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The Cloister and the Hearth
by Charles Reade
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THE CLOISTER AND THE HEARTH

by Charles Reade



Etext Notes:

1. Greek passages are enclosed in angled brackets, e.g. {methua}, and have been transliterated according to:alpha A, a beta B, b gamma G, g delta D, d epsilon E, e zeta Z, z eta Y, y theta Th, th iota I, i kappa K, k lamda L, l mu M, m nu N, n omicron O, o pi P, p rho R, r sigma S, s tau T, t phi Ph, ph chi Ch, ch psi Ps, ps xi X, x upsilon U, u omega W, w

2. All diacritics have been removed from this version

3. References for the Author's footnotes are enclosed in square brackets(e.g. (1)) and collected at the end of the chapter they occur in.

4. There are 100 chapters in the book, each starting with CHAPTER R, where R is the chapter number expressed as a Roman numeral.



AUTHOR'S PREFACE

A small portion of this tale appeared in Once a Week, July-September, 1859, under the title of "A Good Fight."

After writing it, I took wider views of the subject, and also felt uneasy at having deviated unnecessarily from the historical outline of a true story. These two sentiments have cost me more than a year's very hard labour, which I venture to think has not been wasted. After this plain statement I trust all who comment on this work will see that to describe it as a reprint would be unfair to the public and to me. The English language is copious, and, in any true man's hands, quite able to convey the truth—namely, that one-fifth of the present work is a reprint, and four-fifths of it a new composition.

CHARLES READE



CHAPTER I

Not a day passes over the earth, but men and women of no note do great deeds, speak great words, and suffer noble sorrows. Of these obscure heroes, philosophers, and martyrs, the greater part will never be known till that hour, when many that are great shall be small, and the small great; but of others the world's knowledge may be said to sleep: their lives and characters lie hidden from nations in the annals that record them. The general reader cannot feel them, they are presented so curtly and coldly: they are not like breathing stories appealing to his heart, but little historic hail-stones striking him but to glance off his bosom: nor can he understand them; for epitomes are not narratives, as skeletons are not human figures.

Thus records of prime truths remain a dead letter to plain folk: the writers have left so much to the imagination, and imagination is so rare a gift. Here, then, the writer of fiction may be of use to the public—as an interpreter.

There is a musty chronicle, written in intolerable Latin, and in it a chapter where every sentence holds a fact. Here is told, with harsh brevity, the strange history of a pair, who lived untrumpeted, and died unsung, four hundred years ago; and lie now, as unpitied, in that stern page, as fossils in a rock. Thus, living or dead, Fate is still unjust to them. For if I can but show you what lies below that dry chronicler's words, methinks you will correct the indifference of centuries, and give those two sore-tried souls a place in your heart—for a day.

It was past the middle of the fifteenth century; Louis XI was sovereign of France; Edward IV was wrongful king of England; and Philip "the Good," having by force and cunning dispossessed his cousin Jacqueline, and broken her heart, reigned undisturbed this many years in Holland, where our tale begins.

Elias, and Catherine his wife, lived in the little town of Tergou. He traded, wholesale and retail, in cloth, silk, brown holland, and, above all, in curried leather, a material highly valued by the middling people, because it would stand twenty years' wear, and turn an ordinary knife, no small virtue in a jerkin of that century, in which folk were so liberal of their steel; even at dinner a man would leave his meat awhile, and carve you his neighbour, on a very moderate difference of opinion.

The couple were well to do, and would have been free from all earthly care, but for nine children. When these were coming into the world, one per annum, each was hailed with rejoicings, and the saints were thanked, not expostulated with; and when parents and children were all young together, the latter were looked upon as lovely little playthings invented by Heaven for the amusement, joy, and evening solace of people in business.

But as the olive-branches shot up, and the parents grew older, and saw with their own eyes the fate of large families, misgivings and care mingled with their love. They belonged to a singularly wise and provident people: in Holland reckless parents were as rare as disobedient children. So now when the huge loaf came in on a gigantic trencher, looking like a fortress in its moat, and, the tour of the table once made, seemed to have melted away, Elias and Catherine would look at one another and say, "Who is to find bread for them all when we are gone?"

At this observation the younger ones needed all their filial respect to keep their little Dutch countenances; for in their opinion dinner and supper came by nature like sunrise and sunset, and, so long as that luminary should travel round the earth, so long as the brown loaf go round their family circle, and set in their stomachs only to rise again in the family oven. But the remark awakened the national thoughtfulness of the elder boys, and being often repeated, set several of the family thinking, some of them good thoughts, some ill thoughts, according to the nature of the thinkers.

"Kate, the children grow so, this table will soon be too small."

"We cannot afford it, Eli," replied Catherine, answering not his words, but his thought, after the manner of women.

Their anxiety for the future took at times a less dismal but more mortifying turn. The free burghers had their pride as well as the nobles; and these two could not bear that any of their blood should go down in the burgh after their decease.

So by prudence and self-denial they managed to clothe all the little bodies, and feed all the great mouths, and yet put by a small hoard to meet the future; and, as it grew and grew, they felt a pleasure the miser hoarding for himself knows not.

One day the eldest boy but one, aged nineteen, came to his mother, and, with that outward composure which has so misled some persons as to the real nature of this people, begged her to intercede with his father to send him to Amsterdam, and place him with a merchant. "It is the way of life that likes me: merchants are wealthy; I am good at numbers; prithee, good mother, take my part in this, and I shall ever be, as I am now, your debtor."

Catherine threw up her hands with dismay and incredulity.

"What! leave Tergou!"

"What is one street to me more than another? If I can leave the folk of Tergou, I can surely leave the stones."

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

"Mother, if I can leave you, I can leave"

"What! leave your poor brothers and sisters, that love you so dear?"

"There are enough in the house without me."

"What mean you, Richart? Who is more thought of than you Stay, have I spoken sharp to you? Have I been unkind to you?"

"Never that I know of; and if you had, you should never hear of it from me. Mother," said Richart gravely, but the tear was in his eye, "it all lies in a word, and nothing can change my mind. There will be one mouth less for you to feed.'

"There now, see what my tongue has done," said Catherine, and the next moment she began to cry. For she saw her first young bird on the edge of the nest trying his wings to fly into the world. Richart had a calm, strong will, and she knew he never wasted a word.

It ended as nature has willed all such discourse shall end: young Richart went to Amsterdam with a face so long and sad as it had never been seen before, and a heart like granite.

That afternoon at supper there was one mouth less. Catherine looked at Richart's chair and wept bitterly. On this Elias shouted roughly and angrily to the children, "Sit wider, can't ye: sit wider!" and turned his head away over the back of his seat awhile, and was silent.

Richart was launched, and never cost them another penny; but to fit him out and place him in the house of Vander Stegen, the merchant, took all the little hoard but one gold crown. They began again. Two years passed, Richart found a niche in commerce for his brother Jacob, and Jacob left Tergou directly after dinner, which was at eleven in the forenoon. At supper that day Elias remembered what had happened the last time; so it was in a low whisper he said, "Sit wider, dears!" Now until that moment, Catherine would not see the gap at table, for her daughter Catherine had besought her not to grieve to-night, and she had said, "No, sweetheart, I promise I will not, since it vexes my children." But when Elias whispered "Sit wider!" says she, "Ay! the table will soon be too big for the children, and you thought it would be too small;" and having delivered this with forced calmness, she put up her apron the next moment, and wept sore.

"'Tis the best that leave us," sobbed she; "that is the cruel part."

"Nay! nay!" said Elias, "our children are good children, and all are dear to us alike. Heed her not! What God takes from us still seems better that what He spares to us; that is to say, men are by nature unthankful—and women silly."

"And I say Richart and Jacob were the flower of the flock," sobbed Catherine.

The little coffer was empty again, and to fill it they gathered like ants. In those days speculation was pretty much confined to the card-and-dice business. Elias knew no way to wealth but the slow and sure one. "A penny saved is a penny gained," was his humble creed. All that was not required for the business and the necessaries of life went into the little coffer with steel bands and florid key. They denied themselves in turn the humblest luxuries, and then, catching one another's looks, smiled; perhaps with a greater joy than self-indulgence has to bestow. And so in three years more they had gleaned enough to set up their fourth son as a master-tailor, and their eldest daughter as a robemaker, in Tergou. Here were two more provided for: their own trade would enable them to throw work into the hands of this pair. But the coffer was drained to the dregs, and this 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 bread, and two that were unwilling. The unable ones were, 1, Giles, a dwarf, of the wrong sort, half stupidity, half malice, all head and claws and voice, run from by dogs and unprejudiced females, and sided with through thick and thin by his mother; 2, Little Catherine, a poor little girl that could only move on crutches. She lived in pain, but smiled through it, with her marble face and violet eyes and long silky lashes; and fretful or repining word never came from her lips. The unwilling ones were Sybrandt, the youngest, a ne'er-do-weel, too much in love with play to work; and Cornelis, the eldest, who had made calculations, and stuck to the hearth, waiting for dead men's shoes. Almost worn out by their repeated efforts, and above all dispirited by the moral and physical infirmities of those that now remained on hand, the anxious couple would often say, "What will become of all these when we shall be no longer here to take care of them?" But when they had said this a good many times, suddenly the domestic horizon cleared, and then they used still to say it, because a habit is a habit, but they uttered it half mechanically now, and added brightly and cheerfully, "But thanks to St. Bavon and all the saints, there's Gerard."

