The Cloister and the Hearth
Part 15 out of 18
"Thy patron saint, whose chain this is, sends me to greet thee"
She ran screaming to the window and began to undo the shutters.
Her fingers trembled, and Clement had time to debarass himself of
his boots and his hat before the light streamed in upon him, He
then let his cloak quietly fall, and stood before her, a Dominican
friar, calm and majestic as a statue, and held his crucifix
towering over her with a loving, sad, and solemn look, that
somehow relieved her of the physical part of fear, but crushed her
with religious terror and remorse. She crouched and cowered
against the wall.
"Mary," said he gently; "one word! Are you happy?"
"As happy as I shall be in hell."
"And they are not happy at the convent; they weep for you."
"Day and night; above all, the Sister Ursula."
"Poor Ursula!" And the strayed nun began to weep herself at the
thought of her friend.
"The angels weep still more. Wilt not dry all their tears in earth
and heaven and save thyself?"
"Ay! would I could; but it is too late."
"Satan avaunt," cried the monk sternly. "'Tis thy favourite
temptation; and thou, Mary, listen not to the enemy of man,
belying God, and whispering despair. I who come to save thee have
been a far greater sinner than thou. Come, Mary, sin, thou seest,
is not so sweet, e'n in this world, as holiness; and eternity is
at the door."
"How can they ever receive me again?"
"'Tis their worthiness thou doubtest now. But in truth they pine
for thee. 'Twas in pity of their tears that I, a Dominican,
undertook this task; and broke the rule of my order by entering an
inn; and broke it again by donning these lay vestments. But all is
well done, and quit for a light penance, if thou wilt let us
rescue thy soul from this den of wolves, and bring thee back to
The nun gazed at him with tears in her eyes. "And thou, a
Dominican, hast done this for a daughter of St. Francis! Why, the
Franciscans and Dominicans hate one another."
"Ay, my daughter; but Francis and Dominic love one another."
The recreant nun seemed struck and affected by this answer
Clement now reminded her how shocked she had been that the Virgin
should be robbed of her chain. "But see now," said he, "the
convent, and the Virgin too, think ten times more of their poor
nun than of golden chains; for they freely trusted their chain to
me a stranger, that peradventure the sight of it might touch their
lost Mary and remind her of their love," Finally he showed her
with such terrible simplicity the end of her present course, and
on the other hand so revived her dormant memories and better
feelings, that she kneeled sobbing at his feet, and owned she had
never known happiness nor peace since she betrayed her vows; and
said she would go back if be would go with her; but alone she
dared not, could not: even if she reached the gate she could never
enter. How could she face the abbess and the sisters? He told her
he would go with her as joyfully as the shepherd bears a strayed
lamb to the fold.
But when he urged her to go at once, up sprung a crop of those
prodigiously petty difficulties that entangle her sex, like silken
nets, liker iron cobwebs.
He quietly swept them aside.
"But how can I walk beside thee in this habit?"
"I have brought the gown and cowl of thy holy order. Hide thy
bravery with them. And leave thy shoes as I leave these" (pointing
to his horseman's boots).
She collected her jewels and ornaments.
"What are these for?" inquired Clement.
"To present to the convent, father."
"Their source is too impure."
"But," objected the penitent, "it would be a sin to leave them
here. They can be sold to feed the poor."
"Mary, fix thine eye on this crucifix, and trample those devilish
baubles beneath thy feet."
She hesitated; but soon threw them down and trampled on them.
"Now open the window and fling them out on that dunghill. 'Tis
well done. So pass the wages of sin from thy hands, its glittering
yoke from thy neck, its pollution from thy soul. Away, daughter of
St. Francis, we tarry in this vile place too long." She followed
But they were not clear yet.
At first the landlord was so astounded at seeing a black friar and
a grey nun pass through his kitchen from the inside, that he
gaped, and muttered, "Why, what mummery is this?" But he soon
comprehended the matter, and whipped in between the fugitives and
the door. "What ho! Reuben! Carl! Gavin! here is a false friar
spiriting away our Janet."
The men came running in with threatening looks. The friar rushed
at them crucifix in hand. "Forbear," he cried, in a stentorian
voice. "She is a holy nun returning to her vows. The hand that
touches her cowl or her robe to stay her, it shall wither, his
body shall lie unburied, cursed by Rome, and his soul shall roast
in eternal fire." They shrank back as if a flame had met them.
"And thou - miserable panderer!"
He did not end the sentence in words, but seized the man by the
neck, and strong as a lion in his moments of hot excitement,
hurled him furiously from the door and sent him all across the
room, pitching head foremost on to the stone floor; then tore the
door open and carried the screaming nun out into the road,
"Hush! poor trembler," he gasped; "they dare not molest thee on
the highroad. Away!"
The landlord lay terrified, half stunned, and bleeding; and Mary,
though she often looked back apprehensively, saw no more of him.
On the road he bade her observe his impetuosity.
"Hitherto," said he, we have spoken of thy faults: now for mine.
My choler is ungovernable; furious. It is by the grace of God I am
not a murderer, I repent the next moment; but a moment too late is
all too late. Mary, had the churls laid finger on thee, I should
have scattered their brains with my crucifix, Oh, I know myself;
go to; and tremble at myself. There lurketh a wild beast beneath
this black gown of mine,"
"Alas, father," said Mary, were you other than you are I had been
lost. To take me from that place needed a man wary as a fox; yet
bold as a lion,"
Clement reflected. "This much is certain: God chooseth well his
fleshly instruments; and with imperfect hearts doeth His perfect
work, Glory be to God!"
When they were near the convent Mary suddenly stopped, and seized
the friar's arm, and began to cry. He looked at her kindly, and
told her she had nothing to fear. It would be the happiest day she
had ever spent. He then made her sit down and compose herself till
he should return, He entered the convent, and desired to see the
"My sister, give the glory to God: Mary is at the gate."
The astonishment and delight of the abbess were unbounded.
She yielded at once to Clement's earnest request that the road of
penitence might be smoothed at first to this unstable wanderer,
and after some opposition, she entered heartily into his views as
to her actual reception. To give time for their little
preparations Clement went slowly back, and seating himself by Mary
soothed her; and heard her confession,
"The abbess has granted me that you shall propose your own
"It shall be none the lighter," said she,
"I trow not," said he; "but that is future: to-day is given to joy
He then led her round the building to the abbess's postern.
As they went they heard musical instruments and singing,
"'Tis a feastday," said Mary; "and I come to mar it,"
"Hardly," said Clement, smiling; "seeing that you are the queen of
"I, father? what mean you?"
"What, Mary, have you never heard that there is more joy in heaven
over one sinner that repenteth, than over ninety-nine just persons
which need no repentance? Now this convent is not heaven; nor the
nuns angels; yet are there among then, some angelic spirits; and
these sing and exult at thy return. But here methinks comes one of
them; for I see her hand trembles at the keyhole."
The postern was flung open, and in a moment Sister Ursula clung
sobbing and kissing round her friend's neck. The abbess followed
more sedately, but little less moved.
Clement bade them farewell. They entreated him to stay; but he
told them with much regret he could not. He had already tried his
good Brother Jerome's patience, and must hasten to the river; and
perhaps sail for England to-morrow.
So Mary returned to the fold, and Clement strode briskly on
towards the Rhine, and England.
This was the man for whom Margaret's boy lay in wait with her
And that letter was one of those simple, touching appeals only her
sex can write to those who have used them cruelly, and they love
them. She began by telling him of the birth of the little boy, and
the comfort he had been to her in all the distress of mind his
long and strange silence had caused her. She described the little
Gerard minutely, not forgetting the mole on his little finger.
"Know you any one that hath the like on his? If you only saw him
you could not choose but be proud of him; all the mothers in the
street do envy me; but I the wives; for thou comest not to us. My
own Gerard, some say thou art dead. But if thou wert dead, how
could I be alive? Others say that thou, whom I love so truly, art
false. But this will I believe from no lips but thine. My father
loved thee well; and as he lay a-dying he thought he saw thee on a
great river, with thy face turned towards thy Margaret, but sore
disfigured. Is't so, perchance? Have cruel men scarred thy sweet
face? or hast thou lost one of thy precious limbs? Why, then thou
hast the more need of me, and I shall love thee not worse, alas!
thinkest thou a woman's love is light as a man's? but better, than
I did when I shed those few drops from my arm, not worth the
tears, thou didst shed for them; mindest thou? 'tis not so very
long agone, dear Gerard."
The letter continued in this strain, and concluded without a word
of reproach or doubt as to his faith and affection. Not that she
was free from most distressing doubts; but they were not
certainties; and to show them might turn the scale, and frighten
him away from her with fear of being scolded. And of this letter
she made soft Luke the bearer.
So she was not an angel after all.
Luke mingled with the passengers of two boats, and could hear
nothing of Gerard Eliassoen. Nor did this surprise him,
He was more surprised when, at the third attempt, a black friar
said to him, somewhat severely, "And what would you with him you
call Gerard Eliassoen?"
"Why, father, if he is alive I have got a letter for him."
"Humph!" said Jerome. "I am sorry for it, However, the flesh is
weak. Well, my son, he you seek will be here by the next boat, or
the next boat after. And if he chooses to answer to that name -
After all, I am not the keeper of his conscience."
