerard. The former yielded tocuriosity and revengethe latter doffed his bonnetand piouslyfollowed the poor remains of those whose fate had so nearly been hisown. For some time he was the one lay mourner: but when they hadreached the suburbsa long way from the greater attraction that wasfilling the market-placemore than one artisan threw down his toolsand more than one shopman left his shopand touched with pity or asense of our common humanityand perhaps decided somewhat by theexample of Gerardfollowed the bones bareheadedand saw themdeposited with the prayers of the Church in hallowed ground.

Afterthe funeral rites Gerard stepped respectfully up to the cureandoffered to buy a mass for their souls.

Gerardson of Catherinealways looked at two sides of a penny: and he triedto purchase this mass a trifle under the usual termson account ofthe pitiable circumstances. But the good cure gently but adroitlyparried his ingenuityand blandly screwed him up to the marketprice.

Inthe course of the business they discovered a similarity ofsentiments. Piety and worldly prudence are not very rare companions:still it is unusual to carry both so far as these two men did. Theircollision in the prayer market led to mutual esteemas when knightencountered knight worthy of his steel. moreover the good cure loveda bit of gossipand finding his customer was one of those who hadfought the thieves at Domfrontwould have him into his parlour andhear the whole from his own lips. And his heart warmed to Gerardandhe said "God was good to thee. I thank Him for't with all mysoul. Thou art a good lad." He added drily"Shouldst havetold me this tale in the churchyard. I doubtI had given thee themass for love. However" said he (the thermometer suddenlyfalling)"'tis ill luck to go back upon a bargain. But I'llbroach a bottle of my old Medoc for thee: and few be the guests Iwould do that for." The cure went to his cupboardand while hegroped for the choice bottlehe muttered to himself"At theirold tricks again!"

"Plait-il?"said Gerard.

"Isaid nought. Ayhere 'tis."

"Nayyour reverence. You surely spoke: you said'At their old tricksagain!'"

"SaidI so in sooth?" and his reverence smiled. He then proceeded tobroach the wineand filled a cup for each. Then he put a log of woodon the firefor stoves were none in Burgundy. "And so I said'At their old tricks!' did I? Comesip the good wineandwhilst itlastsstory for storyI care not if I tell you a little tale."

Gerard'seyes sparkled.

"Thoulovest a story?"

"Asmy life."

"Naybut raise not thine expectations too highneither. 'Tis but afoolish trifle compared with thine adventures."

THECURE'S TALE.

"Onceupon a timethenin the kingdom of Franceand in the duchy ofBurgundyand not a day's journey from the town where now we sita-sipping of old Medocthere lived a cure. I say he lived; butbarely. The parish was smallthe parishioners greedy; and never gavetheir cure a doit more than he could compel. The nearer they broughthim to a disembodied spirit by meagre dietthe holier should be hisprayers in their behalf. I know not if this was their creedbuttheir practice gave it colour.

"Atlast he pickled a rod for them.

"Oneday the richest farmer in the place had twins to baptize. The curewas had to the christening dinner as usual; but ere he would baptizethe childrenhe demandednot the christening fees onlybut theburial fees. 'Saints defend usparsoncried the mother; 'talk notof burying! I did never see children liker to live.' 'Nor I' saidthe cure'the praise be to God. Nathelessthey are sure to diebeing sons of Adamas well as of theedame. But die when they will'twill cost them nothingthe burial fees being paid and entered inthis book.' 'For all that 'twill cost them something' quoth themillerthe greatest wag in the placeand as big a knave as any; forwhich was the biggest God knowethbut no mortal mannot even thehangman. 'MillerI tell thee nay' quo' the cure. 'ParsonI tellyou ay' quo' the miller. ''Twill cost them their lives.' At whichmillstone conceit was a great laugh; and in the general mirth thefees were paid and the Christians made.

"Butwhen the next parishioner's childand the next afterand allhadto pay each his burial feeor lose his place in heavendiscontentdid secretly rankle in the parish. Wellone fine day they met insecretand sent a churchwarden with a complaint to the bishopand athunderbolt fell on the poor cure. Came to him at dinner-time asummons to the episcopal palaceto bring the parish books and answercertain charges. Then the cure guessed where the shoe pinched. Heleft his food on the boardfor small his appetite nowand took theparish books and went quaking.

"Thebishop entertained him with a frownand exposed the plaint.'Monseigneur' said the cure right humbly'doth the parish allegemany things against meor this one only?' 'In soothbut this one'said the bishopand softened a little. 'FirstmonseigneurIacknowledge the fact.' ''Tis well' quoth the bishop; 'that savestime and trouble. Now to your excuseif excuse there be.''MonseigneurI have been cure of that parish seven yearsand fiftychildren have I baptizedand buried not five. At first I used tosay"Heaven be praisedthe air of this village is mainhealthy;" but on searching the register book I found 'twasalways soand on probing the matterit came out that of those bornat Domfrontallbut here and there onedid go and get hanged atAix. But this was to defraud not their cure onlybut the entireChurch of her duessince "pendards" pay no funeral feesbeing buried in air. Thereuponknowing by sad experience theirgreedand how they grudge the Church every souI laid a trap tokeep them from hanging; forgreed against greedthere be of themthat will die in their beds like true men ere the Church shall gainthose funeral fees for nought.' Then the bishop laughed till thetears ran downand questioned the churchwardenand he was fain toconfess that too many of the parish did come to that unlucky end atAix. 'Then' said the bishop'I do approve the actfor myself andmy successors; and so be it evertill they mend their manners anddie in their beds.' And the next day came the ringleaders crestfallento the cureand said'Parsonye were even good to usbarring thisuntoward matter: prithee let there be no ill blood anent so trivial athing.' And the cure said'My childrenI were unworthy to be yourpastor could I not forgive a wrong; go in peaceand get me as manychildren as may bethat by the double fees the cure you love maymiss starvation.'

"Andthe bishop often told the storyand it kept his memory of the curealiveand at last he shifted him to a decent parishwhere he canoffer a glass of old Medoc to such as are worthy of it. Their name itis not legion."

Alight broke in upon Gerardhis countenance showed it.

"Ay!"said his host"I am that cure: so now thou canst guess why Isaid 'At their old tricks.' My life on't they have wheedled mysuccessor into remitting those funeral fees. You are well out of thatparish. And so am I."

Thecure's little niece burst in"Unclethe weighing - la! astranger!" And burst out.

Thecure rose directlybut would not part with Gerard.

"Wetthy beard once moreand come with me."

Inthe church porch they found the sexton with a huge pair of scalesand weights of all sizes. Several humble persons were standing byand soon a woman stepped forward with a sickly child and said"Beit heavy be it lightI vowin rye meal of the bestwhate'er thischild shall weighand the same will duly pay to Holy Churchan ifhe shall cast his trouble. Praygood peoplefor this childand forme his mother hither come in dole and care!"

Thechild was weighedand yelled as if the scale had been the font.

"Courage!dame" cried Gerard. "This is a good sign. There is plentyof life here to battle its trouble."

"Nowblest be the tongue that tells me so" said the poor woman. Shehushed her ponderling against her bosomand stood aloof watchingwhilst another woman brought her child to scale.

Butpresently a louddictatorial voice was heard"Way theremakeway for the seigneur!"

Thesmall folk parted on both sides like waves ploughed by a lordlygalleyand in marched in gorgeous attirehis cap adorned by afeather with a topaz at its roothis jerkin richly furredsatindoubletred hoseshoes like skatesdiamond-hilted sword in velvetscabbardand hawk on his wrist"the lord of the manor.' Heflung himself into the scales as if he was lord of the zodiac as wellas the manor: whereat the hawk balanced and flapped; but stuck: thenwinked.

Whilethe sexton heaved in the great weightsthe cure told Gerard"Mylord had been sick unto deathand vowed his weight in bread andcheese to the poorthe Church taking her tenth."

"Permitmemy lord; if your lordship continues to press your lordship'sstaff on the other scaleyou will disturb the balance."

Hislordship grinned and removed his staffand leaned on it. The curepolitely but firmly objected to that too.

"Millediables! what am I to do with itthen?" cried the other.

"Deignto hold it out somy lordwide of both scales."

Whenmy lord did thisand so fell into the trap he had laid for HolyChurchthe good cure whispered to Gerard. "Cretensis incidit inCretensem!" which I take to mean"Diamond cut diamond."He then said with an obsequious air"If that your lordshipgrudges Heaven full weightyou might set the hawk on your lacqueyand so save a pound."

"Gramercyfor thy redecure" cried the great manreproachfully. "ShallI for one sorry pound grudge my poor fowl the benefit of Holy Church?I'd as lieve the devil should have me and all my house as heranyday i' the year."

"Sweetis affection" whispered the cure.

"Betweena bird and a brute" whispered Gerard.

"Tush!"and the cure looked terrified.

Theseigneur's weight was bookedand Heaven I trust and believe did notweigh his gratitude in the balance of the sanctuary. For my unlearnedreader is not to suppose there was anything the least eccentric inthe manor his gratitude to the Giver of health and all good gifts.Men look forward to deathand back upon past sickness with differenteyes. Itemwhen men drive a bargainthey strive to get the sunnyside of it; it matters not one straw whether it is with man or Heaventhey are bargaining. In this respect we are the same nowat bottomas we were four hundred years ago: only in those days we did it agrain or two more naivelyand that naivete shone out more palpablybecausein that rude agebody prevailing over mindall sentimentstook material forms. Man repented with scourgesprayed by beadbribed the saints with wax tapersput fish into the body to sanctifythe soulsojourned in cold water for empire over the emotionsandthanked God for returning health in 1 cwt. 2 stone 7 lb 3 oz. 1 dwt.of bread and cheese.

WhilstI have been preachingwho preach so rarely and so illthe good curehas been soliciting the lord of the manor to step into the churchand give order what shall be done with his great-great-grandfather.

"Odsbodikins! whathave you dug him up?"

"Naymy lordhe never was buried."

"Whatthe old dict was true after all?"

"Sotrue that the workmen this very day found a skeleton erect in thepillar they are repairing. I had sent to my lord at oncebut I knewhe would be here."

"Itis he! 'Tis he!" said his descendantquickening his pace. "Letus go see the old boy. This youth is a strangerI think."

Gerardbowed.

"Knowthen that my great-great-grandfather held his head high. and being onthe point of deathrevolted against lying under the aisle with hisforbears for mean folk to pass over. Soas the tradition goesheswore his son (my great-grandfather)to bury him erect in one of thepillars of the church" (here they entered the porch). "'For'quoth he'NO BASE MAN SHALL PASS OVER MY STOMACH.' Peste!" andeven while speakinghis lordship parried adroitly with his stick askull that came hopping at himbowled by a boy in the middle of theaislewho took to his heels yelling with fear the moment he saw whathe had done. His lordship hurled the skull furiously after him as heranat which the cure gave a shout of dismay and put forth his armto hinder himbut was too late.

Thecure groaned aloud. And as if this had evoked spirits of mischiefupstarted a whole pack of children from some ambuscadeand unseenbutheard loud enoughclattered out of the church like a covey rising ina thick wood.

"Oh!these pernicious brats" cried the cure. "The workmencannot go to their nonemete but the church is rife with them. PrayHeaven they have not found his late lordship; nayI mindI hid hislordship under a workmen's jerkinand - saints defend us! the jerkinhas been moved."

Thepoor cure's worst misgivings were realized: the rising generation ofthe plebians had played the mischief with the haughty old noble. "Thelittle ones had jockeyed for the bones oh" and pocketed such ofthem as seemed adapted for certain primitive games then in vogueamongst them.

"I'llexcommunicate them" roared the curate"and all theirrace."

"Neverheed" said the scapegrace lord: and stroked his hawk; "thereis enough of him to swear by. Put him back! put him back!"

"Surelymy lord'tis your will his bones be laid in hallowed earthandmasses said for his poor prideful soul?"

Thenoble stroked his hawk.

"Areye thereMaster Cure?" said he. "Naythe business is tooold: he is out of purgatory by this timeup or down. I shall notdraw my purse-strings for him. Every dog his day. AdieuMessiresadieuancestor;" and he sauntered off whistling to his hawk andcaressing it.

Hisreverence looked ruefully after him.

"Cretensisincidit in Cretensem" said he sorrowfully. "I thought Ihad him safe for a dozen masses. Yet I blame him notbut that youngne'er-do-weel which did trundle his ancestor's skull at us: for whocould venerate his great-great-grandsire and play football with hishead? Well it behoves us to be better Christians than he is." Sothey gathered the bones reverentlyand the cure locked them upandforbade the workmenwho now entered the churchto close up thepillartill he should recover by threats of the Church's wrath everyatom of my lord. And he showed Gerard a famous shrine in the church.Before it were the usual gifts of tapersetc. There was also a waximage of a falconmost curiously moulded and coloured to the lifeeyes and all. Gerard's eye fell at once on thisand he expressed theliveliest admiration. The cure assented. Then Gerard asked"Couldthe saint have loved hawking?"

Thecure laughed at his simplicity. "Nay'tis but a statuary hawk.When they have a bird of gentle breed they cannot trainthey makehis imageand send it to this shrine with a presentand pray thesaint to work upon the stubborn mind of the originaland make itductile as wax: that is the notionand methinks a reasonable onetoo."

Gerardassented. "But alackreverend sirwere I a saintmethinks Ishould side with the innocent doverather than with the cruel hawkthat rends her."

"BySt. Denys you are right" said the cure. "Butquevoulez-vous? the saints are debonairand have been flesh themselvesand know man's frailty and absurdity. 'Tis the Bishop of Avignon sentthis one."

"What!do bishops hawk in this country?"

"Oneand all. Every noble person hawksand lives with hawk on wrist. Whymy lord abbot hard byand his lordship that has just parted from ushad a two years' feud as to where they should put their hawks down onthat very altar there. Each claimed the right hand of the altar forhis bird."

"Whatdesecration!"

"Nay!nay! thou knowest we make them doff both glove and hawk to take theblessed eucharist. Their jewelled gloves will they give to a servantor simple Christian to hold: but their beloved hawks they will putdown on no place less than the altar."

Gerardinquired how the battle of the hawks ended.

"Whythe abbot he yieldedas the Church yields to laymen. He searchedancient booksand found that the left hand was the more honourablebeing in truth the right handsince the altar is eastbut lookswestward. So he gave my lord the soi-disant right handand contentedhimself with the real right handand even so may the Church stilloutwit the lay nobles and their arrogancesaving your presence."

"NaysirI honour the Church. I am convent bredand owe all I have andam to Holy Church."

"Ahthat accounts for my sudden liking to thee. Art a gracious youth.Come and see me whenever thou wilt."

Gerardtook this as a hint that he might go now. It jumped with his ownwishfor he was curious to hear what Denys had seen and done allthis time. He made his reverence and walked out of the church; butwas no sooner clear of it than he set off to run with all his might:and tearing round a cornerran into a large stomachwhose ownerclutched himto keep himself steady under the shock; but did notrelease his hold on regaining his equilibrium.

"Letgoman" said Gerard.

"Notso. You are my prisoner."

"Prisoner?"

"Ay."

"Whatforin Heaven's name?"

"Whatfor? Whysorcery."

"SORCERY?"

"Sorcery."

 

CHAPTERXXXVII

Theculprits were condemned to stand pinioned in the marketplace for twohoursthat should any persons recognize them or any of them asguilty of other crimesthey might depose to that effect at thetrial.

Theystoodhoweverthe whole periodand no one advanced anything freshagainst them. This was the less remarkable that they were nightbirdsvampires who preyed in the dark on weary travellersmostlystrangers.

Butjust as they were being taken downa fearful scream was heard in thecrowdand a woman pointed at one of themwith eyes almost startingfrom their sockets: but ere she could speak she fainted away.

Thenmen and women crowded round herpartly to aid herpartly fromcuriosity. When she began to recover they fell to conjectures.

"'Twasat him she pointed."

"Nay'twas at this one."

"Naynay" said another"'twas at yon hangdog with the hairhung round his neck."

Allfurther conjectures were cut short. The poor creature no soonerrecovered her senses than she flew at the landlord like a lioness."My child! Man! man! Give me back my child." And she seizedthe glossy golden hair that the officers had hung round his neckandtore it from his neckand covered it with kisses; thenher poorconfused mind clearingshe saw even by this token that her lost girlwas deadand sank suddenly down shrieking and sobbing so over thepoor hairthat the crowd rushed on the assassin with one savagegrowl. His life had ended then and speedilyfor in those days allcarried death at their girdles. But Denys drew his sword directlyand shouting "A moicamarades!" kept the mob at bay. "Wholays a finger on him dies." Other archers backed himand withsome difficulty they kept him uninjuredwhile Denys appealed tothose who shouted for his blood.

"Whatsort of vengeance is this? would you be so mad as rob the wheelandgive the vermin an easy death?"

Themob was kept passive by the archers' steel rather than by Denys'swordsand growled at intervals with flashing eyes. The municipalofficersseeing thiscollected roundand with the archers made aguardand prudently carried the accused back to gaol.

Themob hooted them and the prisoners indiscriminately. Denys saw thelatter safely lodgedthen made for "The White Hart" wherehe expected to find Gerard.

Onthe way he saw two girls working at a first-floor window. He salutedthem. They smiled. He entered into conversation. Their manners wereeasytheir complexion high.

Heinvited them to a repast at "The White Hart." Theyobjected. He acquiesced in their refusal. They consented. And in thischarming society he forgot all about poor Gerardwho meantime wascarried off to gaol; but on the way suddenly stoppedhaving nowsomewhat recovered his presence of mindand demanded to know bywhose authority he was arrested.

"Bythe vice-baillie's" said the constable.

"Thevice-baillie? Alas! what have Ia strangerdone to offend avice-baillie? For this charge of sorcery must be a blind. No sorcereram I; but a poor true lad far from his home"

Thisvague shift disgusted the officer. "Show him the capiasJacques" said he.

Jacquesheld out the writ in both hands about a yard and a half from Gerard'seye; and at the same moment the large constable suddenly pinned him;both officers were on tenterhooks lest the prisoner should grab thedocumentto which they attached a superstitious importance.

Butthe poor prisoner had no such thought. Query whether he would havetouched it with the tongs. He just craned out his neck and read itand to his infinite surprise found the vice-bailiff who had signedthe writ was the friendly alderman. He took courage and assured hiscaptor there was some error. But finding he made no impressiondemanded to be taken before the alderman.

"Whatsay you to thatJacques?"

"Impossible.We have no orders to take him before his worship. Read the writ!"

"Naybut good kind fellowswhat harm can it be? I will give you each anecu."

"Jacqueswhat say you to that?"

"Humph!I say we have no orders not to take him to his worship. Read thewrit!"

"Thensay we take him to prison round by his worship."

Itwas agreed. They got the money; and bade Gerard observe they weredoing him a favour. He saw they wanted a little gratitude as well asmuch silver. He tried to satisfy this cupiditybut it stuck in histhroat. Feigning was not his forte.

Heentered the alderman's presence with his heart in his mouthandbegged with faltering voice to know what he had done to offend sincehe left that very room with Manon and Denys.

"Noughtthat I know of" said the alderman.

Onthe writ being shown himhe told Gerard he had signed it atdaybreak. "I get oldand my memory faileth me: a discussing ofthe girl I quite forgot your own offence: but I remember now. All iswell. You are he I committed for sorcery. Stay! ere you go to gaolyou shall hear what your accuser says: run and fetch himyou.

Theman could not find the accuser all at once. So the aldermangettingimpatienttold Gerard the main charge was that he had set a deadbody a burning with diabolical firethat flamedbut did notconsume. "And if 'tis trueyoung manI'm sorry for theeforthou wilt assuredly burn with fire of good pine logs in themarket-place of Neufchasteau."

"Ohsirfor pity's sake let me have speech with his reverence the cure."

Thealderman advised Gerard against it. "The Church was harder uponsorcerers than was the corporation."

"ButsirI am innocent" said Gerardbetween snarling and whining.

"Ohif you think you are innocent - officergo with him to the cure; butsee he 'scape you not. Innocentquotha?"

Theyfound the cure in his doublet repairing a wheelbarrow. Gerard toldhim alland appealed piteously to him. "Just for using a littlephosphorus in selfdefence against cut-throats they are going tohang."

Itwas lucky for our magician that he had already told his tale in fullto the curefor thus that shrewd personage had hold of the stick atthe right end. The corporation held it by the ferule. His reverencelooked exceedingly grave and said"I must question youprivately on this untoward business." He took him into a privateroom and bade the officer stand outside and guard the doorand beready to come if called. The big constable stood outside the doorquakingand expecting to see the room fly away and leave a stink ofbrimstone. Instantly they were alone the cure unlocked hiscountenance and was himself again.

"Showme the trick on't" said heall curiosity.

"Icannotsirunless the room be darkened."

Thecure speedily closed out the light with a wooden shutter. "Nowthen."

"Buton what shall I put it?" said Gerard. "Here is no deadface. 'Twas that made it look so dire." The cure groped aboutthe room. "Good; here is an image: 'tis my patron saint."

"Heavenforbid! That were profanation."

"Pshaw!'twill rub offwill't not?"

"Aybut it goes against me to take such liberty with a saint"objected the sorcerer.

"Fiddlestick!"said the divine.

"Tobe sure by putting it on his holiness will show your reverence it isno Satanic art."

"Mayhap'twas for that I did propose it." said the cure subtly.

ThusencouragedGerard fired the eyes and nostrils of the image and madethe cure jump. Then lighted up the hair in patches; and set the wholeface shining like a glow-worm's.

"By'rLady" shouted the cure"'tis strangeand small my wonderthat they took you for a magicianseeing a dead face thus fired. Nowcome thy ways with me!"

Heput on his grey gown and great hatand in a few minutes they foundthemselves in presence of the alderman. By his sidepoisoning hismindstood the accusera singular figure in red hose and red shoesa black gown with blue bandsand a cocked hat.

Aftersaluting the aldermanthe cure turned to this personage and saidgood-humouredly"SoMangisat thy work againbabbling awayhonest men's lives! Comeyour worshipthis is the old tale! two ofa trade can ne'er agree. Here is Mangiswho professes sorceryandwould sell himself to Satan to-nightbut that Satan is not so weakas buy what he can have gratisthis Mangiswho would be a sorcererbut is only a quacksalveraccuses of magic a true ladwho did butuse in self-defence a secret of chemistry well-known to me and allchurchmen."

"Buthe is no churchmanto dabble in such mysteries" objected thealderman.

"Heis more churchman than laymanbeing convent bredand in the lesserorders" said the ready cure. "Thereforesorcererwithdraw thy plaint without more words!"

"ThatI will notyour reverence" replied Mangis stoutly. "Asorcerer I ambut a white onenot a black one. I make no pact withSatanbut on the contrary still battle him with lawful and necessaryartsI ne'er profane the sacramentsas do the black sorcerersnorturn myself into a cat and go sucking infants' bloodnor e'en theirbreathnor set dead men o' fire. I but tell the peasants when theircattle and their hens are possessedand at what time of the moon toplant ryeand what days in each month are lucky for wooing of womenand selling of bullocks and so forth: above allit is my art and mytrade to detect the black magiciansas I did that whole tribe ofthem who were burnt at Dol but last year."

"AyMangis. And what is the upshot of that famous fire thy tongue didkindle?"

"Whytheir ashes were cast to the wind."

"Ay.But the true end of thy comedy is this. The parliament of Dijon hathsince sifted the matterand found they were no sorcerersbut goodand peaceful citizens; and but last week did order masses to be saidfor their soulsand expiatory farces and mysteries to be played forthem in seven towns of Burgundy; all which will not of those cindersmake men and women again. Now 'tis our custom in this landwhen wehave slain the innocent by hearkening false knaves like theenot toblame our credulous earsbut the false tongue that gulled them.Therefore bethink thee thatat a word from me to my lord bishopthou wilt smell burning pine nearer than e'er knave smelt it andlivedand wilt travel on a smoky cloud to him whose heart thoubearest (for the word devil in the Latin it meaneth 'false accuser')and whose livery thou wearest."

Andthe cure pointed at Mangis with his staff.

"Thatis true i'fegs" said the alderman"for red and black bethe foul fiendys colours."

Bythis time the white sorcerer's cheek was as colourless as his dresswas fiery. Indeed the contrast amounted to pictorial. He stammeredout"I respect Holy Church and her will; he shall fire thechurchyardand all in itfor me: I do withdraw the plaint."

"Thenwithdraw thyself" said the vice-bailiff.

Themoment he was gone the cure took the conversational toneand toldthe alderman courteously that the accused had received the chemicalsubstance from Holy Churchand had restored it herby giving it allto him.

"Then'tis in good hands" was the reply; "young manyou arefree. Let me have your reverence's prayers."

"Doubtit not! Humph! Vice-bailliethe town owes me four silver franksthis three months and more."

"Theyshall be paidcureayere the week be out."

Onthis good understanding Church and State parted. As soon as he was inthe street Gerard caught the priest's handand kissed it.

"Ohsir! Ohyour reverence. You have saved me from the fiery stake. Whatcan I saywhat do? what

"Noughtfoolish lad. Bounty rewards itself. Natheless - Humph? - I wish I haddone't without leasing. It ill becomes my function to utterfalsehoods."

"Falsehoodsir?" Gerard was mystified.

"Didstnot hear me say thou hadst given me that same phosphorus? 'Twill costme a fortnight's penancethat light word." The cure sighedandhis eye twinkled cunningly.

"Naynay" cried Gerard eagerly. "Now Heaven forbid! That was nofalsehoodfather: well you knew the phosphorus was yoursis yours."And he thrust the bottle into the cure's hand. "But alas'tistoo poor a gift: will you not take from my purse somewhat for HolyChurch?" and now he held out his purse with glistening eyes.