Young Gerard was for many years of his life a son apart and he was going into the Church, and the Church could always maintain her children by hook or by crook in those days: no great hopes, because his family had no interest with the great to get him a benefice, and the young man's own habits were frivolous, and, indeed, such as our cloth merchant would not have put up with in any one but a clerk that was to be. His trivialities were reading and penmanship, and he was so wrapped up in them that often he could hardly be got away to his meals. The day was never long enough for him; and he carried ever a tinder-box and brimstone matches, and begged ends of candles of the neighbours, which he lighted at unreasonable hours—ay, even at eight of the clock at night in winter, when the very burgomaster was abed. Endured at home, his practices were encouraged by the monks of a neighbouring convent. They had taught him penmanship, and continued to teach him until one day they discovered, in the middle of a lesson, that he was teaching them. They pointed this out to him in a merry way: he hung his head and blushed: he had suspected as much himself, but mistrusted his judgment in so delicate a matter. "But, my son," said an elderly monk, "how is it that you, to whom God has given an eye so true, a hand so subtle yet firm, and a heart to love these beautiful crafts, how is it you do not colour as well as write? A scroll looks but barren unless a border of fruit, and leaves, and rich arabesques surround the good words, and charm the sense as those do the soul and understanding; to say nothing of the pictures of holy men and women departed, with which the several chapters should be adorned, and not alone the eye soothed with the brave and sweetly blended colours, but the heart lifted by effigies of the saints in glory. Answer me, my son."

At this Gerard was confused, and muttered that he had made several trials at illuminating, but had not succeeded well; and thus the matter rested.

Soon after this a fellow-enthusiast came on the scene in the unwonted form of an old lady. Margaret, sister and survivor of the brothers Van Eyck, left Flanders, and came to end her days in her native country. She bought a small house near Tergou. In course of time she heard of Gerard, and saw some of his handiwork: it pleased her so well that she sent her female servant, Reicht Heynes, to ask him to come to her. This led to an acquaintance: it could hardly be otherwise, for little Tergou had never held so many as two zealots of this sort before. At first the old lady damped Gerard's courage terribly. At each visit she fished out of holes and corners drawings and paintings, some of them by her own hand, that seemed to him unapproachable; but if the artist overpowered him, the woman kept his heart up. She and Reicht soon turned him inside out like a glove: among other things, they drew from him what the good monks had failed to hit upon, the reason why he did not illuminate, viz., that he could not afford the gold, the blue, and the red, but only the cheap earths; and that he was afraid to ask his mother to buy the choice colours, and was sure he should ask her in vain. Then Margaret Van Eyck gave him a little brush—gold, and some vermilion and ultramarine, and a piece of good vellum to lay them on. He almost adored her. As he left the house Reicht ran after him with a candle and two quarters: he quite kissed her. But better even than the gold and lapis-lazuli to the illuminator was the sympathy to the isolated enthusiast. That sympathy was always ready, and, as he returned it, an affection sprung up between the old painter and the young caligrapher that was doubly characteristic of the time. For this was a century in which the fine arts and the higher mechanical arts were not separated by any distinct boundary, nor were those who practised them; and it was an age in which artists sought out and loved one another. Should this last statement stagger a painter or writer of our day, let me remind him that even Christians loved one another at first starting.

Backed by an acquaintance so venerable, and strengthened by female sympathy, Gerard advanced in learning and skill. His spirits, too, rose visibly: he still looked behind him when dragged to dinner in the middle of an initial G; but once seated, showed great social qualities; likewise a gay humour, that had hitherto but peeped in him, shone out, and often he set the table in a roar, and kept it there, sometimes with his own wit, sometimes with jests which were glossy new to his family, being drawn from antiquity.

As a return for all he owed his friends the monks, he made them exquisite copies from two of their choicest MSS., viz., the life of their founder, and their Comedies of Terence, the monastery finding the vellum.

The high and puissant Prince, Philip "the Good," Duke of Burgundy, Luxemburg, and Brabant, Earl of Holland and Zealand, Lord of Friesland, Count of Flanders, Artois, and Hainault, Lord of Salins and Macklyn—was versatile.

He could fight as well as any king going; and lie could lie as well as any, except the King of France. He was a mighty hunter, and could read and write. His tastes were wide and ardent. He loved jewels like a woman, and gorgeous apparel. He dearly loved maids of honour, and indeed paintings generally; in proof of which he ennobled Jan Van Eyck. He had also a rage for giants, dwarfs, and Turks. These last stood ever planted about him, turbaned and blazing with jewels. His agents inveigled them from Istamboul with fair promises; but the moment he had got them, he baptized them by brute force in a large tub; and this done, let them squat with their faces towards Mecca, and invoke Mahound as much as they pleased, laughing in his sleeve at their simplicity in fancying they were still infidels. He had lions in cages, and fleet leopards trained by Orientals to run down hares and deer. In short, he relished all rarities, except the humdrum virtues. For anything singularly pretty or diabolically ugly, this was your customer. The best of him was, he was openhanded to the poor; and the next best was, he fostered the arts in earnest: whereof he now gave a signal proof. He offered prizes for the best specimens of orfevrerie in two kinds, religious and secular: item, for the best paintings in white of egg, oils, and tempera; these to be on panel, silk, or metal, as the artists chose: item, for the best transparent painting on glass: item, for the best illuminating and border-painting on vellum: item, for the fairest writing on vellum. The burgomasters of the several towns were commanded to aid all the poorer competitors by receiving their specimens and sending them with due care to Rotterdam at the expense of their several burghs. When this was cried by the bellman through the streets of Tergou, a thousand mouths opened, and one heart beat—Gerard's. He told his family timidly he should try for two of those prizes. They stared in silence, for their breath was gone at his audacity; but one horrid laugh exploded on the floor like a petard. Gerard looked down, and there was the dwarf, slit and fanged from ear to ear at his expense, and laughing like a lion. Nature, relenting at having made Giles so small, had given him as a set-off the biggest voice on record. His very whisper was a bassoon. He was like those stunted wide-mouthed pieces of ordnance we see on fortifications; more like a flower-pot than a cannon; but ods tympana how they bellow!

Gerard turned red with anger, the more so as the others began to titter. White Catherine saw, and a pink tinge came on her cheek. She said softly, "Why do you laugh? Is it because he is our brother you think he cannot be capable? Yes, Gerard, try with the rest. Many say you are skilful; and mother and I will pray the Virgin to guide your hand."

"Thank you, little Kate. You shall pray to our Lady, and our mother shall buy me vellum and the colours to illuminate with."

"What will they cost, my lad?"

"Two gold crowns" (about three shillings and fourpence English money).

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

"Mother!" sighed little Catherine, imploringly.

"Oh! it is in vain, Kate," said Gerard, with a sigh. "I shall have to give it up, or ask the dame Van Eyck. She would give it me, but I think shame to be for ever taking from her."

"It is not her affair," said Catherine, very sharply; "what has she to do coming between me and my son?" and she left the room with a red face. Little Catherine smiled. Presently the housewife returned with a gracious, affectionate air, and two little gold pieces in her hand.

"There, sweetheart," said she, "you won't have to trouble dame or demoiselle for two paltry crowns."

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

"One will do, mother. I will ask the good monks to let me send my copy of their 'Terence:' it is on snowy vellum, and I can write no better: so then I shall only need six sheets of vellum for my borders and miniatures, and gold for my ground, and prime colours—one crown will do.'

"Never tyne the ship for want of a bit of tar, Gerard," said his changeable mother. But she added, "Well, there, I will put the crown in my pocket. That won't be like putting it back in the box. Going to the box to take out instead of putting in, it is like going to my heart with a knife for so many drops of blood. You will be sure to want it, Gerard. The house is never built for less than the builder counted on."

Sure enough, when the time came, Gerard longed to go to Rotterdam and see the Duke, and above all to see the work of his competitors, and so get a lesson from defeat. And the crown came out of the housewife's pocket with a very good grace. Gerard would soon be a priest. It seemed hard if he might not enjoy the world a little before separating himself from it for life.

The night before he went, Margaret Van Eyck asked him to take a letter for her, and when he came to look at it, to his surprise he found it was addressed to the Princess Marie, at the Stadthouse in Rotterdam.

