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- Lysbeth, A Tale Of The Dutch - 30/87 -

"Oh! now I understand the shadow--how strange," she exclaimed in a new voice.

"What is the matter? What is strange?" he asked.

"Oh!--only that your face reminded me so much of a man of whom I am terrified. No, no, I am foolish, it is nothing, those footpads have upset me. Praise be to God that we are out of that dreadful wood! Look, neighbour Broekhoven, here is Leyden before us. Are not those red roofs pretty in the twilight, and how big the churches seem. See, too, there is water all round the walls; it must be a very strong town. I should think that even the Spaniards could not take it, and oh! I am sure that it would be a good thing if we might find a city which we were quite, quite certain the Spaniards could never take-- all, all of us," and she sighed heavily.

"If I were a Spanish general with a proper army," began Adrian pompously, "I would take Leyden easily enough. Only this afternoon I studied its weak spots, and made a plan of attack which could scarcely fail, seeing that the place would only be defended by a mob of untrained, half-armed burghers."

Again that curious look returned into Elsa's eyes.

"If you were a Spanish general," she said slowly. "How can you jest about such a thing as the sacking of a town by Spaniards? Do you know what it means? That is how they talk; I have heard them," and she shuddered, then went on: "You are not a Spaniard, are you, sir, that you can speak like that?" And without waiting for an answer Elsa urged her mule forward, leaving him a little behind.

Presently as they passed through the Witte Poort, he was at her side again and chatting to her, but although she replied courteously enough, he felt that an invisible barrier had arisen between them. Yes, she had read his secret heart; it was as though she had been a party to his thoughts when he stood by the bridge this afternoon designing plans for the taking of Leyden, and half wishing that he might share in its capture. She mistrusted him, and was half afraid of him, and Adrian knew that it was so.

Ten minutes' ride through the quiet town, for in those days of terror and suspicion unless business took them abroad people did not frequent the streets much after sundown, brought the party to the van Goorl's house in the Bree Straat. Here Adrian dismounted and tried to open the door, only to find that it was locked and barred. This seemed to exasperate a temper already somewhat excited by the various events and experiences of the day, and more especially by the change in Elsa's manner; at any rate he used the knocker with unnecessary energy. After a while, with much turning of keys and drawing of bolts, the door was opened, revealing Dirk, his stepfather, standing in the passage, candle in hand, while behind, as though to be ready for any emergency, loomed the great stooping shape of Red Martin.

"Is that you, Adrian?" asked Dirk in a voice at once testy and relieved. "Then why did you not come to the side entrance instead of forcing us to unbar here?"

"Because I bring you a guest," replied Adrian pointing to Elsa and her companions. "It did not occur to me that you would wish guests to be smuggled in by a back door as though--as though they were ministers of our New Religion."

The bow had been drawn at a venture but the shaft went home, for Dirk started and whispered: "Be silent, fool." Then he added aloud, "Guest! What guest?"

"It is I, cousin Dirk, I, Elsa, Hendrik Brant's daughter," she said, sliding from her mule.

"Elsa Brant!" ejaculated Dirk. "Why, how came you here?"

"I will tell you presently," she answered; "I cannot talk in the street," and she touched her lips with her finger. "These are my friends, the van Broekhovens, under whose escort I have travelled from The Hague. They wish to go on to the house of their relations, the other Broekhovens, if some one will show them the way."

Then followed greetings and brief explanations. After these the Broekhovens departed to the house of their relatives, under the care of Martin, while, its saddle having been removed and carried into the house at Elsa's express request, Adrian led the mule round to the stable.

When Dirk had kissed and welcomed his young cousin he ushered her, still accompanied by the saddle, into the room where his wife and Foy were at supper, and with them the Pastor Arentz, that clergyman who had preached to them on the previous night. Here he found Lysbeth, who had risen from the table anxiously awaiting his return. So dreadful were the times that a knocking on the door at an unaccustomed hour was enough to throw those within into a paroxysm of fear, especially if at the moment they chanced to be harbouring a pastor of the New Faith, a crime punishable with death. That sound might mean nothing more than a visit from a neighbour, or it might be the trump of doom to every soul within the house, signifying the approach of the familiars of the Inquisition and of a martyr's crown. Therefore Lysbeth uttered a sigh of joy when her husband appeared, followed only by a girl.

