Part 14 out of 18
damni?" said he, "Dic; et cito solvam." The podesta snuffed the
gold: fined him a ducat for the duke; about the value of the whole
tree; and pouched the coin.
The Englishman shook off his ire the moment he was liberated, and
laughed heartily at the whole thing; but was very grateful to
"You are too good for this hole of a country, father," said he,
"Come to England! That is the only place in the world, I was an
uneasy fool to leave it, and wander among mulberries and their
idiots. I am a Kentish squire, and educated at Cambridge
University. My name it is Rolfe, my place Betshanger, The man and
the house are both at your service. Come over and stay till
domesday. We sit down forty to dinner every day at Betshanger. One
more or one less at the board will not be seen. You shall end your
days with me and my heirs if you will, Come now! What an
Englishman says he means." And he gave him a great hearty grip of
the hand to confirm it,
"I will visit thee some day, my son," said Clement; "but not to
weary thy hospitality."
The Englishman then begged Clement to shrive him. "I know not what
will become of my soul," said he, "I live like a heathen since I
Clement consented gladly, and soon the islander was on his knees
to him by the roadside, confessing the last month's sins.
Finding him so pious a son of the Church, Clement let him know he
was really coming to England. He then asked him whether it was
true that country was overrun with Lollards and Wickliffites.
The other coloured up a little. "There be black sheep in every
land," said he. Then after some reflection he said gravely, "Holy
father, hear the truth about these heretics. None are better
disposed towards Holy Church than we English. But we are
ourselves, and by ourselves. We love our own ways, and above all,
our own tongue. The Norman could conquer our bill-hooks, but not
our tongues; and hard they tried it for many a long year by law
and proclamation. Our good foreign priests utter God to plain
English folk in Latin, or in some French or Italian lingo, like
the bleating of a sheep. Then come the fox Wickliff and his crew,
and read him out of his own book in plain English, that all men's
hearts warm to. Who can withstand this? God forgive me, I believe
the English would turn deaf ears to St, Peter himself, spoke he
not to them in the tongue their mothers sowed in their ears and
their hearts along with mothers' kisses." He added hastily, "I say
not this for myself; I am Cambridge bred; and good words come not
amiss to me in Latin; but for the people in general. Clavis ad
corda Anglorum est lingua materna."
"My son," said Clement, "blessed be the hour I met thee; for thy
words are sober and wise. But alas! how shall I learn your English
tongue? No book have I."
"I would give you my book of hours, father. 'Tis in English and
Latin, cheek by jowl. But then, what would become of my poor soul,
wanting my 'hours' in a strange land? Stay, you are a holy man,
and I am an honest one; let us make a bargain; you to pray for me
every day for two months, and I to give you my book of hours. Here
it is. What say you to that?" And his eyes sparkled, and he was
all on fire with mercantility.
Clement smiled gently at this trait; and quietly detached a MS.
from his girdle, and showed him that it was in Latin and Italian.
"See, my son," said he, "Heaven hath foreseen our several needs,
and given us the means to satisfy them: let us change books; and,
my dear son, I will give thee my poor prayers and welcome, not
sell them thee. I love not religious bargains."
The islander was delighted. "So shall I learn the Italian tongue
without risk to my eternal weal, Near is my purse, but nearer is
He forced money on Clement. In vain the friar told him it was
contrary to his vow to carry more of that than was barely
"Lay it out for the good of the Church and of my soul," said the
islander. "I ask you not to keep it, but take it you must and
shall." And he grasped Clement's hand warmly again; and Clement
kissed him on the brow, and blessed him, and they went each his
About a mile from where they parted, Clement found two tired
wayfarers lying in the deep shade of a great chestnut-tree, one of
a thick grove the road skirted. Near the men was a little cart,
and in it a printing-press, rude and clumsy as a vine-press, A
jaded mule was harnessed to the cart.
And so Clement stood face to face with his old enemy.
And as he eyed it, and the honest, blue-eyed faces of the wearied
craftsmen, he looked back as on a dream at the bitterness he had
once felt towards this machine. He looked kindly down on them, and
said softly -
The men started to their feet.
They scuttled into the wood, and were seen no more.
Clement was amazed, and stood puzzling himself.
Presently a face peeped from behind a tree.
Clement addressed it, "What fear ye?"
A quavering voice replied -
"Say, rather, by what magic you, a stranger, can call us by our
names! I never clapt eyes on you till now."
"O, superstition! I know ye, as all good workmen are known - by
your works. Come hither and I will tell ye."
They advanced gingerly from different sides; each regulating his
advance by the other's.
"My children," said Clement, "I saw a Lactantius in Rome, printed
by Sweynheim and Pannartz, disciples of Fust."
"D'ye hear that, Pannartz? our work has gotten to Rome already."
"By your blue eyes and flaxen hair I wist ye were Germans; and the
printing-press spoke for itself. Who then should ye be but Fust's
disciples, Pannartz and Sweynheim?"
The honest Germans were now astonished that they had suspected
magic in so simple a matter,
"The good father hath his wits about him, that is all," said
"Ay," said Sweynheim, "and with those wits would he could tell us
how to get this tired beast to the next town."
"Yea," said Sweynheim, "and where to find money to pay for his
meat and ours when we get there."
"I will try," said Clement. "Free the mule of the cart, and of all
harness but the bare halter."
This was done, and the animal immediately lay down and rolled on
his back in the dust like a kitten. Whilst he was thus employed,
Clement assured them he would rise up a new mule.
"His Creator hath taught him this art to refresh himself, which
the nobler horse knoweth not. Now, with regard to money, know that
a worthy Englishman hath entrusted me with a certain sum to bestow
in charity. To whom can I better give a stranger's money than to
strangers? Take it, then, and be kind to some Englishman or other
stranger in his need; and may all nations learn to love one
another one day."
The tears stood in the honest workmen's eyes. They took the money
with heartfelt thanks.
"It is your nation we are bound to thank and bless, good father,
if we but knew it."
"My nation is the Church."
Clement was then for bidding them farewell, but the honest fellows
implored him to wait a little; they had no silver nor gold, but
they had something they could give their benefactor, They took the
press out of the cart, and while Clement fed the mule, they
hustled about, now on the white hot road, now in the deep cool
shade, now half in and half out, and presently printed a quarto
sheet of eight pages, which was already set up. They had not type
enough to print two sheets at a time. When, after the slower
preliminaries, the printed sheet was pulled all in a moment,
Clement was amazed in turn.
"What, are all these words really fast upon the paper?" said he.
"Is it verily certain they will not go as swiftly as they came?
And you took me for a magician! 'Tis 'Augustine de civitate Dei.'
My sons, you carry here the very wings of knowledge. Oh, never
abuse this great craft! Print no ill books! They would fly abroad
countless as locusts, and lay waste men's souls.
The workmen said they would sooner put their hands under the screw
than so abuse their goodly craft.
And so they parted.
There is nothing but meeting and parting in this world.
At a town in Tuscany the holy friar had a sudden and strange
recontre with the past. He fell in with one of those motley
assemblages of patricians and plebeians, piety and profligacy, "a
company of pilgrims;" a subject too well painted by others for me
to go and daub,
They were in an immense barn belonging to the inn, Clement, dusty
and wearied, and no lover of idle gossip, sat in a corner studying
the Englishman's hours, and making them out as much by his own
Dutch as by the Latin version.
Presently a servant brought a bucket half full of water, and put
it down at his feet. A female servant followed with two towels.
And then a woman came forward, and crossing herself, kneeled down
without a word at the bucket-side, removed her sleeves entirely,
and motioned to him to put his feet into the water. It was some
lady of rank doing penance. She wore a mask scarce an inch broad,
but effectual. Moreover, she handled the friar's feet more
delicately than those do who are born to such offices.
These penances were not uncommon; and Clement, though he had
little faith in this form of contrition, received the services of
the incognita as a matter of course. But presently she sighed
deeply, and with her heartfelt sigh and her head bent low over her
menial office, she seemed so bowed with penitence, that he pitied
her, and said calmly but gently, "Can I aught for your soul's
weal, my daughter?"
She shook her head with a faint sob. "Nought, holy father, nought;
only to hear the sin of her who is most unworthy to touch thy holy
feet. 'Tis part of my penance to tell sinless men how vile I am."
"Speak, my daughter."
"Father," said the lady, bending lower and lower, "these hands of
mine look white, but they are stained with blood - the blood of
the man I loved. Alas! you withdraw your foot. Ah me! What shall I
do? All holy things shrink from me."
"Culpa mea! culpa mea!" said Clement eagerly. "My daughter, it was
an unworthy movement of earthly weakness, for which I shall do
penance. Judge not the Church by her feebler servants, Not her
foot, but her bosom, is offered to thee, repenting truly. Take
courage, then, and purge thy conscience of its load,"
On this the lady, in a trembling whisper, and hurriedly, and
cringing a little, as if she feared the Church would strike her
bodily for what she had done, made this confession.