"Good father, one plain word, for Heaven's sake, This Gerard
Eliassoen of Tergou - is he alive?"
"Humph! Why, certes, he that went by that name is alive,"
"Well, then, that is settled," said Luke drily. But the next
moment he found it necessary to run out of sight and blubber.
"Oh, why did the Lord make any women?" said he to himself. "I was
content with the world till I fell in love. Here his little finger
is more to her than my whole body, and he is not dead, And here I
have got to give him this." He looked at the letter and dashed it
on the ground. But he picked it up again with a spiteful snatch,
and went to the landlord, with tears in his eyes, and begged for
work, The landlord declined, said he had his own people.
"Oh, I seek not your money," said Luke, "I only want some work to
keep me from breaking my heart about another man's lass."
"Good lad! good lad!" exploded the landlord; and found him lots of
barrels to mend - on these terms, And he coopered with fury in the
interval of the boats coming down the Rhine.
Waiting an earnest letter seldom leaves the mind in statu quo.
Margaret, in hers, vented her energy and her faith in her dying
father's vision, or illusion; and when this was done, and Luke
gone, she wondered at her credulity, and her conscience pricked
her about Luke; and Catherine came and scolded her, and she paid
the price of false hopes, and elevation of spirits, by falling
into deeper despondency. She was found in this state by a staunch
friend she had lately made, Joan Ketel. This good woman came in
radiant with an idea.
"Margaret, I know the cure for thine ill: the hermit of Gouda a
wondrous holy man, Why, he can tell what is coming, when he is in
"Ay, I have heard of him," said Margaret hopelessly. Joan with
some difficulty persuaded her to walk out as far as Gouda, and
consult the hermit. They took some butter and eggs in a basket,
and went to his cave.
What had made the pair such fast friends? Jorian some six weeks
ago fell ill of a bowel disease; it began with raging pain; and
when this went off, leaving him weak, an awkward symptom
succeeded; nothing, either liquid or solid, would stay in his
stomach a minute. The doctor said: "He must die if this goes on
many hours; therefore boil thou now a chicken with a golden angel
in the water, and let him sup that!" Alas! Gilt chicken broth
shared the fate of the humbler viands, its predecessors. Then the
cure steeped the thumb of St. Sergius in beef broth. Same result.
Then Joan ran weeping to Margaret to borrow some linen to make his
shroud. "Let me see him," said Margaret. She came in and felt his
pulse. "Ah!" said she, "I doubt they have not gone to the root.
Open the window! Art stifling him; now change all his linen.
"Alack, woman, what for? Why foul more linen for a dying man?"
objected the mediaeval wife.
"Do as thou art bid," said Margaret dully, and left the room.
Joan somehow found herself doing as she was bid. Margaret returned
with her apron full of a flowering herb. She made a decoction, and
took it to the bedside; and before giving it to the patient, took
a spoonful herself, and smacked her lips hypocritically. "That is
fair," said he, with a feeble attempt at humour. "Why, 'tis sweet,
and now 'tis bitter." She engaged him in conversation as soon as
he had taken it. This bitter-sweet stayed by him. Seeing which she
built on it as cards are built: mixed a very little schiedam in
the third spoonful, and a little beaten yoke of egg in the
seventh. And so with the patience of her sex she coaxed his body
out of Death's grasp; and finally, Nature, being patted on the
back, instead of kicked under the bed, set Jorian Ketel on his
legs again. But the doctress made them both swear never to tell a
soul her guilty deed. "They would put me in prison, away from my
The simple that saved Jorian was called sweet feverfew. She
gathered it in his own garden. Her eagle eye had seen it growing
out of the window.
Margaret and Joan, then, reached the hermit's cave, and placed
their present on the little platform. Margaret then applied her
mouth to the aperture, made for that purpose, and said: "Holy
hermit, we bring thee butter and eggs of the best; and I, a poor
deserted girl, wife, yet no wife, and mother of the sweetest babe,
come to pray thee tell me whether he is quick or dead, true to his
vows or false."
A faint voice issued from the cave: "Trouble me not with the
things of earth, but send me a holy friar, I am dying."
"Alas!" cried Margaret. "Is it e'en so, poor soul? Then let us in
to help thee,"
"Saints forbid! Thine is a woman's voice. Send me a holy friar."
They went back as they came. Joan could not help saying, "Are
women imps o' darkness then, that they must not come anigh a dying
But Margaret was too deeply dejected to say anything. Joan applied
rough consolation. But she was not listened to till she said: "And
Jorian will speak out ere long; he is just on the boil, He is very
grateful to thee, believe it."
"Seeing is believing," replied Margaret, with quiet bitterness.
"Not but what he thinks you might have saved him with something
more out o' the common than yon. 'A man of my inches to be cured
wi' feverfew,' says he. 'Why, if there is a sorry herb,' says he.
'Why, I was thinking o' pulling all mine up, says he. I up and
told him remedies were none the better for being far-fetched; you
and feverfew cured him, when the grand medicines came up faster
than they went down. So says I, 'You may go down on your four
bones to feverfew.' But indeed, he is grateful at bottom; you are
all his thought and all his chat. But he sees Gerard's folk coming
around ye, and good friends, and he said only last night - "
"He made me vow not to tell ye."
"Prithee, tell me."
"Well, he said: 'An' if I tell what little I know, it won't bring
him back, and it will set them all by the ears. I wish I had more
headpiece,' said he; 'I am sore perplexed. But least said is
soonest mended.' Yon is his favourite word; he comes back to't
from a mile off."
Margaret shook her head. "Ay, we are wading in deep waters, my
poor babe and me."
It was Saturday night and no Luke.
"Poor Luke!" said Margaret. "It was very good of him to go on such
"He is one out of a hundred," replied Catherine warmly.
"Mother, do you think he would be kind to little Gerard?"
"I am sure he would. So do you be kinder to him when he comes
back! Will ye now?"
Brother Clement, directed by the nuns, avoided a bend in the
river, and striding lustily forward, reached a station some miles
nearer the coast than that where Luke lay in wait for Gerard
Eliassoen. And the next morning he started early, and was in
Rotterdam at noon. He made at once for the port, not to keep
He observed several monks of his order on the quay; he went to
them; but Jerome was not amongst them. He asked one of them
whether Jerome had arrived? "Surely, brother, was the reply.
"Prithee, where is he?"
"Where? Why, there!" said the monk, pointing to a ship in full
sail. And Clement now noticed that all the monks were looking
"What, gone without me! Oh, Jerome! Jerome!" cried he, in a voice
of anguish. Several of the friars turned round and stared.
"You must be brother Clement," said one of them at length; and on
this they kissed him and greeted him with brotherly warmth, and
gave him a letter Jerome had charged them with for him. It was a
hasty scrawl. The writer told him coldly a ship was about to sail
for England, and he was loth to lose time. He (Clement) might
follow if he pleased, but he would do much better to stay behind,
and preach to his own country folk. "Give the glory to God,
brother; you have a wonderful power over Dutch hearts; but you are
no match for those haughty islanders: you are too tender.
"Know thou that on the way I met one, who asked me for thee under
the name thou didst bear in the world. Be on thy guard! Let not
the world catch thee again by any silken net, And remember,
Solitude, Fasting, and Prayer are the sword, spear, and shield of
the soul. Farewell."
Clement was deeply shocked and mortified at this contemptuous
desertion, and this cold-blooded missive.
He promised the good monks to sleep at the convent, and to preach
wherever the prior should appoint (for Jerome had raised him to
the skies as a preacher), and then withdrew abruptly, for he was
cut to the quick, and wanted to be alone. He asked himself, was
there some incurable fault in him, repulsive to so true a son of
Dominic? Or was Jerome himself devoid of that Christian Love which
St. Paul had placed above Faith itself? Shipwrecked with him, and
saved on the same fragment of the wreck: his pupil, his penitent,
his son in the Church, and now for four hundred miles his
fellow-traveller in Christ; and to be shaken off like dirt, the
first opportunity, with harsh and cold disdain. "Why worldly
hearts are no colder nor less trusty than this," said he. "The
only one that ever really loved me lies in a grave hard by. Fly
me, fly to England, man born without a heart; I will go and pray
over a grave at Sevenbergen."
Three hours later he passed Peter's cottage. A troop of noisy
children were playing about the door, and the house had been
repaired, and a new outhouse added. He turned his head hastily
away, not to disturb a picture his memory treasured; and went to
He sought among the tombstones for Margaret's. He could not find
it. He could not believe they had grudged her a tombstone, so
searched the churchyard all over again.
"Oh poverty! stern poverty! Poor soul, thou wert like me no one
was left that loved thee, when Gerard was gone."
He went into the church, and after kissing the steps, prayed long
and earnestly for the soul of her whose resting-place be could not
Coming out of the church he saw a very old man looking over the
little churchyard gate. He went towards him, and asked him did he
live in the place.
"Four score and twelve years, man and boy. And I come here every
day of late, holy father, to take a peep. This is where I look to
bide ere long."
"My son, can you tell me where Margaret lies?"
"Margaret? There's a many Margarets here."
"Margaret Brandt. She was daughter to a learned physician."
"As if I didn't know that," said the old man pettishly. "But she
doesn't lie here. Bless you, they left this a longful while ago.
Gone in a moment, and the house empty. What, is she dead? Margaret
a Peter dead? Now only think on't. Like enow; like enow, They
great towns do terribly disagree wi' country folk."
