Beresteyn was sitting at the table in the weighing-room of the molens: his elbows rested on the table, and his right hand supported his head; in the feeble light of the lanthorn placed quite close to him, his face looked sullen and dark, and his eyes, overshadowed by his frowning brows, were fixed with restless eagerness upon the narrow door.
Stoutenburg, with hands crossed over his chest,
with head bare and collar impatiently torn away from round his
neck, was pacing up and down the long, low room like a caged beast
"Enter!" he shouted impatiently in
response to a loud knock on the door. Then as Jan entered,
and having saluted, remained standing by the door, he paused in
his feverish walk, and asked in a curiously hoarse voice, choked
"Is everything all right, Jan?"
"Everything, my lord."
"The jongejuffrouw? . . ."
"In the hut, my lord. There is a
good fire there and the woman is preparing some hot supper for
"How does she seem?"
"She stepped very quietly out of the sledge,
my lord, the moment I told her that we had arrived. She
asked no questions, and walked straight into the hut. Meseemed
that the jongejuffrouw knew exactly where she was."
"The woman will look after her comforts
"Oh, yes, my lord, though she is only
a rough peasant, she will try and do her best, and the jongejuffrouw
has her own waiting woman with her as well."
"And the horses?"
"In the shed behind the hut."
"Look after them well, Jan: we may want
to use them again to-morrow."
"They shall be well looked after, my lord."
"And you have placed the sentry outside
"Two men in the front and two in the rear,
as you have commanded, my lord."
Stoutenburg drew a deep breath of satisfaction:
but anxiety seemed to have exhausted him, for now that his questions
had been clearly answered, he sank into a chair.
"All well, Nicolaes," he said more
calmly as he placed a re-assuring hand upon his friend's shoulder.
But Nicolaes groaned aloud.
"Would to God," he said, "that
all were well!"
Smothering an impatient retort Stoutenburg
once more turned to Jan.
"And what news of the foreigner?"
he queried eagerly.
"We have got him, my lord," replied
"By G--d!" exclaimed Stoutenburg,
"how did you do it?"
His excitement was at fever pitch now.
He was leaning forward, and his attitude was one of burning expectancy.
His hollow eyes were fixed upon Jan's lips as if they would extract
from them the glad news which they held. Whatever weakness
there was in Stoutenburg's nature, one thing in him was strong
-- and that was hatred. He could hate with an intensity
of passion worthy of a fine cause. He hated the Stadtholder
first, and secondly the nameless adventurer who had humiliated
him and forced him to lick the dust: wounded in his vanity and
in his arrogance he was consumed with an inordinate desire for
revenge. The hope that this revenge was now at last in sight
-- that the man whom he hated so desperately was now in his power
-- almost caused the light of mania to dance in his glowing eyes.
"How did you do it, Jan?" he reiterated
"It was not far from the molens,"
said Jan simply, "until then he gave us the slip, though
we spied him just outside Delft on our way to Rotterdam this morning.
My impression is that he went back to Rotterdam then, and that
he followed the jongejuffrouw's sledge practically all the way.
Close to the molens he was forced to draw a little nearer as it
was getting very dark and probably he did not know his way about.
I am convinced that he wished to ascertain exactly whither we
were taking the jongejuffrouw. At an rate, I and some of
our fellows who had lagged in the rear caught sight of him then
. . ."
"And you seized him?" cried Stoutenburg
with exultant joy.
"He was alone, my lord," replied
Jan with a placid smile, "and there were seven of us at the
time. Two or three of the men, though, are even now nursing
unpleasant wounds. I myself fared rather badly with a bruised
head and half-broken collar-bone. . . . The man is a demon for
fighting, but there were seven of us."
"Well done, Jan!" cried Beresteyn
now, for Stoutenburg had become speechless with the delight of
this glorious news; "and what did you do with the rogue?"
"We tied him securely with ropes and dragged
him along with us. Oh! we made certain of him, my lord,
you may be sure of that. And now I and another man have
taken him down into the basement below and we have fastened him
to one of the beams, where I imagine the northwest wind will soon
cool his temper."
"Aye, that it will!" quoth Stoutenburg
lustily. "Take the lanthorn, Jan, and let us to him
at once. Beresteyn, friend, will you come too? Your
hand like mine must be itching to get at the villain's face."
The two men took good care to wrap their cloaks
well round their shoulders and to pull their fur caps closely
round their ears. Thus muffled up against the bitterness
of the night, they went out of the molens, followed by Jan, who
carried the lanthorn.