"He was a stranger, and base-born, but beautiful as Spring, and
wise beyond his years. I loved him, I had not the prudence to
conceal my love. Nobles courted me. I ne'er thought one of humble
birth could reject me. I showed him my heart oh, shame of my sex!
He drew back; yet he admired me; but innocently, He loved another;
and he was constant. I resorted to a woman's wiles, They availed
not. I borrowed the wickedness of men, and threatened his life,
and to tell his true lover he died false to her, Ah! you shrink
your foot trembles. Am I not a monster? Then he wept and prayed to
me for mercy; then my good angel helped me; I bade him leave Rome.
Gerard, Gerard, why did you not obey me? I thought he was gone.
But two months after this I met him, Never shall I forget it. I
was descending the Tiber in my galley, when he came up it with a
gay company, and at his side a woman beautiful as an angel, but
bold and bad. That woman claimed me aloud for her rival. Traitor
and hypocrite, he had exposed me to her, and to all the loose
tongues in Rome. In terror and revenge I hired-a bravo. When he
was gone on his bloody errand, I wavered too late. The dagger I
had hired struck, He never came back to his lodgings. He was dead.
Alas! perhaps he was not so much to blame: none have ever cast his
name in my teeth. His poor body is not found: or I should kiss its
wounds; and slay myself upon it. All around his very name seems
silent as the grave, to which this murderous hand hath sent him."
(Clement's eye was drawn by her movement. He recognized her
shapely arm, and soft white hand.) "And oh! he was so young to
die. A poor thoughtless boy, that had fallen a victim to that bad
woman's arts, and she had made him tell her everything. Monster of
cruelty, what penance can avail me? Oh, holy father, what shall I
Clement's lips moved in prayer, but he was silent. He could not
see his duty clear.
Then she took his feet and began to dry them. She rested his foot
upon her soft arm, and pressed it with the towel so gently she
seemed incapable of hurting a fly. Yet her lips had just told
another story, and a true one.
While Clement was still praying for wisdom, a tear fell upon his
foot. It decided him. "My daughter," said he, "I myself have been
a great sinner,"
"I; quite as great a sinner as thou; though not in the same way.
The devil has gins and snares, as well as traps. But penitence
softened my impious heart, and then gratitude remoulded it.
Therefore, seeing you penitent, I hope you can be grateful to Him,
who has been more merciful to you than you have to your
fellow-creature. Daughter, the Church sends you comfort."
"Comfort to me? ah! never! unless it can raise my victim from the
"Take this crucifix in thy hand, fix thine eyes on it, and listen
to me," was all the reply.
"Yes, father; but let me thoroughly dry your feet first; 'tis ill
sitting in wet feet; and you are the holiest man of all whose feet
I have washed. I know it by your voice."
"Woman, I am not. As for my feet, they can wait their turn. Obey
"Yes, father," said the lady humbly. But with a woman's evasive
pertinacity she wreathed one towel swiftly round the foot she was
drying, and placed his other foot on the dry napkin; then obeyed
And as she bowed over the crucifix, the low, solemn tones of the
friar fell upon her ear, and his words soon made her whole body
quiver with various emotion, in quick succession.
"My daughter, he you murdered - in intent - was one Gerard, a
Hollander. He loved a creature, as men should love none but their
Redeemer and His Church. Heaven chastised him. A letter came to
Rome. She was dead."
"Poor Gerard! Poor Margaret!" moaned the penitent.
Clement's voice faltered at this a moment. But soon, by a strong
effort, he recovered all his calmness.
"His feeble nature yielded, body and soul, to the blow, He was
stricken down with fever. He revived only to rebel against Heaven.
He said, 'There is no God.'"
"Poor, poor Gerard!"
"Poor Gerard? thou feeble, foolish woman! Nay, wicked, impious
Gerard. He plunged into vice, and soiled his eternal jewel: those
you met him with were his daily companions; but know, rash
creature, that the seeming woman you took to be his leman was but
a boy, dressed in woman's habits to flout the others, a fair boy
called Andrea. What that Andrea said to thee I know not; but be
sure neither he, nor any layman, knows thy folly, This Gerard,
rebel against Heaven, was no traitor to thee, unworthy."
The lady moaned like one in bodily agony, and the crucifix began
to tremble in her trembling hands.
Courage!" said Clement. "Comfort is at hand."
"From crime he fell into despair, and bent on destroying his soul,
he stood one night by Tiber, resolved on suicide. He saw one
watching him. It was a bravo."
"He begged the bravo to despatch him; he offered him all his
money, to slay him body and soul. The bravo would not. Then this
desperate sinner, not softened even by that refusal, flung himself
"And the assassin saved his life. Thou hadst chosen for the task
Lodovico, husband of Teresa, whom this Gerard had saved at sea,
her and her infant child."
"He lives! he lives! he lives! I am faint."
The friar took the crucifix from her hands, fearing it might fall,
A shower of tears relieved her. The friar gave her time; then
continued calmly, "Ay, he lives; thanks to thee and thy
wickedness, guided to his eternal good by an almighty and
all-merciful hand. Thou art his greatest earthly benefactor."
"Where is he? where? where?"
"What is that to thee?"
"Only to see him alive. To beg him on my knees forgive me. I swear
to you I will never presume again to- How could I? He knows all.
Oh, shame! Father, does he know?"
"Then never will I meet his eye; I should sink into the earth. But
I would repair my crime. I would watch his life unseen. He shall
rise in the world, whence I so nearly thrust him, poor soul; the
Caesare, my family, are all-powerful in Rome; and I am near their
"My daughter," said Clement coldly, "he you call Gerard needs
nothing man can do for him. Saved by a miracle from double death,
he has left the world, and taken refuge from sin and folly in the
bosom of the Church."
"A priest, and a friar."
"A friar? Then you are not his confessor? Yet you know all. That
She raised her head slowly, and peered at him through her mask.
The next moment she uttered a faint shriek, and lay with her brow
upon his bare feet,
Clement sighed. He began to doubt whether he had taken the wisest
course with a creature so passionate.
But young as he was, he had already learned many lessons of
ecclesiastical wisdom. For one thing he had been taught to pause,
i,e., in certain difficulties, neither to do nor to say anything,
until the matter should clear itself a little.
He therefore held his peace and prayed for wisdom,
All he did was gently to withdraw his foot.
But his penitent flung her arms round it with a piteous cry, and
held it convulsively, and wept over it.
And now the agony of shame, as well as penitence, she was in,
showed itself by the bright red that crept over her very throat,
as she lay quivering at his feet.
"My daughter," said Clement gently, "take courage. Torment thyself
no more about this Gerard, who is not. As for me, I am Brother
Clement, whom Heaven hath sent to thee this day to comfort thee,
and help thee save thy soul. Thou last made me thy confessor, I
claim, then, thine obedience."
"Oh, yes," sobbed the penitent.
"Leave this pilgrimage, and instant return to Rome. Penitence
abroad is little worth. There where we live lie the temptations we
must defeat, or perish; not fly in search of others more showy,
but less lethal. Easy to wash the feet of strangers, masked
ourselves, Hard to be merely meek and charitable with those about
"I'll never, never lay finger on her again."
"Nay, I speak not of servants only, but of dependents, kinsmen,
friends. This be thy penance; the last thing at night, and the
first thing after matins, call to mind thy sin, and God His
goodness; and so be humble and gentle to the faults of those
around thee. The world it courts the rich; but seek thou the poor:
not beggars; these for the most are neither honest nor truly poor.
But rather find out those who blush to seek thee, yet need thee
sore. Giving to them shalt lend to Heaven. Marry a good son of the
"Me? I will never marry."
"Thou wilt marry within the year. I do entreat and command thee to
marry one that feareth God. For thou art very clay. Mated ill thou
shalt be naught. But wedding a worthy husband thou mayest, Dei
gratia, live a pious princess; ay, and die a saint,"
He then desired her to rise and go about the good work he had set
She rose to her knees, and removing her mask, cast an eloquent
look upon him, then lowered her eyes meekly.
"I will obey you as I would an angel. How happy I am, yet unhappy;
for oh, my heart tells me I shall never look on you again. I will
not go till I have dried your feet."
"It needs not. I have excused thee this bootless penance."
"'Tis no penance to me. Ah! you do not forgive me, if you will not
let me dry your poor feet."
"So be it then," said Clement resignedly; and thought to himself,
"Levius quid foemina."
But these weak creatures, that gravitate towards the small, as
heavenly bodies towards the great, have yet their own flashes of
When the princess had dried the friar's feet, she looked at him
with tears in her beautiful eyes, and murmured with singular
tenderness and goodness -
"I will have masses said for her soul. May I?" she added timidly.
This brought a faint blush into the monk's cheek, and moistened
his cold blue eye. It came so suddenly from one he was just rating
"It is a gracious thought," he said. "Do as thou wilt: often such
acts fall back on the doer like blessed dew. I am thy confessor,
not hers; thine is the soul I must now do my all to save, or woe
be to my own. My daughter, my dear daughter, I see good and ill
angels fighting for thy soul this day, ay, this moment; oh, fight
thou on thine own side. Dost thou remember all I bade thee?"
