“Where is Elsa?” screamed Adrian.
“I don’t know. I couldn’t find her,” answered Ramiro. “Row, row for your lives! We can take her off in the morning, and the priest too, if he won back.”
At length the cold winter sun rose over the watery waste, calm enough now, for the floods were out, in places ten and fifteen feet deep. Through the mists that brooded on the face of them Ramiro and his crew groped their way back to where the Red Mill should be. It was gone!
There stood the brick walls of the bottom story rising above the flood level, but the wooden upper part had snapped before the first great wave when the bank went bodily, and afterwards been swept away by the rushing current, swept away with those within.
“What is that?” said one of the boatmen, pointing to a dark object which floated among the tangled debris of sere weeds and woodwork collected against the base of the mill.
They rowed to the thing. It was the body of Father Thomas, who must have missed his footing as he ran along the pathway, and fallen into deep water.
“Um!” said Ramiro, “‘a virgin’s curse.’ Observe, friends, how the merest coincidences may give rise to superstition. Allow me,” and, holding the dead man by one hand, he felt in his pockets with the other, till, with a smile of satisfaction, he found the purse containing the gold which he had paid him on the previous evening.
“Oh! Elsa, Elsa,” moaned Adrian.
“Comfort yourself, my son,” said Ramiro as the boat put about, leaving the dead Father Thomas bobbing up and down in the ripple; “you have indeed lost a wife whose temper gave you little prospect of happiness, but at least I have your marriage papers duly signed and witnessed, and—you are her heir.”
He did not add that he in turn was Adrian’s. But Adrian thought of it, and even in the midst of his shame and misery wondered with a shiver how long he who was Ramiro’s next of kin was likely to adorn this world.
Till he had something that was worth inheriting, perhaps.
WHAT ELSA SAW IN THE MOONLIGHT
It will be remembered that some weeks before Elsa’s forced marriage in the Red Mill, Foy, on their escape from the Gevangenhuis, had been carried upon the naked back of Martin to the shelter of Mother Martha’s lair in the Haarlemer Meer. Here he lay sick many days, for the sword cut in his thigh festered so badly that at one time his life was threatened by gangrene, but, in the end, his own strength and healthy constitution, helped with Martha’s simples, cured him. So soon as he was strong again, accompanied by Martin, he travelled into Leyden, which now it was safe enough for him to visit, since the Spaniards were driven from the town.
How his young heart swelled as, still limping a little and somewhat pale from recent illness, he approached the well-known house in the Bree Straat, the home that sheltered his mother and his love. Presently he would see them again, for the news had been brought to him that Lysbeth was out of danger and Elsa must still be nursing her.