The Cloister and the Hearth
by Charles Reade
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"Man, see you not, this is Gerard!"

"This, Gerard? what mean ye?"

"I mean, yon friar is my boy's father. I have waited for him long, Jorian. Well, he is come to me at last. And thank God for it. Oh, my poor child! Quicker, Jorian, quicker!"

"Why, thou art mad as he. Stay! By St. Bavon, yon was Gerard's face; 'twas nought like it; yet somehow—'twas it. Come on! come on! let me see the end of this."

"The end? How many of us will live to see that?"

They hurried along in breathless silence, till they reached Hoog Straet.

Then Jorian tried to reassure her. "You are making your own trouble," said he; "who says he has gone thither? more likely to the convent to weep and pray, poor soul. Oh, cursed, cursed villains!"

"Did not you tell him where those villains bide?"

"Ay, that I did."

"Then quicker, oh, Jorian, quicker. I see the house. Thank God and all the saints, I shall be in time to calm him. I know what I'll say to him; Heaven forgive me! Poor Catherine; 'tis of her I think: she has been a mother to me."

The shop was a corner house, with two doors; one in the main street, for customers, and a house-door round the corner.

Margaret and Jorian were now within twenty yards of the shop, when they heard a roar inside, like as of some wild animal, and the friar burst out, white and raging, and went tearing down the street.

Margaret screamed, and sank fainting on Jorian's arm.

Jorian shouted after him, "Stay, madman, know thy friends." But he was deaf, and went headlong, shaking his clenched fists high, high in the air.

"Help me in, good Jorian," moaned Margaret, turning suddenly calm. "Let me know the worst; and die."

He supported her trembling limbs into the house.

It seemed unnaturally still; not a sound.

Jorian's own heart beat fast.

A door was before him, unlatched. He pushed it softly with his left hand, and Margaret and he stood on the threshold.

What they saw there you shall soon know.


It was supper-time. Eli's family were collected round the board; Margaret only was missing. To Catherine's surprise, Eli said he would wait a bit for her.

"Why, I told her you would not wait for the duke."

"She is not the duke; she is a poor, good lass, that hath waited not minutes, but years, for a graceless son of mine. You can put the meat on the board all the same; then we can fall to, without farther loss o' time, when she does come."

The smoking dishes smelt so savoury that Eli gave way. "She will come if we begin," said he; "they always do, Come, sit ye down, Mistress Joan; y'are not here for a slave, I trow, but a guest. There, I hear a quick step off covers, and fall to."

The covers were withdrawn, and the knives brandished.

Then burst into the room, not the expected Margaret, but a Dominican friar, livid with rage.

He was at the table in a moment, in front of Cornelis and Sybrandt, threw his tall body over the narrow table, and with two hands hovering above their shrinking heads, like eagles over a quarry, he cursed them by name, soul and body, in this world and the next. It was an age eloquent in curses; and this curse was so full, so minute, so blighting, blasting, withering, and tremendous, that I am afraid to put all the words on paper. "Cursed be the lips," he shrieked, "which spoke the lie that Margaret was dead; may they rot before the grave, and kiss white-hot iron in hell thereafter; doubly cursed be the hands that changed those letters, and be they struck off by the hangman's knife, and handle hell fire for ever; thrice accursed be the cruel hearts that did conceive that damned lie, to part true love for ever; may they sicken and wither on earth joyless, loveless, hopeless; and wither to dust before their time; and burn in eternal fire," He cursed the meat at their mouths and every atom of their bodies, from their hair to the soles of their feet. Then turning from the cowering, shuddering pair, who had almost hid themselves beneath the table, he tore a letter out of his bosom, and flung it down before his father.

"Read that, thou hard old man, that didst imprison thy son, read, and see what monsters thou hast brought into the world, The memory of my wrongs and hers dwell with you all for ever! I will meet you again at the judgment day; on earth ye will never see me more."

And in a moment, as he had come, so he was gone, leaving them stiff, and cold, and white as statues round the smoking board.

And this was the sight that greeted Margaret's eyes and Jorian's—pale figures of men and women petrified around the untasted food, as Eastern poets feigned.

Margaret glanced her eye round, and gasped out, "Oh, joy! all here; no blood hath been shed. Oh, you cruel, cruel men! I thank God he hath not slain you."

At sight of her Catherine gave an eloquent scream; then turned her head away. But Eli, who had just cast his eye over the false letter, and begun to understand it all, seeing the other victim come in at that very moment with her wrongs reflected in her sweet, pale face, started to his feet in a transport of rage, and shouted, "Stand clear, and let me get at the traitors, I'll hang for them," And in a moment he whipped out his short sword, and fell upon them.

"Fly!" screamed Margaret. "Fly!"

They slipped howling under the table, and crawled out the other side.

But ere they could get to the door, the furious old man ran round and intercepted them. Catherine only screamed and wrung her hands; your notables are generally useless at such a time; and blood would certainly have flowed, but Margaret and Jorian seized the fiery old man's arms, and held them with all their might, whilst the pair got clear of the house; then they let him go; and he went vainly raging after them out into the street.

They were a furlong off, running like hares.

He hacked down the board on which their names were written, and brought it indoors, and flung it into the chimney-place. Catherine was sitting rocking herself with her apron over her head. Joan had run to her husband. Margaret had her arms round Catherine's neck; and pale and panting, was yet making efforts to comfort her.

But it was not to be done, "Oh, my poor children!" she cried. "Oh, miserable mother! 'Tis a mercy Kate was ill upstairs. There, I have lived to thank God for that!" she cried, with a fresh burst of sobs. "It would have killed her. He had better have stayed in Italy, as come home to curse his own flesh and blood and set us all by the ears.

"Oh, hold your chat, woman," cried Eli angrily; "you are still on the side of the ill-doer, You are cheap served; your weakness made the rogues what they are; I was for correcting them in their youth: for sore ills, sharp remedies; but you still sided with their faults, and undermined me, and baffled wise severity. And you, Margaret, leave comforting her that ought rather to comfort you; for what is her hurt to yours? But she never had a grain of justice under her skin; and never will. So come thou to me, that am thy father from this hour."

This was a command; so she kissed Catherine, and went tottering to him, and he put her on a chair beside him, and she laid her feeble head on his honest breast; but not a tear: it was too deep for that.

"Poor lamb," said he. After a while—"Come, good folks," said true Eli, in a broken voice, to Jorian and Joan, "we are in a little trouble, as you see; but that is no reason you should starve. For our Lady's sake, fall to; and add not to my grief the reputation of a churl. What the dickens!" added he, with a sudden ghastly attempt at stout-heartedness, "the more knaves I have the luck to get shut of, the more my need of true men and women, to help me clear the dish, and cheer mine eye with honest faces about me where else were gaps. Fall to, I do entreat ye."

Catherine, sobbing, backed his request. Poor, simple, antique, hospitable souls! Jorian, whose appetite, especially since his illness, was very keen, was for acting on this hospitable invitation; but Joan whispered a word in his ear, and he instantly drew back, "Nay, I'll touch no meat that Holy Church hath cursed."

"In sooth, I forgot," said Eli apologetically. "My son, who was reared at my table, hath cursed my victuals. That seems strange. Well, what God wills, man must bow to."

The supper was flung out into the yard.

Jorian took his wife home, and heavy sadness reigned in Eli's house that night.

Meantime, where was Clement?

Lying at full length upon the floor of the convent church, with his lips upon the lowest step of the altar, in an indescribable state of terror, misery, penitence, and self-abasement: through all which struggled gleams of joy that Margaret was alive.

Night fell and found him lying there weeping and praying; and morning would have found him there too; but he suddenly remembered that, absorbed in his own wrongs and Margaret's, he had committed another sin besides intemperate rage. He had neglected a dying man.

He rose instantly, groaning at his accumulated wickedness, and set out to repair the omission. The weather had changed; it was raining hard, and when he got clear of the town, he heard the wolves baying; they were on the foot, But Clement was himself again, or nearly; he thought little of danger or discomfort, having a shameful omission of religious duty to repair: he went stoutly forward through rain and darkness.

And as he went, he often beat his breast, and cried, "MEA CULPA! MEA CULPA!"


What that sensitive mind, and tender conscience, and loving heart, and religious soul, went through even in a few hours, under a situation so sudden and tremendous, is perhaps beyond the power of words to paint.

Fancy yourself the man; and then put yourself in his place! Were I to write a volume on it, we should have to come to that at last.

I shall relate his next two overt acts. They indicate his state of mind after the first fierce tempest of the soul had subsided. After spending the night with the dying hermit in giving and receiving holy consolations, he set out not for Rotterdam, but for Tergou. He went there to confront his fatal enemy the burgomaster, and by means of that parchment, whose history, by-the-by was itself a romance, to make him disgorge; and give Margaret her own.

Heated and dusty, he stopped at the fountain, and there began to eat his black bread and drink of the water. But in the middle of his frugal meal a female servant came running, and begged him to come and shrive her dying master, He returned the bread to his wallet, and followed her without a word.

She took him—to the Stadthouse.

He drew back with a little shudder when he saw her go in.

But he almost instantly recovered himself, and followed her into the house, and up the stairs. And there in bed, propped up by pillows, lay his deadly enemy, looking already like a corpse.

Clement eyed him a moment from the door, and thought of all the tower, the wood, the letter. Then he said in a low voice, "Pax vobiscum!" He trembled a little while he said it.

The sick man welcomed him as eagerly as his weak state permitted. "Thank Heaven, thou art come in time to absolve me from my sins, father, and pray for my soul, thou and thy brethren."