"What great towns, my son?"
"Well, 'twas Rotterdam they went to from here, so I heard tell; or
was it Amsterdam? Nay, I trow 'twas Rotterdam? And gone there to
"'Twas not in her face now, that I saw. And I can mostly tell,
Alack, there was a blooming young flower to be cut off so soon,
and all old weed like me left standing still. Well, well, she was
a May rose yon; dear heart, what a winsome smile she had, and-
"God bless thee, my son," said Clement; "farewell!" and he hurried
He reached the convent at sunset, and watched and prayed
in the chapel for Jerome and Margaret till it was long past
midnight, and his soul had recovered its cold calm.
The next day, Sunday, after mass, was a bustling day at
Catherine's house in the Hoog Straet. The shop was now quite
ready, and Cornelis and Sybrandt were to open it next day; their
names were above the door; also their sign. a white lamb sucking a
gilt sheep. Eli had come, and brought them some more goods from
his store to give them a good start. The hearts of the parents
glowed at what they were doing, and the pair themselves walked in
the garden together, and agreed they were sick of their old life,
and it was more pleasant to make money than waste it; they vowed
to stick to business like wax. Their mother's quick and ever
watchful ear overheard this resolution through an open window, and
she told Eli, The family supper was to include Margaret and her
boy, and be a kind of inaugural feast, at which good trade advice
was to flow from the elders, and good wine to be drunk to the
success of the converts to Commerce from Agriculture in its
unremunerative form - wild oats. So Margaret had come over to help
her mother-in-law, and also to shake off her own deep languor; and
both their faces were as red as the fire. Presently in came Joan
with a salad from Jorian's garden.
"He cut it for you, Margaret; you are all his chat; I shall be
jealous. I told him you were to feast to-day. But oh, lass, what a
sermon in the new kerk! Preaching? I never heard it till this
"Would I had been there then," said Margaret; "for I am dried up
for want of dew from heaven."
"Why, he preacheth again this afternoon. But mayhap you are wanted
"Not she," said Catherine. "Come, away ye go, if y'are minded."
"Indeed," said Margaret, "methinks I should not be such a damper
at table if I could come to 't warm from a good sermon."
"Then you must be brisk," observed Joan. "See the folk are wending
that way, and as I live, there goes the holy friar. Oh, bless us
and save us, Margaret; the hermit! We forgot." And this active
woman bounded out of the house, and ran across the road, and
stopped the friar. She returned as quickly. "There, I was bent on
seeing him nigh hand,"
"What said he to thee?"
"Says he, 'My daughter, I will go to him ere sunset, God willing.'
The sweetest voice. But oh, my mistresses, what thin cheeks for a
young man, and great eyes, not far from your colour, Margaret."
"I have a great mind to go hear him," said Margaret. "But my cap
is not very clean, and they will all be there in their snow-white
"There, take my handkerchief out of the basket," said Catherine;
"you cannot have the child, I want him for my poor Kate. It is one
of her ill days."
Margaret replied by taking the boy upstairs. She found Kate in
"How art thou, sweetheart? Nay, I need not ask. Thou art in sore
pain; thou smilest so, See,' I have brought thee one thou lovest."
"Two, by my way of counting," said Kate, with an angelic smile.
She had a spasm at that moment would have made some of us roar
"What, in your lap?" said Margaret, answering a gesture of the
suffering girl. "Nay, he is too heavy, and thou in such pain."
"I love him too dear to feel his weight," was the reply.
Margaret took this opportunity, and made her toilet. "I am for the
kerk," said she, "to hear a beautiful preacher." Kate sighed. "And
a minute ago, Kate, I was all agog to go; that is the way with me
this month past; up and down, up and down, like the waves of the
Zuyder Zee. I'd as lieve stay aside thee; say the word!"
"Nay," said Kate, "prithee go; and bring me back every word.
Well-a-day that I cannot go myself." And the tears stood in the
patient's eyes. This decided Margaret, and she kissed Kate, looked
under her lashes at the boy, and heaved a little sigh. "I trow I
must not," said she. "I never could kiss him a little; and my
father was dead against waking a child by day or night When 'tis
thy pleasure to wake, speak thy aunt Kate the two new words thou
hast gotten." And she went out, looking lovingly over her
shoulder, and shut the door inaudibly.
"Joan, you will lend me a hand, and peel these?" said Catherine.
"That I will, dame." And the cooking proceeded with silent vigour.
"Now, Joan, them which help me cook and serve the meat, they help
me eat it; that's a rule."
"There's worse laws in Holland than that. Your will is my
pleasure, mistress; for my Luke hath got his supper i' the air. He
is digging to-day by good luck." (Margaret came down.)
"Eh, woman, yon is an ugly trade. There she has just washed her
face and gi'en her hair a turn, and now who is like her?
Rotterdam, that for you!" and Catherine snapped her fingers at the
capital. "Give us a buss, hussy! Now mind, Eli won't wait supper
for the duke. Wherefore, loiter not after your kerk is over."
Joan and she both followed her to the door, and stood at it
watching her a good way down the street. For among homely
housewives going out o' doors is half an incident. Catherine
commented on the launch: "There, Joan, it is almost to me as if I
had just started my own daughter for kerk, and stood a looking
after: the which I've done it manys and manys the times. Joan,
lass, she won't hear a word against our Gerard; and he be alive,
he has used her cruel; that is why my bowels yearn for the poor
wench. I'm older and wiser than she; and so I'll wed her to yon
simple Luke, and there an end. What's one grandchild?"
THE CLOISTER AND THE HEARTH
The sermon had begun when Margaret entered the great church of St.
Laurens. It was a huge edifice, far from completed. Churches were
not built in a year. The side aisles were roofed, but not the mid
aisle nor the chancel; the pillars and arches were pretty perfect,
and some of them whitewashed. But only one window in the whole
church was glazed; the rest were at present great jagged openings
in the outer walls.
But to-day all these uncouth imperfections made the church
beautiful. It was a glorious summer afternoon, and the sunshine
came broken into marvellous forms through those irregular
openings, and played bewitching pranks upon so many broken
It streamed through the gaping walls, and clove the dark cool side
aisles with rivers of glory, and dazzled and glowed on the white
And nearly the whole central aisle was chequered with light and
shade in broken outlines; the shades seeming cooler and more
soothing than ever shade was, and the lights like patches of amber
diamond animated with heavenly fire. And above, from west to east
the blue sky vaulted the lofty aisle, and seemed quite close.
The sunny caps of the women made a sea of white contrasting
exquisitely with that vivid vault of blue.
For the mid aisle, huge as it was, was crammed, yet quite still.
The words and the mellow, gentle, earnest voice of the preacher
held them mute.
Margaret stood spellbound at the beauty, the devotion, "the great
calm," She got behind a pillar in the north aisle; and there,
though she could hardly catch a word, a sweet devotional langour
crept over her at the loveliness of the place and the preacher's
musical voice; and balmy oil seemed to trickle over the waves in
her heart and smooth them. So she leaned against the pillar with
eyes half closed, and all seemed soft and dreamy.
She felt it good to be there.
Presently she saw a lady leave an excellent place opposite to get
out of the sun, which was indeed pouring on her head from the
window. Margaret went round softly but swiftly; and was fortunate
enough to get the place. She was now beside a pillar of the south
aisle, and not above fifty feet from the preacher. She was at his
side, a little behind him, but could hear every word.
Her attention, however, was soon distracted by the shadow of a
man's head and shoulders bobbing up and down so drolly she had
some ado to keep from smiling.
Yet it was nothing essentially droll.
It was the sexton digging.
She found that out in a moment by looking behind her, through the
window, to whence the shadow came.
Now as she was looking at Jorian Ketel digging, suddenly a tone of
the preacher's voice fell upon her ear and her mind so distinctly,
it seemed literally to strike her, and make her vibrate inside and
Her hand went to her bosom, so strange and sudden was the thrill.
Then she turned round, and looked at the preacher. His back was
turned, and nothing visible but his tonsure. She sighed. That
tonsure, being all she saw, contradicted the tone effectually.
Yet she now leaned a little forward with downcast eyes, hoping for
that accent again. It did not come. But the whole voice grew
strangely upon her. It rose and fell as the preacher warmed; and
it seemed to waken faint echoes of a thousand happy memories. She
would not look to dispel the melancholy pleasure this voice gave
Presently, in the middle of an eloquent period, the preacher
She almost sighed; a soothing music had ended. Could the sermon be
ended already? No; she looked round; the people did not move.
A good many faces seemed now to turn her way.' She looked behind
her sharply. There was nothing there.
Startled countenances near her now eyed the preacher. She followed
their looks; and there, in the pulpit, was a face as of a staring
corpse. The friar's eyes, naturally large, and made larger by the
thinness of his cheeks, were dilated to supernatural size, and
glaring her way out of a bloodless face.
She cringed and turned fearfully round: for she thought there must
be some terrible thing near her. No; there was nothing; she was
the outside figure of the listening crowd.
At this moment the church fell into commotion, Figures got up all
over the building, and craned forward; agitated faces by hundreds
gazed from the friar to Margaret, and from Margaret to the friar.
The turning to and fro of so many caps made a loud rustle. Then
came shrieks of nervous women, and buzzing of men; and Margaret,
seeing so many eyes levelled at her, shrank terrified behind the
pillar, with one scared, hurried glance at the preacher.