The day before the prizes were to be distributed, Gerard started for Rotterdam in his holiday suit, to wit, a doublet of silver-grey cloth, with sleeves, and a jerkin of the same over it, but without sleeves. From his waist to his heels he was clad in a pair of tight-fitting buckskin hose fastened by laces (called points) to his doublet. His shoes were pointed, in moderation, and secured by a strap that passed under the hollow of the foot. On his head and the back of his neck he wore his flowing hair, and pinned to his back between his shoulders was his hat: it was further secured by a purple silk ribbon little Kate had passed round him from the sides of the hat, and knotted neatly on his breast; below his hat, attached to the upper rim of his broad waist-belt, was his leathern wallet. When he got within a league of Rotterdam he was pretty tired, but he soon fell in with a pair that were more so. He found an old man sitting by the roadside quite worn out, and a comely young woman holding his hand, with a face brimful of concern. The country people trudged by, and noticed nothing amiss; but Gerard, as he passed, drew conclusions. Even dress tells a tale to those who study it so closely as he did, being an illuminator. The old man wore a gown, and a fur tippet, and a velvet cap, sure signs of dignity; but the triangular purse at his girdle was lean, the gown rusty, the fur worn, sure signs of poverty. The young woman was dressed in plain russet cloth: yet snow-white lawn covered that part of her neck the gown left visible, and ended half way up her white throat in a little band of gold embroidery; and her head-dress was new to Gerard: instead of hiding her hair in a pile of linen or lawn, she wore an open network of silver cord with silver spangles at the interstices: in this her glossy auburn hair was rolled in front into two solid waves, and supported behind in a luxurious and shapely mass. His quick eye took in all this, and the old man's pallor, and the tears in the young woman's eyes. So when he had passed them a few yards, he reflected, and turned back, and came towards them bashfully.

"Father, I fear you are tired."

"Indeed, my son, I am," replied the old man, "and faint for lack of food."

Gerard's address did not appear so agreeable to the girl as to the old man. She seemed ashamed, and with much reserve in her manner, said, that it was her fault—she had underrated the distance, and imprudently allowed her father to start too late in the day.

"No, no," said the old man; "it is not the distance, it is the want of nourishment."

The girl put her arms round his neck with tender concern, but took that opportunity of whispering, "Father, a stranger—a young man!"

But it was too late. Gerard, with simplicity, and quite as a matter of course, fell to gathering sticks with great expedition. This done, he took down his wallet, out with the manchet of bread and the iron flask his careful mother had put up, and his everlasting tinder-box; lighted a match, then a candle-end, then the sticks; and put his iron flask on it. Then down he went on his stomach, and took a good blow: then looking up, he saw the girl's face had thawed, and she was looking down at him and his energy with a demure smile. He laughed back to her. "Mind the pot," said he, "and don't let it spill, for Heaven's sake: there's a cleft stick to hold it safe with;" and with this he set off running towards a corn-field at some distance.

Whilst he was gone, there came by, on a mule with rich purple housings, an old man redolent of wealth. The purse at his girdle was plethoric, the fur on his tippet was ermine, broad and new.

It was Ghysbrecht Van Swieten, the burgomaster of Tergou.

He was old, and his face furrowed. He was a notorious miser, and looked one generally. But the idea of supping with the Duke raised him just now into manifest complacency. Yet at the sight of the faded old man and his bright daughter sitting by a fire of sticks, the smile died out of his face, and he wore a strange look of pain and uneasiness. He reined in his mule.

"Why, Peter,—Margaret," said he, almost fiercely, "what mummery is this?" Peter was going to answer, but Margaret interposed hastily, and said: "My father was exhausted, so I am warming something to give him strength before we go on."

"What! reduced to feed by the roadside like the Bohemians," said Ghysbrecht, and his hand went into his purse; but it did not seem at home there; it fumbled uncertainly, afraid too large a coin might stick to a finger and come out.

At this moment who should come bounding up but Gerard. He had two straws in his hand, and he threw himself down by the fire and relieved Margaret of the cooking part: then suddenly recognizing the burgomaster, he coloured all over. Ghysbrecht Van Swieten started and glared at him, and took his hand out of his purse. "Oh!" said he bitterly, "I am not wanted," and went slowly on, casting a long look of suspicion on Margaret, and hostility on Gerard, that was not very intelligible. However, there was something about it that Margaret could read enough to blush at, and almost toss her head. Gerard only stared with surprise. "By St. Bavon, I think the old miser grudges us three our quart of soup," said he. When the young man put that interpretation on Ghysbrecht's strange and meaning look, Margaret was greatly relieved, and smiled gaily on the speaker.

Meanwhile Ghysbrecht plodded on, more wretched in his wealth than these in their poverty. And the curious thing is, that the mule, the purple housings, and one-half the coin in that plethoric purse, belonged not to Ghysbrecht Van Swieten, but to that faded old man and that comely girl, who sat by a roadside fire to be fed by a stranger. They did not know this; but Ghysbrecht knew it, and carried in his heart a scorpion of his own begetting; that scorpion is remorse—the remorse that, not being penitence, is incurable, and ready for fresh misdeeds upon a fresh temptation.

Twenty years ago, when Ghysbrecht Van Swieten was a hard and honest man, the touchstone opportunity came to him, and he did an act of heartless roguery. It seemed a safe one. It had hitherto proved a safe one, though he had never felt safe. To-day he had seen youth, enterprise, and, above all, knowledge, seated by fair Margaret and her father on terms that look familiar and loving.

And the fiends are at big ear again.



CHAPTER II

"The soup is hot," said Gerard.

"But how are we to get it to our mouths?" inquired the senior, despondingly.

"Father, the young man has brought us straws." And Margaret smiled slily.

"Ay, ay!" said the old man; "but my poor bones are stiff, and indeed the fire is too hot for a body to kneel over with these short straws. St. John the Baptist, but the young man is adroit!"

For, while he stated his difficulty, Gerard removed it. He untied in a moment the knot on his breast, took his hat off, put a stone into each corner of it, then, wrapping his hand in the tail of his jerkin, whipped the flask off the fire, wedged it in between the stones, and put the hat under the old man's nose with a merry smile. The other tremulously inserted the pipe of rye-straw and sucked. Lo and behold, his wan, drawn face was seen to light up more and more, till it quite glowed; and as soon as he had drawn a long breath:

"Hippocrates and Galen!" he cried, "'tis a soupe au vin—the restorative of restoratives. Blessed be the nation that invented it, and the woman that made it, and the young man who brings it to fainting folk. Have a suck, my girl, while I relate to our young host the history and virtues of this his sovereign compound. This corroborative, young sir, was unknown to the ancients: we find it neither in their treatises of medicine, nor in those popular narratives, which reveal many of their remedies, both in chirurgery and medicine proper. Hector, in the Ilias, if my memory does not play me false—

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

——was invited by one of the ladies of the poem to drink a draught of wine; but he declined, on the plea that he was just going into battle, and must not take aught to weaken his powers. Now, if the soupe au vin had been known in Troy, it is clear that in declining vinum merum upon that score, he would have added in the hexameter, 'But a soupe au vin, madam, I will degust, and gratefully.' Not only would this have been but common civility—a virtue no perfect commander is wanting in—but not to have done it would have proved him a shallow and improvident person, unfit to be trusted with the conduct of a war; for men going into a battle need sustenance and all possible support, as is proved by this, that foolish generals, bringing hungry soldiers to blows with full ones, have been defeated, in all ages, by inferior numbers. The Romans lost a great battle in the north of Italy to Hannibal, the Carthaginian, by this neglect alone. Now, this divine elixir gives in one moment force to the limbs and ardour to the spirits; and taken into Hector's body at the nick of time, would, by the aid of Phoebus, Venus, and the blessed saints, have most likely procured the Greeks a defeat. For note how faint and weary and heart-sick I was a minute ago; well, I suck this celestial cordial, and now behold me brave as Achilles and strong as an eagle."

"Oh, father, now? an eagle, alack!"

"Girl, I defy thee and all the world. Ready, I say, like a foaming charger, to devour the space between this and Rotterdam, and strong to combat the ills of life, even poverty and old age, which last philosophers have called the summum malum. Negatur; unless the man's life has been ill-spent—which, by the bye, it generally has. Now for the moderns!"

"Father! dear father!"

"Fear me not, girl; I will be brief, unreasonably and unseasonably brief. The soupe au vin occurs not in modern science; but this is only one proof more, if proof were needed, that for the last few hundred years physicians have been idiots, with their chicken-broth and their decoction of gold, whereby they attribute the highest qualities to that meat which has the least juice of any meat, and to that metal which has less chemical qualities than all the metals; mountebanks! dunces! homicides! Since, then, from these no light is to be gathered, go we to the chroniclers; and first we find that Duguesclin, a French knight, being about to join battle with the English—masters, at that time, of half France, and sturdy strikers by sea and land—drank, not one, but three soupes au vin in honour of the Blessed Trinity. This done, he charged the islanders; and, as might have been foretold, killed a multitude, and drove the rest into the sea. But he was only the first of a long list of holy and hard-hitting ones who have, by this divine restorative, been sustentated, fortified, corroborated, and consoled."

"Dear father, prithee add thyself to that venerable company ere the soup cools." And Margaret held the hat imploringly in both hands till he inserted the straw once more.

This spared them the "modern instances," and gave Gerard an opportunity of telling Margaret how proud his mother would be her soup had profited a man of learning.

