Maria asked more and he was ready to grant it, but when in the evening she pressed the wearied man with questions he was accustomed to hear only from the lips of men, he put her off for the answers till less busy times, or fell asleep in the midst of her inquiries.
She saw how many burdens oppressed him, how unweariedly he toiled—but why did he not move a portion of the load to other shoulders?
Once, during the beautiful spring weather, he went out with her into the country. She seized upon the opportunity to represent that it was his duty to himself and her to gain more rest.
He listened patiently, and when she had finished her entreaty and warnings, took her hand in his, saying:
“You have met Herr Marnix von St. Aldegonde and know what the cause of liberty owes him. Do you know his motto?”
She nodded and answered softly: “Repos ailleurs.”
“Where else can we rest,” he repeated firmly.
A slight shiver ran through her limbs, and as she withdrew her hands, she could not help thinking: “Where else;-so not here. Rest and happiness have no home here.” She did not utter the words, but could not drive them from her mind.
During these May days the Hoogstraten mansion was the quietest of all the houses in quiet Nobelstrasse. By the orders of Doctor Bontius and the sick lady’s attorney, a mixture of straw and sand lay on the cause-way before it. The windows were closely curtained, and a piece of felt hung between the door and the knocker. The door was ajar, but a servant sat close behind it to answer those who sought admission.
On a morning early in May the musician, Wilhelm Corneliussohn, and Janus Dousa turned the corner of Nobelstrasse. Both men were engaged in eager conversation, but as they approached the straw and sand, their voices became lower and then ceased entirely.
“The carpet we spread under the feet of the conqueror Death,” said the nobleman. “I hope he will lower the torch only once here and do honor to age, little worthy of respect as it may be. Don’t stay too long in the infected house, Herr Wilhelm.”
The musician gently opened the door. The servant silently greeted him and turned towards the stairs to call Belotti; for the “player-man” had already enquired more than once for the steward.
Wilhelm entered the little room where he usually waited, and for the first time found another visitor there, but in a somewhat peculiar attitude. Father Damianus sat bolt upright in an arm-chair, with his head drooping on one side, sound asleep. The face of the priest, a man approaching his fortieth year, was as pink and white as a child’s, and framed by a thin light-brown beard. A narrow circle of thin light hair surrounded his large tonsure, and a heavy dark rosary of olive-wood beads hung from the sleeper’s hands. A gentle, kindly smile hovered around his half-parted lips.