THE CHAUFFEUR AND THE CHAPERON
OTHER BOOKS BY C. N. AND A. M. WILLIAMSON
My Friend the Chauffeur, Lady Betty Across the Water, Rosemary in Search of a Father, Princess Virginia, The Car of Destiny, The Princess Passes, The Lightning Conductor
THE CHAUFFEUR AND THE CHAPERON
C. N. and A. M. Williamson
ILLUSTRATIONS BY KARL ANDERSON
THE McCLURE COMPANY
Copyright, 1907, 1908, by The McClure Company
Copyright, 1906, by C. N. and A. M. Williamson
MR. G. VAN DER POT
PRESIDENT OF THE ROTTERDAM SAILING AND ROWING CLUB WHOSE KIND AND NEVER-FAILING HELP ADDED TENFOLD TO THE PLEASURES OF OUR VOYAGE THROUGH DELIGHTFUL DUTCH WATERWAYS WE DEDICATE
THE STORY OF THE TOUR
NELL VAN BUREN'S POINT OF VIEW
RUDOLPH BREDERODE'S POINT OF VIEW
PHYLLIS RIVERS' POINT OF VIEW
RONALD LESTER STARR'S POINT OF VIEW
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Facing She absentmindedly dropped in three, while Page talking to Starr . . . . 168
We were called upon to part with almost all the gulden. . . . . . 20
"You need have no hesitation in giving the boat to me" . . . . . 24
We both exclaimed, "Oh, are you here?". . 42
There was a sudden stir in the garden . . 96
"It's black magic," said Aunt Fay . . 154
We stopped at Haarlem only long enough to do reverence to Franz Hals . . . 168
A couple of great yellow dogs, drawing a cart, swore canine oaths against the car . 196
Starr induced them to stand for him, though they were reluctant and self-conscious 216
I was glad to stoop down and pat Tibe . . 240
Solemn men inspecting burning globes, and bargaining with their possessors . 254
She looked, for all the world, like a beautiful Frisian girl . . . . . 288
It was Phyllis who shone at Liliendaal . 320
"Well—have I pleased you?" Freule Menela asked at last . . . . . 344
It was a ring for a lover to offer to his lady 352
At his present rate he would reach us in about two minutes . . . . . 388
THE CHAUFFEUR AND THE CHAPERON
NELL VAN BUREN'S POINT OF VIEW
Sometimes I think that having a bath is the nicest part of the day, especially if you take too long over it, when you ought to be hurrying.
Phyllis and I (Phil is my stepsister, though she is the most English creature alive) have no proper bath-room in our flat. What can you expect for forty pounds a year, even at Clapham? But we have a fitted-up arrangement in the box-room, and it has never exploded yet. Phyllis allows herself ten minutes for her bath every morning, just as she allows herself five minutes for her prayers, six to do her hair, and four for everything else, except when she wears laced-up boots; but then, she has principles, and I have none; at least, I have no maxims. And this morning, just because there were lots of things to do, I was luxuriating in the tub, thinking cool, delicious thoughts.
As a general rule, when you paint glorious pictures for yourself of your future as you would like it to be, it clouds your existence with gray afterwards, because the reality is duller by contrast; but it was different this morning. I had stopped awake all night thinking the same things, and I was no more tired of the thoughts now than when I first began.
I lay with my eyes shut, sniffing Eau de Cologne (I'd poured in a bottleful for a kind of libation, because I could afford to be extravagant), and planning what a delightful future we would have.
"I should love to chop up Phil's type-writer and burn the remains," I said to myself; "but she's much more likely to put it away in lavender, or give it to the next-door-girl with the snub nose. Anyhow, I shall never have to write another serial story for Queen-Woman, or The Fireside Lamp, or any of the other horrors. Oh the joy of not being forced to create villains, only to crush them in the end! No more secret doors and coiners' dens, and unnaturally beautiful dressmakers' assistants for me! Instead of doing typing at ninepence a thousand words Phil can embroider things for curates, and instead of peopling the world with prigs and puppets at a guinea a thou', I can—oh, I can do anything. I don't know what I shall want to do most, and that's the best of it—just to know I can do it. We'll have a beautiful house in a nice part of town, a cottage by the river, and, best of all, we can travel—travel—travel."
Then I began to furnish the cottage and the house, and was putting up a purple curtain in a white marble bath-room with steps down to the bath, when a knock came at the door.
I knew it was Phil, for it could be nobody else; but it was as unlike Phil as possible—as unlike her as a mountain is unlike itself when it is having an eruption.
"Nell," she called outside the door. "Nell, darling! Are you ready?"
"Only just begun," I answered. "I shall be—oh, minutes and minutes yet. Why?"
"I don't want to worry you," replied Phil's creamy voice, with just a little of the cream skimmed off; "but—do make haste."
"Have you been cooking something nice for breakfast?" (Our usual meal is Quaker oats, with milk; and tea, of course; Phil would think it sacrilegious to begin the day on any other drink.)
"Yes, I have. And it's wasted."
"Have you spilt—or burnt it?"
"No; but there's nothing to rejoice over or celebrate, after all; at least, comparatively nothing."
"Good gracious! What do you mean?" I shrieked, with my card-house beginning to collapse, while the Eau de Cologne lost its savor in my nostrils. "Has a codicil been found to Captain Noble's will, as in the last number of my serial for——"
"No; but the post's come, with a letter from his solicitor. Oh, how stupid we were to believe what Mrs. Keithley wrote—just silly gossip. We ought to have remembered that she couldn't know; and she never got a story straight, anyway. Do hurry and come out."
"I've lost the soap now. Everything invariably goes wrong at once. I can't get hold of it. I shall probably be in this bath all the rest of my life. For goodness' sake, what does the lawyer man say?"
"I can't stand here yelling such things at the top of my lungs."
Then I knew how dreadfully poor Phil was really upset, for her lovely voice was quite snappy; and I've always thought she would not snap on the rack or in boiling oil. As for me, my bath began to feel like that—boiling oil, I mean; and I splashed about anyhow, not caring whether I got my hair wet or not. Because, if we had to go on being poor after our great expectations, nothing could possibly matter, not even looking like a drowned rat.
I hadn't the spirit to coax Phyllis, but I might have known she wouldn't go away, really. When I didn't answer except by splashes which might have been sobs, she went on, her mouth apparently at the crack of the door——
"I suppose we ought to be thankful for such mercies as have been granted; but after what we'd been led to expect——"
"What mercies, as a matter of fact, remain to us?" I asked, trying to restore depressed spirits as well as circulation with a towel as harsh as fate.
"Two hundred pounds and a motor-boat."
"A motor-boat? For goodness' sake!"
"Yes. The pounds are for me, the boat for you. It seems you once unfortunately wrote a postcard, and told poor dear Captain Noble you envied him having it. It's said to be as good as new; so there's one comfort, you can sell it second-hand, and perhaps get as much money as he has left me."
I came very near falling down again in the bath with an awful splash, beneath the crushing weight of disappointment, and the soap slipping under my foot.
"Two hundred pounds and a motor-boat—instead of all those thousands!" I groaned—not very loudly; but Phil heard me through the door.
"Never mind, dearest," she called, striving, in that irritating way saints have, to be cheerful in spite of all. "It's better than nothing. We can invest it."
"Invest it!" I screamed. "What are two hundred pounds and a motor-boat when invested?"
Evidently she was doing a sum in mental arithmetic. After a few seconds' silence she answered bravely——
"About twelve pounds a year."
"Hang twelve pounds a year!" I shrieked. Then something odd seemed to happen in my inner workings. My blood gave a jump and flew up to my head, where I could hear it singing—a wild, excited song. Perhaps it was the Eau de Cologne, and not being used to it in my bath, which made me feel like that. "I shan't invest my motor-boat," I said. "I'm going a cruise in it, and so are you."
"My darling girl, I hope you haven't gone out of your mind from the blow!" There was alarm and solicitude in Phil's accents. "When you've slipped on your dressing-gown and come out we'll talk things over."
"Nothing can make me change my mind," I answered. "It's been made up a whole minute. Everything is clear now. Providence has put a motor-boat into our hands as a means of seeing life, and to console us for not being Captain Noble's heiresses, as Mrs. Keithley wrote we were going to be. I will not fly in Providence's face. I haven't been brought up to it by you. We are going to have the time of our lives with that motor-boat."
The door shook with Phil's disapproval. "You do talk like an American," she flung at me through the panel.
"That's good. I'm glad adoption hasn't ruined me," I retorted. "But could you—just because you're English—contentedly give up our beautiful plans, and settle down as if nothing had happened—with your type-writer?"
"I hope I have the strength of mind to bear it," faltered Phyllis. "We've only had two days of hoping for better things."
"We've only lived for two days. There's no going back; there can't be. We've burned our ships behind us, and must take to the motor-boat."
"Dearest, I don't think this is a proper time for joking—and you in your bath, too," protested Phil, mildly.
"I'm out of it now. But I refuse to be out of everything. Miss Phyllis Rivers—why, your very name's a prophecy!—I formally invite you to take a trip with me in my motor-boat. It may cost us half, if not more, of your part of the legacy; but I will merely borrow from you the wherewithal to pay our expenses. Somehow—afterwards—I'll pay it back, even if I have to reestablish communication with heavenly shop-girls and villainous duchesses. Oh, Phil, we'll get some fun out of this, after all. Anyhow, we shall go on living—for a few weeks. What matter if, after that, the deluge?"
"You speak exactly as if you were planning to be an adventuress," said Phyllis, coldly.
"I should love to be one," said I. "I've always thought it must be more fun than anything—till the last chapter. We'll both embark—in the motor-boat—on a brief but bright career as adventuresses."