"Nay"said the other brusquelyand put his hands quickly behind him; "nota doit. Fie! fie! art pauper et exul. Come thou rather each day atnoon and take thy diet with me; for my heart warms to thee;" andhe went off very abruptly with his hands behind him.

Theyitched.

Butthey itched in vain.

Wherethere's a heart there's a Rubicon.

Gerardwent hastily to the inn to relieve Denys of the anxiety so long andmysterious an absence must have caused him. He found him seated athis easeplaying dice with two young ladies whose manners wereunreservedand complexion high.

Gerardwas hurt. "N'oubliez point la Jeanneton!" said hecolouring up.

"Whatof her?" said Denysgaily rattling the dice.

"Shesaid'Le peu que sont les femmes.'"

"Ohdid she? And what say you to thatmesdemoiselles?"

"Wesay that none run women downbut such as are too oldor tooill-favouredor too witless to please them."

"Witlessquotha? Wise men have not folly enough to please themnor madnessenough to desire to please them" said Gerard loftily; "but'tis to my comrade I speaknot to youyou brazen toadsthat makeso free with a man at first sight."

"Preachawaycomrade. Fling a byword or two at our heads. Knowgirlsthathe is a very Solomon for bywords. Methinks he was brought up by handon 'em."

"Bethy friendship a byword!" retorted Gerard. "The friendshipthat melts to nought at sight of a farthingale."

"Malheureux!"cried Denys"I speak but pelletsand thou answerest daggers."

"WouldI could" was the reply. "Adieu."

"Whata little savage!" said one of the girls.

Gerardopened the door and put in his head. "I have thought of abyword" said he spitefully -
Qui hante femmes et dez
Ilmourra en pauvretez. There." And having delivered thisthunderbolt of antique wisdomhe slammed the door viciously ere anyof them could retort.

Andnowbeing somewhat exhausted by his anxietieshe went to the barfor a morsel of bread and a cup of wine. The landlord would sellnothing less than a pint bottle. Well then he would have a bottle;but when he came to compare the contents of the bottle with its sizegreat was the discrepancy: on this he examined the bottle keenlyandfound that the glass was thin where the bottle taperedbut towardsthe bottom unnaturally thick. He pointed this out at once.

Thelandlord answered superciliously that he did not make bottles: andwas nowise accountable for their shape.

"Thatwe will see presently" said Gerard. "I will take this thypint to the vice-bailiff."

"Naynayfor Heaven's sake" cried the landlordchanging his toneat once. "I love to content my customers. If by chance this pintbe shortwe will charge it and its fellow three sous insteads of twosous each."

"Sobe it. But much I admire that youthe host of so fair an innshouldpractise thus. The winetoosmacketh strongly of spring water."

"Youngsir" said the landlord"we cut no travellers' throats atthis innas they do at most. Howeveryou know all about that'TheWhite Hart' is no lionnor bear. Whatever masterful robbery is donehereis done upon the poor host. How then could he live at all if hedealt not a little crooked with the few who pay?"

Gerardobjected to this system root and branch. Honest trade was smallprofitsquick returns; and neither to cheat nor be cheated.

Thelandlord sighed at this picture. "So might one keep an inn inheavenbut not in Burgundy. When foot soldiers going to the wars arequartered on mehow can I but lose by their custom? Two sous per dayis their payand they eat two sous' worthand drink into thebargain. The pardoners are my good friendsbut palmers and pilgrimswhat think you I gain by them? marrya loss. Minstrels and jongleursdraw custom and so claim to pay no scoreexcept for liquor. By thesecular monks I neither gain nor losebut the black and grey friarshave made vow of povertybut not of famine; eat like wolves and givethe poor host nought but their prayers; and mayhap not them: how canhe tell? In my father's day we had the weddings; but now the greatgentry let their houses and their platestheir mugs and their spoonsto any honest couple that want to wedand thither the very mechanicsgo with their brides and bridal train. They come not to us: indeed wecould not find seats and vessels for such a crowd as eat and drinkand dance the week out at the homeliest wedding now. In my father'sday the great gentry sold wine by the barrel only; but now they haveleave to cry itand sell it by the galopinin the verymarket-place. How can we vie with them? They grow it. We buy it ofthe grower. The coroner's quests we have stilland these would bringgoodly profitbut the meat is aye gone ere the mouths be full."

"Youshould make better provision" suggested his hearer.

"Thelaw will not let us. We are forbidden to go into the market for thefirst hour. Sowhen we arrivethe burghers have bought all but therefuse. Besidesthe law forbids us to buy more than three bushels ofmeal at a time: yet market day comes but once a week. As for thebutchersthey will not kill for us unless we bribe them."

"Courage!"said Gerard kindly"the shoe pinches every trader somewhere."

"Ay:but not as it pinches us. Our shoe is trode all o' one side as wellas pinches us lame. A savoirif we pay not the merchants we buymealmeatand wine ofthey can cast us into prison and keep usthere till we pay or die. But we cannot cast into prison those whobuy those very victuals of us. A traveller's horse we may keep forhis debt; but wherein Heaven's name? In our own stableeating hishead off at our cost. Naywe may keep the traveller himself; butwhere? In gaol? Nayin our own good houseand there must we lodgeand feed him gratis. And so fling good silver after bad? Merci; no:let him go with a wanion. Our honestest customers are the thieves.Would to Heaven there were more of them. They look not too close intothe shape of the canakinnor into the host's reckoning: with themand with their purses 'tis lightly comeand lightly go. Also theyspend freelynot knowing but each carouse may be their last. But thethief-takersinstead of profiting by this fair exampleare for everrobbing the poor host. When noble or honest travellers descend at ourdoorcome the Provost's men pretending to suspect themanddemanding to search them and their papers. To save which offence thehost must bleed wine and meat. Then come the excise to examine allyour weights and measures. You must stop their mouths with meat andwine. Town excise. Royal excise. Parliament excise. A swarm of themand all with a wolf in their stomachs and a sponge in their gullets.Monksfriarspilgrimspalmerssoldiersexcisemenprovost-marshals and menand mere bad debtorshow can 'The WhiteHart' butt against all these? Cutting no throats in self-defence asdo your 'Swans' and 'Roses' and 'Boar's Heads' and 'Red Lions' and'Eagles' your 'Moons' 'Stars' and 'Moors' how can 'The WhiteHart' give a pint of wine for a pint? And everything risen so. Whyladnot a pound of bread I sell but cost me three good copperdenierstwelve to the sou; and each pint of winebought by the tuncosts me four deniers; every sack of charcoal two sousand gone in aday. A pair of partridges five sous. What think you of that? Heardone ever the like? five sous for two little beasts all bone andfeather? A pair of pigeonsthirty deniers. 'Tis ruination!!! For wemay not raise our pricen with the market. OhnoI tell thee theshoe is trode all o' one side as well as pinches the water into oureyn. We may charge nought for mustardpeppersaltor firewood.Think you we get them for nought? Candle it is a sou the pound. Saltfive sous the stonepepper four sous the poundmustard twentydeniers the pint; and raw meatdwindleth it on the spit with no costto me but loss of weight? Whywhat think you I pay my cook? But youshall never guess. A HUNDRED SOUS A YEAR AS I AM A LIVING SINNER.

"Andmy waiter thirty sousbesides his perquisites. He is a hantle richerthan I am. And then to be insulted as well as pillaged. Last Sunday Iwent to church. It is a place I trouble not often. Didn't the curelash the hotel-keepers? I grant you he hit all the tradesexcept theone that is a byword for loosenessand prideand slothto wittheclergy. Butmind youhe stripeit the other lay estates with afeatherbut us hotel-keepers with a neat's pizzle: godless for thisgodless for thatand most godless of all for opening our doorsduring mass. Whythe law forces us to open at all hours totravellers from another townstoppinghaltingor passing: those bethe words. They can fine us before the bailiff if we refuse themmass or no mass; and say a townsman should creep in with the truetravellersare we to blame? They all vow they are tired wayfarers;and can I ken every face in a great town like this? So if we respectthe law our poor souls are to sufferand if we respect it notourpoor lank purses must bleed at two holesfine and loss of custom."

Aman speaking of himself in generalis "a babbling brook;"of his wrongs"a shining river."

"Labituret labetur in omne volubilis aevum."

Soluckily for my readersthough not for all concernedthis injuredorator was arrested in mid career. Another man burst in upon hiswrongs with all the advantage of a recent wrong; a wrong red hot. Itwas Denys cursing and swearing and crying that he was robbed.

"Didthose hussies pass this way? who are they? where do they bide? Theyhave ta'en my purse and fifteen golden pieces: raise the hue and cry!ah! traitresses! vipers! These inns are all guet-apens."

"Therenow" cried the landlord to Gerard.

Gerardimplored him to be calmand say how it had befallen.

"Firstone went out on some pretence: then after a while the other went tofetch her backand neither returningI clapped hand to purse andfound it empty: the ungrateful creaturesI was letting them win itin a gallop: but loaded dice were not quick enough; they must claw itall in a lump."

Gerardwas for going at once to the alderman and setting the officers tofind them.

"NotI" said Denys. "I hate the law. No: as it came so let itgo."

Gerardwould not give it up so.

Ata hint from the landlord he forced Denys along with him to theprovost-marshal. That dignitary shook his head. "We have no clueto occasional thievesthat work honestly at their needlestill somegull comes and tempts them with an easy bootyand then they pluckhim.

"Comeaway" cried Denys furiously. "I knew what use a bourgeoiswould be to me at a pinch:" and he marched off in a rage.

"Theyare clear of the town ere this" said Gerard.

"Speakno more on't if you prize my friendship. I have five pieces with thebailiffand ten I left with Manonluckily; or these traitresses hadfeathered their nest with my last plume. What dost gape for so? NayI do ill to vent my choler on thee: I'll tell thee all. Art wiserthan I. What saidst thou at the door? No matter. WellthenI didoffer marriage to that Manon."

Gerardwas dumfounded.

"What?You offered her what?"

"Marriage.Is that such a mighty strange thing to offer a wench?"

"'Tisa strange thing to offer to a strange girl in passing."

"NayI am not such a sot as you opine. I saw the corn in all that chaff. Iknew I could not get her by fair meansso I was fain to try foul.'Mademoiselle' said I'marriage is not one of my habitsbut struckby your qualities I make an exception; deign to bestow this hand onme.'"

"Andshe bestowed it on thine ear.'"

"Notso. On the contrary she - Art a disrespectful young monkey. Know thatherenot being Holland or any other barbarous statecourtesy begetscourtesy. Says shea colouring like a rose'Soldieryou are toolate. He is not a patch on you for looks; but then - he has loved mea long time.'

"'He?who?'

"'T'other.'

"'Whatother?'

"Whyhe that was not too late.' Oh. that is the way they all speaktheloves; the she-wolves. Their little minds go in leaps. Think you theymarshal their words in order of battle? Their tongues are in toogreat a hurry. Says she'I love him not; not to say love him; but hedoes meand dearly; and for that reason I'd sooner die than causehim griefI would.'"

"NowI believe she did love him."

"Whodoubts that? Why she said soround aboutas they always say thesethingsand with 'nay' for 'ay.'

"Wellone thing led to anotherand at lastas she could not give me herhandshe gave me a piece of adviceand that was to leave part of mymoney with the young mistress. Thenwhen bad company had cleaned meoutI should have some to travel back withsaid she. I said I wouldbetter her adviceand leave it with her. Her face got red. Says she'Think what you do. Chambermaids have an ill name for honesty.' 'Ohthe devil is not so black as he is painted' said I. 'I'll risk it;'and I left fifteen gold pieces with her."

Gerardsighed. "I wish you may ever see them again. It is wondrous inwhat esteem you do hold this sexto trust so to the first comer. Formy part I know little about them; I never saw but one I could love aswell as I love thee. But the ancients must surely know; and they heldwomen cheap. 'Levius quid femina' said theywhich is but laJeanneton's tune in Latin'Le peu que sont les femmes.' Also do butsee how the greybeards of our own day speak of thembeing no longerblinded by desire: this aldermanto wit."

"Ohnovice of novices" cried Denys. "not to have seen why thatold fool rails so on the poor things! One dayout of the millions ofwomen he blackensone did prefer some other man to him: for whichsolitary piece of bad tasteand ten to one 'twas good tastehe dothbespatter creation's fairer halfthereby proving what? le peu quesont les hommes."

"Isee women have a shrewd champion in thee" said Gerardwith asmile. But the next moment inquired gravely why he had not told himall this before.

Denysgrinned. "Had the girl said 'Ay' why then I had told theestraight. But 'tis a rule with us soldiers never to publish ourdefeats: 'tis much if after each check we claim not a victory."

"Nowthat is true" said Gerard. "Young as I amI have seenthis; that after every great battle the generals on both sides go tothe nearest churchand sing each a Te Deum for the victory; methinksa Te Martemor Te Bellonamor Te MercuriumMercury being the godof lieswere more fitting."

"Passi bete" said Denys approvingly. "Hast a good eye: canstsee a steeple by daylight. So now tell me how thou hast fared in thistown all day."

"Come"said Gerard"'tis well thou hast asked me: for else I had nevertold thee." He then related in full how he had been arrestedand by what a providential circumstance he had escaped longimprisonment or speedy conflagration.

Hisnarrative produced an effect he little expected or desired.

"Iam a traitor" cried Denys. "I left thee in a strange placeto fight thine own battleswhile I shook the dice with those jades.Now take thou this sword and pass it through my body forthwith."

"Whatfor in Heaven's name?" inquired Gerard.

"Foran example" roared Denys. "For a warning to all falseloons that profess friendshipand disgrace it."

"Ohvery well" said Gerard. "Yes. Not a bad notion. Where willyou have it?"

"Herethrough my heart; that iswhere other men have a heartbut I noneor a Satanic false one."

Gerardmade a motion to run him throughand flung his arms round his neckinstead. "I know no way to thy heart but thisthou great sillything."

Denysuttered an exclamationthen hugged him warmly - andquite overcomeby this sudden turn of youthful affection and native gracegulpedout in a broken voice"Railest on women - and art - like them -with thy pretty ways. Thy mother's milk is in thee still. Satan wouldlove theeor - le bon Dieu would kick him out of hell for shamingit. Give me thy hand! Give me thy hand! May" (a tremendous oath)"if I let thee out of my sight till Italy."

Andso the staunch friends were more than reconciled after their shorttiff.

Thenext day the thieves were tried. The pieces de conviction werereduced in numberto the great chagrin of the little clerkby theinterment of the bones. But there was still a pretty show. A thief'shand struck off flagrante delicto; a murdered woman's hair; theAbbot's axeand other tools of crime. The skullsetc.were swornto by the constables who had found them. Evidence was lax in that ageand place. They all confessed but the landlord. And Manon was calledto bring the crime home to him. Her evidence was conclusive. He madea vain attempt to shake her credibility by drawing from her that herown sweetheart had been one of the gangand that she had held hertongue so long as he was alive. The public prosecutor came to the aidof his witnessand elicited that a knife had been held to herthroatand her own sweetheart sworn with solemn oaths to kill hershould she betray themand that this terrible threatand not themere fear of deathhad glued her lips.

Theother thieves were condemned to be hangedand the landlord to bebroken on the wheel. He uttered a piercing cry when his sentence waspronounced.

Asfor poor Manonshe became the subject of universal criticism. Nordid opinion any longer run dead in her favour; it divided into twobroad currents. And strange to relatethe majority of her own sextook her partand the males were but equally divided; which hardlyhappens once in a hundred years. Perhaps some lady will explain thephenomenon. As for meI am a little shy of explaining things I don'tunderstand. It has become so common. Meantimehad she been a loverof notorietyshe would have been happyfor the town talked ofnothing but her. The poor girlhoweverhad but one wish to escapethe crowd that followed herand hide her head somewhere where shecould cry over her "pendard" whom all these proceedingsbrought vividly back to her affectionate remembrance. Before he washanged he had threatened her life; but she was not one of yourfastidious girlswho love their male divinities any the less forbeating themkicking themor killing thembut rather the betterprovided these attentions are interspersed with occasional caresses;so it would have been odd indeed had she taken offence at a merethreat of that sort. He had never threatened her with a rival. Shesobbed single-mindedly.

Meantimethe inn was filled with thirsters for a sight of herwho feasted anddrankto pass away the time till she should deign to appear. Whenshe had been sobbing some timethere was a tap at her doorand thelandlord entered with a proposal. "Nayweep notgood lassyour fortune it is made an you like. Say the wordand you arechambermaid of 'The White Hart.'"

"Naynay" said Manon with a fresh burst of grief. "Never morewill I be a servant in an inn. I'll go to my mother."

Thelandlord consoled and coaxed her: and she became calmerbut none theless determined against his proposal.

Thelandlord left her. But ere long he returned and made her anotherproposal. Would she be his wifeand landlady of "The White Hart

"Youdo ill to mock me" said she sorrowfully.

"Naysweetheart. I mock thee not. I am too old for sorry jests. Say youthe wordand you are my partner for better for worse."

Shelooked at himand saw he was in earnest: on this she suddenly rainedhard to the memory of "le pendard": the tears came in atorrentbeing the last; and she gave her hand to the landlord of"The White Hart" and broke a gold crown with him in signof plighted troth.

"Wewill keep it dark till the house is quiet" said the landlord.

"Ay"said she; "but meantime prithee give me linen to hemor work todo; for the time hangs on me like lead."

Herbetrothed's eye brightened at this housewifely requestand hebrought her up two dozen flagons of various sizes to clean andpolish.

Shegathered complacency as she reflected that by a strange turn offortune all this bright pewter was to be hers.

Meantimethe landlord went downstairsand falling in with our friends drewthem aside into the bar.

Hethen addressed Denys with considerable solemnity. "We are oldacquaintancesand you want not for sagacity: now advise me in astrait. My custom is somewhat declining: this girl Manon is the talkof the town; see how full the inn is to-night. She doth refuse to bemy chambermaid. I have half a mind to marry her. What think you?shall I say the word?"

Denysin reply merely open his eyes wide with amazement.

Thelandlord turned to Gerard with a half-inquiring look

"Naysir" said Gerard; "I am too young to advise my seniors andbetters."

"Nomatter. Let us hear your thought."

"Wellsirit was said of a good wife by the ancients'bene quae latuitbene vixit' that isshe is the best wife that is least talked of:but here 'male quae patuit' were as near the mark. Thereforean youbear the lass good-willwhy not club purses with Denys and me andconvey her safe home with a dowry? Then mayhap some rustical personin her own place may be brought to wife her."

"Whyso many words?" said Denys. "This old fox is not the ass heaffects to be."

"Oh!that is your adviceis it?" said the landlord testily. "Wellthen we shall soon know who is the foolyou or mefor I have spokento her as it happens; and what is moreshe has said Ayand she ispolishing the flagons at this moment."

"Oho!"said Denys drily"'twas an ambuscade. Wellin that casemyadvice isrun for the notarytie the nooseand let us three drinkthe bride's healthtill we see six sots a-tippling."

"Andshall. Aynow you utter sense."

Inten minutes a civil marriage was effected upstairs before a notaryand his clerk and our two friends.

Inten minutes more the white hinddead sick of seclusionhad takenher place within the barand was serving out liquidsand bustlingand her colour rising a little.

Insix little minutes more she soundly rated a careless servant-girl forcarrying a nipperkin of wine awry and spilling good liquor.

Duringthe evening she received across the bar eight offers of marriagesome of them from respectable burghers. Now the landlord and our twofriends had in perfect innocence ensconced themselves behind ascreento drink at their ease the new couple's health. The abovecomedy was thrown in for their entertainment by bounteous fate. Theyheard the proposals made one after anotherand uninventive Manon'sinvariable answer - "Serviteur; you are a day after the fair."The landlord chuckled and looked good-natured superiority at both hislate adviserswith their traditional notions that men shun a woman"quae patuit" i.e. who has become the town talk.

ButDenys scarce noticed the spouse's triumph over himbe was sooccupied with his own over Gerard. At each municipal tender ofundying affectionhe turned almost purple with the effort it costhim not to roar with glee; and driving his elbow into thedeep-meditating and much-puzzled pupil of antiquitywhispered"Lepeu que sont les hommes."

Thenext morning Gerard was eager to startbut Denys was under a vow tosee the murderers of the golden-haired girl executed.

Gerardrespected his vowbut avoided his example.

Hewent to bid the cure farewell insteadand sought and received hisblessing. About noon the travellers got clear of the town. Justoutside the south gate they passed the gallows; it had eight tenants:the skeleton of Manon's late weptand now being fast forgottenloverand the bodies of those who had so nearly taken ourtravellers' lives. A hand was nailed to the beam. And hard by on ahuge wheel was clawed the dead landlordwith every bone in his bodybroken to pieces.

Gerardaverted his head and hurried by. Denys lingeredand crowed over hisdead foes. "Times are changedmy ladssince we two sat shakingin the cold awaiting you seven to come and cut our throats."

"FieDenys! Death squares all reckonings. Prithee pass on without anotherwordif you prize my respect a groat."

Tothis earnest remonstrance Denys yielded. He even said thoughtfully"You have been better brought up than I."

Aboutthree in the afternoon they reached a little town with the peoplebuzzing in knots. The wolvesstarved by the coldhad enteredandeaten two grown-up persons overnightin the main street: so somewere blaming the eaten - "None but fools or knaves are aboutafter nightfall;" others the law for not protecting the townand others the corporation for not enforcing what laws there were.

"Bah!this is nothing to us" said Denysand was for resuming theirmarch.

"Aybut 'tis" remonstrated Gerard.

"Whatare we the pair they ate?"

"Nobut we may be the next pair."

"Ayneighbour" said an ancient man"'tis the town's fault fornot obeying the ducal ordinancewhich bids every shopkeeper light alamp o'er his door at sunsetand burn it till sunrise.

Onthis Denys asked him somewhat derisively"What made him fancyrush dips would scare away empty wolves? Whymutton fat is all theirjoy."

"'Tisnot the fatvain manbut the light. All ill things hate light;especially wolves and the imps that lurkI weenunder their fur.Example; Paris city stands in a wood likeand the wolves do howlaround it all night: yet of late years wolves come but little in thestreets. For whyin that burgh the watchmen do thunder at each doorthat is darkand make the weary wight rise and light. 'Tis my sontells me. He is a great voyagermy son Nicholas."

Infurther explanation he assured them that previously to that ordinanceno city had been worse infested with wolves than Paris; a troop hadboldly assaulted the town in 1420and in 1438 they had eatenfourteen persons in a single month between Montmartre and the gateSt. Antoineand that not a winter month evenbut September: and asfor the deadwhich nightly lay in the streets slain in midnightbrawlsor assassinatedthe wolves had used to devour themand togrub up the fresh graves in the churchyards and tear out the bodies.

Herea thoughtful citizen suggested that probably the wolves had beenbridled of late in Parisnot by candle-lightsbut owing to theEnglish having been driven out of the kingdom of France. "Forthose English be very wolves themselves for fierceness andgreediness. What marvel then that under their rule our neighbours ofFrance should be wolf-eaten?" This logic was too suited to thetime and place not to be received with acclamation. But the old manstood his ground. "I grant ye those islanders are wolves; buttwo-legged onesand little apt to favour their four-footed cousins.One greedy thing loveth it another? I trow not. By the same tokenand this too I have from my boy NicoleSir Wolf dare not show hisnose in London city; though 'tis smaller than Parisand thick woodshard by the north walland therein great store of deerand wildboars as rife as flies at midsummer."

"Sir"said Gerard"you seem conversant with wild beastspritheeadvise my comrade here and me: we would not waste time on the roadan if we may go forward to the next town with reasonable safety.'

"YoungmanI trow 'twere an idle risk. It lacks but an hour of duskandyou must pass nigh a wood where lurk some thousands of thesehalf-starved verminrank cowards single; but in great bands bold aslions. Wherefore I rede you sojourn here the night; and journey onbetimes. By the dawn the vermin will be tired out with roaring andrampaging; and mayhap will have filled their lank bellies with fleshof my good neighbours herethe unteachable fools."

Gerardhoped not; and asked could he recommend them to a good inn.

"Humph!there is the 'Tete d'Or.' My grandaughter keeps it. She is amijaureebut not so knavish as most hotel-keepersand her houseindifferent clean."

"Heyfor the 'Tete d'Or'" struck in Denysdecided by hisineradicable foible.

Onthe way to itGerard inquired of his companion what a "mijauree"was?

Denyslaughed at his ignorance. "Not know what a mijauree is? why allthe world knows that. It is neither more nor less than a mijauree.

Asthey entered the "Tete d'Or" they met a young lady richlydressed with a velvet chaperon on her headwhich was confined by lawto the nobility. They unbonneted and louted lowand she curtsiedbut fixed her eye on vacancy the whilewhich had a curious ratherthan a genial effect. Howevernobility was not so unassuming inthose days as it is now. So they were little surprised. But the nextminute supper was servedand lo! in came this princess and carvedthe goose.

"HolySt. Bavon" cried Gerard. "'Twas the landlady all thewhile."

Ayoung womancursed with nice white teeth and lovely hands: for thesebeauties being misallied to homely featureshad turned her head. Shewas a feeble carvercarving not for the sake of others but herselfi.e. to display her hands. When not carving she was eternally eithertaking a pin out of her head or her bodyor else putting a pin intoher head or her body. To display her teethshe laughed indifferentlyat gay or grave and from ear to ear. And she "sat at ease"with her mouth ajar.

Nowthere is an animal in creation of no great general merit; but it hasthe eye of a hawk for affectation. It is called "a boy."And Gerard was but a boy still in some things; swift to seeand toloathaffectation. So Denys sat casting sheep's eyesand Gerarddaggersat one comedian.

