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- The Burgomaster's Wife, Volume 2. - 6/12 -
words: "My head, my poor head! You will see that I am losing my senses. I beseech you, I beseech you, my dear, stern father, take me home. I have again heard something about Anna--" her eyes grew dim, her pen dropped from her hand, and she fell back in the chair unconscious.
There she lay, until the last laugh and sound of rattling glass had died away below, and her aunt's guests had left the house.
Denise, the cameriera, noticed the light in the room, entered, and after vainly endeavoring to rouse Henrica, called her mistress.
The latter followed the maid, muttering as she ascended the stairs:
"Fallen asleep, found the time hang heavy--that's all! She might have been lively and laughed with us! Stupid race! 'Men of butter,' King Philip says. That wild Lamperi was really impertinent to-night, and the abbe said things--things--"
The old lady's large eyes were sparkling vinously, and her fan waved rapidly to and fro to cool the flush on her cheeks.
She now stood opposite to Henrica, called her, shook her and sprinkled her with perfumed water from the large shell, set in gold, which hung as an essence bottle from her belt. When her niece only muttered incoherent words, she ordered the maid to bring her medicine-chest.
Denise had gone and Fraulein Van Hoogstraten now perceived Henrica's letter, raised it close to her eyes, read page after page with increasing indignation, and at last tossed it on the floor and tried to shake her niece awake; but in vain.
Meantime Belotti had been informed of Henrica's serious illness and, as he liked the young girl, sent for a physician on his own responsibility, and instead of the family priest summoned Father Damianus. Then he went to the sick girl's chamber.
Even before he crossed the threshold, the old lady in the utmost excitement, exclaimed:
"Belotti, what do you say now, Belotti? Sickness in the house, perhaps contagious sickness, perhaps the plague."
"It seems to be only a fever," replied the Italian soothingly. "Come, Denise, we will carry the young lady to the bed.
"The doctor will soon be here."
"The doctor?" cried the old lady, striking her fan on the marble top of the table. "Who permitted you, Belotti--"
"We are Christians," interrupted the servant, not without dignity.
"Very well, very well," she cried. "Do what you please, call whom you choose, but Henrica can't stay here. Contagion in the house, the plague, a black tablet."
"Excellenza is disturbing herself unnecessarily. Let us first hear what the doctor says."
"I won't hear him; I can't bear the plague and the small-pox. Go down at once, Belotti, and have the sedan-chair prepared. The old chevalier's room in the rear building is empty."
"But, Excellenza, it's gloomy, and so damp that the north wall is covered with mould."
"Then let it be aired and cleaned. What does this delay mean? You have only to obey. Do you understand?"
"The chevalier's room isn't fit for my mistress's sick niece," replied Belotti civilly, but resolutely.
"Isn't it? And you know exactly?" asked his mistress scornfully. "Go down, Denise, and order the sedan-chair to be brought up. Have you anything more to say, Belotti?"
"Yes, Padrona," replied the Italian, in a trembling voice. "I beg your excellenza to dismiss me."
"Dismiss you from my service?"
"With your excellenza's permission, yes--from your service."
The old woman started, clasped her hands tightly upon her fan, and said:
"You are irritable, Belotti."
"No, Padrona, but I am old and dread the misfortune of being ill in this house."
Fraulein Van Hoogstraten shrugged her shoulders and turning to her maid, cried:
"The sedan-chair, Denise. You are dismissed, Belotti."
The night, on which sorrow and sickness had entered the Hoogstraten mansion, was followed by a beautiful morning. Holland again became pleasant to the storks, that with a loud, joyous clatter flew clown into the meadows on which the sun was shining. It was one of those days the end of April often bestows on men, as if to show them that they render her too little, her successor too much honor. April can boast that in her house is born the spring, whose vigor is only strengthened and beauty developed by her blooming heir.
It was Sunday, and whoever on such a day, while the bells are ringing, wanders in Holland over sunny paths, through flowery meadows where countless cattle, woolly cheep, and idle horses are grazing, meeting peasants in neat garments, peasant women with shining gold ornaments under snow-white lace caps, citizens in gay attire and children released from school, can easily fancy that even nature wears a holiday garb and glitters in brighter green, more brilliant blue, and more varied ornaments of flowers than on work-days.