With that, before she could give me an answer, I opened the door and walked out in my dressing-gown, so suddenly that she almost pitched forward into the bath. Phyllis, heard from behind a cold, unsympathetic door, and Phyllis seen in all her virginal Burne-Jones attractiveness, might as well be two different girls. If you carried on a conversation with Miss Rivers on ethics and conventionalities and curates, and things of that kind from behind a door, without having first peeped round to see what she was like, you would do the real Phil an injustice.
There is nothing pink and soft and dimpled about Phyllis's views of life (or, at least, what she supposes her views to be); but about Phyllis in flesh and blood there is more of that than anything else; which is one reason why she has been a constant fountain of joy to my heart as well as my sense of humor, ever since her clever Herefordshire father married my pretty Kentucky mother.
Phil would like, if published, to be a Sunday-school book, and a volume of "Good Form for High Society" rolled into one; but she is really more like a treatise on flower-gardens, and a recipe for making Devonshire junket with clotted cream.
Not that she's a regular beauty, or that she goes in for any speciality by way of features or eyelashes, or hair, or a figure, or anything really sensational of that sort, as I do in one or two directions. But there's a rose and pearl and gold-brown adorableness about her; you like her all the better for some little puritanical quaintnesses; and if you are an Englishman or an American girl, you long to bully her.
She is taller than I am (as she ought to be, with Burne-Jones nose and eyes), but this morning, when I sprang at her out of the bath-room, like a young tigress escaped from its cage on its ruthless way to a motor-boat, she looked so piteous and yielding, that I felt I could carry her—and my point at the same time—half across the world.
She had made cream eggs for breakfast, poor darling (I could have sobbed on them), and actually coffee for me, because she knows I love it. I didn't worry her any more until an egg and a cup of tea were on duty to keep her strength up, and then I poured plans, which I made as I went on, upon her meekly protesting head.
The boat, it appeared, lay in Holland, which fact, as I pointed out to Phil, was another sign that Providence had set its heart upon our using her; for we've always wanted to see Holland. We often said, if we ever took a holiday from serials and the type-writer, we would go to Holland; but somehow the time for holidays and Holland never seemed to arrive. Now, here it was; and it would be the time of our lives.
Poor Captain Noble meant to use the boat himself this summer, but he was taken ill late in the season on the Riviera and died there. It was from Mentone that Mrs. Keithley wrote what was being said among his friends about a huge legacy for us; and we, poor deluded ones, had believed.
Captain Noble, a dear old retired naval officer, was a friend of Phyllis's father since the beginning of the world, and, though Phil was sixteen and I fifteen when our respective parents (widowed both, ages before) met and married, the good man took my mother also to his heart. Phil and I have been alone in the world together now for three years; she is twenty-two, I twenty-one. Though many moons have passed since we saw anything of Captain Noble except picture postcards, we were not taken entirely by surprise when we heard that he had left us a large legacy. It is easy to get used to nice things, and far more difficult to crawl down gracefully from gilded heights.
Crawl we must, however; so I determined it should be into that motor-boat floating idly on a canal in Holland.
The letter from the solicitor (a French solicitor, or the equivalent, writing from the Riviera) told us all about the boat and about the money. The boat must be got by going or sending to Rotterdam, the money obtained in London.
A thirty horse-power (why not thirty dolphin-power?) motor-boat sounds very grand to read about; and as I recovered from my first disappointment I began to feel as if I'd suddenly become proprietor of a whole circus full of champing steeds. I tried to persuade Phyllis that I should write better stories if I could travel a little in my own motor-boat, as it would broaden my mind; therefore it would pay in the end. Besides, I wasn't sure my health was not breaking down from overstrain; not only that, I felt it would be right to go; and, anyhow, I just would go—so there.
I argued till I was on the point of fainting or having a fit, and I've no doubt that it was my drawn face (what face wouldn't have been drawn?) to which Phil's soft heart and obstinate mind finally succumbed.
She said that, as I seemed determined to go through fire and water (I never heard of any hot springs in the canals of Holland), she supposed she would have to stick by me, for she was older than I and couldn't allow me to go alone under any consideration, especially with my coloring and hair. But, though experience of me had accustomed her to shocks and, she must confess, to sacrifices, she had never expected until now that she would be called upon for my sake to become an adventuress.
As for the two hundred pounds, that part didn't signify. I needn't suppose she was thinking of it; thank Heaven, whether we worked or were idle we would still have our settled hundred and twenty pounds a year each. It was our reputation for which she cared most, and she was sure the least evil that could befall us would be to blow up.
"Better do it on a grand scale in a thirty horse-power motor-boat than in a gas-meter bath-tub of a five-room flat in Clapham," I remarked; and somehow that silenced Phyllis, except for a sigh.
Since then I've been in a whirl of excitement preparing my watery path as a motor-boat adventuress, and buying a dress or two to suit the part. It doesn't even depress me that Phil has selected hers with the air of acquiring a serviceable shroud.
I've finished up three serials in as many days, killing off my villains like flies, and creating a perfect epidemic of hastily made matches among titled heroes and virtuous nursery governesses. Scarcely an aristocratic house in England that wouldn't shake to its foundations if fiction were fact; but then my fiction isn't of the kind that anything short of a dislocated universe could possibly make fact.
Phyllis, with the face of a tragic Muse, has been writing letters to her clients recommending another typist—quite a professional sort of person, who was her understudy once, a year or so ago, when she thoughtlessly allowed herself to come down with measles.
"Miss Brown never puts 'q' instead of 'a', or gets chapter titles on one side; and she knows how to make the loveliest curlicues under her headings. Nobody will ever want me to come back," the poor girl wailed.
"All the better for them, if you're going to blow up, as you are convinced you will," I strove to console her, as I tried on a yachting-cap, reduced to two three-farthings from four shillings. But she merely shuddered. And now, when at last we have shut up the flat, turned the key upon our pasts, and got irrevocably on board the "Batavier" boat, which will land us in Rotterdam, she has moaned more than once, "I feel as if nothing would be the same with us ever, ever again."
"So do I," I've answered unfeelingly. "And I'm glad."
This is the first time I have been on a sea-going ship since I crossed from America with my mother, neither of us dreaming that she would settle down and give me an Englishman for a stepfather. As for Phil, she has no memories outside her native land—except early ones of Paris—and, though she has a natural instinct for the preservation of her young life, I don't doubt that every motion of the big boat in the night made her realize how infinitely more decorous it would be to drown on the "Batavier 4" than in a newfangled motor thing on an obscure foreign canal.
The Thames we have seen before, in all its bigness and richness and black ugliness; for on hot summer days we have embarked on certain trips which would condemn us forever in the eyes of duchesses, countesses, and other ladies of title I have known serially, in instalments. But we (or rather, I) chose to reach Holland by water, as it seems a more appropriate preface to our adventure; and I got Phyllis up before five in the morning, not to miss by any chance the first sight of the Low Lands.
We were only just in time, for we hadn't had our coffee and been dressed many minutes before my eyes caught at a line of land as a drowning person is supposed to catch at a straw.
"Holland!" said I; which was not particularly intelligent in me, as it couldn't have been anything else.
There it lay, this stage set for our drama, comedy, tragedy—whatever it may prove—of which we don't yet know the plot, although we are the heroines; and now that I'm writing in a Rotterdam hotel the curtain may be said to have rung up on the first act.
Just then it was lifted only far enough to show a long, low waste of gray-green, with a tuft or two of trees and a few shadowy individuals, which the stage-hands had evidently set in motion for the benefit of the leading ladies.
"We might be the Two Orphans," I said, "only you're not blind, Phil—except in your sense of humor; and I'm afraid there are no wicked Dutch noblemen to kidnap me——"
"Oh dear, I'm sure I hope not!" exclaimed Phil, looking as if a new feather had been heaped on her load of anxieties.
The line was no longer gray now, nor was it a waste. It was a bright green, floating ribbon, brocaded with red flowers; and soon it was no ribbon, but a stretch of grassy meadow, and the red flowers were roofs; yet meadows and roofs were not just common meadows and roofs, for they belonged to Holland; and everybody knows—even those who haven't seen it yet—that Holland is like no country in the world, except its queer, cozy, courageous, obstinate little self.
The sky was blue to welcome us, and housewifely Dutch angels were beating up the fat, white cloud-pillows before tucking them under the horizon out of sight. Even the air seemed to have been washed till it glittered with crystalline clearness that brought each feature of the landscape strangely close to the eyes.
We were in the River Maas, which opened its laughing mouth wide to let in our boat. But soon it was so busy with its daily toil that it forgot to smile and look its best for strangers. We saw it in its brown working-dress, giving water to ugly manufactories, and floating an army of big ships, black lighters, and broadly built craft, which coughed spasmodically as they forged sturdily and swiftly through the waters. Their breath was like the whiff that comes from an automobile, and I knew that they must be motor-barges. My heart warmed to them. They seemed to have been sent out on purpose to say, "Your fun is going to begin."
At last we were in Rotterdam, steaming slowly between two lines of dignified quays, ornamented with rows of trees and backed by quaintly built, many-colored brick houses—blue and green and pink, some nodding forward, some leaning back. The front walls were carried up to conceal the roofs; many of the facades tapered into triangles; others had double curves like a swan's neck; some were cut into steps—so that there was great variety, and an effect almost Chinese about the architecture of the queer houses with the cranes projecting over their topmost windows. There was nothing to be called beautiful, but it was all impressive and interesting, because so different from that part of the world which we know.