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

"Fair mistress, I hoped you would let me put my lips to your straw, there being but two."

Margaret smiled and blushed. "Never beg that you may command," said she. "The straw is not mine, 'tis yours: you cut it in yonder field."

"I cut it, and that made it mine; but after that, your lip touched it, and that made it yours."

"Did it Then I will lend it you. There—now it is yours again; your lip has touched it."

"No, it belongs to us both now. Let us divide it."

"By all means; you have a knife."

"No, I will not cut it—that would be unlucky. I'll bite it. There I shall keep my half: you will burn yours, once you get home, I doubt.'

"You know me not. I waste nothing. It is odds but I make a hairpin of it, or something."

This answer dashed the novice Gerard, instead of provoking him, to fresh efforts, and he was silent. And now, the bread and soup being disposed of, the old scholar prepared to continue his journey. Then came a little difficulty: Gerard the adroit could not tie his ribbon again as Catherine had tied it. Margaret, after slily eyeing his efforts for some time, offered to help him; for at her age girls love to be coy and tender, saucy and gentle, by turns, and she saw she had put him out of countenance but now. Then a fair head, with its stately crown of auburn hair, glossy and glowing through silver, bowed sweetly towards him; and, while it ravished his eye, two white supple hands played delicately upon the stubborn ribbon, and moulded it with soft and airy touches. Then a heavenly thrill ran through the innocent young man, and vague glimpses of a new world of feeling and sentiment opened on him. And these new and exquisite sensations Margaret unwittingly prolonged: it is not natural to her sex to hurry aught that pertains to the sacred toilet. Nay, when the taper fingers had at last subjugated the ends of the knot, her mind was not quite easy, till, by a manoeuvre peculiar to the female hand, she had made her palm convex, and so applied it with a gentle pressure to the centre of the knot—a sweet little coaxing hand-kiss, as much as to say, "Now be a good knot, and stay so." The palm-kiss was bestowed on the ribbon, but the wearer's heart leaped to meet it.

"There, that is how it was," said Margaret, and drew back to take one last keen survey of her work; then, looking up for simple approval of her skill, received full in her eyes a longing gaze of such ardent adoration, as made her lower them quickly and colour all over. An indescribable tremor seized her, and she retreated with downcast lashes and tell-tale cheeks, and took her father's arm on the opposite side. Gerard, blushing at having scared her away with his eyes, took the other arm; and so the two young things went downcast and conscious, and propped the eagle along in silence.

They entered Rotterdam by the Schiedamze Poort; and, as Gerard was unacquainted with the town, Peter directed him the way to the Hooch Straet, in which the Stadthouse was. He himself was going with Margaret to his cousin, in the Ooster-Waagen Straet, so, almost on entering the gate, their roads lay apart. They bade each other a friendly adieu, and Gerard dived into the great town. A profound sense of solitude fell upon him, yet the streets were crowded. Then he lamented too late that, out of delicacy, he had not asked his late companions who they were and where they lived.

"Beshrew my shamefacedness!" said he. "But their words and their breeding were above their means, and something did whisper me they would not be known. I shall never see her more. Oh weary world, I hate you and your ways. To think I must meet beauty and goodness and learning—three pearls of price—and never see them more!"

Falling into this sad reverie, and letting his body go where it would, he lost his way; but presently meeting a crowd of persons all moving in one direction, he mingled with them, for he argued they must be making for the Stadthouse. Soon the noisy troop that contained the moody Gerard emerged, not upon the Stadthouse, but upon a large meadow by the side of the Maas; and then the attraction was revealed. Games of all sorts were going on: wrestling, the game of palm, the quintain, legerdemain, archery, tumbling, in which art, I blush to say, women as well as men performed, to the great delectation of the company. There was also a trained bear, who stood on his head, and marched upright, and bowed with prodigious gravity to his master; and a hare that beat a drum, and a cock that strutted on little stilts disdainfully. These things made Gerard laugh now and then; but the gay scene could not really enliven it, for his heart was not in tune with it. So hearing a young man say to his fellow that the Duke had been in the meadow, but was gone to the Stadthouse to entertain the burgomasters and aldermen and the competitors for the prizes, and their friends, he suddenly remembered he was hungry, and should like to sup with a prince. He left the river-side, and this time he found the Hooch Straet, and it speedily led him to the Stadthouse. But when he got there he was refused, first at one door, then at another, till he came to the great gate of the courtyard. It was kept by soldiers, and superintended by a pompous major-domo, glittering in an embroidered collar and a gold chain of office, and holding a white staff with a gold knob. There was a crowd of persons at the gate endeavouring to soften this official rock. They came up in turn like ripples, and retired as such in turn. It cost Gerard a struggle to get near him, and when he was within four heads of the gate, he saw something that made his heart beat; there was Peter, with Margaret on his arm, soliciting humbly for entrance.

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

"What is that to me, old man?"

"If you will not let us pass in to him, at least take this leaf from my tablet to my cousin. See, I have written his name; he will come out to us.

"For what do you take me? I carry no messages, I keep the gate."

He then bawled, in a stentorian voice, inexorably:

"No strangers enter here, but the competitors and their companies."

"Come, old man," cried a voice in the crowd, "you have gotten your answer; make way."

Margaret turned half round imploringly:

"Good people, we are come from far, and my father is old; and my cousin has a new servant that knows us not, and would not let us sit in our cousin's house."

At this the crowd laughed hoarsely. Margaret shrank as if they had struck her. At that moment a hand grasped hers—a magic grasp; it felt like heart meeting heart, or magnet steel. She turned quickly round at it, and it was Gerard. Such a little cry of joy and appeal came from her bosom, and she began to whimper prettily.

They had hustled her and frightened her, for one thing; and her cousin's thoughtlessness, in not even telling his servant they were coming, was cruel; and the servant's caution, however wise and faithful to her master, was bitterly mortifying to her father and her. And to her so mortified, and anxious and jostled, came suddenly this kind hand and face. "Hinc illae lacrimae."

"All is well now," remarked a coarse humourist; "she hath gotten her sweetheart."

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

She dropped Gerard's hand directly, and turned round, with eyes flashing through her tears:

"I have no sweetheart, you rude men. But I am friendless in your boorish town, and this is a friend; and one who knows, what you know not, how to treat the aged and the weak."

The crowd was dead silent. They had only been thoughtless, and now felt the rebuke, though severe, was just. The silence enabled Gerard to treat with the porter.

"I am a competitor, sir."

"What is your name?" and the man eyed him suspiciously.

"Gerard, the son of Elias."

The janitor inspected a slip of parchment he held in his hand:

"Gerard Eliassoen can enter."

"With my company, these two?"

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

"What matter? They are my friends, and without them I go not in."

"Stay without, then."

"That will I not."

"That we shall see."

"We will, and speedily." And with this, Gerard raised a voice of astounding volume and power, and routed so that the whole street rang:

"Ho! PHILIP, EARL OF HOLLAND!"

"Are you mad?" cried the porter.

"HERE IS ONE OF YOUR VARLETS DEFIES YOU."

"Hush, hush!"

"AND WILL NOT LET YOUR GUESTS PASS IN."

"Hush! murder! The Dukes there. I'm dead," cried the janitor, quaking.

Then suddenly trying to overpower Gerard's thunder, he shouted, with all his lungs:

"OPEN THE GATE, YE KNAVES! WAY THERE FOR GERARD ELIASSOEN AND HIS COMPANY! (The fiends go with him!)"

The gate swung open as by magic. Eight soldiers lowered their pikes halfway, and made an arch, under which the victorious three marched in triumphant. The moment they had passed, the pikes clashed together horizontally to bar the gateway, and all but pinned an abdominal citizen that sought to wedge in along with them.

Once past the guarded portal, a few steps brought the trio upon a scene of Oriental luxury. The courtyard was laid out in tables loaded with rich meats and piled with gorgeous plate. Guests in rich and various costumes sat beneath a leafy canopy of fresh-cut branches fastened tastefully to golden, silver, and blue silken cords that traversed the area; and fruits of many hues, including some artificial ones of gold, silver, and wax, hung pendant, or peeped like fair eyes among the green leaves of plane-trees and lime-trees. The Duke's minstrels swept their lutes at intervals, and a fountain played red Burgundy in six jets that met and battled in the air. The evening sun darted its fires through those bright and purple wine spouts, making them jets and cascades of molten rubies, then passing on, tinged with the blood of the grape, shed crimson glories here and there on fair faces, snowy beards, velvet, satin, jewelled hilts, glowing gold, gleaming silver, and sparkling glass. Gerard and his friends stood dazzled, spell-bound. Presently a whisper buzzed round them, "Salute the Duke! Salute the Duke!" They looked up, and there on high, under the dais, was their sovereign, bidding them welcome with a kindly wave of the hand. The men bowed low, and Margaret curtsied with a deep and graceful obeisance. The Duke's hand being up, he gave it another turn, and pointed the new-comers out to a knot of valets. Instantly seven of his people, with an obedient start, went headlong at our friends, seated them at a table, and put fifteen many-coloured soups before them, in little silver bowls, and as many wines in crystal vases.