Presentlyin the midst of her minauderiesshe gave a loud shriek and boundedout of her chair like hare from formand ran backwards out of theroom uttering little screamsand holding her farthingale tight downto her ankles with both hands. And as she scuttled out of the door amouse scuttled back to the wainscot in a state of equaland perhapsmore reasonable terror. The guestswho had risen in anxiety at theprincipal yellnow stood irresolute awhilethen sat down laughing.The tender Denysto whom a woman's cowardicebeing a sexual traitseemed to be a lovely and pleasant thingsaid he would go comforther and bring her back.

"Nay!nay! nay! for pity's sake let her bide" cried Gerard earnestly."Ohblessed mouse! sure some saint sent thee to our aid."

Nowat his right hand sat a sturdy middle-aged burgherwhose conduct upto date had been cynical. He had never budged nor even rested hisknife at all this fracas. He now turned on Gerard and inquiredhaughtily whether he really thought that "grimaciere" wasafraid of a mouse.

"Ay.She screamed hearty."

"Whereis the coquette that cannot scream to the life? These shetavern-keepers do still ape the nobles. Some princess or duchess hathlain here a nightthat was honestly afeard of a mousehaving beenbrought up to it. And this ape hath seen herand said'I will startat a mouseand make a coil' She has no more right to start at amouse than to wear that fur on her bosomand that velvet on hermonkey's head. I am of the townyoung manand have known themijauree all her lifeand I mind when she was no more afeard of amouse than she is of a man." He added that she was fast emptyingthe inn with these "singeries." "All the world is sosick of her handsthat her very kinsfolk will not venture themselvesanigh them." He concluded with something like a sigh"The'Tete d'Or' was a thriving hostelry under my old chum her goodfather; but she is digging its grave tooth and nail.'

"Toothand nail? good! a right merry conceit and a true" said Gerard.But the right merry conceit was an inadvertence as pure as snowandthe stout burgher went to his grave and never knew what he had done:for just then attention was attracted by Denys returning pompously.He inspected the apartment minutelyand with a high official air: healso looked solemnly under the table; and during the wholeinquisition a white hand was placed conspicuously on the edge of theopen doorand a tremulous voice inquired behind it whether thehorrid thing was quite gone.

"Theenemy has retreatedbag and baggage" said Denys: and handed inthe trembling fairwhositting downapologized to her guests forher foolish fearswith so much earnestnessgraceand seemingself-contemptthatbut for a sour grin on his neighbour's faceGerard would have been taken in as all the other strangers were.Dinner endedthe young landlady begged an Augustine friar at herright hand to say grace. He delivered a longish one. The moment hebeganshe clapped her white hands piously togetherand held them upjoined for mortals to admire; 'tis an excellent pose for taper whitefingers: and cast her eyes upward towards heavenand felt asthankful to it as a magpie does while cutting off with your thimble.

Aftersupper the two friends went to the street-door and eyed themarket-place. The mistress joined themand pointed out thetown-hallthe borough gaolSt. Catherine's churchetc. This wascourteousto say the least. But the true cause soon revealed itself;the fair hand was poked right under their eyes every time an objectwas indicated; and Gerard eyed it like a basiliskand longed for abunch of nettles. The sun setand the travellersfew in numberdrew round the great roaring fireand omitting to go on the spitwere frozen behind though roasted in front. For if the German stoveswere oppressively hotthe French salles manger were bitterly coldand above all stormy. In Germany men sat bareheaded round the stoveand took off their upper clothesbut in Burgundy they kept on theirhatsand put on their warmest furs to sit round the great openchimney placesat which the external air rushed furiously from doorand ill-fitting window. Howeverit seems their mediaeval backs werebroad enough to bear it: for they made themselves not onlycomfortable but merryand broke harmless jests over each other inturn. For instanceDenys's new shoesthough not in directcommunicationhad this day exploded with twin-like sympathy andunanimity.' 'Where do you buy your shoonsoldier?" asked one.

Denyslooked askant at Gerardand not liking the themeshook it off. "Igather 'em off the trees by the roadside" said he surlily.

"Thenyou gathered these too ripe" said the hostesswho was only afool externally.

"Ayrotten ripe" observed anotherinspecting them.

Gerardsaid nothingbut pointed the circular satire by pantomime. He slilyput out both his feetone after anotherunder Denys's eyewiththeir German shoeson which a hundred leagues of travel had producedno effect. They seemed hewn out of a rock.

Atthis"I'll twist the smooth varlet's neck that sold me mine"shouted Denysin huge wrathand confirmed the threat with singularoaths peculiar to the mediaeval military. The landlady put herfingers in her earsthereby exhibiting the hand in a fresh attitude."Tell me when he has done his orisonssomebody" said shemincingly. And after that they fell to telling stories.

Gerardwhen his turn cametold the adventure of Denys and Gerard at the innin Domfrontand so wellthat the hearers were rapt into sweetoblivion of the very existence of mijauree and hands. But this madeher very uneasyand she had recourse to her grand coup. Thismisdirected genius had for a twelvemonth past practised yawningandcould do it now at any moment so naturally as to set all creationgapingcould all creation have seen her. By this means she got inall her charms. For first she showed her teeththenout of goodbreedingyou knowclosed her mouth with three taper fingers. So themoment Gerard's story got too interesting and absorbingshe turnedto and made yawnsand "croix sur la bouche."

Thiswas all very fine: but Gerard was an artistand artists are chilledby gaping auditors. He bore up against the yawns a long time; butfinding they came from a bottomless reservoirlost both heart andtemperand suddenly rising in mid narrativesaid"But I wearyour hostessand I am tired myself: so good night!" whipped acandle off the dresserwhispered Denys"I cannot stand her"and marched to bed in a moment.

Themijauree coloured and bit her lips. She had not intended her byplayfor Gerard's eye: and she saw in a moment she had been rudeandsillyand publicly rebuked. She sat with cheek on fireand a littlenatural water in her eyesand looked ten times comelier and morewomanly and interesting than she had done all day. The desertion ofthe best narrator broke up the partyand the unassuming Denysapproached the meditative mijaureeand invited her in the mostflattering terms to gamble with him. She started from her reverielooked him down into the earth's centre with chilling dignityandconsentedfor she remembered all in a moment what a show of handsgambling admitted.

Thesoldier and the mijauree rattled the dice. In which sport she was sotaken up with her handsthat she forgot to cheatand Denys won an"ecu au soleil" of her. She fumbled slowly with her pursepartly because her sex do not burn to pay debts of honourpartly toadmire the play of her little knuckles peeping between their softwhite cushions. Denys proposed a compromise.

"Threesilver franks I win of youfair hostess. Give me now three kisses ofthis white handand we'll e'en cry quits."

"Youare malapert" said the ladywith a toss of her head; "besidesthey are so dirty. See! they are like ink!" and to convince himshe put them out to him and turned them up and down. They were nodirtier than cream fresh from the cob and she knew it: she waseternally washing and scenting them.

Denysread the objection like the observant warrior he wasseized them andmumbled them.

Findinghim so appreciative of her charmshe said timidly"Will you dome a kindnessgood soldier?"

"Athousandfair hostessan you will."

"NayI ask but one. 'Tis to tell thy comrade I was right sorry to lose hismost thrilling storyand I hope he will tell me the rest to-morrowmorning. Meantime I shall not sleep for thinking on't. Wilt tell himthat - to pleasure me?"

"AyI'll tell the young savage. But he is not worthy of yourcondescensionsweet hostess. He would rather be aside a man than awoman any day."

"Sowould - ahem. He is right: the young women of the day are not worthyof him'un tas des mijaurees' He has a goodhonestand rightcomely face. Any wayI would not guest of mine should think meunmannerlynot for all the world. Wilt keep faith with me and tellhim?"

"Onthis fair hand I swear it; and thus I seal the pledge."

"There;no need to melt the waxthough. Now go to bed. And tell him ere yousleep."

Theperverse toad (I thank theeManonfor teaching me that word) wasinclined to bestow her slight affections upon Gerard. Not that shewas inflammable: far less so than many that passed for prudes in thetown. But Gerard possessed a triple attraction that has ensnaredcoquettes in all ages. 1. He was very handsome. 2. He did not admireher the least. 3. He had given her a good slap in the face.

Denyswoke Gerard and gave the message. Gerard was not enchanted "Dostwake a tired man to tell him that? Am I to be pestered with'mijaurees' by night as well as day?"

"ButI tell theenovicethou hast conquered her: trust to my experience:her voice sank to melodious whispers; and the cunning jade did in amanner bribe me to carry thee her challenge to Love's lists! for so Iread her message."

Denysthenassuming the senior and the man of the worldtold Gerard thetime was come to show him how a soldier understood friendship andcamaraderie. Italy was now out of the question. Fate had providedbetter; and the blind jade Fortune had smiled on merit for once. "TheHead of Gold" had been a prosperous innwould be again with aman at its head. A good general laid far-sighted plans; but wasalways ready to abandon themshould some brilliant advantage offerand to reap the full harvest of the unforeseen: 'twas chiefly by thistrait great leaders defeated little ones; for these latter could donothing not cut and dried beforehand.

"Sorryfriendshipthat would marry me to a mijauree" interposedGerardyawning.

"Comradebe reasonable; 'tis not the friskiest sheep that falls down thecliff. All creatures must have their fling soonor late; and why nota woman? What more frivolous than a kitten? what graver than a cat?"

"Hasta good eye for natureDenys" said Gerard"that Iproclaim.

"Abetter for thine interestboy. Trust then to me; these little dovesthey are my study day and night; happy the man whose wife taketh herfling before wedlockand who trippeth up the altar-steps instead ofdown 'em. Marriage it always changeth them for better or else forworse. WhyGerardshe is honest when all is done; and he is no mannor half a manthat cannot mould any honest lass like a bit of warmwaxand she aye aside him at bed and board. I tell thee in one monththou wilt make of this coquette the matron the most sober in thetownand of all its wives the one most docile and submissive. Whyshe is half tamed already. Nine in ten meek and mild ones had gentlyhated thee like poison all their livesfor wounding of their hiddenpride. But she for an affront proffers affection. By Joshua his buglea generous lassand void of petty malice. When thou wast gone shesat a-thinking and spoke not. A sure sign of love in one of her sex:for of all things else they speak ere they think. Also her voice didsink exceeding low in discoursing of theeand murmured sweetly;another infallible sign. The bolt hath struck and rankles in her; ohbe joyful! Art silent? I see; 'tis settled. I shall go alone toRemiremontalone and sad. Butpillage and poleaxes! what care I forthatsince my dear comrade will stay herelandlord of the 'Teted'Or' and safe from all the storms of life? Wilt think of meGerardnow and then by thy warm fireof me camped on some windyheathor lying in wet trenchesor wounded on the field and far fromcomfort? Nay" and this he said in a manner truly noble)"notcomfortless or coldor wetor bleeding. 'twill still warm my heartto lie on my back and think that I have placed my dear friend andcomrade true in the 'Tete d'Or' far from a soldier's ills"

"Ilet you run ondear Denys" said Gerard softly"becauseat each word you show me the treasure of a good heart. But nowbethink theemy troth is plighted there where my heart it clingeth.You so lealwould you make me disloyal?"

"Perditionseize mebut I forgot that" said Denys.

"Nomore thenbut hie thee to bedgood Denys. Next to Margaret I lovethee best on earthand value thy 'coeur d'or' far more than a dozenof these 'Tetes d'Or.' So prithee call me at the first blush ofrosy-fingered mornand let's away ere the woman with the hands bestirring."

Theyrose with the dawnand broke their fast by the kitchen fire.

Denysinquired of the girl whether the mistress was about.

"Nay;but she hath risen from her bed: by the same token I am carrying herthis to clean her withal;" and she filled a jug with boilingwaterand took it upstairs.

"Behold"said Gerard"the very elements must be warmed to suit her skin;what had the saints saidwhich still chose the coldest pool? Awayere she come down and catch us."

Theypaid the scoreand left the "Tete d'Or" while itsmistress was washing her hands.

 

CHAPTERXXXVIII

Outsidethe town they found the snow fresh trampled by innumerable wolvesevery foot of the road.

"Wedid well to take the old man's adviceDenys."

"Aydid we. For now I think on'tI did hear them last night scurryingunder our windowand howling and whining for man's flesh in yonmarket-place. But no fat burgher did pity the poor vagabonesanddrop out o' window."

Gerardsmiledbut with an air of abstraction. And they plodded on insilence.

"Whatdost meditate so profoundly?"

"Thygoodness."

Denyswas anything but pleased at this answer. Amongst his oddities you mayhave observed that he could stand a great deal of real impertinence;he was so good-humoured. But would fire up now and then where noteven the shadow of a ground for anger existed.

"Acivil question merits a civil reply" said he very drily.

"AlasI meant no other" said Gerard.

"Thenwhy pretend you were thinking of my goodnesswhen you know I have nogoodness under my skin?"

"Hadanother said thisI had answered'Thou liest.' But to thee I say'Hast no eye for men's qualitiesbut only for women's.' And oncemore I do defy thy unreasonable cholerand say I was thinking on thygoodness of overnight. Wouldst have wedded me to the 'Tete d'Or' orrather to the 'tete de veau doree' and left thyself solitary."

"Ohare ye therelad?" said Denysrecovering his good humour in amoment. "Wellbut to speak soothI meant that not forgoodness; but for friendship and true fellowshipno more. And let metell youmy young mastermy conscience it pricketh me even now forletting you turn your back thus on fortune and peaceful days. A truerfriend than I had ta'en and somewhat hamstrung thee. Then hadst thoubeen fain to lie smarting at the 'Tete d'Or' a month or so; yonskittish lass had nursed thee tenderlyand all had been well. BladeI had in hand to do'tbut remembering how thou hatest painthoughit be but a scratchmy craven heart it failed me at the pinch."And Denys wore a look of humble apology for his lack of virtuousresolution when the path of duty lay so clear.

Gerardraised his eyebrows with astonishment at this monstrous butthoroughly characteristic revelation; howeverthis new and delicatepoint of friendship was never discussed; viz.whether one ought inall love to cut the tendon Achilles of one's friend. For an incidentinterposed.

"Herecometh one in our rear a-riding on his neighbour's mule"shouted Denys.

Gerardturned round. "And how know ye 'tis not his ownpray?"

"Ohblind! Because he rides it with no discretion."

Andin truth the man came galloping like a fury. But what astonished thefriends most was that on reaching them the rustic rider's eyes openedsaucer-likeand he drew the rein so suddenly and powerfullythatthe mule stuck out her fore-legsand went sliding between thepedestrians like a four-legged table on castors.

"Itrow ye are from the 'Tete d'Or?'" They assented. "Which ofye is the younger?"

"Hethat was born the later" said Denyswinking at his companion.

"Gramercyfor the news."

"Comedivine then!"

"Andshall. Thy beard is ripethy fellow's is green; he shall be theyounger; hereyoungster." And he held him out a paper packet."Ye left this at the 'Tete d'Or' and our mistress sends it ye."

"Naygood fellowmethinks I left nought." And Gerard felt his pouch.etc.

"Wouldye make our burgess a liar" said the rustic reproachfully; "andshall I have no pourboire?" (still more reproachfully); "andcame ventre a terre."

"Naythou shalt have pourboire" and he gave him a small coin.

"Ala bonne heure" cried the clownand his features beamed withdisproportionate joy. "The Virgin go with ye; come upJenny!"and back he went "stomach to earth" as his nation ispleased to call it.

Gerardundid the packet; it was about six inches squareand inside it hefound another packetwhich contained a packetand so on. At thefourth he hurled the whole thing into the snow. Denys took it out andrebuked his petulance. He excused himself on the ground of hatingaffectation.

Denysattested"'The great toe of the little daughter of Herodias'there was no affectation herebut only woman's good wit. Doubtlessthe wraps contained something which out of delicacyor her sex'slovely cunningshe would not her hind should see her bestow on ayoung man; thy garterto wit."

"Iwear none."

"Herown then; or a lock of her hair. What is this? A piece of raw silkfresh from the worm. Wellof all the love tokens!"

"Nowwho but thee ever dreamed that she is so naught as send me lovetokens? I saw no harm in her - barring her hands."

"Stayhere is something hard lurking in this soft nest. Come forthI saylittle nestling! Saints and pikestaves! look at this!"

Itwas a gold ring. with a great amethyst glowing and sparklingfullcolouredbut pure as crystal.

"Howlovely!" said Gerard innocently.

"Andhere is something writ; read it thou! I read not so glib as somewhen I know not the matter beforehand."

Gerardtook the paper. "'Tis a posyand fairly enough writ." Heread the linesblushing like a girl. They were very naiveand maybe thus Englished:-
'Youthwith thee my heart is fledde
Comeback to the 'golden Hedde!'
Wilt not? yet this token keepe
Ofhir who doeth thy goeing weepe.
Gyf the world prove harsh andcold
Come back to 'the Hedde of gold.'
"

"Thelittle dove!" purred Denys.

"Thegreat owl! To go and risk her good name thus. Howeverthank Heavenshe has played this prank with an honest lad that will ne'er exposeher folly. But ohthe perverseness! Could she not bestow hernauseousness on thee?" Denys sighed and shrugged. "On theethat art as ripe for folly as herself?"

Denysconfessed that his young friend had harped his very thought. 'Twaspassing strange to him that a damsel with eyes in her head shouldpass by a manand bestow her affections on a boy. Still he could notbut recognize in this the bounty of Nature. Boys were human beingsafter alland but for this occasional caprice of womentheir lotwould be too terrible; they would be out of the sun altogetherblightedand never come to anything; since only the fair could makea man out of such unpromising materials as a boy. Gerard interruptedthis flattering discourse to beg the warrior-philosopher's acceptanceof the lady's ring. He refused it flatlyand insisted on Gerardgoing back to the "Tete d'Or" at oncering and alllike amanand not letting a poor girl hold out her arms to him in vain.

"Herhandsyou mean."

"Herhandwith the 'Tete d'Or' in it."

Failingin thishe was for putting the ring on his friend's finger. Gerarddeclined. "I wear a ring already."

"Whatthat sorry gimcrack? why'tis pewteror tin at best: and thisvirgin goldforbye the jewel."

"Aybut 'twas Margaret gave me this one; and I value it above rubies.I'll neither part with it nor give it a rival" and he kissedthe base metaland bade it fear nought.

"Isee the owl hath sent her ring to a goose" said Denyssorrowfully. Howeverhe prevailed on Gerard to fasten it inside hisbonnet. To thisindeedthe lad consented very readily. Forsovereign qualities were universally ascribed to certain jewels; andthe amethyst ranked high among these precious talismans.

Whenthis was disposed ofGerard earnestly requested his friend to letthe matter dropsince speaking of the other sex to him made him pineso for Margaretand almost unmanned him with the thought that eachstep was taking him farther from her. "I am no general loverDenys. There is room in my heart for one sweetheartand for onefriend. I am far from my dear mistress; and my frienda few leaguesmoreand I must lose him too. Ohlet me drink thy friendship purewhile I mayand not dilute with any of these stupid females."

"Andshalthoney-potand shalt" said Denys kindly'. "But asto my leaving thee at Remiremontreckon thou not on that! For"(three consecutive oaths) "if I do. NayI shall propose to theeto stay forty-eight hours therewhile I kiss my mother and sistersand the females generallyand on go you and I together to the sea."

"Denys!Denys!"

"Denysnor me! 'Tis settled. Gainsay me not! or I'll go with thee to Rome.Why not? his Holiness the Pope hath ever some little merry pleasantwar towardand a Burgundian soldier is still welcome in his ranks."

Onthis Gerard opened his heart. "Denysere I fell in with theeIused often to halt on the roadunable to go farther: my puny heartso pulled me back: and thenafter a short prayer to the saints foraidwould I rise and drag my most unwilling body onward. But since Ijoined company with theegreat is my courage. I have found thesaying of the ancients truethat better is a bright comrade on theweary road than a horse-litter; anddear brotherwhen I do think ofwhat we have done and suffered together! Savedst my life from thebearand from yet more savage thieves; and even poor I did makeshift to draw thee out of Rhineand somehow loved thee double fromthat hour. How many ties tender and strong between us! Had I my willI'd nevernevernevernever part with my Denys on this side thegrave. Well-a-day! God His will be done.

"Nomy will shall be done this time" shouted Denys. "Le bonDieu has bigger fish to fry than you or me. I'll go with thee toRome. There is my hand on it."

"Thinkwhatyou say! 'Tis impossible. 'Tis too selfish of me."

"Itell thee'tis settled. No power can change me. At Remiremont Iborrow ten pieces of my uncleand on we go; 'tis fixed;

Theyshook hands over it. Then Gerard said nothingfor his heart was toofull; but he ran twice round his companion as he walkedthen dancedbackwards in front of himand finally took his handand so on theywent hand in hand like sweetheartstill a company of mountedsoldiersabout fifty in numberrose to sight on the brow of a hill.

"Seethe banner of Burgundy" said Denys joyfully; "I shall lookout for a comrade among these."

"Howgorgeous is the standard in the sun" said Gerard "and howbrave are the leaders with velvet and feathersand steelbreastplates like glassy mirrors!"

Whenthey came near enough to distinguish facesDenys uttered anexclamation: "Why'tis the Bastard of Burgundyas I live. Naythen; there is fighting a-foot since he is out; a gallant leaderGerardrates his life no higher than a private soldier'sand asoldier's no higher than a tomtit's; and that is the captain for me."

"AndseeDenysthe very mules with their great brass frontlets andtrappings seem proud to carry them; no wonder men itch to besoldiers;" and in the midst of this innocent admiration thetroop came up with them.

"Halt!"cried a stentorian voice. The troop halted. The Bastard of Burgundybent his brow gloomily on Denys: "How nowarbalestrierhowcomes it thy face is turned southwardwhen every good hand and heartis hurrying northward?"

Denysreplied respectfully that he was going on leaveafter some years ofserviceto see his kindred at Remiremont.

"Good.But this is not the time for't; the duchy is disturbed. Ho! bringthat dead soldier's mule to the front; and thou mount her and forwardwith us to Flanders."

"Soplease your highness" said Denys firmly"that may not be.My home is close at hand. I have not seen it these three years; andabove allI have this poor youth in chargewhom I may notcannotleavetill I see him shipped for Rome.

"Dostbandy words with me?" said the chiefwith amazementturningfast to wrath. "Art weary o' thy life? Let go the youth's handand into the saddle without more idle words."

Denysmade no reply; but he held Gerard's hand the tighterand lookeddefiance.

Atthis the bastard roared"Jarnacdismount six of thy archersand shoot me this white-livered cur dead where he stands - for anexample."

Theyoung Count de Jarnacsecond in commandgave the orderand the mendismounted to execute it

"Striphim naked" said the bastardin the cold tone of militarybusiness"and put his arms and accoutrements on the spare muleWe'll maybe find some clown worthier to wear them"

Denysgroaned aloud"Am I to be shamed as well as slain?"

"Ohnay! nay! nay!" cried Gerardawaking from the stupor into whichthis thunderbolt of tyranny had thrown him. "He shall go withyou on the instant. I'd liever part with him for ever than see a hairof his dear head harmed Ohsirohmy lordgive a poor boy but aminute to bid his only friend farewell! he will go with you. I swearhe shall go with you."

Thestern leader nodded a cold contemptuous assent. "ThouJarnacstay with themand bring him on alive or dead. Forward!" And heresumed his marchfollowed by all the band but the young count andsix archersone of whom held the spare mule.

Denysand Gerard gazed at one another haggardly. Ohwhat a look!

Andafter this mute interchange of anguishthey spoke hurriedlyfor themoments were flying by.

"Thougoest to Holland: thou knowest where she bides. Tell her all. Shewill be kind to thee for my sake."

"Ohsorry tale that I shall carry her! For God's sakego back to the'Tete d'Or.' I am mad"

"Hush!Let me think: have I nought to say to theeDenys? my head! my head!"

"Ah!I have it. Make for the RhineGerard! Strasbourg. 'Tis but a step.And down the current to Rotterdam. Margaret is there: I go thither.I'll tell her thou art coming. We shall all be together."

"Myladshaste yeor you will get us into trouble" said the countfirmlybut not harshly now.

"Ohsirone moment! one little moment!" panted Gerard.

"Cursedbe the land I 'was born in! cursed be the race of man! and he thatmade them what they are!" screamed Denys.

"HushDenyshush! blaspheme not! OhGod forgive himhe wots not what hesays. Be patientDenysbe patient: though we meet no more on earthlet us meet in a better worldwhere no blasphemer may enter. To myheartlost friend; for what are words now?" He held out hisarmsand they locked one another in a close embrace. They kissed oneanother again and againspeechlessand the tears rained down theircheeks And the Count Jarnac looked on amazedbut the roughersoldiersto whom comrade was a sacred namelooked on with some pityin their hard faces. Then at a signal from Jarnacwith kind forceand words of rude consolationthey almost lifted Denys on to themule; and putting him in the middle of themspurred after theirleader. And Gerard ran wildly after (for the lane turned)to see thevery last of him; and the last glimpse he caughtDenys was rockingto and fro on his muleand tearing his hair out. But at this sightsomething rose in Gerard's throat so highso highhe could run nomore nor breathebut gaspedand leaned against the snow-clad hedgeseizing itand choking piteously.

Thethorns ran into his hand.

Aftera bitter struggle he got his breath again; and now began to see hisown misfortune. Yet not all at once to realize itso sudden andnumbing was the stroke. He staggered onbut scarce feeling or caringwhither he was going; and every now and then he stoppedand his armsfell and his head sank on his chestand he stood motionless: then hesaid to himself"Can this thing be? this must be a dream. 'Tisscarce five minutes since we were so happywalking handedfaring toRome togetherand we admired them and their gay banners and helmetsoh hearts of hell!"

