“To think,” he said to himself after the door had closed behind the delighted and flattered Adrian, “to think that I can be the father of such a fool as that. Well, it bears out my theories about cross-breeding, and, after all, in this case a good-looking, gullible fool will be much more useful to me than a young man of sense. Let me see; the price of the office is paid and I shall have my appointment duly sealed as the new Governor of the Gevangenhuis by next week at furthest, so I may as well begin to collect evidence against my worthy successor, Dirk van Goorl, his adventurous son Foy, and that red-headed ruffian, Martin. Once I have them in the Gevangenhuis it will go hard if I can’t squeeze the secret of old Brant’s money out of one of the three of them. The women wouldn’t know, they wouldn’t have told the women, besides I don’t want to meddle with them, indeed nothing would persuade me to that”—and he shivered as though at some wretched recollection. “But there must be evidence; there is such noise about these executions and questionings that they won’t allow any more of them in Leyden without decent evidence; even Alva and the Blood Council are getting a bit frightened. Well, who can furnish better testimony than that jackass, my worthy son, Adrian? Probably, however, he has a conscience somewhere, so it may be as well not to let him know that when he thinks himself engaged in conversation he is really in the witness box. Let me see, we must take the old fellow, Dirk, on the ground of heresy, and the youngster and the serving man on a charge of murdering the king’s soldiers and assisting the escape of heretics with their goods. Murder sounds bad, and, especially in the case of a young man, excites less sympathy than common heresy.”
Then he went to the door, calling, “Meg, hostess mine, Meg.”
He might have saved himself the trouble, however, since, on opening it suddenly, that lady fell almost into his arms.
“What!” he said, “listening, oh, fie! and all for nothing. But there, ladies will be curious and”—this to himself—“I must be more careful. Lucky I didn’t talk aloud.”
Then he called her in, and having inspected the chamber narrowly, proceeded to make certain arrangements.
At nightfall on the morrow Adrian returned as appointed, and was admitted into the same room, where he found Black Meg, who greeted him openly by name and handed to him a tiny phial containing a fluid clear as water. This, however, was scarcely to be wondered at, seeing that it was water and nothing else.
“Will it really work upon her heart?” asked Adrian, eyeing the stuff.
“Ay,” answered the hag, “that’s a wondrous medicine, and those who drink it go crazed with love for the giver. It is compounded according to the Master’s own receipt, from very costly tasteless herbs that grow only in the deserts of Arabia.”