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- Lysbeth, A Tale Of The Dutch - 50/87 -
therefore, we should live like soldiers awaiting the hour to march, and rejoice exceedingly when it pleases our Captain to sound the call."
"I know," she answered; "but, oh! Dirk, it would be hard--to part."
He turned his head aside for a moment, then said in a steady voice, "Yes, wife, but it will be sweet to meet again and part no more."
While it was still early that morning Dirk summoned Foy and Martin to his wife's chamber. Adrian for his own reasons he did not summon, making the excuse that he was still asleep, and it would be a pity to disturb him; nor Elsa, since as yet there was no necessity to trouble her. Then, briefly, for he was given to few words, he set out the gist of the matter, telling them that the man Ramiro whom they had beaten on the Haarlemer Meer was in Leyden, which Foy knew already, for Elsa had told him as much, and that he was no other than the Spaniard named the Count Juan de Montalvo, the villain who had deceived Lysbeth into a mock marriage by working on her fears, and who was the father of Adrian. All this time Lysbeth sat in a carved oak chair listening with a stony face to the tale of her own shame and betrayal. She made no sign at all beyond a little twitching of her fingers, till Foy, guessing what she suffered in her heart, suddenly went to his mother and kissed her. Then she wept a few silent tears, for an instant laid her hand upon his head as though in blessing, and, motioning him back to his place, became herself again--stern, unmoved, observant.
Next Dirk, taking up his tale, spoke of his wife's fears, and of her belief that there was a plot to wring out of them the secret of Hendrik Brant's treasure.
"Happily," he said, addressing Foy, "neither your mother nor I, nor Adrian, nor Elsa, know that secret; you and Martin know it alone, you and perhaps one other who is far away and cannot be caught. We do not know it, and we do not wish to know it, and whatever happens to any of us, it is our earnest hope that neither of you will betray it, even if our lives, or your lives, hang upon the words, for we hold it better that we should keep our trust with a dead man at all costs than that we should save ourselves by breaking faith. Is it not so, wife?"
"It is so," answered Lysbeth hoarsely.
"Have no fear," said Foy. "We will die before we betray."
"We will try to die before we betray," grumbled Martin in his deep voice, "but flesh is frail and God knows."
"Oh! I have no doubt of you, honest man," said Dirk with a smile, "for you have no mother and father to think of in this matter."
"Then, master, you are foolish," replied Martin, "for I repeat it-- flesh is frail, and I always hated the look of a rack. However, I have a handsome legacy charged upon this treasure, and perhaps the thought of that would support me. Alive or dead, I should not like to think of my money being spent by any Spaniard."
While Martin spoke the strangeness of the thing came home to Foy. Here were four of them, two of whom knew a secret and two who did not, while those who did not implored those who did to impart to them nothing of the knowledge which, if they had it, might serve to save them from a fearful doom. Then for the first time in his young and inexperienced life he understood how great erring men and women can be and what patient majesty dwells in the human heart, that for the sake of a trust it does not seek can yet defy the most hideous terrors of the body and the soul. Indeed, that scene stamped itself upon his mind in such fashion that throughout his long existence he never quite forgot it for a single day. His mother, clad in her frilled white cap and grey gown, seated cold-faced and resolute in the oaken chair. His father, to whom, although he knew it not, he was now speaking for the last time, standing by her, his hand resting upon her shoulder and addressing them in his quiet, honest voice. Martin standing also but a little to one side and behind, the light of the morning playing upon his great red beard; his round, pale eyes glittering as was their fashion when wrathful, and himself, Foy, leaning forward to listen, every nerve in his body strung tight with excitement, love, and fear.
Oh! he never forgot it, which is not strange, for so great was the strain upon him, so well did he know that this scene was but the prelude to terrible events, that for a moment, only for a moment, his steady reason was shaken and he saw a vision. Martin, the huge, patient, ox-like Martin, was changed into a red Vengeance; he saw him, great sword aloft, he heard the roar of his battle cry, and lo! before him men went down to death, and about him the floor seemed purple with their blood. His father and his mother, too; they were no longer human, they were saints--see the glory which shone over them, and look, too, the dead Hendrik Brant was whispering in their ears. And he, Foy, he was beside Martin playing his part in those red frays as best he might, and playing it not in vain.