A gigantic railway bridge of latticed iron flung itself across the skyline; one huge white building, like a New York sky-scraper, towered head and shoulders above the close-leaning roofs of the city; and all among the houses were brown sails and masts of ships; water-streets and land-streets tangled inseparably together.
The hum of life—strange, foreign life!—filled the air; an indescribable, exciting sound, made up of the wind whistling among cordage of sea-going ships, the shouts of men at work, the river slapping against piles and the iron sides of vessels, the whirr and clank of steam-cranes. Wreaths of brown smoke blew gustily in the sunlight; a train boomed across the latticed bridge; and the hoot of a siren tore all other sounds in shreds. Creakily our ship was warped in by straining cables, and I said to myself, "The overture's finished. The play is going to begin."
Phil and I streamed off the boat with the other passengers, who had the air of knowing exactly why they'd come, where they were going, and what was the proper thing to do next. But as soon as we were landed on the most extraordinary place, which looked as if trees and houses had sprouted on a dyke, all consecutive ideas were ground out of our heads in the mill of confusing sights and sounds. Friends were meeting each other, and jabbering something which sounded at a distance like Glasgow-English, and like no known language when you were close enough to catch the words. Porters surged round us, urging the claims of rival hotels; men in indigo cotton blouses pleaded for our luggage; and altogether we were overwhelmed by a tidal wave of Dutchness.
How order finally came out of chaos I hardly know; but when I got my breath it occurred to me that we might temporarily abandon our big luggage and steer through the crowd, with dressing-bags in our hands, to hail an elderly cab whose driver had early selected us as prey.
Before getting into the vehicle I paused, and tried to concentrate my mind on plans; though the quaint picture of the Boompjes, and the thought that we, Phyllis Rivers and Nell Van Buren, should be on the Boompjes was distracting. I did manage, however, to find our boat's address and the name of the caretaker, both of which I had on a piece of paper with loose "i's" and "j's" scattered thickly through every word. All we had to do, therefore, was to tell our moth-eaten cabman to drive to the place, show the letters from the solicitor (and perhaps a copy of Captain Noble's will), claim our property from the hands of Jan Paasma, and then, if we liked, take up our quarters on our own boat until we could engage some one to "work it" for our tour. Luckily, we'd had coffee and rolls on board the "Batavier"; so we needn't bother about breakfast, as I said joyously to Phil.
But Phil, it seemed, did not regard breakfast as a bother. She thought it would be fatal to throw ourselves into a formidable undertaking unless we first had tea and an egg, and somebody to advise us.
"We must go to an hotel before we see the boat," said she, firmly.
"But who's to give us advice at a hotel?" I asked with scorn.
"Oh, I don't know. The manager."
"Managers of hotels aren't engaged to advise young women about motor-boats."
"Well, then, a—a waiter."
"We could ask the head one. And, anyway, he would be a man."
"My darling child, have we ever depended on a man since your father died?"
"We've never had emergencies, except taking our flat—oh, and buying my type-writer. Besides, I can't bear all I shall have to bear without a cup of tea."
This settled it. We climbed into that frail shell, our chosen cab, and I opened the Dutch phrase-book which I bought in London. I wanted to find out what hotel was nearest to the lair of our boat, but in that wild moment I could discover nothing more appropriate than "I wish immediately some medicine for seasickness," and (hastily turning over the pages) "I have lost my pet cat." I began mechanically to stammer French and the few words of German which for years have lain peacefully buried in the dustiest folds of my intellect.
"Oh, dear, how shall I make him understand what we want?" I groaned, my nerves quivering under the pitying eye of the cabman, and the early-Christian-martyr expression of Phyllis.
"Don't ask me," said she, in icy vengefulness; "you would bring me to Holland, and I shouldn't speak Dutch if I could."
"I spik Eengleesh," announced the cabman.
I could have fallen upon his bosom, which, though littered with dust and grease-spots, I was sure concealed a noble heart. But I contented myself with taking him into my confidence. I said we had a motor-boat, and wanted to go to a hotel as near it as possible. I then showed the precious paper with the "i's" and "j's" dotted about, and he nodded so much that his tall hat, which looked like a bit cut out of a rusty stove-pipe, almost fell off on my nose.
"You get on my carriage, and I drive you to where you want," he replied reassuringly, making of our luggage a resting-place for his honest boots, and climbing into his seat.
Magnetized by his manner, we obeyed, and it was not until we had started, rattling over the stone-paved street, that Phil bethought herself of an important detail.
"Wait a moment. Ask him if it's a nice hotel where he's taking us."
I stood up, seized the railing of the driver's seat to steady myself, and shrieked the question above the noise of the wheels.
"I take you right place," he returned; and I repeated the sentence to Phyllis.
"That's no answer. Ask him if it's respectable; we can't go if it isn't. Ask him if it's expensive; we can't go if it is."
I yelled the message.
"I take you hotel by-and-by. You see Rotterdam a little first."
"But we don't want to see Rotterdam first. We want breakfast. Rotterdam by-and-by."
A sudden bump flung me down onto the hard seat. I half rose to do battle again; then, as I gazed up at that implacable Dutch back, I began dimly to understand how Holland, though a dot of a nation, tired out and defeated fiery Spain. I knew that no good would be accomplished by resisting that back. Short of hurling ourselves out on the stones, we would have to see Rotterdam, so we might as well make the best of it. And this I urged upon Phil, with reproaches for her niggardliness in not buying Baedeker, who would have put stars to tell us the names of hotels, and given us crisp maps to show where they were situated in connection with other things.
I should think few people who have lived in Rotterdam for years have really seen as much of the town as we saw on this clear blue morning.
At first the information bestowed upon us by the owner of the back seemed an adding of insult to injury. How dared he explain what he was forcing us to see in spite of ourselves? But, by-and-by, even Phyllis fell to laughing, and her dimples are to her temper what rainbows are to thunder-showers—once they are out there can be no more storm.
"I feel as if we'd seen samples of all Holland, and were ready to go to our peaceful home again," said Phil, after we'd driven about from the region of big shops and imposing arcades, to shady streets mirroring brown mansions in glassy canals; on to toy villages of miniature painted houses, standing in flowery gardens, far below the level of adjacent ponds adorned with flower-islands; through large parks and intricate plantations; past solemnly flapping windmills; far beyond, to meadows where black and white cows recognized the fact that we were not Dutch and despised us for it; then back to parks and gardens again. "I shouldn't think there could be any sort of characteristic thing left which we haven't met with. I'm sure I could go home now and talk intelligently about Holland."
We couldn't help being interested in everything, though we were seeing it against our wills; yet it was a relief to our feelings when the Back unbent to the extent of stopping before an old-fashioned, low-built hotel, close to a park. So far as we could judge, it was miles from anywhere, and had no connection with anything else; but we were too thankful for the privilege of stopping, to be critical. The house had an air of quiet rectitude which appealed to Phil, and without a word she allowed our luggage to be taken off the cab.
When we came to pay, it appeared that our driver hadn't made us acquainted with every secret of Rotterdam, purely in a spirit of generosity. We were called upon to part with almost all the gulden we had got in exchange for shillings on board the boat, and Phil looked volumes as it dawned on her intelligence that each one of these coins (with the head of an incredibly mild and whiskered old gentleman upon it) was worth one and eightpence.
"At this rate we shall soon be in the poorhouse," she said.
"If it comes to that, we can stop the motor-boat at villages and solicit alms," I suggested.
After all, the Back had had some method in its madness, for on showing the caretaker's address to a giant hall-porter, it appeared that the place was within ten minutes' walk of the hotel. We refused to decide upon rooms until our future plans had shaped themselves; and our luggage reposed in the hall while we had cups of tea and a Dutch conception of toast in a garden, whose charms we shared with a rakish wandering Jew of a tortoise.
Many times since I induced Phyllis to join me in becoming an adventuress, have we vaguely arranged what we would do on arriving at Rotterdam. The program seemed simple enough from a distance—just to go and pick up our boat (so to speak) and motor away with it; but when we actually started off, pioneered by a small boy from the hotel, to take possession of our property, I had a horrid sinking of the heart, which I wouldn't for many heads of whiskered old gentlemen on gulden have confessed to Phil. I felt that "something was going to happen."
The "ten minutes'" walk prolonged itself into twenty, and then there was a ferry over a wide, brown, swift-flowing stream. This brought us to a little basin opening from the river, where one or two small yachts and other craft nestled together.
"Look!" I exclaimed, with a sudden throb of excitement, which bubbled up like a geyser through the cold crust of my depression. "There she is!"
"Who?" cried Phyllis, starting. "Any one we know?"
"Our boat, silly. 'Lorelei.' I suppose you think she ought to be called 'White Elephant'?"
Yes, there she was, with "Lorelei" in gold letters on her bows, this fair siren who had lured us across the North Sea; and instead of being covered up and shabby to look at after her long winter of retirement and neglect, she had the air of being ready to start off at a moment's notice to begin a cruise.
Every detail of her smart white dress looked new. There was no fear of delay for painting and patching. Clean cocoa-nut matting was spread upon the floor of the little decks fore and aft; the brass rails dazzled our eyes with their brilliance; the windows of the roofed cabin were brighter than the Ko-hi-nur, the day I went to see it in the Tower of London; basket-chairs, with pink and blue and primrose silk cushions, stood on deck, their arms open in a welcoming gesture. There was a little table, too, which looked born and bred for a tea-table. It really was extraordinary.
"Oh, Nell, it is a pretty boat!" The words were torn from Phil in reluctant admiration. "Of course it's most awfully reckless of us to have come, and I don't see what's going to happen in the end; but—but it does seem as if we might enjoy ourselves. Fancy having tea on our own deck! Why, it's almost a yacht! I wonder what Lady Hutchinson would say if she could see us sitting in those chairs! She'd be polite to me for a whole month."
