“Sister-in-law, are you asleep?”
“No, child. Do you feel ill?”
“Not exactly; but I’m so anxious—horrible thoughts torment me.”
Barbara instantly lighted a candle at the night-lamp, entered the chamber with it, and sat down on the edge of the bed.
Her heart ached as she gazed at the pretty young creature lying alone, full of sorrow, in the wide bed, unable to sleep from bitter grief.
Maria had never seemed to her so beautiful; resting in her white night-robes on the snowy pillow, she looked like a sorrowing angel.
Barbara could not refrain from smoothing the hair back from the narrow forehead and kissing the flushed cheeks.
Maria gazed gratefully into her small, light-blue eyes and said beseechingly:
“I should like to ask you something.”
“But you must honestly tell me the truth.”
“That is asking a great deal!”
“I know you are sincere, but it is—”
“Was Peter happy with his first wife?”
“Yes, child, yes.”
“And do you know this not only from him, but also from his dead wife, Eva?”
“Yes, sister-in-law, yes.”
“And you can’t be mistaken?”
“Not in this case certainly! But what puts such thoughts into your head? The Bible says: ‘Let the dead bury their dead.’ Now turn over and try to sleep.”
Barbara went back to her room, but hours elapsed ere Maria found the slumber she sought.
The next morning two horsemen, dressed in neat livery, were waiting before the door of a handsome House in Nobelstrasse, near the market-place. A third was leading two sturdy roan steeds up and down, and a stable-boy held by the bridle a gaily-bedizened, long maned pony. This was intended for the young negro lad, who stood in the door-way of the house and kept off the street-boys, who ventured to approach, by rolling his eyes and gnashing his white teeth at them.
“Where can they be?” said one of the mounted men: “The rain won’t keep off long to-day.”
“Certainly not,” replied the other. “The sky is as grey as my old felt-hat, and, by the time we reach the forest, it will be pouring.”
It’s misting already.”
“Such cold, damp weather is particularly disagreeable to me.”
“It was pleasant yesterday.”
“Button the flaps tighter over the pistol-holsters! The portmanteau behind the young master’s saddle isn’t exactly even. There! Did the cook fill the flask for you?”
“With brown Spanish wine. There it is.”
“Then let it pour. When a fellow is wet inside, he can bear a great deal of moisture without.”
“Lead the horses up to the door; I hear the gentlemen.”
The man was not mistaken; for before his companion had succeeded in stopping the larger roan, the voices of his master, Herr Matanesse Van Wibisma, and his son, Nicolas, were heard in the wide entry.