Allnature seemed to stare now as lonely as himself. Not a creature insight. No colour but white. Hethe ghost of his former selfwandered alone among the ghosts of treesand fieldsand hedges.Desolate! desolate! desolate! All was desolate.

Heknelt and gathered a little snow. "NayI dream not; for this issnow: cold as the world's heart. It is bloodytoo: what may thatmean? Fool! 'tis from thy hand. I mind not the wound AyI see:thorns. Welcome! kindly foes: I felt ye notye ran not into myheart. Ye are not cruel like men."

Hehad risenand was dragging his leaden limbs alongwhen he heardhorses' feet and gay voices behind him. He turned with a joyful butwild hope that the soldiers had relented and were bringing Denysback. But noit was a gay cavalcade. A gentleman of rank and hisfavourites in velvet and furs and feathers; and four or five armedretainers in buff jerkins.

Theyswept gaily by.

Gerardnever looked at them after they were gone by: certain gay shadows hadcome and passed; that was all. He was like one in a dream. But he wasrudely wakened; suddenly a voice in front of him cried harshly"Stand and deliver!" and there were three of thegentleman's servants in front of him. They had ridden back to robhim.

"Howye false knaves" said hequite calmly; "would ye shameyour noble master? He will hang ye to the nearest tree;" andwith these words he drew his sword doggedlyand set his back to thehedge.

Oneof the men instantly levelled his petronel at him.

Butanotherless sanguinaryinterposed. "Be not so hasty! And benot thou so mad! Look yonder!"

Gerardlookedand scarce a hundred yards off the nobleman and his friendshad haltedand sat on their horseslooking at the lawless acttooproud to do their own dirty workbut not too proud to reap thefruitand watch lest their agents should rob them of another man'smoney.

Themilder servant thena good-natured fellowshowed Gerard resistancewas vain; reminded him common thieves often took the life as well asthe purse. and assured him it cost a mint to be a gentleman; hismaster had lost money at play overnightand was going to visit hislemanand so must take money where he saw it.

"Thereforegood youthconsider that we rob not for ourselvesand deliver usthat fat purse at thy girdle without more adonor put us to the painof slitting thy throat and taking it all the same."

"Thisknave is right" said Gerard calmly. aloud but to himself. "Iought not to fling away my life; Margaret would be so sorry. Takethen the poor man's purse to the rich man's pouch; and with it this;tell himI pray the Holy Trinity each coin in it may burn his handand freeze his heartand blast his soul for ever. Begone and leaveme to my sorrow!" He flung them the purse.

Theyrode away muttering; for his words pricked them a little; a verylittle: and he staggered onpenniless now as well as friendlesstill he came to the edge of a wood. Thenthough his heart couldhardly feel this second blowhis judgment did; and he began to askhimself what was the use going further? He sat down on the hard roadand ran his nails into his hairand tried to think for the best; atask all the more difficult that a strange drowsiness was stealingover him. Rome he could never reach without money. Denys had said"Go to Strasbourgand down the Rhine home." He would obeyDenys. But how to get to Strasbourg without money?

Thensuddenly seemed to ring in his ears -
" Gyf the worldprove harsh and cold
Come back to the hedde of gold.
"

"Andif I do I must go as her servant; I who am Margaret's. I am a-wearya-weary. I will sleepand dream all is as it was. Ah mehow happywere we an hour agonewe little knew how happy. There is a house:the owner well-to-do. What if I told him my wrongand prayed his aidto retrieve my purseand so to Rhine? Fool! is he not a manlikethe rest? He would scorn me and trample me lower. Denys cursed therace of men. That will I never; but ohI begin to loathe and dreadthem. Nayhere will I lie till sunset: then darkling creep into thisrich man's barnand take by stealth a draught of milk or a handfulo' grainto keep body and soul together. Godwho hath seen the richrob mewill peradventure forgive me. They say 'tis ill sleeping onthe snow. Death steals on such sleepers with muffled feet and honeybreath. But what can I? I am a-wearya-weary. Shall this be the woodwhere lie the wolves yon old man spoke of? I must e'en trust them:they are not men; and I am so a-weary."

Hecrawled to the roadsideand stretched out his limbs on the snowwith a deep sigh.

"Ahtear not thine hair so! teareth my heart to see thee."

"Margaret.Never see me more. Poor Margaret."

Andthe too tender heart was still.

Andthe constant loverand friend of antique mouldlay silent on thesnow; in peril from the weatherin peril from wild beastsin perilfrom hungerfriendless and penniless in a strange landand nothalfway to Rome.

 

CHAPTERXXXIX

Rudetravel is enticing to us English. And so are its records; even thoughthe adventurer be no pilgrim of love. And antique friendship has atleast the interest of a fossil. Stillas the true centre of thisstory is in Hollandit is full time to return thitherand to thoseordinary personages and incidents whereof life has been mainlycomposed in all ages.

JorianKetel came to Peter's house to claim Margaret's promise; but Margaretwas ill in bedand Peteron hearing his errandaffronted him andwarned him off the premisesand one or two that stood by were forducking him; for both father and daughter were favouritesand thewhole story was in every mouthand Sevenbergens in that state ofhotundiscriminating irritation which accompanies popular sympathy.

SoJorian Ketel went off in dudgeonand repented him of his good deed.This sort of penitence is not rareand has the merit of beingsincere. Dierich Browerwho was discovered at "The ThreeKings" making a chatterbox drunk in order to worm out of himthe whereabouts of Martin Wittenhaagenwas actually taken and flunginto a horsepondand threatened with worse usageshould he evershow his face in the burgh again; and finallymunicipal jealousybeing rousedthe burgomaster of Sevenbergen sent a formal missive tothe burgomaster of Tergoureminding him he had overstepped the lawand requesting him to apply to the authorities of Sevenbergen on anyfuture occasion when he might have a complaintreal or imaginaryagainst any of its townsfolk.

Thewily Ghysbrechtsuppressing his rage at this remonstrancesent backa civil message to say that the person he had followed to Sevenbergenwas a Tergovianone Gerardand that he had stolen the town records:that Gerard having escaped into foreign partsand probably taken thedocuments with himthe whole matter was at an end.

Thushe made a virtue of necessity. But in reality his calmness was but aveil: baffled at Sevenbergenhe turned his views elsewhere he sethis emissaries to learn from the family at Tergou whither Gerard hadfledand "to his infinite surprise" they did not know.This added to his uneasiness. It made him fear Gerard was onlylurking in the neighbourhood: he would make a certain discoveryandwould come back and take a terrible revenge. From this time Dierichand others that were about him noticed a change for the worse inGhysbrecht Van Swieten. He became a moody irritable man. A dread layon him. His eyes cast furtive glanceslike one who expects a blowand knows not from what quarter it is to come. Making others wretchedhad not made him happy. It seldom does.

Thelittle family at Tergouwhichbut for his violent interferencemight in time have cemented its difference without banishing spemgregis to a distant landwore still the same outward featuresbutwithin was no longer the simple happy family this tale opened with.Little Kate knew the share Cornelis and Sybrandt had in banishingGerardand thoughfor fear of making more mischief stillshe nevertold her motheryet there were times she shuddered at the bare sightof themand blushed at their hypocritical regrets. Catherinewith awoman's vigilancenoticed thisand with a woman's subtlety saidnothingbut quietly pondered itand went on watching for more. Theblack sheep themselvesin their efforts to partake in the generalgloom and sorrowsucceeded so far as to impose upon their father andGiles: but the demure satisfaction that lay at their bottom could notescape these feminine eyes -

"Thatnoting allseem nought to note'

Thusmistrust and suspicion sat at the tablepoor substitutes forGerard's intelligent facethat had brightened the whole circleunobserved till it was gone. As for the old hosier his pride had beenwounded by his son's disobedienceand so he bore stiffly upand didhis best never to mention Gerard's name; but underneath his SpartancloakNature might be seen tugging at his heart-strings. One anxietyhe never affected to conceal. "If I but knew where the boy isand that his life and health are in no dangersmall would be mycare" would he say; and then a deep sigh would follow. I cannothelp thinking that if Gerard had opened the door just thenandwalked inthere would have been many tears and embraces for himandfew reproachesor none.

Onething took the old couple quite by surprise - publicity. Ere Gerardhad been gone a weekhis adventures were in every mouth; and to makematters worsethe popular sympathy declared itself warmly on theside of the loversand against Gerard's cruel parentsand that oldbusybody the burgomasterwho must put his nose into a business thatnowise concerned him."

"Mother"said Kate"it is all over the town that Margaret is down with afever - a burning fever; her father fears her sadly."

"Margaret?what Margaret?" inquired Catherinewith a treacherousassumption of calmness and indifference.

"Ohmother! whom should I mean? WhyGerard's Margaret."

"Gerard'sMargaret" screamed Catherine; "how dare you say such aword to me? And I rede you never mention that hussy's name in thishousethat she has laid bare. She is the ruin of my poor boytheflower of all my flock. She is the cause that he is not a holy priestin the midst of usbut is roaming the worldand I a desolatebroken-hearted mother. Theredo not crymy girlI do ill to speakharsh to you. But ohKate! you know not what passes in a mother'sheart. I bear up before you all; it behoves me swallow my fears; butat night I see him in my dreamsand still some trouble or other nearhim: sometimes he is torn by wild beasts; other times he is in thehands of robbersand their cruel knives uplifted to strike his poorpale facethat one should think would move a stone. Oh! when Iremember thatwhile I sit here in comfortperhaps my poor boy liesdead in some savage placeand all along of that girl: therehervery name is ratsbane to me. I tremble all over when I hear it."

"I'llnot say anythingnor do anything to grieve you worsemother"said Kate tenderly; but she sighed.

Shewhose name was so fiercely interdicted in this house was much spokenofand even pitied elsewhere. All Sevenbergen was sorry for herandthe young men and maidens cast many a pitying glanceas they passedat the little window where the beauty of the village lay "dyingfor love." In this familiar phrase they underrated her spiritand unselfishness. Gerard was not deadand she was too loyal herselfto doubt his constancy. Her father was dear to her and helpless; andbut for bodily weaknessall her love for Gerard would not have kepther from doing her dutiesthough she might have gone about them withdrooping head and heavy heart. But physical and mental excitement hadbrought on an attack of fever so violentthat nothing but youth andconstitution saved her. The malady left her at lastbut in thatterrible state of bodily weakness in which the patient feels life aburden.

Thenit is that love and friendship by the bedside are mortal angels withcomfort in their voiceand healing in their palms.

Butthis poor girl had to come back to life and vigour how she could.Many days she lay aloneand the heavy hours rolled like leaden wavesover her. In her enfeebled state existence seemed a burdenand lifea thing gone by. She could not try her best to get well. Gerard wasgone. She had not him to get well for. Often she lay for hours quitestillwith the tears welling gently out of her eyes.

Onedaywaking from an uneasy slumbershe found two women in her roomOne was a servantthe other by the deep fur on her collar andsleeves was a person of consideration: a narrow band of silvery hairbeing spared by her coiffureshowed her to be past the age whenwomen of sense concealed their years. The looks of both were kind andfriendly. Margaret tried to raise herself in the bedbut the oldlady placed a hand very gently on her.

"Liestillsweetheart; we come not here to put you aboutbut to comfortyouGod willing. Now cheer up a bitand tell usfirstwho thinkyou we are?"

"NaymadamI know youthough I never saw you before: you are thedemoiselle Van Eyckand this is Reicht Heynes. Gerard has oft spokenof youand of your goodness to him. Madamhe has no friend like younear him now" and at this thought she lay backand the tearswelled out of her eyes in a moment.

Thegood-natured Reicht Heynes began to cry for company; but her mistressscolded her. "Wellyou are a pretty one for a sick-room"said she; and she put out a world of innocent art to cheer thepatient; and not without some little success. An old womanthat hasseen life and all its troublesis a sovereign blessing by asorrowful young woman's side. She knows what to sayand what toavoid. She knows how to soothe her and interest her. Ere she had beenthere an hourshe had Margaret's head lying on her shoulder insteadof on the pillowand Margaret's soft eyes dwelling on her withgentle gratitude.

"Ah!this is hair" said the old ladyrunning her fingers throughit. "Come and look at itReicht!"

Reichtcame and handled itand praised it unaffectedly. The poor girl thatowned it was not quite out of the reach of flattery; owing doubtlessto not being dead.

"InsoothmadamI did use to think it hideous; but he praised itandever since then I have been almost vain of itsaints forgive me. Youknow how foolish those are that love."

"Theyare greater fools that don't" said the old ladysharply.

Margaretopened her lovely eyesand looked at her for her meaning.

Thiswas only the first of many visits. In fact either Margaret Van Eyckor Reicht came nearly every day until their patient was convalescent;and she improved rapidly under their hands. Reicht attributed thisprincipally to certain nourishing dishes she prepared in Peter'skitchen; but Margaret herself thought more of the kind words and eyesthat kept telling her she had friends to live for.

MartinWittenhaagen went straight to Rotterdamto take the bull by thehorns. The bull was a bipedwith a crown for horns. It was Philipthe Goodduke of thisearl of thatlord of the other. Arrived atRotterdamMartin found the court was at Ghent. To Ghent he wentandsought an audiencebut was put off and baffled by lackeys and pages.So he threw himself in his sovereign's way out huntingand contraryto all court precedentscommenced the conversation - by roaringlustily for mercy.

"Whywhere is the perilman?" said the dukelooking all round andlaughing.

"Gracefor an old soldier hunted down by burghers!"

Nowkings differ in character like other folk; but there is one traitthey have in common; they are mightily inclined to be affable to menof very low estate. These do not vie with them in anything whateverso jealousy cannot creep in; and they amuse them by their bluntnessand noveltyand refresh the poor things with a touch of nature - ararity in courts. So Philip the Good reined in his horse and gaveMartin almost a tete-a-teteand Martin reminded him of a certainbattlefield where he had received an arrow intended for hissovereign. The duke remembered the incident perfectlyand wasgraciously pleased to take a cheerful view of it. He could afford tonot having been the one hit. Then Martin told his majesty of Gerard'sfirst capture in the churchhis imprisonment in the towerand themanoeuvre by which they got him outand all the details of the hunt;and whether he told it better than I haveor the duke had not heardso many good stories as you havecertain it is that sovereign got sowrapt up in itthatwhen a number of courtiers came galloping upand interrupted Martinhe swore like a costermongerand threatenedonly half in jestto cut off the next head that should come betweenhim and a good story; and when Martin had donehe cried out -

"St.Luke! what sport goeth on in this mine earldomay! in my own woodsand I see it not. You base fellows have all the luck." And hewas indignant at the partiality of Fortune. "Lo you now! thiswas a man-hunt" said he. "I never had the luck to be at aman-hunt."

"Myluck was none so great" replied Martin bluntly: "I was onthe wrong side of the dogs' noses."

"Ah!so you were; I forgot that" And royalty was more reconciled toits lot."What would you then?"

"Afree pardonyour highnessfor myself and Gerard."

"Forwhat?"

"Forprison-breaking."

"Goto; the bird will fly from the cage. 'Tis instinct. Besidescoop ayoung man up for loving a young woman? These burgomasters must bevoid of common sense. What else?"

"Forstriking down the burgomaster."

"Ohthe hunted boar will turn to bay. 'Tis his right; and I hold him lessthan man that grudges it him. What else?"

"Forkilling of the bloodhounds."

Theduke's countenance fell.

"'Twastheir life or mine" said Martin eagerly.

"Ay!but I can't havemy bloodhoundsmy beautiful bloodhoundssacrificed to-

"Nonono! They were not your dogs."

"Whosedogsthen?"

"Theranger's."

"Oh.WellI am very sorry for himbut as I was saying I can't have myold soldiers sacrificed to his bloodhounds. Thou shalt have thy freepardon."

"Andpoor Gerard."

"Andpoor Gerard toofor thy sake. And moretell thou this burgomasterhis doings mislike me: this is to set up for a kingnot aburgomaster. I'll have no kings in Holland but one. Bid him be morehumble; or by St. Jude I'll hang him before his own dooras I hangedthe burgomaster of what's the namesome town or other in Flanders itwas; no'twas' somewhere in Brabant - no matter - I hanged himIremember that much - for oppressing poor folk."

Theduke then beckoned his chancellora pursy old fellow that rode likea sackand bade him write out a free pardon for Martin and oneGerard.

Thisprecious document was drawn up in formand signed next dayandMartin hastened home with it.

Margarethad left her bed some daysand was sitting pale and pensive by thefiresidewhen he burst inwaving the parchmentand crying"Afree pardongirlfor Gerard as well as me! Send for him back whenyou will; all the burgomasters on earth daren't lay a finger on him."

Sheflushed all over with joy and her hands trembled with eagerness asshe took the parchment and devoured it with her eyesand kissed itagain and againand flung her arms round Martin's neckand kissedhim. When she was calmershe told him Heaven had raised her up afriend in the dame Van Eyck. "And I would fain consult her onthis good news; but I have not strength to walk so far."

"Whatneed to walk? There is my mule."

"YourmuleMartin?"

Theold soldier or professional pillager laughedand confessed he hadgot so used to herthat he forgot at times Ghysbrecht had a priorclaim. To-morrow he would turn her into the burgomaster's yardbutto-night she should carry Margaret to Tergou.

Itwas nearly dusk; so Margaret venturedand about seven in the eveningshe astonished and gladdened her new but ardent friendby arrivingat her house with unwonted roses on her cheeksand Gerard's pardonin her bosom.

 

CHAPTERXL

Someare old in heart at fortysome are young at eighty. Margaret VanEyck's heart was an evergreen. She loved her young namesake withyouthful ardour. Nor was this new sentiment a mere caprice; she wasquick at reading characterand saw in Margaret Brandt that which inone of her own sex goes far with an intelligent woman; genuineness.Butbesides her own sterling qualitiesMargaret had from the firsta potent ally in the old artist's bosom.

Humannature.

Strangeas it may appear to the unobservantour hearts warm more readily tothose we have benefited than to our benefactors. Some of the Greekphilosophers noticed this; but the British Homer has stamped it inimmortal lines:- "I heardand thought how side by side
Wetwo had stemmed the battle's tide
In many a well-debatedfield
Where Bertram's breast was Philip's shield.
I thought onDarien's deserts pale
Where Death bestrides the evening gale
Howo'er my friend my cloak I threw
And fenceless faced the deadlydew.
I thought on Quariana's cliff
Whererescued from ourfoundering skiff
Through the white breakers' wrath Ibore
Exhausted Bertram to the shore:
And when his side an arrowfound
I sucked the Indian's venom'd wound.
These thoughts liketorrents rushed along
To sweep away my purpose strong."

Observe!this assassin's hand is stayed by memorynot of benefits receivedbut benefits conferred.

NowMargaret Van Eyck had been wonderfully kind to Margaret Brandt; hadbroken through her own habits to go and see her; had nursed herandsoothed herand petted herand cured her more than all the medicinein the world. So her heart opened to the recipient of her goodnessand she loved her now far more tenderly than she had ever lovedGerardthoughin truthit was purely out of regard for Gerard shehad visited her in the first instance.

Whenthereforeshe saw the roses on Margaret's cheekand read the bit ofparchment that had brought them thereshe gave up her own viewswithout a murmur.

"Sweetheart"said she"I did desire he should stay in Italy five or sixyearsand come back richand above allan artist. But yourhappiness is before alland I see you cannot live without himso wemust have him home as fast as may be."

"Ahmadam! you see my very thoughts." And the young woman hung herhead a moment and blushed. "But how to let him knowmadam? Thatpasses my skill. He is gone to Italy; but what part I know not. Stay!he named the cities he should visit. Florence was oneand Rome."But then - Finallybeing a sensible girlshe divined that a letteraddressed"My Gerard - Italy" might chance to miscarryand she looked imploringly at her friend for counsel.

"Youare come to the right placeand at the right time" said theold lady. "Here was this Hans Memling with me to-day; he isgoing to Italygirlno later than next week'to improve his hand'he says. Not before 'twas neededI do assure you."

"Buthow is he to find my Gerard?"

"Whyhe knows your Gerardchild. They have supped here more than onceand were like hand and glove. Nowas his business is the same asGerard'she will visit the same places as Gerardand soon or latehe must fall in with him. Whereforeget you a long letter writtenand copy out this pardon into itand I'll answer for the messenger.In six months at farthest Gerard shall get it; and when he shall getitthen will he kiss itand put it in his bosomand come flyinghome. What are you smiling at? And now what makes your cheeks so red?And what you are smothering me forI cannot think. Yes! happy daysare coming to my little pearl."

MeantimeMartin sat in the kitchenwith the black-jack before him and ReichtHeynes spinning beside him: andwow! but she pumped him that night.

ThisHans Memling was an old pupil of Jan Van Eyck and his sister. He wasa painter notwithstanding Margaret's sneerand a good soul enoughwith one fault. He loved the "nipperkincanakinand the brownbowl" more than they deserve. This singular penchant kept himfrom amassing fortuneand was the cause that he often came toMargaret Van Eyck for a mealand sometimes for a groat. But thisgave her a claim on himand she knew he would not trifle with anycommission she should entrust to him.

Theletter was duly written and left with Margaret Van Eyck; and thefollowing weeksure enoughHans Memling returned from FlandersMargaret Van Eyck gave him the letterand a piece of gold towardshis travelling expenses. He seemed in a hurry to be off.

"Allthe better" said the old artist; "he will be the sooner inItaly."

Butas there are horses who burn and rage to startand after the firstyard or two want the whipso all this hurry cooled into inactionwhen Hans got as far as the principal hostelry of Tergouand saw twoof his boon companions sitting in the bay window. He went in for aparting glass with them; but when he offered to paythey would nothear of itNo; he was going a long journey; they would treat him;everybody must treat himthe landlord and all.

Itresulted from this treatment that his tongue got as loose as if thewine had been oil; and he confided to the convivial crew that he wasgoing to show the Italians how to paint: next he sang his exploits inbattlefor he had handled a pike; and his amorous successes withfemalesnot present to oppose their version of the incidents. Inshort"plenus rimarum erat: huc illuc diffluebat;" andamong the miscellaneous matters that oozed outhe must blab that hewas entrusted with a letter to a townsman of theirsone Gerardagood fellow: he added "you are all good fellows:" and toimpress his eulogyslapped Sybrandt on the back so heartilyas todrive the breath out of his body.

Sybrandtgot round the table to avoid this muscular approval; but listened toevery wordand learned for the first time that Gerard was gone toItaly. Howeverto make surehe affected to doubt it.

"Mybrother Gerard is never in Italy."

"Yelieye cur" roared Hanstaking instantly the irascible turnand not being clear enough to see that hewho now sat opposite himwas the same he had praisedand hitwhen beside him. "If he isten times your brotherhe is in Italy. What call ye this? Thereread me that superscription!" and he flung down a letter on thetable.

Sybrandttook it upand examined it gravely; but eventually laid it downwith the remarkthat he could not read. Howeverone of the companyby some immense fortuitycould read; and proud of so rare anaccomplishmenttook itand read it out:

"ToGerard Eliassoenof Tergou. These by the hand of the trusty HansMemlingwith all speed."

"'Tisexcellently well writ" said the readerexamining every letter.

"Ay!"said Hans bombastically"and small wonder: 'tis writ by afamous hand; by Margaretsister of Jan Van Eyck. Blessed andhonoured be his memory! She is an old friend of mineis Margaret VanEyck."

MiscellaneousHans then diverged into forty topics.

Sybrandtstole out of the companyand went in search of Cornelis.

Theyput their heads together over the news: Italy was an immense distanceoff. If they could only keep him there?

"Keephim there? Nothing would keep him long from his Margaret."

"Curseher!" said Sybrandt. "Why didn't she die when she was aboutit?"

"Shedie? She would outlive the pest to vex us." And Cornelis waswroth at her selfishness in not dyingto oblige.

Thesetwo black sheep kept putting their heads togetherand tainting eachother worse and worsetill at last their corrupt hearts conceived aplan for keeping Gerard in Italy all his lifeand so securing hisshare of their father's substance.

Butwhen they had planned it they were no nearer the execution: for thatrequired talent: so iniquity came to a standstill. But presentlyasif Satan had come between the two headsand whispered into the rightear of one and the left of the other simultaneouslythey both burstout -

"THEBURGOMASTER!"

Theywent to Ghysbrecht Van Swietenand he received them at once: for theman who is under the torture of suspense catches eagerly atknowledge. Certainty is often painfulbut seldomlike suspenseintolerable.

"Youhave news of Gerard?" said he eagerly.

Thenthey told about the letter and Hans Memling. He listened withrestless eye. "Who writ the letter?"

"MargaretVan Eyck" was the reply; for they naturally thought thecontents were by the same hand as the superscription.

"Areye sure?" And he went to a drawer and drew out a paper writtenby Margaret Van Eyck while treating with the burgh for her house."Wasit writ like this?"

"Yes.'Tis the same writing" said Sybrandt boldly.

"Good.And now what would ye of me?" said Ghysbrechtwith beatingheartbut a carelessness so well feigned that it staggered them.They fumbled with their bonnetsand stammered and spoke a word ortwothen hesitated and beat about the bushand let out by degreesthat they wanted a letter writtento say something that might keepGerard in Italy; and this letter they proposed to substitute in HansMemling's wallet for the one he carried. While these fumbled withtheir bonnets and their iniquityand vacillated between respect fora burgomasterand suspicion that this one was as great a rogue asthemselvesand somehow or otheron their side against Gerardprosand cons were coursing one another to and fro in the keen old man'sspirit. Vengeance said let Gerard come back and feel the weight ofthe law. Prudence said keep him a thousand miles off. But thenPrudence said alsowhy do dirty work on a doubtful chance? Why putit in the power of these two rogues to tarnish your name? Finallyhis strong persuasion that Gerard was in possession of a secret bymeans of which he could wound him to the quickcoupled with hiscautionfound words thus: "It is my duty to aid the citizensthat cannot write. But for their matter I will not be responsible.Tell methenwhat I shall write."

