The programme finally agreed upon included a pathway of boughs strewn with wild flowers from the steamboat landing, across the planking, over the cobbles, under the old Gate of William of Orange, and so on to the door of the inn; the appointment of Tine, dressed in a Zeeland costume belonging to her grand-mother, as special envoy, to meet him with a wreath of laurel, and Johann in short clothes—also heirlooms —was to walk by his side as First Groom of the Bed Chamber.
The real Reception Committee, consisting of Mynheer in a burgomaster suit borrowed from a friend, and the four painters—Marny as a Dutch Falstaff, Pudfut as a Spanish Cavalier, Stebbins got up as a Night Watch, and Malone in the costume of a Man-at-Arms—all costumes loaned for the occasion by the antiquary in the next street—were to await Joplin’s coming in the privacy of the Gate— almost a tunnel—and so close to the door of the inn that it might have passed for a part of the establishment itself.
Meantime the four painters were to collect material for the decoration of the coffee-room— wreaths of greens over the mantel and festoons of ivy hanging down the back of Joplin’s chair being prominent features; while Mynheer, Tine and Johann were to concentrate their energies in preparing a dinner the like of which had never been eaten since the sluiceways in the dikes drowned out the Spanish duke. Not a word of all this, of course, had reached the ears of the Bostonian. Half, three-quarters, if not all, the enjoyment of the occasion would be realized when they looked on Joplin’s face and read his surprise.
The eventful day at last arrived. Stebbins, as prearranged, had begged the exile to telegraph the exact hour of his departure and mode of travel from Rotterdam, suggesting the boat as being by far the best, and Joplin had answered in return that Fop Smit’s packet, due at sundown the following day, would count him among its passengers.
The deep tones of the whistle off Papendrecht sent every man to his post, the villagers standing back in amazement at the extraordinary spectacle, especially at Tine and Johann in their queer clothes, who, being instantly recognized, were plied with questions.
The boat slowed down; made fast; out came the gangplank; ashore went the little two-wheel carts drawn by the sleepy, tired dogs; then the baskets of onions were rolled off, and the few barrels of freight, and then two or three passengers—among them a small, feeble man, in a long coat reaching to his heels—made their way to the dock.
“That’s the last man to come ashore here,” said Marny. “What’s become of the lad?”
“Maybe he’s gone aft,” cried Stebbins; “maybe—”
Here Tine gave a little scream, dropped her wreath and running toward the small, feeble man, threw her arms around his neck. Marny and the others bounded over the cobbles, tossing the bystanders out of the way as they forged ahead. When they reached Joplin he was still clinging to Tine, his sunken cheeks and hollow deep-set eyes telling only too plainly how great an effort he was making to keep on his legs. The four painters formed a close bodyguard and escorted their long-lost brother to the inn.