When Madam Garvloit had made some excuse next morning to leave the two alone together in her sitting-room, Salve took out of his pocket a small parcel, and opening it deliberately, said, with a certain solemnity—
“Five years ago, Elizabeth, when I was in Boston, I bought these rings.” He took them out of the paper, and laid them in her hand. “I have had a good deal to bear since, but you see I have kept them all along notwithstanding.”
She threw her arms round his neck, hid her face upon his breast, and he could feel that she was crying. She tried them on then, both on the same finger, and holding up the hand to show him, said—
“That is the first ring I ever possessed.”
A shadow passed across his face, and it flushed slightly; and she only then perceived what connection of ideas her remark might have suggested.
He had three days to spare before he was obliged to be back at Puermurende on board the old brig of which he was now master, and with which, patched and leaky though she was, after his sailor’s pride had been overcome, he had grown to be well satisfied enough—more particularly, perhaps, because she was his own. The happiness of these days was not marred by a single further incident to remind him of the past; and it was only on the day that he was to leave that the foul fiend Distrust was again awakened in his unlucky heart.
It was a Sunday, and after the morning service there was to be a sort of popular fete in Amsterdam. At the famous town-hall, where, in Holland’s great days, when De Ruyter’s and Van Tromp’s guns were thundering in the sea outside, the great merchant princes used to sit round the republican council-board, was to be exhibited that day, for the first time, the new picture of the young Dutch hero, Van Spyck, who blew up his ship in the war of 1830 against Belgium.
Salve and Elizabeth joined the stream, and even caught some of the national enthusiasm prevailing in the crowd that was swaying backwards and forwards in the courtyard, where a band was playing the stirring national air, “Wien Neerlands bloed door de aders vloeit.”
At last they found themselves before the canvas. It represented the young cadet of seventeen years on the gunboat at the supreme moment.
Elizabeth stood with her hands clasped before her silently engrossed, while Salve kept her from being pressed upon behind.
“Look!” she said, turning half round to him, but without taking her eyes off the picture,—“the Belgian captain is inviting him to surrender. He has no choice—they are too many for him. But don’t you see the thought he has in his mind?—you can read it in his face. And what a fine fellow he looks, with his handsome uniform, and his epaulets, and his short sword!” she said, in a lower tone, with a revival of her old childish enthusiasm for that kind of show.
Her last words were like a dagger’s thrust to Salve. She still had a hankering, then, for all this, and he stood behind her pale with suppressed feeling, while she continued to gaze at the picture and think aloud to him.