"Somethingabout this Margaret."

"Ayay! that she is falsethat she is married to anotherI'll go bail."

"Nayburgomasternay! not for all the world!" cried Sybrandt;"Gerard would not believe itor but halfand then he wouldcome back to see. No; say that she is dead."

"Dead!whatat her agewill he credit that?"

"Soonerthan the other. Why she was nearly dead: so it is not to say adownright lieafter all."

"Humph!And you think that will keep him in Italy?"

"Weare sure of itare we notCornelis?"

"Ay"said Cornelis"our Gerard will never leave Italy now he isthere. It was always his dream to get there. He would come back forhis Margaretbut not for us. What cares he for us? He despises hisown family; always did."

"Thiswould be a bitter pill to him" said the old hypocrite.

"Itwill be for his good in the end" replied the young one.

"Whatavails Famine wedding Thirst?" said Cornelis.

"Andthe grief you are preparing for him so coolly?" Ghysbrecht spokesarcasticallybut tasted his own vengeance all the time.

"Oha lie is not like a blow with a curtal axe. It hacks no fleshandbreaks no bones."

"Acurtal axe?" said Sybrandt; "nonor even like a strokewith a cudgel." And he shot a sly envenomed glance at theburgomaster's broken nose.

Ghysbrecht'sface darkened with ire when this adder's tongue struck his wound. Butit toldas intended: the old man bristled with hate.

"Well"said he"tell me what to write for youand I must write it;but take noticeyou bear the blame if aught turns amiss. Not thehand which writesbut the tongue which dictatesdoth the deed."

Thebrothers assented warmlysneering within. Ghysbrecht then drew hisinkhorn towards himand laid the specimen of Margaret Van Eyck'swriting before himand made some inquiries as to the size and shapeof the letterwhen an unlooked-for interruption occurred; JorianKetel burst hastily into the roomand looked vexed at not findinghim alone.

"Thouseest I have matter on handgood fellow."

"Ay;but this is grave. I bring good news; but 'tis not for every ear"

Theburgomaster roseand drew Jorian aside into the embrasure of hisdeep windowand then the brothers heard them converse in low buteager tones. It ended by Ghysbrecht sending Jorian out to saddle hismule. He then addressed the black sheep with a sudden coldness thatamazed them -

"Iprize the peace of households; but this is not a thing to be done ina hurry: we will see about itwe will see."

"Butburgomasterthe man will be gone. It will be too late."

"Whereis he?"

"Atthe hostelrydrinking."

"Wellkeep him drinking! We will seewe will see." And he sent themoff discomfited.

Toexplain all this we must retrograde a step. This very morning thenMargaret Brandt had met Jorian Ketel near her own door. He passed herwith a scowl. This struck herand she remembered him.

"Stay"said she. "Yes! it is the good man who saved him. Oh! why haveyou not been near me since? And why have you not come for theparchments? Was it not true about the hundred crowns?"

Joriangave a snort; butseeing her face that looked so candidbegan tothink there might be some mistake. He told her he had comeand howhe had been received.

"Alas!"said she"I knew nought of this. I lay at Death's door. Shethen invited him to follow herand took him into the garden andshowed him the spot where the parchments were buried. "Martinwas for taking them upbut I would not let him. He put them there;and I said none should move them but youwho had earned them so wellof him and me"

"Giveme a spade!" cried Jorian eagerly. "But stay! No; he is asuspicious man. You are sure they are there still?"

"Iwill openly take the blame if human hand hath touched them."

"Thenkeep them but two hours moreI pritheegood Margaret" saidJorianand ran off to the Stadthouse of Tergou a joyful man.

Theburgomaster jogged along towards Sevenbergenwith Jorian stridingbeside himgiving him assurance that in an hour's time the missingparchments would be in his hand.

"Ahmaster!" said he"lucky for us it wasn't a thief that tookthem."

"Nota thief? not a thief? what call you himthen?"

"Wellsaving your presenceI call him a jackdaw. This is jackdaw's workif ever there was; 'take the thing you are least in need ofand hideit' - that's a jackdaw. I should know" added Jorian oracularly"for I was brought up along with a chough. He and I were bornthe same yearbut he cut his teeth long before meand wow! but mylife was a burden for years all along of him. If you had but a holein your hose no bigger than a groatin went his beak like a gimlet;andfor stealingGerard all over. What he wanted leastand anypoor Christian in the house wanted mostthat went first. Mother wasa notable womanso if she did but look roundaway flew her thimble.Father lived by cordwainingso about sunrise Jack went diligentlyoff with his awlhis waxand his twine. After thatmake your breadhow you could! One day I heard my mother tell him to his face he wasenough to corrupt half-a-dozen other children; and he only cocked hiseye at herand next minute away with the nurseling's shoe off hisvery foot. Now this Gerard is tarred with the same stick. Theparchments are no more use to him than a thimble or an awl to Jack.He took 'em out of pure mischief and hid themand you would neverhave found them but for me."

"Ibelieve you are right" said Ghysbrecht"and I have vexedmyself more than need."

Whenthey came to Peter's gate he felt uneasy.

"Iwish it had been anywhere but here."

Jorianreassured him.

"Thegirl is honest and friendly" said he. "She had nothing todo with taking themI'll be sworn;" and he led him into thegarden. "Theremasterif a face is to be believedhere theylie; and seethe mould is loose."

Heran for a spade which was stuck up in the ground at some distanceand soon went to work and uncovered a parchment. Ghysbrecht saw itand thrust him aside and went down on his knees and tore it out ofthe hole. His hands trembled and his face shone. He threw outparchment after parchmentand Jorian dusted them and cleared themand shook them. Nowwhen Ghysbrecht had thrown out a great manyhisface began to darken and lengthenand when he came to the lastheput his hands to his temples and seemed to be all amazed.

"Whatmystery lies here?" he gasped. "Are fiends mocking me? Digdeeper! There must be another."

Joriandrove the spade in and threw out quantities of hard mould. In vain.And even while he dughis master's mood had changed.

"Treason!treachery!" he cried. "You knew of this."

"Knewwhatmasterin Heaven's name?"

"Caitiffyou knew there was another one worth all these twice told.'

"'Tisfalse" cried Jorianmade suspicious by the other's suspicion."'Tis a trick to rob me of my hundred crowns. Oh! I know youburgomaster." And Jorian was ready to whimper.

Amellow voice fell on them both like oil upon the waves.

"Nogood manit is not falsenor yet is it quite true: there wasanother parchment."

"Theretherethere! Where is it?"

"But"continued Margaret calmly"it was not a town record (so youhave gained your hundred crownsgood man): it was but a private deedbetween the burgomaster here and my grandfather Flor - "

"Hushhush!"

"- is Brandt."

"Whereis itgirl? that is all we want to know."

"Havepatienceand I shall tell you. Gerard read the title of itand hesaid'This is as much yours as the burgomaster's' and he put itapartto read it with me at his leisure."

"Itis in the housethen?" said the burgomasterrecovering hiscalmness.

"Nosir" said Margaret gravely"it is not." Thenin avoice that faltered suddenly"You hunted - my poor Gerard - sohard - and so close-that you gave him - no time-to think of aught -but his life - and his grief. The parchment was in his bosomand hehath ta'en it with him."

"Whitherwhither?"

"Askme no moresir. What right is yours to question me thus? It was foryour sakegood manI put force upon my heartand came out hereand bore to speak at all to this hard old man. Forwhen I think ofthe misery he has brought on him and methe sight of him is morethan I can bear;" and she gave an involuntary shudderand wentslowly inwith her hand to her headcrying bitterly.

Remorsefor the pastand dread of the future - the slowbutas he nowfeltthe inevitable future - avariceand fearall tugged in oneshort moment at Ghysbrecht's tough heart. He hung his headand hisarms fell listless by his sides. A coarse chuckle made him startroundand there stood Martin Wittenhaagen leaning on his bowandsneering from ear to ear. At sight of the man and his grinning faceGhysbrecht's worst passions awoke.

"Ho!attach himseize himtraitor and thief!" cried he. "Dogthou shalt pay for all."

Martinwithout a wordcalmly thrust the duke's pardon under Ghysbrecht'snose. He lookedand had not a word to say. Martin followed up hisadvantage.

"Theduke and I are soldiers. He won't let you greasy burghers trample onan old comrade. He bade me carry you a message too."

"Theduke send a message to me?"

"Ay!I told him of your masterful doingsof your imprisoning Gerard forloving a girl; and says he'Tell him this is to be a kingnot aburgomaster. I'll have no kings in Holland but one. Bid him be morehumbleor I'll hang him at his own door'"

(Ghysbrechttrembled: he thought the duke capable of the deed)

"'asI hanged the burgomaster of Thingembob.' The duke could not mindwhich of you he had hungor in what part; such trifles stick not ina soldier's memory; but he was sure he had hanged one of you forgrinding poor folk'and I'm the man to hang another' quoth the goodduke."

Theserepeated insults from so mean a mancoupled with hisinvulnerabilityshielded as he was by the dukedrove the cholericold man into a fit of impotent fury: he shook his fist at thesoldierand tried to threaten himbut could not speak for the rageand mortification that choked him: then he gave a sort of screechand coiled himself up in eye and form like a rattlesnake about tostrike; and spat furiously upon Martin's doublet.

Thethick-skinned soldier treated this ebullition with genuine contempt."Here's a venomous old toad! he knows a kick from his foot wouldsend him to his last home; and he wants me to cheat the gallows. ButI have slain too many men in fair fight to lift limb against anythingless than a man; and this I count no man. What is itin Heaven'sname? an old goat's-skin bag full o' rotten bones."

"Mymule! my mule!" screamed Ghysbrecht.

Jorianhelped the old man up trembling in every joint. Once in the saddlehe seemed to gather in a moment unnatural vigour; and the figure thatwent flying to Tergou was truly weird-like and terrible: so old andwizened the face; so white and reverend the streaming hair; sobaleful the eye; so fierce the fury which shook the bent frame thatwent spurring like mad; while the quavering voice yelled"I'llmake their hearts ache. I'll make their hearts ache. I'll make theirhearts ache. I'll make their hearts ache. All of them. All! - all! -all!"

Theblack sheep sat disconsolate amidst the convivial crewand eyed HansMemling's wallet. For more ease he had taken it offand flung it onthe table. How readily they could have slipped out that letter andput in another. For the first time in their lives they were sorrythey had not learned to writelike their brother.

Andnow Hans began to talk of goingand the brothers agreed in a whisperto abandon their project for the time. They had scarcely resolvedthiswhen Dierich Brower stood suddenly in the doorwayand gavethem a wink.

Theywent out to him. "Come to the burgomaster with all speed"said he

Theyfound Ghysbrecht seated at a tablepale and agitated. Before him layMargaret Van Eyck's handwriting. "I have written what youdesired" said he. "Now for the superscription. What werethe words? did ye see?"

"Wecannot read" said Cornelis.

"Thenis all this labour lost" cried Ghysbrecht angrily. "Dolts!"

"Naybut" said Sybrandt"I heard the words readand I havenot lost them. They were'To Gerard Eliassoenthese by the hand ofthe trusty Hans Memlingwith all speed.'"

"'Tiswell. Nowhow was the letter folded? how big was it?"

"Longerthan that oneand not so long as this."

"'Tiswell. Where is he?"

"Atthe hostelry."

"Comethentake you this groatand treat him. Then ask to see the letterand put this in place of it. Come to me with the other letter."

Thebrothers assentedtook the letterand went to the hostelry.

Theyhad not been gone a minutewhen Dierich Brower issued from theStadthouseand followed them. He had his orders not to let them outof his sight till the true letter was in his master's hands. Hewatched outside the hostelry.

Hehad not long to wait. They came out almost immediatelywith downcastlooks. Dierich made up to them.

"Toolate!" they cried; "too late! He is gone."

"Gone?How long?"

"Scarcefive minutes. Cursed chance!"

"Youmust go back to the burgomaster at once" said Dierich Brower.

"Towhat end?"

"Nomatter; come!" and he hurried them to the Stadthouse.

GhysbrechtVan Swieten was not the man to accept a defeat.

"Well"said heon hearing the ill news"suppose he is gone. Is hemounted?"

"No."

"Thenwhat hinders you to come up with him?"

"Butwhat avails coming up with him! There are no hostelries on the roadhe is gone."

"Fools!"said Ghysbrecht"is there no way of emptying a man's pocketsbut liquor and sleight of hand?

Ameaning lookthat passed between Ghysbrecht and Dierichaided thebrothers' comprehension. They changed colourand lost all zeal forthe business.

"No!no! we don't hate our brother. We won't get ourselves hanged to spitehim" said Sybrandt; "that would be a fool's trick."

"Hanged!"cried Ghysbrecht. "Am I not the burgomaster? How can ye behanged? I see how 'tis ye fear to tackle one manbeing two: heartsof harethat ye are! Oh! why cannot I be young again? I'd do itsingle-handed."

Theold man now threw off all disguiseand showed them his heart was inthis deed. He then flattered and besoughtand jeered themalternatelybut he found no eloquence could move them to an actionhowever dishonourablewhich was attended with danger. At last heopened a drawerand showed them a pile of silver coins.

"Changebut those letters for me" he said"and each of you shallthrust one hand into this drawerand take away as many of them asyou can hold."

Theeffect was magical. Their eyes glittered with desire. Their wholebodies seemed to swelland rise into male energy.

"Swearitthen" said Sybrandt.

"Iswear it."

"No;on the crucifix."

Ghysbrechtswore upon the crucifix.

Thenext minute the brothers were on the roadin pursuit of HansMemling. They came in sight of him about two leagues from Tergoubutthough they knew he had no weapon but his staffthey were tooprudent to venture on him in daylight; so they fell back.

Butbeing now three leagues and more from the townand on a grassy road- sun downmoon not yet up - honest Hans suddenly found himselfattacked before and behind at once by men with uplifted kniveswhocried in loud though somewhat shaky voices"Stand and deliver!"

Theattack was so suddenand so well plannedthat Hans was dismayed."Slay me notgood fellows" he cried; "I am but apoor manand ye shall have my all."

"Sobe it then. Live! but empty thy wallet."

"Thereis nought in my walletgood friendbut one letter."

"Thatwe shall see" said Sybrandtwho was the one in front.

"Wellit is a letter."

"Takeit not from meI pray you. 'Tis worth noughtand the good damewould fret that writ it."

"There"said Sybrandt"take back thy letter; and now empty thy pouch.Come I tarry not I"

Butby this time Hans had recovered his confusion; and from a certainflutter in Sybrandtand hard breathing of Cornelisaided by anindescribable consciousnessfelt sure the pair he had to deal withwere no heroes. He pretended to fumble for his money: then suddenlythrust his staff fiercely into Sybrandt's faceand drove himstaggeringand lent Cornelis a back-handed slash on the ear thatsent him twirling like a weathercock in March; then whirled hisweapon over his head and danced about the road like a figure onspringsshouting

"Comeonye thieving loons! Come on!"

Itwas a plain invitation; yet they misunderstood it so utterly as totake to their heelswith Hans after themhe shouting "Stopthieves!" and they howling with fear and pain as they ran.

 

CHAPTERXLI

Denysplaced in the middle of his companionslest he should be so mad asattempt escape was carried off in an agony of grief and remorse. Forhis sake Gerard had abandoned the German route to Rome; and what washis reward? left all alone in the centre of Burgundy. This was thethought which maddened Denys mostand made him now rave at heavenand earthnow fall into a gloomy silence so savage and sinister thatit was deemed prudent to disarm him. They caught up their leader justoutside the townand the whole cavalcade drew up and baited at the"Tete d'Or."

Theyoung landladythough much occupied with the countand still morewith the bastardcaught sight of Denysand asked him somewhatanxiously what had become of his young companion?

Denyswith a burst of grieftold her alland prayed her to send afterGerard. "Now he is parted from mehe will maybe listen to myrede" said he; "poor wretchhe loves not solitude."

Thelandlady gave a toss of her head. "I trow I have been somewhatover-kind already" said sheand turned rather red.

"Youwill not?"

"NotI."

"Then"- and he poured a volley of curses and abuse upon her.

Sheturned her back upon himand went off whimperingand Saying she wasnot used to be cursed at; and ordered her hind to saddle two mules.

Denyswent north with his troopmute and drooping over his saddleandquite unknown to himthat veracious young lady made an equestriantoilet in only forty minutesshe being really in a hurryandspurred away with her servant in the opposite direction.

Atdarkafter a long marchthe bastard and his men reached "TheWhite Hart;" their arrival caused a prodigious bustleand itwas some time before Manon discovered her old friend among so many.When she didshe showed it only by heightened colour. She did notclaim the acquaintance. The poor soul was already beginning to scorn.

"Thebase degrees by which she did ascend."

Denyssaw but could not smile. The inn reminded him too much of Gerard.

Erethe night closed the wind changed. She looked into the room andbeckoned him with her finger. He rose sulkilyand his guards withhim.

"NayI would speak a word to thee in private."

Shedrew him to a corner of the roomand there asked him under herbreath would he do her a kindness.

Heanswered out loud"Nohe would not; he was not in the vein todo kindnesses to man or woman. If he did a kindness it should be to adog; and not that if he could help it."

"Alasgood archerI did you one eftsoonsyou and your pretty comrade"said Manon humbly.

"Youdiddameyou did; well thenfor his sake - what is't to do?"

"Thouknowest my story. I had been unfortunate. Now I am worshipful. But awoman did cast him in my teeth this day. And so 'twill be ever whilehe hangs there. I would have him ta'en down; well-a-day!"

"Withall my heart."

"Andnone dare I ask but thee. Wilt do't?"

"NotIeven were I not a prisoner."

Onthis stern refusal the tender Manon sighedand clasped her palmstogether despondently. Denys told her she need not fret. There weresoldiers of a lower stamp who would not make two bites of such acherry. It was a mere matter of money; if she could find two angelshe would find two soldiers to do the dirty work of "The WhiteHart."

Thiswas not very palatable. Howeverreflecting that soldiers were birdsof passagedrinking here to-nightknocked on the head thereto-morrowshe said softly"Send them out to me. But pritheetell them that 'tis for one that is my friend; let them not think'tis for me; I should sink into the earth; times are changed."

Denysfound warriors glad to win an angel apiece so easily. He sent themoutand instantly dismissing the subject with contemptsat broodingon his lost friend.

Manonand the warriors soon came to a general understanding. But what werethey to do with the body when taken down? She murmured"Theriver is nigh the - the place."

"Flinghim ineh?"

"Naynay; be not so cruel! Could ye not put him - gently - and - withsomewhat weighty?"

Shemust have been thinking on the subject in detail; for she was not oneto whom ideas came quickly.

Allwas speedily agreedexcept the time of payment. The mail-clad itchedfor itand sought it in advance. Manon demurred to that.

Whatdid she doubt their word? then let her come along with themor watchthem at a distance.

"Me?"said Manon with horror. "I would liever die than see it done."

"Whichyet you would have done."

"Ayfor sore is my need. Times are changed."

Shehad already forgotten her precept to Denys.

Anhour later the disagreeable relic of caterpillar existence ceased tocanker the worshipful matron's public lifeand the grim eyes of thepast to cast malignant glances down into a white hind's clover field.

Total.She made the landlord an average wifeand a prime house-dogandoutlived everybody.

Hertroopswhen they returned from executing with mediaeval naivete theprecept"Off wi' the auld love" received a shock. Theyfound the market-place black with groups; it had been empty an hourago. Conscience smote them. This came of meddling with the dead.Howeverthe bolder of the twoencouraged by the darknessstoleforward aloneand slily mingled with a group: he soon returned tohis companionsayingin a tone of reproach not strictly reasonable

"Yeborn foolit is only a miracle."

 

CHAPTERXLII

Lettersof fire on the church wall had just inquiredwith an appearance ofgenuine curiositywhy there was no mass for the duke in this time oftrouble. The supernatural expostulation had been seen by manyandhad gradually fadedleaving the spectators glued there gaping. Theupshot wasthat the corporationnot choosing to be behind theangelic powers in loyalty to a temporal sovereigninvested freely inmasses. By this an old friend of oursthe cureprofited in hardcash; for which he had a very pretty taste. But for this I would notof course have detained you over so trite an occurrence as a miracle.

Denysbegged for his arms. "Why disgrace him as well as break hisheart?"

"Thenswear on the cross of thy sword not to leave the bastard's serviceuntil the sedition shall be put down." He yielded to necessityand delivered three volleys of oathsand recovered his arms andliberty.

Thetroops halted at "The Three Fish" and Marion at sight ofhim cried out"I'm out of luck; who would have thought to seeyou again?" Then seeing he was sadand rather hurt than amusedat this blunt jestshe asked him what was amiss? He told her. Shetook a bright view of the case. Gerard was too handsome andwell-behaved to come to harm. The women too would always be on hisside. Moreoverit was clear that things must either go well or illwith him. In the former case he would strike in with some goodcompany going to Rome; in the latter he would return homeperhaps bethere before his friend; "for you have a trifle of fighting todo in Flanders by all accounts." She then brought him his goldpiecesand steadily refused to accept onethough he urged her againand again. Denys was somewhat convinced by her argumentbecause sheconcurred with his own wishesand was also cheered a little byfinding her so honest. It made him think a little better of thatworld in which his poor little friend was walking alone.

Footsoldiers in small bodies down to twos and threes were already on theroadmaking lazily towards Flandersmany of them pennilessbutpassed from town to town by the bailiffswith orders for food andlodging on the innkeepers.

Anthonyof Burgundy overtook numbers of theseand gathered them under hisstandardso that he entered Flanders at the head of six hundred men.On crossing the frontier he was met by his brother Baldwynwith menarmsand provisions; he organized his whole force and marched on inbattle array through several townsnot only without impedimentbutwith great acclamations. This loyalty called forth comments notaltogether gracious.

"Thisrebellion of ours is a bite" growled a soldier called Simonwho had elected himself Denys's comrade.

Denyssaid nothingbut made a little vow to St. Mars to shoot this Anthonyof Burgundy deadshould the rebellionthat had cost him Gerardprove no rebellion.

Thatafternoon they came in sight of a strongly fortified town; and awhisper went through the little army that this was a disaffectedplace.

Butwhen they came in sightthe great gate stood openand the towersthat flanked it on each side were manned with a single sentinelapiece. So the advancing force somewhat broke their array and marchedcarelessly.

Whenthey were within a furlongthe drawbridge across the moat roseslowly and creaking till it stood vertical against the fort and thevery moment it settled into this warlike attitudedown rattled theportcullis at the gateand the towers and curtains bristled withlances and crossbows.

Astern hum ran through the bastard's front rank and spread to therear.

"Halt!"cried he. The word went down the lineand they halted. "Heraldto the gate!" A pursuivant spurred out of the ranksand haltingtwenty yards from the gateraised his bugle with his herald's flaghanging down round itand blew a summons. A tall figure in brazenarmour appeared over the gate. A few fiery words passed between himand the heraldwhich were not audiblebut their import clearforthe herald blew a single keen and threatening note at the wallsandcame galloping back with war in his face. The bastard moved out ofthe line to meet himand their heads had not been together twoseconds ere he turned in his saddle and shouted"Pioneerstothe van!" and in a moment hedges were levelledand the forcetook the field and encamped just out of shot from the walls; and awaywent mounted officers flying southeastand westto the friendlytownsfor catapultspalisadesmanteletsraw hidestar-barrelscarpentersprovisionsand all the materials for a siege.

Thebright perspective mightily cheered one drooping soldier. At thefirst clang of the portcullis his eyes brightened and his templeflushed; and when the herald came back with battle in his eye he sawit in a momentand for the first time this many days cried"Couragetout le mondele diable est mort."

Ifthat great warrior heardhow he must have grinned!

Thebesiegers encamped a furlong from the wallsand made roads; kepttheir pikemen in camp ready for an assault when practicable; and sentforward their sapperspioneers. catapultiersand crossbowmen. Theseopened a siege by filling the moatand miningor breaching thewalletc. And as much of their work had to be done under close fireof arrowsquarelsboltsstonesand little rocksthe aboveartists "had need of a hundred eyes" and acted in concertwith a vigilanceand an amount of individual intelligencedaringand skillthat made a siege very interestingand even amusing: tolookers on.

Thefirst thing they did was to advance their carpenters behind rollingmanteletsto erect a stockade high and strong on the very edge ofthe moat. Some lives were lost at thisbut not many; for a strongforce of crossbowmenincluding Denysrolled their mantelets up andshot over the workmen's heads at every besieged who showed his noseand at every loopholearrow-slitor other aperturewhich commandedthe particular spot the carpenters happened to be upon. Covered bytheir condensed firethese soon raised a high palisade between themand the ordinary missiles from the pierced masonry.

Butthe besieged expected thisand ran out at night their boards orwooden penthouses on the top of the curtains. The curtains were builtwith square holes near the top to receive the beams that supportedthese structuresthe true defence of mediaeval fortsfrom which thebesieged delivered their missiles with far more freedom and varietyof range than they could shoot through the oblique but immovableloopholes of the curtainor even through the sloping crenelets ofthe higher towers. On this the besiegers brought up mangonelsandset them hurling huge stones at these woodworks and battering them topieces. Contemporaneously they built a triangular wooden tower ashigh as the curtainand kept it ready for useand just out of shot.

