The Cloister and the Hearth
Part 2 out of 18
and found it but even now - and to be caught!" and with a touch of
inconsistency she pointed it out to Gerard with her white finger.
"Ay," said he, "but to-day it is all hidden in that great cap."
"It is a comely cap, I'm told by some."
"Maybe; but what it hides is beautiful."
"It is not: it is hideous."
"Well, it was beautiful at Rotterdam."
"Ay, everything was beautiful that day" (with a little sigh).
And now Peter came in, and welcomed Gerard cordially, and would
have him to stay supper. And Margaret disappeared; and Gerard had
a nice learned chat with Peter; and Margaret reappeared with her
hair in her silver net, and shot a glance half arch, half coy, and
glided about them, and spread supper, and beamed bright with
gaiety and happiness. And in the cool evening Gerard coaxed her
out, and she objected and came; and coaxed her on to the road to
Tergou, and she declined, and came; and there they strolled up and
down, hand in hand; and when he must go, they pledged each other
never to quarrel or misunderstand one another again; and they
sealed the promise with a long loving kiss, and Gerard went home
From that day Gerard spent most of his evenings with Margaret, and
the attachment deepened and deepened on both sides, till the hours
they spent together were the hours they lived; the rest they
counted and underwent. And at the outset of this deep attachment
all went smoothly. Obstacles there were, but they seemed distant
and small to the eyes of hope, youth, and love. The feelings and
passions of so many persons, that this attachment would thwart,
gave no warning smoke to show their volcanic nature and power. The
course of true love ran smoothly, placidly. until it had drawn
these two young hearts into its current for ever.
And then -
One bright morning unwonted velvet shone, unwonted feathers waved,
and horses' hoofs glinted and ran through the streets of Tergou,
and the windows and balconies were studded with wondering faces.
The French ambassador was riding through to sport in the
Besides his own suite, he was attended by several servants of the
Duke of Burgundy, lent to do him honour and minister to his
pleasure. The Duke's tumbler rode before him with a grave, sedate
majesty, that made his more noble companions seem light, frivolous
persons. But ever and anon, when respect and awe neared the
oppressive, he rolled off his horse so ignobly and funnily, that
even the ambassador was fain' to burst out laughing. He also
climbed up again by the tail in a way provocative of mirth, and so
he played his part. Towards the rear of the pageant rode one that
excited more attention still - the Duke's leopard. A huntsman,
mounted on a Flemish horse of giant prodigious size and power,
carried a long box fastened to the rider's loins by straps
curiously contrived, and on this box sat a bright leopard
crouching. She was chained to the huntsman. The people admired her
glossy hide and spots, and pressed near, and one or two were for
feeling her, and pulling her tail; then the huntsman shouted in a
terrible voice, "Beware! At Antwerp one did but throw a handful of
dust at her, and the Duke made dust of him."
"I speak sooth. The good Duke shut him up in prison, in a cell
under ground, and the rats cleaned the flesh off his bones in a
night. Served him right for molesting the poor thing."
There was a murmur of fear, and the Tergovians shrank from
tickling the leopard of their sovereign.
But an incident followed that raised their spirits again. The
Duke's giant, a Hungarian seven feet four inches high, brought up
the rear. This enormous creature had, like some other giants, a
treble, fluty voice of little power. He was a vain fellow, and not
conscious of this nor any defect. Now it happened he caught sight
of Giles sitting on the top of the balcony; so he stopped and
began to make fun of him.
"Hallo! brother!" squeaked he, "I had nearly passed without seeing
"You are plain enough to see," bellowed Giles in his bass tones.
"Come on my shoulder, brother," squeaked Titan, and held out a
shoulder of mutton fist to help him down.
"If I do I'll cuff your ears," roared the dwarf.
The giant saw the homuncule was irascible, and played upon him,
being encouraged thereto by the shouts of laughter. For he did not
see that the people were laughing not at his wit, but at the
ridiculous incongruity of the two voices - the gigantic feeble
fife, and the petty deep, loud drum, the mountain delivered of a
squeak, and the mole-hill belching thunder.
The singular duet came to as singular an end. Giles lost all
patience and self-command, and being a creature devoid of fear,
and in a rage to boot, he actually dropped upon the giant's neck,
seized his hair with one hand, and punched his head with the
other. The giant's first impulse was to laugh, but the weight and
rapidity of the blows soon corrected that inclination.
"He! he! Ah! ha! hallo! oh! oh! Holy saints! here! help! or I must
throttle the imp. I can't! I'll split your skull against the - "
and he made a wild run backwards at the balcony. Giles saw his
danger, seized the balcony in time with both hands, and whipped
over it just as the giant's head came against it with a stunning
crack. The people roared with laughter and exultation at the
address of their little champion. The indignant giant seized two
of the laughers, knocked them together like dumb-bells, shook them
and strewed them flat - (Catherine shrieked and threw her apron
over Giles - then strode wrathfully away after the party. This
incident had consequences no one then present foresaw. Its
immediate results were agreeable. The Tergovians turned proud of
Giles, and listened with more affability to his prayers for
parchment. For he drove a regular trade with his brother Gerard in
this article. Went about and begged it gratis, and Gerard gave him
coppers for it.
On the afternoon of the same day, Catherine and her daughter were
chatting together about their favourite theme, Gerard, his
goodness, his benefice, and the brightened prospects of the whole
Their good luck had come to them in the very shape they would have
chosen; besides the advantages of a benefice such as the Countess
Charolois would not disdain to give, there was the feminine
delight at having a priest, a holy man, in their own family. "He
will marry Cornelis and Sybrandt: for they can wed (good
housewives), now, if they will. Gerard will take care of you and
Giles, when we are gone."
"Yes, mother, and we can confess to him instead of to a stranger,"
"Ay, girl! and he can give the sacred oil to your father and me,
and close our eyes when our time comes."
"Oh, mother! not for many, many years, I do pray Heaven. Pray
speak not of that, it always makes me sad. I hope to go before
you, mother dear. No; let us be gay to-day. I am out of pain,
mother, quite out of all pain; it does seem so strange; and I feel
so bright and happy, that - mother, Can you keep a secret?"
"Nobody better, child. Why, you know I can."
"Then I will show you something so beautiful. You never saw the
like, I trow. Only Gerard must never know; for sure he means to
surprise us with it; he covers it up so, and sometimes he carries
it away altogether."
Kate took her crutches, and moved slowly away, leaving her mother
in an exalted state of curiosity. She soon returned with something
in a cloth, uncovered it, and there was a lovely picture of the
Virgin, with all her insignia, and wearing her tiara over a wealth
of beautiful hair, which flowed loose over her shoulders.
Catherine, at first, was struck with awe.
"It is herself," she cried; "it is the Queen of Heaven. I never
saw one like her to my mind before."
"And her eyes, mother: lifted to the sky, as if they belonged
there, and not to a mortal creature. And her beautiful hair of
"And to think I have a son that can make the saints live again
upon a piece of wood!"
"The reason is, he is a young saint himself, mother. He is too
good for this world; he is here to portray the blessed, and then
to go away and be with them for ever."
Ere they had half done admiring it, a strange voice was heard at
the door. By one of the furtive instincts of their sex they
hastily hid the picture in the cloth, though there was no need,
And the next moment in came, casting his eyes furtively around, a
man that had not entered the house this ten years Ghysbrecht Van
The two women were so taken by surprise, that they merely stared
at him and at one another, and said, "The burgomaster!" in a tone
so expressive, that Ghysbrecht felt compelled to answer it.
"Yes! I own the last time I came here was not on a friendly
errand. Men love their own interest - Eli's and mine were
contrary. Well, let this visit atone the last. To-day I come on
your business and none of mine." Catherine and her daughter
exchanged a swift glance of contemptuous incredulity. They knew
the man better than he thought.
"It is about your son Gerard."
"Ay! ay! you want him to work for the town all for nothing. He
"I come on no such errand. It is to let you know he has fallen
into bad hands."
"Now Heaven and the saints forbid! Man,torture not a mother! Speak
out, and quickly: speak ere you have time to coin falsehood: we
Ghysbrecht turned pale at this affront, and spite mingled with the
other motives that brought him here. "Thus it is, then," said he,
grinding his teeth and speaking very fast. "Your son Gerard is
more like to be father of a family than a priest: he is for ever
with Margaret, Peter Brandt's red-haired girl, and loves her like
a cow her calf."
Mother and daughter both burst out laughing. Ghysbrecht stared at
"What! you knew it?"
"Carry this tale to those who know not my son, Gerard. Women are
nought to him."
"Other women, mayhap. But this one is the apple of his eye to him,
or will be, if you part them not, and soon. Come, dame, make me
not waste time and friendly counsel: my servant has seen them
together a score times, handed, and reading babies in one
another's eyes like - you know, dame - you have been young, too."
"Girl, I am ill at ease. Yea, I have been young, and know how
blind and foolish the young are. My heart! he has turned me sick
in a moment. Kate, if it should be true?"
"Nay, nay!" cried Kate eagerly. "Gerard might love a young woman:
all young men do: I can't find what they see in them to love so;
but if he did, he would let us know; he would not deceive us. You
wicked man! No, dear mother, look not so! Gerard is too good to
love a creature of earth. His love is for our Lady and the saints.
