Meantime Belotti had been informed of Henrica’s serious illness and, as he liked the young girl, sent for a physician on his own responsibility, and instead of the family priest summoned Father Damianus. Then he went to the sick girl’s chamber.
Even before he crossed the threshold, the old lady in the utmost excitement, exclaimed:
“Belotti, what do you say now, Belotti? Sickness in the house, perhaps contagious sickness, perhaps the plague.”
“It seems to be only a fever,” replied the Italian soothingly. “Come, Denise, we will carry the young lady to the bed.
“The doctor will soon be here.”
“The doctor?” cried the old lady, striking her fan on the marble top of the table. “Who permitted you, Belotti—”
“We are Christians,” interrupted the servant, not without dignity.
“Very well, very well,” she cried. “Do what you please, call whom you choose, but Henrica can’t stay here. Contagion in the house, the plague, a black tablet.”
“Excellenza is disturbing herself unnecessarily. Let us first hear what the doctor says.”
“I won’t hear him; I can’t bear the plague and the small-pox. Go down at once, Belotti, and have the sedan-chair prepared. The old chevalier’s room in the rear building is empty.”
“But, Excellenza, it’s gloomy, and so damp that the north wall is covered with mould.”
“Then let it be aired and cleaned. What does this delay mean? You have only to obey. Do you understand?”
“The chevalier’s room isn’t fit for my mistress’s sick niece,” replied Belotti civilly, but resolutely.
“Isn’t it? And you know exactly?” asked his mistress scornfully. “Go down, Denise, and order the sedan-chair to be brought up. Have you anything more to say, Belotti?”
“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.