“Bravo! my little actress,” he began, then gave it up and added in his natural voice, “you had best rise and see me burn this paper.”
Lysbeth struggled to her knees and watched him thrust the document between two glowing peats.
“I have fulfilled my promise,” he said, “and that evidence is done with, but in case you should think of playing any tricks and not fulfilling yours, please remember that I have fresh evidence infinitely more valuable and convincing, to gain which, indeed, I condescended to a stratagem not quite in keeping with my traditions. With my own ears I heard this worthy gentleman, who is pleased to think so poorly of me, admit that he is a heretic. That is enough to burn him any day, and I swear that if within three weeks we are not man and wife, burn he shall.”
While he was speaking Lysbeth had risen slowly to her feet. Now she confronted him, no longer the Lysbeth whom he had known, but a new being filled like a cup with fury that was the more awful because it was so quiet.
“Juan de Montalvo,” she said in a low voice, “your wickedness has won and for Dirk’s sake my person and my goods must pay its price. So be it since so it must be, but listen. I make no prophecies about you; I do not say that this or that shall happen to you, but I call down upon you the curse of God and the execration of men.”
Then she threw up her hands and began to pray. “God, Whom it has pleased that I should be given to a fate far worse than death; O God, blast the mind and the soul of this monster. Let him henceforth never know a peaceful hour; let misfortune come upon him through me and mine; let fears haunt his sleep. Let him live in heavy labour and die in blood and misery, and through me; and if I bear children to him, let the evil be upon them also.”
She ceased. Montalvo looked at her and tried to speak. Again he looked and again he tried to speak, but no words would come.
Then the fear of Lysbeth van Hout fell upon him, that fear which was to haunt him all his life. He turned and crept from the room, and his face was like the face of an old man, nor, notwithstanding the height of his immediate success, could his heart have been more heavy if Lysbeth had been an angel sent straight from Heaven to proclaim to him the unalterable doom of God.
HENDRIK BRANT HAS A VISITOR
Nine months had gone by, and for more then eight of them Lysbeth had been known as the Countess Juan de Montalvo. Indeed of this there could be no doubt, since she was married with some ceremony by the Bishop in the Groote Kerk before the eyes of all men. Folk had wondered much at these hurried nuptials, though some of the more ill-natured shrugged their shoulders and said that when a young woman had compromised herself by long and lonely drives with a Spanish cavalier, and was in consequence dropped by her own admirer, why the best thing she could do was to marry as soon as possible.