Lady Hutchinson is Phil's one titled client. Long ago her husband was a grocer. She writes sentimental poetry, and her idea of dignity is to snub her type-writer. But I couldn't concentrate my mind on the pleasure of astonishing Lady Hutchinson. I was thinking what a wonderful caretaker Jan Paasma must be.
"Conscientious" hardly expressed him, because it's almost a year since Captain Noble used "Lorelei," and we hadn't written that we were coming to claim her; yet here she was, en fete for our reception. But then, I thought, perhaps our dear old friend had left instructions to keep the boat always ready. It would be rather like him: and, in any case, we should soon know all, as Mr. Paasma's dwelling is a little green house close to the miniature quay. We saw his name over the door, for evidently he doesn't entirely depend upon his guardianship of boats for a livelihood. He owns a shop, with indescribable things in the one cramped but shining window—things which only those who go down to the sea in ships could possibly wish to have.
For all we could tell he might be on board the boat, which floated a yard or two from shore, moored by ropes; but it seemed more professional to seek Mr. Paasma under his own roof, and we did so, nearly falling over a stout child who was scrubbing the floor of the shop.
"What a queer time of day to be cleaning—eleven o'clock," muttered Phil, having just saved herself from a tumble. I thought so too; but then we'd been in Holland only a few hours. We hadn't yet realized the relative importance of certain affairs of life, according to a Dutchwoman's point of view.
We glared reproachfully at the stout child, as much as to say, "Why don't you finish your swabbing at a proper hour?" She glared at us as if she would have demanded, "What the (Dutch) Dickens do you mean by bouncing in and upsetting my arrangements?"
Little was accomplished on either side by this skirmishing; so I put my pride in my pocket and inquired for her master.
"Boot," replied the creature. "Boot," pointing with her mop in the direction whence we had come.
We understood by this that the caretaker was at his post, and we returned to shout the name of Heer Paasma.
Nothing happened at first; but after several spasmodic repetitions a blue silk curtain flickered at one of the cabin windows on "Lorelei," and a little, old, brown face, with a fringe of fluff round the chin, appeared in the aperture—a walnut of a face, with a pair of shrewd, twinkling eyes, and a pipe in a slit of a mouth. Another call brought on deck a figure which matched the face; and on deck Mr. Paasma (it looked like a gnome, but it could be no other than the caretaker) evidently intended to remain until he got a satisfactory explanation.
"Are you Heer Paasma?" I inquired from my distance.
The walnut nodded.
"Do you speak English?"
Out came the pipe. "Ja, a leetle."
"We're Miss Rivers and Miss Van Buren, from England. I'm Miss Van Buren. You have heard about me, and that Captain Noble left me his motor-boat in his will."
"No, I not heerd." A dark flush slowly turned the sharp little walnut face to mahogany.
"How strange! I thought the solicitor would have written. But perhaps it wasn't necessary. Anyway, I have all the papers to prove that the boat is mine. You did know poor Captain Noble was dead, surely?"
"Ja, I hear that."
"Well, if you'll put a plank across, we'll come on board, and I'll show you my papers and explain everything."
"I come on shore," said Mr. Paasma.
"No, we would rather——"
I might have saved my breath. Mr. Paasma was Dutch, and he had made up his mind what would be best. The rest goes without saying. He seized one of the ropes, hauled the boat closer to shore, and sprang onto the bank.
There was a strange glitter in his eye. I supposed it to be the bleak glint of suspicion, and hastened to reassure the excellent man by producing my papers, pointing out paragraphs which I placed conspicuously under his nose, in our copy of Captain Noble's will, and the letters I had received from the solicitor.
"You see," I said at last, "everything is all right. You need have no hesitation in giving the boat to me."
Mr. Paasma puffed at his pipe, which he held very tight between his teeth, and stared at the papers without looking up.
"If you like, you can apply to your lawyer, if you have one," I went on, seeing that he was far from easy in his mind. "I'm quite willing to meet him. Besides"—I had suddenly a brilliant idea—"I have relations in Rotterdam. Their name is the same as mine—van Buren. Perhaps you have heard of Heer Robert van Buren?"
"Ja," replied Mr. Paasma, biting his pipe still harder. Instead of looking happy, his face grew so troubled that I wondered whether my mention of these unknown relatives had been unfortunate—whether, by any chance, a member of the family had lately committed some crime. Meanwhile, Phyllis stared. For my own reasons I had refrained from speaking to her of these relations; now, urged by necessity, I brought them to light; but what they might be, or whether they still existed in Rotterdam I knew no more than did Phil.
"Mynheer van Buren is a known man," said the caretaker. "You not send for him. I think the boat is to you, missus. What you want do?"
"First of all, we want to go on board and look at her," I replied.
This time, rather to my surprise, he made no objections. A dark pall of resignation had fallen upon him. In such a mood as his, an Indian woman would go to Suttee without a qualm. He pulled the boat to shore, placed a plank, and with a thrilling pride of possession we walked on board.
There were some steep steps which led down from the deck to the cabin, and Phyllis and I descended, Mr. Paasma stolidly following, with an extraordinary expression on his walnut face. It was not exactly despairing, or defiant, or angry, or puzzled; but it held something of each one of these emotions.
However, I soon forgot about the caretaker and his feelings in admiration of "Lorelei." Aft, you looked down into the motor-room, with a big monster of machinery, which I respected but didn't understand. From that, when you'd crossed a little passage, you had to go down some more steps into a cabin which was so charming that I stood still on the threshold, and said, "Oh!"
"Why, it's prettier than our drawing-room!" exclaimed Phil; "and my favorite colors too, green and white. It's almost like a boudoir. Who could have supposed Captain Noble would have so much taste? And do look at that darling old Dutch clock over the—the buffet or whatever it is, with all the little ships rocking on the waves every time it ticks."
We were both so much excited now that we began to talk together, neither of us listening to the other. We opened the door of what Phil called the "buffet," and found neat little piles of blue-and-white china. There were tiny tablecloths and napkins too, and knives and forks and spoons. On one of the seats (which could be turned into berths at night) stood a smart tea-basket. We peeped inside, and it was the nicest tea-basket imaginable, which must have come from some grand shop in Bond Street, with its gold and white cups, and its gleaming nickel and silver. In the locker were sheets and blankets; on a bracket by the clock was a book-shelf with glass doors, and attractive-looking novels inside.
"How pathetic it is!" I cried. "Poor Captain Noble! He must have enjoyed getting together these nice things; and now they are all for us."
"And here—oh, this is too sad! His poor, dear shirts and things," sighed Phil, making further discoveries in another, smaller cabin beyond. "Drawers full of them. Fancy his leaving them here all winter—and they don't seem a bit damp."
I followed her into a green-and-pink cabin, a tiny den, but pretty enough for an artist instead of an old retired sea-captain.
"What shall we do with them?" she asked. "We might keep them all to remember him by, perhaps; only—they would be such odd sorts of souvenirs for girls to have, and—oh, my goodness, Nell, who could have dreamed of Captain Noble in—in whatever it is?"
Whatever it was, it was pale-blue silk, with lovely pink stripes of several shades, and there was a jacket which Phil was just holding out by its shoulders, to admire, when a slight cough made us turn our heads.
It is strange what individuality there can be in a cough. We would have sworn if we'd heard it while locked up with Mr. Paasma in a dark cell, where there was no other human being to produce it, that he couldn't have uttered such an interesting cough.
Before we turned, we knew that there was a stranger on "Lorelei," but we were surprised when we saw what sort of stranger he was.
He stood in the narrow doorway between the two cabins, looking at us with bright, dark eyes, like Robert Louis Stevenson's, and dressed in smart flannels and a tall collar, such as Robert Louis Stevenson would never have consented to wear.
"I beg your pardon," said he, in a nice, drawling voice, which told me that he'd first seen the light in one of the Southern States of America.
"I beg yours," said I. (Somehow Phil generally waits for me to speak first in emergencies, though she's a year older.) "Are you looking for any one—the caretaker of our boat, perhaps?"
His eyes traveled from me to Phil; from Phil to the blue garment to which she still clung; from the blue garment to the pile of stiff white shirts in an open drawer.
"No—o, I wasn't exactly looking for any one," he slowly replied. "I just came on board to—er——"
"To what, if you please?" I demanded, beginning to stiffen. "I've a right to know, because this is our boat. If you're a newspaper reporter, or anything of that sort, please go away; but if you have business——"
"No, it was only pleasure," said the young man, his eyes like black diamonds. "I didn't know the boat was yours."
"Whose did you think it was?"
"Well, as a matter of fact, I—er—thought it was mine."
"What do you mean?" I cried, while Phil threw a wild, questioning look at the shirts, and dropped the blue silk jacket.
"That is, temporarily. But there must be some mistake."
"There must—a big mistake. Where's the caretaker? He came on board with us."
The young man's eyes twinkled even more. "Did he know it was your boat?"
"Why, of course, we told him. It was left to us in a will. We've just come to claim it."
"Oh, I think I begin to see. I shouldn't wonder if Paasma has now taken to his bed with a sudden attack of—whatever the Dutch have instead of nervous prostration. He didn't know you were coming?"
"Not till we came."
"It must have been quite a surprise. By Jove, the old fox! I suppose he hadn't got the shadow of a right, then, to let the boat to me?"
"My gracious!" breathed Phyllis, and shut up the drawer of shirts with a snap. I don't know what she did with the blue silk object, except that it suddenly and mysteriously disappeared from the floor. Perhaps she stood on it.
