Now in saying that the room was thick with smoke Jan lied, for both the men’s pipes went out when they began to talk. But as I knew why he lied I did not think so much of it. To tell the truth, at that moment I could see little better than he could, since, although I would have poisoned those two Scotchmen before I suffered them to take Ralph away, the very thought of his going was enough to fill my eyes with tears, and to cause Suzanne to weep aloud shamelessly.
“Wait a bit, father—I beg your pardon, Jan Botmar,” said Ralph in a clear and angry voice; “it is my turn now, for you may remember that when we began to talk I had something to say, but you stopped me. Now, with your leave, as you have got off the horse I will get on.”
Jan slowly sat down again and said:
“Speak. What is it?”
“This: that if you send me away you are likely to lose more than you bargain for.”
Now Jan stared at him perplexedly, but I smiled, for I guessed what was to come.
“What am I likely to lose,” he asked, “beyond my best horse and my felt hat? Allemachter! Do you want my span of black oxen also? Well, you shall have them if you like, for I should wish you to trek to your new home in England behind good cattle.”
“No,” answered Ralph coolly, “but I want your daughter, and if you send me away I think that she will come with me.”
THE COMING OF THE ENGLISHMEN
Now on hearing this Suzanne said, “Oh!” and sank back in her chair as though she were going to faint; but I burst out laughing, half because Ralph’s impertinence tickled me and half at the sight of my husband’s face. Presently he turned upon me in a fine rage.
“Be silent, you silly woman,” he said. “Do you hear what that mad boy says? He says that he wants my daughter.”
“Well, what of it?” I answered. “Is there anything wonderful in that? Suzanne is of an age to be married and pretty enough for any young man to want her.”
“Yes, yes; that is true now I come to think of it,” said Jan, pulling his beard. “But, woman, he says that he wants to take her away with him.”
“Ah!” I replied, “that is another matter. That he shall never do without my consent.”
“No, indeed, he shall never do that,” echoed Jan.
“Suzanne,” said I in the pause that followed, “you have heard all this talk. Tell us, then, openly what is your mind in the matter.”
“My mind is, mother,” she answered very quietly, “that I wish to obey you and my father in all things, as is my duty, but that I have a deeper duty towards Ralph whom God gave me out of the sea. Therefore, if you send away Ralph without a cause, if he desires it I shall follow him as soon as I am of age and marry him, or if you keep me from him by force then I think that I shall die. That is all I have to say.”