"Nay, father, let us not eat until we have thanked our good friend," said Margaret, now first recovering from all this bustle.

"Girl, he is our guardian angel."

Gerard put his face into his hands.

"Tell me when you have done," said he, "and I will reappear and have my supper, for I am hungry. I know which of us three is the happiest at meeting again."

"Me?" inquired Margaret.

"No: guess again."

"Father?"

"No."

"Then I have no guess which it can be;" and she gave a little crow of happiness and gaiety. The soup was tasted, and vanished in a twirl of fourteen hands, and fish came on the table in a dozen forms, with patties of lobster and almonds mixed, and of almonds and cream, and an immense variety of brouets known to us as rissoles. The next trifle was a wild boar, which smelt divine. Why, then, did Margaret start away from it with two shrieks of dismay, and pinch so good a friend as Gerard? Because the Duke's cuisinier had been too clever; had made this excellent dish too captivating to the sight as well as taste. He had restored to the animal, by elaborate mimicry with burnt sugar and other edible colours, the hair and bristles he had robbed him of by fire and water. To make him still more enticing, the huge tusks were carefully preserved in the brute's jaw, and gave his mouth the winning smile that comes of tusk in man or beast; and two eyes of coloured sugar glowed in his head. St. Argus! what eyes! so bright, so bloodshot, so threatening—they followed a man and every movement of his knife and spoon. But, indeed, I need the pencil of Granville or Tenniel to make you see the two gilt valets on the opposite side of the table putting the monster down before our friends, with a smiling, self-satisfied, benevolent obsequiousness for this ghastly monster was the flower of all comestibles—old Peter clasping both hands in pious admiration of it; Margaret wheeling round with horror-stricken eyes and her hand on Gerard's shoulder, squeaking and pinching; his face of unwise delight at being pinched, the grizzly brute glaring sulkily on all, and the guests grinning from ear to ear.

"What's to do?" shouted the Duke, hearing the signals of female distress. Seven of his people with a zealous start went headlong and told him. He laughed and said, "Give her of the beef-stuffing, then, and bring me Sir Boar." Benevolent monarch! The beef-stuffing was his own private dish. On these grand occasions an ox was roasted whole, and reserved for the poor. But this wise as well as charitable prince had discovered, that whatever venison, bares, lamb, poultry, etc., you skewered into that beef cavern, got cooked to perfection, retaining their own juices and receiving those of the reeking ox. These he called his beef-stuffing, and took delight therein, as did now our trio; for, at his word, seven of his people went headlong, and drove silver tridents into the steaming cave at random, and speared a kid, a cygnet, and a flock of wildfowl. These presently smoked before Gerard and company; and Peter's face, sad and slightly morose at the loss of the savage hog, expanded and shone. After this, twenty different tarts of fruits and herbs, and last of all, confectionery on a Titanic scale; cathedrals of sugar, all gilt painted in the interstices of the bas-reliefs; castles with moats, and ditches imitated to the life; elephants, camels, toads; knights on horseback jousting; kings and princesses looking on trumpeters blowing; and all these personages eating, and their veins filled with sweet-scented juices: works of art made to be destroyed. The guests breached a bastion, crunched a crusader and his horse and lance, or cracked a bishop, cope, chasuble, crosier and all, as remorselessly as we do a caraway comfit; sipping meanwhile hippocras and other spiced drinks, and Greek and Corsican wines, while every now and then little Turkish boys, turbaned, spangled, jewelled, and gilt, came offering on bended knee golden troughs of rose-water and orange-water to keep the guests' hands cool and perfumed.

But long before our party arrived at this final stage appetite had succumbed, and Gerard had suddenly remembered he was the bearer of a letter to the Princess Marie, and, in an under-tone, had asked one of the servants if he would undertake to deliver it. The man took it with a deep obeisance: "He could not deliver it himself, but would instantly give it one of the Princess's suite, several of whom were about."

It may be remembered that Peter and Margaret came here not to dine, but to find their cousin. Well, the old gentleman ate heartily, and—being much fatigued, dropped asleep, and forgot all about his cousin. Margaret did not remind him; we shall hear why.

Meanwhile, that Cousin was seated within a few feet of them, at their backs, and discovered them when Margaret turned round and screamed at the boar. But he forbore to speak to them, for municipal reasons. Margaret was very plainly dressed, and Peter inclined to threadbare. So the alderman said to himself:

"'Twill be time to make up to them when the sun sets and the company disperses then I will take my poor relations to my house, and none will be the wiser."

Half the courses were lost on Gerard and Margaret. They were no great eaters, and just now were feeding on sweet thoughts that have ever been unfavourable to appetite. But there is a delicate kind of sensuality, to whose influence these two were perhaps more sensitive than any other pair in that assembly—the delights of colour, music, and perfume, all of which blended so fascinatingly here.

Margaret leaned back and half closed her eyes, and murmured to Gerard: "What a lovely scene! the warm sun, the green shade, the rich dresses, the bright music of the lutes and the cool music of the fountain, and all faces so happy and gay! and then, it is to you we owe it."

Gerard was silent all but his eyes; observing which—

"Now, speak not to me," said Margaret languidly; "let me listen to the fountain: what are you a competitor for?"

He told her.

"Very well! You will gain one prize, at least."

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

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

"I hope so; but what makes you think so?"

"Because you were so good to my father."

Gerard smiled at the feminine logic, and hung his head at the sweet praise, and was silent.

"Speak not," murmured Margaret. "They say this is a world of sin and misery. Can that be? What is your opinion?"

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

"How can you know? You are but a child," said Margaret, with pensive dignity.

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

The lutes burst out. The courtyard rang again with their delicate harmony.

"What do you admire most of all these beautiful things, Gerard?"

"You know my name? How is that?"

"White magic. I am a—witch."

"Angels are never witches. But I can't think how you—"

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

"So it was. Where is my head? What do I admire most? If you will sit a little more that way, I'll tell you."

"This way?"

"Yes; so that the light may fall on you. There! I see many fair things here, fairer than I could have conceived; but the fairest of all, to my eye, is your lovely hair in its silver frame, and the setting sun kissing it. It minds me of what the Vulgate praises for beauty, 'an apple of gold in a network of silver,' and oh, what a pity I did not know you before I sent in my poor endeavours at illuminating! I could illuminate so much better now. I could do everything better. There, now the sun is full on it, it is like an aureole. So our Lady looked, and none since her until to-day."

"Oh, fie! it is wicked to talk so. Compare a poor, coarse-favoured girl like me with the Queen of Heaven? Oh, Gerard! I thought you were a good young man." And Margaret was shocked apparently.

Gerard tried to explain. "I am no worse than the rest; but how can I help having eyes, and a heart Margaret!"

"Gerard!"

"Be not angry now!"

"Now, is it likely?"

"I love you."

"Oh, for shame! you must not say that to me," and Margaret coloured furiously at this sudden assault.

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

"Hush, hush! for pity's sake! I must not listen to such words from a stranger. I am ungrateful to call you a stranger. Oh! how one may be mistaken! If I had known you were so bold—" And Margaret's bosom began to heave, and her cheeks were covered with blushes, and she looked towards her sleeping father, very much like a timid thing that meditates actual flight.

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

"Well, sir, I 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."

"Give me your hand then, or you don't forgive me."

She hesitated; but eventually put out her hand a very little way, very slowly, and with seeming reluctance. He took it, and held it prisoner. When she thought it had been there long enough, she tried gently to draw it away. He held it tight: it submitted quite patiently to force. What is the use resisting force. She turned her head away, and her long eyelashes drooped sweetly. Gerard lost nothing by his promise. Words were not needed here; and silence was more eloquent. Nature was in that day what she is in ours; but manners were somewhat freer. Then as now, virgins drew back alarmed at the first words of love; but of prudery and artificial coquetry there was little, and the young soon read one another's hearts. Everything was on Gerard's side, his good looks, her belief in his goodness, her gratitude; and opportunity for at the Duke's banquet this mellow summer eve, all things disposed the female nature to tenderness: the avenues to the heart lay open; the senses were so soothed and subdued with lovely colours, gentle sounds, and delicate odours; the sun gently sinking, the warm air, the green canopy, the cool music of the now violet fountain.

Gerard and Margaret sat hand in hand in silence; and Gerard's eyes sought hers lovingly; and hers now and then turned on him timidly and imploringly and presently two sweet unreasonable tears rolled down her cheeks, and she smiled while they were drying: yet they did not take long.

And the sun declined; and the air cooled; and the fountain plashed more gently; and the pair throbbed in unison and silence, and this weary world looked heaven to them.

Oh, the merry days, the merry days when we were young. Oh, the merry days, the merry days when we were young.



CHAPTER III

A grave white-haired seneschal came to their table, and inquired courteously whether Gerard Eliassoen was of their company. Upon Gerard's answer, he said:

"The Princess Marie would confer with you, young sir; I am to conduct you to her presence."

