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- The Burgomaster's Wife, Volume 3. - 6/12 -
hand the bravo writes. And, Jove's thunder, the lady to whom this plotted murder was to have been sent, is doubtless the mother of the unfortunate marquis, whom the Spanish assassin slew."
"Yes, Herr Van Hout," said Belotti, "I can confirm your supposition. The marquise was the wife of the man, who broke his plighted faith to the young Fraulein Van Hoogstraten. She, who lies there, saw many suns rise and set, ere her vengeance ripened."
"Throw the scrawl into the fire!" cried Van Hout impetuously.
"No," replied Peter. "We will not send the letters, but you must keep them in the archives. God's mills grind slowly, and who knows what good purpose these sheets may yet serve."
The city clerk nodded assent and folding the papers, said: "I think the dead woman's property will be an advantage to the city."
"The Prince will dispose of it," replied Van der Werff. "How long have you served this lady, Belotti?"
"Then remain in Leyden for a time. I think you may expect the legacy she originally left you. I will urge your claim."
A few hours before the nocturnal burial of old Fraulein Van Hoogstraten, Herr Matanesse Van Wibisma and his son Nicolas appeared before the city, but were refused admittance by the men who guarded the gates, although both appealed to their relative's death. Henrica's father did not come, he had gone several days before to attend a tourney at Cologne.
Between twelve and one o'clock on the 26th of May, Ascension-Day, the ringing of bells announced the opening of the great fair. The old circuit of the boundaries of the fields had long since given place to a church festival, but the name of "Ommegang" remained interwoven with that of the fair, and even after the new religion had obtained the mastery, all sorts of processions took place at the commencement of the fair.
In the days of Catholic rule the cross had been borne through the streets in a soleum procession, in which all Leyden took part, now the banners of the city and standards bearing the colors of the House of Orange headed the train, followed by the nobles on horseback, the city magistrates in festal array, the clergy in black robes, the volunteers in magnificent uniforms, the guilds with their emblems, and long joyous ranks of school- children. Even the poorest people bought some thing new for their little ones on this day. Never did mothers braid their young daughters' hair more carefully, than for the procession at the opening of the fair. Spite of the hard times, many a stiver was taken from slender purses for fresh ribbons and new shoes, becoming caps and bright-hued stockings. The spring sunshine could be reflected from the little girls' shining, smoothly-combed hair, and the big boys and little children looked even gayer than the flowers in Herr Van Montfort's garden, by which the procession was obliged to pass. Each wore a sprig of green leaves in his cap beside the plume, and the smaller the boy, the larger the branch. There was no lack of loud talk and merry shouts, for every child that passed its home called to its mother, grandparents, and the servants, and when one raised its voice many others instantly followed. The grown people too were not silent, and as the procession approached the town- hall, head-quarters of military companies, guild-halls or residences of popular men, loud cheers arose, mingled with the ringing of bells, the shouts of the sailors on both arms of the Rhine and on the canals, the playing of the city musicians at the street corners, and the rattle of guns and roar of cannon fired by the gunners and their assistants from the citadel. It was a joyous tumult in jocund spring! These merry mortals seemed to lull themselves carelessly in the secure enjoyment of peace and prosperity, and how blue the sky was, how warmly and brightly the sun shone! The only grave, anxious faces were among the magistrates; but the guilds and the children behind did not see them, so the rejoicings continued without interruption until the churches received the procession, and words so earnest and full of warning echoed from the pulpits, that many grew thoughtful.
All three phases of time belong to man, the past to the graybeard, the future to youth, and the present to childhood. What cared the little boys and girls of Leyden, released from school during the fair, for the peril close at hand? Whoever, on the first day and during the great linen-fair on Friday and the following days, received spending money from parents or godparents, or whoever had eyes to see, ears to hear, and a nose to smell, passed through the rows of booths with his or her companions, stopped before the camels and dancing-bears, gazed into the open taverns, where not only lads and lasses, but merry old people whirled in the dance to the music of bagpipes, clarionets and violins-- examined gingerbread and other dainties with the attention of an expert, or obeyed the blasts of the trumpet, by which the quack doctor's negro summoned the crowd.
