CHAPTER XLV - THE END


Diogenes sat beside the window in the tapperij listening with half an ear to the sounds in and about the hostelry which were dying out one by one.  At first there had been a footfall in the room overhead which had seemed to him the sweetest music that man could hear.  It had paced somewhat restlessly up and down and to the Laughing Cavalier, the gay and irresponsible soldier of fortune, it had seemed as if every creaking of a loose board beneath the featherweight of that footfall found its echo in his heart.

But anon Mynheer Cornelius Beresteyn was called away and then all was still in the room upstairs, and Diogenes burying his head in his hands evoked the picture of that room as he had seen it five days ago.  The proud jongejuffrouw in her high-backed chair, looking on him with blue eyes which she vainly tried to render hard through their exquisite expression of appealing, childlike gentleness: and he groaned aloud with the misery of the inevitable which with stern finger bade him go and leave behind him all the illusions, all the dreams which he had dared to weave.

Had she not told him that she despised him, that his existence was as naught to her, that she looked on him as a menial and a knave, somewhat below the faithful henchmen who were in her father's service?  Ye gods! he had endured much in his life of privations, of physical and mental pain, but was there aught on earth or in the outermost pits of hell to be compared with the agony of this ending to a dream.

The serving-wench came in just then.  She scarcely dared approach the mynheer with the merry voice and the laughter-filled eyes who now looked so inexpressibly sad.

Yet she had a message for him.  Mynheer Cornelius Beresteyn, she said, desired to speak with him once more.  The wench had murmured the words shyly, for her heart was aching for the handsome soldier and the tears were very near her eyes.  But hearing the message he had jumped up with alacrity and was immediately ready to follow her.

Mynheer Beresteyn had a room on the upper floor, she explained, as she led the way upstairs.  The old man was standing on the narrow landing and as soon as Diogenes appeared upon the stairs, he said simply:

"There was something I did forget to say to you downstairs; may I trouble you, sir, to come into my room for a moment."

He threw open one of the doors that gave on the landing and politely stood aside that his visitor might pass through.  Diogenes entered the room: he heard the door being closed behind him, and thought that Mynheer Beresteyn had followed him in. 

The room was very dimly lighted by a couple of tallow candles that flickered in their sconces, and at first he could not see into the dark recesses of the room.  But presently something moved, something ethereal and intangible, white and exquisite.  It stirred from out the depths of the huge high-backed chair, and from out the gloom there came a little cry of surprise and of joy which was as the call of bird or angel.

He did not dare to move, he scarcely dared to breathe. He looked round for Mynheer Beresteyn who had disappeared.

Surely this could be only a dream.  Nothing real on earth could be so exquisite as that subtle vision which he had of her now, sitting in the high-backed chair, leaning slightly forward toward him.  Gradually his eyes became accustomed to the gloom: he could see her quite distinctly no, her fair curls round her perfect head, her red lips parted, her eyes fixed upon him with a look which he dared not interpret.

All around him was the silence and the darkness of the night, and he was alone with her just as he had been in this very room five days ago and then again at Rotterdam.

"St. Bavon, you rogue!" he murmured, "where are you?  How dare you leave me in the lurch like this?"

Then -- how it all happened he could not himself have told you -- he suddenly found himself at her feet, kneeling beside the high-backed chair; his arms were round her shoulders and he could feel the exquisite perfume of her breath upon his cheek.

"St. Bavon," he cried exultingly to himself, "go away, you rogue! there's no need for your admonitions now."

Mynheer Beresteyn tiptoed quietly into the room. The roguish smile still played around his lips.  He came up close to the high-backed chair and placed his hand upon his daughter's head.


Diogenes looked up, and met the kindly eyes of the old man fixed with calm earnestness upon him.


"Mynheer," he said, and laughter which contained a world of happiness as well as of joy danced and sparkled in every line of his face, "just now I refused one half of your fortune!  But 'tis your greatest treasure I claim from you now."


"Nay! you rascal," rejoined Beresteyn, as he lifted his daughter's chin gently with one finger and looked into her deep blue eyes which were brimful of happiness, "methinks that that treasure is yours already!"

"Go back, good St. Bavon," cried the Laughing Cavalier in an ecstasy of joy.  "Your heaven -- you rogue -- is not more perfect than this."

The End