"What an awful thing," said I. "You're sure you're not in the wrong boat? You're sure he didn't let you some other one?"
"Sure. There is no other one in Holland exactly like this. I've been on board nearly every day for a week, ever since I began to——"
"Since you began——"
"To have her done up. Nothing to speak of, you know; but she's been lying here all winter, and—er—I had a fancy to clean house——"
"Then—all these things are—yours?"
"Some of the things——"
"The Dutch clock, the deck-chairs, the silk cushions, the curtains, and decorations in the cabin——"
"I'm afraid you think I'm an awful meddler; but, you see, I didn't know. Paasma told me he had a right to let the boat, and that I could do her up as much as I liked."
"The old wretch!" I gasped. "And you walk on board to find two strange girls rummaging among your—your——" Then I couldn't help laughing when I remembered how Phil had suggested our keeping those things for souvenirs.
"I thought I must be having a dream—a beautiful dream."
I ignored the implied compliment. "What are we going to do about it?" I asked. "It is our boat. There's no doubt about that. But with these things of yours—do you want to go to law, or—or—anything?"
"Good heavens, no! I——"
"I'll tell you what we'll do," said I. "Let's get the caretaker here, and have it out with him. Perhaps he has an explanation."
"He's certain to have—several. Shall I go and fetch him?"
"Please do," urged Phil, speaking for the first time, and looking adorably pink.
The young man vanished, and we heard him running up the steep companion (if that's the right word for it) two steps at a time.
Phil and I stared at each other. "I knew something awful would happen," said she. "This is a judgment."
"He's too nice looking to be a judgment," said I. "I like his taste in everything—including shirts, don't you?"
"Don't speak of them," commanded Phil.
We shut the drawers tightly, and going into the other cabin, did the same there.
"Anyhow, I saw 'C. Noble' on the sheets and blankets," I said thankfully. "There are some things that belong to us."
"It will end in our going home at once, I suppose," said Phil.
"However else it ends, it won't end like that, I promise you," I assured her. "I must have justice."
"But he must have his things. Oh, Nell, have you really got relatives in Rotterdam, or did you make that up to frighten the caretaker?"
"No; they exist. I never spoke of them to you, because I never thought of them until we were coming here, and then I was afraid if I did you'd think it the proper thing to implore the females—if any—to chaperon us. Besides, relations so often turn out bores. All I know about mine is, that mother told me father had relations in Holland—in Rotterdam. And if she and I hadn't stopped in England to take care of you and your father, perhaps we should have come here and met them long ago."
"Well, do let's look them up and get them to help. I won't say a word about chaperons."
"Perhaps it would be a good thing. That wicked old caretaker seemed to be struck with respectful awe by the name of Van Buren."
"I never knew before that you were partly Dutch."
"You did. I've often boasted of my Knickerbocker blood."
"Didn't you know it was the same thing? Where's your knowledge of history?"
"I never had much time to study American history. There was such a lot that came before," said Phil, mildly; but the blood sprang to her cheeks at the sound of a step on the stairs. Our rival for possession of the boat had come back alone.
"That old rascal has, with extraordinary suddenness and opportuneness, forgotten every word of English," he announced, "and pretends not to understand German. I can't speak Dutch; can you?"
"No," said I. "Not a syllable. But he spoke English quite respectably an hour ago."
"That was before he was found out. He can now do nothing but shake his head and say 'niets verstaen,' or something that sounds like that. I thought of killing him, but concluded it would be better to wait until I'd asked you how you'd like it done."
"It ought to be something lingering," said I. "We'll talk it over. But first, perhaps, we'd better decide what's to be done with ourselves. You see, we've come to Holland to have a cruise on our new boat; otherwise, if you liked, we, as the real owners, might let her to you, and all would be well. Still, it does seem a shame that you should be disappointed when you took 'Lorelei' in good faith, and made her so pretty. Of course, you must let us know what you've paid——"
"A few gulden," said the young man, evasively.
"Never mind. You must tell how many. Unfortunately that won't mend your disappointment. But—what can we do?"
"I suppose there isn't the slightest hope that you could—er—take me as a passenger?"
"Oh, we couldn't possibly do that," hastily exclaimed Phil. "We're alone. Though my stepsister, Miss Van Buren, has cousins in Rotterdam, we've come from England without a chaperon, and—for the present——"
The young man's eyes were more brilliant than ever, though the rest of his face looked sad.
"Oh, don't say any more," he implored. "I see how it is. I oughtn't to have made such a suggestion. My only excuse is, I was thinking—of my poor aunt. She'll be horribly disappointed. I care most for her, and what she'll feel at giving up the cruise."
"Oh, was your aunt coming?" I asked.
"Yes, my Scotch aunt. Such a charming woman. I'm an American, you know. Clever of me to have a Scotch aunt, but I have. I've been visiting her lately, near Edinburgh. You would like Lady MacNairne, I think."
Phil's face changed. She is the last girl in the world to be a snob; but hearing that this young man had a Scotch aunt, with a title, was almost as good as a proper introduction. And there really is something singularly winning about my countryman. I suppose it is that he has "a way with him," as the Irish say. Besides, it seemed nice of so young a man to care so much about a mere aunt. Many young men despise aunts as companions; but evidently he isn't one of those, as he beautified "Lorelei" simply to give his aunt pleasure.
"It really does seem hard," I said. "Now, if only Phyllis hadn't so many rules of propriety—" But, to my surprise, the very thought in my mind, which I hadn't dared breathe, was spoken out next minute by Phil herself.
"Maybe we might come to some kind of arrangement—as you have an aunt," she faltered.
"Yes, as you have an aunt," I repeated.
"She'd make an ideal chaperon for young ladies," hastily went on the Southerner. "I should like you to meet her."
"Is Lady MacNairne in Rotterdam?" asked Phil.
"Not exactly; but she's coming—almost at once."
"We don't know your name yet," said Phyllis. "I'm Miss Rivers; my stepsister is Miss Van Buren. Perhaps you'd better introduce yourself."
"I shall be glad to," returned my countryman. "My name is Ronald Lester Starr——"
"Why, the initials are just right—R. L. S." I murmured.
"I know what you mean," he said, with a nice smile. "They say I look like him. I'm very proud. You'll think I ought to be a writer; but I'm not. I paint a little—just enough to call myself an artist——"
"Oh, I remember," I broke in. "I thought the name sounded familiar. You had a picture in the Salon this spring."
He looked anxious. "Did you see it?"
"No—not even a copy. What was the subject? Horrid of me to ask; but, you see, it's July now, and one forgets."
"One does," he admitted, as if he were pleased. "Oh, it was only a portrait of my aunt."
"Your Scotch aunt?"
"Yes. But if you'd seen it, and then should see her, you mightn't even recognize her. I—er—didn't try to make a striking likeness."
"I wish I'd seen the picture," said I. And I thought Mr. Starr must be very modest, for his expression suggested that he didn't echo my wish.
"Do you think you could let my aunt and me join you?" he asked. "I don't mean to crowd up your boat; that would never do, for you might want to sleep on it sometimes. But I might get a barge, and you could tow it. I'd thought of that very thing; indeed, I've practically engaged a barge. My friend and I, who were to have chummed together, if he hadn't been called away—oh, you know, that was a plan before my aunt promised to come, quite another idea. But what I mean to say is, I got an idea for hiring a barge, and having it towed by the motor-boat. I could have had a studio in that way, for I wanted to do some painting. I'd just come back from seeing rather a jolly barge that's to let, when I—er—stumbled on you."
"Had you engaged any one to work 'Lorelei'?"
"A chauffeur," said Mr. Ronald; "but no skipper for certain yet. I've been negotiating."
"Dear me!" I exclaimed. "Must we have a chauffeur and a skipper too?"
"I'm afraid we must; a man who understands the waterways of Holland. A chauffeur understands only the motor, and lucky if he does that."
"Won't it be dreadfully expensive?" asked Phyllis.
"The skipper's wages won't be more than five or six dollars (a bit more than one of your sovereigns) a week, and the chauffeur less. They'll keep themselves, but I meant them to sleep on the barge. The skipper ought to be a smart chap, who can be trusted with money to pay the expenses of the boat as one goes along—bridge-money and all sorts of things. The chauffeur can buy the essence—petrol, you call it in England, don't you?—but the skipper had better do the rest."
"It does seem a frightful responsibility for two girls," said Phyllis.
"Of course, if you'd consent to have my aunt—and me—we'd take all the trouble off your hands, and half the expense," remarked Mr. Starr. "My poor aunt is so fond of the water, and there's so little in Scotland——"
"Little in Scotland?"
"Well, only a few lakes and rivers. It does seem hard she should be disappointed."
"She mightn't like us," said Phyllis.
"She would lo—I mean, she'd be no aunt of mine if she didn't. I'd cut her off with a penny."
"It's generally aunts who do that with their nephews," said I.
"Ah, but she's different from other aunts, and I'm different from other nephews. May I telegraph that she's to come?"
"I thought she was coming."
"I mean, may I telegraph that she's to be a chaperon? I ought to let her know. She might—er—want more dresses or bonnets, or something."
Phil and I laughed, and so did Mr. Starr. After that, of course, we couldn't be stony-hearted; besides, we didn't want to be. I could see that, even to Phil, the thought of a cruise taken in the company of our new friend and that ideal chaperon, his aunt, Lady MacNairne, had attractions which the idea of a cruise alone with her stepsister had lacked.
"Well, in the circumstances, I think we should be callous brutes not to say 'Yes,'" I replied.