"Remember!" said the princess. "Sweet saint, each syllable of
thine is graved in my heart."
"But one word more, then. Pray much to Christ, and little to his
"And that is the best word I have light to say to thee. So part we
on it. Thou to the place becomes thee best, thy father's house, I
to my holy mother's work."
"Adieu," faltered the princess. "Adieu, thou that I have loved too
well, hated too ill, known and revered too late; forgiving angel,
adieu - for ever."
The monk caught her words, though but faltered in a sigh.
"For ever?" he cried aloud, with sudden ardour. "Christians live
'for ever,' and love 'for ever,' but they never part 'for ever.
They part, as part the earth and sun, to meet more brightly in a
little while. You and I part here for life. And what is our life?
One line in the great story of the Church, whose son and daughter
we are; one handful in the sand of time, one drop in the ocean of
'For ever.' Adieu - for the little moment called 'a life!' We part
in trouble, we shall meet in peace: we part creatures of clay, we
shall meet immortal spirits: we part in a world of sin and sorrow,
we shall meet where all is purity and love divine; where no ill
passions are, but Christ is, and His saints around Him clad in
white. There, in the turning of an hour-glass, in the breaking of
a bubble, in the passing of a cloud, she, and thou, and I, shall
meet again; and sit at the feet of angels and archangels, apostles
and saints, and beam like them with joy unspeakable, in the light
of the shadow of God upon His throne, FOR EVER - AND EVER - AND
And so they parted. The monk erect, his eyes turned heavenwards
and glowing with the sacred fire of zeal; the princess slowly
retiring and turning more than once to cast a lingering glance of
awe and tender regret on that inspired figure.
She went home subdued, and purified. Clement, in due course,
reached Basle, and entered on his duties, teaching in the
University, and preaching in the town and neighbourhood. He led a
life that can be comprised in two words; deep study, and
mortification. My reader has already a peep into his soul. At
Basle he advanced in holy zeal and knowledge.
The brethren of his order began to see in him a descendant of the
saints and martyrs.
When little Gerard was nearly three months old, a messenger came
hot from Tergou for Catherine,
"Now just you go back," said she, "and tell them I can't come, and
I won't: they have got Kate," So he departed, and Catherine
continued her sentence; "there, child, I must go: they are all at
sixes and sevens: this is the third time of asking; and to-morrow
my man would come himself and take me home by the ear, with a flea
in't." She then recapitulated her experiences of infants, and
instructed Margaret what to do in each coming emergency, and
pressed money upon her, Margaret declined it with thanks,
Catherine insisted, and turned angry. Margaret made excuses all so
reasonable that Catherine rejected them with calm contempt; to her
mind they lacked femininity,
"Come, out with your heart," said she "and you and me parting; and
mayhap shall never see one another's face again,"
"Oh! mother, say not so."
"Alack, girl, I have seen it so often; 'twill come into my mind
now at each parting, When I was your age, I never had such a
thought, Nay, we were all to live for ever then: so out wi' it,"
"Well, then, mother - I would rather not have told you - your
Cornelis must say to me, 'So you are come to share with us, eh,
mistress?' those were his words, I told him I would be very sorry.
"Beshrew his ill tongue! What signifies it? He will never know,
"Most likely he would sooner or later, But whether or no, I will
take no grudged bounty from any family; unless I saw my child
starving, and - Heaven only knows what I might do, Nay, mother,
give me but thy love - I do prize that above silver, and they
grudge me not that, by all I can find - for not a stiver of money
will I take out of your house,"
"You are a foolish lass, Why, were it me, I'd take it just to
"No, you would not, You and I are apples off one tree"
Catherine yielded with a good grace; and when the actual parting
came, embraces and tears burst forth on both sides,
When she was gone the child cried a good deal; and all attempts to
pacify him failing, Margaret suspected a pin, and searching
between his clothes and his skin, found a gold angel incommoding
"There, now, Gerard," said she to the babe; "I thought granny gave
in rather sudden."
She took the coin and wrapped it in a piece of linen, and laid it
at the bottom of her box, bidding the infant observe she could be
at times as resolute as granny herself.
Catherine told Eli of Margaret's foolish pride, and how she had
baffled it. Eli said Margaret was right, and she was wrong.
Catherine tossed her head. Eli pondered.
Margaret was not without domestic anxieties. She had still two men
to feed, and could not work so hard as she had done. She had
enough to do to keep the house, and the child, and cook for them
all. But she had a little money laid by, and she used to tell her
child his father would be home to help them before it was spent.
And with these bright hopes, and that treasury of bliss, her boy,
she spent some happy months.
Time wore on; and no Gerard came; and stranger still, no news of
Then her mind was disquieted, and contrary to her nature, which
was practical, she was often lost in sad reverie; and sighed in
silence. And while her heart was troubled, her money was melting.
And so it was, that one day she found the cupboard empty, and
looked in her dependents' faces; and at the sight of them, her
bosom was all pity; and she appealed to the baby whether she could
let grandfather and poor old Martin want a meal; and went and took
out Catherine's angel. As she unfolded the linen a tear of gentle
mortification fell on it. She sent Martin out to change it. While
he was gone a Frenchman came with one of the dealers in
illuminated work, who had offered her so poor a price. He told her
he was employed by his sovereign to collect masterpieces for her
book of hours. Then she showed him the two best things she had;
and he was charmed with one of them, viz., the flowers and
raspberries and creeping things, which Margaret Van Eyck had
shaded. He offered her an unheard-of price. "Nay, flout not my
need, good stranger," said she; "three mouths there be in this
house, and none to fill them but me."
Curious arithmetic! Left out No. 1,
"I'd out thee not, fair mistress. My princess charged me strictly,
'Seek the best craftsmen'; but I will no hard bargains; make them
content with me, and me with them.'"
The next minute Margaret was on her knees kissing little Gerard in
the cradle, and showering four gold pieces on him again and again,
and relating the whole occurrence to him in very broken Dutch,
"And oh, what a good princess: wasn't she? We will pray for her,
won't we, my lambkin; when we are old enough?"
Martin came in furious. "They will not change it. I trow they
think I stole it."
"I am beholden to thee," said Margaret hastily, and almost
snatched it from Martin, and wrapped it up again, and restored it
to its hiding-place.
Ere these unexpected funds were spent, she got to her ironing and
starching again. In the midst of which Martin sickened; and died
after an illness of nine days.
Nearly all her money went to bury him decently.
He was gone; and there was an empty chair by her fireside, For he
had preferred the hearth to the sun as soon as the Busy Body was
Margaret would not allow anybody to sit in this chair now. Yet
whenever she let her eye dwell too long on it vacant, it was sure
to cost her a tear.
And now there was nobody to carry her linen home, To do it herself
she must leave little Gerard in charge of a neighbour, But she
dared not trust such a treasure to mortal; and besides she could
not bear him out of her sight for hours and hours. So she set
inquiries on foot for a boy to carry her basket on Saturday and
A plump, fresh-coloured youth, called Luke Peterson, who looked
fifteen, but was eighteen, came in, and blushing, and twiddling
his bonnet, asked her if a man would not serve her turn as well as
Before he spoke she was saying to herself, "This boy will just
But she took the cue, and said, "Nay; but a man will maybe seek
more than I can well pay.
"Not I," said Luke warmly. "Why, Mistress Margaret, I am your
neighbour, and I do very well at the coopering. I can carry your
basket for you before or after my day's work, and welcome, You
have no need to pay me anything. 'Tisn't as if we were strangers,
"Why, Master Luke, I know your face, for that matter; but I cannot
call to mind that ever a word passed between us."
"Oh yes, you did, Mistress Margaret. What, have you forgotten? One
day you were trying to carry your baby and eke your pitcher full
o' water; and quo' I, 'Give me the baby to carry.' 'Nay, says you,
'I'll give you the pitcher, and keep the bairn myself;' and I
carried the pitcher home, and you took it from me at this door,
and you said to me, 'I am muckle obliged to you, young man,' with
such a sweet voice; not like the folk in this street speak to a
"I do mind now, Master Luke; and methinks it was the least I could
"Well, Mistress Margaret, if you will say as much every time I
carry your basket, I care not how often I bear it, nor how far."
"Nay, nay," said Margaret, colouring faintly. "I would not put
upon good nature, You are young, Master Luke, and kindly. Say I
give you your supper on Saturday night, when you bring the linen
home, and your dawn-mete o' Monday; would that make us anyways
"As you please; only say not I sought a couple o' diets,I, for
such a trifle as yon."
With chubby-faced Luke's timely assistance, and the health and
strength which Heaven gave this poor young woman, to balance her
many ills, the house went pretty smoothly awhile. But the heart
became more and more troubled by Gerard's long, and now most
And then that mental torturer, Suspense, began to tear her heavy
heart with his hot pincers, till she cried often and vehemently,
"Oh, that I could know the worst."