"My son," said Clement, "before absolution cometh confession. In which act there must be no reservation, as thou valuest thy soul's weal. Bethink thee, therefore, wherein thou hast most offended God and the Church, while I offer up a prayer for wisdom to direct thee."

Clement then kneeled and prayed; and when he rose from his knees, he said to Ghysbrecht, with apparent calmness, "My son, confess thy sins."

"Ah, father," said the sick man, "they are many and great."

"Great, then, be thy penitence, my son; so shalt thou find God's mercy great."

Ghysbrecht put his hands together, and began to confess with every appearance of contrition.

He owned he had eaten meat in mid-Lent. He had often absented himself from mass on the Lord's day, and saints' days; and had trifled with other religious observances, which he enumerated with scrupulous fidelity.

When he had done, the friar said quietly, "'Tis well, my son, These be faults. Now to thy crimes, Thou hadst done better to begin with them."

"Why, father, what crimes lie to my account if these be none?"

"Am I confessing to thee, or thou to me?" said Clement somewhat severely.

"Forgive me, father! Why, surely, I to you. But I know not what you call crimes."

"The seven deadly sins, art thou clear of them?"

"Heaven forefend I should be guilty of them. I know them not by name."

"Many do them all that cannot name them. Begin with that one which leads to lying, theft, and murder."

"I am quit of that one, any way. How call you it?"

"AVARICE, my son."

"Avarice? Oh, as to that, I have been a saving man all my day; but I have kept a good table, and not altogether forgotten the poor. But, alas, I am a great sinner, Mayhap the next will catch me, What is the next?"

"We have not yet done with this one. Bethink thee, the Church is not to be trifled with."

"Alas! am I in a condition to trifle with her now? Avarice? Avarice?"

He looked puzzled and innocent.

"Hast thou ever robbed the fatherless?" inquired the friar.

"Me? robbed the fatherless?" gasped Ghysbrecht; "not that I mind."

"Once more, my son, I am forced to tell thee thou art trifling with the Church. Miserable man! another evasion, and I leave thee, and fiends will straightway gather round thy bed, and tear thee down to the bottomless pit."

"Oh, leave me not! leave me not!" shrieked the terrified old man. "The Church knows all. I must have robbed the fatherless. I will confess. Who shall I begin with? My memory for names is shaken."

The defence was skilful, but in this case failed.

"Hast thou forgotten Floris Brandt?" said Clement stonily.

The sick man reared himself in bed in a pitiable state of terror. "How knew you that?" said he.

"The Church knows many things," said Clement coldly, "and by many ways that are dark to thee, Miserable impenitent, you called her to your side, hoping to deceive her, You said, 'I will not confess to the cure but to some friar who knows not my misdeeds. So will I cheat the Church on my deathbed, and die as I have lived,' But God, kinder to thee than thou art to thyself, sent to thee one whom thou couldst not deceive. He has tried thee; He was patient with thee, and warned thee not to trifle with Holy Church; but all is in vain; thou canst not confess; for thou art impenitent as a stone. Die, then, as thou hast lived. Methinks I see the fiends crowding round the bed for their prey. They wait but for me to go. And I go."

He turned his back; but Ghysbrecht, in extremity of terror, caught him by the frock. "Oh, holy man, mercy! stay. I will confess all, all. I robbed my friend Floris, Alas! would it had ended there; for he lost little by me; but I kept the land from Peter his son, and from Margaret, Peter's daughter. Yet I was always going to give it back; but I couldn't, I couldn't."

"Avarice, my son, avarice, Happy for thee 'tis not too late."

"No; I will leave it her by will. She will not have long to wait for it now; not above a month or two at farthest."

"For which month's possession thou wouldst damn thy soul for ever, Thou fool!"

The sick man groaned, and prayed the friar to be reasonable.

The friar firmly, but gently and persuasively, persisted, and with infinite patience detached the dying man's gripe from another's property. There were times when his patience was tried, and he was on the point of thrusting his hand into his bosom and producing the deed, which he had brought for that purpose; but after yesterday's outbreak he was on his guard against choler; and to conclude, he conquered his impatience; he conquered a personal repugnance to the man, so strong as to make his own flesh creep all the time he was struggling with this miser for his soul; and at last, without a word about the deed, he won upon him to make full and prompt restitution.

How the restitution was made will be briefly related elsewhere: also certain curious effects produced upon Ghysbrecht by it; and when and on what terms Ghysbrecht and Clement parted.

I promised to relate two acts of the latter, indicative of his mind.

This is one. The other is told in two words.

As soon as he was quite sure Margaret had her own, and was a rich woman—

He disappeared.


It was the day after that terrible scene: the little house in the Hoog Straet was like a grave, and none more listless and dejected than Catherine, so busy and sprightly by nature, After dinner, her eyes red with weeping, she went to the convent to try and soften Gerard, and lay the first stone at least of a reconciliation.

It was some time before she could make the porter understand whom she was seeking. Eventually she learned he had left late last night, and was not expected back, She went sighing with the news to Margaret. She found her sitting idle, like one with whom life had lost its savour; she had her boy clasped so tight in her arms, as if he was all she had left, and she feared some one would take him too. Catherine begged her to come to the Hoog Straet.

"What for?" sighed Margaret. "You cannot but say to yourselves, she is the cause of all."

"Nay, nay," said Catherine, "we are not so ill-hearted, and Eli is so fond on you; you will maybe soften him."

"Oh, if you think I can do any good, I'll come," said Margaret, with a weary sigh.

They found Eli and a carpenter putting up another name in place of Cornelis and Sybrandt's; and what should that name be but Margaret Brandt's.

With all her affection for Margaret, this went through poor Catherine like a knife. "The bane of one is another's meat," said she.

"Can he make me spend the money unjustly?" replied Margaret coldly.

"You are a good soul," said Catherine. "Ay, so best, sith he is the strongest."

The next day Giles dropped in, and Catherine told the story all in favour of the black sheep, and invited his pity for them, anathematized by their brother, and turned on the wide world by their father. But Giles's prejudices ran the other way; he heard her out, and told her bluntly the knaves had got off cheap; they deserved to be hanged at Margaret's door into the bargain, and dismissing them with contempt, crowed with delight at the return of his favourite. "I'll show him," said he, "what 'tis to have a brother at court with a heart to serve a friend, and a head to point the way."

"Bless thee, Giles," murmured Margaret softly.

"Thou wast ever his stanch friend, dear Giles," said little Kate; "but alack, I know not what thou canst do for him now."

Giles had left them, and all was sad and silent again, when a well-dressed man opened the door softly, and asked was Margaret Brandt here.

"D'ye hear, lass? You are wanted," said Catherine briskly. In her the Gossip was indestructible.

"Well, mother," said Margaret listlessly, "and here I am."

A shuffling of feet was heard at the door, and a colourless, feeble old man was assisted into the room. It was Ghysbrecht Van Swieten. At sight of him Catherine shrieked, and threw her apron over her head, and Margaret shuddered violently, and turned her head swiftly away, not to see him.

A feeble voice issued from the strange visitor's lips, "Good people, a dying man hath come to ask your forgiveness."

"Come to look on your work, you mean," said Catherine, taking down her apron and bursting out sobbing. "There, there, she is fainting; look to her, Eli, quick."

"Nay," said Margaret, in a feeble voice, "the sight of him gave me a turn, that is all, Prithee, let him say his say, and go; for he is the murderer of me and mine."

"Alas," said Ghysbrecht, "I am too feeble to say it standing and no one biddeth me sit down."

Eli, who had followed him into the house, interfered here, and said, half sullenly, half apologetically, "Well, burgomaster, 'tis not our wont to leave a visitor standing whiles we sit. But man, man, you have wrought us too much ill." And the honest fellow's voice began to shake with anger he fought hard to contain, because it was his own house.

Then Ghysbrecht found an advocate in one who seldom spoke in vain in that family.

It was little Kate. "Father, mother," said she, "my duty to you, but this is not well. Death squares all accounts, And see you not death in his face? I shall not live long, good friends; and his time is shorter than mine."

Eli made haste and set a chair for their dying enemy with his own hands. Ghysbrecht's attendants put him into it. "Go fetch the boxes," said he. They brought in two boxes, and then retired, leaving their master alone in the family he had so cruelly injured.

Every eye was now bent on him, except Margaret's. He undid the boxes with unsteady fingers, and brought out of one the title-deeds of a property at Tergou. "This land and these houses belonged to Floris Brandt, and do belong to thee of right, his granddaughter. These I did usurp for a debt long since defrayed with interest. These I now restore their rightful owner with penitent tears. In this other box are three hundred and forty golden angels, being the rent and fines I have received from that land more than Floris Brandt's debt to me, I have kept it compt, still meaning to be just one day; but Avarice withheld me, pray, good people, against temptation! I was not born dishonest: yet you see."

"Well, to be sure!" cried Catherine. "And you the burgomaster! Hast whipt good store of thieves in thy day. However," said she, on second thoughts, "'tis better late than never, What, Margaret, art deaf? The good man hath brought thee back thine own. Art a rich woman. Alack, what a mountain o' gold!"

"Bid him keep land and gold, and give me back my Gerard, that he stole from me with his treason," said Margaret, with her head still averted.

"Alas!" said Ghysbrecht, "would I could, what I can I have done. Is it nought? It cost me a sore struggle; and I rose from my last bed to do it myself, lest some mischance should come between her and her rights."