Momentary as that glance was, it caught in that stricken face an
expression that made her shiver.
She turned faint, and sat down on a heap of chips the workmen had
left, and buried her face in her hands, The sermon went on again.
She heard the sound of it; but not the sense. She tried to think,
but her mind was in a whirl, Thought would fix itself in no shape
but this: that on that prodigy-stricken face she had seen a look
stamped. And the recollection of that look now made her quiver
from head to foot.
For that look was "RECOGNITION."
The sermon, after wavering some time, ended in a strain of
exalted, nay, feverish eloquence, that went far to make the crowd
forget the preacher's strange pause and ghastly glare. Margaret
mingled hastily with the crowd, and went out of the church with
They went their ways home. But she turned at the door, and went
into the churchyard; to Peter's grave. Poor as she was, she had
given him a slab and a headstone. She sat down on the slab, and
kissed it. Then threw her apron over her head that no one might
distinguish her by her hair.
"Father," she said, "thou hast often heard me say I am wading in
deep waters; but now I begin to think God only knows the bottom of
them. I'll follow that friar round the world, but I'll see him at
arm's length. And he shall tell me why he looked towards me like a
dead man wakened; and not a soul behind me. Oh, father; you often
praised me here: speak a word for me there. For I am wading in
Her father's tomb commanded a side view of the church door. And on
that tomb she sat, with her face covered, waylaying the holy
THE CLOISTER AND THE HEARTH
The cool church chequered with sunbeams and crowned with heavenly
purple, soothed and charmed Father Clement, as it did Margaret;
and more, it carried his mind direct to the Creator of all good
and pure delights. Then his eye fell on the great aisle crammed
with his country folk; a thousand snowy caps, filigreed with gold.
Many a hundred leagues he had travelled; but seen nothing like
them, except snow. In the morning he had thundered; but this sweet
afternoon seemed out of tune with threats. His bowels yearned over
that multitude; and he must tell them of God's love: poor souls,
they heard almost as little of it from the pulpit then a days as
the heathen used. He told them the glad tidings of salvation. The
people hung upon his gentle, earnest tongue.
He was not one of those preachers who keep gyrating in the pulpit
like the weathercock on the steeple. He moved the hearts of others
more than his own body. But on the other hand he did not entirely
neglect those who were in bad places. And presently, warm with
this theme, that none of all that multitude might miss the joyful
tidings of Christ's love, he turned him towards the south aisle.
And there, in a stream of sunshine from the window, was the
radiant face of Margaret Brandt. He gazed at it without emotion.
It just benumbed him, soul and body.
But soon the words died in his throat, and he trembled as he
glared at it.
There, with her auburn hair bathed in sunbeams, and glittering
like the gloriola of a saint, and her face glowing doubly, with
its own beauty, and the sunshine it was set in-stood his dead
She was leaning very lightly against a white column. She was
listening with tender, downcast lashes.
He had seen her listen so to him a hundred times.
There was no change in her. This was the blooming Margaret he had
left: only a shade riper and more lovely.
He started at her with monstrous eyes and bloodless cheeks.
The people died out of his sight. He heard, as in a dream, a
rustling and rising all over the church; but could not take his
prodigy-stricken eyes off that face, all life, and bloom, and
beauty, and that wondrous auburn hair glistening gloriously in the
He gazed, thinking she must vanish.
All in a moment she was looking at him, full.
Her own violet eyes!!
At this he was beside himself, and his lips parted to shriek out
her name, when she turned her head swiftly, and soon after
vanished, but not without one more glance, which, though rapid as
lightning, encountered his, and left her couching and quivering
with her mind in a whirl, and him panting and gripping the pulpit
convulsively. For this glance of hers, though not recognition,was
the startled inquiring, nameless, indescribable look that precedes
recognition. He made a mighty effort, and muttered something
nobody could understand: then feebly resumed his discourse; and
stammered and babbled on a while, till by degrees forcing himself,
now she was out of sight, to look on it as a vision from the other
world, he rose into a state of unnatural excitement, and concluded
in a style of eloquence that electrified the simple; for it
bordered on rhapsody.
The sermon ended, he sat down on the pulpit stool, terribly
shaken, But presently an idea very characteristic of the time took
possession of him, He had sought her grave at Sevenbergen in vain.
She had now been permitted to appear to him, and show him that she
was buried here; probably hard by that very pillar, where her
spirit had showed itself to him.
This idea once adopted soon settled on his mind with all the
Certainty of a fact. And he felt he had only to speak to the
sexton (whom to his great disgust he had seen working during the
sermon), to learn the spot where she was laid,
The church was now quite empty. He came down from the pulpit and
stepped through an aperture in the south wall on to the grass, and
went up to the sexton. He knew him in a moment. But Jorian never
suspected the poor lad, whose life he had saved, in this holy
friar. The loss of his shapely beard had wonderfully altered the
outline of his face. This had changed him even more than his
tonsure, his short hair sprinkled with premature grey, and his
cheeks thinned and paled by fasts and vigils.
"My son," said Friar Clement softly, "if you keep any memory of
those whom you lay in the earth, prithee tell me is any Christian
buried inside the church, near one of the pillars?"
"Nay, father," said Jorian, "here in the churchyard lie buried all
that buried be. Why?"
"No matter, Prithee tell me then where lieth Margaret Brandt."
"Margaret Brandt?" And Jorian stared stupidly at the speaker.
"She died about three years ago, and was buried here."
"Oh, that is another matter," said Jorian; "that was before my
time; the vicar could tell you, likely; if so be she was a
gentlewoman, or at the least rich enough to pay him his fee."
"Alas, my son, she was poor (and paid a heavy penalty for it); but
born of decent folk. Her father, Peter, was a learned physician;
she came hither from Sevenbergen - to die."
When Clement had uttered these words his head sunk upon his
breast, and he seemed to have no power nor wish to question Jorian
more. I doubt even if he knew where he was. He was lost in the
Jorian put down his spade, and standing upright in the grave, set
his arms akimbo, and said sulkily, "Are you making a fool of me,
holy sir, or has some wag been making a fool of you!" And having
relieved his mind thus, he proceeded to dig again, with a certain
vigour that showed his somewhat irritable temper was ruffled.
Clement gazed at him with a puzzled but gently reproachful eye,
for the tone was rude, and the words unintelligible. Good-natured,
though crusty, Jorian had not thrown up three spadefuls ere he
became ashamed of it himself. "Why, what a base churl am I to
speak thus to thee, holy father; and thou a standing there,
looking at me like a lamb. Aha! I have it; 'tis Peter Brandt's
grave you would fain see, not Margaret's. He does lie here; hard
by the west door. There; I'll show you." And he laid down his
spade, and put on his doublet and jerkin to go with the friar.
He did not know there was anybody sitting on Peter's tomb. Still
less that she was watching for this holy friar.
Pietro Vanucci and Andrea did not recognize him without his beard.
The fact is, that the beard which has never known a razor grows in
a very picturesque and characteristic form, and becomes a feature
in the face; so that its removal may in some cases be an effectual
While Jorian was putting on his doublet and jerkin to go to
Peter's tomb, his tongue was not idle. "They used to call him a
magician out Sevenbergen way. And they do say he gave 'em a touch
of his trade at parting; told 'em he saw Margaret's lad a-coming
down Rhine in brave clothes and store o' money, but his face
scarred by foreign glaive, and not altogether so many arms and
legs as a went away wi'. But, dear heart, nought came on't.
Margaret is still wearying for her lad; and Peter, he lies as
quiet as his neighbours; not but what she hath put a stone slab
over him, to keep him where he is: as you shall see."
He put both hands on the edge of the grave, and was about to raise
himself out of it, but the friar laid a trembling hand on his
shoulder, and said in a strange whisper -
"How long since died Peter Brandt?"
"About two months, Why?"
"And his daughter buried him, say you?"
"Nay, I buried him, but she paid the fee and reared the stone."
"Then - but he had just one daughter; Margaret?"
"No more leastways, that he owned to."
"Then you think Margaret is - is alive?"
"Think? Why, I should be dead else. Riddle me that."
"Alas, how can I? You love her!"
"No more than reason, being a married man, and father of four more
sturdy knaves like myself. Nay, the answer is, she saved my life
scarce six weeks agone. Now had she been dead she couldn't ha'
kept me alive. Bless your heart, I couldn't keep a thing on my
stomach; nor doctors couldn't make me. My Joan says, "Tis time to
buy thee a shroud.' 'I dare say, so 'tis,' says I; but try and
borrow one first.' In comes my lady, this Margaret, which she died
three years ago, by your way on't, opens the windows, makes 'em
shift me where I lay, and cures me in the twinkling of a bedpost;
but wi' what? there pinches the shoe; with the scurviest herb, and
out of my own garden, too; with sweet feverfew. A herb, quotha,
'tis a weed; leastways it was a weed till it cured me, but now
whene'er I pass my hunch I doff bonnet, and says I, 'fly service
t'ye.' Why, how now, father, you look wondrous pale, and now you
are red, and now you are white? Why, what is the matter? What, in
Heaven's name, is the matter?"
"The surprise - the joy - the wonder - the fear," gasped Clement.
"Why, what is it to thee? Art thou of kin to Margaret Brandt?"