Thiswas a terrible sight to the besieged. These wooden towers had takenmany a town. They began to mine underneath that part of the moat thetower stood frowning at; and made other preparations to give it awarm reception. The besiegers also minedbut at another parttheirobject being to get under the square barbican and throw it down. Allthis time Denys was behind his mantelet with another arbalestrierprotecting the workmen and making some excellent shots. These endedby earning him the esteem of an unseen archerwho every now and thensent a winged compliment quivering into his mantelet. One came andstruck within an inch of the narrow slit through which Denys wassquinting at the moment. "Peste" cried heyou shoot wellmy friend. Come forth and receive my congratulations! Shall meritsuch as thine hide its head? Comradeit is one of those cursedEnglishmenwith his half ell shaft. I'll not die till I've had ashot at London wall."

Onthe side of the besieged was a figure that soon attracted greatnotice by promenading under fire. It was a tall knightclad incomplete brassand carrying a light but prodigiously long lancewith which he directed the movements of the besieged. And when anydisaster befell the besiegersthis tall knight and his long lancewere pretty sure to be concerned in it.

Myyoung reader will say"Why did not Denys shoot him?" Denysdid shoot him; every day of his life; other arbalestriers shot him;archers shot him. Everybody shot him. He was there to be shotapparently. But the abomination washe did not mind being shot. Nayworsehe got at last so demoralised as not to seem to know when hewas shot. He walked his battlements under fireas some stout skipperpaces his deck in a suit of Flushingcalmly oblivious of the Aprildrops that fall on his woollen armour. At last the besiegers gotspitefuland would not waste any more good steel on him; but cursedhim and his impervious coat of mail.

Hetook those missiles like the rest.

Gunpowderhas spoiled war. War was always detrimental to the solid interests ofmankind. But in old times it was good for something: it painted wellsang divinelyfurnished Iliads. But invisible butcheryunder a pallof smoke a furlong thickwho is any the better for that? Poet withhis note-book may repeat"Suave etiam belli certamina magnatueri;" but the sentiment is hollow and savours of cuckoo. Youcan't tueri anything but a horrid row. He didn't say"Suaveetiam ingentem caliginem tueri per campos instructam."

Theymanaged better in the Middle Ages.

Thissiege was a small affair; butsuch as it wasa writer or minstrelcould see itand turn an honest penny by singing it; so far then thesport was reasonableand served an end.

Itwas a bright dayclearbut not quite frosty. The efforts of thebesieging force were concentrated against a space of about twohundred and fifty yardscontaining two curtains and two towersoneof which was the square barbicanthe other had a pointed roof thatwas built to overlapresting on a stone machicoladeand by thismeans a row of dangerous crenelets between the roof and the masonrygrinned down at the nearer assailantsand looked not very unlike thegrinders of a modern frigate with each port nearly closed. Thecurtains were overlapped with penthouses somewhat shattered by themangonelstrebuchetsand other slinging engines of the besiegers.On the besiegers' edge of the moat was what seemed at first sight agigantic arsenallonger than it was broadpeopled by human antsand full of busyhonest industryand displaying all the variousmechanical science of the age in full operation. Here the lever atworkthere the winch and pulleyhere the balancethere thecapstan. Everywhere heaps of stonesand piles of fascinesmanteletsand rows of fire-barrels. Mantelets rollingthe hammertapping all dayhorses and carts in endless succession rattling upwith materials. Onlyon looking closer into the hive of industryyou might observe that arrows were constantly flying to and frothatthe cranes did not tenderly deposit their masses of stonebut flungthem with an indifference to propertythough on scientificprinciplesand that among the tubs full of arrowsand thetar-barrels and the beamsthe fagotsand other utensilshere andthere a workman or a soldier lay flatter than is usual in limitednapsand something more or less feathered stuck in themand bloodand other essentialsoozed out.

Atthe edge of the moat opposite the wooden towera strong penthousewhich they called "a cat" might be seen stealing towardsthe curtainand gradually filling up the moat with fascines andrubbishwhich the workmen flung out at its mouth. It was advanced bytwo sets of ropes passing round pulleysand each worked by awindlass at some distance from the cat. The knight burnt the firstcat by flinging blazing tar-barrels on it. So the besiegers made theroof of this one very steepand covered it with raw hidesand thetar-barrels could not harm it. Then the knight made signs with hisspearand a little trebuchet behind the walls began dropping stonesjust clear of the wall into the moatand at last they got the rangeand a stone went clean through the roof of the catand made an uglyhole.

Baldwynof Burgundy saw thisand losing his temperordered the greatcatapult that was battering the wood-work of the curtain opposite itto be turned and levelled slantwise at this invulnerable knight.Denys and his Englishman went to dinner. These two worthies beingeternally on the watch for one another had made a sort of distantacquaintanceand conversed by signsespecially on a topic that inpeace or war maintains the same importance. Sometimes Denys would puta piece of bread on the top of his manteletand then the archerwould hang something of the kind out by a string; or the order ofinvitation would be reversed. Anywaythey always managed to dinetogether.

Andnow the engineers proceeded to the unusual step of slingingfifty-pound stones at an individual.

Thiscatapult was a scientificsimpleand beautiful engineand veryeffective in vertical fire at the short ranges of the period.

Imaginea fir-tree cut downand set to turn round a horizontal axis on loftyuprightsbut not in equilibrio; three-fourths of the tree being onthe hither side. At the shorter and thicker end of the tree wasfastened a weight of half a ton. This butt end just before thedischarge pointed towards the enemy. By means of a powerful winch thelong tapering portion of the tree was forced down to the very groundand fastened by a bolt; and the stone placed in a sling attached tothe tree's nose. But this process of course raised the butt end withits huge weight high in the airand kept it there struggling in vainto come down. The bolt was now drawn; Gravityan institution whichflourished even thenresumed its swaythe short end swung furiouslydownthe long end went as furiously round upand at its highestelevation flung the huge stone out of the sling with a tremendousjerk. In this case the huge mass so flung missed the knight; but camedown near him on the penthouseand went through it like papermaking an awful gap in roof and floor. Through the latter fell outtwo inanimate objectsthe stone itself and the mangled body of abesieger it had struck. They fell down the high curtain sidedowndownand struck almost together the sullen waters of the moatwhichclosed bubbling on themand kept both the stone and the bone twohundred yearstill cannon mocked those oft perturbed watersandcivilization dried them.

"Aha!a good shot" cried Baldwyn of Burgundy.

Thetall knight retired. The besiegers hooted him.

Hereappeared on the platform of the barbicanhis helmet being justvisible above the parapet. He seemed very busyand soon an enormousTurkish catapult made its appearance on the platform and aided by theelevation at which it was plantedflung a twentypound stone some twohundred and forty yards in the air; it bounded after thatandknocked some dirt into the Lord Anthony's eyeand made him swear.The next stone struck a horse that was bringing up a sheaf of arrowsin a cartbowled the horse over dead like a rabbitand spilt thecart. It was then turned at the besiegers' wooden towersupposed tobe out of shot. Sir Turk slung stones cut with sharp edges onpurposeand struck it repeatedlyand broke it in several places.The besiegers turned two of their slinging engines on this monsterand kept constantly slinging smaller stones on to the platform of thebarbicanand killed two of the engineers. But the Turk disdained toretort. He flung a forty-pound stone on to the besiegers' greatcatapultand hitting it in the neighbourhood of the axisknockedthe whole structure to piecesand sent the engineers skipping andyelling.

Inthe afternoonas Simon was running back to his mantelet from apalisade where he had been shooting at the besiegedDenyspeepingthrough his slitsaw the poor fellow suddenly stare and hold out hisarmsthen roll on his faceand a feathered arrow protruded from hisback. The archer showed himself a moment to enjoy his skill. It wasthe Englishman. Denysalready preparedshot his boltand themurderous archer staggered away wounded. But poor Simon never moved.His wars were over.

"Iam unlucky in my comrades" said Denys.

Thenext morning an unwelcome sight greeted the besieged. The cat wascovered with mattresses and raw hidesand fast filling up the moat.The knight stoned itbut in vain; flung burning tar-barrels on itbut in vain. Then with his own hands he let down by a rope a bag ofburning sulphur and pitchand stunk them out. But Baldwynarmedlike a lobsterranand bounding on the roofcut the stringandthe work went on. Then the knight sent fresh engineers into the mineand undermined the place and underpinned it with beamsand coveredthe beams thickly with grease and tar.

Atbreak of day the moat was filledand the wooden tower began to moveon its wheels towards a part of the curtain on which two catapultswere already playing to breach the hoardsand clear the way. Therewas something awful and magical in its approach without visibleagencyfor it was driven by internal rollers worked by leverage. Onthe top was a platformwhere stood the first assailing partyprotected in front by the drawbridge of the turretwhich stoodvertical till lowered on to the wall; but better protected by fullsuits of armour. The beseiged slung at the towerand struck itoftenbut in vain. It was well defended with mattresses and hidesand presently was at the edge of the moat. The knight bade fire themine underneath it.

Thenthe Turkish engine flung a stone of half a hundredweight rightamongst the knightsand carried two away with it off the tower on tothe plain. One lay and writhed: the other neither moved nor spake.

Andnow the besieging catapults flung blazing tar-barrelsand fired thehoards on both sidesand the assailants ran up the ladders behindthe towerand lowered the drawbridge on to the battered curtainwhile the catapults in concert flung tar-barrels and fired theadjoining works to dislodge the defenders. The armed men on theplatform sprang on the bridgeled by Baldwyn. The invulnerableknight and his men-at-arms met themand a fearful combat ensuedinwhich many a figure was seen to fall headlong down off the narrowbridge. But fresh besiegers kept swarming up behind the towerandthe besieged were driven off the bridge.

Anotherminuteand the town was taken; but so well had the firing of themine been timedthat just at this instant the underpinners gave wayand the tower suddenly sank away from the wallstearing thedrawbridge clear and pouring the soldiers off it against the masonryand on to the dry moat. The besieged uttered a fierce shoutand in amoment surrounded Baldwyn and his fellows; but strange to sayoffered them quarter. While a party disarmed and disposed of theseothers fired the turret in fifty places with a sort of hand grenades.At this work who so busy as the tall knight. He put the fire-bags onhis long spearand thrust them into the doomed structure late soterrible. To do this he was obliged to stand on a projecting beam ofthe shattered hoardholding on by the hand of a pikeman to steadyhimself. This provoked Denys; he ran out from his mantelethoping toescape notice in the confusionand levelling his crossbow missed theknight cleanbut sent his bolt into the brain of the pikemanandthe tall knight fell heavily from the walllance and all. Denysgazed wonder-struck; and in that unlucky momentsuddenly he felt hisarm hotthen coldand there was an English arrow skewering it.

Thisepisode was unnoticed in a much greater matter. The knighthisarmour glittering in the morning sunfell headlongbut turning ashe neared the waterstruck it with a slap that sounded a mile off.

Noneever thought to see him again. But he fell at the edge of thefascines on which the turret stood all cocked on one sideand hisspear stuck into them under waterand by a mighty effort he got tothe sidebut could not get out. Anthony sent a dozen knights with awhite flag to take him prisoner. He submitted like a lambbut saidnothing.

Hewas taken to Anthony's tent.

Thatworthy laughed at first at the sight of his muddy armour. butpresentlyfrowningsaid"I marvelsirthat so good a knightas you should know his devoir so ill as turn rebeland give us allthis trouble."

"Iam nun-nun-nun-nun-nun-no knight."

"Whatthen?"

"Ahosier."

"Awhat? Then thy armour shall be stripped offand thou shalt be tiedto a stake in front of the worksand riddled with arrows for awarning to traitors."

"N-n-n-n-no!duda-duda-duda-duda-don't do that."

"Whynot?"

"Tuta-tuta-tuta-townsfolkwill-h-h-h-hang t'other buba-buba-buba-buba-bastard."

"Whatwhom?"

"Yourbub-bub-bub-brother Baldwyn."

"Whathave you knaves ta'en him?"

Thewarlike hosier nodded.

"Hangthe fool!" said Anthonypeevishly.

Thewarlike hosier watched his eyeand doffing his helmettook out ofthe lining an intercepted letter from the dukebidding the saidAnthony come to court immediatelyas he was to represent the courtof Burgundy at the court of England; was to go over and receive theEnglish king's sisterand conduct her to her bridegroomthe Earl ofCharolois. The mission was one very soothing to Anthony's prideandalso to his love of pleasure. For Edward the Fourth held the gayestand most luxurious court in Europe. The sly hosier saw he longed tobe offand said"We'll gega-gega-gega-gega-give ye a thousandangels to raise the siege."

"AndBaldwyn?"

"I'llgega-gega-gega-gega-go and send him with the money.

Itwas now dinner-time; and a flag of truce being hoisted on both sidesthe sham knight and the true one dined together and came to afriendly understanding.

"Butwhat is your grievancemy good friend?"

"Tuta-tuta-tuta-tuta-toomuch taxes."

Denyson finding the arrow in his right armturned his backwhich wasprotected by a long shieldand walked sulkily into camp. He was metby the Comte de Jarnacwho had seen his brilliant shotand findinghim wounded into the bargaingave him a handful of broad pieces.

"Hastgot the better of thy griefarbalestriermethinks."

"Mygriefyes; but not my love. As soon as ever I have put down thisrebellionI go to Hollandand there I shall meet with him."

Thisevent was nearer than Denys thought. He was relieved from servicenext dayand though his wound was no trifleset out with a stoutheart to rejoin his friend in Holland.

 

CHAPTERXLIII

Achange came over Margaret Brandt. She went about her household dutieslike one in a dream. If Peter did but speak a little quickly to hershe started and fixed two terrified eyes on him. She went less oftento her friend Margaret Van Eyckand was ill at her ease when there.Instead of meeting her warm old friend's caressesshe used toreceive them passive and tremblingand sometimes almost shrink fromthem. But the most extraordinary thing wasshe never would gooutside her own house in daylight. When she went to Tergou it wasafter duskand she returned before daybreak. She would not even goto matins. At last Peterunobservant as he wasnoticed itandasked her the reason.

"Methinksthe folk all look at me.

OnedayMargaret Van Eyck asked her what was the matter.

Ascared look and a flood of tears were all the reply; the old ladyexpostulated gently. "Whatsweetheartafraid to confide yoursorrows to me?"

"Ihave no sorrowsmadambut of my own making. I am kinder treatedthan I deserve; especially in this house."

"Thenwhy not come oftenermy dear?"

"Icome oftener than I deserve;" and she sighed deeply.

"ThereReicht is bawling for you" said Margaret Van Eyck; "gochild! - what on earth can it be?"

Turningpossibilities over in her mindshe thought Margaret must bemortified at the contempt with which she was treated by Gerard'sfamily. "I will take them to task for itat least such of themas are women;" and the very next day she put on her hood andcloak and followed by Reichtwent to the hosier's house. Catherinereceived her with much respectand thanked her with tears for herkindness to Gerard. But whenencouraged by thisher visitordiverged to Margaret BrandtCatherine's eyes driedand her lipsturned to half the sizeand she looked as only obstinateignorantwomen can look. When they put on this cast of featuresyou might aswell attempt to soften or convince a brick wall. Margaret Van Eycktriedbut all in vain. So thennot being herself used to bethwartedshe got provokedand at last went out hastily with anabrupt and mutilated curtseywhich Catherinereturned with an airrather of defiance than obeisance. Outside the door Margaret Van Eyckfound Reicht conversing with a pale girl on crutches. Margaret VanEyck was pushing by them with heightened colourand a scornful tossintended for the whole familywhen suddenly a little delicate handglided timidly into hersand looking round she saw two dove-likeeyeswith the water in themthat sought hers gratefully and at thesame time imploringly. The old lady read this wonderful lookcomplexas it wasand down went her choler. She stopped and kissed Kate'sbrow. "I see" said she. "MindthenI leave it toyou." Returned homeshe said - "I have been to a houseto-daywhere I have seen a very common thing and a very uncommonthing; I have seen a stupidobstinate womanand I have seen anangel in the fleshwith a face-if I had it here I'd take down mybrushes once more and try and paint it."

LittleKate did not belie the good opinion so hastily formed of her. Shewaited a better opportunityand told her mother what she had learnedfrom Reicht Heynesthat Margaret had shed her very blood for Gerardin the wood.

"Seemotherhow she loves him."

"Whowould not love him?"

"ohmotherthink of it! Poor thing."

"Aywench. She has her own troubleno doubtas well as we ours. I can'tabide the sight of bloodlet alone my own."

Thiswas a point gained; but when Kate tried to follow it up she wasstopped short.

Abouta month after this a soldier of the Dalgetty tribereturning fromservice in Burgundybrought a letter one evening to the hosier'shouse. He was away on business; but the rest of the family sat atSupper. The soldier laid the letter on the table by Catherineandrefusing all guerdon for bringing itwent off to Sevenbergen.

Theletter was unfolded and spread out; and curiously enoughthough notone of them could readthey could all tell it was Gerard'shandwriting.

"Andyour father must be away" cried Catherine. "Are ye notashamed of yourselves? not one that can read your brother's letter."

Butalthough the words were to them what hieroglyphics are to ustherewas something in the letter they could read. There is an art canspeak without words; unfettered by the penman's limitsit can stealthrough the eye into the heart and brainalike of the learned andunlearned; and it can cross a frontier or a seayet lose nothing. Itis at the mercy of no translator; for it writes an universallanguage.

Whenthereforethey saw this
[a picture of two hands claspedtogether]

whichGerard had drawn with his pencil between the two short paragraphsofwhich his letter consistedthey read itand it went straight totheir hearts.

Gerardwas bidding them farewell

Asthey gazed on that simple sketchin every turn and line of whichthey recognized his mannerGerard seemed presentand bidding themfarewell.

Thewomen wept over it till they could see it no longer.

Gilessaid"Poor Gerard!" in a lower voice than seemed to belongto him.

EvenCornelis and Sybrandt felt a momentary remorseand sat silent andgloomy.

Buthow to get the words read to them. They were loth to show theirignorance and their emotion to a stranger.

"TheDame Van Eyck?" said Kate timidly.

"Andso I willKate. She has a good heart. She loves Gerardtoo. Shewill be glad to hear of him. I was short with her when she came here;but I will make my submissionand then she will tell me what my poorchild says to me."

Shewas soon at Margaret Van Eyck's house. Reicht took her into a roomand said"Bide a minute; she is at her orisons."

Therewas a young woman in the room seated pensively by the stove; but sherose and courteously made way for the visitor.

"Thankyouyoung lady; the winter nights are coldand your stove is atreat." Catherine thenwhile warming her handsinspected hercompanion furtively from head to footinclusive. The young personwore an ordinary wimplebut her gown was trimmed with furwhichwasin those daysalmost a sign of superior rank or wealth. Butwhat most struck Catherine was the candour and modesty of the face.She felt sure of sympathy from so good a countenanceand began togossip.

"Nowwhat think you brings me hereyoung lady? It is a letter! a letterfrom my poor boy that is far away in some savage part or other. And Itake shame to say that none of us can read it. I wonder whether youcan read?"

"Yes."

"Canyenow? It is much to your creditmy dear. I dare say she won't belong; but every minute is an hour to a poor longing mother."

"Iwill read it to you."

"Blessyoumy dear; bless you!"

Inher unfeigned eagerness she never noticed the suppressed eagernesswith which the hand was slowly put out to take the letter. She didnot see the tremor with which the fingers closed on it.

"Comethenread it to meprithee. I am wearying for it."

"Thefirst words are'To my honoured parents.'"

"Ay!and he always did honour uspoor soul"

"'Godand the saints have you in His holy keepingand bless you by nightand by day. Your one harsh deed is forgotten; your years of loveremembered.'"

Catherinelaid her hand on her bosomand sank back in her chair with one longsob.

"Thencomes thismadam. It doth speak for itself; 'a long farewell.'"

"Aygo on; bless yougirl you give me sorry comfort. Still 'tiscomfort."

"'Tomy brothers Cornelis and Sybrandt - Be content; you will see me nomore!'"

"Whatdoes that mean? Ah!"

"'Tomy sister Kate. Little angel of my father's house. Be kind to her -'Ah!"

"Thatis Margaret Brandtmy dear - his sweetheartpoor soul. I've notbeen kind to hermy dear. Forgive meGerard!"

"'- for poor Gerard's sake: since grief to her is death to me- Ah!"And natureresenting the poor girl's struggle for unnaturalcomposuresuddenly gave wayand she sank from her chair and layinsensiblewith the letter in her hand and her head on Catherine'sknees.

 

CHAPTERXLIV

Experiencedwomen are not frightened when a woman faintsor do they hastilyattribute it to anything but physical causeswhich they have oftenseen produce it. Catherine bustled about; laid the girl down with herhead on the floor quite flatopened the windowand unloosed herdress as she lay. Not till she had done all this did she step to thedoor and sayrather loudly:

"Comehereif you please."

MargaretVan Eyck and Reicht cameand found Margaret lying quite flatandCatherine beating her hands.

"Ohmy poor girl! What have you done to her?"

"Me?"said Catherine angrily.

"Whathas happenedthen?"

"Nothingmadam; nothing more than is natural in her situation."

MargaretVan Eyck coloured with ire.

"Youdo well to speak so coolly" said she"you that are thecause of her situation."

"ThatI am not" said Catherine bluntly; "nor any woman born."

"What!was it not you and your husband that kept them apart? and now he hasgone to Italy all alone. Situation indeed! You have broken her heartamongst you."

"Whymadam? Who is it then? in Heaven's name! To hear youone would thinkthis was my Gerard's lass. But that can't be.This fur never cost lessthan five crowns the ell; besidesthis young gentlewoman is a wife;or ought to be."

"Ofcourse she ought. And who is the cause she is none? Who came beforethem at the very altar?"

"Godforgive themwhoever it was" said Catherine gravely; "meit was notnor my man."

"Well"said the othera little softened"now you have seen herperhaps you will not be quite so bitter against her madam. She iscoming tothank Heaven."

"Mebitter against her?" said Catherine; "nothat is all over.Poor soul! trouble behind her and trouble afore her; and to think ofmy setting herof all living womento read Gerard's letter to me.Ayand that was what made her go offI'll be sworn. She is comingto. Whatsweetheart! be not afeardnone are here but friends"

Theyseated her in an easy chair. As the colour was creeping back to herface and lips. Catherine drew Margaret Van Eyck aside.

"Isshe staying with youif you please?"

"Nomadam."

"Iwouldn't let her go back to Sevenbergen to-nightthen."

"Thatis as she pleases. She still refuses to bide the night."

"Aybut you are older than she is; you can make her. Thereshe isbeginning to notice."

Catherinethen put her mouth to Margaret Van Eyck's ear for half a moment; itdid not seem time enough to whisper a wordfar less a sentence. Buton some topics females can flash communication to female likelightningor thought itself.

Theold lady startedand whispered back -

"It'sfalse! it is a calumny! it is monstrous! look at her face. It isblasphemy to accuse such a face."

"Tut!tut! tut!" said the other; "you might as well say this isnot my hand. I ought to know; and I tell ye it is so.

Thenmuch to Margaret Van Eyck's surpriseshe went up to the girlandtaking her round the neckkissed her warmly.

"Isuffered for Gerardand you shed your blood for him I do hear; hisown words show me that I have been to blamethe very words you haveread to me. AyGerardmy childI have held aloof from her; butI'll make it up to her once I begin. You are my daughter from thishour."

Anotherwarm embrace sealed this hasty compactand the woman of impulse wasgone.

Margaretlay back in her chairand a feeble smile stole over her face.Gerard's mother had kissed her and called her daughter; but the nextmoment she saw her old friend looking at her with a vexed air.

"Iwonder you let that woman kiss you."

"Hismother!" murmured Margarethalf reproachfully.

"Motheror no motheryou would not let her touch you if you knew what shewhispered in my ear about you."

"Aboutme?" said Margaret faintly.

"Ayabout youwhom she never saw till to-night." The old lady wasproceedingwith some hesitation and choice of languageto makeMargaret share her indignationwhen an unlooked-for interruptionclosed her lips.

Theyoung woman slid from her chair to her kneesand began to praypiteously to her for pardon. From the words and the manner of herpenitence a bystander would have gathered she had inflicted somecruel wrongsome intolerable insultupon her venerable friend.

 

CHAPTERXLV

Thelittle party at the hosier's house sat at table discussing the recenteventwhen their mother returnedand casting a piercing glance allround the little circlelaid the letter flat on the table. Sherepeated every word of it by memoryfollowing the lines with herfingerto cheat herself and bearers into the notion that she couldread the wordsor nearly. Thensuddenly lifting her headshe castanother keen look on Cornelis and Sybrandt: their eyes fell.

Onthis the storm that had long been brewing burst on their heads.

Catherineseemed to swell like an angry hen ruffling her feathersand out ofher mouth came a Rhone and Saone of wisdom and twaddleof great andmean invectivesuch as no male that ever was born could utter in onecurrent; and not many women.