"I don't want to force you into consenting from pure generosity," went on Mr. Starr. "If you'd like to consult your relations, and have them find out that I'm all right——"
I laughed again. "I know you better than I do them," said I. "I've never seen them yet. I think we can take you on faith, just as you've taken our claims to the boat. Your Scotch aunt alone would be a guarantee, if we needed one. A Scotch aunt sounds so extra reliable. But perhaps my relatives may be of use in other ways, as they've lived in Rotterdam always, I fancy. They might even find us a skipper, if your negotiations fall through. Anyhow, I'll write a letter from our hotel to the head of the family, introducing myself as his long-lost cousin twice removed."
"What is your hotel, if I may ask?" inquired Mr. Starr.
I told him, and it turned out that it had been his till this very morning, when he had removed his things to "Lorelei," with the intention of living on board till he was ready to start. Now he proposed to have them taken back to the hotel, and rearranged on the barge when his aunt came. As for that sly old person, the caretaker, our new friend volunteered to straighten out everything with him, our affair as well as his own.
"When he discovers that we can't be bothered having the law of him, as he richly deserves, he will remember his English, or I'll find the way to make him," said the young man in such a joyous, confident way, that thereupon I dubbed him our "lucky Starr."
"How funny if I've got relations who can't speak any language except Dutch!" I said, after I'd sent a letter by messenger to the address of the Robert van Buren found in the directory.
But half an hour later an answer came back, in English. Mine very sincerely, Robert van Buren, would give himself the pleasure of calling on his cousin immediately. When I received this news it was one o'clock, and we were finishing lunch at the hotel, in the society of Mr. Starr, who had already wired to his aunt that she was to play the part of chaperon.
I read the letter aloud, and Phil and I decided that it sounded old.
"Mother spoke once or twice of father's cousin, Robert van Buren; so I suppose he's about the age my father would have been if he'd lived," I said. "I hope he'll not turn out a horror."
"I hope he'll not forbid you to associate with my aunt and me," cut in Mr. Starr. "It's a stiff kind of handwriting."
"He can't make me stiff," said I. "Cousins twice removed don't count—except when they can be useful."
"A gentleman in the reading-room to see you, miss," announced the waiter, who could speak English, handing me a card on a tray. It was a foreign-looking card, and I couldn't feel in the least related to it, especially as the "van" began with a little "v."
"Come and support me, Phil," I begged, glancing regretfully at a seductive bit of Dutch cheese studded with caraway seeds, which it would be rude to stop and eat.
It's rather an ordeal to meet a new relation, even if you tell yourself that you don't care what he thinks of you. I slipped behind Phil, making her enter the reading-room first, which gave me time to peep over her shoulder and fancy we had been directed wrongly. There was a man in the room, but he could not have been a man in the days when mother was speaking of "father's cousin." His expression only was old: it might have been a hundred. The rest of him could not be more than twenty-eight, and it was all extremely good-looking. If he were to turn out a cousin I should not have to be ashamed of him. He was like a big, handsome cavalryman, with a drooping mustache that was hay-colored, in contrast with a brown skin, and a pair of the solemnest gray eyes I've ever seen—except in the face of a baby.
"Are you Miss Van Buren?" this giant asked Phil gravely, holding out a large brown hand.
"No," said Phil, unwilling to take the hand under false pretenses.
It fell, and so did the handsome face, if anything so solemn could have become a degree graver than before.
"I beg your pardon," said the owner of both, speaking English with a Scotch accent. "I have made a deceit."
I laughed aloud. "I'm Helen Van Buren," I said. And I put out my hand.
His swallowed it up, and though I wear only one ring I could have shrieked. Yet his expression was not flattering. There are persons who prefer my style to Phil's, but I could see that he wasn't one of them. I felt he thought me garish; which was unjust, as I can't help it if my complexion is very white and very pink, my eyes and eyelashes rather dark, and my hair decidedly chestnut. I haven't done any of it myself, yet I believe the handsome giant suspected me, and was sorry that Phil was not Miss Van Buren.
"Are you my cousin Robert Van Buren's son?" I asked.
"I am the only Robert van Buren now living," he answered.
I longed to be flippant, and say that there were probably several dotted about the globe, if we only knew them; but I dared not, under those eyes—absolutely dared not. Instead, I remarked inanely that I was sorry to hear his father was not alive.
"He died many years ago. We have got over it," he replied. And I almost laughed again; but that angel of a Phil looked quite sympathetic.
In a few minutes we settled down more comfortably, with Phil and me on a sofa together, and Cousin Robert on a chair, which kept me in fits of anxiety by creaking and looking too small to hold him.
Phil and I held hands, as girls generally do when they are at all self-conscious, if they sit within a yard of each other; and we all began to talk in the absurd way of new-found relations, or people you haven't seen for a long time.
We asked Robert things, and he answered; and when we'd encouraged him a good deal, he asked us things too, looking mostly at Phyllis. At last we arrived at the information that he had a mother and two sisters, who spent the summers at Scheveningen, in a villa. Then fell a silence, which Phil tactfully broke by saying that she had heard of Scheveningen. It must be a beautiful place, and she'd been brought up with a cup that came from there. When she was good, as a child, she was allowed to play with it.
"I should think you were always good," said Cousin Robert. Phyllis blushed, and then he blushed too, under his brown skin. "I have also a fiancee at Scheveningen," he went on, a propos of nothing—unless of the blush.
"Is she a Dutch girl?" I asked.
"I suppose she is very pretty and charming?"
"I do not know. I am used to her. We have played together when we were young. I go every Saturday to Scheveningen, when they are there, to stay till Monday."
"Oh!" said Phil.
"Oh!" said I.
Silence again. Then, "It was very good of you to come and see us so quickly after I wrote."
"It was my duty; and my pleasure too" (as second thought). "You must tell me your plans."
So we told them, and Cousin Robert did not approve. "I do not think it will do," said he, firmly.
"I'm afraid it must do," I returned, with equal firmness disguised under a smile.
Phil apologized for me as she gave me a squeeze of the hand.
"We've been very happy together, Nell and I," she explained, "but we have never had much excitement. This is our first chance, and—we shall be well chaperoned by Lady MacNairne."
"Yes; but she is the aunt of the stranger young man."
"Geniuses are never strangers. He is a genius," I said. "You've no idea how his Salon picture was praised."
"But his character. What do you know of that?"
"It's his aunt's character that matters most, and the MacNairnes are irreproachable."
(I had never heard the name until this morning, but there are some things which you seem to have been born knowing; and I was in a mood to stake my life upon Lady MacNairne.)
"It is better that you see my mother," said Cousin Robert.
"It will be sweet of her to call on us."
"I do not think she can do that. She is too large; and she does not easily move from Scheveningen. But if she writes you a note, to ask you and Miss Rivers, you will go, is it not?"
"With pleasure," I said, "if it isn't too far. You see, Lady MacNairne may arrive soon, and when she does——"
"But now I will see my mother, and I will bring back the letter. I will drive with an automobile which a friend has lent me—Rudolph Brederode; and when you have read the note, you will both go in the car with me to Scheveningen to stay for all night, perhaps more."
"Oh, we couldn't think of staying all night," I exclaimed. "We'll stop here till——"
"It is not right that you stop here. I will go now, and, please, you will pack up to be ready."
"We haven't unpacked yet," I said. "But we couldn't possibly—for one thing, your mother may not find it convenient."
My cousin Robert's jaw set. "She surely will find it convenient."
"What people you Dutch are!" the words broke from me.
He looked surprised. "We are the same like others."
"I think you are the same as you used to be hundreds of years ago, when you first began to do as you pleased; and I suppose you have been doing it ever since."
Cousin Robert smiled. "Maybe we like our own way," he admitted.
"And maybe you get it!"
"I hope. And now I will go to order the automobile." He glanced at his watch, an old-fashioned gold one. "In an hour and a quarter I will be at Scheveningen. Fifteen minutes there will be enough. Another hour and a quarter to come back. I will be for you at four."
"You don't allow any time for the motor to break down," I said.
"I do not hope that she will break down. She is a Dutch car."
"And serves a Dutch master. Oh no; certainly she won't break down."
He stared, not fully comprehending; but he did not pull his mustache, as an Englishman does, when he wonders if he is being chaffed. He shook hands with us gravely, and bowed several times at the door. Then he was gone, and we knew that if he didn't come back at four with that letter from his mother, it would be because she—or the motor—was more Dutch than he.
When he disappeared, Phil and I went out into the garden for the sole purpose, we told each other, of having coffee; and when we saw Mr. Starr sitting with an empty cup and a cigarette, we both exclaimed, "Oh, are you here?" as if we were surprised; so I suppose we were.
He had caught a glimpse of Cousin Robert, and said what a splendid-looking fellow he was—a regular Viking; but when we agreed, he appeared depressed. "Oh, my prophetic soul!" he murmured. "The cousin will want his mother to go with you, and my poor aunt will be nowhere."
"His mother is too large for the boat," I assured him confidently. Mr. Starr brightened at this, but clouded again when he heard that Phil and I were to stop the night with my cousins.
"They will tear you away from me—I mean, from my aunt," he said.
I shook my head. "No. It's difficult to resist the Dutch, I find, when they want you to do anything; but when they want you not to do anything—why, that is too much. Your pride comes to the rescue, and you fight for your life. We'll promise, if you like; for your aunt's sake. Won't we, Phil?"
"Yes; for your aunt's sake," she echoed.
"We can depend upon you, then—my aunt and I?"
"Upon us and 'Lorelei.'"