Whilst she was in this state, one day she heard a heavy step mount
the stair. She started and trembled, "That is no step that I know.
The door opened, and an unexpected visitor, Eli, came in, looking
grave and kind,
Margaret eyed him in silence, and with increasing agitation,
"Girl." said he, "the skipper is come back."
"One word," gasped Margaret; "is he alive?"
"Surely I hope so. No one has seen him dead."
"Then they must have seen him alive."
"No, girl; neither dead nor alive hath he been seen this many
months in Rome. My daughter Kate thinks he is gone to some other
city. She bade me tell you her thought."
"Ay, like enough," said Margaret gloomily; "like enough. My poor
The old man in a faintish voice asked her for a morsel to eat: he
had come fasting.
The poor thing pitied him with the surface of her agitated mind,
and cooked a meal for him, trembling, and scarce knowing what she
Ere he went he laid his hand upon her head, and said, "Be he
alive, or be he dead, I look on thee as my daughter. Can I do
nought for thee this day? bethink thee now,
"Ay, old man. Pray for him; and for me!"
Eli sighed, and went sadly and heavily down the stairs.
She listened half stupidly to his retiring footsteps till they
ceased. Then she sank moaning down by the cradle, and drew little
Gerard tight to her bosom. "Oh, my poor fatherless boy; my
Not long after this, as the little family at Tergou sat at dinner,
Luke Peterson burst in on them, covered with dust. "Good people,
Mistress Catherine is wanted instantly at Rotterdam."
"My name is Catherine, young man. Kate, it will be Margaret."
"Ay, dame, she said to me, 'Good Luke, hie thee to Tergou, and ask
for Eli the hosier, and pray his wife Catherine to come to me, for
God His love.' I didn't wait for daylight."
"Holy saints! He has come home, Kate. Nay, she would sure have
said so. What on earth can it be?" And she heaped conjecture on
"Mayhap the young man can tell us," hazarded Kate timidly,
"That I can," said Luke, "Why, her babe is a-dying, And she was so
wrapped up in it! "
Catherine started up: "What is his trouble?"
"Nay, I know not. But it has been peaking and pining worse and
worse this while,"
A furtive glance of satisfaction passed between Cornelis and
Sybrandt. Luckily for them Catherine did not see it. Her face was
turned towards her husband. "Now, Eli," cried she furiously, "if
you say a word against it, you and I shall quarrel, after all
"Who gainsays thee, foolish woman? Quarrel with your own shadow,
while I go borrow Peter's mule for ye."
"Bless thee, my good man! Bless thee! Didst never yet fail me at a
pinch, Now eat your dinners who can, while I go and make ready."
She took Luke back with her in the cart, and on the way questioned
and cross-questioned him severely and seductively by turns, till
she had turned his mind inside out, what there was of it.
Margaret met her at the door, pale and agitated, and threw her
arms round her neck, and looked imploringly in her face.
"Come, he is alive, thank God," said Catherine, after scanning her
She looked at the failing child, and then at the poor hollow-eyed
mother, alternately, "Lucky you sent for me," said she, "The child
"Poisoned! by whom?"
"By you. You have been fretting."
"Nay, indeed, mother. How can I help fretting?"
"Don't tell me, Margaret. A nursing mother has no business to
fret. She must turn her mind away from her grief to the comfort
that lies in her lap. Know you not that the child pines if the
mother vexes herself? This comes of your reading and writing.
Those idle crafts befit a man; but they keep all useful knowledge
out of a woman. The child must be weaned."
"Oh, you cruel woman," cried Margaret vehemently; "I am sorry I
sent for you. Would you rob me of the only bit of comfort I have
in the world? A-nursing my Gerard, I forget I am the most unhappy
creature beneath the sun."
"That you do not," was the retort, "or he would not be the way he
"Mother!" said Margaret imploringly,
"'Tis hard," replied Catherine, relenting. "But bethink thee;
would it not be harder to look down and see his lovely wee face
a-looking up at you out of a little coffin?"
"And how could you face your other troubles with your heart aye
full, and your lap empty?"
"Oh, mother, I consent to anything. Only save my boy."
"That is a good lass, Trust to me! I do stand by, and see clearer
Unfortunately there was another consent to be gained - the babe's;
and he was more refractory than his mother.
"There," said Margaret, trying to affect regret at his
misbehaviour; "he loves me too well."
But Catherine was a match for them both. As she came along she had
observed a healthy young woman, sitting outside her own door, with
an infant, hard by. She went and told her the case; and would she
nurse the pining child for the nonce, till she had matters ready
to wean him?
The young woman consented with a smile, and popped her child into
the cradle, and came into Margaret's house. She dropped a curtsey,
and Catherine put the child into her hands. She examined, and
pitied it, and purred over it, and proceeded to nurse it, just as
if it had been her own,
Margaret, who had been paralyzed at her assurance, cast a rueful
look at Catherine, and burst out crying.
The visitor looked up. "What is to do? Wife, ye told me not the
mother was unwilling."
"She is not: she is only a fool. Never heed her; and you,
Margaret, I am ashamed of you."
"You are a cruel, hard-hearted woman," sobbed Margaret.
"Them as take in hand to guide the weak need be hardish. And you
will excuse me; but you are not my flesh and blood; and your boy
After giving this blunt speech time to sink, she added, "Come now,
she is robbing her own to save yours, and you can think of nothing
better than bursting out a-blubbering in the woman's face. Out
fie, for shame!"
"Nay, wife," said the nurse. 'Thank Heaven, I have enough for my
own and for hers to boot. And prithee wyte not on her! Maybe the
troubles o' life ha' soured her own milk."
"and her heart into the bargain," said the remorseless Catherine.
Margaret looked her full in the face; and down went her eyes.
"I know I ought to be very grateful to you," sobbed Margaret to
the nurse: then turned her head and leaned away over the chair,
not to witness the intolerable sight of another nursing her
Gerard, and Gerard drawing no distinction between this new mother
and her the banished one.
The nurse replied, "You are very welcome, my poor woman. And so
are you, Mistress Catherine, which are my townswoman, and know it
"What, are ye from Tergou? all the better, But I cannot call your
face to mind."
"Oh, you know not me: my husband and me, we are very humble folk
by you. But true Eli and his wife are known of all the town; and
respected, So, I am at your call, dame; and at yours, wife; and
yours, my pretty poppet; night or day."
"There's a woman of the right old sort," said Catherine, as the
door closed upon her.
"I HATE her. I HATE her. I HATE her," said Margaret, with
Catherine only laughed at this outburst.
"That is right," said she; "better say it, as set sly and think
it. It is very natural after all, Come, here is your bundle o'
comfort. Take and hate that, if ye can;" and she put the child in
"No, no," said Margaret, turning her head half way from him; she
could not for her life turn the other half. "He is not my child
now; he is hers. I know not why she left him here, for my part. It
was very good of her not to take him to her house, cradle and all;
oh! oh! oh! oh! oh! oh oh! oh!"
"Ah! well, one comfort, he is not dead. This gives me light: some
other woman has got him away from me; like father, like son; oh!
oh! oh! oh! oh!"
Catherine was sorry for her, and let her cry in peace. And after
that, when she wanted Joan's aid, she used to take Gerard out, to
give him a little fresh air. Margaret never objected; nor
expressed the least incredulity; but on their return was always in
This connivance was short-lived. She was now altogether as eager
to wean little Gerard. It was done; and he recovered health and
vigour; and another trouble fell upon him directly teething, But
here Catherine's experience was invaluable; and now, in the midst
of her grief and anxiety about the father, Margaret had moments of
bliss, watching the son's tiny teeth come through. "Teeth, mother?
I call them not teeth, but pearls of pearls." And each pearl that
peeped and sparkled on his red gums, was to her the greatest feat
Nature had ever achieved.
Her companion partook the illusion. And had we told them standing
corn was equally admirable, Margaret would have changed to a
reproachful gazelle, and Catherine turned us out of doors; so each
pearl's arrival was announced with a shriek of triumph by
whichever of them was the fortunate discoverer,
Catherine gossiped with Joan, and learned that she was the wife of
Jorian Ketel of Tergou, who had been servant to Ghysbrecht Van
Swieten, but fallen out of favour, and come back to Rotterdam, his
native place. His friends had got him the place of sexton to the
parish, and what with that and carpentering, he did pretty well.
Catherine told Joan in return whose child it was she had nursed,
and all about Margaret and Gerard, and the deep anxiety his
silence had plunged them in. "Ay," said Joan, "the world is full
of trouble." One day she said to Catherine, "It's my belief my man
knows more about your Gerard than anybody in these parts; but he
has got to be closer than ever of late. Drop in some day just
afore sunset, and set him talking. And for our Lady's sake say not
I set you on. The only hiding he ever gave me was for babbling his
business; and I do not want another. Gramercy! I married a man for
the comfort of the thing, not to be hided."
