The steward’s eyes glittered with tears. As Wilhelm laid his hand on his arm, saying kindly: “I will try,” the fencing-master called: “Your council is lasting too long for me. I’ll come another time.”
“No, Meister, come up a minute, This gentleman is here on account of a poor sick girl. The poor, helpless creature is now lying without any care, for her aunt, old Fraulein Van Hoogstraten, has driven Doctor de Bont from her bed because he is a Calvinist.”
“From the sick girl’s bed?”
“It’s abominable enough, but the old lady is now ill herself.”
“Bravo, bravo!” cried the fencing-master, clapping his hands. “If the devil himself isn’t afraid of her and wants to fetch her, I’ll pay for his post-horses. But the girl, the sick girl?”
“Herr Belotti begs me to persuade de Bont to visit her again. Are you on friendly terms with the doctor?”
“I was, Wilhelm, I was; but—last Friday we had some sharp words about the new morions, and now the learned demi-god demands an apology from me, but to sound a retreat isn’t written here—”
“Oh, my dear sir,” cried Belotti, with touching earnestness. “The poor child is lying helpless in a raging fever. If Heaven has blessed you with children—”
“Be calm, old man, be calm,” replied the fencing master, stroking Belotti’s grey hair kindly. “My children are nothing to you, but we’ll do what we can for the young girl. Farewell till we meet again, gentlemen. Roland, my fore man, what shall we live to see! Hemp is still cheap in Holland, and yet such a monster has lived amongst us to be as old as a raven.”
With these words he went down the ladder. On reaching the street, he pondered over the words in which he should apologize to Doctor Bontius, with a face as sour as if he had wormwood in his mouth; but his eyes and bearded lips smiled.
His learned friend made the apology easy for him, and when Belotti came home, he found the doctor by the sick girl’s bed.
Frau Elizabeth von Nordwyk and Frau Van Bout had each asked the burgomaster’s wife to go into the country with them to enjoy the beautiful spring day, but in spite of Barbara’s persuasions, Maria could not be induced to accept their invitation.
A week had elapsed since her husband’s departure, a week whose days had run their course from morning to evening as slowly as the brackish water in one of the canals, intersecting the meadows of Holland, flowed towards the river.
Sleep loves the couches of youth, and had again found hers, but with the rising of the sun the dissatisfaction, anxiety and secret grief, that slumber had kindly interrupted, once more returned. She felt that it was not right, and her father would have blamed her if he had seen her thus.
There are women who are ashamed of rosy cheeks, unrestrained joy in life, to whom the emotion of sorrow affords a mournful pleasure. To this class Maria certainly did not belong. She would fain have been happy, and left untried no means of regaining the lost joy of her heart. Honestly striving to do her duty, she returned to little Bessie; but the child was rapidly recovering and called for Barbara, Adrian or Trautchen, as soon as she was left alone with her.