"Old man," said Margaret, "since thou, whose idol is pelf, hast done this, God and the saints will, as I hope, forgive thee. As for me, I am neither saint nor angel, but only a poor woman, whose heart thou hast broken, Speak to him, Kate, for I am like the dead."

Kate meditated a little while; and then her soft silvery voice fell like a soothing melody upon the air, "My poor sister hath a sorrow that riches cannot heal, Give her time, Ghysbrecht; 'tis not in nature she should forgive thee all. Her boy is fatherless; and she is neither maid, wife, nor widow; and the blow fell but two days syne, that laid her heart a bleeding."

A single heavy sob from Margaret was the comment to these words.

"Therefore, give her time! And ere thou diest, she will forgive thee all, ay, even to pleasure me, that haply shall not be long behind thee, Ghysbrecht. Meantime, we, whose wounds be sore, but not so deep as hers, do pardon thee, a penitent and a dying man; and I, for one, will pray for thee from this hour; go in peace!"

Their little oracle had spoken; it was enough. Eli even invited him to break a manchet and drink a stoup of wine to give him heart for his journey.

But Ghysbrecht declined, and said what he had done was a cordial to him, "Man seeth but a little way before him, neighbour. This land I clung so to it was a bed of nettles to me all the time. 'Tis gone; and I feel happier and livelier like for the loss on't."

He called his men, and they lifted him into the litter.

When he was gone Catherine gloated over the money. She had never seen so much together, and was almost angry with Margaret, for "sitting out there like an image." And she dilated on the advantages of money.

And she teased Margaret till at last she prevailed on her to come and look at it.

"Better let her be, mother," said Kate, "How can she relish gold, with a heart in her bosom liker lead?" But Catherine persisted.

The result was, Margaret looked down at all her wealth with wondering eyes. Then suddenly wrung her hands and cried with piercing anguish, "TOO LATE! TOO LATE!" And shook off her leaden despondency, only to go into strong hysterics over the wealth that came too late to be shared with him she loved.

A little of this gold, a portion of this land, a year or two ago, when it was as much her own as now; and Gerard would have never left her side for Italy or any other place.

"Too late! Too late!"


Not many days after this came the news that Margaret Van Eyck was dead and buried. By a will she had made a year before, she left all her property, after her funeral expenses and certain presents to Reicht Heynes, to her dear daughter Margaret Brandt, requesting her to keep Reicht as long as unmarried.

By this will Margaret inherited a furnished house, and pictures and sketches that in the present day would be a fortune: among the pictures was one she valued more than a gallery of others.

It represented "A Betrothal." The solemnity of the ceremony was marked in the grave face of the man, and the demure complacency of the woman. She was painted almost entirely by Margaret Van Eyck, but the rest of the picture by Jan. The accessories were exquisitely finished, and remain a marvel of skill to this day. Margaret Brandt sent word to Reicht to stay in the house till such time as she could find the heart to put foot in it, and miss the face and voice that used to meet her there; and to take special care of the picture "in the little cubboord:" meaning the diptych.

The next thing was, Luke Peterson came home, and heard that Gerard was a monk.

He was like to go mad with joy. He came to Margaret, and said—"heed, mistress. If he cannot marry you I can."

"You?" said Margaret. "Why, I have seen him."

"But he is a friar."

"He was my husband, and my boy's father long ere he was a friar. And I have seen him, I've seen him."

Luke was thoroughly puzzled. "I'll tell you what," said he; "I have got a cousin a lawyer. I'll go and ask him whether you are married or single."

"Nay, I shall ask my own heart, not a lawyer. So that is your regard for me; to go making me the town talk, oh, fie!"

"That is done already without a word from me."

"But not by such as seek my respect. And if you do it, never come nigh me again."

"Ay," said Luke, with a sigh, "you are like a dove to all the rest; but you are a hardhearted tyrant to me."

"'Tis your own fault, dear Luke, for wooing me. That is what lets me from being as kind to you as I desire, Luke, my bonny lad, listen to me. I am rich now; I can make my friends happy, though not myself. Look round the street, look round the parish. There is many a quean in it fairer than I twice told, and not spoiled with weeping. Look high; and take your choice. Speak you to the lass herself, and I'll speak to the mother; they shall not say thee nay; take my word for't."

"I see what ye mean," said Luke, turning very red. "But if I can't have your liking, I will none o' your money. I was your servant when you were poor as I; and poorer. No; if you would liever be a friar's leman than an honest man's wife, you are not the woman I took you for: so part we withouten malice: seek you your comfort on yon road, where never a she did find it yet, and for me, I'll live and die a bachelor. Good even, mistress."

"Farewell, dear Luke; and God forgive you for saying that to me."

For some days Margaret dreaded, almost as much as she desired, the coming interview with Gerard. She said to herself, "I wonder not he keeps away a while; for so should I." However, he would hear he was a father; and the desire to see their boy would overcome everything. "And," said the poor girl to herself, "if so be that meeting does not kill me, I feel I shall be better after it than I am now."

But when day after day went by, and he was not heard of, a freezing suspicion began to crawl and creep towards her mind. What if his absence was intentional? What if he had gone to some cold-blooded monks his fellows, and they had told him never to see her more? The convent had ere this shown itself as merciless to true lovers as the grave itself.

At this thought the very life seemed to die out of her.

And now for the first time deep indignation mingled at times with her grief and apprehension. "Can he have ever loved me? To run from me and his boy without a word! Why, this poor Luke thinks more of me than he does."

While her mind was in this state, Giles came roaring. "I've hit the clout; our Gerard is Vicar of Gouda."

A very brief sketch of the dwarf's court life will suffice to prepare the reader for his own account of this feat. Some months before he went to court his intelligence had budded. He himself dated the change from a certain 8th of June, when, swinging by one hand along with the week's washing on a tight rope in the drying ground, something went crack inside his head; and lo! intellectual powers unchained. At court his shrewdness and bluntness of speech, coupled with his gigantic voice and his small stature, made him a Power: without the last item I fear they would have conducted him to that unpopular gymnasium, the gallows. The young Duchess of Burgundy, and Marie the heiress apparent, both petted him, as great ladies have petted dwarfs in all ages; and the court poet melted butter by the six-foot rule, and poured enough of it down his back to stew Goliah in. He even amplified, versified, and enfeebled certain rough and ready sentences dictated by Giles.

The centipedal prolixity that resulted went to Eli by letter, thus entitled—

"The high and puissant Princess Marie of Bourgogne her lytel jantilman hys complaynt of y' Coort, and praise of a rusticall lyfe, versificated, and empapyred by me the lytel jantilman's right lovynge and obsequious servitor, etc."

But the dwarf reached his climax by a happy mixture of mind and muscle; thus:

The day before a grand court joust he challenged the Duke's giant to a trial of strength. This challenge made the gravest grin, and aroused expectation.

Giles had a lofty pole planted ready, and at the appointed hour went up it like a squirrel, and by strength of arm made a right angle with his body, and so remained: then slid down so quickly, that the high and puissant princess squeaked, and hid her face in her hands, not to see the demise of her pocket-Hercules.

The giant effected only about ten feet, then looked ruefully up and ruefully down, and descended, bathed in perspiration to argue the matter.

"It was not the dwarf's greater strength, but his smaller body."

The spectators received this excuse with loud derision. There was the fact, the dwarf was great at mounting a pole: the giant only great at excuses. In short Giles had gauged their intellects: with his own body no doubt.

"Come," said he, "an ye go to that, I'll wrestle ye, my lad, if so be you will let me blindfold your eyne."

The giant, smarting under defeat, and thinking he could surely recover it by this means, readily consented.

"Madam," said Giles, "see you yon blind Samson? At a signal from me he shall make me a low obeisance, and unbonnet to me."

"How may that be, being blinded?" inquired a maid of honour.

"I'll wager on Giles for one," said the princess.

"That is my affair."

When several wagers were laid pro and con, Giles hit the giant in the bread-basket. He went double (the obeisance), and his bonnet fell off.

The company yelled with delight at this delicate stroke of wit, and Giles took to his heels. The giant followed as soon as he could recover his breath and tear off his bandage. But it was too late; Giles had prepared a little door in the wall, through which he could pass, but not a giant, and had coloured it so artfully, it looked like a wall; this door he tore open, and went headlong through, leaving no vestige but this posy, written very large upon the reverse of his trick door—

Long limbs, big body, panting wit By wee and wise is bet and bit

After this Giles became a Force.

He shall now speak for himself.

Finding Margaret unable to believe the good news, and sceptical as to the affairs of Holy Church being administered by dwarfs, he narrated as follows:

"When the princess sent for me to her bedroom as of custom, to keep her out of languor, I came not mirthful nor full of country dicts, as is my wont, but dull as lead.

"'Why, what aileth thee?' quo' she. 'Art sick?' 'At heart,' quo' I. 'Alas, he is in love,' quo' she. Whereat five brazen hussies, which they call them maids of honour, did giggle loud. 'Not so mad as that,' said I, 'seeing what I see at court of women folk.'

"'There, ladies,' quo' the princess, 'best let him a be. 'Tis a liberal mannikin, and still giveth more than he taketh of saucy words.'

"'In all sadness,' quo' she, 'what is the matter?'

"I told her I was meditating, and what perplexed me was, that other folk could now and then keep their word, but princes never.

"'Heyday,' says she, 'thy shafts fly high this morn.' I told her, 'Ay, for they hit the Truth.'

