“We are Netherlanders as well as you,” replied Nicolas with glowing cheeks.
“Scarcely,” answered Dousa calmly, putting his hand up to his thin chin, and intending to add a kinder word to the sharp one, when the youth vehemently exclaimed:
“Take back that ‘scarcely,’ Herr von Nordwyk.” Dousa gazed at the bold lad in surprise, and again an expression of amusement hovered about his lips. Then he said kindly:
“I like you, Herr Nicolas; and shall rejoice if you wish to become a true Hollander. There comes Meister Wilhelm with his cloak. Give me your hand. No, not this one, the other.”
Nicolas hesitated, but Janus grasped the boy’s right hand in both of his, bent his tall figure to the latter’s ear, and said in so low a tone that the musician could not understand:
“Ere we part, take with you this word of counsel from one who means kindly. Chains, even golden ones, drag us down, but liberty gives wings. You shine in the glittering splendor, but we strike the Spanish chains with the sword, and I devote myself to our work. Remember these words, and if you choose repeat them to your father.”
Janus Dousa turned his back on the boy, waved a farewell to the musician, and went away.
Young Adrian hurried down the Werffsteg, which had given his family its name. He heeded neither the lindens on both sides, amid whose tops the first tiny green leaves were forcing their way out of the pointed buds, nor the birds that flew hither and thither among the hospitable boughs of the stately trees, building their nests and twittering to each other, for he had no thought in his mind except to reach home as quickly as possible.
Beyond the bridge spanning the Achtergracht, he paused irresolutely before a large building.
The knocker hung on the central door, but he did not venture to lift it and let it fall on the shining plate beneath, for he could expect no pleasant reception from his family.
His doublet had fared ill during his struggle with his stronger enemy. The torn neck-ruffles had been removed from their proper place and thrust into his pocket, and the new violet stocking on his right leg, luckless thing, had been so frayed by rubbing on the pavement, that a large yawning rent showed far more of Adrian’s white knee than was agreeable to him.
The peacock feather in his little velvet cap could easily be replaced, but the doublet was torn, not ripped, and the stocking scarcely capable of being mended. The boy was sincerely sorry, for his father had bade him take good care of the stuff to save money; during these times there were hard shifts in the big house, which with its three doors, triple gables adorned with beautifully-arched volutes, and six windows in the upper and lower stories, fronted the Werffsteg in a very proud, stately guise.