“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.
She tried to read, but the few books she had brought from Delft were all familiar, and her thoughts, ere becoming fixed on the old volumes, pursued their own course.
Wilhelm brought her the new motet, and she endeavored to sing it; but music demands whole hearts from those who desire to enjoy her gifts, and therefore melody and song refused comfort as well as pleasure to her, whose mind was engrossed by wholly different things. If she helped Adrian in his work, her patience failed much sooner than usual. On the first market-day, she went out with Trautchen to obey her husband’s directions and make purchases and, while shopping at the various places where different wares were offered—here fish, yonder meat or vegetables, amid the motley crowd, hailed on every side by cries of: “Here, Frau Burgermeisterin! I have what you want, Frau Burgermeisterin!” forgot the sorrow that oppressed her.