Ah! I will show you the picture there: if his heart was earthly,
could he paint the Queen of Heaven like that - look! look!" and
she held the picture out triumphantly, and, more radiant and
beautiful in this moment of enthusiasm than ever dead picture was
or will be, over-powered the burgomaster with her eloquence and
her feminine proof of Gerard's purity. His eyes and mouth opened,
and remained open: in which state they kept turning, face and all
as if on a pivot, from the picture to the women, and from the
women to the picture.
"Why, it is herself," he gasped.
"Isn't it!" cried Kate, and her hostility was softened. "You
admire it? I forgive you for frightening us."
"Am I in a mad-house?" said Ghysbrecht Van Swieten thoroughly
puzzled. "You show me a picture of the girl; and you say he
painted it; and that is a proof he cannot love her. Why, they all
paint their sweethearts, painters do."
"A picture of the girl?" exclaimed Kate, shocked. "Fie! this is no
girl; this is our blessed Lady."
"No, no; it is Margaret Brandt."
"Oh blind! It is the Queen of Heaven."
"No; only of Sevenbergen village."
"Profane man! behold her crown!"
"Silly child! look at her red hair! Would the Virgin be seen in
red hair? She who had the pick of all the colours ten thousand
years before the world began."
At this moment an anxious face was insinuated round the edge of
the open door: it was their neighbour Peter Buyskens.
"What is to do?" said he in a cautious whisper. "We can hear you
all across the street. What on earth is to do?"
"Oh, neighbour! What is to do? Why, here is the burgomaster
blackening our Gerard."
"Stop!" cried Van Swieten. "Peter Buyskens is come in the nick of
time. He knows father and daughter both. They cast their glamour
"What! is she a witch too?"
"Else the egg takes not after the bird. Why is her father called
the magician? I tell you they bewitched this very Peter here; they
cast unholy spells on him, and cured him of the colic: now, Peter,
look and tell me who is that? and you be silent, women, for a
moment, if you can; who is it, Peter?"
"Well, to be sure!" said Peter, in reply; and his eye seemed
fascinated by the picture.
"Who is it?" repeated Ghysbrecht impetuously.
Peter Buyskens smiled. "Why, you know as well as I do; but what
have they put a crown on her for? I never saw her in a crown, for
"Man alive! Can't you open your great jaws, and just speak a
wench's name plain out to oblige three people?"
"I'd do a great deal more to oblige one of you than that,
burgomaster. If it isn't as natural as life!"
"Curse the man! he won't, he won't - curse him!"
"Why, what have I done now?"
"Oh, sir!" said little Kate, "for pity's sake tell us; are these
the features of a living woman, of - of - Margaret Brandt?"
"A mirror is not truer, my little maid."
"But is it she, sir, for very certain?"
"Why, who else should it be?"
"Now, why couldn't you say so at once?" snarled Ghysbrecht.
"I did say so, as plain as I could speak," snapped Peter; and they
growled over this small bone of contention so zealously, that they
did not see Catherine and her daughter had thrown their aprons
over their heads, and were rocking to and fro in deep distress.
The next moment Elias came in from the shop, and stood aghast.
Catherine, though her face was covered, knew his footstep.
"That is my poor man," she sobbed. "Tell him, good Peter Buyskens,
for I have not the courage."
Elias turned pale. The presence of the burgomaster in his house,
after so many years of coolness, coupled with his wife's and
daughter's distress, made him fear some heavy misfortune.
"Richart! Jacob!" he gasped.
"No, no!" said the burgomaster; "it is nearer home, and nobody is
dead or dying, old friend."
"God bless you, burgomaster! Ah! something has gone off my breast
that was like to choke me. Now, what is the matter?"
Ghysbrecht then told him all that he told the women, and showed
the picture in evidence.
"Is that all?" said Eli, profoundly relieved. "What are ye roaring
and bellowing for? It is vexing - it is angering, but it is not
like death, not even sickness. Boys will be boys. He will outgrow
that disease: 'tis but skin-deep."
But when Ghysbrecht told him that Margaret was a girl of good
character; that it was not to be supposed she would be so intimate
if marriage had not been spoken of between them, his brow
"Marriage! that shall never be," said he sternly. "I'll stay that;
ay, by force, if need be - as I would his hand lifted to cut his
throat. I'd do what old John Koestein did t'other day."
"And what is that, in Heaven's name?" asked the mother, suddenly
removing her apron.
It was the burgomaster who replied:
"He made me shut young Albert Koestein up in the prison of the
Stadthouse till he knocked under. It was not long: forty-eight
hours, all alone, on bread and water, cooled his hot stomach.
'Tell my father I am his humble servant,' says he, 'and let me
into the sun once more - the sun is worth all the wenches in the
"Oh, the cruelty of men!" sighed Catherine.
"As to that, the burgomaster has no choice: it is the law. And if
a father says, 'Burgomaster, lock up my son,' he must do it. A
fine thing it would be if a father might not lock up his own son."
"Well, well! it won't come to that with me and my son. He never
disobeyed me in his life: he never shall, Where is he? It is past
supper-time. Where is he, Kate?"
"Alas! I know not, father."
"I know," said Ghysbrecht; "he is at Sevenbergen. My servant met
him on the road."
Supper passed in gloomy silence. Evening descended - no Gerard!
Eight o'clock came - no Gerard! Then the father sent all to bed,
"You and I will walk abroad, wife, and talk over this new care."
"Abroad, my man, at this time? Whither?"
"Why, on the road to Sevenbergen."
"Oh no; no hasty words, father. Poor Gerard! he never vexed you
"Fear me not. But it must end; and I am not one that trusts
to-morrow with to-day's work."
The old pair walked hand in hand; for, strange is it may appear to
some of my readers, the use of the elbow to couples walking was
not discovered in Europe till centuries after this. They sauntered
on a long time in silence. The night was clear and balmy. Such
nights, calm and silent, recall the past from the dead.
"It is a many years since we walked so late, my man," said
"Ay, sweetheart, more than we shall see again (is he never coming,
"Not since our courting days, Eli."
"No. Ay, you were a buxom lass then."
"And you were a comely lad, as ever a girl's eye stole a look at.
I do suppose Gerard is with her now, as you used to be with me.
Nature is strong, and the same in all our generations."
"Nay, I hope he has left her by now, confound her, or we shall be
here all night."
"I have been happy with you, sweetheart, for all our rubs - much
happier, I trow, than if I had - been - a - a - nun. You won't
speak harshly to the poor child? One can be firm without being
"Have you been happy with me, my poor Eli?"
"Why, you know I have. Friends I have known, but none like thee.
Buss me, wife!"
"A heart to share joy and grief with is a great comfort to man or
woman. Isn't it, Eli?"
"It is so, my lass.
'It doth joy double,
And halveth trouble,'
runs the byword. And so I have found it, sweetheart. Ah! here
comes the young fool."
Catherine trembled, and held her husband's hand tight.
The moon was bright, but they were in the shadow of some trees,
and their son did not see them. He came singing in the moonlight,
and his face shining.
While the burgomaster was exposing Gerard at Tergou, Margaret had
a trouble of her own at Sevenbergen. It was a housewife's
distress, but deeper than we can well conceive. She came to Martin
Wittenhaagen, the old soldier, with tears in her eyes.
"Martin, there's nothing in the house, and Gerard is coming, and
he is so thoughtless. He forgets to sup at home. When he gives
over work, then he runs to me straight, poor soul; and often he
comes quite faint. And to think I have nothing to set before my
servant that loves me so dear."
Martin scratched his head. "What can I do?"
"It is Thursday; it is your day to shoot; sooth to Say, I counted
on you to-day."
"Nay," said the soldier, "I may not shoot when the Duke or his
friends are at the chase; read else. I am no scholar." And he took
out of his pouch a parchment with a grand seal. It purported to be
a stipend and a licence given by Philip, Duke of Burgundy, to
Martin Wittenhaagen, one of his archers, in return for services in
the wars, and for a wound received at the Dukes side. The stipend
was four merks yearly, to be paid by the Duke's almoner, and the
licence was to shoot three arrows once a week, viz., on Thursday,
and no other day, in any of the Duke's forests in Holland, at any
game but a seven-year-old buck or a doe carrying fawn; proviso,
that the Duke should not be hunting on that day, or any of his
friends. In this case Martin was not to go and disturb the woods
on peril of his salary and his head, and a fine of a penny.
Margaret sighed and was silent.
"Come, cheer up, mistress," said he; "for your sake I'll peril my
carcass; I have done that for many a one that was not worth your
forefinger. It is no such mighty risk either. I'll but step into
the skirts of the forest here. It is odds but they drive a hare or
a fawn within reach of my arrow."
"Well, if I let you go, you must promise me not to go far, and not
to be seen; far better Gerard went supperless than ill should come
to you, faithful Martin."