Instantly all faces within hearing turned sharp round, and were bent with curiosity and envy on the man that was to go to a princess.

Gerard rose to obey.

"I wager we shall not see you again," said Margaret calmly, but colouring a little.

"That you will," was the reply: then he whispered in her ear: "This is my good princess; but you are my queen." He added aloud: "Wait for me, I pray you, I will presently return."

"Ay, ay!" said Peter, awaking and speaking at one and the same moment.

Gerard gone, the pair whose dress was so homely, yet they were with the man whom the Princess sent for, became "the cynosure of neighbouring eyes;" observing which, William Johnson came forward, acted surprise, and claimed his relations.

"And to think that there was I at your backs, and you saw me not"

"Nay, cousin Johnson, I saw you long syne," said Margaret coldly.

"You saw me, and spoke not to me?"

"Cousin, it was for you to welcome us to Rotterdam, as it is for us to welcome you at Sevenbergen. Your servant denied us a seat in your house."

"The idiot!"

"And I had a mind to see whether it was 'like maid like master:' for there is sooth in bywords."

William Johnson blushed purple. He saw Margaret was keen, and suspected him. He did the wisest thing under the circumstances, trusted to deeds not words. He insisted on their coming home with him at once, and he would show them whether they were welcome to Rotterdam or not.

"Who doubts it, cousin? Who doubts it?" said the scholar.

Margaret thanked him graciously, but demurred to go just now: said she wanted to hear the minstrels again. In about a quarter of an hour Johnson renewed his proposal, and bade her observe that many of the guests had left. Then her real reason came out.

"It were ill manners to our friend; and he will lose us. He knows not where we lodge in Rotterdam, and the city is large, and we have parted company once already."

"Oh!" said Johnson, "we will provide for that. My young man, ahem! I mean my secretary, shall sit here and wait, and bring him on to my house: he shall lodge with me and with no other."

"Cousin, we shall be too burdensome."

"Nay, nay; you shall see whether you are welcome or not, you and your friends, and your friends' friends, if need be; and I shall hear what the Princess would with him."

Margaret felt a thrill of joy that Gerard should be lodged under the same roof with her; then she had a slight misgiving.

"But if your young man should be thoughtless, and go play, and Gerard miss him?"

"He go play? He leave that spot where I put him, and bid him stay? Ho! stand forth, Hans Cloterman."

A figure clad in black serge and dark violet hose arose, and took two steps and stood before them without moving a muscle: a solemn, precise young man, the very statue of gravity and starched propriety. At his aspect Margaret, being very happy, could hardly keep her countenance. But she whispered Johnson, "I would put my hand in the fire for him. We are at your command, cousin, as soon as you have given him his orders."

Hans was then instructed to sit at the table and wait for Gerard, and conduct him to Ooster-Waagen Straet. He replied, not in words, but by calmly taking the seat indicated, and Margaret, Peter, and William Johnson went away together.

"And, indeed, it is time you were abed, father, after all your travel," said Margaret. This had been in her mind all along.

Hans Cloterman sat waiting for Gerard, solemn and businesslike. The minutes flew by, but excited no impatience in that perfect young man. Johnson did him no more than justice when he laughed to scorn the idea of his secretary leaving his post or neglecting his duty in pursuit of sport or out of youthful hilarity and frivolity.

As Gerard was long in coming, the patient Hans—his employer's eye being no longer on him improved the time by quaffing solemnly, silently, and at short but accurately measured intervals, goblets of Corsican wine. The wine was strong, so was Cloterman's head; and Gerard had been gone a good hour ere the model secretary imbibed the notion that Creation expected Cloterman to drink the health of all good fellows, and nommement of the Duke of Burgundy there present. With this view he filled bumper nine, and rose gingerly but solemnly and slowly. Having reached his full height, he instantly rolled upon the grass, goblet in hand, spilling the cold liquor on more than one ankle—whose owners frisked—but not disturbing a muscle in his own long face, which, in the total eclipse of reason, retained its gravity, primness, and infallibility.

The seneschal led Gerard through several passages to the door of the pavilion, where some young noblemen, embroidered and feathered, sat sentinel, guarding the heir-apparent, and playing cards by the red light of torches their servants held. A whisper from the seneschal, and one of them rose reluctantly, stared at Gerard with haughty surprise, and entered the pavilion. He presently returned, and, beckoning the pair, led then, through a passage or two and landed them in an ante-chamber, where sat three more young gentlemen, feathered, furred, and embroidered like pieces of fancy work, and deep in that instructive and edifying branch of learning, dice.

"You can't see the Princess—it is too late," said one.

Another followed suit:

"She passed this way but now with her nurse. She is gone to bed, doll and all. Deuce—ace again!"

Gerard prepared to retire. The seneschal, with an incredulous smile, replied:

"The young man is here by the Countess's orders; be so good as conduct him to her ladies."

On this a superb Adonis rose, with an injured look, and led Gerard into a room where sat or lolloped eleven ladies, chattering like magpies. Two, more industrious than the rest, were playing cat's-cradle with fingers as nimble as their tongues. At the sight of a stranger all the tongues stopped like one piece of complicated machinery, and all the eyes turned on Gerard, as if the same string that checked the tongues had turned the eyes on. Gerard was ill at ease before, but this battery of eyes discountenanced him, and down went his eyes on the ground. Then the cowards finding, like the hare who ran by the pond and the frogs scuttled into the water, that there was a creature they could frighten, giggled and enjoyed their prowess. Then a duenna said severely, "Mesdames!" and they were all abashed at once as though a modesty string had been pulled. This same duenna took Gerard, and marched before him in solemn silence. The young man's heart sank, and he had half a mind to turn and run out of the place.

"What must princes be," he thought, "when their courtiers are so freezing? Doubtless they take their breeding from him they serve." These reflections were interrupted by the duenna suddenly introducing him into a room where three ladies sat working, and a pretty little girl tuning a lute. The ladies were richly but not showily dressed, and the duenna went up to the one who was hemming a kerchief, and said a few words in a low tone. This lady then turned towards Gerard with a smile, and beckoned him to come near her. She did not rise, but she laid aside her work, and her manner of turning towards him, slight as the movement was, was full of grace and ease and courtesy. She began a conversation at once.

"Margaret Van Eyck is an old friend of mine, sir, and I am right glad to have a letter from her hand, and thankful to you, sir, for bringing it to me safely. Marie, my love, this is the gentleman who brought you that pretty miniature."

"Sir, I thank you a thousand times," said the young lady.

"I am glad you feel her debtor, sweetheart, for our friend would have us to do him a little service in return.

"I will do anything on earth for him," replied the young lady with ardour.

"Anything on earth is nothing in the world," said the Countess of Charolois quietly.

"Well, then, I will—What would you have me to do, sir?"

Gerard had just found out what high society he was in. "My sovereign demoiselle," said he, gently and a little tremulously, "where there have been no pains, there needs no reward."

But we must obey mamma. All the world must obey

"That is true. Then, our demoiselle, reward me, if you will by letting me hear the stave you were going to sing and I did interrupt it."

"What! you love music, sir?"

"I adore it."

The little princess looked inquiringly at her mother, and received a smile of assent. She then took her lute and sang a romaunt of the day. Although but twelve years old, she was a well-taught and painstaking musician. Her little claw swept the chords with Courage and precision, and struck out the notes of the arpeggio clear, and distinct, and bright, like twinkling stars; but the main charm was her voice. It was not mighty, but it was round, clear, full, and ringing like a bell. She sang with a certain modest eloquence, though she knew none of the tricks of feeling. She was too young to be theatrical, or even sentimental, so nothing was forced—all gushed. Her little mouth seemed the mouth of Nature. The ditty, too, was as pure as its utterance. As there were none of those false divisions—those whining slurs, which are now sold so dear by Italian songsters, though every jackal in India delivers them gratis to his customers all night, and sometimes gets shot for them, and always deserves it—so there were no cadences and fiorituri, the trite, turgid, and feeble expletives of song, the skim-milk with which mindless musicians and mindless writers quench fire, wash out colour, and drown melody and meaning dead.

While the pure and tender strain was flowing from the pure young throat, Gerard's eyes filled. The Countess watched him with interest, for it was usual to applaud the Princess loudly, but not with cheek and eye. So when the voice ceased, and the glasses left off ringing, she asked demurely, "Was he content?"

Gerard gave a little start; the spoken voice broke a charm and brought him back to earth.

"Oh, madam!" he cried, "surely it is thus that cherubs and seraphs sing, and charm the saints in heaven."

"I am somewhat of your opinion, my young friend," said the Countess, with emotion; and she bent a look of love and gentle pride upon her girl: a heavenly look, such as, they say, is given to the eye of the short-lived resting on the short-lived.

The Countess resumed: "My old friend request me to be serviceable to you. It is the first favour she has done us the honour of asking us, and the request is sacred. You are in holy orders, sir?"

Gerard bowed.

"I fear you are not a priest, you look too young."

"Oh no, madam; I am not even a sub-deacon. I am only a lector; but next month I shall be an exorcist, and before long an acolyth."