Outside the door, steep, ladder-like steps
led to the ground. The place referred to by Jan as "the
basement" was in reality the skeleton foundations on which
the molens rested. These were made up of huge beams -- green
and slimy with age, and driven deep down into the muddy flat below.
Ten feet up above, the floor of the molens sat towering aloft.
Darkness like pitch reigned on this spot, but as Jan swung his
lanthorn along, the solid beams detached themselves one by one
out of the gloom, their ice-covered surface reflected the yellow
artificial light, and huge icicles of weird and fantastic shapes
like giant arms and fingers stretched out hung down from the
transverse bars and from the wooden frame-work of the molens above.
To one of the upright beams a man was securely
fastened with ropes wound round about his body. His powerful
muscles were straining against the cords which tied his arms behind
his back. A compassionate hand had put his broad-brimmed
hat upon his head, to protect his ears and nose against the frost,
but his mighty chest was bare, for doublet and shirt had been
torn in the reckless fight which preceded final capture.
Jan held up the lanthorn and pointed out to
my lord the prisoner whom he was so proud to have captured.
The light fell upon the pinioned figure, splendid in its air of
rebellious helplessness. Here was a man, momentarily conquered
it is true, but obviously not vanquished and though the ropes
now cut into his body, though the biting wind lashed his bare
chest, and dark stains showed upon his shirt, the spirit within
was as free and untrammelled as ever -- the spirit of independence
and of adventure which is willing to accept the knockdown blows
of fate as readily and cheerfully as her favours.
Despite the torn shirt and the ragged doublet
there was yet an air of swagger about the whole person of the
man, swagger that became almost insolent as the Lord of Stoutenburg
approached. He threw back his head and looked his sworn
enemy straight in the face, his eyes were laughing still, and
a smile of cool irony played round his lips.
"Well done, Jan!" quoth Stoutenburg
with a deep sign of satisfaction. He was standing with arms akimbo
and legs wide apart, enjoying to the full the intense delight
of gazing for awhile in silence on his discomfitted enemy.
"Ah! but it is good," he said at
last, "to look upon a helpless rogue."
"'Tis a sight then," retorted the
prisoner lightly, "which your Magnificence hath often provided
for your friends and your adherents."
"Bah!" rejoined Stoutenburg, who
was determined to curb his temper if he could, "your insolence
now, my man, hath not the power to anger me. It strikes
me as ludicrous -- even pathetic in its senselessness. An
I were in your unpleasant position, I would try by submission
to earn a slight measure of leniency from my betters."
"No doubt you would, my lord," quoth
Diogenes dryly, "but you see I have up to now not yet come
across my betters. When I do, I may take your advice."
"Verdommte Keerl! What say you,
Beresteyn," added Stoutenburg turning to his friend, "shall
we leave him here to-night to cool his impudence, we can always
hang him to-morrow."
Beresteyn made no immediate reply, his face
was pale and haggard, and his glance -- shifty and furtive --
seemed to avoid that of the prisoner.
"You must see that the fellow is well
guarded, Jan," resumed Stoutenburg curtly, "give him
some food, but on no account allow him the slightest freedom."
"My letters to Ben Isaje," murmured
Beresteyn, as Stoutenburg already turned to go. "Hath
he perchance got them by him still?"
"The letters! yes! I have forgotten!"
said the other. "Search him, Jan!" he commanded.
Jan put down the lanthorn and then proceeded
to lay rough hands upon the captive philosopher; he had a heavy
score to pay off against him -- an aching
collar-bone and a bruised head, and the weight of a powerful fist to avenge. He was not like to be gentle in his task. He tore at the prisoner's doublet and in his search for a hidden pocket he disclosed an ugly wound which had lacerated the shoulder.
"Some of us took off our skates,"
he remarked casually, "and brought him down with them.
The blades were full sharp, and we swung them by their straps;
they made excellent weapons thus; the fellow should have more
than one wound about him."
"Three, my good Jan, to be quite accurate,"
said Diogenes calmly, "but all endurable. I had ten
about me outside Prague once, but the fellows there were fighting
better than you, and in a worthier cause."
Jan's rough hands continued their exhaustive
search; a quickly smothered groan from the prisoner caused Stoutenburg
"That sound," he said, "was
music to mine ear."