"Wife," he said, "here is our cousin, Elsa Brant, come to visit us from The Hague, though why I know not as yet. You remember Elsa, the little Elsa, with whom we used to play so many years ago."

"Yes, indeed," answered Lysbeth, as she put her arms about her and embraced her, saying, "welcome, child, though," she added, glancing at her, "you should no longer be called child who have grown into so fair a maid. But look, here is the Pastor Arentz, of whom you may have heard, for he is the friend of your father and of us all."

"In truth, yes," answered Elsa curtseying, a salute which Arentz acknowledged by saying gravely,

"Daughter, I greet you in the name of the Lord, who has brought you to this house safely, for which give thanks."

"Truly, Pastor, I have need to do so since--" and suddenly she stopped, for her eyes met those of Foy, who was gazing at her with such wonder and admiration stamped upon his open face that Elsa coloured at the sight. Then, recovering herself, she held out her hand, saying, "Surely you are my cousin Foy; I should have known you again anywhere by your hair and eyes."

"I am glad," he answered simply, for it flattered him to think that this beautiful young lady remembered her old playmate, whom she had not seen for at least eleven years, adding, "but I do not think I should have known you."

"Why?" she asked, "have I changed so much?"

"Yes," Foy answered bluntly, "you used to be a thin little girl with red arms, and now you are the most lovely maiden I ever saw."

At this speech everybody laughed, including the Pastor, while Elsa, reddening still more, replied, "Cousin, I remember that /you/ used to be rude, but now you have learned to flatter, which is worse. Nay, I beg of you, spare me," for Foy showed signs of wishing to argue the point. Then turning from him she slipped off her cloak and sat down on the chair which Dirk had placed for her at the table, reflecting in her heart that she wished it had been Foy who rescued her from the wood thieves, and not the more polished Adrian.

Afterwards as the meal went on she told the tale of their adventure. Scarcely was it done when Adrian entered the room. The first thing he noticed was that Elsa and Foy were seated side by side, engaged in animated talk, and the second, that there was no cover for him at the table.

"Have I your permission to sit down, mother?" he asked in a loud voice, for no one had seen him come in.

"Certainly, son, why not?" answered Lysbeth, kindly. Adrian's voice warned her that his temper was ruffled.

"Because there is no place for me, mother, that is all, though doubtless it is more worthily filled by the Rev. Pastor Arentz. Still, after a man has been fighting for his life with armed thieves, well--a bit of food and a place to eat it in would have been welcome."

"Fighting for your life, son!" said Lysbeth astonished. "Why, from what Elsa has just been telling us, I gathered that the rascals ran away at the first blow which you struck with your staff."

"Indeed, mother; well, doubtless if the lady says that, it was so. I took no great note; at the least they ran and she was saved, with the others; a small service not worth mentioning, still useful in its way."

"Oh! take my chair, Adrian," said Foy rising, "and don't make such a stir about a couple of cowardly footpads and an old hag. You don't want us to think you a hero because you didn't turn tail and leave Elsa and her companions in their hands, do you?"

"What you think, or do not think, is a matter of indifference to me," replied Adrian, seating himself with an injured air.

"Whatever my cousin Foy may think, Heer Adrian," broke in Elsa anxiously, "I am sure I thank God who sent so brave a gentleman to help us. Yes, yes, I mean it, for it makes me sick to remember what might have happened if you had not rushed at those wicked men like-- like----"

"Like David on the Philistines," suggested Foy.

"You should study your Bible, lad," put in Arentz with a grave smile. "It was Samson who slew the Philistines; David conquered the giant Goliath, though it is true that he also was a Philistine."

"Like Samson--I mean David--on Goliath," continued Elsa confusedly. "Oh! please, cousin Foy, do not laugh; I believe that you would have left me at the mercy of that dreadful man with a flat face and the bald head, who was trying to steal my father's letter. By the way, cousin Dirk, I have not given it to you yet, but it is quite safe, sewn up in the lining of the saddle, and I was to tell you that you must read it by the old cypher."

"Man with a flat face," said Dirk anxiously, as he slit away at the stitches of the saddle to find the letter; "tell me about him. What was he like, and what makes you think he wished to take the paper from you?"

Lysbeth, A Tale Of The Dutch - 30/87

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