"Nay; but I knew one that loved her well, so well her death nigh
killed him, body and soul. And yet thou sayest she lives. And I
Jorian stared, and after a considerable silence said very gravely,
"Father, you have asked me many questions, and I have answered
them truly; now for our Lady's sake answer me but two. Did you in
very sooth know one who loved this poor lass? Where?"
Clement was on the point of revealing himself, but he remembered
Jerome's letter, and shrank from being called by the name he had
borne in the world.
"I knew him in Italy," said he.
"If you knew him you can tell me his name," said Jorian
"His name was Gerard Eliassoen."
"Oh, but this is strange. Stay, what made thee say Margaret Brandt
"I was with Gerard when a letter came from Margaret Van Eyck. The
letter told him she he loved was dead and buried. Let me sit down,
for my strength fails me, Foul play! Foul play!"
"Father," said Jorian," I thank Heaven for sending thee to me, Ay,
sit ye down; ye do look like a ghost; ye fast overmuch to be
strong. My mind misgives me; methinks I hold the clue to this
riddle, and if I do, there be two knaves in this town whose heads
I would fain batter to pieces as I do this mould;" and he clenched
his teeth and raised his long spade above his head, and brought it
furiously down upon the heap several times. "Foul play? You never
said a truer word i' your life; and if you know where Gerard is
now, lose no time, but show him the trap they have laid for him.
Mine is but a dull head, but whiles the slow hound puzzles out the
scent - go to, And I do think you and I ha' got hold of two ends
o' one stick, and a main foul one."
Jorian then, after some of those useless preliminaries men of his
class always deal in, came to the point of the story. He had been
employed by the burgomaster of Tergou to repair the floor of an
upper room in his house, and when it was almost done, Coming
suddenly to fetch away his tools, curiosity had been excited by
some loud words below, and he had lain down on his stomach, and
heard the burgomaster talking about a letter which Cornelis and
Sybrandt were minded to convey into the place of one that a
certain Hans Memling was taking to Gerard; "and it seems their
will was good, but their stomach was small; so to give them
courage the old man showed them a drawer full of silver, and if
they did the trick they should each put a hand in, and have all
the silver they could hold in't. Well, father," continued Jorian,
"I thought not much on't at the time, except for the bargain
itself, that kept me awake mostly all night. Think on't! Next
morning at peep of day who should I see but my masters Cornelis
and Sybrandt come out of their house each with a black eye. 'Oho,'
says I, 'what yon Hans hath put his mark on ye; well now I hope
that is all you have got for your pains.' Didn't they make for the
burgomaster's house? I to my hiding-place."
At this part of Jorian's revelation the monk's nostril dilated,
and his restless eye showed the suspense he was in.
"Well, father," continued Jorian, "the burgomaster brought them
into that same room. He had a letter in his hand; but I am no
scholar; however, I have got as many eyes in my head as the Pope
hath, and I saw the drawer opened, and those two knaves put in
each a hand and draw it out full. And, saints in glory, how they
tried to hold more, and more, and more o' yon stuff! And Sybrandt,
he had daubed his hand in something sticky, I think 'twas glue,
and he made shift to carry one or two pieces away a sticking to
the back of his hand, he! he! he! 'Tis a sin to laugh. So you see
luck was on the wrong side as usual; they had done the trick; but
how they did it, that, methinks, will never be known till
doomsday. Go to, they left their immortal jewels in yon drawer.
Well, they got a handful of silver for them; the devil had the
worst o' yon bargain. There, father, that is off my mind; often I
longed to tell it some one, but I durst not to the women; or
Margaret would not have had a friend left in the world; for those
two black-hearted villains are the favourites, 'Tis always so.
Have not the old folk just taken a brave new shop for them in this
very town, in the Hoog Straet? There may you see their sign, a
gilt sheep and a lambkin; a brace of wolves sucking their dam
would be nigher the mark. And there the whole family feast this
day; oh, 'tis a fine world. What, not a word, holy father; you sit
there like stone, and have not even a curse to bestow on them, the
stony-hearted miscreants. What, was it not enough the poor lad was
all alone in a strange land; must his own flesh and blood go and
lie away the one blessing his enemies had left him? And then think
of her pining and pining all these years, and sitting at the
window looking adown the street for Gerard! and so constant, so
tender, and true: my wife says she is sure no woman ever loved a
man truer than she loves the lad those villains have parted from
her; and the day never passes but she weeps salt tears for him.
And when I think, that, but for those two greedy lying knaves, yon
winsome lad, whose life I saved, might be by her side this day the
happiest he in Holland; and the sweet lass, that saved my life,
might be sitting with her cheek upon her sweetheart's shoulder,
the happiest she in Holland in place of the saddest; oh, I thirst
for their blood, the nasty, sneaking, lying, cogging, cowardly,
heartless, bowelless - how now?"
The monk started wildly up, livid with fury and despair, and
rushed headlong from the place with both hands clenched and raised
on high. So terrible was this inarticulate burst of fury, that
Jorian's puny ire died out at sight of it, and he stood looking
dismayed after the human tempest he had launched.
While thus absorbed he felt his arm grasped by a small, tremulous
It was Margaret Brandt.
He started; her coming there just then seemed so strange. She had
waited long on Peter's tombstone, but the friar did not come, So
she went into the church to see if he was there still. She could
not find him.
Presently, going up the south aisle, the gigantic shadow of a
friar came rapidly along the floor and part of a pillar, and
seemed to pass through her. She was near screaming; but in a
moment remembered Jorian's shadow had come in so from the
churchyard; and tried to clamber out the nearest way. She did so,
but with some difficulty; and by that time Clement was just
disappearing down the street; yet, so expressive at times is the
body as well as the face, she could see he was greatly agitated.
Jorian and she looked at one another, and at the wild figure of
the distant friar.
"Well?" said she to Jorian, trembling.
"Well," said he, "you startled me. How come you here of all
"Is this a time for idle chat? What said he to you? He has been
speaking to you; deny it not."
"Girl, as I stand here, he asked me whereabout you were buried in
"I told him, nowhere, thank Heaven: you were alive and saving
other folk from the churchyard."
"Well, the long and the short is, he knew thy Gerard in Italy; and
a letter came saying you were dead; and it broke thy poor lad's
heart. Let me see; who was the letter written by? Oh, by the
demoiselle van Eyck. That was his way of it. But I up and told him
nay; 'twas neither demoiselle nor dame that penned yon lie, but
Ghysbrecht Van Swieten, and those foul knaves, Cornelis and
Sybrandt; these changed the true letter for one of their own; I
told him as how I saw the whole villainy done through a chink; and
now, if I have not been and told you!"
"Oh, cruel! cruel! But he lives. The fear of fears is gone. Thank
"Ay, lass; and as for thine enemies, I have given them a dig. For
yon friar is friendly to Gerard, and he is gone to Eli's house,
methinks. For I told him where to find Gerard's enemies and thine,
and wow but he will give them their lesson. If ever a man was mad
with rage, its yon. He turned black and white, and parted like a
stone from a sling. Girl, there was thunder in his eye and silence
on his lips. Made me cold a did."
"Oh, Jorian, what have you done?" cried Margaret. "Quick! quick!
help me thither, for the power is gone all out of my body. You
know him not as I do. Oh, if you had seen the blow he gave
Ghysbrecht; and heard the frightful crash! Come, save him from
worse mischief. The water is deep enow; but not bloody yet;come!"
Her accents were so full of agony that Jorian sprang out of the
grave and came with her, huddling on his jerkin as he went.
But as they hurried along, he asked her what on earth she meant?
"I talk of this friar, and you answer me of Gerard."
"Man, see you not, this is Gerard!"
"This, Gerard? what mean ye?"
"I mean, yon friar is my boy's father. I have waited for him long,
Jorian. Well, he is come to me at last. And thank God for it. Oh,
my poor child! Quicker, Jorian, quicker!"
"Why, thou art mad as he. Stay! By St. Bavon, yon was Gerard's
face; 'twas nought like it; yet somehow - 'twas it. Come on! come
on! let me see the end of this."
"The end? How many of us will live to see that?"
They hurried along in breathless silence, till they reached Hoog
Then Jorian tried to reassure her. "You are making your own
trouble," said he; who says he has gone thither? more likely to
the convent to weep and pray, poor soul. Oh, cursed, cursed
"Did not you tell him where those villains bide?"
"Ay, that I did,"
"Then quicker, oh, Jorian, quicker. I see the house. Thank God and
all the saints, I shall be in time to calm him. I know what I'll
say to him; Heaven forgive me! Poor Catherine; 'tis of her I
think: she has been a mother to me."
The shop was a corner house, with two doors; one in the main
street, for customers, and a house-door round the corner.
Margaret and Jorian were now within twenty yards of the shop, when
they heard a roar inside, like as of some wild animal, and the
friar burst out, white and raging, and went tearing down the
Margaret screamed, and sank fainting on Jorian's arm.
Jorian shouted after him, "Stay, madman, know thy friends." But he
was deaf, and went headlong, shaking his clenched fists high, high
in the air.
"Help me in, good Jorian," moaned Margaret, turning suddenly calm.
"Let me know the worst; and die."
He supported her trembling limbs into the house.
It seemed unnaturally still; not a sound.
Jorian's own heart beat fast.