Catherine dropped in. Jorian was ready enough to tell her how he
had befriended her son and perhaps saved his life. But this was no
news to Catherine; and the moment she began to cross-question him
as to whether he could guess why her lost boy neither came nor
wrote, he cast a grim look at his wife, who received it with a
calm air of stolid candour and innocent unconsciousness; and his
answers became short and sullen.
"What should he know more than another?" and so on. He added,
after a pause, "Think you the burgomaster takes such as me into
"Oh, then the burgomaster knows something?" said Catherine
"Likely. Who else should?"
"I'll ask him."
"And tell him you say he knows."
"That is right, dame. Go make him mine enemy. That is what a poor
fellow always gets if he says a word to you women."
And Jorian from that moment shrunk in and became impenetrable as a
hedgehog, and almost as prickly.
His conduct caused both the poor women agonies of mind, alarm, and
irritated curiosity. Ghysbrecht was for some cause Gerard's mortal
enemy; had stopped his marriage, imprisoned him, hunted him. And
here was his late servant, who when off his guard had hinted that
this enemy had the clue to Gerard's silence. After sifting
Jorian's every word and look, all remained dark and mysterious.
Then Catherine told Margaret to go herself to him. "You are young,
you are fair. You will maybe get more out of him than I could."
The conjecture was a reasonable one.
Margaret went with her child in her arms and tapped timidly at
Jorian's door just before sunset. "Come in," said a sturdy voice.
She entered, and there sat Jorian by the fireside. At sight of her
he rose, snorted, and burst out of the house. "Is that for me,
wife?" inquired Margaret, turning very red.
"You must excuse him," replied Joan, rather coldly; "he lays it to
your door that he is a poor man instead of a rich one. It is
something about a piece of parchment, There was one amissing, and
he got nought from the burgomaster all along of that one."
"Alas! Gerard took it."
"Likely, But my man says you should not have let him: you were
pledged to him to keep them all safe. And sooth to Say, I blame
not my Jorian for being wroth, 'Tis hard for a poor man to be so
near fortune and lose it by those he has befriended. However, I
tell him another story. Says I, 'Folk that are out o' trouble like
you and me didn't ought to be too hard on folk that are in
trouble; and she has plenty, Going already? What is all your
"Oh, it is not for me to drive the goodman out of his own house."
"Well, let me kiss the bairn afore ye go. He is not in fault
anyway, poor innocent."
Upon this cruel rebuff Margaret came to a resolution, which she
did not confide even to Catherine.
After six weeks' stay that good woman returned home,
On the child's birthday, which occurred soon after, Margaret did
no work; but put on her Sunday clothes, and took her boy in her
arms and went to the church and prayed there long and fervently
for Gerard's safe return.
That same day and hour Father Clement celebrated a mass and prayed
for Margaret's departed soul in the minster church at Basle,
Some blackguard or other, I think it was Sybrandt, said, "A lie is
not like a blow with a curtal axe."
True: for we can predict in some degree the consequences of a
stroke with any material weapon. But a lie has no bounds at all.
The nature of the thing is to ramify beyond human calculation,
Often in the everyday world a lie has cost a life, or laid waste
two or three,
And so, in this story, what tremendous consequences of that one
Yet the tellers reaped little from it.
The brothers, who invented it merely to have one claimant the less
for their father's property, saw little Gerard take their
brother's place in their mother's heart. Nay, more, one day Eli
openly proclaimed that, Gerard being lost, and probably dead, he
had provided by will for little Gerard, and also for Margaret, his
poor son's widow.
At this the look that passed between the black sheep was a caution
to traitors. Cornelis had it on his lips to say. Gerard was most
likely alive, But he saw his mother looking at him, and checked
himself in time,
Ghysbrecht Van Swieten, the other partner in that lie, was now a
failing man. He saw the period fast approaching when all his
wealth would drop from his body, and his misdeeds cling to his
Too intelligent to deceive himself entirely, he had never been
free from gusts of remorse. In taking Gerard's letter to Margaret
he had compounded. "I cannot give up land and money," said his
giant Avarice. "I will cause her no unnecessary pain," said his
So, after first tampering with the seal, and finding there was not
a syllable about the deed, he took it to her with his own hand;
and made a merit of it to himself: a set-off; and on a scale not
uncommon where the self-accuser is the judge.
The birth of Margaret's child surprised and shocked him, and put
his treacherous act in a new light. Should his letter take effect
he should cause the dishonour of her who was the daughter of one
friend, the granddaughter of another, and whose land he was
keeping from her too.
These thoughts preying on him at that period of life when the
strength of body decays, and the memory of old friends revives,
filled him with gloomy horrors. Yet he was afraid to confess. For
the cure was an honest man, and would have made him disgorge. And
with him Avarice was an ingrained habit, Penitence only a
Matters were thus when, one day, returning from the town hall to
his own house, he found a woman waiting for him in the vestibule,
with a child in her arms. She was veiled, and so, concluding she
had something to be ashamed of, he addressed her magisterially, On
this she let down her veil and looked him full in the face.
It was Margaret Brandt.
Her sudden appearance and manner startled him, and he could not
conceal his confusion.
"Where is my Gerard?" cried she, her bosom heaving. "Is he alive?"
"For aught I know," stammered Ghysbrecht. "I hope so, for your
sake. Prithee come into this room. The servants!"
"Not a step," said Margaret, and she took him by the shoulder, and
held him with all the energy of an excited woman. "You know the
secret of that which is breaking my heart. Why does not my Gerard
come, nor send a line this many months? Answer me, or all the town
is like to hear me, let alone thy servants, My misery is too great
to be sported with."
In vain he persisted he knew nothing about Gerard. She told him
those who had sent her to him told her another tale,
"You do know why he neither comes nor sends," said she firmly,
At this Ghysbrecht turned paler and paler; but he summoned all his
dignity, and said, "Would you believe those two knaves against a
man of worship?"
"What two knaves?" said she keenly,
He stammered, "Said ye not -? There I am a poor old broken man,
whose memory is shaken. And you come here, and confuse me so, I
know not what I say."
"Ay, sir, your memory is shaken, or sure you would not be my
enemy. My father saved you from the plague, when none other would
come anigh you; and was ever your friend. My grandfather Floris
helped you in your early poverty, and loved you, man and boy.
Three generations of us you have seen; and here is the fourth of
us; this is your old friend Peter's grandchild, and your old
friend Floris his great-grandchild. Look down on his innocent
face, and think of theirs!"
"Woman, you torture me," sighed Ghysbrecht, and sank upon a bench.
But she saw her advantage, and kneeled before him, and put the boy
on his knees. "This fatherless babe is poor Margaret Brandt's,
that never did you ill, and comes of a race that loved you. Nay,
look at his face. 'Twill melt thee more than any word of mine,
Saints of heaven, what can a poor desolate girl and her babe have
done to wipe out all memory of thine own young days, when thou
wert guiltless as he is, that now looks up in thy face and
implores thee to give him back his father?"
And with her arms under the child she held him up higher and
higher, smiling under the old man's eyes,
He cast a wild look of anguish on the child, and another on the
kneeling mother, and started up shrieking, "Avaunt, ye pair of
The stung soul gave the old limbs a momentary vigour, and he
walked rapidly, wringing his hands and clutching at his white
hair. "Forget those days? I forget all else. Oh, woman, woman,
sleeping or waking I see but the faces of the dead, I hear but the
voices of the dead, and I shall soon be among the dead, There,
there, what is done is done. I am in hell. I am in hell,"
And unnatural force ended in prostration.
He staggered, and but for Margaret would have fallen, With her one
disengaged arm she supported him as well as she could and cried
A couple of servants came running, and carried him away in a state
bordering on syncope, The last Margaret saw of him was his old
furrowed face, white and helpless as his hair that hung down over
the servant's elbow.
"Heaven forgive me," she said. "I doubt I have killed the poor old
Then this attempt to penetrate the torturing mystery left it as
dark, or darker than before. For when she came to ponder every
word, her suspicion was confirmed that Ghysbrecht did know
something about Gerard. "And who were the two knaves he thought
had done a good deed, and told me? Oh, my Gerard, my poor deserted
babe, you and I are wading in deep waters."
The visit to Tergou took more money than she could well afford;
and a customer ran away in her debt. She was once more compelled
to unfold Catherine's angel. But strange to say, as she came down
stairs with it in her hand she found some loose silver on the
table, with a written line -
For Gerard his wife.
She fell with a cry of surprise on the writing; and soon it rose
into a cry of joy.
"He is alive. He sends me this by some friendly hand."
She kissed the writing again and again, and put it in her bosom.
Time rolled on, and no news of Gerard.
And about every two months a small sum in silver found its way
into the house. Sometimes it lay on the table. Once it was flung
in through the bedroom window in a purse. Once it was at the
bottom of Luke's basket. He had stopped at the public-house to
talk to a friend. The giver or his agent was never detected.
