Lysbeth made no answer, only she rose and stumbled from the house, while van de Werff sat down groaning bitterly and praying for help and light.
A MEETING AND A PARTING
Lysbeth did not sleep that night, for even if her misery would have let her sleep, she could not because of the physical fire that burnt in her veins, and the strange pangs of agony which pierced her head. At first she thought little of them, but when at last the cold light of the autumn morning dawned she went to a mirror and examined herself, and there upon her neck she found a hard red swelling of the size of a nut. Then Lysbeth knew that she had caught the plague from the Vrouw Jansen, and laughed aloud, a dreary little laugh, since if all she loved were to die, it seemed to her good that she should die also. Elsa was abed prostrated with grief, and, shutting herself in her room, Lysbeth suffered none to come near her except one woman who she knew had recovered from the plague in past years, but even to her she said nothing of her sickness.
About eleven o’clock in the morning this woman rushed into her chamber crying, “They have escaped! They have escaped!”
“Who?” gasped Lysbeth, springing from her chair.
“Your son Foy and Red Martin,” and she told the tale of how the naked man with the naked sword, carrying the wounded Foy upon his back, burst his way roaring from the Gevangenhuis, and, protected by the people, had run through the town and out of the Morsch poort, heading for the Haarlemer Meer.
As she listened Lysbeth’s eyes flamed up with a fire of pride.
“Oh! good and faithful servant,” she murmured, “you have saved my son, but alas! your master you could not save.”
Another hour passed, and the woman appeared again bearing a letter.
“Who brought this?” she asked.
“A Spanish soldier, mistress.”
Then she cut the silk and read it. It was unsigned, and ran:—
“One in authority sends greetings to the Vrouw van Goorl. If the Vrouw van Goorl would save the life of the man who is dearest to her, she is prayed to veil herself and follow the bearer of this letter. For her own safety she need have no fear; it is assured hereby.”
Lysbeth thought awhile. This might be a trick; very probably it was a trick to take her. Well, if so, what did it matter since she would rather die with her husband than live on without him; moreover, why should she turn aside from death, she in whose veins the plague was burning? But there was another thing worse than that. She could guess who had penned this letter; it even seemed to her, after all these many years, that she recognised the writing, disguised though it was. Could she face him! Well, why not—for Dirk’s sake?
And if she refused and Dirk was done to death, would she not reproach herself, if she lived to remember it, because she had left a stone unturned?