The required promise given, Martin took his bow and three arrows,
and stole cautiously into the wood: it was scarce a furlong
distant. The horns were heard faintly in the distance, and all the
game was afoot. "Come," thought Martin, "I shall soon fill the
pot, and no one be the wiser." He took his stand behind a thick
oak that commanded a view of an open glade, and strung his bow, a
truly formidable weapon. It was of English yew, six feet two
inches high, and thick in proportion; and Martin, broad-chested,
with arms all iron and cord, and used to the bow from infancy,
could draw a three-foot arrow to the head, and, when it flew, the
eye could scarce follow it, and the bowstring twanged as musical
as a harp. This bow had laid many a stout soldier low in the wars
of the Hoecks and Cabbel-jaws. In those days a battlefield was not
a cloud of smoke; the combatants were few, but the deaths many -
for they saw what they were about; and fewer bloodless arrows flew
than bloodless bullets now. A hare came cantering, then sat
sprightly, and her ears made a capital V. Martin levelled his
tremendous weapon at her. The arrow flew, the string twanged; but
Martin had been in a hurry to pot her, and lost her by an inch:
the arrow seemed to hit her, but it struck the ground close to
her, and passed under her belly like a flash, and hissed along the
short grass and disappeared. She jumped three feet perpendicular
and away at the top of her speed. "Bungler!" said Martin. A sure
proof he was not an habitual bungler, or he would have blamed the
hare. He had scarcely fitted another arrow to his string when a
wood-pigeon settled on the very tree he stood under. "Aha!"
thought he, you are small, but dainty." This time he took more
pains; drew his arrow carefully, loosed it smoothly, and saw it,
to all appearance, go clean through the bird, carrying feathers
skyward like dust. Instead of falling at his feet, the bird, whose
breast was torn, not fairly pierced, fluttered feebly away, and,
by a great effort, rose above the trees, flew some fifty yards and
dead at last; but where, he could not see for the thick foliage.
"Luck is against me," said he despondingly. But he fitted another
arrow, and eyed the glade keenly. Presently he heard a bustle
behind him, and turned round just in time to see a noble buck
cross the open, but too late to shoot at him. He dashed his bow
down with an imprecation. At that moment a long spotted animal
glided swiftly across after the deer; its belly seemed to touch
the ground as it went. Martin took up his bow hastily: he
recognized the Duke's leopard. "The hunters will not be far from
her," said he, "and I must not be seen. Gerard must go supperless
He plunged into the wood, following the buck and leopard. for that
was his way home. He had not gone far when he heard an unusual
sound ahead of him - leaves rustling violently and the ground
trampled. He hurried in the direction. He found the leopard on the
buck's back, tearing him with teeth and claw, and the buck running
in a circle and bounding convulsively, with the blood pouring down
his hide. Then Martin formed a desperate resolution to have the
venison for Margaret. He drew his arrow to the head, and buried it
in the deer, who, spite of the creature on his back, bounded high
into the air, and fell dead. The leopard went on tearing him as if
nothing had happened.
Martin hoped that the creature would gorge itself with blood, and
then let him take the meat. He waited some minutes, then walked
resolutely up, and laid his hand on the buck's leg. The leopard
gave a frightful growl. and left off sucking blood. She saw
Martin's game, and was sulky and on her guard. What was to be
done? Martin had heard that wild creatures cannot stand the human
eye. Accordingly, he stood erect, and fixed his on the leopard:
the leopard returned a savage glance, and never took her eye off
Martin. Then Martin continuing to look the beast down, the
leopard, brutally ignorant of natural history, flew at his head
with a frightful yell, flaming eyes, and jaws and distended. He
had but just time to catch her by the throat, before her teeth
could crush his face; one of her claws seized his shoulder and
rent it, the other, aimed at his cheek, would have been more
deadly still, but Martin was old-fashioned, and wore no hat, but a
scapulary of the same stuff as his jerkin, and this scapulary he
had brought over his head like a hood; the brute's claw caught in
the loose leather. Martin kept her teeth off his face with great
difficulty, and griped her throat fiercely, and she kept rending
his shoulder. It was like blunt reaping-hooks grinding and
tearing. The pain was fearful; but, instead of cowing the old
soldier, it put his blood up, and he gnashed his teeth with rage
almost as fierce as hers, and squeezed her neck with iron force.
The two pair of eyes flared at one another - and now the man's
were almost as furious as the brute's. She found he was throttling
her, and made a wild attempt to free herself, in which she dragged
his cowl all over his face and blinded him, and tore her claw out
of his shoulder, flesh and all; but still he throttled her with
hand and arm of iron. Presently her long tail, that was high in
the air, went down. "Aha!" cried Martin, joyfully, and gripped her
like death; next, her body lost its elasticity, and he held a
choked and powerless thing: he gripped it still, till all motion
ceased, then dashed it to the earth; then, panting, removed his
cowl: the leopard lay mute at his feet with tongue protruding and
bloody paw; and for the first time terror fell on Martin. "I am a
dead man: I have slain the Duke's leopard." He hastily seized a
few handfuls of leaves and threw them over her; then shouldered
the buck, and staggered away, leaving a trail of blood all the way
his own and the buck's. He burst into Peter's house a horrible
figure, bleeding and bloodstained, and flung the deer's carcass
"There - no questions," said he, "but broil me a steak on't, for I
Margaret did not see he was wounded; she thought the blood was all
from the deer.
She busied herself at the fire, and the stout soldier stanched and
bound his own wound apart; and soon he and Gerard and Margaret
were supping royally on broiled venison.
They were very merry; and Gerard, with wonderful thoughtfulness,
had brought a flask of Schiedam, and under its influence Martin
revived, and told them how the venison was got; and they all made
merry over the exploit.
Their mirth was strangely interrupted. Margaret's eye became fixed
and fascinated, and her cheek pale with fear. She gasped, and
could not speak, but pointed to the window with trembling finger.
Their eyes followed hers, and there in the twilight crouched a
dark form with eyes like glowworms.
It was the leopard.
While they stood petrified, fascinated by the eyes of green fire,
there sounded in the wood a single deep bay. Martin trembled at
"They have lost her, and laid muzzled bloodhounds on her scent;
they will find her here, and the venison. Good-bye, friends,
Martin Wittenhaagen ends here."
Gerard seized his bow, and put it into the soldier's hands.
"Be a man," he cried; "shoot her, and fling her into the wood ere
they come up. Who will know?"
More voices of hounds broke out, and nearer.
"Curse her!" cried Martin; "I spared her once; now she must die,
or I, or both more likely;" and he reared his bow, and drew his
arrow to the head.
"Nay! nay!" cried Margaret, and seized the arrow. It broke in
half: the pieces fell on each side the bow. The air at the same
time filled with the tongues of the hounds: they were hot upon the
"What have you done, wench? You have put the halter round my
"No!" cried Margaret. "I have saved you: stand back from the
window, both! Your knife, quick!"
She seized his long-pointed knife, almost tore it out of his
girdle, and darted from the room. The house was now surrounded
with baying dogs and shouting men.
The glowworm eyes moved not.
Margaret cut off a huge piece of venison, and ran to the window
and threw it out to the green eyes of fire. They darted on to it
with a savage snarl; and there was a sound of rending and
crunching: at this moment, a hound uttered a bay so near and loud
it rang through the house; and the three at the window shrank
together. Then the leopard feared for her supper, and glided
swiftly and stealthily away with it towards the woods, and the
very next moment horses and men and dogs came helter-skelter past
the window, and followed her full cry. Martin and his companions
breathed again: the leopard was swift, and would not be caught
within a league of their house. They grasped hands. Margaret
seized this opportunity, and cried a little; Gerard kissed the
To table once more, and Gerard drank to woman's wit: "'Tis
stronger than man's force," said he.
"Ay," said Margaret, "when those she loves are in danger; not
To-night Gerard stayed with her longer than usual, and went home
prouder than ever of her, and happy as a prince. Some little
distance from home, under the shadow of some trees, he encountered
two figures: they almost barred his way.
It was his father and mother.
Out so late! what could be the cause?
A chill fell on him.
He stopped and looked at them: they stood grim and silent. He
stammered out some words of inquiry.
"Why ask?" said the father; "you know why we are here."
"Oh, Gerard!" said his mother, with a voice full of reproach yet
Gerard's heart quaked: he was silent.
Then his father pitied his confusion, and said to him:
"Nay, you need not to hang your head. You are not the first young
fool that has been caught by a red cheek and a pair of blue eyes."
"Nay, nay!" put in Catherine, "it was witchcraft; Peter the
Magician is well known for that."
"Come, Sir Priest," resumed his father, "you know you must not
meddle with women folk. But give us your promise to go no more to
Sevenbergen, and here all ends: we won't be hard on you for one
"I cannot promise that, father."
"Not promise it, you young hypocrite!"
"Nay, father, miscall me not: I lacked courage to tell you what I
knew would vex you; and right grateful am I to that good friend,
whoever he be, that has let you wot. 'Tis a load off my mind. Yes,
father, I love Margaret; and call me not a priest, for a priest I
will never be. I will die sooner."
"That we shall see, young man. Come, gainsay me no more; you will
learn what 'tis to disrespect a father."
Gerard held his peace, and the three walked home in gloomy
silence, broken only by a deep sigh or two from Catherine.
From that hour the little house at Tergou was no longer the abode
of peace. Gerard was taken to task next day before the whole
family; and every voice was loud against him, except little Kate's
and the dwarf's, who was apt to take his cue from her without
knowing why. As for Cornelis and Sybrandt, they were bitterer than
their father. Gerard was dismayed at finding so many enemies, and
looked wistfully into his little sister's face: her eyes were
brimming at the harsh words showered on one who but yesterday was
the universal pet. But she gave him no encouragement: she turned
her head away from him and said:
"Dear, dear Gerard, pray to Heaven to cure you of this folly!"
"What, are you against me too?" said Gerard, sadly; and he rose
with a deep sigh, and left the house and went to Sevenbergen.
The beginning of a quarrel, where the parties are bound by
affection though opposed in interest and sentiment, is
comparatively innocent: both are perhaps in the right at first
starting, and then it is that a calm, judicious friend, capable of
seeing both sides, is a gift from Heaven. For the longer the
dissension endures, the wider and deeper it grows by the
fallibility and irascibility of human nature: these are not
confined to either side, and finally the invariable end is reached
- both in the wrong.