A joyous Sunday mood doubtless filled the minds of the burghers, who to-day were out of doors on foot, in large over-crowded wooden wagons, or gaily-painted boats on the Rhine, to enjoy the leisure hours of the day of rest, eat country bread, yellow butter, and fresh cheese, or drink milk and cool beer, with their wives and children.
The organist, Wilhelm, had long since finished playing in the church, but did not wander out into the fields with companions of his own age, for he liked to use such days for longer excursions, in which walking was out of the question.
They bore him on the wings of the wind over his native plains, through the mountains and valleys of Germany, across the Alps to Italy. A spot propitious for such forgetfulness of the present and his daily surroundings, in favor of the past and a distant land, was ready. His brothers, Ulrich and Johannes, also musicians, but who recognized Wilhelm's superior talent without envy and helped him develop it, had arranged for him, during his stay in Italy, a prettily-furnished room in the narrow side of the pointed roof of the house, from which a broad door led to a little balcony. Here stood a wooden bench on which Wilhelm liked to sit, watching the flight of his doves, gazing dreamily into the distance or, when inclined to artistic creation, listening to the melodies that echoed in his soul.
This highest part of the house afforded a beautiful prospect; the view was almost as extensive as the one from the top of the citadel, the old Roman tower situated in the midst of Leyden. Like a spider in its web, Wilhelm's native city lay in the midst of countless streams and canals that intersected the meadows. The red brick masonry of the city wall, with its towers and bastions, washed by a dark strip of water, encircled the pretty place as a diadem surrounds a young girl's head; and like a chaplet of loosely-bound thorns, forts and redoubts extended in wider, frequently broken circles around the walls. The citizens' herds of cattle grazed between the defensive fortifications and the city wall, while beside and beyond them appeared villages and hamlets.
On this clear April day, looking towards the north, Haarlem lake was visible, and on the west, beyond the leafy coronals of the Hague woods, must be the downs which nature had reared for the protection of the country against the assaults of the waves. Their long chain of hillocks offered a firmer and more unconquerable resistance to the pressure of the sea, than the earthworks and redoubts of Alfen, Leyderdorp and Valkenburg, the three forts situated close to the banks of the Rhine, presented to hostile armies. The Rhine! Wilhelm gazed down at the shallow, sluggish river, and compared it to a king deposed from his throne, who has lost power and splendor and now kindly endeavors to dispense benefits in little circles with the property that remains. The musician was familiar with the noble, undivided German Rhine; and often followed it in imagination towards the south but more often still his dreams conveyed him with a mighty leap to Lake Lugano, the pearl of the Western Alps, and when he thought of it and the Mediterranean, beheld rising before his mental vision emerald green, azure blue, and golden light; and in such hours all his thoughts were transformed within his breast into harmonies and exquisite music.
And his journey from Lugano to Milan! The conveyance that bore him to Leonardo's city was plain and overcrowded, but in it he had found Isabella. And Rome, Rome, eternal, never-to-be-forgotten Rome, where so long as we dwell there, we grow out of ourselves, increase in strength and intellectual power, and which makes us wretched with longing when it lies behind us.
By the Tiber Wilhelm had first thoroughly learned what art, his glorious art was; here, near Isabella, a new world had opened to him, but a sharp frost had passed over the blossoms of his heart that had unfolded in Rome, and he knew they were blighted and could bear no fruit--yet to-day he succeeded in recalling her in her youthful beauty, and instead of the lost love, thinking of the kind friend Isabella and dreaming of a sky blue as turquoise, of slender columns and bubbling fountains, olive groves and marble statues, cool churches and gleaming villas, sparkling eyes and fiery wine, magnificent choirs and Isabella's singing.
The doves that cooed and clucked, flew away and returned to the cote beside him, could now do as they chose, their guardian neither saw nor heard them.
Allertssohn, the fencing-master, ascended the ladder to his watch-tower, but he did not notice him until he stood on the balcony by his side, greeting him with his deep voice.
"Where have we been, Herr Wilhelm?" asked the old man. "In this cloth- weaving Leyden? No! Probably with the goddess of music on Olympus, if
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