Such were her thoughts, when the knocker again struck the door. She approached the window. It was the doctor. Bessie had grown worse and she, her mother, had not even inquired for the little one.
“The children, the children!” she murmured; her sorrowful features brightened, and her heart grew lighter as she said to herself:
“I promised Peter to treat them as if they were my own, and I will fulfil the duties I have undertaken.” Full of joyous excitement, she entered the sick-room, hastily closing the door behind her. Doctor Bontius looked at her with a reproving glance, and Barbara said:
“Gently, gently! Bessie is just sleeping a little.” Maria approached the bed, but the physician waved her back, saying:
“Have you had the purple-fever?”
“Then you ought not to enter this room again. No other help is needed where Frau Barbara nurses.”
The burgomaster’s wife made no reply, and returned to the entry. Her heart was so heavy, so unutterably heavy. She felt like a stranger in her husband’s house. Some impulse urged her to go out of doors, and as she wrapped her mantle around her and went downstairs, the smell of leather rising from the bales piled in layers on the lower story, which she had scarcely noticed before, seemed unendurable. She longed for her mother, her friends in Delft, and her quiet, cheerful home. For the first time she ventured to call herself unhappy and, while walking through the streets with downcast eyes against the wind, struggled vainly to resist some mysterious, gloomy power, that compelled her to minutely recall everything that had resulted differently from her expectations.
After the musician had left the burgomaster’s house, he went to young Herr Matanesse Van Wibisma’s aunt to get his cloak, which had not been returned to him. He did not usually give much heed to his dress, yet he was glad that the rain kept people in the house, for the outgrown wrap on his shoulders was by no means pleasing in appearance. Wilhelm must certainly have looked anything but well-clad, for as he stood in old Fraulein Van Hoogstraten’s spacious, stately hall, the steward Belotti received him as patronizingly as if he were a beggar.
But the Neopolitan, in whose mouth the vigorous Dutch sounded like the rattling in the throat of a chilled singer, speedily took a different tone when Wilhelm, in excellent Italian, quietly explained the object of his visit. Nay, at the sweet accents of his native tongue, the servant’s repellent demeanor melted into friendly, eager welcome. He was beginning to speak of his home to Wilhelm, but the musician made him curt replies and asked him to get his cloak.