"She said I was as keen as keen; but it became not me to put riddles to her, nor her to answer them. 'Stand aloof a bit, mesdames,' said she, 'and thou speak withouten fear;' for she saw I was in sad earnest.

"I began to quake a bit; for mind ye, she can doff freedom and don dignity quicker than she can slip out of her dressing-gown into kirtle of state. But I made my voice so soft as honey (wherefore smilest?), and I said 'Madam, one evening, a matter of five years agone, as ye sat with your mother, the Countess of Charolois, who is now in heaven, worse luck, you wi' your lute, and she wi' her tapestry, or the like, do ye mind there came came into ye a fair youth with a letter from a painter body, one Margaret Van Eyck?"

"She said she thought she did, 'Was it not a tall youth, exceeding comely?'

"'Ay, madam,' said I; 'he was my brother.'

"'Your brother?' said she, and did eye me like all over, (What dost smile at?")

"So I told her all that passed between her and Gerard, and how she was for giving him a bishopric; but the good countess said, 'Gently, Marie! he is too young; and with that they did both promise him a living: 'Yet,' said I, 'he hath been a priest a long while, and no living. Hence my bile.'

"'Alas!' said she, ''tis not by my good will; for all this thou hast said is sooth, and more. I do remember my dear mother said to me, "See thou to it if I be not here."' So then she cried out, 'Ay, dear mother, no word of thine shall ever fall to the ground.'

"I, seeing her so ripe, said quickly, 'Madam, the Vicar of Gouda died last week.' (For when ye seek favours of the great, behoves ye know the very thing ye aim at.)

"'Then thy brother is vicar of Gouda,' quo' she, 'so sure as I am heiress of Burgundy and the Netherlands. Nay, thank me not, good Giles,' quo' she, 'but my good mother. And I do thank thee for giving of me somewhat to do for her memory. And doesn't she fall a weeping for her mother? And doesn't that set me off a-snivelling for my good brother that I love so dear, and to think that a poor little elf like me could yet speak in the ear of princes, and make my beautiful brother vicar of Gouda; eh, lass, it is a bonny place, and a bonny manse, and hawthorn in every bush at spring-tide, and dog-roses and eglantine in every summer hedge. I know what the poor fool affects, leave that to me."

The dwarf began his narrative strutting to and fro before Margaret, but he ended it in her arms; for she could not contain herself, but caught him, and embraced him warmly. "Oh, Giles," she said, blushing, and kissing him, "I cannot keep my hands off thee, thy body it is so little, and thy heart so great. Thou art his true friend. Bless thee! bless thee! bless thee! Now we shall see him again. We have not set eyes on him since that terrible day."

"Gramercy, but that is strange," said Giles. "Maybe he is ashamed of having cursed those two vagabones, being our own flesh and blood, worse luck."

"Think you that is why he hides?" said Margaret eagerly;

"Ay, if he is hiding at all. However, I'll cry him by bellman.

"Nay, that might much offend him."

"What care I? Is Gouda to go vicarless and the manse in nettles?"

And to Margaret's secret satisfaction, Giles had the new vicar cried in Rotterdam and the neighbouring towns. He easily persuaded Margaret that in a day or two Gerard would be sure to hear, and come to his benefice. She went to look at his manse, and thought how comfortable it might be made for him, and how dearly she should love to do it.

But the days rolled on, and Gerard came neither to Rotterdam nor Gouda. Giles was mortified, Margaret indignant, and very wretched. She said to herself, "Thinking me dead, he comes home, and now, because I am alive, he goes back to Italy, for that is where he has gone."

Joan advised her to consult the hermit of Gouda.

"Why, sure he is dead by this time."

"Yon one, belike. But the cave is never long void; Gouda ne'er wants a hermit."

But Margaret declined to go again to Gouda on such an errand, "What can he know, shut up in a cave? less than I, belike. Gerard hath gone back t' Italy. He hates me for not being dead."

Presently a Tergovian came in with a word from Catherine that Ghysbrecht Van Swieten had seen Gerard later than any one else. On this Margaret determined to go and see the house and goods that had been left her, and take Reicht Heynes home to Rotterdam. And as may be supposed, her steps took her first to Ghysbrecht's house. She found him in his garden, seated in a chair with wheels. He greeted her with a feeble voice, but cordially; and when she asked him whether it was true he had seen Gerard since the fifth of August, he replied, "Gerard no more, but Friar Clement. Ay, I saw him; and blessed be the day he entered my house."

He then related in his own words his interview with Clement.

He told her, moreover, that the friar had afterwards acknowledged he came to Tergou with the missing deed in his bosom on purpose to make him disgorge her land; but that finding him disposed towards penitence, he had gone to work the other way.

"Was not this a saint; who came to right thee, but must needs save his enemy's soul in the doing it?"

To her question, whether he had recognized him, he said, "I ne'er suspected such a thing. 'Twas only when he had been three days with me that he revealed himself, Listen while I speak my shame and his praise.

"I said to him, 'The land is gone home, and my stomach feels lighter; but there is another fault that clingeth to me still;' then told I him of the letter I had writ at request of his brethren, I whose place it was to check them. Said I, 'Yon letter was writ to part two lovers, and the devil aiding, it hath done the foul work. Land and houses I can give back, but yon mischief is done for ever.' 'Nay,' quoth he, 'not for ever, but for life. Repent it then while thou livest.' 'I shall,' said I, 'but how can God forgive it? I would not,' said I, 'were I He.'

"'Yet will He certainly forgive it,' quoth he; 'for He is ten times more forgiving than I am, and I forgive thee.' I stared at him; and then he said softly, but quavering like, 'Ghysbrecht, look at me closer. I am Gerard, the son of Eli.' And I looked, and looked, and at last, lo! it was Gerard. Verily I had fallen at his feet with shame and contrition, but he would not suffer me. 'That became not mine years and his, for a particular fault. I say not I forgive thee without a struggle,' said he, 'not being a saint. But these three days thou hast spent in penitence, I have worn under thy roof in prayer; and I do forgive thee.' Those were his very words."

Margaret's tears began to flow, for it was in a broken and contrite voice the old man told her this unexpected trait in her Gerard. He continued, "And even with that he bade me farewell.

"'My work here is done now,' said he. I had not the heart to stay him; for let him forgive me ever so, the sight of me must be wormwood to him. He left me in peace, and may a dying man's blessing wait on him, go where he will. Oh, girl, when I think of his wrongs, and thine, and how he hath avenged himself by saving this stained soul of mine, my heart is broken with remorse, and these old eyes shed tears by night and day."

"Ghysbrecht," said Margaret, weeping, "since he hath forgiven thee, I forgive thee too: what is done, is done; and thou hast let me know this day that which I had walked the world to hear. But oh, burgomaster, thou art an understanding man, now help a poor woman, which hath forgiven thee her misery."

She then told him all that had befallen, "And," said she, "they will not keep the living for him for ever. He bids fair to lose that, as well as break all our hearts."

"Call my servant," cried the burgomaster, with sudden vigour.

He sent him for a table and writing materials, and dictated letters to the burgomasters in all the principal towns in Holland, and one to a Prussian authority, his friend. His clerk and Margaret wrote them, and he signed them. "There," said he, "the matter shall be despatched throughout Holland by trusty couriers, and as far as Basle in Switzerland; and fear not, but we will soon have the vicar of Gouda to his village."

She went home animated with fresh hopes, and accusing herself of ingratitude to Gerard. "I value my wealth now," said she.

She also made a resolution never to blame his conduct till she should hear from his own lips his reason.

Not long after her return from Tergou a fresh disaster befell. Catherine, I must premise, had secret interviews with the black sheep, the very day after they were expelled; and Cornelis followed her to Tergou, and lived there on secret contributions, but Sybrandt chose to remain in Rotterdam. Ere Catherine left, she asked Margaret to lend her two gold angels. "For," said she, "all mine are spent." Margaret was delighted to lend them or give them; but the words were scarce out of her mouth ere she caught a look of regret and distress on Kate's face, and she saw directly whither her money was going. She gave Catherine the money, and went and shut herself up with her boy. Now this money was to last Sybrandt till his mother could make some good excuse for visiting Rotterdam again, and then she would bring the idle dog some of her own industrious savings.

But Sybrandt, having gold in his pocket, thought it inexhaustible: and being now under no shadow of restraint, led the life of a complete sot; until one afternoon, in a drunken frolic, he climbed on the roof of the stable at the inn he was carousing in, and proceeded to walk along it, a feat he had performed many times when sober. But now his unsteady brain made his legs unsteady, and he rolled down the roof and fell with a loud thwack on to an horizontal paling, where he hung a moment in a semicircle; then toppled over and lay silent on the ground, amidst roars of laughter from his boon companions. When they came to pick him up he could not stand; but fell down giggling at each attempt.

On this they went staggering and roaring down the street with him, and carried him at great risk of another fall to the shop in the Hoog Straet. For he had babbled his own shame all over the place.

As soon as he saw Margaret he hiccupped out, "Here is the doctor that cures all hurts, a bonny lass." He also bade her observe he bore her no malice, for he was paying her a visit sore against his will. "Wherefore, prithee send away these drunkards, and let you and me have t'other glass, to drown all unkindness."

All this time Margaret was pale and red by turns at sight of her enemy and at his insolence; but one of the men whispered what had happened, and a streaky something in Sybrandt's face arrested her attention.

"And he cannot stand up, say you?"

"A couldn't just now. Try, comrade! Be a man now!"

"I am a better man than thou," roared Sybrandt. "I'll stand up and fight ye all for a crown."