Thefollowing is a fair though a small sample of her words: only theywere uttered all in one breath

"Ihave long had my doubts that you blew the flame betwixt Gerard andyour fatherand set that old rogueGhysbrechton. And nowhereare Gerard's own written words to prove it. You have driven your ownflesh and blood into a far landand robbed the mother that bore youof her darlingthe pride of her eyethe joy of her heart. But youare all of a piece from end to end. When you were all boys togethermy others were a comfort; but you were a curse: mischievous and sly;and took a woman half a day to keep your clothes whole: for why? workwears clothbut play cuts it. With the beard comes prudence; butnone came to you: still the last to go to bedand the last to leaveit; and why? because honesty goes to bed earlyand industry risesbetimes; where there are two lie-a-beds in a house there are a pairof ne'er-do-weels. Often I've sat and looked at your waysandwondered where ye came from: ye don't take after your fatherand yeare no more like me than a wasp is to an ant; sure ye were changed inthe cradleor the cuckoo dropped ye on my floor: for ye have not ourhandsnor our hearts: of all my bloodnone but you ever jeered themthat God afflicted; but often when my back was turned I've heard youmock at Gilesbecause he is not as big as some; and at my lily Katebecause she is not so strong as a Flanders mare. After that rob achurch an you will! for you can be no worse in His eyes that madeboth Kate and Gilesand in mine that suffered for thempoordarlingsas I did for youyou paltryunfeelingtreasonable curs!NoI will not hushmy daughterthey have filled the cup too full.It takes a deal to turn a mother's heart against the sons she hasnursed upon her knees; and many is the time I have winked andwouldn't see too muchand bitten my tonguelest their father shouldknow them as I do; he would have put them to the door that moment.But now they have filled the cup too full. And where got ye all thismoney? For this last month you have been rolling in it. You neverwrought for it. I wish I may never hear from other mouths how ye gotit. It is since that night you were out so lateand your head cameback so swelledCornelis. Sloth and greed are ill-matedmy masters.Lovers of money must sweat or steal. Wellif you robbed any poorsoul of itit was some womanI'll go bail; for a man would driveyou with his naked hand. No matterit is good for one thing. It hasshown me how you will guide our gear if ever it comes to be yourn. Ihave watched youmy ladsthis while. You have spent a groat to-daybetween you. And I spend scarce a groat a weekand keep you allgood and bad. No I give up waiting for the shoes that will maybe walkbehind your coffin; for this shop and this house shall never beyourn. Gerard is our heir; poor Gerardwhom you have banished anddone your best to kill; after that never call me mother again! Butyou have made him tenfold dearer to me. My poor lost boy! I shallsoon see him again shall hold him in my armsand set him on myknees. Ayyou may stare! You are too craftyand yet not craftyenow. You cut the stalk away; but you left the seed - the seed thatshall outgrow youand outlive you. Margaret Brandt is quickand itis Gerard'sand what is Gerard's is mine; and I have prayed thesaints it may be a boy; and it will - it must. Katewhen I found itwas somy bowels yearned over her child unborn as if it had been myown. He is our heir. He will outlive us. You will not; for a badheart in a carcass is like the worm in the nutsoon brings the bodyto dust. SoKatetake down Gerard's bib and tucker that are in thedrawer you wot ofand one of these days we will carry them toSevenbergen. We will borrow Peter Buyskens' cartand go comfortGerard's wife under her burden. She is his wife. Who is GhysbrechtVan Swieten? Can he come between a couple and the altarand sunderthose that God and the priest make one? She is my daughterand I amas proud of her as I am of youKatealmost; and as for youkeepout of my way awhilefor you are like the black dog in my eyes.

Cornelisand Sybrandt took the hint and slunk outaching with remorseandimpenitenceand hate. They avoided her eye as much as ever theycould; and for many days she never spoke a wordgoodbadorindifferentto either of them. Liberaverat animum suum.

 

CHAPTERXLVI

Catherinewas a good housewife who seldom left home for a dayand then onething or another always went amiss. She was keenly conscious of thisand watching for a slack tide in things domesticput off her visitto Sevenbergen from day to dayand one afternoon that it reallycould have been managedPeter Buyskens' mule was out of the way.

Atlastone day Eli asked her before all the familywhether it wastrue she had thought of visiting Margaret Brandt.

"Aymy man."

"ThenI do forbid you."

"Ohdo you?"

"Ido."

"Thenthere is no more to be saidI suppose" said shecolouring.

"Nota word" replied Eli sternly.

Whenshe was alone with her daughter she was very severenot upon Elibut upon herself.

"Behovedme rather go thither like a cat at a robin. But this was me all over.I am like a silly hen that can lay no egg without cacklingandconvening all the house to rob her on't. Next time you and I areafter aught the least amisslet's do't in Heaven's name then andthereand not take time to think about itfar less talk; so thenif they take us to task we can sayalack we knew nought; we thoughtno ill; nowwho'd ever? and so forth. For two pins I'd go thither inall their teeth."

Defianceso wild and picturesque staggered Kate. "Naymotherwithpatience father will come round."

"Andso will Michaelmas; but when? and I was so bent on you seeing thegirl. Then we could have put our heads together about her. Say whatthey willthere is no judging body or beast but by the eye. And wereI to have fifty more sons I'd ne'er thwart one of them's fancytillsuch time as I had clapped my eyes upon her and seen Quicksands; sayyouI should have thought of that before condemning Gerard hisfancy; but therelife is a schooland the lesson ne'er done; we putdown one fault and take up t'otherand so go blundering hereandblundering theretill we blunder into our gravesand there's an endof us."

"Mother"said Kate timidly.

"Wellwhat is a-coming now? no good news thoughby the look of you. Whaton earth can make the poor wretch so scared?"

"Anavowal she hath to make" faltered Kate faintly.

"Nowthere is a noble word for ye" said Catherine proudly. "OurGerard taught thee thatI'll go bail. Come thenout with thyvowel."

"Wellthensooth to sayI have seen her."

"And?"

"Andspoken with her to boot."

"Andnever told me? After this marvels are dirt."

"Motheryou were so hot against her. I waited till I could tell you withoutangering you worse."

"Ay"said Catherinehalf sadlyhalf bitterly"like motherlikedaughter; cowardice it is our bane. The others I whiles buffetorhow would the house fare? but did youKateever have harsh word orlook from your poor motherthat you- NayI will not have ye crygirl; ten to one ye had your reason; so rise upbrave heartandtell me allbetter late than ne'er; and first and foremost wheneverand how everwend you to Sevenbergen wi' your poor crutchesand I not know?"

"Inever was there in my life; andmammy dearto say that I ne'erwished to see her that I will notbut I ne'er went nor sought to seeher."

"Therenow" said Catherine disputatively"said I not 'twas allunlike my girl to seek her unbeknown to me? Come nowfor I'm allagog.

"Thenthus 'twas. It came to my earsno matter howand pritheegoodmotheron my knees ne'er ask me howthat Gerard was a prisoner inthe Stadthouse tower."

"Ah"

"Byfather's behest as 'twas pretended."

Catherineuttered a sigh that was almost a moan. "Blacker than I thought"she muttered faintly.

"Gilesand I went out at night to bid him be of good cheer. And there at thetower foot was a brave lassquite strange to me I vowon the sameerrand."

"Lookeethere nowKate."

"Atfirst we did properly frighten one anotherthrough the place his badnameand our poor heads being so full o' divelsand we whitened abit in moonshine. But next momentquo' I'You are Margaret.' 'Andyou are Kate' quo' she. Think on't!"

"Didone ever? 'Twas Gerard! He will have been talking backards andforrards of thee to herand her to thee."

Inreturn for thisKate bestowed on Catherine one of the prettiestpresents in nature - the composite kissi.e.she imprinted on hercheek a single kisswhich said -
1. Quite correct.
2. Goodclever motherfor guessing so right and quick.
3. How sweet forus twain to be' of one mind again after
never having beenotherwise.
4. Etc.

"Nowthenspeak thy mindchildGerard is not here. Alaswhat am Isaying? would to Heaven he were."

"Wellthenmothershe is comelyand wrongs her picture but little."

"Ehdear; hark to young folk! I am for good actsnot good looks. Lovesshe my boy as he did ought to be loved?"

"Sevenbergenis farther from the Stadthouse than we are" said Katethoughtfully; "yet she was there afore me."

Catherinenodded intelligence.

"Naymoreshe had got him out ere I came. Aydown from the captive'stower."

Catherineshook her head incredulously. "The highest tower for miles! Itis not feasible."

"'Tissooth though. She and an old man she brought found means and wit tosend him up a rope. There 'twas dangling from his prison. and ourGiles went up it. When first I saw it hangI said'This isglamour.' But when the frank lass's arms came round meand herbosom' did beat on mineand her cheeks wetthen said I''Tis notglamour: 'tis love.' For she is not like mebut lusty and able; anddear hearteven Ipoor frail creaturedo feel sometimes as I couldmove the world for them I love: I love youmother. And she lovesGerard."

"Godbless her for't! God bless her!"

"But

"Butwhatlamb?"

"Herloveis it for very certain honest? 'Tis most strange; but that verythingwhich hath warmed your hearthath somewhat cooled minetowards her; poor soul. She is no wifeyou knowmotherwhen all isdone."

"Humph!They have stood at the altar together."

"Aybut they went as they camemaid and bachelor."

"Theparsonsaith he so?"

"Nayfor that I know not."

"ThenI'll take no man's word but his in such a tangled skein." Aftersome reflection she added"Natheless art rightgirl; I'll toSevenbergen alone. A wife I am but not a slave. We are all in thedark here. And she holds the clue. I must question herand no oneby; least of all you. I'll not take anylily to a house Wi' a spotnonot to a palace o' gold and silver.

Themore Catherine pondered this conversationthe more she felt drawntowards Margaretand moreover "she was all agog" withcuriositya potent passion with us alland nearly omnipotent withthose who like Catherinedo not slake it with reading. At lastonefine dayafter dinnershe whispered to Kate"Keep the housefrom going to piecesan ye can;" and donned her best kirtle andhoodand her scarlet clocked hose and her new shoesand trudgedbriskly off to Sevenbergentroubling no man's mule.

Whenshe got there she inquired where Margaret Brandt lived. The firstperson she asked shook his headand said - "The name is strangeto me." She went a little farther and asked a girl of aboutfifteen who was standing at a door. "Father" said thegirlspeaking into the house"here is another after thatmagician's daughter." The man came out and told Catherine PeterBrandt's cottage was just outside the town on the east side. "Youmay see the chimney hence;" and he pointed it out to her. "Butyou will not find them thereneither father nor daughter; they haveleft the town this weekbless you."

"Saynot sogood manand me walken all the way from Tergou."

"FromTergou? then you must ha' met the soldier."

"Whatsoldier? ayI did meet a soldier."

"Wellthenyon soldier was here seeking that self-same Margaret."

"Ayand warn't a mad with us because she was gone?" put in the girl."His long beard and her cheek are no strangersI warrant."

"Sayno more than ye know" said Catherine sharply. "You areyoung to take to slandering your elders. Stay! tell we more aboutthis soldiergood man.

"NayI know no more than that he came hither seeking Margaret BrandtandI told him she and her father had made a moonlight flit on't this daysennightand that some thought the devil had flown away with thembeing magicians. 'And' says he'the devil fly away with thee forthy ill news;' that was my thanks. 'But I doubt 'tis a lie' said he.'An you think so' said I'go and see.' 'I will' said heand burstout wi' a hantle o' gibberish: my wife thinks 'twas curses; and hiedhim to the cottage. Presently back a comesand sings t'other tune.'You were right and I was wrong' says heand shoves a silver coinin my hand. Show it the wifesome of ye; then she'll believe me; Ihave been called a liar once to-day."

"Itneeds not" said Catherineinspecting the coin all the same.

"Andhe seemed quiet and sad likedidn't he nowwench?"

"Thata did" said the young woman warmly; "anddamehe wasjust as pretty a man as ever I clapped eyes on. Cheeks like a roseand shining beardand eyes in his head like sloes."

"Isaw he was well bearded" said Catherine; "butfor therestat my age I scan them not as when I was young and foolish. Buthe seemed right civil: doffed his bonnet to me as I had been a queenand I did drop him my best reverencefor manners beget manners. Butlittle I wist he had been her light o' loveand most likely the--Who bakes for this town?"

Themannot being acquainted with heropened his eyes at thistransitionswift and smooth.

"Welldamethere be two; John Bush and Eric Donaldsonthey both bide inthis street."

"ThenGod be with yougood people" said sheand proceeded; but hersprightly foot came flat on the ground nowand no longer struck itwith little jerks and cocking heel. She asked the bakers whetherPeter Brandt had gone away in their debt. Bush said they were notcustomers. Donaldson said"Not a stiver: his daughter had comeround and paid him the very night they went. Didn't believe they oweda copper in the town." So Catherine got all the information ofthat kind she wanted with very little trouble.

"Canyou tell me what sort this Margaret was?" said sheas sheturned to go.

"Wellsomewhat too reserved for my taste. I like a chatty customer - whenI'm not too busy. But she bore a high character for being a gooddaughter."

"'Tisno small praise. A well-looking lassI am told?"

"Whywhence come youwyfe?"

"FromTergou."

"Ohay. Well you shall judge: the lads clept her 'the beauty ofSevenbergen;' the lasses did scout it merrilyand terribly pulledher to piecesand found so many faults no two could agree where thefault lay."

"Thatis enough" said Catherine. "I seethe bakers are no foolsin Sevenbergenand the young women no shallower than in otherburghs."

Shebought a manchet of breadpartly out of sympathy and justice (shekept a shop)partly to show her household how much better bread shegave them daily; and returned to Tergou dejected.

Katemet her outside the town with beaming eyes.

"WellKatelassit is a happy thing I went; I am heartbroken. Gerard hasbeen sore abused. The child is none of ournnor the mother from thishour."

"AlasmotherI fathom not your meaning."

"Askme no moregirlbut never mention her name to me again. That isall."

Kateacquiesced with a humble sighand they went home together.

Theyfound a soldier seated tranquilly by their fire. The moment theyentered the door he roseand saluted them civilly. They stood andlooked at him; Kate with some little surprisebut Catherine with agreat dealand with rising indignation.

"Whatmakes you here?" was Catherine's greeting.

"Icame to seek after Margaret."

"Wellwe know no such person."

"Saynot sodame; sure you know her by nameMargaret Brandt."

"Wehave heard of her for that matter - to our cost."

"Comesdameprithee tell me at least where she bides."

"Iknow not where she bidesand care not."

Denysfelt sure this was a deliberate untruth. He bit his lip. "WellI looked to find myself in an enemy's country at this Tergou; butmaybe if ye knew all ye would not be so dour."

"Ido know all" replied Catherine bitterly. "This morn I knewnought." Then suddenly setting her arms akimbo she told him witha raised voice and flashing eyes she wondered at his cheek sittingdown by that hearth of all hearths in the world.

"MaySatan fly away with your hearth to the lake of fire and brimstone"shouted Denyswho could speak Flemish fluently. "Your ownservant bade me sit there till you cameelse I had ne'er troubledyour hearth. My malison on itand on the churlish roof-tree thatgreets an unoffending stranger this way" and he strode scowlingto the door.

"Oh!oh!" ejaculated Catherinefrightenedand also a littleconscience-stricken; and the virago sat suddenly down and burst intotears. Her daughter followed suit quietlybut without loss of time.

Ashrewd writernow unhappily lost to ushas somewhere the followingdialogue

She."I feel all a woman's weakness."

He."Then you are invincible."

Denysby anticipationconfirmed that valuable statement; he stood at thedoor looking ruefully at the havoc his thunderbolt of eloquence hadmade.

"Naywife" said he"weep not neither for a soldier's hastyword. I mean not all I said. Whyyour house is your ownand whatright in it have I? There nowI'll go."

"Whatis to do?" said a grave manly voice.

Itwas Eli; he had come in from the shop.

"Hereis a ruffian been a-scolding of your women folk and making them cry"explained Denys.

"LittleKatewhat is't? for ruffians do not use to call themselvesruffians" said Eli the sensible.

Ereshe could explain"Hold your tonguegirl" saidCatherine; "Muriel bade him sat downand I knew not thatandwyted on him; and he was going and leaving his malison on usrootand branch. I was never so becursed in all my daysoh! oh! oh!"

"Youwere both somewhat to blame; both you and he" said Eli calmly."Howeverwhat the servant says the master should still standto. We keep not open housebut yet we are not poor enough to grudgea seat at our hearth in a cold day to a wayfarer with an honest faceandas I thinka wounded man. Soend all maliceand sit ye down!"

"Wounded?"cried mother and daughter in a breath.

"Thinkyou a soldier slings his arm for sport?"

"Nay'tis but an arrow" said Denys cheerfully.

"Butan arrow?" said Katewith concentrated horror. "Where wereour eyesmother?"

"Nayin good sootha trifle. WhichhoweverI will pray mesdames toaccept as an excuse for my vivacity. 'Tis these little foolishtrifling wounds that fret a manworthy sir. Whylook ye nowsweeter temper than our Gerard never breathedyetwhen the bear didbut strike a piece no bigger than a crown out of his calfhe turnedso hot and choleric y'had said he was no son of yoursbut got by thegood knight Sir John Pepper on his wife dame Mustard; who is this? adwarf? your servantMaster Giles."

"Yourservantsoldier" roared the newcomer. Denys started. He hadnot counted on exchanging greetings with a petard.

Denys'swords had surprised his hostsbut hardly more than their deportmentnow did him. They all three came creeping up to where he satandlooked down into him with their lips partedas if he had been somestrange phenomenon.

Andgrowing agitation succeeded to amazement.

"Nowhush!" said Eli"let none speak but I. Young man"said he solemnly"in God's name who are youthat know usthough we know you notand that shake our hearts speaking to us of -the absent-our poor rebellious son: whom Heaven forgive and bless?"

"Whatmaster" said Denyslowering his voice"hath he not writto you? hath he not told you of meDenys of Burgundy?"

"Hehath writbut three linesand named not Denys of Burgundynor anystranger."

"AyI mind the long letter was to his sweetheartthis Margaretand shehas decampedplague take herand how I am to find her Heavenknows."

"Whatshe is not your sweetheart then?"

"Whodame? an't please you."

"WhyMargaret Brandt."

"Howcan my comrade's sweetheart be mine? I know her not from Noah'sniece; how should I? I never saw her."

"Whistwith this idle chatKate" said Eli impatiently"and letthe young man answer me. How came you to know Gerardour son?Prithee now think on a parent's caresand answer me straightforwardlike a soldier as thou art."

"Andshall. I was paid off at Flushingand started for Burgundy. On theGerman frontier I lay at the same inn with Gerard. I fancied him. Isaid'Be my comrade.' He was loth at first; consented presently.Many a weary league we trode together. Never were truer comrades:never will be while earth shall last. First I left my route a bit tobe with him: then he his to be with me. We talked of Sevenbergen andTergou a thousand times; and of all in this house. We had ourtroubles on the road; but battling them together made them light. Isaved his life from a bear; he mine in the Rhine: for he swims like aduck and I like a hod o' bricks and one another's lives at an inn inBurgundywhere we two held a room for a good hour against sevencut-throatsand crippled one and slew two; and your son did hisdevoir like a manand met the stoutest champion I ever counteredand spitted him like a sucking-pig. Else I had not been here. Butjust when all was fairand I was to see him safe aboard ship forRomeif not to Rome itselfmet us that son of a - the Lord Anthonyof Burgundyand his menmaking for Flandersthen in insurrectiontore us by force aparttook me where I got some broad pieces inhandand a broad arrow in my shoulderand left my poor Gerardlonesome. At that sad parting. soldier though I bethese eyes didrain salt scalding tearsand so did hispoor soul. His last word tome was'Gocomfort Margaret!' so here I be. Mine to him was'Thinkno more of Rome. Make for Rhineand down stream home.' Now sayforyou know bestdid I advise him well or ill?"

"Soldiertake my hand" said Eli. "God bless thee! God bless thee!"and his lip quivered. It was all his replybut more eloquent thanmany words.

Catherinedid not answer at allbut she darted from the room and bade Murielbring the best that was in the houseand returned with wood in botharmsand heaped the fireand took out a snow-white cloth from thepressand was going in a great hurry to lay it for Gerard's friendwhen suddenly she sat down and all the power ebbed rapidly out of herbody.

"Father!"cried Katewhose eye was as quick as her affection.

Denysstarted up; but Eli waved him back and flung a little water sharplyin his wife's face. This did her instant good. She gasped"Sosudden. My poor boy!" Eli whispered Denys"Take no notice!she thinks of him night and day." They pretended not to observeherand she shook it offand hustled and laid the cloth with herown hands; but as she smoothed ither hands trembled and a tear ortwo stole down her cheeks.

Theycould not make enough of Denys. They stuffed himand crammed him;and then gathered round him and kept filling his glass in turnwhileby that genial blaze of fire and ruby wine and eager eyes he told allthat I have relatedand a vast number of minor detailswhich anartisthowever minuteomits.

Buthow different the effect on my readers and on this small circle! Tothem the interest was already made before the first word came fromhis lips. It was all about Gerardand be who sat there telling itthemwas warm from Gerard and an actor with him in all these scenes.

Theflesh and blood around that fire quivered for their severed memberhearing its struggles and perils.

Ishall ask my readers to recall to memory all they can of Gerard'sjourney with Denysand in their mind's eye to see those very matterstold by his comrade to an exile's fatherall stoic outsideallfather withinand to two poor womenan exile's mother and a sisterwho were all love and pity and tender anxiety both outside and in.Now would you mind closing this book for a minute and making aneffort to realize all this? It will save us so much repetition.

Thenyou will not be surprised when I tell you that after a while Gilescame softly and curled himself up before the fireand lay gazing atthe speaker with a reverence almost canine; and thatwhen the roughsoldier had unconsciously but thoroughly betrayed his betterqualitiesand above all his rare affection for GerardKatethoughtimorous as a birdstole her little hand into the warrior's hugebrown palmwhere it lay an instant like a tea-spoonful of creamspilt on a platterthen nipped the ball of his thumb and served fora Kardiometer. In other wordsFate is just even to rivalstorytellersand balances matters. Denys had to pay a tax to hisaudience which I have not. Whenever Gerard was in too much dangerthe female faces became so whiteand their poor little throatsgurgled sohe was obliged in common humanity to spoil his recital.Suspense is the soul of narrativeand thus dealt Rough-and-Tender ofBurgundy with his best suspenses. "Nowdametake not on tillye hear the end; ma'amsellelet not your cheek blanch so; courage!it looks ugly; but you shall hear how we won through. Had hemiscarriedand I at handwould I be alive?"

Andmeantime Kate's little Kardiometeror heart-measurergraduatedemotionand pinched by scale. At its best it was by no means ahigh-pressure engine. But all is relative. Denys soon learned thetender gamut; and when to water the suspenseand extract the thrillas far as possible. On one occasion only he cannily indemnified hisnarrative for this drawback. Falling personally into the Rhineandsinkinghe got pinchedhe Denysto his surprise and satisfaction."Oho!" thought heand on the principle of the anatomists"experimentum in corpore vili" kept himself a quarter ofan hour under water; under pressure all the time. And even whenGerard had got hold of himhe was loth to leave the riversolessconscientious than I wasswam with Gerard to the east bank firstand was about to landbut detected the officers and their intentchaffed them a little spacetreading waterthen turned and swamwearily all acrossand at last was obliged to get outfor veryshameor else acknowledge himself a pike; so permitted himself tolandexhausted: and the pressure relaxed.

Itwas eleven o'clockan unheard-of hourbut they took no note of timethis night; and Denys had still much to tell themwhen the door wasopened quietlyand in stole Cornelis and Sybrandt looking hang-dog.They had this night been drinking the very last drop of theirmysterious funds.

Catherinefeared her husband would rebuke them before Denys; but he only lookedsadly at themand motioned them to sit down quietly.

Denysit was who seemed discomposed. He knitted his brows and eyed themthoughtfully and rather gloomily. Then turned to Catherine. "Whatsay youdame? the rest to-morrow; for I am somewhat wearyand itwaxes late."

"Sobe it" said Eli. But when Denys rose to go to his innhe wasinstantly stopped by Catherine. "And think you to lie from thishouse? Gerard's room has been got ready for you hours agone; thesheets I'll not say much forseeing I spun the flax and wove theweb."

"Thenwould I lie in them blindfold" was the gallant reply. "Ahdameour poor Gerard was the one for fine linen. He could hardlyforgive the honest Germans their coarse flaxand whene'er mytraitors of countrymen did amissa would excuse themsaying'Wellwell; bonnes toiles sont en Bourgogne:' that meansthere be goodlenten cloths in Burgundy.' But indeed he beat all for bywords andcleanliness.

"OhEli! Eli! doth not our son come back to us at each word?"

"Ay.Buss memy poor Kate. You and I know all that passeth in eachother's hearts this night. None other canbut God."

 

CHAPTERXLVII

Denystook an opportunity next day and told mother and daughter the restexcusing himself characteristically for not letting Cornelis andSybrandt hear of it. "It is not for me to blacken them; theycome of a good stock. But Gerard looks on them as no friends of hisin this matter; and I'm Gerard's comrade and it is a rule with ussoldiers not to tell the enemy aught - but lies."

Catherinesighedbut made no answer.

Theadventures he related cost them a tumult of agitation and griefandsore they wept at the parting of the friendswhich even now Denyscould not tell without faltering. But at last all merged in thejoyful hope and expectation of Gerard's speedy return. In this Denysconfidently shared; but reminded them that was no reason why heshould neglect his friend's wishes and last words. In factshouldGerard return next weekand no Margaret to be foundwhat sort offigure should he cut?

Catherinehad never felt so kindly towards the truant Margaret as now; and shewas fully as anxious to find herand be kind to her before Gerard'sreturnas Denys was; but she could not agree with him that anythingwas to be gained by leaving this neighbourhood to search for her."She must have told somebody whither she was going. It is not asthough they were dishonest folk flying the country; they owe not astiver in Sevenbergen; and dear heartDenysyou can't hunt allHolland for her."

"CanI not?" said Denys grimly. "That we shall see." Headdedafter some reflectionthat they must divide their forces; shestay here with eyes and ears wide openand he ransack every town inHolland for herif need be. "But she will not be many leaguesfrom here. They be three. Three fly not so fastnor faras one."

"Thatis sense" said Catherine. But she insisted on his going firstto the demoiselle Van Eyck. "She and our Margaret were bosomfriends. She knows where the girl is goneif she will but tell us."Denys was for going to her that instantso Catherinein a turn ofthe handmade herself one shade neaterand took him with her.

Shewas received graciously by the old lady sitting in a richly furnishedroom; and opened her business. The tapestry dropped out of MargaretVan Eyck's hands. "Gone? Gone from Sevenbergen and not told me;the thankless girl."