"You're angels. My aunt will bless you. And now, would you care to look at the barge I've got the refusal of? If you're going to tow her, you ought to know what she's like. I don't think she'll put 'Lorelei' to shame, though, for she's good of her kind; belongs to a Dutch artist who's in the habit of living aboard, but he has a commission for work in France, this summer, and wants to let her. She's lying near by."
Who would have thought, when we arrived a few hours before, strangers in Rotterdam, that we would be sauntering about the town with an American young man, calmly making plans for a cruise in his society? I'm sure that if a palmist had contrived to capture Phil's virtuous little hand, and foretold any such events, my stepsister would have considered them as impossible as monstrous. Nevertheless, she now accepted the arrangements Fate made for her, as quietly as the air she breathed; for was not the figure of our future chaperon already hovering in the background, title and old Scotch blood and all, sanctifying the whole proceeding?
Phil was so enchanted with the barge (which turned out to be a sort of glorified Dutch sea-going house-boat) that she was fired with sudden enthusiasm for our cruise. And the thing really is a delectable craft—stout, with a square-shouldered bow, and a high, perky nose of brass, standing up in the air as one sees the beak of a duck sometimes, half-sunk among its feathers and pointing upward. "Waterspin" (which means "water-spider") is the creature's name, and she is a brilliant emerald, lined and painted round her windows with an equally brilliant scarlet. This bold scheme of color would be no less than shocking on the Thames; but, sitting in that olive-green canal, in a retired part of Rotterdam, "Waterspin" looked like a pleasing Dutch caricature of Noah's Ark.
Inside we found her equally desirable, with four little boxes of sleeping-rooms, yellow painted floors, and bunks curtained with hand-embroidered dimity, stiff as a frozen crust of snow; a studio, with a few charming bits of old painted Dutch furniture to redeem it from bareness, and a kitchen which roused all Phil's domestic instincts.
"Oh, the darling blue and white china, and brass things, and those adorable pewter pots!" she cried. "I love this boat. I could be quite happy living on her all the rest of my life."
"So you shall! I mean, while she is mine you must consider yourselves as much at home on her as on your own boat," stammered Mr. Starr. "Or, if you'd rather take up your quarters on the barge——"
"No, no. Nell and I will live on 'Lorelei'; but I do think, if you'll let me, I'll come sometimes and cook things in that heavenly kitchen."
"Let you? Whatever you make shall be preserved in amber."
"Wouldn't it be better to eat it?" asked Phil.
"Can you cook? I should as soon expect to see a Burne-Jones lady run down the Golden Stair into a kitchen——"
"I can make delicious toast and tea-cakes and salad dressing—can't I, Nell?—and lots of other things."
"Pluperfect. I only wish I could. I shan't trouble your kitchen, Mr. Starr."
"But you can sing so beautifully, dear, and sketch, too; and your stories——"
"Don't dare speak of them!" I glared; and poor Phil, unselfishly anxious to show off my accomplishments to Lady MacNairne's nephew, was silent and abashed. I hoped that Mr. Starr hadn't heard.
He was delighted with our approval of the barge, and enlarged upon the good times before us. No one could know Holland properly without seeing her from the waterways, he said, and we would know her by-and-by as few foreigners did. She could not hide a secret from us that was worth finding out. He hadn't planned any regular tour for himself; he had meant to wander here and there, as the fancy seized him; but now the route was for us to decide. Whatever pleased us would please him. As for his painting, you could hardly go round a corner in Holland without stumbling on a scene for a picture, and he should come across them everywhere; he had no choice of direction. But in seven or eight weeks we could explore the waterways pretty thoroughly. Our skipper would be able to put us on the right track, and let us miss nothing. Had we, by-the-by, asked Mr. van Buren if he'd any skippers up his sleeve? Oh, well, it didn't matter that we'd forgotten. He himself had the names of several, besides some men he had already seen, and he would interview them all. It was certain that in a day or two at most, he could find exactly the right person for the place, and we might be sure that while we were away at Scheveningen he would not be idle in our common interests.
"After all, even you must admit that men are of some use," said Phil, when we were at the hotel again, waiting for Cousin Robert and his car. "Supposing you'd had to organize the tour alone, as we expected, could you have done it?"
"Of course," I replied, bravely.
"What! and engaged a chauffeur and a skipper? Who would have told you what to do? I'm sure we could never have started without your cousin Robert and Mr. Starr."
"What has Cousin Robert got to do with it?" I demanded.
Phil reflected. "Now I come to think of it, I don't know exactly. But he is so dependable; and there's so much of him."
"I hope there won't be too much," said I.
"I like tall men," remarked Phil, dreamily. Then she looked at her watch. "It's five minutes to four. He ought to be here soon."
"He'll come inside ten minutes," I prophesied.
But he came in three. I might have known he would be before his time, rather than after. And he arrived with a nice letter from his mother.
Neither Phyllis nor I had ever been in a motor-car until we got gingerly into that one. I had heard her say that she would never thus risk her life; but she made no mention of this resolution to Cousin Robert. If she had, it would have been useless; for without doubt she would in the end have had to go; and it saved time not to demur.
The car which stood throbbing at the door of the hotel was large and handsome, as if made to match my cousin, and it was painted flame color.
"I am just learning to drive," said Robert, who wore a motoring-cap which was particularly becoming. "I do not know much about automobiles yet; soon I shall buy one. It is rowing I like best, and skating in winter, though I have not time to amuse myself except at the end of weeks, for I am manager of my poor father's factory. But my fiancee likes the automobile, and to please her I am learning with my friend's car."
"That is good of you," said Phyllis.
"Yes, it is," he replied gravely. "Would you that I drive or the chauffeur? He has more experience."
I left the decision to Phil, as she is the timid one, but to my surprise she answered——
"Oh, you, of course."
Cousin Robert looked pleased. "Are you not afraid?" he inquired, beaming.
"Ye—es, I am afraid, for I've never been before. But I shall be less afraid with you than with him." And she glanced at a weedy youth who was pouring oil from a long-nosed tin into something obscure.
"Will you sit in front by my side?" he asked. And it was only after Phil had accepted the invitation that he remembered to hope I wouldn't mind the chauffeur being in the tonneau with me. "It must have been one of you," he added, "and you and I are cousins."
"Twice removed," I murmured; but he was helping Phil into the car, and did not hear.
It was a wild moment when we started. But it would have looked odd to cling to the chauffeur for protection, so I did nothing; and it calmed me to see how Phyllis bore herself. She didn't even grasp the arm of the seat; she merely gazed up into Cousin Robert's face with a sweetly feminine look, which said, "My one hope is in you, but I trust you utterly." It was enough to melt the heart of a stone giant, even when seen through goggles. I had an idea that this giant was not made of stone, and I wondered what the fiancee of my cousin twice removed was made of.
After the first thrill of starting, when we seemed to be tearing like a tailless comet through a very small portion of space not designed to hold comets, I grew happy, though far from tranquil. I can't imagine people ever feeling really tranquil in an automobile, and I don't believe they do, though they may pretend. I'm sure I should not, even if I became a professional chauffeur, which heaven forbid. But part of the enjoyment came through not feeling tranquil. There was a savage joy in thinking every instant that you were going to be dashed to pieces, or else that you would dash somebody else to pieces, while all the time you knew in your heart that nothing of the sort would happen.
The car went splendidly, and I believe I should have guessed it was a Dutch one, even if Cousin Robert hadn't told me; it made so little noise, yet moved so masterfully, and gave an impression of so much reserve power. Indeed, I might have thought out several nice similes if there hadn't been quantities of trams and heavy drays blundering about, or if the inhabitants of Rotterdam had not had a habit of walking in large family groups in the middle of the street. The big horn through which Robert every now and again blew a mournful blast, was confusing when it arrived in the midst of an idea; and a little curved thing (like the hunting-horn of old pictures) into which the chauffeur occasionally mewed, was as disconcerting to my nerves as to those of the pedestrians who hopped out of the way.
The more we saw of Rotterdam, the more extraordinary did the city appear, and the more did I wonder that people should refer to it merely as a port.
"It is not a bad town," Robert said to Phyllis, in the half-fond, half-deprecating way in which, when talking to strangers, we allude to that spot of earth we happen to inhabit. "I would not change to live at The Hague, though the diplomatic set give sneers at us and call us commercial."
"Just as Edinburgh sneers at Glasgow," cut in Phil.
"Yes, like that. I have been much to Scotland on my business, and I know," answered Robert. "But we have many good things to show strangers, if they would look; pictures, and museums, and old streets; but it is not fashionable to admire Rotterdam. You should see the Boompjes at night, when the lights shine in the water. It is only a big dyke, but once it was the part where the rich people lived, and those who know about such things say the old houses are good. And I should like you to see where I live with my mother and sisters. It is an old house, too, in a big garden, with a pond and an island covered with flowers. But we do not pass now, so you must see it a future day."
To say all this, Cousin Robert had to yell above the roar of traffic on the stone pavements; but by-and-by, as town changed into country, we left the stones behind and came into the strangest road I have ever seen. It ran beside a little river—the Schie—which looked like a canal, and it was made of neat, purplish-brown bricks, laid edge to edge.
"Klinker, we call it," said Cousin Robert. "It's good for driving; never much dust or mud; and when you motor it gives grip to the 'pneus.' It wouldn't do for us of the Netherlands to leave our roads bare."
"Why, what would happen?" I bent toward him to ask. "Would the bottom of Holland drop out?"
"I think yes," he replied, seriously. "The saying is that there has been as much of sand laid on the road between Rotterdam and The Hague as would reach the top of the cathedral spire at Amsterdam, which you will see one day."
"Dear me, and yet it's so low and flat, now," soliloquized Phil. "Lower than the canals."