Adrian, the burgomaster's son, also strolled day after day, alone or with his companions, through the splendors of the fair, often grasping with the secure sense of wealth the leather purse that hung at his belt, for it contained several stivers, which had flowed in from various sources; his father, his mother, Barbara and his godmother. Captain Van Duivenvoorde, his particular friend, on whose noble horse he had often ridden, had taken him three times into a wafer booth, where he eat till he was satisfied, and thus, even on the Tuesday after Ascension-Day, his little fortune was but slightly diminished. He intended to buy something very big and sensible: a knight's sword or a cross-bow; perhaps even--but this thought seemed like an evil temptation--the ginger-cake covered with almonds, which was exhibited in the booth of a Delft confectioner. He and Bessie could surely nibble for weeks upon this giant cake, if they were economical, and economy is an admirable virtue. Something must at any rate be spared for "little brothers,"--[A kind of griddle or pancake.]--the nice spiced cakes which were baked in many booths before the eyes of the passers-by.
On Tuesday afternoon his way led him past the famous Rotterdam cake-shop. Before the door of the building, made of boards lightly joined together and decked with mirrors and gay pictures, a stout, pretty woman, in the bloom of youth, sat in a high arm-chair, pouring rapidly, with remarkable skill, liquid dough into the hot iron plate, provided with numerous indentations, that stood just on a level with her comfortably outspread lap. Her assistant hastily turned with a fork the little cakes, browning rapidly in the hollows of the iron, and when baked, laid them neatly on small plates. The waiter prepared them for purchasers by putting a large piece of yellow butter on the smoking pile. A tempting odor, that only too vividly recalled former enjoyment, rose from the fireplace, and Adrian's fingers were already examining the contents of his purse, when the negro's trumpet sounded and the quack doctor's cart stopped directly in front of the booth.
The famous Doctor Morpurgo was a fine-looking man, dressed in bright scarlet, who had a thin, coalblack beard hanging over his breast. His movements were measured and haughty, the bows and gestures with which he saluted the assembled crowd, patronizing and affable. After a sufficient number of curious persons had gathered around his cart, which was stocked with boxes and vials, he began to address them in broken Dutch, spiced with numerous foreign words.
He praised the goodness of the Providence which had created the marvel of human organism. Everything, he said, was arranged and formed wisely and in the best possible manner, but in one respect nature fared badly in the presence of adepts.
"Do you know where the error is, ladies and gentlemen?" he asked.
"In the purse," cried a merry barber's clerk, "it grows prematurely thin every day."
"Right, my son," answered the quack graciously. "But nature also provides it with the great door from which your answer has come. Your teeth are a bungling piece of workmanship. They appear with pain, decay with time, and so long as they last torture those who do not industriously attend to them. But art will correct nature. See this box--" and he now began to praise the tooth-powder and cure for toothache he had invented. Next he passed to the head, and described in vivid colors, its various pains. But they too were to be cured, people need only buy his arcanum. It was to be had for a trifle, and whoever bought it could sweep away every headache, even the worst, as with a broom.
Adrian listened to the famous doctor with mouth wide open. Specially sweet odors floated over to him from the hot surface of the stove before the booth, and he would have gladly allowed himself a plate of fresh cakes. The baker's stout wife even beckoned to him with a spoon, but he closed his hand around the purse and again turned his eyes towards the quack, whose cart was now surrounded by men and women buying tinctures and medicines.
Henrica lay ill in his father's house. He had been taken into her room twice, and the beautiful pale face, with its large dark eyes, had filled his heart with pity. The clear, deep voice in which she addressed a few words to him, also seemed wonderful and penetrated the inmost depths of his soul: He was told one morning that she was there, and since that time his mother rarely appeared and the house was far more quiet than usual; for everybody walked lightly, spoke in subdued tones, rapped cautiously at a window instead of using the knocker, and whenever Bessie or he laughed aloud or ran up or down-stairs, Barbara, his mother, or Trautchen appeared and whispered: "Gently, children, the young lady has a headache."
There were many bottles in the cart which were warranted to cure the ailment, and the famous Morpurgo seemed to be a very sensible man, no buffoon like the other mountebanks. The wife of the baker, Wilhelm Peterssohn, who stood beside him, a woman he knew well, said to her companion that the doctor's remedies were good, they had quickly cured her godmother of a bad attack of erysipelas.
The words matured the boy's resolution. Fleeting visions of the sword, the cross-bow, the gingerbread and the nice little brothers once more rose before his mind, but with a powerful effort of the will he thrust them aside, held his breath that he might not smell the alluring odor of the cakes, and hastily approached the cart. Here he unfastened his purse from his belt, poured its contents into his hand, showed the coins to the doctor, who had fixed his black eyes kindly on the odd customer, and asked: "Will this be enough?"
"For the medicine to cure headache."
The quack separated the little coins in Adrian's hand with his forefinger, and answered gravely: "No, my son, but I am always glad to advance the cause of knowledge. There is still a great deal for you to learn at school, and the headache will prevent it. Here are the drops and, as it's you, I'll give this prescription for another arcanum into the bargain."
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