Though the jongejuffrouw seemed inexpressibly tired and weak, her attitude toward Diogenes lost nothing of its cold aloofness. She was peeping out under the hood of the sledge when he approached it, and at sight of him she immediately drew in her head.
"Will you deign to descend, mejuffrouw,"
he said with that slight tone of good-humoured mockery in his
voice which had the power to irritate her. "Mynheer
Ben Isaje, whose hospitality you will enjoy this night, lives
some way up this narrow, insalubrious street, and he has bidden
me to escort you to his house."
Silently, and with a great show of passive
obedience, Gilda made ready to step out of the sledge.
"Come, Maria," she said curtly.
"The road is very slippery, mejuffrouw,"
he added warningly, "will you not permit me -- for your own
convenience' sake -- to carry you as far as Ben Isaje's door?"
"It would not be for my convenience, sir," she retorted haughtily, "an you are so chivalrously inclined perhaps you would kindly convey my waiting woman thither in your arms."
"At your service, mejuffrouw," he said with imperturbable good temper.
And without more ado, despite her screams and her struggles, he seized Maria round her ample waist and round her struggling knees at the moment that she was stepping out of the sledge in the wake of her mistress.
The lamp outside the hostel at the corner illumined for a moment Gilda's pale, wearied face, and Diogenes saw that she was trying her best to suppress an insistent outburst of laughter.
"Hey there!" he shouted, "Pythagoras, Socrates, follow the jongejuffrouw at a respectful distance and see that no harm come to her while I lead the way with this feather-weight in my arms."
Nor did he deposit Maria to the ground until he reached the door of Ben Isaje's house; here, when the mevrouw began to belabour him with her tongue and with her fists, he turned appealingly to Gilda:
"Mejuffrouw," he said merrily, "is this abuse not unmerited? I did but obey your behests and see how I must suffer for mine obedience."
But Gilda vouchsafed him no reply, and in the
darkness he could not see if her face looked angered or smiling.
Ben Isaje, hearing the noise that went on outside
his house, had already hastened to open the door. He welcomed
the jongejuffrouw with obsequious bows. Behind him in the
dark passage stood a lean and towzled-looking serving woman of
uncertain years who was as obsequious as her master. When
Gilda, confused and wearied, and mayhap not a little tired, advanced
timorously into the narrow passage, the woman rushed up to her,
and almost kneeling on the floor in the lowliness of her attitude,
she kissed the jongejuffrouw's hand.
Diogenes saw nothing more of Gilda and Maria
after that. They vanished into the gloom up the ladder-like
staircase, preceded by the towzled but amiable woman, who by her
talk and clumsy attempts at service had already earned Maria's
"You, too, must be hungry, sir,"
murmured a smooth affable voice close to Diogenes' elbow.
"There is a bite and a drink ready for you; will you sup,
sir, ere you go to bed?"
Before, however, following Ben Isaje into the
shop Diogenes exchanged a few words with his brother philosophers,
who, impassive and unquestioning, had escorted the jongejuffrouw
to the door, and now stood there awaiting further orders.
Diogenes suggested their getting supper and a bed in the hostelry
at the top of the street in company with their driver; the horses
too should all be stabled there.
"I am going to spend the night under this
tumble-down roof," he said, "but remember to sleep with
one eye open and be prepared for a summons from me at any hour
of the night or morning. Until that comes, however, do not
leave the hostel. Care well for the horses, we may have
need of them to-morrow. Good-night! pleasant dreams!
Do not forget that to-morrow five hundred guilders will fill each
of your pockets. In the meanwhile here is the where-withal
to pay for bed and supper."
He gave them some money and then watched the
two quaint figures, the long one and the round one, until they
were merged in the blackness of the narrow street. Then
he went within. Ben Isaje once more closed and bolted the
front door and the two men then went together into the shop.
Here an appetizing supper had been laid ready
upon the table and a couple of tallow candles burned in pewter
Ben Isaje at once invited his guest to eat
"Not before we have settled our business
together, master," said the latter as he dragged a chair
towards him, and sitting astride upon it, with his shapely legs
thrust well out before him, he once more drew a paper from out
the lining of his doublet.