The combatants were unequally matched: Elias was angry, Cornelis
and Sybrandt spiteful; but Gerard, having a larger and more
cultivated mind, saw both sides where they saw but one, and had
fits of irresolution, and was not wroth, but unhappy. He was
lonely, too, in this struggle. He could open his heart to no one.
Margaret was a high-spirited girl: he dared not tell her what he
had to endure at home; she was capable of siding with his
relations by resigning him, though at the cost of her own
happiness. Margaret Van Eyck had been a great comfort to him on
another occasion; but now he dared not make her his confidant. Her
own history was well known. In early life she had many offers of
marriage; but refused them all for the sake of that art, to which
a wife's and mother's duties are so fatal: thus she remained
single and painted with her brothers. How could he tell her that
he declined the benefice she had got him, and declined it for the
sake of that which at his age she had despised and sacrificed so
Gerard at this period bade fair to succumb. But the other side had
a horrible ally in Catherine, senior. This good-hearted but
uneducated woman could not, like her daughter, act quietly and
firmly: still less could she act upon a plan. She irritated Gerard
at times, and so helped him; for anger is a great sustainer of the
courage: at others she turned round in a moment and made
onslaughts on her own forces. To take a single instance out of
many: one day that they were all at home, Catherine and all,
Cornelis said: "Our Gerard wed Margaret Brandt? Why, it is hunger
"And what will it be when you marry?" cried Catherine. "Gerard can
paint, Gerard can write, but what can you do to keep a woman, ye
lazy loon? Nought but wait for your father's shoon. Oh we can see
why you and Sybrandt would not have the poor boy to marry. You are
afraid he will come to us for a share of our substance. And say
that he does, and say that we give it him, it isn't yourn we part
from, and mayhap never will be."
On these occasions Gerard smiled slily, and picked up heart, and
temporary confusion fell on Catherine's unfortunate allies. But at
last, after more than six months of irritation, came the climax.
The father told the son before the whole family he had ordered the
burgomaster to imprison him in the Stadthouse rather than let him
marry Margaret. Gerard turned pale with anger at this, but by a
great effort held his peace. His father went on to say, "And a
priest you shall be before the year is out, nilly-willy."
"Is it so?" cried Gerard. "Then, hear me, all. By God and St.
Bavon I swear I will never be a priest while Margaret lives. Since
force is to decide it, and not love and duty, try force, father;
but force shall not serve you, for the day I see the burgomaster
come for me, I leave Tergou for ever, and Holland too, and my
father's house, where it seems I have been valued all these years,
not for myself, but for what is to be got out of me."
And he flung out of the room white with anger and desperation.
"There!" cried Catherine, "that comes of driving young folks too
hard. But men are crueller than tigers, even to their own flesh
and blood. Now, Heaven forbid he should ever leave us, married or
As Gerard came out of the house, his cheeks pale and his heart
panting, he met Reicht Heynes: she had a message for him: Margaret
Van Eyck desired to see him. He found the old lady seated grim as
a judge. She wasted no time in preliminaries, but inquired coldly
why he had not visited her of late: before he could answer, she
said in a sarcastic tone, "I thought we had been friends, young
At this Gerard looked the picture of doubt and consternation.
"It is because you never told her you were in love," said Reicht
Heynes, pitying his confusion.
"Silence, wench! Why should he tell us his affairs? We are not his
friends: we have not deserved his confidence."
"Alas! my second mother," said Gerard, "I did not dare to tell you
"What folly? Is it folly to love?"
"I am told so every day of my life."
"You need not have been afraid to tell my mistress; she is always
kind to true lovers."
"Madam - Reicht I was afraid because I was told..."
"Well, you were told -?"
"That in your youth you scorned love, preferring art."
"I did, boy; and what is the end of it? Behold me here a barren
stock, while the women of my youth have a troop of children at
their side, and grandchildren at their knee I gave up the sweet
joys of wifehood and motherhood for what? For my dear brothers.
They have gone and left me long ago. For my art. It has all but
left me too. I have the knowledge still, but what avails that when
the hand trembles. No, Gerard; I look on you as my son. You are
good, you are handsome, you are a painter, though not like some I
have known. I will not let you throw your youth away as I did
mine: you shall marry this Margaret. I have inquired, and she is a
good daughter. Reicht here is a gossip. She has told me all about
it. But that need not hinder you to tell me."
Poor Gerard was overjoyed to be permitted to praise Margaret
aloud, and to one who could understand what he loved in her.
Soon there were two pair of wet eyes over his story; and when the
poor boy saw that, there ware three.
Women are creatures brimful of courage. Theirs is not exactly the
same quality as manly courage; that would never do, hang it all;
we should have to give up trampling on them. No; it is a vicarious
courage. They never take part in a bull-fight by any chance; but
it is remarked that they sit at one unshaken by those tremors and
apprehensions for the combatants to which the male
spectator-feebla-minded wretch! -is subject. Nothing can exceed
the resolution with which they have been known to send forth men
to battle: as some witty dog says,
"Les femmes sont tres braves avec le peur d'autrui."
By this trait Gerard now profited. Margaret and Reicht were agreed
that a man should always take the bull by the horns. Gerard's only
course was to marry Margaret Brandt off-hand; the old people would
come to after a while, the deed once done. Whereas, the longer
this misunderstanding continued on its present footing, the worse
for all parties, especially for Gerard.
"See how pale and thin they have made him amongst them."
"Indeed you are, Master Gerard," said Reicht. "It makes a body sad
to see a young man so wasted and worn. Mistress, when I met him in
the street to-day, I had liked to have burst out crying: he was so
"And I'll be bound the others keep their colour; ah, Reicht? such
as it is."
"Oh, I see no odds in them."
"Of course not. We painters are no match for boors. We are glass,
they are stone. We can't stand the worry, worry, worry of little
minds; and it is not for the good of mankind we should be exposed
to it. It is hard enough, Heaven knows, to design and paint a
masterpiece, without having gnats and flies stinging us to death
into the bargain."
Exasperated as Gerard was by his father's threat of violence, he
listened to these friendly voices telling him the prudent course
was rebellion. But though he listened, he was not convinced.
"I do not fear my father's violence," he said, "but I do fear his
anger. When it came to the point he would not imprison me. I would
marry Margaret to-morrow if that was my only fear. No; he would
disown me. I should take Margaret from her father, and give her a
poor husband, who would never thrive, weighed down by his parent's
curse. Madam! I sometimes think if I could marry her secretly, and
then take her away to some country where my craft is better paid
than in this; and after a year or two, when the storm had blown
over, you know, could come back with money in my purse, and say,
'My dear parents, we do not seek your substance, we but ask you to
love us once more as you used, and as we have never ceased to love
you' - but, alas! I shall be told these are the dreams of an
inexperienced young man."
The old lady's eyes sparkled.
"It is no dream, but a piece of wonderful common-sense in a boy;
it remains to be seen whether you have spirit to carry out your
own thought. There is a country, Gerard, where certain fortune
awaits you at this moment. Here the arts freeze, but there they
flourish, as they never yet flourished in any age or land."
"It is Italy!" cried Gerard. "It is Italy!"
"Ay, Italy! where painters are honoured like princes, and scribes
are paid three hundred crowns for copying a single manuscript.
Know you not that his Holiness the Pope has written to every land
for skilful scribes to copy the hundreds of precious manuscripts
that are pouring into that favoured land from Constantinople,
whence learning and learned men are driven by the barbarian
"Nay, I know not that; but it has been the dream and hope of my
life to visit Italy, the queen of all the arts; oh, madam! But the
journey, and we are all so poor."
"Find you the heart to go, I'll find the means. I know where to
lay my hand on ten golden angels: they will take you to Rome: and
the girl with you, if she loves you as she ought."
They sat till midnight over this theme. And, after that day,
Gerard recovered his spirits, and seemed to carry a secret
talisman against all the gibes and the harsh words that flew about
his ears at home.
Besides the money she procured him for the journey, Margaret Van
Eyck gave him money's worth. Said she, "I will tell you secrets
that I learned from masters that are gone from me, and have left
no fellow behind. Even the Italians know them not; and what I tell
you now in Tergou you shall sell hear in Florence. Note my brother
Jan's pictures: time, which fades all other paintings, leaves his
colours bright as the day they left the easel. The reason is, he
did nothing blindly, in a hurry. He trusted to no hireling to
grind his colours; he did0it himself, or saw it done. His panel
was prepared. and prepared again - I will show you how - a year
before he laid his colour on. Most of them are quite content to
have their work sucked up and lost, sooner than not be in a hurry.
Bad painters are always in a hurry. Above all, Gerard, I warn you
use but little oil, and never boil it: boiling it melts that
vegetable dross into its heart which it is our business to clear
away; for impure oil is death to colour. No; take your oil and
pour it into a bottle with water. In a day or two the water will
turn muddy: that is muck from the oil. Pour the dirty water
carefully away. and add fresh. When that is poured away, you will
fancy the oil is clear. You mistaken. Reicht, fetch me that!"
Reicht brought a glass trough with a glass lid fitting tight.
