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- Lysbeth, A Tale Of The Dutch - 60/87 -
is taken also. Someone must have betrayed them. May God reward him! Leave me, Adrian."
Then Adrian turned and crept away to his own chamber, his heart so full of remorse and shame that at times he thought that it must burst. Weak as he was, wicked as he was, he had never intended this, but now, oh Heaven! his brother Foy and the man who had been his benefactor, whom his mother loved more than her life, were through him given over to a death worse than the mind could conceive. Somehow that night wore away, and of this we may be sure, that it did not go half as heavily with the victims in their dungeon as with the betrayer in his free comfort. Thrice during its dark hours, indeed, Adrian was on the point of destroying himself; once even he set the hilt of his sword upon the floor and its edge against his breast, and then at the prick of steel shrank back.
Better would it have been for him, perhaps, could he have kept his courage; at least he would have been spared much added shame and misery.
So soon as Adrian had left her Lysbeth rose, robed herself, and took her way to the house of her cousin, van de Werff, now a successful citizen of middle age and the burgomaster-elect of Leyden.
"You have heard the news?" she said.
"Alas! cousin, I have," he answered, "and it is very terrible. Is it true that this treasure of Hendrik Brant's is at the bottom of it all?"
She nodded, and answered, "I believe so."
"Then could they not bargain for their lives by surrendering its secret?"
"Perhaps. That is, Foy and Martin might--Dirk does not know its whereabouts--he refused to know, but they have sworn that they will die first."
"Because they promised as much to Hendrik Brant, who believed that if his gold could be kept from the Spaniards it would do some mighty service to his country in time to come, and who has persuaded them all that is so."
"Then God grant it may be true," said van de Werff with a sigh, "for otherwise it is sad to think that more lives should be sacrificed for the sake of a heap of pelf."
"I know it, cousin, but I come to you to save those lives."
"How?" she answered fiercely. "Why, by raising the town; by attacking the Gevangenhuis and rescuing them, by driving the Spaniards out of Leyden----"
"And thereby bringing upon ourselves the fate of Mons. Would you see this place also given over to sack by the soldiers of Noircarmes and Don Frederic?"
"I care not what I see so long as I save my son and my husband," she answered desperately.
"There speaks the woman, not the patriot. It is better that three men should die than a whole city full."
"That is a strange argument to find in your mouth, cousin, the argument of Caiaphas the Jew."
"Nay, Lysbeth, be not wroth with me, for what can I say? The Spanish troops in Leyden are not many, it is true, but more have been sent for from Haarlem and elsewhere after the troubles of yesterday arising out of the capture of Foy and Martin, and in forty-eight hours at the longest they will be here. This town is not provisioned for a siege, its citizens are not trained to arms, and we have little powder stored. Moreover, the city council is divided. For the killing of the Spanish soldiers we may compound, but if we attack the Gevangenhuis, that is open rebellion, and we shall bring the army of Don Frederic down upon us."
"What matter, cousin? It will come sooner or later."
"Then let it come later, when we are more prepared to beat it off. Oh! do not reproach me, for I can bear it ill, I who am working day and night to make ready for the hour of trial. I love your husband and your son, my heart bleeds for your sorrow and their doom, but at present I can do nothing, nothing. You must bear your burden, they must bear theirs, I must bear mine; we must all wander through the night not knowing where we wander till God causes the dawn to break, the dawn of freedom and retribution."
Lysbeth made no answer, only she rose and stumbled from the house, while van de Werff sat down groaning bitterly and praying for help and light.
A MEETING AND A PARTING
Lysbeth did not sleep that night, for even if her misery would have let her sleep, she could not because of the physical fire that burnt in her veins, and the strange pangs of agony which pierced her head. At first she thought little of them, but when at last the cold light of the autumn morning dawned she went to a mirror and examined herself, and there upon her neck she found a hard red swelling of the size of a nut. Then Lysbeth knew that she had caught the plague from the Vrouw Jansen, and laughed aloud, a dreary little laugh, since if all she loved were to die, it seemed to her good that she should die also. Elsa was abed prostrated with grief, and, shutting herself in her room, Lysbeth suffered none to come near her except one woman who she knew had recovered from the plague in past years, but even to her she said nothing of her sickness.
About eleven o'clock in the morning this woman rushed into her chamber crying, "They have escaped! They have escaped!"
"Who?" gasped Lysbeth, springing from her chair.
"Your son Foy and Red Martin," and she told the tale of how the naked man with the naked sword, carrying the wounded Foy upon his back, burst his way roaring from the Gevangenhuis, and, protected by the people, had run through the town and out of the Morsch poort, heading for the Haarlemer Meer.
As she listened Lysbeth's eyes flamed up with a fire of pride.
"Oh! good and faithful servant," she murmured, "you have saved my son, but alas! your master you could not save."
Another hour passed, and the woman appeared again bearing a letter.
"Who brought this?" she asked.
"A Spanish soldier, mistress."
Then she cut the silk and read it. It was unsigned, and ran:--
"One in authority sends greetings to the Vrouw van Goorl. If the Vrouw van Goorl would save the life of the man who is dearest to her, she is prayed to veil herself and follow the bearer of this letter. For her own safety she need have no fear; it is assured hereby."
Lysbeth thought awhile. This might be a trick; very probably it was a trick to take her. Well, if so, what did it matter since she would rather die with her husband than live on without him; moreover, why should she turn aside from death, she in whose veins the plague was burning? But there was another thing worse than that. She could guess who had penned this letter; it even seemed to her, after all these many years, that she recognised the writing, disguised though it was. Could she face him! Well, why not--for Dirk's sake?
And if she refused and Dirk was done to death, would she not reproach herself, if she lived to remember it, because she had left a stone unturned?
"Give me my cloak and veil," she said to the woman, "and now go tell the man that I am coming."
At the door she found the soldier, who saluted her, and said respectfully, "Follow me, lady, but at a little distance."
So they started, and through side streets Lysbeth was led to a back entrance of the Gevangenhuis, which opened and closed behind her mysteriously, leaving her wondering whether she would ever pass that gate again. Within a man was waiting--she did not even notice what kind of man--who also said, "Follow me, lady," and led her through gloomy passages and various doors into a little empty chamber furnished with a table and two chairs. Presently the door opened and shut; then her whole being shrank and sickened as though beneath the breath of poison, for there before her, still the same, still handsome, although so marred by time and scars and evil, stood the man who had been her husband, Juan de Montalvo. But whatever she felt Lysbeth showed nothing of it in her face, which remained white and stern; moreover, even before she looked at him she was aware that he feared her more than she feared him.
It was true, for from this woman's eyes went out a sword of terror that seemed to pierce Montalvo's heart. Back flew his mind to the scene of their betrothal, and the awful words that she had spoken then re-echoed in his ears. How strangely things had come round, for on that day, as on this, the stake at issue was the life of Dirk van Goorl. In the old times she had bought it, paying as its price herself, her fortune, and, worst of all, to a woman, her lover's scorn and wonder. What would she be prepared to pay now? Well, fortunately, he need ask but little of her. And yet his soul mistrusted him of these bargainings with Lysbeth van Hout for the life of Dirk van Goorl. The first had ended ill with a sentence of fourteen years in the galleys, most of which he had served. How would the second end?
By way of answer there seemed to rise before the eye of Montalvo's mind a measureless black gulf, and, falling, falling, falling through
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