MONTALVO WINS A TRICK
Turning up the Bree Straat, then as now perhaps the finest in the town of Leyden, Montalvo halted his horse before a substantial house fronted with three round-headed gables, of which the largest—that over the entrance in the middle—was shaped into two windows with balconies. This was Lysbeth’s house which had been left to her by her father, where, until such time as she should please to marry, she dwelt with her aunt, Clara van Ziel. The soldier whom he had summoned having run to the horse’s head, Montalvo leapt from his driver’s seat to assist the lady to alight. At the moment Lysbeth was occupied with wild ideas of swift escape, but even if she could make up her mind to try it there was an obstacle which her thoughtful cavalier had foreseen.
“Jufvrouw van Hout,” he said as he pulled up, “do you remember that you are still wearing skates?”
It was true, though in her agitation she had forgotten all about them, and the fact put sudden flight out of the question. She could not struggle into her own house walking on the sides of her feet like the tame seal which old fisherman Hans had brought from northern seas. It would be too ridiculous, and the servants would certainly tell the story all about the town. Better for a while longer to put up with the company of this odious Spaniard than to become a laughing stock in an attempt to fly. Besides, even if she found herself on the other side of it, could she shut the door in his face? Would her promise let her, and would he consent?
“Yes,” she answered briefly, “I will call my servant.”
Then for the first time the Count became complimentary in a dignified Spanish manner.
“Let no base-born menial hold the foot which it is an honour for an hidalgo of Spain to touch. I am your servant,” he said, and resting one knee on the snow-covered step he waited.
Again there was nothing to be done, so Lysbeth must needs thrust out her foot from which very delicately and carefully he unstrapped the skate.
“What Jack can bear Jill must put up with,” muttered Lysbeth to herself as she advanced the other foot. Just at that moment, however, the door behind them began to open.
“She who buys,” murmured Montalvo as he commenced on the second set of straps. Then the door swung wide, and the voice of Dirk van Goorl was heard saying in a tone of relief:
“Yes, sure enough it is she, Tante Clara, and some one is taking off her boots.”
“Skates, Senor, skates,” interrupted Montalvo, glancing backward over his shoulder, then added in a whisper as he bent once more to his task, “ahem—pays. You will introduce me, is it not so? I think it will be less awkward for you.”
So, as flight was impossible, for he held her by the foot, and an instinct told her that, especially to the man she loved, the only thing to do was to make light of the affair, Lysbeth said—