"When your oil has been washed in bottle, put it into this trough
with water, and put the trough in the sun all day. You will soon
see the water turbid again. But mark, you must not carry this game
too far, or the sun will turn your oil to varnish. When it is as
clear as crystal, not too luscious, drain carefully, and cork it
up tight. Grind your own prime colours, and lay them on with this
oil, and they shall live. Hubert would put sand or salt in the
water to clear the oil quicker. But Jan used to say, 'Water will
do it best; give water time.' Jan Van Eyck was never in a hurry,
and that is why the world will not forget him in a hurry."
This and several other receipts, quae nunc perscribere longum est,
Margaret gave him with sparkling eyes, and Gerard received them
like' a legacy from Heaven, so interesting are some things that
read uninteresting. Thus provided with money and knowledge, Gerard
decided to marry and fly with his wife to Italy. Nothing remained
now but to inform Margaret Brandt of his resolution, and to
publish the banns as quietly as possible. He went to Sevenbergen
earlier than usual on both these errands. He began with Margaret;
told her of the Dame Van Eyck's goodness, and the resolution he
had come to at last, and invited her co-operation.
She refused it plump.
"No, Gerard; you and I have never spoken of your family, but when
you come to marriage - " She stopped, then began again. "I do
think your father has no ill-will to me more than to another. He
told Peter Buyskens as much, and Peter told me. But so long as he
is bent on your being a priest (you ought have told me this
instead of I you), I could not marry you, Gerard, dearly as I love
Gerard strove in vain to shake this resolution. He found it very
easy to make her cry, but impossible to make her yield. Then
Gerard was impatient and unjust.
"Very well!" he cried; "then you are on their side, and you will
drive me to be a priest, for this must end one way or another. My
parents hate me in earnest, but my lover only loves me in jest."
And with this wild, bitter speech, he flung away home again, and
left Margaret weeping.
When a man misbehaves, the effect is curious on a girl who loves
him sincerely. It makes her pity him. This, to some of us males,
seems anything but logical. The fault is in our own eye; the logic
is too swift for us. The girl argues thus:- "How unhappy, how
vexed, poor *** must be; him to misbehave! Poor thing!"
Margaret was full of this sweet womanly pity, when, to her great
surprise, scarce an hour and a half after he left her, Gerard came
running back to her with the fragments of a picture in his hand,
and panting with anger and grief.
"There, Margaret! see! see! the wretches! Look at their spite!
They have cut your portrait to pieces."
Margaret looked, and, sure enough, some malicious hand had cut her
portrait into five pieces. She was a good girl, but she was not
ice; she turned red to her very forehead.
"Who did it?"
"Nay, I know not. I dared not ask; for I should hate the hand that
did it, ay, till my dying day. My poor Margaret! The butchers, the
ruffians! Six months' work cut out of my life, and nothing to show
for it now. See, they have hacked through your very face; the
sweet face that every one loves who knows it. oh. heartless,
"Never mind, Gerard," said Margaret, panting. "Since this is how
they treat you for my sake - Ye rob him of my portrait, do ye?
Well, then, he shall have the face itself, such as it is."
"Yes, Gerard; since they are so cruel, I will be the kinder:
forgive me for refusing you. I will be your wife: to-morrow, if it
is your pleasure."
Gerard kissed her hands with rapture, and then her lips; and in a
tumult of joy ran for Peter and Martin. They came and witnessed
the betrothal; a solemn ceremony in those days, and indeed for
more than a century later, though now abolished.
The banns of marriage had to be read three times, as in our days;
with this difference, that they were commonly read on week-days,
and the young couple easily persuaded the cure to do the three
readings in twenty-four hours: he was new to the place, and their
looks spoke volumes in their favour. They were cried on Monday at
matins and at vespers; and, to their great delight. nobody from
Tergou was in the church. The next morning they were both there,
palpitating with anxiety, when, to their horror, a stranger stood
up and forbade the banns, On the score that the parties were not
of age, and their parents not consenting.
Outside the church door Margaret and Gerard held a trembling, and
almost despairing consultation; but, before they could settle
anything, the man who had done them so ill a turn approached, and
gave them to understand that he was very sorry to interfere: that
his inclination was to further the happiness of the young; but
that in point of fact his only means of getting a living was by
forbidding banns: what then? "The young people give me a crown.
and I undo my work handsomely; tell the cure I was misinformed,
and all goes smoothly."
"A crown! I will give you a golden angel to do this," said Gerard
eagerly; the man consented as eagerly, and went with Gerard to the
cure, and told him he had made a ridiculous mistake, which a sight
of the parties had rectified. On this the cure agreed to marry the
young couple next day at ten: and the professional obstructor of
bliss went home with Gerard's angel. Like most of these very
clever knaves, he was a fool, and proceeded to drink his angel at
a certain hostelry in Tergou where was a green devoted to archery
and the common sports of the day. There, being drunk, he bragged
of his day's exploit; and who should be there, imbibing every
word, but a great frequenter of the spot, the ne'er-do-weel
Sybrandt. Sybrandt ran home to tell his father; his father was not
at home; he was gone to Rotterdam to buy cloth of the merchants.
Catching his elder brother's eye, he made him a signal to come
out, and told him what he had heard.
There are black sheep in nearly every large family; and these two
were Gerard's black brothers. Idleness is vitiating: waiting for
the death of those we ought to love is vitiating; and these two
one-idea'd curs were ready to tear any one to death that should
interfere with that miserable inheritance which was their thought
by day and their dream by night. Their parents' parsimony was a
virtue; it was accompanied by industry, and its motive was love of
their offspring; but in these perverse and selfish hearts that
homely virtue was perverted into avarice, than which no more
fruitful source of crimes is to be found in nature.
They put their heads together, and agreed not to tell their
mother, whose sentiments were so uncertain, but to go first to the
burgomaster. They were cunning enough to see that he was averse to
the match, though they could not divine why.
Ghysbrecht Van Swieten saw through them at once; but he took care
not to let them see through him. He heard their story, and putting
on magisterial dignity and coldness, he said;
"Since the father of the family is not here, his duty falleth on
me, who am the father of the town. I know your father's mind;
leave all to me; and, above all, tell not a woman a word of this,
least of all the women that are in your own house: for chattering
tongues mar wisest counsels."
So he dismissed them, a little superciliously: he was ashamed of
On their return home they found their brother Gerard seated on a
low stool at their mother's knee: she was caressing his hair with
her hand, speaking very kindly to him, and promising to take his
part with his father and thwart his love no more. The main cause
of this change of mind was characteristic of the woman. She it was
who in a moment of female irritation had cut Margaret's picture to
pieces. She had watched the effect with some misgivings, and had
seen Gerard turn pale as death, and sit motionless like a bereaved
creature, with the pieces in his hands, and his eyes fixed on them
till tears came and blinded them. Then she was terrified at what
she had done; and next her heart smote her bitterly; and she wept
sore apart; but, being what she was, dared not own it, but said to
herself, "I'll not say a word, but I'll make it up to him." And
her bowels yearned over her son, and her feeble violence died a
natural death, and she was transferring her fatal alliance to
Gerard when the two black sheep came in. Gerard knew nothing of
the immediate cause; on the contrary, inexperienced as he was in
the ins and outs of females, her kindness made him ashamed of a
suspicion he had entertained that she was the depredator, and he
kissed her again and again, and went to bed happy as a prince to
think his mother was his mother once more at the very crisis of
The next morning, at ten o'clock, Gerard and Margaret were in the
church at Sevenbergen, he radiant with joy, she with blushes.
Peter was also there, and Martin Wittenhaagen, but no other
friend. Secrecy was everything. Margaret had declined Italy. She
could not leave her father; he was too learned and too helpless.
But it was settled they should retire into Flanders for a few
weeks until the storm should be blown over at Tergou. The cure did
not keep them waiting long, though it seemed an age. Presently he
stood at the altar, and called them to him. They went hand in
hand, the happiest in Holland. The cure opened his book.
But ere he uttered a single word of the sacred rite, a harsh voice
cried "Forbear!" And the constables of Tergou came up the aisle
and seized Gerard in the name of the law. Martin's long knife
flashed out directly.
"Forbear, man!" cried the priest. "What! draw your weapon in a
church, and ye who interrupt this holy sacrament, what means this
"There is no impiety, father," said the burgomaster's servant
respectfully. "This young man would marry against his father's
will, and his father has prayed our burgomaster to deal with him
according to the law. Let him deny it if he can."
"Is this so, young man?"
Gerard hung his head.
"We take him to Rotterdam to abide the sentence of the Duke."
At this Margaret uttered a cry of despair, and the young
creatures, who were so happy a moment ago, fell to sobbing in one
another's arms so piteously, that the instruments of oppression
drew back a step and were ashamed; but one of them that was
good-natured stepped up under pretence of separating them, and
whispered to Margaret:
"Rotterdam? it is a lie. We but take him to our Stadthouse."
They took him away on horseback, on the road to Rotterdam; and,
after a dozen halts, and by sly detours, to Tergou. Just outside
the town they were met by a rude vehicle covered with canvas.
Gerard was put into this, and about five in the evening was
secretly conveyed into the prison of the Stadthouse. He was taken
up several flights of stairs and thrust into a small room lighted
only by a narrow window, with a vertical iron bar. The whole
furniture was a huge oak chest.
Imprisonment in that age was one of the highroads to death. It is
horrible in its mildest form; but in those days it implied cold,
unbroken solitude, torture, starvation, and often poison. Gerard
felt he was in the hands of an enemy.
