“You were present at this child’s play yester-eve in the hostel of the White Swan?” he asked, boring into me with his uncomfortable, triangular eyes.
“Aye, truly,” said I, “and much they made of me!”
For since my father said that I was accounted a hero in this house, I had determined not to hide away my deeds in my leathern scrip. I had had enough practice in playing at modesty in the Tower of the Red Axe.
Master Gerard shook his shoulders as though he would have made me believe that he laughed.
“You were over many for thorn, I hear great silly fellows—children playing with fire yet afraid to burn themselves. Why, since ten this morning I have had them all here—stout burgomeister’s sons, slim scions of the Burghershaft, moist-eyed corporation children, each more anxious than another to prove that he had nothing to do with any treason. He had but called in at the White Swan for a draught of Frederika’s famous stone ale, and so—well, he found himself somehow in the rear, and, all against his will, was dragged into the Lair of the White Wolf!”
He looked at me quietly, without speaking, for a while.
“And you, Master Hugo, did you go thither to distinguish yourself by breaking up their child’s folly, or, like the others, to taste the stone ale?”
It was a question I had not expected. But it was best to be very plain with Master Gerard.
“I went,” I replied, “along with Michael Texel, because he asked me. I knew not in the least what I was to see, but I was ready for anything.”
“And you acquitted yourself on the whole extremely well,” he nodded; “so at least they are all very ready to say, hoping, I doubt not, for your good offices with the Duke when it comes to their turn. You flouted them right manfully and defied their mystery, they told me.”
At this moment I became conscious that a door opposite me was open and the curtain drawn a little way back. There, in the half-light, I saw Mistress Ysolinde listening. She leaned her head aside as though it had been heavy with its weight of locks of burned gold. She pillowed her cheek against the door-post, and let her dreamy sea-green eyes rest upon me. And the look that was in them gave me a sense of pleasure strange and acute, as well as a restless uneasiness and vague desire to escape out under the blue sky, and mingle with the throng of every-day men on the streets of the city.
THE VISION IS THE CRYSTAL
Master Gerard, however, did not seem to be aware of her presence, for he continued his catechism steadily.
“You mocked at their terrors, did you not, and told them that you, who had seen the teeth of the Duke’s hounds, had nothing to fear from the bare gums of the White Wolf?”
“I knew that they but played,” I answered, “and that I had little to fear.”