“Yes, Padrona,” replied the Italian, in a trembling voice. “I beg your excellenza to dismiss me.”
“Dismiss you from my service?”
“With your excellenza’s permission, yes—from your service.”
The old woman started, clasped her hands tightly upon her fan, and said:
“You are irritable, Belotti.”
“No, Padrona, but I am old and dread the misfortune of being ill in this house.”
Fraulein Van Hoogstraten shrugged her shoulders and turning to her maid, cried:
“The sedan-chair, Denise. You are dismissed, Belotti.”
The night, on which sorrow and sickness had entered the Hoogstraten mansion, was followed by a beautiful morning. Holland again became pleasant to the storks, that with a loud, joyous clatter flew clown into the meadows on which the sun was shining. It was one of those days the end of April often bestows on men, as if to show them that they render her too little, her successor too much honor. April can boast that in her house is born the spring, whose vigor is only strengthened and beauty developed by her blooming heir.
It was Sunday, and whoever on such a day, while the bells are ringing, wanders in Holland over sunny paths, through flowery meadows where countless cattle, woolly cheep, and idle horses are grazing, meeting peasants in neat garments, peasant women with shining gold ornaments under snow-white lace caps, citizens in gay attire and children released from school, can easily fancy that even nature wears a holiday garb and glitters in brighter green, more brilliant blue, and more varied ornaments of flowers than on work-days.
A joyous Sunday mood doubtless filled the minds of the burghers, who to-day were out of doors on foot, in large over-crowded wooden wagons, or gaily-painted boats on the Rhine, to enjoy the leisure hours of the day of rest, eat country bread, yellow butter, and fresh cheese, or drink milk and cool beer, with their wives and children.
The organist, Wilhelm, had long since finished playing in the church, but did not wander out into the fields with companions of his own age, for he liked to use such days for longer excursions, in which walking was out of the question.
They bore him on the wings of the wind over his native plains, through the mountains and valleys of Germany, across the Alps to Italy. A spot propitious for such forgetfulness of the present and his daily surroundings, in favor of the past and a distant land, was ready. His brothers, Ulrich and Johannes, also musicians, but who recognized Wilhelm’s superior talent without envy and helped him develop it, had arranged for him, during his stay in Italy, a prettily-furnished room in the narrow side of the pointed roof of the house, from which a broad door led to a little balcony. Here stood a wooden bench on which Wilhelm liked to sit, watching the flight of his doves, gazing dreamily into the distance or, when inclined to artistic creation, listening to the melodies that echoed in his soul.