A door was before him, unlatched. He pushed it softly with his
left hand, and Margaret and he stood on the threshold.
What they saw there you shall soon know.
It was supper-time. Eli's family were collected round the board;
Margaret only was missing. To Catherine's surprise, Eli said he
would wait a bit for her.
"Why, I told her you would not wait for the duke,"
"She is not the duke; she is a poor, good lass, that hath waited
not minutes, but years, for a graceless son of mine. You can put
the meat on the board all the same; then we can fall to, without
farther loss o' time, when she does come."
The smoking dishes smelt so savoury that Eli gave way. "She will
come if we begin," said he; "they always do, Come, sit ye down,
Mistress Joan; y'are not here for a slave, I trow, but a guest.
There, I hear a quick step off covers, and fall to."
The covers were withdrawn, and the knives brandished.
Then burst into the room, not the expected Margaret, but a
Dominican friar, livid with rage.
He was at the table in a moment, in front of Cornelis and
Sybrandt, threw his tall body over the narrow table, and with two
hands hovering above their shrinking heads, like eagles over a
quarry, he cursed them by name, soul and body, in this world and
the next. It was an age eloquent in curses; and this curse was so
full, so minute, so blighting, blasting, withering, and
tremendous, that I am afraid to put all the words on paper.
"Cursed be the lips," he shrieked, "which spoke the lie that
Margaret was dead; may they rot before the grave, and kiss
white-hot iron in hell thereafter; doubly cursed be the hands that
changed those letters, and be they struck off by the hangman's
knife, and handle hell fire for ever; thrice accursed be the cruel
hearts that did conceive that damned lie, to part true love for
ever; may they sicken and wither on earth joyless, loveless,
hopeless; and wither to dust before their time; and burn in
eternal fire," He cursed the meat at their mouths and every atom
of their bodies, from their hair to the soles of their feet. Then
turning from the cowering, shuddering pair, who had almost hid
themselves beneath the table, he tore a letter out of his bosom,
and flung it down before his father.
"Read that, thou hard old man, that didst imprison thy son, read,
and see what monsters thou hast brought into the world, The memory
of my wrongs and hers dwell with you all for ever! I will meet you
again at the judgment day; on earth ye will never see me more."
And in a moment, as he had come, so he was gone, leaving them
stiff, and cold, and white as statues round the smoking board.
And this was the sight that greeted Margaret's eyes and Jorian's -
pale figures of men and women petrified around the untasted food,
as Eastern poets feigned.
Margaret glanced her eye round, and gasped out, "Oh, joy! all
here; no blood hath been shed. Oh, you cruel, cruel men! I thank
God he hath not slain you,"
At sight of her Catherine gave an eloquent scream; then turned her
head away. But Eli, who had just cast his eye over the false
letter, and begun to understand it all, seeing the other victim
come in at that very moment with her wrongs reflected in her
sweet, pale face, started to his feet in a transport of rage, and
shouted, "Stand clear, and let me get at the traitors, I'll hang
for them," And in a moment he whipped out his short sword, and
fell upon them.
"Fly!" screamed Margaret. "Fly!"
They slipped howling under the table, and crawled out the other
But ere they could get to the door, the furious old man ran round
and intercepted them. Catherine only screamed and wrung her hands;
your notables are generally useless at such a time; and blood
would certainly have flowed, but Margaret and Jorian seized the
fiery old man's arms, and held them with all their might, whilst
the pair got clear of the house; then they let him go; and he went
vainly raging after them out into the street.
They were a furlong off, running like hares.
He hacked down the board on which their names were written, and
brought it indoors, and flung it into the chimney-place. Catherine
was sitting rocking herself with her apron over her head. Joan had
run to her husband. Margaret had her arms round Catherine's neck;
and pale and panting, was yet making efforts to comfort her.
But it was not to be done, "Oh, my poor children!" she cried. "Oh,
miserable mother! 'Tis a mercy Kate was ill upstairs. There, I
have lived to thank God for that!" she cried, with a fresh burst
of sobs. "It would have killed her. He had better have stayed in
Italy, as come home to curse his own flesh and blood and set us
all by the ears.
"Oh, hold your chat, woman," cried Eli angrily; "you are still on
the side of the ill-doer, You are cheap served; your weakness made
the rogues what they are; I was for correcting them in their
youth: for sore ills, sharp remedies; but you still sided with
their faults, and undermined me, and baffled wise severity. And
you, Margaret, leave comforting her that ought rather to comfort
you; for what is her hurt to yours? But she never had a grain of
justice under her skin; and never will. So come thou to me, that
am thy father from this hour."
This was a command; so she kissed Catherine, and went tottering to
him, and he put her on a chair beside him, and she laid her feeble
head on his honest breast; but not a tear: it was too deep for
"Poor lamb," said he. After a while - "Come, good folks," said
true Eli, in a broken voice, to Jorian and Joan, "we are in a
little trouble, as you see; but that is no reason you should
starve. For our Lady's sake, fall to; and add not to my grief the
reputation of a churl. What the dickens!" added he, with a sudden
ghastly attempt at stout-heartedness, "the more knaves I have the
luck to get shut of, the more my need of true men and women, to
help me clear the dish, and cheer mine eye with honest faces about
me where else were gaps. Fall to, I do entreat ye."
Catherine, sobbing, backed his request. Poor, simple, antique,
hospitable souls! Jorian, whose appetite, especially since his
illness, was very keen, was for acting on this hospitable
invitation; but Joan whispered a word in his ear, and he instantly
drew back, "Nay, I'll touch no meat that Holy Church hath cursed."
"In sooth, I forgot," said Eli apologetically. "My son, who was
reared at my table, hath cursed my victuals. That seems strange.
Well, what God wills, man must bow to."
The supper was flung out into the yard.
Jorian took his wife home, and heavy sadness reigned in Eli's
house that night.
Meantime, where was Clement?
Lying at full length upon the floor of the convent church, with
his lips upon the lowest step of the altar, in an indescribable
state of terror, misery, penitence, and self-abasement: through
all which struggled gleams of joy that Margaret was alive.
Night fell and found him lying there weeping and praying; and
morning would have found him there too; but he suddenly remembered
that, absorbed in his own wrongs and Margaret's, he had committed
another sin besides intemperate rage. He had neglected a dying
He rose instantly, groaning at his accumulated wickedness, and set
out to repair the omission. The weather had changed; it was
raining hard, and when he got clear of the town, he heard the
wolves baying; they were on the foot, But Clement was himself
again, or nearly; he thought little of danger or discomfort,
having a shameful omission of religious duty to repair: he went
stoutly forward through rain and darkness.
And as he went, he often beat his breast, and cried, "MEA CULPA!
What that sensitive mind, and tender conscience, and loving heart,
and religious soul, went through even in a few hours, under a
situation so sudden and tremendous, is perhaps beyond the power of
words to paint.
Fancy yourself the man; and then put yourself in his place! Were I
to write a volume on it, we should have to come to that at last.
I shall relate his next two overt acts. They indicate his state of
mind after the first fierce tempest of the soul had subsided.
After spending the night with the dying hermit in giving and
receiving holy consolations, he set out not for Rotterdam, but for
Tergou. He went there to confront his fatal enemy the burgomaster,
and by means of that parchment, whose history, by-the-by was
itself a romance, to make him disgorge; and give Margaret her own.
Heated and dusty, he stopped at the fountain, and there began to
eat his black bread and drink of the water. But in the middle of
his frugal meal a female servant came running, and begged him to
come and shrive her dying master, He returned the bread to his
wallet, and followed her without a word.
She took him - to the Stadthouse.
He drew back with a little shudder when he saw her go in.
But he almost instantly recovered himself, and followed her into
the house, and up the stairs. And there in bed, propped up by
pillows, lay his deadly enemy, looking already like a corpse.
Clement eyed him a moment from the door, and thought of all the
tower, the wood, the letter. Then he said in a low voice, "Pax
vobiscum!" He trembled a little while he said it.
The sick man welcomed him as eagerly as his weak state permitted.
"Thank Heaven, thou art come in time to absolve me from my sins,
father, and pray for my soul, thou and thy brethren."
"My son," said Clement, "before absolution cometh confession. In
which act there must be no reservation, as thou valuest thy soul's
weal. Bethink thee, therefore, wherein thou hast most offended God
and the Church, while I offer up a prayer for wisdom to direct
Clement then kneeled and prayed; and when he rose from his knees,
he said to Ghysbrecht, with apparent calmness, "My son, confess
"Ah, father," said the sick man, "they are many and great."
"Great, then, be thy penitence, my son; so shalt thou find God's
Ghysbrecht put his hands together, and began to confess with every
appearance of contrition.
He owned he had eaten meat in mid-Lent. He had often absented
himself from mass on the Lord's day, and saints' days; and had
trifled with other religious observances, which he enumerated with
When he had done, the friar said quietly, "'Tis well, my son,
These be faults. Now to thy crimes, Thou hadst done better to
begin with them."
"Why, father, what crimes lie to my account if these be none?"
"Am I confessing to thee, or thou to me?" said Clement somewhat
"Forgive me, father! Why, surely, I to you. But I know not what
you call crimes."
"The seven deadly sins, art thou clear of them?"
"Heaven forefend I should be guilty of them. I know them not by
"Many do them all that cannot name them. Begin with that one which
leads to lying, theft, and murder."