"Well, Monsieur Gerard, with your accomplishments you can soon pass through the inferior orders. And let me beg you to do so. For the day after you have said your first mass I shall have the pleasure of appointing you to a benefice."

"Oh, madam!"

"And, Marie, remember I make this promise in your name as well as my own."

"Fear not, mamma: I will not forget. But if he will take my advice, what he will be is Bishop of Liege. The Bishop of Liege is a beautiful bishop. What! do you not remember him, mamma, that day we were at Liege? he was braver than grandpapa himself. He had on a crown, a high one, and it was cut in the middle, and it was full of oh! such beautiful jewels; and his gown stiff with gold; and his mantle, too; and it had a broad border, all pictures; but, above all, his gloves; you have no such gloves, mamma. They were embroidered and covered with jewels, and scented with such lovely scent; I smelt them all the time he was giving me his blessing on my head with them. Dear old man! I dare say he will die soon most old people do and then, sir, you Can be bishop you know, and wear—

"Gently, Marie, gently: bishoprics are for old gentlemen; and this is a young gentleman."

"Mamma! he is not so very young.

"Not compared with you, Marie, eh?"

"He is a good birth dear mamma; and I am sure he is good enough for a bishop.

"Alas! mademoiselle, you are mistaken"

"I know not that, Monsieur Gerard; but I am a little puzzled to know on what grounds mademoiselle there pronounces your character so boldly."

"Alas! mamma," said the Princess, "you have not looked at his face, then;" and she raised her eyebrows at her mother's simplicity.

"I beg your pardon," said the Countess, "I have. Well, sir, if I cannot go quite so fast as my daughter, attribute it to my age, not to a want of interest in your welfare. A benefice will do to begin your Career with; and I must take care it is not too far from—what call you the place?"

"Tergou, madam

"A priest gives up much," continued the Countess; "often, I fear, he learns too late how much;" and her woman's eye rested a moment on Gerard with mild pity and half surprise at his resigning her sex and all the heaven they can bestow, and the great parental joys: "at least you shall be near your friends. Have you a mother?"

"Yes, madam, thanks be to God!"

"Good! You shall have a church near Tergou. She will thank me. And now, sir, we must not detain you too long from those who have a better claim on your society than we have. Duchess, oblige me by bidding one of the pages conduct him to the hall of banquet; the way is hard to find."

Gerard bowed low to the Countess and the Princess, and backed towards the door.

"I hope it will be a nice benefice," said the Princess to him, with a pretty smile, as he was going out; then, shaking her head with an air of solemn misgiving, "but you had better have been Bishop of Liege."

Gerard followed his new conductor, his heart warm with gratitude; but ere he reached the banquet-hall a chill came over him. The mind of one who has led a quiet, uneventful life is not apt to take in contradictory feelings at the same moment and balance them, but rather to be overpowered by each in turn. While Gerard was with the Countess, the excitement of so new a situation, the unlooked-for promise the joy and pride it would cause at home, possessed him wholly; but now it was passion's turn to be heard again. What! give up Margaret, whose soft hand he still felt in his, and her deep eyes in his heart? resign her and all the world of love and joy she had opened on him to-day? The revulsion, when it did come, was so strong that he hastily resolved to say nothing at home about the offered benefice. "The Countess is so good," thought he, "she has a hundred ways of aiding a young man's fortune: she will not compel me to be a priest when she shall learn I love one of her sex: one would almost think she does know it, for she cast a strange look on me, and said, 'A priest gives up much, too much.' I dare say she will give me a place about the palace." And with this hopeful reflection his mind was eased, and, being now at the entrance of the banqueting hall, he thanked his conductor, and ran hastily with joyful eyes to Margaret. He came in sight of the table—she was gone. Peter was gone too. Nobody was at the table at all; only a citizen in sober garments had just tumbled under it dead drunk, and several persons were raising him to carry him away. Gerard never guessed how important this solemn drunkard was to him: he was looking for "Beauty," and let the "Beast" lie. He ran wildly round the hall, which was now comparatively empty. She was not there. He left the palace: outside he found a crowd gaping at two great fan-lights just lighted over the gate. He asked them earnestly if they had seen an old man in a gown, and a lovely girl pass out. They laughed at the question. "They were staring at these new lights that turn night into day. They didn't trouble their heads about old men and young wenches, every-day sights." From another group he learned there was a Mystery being played under canvas hard by, and all the world gone to see it. This revived his hopes, and he went and saw the Mystery.

In this representation divine personages, too sacred for me to name here, came clumsily down from heaven to talk sophistry with the cardinal Virtues, the nine Muses, and the seven deadly sins, all present in human shape, and not unlike one another. To enliven which weary stuff in rattled the Prince of the power of the air, and an imp that kept molesting him and buffeting him with a bladder, at each thwack of which the crowd were in ecstasies. When the Vices had uttered good store of obscenity and the Virtues twaddle, the celestials, including the nine Muses went gingerly back to heaven one by one; for there was but one cloud; and two artisans worked it up with its supernatural freight, and worked it down with a winch, in full sight of the audience. These disposed of, the bottomless pit opened and flamed in the centre of the stage; the carpenters and Virtues shoved the Vices in, and the Virtues and Beelzebub and his tormentor danced merrily round the place of eternal torture to the fife and tabor.

This entertainment was writ by the Bishop of Ghent for the diffusion of religious sentiment by the aid of the senses, and was an average specimen of theatrical exhibitions so long as they were in the hands of the clergy. But, in course of time, the laity conducted plays, and so the theatre, I learn from the pulpit, has become profane.

Margaret was nowhere in the crowd, and Gerard could not enjoy the performance; he actually went away in Act 2, in the midst of a much-admired piece of dialogue, in which Justice out-quibbled Satan. He walked through many streets, but could not find her he sought. At last, fairly worn out, he went to a hostelry and slept till daybreak. All that day, heavy and heartsick, he sought her, but could never fall in with her or her father, nor ever obtain the slightest clue. Then he felt she was false or had changed her mind. He was irritated now, as well as sad. More good fortune fell on him; he almost hated it. At last, on the third day, after he had once more been through every street, he said, "She is not in the town, and I shall never see her again. I will go home." He started for Tergou with royal favour promised, with fifteen golden angels in his purse, a golden medal on his bosom, and a heart like a lump of lead.



CHAPTER IV

It was near four o'clock in the afternoon. Eli was in the shop. His eldest and youngest sons were abroad. Catherine and her little crippled daughter had long been anxious about Gerard, and now they were gone a little way down the road, to see if by good luck he might be visible in the distance; and Giles was alone in the sitting-room, which I will sketch, furniture and dwarf included.

The Hollanders were always an original and leading people. They claim to have invented printing (wooden type), oil-painting, liberty, banking, gardening, etc. Above all, years before my tale, they invented cleanliness. So, while the English gentry, in velvet jerkins and chicken-toed shoes, trode floors of stale rushes, foul receptacle of bones, decomposing morsels, spittle, dogs, eggs, and all abominations, this hosier's sitting-room at Tergou was floored with Dutch tiles, so highly glazed and constantly washed, that you could eat off them. There was one large window; the cross stone-work in the centre of it was very massive, and stood in relief, looking like an actual cross to the inmates, and was eyed as such in their devotions. The panes were very small and lozenge-shaped, and soldered to one another with strips of lead: the like you may see to this day in our rural cottages. The chairs were rude and primitive, all but the arm-chair, whose back, at right angles with its seat, was so high that the sitter's head stopped two feet short of the top. This chair was of oak, and carved at the summit. There was a copper pail, that went in at the waist, holding holy water, and a little hand-besom to sprinkle it far and wide; and a long, narrow, but massive oak table, and a dwarf sticking to its rim by his teeth, his eyes glaring, and his claws in the air like a pouncing vampire. Nature, it would seem, did not make Giles a dwarf out of malice prepense; she constructed a head and torso with her usual care; but just then her attention was distracted, and she left the rest to chance; the result was a human wedge, an inverted cone. He might justly have taken her to task in the terms of Horace,

"Amphora coepit Institui; currente rota cur urceus exit?"

His centre was anything but his centre of gravity. Bisected, upper Giles would have outweighed three lower Giles. But this very disproportion enabled him to do feats that would have baffled Milo. His brawny arms had no weight to draw after them; so he could go up a vertical pole like a squirrel, and hang for hours from a bough by one hand like a cherry by its stalk. If he could have made a vacuum with his hands, as the lizard is said to do with its feet, he would have gone along a ceiling. Now, this pocket-athlete was insanely fond of gripping the dinner-table with both hands, and so swinging; and then—climax of delight! he would seize it with his teeth, and, taking off his hands, hold on like grim death by his huge ivories.

But all our joys, however elevating, suffer interruption. Little Kate caught Sampsonet in this posture, and stood aghast. She was her mother's daughter, and her heart was with the furniture, not with the 12mo gymnast.

"Oh, Giles! how can you? Mother is at hand. It dents the table."

"Go and tell her, little tale-bearer," snarled Giles. "You are the one for making mischief."