"You are satisfied," he resumed after
a slight pause, "that the lady whom I have had the honour
of bringing into your house is indeed the Jongejuffrouw Gilda
Beresteyn, sister of your client Mynheer Nicolaes Beresteyn of
"I am quite satisfied on that point,"
replied the Jew, whose thin, bent form under the rigid folds of
the black kaftan looked curiously weird in the feeble yellow light.
His face was narrow and also waxlike in hue and the flickering
candle-light threw quaint, distorted shadows around his long hooked
"Then," said Diogenes blandly while
he held out a folded paper to Ben Isaje, "Here is the bond
signed by Mynheer Beresteyn wherein he orders you to pay me the
sum of 3,000 guilders in consideration of the services which I
have rendered him."
But Ben Isaje did not take the paper thus held
out to him.
"It is too late," he said quietly,
"to transact business to-night."
"Too late!" exclaimed Diogenes with
a blunt oath. "What in thunder do you mean?"
"I mean, sir, that you must try and curb
your natural impatience until to-morrow."
"But I will not curb mine impatience another
moment, plepshurk," cried the philosopher in a rage, "I
have fulfilled my share of a bargain, 'tis only a verdommte Keerl
who would shirk paying his own share on the nail."
"Nor would Mynheer Beresteyn desire me to shirk his responsibilities, I assure you," rejoined the Jew suavely, "and believe me, sir, that you will not lose one grote by waiting until the morrow. Let a good supper and a comfortable bed freely offered you atone for this unimportant delay. You still hold Mynheer Beresteyn's bond: to-morrow at the first business hour you shall be paid."
"But why any delay at all?" thundered Diogenes, who indeed misliked this way of doing business. "Why not pay me the money now? -- at once, I will gladly forego the supper and sit all night upon your door-step, but have my money in my pocket."
"Unfortunately, sir," said Ben Isaje with imperturbable amiability, "I am quite helpless in the matter. I am not the sole master of this business, my wife's brother shares my profits and my obligations. Neither of us is at liberty to pay out a large sum of money, save in the presence of the other."
"You and your partner know how to trust
one another." said Diogenes with a laugh.
The Jew made no comment on this, only shrugged
his shoulders in that calm manner peculiar to his race, which
suggests the Oriental resignation to compelling fate.
Diogenes -- inwardly fuming -- thought over
the matter very quietly for a few moments: it was obviously as
useless to argue this matter out with Ben Isaje, as it had been
to combat his dictum anent the jongejuffrouw spending the night
under his roof, and as usual the wholesome lesson of life which
the philosopher had learnt so thoroughly during his adventurous
career stood him in good stead now: the lesson was the one which
taught him never to waste time, temper or words over a purposeless
That one shrug of Isaje's shoulders had told
him with dumb eloquence that no amount of persuasion on his part
would cause the banker to swerve from his determination.
The money would be forthcoming on the morrow but not before, and
there were ten picked men somewhere in the house at the present
moment to prevent Diogenes from settling this matter in a primitive
and efficient way by using his fists.
So in this instance too -- disappointed though
he was -- he quickly regained his good humour. After all,
the Jew was right: a night's delay would not spell a loss, and
was well compensated for by a good supper and cosy bed.
With his habitual light-hearted laugh and careless
shrug of the shoulders, he folded the paper up again and once
more slipped it carefully into the inner lining of his doublet.
"You are right, sir," he said, "'twere
foolish to allow choler to spoil the appetite. I am as hungry
as the dog of a Spaniard. By your leave I'll test the strength
of your ale and to-morrow ere I leave your house you shall pay
me over the money in the presence of your trusting brother-in-law.
Until then the bond remains with me, and I hold myself responsible
for the safety of the jongejuffrouw. So I pray you be not
surprised if I forbid her removal from this house until I have
exchanged this bond for the sum of 3,000 guilders."
After which he drew his chair close to the table, and fell to all its good cheer with a hearty will. Ben Isaje, hospitable and affable to the last, waited on him with his own hands.