"I am quit of that one, any way. How call you it?"
"AVARICE, my son."
"Avarice? Oh, as to that, I have been a saving man all my day; but
I have kept a good table, and not altogether forgotten the poor.
But, alas, I am a great sinner, Mayhap the next will catch me,
What is the next?"
"We have not yet done with this one. Bethink thee, the Church is
not to be trifled with."
"Alas! am I in a condition to trifle with her now? Avarice?
He looked puzzled and innocent.
"Hast thou ever robbed the fatherless?" inquired the friar.
"Me? robbed the fatherless?" gasped Ghysbrecht; "not that I mind."
"Once more, my son, I am forced to tell thee thou art trifling
with the Church. Miserable man! another evasion, and I leave thee,
and fiends will straightway gather round thy bed, and tear thee
down to the bottomless pit."
"Oh, leave me not! leave me not!" shrieked the terrified old man.
"The Church knows all. I must have robbed the fatherless. I will
confess. Who shall I begin with? My memory for names is shaken."
The defence was skilful, but in this case failed.
"Hast thou forgotten Floris Brandt?" said Clement stonily.
The sick man reared himself in bed in a pitiable state of terror.
"How knew you that?" said he.
"The Church knows many things," said Clement coldly, "and by many
ways that are dark to thee, Miserable impenitent, you called her
to your side, hoping to deceive her, You said, 'I will not confess
to the cure but to some friar who knows not my misdeeds. So will I
cheat the Church on my deathbed, and die as I have lived,' But
God, kinder to thee than thou art to thyself, sent to thee one
whom thou couldst not deceive. He has tried thee; He was patient
with thee, and warned thee not to trifle with Holy Church; but all
is in vain; thou canst not confess; for thou art impenitent as a
stone. Die, then, as thou hast lived. Methinks I see the fiends
crowding round the bed for their prey. They wait but for me to go.
And I go."
He turned his back; but Ghysbrecht, in extremity of terror, caught
him by the frock. "Oh, holy man, mercy! stay. I will confess all,
all. I robbed my friend Floris, Alas! would it had ended there;
for he lost little by me; but I kept the land from Peter his son,
and from Margaret, Peter's daughter. Yet I was always going to
give it back; but I couldn't, I couldn't."
"Avarice, my son, avarice, Happy for thee 'tis not too late."
"No; I will leave it her by will. She will not have long to wait
for it now; not above a month or two at farthest."
"For which month's possession thou wouldst damn thy soul for ever,
The sick man groaned, and prayed the friar to be reasonable.
The friar firmly, but gently and persuasively, persisted, and with
infinite patience detached the dying man's gripe from another's
property. There were times when his patience was tried, and he was
on the point of thrusting his hand into his bosom and producing
the deed, which he had brought for that purpose; but after
yesterday's outbreak he was on his guard against choler; and to
conclude, he conquered his impatience; he conquered a personal
repugnance to the man, so strong as to make his own flesh creep
all the time he was struggling with this miser for his soul; and
at last, without a word about the deed, he won upon him to make
full and prompt restitution.
How the restitution was made will be briefly related elsewhere:
also certain curious effects produced upon Ghysbrecht by it; and
when and on what terms Ghysbrecht and Clement parted.
I promised to relate two acts of the latter, indicative of his
This is one. The other is told in two words.
As soon as he was quite sure Margaret had her own, and was a rich
It was the day after that terrible scene: the little house in the
Hoog Straet was like a grave, and none more listless and dejected
than Catherine, so busy and sprightly by nature, After dinner, her
eyes red with weeping, she went to the convent to try and soften
Gerard, and lay the first stone at least of a reconciliation.
It was some time before she could make the porter understand whom
she was seeking. Eventually she learned he had left late last
night, and was not expected back, She went sighing with the news
to Margaret. She found her sitting idle, like one with whom life
had lost its savour; she had her boy clasped so tight in her arms,
as if he was all she had left, and she feared some one would take
him too. Catherine begged her to come to the Hoog Straet.
"What for?" sighed Margaret. "You cannot but say to yourselves,
she is the cause of all."
"Nay, nay," said Catherine, "we are not so ill-hearted, and Eli is
so fond on you; you will maybe soften him."
"Oh, if you think I can do any good, I'll come," said Margaret,
with a weary sigh.
They found Eli and a carpenter putting up another name in place of
Cornelis and Sybrandt's; and what should that name be but Margaret
With all her affection for Margaret, this went through poor
Catherine like a knife. "The bane of one is another's meat," said
"Can he make me spend the money unjustly?" replied Margaret
"You are a good soul," said Catherine. "Ay, so best, sith he is
The next day Giles dropped in, and Catherine told the story all in
favour of the black sheep, and invited his pity for them,
anathematized by their brother, and turned on the wide world by
their father. But Giles's prejudices ran the other way; he heard
her out, and told her bluntly the knaves had got off cheap; they
deserved to be hanged at Margaret's door into the bargain, and
dismissing them with contempt, crowed with delight at the return
of his favourite. "I'll show him," said he, what 'tis to have a
brother at court with a heart to serve a friend, and a head to
point the way."
"Bless thee, Giles," murmured Margaret softly.
"Thou wast ever his stanch friend, dear Giles," said little Kate;
"but alack, I know not what thou canst do for him now,"
Giles had left them, and all was sad and silent again, when a
well-dressed man opened the door softly, and asked was Margaret
"D'ye hear, lass? You are wanted," said Catherine briskly. In her
the Gossip was indestructible.
"Well, mother," said Margaret listlessly, "and here I am."
A shuffling of feet was heard at the door, and a colourless,
feeble old man was assisted into the room. It was Ghysbrecht Van
Swieten. At sight of him Catherine shrieked, and threw her apron
over her head, and Margaret shuddered violently, and turned her
head swiftly away, not to see him.
A feeble voice issued from the strange visitor's lips, "Good
people, a dying man hath come to ask your forgiveness."
"Come to look on your work, you mean," said Catherine, taking down
her apron and bursting out sobbing. "There, there. she is
fainting; look to her, Eli, quick."
"Nay," said Margaret, in a feeble voice, "the sight of him gave me
a turn, that is all, Prithee, let him say his say, and go; for he
is the murderer of me and mine."
"Alas," said Ghysbrecht, "I am too feeble to say it standing. and
no one biddeth me sit down."
Eli, who had followed him into the house, interfered here, and
said, half sullenly, half apologetically, "Well, burgomaster, 'tis
not our wont to leave a visitor standing whiles we sit. But man,
man, you have wrought us too much ill." And the honest fellow's
voice began to shake with anger he fought hard to contain, because
it was his own house.
Then Ghysbrecht found an advocate in one who seldom spoke in vain
in that family.
It was little Kate. "Father, mother," said she, "my duty to you,
but this is not well. Death squares all accounts, And see you not
death in his face? I shall not live long, good friends; and his
time is shorter than mine."
Eli made haste and set a chair for their dying enemy with his own
hands. Ghysbrecht's attendants put him into it. "Go fetch the
boxes," said he. They brought in two boxes, and then retired,
leaving their master alone in the family he had so cruelly
Every eye was now bent on him, except Margaret's. He undid the
boxes with unsteady fingers, and brought out of one the
title-deeds of a property at Tergou. "This land and these houses
belonged to Floris Brandt, and do belong to thee of right, his
granddaughter. These I did usurp for a debt long since defrayed
with interest. These I now restore their rightful owner with
penitent tears. In this other box are three hundred and forty
golden angels, being the rent and fines I have received from that
land more than Floris Brandt's debt to me, I have kept it compt,
still meaning to be just one day; but Avarice withheld me, pray,
good people, against temptation! I was not born dishonest: yet you
"Well, to be sure!" cried Catherine. "And you the burgomaster!
Hast whipt good store of thieves in thy day. However," said she,
on second thoughts, "'tis better late than never, What, Margaret,
art deaf? The good man hath brought thee back thine own. Art a
rich woman. Alack, what a mountain o' gold!"
"Bid him keep land and gold, and give me back my Gerard, that he
stole from me with his treason," said Margaret, with her head
"Alas!" said Ghysbrecht, would I could, what I can I have done. Is
it nought? It cost me a sore struggle; and I rose from my last bed
to do it myself, lest some mischance should come between her and
"Old man," said Margaret, "since thou, whose idol is pelf, hast
done this, God and the saints will, as I hope, forgive thee. As
for me, I am neither saint nor angel, but only a poor woman, whose
heart thou hast broken, Speak to him, Kate, for I am like the
Kate meditated a little while; and then her soft silvery voice
fell like a soothing melody upon the air, "My poor sister hath a
sorrow that riches cannot heal, Give her time, Ghysbrecht; 'tis
not in nature she should forgive thee all. Her boy is fatherless;
and she is neither maid, wife, nor widow; and the blow fell but
two days syne, that laid her heart a bleeding."
A single heavy sob from Margaret was the comment to these words.
"Therefore, give her time! And ere thou diest, she will forgive
thee all, ay, even to pleasure me, that haply shall not be long
behind thee, Ghysbrecht. Meantime, we, whose wounds be sore, but
not so deep as hers, do pardon thee, a penitent and a dying man;
and I, for one, will pray for thee from this hour; go in peace!"
Their little oracle had spoken; it was enough. Eli even invited
him to break a manchet and drink a stoup of wine to give him heart
for his journey.