He started to his feet, and instantly rolled into his attendant's arms with a piteous groan. He then began to curse his boon companions, and declare they had stolen away his legs. "He could feel nothing below the waist."

"Alas, poor wretch," said Margaret. She turned very gravely to the men, and said, "Leave him here. And if you have brought him to this, go on your knees, for you have spoiled him for life. He will never walk again; his back is broken."

The drunken man caught these words, and the foolish look of intoxication fled, and a glare of anguish took its place. "The curse," he groaned; "the curse!"

Margaret and Reicht Heynes carried him carefully, and laid him on the softest bed.

"I must do as he would do," whispered Margaret. "He was kind to Ghysbrecht."

Her opinion was verified, Sybrandt's spine was fatally injured; and he lay groaning and helpless, fed and tended by her he had so deeply injured.

The news was sent to Tergou, and Catherine came over.

It was a terrible blow to her. Moreover, she accused herself as the cause. "Oh, false wife; oh, weak mother," she cried, "I am rightly punished for my treason to my poor Eli."

She sat for hours at a time by his bedside rocking herself in silence, and was never quite herself again; and the first grey hairs began to come in her poor head from that hour.

As for Sybrandt, all his cry was now for Gerard, He used to whine to Margaret like a suffering hound, "Oh, sweet Margaret, oh, bonny Margaret, for our Lady's sake find Gerard, and bid him take his curse off me. Thou art gentle, thou art good; thou wilt entreat for me, and he will refuse thee nought."

Catherine shared his belief that Gerard could cure him, and joined her entreaties to his, Margaret hardly needed this. The burgomaster and his agents having failed, she employed her own, and spent money like water. And among these agents poor Luke enrolled himself. She met him one day looking very thin, and spoke to him compassionately. On this he began to blubber, and say he was more miserable than ever; he would like to be good friends again upon almost any terms.

"Dear heart," said Margaret sorrowfully, "why can you not say to yourself, now I am her little brother, and she is my old, married sister, worn down with care? Say so, and I will indulge thee, and pet thee, and make thee happier than a prince."

"Well, I will," said Luke savagely, "sooner than keep away from you altogether. But above all give me something to do. Perchance I may have better luck this time."

"Get me my marriage lines," said Margaret, turning sad and gloomy in a moment.

"That is as much as to say, get me him! for where they are, he is."

"Not so. He may refuse to come nigh me; but certes he will not deny a poor woman, who loved him once, her lines of betrothal. How can she go without them into any honest man's house?"

"I'll get them you if they are in Holland," said Luke.

"They are as like to be in Rome," replied Margaret.

"Let us begin with Holland," observed Luke prudently.

The slave of love was furnished with money by his soft tyrant, and wandered hither and thither, Coopering, and carpentering, and looking for Gerard. "I can't be worse if I find the vagabone," said he, "and I may be a hantle better."

The months rolled on, and Sybrandt improved in spirit, but not in body; he was Margaret's pensioner for life; and a long-expected sorrow fell upon poor Catherine, and left her still more bowed down; and she lost her fine hearty bustling way, and never went about the house singing now; and her nerves were shaken, and she lived in dread of some terrible misfortune falling on Cornelis. The curse was laid on him as well as Sybrandt. She prayed Eli, if she had been a faithful partner all these years, to take Cornelis into his house again, and let her live awhile at Rotterdam.

"I have good daughters here," said she; "but Margaret is so tender, and thoughtful, and the little Gerard, he is my joy; he grows liker his father every day, and his prattle cheers my heavy heart; and I do love children."

And Eli, sturdy but kindly, consented sorrowfully.

And the people of Gouda petitioned the duke for a vicar, a real vicar. "Ours cometh never nigh us," said they, "this six months past; our children they die unchristened, and our folk unburied, except by some chance comer." Giles' influence baffled this just complaint once; but a second petition was prepared, and he gave Margaret little hope that the present position could be maintained a single day.

So then Margaret went sorrowfully to the pretty manse to see it for the last time, ere it should pass for ever into stranger's hands.

"I think he would have been happy here," she said, and turned heart-sick away.

On their return, Reicht Heynes proposed to her to go and consult the hermit.

"What," said Margaret, "Joan has been at you. She is the one for hermits. I'll go, if 'tis but to show thee they know no more than we do." And they went to the cave.

It was an excavation partly natural, partly artificial, in a bank of rock overgrown by brambles. There was a rough stone door on hinges, and a little window high up, and two apertures, through one of which the people announced their gifts to the hermit, and put questions of all sorts to him; and when he chose to answer, his voice came dissonant and monstrous out at another small aperture.

On the face of the rock this line was cut—

Felix qui in Domino nixus ab orbe fugit.

Margaret observed to her companion that this was new since she was here last.

"Ay," said Reicht, "like enough;" and looked up at it with awe. Writing even on paper she thought no trifle; but on rock! She whispered, "Tis a far holier hermit than the last; he used to come in the town now and then, but this one ne'er shows his face to mortal man."

"And that is holiness?"

"Ay, sure."

"Then what a saint a dormouse must be?"

"Out, fie, mistress. Would ye even a beast to a man?"

"Come, Reicht," said Margaret, "my poor father taught me overmuch, So I will e'en sit here, and look at the manse once more. Go thou forward and question thy solitary, and tell me whether ye get nought or nonsense out of him, for 'twill be one."

As Reicht drew near the cave a number of birds flew out of it., She gave a little scream, and pointed to the cave to show Margaret they had come thence, On this Margaret felt sure there was no human being in the cave, and gave the matter no further attention, She fell into a deep reverie while looking at the little manse.

She was startled from it by Reicht's hand upon her shoulder, and a faint voice saying, "Let us go home."

"You got no answer at all, Reicht," said Margaret calmly.

"No, Margaret," said Reicht despondently. And they returned home.

Perhaps after all Margaret had nourished some faint secret hope in her heart, though her reason had rejected it, for she certainly went home more dejectedly.

Just as they entered Rotterdam, Reicht said, "Stay! Oh, Margaret, I am ill at deceit; but 'tis death to utter ill news to thee; I love thee so dear."

"Speak out, sweetheart," said Margaret. "I have gone through so much, I am almost past feeling any fresh trouble."

"Margaret, the hermit did speak to me."

"What, a hermit there? among all those birds."

"Ay; and doth not that show him a holy man?"

"I' God's name, what said he to thee, Reicht?"

"Alas! Margaret, I told him thy story, and I prayed him for our Lady's sake tell me where thy Gerard is, And I waited long for an answer, and presently a voice came like a trumpet: 'Pray for the soul of Gerard the son of Eli!"


"Oh, woe is me that I have this to tell thee, sweet Margaret! bethink thee thou hast thy boy to live for yet."

"Let me get home," said Margaret faintly.

Passing down the Brede Kirk Straet they saw Joan at the door. Reicht said to her, "Eh, woman, she has been to your hermit, and heard no good news."

"Come in," said Joan, eager for a gossip.

Margaret would not go in; but she sat down disconsolate on the lowest step but one of the little external staircase that led into Joan's house, and let the other two gossip their fill at the top of it.

"Oh," said Joan, "what yon hermit says is sure to be sooth, He is that holy, I am told, that the very birds consort with him."

"What does that prove?" said Margaret deprecatingly. "I have seen my Gerard tame the birds in winter till they would eat from his hand."

A look of pity at this parallel passed between the other two, but they were both too fond of her to say what they thought.

Joan proceeded to relate all the marvellous tales she had heard of this hermit's sanctity; how he never came out but at night, and prayed among the wolves, and they never molested him; and now he bade the people not bring him so much food to pamper his body, but to bring him candles.

"The candles are to burn before his saint," whispered Reicht solemnly.

"Ay, lass; and to read his holy books wi'. A neighbour o' mine saw his hand come out, and the birds sat thereon and pecked crumbs. She went for to kiss it, but the holy man whippit it away in a trice. They can't abide a woman to touch 'en, or even look at 'em, saints can't."

"What like was his hand, wife? Did you ask her?"

"What is my tongue for, else? Why, dear heart, all one as yourn; by the same token a had a thumb and four fingers."

"Look ye there now."

"But a deal whiter nor yourn and mine."

"Ay, ay."

"And main skinny."


"What could ye expect? Why, a live upon air, and prayer, and candles."

"Ah, well," continued Joan; "poor thing, I whiles think 'tis best for her to know the worst. And now she hath gotten a voice from heaven, Or almost as good, and behoves her pray for his soul. One thing, she is not so poor now as she was; and never fell riches to a better hand; and she is only come into her own for that matter, so she can pay the priest to say masses for him, and that is a great comfort."

In the midst of their gossip, Margaret, in whose ears it was all buzzing, though she seemed lost in thought, got softly up, and crept away with her eyes on the ground, and her brows bent.

"She hath forgotten I am with her," said Reicht Heynes ruefully.

She had her gossip out with Joan, and then went home.

She found Margaret seated cutting out a pelisse of grey cloth, and a cape to match. Little Gerard was standing at her side, inside her left arm, eyeing the work, and making it more difficult by wriggling about, and fingering the arm with which she held the cloth steady, to all which she submitted with imperturbable patience and complacency, Fancy a male workman so entangled, impeded, worried!

"Ot's that, mammy?"

"A pelisse, my pet."

"Ot's a p'lisse?"

"A great frock. And this is the cape to't."

"Ot's it for?"

"To keep his body from the cold; and the cape is for his shoulders, or to go over his head like the country folk. 'Tis for a hermit."

"Ot's a 'ermit?"

