“Yes, dear Fraulein.”
“Not merely as a pastime, but because you feel you cannot live without it?”
“You must keep quiet, Fraulein. Music;—yes, I think my life would be far poorer without it than it is.”
“Do you sing?”
“Very seldom here; but when a girl in Delft we sung every day.”
“Of course you were the soprano?”
“Let the Fraulein drop, and call me Henrica.”
“With all my heart, if you will call me Maria, or Frau Maria.”
“I’ll try. Don’t you think we could practise many a song together?”
Just as these words were uttered, Sister Gonzaga entered the room, saying that the wife of Receiver General Cornelius had called to ask if she could do anything for the sick lady.
“What does that mean?” asked Henrica angrily. “I don’t know the woman.”
“She is the mother of Herr Wilhelm, the musician,” said the young wife.
“Oh!” exclaimed Henrica. “Shall I admit her, Maria?”
The latter shook her head and answered firmly “No, Fraulein Henrica. It is not good for you to have more than one visitor at this hour, and besides—”
“She is an excellent woman, but I fear her blunt manner, heavy step, and loud voice would not benefit you just now. Let me go to her and ask what she desires.”
“Receive her kindly, and tell her to remember me to her son. I am not very delicate, but I see you understand me; such substantial fare would hardly suit me just now.”
After Maria had performed her errand and talked with Henrica for a time, Frau Van Hout was announced. Her husband, who had been present when the doors of the house of death were sealed, had told her about the invalid and she came to see if the poor girl needed anything.
“You might receive her,” said Maria, “for she would surely please you; but the bell is ringing again, and you have talked enough for to-day. Try to sleep now. I’ll go home with Fran Van Hout and come again tomorrow, if agreeable to you.”
“Come, pray come!” exclaimed the young girl.
“Do you want to say anything more to me?”
“I should like to do so, Fraulein Henrica. You ought not to stay in this sad house. There is plenty of room in ours. Will you be our guest until your father—”
“Yes, take me home with you!” cried the invalid, tears sparkling in her eyes. “Take me away from here, only take me away—and I will be grateful to you all my life.”
Maria had not mounted the stairs so joyously for weeks as she did to-day. She would have sung, had it been seemly, though she felt a little anxious; for perhaps her husband would not think she had done right to invite, on her own authority, a stranger, especially a sick stranger, who was a friend of Spain, to be their guest.