Catherine disowned it. Margaret Van Eyck swore she had no hand in
it. So did Eli. And Margaret, whenever it came, used to say to
little Gerard, "Oh, my poor deserted child, you and I are wading
in deep waters.
She applied at least half this modest, but useful supply, to
dressing the little Gerard beyond his station in life. "If it does
come from Gerard, he shall see his boy neat." All the mothers in
the street began to sneer, especially such as had brats out at
The months rolled on, and dead sickness of heart succeeded to
these keener torments. She returned to her first thought: "Gerard
must be dead. She should never see her boy's father again, nor her
marriage lines." This last grief, which had been somewhat allayed
by Eli and Catherine recognizing her betrothal, now revived in
full force; others would not look so favourably on her story. And
often she moaned over her boy's illegitimacy.
"Is it not enough for us to be bereaved? Must we be dishonoured
too? Oh, that we had ne'er been born."
A change took place in Peter Brandt. His mind, clouded for nearly
two years, seemed now to be clearing; he had intervals of
intelligence; and then he and Margaret used to talk of Gerard,
till he wandered again. But one day, returning after an absence of
some hours, Margaret found him conversing with Catherine, in a way
he had never done since his paralytic stroke. "Eh, girl, why must
you be out?" said she. "But indeed I have told him all; and we
have been a-crying together over thy troubles."
Margaret stood silent, looking joyfully from one to the other,
Peter smiled on her, and said, "Come, let me bless thee."
She kneeled at his feet, and he blessed her most eloquently,
He told her she had been all her life the lovingest, truest, and
most obedient daughter Heaven ever sent to a poor old widowed man.
"May thy son be to thee what thou hast been to me!"
After this he dozed. Then the females whispered together; and
Catherine said - "All our talk e'en now was of Gerard. It lies
heavy on his mind. His poor head must often have listened to us
when it seemed quite dark. Margaret, he is a very understanding
man; he thought of many things: 'He may be in prison, says he, 'or
forced to go fighting for some king, or sent to Constantinople to
copy books there, or gone into the Church after all.' He had a
bent that way."
"Ah, mother," whispered Margaret, in reply, "he doth but deceive
himself as we do."
Ere she could finish the sentence, a strange interruption
A loud voice cried out, "I SEE HIM, I SEE HIM."
And the old man with dilating eyes seemed to be looking right
through the wall of the house.
"IN A BOAT; ON A GREAT RIVER; COMING THIS WAY. Sore disfigured;
but I knew him. Gone! gone! all dark,"
And he sank back, and asked feebly where was Margaret.
"Dear father, I am by thy side, Oh, mother! mother, what is this?"
"I cannot see thee, and but a moment agone I saw all round the
world, Ay, ay. Well, I am ready. Is this thy hand? Bless thee, my
child, bless thee! Weep not! The tree is ripe."
The old physician read the signs aright. These calm words were his
last. The next moment he drooped his head, and gently, placidly,
drifted away from earth, like an infant sinking to rest, The torch
had flashed up before going out,
She who had wept for poor old Martin was not likely to bear this
blow so stoically as the death of the old is apt to be borne. In
vain Catherine tried to console her with commonplaces; in vain
told her it was a happy release for him; and that, as he himself
had said, the tree was ripe. But her worst failure was, when she
urged that there were now but two mouths to feed; and one care the
"Such cares are all the joys I have," said Margaret. "They fill my
desolate heart, which now seems void as well as waste. Oh, empty
chair, my bosom it aches to see thee. Poor old man, how could I
love him by halves, I that did use to sit and look at him and
think, 'But for me thou wouldst die of hunger.' He, so wise, so
learned erst, was got to be helpless as my own sweet babe, and I
loved him as if he had been my child instead of my father. Oh,
empty chair! Oh, empty heart! Well-a-day! well-a-day!"
And the pious tears would not be denied.
Then Catherine held her peace; and hung her head. And one day she
made this confession, "I speak to thee out o' my head, and not out
o' my bosom; thou dost well to be deaf to me. Were I in thy place
I should mourn the old man all one as thou dost."
Then Margaret embraced her, and this bit of true sympathy did her
a little good. The commonplaces did none,
Then Catherine's bowels yearned over her, and she said, "My poor
girl, you were not born to live alone. I have got to look on you
as my own daughter. Waste not thine youth upon my son Gerard.
Either he is dead or he is a traitor. It cuts my heart to say it;
but who can help seeing it? Thy father is gone; and I cannot
always be aside thee. And here is an honest lad that loves thee
well this many a day. I'd take him and Comfort together. Heaven
hath sent us these creatures to torment us and comfort us and all;
we are just nothing in the world without 'em," Then seeing
Margaret look utterly perplexed, she went on to say, "Why, sure
you are not so blind as not to see it?"
"Who but this Luke Peterson."
"What, our Luke? The boy that carries my basket?"
"Nay, he is over nineteen, and a fine healthy lad; and I have made
inquiries for you; and they all do say he is a capable workman,
and never touches a drop; and that is much in a Rotterdam lad,
which they are mostly half man, half sponge."
Margaret smiled for the first time this many days. "Luke loves
dried puddings dearly," said she, "and I make them to his mind,
'Tis them he comes a-courting here." Then she suddenly turned red.
"But if I thought he came after your son's wife that is, or ought
to be, I'd soon put him to the door."
"Nay, nay; for Heaven's sake let me not make mischief. Poor lad!
Why, girl, Fancy will not be bridled, Bless you, I wormed it out
of him near a twelvemonth agone."
"Oh, mother, and you let him?"
"Well, I thought of you. I said to myself, 'If he is fool enough
to be her slave for nothing, all the better for her. A lone woman
is lost without a man about her to fetch and carry her little
matters,' But now my mind is changed, and I think the best use you
can put him to is to marry him."
"So then. his own mother is against him, and would wed me to the
first comer. An, Gerard, thou hast but me; I will not believe thee
dead till I see thy tomb, nor false till I see thee with another
lover in thine hand. Foolish boy, I shall ne'er be civil to him
Afflicted with the busybody's protection, Luke Peterson met a cold
reception in the house where he had hitherto found a gentle and
kind one. And by-and-by, finding himself very little spoken to at
all, and then sharply and irritably, the great soft fellow fell to
whimpering, and asked Margaret plump if he had done anything to
"Nothing. I am to blame. I am curst. If you will take my counsel
you will keep out of my way awhile."
"It is all along of me, Luke," said the busybody,
"You, Mistress Catherine, Why, what have I done for you to set her
"Nay, I meant all for the best. I told her I saw you were looking
towards her through a wedding ring, But she won't hear of it,"
"There was no need to tell her that, wife; she knows I am courting
her this twelvemonth."
"Not I," said Margaret; "or I should never have opened the street
door to you.
"Why, I come here every Saturday night. And that is how the lads
in Rotterdam do court. If we sup with a lass o' Saturdays, that
Oh, that is Rotterdam, is it? Then next time you come, let it be
Thursday or Friday. For my part, I thought you came after my
"I like your puddings well enough. You make them better than
mother does, But I like you still better than the puddings," said
"Then you have seen the last of them. How dare you talk so to
another man's wife, and him far away?" She ended gently, but very
firmly, "You need not trouble yourself to come here any more,
Luke; I can carry my basket myself,"
"Oh, very well," said Luke; and after sitting silent and stupid
for a little while, he rose, and said sadly to Catherine, "Dame, I
daresay I have got the sack;" and went out.
But the next Saturday Catherine found him seated on the doorstep
blubbering. He told her he had got used to come there, and every
other place seemed strange. She went in, and told Margaret; and
Margaret sighed, and said, "Poor Luke, he might come in for her,
if he could know his place, and treat her like a married wife." On
this being communicated to Luke, he hesitated, "Pshaw!" said
Catherine, "promises are pie-crusts. Promise her all the world,
sooner than sit outside like a fool, when a word will carry you
inside. now you humour her in everything, and then, if Poor Gerard
come not home and claim her, you will be sure to have her - in
time. A lone woman is aye to be tired out, thou foolish boy."
Brother Clement had taught and preached in Basle more than a
twelvemonth, when one day Jerome stood before him, dusty, with a
triumphant glance in his eye.
"Give the glory to God, Brother Clement; thou canst now wend to
England with me."
"I am ready, Brother Jerome; and expecting thee these many months,
have in the intervals of teaching and devotion studied the English
tongue somewhat closely."
"'Twas well thought of," said Jerome. He then told him he had but
delayed till he could obtain extraordinary powers from the Pope to
collect money for the Church's use in England, and to hear
confession in all the secular monasteries. "So now gird up thy
loins, and let us go forth and deal a good blow for the Church,
and against the Franciscans."