Jan now drew a small leather wallet and a parchment
roll both from the wide flap of the prisoner's boot. Stoutenburg
pounced upon the wallet, and Beresteyn with eager anxiety tore
the parchment out of Jan's hand.
"It is the formal order to Ben Isaje,"
he said, "to pay over the money to this knave. Is there
anything else, Jan?" he continued excitedly, "a thinner
paper? -- shaped like a letter?"
"Nothing else, mynheer," replied
"Did you then deliver my letter to Ben
Isaje, fellow?" queried Beresteyn of the prisoner.
"My friend Jan should be able to tell
you that," he replied, "hath he not been searching the
very folds of my skin."
In the meanwhile Stoutenburg had been examining
the contents of the wallet.
"Jewellery belonging to the jongejuffrouw,"
he said dryly, "which this rogue hath stolen from her.
Will you take charge of them, Nicolaes? And here,"
he added, counting out a few pieces of gold and silver, "is
some of your own money."
He made as if he would return this to Beresteyn,
then a new idea seemed to strike him, for he put all the money
back into the wallet and said to Jan:
"Put this wallet back where you found
it, Jan, and, Nicolaes," he added turning back to his friend,
"will you allow me to look at that bond?"
While Jan obeyed and replaced the wallet in
the flap of the prisoner's boot, Beresteyn handed the parchment
to Stoutenburg. The latter then ordered Jan to hold up the
lanthorn so that by its light he might read the writing.
This he did, twice over, with utmost attention;
after which he tore off very carefully a narrow strip from the
top of the document.
"Now," he said quietly, "this
paper, wherever found, cannot compromise you in any way, Nicolaes.
The name of Ben Isaje who alone could trace the cypher signature
back to you, we will scatter to the winds."
And he tore the narrow strip which he had severed
from the document into infinitesimal fragments, which he then
allowed the wind to snatch out of his hand and to whirl about
and away into space. But the document itself he folded up
with ostentatious care.
"What do you want with that?" asked
"I don't know yet, but it might be very
useful," replied the other. "So many things may
occur within the next few days that such an ambiguously worded
document might prove of the utmost value."
"But . . . the signature . . ." urged
Beresteyn, "my father . . ."
"The signature, you told me, friend, is
one that you use in the ordinary way of business whilst the wording
of the document in itself cannot compromise you in any way; it
is merely a promise to pay for services rendered. Leave
this document in my keeping; believe me, it is quite safe with
me and might yet be of incalculable value to us. One never
"No! one never does know," broke
in the prisoner airily, "for of a truth when there's murder
to be done, pillage or outrage, the Lord of Stoutenburg never
knows what other infamy may come to his hand."
"Insolent knave!" exclaimed Stoutenburg
hoarsely, as with a cry of unbridled fury he suddenly raised his
arm and with the parchment roll which he held, he struck the prisoner
savagely in the face.
"Take care, Stoutenburg," ejaculated
Beresteyn almost involuntarily.
"Take care of what," retorted the
other with a harsh laugh, "the fellow is helpless, thank
God! and I would gladly break my riding whip across his impudent
He was livid and shaking with fury. Beresteyn
-- honestly fearing that in his blind rage he would compromise
his dignity before his subordinates -- dragged him by the arm
away from the presence of this man whom he appeared to hate with
such passionate intensity.
Stoutenburg, obdurate at first, almost drunk
with his own fury, tried to free himself from his friend's grasp.
He wanted to lash the man he hated once more in the face, to gloat
for awhile longer on the sight of his enemy now completely in
his power. But all around in the gloom he perceived figures
that moved; the soldiers and mercenaries placed at his disposal
by his friends were here in numbers: some of them had been put
on guard over the prisoner by Jan, and others had joined them,
attracted by loud voices.
Stoutenburg had just enough presence of mind
left in him to realize that the brutal striking of a defenceless
prisoner would probably horrify these men, who were fighters and
not bullies, and might even cause them to turn from their allegiance
So with desperate effort he pulled himself
together and contrived to give with outward calm some final orders
"See that the ropes are securely fastened,
Jan," he said, "leave half a dozen men on guard, then
But to Beresteyn, who had at last succeeded
in dragging him away from this spot, he said loudly:
"You do not know, Nicolaes, what a joy
it is to me to be even with that fellow at last."
A prolonged laugh, that had a note of triumph
in it, gave answer to this taunt, whilst a clear voice shouted
"Nay! we never can be quite even, my lord; since you were not trussed like a capon when I forced you to lick the dust."