"A holy man that lives in a cave all by himself."

"In de dark?"

"Ay, whiles."


In the morning Reicht was sent to the hermit with the pelisse, and a pound of thick candles.

As she was going out of the door Margaret said to her, "Said you whose son Gerard was?"

"Nay, not I."

"Think, girl! How could he call him Gerard, son of Eli, if you had not told him?"

Reicht persisted she had never mentioned him but as plain Gerard. But Margaret told her flatly she did not believe her; at which Reicht was affronted, and went out with a little toss of the head. However, she determined to question the hermit again, and did not doubt he would be more liberal in his communication when he saw his nice new pelisse and the candles.

She had not been gone long when Giles came in with ill news.

The living of Gouda would be kept vacant no longer.

Margaret was greatly distressed at this.

"Oh, Giles," said she, "ask for another month. They will give thee another month, maybe."

He returned in an hour to tell her he could not get a month.

"They have given me a week," said he. "And what is a week?"

"Drowning bodies catch at strawen," was her reply. "A week? a little week?"

Reicht came back from her errand out of spirits. Her oracle had declined all further communication. So at least its obstinate silence might fairly be interpreted.

The next day Margaret put Reicht in charge of the shop, and disappeared all day. So the next day, and so the next. Nor would she tell any one where she had been. Perhaps she was ashamed. The fact is, she spent all those days on one little spot of ground. When they thought her dreaming, she was applying to every word that fell from Joan and Reicht the whole powers of a far acuter mind than either of them possessed.

She went to work on a scale that never occurred to either of them. She was determined to see the hermit, and question him face to face, not through a wall. She found that by making a circuit she could get above the cave, and look down without being seen by the solitary. But when she came to do it, she found an impenetrable mass of brambles. After tearing her clothes, and her hands and feet, so that she was soon covered with blood, the resolute, patient girl took out her scissors and steadily snipped and cut till she made a narrow path through the enemy. But so slow was the work that she had to leave it half done. The next day she had her scissors fresh ground, and brought a sharp knife as well, and gently, silently, cut her way to the roof of the cave. There she made an ambush of some of the cut brambles, so that the passers-by might not see her, and couched with watchful eye till the hermit should come out. She heard him move underneath her. But he never left his cell. She began to think it was true that he only came out at night.

The next day she came early and brought a jerkin she was making for little Gerard, and there she sat all day, working, and watching with dogged patience.

At four o'clock the birds began to feed; and a great many of the smaller kinds came fluttering round the cave, and one or two went in. But most of them, taking a preliminary seat on the bushes, suddenly discovered Margaret, and went off with an agitated flirt of their little wings. And although they sailed about in the air, they would not enter the cave. Presently, to encourage them, the hermit, all unconscious of the cause of their tremors, put out a thin white hand with a few crumbs in it, Margaret laid down her work softly, and gliding her body forward like a snake, looked down at it from above; it was but a few feet from her. It was as the woman described it, a thin, white hand.

Presently the other hand came out with a piece of bread, and the two hands together broke it and scattered the crumbs.

But that other hand had hardly been out two seconds ere the violet eyes that were watching above dilated; and the gentle bosom heaved, and the whole frame quivered like a leaf in the wind.

What her swift eye had seen I leave the reader to guess. She suppressed the scream that rose to her lips, but the effort cost her dear. Soon the left hand of the hermit began to swim indistinctly before her gloating eyes; and with a deep sigh her head drooped, and she lay like a broken lily.

She was in a deep swoon, to which perhaps her long fast to-day and the agitation and sleeplessness of many preceding days contributed.

And there lay beauty, intelligence, and constancy, pale and silent, And little that hermit guessed who was so near him. The little birds hopped on her now, and one nearly entangled his little feet in her rich auburn hair.

She came back to her troubles. The sun was set. She was very cold, She cried a little, but I think it was partly from the remains of physical weakness. And then she went home, praying God and the saints to enlighten her and teach her what to do for the best.

When she got home she was pale and hysterical, and would say nothing in answer to all their questions but her favourite word, "We are wading in deep waters."

The night seemed to have done wonders for her.

She came to Catherine, who was sitting sighing by the fireside, and kissed her, and said—

"Mother, what would you like best in the world?"

"Eh, dear," replied Catherine despondently, "I know nought that would make me smile now; I have parted from too many that were dear to me. Gerard lost again as soon as found; Kate in heaven; and Sybrandt down for life."

"Poor mother! Mother dear, Gouda manse is to be furnished, and cleaned, and made ready all in a hurry, See, here be ten gold angels. Make them go far, good mother; for I have ta'en over many already from my boy for a set of useless loons that were aye going to find him for me."

Catherine and Reicht stared at her a moment in silence, and then out burst a flood of questions, to none of which would she give a reply. "Nay," said she, "I have lain on my bed and thought, and thought, and thought whiles you were all sleeping; and methinks I have got the clue to all, I love you, dear mother; but I'll trust no woman's tongue. If I fail this time, I'll have none to blame but Margaret Brandt."

A resolute woman is a very resolute thing. And there was a deep, dogged determination in Margaret's voice and brow that at once convinced Catherine it would be idle to put any more questions at that time, She and Reicht lost themselves in conjectures; and Catherine whispered Reicht, "Bide quiet; then 'twill leak out;" a shrewd piece of advice, founded on general observation.

Within an hour Catherine was on the road to Gouda in a cart, with two stout girls to help her, and quite a siege artillery of mops, and pails, and brushes, She came back with heightened colour, and something of the old sparkle in her eye, and kissed Margaret with a silent warmth that spoke volumes, and at five in the morning was off again to Gouda.

That night as Reicht was in her first sleep a hand gently pressed her shoulder, and she awoke, and was going to scream, "Whisht," said Margaret, and put her finger to her lips.

She then whispered, "Rise softly, don thy habits, and come with me!"

When she came down, Margaret begged her to loose Dragon and bring him along. Now Dragon was a great mastiff, who had guarded Margaret Van Eyck and Reicht, two lone women, for some years, and was devotedly attached to the latter.

Margaret and Reicht went out, with Dragon walking majestically behind them. They came back long after midnight, and retired to rest.

Catherine never knew.

Margaret read her friends: she saw the sturdy, faithful Frisian could hold her tongue, and Catherine could not. Yet I am not sure she would have trusted even Reicht had her nerve equalled her spirit; but with all her daring and resolution, she was a tender, timid woman, a little afraid of the dark, very afraid of being alone in it, and desperately afraid of wolves. Now Dragon could kill a wolf in a brace of shakes; but then Dragon would not go with her, but only with Reicht; so altogether she made one confidante.

The next night they made another moonlight reconnaissance, and as I think, with some result. For not the next night (it rained that night and extinguished their courage), but the next after they took with them a companion, the last in the world Reicht Heynes would have thought of; yet she gave her warm approval as soon as she was told he was to go with them.

Imagine how these stealthy assailants trembled and panted when the moment of action came; imagine, if you can, the tumult in Margaret's breast, the thrilling hopes, chasing, and chased by sickening fears; the strange and perhaps unparalleled mixture of tender familiarity and distant awe with which a lovely and high-spirited, but tender, adoring woman, wife in the eye of the Law, and no wife in the eye of the Church, trembling, blushing, paling, glowing, shivering, stole at night, noiseless as the dew, upon the hermit of Gouda.

And the stars above seemed never so bright and calm.


Yes, the hermit of Gouda was the vicar of Gouda, and knew it not, so absolute was his seclusion.

My reader is aware that the moment the frenzy of his passion passed, he was seized with remorse for having been betrayed into it. But perhaps only those who have risen as high in religious spirit as he had, and suddenly fallen, can realize the terror at himself that took possession of him. He felt like one whom self-confidence had betrayed to the very edge of a precipice.

"Ah, good Jerome," he cried, "how much better you knew me than I knew myself! How bitter yet wholesome was your admonition!"

Accustomed to search his own heart, he saw at once that the true cause of his fury was Margaret. "I love her then better than God," said he despairingly; "better than the Church, From such a love what can spring to me, or to her?" He shuddered at the thought. "Let the strong battle temptation; 'tis for the weak to flee. And who is weaker than I have shown myself? What is my penitence, my religion? A pack of cards built by degrees into a fair-seeming structure; and lo! one breath of earthly love, and it lies in the dust, I must begin again, and on a surer foundation." He resolved to leave Holland at once, and spend years of his life in some distant convent before returning to it. By that time the temptations of earthly passion would be doubly baffled; and older and a better monk, he should be more master of his earthly affections, and Margaret, seeing herself abandoned, would marry, and love another, The very anguish this last thought cost him showed the self-searcher and self-denier that he was on the path of religious duty.

But in leaving her for his immortal good and hers, he was not to neglect her temporal weal. Indeed, the sweet thought, he could make her comfortable for life, and rich in this world's goods, which she was not bound to despise, sustained him in the bitter struggle it cost him to turn his back on her without one kind word or look, "Oh, what will she think of me?" he groaned. "Shall I not seem to her of all creatures the most heartless, inhuman? but so best; ay, better she should hate me, miserable that I am, Heaven is merciful, and giveth my broken heart this comfort; I can make that villain restore her own, and she shall never lose another true lover by poverty. Another? Ah me! ah me! God and the saints to mine aid!"