The two friars went preaching down the Rhine for England. In the
larger places they both preached. At the smaller they often
divided, and took different sides of the river, and met again at
some appointed spot. Both were able orators, but in different
Jerome's was noble and impressive, but a little contracted in
religious topics, and a trifle monotonous in delivery compared
with Clement's, though in truth not so, compared with most
Clement's was full of variety, and often remarkably colloquial. In
its general flow, tender and gently winning, it curled round the
reason and the heart. But it always rose with the rising thought;
and so at times Clement soared as far above Jerome as his level
speaking was below him. Indeed, in these noble heats he was all
that we hue read of inspired prophet or heathen orator: Vehemens
ut procella, excitatus ut torrens, incensus ut fulmen, tonabat,
fulgurabat, et rapidis eloquentiae fiuctibus cuncta proruebat et
I would give literal specimens, but for five objections; it is
difficult; time is short; I have done it elsewhere; an able
imitator has since done it better and similarity, a virtue in
peas, is a vice in books.
But (not to evade the matter entirely) Clement used secretly to
try and learn the recent events and the besetting sin of each town
he was to preach in.
But Jerome, the unbending, scorned to go out of his way for any
people's vices. At one great town, some leagues from the Rhine,
they mounted the same pulpit in turn. Jerome preached against
vanity in dress, a favourite theme of his. He was eloquent and
satirical, and the people listened with complacency. It was a vice
that they were little given to.
Clement preached against drunkenness. It was a besetting sin, and
sacred from preaching in these parts: for the clergy themselves
were infected with it, and popular prejudice protected it, Clement
dealt it merciless blows out of Holy Writ and worldly experience.
A crime itself, it was the nursing mother of most crimes,
especially theft and murder. He reminded them of a parricide that
had lately been committed in their town by all honest man in
liquor; and also how a band of drunkards had roasted one of their
own comrades alive at a neighbouring village. "Your last prince,"
said he, "is reported to have died of apoplexy, but well you know
he died of drink; and of your aldermen one perished miserably last
month dead drunk, suffocated in a puddle. Your children's backs go
bare that you may fill your bellies with that which makes you the
worst of beasts, silly as calves, yet fierce as boars; and drives
your families to need, and your souls to hell. I tell ye your
town, ay, and your very nation, would sink to the bottom of
mankind did your women drink as you do. And how long will they be
temperate, and contrary to nature, resist the example of their
husbands and fathers? Vice ne'er yet stood still. Ye must amend
yourselves, or see them come down to your mark, Already in Bohemia
they drink along with the men. How shows a drunken woman? Would
you love to see your wives drunken, your mothers drunken?" At this
there was a shout of horror, for mediaeval audiences had not
learned to sit mumchance at a moving sermon. "Ah, that comes home
to you," cried the friar. "What madmen! think you it doth not more
shock the all-pure God to see a man, His noblest work, turned to a
drunken beast, than it can shock you creatures of sin and unreason
to see a woman turned into a thing no better nor worse than
He ended with two pictures: a drunkard's house and family, and a
sober man's; both so true and dramatic in all their details that
the wives fell all to "ohing" and "ahing," and "Eh, but that is a
This discourse caused quite all uproar. The hearers formed knots;
the men were indignant; so the women flattered them and took their
part openly against the preacher. A married man had a right to a
drop; he needed it, working for all the family. And for their part
they did not care to change their men for milksops.
The double faces! That very evening a hand of men caught near a
hundred of them round Brother Clement, filling his wallet with the
best, and offering him the very roses off their heads, and kissing
his frock, and blessing him "for taking in hand to mend their
Jerome thought this sermon too earthly.
"Drunkenness is not heresy, Clement, that a whole sermon should be
preached against it."
As they went on, he found to his surprise that Clement's sermons
sank into his hearers deeper than his own; made them listen,
think, cry, and sometimes even amend their ways. "He hath the art
of sinking to their peg," thought Jerome, "Yet he can soar high
enough at times."
Upon the whole it puzzled Jerome, who had a secret sense of
superiority to his tenderer brother. And after about two hundred
miles of it, it got to displease him as well as puzzle him. But he
tried to check this sentiment as petty and unworthy. "Souls differ
like locks," said he, "and preachers must differ like keys, or the
fewer should the Church open for God to pass in. And certes, this
novice hath the key to these northern souls, being himself a
And so they came slowly down the Rhine, sometimes drifting a few
miles down the stream; but in general walking by the banks
preaching, and teaching, and confessing sinners in the towns and
villages; and they reached the town of Dusseldorf.
There was the little quay where Gerard and Denys had taken boat up
the Rhine, The friars landed on it. There were the streets, there
was "The Silver Lion." Nothing had changed but he, who walked
through it barefoot, with his heart calm and cold, his hands
across his breast, and his eyes bent meekly on the ground, a true
son of Dominic and Holy Church.
"Eli," said Catherine, "answer me one question like a man, and
I'll ask no more to-day. What is wormwood?"
Eli looked a little helpless at this sudden demand upon his
faculties; but soon recovered enough to say it was something that
tasted main bitter.
"That is a fair answer, my man, but not the one I look for."
"Then answer it yourself."
"And shall. Wormwood is - to have two in the house a-doing nought,
but waiting for thy shoes and mine," Eli groaned. The shaft struck
"Methinks waiting for their best friend's coffin, that and nothing
to do, are enow to make them worse than Nature meant. Why not set
them up somewhere, to give 'em a chance?"
Eli said he was willing, but afraid they would drink and gamble
their very shelves away,
"Nay," said Catherine, "Dost take me for a simpleton? Of course I
mean to watch them at starting, and drive them wi' a loose rein,
as the saying is."
"Where did you think of? Not here; to divide our own custom."
"Not likely. I say Rotterdam against the world. Then I could start
Oh, self-deception! The true motive of all this was to get near
After many discussions and eager promises of amendment on these
terms from Cornelis and Sybrandt, Catherine went to Rotterdam
shop-hunting, and took Kate with her; for a change, They soon
found one, and in a good street; but it was sadly out of order.
However, they got it cheaper for that, and instantly set about
brushing it up, fitting proper shelves for the business, and
making the dwelling-house habitable,
Luke Peterson was always asking Margaret what he could do for her.
The answer used to be in a sad tone, "Nothing, Luke, nothing."
"What, you that are so clever, can you think of nothing for me to
do for you
"Nothing, Luke, nothing."
But at last she varied the reply thus: "If you could make
something to help my sweet sister Kate about."
The slave of love consented joyfully, and soon made Kate a little
cart, and cushioned it, and yoked himself into it, and at eventide
drew her out of the town, and along the pleasant boulevard, with
Margaret and Catherine walking beside. It looked a happier party
than it was,
Kate, for one, enjoyed it keenly, for little Gerard was put in her
lap, and she doted on him; and it was like a cherub carried by a
little angel, or a rosebud lying in the cup of a lily.
So the vulgar jeered; and asked Luke how a thistle tasted, and if
his mistress could not afford one with four legs, etc.
Luke did not mind these jeers; but Kate minded them for him.
"Thou hast made the cart for me, good Luke," said she, "'Twas
much. I did ill to let thee draw me too; we can afford to pay some
poor soul for that. I love my rides, and to carry little Gerard;
but I'd liever ride no more than thou be mocked fort."
"Much I care for their tongues," said Luke; "if I did care I'd
knock their heads together. I shall draw you till my mistress says
"Luke, if you obey Kate, you will oblige me,"
"Then I will obey Kate."
An honourable exception to popular humour was Jorian Ketel's wife.
"That is strength well laid out, to draw the weak. And her prayers
will be your guerdon; she is not long for this world; she smileth
in pain." These were the words of Joan.
Single-minded Luke answered that he did not want the poor lass's
prayers he did it to please his mistress, Margaret.
After that Luke often pressed Margaret to give him something to do
- without success.
But one day, as if tired with his importuning, she turned on him,
and said with a look and accent I should in vain try to convey:
"Find me my boy's father."
"Mistress, they all say he is dead."
"Not so. They feed me still with hopes."
"Ay, to your face, but behind your back they all say he is dead."
At this revelation Margaret's tears began to flow'.
Luke whimpered for company. He had the body of a man but the heart
of a girl.
"prithee, weep not so, sweet mistress," said he. "I'd bring him
back to life an I could, rather than see thee weed so sore."
Margaret said she thought she was weeping because they were so
double-tongued with her.
She recovered herself, and laying her hand on his shoulder, said
solemnly, "Luke, he is not dead. Dying men are known to have a
strange sight. And listen, Luke! My poor father, when he was
a-dying, and I, simple fool, was so happy, thinking he was going
to get well altogether, he said to mother and me - he was sitting
in that very chair where you are now, and mother was as might be
here, and I was yonder making a sleeve - said he, 'I see him!' I
see him! Just so. Not like a failing man at all, but all o' fire.
'Sore disfigured-on a great river-coming this way.'
"Ah, Luke, if you were a woman, and had the feeling for me you
think you have, you would pity me, and find him for me. Take a
thought! The father of my child!"
"Alack, I would if I knew how," said Luke. "but how can I?"
"Nay, of course you cannot. I am mad to think it. But oh, if any
one really cared for me, they would; that is all I know.