"Oh, the look that man gave me on the road to Rotterdam. There is
more here than my father's wrath. I doubt I shall see no more the
light of day." And he kneeled down and commended his soul to God.
Presently he rose and sprang at the iron bar of the window, and
clutched it. This enabled him to look out by pressing his knees
against the wall. It was but for a minute; but in that minute he
saw a sight such as none but a captive can appreciate.
Martin Wittenhaagen's back.
Martin was sitting, quietly fishing in the brook near the
Gerard sprang again at the window, and whistled. Martin instantly
showed that he was watching much harder than fishing. He turned
hastily round and saw Gerard - made him a signal, and taking up
his line and bow, went quickly off.
Gerard saw by this that his friends were not idle: yet had rather
Martin had stayed. The very sight of him was a comfort. He held
on, looking at the soldier's retiring form as long as he could,
then falling back somewhat heavily. wrenched the rusty iron bar,
held only by rusty nails, away from the stone-work just as
Ghysbrecht Van Swieten opened the door stealthily behind him. The
burgomaster's eye fell instantly on the iron, and then glanced at
the window; but he said nothing. The window was a hundred feet
from the ground; and if Gerard had a fancy for jumping out, why
should he balk it? He brought a brown loaf and a pitcher of water,
and set them on the chest in solemn silence. Gerard's first
impulse was to brain him with the iron bar and fly down the
stairs; but the burgomaster seeing something wicked in his eye.
gave a little cough, and three stout fellows, armed, showed
themselves directly at the door.
"My orders are to keep you thus until you shall bind yourself by
an oath to leave Margaret Brandt, and return to the Church, to
which you have belonged from your cradle."
"With all my heart." And the burgomaster retired.
Martin went with all speed to Sevenbergen; there he found Margaret
pale and agitated, but full of resolution and energy. She was just
finishing a letter to the Countess Charolois, appealing to her
against the violence and treachery of Ghysbrecht.
"Courage!" cried Martin on entering. "I have found him. He is in
the haunted tower, right at the top of it. Ay, I know the place:
many a poor fellow has gone up there straight, and come down feet
He then told them how he had looked up and seen Gerard's face at a
window that was like a slit in the wall.
"Oh, Martin! how did he look?"
"What mean you? He looked like Gerard Eliassoen."
"But was he pale?"
"Looked he anxious? Looked he like one doomed?"
"Nay, nay; as bright as a pewter pot."
"You mock me. Stay! then that must have been at sight of you. He
counts on us. Oh, what shall we do? Martin, good friend, take this
at once to Rotterdam."
Martin held out his hand for the letter.
Peter had sat silent all this time, but pondering, and yet,
contrary to custom, keenly attentive to what was going on around
"Put not your trust in princes," said he.
"Alas! what else have we to trust in?"
"Well-a-day,father! your learning will not serve us here."
"How know you that? Wit has been too strong for iron bars ere
"Ay, father; but nature is stronger than wit, and she is against
us. Think of the height! No ladder in Holland might reach him."
"I need no ladder; what I need is a gold crown."
"Nay, I have money, for that matter. I have nine angels. Gerard
gave them me to keep; but what do they avail? The burgomaster will
not be bribed to let Gerard free."
"What do they avail? Give me but one crown, and the young man
shall sup with us this night."
Peter spoke so eagerly and confidently, that for a moment Margaret
felt hopeful; but she caught Martin's eye dwelling upon him with
an expression of benevolent contempt.
"It passes the powers of man's invention," said she, with a deep
"Invention!" cried the old man. "A fig for invention. What need we
invention at this time of day? Everything has been said that is to
be said, and done that ever will be done. I shall tell you how a
Florentine knight was shut up in a tower higher than Gerard's; yet
did his faithful squire stand at the tower foot and get him out,
with no other engine than that in your hand, Martin, and certain
kickshaws I shall buy for a crown."
Martin looked at his bow, and turned it round in his hand, and
seemed to interrogate it. But the examination left him as
incredulous as before.
Then Peter told them his story, how the faithful squire got the
knight out of a high tower at Brescia. The manoeuvre, like most
things that are really scientific, was so simple. that now their
wonder was they had taken for impossible what was not even
The letter never went to Rotterdam. They trusted to Peter's
learning and their own dexterity.
It was nine o'clock on a clear moonlight night; Gerard, senior,
was still away; the rest of his little family had been some time
A figure stood by the dwarf's bed. It was white, and the moonlight
shone on it.
With an unearthly noise, between a yell and a snarl, the gymnast
rolled off his bed and under it by a single unbroken movement. A
soft voice followed him in his retreat.
"Why, Giles, are you afeard of me?"
At this, Giles's head peeped cautiously up, and he saw it was only
his sister Kate.
She put her finger to her lips. "Hush! lest the wicked Cornelis or
the wicked Sybrandt hear us." Giles's claws seized the side of the
bed, and he returned to his place by one undivided gymnastic.
Kate then revealed to Giles that she had heard Cornelis and
Sybrandt mention Gerard's name; and being herself in great anxiety
at his not coming home all day, had listened at their door, and
had made a fearful discovery. Gerard was in prison, in the haunted
tower of the Stadthouse. He was there, it seemed, by their
father's authority. But here must be some treachery; for how could
their father have ordered this cruel act? He was at Rotterdam. She
ended by entreating Giles to bear her company to the foot of the
haunted tower, to say a word of comfort to poor Gerard, and let
him know their father was absent, and would be sure to release him
on his return.
"Dear Giles, I would go alone, but I am afeard of the spirits that
men say do haunt the tower; but with you I shall not be afeard."
"Nor I with you," said Giles. "I don't believe there are any
spirits in Tergou. I never saw one. This last was the likest one
ever I saw; and it was but you, Kate, after all."
In less than half an hour Giles and Kate opened the housedoor
cautiously and issued forth. She made him carry a lantern, though
the night was bright. "The lantern gives me more courage against
the evil spirits," said she.
The first day of imprisonment is very trying, especially if to the
horror of captivity is added the horror of utter solitude. I
observe that in our own day a great many persons commit suicide
during the first twenty-four hours of the solitary cell. This is
doubtless why our Jairi abstain so carefully from the impertinence
of watching their little experiment upon the human soul at that
particular stage of it.
As the sun declined, Gerard's heart too sank and sank; with the
waning light even the embers of hope went out. He was faint, too,
with hunger; for he was afraid to eat the food Ghysbrecht had
brought him; and hunger alone cows men. He sat upon the chest, his
arms and his head drooping before him, a picture of despondency.
Suddenly something struck the wall beyond him very sharply, and
then rattled on the floor at his feet. It was an arrow; he saw the
white feather. A chill ran through him - they meant then to
assassinate him from the outside. He crouched. No more missiles
came. He crawled on all fours, and took up the arrow; there was no
head to it. He uttered a cry of hope: had a friendly hand shot it?
He took it up, and felt it all over: he found a soft substance
attached to it. Then one of his eccentricities was of grand use to
him. His tinder-box enabled him to strike a light: it showed him
two things that made his heart bound with delight, none the less
thrilling for being somewhat vague. Attached to the arrow was a
skein of silk, and on the arrow itself were words written.
How his eyes devoured them, his heart panting the while!
Well beloved, make fast the silk to thy knife and lower to us: but
hold thine end fast: then count an hundred and draw up.
Gerard seized the oak chest, and with almost superhuman energy
dragged it to the window: a moment ago he could not have moved it.
Standing on the chest and looking down, he saw figures at the
tower foot. They were so indistinct, they looked like one huge
form. He waved his bonnet to them with trembling hand: then he
undid the silk rapidly but carefully, and made one end fast to his
knife and lowered it till it ceased to draw. Then he counted a
hundred. Then pulled the silk carefully up: it came up a little
heavier. At last he came to a large knot, and by that knot a stout
whipcord was attached to the silk. What could this mean? While he
was puzzling himself Margaret's voice came up to him, low but
clear. "Draw up, Gerard, till you see liberty." At the word Gerard
drew the whipcord line up, and drew and drew till he came to
another knot, and found a cord of some thickness take the place of
the whipcord. He had no sooner begun to draw this up, than he
found that he had now a heavy weight to deal with. Then the truth
suddenly flashed on him, and he went to work and pulled and pulled
till the perspiration rolled down him: the weight got heavier and
heavier, and at last he was well-nigh exhausted: looking down, he
saw in the moonlight a sight that revived him: it was as it were a
great snake coming up to him out of the deep shadow cast by the
tower. He gave a shout of joy, and a score more wild pulls, and
lo! a stout new rope touched his hand: he hauled and hauled, and
dragged the end into his prison, and instantly passed it through
both handles of the chest in succession, and knotted it firmly;
then sat for a moment to recover his breath and collect his
courage. The first thing was to make sure that the chest was
sound, and capable of resisting his weight poised in mid-air. He
jumped with all his force upon it. At the third jump the whole
side burst open, and out scuttled the contents, a host of
After the first start and misgiving this gave him, Gerard
comprehended that the chest had not burst, but opened: he had
doubtless jumped upon some secret spring. Still it shook in some
degree his confidence in the chest's powers of resistance; so he
gave it an ally: he took the iron bar and fastened it with the
small rope across the large rope, and across the window. He now
mounted the chest, and from the chest put his foot through the
window, and sat half in and half out, with one hand on that part
of the rope which was inside. In the silent night he heard his own
The free air breathed on his face, and gave him the courage to
risk what we must all lose one day - for liberty. Many dangers
awaited him, but the greatest was the first getting on to the rope
outside. Gerard reflected. Finally, he put himself in the attitude
of a swimmer, his body to the waist being in the prison, his legs
outside. Then holding the inside rope with both hands, he felt
anxiously with his feet for the outside rope, and when he had got
it, he worked it in between the palms of his feet, and kept it
there tight: then he uttered a short prayer, and, all the calmer
for it, put his left hand on the sill and gradually wriggled out.