How he fared on this errand has been related. But first, as you may perhaps remember, he went at night to shrive the hermit of Gouda. He found him dying, and never left him till he had closed his eyes and buried him beneath the floor of the little oratory attached to his cell. It was the peaceful end of a stormy life. The hermit had been a soldier, and even now carried a steel corselet next his skin, saying he was now Christ's soldier as he had been Satan's. When Clement had shriven him and prayed by him, he, in his turn, sought counsel of one who was dying in so pious a frame, The hermit advised him to be his successor in this peaceful retreat. "His had been a hard fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and he had never thoroughly baffled them till he retired into the citadel of Solitude."

These words and the hermit's pious and peaceful death, which speedily followed, and set as it were the seal of immortal truth on them, made a deep impression upon Clement. Nor in his case had they any prejudice to combat; the solitary recluse was still profoundly revered in the Church, whether immured as an anchorite or anchoress in some cave or cell belonging to a monastery, or hidden in the more savage but laxer seclusion of the independent hermitage. And Clement knew more about the hermits of the Church than most divines at his time of life; he had read much thereon at the monastery near Tergou, had devoured their lives with wonder and delight in the manuscripts of the Vatican, and conversed earnestly about them with the mendicant friars of several nations. Before Printing these friars were the great circulators of those local annals and biographies which accumulated in the convents of every land. Then his teacher, Jerome, had been three years an anchorite on the heights of Camaldoli, where for more than four centuries the Thebaid had been revived; and Jerome, cold and curt on most religious themes, was warm with enthusiasm on this one. He had pored over the annals of St. John Baptist's abbey, round about which the hermit's caves were scattered, and told him the names of many a noble, and many a famous warrior who had ended his days there a hermit, and of many a bishop and archbishop who had passed from the see to the hermitage, or from the hermitage to the see. Among the former the Archbishop of Ravenna; among the latter Pope Victor the Ninth. He told him too, with grim delight, of their multifarious austerities, and how each hermit set himself to find where he was weakest, and attacked himself without mercy or remission till there, even there, he was strongest. And how seven times in the twenty-four hours, in thunder, rain, or snow, by daylight, twilight, moonlight, or torchlight, the solitaries flocked from distant points, over rugged precipitous ways, to worship in the convent church; at matins, at prime, tierce, sexte, nones, vespers, and compline. He even, under eager questioning, described to him the persons of famous anchorites he had sung the Psalter and prayed with there; the only intercourse their vows allowed, except with special permission. Moncata, Duke of Moncata and Cardova, and Hidalgo of Spain, who in the flower of his youth had retired thither from the pomps, vanities, and pleasures of the world; Father John Baptist of Novara, who had led armies to battle, but was now a private soldier of Christ; Cornelius, Samuel, and Sylvanus. This last, when the great Duchess de' Medici obtained the Pope's leave, hitherto refused, to visit Camaldoli, went down and met her at the first wooden cross, and there, surrounded as she was with courtiers and flatterers, remonstrated with her, and persuaded her, and warned her, not to profane that holy mountain, where no woman for so many centuries had placed her foot; and she, awed by the place and the man, retreated with all her captains, soldiers, courtiers, and pages from that one hoary hermit. At Basle Clement found fresh materials, especially with respect to German and English anchorites; and he had even prepared a "Catena Eremitarum" from the year of our Lord 250, when Paul of Thebes commenced his ninety years of solitude, down to the year 1470. He called them Angelorum amici et animalium, i.e.


Thus, though in those days he never thought to be a recluse, the road was paved, so to speak; and when the dying hermit of Gouda blessed the citadel of Solitude, where he had fought the good fight and won it, and invited him to take up the breast-plate of faith that now fell off his own shrunken body, Clement said within himself: "Heaven itself led my foot hither to this end." It struck him, too, as no small coincidence that his patron, St. Bavon, was a hermit, and an austere one, a cuirassier of the solitary cell.

As soon as he was reconciled to Ghysbrecht Van Swieten, he went eagerly to his abode, praying Heaven it might not have been already occupied in these three days. The fear was not vain; these famous dens never wanted a human tenant long. He found the rude stone door ajar; then he made sure he was too late; he opened the door and went softly in. No; the cell was vacant, and there were the hermit's great ivory crucifix, his pens, ink, seeds, and, memento mori, a skull; his cilice of hair, and another of bristles; his well-worn sheepskin pelisse and hood; his hammer, chisel, and psaltery, etc. Men and women had passed that way, but none had ventured to intrude, far less to steal. Faith and simplicity had guarded that keyless door more securely than the houses of the laity were defended by their gates like a modern gaol, and think iron bars at every window, and the gentry by moat, bastion, chevaux de frise, and portcullis.

As soon as Clement was fairly in the cell there was a loud flap, and a flutter, and down came a great brown owl from a corner, and whirled out of the window, driving the air cold on Clement's face, He started and shuddered.

Was this seeming owl something diabolical? trying to deter him from his soul's good? On second thoughts, might it not be some good spirit the hermit had employed to keep the cell for him, perhaps the hermit himself? Finally he concluded that it was just an owl, and that he would try and make friends with it.

He kneeled down and inaugurated his new life with prayer.

Clement had not only an earthly passion to quell, the power of which made him tremble for his eternal weal, but he had a penance to do for having given way to ire, his besetting sin, and cursed his own brothers.

He looked round this roomy cell furnished with so many comforts, and compared it with the pictures in his mind of the hideous place, eremus in eremo, a desert in a desert, where holy Jerome, hermit, and the Plutarch of hermits, had wrestled with sickness, temptation, and despair four mortal years; and with the inaccessible and thorny niche, a hole in a precipice, where the boy hermit Benedict buried himself, and lived three years on the pittance the good monk Romanus could spare him from his scanty commons, and subdivided that mouthful with his friend, a raven; and the hollow tree of his patron St. Bavon; and the earthly purgatory at Fribourg, where lived a nameless saint in a horrid cavern, his eyes chilled with perpetual gloom, and his ears stunned with an eternal waterfall; and the pillar on which St. Simeon Stylita existed forty-five years; and the destina, or stone box, of St. Dunstan, where, like Hilarion in his bulrush hive, sepulchro potius quam domu, he could scarce sit, stand, or lie; and the living tombs, sealed with lead, of Thais, and Christina, and other recluses; and the damp dungeon of St. Alred. These and scores more of the dismal dens in which true hermits had worn out their wasted bodies on the rock, and the rock under their sleeping bodies, and their praying knees, all came into his mind, and he said to himself, "This sweet retreat is for safety of the soul; but what for penance Jesu aid me against faults to come; and for the fault I rue, face of man I will not see for a twelvemonth and a day." He had famous precedents in his eye even for this last and unusual severity. In fact the original hermit of this very cell was clearly under the same vow. Hence the two apertures, through which he was spoken to, and replied.

Adopting, in other respects, the uniform rule of hermits and anchorites, he divided his day into the seven offices, ignoring the petty accidents of light and dark, creations both of Him to whom he prayed so unceasingly. He learned the psalter by heart, and in all the intervals of devotion, not occupied by broken slumbers, he worked hard with his hands. No article of the hermit's rule was more strict or more ancient than this. And here his self-imposed penance embarrassed him, for what work could he do, without being seen, that should benefit his neighbours? for the hermit was to labour for himself in those cases only where his subsistence depended on it. Now Clement's modest needs were amply supplied by the villagers.

On moonlight nights he would steal out like a thief, and dig some poor man's garden on the outskirts of the village. He made baskets and dropped them slily at humble doors.

And since he could do nothing for the bodies of those who passed by his cell in daytime, he went out in the dead of the night with his hammer and his chisel, and carved moral and religious sentences all down the road upon the sandstone rocks. "Who knows?" said he, "often a chance shaft strikes home."

Oh, sore heart, comfort thou the poor and bereaved with holy words of solace in their native tongue; for he said "well, 'tis 'clavis ad corda plebis.'" Also he remembered the learned Colonna had told him of the written mountains in the east, where kings had inscribed their victories, "What," said Clement, "are they so wise, those Eastern monarchs, to engrave their war-like glory upon the rock, making a blood bubble endure so long as earth; and shall I leave the rocks about me silent on the King of Glory, at whose word they were, and at whose breath they shall be dust? Nay, but these stones shall speak to weary wayfarers of eternal peace, and of the Lamb, whose frail and afflicted yet happy servant worketh them among."

Now at this time the inspired words that have consoled the poor and the afflicted for so many ages were not yet printed in Dutch, so that these sentences of gold from the holy evangelists came like fresh oracles from heaven, or like the dew on parched flowers; and the poor hermit's written rocks softened a heart Or two, and sent the heavy laden singing on their way(1).

These holy oracles that seemed to spring up around him like magic; his prudent answers through his window to such as sought ghostly counsel; and above all, his invisibility, soon gained him a prodigious reputation, This was not diminished by the medical advice they now and then extorted from him sore against his will, by tears and entreaties; for if the patients got well they gave the holy hermit the credit, and if not they laid all the blame on the devil. "I think he killed nobody, for his remedies were womanish and weak." Sage and wormwood, sion, hyssop, borage, spikenard, dog's-tongue, our Lady's mantle, feverfew, and Faith, and all in small quantities except the last.

Then his abstinence, sure sign of a saint. The eggs and milk they brought him at first he refused with horror. Know ye not the hermit's rule is bread, or herbs, and water? Eggs, they are birds in disguise; for when the bird dieth, then the egg rotteth. As for milk, it is little better than white blood. And when they brought him too much bread he refused it. Then they used to press it on him. "Nay, holy father; give the overplus to the poor."