Luke reflected in silence for some time.
"The old folk all say dying men can see more than living wights.
Let me think: for my mind cannot gallop like thine. On a great
river Well, the Maas is a great river." He pondered on.
"Coming this way? Then if it 'twas the Maas, he would have been
here by this time, so 'tis not the Maas. The Rhine is a great
river, greater than the Maas; and very long. I think it will be
"and so do I, Luke; for Denys bade him come down the Rhine. But
even if it is, he may turn off before he comes anigh his
birthplace. He does not pine for me as I for him; that is clear.
Luke, do you not think he has deserted me?" She wanted him to
contradict her, but he said, "It looks very like it; what a fool
he must be!"
"What do we know?" objected Margaret imploringly,
"Let me think again," said Luke. "I cannot gallop."
The result of this meditation was this. He knew a station about
sixty miles up the Rhine, where all the public boats put in; and
he would go to that station, and try and cut the truant off. To be
sure he did not even know him by sight; but as each boat came in
he would mingle with the passengers, and ask if one Gerard was
there. "And, mistress, if you were to give me a bit of a letter to
him; for, with us being strangers, mayhap a won't believe a word I
"Good, kind, thoughtful Luke, I will (how I have undervalued
thee!). But give me till supper-time to get it writ." At supper
she put a letter into his hand with a blush; it was a long letter,
tied round with silk after the fashion of the day, and sealed over
Luke weighed it in his hand, with a shade of discontent, and said
to her very gravely, "Say your father was not dreaming, and say I
have the luck to fall in with this man, and say he should turn out
a better bit of stuff than I think him, and come home to you then
and there - what is to become o' me?"
Margaret coloured to her very brow. "Oh, Luke, Heaven will reward
thee. And I shall fall on my knees and bless thee; and I shall
love thee all my days, sweet Luke, as a mother does her son. I am
so old by thee: trouble ages the heart. Thou shalt not go 'tis not
fair of me. Love maketh us to be all self."
"Humph!" said Luke. "And if," resumed he, in the same grave way,
"yon scapegrace shall read thy letter, and hear me tell him how
thou pinest for him, and yet, being a traitor, or a mere idiot,
will not turn to thee what shall become of me then? Must I die a
bachelor, and thou fare lonely to thy grave, neither maid, wife,
Margaret panted with fear and emotion at this terrible piece of
good sense, and the plain question which followed it. But at last
she faltered out, "If, which our Lady be merciful to me, and
forbid - Oh!"
"If he should read my letter, and hear thy words - and, sweet
Luke, be just and tell him what a lovely babe he hath, fatherless,
fatherless. Oh, Luke, can he be so cruel?"
"I trow not but if?"
"Then he will give thee up my marriage lines, and I shall be an
honest woman, and a wretched one, and my boy will not be a
bastard; and of course, then we could both go into any honest
man's house that would be troubled with us; and even for thy
goodness this day, I will - I will - ne'er be so ungrateful as go
past thy door to another man's."
"Ay, but will you come in at mine? Answer me that!"
"Oh, ask me not! Some day, perhaps, when my wounds leave bleeding.
Alas, I'll try. If I don't fling myself and my child into the
Maas. Do not go, Luke! do not think of going! 'Tis all madness
from first to last."
But Luke was as slow to forego an idea as to form one.
His reply showed how fast love was making a man of him. "Well,"
said he, "madness is something, anyway; and I am tired of doing
nothing for thee; and I am no great talker. To-morrow, at peep of
day, I start. But hold, I have no money. My mother, she takes care
of all mine; and I ne'er see it again."
Then Margaret took out Catherine's gold angel, which had escaped
so often, and gave it to Luke; and he set out on his mad errand.
It did not, however, seem so mad to him as to us. It was a
superstitious age; and Luke acted on the dying man's dream, or
vision, or illusion, or whatever it was, much as we should act on
But Catherine was downright angry when she heard of it, "To send
the poor lad on such a wild-goose chase! "But you are like a many
more girls; and mark my words; by the time you have worn that Luke
fairly out, and made him as sick of you as a dog, you will turn as
fond on him as a cow on a calf, and 'Too late' will be the cry."
The two friars reached Holland from the south just twelve hours
after Luke started up the Rhine.
Thus, wild-goose chase or not, the parties were nearing each
other, and rapidly too. For Jerome, unable to preach in low Dutch,
now began to push on towards the coast, anxious to get to England
as soon as possible.
And having the stream with them, the friars would in point of fact
have missed Luke by passing him in full stream below his station,
but for the incident which I am about to relate.
About twenty miles above the station Luke was making for, Clement
landed to preach in a large village; and towards the end of his
sermon he noticed a grey nun weeping.
He spoke to her kindly, and asked her what was her grief.
"Nay," said she, "'tis not for myself flow these tears; 'tis for
my lost friend. Thy words reminded me of what she was, and what
she is, poor wretch, But you are a Dominican, and I am a
"It matters little, my sister, if we are both Christians, and if I
can aid thee in aught."
The nun looked in his face, and said, "These are strange words,
but methinks they are good; and thy lips are oh, most eloquent, I
will tell thee our grief."
She then let him know that a young nun, the darling of the
convent, and her bosom friend, had been lured away from her vows,
and after various gradations of sin, was actually living in a
small inn as chambermaid, in reality as a decoy, and was known to
be selling her favours to the wealthier customers, She added,
"Anywhere else we might, by kindly violence, force her away from
perdition, But this innkeeper was the servant of the fierce baron
on the height there, and hath his ear still, and he would burn our
convent to the ground, were we to take her by force,"
"Moreover, souls will not be saved by brute force," said Clement.
While they were talking Jerome came up, and Clement persuaded him
to lie at the convent that night, But when in the morning Clement
told him he had had a long talk with the abbess, and that she was
very sad, and he had promised her to try and win back her nun,
Jerome objected, and said, "It was not their business, and was a
waste of time," Clement, however, was no longer a mere pupil. He
stood firm, and at last they agreed that Jerome should go forward,
and secure their passage in the next ship for England, and Clement
be allowed time to make his well-meant but idle experiment.
About ten o'clock that day, a figure in a horseman's cloak, and
great boots to match, and a large flapping felt hat, stood like a
statue near the auberge, where was the apostate nun, Mary. The
friar thus disguised was at that moment truly wretched. These
ardent natures undertake wonders; but are dashed when they come
hand to hand with the sickening difficulties. But then, as their
hearts are steel, though their nerves are anything but iron, they
turn not back, but panting and dispirited, struggle on to the
Clement hesitated long at the door, prayed for help and wisdom,
and at last entered the inn and sat down faint at heart, and with
his body in a cold perspiration, But inside he was another man. He
called lustily for a cup of wine: it was brought him by the
landlord, He paid for it with money the convent had supplied him;
and made a show of drinking it,
"Landlord," said he, "I hear there is a fair chambermaid in thine
"Ay, stranger, the buxomest in Holland. But she gives not her
company to all comers only to good customers."
Friar Clement dangled a massive gold chain in the landlord's
sight. He laughed, and shouted, "Here, Janet, here is a lover for
thee would bind thee in chains of gold; and a tall lad into the
bargain, I promise thee."
"Then I am in double luck," said a female voice; "send him
Clement rose, shuddered, and passed into the room, where Janet was
seated playing with a piece of work, and laying it down every
minute, to sing a mutilated fragment of a song. For, in her mode
of life, she had not the patience to carry anything out.
After a few words of greeting, the disguised visitor asked her if
they could not be more private somewhere.
"Why not?" said she. And she rose and smiled, and went tripping
before him, He followed, groaning inwardly, and sore perplexed.
"There," said she. "Have no fear! Nobody ever comes here, but such
as pay for the privilege."
Clement looked round the room, and prayed silently for wisdom.
Then he went softly, and closed the window-shutters carefully.
"What on earth is that for?" said Janet, in some uneasiness.
"Sweetheart," whispered the visitor, with a mysterious air, "it is
that God may not see us.
"Madman," said Janet; "think you a wooden shutter can keep out His
"Nay, I know not. Perchance He has too much on hand to notice us,
But I would not the saints and angels should see us. Would you?"
"My poor soul, hope not to escape their sight! The only way is not
to think of them; for if you do, it poisons your cup. For two pins
I'd run and leave thee. Art pleasant company in sooth."
"After all, girl, so that men see us not, what signify God and the
saints seeing us? Feel this chain! 'Tis virgin gold. I shall cut
two of these heavy links off for thee."
"Ah! now thy discourse is to the point," And she handled the chain
greedily. "Why, 'tis as massy as the chain round the virgin's neck
at the conv - " She did not finish the word.
"Whisht! whisht! whisht! 'Tis it. And thou shalt have thy share.
But betray me not."
"Monster!" cried Janet, drawing back from him with repugnance;
"what, rob the blessed Virgin of her chain, and give it to an - "
"You are none," cried Clement exultingly, "or you had not recked
"Ah! ah! ah!"