"It is nothing here to some places. We work hard to save the country we have made with our hands, we Netherlanders. All the streets and gardens of Rotterdam, and other towns too, sink down and down; but we are used to that. We do not stop to care, but go to work adding more steps up to the houses, so we can get in at our doors."
"I think you are wonderful," said Phyllis.
"I have not done very much myself," modestly replied Cousin Robert.
"But you would if necessary. I'm sure you'd have been like the little boy who saw the trickle of water coming out of the dyke, and put his thumb——"
"Phil, if you bring up that story I'll ask Cousin Robert van Buren to run into a windmill and kill you," I shrieked over her shoulder.
"But I would not do that," said he. Oh yes, he really was wonderful, my cousin Robert.
"There is a spot to interest an American," he deigned to fling a sop to me, nodding vaguely upward at some roofs on the River Maas. "Did you ever hear of Oude Delftshaven, cousin? But I don't suppose you have."
"Indeed I have!" I shrieked at him. "I wouldn't be a true descendant of Knickerbocker stock if I hadn't. On July 22, 1620, some Pilgrim Fathers (I'm not sure whether they were fathers then or afterwards) set sail from Oude Delftshaven for America."
(I didn't think it necessary to explain that, Knickerbocker as I was, I had absorbed this fact only the other day in "reading up" Holland.)
I was still more inclined to be reticent as to the newness of my knowledge when it appeared that Phil knew something of a poem on the subject by Mrs. Hemans. I could not allow my English stepsister to be better informed than I concerning a country which I already began to regard as a sort of confiscated family estate that ought to have been mine.
We were going fast now, so fast that the tears came to my eyes as the sweet-scented breeze rushed against my lashes.
"There's Schiedam," said Robert, indicating a town that stood up darkly out of the green plain. "You know, they make the famous 'Geneva' there."
We had never heard of Geneva in liquid form, but it appeared that "Geneva" or "Hollands" and gin were all the same thing; and Cousin Robert seemed almost offended when I said it was nice, with hot water and sugar, for a cold in the head.
I don't know whether the little Schie is really an idyllic stream, or whether the glamor of that azure day was upon it for me, but our first "waterway" seemed exquisite, as we spun along through country of wide horizons and magic atmosphere.
There were pretty houses, with balconies screened with roses—cataracts of roses, yellow, and pink, and white. We flew by lawns like the lawns of England, and thick, dark patches of forest, where the sun rained gold. There were meadows where a red flame of poppies leaped among the wheat, and quenched their fire in the silver river of waving grain. There were other meadows, green and sunny, where cows were being milked into blue pails lined with scarlet; and there were bowery tea-gardens divided into snug little arbors for two, where each swain could woo his nymph unseen by the next-door swain and nymph, though all couples were in sight from the river.
"Now we're coming to Delft," said Robert, long before I thought that we could be near that ancient town. "If Rudolph Brederode, who lends me this car, were here, he could tell much about the history," my cousin went on, mentioning his friend for the second time, as if with pride. "He is the sort of fellow who knows all the things to know, though he is a great sportsman, too. I never took interest in history, but William the Silent is our hero, so even I know of him and Delft. It was at Oude Delft he was murdered."
"He was one of my heroes when I was a little girl," said I. "I can recall my father telling splendid stories about him—as good as fairy tales. The best was about the way he earned the nickname of William the Silent."
I gazed with interest at the place where one of the greatest figures in the history of the world had lived and died.
A shady, lovable old town it seemed. We drove into a pleasant street, which looked so clear and green, from the mirror of its canal to the Gothic arch of its close arbor of fragrant lime-trees, that it was like a tunnel of illuminated beryl. The extraordinary brilliance of the windows added to the jewel-like effect. Each pane was a separate glittering square of crystal, and the green light flickered and glanced on the quaint little tilted spying-mirrors in which Dutch ladies see the life of the streets, themselves unseen.
The houses were of brown or purplish brick, with curiously ornamented doorways, the stucco decorations running in wavy lines up to the level of the first story windows; the door-steps white as pearl in the green glimmer; but there was nothing striking in the way of architecture until we swept into sight of an old Gothic building, blazing with colored coats-of-arms, ancient and resplendent.
"That's the Gemeenlandshuis van Delfsland," said Cousin Robert, with a beautiful confidence in our comprehension; and then, slowing down the car before a dark, high wall, with a secretive-looking door in the midst, "Here's the Prinzenhof, where William the Silent lived, and where Balthazar Gerard killed him."
"Oh," I exclaimed, as he was driving on, "can't we stop—can't we go in?"
"We could, but—I should not like to make us late for dinner," Cousin Robert demurred.
"Dinner? Why, it's ages before dinner, and——"
"We dine at half-past five," said he.
Phil and I gazed at each other with lifted eyebrows. Phil was pale, and I felt a sudden constriction of the throat. The idea of eating dinner at the hour when our souls cried for tea and toast, was little short of ghastly. Noblesse obliged us to conceal our loathing, but I did venture meekly to suggest that if we drove faster afterwards perhaps we might spare a few minutes for the Prinzenhof.
"There are things in The Hague you will want to stop for, too," said Robert. "But my sisters and I can bring you to see the pictures, and the Royal Palace and the Huis ten Bosch to-morrow; besides, I remember my mother meant to put off dinner for us until six, so we will, maybe, not be too late."
One should be thankful for the smallest mercies; and I hoped that the craving for tea might have subsided into callous resignation by six. What Phil, as a born Englishwoman, must have been feeling, I could easily conceive; and it was a pity this shock to her system had arrived on our first day, for only just before the blow she had said that Holland seemed too enchanting: she was glad, after all, that she had come, and would like to learn the language.
Luckily, Cousin Robert had remembered the change in the domestic program before it was too late, otherwise I am sure he would have denied us the Prinzenhof, and we should have had to sneak back by ourselves to-morrow. As it was we were allowed to have our own way, practically for the first time since we came to Holland.
Robert rang a bell, and a man appeared, who let us into the courtyard, more like the courtyard of a monastery than a palace; and among the historical dust-motes which clung to Cousin Robert's memory was the fact that the place actually had been a monastery, sacred to St. Agatha.
We crossed the courtyard, and just inside another door found ourselves on the scene of the great tragedy.
I knew it by instinct, before anybody told me; for suddenly the whole story came back just as I heard it from my father, not as I've read it in books of history. So vividly did he paint each detail, that I used to grow hysterical in my infantine way, and he was scolded by mother for "filling the child's mind with horrors."
Yes, there was the stairway, with the pale light coming from the low window; there was the white wall which had been spattered with the hero's life blood; there was the open door of the dining-hall where he had been carried back to die; there the white pillar behind which the murderer crouched, and there the dark archway through which Gerard had run, his heart beating thickly with the hope of escape, and the thought of the horse waiting beyond the ramparts and the moat.
I fancied I could see the prince, handsome still, in the fashion of dress he affected, since the days of the Water Beggars' fame. A stately figure in his rough and wide-brimmed hat, with the silk cord of the Beggars round the felt crown; and I could almost smell the smoke from the murderer's pistol, bought with the money William's generosity had given. There were the holes in the wall made by the poisoned bullets. How real it all seemed, how the centuries between slipped away! Let me see, what had the date been? I ought to remember. July——
"Phil, what day of the month is this?" I demanded with a start.
Phil turned at the open door of the dining-hall, which I could see had been made into a museum.
"July tenth," she answered promptly; for you can never catch Phil tripping as to a date, or a day of the week, even if you should shake her out of her first sleep to ask.
"Then it's the anniversary of his death!" I exclaimed. "July 10, 1584, it was. How strange we should have come on the very day! It makes it seem a pilgrimage."
"I don't find it strange," said Cousin Robert. "Many people come every day of the year."
Having thus poured the cold water of common sense on my sentiment, he dragged us into the dining-hall museum to see relics of William, and I should have been resentful, had not my eyes suddenly met other eyes looking down from the wall. They were the eyes of William the Silent himself when he was young—painted eyes, yet they spoke to me.
I don't know how fine that portrait may be as a work of art, but it is marvelously real. I understood in a moment why little, half-deformed Anna of Saxony had been so mad to marry him; I knew that, in her place, I should have overcome just as many obstacles to make that dark, haunting face the face of my husband.
Of course I've often read that William of Orange was a handsome man, as well as a dashing and extravagant gallant in his young days, but never till now had I realized how singularly attractive he must have been. The face in the portrait was sad, and as thoughtful as if he had sat to the artist on the day he heard the dreadful secret of the fate which Philip of Spain and Francis of France were plotting for the Netherlands, the day that decided his future, and gave him his name of "William the Silent." Yet in spite of its melancholy, almost sternness, it won me as no pictured face of a man ever did before.
"This is a great day for me," I said to Phil, who was close behind; "not only am I seeing Holland for the first time, but I've fallen in love with William the Silent."
I laughed as I made this announcement, though I was half in earnest; and turning to see whether I had shocked Cousin Robert, I found him in conversation with a tall, black-haired young man, near the door.
The man—he wore a gray suit, and carried a straw hat in his hand—had his back to me, and I remembered having seen the same back in the museum before we came in. Now he was going out, and evidently he and Cousin Robert had recognized each other as acquaintances. As I looked, he turned, and I saw his face. It was so like the face of the portrait that I felt myself grow red. How I did hope he hadn't overheard that silly speech!
For a moment his eyes and mine met as mine had met the eyes of the portrait. Then he shook hands with Robert and was gone.
"Very odd," said my cousin the giant, strolling toward us again, "that was Rudolph Brederode. And," he glanced at me, "his nickname among his friends is William the Silent."