Then he seized the iron bar, and for one fearful moment hung
outside from it by his right hand, while his left hand felt for
the rope down at his knees; it was too tight against the wall for
his fingers to get round it higher up. The moment he had fairly
grasped it, he left the bar, and swiftly seized the rope with the
right hand too; but in this manoeuvre his body necessarily fell
about a yard. A stifled cry came up from below. Gerard hung in
mid-air. He clenched his teeth, and nipped the rope tight with his
feet and gripped it with his hands, and went down slowly hand
below hand. He passed by one huge rough stone after another. He
saw there was green moss on one. He looked up and he looked down.
The moon shone into his prison window: it seemed very near. The
fluttering figures below seemed an awful distance. It made him
dizzy to look down: so he fixed his eyes steadily on the wall
close to him, and went slowly down, down, down.
He passed a rusty, slimy streak on the wall: it was some ten feet
long. The rope made his hands very hot. He stole another look up.
The prison window was a good way off now.
Down - down - down - down.
The rope made his hands sore.
He looked up. The window was so distant, he ventured now to turn
his eyes downward again; and there, not more than thirty feet
below him, were Margaret and Martin, their faithful hands
upstretched to catch him should he fall. He could see their eyes
and their teeth shine in the moonlight. For their mouths were
open, and they were breathing hard.
"Take care, Gerard oh, take care! Look not down."
"Fear me not," cried Gerard joyfully, and eyed the wall, but came
In another minute his feet were at their hands. They seized him
ere he touched the ground, and all three clung together in one
"Hush! away in silence, dear one."
They stole along the shadow of the wall.
Now, ere they had gone many yards, suddenly a stream of light shot
from an angle of the building, and lay across their path like a
barrier of fire, and they heard whispers and footsteps close at
"Back!" hissed Martin. "Keep in the shade."
They hurried back, passed the dangling rope, and made for a little
square projecting tower. They had barely rounded it when the light
shot trembling past them, and flickered uncertainly into the
"A lantern!" groaned Martin in a whisper. "They are after us."
"Give me my knife," whispered Gerard. "I'll never be taken alive."
"No, no!" murmured Margaret; "is there no way out where we are?"
"None! none! But I carry six lives at my shoulder;" and with the
word, Martin strung his bow, and fitted an arrow to the string:
"in war never wait to be struck: I will kill one or two ere they
shall know where their death comes from:" then, motioning his
companions to be quiet he began to draw his bow, and, ere the
arrow was quite drawn to the head, he glided round the corner
ready to loose the string the moment the enemy should offer a
Gerard and Margaret held their breath in horrible expectation:
they had never seen a human being killed.
And now a wild hope, but half repressed, thrilled through Gerard,
that this watchful enemy might be the burgomaster in person. The
soldier, he knew, would send an arrow through a burgher or
burgomaster, as he would through a boar in a wood.
But who may foretell the future, however near? The bow, instead of
remaining firm, and loosing the deadly shaft, was seen to waver
first, then shake violently, and the stout soldier staggered back
to them, his knees knocking and his cheeks blanched with fear. He
let his arrow fall, and clutched Gerard's shoulder.
"Let me feel flesh and blood," he gasped. "The haunted tower! the
His terror communicated itself to Margaret and Gerard. They gasped
rather than uttered an inquiry.
"Hush!" he cried, "it will hear you. up the wall! it is going up
the wall! Its head is on fire. Up the wall, as mortal creatures
walk upon green sward. If you know a prayer, say it, for hell is
"I have power to exorcise spirits," said Gerard, trembling. "I
will venture forth."
"Go alone then," said Martin; "I have looked on't once, and live.
The strange glance of hatred the burgomaster had cast on Gerard,
coupled with his imprisonment, had filled the young man with a
persuasion that Ghysbrecht was his enemy to the death, and he
glided round the angle of the tower, fully expecting to see no
supernatural appearance, but some cruel and treacherous
contrivance of a bad man to do him a mischief in that prison, his
escape from which could hardly be known.
As he stole forth, a soft but brave hand crept into his; and
Margaret was by his side, to share this new peril.
No sooner was the haunted tower visible, than a sight struck their
eyes that benumbed them as they stood. More than halfway up the
tower, a creature with a fiery head, like an enormous glowworm,
was steadily mounting the wall: the body was dark, but its outline
visible through the glare from the head, and the whole creature
not much less than four feet long.
At the foot of the tower stood a thing in white, that looked
exactly like the figure of a female. Gerard and Margaret
palpitated with awe.
"The rope! the rope! It is going up the rope," gasped Gerard.
As they gazed, the glowworm disappeared in Gerard's late prison,
but its light illuminated the cell inside and reddened the window.
The white figure stood motionless below.
Such as can retain their senses after the first prostrating effect
of the supernatural are apt to experience terror in one of its
strangest forms, a wild desire to fling themselves upon the
terrible object. It fascinates them as the snake the bird. The
great tragedian Macready used to render this finely in Macbeth, at
Banquo's second appearance. He flung himself with averted head at
the horrible shadow. This strange impulse now seized Margaret. She
put down Gerard's hand quietly, and stood bewildered; then, all in
a moment, with a wild cry, darted towards the spectre. Gerard, not
aware of the natural impulse I have spoken of, never doubted the
evil one was drawing her to her perdition. He fell on his knees.
"Exorcizo vos. In nomine beatae Mariae, exorcizo vos."
While the exorcist was shrieking his incantations in extremity of
terror, to his infinite relief he heard the spectre utter a feeble
cry of fear. To find that hell had also its little weaknesses was
encouraging. He redoubled his exorcisms, and presently he saw the
ghastly shape kneeling at Margaret's knees, and heard it praying
piteously for mercy.
Kate and Giles soon reached the haunted tower. Judge their
surprise when they found a new rope dangling from the prisoner's
window to the ground.
"I see how it is," said the inferior intelligence, taking facts as
they came. "Our Gerard has come down this rope. He has got clear.
Up I go, and see."
"No, Giles, no!" said the superior intelligence, blinded by
prejudice. "See you not this is glamour? This rope is a line the
evil one casts out to wile thee to destruction. He knows the
weaknesses of all our hearts; he has seen how fond you are of
going up things. Where should our Gerard procure a rope? how
fasten it in the sky like this? It is not in nature. Holy saints
protect us this night, for hell is abroad."
"Stuff!" said the dwarf; "the way to hell is down, and this rope
leads up. I never had the luck to go up such a long rope. It may
be years ere I fall in with such a long rope all ready for me. As
well be knocked on the head at once as never know happiness."
And he sprung on to the rope with a cry of delight. as a cat jumps
with a mew on to a table where fish is. All the gymnast was on
fire; and the only concession Kate could gain from him was
permission to fasten the lantern on his neck first.
"A light scares the ill spirits," said she.
And so, with his huge arms, and his legs like feathers, Giles went
up the rope faster than his brother came down it. The light at the
nape of his neck made a glowworm of him. His sister watched his
progress, with trembling anxiety. Suddenly a female figure started
out of the solid masonry. and came flying at her with more than
Kate uttered a feeble cry. It was all she could, for her tongue
clove to her palate with terror. Then she dropped her crutches,
and sank upon her knees, hiding her face and moaning:
"Take my body, but spare my soul!"
Margaret (panting). "Why, it is a woman!"
Kate (quivering). "Why, it is a woman!"
Margaret. "How you scared me!"
Kate. "I am scared enough myself. Oh! oh! oh!"
"This is strange! But the fiery-headed thing? Yet it was with you.
and you are harmless! But why are you here at this time of night?"
"Nay. why are YOU?"
"Perhaps we are on the same errand? Ah! you are his good sister,
"And you are Margaret Brandt."
"All the better. You love him; you are here. Then Giles was right.
He has won free."
Gerard came forward, and put the question at rest. But all further
explanation was cut short by a horrible unearthly noise, like a
"PARCHMENT! - PARCHMENT! - PARCHMENT!"
At each repetition, it rose in intensity. They looked up. and
there was the dwarf, with his hands full of parchments, and his
face lighted with fiendish joy and lurid with diabolical fire. The
light being at his neck, a more infernal "transparency" never
startled mortal eye. With the word, the awful imp hurled parchment
at the astonished heads below. Down came records, like wounded
wild-ducks; some collapsed, others fluttering, and others spread
out and wheeling slowly down in airy circles. They had hardly
settled, when again the sepulchral roar was heard - "Parchment
-parchment!" and down pattered and sailed another flock of
documents: another followed: they whitened the grass. Finally, the
fire-headed imp, with his light body and horny hands, slid down
the rope like a falling star, and (business before sentiment)
proposed to his rescued brother an immediate settlement for the
merchandise he had just delivered.
"Hush!" said Gerard; "you speak too loud. Gather them up. and
follow us to a safer place than this."
"Will you come home with me, Gerard?" said little Kate.
"I have no home."
"You shall not say so. Who is more welcome than you will be, after
this cruel wrong, to your father's house?