Thisturn greatly surprised the visitors. "Whatyou know not? whenwas she here last?"

"Maybeten days agone. I had ta'en out my brushesafter so many yearstopaint her portrait. I did not do itthough; for reasons."

Catherineremarked it was "a most strange thing she should go away bag andbaggage like thiswithout with your leave or by your leavewhyorwherefore. Was ever aught so untoward; just when all our hearts arewarm to her; and here is Gerard's mate come from the ends of theearth with comfort for her from Gerardand can't find herandGerard himself expected. What to do I know not. But sure she is notparted like this without a reason. Can ye not give us the cluemygood demoiselle? Prithee now.

"Ihave it not to give" said the elder ladyrather peevishly.

"ThenI can" said Reicht Heynesshowing herself in the doorwaywithcolour somewhat heightened.

"Soyou have been hearkening all the timeeh?"

"Whatare my ears formistress?"

"True.Wellthrow us the light of thy wisdom on this dark matter."

"Thereis no darkness that I see" said Reicht. "And the cluewhyan ye call't a two-plye twineand the ends on't in this roome'en nowye'll not be far out. OhmistressI wonder at you sittingthere pretending."

"Marrycome up." and the mistress's cheek was now nearly as red as theservant's. "So 'twas I drove the foolish girl away."

"Youdid your sharemistress. What sort of greeting gave you her lasttime she came? Think you she could miss to notice itand she allfriendless? And you said'I have altered my mind about painting ofyou' says youa turning up your nose at her."

"Idid not turn up my nose. It is not shaped like yours for lookingheavenward."

"Ohall our nosen can follow our heartys bentfor that matter. Poorsoul. She did come into the kitchen to me. 'I am not to be paintednow' said sheand the tears in her eyes. She said no more. But Iknew well what she did mean. I had seen ye."

"Well"said Margaret Van Eyck"I do confess so muchand I make youthe judgemadam. Know that these young girls can do nothing of theirown headsbut are most apt at mimicking aught their sweethearts do.Now your Gerard is reasonably handy at many thingsand among therest at the illuminator's craft. And Margaret she is his pupiland apatient one: what marvel? having a woman's eye for colourand eke alover to ape. 'Tis a trick I despise at heart: for by it the greatart of colourwhich should be royalaspiringand freebecomes apoor slave to the petty crafts of writing and printingand isfetteredimprisonedand made littlebody and soulto match thelittleness of booksand go to church in a rich fool's pocket.Natheless affection rules us alland when the poor wench would bringme her thorn leavesand liliesand ivyand dewberriesandladybirdsand butterfly grubsand all the scum of Nature-stuck fastin gold-leaf like wasps in a honey-potand withal her diurnal bookshowing she had pored an hundredor an hundred and fiftyor twohundred hours over each singular pagecertes I was wroth that animmortal souland many hours of labourand much manual skillshould be flung away on Nature's trashleavesinsectsgrubsandon barren letters; buthaving bowelsI did perforce restrainandas it weredam my better feelingsand looked kindly at the work tosee how it might be bettered; and said I'Sith Heaven for our sinshath doomed us to spend timeand souland colour on great lettersand little beetlesomitting such small fry as saints and heroestheir acts and passionswhy not present the scum naturally?' I toldher 'the grapes I sawwalking abroaddid hang i' the airnot stickin a wall; and even these insects' quo' I'and Nature her slime ingeneralpass not their noxious lives wedged miserably in metalprisons like flies in honey-pots and glue-potsbut do crawl or hoverat largeinfesting air.' 'Ah my dear friend' says she'I see nowwhither you drive; but this ground is gold; whereon we may notshade.' 'Who said so?' quoth I. 'All teachers of this craft' saysshe; and (to make an end o' me at onceI trow) 'Gerard himself!''That for Gerard himself' quoth I'and all the gang; gi'e me abrush!'

"Thenchose Ito shade her fruit and reptilesa colour false in naturebut true relatively to that monstrous ground of glaring gold; and infive minutes out came a bunch of raspberriesstalk and allanda'most flew in your mouth; likewise a butterfly grub she had so trulypresented as might turn the stoutest stomach. My lady she flings herarms round my neckand says she'Oh!'"

"Didshe now?"

"Thelittle love!" observed Denyssucceeding at last in wedging in aword.

MargaretVan Eyck stared at him; and then smiled. She went on to tell them howfrom step to step she had been led on to promise to resume the artshe had laid aside with a sigh when her brothers diedand to paintthe Madonna once more - with Margaret for model. Incidentally sheeven revealed how girls are turned into saints. "Thy hair isadorable" said I. "Why'tis red" quo' she. "Ay"quoth I"but what a red! how brown! how glossy! most hair isnot worth a straw to us painters; thine the artist's very hue. Butthy violet eyeswhich smack of earthbeing now languid for lack ofone Gerardnow full of fire in hopes of the same Gerardthese willI lift to heaven in fixed and holy meditationand thy nosewhichdoth already somewhat aspire that way (though not so piously asReicht's)will I debase a trifleand somewhat enfeeble thy chin."

"Enfeebleher chin? Alack! what may that mean? Ye go beyond memistress."

'Tisa resolute chin. Not a jot too resolute for this wicked world; butwhen ye come to a Madonna? No thank you."

"WellI never. A resolute chin."

Denys."The darling!"

"Andnow comes the rub. When you told me she was - the way she isit gaveme a shock; I dropped my brushes. Was I going to turn a girlthatcouldn't keep her lover at a distanceinto the Virgin Maryat mytime of life? I love the poor ninny still. But I adore our blessedLady. Say you'a painter must not be peevish in such matters'? Wellmost painters are men; and men are fine fellows. They can do aught.Their saints and virgins are neither more nor less than their lemanssaving your presence. But know that for this very reason half theircraft is lost on mewhich find beneath their angels' white wings thevery trollops I have seen flaunting it on the streetsbejewelledlike Paynim idolsand put on like the queens in a pack o' cards. AndI am not a fine fellowbut only a womanand my painting is but onehalf craftand t'other half devotion. So now you may read me. 'Twasfoolishmaybebut I could not help it; yet am I sorry." Andthe old lady ended despondently a discourse which she had commencedin a'mighty defiant tone.

"Wellyou knowdame" observed Catherine"you must think itwould go to the poor girl's heartand she so fond of ye?"

MargaretVan Eyck only sighed.

TheFrisian girlafter biting her lips impatiently a little whileturned upon Catherine. "Whydamethink you 'twas for thatalone Margaret and Peter hath left Sevenbergen? Nay."

"Forwhat elsethen?"

"Whatelse? Whybecause Gerard's people slight her so cruel. Who wouldbide among hard-hearted folk that ha' driven her lad t' Italyandnow he is gonerelent notbut face it outand ne'er come anigh herthat is left?"

"ReichtI was going."

"Ohaygoingand goingand going. Ye should ha' said less or else donemore. But with your words you did uplift her heart and let it downwi' your deeds. 'They have never been' said the poor thing to mewith such a sigh. Ayhere is one can feel for her: for I too am farfrom my friendsand oftenwhen first I came to HollandI did usedto take a hearty cry all to myself. But ten times liever would I beReicht Heynes with nought but the leagues atw'een me and all my kiththan be as she is i' the midst of them that ought to warm to herandyet to fare as lonesome as I."

"AlackReichtI did go but yestreenand had gone beforebut one plaguything or t'other did still come and hinder me."

"Mistressdid aught hinder ye to eat your dinner any one of those days? I trownot. And had your heart been as good towards your own flesh andbloodas 'twas towards your flesher's meatnought had prevailed tokeep you from her that sat lonelya watching the road for you andcomfortwi' your child's child a beating 'neath her bosom."

Herethis rude young woman was interrupted by an incident not uncommon ina domestic's bright existence. The Van Eyck had been nettled by theattack on herbut with due tact had gone into ambush. She now sprangout of it. "Since you disrespect my guestsseek another place!"

"Withall my heart" said Reicht stoutly.

"Naymistress" put in the good-natured Catherine. "True folkwill still speak out. Her tongue is a stinger." Here the watercame into the speaker's eyes by way of confirmation. "But bettershe said it than thought it. So now 't won't rankle in her. And partwith her for methat shall ye not. Beshrew the wenchshe wots sheis a good servantand takes advantage. We poor wretches which keephouse must still pay 'em tax for value. I had a good servant oncewhen I was a young woman. Eh dearhow she did grind me down into thedust. In the endby Heaven's mercyshe married the bakerand I wasmy own woman again. 'So' said I'no more good servants shall comehithera hectoring o' me.' I just get a fool and learn her; andwhenever she knoweth her right hand from her leftshe sauceth me:then out I bundle her neck and cropand take another dunce in herplace. Dear heart'tis wearisometeaching a string of fools byones; but there - I am mistress:" here she forgot that she wasdefending Reichtand turning rather spitefully upon heradded"andyou be mistress hereI trow."

"Nomore than that stool" said the Van Eyck loftily. "She isneither mistress nor servant; but Gone. She is dismissed the houseand there's an end of her. Whatdid ye not hear me turn the saucybaggage off?"

"Ayay. We all heard ye" said Reichtwith vast indifference.

"Thenhear me!" said Denys solemnly.

Theyall went round like things on wheelsand fastened their eyes on him.

"Aylet us hear what the man says" urged the hostess. "Men arefine fellowswith their great hoarse voices."

"MistressReicht"said Denyswith great dignity and ceremonyindeed sogreat as to verge on the absurd"you are turned off. If on aslight acquaintance I might adviseI'd saysince you are a servantno morebe a mistressa queen.

"Easiersaid than done" replied Reicht bluntly.

"Nota jot. You see here one who is a manthough but half anarbalestrierowing to that devilish Englishman's arrowin whosecarcass I havehoweverleft a like tokenwhich is a comfort. Ihave twenty gold pieces" (he showed them) "and a stout arm.In another week or so I shall have twain. Marriage is not a habit ofmine; but I capitulate to so many virtues. You are beautifulgood-heartedand outspokenand above allyou take the part of myshe-comrade. Be then an arbalestriesse!"

"Andwhat the dickens is that?" inquired Reicht.

"Imeanbe the wifemistressand queen of Denys of Burgundy herepresent."

Adead silence fell on all.

Itdid not last longthough; and was followed by a burst ofunreasonable indignation.

Catherine.". "Welldid you ever?"

Margaret."Never in all my born days."

Catherine."Before our very faces."

Margaret."Of all the absurdityand insolence of this ridiculous sex-

ThenDenys observed somewhat drilythat the female to whom he adaddressed himself was mute; and the otherson whose eloquence therewas no immediate demandwere fluent: on this the voices stoppedandthe eyes turned pivot-like upon Reicht.

Shetook a sly glance from under her lashes at her military assailantand said"I mean to take a good look at any man ere I leap intohis arms."

Denysdrew himself up majestically. "Then look your filland leapaway."

Thisproposal led to a new and most unexpected result. A long white fingerwas extended by the Van Eyck in a line with the speaker's eyeand anagitated voice bade him standin the name of all the saints. "Youare beautifulso" cried she. "You are inspired - withfolly. What matters that? you are inspired. I must take off yourhead." And in a moment she was at work with her pencil. "Comeouthussy" she screamed to Reicht. "more in front of himand keep the fool inspired and beautiful. Ohwhy had I not thismaniac for my good centurion? They went and brought me a brute with alow forehead and a shapeless beard."

Catherinestood and looked with utter amazement at this pantomimeand secretlyresolved that her venerable hostess had been a disguised lunatic allthis timeand was now busy throwing off the mask. As for Reichtshewas unhappy and cross. She had left her caldron in a precariousstateand made no scruple to say soand that duties so grave ashers left her no "time to waste a playing the statee and thefool all at one time." Her mistress in reply reminded her thatit was possible to be rude and rebellious to one's pooroldaffectionatedesolate mistresswithout being utterly heartless andsavage; and a trampler on arts.

Onthis Reicht stoppedand poutedand looked like a little basilisk atthe inspired model who caused her woe. He retorted with unshakenadmiration. The situation was at last dissolved by the artist's wristbecoming cramped from disuse; this was nothoweveruntil she hadmade a rough but noble sketch. "I can work no more at present"said she sorrowfully.

"ThennowmistressI may go and mind my pot?"

"Ayaygo to your pot! And get into itdo; you will find your soul init: so then you will all be together."

"WellbutReicht" said Catherinelaughing"she turned youoff."

"Boobooboo!" said Reicht contemptuously. "When she wants toget rid of melet her turn herself off and die. I am sure she is oldenough for't. But take your timemistress; if you are in no hurryno more am I. When that day doth come'twill take a man to dry myeyes; and if you should be in the same mind thensoldieryou cansay so; and if you are notwhy'twill be all one to Reicht Heynes."

Andthe plain speaker went her way. But her words did not fall to theground. Neither of her female hearers could disguise from herselfthat this blunt girlsolitary herselfhad probably read MargaretBrandt arightand that she had gone away from Sevenbergenbroken-hearted.

Catherineand Denys bade the Van Eyck adieuand that same afternoon Denys setout on a wild goose chase. His planlike all great thingswassimple. He should go to a hundred towns and villagesand ask in eachafter an old physician with a fair daughterand an old long-bowsoldier. He should inquire of the burgomasters about all new-comersand should go to the fountains and watch the women and girls as theycame with their pitchers for water.

Andaway he wentand was months and months on the trampand could notfind her.

Happilythis chivalrous feat of friendship was in some degree its own reward.

Thosewho sit at home blindfolded by self-conceitand think camel or manout of the depths of their inner consciousnessalias theirignorancewill tell you that in the intervals of war and dangerpeace and tranquil life acquire their true value and satisfy theheroic mind. But those who look before they babble or scribble willsee and say that men who risk their lives habitually thirst forexciting pleasures between the acts of dangerare not for innocenttranquility.

Tothis Denys was no exception. His whole military life had been halfspartahalf Capua. And he was too good a soldier and too good alibertine to have ever mixed either habit with the other. But now forthe first time he found himself mixed; at peace and yet on duty; forhe took this latter view of his wild goose chaseluckily. So allthese months he was a demi-Spartan; soberprudentvigilantindomitable; and happythough constantly disappointedas might havebeen expected. He flirted gigantically on the road; but wasted notime about it. Nor in these his wanderings did he tell a singlefemale that "marriage was not one of his habitsetc."

Andso we leave him on the tramp"Pilgrim of Friendship" ashis poor comrade was of Love.

 

CHAPTERXLVIII

Catherinewas in dismay when she reflected that Gerard must reach home inanother month at farthestmore likely in a week; and how should shetell him she had not even kept an eye upon his betrothed? Then therewas the uncertainty as to the girl's fate; and this uncertaintysometimes took a sickening form.

"OhKate" she groaned"if she should have gone and madeherself away!"

"Mothershe would never be so wicked."

"Ahmy lassyou know not what hasty fools young lasses bethat have nomothers to keep 'em straight. They will fling themselves into thewater for a man that the next man they meet would ha' cured 'em of ina week. I have known 'em to jump in like brass one moment and screamfor help in the next. Couldn't know their own minds ye see even aboutsuch a trifle as yon. And then there's times when their bodies aillike no other living creatures ever I could hear ofand that stringsup their feelings sothe patiencethat belongs to them at othertimes beyond all living souls barring an assseems all to jump outof 'em at one turnand into the water they go. ThereforeI say thatmen are monsters."

"Mother!"

"Monstersand no lessto go making such heaps o' canals just to tempt the poorwomen in. They know we shall not cut our throatshating the sight ofblood and rating our skins a hantle higher nor our lives; and as forhangingwhile she is a fixing of the nail and a making of the nooseshe has time t' alter her mind. But a jump into a canal is no morethan into bed; and the water it does all the lavewill yenill ye.Whylook at methe mother o' ninewasn't I agog to make a hole inour canal for the nonce?"

"NaymotherI'll never believe it of you."

"Yemaythough. 'Twas in the first year of our keeping house together.Eli hadn't found out my weak stitches thennor I his; so we made arentpulling contrariwise; had a quarrel. So then I ran cryingtotell some gabbling fool like myself what I had no business to tellout o' doors except to the saintsand there was one of our preciouscanals in the way; do they take us for teal? Ohhow tempting it didlook! Says I to myself'Sith he has let me go out of his doorquarrelledhe shall see me drowned nextand then he will change hiskey. He will blubber a good oneand I shall look down from heaven'(I forgot I should be in t'other part)'and see him take onand ohbut that will be sweet!' and I was all a tiptoe and going inonlyjust then I thought I wouldn't. I had got a new gown a makingforone thingand hard upon finished. So I went home insteadand whatwas Eli's first word'Let yon flea stick i' the wallmy lass' sayshe. 'Not a word of all I said t' anger thee was soothbut this"Ilove thee."' These were his very words; I minded 'embeing thefirst quarrel. So I flung my arms about his neck and sobbed a bitand thought o' the canal; and he was no colder to me than I to himbeing a man and a young one; and so then that was better than lyingin the water; and spoiling my wedding kirtle and my fine new shoonold John Bush made 'emthat was uncle to him keeps the shop now. Andwhat was my grief to hers?"

LittleKate hoped that Margaret loved her father too much to think ofleaving him so at his age. "He is father and mother and all toheryou know."

"NayKatethey do forget all these things in a moment o' despair when thevery sky seems black above them. I place more faith in him that isunbornthan on him that is ripe for the graveto keep her out o'mischief. For certes it do go sore against us to die when there's alittle innocent a pulling at our hearts to let 'un liveand feedingat our very veins."

"Wellthenkeep up a good heartmother." She addedthat very likelyall these fears were exaggerated. She ended by solemnly entreatingher mother at all events not to persist in naming the sex ofMargaret's infant. It was so unluckyall the gossips told her; "dearheartas if there were not as many girls born as boys."

Thisreflectionthough not unreasonablewas met with clamour.

"Haveyou the cruelty to threaten me with a girl!!? I want no more girlswhile I have you. What use would a lass be to me? Can I set her on myknee and see my Gerard again as I can a boy? I tell thee 'tis allsettled.

"Howmay that be?"

"Inmy mind. And if I am to be disappointed i' the end'tisn't for youto disappoint me beforehandtelling me it is not to be a childbutonly a girl."

 

CHAPTERXLIX

MARGARETBRANDT had always held herself apart from Sevenbergen; and herreserve had passed for pride; this had come to her earsand she knewmany hearts were swelling with jealousy and malevolence. How wouldthey triumph over her when her condition could no longer beconcealed! This thought gnawed her night and day. For some time ithad made her bury herself in the houseand shun daylight even onthose rare occasions when she went abroad.

Notthat in her secret heart and conscience she mistook her moralsituationas my unlearned readers have done perhaps. Though notacquainted with the nice distinctions of the contemporary lawsheknew that betrothal was a marriage contractand could no more belegally broken on either side than any other compact written andwitnessed; and that marriage with another party than the betrothedhad been formerly annulled both by Church and State and thatbetrothed couples often came together without any further ceremonyand their children were legitimate.

Butwhat weighed down her simple mediaeval mind was this: that verycontract of betrothal was not forthcoming. Instead of her keeping itGerard had got itand Gerard was farfar away. She hated anddespised herself for the miserable oversight which had placed her atthe mercy of false opinion.

Forthough she had never heard Horace's famous coupletSegnius irritantetc.she was Horatian by the plainhardpositive intelligencewhichstrange to saycharacterizes the judgment of her sexwhenfeeling happens not to blind it altogether. She gauged theunderstanding of the world to a T. Her marriage lines being out ofsightand in Italywould never prevail to balance her visiblepregnancyand the sight of her child when born. What sort of a talewas this to stop slanderous tongues? "I have got my marriagelinesbut I cannot show them you." What woman would believeher? or even pretend to believe her? And as she was in reality one ofthe most modest girls in Hollandit was women's good opinion shewantednot men's.

Evenbarefaced slander attacks her sex at a great advantage; but here wasslander with a face of truth. "The strong-minded woman" hadnot yet been invented; and Margaretthough by nature and by havingbeen early made mistress of a familyshe was resolute in somerespectswas weak as water in othersand weakest of all in this.Like all the elite of her sexshe was a poor little leaftremblingat each gust of the world's opiniontrue or false. Much misery maybe contained in few words. I doubt if pages of description from anyman's pen could make any human creatureexcept virtuous women (andthese need no such aid)realize the anguish of a virtuous womanforeseeing herself paraded as a frail one. Had she been frail atheartshe might have brazened it out. But she had not thatadvantage. She was really pure as snowand saw the pitch comingnearer her and nearer. The poor girl sat listless hours at a timeand moaned with inner anguish. And oftenwhen her father was talkingto herand she giving mechanical repliessuddenly her cheek wouldburn like fireand the old man would wonder what he had said todiscompose her. Nothing. His words were less than air to her. It wasthe ever-present dread sent the colour of shame into her burningcheekno matter what she seemed to be talking and thinking about.But both shame and fear rose to a climax when she came back thatnight from Margaret Van Eyck's. Her condition was discoveredand bypersons of her own sex. The old artistsecluded like herselfmightnot betray her; but Catherinea gossip in the centre of a familyand a thick neighbourhood? One spark of hope remained. Catherine hadspoken kindlyeven lovingly. The situation admitted no half course.Gerard's mother thus roused must either be her best friend or worstenemy. She waited then in racking anxiety to hear more. No word came.She gave up hope. Catherine was not going to be her friend. Then shewould expose hersince she had no strong and kindly feeling tobalance the natural love of babbling.

Thenit was the wish to fly from this neighbourhood began to grow and gnawupon hertill it became a wild and passionate desire. But howpersuade her father to this? Old people cling to places. He was veryold and infirm to change his abode. There was no course but to makehim her confidant; better so than to run away from him; and she feltthat would be the alternative. And now between her uncontrollabledesire to fly and hideand her invincible aversion to speak out to amaneven to her fathershe vibrated in a suspense full of livelytorture. And presently betwixt these two came in one day the fatalthought"end all!" Things foolishly worded are not alwaysfoolish; one of poor Catherine's bugbearsthese numerous canalsdidsorely tempt this poor fluctuating girl. She stood on the bank oneafternoonand eyed the calm deep water. It seemed an image ofreposeand she was so harassed. No more trouble. No more fear ofshame. If Gerard had not loved herI doubt she had ended there.

Asit wasshe kneeled by the water sideand prayed fervently to God tokeep such wicked thoughts from her. "Oh! selfish wretch"said she"to leave thy father. Ohwicked wretchto kill thychildand make thy poor Gerard lose all his pain and perilundertaken for thy sight. I will tell father allayere this sunshall set." And she went home with eager hastelest her goodresolution should ooze out ere she got there.

Nowin matters domestic the learned Peter was simple as a childandMargaretfrom the age of sixteenhad governed the house gently butabsolutely. It was therefore a strange thing in this housethefalteringirresolute way in which its young but despotic mistressaddressed that personwho in a domestic sense was less importantthan Martin Wittenhaagenor even than the little girl who came inthe morning and for a pittance washed the vesselsetc.and wenthome at night.

"FatherI would speak to thee."

"Speakongirl."

"Wiltlisten to me? And - and - not - and try to excuse my faults?"

"Wehave all our faultsMargaretthou no more than the rest of us; butfewerunless parental feeling blinds me."

"Alasnofather: I am a poor foolish girlthat would fain do wellbuthave done illmost illmost unwisely; and now must bear the shame.ButfatherI love youwith all my faultsand will not you forgivemy follyand still love your motherless girl?"

"Thatye may count on" said Peter cheerfully.

"Ohwellsmile not. For then how can I speak and make you sad?"

"Whywhat is the matter?"

"Fatherdisgrace is coming on this house: it is at the door. And I theculprit. Ohfatherturn your head away. I - I - fatherI have letGerard take away my marriage lines."

"Isthat all? 'Twas an oversight."

"'Twasthe deed of a mad woman. But woe is me! that is not the worst."

Peterinterrupted her. "The youth is honestand loves you dear. Youare young. What is a year or two to you? Gerard will assuredly comeback and keep troth."

"Andmeantime know you what is coming?"

"NotIexcept that I shall be gone first for one."

"Worsethan that. There is worse pain than death. Nayfor pity's sake turnaway your headfather."

"Foolishwench!" muttered Peterbut turned his head.

Shetrembled violentlyand with her cheeks on fire began to falter out"I did look on Gerard as my husband - we being betrothed-and hewas in so sore dangerand I thought I had killed himand I-ohifyou were but my mother I might find courage: you would question me.But you say not a word."

"WhyMargaretwhat is all this coil about? and why are thy cheekscrimsonspeaking to no stranger'but to thy old father?"

"Whyare my cheeks on fire? Because - because - father kill me; send me toheaven! bid Martin shoot me with his arrow! And then the gossips willcome and tell you why I blush so this day. And thenwhen I am deadI hope you will love your girl again for her mother's sake."

"Giveme thy handmistress" said Petera little sternly.

Sheput it out to him trembling. He took it gently and began with someanxiety in his face to feel her pulse.

"Alasnay" said she. "'Tis my soul that burnsnot my bodywithfever. I cannotwill notbide in Sevenbergen." And she wrungher hands impatiently.

"Becalm now" said the old man soothingly"nor tormentthyself for nought. Not bide in Sevenbergen? What need to bide a dayas it vexes theeand puts thee in a fever: for fevered thou artdeny it not."

"What!"cried Margaret"would you yield to go henceand - and ask noreason but my longing to be gone?" and suddenly throwing herselfon her knees beside himin a fervour of supplication she clutchedhis sleeveand then his armand then his shoulderwhile imploringhim to quit this placeand not ask her why. "Alas! what needsit? You will soon see it. And I could never say it. I would lieverdie."