But Ghysbrecht declined, and said what he had done was a cordial
to him, "Man seeth but a little way before him, neighbour. This
land I clung so to it was a bed of nettles to me all the time.
'Tis gone; and I feel happier and livelier like for the loss
He called his men, and they lifted him into the litter.
When he was gone Catherine gloated over the money. She had never
seen so much together, and was almost angry with Margaret, for
"sitting out there like an image." And she dilated on the
advantages of money.
And she teased Margaret till at last she prevailed on her to come
and look at it.
"Better let her be, mother," said Kate, "How can she relish gold,
with a heart in her bosom liker lead?" But Catherine persisted.
The result was, Margaret looked down at all her wealth with
wondering eyes. Then suddenly wrung her hands and cried with
piercing anguish, "TOO LATE! TOO LATE!" And shook off her leaden
despondency, only to go into strong hysterics over the wealth that
came too late to be shared with him she loved.
A little of this gold, a portion of this land, a year or two ago,
when it was as much her own as now; and Gerard would have never
left her side for Italy or any other place.
Too late! Too late!"
Not many days after this came the news that Margaret Van Eyck was
dead and buried. By a will she had made a year before, she left
all her property, after her funeral expenses and certain presents
to Reicht Heynes, to her dear daughter Margaret Brandt, requesting
her to keep Reicht as long as unmarried.
By this will Margaret inherited a furnished house, and pictures
and sketches that in the present day would be a fortune: among the
pictures was one she valued more than a gallery of others.
It represented "A Betrothal." The solemnity of the ceremony was
marked in the grave face of the man, and the demure complacency of
the woman. She was painted almost entirely by Margaret Van Eyck,
but the rest of the picture by Jan. The accessories were
exquisitely finished, and remain a marvel of skill to this day.
Margaret Brandt sent word to Reicht to stay in the house till such
time as she could find the heart to put foot in it, and miss the
face and voice that used to meet her there; and to take special
care of the picture "in the little cubboord:" meaning the diptych.
The next thing was, Luke Peterson came home, and heard that Gerard
was a monk.
He was like to go mad with joy. He came to Margaret, and said -
heed, mistress. If he cannot marry you I can."
"You?" said Margaret. "Why, I have seen him."
"But he is a friar."
"He was my husband, and my boy's father long ere he was a friar.
And I have seen him, I've seen him."
Luke was thoroughly puzzled. "I'll tell you what," said he; "I
have got a cousin a lawyer. I'll go and ask him whether you are
married or single."
"Nay, I shall ask my own heart, not a lawyer. So that is your
regard for me; to go making me the town talk, oh, fie!"
"That is done already without a word from me."
"But not by such as seek my respect. And if you do it, never come
nigh me again."
"Ay," said Luke, with a sigh, "you are like a dove to all the
rest; but you are a hardhearted tyrant to me."
"'Tis your own fault, dear Luke, for wooing me. That is what lets
me from being as kind to you as I desire, Luke, my bonny lad,
listen to me. I am rich now; I can make my friends happy, though
not myself. Look round the street, look round the parish. There is
many a quean in it fairer than I twice told, and not spoiled with
weeping. Look high; and take your choice. Speak you to the lass
herself, and I'll speak to the mother; they shall not say thee
nay; take my word for't."
"I see what ye mean," said Luke, turning very red. "But if I can't
have your liking, I will none o' your money. I was your servant
when you were poor as I; and poorer. No; if you would liever be a
friar's leman than an honest man's wife, you are not the woman I
took you for: so part we withouten malice: seek you your comfort
on yon road, where never a she did find it yet, and for me, I'll
live and die a bachelor. Good even, mistress."
"Farewell, dear Luke; and God forgive you for saying that to me."
For some days Margaret dreaded, almost as much as she desired, the
coming interview with Gerard. She said to herself, "I wonder not
he keeps away a while; for so should I." However, he would hear he
was a father; and the desire to see their boy would overcome
everything. "And," said the poor girl to herself, "if so be that
meeting does not kill me, I feel I shall be better after it than I
But when day after day went by, and he was not heard of, a
freezing suspicion began to crawl and creep towards her mind. What
if his absence was intentional? What if he had gone to some
cold-blooded monks his fellows, and they had told him never to see
her more? The convent had ere this shown itself as merciless to
true lovers as the grave itself.
At this thought the very life seemed to die out of her.
And now for the first time deep indignation mingled at times with
her grief and apprehension. "Can he have ever loved me? To run
from me and his boy without a word! Why, this poor Luke thinks
more of me than he does."
While her mind was in this state, Giles came roaring. "I've hit
the clout; our Gerard is Vicar of Gouda."
A very brief sketch of the dwarf's court life will suffice to
prepare the reader for his own account of this feat. Some months
before he went to court his intelligence had budded. He himself
dated the change from a certain 8th of June, when, swinging by one
hand along with the week's washing on a tight rope in the drying
ground, something went crack inside his head; and lo! intellectual
powers unchained. At court his shrewdness and bluntness of speech,
coupled with his gigantic voice and his small stature, made him a
Power: without the last item I fear they would have conducted him
to that unpopular gymnasium, the gallows. The young Duchess of
Burgundy, and Marie the heiress apparent, both petted him, as
great ladies have petted dwarfs in all ages; and the court poet
melted butter by the six-foot rule, and poured enough of it down
his back to stew Goliah in. He even amplified, versified, and
enfeebled certain rough and ready sentences dictated by Giles.
The centipedal prolixity that resulted went to Eli by letter, thus
"The high and puissant Princess Marie
of Bourgogne her lytel jantilman hys
complaynt of y' Coort, and
praise of a rusticall lyfe, versificated, and empapyred
by me the lytel jantilman's right lovynge
and obsequious servitor, etc."
But the dwarf reached his climax by a happy mixture of mind and
The day before a grand court joust he challenged the Duke's giant
to a trial of strength. This challenge made the gravest grin, and
Giles had a lofty pole planted ready, and at the appointed hour
went up it like a squirrel, and by strength of arm made a right
angle with his body, and so remained: then slid down so quickly,
that the high and puissant princess squeaked, and hid her face in
her hands, not to see the demise of her pocket-Hercules.
The giant effected only about ten feet, then looked ruefully up
and ruefully down, and descended, bathed in perspiration to argue
"It was not the dwarf's greater strength, but his smaller body."
The spectators received this excuse with loud derision. There was
the fact, the dwarf was great at mounting a pole: the giant only
great at excuses. In short Giles had gauged their intellects: with
his own body no doubt.
"Come," said he, "an ye go to that, I'll wrestle ye, my lad, if so
be you will let me blindfold your eyne."
The giant, smarting under defeat, and thinking he could surely
recover it by this means, readily consented.
"Madam," said Giles, "see you yon blind Samson? At a signal from
me he shall make me a low obeisance, and unbonnet to me."
"How may that be, being blinded?" inquired a maid of honour.
"I'll wager on Giles for one," said the princess.
"That is my affair."
When several wagers were laid pro and con, Giles hit the giant in
the bread-basket. He went double (the obeisance), and his bonnet
The company yelled with delight at this delicate stroke of wit,
and Giles took to his heels. The giant followed as soon as he
could recover his breath and tear off his bandage. But it was too
late; Giles had prepared a little door in the wall, through which
he could pass, but not a giant, and had coloured it so artfully,
it looked like a wall; this door he tore open, and went headlong
through, leaving no vestige but this posy, written very large upon
the reverse of his trick door -
Long limbs, big body, panting wit
By wee and wise is bet and bit
After this Giles became a Force.
He shall now speak for himself.
Finding Margaret unable to believe the good news, and sceptical as
to the affairs of Holy Church being administered by dwarfs, he
narrated as follows:
"When the princess sent for me to her bedroom as of custom, to
keep her out of languor, I came not mirthful nor full of country
dicts, as is my wont, but dull as lead,
"'Why, what aileth thee?' quo' she. 'Art sick?' 'At heart,' quo'
I. 'Alas, he is in love,' quo' she. Whereat five brazen hussies,
which they call them maids of honour, did giggle loud. 'Not so mad
as that,' said I, 'seeing what I see at court of women folk,'
"'There, ladies,' quo' the princess, 'best let him a be. 'Tis a
liberal mannikin, and still giveth more than he taketh of saucy
"'In all sadness,' quo' she, 'what is the matter?'
"I told her I was meditating, and what perplexed me was, that
other folk could now and then keep their word, but princes never.
"'Heyday,' says she, 'thy shafts fly high this morn.' I told her,
'Ay, for they hit the Truth,'
"She said I was as keen as keen; but it became not me to put
riddles to her, nor her to answer them. 'Stand aloof a bit,
mesdames,' said she, 'and thou speak withouten fear;' for she saw
I was in sad earnest.
"I began to quake a bit; for mind ye, she can doff freedom and don
dignity quicker than she can slip out of her dressing-gown into
kirtle of state. But I made my voice so soft as honey (wherefore
smilest?), and I said 'Madam, one evening, a matter of five years
agone, as ye sat with your mother, the Countess of Charolois, who
is now in heaven, worse luck, you wi' your lute, and she wi' her
tapestry, or the like, do ye mind there came came into ye a fair
youth with a letter from a painter body, one Margaret Van Eyck?"
"She said she thought she did, 'Was it not a tall youth, exceeding
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