"Father! I have no father," said Gerard sternly. "He that was my
father is turned my gaoler. I have escaped from his hands; I will
never come within their reach again."
"An enemy did this, and not our father."
And she told him what she had overheard Cornelis and Sybrandt say.
But the injury was too recent to be soothed. Gerard showed a
bitterness of indignation he had hitherto seemed incapable of.
"Cornelis and Sybrandt are two ill curs that have shown me their
teeth and their heart a long while; but they could do no more. My
father it is that gave the burgomaster authority. or he durst not
have laid a finger on me, that am a free burgher of this town. So
be it, then. I was his son. I am his prisoner. He has played his
part. I shall play mine. Farewell the burgh where I was born, and
lived honestly and was put in prison. While there is another town
left in creation, I'll never trouble you again, Tergou."
"Oh! Gerard! Gerard!"
Margaret whispered her: "Do not gainsay him now. Give his choler
time to cool!"
Kate turned quickly towards her. "Let me look at your face?" The
inspection was favourable, it seemed, for she whispered: "It is a
comely face, and no mischief-maker's."
"Fear me not," said Margaret, in the same tone. "I could not be
happy without your love, as well as Gerard's."
"These are comfortable words," sobbed Kate. Then, looking up, she
said, "I little thought to like you so well. My heart is willing,
but my infirmity will not let me embrace you."
At this hint, Margaret wound gently round Gerard's sister, and
kissed her lovingly.
"Often he has spoken of you to me, Kate; and often I longed for
"You, too, Gerard," said Kate; "kiss me ere you go; for my heart
lies heavy at parting with you this night."
Gerard kissed her, and she went on her crutches home. The last
thing they heard of her was a little patient sigh. Then the tears
came and stood thick in Margaret's eyes. But Gerard was a man, and
noticed not his sister's sigh.
As they turned to go to Sevenbergen, the dwarf nudged Gerard with
his bundle of parchments and held out a concave claw.
Margaret dissuaded Gerard. "Why take what is not ours?"
"Oh, spoil an enemy how you can."
"But may they not make this a handle for fresh violence?"
"How can they? Think you I shall stay in Tergou after this? The
burgomaster robbed me of my liberty; I doubt I should take his
life for it, if I could."
"Oh, fie! Gerard."
"What! Is life worth more than liberty? Well, I can't take his
life, so I take the first thing that comes to hand."
He gave Giles a few small coins, with which the urchin was
gladdened, and shuffled after his sister. Margaret and Gerard were
speedily joined by Martin, and away to Sevenbergen.
Ghysbrecht Van Swieten kept the key of Gerard's prison in his
pouch. He waited till ten of the clock ere he visited for he said
to himself, "A little hunger sometimes does well it breaks 'em."
At ten he crept up the stairs with a loaf and pitcher, followed by
his trusty servant well armed. Ghysbrecht listened at the door.
There was no sound inside. A grim smile stole over his features.
"By this time he will be as down-hearted as Albert Koestein was,"
thought he. He opened the door.
Ghysbrecht stood stupefied.
Although his face was not visible, his body seemed to lose all
motion in so peculiar a way, and then after a little he fell
trembling so, that the servant behind him saw there was something
amiss, and crept close to him and peeped over his shoulder. At
sight of the empty cell, and the rope, and iron bar, he uttered a
loud exclamation of wonder; but his surprise doubled when his
master, disregarding all else, suddenly flung himself on his knees
before the empty chest, and felt wildly all over it with quivering
hands, as if unwilling to trust his eyes in a matter so important.
The servant gazed at him in utter bewilderment.
"Why, master, what is the matter?"
Ghysbrecht's pale lips worked as if he was going to answer; but
they uttered no sound: his hands fell by his side, and he stared
into the chest.
"Why, master, what avails glaring into that empty box? The lad is
not there. See here! note the cunning of the young rogue; he hath
taken out the bar, and - "
"GONE! GONE! GONE!"
"Gone! What is gone, Holy saints! he is planet-struck!"
"STOP THIEF!" shrieked Ghysbrecht, and suddenly turned, on his
servant and collared him, and shook him with rage. "D'ye stand
there, knave, and see your master robbed? Run! fly! A hundred
crowns to him that finds it me again. No, no! 'tis in vain. Oh,
fool! fool! to leave that in the same room with him. But none ever
found the secret spring before. None ever would but he. It was to
be. It is to be. Lost! lost!" and his years and infirmity now
gained the better of his short-lived frenzy, and he sank on the
chest muttering "Lost! lost!"
"What is lost, master?" asked the servant kindly.
"House and lands and good name," groaned Ghysbrecht, and wrung his
"WHAT?" cried the servant.
This emphatic word, and the tone of eager curiosity, struck on
Ghysbrecht's ear and revived his natural cunning.
"I have lost the town records," stammered he, and he looked askant
at the man like a fox caught near a hen-roost.
"Oh, is that all?"
"Is't not enough? What will the burghers say to me? What will the
burghs do?" Then he suddenly burst out again, "A hundred crowns to
him who shall recover them; all, mind, all that were in this box.
If one be missing, I give nothing."
"'Tis a bargain, master: the hundred crowns are in my pouch. See
you not that where Gerard Eliassoen is, there are the pieces of
sheepskin you rate so high?"
"That is true; that is true, good Dierich: good faithful Dierich.
All, mind, all that were in the chest."
"Master, I will take the constables to Gerard's house, and seize
him for the theft."
"The theft? ay! good; very good. It is theft. I forgot that. So,
as he is a thief now, we will put him in the dungeons below, where
the toads are and the rats. Dierich, that man must never see
daylight again. 'Tis his own fault; he must be prying. Quick,
quick! ere he has time to talk, you know, time to talk."
In less than half an hour Dierich Brower and four constables
entered the hosier's house, and demanded young Gerard of the
"Alas! what has he done now?" cried she; "that boy will break my
"Nay, dame, but a trick of youth," said Dierich. "He hath but made
off with certain skins of parchment, in a frolic doubtless but the
burgomaster is answerable to the burgh for their safe keeping, so
he is in care about them; as for the youth, he will doubtless be
quit for a reprimand."
This smooth speech completely imposed on Catherine; but her
daughter was more suspicious, and that suspicion was strengthened
by the disproportionate anger and disappointment Dierich showed
the moment he learned Gerard was not at home, had not been at home
"Come away then," said he roughly. "We are wasting time." He added
vehemently, "I'll find him if he is above ground."
Affection sharpens the wits, and often it has made an innocent
person more than a match for the wily. As Dierich was going out,
Kate made him a signal she would speak with him privately. He bade
his men go on, and waited outside the door. She joined him.
"Hush!" said she; "my mother knows not. Gerard has left Tergou."
"I saw him last night."
"Ay! Where?" cried Dierich eagerly.
"At the foot of the haunted tower."
"How did he get the rope?"
"I know not; but this I know; my brother Gerard bade me there
farewell, and he is many leagues from Tergou ere this. The town,
you know, was always unworthy of him, and when it imprisoned him,
he vowed never to set foot in it again. Let the burgomaster be
content, then. He has imprisoned him, and he has driven him from
his birthplace and from his native land. What need now to rob him
and us of our good name?"
This might at another moment have struck Dierich as good sense;
but he was too mortified at this escape of Gerard and the loss of
a hundred crowns.
"What need had he to steal?" retorted he bitterly.
"Gerard stole not the trash; he but took it to spite the
burgomaster, who stole his liberty; but he shall answer to the
Duke for it, he shall. As for these skins of parchment you keep
such a coil about, look in the nearest brook or stye, and 'tis
odds but you find them."
"Think ye so, mistress? - think ye so?" And Dierich's eyes
flashed. "Mayhap you know 'tis so."
"This I know, that Gerard is too good to steal, and too wise to
load himself with rubbish, going a journey."
"Give you good day, then," said Dierich sharply. "The sheepskin
you scorn, I value it more than the skin of any in Tergou."
And he went off hastily on a false scent.
Kate returned into the house and drew Giles aside.
"Giles, my heart misgives me; breathe not to a soul what I say to
you. I have told Dirk Brower that Gerard is out of Holland, but
much I doubt he is not a league from Tergou."
"Why, where is he, then?"
"Where should he be, but with her he loves? But if so, he must not
loiter. These be deep and dark and wicked men that seek him.
Giles, I see that in Dirk Brower's eye makes me tremble. Oh, why
cannot I fly to Sevenbergen and bid him away? Why am I not lusty
and active like other girls? God forgive me for fretting at His
will; but I never felt till now what it is to be lame and weak and
useless. But you are strong, dear Giles," added she coaxingly;
"you are very strong."
"Yes, I am strong," thundered Perpusillus; then, catching sight of
her meaning, "but I hate to go on foot," he added sulkily.
"Alas! alas! who will help me if you will not? Dear Giles, do you
not love Gerard?"
"Yes, I like him best of the lot. I'll go to Sevenbergen on Peter
Buyskens his mule. Ask you him, for he won't lend her me."
Kate remonstrated. The whole town would follow him. It would be
known whither he was gone, and Gerard be in worse danger than
Giles parried this by promising to ride out of the town the
opposite way, and not turn the mule's head towards Sevenbergen
till he had got rid of the curious.
Kate then assented and borrowed the mule. She charged Giles with a
short but meaning message, and made him repeat it after her over
and over, till he could say it word for word.
Giles started on the mule, and little Kate retired, and did
the last thing now in her power for her beloved brother - prayed
on her knees long and earnestly for his safety.
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