Then all passed, and a wave of peace rolled over him, a great sense of duty done, of honour satisfied, of reward attained. Lo! the play was finished, and its ultimate meaning clear, but before he could read and understand--it had gone.
He gasped and shook himself, gripping his hands together.
"What have you seen, son?" asked Lysbeth, watching his face.
"Strange things, mother," Foy answered. "A vision of war for Martin and me, of glory for my father and you, and of eternal peace for us all."
"It is a good omen, Foy," she said. "Fight your fight and leave us to fight ours. 'Through much tribulation we must enter into the Kingdom of God,' where at last there is a rest remaining for us all. It is a good omen. Your father was right and I was wrong. Now I have no more to fear; I am satisfied."
None of them seemed to be amazed or to find these words wonderful and out of the common. For them the hand of approaching Doom had opened the gates of Distance, and they knew everyone that through these some light had broken on their souls, a faint flicker of dawn from beyond the clouds. They accepted it in thankfulness.
"I think that is all I have to say," said Dirk in his usual voice. "No, it is not all," and he told them of his plan for flight. They listened and agreed to it, yet to them it seemed a thing far off and unreal. None of them believed that this escape would ever be carried out. All of them believed that here in Leyden they would endure the fiery trial of their faith and win each of them its separate crown.
When everything was discussed, and each had learned the lesson of what he must do that day, Foy asked if Adrian was to be told of the scheme. To this his father answered hastily that the less it was spoken of the better, therefore he proposed to tell Adrian late that night only, when he could make up his mind whether he would accompany them or stay in Leyden.
"Then he shan't go out to-night, and will come with us as far as the ship only if I can manage it," muttered Martin beneath his breath, but aloud he said nothing. Somehow it did not seem to him to be worth while to make trouble about it, for he knew that if he did his mistress and Foy, who believed so heartily in Adrian, would be angry.
"Father and mother," said Foy again, "while we are gathered here there is something I wish to say to you."
"What is it, son?" asked Dirk.
"Yesterday I became affianced to Elsa Brant, and we wish to ask your consent and blessing."
"That will be gladly given, son, for I think this very good news. Bring her here, Foy," answered Dirk.
But although in his hurry Foy did not notice it, his mother said nothing. She liked Elsa well indeed--who would not?--but oh! this brought them a step nearer to that accursed treasure, the treasure which from generation to generation had been hoarded up that it might be a doom to men. If Foy were affianced to Elsa, it was his inheritance as well as hers, for those trusts of Hendrik Brant's will were to Lysbeth things unreal and visionary, and its curse would fall upon him as well as upon her. Moreover it might be said that he was marrying her to win the wealth.
"This betrothal does not please you; you are sad, wife," said Dirk, looking at her quickly.
"Yes, husband, for now I think that we shall never get out of Leyden. I pray that Adrian may not hear of it, that is all."
"Why, what has he to do with the matter?"
"Only that he is madly in love with the girl. Have you not seen it? And--you know his temper."
"Adrian, Adrian, always Adrian," answered Dirk impatiently. "Well, it is a very fitting match, for if she has a great fortune hidden somewhere in a swamp, which in fact she has not, since the bulk of it is bequeathed to me to be used for certain purposes; he has, or will have, moneys also--safe at interest in England. Hark! here they come, so, wife, put on a pleasant face; they will think it unlucky if you do not smile."
As he spoke Foy re-entered the room, leading Elsa by the hand, and she looked as sweet a maid as ever the sun shone on. So they told their story, and kneeling down before Dirk, received his blessing in the old fashion, and very glad were they in the after years to remember that it had been so received. Then they turned to Lysbeth, and she also lifted up her hand to bless them, but ere it touched their heads, do what she would to check it, a cry forced its way to her lips, and she said:
"Oh! children, doubtless you love each other well, but is this a time for marrying and giving in marriage?"
"My own words, my very words," exclaimed Elsa, springing to her feet and turning pale.
Foy looked vexed. Then recovering himself and trying to smile, he said:
"And I give them the same answer--that two are better than one; moreover, this is a betrothal, not a marriage."
"Ay," muttered Martin behind, thinking aloud after his fashion, "betrothal is one thing and marriage another," but low as he spoke Elsa overheard him.
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