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

"The biggest in Tergou," growled Giles, fastening on again.

"Oh, indeed!" said Kate drily.

This piece of unwonted satire launched, and Giles not visibly blasted, she sat down quietly and cried.

Her mother came in almost at that moment, and Giles hurled himself under the table, and there glared.

"What is to do now?" said the dame sharply. Then turning her experienced eyes from Kate to Giles, and observing the position he had taken up, and a sheepish expression, she hinted at cuffing of ears.

"Nay, mother," said the girl; "it was but a foolish word Giles spoke. I had not noticed it at another time; but I was tired and in care for Gerard, you know."

"Let no one be in care for me," said a faint voice at the door, and in tottered Gerard, pale, dusty, and worn out; and amidst uplifted hands and cries of delight, curiosity, and anxiety mingled, dropped exhausted into the nearest chair.

Beating Rotterdam, like a covert, for Margaret, and the long journey afterwards, had fairly knocked Gerard up. But elastic youth soon revived, and behold him the centre of an eager circle. First of all they must hear about the prizes. Then Gerard told them he had been admitted to see the competitors' works, all laid out in an enormous hall before the judges pronounced.

"Oh, mother! oh, Kate! when I saw the goldsmiths' work, I had liked to have fallen on the floor. I thought not all the goldsmiths on earth had so much gold, silver, jewels, and craft of design and facture. But, in sooth, all the arts are divine."

Then, to please the females, he described to them the reliquaries, feretories, calices, crosiers, crosses, pyxes, monstrances, and other wonders ecclesiastical, and the goblets, hanaps, watches, Clocks, chains, brooches, &c., so that their mouths watered.

"But, Kate, when I came to the illuminated work from Ghent and Bruges, my heart sank. Mine was dirt by the side of it. For the first minute I could almost have cried; but I prayed for a better spirit, and presently I was able to enjoy them, and thank God for those lovely works, and for those skilful, patient craftsmen, whom I own my masters. Well, the coloured work was so beautiful I forgot all about the black and white. But next day, when all the other prizes had been given, they came to the writing, and whose name think you was called first?"

"Yours," said Kate.

The others laughed her to scorn.

"You may well laugh," said Gerard, "but for all that, Gerard Eliassoen of Tergou was the name the herald shouted. I stood stupid; they thrust me forward. Everything swam before my eyes. I found myself kneeling on a cushion at the feet of the Duke. He said something to me, but I was so fluttered I could not answer him. So then he put his hand to his side, and did not draw a glaive and cut off my dull head, but gave me a gold medal, and there it is." There was a yell and almost a scramble. "And then he gave me fifteen great bright golden angels. I had seen one before, but I never handled one. Here they are."

"Oh, Gerard! oh, Gerard!"

"There is one for you, our eldest; and one for you, Sybrandt, and for you, Little Mischief; and two for thee, Little Lily, because God hath afflicted thee; and one for myself, to buy colours and vellum; and nine for her that nursed us all, and risked the two crowns upon poor Gerard's hand."

The gold drew out their characters. Cornelis and Sybrandt clutched each his coin with one glare of greediness and another glare of envy at Kate, who had got two pieces. Giles seized his and rolled it along the floor and gambolled after it. Kate put down her crutches and sat down, and held out her little arms to Gerard with a heavenly gesture of love and tenderness; and the mother, fairly benumbed at first by the shower of gold that fell on her apron, now cried out, "Leave kissing him, Kate; he is my son, not yours. Ah. Gerard! my boy! I have not loved you as you deserved."

Then Gerard threw himself on his knees beside her, and she flung her arms round him and wept for joy and pride upon his neck.

"Good lad! good lad!" cried the hosier, with some emotion. "I must go and tell the neighbours. Lend me the medal, Gerard; I'll show it my good friend Peter Buyskens; he is ever regaling me with how his son Jorian won the tin mug a shooting at the butts."

"Ay, do, my man; and show Peter Buyskens one of the angels. Tell him there are fourteen more where that came from. Mind you bring it me back!"

"Stay a minute, father; there is better news behind," said Gerard, flushing with joy at the joy he caused.

"Better! better than this?"

Then Gerard told his interview with the Countess, and the house rang with joy.

"Now, God bless the good lady, and bless the dame Van Eyck! A benefice? our son! My cares are at an end. Eli, my good friend and master, now we two can die happy whenever our time comes. This dear boy will take our place, and none of these loved ones will want a home or a friend."

From that hour Gerard was looked upon as the stay of the family. He was a son apart, but in another sense. He was always in the right, and nothing too good for him. Cornelis and Sybrandt became more and more jealous of him, and longed for the day he should go to his benefice; they would get rid of the favourite, and his reverence's purse would be open to them. With these views he co-operated. The wound love had given him throbbed duller and duller. His success and the affection and admiration of his parents made him think more highly of himself, and resent with more spirit Margaret's ingratitude and discourtesy. For all that, she had power to cool him towards the rest of her sex, and now for every reason he wished to be ordained priest as soon as he could pass the intermediate orders. He knew the Vulgate already better than most of the clergy, and studied the rubric and the dogmas of the Church with his friends the monks; and, the first time the bishop came that way, he applied to be admitted "exorcist," the third step in holy orders. The bishop questioned him, and ordained him at once. He had to kneel, and, after a short prayer, the bishop delivered to him a little MS. full of exorcisms, and said: "Take this, Gerard, and have power to lay hands on the possessed, whether baptized or catechumens!" and he took it reverently, and went home invested by the Church with power to cast out demons.

Returning home from the church, he was met by little Kate on her crutches.

"Oh, Gerard! who, think you, hath sent to our house seeking you?—the burgomaster himself."

"Ghysbrecht Van Swieten! What would he with me?"

"Nay, Gerard, I know not. But he seems urgent to see you. You are to go to his house on the instant."

"Well, he is the burgomaster: I will go; but it likes me not. Kate, I have seen him cast such a look on me as no friend casts. No matter; such looks forewarn the wise. To be sure, he knows."

"Knows what, Gerard?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing?"

"Kate, I'll go."



CHAPTER V

Ghysbrecht Van Swieten was an artful man. He opened on the novice with something quite wide of the mark he was really aiming at. "The town records," said he, "are crabbedly written, and the ink rusty with age." He offered Gerard the honour of transcribing them fair.

Gerard inquired what he was to be paid.

Ghysbrecht offered a sum that would have just purchased the pens, ink, and parchment.

"But, burgomaster, my labour? Here is a year's work."

"Your labour? Call you marking parchment labour? Little sweat goes to that, I trow."

"'Tis labour, and skilled labour to boot; and that is better paid in all crafts than rude labour, sweat or no sweat. Besides, there's my time."

"Your time? Why, what is time to you, at two-and-twenty?" Then fixing his eyes keenly on Gerard, to mark the effect of his words, he said: "Say, rather, you are idle grown. You are in love. Your body is with these chanting monks, but your heart is with Peter Brandt and his red-haired girl."

"I know no Peter Brandt."

This denial confirmed Ghysbrecht's suspicion that the caster-out of demons was playing a deep game.

"Ye lie!" he shouted. "Did I not find you at her elbow on the road to Rotterdam?"

"Ah!"

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

"Was I?'

"Ah and at Peter's house."

"At Sevenbergen?"

"Ay, at Sevenbergen."

Now, this was what in modern days is called a draw. It was a guess, put boldly forth as fact, to elicit by the young man's answer whether he had been there lately or not.

The result of the artifice surprised the crafty one. Gerard started up in a strange state of nervous excitement.

"Burgomaster," said he, with trembling voice, "I have not been at Sevenbergen these three years, and I know not the name of those you saw me with, nor where they dwelt; but, as my time is precious, though you value it not, give you good day." And he darted out, with his eyes sparkling.

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

"He fears me not. He knows something, if not all."

Then he called hastily to his trusty servant, and almost dragged him to a window.

"See you yon man?" he cried. "Haste! follow him! But let him not see you. He is young, but old in craft. Keep him in sight all day. Let me know whither he goes, and what he does."

It was night when the servant returned.

"Well? well?" cried Van Swieten eagerly.

"Master, the young man went from you to Sevenbergen."

Ghysbrecht groaned.

"To the house of Peter the Magician."



CHAPTER VI

"Look into your own heart and write!" said Herr Cant; and earth's cuckoos echoed the cry. Look into the Rhine where it is deepest, and the Thames where it is thickest, and paint the bottom. Lower a bucket into a well of self-deception, and what comes up must be immortal truth, mustn't it? Now, in the first place, no son of Adam ever reads his own heart at all, except by the habit acquired, and the light gained, from some years perusal of other hearts; and even then, with his acquired sagacity and reflected light, he can but spell and decipher his own heart, not read it fluently. Half way to Sevenbergen Gerard looked into his own heart, and asked it why he was going to Sevenbergen. His heart replied without a moment's hesitation, "We are going out of curiosity to know why she jilted us, and to show her it has not broken our hearts, and that we are quite content with our honours and our benefice in prospectu, and don't want her nor ally of her fickle sex."

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