"You who go among the poor can do that better. Is bread a thing to fling haphazard from an hermit's window?" And to those who persisted after this: "To live on charity, yet play Sir Bountiful, is to lie with the right hand. Giving another's to the poor, I should beguile them of their thanks, and cheat thee the true giver. Thus do thieves, whose boast it is they bleed the rich into the lap of the poor. Occasio avaritiae nomen pauperum."

When nothing else would convince the good souls, this piece of Latin always brought them round. So would a line of Virgil's Aeneid.

This great reputation of sanctity was all external. Inside the cell was a man who held the hermit of Gouda as cheap as dirt.

"Ah!" said he, "I cannot deceive myself; I cannot deceive God's animals. See the little birds, how coy they be; I feed and feed them, and long for their friendship, yet will they never come within, nor take my hand, by lighting on't. For why? No Paul, no Benedict, no Hugh of Lincoln, no Columba, no Guthlac bides in this cell. Hunted doe flieth not hither, for here is no Fructuosus, nor Aventine, nor Albert of Suabia; nor e'en a pretty squirrel cometh from the wood hard by for the acorns I have hoarded; for here abideth no Columban. The very owl that was here hath fled. They are not to be deceived; I have a Pope's word for that; Heaven rest his soul."

Clement had one advantage over her whose image in his heart he was bent on destroying.

He had suffered and survived the pang of bereavement, and the mind cannot quite repeat such anguish. Then he had built up a habit of looking on her as dead. After that strange scene in the church and churchyard of St. Laurens, that habit might be compared to a structure riven by a thunderbolt. It was shattered, but stones enough stood to found a similar habit on; to look on her as dead to him.

And by severe subdivision of his time and thoughts, by unceasing prayers and manual labour, he did in about three months succeed in benumbing the earthly half of his heart.

But lo! within a day or two of this first symptom of mental peace returning slowly, there descended upon his mind a horrible despondency.

Words cannot utter it, for words never yet painted a likeness of despair. Voices seemed to whisper in his ear, "Kill thyself! kill! kill! kill!"

And he longed to obey the voices, for life was intolerable.

He wrestled with his dark enemy with prayers and tears; he prayed God but to vary his temptation. "Oh let mine enemy have power to scourge me with red-hot whips, to tear me leagues and leagues over rugged places by the hair of my head, as he has served many a holy hermit, that yet baffled him at last; to fly on me like a raging lion; to gnaw me with a serpent's fangs; any pain, any terror, but this horrible gloom of the soul that shuts me from all light of Thee and of the saints."

And now a freezing thought crossed him. What if the triumphs of the powers of darkness over Christian souls in desert places had been suppressed, and only their defeats recorded, or at least in full; for dark hints were scattered about antiquity that now first began to grin at him with terrible meaning.

"THEY WANDERED IN THE DESERT AND PERISHED BY SERPENTS," said an ancient father of hermits that went into solitude, "and were seen no more." And another at a more recent epoch wrote: Vertuntur ad melancholiam: "they turn to gloomy madness." These two statements, were they not one? for the ancient fathers never spoke with regret of the death of the body. No, the hermits so lost were perished souls, and the serpents were diabolical (2) thoughts, the natural brood of solitude.

St. Jerome went into the desert with three companions; one fled in the first year, two died; how? The single one that lasted was a gigantic soul with an iron body.

The cotemporary who related this made no comment, expressed no wonder, What, then, if here was a glimpse of the true proportion in every age, and many souls had always been lost in solitude for one gigantic mind and iron body that survived this terrible ordeal.

The darkened recluse now cast his despairing eyes over antiquity to see what weapons the Christian arsenal contained that might befriend him. The greatest of all was prayer. Alas! it was a part of his malady to be unable to pray with true fervour. The very system of mechanical supplication he had for months carried out so severely by rule had rather checked than fostered his power of originating true prayer.

He prayed louder than ever, but the heart hung back cold and gloomy, and let the words go up alone.

"Poor wingless prayers," he cried, "you will not get half-way to heaven."

A fiend of this complexion had been driven out of King Saul by music.

Clement took up the hermit's psaltery, and with much trouble mended the strings and tuned it.

No, he could not play it. His soul was so out of tune. The sounds jarred on it, and made him almost mad.

"Ah, wretched me!" he cried; "Saul had a saint to play to him. He was not alone with the spirits of darkness; but here is no sweet bard of Israel to play to me; I, lonely, with crushed heart, on which a black fiend sitteth mountain high, must make the music to uplift that heart to heaven; it may not be." And he grovelled on the earth weeping and tearing his hair.


(1) It requires nowadays a strong effort of the imagination to realize the effect on poor people who had never seen them before of such sentences as this

"Blessed are the poor" etc.

(2) The primitive writer was so interpreted by others besides Clement; and in particular by Peter of Blois, a divine of the twelfth century, whose comment is noteworthy, as he himself was a forty-year hermit.


One day as he lay there sighing and groaning, prayerless, tuneless, hopeless, a thought flashed into his mind. What he had done for the poor and the wayfarer, he would do for himself. He would fill his den of despair with the name of God and the magic words of holy writ, and the pious, prayerful consolations of the Church.

Then, like Christian at Apollyon's feet, he reached his hand suddenly out and caught, not his sword, for he had none, but peaceful labour's humbler weapon, his chisel, and worked with it as if his soul depended on his arm.

They say that Michael Angelo in the next generation used to carve statues, not like our timid sculptors, by modelling the work in clay, and then setting a mechanic to chisel it, but would seize the block, conceive the image, and at once, with mallet and steel, make the marble chips fly like mad about him, and the mass sprout into form. Even so Clement drew no lines to guide his hand. He went to his memory for the gracious words, and then dashed at his work and eagerly graved them in the soft stone, between working and fighting.

He begged his visitors for candle ends, and rancid oil.

"Anything is good enough for me," he said, "if 'twill but burn." So at night the cave glowed afar off like a blacksmith's forge, through the window and the gaping chinks of the rude stone door, and the rustics beholding crossed themselves and suspected deviltries, and within the holy talismans, one after another, came upon the walls, and the sparks and the chips flew day and night, night and day, as the soldier of Solitude and of the Church plied, with sighs and groans, his bloodless weapon, between working and fighting.

Kyrie Eleison.

Christe Eleison.

{ton Satanan suntripson upo tous pothas ymwn}(1)

Sursum Corda.(2)

Deus Refugium nostrum et virtus.(3)

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi miserere mihi.(4)

Sancta Trinitas unus Deus, miserere nobis.(5)

Ab infestationibus Daemonum, a ventura ira, a damnatione perpetua. Libera nos Domine.(6)

Deus, qui miro ordine Angelorum ministeria, etc, (the whole collect).(7)

Quem quaerimus adjutorem nisi te Domine qui pro peccatis nostris juste irascaris? (8)

Sancte Deus, Sancte fortis, Sancte et misericors Salvator, amarae morti ne tradas nos.

And underneath the great crucifix, which was fastened to the wall, he graved this from Augustine:

O anima Christiana, respice vulnera patientis, sanguinem morientis, pretium redemptionis. Haec quanta sint cogitate, et in statera mentis vestrae appendite, ut totus vobis figatur in corde, qui pro vobis totus fixus est in cruce. Nam si passio Christi ad memoriam revocetur, nihil est tam durum quod non aequo animo toleretur.

Which may be thus rendered: O Christian soul, look on the wounds of the suffering One, the blood of the dying One, the price paid for our redemption! These things, oh, think how great they be, and weigh them in the balance of thy mind: that He may be wholly nailed to thy heart, who for thee was all nailed unto the cross. For do but call to mind the sufferings of Christ, and there is nought on earth too hard to endure with composure.

Soothed a little, a very little, by the sweet and pious words he was raising all round him, and weighed down with watching and working night and day, Clement one morning sank prostrate with fatigue, and a deep sleep overpowered him for many hours. Awaking quietly, he heard a little cheep; he opened his eyes, and lo! upon his breviary, which was on a low stool near his feet, ruffling all his feathers with a single pull, and smoothing them as suddenly, and cocking his bill this way and that with a vast display of cunning purely imaginary, perched a robin redbreast.

Clement held his breath.

He half closed his eyes lest they should frighten the airy guest.

Down came robin on the floor.

When there he went through his pantomime of astuteness; and then, pim, pim, pim, with three stiff little hops, like a ball of worsted on vertical wires, he was on the hermit's bare foot. On this eminence he swelled and contracted again, with ebb and flow of feathers; but Clement lost this, for he quite closed his eyes and scarce drew his breath in fear of frightening and losing his visitor. He was content to feel the minute claw on his foot. He could but just feel it, and that by help of knowing it was there.

Presently a little flirt with two little wings, and the feathered busybody was on the breviary again.

Then Clement determined to try and feed this pretty little fidget without frightening it away. But it was very difficult.

He had a piece of bread within reach, but how get at it? I think he was five minutes creeping his hand up to that bread, and when there he must not move his arm.

He slily got a crumb between a finger and thumb and shot it as boys do marbles, keeping the hand quite still.

Cockrobin saw it fall near him, and did sagacity, but moved not.

When another followed, and then another, he popped down and caught up one of the crumbs, but not quite understanding this mystery fled with it, for more security, to an eminence; to wit, the hermit's knee.

And so the game proceeded till a much larger fragment than usual rolled along.

Here was a prize. Cockrobin pounced on it, bore it aloft, and fled so swiftly into the world with it, the cave resounded with the buffeted air.

"Now, bless thee, sweet bird," sighed the stricken solitary; "thy wings are music, and thou a feathered ray camedst to light my darkened soul."

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